Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Tips for travel to Iraq

Things to bring: flashlight - power is spotty when it is there, even in the nice places; lock - there are various lockers and they are not that secure, but better than nothing; flipflops - or somesort of shower shoe; towel, pillow, sheets, etc.; rugged shoes; khaki pants - otherwise you just won't fit in - trust me i didn't; sunglasses - really good ones; power converters/adaptors (several); sunscreen - regular and travel size; around the neck travel pouch for the essential documents (passport, etc) that you must have at the ready at all times; patience and a sense of humor - the key to all good travel.

Things not to bring: blowdryer - it will most likely take care of that pesky electricity problem you had for a few minutes; heels; nice clothes - things just smell weird when they get home; luggage on wheels - go for a large backpack - but not too large, you will carry it a lot.

Saturday, September 26, 2009


There is something so lovely about homemade things - big and small. Recently I have been doing more homemade food basics.

I made jam - 2 different types of strawberry - one with boil pectin and one with no-boil pectin. They both turned out fabulously. I dried bell peppers, we got more than we could eat from our CSA share. Then I dried some red peppers and jalopenos too (also from CSA). Last week I made pumpkin muffins and froze them to take to work.

Tomorrow I am planning on canning tomatoes (for the first time ever). And starting some vanilla extract (also a first).

I am genuinely surprised by how easy food prep actually is. Plus so far, the pay off is well worth the effort.

I have also been surprised by how little food is necessary to actually bother with preserving. The peppers are a perfect example. I only had 6 bell peppers, but I knew that was more than we would eat before they would go bad, so I washed and cut them and put them on a cookie sheet in the oven with the light on to warm it up a little. One week later, I have a jar (very small) of dried bell peppers perfect for soups, etc.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Craisy Daisy Craiglist Find

I mentioned in an earlier post that I really wanted the Corelle Craisy Daisy Dishes to replace my plain white dishes that are chipped and cracked. I have kept my eye on Craigslist as the best option for getting a big lot of it locally. So I was thrilled when I found a huge 90 piece lot - including a gravy boat! for only $35! The catch - I must drive all the way to Baltimore to get it.

So Audrey and I are waiting to hear back from the sellers (I want to make sure they are home) and then we are off to pick it up. Happy Birthday to me!

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Knitting Update

Since I joined the Dish Rag Tag earlier today, I thought it would be appropriate to update my lately lax knitting ways. I usually have a dishrag in some state of progress on at least two sets of needles, because I find that we use them so often, they are extremely portable, and I like pretty washcloths. I finished a cherry one for cherry season (my favorite food) last month.

And then I turned to *cashmere*. Ryan and I bought enough chunky cashmere to make a hat and scarf set for me 1 1/2 years ago at a fancy NY yarn shop during an anniversary trip. I was looking to make a black hat/scarf with cream skull and cross bones elegantly placed on the edges in cream. Cashmere makes it classy, pirates make it sassy.

However, I never really found the desire to make a scarf - it is just such a boring project, so instead I made a lacey cowl out of black. Unfortunately, the lace pattern did not show through like I was hoping and since it is cashmere, I decided to rip it out and now I am make a very boring (TV watching) black cashmere shell with 2 cream stripes at the bottom.

And that my friends is my current knitting.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Dish Rag Tag

I have watched green with envy for the last two years as other knitters have done the Dish Rag Tag.

This year, I am going to do it! I am going to set a reminder for myself Saturday morning and sign up first thing - wish me luck!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Push-Up Fever

My cube mate at work - Mdolole - is quickly becoming one of my favorite people. I mentioned to him that I was trying to do a few push-ups. He said casually that he does 25 push-ups before he gets in the shower. No matter when he showers, even if it is 2 times that day - he does 25 push-ups first.

Well, that number - 25 got stuck in my head. So now I am trying mightily to get to 25 push-ups. Right now, I am at 5 real ones or 15 knee ones.

Anyone care to join me?

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Seattle Rock N' Roll Half Marathon

Yes, this is another bragging post, but let's face it folks - this year is turning out to be a good one for me. Another resolution checked off the list. :)

Over the weekend, my sister, brother and I completed the Seattle Rock N' Roll 1/2 Marathon!!

The race was on Saturday morning and we could not have asked for better weather. It was low 70s with a light breeze. It was bright and sunny - I even have the sunburn to prove it. We saw a bald-eagle along the coast of Lake Washington. Claire took lots of pictures (which I will try to add to the blog when she sends them (hint hint)).

We started out faster than I was comfortable with and we paid for it at the end. The last hour, my hips were in such pain, I felt like I could barely move. Our pace went from brisk, with a nice jog every now and then; to slow as a snail but still moving, with a nice jog every now and then.

Our strategy was... power walk for most of it and run whenever we heard music. They have bands every mile along the course, so that seemed like a good strategy. Then we added running when we were going downhill, because as William said, "it would be ungrateful not to". And there was one long and lovely downhill slope that lasted for a couple of bands. That actually felt really good because it used different muscles. I think the combination was a great idea.

Training-wise, I was a little bit off. Fitness-wise I was great. I never got so tired I wanted to die or felt bad. My heart and lungs felt great the whole time. However, muscles-wise, well that was not so pretty. I wasn't ready for the repetitive motion over such a long distance. My hip-flexors got sore pretty quick and then by the end my hips just ached all over. I could barely walk after the race. Three days later, I am feeling good and wishing I had the time to workout tonight.

Friday, June 19, 2009

New Purse for a slimmer me

I don't really like to talk about my weight or weight loss, but I have to take a moment and brag - I have lost 20 pounds! The unfortunate thing is that I am still in more or less the same size clothing (which means my clothes were way too tight before). Now I am swimming in all of my clothes and am very happy about that. Hopefully I will be sizing down soon.

To celebrate this milestone - I bought a new purse - a Butler Bag. It is awesome and I love it.

If you are wondering what is the secret to my weight loss success - it is a change in attitude.

This time, I decided to take a long haul approach. My mantra is: "It is all about direction not speed". My attitude is that if my general calorie intake is less than my general calorie output *eventually* I will lose weight and it is all about direction - not speed. So I started making little changes one at a time.

Along with the "direction not speed" mental switch (which I still have to keep reminding myself), I made a firm commitment that "NO" is not part of my diet/lifestyle (as in "no" cookies, etc.). I noticed when I tell myself I cannot have something, then that thing becomes my focus and I think about it until that is all I want. Instead I tell myself that I can have whatever I want, but I try to eat a smaller portion of it. Then I started to replace some snacky things with fruit and veggies (but mostly fruit, because I still like sweet and they travel well).

Then I found the golden ticket - I got an app (for my iPod touch) - "Lose It!" that tracks my calories and exercise and I make myself use it even when I know I am way over. That has made a huge difference in finding my empty calories. So I slowly looked at my empty calories and started to systematically cut them out if I don't love the food. I only eat food that I love! I don't bother with food I don't like or love. (For example I love a good steak salad and I have noticed that I don't really care about the crunchy friend onions that are added to many of them, so now I just order without that).

I started to consistently eat yogurt every morning (I know I talk about yogurt way too much on this blog, but I really feel so much better when I eat it daily). I almost always have an apple or an orange or both handy - they are my junk food snacks of choice. I try to eat berries everyday. With Lose It! I track my fiber and I get about 25-30 grams a day with my food intake - I add extra beans to my Chipotle burrito bol (which is usually 2-3 lunches now). I stopped taking my daily vitamin and instead just try to eat a variety of good food to get my nutrients (I think I was using it as a crutch).

I started walking in preparation for the Seattle 1/2 marathon. I usually walk about an hour 3 times a week and once a weekend I do a long walk of at least 2 hours (that will all be over soon though). Believe me when I say this has been a gradual process to exercise this much. I mostly do walking videos at home in the evening after Audrey is in bed. I take the stairs almost all the time and if it is a short flight, I run them.

Most of the changes are things I have done in the past, just not consistently enough - but one of the intangibles is that I now *love* my job - and job happiness means I am not running to starbux or McD's for a sanity break everyday. I still love my fancy coffees and that certainly cuts into my calories, but with a goal of 1/2 pound per week, my calorie budget is very reasonable.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


My current job deals with Iraq quite a bit. Yesterday in fact, I found myself sitting across the table from the Deputy Prime Minister for Iraq and the Iraqi Ambassador. Quite humbling actually.

I have had some time to think about Iraq and while I generally hope not to bring on political comments, since my job is in the apex of most political debates, perhaps I should just say - bring it on!

Iraq has some complex problems and issues that it faces and the tone of many (most) experts is cynasism. That said, this is an exciting time to be in the thick of things. We (the Americans) are leaving and the Iraqis are stepping up to the plate to take over their own security. Obviously only time will tell, but our legacy here could well be an amazingly positive one. I for one am extremely hopeful and "cautiously optimistic" (if there is such a thing).

Monday, May 18, 2009

Rice Cooker - the end of a unitasker

Ryan made a delicious meal, some sort of beer gravy garlic chicken over rice.  The only problem was that we went to eat, the rice cooker never actually turned on.  

So in a hasty moment, we used a regular pan, lid and stove.  And guess what - the rice was fantastic, sticky rice.  So good-bye unitasker rice cooker.  Hello pan.  Alton Brown would be proud.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


Everyone knows that taking the stairs is a great way to get and stay in shape.  But that doesn't mean that everyone does it.  I know this because while I will take the stairs up one or two flights gladly, I rarely take the stairs for more than that.  

Well at my new job, everyone takes the stairs up to our office on the 9th floor - by choice.  And the even crazier thing is they all *run* the stairs.  

So in an effort not to look like a fool, and because I give into peer pressure, I now take the stairs as often as I can.  My hope is that I can acclimate myself so that when my boss and I happen to be in the lobby at the same time I won't die on the way up the stairs together. 


I have been a little remiss on my 1/2  marathon training (walking). Until this week, I was rather sporadic at best.  Now however, I realize I only have 6 weeks to get my sorry self into shape enough to not die of walking a 1/2 mary.  

So my plan is to walk 1 hour - 3-4 times a week (I have already done 3 times this week) and then to do one *long* walk each weekend until the marathon.

May 17 - 2 hours
May 23 - 3 hours
May 30 - 4 hours
June 6 - 3 hours
June 13 - 4 hours
June 20 - 2 hours
June 27 - 1/2 Marathon!!

I don't think it will actually take me 4 hours - but I figure it is better to know that I could walk that long if necessary.  I actually think I am going to do it in about 3 hours - that is my goal. 

Friday, May 15, 2009

New Job!

"Be careful what you wish for."  I really wanted job happiness this year and I know change never comes easy, but good heavens, this was a slightly crazy job change.  

A couple of weeks ago, I worked at BearingPoint for the Navy.  Now, I work at Deloitte for the Air Force.  

The crazy thing is, even though there has been a lot of change and craziness, I *love* my new job.  I am learning so much, so quickly.  It is challenging.  I am learning a new office, a new military culture, new platforms, new responsibilities, a new country and region.  Of course, it becomes even more crazy and more challenging when your region is a political hotbed. 

Luckily, I am already surrounded by really great people and that makes any new adventure just plain fun. 

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Cool things

Zuca is the name of this unusual item.

This is the coolest piece of luggage I have ever seen. I usually only pack my black carry-on for any and all trips, but most of the time, it is not full enough, so all my stuff get jostled. I think this would be the ideal size, and the fact that you can sit on it - is seriously exciting.

Plus I love the organizer bags, that are big enough to actually fit shoes, suits, clothes, etc. And I love the fact that is rolls on the narrow end rather than the wide - so handy for going down narrow airplane aisles.

Want to get one for me for my birthday, earthday, mothers day, fathers day, xmas, or just because...

Go to: www.zuca.com

But consider yourself warned - apparently love isn't cheap.

Saturday, April 18, 2009


I found the cutest dishes and here is a link - they are called Spring Blossom Green or Crazy Daisy and it is an old line by Correll and Pyrex.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A mile a day!

That is my new fitness mantra. It is really just to make sure I "start" moving everyday, even just a little bit. And the funny thing is, once you start, usually you keep going.

So that's it "a mile a day" - in whatever way (walk, run, climb, hike, swim, stair step, bike, eliptical, canoe, etc.). Yesterday, Audrey and I walked 2 miles (I love Leslie Sansone's walking videos), because we were going to walk one and why not just keep going.

Want to join me?

Monday, March 02, 2009

RV show

Yesterday Audrey and I drove down to the Fredricksburg RV show. It was awesome!

In addition to my favorite, airstreams, they had all kinds of RVs to meet every taste and budget. Audrey was an awesome show buddy. She was excited to explore every single RV. She was polite and said excuse me more often than not when she got in someone's way and she did exactly what I asked the first time, without fussing. It was a good day.

But even better than just being a well behaved child, she was a good friend. For example, when we saw some of the really large RVs with washer/dryer sets in them, I exclaimed, wow, look at that, a washer/dryer inside the RV. And Audrey responded, wow that is really neat mama. Seriously, she was like this the whole time. She got excited for bunk beds in the family friendly rooms and hopped onto all the couches and said things like, oh mama, this couch is really comfy, i like this one. or oh my gosh mama, a tent bed!

This was our first day on the pantry challenge (to spend $60 or less for food this month) and this is a typical place that I would end up buying crappy food at the concession area, but just ending up feeling hungry for something better and so stopping at a restaurant before heading home. Thereby spending not once, but twice for more or less the same meal.

This time however, I came prepared. Before we left, we had scrambled eggs as our mid-morning snack and I made pb&js for the show and cut up an apple and we both grabbed our water bottles. About an hour or so into the show, Audrey says she is hungry, so we go out to our car and sit in the backseat of the van, Milanya, bundled in blankets and eating our sandwhiches. It was actually a lot of fun and it reminded me of doing this exact same thing, but in our family van - Frufru - a white 68 volkswagon camper. Good times.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Using our pantry

My friend Mary just finished a month of *no* spending. Pretty impressive.

So Ryan and I are going to try our version this month. We are not cutting out all spending, because to be honest, we don't really spend much on superfluous stuff anyway. Instead we are going to try to limit our food expenditures for the entire month to $60! That will basically cover: milk, eggs and a loaf of bread or two.

We haven't done any real preparation for the month, because the point for us is mainly to use up some of the food we have stockpiled away in our pantry and freezer. I will be shocked if we are able to get through it all in one months time.

Also, lest anyone be worried that we will not be eating healthy, our CSA share starts next week and we will be getting 2 boxes of farm fresh in season produce during the course of the month. We may become vegetarians in an attempt to eat it all, but at least we will be healthy.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

deep thoughts

One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. Which road do I take? she asked. Where do you want to go? was his response. I don't know Alice answered. Then, said the cat, it doesn't matter.

Rev. C.L. Dodgson
aka Lewis Carroll
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Sunday, February 22, 2009

New Year's Resolution

This year I have a couple of new year's resolutions that I am comfortable sharing.

1) finish painting our house - this is one of those things that drives me secretly insane. The main living level of our house is painting and I love the colors, our bedrooms are painted, but no where else. The crazy thing is - I have the paint - and yet my house is still builder's white. This year I hope to conquer the white walls and bring on the beige.

2) knit a pair of socks. Everyone raves about sock knitting - it is portable, practical and makes fantastic gifts. So I just ordered (<3 knitpicks.com) some small needles and a book (why they are not sold at a normal craft shop is a mystery to all) - I already have yarn thanks to my dad for my b-day last year :). I can see this as something, I will really enjoy and if that is the case - you can pretty much guess what everyone is getting as gifts this year. :)

3) complete a half-marathon. originally i had every intention of running it with my bro and sis - but i happen to be a little plumper than either of them and apparently my knees don't appreciate the extra weight, so i am planning on walking it. yay for walking.

4) job happiness. i haven't been happy professionally for a while and i am not sure what needs to happen to change that. maybe a serious change of attitude, maybe a serious change of scenery. whatever it is, i am going to go for the simplest solution first and take it from there.

The it would be nice list...
1) make the backyard more usable - fence it off, and put in pavers, cement a patio, something, and if i can manage all that plant a garden :)
2) make the front yard even and plant new grass. we kind of gave up last year, hopefully this year will turn out better.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Last year, I missed the boat on the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) bandwagon and I was so disappointed. Luckily this year, I was able to sign up!

We are signed up with Olin-Fox Farms, which is actually a group of 10 local Virginia farms. Because they offered a payment plan, we were able to sign up for Spring, Summer, Fall and fruit deliveries. The deliveries will be every other week to a nearby place. I am planning on just picking it up on my way home from work every other Thursday. And it starts in March!!

I was hoping to do a garden this year, but until we get a fence up, we can't garden (HOA rules) and sadly, we aren't about to put a fence up. This way we get to enjoy a huge variety of locally grown food, without the work. Yay!!

If anyone else is interested, I highly recommend checking out localharvest.org.