Friday, June 26, 2009

A lot to think about

Dear friends,

This week I have fallen behind updating my blog because I started orientation training, what they call A-100. Needless to say, I have felt overwhelmed with the amount of new information I have to process and almost one hundred new people to befriend. Meanwhile there is huge pile of dishes in the sink that my wonderful hubby is cleaning right now. I apologize to my virtual friends for not keeping up with your blog updates and to my DC friends for being MIA recently. To further add distraction to my life, we got our "bid list" this week--which, for those of you who aren't familiar with the process, is a list of all the possible places we could be sent. We get to rank them high, medium, and low, but we really could be sent anywhere, so we aren't getting our hopes set on one place in particular. The good news is that for every single one we have researched, we have found something to be excited about.

I totally want this little pouch to store all my personal thoughts. Unfortunately it is sold out at the moment, but maybe I will indulge in one when she restocks here on etsy. After a calm, relaxing weekend I promise to do better writing and keeping in touch next week.

Friday, June 19, 2009

A Recipe for Breakfast Phobes

I have a love hate relationship with breakfast. I like to sleep as long as my schedule will allow, but I also know that eating breakfast is so important if you don't want to crash mid-morning. I found this recipe for wheat berries with scallions from Mark Bittman and to add my own twist I topped it with sriracha sauce. Oh boy! You won't even need coffee.

Cook the wheat berries the night before or make a big batch on Sunday so you can use them for a few days. Directions for cooking will be on the packet, but it usually takes about 45 minutes for them to soften. In the morning, scoop yourself a small bowl, top with scallions, a swirl of sesame oil, a swirl of soy sauce, and a few drops of sriracha sauce. Heat the bowl in the microwave or eat cold.

Oh Sriracha sauce, you make my world taste better. Picture from flickr.

Family Vacay

This week I have been enjoying some nice quality time with the family before I start my job. Much to my amusement, I am quickly becoming the shortest member of my family. My 12-year-old sister, center, is now a hair taller than me. My mom has been giving me some photography pointers and might let me borrow her film camera for the summer. I took this picture of her on the porch. Isn't she lovely?

Have a beautiful weekend!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Hit or Miss

Sometimes I feel like I am throwing darts at this venn diagram. I have wanted to be and do so many different things over the past few years. I do feel blessed to have found a few things that I can do well. Wouldn't it be nice to find that sweet spot in the middle? But how do you do it?

Image by Bud Caddell found via Swiss Miss.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Visit Artomatic!

This past Friday I visited Artomatic, a free art festival housed in an unfinished office building near the waterfront. With over 1,000 visual artists and much more, it is well worth the metro ticket it costs to get over there. Their philosophy is that art should be for everyone, so there are no curators or juries and no entrance fee. For that reason, the art ranges from mediocre to fantastic. I was only able to see two of the nine floors of art. But since it will be there until July 5th, I will definitely go again. I actually attended a poetry reading by authors from Barrelhouse and Smartish Pace. I loved hearing Liz Arnold, whose overweight labs I was already acquainted with. Before the poetry reading we walked around looking at art and eating Hard Times chili. Christian Tribastone's art struck me and I picked up a postcard to put on my inspiration board. This picture is from his art blog. Does anyone recognize the building?? It's on M Street.

PS: Click here to see a gorgeous picture of a root beer float featuring a blurry Dave in the background from our adventure to the North Carolina coast (and browse the rest of their photos while you're at it--they're all great!)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Future Home Wishes

Melanie from the fantastic blog You Are My Fave has inspired me to do a future home wish list.  I've been told that in the Foreign Service you mostly live in generic pre-furnished apartments--generous, don't get me wrong, but bland.  But if I were to design my dream house it would have...

A porch (by Steven Harrington found on Design*Sponge)

Somewhere to put all of our books (found on OrangeBeautiful)

Interesting wallpaper (by Marimekko found on More Ways to Waste Time)

A coffee nook (found on Erin Ever After

A poured concrete farmhouse sink (by stone soup).

What would you put in your dream house?  Have a great weekend!

Ghost Stories

I get very frightened by horror flicks, but somehow David always talks me into watching them (which is why I can't do laundry in my basement at night).  On the other hand, I adore thoughtful films about adolescence disguised as ghost stories--a.k.a almost anything by Guillermo del Toro.  And did you see Coraline?  I know I'm a little late on the bandwagon, but I just saw it the other week with my brother and fell in love.  Wonderful characters and visually stunning stop-motion animation. Coraline, the main character, is at that awkward age when most people fall to pieces--but she remains self-confident and quirky.  These are some genius drawings by Jon Klassen who worked on the visual development for the film.  Check out the rest of his art at his blog, burst of beaden
If you have time, also check out the film Let the Right One In by Tomas Alfredson.  It is one of the best films I have seen all year.   Imagine a far superior version of Twilight set in rural Sweden. 

What about you?  Do you like ghost stories? What is your favorite kind of scary movie?  

Monday, June 8, 2009

Sweet & Savory Ice Cream Party

Ice cream for dinner?  Yes please!  This weekend Dave and I hosted an ice cream dinner party at our apartment and asked our friends to bring their wildest, tastiest ice cream concoctions.
  Some of us have ice cream makers, but according to this article by David Lebovitz, you don't have to have an ice cream maker to make great homemade ice cream.  Check out tastespotting for ice cream and other dessert recipes.

For an entree, we served garlic ice cream with mashed potatoes, bacon, and chives.  On the menu we also had mini quiches that looked like ice cream scoops. 
The ice cream flavors included rose water, sweet potato, aztec hot chocolate, oatmeal cookie dough, and vanilla marshmallow marlow with fresh blackberries.  There were ice cream sandwiches made out of homemade, double chocolate peppermint chip cookies and delicious (though drippy) raspberry lavender popsicles.
Unfortunately, our bacon bourbon ice cream did not freeze in time--but that means we will have to have an encore party later in the summer!  Now if we could only figure out how to avoid the inevitable sugar coma...

Thursday, June 4, 2009

A Tribute to the Arlington Farmhouse

When David and I moved to the DC area two years ago we fell in love with the first apartment we toured.  It was the basement floor in a farmhouse from the 1920s.  Little did we know we were getting a fantastic deal with full windows on three walls, high ceilings, an awesome backyard and within walking distance of the metro.  It looks small and quaint from the front. 
But in actuality the place is HUGE!

As we interacted with the landlord--a quirky and enigmatic jack of all trades--we started to put together the history of this building.  The house has been in his family for generations.  During WWII it was converted into three separate apartments and housed so many people that they had to sleep in shifts.  

In 1962, the house was in disrepair, but his grandfather renovated it by hand.

Now we enjoy the house in all its quirkyness--although I am convinced it is haunted (boy, I could tell some stories) and refuse to do laundry at night.  The house is changing hands at the end of the month and a new family will be moving in above us.  Fortunately they are letting us stay until we are dispatched to an overseas post.  We will miss you, house!
(The last two pictures are from the realtor, but I hesitate to create a link for the sake of privacy.  For more information, contact me.)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The dreaded written exam

Today I am going to write a post on the dreaded foreign service written exam.  For those of you who are completely new to the process, the written test involves four sections:  An essay, an English expression section, a job knowledge (aka trivial pursuit) section, and a biographical section.  

The biographical section was the second most nerve-wracking for me.  It sounds easy, but you will be called upon to justify your answers--so don't lie or exaggerate!  For example, one question may be "how would you rate your leadership skills" and the next question "describe a time when you showed leadership."  If you put "excellent" but can't think of an excellent example, you can't go back and change your answer.

The job knowledge section is a crapshoot.  There is no way to know every piece of trivia out there, but fortunately it is multiple choice.  The best and only way to prepare is to be well-read and relaxed.  I always drink a protein smoothie before I take an important test.  My sister jams to her favorite music.  If you have any test taking tips, feel free to post them here.

For more information, the Hegemonist has published a great guide to the written exam here.  And don't forget to take the official study guide, which can be found here.  Unfortunately, it costs money.  I got it free from my university, so check there first if you can.

Chelsea from {frolic} turned me on to the quote "you can have the life you want."  To prove that point, she's decided to spend a month alone in Sweden.  If you're not living the life you want, do something about it.  Screenprint by Orangebeautiful available for purchase on etsy.

Monday, June 1, 2009

DC Fashion

I recently found out that the dress code for A-100 (foreign service training) is business, and while I love dressing up, I'm not super excited about wearing a suit and pantyhose everyday in the hot DC summer.  Nevertheless, I went shopping during the memorial day weekend blowout sales and nearly tripled my work wardrobe (that tells you how few items I had before).
DC fashion has a bad reputation for being kind of dowdy and cookie cutter, but there are ways to dress well and still look appropriate for a conservative work environment.  Michelle Obama has brought a style of her own to the White House, giving DC a breath of fresh air.  For my own attempt, I puchased this Diane von Furstenberg pencil skirt for a steal at the Potomic Mills outlets.  I do not own the purple Marc Jacobs bag (sigh), but an oversize bag is a must in DC as are sunglasses and a change of shoes for commuting.

For more fashion tips and inspiration, I would highly recommend these blogs:

Where do you find your fashion inspiration?  I'd love to hear your ideas!