Monday, October 6, 2008

Happy MOH Anniversary!

In honor of our 1st wedding anniversary, I would like to celebrate the fact that Marie was the best Maid of Honor ever by publishing "The Mia Dancing Montage." This girl can shake it, broken ankle or no broken ankle! She's even fond of a little good luck pat...can you find it?

Back that @$$ up!

Love tap at the rehearsal...ooh la la!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

barefoot bluefoot

Because they propagate through spores instead of by seeds, certain varieties are hard to grow commercially and can only be foraged in the wild. This is a job best left to the professionals(or absolute nut bag bikers of the southern Oregon variety) because many types of mushrooms are inedible and sometimes poisonous…………
Polenta:2 cups whole milk2 cups low-salt chicken broth1 bay leaf1 cup polenta (coarse cornmeal)1/2 cup (packed) coarsely grated Comté cheese2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butterfor the ragout:3 tablespoons butter, divided4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided1 1/2 pounds assorted wild mushrooms (hen of the woods and blue foot are my favorite), thickly sliced1/4 cup finely chopped shallots2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar1/4 cup low-salt chicken broth1/3 cup crème fraîche or cream1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley, divided1/3 cup (packed) coarsely grated Comté cheese

Pressure Cooker of Death

On a daily basis, we receive reports that warn us about dangerous situations anywhere in Afghanistan. Generally, these reports are things like attacks on fuel tankers, explosions, firefights between the Afghan police and insurgents, demonstrations that may turn ugly... You get the idea. (Disclaimer: Rarely do these dangerous events take place anywhere near me.)

The Crow
Before I arrived, one such email contained a typo. The email was reporting a demonstration taking place in downtown Kabul. The participants were becoming rowdy and moving towards government buildings, and the Afghan National Police (ANP) were doing their best to get the situation under control. But, in attempting to refer to the demonstrators as a "crowd," our security update people had forgotten the 'd'. As a result, my colleagues got a series of high priority emails about "a big crow approaching the presidential palace" and "the ANP is struggling to disperse the crow; in the meantime, the situation should be avoided." The resolution of the situation: "the big crow is now under control."

The Pressure Cooker
This weekend, I received a vague email about a possible improvised exposive device (IED) found in a village square on the other side of the country. The email said, essentially, that nothing could be ascertained, but that the appropriate authorities were working on the problem. A couple of hours or so later, we received the following follow-up information:

Updated Information: It now appears that the device originally thought to be an IED was actually just a pressure cooker bought as a wedding present and left on the street while the owner went looking for a friend. The area is now clear.

The Morals of the Story
  1. The Afghan National Police are competent, and have effectively cleared the village square of a very intimidating pressure cooker.
  2. Never leave your pressure cooker on the street while searching for your friends unless it's an ugly color and you wish it would just get blown up.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

In case your day needs lightening...

I don't know if you remember this, but I got a grant to study some howling monkey locomotion in the field, in Costa Rica. So I've been in Costa Rica... over 3 weeks now, closer to 4. The howling monkeys have been awesome, except for that week period where the two troops I was watching disappeared, which means I had to go far distances to try to find other groups... and either resoundly failed, or they weren't moving. Which doesn't help when you study locomotion. Luckily, I discovered there were two rather odd monkeys who hang out together in this one spot after 4:30pm when the other monkeys aren't around. I call them odd, because they are quite the odd couple. One is a capuchin, and one is a howling monkey. Capuchins are very mean, howling monkeys... are just lazy. I called the capuchin Bonkers and the howling monkey Buddy. I have no idea how they got to be friends or what not, but I have some awesome nightshot footage of them playing together, when I download the video I'll try to upload it to youtube so you can see it.

Anyhoo, the reason I am writing to you tonight is for a much less important reason. I thought it was kind of funny that I was super bored tonight, and decided to learn the Soulja boy dance for Crank that. That's right, the superman song.

So, let's recap: I am in Costa Rica, by myself (and have been for over 2 weeks, what can I say not having people to talk to does things to you), am learning the superman dance by soulja boy in my geeky Keen sandals. You read that right. I have some hard stone flooring that started hurting my feet, so I had to put on some shoes that would operate for dancing.

Just thought you might appreciate my ridiculousness. And I don't think you ever expected a label for a post on this blog to be "Soulja boy." That is all. Love your email updates :).

Thursday, July 24, 2008

"saute" and the art of war

Subterfuge is my new favorite word...Its not a new one Ive just rediscovered it, something akin to when you rediscover fresh peaches. When dealing with the less then passionate in regards to gastronomy you have to be very careful/sneaky....and in my job I can't throw pans.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

This is how it starts

Listen up, blog readers. Because I am about to answer a LOT of questions about how our darling Mia came to say "America? Eh, I could take it or leave it." ;-) I was massively streamlining my life this week (read: throwing old junk away) when I happened upon Exhibit A: this patriotic picture of Mia, smiling oh-so beautifully next to the Stars and Stripes. Perhaps a tear comes to your eye at the symbolism of it all. And you think "Oh! Mia LOVES America! She's as American as cherry pie on the 4th of July! What a good old-fashioned American girl next door."

And now, friends, I present to you Exhibit B, which I like to call "Rebel Yell." There she is, the epitome of America, proudly waving the CONFEDERATE FLAG. Clearly she has had angst against her homeland for quite some time, do we agree? For years she may have been formulating her plan to flee the American commericialism, politics and materialism left behind in the wake of the War of Northern Aggression.
Folks, I was raised with this woman, I lived with her, and never once did I see evidence of this. Mia, I just don't know what to say...except keep the Confederate thing under wraps over in Kabul, ok? If you come home at Christmas wearing a headscarf made of the Southern Cross, claiming to be the leader of a new extremist group, you and I are going to have words.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Voting, So To Speak

A direct quote from the North Carolina Voters' Guide:

Mental competence is not a requirement to register and vote in North Carolina.

In case you wondered.
Not quite pithy or cliche, Jen, but a darn good one-liner of the "truth is stranger than fiction" variety. ; )

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Sweat and Cakes and Ale

Today it is so humid in New York that I swear the subway platforms were slick with sweat. Even on the train, which is supposed to be air conditioned, I actually had sweat rolling down my legs. My legs, Marie! And the crankiness--oh, the crankiness. Not one, not two, but three separate individuals made three separate, noisy complaints about things completely beyond their control: "Why didn't they tell us sooner we were gonna skip stops?" from a man in a hardhat (take that thing off! It's too hot!); "Get outta my way! Geeze!" from a man old enough to know better to a klatch of preteens; and "What the hell's the matter with the AC on this thing?" from me. Summer in the city.

And, for the first installment of the "What's Jen Reading" blog posts, a quote from W. Somerset Maugham's Cakes and Ale:
The wise always use a number of ready-made phrases (at the moment I write "nobody's business" is the most common), popular adjectives (like "divine" or "shy-making"), verbs that you only know the meaning of if you live in the right set (like "dunch"), which give ease and a homely sparkle to small talk and avoid the necessity of thought. The Americans, who are the most efficient people on the earth, have carried this device to such a height of perfection and have invented so wide a range of pithy and hackneyed phrases that they can carry on an amusing and animated conversation without giving a moment's reflection to what they are saying and so leave their minds free to consider the more important matters of big business and fornication.
You're the exception that proves the rule, Marie, to use a pithy little phrase I've never really understood.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

More to love about America...and Spain!

Lest we seem unpatriotic on this most patriotic of weekends, I thought I'd remind you of one of the truly great things about our culture:

Also, in my best effort to be the first to post something inappropriate on your blog, I thought I'd mention this little tidbit: on Thursday I went to see a production of Garcia Lorca's House of Bernarda Alba. Do you know this one? A classic of 20th-century Spanish drama, it's concerned with five ghastly sisters who are kept locked in their Andalusian home by their man-fearing/man-hating mother (si, Bernarda). The sisters, as is only natural, are so starved for that they alternate between depressed lethargy and violent hysteria. (Remember hysteria? That's what all those unmarried Victorian women suffered from.) There is one male sniffing around the fridges of the house--how could there not be, with all that overheated estrogen wafting from the windows? Much discussed, but never seen on stage, Pepe proposes marriage to one sister, seduces another, and unwittingly captures the affections of a third. Cat fights abound. No one is left unscathed by the misery and waste of those five deprived females. In a moment of subtlety unlike anything I have seen before, Lorca puts into the mouth of one of his characters the exact step that would bring peace, light, and no doubt the happy twitter of birds and the contented buzz of bees. That line, to quote this brand new translation: "Will you loose the stallion upon the mares?"

Oh, Marie, it was an hour and a half well spent. Check it out, if you get a chance. I imagine there are lots of productions of it in Afghanistan.

Thursday, July 3, 2008


Today, my boss sent me this picture with the caption, "Why America is really in Afghanistan."
My boss is Canadian.
I laughed anyway, though.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

We made him an offer he couldn't refuse

It's official: when you come home for Christmas, you'll be visiting us in our new house!!! I'm not sure it has totally sunk in yet that 5 days ago we didn't have a house, nor were we looking for one, and now I feel like I'm drowning in facts, figures, estimates, and amortization charts. Last Wednesday, Brian went for a run, and literally ran past this place with a For Sale sign in the front yard. He brought me back to see it, I loved it, and he called the realtor, who turned out to be the Godfather himself. Turns out he bought this place and is flipping it. As an HGTV addict, I love the idea of buying a flip. So the Don sent his buyer's agent out to show it to us before it went on the market. It took us all of 10 minutes to completely fall for this cape in the country. There is hardly anything not to like: it sits on one glorious acre a generous distance from the neighbors, has 3, count them, 3 decks, 4 bedrooms, 1 bath with a whirlpool tub (SOLD!), a full, paritally finished basement, hardwood floors, and oh, be still my heart - it overlooks nothing but cornfields and a horse farm. Our first attempt at making an offer was foiled because the town had absolutely no record of the existence of this address. Oh yeah, true story. They also had no accurate tax information, which is sort of an asset when purchasing a home ;-) So 72 hours later (after the Don called the town himself to resolve this matter) we tried again, and contingent upon our final approval of the contractors' work and the engineering inspection - it's ours! We're aiming to close sometime in September, at which point I will go into Martha Stewart on crack mode, and I would recommend keeping a safe distance lest you get knocked out by a designer window treatment...

Saturday, June 28, 2008

From Sea to Shining Sea....


I can imagine right now you are yearning for a piece of true Americana, a slice of that sun-soaked ideal life in the quintessential American town...

I really think there's nothing more American than this glorious human interest story on the local news in Alabama:



Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Little Kites (YOU!)

Hopefully by now, you've all received my email. If you haven't, let me know, and I'll make sure you're added to the list. I was listening to the song below, Kite Song, today while continuing the endless process that is unpacking. Kites are apparently very important to Afghan culture, and I'm looking forward to a kite festival that supposedly happens once a year. But, the song doesn't have as much to do with that as with little kites--you are all my little kites, and I hope I send some little kites in your direction once in a while too. And in case it answers the "why in God's name is she always running off to the weirdest places," well...maybe my kites fly better here.

Kite Song
Patty Griffith
The Sunday after there was laughter in the air
Everybody had a kite
They were flying everywhere
And all the trouble went away
And it wasn't just a dream
All the trouble went away
And it wasn't just a dream

In the middle of the night
We try and try with all our mights
To light a little light down here
In the middle of the night
We dream of a million kites
Flying high above
The sadness and the fear

Little sister just remember
As you wander through the blue
The little kite that you sent flying
On a sunny afternoon
Made of something light as nothing
Made of joy that matters too
How the little dreams we dream
Are all we can really do

In the middle of the night
The world turns with all of it's might
A little diamond colored blue
In the middle of the night
We keep sending little kites
Until a little light gets through

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

You wanted mundane...

Well Marie, it's been a week since you left and we are all wondering how you are adjusting to life in Afghanistan. We will have to come up with a nickname for Afghanistan, because it is too long to spell out all the time and you have to really think about the spelling. So if anyone has any ideas, I am open to them!
I know summer is in full swing here because Basil got his annual summer ear infection. Yes, you got it. That means daily ear drops and cleaning followed by excessive bouts of snarfing. Also, we went strawberry picking on Sunday which is a sure sign of summer around here. We've already attended one of three graduation parties so we are off and running for the summer!
Good news! Keith and Lauren are coming up for the weekend for a wedding, so it will be great seeing them. I'm not sure how your family can go so long without seeing you, because the 3 months since we've seen Keith seems like a long time. We will see them again when we go down in August, so it won't be too long after that.
Other than that, it's been same old, same old. But that's ok, I like routine. I guess I'm not like some people who are always looking for someplace exotic to go! :) Wonder who that could be?
Anyway, hope all is well. Keep us posted!
Love, Aunt Ann

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Welcome to Kabul...

"...the local temperature is 118 degrees. For those of you making a connecting flight, we think that's a good choice. If Kabul is your final destination, and we can't imagine why it would be, please follow the yellow camel signs downstairs to ground transportation. We ask that you stay in your seats with your seatbelts securely fastened while we taxi to the gate. We will disembark as soon as the goat moves off the runway. We know you have a choice when you fly, and we appreciate you choosing Afghani Airways."
Welcome home, Rooms :-) I miss you already.

Friday, June 13, 2008


Here with today's You Tube entertainment: cute baby sloths!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Friendly neighborhood Sifaka.

Farewell Mia!

I'm so glad everyone can keep up with you (and you with us) in this fashion!

News of the day for me: I have now become part of an elite group of people to have had a sifaka jump on their head.

I was observing 6 month old Matilda when her big brother, 1 year old Charlemagne, sitting in a tree next to my head, decided jumping on me would be a lovely way to play.

So now I have learned techniques to keep the young'uns off of me. Although to be honest, it's a fun club to be a part of!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Run-Around

**This post is a work of pure fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons, places, agencies, or organizations is strictly coincidental, and most unfortunate.**

Unity State Postal Service: You should certify that very important envelop.
Embassy of Atlantastan: Hello Dear *Mia*! We are to send your visa now!
Tracking Attempt #1: No information. Please try again later.
Embassy of Atlantastan: Oh yes! I am remind you! We did send your visa Tuesday.

USPS: Oh...well, maybe the DC post office forgot to scan it? Call us tomorrow.
Higher USPS: Hmmm...not really much can be done. Those DC offices are overworked.
USPS: Why did you certify? That's not trackable.
Consumer Affairs USPS: Wow. Atlantastan, really? Well, did you try calling the embassy? We can't change your ticket without charging you a million dollars $$$$$.
Department of Redundancy: A new passport? Why don't you just come in person today?
Uniting Airways: No standby for international flights.
Me: But it's a domestic leg.
Uniting: No standby for international flights. And we think you pick your nose.
English Planes: No, you can't skip your first leg to go to DC & get a passport. Blimey.
Me: Since I told you ahead of time, couldn't you just mark me "present?"
English Planes: No. But, like a spot o' tea, luv?

**Short tea break later**

USPS: Oh, honey. Nothing. What was it you said you were waiting for?
Atlantastan: You do not have? Oh...this is not good for you. We sent with UPS, like we said...
Unitarian Package Society: A USPS package? Could be sitting in our sorting room.
Wayamalocity: Cancel and rebook? Let me put you on hold to think of 50 ways to jerk you around...
AREU: Huh. Usually this happens after you've already gotten to Atlantastan. Go figure.
DoR: Come to DC! Pay easy installments of $ARM + $ LEG for a new passport!

I'm still in the country! Call me! I'm trying to call you!
New departure date and time: 19h18 17 June 2008


Mia nice to see you sporting a Kabul or Bust tee the other day at the farm.  I do hope that you are planning on bringing the Americans love of clever graphic tees over to Afghanistan.  I feel they would be a hit over there.  I got your next idea, "My other car is a camel."  Pure gold.  That idea is free for you cuz, you're welcome.  Anywho, give me a call if you are delayed on your departure.  I would like to hear from you before you leave.  And enjoy that 39 hour flight.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Great Idea!

Hey Mia!

I truly appreciate the picture of you and your cousin reading Highlander books. Excellent choice. Are you bringing anything equally saucy to Afghanistan? I have been back in California for a week now. Given my unemployed state, I am happy that Stacy is encouraging posts about very mundane things. I look forward to telling you about my process of unpacking, how many resumes I send out, and how many hours I spend watching my cats nap. No, seriously, I thought it would be at least July before I started to panic about the job search, but actually the time is right about now. One week was about as much relaxing I needed!

Good luck and have fun! I'm sure I'll see you out here again soon! (And love to all my fellow Sanfordites on this blog :)

Au Revoir!

Dearest Mia,

What a great idea - I'm so glad to share my random posts here to bring you a smile. By the way, have you seen that crazy break dancing kid who was on "So You Think You Can Dance?"

I know that you're going to have an amazing adventure Afghanistan, and I can't wait to see your pictures and hear your reflections about all you're learning. You'll be in my thoughts, and I will say a specific prayer tonight that all of this travel mess sorts itself out!

Em L

Bon Voyage

Farewell Mia!! 

You are supposed to be leaving tomorrow, however it appears that the world has other plans for you. Visa + Passport are floating around in the US Postal system, British Airways apparently has something against you, you've called umpteen billion people and alas it appears that you will be hanging with us in Upstate NY for a few more days. Guess you busted out your "Kabul or Bust" T-Shirt a little prematurely, huh? Way to count your Afghan Snowfinches before they hatch ;-) Well, in case you are looking for a satisfactory way to pass the time until you are qualified to leave this country, you know what to do... 

(P.S. - have you considered the possibility that your mom swiped your passport out of the mail box?)

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Mia Buys a MuuMuu

Brian: "Nice outfit!"
Marie" Thanks! It covers up my butt so I can move to an Islamic country!"

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Post #1

Well Rooms, off you go to Afganistan. But you have to know you're leaving behind quite a motley crew (and by motley, I mean quirky and adorable). We all love you and will miss you terribly, and when you feel homesick, you can visit us here. That's right, I started a blog, which you know goes against every fiber of my being. Way to bring out the inner blogger in me. But you'll never get me on Facebook! Anyway, enjoy and visit often!!