Friday, June 28, 2013


Home again, home again.

R&R is but a distant memory. *sigh* It was a great rejuvenator, though. I really do feel refreshed, like I can make it through another year here without losing my mind. Our last couple of months leading up to R&R were exceedingly difficult. It wasn't just the build up of spending so much time in a difficult city like Manila (the traffic, pollution, dire poverty and squalor really do wear you down). I had debated posting about this at all, but we were forced to move* thanks to a series of targeted attacks on our house and property, including nails in our tires, which culminated in a break in attempt that required us to call the local police and file a report. RSO (our security folks) finally pulled the security certificate on our house, which meant they no longer found it safe for any American Embassy family to live there. We had an armed guard posted at our home for the last month of our stay there while GSO housing found and made ready new accommodations for us. It was highly stressful. We weren't sleeping at all. I was (an am) very, very angry about the whole situation. In a nutshell, I believe it was a targeted attempt by our rich and powerful neighbors to drive us out of the neighborhood since we had lodged several complaints about them illegally running a business out of their home.** It is exceeding unfortunate not just because of the great stress and difficulty it caused to our family (oh, did I mention the move happened while I was in the US, so poor Husband had to do it all himself, and I can home from R&R to unpack my entire house? yeah, that was a blast!), but it has completely colored the way I look at the Philippines. I'll keep the deep feelings I have about the corruption and ineptitude of this place to myself, but I don't think I will ever get over this experience.

Anyway, that's enough about that. I'm really trying to put this behind us and focus on the positives so we can make it through our remaining time here with a good attitude. We've been invaded by the hoards, so we're back up to a family of 7 and in a new house no less. This house is in a new village, and I have to say, we just love our new neighborhood. It is so much cleaner and quieter than our old one! And there are a couple of strip mall areas on the outsides of the village entrances, which are incredibly convenient. We don't have a pool any more, which makes me very, very, very sad! But, the yard is bigger than out old one and is not filled with feral cat shit and piss, so we can actually send our kids outside to play (at least in the early morning before it gets too hot). We are also much closer to the Embassy, so our commute has been slashed by a good 15-20 minutes (40 minutes less in traffic per day, yes please!). Thanks to a great deal of hard work by my husband and oldest daughter, C, all of the boxes were already unpacked when I got home, so all I had to do was put things away in the right place, so I feel like we've already got the new house in order in record time. The other really nice thing is that this place has its own guest room (so it's a 5 bedroom), which means my step-son, T, gets his own room, too.

All in all, I think this house is going to work out just fine. It's really nice to have the whole family together again, and we're focused on trying to just enjoy our time together this summer and put this whole housing/neighbor mess behind us. As difficult as the timing was for us, I feel like in some ways it was a blessing to have this happen just before we went on R&R. It feels like a whole new beginning. And it is good to be home.

*Our 4th move just here in Manila! 
**And I maaay have ruined their company Christmas party when I yelled at them in my pajamas to shut off the outdoor karaoke system...which they were drunkenly playing at 11pm...on a school front of my house.

Monday, June 17, 2013


Sorry this blog has ben a ghost town, but I do have a really good excuse. We're on R&R! In HAwaii!! For you non-FS types this is our mid-way break where we go back to the US for some overdue rest and relaxation. I combined this trip with some military duty since getting all my yearly reserve points in is tough from such a remote location.
and don't I look happy about it? ;)

I worked for two weeks and then get almost a week and a half of just play. I used to be stationed out here in the mid 1990s, and C was born here, so Hawaii holds a special place in my heart. Plus, who doesn't love the beauty of the islands?? We rented a house on the West side of Oahu (cheaper and more secluded than trying to go to the touristy areas of Hawaii Kai and North Shore), which has breathtaking views on both sides.

My dad's blog has even better pictures

We have spent many hours just enjoying the fresh air and watching the kids play outside in the surf. It will be hard to go back. Additionally, my parents came out here for a week to hang with us and the kids. It's so nice just being around family and relaxing. I can't remember the last time we had a vacation like this. If only my sisters could be here, it would be just perfect.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Me + Food = Luv

So I have made no secret of the fact that I. love. food. Like love, love. Food and me, we're soul mates. I could not live without food.* Before I came to the Philippines and discovered the non-stop 12 hour days and endless traffic that impedes every possible trip one can take, I used to love to food shop. Discovering new produce, new spices, new ingredients period is enough to give me heart palpitations. Sadly, the atmosphere here is such that one cannot go food shopping (or any kind of shopping) without becoming homicidal. And homicide is not a good recreational activity for a diplomat...or so I'm told.

Anyway, I've learned I'm learning to be more creative with the sparse ingredients in my pantry since I am far more apt to let it go quite bare rather than face the grocery store or bare my wallet to the overpriced organic markets. The good thing is that, despite what my recent posts would have you believe, we actually don't eat out very often anymore. The stress of traffic and parking, the lack of service, and the general poor quality of most restaurants has convinced me that unless I get a personal recommendation from someone who's palate I trust, I am probably not going to risk eating out. The other good news is that Shinsen Yasai Organic Farms is back in business after a 6mos hiatus, and their produce is better than ever. Their home delivery prices are very reasonable, and they only ask for a chip in for fuels if you order less than a certain amount. I don't know if they have a website up yet, but I am more than happy to pass on contact information to anyone who wants it. They deliver to Makati and the Fort every Tuesday and to other parts of the city on other days.

Anyway, I'm currently in lurve with BASing** and am constantly on the lookout for salad ideas. Recently I've become obsessed with the idea of salad in a jar. Freaking genius! And my salads don't have to be of the most healthy variety. Mainly I want lots of veggies, some protein, and some crunch. Everything else is superfluous. So lay 'em on me, folks. What are your favorite salads?

*Well, neither can anyone else, but that's neither here nor there. I can't help it if food is a little bit of a slut. After all, don't we all like our mates a little on the trashy side?