Category Archives: Family

A Weekend of Cooking

So the last half of this past year, after having a wonderful time with the boyfriend, we both managed to slack off a little with our diet and exercise.  What’s the saying, fat and happy?  Well, we’ve both managed to slide back a little in our progress.  So, as with many people, the new year starts off with resolutions.  Resolutions to have a healthier year this year.  And so, this weekend was our time to motivate.  We’ve been having a great time with our new Christmas presents – I got some awesome kitchen knives from my man and he got an awesome Bosch kitchen machine from me.  It’s a mixer and much, much more.  He loves it.

This weekend we started with a run to Costco for our supplies for the weekend.  Back to my place, he made some delicious rye/pumpernickel bread using THE machine – YUM.  Taking a break, we watched some football which was VERY exciting.  Another great meal of salmon and asparagus for dinner finished off our Saturday night.

Sunday morning came, and we decided to make breakfast.  We went with omelets and toast with the homemade bread.  And then he wanted to make butter for our toast…yes, MAKE butter.  So he made butter with the same Bosch machine while I was whipping up our omelet.  He’s quite handy in the kitchen, that is for sure!  We did some more shopping in preparation for the evening’s project and then went down to the gym and worked out.  It’s been awhile since I’ve seen the gym, but it felt good to be back.  Now that we’ve found our initial gym motivation, I think it’ll be easier.  We have about two months until Cancun, so I’m trying to get back into shape for swimsuits!

After another football game, we started on meals for the week.

  I made some mini frittatas in muffin cups and now have some easy, quick, protein-rich breakfast for when I push snooze too many times.  I had one this morning (when I pushed snooze too many times and had to bring it to work) – these were a winner in my book!

After some more football, we started on our lunch for the week project.  I kept seeing these recipes and Pinterest board ideas for Mason jar salads.  I was really liking the idea, but had not as of yet bought any jars to make the salads in.  This weekend we finally bought some and with our Costco supplies, we started in on our Mason jar lunch salads.  We cooked up some chicken and chopped up our veggies (using the wonderful knives, and on a few occasions, the food processor) and had a little salad assembly line going on.  One would be filling while the other was chopping and trying to clean up in between.  It worked well, even with our many ingredients.  Capped the jars and put them in the refrigerator and they were good to go for the week!

Today I brought my salad to work –  the before (in the jar) and after (dumped out) are below.  As I was putting it on the plate, someone walked in and started asking me about it.  I’ve inspired a few people in the office to think about making their own!  🙂  And just for the record – YUM!


Here’s to a great new year of healthy, happy resolutions!  Looking forward to the rest of the year, full of friends, family, love and good times! All the best to you and yours!

Blog Update – Slacker edition

I’ve been a slacker, I know.  Here’s to a renewed blog in the New Year!  Life has been wonderful these last months.  My boyfriend and I are beyond happy with each other.  We took a few trips out of town over the fall – a camping adventure and a trip to Pittsburgh to see (and for him, to meet) my best friend Jeni and husband Jason, and they all loved each other. We also went down to see his family for Thanksgiving, which was the first time I’ve met them.  We took to each other like a fish takes to water…I love them already and they seem to love me too.  His younger niece asked me if I could be her aunt – I was honored.  They remind me a lot of my own family, and they really made me feel welcome.

The day after Thanksgiving, we went to Paris, which was just wonderful!  I’ve been there a number of times, but this was his first trip there and it was great to be able to show him my Paris.  I was also confident enough in my French ability to make it through most of the trip just speaking French to the various merchants and French people and not once asking “Parlez-vous anglais?”  We also got some beautiful photos, one of which I’ve attached below.

Paris at sunset

We had a great trip back, and a wonderful Christmas and New Year’s.  The new year is upon us, and as we’ve taken stock of the last year, the many ups and downs, we are blissfully happy to start this new year.  He is turning 40 this year, and we have planned a trip down to Cancun, where much of the rest of my family we will meet up with (and he’ll finally get to meet them in person!) and have a ton of fun.  We are both looking forward to that!  We also look forward to getting healthier in the new year, learning new things and just appreciating everything we have.  I think coming back to Washington for a tour was the best move I’ve made in a long time!


This is the end…of home leave

As all good things must come to an end, home leave is over. The weeks have flown by seeing family and friends. While in some ways I didn’t do nearly as much on this home leave as my last, doing nothing was probably better for me, coming out of Baghdad. It gave me time to just hang out with my family, get to know them and let them get to know me better.

This past weekend I went to a family reunion, the first big one since 2000. In my last post I mention the number 200; I underestimated and the numbers are closer to 300 in my family! That includes my aunts, uncles, cousins, kids of cousins, and kids of kids of cousins. It’s seriously insane. How insane, you ask? We needed name tags at our family reunion, specifying your name and lineage (e.g. Daughter of X who is son of Y.) Seriously, craziness. But it was fun seeing them all together again. I was also pleasantly surprised that I have a few readers of this very blog among my family members. 🙂 Here’s a random pic to give you an idea of sheer numbers – and this is just a small percentage of everyone was that was there:


The rest of home leave has consisted mostly of unpacking all this stuff! I am still living in a land of boxes with no end in sight. But at least now I have silverware, dishes and pans – I am able to cook again! I made homemade gyoza the other night and my date and I made sushi, which were both delicious! Gyoza are really very simple to make (even the wrappers!) and I’m glad I made enough to freeze! I found a great grocery store in the neighborhood for sushi grade fish, which made proper sushi (rather than my makeshift Baghdad sushi.) Here’s a pic (which is also much better than the Baghdad sushi picture):


Thanks to a wonderful friend, I also got to go see The Eagles in concert! It was an awesome concert – highly recommended. Joe Walsh is just amazing on that guitar, and it’s crazy how many great songs they have had. Today I had a Baghdad out briefing class and stopped into my new office to see firstly, where it is so I can find it Monday when I start, and secondly to say hello. I walked in and I instantly knew I was in the right place – my name was on the desk. 🙂 Said a quick hello, then saw a few more old friends on my way out the door. You really can’t turn around without seeing someone you know! I walked to and from work today, which was pretty great – it’s pretty close and I’m looking forward to being able to walk! The bus line is also very convenient, for those days I don’t feel like walking. I’m so excited! I’m also going sailing this weekend – I can’t wait!!

Happy Independence Day!

Happy Independence Day! This is the first July Fourth I’ve been in the USA in many years. It’s starting off as a beautiful day. I’ve gotten a little festive this year, with jello molds.

20130704-080200.jpg Because what else says America like jello in all its festiveness? Today we are having that American creation called the taco too. 🙂

I’ve been enjoying my home leave with family and seeing some old friends. We’ve gone out on the lake (it’s Minnesota, “the lake” means whichever one you’re closest to) a few times on the pontoon and I’ve had more than a couple Bloody Marys – because nobody makes them like Minnesota does, and it’s also the only place I’ve been where you get a beer chaser with it!


I got a message from WordPress yesterday telling me I’ve been writing this blog for two years now! Looking back on the adventures in Iraq, it was a truly unique experience and I think I learned a lot about myself in that time. Not only that, I also turned forty! I thank you, my dear readers, for all your support these last two years. It’s amazing for me to think that people all over the world are reading my blog, and it reminds me how big and small the world is in the very same moment.

America is an amazing mixture of people and I am proud to be home on this Fourth of July. I hope everyone has (and had) a wonderful day!

Merry Christmas!







I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas!  My holidays this year were some of the best in recent memory.  In Baghdad, no less!!  While I was unable to make it back to the U.S. to see family this year, I ended up having so many laughs over the past week that I wouldn’t have changed it for the world.  I am so fortunate to have such awesome people in my life.  Between game nights, dinners, karaoke, movies, and calls from my family, it was FABULOUS.



We (boyfriend and I) made sushi and egg drop soup for Christmas Eve dinner – I had brought back some cold smoked salmon with me from Greece to use in the sushi – and it was delicious!  I made my first attempt at a rainbow roll – it was so pretty I had to take a picture.






We ate,  then my mom called, wondering if we had opened presents yet.  I had received one, but it didn’t end up being the one from her.  I had her on speakerphone, and so the boyfriend and mom got to say hello to each other.  We opened presents, then friends came over and we played games – and talked to my family some more while we were playing (EVERYONE got to say hello and LOVE YOU MOM) – it was a perfect night.  Christmas Day we watched one of my all time favorite non-traditional Christmas movies – The Ref.  It was his first time seeing in and he was not disappointed.  We made it out of the apartment and to the DFAC for Christmas dinner.  It was a wonderful way to spend the holidays – with the one I love.







Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve posted; I was on my first official R&R!  Before that, I was roving in Basrah for a week.  While I was there, having finished reading the two books I brought with me, I wandered over to the PX to see what I could find.  More books!  While I do buy a fair number of ebooks, sometimes I just like something more… tactile and papery.  One book caught my eye, The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin, and I bought it.  It’s a great read that I think everyone can benefit from.

Now, some of you might say, but Darlene, you seem like such a happy person, why do you need a happiness project?  Because we can all be happier!  Changing our mind set to be happier, rather than focusing on negatives, makes life better.  I have incorporated some of Gretchen’s thoughts into my own life so far, and am going to start my own Happiness Project.  I hope you’ll join me!

One of the first things I’ve incorporated is taking better care of my health.  While I usually eat pretty healthy, I tend to slack when it comes to exercise.  I make excuses and get lazy.  But last week, I finally made it to my first yoga class here!  And I showed up for Insanity class – which apparently changed times – but instead of just going home, I hopped on the treadmill and pushed myself!  I’ve tried getting a regular exercise routine going in the past, and haven’t stuck with it.  While on my way back from R&R, I had copious amounts of time in between flights and did a little impulse purchasing.  This isn’t my normal MO, but I was intrigued by the little device just sitting there asking me to buy it.  I thought it was a very good motivational tool for me – it’s called a Fitbit!  So far I love it, and have now purchased some companions to it.  It tracks a bunch of different things that you access online – steps, stairs, sleep… I love it and it really has motivated me.  Hopefully it’ll continue to do so…I suppose only time will tell, but I’m excited.  I’m thinking about starting another blog to track my fitness progress.  I think that will motivate me even more to keep with it!

Musings of a Scattered Brain

I’m very happy to report that I’ve had over 1,000 views on my blog!  Thank you to everyone for staying with me.  While I realize sometimes my blog is a bit scattered, with a mélange of thoughts, pictures, and musings, it’s just who I am.  I’ve been roving in the front office this week, and I think I’ve brought a few smiles up here, and a little entertainment.  I hope I’ve brought that to my blogosphere too. 🙂

We’ve been having a few difficulties getting fresh fruit and vegetables in lately, so our salad bar is sorely lacking.  I’ve been missing salad a lot.  It was usually my fall back plan when nothing else looked good to eat in the DFAC.  Is a little lettuce, tomato and cucumber too much to ask?  I may have to start cooking a bit more at home with my PX purchases, but with long hours in the front office, I just don’t feel like it when I get home. 

Now I’m getting ready to take another trip – this one back to the states for R&R.  Family and friends await me, and I’m looking forward to getting back.  Not only to see them, but to be amazed at the produce section of the grocery store, as I usually am when I return home.  It is sensory overload, with all the different colors, scents, varieties, and just the pure volume of all those fresh fruits and veggies.  It’s a sight to behold that most people in the U.S. take for granted, but it gets me every time I come back from extended periods overseas. 

Wishing you a wonderful day, and hoping to see you around the globe!

So, Where Are You Now?

Life is an Adventure with Endless Destinations

L-Jay Health

Nutrition and Fitness

On the Way to a Healthier Jeni

Ups, downs, all of it.

Rantings of an Amateur Chef - What works, and what doesn't!

Come believe with me.

I was once on an island and eight parakeets landed on me. I had positioned myself to welcome them. Hope has that effect. I want to see all of creation awaken with hope~ especially the Middle East. Anything is possible for those who believe. ☆☆☆☆ Come believe with me. ☆☆☆☆


life of a globetrotting family of 5 in the US foreign service


The Life of Gizmo the Cat

The Dinoia Family

Or, How I Got From There to Here

ma vie trouvée

Or, How I Got From There to Here


Or, How I Got From There to Here

%d bloggers like this: