Sunday, May 31, 2009


Will and I are sick. We've never been sick at the same time before and I've quickly realized how its no fun when you are both ill. Will has a sinus infection and I have no idea what I have (okay fine - I'm in denial about having a sinus infection too...) so we're both sniffling-sore throated-tired-red-nosed individuals.

Plus there's nothing worse than being sick on the weekend.

Despite our runny noses, we've had a fairly good weekend. Friday night we attended a trivia night at the British High Commission. Lucky them - they have a functioning party space on site! They had a cash bar, pasta dinner, and trivia with clues you could purchase with all proceeds going to a good cause. Adam, Beth, Will, and I made up the team known as "Blue and Gray" (much better than our original name of "Team America"). We came in last, primarily because we didn't know how to use the clues to double and triple our scores (we mainly got 8/10 on things) and after round 5 we really stopped caring. We got 6 boxes of antacids as a prize - woohoo. It was super fun, if a teensy bit long (10 rounds of 10 questions and starting at 7:30... yowsa).

Yesterday was the Super 14 Championship (i.e. rugby's equivalent to the Super Bowl). Pretoria's Blue Bulls were challenging the New Zealand Chiefs at home here in Pretoria so you can imagine how crazy the town was yesterday. We met up with friends at Cactus Creek, which has a great outdoor patio to watch the game (and blessedly this time had put in heat lamps since its so cold outside). The Blue Bulls killed the Chiefs - it was such an exciting game! I'm really enjoying watching rugby. Its no substitute for SEC football, but its fantastic to watch.

Today we're beginning the process of packing for Ireland & London. We have no idea what luggage restrictions there are for Lufthansa and BMI so we need to find out before we start hauling out luggage.

I am super stoked about our trip. We fly into Dublin, spend two nights there, and then head south to County Kerry where we're staying in Castle Cove (just south of Kenmare). We'll also overnight in Dingle and Kilkenny. Highlights include the Guinness Brewery, St. Francis Abbey (where they make Smithwick's), Mizen Head, Skelling Michael, Rock of Cashel, Blarney Castle... beyond that, we've just planned on seeing where the roads of Ireland take us.

London is much much MUCH more organized, primarily because we're only there for 4 nights. Its the 500th anniversary of Henry VIII's coronation so all the palaces and historical sites have special exhibits. We're definitely heading to the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, Kensington Palace, St. Paul's Cathedral, Tower Bridge, Westminster Abbey, the British Museum, the Courtald Gallery, the London Eye, and the National Gallery. Phew - that's a lot! And of course, we have to have high tea somewhere.

And as I told Will... if I see a taco bell or pizza hut while we're in London, we're stopping. YUM. Trashy American fast food!

If you have any tips or suggestions, let us know!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Recipes to try!

I'm in love with my Crock Pot. Aside from the fact that I purchased it for $15 from someone moving back to the US when it retails for $50, aside from the fact that it has a removeable insert and carrying case, and aside from the fact that I can run it through the dishwasher when I'm finished so I don't have to battle the monster in the sink... it makes a-mazing soup.

This is all to say: send me Crock Pot recipes!

My mom gave me this recipe a LONG time ago. I love Olive Garden's pasta fagioli soup and thought I'd finally give the recipe a whirl with my new Crock Pot, per Will's suggestion. I prepped everything the night before and just set my Crock Pot insert in the fridge to keep over night. The next morning all I had to do was take it from the fridge, place it in the Crock Pot, and set it to "low." EASY.

I came home to a house that smelled so amazing! All that was left to do was make the noodles to go in it. When all is said and done, this soup definitely makes 14-16 servings. I used lean ground beef and added crushed fennel as it cooked to make it taste like italian sausage. I also added garlic here and there. The soup was incredible and we will be eating it for awhile.

Last night I decided to try a Rachael Ray recipe for sesame chicken that I had clipped awhile back. In addition to the green beans and red bell pepper, I added mushrooms and broccoli. I steamed all the veggies prior to cooking so they'd be easier to stir fry. I also used 1 tbsp. of honey instead of 3 tbsp. and used sambal olek instead of hot sauce. I also added garlic here and there because I can. I steamed the rice in my microwave rice cooker (buy it - it will change your life! its one of my favorite kitchen items - rice in 12 minutes!) and just added the chopped green onions when it was done. The rice tasted kind of like fried rice, but without all the grease. The stir fry was really light and tasty and I loved the toasted sesame seeds. I also liked making my own sauce rather than using a bottled stir fry sauce. This is a great way to use up veggies that are about to turn bad!


Best weekend in awhile.

Memorial Day weekend - typically a time for kicking off summer with burgers, boats, and being a bum.

Its winter here in SA so Memorial Day weekend wasn't all together warm and filled with burgers. But it was the best weekend I've had in a really long time.

Friday we hosted the Embassy's wine and cheese event. We opened our doors to our fellow ex pats, who in turn filled our house with wine and other delectable treats. My dinner that night consisted of wine, cheese, chorizo, cheesecake, and black pepper whole grain triscuits (have you had these? SO GOOD!). The sweet tea we served was imbibed as much as the wine - just goes to show you that its always a good idea to serve the house wine of the South! We had a fire bowl going outside, relaxing tunes on the radio, and just an overall fantastic party.

Saturday I woke up and cleaned our house with Maria. Together we washed about 50 wine glasses, 50 tea glasses, and tons of plates and forks. By 10:30, my house was sparkling. Note to self: always have parties on Friday nights when Maria can help clean up the next day!

We went to a food market that morning and bought the awesome paprika cheese someone had bought last night and some curious sausage that was oh so yummy. That afternoon we watched a rugby match at an outdoor cantina, which actually serves mexican food. It was so nice to sit outside and enjoy a beautiful fall afternoon. That evening, we had planned to go bowling but wound up eating fantastic sushi and seeing Angels and Demons, which I really enjoyed.

Sunday we ran errands and went to the gym. I went swimming for the first time since we've moved here and I had the whole pool to myself. So nice! That evening we had Geet for dinner, my favorite Indian place. Yummy. We also watched the Rescue Me season 5 episodes that mom sent us (THANK YOU!).

Monday was another lazy day with no plans. We finished up our wedding album, did a couple things around the house, made dog food, and did the grocery shopping. Monday evening Will made a fire in our borrowed fire pit and we ate outside under the stars - a delicious homegrown arugula salad (just arugula, cherry tomatoes, olive oil, shaved parmesan, and lemon juice) plus an amazing steak. It was so nice to sit outside in the cool weather by the warm fire, talking about our plans for the future while stars went shooting by. A perfect end to a perfect weekend!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Spandex a go-go

This week was a miraculous week for me. I made it to the gym three different times* (Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday night) and took three different classes. WOOT! Its a first since being here in SA, and honestly, a bit sad. There are various and sundry reasons why I don't make it to the gym as often as I should (after being inside all day, I like to run outside... I've been out of the country.... sometimes I just don't want to), and they are all pretty lame so....

Why am I posting about the gym? I think with all things here, its just interesting to see how things are the same yet so very different. Sometimes I can barely understand the instructor because of South African phrases that are used during a cardio class. I find myself watching others rather than relying on what the instructor says because 90% of the time I have no earthly idea what came out of their mouth. I also find it fascinating to look at what people decide to wear to the gym. The shoes, the spandex, the tops... its all so different from what we're used to in the states. Its not bad, but its just interesting to see how everyone else looks the same (all black spandex, black shoes, etc.) and me in my Old Navy tank top, yoga capris, white ankle socks, and pink and silver running shoes = big sign that I'm clearly not from around here....


This week I did kickboxing, body conditioning, and Zumba. Kickboxing was awesome. I forgot how much I like that class plus we had a great instructor. We actually did half the class with weighted poles, which made me feel very Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle (did I just type that?) and tough. Great workout.

Body conditioning is South Africa's mix of hell on earth. Part cardio, part weight-lifting - its tough! Even though that class kicks my arse, I can tell. I love the way I feel afterward, like I got a total body workout in 60 minutes.

Tonight Beth and I tried Zumba. They premiered it at our gym tonight for the first time so we figured we might as well go when no one else knows what they are doing either. Ha! Chelsea has been raving about Zumba forever (and is training to become an instructor! awesome!) so when I saw it offered at the gym, I knew it was a must.

I'm in love!

Zumba is essentially what I would call Dance Party USA. Its mostly latin dancing (salsa, rumba, etc.) combined with some basic workout moves (knee lifts, lunges, squats) and a lot of shaking your hips and more. Our class also had some line dancing and the twist, which made the class really fun for me. It was great to workout to country music for a change! There was also a touch of belly dancing in the class. I know I looked horrificly awkward, but I didn't care. I had FUN. To be honest, it reminded me a lot of Jazzercise, but just a lot more awesomer. ha! I will definitely be going again. It just makes me realize I really need to buy some shoes for working out in the classroom. Fun!

*I feel its important to log my 2 mile run on Sunday, which was not going to the gym, but a way to start off the week with a little exercise in the great outdoors.

Monday, May 4, 2009


I'm driving in South Africa. Its true. Well wait, not right now as I type this. But today and a couple days before that, I have driven here and there. And its exciting.

With Will gone, I am now reliant on driving myself around. Before Will left, I had the fantastic opportunity to demonstrate amazing ineptitude at learning to drive a stick shift hoss of a car in 30 minutes. Let me take the opportunity to remind you of the hoss:

I'm fantastic at shifting from 1st gear to 2nd gear (with my left hand, no less!) and backing the hoss up... all on flat ground, mind you. But driving through the incredibly steep hills of Pretoria while weaving through narrow roads all without someone telling me about keeping it between 200-300rpms (or something like that)? It just wasn't meant to be. As I told Will, if he was sitting in the passenger seat telling me what to do, different story. But he's not here so...

I had resigned myself to being car-less for the 17 days that Will is gone. I was going to get rides to work by walking down to the guest house 0.5 miles from my house and picking up the ride with the temporary staffers. I was going to walk the 2 mile round trip to the grocery store and/or restaurants to get necessary supplies and sustenance (have so far done this twice since Will has been gone - I love it!). All other fun was just going to be reliant on those who had mercy on my car-less soul.

And then... an offer we couldn't refuse. A friend of ours offered to trade cars during Will's absence, allowing me to graciously drive their automatic Volvo station wagon (I LOVE IT) while they took our beloved Hoss, their dream car (and they promptly took it on safari).

When I first got behind the wheel, it was weird. WEIRD. I hadn't sat in a driver's seat since for 10 months! But that wasn't what was weird. It was the seat belt coming over my right shoulder instead of my left. It was being in a car low to the ground after riding in the Defender for so many months. It was getting acclimated to a car with all the bells and whistles (I'm in love with the seat warmer, thankyouverymuch. the dingdingding to let you know you're about to back into something is awesome too).

For my practice lesson, I successfully backed out and conquered a round-about. Woohoo. And then I hit a curb. All confidence was shattered as I thought, there. I've done it. I've busted their front bumper (I didn't, for the record). And so the car has pretty much sat in my driveway, for fear that I somehow have an inability to grasp the sheer size of that car (did I mention that this is a volvo station wagon and not a teeny Yarus type car?).

But I'm getting better. I am still pulling through parking spaces and going to the most empty part of the (patrolled) parking lot to get a space as the parking spaces are teeny here and I just don't feel confident that I will pull myself into the space successfully. The streets go from being extremely narrow to those "luxurious wide lanes" that Elaine finds on Seinfeld, thanks to Kramer. At times I feel I have enough space, at other times I feel that the car next to me is going to side-swipe me (in reality, there's probably like 6 foot of space between us - who knows).

The thing is... I've realized I miss driving. I actually really enjoy it. I love getting in a car and singing along to the radio as loud as I want (I usually tone it down a notch for Will so as to not sing full volume in his face as he drives). I actually think round-abouts are a bit fun. I realize I really miss not being able to jump in the car and drive for two miles to see someone I love.

Tonight I'm happy to report that I drove to the gym. I went to kick-boxing, which was actually really really fun. I enjoyed the instructor and the variety of the moves presented in the class. My plan is to go to the gym and try new classes this week. Tomorrow night I'm trying a class called Powerpump, which I'm hoping is like Body Pump, the best class ever. Chelsea's beloved Zumba class is being offered for the first time on Thursday night, so I am definitely going to that. Some pilates and yoga may be mixed in there somewhere... I am just looking forward to mixing up my exercise routine (and being in town long enough to go to the gym instead of traveling!).

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Slowing down.

These once a month updates will stop soon, I promise. Why? Because things are slowing down... I will no longer be traveling as much as I have been, which means I'll be in the office and at home, giving me time to sit here and talk to you.


With the passing of May 1, we have officially been in South Africa 10 months. Yes, 10 months! 10 months without momma and poppa Brock, without driving on the *correct* side of the road, without Target, without friends and family, without mexican cheese dip, without TV (gosh I miss Food Network), without being surrounded by people with similar southern accents.

And its been good. I haven't been too homesick - I guess mainly because I'm so busy and also because there is enough about Pretoria that reminds me of home that I don't miss it. I guess also because Will and the dogs are here to keep me happy. However...

Will went home last weekend to the U.S. and I miss him terribly. I realized this is the first time that he's left me... throughout our entire relationship, its been me leaving him at home while I travel to Tanzania, South Africa, Angola, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia, Washington D.C., you name it. Aside from brief sojourns throughout the state of Georgia that would last one or two nights, I really haven't been without him. Go ahead - call me spoiled. We've just never been fans of being apart from each other if we could help it. But this is 17 days of being by myself in a foreign country. I won't lie to you - its been hard.

What makes it hard are the two dogs moping around the house and staring longingly at the door waiting for Will to bust in. Its hard when I have a really simple question that I must answer and I just want to run the scenario by someone... and no one is here (Muddy is really good at looking interested in my convos though). Its hard feeling like I should get out of the house and do something - but where would I go? And what would I do? Its even difficult thinking, "what should I make for dinner?" knowing that I'm filling up a fridge of food I have to eat repeatedly throughout the week (I hate leftovers). Its hard knowing Will is at a wedding where I'd like to be with him, that Will is with our family and friends, that Will is eating good sushi... and I'm here.

In some ways its been nice to have this time on my own as I've tackled quite a few projects I would have otherwise left undone. Its sad that my big plan for today is to unclutter our guest room, which has become the room in which we dump everything that has no official home.

Truly, I'm ecstatically happy for Will. He needed this trip home and I'm hopeful great things will come of it. He calls me multiple times a day (thank you Vonage!) to catch me up on life back home so its not so bad. But let's just say... I'll be glad when he gets back!

So what's been going on with me other than missing Will...

This past week I went to Durban. It was quite possibly the worst travel of my life as I got picked up much too early and dropped off much too late. Save for complaints about transport, Durban was pretty nice! It reminds me a lot of Ft. Lauderdale - a big steamy city on the beach... and not the prettiest beach, mind you, but there's something peaceful about hearing the waves and seeing people have fun on the beach. I stayed at an awesome hotel where I got bumped up to the top floor with a sea view. For about $90/night, not bad. I ate dinner at a great little place on Florida road and had the best time.

Most importantly, I had great visits with my grantees. The first day I went out and met with the traditional healers (sangoma in Zulu), which really gave me a better idea of the project. Traditional healers are essentially the "doctors" of the villages here, except they haven't been formally educated or trained. They use the practices passed down from generation to generation to help people. As I took of my shoes and entered the sangoma's hut, I see all sorts of herbs, switches, massive roosters walking around, cobwebs, blankets, and fire pits to be used on people suffering from various malaise. They've been a HUGE help in the HIV/AIDS epidemic in terms of encouraging people to use condoms, referring those who need to go to the clinic, and more. What struck me was their gratitude. One traditional healer said, "Before PEPFAR, I was ashamed because I was not educated. You have made me feel important and I am so happy to know I have helped so many against this disease." I couldn't help but get choked up by her words.

Moving on to more random things...

I realized the other day how much my eating habits have changed here, so much to the point that I think my mom will be shocked the next time she sees me eat! What's changed?
  • I willingly eat runny eggs. Before, I liked my eggs scrambled - no yolk anywhere! Since being here, I started eating fried eggs, but only if the yolk was well done. For whatever reason, they won't do scrambled eggs here (there's lots of confusion when you ask for them) nor will they cook an egg all the way done. Hence, I've started to eat my eggs a bit runny. I'm amazed that it doesn't gross me out and that... I actually think it tastes better when eggs are cooked over medium. Don't worry... no sunny-side up eggs for me. That would take it a bit too far...
  • I ate pineapple on my pizza the other day and it was YUMMY. I also eat avocado on pizza. Try it. YUM.
  • I've acclimated to South Africa so much that I eat with my knife and fork almost all the time. South Africans eat in the european style of using their knife to make little bites to scrape on their fork. Its really interesting to me to watch and I've come to realize, it can be quite an efficient way of eating. Previously, I used to cut up my food, lay down my knife, switch hands, and eat. Now I just keep both utensils in my hands all the time. Weird.
  • I'm a big fan of curries, especially prawn curry.
  • I ate beets the other day. Yes, that's right. Me. I ate BEETS. My parents used to can beets when I was younger and I would literally leave the house due to the stink boiled beets create. Yuck. When I got home from Malawi two weeks ago, Will instructed me to change into something nice and he'd take me to dinner. Lo and behold, the most romantic date since our honeymoon occurred. We went to this fantastic French restaurant that was all candlelit, full of fresh flowers, and played fantastic french music. We ordered a tasting menu - french onion soup, scallops, duck breast, cheese platter, creme brulee. Romantic and delicious! I went back three nights later with Jody and Beth and I got a toasted goat cheese salad. It came with a beet and apple stack that was absolutely delicious. And it came with toasted pistachios
  • So within that entry above, my mom would be shocked that I ate: beets, duck breast, a platter of cheeses, pistachios
Random fact of southern Africa: everywhere I go, people sing. Whether they are tone deaf or not, they sing out loud, whatever song is in their head. Sometimes they are singing to a song playing overhead, but more often than not, they just sing to sing. And of course, it puts a smile on my face.

For right now, I am no longer headed to Mozambique due to timing issues. This leaves my next trip as my beloved R&R to Ireland and London. I'm having so much fun planning the trip! If you have any suggestions, leave them in the comments.