Hello, October

At first I thought September was kind of dragging along, and then all of sudden it’s October. Funny how that works.

Over the weekend, Stacey and her husband hosted a cookout for the whole Embassy community, and it was great. They had a ridiculous amount of meat – pork and beef bbq ribs, hamburgers and chicken – and everyone else brought a side dish. Because they are from New Orleans, JR wanted to make his special jambalaya. It worked out great for me because I didn’t need to cook, and everyone at the party loved it. Success!

Apparently people from New Orleans take their grilling quite seriously – look at that thing. This was the second round of meat, I was probably busy eating and didn’t get a picture the first time, but the whole grill was full.

cookout

There was also a surprise guest there – this ADORABLE little puppy. One of JR’s co-workers found the puppy wandering around outside the Turkish Embassy, and took him home hoping to find a permanent home for him. When JR first told me about the puppy, we had a lengthy discussion about whether we should get a dog right now (spoiler alert, this does not end with us getting the puppy!). We agreed it wasn’t great timing, but that was before I actually saw this adorable creature, and when I did, I wanted to take back everything I’d said and take him straight home. Logic prevailed, and our friend Amy, who’s been looking for a puppy, adopted him! Isn’t he the cutest thing?

puppy

Now that it’s October, Halloween planning is in full swing. It’s JR’s favorite holiday, and he’s coordinating all the volunteers for the children’s party hosted at the Embassy. At last year’s party, they went through 150lbs of candy in an hour! So our CLO office has been asking for candy donations. JR forwarded the e-mail along to our families, and they have been AMAZING and have sent so much candy for the kids. (I swear, it’s for the kids. JR won’t even keep it in the house because he’s deemed me somewhat untrustworthy around candy). Here’s a picture of just one package we got.

candy

Our families have been awesome about sending care packages. Most food items are available here in some capacity, but it’s still really nice to have my mom send me a random package with jello, frosting, muffin mixes, and mints! Now if we could just figure out a way for her to send me an East of Chicago pizza, I’d be set!

In case you were curious, it’s October and I’m still not working. I’m really close, but the government shutdown is not helping my situation. At this time, JR is going to work per usual, and we are very much hoping that his paychecks are not delayed. No one really knows what to expect or how long this will last. I am disappointed that it came to this, and I really feel for our friends who were sent home from work yesterday, and don’t know when they can return. My proposal is that we kick everyone out of the House and Senate and start fresh with new people. Except Sherrod Brown, because he’s basically perfect.

So stay tuned to see if I ever actually work again!

4th of July

We had a great day yesterday celebrating the 4th. We were invited to a cook out in the afternoon, and I wanted to make strawberry and angel food cake skewers. I’ve made them before, and it is so easy. Buy an angel food cake at Kroger, along with fresh strawberries and blueberries. Wash the fruit and cut the tops off the strawberries. Cut the cake into small squares, and then thread onto the skewers. So fast and easy.

It was a little bit more involved here in Kosovo. First, there is no Kroger, and no pre-made angel food cake. Bondsteel sells some cake mixes, but not angel food. My mom was nice enough to send over a couple of boxes of cake mix (she also included Reeses Peanut Butter Cups, because she’s awesome like that.) Unfortunately, stawberries are no longer in season here, and blueberries are not yet in season, so I needed to buy frozen. And I had to visit three different grocery stores just to find the blueberries.

Once I had all of my ingredients, it was almost smooth sailing. The angel food cake is supposed to be cooked in a bundt pan. Don’t have that. Of the recommended options, I only had an 8.5in loaf pan. So I had to make three small cakes. But it turned out nice enough!

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The cookout was really nice, tons of great food and lots of red, white and blue. After the cookout, we wanted to walk downtown to Mother Theresa (the pedestrian boulevard) to see the local 4th of July celebration. I’m not sure if there are any other countries that celebrate America’s Independence like Kosovo. There was a stage set up on the street and the first speaker said so many wonderful things about our country, and what our country has done for Kosovo, and how they were happy to celebrate with us. Kosovo’s president, Atifete Jahjaga, and our Amabassador, Tracy Jacobson, also gave speeches. (The first speaker spoke in English and Albanian. The president spoke in Albanian only, so I didn’t understand. When our Ambassador stood up to speak, I assumed she would speak English. I forgot she speaks at least 5 other languages, including Albanian, so she addressed the crowd in Albanian. She is awesome.) The whole time they were speaking, there were images flashing in the background of American leaders.

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Next, the Iowa National Guard Band performed a few songs, including God Bless America. I was feeling a little bit homesick, but I was also feeling proud. Proud to be an American, proud to be in Kosovo, and incredibly proud of JR and his colleagues (here and around the world) for all of their hard work. (I have a great video of the band performing, but I can’t figure out how to upload it.)

We went back to our place to relax and hopefully see a few fireworks, which we did! Then, because no 4th of July is complete unless I’ve listened to Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless The U.S.A.” at least three times, I started watching various YouTube videos of the song and of course ended up in tears. Since I was already crying, it seemed logical to search for videos of “surprise military homecomings”. Don’t EVER do that, unless you want to ugly cry.

This one ruins me every time. I realize I’m posting the video, but really you should not watch this unless you are alone and you have tissues.

Hope everyone had a wonderful holiday!