Thursday, March 31, 2011


The FS Weekly Blog Round up is being hosted by Stephanie of Where in the World Am I? This weeks optional talking point (OPT) is toilets. Yeah. Toilets. You wouldn't think toilets would be such an interesting topic but, Oh man are toilets overseas a big deal.

The kid's all time favorite toilets are the ones in the Tokoyo Narita Airport. We had a 8 hour layover there once and I really thought the kids were going to dehydrate themselves going to the bathroom every 10 minutes. Turns out they were just playing with the toilets and the cool turbo handryers. What's so great about a toilet? Well these had a heated seats, built-in bidets with warm water, I think I remember a blowdryer, and sound effects. There was no little silver flush handle, instead there was a control panel with lots of little buttons, in Japanese. The boys were in toilet heaven. It took care of at least an hour of that layover.

Personally I like the self cleaning toilets in Germany. When you flush the seat suddenly starts rotating through a cleaner. Each person using the toilet gets a freshly cleaned seat. No more worrying if someone "sprinkled while they tinkled." Ingenious. I can think of a few dozen bathrooms along I10 that could use this feature!

I am pretty sure that everyone's least favorite toilets are the "squatters" so named because you must assume a squatting position in order to use it. Lord have mercy if you have bad knees, are pregnant, or for some other reason you can't squat down and get back up with out loosing your balance or having to touch the wall. I have yet to be in a squatter toilet that I would willingly touch any surface.

If you should have to use a squatter my son's advice is just to take off your pants rather than risk having them touch the puddle of....nastiness that's invariably on the floor of squatters. Carefully take off your pants and hang them around your neck, one less thing to worry about.

My advice when traveling in an area that has squatters is to skip that second cup of coffee to reduce the chance of having to use one, and carry toilet paper. Squatters NEVER have toilet paper. Sometimes thay have a hose, most often they have a bucket of water and scoop. The idea is to use the water to wash yourself using your left hand (which also explains the taboo against touching food with your left hand), no idea how you are supposed to get dry. Toilet paper, purell and maybe baby wipes are esential travel equipment in such areas. Never leave home without them.

I have managed so far to avoid having much contact with African public toilets. I plan to keep it that way. That bit about skipping the second cup of coffee? Vital! Also no matter how quick the trip is supposed to be I go right before I leave the house, you never know what might happen. There are a few western style toilets in Lilongwe I will use in a pinch but they do tend to smell, and I try hard not touch anything in the bathrooms, ever. Mom thank you for forcing me to "hover" over public toilets, who knew that would become such valuable skill?

When we went to Zambia the boys had to use the bathroom at the border crossing while we were dealing with paperwork. Dakota took the little ones. He came back and reported that the urinal was a long trench in the ground deeper than he was tall. The younger boys added in details about bugs, flies, and smells that I could have lived without. He reassured me that he held onto his brothers while they went so they wouldn't fall in. GAH! I decided then and there that I could hold it until we reached camp in a few hours, and possibly until we returned to our house in a week, depending on the conditions at the camp. Thankfully the toilets at camp were fine, a bit buggy at night, but otherwise not bad. At least I didn't have to hold it for a week. Small blessings!

I've had occasion to use a composting toilet on a reasonably regular basis as I take gardening classes at the Nature's Gift Permaculture Center. It doesn't smell like I thought it would. That's a good thing! They keep a bucket of wood shavings and a bucket of ash next to the toilet and there are instructions posted in English and Chichewa to put a little bit of the shavings into the toilet after each "deposit" and a little ash it if it starts to smell. It seems to work, and it doesn't use any water, a HUGE consideration in an area where water is such a precious commodity. If I had a cabin waaaayy off in the woods on the side of a mountain somewhere, a composting toilet might be an viable option. Maybe.

Well that's the Cyberbones Toilets of the World tour. Make sure to click over to Where in the World Am I? on Friday to check out the Weekly Roundup. I hope someone had a fancy toilet with a bidet, I always wanted a bidet. Don't know what I would do with it, but it seems cool.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

New Hobby/Obsession

I have started working on the quilt squares I inherited. Thanks to everyone who gave me feedback on the quilt design last week. I think I will alternate solid squares with the pieced squares in a checkerboard pattern. Whenever I have 5 minutes I try to sew a couple of pieces together. I am making progress, but it is slow. When my mother-in-law started piecing this quilt she did it all by hand. I decided that I would continue with what she started, all hand work, no machines, that would be cheating.

I have learned a few things:
1. I can't sew a straight line to save my life.
2. I am spending more time "unsewing" than actually sewing.
3. If I am lucky this quilt ought to be done by the time I am ninety.
4. Next quilt will be machine pieced.

Friday, March 25, 2011

It's Genetic

This afternoon as I was skyping with Mom one of the boys ran by screaming bloody murder. The boys had been poking around in the bushes (where I have told them repeatedly not to go) so my first thought was that he got bit by a snake. My heart started to beat faster. Instead of running inside, he ran to the fish pond and jumped in. "Ahhh... Better!" So, probably not a snake bite. My heart started to slow down a bit.

My heart slowed down too soon, as just seconds later he started screaming again. "It burns! It Hurts! My legs Hurt! Ow Ow Ow!" Great, just great. I tried to say goodbye to Mom, but she cut me off, told me to go take care of her grandson and hung up on me without a goodbye. Hmpf!

Colin made it to the living room, still screaming, about the same time Alonzo yelled though the window that it was green papaya sap. Good to know. Colin reacts to the sap from unripe papaya fruit the same way most people react to poison ivy. You would think he would learn to leave the stuff alone.

A few questions confirmed that it could be green papaya or possibly any number of other plants causing some sort of reaction. Every since the angel trumpet episode I am inclined to view the plants in the yard with a fair amount of suspicion. What ever it was, it seems as if fish poop and pond water didn't help much. The fish poop did gross me out. I guess from a kid's point of view that's something.

I threw the screaming kid into the shower and scrubbed down his legs several times, rinsing thoroughly between each scrubbing. This is a good initial treatment plan for poison ivy as well, except that every time I get into it I am in the middle of the woods with no soap or bathtub handy.

He continued to scream at the top of his lungs pretty much the entire time. It used up most of my store of patience so that when the next child (predictably) arrived also bearing red welts on his legs and whining pitifully, I just threw a bar of soap at him and told him to use my shower and scrub, rinse, repeat until I got around to checking on him.

Eventually all three boys were bathed, two were slathered down with Caladryl and told not to scratch. The youngest boys got a bath just because he didn't want to be left out. Things were peaceful again, but Mom was no longer on skype, and besides it was time to cook dinner if we were going to eat.

Dave got home from work while I was cooking. He started in on the lunch dishes (Don't I have the BEST husband?) while I related the events of the afternoon. He interrupted to say he would have jumped in the fish pond. I just stared at him. Finally I asked, "What is it about fish poop that makes you think it would make pain go away?"

"I don't know, that's just what I would do." answered my normally rational husband.

Must be genetic.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Quilt Squares

This week Connie at Whale Ears and other Wonderings is hosting the FS Weekly Blog Roundup. The theme or "optional talking point" is crafts. If you have something crafty you would like to share, or even if you don’t but do have something to say, click over and add something to the Roundup.

I don’t have much time lately for crafts. It’s not that I don’t enjoy crafting, it’s just that I am beyond busy trying to keep up with housework, laundry, cooking, and home schooling. If you have never lived in a third world country everything takes just that little bit longer.

For example: I used to complain about making lasagna, I thought it took too long. Try making it here. You have to start by making the sauce. Then, unless you are planning to pay $15 dollars a box for lasagna noodles, you make the pasta and you will need to make the ricotta cheese too. You can usually buy mozzarella, thank heavens. Then once all the parts have been made it's time to assemble it all. This is the part I used to think was pain back when I was using canned sauce, pre-shredded cheese, store bought part-skim ricotta, and no boil noodles. If you want a salad as a side you will have to wash, bleach, and then rinse all the vegetables. If you are a ranch dressing kind of person, like my kids, you will be making the ranch dressing from scratch too, assuming you can find yogurt and mayo. All in all a lasagna dinner will take about 8+ hours from start to finish, not including clean up or garlic bread. Guess how often my kids get lasagna? Yeah, they are rooting for Aunt Teri to take them to Olive Garden this summer. Since I have been to a restaurant with my kids I am thinking frozen lasagna, frozen garlic bread, bagged salad, bottled dressing, and maybe a pie from Marie Calendars.

Oops....Sorry for going off on a tangent. Back to the roundup topic: Crafting. No, not much time left for crafts lately. But wait! There is hope on the horizon. We have made the decision that Alonzo will go back to school next year. Homeschooling here is very isolating, and I don't think I am cut out for it in any case. There are no activities outside of the school for kids to participate in. We will do whatever we can to make it a more successful year for him, but how is going to go to school, that's one thing down. Secondly we have finally hired a maid. She won’t start until next month but I am hopeful she will work out, which will leave me with more time to follow my own interests.

What will I do with myself? Well, I have this pile of quilt pieces I was given after my mother-in-law passed away, more than a decade ago.

She started the quilt but never finished it. Somehow the pieces ended up at post with us. She was a great crafter. She could knit, crochet, and quilt. A triple threat. I have one of her finished quilts and I just adore it.

It seems a shame not to finish this one too. My original thought was to just finish piecing the squares, add some sashing, and be done with it. Seemed simple enough. I can do this.

I laid the peices out on one of the kids blue(ish) sheets to give you an idea of how it would look when it is finished. I don't think blue is going to be the right color for the sashing, too many blue squares.

The yellow(ish) sheet is better, but the final color needs to be darker, I think.

Then last week I clicked on a link on the sidebar of someone’s blog and ended up at Crazy Mom Quilts. A new obsession was born. Such gorgeous quilts, such gorgeous fabrics. Suddenly my plan seemed too basic, too boring, too uninspired, too easy.

Maybe I should alternate the pieced squares with solid squares.

Maybe I should pick apart all the sewing and reassemble the quilt squares so that each finished square has two patterned squares and two solid squares. Then I could add sashing, or alternate with solid squares, or something.

Maybe I should give up in the idea of squares altogether and turn them all into triangles.

I don’t know, seems like a lot of work. I like that red, it really makes the colors pop. Those would be some tiny triangles since the squares are only 3 inches a side, but I do like that look. maybe if I ever finish this quilt I can do a triangle quilt for myself.

I can’t decide what do. I am not in love with the mish-mash of colors and patterns in the pieced squares. But then again Annette pieced those squares more than a decade ago and I'm not sure I want to undo any of her stitching, it just seems wrong. What do you think? Should I leave it and continue with my original plan, or take it all apart and start over again?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Calgon Take Me Away!

Last night after the kids went to bed just as I was settling in with a cup of chamomile tea the littlest one appeared in the door looking very pitiful.

“I threw up.” He said at about the same time the smell hit me.

David told me to stay put and enjoy my tea then he scooped up the kiddo and walked away. Aren’t I the luckiest woman in the world? He voluntarily took care of a sick, barfy kid AND all the mess, and let me tell you there was some mess. Poor baby got all tangled up in the mosquito netting and couldn’t get out of bed in time so it was all over the blankets, the pillows, the stuffed animals, the mosquito netting, the floor, and himself. ICKY! I ended up cuddling the littlest one while Dave mopped the floor, changed the sheets, took down the mosquito netting, and tried to get the smell to dissipate. I think I got the better deal.

By two in the morning I was feeling a lot less lucky. David had to work today so he slept while I stayed up with Grayson. Poor baby just kept moaning, “My tummy hurts, my tummy hurts!” I hate when my babies are sick. I feel so helpless, I want a magic wand to make it all better. It’s even worse when they are sick in the middle of the night.

This morning I am not loving life. I didn’t get much sleep. I still have to clean, cook, do laundry, and homeschool the oldest. I have a tired, sick, grumpy kid on the sofa who would rather be at school. It’s international day so lots of fun is being missed, but I kept him home anyway. David is on a road trip with our only vehicle so I am stranded for the day. I am out of saltines, Gatorade, and applesauce, the only part of the BRAT diet I have available is the bananas. I guess it is time for an Amazon order, I can’t buy those things locally anyway.

The rat that chewed it’s way into the house last week, discovered the fruit bowl last night and sampled all of the apples looking for the tastiest one. I HATE RATS! And seriously he couldn’t just picked one apple instead of ruining the whole bowl? I guess the fruit bowl goes in the fridge from now on. The GSO dropped off rat traps but has made no move to fix the hole. I think it is time for a trip down to Area 2 to find some stuff to block the hole before the rat invites his friends and cousins by the dozen.

This morning there was a giant roach upside down in the kid’s bathroom sink. I thought it was dead until I tried to scoop it up to throw it away. Then it suddenly came to life. Lazarus roaches??? God help me!

So here I sit playing on the computer trying to mentally escape my reality. For me that means I am looking at house plans, kitchen ideas, over the top bathrooms, and mentally designing my perfect house with bright open rooms, clean lines, lots of color, and an interior designed by Candice Olson from Devine Design. And most importantly NO RATS OR ROACHES.

So how do you take a mental vacation when life gets to be a bit too much?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Isn't It Ironic

Like a black fly in your chardonnay...

Dave called from work yesterday to tell me there were two boxes from Jill in the pouch. That could only mean GIRLS SCOUT COOKIES! I did the happy dance all around the kitchen. Visions of cookie munching after the kids went to bed were floating around in my head. Could it get any better? Last week's pouch brought me a HUGE box of goodies from one of my friends back home full of all the makings for s'mores: chocolate chips, graham crackers, and marshmallows, even some hot chocolate mix to go with all that. Yum.... (Thanks Cynthia, you rock!). Then this weekend I found cocoa powder at Game and almonds at Chipiku so I finally had everything I needed to make double chocolate biscotti. I was busy mixing those up when David called. Biscotti, Somaos*, hot cocoa, oh it was gonna a be a great evening.

Then while I was mixing up the meatloaf my stomach started to feel a bit funny. I drank a little water and ignored it. Later I walked into the kitchen to check on dinner and almost barfed when the smell hit me, my stomach cramped so hard I doubled over. By the time Dave came home I was truly sick and it was clear I was not going to be munching down on anything much less the chocolate fest I had been looking forward to all afternoon. I don't know why I was surprised, Colin came home early from a sleepover last weekend when he barfed all over his friend's house. The stomach thing is going around.

WHY? Wasn't it enough that for our 12th anniversary this weekend we spent the day trying to find the floor in Colin's bedroom and taking care of barfy kid? There were no castles in the plans for this year. Today we were supposed to go out to lunch together for a quick (late) anniversary lunch. That isn't going to happen either. Oh and the best thing? I was sitting in the kitchen Friday night trying to get the Roundup finished for the second time after Blogger ate it when I pushed "publish" and a RAT ran across the kitchen floor. YUCK! How do I get rid of the cloud of bad luck that I have been attracting lately? What did I do to deserve this? And most importantly when will my stomach feel good enough to eat my Girl Scout cookies?

*I know the boxes say Caramel deLites and Shortbread but in Texas they're called Trefoils and Samoas. I had to look it up on Wikipedia to make sure they were the same thing before I ordered. David took some to work today and assures me they are exactly the same. He didn't even apologize for stealing my cookies! Hmpf!

Update: About midmorning I was starving. I cautiously ate a little something and about an hour later I was starving again so Dave was able to take me out for a quick (late) anniversary lunch. He is so good to me even if he is a cookie thief.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Weekly FS Blog Roundup--Housing

It seems a little trivial to be working on a blog about housing while the earthquake and ensuing tsunami are occurring. The images on television are shattering. So many people left homeless. So much loss. The boys are worried about their friend Toshia who lives in Tokyo. One of the things that happens if you live a global lifestyle is that when tragedy strikes, no matter where, it seems like you know someone who is affected. Our thoughts and prayers go out in to the people of Japan and those whose lives are touched by this tragedy.

One of the biggest investments most people ever make is a house. Where a person lives, and what their home looks like can be an important part of a persons happiness. When you walk in the door and the house feels welcoming, some of the workday stress just melts away. When buying a house, or even renting one, a lot of thought goes into selecting just the right place. So what happens when you give that choice up for a life wandering the planet, having your housing in your new country selected for you, with little or no input from you?

Well if you are lucky you get a fabulous house, bigger than anything you could have afforded back home. Yes, it does happen. Don't believe me? I'm not sure I blame you after my post yesterday, but Lisa from What Were We Thinking is thinking that they have the best house ever. And you know what? She may be right, it is a gorgeous house! I wonder if I can convince Dave that we need to head to Tijuana next?

Maybe we could try Bangladesh instead. Meandering Memos had a fabulous roof top terrace when they lived there. I have always wanted a patio on the roof.

Or how about Belmopan? You Can Call Me Al has a pretty nice house. Belize could work for me! Dave could head to work and I could send the kids to school, then I could finally learn to scuba dive. At the end of the day I could cook in that gorgeous kitchen. Sounds like a plan to me.

We are on our third post. Which means we are no longer newbies, but we still have a lot to learn. One thing I have learned is there is no typical FS housing. It always makes me smile to hear a newbie ask what housing is like overseas. There is no way to answer that. That's why I wanted to do a housing theme. Next time someone asks, you can refer them to this post where they can click through the links to see examples of houses at various posts. I hope someone does this topic again after transfer season so we can get a peek at all the FS blogger's new digs.

Our house in Jakarta was a townhouse but it was still about twice the size of our house back in the states. With two big living rooms, a efficient galley kitchen, and four bedrooms it was really comfortable, especially after David painted it such fun colors.

In Germany our house was a two story apartment on the third and fourth floors. The stairs with no elevator were a total drag, even more so since I can never seem to get out of the house with everything I need on the first try. Once you were inside our apartment it was pretty nice. Nice light colored laminate floor, and crisp white walls which reflected the light from all the windows. And with six (6!) bedrooms and three baths there was so much room for everyone to spread out.

Now we are here in Malawi. The house is a little smaller than either of our previous FS houses but (and this is a huge but) it has a massive yard for my nature loving boys to run around in all day long terrorizing the lizards and bugs. That yard makes up for a whole lot of things.

Other people think the kitchen is where it is at. Zoe likes a light, airy, kitchen, and a pool is nice too. Toads optional. Zoe is so fond of the FS furniture that she is hosting a contest at her blog Something Edited This Way Comes for the best way to disguise a FS Sofa. I can’t wait to see how to accomplish that.

Nomads by Nature recommends that you develop a sense of humor, and take the time to personalize a house and make it yours. Sounds like good advice to me.

Stephanie from Where in the World am I used paint to brighten up her new place in Hyderabad. I love the colors and all the cool arches, I love architectural detail. If you want to see more pictures of her house you can check out her flicker pictures and she even has a video tour.

Sadie Abroad asks if she's wrong to complain. Considering the luck she has had with housing I would say no, she should be complaining a whole lot more. Bedbugs and spraying for mosquitos while her pets are in the house are pretty much inexcusable problems. I hope she has a change of luck soon.

Adventures In… posted before and after pictures of her house. It is amazing what a little rearranging and some paint can do for a place. I am not sure anything can be done about the wild tiles. I actually like the blue ones and the red bathroom would be cool if the sink and tub didn’t match. That’s a whole lotta red.

Small Bits has a lovely big house with lots storage. And bookcases. You can never have too many bookshelves, or storage.

Connie from Whale Ears and other Wonderings is nicer than me when she goes on a rant. After she finished trashing her house, she took the time to point all the good bits too. Me, I just figure that is a post for another day. It can be so cathartic to have a place vent once in a while.

Kelly from Well, That Was Different makes her premiere post here on the roundup with a post about all the furniture that fills our houses. The Drexel Heritage furniture we all know and love, or love to hate, does have a certain “style” about it.

The current theme At Post is furniture. At Post is a photo blog that, like the roundup, relies on the FS community for contributions. I sent in a picture of my kitchen table. I am pretty sure it started life as a shipping container. It’s ugly, but I no longer dread the pasta night. No white upholstered dining chairs for me this tour. Ha! Send in your furniture pictures. Let’s see if we can get examples of all the different Drexel Horrible brocades in inventory.

Donna at Email from the Embassy is finding her current house in Amman a little boring. Who can blame her? Her house in Armenia had a secret Scooby Doo bookcase door in the basement and her house in Beijing had a naked mermaid chandelier. Guess you can’t be that lucky all the time.

Sass and Sweet has had good luck with housing department so far, mustard colored brocade couches aside, and hopes it continues at her next post. My fingers are crossed for you.

And finally, Sara at Wife-Mommy-Woman posted a very nice rundown of the housing in San Jose. This is just the kind of information I want when I contact post to ask about housing: an honest, thorough response. I would probably whine less about my housing if I had known what to expect. Telling someone the house is “fabulous” when it's really “livable with issues we are working on” makes for a rough landing in country. It’s called managing expectations. Nicely done, Sara.

Well that’s the roundup for this week. If you want to host a roundup stop by A Daring Adventure and sign up. The roundup can't continue without community participation.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Lilongwe Housing

Quick Reminder: Tomorrow is the Weekly FS Blog Roundup, the theme this week is housing. I will be hosting it here on Cyberbones. Several people have already submitted posts featuring their housing overseas. With out FS community participation the roundup would cease to be, so please think about submitting a post... there is still time. Also you don't have to have done an overseas tour to participate in this one. How about posting on housing options in DC? The dreaded Oakwoods for example? It doesn't have to be a new post... many of us do the "Here's our new house" post shortly after arriving, please consider including an older post in the roundup this week. Thanks!

Necessary Disclaimer: No two houses in Lilongwe are alike so issues with my house are not necessarily representative of all housing. Translation: If you are the the family we are sponsoring this summer and you happen to be reading this don't freak out! If you are someone from Embassy Lilongwe and are reading this, I am well aware that we have one of the "nicer" houses here and have been told this ad nauseam and don't really need to be told it again. Further more this is clearly a RANT! Yes I am whining, quite a lot, as a matter of fact. Sorry if that offends someone but there a few million other blogs out there to read, go choose one.

Houses in Lilongwe does not live up to American expectations or standards. Not much of a surprise really, this isn't America... DUH! The housing in Jakarta and Frankfurt had issues too, but neither of those housing experiences prepared me for what we found here. I was told the housing here is "some of the best housing in Africa!" Once we were assigned to our house we were told the house was "Fabulous!" and the last tenants told me they "loved living in this house and would really miss it." So part of the problem is undoubtedly that my expectations were far too high. After all Africa is known for large houses in various states of disrepair. I should have remembered that.

Lets start with that "best housing in Africa" thing. There are many people here who are on their second, third or fourth African tour. Every one of them as assured me that the housing here is NOT the best housing in Africa, not even close. I can't comment on that since this is my first African posting, but I really really hope this isn't the best Africa has to offer.

Where to start? Hmmm...I know, lets start with the curtains. Most rooms in this house have an entire wall of windows so the curtains dominate the room since one entire wall from floor to almost the ceiling is curtain. Knowing that, why would anyone chose curtains that look like this? Seriously? Don't you just love the stripe with fruit? The peach print still leaves me speechless. I am actually missing the oh so neutral beige curtains that we had in Germany and Jakarta.

My favorite curtains in the house are these curtains in the bathroom. No you are not seeing it wrong, the curtains really don't match. Yes they are both white, but one panel has a silver circle motif and the other has a floral tone-on-tone motif. Even better the two panels aren't even the same length. Love It! No not really.

We were told our kitchen was huge. It would be more accurate to say the room our kitchen is in is huge. The kitchen itself takes up about a third of the room and it is pretty good sized, but not huge. The kitchen is the room we eat dinner in every night and and where Alonzo does his school work every day. It also houses the kids art/playroom, laundry room, and 2 pantries. We spend a lot in this room. Interestingly it is the only room in the house, besides bathrooms without an A/C unit. I requested one and was told that it is was against policy to have an A/C in the kitchen. So most of the time, but especially on baking (I make all our bread since none of us like the local bread) and laundry days, we sweat. It tends to stay hot and humid in the kitchen space all the time. We do have a ceiling fan that helps to make it bearable.

David refers to the kitchen as Monet, good from afar, but far from good. I suppose that statement says a lot about how Dave feels about impressionist art, but it is also a pretty accurate statement in reference to our kitchen. At first glance it doesn't look so bad but then you look closer and realize that the cabinets are vinyl covered particle board and the vinyl is cracking and the particle board is swelling. The drawers are all sort of crooked and some of the doors are falling off. The sink is a lovely huge size with built in drain boards. I love the shape and size of it, but it is so scratched up that there is no way to make it look anything close to white, it grosses me out a bit, but it does match the rest of the sinks and tubs in the house. The counters are old white laminate with burn marks and stains from the previous families cook. To top it off we can't use some of the cabinets because the insides are water damaged from some time in the past. It isn't getting fixed anytime soon. Apparently the cabinets would have to be pulled out to fix it and that isn't going to happen while we are living in the house. It is supposed to be repaired during the make-ready for the next family, two and half years from now. In the meantime I pretend like those cabinets don't exist and the cockroaches enjoy have a private party condo.*

After the drapes and kitchen, the thing that bothers me the most is the floors. We have wood floors. Don't get me wrong I love wood floors. In fact once upon a time I payed quite a lot to get rid of the builders standard beige wall to wall carpet to replace it with gorgeous hard wood floors. Sadly it has been many long years since the floors in this house have seen any sort of maintenance. Unmaintained wood floors don't look so good. Requests to have them refinished resulted in a firm no, not while the house is occupied. It creates too much dust. So we live with the floors and are very glad to have some carpets to cover the worst of it. It

Honestly the house is a good size for our family, it is a decent layout, and is very livable. It was probably a gorgeous house once upon a time. The biggest problem with this house is a long history of poor maintenance, neglect, and shall we say "creative" problem solving. What do I mean by creative problem solving? Well someone ordered a 110 washing machine for a 220 country. No problem just plug it in to a transformer, then set the transformer on the floor right next to it. I put the transformer on a little table when we moved in. Good thing too. Last week the washing machine flooded the room I didn't realize it until I stepped in the water. Can you imagine if I hadn't moved the transformer off the floor? Another example would be the plywood blocking the view and much of the light on our screened porch. Couldn't it at least have been painted? Need shelves in the bedroom? We'll make some. Is there a reason they couldn't have been all the same size? No bathroom cabinet? More shelves to match those in the bedroom. A hole in the screen? No need to replace the screen, we'll just glue a patch on it. Broke a bunch of tile replacing the toilet? Just poor concrete in the hole. The fact that I have boys who apparently can't aim and the unsealed concrete is porous and absorbs smells is an added bonus.

There is so much more I can say about this house, but I think at this point you get the picture. It isn't one big thing about the house, it's the sum all the little things that get to me.

*If you are coming to Lilongwe pack pest control. Lots of it. We are prohibited from buying any local pesticides for safety reasons but Dave managed to get his hands on a can of Raid. The next morning we swept up more than 40 dead roaches. GAH! Didn't phase the ants though. Nothing phases the ants. At least they don't bite like the fire ants back home.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

FS Furniture and Housing

This Friday I'm hosting the Weekly FS Blog Round Up. In keeping with DiploPundits suggestion that we use our blogs to debunk the myth of the Foreign Service "cushy" lifestyle, I want to hear about housing at post. I want to hear about the good, the bad, the ugly, and the just plain weird. Yes, as employees of the state department overseas we do get housing. Let me tell you it isn't always all that it is cracked up to be. Unless you are the ambassador your housing bears very little resemblance to the fancy diplomatic houses you see in the movies, sometimes not even being ambassador helps. I am sure that all the newbies, as well as everyone looking at bidding this summer, would like to know about the housing at various posts.

While you FS folks are looking around your house considering a blog post about housing, take a look at your couch. Zoe at Something edited this way comes is hosting a contest this month for the best disguised FS couch. Yes, we get furniture too. It goes with the house. Before anyone out there gets all "Hey that's cool!" think about. Do you want someone else to choose all your furniture? That kinda makes it a bit more challenging to personalize a house. Generally our furniture looks a bit like it was chosen by someone's Great Aunt Edna.

I don't really need to disguise my current sofa, it is part of the new collection and is pretty nice, or at least it isn't brocade, it is a nice solid color, which is more than I can say for my curtains.

I had the dreaded blue brocade in Frankfurt. After pricing slip covers and deciding I really didn't like the way slip covers looked anyway, I just embrace the ugly for the two years we were there. It sort of grows on you after a while. Sad isn't it?

However I do have an entry for the contest. I think the the best way to disguise a FS couch starts with being assigned to a post where labor and textiles are cheap. When we arrived in Jakarta our sofa set all matched this chair.

More lovely Drexel Heritage brocade, only in cream this time instead of blue. To make it even better the last family had cats, with claws. The chairs were in good shape, but the sofa and love seat were clawed up pretty badly. No worries, Jakarta has an upholstery allowance. Shortly after we arrived I put in my request to have the sofas repaired. A gentleman showed up with stacks of fabric sample books. I made my selection (after nearly having a heart attack from too many choices) and a few weeks later my sofas were picked up, recovered and returned to me better than new.

I would actually buy these sofas. I like the brown chenille. It wears well, the kid stains washed out easily, and it was super soft and comfy to sit on. It even matches almost any pillow you could throw on it. All in all it is a very nice sofa.

Of course there is a down side to this plan. This love seat for example. It was recovered by somebody before me. It was a crushed velvet in a color David referred to as "bordello red". We stuck it in the kids play room figuring there wasn't much they could do to make it worse. As far as I could tell this fabric was kid proof. Sadly for the next people it was still in perfect shape when we left.

Just one more thing. And yes, I know these aren't sofas, but you just know that someone is totally hating these polka-dot dining chairs. For the record I LOVED them! Polka-dots Rule!

Friday, March 4, 2011

A Lazy Lazy Day!

I am sitting around doing not much useful today. I don't remember the last time I could do this, sometime before I decided to fire the staff and start homeschooling, I guess. I did manage to get dressed, of course I am wearing the slouchiest, softest, most comfortable (and also ugliest) clothes I own. Today there is no homeschooling, no sweeping, no mopping, no laundry, the beds aren't made and it's not likely they will be. Grayson is curled up on the couch watching Toy Story 2 and munching down a lemon muffin. I am alternating between working on a jigsaw puzzle and playing on the computer. Dave did have to go to work, poor guy, but Gray and I aren't letting that spoil our fun!

Wait where are the other kids you ask? Well, Dakota is still in the Navy. I haven't quite come to terms with the fact he doesn't live here anymore. I thought I had, but just this week I took 6 cupcakes out the freezer for dessert instead of 5. Then of course I had to eat the extra cupcake. Alonzo and Colin left Wednesday for Green Camp. It's a sleepover camp and they won't be back until Sunday! YAY! I love them, but seriously, YAY! Grayson in enjoying his temporary status as only child. I am simply looking froward to tomorrow morning when he goes to Wild Kids Club at the Wildlife Center. David and I will 3 whole hours without kids. Yipee! THREE HOURS!

For the rest of day the only useful thing I intend to do is cook dinner and that's mostly because I like to eat. I am making gnocchi because Dave asked nicely, and also he had the sage in hand when he asked. I think he even waved it under my nose so that smell would get to me. I will probably do the dishes just because I want to make the cockroaches lives a little harder, and it hardly seems fair to ask Dave to do them since he has to actually work today and I sitting around doing nothing and loving every minute of it.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - FS Swap Box Has Arrived!

And the Conversation Continues...

Friday I hosted the Friday FS Blog Round Up. My theme (if you want to call it a theme) was current events. There is a lot going on right now in the FS world but the big news that had everyone buzzing was the proposed pay cut for the FS. I wish I had something clever and interesting to add the conversation but after a long day of homeschooling and laundry my brain seems to have gone on strike. Fortunately there are others in the blog-o-sphere who are much better writers than me. Go check out these blogs and even if you are not in the foreign service but you want to be, your daughter/son/cousin/best friend is in the FS, or you just like blog stalking FS folks, go write your representative.

Hick/Hitchhicker/...Diplomat (!?) is all for the paycut but with a few important conditions.

Ever wondered what a FSO does to earn that salary that is on the chopping block? Simmons Says they work hard, really hard.

Something Edited This Way Comes would like to stress that we (me, her, and pretty much every other FS person I know) are middle class.

Four Globetrotters not only wrote her senators but she published her letter. The letter alone is amazing reading, but make sure to scroll down and take a look at the the comments. Great conversation, but where, oh where, do people get the idea that our pay is tax free? As if!

The Goodjamin blog likens the pay cut to some of his favorite heist movies and ends the post with a great picture just for those who don't care much about

Foreign Obsession is just starting out and already they want to cut her pay? Sheez.

Small Bits is happy to take a pay cut if it is part of true reform and true change.

DP's Blog is kinda insulated from the news at his post but still wants the world to know that diplomats don't lead cushy lives. Many, many, of us are single income families because we gave up careers to follow our diplomats around the world and the jobs just aren't there at post.

Nomads By Nature boils down the furor over the paycuts to three points: misinformation, targeted, and indignation. It is a well written thoughtful post.

Well that is about it for now. I am sure there are many more posts out there, nothing like money to get people talking. I look forward to reading more of the conversation.