Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Not Foreign Service Material… Yet…

So, I got my FSOT results today and this is what they looked like:


Well, not really but I did not pass the test.

Was I surprised? Not really.

Was I bummed out? Yeah, a little. It would have been nice to pass it but to be honest, I didn’t really feel like I knew everything. That and I didn’t finish the bio section.

Sooooo, I get to do it all over again in a year. I wish I didn’t have to wait a whole year but oh, well…

I already requested my scores for each section, just to see how epic my failure was. In case you were wondering, you just get a pass/fail letter (via email), no actual scores. If you want to know your scores for each section, you can request them, by fax. Fax???!!! Who uses faxes these days? Why not carrier pigeons?

So, the plan is to figure out where I fell short and work on those areas until my brain implodes or I know everything I need to know to pass the test, whichever comes first. That’s the plan, anyhow. Easy, breezy, beautiful, right?  Wait, that’s CoverGirl… oh, whatever! You know what I mean…

Meanwhile, I was sorting papers around the apartment today when I came across this:

Daddy bday 026

I am not sure where it came from or who the author is but it was just the right thing under the circumstances and it made my day, so I thought I’d share it.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Pop Topping It

I have a minor pop top purse obsession. It started almost two years ago when I laid my eyes on these awesome bags by Escama. I had never heard of them but it was love at first sight. I just had to have one (or several). But because I am cheap thrifty, I couldn’t possibly spend $200 for a purse. So, I reverse-engineered it instead. I’m crafty like that. It took a while though as I am not a crocheter and after scouring the internet for weeks I figured out that these beauties were crocheted. It took even longer to collect enough pop tops to make a purse but many of my family, friends and colleagues pitched in and drank a lot of beer soda in order to help my effort. My first pop top purse was finally ready this past March. It’s a tote really (12x15 inches) and it took about 2000 pop-tops and 9 months of heavy drinking and reverse engineering to make . Here it is:

 first purse first purse detail 

I love that purse. I wore it non-stop for five months, however, due to a crucial production error, the purse started disintegrating. In deciding what thread to use for it, I had picked cotton because it’s natural but that turned out to be a bad idea as the cotton thread couldn’t stand up to the intense wear and tear I subjected that purse to, especially around the edges and the handles. So the tote will need to be redone but I learned my lesson – use synthetic thread!

As I was still working on the first purse I realized that, while I love large totes, they are just too big for some occasions. So, I started thinking about a smaller purse that would fit just my wallet, phone, point-and-shoot camera and keys. After the first purse was done, I continued collecting pop tops and soon I had enough. I was itching to make it but had to wait for the two moves and the FSOT to pass. Which brings us to last week when I finally sat down and made pop top purse #2.  It took about 1300 pop-tops to make. It measures 7x9 inches and still needs to be lined but that’s not preventing me from using it. And, yes, I did use synthetic thread for this one.

baseball and purse 008baseball and purse 015baseball and purse 016

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Two good European movies

Paul (aka The Foreign Service Badass) and I saw a couple of good movies this weekend.

The first one was not new. It was a Netflix recommendation. It’s a 2006 German movie called The lives of others. It’s about life in the German Democratic Republic in the 1980s and 1990s. It was very interesting though painful to watch because it reminded me too much of life in Bulgaria during that time. It was almost surreal to think that we lived through all that and survived it somehow. I highly recommend the movie to anyone interested in life under socialism/communism. It’s good for German language practice as well. It’s a well-made, realistic representation of the time and the place.

  The Lives of Others  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The second one is new – The girl with the dragon tattoo from Sweden. It’s the film adaptation of the best selling book with the same name by Stieg Larsson. I had heard about the book and meant to read it but ended up seeing the movie first. Also a very well-made, interesting suspense/drama.

Both movies are definitely worth watching but they are not exactly uplifting. Both are rated R.

Let me know what you thought about them, if you’ve seen them.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

What Would Don Draper Do?

I am a huge fan of the AMC show Mad Men and I can not wait for the new season to start on 7/25.

So I was thinking about my blog and how it has become boring and serious and how there’s not much about the Foreign Service there lately, even though it was supposed to be about our life in the Foreign Service. But that’s what happens when the Foreign Service gives you (or your husband as the case may be) a domestic assignment.

So, there won’t be much Foreign Service related stuff to blog about until fall, which is when we are supposed to get our next bid list. I personally can’t wait to get my hands on that thing but will have to contain myself.

And you will have to put up with my random rants about whatever.

Which brings us back to today and Mad Men. It’s the most delicious show ever! If you haven’t seen it, you need to check it out. It’s about the advertising industry in the 1960s when people could be politically incorrect and sexist all they wanted. Everyone on the show drinks and smokes like those two activities are going out of style (which I guess smoking kinda did; drinking is still very much en vogue). 

Of course, there’s plenty of eye candy in the faces of John Hamm (Don Draper), January Jones (Betty Draper) and Christina Hendrix (Joan Harris/H0lloway):


Oh, and they say things like:

“It's my purpose in life to bring America to the world. Whether they like it or not.” (Conrad Hilton to Don Draper)

“Remember Don…when God closes a door, he opens a dress.” (Roger Sterling to Don Draper)

“What you call love was invented by guys like me, to sell nylons.” (Don Draper to Rachel Menken)

“Kids today, they have no one to look up to... 'cause they're looking up to us.” (Don Draper to Roger Sterling)

“It wasn't a lie, it was ineptitude with insufficient cover.” (Don Draper)

And finally, here’s Don Draper’s Guide To Picking Up Women, a must see for any guy out there and a treat for any woman. Enjoy (you can thank me later):

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Foreign Service Badass Wannabe

So, I took the Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT) yesterday. I have no idea if I did well enough to pass but I tried my best. I am sure I did better than the last time I took it 8 years ago, when I was clueless about a lot of the Americana questions. This time, I spent some time preparing, although with the two moves, packing, unpacking and all that jazz, I didn’t study as much as I should have.

Anyway, the Job Knowledge section was not as bad as I was afraid it was going to be. This is the section that includes questions on the the US government, US and world history, US culture, psychology, management, finance and economics, world affairs and more. I was still unsure about a few of the questions but I took “educated” guesses and hopefully guessed right. I finished with 10 minutes to spare, which was a shocker because  I usually run out of time on standardized tests.

Next came the Biographical section where they ask you all kinds of situational questions about your personality and things you’ve done in the past. This seemed like a balancing act between sounding too arrogant and sounding like you haven’t done much. You also have to provide examples of things that you have done in Tweet-like fashion (limited number of characters). I got a little carried away here and ran out of time. I was so focused on providing the examples, that I didn’t even notice how many questions I had left when the time ran out. Not good, but very much in line with my past performances on standardized tests. Let’s hope I was almost done.

The English Expression section was third. That’s where you are given paragraphs/sentences with underlined sections to edit. This one has historically been my strongest section but some of the sentences were particularly messed up this time and required more thinking, so I ran out of time with one or two unanswered questions. Bummer!

The Essay section was last. I was a little nervous about the essay because I didn’t practice much for it. I wrote two timed essays a couple of days before the test and that was it. Unless, I count blogging as practice, which, of course, it isn’t because the prompts are self-imposed and there’s no time limit but I guess it’s better than no practice at all, right?

But back to the test essay. The prompt happened to be on the same topic as my undergraduate thesis. Of course, I wrote that thing like eons ago and the title is about all I recall from the experience but I somehow managed to put together a coherent little essay on it. That’s how I feel, anyhow. We’ll have to see if the people grading the tests agree.

But how I feel about the test is really beside the point. What matters is how I did compared to everyone else that took the test during the same test period because that’s how the FSOT is scored.

Realistically speaking though, my chances are not great because I was born and raised in Bulgaria and it is just harder to learn later in life all the Americana that people born and raised in the US absorb growing up. No matter how hard I try to learn all this stuff, I am still a transplant.

So, if I pass, it will be a miracle of miracles. If I fail, I get a year to learn everything I didn’t know this time around and try again. ‘Cause I’m not a giver-upper!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Got Silly Bandz?

silly bandz

No? Well, don’t walk, RUN, to the nearest store and get some, if you want to be cool!!!

In case you have somehow missed this major trend, Silly Bandz have taken schools across the US by a storm. Everyone has apparently gone completely nuts over them. And it’s not just a little girl thing. Boys wear them too and according to this report, preteens, teens, and people in their twenties have fallen victim as well. And then there are the parents… Craziness, I tell you.

Our six-year old has been talking about them for months now. She’s been keeping a tally for us of all her friends that have them. And she has been asking for her own. We held out for quite a while but finally shelled out $3 and got a dozen.  She had been very good lately and got into the gifted program at her school. We wanted to do something special for her and that’s all she wanted.

Animal-Rubber-Band But what are Silly Bandz anyway?  Why, they are glorified rubber bands, though in this case they are made out of silicone. They are colorful and come in a zillion different shapes – animals, letters, fantasy, princess, you name it. They come in solid colors, multi/rainbow, glow in the dark, glitter, and UV activated color changing.  Ours are the sea life, glow in the dark variety. They cost $2 - $6 a dozen. Now, I am no econ wiz but I’m pretty sure someone is making a killing with these. Why didn’t I come up with something like that?

What do they do with them?  They wear them on their wrists, they play with them and they swap them. They also apparently drive their teachers crazy with them, evidenced by the ever growing number of schools that have banned them because they are too much of a distraction. There’s also a concern that they may cause circulation problems in some kids, so there’s that to look forward to.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Wheeling and Dealing

I haven’t talked about our move and unpacking because I have been a little flustered with the process. We moved from a house that is by no means large but the apartment is smaller and there’s just no room for everything, which makes this tetris exercise frustrating. I managed to convince my hubby that we need a storage unit and we got one in our building for an additional $20 a month. The storage room is smallish but it does help because my mother is coming to visit in 10 days (she’ll be with us the whole summer) and we just have to make room for her. (And yes I warned her – absolutely no blankets this time. She promised not to bring any.) Her room is still a mess. I use it as a staging area for all the things that we are going to donate or try to sell (house-y stuff like edgers/trimmers, miter saw, chain saw, you name it…). Feels like we just did the huge donate/sell thing before we moved from Florida, yet here we are downsizing again. But it’s a good thing – it’s good practice for when we start moving every two years or so.

When we got this apartment there were several important factors at play. Affordability was, hands down, numero uno! Falls Church is not the most affordable place in the world. Take that and combine it with the fact that we are still paying the mortgage on our house in Florida and you get a pickle. That’s where we were when we were looking for a place. This was pretty much the only thing we could find that was affordable and did not involve sleeping under a bridge. Am I sounding like a broken record?

Our second criterion was washer and dryer (W/D) in unit. This was a big one for me. Sure there is a laundry room in the building but I always forget I have stuff in the washer/dryer, people take it out to put their stuff in… Not fun. That and having to constantly look for quarters. Sure, you could get them at the bank but someone has to remember, and that just ain’t me. But I digress…

So, when we got the apartment, there were no W/D but we were told we could get them for an extra $65 a month. That pretty much sealed the deal for me, even though we could buy a set for that much, if we were allowed, which we were not. But anyway, I was happy.

washer and dryer 002Well, turns out it’s not that simple. They were supposed to have the W/D installed the week after we moved in. Two weeks after we moved in the complex manager tells me that the W/D we were going to get were not going to be full-size because there’s no room. Not good but what am I going to do. Lease is signed everything is a done deal. Then the following week, that same manager informs me that they’d have to put the less-than-full-size W/D in the kitchen and because there’s no room to put them next to the sink so they can be permanently installed, I’d have to wheel the washer to the sink, hook it up to the faucet and do my laundry. And deal with that! Needless to say, I was not a happy puppy that day. For a while, I even thought about giving up on the whole W/D in unit thing.

The kitchen was already my least favorite room in the apartment. It’s small with very limited storage space. I thought our kitchen in FL was small (which it was). This one is smaller. So I use one of the two decent sized walk-in closets by the entry door as a pantry. But now to add a W/D monstrosity in the kitchen? I did not like that one bit. But I like going to the laundromat even less, so here we are more than a month after they were supposed to install the W/D with a portable set in the kitchen. They came and installed them today and now I can do my laundry at my apartment whenever I want to – no coins, no people moving my stuff.

I did my first (not full-size) load of laundry today. I opted to hang it to dry because I am so green and the dryer really heats up the apartment, which will probably be very nice come winter. Now – not so much.

Meanwhile, all I could think about today was our lovely extra capacity front-load W/D that we left in our house in FL. Oh, how I miss you guys… and having an actual laundry room.

So this is basically saying, if you have nice or just full-size W/D and a laundry room, do not take them for granted because they are a blessing. And I know that most of the world would be thrilled to have our portable set instead of washing everything by hand but we live in the US of A and I guess I am spoiled. But not soiled anymore because we have our own, be it portable, W/D.

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