Saturday, December 31, 2011

I HEART 2012!

On behalf of my husband & 2 dogs :), we wanted to wish everyone a most Happy New Year. I sincerely hope 2012 will be a wonderful year for all of you and that you are able to say a fond farewell to 2011. I am extremely excited for 2012! It is the year that I start work again (GASP! AFTER 16 MONTHS OFF??? What can I say? I've been a lady of leisure for far too long) and the year that we leave Amman and head off on our next adventure...NYC, baby! Will have to rename the blog "An American Family in New York City".......hmmm) We still have about 8-ish months left here in Amman, but I'm confident they will fly by - we have a family visit in March and we are SO looking forward to it, and we also have some travel up our sleeves to get us through the next few months! Not to mention my trip back to the States in a mere few weeks. I am starting to get the shakes for all things American :)

Anyway, much love to all of you and here's to a healthy, happy, & hilarious 2012! xoxo

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Hi all - it's been a while. We got back a few weeks ago from a wonderful trip back to the States, which was jam packed with weddings, family, friends, lake houses, beach houses, and Chipotle.

This is the 2nd time that I've been back to the states since moving here and once again I am amazed at America. This is a PSA to remind you all of what a truly wonderful place it is and how LUCKY you are to be American.

Water. Don't take it for granted. It's in abundance at home, and it's so clean you can drink it out of the faucet and you won't get sick. Children can get baths every day and your pets have clean drinking water too. This is not always the case here for most people. After having water issues ever since I got back, I truly am thankful for water. Jordan is one of the water-poorest countries in the world.

Green Space. We spent the first portion of our r&r in glorious Montana and wow did we ever soak up all the beautiful colors there. Greenery is something that obviously everyone enjoys but probably doesn't really think about it on a day to day basis. Beautiful trees, lush grass, blooming flowers, waving wheat fields, babbling brooks (I could go all day...) are just some of the things that we have missed tremendously while being in our beige environment here that we enjoyed while in MT. For the most part, Americans take pride in their land too - it's pretty rare to see garbage marring those beautiful environments like it does here. Be thankful for yardwork!

Food. This is one thing I definitely think about daily. When I lived back in DC, I was working full time, planning a wedding for the last year I was there, taking care of a dog, etc etc and really didn't cook that often due to time constraints and general laziness. What I wouldn't give for a Harris Teeter or Whole Foods here! There is plenty of produce here for example, but so much or it is bruised, rotten, dirty, etc. Obviously, I am used to seeing pristine vegetables in gleaming rows and after taking home these gleaming veggies, I would casually rinse off the remaining pesticides on them which allowed them to remain so lovely and perfect. Not the case here! I must soak and rinse my produce with a special peroxide rinse because of the "fertilizer" they use. We'll stop there.
*One other quick note about food. Chicken breast. Be thankful that when you buy chicken breast at home, there aren't mysterious veins, bones, tendons, or blue specks in your "boneless chicken breast." It does not require you to manhandle it, it's just blissfully ready to go.
**Also, be thankful for bacon. Be very, very thankful for bacon.

Regulations. Ah, regulations. Not something I normally think about either, but regulations are actually an important part of how humans interact with one another. For example, regulations for handicapped persons in the U.S. are extensive. Every place has to be handicapped accessible. I am thankful for that, because that generally means there are orderly steps and ramps, not wonky stairs or broken down sidewalks that I can barely walk on as a healthy 28 year old with no handicaps. I really do appreciate the ease in which it is to actually walk around in the states.

Another regulation that I am thankful for back home deals with traffic and general road habits. For example, it is generally not allowed to stop in the middle of the highway if you happen to drive past a friend and want to stop and chat a bit. At home, you pull over and get out of everyone's way because that is the SAFE thing to do. You are also not allowed to randomly park in the middle of the street, get out of your car, walk in front of traffic and go have dinner. At home, you drive around for 30 minutes before squeezing your car into a too-small spot, and THEN walk on your evenly-bricked sidewalk to dinner, just like everyone else!

At this point, you may be muttering under your breath about how there are places in the U.S. with destitute people who have no water, and not even bruised vegetables to eat, and certainly no cars to drive. This is so, so, true but here,
there isn't a sense of community responsibility like there is in the states - no special programs, no shelters, no YMCA's, no boys & girls clubs. Here, they don't stand a chance. There is no middle class here - you are either extremely wealthy, living in a rundown building, or living in a damn tent.

That's why I feel blessed. It may not seem like that because I am a champion complainer about Jordan, but if this country has done anything for me, it's given me a chance to see another side of the human component and even if I don't agree with it, I now know it exists. I realize how incredibly lucky I am to be American and have the most basic necessities available to me. I hope that once we leave here and go back home, I will remember and respect the time we spent here, and not take things like beautiful fruit and parking tickets for granted.

God Bless America and God Bless Jordan.

Sunday, June 5, 2011


We just got back from a wonderful, wonderful trip to Italy. We decided to enjoy some of our tax refund and travel to a country where we've never been but both had been dying to visit. Could not have picked a more lovely place to go!

We flew into Rome and rented the cutest little red fiat cabriolet. First stop: Tuscany. We successfully maneuvered our way out of Rome by the grace of God and headed north. It was incredibly refreshing to see the clean, lush, green rolling hills of Italy after living in a beige, sandy, trash-filled environment. We stayed at the cutest b&b in tuscany - Poggio Piglia. We had no idea how to pronounce it but we loved it immediately.

We arrived in the afternoon and headed down to the small town of Chiusi to grab lunch. Not much is open around 3 in the afternoon but we found a small diner and I had the most delicious vegetable sandwich...pickled zucchini, tomato and mozzarella on crusty italian bread. Brian had a prosciutto (of course) panini. Was a delicious start to our trip. We then just hung out at the pool by the b&b before then heading to dinner at La Grotta. Was one of the best meals all week!! I had spinach pomodoro pasta and brian had ravioli with basil sauce. Shockingly, Brian ordered tomato soup as an app and even though it came out a bit "chunkier" than he would have preferred, HE ACTUALLY ATE IT! I was so proud of him! Not to mention, it was incredible. We then had a mascarpone and coffee ice cream dessert. Don't worry, I won't go into this much detail on all of our meals, but this really was a banner first day for us!!

The next 2 days were spent in small little tuscan towns of Montalcino, Montepulciano and Siene. Siene was a little crowded for us, we preferred the quaint, quieter Montalcino and Montepulciano. We just walked around, Brian snapped tons of beautiful pictures, we went to wine tastings and just enjoyed ourselves.

Reluctantly, we left Tuscany and headed to Rome. We may never complain about Jordanian drivers after seeing Italian ones, especially Vespa riders. They have a death wish!! We checked into our hotel and see off immediately for the Colosseum. What an amazing piece of history!
We were lazy tourists and didn't get tickets to go inside but we were really wowed by this monument and the things that actually happened inside.

After the Colosseum we headed for Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps. Trevi Fountain was probably my favorite thing we saw in Rome, minus the hordes of people that were there. It was just so vibrant and the water just seemed so refreshing, as it was very hot. We tossed coins into Trevi Fountain to ensure our return to Rome! The Spanish Steps were less interesting to us, but there was a cool fountain in front of them too and it's one of those things you just have to see when in Rome!

The rest of the evening, we just wandered around Rome looking for dinner. There are so many little cafes that it's almost overwhelming to figure out where you want to eat! Half the fun though was just walking through the gorgeous cobblestone streets enjoying the seriously gorgeous architecture in Rome. I have developed a new appreciation for beautiful architecture/ surroundings after living in a country where there is really nothing other than boxy buildings! Really took that for granted!

Well-- we found dinner and looks like I found some delicious Italian wine!

The next day we got up early and headed to the Vatican. I was pretty excited for this. Throughout our trip, I was so comforted by the sounds of church bells. This is very different from the call to prayer here, which is a man in a loudspeaker at every mosque calling Muslims to prayer in Arabic 5 times a day. It was also comforting to see priests and nuns! Reminded me of my uncle! :) Anyway, back to the Vatican. Again, we were crappy tourists and didn't get tickets until the day before, which meant we could only get museum tickets. I won't complain though, because the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel were AMAZING. They say the Vatican Museum is one of the best in the world and the Sistine Chapel was just one of the most incredible things I've ever seen. Just sitting in the chapel staring at the ceiling and walls and thinking of the men (namely, Michelangelo) that were in that very room painting history was awe-inspiring. Also awe-inspiring because as a Catholic, it doesn't get any more holy than this place!

So Brian and I both must have been ditzy blonds in another life because we had somehow managed to talk ourselves into the wrong departure date. Turns out, we had another full day in Rome but had squeezed everything we wanted into those first 2 days!! What to do? We ended up just walking around more and spending more time at the Pantheon, another incredible monument. There was actually an American choir performing at the Pantheon and we were lucky enough to catch that show and sit down for a bit. Some pictures of our "real" last day in Rome.

And homage to the BEST meal of the week-- pasta with some olive oil, cracked black pepper and delicious pecorino romano cheese. Could have eaten 5 lbs of this, and actually I think I did.

Loved, loved, loved Italy! If you haven't gone yet - book your ticket now, and then go on a diet. We can't wait to go back and Calabria (where my family is from) is sure to be on our short list. Arrivederci!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Wadi Rum

So, if you know me at all, you know I'm not terribly outdoorsy, but since we've been here and now have 2 dogs, I have become more adventurous by necessity. I bought Brian some camping gear for Christmas because I know how much he loves it! I think I once camped in my backyard at age 12, so we are quite different in that aspect.

Wadi Rum here in Jordan is probably the best place in the whole country to camp. It's a stunning "desertscape". Wadi Rum is located in South Jordan and is a large valley - the largest wadi (canyon) in Jordan. The movie Lawrence of Arabic was filmed here after T.E. Lawrence was based here and fell in love with it.

After traveling to get there for a few hours, we found a great place to set up our camp and turned the dogs loose. It was great to see them with so much space to run and play. The only tense moment all day was when a camel wandered into our camp. Neither dog was thrilled with this HUGE animal and barked ferociously at it. In return, the camel gazed serenely back at them and continued its exceedingly slow pace past us. Below are some pics of our camp and surroundings...

We went back to Wadi Rum last weekend with some friends. We are sure this will become a staple to our weekends, as it tires the dogs out for the next WEEK! to order some air mattresses....

Birthday weekend in Aqaba

For my birthday last month, Brian and I went down to Aqaba to celebrate. Aqaba is a resort town on the Red Sea and is about 3 hours away from Amman. Brian had Sunday off, so we were able to spend two & a half days down there and loved every second!! We stayed at the Kempinski which was a very modern, brand new hotel. The food was great, the weather was perfect, and there was even live music every night for us to enjoy while drinking prosecco and smoking shesha (2 of our very favorite activities!)

This is a picture of our hotel room-- the bathroom was see-through. I was NOT a fan of that ultra-modern feature!

This was the view from our balcony. The pool was very interesting, with varying degrees of depth, along with separate kids pool (YAY) and hot tub (Which the kids took over anyway). Just beyond the pool area is the beach area and it's hard to see, but there is a boardwalk area tucked away behind the beach (technically under the pool)....with a couple restaurants, ice cream shop, etc.

This is a close up of the swim up bar. So lovely to have a lemon with mint in the sun while sitting at the bar!

Even though this is a tourist destination, there are still Muslims that adhere to their religious dress that vacation here-- that includes burqas on the beach, as well as burqinis...(unrelated, yet funny pic of burqinis follow....)

Brian and I at the pool.

A very creative pic by Brian. We were enjoying dinner out on the boardwalk.

We loved Aqaba and will probably go back before we head back to the was a great birthday weekend and well worth the trip down!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

God Bless the USA!

Ok, I'm a terrible blogger and I know it. It's been way too long and I know it! This is also the second time I'm writing this particular blog because I just accidentally deleted it, so this will be shorter and sweeter than before!

Almost 2 weeks ago I returned from a wonderful trip back to the US of A...truly, the most wonderful place in the world! I spent 3 weeks there and even though I missed my husband and pups (actually, I only missed Brian & Susie), I loved every second! It began when my inlaws graciously picked me up from the airport, let me stay with them and then drove me to Breezewood to meet my mom! Thank you mom & dad r!!

It was wonderful to pull into 188 Riemer Rd. If you know me at all, you know I'm addicted to my family and have a really hard time being away from them. It was just so comforting to be back in familiar territory again! I saw lots of family in those 3 weeks, including my nephew and 2 nieces and it was just amazing to be in their presence again and witness their hilarity firsthand. I also attended my cousin Gina's absolutely beautiful wedding in Michigan and loved spending time with her and her mother/my godmother Nini all weekend! I also learned how to make ravioli with my famous grandma, which was an incredibly special day for me!

It wouldn't be a trip to Pittsburgh without seeing some of favorites (minus a few)! I was again reminded of how lucky I am to have the b-2 crew to call my friends! I absolutely LOVE those girls!

I also spent time with my DC friends on my way out and loved catching up with them, especially since they were people that I used to see on a regular basis!! Especially enjoyed getting my Wii Mario Kart on while wearing a snuggie... (Bonnie- you really should practice more!;))

Even though I loved being home, I obviously missed Brian terribly and it was wonderful to be reunited with him and I arrived back home to a houseful of fresh flowers !...(and food that I had made him 3 weeks prior, still in the fridge...hmm)...

Things have been pretty good since I've been back - weather has improved a bit and I'm back to enjoying my life of leisure -- lunches and coffee with girlfriends here! This past weekend, Brian and I left the pups at home and went down to the Dead Sea Movenpick hotel for the day. We got a day pass which was totally exorbitant, but it was still fun to get away for a few hours and enjoy the sun. We had a leisurely lunch, sat by the pool all afternoon and swam in the hydro-pool (code for lots of water jets) and enjoyed the indoor dead sea pool too. Pics from Movenpick:

Not much else new to report, but you can be sure that when there is, I'll post it 2 months late! A huge thanks to everyone who took the time and effort to see me when I was home! I really do love you all!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Groundhog Day???

I am convinced that I'm starring in my own version of Groundhog Day lately. Each day I wake up (now a bit earlier than before because Petra whines and cries and is ready to start her fun filled day early, meanwhile Susie is content to sleep in with me)....and I let the dogs out and start the painful process of breakfast. I then figure out what I'm going to cook that day, which is a challenge when your husband is a carnivore only. We *try* to eat a lot of paleo ( or primal ( but let's face it...I'm Italian and sometimes I just need a heaping plate of pasta and Brian is still a 7 yr old and just needs some chicken fingers, so it's a constant challenge to try to stick somewhat to a diet that goes along with our daily workouts. Which is next on my daily to-do.....working out. I've jumped on the Crossfit bandwagon with Brian finally...I have done it off and on for about a year but only since coming out here have I embraced it more regularly and taken it a bit more seriously. I've gained 2 lbs (DAMN IT!) but i'm hoping it's muscle. Brian is a certified crossfit trainer so he "trains" me, and when I am not busy swearing angrily at him for making me do something difficult or really heavy, I'm definitely getting better. This is the most consistently I've worked out but mostly that is because I basically have nothing else better to do. I also sneak into my friend's gym about once a week and get my yoga in, but I am missing doing that more frequently. I recently joked with a friend out here that I didn't even work out this much before my wedding!!

After working out, I come home and start dinner, Brian comes home, we eat, take the pups on a walk, etc etc and then each retire to our computers! Annnnd that's about it....I go to bed and start that all over again. I do have some things that break up my week, ie my social group or coffee with a friend but generally that's how I spend my days here in Amman! Dogs, grocery shopping, crossfit, cooking. Oh, and illegal dvds that we get for about $5 each.

Thank God I am returning to civilization soon!

pic below of petra and i hiking outside amman...