Friday, September 27, 2013

Taking stock. Fall List, continued.



It's been a very busy week and one in which I've run into folks from my previous life in Cambodia (including this activist monk), which always throws me and then makes me realize that the world is small.  Or, maybe it's just that the people who work in this niche of international law (on, for example, independent accountability mechanisms) is tiny. 

Throughout the week, I found myself sitting across the table and engaging in discussions with people from all over the globe who are shaping the functions and mandates of these international mechanisms.  The discussion today centered on normative gaps in these systems and how to increase accountability and access to remedy for the poorest of the poor.  It was terribly fascinating and a little intimidating.  I sometimes don't know how I've landed here.

Anyway, this week also forced me to acknowledge autumn and to take stock of the holes in my wardrobe.  Starting with outerwear, my go-to jackets are my Mayle Olympe coat (first picture) and Fedosia jacket (second).  I'm looking for another coat, something oversized and comfortable.  

 via

I saw the coat above, and while not an Isabel Marant coat, I wonder if it would do the trick. Straight away, I am skeptical about the quality.  I may have to make my first visit to Zara in years, which should be easy since the nearest Zara is a brisk 15-minute walk for me.  

Other items on my list:
  •  A pair of black ankle boots that are comfortable enough for walking around in the District (taking notes from the best black boot review)
  • A pair of black trousers (I simply cannot justify purchasing this pair, so I need an alternative)
  • A ceramic necklace (wouldn't mind this or this)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

On the week


What is it with this week?  There was the Washington Navy Yard shooting, all of four miles from where I was sitting in my office, oblivious to the news until I received several text messages and calls.  Then there is the flooding in Colorado, close to Ethan's family, who are fine. And how could I forget the veritable war zone in Zamboanga, where my father's family lives and I visited in March??? 

I don't even want to get into my thoughts on the shooting in DC and how, as an American living abroad, I would get so enraged when news of shooting after shooting after shooting would filter through the international channels. 

It's been a strange week.  I might even say it's been a bad week.

Compounding all the weirdness is the current pace of work in this city, the meetings upon meetings, scheduled and re-scheduled, with little notice, and  the realization that I am going to have to maneuver the politics of international law (as in, how the U.S. takes or doesn't take positions on these things).  I love this field of law.  I know I'm fortunate to be able to make a living doing this work.  But some days, I feel as if I'm hitting a wall.  It's this city, this process that I'm learning to navigate.

Recognizing that wall, I decided to work from home today.  I am playing music, procrastinating in my pajamas and enjoying a hot cup of Stumptown coffee.  Funny thing is, I could totally do all that in my office (yes, even the pajamas if I needed to.)   I need to take it slow because October will be busy.

On my list of priorities today are: (1) drafting some language on some submission on international climate stuff; (2) a call with my boss (who is based in the Netherlands but currently traveling around Switzerland for conferences); and (3) maybe a quick walk to Whole Foods for a slice of pie.

Update:  This song and video is lifting my mood a little. I haven't listened to a Shugo Tokumaro song in ages.


Sunday, September 15, 2013

More on Istanbul

Swimming in my mind this Sunday morning: images from the Hagia Sophia . . .


the Grand Bazaar . . . 
 

the Basilica Cistern . . .


and one of many sweet shops in the city.


 How was that only two months ago?

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Fall List #1: Fisherman Sweater

first image via; second via; and third via

In an attempt to curb my spending this season, I'm forcing myself to list what it is I actually need/want. 

First, a confession:  I don't actually know how to dress for autumn anymore.  To think about sweaters, layering, autumn jackets (and ultimately winter coats) is such a foreign concept, which is why I had a little freak-out this evening as I walked through Georgetown and noticed that my linen shorts and thin cardigan were no longer sufficient for the cooler temperatures.  This is what living in perpetual summer for the past few years has done to me.

But I should start thinking about what I need for the new season. 

For starters, I need a sweater and I've set my eyes on a fisherman sweater.  I remember years ago, when I still lived in Portland, I found one at a vintage store.  It was a little boy's sweater, ivory, shrunken, with four dark brown, leather-covered buttons.  I wore it all the time until it frayed and was ruined.  

Even Ethan has a fisherman sweater, which would be super slouchy on me. We, however, left it at the Fraser mountain house.

In any case, I am leaning towards a more shrunken fit.

Monday, September 9, 2013

S├ęzane, Autumn 2013

all images via 

I've had my eye on Sezane for a few seasons, though I've never ordered their goods. I don't even know if they ship internationally.  The masculine cuts of these coats, paired with the boots and heels, is really working for me - not that I wear heels much these days, as I tend to walk a lot more in this city.

The autumn collection is available tomorrow here.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Note to Self: At 6 months.


It's September, which means that it has been 6 months since I moved to D.C. and over a year since I left Cambodia.  How do I feel? 

The city doesn't feel as alien to me as it did those first cold months, when I was easily unsettled by the darkness of the Metro and the tired faces commuting in the evenings.  I guess you could say I'm more accustomed to the lay of the land, including what is expected of me at work.  Also, now (most days) I can stare at the gigantic world map situated on the one blue wall in my office, stare at the little spot of the Mekong region, and not cry.  During my first three months, that was not the case.

I say this to Ethan and to any friends or colleagues who listen to my circular rants:  It's incredible what an emotional tie I have to that region.  Fine, I was born in Southeast Asia and lived in that corner of the world for a few years of my life.  But I never thought I'd want to live there, work there, and miss doing so.

Cambodia holds a special place in my heart, despite my struggles there.  Thailand-and the awesome concrete jungle of Bangkok - also hosts fond memories.

This week, I shared a drink with a woman who works at a certain human rights organization.  We met in Manila last year, during one of my meetings at the Asian Development Bank.  She flies around the world - all over Europe, Asia, South America, Africa - and advocates on  behalf of communities suffering human rights abuses. (She intimidates me a little.)

She asked me if I ever cried during a meeting, and we started talking about dealing with the stresses of this work. And I was brought back to this conversation and this one. It's not so different, is it?  Amazing people in a different city, in a different country, in a different phase of my life.

In other words, I'm starting to realize this work in the District is a continuation of those experiences.  It's connected, and hopefully that will help me push through.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

An experiment. Or, dressing like an NGO worker in the District.

Whit dress via

It's September.  How?

In the past week, I've noted that my morning commute requires more than the whisper of a summer dress I usually wear.  The days are getting shorter.  The seasons are changing.

It is my first autumn in the US in four years.  Although summer is definitely one of my favorite seasons, I'm excited to put away my summer frocks for more substantial wear. 

This year, to curb my spending habits, I'm going to try to plan my purchases.  This might be too ambitious a goal. But if I decide upfront what it is I really need and want, maybe I'll be more judicious in my purchases.  I've learned that I don't need a bunch of things in my day-to-day life, but I also really enjoy a beautiful silk dress now and then.  How to balance? 

Maybe this space can help keep me accountable.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Chicken Adobo


During her wedding this weekend, my friend was gifted a massive Mark Bittman cookbook, which I flipped through while sipping wine and dreaming about the meals I could cook this week.  I came across a chicken adobo recipe.  I paused.  

Not surprisingly, in my mind, no one can beat my grandma Elpidia's recipe.  Chicken adobo is not a dish I make or have dared to make.  It's reserved for my early childhood memories of running around on some provincial farm in the Philippines, or for my trips back home when my grandma comments on how old I am getting, usually over a meal of this dish and copious amounts of steaming white rice.  

But I guess if Mark Bittman can make chicken adobo, so can I.

This time, I am using his recipe, which calls for the addition of coconut milk.  Already, our small home in the District feels a little more homey.

Chicken Adobo
Adapted from a recipe by Mark Bittman (found here)
Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients
 
  • 1 (3-4 lb.) whole chicken, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 8 pieces*
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup white or rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. chopped garlic
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cups coconut milk**
  • Cooked white rice (enough for however many people you are serving)
*I buy a pre-cut whole chicken because I am lazy and have bad knife skills to boot. If you didn’t want to do a whole chicken, it would be perfectly fine to use breasts or whatever you like. He also says this recipe works well with bone-in or boneless pork chops.
**Bittman says this isn’t mandatory, but since the sauce is the most important part of this dish, I wouldn’t leave this out if I were you, it won’t be nearly as rich. I had canned coconut milk on hand, which works just fine, but he says it’s easy to make yourself and tastes purer than canned, so I’m providing his recipe below if you want to attempt that.
Process
  1. Combine the soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, bay leaves, pepper, water, and half the coconut milk in a covered skillet or saucepan large enough to hold the chicken in one layer. Bring to a boil over high heat.
  2. Add the chicken, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, covered, turning a few times, until the chicken is almost done, about 20 minutes.
    Optional: At this point, you may refrigerate the chicken in the liquid for up to a day before proceeding; skim the fat before reheating.
  3. Heat the oven to 450 degrees (F). You can also cook this on a grill or under a broiler, but roasting seemed easiest to me.
  4. Remove the chicken pieces from the liquid, dry them gently with paper towels and place in a dish. Don’t discard the sauce. Roast the chicken until brown and crisp and hot, about 15 minutes (closer to 10 if you are grilling or broiling instead).
  5. While the chicken is cooking, add the rest of the coconut milk to the sauce in the pan and boil over high heat until sauce is thick and reduced to about 1 cup. Discard the bay leaves and keep warm until chicken is ready.
Serve with rice and top with lots of sauce.
- See more at: http://backtothecuttingboard.com/dinner/chicken-adobo/#sthash.EwSNAYN3.dpuf
  • 1 (3-4 lb.) whole chicken, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 8 pieces*
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup white or rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. chopped garlic
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cups coconut milk**
  • Cooked white rice (enough for however many people you are serving)
*I buy a pre-cut whole chicken because I am lazy and have bad knife skills to boot. If you didn’t want to do a whole chicken, it would be perfectly fine to use breasts or whatever you like. He also says this recipe works well with bone-in or boneless pork chops.
**Bittman says this isn’t mandatory, but since the sauce is the most important part of this dish, I wouldn’t leave this out if I were you, it won’t be nearly as rich. I had canned coconut milk on hand, which works just fine, but he says it’s easy to make yourself and tastes purer than canned, so I’m providing his recipe below if you want to attempt that.
Process
  1. Combine the soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, bay leaves, pepper, water, and half the coconut milk in a covered skillet or saucepan large enough to hold the chicken in one layer. Bring to a boil over high heat.
  2. Add the chicken, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, covered, turning a few times, until the chicken is almost done, about 20 minutes.
    Optional: At this point, you may refrigerate the chicken in the liquid for up to a day before proceeding; skim the fat before reheating.
  3. Heat the oven to 450 degrees (F). You can also cook this on a grill or under a broiler, but roasting seemed easiest to me.
  4. Remove the chicken pieces from the liquid, dry them gently with paper towels and place in a dish. Don’t discard the sauce. Roast the chicken until brown and crisp and hot, about 15 minutes (closer to 10 if you are grilling or broiling instead).
  5. While the chicken is cooking, add the rest of the coconut milk to the sauce in the pan and boil over high heat until sauce is thick and reduced to about 1 cup. Discard the bay leaves and keep warm until chicken is ready.
Serve with rice and top with lots of sauce.
- See more at: http://backtothecuttingboard.com/dinner/chicken-adobo/#sthash.EwSNAYN3.dpuf3/4 cup soy sauce1/2 cup white or rice vinegar
3/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup white or rice vinegar
3/4 cup coconut milk
1 cup water
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 whole (3- to 4-pound) chicken, cut up (with legs separated from thighs); or use 2 pounds bone-in thighs or leg/ thigh pieces cut in two.

Instructions

1. Combine all ingredients with 1 cup water in a covered pot large enough to hold the chicken in one layer. Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce the heat to medium-low or low (you want a slow simmer, nothing more). Cook, covered, about 30 minutes, turning once or twice, until chicken is cooked through. (You may prepare the recipe in advance up to this point; refrigerate the chicken, in the liquid, for up to a day before proceeding.)
2. Meanwhile, start a charcoal or wood fire or preheat a gas grill or broiler. The fire need not be too hot, but place the rack just 3 or 4 inches from the heat source.
3. Remove chicken, and dry it gently with paper or cloth towels. Boil liquid over high heat until it is reduced to about 1 cup; discard bay leaves; keep sauce warm. Meanwhile, grill or broil chicken until brown and crisp, 5 minutes per side. Serve chicken with sauce and white rice.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Breakfasts in Istanbul


My memories of mornings in Istanbul--of prolonged breakfast meals, the sound of sea gulls, the sliver of bright blue on the horizon, and the contours of the skyline-- will have to tide me over for a while.

A wedding



This weekend, we celebrated the wedding of two very lovely friends in a warm, cozy home in Mount Pleasant, one of my favorite neighborhoods in the District.  It was a small gathering of friends. The ceremony was informal, interactive, and quite funny.  At one point in the ceremony, one of the bride's long-time friends, a foreign exchange student from Germany who had stayed with her family years and years ago, brought out a roll of ribbon and performed a German ritual on the exchange of the rings. 
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