Join Us for the Awesome Ladies Project this Friday!

Are you awesome?  Could you be considered a lady by any crazy stretch of the definition?  Do you love crafting and struggle to set aside time to work on projects that make YOU feel GREAT?

Join The Awesome Ladies Project and pledge two hours a month to creating a project that makes you feel like an awesome lady.

Creating Makes You Feel Awesome

I, along with the other ladies on the Awesome Lady Creative Team, pledge my hours publicly on the last Friday night of each month (that’s tomorrow!), and I’d love for you to join us! In addition to posting pictures on Instagram using the hashtag #AwesomeLadiesProject, rukristin has set up a (free! of course! because awesome!) workshop to share inspiration and creative project.

In addition to all of that …


This month there are TWO awesome ladies chats (registration required to access link)!  I’ll be hanging out in our chatroom starting at 7:00 PM GMT, and Kristin will be leading a chat later in the day beginning at 10:00 PM EST.

Holler in the comments if you have any questions, and I can’t wait to get creative with you all!

Disclaimer: as a part of the rukristin Creative Team, I receive a small amount of free scrapbooking product to help create the some of the awesome projects you’ll see as inspiration in the workshop tomorrow.

Primal Broccoli and Pomegranate Mason Jar Salad

Mason Jar Broccoli and Pomegranate Salad

Primal Broccoli and Pomegranate Mason Jar SaladI am working on taking my lunch to work every day, but I needed an easy way to make an entire week’s worth of lunches in advance. I actually do a great job of cooking a week’s worth of food at once on Sundays, but never seem to find time in the mornings to pack my lunches. Enter the mason jar (side) salad. It’s a great way to take advantage of all of the amazing fresh produce that Jerusalem offers, without having to get up early to make myself a salad every morning for work.

I combine this salad with a more substantial entree (like paleo Shepherd’s pie, or meat balls, or whatever), and it keeps me full all day, including up and through my evening lifting sessions.

Mason Jar Broccoli and Pomegranate Salad Recipe

Serves 5 (or one person 5 times).


  • 2/3 cup mayo (I use homemade paleo mayo, but store-bought will also work)
  • 1/4 cup basalmic vinegar
  • 2 heads broccoli (chopped into florets)
  • Seeds of one pomegranate (check out this YouTube video for helpful instructions on seeding)_
  • 1/4 cup red onion (sliced)’
  • 1.5 lbs cubed leftover chicken
  • 1 cup goat cheese (feta, bulgarian, whatever, cubed; skip this if you’re strict paleo)
  • 5 mason jars


  1. Blanche the broccoli florets (bring a large pot of well salted water to a rolling boil, dump in the broccoli for one minute until the florets turn bright green, then drain immediately), and allow to cool.
  2. Mix the mayo and balsamic vinegar.
  3. Layer into each mason jar: 2T basaltic dressing, handful of broccoli, red onions, chicken, pomegranate, cheese cubes.

Everything is made from scratch. All of the ingredients are primal and paleo friendly. And I can make five salads at a time to store in the fridge.

It’s true that the mason jar is pretty hipster, but I’ll take an ounce of hipster over the ridiculous cost of buying my lunch every day at the consulate.

How to become a runner.

Diary of a Fat CrossFitter – How to become a runner

How to become a runner.How to become a runner: put on your shoes, go outside, and start running.

How to become a CrossFitter: put on your shoes, go to a box, and start CrossFitting.

How to become a lifter: put on your shoes, to to the gym, and start lifting.

Yes yes yes yes yes, research boxes and find one you like. Yes yes yes, look at form videos on YouTube and learn how to lift correctly. Yes yes yes yes, invest in decent running shoes and try C25K.

But don’t let analysis paralysis stop you from going out and MOVING if that’s what you want to do.

Don’t start Monday.

Start tomorrow.

Start now.

Stone steps at an outdoor amphitheater near kibbutz Be’eri

Darom Adom Southern Anemone festival in southern Israel – Watching the Desert Bloom

Matan running through the fields at Darom Adom

Friends of ours invited us to join them on a trip to the Negev to see Israeli’s national flower, the anemone bloom.  The flowers bloom only for a few short weeks after the rainy season, before disappearing until the next year.  After over a month cooped up in Jerusalem, we were happy to get out of the city (and so were the kids).

We took the long road to get to Shokeda, the region in the nortnern Negev where the flowers grow.  After a few mishaps, we finally found a place to park and let the kids run wild.

And she's off!  Grace running near kibbutz Be'eri

We actually hadn’t found the anemones yet, just crowded outdoor area, where cyclists were meeting (there was a bike shop) and getting ready to ride off-road and through the fields of flowers.  Behind the market area, there were some beautiful wide open fields were kids were running around and families were picnicking.  Grace and Jasmine needed to get out and stretch their legs before continuing to search for the beautiful red flowers, so we unloaded the cars and let everyone out to explore.

Jasmine running through a grassy field at Darom Adom, the Southern Anemone Festival

Between the fields, there was a beautiful outdoor amphitheater.

Stone steps at an outdoor amphitheater near kibbutz Be’eri

Once the kids were a little tired, we returned to the market area to find food.  Seats at tables were in short supply, but we found a large wooden table in the shade, and took it over.

Ian and Bertrand eating lunch at Darom Adom, the Southern Anemone Festival

Some of us sat while eating, and some of us chose to dance on the table instead.  One-year-olds are wonderful.

Suzanne and Matan after lunch at Darom Adom, the Southern Anemone Festival

Finally, after everyone had eaten and the kids were settled, we were ready to head off, still in search of the anemones.  We eventually found a field full of them, and full of picnickers and fellow travelers like ourselves.

Matan running through the fields at Darom Adom, And she's off!  Grace running near kibbutz Be'eri


We let the kids lose again, and had a lovely time chasing them around.  There were tons of other families out, similarly chasing their kids around.  And the flowers were breathtaking.

Grace wondering through the fields at Matan running through the fields at Darom Adom, the Southern Anemone Festival

Grace also ate several flowers.  Apparently, they were delicious.

10 years of blogging, and I’m back!

The blog went down last week, and I’m still not sure why.  Some combination of a plugin + theme + something was telling WordPress to display … nothing.  No admin, no blog, no nothing.  It was awful and it’s been a frustrating week and I got up an hour earlier than normal this morning to sit down and straighten everything out.


If things are wonky over the next few weeks, it’s because I’m taking advantage of the meltdown to fix some of the cruft that’s built up over the last ten (!!!!) years of blogging.

No, there won’t be ten-year anniversary post.  I don’t generally do naval-gazing retrospectives, preferring instead to naval-gaze about the future.  However, I’m pretty pleased with myself for maintaining the blogging habit here since 2005.

If only I had the same dedication to running Jerusalem’s hills.


Diary of a Fat CrossFitter – A Week of Workouts

I’m starting to warm-up to my new box’s formatting. It’s a lot more loosely run than CFSA was, but I really enjoyed Sunday’s workout.

Partner WOD, split 50/50, broken down into sets of whatever we want

100 American KB swings
75 partner wall balls (toss the ball up to the line, and then your partner catches and tosses it for you to catch)
50 burpee pull-ups (or, in my case, burpee, then jump up to the bar from a pile of 20 kg plates because HAHAHHAHAH pull ups HILARIOUS)
25 dips

It was pretty brutal, but the woman I partnered with was an aboslute machine. I ran out of gas during the burpees, and she jumped right in to keep us going.

Monday, I did a wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am lifting workout at the gym between work and a work event. I was dumb and didn’t warm up enough, didn’t stretch, and didn’t rest enough between sets. Failed my deadlifts, and that really bummed me out.

Tuesday, I (re)started c25k in hopes of getting a little bit faster and running for a little bit longer before getting bored out of my mind.

Wednesday, I had a terrible no good very bad day at work (nobody’s fault—I was just crabby pants). I really wanted to grab a drink or two after work, but instead I hit the gym and I PR’d* my squat and PR’d my OHP**. Fuck yeah, Starting Strength and linear progressions gainz.

Today, Thursday, I ran some more.

And Friday, I’ll lift some more because SRSLY GUYS, I love lifting so fucking much.

My building has a pretty sweet gym facility, and I take advantage of it several days a week after work. One of my fitness goals this year is to find community in being active. Another is to own the fact that I am active, fat or not. Part of that, for me, is being confident about working out with people I know. It’s kind of weird working out with my work colleagues (there’s a reason I don’t wear running capris to the office), but pretty awesome too. We totally give each other weird bro-grunts and half-waves when we see each other (seriously, we don’t talk at all), but it’s nice to be working out alongside people I know, instead alone in a tiny Oakwood corporate housing gym.

Anybody else doing a great job about establishing routines now that we’re a month into the New Year?

* PR’d = beat a personal record for a lift (I lifted heavier than I ever have before)
** OHP = Military Press

Parrot at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo

Sondjos at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo

Flamingos at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo

We live about a mile down the road from the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo, and I was tired of my coworkers’ surprise when I told them, “No, we haven’t been to the zoo yet.”

Parrot at the Jerusalem Biblical ZooSo on Sunday morning, we got up, picked up the house, packed a lunch, and dragged the kids to Jerusalem’s zoo. It was lovely. The work week in Jerusalem for everyone but Consulate folks is Sunday – Thursday, so the zoo was deserted, except for the one other Consulate family we happily ran into.  That family has several young girls, one of whom Jasmine’s age.  Guess who were thrilled to make new friends?

My husband at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo

Handsome man, interesting choice of accessories. I kid, I kid. I love the baby blanket as towel look. ;)


In addition to regular entry, the zoo offers a membership. We did the math while we were waiting in line, and we only have to go three more times this year to cover the cost. That’s a no brainer, and voilà, the Sondjos are the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo’s newest members.

Lion at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo

Once we arrived (pushing a stroller one mile up and down a mountain is a pretty exhausting walk), we let the kids out of the stroller so that they could run around and work off some excess energy.

Jasmine ROARING like a bear at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo


The kids loved all of the animals, but the birds were the most fascinating. Grace started squawking back at them when they squawked at her. It was hilarious.

Grace squawking at the birds at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo

Grace squawking at the birds

The zoo has tons of objects for kids to climb on and take pictures. Jasmine loves that sort of thing, and because Jasmine loves climbing on the statues, Grace loves climbing on the Statues.

Jasmine and Grace at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo

The zoo has a few other neat features, including an Aviary where kids can buy food and feed colorful tropical birds. Grace didn’t quite know what to do with herself, but Jasmine was enchanted.

Jasmine feeding the birds at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo

And of course, there’s a playground.

Jasmine going down the slide at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo

Since we bought a year-long membership, we didn’t feel at all obligated to see everything in one day. We waited until Jasmine was a little hungry, so we could promise her a snack while she waved good-bye to her new friends. Then a quick pretzel on the way out, and we walked home.

The walk home was much much harder than the walk there. We were so tired, but I was so relieved to discover how close the zoo actually is.  I see a lot of quick visits in our future.

Diary of a Fat CrossFitter – Starting Starting Strength

Photo of a Fat CrossFitter getting her lift on

Obligatory gym selfie.

I can’t believe I got up early on a Saturday to go lift.

Fucking crazy.

Does anyone remember when I was astounded that I had become the type of person to get up early and run outside?  Well, until my “winter” running gear (warm pants and a rain jacket because I actually only own a trench coat, which is useless for running) arrive next week, I am not that type of person in Jerusalem.  However, instead of losing the habit, I’m getting up and going to the gym at the consular section.

Also, I did not expect to missing lifting AT ALL.

But I do, and my new CrossFit box is not satisfying that itch as well as I’d like.  Plus, I really like the way I feel when I’m thinking about what I’m eating, as opposed to how much I’m eating.  I’m not in a mental place where I can do that when I’m not lifting heavy (i.e. MUST FUEL GAINZ), so I decided to start a strength program.  My research (aka “analysis paralysis”) indicates that it doesn’t matter what program I pick, so much as just putting in the work to do it consistently.  Starting Strength is a linear progression designed for beginners, doesn’t require any equipment I don’t have access to, and, most importantly, doesn’t require huge amounts of thought on my part.

Anyway.  Ran a mile (OMG YOU GUYZ I CAN RUN A MILE WITHOUT STOPPING).  (re)Started Starting Strength.  Benched in the squat rack.  Deadlifted in the squat rack.  Sorry not sorry, no space to do it elsewhere.

While I was on my way out, I ran into one of our GSOs* and mentioned that it’d be great to have a women’s bar to accommodate those with tiny hands like myself.  He said sure**.  Then I went home and ordered some 5 and 2.5 lbs weights off of Amazon so that I can add weight to my bench and OHP in increments of less than 20 (the smallest plates available at the office gym are 10 lbs).  No way on this God’s green earth am I waiting for procurement and GSO to order weights, send them to the Despatch in NJ, ship them by sea, and then and ONLY then be able to use smaller weights when I lift.  It’s a small investment for some hopefully large gains gainz.

I’m feeling pretty good about my progress, and I’m pleased at the positive steps I’m taking to nourish myself, nutritionally, physically, and psychologically by lifting.  It’s been a good start to 2015.

* GSO = General Services Officer, in charge of procurement (for those not familiar w/ State Dept acronyms)

** Anytime anyone’s like, “So, Jerusalem-violence-tension, meh?”  I’m like, “OMG ICASS customer service is SO GREAT I could stay here FOREVAAAAAAARRRRR.”

Conversations with my three-year-old, Sondjo edition

Jasmine: I want a surprise!

Me: You can only have a surprise if you behave yourself!

Jasmine: I want to behave myself!

Me: Good.  Behave yourself, and you can have a surprise.

Jasmine: I’m behaving myself!

Me: Yes, you have to behave yourself for more than 30 seconds.

Jasmine:  I’m behaving myself RIGHT NOW!!!

Me: Are you screaming?


Me: That’s not behaving yourself, Jasmine.




On nourishing what I love, and consuming less of what I don’t

NOURISHThis year, I chose “nourish” as my One Little Word. Like last year’s word, “breathe,” it feels a little bit out of character for me. I’m an excellent planner and project manager. I’m hyper-organized. I’m on top of everything. I am not a particularly warm and fuzzy person. You can tell when I’m starting to fall apart when I lose details, as when we were preparing to leave the States for this your in late November.

I’m very outcome focused. It’s not hard for me to tackle a big project and break it down into small achievable steps. SMART goals? Not a problem. I do, however, tend to get lost in the planning and the achieving and the getting things done aspect of Being Theresa Carpenter Sondjo. I’m very proud of how good I am at my job, but I’m less proud of the sacrifices my family and my soul have to make in order to sustain my type-A personality, not just in the Foreign Service, but at home at before I joined State as well.

I can be a difficult person to live with.

So “nourish.”

Part of that, is nourishing the relationships that I love. Part of that is nourishing my body (developing a consistent workout habit was the best thing I did for myself in 2014). Part of that is nourishing the hobbies that I love: writing, paper crafts, cooking, running (!!).

You know what doesn’t nourish anything at all? Hanging out in the living room, iPhone in hand, browsing Facebook. Endless, mindless consumption, particularly in terms of my paper crafting hobby, but also in our home. Stuff. Neverending piles of junk we ship around the world because we can’t bear to admit that we have purchased paid for accumulated consumer goods that we don’t need.

I found this article by Caylee Grey (expat and fellow lover of paper) to be excellent food for thought as I reflect on how I can best nourish my relationships in the coming year. She lists 70 days to produce more than we consume. Some of the highlights for me:

Throw away fears of making embarrassing things. Make them anyway. My theory, that I keep repeating, is that we have a certain number of things that we make that will be rubbish. Best to get them over and done with as soon as possible so that you can move onto the great things.

I dislike intensely being not-good at anything.  I don’t like being bad at CrossFit.  I don’t like creating stuff that I’m not proud of. I don’t even like scrapping mediocre photos, even when they tell a great story.  If it doesn’t look good, I don’t want to waste hours on the process of creation. That’s pretty dumb. I need to focus more on the process, and less on the final product.

You don’t not have supplies. If you have a pen and paper you have supplies. If I can have supplies in a third world African country, you can have supplies.

So true! If I could create in Freetown, there’s no excuse for me not to do so in Jerusalem. It’s very easy for me to use shopping for creative supplies or blog themes or kitchen goods as a substitute for actually sitting down and creating. Especially in a developed city like Jerusalem, I need to glue my ass to a chair and just MAKE STUFF.

Record your creative time and hone it. Just like you would if you were embarking on a new exercising program, keep track in a notebook, or with Lift.

This is a new idea to me, and I think one that will be very useful. How much time am I spending doing the things I love, vs. how much time am I wasting futzing about online?

Go read the whole list. It’s really good.

I’m not explicitly focusing on minimalism this year, but I’m interested to hear how other folks are limiting their consumption and focusing on the things that are important to them this year. How are you doing it? Do you have any suggestions?