July 29, 2012

Guest Blog: "The Kid's" World View

For the past several weeks I've been lucky enough to have my mom and youngest sister visiting with me. Being married to the military means the Hubs and I move often, with no idea how close we might be to family at any given moment. When opportunities arise for an actual face-to-face visit, we definitely take advantage!  

Currently, we're about 1900 miles apart from my youngest sis and a large chunk of the Fam. This week, that distance shortened to about 50 feet (the distance from my master bedroom to my guest bedroom!) 

Whenever my littlest sis visits (let's call her The Kid, kay?), we like to test out new things, whether that be food or experiences, or... well.... whatever. Annnnnnddddddd, despite the fact she is glaring at me right this very instant, one new experience I thought she should try is blogging! 

So, here goes! Insight via The Kid is now at your disposal. I'm sure she'll be enlightening. Or possibly annoying. Maybe even perspicacious (look it up, people!). Whatever she is, I know it will be great entertainment. Enjoy! 

Okay well, despite popular belief, I'm not THAT annoying. Actually the only person I attempt to annoy as much as possible is The Freak, a.k.a. the chick who usually writes these things. But now I'm taking over, mwhahaha. Prepare yourselves.

So uh...I'm guess I'm just gonna tell you about random food I have obtained from World Market.
First off...PINK HOT CHOCOLATEE! Okay, well...it was supposed to be pink.

By the way, when I was warming up the milk, I did in fact manage to get it on the cabinets... BUT DON'T TELL MY SISTER! And don't ask how it happened, just...don't. Anyways, once all the milk was removed from the cabinets and placed appropriately into the mug, we kinda discovered that it was more white than pink. Stupidly deceiving labels on random foreign food...ANY WHO! In an attempt to make it more beautiful, I delicately placed whipped cream and sprinkles on it. Quite gorgeous I must say.

Unfortunately, this gloriousness didn't last very long. In an attempt to get a better picture of the finished product my darling older sister took this cup of magic out onto the balcony and guess what happened?

She murdered it.

BAM! All my hard work spilled onto the concrete.

I know this gruesome scene may be hard to look at... I apologize.  I almost cried myself, and you know what? I think The Freak planned this. Have me make a stunning *coughcough*ugly*coughcough* hot chocolate and then terminate it in front of me. Heartbreaking, isn't it? Oh well, c'est la vie. 

Even though it was ruined, The Freak and I tried to take one last picture to show off the drink. Very Vouge, isn't it?

Buuuut, I still drank it... I just couldn't resist. I must say it tasted very odd. Definitely not like normal hot chocolate. It tasted more like milk with some sort of mysterious substance in it. I'm not sure if it's suppose to taste like this, OR if during our balcony adventure some deadly toxin creeped its way in. If so... well, my sister drank it to so you're going to have to find some entertainment other than her ramblings.

Some of the other random, foreign foods we tested? Here you go:

Possibly more coming soon... if you're lucky. Anyways, I guess it's time for me to go. Bye bye strangers of the unknown! I return you to The Freak...

Ahem... the Freak? Well, KID... I'm going to remember that at Christmas. And I'm going to inspect those cabinets!!

I hope you've all enjoyed the entertainment stylings of my littlest sis... she's something else, isn't she? Hopefully, we'll be hearing from her on occasion in the near future.  I love that snarky attitude and random insightful musings. Until then, I'll keep you posted!

July 15, 2012

Another Quickie: Watermelon and Arugula Salad

Ever have those days when nothing goes right and everything is a mess? Well, this was that week. The Hubs and I are running in circles, it seems. One car gets fixed, the other breaks down. One bill gets paid, then another pops up (ok, so that's normal!)... but you get my point.

On days (or weeks) like this, you just wanna curl up on the couch, close your eyes, and wish the world away for a while.

I suppose I could do that. But who would walk the dog? Or pay the bills? Or cook dinner? I'd starve to death before anyone (ahem, the Hubs) stepped forward to cook something besides Spaghetti-O's.

From this, I've learned to take my moments of peace where I can get them, and to make them count. Dinner simmering on the stove? Good time for a quick meditation. Walking the dog? This equals a nice conversational interlude with the Hubs.

For those nights when a spare moment is few and far between, I compensate with cutting back on my cook time. Not by making Spaghetti-O's, although I'm sure the Hubs would love it, but by flipping through my stack of go-to, quick and simple meals.

Watermelon and Arugula Salad
This particular salad speaks to me. It's full of greens and fruit, and one of my favorites.... feta cheese. Best of all, you can be eating dinner in about 10 minutes, from start to finish.

The ingredients are basic, and customizable to your taste:

I like arugula as my greens in this dish, because it has a peppery flavor that's a nice contrast to the sweeter fruit. If you like spinach or spring mix instead? Try it out, see which you prefer. I like to encourage experimenting with your cooking. Truly, it's the best way to learn and discover your tastes.

So, if you're like me, start with a base of arugula on your plate. I drizzle with balsamic at the end, but you'll notice a second dressing in the picture above. I've used it here as an example, a way to really make this dish your own. If you prefer, lightly toss the greens with your favorite vinaigrette. I dressed the Hubs' salad with one, and mine with the other. Both were yummily!

Once your plate is covered with an ample amount of greens, add the watermelon. You can buy a knife like the one above in several places, but I found this one at Walmart for about $5. Chop your melon into bite-sized pieces, then distribute over your greens.

In addition to the watermelon, I add blueberries if I have them on hand. If you don't have any handy (or just don't like them), no worries... the salad is delicious with just the watermelon! Do you prefer strawberries instead? Go for it!

A handy tip: don't put too much of any one fruit on your salad... try to remember how many toppings you're adding, and adjust your quantities accordingly. If I put half the watermelon on my salad before adding blueberries, there wouldn't be enough greens to support so much fruit ( a mistake I commonly make).

After the fruit comes the cheese...

Mmmmmm..... I adore feta cheese. This is another staple in our fridge, I almost always have it on hand.  In particular, I prefer the Athenos brand. I've tried others, but the flavor and texture are not the same, at all. Trust me on this. Go get some Athenos today.

Sprinkle the yummy, scrumptious, fantastic cheese over your salad. Try to keep the balance between the fruit and cheese. Feta adds a nice salty note to your salad. It matches well with the sweet and peppery flavors already on your plate.

Naturally, I left one item out of the ingredients picture. I wouldn't be me if I hadn't forgotten, you know this! So, after the greens, and the fruit, and the feta, we need some crunchy. Without the crunchy, this salad is good but it lacks a certain... crunch. I have such a way with words, don't I?

You can use different elements here, depending on your taste. The Hubs and I went for chopped pecans. You could also use walnuts, sunflower seeds, pine nuts, etc. The choice is up to you. Just don't forget The Crunch. Mega important ingredient, people! Don't be like me.

You're almost done now. If you didn't toss your greens earlier, then we need a little dressing. I've been a bit obsessed lately with balsamic reductions. However, I'm not the least bit interested in making them myself. Instead, I found this little beauty which suits all my balsamic needs:


Let me just say that again... yum yum yum yum.

This isn't an easy item to find, but my local Target carries it. You can order it here on Amazon, but I paid only half that at the store. So check your local grocery first. If you can't find it at all, or you don't want to pay double for the online item, then you can use a different dressing on your greens or make the reduction yourself. Remember, this recipe is adaptable to you! A balsamic vinaigrette would be just as delicious.

So, simply drizzle your dressing over the salad, and viola! Dinner in 10 minutes. Let's be honest, it probably took longer to read this recipe than it did to actually make the salad!

Pick up that first forkful, close your eyes, and enjoy. The pepper of the arugula and the sweet of the fruit combine in perfect harmony with the salty feta and the tang of balsamic. And don't forget the all-important crunch! Divine.

Happy cooking, my friends. And yes... salad still counts as 'cooking', especially this week.

What are your favorite recipes for those weeks when everything is a mess? I'd love to hear from you!

The Standard Form:

* There are no measurements for this recipe, as all quantities are based on taste *

Watermelon and Arugula Salad


Arugula greens
Chopped Watermelon
Feta Cheese
Chopped Pecans
Balsamic Glaze


Spread the greens evenly over your plate. Top with the chopped watermelon, and then the blueberries. Sprinkle with pecans and feta cheese. Drizzle with balsamic glaze. Enjoy!

July 5, 2012

Independence Day, Then and Now

Independence Day... the Fourth of July.

Every American knows the significance of this day, or they should. (If you don't, shame on you! Go out and discover it now). Most of us commemorate it with fireworks, picnics, and barbecues. We party, and we party hard, as we celebrate the birth of our nation.

For military families everywhere, the Fourth also translates to 'leave' or a four-day weekend. It's an opportunity to spend time with your family, both the one at home and your military one. Those chances can come few and far between, so we take advantage of every occasion. I build those memories in my brain, layering them one over the other, to be pulled out during our times of separation. It's those 'in between' moments which last; they keep you strong when you feel as if you couldn't possibly make it through one more day as a military wife.

We party just like you, in the usual ways (and a few unusual ones!)... Everyone loves the magic moments when fireworks burst in the evening sky.

Depending on your location, fireworks mean different things... are you popping them yourself in the backyard? Are you watching from the local baseball game? Are there fire restrictions in your area that limit the options?

We've been to different firework displays all over the country as we move from base to base. There have been fire restrictions, rain delays, and times when we've done it ourselves. I snuggled with the Hubs, watching fireworks reflect over the water, but there were times when he wasn't home to celebrate at all.

We don't always celebrate in the traditional ways though... sometimes, we get a little... kooky. Like the year we attended Roswell's annual Alien Festival:

Between the parades, costume contests, lectures and speeches... it was something not to be missed, and plain old fun to boot! The opportunity to see different walks of life is our greatest advantage as a military home. Wherever we might be, we explore the local, ahem... wildlife.

Of course, sometimes the 'wildlife' is us! We've been known to be kooky, crazy, quirky... however you want to describe it. We know how to laugh and embrace the good times, that's for sure. Simple barbecues and pool parties turn into something unique when you're hanging with the boys. Beach towels laying around? Obviously they are capes for our superheroes! Water guns in the pool? Well, by golly, that's an opportunity to practice combat tactics. Mock-battle, here we come!

Some of our best times are with other military people. We keep civilian friends, but it's impossible for them to fully understand your life. No matter how many episodes of Army Wives you've seen, let me assure you... it's not the same. Military friends come into your life quickly, but the bond is hard and fast, one that will last beyond a single duty station. You see each other in the best and worst of times. You lean on each other when there is no one else to depend upon. Since these photos, taken only a year ago, much has changed. Life can't be counted on to remain the same.

One of these men has already deployed, returned home, and deployed again. Another has PCS'd (transferred to a new base, for all my civilian buddies out there!), and now lives halfway across the country. Others have stayed here, but moved to new locations within the area. Another has re-joined the civilian world, and another counts down to an upcoming deployment. By tomorrow, all of those circumstances could change yet again. Military families learn to seize the good days while they can, and to be prepared for change at any moment.

This year, the Hubs and I were planning... absolutely nothing. I love having all our friends over for pool parties or bbqs (obviously!), but this year was a little different. We're still missing many of our friends that are gone, for various reasons mentioned above. Plus, we're just getting to know some of our newer friends. On top of which, our recent vacation was FABulous, but it also left us a wee bit exhausted.

So instead of our normal revelry, this year we decided to keep things simple. Just a few friends, simple food, and perhaps some patriotic movies.

The food part was easy. A quick batch of my Buffalo Chicken Dip, pico de gallo, and chips took care of the appetizers. Bratwurst and Italian sausage were a great main dish. Of course, don't forget that traditional Fourth of July snack, watermelon!

Independence Day just wouldn't be the same without watermelon, am I right? When we serve a bigger spread, I include lots of traditional favorites. Yummy deliciousness like grilled burgers, potato salad, and fried chicken. Oooh, and apple pie!

With only a few of us gathered though, that spread was a bit impractical. I would have leftovers for weeks! (Not to mention the amount of energy needed in the preparation). So instead of apple pie for dessert, I tried something new. Something from... a box.

I know, I know!! Very unlike me. In my defense, I was very tired. I still haven't finished all my unpacking! And the cow jumped over the moon, so it's all good, yes?

Oddly enough, my boxed dessert turned out yummy. I spotted this one day walking through Target's seasonal section, and I knew I would have to experiment.

Pink Lemonade cupcakes?! Yes please.

Of course, the Hubs was a little embarrassed by the whole pink issue. So I decided to jazz things up a bit, and celebrate our country's birthday with these:

Patriotic nonpareils makes the cupcakes much more manly.

Ok, that's not entirely true, but it's the line I fed to the Hubs. He fell for it! Pink cupcakes it was.

I was apprehensive, but the cupcakes turned out good! The cake itself wasn't strongly flavored, just a hint of lemon. Many icings would have paired well, including cream cheese, vanilla, or lemon. On the other hand, the pink lemonade icing was packed with flavor. Not too strong, but you knew it was there. My pal Becky likened it to Trix cereal... sweet and fruity.

As you know, I'm not normally a box person. But everyone gets busy. Everyone has moments where they just don't wanna work from scratch. Those moments are intruding into my life more and more often. When I can't (or just plain 'ol don't feel like it) put in the time, I take shortcuts. It's necessary for all of us at one time or another. If you're into lemon and running short on time, give these seasonal cupcakes a try. No one will know they're from a box unless you tell them!

Next Fourth of July, I'm hoping the Hubs is still in town to celebrate. I'm not sure where we will be, what we will do, or who will be cooking (ok, that's probably me!), but I know one thing... wherever we are, whoever we're with, we're going to enjoy every moment. Because next year, the Hubs might be half a world away. He could be in the field, deployed, or away for training. Any number of things, at any minute, could mean that next year we're apart.

Take your moments while you have them. Snuggle and watch fireworks. Eat watermelon. Laugh. Enjoy each other.

Happy Independence Day, my friends. I hope you all took your moments, and enjoyed them to the fullest.