Monthly Archives: November 2014

Hump Day is a perfect description for our Wednesdays lately!

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B happily writing a song about Thanksgiving for his Songwriting class.

This is our second “semester” of B taking classes outside of the home regularly. It’s been fun and he’s learned things that I could not teach.   The classes are all at the same place and on in the same day of the week, which is very convenient. But it’s also tiring.

This semester he’s taking 3 classroom classes and was outside in a running class for the 2nd half of last semester and 1st half of this semester. With the running class, we were out of the house from 9am-5pm; since running is over, it’s 10:15am-5pm. When we get home, we grab a quick dinner made by the hubs and dash out for another activity that is 6-9pm.

In October, we joined a Circle at our church. A Circle is a small group of men, women, couples or families who meet regularly. Spiritual formation is meant to happen in community, not just in private. Some circles study the Bible, share their stories, perform community service together or all the above. We were invited to join an existing circle when one of the families moved out of state. Our circle meets every Wednesday from 6-9pm, and each family hosts 2 months a year.

Circle has been a wonderful blessing in all 3 of our lives, but it is quite taxing on this introvert!  When we dash home for dinner, I am DONE. I don’t want to go back out. I want to get in my jammies, be served dinner by the hubs and crawl in bed, shutting out all the noise and movement of the world. Even B, my extrovert, is showing some wear and tear. 😯  Something has to give!  (BTW, we are in AWE of families who go to work/school all day and then have extra curricular activities/homework/sports/church activities/dinner/together time, all before bed. Y’all are superheroes!)

Yesterday, B and I had a heart-to-heart talk about what to do.  We decided to take the next semester off from these outside classes. Winter weather has already set in and, with the amount of snow they are predicting our region will receive this Winter, the idea of hibernating in PJs with Life of Fred, US History and Brave Writer sounds lovely! When the hubs came home from work yesterday afternoon, we told him what we’d decided and he declared it was good. ūüėČ

When we arrived at classes this morning, B headed straight to his first classroom and I went to sign him in before retiring to the parents’ lounge. At the sign-in table, the class list for the 3rd semester was being handed out and date of registration was announced. I made a terrible mistake – I took a class list!
Digital photography! Species effects for film making (the industry in which B wants to work as an adult)! DNA! The US Constitution! Robotics! 😮  I know I should keep this list from B, but I really want to show him, hope he gets as excited as me and then bugs the hubs to go! 😄

What to do?!

Bring a Veteran to School Day

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On Tuesday, November 11, 2014, we participated in Bring a Veteran to School Day. ¬†B called each of¬†his two grandfathers,¬†invited them over and they were both pleasantly surprised and happy to come. ¬†My dad is 45 minutes away; the hubs’ dad is an hour and a half¬†away. ¬†I had originally chosen an arrival time of 11am, so both could avoid rush hour traffic. ¬†However, 2 days before I remembered the moment of silence at the 11th hour, on the 11th day of the 11th month and told the hubs I should move it up to 10:30am or 10:45am. ¬†He said to leave it as is, and we’ll have our moment whenever they get here.

Around 10am, B and I visited a neighbor who is retired from the Marine Corps.  B shook his hand, thanked him for his service and gave him some cookies and a homemade poppy. That afternoon, the neighbor gave B a Dinar as a thank you gift for the cookies, poppy and appreciation.  B ran into the house to show me and he was so excited!

My dad arrived a little before 11am and my FIL arrived a little after. ¬†My FIL brought B a picture of the trainer airplane that he flew in¬†flight school in Pensacola, a T-28! ¬†To start our little “program”, I announced that we were going to step out onto the front stoop, face the flag over the front door and say The Pledge of Allegiance. ¬†My FIL said, “I’m Quaker. ¬†Quakers don’t pledge to anyone or anything.” ¬†What an amazing life lesson he presented to us! ¬†The I’m offended/political correctness issue is so hotly debated in this country, and with the Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa season just around the corner, it’s going to get hotter. ¬†The hubs replied, “That’s alright. ¬†You can still come outside with us and stand in silence while we pledge.” ¬†After they left, I had a discussion with B that how daddy replied is what is great about this country. ¬†We wanted to pledge, so we did. ¬†Grandad didn’t want to pledge so he didn’t. ¬†We all did what we wanted to do. ¬†We did not tell him he had to pledge; we did not skip the pledge all together because he didn’t want to do it. ¬†:o) ¬†After the pledge, the hubs called for a moment of silence to honor those who had given the ultimate sacrifice in service to their countries.

We came back inside and settled the grandads in chairs next to each other. ¬†The hubs, as our school principal, officially welcomed our vets to our school and read this poem about Veterans Day.¬† Then I got up and read John McCrae’s In Flanders Fields¬†while B handed out a homemade poppy to each of his grandads. ¬†The poppy means a lot to my dad and he was so happy to receive one. ¬†He said he will treasure it. ¬†We all sat down and I told our vets the reason we wanted to bring them here was so that we can honor them, thank them and, most importantly, hear their stories. ¬†B wanted to know what it was like and hear their individual experiences. ¬†He had a list of questions:

When & why did you join the Navy/Army?

What is the primary role of that branch of the military?

What was boot camp like?

Where did you go after boot camp and what were your responsibilities?

How did actually being in the Navy/Army compare to your expectations before you joined?

How did you stay in touch with your family?

What was the food like?

Did you have a best friend?  Did you stay in touch after you got out?

What is your most memorable experience?

Do you remember any funny or unusual experiences?

How did your service in the Navy/Army affect your life – positively and negatively?

Would you do it again?  Anything you wish you had done or handled differently?

Some questions B asked, some questions his grandads answered as they were talking. ¬†B starting by asking my FIL the first question – When and why did you join the Navy? – and after he answered that question, B was going¬†to ask my dad the same question and go back and forth down the list. ¬†However, the conversation that followed was much more organic. ¬†After answering¬†that 1st question¬†with a huge shock to us, he just kept talking. ¬†My FIL is very sweet and has a sense of humor. ¬†But he is a quiet man; doesn’t speak too much when I’m around him. ¬†I think he said more in the 2+ hours he was here than I heard him speak in the last 19 years. ¬†;o) ¬†He shocked us by answering B’s 1st question with, “I didn’t join the Navy; I was drafted.” ¬†None of us, not even the hubs, knew that!

We talked in the living room for over an hour and continued to talk over lunch in the kitchen (B asked me to make Chicken Tortilla Soup and My Southwestern Cornbread and the 3 of us made Spicy Molasses Cookies for dessert). ¬†We all learned a lot about our dads/grandads that we never knew and my FIL’s experience as an officer and pilot in the Navy was completely different from my dad’s as a soldier in the Army. ¬†Somethings were the same, though, and when one of them was talking, occasionally the other nodded¬†along and chimed in with a, “you’re right”, a laugh or a shake of the head.

When my FIL graduated from high school, the draft was still in place due to the Korean War. ¬†His draft was deferred because he was accepted to college, but they called him up as soon as he graduated. ¬†The Army had been scooping up all the college graduates so the Navy stepped in and took my FIL and some other college graduates who were there that day. ¬†Boot camp was no big deal to my FIL. ¬†He was 23 when he entered the Navy, older than most, and he never took the yelling and attitudes of drill sergeants and superiors personally. ¬†He mentioned one particular drill sergeant who was a second year. ¬†My FIL told him, “Just remember – when boot camp is over, I’m going to be an officer and outrank you. ¬†I’ll expect you to treat me as such.” ¬†After boot camp he was stationed in a few places in Maryland and his stories of his lucky jobs were so fun to hear! ¬†Then he was asked if he wanted to go to flight school in Pensacola. ¬†Um…YEAH! ¬†He said he was lucky; they were treated like royalty, compared to what those who were shipped out. ¬†They had servants who cleaned, did the laundry and cooked. ¬†Once he’d completed flight school, he still owned the Navy 2 years of service. ¬†However, the Korean War was over. ¬†He and the other guys in his training were pulled into a room and told that their contracts were being changed from 2 years to 6 years. ¬†If they were not going to accept the new 6 year contract, they had to pack their bags and leave the Navy that day. ¬†He said they all pulled out quarters and started flipping coins – should I stay or go? ¬†LOL ¬†Most of them left.

As a 17 yr old high school senior from a humble family, my dad knew the only way he was getting a college education was to join the Army and take advantage of the G.I. Bill when he got out. ¬†He told his 2 best friends his plan and they said they should all enlist together, but go into the Navy, not the Army. ¬†My dad was a pale redhead, barely 100 lbs soaking wet, the class clown and he didn’t know how to swim. ¬†Plus, you only had to give the Army 3 years but the Navy got 4 years. ¬†He just couldn’t join the Navy! ¬†But his friends¬†talked him into it. ¬†The Navy had¬†a buddy program and they guaranteed you’d stay together after boot camp. ¬†They all made an appointment with the Navy recruitment office and were going to meet there to enlist. ¬†He was the first to arrive and the recruiter got him started on paperwork. ¬†Before signing, my dad said he wanted to wait for his friends but the recruiter said, “They’re coming. Let’s get you all signed up and then we’ll do them when they get here.” ¬†His friends never showed and my dad had signed on the bottom line. ¬†One buddy’s parents said he was not enlisting, he was going to college and the other buddy decided to be a police officer. ¬†But neither had the guts to tell my dad before he enlisted in a branch of the service that terrified him. ¬†>:o( ¬†(That last sentence is all my words and feelings, not my dad’s.)

The closer he got to high school graduation, the more worried he was, so he went to the local Army recruiting station, told the recruiter what happened and that he really wanted to join the Army, was¬†there anything he¬†can do? ¬†The recruiter took his name and number and said he’d be in touch. ¬†Two and a half weeks before graduation, the recruiter told him he’d taken care of it, my dad was out of his Navy contract and he needed to come down and sign his Army one. ¬†My dad was so relieved! ¬†He has no idea how the recruiter did it because he didn’t ask. ¬†When he signed up, he told the recruiter he was really interested in accounting and would like a job in that field with the Army if possible. ¬†My dad turned 18 on graduation day and was on a bus to boot camp the next day.

As my dad described his experience at boot camp, it reminded me so much of my own experience in culinary arts school!  He said he never knew how sheltered he was until he went into the Army.  There were some really good people there and there were some really terrible people there.  He, like me, was sensitive, and it was hard to be on the receiving end of the drill sergeants.  When boot camp was over, 90% of the men were shipped off to Vietnam and my dad expected to be one of them.  He was surprised when he was sent to Indianapolis, instead, to attend finance school.  He assumed it was the doing of the Army recruiter who had gotten him out of the Navy contract.  Many, many years later, he found out it was the 1st of 2 times that his older brother saved his life.

My dad was eventually shipped out on a troop boat from California to Korea.  My dad served his tour in the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone).  He shared very vivid memories of good times and bad times over there, and the hubs had to bring tissues to the kitchen table for us.  In fact, just thinking about it now, I need to go get some tissues.  Excuse me.

After his tour in Korea, my dad came home and his service was over. ¬†His oldest brother, C (who is also my godfather), was an Army man and¬†stayed in until retirement. ¬†Sometime after Uncle C retired,¬†he and my dad were talking about their service and my dad found out why he’d never been sent to¬†Vietnam. ¬†My Uncle C did 3 tours in Vietnam. ¬†He was, in fact, there when my dad exited¬†with boot camp. ¬†Therefore, because of the Sole Survivor Policy (a lot of civilians call it the Saving Private Ryan rule) my dad was sent to finance school, instead. ¬†When he finished with school, Uncle C was still in Vietnam so my dad was sent to Korea. ¬†My Uncle C never told his parents that he was in Vietnam until after all of his tours were over. ¬†He didn’t want them to worry, so he told them he was in The Philippines and Korea. ¬†Any mail sent or received involved an APO or FPO address, so my Nana & Papa never knew and neither did my dad.

Both my dad and my FIL are glad they served. ¬†They both met their wives through a service buddy. ¬†My FIL never would have learned to fly if not for the Navy, and he became a member of¬†the Civil Air Patrol after getting out. ¬†Flying was¬†his happy place.¬† My dad knows he never would have gotten a college degree if not for the Army. ¬†And, with the exception of a couple of odd jobs in college, the Department of Defense has been my dad’s sole employer as an adult – first as a soldier and then as a civilian employee after graduating from college (thanks to the G.I. Bill). ¬†They were both so happy they had come, more so (if that’s possible) than the hubs, B and I were to have them and listen to them! ¬†They enjoyed reminiscing individually and together and I think they are closer now.

I am so glad we did this! ¬†My¬†dad thanked us several times before he left and my mom called me later that day to thank me, as well. ¬†She said my dad had such a great time and was so proud to show off his poppy. ¬†The hubs thanked B and me for putting this together and he feels so blessed to have been present. ¬†I encourage everyone to do this, at least once. ¬†It was amazing to get to know who these men were¬†before they were husbands and fathers, and hear about a way of life that neither one of us chose. ¬†If you don’t have living family members who served, you can go to Veterans.com¬†for resources¬†to assist you¬†with finding local veterans and how to host your own Bring a Veteran to School Day.

Leftover Challenge

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I posted this picture to Facebook & Instagram¬†on Monday with the caption: “Just pulled all of these leftovers or soon to expire items out of the fridge and I’m determined to make two new meals. Will post to the blog later in the week with the results.” ¬†So here they are. ¬†As one of my savvy Instagram followers guessed, the hubs made a Chicken Stir Fry for dinner Monday. ¬†On Tuesday morning, B made a Chicken & Rice Stoup. ¬†That is not a typo; I meant stoup, and you’ll read¬†why.

The hubs took the 2 raw chicken breasts, the partial sweet (white) onion, the pepper, zucchini, some carrots, stir-fry sauce and one box of take-out rice. ¬†To that, he added garlic, fresh ginger, another half of a sweet onion (from our onion basket), cilantro left over from dinner guests over the weekend that I completely forgot was in the fridge (good thing he checked!) and he filled the rest of the stir-fry sauce bottle with this homemade teriyaki sauce we love¬†and shook it all together (FYI – I do not add the cornstarch and the ¬ľ cup of water to the teriyaki sauce cuz the hubs does not like cornstarch. ¬†Tastes the same, just doesn’t get thick.).

He sliced and diced everything, including the chicken breasts, and then I stole ‚Öď of his ginger/garlic. ¬†ūüėÄ ¬†He salted and peppered the chicken and cooked it in sesame oil in our wok. ¬†Removed chicken and cooked veggies in the same wok – carrots, pepper and onions first and when they were almost done, he added in zucchini and mushrooms (that he begged me to go get from the store for him. ¬†Which I did, cuz he’s really sexy and he was cooking for me! ¬†He also texted me when I was in the store and asked for a can of water chestnuts. ¬†Always nice to have a little crunch in your stir fry!).

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After meat and veggies were cooked, he added and heated¬†more sesame oil and then pressed the container of rice into the wok to get warm and flavored. ¬†He said was going to add a scrambled egg, but I didn’t see any in my bowl. ¬†I also found the can of water chestnuts, unopened on the counter, when I cleaned up the kitchen after dinner. ¬†He forgot to put them in. ¬†My scatterbrainedness is rubbing off on him – poor guy! ¬†Once rice was too his liking, he put meat and veggies back in wok, tossed, added in the sauce, tossed, served up and added chopped, fresh cilantro¬†as a garnish to his and my bowls! ¬†No cilantro for B, thank you very much. ¬†It was, like all of the hubs stir fries, AWESOME!

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While the hubs had been furiously chopping all the veggies, raw chicken, garlic and ginger for his stir fry, I was chopping myself for a chicken and rice stoup. ¬†From the ingredients in the top pic of this post, I took the baggie with the chicken thighs the hubs had smoked on the grill, celery, carrots, red onion and the other box of rice. ¬†I realized that the waaaay too pungent odor of the red onion meant that it was past it’s prime and should not go into my dish and with shame and sadness, I tossed it. ¬†I then grabbed the other half of the onion that the hubs took from our onion basket and didn’t use in the stir fry.

I removed and tossed the skin from the chicken thighs, diced the meat, placed it in the bottom of a tupperware container and covered it with a piece of plastic wrap. ¬†Then I diced up sweet onion, carrots and celery and placed them in the same tupperware container on top of the plastic wrap. ¬†Why the plastic wrap, you say? ¬†Because the next day, when B made the stoup, it was easy to remove all the veggies from the container without taking meat with them nor having to pick out the bottom layer of veggies from among the meat. ¬†I also put a little glass bowl in the container with the garlic and ginger I stole from¬†the hubs, added the cover and popped in the fridge for the next day. ¬†I know what you’re thinking: “You are brilliant!” ¬†Thank you. ¬†I have my moments. ¬†They are few and far between but I do, occasionally, have them.

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While getting the tupperware container Tuesday morning, B¬†found 2 opened boxes of chicken stock in the fridge and pulled them out. ¬†He also¬†got out¬†the Wegmans Basting Oil and a pot. ¬†He heated approx a tablespoon of basting oil in the pot. ¬†How did he know the oil was hot enough? ¬†After a minute, he wet the tips of his fingers at the kitchen faucet and then flicked some water droplets into the oil. ¬†He knew it was ready by the height and loudness of the water droplets sizzling because his mama taught him that. ¬†ūüôā ¬†In went the¬†onions, carrot and celery and he saut√©ed¬†them for 7 – 8 minutes. ¬†Then he added the garlic and ginger and stirred constantly while they cooked, but didn’t burn, for 2 more minutes.

He announced that all the basting oil had ben absorbed by the veggies and, before adding the chicken, he needed to add a smidge more oil. And by “smidge”, I mean that the bottle got away from him and the oil dumped in. ¬†That’s alright, that’s alright, the finished product has a nice sheen of oil slick on top that adds to the flavor and “beauty” of the dish. ¬†ūüėČ ¬†While he added the diced chicken thighs and heated them through, I dumped ¬Ĺ of a box of take-out rice into a bowl and broke it up with a spoon.

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He added the stock to the pan and brought to a boil before adding and heating the rice. ¬†There was not as much stock in those 2 containers as I had thought, but I didn’t want to open up a new one. ¬†So, I declared the Chicken & Rice Soup to now be Stoup. ¬†It’s a word used by Rachel Ray to describe a soup that is hearty enough or thick enough to be a stew. ¬†B’s creation did not have much liquid and so we improvised in the kitchen. ¬†That is what I love about cooking – it is an Art, up for change and interpretation by the artist. ¬†Baking is not my favorite thing to do because it is a Science. ¬†You can’t constantly tweak baking recipes¬†based on what you do or do not have on hand because certain ingredients¬†and amounts are non-negotiable. ¬†They perform chemical reactions to get the desired, and more specifically an edible, end result! ¬†We tasted his stoup and decided the smokiness of the chicken was a bit overpowering. ¬†We added some pepper and salt, which balanced the dish and allowed the flavors of the stock and veggies to come out.

IMG_20141107_094319¬† And here is B’s end result! ¬†I put some in a mug this morning, added some water from¬†the tap and heated it up in the microwave. ¬†Look at the beautifully shiny circles of basting oil sitting on top! ¬†When I was done eating my stoup, my lips were so soft from that oil, I won’t need¬†to apply lip gloss today. ¬†ūüėÄ ¬†I love the dark flakes from the smoked chicken thighs!

I hope you are inspired to create new dishes from your leftovers and soon to expire kitchen items! ¬†I have other posts on here about using leftovers. ¬†If you are interested in seeing more, just search “leftovers”.

 

B’s Homemade Transformer Costume for Halloween 2014

The hubs and I are so proud of B! ¬†He wanted to make his own Transformer costume and he did. ¬†He took boxes from our and my parents’ basements, he rooted through our recycle bin regularly and our first floor was full of cardboard, scissors, yards of duct tape and determination for 2 months.¬† First he made it the way he imagined. ¬†It was awesome, but not practical for walking up and down stairs while trick-or-treating nor transforming on small front stoops. ¬†So he redesigned it for trick-or-tricking – removed parts from his legs and attached it all to the body of the tank so he could walk freely and transform while standing. ¬†So proud of this kid!

 

Original design with B inside

Original design, transforming from Tank to robot from the ground. B is inside.

Original design as robot

Original design, transformed into robot. Sections attached to his legs were not practical for trick-or-treating.

 

I love the rivets he added when attaching the costume together for trick-or-treating. They look like they belong on a tank.

I love the rivets he added when attaching the costume together for trick-or-treating. They look like they belong on a tank. And I think he did a great job painting the boxes with several colors to create the camo and autobot symbol.

Finally, here is a video of how he went trick-or-treating:

 

Spring Forward, Fall Back? What’s That?

As parents, our homes are usually disrupted twice a year when the clocks change, and battles ensue. ¬†But no longer in this house! ¬†I decided last Fall that I was not going to do it anymore and I’m kicking myself for not doing it sooner. ¬†We change our clocks, yes, but not B’s natural sleeping schedule. ¬†We have the luxury of doing this because he doesn’t have to be up at any particular time.

We like him in bed around 9pm, although he may go early if he’s sick or tired or go later if we’re out or doing something special. ¬†So, when the clocks sprung forward in the Spring, we didn’t force him to go to bed when the clock said 9pm, because it was only 8pm according to his body. ¬†He went to his room¬†at 10pm and, although he awoke later according to the clock, he got the same hours of sleep. ¬†His own body adjusted over time, and with the changing daylight, and we did not fight that. ¬†After a while, he was going to his room between 9 – 9:30pm.

This past weekend, when the clocks fell back, I did not keep him out of his room¬†an extra hour; he went into his room at 8pm. ¬†All of us went to bed earlier (according to the¬†clocks, but right on time for our bodies) and woke up earlier, but we all got the same amount of sleep. ¬†And we’re happy. ¬†ūüėÄ

Once again, WHY did I torture all of us for so many years?!  *shaking my head*

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