Saturday, March 31, 2012

Platoon Leaders and Patio Furniture

My husband would like me to clarify: he is not "acting as a platoon leader." He is a platoon leader.

Glad we got that cleared up.


Our Saturday was very exciting. It consisted of our payday shopping spree. By which I mean we bought dog food, batteries, and coffee. However, as we wandered the hallowed aisles of Costco, I was reminded that I really want some outdoor furniture for our porch in the back. When we were living in Georgia, my parents loaned us their set (they weren't using it), but we left it with them when we made the move to JBLM. So, now we are without patio furniture until we buck up and buy our own.

So, we looked through what Costco has to offer... And basically, what falls under the What-I-Am-Willing-To-Spend category is... not awesome. There are plenty of really lovely outdoor seating arrangements if I want to spend more than I did on my Italian leather sofa... But really? $1000 for two made-to-look-like-wicker plastic arm chairs and a side table? Nope, not going to happen. While we were at the PX, I noticed there was a dining set that seats six for under $400... Which is more like it. But I almost think I would just be better buying a card table and a couple folding chairs.

I'm not entirely sure what we will end up doing. To be honest, here in Washington, it will probably only get used two months out of the whole year. Now, those two months will result in much usage, but still... It's 60 days out of 365. 1/6 of the year. Hmm. Math.

In the meantime, if anyone can explain to me why patio furniture costs more than indoor furniture... I'd appreciate it.

Friday, March 30, 2012

It's Like a Party in Your Mouth

As a 1LT, my husband is currently acting as a platoon leader for a logistics unit. He's big into team-building stuff, so he had a platoon picnic planned for this afternoon. It was actually supposed to be a few weeks ago while I was out of town; fortunately, something ridiculous came up, so he moved it and I could be there.

One of his soldiers ended up volunteering his house to host. If I had known that would have happened, I would have offered up ours (oh, the cleaning!); I was under the impression that they were going to do it outside at the unit or a community center... something. It actually ended up being a good thing that it wasn't planned for an outside space because it rained and pelted us with gale force winds. There may have even been some sleet in there. Oh, and did I mention it was about 40 degrees?


There were a couple of food stuffs that I wanted to share. I was the cool kid who brought the ever-impressive Costco sheet cake with the ever-witty platoon motto on it (since tone is tough to convey over the interwebz, I'll clue you in: that sentence was ripe with sarcasm). One of the soldiers ended up being grill master extraordinaire (not sarcasm). He was making these short ribs that were rubbed with adobo seasoning and then splashed with Coors Light. Coors Light--who knew something so disgusting could produce something so good? It was phen-o-men-al. And definitely something that I will be attempting to replicate once the temperature exceeds 55 F.

Our host also made the drink that only made the party in my mouth better: Johnny Walker Black Label and Diet Sierra Mist... Yeah. WTF, right?

The hubby is a huge Scotch connoisseur (I'm not going to lie, I groomed him to be. I told him he needed a refined taste in alcohol... It ended up working. We're now planning a honeymoon to Scotland (no, we never had a honeymoon. Don't Judge) just so we can go to all of the distilleries. Bazinga), so I have had my fair share of amazing scotch. I'm not a huge fan of the lesser whiskies (which I consider anything that is mass produced like JW, but it's great to use for a mixed drink... so as not to ruin the good stuff), but this was pretty damn fantastic. So good, I ran right to the commissary to pick up Diet Sierra Mist...

...Which they DO NOT CARRY.

Oh, well. Diet Squirt was almost as good. And since we didn't have any Johnnie Walker, Glenlivet 12 Year wasn't horrible, either. But, first thing tomorrow... cheap whisky and Diet Sierra Mist are becoming staples in my bar. So the party can continue.

And that concludes my disjointed, poorly explained description of how to make a party in your mouth. You're welcome.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

What Would You Do With Your Imaginary $500 Million?

With the lottery winnings half a billion dollars, I am pretty sure every American who is semi-conscious and owns a television/internet access is fantasizing about what they will do with the winnings.

I'm not optimistic enough to think there is even a chance in hell that I will get a piece of that (though, you better believe we are buying a ticket), but that doesn't stop me from imaging what I would do with that much money. The hubby and I have already had extensive conversations about how best to go about making use of such a large sum, and we have decided that the most logical course of action would be:
  1. Take the annuity option.
  2. Invest the money.
  3. Buy this house in Scotland:
  4. Pay off my parents' house, debt, have them retire and move with us into this house in Scotland:
Yes. It's for sale. You can read more about it here on

It's been on my list of "I MUST HAVE THIS, NOW!" for at least a year. It's gorgeous--really, you should go see the pictures. I wouldn't share my dream house for the whole world to see, but I have a pretty good feeling that it will never be mine. This breaks my heart, obviously, but what else is a girl to do? I can only ask that no one else buy it on the off chance that I will, in fact, at some later date, have a few million dollars to spend on something so magnificent.


I'm not entirely sure what I would do with it. I mean, other than have all of my friends and family come visit me so we could put on full, fancy dress parties with highland dancing and bagpipes. I could waltz around the place while wearing panniers and a wig, pretending I am Flora McDonald. Or start my own distillery (after all, I will have millions of dollars, duh!).

Yeah. I'd be excellent at being Nouveau Riche.

What would you do if you won half a billion dollars?

P.S. #5: Friendship rings!

This is Where I Prove I Am a Liar

I know I said I was going to try to keep this upbeat, but you'll have to forgive me for a slip every once in awhile. I'm having a little freak-out session and have the urge to try to calm down via writing.

The last few months, I have been experiencing this lump-in-throat sensation. It comes and goes, but lately it seems to be around more often than before. I've mentioned it to my primary care doctor, as well as the endocrinologist in the past, but only this week has either decided to investigate (to be fair, the PCM referred me to the endocrinologist at first. When I showed up in his office still complaining about the lump feeling and the endocrinologist, he gave me s referral to an Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist and a new endocrinologist). This afternoon, the ENT office called to schedule an appointment for me, which prompted me to go on a massive Google search...

... Which has me terrified that I have esophageal cancer. Which is essentially a death sentence.

Fortunately, I don't have any of the symptoms (except for weight loss, but I have been desperately trying to lose weight... But, then, why all of a sudden would it start working when it didn't before? See why this is tricky?). Unfortunately, early stages don't really show any symptoms. So, I could have cancer.

And, as you would guess, resulted in lots of crying, text messages to my husband asking him when he could come home, and forcing the toddler to sit on my lap while I thought about the possibility of missing her grow up.

I need a bottle of wine.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

My Eyes Are Protesting Their Sockets

Ever since they changed around my thyroid medication at the beginning of the year, I have had a hard time falling asleep (unfortunately, I also have a very hard time waking up, too... It's sort of a lose-lose situation). To combat my initial insomnia, I started a practice I like to call "Reading Books I Wouldn't Normally Read (BIWNNR)." This is most-assuredly financed by Amazon, as all of the BIWNNR come straight from their Free Book Collection (a list is made available by; if you have a Kindle and have not made use of this amazing website, you need to get on it ASAP). I have a rather large collection of BIWNNR, now, and I'm not going to lie... I really won't read some of these. There have been a few I have started, gotten four pages into and said "No. Just... no." But, because I am not out anything, it's all good. Most of the time, the BIWNNR are decent, but because they are not my normal fare, they tend to help me fall asleep because I lose interest in warring robots or middle-aged women angsting over their recent divorce.

But every once in awhile, I end up finding a rare gem. And that's what happened when I started reading The Wretched of Muirwood Trilogy by Jeff Wheeler. It started off kind of slow, but by the time I was on book 2, I was hooked (I read the second and third books in 18 hours... I didn't go to sleep until 4 am, and I had to be up by 7. Thus the reason my eyes are protesting their sockets).

The trilogy is definitely of the fantasy genre, though I picked up on some strong allegorical themes. I'm not sure if those themes were intentional or if I was imagining them, but I think you could make a safe argument for either. The setting is a fictional country in a fictional world, in which the monarchy is systematically killing off all of those who have taken a sort of "religious"/educational vow (I say religious loosely because it's not really a religion. Or it is. Allegory is weird that way). Only those who pass a test are allowed to take the vow, and they take the test after years of study. For the most part, those who attend the institutions (or Abbeys) are nobles or of the middle class, though not all who attend take the vows.The lowest caste, the wretcheds, are orphaned children who work in the Abbeys, and are forbidden to read or write. That, of course, is where the story begins--with a wretched (as if that wasn't obvious from the title...)

This is one of those stories that I think has the ability to really speak to a lot of "ages." The main character, Lia, is in her young-to-mid teens most of the trilogy. You meet her for the first time at nine, but that is a brief encounter. The Wretched of Muirwood sees her mostly at thirteen, and she's kind of an immature thirteen, but blossoms and matures a lot in the second two books, The Blight of Muirwood and The Scourge of Muirwood, as she makes it to her sixteenth/seventeenth year. Her age is rarely an issue, though, as she's a very strong, likable character, and one with whom I think male readers could also relate. Her one desire is to learn how to read and write, a luxury that is denied her due to the unknown circumstances of her birth. Because she has no family, she lives and works for one of the religious/educational institutes in the kitchen. But she is bright, resourceful, precocious, and most importantly, loyal. The other characters are all very likable, even through their faults (her best friend is timid and a heavy sleeper, her new friend is very stern and unfriendly, etc); and I even found myself loving to hate the antagonists.

I'm not going to go into the plot lines--you can read those on Amazon. But what I will say is that I highly recommend these books. I mean, what's a better recommendation than: "I got the first book for free, and then paid $3 for each of the subsequent books because they were that good?" And this coming from someone who has unabashedly told you she gets most of her books off the free lists.

I really had no idea what to expect up until the very end. There were so many twists in the final book that I was preparing myself to be mad at the author for a variety of reasons. In fact, I had a pit in my stomach (at 2 in the morning) when I knew for sure there was no way he could make it all work out in such a way that I wasn't screaming or yelling or crying over what happened... But he somehow managed to make it work (though not for everyone or everything... so don't go thinking this is a Stephenie Meyer ending).

Okay. I've said too much. Someone go read these (now!) so I can revel in the glory of knowing I found a truly awesome trilogy... Or something.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Restaurant-Style Ground Beef

I've never been a fan of the over-pungent, preservative-filled, goopy-looking taco-seasoning-packet ground beef. It was always too salty and never tasted anything like any of the Mexcian [American] food (or even TexMex food) that can be had at a Mexican restaurant. And so I set out to recreate the ground beef found at some of my favorite Mexican restaurants. That ground beef was always lightly seasoned and fresh-tasting--a stark contrast to the other stuff. It took a little bit of playing with, but eventually I was able to come up with a recipe that is pretty darn close--if not spot on--to what I can get when I got out to eat.

Since we had tacos for dinner tonight, I thought I would share my ground beef recipe. It's great in tacos, but also pretty fantastic in burritos, quesadillas, nachos... you name it. It takes more time to make than the good-ole browned-beef-and-a-taco-packet variety, and I haven't attempted it in a crock pot, yet (if you have a go at it, let me know how it turns out), so I don't suggest it for a quick dinner night. It needs at least an hour and a half to cook down, so it's best for a night when you have the time. But the following recipe makes enough for the 2.5 of us (Endelyn eats so little of it, she doesn't count as a fully person--not much of a meat fan, that one!) to have it for dinner/lunch twice (and it microwaves very nicely!).

Restaurant-Style Ground Beef

Prep time: Less than 15 minutes
Cook time: 1.5 hours

You will need:
1 lb ground beef
1/2 Large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, diced
1 Tbsp black pepper
1 Tsp salt
1 Tsp oregano
2 Tsp chili powder
1/4 Tsp cayenne pepper
3 cups of water*
Pinch of cilantro
Sauce pan

*You need the water to completely cover the ground beef in the pan. If you have a smaller pan, you will probably need less water... a bigger pan, you'll need more. But I find that somewhere between 2-3 cups of water is about right for a small-to-medium sized sauce pan.

Step 1: Dice onions and Garlic

Step 2: Place ground beef, onions, and garlic in the pan

Step 3: Cover with water

 Step 4: Add spices

Step 5: Mash up the mixture in the water until all of the beef is broken up and the herbs are well-mixed.

Step 6: Cover the pan and turn the burner on to medium heat. Let it cook (bringing it to a boil) for about 25 minutes.

Step 7: After 25 minutes--or so--the beef should be cooked through. Remove the lid from the pot and let the beef continue to cook at medium heat. (I usually use the other half of the onion to make a pico de gallo, so when I am through with that, I throw in a little minced cilantro, as well. This is only optional)

Step 8: Allow the beef to cook until most of the liquid has cooked down or evaporated (at least an hour)

Step 9: Drain off the excess fat and serve.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

A Big Girl Room

Endelyn is quite happy in her crib. She hasn't even attempted to climb out of it--to be honest, climbing isn't exactly her strongest sport, anyway; she can't even really climb up on to the sofa (what can I say, other than "gross motor skills are not her best?")--but that hasn't stopped me from mentally imagining what her room will look like once she is no longer in the crib.

We have no plans to use a toddler bed. In fact, I specifically bought a crib that did not transition into a toddler bed because I think they are a little... dumb. We have the twin bed that was mine growing up, and plan to let her "transition" into that bed (with a bed rail, of course), but when we make out next Permanent Change of Station (PCS), we will be selling/donating that bed and replacing it with a full/queen size. Some might say that's impractical, but I would like her to have a bed she can use through the years.

I'd love for her to have an iron or brass bed, or something that has a very classically pretty style.

We both really like the look of both of these from Target (really! Target!)

I also really like the look of this one from Macy's

My mom is currently in the process of making curtains for Endelyn's room. They are going to be the plaid of my grandmother's tartan, which is green, blue, black, and purple. I really want to bring out the purple color to "girl-up" the room some.

This is the tartan. I believe the purple in the curtain fabric is a little bit pinker than this is, but it gives you an idea of what we are looking at.

I'd really like to paint her room a color that would be complimentary of those colors--the purple would probably be the easiest, but  I am A) afraid that that much of that color would be a little... much. And B) I was hoping to find her a comforter that was that color. Perhaps bringing out the green color in a fresh paint would really make the purple pop... Fortunately, I have no intention of painting any of the walls in our current house, so I have a couple years to think on it. 

I have some gorgeous photographs from when I was at St Andrews, Scotland, that I am going to blow up and frame. I think a nice Victorian-like frame would be nice. I'll also probably go look for something pretty at an antique store to go over her Victorian dresser (which needs some new pulls...).

I really like both of these from

She also has an antique bookcase that was past down to me from my dad's side of the family. It was originally my great-grandmothers, I believe, so it too is probably Victorian. It needs some work--mostly to be refinished--which I might try to tackle soon.

I guess the theme I am going for is... under-stated Highland estate. I don't think that is probably actually a theme, but it's what I think of when I think of her future room. It'll soften it up with some of her stuffed animals (she has a couple highland cows, some sheep, etc), but I don't want it to be too... Froo froo. I look at some of the little girl room-inspiration on pinterest, but I find them all a little too pink and frilly and princessy.

I'm open to any suggestions or ideas! Please let me know if you find anything Victorian, Scottish, Purple, Plaid, and/or Noble that could go along with my made up theme!

And now I am off to start a pinterest board for just that!

A Fresh Start

I started blogging more than a year ago, setting out on a journey that was supposed to be about the new life upon which we were embarking as a family of three in the Army. But then I got diagnosed with hypothyroidism, realized I did not like our duty station, and found myself in a funk. When I blogged, I felt like I was whining. And I really don't like myself that way. So, the old blog has been "hidden," and I am starting afresh.

My goal is to post something once a day, though I am sure that won't actually end up happening. But it's something to reach for. I'm going to try to be more positive, using this less as a medium to express my displeasure with life, and make it more of a happy, informative, inspirational place. More ideas, more recipes, more book reviews. Less whining.

So, if you're an old friend, I welcome you back. And if you're a new reader, well... Greetings! I