Monthly Archives: July 2011

Deployment: Staying Connected

Q and I are lucky that about 6 weeks ago his unit got satellite computers and phones installed in their COP (where he lives with his guys). What this meant for us was that instead of getting a phone call every Saturday at 2 or 3AM, we now could talk regularly. It has made the world of difference. Before, I used to make a list of things to talk about since I was afraid that I would forget them once he called. Now, it’s almost like a long distance relationship. That’s not to say it isn’t challenging. Before deployment, Q would talk about his days and training in detail, but now he can’t give a lot of information about what their doing, even where they are, but I’ve learned to live with the generalness of it all. And just take what he can give me without question.

Q out on patrol

A big part of staying connected is the talking and emailing, but the care packages I send every week remind him a little bit of home and of me. I think they are so important as they boost morale and I’m able to really support Q in whatever way I possibly can, which helps ME feel connected to him.

In this week’s package, we have:

  • dog treats for the dog Q and his guys adopted
  • Puffins (his favorite cereal)
  • oatmeal (requested for breakfast)
  • magazines (I always throw in an US Weekly or something silly on top of all the “man” stuff)
  • drink mix (requested by Q)
  • microwave meals (yes they have a microwave!)
  • coffee (my man loves his coffee)
  • candy/cookies (because I can’t help myself)
  • Wet Ones (they only shower once a week)

I also try and send a card, a photo and a mixed CD once a week separately. The packages get delivered to the guys pretty consistently, but the actual letter mail is sporadic. By popping these in the mail, I know whenever they have a mail drop Q will get a little surprise.

And Q does his share of showing me he cares, he sends me daily emails and pictures of what he is up to. And then every once in a while he will do something incredible, like arrange for these to be delivered:

Aren't they amazing?

I think the most important aspect of staying connected is being yourself even when you are apart. I don’t hide things from Q because I think they are silly (i.e. making oatmeal or what I did at the gym) or because I think he has other things on his mind. I carry on like I would if he were here. We joke about my driving skills (so-so) or that I forgot to shower or that I burned my toast. And these things make everything seem ok and normal. Whenever I miss him a lot, I just pop off a long email saying exactly how I’m feeling. And then he reads it! Technology is amazing.

Q's Afghani dog enjoying a toy I sent

I know we are so lucky that we have the ability to communicate the way that we do. I still pray for him every night and wake up missing him, but I know it would be a hundred times worse if I couldn’t talk to him almost every day. We are almost 1/3 of the way through this deployment and the time is truly flying by.

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Filed under Deployment, Q

To Shower or Not to Shower

I know, I know, should I really be asking this question? But sometimes on Saturdays after our long walk, I kind of forget to shower. Well, it happens like this – 6 mile walk, breakfast, errands, nap, bake/cook, read my blogs, dinner, in bed at 10:30 when my mind clicks and says “Did I shower today?” During the week it’s obviously a no brainer since I shower at the gym right after I work out and before going to work. But sometimes on Saturdays, I just forget. AND I have all of these bath/shower goodies to entice me:

My favorite is the shampoo and conditioner I bought from the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs:

I also try and use this Neutrogena cleansing shampoo once a week (or more like once a month when I remember- it strips your hair so you have to limit use to once a week or so). When Q was last in town I noticed after about a week that this “use-once-a-week” shampoo was emptying out quickly. I asked him if he had been using it daily. And in true guy fashion he said “Ya, it’s the only thing that just said shampoo and not “deep clean” or “frizz control.”” I told him that it actually strips your hair…he said that his hair had been feeling a little dry…whoops. He also told me that when we move in together I really have to limit my shower goodies (whomp whomp).

In other news, I bought these AMAZING workout tanks from Target on Friday. I had seen a lot of bloggers talk about these Champion babydoll tanks and I’m hooked. They are so comfortable and cute and cheap!

(Please excuse my messy room)

I of course bought them in every color they had…

Obsessed. (Oh and to answer my question- today I DID shower…mainly because I was going out shopping and not showering when shopping is wrong.)

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Filed under Fashion

Cherry Almond Muffins

Today I hit a huge milestone in my blogging/culinary career when my Blueberry Banana Bread was posted to Tastespotting.com. Getting on Tastespotting has been a dream of mine for a while, the site really has the most beautiful food photography (warning: do not go on it unless you are ready to eat!). I’m really proud of myself and really appreciate everyone’s support! Many more milestones ahead…but today I have some cherry almond muffins for you.

Since cherries are in season, I wanted to try to incorporate them into a recipe and these muffins were just perfect. I actually had to hide the cherries in the fridge to keep them away from my family before baking this recipe. Muffins are SIMPLE and you don’t even need any fancy kitchen tools for this recipe- just a bowl and a wooden spoon. For things like muffins and breads, it’s actually better to use a wooden spoon rather than a hand mixer to keep your batter from over mixing (thank you Mama Stanley for that tip).

Cherry Almond Muffins

Makes 1 dozen

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk (I used nonfat)
  • 1/4 cup oil (I used canola)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 cup fresh cherries (pitted and halved)
  • 1 cup sliced almonds, divided (meaning 1/2 for your batter and 1/2 for your topping)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar for garnish (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease your muffin tins and sit aside (*You can use Pam or put some canola oil on a paper towel and run it through the tins.).
  2. In a large bowl, mix by hand your flour, sugar, milk, oil, egg and almond extract. Fold in the cherries and half of the almonds. (*Folding means taking the batter from the bottom of the bowl and moving it to the top. Be gentle as you don’t want to smash your cherries or over mix).
  3. Spoon the batter into the muffin tins. Fill the cups 2/3 full and top with remaining almond slices and teaspoon of sugar.
  4. Bake for 16-18 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean.
  5. Let sit for 10 minutes before removing muffins from tins.

Adapted from Keep It Simple Foods

Thanks again for all the love and support, hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!

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Filed under Baking, Muffins, Recipe

Blueberry Banana Bread

I’ve been on a 5 day “stay-cation” before I start a new job on Monday and I think it’s exactly what my body needed. I haven’t been setting an alarm in the mornings and have allowed myself to wake up naturally (well, as natural as possible with two hungry dogs barking and normally a 9AM wake-up call from Q), but still I’m sleeping in and just decompressing. I feel more energized and my body has just been able to kind of mellow out for a couple days which I think it really needed. I made this bread earlier in the week to bring in to my old job as one last “Koko Treat” (they have been the testers of many a sweet thing). And it was definitely another hit with the co-workers.

For this loaf, I took a basic banana bread recipe which we use as a “go to” in our house when we have ripe bananas. I added in blueberries and layered a banana over the top of the loaves for some extra flavor (and looks-wise it gives the loaves something special). We toasted the walnuts instead of putting them in raw and we used a potato ricer to mash our bananas which speeds up the process.

Blueberry Banana Bread

Makes 2 medium loaves

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup and 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 medium, very ripe, bananas, mashed (*we used a potato ricer to mash them)
  • 1 medium ripe banana (for top of the loaf), sliced horizontally
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Toast walnuts in a toaster oven or on a stove top for 5 minutes. Set aside
  2. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Grease two medium loaf pans ( 7.5″ x 3.5″) and set aside.
  3. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium sized bowl using your hands or a wooden spoon.
  4. In a large bowl, with a hand mixer, mix the melted butter and sugar and beat until blended. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then the 4 mashed bananas. Then, with a wooden spoon, stir in the walnuts, blueberries and vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture, a third at a time, stirring well after each bit.
  5. Scrape mixture into loaf pans. Only fill them 3/4 of the way. Layer your banana slices over the center of the loaf.
  6. Bake for 45-60 minutes. When they are ready, a toothpick stuck in the center of the loaves should come out cleanish.
  7. Let the loaves cool in the pans or 10 minutes. Remove loaves from pans (carefully) and let them cool on a wire rack.

Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s “How to Be a Domestic Goddess

(I let my loaves cool outside for 5 minutes before taking them out of the pans since we were in a rush to get out the door.) These loaves were truly delicious and a great recipe to try for any beginning bakers.

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Filed under Baking, Breads & Loafs, Recipe

What I Ate Wednesday Part 4

Like usual I’ve been counting down to this all week. Today I was work-free, so I got to sleep in (so nice!) and actually take my WIAW photos outside for once and not with my iPhone in the bad office lighting. And yes, I’m still obsessed with my new camera. It’s like the world looks different through a good lens.

Breakfast – 9:30AM

Since I made breakfast at home today, I made my steel cut oats on the stove with a half/half blend of almond milk and water. I topped them with some raspberries and Better’N Peanut Butter since I wanted to try and be “good” and not pour almond butter across like usual. I missed the almond butter (who am I kidding).

Post-Workout Snack – 1:00PM

I needed something quick after I left the gym since I knew I was going to be out and about all day, so I grabbed a banana protein smoothie from Earth Bar. Wow was that good, I slurped all $9 of it down immediately (yes, it is ridiculous to pay $9 for a smoothie I could make at home… but I was in a rush and I really wanted it. Like a lot.).

Lunch – 4:00PM

My day is all turned around, eating lunch at 4 is just weird and not normal! I made a quick open faced sandwich (double the toppings = double the yummy). I toasted 2 slices of pepper jack cheese onto an Oroweat sandwich thin and topped it with cilantro pesto, avocado and tomato. I added some turkey to one side only (wasn’t feeling the protein today). While I was snapping pics of my lunch, guess who showed up? Yup over in the far right corner would be a bee. But not to worry, I still ate the sandwich, couldn’t let that goodness go to waste.

Dinner – TBD

Since I ate lunch so late I’m not planning anything special for dinner. Right now I think I’m going to be snacking on some of these Raincoast Crisps I like so much and some Laughing Cow cheese. And maybe some cheerios. Like I said, I’m all turned around today!

Hope everyone’s weeks are going well! Tomorrow I have a blueberry banana bread recipe I’m just putting the finishing touches on!

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Filed under Recipe, What I Ate Wednesday

Kale & Farro Salad

I promised this recipe last week, but finally got around to putting it all together! I got the inspiration for this filling salad from my July Foodzie box. We got a small box of this Bluebird Grain Farms Whole Grain Farro and wow it was so delicious. I didn’t really know a lot about farro before, so I did my research. It cooks similarly to brown rice, but has a nutty, richer taste with a little sweetness and it has a high nutritional value (16% protein). I honestly prefer it to brown rice because it has so much more flavor.

Kale & Farro Salad

Makes around 4 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 head of kale
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 cup farro
  • pinch of unsweetened coconut flakes (optional)
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Wash and dry kale. Remove the leaves from the stem and tear into strips. Layer onto baking sheet.
  3. Whisk together the toasted sesame oil, olive oil and soy sauce. Pour over kale.
  4. Bake around 20 minutes or until wilted.
  5. At the same time, cook farro in a pot of boiling salted water until tender. (Approximately 30 minutes). Drain well.
  6. Mix the roasted kale and farro together.
  7. You can top this with a bit of unsweetened coconut flakes to add sweetness to the dish.

We ate it as a side dish with fish for dinner and the next day I reheated it and ate it as my lunch. It’s super filling and really rich with flavor. Yum!

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Filed under Cooking, Recipe, Salad, Side Dishes

Sweet Potato Fries

I love fries. Yup, full admission. If I have the choice of fries or fruit as my side, you better believe I am picking the fries. I decided to stay in last night instead of going to dinner as planned (yes, the reason is that I could not stop playing with my new camera). But I was craving some fries. And we had a sweet potato. And then these were made:

They were delicious and hit the spot. (And they photograph nicely, don’t they?)

A quick step by step:

To start, you peel your sweet potato and chop it into even pieces (around 1/2 inch each)

Drizzle your olive oil over the top:

Then add your spices and mix:

Layer onto a baking try and cook for 15 minutes (flip half way) and eat!

This is what happens when you don’t cut your slices evenly… (whoops)

BURNT!

Sweet Potato Fries

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium sweet potato
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon rosemary

Directions:

  1. Heat over to 450 degrees.
  2. Peel sweet potato. Chop into 1/2 inch slices.
  3. Coat slices evenly with olive oil.
  4. Sprinkle your salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder and rosemary over the top. Make sure each slice is coated.
  5. Layer slices on a baking sheet.
  6. Bake for 15-17 minutes until fries are brown and crisp. Flip fries halfway through.

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Filed under Cooking, Recipe, Side Dishes