30. November 2008 · Comments Off on SNOW! · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , ,

We awakened this morning to about an inch of snow here. Yay! I leave tomorrow for Florida for my pre-deployment training and I was hoping to see some snow before I left. We had the boys bundled up and out the door around 8am.

That’s Jacob throwing snow at Howie on the left. Timmy in the center with the back of his hood covered in snow.

Howie probably had the most fun of all, he was running in circles and enjoying rolling around in the snow.

What’s super cool? This snow won’t melt by lunchtime, the way it usually does in Raleigh.

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29. November 2008 · Comments Off on Holiday Photo Extravaganza · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , ,

So which will it be? One of these pictures is going into the Vollmer Christmas Card….the boys, and Howie, were all great sports about it!
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27. November 2008 · Comments Off on Happy Thanksgiving!!! · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , ,

Jacob has been inspired to help this year, which is great! He’s making stuffing for us here.

26. November 2008 · Comments Off on Are We Hungry This Morning? · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: ,

For breakfast this morning, Timmy ate the following:

– 2 scrambled eggs
– 1 slice of French Toast
– 1 cup of milk
– 2 apples, peeled and sliced

This has to be a record for him — and I don’t mean the volumes of food. It’s a record for Timmy to eat such a variety of non-junk food!

I’m guessing he’s in the midst of a growth spurt, he’s been falling down a lot lately. Stumbling on his own two feet, and his legs are covered in bruises. He also has a pretty nasty series of cuts in a vertical line down the center of his face, from tumbling down our 3 steps between the family room and kitchen.

It’ll be interested to see how Thanksgiving dinner goes…

26. November 2008 · Comments Off on The Neiman Marcus Cookie · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , ,

This is my last cookie posting for the time being. I’m going to the Florida Panhandle on Monday for some AF Training and will be back the weekend before Christmas. Yes, I could think of better times to be away from the family, and I will do what I can from Florida in terms of Christmas cards and shopping (yay, LL Bean, Land’s End, Omaha Steaks, Swiss Colony and Amazon!). I’ll start on the holiday newsletter once I get to Florida. Last year I started simply posting the newsletter online, and that will make things very easy to do from 1200 miles from home.

I’m not going to waste time going into the legend of the Neiman Marcus cookie. I mentioned it briefly on my initial cookie blog post last month, and simply need to refer you here and you can read all about it. Whether it’s true or not, every time I’ve made these cookies, they’ve been a huge hit and I’m always asked for the recipe. No problem! No big family secrets here!

For the photos here (taken around 11/15), I’m making a 1/2 recipe. I did a full recipe on 11/22, and it filled the bowl to the brim when I added the chocolate chips and nuts to the mixer.

First you cream the butter and white/brown sugar. I’m a Nazi about this — I set the mixer on medium and let ‘er rip for about 3-5 minutes until it’s fluffy.

Then I add the remaining wet ingredients: eggs & vanilla. Beat it to a pulp.

Then start adding the dry ingredients. Alton Brown and folks like that will tell you to sift all the dry ingredients together: all-purpose flour, blended oatmeal, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Then add it slowly as the mixer is running on low. I don’t do that…call me lazy. AB, I love you to death, but I just want my cookies! I add the dry goods directly to the mixer one ingredient at a time.

From 2008 11 25 NeimanMarcusCookies

Once the dough is all together, slowly add the grated Hershey’s bar (I ground up leftover Hershey’s Kisses from my Holiday Surprise cookies – refrigerate the chocolate for about an hour and then run it through the food processor), chocolate chips and nuts. You’ll want the mixer on the slowest setting possible, or you can even hand-mix it. The dough will be VERY thick, and my mixer actually struggles quite a bit on the full recipe once all the ingredients are added.

From 2008 11 25 NeimanMarcusCookies

Now you simply roll the dough into 1 – 1 1/2″ balls and pop them onto your handy-dandy cookie sheet or baking stone.

From 2008 11 25 NeimanMarcusCookies

A closeup of a finished cookie for your enjoyment:

From 2008 11 25 NeimanMarcusCookies

I’ll tell you what, you do this recipe right, and you’ll have mostly chocolate and nuts in each cookie, hopefully you see it in this shot:

From 2008 11 25 NeimanMarcusCookies
26. November 2008 · Comments Off on Cranberry Almond Biscotti · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , ,

So as promised, here’s some more cookie closeups from the Vollmer House.

Cranberry Almond Biscotti. This is one sophisticated cookie…cranberries are always so, well, holiday! What’s cool is that the only fat in the cookie is in the eggs (well, the almonds, too, I guess)!!!! So that makes them as healthy as my Holiday Surprise Cookies, right???

So here we go…

The dough mixes up pretty straightforward in the stand mixer:

From 2008 11 25 CranberryAlmondBiscotti
From 2008 11 25 CranberryAlmondBiscotti

This dough will be sticky…be prepared to keep your hands floured for the next part:

From 2008 11 25 CranberryAlmondBiscotti

Now, divide the dough into portions and pat it into logs of 2-3″ width onto an ungreased cookie sheet, or, in my case, baking stone.

From 2008 11 25 CranberryAlmondBiscotti

You’ll bake these in two shifts. The first shift is at 325, so don’t expect the logs to be browned when they’re done, just a little puffier.

From 2008 11 25 CranberryAlmondBiscotti

Remove these bars to a cooling rack. I use two spatulas, one on each end of the bar, to move them.

From 2008 11 25 CranberryAlmondBiscotti

After about 15-20 minutes of cooling, you will then cut the bars into 1/2 – 3/4″ wide slices.

From 2008 11 25 CranberryAlmondBiscotti

Move the slices back to the baking stone, this is going to bake at a VERY low temperature, so don’t be shy: pack ’em in!

From 2008 11 25 CranberryAlmondBiscotti

These will bake at 300F for another 15-20 minutes, until super crispy-firm-dried-out. The way biscotti’s supposed to be.

From 2008 11 25 CranberryAlmondBiscotti

Unfortunately, on this batch, there was leftover sugar on the baking stones from the Holiday Surprise cookies, so pardon the green sugar on the bottom.

From 2008 11 25 CranberryAlmondBiscotti

Happy Holiday Baking!

21. November 2008 · Comments Off on Snow…the Lack of It! · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , ,

So…now that Dave and I have left the Raleigh, NC area, they’re getting snow! Again!

Meanwhile, we’re still high and dry here in Omaha…but hey, it got down to 10 F this morning!

Those who are closer friends with the Vollmers have heard the stories of the freak weather we bring to every location we’ve lived in since we got married in August 1995. For those who don’t know, here’s the summary:

1.) Ft. Polk, Leesville, and DeRidder, LA. Ice storm, January 1997.

This was pretty daunting. Louisiana flora and fauna didn’t take to this very well, neither did the 101st Airborne soldiers who were in the field doing training during this ice storm. I remember sliding sideways in my car down the hill towards the base weather station.

2.) Seoul, S. Korea. Monsoon flooding, August 1998. (<– See 5th paragraph of this link) We had a Korean citizen working in our weather unit. Mr. Ko. He told us that folklore said that every 11 years, the annual Korea Monsoon is worse than usual. And every 11th of those 11 years, it’s even worse. And 1998 was predicted to be that 121st year. All of us Americans who’d heard this were like, “Yeah, right, whatever…” Well, the folklore was right. It was the worst flooding in everyone’s memory, bridges that bisected Seoul were flooded out, the military was on the verge of deploying thousands of people into the fields for a major exercise and those plans were disrupted. The building Dave and I lived in flooded on the ground floor, and our Saturn flooded a little, too. But we didn’t have it nearly as badly as some of those stationed closer to the DMZ, whose quonset huts filled to the brim! 3.) Beavercreek (Dayton), OH. Xenia Tornado Redux, September 20, 2000.

Most weather weenies know the story of the April 3, 1974 F5 tornado that plowed through Xenia, Ohio. They still debate to this day whether that was the strongest tornado ever measured.

The September 2000 tornado originated very close to our house, and moved AWAY from our house, following a very similar path to the 1974 one. I had asked for a bicycle for my birthday (which was the day after the tornado). We lived near a nice bike trail network, and Xenia was closed to non-resident motor vehicle traffic for about a week. But Dave and I were able to ride our new bikes all over the town and see the damages up close and personal. It was very eerie to see where the tornado had crossed our local bike trail…

4.) Melbourne, FL. Hurricanes Charley, Frances, and Jeanne, August-October 2004.

By this point in our lives, Dave and I knew that strange weather happens when we live somewhere and I feel it contributed to our decision to NOT to buy a house on the barrier islands. Yes, it’s very superstitious, but I’m grateful every day of the wise choice we made when we bought our first house in Florida 5 miles INLAND.

We moved to Florida in spring 2002. As the hurricane seasons of 2002 and 2003 wound down, we started looking at just how long it had been since a hurricane hit the Florida east coast south of Jacksonbille and north of where Hurricane Andrew had hit in 1992. Nearly 100 years, if I remember correctly! As every year since Andrew had passed, Florida was holding its breath for the next “biggie”.

Those storms absolutely decimated houses all over East Central Florida, but our home was spared, except for damaged screens and a blown air conditioner fuse.

5.) Apex (Raleigh), NC. The Apex Chlorine Fire (not really weather), October 2006 and NC’s Worst Drought in over 100 Years, Summer 2007.

We heard the initial explosions from the chlorine storage containers at about 10:30pm, and we saw the glow in the sky from our front porch. It was a pleasant evening, I remember, so we had opened up all the windows in our house, which made it easier to hear the explosions and the emergency vehicles…one after another.

We wasted no time packing the boys, the dog and some provisions and then made haste to Dave’s NC State office near downtown Raleigh. After that, we took a breath, and made follow on arrangements in a hotel in North Raleigh. It was warm the night we evacuated, so the boys were in short pajamas, and I remember having to buy warmer PJs at Walmart for the following night…one of the season’s first cold fronts had passed.

I forfeited part of our reimbursement from the evacuation expenses because I refuse to sign a gag order. I had a 4-year-old and an 18-month old! Who knows if something will come along later that might be related to this?

As for the drought, I’m glad it’s now over. All it took was Dave and me moving out of the area…I’m glad we could help.

6.) Bellevue (Omaha), NE. ??????????? I’m wondering if we’ve shut down the snow here…

15. November 2008 · Comments Off on Holiday Surprise Cookies · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , ,

This is Patricia (don’t let the Dr. Dave fool you). Tonight we made our first batch of cookies….

…but not before a shopping extravaganza at Costco on Veteran’s Day. Bulk packs of eggs, butter, sugar, powdered sugar, oatmeal, dried cranberries, vanilla extract…

…but not flour. There was a great deal on a 25 lb. sack of flour, but I couldn’t see myself hauling it home and taking up so much space in my tiny pantry. ¬†Two 5lb. bags of Gold Medal from the commissary was fine.

So, the first batch of cookies: Holiday Surprise Cookies, courtesy of the Quaker Oats company. Hit the hyperlink to go to the recipe straight from the horse’s, er, Quaker’s, mouth.

I gave Dave the camera tonight and asked him to document our experience so I’d have some nice pictures with which to blog. He told me, “Okay, I’m going to be like Maryann!”. He did a great job, he took almost all the photos…

So, to start, we have to come up with a filling…this is the “surprise” in the cookie. In years past, we’d used Wilbur Buds, a Lancaster County, PA staple. In fact, the first time I made this recipe was to keep Dave and me from eating an entire bag of Wilbur Buds we’d gotten for Christmas in one sitting, I think. It was either 1999 or 2000…I can’t remember. The beauty of Wilbur Buds is (a) you can buy a combo pack of milk AND dark chocolate together and (b) the buds aren’t individually wrapped.

If I’d had the foresight to order the Wilbur Buds ahead of time I would have. But it was much easier to pick up some assorted flavored Hershey’s Kisses from my local mega mart. As can be seen in this photo, we had a lot of unwrapping to do.

From 2008 11 14 HolidaySurpriseCookies

As the boys were unwrapping about 100 Kisses, in 3 flavors shown here, I was preparing the dough. It’s essentially a sugar cookie dough replacing about 40% of the flour with oatmeal.

From 2008 11 14 HolidaySurpriseCookies
From 2008 11 14 HolidaySurpriseCookies

Look at those oats — your cholesterol is lowering just looking at it, right? Don’t worry…won’t happen: there’s 2 sticks of butter in the basic recipe…and I doubled it tonight!

Once the chocolates were unwrapped and the dough was ready, I set up the assembly line in the dining room. The boys were great — Jake stuffed the chocolate in the dough, and Timmy rolled the little ball of dough in the colored sugar and placed the ready-to-bake cookie on the baking stone. My job was quality control — I pre-measured wads of dough for Jake to stuff so they’d be uniform in side, and I made sure the cookies were properly spaced on the stone.

From 2008 11 14 HolidaySurpriseCookies
From 2008 11 14 HolidaySurpriseCookies
From 2008 11 14 HolidaySurpriseCookies

Does that look holiday or what?

From 2008 11 14 HolidaySurpriseCookies

We tested the cookies, of course, and everyone in the Vollmer clan gave them a thumbs up!

13. November 2008 · 6 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , ,

Okay, now that I’ve gotten all my political blogging out of the way (see yesterday’s), I can go back to my usual housewife/Mom/Air Force wife-type posts, tee hee.

Today I made a trip to Target to get something for my sister’s birthday (I know you’re reading this, Margaret!) I hadn’t been to Target since before Halloween — yeah, almost 2 entire weeks! So of course they wasted no time assembling the holiday aisles right at the entrance, just past the dollar spot bins.

Since one of the items I planned to get for my sister was just past the holiday items, we had to pass the holiday items.

And then we passed it.

The Wall.

It’s part of an aisle dedicated to stocking stuffers. You know what I’m talking about. See the picture above, it’s stuff like that. You know your 2-to-8-year-old kids suddenly lean out of the shopping cart and start pawing at everything on the aisle.

Floam, Play Doh, Star Wars action figures, Hot Wheels Cars, Crayola activities, Bratz miniatures, Polly Pockets, candy, puzzles, playing cards. Arranged in bins along the aisle, top to bottom.

Today Timmy was walking alongside me instead of riding in a shopping cart, since I was only running in for one thing, so he was able to easily reach into a bin filled with Star Wars Galactic Heroes miniature 3-packs. $9.99. This was rather cute, though, as the figures were “decorated”:



“No! Christmas is still 6 weeks away! Why don’t we ask Santa for it?”

“Because I’m going to ask Santa for a GeoTrax airport!”


About a minute later: “Mommmmmmmmmmmy, I’ll be SOOOOOooooo SAAAAD if I can’t get this….”

“Would you like to spend your own money on it?”



And that’s exactly what we did. I came home and took $10 out of Timmy’s wallet.

I’m not trying to be mean. I’ve been VERY good about not getting the kids toys every time we go to the store. And now that Jake never comes with me to the store, I try even harder to avoid it.

And so it begins. For the next 6 weeks the kids’ senses (and mine) will be inundated with the sights and sounds of the holidays. While most of it is wonderful and magical, they’re also going to get flooded with Toys R Us wish books, Star Wars Clone Wars toy commercials, and Pixos ads.

12. November 2008 · 8 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , ,

C-130 landing at Ramstein AB, Germany for some R&R during a Bosnia deployment, Jan. 1, 1998. Dave was deployed to Bosnia for an overlapping period of time, but we were in separate locations.

First of all, Happy Veteran’s Day! To my fellow Veterans out there, thanks for reading my blog and for serving our great nation.

But allow me to stir the pot a little. I posted this NY Times article on my Facebook profile this morning and it generated quite a bit of commentary.

I was livid when I read this — I’ve been through enough Public Affairs training in my day to understand that the military’s relationship with the media is a delicate one. If you shut them out, they’ll just come up with their own information and possibly send the American public the wrong message about what the Dept. of Defense is up to. So the DoD’s position is to allow the media as much access as safety and security will allow. This is how we had such great coverage of the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, and also why ABC’s Bob Woodruff and his cameraman were injured by an IED in 2006. (I’m glad they’re recovered!). The journalists are aware of the risks for such media coverage.

Anyway, this article claims “senior officials” told the NY Times about some “secret orders” for “secret missions” into Pakistan and Syria to covertly chase down Al Qaeda.

I do not know whether this information is true or not. As the Army used to say about speaking about topics unrelated to what you do, “Stay in your lane.” I don’t know anything about this.

I’m upset because the media publishing a story full of the word “secret” probably means that America’s people, resources and national interests might be risked. We are not in a vacuum — Pakistan and Syria have now perked up their ears like a dog hearing the word “Walk?”, and even Al Qaeda probably knows this story now and will act accordingly. Go into further hiding, find other nations for safe haven, or otherwise change their tactics.

Or…they can go on the offensive, and something bad can happen to those Special Operations forces.

And if you REALLY want a good time, delve into the 300+ comments this story has generated. I was pleased to see how many Americans feel that the secret missions were justified, but also horrified by some of the not-so-nice things foreigners had to say about the situation.

Bottom line: New York Times, your story was poorly timed and probably put the lives of American servicemembers at risk. And whoever you “senior officials” are, are you sleeping soundly at night?