29. April 2011 · Comments Off on Presenting Pumpkin #1!!! · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , ,

And here she is! About 3″ long so far. There’s another one on an adjacent vine that’s a little smaller, I’ll call that one #2!

29. April 2011 · 2 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags:

This week’s Friday Fill-In!  Enjoy!

1. Have you and your spouse agreed to live in separate locations (a geographical bachelor tour) knowing that the short-term inconvenience would have long-term benefits for your family? How did it work for you? submitted by When Good People Get Together

The answer is “almost”.  When I was still on active duty, we were prepared to do separate tours when Dave received orders to Barksdale AFB while I was stationed at Fort Polk (1996).  Then we took orders to Korea, with Dave being assigned to Osan AB while I’d be assigned to Yongsan Garrison in Seoul (1998).  In both cases, we were able to work out things so we could be assigned together.  We always told the USAF we were willing to go ANYWHERE together.  They were good about it to the best of their ability.

2. What is your favorite thing about being a MilSpouse? submitted by Sarah Ruth Today

I’m very very proud of my husband’s great work for our country.  I love that he is part of defending our great country!  I love that we can try to instill patriotic values in our sons…hopefully they will value what makes the U.S. an amazing thing!

3. If you could still have your spouse/significant other and your family, but take the military life out of it…would you?  submitted by Trust. Love. Believe. Bake.

Not only am I a MilSpouse, but also a Navy Brat!  I have had the military in my life as long as I can remember.  I was probably furthest departed from it my freshman year in college (however I was still a dependent daughter).  I decided to join AFROTC at the end of my freshman year.

4. What have your homecoming experiences been like after a year long tour of separation? submitted by Army Soldier, Army Wife

We have never been separated for that long…we’ve experienced plenty of 4 month separations, though.  We’ve learned from experience that taking it easy is always best…minimal travel, minimal visitors until a couple weeks after we get home.

5. If you have a child(ren) why you chose their name(s)? If not, why you would name your child something?  submitted by Tiara’s & ACU’s

Our sons are named after other men in our extended families.  Our oldest is named after my husband’s paternal grandfather, while our youngest is named after my father.  There were many great men in our families and choosing names for our sons was almost too easy.  We had a more difficult time choosing a girl’s name…so maybe it’s good we didn’t have to stress over that.

27. April 2011 · 5 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: ,

Tonight I’m making chicken tikka masala for dinner.  I never thought in a million years I’d be cooking homemade Indian food, but here I am!

I don’t keep a ton of fancy spices on hand, they tend to expire before I use it all up.  But for the past few months I’d been seeing these McCormick’s Recipe Inspirations at our local grocery stores and I got to thinking….

“Yes, I can smell the smoke!”

GROAN.  Anyway, in my often-difficult attempt to cook as much as I can from scratch, I pondered this product and decided this can’t be too bad.  I picked up a card this week at our local commissary.  Chicken Tikka Masala.  At only $1.08 (that’s the commissary price, it’s probably at least double that at your local grocery stores) it already presented more appeal than a jarred simmer sauce or one of those frozen all-in-one meal kits.**

So here’s what we have…it’s a card filled with little bubbles of spices.  Just enough for the recipe you’re making, pre-measured for your convenience.

Flip the card over, and you have a listing of ingredients on the card, and the recipe.  So while you’re on the same shopping trip you can pick up the rest of the ingredients you need.

Truth be told, I had everything in this card except for the “garam masala”…if we like this, I can pick up some garam masala at our local Asian grocery store, hold onto the card and make this in the future…

Here’s my assembly of ingredients ready to go.  (Except for the salt and cornstarch, which I always have on hand).

Don’t freak from the heavy cream — you don’t need a lot of it…

So when you peel the back of the card, I’m greeted with 6 individually wrapped packets of spice, marked with the type of spice and amount.  I ordinarily would whine about the amount of packaging here, but there’s some utility to have the packaging this way just in case you choose not to use all the spices and you want to store it for later.

I prepared the dish exactly as the recipe recommended.  I didn’t include the red pepper (which was optional anyway), but instead gave that particular packet to Jacob.  He loves red pepper flake!

The verdict?  This dish is very tasty, but didn’t seem like the tikka masala I’d had in restaurants.  It was more like a chicken cacciatore with a hint of cumin.  The kids liked it, but probably didn’t love it.

I probably will be trying the Asian Sesame Salmon next time.

**Please don’t think I’m being all elitist or anything about processed foods.  I make meals like that once in a while.  Lately with some of our family’s diet and stomach sensitivity issues, those easy-to-prepare meals are too high in sodium or other chemicals that make it tough to digest.

26. April 2011 · 4 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , ,

In 2009 I had tried hand-pollinating pumpkins for the first time.  (If you click the link, make sure to start at the bottom and work your way up, the posts are appearing in reverse chronological order).  After seeing award-winning pumpkins at the NC and NE State Fairs, I wanted to learn more about how one gets a 1000 lb. pumpkin…

I was surprised this weekend at all the buds that were appearing on my pumpkin plants and decided to give it a go again this year.  I had my first two female flowers open up this morning, and there are at least 4 more that will be opening up this week!

Two male flowers.  These guys are about 8″ across, attracting all sorts of bugs!
One of the female flowers.  Note the “stigma” in the center, looks different than the male flower above.
A view of the bulb behind the flower.  If pollination is successful, that bulb grows into a pumpkin.
To hand-pollinate, you select a male flower, remove the petals, and get the powdery stuff on the stamen in contact with the stigma on the female flower.  I didn’t photograph the actual pollination, but you can see a 2009 version here.
This bee might have been a step ahead of me, there was plenty of wildlife around to take care of things if I had missed those flowers opening.
26. April 2011 · 1 comment · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , , ,
This is not the dead fish itself, but the calicos I killed looked VERY similar.

Yeah.  That would be me.  I killed not one, but FOUR fish today.

Back in December I mentioned the four 6″+ beautiful koi who were living in our water feature in the front yard of our current house when we moved in.  I diligently kept up with the water levels, water cleanliness and feeding of those fish all through the winter…

Let me refresh your memory here from my December 8th blog post:

And finally, I’ll share my newest hobby: a small fountain/pond in my yard.  Among the fancy front-yard landscaping is a pond/fountain, a plain fountain and a birdbath!  I’m looking forward to seeing more birds in the front yard when the weather gets warmer.

The pond was certainly a nice bonus to our house — and we were pleasantly surprised to see 4 good-sized goldfish swimming around in the pond.  The weather’s been so cold the fish are more or less dormant so it isn’t very interesting.  They’re also pretty shy, hiding under the fountain column a lot of the time.  The algae in the pond has been a problem.  So these past few days I’ve been spending 30-45 minutes per day working on cleaning out the pond.  As of now, I’ve done a 2/3 water change, scrubbed the algae off the concrete, and I’m making sure to run the fountain during the day so the water is well aerated.  The water I add to the pond is from a well, which means I don’t have to worry about chemical treatments or anything like that.  Every time I’d agitate the water the algae would stir up and become almost opaque green — seeing the fish at all has been difficult.  Once the temperatures warm up more in a couple months, we’ll start feeding them and hopefully we’ll see them come out more often.

The fountain.  The pump sends the water up to the very top of the column and then it trickles down the “trays” that are spiraling around the column.  It’s very pretty, but I’ve been challenged with setting the water pressure such that the water doesn’t blast out of the trays sloppily.

Here’s one of the fish on a rare occasion that the algae in the water was settled to the bottom.  The boys haven’t named the fish yet (I see that coming real soon), but this one likes to hang out near the warmer pump unit when the water’s cold.  We have two gold ones, and two calicos.  Each are 6-8″ long.

Today I was mortified to see all 4 of the fish lying DEAD among the rocks that surround the fountain/pond.  It was really strange…it struck me as odd that all four of the fish were in one general area outside the pond.  Two of them were even on top of each other!

My first thought was foul play.  That someone physically removed all the fish and tossed them onto the rocks.  However, that was a stretch because the fish are quite shy, so far I’ve been the only one who can stand near the pond without the fish dashing under the fountain to hide!

But upon further thought, I realized that there were probably numerous contributors:

  • Over the weekend I had increased the time that the sprinklers run every day.  It hasn’t rained in nearly 3 weeks and the yard was starting to suffer from it.  So there’s a good chance the pond overflowed and the fish were outside of the confines of their pond when the water receded.  
  • The hose that runs water all the way to the top of the feature had slipped and the evaporation rate had reduced significantly.  I usually count on about 1/3 of the water sloshing out daily from the sloppiness of the water pouring down the trays of the fountain.  So there was even more water than usual in the pond.
  • One of the hoses became disconnected and water was rushing out of that loose hose…in the direction of the rocks the dead fish were on.  I wonder if the fish swam in front of that jet of water and were propelled out of the pond.

I feel awful those fish perished.  Tomorrow I will head over to the local pet store…the owner seems VERY knowledgable about fish and will help me replace these four.

26. April 2011 · 2 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , ,

The webcam on my HBTS Rexford St. Weather Underground setup is dead.

I don’t think it’s the webcam itself, it’s most likely the laptop that was hosting the webcam.  That dastardly “kitchen laptop” that I’ve kept alive all. these. years.

Anyhoo, since the screen on the laptop isn’t working, I have to plug it into our TV with a VGA cable to see what it’s up to.  For all I know, it’s probably some update to the software that I need to download or something like that.

I’ll check it out later this week — I’ve a bunch of odds and ends to tend to.  New license plate for the Prius (switching from Nebraska back to Florida), squaring away our Family Care Plan, and finally squaring away our claims from our move.

In the meantime, I’ve removed the blankness on the tag to the right so conserve a little space.

22. April 2011 · Comments Off on MilSpouse Friday Fill-In #38 · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags:

I’m excited I have time to fit this week’s “Friday Fill-In” into our crazy schedule!  I’m attending the spouse’s part of a “Squadron Commander’s Course” all week with Dave.  I’m very glad we chose to attend the local course here (he was also offered the chance to attend one at Langley AFB in Virginia); it’s been great meeting other commanders and their spouses that will be here for the next two years like us.

(I’ll be writing more about the all-day tour I took of the Air Force Enlisted Village, a multi-level care facility for widows of Air Force members.  It’s worth sharing what a wonderful organization it is!)

1. How many pets do you have? And what type? submitted by Life and Times of a Displaced Jersey Girl

One dog, Howie, and five male fancy guppies.  Howie is our “first baby”, born in 2000.  He’s celebrating his 11th birthday next weekend! It brings us such sadness that it isn’t certain whether he’ll be joining us at whatever assignment we have next (probably in 2013 sometime).  As for the fish, that’s just a fun diversion for the boys.

2. What are your favorite projects to do while hubby is away? submitted by my-inspired-nest

I get to take over the house with SCRAPBOOKING while Dave is away.  I’ve been slow to break out my stuff here, but maybe this summer I’ll get my mojo back…Timmy still needs a “first year” scrapbook!

3. What are the must-haves in your deployment care packages?  submitted by Christine’s Little Blog

I had the honor of helping run a mass-production line of care packages for all the deployed members of my husband’s organization in 2009.  Based on my experience, the following items were the most popular:

  • Tabloid magazines, muscle car/bodybuilding magazines, video gaming/computer geek magazines
  • Single-serving beverage powders
  • Snacks that won’t perish/melt/crush in transit, such as marshmallow treats, nuts, dried fruits, individually wrapped hard candy
  • New release paperback books

4. If you could star in any TV show, which would it be? submitted by Just a Girl

I’d want to star on Big Bang Theory!  Try to be one of Dr. Sheldon Cooper’s many many nemeses!

5. What was the biggest hurdle that you faced during your/your significant other’s first deployment? submitted by The Pavlik Perspective

A few days after I arrived at my very first deployment location (Tuzla, Bosnia in 1997), Dave was presented with orders to Bosnia himself.  So a few weeks after I had signed my entire life over to him (which wasn’t hard since he was my spouse), we had to arrange for his Mom to take on all of our bills, which meant my doing a couple powers of attorneys from my deployed location.  It worked out well…especially considering my mother-in-law is VERY good at money management and my eyes about popped out of my head when I saw the checking account balance after 4 months of nothing but bare minimum bills!

By the time I came home from Bosnia in 1998, I had orders to my follow-on base in Korea, and I had to arrange for household goods and auto-shipment before Dave had even come home from his own deployment.

20. April 2011 · 2 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: ,

I was planning to be scarce from the blogosphere while Dave and I attend a “Squadron Commander’s Course” at the base all week. The kids were going to the before- and after-school child care. But on Tuesday, Jacob came home from school looking and feeling pretty poor, and had a 101F fever. I kept Jacob home from school today so he could recover, and here I am with an unexpected day at home. I was able to catch up on a bunch of household odds and ends, including taking some pictures of my veggie garden so far! I’m so excited about how well things are going. I’m also prepared for everything here to be all fried-to-heck by late June.

It’s been 5 1/2 weeks since we planted our seedlings. Let’s start with a before and after:

March 13, 2011.
April 20, 2011.

Enjoy some close up pictures of the garden’s progress.

Our first jalapeno pepper.
Our first bell peppers.
Grape tomatoes.
Yellow granex onions.  If they were growing in Vidalia County, GA, they’d be “Vidalia Onions”.
Our first female pumpkin flower…blog followers from 2009 remember my pumpkin pimping days here, here and here.
From my previous blog about the fauna on the Panhandle, you’ll know that when I see new friends in the backyard I’m ready to investigate.  {Running to search Google}  Okay, I’m back.  What we have here is a “Six-Lined Racerunner“.  He was hanging out near our garden.
Here are TWO green anoles sitting under my upside-down tomato planter.  The one at the bottom has his pink “dewlap” exposed, but since he’s head-on, you can’t see it too well.  This picture shows the dewlap a little better, but you can’t see the 2nd lizard as well, so I didn’t feature this pic.
One of my two upside-down tomato planters, dripping with young green plum tomatoes!
I can’t wait to make some “Grammy Vollmer Pasta Sauce” with these!
14. April 2011 · Comments Off on MilSpouse Friday Fill-In #37 · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags:

Doing this nice and early because the rest of my Thursday is pretty crazy!

1. With PCS moves happening every few years, do you take the time to paint and decorate your home? submitted by Life as Mrs. JPT

That would be YES!  When we own our house, we have always taken time to paint, not necessarily for the color, but more because we prefer higher quality paint on our walls to keep them clean.  At our last house in Nebraska, even though we had a rental, the paint was such poor quality (original homebuilder paint, I think) we got permission from the homeowner to paint several of the rooms with a higher quality paint, and also got permission from him to change some of the colors.

As for decorating, we keep it minimal.  No permanent stenciling or border paper.  We will make sure to hang items on our walls (the kids find it comforting, I know).

2. If you could live in any home on a television series, what would it be? submitted by Standing By Him

If you mean a home based on the house itself, the layout and the decorating, it would have to be any of the homes on Wisteria Lane on ABC’s “Desperate Housewives”.  Somehow they all look so beautiful.  I could never get my house looking that nice.  Which is how you know it’s a TV show, right?  Lynette’s semi-chaotic house is probably the closest to my own in terms of clutter.

3. What inspired you to start your blog?  submitted by Pink Combat Boots

My kids and my extended family.  Without having the grandparents nearby we heavily rely on the internet to share photos and videos of the boys.  I started my blogging — the storytelling aspect — on MySpace…WAY BACK before Facebook was presented to the masses.  My husband had a Facebook account because he was in Grad School in 2005-2008.  I started my Blogger blog in late 2007 so more than just MySpace friends could see the stories and pictures.  Most of the posts at the time were about the kids and some of the crafts and recipes we did.  Very little about the military life, since it wasn’t quite so military when my husband was in grad school.

4. What is the weirdest thing you’ve ever seen on base? submitted by Adventures in Life

Most Air Force bases have a fire training area way over on the far side of the runway.  There’s always this burned-out welded together fuselage that gets set on fire time and time again so the firefighters can train on them.  Here’s an example of one at Cannon AFB, but if you do a Google Image Search on “air force base fire training plane” you’ll see dozens of them at assorted AF bases.

Don’t let this alarm you, it’s a “training” aircraft fire at Dover AFB.  Most Air Force bases have a fire training fuselage tucked away somewhere on the base.  Photo courtesy of The Dover Post.

The burned out aircraft aren’t very good looking and always looks rather shocking on an otherwise clean and professional looking base.

5. Which historical figure (politician, writer, artist, scientist, actor, etc…) would you like to have dinner with?  submitted by Army of Two

This is a toughie.  There are so many.  I think Abraham Lincoln would be towards the top of the list though.  Perhaps because it’s on my mind, I’ve been thinking about how this man had to do something pretty amazing.  He had a mutiny on his hands on several fronts, and had to make some VERY difficult decisions and essentially succeeded in keeping this nation together.  And to top that off, remember that this was before the days of telephone or Internet.  So communication was low and slow.  Heck, this was even 15 years before the invention of electricity!  At least he had the telegraph, right?

13. April 2011 · 4 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , ,
My dear husband and me at the 135th anniversary Battle of Antietam Reenactment, September 1997.  Can you spot the one anachronism in the photo?  We joined about 35,000 fellow reenactors in the largest ever American Civil War reenactment to date.  Don’t expect a 150th Anniversary Antietam — no one stepped up to lead the planning efforts.

On April 12, 1861, 150 years ago today, the first shots were fired at Fort Sumter, South Carolina, as the state militia attempted to take the fort from Federal troops.  While this “battle” itself didn’t result in any casualties — only two accidental deaths due to a Confederate cannon misfire and Union a 100-gun salute, the 2-day incident was the green flag for 4 years of intense fighting and strife that reshaped our nation.

Many of you know this already, but Dave and I are Civil War reenactors.  Perhaps I’m more accurate if I said “My husband and I WERE Civil War reenactors,” but I’m not ready to give it all up yet.  Let’s just say we’ve taken an 8 1/2 year hiatus since we’ve had our two sons.  We did one reenactment in spring 2004 when Jacob was about 18 months old.  Just a day trip, where we usually do weekend encampments.  I enjoy sewing the costumes, and we both really enjoyed a unique way to enjoy a weekend of camping and camaraderie with fellow American history fans.  I don’t know how many times the guys would be sitting around the campfire after a day of “battle”, passing around a flask of moonshine, discussing not sport scores or the federal budget, but rather whose historians’ interpretations of the battle diagrams of the skirmishes between Atlanta and Savannah are most accurate.

But with the war’s 150th anniversary coming up, and my husband being stationed east of the Mississippi River these next 2 years (if not longer!), there’s going to be plenty of opportunity to get back into the hobby, and we’re excited about the prospect.  We’ve been hauling around about 200 lbs. of uniforms, hoop skirts, tents, leather goods, and a replica Springfield Model 1861 musket from home to home all these years.

We’re even more excited about introducing our kids to the wonderful world of Civil War reenacting!  I have sewing patterns at the ready to make some handsome circa 1860s costumes for my boys.

I won’t go into Civil War history here, but I would like to bring to your attention some of the commemorative reenactment events on the calendar over the next four years.  The first significant combat action, the First Battle of Manassas or Bull Run*, will be reenacted July 23-24, 2011 in Prince William County, Virginia (near Washington, D.C.).  Word on the street is that the current economic and political climate is contributing to a lower-key approach to the celebrations, with lectures and walking tours leading the list of commemorative activities, more so than the all-out reenactments.

*Many of these battles are known by two separate names.  The Union Army leans towards geographical features for names, such as Bull Run, the creek that ran through the battlefield.  The Confederates used the names of nearby towns and cities, such as Manassas.  You’ll see other examples of this with Antietam Creek v. Sharpsburg (Maryland), Pittsburg Hills v. Shiloh (Tennessee), and Sabine Crossroads v. Mansfield (Louisiana).

12th Connecticut Volunteers at a reenactment in Narcoossee, Florida, Spring 2004.

I don’t think the First Battle of Manassas will be on our summer travel itinerary this year, but we are looking at other 150th anniversary events during our two years on the Florida Panhandle that might fit our travel schedules.  Shiloh is definitely a finalist (late March 2012)!  It’s easy to do web searches for smaller reenactments near you.  Websites such as the Camp Chase Gazette and Civil War Traveler have extensive information on reenactments, and the Civil War Traveler webpage even has special designators on the 150th anniversary events.  Here are some other key reenactments that will probably do something special for their 150th anniversaries:

Events are also being planned for western and even the Pacific theaters and the calendar links above can tell you more about that.