17. November 2011 · 2 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: ,


Dave’s 2 week checkup was yesterday.  He’s doing MUCH better now and both his neurosurgeon and primary care doctor (the military doctor who he sees more often) are both impressed with how well he’s doing!  We’re thrilled with the upward turn in his recovery compared to last weekend.  And Dave’s attitude is so great right now!

Today, after Dave’s primary care appointment, we headed over to our local Moe’s for lunch.  I hadn’t been to the Fort Walton Beach Moe’s in a couple months, so we were intrigued by this new machine there.

Just so you know, I was NOT the only one taking pictures of this thing 🙂  Dave was in uniform for his medical appointment on base.

This is called the Coca-Cola Freestyle machine, and it’s some sort of computerized machine that will give you over 100 combinations of Coke products!

Want Coke?  Diet Coke?  Coke Zero?  Sprite?  Diet Sprite?  Fanta?  Fanta Zero?  You can have all that!  AND you can add flavors on the spot…Dave and I were intrigued!

This is a touch screen.  Choose first the baseline Coke product you want.

Then that product will appear with several flavor choices: cherry, orange, grape, raspberry, lemon, lime…

And somehow it pulls it all together and dispenses it.  This was “grape Fanta Zero” and it was rather, um, BLUE.

10. November 2011 · Comments Off on A Nice Surprise! Hammond’s Pretzels! · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: ,

Dave Update: Yesterday and this morning Dave was quite sore.  He called it “new pain”, a lot of which was bone pain in his back, where the surgeon had to drill through his vertebrae.  He had to increase his muscle relaxers and pain medication a little from what he was down to over the weekend, and today he had a much better day.

Dave’s been enjoying getting to work on his model railroading again — he hadn’t done much with his layout at all since he took command back in July.  Getting back into his train room really cheered him up.

He’s also enjoying endless DIY Network shows.  He seems to particularly like “Bath Crashers” and “Renovation Realities“.

We took a family walk this afternoon with the dog and Dave was almost walking “too fast”…he seemed to be moving as if he had no work done on his back.  He had to remember to slow things down some.

Pretzels!  Today we got a nice surprise from Dave’s parents.  Hammond’s Pretzels shipped from Lancaster, PA.

A huge box of Hammond’s Pretzels!

Many of you have had Hammond’s Pretzels before, perhaps because we brought them to you as gifts.  Perhaps you’re already in Lancaster County and can get them at your local Stauffer’s or Weis Markets.

Yes, the pretzels are individually wrapped, which will be shocking to many folks.  After all, that’s a lot of plastic!  But I’ve received the pretzels both individually wrapped and not individually wrapped.  The latter will arrive as a box of crumbs.  Trust me, if you want the goodness of Hammond’s, you need to tolerate the packaging.  It’s worth it!

These are very hard pretzels, and most of them don’t have too much salt on them.  You’ll definitely taste the baking soda flavor, which I personally like.

Today I was able to get a lot of housework done, and I plan to do more tomorrow.  Since the weather is cooling down, I’m able to move some of the boys’ toys back out to the back porch.  Things got crowded in the boys’ rooms this summer — I had to move a lot of items inside so they wouldn’t warp and get moldy from the heat and humidity.

04. November 2011 · Comments Off on Marshmallow Fail! · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , ,

Before I get into the main topic of this post, first let me say that this was a much much better day for Dave’s recovery.  He woke up in a good mood, and seemed to do well while I was briefly at a Hurlburt Spouses’ Club board meeting during mid-morning.  He even took a couple walks to the mailbox and back.  Things are looking good.  His surgery sites are still very sore, but at least he’s prepared for that pain and is coping.

Yesterday (Wednesday) was pretty rough.

So, marshmallows.  I like marshmallows a lot.  I always have.  S’mores are a favorite dessert at our house, which we’ll make in our backyard on summer evenings in our firepit.

I made a stupid impulse purchase at Walmart yesterday while grocery shopping.

My word, these things STINK!  I smelled them in the car all the way home, then they took over the smell of my kitchen.  Some sort of artificial chocolatey chemical smell.

I ate ONE. It was 90 calories.  Didn’t feel so hot afterwards.

Yeah, it’s pretty big.

The rest are in the trash, and that’s $2 wasted.  The odor was nauseating.

What was I thinking?

On the other hand, I found these ketchup packets for sale at Walmart and am glad I no longer have to steal have extras of them from Chick-fil-a.

Today I was at the same Walmart picking up a prescription and when I picked up some last minute groceries (I’m always suckered into picking up more than one item at Walmart, don’t you?) and I walked past the endcap with those stupid marshmallows.  Oh, the SMELL….

30. October 2011 · 2 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , ,

Today I got home from my two-week AF Reserve tour.  Having to get on a plane and fly to my two-week tour is actually a first for me…unless you count the year I deployed, which I’m not.  I’d have had to fly to that one no matter where Dave was stationed 🙂

A tad chilly in Omaha this morning — they had to de-ice our plane before we took off!

No details about the work I did, it’s the same as what I always do, which is challenging work, but rewarding when all’s said and done.  I happened to be on night shifts — which I was two years ago — and it’s seeming like pulling night shifts is getting harder and harder on me.  Perhaps it’s the time I’m putting between having to work nights, perhaps it’s my getting older?  I don’t know.

Dave has back surgery on Monday.  The super-perceptive will start to realize a trend.  For those who haven’t been reading for as long, “let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.” (to quote Indigo Montoya).

It’s autumn, and it seems it’s time for Dave to have surgery again.  His back has been deteriorating pretty quickly this year, in part from the more intensive fitness regime he’s had here.  After talking to several peers here who have had successful back procedures, he decided to meet with a neurosurgeon who suggested Dave would be a candidate for a procedure called an AxiaLIF.  It turns out his case made him a candidate so he goes in on Monday, but should be out of the hospital on Tuesday.  If the procedure is successful, Dave’s recovery will be quicker than a traditional vertebrae fusion procedure.

This post from 2010 will provide a little more detail on his past surgeries.

I’ve a couple posts brewing that I’ll get up here in between surgery and Halloween updates.  I’ll start with this one.

Another shameless pitch…

I came across these products at the little bookstore/sundries store at the airport during this trip.  I bought them for meals while I was working, since I stayed in a hotel with no fridge or microwave.

For about $7 (airport prices) these little meals were organic, well-balanced and sensibly-sized.  The meal on the left is gluten-free: tuna salad, rice crackers, applesauce and dark chocolate.  The meal on the right is salami, processed asiago cheese spread, crackers and trail mix.

These GoPicnic meals are shelf-stable and fit nicely in my backpack for when I went to work.  Each of the meals weren’t more than 350 calories.  The clerk at the airport shop told me that the salami meal could go through security, but the tuna meal couldn’t because of the larger container of applesauce.  This particular airport store was on the ticketing-side of security.

When you open up the box, you’re greeted with individually wrapped parts, and a very fun box:

These were the contents of the meal pictured on the right above.
Fun nutrition facts.
Fun food facts.  I love that peanut butter statistic!
I loved the Sudoku puzzle at the bottom of the box.  I saved it for several days thinking I might have time to work on it, but I didn’t…

The final verdict?  I liked everything except for the trail mixes that were included with each of the meals.  The nuts seemed soft, probably because of the lack of preservatives (which is a good thing).  All of the ingredients are top quality, with no artificial flavors, colors, high-fructose corn syrup, trans-fats or MSG!

If you see them at your local airport, I recommend them!

14. August 2011 · 3 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , ,

We took a long weekend and headed up to Atlanta. It’s about a 5.5 hour drive with no stops, plus we have a time zone change. We had nice seats at a Sunday afternoon Atlanta Braves game, and we booked a hotel room at a Comfort Inn right next to Turner Field, so we didn’t have to deal with (or pay for) parking.

Other than the Sunday afternoon baseball game, we had all of Atlanta to explore with our sons — but admittedly they were mostly interested in the baseball. We ended up taking advantage of a same-day ticket promotion the Braves Baseball club has for military members: 2-for-1 Upper Box tickets. So we will see two games this weekend.  More about that later.

Last night when we rolled into town, I dragged the family to one of Atlanta’s most famous restaurants, The Varsity. Those fans of Rick Sebak documentaries will recognize this restaurant from his 1999 A Hot Dog Program.

Tangent: That documentary fascinates me.  I’m not a huge fan of hot dogs, necessarily, but I will admit that I enjoy a hot dog on occasion, and more than the food itself is the culture and the people that go into all the unique hot dog stands/restaurants across the country.  Not that I’m necessarily keeping a list, but The Varsity is the 2nd of the restaurants featured on the program.  We visited Gray’s Papaya in Manhattan in November 2005.  Cheapest lunch in Manhattan!  And a trip to the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest on Coney Island is on my bucket list.  Really, it is!

But back to The Varsity: Dave and I will be the first to admit, the food isn’t earth-shatteringly good.  You aren’t going for gourmet cuisine…you’re going for the fast, cheap (dinner for 4 = ~$25!), consistent food.  And the atmosphere!  Folk who’ve been there before will all warn you: at the front counters where you order is a cacophony of “Whaddaya have?  Whaddaya have?” from the dozens of employees all wearing their trademark red paper hats (which are available to the customers).

The drive-in was put near Georgia Tech and on a GT football game weekend is one of the busiest spots in Atlanta — the brick building in the background is on Georgia Tech’s campus, in fact.

A good old fashioned drive-in — America’s largest, in fact!  The drive in part is a cash-only operation as you are paying and getting change from the bellhops directly.  The food is brought to you on one of those trays they clip to your car door.

I didn’t get a picture of the front entrance, but this is the just-as-retro side entrance.  Here’s a picture of the street-side entrance.

There isn’t much to the menu.  Hot dogs, burgers, and that chicken sandwich in the lower right corner.  There are a few other things, but really…not much.  They have this orange frosty drink that I wish I had tried, supposed to taste like orange sherbert!  You can also get a feel for how (relatively) cheap meals are — this is downtown Atlanta, where McDonald’s combo meals cost the same!

The paper hats are available to anyone.  The kids enjoyed wearing them with dinner.

This was my dinner….the #1 Combo.  No points for presentation, that’s for sure.  But lots of points for the look and taste of a classic chili dog dinner!  You probably can’t see through the chili and mustard, but the buns are sliced down the center instead of split side-wise like buns you purchase at a grocery store.

Timmy got the #6 combo: Two “naked” dogs.  He loved that!  You can see better the unusually-split hot dog buns on his plate.  Timmy devoured his dogs and called them the best dogs he’d ever had — and he’s had a lot of hot dogs in his life!

Dave and Jacob had burgers…and Jacob had this chili-cheeseburger that was REALLY a heart-attack on a plate!  Jacob loved the hot-dog style chili so much he asked if he could get a bowl of it in addition to his dinner combo.  Sadly, they only come as side condiments, but being the ever-doting mother that I am, I bought him two little cups of the chili (for $0.80 total) and he ate those.

And then I bought a can of it to take home.  It’s clearly hot dog chili, not really meant to be eaten by the bowlful.  Jacob’s still not convinced of that…after we have that can, I found this Crock Pot recipe that I’ll be trying out for sure!

Jacob wants to go back before the end of the weekend, but Dave and I aren’t sure our GI systems will ensure two trips in one weekend.  We still are planning a trip to Dwarf House before we go home on Monday…

The verdict?  The Varsity is full of history, and their classic chili dogs are an Atlanta tradition that’s worth trying.  It’s cheap, family friendly and close to Atlanta’s biggest tourist attractions.  Worth a visit!

25. July 2011 · 1 comment · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , ,

Who here is a fan of Groupon!  Go ahead, raise your hand!  Don’t be shy….

I started using Groupon in the Omaha area ($5 Omaha Lancer’s tickets!), but quickly transferred my settings to Pensacola when we got here.  I’ll admit that I don’t care about most of the deals that come our way (half price facials, $20 for $50 worth of pizza at a restaurant in Pensacola, etc.) but I’ve taken advantage of a couple deals that seem relevant.

Some Groupon tips:

  • Read the fine print CAREFULLY!  I saw a great golf deal that was only good on weekdays.  This golf deal only cost $2-6 less than if you played the course at regular price after 3pm.  I have two movie tickets in my account right now that are only good after 6pm.  Know and understand the limitations.
  • Note the expiration dates on the deals.  Sometimes you have quite a bit of time, sometimes you only have till the end of the month.  Remember that you’re pre-paying for the coupon, so if you miss out on the deal before it’s expired, it’s your loss, not the business’s.

The first one we got actually cash in on was a parasailing trip last weekend.  At Destin Parasailing, they offered $37 for one ticket on the parasailing trip, which is the 60-75 minute boat ride (time for 4 groups to go out) and 15 minutes up on the parasail itself.  These trips are typically $60-75 per person.

It was incredible!  Parasailing is VERY gentle, and Dave and I will both attest that riding in the speedboat while keeping the chute aloft is far more adrenaline-packed than riding in the chute itself.

Our boat (the red one).

Dave’s rigged up and ready to go!

This family is coming back in — Dad (an Army Soldier vacationing here from TX) is holding a camera in his right hand and I’ll bet he got some great pictures.  The girl in the middle is 11 years old and wasn’t much bigger than Jacob.  The first mate on the far right took the next couple pictures with my iPhone while we were up.

Seconds before we launched!

The launch isn’t what you expect: the boat pulls away from you and you’re essentially suspended, almost still.  All the motions are very slow, and the whole experience is VERY quiet.  So peaceful…

You start out not-that-high, it takes about 5 minutes for the chute to gain altitude as the boat pulls it, like running with a kite.

Our view of the Crab Island Bridge as the boat brought us back in at about 7:10pm.  

We got back just in time to enjoy a lovely sunset dinner at Poppy’s Crazy Lobster restaurant for steamed seafood.  I saw the Great Blue Huron eating fish while walking on the dock on the way to dinner.

Choose your poison…we ordered a “Category Three” to share.  

I’m very glad we shared it!

Dave got steamed shrimp, which he has proclaimed was the best restaurant shrimp he’d ever had!

Meanwhile, I enjoyed some snow crab legs!
02. July 2011 · 1 comment · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , ,

Yes, these posts are hideously out of order, but I’m writing them in the order of ease of collecting my thoughts.  Sorry about that 🙂  Maybe I’ll force the dates around some when I’m all done.

We started out in Greenville, SC on the last day of our road trip.  It was about 2 1/2 hours to Atlanta and I had the kids think nice and early about what they’d like for lunch.

Tangent: I learned this nice and early in our roadtrip — I let the kids choose at one point and the request was for Taco Bell.  I plugged “Taco Bell” into our GPS and we had passed one about 20 miles back…and there were NO MORE Taco Bells on our route for the next couple hours.  So I learned to have the kids decide at least an hour in advance.

Anyway, since we were going through Atlanta, I figured we’d have no problem finding what the kids were looking for…

…and then they requested Chick-Fil-A!  Seriously!

For my non-US readers, the Chick-Fil-A chicken sandwich was invented in Atlanta.

(Okay, actually it was invented in Hapeville, GA, but that’s right outside of Atlanta).

A light bulb went off in my head!  Why not take the boys to the “original” Chick Fil A restaurant.  And that’s what we did.  Luckily, The Dwarf House is less than a mile off our interstate highway route.

The Dwarf Grill was opened by S. Truett Cathy and his brother in 1946.  It was essentially a basic short-order grill diner, serving basics such as burgers and sandwiches.  In 1967 Chick-Fil-A restaurants began to appear in mall food courts, featuring the chicken sandwich that was made very popular at the Dwarf House.  The restaurant chain has grown to more than 1,500 retail outlets, in malls, airports, hospitals and stand-alone restaurants.  It’s one of my kids’ favorite places to eat.

We got to The Dwarf House right at 11am and we chose to eat in the diner area right in front of the Seven Dwarves animated mural.  By the time we left 45 minutes later, there was quite a line to be seated.  This restaurant is across from the Delta corporate offices and I’m guessing a lot of the patrons were from there.

Note the short front door.  There’s a regular sized door on the side, but most customers use that little red door, which is about as tall as Timmy.
It’s a full service diner, made for a nice lunch experience.

Along with the other diner fare, you can get the full Chick-Fil-A menu as a “platter” with two sides.

This is my yucky iPhone picture of the animated Seven Dwarves.  The dwarves are moving along a bicycle-chain-type conveyor from home to the mines.

Jacob loves the Spicy Chicken Sandwich.  Everything (except the milkshake that you see on the far right) was served on china with real silverware.

Timmy got nuggets with waffle fries.

The waitress we had was so sweet, I meant to take a picture of her with the boys, but I didn’t, sorry.  She brought little stuffed cows for the boys after lunch.  I asked for a bunch more for Dave’s squadron (they use the Holstein cow as their mascot).

07. June 2011 · Comments Off on A Blast from the Past: Smarties! · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , ,

A small British grocery store opened up right up the street, called The British Pedlar.  The ladies who are running the store are very kind and they have just about everything that I remember from my childhood, when my mom would frequent the British grocery store in Virginia Beach OR she’d bring things back from our trips to Hong Kong when I was a kid.

The store has everything I remember except one thing: Bovril!  Click that link to read more about Bovil not being available in the U.S.  The ladies said it’s just too complicated and the FDA is really slow-rolling the customs approval process even for the non-beef version.

On my last couple of visits to the store, I’d pick up some treats for the family: locally-made banger sausages (Mom, we’ll hit the store and I’ll get you some while you’re visiting next month, they have THREE brands to choose from!), McVitie’s Digestives, Cadbury’s Dairy Milk bars and Smarties candies.  I’m accustomed to the Smarties being sold in small cylindrical containers like this:

Ha ha!  Fooled many of you, didn’t I?  Perhaps the introduction about British food tipped you off…but I’m sure many of you were still thinking about “American” Smarties:

For the unfamiliar, Nestle’s Smarties are very similar to American M&Ms.  Chocolate drops covered in a hard candy shell.  But there’s a…well…fruitiness to the Nestle Smarties that I’ve always enjoyed.

Anyway, on my most recent visit this week, the store was out of the smaller packages of Smarties, so I picked up a bigger box.  I’d never seen the bigger box in detail, so I was intrigued by the picture on the back.

Love the “colours”!

Spirulina?  Really???  http://www.foodnavigator.com/Legislation/Spirulina-faces-legal-questions

I knew there was a fruity flavor (flavour?) to the Smarties but I never realized I was tasting the all-natural coloring to the candy shells!  The kids got a kick out of the picture and the information, then got a bit squirmy about eating any more of the green ones, ha ha!

Eating Nestle’s Smarties brings back so many memories, and I enjoy sharing these things with the boys.

16. February 2011 · Comments Off on Sin in a Tin. Or: OH MY! · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , ,

Hopefully everyone had an enjoyable Valentine’s Day?

I did — Dave sent me on a scavenger hunt around the house finding one clue after another. The clues were tied into some pretty cryptic things about our marriage, such as “When we were stationed in Louisiana we learned to put this on all our food” and there was the next clue taped to the bottom of my can of Tony Chachere’s seasoning!

Ultimately it led me to my old college backpack with a pair of pretty sapphire earrings inside.

I was NOT so creative with Dave this year. I did take a suggestion from a fellow-chocoholic friend, Lisa C., and found something called Guthrie’s “Sin in a Tin” at our local Publix grocery store. I was drawn to it because it’s locally made, and we’re all about the local fare!

The cool 19th Century-styled tin is recyclable!

It’s marketed as a “chocolate pate”, but you could imagine it as a giant chocolate truffle! It’s sold frozen, but if you bring it to room temperature, you could spread it.

Spread it on what? I don’t know — on what do you spread chocolate? A cracker? A chocolate cookie?

Oh wait, read the directions for suggestions!

It’s made right here in Pensacola!

We simply sliced it and made it dessert for Dave, Timmy and me for two days. Yum!

02. December 2010 · Comments Off on Starting from Scratch — First Grocery Shopping After a Move · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , , ,

First grocery shopping after moving into the new house. Hard to keep it to one cart.  One of the symptoms of moving, is giving up a lot of the long-term items.  In my case, things like ketchup, salad dressings, peanut butter and jelly and my stores of frozen foods.  So today I replenished the stocks.

I ventured to the Hurlburt Field commissary.  Not quite as big as Offutt’s, but I’ve definitely shopped at smaller ones (Shaw, Seymour-Johnson).  My cart got so full my wrists got sore as I tried to maneuver around!

I owe the picture I took with my phone of the complete full cart, but I’m tired and I’m going to bed!