Thursday, December 23, 2010

Random Stuff, Christmas Edition

I can't seem to get myself to post on here lately. It's not really a time thing; the island has, if that's even possible, slowed down even more due to the silence on the range. Also, everyone that wanted to and was able to has gotten on a plane for the States. Christmas seems to be the big holiday to escape. We prefer to celebrate it at home, because it's a bit of a complicated holiday to do at someone else's house now that we have kids. New Year's, though, is more fun with other people so I'm glad we are taking the second leave. Also, this should mean (crossing my fingers) that we won't have to fight so many people getting on the plane ourselves. We will see.

So, just a few random thoughts in this post. After being so horribly sick, I finally went running this past weekend after nearly two weeks off. What we had settled into our lungs, and Oliver was actually on antibiotics to help clear up the infection, so I was afraid to run for awhile, thinking it might make it all worse. I was so happy to find I could manage a mile and a half without coughing at all.

I've since gone out again, and nearly stepped on a snake. They have little ones here that often look like sticks when you don't look too closely. I don't believe they are poisonous, but I still had no interest in disturbing its sleep in the middle of the road. So, I took a fly leap mid-stride and managed to clear it. The snake didn't even move.

Going back to the illness, I went to the "mall" yesterday (where most of the places you'd go to get things done, like the post office, pay offices, barber shop, etc. are) to go cash a check. As I was walking away, I passed a couple people who were talking. I heard a woman say she, "wanted to give you a Chirstmas hug, but I've got the bug" to a man. He didn't ask her what she was referring to, but shrugged and reliplied he'd already had it.

I just though it was funny that in a place as small as this, we don't have to ask what kind of bug it is. We just know because it has gone through everyone in some fashion. As Oliver said jokingly to me, curse those range users who come here with their germs!

Actually, this also reminds me of what someone said to us when we first got here. They give you yellow, temporary badges for the first few weeks, which is also the same color visitors get. A guy Oliver works with told him to be sure to get our permanent badges ASAP because the yellow ones marked us as plague carriers. We had a good laugh over it at the time, but now I know exactly what he was talking about!

Now we're two days from Christmas, and it still doesn't feel like it. The complete and utter lack of snow is a telling issue, but more than that is the fact that we are still wearing t shirts and shorts, as I have grown up with many non-white Christmases. We took the boys for a walk around the neighborhood to see the houses that were decked out with lights last night. It made it feel a tad more Christmasy, but still, we didn't even bring jackets. I was glad for my long pants, though.

I remember having the same problem last year. This year, we did manage to go to more of the Christmas stuff they did, like the carnival where they set up booths that looked kind of like shops. There was a "Woodshop" filled with free kits from Home Depot for the kids to pick one and build it right there. There was also a "Bakery" where they could decorate a couple cookies with icing and various decorating choices. There were other things, too, but those were our favorites.

They also did a live nativity, and a short community sing-along after. It made me miss singing; there isn't even a church here to sing at. I really couldn't manage to be in the ward choir when I lived in Washington due to having two very small kids and no husband most Sundays, but I'll have to make time for it when we move back to the States. I do love singing.

Well, that's about it for the moment. I did get my ornament from the Mrs.' ornament swap, so I hope to get my act together and actually post a pic of it, but we will see. Getting my act together doesn't seem to be happening much lately. Merry Christmas (if I don't post again before it)!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Reality Check

I went outside today to spend some time taking care of my plants. They've been sorely neglected during this last week of sickness. I haven't done more than throw a little water their way. So, I had some stuff to take care of.

I was dragging the hose out and directing the water where it was needed, trying to avoid getting wet myself, when I had a bit of a reality check over how cold (or not) it really is. Despite my best efforts, some water got on my hands, and I winced, bracing for a very cold intrusion.

Here's the thing, though; the water was warm. Add to that the fact that I was even growing anything at all, and not worried about frost, and it was clear to me that my body is a whole lot more sensitive to this cold than it used to be. My guess is it's in the mid '50s at night, considering the temperature inside is about 60 to 64 in the morning when we get up. This is early fall weather where I grew up.

I remember running outside last year, thinking it was the perfect weather for it. I also didn't think I would have any use for the long yoga pants I used to run in. I think I'll be pulling those out as soon as I'm healthy enough to run again.

Oh, and did I tell you we were taking a trip right after Christmas to the Northeast? While I hope for snow for our boys' sake, and we are strongly considering a ski trip, we are going to be freezing!!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Attacked with the Flu...Or so it seems

Ugh, we have been sick, people, so sick! And I've had a very bad attitude about it because we hardly ever get sick. This one, though, was pretty nasty. Four days running, and it's still hanging around. It seems to be all over the base. At one point, about a quarter of the school was out sick. This being such a small school, it was pretty noticeable. One little girl in Wyatt's class actually missed the entire week. He only missed Friday, and that was mostly because we were too sick to take him. Although, he was hit hard later in the day, so it was a good thing we kept him home.

I'm just really grateful that I had a husband around. We've been tag-teaming it, and have mostly been able to keep everyone taken care of. I can't remember the last time that happened.

I can tell I'm on the mend as I actually spent two hours cleaning up the wreck of our house (really, just getting the worst of it done), and actually made a meal that didn't consist of pasta in some form. Hopefully, this week will be much better and we'll be able to catch up on stuff. None of which will include shopping as that has all been done by now. And if it hasn't been bought, it won't be as there's little guarantee we'll get it in time for Christmas. There's a pretty big backlog of mail in Florida, from what I've heard, so now I'm mostly just hoping that the aircraft carrier we got Wyatt, the very last thing to get here, will come in time. We shall see.

Here's hoping this post finds all of you in much better health!

P.S. My suspicions about the flu shot being less than effective have been confirmed. I'm not positive this is the flu, but the symptoms are very much the same. The boys and I did not have shots, but Oliver had to because he's military. He's just as sick as we are. I will continue to follow our policy of not getting shots.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Brrrrr!

So, we have discovered recently that one of the downsides to having moved to our much larger trailer is that it doesn't have any heat. I was very grateful last year that we did have heat, as it got chilly at night. For the most part, we only ran it until about 1000, then sometimes switched back to the air conditioner when the sun started beating through our windows (yeah, the weirdness of living in a tropical environment). I am much happier living in the new place, but the lack of heat is a real bummer. A year of living here has made our blood thinner, I think. Plus, Washington was never really that bad; I actually got rid of all my sweaters while living there because it never got cold enough for them.

This morning, I became aware that we were going to have to do something about our missing heat. The thermostat read 66, and our boys were up at 0530, a whole hour earlier than is normal for them. Our room was pretty cold, and we had used an extra blanket on our bed, but our kids tend to kick off their blankets as they sleep. I haven't bought blanket sleepers for them in forever, so I can't really bundle them up like that, either. Oscar and I are actually bundled up on the couch watching cartoons because the house feels chilly. I even turned the oven on in an attempt to take some of the chilliness off.

In some ways, it's a nice change from the extreme heat of summer, but I really think we need something other than the oven to warm up the house. So, I just ordered a space heater. I was afraid it would be hard to find someone to ship one here, but Amazon had a bunch of them to choose from. I picked up an oil circulated one because it's safe enough to use in the boys room without supervision. I hope it works; if it does, I'm getting another one for our room. Then, we can move them to the living area, which is sort of like one big room with a wall in the center. That should be enough to kill the chill in the morning before the sun gets going.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Excuse Me?

So, we took a shopping trip to the States this week. Despite the usual travel hassles, we got most of what we needed to do there done. One of our first stops was Whole Foods, so we'd have time to get our Rubbermaid container packed and shipped off at the post office the next morning. All four of us went in, and things were going well until Wyatt decided he needed to use the bathroom. Oliver took him, leaving me with Oscar who was sitting in the cart.

No problem, right? Well, that was true until we walked over to the spice aisle. Oscar watched me pick out a couple bottles of vanilla extract and apparently decided he would help me out. I glanced over to see him toss a bottle of peppermint extract into the cart. I handed it back to him and told him to return it. He did, but somehow managed to knock something else off the shelf that promptly shattered on the floor. I pulled him back immediately and reprimanded him for it, then looked around for a store employee to tell about the mess.

It was maybe 30 seconds later that I caught sight of a couple people chatting near a couple of swinging doors. I was just about to make my way over to them when a woman swept past me and told them that "someone broke something" and pointed it out. I stayed to be sure it was going to be taken care of, then turned around to see Oliver returning.

I was in the middle of telling him what had happened when the woman who had swept past me earlier walked up and asked if it was my kid that broke the bottle (she'd been standing in the aisle when it happened and clearly knew it was). When I said yes, she proceeded to tell me I should have told someone, and when I said I'd been looking for someone which is why I hadn't walked away, she said, and I quote, "Those people were standing there for ten minutes" (exaggerate much, lady?). Then she said something about how I should have used the experience to teach my kid better behavior, then stormed off when I didn't give her the answer she wanted. (I'm still not sure what she was getting at - I needed to make my three year old clean it up? He already knew he'd done something wrong. I didn't let him think it was perfectly okay to break stuff in stores.)

The whole thing left me a little baffled. I mean, I get that my kid did something he shouldn't, but since when is it some random stranger's job to give me parenting lessons? I cannot see myself getting in someone's face just because I perceive they are not teaching their kids correctly. And, really, what does she know about me or my kids, or even what actually lead to the incident? (We had a discussion with Wyatt the next day about how he needs to not point out every person he sees smoking and inform us they are doing some bad - loudly - as people have the right to their own choices. Oliver pointed out that he didn't want his son growing up into some person that would tell other people in the grocery store how to parent their kids. I thought it was hilarious, but obviously, you had to be there!)

Anyway, all this leads to the real issue I have facing me, one which she had no idea about (ignorance makes us such experts, doesn't it): after a year living on an island with no traffic, a store the size of a Seven Eleven where all the people inside smile at whatever antic my boys do, no real restaurants to eat out at, and almost no experience having to deal with crowds or people they don't know, my boys are a little on the wild side. It's frustrating to me (and this is why I found that whole exchange so upsetting) because they were actually pretty easy to take into public before we moved here. We'd worked a lot with them, teaching them how to behave, and were proud of how we could take them to nearly any place and have a decent time as long as we didn't overstay their ability to keep it together.

Now, though, they have adapted to a completely different lifestyle. What works here doesn't work so well in civilization. This is especially true for Oscar, who barely remembers his time in the States. There's unfortunately not much I can do about it. I can't really train them here to react to situations they aren't exposed to. It's too abstract for them. Mostly we just try to keep them close and head off problems when they arise (Oliver actually ended up taking both boys to sit on a bench outside Whole Foods after that incident with the crazy lady and a more minor one later with Wyatt). It's not perfect, but I don't see what else I can do.

On the plus side, they have adapted to life here very well, and we don't really have any problems here. Hopefully that means that when we move back, we'll have an adjustment period, and then they'll relearn how to act amongst people again. Here's hoping we don't run into any more people who feel the need to lecture others on how to do things. (Can I tell you how much I am dreading doing sacrament meeting again with these two? /shudder)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Overdue Thanksgiving Post

I've been thinking some deep thoughts this week, hence the lack of posting. We've also had the whole family home most of the week, with Wyatt's Thanksgiving vacation over tomorrow. It's been fabulous having everyone around, and blogging hasn't been high on my list of things to do. I thought I'd catch up with a couple things tonight, and maybe write something longer later this week.

I had a couple posts on MMB this week. You can find them here:

Our Marriage Begat a Fabulous Cake
Changing Perspectives


We had a great Thanksgiving. Once again, it was spent doing something entirely different. I think our lifestyle is not particularly conducive to building traditions. Or maybe our tradition is to do something new every year. Can that even be a tradition? Who knows, but we went swimming this year at the Blue Hole. Having spent most of my life in a much colder climate, the idea of swimming outside in something unheated was completely foreign to me. Until this year. The water was perfect, although we were a little afraid it would be cold when we got there. We had the place to ourselves for the most part, although a couple tour groups came through near the end of our stay.

We followed our swimming with another first: Thanksgiving in the dining hall. Curious, yes, but it was actually pretty good. And they had fresh strawberries. And kiwis. And real mashed potatoes. Oh, and I didn't have to do any of the work. Doing a turkey would have meant no Blue Hole trip, and since this is one of the rare times the dining hall has really good fare, we figured it would be silly not to go. It was somewhat weird to to sit in a mess hall setup and eat our Thanksgiving meal on trays (they did decorate the place, at least), but we saw friends and it was better than just doing our own thing at home.

The only downside was the dessert, which seemed a rather lame selection of formerly frozen, boxed pies. I ended up with vanilla ice cream and strawberries, a treat I miss very much, so all was well on that front. The next day, I made eggnog ice cream out of the last of our eggnog, and it was amazing, so I don't think anyone ended up feeling sad about the lame dessert.

Finally, I wanted to add a short list of some of the things I've been thankful over the last year:

  • A year spent together. Even on duty nights, Oliver is home. The only nights I've had to sleep alone were a couple weeks he was on midwatch, but since he was home during the day, it wasn't even close to the same as the boat schedule we've endured most of our married life.
  • Wyatt is finally adjusting to school, and loving it. He's made friends and is learning a lot. With a couple exceptions, he's doing mostly first grade work, and we are going to consider skipping him a grade when we return to the States.
  • I'm so grateful for how much I've grown as a person. I've been faced with a lot of challenges this year that I did not expect, and would not have had if we hadn't moved here. It's been an incredible opportunity to learn more about myself, my marriage, my role as a mother, and a lot of other things too numerous to mention here. 
  • I'm grateful we are finally feeling comfortable here. We had a rough start, most of which I have not spent time dwelling on in this blog, but suffice it to say that it took some serious adjusting over the first eight or so months. Some of it was expected, some of it not so much. It's okay now, though, and I appreciate that more than I can express.
  • Finally, I am grateful for the opportunity to move into a double-wide trailer. It's pretty much the best housing you can hope for here, and while we wavered a bit as to if we wanted to do all the work of moving, it was completely worth it. We no longer feel all crammed in, and I have finally lost that weird sense of vacation living that I could not shake in the much smaller trailer with it's thin walls.
Happy Thanksgiving to one and all! I hope yours was as enjoyable as ours!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Food is Awesome

As you probably already know by my last post, living here has given me a healthy appreciation for being able to feed my family. Every time I find a new solution to it, I am so excited. Tonight, though, is probably the happiest I've been in awhile over it.

I was reading some random blog tonight and decided to look up a site they talked about as a source for coconut oil. I really can't buy coconut oil here, so what we do have we buy in the States. I figured they wouldn't actually ship to us, or it would be expensive, but figured a look costs nothing but time.

Hello, I feel like I hit a gold mine! Not only do they ship to APO/FPO (and even DPOs), but they do it for FREE! I actually started looking for some tribute to the military page or something because there was no explanation for it. They do charge shipping for all other orders, so that made it even odder. But, completely, incredibly awesome.

So, I just spent $150 on a huge order of stuff I'd been waiting to buy when we go to the States in a couple of weeks. They had a 15% off coupon, plus some specials on things we needed, so that cut the price quite a bit. Because I ordered it online using our FPO address, I also didn't have to pay tax, which means it pretty much beats any price I'd get at Whole Foods, which is where I was buying most of what I ordered. This also means less stuff we have to manage when we go. Less time shopping, more time having fun. I'm all for that one.

As an added bonus, this is a website that specializes in organics and other items that are high on the healthy list. I'm a bit of a health food freak, and intensely picky about what food I buy for our family, something that has only gotten worse with time. Feeding us was actually the biggest issue I worried about when we decided to come here after what I'd heard of the place.

Surprisingly, I think we are actually eating a lot healthier now. Between the lack of restaurant options (we were so bad about eating out in Washington!), ridiculously expensive meat that has lead us to eating more vegetarian, and high-priced processed goods (we had a $4.99 bag of Tostito's corn chips today for a snack), not to mention all the things like ice cream I now make from scratch just because we can't buy anything we like here, our meals are a lot more basic. I'm guessing that has been a huge factor in our weight loss, besides the running. Which is good, because I'm not one to diet. I so have no ability to control myself like that.


If you're interested, here's the link to their site. I'm not getting anything out of this post except an opportunity to share my excitement. When we go back to the States, I'm so going to buy some grass-fed beef, too. I never realized I could order something like that. I looked for it in Washington but never found it in the stores near us.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Surprise!

I walked into the store today hoping there would be some new produce. The barge came in yesterday, and there was some stuff, but not a lot when I went on Thursday. So, I returned today soon after it opened at lunchtime. The produce case looked exactly the same, and I was looking at it sadly when a guy passing by told me a shipment of produce had just arrived from Nassau so I should come back later.

I greatly appreciate tips like this! As I was walking out the door, I actually saw the truck pull up and the first boxes come out of it. I saw one that looked like asparagus, so I did a little happy dance on the way home. I've never seen them stock fresh asparagus. It's amazing how excited you can get about produce when it's hard to come by.

Anyway, to make a long story short, our afternoon got busy, and I didn't get another chance to go back until after 1700. The produce had been stocked, and I came home with bananas, squash, lettuce, tomatoes that didn't look scary (a rarity - I can't wait until my plants start producing!), and a few other things.

The bad news? No asparagus. And to make matters worse, I found a single spear underneath something else, so I had been right about it. Too bad other people beat me to it. Also, there were no potatoes again. This is a real bummer because it most likely means no mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving. I wish I'd been on top of this and bought some a few weeks ago. Ah, well, such is life.

The very good news at the end of this, though, is that while I was walking down the freezer/refrigerated food aisle (yes, there is only one short aisle for both types of food), I happened across some eggnog. There were only about six or seven half gallons left, and I grabbed two of them. One for right away, and one to save for Thanksgiving morning.

I am so excited about this find! We somehow missed the eggnog last year, although I heard rumors that it had been stocked at one point. It's been two years without it, and I have missed it! Hopefully, we don't clean through it so fast I can't make eggnog bread with it.

Media Problems When You Leave the US

It's great to live outside the country. Even when what you call home is a rather large island with hardly any people on it. It's a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see things in a way you'd never thought possible. It's also an opportunity to realize that every movie studio, video game maker, and TV purveyor is intent on making your life miserable.

To get some idea of what I'm talking about, here is a list of things we are prevented from doing because our IP address is foreign:

  • Watch TV online - unless you are talking about YouTube, which is a terrible way to try to catch shows you missed. So, no Army wives for me anymore. I'm sure Oliver is relieved.
  • Use the wireless feature on your game console. I had blamed our tightly controlled internet for this one, but I actually don't think it's their fault anymore. I'm fairly certain that Nintendo has made it impossible for us to network our Wii here. Not a killer situation, but annoying.
  • Netflix, well, that's the real story here...
 See, I decided to sign up for a free trial. I've seen people here picking up their red envelopes in the post office, so I figured it was worth a try to see how fast the mail is. Because our mail comes in on the same plane we use, it's only slightly slower than when we were in the U.S. So, I thought maybe it'd be worth it.

Except, I've since discovered that while packages (pretty much all we deal with for the most part) go directly to Florida to be sorted and sent to our plane, letters for some idiot reason go to New York City first. So, the DVD I mailed last Thursday to a place in Florida has only today been received and a  new one sent out. A new one that will head north before it returns south. Um, yeah, that means, if we are lucky, we'll be getting about 3 DVDs a month.  

In truth, I expected something like that, which is why I had yet to sign up for it. We were actually hoping to use the instant watching feature with an occasional DVD as a bonus. Then we could get some TV shows and movies that we can't watch easily right now (and we both hate watching TV as TV - the commercials are too irritating - it's not on much in our house).

Turns out, however, that Netflix also blocks access to people outside the country. This annoys me greatly because I have a U.S. address, and I'm a U.S. citizen. Since I'm clearly the person using the account, why can we not have permission to watch this stuff? These distribution laws are maddening.

Yeah, that Netflix account? Totally being canceled as soon as this month is up.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Have Kids, Will Travel

Wyatt has been telling me lately that he'd like to move. I was baffled the first time, and then worried that he was unhappy about something. But, he seems like he likes it here, and I know he's very much enjoying school and having all these kids to play with.

Then, last night he asked me if he had school the next morning. I told him yes, and he started getting upset. I asked him why, because I know he is having fun in school, and the complaining about it has gone down a huge amount in the last few weeks.

His answer? "I want to go on a trip. Trips are more fun than school."

Clearly, the traveling gene is being passed on to our eldest. I think it might also be in our youngest because he started clamoring to go on a plane after listening to this conversation. Luckily for them, traveling is one of our favorite things to do. And lucky for us, they travel well. Sometimes, this parenting thing totally works.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Free Canning Jars

I think I've found the perfect canning jars. And they are totally free. Well, okay, I'm still having to buy them, but since they come filled with sauce, the jar is a bonus, otherwise destined for the garbage as they don't recycle here. Instead, I'm learning how many things can be recycled at home, something I think is probably better for the earth than trucking it off to some factory to be reformed into something.

I don't have big plans to can or anything, but since making pickles, I've been flirting with the idea of buying canning jars. I'm using glass jars more and more for things, nearly all of them recycled from other things I've bought. This is working for the most part, but I'm getting tired of the random lid sizes. Lose a lid and it's nearly impossible to replace. Also, it can be difficult to find the right lid when there is only one that will fit correctly. Ordering jars over the internet, however, is an expensive proposition. It also wouldn't be too easy to bring very many back on the plane.

Unwittingly, however, Oliver solved my problem a few weeks ago when he brought home some pasta sauce I'd requested. There aren't too many choices at the store - I think they stock all of four brands of pasta sauce. I have tried most of them, as they don't carry what I used to buy, and Bertolli has been the best tasting brand available to us. This Classico stuff is tolerable, thankfully, because I want the jars. Take a look at them:

two jars

These Classico jars, though, are fantastic. They are decently sized, and take a normal sized canning lid. I also like that they are square shaped, and pretty heavy duty. They sit side by side a lot better than round jars. As you can see, I'm already using them to hold beans.

The biggest issue? I only have three jars at the moment. I guess we'll be having spaghetti a little more often now.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Finally. the End

Of the Halloween candy, that is. I breathed a sigh of relief when Oscar mournfully told me the last of the candy was gone one morning this past weekend. We started out regulating it, but finally gave up and let them have at it just to get it over with. The only rule we really stuck to was no candy between when Wyatt got home from school and dinner. Otherwise, whatever.

I'm pleased to report they still showed some restraint. It took over a week after we more or less gave them free rein with it. Oscar did ask me today when he was going to get more. He wasn't too happy when I told him he'd have to wait a year. I'd say that was good news for me, though!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Shutterfly and the Free Cards

Curiously enough, I had a passing thought a few weeks ago about actually doing Christmas cards this year. You know, something really Bahamian and summery looking. To explain how weird that was, you have to realize that I have sent Christmas cards exactly once in my adult life. (I'm not counting the year I did a ten minute video about our year that combined pictures and home video clips set to music - was much fun, but I haven't been able to get myself to do it again.) The year I sent cards was also the year that we had a freak snowstorm in November a few years ago when we lived in Washington. We built a snowman, and while doing so, took this great picture of Wyatt sitting on top of the largest ball. He was about two years old, and it was a fantastically sunny day, so the picture came out looking really good. I saw it and immediately thought, "Hey, Christmas card material!"

So, my thought this year, while unusual, was also probably not going to be acted on. Until I ran across Shutterfly's blogger promotion. Go here if you want to see for yourself, but I'll explain briefly. Basically, I will get a code for 50 free holiday cards (shipping not included) if I write up a post using their guidelines. If you follow the above link, you can apply to do the same, assuming you have a blog yourself.

So, in the interest of getting some free cards so my relatives can actually see what our kids look like these days, I'm taking the time to write up a post. Also, I am doing this because I like Shutterfly. It's been my site of choice for photos for a long time, and I appreciate that they will ship out here for a reasonable price. At this point in my life, that is the hallmark of a good business. I have no idea if they are the best, but I tend to stick with what works, so I keep going back to them.

Oh, before I talk about Christmas cards, I'm adding a link to their photo books. I made one after our trip to Hawaii a few years ago because they sent me a code for a free one. I ended up spending some money on it because I made it twice as long as the code allowed, but it came out pretty nice. The boys still occasionally ask us to read it to them like it was a story book.

Okay, on to Christmas cards. This first one reminds me a lot of the one I sent out last time:


It was a flat card, and I made sure to leave a space on it to add a personal message before I mailed it. I always hate getting preprinted Christmas cards in the mail. I mean, if I'm going to get a card from someone I know, I'd much prefer they actually wrote something to me, even if it's just a two liner. Even one of those Christmas letters is better than a generic, "Have a Merry Christmas! Love, person-you-know".

Actually, looking at this again, I don't think I'll be using this card. Not much space on it, although there is always the back, I guess. However, since I don't like how pen often makes marks on the front, too, when you write, I think I'm going to go with something like this:


 Or maybe this one instead:
I think the main question will be whether to go simple or photo-happy. Considering the huge amount of pictures on my hard drive, most taken just this year because I made backups and wiped the old computer before we moved, I suspect I will end up with the photo-overload card. Also, that gives me more fodder for conversation when I fill them out. Decisions, decisions...

Well, while I go ponder that, I'll leave you with one last link. One of the more interesting thing about photo sites is that you can always find different things to have your photos printed on. I checked out Shutterfly's photo gift page just to see if they had anything new, and found this. It's a little pricey, but I'm seriously thinking about it. My kids would be completely thrilled to have a gigantic decal of themselves on the wall, although the idea of it is making me laugh out loud.

Actually, now that I think about it, this would have been a great gift for them while their daddy was deploying. A pic of the the three of them, life-size. Ah, well, something to consider if we end up heading back to a boat in two years.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Unexpected....Cactus?

Near Halloween, Wyatt's school did a parade on their way from the school to the theatre, where they held a Halloween party for the kids. They called it a "zombie parade", and some of the teachers and a lot of the kids were in some kind of zombie getup. Some of them, Wyatt included, wore their Halloween costumes. They did it right after we brought him back to school after lunch. Oliver hung around a bit so he could see them walk by, and the three of us went to the corner of our street to wait for it.

There is a sidewalk on our street, one of the few in the housing areas. Because most of the trailers on our side are scheduled for demolition, they are empty and very overgrown. I've never walked down the sidewalk at the very end because of this, plus we typically just cut over from the back side of our trailer. That day, though, we waited on the sidewalk amongst the plant life going crazy. I was surprised to see this cactus growing there:

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I have seen a lot of strange plants here, but cactus? Not so much. I'm curious if it's native or if someone brought it here. The thing is huge, too. Taller than Oscar, and about as wide as I can spread my arms. Just goes to show, you never know what you'll find living here!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Water Troubles (Yet Again)

The water here has been a little suspect in our home. Oliver heard from some people at work that it may not be the healthiest thing in the world. He kind of freaked me out when he came home and told me this a couple months ago. I mean, we've lived here for a year now, and due to the hot climate are drinking a lot more water than we used to. To switch to bottled water would be ridiculously expensive, not to mention all the plastic waste that would engender. So, I decided not to do anything different. I hadn't, after all, seen any real evidence that it was making us or anyone else sick. A rumor is as likely to be untrue as it is to be true, so it wasn't much to go on.

Then, a few weeks ago, after all that crazy rain we had, our water started smelling a little bit like sewage. It was awful; at one point, I washed out a frosting decorating bag and the smell left behind was enough to make me feel ill. So, we pulled out our stored water and stopped drinking from the tap for awhile.

The stink only lasted a couple days, but that was long enough for me. I went online, did some research, and ordered a water filter for the kitchen. I got one that is a bit more powerful than your typical faucet filter (we did have a Brita filter back in Washington because the water there tasted awful). It hooks up to our faucet, with the filter unit sitting on the counter. They also had one that would have fit into our sprayer hole and been a separate faucet, but I didn't want to mess with the plumbing here. It's ancient and temperamental, like just about everything else.

Here's a very unprofessional pic of our set up:

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 And a closeup of the faucet connector:

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Also, because the water in our new place smells very strongly of chlorine (when it doesn't smell of sewage, ha), I also bought a shower filter. From what I've read in the past, it's possible to aspirate a lot of chlorine in the shower, so I figured it was time to stop worrying about that, too.

Here's a pic of that one:

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The shower wand was part of it, with the filter unit being the big white thing hanging behind it. Supposedly, this is also going to keep our shower from getting so much soap scum because it's softening the water. We've only used it a couple of weeks so I don't know for sure if this is the case, but so far, so good in the soap scum department. For a lazy cleaner like me, this is a good thing.

We picked these up from Aquasana, in case you were curious. I don't know if they are the best, but they had good reviews and were in my price range, so that's why I went with them. Also, they will ship to us for free, which is a huge plus. That is not so easy to find these days.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Happy Veteran's Day

Typically, we'd got to a parade today, but there isn't one here. They did do a small ceremony this morning, although I didn't go because Oliver needed to go into work afterward as they are in the middle of a huge exercise right now.

Plus, I was a little lazy and didn't feel like getting the kids moving. Now that Wyatt is in school, that morning routine is getting old. I am all over staying home longer and letting them run around in pjs for awhile. No one in this house is  a morning person, and it very much shows when we are forced to be.

We did watch a little TV last night, though, and saw a commercial for Outback. Apparently, military people can get a free bloomin' onion today. Bummer we are no where near an Outback! Oliver did get a free breakfast, though. There is actually a tiny veteran's organization called the China Post here. They put together a nice meal for the Navy members here.

I was chafing a bit at our island status today. When we get a free day like this, that is typically when I bemoan our marooned state. What we really wanted to do was go somewhere fun, but, yeah, not too many choices here. We did end up at the beach, though, and that was fun. The water was freezing! I didn't swim, but everyone else did for awhile. Then, Oliver pounced on me and gave me a big hug, so I ended up wet, anyway.

The weather is shifting. It's a lot cooler, and I'm finally wearing long pants every so often. I've also started to run outside again, which is a hugely nice change. The treadmill was getting exceptionally monotonous. I think we're getting acclimated to living here. When we moved here last year at about this time, it seemed warm and we were definitely swimming when we went to the beach. Now, after spending a summer with blazingly hot weather, it's almost chilly out, even though we're still seeing 80 degree weather. It's going to be very weird to move back to a cooler place.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Jam Time

A couple weeks ago, I finally got around to making jam. I had two, 24 oz tubs of strawberries in our freezer that we'd bought last minute to keep some meat cold on a flight back home. We aren't allowed to use ice, so I typically buy those frozen juice cartons to tuck in there with the cold stuff. If it thaws some, it's no big deal to refreeze it, and they are small and light enough that they don't affect the weight allowance too much. That day, though, we'd gone to a different store than normal and discovered they only have juice cartons in the refrigerator case. So, I grabbed the strawberries instead, then we rushed to the airport.

Problem is, we really don't use an entire tub of strawberries on anything. So, they sat in our freezer for a couple of months unused. Then we ran out of jam. I only buy jam in the States because everything here is sweetened with corn syrup. Not only do I find it unhealthy, but no one likes to eat the stuff now that we've lost the taste for it. I can get frozen fruit here, even if it's a little on the expensive side ($3.95 for a 12 oz package is what I paid yesterday for some blueberries). Then, I remembered the tubs of strawberries.

To make a long story short, I thawed them, added two cups of raw sugar (the recipe I was using called for twice that amount, but the strawberries already had sugar in them so I was guessing on how much to use), squeezed a fresh lemon into it, and boiled it down into some jam. Here was the end result:


I reused the jam jars I had from buying jam from someone here, then put the rest into the freezer containers stacked next to them. They are sitting upside down here because I'd read that leaving them upside down for a half hour or so after filling the jars keeps them mold-free much longer. Who knows if that's true, but I tried it anyway.

In terms of mold, I needn't have worried. Two weeks later, we're going through the third jar. Wyatt has declared it "the best jam ever", and keeps telling me I need to make more when we are done with this stuff. Peanut and butter sandwiches are suddenly back in vogue. I should have done this months ago when they stopped eating them! They are so much easier to make than ham and cheese.

I'm glad the jam was a hit. Unfortunately, the pickles weren't as big a hit. Oscar really likes them, and I think they are okay, but neither Wyatt or Oliver will eat them. Can you tell who the picky eaters in the house are?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Daylight Savings Snafu

I was committed to helping set up for a fundraiser for our the parent/teacher committee (basically the PTA, but we don't call it that) this morning. We decided to walk over there as a family so Oliver could help out, too, and the boys could maybe see their friends and run off some steam. I was really stressed out about forgetting to go because I haven't been all that on top of things lately. The boys had an awful night, and I even ended up on the couch for a few hours because they were both in our bed, so Oliver let me sleep in some this morning. I made myself get up in time, and we dragged ourselves there, bat and ball in two because we were going to be right next to the ball field.

Except, no one was there. I paced about a bit, confused as to what was going on. There had been a little confusion about when to meet when the scheduling was being worked out, so I thought maybe someone was running late or I hadn't understood it correctly. We ended up doing some batting practice with the boys for the next forty minutes before finally giving up and going home.

I was baffled about it until about 1400 when I looked at the clock and it suddenly struck me: today was daylight savings. So, I was the one off, not anyone else. I felt pretty stupid about missing the whole thing, and immediately emailed the other members of the leadership to apologize.

This whole not going to church thing can mess us up. I've never once been late or early to church because of a daylight savings switch, but apparently I can completely forget about it when I don't have something regularly scheduled on my Sundays. Oliver and I talked about it this evening and decided it was highly likely we wouldn't have figured out anything was wrong until tomorrow if this event hadn't been scheduled for today. Since he drops Wyatt off at school, and often doesn't stay now that Wyatt is acclimated to school and we are comfortable he knows where he needs to go, that might have meant he would have been standing there by himself for awhile (unless he thought to just walk back home again).

So, I'm grateful I had something I was supposed to do today, even if I didn't actually make it there on time. I'm mad at myself for not doing what I'd promised to do, but I would have felt even worse if it had left my kid in a lurch.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Running and I

This week has not been a particularly great one. Wacky schedule, poisonwood attack, allergies in the small ones...and I've been sitting on my butt for most of it. I haven't run in about ten days, and wasn't going to do so today, either. But then I mentioned to Oliver, right before I should start dinner, that I was dragging around all day and hadn't been running in forever. He told me to just go. I almost didn't, but I'm glad I took his advice.

Four miles later, I think I've realized just how much running has become not something just to get back in shape with, but something that keeps me sane. I felt a million times better when I got back. Even that familiar ache in my legs is making me smile right now.

It's a good feeling to finally move past "exercising to get into shape" to "running for fun". I mean, I've always enjoyed running, but starting out was painful. Especially after having gone through two pregnancies without working all that hard in between. I think it took three months before I started saying, okay, I am feeling good. Now, nearly a year later, what a difference!

I hope this means this is going to be something I always fight to make time for. It's too easy to get lazy about exercise, especially if it seems like work. Today, I ran because it felt good and I didn't think even once about how my stomach is never going to be the same after having kids. I better get some sleep tonight; my running shoes and I have a date tomorrow. I'm going to break that five mile mark if it kills me.


P.S. Dinner was pizza from the only eatery on base (other than the galley). We took a chance because the place has been improving over the last few months. It used to be you would order a sandwich, then wait over twenty minutes with no one in sight for it to be made. The pizza has been particularly terrible, which is why we haven't ordered one since a month or two after we moved here. So, due to the improving menu and better options, and my sudden craving for Hawaiian pizza and wings (ironically, all this not eating meat has made me snag some when I can), we ordered some tonight.

The verdict? While the toppings have improved, they are still using the same dough, which is basically a circle of frozen pizza dough that looks like one of those poorly done boxed pizzas. There is no crust formed on the edges, and the bottom is clearly not cooked with cornmeal, which makes a huge difference. It's kind of a like a cracker dough, really. Nasty. I don't think we'll be trying it again.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Carved Pumpkin, Meet the Tropics

This is what happens when you carve a pumpkin in the tropics and leave it outside:

dead pumpkin

We carved this pumpkin on Saturday, and Oliver kicked it off the walk this morning because it was caving in on itself. It's actually been sitting on our counter for over a week before we carved it. I wanted to wait because I knew it wouldn't last long. Even I was surprised at how quick it collapsed, though. I think the one we did last year stuck around just a tad bit longer.

Halloween was really fun. The way they do it here is set a couple hours for trick or treating. Bahamians that work on the base are allowed to bring their kids on to participate. Last year, it seemed most of them were without costumes, but this year, I saw most of the Bahamian kids in some kind of costume. There also seemed to be more of them than Americans.

We don't really do the whole traditional knock on a door to get candy routine here. Instead, most people sit outside their houses, some with rather elaborate Halloween displays, and some with their neighbors, making it a one stop for several different buckets of candy. Some were handing candy out from golf carts, and a few were dressed up in costume trying to scare people. Hardly anyone said trick or treat because of how mobs of kids just walked right up and the adults passed it all out with a few comments about how cute everyone looked. One house we went to had a chair with looked like a fake gorilla sitting in it. I turned to my right only to find the gorilla right in my face. I started laughing, which was probably not what he was going for, but it was because the mood was not really a fright night, but a fun block party.

For the most part, we didn't do homemade this year when it came to costumes. The boys have been longing for some dress-up clothes, Wyatt especially, so I decided to buy a couple Melissa and Doug costumes for them. I bought a Police Officer Costume for Wyatt, and Oscar was styling in a Train Engineer Costume. They are in the playroom now for daily play.

The one homemade thing we did, though, was mostly Oliver's handiwork. Since Oscar wanted to be a "passenger", Oliver built him a train out of cardboard and our wagon. He decorated it with construction paper as paint is not easy to come by here. I think it came out fantastic, and by the attention we got walking around with it, I think others did, too. We had to pose for a few pictures along the way.

train


All in all, a really fun holiday for us this year. The boys came home with full pumpkins, and now we have to deal with sugar overload, eek. We buy candy very rarely, so this is the most they will see all year.

Oh, one last note about the candy: Last year, we got ours in the States because we had an opportunity to do so before Halloween. This year, we stayed put all month, so we were forced to pick up a couple bags in the store. There were about eight different candy bags to pick from, and I found it funny how many times I recognized the kind of candy we had bought in our boys' buckets. It was clear who had bought stuff in the States and who hadn't. Not something I would have ever figured out before moving here.

Also, I don't think I will ever get used to sweating while trick or treating. It's kind of weird.

Doctor, Doctor


This morning, I had to take a trip to the dispensary. I also had to bring along both Wyatt and Oscar. We've had a ton of rain the last few weeks, and it seems to have brought some nasty allergic reactions in the boys from something that's growing out there. Or maybe mold in the trailer, as the doc said all of them have issues with it. We have been lucky so far, and that was by far the most wet weather we've had in the year we've lived here, so hopefully this will just run it's course and we won't see any more problems.

As for me, though, I had a bit of a run in with what I believe is poison wood. I'm not positive how, but am guessing we had a sapling or something growing amongst the weeds I pulled this last week. It started on my hands and one arm, but has traveled over my chest, to the other arm, and up my neck. I woke up with one eyelid swolled this weeken, which is what finally told me I needed to go get something to counteract it. Hence the trip to the doctor, with the little boys because they've been complaining of various things that I figured needed to be looked at, too.

I'm now hyped up on streroids and trying desperately not to scratch. Ugh; poison wood makes poison ivy look like a cake walk. At least, for me. I'm only mildly allergic to poison ivy, and have had only one small case of it despite growing up in an area where it was very common. So, I'm not being patient with this. Just gritting my teeth and wishing it would go away. I haven't been running in a week because it's too painful to wear a sports bra. And I am a girl who needs a sports bra.

Ah, well, this is one of the drawbacks of living in a tropical environment. On the plus side, we can see a doctor with about a five minute wait. Plus get our meds before we leave fifteen minutes later (although this trip took just a bit longer because he was seeing all three of us). I very much hope we don't have an issue that requires us to go to the States (we can only get emergent and very basic care here) because then we'll have to go to the VA. Yikes, not my idea of a fun time, especially with kids. I'm actually planning on not getting anymore shots for Oscar until we return to the States. He will get them, and not all at once when we get back as I'm sure they'll try to tell us, but I don't want to take him to the VA.

(All you people that think government healthcare is the answer to our problems, take a look at the VA. Sure, maybe Canada, et al as it in the bag, but our government doesn't know what it's doing at all. Despite the cost, I look forward to having a civilian doctor again some day - or at least an active duty hospital, which we liked in Washington.)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Marching to My Own Beat

Because Halloween falls on a Sunday this year, I keep running across debates on other Mormon blogs about whether or not it's okay to trick or treat. We are absolutely going to go. I don't feel any qualms about it, either. Sure, it's a Sunday, and yes, I understand the need to keep it holy. I also know that there is no to-do or to-don't list out there, despite what people sometimes think.

This all has me thinking about how caught up in the details we all get as Mormons. I  mean, I love my religion, but it seems sometimes that it's about all the little tiny details, not the big picture. The thing is, there's no way to fit everyone into a neat little box and assume all the rules fit beautifully. We're all different, with different backgrounds. There are some important, big picture kinds of issues, and then there are the smaller things we choose that get us there. Unfortunately, sometimes the way we get there is the focus, hence all the discussions about silly things like whether or not to celebrate Halloween.


I don't think, though, that God put us here to be carbon copies of each other. Sometimes, I feel very out of step with the people I associate with. I've felt this way ever since I was young, coming from a very messed up home situation. I've beat myself up over it, tried to conform at times, and at others, just rebelled in a spectacular fashion. I think I've finally come to the realization, however, that I am who I am and it's okay. I'm a little different, and sometimes I don't do things the way the mainstream does, but I love my God, and I love my religion, and I appreciate greatly that what is right for me is right for me. And it's totally okay that someone else has a different path. What matters is that we all get there.



*Okay, so I got right to it. I guess I just needed a post to break the water.

Okay, It's Official

I'm in a blog funk. I keep writing posts in my head, even take pictures to go along with it, but when I sit down, it just seems to be too much work to actually write. There's really not a reason for it; I'm just not into it at the moment.

I mean to get at it again, though. I don't want to lose track of certain things. Like my three year old's propensity to say "snatch" when he means "attach". For some reason, this is utterly adorable to me. Most likely, though, it's something you gotta be there for.

More to come....at some point.

Monday, October 25, 2010

About the Private Issue

So, I think I've made up my mind about the whole going private thing. A while back, I decided that I wanted to have the blog printed at some point into one of those blog books. However, there's a lot of stuff I want to change (like adding our real names), and a lot of posts that just don't need to be added, like giveaway-related posts. So, I started a private blog to redo this blog the way I want. I also figured I could delete entries that I no longer want on this blog because of the nature of them, plus there's no reason to leave years of archives just sitting here in the open.

Kim's comment made me realize that I already have a solution set up, so I'm going to do something similar to what she does. I think I will turn that blog into a family/friends blog, and leave this one open. I'm going to get a little anemic on the photo posting on this one, and will avoid all controversial topics that can possibly cause problems. Politics, however, is always fair game, ha! That is, if Congress ever starts doing something worth talking about...

The private blog will have a lot of repeats, but I'm going to use our real names, more pictures, and details I don't want just hanging all out there but are okay to talk about. Like what Oliver does for work, which I've never written about here, but can tell people about without running afoul of OPSEC.

Anyway, if you know me in real life, send me an email. If you have my real one, send it there, but otherwise send it to anashooshoo at yahoo. And Melissa, I had no idea you were reading! Seriously, was awesome to hear from you. Seeing your comment kind of cinched my decision to not go completely private.

Also, I have a doozy of a story to tell that I really can't write about here, but want to share in some way, so that's where it's going. You, know, just to nudge you all along, haha.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Just Call Me "Ana, Cockroach Killer"

I've always thought myself pretty cool under fire when it came to bugs. I even used to kill spiders for my older brother when we were kids because he was so afraid of them. But then I moved here and had to deal with cockroaches the size of small children. Cockroaches that will get into your house no matter how clean you keep it (so let's put that myth to rest right now, people - not that I am a model of cleanliness or anything, ha).

I am proud to announce that I finally managed to kill a cockroach tonight without screaming and trying to get Oliver to do it for me. I was doing laundry, trying to figure out what was giving out that musty smell in the laundry bag (someone dropped a wet towel in the middle of it, apparently), when I came across a huge black sucker wiggling its nasty antenna at me.

I stared back at it for awhile, trying to determine what I was going to do, then made up my mind when it made a break for it down the side of the bag. I ran for a shoe, then plastered it to our floor when it was trying to cross a doorway in the hallway. I had to scrape it up with some cardboard, though - I couldn't bear to feel it underneath some tissue. Yuck, yuck, yuck!!!

The things you learn to do when you live in the tropics...

Friday, October 22, 2010

So, I've been going back and forth about whether or not to go private. On the one hand, I don't want to because this blog has been an opportunity to connect with people, some I knew in real life and some I've never met but would love to.  I don't do Facebook anymore because I was hacked and decided I was exceptionally uncomfortable with having to use my real name on there, plus all the privacy issues there have been with it in general.

I also like to hear what people have to say. But, ever since I took it out of search engines, the blog has been pretty quiet. That is fine, but since I already feel like I'm talking to myself, it is easier to consider the private option. I haven't had anything particularly bad happen, but I do feel like I'm censoring myself hard-core, yet still not always well enough. 

We've had something happen recently that made me aware that I really don't know who is reading, and there are enough people without the ability to actually grow some and confront you directly that it can cause problems in unexpected places. Couple this with living in a much too small place with all the social problems that can occur because of that, and a job that can be pretty touchy as it is, and I am strongly leaning toward just turning it off for awhile. If enough of the people I know in real life, plus the (very) few I've met online that I am comfortable with care, maybe I'll add readers. I dunno. Must think on this...

Saturday, October 16, 2010

My Navy Peeps

We went to the Navy Ball tonight. Some friends took our kids, we got all dressed up, and then spent the night with a bunch of Navy people. The food was fantastic (there were even strawberries and asparagus!), the live band they flew in from the States was good, and we danced, and stayed later than we thought we would. It was awesome.

I have really missed being around Navy people. The jokes, the sarcasm, the lingo that bonds us together. I really don't get around it much these days. I'm so glad we were able to go! Even though we live on a base, it's comprised of about 90% civilians. The Navy are really only here to guard the base and handle the top secret aspects of it's operation. There are also a few YNs (paperwork people), a corpsman, and the base command team. That's about it. Not too many are married or even brought their families here. There isn't a single Navy family that has kids our kids' ages.

Don't get me wrong; there are plenty of people around. We've found friends for our kids, and have met a few ourselves, but none of them are Navy. There's nothing wrong with that, and it's working out fine, but there is definitely something to the military lifestyle, and the Navy in particular, that is awesome. It's like belonging to a club that outsiders can't fathom no matter how hard you try to explain it. Some things you just have to live.

P.S. You know all that stuff they say about a man in uniform? Well, it's all true. Especially when you're lucky enough to be married to one. Wow, he looked hot tonight! It was like we were dating all over again. With the added bonus of being hitched. Hooah!


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I know this is an awful picture, but I didn't want to wait until morning to take one in better light. They had a contest to design the commemorative wine glass they give everyone, and Oliver entered this design. He got a free ticket out of it, which saved us 40 bucks, and many slaps on the back. 
I love his drawings. They were always the best part of getting letters when he was out on patrol.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Leaky Exhaust Fan, and an Eternal Download

We woke up this morning to a puddle of water on our stove top. It had rained last night, and apparently a leak that had been repaired before we moved in, had opened up again. We cleaned it up, had breakfast, and Oliver and Wyatt left. A few hours later, it rained again. And there was another flood.

This time, I was so annoyed I called Oliver at work to make sure he remembered to put in a work order about it. When I hung up, I didn't really feel any better about it, though. He's put work orders in for lots of stuff, but they only ever show up to take care of half of it. I've recaulked a window and repaired a few other things on my own, but a leaky exhaust fan is a little outside my skill level. Also, when they do show up, the repairs are often not that well done, like the window I ended up recaulking as it had clearly been incorrectly installed in the first place. (Okay, what it actually is is a pane of Plexiglas, not real glass, which baffles me just a bit - we do have glass windows here...) I'm going to take back my complaining about the military housing we lived in in Washington. While it was no finely run business and was not worth what we paid for it, it was amazingly efficient compared to living here.

After that frustration, I turned to our computer, where we are trying to download a 4.76 gig file we need and can get no other way. Our download rate averages about 64-96 kbt a second. Yeah, do the math on that one... Basically, we started it last night, it went for a few hours, then we restarted it this morning (because our computers, despite our best efforts, still go into hibernation despite being set not to do so, sigh). I'm sitting at just over 4 gig right now, and hopefully will be done in two more hours. Hopefully.

Because the other problem is that someone on our street does not know how to configure their repeater correctly. For some crazy reason, they gave it the same name as the wifi signal we have to connect to. Because signals fluctuate, this means that sometimes our repeater will drop the real signal and pick up theirs because it can't tell the difference - it just goes for the strongest one. Because their repeater is also not configured to let us connect through it, we just lose internet. That necessitates resetting our repeater. Sometimes, we can get through most of the day without doing this. Sometimes, it happens constantly through the day, especially when the weather is bad. So, not only do I have to leave this download running and keep the computer from hibernating on me, I have to babysit our internet connection.

Ugh. Not a great day. On the plus side, the garden is looking fantastic so far this year. Our summer is kind like winter in the States. It's really too hot to grow much. Between that and our move that killed off some of my best plants, I gave up and just made dirt. But, I've got some plants going now, and have high hopes for them. I'll get around to posting some pics; I just keep thinking about it when it's raining, which it has done a lot of the last few weeks.

Now, I must go eat some cake. We had tons of leftover frosting from Oscar's birthday cake, so I just had to make another one to use it up. Today was a perfect day to do that!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Guess Who Finally Learned to Ride His Trike?

Our brand new three year old, that's who!

Not only that, but he went from barely peddling to going nearly a half mile with only the occasional push when he slowed down too much. I'm very thrilled; it wasn't much fun trying to push him around on this sucker. I totally get why people buy those dorky looking trikes with the handle on the back. Clearly, looks are not everything!

I love, love how empty the streets are here. I was able to let Oscar tool down the middle of the road pretty much the entire time he was riding. Every so often we'd have to move over for a golf cart or slow-moving car, but it wasn't often. I did keep him off the road that leads right off-base; it's the busiest one, and the only one that actually looks like it's made for cars not pedestrians. That one has a really wide sidewalk, so it worked out okay for him.

Also, just thought I'd throw up the Lightning McQueen cake Oliver and I came together on. We are pretty proud of it. He did the carving, I did most of the decorating (due to him getting called into work), and Oscar absolutely loved it.

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It did look a little freaky after we cut into it:

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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Me and the Kitchen

Today, the kitchen and I got along very well. I walked in there at about 1000, and didn't really leave, well, until about an hour ago. I made birthday cake, frosting (yep, we do that stuff from scratch around here; I can't remember the last time I bought a cake mix - the school is collecting box tops and when I asked where to find them, I learned they are pretty much only on things we don't eat; guess we won't be of much help on that front...), a custard base for the ice cream we'll be doing tomorrow, and bottled four jars of pickles. I also managed to work up a dinner in there, although that almost didn't happen. It was only the thought of how gross the chow hall food is that saved me.

It's the pickles I'm most proud of. Even thought I won't be able to find out if they taste good or not until Saturday. It really wasn't too hard, actually. Just cut up some cukes (I didn't have any that were the right size to do whole), salt them, let them sit for a couple hours, rinse and dry. Then boil a vinegar/water/pickling spices/salt combo, cool for a bit, pour over the cukes, let sit until cool, then pack it into jars. Put them in the fridge and you're done!

I realize as I finished typing that out that it might seem like a lot of steps, but it really wasn't. Mark Bittman's cookbook had the recipe I used (have I told you lately how much I owe my cooking to that man? Oh, and he's a runner, too! Totally has a column on Runner's World. Yeah, I'm completely hooked now.). Here's a couple pics of the process:

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The cukes hanging out in the brine.

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The finished product right before they went in the refrigerator!  If you're wondering, yes, every one of those jars are recycled. The nicest thing about pickles is that you don't really need canning jars for it since they are just going in the fridge. You could can them, but I have zero experience with it, and no equipment. Shipping canning jars over here is so not in the budget, ha!

Next up: making freezer jam with frozen fruit. Yes, I realize this isn't the most economical way of doing this, but we can't buy anything here without high fructose corn syrup in it. I have bought it from someone here, but it's pretty expensive; about 6 bucks for a half pint. Even using frozen fruit is going to be cheaper than that.

I am hoping to get some mangos and try my  hand at those, but they aren't quite in season yet. I'll have to keep my eye out for any other fruit that might work when we make our weekly trip to the produce guy at the front gate. He had bread fruit last week, but I wasn't feeling daring. And, really, I had no idea what you would use that for... I'll have to do some research and maybe give it a try this week.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

MMB Post and the Weather

I was clicking around today and was surprised to see my post up on MMB. I haven't been keeping track of the schedule, so it was a pleasant surprise.

In other news, we are in the middle of the worst weather we've seen here. This makes what we saw from Tropical Nicole look pretty tame. Yet, it's not a system being watched as anything, so that's kind of interesting. I keep clicking over to Weather.com to see if there is anything, but nothing.

It's actually been kind of rainy/gloomy the last few days. If it weren't for the warmth, I would think I'd morphed back to Washington, ha. The good news a bit of gloom is good for the soul now and then when you live in high heat.

It started to rain in earnest about the time we put the boys to bed. Then, about a half hour later, we started seeing thunder and lightning. It's been at it ever since. Some of the thunder actually shook the house. It kind of startled me, and I was glad the boys were sleeping. Since moving here, where thunderstorms are pretty frequent, they've developed a fright for them. I don't really know why, but I guess we'll just have to wait until they outgrow it.

Now I think I need to bring in my tomato starts...they have been faring okay with the heavy rain over the last few days, but this is a little crazy.

Monday, October 4, 2010

A Week of Random Thoughts

I've got nothing in the picture department because I'm on the laptop and for some crazy reason it doesn't have a card reader in it. Something I should have checked into before ordering it... I'm too lazy to find the cord to my camera or the flash drive to transfer some pics over here.

Tropical Storm Nicole side-swiped us this week. We had a day with some crazy high winds. On my way to the gym that evening, I was constantly dealing with sand being whipped around by it. It was no fun when it got in my eyes. That night, it rained like crazy (which is saying something, considering the intense rainstorms we see here), and I spent the next morning's run dodging puddles in the unpaved perimeter road.

Today, it's raining again. It's actually been gloomy the past few days, and today rained nearly all day. I found myself driving what is normally a two minute walk to the dentist, then driving across the street to buy some cheese for dinner (it's pizza night) and visit the post office. I also drove the block to Wyatt's school to pick him up. I felt a little silly about it, but I really didn't feel like getting soaked.

In truth, we walk more than a lot of people here. Golf carts are pretty easy to jump in and go, and I have been surprised at how many people will use them to drive to the next street or an equally short distance. Oliver takes the car to work because it's easily a 15-20 min walk for him, but I don't use it much. I've actually had some trouble with the road orientation because of that. I did most of the driving the last time we were in the States, and found myself constantly having to think about which side to drive on when pulling out or making a turn today.

Oh, yeah, we realized today that Oscar's birthday is just around the corner. I don't know how that one got away from us. My baby is turning three. Although, he insists he's going to remain two. I guess he likes that number. Silly kiddo. Even the idea of presents isn't convincing him that turning three is really a good thing.

I did notice some softening on the issue this evening when I asked him what kind of ice cream he wanted. Because we're making it for him this year! He got excited and asked for vanilla. With a strawberry on top. That might be a tough order to fill. We're going to have to take a trip off base to see if we can find some over-priced strawberries. I'm willing to do that for my little guy's big day. I'm still not sure what we're going to do about the cake, though...

Finally, tomorrow, I'm going to make pickles for the first time ever. I've saved up some random jars, bought a bag full of cucumbers from the produce guy (only five bucks for about 15 good sized cukes - yay for island-grown produce!), and just got my order of pickling spice in the mail today. Here's hoping it turns out all right. It would really be nice to stop paying three bucks a jar for pickles.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Lizards Have Come to Call

We live on a tropical island, so we are pretty intimate with the bug life here. As in, they sometimes invade our home. Like this morning when I was making bread. I ran my fingers down the cabinet door as I pulled out the honey and felt something weird. When I rolled what I thought was a piece of food or something similar off the edge of the door, I jumped when I realized it was actually this nasty gray cockroach-looking bug the size of my thumbnail. That sucker didn't have long to live as I pounded the daylights out of it. It took me awhile to get the feel of it off my fingers...

Because of all the bugs around, it's nice to see so many little lizards everywhere. (I'm guessing they are geckos or something similar, but I'm really not sure.) Sometimes, they even visit the house to hunt our buggy guests. Granted, I'd prefer they not end up dying inside somewhere, but I don't mind these guys too much. Here's one we found in the living room crawling through the magazine rack a few weeks ago:

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I'd like to say something like, "I swear we keep the house cleaner than this dusty, hair strewn magazine rack", but I'd be lying.

Anyway, I did manage to chase this one back outside. There has been one or two we couldn't snag before they vanished, but since I have yet to find them again, I'm just going to assume they managed to crawl back outside.

The only time these guys made me jump was when we still lived in our first trailer. I had chased one up the wall, where it sat on the edge of our wedding picture are dared me to do something about it. I grabbed something to catch him in, then tapped the picture frame ever so slightly. Instead of running again, it leapt from the frame right onto the bridge of my nose. I yelped in surprise, but before I had a chance to do anything about it, it jumped back to the floor and against the wall. I then managed to herd it back outside.

Finally, there was this guy, who remained safely outside, yet thought our house might make a great jungle gym:

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This is our kitchen window. I tried to get a picture that would show off his bright green color, one of the brightest lizards I've seen here yet, but I definitely don't have the camera for that. Also, the window is intensely dirty (unfortunately, it's the outside of the glass that is so foggy; it's too high for us to clean ourselves), so that made it even more impossible.

On an unrelated note, notice the fabulous caulking job on that window?  That sums up rather nicely the workmanship of most of the trailer repairs we've come across. Like the hole in the bathtub repaired with duct tape...

Monday, September 27, 2010

Water Outage (or not)

So, about that water outage...it didn't happen all weekend. I was a little aggravated, thinking they were just going to turn it off without warning. On the plus side, the dishes were actually kept up the last couple of days, but ever shower felt like the last one for awhile.

When Oliver went back to work today, there was no email about it in his inbox. We thought it was odd, but brushed it aside and went on our merry way. I went for a run as usual during lunch, wondering once again whether or not I'd be able to shower when I returned. The water was still on when he and Wyatt went back to school and work.

When he came home late this afternoon, he told me he'd finally received another email about it. This one stated that the water was now safe to drink, so we no longer had to boil it. I looked at him for a minute, and then at the glass of water I had in front of me. For a moment, I thought we'd been drinking dirty water all weekend, but then I realized we most likely are not actually part of the water line they were fixing. We live in the oldest section of trailers, and while our street was supposedly affected, it's possible it was only the other side of the street.

Either that, or the outage was no longer than a half hour, and we're all going to be ill soon...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Making Ice Cream

We have no water right now. There is a major repair needed, so they had told us the water would be shut off on Saturday. I guess a lot of people complained about it happening on the weekend, so they sent out word this morning that it would happen today, instead. Oliver called me at about 10:30 to tell me it was going off at noon, so I had to madly rush around doing dishes, laundry, and anything else water-related I could think about (including taking a shower).

I'm kind of bummed because I was supposed to run today. Yesterday was weight training, so this means two days without a run. Well, I guess I could still go, but that means an evening with my sweaty, stinky self. Nope, I'm not that dedicated to running!

Anyway, while in the midst of all this water frenzy, I filled a basin of wash water so we could wash off the ice cream maker when we were done. I bought one (with a little shipping assistance from my brother) with a credit I won from a store that won't ship here, and it arrived a couple days ago. I'd promised Wyatt we'd make our first batch today, and I didn't want to reneg on that. I had mixed up the chocolate base the night before, and when he came home for lunch we dumped it into the maker and turned it on.

The boys were very intrigued about this process. They sat there watching it the whole time.

The maker worked faster than I was expecting, and we had soft serve ice cream in about ten minutes. The boys helped me throw in some walnuts at the last minute, and then we dished it out:

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Voila! Chocolate ice cream, flavored with a little mint and vanilla extract, with walnuts thrown in for good measure! We put the extras in the freezer for later. When mango season happens, I intend to buy some fresh ones and make mango ice cream.

I'm pretty excited about the ability to make ice cream. I've wanted a maker for years, but it has never been particularly high on our priority list. Here, though, it makes a lot of sense to finally buy one. There are no ice cream shops for us to frequent, and the store carries only a few brands. Ben & Jerry's is really the only brand I like (and I'm picky there, too) that they carry. Most of the rest have a lot of junk in it (like the ever-present, ever-yucky, high fructose corn syrup).

The other two problems are cost and the condition of it. It's expensive, like five bucks for a half gallon - or whatever size they come in now. And it often gets soft during transit. I have learned to avoid the misshapen boxes, but we still sometimes end up with ice crystals in our ice cream. Yuck.

Now we can make our own with honey or raw sugar instead of nasty stuff, and it will be frozen properly. I'm doing a happy dance inside right now, lack of water and all.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Oliver came home with an avocado yesterday. Someone brought some into his office for one of the guys that he works with. The guy was in the States, so the rest of them ended up splitting the bag. They'd been grown here on the island and were fresh-picked. I was so excited when I saw him walk in the door with it. (Tip: when the seed is bouncing around inside, the avocado is ripe - I never knew that before.)

I've never seen such a nice looking avocado before. The ones you find in the States are kind of small and don't have the best color. This one was bright green and about as large as Oliver's hand. I tried to get a decent shot of it:

avocado


For dinner tonight, I made guacamole for the first time ever. I am so grateful there was fresh garlic in the store this week! They haven't had any in awhile and it wouldn't have been the same without it. We also had homemade refried black beans and homemade tortillas made with half white, half Spelt flour. Sadly, my swiss chard has been attacked by a caterpillar, and I nearly finished the plant off trying to treat it, so there were no greens to be had. We had some tomatoes, though, so that was okay.

guacamole meal

Spelt is, incidentally, my new favorite grain. I brought some back from the States the last time we were there and am wishing  I could replace all my wheat flour with it. It has a much nicer taste, and results in a softer bread than the white wheat I typically use. I think I'm going to have order a few buckets of it and have them ship it in on the barge.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Coming Home to Internet, and Foody Stuff

We did make it home after all. The flight manifest was mercifully empty the morning after my last post. I would not have minded having to stay in our hotel just a tiny bit longer, though...

The best thing about coming home, though, was the discovery that we have internet in the house again. It's not amazing, but at this point, I will take any speed. I expect us to continue to have problems, but hopefully never as bad as it was right before we took our trip. I did learn a lot about my own internet habits, and have adjusted my behavior. Hopefully, I won't waste so much time doing nothing anymore.

As for our trip, I just had a couple things to say. Well, maybe more than a couple, but we'll see how far I get before I am bored.

We did head to the States with business in mind. The most important thing was to go food shopping. I can make do without a lot of things, and there is nothing I can do about the produce situation as no fresh food can come back with us, but there are still things that I refuse to live without. Like raw brown sugar, which is so much better than the processed stuff I don't know why people still buy it. Or certain spices.

Basically, I go to Whole Foods and go crazy. This time around, I was on a bit of a mission because I'm getting a lot more serious about running. As in, I'm learning what intervals are, how to speed train, and the fact that I'm most likely using the wrong shoes at the moment. I wasn't interested in adjusting our diet because I feel we eat pretty healthy as is, but have realized I need to pay a little more attention to it in order to get myself where I want to be. So, I bought beans. Lots of different kinds. We don't eat a lot of meat now due to price, but now we're going to eat even less. Which is so okay with me, as I was a mostly-vegetarian when I met Oliver and have slowly changed my eating habits over the years. I'm glad I have a reason he can't ignore as to why we need to eat less meat!

Here's my first new dish, a mix of Flageolet beans, onions, and fresh mushrooms, sauteed in butter with cumin and coriander (hello, where has coriander been hiding my whole life? awesome stuff!!):

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I know, I know, it looks like garbage. Oliver took one look at it and told me he hoped I'd used a recipe to make it. He always says this when I make something he doesn't like the look of. I'm a bit of a free-spirit in the kitchen, so it's not completely without merit...

Anyway, it turns out, everyone liked it. Including both boys, which was a bit of a shocker. I have a tough crowd to please. They are all over the map with food, and rarely agree. Between Wyatt's love of Brussels sprouts, Oscar's willingness to eat fish, and Oliver's dislike of beans, they are a tough crowd to feed. This dish is going to be returning. That is, if I can get fresh mushrooms and onions at the same time again.

Not pictured is our adventure with quinoa, which I cooked up and served with a stir fry the next day. It has a very distracting crunch to it, but it's pretty mild in flavor. Oliver was okay with it, which made me glad because he hates, hates brown rice. Quinoa is a good substitute.

And here's the part where I get bored and sign out. Maybe I'll finish tomorrow, maybe not. I'm not so good at keeping blog promises...

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

P.S. Nope, I'm not home yet. Both flights were packed today. Oliver might have barely squeaked onto the afternoon flight, but when he called his Lt., he nicely allowed him to stay here with the boys and I instead of going back. He wouldn't have been there in time for working hours, anyway. I so appreciate that because we are all tired and ready for home. Taking care of the boys, juggling rental cars and last minute hotel nights, plus all the luggage, on my own was not making me happy.


On the plus side, we managed to get a fabulous hotel room tonight. Oliver used Priceline and we snagged a downtown hotel with an actual sitting room and HDTV. All for the same price as the much older hotel near the airport with the very musty room we stayed in last night. We're totally going to be trying that again next time we come here.

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

My grandmother died of breast cancer a few years ago. Every time I see a pink ribbon, I am cheered because I know someone, somewhere cares about what happened to her. I think, though, that other cancers deserve to be remembered as clearly. Especially the cancers that strike our most vulnerable: our children.

Mrs. Staff Sergeant has a son who recently attained a remission status, yet is going to face increased health risks the rest of his life due to the cancer treatments he had when he was about Oscar's age. I really did not know until reading her blog that this was a reality for kids who went through cancer at such a young age. Survival for them sometimes means more problems later.

Obviously, there is always the question of what to do now that you know. I am not entirely sure I have the answers myself, but I wanted to link Keri's blog so you can go back and read it this month. She is going to post stories from families who have faced this demon. I think at the very least, we all need to understand more about what has befallen so many others around us.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Enforced Vacation

So, we left for the States on Sunday to do some shopping and remember what life in civilization is like. We were supposed to fly back today. The fact that I'm posting right now should give you a clue that we're still here. And I have no idea when the flights will get slow enough to get us on.

To give you an idea: today, Oliver was number 19 on the list. There are 19 seats on the plane. The rest of us were somewhere around 22-24. I was resigned to being left behind with the kids, but hoping he'd be bumped, too. He's flying on a special liberty pass, not leave, so he kind of has to go back as soon as possible. It's not a big deal if he gets bumped or anything, but he can't ask to be bumped to wait to go with us.

Well, as it turned out, I got my wish. They told him he could get on if he was willing to go without luggage. Um, not happening. Leaving me with two kids plus all the luggage would have been a nightmare. So, they took someone further down who weighed a lot less. She was able to take her suitcase because combined they were under the weight limit. (In case you are confused, basically they weigh both passengers and luggage as they check in. If you fly frequently, like us, they have our weights in the system and reweigh every so often. There is a limit to the weight the plane can carry. It's small, so it's pretty important.)

Tomorrow morning, Oliver is going to go in again because he has to, but he's number 22. It looks somewhat more promising for the afternoon flight, so we are crossing our fingers for that one. At the very least, hopefully Oliver and Wyatt can fly. Then Oscar and I will hang out here another night and try again the next day.

We have made the most of our time, though, eating out at fancy places, going to an awesome splashpark, bowling, and spending way too much money on stuff. I was going to upload a pic or two, but now I need to go buy cough syrup. Oliver has got a very nasty cough, and I think it's going to require intervention. He doesn't like to take meds, so clearly it is not good if he's okay with me getting something.

Laters, people. Enjoy your beds tonight, haha!