Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Dishwasher Experiment

I thought I'd come back and update on this. When the cycle finished, I took a look at the dishes and was surprised to find them looking great. No grease, and the only real issues I had were with a pot that still had some crusty stuff stuck to it. There also wasn't any white powder or any of that residue you sometimes get. I don't think this method would work too well if you don't prerinse (which we always do, anyway, because of the lousy dishwasher we always find in housing), or if you have pots and pans that are very messy, but for normal, everyday stuff, it works great.

Basically, what I did was put about a tablespoon of baking soda and a teaspoon or so of lemon juice in the cup. It foamed up a bit, so I was worried that would mess things up, but I snapped it shut and turned the thing on. Next time I might use a little vinegar for a rinse aid, but it didn't even really need it this time around.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Double Take

We ate dinner in the mess hall tonight. When you eat there, you're allowed to take a piece of fruit with you on the way out. We always pick bananas if they have them because even if they aren't the best specimens, we can bake with them or freeze them for smoothies. They did have them tonight, so we grabbed some and walked out. I happened to take a look at one of the stickers when we got in the car and did a double take: they read, "organic". I think that is the first time I've seen that label since moving here. Everything organic I use, like sugar, we've brought here ourselves or had shipped in. Nice surprise.

In other news, we ran out of dishwasher soap this week. The store has been out of tabs for awhile, and I hate using gels, so I finally ordered some online. I was hoping it would come by now, but it hasn't, so we are handwashing this weekend. Tonight, I did some searching and came up with this recipe for dishwasher soap. She said she's tried it without borax, which I can't buy here, so I substituted some lemon juice for the citric acid and loaded the dishwasher. I figure if it doesn't work, I'm just back to washing them by hand. If it does, though, I've found a good way to make do if we run out like this again.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Irony Is...

I finally decided to get around to putting together the water storage containers I bought a few months back. They are basically heavy duty boxes with a water bag and spout that fits inside. Each one holds five gallons, and we have five of them. That's pretty much all I think I can find space for around here.

After I got done filling them, Oliver came home from work and told me one of the pumps was out at the water plant. They won't be getting parts until sometime next week, so they are operating at 50% capacity and would appreciate it if we would all  be mindful of our water usage.

Then, after dinner, someone knocked on our door to let him know there was a construction accident that resulted in a leaking pipe. Bad timing for that. He's standing CDO today, so he had to go down there and check it out.

I'm feeling grateful for our stored water right now. Clearly, I have no desire to have to use it, but it's quite obvious that there are many things that can make you hurting for water, not just something big like a hurricane. Here's hoping I learn my lesson and get on this again after we move. I wouldn't say emergency preparedness is my strong suit.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Random Stuff

My goal this afternoon was to iron all the patches for Oliver's NWUs today, but I couldn't find the name tapes. They had come separately from everything else, and apparently we were a little careless when we brought them home because they are nowhere to be found. With our luck, we accidentally threw them away. This wouldn't be the first time something like that happened.

So, I ordered a couple more, then realized later that I'd only ordered two when I needed four. The utilities only need one name tape on the pants, but the NWU uses one on the shirt, too. So, now I'm hoping the missing two show up so I'll have the four I need. If not, at least I have enough for one set, and I'll just have to go back to the website and order another pair. Good thing the NEX does not charge shipping.

In other news, I think the IT department here is going a little ban-happy. We already deal with the problem of having a foreign IP address, something we expected. We can't watch TV shows and things anymore because of licensing issues. That's a pain, but not a huge deal because we don't care much about TV anyway. I could still stream music and do most of the other things we used to do on the web.

Lately, though, it seems every time we get online to do something, we find another non-functional or blocked website. We've started making jokes about how bored they must be in that office to be blocking so many innocuous sites out of the blue. Boredom being a major factor here, which probably accounts for all the drinking we see, I wouldn't be surprised to find out we were right.

One reason to look forward to moving back to the States: an internet connection whose content we control.

Monday, February 22, 2010

What To Call This Life of Ours


I was reading another blog written by a Navy wife today. She talked about a recent underway and the challenge of it. I was suddenly struck by a very odd feeling. We are technically in the Navy, but other than seeing the uniform Oliver puts on every day, we have almost nothing to do with typical Navy life. A weird sense of nostalgia hit me, and I'm completely surprised that something akin to longing accompanied my memories of our deployments.

Don't get me wrong; I'm not anxious for him to show up with word of another one. However, it does feel like we've fallen into this weird netherworld of not quite being either military or civilian. Our life here is very civilian. Oliver works a very standard five day work week. He has holidays and the occasional afternoon off, and duty days are only about every two weeks. When he does have duty, he is the duty officer for the day, and carries a radio around. He can come home and, barring any odd events around here, our day is pretty much the same as if he weren't on duty. When testing is going on, he can end up in shift work, but that's not bad, either. Seven days a week, but the hours are decent. Nothing like the 12 on/ 12 off days we endured in the shipyard. Most of the people here on base are civilians, too. The military contingent is a very small percentage of the people working here. So, we spend most of our time talking to people who live the same life here, yet haven't the background we do.

This base is not technically a base at all. We're kind of an outpost, which is why we don't have a NEX or anything else you would typically find on a Navy base. Recreation isn't funded by the Navy, either, which is why we have no library (although we do have a room full of random books you can borrow or add to right off the gym). The post office is staffed by Navy postal clerks, though, which surprised me since so much else is done by civilians.

I'm going to be doing a lot of uniform sewing the next few weeks, and it's kind of a welcome reminder that we are Navy, after all. There are many things, like a murderous schedule, that I don't miss from our sea tour. I'm grateful, though, to be reminded that there are good things, too. I think I got so bogged down with what wasn't going well that it was easy to forget the good things. It's weird to think we might never deal with a deployment again. If Oliver decides to say good-bye to this life when we're done here, that will be exactly what happens. In truth, I'm not sure anymore which side of the fence I lean on. I don't want to forget what was awful about our time in Washington, but it's very easy to do that when it isn't staring you in the face anymore. (Although, if the only orders available are to there, I will so not be happy!)

I think I'm no longer sure what I'm trying to say. Life here is so different. When I wanted to go overseas, I had this dream of travel and seeing the sites. Quite frankly, the next three years aren't going to be full of visiting fun, new spots. They are going to be years of learning something of what it is to go without. We live in a country that is very, very poor. While we have many more comforts than so many do here, I appreciate the opportunity to learn what it is to not have anything you want at your fingertips. It's enlightening, and not something I could ever have learned any other way. The most exciting thing that happened today was the green pepper Oliver found at the store today. I haven't seen one since I wrote the post about the rice and beans dish I'd tried a couple weeks ago. As you can see from the pic, it wasn't the greatest looking specimen, but it was a very nice thing to enjoy. Who knows when we will see another one.

This wasn't exactly the experience I was looking for when we picked this duty station, but it somehow feels right. I haven't let go of my traveling dreams, but sometimes the best things come from the things you get, not the things you long to have.

Rain, Rain...

It's pretty rainy today. I'm not really upset, however. In four months, this is the first day of rain we've seen. Most of the time, it rains at night, or sweeps through with a very brief, heavy shower that sounds like rocks hitting our metal roof. I've been woken up more than once in the middle of night to one of those. Luckily, our boys seem impervious to the noise.

There's something to be said about a rainy day. I got very tired of them in Washington, but on days when you are just looking for an excuse to not have to go out, they are fantastic (if you don't actually have to go out, that is!). So much of our life here is about what we want to do, not what we have to do, so a rainy day is perfect.Oscar wanted to go outside in it, so I brought him out and let him run in the puddles.

Our road has a divet that runs down the entire length of it, so it makes this really long puddle that the boys love running through. I can feel safe allowing this because traffic consists of a couple of golf carts and the occasional security vehicle making a round. Our section of housing consists of all dead end streets, and ours is the last in the row, so that makes it even quieter.

I appreciate that while we have some cold days, I was able to bring Oscar outside in shorts and sandals this morning. We did get some rain fun in while we lived in Washington, but too many of the days required some serious bundling up. That kind of put a damper on things when the goal was to splash in water, resulting in wet clothing. It's February, but feels like fall around here. Sometimes we wear jackets, but most days, including today, we don't. It's going to be something to get used to when we return to the States!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Homeschooling, What a Decision

I have been thinking a lot about homeschooling lately. All of this time spent with Wyatt teaching him to read has inspired most of it. I'm shocked to discover that a: I have far more patience than I ever thought I did. b: I really enjoy working with him. and c: I think I may actually have the skills to teach him effectively.

I never thought I would be warm to the idea of homeschooling. I was homeschooled, and it wasn't pretty. If you think of all the things that give homeschooling a bad rep, they were what my schooling looked like. I think the only reason I went to college at 18 and graduated with honors is that I am intensely curious and wanted to learn on my own. I did, however, mourn for a long time the things I missed out on by not attending, like doing sports.

I see so much of myself in Wyatt, though, and I know exactly how to reach him most of the time. I was on the teacher-track in college, so I have a lot of teacher training to draw on. I also have not lost my desire to learn, so when he wants to know something, I often find I want to know it, too.

I don't know where this is all heading, though. Our plan is to put him in school this August. The school here is tiny, and I feel comfortable they will address him where he is at, not what his grade level is. Returning to the States, though, is another thing. If we could afford it, we'd be putting him into a Montessori program, but I doubt that will be in our reach, especially since we will have another child needing to go to school at the same time. Public school, though, gives me a big shudder. I've heard far too many stories of people's kids getting lost or having unaddressed problems. With Wyatt, I worry he will be bored after doing school here.

Luckily, this is an evolving issue and doesn't have to be decided right now. I know a lot depends on where we go after here, and what is available to us there. I am going to be sad when he enters school, though. I hate to break up our threesome. That is maybe the hardest thing about sending the kids off to school. I know the day that happens, something we have now ends forever. I'm really glad I have been able to stay home with them. These years have been incredible.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Well, apparently putting compost on top of the soil will help your plants after all. I used some of our basil while making breakfast on Sunday and it was noticeably stronger than the last few times I've harvested it. It was only two days after I used the Bokashi mix, so I was doubly surprised that it took such little time to see a difference. I am curious how the plant is making use of it; maybe some of the nutrients are washing down into the older soil? Curious...

I'm actually in the middle of making another batch of the Bokashi. The first batch has lasted over a month, and there is enough for at least another month still to go. It takes about 6 weeks for it to be ready to use, however, so I'm trying to get a jump start on it.

The worst part of gardening is waiting. Most of my stuff is growing outside the window that sits next to our kitchen table. I often end up sitting there after a meal checking the progress of the plants and willing them to grow faster. I'm so tired of never finding green peppers in the store!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Yay, A New Train Hat!!

That was Oscar's reaction when I opened up the box we got in the mail today. He's quite excited to have a new toy. Although, he'll only get to play with it when Daddy's home. Because the rest of the time, he'll be wearing it to work!

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I'm rather excited to get to work sewing on these patches so he can wear the cammies. He actually looks military in them, unlike the gas station attendant uniform he's been wearing. Oliver said it was ridiculously hot, however. Summer may be the pits here wearing this. Needless to say, we didn't bother ordering the GoreTex jacket (which is also the most expensive piece so I'm not sad we could skip it). Good thing he works in an air conditioned office.

The Bokashi Experiment Revisited

This morning, I went out and took a good hard look at my compost. It was deemed usable after having sat for two weeks outside in a bin with some garden soil. (Ok, I actually used a garbage can we didn't need for lack of a better receptacle.) Apparently, it is too acidic when you first take it out of the bucket after fermentation, so you have to let it sit.  Plus, it's basically a pile of food scraps; not much dirt there. You're actually supposed to bury it, but I am going to use it in a container garden, so I used the garbage can with a couple layers of dirt to introduce the microbes and bugs that it needs to break it down the rest of the way.

When I poked around in it, it was a little on the stinky side, and there were still big chunks in there, but I could tell it was breaking down into some nice dirt. I also found several worms in there, which was encouraging. I had dug up a few and dropped them in to help with the rotting process, but wasn't sure they would survive.  Next time, I think I will make the drainage holes in the bottom of the can bigger and bury the bottom of it in the dirt. Then, the worms can come up and give me a hand without me having to dig for them. If you saw the condition of our yard, you would understand why this is a pain. Also, the worms here are microscopic, not big fat ones like I am used to. I did have some help in the form of Wyatt, who thought digging for worms was great fun, so that was nice.

Because I was using the container instead of the ground, I should have let my compost stew a few more weeks, but I have plants that desperately need to be planted in something other than potting soil. I mixed some of it into one of the containers I have, along with a little sphagnum moss for conditioning, and replanted one of the jalapeno plants that seems to have stalled out in growth. I added a couple tiny thyme plants that are a little on the sad side, and watered them all. Now, I am waiting to see if this stuff works magic or not.

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I went to edit this pic and realized how overexposed it was. Too much sunlight today. So, yeah, not the greatest, but if you look on the left side, that is the side I mixed the bokashi into the soil. That weird red disk in the bottom of the picture is actually what remains of an onion top. The two tiny green specs are the thyme plants. I need to dig around the other one and fix its soil, too, but I'm curious if there will be an obvious growth difference in the two plants.

This pic below is of my two basil plants. I added some bokashi on top of their soil to see if maybe it would  help even if it wasn't mixed in.
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I'm hoping that improving the soil this way will not only make the plants grow faster and heartier, but improve the taste of what they produce. One thing I have discovered over the past few weeks is that potting soil makes for some very weak vegetables. We're growing lettuce inside, as the bugs just kill it outside, and I'm unimpressed with it. It's pretty tasteless, despite having used good heirloom seed to start it. We've also harvested chives and basil, but the taste of  both is not what I expected.

I'm working on a series about what the Bokashi process is like. Until then, you might take a look at this in order to understand what the science behind this composting method is.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Oscar Wants to Move Out

I have a little problem on my hands. This weekend, I took the boys down the street so they could play with a few of their friends. While they were there, the boy Wyatt's age began bringing out a bunch of their wooden trains to play with. They have a much nicer deck than we do, so there was plenty of space to spread it out without getting it dirty. All five boys hunched over and played very nicely with the trains for quite some time. Wyatt was the first one who walked off and did something else, as he's more of a building sort of kid than a train lover. Oscar, however, was completely in love.

Today, he kept begging me to go back to their house and let him play with Thomas. Unfortunately, both parents work, so I couldn't even call to see if it was okay. By the time Oliver came home for the day, he was very worked up about it. Oliver promised him he would buy something for him if he started being good about prayers.

As Oscar is only two, prayer time is usually goof off time, and we've been unsuccessful at improving his behavior. I didn't really think this promise would help, but it did. He was amazingly good at both our dinner and evening prayers, and even said them himself. I'm now faced with the need to find something on the internet ASAP before he thinks we were lying to him.

Sigh. Oliver wants me to just buy some Thomas related thing, but I know that isn't what he wants. He wants the wooden trains. We decided a long time ago that we were going to do the GeoTrax set, and it worked great for Wyatt. Oscar likes them, too, but he still gravitates toward the few Take-Along Thomas' that we had bought Wyatt before realizing he wasn't into them (I hate that set, and the tracks never stay together, although the trains are nicely made). He fell completely, and totally in love with the wooden set and Thomas is the train set he wants.

The thing is, I don't really want another train set. We are tight on space as it is. I can see dumping some more toys to make room for them, and luckily they don't take us much space put away, but that then leads to the other problem: they are expensive! To get a decent set would cost way more than I want to spend right now. And while we could start small, even that will likely lead to buying more at a later date. I wish we could do Craigslist or something, but that isn't an option here (our friends' down the street are lucky to have family in Florida who arranged their train purchase, so they got a bunch for really cheap). 

So, I'm trolling the internet right now trying to find some kind of solution. I've spent some time on Ebay, but they are mostly about new and over-priced collectibles now. If anyone has a good link to somewhere that might sell me something used (which is absolutely fine, and preferable), I'd love to have it.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Fondue and a Movie


I thought I would show what we had to for dinner tonight in order to prove we don't eat rice and beans every night! We decided to take advantage of the fresh broccoli as well as a few other veggies we happened to have on hand and do a cream cheese fondue. It definitely wasn't Gruyere, sadly, but it was decent.

The other compromise I had to make was bread. Typically, we'd do a crusty artisan bread, but the last minute decision making prevented me from making that. So, I tried my hand at crackers, as the store was closed for the day. The boys pronounced them "delicious", but Oliver thought they were too much like pie crust. I was intrigued by them and thought they were ok, but will definitely be looking for another recipe. On the plus side, they were incredibly easy and very cheap to make; makes me wonder why on earth I've never tried them before. Crackers in the store are rather expensive when you think about what they are made of.

movies and popcorn

After dinner, we made popcorn and let the boys pick out a movie. Here on base, they have three free movies a week. The one on Saturday is always a kids movie (although, they have "This Is It", the Michael Jackson movie, scheduled for later this month; I'm baffled as to who thought that is a kids movie). They sell popcorn for 50 cents, and equally cheap candy. We usually spend about a dollar for treats and go most weeks. The boys really look forward to this.

Tonight, though, there is no movie, so we are doing it ourselves. It's nicer in some ways because Oscar won't sit still for anything that isn't animated. We saw GForce a month or so ago and he lasted about 30min before I had to take him home. Tonight, we can just let him run off steam.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Are My Eyes Decieving Me?! Can That Be....Broccoli?!!

We eat a lot of beans these days now that meat is so expensive and hard to find. As a result of all this bean eating, I've been trying to find a beans and rice recipe that Oliver will not just endure, but love. This is a hard sell. I am realizing now that we eat every meal together just how much our tastebuds differ. I'm the girl who likes simple flavors; pasta with olive oil and a couple seasonings is right up my alley, and I always gravitate toward the plain chips when we buy them. Oliver, however, thinks simple pasta is unappetizing and would rather eat potato chips with fifteen different flavor combinations on them. Add to this the fact that rice and  beans are not at all high on his list of fun foods to eat (two years in Brazil at least gave him the ability to appreciate them on some level), and finding something we can both enjoy can be a real challenge at times.

Last night, I found a new recipe that looked sort of like a chili-inspired beans and rice with some extra veggies thrown in. We had nearly everything for it except the green pepper, which seemed crucial. So, I went to the store yesterday in hopes of finding a green pepper for dinner. There were two left, and both had issues, but I picked the best looking one and hope it would be work out. I was perusing the remaining selections in hopes of finding something new when I spied this fine looking specimen:

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I about did a happy dance right then and there. Fresh broccoli? And it actually looks fresh?! There were three bunches, but I only took the one I knew we could eat before it got soft. Best to leave some for everyone else to fight over.

Grocery shopping here is very much a treasure hunt. You never quite know what you're going to find when you get there. I've gotten in the habit of buying several when I find something I can freeze or is shelf stable because it could be months before it reappears, if it ever does. Plus, there is always the hope that if it sells out fast, the people running the store might decide to carry it more often.

I tend to plan my meals around what I have or know I can get. My trip to the store yesterday just to buy a meal ingredient was actually a rare event; I typically don't even bother falling in love with a recipe before I know that I have things on hand. I've gotten pretty good at substituting and coming up with things on the fly. (Soup is perfect for this, as is shepherd's pie).

I am glad I was able to buy that green pepper, though. The beans and rice were a big hit with all of us. It's also a very adaptable recipe, so I can change it up if I can't get the same vegetables the next time we decide to have it. That's a huge plus these days.

Here's a link to the recipe in case you are intrigued. I would have taken a picture, but it was all gone by the time I thought to do so. I think the liquids are a little off, and it needed salt according to the reviews I read. I just added about a cup of the bean juice from the beans. I cooked them with a little salt, and that seemed about right.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Who Do I Call?

On Monday, I got a phone call in the morning. I picked it up expecting to hear from Oliver as pretty much no one else ever calls here (if you call from outside the system, you often get a busy signal - and it can go on for hours.. I don't think anyone we know has that much stamina). I rely on email to keep up with people off-island, and most people here I just talk to in person because we will inevitably run into each other some where on base.

So, anyway, the phone rang and after wrestling it out of my two year old's hands (who absolutely must be the one to pick it up first), I was shocked to discover it was a guy who handled maintenance for housing. He wanted to know if he could send over a couple carpenters to fix a couple things in the bathroom. Things that we had requested repaired four months ago. After scratching my head over this one, I said sure and they were knocking at my door about five minutes later.

When we moved here, a woman in charge of housing walked us through the house and handled our paperwork. I asked who to call if something happened, thinking it was a pretty straight-forward, easily handled question. Apparently not, as is all too often the case here. She looked at us in confusion for a bit, then told us that since we were Navy, we were taken care of by someone else. And she didn't know who that someone was.

I wasn't sure what to say to that, but I did make sure to ask her if we could get our washer looked at, and a couple wall fixtures in the boys' bathroom repaired. She said she could take care of that, and the next day a nice Bahamian gentlemen came to take apart our slow-agitating washing machine, proclaim it fine (I guess it's just a loser of a machine), and leave. No one ever came to fix the things in the bathroom. Because they weren't life altering, we just let them be, although Oliver did repair the towel rack that kept falling off the wall soon after.

Ironically, that same day Oliver had emailed someone to see if a leaking pipe in the kitchen could be repaired. He had to fill out a form, which he sent back the same way. While the bathroom guys were still in our trailer, another guy knocked on the door to fix the pipe. So, we are now fully repaired, but as baffled as ever. We were warned sometimes things can take awhile when we first got here, but four months seems to be stretching it. We're not exactly living on a huge base. However, the leaking pipe got fixed within hours of notification, so that is a positive sign.

I'm really not sure what to expect in the future. Mostly, I'm hoping I don't have to find out.