Jun 30, 2012

Not So Martha

Wow.  It didn't take long for another kitchen disaster.
Tried to make homemade macaroni and cheese.  Why?  Because I'm cleaning out my pantry and had a box of macaroni noodles.
I found a recipe online that instructed me to "melt 6 tablespoons of butter, add 6 tablespoons of flour and stir for about 5 minutes.  Make sure there are no lumps, then add milk."

No lumps?  All I have is lumps!


Do over.  Got to the no lumps part but now look at my kitchen.  Not pictured is the pasta that fell on the floor and then was squashed when I stepped in it. I'm thinking that tossing the noodles would have been a better idea.


This doesn't look right at all. Maybe I should call it "macaroni quiche"? Taste?  Under-seasoned.  


Back to the box mix for me!

Jun 29, 2012

Not so Martha

New to my blog is going to be a recurring post entitled "Not so Martha".  The posts will offer detailed accounts of my failed attempts at domestic stuff like cooking, cleaning, and DIY crafts.  I hope my lameness is entertaining for you and I do welcome any and all comments attempting to figure out what I did wrong.
Since we are right smack in the middle of a move, I suspect that I won't have many domestic disasters to report in the near future, but stay tuned they are sure to be unleashed when we get settled in Washington.

Cooking: Matt loved this salsa that our friend Christy has brought to a few potlucks recently and he asked me to make it for him. This is Christy's Black Bean Corn Salsa


And this is my Black Bean Corn Mush


Same recipe.  Obviously failed execution on my part. Mushy avocados?  Failure to read recipe?

Cleaning: Another friend clued me in on a great method to clean nasty calcium build up in the shower.  Oven Cleaner.  Sounds good to me.  So I found my "fume free" oven cleaner and took to the shower, while I was at it, I sprayed the oven too.  A few hours later I head back to the shower and oven to finish the job.  Success... until I realized that I have no more finger prints.  Wear gloves when scrubbing stuff down that is soaked in oven cleaner.  It actually mentions this in the instructions.  I thought it was optional.  It isn't.

DIY: Recall my stinky cabinet project?  More recently Mika bought a bunch of old windows and shutters from a farm.  She had a few that she didn't want and asked if I wanted them.  There was one I really liked and I had great plans to clean it up, put decorative paper behind the glass and cork in the spot where the glass was broken. Kind of like this:


What did mine turn out like?  Who knows?  I never did a thing to it, it is still over at Mika's house.  But she sanded it, and painted it for me!


Jun 28, 2012

Liar Liar Pants on Fire!

The cruise ship toilets are very ferocious in their flushing task.  It is best to put the lid down before you flush the toilet to avoid any flushing mishaps.  
Everyone did such a good job of putting the seat and lid down on the ship.  Throughout the whole week on board I only found the lid up and the toilet unflushed once.  This is a big deal for my boys because they are dirty gross boys who don't think leaving all sorts of bodily waste, unflushed, with the seat up on the toilet is a problem.
Last night we were talking about our new house in Washington and I told them a blatant, wild lie.  "Boys, you absolutely have to put the seat and lid down on the toilets in Washington, just like on the cruise ship."  They looked horrified.  "Really?"  
"Yep" I said "you sure do.  Its very dangerous not to".
Matt was sitting next to me and kept his mouth shut, wise choice.
So, I lied to my kids......I hope it works!

Jun 25, 2012

Med Cruise Wrap Up

Our first stop before embarking on our cruise was to Lake Como, Italy.  It was so beautiful!  This gorgeous lake is surrounded by little Italian villages along the shore and steep mountain peeks in the near distance.  It was so lovely I cannot begin to describe it.  I loved it so much, I tried desperately to convince Matt that we needed to stop there on our way back from the cruise as well.  I failed.  He said 'no'.  As soon as we got home I started searching for a hotel down there for a weekend getaway in a few weeks, but alas, it is all booked up or way too pricey and my little Lake Como dreams are crushed...for now.
Most of the drive from Como to Genoa was beautiful.  There was an ugly highway stretch in there but once we were about an hour outside of Genoa we found ourselves in these gorgeous Italian hills that forced me to look left, look right, look left, for the entire journey down into Genoa.  Every turn was filled with lush green hills and small Italian villages.  Love.
Genoa was surprisingly pretty for a port city.  We walked around a bit before boarding the ship.  Once on board we found our room and we were all completely thrilled to have a balcony room for the first time.  We sat out on our balcony to watch the ship depart and sail along the Ligurian coast.  
Our first stop was Barcelona.  We only had 5 hours in port.  Since we have already been to Barcelona and spent a full 4 days there, we were able to take a relaxing approach to the city.  We walked along the Ramblas (main tourist road), witnessed a man get robbed, drank a full litre of Sangria (each..well I didn't finish mine) and then headed up to Park Guell.  A very weird park I must say, but it provided great views of the city and we got to see Gaudi's crazy art up there.
The next day we were at sea..... ah so relaxing.  I spent the entire day 10am-6pm on the pool deck enjoying the sun, the pool, reading a book and watching the world go by.  The kids met some friends on the ship and were off swimming and playing at the kids' club the entire day.
Our next port was Tunis, Tunisia.  There are amazing pictures of beaches in Tunisia...they are not in Tunis.  There are also guidebooks that tell of the wonder and amazement of the Souk shops and Carthage ruins....they lie.  It was a horrible place.  I don't regret going, I'm just disappointed in the place and hope that cruise lines eliminate it from its port calls.  Yuck.
Malta...or "melt-ya" was our next stop.  So pretty.  Who would have thought that brown sandstone could be so pretty?  It was a million degrees in Malta.  Thankfully, we had a rental car with a/c and could move around the cities at our own pace.  We visited Mdina, an absolutely beautiful old fortified city, went to the beach so Matt could go diving and the boys and I could snorkel, and then hit up Valletta before getting back on the ship.  When we left Malta I thought it would be the place I wanted to return to, however, our next stop was Messina and I really fell in love there.  Taormina is my favorite stop on this trip.  It is on the Messina straight and it is truly breathtaking.  I loved it.  We walked around the city and then drove down to a beach for an incredibly refreshing swim.
Last stop, Rome.  The boys and I had been to Rome a few years ago and since there is so much to see in such little time and it was blazing hot, we decided to let Matt go discover Rome on his own without us weighing him down and insisting on Gelato stops every hour.  Matt loved loved Rome.  He had a great time, he saw most of the sights and got to enjoy a lovely lunch with an old woman who owned the restaurant.  The boys and I did what we do best....we played in the pool, I layed on the deck, we got off the boat and walked around town...and in the 4 hours we were off the ship we did in fact stop twice for gelato.  Once back on board we swam some more.
Loved this vacation.  The last cruise was more about the ports.  They were all amazing and provided a lot to see and do.  This cruise was a repeat of two destinations for me, had one sea day, and we are not talking about Tunisia... so for me this cruise was really more about just having a great relaxing vacation, with the little gem of a visit to Malta and Taormina along the way.
As long as the kids are little....I think we'll try to keep on cruisin'.  It is such a perfect way for us to have a good time together where everyone gets a little of something that they love.
And now.... the pre-inspection for our move is tomorrow and I have a lot to do.

Jun 14, 2012

Bags are Packed!

We are leaving in less than an hour, so I better make this quick!  After a whirlwind month or so of trip after trip after trip we are leaving today for our last big trip in Europe.  Lookout Med here we come!  I'm looking forward to a relaxing, sunny, adventure....because as soon as we get back the movin' wheels will start to roll.

Jun 13, 2012

Re-Entry

Today I was flipping through a travel magazine I bought a few years ago that highlighted the top 20 places to visit in Europe.  As I turned each page I noted the ones we made it to and the places that eluded us.  Istanbul, Turkey was the only destination in the magazine that I really wanted to visit but never got to.
I flipped past the final city on the list and was on my way to closing the magazine when I came across the very last article entitled "Coming Home".
Fitting.  So I read on.
Rick Steves' talks about his feelings on returning home from traveling abroad. "There is an exhilaration that comes from an infusion of images, lessons and memories... that just can't be shared. My trip doesn't end when I step off the final flight.  I enjoy the trip-capping challenge of making sense of all I saw and did, and splicing what learned into who I am and what I do.  Travel is rich with learning opportunities.... from sampling ethnic foods and listening to new music to learning to appreciate  a point of view very different from our own."
Traveling changes you somehow.  Three years living in and traveling throughout Germany has changed me and I am truly sad and a little afraid to leave this life behind.  I know that my travel days are not over, there is still so much to see and thankfully still time for new adventures to some of the wonderful destinations outside of Europe.  But as I have fully embraced this culture and have come to appreciate so many aspects of it more than my own, I am worried that life in the States will be disappointing and that I will get sucked back into the hurried culture of American life and forget how to skip the "take-away" and sit and enjoy a cup of cappuccino in the cafe, or linger at dinner for 3 hours and never once look at my watch.  I'll forget I can take public transportation, go for bike rides and linger in a park for hours while the kids play and I doze in and out on a blanket of grass.
I am returning to the US in just over a month and I'm simply not ready on so many levels.

Jun 10, 2012

Farewell: Round 4

Grant Circle Bon Voyage.
This was the unofficial farewell for all of our friends moving this summer and saying goodbye to the unique circumstance we have living in the "compound" of Grant circle.
Best neighborhood ever.  100 families living on 4 tree lined streets in a gated and guarded compound, fully equipped with two basketball courts, 4 playgrounds, and 5 open fields is the perfect community for a kid to grow up in.
While living here the kids pretty much had free reign of the neighborhood.  Cycling through the streets and having nerf wars across the neighborhood was a common sight.  Everyone knows everyone on some level and most people keep an eye out for everyone else's kids.  Living in Grant circle gave the boys 2 years of freedom that they probably will not get anywhere else as they grow up.
Our bon voyage party was basically the last big summer BBQ with all of our friends from work and the community. Mannheim housing area will be closed by the end of August, the PX, Gas station and food court closes next week, the commissary keeps shrinking as they prepare to close their doors soon and most of all the other facilities here are already closed.  We are all heading in different directions, but everyone is leaving Mannheim in the next few months.  So this was our personal farewell to this installation and our time here.
We had about 60 adults and who knows how many kids and dogs at the party.  We had a bounce house, trampoline and movie theatre for the kids and half a dozen lawn games for the adults.  We fired up a few grills and bonfires, blasted music, enjoyed lots of laughter and hopefully the party served as a fun "closing ceremony" for this fun community.

Jun 8, 2012

Farewell: Round 3

School Closing
Today is the kids' last day of school and the last day of existence for Mannheim Elementary.  The installation closes this summer, so this is it for the school.
The ceremony was a pretty big deal.  The kids sang songs, there were speeches from the administration and from alumni.  The theme for this school year was "Oh the places you'll go".  Very fitting for a bunch of "Army Brats" who are literally moving all over the world in the next few weeks.  The school has invested a great amount of time and effort into celebrating the closure and move.
Leaving this school will be a little different then leaving school in Virginia, mainly because this community is so small and tightly knit.  The kids are leaving a very small, essentially private, school with class sizes that range from 10-16 to a much larger public school in Washington with about double the class size.  Here, everyone knows everyone!  I guess that can be a bad thing, but our experience has been absolutely great.  It is so sweet to know and be known by your entire school community.
The fact that the school is closing really has less importance to us than to the teachers who have been here for so long.  I doubt it really mattered to the kids that the school is closing, since we were leaving anyway, but it was really fun to have this big official closing ceremony.  I hope they don't expect this every time they leave a school!
Allied forces arrived in Mannheim in 1945 and have had a military presence here since.  The first Mannheim American School was established shortly after the war ended and after a few moves and a lot of growth the school became Mannheim Elementary School and found its home in the building it is in today.  It is really neat to be part of the closing of this school and installation.  American presence in Mannheim was needed in 1946 but our job here is done, and it is time for the Mannheim community to take back their land.
After the ceremony the kids played for hours at a little fun fair the school PTA set up while I chatted with the kids' teachers and some of the administration.  We finally said our last goodbyes and left Mannheim Elementary school for the last time.
I hope the boys will always look back at their time at MES and consider how special their days here were and how wonderful this little community was.

Farewell: Round 2

Brewery.
This is our official A. Company farewell.  We have absolutely loved this company.  It is comprised of a really great group of people and I highly doubt we will ever have the opportunity to work and play with such an amazing group of people again.  Parting is definitely with deep sorrow.
The people Matt works with are also the people we enjoy playing with.  We've gone on camping and ski trips together, had countless barbecues, summer pool trips, a hundred dinners, and been to at least a dozen festivals.  There are single soldiers, young married couples, couples with kids and couples with grown kids - though our demographics are vastly different we have an absolutely great time with these people.
We had a great turn-out for the farewell dinner.  Another family that we are close with is leaving too and so we were both farewelled together last night.  Alton and Matt are both key players in the company - for different reasons -  and their simultaneous departure is sad for a lot of people in the company.  It was touching to hear the great things that were said about Matt and for Matt to have the opportunity to tell his comrades how he felt about them.
We all received gifts, the boys got company coins from the commander, I received a company stein and Matt got an awesome "award" for landing with the brakes on one day and a really nice personalized humidor.
Although it was sad to be farewelled from the company, we'll see all these people for a few more weeks so we didn't have to actually say our last goodbye's yet.  Thankfully, we were granted a reprieve!

Jun 7, 2012

Roller Coaster

To say the last few weeks have been an emotional roller coaster would in fact be the greatest understatement of the year.  We have enjoyed highest highs and deep lows, and the build up of the highs and quick drops to the lows.
Gabe has been struggling with controlling his emotions in a socially acceptable manner and finally two weeks ago he was suspended from school....twice in a week's time.  It is so hard as a parent to see your child making choices that you don't feel like you have condoned and equally hard to contemplate what will happen if the behavior doesn't change.  Thankfully, he seemed to have gone through a three week rebel period and has had two very good weeks since.
Our great trip to Budapest was sandwiched by challenging days with the car issues and then we were off to Normandy.  We had an absolutely incredible time in the Normandy area exploring a very significant place in world history and then we returned home to the news that Gabriel's amazing teacher delivered her baby over the weekend at 30 weeks gestation, and the baby died.  Gabriel is sad for his teacher's loss but he is more upset about not being able to see her again or say goodbye.  This teacher is very special to me and we were so blessed to have her this year.  She had endless grace and compassion for Gabe and she is truly a wonderful woman.  I too am so sad about the death of her daughter and wish I would have had a moment to say goodbye to her.
Yesterday my two girlfriends came over for one last breakfast together.  Although we hadn't really determined that this was our last breakfast ahead of time, I had a sinking feeling.  Once we were all here and looking at our calendars for the next time we would get together we realized there would be no more breakfast - turned lunch dates.  Our 2.5 years of meeting, eating, sharing our lives and studying God's word have come to an end.  We'll see each other again before we move but this was it for the lazy morning breakfasts.  These days were such a blessing.  No other time in my life have I been blessed with ladies that were able to commit to meeting every week to simply do life together and gain wisdom from each other.  It is hard to see this time end and really hard to see the sadness of our friend who is staying behind.
Tonight Matt's company is bidding us farewell, tomorrow the Mannheim Elementary School will close its doors for good after 50+ years, and Saturday we'll have one last hoorah with everyone we know at a giant neighborhood party.  A week from today we'll drive to Italy for a 7 day cruise of the Med.
Ups and downs, the roller coaster continues!