Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Waiting Game

Let me preface this by saying that I am not a patient person. I’ve adjusted the microwave setting so that my two-minute breakfast sandwich is done in a minute and 10 seconds. I’ve learned how to bake a 15-minute pizza in eight minutes, without burning it (okay, most of the time). My 8-hour crockpot recipes usually take about five. I’m totally okay if you tell me how a movie ends, and I always read the end of a book first.

So it should come as no surprise that one of the things that drives me abso-friggin-lutely nuts about the military is how often I have to wait. I wait to get my ID card. I wait to sign in to wait to get my ID card. Actually, most places in the military you have to wait to sign in to wait. It’s one of the perks. I wait in line at the Post Office and the BX and the commissary (I also wait as long as humanely possible to GO to the commissary--that’s usually when we are down to grapefruit juice and a carton of expired Egg Beaters in the fridge--but that is another story...). I wait to find out if Jared is flying over the weekend. Wait to find out if Jared is coming home that night. Wait for the deployments and TDYs to arrive. Wait for the deployments and TDYs to end. Wait to find out if we can go on vacation. Wait to find out if we have to cancel our vacation. Then there is the biggie...the mother of all waits...the wait for ORDERS!

I do not wait for orders well. Actually, I don’t wait for the assignment well; orders are secondary, although I don’t wait for those well either. See, in the military they give you the assignment first and the orders later. Unfortunately, the assignment does not become official until the orders have arrived. And until the assignment is official (e.g., you have orders in hand) then essentially nothing can be done. You cannot arrange for your household goods to be packed, cannot ship your car, cannot make temporary living arrangements, cannot book flights. Nothing. What I have found you can do is sit there and work yourself into a high-strung bundle of nerves that leaves you questioning your sanity. You can also make lists. Lots of lists. Lists and lists of plans for what you will do when the orders finally arrive. Then the orders will arrive and said list will subsequently be destroyed because nothing...and I mean the military ever works out according to the plans you make. Murphy’s Law at its absolute finest.

So yes, as we have already established, I do not handle waiting for an assignment well. I’ve been like this since I was a kid. For those of you who don’t know, my Dad was in the Air Force for almost 27 years, so I am a military brat. I am also just generally a brat, but as usual, I digress....

Growing up, whenever my parents started talking about us being due for a new assignment, the daily litany began:

“Dad, where are we going?”

“I don’t know yet honey.”

“Dad, where are we going?”

“I don’t know yet honey”

“Dad do you know yet where we are going”

“No honey, I still don’t know. I promise you’ll know as soon as I know.”

“Dad wh-...”

“I don't know YET!”

And on and on this went until that glorious day when we found out where and when we were going to be moving. Surprisingly, my parents allowed me to live through all the moves we made growing up. Now my husband has to deal with it. This is probably why my dad gave such a big sigh of relief on our wedding day. At the time, I thought he was just trying to hold back tears. In hindsight, he was more likely holding back snorts of laughters as he envisioned what my dear, unknowing husband would soon have to deal with. Hmmm....

So once we found out where we were moving, phase 2 set in: absolute, unadulterated horror. What the heck...we actually have to leave?!?! As if the past six months of driving my parents insane didn’t allow enough opportunity for this little truth to set in. I mean, really, we actually have to MOVE??? As in leave? As in leave, LEAVE?!?! This phase of absolute, unadulterated horror is characterized by many sleepless nights, long periods of hysterically sobbing into my pillow, and the breaking of numerous inanimate objects as I introduce them to the wall.

You would think that I would have eventually outgrown when I became an “adult.” Yeah, right. If anything, it has gotten worse with age. I drive my husband crazy. I drive my parents and siblings crazy. Heck, I drive myself crazy! I have always been excessively Type-A, but when I sense a move on the horizon...well, my personality turns into Type-A on anabolic steroids. This time it is even worse because we are leaving Germany. Usually, after a couple of years in one place, ennui sets in. That is, until I’m actually informed of an imminent move. Please reference “absolute, unadulterated horror” above.

This time it really is different, though. I’m not restless. I’m not bored. There is still too much to see and do! I mean really, why would I willingly leave a place where I can say ever-so-nonchalantly...”hmmm....I think I’ll just run on over to Paris for the weekend. Or maybe Rome. Ohhhh.....but Berlin sounds nice, too. I just don’t know what fancy schmancy European city I want to visit this weekend.” Plus, the Germans have flammkuchen, Neuerwein, Spaghetti Eis and Kinder Eggs. Enough said.

So as evidenced by the gym strike mentioned in my previous post, reality has begun to set in. So has full-fledged, inanimate-object throwing anxiety. I’m like a hormonal pregnant chick minus the baby. Seriously. I’ve been my own one-woman emotional rollercoaster freak show for the last few days, couple of weeks, couple of months. A move is imminent. Must. Lose. All. Semblance. Of. Sanity. And apparently all my dignity in the process, as well. I think the low point came when I asked my husband who I needed to sleep with to get a good assignment around here. Then I asked if the squadron commander in England was a male. I was joking. I thought it was funny. The husband did not. Hasn’t he learned by now that I handle periods of immense stress with periods of totally inappropriate humor? Sigh. This was coming from the chick that laughed at her Granddad’s funeral when the Honor Guard guys turned the wrong way. In my defense, I had been crying for hours on end and needed something to stem the waterworks, however inappropriate it may have seemed. Also in my defense: my brother laughed, too.

Fortunately, my husband loves me in all my neurotic glory. Or at least he claims he does. Of course, I was taking aim at the wall with yet another inanimate object when he said this. Maybe he was just afraid to tell me the truth lest the next inanimate object be aimed at him: “Honey, you’re acting like a whacked-out sea monkey on a sugar high.” Next thing he knows, he’s waking up in the Emergency Room. Sorry honey, I missed the wall. Damn, I hate when that happens.

Please note that I only throw inanimate objects. I have not yet resorted to throwing my cats...or any other live the wall. Nor would I. I love my four-legged, furry children. Plus they have claws and a keen sense of vengeance. And there are four of them and one of me. I probably would not survive the post-throwing encounter.

I don’t want to leave Germany. I think that at this point that fact is rather evident. Sadly, since my gym strike failed to net us another extension, leave we must. And since we must leave, I just want to know where we are going. Now. Actually, I wanted to know about six months ago when I first started turning into a basket case.

The good news is that we should find out soon. The bad news is that we should find out soon. The other good news is that Jared will most likely be calling me from work to inform me of our new assignment. That means he won’t have to clean up all the shattered glass. The bad news is that he will have to stop by the BX on the way home from work and replace all of our dishes.

At least the cats will be safe.

Friday, June 11, 2010

A Girl Walked Into A Gym...

Today I decided to end my week-and-a-half long hiatus from the gym. I had decided to boycott working out in response to realizing that we have to leave Germany in less than six months. I considered going on a hunger strike, but I do love my food, so a gym strike was the next best thing. As reality set in, I did what any slightly neurotic girl who lost her euphoric sense of denial would do...say “f you” to working out (I mean, why let endorphins get in the way of a really good depression?!?!) and indulge in an exorbitant amount of Pez. Yes, I said Pez. I am an 80’s child. Don’t judge. They contain less calories than chocolate.

So after ten days of wallowing in my depression, randomly throwing easily broken objects at the wall, and desperately trying to reclaim my sense of denial, I decided to get my lazy bum back in gear, take all the empty wine bottles to the recycling center, and divert some of my aggression to a poor, unsuspecting elliptical machine.

To backtrack a little....while we were in Dallas in April, I would spend a good two to three hours at the gym every day because my husband had class all day and the hotel room got a little claustrophobic after a few hours. Normally my Ipod serves as my main distraction from how much I dislike working out...that and attempting to read the lips of the various commentators on CNN or Fox, whichever channel may be on based on the particular political predilections of whatever gym I am working out at. Really, I sometimes wonder why they even have TVs at gyms. You have to have the eyesight of a Mantis Shrimp to see what the heck is going on (Seriously...Mantis Shrimp have awesome eyesight...look it up)! Needless to say, the Ipod and lip reading only provide sufficient distraction for an hour or so. Any more than that, the headache sets in and boredom overrules any motivation I may have managed to dredge up! I found that reading while working out helped make those two or three hours pass much more quickly, so the second love of my Kindle...became my new gym partner.

Back to the present day...
After a week of indulging in my sulk and aforementioned bottles of wine (okay, there were only two...and a half...), I was totally unmotivated to return to the gym. So I brought my gym buddy with me to hopefully make my return a little less painful. I decided to start reading Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang, which was our squadron book club’s selection this month. The meeting was tonight. Yeah, I’m a wee bit of a procrastinator, which is why I was at the gym and not at the book club meeting...but I digress...

I trot over to my elliptical of choice, power on Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang, and begin to read. Big Mistake. Big. Huge. I about died. Really. I don’t know how I finished my 90 minute cardio session. I don’t even know how I managed to stay upright. I was gasping for air two minutes into the book. By minute five I was receiving dirty looks from my fellow no-lifers who were also at the gym at 7:30 on a Friday night when the big 2010 World Cup kickoff par-tay was going on in downtown K-town. I couldn’t tell if I should be horrifically appalled, squirming with embarrassment or shamelessly amused! Oh Dear God....who writes about that kind of stuff?!?!?! Especially when it is supposedly autobiographical! If it weren’t for some of the accompanying pictures, I wouldn’t believe any of the stories! I’m not sure I even believe them WITH the pictures! Does stuff like that really happen in real life?!?! I don’t know, I don’t care. It was the most entertaining gym workout ever. Ever.

Unfortunately, I’m not sure my fellow gym goers would agree. I was THAT the guy in the corner of the weight room with the purple face and veins popping out, grunting at every hoist of the dumbbells. No dude, you aren’t cool. Everyone here just wants to punch you in the face. I’m pretty sure I was emitting noises that sounded something like a snorting wild boar, a braying donkey,  a cross between a cat in heat, a hyena on speed and a snorting wildebeest. Fortunately, my Ipod drowned out the noises so I couldn’t actually bear witness to the humiliation emanating from my mouth. You have no idea how hard it is to try to stifle hysterical laughter and attempt to stay upright while in the midst of gluteal program 1, intensity level 8. It requires more coordination than I generally possess.

Between the exercise-induced and Chelsea-induced endorphins, nothing could get me down. Not that fact that it was about 140 degrees in the cardio room. Not the fact that we have to move. Not even listening to Shakira’s “Waka Waka” song on five different stations during my seven minute drive home. I mean really made THAT your official World Cup song?!?! She sounds like a cracked out Muppet! I want to waka waka myself in the head every time I hear that song. Especially because they play it on the radio here about 50 million times a day. Yes, I know we are all excited about the World Cup. Yay team Deutschland! Soccer may be bigger than beer here in Germany. Yes, I said it. I may need to go into the witness protection program now, but that’s okay. Maybe I won’t have to listen to Shakira anymore.

So while I am still pathetically sad that we have to leave Europe, and by tomorrow I will probably be back to throwing inanimate objects at the walls, at least I got my humor fix today, and I’ll probably be riding this Chelsea high for awhile. I clearly have no problem finding humor at the expense of others! She is clearly a willing victim...or has no self-respect. Not sure which. Regardless, it made my day! Thank you Chelsea for giving me back a little bit of my bang!

Waka Waka.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Not Just Another Weekend...

Today is Memorial Day. It is a day of reflection, though its meaning has become more and more obscured by the excitement of a three-day weekend, and a break from work and our everyday routines.

But as we revel in the parties, picnics and vacations, we must remember the meaning behind today. This isn’t a free holiday. It came with a price, and we must never forget those that paid it and the ones they left behind.

In all likelihood, someone, somewhere today will get a knock on the door informing them that their husband/wife/son/daughter/father/mother/sister/brother will not be returning home. And for them, Memorial Day will never be just another party, picnic or vacation.

So in honor of Memorial Day--and in honor of the heroes who are the reason for this day--I wanted to share two of my favorite poems. The first was written by a Canadian surgeon in May 1915. The second was written by a high school senior in 1981. Though separated by decades and different wars, the words still resonate today as we send our friends and family members, a new generation, off to war...unsure if they will ever come home.

In Flanders Fields
by John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Awesome & Easy (and Healthy!) Cobbler

I am not a cobbler person. If offered some sort of cobbler and any other dessert, I’ll choose the non-cobbler option. However, shortly after moving to our home here in Germany, our neighbors invited us over for dinner. As a dessert, she made a phenomenal blueberry cobbler. I was hooked! So while I will reject just about any other cobbler, every now and then I would crave that one! I got the recipe from our neighbor...and proceeded to play with it until it bore very little resemblance to the original. I don’t improvise recipes, I mutilate them.

Here’s the problem...I HATE following recipes. I have concluded that it is truly impossible for me to follow a recipe to the letter. It’s an inherent compulsion. I have to play and substitute and alter! Sometimes I will do so well....get to the end of the recipe, everything by the book. It’s time to cook or bake it. And then the urge kicks in...Must.Change.Something. So I add something...maybe a little chocolate cream liqueur or vanilla rum to cakes, cookies and brownies. Maybe a dash of thyme or garlic to the meat. Maybe I’ll use wine instead of water. Maybe I’ll throw in a dash of rice vinegar or sesame oil. I just have to do something different.

Needless to say, this has led to some very, um...interesting...and uh, well, downright horrible experiments! There were the spearmint brownies (they were supposed to be peppermint, but apparently I didn’t read the extract label closely enough). Yeah, spearmint brownies=Fail! Don’t try that one. Trust me on this. There was the tofu fondue. Also a major fail. There was the slow cooker BBQ chicken that, after nearly 24-hours in the crockpot (on high...whoops!), had a nice crispy coating that was NOT part of my original plan.

The good news, is that there have also been quite a few successes! Like the healthy vegetarian chik’n pot pie, semi-healthy red hot brownies...and this one! My Healthy Berry Cobbler, which my husband and I both enjoy, despite being non-cobbler people. One of the things I love best about this recipe is its flexibility! At the end of the recipe, I’ve made suggestions for changing it up and adding your own flair!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Few Easy Recipes...

Well, it’s been quite a while since I updated this thing. I’m going to blame it on a combination of making a trip back to the States and sheer laziness! :)

I’ve got another post in the works, but in the meantime, I wanted to share a couple of my favorite recipes. The first is one I stumbled upon accidentally a few years ago. As usual, I had put off going to the grocery store until we literally were down to scraps. Neither of us felt like braving the commissary, so I scavenged through our cabinets looking for anything I could throw together to get us through one more meal. It was total improvisation born out of desperation, but this turned into one of our favorite meals! It’s a great standby...I always keep the ingredients on hand in case we want something quick and easy to make! It is super easy to throw together and offers a great deal of flexibility in terms of portion size and ingredients. It makes a quick, simple meal for just the two of us, but the ingredients can easily be increased to feed a larger family. You can add or subtract ingredients easily, and substitute lower fat, healthier ingredients for those watching their diets. It also incorporates most of the major food groups in one fast meal!

Ranch Rice Wraps

  • Flour Tortillas (can use low-carb or whole wheat tortillas as healthier options)
  • Chicken Breasts, sliced into strips (I usually calculate 1/2 large chicken breast per wrap)
  • Lettuce, shredded (spinach can be substituted, if desired)
  • Tomatoes, diced
  • Cheese, shredded (I usually use a low-fat Mexican blend, but swiss is another good choice)
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • White or Brown Rice, cooked (I usually allow for 1/4-1/2 c. rice per wrap)
  • 1 Large Ranch Salad Dressing/Dip Mix Packet
  • Salt & Pepper

Cook rice per package instructions. Once rice has been cooked and drained, stir in 1/2 of the ranch seasoning packet. Set aside. Pour wine into a large skillet. Add chicken. Season chicken with the remainder of the ranch mix and salt and pepper, to taste. Cook until chicken shows no pink in the center and is tender.

Heat flour tortillas in the microwave for about 20 seconds. Fill wraps with chicken, rice, lettuce, tomatoes and cheese. Fold in two opposite sides of the wrap, then roll from the bottom up. All done! :)

This recipe can easily be given a Greek twist, with just a few variations.

Greek Rice Wraps

The ingredients and directions are essentially the same, but with a few substitutions and additions.

  • Substitute spinach wraps for flour tortillas.
  • Substitute feta cheese for the shredded Mexican or Swiss cheese.*
  • Don’t season the rice with the ranch mix, leave it plain.
  • Cook the chicken in the white wine, but add a little bit (about 1-2 tsp) of lemon juice. Season with 1/2 the packet of ranch mix.
  • Add sliced olives, if desired.
  • Once all the ingredients have been prepared and are in the wrap, add Greek sauce to taste (recipe below) before rolling wrap. The Greek Sauce can also be used as a dipping sauce.

Greek Sauce:
1 c. plain Greek yogurt (can use low-fat or fat-free Greek yogurt)
1/2 - 1 tsp. lemon juice
Remaining ranch seasoning packet
pinch of salt and pepper
*Due to its strong flavor, a little bit of feta goes a long way! Use less feta than you would of the other cheese(s) for the original Ranch Rice Wraps.

A few other suggestions/variations for the original recipe:
  • Grill the chicken, rather than cooking it in a skillet on the stove.
  • Add cooked bacon or turkey bacon to the wrap, or wrap the chicken in bacon prior to cooking
  • Substitute shrimp or strips of tofu for the chicken (Morning Star Farms fake chik’n strips also work well)
  • For a vitamin boost, add bean sprouts
  • For a bit of a kick, add a dash of crushed red peppers or a few jalapenos