Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day.

On the 20th of May, the Brigade cased its colors. This means they place the flags of each battalion and of the brigade in a casing, and then they are taken to where they will be flown next (Afghanistan).  This picture is of all the battalions in formation (you can only see two of them, and they are only partial representations of the battalions).

The Sergeant Major and the Commander of the brigade casing the brigade colors.

This is 2-502, just after their colors are cased.

This last picture is of our battalion's colors being cased by the commander and sergeant major.
It was an emotional moment, knowing these flags will fly in combat, and won't fly again on Fort Campbell until the soldiers are home. Take care, men, and women. We're thankful for what you are doing, and what those who've come before you have done.

CSA Box #1.

This year, I'm thrilled to be a part of a Community Supported Agriculture group. I bought a half share, which means I get a full box of vegetables every other week. I picked up my first box on Thursday, and Matthew laughed at me as I giggled with pleasure upon seeing the contents of the box.

In the first box I got: 2 heads of iceberg lettuce, 3 heads of romaine lettuce, giant green onions, a bunch of basil, a bunch of cilantro, fresh strawberries, about two pounds of collard greens, a bunch of chard, and 2 cucumbers. 

It took about an hour and a half to get everything prepped and in the fridge. It was so fun! I had to do some research on a few of the items (the chard and collards) to find out the best way to store them. As I was washing and drying the herbs and lettuce, I piled them on the cutting board.

Dutch, who is NOT allowed on the counters, couldn't resist checking things out. He was rather startled by the lettuces, and batted at them a few times to see if they were going to come for him. Dutch Vs. the Vegetables:

Here are the glorious strawberries. They are so sweet and succulent, mm!
So far I've only made a few salads, used a few of the onions, and eaten strawberries. I've cooked the collards (and holy crap, if I may say, I did a GOOD job), and I've got a recipe I'm going to make for dinner tomorrow with the chard. I am LOVING this! I love that these are from a local farm, grown organically, and they are ALL on the "dirty dozen" list of things we should be trying to eat from organic sources. YAY!

I'll try to document my recipes and adventures with my future boxes. I'll get one every other week through the end of October! Weee!!!!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Updating on the Other Blog.

Are you reading the other blog?

If not, it's probably because you haven't been invited.

All you have to do to be invited is tell me that you want to be.

I dare ya!

[The other blog is focusing on my "Army life" in particular, and will serve a journal-ish function of this year of deployment. Could be interesting, eh?]

Friday, May 21, 2010

Now Accepting Reservations Chez Claire!

Come one, come all!

Approximately a week from today, I will be here with just a little beasty cat, and decent spare bedroom just WAITING to house visitors.

I hope that some of you will come for a visit sometime this year! And, in case you're really thinking about it, and you'd like to go ahead and plan to come (which I highly encourage) here is MY schedule:

June: Wide open.
July: Open until 3rd week.
August: Wide open.
September-October: no visitors please! I'll be working, and scuttling by little butt across the country three or four times for various weddings!
November: open!
December: Open til third week, then I'm heading to Utah for about 10 days.

Jan and Feb are tricky at THIS point because I'm hoping to have a sexy soldier (who I'm married to... don't get crazy on me here!) come visit on his leave during that time. That will be narrowed sometime after he's in country.

March: open, especially the second week, which is my Spring Break for school.
April: open.

So! If you're looking for a weekend getaway to another world (I feel confident in saying that Kentucky, and an Army post, for most of you, is another world) and having homemade meals (I will take requests- just call me Wesley- "as you wish") and quality time with this girl, let me know!

Several of you have very generously offered for me to come stay with YOU while Matthew is gone. I hope to take you up on some of these offers, but I'm also cautious about planning trips. For one, travel puts me out of touch with that guy-- I don't have a schmancy internet-connected phone (I have reasons why, too!) and I don't like to be out of touch for long.

Also, with all the travel that awaits me this Fall, I don't want to over do it!

Third, I actually like where I live!

Fourth, I find routine to be a kind of salve for the broken heart that inevitably occurs during deployment. Finding a way to live HERE, in my community, in my house, attending my church, doing my regular job-- that helps the days go by, and it helps me not put the whole year on hold, though it is different.

And finally, though not the least of the reasons, we're trying to KILL our debt this year. Plane tickets, hotels, meals out, shopping... these have all taken a back seat to paying off the car and loan.

So! All that is to say that I'd love to come see you, but I'd love even MORE for you to come see me. I guess it's the lazy lady's version, but I like to think that part of this is that I know myself pretty well and I do need to have boundaries on some of this business.

What I hope you take away from this is that I'd like to see you. If you can't come here, maybe we can find a time when we'll be in the same place (I'll be in Utah in October and December, Southern California in September, and Arizona in late October).

Hope to see you, wherever that may be, SOON! (and if I can't see you in person, let's really do schedule a phone or skype date- that would be fantastico.)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

New Blog.

The time is nearing. The new blog is coming. I'll still be here, but I'll be exploring the wide world of military life and, for the next year, deployment on the other one.

If you'd like to read along about those things specifically, please e-mail me, or comment, and I'll add you to the blog. It will be protected from general readers.

What Happens in Vegas...

Ends up on my blog!

So Matthew has been on leave, and I've been done with school (though as I write this, we're back to reality, at least on his end). On Friday, May 7th, I graduated. On Saturday, we headed to Vegas. Our trip started out well-- our flight was good, and we were given drink coupons when someone sitting near us found out Matthew would be leaving for Afghanistan in a few weeks. Half way through the flight when Matthew went to the bathroom, the old lady next to me forced a hundred dollar bill in my hand (I tried to resist it too! She was having none of my protestations!) and made me promise to spend it on a great meal with my husband. I got her address, thanked her profusely, and I plan to correspond with her soon. What a wonderful, completely unexpected generosity! We were so delighted by the support we felt from the people on the flight, and throughout the trip when they found out Matthew is a soldier.

We stayed at the Wynn Encore, and MAN, it was gorgeous! It is Steve Wynn's newest place, and it is absolutely GORGEOUS. They have some amazing deals right now too, so if you're looking to stay at an upscale place in Vegas, definitely check it out. My parents loved it (they usually go for the Bellagio), and we did too!

Here is the room we stayed in. This is the most basic, cheapest room...

And by the way, there was a little panel on the bedside table that controlled all the lights and curtains... so you could turn everything off and close the blinds without leaving the bed. GREAT idea! I want one for the house.

We did our share of some penny slots. We go for the more video game-like ones like Jaws, Star Trek, and Wizard of Oz. We had some fun, but of course, didn't win big. I know, we're just as shocked as you are.
We had many toasts-- to Kim and Jay's 20th, to my graduation, to the 1 year anniversary of Frank and Vinnie's departure, to Matthew, and to many other things, of course.

But most of all, we ate. Our first big fancy meal was the tasting menu at Hubert Keller's restaurant Fleur de Lys. I have a deep love for tasting menus, and if I could, that is the way I'd eat every meal (though then I'd be 400 pounds). The following are pictures of our meal at Fleur de Lys. It was fabulous, and fun, and satisfying. The pictures were taken in the dark without flash, so I lightened them here. They may look a little weird, but you'll get the idea.
This was the amuse bouche. Puffed halibut with warm potato salad and cayenne creme fraiche.

Truffled onion soup. Oh, mercy.
(with a braised duck crepe, red wine onion puree, and black truffle)

Ahi Tuna Tartare (with shaved fennel slaw, ginger ponzu, fennel seed tuile). My mom got this option and I tried it- YUM! I'm now a believer in tuna tartare!
Matthew got the chorizo wrapped suzuki sea bass (barley risotto, pipperade, tomato broth).

And I, thank you Jesus (no, really, I am so thankful when I get to taste food like this, that God created taste buds), I got braised veal and yukon gold potato ravioli (with sunchokes and English peas).

My next course was Stout braised beef short ribs 
(with melted leeks, potato puree, house made mustard).
Matthew got prime filet mignon (baby spinach, wild mushrooms, sasify, red wine reduction)
And then came dessert. I got the chocolate souffle. 
Below is my mom's Grand Marnier souffle (like the fleur de lys in the sugar?).
Matthew enjoyed the warm chocolate fondant cake 
with fleur de sel caramel center, and popcorn ice cream.

Spiced carrot and cream cheese ice cream sandwich with pineapple carrot ice cream.

And if we hadn't had enough (we did the wine pairings too...), 
they brought us a dessert from the chef-- lovely.

Um, so all of that was fantastic. And basically, we just kept eating. And eating.
The next night we went to Prime, Jean-Georges Vongerichten's steakhouse at the Bellagio.
I think it is safe to say, for both of us, this ranks as the best steak house experience, and the best steak either of us has eaten. I didn't even document the salad, soup, and sides. I should also say I had the best iceberg wedge salad EVER-- the blue cheese dressing was mind-blowing. 

My filet.
Matthew's bone-in ribeye.
And we had so many other fabulous meals. Our Mother's Day brunch was insane. Just a few things we sampled? A fresh, cold seafood platter, three kinds of ceviche, smoked salmon, a meat and cheese tray, fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, an heirloom tomato caprese salad, tons of desserts, and a complete dessert bar, PLUS we could order as many things off of the menu as we wanted (I ordered french bread pudding and some crazy barbeque eggs benedict). Oh, and there was a grilled meat station which included beef tenderloin, maple glazed pork, chili-rubbed turkey, two kinds of sausage, fire-roasted shrimp, rack of lamb, and prime rib. Needless to say, we were eating our brunch for about 2 hours-- great family time, and we sat next to Steve Wynn, so we felt fancy!

We had a fabulous time, but we were glad to return home and spend a few days hanging out around the house and doing yard work. It was great to get away, but always good to come home! Thanks to the family that was able to come to Vegas and celebrate with us, and thanks to my sweet husband for making the trip SO much fun!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Graduated, and Back on the Grid.

I have returned!

There is so much to update you on, but first...

You can see my glowing white skin and large nose in the middle
row close to the bottom of the picture.

You can't really tell, but I'm there getting hooded.


Me at an angle so you can see el hood!

That handsome man I married- woo!

And one with the beasty.
So... I did it! The program is finished and it ended with so many surprises. I was honored with a few awards for my writing and finished out the program with the grades I had hoped for (hopefully that doesn't sound too gross and braggish. I know that the people who read this blog are all friends and fam, so I know you actually want to know, and have been rooting for me. This is the official signal that your rooting worked!). I'm so thrilled to be finished, though I really don't think it has registered yet.

Lots of other things have been going on, and I'll be updating a lot more soon. I'm gearing up to blog at least once per day (or, so goes the goal at this point) at a new blog address that is protected as I'll be discussing the deployment in detail at times, and I'll also be (at least, this is how it goes in my head right now) writing about issues in the military that I think we should be talking about (we at large, not just we in the military community).

I'll still be putting up pictures and regular updates here- I'm not abandoning my long-lived blog. I'm just gearing up for this opportunity to write and challenge myself to do it daily within the context of the deployment. I hope to check in again here, and I'll announce the other blog as soon as it is up. Unfortunately the deployment gets closer every day, so the launch of that isn't too far off.

In the mean time... things are great here. I'm a graduate, and today is the last day of Matthew's 16 days off. (If you start to feel jealous, just remember he'll be working the next 365 days... straight.) We are soaking each other up, which is why I'm not on here much, and not communicating much otherwise, but we're back to reality tomorrow as he's back to work.

I'll keep you posted.