28 April 2011

my own Prince

I know everyone is super-duper excited about the Royal Wedding tomorrow, and some are even waking up at the crack of dawn to watch it!  It interests me slightly, but mostly because everyone tells me that my very own husband looks like a spitting image of Prince William!  I had a former co-worker see a picture of him on my desk a few years ago, and tell me so.  (I actually had to Google a picture of Prince W, because I had no idea what he looked like.)  Then, just after the engagement was all in the news, B and I were out at Pensacola Gallery Night, and a group of drunken retirees stopped to tell us they thought the same!  Apparently even B's own sister has been thinking this too, so now I know we're onto something here.

 I'll let you be the judge:

Both in uniform

a Catherine and her Prince

a Catherine and her prince

Yes, I made him stand by the TV so I could compare

B's face is slightly more round, and his nose is cuter (although he thinks Prince William has a "cool" nose, whatever that means).  Prince William is also a few inches taller than B, which is fine with me, since I'm only 5'2" and I don't enjoy craning my neck.  But they both have an oval face, pretty blue eyes, and a big-toothed smile (oh, and some premature balding).

As for me, the story from my mother has always been that she wanted to name me Catherine Elizabeth, but then decided that was too many letters (thanks, Mom!), so they settled on Catherine Ann.  Kate's given name is Catherine Elizabeth, and I think she looks like our previous CO's wife (who is about 10 years her senior, but gorgeous).

So I've got my prince, but if someone could hook me up with Kate's wardrobe now, I'd be all set!

26 April 2011

top 10 tuesday: overcoming my food pickiness

I'm not very happy with this fact about myself, but I won't lie to you. I am a picky eater.  There are certain foods I've always hated, some I've found my stomach can't handle, and other foods that I've learned over time I just plain don't like.  I know many people "live to eat" but most days I just "eat to live."  I did hear once that your taste buds change every seven years, so I know that I need to be giving some second chances to my many much-hated foods. 

I have actually been conquering some of this, and I'm pretty proud of my progress.  Some of it was overcome just by trying new recipes, especially those submitted by family and friends for my bridal shower cookbook.  B challenged me to try all of the entree dishes submitted, so I also have him (who eats almost anything, usually with hot sauce on top) to thank for pushing me.  I will say, however, that even though I eat these things now, I don't necessarily LOVE them.  But most of them are nutritious, so they are now allowed to take up a worthy spot on my plate.

Top Ten {Tuesday}

Here are my 10 Foods I Wouldn't Eat A Year Ago That I Now Eat:

10.  Peas.  I still can't eat them straight, but I can throw them into a casserole or alfredo pasta and I'm good to go.

9.  Pepperoni on pizza.  I still pick off some of it because I'm a margherita gal at heart, but it's not terrible!

8.  Bell peppers.  Something about the texture always got me with these before.  I've also loathed spicy foods in general, which these usually complement so I've had reason stay away.  But I do have a bell pepper plant growing on my patio this year, which should force me to figure out ways to use them.

7.  Stir Fry.  It's pretty obvious I've had a huge vegetable aversion for a while now, so this was a long time coming.  I have no idea what I ate all those other Lenten Fridays from years past, back when I only had myself to worry about (probably PB&J, knowing me).

6.  Tofu.  I think I have Lent to blame for this.  I was trying to find more vegetarian recipes, which led to trying tofu.  I didn't even know where it was in the grocery store.  The other times I've had tofu, it was just bland and nasty.  But if you do it up right, it's not too bad for a stir fry dish.  I'm also planning on making this dessert, which uses silken tofu.

5.  Zucchini.  My family didn't serve this to me growing up.  Mom grew yellow squash in the garden, so that's what made it on the table.  Hated the yellow stuff and still do.  But green squash?  Goes nice in my veggie lasagna.

4.  Salsa (sort of).  This is thanks to my Mexican Pasta Skillet, so I'll now use it in a recipe.  I still can't stand it as a condiment and eat my tortilla chips straight or dunked in cheese dip (only cheese, no extra heat).

Peaches and whipped cream have always been on my okay list.
3.  Chili.  Fact: I was dragged to a chili cook-off one night in college and didn't eat any of it.  My group put me in the pie-eating contest instead, at which I failed miserably but had fun doing.  This past year, I made my friend's chili recipe (complete with secret ingredient) from the bridal shower cookbook back during football season.  It tasted amazing, but it also had me running to the bathroom that first time (ugh).  I've made it a few times since, and it's still amazing.  Thankfully, my stomach has started to agree with my palate.

2.  Red Beans.  Obviously, an extension from the chili.  I did make a Mexican Lasagna that used black beans, but I hated it.  I'm sticking with red kidney beans for now and we'll see where it takes me.  I need to learn how to make killer red beans and rice before we leave the Gulf Coast.

1.  Bacon.  This is probably B's fault, but it also came out of my love of "Breakfast for Dinner."  My first foray into cooking bacon was pretty much a disaster.  But I've found that I like turkey bacon better than the pork crap (healthier, too).  This is my #1 because it's my favorite on the list!

There's still a much much longer list of foods I don't like and still won't eat, but at least I've started making a dent or two.

25 April 2011

music monday: praise the risen Lord

It's Easter Monday, and the celebration continues!

Remember I said we "buried" a word throughout Lent?  Well, here it is, loud and clear!

In the Catholic mass, we usually sing Alleluia before the priest reads from the Gospel every week.  However, during Lent, we do not.  Instead, they usually sing something like "Praise to you, O Word of God."  So when we finally get to sing it on Easter, it's super exciting!  [All of my Catholic friends on Facebook definitely threw an "Alleluia" into their "Happy Easter" status updates yesterday, too.]

I do have a story about this, as usual.  At our parish back in Norfolk, they would really get you into it at the Easter Vigil.  After the gabillion other readings before it, the anticipation had built up and everyone was kinda pumped (okay, some were probably asleep).  Anyway, right before the Gospel Acclamation, the lector would say, "If you have lost a husband or a wife to death, please stand and remain standing."  Many of our retirees stood.  Then, "If you have lost a son or daughter to death, please stand and remain standing."  More people standing, some in tears.  Then, "If you have lost a mother, father, sister or brother to death, please stand and remain standing."  I was still sitting, but was among few.  The reader went through a few more, including grandparents, friends, etc.  Then she said, "Will all those still seated please rise as we listen to Christ's victory over death?"  Many people were in tears at this point.  Then our priest paraded around the ENTIRE church holding the Gospel high with the "Celtic Alleluia" being sung with all the verses.  Sometimes I still choke up thinking about the beauty of that moment.

So, today, in honor of Easter, I give you my 3 favorite Alleluias in song.  First, the Celtic one. This is probably the most commonly used one in American churches, and it's also the one I chose to use at our wedding.

 My second choice: good ol' Handel.  Did you know that the "Hallelujah Chorus" is actually part of the Easter section of the Messiah?  It's traditionally done at Christmas, but if you hear it around this time please don't get offended.  I mean, the word has been buried, so sing it loud and proud!

Isn't the Mormon Tabernacle Choir freakin' awesome?!

And my third choice is usually the recessional for an Easter mass (and any time in Easter Season, which stretches from yesterday until Pentecost).  Jesus Christ is Risen Today, Alleluia!

Happy Easter, everyone!  I'll be celebrating for the next 50 days or so.  :-)

22 April 2011

Easter traditions

Easter is my favorite holiday of the year. I love that it doesn't have the stress of Christmas gift-giving and the full-out retail/consumerism associated with that, so instead you can really get your knees down to the ground in prayer.  This is only the second Easter that B and I have spent together (and first one married), so we're still reconciling our traditions together.  Apparently I need to initiate an egg-cracking contest, which I'd never heard of before but sounds fun!

The good thing is that both B and I are Catholic so all the churchy traditions are already set.  Lent actually ended yesterday, and I found myself in the comfort of Holy Thursday mass.  Today is now one of fasting and abstaining from meat.  Tomorrow night B and I will go to the "Great Easter Vigil" mass, which is notoriously beautiful and notoriously LONG.  Catholics like their mass to be at that 1-hour mark, but this mass usually goes at least 2 and a half, and it doesn't start until after 8 (it has to be dark out).  The length is thanks to 7+ readings and also the privilege to welcome adults into Baptism and full Communion with the Church.  Our priest here said if you can sit through a 4-hour SuperBowl game, then stop whining and come see the "SuperMass."

Since moving away from GA, my mom and I have a tradition of calling each other when our respective Vigil masses get out and comparing notes on length, how many people were baptized, and whether there was a sung version of the Exodus reading about Moses parting the Red Sea.  I've never seen it danced before, and it's making me uncomfortable just to watch this, but here's the song I'm talking about:

My church back in GA speeds the tempo up and the cantor makes it sound a bit more like a gospel hymn than a Jewish lilt, but whatever.  I'm not sure what we're in store for here at our new church, and I think my mom's gonna have my head if I call her afterward since we're a time zone behind now.

When I was growing up, my family always visited our extended family in West Point, GA (on the GA-AL line above Columbus).  This was the only West Point that existed to me until I learned about the Army school in NY later in life.  My dad has "cousins by the dozens," and most of them congregate in West Point on Easter Sunday.  Now, my dad's family is 100% Lebanese, but this side of the family is also ridiculously Southern because all of them were born down here, so the Easter potluck always has the oddest combination of food!  Although I didn't think it was too odd when I was younger; it was just Easter food.  Here's what I mean:
This looks like normal Easter Sunday potluck fare, but let's examine further
This is kibbeh, or what I call "Lebanese hamburger."  It's beef (sometimes lamb), cracked wheat, and pine nuts.  Yum!
My family doesn't call this by the Lebanese name, just "stuffed grape leaves."  My name: Lebanese burrito.  Not a fan.
Wouldn't be a Southern Easter without fried chicken, right?  No Lebanese name for that!
My momma's strawberry cake looks a LOT better than my own.  I need to pack on the icing this year!

Unfortunately, B won't be experiencing his first "Big Fat Southern Lebanese Easter" this year, as we're still over four hours away from West Point here in Pensacola.  But we were invited to a big Southern cookout by some locals we know from church, so he'll get a slight taste of it!

Oh, and I forgot to mention that the Easter Bunny still makes a visit!  And he always hides the basket behind somewhere around the house (usually behind a curtain).  B thinks he's too old for an Easter basket, but he's forgetting that the Easter Bunny will be filling his basket with a bottle or two of beer, a small thing of Bailey's, granola bars, and lots of chocolate!  How can you be too old for that?

Happy Easter, everyone!

19 April 2011

Easter Recipe: My Momma's Strawberry Cake

My mom makes this cake every Easter, and it is my favorite cake in the world.  And that's saying a lot, because I love cake!  She's even made it for my birthday sometimes.  Since moving away from home, I've  had to learn how to make it myself because I can't imagine Easter without it.  I think I do a pretty good job!

This was my first-ever attempt at it, back in 2008.  I didn't sift the sugar in the icing, which is why it looks lumpy.

Yes, it is a pretty PINK on the inside!
1 box of white cake mix
1 box of strawberry jello
1 cup vegetable oil
4 whole eggs
3 Tbsp. flour
½ cup water
6 oz. frozen strawberries (½ a box); cut fairly small (easiest to do while frozen)

For the icing:
½ box confectioner's sugar, sifted
3 Tbsp. butter

1. Preheat oven to 350°.  Oil and flour your pan; this is best in a bundt pan.
2. Put dry ingredients together (cake mix, jello powder, flour)
3. Add oil and eggs, then water and strawberry pieces.
4. Mix completely.  If using electric mixer, about 2 minutes on med/high.  Mix until smooth and relatively fluffy (not gooey).
5. Bake in oven for about 1 hour.  Cake tester or toothpick should come out clean.
6. Let cool for about 10 minutes, then turn upside down to get it out of the pan.

Icing is primarily based on taste and how sweet you want it.  My mom usually tries for a glaze, which I love.
7. Melt about 3 Tbsp. of butter per ½ box of confectioner's sugar.  Add melted butter to the sugar and stir until well-mixed and all the butter lumps are out.
8. Add milk to the mixture to the texture you want.  Start with ¼ cup and add gradually.  If icing hardens up, put in microwave to heat a bit, then add milk.
9. Spread icing over cooled cake, then decorate with jelly beans!

18 April 2011

music monday: holy week

Easter has always been my favorite holiday. And by extension and by being Catholic, the Holy Week leading up to it is always a very prayerful time for me.  I'll be posting more about my Easter traditions later this week, but today I wanted to reflect on the music traditionally used in the services this week.

I used to think they were boring when I was younger, but now I love the use of repetitive chants during this week.  These songs are not intended to be a performance (although I found a lot of those on YouTube); instead, almost all liturgical music this week is used as a backdrop to help draw you into reflection and prayer about the Passion of the Lord.  And in many churches, Holy Thursday service ends in silence, the altar is stripped down, and everyone just stays in prayer as the priest makes a silent exit.

The song "Were You There?" is common during Holy Week in pretty much every Catholic church I've set foot in, and I think it's so beautiful.  I was trying to find the best representation of just a cantor singing this with minimal instruments, the way it happens in the church setting.  I found this version featuring only a singer and a trumpet that I think creates a gorgeous environment for contemplation on the mysteries of the Triduum.  The note under the video says that the singer and trumpeter didn't even rehearse this before using it in the Good Friday service, making it truly improvised.

Now I can't wait to share our "buried" word in song next week :-)  Do you have a favorite Holy Week (not Easter) song?

15 April 2011

on liking an idea

Have you ever tried something that you really hoped you would like and/or possibly be good at, but then realized that it wasn't as awesome as you had built it up in your mind?

While knocking tasks off my 101 list, I have come across a bit of this.  My Rocky Horror experience definitely qualified.  It sounded great in theory because so many people love it, but it left me just plain grossed out.  In fact, I could hardly watch the "Glee" Rocky Horror episode this past Halloween because of it.  Geocaching was also another adventure that sounded really neat in theory, but in actuality left me supremely frustrated and became the root of a large marital spat.

Unlike me, this guy probably knows what he's doing.
I sort-of crossed another item off my list last weekend by taking a sailing class from MWR on base.  The class was well-taught, and I aced the classroom part (no surprise, as I've always been good at school).  However, once they put me in my own Sunfish sailboat, all of that went out the window and I started panicking.  I somehow managed not to capsize because I remembered to switch sides of the boat when the big ol' boom (sail) was about to smack me in the head.  It wasn't soon after I got the boat in the water that I realized I was actually scared, and at that moment the water just seemed so big and I just felt so small and weak.  It also hit me that I hadn't been in a boat in YEARS (not since canoeing in Girl Scouts over 10 years ago, and it was always in a small lake).

Luckily, for these classes, they have a powerboat out there with people to help.  A teenage boy helper hopped in my boat with me, tried to calm me down, then steered me back on course because I couldn't figure it out.  Unfortunately, he took the reigns for a bit but didn't really teach me much.  Once he left my boat to help one of our capsized classmates, I figured out how to just stall my boat and sit "in irons."  I was able to turn my boat a few times after that, but never got it to steer back on course, probably because I was scared of going too fast.  Honestly, I just ended up going in a small circle and drifting wherever the wind decided I should be.  I ended up way off course again around the time we were finishing, and the power boat ended up hauling me in on a tow.

When I left that class, I was soooo frustrated with myself.  And when I get frustrated with my own inabilities, it's not pretty and often results in a larger crisis of berating myself about not being good at anything.  Sailing was something I had secretly hoped to be good at and enjoy, if anything because it would be easy to take up as a hobby while here in Pensacola.  I also figured I'd be a good fit because I like the water, but maybe in actuality I don't like being in the middle of the water?  But I'm not giving up so easily on this one.  Yes, I hit a wall (figuratively, although if there was one closer I'm sure I would've hit it literally), but maybe it's time to put my big-girl britches on and try again.  B was in the class with me (and did fine in the water), and he said he'll take me out again soon, and maybe I won't panic this time.  Well, I can only hope.

13 April 2011

wordless wednesday: what's on parade?

In many places I've lived, some type of creature has been "on parade" around town.

Bulldogs in Athens, GA

Jaguars in Jacksonville, FL

Mermaids in Norfolk, VA

Pelicans in Pensacola, FL

Does your town have a signature creature?

11 April 2011

music monday: my first taste of radio

On this installment of Music Monday, I am sharing the very first song I ever heard on the radio.  Yes, I remember it.  My parents are not very musical, so most car rides were accompanied with talk radio (especially Braves games) or our kiddie cassettes (Games for the Road or Cow Christmas, anyone?  anyone??).  Occasionally, my dad would bust out his Beach Boys or Gregorian chant tapes.  So other than what I was singing in church choir, that was all the music I really knew.

However, one day when I was probably in second grade, I saw an ad on television for a radio station.  I can recall a man who called himself Rhubarb* and some kids about my age jumping up and down with fake sacks of money promoting this radio station's weekly giveaway.  I was instantly transfixed and also determined to win.  [Actually, this whole experience may have been the initial catalyst that drove me to a degree in Advertising, but that's neither here nor there.]  That night, I tuned the clock radio in my bedroom to Atlanta's own Y106.7, having no idea what was in store (but secretly hoping to win a sack of money).

*Note: I had no idea what rhubarb was at the time.  Terrible Southerner, raised by Yanks.

I can't really say I immediately fell in love with the first thing I heard.  It was actually a medley of various people singing along to "Achy Breaky Heart" by Billy Ray Cyrus.  Apparently this song was such a huge hit that kids younger than me were singing along to it, but I had never heard it at all before that night.  Well, you can bet that I've never forgotten it, nor the DJ named Rhubarb Jones.  I was a very faithful country music fan all the way until middle school, and I even got my family to listen to it in the car.  My sister probably became an even bigger fan than I was.

I wouldn't exactly call myself a country music fan any more (sis is though!), but I still love hearing many of those songs from my youth.  Here, I give you the one that started it all:

And, for the record, I never did win that sack of money.

05 April 2011

big yummy check mark: a pie from scratch!

"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

Okay okay, so I'm definitely not God, but I did make this apple pie with everything I already had except the apples!  Of course it was on my 101 list, so I had to do it.

15. Bake a pie (including the crust) from scratch

I used my Betty Crocker book to guide me through.  I used her recipe for a buttermilk crust because she said it was easier to handle (sorry, I couldn't find that recipe on her site, but it's in the book).  Well, I've learned now that crusts are easy to make--especially now that I own a pastry blender--but the hardest part is moving the crust from the counter to the pie dish.  So frustrating!  I had to do it a few times for each crust.

The top crust looked awful before it was actually baked.
The apple prep was so easy.  All I really had to do was peel some apples and then throw some cinnamon and nutmeg in them.  It came out sooooo good!  Here's the recipe I used, except mine only called for 6 cups of apples, not 8.  I also brushed the top crust with water and sprinkled sugar on top (hey, Betty told me to!).

Wish I'd made more!
I'll definitely be making more pies from now on!

03 April 2011

getting to know me

Yes, I realize that I don't do a lot of "who I am, what I'm about" posts. For the most part, you've had to read between the lines to figure me out.

But today, I'm gonna be a nice girl and throw you a bone.  I'm linking up with MannLand5's bloghop.  I'm also gonna do 25 facts about me, inspired by the #100factsaboutme twitter tag.  Maybe I'll come back at another time and do the other 75, but right now I can only think of 25.

1. do you weigh yourself?
I weighed myself constantly when I was pregnant, and I didn't gain any weight the whole time since I miscarried.  Since then, the only time I think to weigh myself is when I'm watching "The Biggest Loser"
2. what's the nastiest thing you've ever eaten?
I'm kind of a picky eater, so I'm sure there have been many. Raw oysters when we didn't know what we were doing was awful (it was like swallowing a mouthful of seawater). Years later, someone else taught us how to do it properly, so now I don't flinch when I hear that other people like raw oysters.
3. snail mail or email?
I sign up for a lot of free samples, and I can only get snacks in snail mail!
4. do you have any irrational fears...what are they?
Spiders and bugs, but only in the house. If they're outside, I don't care. I also don't really like toads, especially when they're ON my front door (yes, ON).
5. do you play an instrument?
Voice: the only instrument made by God (my choir director has a t-shirt with those words, and I love it!)
6. would you rather be bitten by a snake or attacked by a bear?
Ugh, terrible question. I guess snake bite and pray.
7. do you ever go braless in public?
Nope. I do wear those shelf-bra tank tops, but I don't think that counts as braless.
8. today i am thankful for........................?
God, the season of Lent, the beautiful weather we get in north Florida, that I'm only a 10-minute drive from the Gulf, that my husband is here next to me and we're both healthy, that we have enough money for food on the table and a nice place to live and that we can do that without me working.

25 Facts About Me
1. I've lived in 5 different places, but all of them have been east of the Mississippi and south of the Mason-Dixon Line.
2. I hate cream cheese, and I definitely hate cheesecake.
3. In college, I had a job that consisted of reading text books onto cassette tape.
4. I was a member of my high school's Quiz Bowl team, and we came in 2nd in the state tourney my senior year.  We also won the "sportsmanship award."
5. I'm Catholic, and I can count on one hand the number of times I've missed Sunday mass in my entire life.
6. My sister is adopted.  I'm not.
7. I haven't had any living grandparents since I was 13.
8. I really love cats and cannot get one because my husband is allergic.  I have no interest in dogs.
9. I "own" a cat named Frisky that I got from the pound when I was in 4th grade.  He still lives with my parents, and he now only has 3 legs (and he's 17), but he's a fighter.
10. I am a huge Kelly Clarkson fan.
11. Things I've volunteered with on a regular basis in the past few years: therapeutic horse-back riding, botanical gardens, and currently Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society
12. B and I forgot to kiss at the end of our wedding mass.  I didn't even realize it until someone said something afterward.
13. Neither of my parents are from Georgia.
14. I was in Girl Scouts from 1st through 12th grade, and I earned my Gold Award.
15. I graduated 4th in my high school class of 300.
16. I've never dyed my hair and don't plan on it.
17. I did gymnastics from when I was 4 until 5th grade.  I still can't do a back walkover and wish I would've stayed with it a bit longer.
18. My birthday is June 1.
19. I've never weighed more than 116 pounds.
20. I have two bachelor's degrees (not a double major, but two actual degrees).  One is a BS in Child & Family Development; the other is a BA in Advertising.
21. My college tuition was $0 because of the HOPE Scholarship.
22. My first job was as a waitress at a sit-down Chick-Fil-A (Dwarf House).
23. I can't stand medical dramas or cop dramas.
24. I love college football but don't really care much about pro football.
25. We went to Mexico on our honeymoon because the swine flu outbreak made the plane tickets cheaper.