Bowtie Chicken Pasta with a Submarine Ball thrown in

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IMG_5218I should be in bed – just finished feeding Daniel for the last time and have a few minutes before I’m sleepy enough to nod off.  We went to the Submarine Birthday Ball tonight (in case you were wondering – no it’s not a sphere painted like a submersible, it’s 113th Annual dinner/dance in celebration and remembrance of the submarine force.)  We try to go to this event every spring, and each year I am touched by the presence of submarine veterans and the tolling of the bell for submarines that have been lost at sea.  Did you know that during WWII alone, 50 United States submarines were lost??  I know that’s a drop in the bucket of human losses during WWII, and even just when compared to the fact that probably the losses of all other shipping were pretty great, but in terms of percentage lost, I’m pretty sure being a submariner was one of the most dangerous jobs out there.  Two men helped cut the birthday cake tonight who had qualified on their subs (receiving their “dolphins”) in 1943.  Such brave men.

Trying to show you the back of the hairdo using mirrors - she did victory rolls!

Trying to show you the back of the hairdo using mirrors – she did victory rolls!

We had planned a family photo shoot prior to our departure for the Ball, but, alas, the rain had other plans.  When I returned from the mall where an awesome girl named Mac did my hair, the torrential rain had me worried I might not make it even in under an hour to the house (it’s a 20 minute drive normally.)  Thankfully, the puddles weren’t in my lanes, and the roads were accident-free, speeding my meet-up at the gate with the photographer, Sarah Stewart, who we just met recently through church.  We will certainly be rescheduling, since I’m hoping to populate the top of this blog with her photos of us sometime soon….Even though she came back to the house with us, it was still coming down by our drop-dead-must-leave-for-the-ball (or John would have turned into a pumpkin) time, so she took a few shots of the group on the front porch, and we were off to the races.  What follows are a few pictures from the evening, and then a scrumptuous recipe – inspired by the Macaroni Grill’s bowtie pasta in a creamy white wine sauce with sundried tomatoes, mushrooms, and chicken.


making fun of the professional pictures they offer - this is the pose -- turned out much better than any they do at these events :)

making fun of the professional pictures they offer – this is the pose — turned out much better than any they do at these events 🙂

Friend Katie Guffy from church - we had a bit of trouble posing for a decent shot, so this one was my favorite :)

Friend Katie Guffey from church – we had a bit of trouble posing for a decent shot, so this one was my favorite 🙂

*Pictures from the iphone – a bit dark  🙂

*Standing in front of a bell (formerly a ship’s bell maybe?) and near the cake – we didn’t have any of it,  because they served delicious cheesecake as well.


4 Chicken Breasts – cut into strips to marinate better

1 pound bowtie pasta

2 Tbsp butter

4 Tbsp flour

1/2 cup white wine

3 cups half-and-half

1 cup mozzerella cheese

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

1/2-1 cups sliced sundried tomatoes

4 Tbsp butter

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 pound mushrooms, sliced

white pepper and salt to taste

A few hours before dinner, marinate the chicken in something.  You could pour some Italian dressing into a ziploc or just throw together oil, wine, lemon juice, and a few seasonings.  Just a bit of flavor for the chicken ; it’s going to end up in the sauce so this is not the most important step.

Boil the pasta.  For me, the huge pot of water takes forever to boil, and the pasta cooks 14 minutes.  So, in the 30 minutes the rest of the meal takes to prepare, you can have the pasta cooking.

Marinating the chicken

Marinating the chicken

 In a large skillet, melt the butter (2 Tbsp), stir in the flour til smooth, and then whisk in the white wine.  I forgot to stir mine for a while, which is why it’s lumpy in the picture and took a lot of work to smooth out.  Add the cream and stir constantly over medium-low heat.

In a separate pan, saute the mushrooms with the butter (the other 4 Tbsp) and garlic.  DO NOT SALT the mushrooms, as I heard on a cooking show that this causes them to “sweat” leading to steaming/boiling the mushrooms rather than a real sauteing of the mushrooms.  Meanwhile, grill the chicken.  Once it’s grilled, cut it into large-bite-sized chunks.  (When I didn’t have my nifty “griddler” I just baked it in the oven for 20-30 minutes.)

Melting the butter to cook with the garlic and mushrooms

Melting the butter to cook with the garlic and mushrooms

awesome garlicky, buttery mushrooms

awesome garlicky, buttery mushrooms

trying to stir the flour into the sauce

trying to stir the flour into the sauce


Saute the sun-dried tomatoes with a little olive oil in your mushroom pan (Take the mushrooms out first, and set them aside.)

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Finally, add the cheeses to the cream sauce, stir until melted, season with salt and white pepper; then, transfer the mushrooms, sliced chicken (already grilled) and tomatoes to the sauce.  Drain the pasta and return it to the huge pot (or a lovely serving bowl big enough for stirring), pouring the sauce into it and mixing well.  Be sure not to overcook your pasta in order to prevent it from breaking apart at this point.  I have had one friend prepare the whole meal, transfer it to a baking dish, refrigerate it overnight, and then warm it in the oven covered in foil – instant awesomeness.


The sauce - voila!

The sauce – voila!

my little helper :)

my little helper 🙂


PS – DON’T FORGET ABOUT THE GIVEAWAY!! THIS IS MY 206TH POST SO WE ONLY HAVE UNTIL 210 POSTS TO REACH OUR GOAL!  If you’re sharing recipes from the blog, I have rearranged the “recipe” tab at the top now (“in the kitchen”) to better organize the recipes.  You can read about the GIVEAWAY here.

To Market To Market to Buy …

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No fat pigs were purchased that day, but we did buy a few little jars of tiny rocks.

I should mention that I can attribute errors in this post to having withdrawal from going pretty much cold-turkey with the chocolate on Saturday.  John did supply me with half of a tiny wedge of dark chocolate filled with caramel around 8pm, and the other half around 9pm, and when I sweetly begged for some dark chocolate and berry granola around 11:30pm he said I could have a tiny bit.

I have found myself craving chocolate SO MUCH all day long.  It’s more of a feeling that comes over me making me feel a bit out of control or overwhelmed, then I think how chocolate would make it go away (or it’s suddenly feeling tired and drained, as when I’m nursing Daniel or while I was playing the bagpipes), and then I can’t get the idea of eating the chocolate out of my head.  A few times I actually felt like I started to get flushed as I do when I have a sugar rush from eating too much candy or something.  Just a few more sips of iced tea (caffeinated until 5pm and then decaf afterwards – I brewed two pots last night in anticipation of a great need today) often did the trick, but as the evening wore on, it got worse, probably because I was more tired as well.  I think it should get easier after a few days when my true dependence on caffeine (what little of it there is in cocoa – I still think it’s affecting me a lot, considering even regular tea gave me the jitters when I was pregnant), and then it will just be the emotionally soothing properties of the chocolate from which I will need release. 🙂  Setting up the punching bag (finally!) in the garage this week should cover some of that (for when I feel overwhelmed) and lying down to rest should help the other times when I am just a bit worn out (and a big piece of chocolate is all the pick-me-up I need….)  Anyway, wish me luck!! Tell me if you have problems with chocolate!

Now it’s Sunday night, day two “off the bean” – the cocoa bean this time – and I just finished a chocolate-peanut butter-almond milk protein shake even though it’s 11:30pm.  I just couldn’t take another minute without some chocolate!! I made the “rule” for myself Friday night when I started this challenge that I am allowed a chocolate item if I make it myself using cocoa powder.  (This means no chocolate chips or using chocolate bars in something.)  A quick little shake just now has done the trick. 🙂  Now.  Here’s a fun afternoon at the market, as seen by my iphone:

Of course the kids beg for one of these every time we see them - but they are EXPENSIVE!!

Of course the kids beg for one of these every time we see them – but they are EXPENSIVE!!

lots of these going around

lots of these going around

Any trip to downtown with the kids requires a stop at the Kapla Block Store!

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The BEST find of the day was this neat little rock shop.  Oddly enough, everything you can find at the Swap Meet (okay, not everything)  at Aloha Stadium on Oahu was for sale in this shop — at LOWER prices.  Tourists frequent the Swap Meet – even driving 30 minutes to get there from Waikiki – because they can find coconut purses, little wooden frogs that “croak” when you pull the stick over ridges on their backs, scarves, bracelets with jade, bracelets with hemp, etc, etc, etc, at lower prices than in the markets and gift shops in Waikiki.  It all looks like “authentic” Hawaiian kitsch, but no, it’s probably been made in China, and that’s why you can buy it here, too.  The kids loved this store and thought it worthy of their pennies, with which they purchased tiny bottles of rocks.
photo-481 photo-480 photo-479Time for bed now – with the hope that tomorrow the chocolate detox will go much more smoothly.  Definitely time for the punching bag! 🙂

Christmas Light Show (better late than never)

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I found these pictures on my husband’s phone the other day and realized I had forgotten to include them in my Twelve Days of Christmas rundown of the visit from my parents.  There are enough of them, though, that they deserve their own honorable mention post.  Every year these are displayed from Thanksgiving through New Years’ Eve at James Island County Park out on James Island, so we figured with my parents here it would be a good chance to take all the kids out to see them.  I didn’t expect them to be as amazing as they were.  We were all very pleasantly surprised, and the fee was pretty tiny. 🙂  I am just going to feature the lights here and won’t say much, with the possible exception of explaining a few of the pictures as well as talking about a few that were awesome which I couldn’t capture quickly enough.

The new bridge across the Cooper River.  To the right you can barely see a display from Boeing - an aircraft carrier with a jet taking off (the lights moved to show it taking off and flying away.)

The new bridge across the Cooper River. To the right you can barely see a display from Boeing – an aircraft carrier with a jet taking off (the lights moved to show it taking off and flying away.)

The old bridge - it was here in 2001 when we lived here before, going between Mt. Pleasant and downtown Charleston.  They tore it down once they had built the new bridge.

The old bridge – it was here in 2001 when we lived here before, going between Mt. Pleasant and downtown Charleston. They tore it down once they had built the new bridge.

Also seen on the lake was a dolphin jumping in and out of the water and a Santa golfing which had the ball flying far away over a field.

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I hope I did it justice and that you came away thinking the lights were pretty amazing 🙂  These were just taken with John’s iphone.  So many of the displays had “moving” lights where the lights went on and off to give the illusion of movement, but it was impossible to really catch on a camera.  The BEST ONE I thought, was of “Old Man Winter.”  As we drove around a bend, we came upon him blowing out a chill wind (they lit up over time to look as if he was blowing) which then covered four trees with ice in succession.  By driving slowly enough we were able to see the whole scene about 4 times before we passed it.  The four trees which lit up one at a time were real trees covered in white and blue lights, which made the effect even cooler . 🙂  All for now – bedtime over here!

Using a headlamp to cook potatoes and sausage must mean….

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No, we’re not camping. And the power hasn’t gone out, either.  Rather, my children were running around spying on me and John and trying to sneak up on us, wearing dark cloaks and little blue and red LED lights on their fingers as I was making the quiches for Sunday (and the freezer.) So much was accomplished here today (Saturday – 6 minutes until Sunday right now actually) and yesterday that I can hardly remember everything we did.  We were all pretty happy to finish up the toy room:

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Toy room...ahhhhh

Toy room…ahhhhh

I do recall that I didn’t get up until 10am (score!) and then had morning devotions with the children over my daily breakfast protein shake, nursed Daniel again and put him back down for a nap.  I know I sorted and started the laundry some time in there; I then got things ready for making fried eggs and English muffins (John cut up the turkey kielbasa and got it frying on the stove, I buttered the muffins to broil them in the toaster oven,  I washed the cast iron pan that we always used for eggs, along with the new heart-shaped egg cooking devices, I started cooking the eggs, and then John took it all over.)  Breakfast was just hitting the table as I stepped out the door for an experimental run.  3.6 miles later I felt well enough, but as the day has worn on my foot has told me otherwise.  Guess it’s still a little too early for running.  Back to the bike!  It doesn’t feel much worse than it did earlier in the month, but it is definitely more painful than it has been over this last week.  I just started stretching my foot in the way prescribed in a book I ordered online.  I will report back about its efficacy. 🙂

how the living room is looking - not finished, but getting there.

how the living room is looking – not finished, but getting there.

Sunday afternoon now, and I am relaxing after lunch before evening church.  I feel so behind on blogging because I still haven’t posted pictures of the homeschooling trip to Patriot’s Point on Friday and several other things, but I have an excuse – I’m working on a few photo projects that have a deadline of December 10, and then there is everything getting done in the house.  So, just a quick rundown of what has been going on here before I get back to continuing the goings on. 🙂  Yesterday after the run I showered and fed Daniel (showering is something I consider “work” when I wash my hair – which only happens once a week – because then I have to blow it dry for it to be manageable all week, so this probably took an hour all told), then I made myself some of those yummy eggs and English muffins, and more laundry loads were switched and Christmas boxes were brought in by John.  He also put up a curtain rod in our living room and brought in the tree (a fake one from years back) from the garage.  Next was practicing the bagpipes for a little while and preparing dinner (some delicious black bean soup I made in November and then froze which I had thawed out as well as a salad; recipe nonexistent because I forgot to write down the amounts.  I guess you’ll have to wait!) before we all sat down for devotions and a short Christmas movie – Ice Age Mammoth Christmas.  Somewhere in the day I organized another two bookshelves and all the colored pencils, crayons, markers, and other writing implements and also cleared off 3-4 flat surfaces in preparation for covering them in Christmas decor (This time tomorrow the house won’t know what hit it.)  After the little ones were in bed, Patience, Gabriel, and I went out front to do a bit of work.  They took turns riding Gabriel’s bike down to the middle of our cul-de-sac which is full of stones to gather a bag of rocks to use as weights.  The Poinsettias and two fake Christmas trees out front had been tipping over in the wind occasionally, so we weighted down the bases of them all.  I also spent a good hour spreading the branches on the trees since we bought them last week so they had that nice shiny, new box-shaped look.  Not a desirable appearance for a Christmas tree.

After church today a couple we just met came over for lunch.  I had made three meat and potato quiches last night so there was plenty of food for spur-of-the-moment guests, and these had the added convenience of being ideally located.  They live just a few streets over, on the base!  He is a student at the Naval Nuclear Power School where John works; they’ve been here a year and have about another 6 months.  We hadn’t met them before because I believe they were out of town the other weeks we had been to church, so it was really nice to get to know people who live so close to us.  Back to resting up and a few computer things while I have my feet up for another half hour.  I hope your weekend has been restful!

So – about the black bean soup recipe.  Can I just tell you that every kid LOVED IT, and Gabriel even went on this long diatribe about how our children’s children all have to be told to eat this soup in the future.  We sprinkled grated cheddar cheese on it and crunched up tortillas chips, along with a bit of fresh cilantro.  Yum!!!!  Unfortunately I really can’t tell you the amounts of seasonings I put in (I can tell you what, just not how much.)  If you want to know the general recipe because you have a hankering for amazing black bean soup, make a comment, and I’ll do my best to reconstruct it.  Otherwise you’ll have to wait until the next time I make it. 🙂


Sunday NIGHT now – am I ever going to publish this?  Here’s what we’re up to:

17997_10151548043078626_611958602_n 67692_10151548048503626_3167731_n 382041_10151548043868626_72108429_nWatching “Home Alone” for the first time — lots of laughing; they are mesmerized!!! Kevin from the movie reminds me a lot of Gabriel with his silliness. 🙂  All the kids think the gags are hilarious!!



North Andover, Massachusetts – Part II

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First time to really sit down at the computer all day – with the exception of placing  an order on Amazon and trying to take care of some business – and it’s 11:16pm.  Going to feed Daniel for the last time tonight and then head to bed to get up “early” (for me – 7:30am is early) for our day at co-op tomorrow.  Here are a few more pictures from our visit to North Andover, Mass.  It’s not where our friends live exactly, but it ended up being the town where we went for fun 🙂  Not that we didn’t have fun in their town – I honestly have no idea what town we were in from day to day as we traveled around but only know where we went to the farm (because I could google it) and where we went to dinner on our double-date because of, again, Mr. Google.  Here are a few more pictures from the Tree Farm on Friday which I forgot to include in yesterday’s post:

Guess who!? (Greer – in case you’re trying to figure out which blonde-haired beauty it is)

Liesl looking down on Greer and Claire

To catch you up more quickly, though, we will pick up with Friday night.  After the Tree Farm we drove up to South Berwick, Maine, where we own a house.  All we did was drive an hour north, show up at the house, meet the new tenants, tour the house, and then hop back into the car for another hour drive.  This spoiled any plans to reheat Thanksgiving food for dinner, and, unfortunately for us all, we ended up at The Ale House in Amesbury, Massachusetts.  I am totally kidding, though, because the restaurant had amazing food (Cajun Fish Chowder, delicious bruschetta, coconut shrimp salad) which we didn’t have to prepare, and we sat in a very two-family-ten-kid-friendly table upstairs in a corner.  We picked that restaurant, though, because John and our friend Ryan were meeting about 6 other guys there for beers at 7pm, so we had perfectly positioned ourselves there for dinner at 6pm.  Here are a few pictures I took in the restaurant and on the walk back to the car:

The rear entrance for The Ale House

Saturday was an AWESOME day.  It started with turkey-mashed potato-gravy-cranberry sandwiches on croissants.  Then Georgia and I left for a noon pedicure (with a quick Starbucks run) at which we just relaxed and chatted, kid-free.  It was so, so long overdue!  We then shopped for shoes so we wouldn’t mess up our fancy toes:

Matching polish, and matching shoes we bought (which we picked out independently of each other – we also have matching Tarte lipsticks in the same color which we bought while separated by a continent and an ocean)

We browsed the stores a bit longer (with another stop at Starbucks for lunch) and both ended up with a single sale item from Gap for one of our kids and – surprise – matching shirts from Old Navy. We are so cheesy awesome!  We rushed home to ready the children/house/husbands for date night, briefed the babysitter, and then made our escape in their minivan because we are just that cool.  First stop was an incredible Mediterranean place in North Andover called Yella.  I certainly regret not having photographed our delectable food, but really, it all went so fast that I wouldn’t have gotten to taste any of it had I paused to ponder and record the event.  IT WAS DELICIOUS – every appetizer, each entree (because, of course, I tried them all.)  I cannot praise the place highly enough.  The red wine was great, too – the best I’ve had in some time – and we left cheerful and well-fed.  I can’t remember the names of all the things we had, but I can tell you about some of them.  There was, of course, hummus, bubba ganoosh (that’s my phonetical spelling so you can figure out what I’m trying to say), meat pies, and grape leaves with stuff in them.  My meal was salad with a seared salmon on top, John’s was pasta with artichoke hearts and shrimp (which we all decreed the best meal on the table), Georgia’s was…scallops, and Ryan’s was something equally delicious.  Lamb maybe?  Either way, the strawberry/chocolate/hazelnut crepes with pistachio ice cream topped it off wonderfully, paired with superb dessert wines and complemented by my baklava and Ryan’s pot o’ chocolate (there was a fancy name for it, but it was basically dark chocolate mousse.)  We finished up the night with coffees and teas at a Starbucks, where we continued to prove how much fun we are by sitting around on four iphones taking pictures of each other taking pictures (and playing words with friends, showing one another random videos, and tagging each other on facebook multiple times in pictures and such.)

Georgia took this one of Ryan taking a picture of me (which you can see on his phone in the picture) of the stack of cups topped with some stirrers John and Georgia managed to attach to one another

I set these cups up purposefully to get the bunny on the window and the three pictures on the cups, along with John in my union jack scarf. I am so artistic, am I not??

John getting in on the picture-taking party

Being silly with Georgia

Do you like Mediterranean Food? What is your favorite dish?

When was the last time you went on a DOUBLE DATE for double the fun?

Do you have your tree up yet?

Tuesday Trip Report: North Andover, Mass. – Part I – Smolak Farms

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A few days late, I know, but finally an update of part of the weekend:  I tell you what – we were a pretty crazy group all together — 4 adults, ten children ages 10 and under.  Quite a crowd!!  We spent Black Friday at a nearby Christmas Tree Farm (it’s open year-round and is also known for its peaches and apples and animals) where we did not, in fact, buy a Christmas tree but instead spent the time playing pirates and eating apple cider donuts.  I don’t think any of the four adults actually made any purchases – at the farm or online – that were not related to filling our tummies, so I guess we all really failed on finding great Black Friday deals.  Add to that that we weren’t out of bed til late and didn’t manage to leave the house until around 2pm, and you could say that we skipped the major shopping day in its entirety.

Arriving at the farm, we all browsed the animals for a few minutes before descending on the play structure – a giant pirate ship.

John and Daniel after we got out of the van

Patience, contemplating the deer

Daniel was made Captain of the Pirate Ship (with Liesl and Braden Mathison and a stranger as part of his crew)

Claire at the water pump

Georgia and Miles

The pirate ship underway

Lily Mathison

Greer walking the plank

I was called in to help with the flag…

Claire looking out a porthole

I think that one’s Liesl? No, it’s Claire again.

Patience, issuing orders to the crew

Daniel, holding down the fort

Ryan Mathison took these of me, Claire, Gabriel, and Carter

And there’s Liesl (with a grape in her mouth)! with me and Carter

Back to Daniel…

Daniel, chilling out in Ryan’s sunglasses

Picking out some apple cider donuts – Claire and Liesl

After playing around outside for a while, we retreated to the warm cafe/shop for their famous apple cider donuts and Ghiradelli hot chocolates.

cute little country store

Georgia showing off the reindeer in the greenhouse where we ate

Claire with her cider donut

Greer, pensively enjoying her donut

silly Lily face whilst donut dining

“Smolak” on the stockings – the name of the farm

An old sleigh

John and Georgia laughing about something

Why is Daniel laughing?

Ryan is tickling his teeny foot 🙂

Greer and Claire playing hide-&-seek with Braden (where’s Claire?)

That’s Liesl trying to bargain for some more hot chocolate. One last photo – Claire running around high on sugar before we left.  Tomorrow I’ll tell you about what else we did in North Andover 🙂

Cold enough to go…sledding!

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Hey there! I am not really feeling as chipper as that sounds but do become a bit more animated when I think about the pictures I’m about to post.  We went out to a park yesterday as a family, not knowing what to expect since I had looked it up online as being one nearby the Target where I wanted to pick up boxing gloves and rugs.  We started the day with yummy breakfast burritos and went out before lunchtime with a picnic for the park.  We hit up Target first, thinking to get John a Starbucks near the entrance since he felt in need of caffeine, and then we planned to spend our lunchtime at the park picnicking and playing.  Turns out Starbucks had buy-on-get-one-free holiday drinks, but it didn’t start until 2pm, so we actually ended up grabbing the coffees on the way out instead.  I came up empty-handed on the boxing gloves, though — they did have complete sets with bags and gloves, but I already have a standing bag and just needed better gloves because the ones I have are worn out and don’t protect my hands enough (I started feeling like I might injure my hand when I was using them previously.)  This meant a trip to Sports Authority was in our future, but I saved that for later. We sat in the toy aisles for a bit, browsed quickly on the holiday aisles, restocked a few favorites on the cold medicine aisles, and took advantage of the $2.50 12 packs of select Coca-Cola products.  Then it was on to the park, armed with a peppermint mocha and an eggnog latte!


Drinking some of the hot chocolate we brought for the picnic.

We had some leftover croissants from the Costco bakery, so I made turkey and salami sandwiches with those and brought along grapes, cheddar bunnies, and chocolate chex mix.  We also had two mugs of eggnog/hot cocoa (that’s where you mix eggnog in with the dry mix to form a paste and then add in the hot water) that were quite the favorite.


It was pretty chilly out (perfect for holiday drinks!! in cute red Starbucks cups for us and a Guinness mug and British thermos for the kids :)) so we were able to do a little sledding, too…

Love this one of Claire and Greer

Gabriel literally leaping off as it grinds to a halt — the hill was pretty steep so at the bottom everyone ended up rolling all over each other.

Patience and Greer running back up the hill for another go

You can see Greer’s foot sticking out behind Patience as they speed downhill

I did run out tonight for those gloves, after having a short 45 minute ride on the stationary bike in the early evening, along with a shower.  Finally washed my hair and got rid of the straightness — it was nice to see myself in the mirror finally! Some stranger has been looking out at me from the glass since last Saturday when the hairdresser straightened it after my trim.  Greer and Claire kept me company for my outing and even talked me into an hour relaxing at Barnes and Noble. 🙂






Tuesday Trip Report – Washington, DC (on the outside)

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Telling you about my marathon weekend will take a few posts, because we had such a fun and busy time with our good friend Christine.  So, first, since it’s Tuesday, I’ll just tell you about what we did and saw in DC, and then tomorrow I’ll try to write about the Marine Corps Marathon.  For some reason, it seems like sitting down to write about the MCM is giving me a sense of writer’s block.  I think about all the things I want to say over and over as I make food, pick up after kids, wipe bottoms, and change laundry.  But then, as I relax on the couch with my feet up (which I’ve endeavored to do as much as possible today), I just want to check Facebook and research this and go read that — I just don’t want to tackle the huge task of conveying my experience from this weekend, because it seems like it will be impossible to really show you how it was.  I wish I could have had a camera  recording in stills or in a movie the amazing things I saw — not just the scenery, but the runners, their shirts, the signs held by masses of cheering spectators….I will try, though, tomorrow. 🙂


Where did we leave off?? How could I forget– Adam’s Ribs!! Ooooh, wishing I had some of those around right now.  We had a decent night’s sleep on Friday and  then were up around 8:30am on Saturday for the Marine Corps Marathon Expo.  For the non-initiated, an Expo is full of vendors peddling various shoes, nutritional items, running performance clothes, self-massage gizmos, and any number of other things remotely related to the sport of running.  It’s like going to a gun show, or a classic car show, but it’s a “running” show.  And after a few days of the “show” (sometimes there are various races during the days of the expos, like fun runs, 5K’s, 10K’s, etc) the runners go out to “show” what they can do. 🙂  Probably most of the serious runners don’t attend an expo the day before a race (they might go on an earlier day if the expo runs for days) because it’s hard on the legs to be walking around a lot, and even worse since they are usually held in stadium areas with concrete floors.  The Expo was a fun time for getting pumped up about the race, though, and we got a bit of swag from various booths.  We also had to pick up out Bib Number and official shirt at the Expo, along with the bag and luggage tag for checking a bag at the race start.  It was really well organized, and we easily found our friends, Brent and Carole Shrader (Brent was on John’s submarine in Hawaii, and Carole was running the Marathon now that they live in DC.)

Meeting a random cow at the Expo

Posing with Carole – Notice I was holding my bib number backwards 🙂

Got a kick out of this one. My picture in front of it wasn’t a good one.

John with Brent

The nice lady at the Newtons Running Shoes booth remembered my picture from their facebook page from when I was running my half marathon and 10K in the Spring 6 and 7 months pregnant. 🙂  We didn’t buy anything at the expo, so we escaped unharmed.  Afterwards, we took Brent and Carole in our van on a mini-tour of DC looking for a place to eat.  We ended up at Truorleans, a great Cajun place conveniently located to the DC Armory (home of the Expo.)  I had a delicious “Crab Benedict”, and John’s bacon cheeseburger and fries were so amazing I had to take a picture of them, too.  Here are a few pictures of the children that Christine passed along as well…

This was where an ATM was installed about ten minutes after the picture was taken.

Crabmeat piled atop an English Muffin with hollandaise sauce

Note the hush puppies in the background — oh my goodness they were SO AWESOME

Lunch took us up to a crossroads in the day – go back to the hotel for less than an hour, or kill time until the Run to Honor dinner at 4:30pm on the other side of DC.  We chose to stay out and took a drive around the Mall to show the kids all the landmarks they had learned about in homeschool seen in Night at the Museum: Battle for the Smithsonian.  Repeatedly, I had told the children we could go to one of the Museums from the movie, but the day was going by too fast for that (Lunch with Brent and Carole was a pleasant surprise, so we had planned on a museum if we had not been able to hand out with them.)  Now I promised them we’d see a museum on Sunday after the Marathon (no such luck.)  Here is some of what we saw petering around the city in our big Armstrong-mobile: (I took a few of these, and Christine captured the rest on her phone.)

National Botanical Gardens and the Capitol

The kids playing around outside a Starbucks – giving Christine a silly pose for the camera.

So that’s it – all we saw of DC.  The family and I saw more the next day – as they chased me around via the Metro and the streets and as I ran through Arlington, Georgetown, DC, and Crystal City.  We have now had to promise the kids another trip to DC.  Mostly it was Christine who missed out, since this was her first trip to DC, and she didn’t get to enter a single museum or landmark.  We promised to rectify that situation soon – probably during cherry blossom season. 🙂  More about DC on the blog tomorrow once I’ve finally figured out how to put the marathon into words sufficient for the magnitude of such an amazing event!



A Capital Time


Friday was a day in which we visited two capitals – Washington, DC, and Annapolis, MD!  We left Annapolis Friday night with full tummies – thank you Adam’s Ribs!!!!!  I had a salad with shrimp (and a she-crab soup I didn’t really like) as well as 3-4 ribs from someone’s plate.  The kids scarfed their ribs down, and John probably ate 3/4 of a rack of ribs by himself.  We can’t come to the Annapolis area without a trip to Adam’s Ribs (They catered our rehearsal dinner as well the night before our wedding.)  John says that Greer (who turned two just a few months ago) probably ate half a rack by herself.  They were a big hit!

We started out Friday morning in Roanoke Rapids, NC, where I ran my last three miles on a treadmill at the Holiday Inn while John had breakfast with all six kids by himself in the hotel lobby.  After a quick shower we were on the road in plenty of time to pick up Christine at the airport at 3:30pm in Baltimore.  Unfortunately, at our fuel stop just north of the Virginia border, I remembered that I had left the freezer pack with the extra milk for Daniel in the fridge back at the hotel.  So, back we went, and by the time we hit DC it was already 3:15pm, so there was quite a bit of traffic.

Leaves on the beautiful drive

I was a bit frustrated that the GPS had us going right through DC (but perhaps the big loop around the city would have taken longer); however, seeing a few of the sites along the marathon route was pretty exciting:
We didn’t end up at BWI Airport until around 4:50pm, which didn’t really ruin any plans but was just annoying because of the stop and go traffic.  At least I remembered it before it was too late to go back!  Marathon success depends a bit on having extra milk for him.  Once we retrieved Christine from the curb, we were on our way to show off our Alma Mater.  None of the children have been there since Patience was 6 months old and John’s submarine was the “touring” ship for Homecoming one year.  (I just recalled another trip to Annapolis when we lived in Maine and popped down to see the Naval Academy Spring Musical – a Gilbert and Sullivan one – but I don’t think the kids went over there since we arrived in the late afternoon and took them over to the babysitter’s house straightaway.)
Fun times were had by all as the children stared wide-eyed at the huge buildings and beautiful campus.  They particularly loved Dahlgren Hall, where John and I used to go on “dates” for pizza and ice skating when we were midshipmen and couldn’t leave the Yard during the week. 🙂  Christine was enamored of the campus as well, and the place was made a little more magical by the presence of many strange people clad in odd costumes.

Driving over the Severn River into Annapolis

Naval Academy N* on the Water Tower

The outside of Dahlgren Hall, built in 1901 (I think that’s what the sign said) – this is where we could go for pizza or subs, to study, or to ice skate on nights when we couldn’t leave the campus.

Looking over at the Chapel dome

The roof inside Dahlgren Hall

Hanging inside Dahlgren

Tecumseh, the statue we painted before every home football game

Kiddos with Christine

Looking down Stribling Walk

The front of Bancroft Hall, our dormitory

the kids standing by a mock-up of one of the rooms (my room never looked like this because they were remodeling the building while I was there.)

Right inside Bancroft Hall – “The Rotunda”

The kids and John walking into Memorial Hall (also inside Bancroft Hall)

Running to Honor tomorrow – LT Darin Pontell, my company-mate and classmate, killed 9/11/01 at the Pentagon

Also LT Jonas Panik, my teammate on the Powerlifting Team, another victim of 9/11

Apparently this weekend there will be many oddities as the Naval Academy’s organist performs his annual Halloween Concert on the grandiose pipe organ in the Chapel.  This annual production began my junior or senior year and has grown annually, now incorporating special effects, costumes, and plenty of antics.  I have never been to the concert (It was sold out by the time I noticed that it was going on this weekend.)  but I’m sure it would be memorable — We don’t celebrate Halloween in our family, but the concert is just famous “eerie” organ music, and the organist (Monty Maxwell) is one of the country’s best — things from “Phantom of hte Opera,” Toccata and Fugue, and things from a few Requiems.  One of these days —
Saw this hilarious picture  and thought I’d share it:
I hope you have been having a good weekend! 🙂  We plan on braving a hurricane, dragging 6 kids around Washington, DC, and running a marathon.  Sounds like we’ll be pretty busy!!

Resting up for the weekend! (Thanks to a little help from my *new* friends!)


That’s Gabriel and Daniel, lying on my pillow yesterday morning looking super cute and fun, which is what they are. 🙂

Sitting here with my feet up in our newly halfway-unpacked living room….ahhhhhhh!!! Every evening since last Monday night I’ve been on my feet til about 1am unpacking and organizing, with the exception of when I’ve had to nurse to baby.  Even most of my eating has been done standing up while I buzz around the kitchen, and NOW I am giving myself permission to sit. And then sit some more. And then nap. And then maybe sit again.  (This really did happen because before and after the nap today I was sitting to nurse Daniel :))  With the marathon only 5 days away, I am trying to take everyone’s advice to rest my legs and to hydrate.  But let me tell you, my relaxation time this evening was made even more enjoyable possible at all by my two new friends who came over to help unpack today.  They weren’t even really my friends until we chatted while unpacking, since I have only just met them both through the homeschool support email group and the homeschool cooperative.  So basically, these two total strangers came in and started going through all my things while their children, whom I had also never really met, played with mine all over the house and out in the cul-de-sac, almost completely unsupervised, except by one of their older children.  Yes, I feel blessed to have met some wonderful strangers who are no longer quite as strange! 🙂  Sarah came over last Friday and then again today, and with her today came Joell.  Both are teachers at the co-op, and Sarah has a son in class with Patience and Gabriel – in the class that Joell teaches (zoology.)  Needless to say, the children had a great time today with their new little friends and enjoyed the unpacking much more than they would have if I had been on my own occasionally snapping at them for getting in my way. 🙂  Today we made it through several more boxes in the kitchen and most of the book boxes in the living room, enough to enable us to better arrange the living room and really start to “live” in it. 🙂 Double smile face. 🙂  After they left I nursed Daniel again and then was able to nap because John was home a bit early.  I slept from 3:45-6pm.  Seriously.  I know you are jealous now. (Sorry to incite envy in my readers…)  When I finally tore myself out of bed, I was greeted by a cheerful Greer who had – get this – woken up from her nap, pulled down her pants, taken off her nappy, pooped in the little potty, wiped herself, pulled her pants back up, and then come to report to me on her accomplishment.   Folks, if you need a better advertisement for infant potty training, I can’t come up with one.  She turned two on August 30.  Yes, she still wears nappies, but she poops and pees in them just about…well, almost never.  I went through the whole “changing poopy diapers until they’re almost three” thing with Liesl and Gabriel, so I feel your pain if that’s what is going on with you right now.  And PLEASE, don’t feel like an underachiever if your child isn’t trained by two in the conventional way.  (But if your child was trained by age 1 in the conventional way, I give you my permission to certainly feel like an overachiever — I hardly had it done by age 3!)  Infant potty training is such a different animal, that trying to compare a child trained from birth to one who begins training as a toddler is like comparing apples to oranges.  Anyway, I digress….I nursed Daniel again and then made porkchops and garlicky green beans for dinner.  Then John fixed us all some BlueBell Rocky Road ice cream.  And now I’m chilling out with my laptop in my new comfy chair spot (that’s what you call the place where all your things are staged for your comfort — the seat that reclines, the table for your drink, the basket of things necessary for nursing a baby, the lapdesk for your laptop, etc.)  while the children and John fill the room with laughter as they watch “America’s Funniest Videos” on Netflix.  Heaven. 🙂

An update on the last few days since I have been remiss…I DID get in that last 8 mile run this weekend.  It was tough at points since my tummy was a bit upset after my pizza for lunch and naptime (I ran around 6:30pm), but that annoyance came and went, so parts of the run still were enjoyable.  It ended up being around a 10:00 min/mile average pace, and I’m happy to say I only have two more runs before the big day.  Don’t get me wrong – I really do love running – but training for something this involved adds a little more to the mix, causing me to worry about sustaining an injury or getting sick or a myriad of other things that just don’t regularly occur to me.  There is so much money already committed – besides just the race fees, there’s the hotel for three nights, the trip up there (about 12 hours in the van with the kids) and back, the food for three days (also going to a special dinner for Run to Honor), and the fact that Christine (aka supernanny) is flying down from New York to spend the weekend with us.  Add to this that all my fans on facebook and the blog – you know, the cheering masses who follow my life online (all three of you) – will be pulling for me, and there is a lot “riding” on this weekend.  I will be glad when it has come and gone (even though I feel that it is sure to be one of the most memorable experiences of my life) so that I can get back to reality for a bit. 🙂  Let me just tell you about the BEST PART of my 8 mile run this weekend — the protein recovery shake. Oh yes.  It was amazing.  I call it my “Eggnog Latte Frappucino Protein Shake.”  Want to know how to make your own?  Curious about it’s nutritional content? Well read on, my friend….

Here’s what I put into this beauty:

Also, I used about this much ice:

Specific things to know:

1 cup Eggnog

1/2 cup Almond Milk

1/2 tsp cinnamon coffee syrup

2 tsp decaf instant coffee

1 scoop protein powder

about 2 cups crushed ice

Even Greer loved it:

Nutritional information:

Calories: 430

Fat (from the eggnog and protein powder): 10g

Sodium: 375 mg

Potassium: 680 mg

Carbs (mostly all sugars, a little fiber in the Almond milk): 50

Protein: 31 – 1/2  g

Talk about a recovery shake!! It was my whole dinner that night. Yum!

A few final thoughts before I feed Daniel again and get myself to bed…I was reading Hungry Runner Girl’s blog today, and she posted some quotes from a book by Kristin Armstrong called Mile Markers.  I haven’t read it yet, but now I think I will make a beeline to the bookstore (is that a proper use of the colloquialism “beeline?” Is that even how it’s spelled?)  I won’t quote it here, since Janae did such a good job of posting it on her blog, but I will summarize the sentiments — it was a section about the power of GRATITUDE.  The book describes how being thankful for all the blessings in her life has helped her at mile 26 of a marathon and to push through other tough challenges.  How rephrasing “I have to” into “I get to” can revolutionize the way you feel about something.  I am right there with her!! I guess because I’m so fresh off of running until I was 40+ weeks pregnant, and because I watched some of the Paralympics, and because I’ll be running in honor of those who have given their lives in the service of our country this Saturday, I already feel like every run is a gift.  I GET TO RUN not pregnant (yippee!) And when I was pregnant, I was gifted with the ability (two legs, no injuries or pregnancy-related health issues) to continue running through my delivery date.  Every day, I GET TO SERVE my children and my husband.  I think I shared the other day about the lady on Biggest Loser Season 8 (Abby – you can read her story by clicking on her name.) who lost her family in a tragic accident.  I know we shouldn’t dwell on the bad things in life, but I bring it up again just to say that we need to remember every day how incredibly blessed we are.  Every day, I have a body that functions which I can use to run, to hug, to cook, to clean, to drive people places, to speak, to listen.  So many people in this world don’t have the blessing of health!! And that’s just the beginning!  We are also blessed financially to be able to eat every day and to have a nice place to live, a car to get from place to place, and lots of things that are way beyond our basic “needs.”  Beyond that, I am blessed with a husband who supports me fully (never begrudging me the time to enjoy playing my bagpipes or running) and who counts me as a blessing, too.  So – I think that now I am no longer nervous about running my first marathon this weekend.  I GET to go to DC with my wonderful family to run this amazing race.  Every part of the weekend is just icing on the cake of spending time together as a family with our friend Christine as well (ummm…minus the 4-5 hours when I’m running – that will just be time spent with thousands and thousands of runners and spectators!)  And tonight – I have so enjoyed “getting” to blog again! 🙂