Saturday, February 27, 2010


Okay, so first thing's first. I totally caved and had an amazing latte this afternoon at the community center on base. So much for caffeine-free. But in my defense, it was nearly 2 pm and I was at a children's birthday party, and said community center also has an indoor play zone with has no volume control. And it was tasty. And I did make it about two weeks. And frankly, that's enough for me.

Okay. Phew. Confession time is over! Now I'm going to get all impossibly giddy on you, so let me make apologies up front.

First and foremost, I'm seriously stoked about my brother coming to visit soon. He and his awesome wife and their adorable kiddos will be making the trek across the Atlantic to see England...err, I mean us. ;) Actually, I think they are pretty excited about both. My nephew Ben is about nine months older than Caleb, and they are going to have a blast!

We're going to bit hitting some things we've done before, such as Bath and Dover and Stonehenge, but we'll also be throwing in some new trips such as Hampton Court Palace (oooh, Tudor excitement!), Windsor Castle, and possibly Burghley House (Jane Austen AND Tudor excitement!) I can't wait!

Second, we are about three months out from our Mediterranean Disney Cruise, and I could NOT be more excited! I finally got our plane tickets and hotel sorted, so that's a relief. Now it's a matter of scouring the zillions of Disney shore excursions available and figuring out what our "Must See"s are!

I'm not going to even try to disguise it: I am giddy. I'm so thrilled and the idea of being back in Italy again. The thought of walking around Florence seriously makes my heart beat a bit faster.

I really have been super lucky as far as where I've been able to live. I got to live in Italy as a teenager! For nearly three years, we were stationed at Aviano Air Base (best base EVER!), and for field trips, we went places like Verona (think Romeo and Juliet), Germany, and Florence. To this day, Florence is my favorite city in the world. I'm so eager to go back and see if it's just a magical as I remember it.

Unfortunately, my family never made it to Rome while we lived in Italy, so I'm also especially excited to finally make it there! I can't wait to see the Sistine Chapel and the Coliseum. I can't wait to eat Italian food in Italy. Just thinking about it, my mouth is already watering for REAL tiramisu and gilato! I'm so excited about having spaghetti carbonara in the country where I originally tried it, and maybe even a sgroppino. Even the little things, like a San Pellegrino Lemonata are getting me so excited to relive some of my youth in Italy.

I'm nostalgic and expectant and so excited I just can't stand it! To experience it all as an adult, with deeper appreciation for just how remarkable it is to actually be in Italy, will be so incredible. I only wish there was some way I could coordinate it in such a way that I could run into my old friends from Aviano High School while we are there. That would be the icing on the cake.

Okay. Phew. Seriously. Let me take a breath. I'm getting so excited, it's ridiculous. I just can't believe this will all be happening soon. It takes away a bit of the bitter sting of realizing this is our last year in Europe. Chances are very likely I'll never live on this continent again. But I'm so grateful for the experiences I've had growing up and marrying into the military that make me a little more of a world citizen than I might otherwise have felt.

To give Caleb a chance to have some of these experiences, even though he is so young and will probably not remember any of it, feels like such an amazing gift to give. I know that might seem silly. But I regularly think how cool it is that some of his earliest experiences and impressions have so much historical and cultural significance. Maybe he'll look back on these pictures and think, "I was there?" But the sights and sounds and textures of his earliest impressions will be those of castles and coliseums. In my little head, it just doesn't get any better than that.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Collection of Thoughts

Here is a list of uncollected thoughts that are too long for Facebook status updates, so you get to suffer, if you so choose! ;)

1.) Mumford and Sons are really growing on me. I didn't get it at first, but I'm loving them now! Are the British? I always assume new music I hear is British (well, except for Ke$ha. How could that be anything but American? Gross.) And plenty of times, it turns out I'm wrong. But they just fell British to me. Then again, I operated under the mistaken idea that Kings of Leon were British for ages, too, until an article in Rolling Stone shed light on that topic.

2.) On the way home tonight, the sun was setting. It wasn't terribly bright, but it was in Caleb's eyes for a little bit. He said, "Sun bright, mommy. I need glasses." I don't know why, but it made me laugh. He wouldn't need glasses if he would stop yanking his sun shade off the window!

3.) I'm going to miss BBC Radio 1 when we leave England. I have every intention of getting Sirius satellite radio (which we had pre-England) so I can still get the Chris Moyles Show.

4.) When I was sick last week, I didn't have any Coke or coffee and realized by Saturday that I had gone a week caffeine-free. I'd been considering a brief respite from the black gold, and this seemed as good a time to start as any. I thought since I had worked through my first week without caffeine while sick that the second week (this week) wouldn't be so bad. I was so, so wrong. I spent one day totally anxious and nervous about nothing. I spent the next day totally emotional and ready to cry..again, about nothing. Today I spent totally exhausted, lethargic and cranky. UGH. Giving up caffeine is HARD!

5.) I'm really trying to refocus my diet on fresh, healthy foods and move away from convenience and packaged foods, whenever possible. It sucks, 'cause I like everything to be fast and easy. I really have to think and prepare and plan. If I don't, I still have convenience meal back ups. And I still have bad days. (Today was a good example. Can't have caffeine? FINE! I'll eat chocolate all day! Take that, dumb head!) But overall, I want to be more conscious about my food choices and pick the best that's available.

6.) I'm excited about a few things coming up next week! My coworker's wife is doing a spouse's circuit training social for my husband's squadron. I'm hooking up with the same coworker's spouse for my first ever personal training session and looking forward to get my butt kicked. AND I might get to take a Fly Day next week! My coworkers take Fly Days all the time...they are pilots. But I might get to take a flight next week, and I'm pretty stoked about it!

7.) Saw the doc today for follow up for my head cold issues last week. Ear infection is clearing up, which is good, but my right ear has had fluid in it since about November. My Eustachian tube just doesn't seem to want to work full time right now. Discussing the possibility of tubes. Really?! At 30? Ah, well. If it would make the ringing in my ears go away, I'd seriously consider it. Trying Prednisone to help reduce the inflammation of the Eustachian tube. Follow up in a month to try and see if we've made progress.

8.) Back to Radio 1 for a moment. They announced the location of their Radio 1's Big Weekend festival this year (Bangor, North Wales, in case you were interested.) It's taking place the week of our cruise. I have to admit, I'm a bit disappointed that there's no chance I could go to the festival. I never have before, but it's always been one of those things I'd like to attend. It'd be difficult and unlikely with work and a family. But there was always some vague possibility. So when they announced the location and dates today and I realized they conflicted with previously-made travel plans, I was a bit bummed that this is my last year here and I'll never attend a Big Weekend. Ultimately, I have nothing to complain about. I'm going on a Disney Mediterranean cruise. I win. But I still felt a bit, "Aw, nuts" about it.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Belgium, Day 2

Before I get to Belgium, Part II, lemme say this: Neti potting is SO weird!

I'm one of those types that gets sinus infections and colds on a somewhat regular basis. And I had heard of neti pots before, but prior to this year of frequent sinus issues, I never seriously considered them.

At my doctor's appointment Tuesday, the doctor actually recommended a nasal rinse. To which I said, "You mean a neti pot?!" I had recently posted a Facebook question about them that generated a lot of responses from people singing their praises. Unfortunately, I couldn't find one on Amazon that would ship to my American-in-England APO address. Fortunately I have a pretty awesome mom who picked one up for me at Walgreens and shipped it last week.

So tonight I gave it a try. What a strange sensation! It kind of feels like when you accidentally breathe under water, only a bit less violent since you're expecting it. I couldn't make it through a whole pot in either nostril, and I think it'll take some practice. But here's hoping it'll help to mitigate my sinus issues that have plagued me this past year!

Okie dokes, now onto our second day in Belgium! We decided to spend our second day in Ghent.

I summarized Belgium in my last post as essentially us being sick and Belgium being cold. This was indeed true on day two. The only difference was that it was Sunday, and nothing was open till about noon. We foolishly took off for Ghent first thing in the morning and froze our tails off until we found a cafe to warm up in. It was in this cafe that I found the highlight of my trip: the Italian Coffee.

See how pretty she is? Sweet and dark and delicious. It was essentially coffee and amaretto and whipped cream. What's not to love? The combination of coffee and alcohol did the trick to warm me back up and put me in good spirits. Caleb enjoyed his spoonfuls of Daddy's hot chocolate.

Our travel buddy Tim enjoyed his Belgian beer. By the end, we were all warmer and in better moods.

Since it was well after lunch time, we could now explore the cathedral in town, so we did so, taking a few illegal pictures along the way. (Hey, I didn't use a flash!) The cathedral in Ghent was MUCH colder than the cathedral in Ieper had been!

This was taken in the catacombs downstairs. For some reason, I felt like I was in Romeo and Juliet. I guess it felt a bit like my field trip to Verona in 9th grade.

More from the catacombs.

Here's just a shot of Ghent as we walked from the cathedral to the castle.

Next we explored the castle in Ghent. It was fine. My only complaint was the hand-held audio tour thingamajiggy. Instead of being tour-like ("This is the great hall, where the kings would hold feasts and ceremonies...") It was a dramatization following fictional characters around from room to room. Irritating. I gave up after the third room and just lugged the heavy thing around. Luckily, it was free with the cost of the admission. I'd have been even more irritated otherwise.

Here's my boys in the castle.

Me and my turkey leg inside the castle.

And here's our travel buddy, Tim in the castle.

And finally, another shot of the outside of the castle. As is standard with castles, it was a lot of stair climbing, and we were all pretty wiped by the end.

We wandered around a little bit more after the castle, but mostly just made our way back to the car with a few detours into chocolate shops. We had intentions of going back to Ieper for the Last Post we had missed the day before, but ended up just hanging out in Menen (where we were staying) and eating too much chocolate while watching Couples Retreat. I guess there are worse ways to spend an evening! :)
This blog is long enough without a dip into our few hours we spent in Lille. So I may save that for another blog. But if I never get to that blog, I'll summarize Lille in one word: meh. In other words, could have lived without it! Maybe I'll elaborate later this week, but for tonight I'm off to bed! Good night!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Belgium, Day 1

Okay, so I didn't do so hot at my committment to blog more this past week. I really had good intentions, but this sickness I had this week had other plans for me. I honestly went to bed at 7:30 one night--even before Caleb. Luckily my husband stayed up with him, but he's been sick, too. It's just been a symphony of coughing and nose blowing in our house. Awesome. Fortunately the meds are kicking in, and I'm feeling human again. It's 7:40 and I'm still awake! Party time!

So this sickness started for my husband about three weeks ago. I started to feel that tell-tale feeling in the back of my throat about last Wednesday...just two days before the Annual Awards Ceremony. I was panicky that I'd miss the ceremony, so I started doing everything I could to avoid getting sick...drinking Airborne (blech), making sure to take my multivitamin, gargling salt water, drinking lots of fluids, etc.

Well, in spite of my best efforts, I started feeling really good and sick on Saturday, our first day in Belgium. We left at about 5 am, caught the ferry at 8 from Calais, landed in Dunkerque at 11 (one hour ahead in France.) We found the house we were staying at, threw our luggage in, and made our way to Ieper, about 20 minutes down the road.

Ieper is a city with a lot of WWII history. It's also a great place to go for chocolates. Obviously, all of Belgium is pretty much a great place to get Belgian chocolates, but in Ieper, they were cheap!

Unfortunately, it was really cold in Belgium the few days we were there. About 30 degrees the whole time, and it snowed most of the time. So we spent a lot of time going from one cafe to the next just trying to stay warm.

The essence of our Belgium trip was this: cold and sick. We never really felt like we warmed up and never really felt well enough to enjoy the trip. In retrospect, we probably should have just stayed home. So since there really isn't much more to say than that, I'll just show you some pics.
The cloth hall in downtown Ieper. Beautiful building.

Me and my boys in Ieper!

Inside the "In Flanders Fields" WWII museum.

More from the museum. In this area, there was an overhead speaker that had a peom about the horrors of war being read. As the part about "Gas, Gas! Quick, boys!" was read, this tall column filled with eery green smoke. It was very haunting.

Me and Caleb in Ieper.

Outside a cathedral in Ieper.

Inside the cathedral.

Tommy trying to stay warm and eating a waffle topped with bananas, chocolate and whipped cream.

This is Menin Gate. It's very impressive in real life for this small Belgian town. It's a British WWII war memorial. To this day, the Last Post is sounded every night at 8 pm. This was one of the major reasons we went to Ieper, and we spent hours trying to stay warm in hopes of making it to 8 pm.

Alas, after a late night with the Awards Ceremony the night before and having gotten up at 5 to make our ferry, we just didn't have stamina. Nor was there anywhere warm enough to wait that long. In the end, we were all in bed by 8 pm instead of watching the Last Post in Ieper.

Tomorrow (hopefully), I'll catch you up on Ghent and Lille and that'll wrap up our Belgium trip.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Annual Awards Ceremony

Okie dokes! Been a bit of blog slacker this past week, but it wasn't necessarily for a lack of trying. I did start a few entries, but couldn't find my blogging mojo and just had too many other things on my mind. So I'll do my best to make a valient effort to make up for last week's absence.
There's a few things to catch you up with, and in an attempt not to bore you to death, I'll try and do one at a time.
So for today, let me tell you about the base's Annual Awards Ceremony that took place Friday. My husband was up for Volunteer of the Year and I was selected to be one of the emcees for the night.

I had been practicing the script for most of the week, but the night of the event, I was super nervous. I remember saying to the other emcee, "Holy crap. This is happening!" And he laughed and likened it to child birth. And in a way, it did feel eerily similar to that forward momentum towards an unavoidable event that is coming quicker than you're prepared for and won't stop no matter how much you dig in your heels. Eep!
Here is Tommy shaking the wing commander's hand after he was given his nominee's medallion.
My heart was pounding as we started the evening, and it continued to pound throughout the whole first half of the event. After we finished the introductions of the nominees, dinner was served, but I was still a bit too wound up to really settle down and enjoy it. Following dinner, we introduced the guest speaker, General (Ret) Gregory "Speedy" Martin. At this point, I was started to fade and was really worried about losing the momentum and energy I had, but Speedy was really entertaining, and his 15 minutes went quickly.
After that we announced the winners. I was super excited to announce my catergories, and sure enough, my husband won Volunteer of the Year at the wing level!
(For non-mil types, you are generally a part of a flight or office, which is a part of a squadron. Your squardon is a part of a group, which is a part of the wing. At our base, we also have tenant units who aren't headquartered here, but have squadrons represented here. So Tommy had already won for his squadron and group. So he was competing at the wing level.)
When I opened the envelope for his category and saw his name, I felt my face explode into a huge smile and I said, "From the Mission Support Group, the handsomest man in the room and my husband..." and announced his name. YAY! It was fun!
The rest of the winner announcments went quickly. It was a fun night. After it was all said and done, a lot of the senior leadership shook our hands and told us what a good job we did. Gotta be honest, as a Words of Affirmation girl, I was totally eating it up. The wing chief came up to shake my hand and coined me with his chief's coin! How cool is that?!
By the time it was all said and done, I was pretty knackered, but it was a fun night! I don't have the pics of Tommy accepting the award or when we walked through a sabre cordon during the introductions, but when I get them I'll post 'em.
Tomorrow, I'll fill you in on our weekend in Belgium!

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Five More Years!

It's been a heart-heavy week following the surgery of little Xander Torres. They've been on my mind a lot, and while they can put the actual surgery behind them now, they have a long road to recovery and hopefully a seizure-free exsitance for little X.

In our own lives, this week marked 12 years that my husband has been in the Air Force! It's difficult for me to wrap my brain around having the same job for 12 years. Well, not really the same job, because there are many aspects and different sections to that job. But in essence, the same employer and same career for 12 years. Wow! I'm really proud of him!

He reenlisted on Wednesday with the help of one of my coworkers, Rob. In my job I get to witness a few reenlistents. But, of course, it was fun to be at my husband's! He's a real private kind of guy and doesn't like a lot of ceremony or fuss, so it was just the three of us. I didn't even get to attend his promotion ceremony last year and wasn't sure I'd get to see his reenlistment, so I was glad when it worked out in such a way that I did get to participate.

I'm glad it's the weekend. This next week is going to be busy. I'll be preparing for the Annual Awards Ceremony. (Have I mentioned that I'm one of the emcees? I can't remember) So there's meetings, rehersal and the actual event that take up tons of time. Plus, we'll be getting ready to spend President's Day weekend in Belgium. My brother's coming in a little over a month, too, so there's lots of things to do between now and then. YIKES!

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Prayer for Strong Towers

Just wanted to mention the Torres family today. Their sweet son Xander is having brain surgery to help with some pretty serious seizures he's been having. I can't imagine how scary and overwhelming this must be for them, and I'm sured they'd appreciate any and all prayers.

Monday, February 01, 2010

No Fried Foods February!

I really like the idea of picking one easy health-related goal a month. One thing to abstain from, but only for four weeks. It makes it seem more feasible. Plus then I feel like it's really about achieving a short-term goal instead of a massive life change that I know will never stick around.

In that vein of thought, No Candy January is over! Bring on No Fried Foods February!

I did pretty well for No Candy January. I only had candy the two times I've already mentioned - once when my coworker brought in Belgian know, ones he actually picked up in Belgium. And even then, I only had one! And the second was when I helped construct a Reese's peanut-butter chocolate trifle at a Pampered Chef party. It's just no fair asking me to help make it and not to have a little bit!

But over all, I'd say two bits of candy in a whole month of candy abstinence equals success--especially since I maintain the candy dish in our office at work! So go me! *virtual pat on the back*

Since I've been trying to eat healthier this year, I haven't had a ton of fried foods, but I do sneak some of Caleb's french fries from time to time. And I did have some magnificent duck rolls at Dragon House, the Chinese food restaurant near base. Oh man, they were worth it.

But in the idea of short-term abstinence, I thought I'd give No Fried Foods February a chance. When I was doing Weight Watchers, a substitute leader taught us about the dangers of BLTs. A lot of times what really inhibits my weight loss goals isn't my overall diet, it's the BLT's...the Bites, Licks and Tastes I take of the food I'm preparing or whatever is on Caleb's plate. Those little BLT's add up over the week and can make a big difference!

French fries are a particular weakness of mine, and although this past month I haven't ordered any, I sure haven't refrained from taking a few of Caleb's (or my husband's, when he's not looking!) And while I'm still proud of myself for only having a few versus the whole order (hey, Club Sandwich of Love, here!), I know it would make a difference over all to cut out fried foods all together. Again...not forever, but for a bit. I'd really like to know...can I go an entire month without french fries? Is it really possible?!

Okay, I promise this won't become a diet blog. But sometimes that's what's on my mind. That's the problem with having a blog with no get whatever's floating about up there!