30 June 2010

bloody rejection!

Apparently, I'm not good enough for the Red Cross any more.  I used to give blood all the time in college.  Granted, I usually came pretty close to passing out every time, but just lay me back, put the wet towel on my neck, hand me some juice, and I was back on my feet in no time.  Four times a year at least.

Then I joined AmeriCorps and my weight dropped.  I probably hit just over their limit, but I was already passing out before, so I refrained.  Then I moved to Virginia and got on Accutane.  No doubt in my mind that I could not give blood while on that drug.  So I've been off of that for over a year and decided I should try giving blood again after a 4 year hiatus.  Made my appointment, drove the mile downtown (could've walked, but decided it wasn't in my body's best interest due to the history of fainting).

I'd only given at blood drives before, so going into a Red Cross donor office was a new experience for me.  WHICH I ABSOLUTELY LOVED.  I may never go back to blood drives again.  I also loved having an appointment so I didn't have to wait around in some dorm/student center/office park and watch all the double-reds jump the line.  I'm telling you, these things backed up in college - we were all so eager to give!

After my mini-physical, the nurse(?) delved into the questions.  The answers to these for me used to be "no, no, no, no, no...etc."  But now they're not.  And one "yes" in particular knocked me out of the running.  My honeymoon, of all things!  CancĂșn, Mexico is apparently a malaria threat.  We only went there because the swine flu made it a pretty cheap place to visit last fall.  Apparently we were taking risks in every direction with this trip!  (And luckily all we ended up contracting was Montezuma's Revenge.  Er, maybe that wasn't so lucky.)  Anyway, because of our week in Mexico, I can't save up to three people's lives until October 11.  And by then I'll probably be pregnant or something and not be able to donate once again.  I did still get my coupon for a free pint of Ben & Jerry's and a Red Cross ice cream scoop, so the day was not lost.  And our lesson for the day, kids, is that it never hurts to try!  So if you're feeling inspired, go give blood because I can't.  Or go party on the Yucatan Peninsula so you have a good excuse not to (and then still try and get the prize anyway).

Here's a picture of me enjoying myself on my potentially malaria-ridden honeymoon!

29 June 2010

pink lemonade

I don't like soft drinks.  I gave them up a few years for Lent back in high school, and I never turned back.  I also make a horrible excuse for a Southern Belle, as I cannot stand sweet tea.  And unsweet tea is a punishable offense where I'm from.  Coffee looks (and smells) disgusting, so I'm oh-for-three in the caffeine department.  But at most restaurants, especially fast-food ones, I want more than water.  Enter lemonade.  Sometimes - actually more often - of the pink variety.

I've been drinking this stuff for years and never questioned it before.  But what the heck is pink lemonade?  Why is it pink?  Is other pink/red fruit added, like raspberries?  But wait, isn't that called raspberry lemonade?  Are there pink lemons?  Or is it just color?  And which does it mix better with, vodka or rum?  These, my friends, are questions that keep me awake at night.  Or, more accurately, keep Google in business.

So I did my homework, mostly thanks to everyone's favorite collaboratively-edited encyclopedia.  (What the hell did we do before Wikipedia?  I kinda doubt there was a pink lemonade article in our '97 WorldBook set.)  Yes, there are pink lemons.  But no, they don't make pink lemonade--the skin is pink, but the juice isn't.  Pink lemonade used to be made from crushed red sumac berries.  Odd, since the only time most of us hear the word "sumac" it's usually preceded by the word "poison".  This potentially poisonous concoction was then sweetened with maple syrup.  Then the sumac market dried up (okay maybe not all of it is poisonous), and maple syrup is ridiculously expensive because it takes so darn long, so now we have . . . a pink version of lemonade.  Sometimes made sweeter than the yellow stuff.  But preferably in a powdered form with a Crystal Light logo on the pack.

My favorite "form" of lemonade is probably the fruit juice-added kind.  Strawberry lemonade, pomegranate lemonade, cranberry lemonade.  Put some sugar on the rim of the glass while you're at and add one of those frou-frou little umbrellas.  It's like summer in liquid form.

As for my evening drinking habits, it seems like this would be easiest:  

1-1/2 oz. Bacardi Light Rum
Pink Lemonade
Pour Rum into tall glass filled with ice.
Fill with Pink Lemonade.

 I'm a fan of easy drinks like the one above.  But during my digging, I did find half a gabillion other drinks containing pink lemonade, especially at this site.  I have also found a veritable wealth of other pink lemonade recipes, including pink lemonade bars, pink lemonade cookies, and even pink lemonade pie.  Maybe I'll start getting inspired by all these great ideas and uses for pink lemonade, but in all probability I'll just go crack open my bottle of rum.

28 June 2010

sky bar

This past Saturday night was a celebration.  A wardroom wives' (and future wives') get-together to celebrate a certain passage of time.  After eating dinner at Catch 31 and drinking wine on the beach under the watchful eye of the King Neptune, our fearless leaders had schmoozed and flirted their way into getting us access to the ever-exclusive Sky Bar.  For the most part, this place is members-only, but it's also open to Hilton guests, since it's on their 21st floor.  But I think that hotel is one of the most expensive on the boardwalk, so no one I know has ever stayed there.  It's a rooftop bar, which sounds cool in theory, but at 10pm, you can't see the ocean below anyway.  It was dark, there were lit-up pools serving as a barrier to the side railing, and there were something akin to beds (check the picture I stole from their Facebook page).  And a couch thing we sat on and quickly realized the pretty white fabric was really just a large towel slip-cover.  Rough hotel towel fabric.  Not even the plushy terry-cloth kind.  You wouldn't even be able to watch a sunset up there, considering that we're staring east into the Atlantic.

Now what type of people would pay $200 a year to frequent a bar with only two types of wine (including a disgustingly strong red), ridiculously slow waitresses dressed like they were about to take the court at Wimbledon, and pools that no one even put their feet in?  If you guessed slightly creepy old men, you are correct.  The wonky character brigade was actually the most entertaining aspect of this ostentatious place.  There was one guy--who is definitely a regular--walking around in a white boat captain's hat with various patches on it.  Kind of odd bar attire.  Then there was another guy who kept walking by our little towel-bench and counting us - pointing as he did like he was making sure all the kids are back on the bus after the class trip to the zoo.  He did this no less than three times throughout the night.  To take our focus off the creepsters, we decided to find which female patron had the shortest dress.  We found some close competition, but we decided upon a winner.  I don't think this girl could've bent over or even sat down in that thing.  And unfortunately (or probably fortunately?), I didn't have a camera.

Well, I'm  pretty sure that is my last foray into pretentious bars for a while.  The experience reminded me how glad I am that I don't have to play that single person's game any longer.  All image, no substance.  Actually, I never really had to play that game with B, so thank God for that.  But if you wanna play that game (or want a front row seat to watch it) and are of the double-X chromosome persuasion, I hear it's free for ladies on certain Thursday nights.  As for me, I'll stick to my neighborhood watering holes.

27 June 2010

sunday verse

Straight from the Sunday missal.  13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Liturgical Year C

For you were called for freedom, brothers and sisters.
But do not use this freedom
as an opportunity for the flesh;
rather, serve one another through love.
- Galatians 5:13

26 June 2010

wham bam family gram

One of the most common question us submariners' wives (and fiancĂ©es and girlfriends) get asked is how we communicate with our men.  It usually goes something like this: "Can he call you from the boat?"  "Will he get letters in the mail?"  "Does he have internet?"  "What about email?"

These questions have various answers depending on what his sub is doing.  Which is generally a mystery even to us wives, but we do know when they're on mission or off or in port or not.  At best, he's in port and has access to all those modern forms of communications (snail mail sent to the boat's address gets delivered in a port).  At second best, he can send an email.  Sometimes it makes it through the ocean, sometimes not.  It's definitely not quick, and there have been quite a few emails that either he or I sent that were "lost at sea."  And then there's the worst form of communication, something I compare to blowing bubbles toward a brick wall and hoping a few of them make it to the other side: the FAMILY GRAM.

Back in the day before email, Family Grams were the only way a wife could tell her husband what was happening.  She filled out a form with no more than 50 words and either dropped it off or mailed it to someone.  Then her message was combined with other wives' messages into a larger notice that was then sent to the boat.  As for now, in this 'laptop for every child' era, we email our 50-word, all capital letters family gram message to a certain email address.  I sometimes refer to it as a "screaming tweet," but luckily it is a bit longer.  Yes, it probably gets read and screened.  This is a one-way communication--the boys can't send anything while on certain missions--so it's kind of like waving to your actor-friend on stage who can't quite acknowledge you (lest he breaks character) but hopefully hears you.  And yes, sometimes the boys never even receive them.  Sigh.

However, I will say that during the previous mission during my husband's current deployment, he may not have received all my family grams, but he did indeed  receive the most important ones.  Yes my friends, that is how he FOUND OUT HIS ORDERS!  Which is effing ridiculous, in my opinion.  But verbal orders are supposed to come from the CO - who in this case wasn't receiving anything not mission-specific.  And it was smack-dab in the middle of this rather lengthy mission that verbal orders were starting to be handed out.  So I took it upon myself to call the detailer multiple times, leaving a message including every form of communication to find me . . . and that resulted in . . . absolutely ZILCH.  No call, no email, no carrier pigeon, nada.  Why yes, I am still bitter, since you asked.

So then, enter our CO's wife, who is not only a rockstar of epic proportions, but also a saint.  And she has a contact at squadron.  Praise the Lord for connections.  She filled me in on staying in Norfolk, and I sent my "What, Norfolk again?!  I was hoping for Hawaii!" family gram to the husband.  Which he apparently received.  And then a week and a half later, my angelic CO's wife called me back and told me we'd been changed to Pensacola.  Pensacola!  I could live with that!  Back to north Florida, nice white beaches, possible Southern accents, even a new time zone.  I believe the call about this came on April 19.  April 20th, 2010, just happened to be the day the giant BP Oil Spill in the Gulf started.  I didn't mention that in my family gram about our orders change--gotta stay positive for the boys, right?  And yes, he received this one as well.  The Family Gram Fairy was on my side.

One positive I will give to family grams is that it makes life easier.  Any Navy spouse can tell you about how she obsesses over checking her email when her sweetheart is at sea.  Every time we log on, we get our hopes up, and then usually get let down.  But when we know it's not coming, we don't worry about it.  I don't forget about my husband; I just know that all is well.  And I think a lot of sub gals like to pretend that our proverbial "Navy Wife" badge is perhaps slightly bigger because of our lack of communication with the boys.  In each military community, there's a sense of pride--especially for the "who has it roughest" title.  And when the boat is gone, the wives have to defend their title with the other wives.

To that I'll say I thank God every day he's not in the Army.  I'll take my family grams over a year-long deployment to the sandbox any day.  I don't need a badge that big.

25 June 2010

follow friday

Why let #ff just be a Twitter thing?  I'll highlight one site or blog or whatever a week, give some background if applicable, share why I love it, and you can visit at your own discretion!  Sounds fun, right?  Okay, awesome.

I will start us off with one of my favorite sites EVER: Cake Wrecks!

Name: Cake Wrecks
URL:  www.cakewrecks.com
Tagline: When Professional Cakes Go Horribly, Hilariously Wrong
Publication: Cake Wrecks: When Professional Cakes Go Hilariously Wrong
Facebook Page: Cake Wrecks
Twitter: @cakewrecks

This site keeps me laughing every day.  Jen, the sharp-witted creator, takes user-submitted photos of  ridiculously terrible grocery store cakes, and then provides us with comical banter about each atrocity.  Sometimes her husband John even chimes in.  She has set aside a special place in hell for Cupcake Cakes (or "CCCs" as they're known to this site's patrons), but my favorites fall into the "Literal LOLs" category.  Especially this one.  I laughed for a week at that, especially thanks to the subject heading.

One refreshing aspect of the Cake Wrecks blog is the weekly Sunday Sweets, where Jen highlights a few delightfully dazzling, splendidly show-stopping, positively pulchritudinous cakes.  This segment tends to lean a bit too heavily on fondant cakes, but it is a nice respite from the buttercream nightmares presented throughout the week. 

I gave my mother the Cake Wrecks book for Christmas, and of course I read the whole thing before I wrapped it.  She loved it, I loved it, and if you want to love it too, check out the website, buy the book, and see if they're currently touring in a city near you!

24 June 2010

weeding out your life

In my volunteering stint with the Norfolk Botanical Garden, all I've been doing lately is weeding.  It's just that time, I guess.  I'm in the Butterfly Garden, which comes into its own on July 3 when we get all the butterflies into the house.  But outside the house in the garden grounds, many plant species are planted to attract butterflies and support their life cycle, and this needs continual weeding throughout the summer.

During my three-hour gardening assignment this morning, among the 90 degree heat and equivalent humidity, I started thinking about how weeding is a good metaphor for how we move on and overcome the bad forces in our lives.  As time goes on, certain habits, people, and even possessions crop up and start choking us.  They hold us back, sucking our energy and resources and  preventing us to truly thrive and flourish and enjoy the full life intended for us.  And come to think of it, most weeds are just plain ugly and don't mesh with the surrounding plant.

Now one thing is interesting though - our gardener sometimes tells us to leave certain weeds in the ground.  There is one in particular called milkweed, that does indeed flower, and its leaves are food for Monarch caterpillars.  We generally leave these in the beds.  It's a very interesting one because of the sap that pours out--true to its name, it really does look like milk.  I started comparing this surprisingly good weed to those things that come up suddenly in our life that we don't immediately recognize are good for us.  For some people, being laid off can feel binding at first, but then can give them the inspiration to do great things that may not have happened if they were still punching the clock.  For some stories about a few of those people whose names you'll probably recognize, check out this mental_floss article.

But for the most part, weeds are unhealthy.  They obstruct beauty and they burden support systems.  Both in nature and in life, weeds are best caught early on when they are less noticeable, their roots are shallow, and they are easy to uproot.  When I pull weeds, I generally shake off the soil at the root to return it to the garden.  That being said, we do learn from every experience, and we take those lessons and mix them with our fertile soil that lets us grow and perhaps even abound.

What weeds do you need to pull from your life right now?

23 June 2010

my summer anthem

The band BarlowGirl is very quickly becoming one of my favorites.  I had heard of them, thanks to a song called "Barlow Girls" by Superchick, but it was thanks to the Virginia Beach Public Library that I got a chance to hear their work.  The band is made up of three sisters and is generally classified as Christian rock (I would say more pop/rock).  But don't let that bother you if you're inclined to think Christian music (or Christianity in general) is crap.  Obviously this song is about God, but beyond that it's about optimism and recognizing warmth in your own life, especially after a period of darkness.

This song is the final track from their newest album Love & War.  And on the CD, it actually continues after this 4 minutes and kicks back in with about a minute of a re-vamped ska version of the melody to finish out the album.  I can just feel myself driving to the beach, windows down, blasting this song, and singing along without a care in the world.  Ladies and gents, I give you "Hello, Sunshine"

22 June 2010

all blogs need a first post

Hello world.  Since it's my first post, I suppose I should introduce myself to the blogosphere-at-large.

I'm Cat.  My initials are C.W.  There's a low-rated broadcast television station with the same initials.  My sister-in-law had the initials before me.  I got mine on October 3, 2009, the day I married my husband.

I am a military wife.  A submarine officer's wife, if you want specifics (and I generally want specifics).  So yes, I'm a milspouse.  But what does that actually mean?  I don't stand 3-section duty, eat midrats in the wardroom, sleep 6 hours at a time in a coffin bed, sit in at captain's mast, or refer to cleaning time as "field day."  I never had to cut my hair against my will, I've never had a job I couldn't quit willingly and without repercussion, I've never used blousing straps or shirt stays, and I don't have shiny gold dolphins pinned to my chest.  That's his life, not mine.  And he's deployed right now, so his life won't factor in here until later--when he (we?) starts shore tour.  Can't wait.

We have no pets, we have no babies, and we're not even starting some grand adventure like my friends in California and Italy.  The aforementioned shore tour is in Pensacola.  There are no subs in Pensacola.  There's not even a port in Pensacola.  We've been in Norfolk almost 3 years - subs and ports and shipyards everywhere I look.  I lived in Jacksonville prior to moving to Virginia, so I'm no stranger to north Florida.  I'm originally from Lawrenceville, GA, and attended the University of Georgia in Athens.

This blog is more than the story of our life.  It's my musings on just about everything.  It's my current thoughts, my future ideas, my view of past events.  It will contain things I think people should know, and links at every possible turn.  It will also contain my unapologetic opinion.  My blog, my opinion.  If you don't like it, stop reading.  I'm a knowledge junkie, a grammar nazi, a devout and zealous Catholic, a slight tomboy, a cubicle-life escapee, a former AmeriCorps member, a Soprano 2, a beach lover, a semi-picky eater, and a slightly clueless yet eager domestic goddess.  And I'm sure all of those things (and more!) will make great blog posts in due time.