Thursday, September 30, 2010

Vegetarian Wednesday {a day late} - Alfredo Bake

This is one of my favorite go-to dinners. It so easy and really tasty! One day Ethan and I were fighting and I just started throwing things together and this was the outcome. Ethan says I do my best cooking when I'm angry. :-) I love aparagus and alfredo so this is a perfect mix for me, but this can easily be changed to suit your tastes or whatever you have in the pantry at the moment.

Alfredo Bake

1 lb      rotini
2 jars     alfredo sauce {I prefer roasted red pepper alfredo}
2 boxes     "fake" chick'n {we use Smart Tenders Savory Chick'n}
1 bunch     asparagus - cut into 1/2 pieces
1 can     artichoke hearts - quartered
5-6     calamata olives - chopped
3 clvs     minced garlic
1-1 1/2 tsp    onion powder
sm palm     red pepper flake
1-1/2 c     shredded mozzerella cheese
pinch of salt and pepper

- Preheat over to 350 F.
- Cut up asparagus, artichoke hearts, and olives and place in a medium bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste.

- Cook pasta according to package. Drain and return to pasta pot.
- While pasta is cooking, our the jars of alfredo sauce into a small bowl and add the minced garlic, onion powder, and red pepper flakes. Stir until mixed well and let it sit so the flavors can mix together.
- Cook chick'n according to package. Cut into bite size pieces.

- Add alfredo sauce, vegetables, and chick'n to the pasta. Add  about 1/2 cup of mozzerella cheese. Stir until everything is mixed together.

- Pour pasta mix into 13x9 inch baking dish. Top with left over cheese.

- Bake for about 25-30 minutes, until cheese is melted and alfredo is bubbly. Let cool and enjoy!

Broken-Hearted Girl

Life Letter #20
Day 20 — "The one that broke your heart the hardest"

Ethan -

I don't even really know where to start with this because we both know that we're supposed to be working through the past. We both know that you made a HUGE mistake that completely tore our family apart. You shattered me, and even though I built myself back up, I'm still missing a few pieces of my heart. Sadly I don't know if I will ever get them back. People say that time heals everything so I'm hoping that eventually down the road the wounds will heal. There will always be a scar, but it won't be open and raw. It won't hurt to hear her name. It won't make my stomach ache to hear a song that reminds me of those dark days.

It is still really hard for me to try to understand everything that happened between us. I don't know where we completely just lost it. I know the exact moment that we fell apart, though at the time I couldn't see it. Mostly because I refused to see it. I was naive and you were lost. We were younger and stupider than we are now.

I admit that I had a lot to do with our problems. It wasn't all you. I was depressed and I was more concerned with being what everyone else wanted me to be. I nagged and bugged you. I tried to hold on and keep you close, and all it did was push us farther apart. But I never walked away. I fought like hell to keep our family together. You gave up. You left us.

I think what hurts me more isn't the fact that you cheated and left, I think it was the way you treated me when you were gone. You say that you had to convince yourself that you hated me so that you wouldn't feel guilty for the shit that you were doing, but you didn't seem to care that what you did to me effected Aiden too. When you took the money out of the bank accounts I was left with nothing. I had no money to pay for groceries or diapers. I had to give up Phoenix, who I had had since you were in boot camp, because I had to choose between buying dog food or diapers. Lucky for me that I had no appetite and wasn't eating hardly at all and we had WIC so Aiden was always fed and happy. I had to go to your Sgt Major 3 times to beg for money so that we could live. And what were you doing during this time? Getting drunk and having "fun" with someone else's wife and mother.

And then all of a sudden my prayers were answered. Your eyes were opened and you finally saw the horrible person you were becoming. I still remember the day that your command called me {because we couldn't speak to each other} and told me that you wanted to know if there was any possible way that I would want to try to work things out with you. I didn't even know what to say. Honestly I didn't want to, but they also told me that if I said no that I would be moving out of our house in less than two weeks. I was alone with a 9 month old little angel. I had no where to go and no education. I said that I would try to work things out because although deep down I loved you and I didn't want to lose you, I really just had no other option. It was either say no and leave or say yes and bide my time until I could finish my GED and see where we went from there.

Now here we are almost 2 years later. We've been so happy and I am so completely in love with you. We both have changed since that horrible winter. In fact, we're completely different people. I hate to say this, but with you leaving it actually brought us closer together. I really believe that we wouldn't have made it through your deployment if we hadn't been forced to change when you left. Everything happens for a reason right? God can make good things out of the worst situations. My counselor used to say that we were the exception. We are proof that people can change if they really want to.

As happy as I am now, there are days when I just can't forget what you did. I can't forget the pictures of you and her together. I can't forget the fact that you changed your mind about us so quickly, and honestly sometimes it scares me. I have days where I look at myself and wonder why you ever came back. If I wasn't good enough the first time, then why am I good enough now? I wonder if I will forever be second-guessing myself and comparing myself to her, even when you say there is no comparison.

Some people see me as soft or weak or stupid. They believe that once a cheater, always a cheater. I pray that isn't true. People can make mistakes and learn from them. Either way, I know that I made the right decision by taking you back.

All that I ask is to just please be understanding on those days where I feel inadequate. The days where I just want to cry because of the pieces of me that I have lost, just let me get it all out. If I make a smart ass or hurtful remark, don't let me be mean, but understand that I am still healing. You broke my heart the hardest and while I have forgiven you, I still haven't forgotten. The pain is still there and some days it breaks my heart all over again.

Ethan, you are the only person I have ever been with. You are the first and only man I have ever loved. You are my husband and the father of our beautiful child. We have some amazing memories and some heart-wrenching ones. I know that if we could get through this, then nothing can stand in our way. I love you with all my heart.

- Wifey

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Who are you?

Life Letter #18
"The person you wish you could be"

Who are you this person that I wish I could be? You are completely comfortable in your skin. You know who you are, and you are damn proud of it. You could care less about what people think of you. You are smart, and funny, and polite. You are someone that people flock to. You make good decisions and learn from your mistakes the first time.

I wish I could look myself in the mirror and be able to truly find myself comfortable, instead of picking myself apart. I'm a thick girl, and while I don't apologize for that, I find myself wishing I was a size 4 at times. I have stretch marks and my hips are wider than they used to be. I don't like my thighs or my feet. I think part of my body image problems stem from a few of my verbally abusive family members. Those people have always told me that I am the ugly one of the family, whether it was said directly or implied. My dad is the biggest offender of that. He thinks that the jokes he makes are funny, but honestly they just hurt when you're 12 years old and worried about what your body is changing into. I wish that I could just shrug it all off and listen to my husband when he tells me that I'm attractive, but deep inside I just don't see how that is possible.

I wish that I could learn to forgive and forget completely. There has never been a man to completely stay in my life since I was a baby. Like Peyton in One Tree Hill says, people always leave. I wish that I could just forget all of my Daddy issues and be absolutely happy with the time that I have with my husband. I wish that I could learn to let things go. I understand why I don't, but still I wish I could make things easier on myself. I have seen my Mama have her heart broken so many times, and my heart has been broken as well. I don't want to let myself forget because in my head that will mean that I can let the heartbreak happen again.

I wish that I could learn from my mistakes the first time instead of letting history repeat itself over and over again. I would save myself a lot of trouble if I could just get that one more often.

I mean there are a bunch of things that I wish I could do or be, but honestly I still like the person I am today. I may wish to be someone else at times, but if I wasn't like I am, then I wouldn't be me. There are always things that I can improve. There are always going to be things I wish I could do or be. I just have to decide which of those things are realistic and which ones I should work on the most.

Either way I am who I am.

- The real me

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Vegetarian Wednesday - My "Famous" Enchiladas

A few of you have asked for my enchilada recipe. I don't really use measurement when I cook, I prefer to cook by taste and sight. My mama is legally blind and that is the way she has always cooked so I just learned from her. I made two pans of enchiladas last night so that I could figure out a rough estimation of the measurements for the spices. This recipe is double of what I normally do so feel free to half it if you need to, or invite some people over. Food's always more fun when there are a bunch of people to share. Also, feel free to play around with them to your tastes, cause that's half the fun of cooking anyway.

Lauren's Famous Enchiladas
4 (10oz) can     medium red enchilada sauce
1 can     cheddar cheese soup
2 cans     refried beans
2 cans     black beans - rinsed and drained
1 can     rotel - drained
4 c     shredded cheddar or "Mexican" blend cheese
1 1/4 tsp    adobo
1 tsp     garlic powder
1 tsp     onion powder
1/2 tsp     cumin
1/4 tsp     chili powder
4-5 squirts    hot sauce {I prefer Tapatio}
sprinkle of cayenne pepper
fresh ground black pepper
pinch of salt
20    flour tortillas

- Preheat oven to 375 F.
- In a large bowl, mix together both beans, cheese soup, rotel, salt and pepper, adobo, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, chili powder, cayenne pepper, hot sauce, a small handful of shredded cheese, and about 1/3 can of enchilada sauce.

- Pour a can of sauce on the bottom of each baking dish you're using, preferably 13x9.

- Fill tortilla with a large spoonful of the bean mixture and a sprinkle of cheese, and roll up. Place in the baking dish seam-side down. If you have left-over filling when all of the tortillas are rolled, spread over the top of the enchiladas.

- Pour the other two cans of enchilada sauce over the top of the enchiladas in each pan and spread to cover them. Sprinkle remaining cheese over the top.

- Bake, uncovered, for 20-30 minutes, until cheese is melted and bubbly.

**Note: These can easily be made with meat if you don't want to do the vegetarian version. I have made these in the past with ground beef and spiced it really heavily while cooking the meat and the green enchilada sauce, or I used chicken and cooked it with taco seasoning and used the red sauce.

First Day of Autumn!

Fall has always been my favorite season. I especially love it now that I live in NC because the weather actually goes through stages and it starts a lot earlier. In Texas it just goes from hot to cold around later October. Here it starts getting cooler a lot sooner. The leaves are already starting to change and the nights are cooling down.

I love to watch the leaves change. We don't really get that in the part of Texas I'm from. For us it's more like they go from green to brown. Here, it is a gradual change of color from green to yellow to orange or red. It reminds me of my Mama. She went to New England once after my parents divorced to watch the leaves change in mid-October, and it was one of her happiest times after my dad tore her world apart. The colorful leaves always make me think of her.

These are the boots I am planning on getting for myself as a hey-I-haven't-gone-crazy-yet present. The closest store is about 6 hours from us so sadly these will have to wait until we go home on leave at the end of next month. But don't be mistaken. These boots are SO mine!

I am also a HUGE Halloween fan. I love to carve pumpkins and dress up. We also have a costume party every year (I love theme parties) that I go all out for. This year we're going to be in Texas for Halloween, a first for us since Aiden was born, so I'm really sad we won't be doing the party and stuff. I have informed Ethan that we're going to go crazy trick-or-treating like I did when I was a kid though. I plan on wearing the Monster out.

Oh yeah I don't think I've mentioned this yet, but I have a slight pumpkin addiction. I love anything pumpkin. Pumpkin pie, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin bread, pumpkin seeds, pumpkin ravioli, pumpkin cheesecake, even the scent of pumpkin {pumpkin spice candles, etc.}  I love decorating and carving pumpkins. I love finding new recipes with pumpkin. I get a few months to just shove my entire addiction into a year of waiting for this wonderful time of the year.

Oh my gosh and don't forget about these TASTY little morsels of pumpkiny heavenly goodness.

Alright moving on from that pumpkin business...because I could keep on going...

I also really like Thanksgiving. There are only two times a year where I get to see my whole family, even when all of us lived in the same city, and that is Christmas and Thanksgiving. Of course Christmas is a very special time for us, but since I now have a family of my own we like to spend Christmas together, going to see family {if we're in town} on Christmas Eve. Thanksgiving is simply a time to catch up and spend time with people that you call family, whether they're actually blood-related. When we are back home we spend half the day at my family's, and then the other half and Ethan's parents' house. Every other year when we are in North Carolina I like to host a huge dinner for all of the families and "barracks boys" as I like to call them. I mean I go all out; turkey, ham, deviled eggs, mashed potatoes and gravy, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, rolls, at least two different types of pies...I love having a crowd around the holidays.

I am so happy that it is finally autumn. I think that this weekend I will definitely have to make my husband take me out to Starbucks for my favorite cold weather drink, a caramel apple spice with whipped cream and extra caramel sauce on top. Mmmmmmm.

If you love fall like and I do and if you want to participate in the Fall Favorites Swap go check out Nicole at Flip Flops and Combat Boots for all the info. We could be partners!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

I Need To Vent

Where has the time gone? My body is a few days behind right now I guess because I just barely looked at my phone and realized today is Wednesday. What?! It still feels like Monday.

You know how sometimes life feels like it's moving at a slower pace? Things are relaxed and for the most part everything is going good. Everyone is happy and things are falling into place. Yeah well that definitely isn't this week, not even the past few weeks. Right now everything feels like it's happening at once. I think part of the reason is because I haven't had a moment to myself in a very long time.

Ethan and I were talking about it the other night, and we haven't had the house to ourselves since May. Yes that's right, May. Ever since then we have had someone living with us the entire time. Not even a break between people. The even sadder part is that Ethan came home from Afghanistan in very late March. We have had literally 2 months and 6 days alone together since he came home. Tell me that's not insane.

I love having a lot of people around, I always have. I think part of that stems from the fact that I never had a "normal" family growing up. I like to surround myself with good friends and family. But it hit me last night that I really just want some alone time to be with my husband and our son. I want to be able to just leave whenever we want to without worrying if someone else has plans, or if we have enough seat belts to be able to fit everyone. I want to put Aiden to sleep how I want him to sleep, not how it works so that Tristan doesn't wake up. I want the clutter of suitcases and extra toys out of my living room. I want to eat at the dining room table as a family. I want to be able to go out to eat or rent a movie without worrying if we won't have enough money for food with two extra people and no extra money to help out.

Ethan's brother flew home on Saturday, which now means the couch is now a place to sit in the mornings instead of a sleeping mountain of teenager for Aiden to climb all over. We now can all leave at one time because with 4 adults and two car seats we don't all fit in our small car. The sad part is that Aiden got very attached to his uncle. He asks about him at least three times a day.

Jennifer and her son were supposed to drive home this weekend with another one of our friends in the Army. His leave got denied so now we have to get them a plane ticket home, but on top of that he is now coming for the weekend to stay with us also. It feels like we just get rid of one person to add on another. I mean it's not anyone's fault or anything, but it is frustrating.

I think I've just hit a wall. I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings or anything, but I do believe there are times when it is okay to just say enough is enough. I'm getting burned out in my own home, and that really isn't a good thing. Depression is starting to rear it's ugly head and I refuse to let that happen.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Newest Mommy

Life Letter #16
"Someone that's not in your state/country"

Ruthie -

I haven't had a chance to fully come out and say congratulations on becoming a new mommy to the cutest (and only) niece I have ever had. I mean of course we've talked on the phone and I got to hear her coo in the background and I hung onto every text message from you or your mom when you were in labor, but I haven't gotten to actually talk to you about being a mom.

It is so crazy and funny to me that back when we were younger we used to joke about how if I married one of your brothers we would be sisters and our kids would be friends and blah blah blah....and here we are today. I did marry your brother and now we each have a child. The first two grandkids in the family. I have the first boy, and you have the first girl. Did you ever think it would turn out like this?

Welcome to motherhood Ruthie. It is an amazing ride. There will be days that you will never forget, and there will be days where you want to rip your hair out. There will be sweet belly laughs and there will be heart-wrenching tears. The first time she'll call you Mama will be unforgettable, but the first time she tells you "I love you"...there won't be words. She will drive you completely insane {especially if she takes after her uncles}. She will scare the crap out of you. And you will love every second of it all.

When Daniel deploys I want you to call me when you need someone to talk to. I know what it's like to be alone with a baby while your husband's gone. I know that as much as the family helps, there's still only so much they can understand. Especially your parents because they have never been separated for more than a month at a time. They've never been a single or part-time single parent. If you need someone to listen to you cry or make you laugh, I'm here for you. That's what sisters are for.

We don't say it too often, but I do love you. You're older so it might be kind of weird to hear, but I'm proud of you. You're going to be an amazing mother. I can't wait to see you and the baby in about a month.

- Lauren

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Vegetarian Wednesday - Bar Food

A lot of people have been asking me for my enchilada recipe. I am going to post it, but because I don't use a recipe {I just make it up as I go} I'm going to make them this weekend and write measurements, as best as I can. So look for my "famous" enchiladas next Wednesday.

I recently turned 21 and have been slowly introduced into the bar scene. Being that Ethan and I both don't eat meat {I am now a month with none at all!} our choices are limited when we eat at places like Buffalo Wild Wings or the bar on base. So I have put my own twist on a few yummy appetizers. 

Vegetarian Buffalo Chicken Dip

1 (8oz) pkg    seasoned chicken-style veggies strips - diced  (I like Smart Tenders Chick'n Strips)
2 (8oz) pkg    cream cheese - softened
1/2 sm (about 8 oz)    velveeta - cubed
1 (16oz) bottle    fat-free ranch dressing
1 (12oz) bottle    hot wing buffalo sauce
1 c.     Monterey Jack cheese blend

- Cook chicken strips according to package.
- Place the diced vegetarian chicken strips, cream cheese, ranch dressing, buffalo wing sauce, and velveeta into a crock pot. Cook on low, stirring occasionally, until the cheese is melted and the dip is hot, 1-2 hours. Stir in the shredded cheese and serve with chips or veggies.

Jalapeno Poppers

1 (8oz) pkg    cream cheese - softened
1 (8oz) pkg    shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 c.    mayo
10-15     fresh jalapenos - halved lengthwise & seeded
2     eggs - beatened
1/2 Tbsp    milk
1 1/2 c.    breadcrumbs

- Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease a medium baking sheet.
- In a medium bowl, mix together cream cheese, sharp cheddar cheese, and mayo. Stuff jalapeno halves with the mixture.
- Whisk together eggs and milk in a small bowl. Place breadcrumbs in a separate small bowl.
- Dip each stuffed jalapeno half into the egg and milk mixture, then roll in breadcrumbs to coat. Repeat.
- Arrange in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven 30 minutes, or until filling is bubbly and lightly browned.

Veggie Pizza

 1 roll    refridgerated pizza dough
1(8oz) pkg    cream cheese - softened
1/2 pouch    ranch dressing mix
1 sm can    sliced black olives
sliced carrots
chopped fresh broccoli
1/2 - 1 c.    shredded cheddar cheese

- Roll out dough onto baking sheet and bake according to package. Let cool 5 minutes.
- Mix together ranch packet and cream cheese in a small bowl until smooth. Spread mixture over pizza crust.
- Top pizza with fresh veggies and shredded cheese.
- Refrigerate 20-30 minutes and serve.


Life Letter #14
"Someone you've drifted away from"


You were the first person I made friends with when I moved to Texas back in 1999. I was the new girl with the country Tennessee accent who was shy and very lonely, and you made sure I felt welcome. It was friendship at first hello.

We really got close in middle school. We had the same classes and we rode the same bus for a while.We used to split our lunches to save money for the mall on the weekend. We spent the weekends with each other all the time. Our 8th grade year was definitely my favorite time for us. We were both so innocent and happy. It was our last good year before things started changing.

In high school we were still close, but I had a boyfriend who was homeschooled, which took up my time when we weren't in school, and you started getting into drugs. We still spent all of our time together at school. you loved Bowie, and you couldn't understand why I hated it there. I started skipping school to be with Ethan, and you started skipping to get high.

I think the real turning point in our friendship was in 10th grade when you got sent to ALC for smoking weed on campus. I still remember that day. You got mad at me because I wouldn't come with you. I occasionally smoked with you, but I wasn't stupid enough to do it at school, or even come to school high. When you left Bowie I didn't care about school anymore. I hated a lot of stuff about that place, and honestly you were the only person keeping me there. When you were gone I begged my mom to pull me out of school. Once she saw how depressed I was she decided to homeschool me.

After ALC your mom moved out to the boonies and we never really saw each other, but we still stayed in touch. We went to Texas A&M with your sister over Halloween back in '05 and that is probably one of my favorite memories. We had sooo much fun and that is when I fell in love with the school.

Everything changed when I got married. I should've realized things had changed when you chose to go off and get drunk and high the night before the wedding, instead of helping me get the last minute things ready for the wedding. We saw each other a few times before I moved out to NC, but after that we hardly spoke. And it wasn't for lack of trying.

It was when Ethan and I had our separation and I really needed my best friend to talk to, that I realized you just weren't that person anymore. I remember calling you and leaving a message about what was going on. Four months later you called me back and wanted to know all of the details, only Ethan and I were working things out by then. I think that was the last time we talked to each other.

You've had a lot of hardships in your life since then. Your friend passing away in a car wreck, your fiance leaving, your mom having her problems...then I found out that your dad had passed away. I read it on your sister's Facebook and I started crying right then. Your dad had always been such a kind man, and you were a major Daddy's girl. I have tried to find you ever since then.

Your sister said that you don't have a phone anymore, or a place to live really. She said that you don't have a computer or way for me to get into contact with you from 1,400 miles away. You've gotten into much harder drugs than before, and I just hope that you aren't using them to try to block out everything else. I have told her to let you know that I am thinking of you. Even if we have drifted apart, you are still in my thoughts and I hope that one day we'll be able to catch back up. I hope it isn't too late for that. I miss my friend.


Saturday, September 4, 2010

What A Ride!

This weekend has been one of the craziest yet. It has been a wild ride of emotion and stress. I guess that is just soemthing I have to constantly remind myself about the Marine Corps, although this weekend was a first for us, or for anyone for that matter.

As of last week Ethan was getting out of the Marine Corps. He didn't pass the Counter Intel board and we were leaving. Ethan was really upset but we had both come to terms with what was happening. He had a plan to go into the Active Reserves as soon as we got settled in. We had a final inspection date for housing. We had the base decal taken off the car. We had our mail forwarded to our new address in Austin. We had a storage unit waiting for us. Everything was set up and just waiting for us to get home.

We are supposed to be halfway to Texas right now with a 26' moving truck filled with all of our possessions and memories and a car filled with snacks and toys for the two toddlers. We're supposed to be just waking up in Atlanta, grabbing breakfast, and heading back on the road.......but we're not.

Wednesday night the truck was almost completely packed. We had the essentials still in the house, like the mattresses and a few dishes, the shower stuff, etc. Thursday morning Ethan went to work for his last day while Jennifer, Isaac, and I started working our butts off to get the house spotless for the dreaded housing inspection the next morning. Ethan sent me a text telling me to call his work phone. I figured it was something about the moving stuff so I finished cleaning the vent I was working on and I went outside {an empty hardwood floored house echos like crazy when it's empty} and called him.

I sat on the phone on hold for a few minutes. I could hear people in the background and Ethan's voice, but I couldn't make out anything they were saying. Ethan picked up the phone and said "Can'ttalkstoppackingloveyoubye," and hung up. Because he literally said that in one small breath and hung up before I could even say anything, I wasn't sure if he had said "keep packing" or "stop packing." I was a little confused, but I went back to cleaning. I figured if it was that important he would tell me when to call him back and he would explain everything.

About 20 minutes later Ethan calls me on his way home. He told me that a few former SNCOs and higher ups that he used to work for had been working like crazy to get him to be able to re-enlist. Well those people pulled it off amazingly. Ethan has been extended for 2 months past his original EAS to put him into a new FY 2011 EAS so that he can re-enlist (and LAT move) into EOD. It has never been done before as far back as anyone can remember. I sat on the ramp of the moving truck and cried because I was so happy for him. He has been trying to go into EOD since last October, and it is finally happening for him.

So his SSgt and his OIC told him to go home and start unpacking the moving truck. His MSgt called housing and explained the situation so that we could keep our house. They even had half of his office come over to help us get everything inside and situated before the hurricane {which never came} hit. I have been overwhelmed, in a good way, this weekend trying to get our house back together and everything back in order. We had to return the moving truck and get our money back. We had to make sure they weren't going to cancel our cable and internet. Once the holiday is over I've got to change our address back here.

I am so thankful to all the people who helped Ethan out. They have helped us in a major way and I'm not sure if there's even a way to repay them. I just can't say thank you enough.

Ethan's staying active duty!! Next stop a few months.

And I have to say that I don't want to have to touch another cardboard box for at least 6 months. :-)