Saturday, February 28, 2009

Ah Mom, Pizza Again?

We are finally here in Santorini.  It is a smallish island above Crete with an active volcano. Don't worry our driver says it only blows every 2000 years and this is not that year.   On a map this island does not look that far away but when you have to go through what we just went through to get here, it might as well have been in Timbuktoo.  When we arrived at the port, our Villa sent a driver for us. We settled in with 2 priorities in mind, #1 EAT, #2 SLEEP! 
I'll tell you later about our ferry trip when I get the photos downloaded.

We wandered around the village for about an hour before stumbling onto this cute little restaurant.  In this culture, people don't really even think about supper till about 7 PM or so.  Here we were wandering around in search of a meal at 4:30 PM.  Let me tell you, we were hard pressed to find anything open.  Glory!!! What we did find was SOOOO good!

This little place had an upstairs garden room with tables.  We wandered in thinking that we would just grab a pizza and carry it back to the room, but we were sent upstairs.  Tony was our waiter who quickly befriended Gracie.  I think her blond hair won him over.  Since we were his only customers AND because of Gracie's winning ways, we got the royal treatment, which happened to come with a loaf of steaming hot crusty bread and fresh butter.  I LIKE the royal treatment.

We finished up and I paid the bill while Tony and Gracie had a conversation which sounded like this:
Tony: Gracie!!!! Finish with your pizza? How did you lika da pizza I make jus for you?
Gracie: Grinning with thumbs in the air, "It was very yummy!" I loved it. 
Tony: How longa you stay in Santrini Gracie?
3 or 4 days I think
Tony: Ok Gracie you coma back evry day and I cookah sometin especial jus for you k?
Gracie: Looking at me hopefully, "I think we can do that"

Priority #1 satisfactorily fulfilled and now it's time for Priority # 2.
Nighty Night!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Come To Greece, Play Ping Pong

Well we've made it to Greece! Specifically we are on Souda Bay Navy base in Chania on the island of Crete. We will not be here much longer. In about 2 1/2 hours we will be boarding a ferry on its way to Athens Greece. Thankfully we have a cabin reserved with 4 beds. The ferry ride is 9 hours long!! From the we switch ferries and head back down south (another 5 hours) to the island of Santorini. From here, there is no direct route, so we are going around our noses to get to our elbows so to speak.

So far all we have done since leaving Norfolk is travel, sleep and eat, not much else. Leaving your own time zone is very disorienting. We have not even set foot off of the base yet so we really have no idea what real Greece looks like. I have a feeling that our real challenges lay ahead of us in the next 24 hours. The language barrier alone is a bit daunting. I know we will be ok though. Near the BOQ where we are staying there is a little Rec center with a restaurant that we have put to good use. Needless to say though, our ping pong skills leave alot to be desired.

We were well fed on all of our plane rides. Hopefully this trip will not destroy all the hard work we have done to lose weight. Stay tuned for Santorini!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Ciao From Napoli

We have arrived in Naples, Italy. Currently we are lollygagging in the Mac terminal awaiting our next flight to Souda Bay, Greece which is on the island of Crete. The flights so far have been very smooth and uneventful. We have eaten supper twice in the last 12 hours and taken a few little cat naps along the way. Our internal clocks are spinning out of control at the moment. Time traveling is beginning to take its toll. Maybe we need a constant. Hopefully you Lost fans got that reference.

This photo is not nearly as impressive as it was to see in person. When we were descending for landing in Lajes Cailtin looked out the window and saw this. Right in the center of the photo (the darker spot) is the top of a volcano poking out above the blanket of clouds below us. It was SO cool to see.

Greetings From The Azores

Just wanted to pop in and let everyone know that we are on one of the islands off of Portugal.  The island is named Lajes.  This is a 2 hour layover with the next leg of the flight stopping in Naples Italy.  See you there!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Our Eventful Night

Most of you know that the girls and I are taking a trip to Greece. We are using the military Space A system to fly. Last night was supposed to be the start of our adventure. We made it on the flight list but as often happens with Space A, our flight was delayed for 24 hours. By the time we headed home for some sleep it was 2 AM. The roads were deserted for the most part for our long drive back home. Part of our drive included a ride through the Midtown Tunnel in Norfolk which is a 2 lane tunnel. One lane for north bound and one for south bound traffic. The north bound lane was closed for maintenance. They will often do this in the middle of the night when there is no traffic.
We got about halfway through the tunnel and I was going about 40MPH being careful because there were workers standing in the other lane. Just after I passed them, I looked in the rear view mirror and what seemed like out of nowhere there were headlights approaching extremely fast. About 3 seconds later the car plowed into us from behind. The driver never hit the brakes. I stopped as quickly as I could, checked to make sure all of my girls were OK and then called 911. After the impact I looked into my rear view mirror and could see the car that hit us spinning while parts were flying off of it.
I got out of my truck after the 911 call and thought I'd go check on the other driver but realized that I did not have much strength for walking. The paramedics and police showed up quickly and got the situation under control. We soon found out that the driver who hit us was extremely drunk. He walked away from his torn up car without a scratch. The police handcuffed him and hauled him away. He is a 22 year old sailor who has a very long difficult time ahead of him dealing with the aftermath of this.

The scene

His car

You cannot tell it but his windshield is busted

My tank... I mean Suburban sustained little damage in comparison

Some amazing things:
* Caitlin was not driving. The thought crossed my mind to have her drive us home.
* We were not driving our little Mazda. I almost drove it because it gets better gas mileage but decide at the last minute to go for comfort.
* There was no oncoming traffic
* We had already passed the workers standing in the other lane so they were not harmed. The workers told the police that they figured the other driver was traveling about 90-100 MPH when he hit us. They witnessed the accident and were very helpful in describing what happened.
* Our airbags did not deploy
* No one was injured! Amazing!

The girls and I are currently back in the Space A terminal about to board our flight.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Military Monday

Lee sent me these a few days ago.  He said they were taken while they were crossing through the Suez Canal.

I'm pretty sure that these smiles are because the ship is pointed in the general direction of home.
Some of you may not know yet that the girls and I will be leaving tomorrow on a grand adventure.  We will be attempting to meet up with Lee over in Greece.  I say attempting because we will be traveling by military Space A.  It's free but it's also unpredictable.  We are pretty certain that we can get to Europe and fairly close to where we want to eventually end up. From that point buses and ferries are involved and that is where things get a tiny bit sketchy.   I am taking Sylvia Mac (laptop) with us, so I will be able to blog and post photos along the way as long as we can find WiFi.  Please keep us in your prayers as we go.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Friday Funny

DAY 752 - My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects. They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while I am forced to eat dry cereal. The only thing that keeps me going is the hope of escape, and the mild satisfaction I get from ruining the occasional piece of furniture. Tomorrow I may eat another house plant.

DAY 761 - Today my attempt to kill my captors by weaving around their feet while they were walking almost succeeded, must try this at the top of the stairs. In an attempt to disgust and repulse these vile oppressors, I once again induced myself to vomit on their favorite chair...must try this on their bed.

DAY 765 - Decapitated a mouse and brought them the headless body, in attempt to make them aware of what I am capable of, and to try to strike fear into their hearts. They only cooed and condescended about what a good little cat I was...Hmmm. Not working according to plan.

DAY 768 - I am finally aware of how sadistic they are. For no good reason I was chosen for the water torture. This time, however, it included a burning foamy chemical called "shampoo." What sick minds could invent such a liquid? My only consolation is the piece of thumb still stuck between my teeth.

DAY 771 - There was some sort of gathering of their accomplices. I was placed in solitary throughout the event. However, I could hear the noise. More importantly I overheard that my confinement was due to MY power of "allergies." Must learn what this is and how to use it to my advantage.

DAY 774 - I am convinced the other captives are flunkies and maybe secret agents. The dog is routinely released and seems more than happy to return. He is obviously a half-wit. The guinea pig, on the other hand, has got to be a plant. I am certain he was put there to taunt me. Due to his current placement in the metal room his safety is assured. But I can wait; it is only a matter of time......

Kid Date

Me and my sushi loving girl had dental appointments last week. After we got finished with that small torture we decided to go have lunch. I let her pick the place and of course she chose the Koi Sushi Bar. Gracie never lets me down when she gets to pick the lunch spot. I can always count on her when I secretly need a sushi fix. We sat right at the bar and watched our chef prepare our spicy tuna, crab rolls and California rolls. When our tray arrived, she did what any sushi eater knows is best and what would have made her dad SO proud might I add. She promptly poured up a dish of soy sauce, grabbed a good sized ball of wasabi and mixed it into her soy sauce with her chopsticks. Then she proudly anounced "now this is what I call lunch!" and dug in. Even though she can expertly wield chopsticks with the best of them, she thinks it's fun to have the little helper spring, plus you can get more in your mouth faster.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Military Monday

Do you ever wonder what military life is like? I have friends tell me regularly that they do not know how I manage. Some days, I don't know either! By the grace of God, we make it to the next day and then the next and the next...

One Sailor's Wife's Perspective
Military life is like....
Feeling proud of your man when you see him in his dress blues.
Instantly connecting with anyone who has walked in your shoes.
Making family out of our neighbors because your real family is an ocean away.
Fixing broken doorknobs while your spouse is on the other side of the world.
Waiting for just one word to arrive from him when you get wind that there has been "an incident"
Hoping that his internet connection will hold out so that you can IM chat for just a few minutes.
Sleeping alone
Crying because he missed yet another anniversary, birthday etc... and you know he really wants to be there
Knowing there will be a steady paycheck but it will not likely cover all the bills and it will never be enough to cover what you had to sacrifice to get it.
Eating in the living room in front of the TV instead of at the table without him.
Fixing the leaky sink, the dryer door latch, the car battery and the broken step by yourself.
Telling your kids over and over that daddy loves them and misses them.
Counting days until Daddy is home with the kids.
Waiting on the pier watching the ship pull in.
Saying goodbye and being strong when you feel weak.
Telling everyone that asks that you are doing just fine thank you.
Knowing where a family has served just by looking at how their house is decorated.
Getting the itch to go after about 2 1/2 years in one place.
Watching as your worldly belongings are hauled away to who knows where.
Feeling the excitement and dread of getting a real hard copy of new pcs orders.
Making new friends.
Leaving old friends.
Making base housing look fashionable and homey.
Seeing the world.
Knowing that even though your spouse works hard that you really do have the toughest job in the Navy.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Sunday Suppers

I know that this will not appeal to many of you but I'm posting it anyway. Since the girls and I have been trying to eat healthier, I have really missed those Asian flavors. You know egg rolls, sesame chicken and sticky white rice made regular appearances on our table. Not anymore! We have not cut it out completely but we are trying to find healthier substitutes for our favorite flavors. I ran across this recipe for Chinese Hot and Sour Soup and I had to give it a shot.
Traditional hot and sour soup is thick and almost gel like. This lower calorie version is more like a broth consistency but all of the same flavors are there. We've all been feeling the congestion and ills floating around lately, so instead of Chicken Noodle I cooked up a batch of this to help clear our heads without adding to our waistlines.

Hot & Sour Soup
2 quarts of chicken broth
1 piece of fresh ginger peeled and chopped fine (about the size of a walnut)
1/2 pound of lean pork cut into thin strips (I used a couple of lean boneless pork chops)
3 T soy sauce (use lite if you are watching your sodium too)
1 to 2 teaspoons pepper (I used white pepper)
1/2 C white vinegar
10 fresh mushrooms sliced ( I used the plain button ones that are in the produce section already sliced, you can add more if you choose)
1 cake of firm tofu cut into smallish cubes
1 can of bamboo shoots (8oz)
3-5 egg whites

Put all of the ingredients, except for the eggs, into a large pot and bring to a boil. Turn your heat down and let the soup simmer. The longer you let it simmer, the more intense the flavors will be. Just before you are ready to serve the soup, whisk the egg whites together in a small bowl. While the soup is still simmering pour the egg whites in slowly in a long thin stream. the eggs will cook immediately into small strips. If you would like your soup a little spicier, try adding a few drops of hot toasted sesame oil.
If you don't mind the extra calories and carbs you could thicken this soup up by adding a cornstarch paste while it is simmering.
It serves 6 and each serving is worth 3 Weight Watchers Points, 8 net carbs and 25 grams of protein.
I hope you enjoy it!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Girl's Best Friend

Hobbes had to go get his second round of puppy shots. Poor guy. We found out that he is pushing 20 pounds now. That means that he is gaining an average of 2 pounds per week! Wish I could lose as quickly as he is gaining. Oh and in case you are wondering, Caitlin is still rocking him to sleep at night.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Out Burnin'

Several years ago Lee and I heard an older fella begin telling a story with the words "While I was out burnin...".  From that point on I have always thought that was a cool thing to say.  I mean when someone asks you what you did today, wouldn't it be fun to say " Oh I was just out burnin'"?  Well now I can say it.  Yesterday I was out burnin'.  You can do that in the country ya know.  No one even blinks an eye when you set stuff on fire in your backyard.  We raked leaves and cleaned out all of the flower beds.  I got all of it piled up and then got the bright idea to do what I have always wanted to do.

Holly did the honors of lighting the first pile on fire.

I stood by faithfully with the water hose.

Wrigley was the only voice of reason. Too bad we trapped him on the porch.

Look at the big dummy back there with no shoes on! Big dummy learned her lesson well and is now nursing a pretty little blister on the bottom of her left foot.

Note to self: Wear shoes when  you go out burnin'

Monday, February 9, 2009

Military Monday

NORFOLK, Va. — The U.S. Navy has identified a missing sailor who went overboard from a Norfolk, Va.-based ship in the Gulf of Aden last week.

The Navy says the missing man is Bristow, Va. native Theophilus Kwaku Ansong. The Navy says the 34-year-old engineman first class from the amphibious transport dock USS San Antonio went overboard last Wednesday. Crews were lowering an inflatable boat into the water at the time.

The Navy says Ansong was not found after searchers looked for more than 24 hours. Two other sailors were rescued and neither was injured.

Lee conducting the memorial service aboard ship for Sailor Ansong

Please continue to pray for this man's family and for the crew of the USS San Antonio LPD-17

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Sunday Suppers

I don't have a recipe to share today. It's been a rough week here at the Brown house. Most of you have already heard about the tragedy aboard Lee's ship this past week. I will post more tomorrow about all of that. Anyway, I have a different kind of food to share with you today. Food for the soul. A reminder that The Lord is sovereign and that He will provide. We sang this hymn today at church. I'd never heard it before, but I needed it. The Lord is Good.

Though Troubles Assail

Written by: John Newton

( the same man who wrote Amazing Grace)

Though troubles assail us and dangers affright,
Though friends should all fail us and foes all unite,
Yet one thing secures us, whatever betide,
The promise assures us, “The Lord will provide.”

The birds, without garner or storehouse, are fed;
From them let us learn to trust God for our bread.
His saints what is fitting shall ne’er be denied
So long as ’tis written, “The Lord will provide.”

When Satan assails us to stop up our path,
And courage all fails us, we triumph by faith.
He cannot take from us, though oft he has tried,
This heart cheering promise, “The Lord will provide.”

He tells us we’re weak, our hope is in vain,
The good that we seek we never shall obtain,
But when such suggestions, our graces have tried,
This answers all questions, “The Lord will provide.”

No strength of our own and no goodness we claim;
Yet, since we have known of the Savior’s great Name,
In this our strong tower for safety we hide:
The Lord is our power, “The Lord will provide.”

When life sinks apace, and death is in view,
The word of His grace shall comfort us through,
Not fearing or doubting, with Christ on our side,
We hope to die shouting, “The Lord will provide.”

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Friday Funny

Oh my word this is SO funny.  No matter how you feel about Ellen, Gladys makes my day!

Countin' Em and Burnin' Em

Our fitness quest continues. We have not given up, it is not a passing phase or a lame New Years resolution gone the way of the Bee Gee's.
Just wait until July when we look super trim in our bathing suits. We may be blindingly pale but we WILL have thin thighs and at least a smaller gut.

Abbie is officially The Biggest Loser in the house so far. My girl has lost 14 pounds during the month of January. You GO girl!!!
The rest of us are just trying to catch up with her.

Holly can put me to shame with these incline sit-ups.
A funny thing happened in this spot a few days ago. See that machine all the way to the right of the picture? Well I was sitting on it working out and Abbie was where Holly is only she was lollygagging. There was an older lady on the machine beside me minding her own business. So I yell out to Abbie "Hey, give me 20 more and slower this time, no slower, slower, there you got it now. Keep it up, you can do it. That's good you're looking good now. 18 more..." I hear this little voice from the lady beside me say " Do I HAVE to do 18 more? I just did 15 and it was pretty hard...." I look over at her and she has this pleading look in her eyes, like she was saying "please don't make me do more, pleeeeaaaasssseee" I was so embarrassed, she thought I was yelling at her. I apologized and we laughed. Oh my. I guess being a mom is not too much different than being a personal trainer.

Caitlin is pressing 110 pounds worth of steel. Super Girl!
Caitlin and the elliptical machine are friends. She can burn at least 300 calories in 30 minutes on that thing. Oh to have that metabolism....

I love this picture because of the pony tail. You just can't capture how fast she was working that elliptical machine, but the pony tail gives you an idea.
Check out the runner in the yellow shirt behind her. Holly and Gracie are the only ones among us who can run. I have to resist the urge to yell out at them across the gym from my own torture machine when I see them running. "Ruuunnnn Foooorrrreesssstttt Ruuuuunnnnn"
What's a little dignity when you have sweat rings under your armpits?
I could run...if the place caught fire.

Then there is this little 57 pounds worth of lean muscle.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Two Whole Hands Full

My little Gracie girl is 10 years old. I can barely believe it. In some ways it feels like she has been with us forever and in others it feels like the time has flown by.

Her brand new silky comforter.
She has a weakness for all things silky.

I wish I had a better picture of her necklace. Lee sent her a Cartouche charm that he bought at the Bahrain gold market. One side says Gracie in English and the other side says it in Arabic. It is so pretty and she was so proud to get such a special gift from Daddy.

Blowing out the birthday candles.
Happy Birthday Gracie!!!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Gone To The Dogs

Since we brought Hobbes home our house has been ruled by the dogs.  Our schedule now revolves around when the dogs eat, when the dogs have to go outside, when the dogs need to go to the vet, when the dogs need a bath... You get the idea.  

Wrigley is part cat we think.  He gets up here to escape from Hobbes who cannot yet reach that high.  Not much longer before Wrigs will need a new spot to escape to.

Hobbes follows Caitlin everywhere!  This pic was taken 2 weeks ago, he's much bigger now.

Wrigley gets in the tub when he gets thirsty.  Lately Hobbes has been drinking the water bowl dry twice a day.

Snickers, the canine matriarch of the family (and my favorite). She cannot seem to figure out why we need another dog in the house.

Wrigley LOVES his squeaky foot from the dollar bin at PetSmart.  If he could just keep it away from Hobbes everything would be right in his world.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Military Monday

What's better than one newsletter? Two newsletters! This is how they were sent to me last week, so this is how I am giving them to you. Enjoy!

This Week on San Antonio 3

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Sunday Suppers

For various reasons my picture taking abilities have been severely limited. I took the following with the camera on my cell phone. So there are no step by step pictures this time.
The girls and I had a big cooking day yesterday preparing for our first Sunday of the month church potluck meal. I made a pot roast in the crock pot with a farm fresh tenderloin roast. Much to the girls disgust I also made a pot of fresh collard greens that came from the same farm where we got the roast. Holly and Gracie made homemade bread. Abbie did the deviled eggs (also farm fresh) and Caitlin made this not so diet friendly bundt cake from scratch.

Caitlin's Cake
2 sticks of butter
2 cups of sugar
Cream the above together until light and fluffy
Add: 4 eggs
keep mixing
Prepare dry ingredients by mixing together
3 cups of flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
Gradually add dry ingredients to the butter mixture alternating it with
1 cup of milk
mix well then add
1 Tbsp of vanilla
Pour into a prepared bundt pan and bake at 350 for about an hour
Caitlin used a homemade fudge icing but you may us whatever suits you. The cake is delicious just plain too.

The cake batter is thick and rich

Holly dresses up Abbie's deviled eggs with a little fresh cilantro

Abbie is using a Pampered Chef tool to make the eggs extra fancy

Our goodies are ready to take to church. Hopefully there will not be any leftovers!