FORCE PROTECTION, BOO REJECTION

I live on a military installation. Have I mentioned that before? I believe I have.

For years, I have witnessed the delightful Halloween tradition of booing in military housing. My kids love it and harass me from the first day of October on as to when I think we might get booed ourselves. 

Booing consists of placing (under the cloak of darkness) a fun treat on a neighbor’s porch. There is always a note with instructions on how to pay the fun forward. In turn, neighbors post on the neighborhood Facebook page their surprises as well as a thank-you or two. Newly PCS’d families get to know the current residents and a natural neighborhood bond begins to form.

While exciting and fun, booing has its downside. One year it may be my children, frozen with fear, refusing to get out of the car as we approach our targeted house. Because it is late, I’m in pajamas (my Mother says that is pedestrian) and I’m forced to run onto a neighbor’s porch so as not to ruin the moment. The next year, it’s me driving away too quickly thinking I have all the children but in fact I do not. Before you judge, imagine seven children jumping into a car screaming GO! GO! GO! It all gets very confusing. I quickly glance in my rearview mirror and see child #5 frantically running after the car. In an instant she is gone having flipped over a hedge hidden in the October darkness. 

Childhood memories my children.  You are welcome.

Where are the MPs when all this is going on? I ask myself that very same question every single year.

With each boo after-action and a newly presented game plan, I convince myself and the children it will be different, but it never is. I’m a glutton for punishment and the shattered dreams that only a made up Hallmark holiday can bring.  

There was however, one year that still remains our most memorable for the most unlikely of reasons.

The month of September was coming to a close and the boo harassment package, compliments of my children had begun. We chose our families, mapped out our game plan and went shopping. Some years we choose new families whose children might appreciate feeling welcomed after yet another military move; but this particular year, we chose the best friends of two of my children. Because of this, I went a little overboard. I purchased above and beyond what I should have and was happy to do it. Candy, toys, a small piece of clothing…all shoved into the boo buckets.

Proud was an understatement. Dressed in black, I piled six ninja children into my  15 passenger van and began the slow creep through housing. My kids were phenomenal. No crying, no falling, no freezing in fear, no forgetting part of the team. 

Mission accomplished.

The next morning I went over to one of the homes and let the mom know it was our family that had booed them. We were (and still are) good friends and in a prideful moment I wanted to hear how truly awesome her family thought our boo bucket was.

“Oh, it was you?” she asked with eyes downcast.

“Yes! What did you think?”

“Well,” She began sheepishly. “My husband refused to allow the children to have it and he threw it all away.”

“What? Why?”

“Anthrax.”

Wait. What? Wait.

“Anthrax?”

I live on a military installation. Have I mentioned that before? I think I have.

Level intensity. High. All day, every day.

I walked away and while disappointed, understood the mindset of her husband. What I know to be true is that every man and woman that wears the uniform in this great country of ours is a shepherd at heart. They are always watching, always observing, always ready to protect.  In that moment, I realized that our military professionals cannot separate who they are moment to moment. A protection mentality is at the very core of their being.

Having never donned the uniform, I cannot fully appreciate nor understand why anthrax contaminated candy immediately came to my neighbor’s mind. I will say with confidence though, as an American citizen with Marines as neighbors, I will sleep soundly this Halloween night.

Entertainingly Yours,

Cassie

Irish Soda Bread

You will never find a group of individuals quite as diverse as the United States military. So celebrate it!

Every year, wherever we are stationed, I share my cultural upbringing by hosting a St. Patrick’s Day meal. Whether potluck at the unit spaces or in our home on base, it’s always a joy to bring people together to experience a foreign tradition.

With that, I thought I would share my Irish Soda Bread recipe with you. Enjoy!
Irish Soda Bread
4-41/2 cups all purpose flour
1-4 Tbsp sugar (depending on your desired level of sweetness)
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
4 Tbsp cold butter
1 3/4 cups cold buttermilk
1 XL egg
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
2. Combine flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in a large mixing bowl. Whisk lightly. Cut in the cold butter with a pastry cutter or fork. You want the butter to be pea-sized. Whisk lightly.
3. In a liquid measuring cup measure out the buttermilk and add the egg. Lightly beat together and set aside.
4. With your hand, make a small well in the center of the dry mixture. Slowly begin pouring the egg/buttermilk into the well while mixing the mixture with your free hand. You may use a wooden spoon if preferred. It will be very sticky.
5. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and begin kneading while shaping into a loaf. Score the top with a sharp knife creating an X. This allows the heat to reach the center of the loaf.
6. Bake on your parchment covered cookie sheet for 40-55 minutes. After 30 minutes test doneness with a sharp knife directly in the center of the loaf. If it comes out clean the bread is done.
7. Serve warm or room temperature with fresh butter.
Notes: I made 3 loaves last night and one this morning. Less sugar creates a more rustic flavor while more sugar creates almost a dessert like bread. Sometimes I add raisins (1 cup), currants (1 cup) or caraway seeds (2 tsp). These must be added during the wet mix process.
When baking for a large unit event, I will cook up to two days prior and wrap tightly with multiple layers of plastic wrap. You can also bake and freeze for up to two months in advance!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Entertainingly Yours,

Cassie

Galentine’s Day

You’ve heard about it, you’ve read about it and now you are personally experiencing it.

Another holiday alone.

I guess it would be ok if it were Groundhog Day (did he see his shadow?) or Bastille Day (bonjour and ooh la la!) but it’s Valentine’s Day. A day representing love, romance and companionship. The problem is, your spouse is deployed and you’re not feeling loved or romantic – just irritation and a bit of remorse for shoving down one too many chocolate hearts.

If I stop and think about it I (like many milspouses), have spent half of my adult Valentine’s Days with my husband, and half with my military sisters. But while it was not ideal, you can be sure we women made the most of it – and so should you!

Military spouses are sharp cookies, a lot of fun to be around and very creative – especially when our hands are forced.

So, if you are finding yourself a-lone, a-gain, gather your unit spouses and plan something! Host a “Whine and Cheese” at your home and encourage everyone to bring their wedding albums. They are beautiful to look at, make people feel good and when old enough are hysterical to flip through. Or, if it’s not just married but fiancés and girlfriends, have everyone bring their favorite couple’s picture. Request that they be brought framed and make them the focal point of your table.

I do recall once where Valentine’s Day fell right in the middle of the deployment cycle. We had one exceptionally bold wife who brought not one, not two, but all three of her wedding albums from her three marriages to include both Officer and Enlisted. Totally next level. (Now see- that is a twist in entertaining that NO ONE sees coming. If you’re the hostess in a situation like that, you just push through and be polite – but you already knew that.)

If you are stationed in a city that has a vibrant nightlife, then make reservations at the hottest restaurant, have everyone pay their own way and host a classy ladies’ “Pin Up” night out.

Trust me your group will make quite the impression.

Host a flight suit formal or a diamonds and denim night. A few weeks beforehand have the Commanding Officers Spouse schedule a live FaceTime feed where the forward deployed are able to give a quick shout out to their spouses. You will need to coordinate the attendees and their active duty spouses. We don’t want anyone to be left out.  Never a dry eye in the room when this is done!

The possibilities for your alternative Galentine’s Day are endless. The worst thing you can do is sit at home alone lamenting your current situation so get up and do something about it! Rally your gal pals and host an epic event.

Remember when the spouses and families are content at home, our active duty can focus on the mission at hand. Even if it means throwing a party.

Entertainingly Yours,

Cassie

WHERE’S MY JAM AT?

Upon arriving to work one cold, December morning, a young Marine took stock of her workplace associates’ cubicles and noticed something terribly awry…

On every desktop, as far as the eye could see, there was a small jar of Christmas Jam neatly placed, as if to say, “good morning, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!” What was this sweet concoction? Was it left the night before by some magical military elf with a CAC card? Perhaps Santa flew down on his F-18 and left an early holiday treat?

As a veteran Marine, the Sergeant had seen this before, but upon looking down was perplexed and possibly  hurt to see that her desk had been passed by. What happened? Was there a run on Christmas Jam this year? Had she been mistakenly placed on the unit naughty list? Absolutely not! This servicewoman had made sure she was always on the nice list!

So, with holiday boldness, and a jam mission in mind – the Marine stood, straightened her uniform and walked down the hallway towards my husband’s office. The hallways in all units are lined with photos of the current leadership (my children swear that as they walk by Dad’s photo his eyes follow you. I believe it but I also digress).

In a very Dickensian way she appeared, much like Bob Cratchit with his query for an early departure on Christmas Eve. Taking a breath and with slight hesitation, she knocked on Ebenezer’s –  I mean my husband’s – door and inquired,

 “Sir, where’s my jam at?”

Before you cast judgement on what may appear to be a very Millennial moment, allow me to explain the situation a bit further. It is tradition for anyone in a position of leadership no matter the rank – whether from shop, group, company or battalion – to hand out a holiday gift of some sort. Nothing extravagant, and certainly not a mandatory thing, but quite rewarding for all involved. Cookies, candy or cake – a token of appreciation for a job well done. The worst thing when doing this however, is to mistakenly forget someone, anyone! We consider each and every person in the unit both civilian and active duty as family. To forget even one person hurts! And that Christmas, we forgot someone.

In short time, I was out grabbing a few more jars of Christmas Jam. I delivered them to the office beribboned and labeled in an attempt to make things right.

The holidays, for both civilian and military, offer a wonderful opportunity to acknowledge your staff or coworkers. A brief moment to build stronger relationship bonds with your brothers and sisters in arms. So please, don’t forget the jam.

                     “No space of regret can make amends for one life’s opportunity misused.”

                     -Charles Dickens

Entertainingly Yours,

Cassie

SEPARATION APPRECIATION: THE ART OF CELEBRATING WHILE APART

     Someone once told me that USMC stands for U Suckers Miss Christmas.

     I believe our spouses’ squadron was on its third back-to-back UDP and we were used to being apart – separation was nothing new. However, the powers that be had spun the magic wheel of deployment and on that particular cycle our loved ones would be missing the trifecta of holidays to include Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s.

     As much as we girls may have wanted to curl up in a corner and cry, we knew doing so would be the deployment kiss of death.  Remain positive and stay the course, we thought, before you know it, they will be on their way home.

     The wife of both the CO and XO rallied, quickly procuring a suite at the Navy Lodge on-board NAS North Island and a call went out for an old school potluck on the beach. Kids welcomed, attire of your choice, and no complaining allowed. As an East Coast girl, I longed for the crisp November air and the smell of my mother’s cooking. Instead, that Thanksgiving Day I found myself swimming in the surf with my babies on one of the loveliest beaches in America, and for a moment sharing a difficult situation with women who understood.  No one could have convinced me that I would ever enjoy a holiday alone away from family. I was wrong. So wrong. And had I stood my ground and fought the situation, I would have missed out on a truly memorable squadron life experience.

     As we approach another holiday season, there are countless military families apart from one another, and all of them wondering what they will do to make it through. Well, it’s time to create new memories and new traditions incorporating what we know into the reality we now live.

     There are so many productive ways for spouses of deployed military to stay engaged, remain positive, and make the most of what can sometimes be an unpalatable situation.  Seek out other spouses in your unit. Create groups for whatever interests you and pursue other like-minded spouses to join in. If deployment occurs over a holiday then YOU take the initiative to plan an event. It does not have to be expensive or extravagant. Grab the best cook in the group and have them host a cooking lesson specifically geared to the holiday at hand then feast together on your creation. Check with the spouses in leadership positions and ask how you may be of assistance in organizing a deployed spouses’ ball. Rally the forward deployed to create a group video message for the event. Perhaps your unit family members can volunteer as a team at a local shelter or food bank. Make suggestions and take the lead. Your military base has so many options for venues, meeting spaces, and entertainment! Are you aware that many installations allow family and civilian DOD employees to attend holiday meals at the chow hall? What fun! Check with the base community services office as to what they have planned. The options are endless.

     Keep in mind that when families on the home front are doing well, our spouses are better able to successfully complete the mission at hand. If there is trouble at home, our active duty become distracted and that can be dangerous.

     Someday you will fondly recall these life moments and know that you overcame, you succeeded and you won the deployment challenge. Once you have a few deployment holidays under your belt, you too will find yourself making statements that go a little something like this:

“ For our 10th Christmas my husband was on his 9th deployment and  I went into labor with our 5th child driving myself to the Naval hospital while timing contractions, confirming en-route via Facetime the base fun-run for our sister squadron wives, then posting my status on Facebook, and cancelling base soccer carpool, while going through the drive-thru to grab my kids dinner (mistakenly ordering from the trash can, which I had to post that on Instagram of course), yet pushing through and buying an extra meal to feed the corpsman who would possibly deliver my baby, and voice texting the entire spouse’s group to let them know I was in labor and would follow up with them upon baby’s arrival. Then after that we had newborn portraits done at the Exchange, and right after I requested a Red Cross call to my husband while setting a date for the banner making party and ordering farewell gifts online, while simultaneously coordinating next year’s ball date with the Sgt Maj.”

Entertainingly Yours,

Cassie

MARINE ARROGANCE 

In honor of our Corps’ 242nd birthday I attempted to write a heartfelt tribute only to stumble upon this outstanding explanation of “Marine arrogance.” 

In December 2013, a Marine Sergeant wrote this in response to a comment posted on the Marine Corps’ website complaining of “Marine arrogance”.
The Sergeant responds,
“I think that’s what makes Marines special, if only in our own minds, is that elusive Quality of Esprit D’Corps. It’s the fact that we, as individual Marines, don’t feel that we are individual Marines. When we wear our uniform, when we hear our Hymn, when we go into battle, we are going with every other Marine who ever wore the uniform.
Standing behind us are the Marines who fought during the birth of our nation. We’re standing with the Marines who fought in WWI and gave birth to the legend of the “Tueful Hunden”, or “Devil Dogs”. We are standing with the Marines who took Iwo and Tarawa and countless other blood soaked islands throughout the Pacific.
We are standing with the “Frozen Chosin” and our beloved Chesty Puller. We are standing with the Marines who battled at Hue City and Khe Sanh and the muddy rice paddies of South East Asia. We are standing with the Marines who fought in Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom and now, are fighting in Afghanistan.
Like real brothers, their blood courses through our veins, and when we go into battle, we would rather lay down our lives than be a disappointment to them. We carry on our backs, their legacy, their deaths and their honor. We carry that for the rest of our lives.
The Marines Corps uniform doesn’t come off when our active duty is over. We wear it daily in our attitude, and our love of Corps and country. We wear it on our tattoos and our bumper stickers. We wear it in our hearts.
It’s why, no matter where we are in the world, on November 10th, every Marine celebrates the Marine Corps birthday. It’s why we’ll never be an army of 1. It’s why we never stop being Marines. It’s why, for most of us, being a Marine isn’t something we were. It’s something we are.
It’s the most important part of who and what we are. Some say we’re arrogant. We say we’re proud. We have a right to be proud. We are the United States Marines the most feared and ferocious group of warriors to walk the face of this earth.
When Americas’ enemies formulate their battle plans, they plan on going around Marine units, because they know Damn well that they can’t go through them. We are what other branches wish they were.
We are the modern day Spartans. This isn’t bragging. It’s written in the battle history of our country. When there’s a parade and the Marines march by, everyone pays a little more attention. Some say “arrogance”. We call it “pride”. It’s why, in a crowd of service men, you can always spot the Marine. Why are Marines special? I don’t know. We just are.”
If that doesn’t make you want a giant slice of birthday cake, nothing will! Happy Birthday Marines!
Entertainingly Yours,
Cassie

TOP TEN SECRETS TO A SUCCESSFUL MILITARY BALL

1. Balls are expensive. A year in advance, create a ball savings fund just as you would for any other big life event. Contribute every payday.

2. Consider inviting local friends, relatives or supporters of the military that you would like to honor.

3. Be on time. You have one year between military formals so plan accordingly. Pull up an image of the entire venue to include the parking lot. Check to see if parking is complimentary or not. Know the lay of the land as well as the sequence of events.

4. Pack a small emergency kit to include extra rank, uniform pieces, needle, thread and super glue for medal mishaps. Chances are good that your spouse or a comrade will experience a wardrobe malfunction. It’s your turn to be the hero!

5. Have your formal picture taken right away. Make-up fades, food spills, hair falls, and lines grow.

6. Always buy your picture! Years later, your regret for not buying it will outweigh your regret of how you thought you looked.

7. Stay seated for the entire presentation to include dinner. The waitstaff is eager to place a lovely meal before you. They cannot maneuver easily between guests darting in and out of tables.

8. Familiarize yourself with Flag and General Officer etiquette- when to sit, when to stand, and when to place your hand over your heart.

9. Avoid bringing small children unless your spouse has permission from the command. If children do attend, they are held to the dress code of formal attire to include children’s tuxedos and formal dresses.

10. Have fun and know the ball is a time to reflect on honored traditions, camaraderie with fellow service members, and to honor those who have fallen.

 

Entertainingly yours,

 

Cassie

Under-Cooked Dough and Other Things You Should Know

This is about mistakes – entertaining mistakes.

We all experience them; some small, some epic.

But, we recover and we learn from the experience. However, there was a time when I neither recovered, nor learned.

When planning I would create in my mind the party to end all parties, but when the inevitable happened (burnt food, forgotten ingredients or children vomiting on me moments before a guest’s arrival) I became unglued.

I would often think, “Maybe I’m not cut out for this military lifestyle. Maybe I should focus my efforts on other ways to support the command.”

But that competitive, over-achieving military spouse inside of me would raise her fist like Scarlett O’Hara and shout back, “No! I will not be defeated!”

I have not yet lost the war, but there have been a few battles where I threw up the white flag.

Example #1: My Less-Than-Thankful Thanksgiving

After a few years of marriage and countless military functions, I agreed to host my first large Thanksgiving meal.

My husband Joe was attached to a Marine squadron that had a few squadron mates of the Royal Air Force on exchange from England. It was all very intriguing – the accent, their wives, the culture they offered.

One evening Joe came home and announced that we were hosting Thanksgiving dinner for three exchange pilots, their wives, and their children. They had expressed interest in a true American Thanksgiving feast and that’s what they were going to get. Who cares that I had never hosted one before? Or that I had three children under four and my appliance of choice was the equivalent of an Easy Bake oven (compliments of the U.S. government)?

“Yes,” I thought. “I’ve got this!”

I had cooked a turkey before (I think?), I had cooked rolls before (maybe?), and I had even prepared gravy, but for some reason I went into panic mode.

I went against my better judgement and started to take shortcuts. Between caring for my babies, preparing the house and trying to create an unforgettable feast, I panicked and started to change things up in my mind.

“I know!,” I thought, “I’ll use one of those cooking bags to insure done-ness. Oh! And I’ll use rolls in a tin so I have enough bread. And how about packaged gravy to supplement my own…” As you can see, I mentally spiraled out of control. To this day, I still do not know why I did the things I did that holiday weekend.

The big day arrived and no kidding, the kitchen sink backed up and there was no one from housing maintenance available to come out. My dear husband tried to clear it, but it just would not give. The water backed up to the top and the entire sink was unusable. I actually rinsed and peeled potatoes in my bathtub! Throughout the day of prepping and preparing, all of the dirty dishes went into the bathtub as well.  The best part though (ssshhhh don’t tell the British) I had to rinse the turkey under the spigot in the tub. It never touched anything, I promise. There is nothing like a Marine holding out a fresh white towel as if to say, “come to Daddy.”  I handed him the bird as a doctor might present a newborn son.  It was complete insanity.

I felt a bit of relief when the turkey was actually in the oven cooking. Remember I told you I used a cooking bag for the first time? Well, I did not mentally process that the cooking time is literally cut in half when using an oven bag but friends – I cooked it for the full five hours according to the turkey instructions.  – I can still taste it now, it was like tree bark.

On to prepping the stuffing. Dear old Mom’s sausage and nut stuffing. I had made it the week before and… oh my goodness had forgotten to thaw it! “No problem,” I confidently thought. I’ll just pop it in a pan and slowly heat it up. No sooner had I done so then I smelled the acrid scent of scorching food. Sausage stuffing, please report to the trashcan. What would my guests know? They are not even American so how would they know what is in a traditional American Thanksgiving?

Growing up, my mother taught my sisters and I the most amazing yeast roll recipe…why I did not make them, I have no idea. I used the Pillsbury brand in the tin and while tasty – they have directions that MUST be followed.

As dinner was underway, I noticed no one was taking a second helping of rolls. In a moment of true insanity, I grabbed one and ran across the street to my friend’s house (a lovely Navy wife who was unflappable).

I shoved a roll in her hand and said, “Taste this and tell me what’s wrong with it.” As she took a bite and pulled the roll away from her mouth, there appeared to be mozzarella cheese oozing out. She asked me, “did you make cheese stuffed croissants?”

“Uncooked dough!,”  I screamed and ran across the street back into my home. I immediately removed the rolls and watched in horror as no one tried a second helping of the turkey. Riddle me this: what is the actually cooking time of a twenty pound bird if you cook according to the directions PLUS toss it in an oven bag? Ten hours? I don’t know, but imagine my guests chewing with only their front teeth and downing copious amounts of water.

Course three – dessert. What could go wrong? I was a pro at pumpkin pie and had taken no shortcuts. I even prepared homemade whipped cream. I triumphantly paraded my pie to the table. No takers. “Oh we’re sorry love; we don’t eat veg in our dessert.” I could not believe my ears but then thought, “yeah, I guess that is pretty gross.”

 Suddenly, out came the lovely English trifle that was brought as a hostess gift. Have you ever seen rabid dogs fight over a bone? You get where I am going with this. The trifle dish was licked clean and I mean clean.

I guess I cannot blame them. It was a pretty terrible meal.

While so much went wrong that evening, I did do a few things right. I absolutely hid from my guests even the hint of a problem and kept the evening moving with good drink and good conversation. Never allow your guests to see or hear of a problem if you can at all help it. It makes everyone uncomfortable, which is the exact opposite of what a host or hostess desires.

My biggest failure that evening was trying new things. Never, ever try anything for the first time the night of your event. You are inviting disaster.  My husband and I still get a good laugh out of this experience, but I sure wish I could have a redo! And I promise, I have never rinsed meat in the bathtub since.

Entertainingly Yours,

Cassie