YOU DON’T RATE MULCH

Truer words never spoken. The problem was, I had no idea what those words meant.

My Marine and I were stationed on the West Coast and loving life. We were settling into our base housing bungalow and getting started at our new duty station. One day I was out gardening my little spot of heaven with birds chirping, barefoot children running and jets flying overhead. Glorious. Pausing for a moment I noticed a landscaper throwing mulch into garden beds. He was up the street at one of the senior leader’s quarters not more than a half block away. Oh, I thought- free mulch! I scooped up what children were within arm’s reach and confidently approached the hard-working man.

“Excuse me, sir,” I politely interrupted, “Can you explain to me how I go about having mulch delivered to my quarters?”

He paused briefly and shifted not unlike a sports car flying down the freeway, suddenly coming upon a traffic jam.

He turned, looked at me and asked, “Where do you live?”

“Right there,” I pointed.

He squinted as the morning sun glared in his eyes, paused for a moment and said,

“You don’t rate mulch.”

Seeing the look of confusion on my face, the kind man went on to explain. You see, just a few doors up were higher ranking active duty who were afforded more perks and benefits within the realm of military housing than those of a lesser rank. Fascinating I thought.

“Well,” I asked. “What do I rate?”

He looked at my yard and replied, “Fertilizer.”

Score.

That day I came to understand yet another piece of the military lifestyle puzzle. Everything is worked for and earned even down to the minutia of base housing. There are so many “understoods” that go along with being a military spouse. For example, I personally understand that I cannot and should not park in the E-9 parking spot at the Exchange. I did not earn that spot and would be in a state of total disrespect to those who did. I cannot and should not park in any of the designated spots at any base activities to include clubs, office buildings, Commissary and the like. I conducted exactly one minute of research on your behalf (a phone call) and confirmed that these “cannots” are not actual base orders but courtesies and part of our military culture. Don’t embarrass yourself or your active duty spouse by participating in the slow chipping away of our customs and courtesies. Embrace them and have within yourself the desire to carry them on long after you are gone.

This “understood” also applies in base housing.
Ask any military spouse and the majority will tell you that yes, indeed they have driven through the housing neighborhoods of higher ranks in a motivating moment of aspiration. Someday honey…
It’s a wonderful thing to have collective goals and dreams with your husband or wife. It is a bond that ties when there is so much pulling you apart. Deployments, training, work ups and every day duty.

Nobody likes being told no, or coming to the realization that your neighbor on base rates something that you cannot have. Even something as simple as mulch. 
As I work in my garden here in base housing prepping for the oncoming winter, I get a chuckle from my mulch experience.
I thought you might appreciate an update. I recently called housing to see if my husband rates mulch yet.
Yes, I was told, but only once a year, in the spring, and I don’t get to pick the color.
Score again.
Entertainingly Yours,

Cassie

Let Them Eat Cake

In my heart of hearts, I want to bake. I want to create magical masterpieces that light upon the taste buds. I have watched friends who seemingly create fantastical desserts merely by saying it is so. I grew up with a mother who would make croquembouche for Christmas dessert. I bought Bundt and spring form pans, thinking that by osmosis the ability to use them will come screaming to my frontal lobes. I have taken all the Wilton cake decorating courses. I have studied you tube videos only to produce wilting macaroons and chocolate chip cookies that only the dog would love. Sadly, nothing has taken! I have a few go-to desserts and have actually been known to bring out Haagen-Dazs ice cream bars on a footed silver platter passing them around as if they were Turkish Delight.

Perhaps I am slightly exaggerating my lack of ability when it comes to baking, but I do know my limitations, and that is very important when entertaining. You must constantly self-assess, embracing what you can do and finding alternatives for what you cannot. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you must create every item on your menu personally. A famous chef once said, “your guests won’t like you more because you made all the food.”

But back to me not baking…

When I am planning an event that requires a large amount of cake (staff birthdays, small scale ball, wedding shower, combined unit baby shower, etc.) I head over to my big box store and place an order for a plain white sheet cake. I ask that the standard piping be done but nothing else. Upon receiving the cake, I decorate it with the colors or themes of the event. I often purchase a fresh bouquet of flowers cutting the stems down to a three inch length and simply recreate the bouquet on the cake. Place the stems in the cake the exact way you would arrange flowers in a vase. You can be symmetrical or asymmetrical either centering your bouquet or cornering it. Both will be beautiful. I have placed nonpareils (a decorative confectionery of tiny balls made with sugar and starch that come in many colors) at each peak on the piping, sprinkled the cake with coordinating colored sugars or for children added items that they desire like toys or figures. The fun is in as much or as little as you desire.

A traditional cake ordered form a professional baker is a wonderful thing but can run you upwards of fifty dollars for a nine-inch round layered. That could easily deplete your party budget and if you are in a two-year command, this is yet another item that will begin to add up. The big box store’s cake has excellent flavor, is always fresh and has a standard that is consistent. This is a full sheet cake, double layered, for $18.99! If you are staggering your purchases between pay periods, this cake and cupcakes as well will freeze nicely up to six months! Ready to give it a shot?

Entertainingly Yours,

Cassie