Archive for the ‘cooking’ Category

Fort Lost In The Woods

Saturday, September 3rd, 2011

Justin and I rolled through the gates of Fort Leonard Wood in the early evening hours, and as soon as we did Justin was all business. We had stopped at a Wal Mart to do some grocery shopping,(where I learned that you can buy hard liquor at grocery stores and at Wal Marts in the state of Missouri, which says to me that they are well aware that their state is dull and are doing all they can to help) but after we got back to his apartment and ate dinner, Justin was very adamant on getting to bed since he had to be up at 4:45 am the next day. I begrudgingly agreed to an early bedtime, because when you are living in a one bedroom studio apartment supplied by the Army you don’t really have many other options for entertainment or other places to go if someone wants to sleep. He got up at the ungodly hour he needed to on Monday and I was left to my own devices, and they were limited. I did some laundry and spent some time on my computer, but that was about as exciting as my day got. Fort Leonard Wood is a training base, and a large one at that. This means that it is full of lots of vast empty spaces (much like the rest of Missouri) which surround just about every building. Since everything is so spread out Justin drives to work every morning.  Fort Leonard Wood, MO is affectionately refereed to by soldiers that have passed through it as “Fort Lost in the Woods of Misery,” and this is a fairly accurate description of the place. If I had really gone loopy I could have pulled a Maria Von Trapp and gone twirling and dancing in the open fields that I found myself stuck in the middle of, but as my friend Yaella pointed out, someone might have thought I was some loopy terrorist and shot me.


So with nowhere to go, no way to get there, and nothing to do I was left sitting in his one room apartment, by myself, without a car, and copious amounts of free time. I couldn’t even shop or go anywhere on base because I was without a Military ID. I had thought that coming there I would just fill my days with cooking and make complex dinners and deserts every day and be the perfect little desperate housewife and have dinner ready every day when Justin got home. I could have done that for a week. Well, not only could I not grocery shop by myself, but even if I had, Justin had no oven, well, I shouldn’t say that, he had an oven, but it had been disconnected by the Army and had a large sign placed over it that said “Inoperable oven, storage use only.” Some short-coming with the electrical system of the building made it so that the ovens could not be used, leaving each room a range with three lopsided electrical burners and a toaster for cooking. I knew from the first day I was there that it was going to be a long week.

Lost in the woods of Misery!

I ended up filling most of my time that week catching up on my blog entires from my family’s trip to Australia, watching DVDs that Justin owned, and talking to friends from home. The internet connection in his room terribly slow, but its not like I was in any rush. Each day Justin would leave early in the morning while I was still asleep to go to physical training for an hour, then come back, shower and go to work, usually without me even noticing he was up. I would wake up around 11 am and whittle away the hours in an off-hand way until he returned home around 4:30- 5pm and then we had a three-four hour window to eat, do any shopping we needed to do and just generally spend time with each other until it was bedtime once again. It was a thrilling life I led for that one week in Missouri.

From Monday to Wednesday I never left Justin’s apartment. I suppose I could have if I had developed a bad case of cabin fever, but the week I was there temperatures were sneaking over 100 degrees every day, and I saw no reason to sit outside in 100 degree weather just for the sake of going outside. Wednesday night Justin took me to the officers club to meet his friends and hang out, it was also karaoke night which is a weekly event. Justin had never participated in this, which I found to be odd since he sang in high school and in college. I pushed him to get up and sing, which I think he was a bit embarrassed to do in front of his friends, but he did anyway. He picked a song from Third Eye Blind that was really too low for his tenor voice, but I fairly certain he intentionally batched the song so they would never ask him to sing again. O well, can’t say I didn’t try.

On Friday Justin had plans to take me to a barbeque that his class was putting on for the incoming class of officers. All the guys had pooled their money to buy hot dogs and hamburgers, but I wanted to contribute a dessert.  I did some research on no-bake recipes and ended up putting making chocolate and peanut butter rice krispie treats which were a bit hit. Before going to Missouri I baked three dozen oatmeal chocolate chip cookies for Justin to hand out to his friends, and I brought them in a giant Tupperware container with a red lid. Of course these were enthusiastically received and he came back with only crumbs in the container. So, when I showed up to the picnic with the same container everyone was delighted and asked what baked goods I had brought this time. I think I might have developed a reputation for being the baked goods girl, which I’m totally fine with. I was happy to bring a little home cooked happiness to his friends.  Friday while Justin was at work I also made a big batch of guacamole and a mint infused simple syrup that we used later that evening to make mojitos. Housewifery at its finest. After the picnic we headed back to the officers club with his friends and stayed there until late in the evening. By the end of the week the heat had finally broken, so after everyone was a few drinks in they headed outside to the volleyball court behind the club and played for a little under an hour before calling it a night.


We woke up on Saturday and had a leisurely morning before headed back up north to St Louis where we would spend the night so I could catch my early flight back in the morning.We got into St Louis late afternoon, and after we made the mandatory stop at Chipotle so Justin could get his fix, we headed to the mall to kill the rest of the day. Since Justin had recently gotten into golfing with some of the guys on base, we set out to find some golf clothes that would breathe well in the oppressive heat. We had an awful time finding anything in a size smaller than a large, apparently people who wear L, XL, XXL, and XXXL sizes don’t do much golfing because all those sizes we found. We did find a few things though, and jokingly Justin picked out a hot pink shirt. We were speculating as to how flamboyant he would look in it, but it was on clearance for $10 so I insisted that he at least try it on. Turns out, pink doesn’t look half bad on him. Looks a little fabulous, but not too bad. He actually ended up buying it with very little provocation from me. The real test will be if he wears it, as this remains to be seen.

only a little fabulous


Later that evening we hung out with Chucks family and took Chuck out for ice cream before going to bed so we could be up in time for my 730 am flight back to Charlotte, NC where I would catch my connecting flight back to Dulles. We made it to the airport on time the next day, but when we got there we found out that my flight had been cancelled due to “crew availability,” whatever that means. What it ended up meaning was that I stood in a very long line of disgruntled and whiny customers while everyone waited to be re-ticketed. While that was somewhat frustrating I ended up getting a direct flight to Washington National instead of the layover in North Carolina, but this flight left at 11. I didn’t mind the extra wait as I got a little more time with Justin and I didn’t have to deal with a layover.

All in all it worked out. I’m glad I went to see Justin, but I am not terribly eager to go back to Missouri anytime soon.

Courtney’s Birthday In Argyle

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

Saturday was Courtney’s Birthday, and Kaela and I had made up our minds that we were going to make her favorite dessert for her birthday. A red velvet cake. Kaela had wanted to do it from a box mix, but I have never prepared anything that tasted better out of a box than it does from scratch. Plus when you use a box mix you get all these nasty unnecessary preservatives and additives that are easily avoided if you cook it yourself. Of course I was not this tactful when discussing this with Kaela and Jill. The conversation went something like this:

Me: What are we doing for Courtney’s birthday this weekend? Did we want to make a cake or something?

Kaela: O yeah, I was going to make a red velvet cake because its her favorite.

Me: O cool, you going to make it from scratch?

Kaela: No I thought I would just pick up a box mix.

Me: Well thats lame!

Jill: VALERIE! You are so mean! Kaela is trying to do something nice for Courtney what does it matter?

*Open mouth insert foot*

Me: I’m just saying that box mixes are lame, not that Kaela wanting to contribute to the birthday festivities is lame. Look, I can help you and we can do it right.

Jill: Valerie! Could you be nicer?! There is nothing wrong with a box mix!

This is pretty much par for the course in terms of how conversations in our apt go. I say something that comes off more harsh than I meant it, Kaela, being the sweetheart she is says nothing, and Jill being fearless, verbally knocks me over the head. Its a good balance. If our apt were an episode of Sex and the City I would be Miranda, Jill would be Samantha, Courtney would be Carrie and Kaela would be Charlotte.

I really don’t get why everyone goes nuts over red velvet cake. I don’t think people realize its just a chocolate cake with red food dye in it. The first time I ever made one was for a friend’s fathers birthday. I foolishly thought it was a raspberry or strawberry flavored dessert, and that the red color was due to some natural ingredient. How young and naive I was. I was very disheartened when I started looking up recipes and saw that the magical crimson ingredient was nothing more than a dye. I spent about twenty minutes researching recipes thinking that maybe that was just a cheap substitute for the actual ingredient that would turn it red. No dice.

So then I thought well why does it need to be red? It doesnt! It’s  just a color. So to satiate my appetite for humor and irony I bought blue food dye instead and made a blue velvet cake, because that was going to be a fun moment. When someone cuts into a red velvet cake and finds that its blue. That messes with your head for a minute. Plus the recipient of the cake was an Elvis fan and I thought once the initial moment of shock was overcome he would find it funny.

Anyway, Sat morning Jill was at work and Courtney was at a friends so Kaela and I compiled a list of ingredients and then trekked over to the grocery store to do our shopping. Once we returned to the apartment it was getting later in the afternoon and we didn’t want Courtney walking in on the cake making mid progress, so we went down to one of the boys apartments and used their kitchen instead.

Since we were expecting ten or so guests that evening our original plan was to make two double layer cakes with cream cheese icing and white chocolate shavings on top. We doubled the recipe and used just about every bowl and spoon in the kitchen in doing so. The mixing bowls we had were not large enough to hold the amount of cake batter we were dealing with so we ended up putting it in a giant plastic Tupperware container that looker more like a bathtub for a small child. We put our first two cakes in the oven and they burnt slightly on the tops but were still soupy in the middle. For some reason our Australian oven REALLY does not like to cook cakes, because this is what always happens to me no matter how I adjust the time/temperature/oven racks. Since the cakes came out kinda lopsided I decided to grab the muffin tins and have the second round be cupcakes instead. The cupcakes turned out much better. Since we didn’t have an electric mixer our icing turned out a bit runnier than I would have liked, but it all tasted great and Paula Deen would have approved of the amount of butter we used, even though I was mildly horrified.  Our double layered cake turned out a bit special looking and since the icing was runny it also kinda looked like it was melting, but the white chocolate shavings helped a bit and it all tasted decadently divine, so who cares.

Once we had cleaned up I went back over to our apartment where I found Courtney. Kaela returned fifteen minutes later to avoid suspicion. Once Jill returned home from work we sang, lit sparklers and presented our velvet creations.

Happy Birthday to Courtney!

For dinner we ordered take out from Baja Cantina, a wonderful Mexican restaurant in Glebe. Then we all changed into going out clothes, had a few people over for more cake and merriment and then headed out to a nightclub on the Rocks called The Argyle. Courtney and her friends that came over all wanted to take a cab, but since Kaela, Jill and I had bus passes we opted to meet them there and take the bus instead.

I had never been to this club before, but there was no cover charge, which for a Saturday night in downtown Sydney is damn near miraculous. Being that it is moving into winter here, it was a brisk evening, about 60 degrees or so, but still nice. Australians, we have observed, have absolutely no cold weather tolerance. This week on campus I have switched from flip flops and short sleeves to my sperrys and a zip up hoodie and felt perfectly comfortable, but all week I have been passing by people who look  like they are about to embark on an arctic expedition. People have been wearing huge fluffy down coats with hats, scarves, gloves and boots. Seriously? I used to think Virginia was bad about snow but I think if Sydney ever saw a snowflake they would declare a national state of emergency. When we entered the Argyle courtyard they had outdoor heaters placed ever ten feet or so. Really? It’s 60 degrees out. Come on people. Man up.

Outdoor courtyard

We walked inside to a very crowded room buzzing with activity. We were meeting everyone upstairs so we headed towards the stairs, but above the stairs looking down from the top floor were three tall European guys who were pointing at us. I tried not to pay any attention, but as soon as we got to the top of the stairs one of them grabbed my arm and yelled over the music “Can I buy you a drink?”

What I actually said: “Um, no thats ok. I’m here with my friends, its my roommates birthday, so we are trying to find her”

What I wanted to say: “You really think its that easy? You really think that you purchasing me alcohol makes me want to talk to you? How about try opening with something that actually shows me you have brain cells and not just a penis and a desire to buy your way into my pants”

Upstairs area

We keep moving and eventually find Courtney with all her friends hanging out in a corner by the bar. We mingled and danced a bit while some random girl we didn’t know puked into a champagne bucket in the corner of the room. I mean if you have to throw up I guess you might as well do so in style. Wanting to get away from the thick mass of people surrounding the bar we decided to check out some of the other rooms. On our way across the room this seven foot tall Armenian guy with two of his buddies in tow stops me and asks me what my name is.

Apparently my blonde head floats above the crowd as a beacon attracting  all manner of creepy untactful males. Talking to this guy I got a feel for what it must be like for short people to talk to me. Even in heels  I was craning my neck to look at him. I told him my name and he asked me where I was from. I said the states and then he told me he was from Armenia. I said that was cool. I mean what else can you say?  Then he asked me if I even knew where Armenia was on a map. I honestly didn’t. I had some vague notion of it being somewhere in between western Europe and the middle east, but beyond that I really had no clue. So after insulting me over my lack of geographical knowledge he asks to buy me a drink.

I found Armenia

What I Said: “No I’m ok thank you, I’m hanging out with my friends tonight, its my roommates birthday”

What I wanted to say: ” I know I am probably the only person who is even neck level with you in this room but I don’t respond well to being scolded about geography and then attempted to be bought via alcohol. Yeah, we are done talking now. Goodbye”

Jill pulled me in the direction opposite of where he was and as I walked away he shouted at me “Hey, we were talking here!” Astute sense of the obvious there sir. Maybe you should have also observed that not wanting to talk to you I stopped and started to walk away.

Am I the only girl on the planet that really despises being hit on? If someone wants to come up to me and actually talk to me then sure, lets have a conversation. Plus if someone buys me a drink I would feel obligated to hang around them while I drank it and carry on a conversation, and I don’t want to make that kind of commitment before I am sure that said person is worth talking to. But for someone to compliment me and then think they can buy me off with an alcoholic beverage in the vain hope that I will later want to make any sort of physical contact with them is an insult to my intelligence and a waste of my time and I don’t find it flattering in any way.

We spent a few more minutes mingling and dancing, but after only being there for an hour Courtney had decided she wanted to go home, even if her other friends did not. So we headed back out through the court yard, piled into a cab and zipped off back to Glebe for some late night pasta and bit more red velvet before going to bed.