We Moved (Pt. 4)

We are now on day 6 of our cross-country move. If you haven’t read about the earlier parts of our journey, go check them out now. Part 1 saw us leaving California. Part 2 brought us to New Mexico. We made it through most of Texas in Part 3. And now, we are headed to our new home.

Our goal for the day was to make it to New Orleans where The Husband’s older sister lives. Before heading to the highway, we had to make a stop at Shipley’s for apple fritters. We learned about Shipley’s in 2009 when we visited Houston to watch Navy play Mizzou in the Texas Bowl. We are rarely in Texas but we always try to stop for Shipley’s.

Once sugared up, we continued east along I-20 until we reached Shreveport where we hopped onto I-49 south. We got an early start and were able to make it to Alexandria, LA before we needed to stop for lunch and to do something fun.

It was stiflingly hot but the zoo looked like a fun stop for the kids. There were a few indoor areas where we could see snakes and other reptiles while remaining cool in the air conditioning.  We also rode the train and checked out their Australian Outback area.

We drove into downtown Alexandria after the zoo to grab some coffee and snacks for the kids. It happened to be the Burnt Weenie Festival the day we drove through town. Hilarious and very fun. They had a giant water slide set up in the middle of the street. There were fire hydrants spewing water. A band was playing under a pavilion set up in the street. We stopped in at Tamp and Grind which is an eclectic coffee shop in downtown. The kids enjoyed the delicious cookies (as did I) and and the coffee was great. The staff was really friendly. The barista and I learned we spent many years in the same cities. Overall, Alexandria was a great (and absurdly hot and humid) stop.

We continued on to New Orleans, arriving to The Husband’s sister’s house around dinner time. We called it a night after regaling childhood memories.

In the morning, we tried to take the ferry which is just a few blocked from my Sister-in-Law’s place but, as it was a weekend, it was running on a later schedule which we didn’t want to wait for. Instead, we hopped in the RV and drove the 10 minutes to Cafe Du Monde. After breakfast with a view and history lesson, we headed back to her house to drop her off and then set out for Pensacola.

We had a great drive until we reached Florida when it started pouring rain. We felt it was a nice “welcome home” from the state we so recently left. Before parking for the night, we stopped by the National Naval Aviation Museum. It is on base at NAS Pensacola but you don’t have to be military to enter. While The Husband was going through flight school, this was a favorite spot to take visitors. The boys loved checking out and sitting in a bunch of old planes and cockpits. They also rode in a simulator. It was a wonderful and free few hours where the boys could get out some energy while also learning about their dad’s career.

The Husband booked an awesome RV spot right on the water in Perdido Key. Since Florida was giving us a nice, wet welcome, we didn’t spend too much time outside but there was still a beautiful view out the back of the RV. When we woke up the next morning, there were clear skies as we look out over the bay.

We got another early start as this was the day. We were going to FINALLY make it to Jacksonville!!! By day 8 everyone was ready to be “home.” The drive from Pensacola to Jax is only around 5 hours without stops. You know how,when you really want to get somewhere it seems to take forever. That’s how day 8 felt. While the drive, including stops, only took about 7 hours, but it felt like 14. We were SO excited to see family.

Thankfully, the drive was uneventful and we were so happy to be with family once more. Keep following to learn about our adventures over the pas year in Jax. It’s been a fun ride!

What are your favorite spots in NOLA? What about Jax? We are always looking for fun places to visit and delicious spots to eat.

 

 

 

We Moved (Pt. 3)

Go back and check out Pt. 1 and Pt. 2 of our cross country journey, if you haven’t done so already.

Day 4 had us leaving New Mexico and headed for Texas. Leaving our AirBnB there were multiple hot air balloons flying. The pictures are of one landing as we were coming out of the neighborhood. Don’t mind the bug splatter all over the windshield. Blah!

 

 

Once on the road, there wasn’t a ton to see. We stopped at Cadillac Ranch. It was hot, dry, and dusty. If you are going, be prepared with spray paint and sun glasses. The wind was so strong it was blowing everyone’s hats off. It was a cool piece of Americana and I’m glad we stopped.

We continued ambling east along I-40 before shooting south on 287 toward Dallas. We booked a spot at Ole Towne Cotton Gin RV Park. This place was great! They had a small kids area, pool, little general store, community gathering place, and dog run. It was the perfect stop.

The next morning, we packed up and headed out for another day in Texas. Our first stop was for coffee. There are few options on 286 between Amarillo and Dallas but we were lucky to be close to a newly opened coffee and art shop, Turquoise Coffee Stop in Chillicothe. The owners built the place themselves. The mister is an artist and Jack-of-all-trades. The missus is the barista and chef. We each got our favorite coffee and a few delicious muffins. While our coffees were being prepared, the mister showed us around. His art work was all around for purchase and decoration. They were both very friendly and loved showing off their hard work. If you happen to be driving along 286 through Chillicothe, make sure to check it out. It’s worth a stop.

Once full of apple muffins and awakened by coffee, we continued on toward Dallas. We planned to stop at one of the aquariums in Dallas but while grabbing lunch a local advised us to go to Cabela’s in Fort Worth where there was a small aquarium and it was free! The boys were in heaven climbing on boats, feeding fish, and checking out the animals. tKZ0P1kuR5uouqfUCw4Mrw

The rest of the day had us driving along I-20, past Dallas and through east Texas. We stayed at a motel off the highway for the evening and ate delicious BBQ. It was nice to rest up for our final days of driving.

Have you driven across the US before? What’s your favorite part of long road trips?

Planning Ahead – Military Style

 

I am currently planning to move across the country during my husband’s pre-deployment leave. Doesn’t sound that crazy except…we don’t have orders yet. Yup, I’m planning ahead. (I know all you fellow mil-spouses are laughing.) There is a chance, a small chance but still a chance, that we will find out in a few months that we are getting orders back to Florida. If we are headed back, I’d prefer go before this deployment and have family around rather than wait until he gets back, move in the middle of school year, and have no family support for the 7+ months he’s away. I should add, if the orders say Florida, we will have about 3 weeks to completely plan the move before it’s time to go.

I feel like a crazy person. I’m currently filling out school applications. I talked to my old boss and have a job lined up. (A GREAT job, at that, which I now really want! Haha!) I contacted our realtor and have been looking at homes online. I’m getting moving quotes. I’m researching PODS and SmartBoxes and 1-800-PACK-RAT and every other movable storage unit. I’m checking out stops along the drive. I’m in full planning mode, just as I’d be if we were actually moving. But we are probably not. (Crazy person!)

I think this is the life of so many military families though. If we don’t plan for the possibility, we are behind the curve. There is a common saying in this life, “Hurry up and wait.” You have to get a million things done as fast as you can, get everything turned in, be ready for anything. Then you wait to find out what’s actually happening. The waiting is the hardest part. Now that I’m getting prepared for this only slightly possible move, I’m playing the waiting game. It will likely be 3 months before we hear and 3.5 months before we *possibly* move to Florida.

In between all the planning and quotes and research and applications, I’m also trying to enjoy our time where we are. It’s beautiful in southern California right now and we are living it up! Let’s be real, those Florida summers are nothing like they are here and I’m soaking up every last bit of this Cali sunshine (even if that last bit is for 3 more years). 😀

 

 

 

Dreaming of Europe

Shortly before I turned four, I moved to southern Spain. My dad was in the military. We were actually supposed to go to Italy but, three weeks before our move, orders were changed and Rota was our new destination. It. Was. Amazing.

We lived in Spain for three years. I spent my summers traveling around Europe. I lived in a tiny, safe, friendly little town. In school we learned Spanish starting in first grade. I would spend my afternoons outside, wandering around base with friends. Each holiday was spent with all the neighbors. There would be 40 people at one house. It was fun. It was a great way to spend my early childhood. It’s what I want for my boys.

I have had the strongest desire to move to Europe recently. It has always been there but lately it has really been tugging at me. We can’t move overseas right now. We are in Ca for at least another year. After here we have four “options”, one of which is to stay put. The other three are Florida, Hawaii, or Japan. We have a few month to decide on which order we want to list our preferences but, lets be real, it doesn’t matter how we order them, we will get what the Navy needs from my husband. (Hence the quotes around options above.)

After the next tour, we *may* have the option to move to Europe, most likely to Germany. This is when it is supposedly easiest for us to be stationed in Europe. My husband can take a joint tour job and the boys and I will traipse around Europe. At that point, the boys will be 5 and 10. How perfect!! But (and it’s a BIG BUTT), I hate the cold. I struggle in southern California with the chilly weather. I had a hard time in the winters in Jacksonville, Florida because a few days would see highs in the 40’s. I’m that person who needs a jacket when it’s 73*. Eek!

Maybe we will be sent to Japan next and I’ll learn to live in the cold? Maybe I’ll be that ridiculous American wearing 3 pairs of pants, 5 top layers, a hat, scarf, multiple pairs of socks, boots, and a ski mask to leave the house when it’s 35*? And, let’s be real, when I would leave for work in Jacksonville on those cold days, I would most certainly be wearing all of that, minus the ski mask. Maybe I’m getting way ahead of myself and we won’t be given the opportunity to live in Germany?

Sigh. I think I’m going to watch another House Hunters International.

-KB

Our First RV Outing!!

Last weekend we were supposed to take Roxie out for her first overnight. Long story short, due to the Navy, the weekend didn’t go as planned (shocking, I know). We did still manage to get her out to a campsite where we had awesome family time.

On Saturday afternoon we headed to Sweetwater Summit Regional Park in Bonita, CA. We got to our campsite around 1630. After hooking up to power, the boys and dog headed to the park while I got started cooking dinner. I brought my Instant Pot and made turkey chili. I’ll post a recipe later because it turned out really well! They came back before dinner was ready and built a campfire and played on the bed. We enjoyed our delicious dinner sitting outside by the fire. Everyone really enjoyed themselves, except the dog who was a little freaked out about the whole situation. (She did enjoy the chili though.) After cleaning up, we roasted marshmallows and made s’mores. This was probably the best part of our evening. The air was cool but the fire was warm. We sat around (as much as a 20 month old will allow) and talked and ate and laughed. Perfect first evening in Roxie.

Any tips or ideas for taking your RV out in SoCal with a toddler?

Instant Pot Hamburger Helper

I bought an instant pot out of frustration one afternoon. The husband had been underway for a few weeks. The toddler needed to be held if I was in the kitchen. And it was hot in southern California! I reached out to Facebook friends for info on meals to cook with one hand while holding a 25lb (at the time) toddler. Everyone who responded said “INSTANT POT!” So, I dragged the boys to the NEX, picked up the first one I could find, and bought it. This is not my normal style. I like to read reviews and compare prices but I was tired and hot and my arms were burning from holding a wiggling 25 pound toddler for hours. Honestly, I didn’t even know what an Instant Pot was or how the worked. (Eekkkk!) But I watched a short video about how to get started, with the sound on as loud as it would go so I could hear it over the screaming toddler in my burning arms, and got started.

I’ve since fallen in love with The Pot. I have found that chicken comes out much juicier and tender than when cooked in a crock pot. I love that I can forget to take out meat and throw frozen anything into it 30 minutes before dinner time. I also like that I can saute. But, none of that is what this post is actually about. It’s about the hamburger helper!

This is a super simple but tasty recipe. My husband calls it “the hamburger helper that actually tastes good.” It’s versatile in that you can change the pasta, meat, or cheese, and it will still be good. Here’s what I usually do:

Ingredients:

  • 1.5lb ground beef
  • 2 cups broth (whatever kind you have on hand)
  • 8 oz whole milk
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1tbsp onion powder
  • 1lb shell macaroni
  • 16oz decent quality cheddar cheese, shredded

How to:

  1. Saute the ground beef.
  2. Once it’s browned, turn off instant pot and pour in broth, milk, seasonings, and macaroni. Mix it together a little. The liquid should cover the majority of beef and macaroni. If it’s too low, the macaroni won’t cook all the way so add a little more broth or milk.
  3. Put the top on the pot. Set to manual for 4 minutes.
  4. When the 4 minutes is up, do a quick release.
  5. Once all the pressure is released, open the lid and stir in the cheese.
  6. Enjoy!

Variations:

1. I’ve used penne and elbow macaroni. Both are good but as a family we have decided that shells are our favorite.

2. I’ve also used heavy cream instead of milk – still turns out great.

3. I used Kraft cheddar one time because I had some leftover from another meal I made and it did not turn out very well. I recommend Tillamook or something else that has flavor. It makes a world of difference!

4. I usually have chicken or vegetable broth on hand. Both work well. You can use beef broth too. I imagine water would work just fine too but I would at least triple the seasonings.

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as our family. Let me know what you think!

-KB

Roxie the RV

So…we went to Vegas and came home with an RV! (No, we did not win her, we bought her.) She’s a little thing, Class B. We are very excited. We’ll be taking her out tomorrow to spend the day at the beach. Look for her soon on Outdoorsy! We’ll be renting her when we don’t plan to travel.

Which, speaking of traveling, we are starting to plan our Yosemite vacation! Deployment is coming this summer so we will be taking the boys, dog, and Roxie on a two week vacation before the husband leaves. Any Yosemite travel tips? I’d love to hear them!

-KB