September 2, 2011

A PCS Move: House Hunting

Alright let's wrap this PCS stuff up already! :) We have had a whirlwind of a month, but we're back and semi settled in our new home up in the Pacific Northwest. The drive out west was absolutely breathtaking, and I promise a photo post completely dedicated to the majesty that is our country very soon!

Well, after the craziness of Out Processing, packing, and moving, comes the craziness of In Processing, house hunting, and unpacking. Its an endless cycle for military families, but we've gotten pretty good at this routine.

First you must decide if you're going to live on-post or off. We decided to look off post this go around, but if you think you'll want on-post housing, you can call your new duty station's housing office for the application as soon as your soldier receives his orders. The sooner you get your application in, the sooner you'll be on the wait list for a house.

With our decision to live off-post at Fort Lewis, the Army gives you ten days to find a rental home or to put an offer on house. We had talked to friends, searched Craigslist, AHRN, and tons of other rental sites researching the area around Ft. Lewis. We wanted to be ready to start looking as soon as we arrived. It was quite a blessing to find the perfect rental in two days! That's right - it only took us two days, and we were able to move in on the morning of day eleven here.

 We had heard that DuPont was a nice, safe town close to Ft. Lewis. The traffic can get pretty bad here, and Seth didn't want a long commute to PT and work every morning. The homes are fairly new with front porches in DuPont. There are lots of walking trails, parks, and coffee shops. We really liked the town, but the newer homes were still just big boxes on small lots. We weren't falling in love with any of them. Then we ventured over to the historical section of town.

We loved it! Most homes over here were built in the 1910's. Then peppered between these 100 year old beauties are one story ranch-style homes from the 60's. We felt at home. We were able to get more house and more yard for less rent, and we were able to rent directly from the owners instead of from a property company.

Here are the After delivery of household goods but Before unpacking pictures of our 1960's Rancher:
WARNING: the house is a Disaster, y'all!

From the front door looking straight, we have a bonus room off the left side of the kitchen.

Here is the bonus area from the other direction.

Take a left at the front door and we have our living room with wood burning fireplace.

We can't wait to try out the fireplace this fall!

Behind the living room is our dining area. You can see the doorway into the kitchen on the right.

Looking back at the living room from the dining.

Our kitchen - a little dated, but I love my new fridge.

Master bedroom.
(wow - sorry I didn't even make my bed for y'all)

Master bathroom. Small, but its ours. We're no stranger to homes with a single bathroom, and to us this is luxury.

Guest room.


More office.

Lil' H's bathroom. Yes, complete with the yellow 1960's tub and matching tile.

Oh, more yellow over here by the sink too!

Roses growing up the side of our home.

Back patio.

Backyard that backs up to a forest and is so quaintly lined with blackberry bushes. Which are ripe for the picking right now!

More backyard.

Lil' H was sleeping, so I didn't get a picture of his room, but it looks a lot like the guest room. Somehow I also neglected to snap one of the front of our home. I'll update soon. I guess we've been just a tad overwhelmed with all the moving boxes.

If you're keeping count, that's four bedrooms! I'm excited to have a little space of my own for painting and sewing. Seth is loving his new two car garage for woodworking. We also like the idea of not having to move when the time comes to expand our family. John and Linda, our landlords, have given me the thumbs up on painting the walls and hanging my own curtains, and they mentioned their next project might be a kegerator (which is what Seth just finished). We like them already!

John and Linda are a middle aged couple that live in the 1910's mansion next door. They grew up right here in DuPont, and Linda's family still owns their home and the one we're renting. They woodwork and garden and have a huge two year old German shepherd. It is such a blessing to have them as neighbors and landlords. I think we're going to like it just fine here in DuPont, WA.

Anyone else moved lately? Do you prefer living on-post or off? Ever been stationed at Ft. Lewis - what is something great we need to get out and see?

August 1, 2011

A PCS Move: Moving Day(s)

Well folks, its been pure pandemonium over here this past week - some of it frustrating, some of it exhausting, some of it exciting, but all of it shuffling us closer and closer to moving day!

I spent Monday and Tuesday doing last minute laundry. There were about a million little piles around the house of items that must go with us. Our poor pooch was stressing the minute our suitcases came out of the basement, but by Wednesday morning (with a huge amount of help from my mom) when our packing crew showed up, we were ready for them. Everything going with us was in the dining room, and the rest of the house was theirs for the packing.

Tip #1: Its a good idea to either dedicate one room or a vehicle as the Do Not Pack area. That way there is no confusion between you and your moving crew.

Our packing team was a pair of friendly Missouri women. We have never had women pack our things before, and I have to say - it was such a nice surprise. While all our packing crews have been friendly, these women seemed to be more gentle and thorough when packing our breakables. You know, women just care about stuff like China, vases, and pictures frames whether it belongs to them or someone else. I was able to actually read their handwriting on our boxes and the packing list which made it a whole lot easier when it came to double checking all our valuables were accounted for.

Our packing team spent most of Wednesday and Thursday wrapping and boxing all our belongings up. Then it was the loading crew's turn on Friday. (Yes, it was a three day ordeal) Our loading crew consisted of five men and one of the ladies from the packing team. When it was all said and done, our house was empty and an entire 18-wheeler sized trailer was full to the back door. Even after all our cleaning out and the big spring garage sale, I'll admit we have too much stuff for three people. Anyhoo too much or not, its all on its merry way to the cool, green state of Washington.

Speaking of cool - Missouri is not. A huge thank you to the entire moving crew for working in 99 degree heat while we tried desperately to keep track of our stuff and stay out of their way at the same time.

Tip #2: Its a great idea to buy your crew lunch for the days they are at your house. For one they are working hard, so you don't have to. For another a happy crew means less damage to your belongings, hopefully. For yet another its an easy way to say thank you.

With the house pretty much empty, we (and by we, I mean my mom. Thanks again, mom!) scrubbed the oven. There was vacuuming and dusting - anyone else absolutely hate dusting? - as well, and of course the excitement of bathroom cleaning.  While the women folk handled the happenings around the house for those three days, Seth was finishing a twelve page report, a presentation or two, a 65 page thesis, a couple of finals, Tech Escort training by day for the Army, and grad school by night. Seriously, I know people complain about moving, but I'm pretty sure I had the easier job.

Lil' H cut a tooth in the midst of all this, but was a real trooper all week. His nap schedule was thrown off by the movers, but he was mostly all smiles any way - already a pro at this Army brat business.

Tip #3: I was going to give my opinion about moving 7 1/2 months pregnant (like our last PCS) vs. with a 7 1/2 month old baby, but I really can't decide which is harder. I was definitely more uncomfortable during our previous move and was too far along to lift anything when it came to unpacking, but if my mom had not been available to come up and help, I don't know how I would have gotten everything done this go 'round. I guess I'm going to go with baby just because if you've got children who can get around on their own, you're constantly having to stop, keep them out of things, entertain them, etc. When you're pregnant, just pace yourself.

Seth wrapped up clearing on post, we did our walk through with the rental company, picked up last minute supplies for our trip out west (which BTW its a lot when traveling with a baby and a dog), and we've started our life of hotel hopping.

Tip #4: Save all your receipts even remotely related to your move. I know the Army has changed the rules of what they will reimburse your for. But, hang on to everything so you don't throw away anything important. Remember to save the receipts from weighing your vehicles empty and then loaded as well.

Tomorrow morning we say goodbye to pretty, little Fort Leonard Wood and point our wagons west. We'll be back to blogging after our two week family road trip. I've heard rumors of free WiFi for the whole city of Seattle (keeping my fingers crossed on this one). I'll be back with stories of our "Oregon Washington Trail" adventures once we've arrived. Now, the only decision that's left: caulk the wagons and float or ford the river? (Oregon Trail game reference, anyone?)

Hope everyone enjoys the last few weeks of summer vacation as a family! And as always, if you'd like to throw out any more PCS advice in the comments, we'd love to hear from you! Want to read about our Army PCS from the beginning? Check out Our Packing List, Spouse Out Processing, and the Issues with Medical Records...

July 27, 2011

Homemade Apple Sauce

Who doesn't love applesauce? Hot, cold. with cinnamon. without. Its just one of those great foods we all remember fondly from our childhood. Enjoy this quick baby recipe while you wait for details of our moving days. Its getting hectic around here, but we're all packed and just waiting on the moving crew. Sorry to be so absent from here, but we've been going non stop for the past week. I promise to catch y'all up on all things PCS related in the next few days (and thank you for letting me vent about the Medical Records Ordeal last week). OK, Here's how to make your own applesauce:

Homemade Applesauce
6 golden or red delicious apples, sliced

Cooking Instructions:
- bring 1 inch of water to boil
- add apples in a steamer basket and cover for 10-12 minutes

(You want to leave the apple skins on until after cooking to retain as much of the nutrients as possible)
- let cool, reserving the cooking liquid
- scrape flesh from the skin and puree flesh until smooth

- add cooking liquid if desired (I just put the apple juice in a bottle and let Lil' H drink it. That's where so many of the nutrients are.)

Storing Options:
3 days in the frig in an air tight container
3 months in the freezer (try splitting it up into single servings by freezing in ice cube trays. then place "ice cubes" in freezer safe plastic bag)

July 22, 2011

A PCS Move: Medical Records

Can I start off by saying, "Grrrrrrrrrr!"?

I am so fed up with DoD workers and their laziness. I understand that not every employee falls into this category, but unfortunately the majority of the people I have come in contact with over the past 4+ years seem to care less about being friendly, customer service, helpfulness, their job, and yes, sadly even telling the truth. This goes for my OB/GYN, our labor & delivery Dr., the man who hands out vehicle decals, the woman in the medical records office, and many others.

I know that I should probably write an ICE complaint on the Fort Leonard Wood website, but unfortunately I never remember to get the employee's name when issues come up. Maybe its the fact that I get too worked up in my head to ask or maybe its that lil' H is trying to crawl out of my arms and onto the dirty hospital floor - either way I have no name to go with my complaint. So, I have decided to tell my story here in hopes that it will help other military wives avoid the same frustrations.

In the past each time you make a PCS move, you had to pick up your medical records and carry them with you to your new duty station. Your new doctor will need them, and it is always a good idea to have a copy in your personal files anyway.

When we moved from Schofield in Hawaii, I was told by the medical records office that they could not give me my medical records without a power of attorney from my husband. Seth told me he would just swing by the next day and get them; well they would not give them to him without a power of attorney from me! We ended up just leaving them there since we had so many other things to get done before our move. Ridiculous!

Here's the important part of this story: The Army must give you your medical records if you ask for a copy! It is illegal to withhold someone's medical records. Also, they should not give your medical records to your soldier without a power of attorney. For privacy reasons (this goes for all medical records military or civilian) you are the only one who can pick them up!

Ok, flash forward to the present, as in yesterday. I once again need my medical records for a PCS move. I walk into the hospital expecting to have to put up a fight, and I was right.

Side note: I feel it is really sad as a spouse that to get any straight answers from the military, I must be defensive and assume the DoD employee I am talking to is lying from the get go. It has taken me four years to figure out being friendly, smiling, and asking questions will get you no where. Always second guess what you are told, and if something sounds off or illegal, it probably is. Go home, do your research, and go back armed with the info you need to get something done.

I learned yesterday the Army has changed its policies when it comes to carrying your own medical records from duty station to duty station. You must now fill out two forms (DA3705 and a Memorandum for: Custody & Control of Health/Outpatient Medical Records) with an attached copy of your soldier's orders (to prove you're actually moving) then your current post will send your medical records on to your new destination. Anyone else not trust the Army to get your records where they need to go? Especially since we don't have a Primary Care Doctor at Fort Lewis yet, who exactly are they sending my records to? The medical records office at Lewis? TRICARE? Who knows. I can see our records arriving in Washington just to get lost somewhere in the medical records vault up there.

I will fill out the form, but I also want a back up copy for my own file cabinet just in case. Here's where it gets tricky...that's a whole different office. We head down the hall only to encounter a hostile DoD worker. She proceeds to tell me that 1st) the Army will not give me my medical records, 2nd) they don't have the resources to make copies of my medical records (there is a copy machine sitting behind her), 3rd) she who works in the medical records office is not authorized to release a copy to me, 4th) that actually no one in the entire Army is authorized to release my records to me. See how her lies keep changing each time I challenge what she tells me? When I finally throw out that it is illegal for me not to be able to get a copy, she reaches into a basket that is sitting on her desk not a foot from her chair and hands me a form. She says, "Fine, here, fill out this form, and your records and your son's will be mailed to you."

What?! That's right; all I needed was a simple fill in the blank, one sided form from this woman. She sat there and fed me lies, hoping I would give up when it was her job to help me. Why did she put up a fight? Why does she feel it is ok to try and keep me from something that is lawfully mine? I just don't understand, and it makes me so frustrated.

This story is getting long, sorry y'all. Really I just want to empower other military wives to fight for what you know is right. Require these DoD workers to do their job and treat you with respect. I was timid at first because growing up in the south, you learn that if you treat people with respect and kindness, they will treat you the same way. Unfortunately that is not true in the military world.

I am not advocating rudeness. You should still walk in with a smile on your face. You should still treat everyone the way you want to be treated. But, while navigating the Army's maze may be intimidating, remember it is absolutely fine to stand firm when you know you're being given the run around. The more times we hold the Army and the DoD employees accountable for the job they are supposed to be providing, the better for any military spouse who comes after you.

Phew, thanks for letting me get that off my chest, and hopefully we've all gained a bit more confidence for next time. Oh, and in the end, I am getting a copy of my medical records! Chalk that up as a win for the Army spouses!

Interested in following our whole PCS story from beginning to end? Catch up on Out Processing and our Packing List.

Remember Army Lie: you are not authorized to have a copy of your own or your children's medical records. Truth: it is illegal for the Army to withhold them from you. Any other wives want to spill on lies the Army will tell you and what the actual true answer is? We're all ears! :)

Update: Well, we went to turn those two little forms and a copy of our orders in today at the hospital. Any guesses as to what I was told by the office who gave me the forms yesterday? That's right - I didn't need to do it because Seth will be required to take care of his, mine, and lil' H's medical records during Out Processing next week. Oh, but if I wanted I could trust them to hold our two forms until Seth came through Out Processing on the 1st; um, no thank you. We'll just hang onto our forms, so they don't get lost. So, really the Army's new PCS policy is that the service member will take care of not only his medical records but everyone he is a sponsor for through Out Processing now. Which is nice for the spouse if only someone would have actually told us that beforehand.

July 19, 2011

Loving Your Children Like Christ Does

I wanted to take a little break from our PCS themed posts and share two links that really resonated with me yesterday:

Desiring God: Motherhood Is A Calling

Passionate Homemaking: Scripture Memory with Toddlers

In this world as parents, I don't think we can be reminded to show Christ's love to our children daily too many times. Both these posts talk about writing Jesus' redeeming love upon their young hearts - one through scripture and one through imitating Christ by laying your life down for your child.

I pray these thoughts are an encouragement to you as they were to me.

Photo found here.

July 17, 2011

A PCS Move: Out Processing for an Army Wife

Before the movers come, before we load both our vehicles to max capacity, before we even think about hitting the road, before we can move into a new home. there are many things that must be done to wrap up our life here at Ft. Leonard Wood.

While my soldier is taking care of all the Out Processing and scheduling that must be done on post by only him, I have my own list of "Out Processing" for our household. It is amazing how many phone calls and errands there really are when you take time to write it all down. Here is my To Do List in no particular order; I just keep adding to it as things pop into my head:

"Out Processing for an Army Wife"
1) New Military ID - this is only if yours will expire while on the road. You do not want to show up to a new duty station with an expired ID.

2) Book Hotels - the Army is giving us six days to get across the country. I've been figuring out how to break the trip up, how long we want to drive each day, and then booking hotels. Make sure you know how much the Army has allotted you per day for food and lodging. Then decide how much you want to spend on a hotel. If you are careful, you can spend less than your allotment each day, and actually "make money" in this department. Also, remember most pet friendly hotels do have a non-refundable pet deposit.

3) Set Up Shut Off Days for Utilities - water, electric, cable, sewer, gas, etc.

4) Hair Appointment - This one isn't a must; its just a preference because you never know how long it will take you to find a new salon that you like.

5) File - I'm always behind in filing paid bills and important papers, but I always make sure our file cabinet is in order before the movers wrap it up and pack it. *Also, remember to pull out all documents you want to travel with before moving day!*

6) Medical Records - pick them up from the clinic, the hospital, the pediatrician, the dentist, the veterinarian's office, and where ever else you have them. Carry all medical records with you - meaning don't let them get packed with your household goods.

7) Vehicle Packing List - make a list of everything you want to go in your car not in the moving van. Then before moving day either put it all into a room on its own or into your car. This way you can tell the moves not to touch anything in that pile.

8) Housing Research - contact your next duty station's Housing Office and find out how and when you can apply for on-post housing. Also start researching the town, neighborhoods, schools, churches, and rental properties off post in your new area.

9) Prescriptions - fill any prescriptions you will need for your family while on the road and while you are getting settled. You don't want to be running low as you pull into a new town.

10) US Mail - hold or forward your mail - just make sure bills are not going to get lost in the move. You want to make sure all your mail will find you. Keep a look out for any final bills and any refunds from those utilities that you canceled. It is important that you keep up with your financial obligations even during the move for lots of reasons: your credit score, good references you could need for a new rental company, the image you leave of the military will all your previous utility companies.

11) Pet Check-Ups - make sure your family pets are up to date on all shots. You will need to prove this with some hotels and with all on-post lodging facilities/kennels.

12) Contact Tricare - depending on where you are headed, you may be changing Tricare districts. You'll want to let them know, so you can get the transfer of your family going in their system.
Look Up any Questions Here:  Tricare

13) Oil Change - make sure you take care of the vehicles you will be driving. Car maintenance is never fun, but it is important for long PCS trips. We have two that I need to take care of before the big road trip begins.

14) Schedule Final Walk Through - whether you live on post or off, your rental company will want to do a final walk through after you clean your current house. Make sure you leave it better than it was when you arrived because most likely another military family will be moving in right behind you. They will have just packed up their life at a previous duty station and moved across the country away from friends and probably family. They will appreciate that you took care of the house they will now call home. Who could relate to their situation better than yourself?

Once again, any other seasoned military wives want to add to the list? We don't have any school aged children yet, so I am unsure what is needed as far as school records, grades, shot records, etc goes. If you are knowledgeable in that department please leave some advice in the comments below.

Getting ready to PCS yourself? Check out our Packing List and see if you've forgotten anything, or maybe we have! Let us know. :)

July 13, 2011


As we prepare to PCS (from Ft. Leonard Wood to Ft. Lewis) in a matter of two short weeks, I find myself once again reflecting on the idea of Home. Part of me really loves the chance we have with the Army to experience so many different parts of America as we move from duty station to duty station. Then there is the romantic and sentimental and homesick side of me who longs for a single house that our children will look back on fondly as Home.

Oh, that idea of parents have lived in their current, two-story, red brick, track house for over fifteen years. It is also where I spent my adolescent years from 7th grade on, and like I've talked about before, I have many many happy memories spent at home there with my family. But, if you ask any of my siblings or either of my parents about Home, they will fondly tell you about a much different house. We will get teary-eyed as we laugh and recant stories of an eighty year old farm house my parents rented for less than $400 a month. We will talk about surviving Texas summers with nothing but a single window unit. We will talk about the attic room that my sister and I shared. We will talk about old pick up truck beds full of cotton seed we would play in. We will talk of trapping a rat in the bathroom. We will tell stories of running out of propane for our heaters and sleeping all huddled together in the kitchen some winter nights. We will talk of our gravel driveway and cutting our own Christmas tree. We will talk of Gilbert, our old farmer of a landlord. There will be stories full of rubber boots, cows, linoleum flooring, hay bales, and that old farm house. We will laugh about the single, tiny bathroom all six of us shared for those four years. Yes, it was only four years of my life, so how did that old house work its way into my soul so deeply?

I can not quite describe it, but you know the feeling I'm talking about. Maybe you get it when you visit your grandparents' home or drive through an historical neighborhood. That feeling of beauty, permanence, history, warmth, safety, and yes, Home. It can be found in most buildings that were built before the Second World War because some how the generations and the buildings who came after, lost that connection with America's past and with the surrounding nature we all crave. We became obsessed with bigger, "better," and faster which led to whole suburbs full of massive track houses that no one really cares about. Just look at this 100 year old farmhouse and you'll know what I mean.

picture found here.

We have been searching the internet for rental properties in the Ft. Lewis area for months now just to see what's out there, and again I find myself drawn to anything built before 1940 with a wide front porch, thick base boards, and quaint little nooks. We may not find one close enough to base, big enough for our family, or at the right price, but I am saying a selfish little prayer that we do.

As an Army wife, I know even if we do find that perfect, old Home, it will only be ours for a short time before we are packed up and moved across the country again. Still while we have chosen this nomad lifestyle, I hope throughout the years we can look back on many of the houses we live in and think, yes, that was a Home. I think it is important for children to feel safe and grounded while growing up, so I will continue to thoughtfully and prayerfully search for that perfect Home no matter where the Army moves us. I believe it is that important.

And, at the end of the day, I must remind myself that ultimately (while the Army may say home is where they send you) it is the people in the house that make it a home. My family that is my heart will fill whatever space we live to the brim with happiness and love.

Did you move a lot as a child? Do you move a lot as an adult? What are some things you do to help your children feel at home no matter where you are living? What house do you look back on with the most fondness from your childhood?

Still feeling sentimental? Go read Chapter 4:

July 11, 2011

A PCS Move: The Packing List

As an Army family, we're never in one place for very long, and I have good and bad feelings about that. We have only been here at Fort Leonard Wood since last October, and in a matter of three weeks, we are moving across the country again to Fort Lewis in Washington. While we are looking forward to all the beauty and milder temps of the Pacific Northwest, I can't believe we just did this whole pack, move across the country, unpack thing less than a year ago. Ah well, its our turn again...

Goodbye to beautiful Ft. Leonard Wood:

Since we don't have to cross the Pacific Ocean this time, we are going to be driving the truck while pulling the X-terra on a trailer when we head west. This means we get to use the X-terra as a "trailer." When you move so many times, you get to be a pro at packing just what you'll need to get by if you arrive at your new home before the bulk of your household goods. Which shouldn't happen this time since our stuff doesn't have to travel by boat, but with the Army you just never know. Its better to be prepared than to trust what they tell you. (Kinda disheartening, but its reality)

For any new military spouses out there who are trying to organize and pack a home up for your first PCS (permanent change of station), here's my list of must haves:

1) Important Documents - medical records for all members of the family (pets too), power of attorney, all paperwork the moving company gave you, copy of your soldier's orders, all receipts to anything remotely related to the move (you'll get reimbursed by the Army for lots of it), any bills you don't pay online but will be due before you have a new address, and I always bring my address book.

2) Jewelry - don't let the movers pack it, just carry anything expensive or sentimental with you.

3) Air mattress - invest in a thick one that comes with its own air pump. I don't know how many times we have used ours since our first move. Really just make sure you can at least make a pallet of some sort for everyone traveling with you.

4) Bedding - make sure to pack a set of sheets and a few blankets for the car ride and to use with the air mattress.

5) Shower Curtain - when you finally get to your new home, the last thing you want to have to do is run back out to buy a shower curtain or dig through all the moving boxes so that everyone can go to bed clean. You'll be tired, and you'll be thankful for a hot shower. *don't forget to pack the hanging hooks too and a couple of towels*

6) All your household cleaning products - the Army will NOT move open containers of liquid, candles, oil based stains or paint, etc. But, all those things are really expensive if you have to start all over; get a box and throw everything in the car.

7) Electronics - lap tops, cell phones, cameras, video cameras, iPods, Kindle, etc along with all the power cords.

8) Personal Items for everyone - one suite case per family member, baby must have items, a pillow for everyone, toiletries, any special medications.

9) Plants - we have potted plants on our front porch, and since we're driving this time, we're going to attempt to take our plants along. I'll let y'all know how we secure them and how well they travel. Any seasoned military wives done this before? Any advice?

10) Pet items - kennel/crate, food & water bowls, the actual food, leash, heart worm pills, flea & tick medication, etc.

11) Any other expensive or cherished family items in your home that you just don't want to take a chance on. Because no matter what, you'll probably have at least a few items that end up looking like this after the PCS:

12) Cooler - for any food in the frig and freezer that you don't want to give away. You can also throw sandwich stuff in there, so you don't have to eat fast food every day for lunch while on the road. Want a few more ideas for eating well and saving money while on the road? Head over to Passionate Homemaking. We'll be packing baby food as well when we head out.

Hmmmm that might be our list - hope it all fits! And, at the end of the day if there is still room in your car, go ahead and load yourself up. :)

Any other military wives want to weigh in on what/what not to pack in the car for a PCS move? Any helpful hints on relocating in general?

July 9, 2011

A Sweet Shout Out!

A big thank you to Lisa over at Sweet As Sugar Cookies for inviting America Dreams to share our delicious Blueberry Kuchen recipe. We loved making it and eating it over the 4th of July!

Head on over to this tasty little blog and check out what other folks made to celebrate independence. It makes me ready for another long holiday weekend just to have a chance to try out a few new recipes! :)

July 8, 2011

Tomato & Basil Puree

Lil' H turns seven months next week. He's growing like a weed, and I just can not believe how active he has become in the last month! In the food department, it is time to start introducing herbs and spices into his pureed baby food. Hooray! Cooking for our little guy is getting fun. Maybe only other baby-food-makin'-moms will get my excitement over this, but really, y'all, mixing up more than one ingredient is exciting over here in our kitchen.

I had a couple different varieties of oh so delicious red ripe tomatoes (you know, the ones you just want to sink your teeth into like an apple) and a few leaves of fresh basil in the fridge. We're doing Indian food and then salmon this weekend at our house, so I was afraid that by the time next week rolled around those tomatoes and basil would be no good. So there you go! Perfect for pureeing and freezing.

(ignore all those baby carrots. they are going to make their official debut next week)

Tomato & Basil Puree
1 large ripe tomato, cubed
4 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 Tbl fresh Basil, chopped
2 Tbl warm water

Cooking Instructions:
- ready for this? simply throw it all into the blender or food processor and puree.
- done. :)

Storing Options:
3 days in the frig in an air tight container
3 months in the freezer (try splitting it up into single servings by freezing in ice cube trays. then place "ice cubes" in freezer safe plastic bag)

I think this little mixture would be good warm or cold. Its just so darn hot here right now that I can't really think about eating anything hot. But a cool tomato with basil and a slice of mozzarella? Now that sounds yum yum good!

July 6, 2011

Blueberry Kuchen

That's right we're back with more berry goodness! We're a little obsessed with this wonderful fruit over here. Hence the blueberry puree and outing to pick our own. I hope everyone had a good ol' American 4th of July. We had a great family weekend, and this little tart of a dessert played a staring roll.

Blueberry Kuchen
Crust Ingredients:
1 cup floor
2 Tbl sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 Tbl white vinegar
confection sugar, for garnish

Filling Ingredients:
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbl flour
1/4 tsp cinnamon
5 cups fresh or frozen blueberries 

(this is why its a good recipe for hand picked blueberries. imagine how expensive 5 cups of fresh berries from the store would be! I picked 5 cups for just $3.60)

Baking Instructions:
-with rack in lowest position, preheat oven to 400 degrees
-have 8 inch loose-bottom cake pan or spring form pan

- mix flour, sugar, and salt
- with blender, cut in butter until particles resemble coarse crumbs

- sprinkle with vinegar
- shape dough into a flat circle (ignore the rolling pin; it was not needed)

- with lightly floured fingertips, press dough 3/4 inch thick over bottom of cake pan and less thick up the sides (1 1/4 inches high along sides if using a spring form pan)

- mix sugar, flour, and cinnamon

- add 3 cups blueberries, toss to coat

- spoon into crust
- sprinkle left over sugar mixture over berries

- bake on low rack for 50-60 minutes, until filling is bubbling 
- remove to wire rack
- while hot sprinkle remaining 2 cups of berries on top
- cool in pan on rack
- dust lightly with confection sugar before serving

So I had lil' H helping me in the kitchen and missed the whole save-two-cups-of-berries for the end - all 5 cups of blueberries were tossed with the sugar mixture and dumped into the pan. I also dusted the entire thing with powdered sugar on Friday. We didn't eat the whole thing then, so the sugar slowly turned pinker as it soaked up berry juices throughout the weekend. Trust me, neither 'Oops' did anything to hurt this deliciously sweet dessert.

I opted for this Blueberry Kuchen recipe over the scones (I'll share this one a little later even though I didn't give it a try for those interested), but it was also handed out by the folks at Brandywine Farms. Everyone loved the sweet/tart burst of flavor you got from the flaky crust mixing with the blueberry juices, and it was perfect for a little mid day snack with a cup of coffee due to how thin it was. You didn't spoil your dinner, but you got a taste of something sweet to hold you over.

My sister is a pastry chef - a wonderful pastry chef, so my whole family is used to basically flawless baked goods whenever she is in town. They raved about my cake all weekend (talk about an ego boost), so you know it was good!

What about y'all? Any summer recipes you want to share? How about a great July 4th activity for the family? We checked out the Lion's Club 4th of July Fair and even road a few of those shaky fair rides - too fun!

p.s. The kuchen may bake for an hour, but the prep is super fast. You can throw it together, and then get out of your hot kitchen while your oven does the hard part.