SEC Football Part Two

Looks like we are turning into real Mississippi State fans since we went to our second MSU football game in a row this weekend!  We didn't plan on going to the game but when we found out the base was giving away a section of free tickets to military, we had to take advantage!
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The game was at 6:30pm so we took our time that morning before making the quick 1.5 hour drive to Starkville, Mississippi.  The drive to Starkville was extremely...rural, meaning I didn't have cell phone service most of the trip!  When we got into town we parked, got almond milk lattes and beer floats at 929 Coffee and walked around downtown.  We didn't see many people tailgating and were kind of confused as to why so many people were walking to the stadium four hours before kickoff.
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Clearly, we were clueless because when we finally ran into "The Junction", we realized people weren't walking to the stadium, they were walking to tailgate!  The junction was lined with tailgates, both private parties and giant corporate tents with giveaways!  I loved that the tailgating was in the giant grass fields between the fraternity houses and the stadium!
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Although we were in the top section, it seems like there isn't a bad seat in the entire stadium.  They have HUGE screens above both endzones that seemed to be high definition.  We got to experience the traditional Mississippi State cowbell and I have to admit, I loved it!  MSU demolished Vanderbilt so we left a little after halftime to get dinner and walk around the Cotton District.
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I was a little surprised that so many places were closed and/or not serving food at 9pm.  We were hoping to try Little Dooey's BBQ or chicken on a stick from Bin 612 but I guess we will have to make another trip back!
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Sunday was a rainy day so we caught up on Scandal, did chores, and made homemade Philly Cheesesteak pizza.  Yum!
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Merging Family Traditions (And Adding In A Few Of Our Own!)

Last year I hosted Thanksgiving for the very first time!  We stayed in Pensacola and had four other flight students over to join us for Thanksgiving dinner.  I was so excited to host and wanted to make sure to include a few old family traditions as well as create some of our own.  It was interesting to compare the signature dishes my family makes to the signature dishes Rob's family makes and find a balance of the two.
Image and video hosting by TinyPicI am extremely detail oriented so after decided on all of the dishes, I wrote out the baking times and temperatures of each to figure out a schedule for when everything needed to go in the oven.  I decided to get a turkey roaster to avoid having to take up precious oven space with the turkey!  I also took out all of my baking and serving dishes and labeled them with sticky notes so that I knew exactly what went in what dish and where it would go on the buffet.
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The day before Thanksgiving I prepped all of my casseroles and put them in the fridge.  I also remembered to thaw my turkey!  Thanksgiving day I popped up excited to get started cooking everything.  Of course, Pinterest got the best of me and I HAD TO make a cornucopia for my rolls out of breadsticks.   Time consuming but totally worth it, in my opinion!
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Our spread had turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, sweet potato casserole, cheesy potato casserole, corn pudding, green beans, green salad, and rolls.  I made an apple cider bourbon cocktail in mason jars with cinnamon rims.  For dessert, I had pumpkin and apple individual hand pies.  We sat and chatted, ate and ate some more.  I sent everyone home with giant plates of leftovers--because everyone knows the leftovers are just as good, if not better, than Thanksgiving Day!
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One new tradition that we started this year was signing the tablecloth.  I had everyone write their name, the date, location, and something they were thankful for on our tablecloth.  My plan is to bring it out every year I host (or bring it wherever I am going) and have everyone we celebrate Thanksgiving with add their gratitudes.  I think this will be awesome to look back on, especially since we will always be in new locations with new people due to the military!
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"It's-5-o-clock-and-I-forgot-about-dinner" Healthy Recipes to Save The Day

Let's be honest, we have all been there.  We are supposed to be getting dinner ready but we "just want to see if there are any great ideas on Pinterest".  Two hours later, it's 5 o clock and not only do we have no ideas for dinner but we are out of time! Ah!  This is one of my biggest downfalls because it usually leads to going out to "grab something quick".  Not a great habit for my wallet or my waistline!  Recently, I've been working on keeping my freezer and pantry stocked with super easy, last minute ingredients to throw together a healthy dinner fast on these types of nights.
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Ham Steaks with Pineapple
Cook up a couple of ham steaks in a pan and serve with pineapple and broccoli.  This meal gets dinner on the table faster than take out (and no one needs to know how simple it was!)  If you are feeling fancy, I love this honey thyme ham seasoning
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Taco Salads
This recipe is my true go-to.  Brown some ground beef and season. (No beef? Chicken or pork work great too!)  Throw in a bowl and mix with lettuce, salsa, cheese, onions, greek yogurt, and whatever else you can find in the fridge (corn, peppers, rice, etc)
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Stir Fry
Having a bag of these stir fry veggies in the freezer at all times is a must.   Of course they aren't as flavorful as fresh peppers but in a bind, they get dinner on the table quick.  Cut up some chicken and throw it in a pan with the veggies to cook.  Season with some soy sauce and a splash of lime juice and serve with rice.
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Philly Cheesesteaks
Keeping a pack of steak'ums in the freezer is a lifesaver if I have a green pepper and some onion.  We often throw together cheesesteaks for quick lunches. (If I am in a real bind and don't have bread, I will make it as a scramble with an egg)
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Pork Tenderloin (or London Broil) with Mashed Cauliflower
An easy meal but a bit more time consuming.  This is a great one for multi-tasking!  Throw the pork tenderloin in the oven and bake according to package.  Use this time to do some other chores you've been avoiding (I am a big fan of finally taking the clothes out of the dryer and folding half of the pile so it looks like I was just in the middle of laundry!)  A bag of frozen cauliflower looks much fancier when mashed so take a couple of minutes to put it in the blender after steaming.

What are your last minute, go-to recipes?
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Gameday in Tuscaloosa!

Hail State?  Roll Tide?  This weekend we drove to Tuscaloosa to watch #1 Mississippi State play #5 Alabama.  I loved college (Go Hokies!) and the college scene so I am always interested in other colleges traditions.  I want to see what it's like to be a student there -- drink the signature drink at the popular bar, check out the bookstore, and eat at the local spots.  (In case you ever find yourself in Blacksburg, the answers are a rail at TOTS, Campus Emporium, and Cabo Fish Taco!)
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I have been asking Rob to go to a nearby college football game ever since we moved down South and he finally caved this weekend.  Tuscaloosa is only an hour and a half drive so we woke up early Saturday morning for the drive.  I wasn't really rooting for either team (more interested in tailgating!) but if I had to pick, I would say I was hoping for Mississippi State to stay at #1.  
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We parked downtown and walked to check out College Gameday, which was set up in front of the stadium.  It was only 29 degrees outside but the bright sunshine saved the day!  After catching a glimpse of our favorite Saturday morning Gameday crew, we walked around campus, checked out the insane tailgates set up on the Quad, and took a walk down fraternity row.  We saw Rob's, Rob's dad's, my dad's, and my brother's fraternity houses.  I was in awe of the giant mansion houses!
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The door to the Tri Delta house was open so I popped in to take a look.  The girls were super gracious and we were able to tour the whole downstairs.  I loved my time living in the Dolphin Tank at VT but oh my goodness, this house was amazing!  I was just hoping to blend in enough that they would ask if I wanted to move in ;)
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My sister's friend Sarah is a freshman at Alabama and in a sorority there so we met up with her at her sorority house and had lunch.  It was great to get the "inside scoop" about the school from a current student!  We didn't get tickets to the game (again, not super interested in the actual game part haha) so we headed to the strip to watch the game at a bar.  I read online that we had to try a "Yellow Hammer" from Gallette's so that was our first stop.  It was a total college bar---dark, packed wall-to-wall with people holding plastic yellow cups of yellow hammers.   AKA I loved it!  The yellow hammer drink was not as potent at all as a Rail but it was delicious!  We met up with some other friends who were in town from Meridian for the game at The Houndstooth but all ended up back at Gallette's for the rest of the night.  
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While I tried keep up with the college scene, the 25 (going on 60) year old in me was tired by 6pm and knew Chipotle was calling my name!  We grabbed dinner before driving home and falling asleep by 9pm.  I had so much fun and definitely have a few restaurants in Tuscaloosa on my list that I want to try before we move.  Needless to say, Sunday Funday consisted of catching up on sleep, chores, and life ;)

Thank God for Unconventional Paths

I grew up my whole life around the military; my dad retired from the Navy after 20 years, my father in law retired from the Marine Corps after 30 years, and my brother spent four years in the Marines.  When people ask me how I handle this lifestyle, I always answer honestly--this is the only thing I've ever known!  But with that said, I definitely didn't always know that I would marry into the military and I definitely had no idea that Rob's path would lead us where it has.  It is always easier to look back on life and realize why things played out the way they did but it takes a whole lot of faith to trust the path in the moment when you have no idea where it will lead you next.
Marine Corps Bootcamp Graduation
Rob and I started dating in high school which means we weren't really thinking too much about the future.  We went to rival colleges and did the long distance thing but the "real world" seemed a million years away and wasn't something we talked too much about.  So when Rob called me our sophomore year in college and said he was dropping out of UVA and enlisting in the Marine Corps, it pretty much rocked my world.  I really didn't believe him until the papers were signed and he was on a plane heading to boot camp.  We spent the next three months communicating only through letters until that amazing day that I flew out to San Diego to see him graduate from bootcamp.
letters from bootcamp
usmc bootcamp graduation
Unfortunately, we still had a few hard times left to go.  After his 10 days of leave, Rob got back on a plane and headed to MCT in California and then to artillery MOS school in Oklahoma.  After a year of training, he finally made it back to college in Virginia and spent one weekend a month at drill with the Marine Corps Reserves.   But this wasn't Rob's long term plan.   He spent his summers at OCS, went back to school, graduated from college, and commissioned in the Marine Corps as an officer.
Marine Corps TBS
We got married and he spent a year waiting to start TBS as a ground contract.  He spent almost the entire six months thinking that he was going to be assigned a ground job but at the last minute received a competitive air contract and found out he was going to be a pilot.  Another huge surprise but a wonderful blessing!
Military wedding at Quantico
We packed up our stuff and moved to Pensacola where Rob went through primary flight school and was selected to become a jet pilot.  Off we went again, this time to Meridian, Mississippi so Rob could attend intermediate and advanced jet training.  Here, he will earn his wings and find out what type of jet he will fly for the rest of his career.
marine corps flight school
This is a completely unconventional path and I have no idea where the path will take us next.  I do know that through all of this I have met the most wonderful, selfless service members and spouses.  I have made friends in the most random of places and left pieces of my heart in various states across the US.  I've learned how hard it is to say see you later but that the world is small and paths always cross again.  I've learned that words like "family" and "home" are relative, and are not exclusive to blood or where you grew up.  I am so grateful for this community and proud to stand next to my husband as he serves our country.
marine office spouse
Happy Veteran's Day to those who have served, those currently serving, and those who love someone who has served.  This world is a better place thanks to you!

It's beginning to look a lot like....

One of the great things about Rob not being scheduled to fly is being able to have impromptu long weekends!  When the schedule came out Thursday night saying "not scheduled" for Friday, I knew we had to take advantage.  The Junior League of Jackson was having their Christmas Market and I heard great things about it from a friend in Pensacola.  The shopping in Meridian is minimal so I was crossing my fingers to knock out a bunch of Christmas shopping.  We woke up early and drove to Jackson, hoping to beat the crowds.  Of course a stop at Starbucks first was a MUST!
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I warned Rob to wear comfortable shoes because my plan was to "shop til we drop" and we definitely did.  We covered every inch of Mistletoe Market and then headed to Bass Pro Shop and the outlets.  After knocking out 3/4 of shopping list (and being exhausted!), we decided to call the shopping day a success and head to dinner.
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Dinner was the start of my love affair with Jackson, Mississippi!  I did a little google search and came across a bunch of great reviews for Babalu.  The restaurant was cool and hip, with I Love Lucy episodes playing on a big screen, and everything on the menu looked delicious.  Rob and I ended up splitting pork belly tacos and the Baba burger because we just could not decide.  (Babalu is a taco place but the burger was insanely good!)  The food comes out as it is ready, so splitting plates is not a bad idea here in general.  The pork belly queso was also amazing.
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After dinner, we headed to Whole Foods (with our cold bags) to pick up a couple of staples to bring back to Meridian.  I know it sounds silly but I just love walking around Whole Foods and looking at everything!  We noticed in the same shopping center as Whole Foods, a Kate Spade store and a Pure Barre just opened, and a Lululemon store is opening later this month.  Needless to say, this pushed me over the edge and I think trips to Jackson will become more frequent!
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Saturday our main focus was to knock out our Christmas card photos.  Christmas cards are a big deal to me and I knew that if I wanted to get them all addressed and sent out by December 1st, I needed to get them ordered ASAP.  So we took some pictures (self-timer for the win!) and I spent a little few hours picking and designing a card.  Being a seriously indecisive perfectionist makes the process way more difficult than it needs to be ;)  BUT the cards are ordered and on their way so I will call this whole weekend a success!  You'll have to wait on the cards but the picture above is a little sneak peek!
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After a super productive weekend, it was nice to relax on Sunday.  We did the usual meal prep, Sam's Club run, and yoga and then spent the rest of the day relaxing, watching football and reading.

Friday Favorites

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1. Can we just stay in this phase forever??  Rob wasn't scheduled to fly Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday of this week.  This means, with the exception of studying, we were able to embrace slow paced mornings of sleeping in, reading, and breakfast in bed.   I know this time won't last so I am soaking it up while I can!

2. I made this acorn squash recipe this week and it was delish!  I can't get enough of squash recipes in the fall!  (Send any favorites my way!)

3.  With fall recipes, I can't help but get excited for Thanksgiving!  I hosted Thanksgiving by myself for the first time last year and loved it.  This year, I think we will be attending multiple "Friendsgivings" so I am already trying to narrow down what I want to bring.

4. Is it acceptable to talk about Thanksgiving and Christmas in the same round of favorites?  Either way, the holidays are coming quick!  We are heading to the Jackson for the Junior League Holiday Market this weekend and I am hoping to knock out a bunch of Christmas shopping!  I like to be done with all of my shopping by Thanksgiving so that I can relax and enjoy December but the shopping options in Meridian are slim.  Fingers crossed for good shopping luck this weekend!

5. This quote and this video are great reminders to give ourselves a little grace, especially during the holiday season.

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Marine Corps Ball 2014

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This Saturday we celebrated the 239th Marine Corps birthday at the Marine Corps Ball.  The ball was held at Weidmann's downtown, in a private room upstairs.  The last two balls that we attended (in Pensacola and Richmond) were both HUGE but this ball was small and more intimate.  There were only around 60 people total at the ball!  Sometimes I think these small balls are more fun because you can actually spend time with everyone in attendance!  We had a good group of friends there and had a ton of fun at our table.
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We ate lobster and shrimp spring rolls, prime rib, and (the world famous!) Weidmann's black bottom pie.  We laughed until we cried as we convinced Cara that her husband ate her pie, and danced to throwback prom style tunes on the makeshift dance floor.  I am so glad that we decided to live on base as we have made some wonderful friends living in this little community. 
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Halloween in Mississippi

Deer and Hunter Halloween Costume
I realized as we were getting ready for Halloween 2014 that this felt like our first Halloween together since college.  This was the first time we would have trick-or-treaters (we have always lived in an apartment) and the first time we were dressing up since we got married!  We were invited to our friends' Halloween party so we set out to come up with cute Halloween costumes that wouldn't cost a bunch.  I remembered seeing Kallie's makeup tutorial and knew deer and hunter were the perfect costumes for us!  Unfortunately, there isn't much shopping in Meridian and I couldn't find deer antlers anywhere.  I ended up making mine from tin foil and washi tape but think they turned out pretty good!  I also couldn't find a brown dress so I ended up making that out of a men's long sleeved tshirt.  Life in a small town is making me resourceful ;)
Deer and Hunter Couples Costume
We hung out on the front porch and passed out candy.  The temperatures were in the high 70s all day but it got very chilly when the sun set.  We live on base so we had tons of trick-or-treaters.  The kids in our neighborhood are so sweet and polite!
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Afterwards, we headed off base to our friends' Halloween party.  It felt like everyone that we know in Meridian was there and we had a blast.  I definitely paid for it the next morning, but it was worth it ;)
Halloween in Meridian, MS
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