Monday, October 24, 2011

The Culinary Adventures of Chris and Amanda Beck (+ some other adventures...)

This week was a very busy and fun week for us.  Wednesday night Chris and Jon's beer was finally ready, and they were able to sample it for the first time.  It turned out to be a success, which is a good thing, because we have about 50 of them between all of us.  Here are some pictures of the beer's debut:

On Thursday night, Chris and I decided to try something a little different.  We had a Melting Pot "date night", and it was so much fun.  For those of you who have never visited The Melting Pot, you must try it ASAP! It's a LOT of fun.  The Melting Pot is a fondue restaurant that has locations in most big cities (Chris and I have been to the one in Colorado Springs and I have also been to the one in Houston). The meals there consist of 4 courses where you get to choose a cheese fondue appetizer which is served with bread and vegetables , a salad, a broth- or oil-based fondue to cook all kinds of delicious meats in (such as shrimp, chicken, steak, and pork), and a desert fondue like s'mores that you dip graham crackers, pound cakes, fruit, marshmallows, etc in. I got a couple of recipes online and decided to recreate two of those courses.  I made a vegetable cheese dip that had spinach, cheese, green onions, and several other ingredients in it.  I bought all kinds of vegetables at this farmers market store we have here in town that sells fresh produce that is locally grown, and we used those for dipping.  Then I made a Coq Au Vin fondue to cook our meat, which was chicken and steak.  Also, we figured if it were a real date night at the Melting Pot we would probably order a couple of their signature martinis. Chris made a couple of lemon drops and they were so delicious! We got to use the crystal martini glasses that we bought at the outlet mall in Destin when we were there with Tammy and Greg right before the wedding.  Also, Chris used the shaker set that his groomsman Dusty bought us. All in all we felt it was a huge success and I definitely think we will be doing it again! It really wasn't as much of a mess as I heard it would fact, since we ate all the food, I only had to clean up a few things afterward.  The whole thing literally lasted about 3 hours, so it was a very relaxing way to spend the evening.


Friday night, we travelled to West Point to try out a new restaurant I had heard about called Anthony's Good Food Market.  The food there was really good, and driving to West Point from the base really only took us about 5 minutes longer than driving to downtown.  I definitely think we will be going there again, maybe on a Wednesday when they have live music.

Saturday morning was the Columbus AFB career day.  This was "mandatory" for students and "encouraged" for spouses.  First we sat through presentations on a lot of the planes that Chris could fly, where they discussed specific characteristics of the planes and well as the lifestyles, deployment rates, bases, etc. that go with each. Then we got to the cool part, which was going out to the runway where a lot of the planes were parked for the weekend for us to go look at.  Chris has been mostly interested in the C-17 lately, but he is open to considering other planes and, ultimately, it won't be his decision although he will get to request his top choices.  It was really cool getting to not only see, but actually go inside a bunch of these planes and talk to the people who fly them! I already knew that military planes were "armed" but I guess I had never really thought about exactly how armed they are...the plans had all kinds of bombs, missiles, guns, canons...pretty cool.  I took a ton of pictures:
Inside a Black Hawk helicopter

RC-135 "Cobra Ball" (Looks like Air Force One to me!)

Inside the RC-135

C-17, the plane that both Chris and Jon are currently interested in flying.'s huge!

The Cockpit of the C-17

Jon and Chris outside the C-17 (Pilot and Co-Pilot hehe)

See how huge it is?!

A-10 "Warthog"

Scary cannon coming out of its mouth!


AC-130 "Spectre Gunship"

Just hoisting one of the many weapons on the sides!

C-17 from the front...I noticed how the wings went down, and now I can recognize it.

Outside the Blackhawk, with the refueling boom (the planes use it to refuel the helicopter in the air)

I thought it was funny that it said "Do not sit"

For the rest of the day on Saturday, we watched football, which was fairly miserable since all the teams I wanted to win lost (including Auburn of course). We had a late celebration of Chris' 25th birthday.  I made fried zucchini and stuffed tomatoes, and Chris grilled some filet mignons (we get excellent prices on meat at the commissary). My fried zucchini was fine, but the stuffed tomatoes were really good, and of course the steak was fantastic.  I have been trying to learn how to fry things, and have tried zucchini, sweet potatoes, fried green tomatoes and asparagus, but I think I am done because it never turns out that great (never bad, just never great), and fried food is bad for you anyway, so I think that may have been my last attempt at it. Except maybe fried green tomatoes, which were really good.

This is starting to sound a little like a cooking blog, but I just got to spend a lot of time in the kitchen this past week, which I really enjoyed.  On Sunday, Autumn and I came up with the idea of having a fall party as an excuse to do all the "fall" things that are fun to do, such as carve our pumpkins.  This was also a good excuse for me to make a couple of recipes that I was really wanting to try.  I made pumpkin bread with our bread machine, and even used real homemade pumpkin puree instead of the canned stuff.  I added chopped pecans to the recipe and it was really good! I definitely think I will be making it again.  I also made caramel apples.  I have never even tried a caramel apple and I also don't really have much of a sweet tooth, but I have always wanted to try them, just because they are a fall tradition and so pretty! My most recent monthly Paula Deen magazine (a wedding gift that keeps on giving) had some really fun looking caramel apples in it that were coated with chopped pecans, so I gave them a try and made the caramel from scratch. They looked really pretty on the plate...they weren't so pretty to eat, but they tasted good, and Chris took the leftovers to the fighter pilot squadron he works in, so I'm sure they will enjoy them too. Here is the table of food.  Autumn made the cider and cookies and other sweets, and my bread is in the bread basket but you can't see it.

We had a group of about 8 or so at Autumn and Jon's house.  The guys watched football while the girls carved our pumpkins. Here is mine:

It was fun socializing with some other wives.  I'm definitely happy to have a job, but sometimes I feel like it is going to be hard to make friends as long as I have one since I am the only spouse I have met so far with a full-time job.  Chris and I had to leave the party a little early because I had to wake up so early. A lot of the events on base are during the middle of the day, which just doesn't work for me.  From what I have heard, there will be a lot more social opportunities to meet new friends once Chris starts pilot training and gets in his class.  Until then, I have really enjoyed the opportunities I have gotten to meet some interesting people, and I also am really thankful that I have been able to keep in touch with my old friends so well.

Other news from the weekend: Chris and I put up these lights on our patio.  I think they add a lot of "ambiance" and kind of look like a starry night.  Chris did most of the work...I'm so glad he's such a handy man because I am not!

We decided instead of building a fence for Mason we would try getting him a cable/chord thing and attaching it outside so that when he paws at the door when it's 30 degrees outside, we can just put him out for 5-10 minutes and not have to stand out there with him.  Part of the reason we didn't want to get a fence is because they are expensive and we would have to put it up ourselves, plus the lawn people wouldn't mow our grass anymore.  And, let's face it, a chain link fence can be a bit unattractive.  But we would have put up the fence if that were the best option.  After giving Mason a test run on his cable, we were reminded of why this would never work: Mason is a digger.  He can dig an 8" hole in a matter of minutes! I don't think we could bury a fence deep enough for him to not eventually dig under, especially if we left him out long enough.  Look how filthy he got just from us leaving him out for a few minutes...he dug 3 holes! Granted, the ground was muddy from the rain.

When we use the chord for it's purpose, which is to let Mason "go potty" without us having to supervise him, we don't think we'll have this problem.  We would only have him out for a couple of minutes and when he has to do his business, that pretty much keeps him occupied.  This is what happens when we leave him out there with nothing to do and nothing to chew on. We will definitely have to keep an eye on it, because we can't be bathing him every time we let him out!

Yesterday I ran the farthest I have ever run without stopping, which was 6 miles.  I am really enjoying training for my ½ marathon, and almost to the halfway point (which would be 6 ½ miles).  I don't ever actually have to run 13 miles under the training program I'm doing until race day.  The longest I will have to run is 10 miles.

We found a BLACK WIDOW on our patio yesterday after Chris sprayed for bugs.  It is so scary! Don't worry, we sprayed it with spider killer, then smacked it until it was in little pieces.  Hopefully we will never see another one!

Today is the only day I will be here this week, as I am leaving for Birmingham tomorrow for work.  Chris is joining me on Thursday, and we are driving straight to Auburn after work Friday for the game against Ole Miss.  Two of Chris' friends from the Academy are coming, too, so it should be a good time. We are looking forward to what will hopefully be an Auburn win! Next Monday is trick-or-treating on base, and we have some funny costumes that we are wearing, so I am looking forward to posting some pictures of those next week! Until then, xoxo...The Becks

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Happy Birthday, Chris!

This Sunday was Chris' 25th Birthday! It's hard to believe my husband is a quarter of a century old.  We left on Friday for Auburn and had the worst luck ever making it out of town! Neither of us got off work early like we usually do on Fridays, and for some reason we allowed ourselves to put off packing until we got home from work Friday.  So once we both got home from work we packed and left.  Well, we were about 30 minutes down the road (already over the Mississippi-Alabama line) when we realized that we had left one of our tickets in Columbus.  So we had to turn around and go all the way back to get it.  After we turned around, Mason decided to throw up all over me.  Once we finally left our house (for the second time) we said, well...maybe this is all the bad luck we will have this weekend.  Luckily, that turned out to be the case.  The weekend was another success and Auburn beat Florida, which was the perfect birthday gift for Chris. I'm so glad both my dad and Chris got to have big (and, to some degree, unexpected) Auburn wins on their birthdays.

With it finally being a night game, we were able to do a lot of tailgating on Saturday and see a lot more people than we usually get to. Friday night we were able to go hang out with Chris' brother Warren at his fraternity house for a while, which usually hasn't been possible this season because of all the early games. Saturday we spent the day visiting various tailgates.  One of my bridesmaids, Rachel, came in town spur of the moment, and I got to see her for a few minutes before and after the game.  Chris got to catch up with Marc, Dusty, and Greg Saunders (whose wedding we are attending next month in North Carolina), and I got to finally see two of my best friends, Lauren and Sara, after not seeing them for a month.  We spent the whole day catching up with each other, and believe me, we did not waste a minute.  So many memories for just one day!   When Chris and I were dating, I always knew the meaning of "distance makes the heart grow fonder", and I have found the same to be true with my girlfriends.  I feel like we definitely made up for the past month of being apart!

The game was a lot of fun and we were really thankful, not just for the win, but that Tammy and our ringbearers' parents, Sherri and Phil Rowton, provided us with a row of 4 seats together, so Chris and I were able to sit with Sara and Jordan (Chris' friend/groomsman from the Academy who is stationed in Charleston).

On Sunday, we had a great birthday celebration for Chris at Moore's Mill Country Club. I have never had the Sunday buffet there, but I was quite a fan! Chris got some nice cards and gifts, and I think he is going to use some of his birthday proceeds to get his own beer-making kit (the one he has been using is Jon's), but he is still deciding. I also got to see another of my bridesmaids/friends, Lauren Emily, who teaches school in Tampa, Florida and was in town for the game.  We actually met up at Publix of all places because we were unable to coordinate our plans on Saturday.  Like with Rachel, we only got to see eachother and catch up for a few minutes, but I guess when you grow up and move away from your friends you just have to take what you can get sometimes and be happy about it! I don't think our mouths stopped moving the whole time we were in Publix, but hopefully we will have the opportunity to catch up again soon...maybe somewhere other than a grocery store!

As usual, the weekend went by incredibly fast.  For once, I found my self so absorbed with getting to catch up with so many people in just a couple of days, that I failed to take hardly any pictures! That is my one regret! I did, however, steal a couple of pictures off of other people's facebooks.  Since I like including pictures in my blogs, I will share them instead:

Me and Jessica at the tailgate...she had a very busy weekend so this was basically all that I saw her! On Sunday she went to the Atlanta Falcons game with her boyfriend to see our beloved Cam Newton play.

Me with Lauren and Chris and the cookie cake I got them that said "Happy Birthday Lauren and Chris" (Lauren turned 23 on the 10th.  I think it was the first birthday I didn't help her ring in since like 16!)

The right side of the table at Chris' birthday lunch.
The left side of the table. My dad was originally sitting by my mom...but then he moved to get a better view of the TV playing the Falcons-Panthers game (Cam plays for the Panthers).

We have just spent another 2 weeks on the road and will be traveling to Auburn again for the Ole Miss game in 2 weeks, then have a couple of weddings to go to in November as well as the Alabama game/Thanksgiving.  So we are looking forward to a relaxing weekend at home next week.  We considered going to Baton Rouge, but we decided a weekend off would be nice.  We are going to do some more home improvements (minor things...maybe build a pin for Mason and I am going to hang Christmas lights all over the roof of our patio) and (most importantly) relax!

Tomorrow I am traveling to Birmingham for work for a couple of days.  I have been working a lot in Columbus rather than Starkville and it has really made things a lot easier at home and on my body not to have to commute so much. I don't hate the commute, but lets face's puts a damper on home life when you spend 1.5 hours in a car every day, and it's not cheap either! I am kind of looking forward to going to Birmingham.  I am going to do a little shopping at this store my mom told me about called Home Goods tomorrow after work if it's not too late, which basically a giant TJ Maxx homestore from what she has told me.  Then on Wednesday on my way home, I can stop at Publix and get my weekly deals, so that's always a treat! Haha I'm sure it doesn't sound very exciting to some people, but once you become a Publix shopper, other grocery stores just don't cut it. Still, even for just one night away, I know I am going to miss my husband and baby (whenever I refer to "my baby", I am referring to Mason, by the way.)

Until next week,
The Becks

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Long Weekend in Nashville

Happy late Columbus Day, everyone...this morning Chris and I found ourselves wondering who thought up the idea of a 2 day weekend when a 3 day weekend is so much better! Not only do you get an extra day for the weekend, but then you have to wait one less day for the NEXT weekend.  I would gladly work four 10-hour days if I could have 3 days off, and think about how much more efficient it would be for gas and electricity at work.  I will try not to get off on a tangent, but if the 3-day weekend ever comes up for vote, I think we know where I will stand.

Last night we got back from an awesome weekend trip to Nashville with our friends, Meredith and Ryan King.  Meredith and I lived together in college and were sorority sisters, and she sang at our wedding.  She and Ryan got married in December and live in Birmingham.  There is a lot to do in Nashville.  I have been before, but last time I went with a group for Steeplechase (a horse race) and did not really explore very much.  This time, we did a lot of exploring and had a lot of fun.  We left on Friday.  My boss gave me a half day off work, so we were able to get out of town and meet Meredith and Ryan in Birmingham around dinner time.  Birmingham is on the way to Nashville for us, so it really worked out perfectly for us to carpool. We got to Nashville around 9 and went out to explore the downtown area, where we went to a dueling piano bar.  After spending the long weekend in Nashville, I have no questions as to why it is referred to as "music city"...there are bands and singers EVERYWHERE trying to "make it".  That lifestyle is extremely intriguing to me because I guess I am just too "type A"/accountant-like to just drop everything and move somewhere to try to get discovered.  I have a lot of respect for people who do that and I'm glad they do, because we wouldn't have all the amazing country stars that I love if they didn't!
Dueling Pianos

Saturday, we went on a "Redneck Comedy Tour" that I found online.  I'm not sure how much we actually saw on it, but we laughed a lot. The people doing the tour were extremely hilarious and made jokes that we repeated to each other all weekend.  After that, we went to a sports bar/grill to watch the game with the Nashville Auburn Club.  Marc, one of Chris' groomsmen who lives in Nashville now, met up with us and brought a couple of his friends so we had a nice group to watch the game with.  Unfortunately, the outcome of the game was not what we wanted (I hate playing Arkansas!), but at least we didn't have to suffer through it with non-Auburn fans.
Among many other things, we drove by the CMT building on our tour. 
Here is a picture of the camouflage tour bus! So redneck haha!

Watching the Auburn game

Funny dogs we saw out and about in downtown Nashville!

After this, we headed back out onto the town, this time with the larger group that we watched the game with.  Chris and I stayed out later than we have in a very long time, and possibly later than we EVER will again (although we are still too young to rule it out entirely!)...of course, being in Nashville, I had to sing some karaoke, which I must admit is a little more intimidating when I just like to sing karaoke for fun and all the other people singing it were taking it really seriously (I guess they were part of the "making it" crowd).  However, I think karaoke is supposed to be fun and funny so I didn't really care about everyone else, I bet I was more entertaining even if I wasn't as good (haha). Then, Marc took us to this Greek restaurant that was amazing and if I ever go back to Nashville, there is no way I am missing it! It would have been nice if the other patrons were more agreeable (there were some Auburn-haters there), but overall it was awesome.

Singing "Before He Cheats" by Carrie Underwood

Sunday was probably my favorite day, because it was the most relaxed.  We started out by going to Belle Meade plantation, which is this historic old pre-Civil War plantation.  They make wine and have a gift shop there, too.  We mainly went for the wine tasting, since I don't think any of us have the appreciation for historical stuff that we probably should have.  It was really pretty, though, and they had some great stuff in the gift shop, too.  Both couples bought a bottle of their muscadine wine, but they also had some other interesting varietals such as blackberry.  They didn't actually grow the grapes on the plantation, which was a little disappointing, but they did provide a free tasting. It is a non-profit winery, which I found interesting.  They also had a restaurant on the plantation where we ate lunch.

Afterwards, we went to Arrington Vineyards which, in hindsight, we probably would have spent the entire afternoon at if we would have known what it was going to be like.  It was really large, had an amazing view, and live music. Also, it was REALLY popular and we didn't get to do a tasting because the wait was 3 hours and by the time we got there, they were only open for another 2.5.  Since we couldn't do the tasting, each couple just bought some wine, so we still got to try two different kinds.  The weather was amazing, and so was the view.  They also launched a hot air balloon while we were there.  Next time we go back, I definitely think we will revisit Arrington, and hopefully come early enough to do the tasting.

After we did that, it was time the most highly anticipated activity that we had planned (at least for me), which was going to the Bluebird Café for the evening.  The Bluebird Café is a really famous "listening room" in Nashville where Garth Brooks, Taylor Swift, and a bunch of other country artists have been discovered.  It is really small and only seats 100 people, so you have to get there early if you hope to get a seat.  We got there just in time to get a pretty good table.  The first show was an up-an-coming artist named Brian Mackey.  He was really good.  Meredith and I met him, and he was also really nice and I will probably be downloading some of his songs.  Afterwards was the part I was really excited about, which was "open mic".  To do open mic, you have to have your name drawn from a hat AND audition, then if you get chosen, you can play 3 original songs.  We didn't stay the whole the time we waited in line an hour early, then listened to the first show (which was an hour), then there was a 30 minute break, then the next you can't talk (they emphasize the LISTENING part of listening room)...we were ready to move on by about 9:00 so we left a little early, but we stayed for half of open mic and saw a pretty good variety of performers.  Some were a little...hmmm, shall I say, depressing for my taste, but a couple were really great performers.  They were all very talented, but I can only listen to so many slow sappy songs at a time.  If I lived in Nashville, I'm sure I would visit there a lot.  I really want to bring my sister Jessica to Nashville because I know she could outperform some of the people I saw!

Brian Mackey

A list of all the names who performed, in case any of them ever "make it big" we can say that we saw them in the very beginning!

We found Nashville to be a really entertaining and beautiful city.  It is really clean and there is lots of green space.  I'm sure there are some bad parts, but for a fairly large city, I really didn't see anything "sketchy".  Well, I take that back...I didn't see anything that made me fear for my safety, but there did seem to quite the congregation of, for lack of a better word, weirdos in Nashville this weekend.  First, on Saturday, they were holding something called the "zombie walk", which consisted of hundreds of very strange looking people dressing up like zombies and marching around the city with makeup that looked like they were dead bleeding people.  It was a little strange, to say the least.  There were whole families marching in it.  First of all, I think 40 is a little old to be doing that, and second of all, I feel bad for those children who are basically doomed to be strange because their parents make them dress up like bleeding dead people when they are like 8 years old.  Call me judgemental, I don't really care.  I don't think I will be letting my future children participate, and if I do, I will not be participating with them! Then, on Sunday afternoon, we witnessed this group of people dressed up like medieval people having some kind of strange war in a public park with these huge homemade swords and weapons.  They were taking it very seriously.  And it wasn't an act that they were putting on for other people's entertainment, it was some kind of game they were playing with eachother.  Again, these people are at least our age, so I am still trying to figure out why you would want to do that.  I guess there are some things I will never understand! I'm sure they would think I am weird, too, so I guess we will just follow the old adage "live and let live" and not concern ourselves.  In a way, I am glad that strange people like them exist because we did find them very entertaining this weekend.
No that's not a movie, it's real people doing a medieval war!
The annual Nashville zombie walk...

Overall, the trip was nothing but fun for Chris and me (except for maybe the Auburn loss), and I definitely think we will eventually plan another weekend trip back to Nashville.  This weekend we are heading to Auburn for the Florida game and Chris' 25th Birthday! Hopefully this will be a win, I'm sure that would be a great birthday present.  As much fun as I had in Nashville this weekend, I really missed spending Hannah's and Lauren's birthdays with them (Hannah is the 8th and Lauren's is the 10th) but I am hoping I will get to see them this weekend! Then we will be spending a weekend at home before going back to Auburn for the Ole Miss game.

There's not much other news going on, but Chris and Jon did bottle their beer this past week.  Now it has to wait another few weeks before it will be ready.  Here are some pictures: