Thursday, February 14, 2013

happy valentine's day!

I've been feeling a little under the weather this week (the reason I haven't been blogging) but I wanted to wish you all a {VERY} happy Valentine's Day! I'll be back next week with some exciting new things to share.

much love,

{Peanut's first Valentine's Day!}

Friday, February 8, 2013

my day as a science fair judge

Yesterday, I spent my day volunteering as a judge for the local school district's annual science fair. You may be wondering how I got myself in such a position. Let me explain. Since moving here, I have been very eager (desperate, perhaps) to get out of the house and get involved with local activities. So when my husband came home from work one day and told me he would be volunteering as a judge, my ears perked up! I thought to myself I love science and I love kids, so how hard could this be? {much harder than I thought, but more on that later}. R told me there were dozens of Air Force members that would be volunteering but that they were still looking for more. He saw right through my bashful exterior and the next day he asked the coordinator if I could also be a judge. Hooray! Babysitter booked. Activity on the calendar.

R and I arrived at the Civic Center yesterday for the pre-fair briefing. As I entered the room, I instantly realized that I was the only civilian there. There I was in a sea of camouflage. Oh wait, here come a few other civilians through the door. At least I'm not the only non-Air Force judge. The other "civilians" turned out the be VIPs... the mayor of Del Rio and members of the city council. So the science fair judges would be the mayor, the city council members, about 40 Air Force officers, and me. No big deal, right?

This was no ordinary science fair. This was the district-wide finals for all projects that won 1st or 2nd place at the campus-level. There were two age categories: grades K-2 and 3-5. We were given our official name badges, clipboards, scoring cards, and judging criteria instructions, and sent on our merry ways.

{My very official name badge!}
I was assigned to be a judge for grades 3-5 and I'm so grateful for that. I had a hard enough time judging 8- and 10-year-olds' projects; I can't imagine having to deduct points from a Kindergartner's project! When we walked into the Civic Center auditorium, we picked a row of projects and starting the judging. Del Rio is in such a rural area of Texas that I was not surprised with how many "botany" projects I judged. Several of them were experiments on which type of fertilizer helps plants grow best, or the optimal usage of compost for growing crops. The children were throwing out all sorts of farming and planting terminology, and as a self-admitted "black thumb," I had no idea what they were talking about. One sweet girl, she was cute as pie, gave me some pointers on growing tomatoes and flowers. I was feverishly scribbling down notes. These 8-year-olds had a wealth of knowledge and I was going to take full advantage of learning from them during this science fair!

The judges had a list of 10-15 items {title, hypothesis, creativity, clarity, etc.} to judge the students on. We were able to give each item a score of 1-5, 1 being lowest, 5 being highest. We had been previously warned about projects that were clearly done by parents, or "partner projects" where it was clear that one student did all the work. 

One student started every sentence with "my dad." My dad bought Miracle Gro from Home Depot. My dad watered the seeds each day. My dad typed the results into the computer and took the pictures. I filled-out my score sheet: 1, 1, 1, 1, 1... done. On to the next! The next little girl presented her project, something related to bubbles. This 9-year-old genius was talking about polarity of covalent and hydrogen bonds, and chromatography techniques that I had used during my own research for my Master's degree. Something wasn't adding up...

me: This is all very interesting! How did you learn about thin-layer chromatrography, different types of chemical bonds, and the effects of gravity on the evaporation process? 

the genius: The internet.

me: The internet? You didn't study this in school?

the genius: Well, my mom is a high school Chemistry teacher. She was the one who picked this project. She did this project.

Excellent. Another project scored. 1, 1, 1... on to the next! As the day went on, it was clear which students did their own projects, and I'm thankful that the vast majority were projects like these. I truly enjoyed these projects and listening to the children speak about them. They were so precious and so excited! Some of them started talking about off-topic things. {"I once saw a cat that had been hit by a car, and there were guts everywhere! My grandma said the cat is in kitty heaven now."} Sometimes it was hard to keep a straight face. Some of the projects didn't really even make sense. {The project to determine whether different dogs have different nose prints, and this was determined by rubbing food color on the dogs' noses, which I'm sure they loved, by the way.} What?! 

I could tell the students liked me by the number shouting "Miss Molly! Come judge my project!" Actually, I'm not sure that they liked me, but I think my 5'4" stature was a little less intimidating than a 6-foot-2-inch-tall Air Force officer. They little girls all said they liked my hair and my shoes and they wanted to know if I lived on base, and if I had babies, and dogs, and cats {along with 100 other personal questions about my life}.  

The hardest part of the day was actually judging the projects, or at least the student-produced projects. They were all so good... I wish they could all win! To see the excitement in their eyes was really inspiring and you could tell that many of them had a genuine love of learning. I'm not sure that I'm really cut-out to be a judge of elementary school students as I'm pretty sure I told each one of them "You're so smart! I love your project! You did a wonderful job! Good luck!" ... But overall, it was a fun day! I learned a lot {mostly about plants and farming!}, got to spend the day with R, and hopefully helped brighten a child's day.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

life at Laughlin

{Rewind back two months ago.} Peanut and I were boarding the plane in California to fly to Montgomery, Alabama for R's graduation from Officer Training School for the United States Air Force. Although one of the happiest times of our lives, it was also a time that left me with much uncertainty, fear, and a lot of questions. What would life in the Air Force be like for our family? How would it feel to quit my job in California, move away from family and friends, and set-up "home" on an Air Force base?

{Fast forward to the present.} After living at Laughlin Air Force Base for the past month, I'm starting to figure out what this place is like...

{Front gate at Laughlin}
It's a very small base, located in the middle of nowhere, just 5 miles from the Mexican border. Our street is lined with trees on both sides and yards filled with toys and bicycles. Our dishwasher doesn't work properly and most of the grass in our yard is brown from the desert sun. But I'm learning to embrace life here at Laughlin, and I'm excited to call this place "home" for the next 18 months.

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Monday, February 4, 2013

the four Fs

At the heart of every Super Bowl Sunday, we have the four Fs: football (obviously), friends, fun, and way too much food! So when our new friends invited our family to watch the game at their house, I started thinking... What type of food should I make? Probably an appetizer that's fun and easy to share.

I had been wanting to try a new recipe I came across for jalapeno poppers. I have been on a real jalapeno "kick" since moving to Texas! We went to the commissary (grocery store) located on base to pick up the ingredients. Surprisingly, or not so much, there were no jalapeno peppers to be found. You see, that's what happens when you live on a very small Air Force base. The commissary doesn't always carry what you need, when you need it! {sidebar: We had friends invite us over for dinner last week. She was planning to grill chicken breasts. When she went to the commissary to buy chicken, she could not find any! The employee notified her that the store didn't receive any chicken breasts that week on their shipment and she would have to return the following week for chicken!} Anyway, no big deal, I will make something else for Super Bowl Sunday. How about homemade guacamole and chips? What? No avocados?... I think I am very spoiled when it comes to produce (both quality and availability). In California, we had a plethora of Farmers' Markets at our fingertips, in addition to all my favorite stores like Whole Foods and Sprouts. Fresh, flavorful produce is probably the thing I miss most about home so far... besides our friends and family, of course! We do have a Wal Mart that carries produce, as well, but that is a good 20-minute drive into town.

Jalapeno poppers are out. Homemade guacamole is out. It's time to break out the bacon. Yes, bacon! Who doesn't love bacon? And what Super Bowl Sunday would be complete without it? I present to you... bacon-wrapped pineapple! {classy, I know.}

{Before you start cooking, you'll want to soak the toothpicks in water for 10-15 minutes. This will prevent the toothpicks from burning.}

1. Pre-heat oven to 400°F. {our lovely oven burns everything when it's above 350°F, so I kept my oven at 350°F.}

2. Cut bacon strips in half.

3. Heat bacon strips on the stove or in the microwave. We don't currently own a microwave so I opted for the stove. I've found that semi-cooked bacon is easier to wrap than raw bacon, but if you're looking to save on time, you can skip this step. {don't worry, the meat will be thoroughly cooked in the oven later!}

4. Take each piece of bacon and lightly drag it through brown sugar. It's easiest to pour brown sugar into a bowl and dip the bacon into the bowl. The sugar will carmelize in the oven and taste wonderful!

5. Wrap each bacon strip around a chunk of pineapple and secure in place with a toothpick. Place on baking sheet.

6. Cook for 25 minutes or under bacon reaches desired crispiness. {I've also used the broiler in the past but did not with this oven for fear our entire home would burn down!}

7. Sit back, relax, and watch the little beauties bake...

8. When done in the oven, transfer the bacon-wrapped pineapple bites to a serving platter. Let cool (or you'll burn your mouth!) and ENJOY! {also, be fore-warned that the brown sugar may burn in the oven but that's okay!}

9. And lastly... did you have any helpers in the kitchen? Make sure to reward all helpers, both human and non-human!

The 49ers may have lost yesterday, but a good time was had by all! The best part of living on base is that your friends all live within walking-distance. We only had a 15-second walk home last night!

What was your favorite part of Super Bowl Sunday? The football, friends, fun, or food?


Friday, February 1, 2013

let's get started!

February is finally here and I'm very excited as today is the official kick-off of my new blog, Little Bitty Pretty Life! Thank you all for your support! I can't believe my Little Bitty Pretty Life already has 27 Google followers, 16 additional email subscribers, and nearly 1400 pageviews! What a warm welcome into the blogging world!

Without further delay, it's time to announce the winner of the custom stamp from RubberStampPress...{Lindy Gage}!!!

Congratulations to Ms. Gage and thank you all again for entering my contest! A {BIG} thank you to Kim from RubberStampPress for donating such a lovely prize!

The new stamp I purchased for our family from RubberStampPress was delivered this week. It's absolutely darling!
{Custom stamp from RubberStampPress}
{I'm loving the little bird!}
You may be wondering what the focus of my blog will be. That's a good question, one I'm still trying to figure out! I'm by no means a chef, although I have been known to make a fabulous bowl of macaroni and cheese, nor am I very fashionable (unless workout clothes and running shoes are "in" this season!). But in the next few weeks, I hope to share more of myself and my story with you all, and I'm excited to see how my Little Bitty Pretty Life evolves over time!

Enjoy the weekend and for all you football fans, GO SAN FRANCISCO 49ers!