Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Review: Shooter's Bar & BBQ, O'Fallon IL

On our trip to Kansas, we spent one night at Scott Air Force Base right outside St. Louis.  We always check out TripAdvisor to find recommendations for local places to eat.  We decided to check out a sports bar and restaurant in O'Fallon, IL called Shooter's.  I was a little hesitant to take my 11 month old and 5 year old in a "bar" so B had to recon it first to make sure it was family friendly.  He approved, so the 4 of us plus my mom found ourselves a table.

The interior is divided so that the bar area is in one half and the dining area is the other.  It is very spacious which was nice because M was having a hard time sitting still after being in the car most of the day.  We let her stand up by our table and she enjoyed dancing to the music that was being played by the modern jukebox.  Because of how much room there was between the tables, we didn't have to worry about her bothering the people sitting next to us.

Shooter's seems to be known for their deep fried barbeque ribs.  My mom and B both ordered those and I opted for the pork sandwich.  That is always my measuring stick when I try new barbeque.  Because each meal came with two sides, we ended up with 1 order of each side item on the menu.  My sandwich was very good and my green beans(cooked with bacon) were my favorite side out of all the ones we tried.  The ribs were a tad spicy for me and so were many of the other sides.  I will admit that I'm a weakling when it comes to spice though.

Overall, I would definitely recommend Shooter's if you're in the area.  It's a fun and relaxed place to get some good food.  I would like to see some of their menu items lose a little of their spiciness, but if they didn't, I'd be happy with my pork sandwich and green beans!

Photo from the Shooter's Facebook Page

Friday, January 25, 2013

Adoption: Meet Stephen & Alison

Years ago the Lord placed in my heart an interest in foster care and adoption.  Over the past few years, I've had the great opportunity to get to know many families who either had adopted or were in the process of adopting.  Although our family has yet to come to a season where we can see how fostering/adoption would fit into our lives, I love being able to support my friends who are adopting.
That brings me to Stephen & Alison!
Stephen and I are friends from high school and his dad was also our church pastor.  (B & I actually thought so highly of Stephen's dad that we asked him to officiate our wedding even though he had moved to a different church and town.)  Stephen & Alison are in the process of adopting from Uganda!  Rather than trying to tell their story myself, you can read it here.
I am so inspired by both Stephen & Alison and how they live their life in such obedience to Christ.  Stephen is currently in seminary and I know that he is going to be an amazing minister.  He has already preached some beautiful sermons that truly spoke to me.  Alison is currently a nanny to twin toddlers so the Lord is definitely equipping her to be a parent!  I actually haven't had the pleasure of meeting her in person yet, but I can say for sure that she is going to be a wonderful mother.

First and foremost, please pray for Stephen and Alison as they go through this adoption process.  Please also pray for the child that will be joining their family.  If you feel led and are able, there are also a number of ways to be a part of their fundraising.  Let's be real - adoption is expensive and they could definitely use our help!

Uganda 1418 is the name of their Facebook page and Etsy store where you can buy ornaments, hair accessories and my personal favorite - wreaths!  Everything is handmade by Alison, her mother and sister.
Uganda 1418 Etsy Store
Uganda 1418 Facebook Page

A friend of Stephen & Alison's is selling her photography prints to help them raise money.  You can check out her work here.  If you see something you like, just email her and let her know you would like your purchase to support their adoption.

I'm one of the few people in the world who doesn't like coffee.  B, however, makes up for me by drinking a lot of it!  Make your next coffee purchase from Just Love Coffee Roasters and you can feel good about each cup you drink!  Purchasing through this link is another way to support Stephen & Alison.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Review: Kohana Japanese Restaurant, Clarksville Tennessee

I am far from being a connoisseur of sushi, but I know good food when I taste it.  About 8 years ago I started eating sushi occasionally.  Since then I've slowly come to like it more and more to the point that it is now one of my favorite foods.   You wouldn't think that you would find good sushi on the Tennessee-Kentucky border, but it is definitely there!  One of the first restaurants B & I tried when we moved to Fort Campbell was Kohana Japanese Restaurant.  We were impressed by the quality of the sushi and soon learned that it was one of the most popular places to eat in Clarksville.  Before long, we were as hooked on Kohana as everyone else!  
The original Kohana is in Clarksville, but they have also added 2 more restaurants in Nashville.  While I'm sure they are just as good, I haven't visited those locations.  When you enter the Clarksville restaurant, the white decor gives a slightly formal impression but you are definitely welcome to come as you are.  I've been there at lunch in a group of moms and kids, for a girls night out, dates with the husband and even going away parties.  
The staff at Kohana is friendly and fun.  They are also knowledgeable about the menu so that even if you are new to sushi, they can help you find something you will like.  Of course I have always eaten sushi there, but if you absolutely don't, there are plenty of other items on their menu.  
When I left Fort Campbell, my sweet friends surprised me with a going away party at Kohana.  Here are a few pictures that my friend, April, took of some of the delicious rolls.

The Sweetheart Roll is one of my personal favorites

Amazing Grace

101st roll (I think!)

When we recently passed through Clarksville on our move to KS, I insisted on getting a Kohana fix!  Thankfully, some of my girlfriends from Fort Campbell are still there so we were able to meet up and have dinner together.  It was a great time with some fabulous ladies and amazing food.  If you are in the Fort Campbell/Clarksville TN or Nashville area, you must have a meal at Kohana!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Recipe: Ann Lowe's Feel-Better Chicken Stew

It's been almost 10 years since B and I got married.  One of my favorite wedding gifts (still) that I received is The Blue Willow Inn Cookbook.  The Blue Willow Inn Restaurant is located in a beautiful antebellum mansion and serves a delicious southern buffet.  If you're ever in Atlanta or near Social Circle, Georgia it is worth the trip to have a meal there!

One of my favorite recipes from the cookbook is this chicken stew.  It is pretty basic but so good!  The book says this about the stew:
When head cook Ann Lowe needs to comfort a dear one, this is what she makes.  It is a soothing soup/stew guaranteed to make anyone feel better, whether their ills are physical, mental, or spiritual. When Billie is feeling down or ill, a call always goes to Ann for chicken stew.

Ann Lowe's Feel-Better Chicken Stew

1 (2.5 to 3.5 pound) chicken
1 quart water
1 quart milk
1 cup butter
2 sleeves saltine crackers
   salt and pepper

Wash the chicken thoroughly.  Add to the water in the stockpot, and cook until tender.  Remove the chicken, reserving the cooking liquid.  Let the liquid cool slightly as you remove the skin and bones from the chicken, and tear the meat into bite-size pieces.  Add the milk to the broth, and bring it to a slow boil, stirring frequently to avoid scorching.  Stir in the butter.  Crush the saltines, and add them to the pot.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  When the liquid thickens, add the chicken meat.  Serve warm.

Makes 8-10 servings

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Best PCS

Our family kicked off the New Year by moving from Georgia to Kansas for my husband's new assignment.  The movers arrived at our house on 27 December and started packing.  M (social butterfly that she is) was talking each of their heads off and E was crawling around trying to figure out what was going on!  The Army selected The Lindsay Group to handle our move and they were a great choice.  The workers were all friendly and cooperative with our requests.  When they showed up for their second day of packing and loading on the 28th, the driver, Ronnie, even brought a coloring book about moving and a toy Mayflower truck for M!  M, E and myself said goodbye to our house (which was E's first) and went to stay with my parents who lived nearby.  B stayed at the house to clean it and joined us the following day.
On 30 December, we started our trip.  My mom was able to go with us to help with the girls, so we had 5 people, our luggage and lots of other random stuff in 2 cars.  The first day we drove from Georgia to Ft Campbell, KY where another Army friend had graciously offered to let us stay at her house.  It was so nice for the girls to be able to run/crawl around a house rather than be stuck in a hotel room.  
Day 2 of travel we had the pleasure of driving through some snow as we made our way to the St Louis area where we stayed in lodging at Scott Air Force Base.  Their lodging is former housing so we were once again able to spread out in a 3 bedroom townhouse.  
1 January was our last day of driving and our arrival in Kansas.  We got the keys to our house on the 2nd and the movers arrived with our Household Goods (HHG) on the 3rd.  Ronnie and Travis (our friendly movers) spent 2 days unloading and unpacking.  It has been almost a week since then and although everything doesn't have a place yet, we are getting there.  An Army move can be exhausting and a little stressful, but we truly enjoy discovering a new place and look forward to this adventure!

Here are some tips from our family and some of our friends on how you can have the best PCS:
  • Purge!  Don't move items that you no longer want or need.  We had a yard sale a few weeks in a row before our move and were able to clear out quite a few things we were ready to get rid of.  You will be amazed at how your trash truly is someone else's treasure.  Anything that we couldn't sell, we donated to a local charity.  Remember that you can get a receipt for items donated and claim that on your taxes.
  • Pre-Clean.  Go ahead and deep clean any areas that you can take care of in advance.  B has done almost all the cleaning for our last 2 moves so I can't take any credit for that.  In the month leading up to this PCS, he started cleaning some areas here and there.  After our HHG were gone, he was able to easily go over everything one more time.  
  • Have a Do Not Pack room.  This is usually our biggest bathroom.  Set aside anything you want to take with you or just want to get rid of before the move.  This allows the packers to work a lot faster when they know everything else in the house is ready to go.
  • Take care of your packers/movers...  We typically provide drinks(bottled water and Gatorade) and lunch for ours.  Some people tip and some people do not.  That is obviously a personal choice.  At the very least, I would recommend offering to feed them though.
  • But remember that this is their job.  Don't let them get out of what they are getting paid to do.  We always request a complete unpack at our destination.  They occasionally grumble about that but it is their responsibility along with reassembling anything they had to take apart.
  • Lists and more lists!  Start making lists of everything you need to do, pack, etc.  Don't forget to keep a pen and paper by your bed so you can write down that random thing you think of in the middle of the night!
  • Take pictures.  If you have pictures of your more valuable items and serial numbers from electronics, that could be really helpful when making a claim.  I also hold onto receipts for all our  valuable items.  When my daughter's crib was damaged in the move to Georgia, we were able to reference our receipt to get a good reimbursement.
  • Keep daily household items with you.  In case you get your house before your HHG arrive, keep some items with you that you may need.  Important paperwork, sheets, blankets, towels, air mattresses, and laundry detergent are good to have on hand.  Each post will have a lending closet where you can also temporarily borrow dishes, cookware, small appliances and many other household items.
  • Keep your kids involved.  If they feel like they are active participants in the moving process, it will make for an easier transition for them.  We bought our daughter a travel journal where she could write and draw pictures about the trip.  Showing them their home, school and other fun things in the area helps them get excited about their new adventure.  Let them choose their room at the new house and make a game of finding all the moving stickers after your HHG arrive.
  • Ziplock bags.  Keep ziplock bags, tape and a permanent marker on hand for last minute labeling on packing day.  Put contents of any 'junk drawers' in a ziplock bag.  This keeps all those small items from getting dumped in a box.  Place the ziplock bags back in the drawer so the mover can just reach in and grab the bags.
  • Reach out to friends.  Don't be afraid to get some help from your friends.  Maybe you need someone to watch your kids while your HHG are getting packed.  Maybe someone can give you a place to stay.  I got in touch with a friend in TN about meeting for dinner when we passed through her town.  She ended up offering to let us stay at her house for the night.  With 2 young children, it was such a blessing to be able to sleep at her house rather than a hotel room.  We also had friends in KS that we were able to ship a few things to before we arrived.  Everyone was very gracious and seemed happy to be able to help.
  • Take advantage of your military benefits and discounts.  Moving can be expensive.  Save money where you can.  Military lodging can be much more affordable than standard hotels - especially if you are on orders.  We spent one night in lodging at Scott Air Force Base.  Their "lodging" is actually 3 bedroom townhomes that are fully furnished.  If we had stayed in a regular hotel instead, we would have paid more money for a single room.   If you have to eat out, try restaurants that offer military discounts.  When you move into your new house, don't forget that home improvement stores like Hope Depot also offer military discounts.
  • Enjoy the adventure!  Everything is not going to go exactly according to plan.  Expect that some things will go wrong and be ok with that.  Remember that most things are just little annoyances that will not make a difference even next week.  Have fun and bloom where you are planted (at your new duty station)!

What is your best PCS advice?  Leave a comment and I will update this post with some of your tips!