Island Nanny Visits

My mom (Island Nanny) arrived for a 16-day visit last Wednesday. The entire Island Family is thrilled to have her here! The Island Kids (especially Island Boy) love having her to play with, I love having another adult to talk to all day, and getting a bit of a break is nice, too! Island Dad and I have a couple of date nights in the works.

This morning, Island Dad actually watched both kids, while Island Nanny and I went with the Base's Outdoor Recreation Center on a hike, known around these parts as a Boonie Stomp. We went down island to a place called Tarzan Falls. It was rated as a moderate hike, although it was probably about as difficult as either she or I would care to tackle again. We started off on relatively flat, grassy, highlands. This quickly turned into a sticky, muddy, downhill trail occasionally spotted with some rock underneath. We both slipped and fell flat on our backsides at least once. We even found ourselves at times crab-walking (me) and crawling on our hands and knees (her, on the way back, up a very steep, muddy hill). But the view at the bottom was so, SO worth it!

Our first stop was at the top of the falls.

We took a few pictures, then moved on down the trail to the bottom of the falls. We were hot and sticky (not to mention very, very muddy) by the time we got to the bottom. However, the mist and the breeze created by the falling water, combined with sticking our feet into the chilly pool at the bottom of the falls was exactly the perfect way to cool off!

It was a wonderful mother-daughter bonding experience!


Pancake Sunday

It has been ridiculously dreary here on the Island today! Rain, rain, rain, and not a speck of blue sky in sight (which is amazing, because usually, the rain blows over pretty quickly).

Island Dad had to work this afternoon, and so the Island Kids and I went up to base, got some lunch, did some shopping, and hit the grocery store, as well. By the time we got back, though, it was so late in the afternoon that instead of an actual nap time, I let Island Boy have "quiet time" watching Finding Nemo. He sat pretty well for most of it, and does enjoy the movie, so it went reasonably well! He recognizes most of the characters, and when he spots a clown fish in real life, he calls it a "Nemo." For the joint 1st and 3rd birthday party I am looking at this year, I think we are going to go with a Nemo theme. He likes it, it's gender neutral, and, hey! We live on an island with lots of ocean and coral reef around, so it's perfect!

On to the pancakes!

This week, we had strawberry banana pancakes with chocolate chips. They were amazing! Island Boy downed four or five of them in as much time as it took me to eat six. The child loves his pancakes!!

Strawberry Banana Pancakes with Chocolate Chips 


1 c. all purpose flour
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 egg, beaten
1 c. milk
2 Tbsp. mashed banana
2 c. chopped frozen strawberries (I chopped them in the food processor)
mini chocolate chips

In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

Stir in egg, milk, and mashed banana.

Fold in the chopped strawberries.

On a heated griddle (with the frozen strawberries, you want to use the highest setting, to ensure that they thaw while the pancake cooks), pour the batter by 1/4 cupfuls. Sprinkle chocolate chips on the up-side before flipping.

Cook until sides start to look dry and bubbles start to form in the top (with the strawberry chunks, this may take longer than normal, and if they do not flip easily at first, give them a bit longer, then try again). Cook another 1-2 minutes until done.



Five Things

The Island Kids and I drove down the Island today to do some shopping at the Naval base. It's a fairly long drive, for an island (30-40 minutes). On the ride back, Island Girl was sleeping and Island Boy was fairly quiet, which gave me some time to think.

We have been here for a little over two months now, which is incredibly hard to believe in some ways. There are things that I love, or am learning to love, about living here. Here's a list of my "Top Five," in no particular order.

1. Riding down Marine Corps Drive. Starting from our place and heading south, you see lots of strip malls and plazas to start with. This has given me a great start on a list of places I'd love to check out on the off chance that I actually get a morning out without the Island Kids. Right. Once you get south of that, though, you get this gorgeous drive along Tumon Bay, practically on the beach. On the other side of the road is mountains. Tall, verdant, mountains.

2. The weather. It's a given. You really can't beat it! I keep thinking that summer is almost over, and that fall, and soon winter, will be here. And while, yes, Christmas will be upon us before I'm ready, the snow will never arrive. And, I suppose, if it does, we're all in pretty big trouble, haha.

3. The variety of food options available. First, of course we don't eat out every night. But Friday night family dinner out has become a bit of a tradition for us. So it's great to have a TON of options. Of course we have our pick  of Asian cuisine. Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai, Chinese, Phillipino, Korean, you name it. We also have local fare, which we're just starting to get acquainted with, but love. Beyond that, though, we've found good Mexican, Italian, and even have found an appreciation for the occasional trip to TGIFridays or Chili's (but not too often).

4. The variety of activities available. We go to the beach. We take a walk around the neighborhood (which, try to do that in the northern tier in the middle of January...). We go to the mall. We can take a hike in the jungle. And we can do all of it as a family!

5. The phrase "Only On Guam" or O-O-G. Yes, it gets applied negatively by many people, self included. But I've also used it in reference to our drive back from Talofofo Falls, when we saw two, yes, TWO men walking their carabao (water buffalo) down the road. Separately. And the second one had two small-ish dogs riding on top of the carabao. O-O-G indeed.

There are many many more things I am loving about living here, and a few things I'm not loving quite as much, but am trying to get used to.


Muffin Tin Monday

For lunch yesterday, I finally bit the bullet and decided to try a muffin tin lunch. I've been following the blog for awhile, but haven't had time to try it, especially since we often wind up meeting Island Dad for lunch on base.

His work obligations did not allow that yesterday, so we were home for lunch.

Here is what I came up with!

Island Boy dug in before I could get  good picture of the entire plate (also, for now, I don't have 6-cup muffin tins, so just the cups will have to do!)

Clockwise from Island Boy's hand, we have half a grilled cheese sandwich, rice (which had been wrapped in nori, which he promptly removed and ate), rice still in the nori, the other half of the sandwich, more nori-wrapped rice, and raisins in the center.

Island Boy was a HUGE fan, and I liked the variety it allowed me to provide without it seeming overwhelming to him. We'll definitely be doing more of these in the future!

Island Mom's Night Out

Last night was the annual kick-off social for the officer's spouses club on base. As I am involved with the board, I kind of HAD to be there. Of course, I wanted to go, too. Break from the kids? Yes please! Unfortunately, Island Dad had work obligations that did not allow him to be home in time to watch the kids. So, I opted to take Island Girl with me, as she is pretty easy to please, and, you know, I'm still her main source of food. Island Boy, however, could not go with me. He would not have had much fun, for starters, and keeping him occupied would have distracted me from what I needed to do while there.

So I sucked it up and hired a babysitter. It's not so much that I don't like having babysitters. It's more that I still tend towards shy, and even when speaking to kids who are more than 14 years my junior, I get a bit self-conscious.

At any rate, another one of the club members has a daughter who babysits, and so I gave them a call, and she was willing and available! My only concern at this point was that Island Boy would somehow freak out and scream the whole time she was here. But, I started warming him up to the idea of a sitter when he woke up in the morning, and then all day he was talking about "[Babysitter] is coming to play with [Island Boy]!!" I was feeling pretty good about everything.

The babysitter and her mom arrived, and Island Boy seemed very happy, even when the mom and I left and Island Girl was with us (we carpooled).

When we returned to the house, a couple of hours later, Island Boy still seemed very happy, and the sitter said that aside from 20 minutes of crying for mommy somewhere in the middle, he was a very easy kid to watch (hooray... this means we can hire her again!!!)

Island Dad returned home shortly after, and we put Island Boy to bed together. I was reading him Llama, Llama, Red Pajama, by Anna Dewdney. I was just getting to the part where Llama Llama thinks that his Llama Mama is actually *gone*, when all of a sudden, Island Boys face just completely crumbled and he started sobbing uncontrollably, just so scared! Island Dad and I both tried to calm him down, even showing him the part where Mama Llama comes back, but he would have NONE of it. Island Dad finally had to go get another book to read to poor Island Boy!

We think it was probably a combination of the wide-eyed Llama Llama in the picture on that page, the slightly anxious/scary voice I use on that page, and also the fact that Island Boy's own "mama" had just been gone. But the kid was thoroughly freaked out! I don't think Island Dad and I have ever felt worse about "subjecting" our child to something!!

Needless to say, Llama Llama and his red pajamas will be taking a break on the bookshelf for awhile.


Pancake Sunday Hiatus

We decided to take a break from Pancake Sunday today, as we were all actually up and moving in time to make it to church (at the chapel on base), but only if we ate a quick breakfast.

So I think we will move pancakes to a little later this week, and maybe for dinner. Breakfast for dinner is the BEST (well, second only to pancakes for breakfast on Sunday morning).

We wound up having a very go-go-go kind of day. Church was a big success, with Island Boy rather enjoying his time in the nursery, playing with the other kids and watching Veggie Tales. And coloring (!!), which is one of his very favorite things to do anywhere, any time. Island Girl hung out with us, as she is still a month too young for the nursery.

After church, we stopped by the base dive shop to get a complete set of snorkeling gear for me. I did manage to put an "Island Mom" touch to it and get a light pink snorkel mask. We also got a new mask and snorkel for Island Dad, as his went missing somewhere between our time in DC and our move here. In the very near future, I will be getting SCUBA certified, so definitely look for a post on that when it happens. Adventures and (I hope) great stories are sure to follow! Island Dad is already certified, he's just waiting on me.

We then drove on down to the beach at the Naval Base where there is some pretty decent snorkeling. Island Dad and I took turns watching the kids while the other one went out. It's so great to just be in the quiet water with no sounds other than your own breathing and the clicking of the fish cleaning off/eating from the reef.

The Island Kids had a fantastic time at the beach, as well. We managed a few pictures at the beginning of the trip (before snorkeling, hence the Island Parents are dry in the pictures).


5 Months

Island Girl is 5 months old as of yesterday!

According to our scale, she is up to 15 lbs. 12 oz. She is about 16.25 inches long by my measurement, and her head is about 17 in. in circumference.

The biggest difference I can see in this month's picture is how much hair she has now! It's gotten long enough on top that I can kind of get a clip into it.

She's learning so many new things now, too. She of course can roll over both directions. She really is trying so hard to crawl. And she's a gigantic fan of her jumperoo! She goes nuts in it :-D


Pancake Sunday

Today, we tried the long-awaited cinnamon bun pancakes!

I have to say, having perused the site a bit, I think that I will be going back to The Tasty Kitchen for more recipes in the future. Go ahead and do a search for pancakes. Look at all the results. Yum!!!!

This morning, I had a bit of help from Island Girl. She was the first one up (then me), so she sat in her bouncy seat for most of the time I was cooking. Towards the end of pancake prep, I hollered for Island Dad to get Island Boy, who was stirring. The sudden yell scared Island Girl, and she spent the remaining cooking time on my hip (safely away from the griddle, no worries). She even helped me pour the very last of the batter, grabbing the handle to the bowl when I tipped it. My little chef in training!

So, here's the recipe!

Cinnamon Bun Pancakes

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3 Tbsp. white sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
4 tsp. baking powder
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
2 whole eggs, beaten
1 c. milk
2 Tbsp. corn syrup
1/4 c. butter, melted
1 Tbsp. vanilla

In a bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and cinnamon. Whisk until very well-blended. In a separate bowl, combine eggs, milk, syrup, butter, and vanilla. Add liquid ingredients to dry ingredients, and whisk until well-blended.

Pour by the 1/4-cupful onto a preheated griddle, and cook on first side until edges appear dry. Flip, and cook for another minute or two.

First, my own substitutions:
I used whole wheat flour, as that is simply what I keep on hand. While most of the time, it doesn't make a huge flavor difference, I definitely think these would have been better with the bleached, all-purpose flour. I promise this is one of the only times you'll hear me advocating using the refined stuff over the whole-wheat stuff!
I used maple syrup instead of corn syrup. If anything, it added to the flavor, but to my taste, there was no real difference.
I also used the seeds from one vanilla bean in place of the vanilla. Here, you could taste a BIG (positive) difference! Vanilla bean just adds a much fresher, more natural flavor than does vanilla extract.

When you're pouring the pancakes onto the griddle, be warned that this is an airier, fluffier batter than I've worked with in previous posts. The batter, for me, didn't "pour" so much as have to be kind of dropped onto the skillet. This can somewhat affect the circular shape, but I guarantee that will be more than made up for in flavor.

We did not find a need to add further maple syrup to these, thanks to the sugar and syrup already in the pancakes. According to The Pioneer Woman, this is heavenly, and she even takes it a step further, making a basic icing to go over top!

These pancakes may be my favorites so far. The light, airy texture was a great complement to the intense and sweet flavor.

Bon Apetit!



I will preface this post by saying that we still are very excited to be living on the Island, and are excited to see what adventures we will continue to have here.

That said...

Our house was broken into on Monday. Whoever it was came in through the kitchen window, which we're assuming we left unlocked, took my laptop and our portable DVD player, and left, presumably out the front door. In broad daylight. While Island Dad was at work and while the Island Kids and I were at the gym and meeting Island Dad for lunch.

We arrived back at the house, and I immediately noticed that the laptop was not where I was pretty sure I'd left it that morning. I searched the other places I usually keep it, and then called Island Dad. I searched some more obscure places (even the outside trash can, just in case) while on the phone with him, before finally giving in and calling the police. The officer they sent over was as helpful as possible, but basically said what I assumed he would: He filed a report, but it was unlikely that we'd see the laptop again (I didn't even notice the missing DVD player until the next morning).

Island Dad's boss let him come home early on Monday, which was good. Not so much in that I needed help dealing with the police, etc., but more in that as soon as the police officer left, I kind of went into "shut down" mode, and I'm not sure that I could have handled the Island Kids by myself that day.

There are several things we are thankful for throughout this: First and foremost, we are all safe and unharmed. Second, they didn't take the TV (amazingly), which was in the same room, or the regular DVD player, or the Wii. It was just those two things. Third, there was no forced entry, and the house wasn't ransacked, so that Island Boy (especially him) is fairly unaware of what happened, and he still feels secure in our house.

I wish I could say the same for Island Dad and myself. We are having a security system installed tomorrow. For the time being, we have wood blocks blocking all the windows (which isn't totally fool proof, but it's something), a wood block stopping the door whenever we are home, and will be installing a dead bolt on the door. We even considered a dog, although ultimately decided against it.

Even with all of this, I jump at any noise that is even slightly weird right now. Island Dad called me this morning to have me move my van out to the driveway (signifying that someone was home), as when he was leaving for work, he spotted someone walking near the house, probably on the way to a nearby work site, but he wanted to be safe. That phone call left me feeling very unsettled. Not that I particularly enjoyed getting up in the middle of the night, or walking through the dark house to start with, but I hate it even more now (I do it because it's still preferable to, say, not feeding the screaming baby).

The thought of someone being in the house without our permission and when we weren't here creeps me out to no end. Now, after we've been out and are heading back home, it's always running through my head "Oh, no....what am I going to find this time? Will there be more things missing? The house ransacked? Someone IN the house?"

None of this feels pleasant. I hope that the security system helps Island Dad and I both to feel normal again. Soon.


Pancake Sunday

As of today, I am starting a four-and-a-half-month attempt to knock off some remaining baby weight from both Island Girl and also Island Boy (I was still 5 lbs. above my goal from him when I got pregnant again). In honor of this, I opted to go with a slightly healthier pancake this week!

The base recipe came from the kitchen classic, The Joy of Cooking - 75th Anniversary Edition (Rombauer, Becker, & Becker, 2006). I made some modifications based on what was available in my pantry.

Four Grain Flapjacks

Whisk together in a large bowl:
1 c. whole wheat flour
3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/3 c. cornmeal
1/4 c. old-fashioned or quick-cooking rolled oats
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
1/8 tsp. ground or grated nutmeg (optional)

In another bowl, combine:
1 3/4 c. milk
1/4 c. (1/2 stick) butter, melted
1/4 cup honey
3 eggs

Quickly mix the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients. Cook as normal. Again, I like to do my pancakes on my electric griddle. To cook, I pour the batter by 1/4 cupfuls onto the skillet, and cook until the edges begin to look dry. Flip, and cook for another minute or two.

My modifications to this recipe: I skipped the all-purpose flour and used 1 3/4 cup of the whole-wheat flour.
Instead of melted butter, I substituted 1/4 c. applesauce (though you can substitute an equal amount of any pureed fruit). Instead of honey, I substituted 1/4 c. maple syrup.
I also added blueberries during the cooking stage, dropping them onto the uncooked side before flipping. You could also mix them straight into the batter.

Island Boy again quickly devoured two of these. Island Dad was happy that they tasted good, but was even happier that they were relatively healthy!

For my own part, I generally like multi-grain breads and foods. I especially like them when cornmeal is involved. The texture and hint of flavor that it adds is perfect - grainy, hearty and slightly sweet. These did not disappoint! The maple syrup in the batter, combined with the blueberries, made the pancakes just sweet enough that there was no need to add further maple (or any kind of) syrup on top of the pancakes. Meaning that I was able to reduce Island Boy's pancake-related sugar-intake drastically!