Last week we hung out with our friends again.  This time Eliot brought his girlfriend, who was out from California for Eliot's ball.  To give our new guest a warm welcome, I made a stout stew and bread bowls, which turned out more like baby bread loaves.  To wish the boys a happy birthday, I made them a cake.  It was chocolate with raspberry filling and chocolate buttercream icing.  

Earlier this week, we got snow.  Clayton woke me up early in the morning, as he was getting ready for work, just to show me.  We woke Merlin up and brought him outside to see the snow, too.  He didn't seem to know what to make of it.  Later I let Merlin out into the backyard, where he frolicked on the hard ground, occasionally pausing to sniff and lick the snow.

In other news, Clayton and I really began digging into our spare room.  Since we moved in, it has served as a storage space.  We don't have so much more junk than most people, we just have hardly any closets and no garage this time around.  I'll post pictures when we get the spare room done, but for now, here are pictures of how that train wreck of a room looked before we got started.
 
 
Several times in the last few weeks I've sat down to blog about my latest adventures, only to get pulled into the next!  Using a combination of the pictures on my computer and my facebook timeline, I'll attempt to reconstruct my exploits with some measure of coherence.

If you come here for my pictures, you'll notice I took a trip to my local USO.  That place was awesome.  It is the oldest continually running USO in the WORLD.  Not just on the East Coast, or the US, but on the entire planet.  It was mostly a large lounge area, with multiple pool tables and oodles of leather furniture.  Along the walls were shadowboxes of memorabilia from WWII.  There was also a huge auditorium (complete with stage), meeting rooms, a kids play area, a library, a game/movie room, and a cafe.  The coolest part?  You can rent it out for really cheap if you're active duty military or a dependent.  I loved seeing the tiny phone booths along the wall in the original part of the structure.  When I asked Clayton if he could imagine calling me from them, he replied that he didn't have to imagine, because he'd done it before from other USO locations.  The ladies there were really nice, and told me about the programs they offer.  

On October 26, my coworker, Dee, and I went over to the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) for their fall something-or-other festival.  It's basically a Halloween info-fair, but due to the fact that the participating organizations are mostly funded by the Federal government, they can't refer to any actual holidays.  Whatever.  It was a costume party, plus bring your literature and candy to give to the kids and families.  It was super fun seeing all the kids' costumes.  EFMP had a cake walk, a chili contest (there were only 2 types of chili), hot dogs and chips and fruit for lunch, and a pumpkin carving station.  We spent most of the day over there, dressed as Nerds with a Willy Wonka themed booth to represent the library.  Oh, and we totally won the prize for best costumes and booth.
Later on the same night, we had our guys over again.  Clayton picked up some pumpkins, which we carved after dinner.  Merlin first stole a couple pumpkin seeds, when he thought we weren't looking.  Then he started licking the pumpkins.  Then he brazenly stuck his head in the bowl of pumpkin guts and snacked, before we shooed him away.  

Speaking of Merlin, he discovered a new animal in our back yard.  Or at least, it was new to him.  Clayton went outside to take a call one night, and Merlin went out with him.  Then Merlin started barking.  Merlin hardly ever barks.  So I went out into the yard to see what he was on about.  He began pointing at the fence.  I didn't see anything.  Then I looked up.  On top of the fence was a possum, frozen in place, apparently hoping that if he didn't move, Merlin would go away.  Merlin ran around the yard for a while, always coming back to bark at me and point to the possum.  Eventually the possum relaxed a bit and sat back on his haunches, his head moving back and forth as he watched Merlin scamper around.  I grabbed my camera and got one decent picture of the possum before herding Merlin inside for the night.  The next morning Merlin went to where he'd seen the possum, but it was long gone.  Which is good, because I didn't mind seeing the possum at night, when he was just starting his day, but I would have been very worried to see him in full daylight.
Next it was Halloween.  It was just me passing out candy, since Clayton was on duty recovery and asleep in our bedroom all day.  I was super excited to see the Halloween costumes without sweatsuits underneath or winter coats over them.  We bought three bags of candy at Walmart, just so we would have enough, and plenty of range from Tootsie Rolls, to those peanut butter chewy things, to the chocolate bars.  I lit the candles in our pumpkins, which were already getting nasty (that's got to be a record for me; I've never seen pumpkins go bad so fast), but they'd keep for the night.  In short, I was ready for Halloween.  I was not ready for the number of trick-or-treaters I got.  How many times did my doorbell ring?  Once.  How many kids did I get?  Two.  A Little Red Riding Hood, and her little sister, a zombie.  I kept the light on until nine o'clock, when I finally put out the candles and secured the candy.  It was, to say the least, disappointing.  We still have candy.

The next day we met Eliot at his new favorite coffee house, Sweet, for open mic night.  And to give him our key.  Mostly to give him our key, since our ball was on November 2nd.  If our ball had been in Jacksonville, we would have just come home when we got bored.  However, it was in a hotel in Wilmington, which is about an hour away.  So, knowing that Merlin was going to be fed and entertained by Eliot for the night, we took off for Wilmington, where I got my hair done and we secured a hotel room.  We got dressed at the hotel upon checking in, and by then it was time to head over to the ball.

This ball was in a pretty nice place, and I was done up nicer than I've ever been before.  The photographer was less professional (was drinking all night, and was smashed by the time we left), but he took better pictures (and they came with matting).  The food was good, and the tables were set well.  They weren't spectacular, but they were nice.  Basically, everything the hotel was in charge of went down pretty well.  Everything the Marines were in charge of went terribly.  The venue wasn't nearly big enough for all of our people.  The junior Marines were in a separate dining room, upstairs from the main ballroom.  It had no DJ, no dancefloor, and they had to watch the ceremonies on a screen projecting CCTV from the ballroom.  There was very little sound, so no one up there minded that their food was served to them while the speeches were going on, which would normally be very out of line.  In fact, I doubt they had much reverence for any of the proceedings, considering that they were painfully aware of the fact that everyone seated upstairs was at a glorified kids table.  There were a few token staff NCOs, and they were painfully aware that they were babysitters for the kids table.  

Speaking of tables, the fuelers left most of their place cards at the shop, so one of Clayton's fellow sergeants was scrambling in the hotel office to print them up again.  We helped him run around both floors, putting place cards on the fuelers' tables, which was very tricky considering we had no less than three seating arrangements to go off of, and the second floor ended up being a free for all anyway (the other companies put their people wherever they wanted, regardless of any of the seating arrangements).  Because of this scrambling, I didn't get to take pictures of the cake or anything.  Which is too bad, because this was the most elaborate cake I've seen at a ball yet.  At least we got to go to the ball at all.  A number of the barracks Marines had their bus canceled on them.  Whether someone forgot to confirm it, no one signed up in the first place (foolishly assuming it would be there, whether they spoke up to say they needed it or not), or it was actively canceled, no one could say.  Some of them managed to get rides with other Marines and showed up barely on time or late.  

My biggest problem with this ball was mostly just the organization of the event itself.  It was spread out over two floors, with a treacherous winding staircase and one or two elevators.  Normally, this would be no problem for me, but I was in a floor length gown and heels, making the layout particularly absurd and, sometimes, dangerous.  The dancefloor and bar were on the main floor, while the photographer was on the second floor.  So there were legitimate reasons to be navigating both floors all night.  We decided not to partake of the alcohol at the ball, since the lines were long, and the drinks were cheap beverages at worse-than-airport prices.  An 8oz cup of ice with some Coke poured on top was $2.  At work, we have a Coke vending machine that serves 20 oz drinks for $1.  So just water for us that night.  When our picture was finally ready, we went back to our hotel and changed into civvies.  Then we walked into town, found a nice bar that served wine and craft beers, and we each had a nice beer.  Then we walked back to our room for the night.  

You're pretty well caught up now, but in order to be fully caught up, you'll have to check out my picture page, where I've attempted to illustrate these past adventures.
 
 
My plan was to update the blog last weekend, but that fell through for reasons that will shortly be explained.  Anyway, I'm going to start with the good stuff we've done since my last post.  

For Columbus Day weekend, Clayton and I both had a long weekend.  It also happened to coincide with our second anniversary.  For those of you who have known us all along, it's been ten years since we started dating.  We would have taken a little extra time off to head inland and enjoy the state fair and other exciting things in the rest of the day, but Clayton was supposed to be training in the field.  However, due to the previously mentioned funding snafoos, the field operation was canceled.  Instead of training in the field, he had to make a bunch of Power Points on what they would have been doing.  Since I'm an "Office Wizard" the Power Points were a team effort.

We had our usual crew over on Saturday evening, and I made Chicken Divan, one of Clayton's favorite recipes.  Sunday we did anniversary things.  Our anniversary was Tuesday, but I knew we wouldn't have time on Tuesday or Monday.  Clayton got us a hammock, because the internet told him about traditional anniversary gifts and the second anniversary is "cotton."  It is quite a nice hammock.  We set it up in the living room and watched Game of Thrones with the windows open.  Eventually we went out for dinner at a steak place that had been highly recommended to us, and had a very good time there.  Since the service was so fast and we got out earlier than planned, we decided to do a little shopping.  We walked around a new store, and then we went to get something for Merlin at Petsmart.  Why?  Because our little Merlin turned one year old on (we think) October 5th!  So we found good presents for our little Merlin.  He got a new toy and a backpack for quests. 

On Monday we went on a family quest on the walking trails that run sort of past our house.  Merlin wore his new backpack, and he felt very excited and important, carrying his treats and poop bags, and Clayton's phone and keys.  Twice Merlin stepped in front of me just in time to make me almost step on a snake.  I think it was the same snake each time, poor thing.  There are venomous snakes here, but this snake was a harmless tree snake, and a pretty green color.  When we got back from our quest, we spent the rest of the day picking up the house and preparing for work.

The work week was what it usually is.  On Friday I played a Halloween Jeopardy game with the While We Wait Club, a group for kids whose parents are deployed.  I was very impressed that the children knew about minotaurs and Darth Vader.  The week was looking pretty good.  Saturday morning started pleasantly enough.  I started cleaning the kitchen, and Clayton was folding laundry.  Then Clayton sneezed and dislocated his shoulder, again.  I'll spare you the details of the rest of that day, except to say that we spent the entire day and most of the evening at the Naval Hospital, where Clayton swore at, threatened, and apologized to a couple shifts of Corpsmen.  Sunday was spent grocery shopping and recovering from Saturday.  Hopefully this week will be better than last weekend.  In the meantime, here is a picture of a puppy with a backpack.
 
 
Literally hours after I published my last blog post, I was called back to work.  Communication was really lacking, so either we went back to work a day early, or we opened the library four hours late.  Oh well.  I'm so far at one end of the phone tree, if there's trouble coming from this, they'll run out long before they get to me.  Anyway, since coming back to work, we've been very busy in the mornings and really slow in the evenings.  I guess everyone who needs the library's computers are pounding the door down in the morning, and the ones who nip in ten minutes before closing assume we're still shut down.  Since we only have one person closing each day this week, slow evenings are fine with us.

On the other hand, I'm looking forward to a four day weekend.  This Friday, our building is getting some maintenance done that will probably deprive us of electricity for the day; we don't normally work Sundays anyhow; and Saturday and Monday are part of Columbus Day weekend.  Clayton was going to be spending his long weekend getting ready for a field op, but that appears to be on hold for some reason.  So MAYBE we'll actually get to do something nice for our anniversary this year.  Wish me luck!
 
 
Holy bonkers!  I have been incredibly busy!  I know I say that a lot, but Summer Reading is always an all caps CRAZY time at a library.  We're down one staff member, who has been taking care of her newborn, so I've been working a good solid 40 hours a week.  During that time, we have been up to all sorts of shenanigans.

During the weeks, we've been working on crazy maintenance things.  The library ceiling was leaking.  It was some combination of actual leaks from incessant rainfall, and condensation from our A/C unit.  So we had the joyful experience of covering everything in plastic.  Our problem was fixed as quickly as possible, but it was around a week for everything to be done and clean again.

On the weekends, we've had our reading program events.  As I said last time, the first event was a sort of carnival theme, but we moved it indoors because of the rain.  The second event was rescheduled for the same reason.  Our third event was also moved indoors, but I had spent several hours prepping a pretty sweet plan B.  We were supposed to have a bicycle parade.  Instead, we had the kids do the same craft, and we ran several rounds of my homemade travel BINGO game.  I flatter myself to say that the kids and parents loved it.  One mother even wanted to buy the game herself, and was surprised to hear we'd made it ourselves.  This past weekend, we had the rescheduled Medieval day.  We opened it up to the rest of the base, and we got a pretty respectable 55 people to attend, including the new base CO and his family.  I wore my green medieval dress, and we helped the kids make shields out of templates and some awesome medieval die cuts.

Meanwhile, at our place, it took me a month to get our air conditioner fixed.  Believe me, it was not for lack of trying.  After regular phone calls to the rental agency and the utility company, someone finally came out and fixed the entire problem.  Also, I fixed the lawn mower (all by myself!) and mowed the lawn a couple of times.  I'm also reorganizing the house and cleaning out boxes that are currently occupying our guest room.  Right now you might be somewhat impressed with me.  I humbly submit that you should consider being more impressed, because Clayton is not around right now.  He's working in 29 Palms right now.  Normally, I wouldn't advertise the fact that Merlin and I are home alone, but he'll be back soon.  I'd also like to apologize to anyone who has been trying to communicate with me over facebook or email lately.  On top of my other maintenance issues, my computer was disgustingly slow, and the internet wasn't working.  The internet problem was resolved fairly quickly, but my computer took ages to debug.  I had to uninstall individual programs, which was agonizingly slow.  But now, as you can see, I am back up and running!

Hopefully I'll be back a lot sooner, to tell you about all of our other goings on.
 
 
Wow.  This last week was crazy for us.  Home got to be a mess, since Clayton and I were both out so much.  The internet was on the fritz (which is why I haven't blogged in a while), and the air conditioner stopped working.

At my library, we just started our Summer Reading Program on June 10th, and the 22nd was our first event.  We spent a couple weeks preparing just for this one event.  We had carnival games, a craft, story times, and a story walk.  I'm just super grateful we were able to get a bunch of Marines to help us with setting up, as well as with entertaining the kids.  We would have had even more things going on, but it was raining all day, so we had to go with Plan B.  Next week is a time travel theme, and I'm super excited about it.  In theory, we'll have far fewer things to prepare for that event, but I'm sure we'll think of some project that needs doing this week.  We have a couple other services in the works right now.  I'll be sure to tell all about it if any of them come to fruition.

Last weekend, I found myself with a three day weekend.  The air conditioner and internet were still working, so I decided to shirk the laundry and dishes for a day and hang with Rachel.  We got groceries, and we checked out the mall in Jacksonville.  It's not a bad mall, but it's not a great one, either.  We managed to spend some hours there, though, and it surprised both.  After being out all day, we went back to her and Davy's place to watch one of my Netflix DVDs and make Mojitos (which were delicious).  

This week, I was spending my free mornings trying to get the internet working again. Sometimes the instructions I was told over the phone worked, but mostly they didn't. We scheduled a service guy to come look at our system, but when they called to confirm our appointment, everything was working.  So we canceled.  And even when our appointment would have happened, everything was still working.  Later that night, however, the internet stopped working again.  This time for good.  I concluded, based on my own experience, that the modem needed exchanging.  Yesterday, while I was supervising Marines and small children, Clayton took them modem to the cable store and got us a new one.  Now the internet is magically working again, so I'm going to assume that I was right about the modem, and the cable company just doesn't like to admit that they wear out so easily.  

Of course in the midst of this crazy week, Clayton did it again.  Yup.  He dislocated his shoulder.  Again.  He managed to do it playing football, and his Marines thought it was very lucky that it happened in front of a half dozen Corpsmen.  Surely they knew how to fix him up.  They sure did.  Would they?  No, they were about to head out to the field, and couldn't be tied up with paperwork.  So while one called an ambulance, the others examined Clayton and discussed how one could fix this particular dislocated shoulder.  Even I found this story amusing, since I know how the military works, and I completely get the paperwork thing.  Of course, I found out about this entire series of events only after Clayton had been to the hospital, put under, fixed up, and then dropped off by his Marines on our couch with some pain meds and a sling.  You can imagine how thrilled I was to learn where "notifying the wife" came in the list of things to do when he gets hurt.  Oh well. All is well now.  At least, he's only on light duty and not bed ridden or wailing in pain, so I guess that's good enough.  

Now, for something completely different.  Mothers Day was, of course, in May.  This year Clayton and I ordered something a bit unusual.  We got them each a Diamond Candle.  The concept is this: the company makes completely natural soy wax candles, and they put a ring inside that is worth anything from $10 to $5000.  There is no way of knowing which ring you'll get until you've burned the candle.  Even burning the candles is pleasant, because they have some really good scents.  Anyway, all of this is to say, our moms thought it was pretty neat, and if you're interested in getting one for yourself or a friend, I've got a coupon code that I can share with an unlimited number of people.  Just go to diamondcandles.com through my link, and you'll get $5 off each candle you buy.  I love unique gift ideas, almost as much as I love things that are on sale, so this sort of thing gets me pretty excited.  

So, now you know what we've been up to.  Wish us luck, because this next week promises to be only slightly better.  Eventually this summer, we'll get a chance to go out and enjoy the relatively mild weather.  Maybe.  ^_^
 
 
This past week, Clayton was on the range, qualifying for a new score with his rifle.  Since this range is in a secluded area with its own barracks, Clayton was gone the whole week.  This means that I got to spend a whole week alone with my Merlin.  The two of us had a very productive week.

Some days I got up and cleaned a room from top to bottom.  One day, I used our new label maker to label things in the house.  One night, Merlin got a bath, because everyone loves a nice, clean puppy.  I was glad Merlin wasn't smelly, but he didn't really like getting wet.  When we cleaned the living room, we found Merlin's tennis ball under the television.  Needless to say, he was very excited to find this toy.  

While Merlin and I were folding laundry and cleaning the house, Clayton was on the range, shooting all during a very rainy week.  Somehow, though, he came out with the best score he has ever gotten on the range.  I'm very proud of how well he did this time.  

My job is starting to get very busy indeed.  We're gearing up for the Department of Defense (DOD) Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) Summer Reading Program (SRP) 2013.  The theme this year is "Have Book, Will Travel."  The activities we have planned are super cute, and the prizes are pretty decent.  I'm sure the kids are going to have a great time.  Also, I'm starting to create some adult programs on my own.  Once the SRP is over, my coworkers and I are hoping we might be able to implement one or two.  The best case scenario would be to launch one or more new programs and have them be massive successes on this base.  The worst case scenario is that I'll have a binder full of new programs I can take with me to my next library, and that's still a good thing.
 
 
Unfortunately I do not have much more to report than I did last time I blogged.  We're still in our little routine each day.  The most interesting things that happen to us, happen while we're at work.  Clayton lost his glasses on the beach during PT one morning.  I rushed to (read: got lost for two hours on) Camp Lejeune to bring him an older pair.  And so it came to pass that Clayton spent weeks wearing what are called BCGs, or "birth control glasses."  The week after this incident, we both got our eyes examined.  Clayton doesn't need a new prescription, but he does need new frames.  I don't need new frames (I'm using an older pair that were bent at one point), but I do need a new prescription.  

At my job, we're taking things one week at a time.  Actually, lately it's more like one day at a time.  This is due to the fact that one of my coworkers is hugely pregnant and expected to be on maternity leave at any moment.  We're working around this happy time bomb, all while we're getting ready for our summer reading program.  The DOD's theme for kids this year is "Have Book, Will Travel."  We've got some really fun activities planned for the children.  This library seems to have really great programs, but I wish they were a little more diverse.  Everything they have is good, but it's all geared to little children, with nothing for teens or adults.  Maybe in the next year or so we can get something going for other age groups.

While we haven't gotten out much, one activity I have not been able to avoid is cooking.  I have been taking pictures of some of our new favorites, in hopes that I would get an opportunity to write them up properly.  Today a dairy-free corn chowder went up for your enjoyment.  Corn chowder is one of my absolute favorite soups, but the stuff that comes in a can tastes so salty to me, and Clayton has been trying to cut back on dairy lately.  I got the inspiration for this recipe from a book I found in my new library, which uses the creamy properties of other foods to avoid using dairy products as thickeners.  That recipe is much more from scratch than mine, but since I didn't have half the ingredients, I had to come up with my own version using the same principle.  

This weekend Clayton and I both got a long weekend.  One of the benefits of our new jobs is that more often than not, we'll actually get these long weekends off.  We had planned to go camping and hiking on this long weekend.  We didn't book a site soon enough, though, so that got put on hold.  That was fine with us, however, because we really did need this long weekend to relax.  As usual, our nerdy friend came over for Saturday night.  I'm glad our weekly evening of games and BBC television is becoming a regular thing.

That's all for now.  Sorry our lives have been so uneventful lately.  Maybe next week will be more interesting.  Certainly I'll have more recipes to share soon.
 
 
Just.  Wow.  Now that we're in our new place, and we've started our new jobs, we're settling into a routine.  Routine is by no means boring, however.  

Clayton gets up crazy early to go PT with his Marines, often leaving without even waking me up.  Then he's at work until sometime in the afternoon, and comes home to fold laundry and play with Merlin.  I know that's vague, but he can actually be home any time between noon and five.  In the morning, I do some dishes, tidy the house, and sometimes run a load of laundry.  If I've got a plan, I'll make dinner early enough to have some for lunch before heading to work, and take my leftovers to have during my break at work.  The other serving or two I leave for Clayton to have when he gets home, and possibly take to work the next day.  When I come home in the evening, we usually have just an hour or two to hang out and catch up with each other, before Clayton heads to bed.

On the weekend, I might have to work for a few hours.  Clayton usually has the whole weekend off.  We take our weekend time to clean the house a little more thoroughly, mow the lawn, play with Merlin, and have friends over.  It will probably also end up being grocery shopping time.  

The last couple weekends have been very exciting for us.  May 4th was FREE COMIC BOOK DAY, and I got my hair cut for the first time in ages.  Of course we had to go to our favorite local comic book store to get our usual titles, pick up some free issues, and try out some brand new titles.  This past Saturday, the 11th, we had a friend from Cherry Point over to have dinner, play one of his board games (complex, but very fun), and watch BBC America's Supernatural Saturday lineup.  By the way, if you get BBC America, and you're not watching Orphan Black, you are really missing out.  It's supernatural, but not in a Merlin magic type of way, or in a Doctor Who time/space travel way.  It's not far from reality, as the "supernatural" factor in Orphan Black is less supernatural and more about one huge, illegal scientific experiment.  The plot is intriguing, and the main actress is astonishingly gifted.  

Anyway, we have been so delightfully busy, my head is still spinning from last week, and now I'm about to launch myself into another.  I've decided if I'm going to keep up on my blogging and other hobbies, it's going to have to be done during these morning pre-work hours.  Now go check out the Pictures page and see the few pictures I've managed to snap of this whirlwind.
 
 
I just posted an album dedicated to our new house in Jacksonville, NC.  So far, the pictures are only of the exterior, but you get to see front and back pretty well, I think.  As I was taking pictures of Clayton mowing the lawn, Merlin decided to bark at the lawn mower.  This shocked us both, as we hadn't heard Merlin bark in over a month.  Anyway, as we get the rooms decorated, we'll post pictures of the inside of the house.  For now, have fun snooping around the outside of our new home!