Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Fresh Kitchen, Robert Irvine, and the Pentagon

Recently Robert Irvine's restaurant, Fresh Kitchen, opened at the Pentagon

Before arriving I did a bit of research and found this article.

To begin with, we've watched Robert Irvine cook on Food Network for years. We've watched him compete against Iron Chefs and compete to become an Iron Chef. We have watched his television show Restaurant Impossible. Through that we've already watched two specials he's done for the military.   Now he's at the Pentagon with a special goal in mind. He wants the military to get healthy food that is cooked to order. Irvine claims he has hired the best chefs to not only accomplish these goals, but to also make the food taste delicious.  Irvine's vision reflects his the experience he gleaned from the ten years he spent as a sailor and chef for the British navy. His goal is to move away from the traditional canned, frozen and salted meals. Irvine's plan even includes a means to accomplish all of this without increasing the budget. Additionally some of the earnings from the restaurant will go towards "veterans' advocacy groups across the country."

So off we went and...WOW!  I wanted so badly to take photos with my cell phone, but I didn't dare because it's rather frowned upon by the Pentagon I was too scared to ask! But wow! The place is stunning! It's mostly modern (a style which I'm not keen on) but even I enjoyed it, probably because it had warmth. Lots of military pictures with Robert adorned the walls. Everyone was cheerful. (I rarely ever experience that in a restaurant on the east coast.) The staff was cheerfully humming along. (I rarely experience that in a restaurant anywhere.) This place had energy. I am a rather low key kind of gal but this place was getting me excited!

We had a 20-30 minute wait for the dining room, so we popped over to the quick take out side. Upon entering there is one of those display cases full of huge pastries and cookies! Fun! There was Robert Irvine frozen pizza and quick grab and go items like salads and sandwiches. Apparently there is a soup bar but what grabbed my attention was the salad bar because I am a salad lover....but I am also highly picky about my salads. This salad bar was one of the best I've ever seen! There was a staff behind glass by a team of employees who fill your salad bowl with a range of fresh looking ingredients. They had the obligatory bowl full of romaine lettuce with stems (why???????) which everyone in Virginia offers. Yet they also had a bowlful of baby greens. My favorite! There were lots of yummy looking fresh options to choose from to add to the salad.

Latasha was our waitress. She was wonderful! We've watched enough Restaurant Impossible to know exactly what Robert is looking for so we were critiquing everyone and everything (in a friendly light-hearted excited and exuberant way). Everyone passed with flying colors! Latasha properly, politely and enthusiastically gave us the menu and clearly enunciated the specials of the day and anything else we needed to know. Perfect! (We even told her Robert would be proud! She's a keeper!) And I have to say, she is one of the best waitresses we've ever had.

Hmmm...time to peruse the menu. What to choose? It is a bit pricey, but honestly, everything in Virginia and particularly the DC area is expensive. I hoped we would get our money's worth. I'm from Texas and we moved here 7 years ago. Sadly eating has not always been tasty or pleasant. Nor has it been inexpensive. So aggravating. I don't think most cooks in Virginia know about salt and other seasonings. That really surprises me, coming from Texas. Historically cooks in England went nuts when spices were brought back to Europe from the Crusades. A whole new world of flavor opened to them. Today we have such easy access to salt and seasonings...yet they are rarely used in Virginia. Just because Robert Irvine is reputedly an excellent cook, didn't guarantee that local Virginia chefs would know how to execute flavor. Would they?

So....what to try? The menu was exactly what Robert pushes on his Restaurant Impossible shows. It was not a book. It was one page, laminated. Breakfast at the top half, lunch in the bottom half. They don't have a dinner service (because most everyone goes home in the afternoon and this is not open campus.)

I'm a picky eater, so with a tiny bit of hesitation, yet quite a bit of hope, I ordered the Sesame Shrimp Chop Chop salad. I am prediabetic so I like low carbs, especially salads. However there were not any carbs in this salad so I knew my blood sugar would crash if that is all I ate. Therefore I decided to also get a dessert. That's quite a jump but there weren't any bread options. Besides, this day was a treat, eating at the restaurant of a famed chef. That deserved dessert. I chose a lower carb dessert, one I've never had before...Citrus Vanilla Panna Cotta. That would nicely fulfill my carb allowance for lunch.

My son decided to have the Angus Burger and share the Mama's Mixing Bowl (dessert).

The tea was delicious. My son ordered an Arnold Palmer, which is half tea and half lemonade. He works at Chick-fil-A and serves lots of it. How I wish I could have taken a photo of his Arnold Palmer! It was so colorful and fun! It arrived with the bottom half of the drink being lemonade and the top half was tea! Clever!

Wow! Well, at least you can see my  Sesame Shrimp Chop Chop salad at the link. I think I got more than the photo shows. I don't like celery, but I ate it because it was soooooo thinly sliced! Need to remember that tip. The shrimp was fresh!!!!! (I've returned icky shrimp more than once at other restaurants because they want me to pay $13 for something that came out of a $3 frozen box...tiny shrimp shaped like squares. Eh. And overcooked.) This shrimp though was fresh, plump, and perfectly cooked. Everything was fresh. The dressing wasn't canned (a huge pet peave). It was fresh! It was delicious!

My son enjoyed his Angus Burger. Only thing is he asked for no pink but it came pink. He did say it was nice and juicy, however he said he'd have liked more toppings.

Then it was time for dessert. I've never had panna cotta before. It was good, light, and fresh. That's why I got it. I wanted a healthy meal, a few carbs but not too many, and light food. After all I had a long drive home in heavy traffic. It was not decadent, which for this occasion was a good thing. As much as I prefer decadent desserts, the panna cotta was right for me. It was topped with fresh berries...which were truely fresh! I would order this entire  meal agai

The dessert called Mama's Mixing Bowl was indeed decadent! A moist brownie, crispy on the edges, 3 scoops of homemade vanilla ice cream and crushed oreos were the main feature. There were brandied cherries on a spoon. Salted caramel came in a small pitcher, that my son poured all over the dessert.

The manager came around to check on us and we told him how much we enjoyed everything, how much we have watched Robert Irvine on tv, how much the place holds up to his ideals...and that Latasha was great!

Apparently Robert has a cookbook full of some of these healthy recipes (that is where my Sesame Shrimp Chop Chop link came from, check it for the recipe). The book is also full of exercise tips, which I know is another passion of Robert's.

I drove home that day along the George Washington Parkway, looking at a beautiful blue Potomac, under a beautiful blue sky, with the flame of autumn leaves beginning to burn against the setting of river and sky. And...I wasn't too full! For once I actually wanted a small meal for dinner that night, which I know is healthier than doing without as I usually do when we eat out for lunch. Yes, I would order that meal again! I've read that Robert wants to take this concept to other military establishments. It will be interesting to see what unfolds.  

Saturday, October 22, 2016

A New Theme for my Blog!

I have rewritten the intro/welcome page to my blog reflecting my new theme. It only took me 2 years to figure this out when I graduated my youngest in 2014. lol It's now a look back at the past, and towards the future. =)

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Convention of States, Keeping our Republic, and Remembering our History

COS pin

Last night my fearless leader (grassroots coordinator for Northern Virginia) had a Convention of States event in Alexandria. Would any of his team attend? I volunteered myself and my son, who had joined me to help at our COS booth at the Occoquan. Actually my son was having an enormously busy day but at the last minute opportunity reigned so we drove together to Alexandria to listen to my fearless leader speak to a group of citizens about the urgency of Convention of States.

My son was totally impressed with the presentation and wanted to hang out with our grassroots coordinator as long as he was willing to talk about Convention of States. I wasn't surprised. From the first time I met our coordinator, I knew I had to get my son to meet him!

So...did you know that Convention of States volunteers like my fearless leader, myself and many others are willing to come to your group to speak about the bi-partisain problem in Washington DC and the non-partisan solution that our Founding Fathers gave to us?

Did you know that Convention of States is:

Did you know that Convention of States wants to propose amendments to the Constitution to:

Did you know that eight other states have already called for a Convention of States?
  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Indiana
  • Louisiana
  • Oklahoma
  • Tennessee

Why are we petitioning for a Convention of States? Because of the bigger questions:

When our Founding Fathers separated from England, they knew America needed a federal government, but they didn't want the government to have too much power. Thus they gave them as little power as possible under the Articles of Confederation. That didn't work either. During the war Washington couldn't get funding or supplies for his troops.  After the war commerce between the states was so difficult that more problems were created than solved. etc, etc, etc. Something had to be done.

Therefore the states sent delegates to a Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia with the intent to form a new government. The Founding Fathers conceded they needed to give the federal government more power. However they were still very careful in regards to how much power they gave the federal government.

Our Founding Fathers were well-educated. They knew their history. They remembered that Ancient Greece fell because of democracy, which was one man one vote. Mob rule destroyed Greece. Ancient Rome didn't do any better with a republic, because there were no checks and balances. England tried to blend the two a bit, with a monarch. But even then the monarch had to be reined in: King John and the Magna Carta, Cromwell, the Glorious Revolution...

During that time Virginia was settled by Britain in the early 17th century. Our very first representative government in America began in Virginia, in Jamestowne, before the Pilgrims landed in Massachusetts. These men were burgesses who represented their neighbors. By the 18th century the Virginia government had moved to Williamsburg. You can see the capitol today in Colonial Williamsburg. On one side sat the Governor's Council, formed by men appointed by the king to represent him in Virginia. On the other side sat the burgesses, who were elected to their positions by their neighbors.

All was well. Virginia became the largest, wealthiest, most populous, and most British of all the colonies. Education was important. Even the grammar level, which is the most George Washington obtained due to his father's death, was far more than we see in many colleges today. Education in the 18th century was of the classical nature. At the grammar level students studied Latin, Greek, philosophies, sciences, etc. Many, like James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, continued their education through the rhetoric level and beyond, learning law and honing their rhetorical skills. Those with education often went on to represent their districts as a public service, not as a career.

Then after the French and Indian War the king imposed taxes on the colonies without allowing them any input. The colonies were in an uproar. Their heritage as Englishmen, with rights to representation, had been ignored. Despite years of boycotts and discussion with the king to have him recognize the representative governments in America, the king continually ignored the colonists.  Eventually war broke out.

While Thomas Jefferson was at a convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a historic document was being written at a different convention in Williamsburg, Virginia. A group of burgesses which included George Mason and James Madison, wrote the Virginia Declaration of Rights in May of 1776. Mason, in fact, led the committee.  The second paragraph of the document says:

That all Men are born equally free and independent, and have certain inherent natural Rights, of which they can not by any Compact, deprive or divest their Posterity; among which are the Enjoyment of Life and Liberty, with the Means of acquiring and possessing Property, and pursueing and obtaining Happiness and Safety. (Virginia Declaration of Rights)
A copy was sent to Thomas Jefferson, who a few weeks later drafted the Declaration of Independence.

 We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. (Declaration of Independence)
I am not suggesting that Thomas Jefferson plagiarized George Mason. However I am saying that our Founding Fathers were of like mind. They had all studied many important works of history and political theory that have been written during the course of history. They knew their history. The idea of  liberty for all was not a novel idea to any of them. They read about it in the writings of Locke, Voltaire and  Montisquieu. They heard the pleas for liberty from various peoples across the ages as written in books of history since the dawn of time. However, our Founding Fathers were the first to put the ideas on paper with ink, then risked their lives by signing documents like the Declaration of Independence.

They risked. their. lives.

None of our Founding Documents were trivial. Great weight was put upon each word that was enscribed onto parchment for all time. Our Founding Fathers knew exactly what they were discussing and writing for all people for all time when they wrote the Declaration of Independence (which declared our government legitimate), the Federalist Papers (which rationalized the Constitution), and the Constitution (which became Supreme Law of our country).  (The Legal Basis for a Moral Constitution by Jenna Ellis, Esq.) They were willing to give up their lives of leisure to allow us, the citizens of the future, to have our liberties. In short, they did not want tyranny. They did not want big government.

However, after the failure of the Articles of Confederation, our Founding Fathers conceded that the federal government needed a few more powers than had been granted them under the failed system. Yet, not too much power, only that small bit of power that the states couldn't do on their own. The failure of the Articles of Confederation drove home the federal powers which should be enumerated in the Constitution.  

Under the Constitution, the Framers gave these powers to the federal government:
  • military
  • interstate commerce
  • immigration
  • money
  • treaties
  • postal system
  • patents
The states have these powers:
  • education
  • social welfare (including care for the poor, healthcare, housing) 
  • all commerce and commercial products
  • food
  • farming
Obviously our federal government today has increasing control of the powers the Founding Fathers meant for the states. Our Founding Fathers knew this could happen someday. After writing Article V of the Constitution, which explains how Congress writes amendments that are ratified in the states, George Mason (remember him?) stood up. He reminded his fellow delegates of the likelihood that the people would need to have the ability to rein in big government. The other delegates agreed. They added a second way to propose amendments...through the states. Ratification is still done the same way as what we are used to through the states.

Those who oppose Convention of States due to fears of a runaway convention need not worry. Our Founding Fathers had a plan for that too. There are checks and balances properly in place. In fact, Convention of States is the check in balance the Founders put in place for We the People to check the federal government. Ratification through a Convention of States is the same as it is when the federal Congress proposes amendments which is through the states. (Be sure to read the link above for many more proofs!)

Part of the problem with today's government has been interpretation of the Constitution. There are many lawyers who are taught today that the Constitution is fluid. They believe the Social Contract Theory. That is not what the Founding Fathers believed. Just read the Declaration of  Independence that says that we are endowed with natural rights. The Founding Fathers were very specific. They never intended government to use the Constitution to take rights away from the people. (The Legal Basis for a Moral Constitution by Jenna Ellis, Esq.)

At the end of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, Benjamin Franklin walked out of the statehouse. A lady who was passing by asked him, "What kind of government did you give to us?" Franklin replied, "A republic, if you can keep it."

The question each of us need to ask ourselves is "Are we keeping the republic?" The Founding Fathers intended that we be ever vigilant. Are we vigilant? Some of us are. Some of us are only talking about it. Some of us need to take action.

Let's do so through the legal means under Article V of the Constitution that the Founding Fathers gave to us and fully expected us to use. Let's call a Convention of States to propose amendments to rein in big government and secure a future for our children and their children. The federal debt is at $17 trillion. Powers are continually taken away from the states. We the People have been largely ignored by the federal government.  Even if the most wonderful president in the world came to office and did completely wonderful things to set things straight, a future president would surely come  later to wipe all that out. Only Constitutional amendments will rein in big government, because the federal government will never put a rein on their own power.

Learn more and sign the petition at

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Oh the Agony of Choosing Paint for the Ceiling...and Why I've Been Absent

Our latest redecorating project was all about fixing problems, like finally painting over a previous homeowner's craft project. We had had a lot of trouble buying a house 7 years ago. Every time we put down an offer or tried to write an offer someone else snatched it up. During those tortuous weeks of waiting for an offer to be accepted (not!) we kept coming back to this house...the house that needed all the work. This house had sat on the  market for 6 months! One reason was because no one wanted to buy a house with flowers stamped on the ceiling. 


Now, what color does that ceiling look like? Sort of white, right? So.......if you were to paint this ceiling, which shade of white would you choose?


We chose a shade from Lowes (to save some money) that matched "White Shadow" in a sample size. That was a good idea because the color was a poor match! 


We thought it was white! Perplexed, I held the paint chips to the ceiling in the best lighting I could find. first guess was the whites on the far right, but those were obviously wrong. What could the correct color be? Back and forth to the store. After two or three samples that were clearly wrong, we tried a different approach. I went to the fb page for our community and did a search for a previous discussion on ceiling paint color and found the recommendation: Cool Platinum (the second color on the far left. They had to be kidding! Dubious, more paint was purchased, again in a sample size. And they were right! It was nearly a perfect match!


Here's a close-up of "Cool Platinum."


There were other reasons that we were painting our ceiling. Around the corner in the foyer there was a spot where we had disassembled and taken down an old smoke detector that had become useless. That left holes in the ceiling from the screws. Also there were scuff marks in the ceiling. How does someone get scuff marks on a ceiling?

Thus I had to pack up my sewing room (which is housed in the dining room). Drop cloths prepared to hang from the ceiling.


The chandelier had been protected. A primer coat was painted over the flowers.



A few years ago Hurricane Sandy leaked through that wall.








Then work began on the kitchen ceiling to cover up an old stain from a leak years before we moved in. It's all tight now, since we had a new roof put on last year. Also there are stains from leaks on the other side of the kitchen...and upstairs in the stairwell. So there is lots of ceiling to paint. Not fun.


Time to protect this new chandelier...


Drop cloth and tape in place...


Old stain from previous homeowner now primed...


Old leak from previous homeowner days now fixed and primed...


Repainting the entire ceiling requires pulling out the pot lights so they don't get painted too.



I got rid of some of this stuff. Moved some of it elsewhere. Packed up all the patriotic stuff, and brought out all the autumn stuff. Then I repurposed old autumn decor and put the rest aside for the Salvation Army. The pile for them is growing. 


So that is why I haven't been blogging. I've also reorganized all the files of important paperwork (I did that during the Olympics.) That has been worthwhile because now I can find important papers when we need it. Also all of this reorganizing has us thinking long term to put my sewing room in the basement. Stay tuned!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

From Grapevines to Sayings

 I found these cute sayings at Hobby Lobby, my favorite store. However they went here and there and are not suitable to going over the stove. However they were so positive I wanted to incorporate them elsewhere in the house, to build on the French Country them I am working on in the kitchen.


The heart I already had, but it fits. And I love it.



Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Organizing our Music...with many thanks to Hobby Lobby, Chip, and Joanna

When we lived in Texas, we had a great storage unit for all of our CDs that was built into the niche of our house. Of course we had to leave that behind, which left us with nowhere to store our music. I bought these turquoise boxes which has been a help. But we wanted to put our Christmas tree here. And those boxes were a pain to move around and stack and restack all the time.


Meanwhile I've been keeping an eye out for something more practical. Nevertheless, they were a great help for the last several years at a cheap price. But after 8 years they were starting to wear out.


One day while I was at Hobby Lobby, I saw the solution! The price was great. The price was even better with one of their 40% off coupons. Each drawer perfectly holds several CD's. (I checked at the store).

A few days after bringing it home, I opened the boxes and sorted through all the music, organizing them into various genres. One of these days I'll get some chalk to label the drawers, so that is on the to-do list.

After a bit more shopping I found a lamp at At Home. That store is fun because it reminds me of Garden Ridge Pottery from back home in Texas, which was a shopping mecca. The Garden Ridge Store covered acres! Turns out, the new name of Garden Ridge is...At Home! I love shopping there!

The mirror was purchased at Hobby Lobby back when we were in Texas. I brought it down from the bedroom where I thought it would look better in the entry way. It also helps the small entryway to feel larger.

The doily is from Italy and gifted to me from my sister-in-law. It is one of my favorite presents from her. (I'll have to showcase close-ups of this and the other doily from Italy in a later post). I bought a frame for this family photo that my son took.The roses I've had for years...purchased long ago from Hobby Lobby.


My daughter claimed the boxes for her various bits and bobs.