Thursday, August 27, 2015

Book Review | The Making of a Navy SEAL

I've been meaning to post this review for some time but real life, as always, is a priority over internet life and things are crazy in our neck of the woods these days. Alas, I actually got through a book in the midst of a lot of madness and rambunctious toddler, and I consider that a feat all its own. ;) 

Note: I was provided an advance copy of this book for review and was not provided any sort of compensation. All opinions are my own!

With movies in recent years focusing on the the actions of various U.S. Special Forces teams, it's no surprise that the book market is filled with many memoirs about time spent in the career field. Even when a former military member isn't writing their own story, there is no shortage of reading material available on the subject. However, one doesn't often see these types of books written for the Young Adult (YA) crowd. Brandon Webb's book, The Making of a Navy SEAL, finally remedies that. 

The book is Webb's memoir on his journey to becoming a SEAL, getting through some of the most challenging courses our military has to offer, and then eventually revamping training curriculum and instructing individuals such as Chris Kyle (American Sniper) and Marcus Luttrell (The Lone Survivor) at sniper school.

I enjoyed his recollections about being a bit of a tenacious (sometimes to a fault) kid. He ended up getting kicked out of his family's home (well, off their family boat) at 16 and made it on his own from there. He set a goal to become a SEAL, worked hard, and proved that no matter where you come from you can make your dreams a reality if you believe in yourself.

The chapters on his SEAL training were engaging. I appreciated how he was real and rather than claim he blew everyone out of the water, he admits that he was "the guy" everyday dragging down his classmates and doing extra sets/reps of everything. The key takeaway from all of his intense training was that he wasn't willing to give up. His dream meant more to him than anything instructors could put him through and he had the mental resolve to push through the hardest moments. 

It was interesting, too, to read about his combat experiences. There were two standout moments for me--the USS Cole and the crying baby (no more details, you'll have to read it yourself!). It highlighted that war is a real, terrible thing and that even when you are trained to be a "killing machine," there is still a very human component to everything you do. I think it's important, especially for young adults, to realize that in the age of so much violence in media and video games, it's never a fun thing or a game to have to kill another human being especially when not doing so means the death of those you care about or even yourself. 

I thought the lessons he highlighted and shared were particularly good for a younger audience. They were motivating, realistic and not too "preachy." Importantly, he shared how he made mistakes along the way, from his youth and even as a SEAL. He was real and I think it's something young people can respect and appreciate. Two of my favorite quotes were:
- "Adversity is actually an opportunity to learn and grow as a person."
- "When life is hard, remember that tough times will eventually end. And, remember, too, that the best things in life take hard work and determination to complete."

The only thing I didn't really enjoy was the last section of the book wherein he shared the story of a boss with whom he did not get along. I think the fact that he showed he wasn't afraid to hold a superior accountable for failures was admirable. I also think that it was commendable that he did his homework, so to speak, and made sure he had as many facts as possible to back up his argument to his commanding officer. However, what turned me off was it felt too much like a personal vendetta against one individual. While I understand his feelings from an adult perspective, particularly working in military environments in the past, naming the individual and railing about him personally for more pages than nearly any other section got old fast and felt a little catty. I feel like he could have achieved the same end without calling the guy out in the book and taking a bit more of the "high road" approach. 

Overall, though, I thought the book was a super easy read and brings somewhat of an elevated topic to an accessible level for the YA audience. It's inspiring and motivating to be given the hope that anything is possible if you want it hard enough. Life may not always follow your planned trajectory, but if you keep your eyes on the prize and endure life's curve balls, you can absolutely become the best version of yourself. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Tasty Tuesday

Subbing Meal Plan Monday this week for Tasty Tuesday, haha.

It's been a bit quiet around here the past few weeks but life has been CRAZY! With Hubs celebrating a big graduation, spending a week in Florida with family, then doing another big move only three months since our last one--this time alone with the baby, plus other life happenings, we've mostly been trying to catch our breath. 

Thankfully, things are starting to normalize a bit and we're working on getting back into a good family routine. For me, that mostly means getting back to meal planning and home cooking! It was nice to have a few weeks off but I'm totally over eating out or relying on convenience foods for a while. 

This is what our menu looks like this week. I'm really looking forward to trying the veggie pie since we've eaten a lot of meat lately and I feel like I need a body detox with all the travel and life chaos! 
Sunday: Sloppy Joes on whole wheat buns and Greek yogurt coleslaw. I use organic ground beef or turkey for these, whatever I have in the freezer. Sometimes I also use less meat and add in either lentils or black beans. I like that this recipe includes hidden veggies, especially because Bug is in a veggie-boycott stage! The coleslaw recipe is a lighter take on the traditional recipe and uses greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise. It's much more of a tangy, vinegary dressing, but Hubs and I really like it and it saves a ton of calories (which means room for ice cream ;).) 

Monday: Baked zucchini pie, cornbread, and fresh melon. This is my first time trying this pie recipe and it's basically a quiche that's light on eggs and heavy on the veggies. I'm excited to see if Bug will eat it because she's been anti-veggie in general recently but won't even tolerate green things on her high chair tray at all. If she eats this then I consider it a huge win!

Tuesday: Sweet and spicy meatballs, crusty French bread, and green beans. A former coworker introduced this recipe to me. It's so easy but really delicious! Combine a jar of grape jelly and a bottle of chili sauce (sweet chili or regular, your choice) in a pot and heat over medium until they blend together. Add in cooked meatballs, homemade or packaged, and then just cook until meatballs are heated through, stirring occasionally. (In the crockpot just dump it all in, give it a good stir, and let it sit on high for about 2 hours or until meatballs are heated through.) These are delicious over rice, egg noodles, or on their own as an appetizer. They're great for potlucks!

Wednesday: Orange salmon over whole wheat couscous with summer veggies. We haven't had fresh fish in a while and I'm not a big fan of the packaged pre-seasoned fillets or too much of the fried stuff. This recipe looks light and refreshing and has a nice dose of omega-3s! Hopefully Bug likes it, fish is very much hit or miss with her these days.

Thursday: Farfalle pasta with feta, pine nuts, tomatoes and Brussels sprouts. This is another new-to-us recipe but it looks so good. I like to prepare 1-2 vegetarian options a week and this is option 2. A light, flavorful pasta dish for summer. Yum! Bonus points for not having to heat up our A/C-less house to cook a healthy dinner.

Friday: Asian inspired chicken over jasmine rice with broccoli. Easy stir-fried organic chicken topped with one of our favorite Trader Joe's sauces! We missed Trader Joe's during our time overseas and are enjoying living close to one for the time being. We add sesame seeds at the end and serve with jasmine rice and plenty of green veggies. So good!

Saturday: Out or leftovers depending on the day's plans. :)

What's on your menu this week? What are your favorite meals that involve as little heat as possible during summertime?

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Under construction

Things are a bit under construction here lately. I'm fresh off a 10-day trip, packing up all our belongings for the second time in three months, and today Bug and I are hopping a plane to our new (temporary) home! I'll be back soon with updates!

Monday, July 13, 2015

meal plan monday

I've got another round of Meal Plan Monday today. What have you been eating lately? Any summer favorites?

- Honey mustard salmon, fresh corn on the cob, steamed broccoli. I'm not a big fan of seafood but eat it for the nutrients. I love that this recipe really masks any "fishy" flavor of the salmon and it's super easy! We paired it with oven cooked fresh corn on the cob from our CSA box.

- Orange ricotta chocolate chip pancakes with sausage and fruit. These pancakes sound indulgent and they are, but they are also SO delicious. They came about because I had a big container of ricotta to work through and we'd not had "breakfast for dinner" in a while. This is one of the best pancake recipes I've ever made or eaten!

- Angel hair pasta (gluten free) with tomato pesto, mixed romaine with tomatoes and cucumbers. This pasta recipe was super simple, and I wasn't sure it'd taste great with pine nuts just tossed in the sauce (versus a normal pesto). But this turned out to be a huge hit and the entire family went crazy for it. We'll definitely be making this again! (Recipe from Six O'Clock Scramble--let me know if you're interested in 15% off a membership!)

- Grilled flank steak and grilled broccoli. This was my first personal foray into grilling and it was a success! The steak was marinated in Mexican style flavors--lime juice, cumin, chili powder, oregano--and came out perfect. Grilling the broccoli gave it a really unique flavor and I'll definitely be tossing more veggies on the grill in the future!

- Golden chicken with snow peas over jasmine brown rice. Delicious Asian-inspired meal! Nice way to spice up chicken breasts and get in freshness with snow peas and bell peppers. (Another Six O'Clock Scramble recipe!)

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

baby | 12 months!

This first year of "real" motherhood (as Big Girl would say) has been so many things: hard, humbling, amazing, special, fun, stressful, emotional, nerve wracking, sanity-testing, etc. In the end though, I am just SO glad that I had the ability to stay home with our tiny girl and watch her grow. I have been with her nearly every second of her life so far and while it's been exhausting most times, it's also been incredible to see her go from a TINY, frail preemie to a still tiny but spunky one-year-old. She is truly the light of our lives, our sweet little Bug.
12 month stats--

Weight: 13lb 9oz
Length: 27.25 inches
Nicknames: Bug, Buggie, Bugaboo, Peanut Girl, Angel Girl, Bubby, Sweet Girl
Sleep: Pretty much back on track and "normal" thankfully! Normally she sleeps from 8p-3 or 4a (or later!). Her naps have improved as well, with morning naps often stretching from 90min-two hours+. I have at least gotten her used to falling asleep in her pack and play at night again--still never got the naps down in there.
Eating: She still nurses 7-8 times a day, but eats a TON more food now every time she sits down. For the most part, she eats what I eat at every meal and has yet to really meet a food she doesn't like. My family has been so impressed/puzzled by the amount of food such a TINY girl can pack away. ;)
Clothing: She can still fit in 3mo onesies though 3-6mo items are a better fit. There are quite a few 6mo items that finally fit her, too, even with a disposable diaper (and not a fluffy cloth diapered bottom).
Mood: Happy for the most part! Once she cut her teeth she has been much happier. She talks all the time to everyone, waves at strangers, loves chasing the dog/family members around, and is finally a much more pleasant baby to be around. She still has her big personality, but she is much less crazy overall (thankfully!).
- Dancing to "Shake it Off" by Taylor Swift and "Photograph" by Ed Sheeran with Grandma every morning
- Chasing the dog around the house
- Pulling up and trying to cruise on anything within reach that has any sort of stability
- Being left alone at all, still
- Any attempt to make her crawl
- Many fewer things these days ;)
What I want to remember/Milestones: 
- She has really been picking up on language since we got back to the States. She knows an impressive amount of words, a number of baby signs, and can follow simple directions.
- She has also blossomed SO much socially! I'm sure it has a lot to do with having a lot more people around all the time, but it's been so fun to see. 
- She cut two more teeth, her first top ones, and she looks like a little vampire with tiny fangs. It's so cute!
- Her actual birthday was so cute! She loved eating her cake and loved the wrapping paper and boxes for her presents (naturally). I cannot believe she is a year old AT ALL and I still have no idea what happened for most of the past 365 days. 
What I'm looking forward to: 
- Getting to see her personality continue to develop as she comes into her own as a toddler.
- Seeing all the fun milestones that are coming in the near future (like walking!).
- Her reuniting with her Daddy, her first trip to Florida, and her second cross-country plane ride (my first solo).
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