Sunday, August 30, 2015

Growing Pains

I started The Young Retiree in 2010. I was a young newlywed who quit my job to move across the country with my brand new husband. I thought "the young retiree" was a cute and quirky way to say that I was a housewife, retired from the working world, to build my home and family life. The years have gone on, and I'm not as young as I used to be. I guess I knew the day would come when the title of this blog would no longer be relevant or fit my life.

I've been going through some blogging growing pains lately, and the time for me to move on from this space has arrived. I'm leaving blogger and The Young Retiree behind me as I move on over to "Cheers, Elizabeth" over on Wordpress!

Starting a blog is an interesting and complex process. I brainstormed all day recently on what I wanted my new space and social media identity to be.  I wanted something I could grow with as I continue sharing our journey. I wanted something authentic and fitting for who I am. I wanted something that obviously was not already in use. Nothing sat well with me, and believe me: there were tons of ideas!

I changed my instagram handle first. I never thought something so simple would require so much thought! I could go simple @itsmeelizabeth but not only was it taken, lack of punctuation, even in social media handles really irks me! I searched several variations of the like and couldn't find anything available I was wanting. For now, I've settled with @your.pal.elizabeth. Well, because we're a community and we're building friendships, right? So, I'm your pal!

I'm making my blogging move to Cheers, Elizabeth slowly, but surely! I can't wait to find a reasonably priced designer to work with and really make that space my home on the internet! Even though it's ugly and plain for now, that's where I'll be writing!

I'd love to have you continue to read the stories I'm sharing and join the conversation over there! There will for sure be growing pains as I figure wordpress out, but I'm looking forward to mastering it the way I have blogging here! You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter!

Cheers, friends! Thanks for making The Young Retiree more than I ever dreamed it would be!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The 2015-16 Okinawa International Women's Club Welcome Tea

Let me begin by saying: I have been a horrible "blogger" lately when it comes to picture taking at events I'm at! I didn't think to take a single picture at the welcome tea kicking off the 2015-16 Okinawa International Women's Club (OIWC) year! I suppose that just means I was having too good of a time being present to stop and take pictures! Luckily, the club historian took pictures and one of my friends took a group shot so I have some visuals to share with you all!
Photo Credit: OIWC Historian, posted on OIWC Facebook Page
The welcome tea was held at the Rocker NCO Club on Kadena- that's where most of the foreign hosted events took place last year. ("We" are considered the foreign side with the club, since we are foreigners here.) The welcome tea is a chance to officially sign up for the year and pay your annual dues, connect with club members and socialize, and meet the board members on both the local and foreign sides. For new members it serves as an opportunity to check it out and see if it's something you're interested in really joining. You get to learn a little about the philanthropic side of the organization and see what all the club members do throughout the year!

It's a less formal event than the rest of the year. There's just a light spread put out with finger foods and you help yourself, buffet style.
The spread, as photographed by the club historian!
For those members who are returning, the welcome tea also serves as a chance to reconnect with the friends you've made in the club and to catch up with them after a summer off! I met new friends who I look forward to getting to know more in the upcoming year as well as got to chat with "old" friends from last year and various other organizations on the island!
Thank goodness my friends are better at getting pictures than I am!
This year I was placed in a smaller culture group with a few friends I made through book club and NIOSC, and I am really looking forward to the events we will have with our local counterparts! I will try and be more mindful about capturing those memories with pictures and sharing them with you here!

Our first monthly big club event of the year is next week, where most of the club members
dress up in yukatas! I am so excited for this luncheon! While I don't dress up in a yukata, it's always so fun seeing all of the beautiful dressings!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

My Stepmother's Nacho Bake

When I was little I was sent to spend the summer with my father and stepmother. I hated almost every minute of being with them. My father never loved me like I thought he should; like I felt he loved my brother. In retaliation of this feeling I was ornery, hateful, and spiteful- more so than you would think any child of five or so could be! In order to get in our good graces, my stepmom would make the same rotation of meals she knew we liked, a nacho bake casserole being one of them.

As I got older and we moved down closer to my father, my visits became fewer and farther in between. It became to where I knew my stepmother was going to make that casserole anytime I agreed to stay at their house long enough to share a meal with them. I loved that dish, while at the same time hating it for the memory of a broken childhood and family it brought along with it.

Can you believe a recipe can carry so much weight with it?! That nacho bake sure did, and sure enough I haven't eaten it since the day I took Gene to meet them, and she pulled it out of the oven, enticing us to stay for a meal.

Tonight, I made the nacho bake for dinner.
I had been craving it lately, and while I don't remember exactly how she made it, I thought mine came out pretty good. I put down a layer of tortilla chips to pretty much cover the bottom of a 9"x13" casserole dish and then toppings. It is that easy. I used Tostito's Restaurant Style chips, which have quite the curve to them! I do remember that my stepmother made hers with multiple layers, like a nacho lasagna. Mine was only one layer due to the curve of most of the chips! Here is the basic recipe:

  • Cover bottom of casserole dish with tortilla chips. 
  • Spoon on taco seasoned ground beef, I used one pound (or really, meat of your choice! Chicken would be YUMMY with this dish!)
  • TOPPINGS! This is where the dish becomes your own! Whatever you like on nachos, have at it! 
    • I personally dice up two tomatoes and sprinkle them evenly over the meat. You could use more or less depending on how your family likes tomatoes.
    • You could use olives, jalapenos, onion, beans! Make the dish your own! 
  • Sprinkle on some shredded Mexican cheese!
  • Bake in a 350* preheated oven for about 30 minutes!
  • Top with shredded lettuce, avocado, sour cream, or any other raw nacho toppings you like! 

Gene loved it, so I think this might be a new treat meal or movie night meal in our house instead of grabbing for something from the freezer aisle! I'm thinking of using shredded chicken from the crock pot next time- cooked either with a salsa or some kind of pinteresty way of making shredded chicken for nachos! I'll be sure to share about it on my Facebook page and my instagram, so be sure you're following there to keep up!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Paper Crane Luncheon With My OIWC Culture Group

The 2015-16 Okinawa International Women's Club (OIWC) year is kicking off today with the annual welcome tea! Last year I joined the OIWC and only made it to a few of their monthly events. This year, I am really looking forward to being more involved and getting to enjoy the club on a more regular basis! In short: the OIWC is a philanthropic organization bring together local nationals and foreign women living on Okinawa socially on a monthly basis. It's not only a way to raise funds for local charities, but also a way to bridge the gap between the various cultures found on island!

The club consists of over 300 members, so we break down into smaller culture groups to get a more personal experience. My group for the 2014-15 year was the Fukuro Group! Regrettably, with the various health issues I was dealing with, I only made it to two of our get togethers! The most recent was a lunch at a gorgeous hotel: Moon Ocean, where we were taught by the head of the local side how to make paper cranes!
Let me begin by stating the obvious: I have stubby little fingers that are not very conducive to paper crafting! Satoko-San was our teacher, and she has the perfect fingers for this craft. I was sitting next to her, and she just kept looking at my poor mangled paper telling me to get sharper folds, and get my fingers in there... that just wasn't happening! I told her I didn't have the fingers for making paper cranes, but she was nice and told me I was doing a good job anyway!

We made a small and a larger design crane. The larger one was about the same difficulty level as the smaller one, believe it or not! The way the folds are done, and attention to detail needed- crafting these paper birds is no easy task! I was rather impressed with my ability as a first time paper crafter and will cherish my little birds:
Of course, we ate after mastering the craft! Moon Ocean Hotel has a lovely restaurant to dine at just inside on the main floor! There were several options to chose from: chicken, fish, pork and even plates that combined fish with another meat! Dining in Okinawa is an art in and of itself! We were first served a little cup of soup- it was my first time trying clam chowder and while I would never go out of my way to order it, it was pretty good. Then we were served a small salad before our entrees were served. I went with a fried pork dish and man: it was delicious, "oishi!"  There were three little cutlets of thin pork fried and served with a fruity tomato kind of sauce and sides of some kind of carrot slaw with some kind of seafood mixed in (I'm not even a seafood fan, but it was pretty good) and a few potatoes and veggies.
This little get together was the last one our group had before the new club year kicks off! The schedule for big club events looks like it's going to be quite a year ahead! I will be getting into a new culture group with some girls I know through book club and the North Island Officers' Spouses' Club. I'm so stinking excited for the possibilities ahead during our second year here! I'll be sure to share all about the events ahead with you all!  

It occurs to me that I've only managed to share about one OIWC event so far! You can read all about last year's first luncheon in Naha here

Friday, August 14, 2015

Being A Giving Tree

"All I wanted to be, was your giving tree: 
settle down, build a home, and make you happy."
-The Giving Tree
This duty station and the year we've been in Okinawa have been a little harder than either Gene or I thought. When I met him, he was serving aboard an aircraft carrier with a rigorous schedule coming out of the shipyards. We thought that was going to be the only command he was going to serve at with an in and out schedule and deployments. Once we got through the first 20 months of our marriage, ship life would be over and we would settle into a life of shore duty. Even when he moved to the hospital, he didn't settle into being home- he was called to go IA to Afghanistan.

Nothing seemed to be working out like we envisioned it when we talked about our future life together and our marriage. The only thing that really did work out as we envisioned was that I was getting to build a home for him to come back to- something both of us wanted. When we moved to Okinawa, we weren't all too sure how his work life and schedule was going to be. Nothing could have prepared us for how the past year, on the opposite side of the world from our family, was going to be. It has been busy, and hectic, and he has been gone more than he has been home- coming in and going right back out, flight delays, and getting stuck in foreign countries waiting flights to bring him home. Once again I have been left to settle in, build our home, and provide a happy and relaxing environment for the time he is home.

Lately, I've been listening to "The Giving Tree" (written by Tim Lopez and Jason Koenig) on a loop. Ever since I heard Tim and The Plain White T's perform this song live, it has stuck with me! This week it has weighed on my heart even heavier. While the song is a sad one about the decline of a relationship, I listen to it with tear filled eyes and want to work harder and fight every day to make our marriage thrive in this lifestyle. We are coming up on six years of marriage this fall and yet Gene has been absent, away for work, for about half of it.

When Gene returned from his deployment to Afghanistan we attended our first marriage enrichment retreat and he purchased this necklace with a tree charm for me. A family is a tree with roots, and branches, and we were growing our tree, our life together! It holds so much meaning for me, and I have grown to love it more over the years as the meaning has evolved and our marriage has grown.
I've pulled this necklace out of my jewelry box on more than one lonely night and dreamed of how it will be when we're old and gray, and get to look back at the life we've built together. I am forever thankful for our life and the adventure we get to have. In the harder times it can seem like we'll never get to enjoy what we're both working so hard to achieve: me building the home we share and Gene working to provide for us all we ever wanted. I know one day though, we will get to sit on our front porch rocking in the afternoon sun, sipping sweet tea and watching the world spin on as we reminisce all the amazing things we've been through to get us there.

Until then, I will continue to be his giving tree, and he will continue to be mine, and we will count the months as they pass and somehow be shocked that we are no longer newlyweds! One day, we will look back on this last year and the two we have left on this island, and we will remember fondly the adventures we shared and hopefully, the sadness, loneliness, and anxiousness to return home will fade!

On that note friends: I think I'm back from what turned into a longer blogging hiatus than I intended.
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