Aunties M & Em

Thoughts on Faith, Family, Food, & Fun!


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The Wild Blue Yonder

Today is Veterans’ Day, a fantastic opportunity to thank the veterans in our lives, and to remember those who are no longer with us.  I would like to take this time to thank the servicemen in my family: my Papa, Uncle Jim, Uncle Jerry, Darren, Eric, Brian, Jordan, Christopher, and Jonathan.  (If I have left anyone out, it was not intentional.)  With this in mind, I wanted to share one of the things Steven and I did this year.

On September 16, we attended the Scott Air Force Base (SAFB) air show.  SAFB is located near Shiloh, Illinois, and holds the air show pretty much every year.  Including my college years, I’ve lived in this area for 16 years, and this was the first year I attended the show.  What on earth was I waiting for?!  It was amazing!

We had decided to attend the air show several days before we went.  The first thing I like to do when planning an outing is some research.  Having lived in this area for more than a decade, I already knew and understood the value to the surrounding community, but I wanted to get some more information on the show and the base itself.  The base was originally named Scott Field when it was opened in 1917, as one of the first aviation stations built to support the US effort in World War I.  From the start, Scott has enjoyed the support of the local community, who “hosted dances and receptions, established a library branch on the field, and invited soldiers into their homes for Thanksgiving dinners” (source: Scott Factsheets).   Scott Field, in turn, hosted its first air show, called Field Meet and Flight Exhibition, on August 17, 1918 and invited the public.  If you haven’t done the math yet, SAFB is celebrating its 95th anniversary this year!  Currently, Scott has roughly 7,900 active duty, National Guard, and Reserve personnel assigned.  It also employees over 5,000 Federal civilian employees.  The base also creates local jobs indirectly – more than 6,500 jobs!  I didn’t grow up in a military family, so I have always been intrigued by living so close to a military base, and what that means to the community.

The Air Show itself was very interesting.  Once we walked from parking to the show (it felt like a million miles, but I think it was just 2 or so), they had different planes parked on the airstrip, and you could tour some of them!  We walked through only one, a cargo plane, and the most surprising thing I saw was a pine tree-shaped air freshener!  I don’t know why, but it just cracked me up.  You could also get up close to lots of different planes, such as fighter jets and antique planes.  They even had Air Force One!  No tours through it, though…  Oh well!

The pinnacles of the show were the in-air demonstrations.   The announcer described everything, from the type of plane to the pilot to the maneuvers.  We saw a parachute squad, a B2 stealth bomber, and more.  The headlining group, though, were The Thunderbirds.  One word – Amazing.  Now, I’ve watched Top Gun dozens of times, and am always amazed at the maneuvers the pilots pull off in the film.  But to see, hear and feel it in person…wow.  There’s nothing like it.  In fact, my emotions caught up with me.  The announcer would talk about how the pilots might use a particular maneuver in combat, and the truth of it all hit me.  On that day, I was able to see the pilots complete maneuvers that they had been trained to use in defense of our country.  In defense of me and you.  All of a sudden, the tears came at the thought of their sacrifices…and not just the potential for the ultimate sacrifice, but sacrificing time with their loved ones while I was spending time with mine.

Attending the air show was an amazing adventure, one that I will surely repeat in the future.  If you live anywhere near SAFB (and we saw a bus from Kentucky), you should attend the air show at least once.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Note: For some reason, I can’t figure out how to upload my pictures from Flikr…so here’s a link to the set: SAFB Air Show 2012.

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Until Rio 2016!

Fireworks at the Closing Ceremonies for the London 2012 Olympics

The Olympics Closing Ceremonies were Sunday night, and while I’m sad to see them end for this year, I am looking forward to Rio!  This year’s Games were fantastic and memorable, not to mention groundbreaking.

Perhaps the biggest story of this year’s Games was all about the women athletes.  For the first time ever, each of the 204 countries in attendance had at least one female athlete.  59 of the 104 USA medals were won by women, and 29 of those were gold.  Making its debut was Women’s Boxing, with the first gold medal going to 17 year old Claressa Shields, who hails from Flint, MI.  (You go, girl!)

I watched Oscar Pistorius, the first double-amputee to compete in the Olympics, run in the semifinal for the 400m.  While he didn’t qualify for the final, I was in awe when Kirani James of Grenada, who did win the heat, asked to switch name bibs with Pistorius after the race was over (James would go on to win the gold medal in the 400m).  My heart went out to the German diver who did a “reverse bellyflop”, resulting in straight zeros for his score.  I also watched Gabby Douglas experience the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.

Kirani James was one of 7 athletes who won the first medals for their country…ever!  Michael Phelps won his last medals, totalling 22 for his Olympic career, more than any other athlete in history.  I shed tears with Misty May-Treanor and Keri Walsh-Jennings when they won their third consecutive gold medal in beach volleyball.

This was an awesome year for the athletes…and the Opening/Closing ceremonies were pretty awesome, too!  I loved how the ceremonies were a lesson in the history of British literature and pop/rock music.  “So tell me what you want/what you really really want”…the Spice Girls reunited was what I wanted…and the Ceremonies delivered!  I am excited for the Rio de Janiero games in four years, and can’t wait to see what progression the games make in the meantime!

Spice Girls perform at the Closing Ceremonies to the London 2012 Olympics


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Let the Games Begin!

Tonight marks the opening of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.  I look forward to both the Summer and Winter Olympics, and this year is no exception.  It’s not just that they only occur every four years…it’s the anticipation of the athletes giving their all (and then some), the camaraderie of being an Olympian, and experiencing sports and athletic competitions on a global level.

Now, I’m a big sports fan, though primarily baseball (Go Cardinals!) and football (Go Packers!)…but there’s something special about the Olympic Games.  Maybe it’s because of the events that rarely get televised, like field hockey or curling.  Maybe it’s knowing that the athletes are competing at the highest level possible.  I think it’s more than all that.  The athletes competing in the Olympics are doing something the rest of us can only dream about.  They get to represent their nation in front of the rest of the world.

Do I root for the USA?  Of course!  But I also cheer when I see the best athlete overcome odds to win the gold medal.  Or when two teammates competing in the same event still sincerely support each other.  Or when an athlete is injured, and still insists on completing the event, at least as much as possible.  It’s these moments that are the heart of the Olympics, when it matters the most.

This weekend, I will be sitting down with my family to watch the Opening Ceremonies, and as many events as time allows (you have to sleep sometime…or, so they say).  There will be ups and downs, wins and defeats…but most of all, memories will be made.  The memories I make will be of time spent with my family, cheering not just for the USA, but for all competitors.  The athletes, coaches, and support staff will make memories of their own, no matter the medal count or hiccups along the way.  It is my most sincere hope and earnest prayer that the we can all share the following memory: “Another Summer Olympics in the history books…I’m so glad they were safe for all in attendance.”

Want to follow the Olympics this year?  Here are the sites I’ll be checking out to keep up with all of the action:
NBC Olympics – NBC’s home for Olympic coverage.
Olympic.org – the Official website of the Olympic Movement.
NBC Sports Live Extra – for live, streaming video.  This requires a cable/satellite/telco subscription, which includes MSNBC and CNBC.
The Olympic Games – Official Facebook Page

BBQ on the Fourth

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When it comes to the Fourth of July, warmin’ up the grill is the first thing that comes to my mind!  It doesn’t matter if it’s beef, chicken, pork, or hot dogs (whatever they are).  Shoot, throw some veggies and/or fruit on for a complete outdoor meal.  Dad has even perfected tator tots and french fries on the gas grill.  Why use the oven if you don’t have to?

Because the St. Louis metro area had temps over 100° for several days in a row!  Now, my hubby, Steven, will fire up the grill in practically any weather, hot or cold…but this heat has taken its toll, and our regularly scheduled grilling activities paid the price.  Oh, well, that’s why you always have a backup plan, right?

Our backup plan for the chicken chillin’ in the fridge was to bake it in the oven.  I receive the Recipe a Day emails from Food Network (which I love), and one of the recipes earlier this week was for Carolina-Style Barbecue Chicken.  Amazingly, I had most of the ingredients in my pantry and chicken defrosting in the fridge…it was meant to be!  This is a mustard-based sauce that has plenty of zing, and just the right amount of sweetness to balance the sharpness of vinegar.

The recipe is pretty simple, too, which is great when you’re tired of being hot (because at that point, we were only on day 7 of what was a 10 day stretch of 100º+ days).  I don’t have any apple cider vinegar on hand, so I substituted red wine vinegar.  I imagine you could substitute with any vinegar you had on hand, too…I wonder how it would turn out with balsamic?  Hmmm…

Chicken in Progress

Left: Sauce, mixed and ready to go. Middle: Marinating chicken. Right: It’s in the oven!

Since I wasn’t sure what the “heat grill to medium” equivalent for the oven was, I referred to another recipe for chicken thighs to figure out what temperature I should use to bake the chicken.  A recipe that reminded me how much I love baked chicken thighs…  Anyhoo, once I figured that out, I got started on the sauce.  It was really interesting to taste how the flavors changed just by adding some brown sugar or hot sauce.  Ten years ago, I would have shied away from this, merely because of the hot sauce.  I’m so glad my tastes have changed!  The hot sauce adds a really pleasant zing that would be missed if left out.

While my chicken was marinating, I prepped my baking sheet with foil and a cooling rack sprayed with non-stick spray.  In the past, I’ve baked thighs directly on a sprayed pan, but have been disappointed with the way the thighs sit in the cooking juices…not real crispy, and nearly defeats the purpose of baking one’s chicken.  By getting the thighs up on the rack, the finished result was quite good!  Now, I’m going to pull a “Man Behind the Curtain” on you…pay no attention to my not-so-clean oven (Wizard of Oz film fans should get the reference)…though, I guess it could be worse!  Baking time should have been 10-12 minutes per side…if I had gotten the temp on the oven correct!  I accidentally preheated my oven 25 degrees lower than my reference recipe, and it took me nearly twice as long to get the thighs done all the way through.  Once I figured out and corrected my error, it didn’t take long for them to get done!

Baked Carolina-style Barbecue Chicken

The chicken thighs turned out really well!  Steven said they were fantastic, and that I should definitely make them again.  We both agreed that the sauce was really flavorful, and the chicken was nice and tender.   In the future, I will probably use boneless, skinless chicken breasts, and marinate them longer.  I think the good flavor of the sauce would permeate the meat more, and keep it really juicy and flavorful.  Baked was good…and I can’t wait to try it on the grill!

Carolina-Style Barbecue Chicken (from Food Network Magazine)

Ingredients:

1/2 cup yellow mustard
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons mustard powder
2 teaspoons hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
8 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs (2 to 2 1/4 pounds)
Vegetable oil, for brushing
1 large tomato, sliced
Prepared macaroni salad, for serving (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Whisk the yellow mustard, vinegar, brown sugar, mustard powder, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste in a bowl. Whisk in the butter.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper, then toss with about one-third of the mustard sauce in a large bowl until coated. Let sit at room temperature for 10 minutes.

Line rimmed baking sheet with foil.  Spray a cooling rack with non-stick cooking spray and set on baking sheet. Put about 1/4 cup of the remaining mustard sauce in a small bowl for basting and reserve the rest for topping. Bake the chicken, basting occasionally with the sauce, until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 170 degrees F, 10 to 12 minutes per side.  I basted the chicken every time I tested it for doneness, but I would probably do it every 5 minutes or so next time.

Serve the chicken with the reserved mustard sauce, sliced tomato and macaroni salad, if desired.


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Coming Soon!

Hi, I’m Auntie Em!  My mom, Auntie M, and I are just getting started, so bear with us as we get this show on the road!  Ever heard the phrase, “Charging out like a herd of turtles?”  Well, that’s us!  We’ve been working on getting started with our blog for a long time…it takes lots of planning and thinking to get this far…amiright?  When we first started thinking about what we had to share with the world, we narrowed all of the important things in our lives to four main categories: Faith, Family, Food, and Fun.

We are really excited to share our thoughts, recipes, and experiences with you.  Thanks for stopping by and please visit again!