With the last week of travel, Rob and I are about spent – as Rob would say, we are quite a bit “soupy.” Last Thursday, we hit five states in one day, not arriving back to our humble abode until 4:30am. Which is, of course, just enough time to get adequate sleep for a full day of work on Friday. Are you getting dripped on by overflowing sarcasm?
Despite the lack of sleep and on-and-off hatred/love towards the airlines, I would have done it again in a second. Last week, we got to see my younger sister appointed as an Officer of the United States Coast Guard. As she held up her right hand, taking the oath every Officer must promise and live by, I can only imagine the goosebumps she felt, especially realizing how many I had. After a long journey in a prestigious 4-year military academy, Jenn reached the top, graduating and receiving a commission to serve her duty as one of America’s bravest and strongest, her main goal being so that others may live.
I remember when Jenn was a very small child, long before her extraordinary days of jaw-dropping bended corner-kicks in soccer and impossible-to-hit-last-second-game-winning jump shots (of which she had many), she tried ballet. Now, for those of you who know Jenn, you may giggle, as she carries the surprise gene of clumsiness in our family, as do I. Some, most, or well, all of our family members would probably agree that gene is more phenotypically seen in me, but rears its ugly, bruised head occasionally in my sister, too (it must have been a mutation of sorts, because neither of my parents seem to fall up stairs, nor slide down mountains). So, rather than giggle, imagine a beautiful, tall, 5-year old emerging into the wonderful world of grace and dance. Again, if you know Jenn, I’m sure you can picture it.
Well, at her culminating performance, where the whole ballet school showed off their talent and polished year of practice, Jenn’s class lightly glided out onto an auditorium stage in front of a packed house. Those girls were so cute dressed up in their tights and tutus, and enough stage makeup to make a face cleanser company instantly rich. And there was Jenn. Graceful, cute as a button, with the biggest smile and reddest lips I’ve ever seen. I mean this smile was huge. Painfully large. Actually, it looked like she was grimacing her way through every leap and plié.
“Is Jenn OK?” I remember leaning over and asking my mom.
“I think so,” she whispered back. “They must have told the girls to ‘smile big.’”
Jenn did what she was told.
Over the years (though it didn’t take years to see) Jenn grew into the most beautiful woman with one of the most bright, lovely, and contagious smiles. She even has the little gap between her front teeth, passed on from my dad. It’s a great smile – yes, it’s a big smile, and it’s amazing.
She walked across the CGA stage last Wednesday, again in front of a packed house, first shaking the hand of Admiral Burhoe – a highly respected man of great character and leadership – showing her huge, beautiful smile, familiar to us since she was a child. Then, a few more steps forward, was a sturdy handshake and a strong congrats from Commandant Admiral Papp, another revered and honorable man as he is the leader of the Coast Guard. Next, was the one-and-only Janet Napolitano, Head of Homeland Security, who, adequately comments on Jenn’s smile. And then came the handshake of President Barack Obama, giving her a smile just as big as hers was to him (We found out later that she asked the President to tell the First Lady that she liked her style, and President Obama said he would and that Michelle would appreciate it… so if anyone from the White House Staff reads this, can you please let me know what she said? Thanks!).
We celebrated, enjoyed time with family, and now Rob and my sister share a special common bond which make us all so proud.
I kind of wish I had the opportunity to see Rob go through the same ceremony back in his time, but I was able to experience a similar sense of pride with him yesterday, as he was promoted to Lieutenant in a small, meaningful ceremony at the air station. Rob has accomplished so much and the love, joy, and pride I have for him was overflowing. His Irish eyes were smiling, and he looked so handsome in his uniform with new shiny Lieutenant shoulder boards. He truly is an Officer and a gentleman.
After the ceremony, we went back to our cozy home and shared a special dinner in his honor: Rosemary and Pepper Crusted Filet Mignon, Grilled Potato “Chips” with malt vinegar and mint, and Creamed Spinach. We washed it down with our favorite Brut, and cheersed to his honor.
Thinking about my sister and my husband, and all that they have accomplished, they both deserve – at least – a Filet Mignon and champagne, and many more to come!
*** I’m including my recipe for Creamed Spinach, because it’s not your usual steakhouse recipe. It has creaminess, yes, but also tang, herbs, brightness, and a little heat at the back of the throat. I also don’t let my spinach wilt to the point of almost non-existent green strands of what used to be spinach leaves – I let them retain some body by not cooking them as long as other creamed spinach dishes. It’s great for a special occasion, or even a side to summer’s coveted BBQ chicken. If you aren’t a creamed spinach fan, give this a try – you might be converted. And if you are a creamed spinach fan, then you’re in for a treat!
- 1 package baby spinach (about 6 oz), rinsed
- 3 oz goat cheese
- 1 tbsp mayonnaise
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1 tsp finely chopped thyme
- 3-4 dashes Tabasco sauce
- 1 tbsp olive oil
To make the creamy dressing, add the mayo, goat cheese, lemon juice, thyme, and Tabasco sauce in a bowl. Mix very well with a whisk, until the dressing gets very creamy, with no lumps (it will almost look like an aioli or a white hollandaise). Taste for seasoning (I noticed I needed more pepper than salt), and set aside.
Meanwhile, heat a large saute pan with the olive oil over medium heat. Add the spinach leaves, and continuously turn leaves until they are starting to wilt. When the spinach has reached a bright green color, and looks shiny and soft, season with s&p and turn off the heat. Add in the creamy dressing, and fold the dressing into the spinach leaves. The spinach will continue to wilt and cook, and the dressing will melt into the spinach from the heat of the pan.
Transfer to a warm plate and serve immediately.