Returning to West Point, on the cheap

Recently the opportunity came up for my husband to speak at his alma mater, West Point, to cadets about his experience being deployed to Afghanistan. The panel, a part of a class that all seniors aka Firsties take, featured 4 other Officers who worked together while deployed. What was really cool about this trip was that I got to tag along. While he was on travel orders, we were able to extend his over the weekend so we could stay and see friends and family. And the best part? We paid for one plane trip! Mine. (And food/hotels for our extension obviously.)

The hubs speaking to cadets! Photo by Jessica Hall (via smartphone sorry for the not so awesome quality)
The hubs speaking to cadets! Photo by Jessica Hall (via smartphone sorry for the not so awesome quality)

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A Simple Gin Cocktail

I am a fan of gin. I blame my friend Caitlin (you should read her blog Put One Foot In Front of the Other) for formally introducing me to the Gin & Tonic in college. I already loved tonic water since I was a child, weird I know but we drink it in my family with lime it’s refreshing and delicious, so it was only a matter of time before I discovered that this would be my drink. So a couple weeks ago during Cocktail Week on The Kitchn (one of my favorite food blogs) I found this great article on 3 ingredient cocktails. And I just had to try one. Normally James is the mixologist of the two but he was working late and I just needed a drink to cook dinner. Well, I didn’t need it in order to cook, but you know, sometimes you just need happy hour at home. Anyway, I was really excited to find that there were quite a few gin drinks and wanting to try something new I attempted one of them, and just look how pretty it is!

My beautiful cocktail to drink while I cook dinner.

A post shared by Jessica Hall (@jessicanicolehall) on

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Skagit Valley Tulip Festival

Tulips are a big deal in Washington. You’d think it’s Amsterdam. Actually, flowers in general are awesome out here, but the reigning queen of Spring is the tulip. I think part of this reason is that north of Seattle is a place called Skagit Valley and they grow tulips upon tulips upon tulips. And daffodils. And irises. And it’s gorgeous. We went up a little early in the festival (it runs all of April) and caught the end of daffodils and beginning of tulips. One thing that amazed me was the variety of tulips. Not only in color but petal shape too. And they had some awesome names like Ninja. Honestly that’s the only one I remember right now but awesome right?

Tulips in Skagit Valley. Photo by Jessica Hall.

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The Perfect Strawberry Sauce

I am a huge fan of strawberries. Well all berries, but especially strawberries. So when I saw them on sale (I think 2/$5) the other day at the grocery store I snagged up 2 pints. Why I thought that these early strawberries would last awhile I’m not sure. So when they started to go a bit soft, my husband suggested to make something out of them before they went really bad. My hunt started on what I had already pinned, then to my favorite blogs for more inspiration. That is when I found THE recipe on Our Best Bites.

The completed sauce
The completed sauce. Photo by Jessica Hall

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Baking Cakes in Jars

Note: This is repurposed from my old blog. New food/drink ideas coming soon! Gotta upload images from my camera and find time to cook!

When James was deployed I got a request to bake cake-in-a-jar, one of his soldiers had received a few so I thought I would give it a shot. I will say that I did buy big jars which resulted in me having to make the whole cake recipe in two parts (since I thought I would just half it to fill them, alas nope). So definitely take jar size into account when deciding how much to make of a recipe. Fortunately it was a simple recipe so it didn’t take too long to whip up another batch.

Overall it was simple, here’s how to get tasty cakes in a jar!

The final product

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Liebster Award Part Two

I got nominated for a Liebster Award again! This time by MC over at Pearls, Diamonds and Everything Else. I am totally honored by my fellow military spouse bloggers! Since I did this once, check out my picks from the fall, and here are my answers to MC’s questions:

  1. If you could live anywhere in the world what country and why would you pick? Italy. I studied abroad there and absolutely love everything about it! The language, food, culture, art. I can’t wait to go back and visit!
  2. What is one item you couldn’t survive without? Probably my cell phone…keeps me connected to everyone!
  3. Lipstick or mascara? Mascara, only because I wear it everyday and usually forget lipstick.
  4. Describe your perfect Saturday Cooking up a great breakfast, going on an adventure (just getting out of the house and going somewhere!), end with a great meal. And it’d all be done hanging out with my husband or my friends!
  5. What’s on your nightstand? My Kindle, coaster for my necessary nighttime water, sometimes a magazine, hair tie and reading light.
  6. How would you spend 1 000 000 dollars? Pay off my student loans first and foremost! Then any remaining debt. Save a good chunk. Travel somewhere new!
  7. Do you have a favorite book you have read so many times that you know it by heart? If yes, name it. Well my all time favorite book is The Wonderful World of Oz
  8. If you could spend a weekend with anybody…who would you pick? So many options!! Actually I’d love to spend time with my grandparents again, just to ask all the questions I never did and get to know the ones I never knew.
  9. Favorite quote “Life is not about finding yourself, life is about creating yourself.” -Anonymous
  10. What is your favorite meal to cook? I love me some brunch. And baked goods.
  11. How did you spend your last birthday? On my actual birthday I went to one of my best friend’s weddings in my hometown! That day my mom also made me an AMAZING cake. Back in WA we had a fondue party with all of our friends!

Check out MC’s blog for all sorts of fashion tips and inspiration boards, among other things. Anyone share anything in common with me from these questions? Would love to hear what in the comments!

Cannon Beach, Oregon

I’m repurposing this blog from my old site with some edits. Hope you enjoy!

Over the holidays we opted to stay close to Washington and avoid the airports, so we drove down to Cannon Beach, Oregon for a much needed vacation post-deployment. Yes going to the ocean in December sounds crazy, especially since you know it rains a lot up here in the Pacific Northwest, but we still had a blast!

Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach
Haystack Rock on a sunny day. Photo by Jessica Hall

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The First Army Family Goodbyes

My husband switched battalions last month and I am finding it a bit sad, even though we haven’t PCS’d, we just switched buildings basically. But I find it really sad in some ways. I grew very close to the other spouses of our first unit. James was on a trip to West Point when we should have been farewell’d from the unit, so we did it a month later, and I’ll be farewell’d at the next Coffee Group, after totally crashing last month (!). And while most of my friends are still around JBLM like we are, there are no more FRG meetings or events with them. Sure we will all still hang out but it’s hard to cut that cord. I can’t just hang around and crash their events (although I really want to). It’s just not my place. And to make it worse others are PCS’ing or leaving in the coming year, one has already left!

With ladies from our first unit (+ some other excellent friends) at my birthday party. Photo by Bethany Lackie.
With ladies from our first unit (+ some other excellent friends that I’ve met here in WA) at my birthday party. Photo by Bethany Lackie.

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New Changes Coming!

I have been doing some thinking lately and realized that there is a lot more that I want to do with this blog. So I made the decision to combine my favorite topics that I’ve been blogging about over on my other site with this one. I’ll be revamping that site but that’s a story for that site. Anyway, I am going to blog about some of the things I cook about, where we travel, and things I love. In an attempt to keep me focused and blogging regularly I am assigning themes to the days of the week. I’ll be a bit flexible so if it’s not exactly the theme just roll with it (please?).

So here are the themes:

Military Monday: This is where I will tackle military issues, life, etc. You know those things that are more military-esque.

Travel Tuesday: Places we’ve discovered around where we’ve been stationed. I’ll probably repurpose some of my favorites that I talked about on my other blog and places will include around West Point, NYC, Fort Huachuca, and Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Also travel tips for those traveling on a budget!

Wednesday: To be determined — I am taking ideas!

Tasty (or Thirsty) Thursday: My favorite dishes and drinks that we’re cooking up in our kitchen! Food will typically be quick to make for weeknights and drinks will be cocktails we are mixing up with our bar.

Fun or Friends Friday: I would love to spotlight some of my amazing friends here, but when I can’t I’d love to spotlight fun things I’ve found, projects I’m working on, just fun stuff in general!

I hope you stick around on this journey, I’m taking suggestions and guests posts as usual, so send them my way. Let me know what you think of the new topics, and if you have ideas for Wednesday!