Tag Archives: graduation

The Original Gino’s East Deep Dish Pizza in Chicago

8 Aug


When my sailor graduated from Navy Boot Camp last week on August 2, there was one thing he really really really wanted to try – Chicago’s famous deep dish pizzas. But not any! He wanted the original.

Now, the Chicago style deep dish pizza was invented at Pizzeria Uno in Chicago in 1943. A couple of years later, Gino’s East was opened in Chicago by a couple of cab drivers. They stole some cooks from Pizzeria Uno and went to war with the original deep dish location, fighting for the title of “best deep dish in Chicago”.

The controversy arises over who is the “original” deep dish and the “best” because no one knows WHO exactly invented the deep dish… we only know that it was someone in the kitchen of Pizzeria Uno. And when kitchen staff began to scatter and go their separate ways – like to Gino’s, claims began to vary as who held the “original recipe”, and different pizza joints employing original staff from Uno’s all try to point out their REAL claims of authenticity.

But historically, no ones knows who invented the deep dish. We only know I originated from Pizzeria Unos. So why did we try the deep dish at Gino’s East and not at Pizzera Uno’s? Well, while Pizzeria Uno has a stronger claim to the title of “Inventor of the Deep Dish”, Gino’s is almost universally acclaimed as the better tasting deep dish pizza of the two. In fact, it’s consistently rated one of the best tasting “original” deep dish pizzas in Chicago since it’s opening about seven decades ago.

Jonathan wanted an original, but he also wanted the best. So off to Gino’s East we went!




The legendary restaurant is right off of Superior Street and Michigan Avenue and the joint is moody, eclectic and low lit cave of a place, with thousands of scribbles all over the walls from past guests. Autographed pictures of famous patrons from celebrities to politicians to musicians who have tried the famous pizza litter the walls. It’s a great atmosphere for a dinner in Chicago!

Now, a deep dish pizza differs from a normal pizza in that it has a buttery, flaky golden crust upwards of three inches tall, rising slightly higher than the ingredients, and is coated in a second “crust” of cheese, then topped with toppings swimming in sauce. The crust acts as a kind of bowl – the first time I tried deep dish pizza in Chicago I called it “pizza soup” and to date I’ve found it the most fitting description. You simply cannot eat a deep dish slice with your hands (without looking like a barbarian that is), it’s a dish that really needs a fork and knife.


Seriously, you could plop some cooked pasta noodles in your deep dish, and the toppings would work as a perfect sauce – they are that consistency. While I enjoy a Chicago deep dish, I wouldn’t classify it as something better than a regular pizza. It’s too different to be lumped into that category, really. And while it is good, it’s nothing I’d go out of my way for back home. It’s just a cultural flavor that I’d indulge in while in the Chicago area. Jonathan felt about the same. It was delicious and definitely something we’d do again, but not a must-make dish for our kitchen back home. But all in all, it was a yummy excursion! And a fun graduation day dinner!

I’ve said it a million times, and I’ll say it again – I’m so very proud of my United States sailor!!!



Wordless Wednesday – August 7, 2013

7 Aug


Jonathan’s Graduation from Navy Boot Camp

5 Aug

My husband is now a United States Navy Sailor. I am proud beyond words. No, really, beyond words. I have started and stopped typing at this blank screen for a good 15 minutes now, and I just can’t find a way to express the pride and the joy and the excitement I feel. Or just how amazing Friday, August 2, 2013 was. So. I’ll just let the pictures share what my words cannot. Because really guys, I don’t even know what to say.

Things to Bring to Navy Graduation (PIR) Checklist

30 Jul


I’m leaving tomorrow morning for Chicago to see my handsome husband graduate Navy Boot Camp as a United States Sailor. I’m going insane with last minute packing and with my preggo brain, I’m terrified that I’ll forget something vital to pack… hence this super long and largely common sense list that I’ve compiled. As I have personally never attended a Navy PIR, this is all info I’ve gleaned from seasoned Navy wives and mothers, and things that I’ve found that I personally would like to bring or include.

Since I’ve thoroughly raped this checklist in my Word documents, I thought I might as well share it with the blogosphere. I hope someone out there finds it helpful, haha!



Plane tickets, hotel reservations and car rental information – Have all of your important travel reservations and documents handy, along with phone numbers and street addresses of hotel, car pick up / drop off locations, the Meet and Greet and the Great Lakes military base.

Phone, laptop and chargers – These are essentials for me when it comes to travel. I usually don’t forget the actual phone or laptop, it’s the chargers that I have a tendency to forget.

Camera, lenses, batteries, charger, memory card and uploading cord – One of my worst nightmares is the thought of forgetting my camera right before an important event, or just as awful, any one of the elements of my camera that are required for photography. I literally have nightmares before major happenings – my honeymoon, a vacation, a graduation – so I’ve gotten really anal about checking and double checking this part of the list. And just last week a gal on the 900 division Facebook group reported having to take photos on her iPhone because she forgot her camera’s SD cards! It happens. So make sure you have your camera, your lenses (standard and telephoto), your batteries, your cameras charger and an uploading cord for getting your photos safely stored onto your laptop ASAP.

Your toiletries and medications – I could go on an even greater checklist with this little category (and my unabridged checklist on my iPhone notebook does just that), but for brevities sake – toiletries and medications. You know what you need / want.

Make up with waterproof mascara – Emphasis on the waterproof mascara. Don’t forget to pack make-up remover wipes as well. (Or better yet, don’t wear any makeup on PIR day, to avoid smudging the Navy whites.)

Outfit for the Meet and Greet – From what I can tell, the attire is casual. I plan on wearing a nice-ish top and leggings, with comfortable pumps.

Centerpiece and place cards for the Meet and Greet – Division families are encouraged to show support for their divisions by creating centerpieces for the tables at Sarge’s Meet and Greet. It’s obviously not a requirement, but our division group is so tight knit and ambitious, we went all out and plan to take the Meet and Greet by storm. In a fit of Martha Stewart-esque craftiness I decided I’d make personalized origami boat place cards for all the people in our group and ensure that we can all sit together.

Gifts for fellow division families at the Meet and Greet – If you were lucky enough to find an amazing support group of fellow Navy families from your sailors division through Facebook that you plan to meet up with, show your appreciation for their company and support with a small gift, candy, cards, whatever (if you’d like, it’s certainly not mandatory)! In the first few weeks of discovering my new online friends, I decided to make up a batch of patriotic lapel pins as gifts. The group has since grown to a number that exceeds the lapel pins I made, so my generosity and act of friendship is only extending to the 938 Facebook old-timers. (Classy, I know, lol.)

Parking passes, base pass and IDs – Make sure you have all of this printed out and set aside prior to leaving for Great Lakes. These guys don’t mess around. If you don’t have the appropriate documents, you won’t be getting in to see the graduation.

Outfit for the PIR – The going consensus is that the attire is business casual, though there is currently no enforced dress code, so jeans and a tee are welcomed. But really? Jeans and a tee for a NAVY GRADUATION? Come on. I’m planning on wearing a nice navy blue knee length day dress. I was agonizing trying to find the perfect dress to show off my baby bump to my husband, and had planned on wearing a 1950’s style circle skirt with an empire waist, but finally decided to opt for something simple, comfortable and classy.

Comfortable walking shoes – Make sure you plan to wear comfortable walking shoes – if your sailor wants to go out on the town, you may be spending the day in whatever you are wearing.

Support ribbons or attire – Don’t forget to pack any ribbons or other support trinkets if you are planning on sporting them to the PIR.

Jacket or wrap – I have been hearing rumors that the PIR room is pretty cold. A lot of gals online are advising bringing something warm to cover up with, like a light jacket or a wrap.

Tissues – If you’re not crying like a baby, you’re a robot. Or a monster. Or a robotic monster. Anyway, make sure you bring something to sob into when you see your sailor on the PIR floor. And when you hear liberty call. And, you know, for the whole weekend.

Graduation gifts for your sailor – I got my husband the Performance Division’s Ship 2 Challenge Coin, and a leather Burberry bomber jacket that I found pre-used for an AMAZING deal. I am going to wrap them and bring them in my checked luggage, but as I have had wrapped gifts unwrapped by TSA before, I’m bringing extra paper just in case I need to re-wrap.

Sailors cell phone and charger, and other electronics. – Your sailor will be able to take these things with them to A School, but they have to be handed off at the airport after their day of leave. I’m going to make sure I have Jonathan’s phone charged and activated during his free time after graduation though, as I’m sure he’d enjoy checking his phone, logging onto Facebook or Google searching random things throughout the day.

Sailors rings and personal jewelry – I’ve been wearing Jonathan’s wedding ring and his Aragorn ring on a necklace since he left for Boot Camp. I can’t wait to see them back on his fingers, and I’m sure his hands have felt naked without them.

Change of clothes for your sailor – If you plan on spending any time in your hotel room, give your sailor the option of changing our of their sailor uniform and into some comfortable and familiar clothes. I’m planning on bring my husband some pajamas, an actual outfit (jeans a tee shirt), and one of his favorite loose hoodies so he has a choice of what to wear / change into.

Your sailors favorite cologne, deodorant or shampoo – While Jonathan isn’t big on cologne, he does love him his Axe brand shampoos and deodorants. People talk about how much their sons / husbands loved returning to their familiar and personalized scents and grooming products. I don’t know how much the gesture will be one that Jonathan delights in, but I’d rather have that option open to him if it would make him feel that much more “at home”.

Lingerie and massage oil – This is for the wifey’s (obviously). I don’t know when / if we’ll have time to ditch the in-laws and indulge in some, uh, quiet time – but in the off chance that we do, I am planning on bringing my classy honeymoon lingerie as a sweet surprise (Don’t look at me like I’m some kinky temptress, it cover more than the average swimsuit. I wore this for my 30 week maternity photos), and some massage oil, and I’m hoping to give my honey a long, relaxing, peaceful massage. Hey, he’s earned it!

Lint roller and tide pen – The sailors must wear their white uniforms in public at all times during PIR weekend, so if you are planning on going out and about, make their life easier and have a lint roller and tide pen to keep them neat and clean.

Dental floss, mint gum, chapstick – Keep some handy “just in case” essentials in your purse. This is not the weekend to be irritated and made uncomfortable by a pesky / stubborn piece of food stuck in your (or your sailors) teeth. Or chapped lips. Or a rank breath from the extra garlic on your deep dish Chicago pizza. Take extra steps to make the weekend a cheerful, joyous, stress free one for all!

Change / cash for toll booths – If you plan on driving in to the Chicago area at all, make sure you have loose change and cash on hand for parking, toll booths and various expenses.

Directions to places you may want to see in Chicago – In my experience, a GPS can get really spotty once you get into the downtown areas. So it’s a good idea to know where you are going, what the address is, and a the directions for getting there instead of embarking on a point by point Google maps excursion.

Letters for your sailor – I have been writing to my husband every single day since he departed for Navy Boot Camp two months ago. Even though I’ve had to stop sending letters with his PIR date approaching, I have not stopped writing them. I plan to bring the unsent letters for him to read on his plane trip to A School.

Book for your sailor to read on the plane – I have not gotten a clear response on whether sailors will have room for an extra book on their flight to A School, but I figure it wouldn’t hurt to bring my bookworm baby a novel just in case. If he can’t take it, I’ll just have to bring it to him when I follow him to A School later.

Centerpieces and Place Cards for Sarge’s Meet and Greet

26 Jul


So when Jonathan first shipped off for Navy Boot Camp and I first started networking with fellow Navy families on Facebook, I quickly learned about Sarge’s Meet and Greet – a casual gathering that takes place the night before Navy graduation (or PIR, Pass In Review).

Right off the bat I was planning on going, more as an outlet for nervous energy than from any real desire to meet up with a bunch of strangers I’d met off the Internet. That continued to be my mindset until over the weeks, those “strangers” slowly became my kooky, comforting, commiserating and crazy Navy family.

The Facebook group for my husband’s division, Ship 2 Division 938, is made up of an extremely fun and friendly bunch. And they have without question helped maintain my sanity over the past two months. Without them, I would have consumed far more tubs of Starbucks Mocha Chip ice cream whilst sobbing and hugging my cats in my pajamas and watching Gene Kelly tap dance routines in Anchors Aweigh on an infinite loop. (This was the plan, really, till Facebook happened.) I’m convinced that we have in 938 a unique group that is unlike the other divisions groups. This isn’t just blind patriotic team spirit (though maybe just a dash), but a valid observation from my expert trolling reconnaissance missions. If “boring, depressing and overly serious” had a tangible meter, they’d be maxing it out.

So now, I am eager for Sarge’s Meet and Greet, and anxious to meet my boot camp “family” and put faces to the names that I’ve come to eagerly anticipate in my Facebook feed. While all of the divisions were encouraged to make / bring centerpieces to show some division pride, our group went above and beyond in a concerted effort to make the Meet and Greet memorable and to celebrate our new United States Navy Sailors. Below is my centerpiece contribution. It’s all purchased goodies from Hobby Lobby, but I had fun piecing it together.




As there are so many of us that want to sit together, I’ve decided that in addition to the centerpieces, I’m going to grab individual seats for our 938 family using place cards. It’s the first time place cards have been used at the casual Meet and Greet (maybe we’re gonna raise the bar and start something for future divisons? Hehe!) but Sarge says we’re welcome to come early and carve out our own little space. When I was getting ready to print out some old fashioned folded card style place cards, I thought, “Why not have some fun with it?” Below are my first few mock ups of the origami boat place cards I’ll be making for all 49 of our 938ers. I got the idea after finding this blog post on Nifty Thrifty Things Blog. How cute will those look floating around the various tables?! I’m fairly certain Sarge’s Meet and Greet will be overrun my 938. It’s gonna be a fun night! Hooya NAVY!







Jonathan Performing in the Navy Drum Line PIR 7/19/13

19 Jul


OMG OMG OMG! I spent most of my morning hysterically giggle-crying over my computer, like some prepubescent teen watching a Bieber concert.

My husband, whom I haven’t seen in 7 weeks, performed live playing the bass drum at the Navy Boot Camp graduation with the Navy Drum Line Performance Division in Great Lakes, Illinois and I got to watch the live streaming video (and grab some screen shots). I hardly recognized him at first! He looks so different! The Navy balded my husband!

And those dorky chic glasses? LOL! I am so madly and desperately in love with this man. I am feeling so blessed to have been able to watch him perform. I am walking on air. AND! I get to see him play again next Friday! And in two weeks? He’ll be the one graduating and I’ll be making a spectacle of myself sobbing into his arms. We’re almost there!!!




15 Things To Keep You Sane While Your Husband is Away in Boot Camp

28 Jun


Well, I am quickly approaching the one month mark of my husband being away for Navy Boot Camp in Great Lakes, Illinois. Since he’s left, in the past four weeks I have received one four minute phone call, and zero written letters. It’s been a complete blackout.

It appears other divisions with his graduation date are receiving regular letters and calls – and have been from week one! It’s a little hard to not be bitter when I hear, “Got a third phone call today!” Or, “Seven more letters came in the mail today!” I’m not sure what the hold up is with Jonathan’s division – though I’m sure being a performance and push division has something to do with it – but at the moment I’m not feeling like the average wife with a husband in Boot Camp. It’s like the universe is conspiring against me and my sanity. Not hearing from my sailor recruit like other families are hearing from theirs, I KNOW I am having a harder time with the distance and the silence. As a result I’ve found that these following tips have done wonders to keep me healthy, happy and distracted this past month – and will continue to help keep my sanity intact for the remaining five weeks of separation.

Like I said, I’m new to all this. So the following tips are less personal sage advice and more a result of good recommendations from military family and friends, personal observations, plus some plain ol’ common sense.


This is the main key here, the North Star if you will, the primary foundation upon which all the other points rest. It’s just a simple fact that sitting around feeling sorry for yourself will not help the time go faster, in fact it will actually make the time go slower. If you’re busy, there will be some days where you’ll be surprised at how fast the time flies! Get yourself a calendar and start writing down things that you can do to keep yourself busy each day, along with a checklist of things you’d like to do to keep busy in the future. The only thing is: Don’t overbook yourself in the name of keeping busy! That’s what I did the first week Jonathan left. My back to back social whirlwind the first week was a little overwhelming and not only did I exhaust and stress myself, but I actually made myself sick. So keep busy, but don’t overdo it.


This will not only make the separation easier on both of you, but it’s actually quite therapeutic! Tell him all about your day. The good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. Send song lyrics. Send pictures. Nothing is too trivial. Having been text-aholics prior to Jonathan leaving, we were in the habit of sharing little thoughts and jokes and funny tidbits to one another throughout the day. So I’ve found that it’s easier to open a notepad in my phone and keep a running note of things I’d like to share with Jonathan throughout my day. That way, when I sit down to write the actual letter, I have everything from the important, “The dog ate our couch” to the trivial, “Your cat threw up on the comforter again. You owe me Starbucks.”


DO NOT NEGLECT YOUR FRIENDS WHEN YOU ARE ALONE AND HUBBY IS AWAY. Get out and invest in your friends. No one is or should be an island. You will need a shoulder to cry on from time to time, trust me! Besides, time flies when you are having fun with friends, and you need – now more than ever – the social interaction and emotional support of those who care for you. I, personally, could use another crafting date soon, nothing speeds up time faster than watching your friends scald themselves with hot glue. Oh oh oh! Or High School Musical marathon! Yes! Another High School Musical Marathon!


Go bowling. Start a walking routine. Learn to write in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. Whatever you do, do something you’ve never done before. Nothing requires more focus, attention, or energy than trying to master a new skill. Not only will you be widening your range of interests, but it will help the time fly! (And give you plenty of new things to talk about with your sweetie when he gets home!)


Everyone has one and you’re lying if you say you don’t. You know what I’m talking about. It’s “the board” on Pinterest, the one covered in the do it yourself tutorials for random household goods and crafts that you don’t need but desperately want to try your hand at. Well, now’s the time. Go ahead and bake those Oscar the Grouch cookies. Make that melted crayon canvas art. If it looks like a train wreck, you can always blame it on your husband being gone. “Being sad makes my art look like poop!”


There is something encouraging about giving yourself pile of books that you desperately long to read, and realizing, “There’s no way I could read all of those before he graduates.” I am a bookworm, and my “must read” list is sinfully huge, so it’s simultaneously encouraging and depressing looking at how many notches I can put in my book list before seeing my honey again. Any nerd can tell you, gauging time by book pages is a rewarding experience. Read whatever helps you pass time time. Read fantasy and non-fiction. Read self-help and informational books. Read manga and history books. Devour it all. ALL DA BOOKS!!!


Now is the time to rewatch your favorite TV / movie / game series. Or better yet, introduce a friend to your favorite series! Know anyone that needs to be hooked (then subsequently emotionally crushed) with some Firefly? (Don’t tell them it was prematurely cancelled and then revel in the sweet tears of their gut-wrenching sorrow.) You could also organize a mini party to watch your favorite movie series… I made my friends watch the High School Musical movies with me. (Not sure how that one devolved into a drinking party.) Or, just make a living room fort and settle in to watch the new series you have been meaning to watch. (FINE Dr. Who bullies, I’ll watch your stupid show now!)


Here is one point where almost every Navy wife out there has disagreed with me. The primary fear is that “the news is too depressing”. But I am firm believer that ignorance is not bliss, it’s just ignorance. And that “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil, is for good men to do nothing”. It’s so important to be an educated voter and to know why you believe the things you believe. Every social injustice on the planet has been carried out under the noses of a complacent public. Do not become one of the mindless and ignorant sheeples that helps cock up the country that your husband is swearing his life to defend and protect. Know whats going on in the world. Get involved. Do your part to defend and uphold the freedoms your husband is fighting for.


Search Facebook, your local newspaper, or just ask around your friends to see what’s going on in your community. Get involved in local parenting groups, special interest meet up groups, cosplay and geek convention groups, and generally keep an eye on local events. Aside from friendship and hobby networking, consider getting involved in political groups and social activism. Take the time to volunteer for causes you care for. Homeless shelters, animal rescues, pregnancy resource centers and community clean up events are always happy to have extra helping hands. It’s personally edifying, and you are making a difference in your community to boot!


Life is a journey to better yourself and your family, and that doesn’t halt when hubby is away. What skills and tasks do you find vital to running a happy home? Look at areas that need improvement or ways that you can improve in the daily chores of your household. Focus on time management. Or cleaning tips. Or give yourself a financial overhaul. I find it’s helped me when I set up a routine and checklist of things I’d like to improve or accomplish before Jonathan comes home. That way while he’s off bettering himself to better our family, I know that I’m doing my part to do the same.


Do this. At least once a week. Take a candlelight bubble bath. Indulge in some aromatherapy. Try out a new hair cut or color. Give yourself a manicure. Do something special to spoil yourself and destress. You deserve it!


Make a point of expanding your horizons. Go to museums. Attend art walks. Try new foods, exotic cuisines and listen to new or unfamiliar music. Whenever I get restless, I just start planning my next vacation and learn about the local cultures and heritage of the region. There is so much to learn, and experience, and see and do in this great wide world, and once you peek at the myriad things you’d like to do on your bucket list, it’s hard to want to stay sitting on the couch feeling sorry for yourself.


Now is the time to start a new Bible study or commit to a new devotional. Those theological aspects of Bible study that you keep brushing off because they are too labor intensive? Now is the time to pursue them! Do a study on the aspects of the Trinity. Spend a day reading about the use of anthropomorphisms in the Bible. Relearn the history and historical implications of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Take a course in apologetics. Invest time in prayer and dive into a deeper relationship with your Savior. Get plugged into a church body. Whatever you do, keep Christ centered in your life! His promises never fail, and with Him, you are never alone.


There are so many references and websites out there for family members of Navy sailors. A couple of resources that I definitely recommend is the official U.S. Navy Recruit Training Command Facebook page. In addition to posting photos of sailor recruits in boot camp, and airing live graduation ceremonies on Fridays, they will hook you up with your sailors PIR group Facebook page, where you can connect with all the other families that will be at your sailors graduation. From there you can join your sailor recruits individual ship and division group, so you can connect with the moms and wives of sailors who are working alongside your husband. It’s great for morale, camaraderie, networking, and keeps you abreast of any news regarding your honey.


Post photos, personal thoughts, chronicle your new journey into being a military wife, etc. etc. This blog has been a life saver for me. I started it one month prior to Jonathan shipping out to Great Lakes, and it gives me something to do, gives me something to focus on, and is already a joy to look back on. It’s also connected me to so many other Navy wives and families, fellow geeks and cosplayers and crafters, and tons of photography buffs. If you don’t already have a blog, start one, even if it’s set to private. It’s been one of the best investments of my time since my hubby left.

Hope these tips help you as they’ve helped me! If I’ve forgotten anything that you’ve found essential during separations, let me know!