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Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!): May 2008

Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!)

My goal here is to make your life easier, especially those who are in the unique situation of being a military spouse. Yes...I've been around...but in a good way...and hopefully can share those tips, tricks and shortcuts with you too. I've been on this military bus for over 40 years now. My goals in life are to have a well-run home, few money worries, well adjusted children, money socked away and whatever happiness I can scoop out of life.

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After life as an Army brat, being in the Army myself and marrying a soldier, I can honestly say I have a bucket full of life lessons I can share to help you make your everyday life easier and enlightening. Don't waste your time making unnecessary mistakes and benefit from others who have come before you on your journey through life.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Had to Return a Dog Crate for the Third Time

Always the bargain shopper am I. My 105 lb German Shepherd hasn't needed a crate for four years...he's such a good doggie. I knew I couldn't buy him a seat on the plane to Germany, so I started hunting for a good, solid crate. Dumb me started looking at price first. Do you know there are crates all over the internet? My first purchase was a Furrari pet crate, in their Giant size. It's the biggest that brand comes in...he'll fit then. You should've seen him in there after I closed the door....once I finally did get the door closed. His feet were hanging over the end when he was lying down and when he did sit up, he was hunched over and made a face like he does when he gets into something he maybe shouldn't. It's a good thing I ordered that one from Petco.

At least the return process was easy. I had originally done some googling and found a coupon code for 20% off, so I wasn't worried at all that shipping was non-refundable. I printed off the return form and took it to my local Petco, no questions asked. Now for Round 2.

I decided to stick with Petco. Petsmart didn't have the really big crates at all. I ended up calling Petco's 1-800 number and actually talked to someone knowledgeable about crates who just happened to have a big dog herself. The next purchase was a run-of-the-mill Varikennel. Their Giant size was really giant, not like that European-sounding crate I had just returned...why can't all this be standardized? Crate #2 arrives, and it was truly Giant. It's a good thing I have a can forget getting that thing in a car. Everyone fit and everyone was happy.

Then my dad visited, an ex-airline employee. He said, let's check what the airline says on its site. I said I had already been there. Well, somehow he found a page I hadn't found. We went down the list...yep, yep, got all that, good to go...uh flights, that's us. The kennel must have ventilation on four sides. I ran to the crate and counted, then re-counted again...and then one more time, because I didn't want to believe it....only three airholes in the back. God da**....I screwed up again! My dad called a friend to verify, and yep, that's right. So now what? Petco didn't have any other choices, and neither did Petsmart.

We trolled around the internet and found, lots of crates. There was a 700 series Sky Kennel looks just like the Varikennel...wait, it is the Varikennel with extra airholes in the back. It's a new upgraded kennel that meets international requirements. We called the airline back and asked if this would even fit on our particular plane, a Boeing 767? After being on hold, the guy came back and said is this a series 700 kennel? Yes! Yes! He said when he checked the configuration for the aircraft, this particular kennel was actually listed as the largest size crate they will take...and oh, it's called an extra-extra large by the airlines. Again, no standardation. I had friend of a friend email me that day from Germany, lamenting how their friend had to send their two Great Danes via airfreight, cause no airline would take them, at the tune of $1500....ouch. So, I dutifully had the airline rep note it in the record that we had a Series 700 and to expect it on the plane. I don't know if that will help, but we felt we had to do something to ensure our big doggie some kind of spot. I also asked my dad if he was prepared to keep Argos, should some baggage snafu happen at the airport. They are new best friends as of now.

What do we do now along with the usual worrying when you have all these moving parts during a move?....we keep our fingers crossed til hit time...we assume that the cat will be okay in a smaller version of the crate. I'll let you know how it goes from the other side. If you have any lessons learned you can share about traveling with pets, please do post a note.

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Friday, May 23, 2008

My Last Daily Post - the Moving Train is About Ready to Leave the Station

Ahhh the routine. I love getting on the internet, early in the morning with my cup of morning tea, while everyone else is still asleep. It is my time for me alone. I even love that I have a signal to get off the internet and my blog, should I be inclined to linger too kids' alarm clock. Well, my house is finally turning into a shambles of piles and packed-up items and things not where they belong. The time has finally arrived, and we are off to moving Germany to be exact. This will be my last daily weekday post until about August, when I will hopefully, be set-up in our new home on-post....stairwell living, here I come! I will try to post when I can...either from hubby's laptop or wherever I can snag some internet time. We all know this is more wishful thinking than reality...I'm going to miss my time on here, but I am surely going to try to stop by and at least say can bet there will be some snafus and not-so-normal-behavior on this trip. But we do what we gotta this case, move our household and drag along two rambunctious boys, a cat terrified of his own shadow and a dog who, on any given day is attached to me like a piece of Velcro...what a menagerie! See you all soon! If you have any good tips to share for someone in my shoes, I'd love to hear them! Please also be sure to stop by Army Wife Talk Radio next Monday. I have been asked to be a guest on the show, along with a moving expert I believe...hopefully, we can share some good tips on moving and PCSing. Be sure to call in and give us some of your insight. See you all on the other side!


Honda and Michelin Both Win the "Nightmare of the Year" Award

Just when I thought my tire saga was isn't. I've blogged before about my issues with the Michelin Pax tires and my Honda Odyssey. I thought I was going to be smart this time around and save a few hundred dollars by buying the Pax tires - the only ones that fit the 2005 (and 2006 and 2007) Odyssey Touring Model - from our local Sears. Not only were they cheaper than Honda's price by a little but by a lot 'cause they were on sale. My happy dance turned into a nightmare episode yesterday.

I dutifully brought my Honda to Sears after my two tires came just under $400, that is actually a bargain believe it or not. I was told it would be a few hours...standard answer and just fine by me. Since Sears was at the mall, what a perfect excuse to go shopping. While shopping into my third hour I thought...ooops, why haven't they called me? So I made a quick call and was confronted with a diarrhea of words from the Sears tech...all I heard was "broken", "sorry" a half dozen times and "gash".

After I gained my composure, I realized one of my old tires had been damaged...come to find out, they did not have the equipment nor training to handle these then why do they sell them? Why did no one tell me this when I made the appointment? I told him this would not stand. I needed those old tires as back-up while we were over in Germany..they still had 1/3 of their life left, which is why I told Sears to keep them....those idiots! I told him that they would have to make this whole fiasco right, that I was on my way and that a manager better be there to greet me.

It's a good thing I had to walk from one end of the mall to the other....I had to settle myself down. After getting there, not only was the tech and the manager there, but also a half dozen other Sears people....Lord knows who they all were. Without me demanding it ('cause I had it in my mind that I would ask for at least half off the price of the new tires), they gave me the new tires at a 50% discount and made arrangements for me to take it to the local Honda dealer. I figured that would be acceptable and went on my way. I was happily surprised that my old tires were still serviceable. The gash was very minor and did not cause any air to leak out. At this point, I thought, what a roundabout way to get something deeply discounted.

Off to Honda, where I had gotten my front tires replaced at $200 more than the Sears quote a few months ago. You see, these Pax tires only last 15,000 to 30,000 miles on average. They took the vehicle right in. I had a long talk with the service rep. He said he absolutely hates these tires! In the years he has worked there, he has dealt with 200 blowouts on these stupid tires versus TWO blowouts on the Odysseys that don't have them. He acknowledged Honda made a big mistake in offering these tires as the ONLY choice for THREE years of Touring Models. He did say that Honda can retrofit your Honda at a cost of $1900. What does that involve? A NEW AXLE for your Honda Odyssey!!!!! As I have blogged before, yes you can change your rims and tires to another type of tire on your own, but it will void your ENTIRE vehicle warranty and will affect vehicle performance and isn't that special...a whole vehicle design that is dependent on the tire design. I ended up leaving Honda feeling dirty and took three hours to change those tires at a cost of $200 labor...the tires are that labor intensive to change...shame on Michelin for making such an inferior product. I have had just about enough of Honda. This is enough to make me shop elsewhere for my next vehicle. I feel they were dishonest and now won't make it right for the thousands of us who have this vehicle. What about when I'd like to sell it (which will be before my tires run out the next time I am hoping)? So I'm supposed to be dishonest as well to my next potential customer? If I'm honest, I'll never be able to sell it...what dummy would buy something like this? If anyone from Honda is reading this....make it right. Anyone have any other vehicle nightmare stories to share?


Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Wild West: Siphoning Gas Out of Your Car's Tank

I guess it has finally gotten to that point. People are getting desperate with the high gas prices. My neighbor's boss filled up his truck with gas yesterday, went to work, came out for lunch....and no gas. Someone had siphoned off his freshly-bought gas. I don't know how rampant this is or if this is just an isolated incident, but I just wanted to pass that on so everyone was aware of what could happen. Check your gas cap today. If it doesn't lock, get with your car's manufacturer and see if you can get it replaced with a cap that does lock. If anyone has any other tips, please do pass them on. I read an article yesterday on easy ways to save gas. You can find it here.


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Give so they can do anything but not nothing

Warren Buffet once said, "Give enough to your kids so they can do anything, but do not give them too much so they can do nothing." Love the quote! So the great billionaire Warren Buffet, instead of just throwing money at his kids, he's giving them just enough to learn how to deal with money and to make a difference in the world...kudos to him. We are no Warren how do the rest of us get our kids in the right mindset when it comes to money?

  • Lead by example. It does no good to preach to your kids about living within your means and delaying gratification if you can't do it yourself. Kids will copy what you do. Do what I do and not as I say, right?
  • I blogged once before that our kids do not just get things from the store on a whim...if it's not a birthday or a major holiday, they ain't gettin' it (and now they don't even ask). If they see something they like, they save up for it or use some of their own money from their piggy bank. I let them exchange the money for the item at the checkout counter themselves. Make sure you tell them about sales tax and how that figures in. My kids understood that concept as early as when they were seven years old.
  • Don't always bail your kids out. My kids have done without when they didn't plan ahead. How often does this happen? Almost never now. This isn't quite as effective when they are smaller, but it sure is when they are teens and older. You have to sit back and I helping them or enabling them? If I give them this money, will it get them out of a bind and on the road to being independent or am I making them be more dependent by doing this? For example, let's say your child is constantly letting the gas run low on their car and is always asking for a handout. They don't plan ahead. So, let's say you don't give them the money next time...and they just can't go out or they do without. It's not going to kill them. As soon as they figure out they need to be more responsible and you won't bail them out every time...they will forced to be more responsible. It's almost magical.
  • Teach them about money and limits and delaying gratification. Talk to them about money coming in and money going out, living on credit, what an interest rate is and how it affects them. I am always shocked our schools don't teach basic money management. It's up to you, the parents, to send your kids down the right path. Don't rely on anyone else. A child as young as eight can understand these concepts..that's when our kids "got it".
  • When your child is 13, open up a checking account for them. Have them deposit their babysitting or lawnmowing money in there. Show them how to do a checkbook ledger. Show them what happens when you don't keep track and get overdrawn. How will they ever do this stuff as an adult if you don't teach them now?
  • If they absolutely want to have that next big ticket item, get them to cut out a picture with the price, and put it on their wall as an incentive to save. It may even be cheaper by the time they actually get out there and buy it.
  • It's okay for your child to make mistakes. Better to make them now then when they are totally on their own. My motto has always been to learn from others' mistakes, but for kids, screwing up themselves tends to make the concepts stick more.
Continue to set a good example for them. They learn by watching you. Set them up for success early in life and spare them the mistakes later...when they are more costly.

How do you teach your kids about money?

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Disney's Magic Kingdom on less than $200 for a Family of Five

After living nearly three years in Florida, we figured we couldn't leave without at least one trip to Disney. Nope, none of us had been to Disney before this trip. What really bothered me though, was the high cost of the tickets...and this year in particular, with our foreign exchange student, we have a family of five wanting to go. In the past, we have taken advantage of Busch Gardens Here's to the Heroes, where once a year, a military family of four can get in free to any of the Anheiser Busch theme parks, to include Sea World. We would alternate the parks every year, and it was just enough excitement not to get boring. It's not that we can't afford it, we just have a hard time shelling out that much money for what may or may not be a few hours of fun, considering the heat, the lines for rides and the general push of humanity all around. I guess you can tell, at least, that I'm not a big fan of events with crowds of people. Well, we can finally say we did Disney and to make my frugal self happy, we spent less than $200...that includes park entry for five, lunch, drinks, souveniers, parking and everything in between. So how did we do it? With just a little bit of advance planning.

My planning started weeks ago. Some of you may remember me blogging about our timeshare experience. My husband and I had such a nice time and got two adult tickets for the Magic Kingdom out of that. I then sent my husband to the ITT office on Macdill AFB, where he bought another adult ticket for our student and two children's tickets for our two boys. The adult tickets cost $67.50 each and for children 9 and under, it's $57 each. We were able to take advantage of the Florida resident rate as well as the military discount rate, which is basically not paying sales tax. So there were our five tickets for just over $181.

We did have to pay about $15 for parking, but I must say, the Disney folks are very efficient with their parking system and trams and getting you to the park entrance in a timely mannner, and I thought that was a reasonable amount for that service. We arrived around 9:30 am, and it was perfect timing. No big crowds and getting onto the ferry to get into the park was a breeze. If you do happen to get a Florida resident ticket, remember you will have to turn in your voucher for the actual ticket at one of the ticket kiosks at the entrance. Only my husband had to show his Florida driver's license. The lady was also initially mortified, because she thought we were trying to pass off our 17 year old exchange student as a 9 year old on the child ticket. She didn't see the other two boys playing in the dirt. At the park entrance, they also have a monorail you can take to get in. My suggestion, take the ferry on the way over and the monorail on the way back to your parking lot and your car at the end of the day. That way, you get to try both, and it seems to be less crowded taking the ferry in the morning versus in the evening from what we could see.

Once in the park, don't waste your time on Main Street or the rides near the front. Make your way to the back of the park and to the rides that have the Fast Pass option. These are the rides that will have long lines later on in the day, and the Fast Pass system allows you to skip the lines in a nutshell. Ride these popular rides before the crowds get there, or grab a Fast Pass if there is already a line longer than 40 minutes. For example, we did catch Snow White's Scary Adventures ride first, even though it is geared mainly to little kids (like most of the rides in Fantasy Land), but hey, it was our first time at Disney and this is what it's all about, right? It was a cheesy ride, but it did get us in the spirit. Disney does seem to put a lot of money and effort into their animatrons and rides on "conveyer belts" taking you by a variety of scenes in the dark. When we passed by this ride later in the day, it always had at least a 30 minute wait. Since the other rides in FantasyLand were just like the run-of-the-mill rides you see at every two-bit carnival, we skipped them completely...they also always had the longest lines, most times in the hot sun as well. Unless you have a particular favorite...remember the Octopus or Scrambler?....don't waste your time.

After getting seems we were mesmerized by the Cinderella castle at first and walked all around the thing before deciding to go on some "real" rides...we headed to the back of the park and Frontier Land. We had only 10 minutes of waiting at both Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Splash Mountain was your typical water flume ride, with a nice big drop off into Briar Rabbit's thorn thickets....lots of splashing and some getting wet. Our boys thought the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, a very mild roller coaster pseudo "runaway train", was especially lame and only went on it once. We did enjoy the view of the real paddle steamer that makes its rounds around Tom Sawyer's Island, but we wasted time waiting in line to get over to the island, which again, is geared towards little kids. There is only one way over, jammed with other visitors on a makeshift raft. There are some things to climb on and over and a dark cave with an optical illusion walkway that makes you feel like you are walking sideways, but really, I've had more fun in our own backyard. I would recommend though, if you do decide to visit the island, bring your own lunch (bring a backpack with lunch, water and snacks). There are some nice picnic tables up on a hill there, perfect for having a picnic lunch. Otherwise, skip the island.

Adventureland, right door was our next stop. The Swiss Family Treehouse is a nice visual...but that's about it. If there is a long line, skip it, cause it's not worth it. Get in line for the Pirates of the Caribbean. This was probably our longest line, at 30 minutes. The line nagivates through dark mood-lighted tunnels before you ever get to the ride itself. Take photos at some of the treasure chests and skeleton props along the way and peep through the barred windows. This ride is another one of those conveyer belt rides where you hop onto a car and go by animatron scenery...pirates, pirates everywhere...I saw millions of dollars worth of animatrons, all singing, and not just pirates and people, but also dogs, donkeys and other animals. It was very well done and about as realistic as it could get, and we enjoyed the little boats we rode in. At one point, we went down a little dip in the "underground river" and came upon the sight of the Black Pearl pirate ship inside the cave, just like the movie. Speaking of movies, I felt like I was in The Goonies...remember that scene with the pirate ship? That was it. The Jungle Cruise, what looked like a fun cruise down a jungle river, was closed for renovation. Unfortunately, there were no signs anywhere at the entrance to the Magic Kingdom nor anywhere else, telling us it was out of disappointing.

We decided to head over to Tomorrowland before it got too late. I had heard of ungodly long lines at Space Mountain from some of my friends who were Disney regulars, so off we went. On the way, we did stop by Liberty Square and do the Haunted Mansion...only a 10 minute wait. It was again a conveyer belt ride going by animatrons and also holographic images of ghosts, but not before walking into the mansion and riding down on a giant optical illusion elevator. Our little cars not only went forward but also turned all around, leaned back and went backwards at one point. We even saw a hologram being projected onto some fog, as well as a 3-D holographic image that you could see from all angles. Again, nicely done. One theme that seemed to stand out for me on all the rides...when you thought it was going to end, it didn't. Disney seems to make the extra effort to make the rides a little longer and a little more extravagant than your typical theme park...I guess that's why it's Disney.

Off to Tomorrowland. Now we started seeing more crowds. We did stop and eat our lunch before getting over there. Plenty of benches, shade trees and places to eat. If you want to buy your lunch, if you don't get a hotdog or snacks from a vendor (we saw some of these in Tomorrowland), expect to pay $50-60 for lunch for a family of five. We did bring our own water and refilled our bottles as needed at the plentiful water fountains. Restrooms were also plentiful and well-marked on the map, and we never had to wait in line for those either. Since I knew souveniers would be pricey, we found a Mickey Fantasia hat for $1 at our local Goodwill store (hey, we live in Florida), and my younger son wore it the entire time. I was shocked to see the exact same hat priced at $35 at the Magic Kingdom. My advice, buy some Disney souveniers at home and bring them along in your backpack and dole them out when you get there. Even if you buy licensed items at your local Disney store, they'll still end up being cheaper. We saw kids running around with all kinds of cheap junk their parents probably spent a fortune on....don't get lured in by it. You can have plenty of fun without getting souveniers at the park. We also saw our share of princesses...little girls dressed up in itchy princess costumes with bouffant hair extensions. I must say they looked so pretty, and I bet they did have fun at their little character meals...which can get pricey...but alas, it is every little girl's dream to be a princess...isn't it? So, if I had a little girl, I bet I would splurge on that too. I'm not sure what they do for the little boys?

Our next stop was Space Mountain, but since it had a 40 minute wait, we grabbed some Fast Passes (you can get one at a time per person, so plan out what you want to do next). We then went on to the interactive experiences of Stitches Great Escape and Monsters Inc Laugh Floor Comedy Club. At one point, I thought Stitches was a ride, especially when this bar came down across our shoulders...but I guess it was there to keep us from jumping up and running could be unsafe I'm assuming, plus it did add some drama to the "show". Lots of fog, strobe light, sound, water squirting and even smell jets (to pipe out smells to go with the storyline of Stitch escaping). The younger kids thought this was just fantastic...kind of like being an extra in a movie. The Monsters Inc Laugh Floor even got me laughing. While you wait in the short line, you can text in your jokes, which they say they will use in the show along with your first name and hometown. Once you get in there, it's like a theater with the characters of the movie acting as hosts and stand-up comics, some using the texted jokes. They also incorporate people in the audience, beaming their images up on the screen, getting them to do a few silly things and getting the rest of us to laugh at them and their antics. The kids really enjoyed it.

By the time we were done, it was time to walk right onto Space Mountain with our Fast Passes. Our eight year old was a bit hesitant, but we talked him into it and told him there was no other way to get out, other than getting on the ride. It ended up being a fun ride, and my eight year old's favorite, so I didn't feel too guilty about almost forcing him on's an indoor roller coaster with flashing lights, whirring noises and periods of darkness. Our exchange student said what made it fun was not knowing which way the coaster would go next in the dark....lots of up and downs and curving left and your neck! Also, if you are really tall or overweight, you may not be able to squeeze yourself into the tiny little cars. I had trouble situating my long legs under the bar myself, and it's a good thing my skort had some shorts under there or else it would've been peekaboo. This ride was easily everyone's favorite.

Our last big ride of the day was up next. All kids and boys, even my adult husband, enjoyed the Indy Speedway. Even though the little racecars sputter along at a snail's pace around the "track", and if you can stand the gas fumes, everyone there was laughing, smiling and giggling. I ended up having to sit in the stands and watch them go around a few times after my one ride (note to self, no driver's license anytime soon for our eight year old) that point in the day, the fumes and noise were not my idea of fun. Even the really little ones are allowed to drive, and I saw toddlers steering who could barely see over the dashboard.

We rounded out our day, just strolling around and stood in a short line for Mickey's PhilharMagic. By that time, we were so tired, and it was nice to sit in an air conditioned theater and watch the 3D show and get squirted with water and air in time with the little show. The younger kids were just fascinated by it. Donald Duck and Mickey were adorable in their usual antics.

All in all, we had a fantastic and fun-filled day. Be sure to read my amusement park tips and come with your best walking shoes. If you haven't read enough about Disney, read about our stay at Disney's Ft Wilderness. At the Magic Kingdom, we saw parents with older children who rented the park strollers, just so they would have a place to rest their feet and carry their gear...the parents and not the kids (I saw a 240 pound man sitting in a stroller...guess they are sturdy). There were designated parking areas for strollers all over the park. In one area, I actually saw Disney employees whose main job seemed to be shooing the birds away to keep them from dirtying up strollers and pecking through peoples' snacks...what a job! Disney can be fun, and it can be affordable as you can see. If you do decide to bargain hunt for tickets, stay away from eBay and some of the sellers you may not know much about. I read tons online about people getting hosed out of their money. Disney is very serious about tracking who buys their tickets and who uses them...they are all non-transferable. So please do be careful. Now, our tickets did not have our names on them, but like I said, my husband did have to show his military ID and Florida driver's license, so better to get them from a reputable source than to be potentially disappointed. Do you have any tips for Disney? Please do share them!


Monday, May 19, 2008

How Do You Help a New Widow?

As much as I hate this topic, I feel I have to at least touch upon it. At one point or another, as a military wife, you will know someone who has just lost their spouse. It helps to have an idea beforehand, how you can help and assist to make that widow's life just a little bit easier.

After the official military notification, you should think about becoming a part of the group of ladies who will help this widow. It is important that you not make any calls, visit or do anything until you know the unit has officially notified her. I know a wife who found out the roundabout way by phone gossip, that her husband was mortally injured. Please, please don't be a part of something like that. Play it safe and wait until you know they've been notified.

Your first call should be to your unit's family readiness group. Many units also have casualty assistance teams already in place. Know who your point of contact is...before the trouble starts..another good reason to attend an FRG meeting. In our previous units, our FRG would run sign-up lists to run errands, babysit, cook meals, or stand in as chauffeur. We would sign up to take meals, just go over and sit with the widow, do laundry, clean house, run errands, answer the phone and that kind of thing. Typically, the company commander or battalion commander's wife will take the lead on this.

If you know her well, just show up at her door with food that can be frozen or coordinate with other wives who will bring over dinner on whatever days and just let the wife know dinner is coming. We also made sure the refrigerator and pantry were full of snacks and drinks, especially if there were little ones. Most widows I know just wanted to sleep. We watched the kids and answered the phone...they absolutely didn't want to talk to anyone. We picked up relatives from the airport. We also had the chaplain with us when we first went over (after the commander and his team did the official's important that no one say anything or go over til this is done). The chaplain would also make regular visits. Take your cues from the wife and her state of being...she may need more or less company. You'll know if she wants to be hugged or just sat with or just left alone to sleep, knowing her children are safe and being watched. Sometimes this can go on for weeks. I once rotated with other wives, cooking, babysitting and cleaning for almost three months...we were worn out, but we felt it was our duty and knew that this would be something that would make our life easier if it was us instead of her, so we just did it!

What has been your own experience? How do you try to help out?


Friday, May 16, 2008

Your Flower Planter Can Burn Your House Down

Here's something you don't think about every day. Do you have a planter sitting on your front porch or back deck somewhere that has potting soil in it? Have you been meaning to plant something in there but just haven't gotten around to it. Did you know this little set-up could cause your house to burn down?

Yes, it can. It's called spontaneous combustion and it happens more often than you think. Just ask your local fire department and look around on the internet. The gases and build-up from the fertilizer create heat...heat hot enough to spontaneously start smoking or burst into flames. I just heard a caller on a radio show say they smelled smoke for a few days. They just thought the neighbors were doing some barbecuing. When they started to smell it more often, the husband looked out his back window to see huge flames leaping up the side of his house. The firemen said if he hadn't been home to catch that and alert them, his whole house would've burned down. The fire inspector said the fire began in that planter on the back deck. His wife had been meaning to plant something in there....for the last year it sat like that.

Keep that in mind and go check your planters. It could save your house! Do you have any other nutty advice to share from around the house?


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Moving to Germany? Yes, You'll Take a Driving Test

If you're going to be stationed in Germany, you're gonna have to pass the driver's test. Piece of cake you say? Not so my friend. Many people fail it the first time around thinking they can just look over the notes and take the test the same day. Nay nay...doesn't work that way. Look, you're going to be stressed out enough as it is, just going through the motions of moving and going to a foreign country...nevermind the test. How about an easy way to just breeze through the test then? No worries...

Why do you even need a new driver's license over there? The last time you took a vacation overseas, you just flashed your American driver's license, got in your rental car and sped off. Because of a lovely set of lawyer documents called the SOFA agreement. If you are stationed overseas, you MUST have a USAREUR driver's license in order to drive exceptions..and in order to get this license, you have to take the written German driving test. No, it's not in German, but it might as well be after you see some of the questions. You'll have to do some memorizing and signage recognition to pass with flying colors.

Some nice person has come up with a nifty little program you can download to your computer. It's not like the old days, where you had to wait until you got over there....check out a grease-stained dog-eared manual, cram...errr....I mean study and take the test. Now you can sit at your computer or laptop if you are your leisure...look over the materials, take practice tests and generally have an easier time of studying the stuff well beforehand. Check it out here.

Anyone have any USAREUR driving stories to share? Did your vehicle make it over in one piece? Did you make it over in one piece?


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Make Money from Your Own Purchases at Amazon

I've had a little bit of cash coming in from my little Amazon Associates Store. I typically link my favorite items from this blog and elsewhere into my store. You do get a percentage of the profits...better than nothing...for doing nothing. But, here's one more catch.

Put items on your Amazon wishlist....which puts them in your store. Next time you want to order something from Amazon, purchase it through your store. You'll get part of the profit, which translates into a little discount for you on your purchase...nifty, huh?

Do you have any nifty tricks to share?