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Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!): October 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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Location: United States

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.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Before You Order Online....Flush it Out!

I almost did it. I almost let my "I wannnaaaa" get control of me and order from some website I had never heard of. Yes, the price looked exceedingly good, which should've been my first clue. I frequently like to look for bargains all over the internet...and I mean all over. You can see some of the methods I like to use below.

But before buying from a new company, follow these tips:

  • Just google the name. You may get what you need to know right off the top.
  • Check the site Everyday consumers with everyday complaints.
  • Check the Better Business Bureau. You just may see something that would make you think twice about ordering.
  • See if they have some kind of Seal of Approval on their website. And then check what that seal means. Hopefully, it's not something they pay for, but something that they are given for their top customer service, secure payment methods and that kind of thing.
  • Check Here you'll find consumer feedback reviews of the different online stores, along with shopping comparison help.
  • Check Another consumer shopping rating site worth visiting.
  • Does the site have securing ordering? If the web address starts in https, then it is a secure site, or check the lower right hand corner of your browser and look for the locked symbol or whatever method your browser uses to show you are on a secure ordering site.
  • Look through the site and find a real street address and phone number for customer service. If you can't find that, then there is no shame in being leery.
  • Go to and see how often the site is updated. If not too often, I would hesitate to order from them. You can also see how long they've had their website. If they say they've been in business for umpteen years, but their website is almost brand new, I would just do some more investigating to make sure they really have been around...either at another web address or physical address.
  • What is their return policy? I would just never order from any kind of company that didn't have some kind of return policy. No returns = customer no service = SOL if something goes wrong.
  • Are they giving a warranty? Especially with electronic products. I'm not saying for you to buy the extended warranty. It doesn't pay off in the long run for you...just for them. I typically don't even look at an extended warranty for anything that is priced under $500. Statistics show you will mostly lose on that bet and pay something for nothing.
  • Read their privacy policy. I once ordered from a site....with a brand new email...and darned if I didn't get signed up for at least a dozen different newsletters I didn't want or request. I could only trace it back to this order. Know what you're being signed up for as you go through the purchasing screens.
  • Don't give out your social security number. This should be a given. Unless you are opening an account at a bank or getting your credit report from one of the reporting agencies...don't do it. They don't need it, and you shouldn't be taking the risk. Do your business elsewhere.
  • Pay by credit card, which will give you more rights as a consumer than if you paid any other way. I know a lot of businesses also send you a confirmation email. Just to be safe, I save a copy of the webpage and put it in a receipts folder, with company name and date, so I can always have proof later. I save it as a jpg like with Screen more gobbledee gook html pages and folders of all the's unnecessary. Just one thing to save please.
  • As much as I like to do this on my favorite sites, try not to save your password or credit card information. It's just less to get hacked into and taken.
  • Don't ever order anything from a pop up ad. Nuff said there.
  • Before you get to that final screen, check your total price with shipping. Sometimes they like to throw in that outrageous shipping charge right on the last screen, after you put in all your information.
  • Don't get upsold on accessories. That's where many retailers make the bulk of their money. If you are getting a great deal on an iPod for example, don't get suckered into buying overpriced accessories from their around and be patient.
  • When your item arrives, check it over thoroughly. Don't let it sit in the box or wherever and then decide to get it out and try it when you get a chance. Time will get away from you then, and it'll be too late to return it at a later date.
Many of these tips, I just developed on my own. I did get some from the Bargain Hunters Secrets to Online Shopping by Michael Miller...a library book I dusted off recently. It was a helpful book, especially if shopping online is unfamiliar territory. It's a bit on the dry technical side, but I bet you, he'll save you at least a little money if you go take a look.

What else can you add about shopping online?


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Now I've Seen Everything

Many of you know I love to get catalogs...and just look through them. It doesn't mean I'm buying...I'm just looking...although looking will get you to occasionally buy, right? Well, over here in Germany...they have catalogs too. I decided to order a few in my German mail, and they dutifully started arriving this past week. There were some interesting ones in there with your average fare of catalog stuff of goodies. There was this one catalog though, where I had to say, "what the heck is that?"

This catalog kind of reminded me of our Hammacher Schlemmer or what is it called...Brookstone, with lots of gadgets and things. I can understand the gadgets of course...I like gadgets myself...I even understood the pet ramp to get your dog to walk up into your van or SUV and the mini digital camera...but what is that thing below?
Ride 'em cowboy! They call the thing therapeutic riding. I'm guessing it's not like one of those bullrider things...can you imagine having that in your living room? But look at the photo again. It has stirrups and everything. My mind is working in overdrive figuring out the possibilities...anyhow...

Or how about this gumby suit below? At least that's the first thing I thought of....this man has an uncanny resemblance to gumby. Doesn't he look like gumby? Do you remember gumby or am I too old? They say it's a sleeping bag you can move around in. But...who wants to move around in your fartsack? I thought the whole point is to cuddle up in there and then go to sleep? Who walks around? Is that something you can see yourself doing or wanting to do?

The most embarrassing looking thing I wouldn't be caught carrying around in the airport...or anywhere else for that matter is this shoebag thing. Each of these huge compartments is for ONE pair of I guess if you have three pairs of shoes, it'll be stacked about waist high? How do you carry that? How do you carry the rest of your bags? Ridiculous...

What are some of the craziest things you've seen in a catalog? Remember Harriet Carter and Lillian Vernon? They sometimes have corny gadgets and those tshirts with the stupid sayings among other things. Or, what would you like to see in your next catalog?


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Ask VMW: The Plight of a Military Girlfriend

I recently received the question below:

I am not a military wife but rather a military girlfriend. My boyfriend has just been accepted into the army officer program and leaves for training in less than a week. We are not engaged, but do live together and I plan on going with him to where he is assigned on base in Germany. I guess I am wondering how possible this move will be without us being married. Marriage is not out of the question for us but we don't want to rush it or do it for the wrong reasons. Do military girlfriends have rights and benefits just as spouses do? Is marriage necessary in moving to another country? Do you have any advice for me or any ideas of other resources that I could look at in making these adjustments?

My lengthy answer to her was:

I would definitely relook at your plans! Girlfriends and fiancees have zero rights as far as the Army is are a non-person I am afraid. Your boyfriend can put you on his life insurance and possibly as a point of contact should something happen to him, but that is about it. Without an ID card, you won't be able to do anything on post or base...even more so overseas. In fact, your boyfriend would be non-command sponsored at his German duty station. That means he will not be paid extra for having a spouse and you won't be allowed to use any of the facilities on post, to include the PX and the commissary and everything else. Only ID card holders can shop and use the services on post. You won't be able to go on post except when escorted by him.

Now, people over here do have relatives and friends visit from the States, and the limit I think right now in being able to stay in Germany is three months on a US passport, according to German law. So you could come visit him, but just wouldn't be able to stay indefinitely unless you get some kind of work visa from the German government, and I think in order to get that, a company has to hire you first from overseas. There are plenty of contractors and government positions over just have to have some kind of skills to get hired from overseas. Many companies actually hire the family members of soldiers to help keep hiring costs down for new employees. That would be one avenue I would check out if I really, really wanted to move over but would allow you some privileges and benefits without totally relying on your boyfriend.

The one bright light, because your boyfriend is an officer, he would be allowed to live off post. He will not be authorized family housing on post, being single, and luckily, he won't have to live in the barracks. Most commanders will let all E-6s or E-7s and above find a place off post, thru the housing office, which they will get a certain amount of rent money for in addition to their base pay (this is rank dependent).

Sorry this advice wasn't rosier, but I think it's better to know what to expect than to run around with rose colored glasses on. I certainly commend you for supporting your boyfriend and wanting to be with him. In our last Family Readiness Group in the States, we did have some girlfriends get very involved and help with our events and programs and were a part of our little group. But for the most part, it was hard to overcome "just being a girlfriend", and as of this date, the military does not consider a girlfriend a part of the family.

Let me recommend two message boards for you to visit. There are a lot of girlfriends and fiancees who visit here who may be able to offer their own insight from experience.

Married to the Army

Army Wives (and Girlfriends and Fiancees too)

Are you an Army girlfriend? Would you like to share your experiences here? Please do share...both good and bad...

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Why No One is Calling You to Set Up an Interview

I have been happily working at my new job for a few weeks now. One observation in my job...I deal with everything from the highly educated, to those who can't figure out where or even what is going on in their lives....yes, it can be sad. In light of that, someone recently sent me this, and I've found it both hilarious...and yes, inevitably sad.

Go to

Not Hired

I sometimes find it hard to believe that people will write such crappy resumes, cover letters, help seeking ads and the like, but then I remind myself, that most of the people I do hang out with have at least an average level of intelligence. Apparently, many people out there do not. Now, I am not advocating making fun of anyone. I am not the sharpest tool in the shed myself. Believe it or not, I suffered a fall from a horse in my teens and had to learn my 'rithmetic all over from scratch...yes, I did...the mind is a difficult thing to understand but look how quick it recovers I tell everyone? I jammed about 15 years of learning into two...anyhow, back to the story.

Here's an excerpt from today's posting:

"Can someone please kick the cr*p of me tonight. Just tell me time and place. I will be wearing a red parka".

That was posted on Craig's List and then pasted to Not Hired.

What experiences have you had...either coming or going on a job interview?

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Friday, October 24, 2008

The Top 10 List for Personal Finance for Any Situation

Okay, so I'm OCD about personal finance and all things that surround it. I just enjoy crunching numbers and reading about what's best for our money. If you are not like me, and don't like reading everything under the sun about personal finance, just follow this simple list, and you'll be set for life. You can continue these tips even in today's economy.

  • Pay yourself off the top. Set up an automatic payroll deduction that invests the money in good growth stock mutual funds (index funds work well), before you ever get your paycheck. The market WILL go back up, and if you are 50 years and younger, you'll retire at a much better position than what you have today fortunately.
  • Shoot for 10-15% of your income off the top. Divy out what you need to spend on necessities every month (housing, food, utilities, transportation). 10-15% should be left over. If not, you either need to cut expenses or get a better paying job or work extra hours delivering pizza (as an example).
  • Try to max out your IRA every year. To me, this is "free" money, ie tax-free interest. Take advantage of that.
  • Understand your military spouse's LES and get familiar with all the entitlements that you are due. You have got to be able to look at that statement and understands what it says. I can't tell you the number of times ours has been just plain wrong!
  • If you have kids, start looking at college savings ideas when they are young. Mostly recommended as the biggest bang for your buck, college 529 plans. Compare the different plans out there. Some have high fees and others don't allow you to pick which investments they choose. I've heard that the Utah plan is one of the best deals out there, and no, you do not have to attend a college in that 529 plan's state.
  • Make sure your stock mutual funds have low turnover rates and that they invest in different market sectors. DIVERSIFY in the different sectors and parts of the economy. Stick with mutual funds and not individual stocks.
  • Forget savings bonds and have grandma contribute to a 529 instead. Savings bonds were a noble effort after WWII, but now earn just a pittance of a return. Also stay away from pre-paid college plans. You'd make more money for your child in a regular mutual fund than prepaying today's rates for college.
  • Don't buy a house for just a few years if you move around a lot. You won't get your money back when it's time to sell, especially now. If you must buy, then you'd better have a plan in place to rent it out and have someone you trust (and pay) to manage the thing. If you run the numbers, in most markets, it just does not pay off to purchase a house if you are only going to live at that location for a few years.
  • Make sure your mortgage is not more than 25% of your take home pay, after taxes. And when looking at your potential mortgage payment, be realistic on what your additional expenses would be with that new home, to include insurance, property taxes and other monthly expenses. When we compared mortgage offers with our last house, we only budgeted $300 extra for these items...with the volatile housing situation of the last few years, it ended up being $600 extra..and who knows where it will go this year...hopefully down! Always overestimate!
  • Realize that the turtle wins the race and not the hare. Be patient. Don't look what the Joneses are doing, and stick with the basics above.
Oops, almost kept going. So that's the top ten. Keep that in mind, whatever you do with your money, and you WILL come out on top. What is your top money mantra?


Thursday, October 23, 2008

Clean as You Go

I sometimes dream about a world that is just scrupulously know, like George Jetson efficient....especially in the kitchen and the laundry room. I made the mistake of letting my 11 year old fix a meal for us in the kitchen. I still can't figure out how so many utensils and dishes got dirty, nor how every ingredient that was in the pantry and refrigerator is now sitting out on my kitchen counter! Did he never learn the "clean as you go" principle?

If you don't know it, "clean as you go", means that when you are done with an item, you clean it, close it, bag it up, zipper it shut and put it away...simple as that. If you happen to be doing something that requires use of the same size item, you are that far ahead, because you are only getting one dirty and not two.

For example, if you are washing some veggies and then plan to stir-fry them up in a pan, you wash and dry the container you cleaned them in, right after you put the veggies into the hot pan. It then gets put away or ready for the next item you will put in there. Whatever spices, butter or oil you use, you take out what you need, and put the container right back where it belongs. When you put the veggies in the serving dish, you...this is actually an extra step for a "food stuck on" pan...I drop two drops of dish soap and some water in the pan and put it back on the in effect, I am pre-cleaning the thing. Clean the pan before you sit down to eat, and all you have to do after you eat is put away your eating dishes and you're done.

That's also why I use our dishwasher, last thing at night before we go to bed. I empty the clean dishes in the morning, and as the day goes along, dishes get rinsed and then put in the dishwasher, ready for the next cycle to start once again every evening. This also follows the "clean as you go" principle with no more piled-up dishes in the sink.

You can even do it in the laundry room. When someone takes something off, they put it directly in the laundry either the dark or light hamper. This works great in our new apartment, as everything is on one floor. No need to have multiple hampers where you move clothes crazy and inefficient does that sound? If I could figure out a way to get the clothes from the washer, to the dryer and then back to the closets and drawers, I'd be in some kind of household heaven at that point.

What do you do around the house in regards to "clean as you go"? How do you keep the clutter, piled up dishes, clothes and other things in check?


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

These People in my APO gave $ to McCain

Here we go with the secret squirrel again. Do you want to know, who in your neighborhood gave money to which candidate? Over here in Germany, in my zipcode, only two people have contributed to a Presidential candidate this year for a total of $1500. Of course it lists them by name and their occupation. Neat, huh?

Look up anyone you know by name, zipcode or a few other criteria here at Open Secrets. I always forget how easy it is for someone to track you on the internet...scary actually.

Why am I doing this? To beat a dead horse....information is power and visiting this blog is empowerment for all military wives and those like us.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

No Good Choices But Go With the Issues?

It's getting down to the wire. I've heard again and again...we have no good choices for the Presidential election. But let me ask you we EVER have a good choice really? As long as I can remember, it's been choosing the better of the two and not necessarily the best. Abraham Lincoln would be rolling over in his grave...or maybe he already is at this point. Look, if you can't decide...strip it down to the bare issues. I know we like to throw emotions into it or that "can't quite put your finger on" women's intuition...he's an old, old man or the other guy looks and sounds like a terrorist and can't be trusted and that kind of cr*p...let's break it down to the very basics.

This website does a pretty good job of letting you choose how you stand on a variety of issues..and yes, I was a bit confused too after this last debate...why do they keep changing things around or at least seeming to confuse us? Anyway, go to Glass Booth and answer the questions honestly. It'll tell you at the end who most aligns with your values and beliefs. In the end, that's what's most important. Now if you're one of those REALLY lucky people who has a sixth sense, then use that in your decision making...especially if it hasn't failed you yet. Me, I'm not that lucky and will go back to the basics. Looks like I align 71% with one of the candidates. It's a good thing that's who I picked on my absentee ballot! If you are overseas and haven't voted yet, please see your unit's voting assistance officer! Even though the deadline of timely arrival has passed, please still send in your vote. It still may make it in time.


Monday, October 20, 2008

Take This Along to the Car Repair Shop

Being overseas, this won't help me much, but it sure would've helped me a few years ago when my husband had an issue with his car. If you're like me, when you go to a car repair shop, you just hope they are telling you the truth and that they will do you right in the end...leaving you with at least some money left in your pocket. With all the moving we do, it's hard to find a repair shop you can trust too, on top of that. Here is the perfect answer.

Thanks to Stop the Ride for this one. Use Car Repair to find out how much that car repair should really cost in your area. You can also get advice on repair shops in your areas and reviews from others who have been to those shops. Be sure to bookmark it for future reference.


Friday, October 17, 2008

Accidental Discoveries & My New Invention

Do you ever wonder about the everyday products you use? Do you ever dream up things yourself? For some reason, I am always looking for a more streamlined way to do something. I always say....and very proudly too...that I dreamed up the idea of electric feet always got cold skiing when I was a kid, but someone got it to market before I did...and also a bottle with a double chamber, so when I clean...I have both glass cleaner and the other cleaner in the same bottle...but I looked that up on US Patents and someone already invented and patented it...there are a few more too. So anyway, since I know I am not going to pursue this, I just thought of a way to never pick up doggie doo again.

Yes, we have a doggie and a big one. Big doggies have big doo doo...there's no way around that. And our doggie has the strange habit of walking and doo the same time. Picking up his stuff is always like an Easter Egg hunt. So then I could I get his stuff in a bag before it touches the ground? How about a thin telescoping can double as a walking stick somehow! It would have some kind of loop and bag contraption on the end. As the dog squats, you hold it "under there". Once collection is complete, you pull some kind of switch on your stick and it seals the tops. There would also be some kind of release catch, so when you hold it over the trash or dumpster, it would release. There would be no touching and your stick would still be clean. You could close it back up and continue on your walk.

Do you have an idea you think would work? I'm not talking doggie doo...just with anything from your daily life. I had fun looking at these accidental discoveries. Now those were interesting to read. Check out this list of the top 10 inventions of all time or how about the 10 oddest inventions ever invented. If you've got an idea, go to US Patents and do a search. I'm amazed at what you can find here...and what people take the time to patent. Hey look it's the Roomba! Here's a basketball hoop and backboard for a trampoline. Most of the records also have a line drawing or image. Please share your ideas or your favorites.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Nurse Cookies in a Doctor's Bag

Being so far away from family and friends, it's hard to realize you can't just pop on over when someone is sick or needs comforting. Yeah, a phone is great, so is the webcam thing....I've done flowers, store bought cards, even some handmade ones...but here again, I was looking for something different.

I really like to send get well baskets. I used to make them myself. It was such a bargain to collect second hand baskets from Goodwill and other second hand stores, store them in my basement, buy a big roll of cellophane that can easily last a decade...and have at it with any kind of goodie I could dream up to put inside. But, with us being overseas...shipping can be so expensive, so I save those big baskets and gifts for the holidays. So what else can you do to let that special someone know you are thinking of them?

I recently found a site called Cookie Pots. Almost everyone can appreciate a good cookie. So, now for $20, I can send a doctor's bag or a Campbell's Soup bag, with a few cookies to munch on...and then an extra special cookie in the shape of a nurse. You can add a nice note, order online and shipping is superfast. They even have a few DVDs that can be thrown in. Note to Cookie Pots, please add more movie choices.

Would anyone else like to share ideas of what you like to send? Or receive?


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

An American in a German Hospital

I frequently visit people in the hospital over here. Being the commander's wife, you like to see the new babies and check on people when they are hurt or sick. It's just the nature of what you do. When I go visit, the topic invariably gets to what it's like being in an American in a German hospital. It's not like being in the States they say. I've been in one myself, but never having been in an American hospital, I can't compare....but they sure can. Here are some things, that as an American, you should prepare yourself for.

  • The doors and windows stay closed. I was in a German hospital, with my new baby, in the heat of a invariably hot summer with no AC...and wasn't allowed to open the windows...too drafty for the baby...and the door stays closed....Germans like to keep everything fairly quiet and contained....also privacy seems to be a issue as well.
  • Bring your own gear. I'm talking sleepwear, houseshoes, robe, toiletries, things to do...nothing but the sheets you sleep on and maybe a glass of water is supplied for your convenience.
  • Food. I'm not saying they don't feed you, but the food is usually bland, not enough and if you're not used to eating barely a roll for breakfast and a few coldcuts at are going to starve....bring some snacks.
  • Drink, particulary water. Germans like fizzy water..and lots of tea..if you don't like either, you'd better have a stash of fluids with you. Some of the German hospitals that cater to some Americans may have non-fizzy water, but for the most part, you are bring your own.
  • Questions. In the German healthcare system, you just don't ask questions...your doctor tells you what to do and follow along with no questions asked...basta. Again, if your doctor is used to dealing with some Americans, he may have changed his tune somewhat. But I remember trying to chase down a doctor for someone once, and got a serious dressing down from the nurse...and that wasn't the only time. I learned this from my German a German, you keep your mouth shut and don't question your doctor. I'm not telling you to do that, but just be prepared when they look at you like you're nuts when you start asking questions, or worse, they grill you for doing it.
  • Someone who speaks German. I know we have quite a few German wives in the unit. Befriend one and have her come along if she can...and if they are willing. I speak German and have done that quite a few's the least I can do to help out in the unit. Once, when I was not there, we had a wife who was induced with Pitocin to get her labor going...she labored for a few hours, then next thing she knows, she was being given something "to help her sleep"...that turned into another drug that stopped her labor (sleep=stop labor?)....and then sent her home...before she even realized what was going on. She thought she was going to have the baby and soon...she didn't...until two weeks later. She really wished she had known that's what they were doing...guess it was not a literal translation.
Those are the highlights to keep in mind then. German hospitals are not the ala carte hospitals we have in the States. They are efficient for the most part, and do get things done but are low frills in many instances. Just know what to expect, and you'll be that much more prepared...and comfortable:-)) Have you had a foreign hospital experience? Or would you like to share some tips that made your hospital stay more comfortable in the States?


Monday, October 13, 2008

A Little Piece of Heaven at Burg Hohenzollern

Today we dusted off the cobwebs from our hiking boots. We had a little slice of heaven today at Burg Hohenzollern! It's a fortress, perched high up on a hill in the Schwaebische Alb, near the Black Forest. We had weather in the 60s, and the leaves were changing into their bright colors of fiery red, burnt orange and bright yellow. I knew if we didn't go this weekend, we would miss these wonders of nature...and coming from Florida, believe it or not, where it got boring seeing the same in and day out....all throughout the year, this was a very welcome treat!

If you are going to make the trip....start out early in the day. We arrived around 10am, and there was already a line of about 70 people to get inside the fortress. Of course, you have to either walk up from one of the parking areas....2 Euros please to park.....or ride one of the buses that bullies its way around the hairpin turns, leaving you a little green around the gills at the top, as well as a pocketbook a few Euros lighter. We chose to ride up and walk down...which gives you the best of both worlds...a quick trip to the top to get in before the crowds...and a nice invigorating walk, albeit downhill, but still refreshing enough to get somewhat of a workout and to enjoy the magnificant views.

If you are interested in the history of the castle, please look here. We did go ahead and get the 3 Euro booklet that not only gives the history but gives a good overview of the tour of the inside. We realized....later...that there are only two English-speaking tours a day...ours was at 2pm, and we accidentally stood in lines of two German-speaking tours, so inquire where and when, so you don't waste any time.

Also, bring your own snacks, drinks and some water. There is a little imbiss stand up there, but the choices are pretty much limited to a wurst w/roll or a portion of french fries, or pommes. There is a restaurant inside, but i didn't even want to look and see what those prices would be. The gift shop also has standard fare, so bring along some of those little knights and horses for the kids, or anything related to castles and knights to keep the little ones engaged. They did have some interesting little kids' costumes, with real leather and very nicely made, but at 79 thank-you...I didn't care my son suddenly wanted to be a knight for Halloween. We settled on a wooden sword for 5 Euro and a pencil sharpener in the shape of a knight...I guess they make pencil sharpeners out of anything.

I think the tour through the inside was well worth it. There were only about eight rooms or so to see, and surprisingly enough, in this particular fortress, the longest anyone actually lived in it...the current model that was completed in the mid-1800s...was five months. Does that remind you of another castle down South? I say the tour was worth it, because of the very last room...the former kitchen that now houses the Treasury. We saw lots of swords, armor, jewels and things from the royal household, including the Prussian crown and the dress worn by Queen Louisa when she went to beg Napoleon to spare her didn't work unfortunately. This was the highlight of the kids' trip. They in particular liked looking at the King's uniform with the bullet hole through the chest. Why didn't he die? Cause the snuff box in his pocket saved his life....all on display for us to see. The kids also got a kick out of the story of the thief who came in and caused a real ruckus in the dare he smash the snuffboxes to smithereens, thinking if he smashed all those jewels up, no one would recognize them when he tried to pawn them on...well, they did.

Oh, and if you have a doggie, they can come along too. They just won't be able to go into the guided interior rooms tour. There is actually a doggie hitching post area with some water bowls, and they encourage well behaved doggies to have a rest while their owners go on the's that for dog lovers?

All in all, a wonderful and fun day. Definitely a five star visit for our family:-)) What trips have you recently enjoyed?


Thursday, October 9, 2008

This Place Could Save Your Life

I can't believe something as simple as this could save your life or your family's life. Does your family have an emergency action plan? If there were to be a fire in your house...right now, or in the middle of the night, do your young children...or even teenagers know exactly what to do? Have you discussed it? I am reminded of this because I just read about a father who ran back into his burning house to look for his young son, but the son had already crawled out the back and was in the backyard. The father perished looking for his son. Had he known he was out of the house, he never would've run back inside.

Every few months, I go over these things with my kids. You should too.

  • Know what to do when there is a fire or an emergency in the house.
  • Know how to call an emergency number and know that their first order of business is to get themselves out of the house...and then call from a neighbor's house. Since German windows open differently than in the States, I made sure our sons knew how to open them and not just tilt them....and they practice it til they were comfortable with that.
  • Establish a meeting place that is at least 50 feet from the house and somewhere out front. We all know to meet by a certain tree...and immediately. That way, everyone is quickly accounted for. Make sure your neighbors know where that is as well.
Those are the highlights. I'm sure every family is different in how they want to plan for an emergency. Just remember to be consistent and persistent in that the house must be vacated. Don't look for pets, as much as you love them, they are in God's hands and will hopefully follow you out. Don't waste valuable time trying to save "things" that can eventually be replaced for the most part. Your life cannot be replaced.

If you have any tips to share on what you do in your family, we'd love to hear them.


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Visitors with Interesting Thoughts

I know that many folks who have blogs like to track who stops by to visit, especially how someone gets there. I do have a few dozen regular readers, so not too many of those. Many people find me through other military wife or Army sites and a few message boards thrown in for good measure. But by large, my largest amount of traffic seems to come from those google searches and other search website channels. Here are some of my favorite searches:

  • "army wife", yup, that would be me...and apparently you too.
  • "i'm moving to germany blogspot", of course since we've moved over here, I've gotten tons of emails and also visitors, looking for living in Germany info.
  • "is Suze Orman married", how in the world would I know if Suze is married or not? Even after thinking about it for a minute, I still don't have an answer for that.
  • "wife exchange", I know what comes to mind at you think they were looking for what I am thinking of?
  • "how to get websites off your computer", boy they must be having real troubles with all those websites on their computer.
  • "it is hard being a military wife", and about a dozen other variations about if it's hard being a military wife, the life of a wife and everything in between. Yes, it is hard, and not for everyone, but it suits me. It may suit you too. Read here to find out.
  • "Lorrie pie", what the heck is a Lorrie pie? Is this something you make, eat or play with?
  • "German shelf toilet", I have no one to blame but myself for coming up on this search.
  • "change in bowel habits", I guess I did talk about poop more than once on here.
  • "siphoning gas", isn't that illegal? I don't remember talking about that kind of thing...just how you can save it. I hope this person didn't turn around and steal some gas after they got off the internet.
  • "how to burn your house down", you have absolutely got to be kidding me! Don't people know that insurance companies today are pretty savvy on finding out if you did that on purpose? Did I talk about burning my house down I wonder?
  • "freaky wife", what is a freaky wife? Am I a freaky wife?
  • "blind follower lemming", I think I off-handedly mentioned something about a lemming once...but was this person a lemming himself or did he want to turn someone into a lemming?
  • "a shortcut to straight A's", don't you think if someone had come up with such a method, you'd hear more about it in the mainstream news?
  • "alka seltzer makes you have to go to the bathroom", it does?
  • "army wife nude", what???!!!
Anyway, those are my favorites...what that exactly means, I don't know, but I just figured out how to use Google Analytics and that's what it spit out at me. Who visits your blog, and how do they get there?


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Beginning of the End?

My grandfather always used to drill into me the importance of living within your means and not being a slave to debt from anyone. For the most part, I have followed his advice. I did have a car loan once and of course we did buy a few houses on credit. Now, I can see our retirement accounts shrinking, and we can't seem to sell or rent one of our houses right I do feel a bit poorer than I felt yesterday. But, what is going to happen in our current economy? We have a society that is built on credit, and lots of it....our government can't even seem to function without tons of credit, and therefore debt. We have many Americans who bought stuff and houses that they couldn't afford, not to mention fatcats that overextended their positions and now can't keep up either. It makes me our American free market society going the way of the Roman Empire? Is this the beginning of the end?

What are your thoughts on this? I've listened to some of the pundits and talking heads and have talked to friends and neighbors...and more than anything...I hear anger and disgust.....lots of finger pointing...never back at themselves though...but didn't we ALL contribute to this, one way or another?

Another point. With all these supposed smart economists and people out there, are you tellling me that not a single one saw any of this coming? I'm wondering what will happen when the economy gets this infusion of money, aka the bail out. It is supposed to stimulate our economy and get credit markets moving again..and banks lending to each other again. Those with money will supposedly pour tons into the economy to get it moving. But, as a country, we will be many trillions of dollars in debt, won't we? So how will we continue from there? Will there need to be more infusions? Will we move away from a free market society and be run more along the lines of a Big Brother society? Or will we continue to go along, run out of money again, where the government will have to print worthless money, to the point of us rolling wheelbarrow loads of money around to go buy a loaf of bread. We wouldn't be the first country to do this. Remember Germany in the 1930s? That could be us too.

Last point. Here we are struggling as a nation and as a economy...and the Chinese continue to silently...for the most part....plug along. I truly think they will replace us as the next superpower while we are fiddling around here. As I said, the Roman Empire didn't last forever, so what makes us think we can? Just wondering...


Monday, October 6, 2008

Bananas That Never Go Bad

If you're like me, you probably realize that bananas make a good snack, are healthy for the kids, are portable and even taste good. We buy bananas all the time. And every single time...until just recently...I would have to throw away at least one or two bananas, because they had shriveled up into a black nothing. On the one hand, we're always eating one and on the other hand, we always seem to buy a bit more than we need. I hate to waste stuff. Now I've finally found a solution.

I would love to be a baker...I really would. You know the people who can whip up just about anything, without a recipe and with minimal ingredients. But, I am just no baking expert. I used to make banana bread every now and then, but the recipes were either a little too complicated, had too many steps or I was missing an ingredient or two when it was time to throw it together. While we were staying in our new apartment, without our household goods, living on borrowed furniture and lending closet dishes and cooking implements, I decided I wasn't going to waste another banana. I know, where were my priorities? I didn't have a pot to pi** in as they say, and I was worried about the dumb bananas. Well, this was something I could control. Our stuff not being here....I couldn't.

So, here's a banana bread recipe you can do with just minimal ingredients and such. Make it all in one bowl too! Put the wet ingredients in the bowl, one by one and then mash the bananas up the side of the bowl. Add the dry ingredients on the other side and mash the bananas just like the photo. If you want to add nuts, add those at the end, after everything is just mixed! One small note on making quickbreads...stir ONLY until the ingredients are just mixed and let the mixed items just sit and "bubble" a bit while your oven is preheating. This will make for light and fluffy bread, rather than the dense, tough stuff that is overmixed (you only beat cake mix and not quickbreads).

I've made it since then at my German cousin's house, for the movers who were delivering our household goods, back in the States when I had to go back on an emergency and was digging through my brother's kitchen, and I'll continue to make it last minute wherever I go. Most people have the bananas to make this only really need one. The most you'd ever have to buy in someone's kitchen who absolutely doesn't cook is baking soda and vanilla extract. And if you don't want to make the recipe right away, just throw your peeled bananas in the freezer...they'll keep til you're ready. Keep them wrapped in plastic or in a ziploc bag.

Let me know how the recipe works for you. I like to double it myself:-))

The Absolute Best and Easiest Banana Bread Ever


  • 3 tablespoons shortening or vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup mashed ripe banana (about 1 large)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped walnuts


    In a small mixing bowl, cream shortening (or oil) and sugar. Beat in egg and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt; add to creamed mixture alternately with banana. Fold in walnuts.
    Transfer to a 5-3/4-in. x 3-in. x 2-in. loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 325° for 50-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack to cool completely. Yield: 8 servings.
    You can find the original recipe here.


    Thursday, October 2, 2008

    Denture Tabs are Not Just for Dentures

    My grandmom had dentures. I still remember when I was a child, watching the fizzing tablets in the glass. I guess they did a good job. She used the things for years. Did you ever see a product and wonder what else you could use it for? I know I typically don't. It took a friend to show me the finer points of denture tabs and what they could do to help me in my cleaning routine.

    • Drop them in your toilet bowl. Not to get gross, but the tabs attack the surface of the bowl just like grandmom's dentures. I like to leave it in for a few hour, and I'm always amazed at what a good job it does. Swish around a brush a few times, and you're done.
    • Clean the gunk out of your flowervase. I like fresh flowers. I don't love them because of what happens to them (and the container) as they die. It's depressing for me to watch them die like that! And I always leave them in there a bit longer, when all that crap starts to collect around the ring. That's okay. Just get that water out, put in some fresh water and drop in a tablet. Let it sit a few hours and the ring and yucky stuff will be gone with just rinsing it out.
    • Get tea and coffee stains out of cups and mugs. Every once in awhile I drink some tea that leaves some awful stains in there. Let a tab sit in a cup of water, and you'll see the stains lift away.
    • Clean out your coffee machine or teapot of mineral deposits. Let the stuff sit overnight in warm water, and your stuff looks almost new.
    Do you know of any other uses for denture tabs? Do you have any other household items that you use for other than the intended use?


    Wednesday, October 1, 2008

    He Wore His School Pants to Soccer Practice Among Other Things

    This was the first day the kids were on their own after school. Since mommy works now, they had to get their homework done, get off to soccer practice and get their own dinner. Since I get home after the dinner hour, three nights a week, it is going to be a challenge with dinner, especially when hubby has his deployments and trips out of town. I thought it was okay.... once a week, the kids could eat what they wanted at the food court. I'm still getting used to the $7 slice of pizza, but really, we can afford once a week and the kids...I don't know why...always want to eat at the food court, so this way they'll get a little treat. Everything seemed to run smoothly at first.

    The kids called me after they got home and dutifully gave me a report. When the time rolled around for soccer practice, I was lucky that my building was right by the field, so I was able to look out and see them show up 10 minutes early. Okay, so they can handle being on time for something. They then stopped by before walking over to the food court. Of course one was wearing his nice school pants and neither had a jacket or sweatshirt. I had to give them the lecture about being in Germany and how the weather could change from sun to snow in the blink of an eye.

    I was patting myself on the back til I got home. I couldn't even open the door, as the backpacks had regurgitated everything in them and the mess was strewn all over the floor. My next stop the kitchen....well, I knew exactly what I had, cause all the burrito wrappers and cookie boxes were all over the counter and dishes were stacked up in the sink. The dog also came running with his food dish. Guess someone didn't get fed.

    I didn't hear the kids, but I heard the Playstation. Our rule is no Playstation during the week and only for a certain amount of time on the weekends. They were both neck deep in the Playstation and I don't think they even heard me come in. They pretended this was okay. It was not.

    After I asked to see homework, I found out it wasn't completed. The little one said he had printer issues. His teacher is high tech and puts all their homework and extra credit, not to mention some other things, all online. My 11 year old's teacher gives minimal homework, but he hadn't done his either. Some excuse about having a problem with one of the math word problems. So that precluded you from doing the whole thing, cause you were stuck on one question, right?

    So now what? There are going to be three days a week I'll not be home. I keep telling myself they did just fine. They just have to get in a routine. Since I am a bit obsessive compulsive about things being in order, it got on my nerves to clean up after them...but then I keep telling myself, they are if that explains everything. Am I being too hard on them? Are your kids somewhat on their own? How do you do it?