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

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Make Your Own Car Collision Kit

I recently had a friend get in a car accident. Luckily, it was just a fender bender, but ever the Boy Scout, he was prepared. He told me if he hadn't had this little kit put together, he would've been lost. Getting in an accident does that to you, he kind of are in shock and don't think clearly. As long as you remember you have this kit in your car, you're good to go.

USAA and most insurers make it easy with at least supplying you with an accident report form. Be sure to print off two copies and put them in your glovebox. This form also tells you, step by step, what to do in an accident, to include calling the police and getting contact information from any witnesses, as well as trading insurance information with the other driver. One quick blurb I also want to throw out there, on the advice of my friend...even if you are at fault...never, never admit guilt. Let the police look at the facts and make their own determination. He was actually at fault, but since the other driver quickly took can guess what the police had to say.

I'm not exactly a rocket scientist, so get an idea of what you need to get together by looking at this. Also add these vital pieces to your kit:

  • A few pre-printed cards with your insurance company name and phone number, along with your name on it. You'll want to give one to the other driver, as well as any witnesses. Don't put your phone number or your address on there if you can help it. I don't know...I have visions of stalkers and people getting on your case when things don't go their way.
  • A cheap disposable camera with a flash. Document what you can after the accident...and before you have to move your vehicle out of the way of traffic. You want to be able to show exactly what happened, as well as document the exact damage. In a pinch, don't forget your camera phone. Many cell phones do have them.
Have you ever been in an accident? What did you do and how did you handle it?


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

You Don't Need to Pay for a Babysitter

Will you be sitting at home on yet another weekend? Why? Is it because you don't want to pay for childcare or you feel it's just too expensive? There are alternatives that worked great for me when our two boys were little.


  • Trading with another person you trust. I'll watch yours and then you watch mine. Offer to do the watching first. You'd be surprised how great this works out.
  • Start a babysitting coop. When we lived in Colorado, our neighborhood already had one set up. We had bylaws, meetings and everything. As our little ones grew, it turned into a "Girl's Night Out". After all these years, I am STILL in contact with a few of these ladies.
  • Trade tit for tat. This means you offer a "like item" for their babysitting services. For example, if you have an elderly neighbor who may still be spry enough to handle your kids, how about you mow their lawn or prune their hedges? Make sure it's something they need or really appreciate....ask them for ideas first...and make sure it is something somewhat reciprocal in value.
  • Check your local Child Development Center or YMCA for options. Many have monthly "Parents' Night Out" sessions. They typically fill up fast, but stay on alert for the days and times. Our local YMCA actually offered this service FREE of charge.
What do you do when you want a night out or some time without the little ones? Please do share!


Monday, December 29, 2008

Things about Neuschwanstein I Didn't Know and Other Visiting Tidbits

We did end up going to Neuschwanstein and its "sister" castle, Hohenschwangau this week. Here, the weather is piss poor, muddy and cold too...not fun holiday weather. Down in Schwangau, where these castles are located, there was still snow, it was sunny with breathtaking views and snow glistening off the castles and dusting the trees and surrounding forest...what a sight! And all only two hours from where we are stationed. It really makes me realize we should make the effort to get out more. While at the castles, I did learn a few fun facts. I'm also glad we prepped ahead and planned our journey and reserved tickets ahead of time. It made the day much more enjoyable and I can honestly say it was stress free!

We planned ahead by picking a day where it wouldn't be as crowded as usual. The ticket office phone center (yes, they do speak English) was able to help me pick the best day to visit. I also was able to reserve our tickets online for a small fee. When we arrived, I breezed past the throngs of people waiting in line and picked up our tickets....all in a timespan of 15 minutes from parking to getting on the footpath to our first stop, Schloss Hohenschwangau, the Mad King Ludwig's boyhood home.

To recap:

  • Pick a day that historically, is not as busy as others (which can be difficult at these two castles, two of the most treasured German points of interest). Yes, we had crowds but nothing like it would've been on an overloaded day. There is a new tour going thru Neuschwanstein EVERY FIVE MINUTES (who was the genius who made that run so efficiently I wonder?). Also make sure you check their website for their holiday schedule and any other special events that may draw huge crowds or close the castles.
  • Check the weather report online. We didn't mind that it would be cold, but I think we would've minded wet and cold. If you are a diehard, you may benefit though from bad weather...smaller crowds I would think. Many of the crowds on this fine December day were taking a break from their daily skiing.
  • If you have a GPS, go ahead and program it in. Also check that your car is in working order, and if it's winter, be sure you have "winter items" in your car. We made the mistake of not checking the washer fluid beforehand....ooops.
  • Follow this checklist before any major outing. You'll thank yourself later for it.
  • Pack a lunch. Most likely, you'll arrive around lunchtime, and we were able to leisurely eat while we waited for our tour time at the first castle.
They run the tours like absolute clockwork. When you reserve your tickets online, you also reserve your tour language and time you'd like to tour. The latest you can pick up your tickets before your tourtime, is one hour before, so be sure to plan enough time to drive down, get parking and walk up to the ticket center, where you pick up those tickets (and pay for them). We were running about 20 minutes behind schedule, but our reservation that we downloaded from the internet had a handy phone number you could call to change your tour problem at all.

Once we arrived, we parked in one of the lower parking lots. You do pay a small fee. If you stop at the bathroom by those lots, be sure you have some Euro, as a visit costs ,50 cent a pop. Bypass all these souvenier shops. If you must have something, buy trinkets directly at either of the castle'll save about 10-20% off the price. I was surprised to see they didn't have any of their Christmas items on any of the stores. If you park in the upper lots closer to the castles, you'll end up paying more and have to navigate around the throngs of people who ignore you as you try to drive by them or have to contend with horses and wagons and big tour buses.

Many tourists come just to visit Neuschwanstein, so the crowds at Hohenschwangau are thin. If you buy tickets for both castles, a package deal, they route you thru Hohenschwangau first. Be prepared for lots of walking of steps and of course the road or trails up to Neuschwanstein. I don't know what the Italian family was thinking, pushing their 90 year old grandmother up to Neuschwanstein. I know each tour had tons of steps within each castle.....if you have trouble with stairs, call the ticket office and ask about wheelchair accessible tours. Perhaps there is another option for those not able to walk. I seriously hope so for poor grandma.

Yes, there were horse drawn, not carriages...taking people up to Neuschwanstein, for a fee. Feel free to wait....a LONG TIME to get on one. We just hoofed it on our own. It's a leisurely walk along a paved road to the top. There are also numerous trails through the woods, which were all closed due to the snow and ice. Even the Marienbruecke was closed. This spot offers some fabulous views of Neuschwanstein. The buses that typically run up to Neuschwanstein were also not running, as the roads were a bit too icy going up. The walk takes about 30 minutes at a leisurely pace, and should be your first choice.

Now for a few bits of information my kids enjoyed hearing on the tours (have the kids up bully their way up front to be near the tourguide and hear what is being said):

  • King Ludwig's brother, who should have inherited the throne, Otto was his name....turned mad, ie crazy at the age of 24. Wonder if that had any bearing on what they said about Ludwig?
  • King Ludwig's mother married his father at the young age of 16. Both parents had their own floors at Hohenschwangau castle and the kids were relagated to a building just outside the main building. So much for family togetherness.
  • One of the parents' wedding gifts, from over 150 royal Bavarian families, was a battle ax and romantic and newlywed-oriented.
  • There is a loaf of bread on display under glass in Hohenschwangau that is well over 100 years old.
  • King Ludwig did have wedding plans but chickened out a few days before the event with no explanation.
  • King Ludwig's father Maximillian had a brother who became the King of Greece. This is why the Greek flag has the Bavarian colors of blue and white.
  • King Ludwig overextended his finances to a point of being heavily in debt and before the bank could gain control of all his castles and assets, the Bavarian State had him declared crazy so they instead could gain control of everything. Without this move, Neuschwanstein may not have been a public treasure.
  • The last surviving relative of Hohenschwangau died in 1912, and the next year, the first tour was conducted. Since Neuschwanstein belonged to King Ludwig and not other family members, his castle was opened up to the public much earlier.
Have you been to either of these two castles? Do you have any tips to share?


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Tis the Season - Our Christmas Traditions really is the season. We were lucky to all be together this holiday season...and this year, instead of hectic running around from one event to another, we chose to stay home. I did go mid-morning to see one of our battalion newborn babies at our local is always wonderful seeing a Christmas baby...but otherwise, we stayed home and enjoyed each other's company. Here we are in Germany...and no snow this year for Christmas! The sleds stayed parked where they were.

Last night, we stopped by our neighbors for dessert and good cheer. It is always nice to catch up with our stairwell neighbors, and we are extremely lucky not to have the in-fighting and passive aggressivity that some of the other stairwells have. Of the five out of eight families who were here, two of those will head out skiing for New Year's and one family had a total of 14 guests visiting from out of town and planned to stay in. I couldn't imagine the logistics of them going anywhere as a group anyway. We wrapped up coming back to our apartment, checking out Santa on the Norad Santa Tracker, singing a few songs, reading the Christmas story and then leaving cookies...and in a new German for Santa. Each child also left a sweet.

I retreated to the guest room to do my frantic wrapping, under the auspices that I had to wrap some of dad's gifts. I am happy to say that more was not best this year...we REALLY toned down the giftgiving and materialism. Each child had about nine gifts, mostly books, and my husband and I...just a few. As every year, both the dog and the cat each got a gift too. Then...exhaustion and into bed and sugarplums dancing in my head...this is the first year we decided to bypass the Nutcracker Ballet...but that is yet another story. It must've literally been on my mind.

Since I had planned ahead and baked our traditional Christmas Stollen a few days ago, we were able to have that for breakfast. One day I will have to post the tastes MUCH better and is more flavorable and more moist than the ones you buy in the package. The recipe was handed down from my husband's grandmother, who migrated to America from Cologne. It's nice to think about those who came before us, while I prepare this decadent treat.

Once every one is dressed, beds made, full breakfast tummies, out comes the camera and video camera and the unwrapping commences! It's always fun to watch the facial expressions when gifts are opened...both the good and the bad...and mmmoooommmm! Come on! We always save the gifts that came in the mail for last, and my father did not disappoint with some out-of-the-ordinary books and of course a wii. I resisted for so long....guess I need to enter the gamer world now too, to an extent. It'll be nice to see what all the hullabaloo is about.

Since dinner last night was lowkey with some pasta with cream sauce and some smoked salmon...a Christmas Eve favorite, today's menu was more robust and included prime rib with horseradish sauce, creamy mashed potatoes, crispy grilled asparagus, a vinaigrette German green salad and sparkling grape juice in the "nice" crystal glasses. I am still full as I sit and write this. I honestly think that this year, I won't get an opportunity to eat my Walker's Shortbread, which my husband religiously gifts me....every single he trying to get me to go fat?

And tomorrow...we'll try something different. We decided to take a trip down to Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangua, two of Mad King Ludwig's castles....just for the day. Otherwise, more hanging out and enjoying the holiday before the big New Year's Eve Party we plan to attend...again, as a family. Let me just bask in it for next year promises to be a whirlwind. Good night and happy holidays to you all!

What are your family Christmas traditions?


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Look at that Face!

I always wondered when someone was going to put together a collection of the crying, screaming, squirming children sitting on Santa's lap. Looks like it's been done. Looks like I will wait til next year to see if I can get it from my local library.

Do you have such a photo in your own collection?


Monday, December 22, 2008

Deep Discounts on....Stuff

I suspect most of you have most of your Christmas shopping done. I see that many online stores have last minute specials and free shipping going on. If you really like to shop at a particular store, be sure to get on their email list...that's how I get my coupon codes, as well as googling the store's name and "coupon code". I've even talked about how to get almost brand new and nice furniture at rock bottom prices last year, even before the economy tanked. But did you know there is another option to get dirt cheap stuff for next to nothing other than by dumpster diving?

I know our economy is in a bad state...and this may be causing all these great deals to pop up online I am noticing just today. Being stationed over here in Germany, we just don't see much of it, but my MIL keeps me up-to-date of how terrible things are getting in her area. In fact, it is so bad, that business is booming for former realtors in her town who are now cleaning out the foreclosed and abandoned sad is that? Check your online yellow pages (or Better Business Bureau listings or your local bank) for companies in your area who are doing the cleaning and find out how they get rid of the items from these homes. What about all those small businesses who are not able to get loans to float themselves to do their payrolls or buy new inventory? There is tons of stuff to be had...right now, for pennies from these businesses.

To find the bulk of this stuff from companies who buy this kind of bulk, all you have to do is google "unclaimed freight" and your city and/or state. Also try "freight salvage" or "truckline or truckload salvage". See what comes up in your area. Thanks to one of Clark Howard's guest who called in this little tip.

Do you have any tips of your own on how you save money with your household purchases?


Friday, December 19, 2008

Don't Want to Forget

Here we are up to our ears in Christmas cookies, garlands and in my house...pine needles from a tree that is obviously not getting watered enough. As I sit here wrapping gifts and mentally going over my Christmas Dinner shopping list, I am thinking of our extended family...the soldiers.

Please take a break from your hustle and bustle and stop by Great Americans to see where ordinary Americans are doing extraordinary deeds....and a reminder to say a few blessings for all our men and women who will not get to spend the holiday with their family but are determined to carry out their jobs so we can enjoy the season.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Do It Yourself Fundraising Ideas

If you've spent any amount of time in a Family Readiness Group, you know that money always seems to be short in doing what you want to do with your families. I actually was in an FRG once where EVERYONE got tickets to a great amusement park or got a large percentage of their formal ball tickets subsidized. I also I'm just talking fundraisers in general...our children's school would always send home this crap, whether it was chocolate or wrapping paper to sell. I would rather just write a check and be done with it! But here I am, heading up an FRG and have to be somewhat creative so we can make some money to spend.

Here are some ideas to get your creative braincells churning. I know I don't have any, so I have to dig in my memory for some of the things that have worked in the past and have included those as well. As with everything we do in an FRG, you gotta make sure you swing this stuff by your legal section. We had another unit on our post over here in Germany want to raffle off their commander's parking spot...what a great idea, right? It was great alright until legal slammed it down. You can't raffle off government property and this spot on the ground was deemed government they weren't able to do it....but, they could raffle off...or should I say "give an opportunity" to slam a cream pie in the commander's face...doesn't seem fair, does it?

I found some interesting fundraising ideas on the site below.

Fundraising Ideas

Some things that we've done in the past include....

  • Brat burns. That's what they call it over here in Germany. You grill bratwurts or hotdogs and sell them with a soda and chips. Now, as an FRG you can't solicit anything, so you stick out your coffee can and have a sign for a suggested donation amount.
  • Bakesales. But these are going the way of the dodo bird...I have never found them worth it, but it you have a lot of sweet tooths in your unit, it may pan out.
  • Anything on CafePress. This is a great inexpensive way to take advantage of personalized printed items. You can use your unit crest or insignia as long as your commander approves it. We've done baby onesies, shirts and even Christmas ornaments which we will "sell" at this year's holiday event. If you open up your own store on Cafepress...with your one logo or design (that is the way to keep it free), you can get discount and bulk pricing.
  • Get an extended family member to donate something to raffle off...or should I say, you sell an opportunity for this some states, raffles are illegal too without proper authorizations...make sure you know the rules. We had a generous mom donate a $100 Michael Garman statue. We also had some ladies make some table centerpieces, which will also get raffled off at our holiday event.
  • Get involved in community events. We recently collected items for a community fleamarket. Our ladies were very generous with all kinds of things, and it only took a handful of us to actually run the sale tables.
What do you do to raise money for your FRG?

Some "outside of the box" fundraising ideas here!

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Different Kind of Home Party

We've all been to the Tupperware, Pampered Chef and other home business "mooch off your friends' generosity and how much they are willing to spend" party. They can be fun....but, I always feel guilty when I have one, because really, you are only getting "free stuff" because your friends are overindulging. That's not right....or it doesn't feel right to I don't do it anymore. So now I've come across this other idea. Remember all that 80s jewelry and junk you have that you know is worth something, but you'd be too embarrassed to take out into the light in case someone saw how ugly it was? How'd you like to get all your friends together, collect all that jewelry up and all of you make some money doing it?

That's the idea behind Gold Parties. I've never been to one, but I like the concept. You purchase a kit to measure and process your gold pieces, and send them in for cash. Sounds great so far, although the price is a bit steep for the kit...$700. I guess you'd have to get a whole lot of friends together who had a whole lot of gold to make this worth your while....but I still like it. Has anyone tried it?


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I Can't Imagine Being this Lazy....BUT....

I really can't imagine being this lazy....I dream about it sometimes, but....I just can't make myself do least at this point in my life. What am I talking about?

It's having someone else do the work....your work...when it's someone's birthday, or a holiday or any other special event. Yeah, I know our lives get busy, busy....mine too...and somehow, I always pull it out of nowhere to recognize that special someone with something I think they would treasure...or at least I think they would like. I used to let my life get in the way and gasp.....I actually forgot someone's birthday was embarrassing, and I will truly never forget it. So, now I signed up with Amazon's free gift service. I put in everyone's birthday and all the other holidays and get an email reminder a few weeks out....just enough time to get a card or gift out in the mail....and not necessarily from Amazon. Then I get another reminder the day of the event, so I can call. I'm on email twice a day, so this works out perfect for me. I've also used Memo To Me in the past with good success.

But should I ever get lazy...or just overwhelmed, in addition to gift baskets you can send out from a variety of websites, I like these other options too:

  • Jacquie Lawson personalized cards. I finally broke down and got a subscription to a full year's worth of personalized interactive cards....many hilarious, cute and thoughtful. These are not your run-of-the-mill e-greeting cards. Be sure to check them out.
  • Fairy Tale Memories Deployed Designs. These ladies must be master scrapbookers. They will personalize cards for you....using a variety of materials, stamps and make it look like it came from you....actually....better than you! I like that you can sign up for their subscription service and have all your holidays and birthdays taken care of for the entire year. I bet you need deep pockets for that particular option....but it is a fleeting thought. Maybe when my husband becomes President, and I have a list that spans twenty pages....that would be a viable option.
Anyway, I know I am making fun of this, but I just wanted you to know that it IS okay to farm out making someone feel special and happy on their birthday or another holiday, when the stress of doing it yourself is making your life miserable. It IS the thought that counts, and if you take at least a few minutes on that special day to call that special someone, then you have at least my seal of approval for whatever that's worth!

What do you do to keep track of those special events and to celebrate those special days?


Monday, December 15, 2008

Things I Learned at My Unit's Last Holiday Party

Our annual holiday party is now over for the year. It was a party for most who attended, but for a small handful of was some serious work...that started about a month ago. We opted to rent a community club...a nice large room with a bar area, plates and flatware provided, along with a sound system and a stage for Santa. We had it catered by a favorite restaurant and had everyone bring their favorite dessert. We provided sodas, water and juice boxes, along with some traditional German hot drinks set up in crockpots. Our teenagers set up craft tables along the side to keep the little ones entertained and busy. We also had a door prize type of raffle, a raffle for a donated $200 statue and sold limited edition ornaments and some we made ourselves on CafePress. We ended up with a very tidy profit, tired feet, but many happy partygoers. In looking back, here are some tips I can share that we'll keep in mind for next year.Ideas may include:

  • You can't do it all. Delegate tasks and do it early. A holiday party committee with regular meetings in the two months before the event is a stellar idea.
  • Email invites are great but also budget for snail mail invites and signs around the battalion, company and barracks areas. Also make sure First Sergeants put the information out in formation and at staff meetings.
  • Sell ornaments with your unit crest or insignia. This can be a huge moneymaker. We spent about $4 per ornament (we had a bulk order plus a shopowner discount) and charged $10 each. We uploaded our battalion crest and wrote in the name of the unit below on one of Cafe Press' oval ornaments. It was a big hit and a great memento from our unit. We set up our one shop and our one product (this keeps it free) and ordered our items early. Even though we had a small handful of defective ornaments, Cafe Press immediately sent out replacements and told us to discard the defectives...great customer service. Turn around time to our APO address was only 10 days.
  • Secure donations to raffle off...or sell opportunities to win (whichever is legal in your area). We had a soldier's mother donate a Michael Garman statue. We also got some items from our local USO and other generous donors to raffle off. Someone's father was the member of a military organization, and they sent two checks to buy items. We had a separate raffle for the statue and another one for the door prize items. We used regular raffle tickets for the door prizes and for the Garman, we used a deck of cards. We cut each card in half as a person purchased a "ticket", we kept one half and they kept the other.
  • Identify who will set up and clean up. We did ask the company First Sergeants for help and details to do the heavy lifting and work...but the spouses were also knee deep in the work as well. The most labor intensive work was bussing the tables and running the commercial dishwasher in the back...keeping the plates and flatware coming. We were willing to do this because it gave us a huge break on the rental of the facility. Had we gone with another facility that provided this service for us, we would've spent twice as much. Also, let the companies know, we need a detail of x number of spouses from each company to help out.
  • Be creative at your party. Try something different this year, see below.
How about...
  • Potluck rather than catered (assign each company a type of dish)
  • Use FRG funds to purchase juiceboxes, ice and sodas
  • Have each company responsible for setting up and running a craft table
  • Have the unit bring a laptop and projector for a slideshow. Start soliciting early, through email, for photos or have people mail in CDs. Have one person in charge of putting that together.
  • Identify a sound system and microphone so that everyone stays informed what activities are going on and are upcoming; it may also help to have a whiteboard posted with times of all the scheduled events
  • Fundraise by selling holiday themed items specific to the unit (like ornaments) and sell raffle tickets for donated door prizes
  • If you opt for catered food, have people bring desserts to share
  • Reserve a location early (at least 6 months out or more)
  • Reserve a Santa suit as early as you can or consider paying $300-500 for a rental quality suit you can then rent out to other units every year
  • Instead of having people wait in line for Santa, give out numbers or have people sign up on a numbered list and call out the numbers in groups of five or ten
Even with our success, I would've done a few things differently. That is why our committee is having an AAR on Friday...just like the greensuiters do...after every event we plan and run, we look at the event afterwards...what went right and what went wrong...what we could've done better and what we'll keep for next time. It'll make it that much easier the next go-around, even if you have all new people doing the arranging. Next year, we may consider doing an event just for spouses...perhaps a dining out. Maybe we can set up "Photos w/Santa" for the kids or a kids' holiday party separately. We would also have a back-up microphone and send someone over to the place, early the morning of (the unit who had the place the night before, for lack of a better word...trashed the place and lost the microphone and there was a bit of scrambling as we got them to come in and help clean up...although we never found the microphone). But was a fun forward....we have to concentrate on our PX giftwrapping fundraisier and baking cookies for our single and unaccompanied soldiers...

How does your unit do its holiday parties?

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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Loser Gifts that are..hopefully...not on Your Giftlist

I just can't believe how anyone would pay good money on any of the gifts on Dave Barry's Annual Christmas List. I guess that's why they are on there...because we just can't believe it. Get a good belly laugh or two by reading these.

I think I have a few of my own I'd like to add as well:

That thing in the photo. My first thought, her head and arms exploded...but then again, maybe it's meant to hold jewelry...earrings? Is this something you give someone you don't really like? Where would you even find such a thing?

The Peticure. This is apparently crap, like most of the other as-seen-on-TV items. This thing is supposed to work like a Dremel and grind down your pet's nails and file away the dust in a cute little vacuum-like container. Doesn't's flimsy...barely works on a Chihuahua and is made of the cheapest materials possible. Learn to use a Dremel instead.

The Moo Mixer. This thing will last about a creates some kind of a vortex to mix your chocolate and your milk, directly in the drinking container. Also add that your kid will make an absolute mess in the kitchen as they learn about centrifugal force and what it can do.

Twirling Spaghetti Fork. How lazy can you get? Another battery-operated gadget that will end up in the trash. Watch your kid spray bright red spaghetti sauce all over your white walls with this one...forget it..and quickly...

The Peter Petrie Egg Seperator. will terribly upset the cook on your list if you get them one of is not funny and not comical but just nasty. This is not funny...might be mildly amusing for the non-cook, but what do they know about separating the yolk from the rest of the egg anyway.

Edible Underwear. I know you're trying to be sexy or your significant other wants you to look sexy...this won't do it. Do you really think this stuff will stay up...where it's supposed to be? It'll be down by your ankles and not because your significant other made 'em go there. Or it'll disappear in your crotch as you walk from the bathroom to your bed.

Anything you think is artistic to anyone artistically inclined. They know art better than they have more than you'll ever know. Stick with things you know. And no...things from Hallmark and the Franklin Mint are not considered art items.

And lastly, my favorites....regifted items that are clearly regifted. I have no problem regifting items that may be of use or joy to the next person...but please don't regift items that have been used or are so well worn to be noticeable...unless it's an antique...Merry Christmas and happy shopping.

What have been your "favorite" gifts throughout the years?


Friday, December 5, 2008

Thank God for Little Black Dresses

I can't believe this week is getting away from me! I hosted an ornament exchange for the ladies yesterday...which was a lot of fun...then today is my Christmas Party for work, tomorrow is a community coat and tie event and Sunday is our battalion party, Sunday with Santa! I don't think I ever had the beginning of December so jam-packed! And I am just now thinking of what in the world am I going to wear tomorrow? Coat and tie means I have to wear a halfway decent dress! Argghhhh! I haven't even gone shopping...and won't have time either....I have another baby to visit, at a hospital on the other side of town...and a dental appointment today...not to mention when are we going to go get a tree??!!! And what about the centerpiece of I have to somehow come up with between now and the time of our party on Sunday? Why am I doing this to myself?

Well, there is at least one thing I can control and cross off my list right now...what I am going to wear. Thank God for the little black dress. I actually have two of them. One is a very basic A-line dress that I can wear at a funeral or dress up with a necklace or fancy scarf and wear it in the evening. The other is a little more lowcut and out of some kind of silky material...but if I wear that...I'd better wear some extra support hose to "hold it all in". So, in the next hour, I will pick one of those, pick a necklace and earrings and some basic black pumps...and be done with it. Don't you love little black dresses? Which one is your favorite?


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Giddy with Ornaments

So I went to the Weihnachtsmarket this weekend, aka the Christmas I remember why I love Germany. There is just something different over here when you stroll by the stalls, filled to the rafters with all kinds of goodies to eat and drink, traditional Gluehwein but also beer, wine and other liquid pleasures....not to mention Lebkuchen, Nuernberger little wursts, the ubiquitous crepes filled with everything under the sun and then some....and who can forget all the German pastries and cookies...and this time around, we stumbled upon a traveling Finnish section and indulged in elkburgers and smoked this the life or what? The day was clear, bright and crisp...a traditional German day at the market with people bundled up but enjoying themselves. But food aside, I was on a find a traditional German Christmas ornament.

Tonight I am having the battalion ladies over for an ornament exchange. BTW, this is a low frills but entertaining and fun event. I like to do one every year. It's less labor intensive than a cookie exchange, and if you have everyone bring a dessert or appetizer...which also means minimal work for them...and you...usually....all you have to do is clean the house a bit and send out email invites...easy, right? Plus, it's nice to get to know more of the ladies in your unit, who may not otherwise come to the FRG meetings. It looks like we'll have a nice turn out, and one of our ladies already told me she was going to bring some special eggnog....uh oh.

So, let me end I can finish cleaning the house. Luckily, I chose to put up Christmas decorations last weekend....still no tree...but the rest of it should make up for it. Oh, and my ornament...I found a beautiful handblown glass ornament, painted with a typical German winter scene....hope I can keep my hands off it long enough to give it away....sigh.

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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Spouses Need a Battlebook Too

You know how our husbands in leadership positions have something called a battlebook? Sometimes it's called a continuity book. It's a binder with all the pertinent info he needs to do his job. So he's going to have info on there on his soldiers and what he does day-to-day in his job for quick reference. If you are a leader in your Family Readiness Group, then you need one too. I started out this last go the leader of our Battalion FRG, totally disorganized. I don't know if I was just in denial or just didn't want to deal with it....I had papers and things everywhere and anywhere. Now that I have it organized in a binder, life has gotten SO much simpler. Here are my recommendations on what to keep in your book.

  • Spouse rosters. Try to get your rosters in a telephone tree format. That means one spouse (after being asked) is in charge of the section or squad her husband is in. It does not have to be the officer's wife or someone high ranking. Just someone willing to call the few people on her list, should important information need to be passed on. Yeah, we all have email...and we get lazy and just fire emails out there, but I personally believe it fosters unit cohesiveness to use the phoneline...yes, even among the wives...and shows that you care when you call, even if it is just to check up once a month, especially when the guys are gone. Some FRGs also run their lists with the key caller in that squad calling the next person and then that person calls the next one...the last one calls the first one again to say "mission complete"....kind of like the telephone game. However you do it....just do'll thank yourself later....especially if there is a crisis or a rumor starts to make its way through the unit. I also keep a copy hidden away in my car should I need it in an emergency.
  • A section on the monthly FRG steering meeting. If your unit has an FRG steering meeting, for example, once a month, the company FRG leaders get together w/myself and the Sergeant Major's wife (we co-lead our FRG). All the agendas, notes and later, the minutes from each meeting go in here. I write my notes directly on the agenda instead of a notebook...easier to follow along. Once I get six months' worth, I file away older items in a file cabinet in a huge FRG folder (I'll tackle that at a later date).
  • Another section for your monthly FRG meetings where the whole unit is invited to attend. Ditto goes for here.
  • Welcome/Hospitality. Since we have a welcoming committee, I try to stay on top of rosters of new families coming in. We have a budget and like to welcome each new spouse with a bag of goodies. I also stash away new welcome ideas, such as pamphlets, things to buy, catalog resources, stores downtown and that kind of thing. Thank God we have a welcoming commitee chairperson, but I like to be a part of what is going know me...just enough not to interfere with someone else's great ideas!
  • Finances/Budget/Treasurer. Everything related to money goes in here to include our FRG spreadsheets. I used to carry around our SOP, until my binder got a bit too heavy. So that is now packed away in my bookshelf. Always stay on top of the money, and if you can help it, get a treasurer, so that you remove yourself from any conflict of interest in handling the finances.
  • VMIS. I blogged about this great tool before. Manage all your volunteers and volunteer positions.
  • We just added our unit to this great resource. Keep everyone from your unit connected! They have an announcements section, photo albums, message boards and a few other resources that come in handy...the best that this site is secure and only people assigned to your unit can register. Any notes I think of I want to add to this site, go in here.
  • A section for each company. When someone from a company hands me a piece of paper that I deem goes in sure to frequently purge this section. I must say since we do most things by email now, it's not overflowing and is pretty much empty.
  • Workshops. Our community frequently has workshops...I like to put the copies of slides or notes in here until I get a chance to really read them. Then they get filed away.
  • ACS Info. Our Army Community Service has so many classes, events and resources, I like to keep their course schedule and general notes handy in here.
  • Gift Log. We voted to award a volunteer every month and use battalion monies to purchase that gift. I also log every baby gift, which comes out of the "LTC and Mrs. Battalion Commander" Fund, ie our own pocket. It can be expensive, but if you set limits, it can surely be doable while your husband is in command. I did this at the company level too. It shows that you care and are interested in their lives.
  • CARE Team section. Just a roster of who our currently trained CARE team personnel are. What is a CARE Team?
  • Current Event Planning. For example, if your next event is "Sunday with Santa", all the notes from the planning meetings go here, as well as any to-do lists. Once the event is over, file it away for next time.
Do you have a battlebook? How do you stay organized in your FRG?


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Best Way to Communicate During Deployments

I am always amazed these days of how easy it is to communicate with a deployed spouse. I'm not THAT old, and I can still remember writing letters and eagerly waiting on the mail. How times have changed! In light of these changes...keep these things in mind.

Instant communication is not always best. I can't tell you the number of emails I've received from readers who got worried, when their hubby didn't log onto Skype or some kind of instant messenger or email. For the last umpteen days, they've been hearing from him at the same time....every clockwork..and the one day he doesn't log on, the wife goes into a frenzy. Most times, the husband was just taking out the trash...literally. You know how First Sergeants this and do that...on their schedule and not yours...his latest mission may just be running an errand for his boss...or another may not even be dangerous...but here we are worrying about next to nothing.

So here's my solicited advice to all.

  • Do not expect to hear from your significant other every day. Do you know every time you "talk" or email with him, his guard is down, and when he gets off the phone or whatever with you...he has to get back into the "warrior mindset"? This can ultimately cost lives. What if he is on a mission..and he is either worried he won't get to Skype at the designated time, or he is daydreaming about something you said earlier? Let's not give him so many instances where he has to get himself back in the game...for lack of a better phrase.
  • Absence does make the heart grow fonder. You can get some amazing build-up of love and passion, just by....wait for it, wait for's just like when you were a kid...that candy tasted so much better when you waited for it. I still get butterflies when my husband comes home...almost 20 years later!
  • Do write letters. One, cause he can stuff them in his shirt, and keep them close. Two, cause he doesn't need electronics to read and re-read them. Stick one under your pillow for a few days before mailing's amazing how smells still linger after going thru the mail! And save the heavy stuff, ie issues and problems for well after he gets home...again, you don't want to get him out of his current mindset.
  • Email is still a good choice. I always like to share the day-to-day stuff...that most people would find boring, but I can tell you...when you are crave that sense of normalcy...use descriptive words and talk about your day, however boring you may find it. Attach a few downsized photos every now and then of the family so he isn't shocked when he gets home and your hair is purple and the kids are now taller than he is.
  • Phonecalls every now and then are fine...but don't make them a regularly scheduled'll just bring more the both of you. Look at a phonecall as a big surprise! It'll make it that much nicer.
What recommendations do you have for keeping in touch with your loved one?


Monday, December 1, 2008

Heartbroken and Alone

Wow did this podcast have me thinking. I never really thought of it before...on the one hand, you have the freedom and self-indulgence of living kind of reminds me of my MIL. That's why she said she'd never remarry. She wants to be on her own schedule and doing her own thing...and if she doesn't want to cook, or if she changes her mind, or wants to change the TV channel, she can. But on the other side...there are some terribly lonely things I never thought of before...and it was just heartbreaking to hear. Like the lady whose life stood still after her husband died in WWII. Like the old lady who died...all alone...and had a perfect stranger rifling through her house, looking for clues to find the next of kin. Or how about the young boy whose mother was taken to the hospital, while he hid in the closet...and then lived alone for three months.

Please listen to this particular podcast of This American Life. I started listening to this podcast when I heard they were doing such a good job of explaining this financial and economic crisis in everyday layman terms. Now, I'm kind of hooked, 'cause the subjects are very this one.

Take a listen and tell me what you think...I never realized that people this happens to are in the many millions worldwide...I'm going to hug my babies a bit tighter tonight...too bad hubby isn't home, or I'd hug him too.