New Years Resolutions

I'll admit... I have never set New Year's Resolutions. Maybe because I am afraid of failure. Maybe I have a hard time with the thought of limiting myself to improvement at only the beginning of the year. I think it is because of some reason in between there.

I recently read an article with some New Year's Resolutions from TRICARE: "New Year: Time to Commit to Old Resolutions" It includes ways that TRICARE can help you from smoking to stress to eating right. I think it is a concise way for you to think about how you can commit to a New Years Resolution and stick to it.

My resolution (Yes, I think I will make one this year!) is to get organized. With a *potential* PCS this year I realize we have a long way to go before this house can be packed up and household goods shipped. My children are getting older and toys can be purged, especially after the Christmas goods Santa, grandmas & grandpas, aunts & uncles bestowed upon them. Shoes & clothes I haven't worn for at least a year can probable be given to Goodwill. If I start NOW our house will feel *so much lighter* by the summer & a chunk of stress will be reduced.

So I will work one room at a time. 4 bedrooms, a kitchen, living room, dining room & the abysmal basement. It will take me months. But as I finish a room I can celebrate... before I move on to the next room on my list.

What can you do to make yourself feel a bit better about yourself? It doesn't have to be considered a 'new years resolution' if those three words rip fear in your bones (like me!). Just think of it as a way of putting yourself first (for once!)

Happy New Year!

- Leanne from MilitaryAvenue.com

A Simple Thank You for 2008 and Happy New Year for 2009

A simple thank you is often all that is needed to make someone feel good or raise their spirits after a trying or difficult time! With that thought in mind I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to our military families and community who provide the support and encouragement our airmen, soldiers, marines, sailors and coasties need everyday to be successful in their tasks and services.

How else can we say thank you? I thought of a few ways to reach out to others and make "thank you" a standard within our community. We hear it from politicians, celebrities and TV news-persons but they seem far away and not very relevant to our day to day lives! I came up with some other ways to help with a "Thank you" campaign that is more at home and provides some day to day support.

Let's start off with some easy ones first!

A quick smile works wonders for the mom or dad dealing with a stubborn or tired child in the commissary!

Greeting a newcomer at a get together who is standing in the background looking for a new friend (encourage your children to do the same and they will learn a valuable lesson too) and thank them for attending (we all need that sort of help in a new crowd).

Thank a service member in uniform while in the line at a local store-it could get catchy! We sometimes forget that we are able to thank each other and we don't have to wait for a "civilian" to do it!

Volunteer at a support agency such as the Thrift shop or consignment shop or other service specific function!

These can take a little more of your time but I bet you enjoy them too:

Know your neighbors so you can see a need! Its easy to get isolated and feel out of touch--a thank you says a lot and earning a thank you says even more if someone is in need!

Encourage friends and their families through communications such as email, myspace,facebook,cards, letters (how about an old fashioned hand written note to really say thank you!) and phone calls!

Call that friend at the last post or installation and say hi, how are you doing? Be sure to listen and again say, Thank You!

Even flowers say thank you in a meaningful way! (Moms loved dandelions so I bet your friends would enjoy flowers from your garden too!)

Dinner for that new military family moving in nearby is always a great way to say thank you-remember their service brought them to you and who could say thanks better than someone who has experienced the same challenges! If dinner is a tough one, how about a cold drink and a few minutes to introduce yourself so they get a break!

These are just some of my thank you ideas I worked out in a quick computer session on a quiet Tuesday morning! I am sure that you have some better ones! Comment and tell us some of your own!

One request for 2009! Tell others about us! MilitaryAvenue was conceived as a method of helping military families as they toured the nation and world serving as only they can! One of our ways to say thank you is the 6,200 MilitaryAvenue Partner Listings on the site offering a military discount or gift to you--our American military family members and service members.We can only say thank you with discounts and support if folks know about us and the many new parts of the site including Answers, Alerts and this blog!

Have a great New Year!

What Does 2009 Have in Store for Our Military Community?

Whatever happened to 2008? Seems like the year just got started! But here right in front of us is 2009!

Before I move onto 2009 I want to say thank you to just a few of the many folks who we have enjoyed working with this last year as they supported our military community in many ways.

We certainly enjoyed continuing our great relationship with Star and Tara from Army Wife Talk Radio with a visit to Ft Campbell in December! They sure have a heart for Army spouses!


Our friends from USAA, in particular Mike Kelly, have also been great this year. We continue to use their great financial information to help you with your day to day lifestyle issues in the form of blog and MilAve articles. They are a great team with a caring attitude.


The folks at Military Spouse Corporate Career Network, MSCCN, Deborah and Kate have been great as they assist military spouses looking for employment. What a great endeavor for a non profit and we are just starting to open this door for our readers.


The list goes on but the key factor for the military community is to know that you are not alone and there are many individuals, businesses, non profits, forums, etc that can and do help! So for 2008 a big thank you to all of our Military Avenue Partners who provide MilitaryRewards in the form of discounts and gifts. We have over 6,200 ads with Rewards for you!

Now for that question about what is in store for 2009? I am afraid I can only say probably more of the same with continued deployments and gainful service by our military men and women! The world is a turbulent place and we can only expect continued strife and conflict. We can also know that there is change coming in the leadership of our government and many hope that may create a different atmosphere.

I offer my prayers to the new President as he meets these challenges which have a direct impact on all Americans but even more directly on our military responders and their families! God Bless all of you and may you be rewarded with a great 2009!

Apfel Strudel (German Apple Strudel)

Your dinner menu is set, your plan for a fun gathering is in the works. Now dessert is just a topper! Here is a beauty. With the help of frozen puff pastry, your confection will cap off a meal that will please your friends, family and you!

Apfel Strudel
1 c butter melted (divided)
1 c toasted fresh white bread crumbs
1 c ground walnuts
3 1/2 lbs granny smith apples, peeled, cored and shredded
1 t. ground cinnamon
1 3/4 t sugar
1 puff pastry dough sheet

Mix bread crumbs and 1/4 c. butter in a bowl. Mix in ground walnuts, apples, cinnamon and sugar.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Adjust oven rack to the lower middle position. Lightly butter a rimmed baking sheet.
On a large, lightly floured surface stretch and roll the dough into a large, very thin rectangle, about 20 x 12". Brush with approximately 1/2 c butter. Spread bread crumbs mixture across the dough, leave a 2 " border on all sides.
Fold the sort ends of the dough over the apples and then fold the end closest to you over the apples and continue to roll. Do not make it too tight.
Bake according to dough directions - or until lightly browned.

Cocoa and Spice Slow Roasted Pork and Onions

Fill your house with friends, fun and a planned menu. Sounds good doesn't it! Here is a slow roasted pork dish that is sure to please the senses: smell - delicious; sight - festive; and taste - perfection!

Spice Rub
1/2 t whole peppercorns freshly ground... or 1/4 t black pepper
2 T plus 3/4 t ground cinnamon
2 T kosher salt
1 T plus 2 1/4 t unsweetened cocoa powder
1 t ground nutmeg
1/2 t ground cloves

Pork and Onions
6T olive oil
3 3/4 to 4 lbs onions, thinly sliced
1 1/2 t dried sage
1 1/2 c water
5 pounds pork butt with bone
Spice rub

Mix all spices together. Set aside.

Heat oil in large pot over medium heat. Add onions, sage, and salt, saute 10 minutes. Add 1/2 cups water; continue to cook until onions are beginning to brown and water has evaporated, about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 300 degrees. Sprinkle spice rub on large sheet of foil. Roll pork in rub, pressing to coat. Set pork on rack in large roasting pan. Top pork with 1/3 of onions, scatter remaining onions around pork in pan.
Roast pork until very tender and thermometer inserted into center registers 165 degrees, stirring onions in pan occasionally. Roast about 6 hours. Transfer pork to platter. Spoon onions over pork.

Seven layer Holiday Pasta Salad

New Year's Eve and good friends are coming into town. Time for relaxing, staying out of the kitchen and sharing highlights of the year. Here is a dish that serves well, is pretty and can be a side for anything that fits your fancy! Make it at least 8 hours ahead so that it can chill, and the flavors blend.

Seven layer Holiday Pasta Salad
Prep time 30

2 c. (4 oz) uncooked farfalle (bow tie) pasta
2 c. broccoli flowerets
2 medium tomatoes, chopped (1 1/2 c.)
1 medium yellow bell pepper, chopped (1 c.)
1/3 diced red onion
1 c. mayonnaise
1/2 cup yogurt
2 T. sugar (or Splenda)
1 1/2 c shredded Cheddar cheese (6 oz)
1 T crispy bacon pieces
2 T finely chopped fresh parsley or 1 T dried

1. Cook and drain pasta as directed on package. Place broccoli in boiling water, cover and cook 1 minute. Drain. Immediately rinse with cold water; drain.
2. While pasta is cooking, layer tomatoes, broccoli, bell pepper and onion in 2 qt. glass serving bowl.
3. Mix Mayonnaise, yogurt sugar in medium bowl. Add Pasta. layer pasta evenly over onion in serving bowl.
4. Sprinkle with cheese. Top with bacon pieces and parsley. Cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours before serving but no longer than 24 hours.
Serves 8.

Happy New Year

Wow is it really almost 2009? We had a *wonderful* Christmas season with a trip up to my parents' house for a week. Santa Claus visited us in Michigan, as opposed to at our home in Ohio, and our transportation to my parents became a miniature sleigh as I jammed all of the gifts ready to be opened (in plastic tubs undetected by little children), along with snow paraphernalia (including a sled), a video-system and DVDs (only used for out-of-state trips), two booster seats, toys to play with while we anticipated Christmas' arrival, plus a supply of clothes for our 7 day excursion. To say the car was full was an understatement!

Making Apple Pie at my mom'sBut we made it! And we had a blast. Family can be stressful when we get brothers and sisters, sisters-in-law, brothers-in-law, nephews, (no nieces in my family yet), and parents all in the same house. This past Christmas was an exception to our rule. Possibly we are all getting older? and realize we can't have everything our way and we are learning to compromise and to blend. It was wonderful.

Of course, I MAJORLY missed my husband off in Iraq. My father pulled me close at one point in the week and told me how very fortunate he was that he never missed a Christmas with his wife and children in his 30-years with the Air Force. That is amazing! He missed a birth, birthdays, and other family occasions while off flying the Air Force skies; but no Christmases.

Paul has never missed a birth and never anything major (even as small as a birthday) up until this deployment. So it is taking me a *wee bit* of adjustment. He'll be home for R&R fairly soon. In fact, we stepped in the door, unloaded the car (all stacked in the kitchen) and first thing I tackled? - Putting Christmas decorations away. Christmas is DONE I'm ready for the next major celebration! HUBBY'S coming home (even for "only" a couple of weeks, I'll take it). I think I'm just going to sleep through New Years in hopes it will bring him home that much faster.

I hope you had a wonderful holiday season! As a reminder be safe over this New Years Holiday; stay off of the roads if you can, especially if you are drinking!


- Leanne from MilitaryAvenue.com

Networking is Important! Your Next Job Could Depend On It!

Maintaining contact with friends and associates has always been a challenge for military personnel and their families due to their frequent relocations and changes to their address, phone numbers, etc! But...the internet has changed all of that with a worldwide resource for maintaining relationships! Add in Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Plaxo and other social and professional networking tools and the opportunities for maintaining a network of friends and employer contacts continues to expand!

How important is networking? When was the last time you heard of a great assignment opportunity in the unit, or talked on the phone, emailed or responded to a friend on your Facebook accounts? All are networking opportunities and create knowledge and opportunity for the military member and family members as well! A recommendation from a friend, military supervisor or a family member of a military contact to the hiring authority can be key to that next job!

How about membership in professional organizations such as the enlisted/officer or spouse club, that volunteer job, military organizations such as the VFW or American Legion, church groups, your childrens' room parent and youth team contacts? All are potential networking opportunities and a means to spread the word that you are looking for employment! Don't be hesitant to tell others about your desires for a job!

We asked a military recruiter at USAA to give us some thoughts on military spouse employment. John DiPiero, USAA Military Recruiting, and a retired USAF Colonel, sent us some great ideas for you to use during your job search. Notice his emphasis on Networking!

"A big challenge for military spouses is frequent moves requiring multiple job changes. Military friendly employers understand this, but you may find some that don’t have an appreciation for the military lifestyle. During the interview, don’t be bashful about explaining why you’ve had frequent moves and that it’s tied to your spouse’s military service obligations. Ensure the interviewer clearly understands your intentions are to remain employed for as long as your spouse is stationed there. They may ask how long that might be. You should explain most military assignments last for about three to four years. The interviewer will be able to see how long your employment lasted for previous jobs on your resume. Just be able to explain why. And remember, NETWORKING is your most powerful employment tool. Use your connections to improve your opportunities."

Finally, a new tool on MilitaryAvenue, Military Answers allows you to ask for assistance while finding employment information at your current installation. Or if planning a PCS move you can look ahead and ask for opportunities at your new location! What a great way to start a new network of military friends as well!

Best wishes for that job search in a brand New Year!

Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

It is time for leisurely breakfasts, family gatherings and a sweet tooth to be satisfied at sunrise. Our sunrise here in Michigan is bright and white with silver and gold accents. The landscape is snow covered. The tree branches are white lined: winter! The railings are even decorated with brilliant red male and female cardinals flitting in; black and white junco; green/brown siskins; and boisterous blue jays.
Now, as we sit and watch all of this move across the deck and sky... a hot cup of coffee and a
piece of warm cinnamon scented coffee cake fit the bill!

Cream Cheese Coffee Cake
Baking time 35 minutes
1/2 c butter
1 (8 oz) pkg. cream cheese
1 1/4 c Splenda sugar or 1 1/4 c regular sugar
2 eggs
1 t vanilla
2 c. flour
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1/4 c. milk

Cream butter and cheese until light and fluffy. Add sugar, eggs and vanilla. Sift dry ingredients and add alternating with 1/4 c milk into butter and cheese mixture. Pour into a greased 13x9" pan. Top with crumb mixture.

Crumb Mixture
2 T. Butter
1/4 c. Splenda brown sugar or 1/2 c. regular brown sugar
1/2 c flour
2 t. cinnamon

Tis the Season

Wow, craziness has overcome the Kocsis household - Tis the Season, I suppose.

Kindergarten Class Parties
High School Orchestra Concerts
Cookies, Cookies and Cookies - followed by the inevitable Kitchen Cleanup
Shopping, Shopping, Shopping followed by Bills, Bills, Bills
Preschool Class Plays
Christmas Lights, garland and hours spent outside freezing my little fingers off decorating
Deadlines for work despite everything else that is happening
Christmas cards that need to be addressed and mailed

I don't think *this* is supposed to be the Reasons for the Season. Quite often my own children will remind me; "I can't wait for Jesus' birthday". Sometimes in the midst of the 'work' & chaos I remember what it is all about myself: making Christmas cookies with the kids is a lot of fun & a great memory maker on cold December days; wrapping presents while I think of the joy that will fill my children's faces on Christmas morning; sitting back and enjoying the music & noise of the season.

Don't forget the chaos that surrounded the birth of a baby over 2,000 years ago. I hope that those that stood around that stable also found the peace in the midst of the chaos themselves that night. I need to remind myself daily of that peace that passes understanding. I hope you can find it in the chaos of your own December!

Season's Greetings and How to Save On Your Taxes Before the End of the Year

As we approach Christmas and many other holidays in December it also marks the end of the tax year. So Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy New Year and Season's Greetings from MilitaryAvenue! I so enjoy this time of the year but also realize it requires me to stay focused on our budget and planning for taxes is one of the unfortunate pieces of reality we all face at this time of the year!

Our friends at USAA, Mike Kelly and JJ Montanaro, provided us some great ideas for this end of the year planning. They provided some action items that we need to get done during the holiday season in order to lessen some potential tax liabilities.

First, it is the season for giving and we certainly can help those in need. When you do charitable things like giving clothes, donating groceries, or funding programs be sure to get a receipt. Also, remember to include your mileage in support of charitable efforts as well!

Second, pay deductible expenses such as January's mortgage at the end of December and push up the interest deduction into 208! I always thought this was a great idea but a tough one with our Christmas expenditures but if your resources allow it will reduce taxes for this year.

Third, do you have a favorite stock that just lost a lot of value? Maybe you want to sell and show the loss for the year? After this year's market losses it would appear that anyone with investments could use this tactic.

Fourth, invest in the future with a contribution to your IRA or 401K or similar retirement fund. Be sure to consult with your financial planner for the best option for your investment based on income, current financial situation and age. The financial planners at USAA are always available to answer questions and assist you with these type of financial decisions.

Fifth, are your getting ready to PCS? We did a PCS at Christmas one year and visited family enroute and then went skiing in Utah enroute Washington state. We had a great time, planned it well and some of our expenses were deductible! It was a great move and we added value by planning it to include our holiday events too!

Thanks again to JJ Montanaro at USAA for his ideas and assistance with end of the year tax saving ideas!

Shakin' things up a bit

It has been a LONG two weeks at the Kocsis household. Since just before Thanksgiving break my two youngest boys, ages 3 and 6, have been fighting what feels like NON-STOP! Especially between the hours of 6pm and 8pm. We call it the 'witching hour' amongst us moms. They have learned to ignore my instruction; I end up yelling WAY TOO much. There has been nothing healthy about it.

On top of that bed time some how got turned upside down and our "normal routine" now included getting out of bed every 20 minutes from 8pm till 10pm to tell me about their tummy ache... headache... hang-nail... whatever they could think of; it seemed like a good excuse to get out of bed and bug Mom. And this Mom was CAPOOT! When lights go out at 8pm I would like to have my two hours of peace to do MY thing before getting on-line with Hun at 10pm.

No matter how I tried I couldn't shake this new 'routine' the boys had made, the fighting & sleepy-time procrastination & stress it was causing me. Then I had a revelation last night: Change the routine!

The boys have shared a room for two years; since *C* came out of his crib and we bought bunk-beds for the boys. I was then blessed with a guest-room for out of town guests. Since my family has to travel considerably to see me they always stay over-night. So a guest room is perfect. It has my husband's old full-bed in it (from his bachelor days) and a hodge-podge of other furniture from our 'single-days'. Well that guest-room is now *C*s. I gave them the option of having their own room after dinner & *E* jumped at the idea! Since *C* was a little more reluctant he got the option of which room he wanted.

I took out the hodge-podge of end-tables, dressers & even a chair (probably headed straight to the garbage at this point). We split up the books from the shared room and divided the mountain of hot-wheels. I brought *C*'s dresser into his new room and you couldn't cut the excitement in the air with a knife!

The best part?! We read books as usual last night. I tucked them into bed in their own rooms and kissed them each goodnight. And then I didn't hear from them again until morning-light. AHHHHhhhh... It was definitely time to shake up our routine!

If you find yourself in a rut I'd suggest doing the same. I'm all for routine - it is full of blessings. However, that routine can go hay-wire. Don't let that 'hay-wire' become your norm. Find a new healthy routine that the whole family will benefit from!

- Leanne from MilitaryAvenue.com

Have you read the latest? MilitaryAvenue and the American Forces Press Service



Jamie Findlater at the Defense Media Activity has been a wonderful advocate for MilitaryAvenue.com and I must say she put together an excellent article, once again, about what MilitaryAvenue is doing for the military-families out there! To Jamie - a HUGE thank you! We work very hard for the military families out there and it is encouraging to be recognized.

Take a moment to read about 'Answers' (http://www.defenselink.mil/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=52160), a very exciting piece of MilitaryAvenue. Then get out there: ask some questions, leave some answers, and connect with other military-families. You won't be sorry!



- Leanne from MilitaryAvenue.com

Military Family Newsletter: Military Spouse Employment

This month's upcoming newsletter is going to be all about Military Spouse Employment. There are many facets to finding... and keeping a job... as a military spouse. We will have some ideas about working from home, resume writing and much more.

We already have quite a few resources on MilitaryAvenue. Check them out if you are in the market for a new career:

Do you have an article or an employment-tip to share? Please do tell! We would love articles from our MilitaryAvenue.com partners and our Military Family Members. Send any submissions to: leanne@militaryavenue.com. Feel free to leave any simple tips as a 'comment' on this blog for our readers to enjoy.

Don't forget to subscribe to our Military Family Newsletter so that you can read our full employment-related newsletter towards the end of December! Create a MilitaryAvenue.com account and you can manage your subscriptions to MilitaryAvenue Alerts and our monthly-newsletter.

- Leanne from MilitaryAvenue.com

Military Reward for December

This Month's Featured Military Reward is given to:

Water Safe Kids
Surprise, Arizona

The Military Reward reads:

25% OFF Swim Lesson Tuition Please call or email us for details (623) 322-3688 info@WaterSafeKids.com

Click here to view coupon featured at Luke Air Force Base.

A special thank you to Water Safe Kids and all of our MAPP partners for supporting your military community with your Rewards.

Why Should Your Business Offer A Military Discount?

If you know of a business that offers a military discount tell them about MilitaryAvenue! They can spread the word through a free ad with their military discount.

"Elf on a Shelf" - A New Christmas Tradition

Thanksgiving is over, the boys will be heading back to school tomorrow, a sense of normalcy might actually overcome this house... or maybe not.

To say my children have been rapscallions the past three-days is putting it mildly. They have been at each other's throats, in each other's way, beating on each other (known to some as wrestling ... but when it ends in tears 9 out of 10 times I call it 'beating on your brother'). I am ready for school to start again!

Traditions are fun and so is starting new ones. This year we are trying something a friend shared with me last month called 'Elf on a Shelf'. You can read the history at their website, but in a nutshell, you have some sort of elf figurine that travels around your house. Each night I will hide it in a new spot, so that when they wake up they can find him again. (They do love Hide-n-Seek, and playing I-Spy!) The rest of the day the elf sits in his 'hiding spot' as a visible reminder that Santa is watching them. So they better be nice or Santa will skip this house. It is just something fun. I'd encourage you to get the scoop on their website. Its a well put-together, fun, Christmas-spirited site.

I went to my local store and bought a $3 stuffed Santa as I could not really find an elf and I explained that Santa dropped him off last night and that each night he is going to move around the house. Later in the day, I watched them reconsider their actions as I watched one's little hands reach for the other's neck... and I reminded them "Santa is watching!" They both looked at the elf, smiled and found something better to do with their time. It seems it gave it a *tangible*, new perspective.


- Leanne from MilitaryAvenue.com

Turkey Rice Casserole a Great Leftover Option

Here is another option for using up the turkey that was leftover! Turkey and rice in a creamy dish are a combination that is hard to best. Friendly flavors on an almost winter night bring on the comfort food calm.

Turkey Rice Casserole
3 cups cut up cooked turkey (or Chicken)
1 (10 1/2 oz) can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 1/4 c milk
1 c celery, chopped
1/2 c regular long grain rice
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 T chopped parsley
2 T butter or margarine
1/4 c dried bread crumbs

About 1 1/2 hours before serving:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a casserole dish, stir turkey, undiluted soup, milk celery, rice wine and parsley. Cover casserole and bake 1 hour 15 minutes, stirring once or twice, until rice is cooked and mixture is hot and bubbly.
Meanwhile, in small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter ; stir in bread crumbs; set aside. When turkey mixture is hot and bubbly, uncover; sprinkle with crumb mixture and bake 15 minutes more or until crumbs are golden. Makes 4 or 5 servings.

Do you have some other ideas for us to share? Send them in. We love to spread the word!

Turkey Creole Time for Spice in Your Life!

Now that the turkey gravy is gone, and there is yet just one Ziploc bag left of turkey in the refrigerator: it is turkey creole time. This spicy dish is bright and colorful and full of flavor. It is a perfect change from the holiday turkey taste.

Turkey Creole

2 T olive oil
1/2 c chopped onion
1 large green pepper, chopped
1 t crushed, chopped garlic
1 16 oz can tomatoes
1 to 2 t chili powder (depending how close to Texas you live!)
1 1/2 t salt
1 t sugar
3/4 t oregano leaves
1/8 t pepper
1 c regular long grain rice
3 c cut up cooked turkey (or chicken)


About 50 minutes before serving;

In a large skillet over medium heat, in hot oil, cook onion, green pepper and garlic until onion and green pepper are tender crisp, about 5 minutes. Add 2 c water, tomatoes with their liquid, chili powder, salt sugar, oregano leaves and pepper; heat to boiling ; stir in rice. Reduce heat to low; cover skillet and simmer 25 minutes or until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed. Stir in turkey and hat through. Makes 4 servings.



This meal should warm up the family on a cold night. Perfect for getting the house ready to decorate for Christmas and coming holidays.

Turkey Leftover Time: Italian Turkey Casserole

I love Thanksgiving Dinner. A turkey, and the fixings does so much for the family! The aroma spreads throughout the house, the boiling pots heat up the kitchen. The windows steam. Warmth permeates the day... in so many ways. Then the dishes are cleaned, the turkey resurfaces for sandwiches on homemade bread and company leaves. However, the amount of turkey seems to grow in the refrigerator!
Bring on the leftovers! For many, this is the favorite meal. There is little fuss involved, no silver to hand wash: just good food to savor.
After the first night of leftovers, I liked to get creative. Italian Turkey Casserole has been a favorite for years. Serve with a side of pasta with olive oil and herbs.

Italian Turkey Casserole
2 cups cooked turkey, chopped
1/4 c diced onion
1 8 oz can tomato sauce
1 6 oz can tomato paste
salt
1 t basil
1 t sugar
1 t crushed garlic
1/8 t pepper
1/4 c bread crumbs
1 3 oz can sliced mushrooms, drained
1 10 oz pkg frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well drained - or if you have frozen beet greens, thaw, and chop these.
1 c ricotta cheese
1 egg
1/8 t nutmeg
4 oz sliced mozzarella cheese

About 1/4 hours before serving:
In a large skillet, over medium heat, cook onion until translucent. Add turkey, stir. Add tomato sauce, paste, 1 t salt and next 4 ingredients. Reduce heat to low; simmer 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until mixture is thickened. Stir in bread crumbs. Reserve 6 mushroom slices for garnish; add rest of mushrooms to meat mixture.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Meanwhile pat spinach or beet greens with paper towels. In medium sized bowl, with fork, combine spinach (or beet greens), ricotta cheese, egg, 1/4 t salt and nutmeg. Cut mozzarella cheese crosswise into 1/4" wide strips; cut 2 slices into 1/2" wide strips; dice remaining cheese.
In 9x9" baking pan, spread half of the turkey mixture; top with ricotta mixture and sprinkle with diced mozzarella; spread on remaining turkey mixture. Arrange cheese strips in rows on top and garnish with reserved mushroom slices. Bake 45 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Makes 6 servings.

Please pass on to us some of your turkey leftover recipes. We all need some variety!

Praline Topped Yams

Our refrigerator is stocked... the shelves are over flowing... my mother-in-law is in the kitchen and flour is a flying! It is time to feed the forces, or family and or any folks who show up at the door! Shirley is the baker, so she is mixing up some gingerbread houses. These will be the amusement for kids to decorate while the football games are running.
I hold it a sacred duty to bring jar after jar out of the larder and prepare it for our table spread. So much fun! One vegetable that we require at Thanksgiving that does not grow in our area are the yams. The recipe that I use for them is like bringing pecan pie to the dinner table... but that's OK!
Praline Topped Yams
2 large cans sweet potatoes or yams
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 t salt
1/2 stick butter, melted
1 t vanilla extract
Topping
1/2 c brown sugar
1 c chopped pecans
1/2 c flour
1/2 stick butter, softened
Mash sweet yams in medium bowl. Add sugar, eggs, butter, vanilla and salt. Spread in casserole dish, approximately 9x9x2". Mix all topping ingredients: Brown sugar, pecans flour and softened butter. Spread over the potato mixture. Bake for 30 minutes. at 350 degrees.
These are oh so good. I multiply this recipe several times for a crowd. This will served 8.

Free Music from AAFES - For the Troops II

Have you downloaded your free music from AAFES? Did I just say FREE?! I saved all of the free music (14 tracks in total, in MP3 format) to my computer and am looking very forward to listening to it in the future.

Thanks to all of the artists that so generously donated to this project. I know there will be MANY service members and their families tuning into your music.

Here is AAFES Press Release for more information:

From the brass bands of the civil war to blaring music from a loudspeaker before a battalion run, American troops "move out" to a soundtrack that is all their own.

Recognizing that good music is integral to morale, Grammy Award winners & nominees and multi-platinum selling recording artists Maroon 5, Keith Urban, Daughtry and Five For Fighting, along with ten other artists, have teamed up with the Army & Air Force Exchange Service to deliver a special gift to troops this holiday season; a free compilation of songs produced exclusively for Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors and Marines called "For the Troops II."

Now available for free download at http://music.aafes.com/, "For the Troops II" can be downloaded by all U.S. active duty, Reserve and National Guard personnel, military retirees and their Families.

"This is the second ‘CD for the Troops’ that Grammy-nominated, platinum-selling singer/songwriter John Ondrasik of Five for Fighting has put together for the military community," said AAFES’ Chief of Communications Lt. Col. Dean Thurmond. "We’re thrilled to offer the fourteen songs that John was able to secure ‘for the troops’ through AAFES’ website. As the Department of Defense’s largest and oldest retailer, this command is uniquely positioned to ensure everyone in uniform has an opportunity to receive this special gift."

The complete track listing of "For the Troops II" is:
* 3 Doors Down – "When I’m Gone"
* Daughtry – "Home"
* Five For Fighting – "Freedom Never Cries"
* Good Charlotte – "I Don’t Want to Be in Love (Dance Floor Anthem)"
* Gretchen Wilson – "California Girls"
* Isaac Hayes – "Theme From Shaft"
* Joe Perry – "Shakin’ My Cage"
* Josh Groban – "Machine"
* Jude – "I Think It’s Time (Everything’s Alright)"
* Keith Urban – "Everybody"
* Maroon 5 – "Won’t Go Home Without You"
* Ray Orbison – "In Dreams"
* Alan Jackson – "Where I Come From"
* Trace Adkins – "Fightin’ Words"

This CD is the follow-up to the first "For the Troops" released last fall. Songs from the CD "For the Troops" were downloaded more than 350,000 times at aafes.com.


- Leanne from MilitaryAvenue.com

A Minute Out of the Norm: Christmas Craft Idea for the kids

I struggle with Christmas ideas for my deployed husband. The deadline for getting packages in the mail is quickly approaching and I know I need to get everything wrapped up and mailed. But it is hard to wrap 'nothing'. Hubby says that he doesn't need anything. Hubby tends to get his boxers in a tizzy if I spend too much money. [He's the financial conservative in the family... I'm all about keeping the economy going ;)] So when Hubby says he doesn't need anything and doesn't want me to spend money ... makes it hard to send a Christmas package.

So I was walking the crafts section of our local WalMart trying to think of something our boys could make for him and I came across sand, colorful-bags of different colored sand. And the idea-light turned on! Then we walked over to the 'cheap vase' department. I picked up 5 bags of colorful-sand for $5 and then the boys each picked out a 98 cent vase. I also picked up a bag of decorative rocks for good measure.

We came home and I found two funnels while the boys got situated at the counter. The three-year older needed a little more help than the six- year older. *C* would have been content to dump a whole bag of sand into a vase; but once I got helping him and showing him how different colors looked he really got into it. They especially seemed to enjoy throwing a rock in at opportune times. When they were all done I dripped a very thick layer of blue wax from a candle over the top to seal it. (I had the boys leave a lip of about 1/2 inch between the sand and the top of the vase.)

It is a bit ironic that we are sending sand over to my husband, no matter how colorful. As I understand it though the sand in Iraq is *really* gross, ie germ infested. So I hope he can look at his sons' colorful creations and be reminded that life is so much better & brighter on the other side of the ocean with his family! (Although, I know he doesn't need that reminder.)

- Leanne from MilitaryAvenue.com

PS: This would also be a great gift-idea for grandmas, grandpas, aunts and uncles if you are looking for an inexpensive gift. They look really pretty on a shelf and are a great reminder of their little-loved one.

Russian Blintzes: Birthday Traditional Favorite

As the children grew, so did their tastes and desires. Birthdays celebrate that growth and add a personal touch to the day. One birthday tradition was the ability to pick the dinner of their choice. Our son Dan was our breakfast boy... that was his favorite meal of the day. For him, the joy of his birthday started the first thing of the day with energy which fueled him. So, bring on the Russians... blintzes that is and let the celebration start.

Russian Blinchiky with Cream Cheese

1 c flour
3 T sugar divided
1/2 t salt
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 c milk
1 (8 oz) cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 c sour cream
1/8 t cinnamon
1 T butter

In a large blender container, add milk eggs, 1 T sugar, and salt. Process on stir until blended. Slowly add flour: blend. Allow crepe batter to sit for 5 minutes.
In a mixer bowl, add cream cheese, sour cream butter and cinnamon. Combine until blended.
In a large greased fry pan, pour 2 T of crepe batter all at once into pan; tilt to spread batter out.. Cook until top is set and underside browned. Brown on one side only. Start a stack of these crepes on a side plate. They do not stick together.
When all of crepe batter is done, place about 1 T of filling in the center of the browned side. Fold 2 opposite sides over filling, then roll, starting at unfold edge. Heat in butter or margarine in fry pan until hot and nicely browned, turning once. Serve with either fruit pie filling or maple syrup.
Happy birthday Dan!

Following Up: MilitaryAvenue.com on AWTR

In case you missed the live interview on Army Wife Talk Radio you can still tune-in: Army Wife Talk Radio - November 17

It was an exciting show and I was honored to be asked back to talk to the Army wives out there in cyberspace! The show started with June Wahlberg of USAA. June, Star and Tara talked about ideas to cut back on Christmas Spending this year. Something that is pertinent in today's volatile economy.

Homemade gifts seemed to be a big hit. Even something as 'simple' as from the kitchen; homemade pesto sauce, a plate of cookies, a collection of your favorite recipes. You don't need to spend an exorbitant amount of money on extended family and neighbors just get creative! I'll keep that in mind as I think about a fun little gift for my brothers and sisters-in-laws.



Star and I talked at about the 78 minute mark in the interview. I was very excited to share what is new on MilitaryAvenue. Highlights include:

Additionally, we talked about our blog: Col K's interview with Mike Kelly from USAA was featured on USAA.com and Star and I both praised the wonderful support that they have given the military families, including mine!

Again a big "Thank you" to AWTR! Take a moment to listen. They are on live every Monday night but you can always checkout the 'taped' version at any point in the week when it is a convenient time for you.

- Leanne from MilitaryAvenue.com

Military Humor is Good for You

One of the best medicines for our well being is to laugh! Different medical studies have proven the benefits of a good laugh for your blood pressure, heart and mental health! But GIs knew that a long time ago before any high cost study! As they prepared for missions, became involved in humanitarian relief efforts, fought wars around the globe there has always been a special "military humor" that helped us cope. It has even spread to the family members who lived the lifestyle as well. Just listen to a group of spouses sharing their life events and you will hear humor that is unique and most civilians would never understand it.

I was listening to Army Wife Talk Radio last night since one of our team was on the program. They also have an active chat room during the show and I saw so many comments about "they don't understand" referring to civilian neighbors/family and the challenges of the military lifestyle. So to allow you a few moments of laughter I thought I would include some military humor that many of you will recognize! Here goes:

WISDOM - FROM THE MILITARY MANUALS

'If the enemy is in range, so are you.'
- Infantry Journal

'It is generally inadvisable to eject directly over the area you just bombed.'
- US Air Force Manual

'Whoever said the pen is mightier than the sword obviously never encountered automatic weapons.'
- General Mac Arthur

'You, you, and you ... Panic. The rest of you, come with me.'
- U.S. Gunnery Sgt.

'Tracers work both ways.'
- U.S. Army Ordnance

'Five second fuses only last three seconds.' - Infantry Journal

'Any ship can be a minesweeper. Once.'

'Never tell the Platoon Sergeant you have nothing to do'
- Unknown Marine Recruit

'If you see a bomb technician running, try to keep up with him.'
- USAF Ammo Troop

'Though I Fly Through the Valley of Death , I Shall Fear No Evil.
For I am at 50,000 Feet and Climbing.'

'You've never been lost until you've been lost at Mach 3.'
- Paul F. Crickmore

'The only time you have too much fuel is when you're on fire.'

'If the wings are traveling faster than the fuselage, it's probably a helicopter -- and therefore, unsafe.'

'When one engine fails on a twin-engine airplane you always have enough power left to get you to the scene of the crash.'

'Even with ammunition, the USAF is just another expensive flying club

'What is the similarity between air traffic controllers and pilots?

If a pilot screws up, the pilot dies; If ATC screws up, .... The pilot dies.'

'Never trade luck for skill.'

'The three most common expressions (or famous last words), in aviation are:
* 'Why is it doing that?'
* 'Where are we?'
* 'Oh S...!'

'Airspeed, altitude and brains. Two are always needed to successfully complete the flight.'

'Mankind has a perfect record in aviation; we have never left one up there!'

'Flying the airplane is more important than radioing your plight to a person on the ground incapable of understanding or doing anything about it.'

'The Piper Cub is the safest airplane in the world; it can just barely kill you.'
- Attributed to Max Stanley

'Airman, maintain thy air speed lest the earth rise up and smite you!

'There is no reason to fly through a thunderstorm in peacetime.'
- Sign over squadron ops desk at Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ, 1970

'If something hasn't broken on your helicopter, it's about to.'

'You know that your landing gear is up and locked when it takes full power to taxi to the terminal.'

'As the test pilot climbs out of the experimental aircraft 'What happened?'
The pilot's reply: 'I don't know, I just got here myself!'
- Attributed to Ray Crandell (Lockheed test pilot)

Traditions Tape Memories on the Calendar

Do you think Christmas comes in December because we like to save the best for last? Could be. But first we have to draw out the thrill of the time and get the family psyched for the old traditions, and build some new ones each year! Seems I never got the 'tradition line up' perfected... but I certainly enjoyed reliving past season's fun times and memories with the building and blending of new ideas and local culture.

I love learning about other families traditions. My own were never enough! It's the holiday season - and just like presents... I like like to handle as many as possible. We learned and experienced different presentations of the holidays - but all with the same theme: family, fellowship, worship and celebration.

The great gifts that you give, make and receive are gifts from the hearts of those who celebrate life around you. Welcome them! Enjoy this season.

MilitaryAvenue on Army Wife Talk Radio Tonight!

Join us tonight on Army Wife Talk Radio at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/AWTR.
Leanne of MilitaryAvenue.com is going to be featured as "Army Wife Talk Radio's" Resource of the week this Monday, at 8:00pm (EST). Be sure to Tune in! We have been the Resource-of-the-Week a few times on AWTR and it is always a blast!

"This week on AWTR we’re featuring our Patriot Sponsors – USAA. It’s always a good time with the crew from San Antonio! We have some great information to pass along to you about Holiday Spending!! Field Problems Resource of the Week: MilitaryAvenue, The Parenting Minute, Army Wife Life, and AWTR Mess Hall! "

Do you want to find out a little bit about Leanne and the whole MilitaryAvenue.com team? Read here.

- Leanne from MilitaryAvenue.com

2008 Trees for Troops

I thought this might be of some interest for our readers.


Trees for Troops, a program of the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation and FedEx Corp., will deliver more than 16,000 Christmas Trees to military families during the 2008 holiday season. Find out how you can get involved in Trees For Troops Weekend, view delivery locations and more!

Click for more about the 2008 program


We are off this weekend to celebrate my dad's 60th birthday. It will be a wonderful weekend with his brothers, his sister, his dad & step-mom, his nieces and nephews, lots of in-laws, his children, and his grandchildren. Of course Hubby will not be there and I will feel the void but look forward to seeing my extended-family. It is wonderful to be able to celebrate family!

- Leanne from MilitaryAvenue.com

Send a Stars & Stripes Holiday Message to your loved one

If you have a loved one stationed overseas be sure to send them a Holiday Message in the Stars & Stripes print edition.

Stars and Stripes are now taking submissions for Holiday Messages. Submissions made before 8 a.m. EDT November 28th will appear in Stars and Stripes editions around the world.
Find your favorite photo, think of a heart-felt message for your loved one and click here: http://messages.stripes.osd.mil/.

If you have missed the deadline you can still send a message to your loved one via Stars & Stripes online, but it will not be in the print edition.

- Leanne from MilitaryAvenue.com

Free Homecoming Banners from Build-A-Sign.com

I just received this email this evening and I know there is a lot of interest out there for free military-homecoming banners. I hope you can grab one if you need one! Build-A-Sign did this promotion back in July and the banners went lighting-fast:
In Honor of Veteran's Day
We're Giving Away 20,000 Banners & Signs
to Support US Troops at Home and Abroad!

Choose From The Following Free Products:

2'x4' or 3'x6' Banner
18"x24" Jumbo Greeting Card


- Leanne from MilitaryAvenue.com

Veterans' Day in the Classroom

A few weeks ago I ran across the Veterans' Day Resource for Teachers and it really started me thinking. My husband is in the Army National Guard and we aren't particularly close to any military installation or any large-military population. I wasn't sure if they would talk at all about Veterans' Day in my son's kindergarten classroom. Yet, it seemed appropriate and relevant to me!

So I took the time to send a note to our principal explaining that my family had a history of veterans and that one of her own students' fathers (my husband!) was serving overseas for our US Army. I included the link to the guide from the Veteran Affairs Dept and just asked her to consider disseminating the information to her teachers.

A week later I was on a field trip with the class and *E*'s teacher told me that the principal had forwarded my email in its entirety on to all of the teachers in the school. Wow. I didn't expect that for some reason. [I know I asked for it ... but it sure is nice to get what you ask for :)]

The best part though was today, Veterans' Day: I went into *E*'s classroom and read 'Night Catch' (Highly recommended for any family facing a deployment) and brought in our Flat Daddy. I was there for about 15 minutes and talked to the kids about how important our soldiers & other service-members are to us. I had them raise their hand if they had a grandpa, grandma, aunt or uncle in the military & asked each of them to call their military-related loved one tonight and say "Thank You". My goal was to plant a seed; and as moms and dads, neighbors and community members sometimes that is the best thing that we can do!

To all of our military-veteran readers Happy Veteran's Day to you - Thank you for your honor and dedication in such a sacrificial profession! I pray we have generations to follow that hold the same values.

- Leanne from MilitaryAvenue.com

Thank You to Our Wonderful Veterans on Veteran's Day


I wanted to say thank you on Veterans Day but I initially hesitated as a member of the group. Sometimes its hard to say thank you when it involves what some could see as self praise. But this group of patriotic Americans is so diverse I decided I needed to step up and say a loud and clear:

Thank You for your sacrifices, your patriotism and your willingness to protect others!

This group starts with the World War II veterans and continues to current service personnel engaged in a global war on terrorism. Among the WW II vets is my dad who will visit us this next week and stay for Thanksgiving. His stories of driving heavy equipment in England are always harrowing and the focus of getting the job done (despite broken equipment and schedule challenges leading up to the D Day invasion) was typical of our service members.

I remember being so impressed during a landing with a C-17 at Kandahar in Afghanistan early in the war there to see the runway lined with foxholes and young marines in each one. It was December 2001 and they had secured the runway so we could bring in supplies and other service personnel. It was bitterly cold with no comfort features that most Americans take for granted. They served with pride.

I also remember an aircraft maintenance crew that volunteered to sleep on a glacier with a helicopter involved in the rescue of injured personnel from another country. The helicopter needed maintenance and repair. It was a large job and they were almost on the Arctic Circle but they wanted to be there! I had to turn down volunteers.

So if you know a veteran or their family please say thank you on this special day of recognition. They certainly have earned it!

PS: We are preparing for a new president and congress and we need to remind them of the sacrifices of this group to protect all Americans. We, the people need to insure that the political leadership continues to provide and even improve the benefits that veterans deserve.

Veterans Day Thanks

Today, Tuesday November 11, is Veterans Day in the United States. The holiday to honor American war veterans began in 1919 as Armistice Day, as proclaimed by President Woodrow Wilson, to commemorate the cessation of hostilities in World War I in 1918. It was declared a federal holiday on May 13, 1938, and renamed "Veterans Day: following World War II to honor veterans of all wars.

Please take a moment today to reflect on the sacrifices of our country's veterans and service members who protect our freedom and values. If you see a veteran or service member, please stop them and thank them for their commitment, Veterans Day is only one day on the calendar, but it should remind us to appreciate and honor veterans and service members everyday of the year.

Purple Heart

It is Friday morning, which means the Kocsis crew was up an at 'em early. I always have my step-son Thursday afternoon through Friday morning and so we trek across town, about a 30 minute drive, to get him to high school. It can be a long drive ... but I pack a breakfast the night before for the two younger ones in the backseats and usually we sit there fairly quietly, still waking up and listening to the radio.

Today though I was a little quieter as a very sobering interview of Lt Col (Ret) Brian Birdwell came on. Lt Col. Birdwell was in the Pentagon on 9/11/2001.
"After hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 collided into the Pentagon, Brian was thrown to the ground and engulfed in flames. Of the burns that consumed 60 percent of his body, nearly half were third degree. "
He was awarded a Purple Heart from the burns he sustained and retired after serving in the military for 20 years. During the interview, after Lt Col Birdwell explained what it was like for him in the Pentagon that day, the radio DJ said something to the effect: "You truly deserved that Purple Heart with all the trials you endured." And his reply is what really stuck with me:

He replied that every day our military-members put on their uniform and are willing to go above and beyond the call of duty. If a situation is thrown at them that will result in a Purple Heart they will do it.

"Country above self" comes to my mind. Remember that this Veteran's Day: Your service-member most likely has not been awarded a purple-heart but they would do what it takes to earn one; not to 'just have one' but because they are *that* dedicated to our country, our freedoms, our liberties. They deserve our thanks this Tuesday and every day!

- Leanne from MilitaryAvenue.com

Spinach or Beet Green Rounds Appetizers


Our garden this year was ultra productive. WOW. Two freezers are full, and the larder is full of jars of produce. Now it is the fun of picking gem colored fruits or vegetable preserved bags or jars to bring into the kitchen for the evening's meal. Our beets this year were premium. We ate them fresh and canned them. But it was the tops that were a prized possession. Their dark green leaves added extra iron to my summer salads from June to September. When harvesting the beets, I washed off the tops, and put some in the freezer. These can be used interchangeably with recipes that call for frozen spinach. They do bleed a bit pink... so it's an interesting dish when served!

When company comes, and they come in from distances, I enjoy having a display of aroma producing appetizers to start the fellowship and direct it straight to a time to the point of the invite: good fun, good food, good fellowship! Here is one example of a make ahead, 'normal' ingredient appetizer: Spinach or Beet Green Rounds.

Ingredients:
2 large eggs
5 oz frozen spinach or beet greens
1/2 c onions, minced and sauteed
1/3 c Parmesan cheese
1/3 c butter, softened
1/4 t salt
1/8 t pepper
1/4 t garlic powder
1 t minced parsley
1 1/4 c seasoned bread crumbs

Preparation:
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Beat eggs in small bowl. If using the beet greens, chop while frozen, they really flake so easily. If using spinach, allow to thaw, drain then chop. In another bowl add the greens/spinach, onions, Parmesan, butter, salt, pepper, garlic powder and parsley. Add eggs to mixture. Mix thoroughly. Stir in bread crumbs. Let mixture sit 15 to 20 minutes.
Form walnut-sized balls and place on baking sheet. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until golden brown and firm. Serve warm. Makes 20 rounds.

Happy Military Family Appreciation Month

November is here! November is probably one of my favorite months of the year. I love autumn: the colorful trees, frost on the grass in the morning, little-boys discovering their breath hanging in the air and of course Thanksgiving. (My favorite holiday of all, but I'm sure I'll get to write more about that later this month.)

Another reason November is so great? This year it is the 13th annual Military Family Appreciation Month! There is so much going on in November it is pretty easy to overlook that one, but I for one appreciate the appreciation :). Is your local installation planning anything special for the month? Contact your Family Service Center, Family Readiness Group, Youth Center and find out! If not plan something:
  • Take the family out to see something new, a new museum, a new park. Think about the things your family is getting to see that most families will not get to experience;
  • Visit a local military-historical marker;
  • Start a journal, write an essay, draw a picture detailing what makes your military-family unique. Take pride in the fact that *YOU*, as a member of the military-family, make a difference!
The military-lifestyle is unique. We have challenges and hurdles but we also have the pride of being the family behind our service members who proudly serve. We have the opportunity to to expand our world-view and our horizons; see the sights; really discover ourselves. Enjoy this month!

- Leanne from MilitaryAvenue.com

Cool Night: Warm Dinner Sausage Rolls

Soccer, basketball, cheer leading, football and track... Just a few ways to keep the family running around town! Activities that mold and shape character in our children help us roll with the schedules. When it is time to zip into the house and feed the famished fans... here is a great zingy meal that is hands on, and is perfect for recapping the games.

Chorizo Sausage Rolls
1 large onion, peeled and chopped fine ( or grated)
2 carrots, peeled and grated
1 pound of Chorizo sausage
1 (17.5 oz) package of frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed
1 large egg, beaten

Preparation: Heat oven to 425 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil or use your broiler pan with the separate slotted top. (This allows the grease to run off of the roll as it bakes.) Line the bottom part of the broiler pan with aluminum foil for easier clean up.
In a mixing bow, mix together the onion, carrots, and sausage.
Use on pastry sheet at a time, keeping the other one refrigerated until ready to use.
Roll one pastry as thin as possible lengthwise. Place 1/2 sausage mixture on the sheet about 1 1/2 inches from the edge, lengthwise; roll. Repeat with second pastry and remaining sausage mixture. (Up to this point, sausage rolls can be done ahead of time, and kept covered in the refrigerator.)
Glaze by brushing with beaten egg.
Place both sausage rolls on prepared baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until deep golden brown. Halfway through the cooking time, turn them over. Be careful, there is a lot of excess grease left on the baking sheet.
Makes 2 sausage rolls, with 12 slices each.

A Review of the Holiday Traditions of the K Family

We were blessed with many traditions that we brought into our family from our parents! But then we added traditions that we enjoyed too and included some uniquely military ones as well! What fun they were and even though we could be thousands of miles from our parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, cousins, etc we always tried to expand "our family" to include others.

When the kids approached junior high and high school we were overseas and it was a great time to enjoy new traditions from our host country! The location also supported a number of TDY/TAD crews on alert and they became part of our traditions. We invited these aircrews and their maintainers who were away from their families over the holidays to our home for dinner on Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and the Super Bowl! What fun we had! A bunch of fellow American military personnel, away from home and enjoying the holidays with us! Once we got past the usual get to know each other time it was all laughs and sharing of great meals. The toasts were enjoyed and usually included some light prose as well! :)

After rousing meals the group needed to burn some energy and we did different things such as go to the gym for a game of walleyball (volleyball in a racquetball court with the walls considered inbounds). We also participated in walks around the installation foot path/nature trail and football games on the TV (yeah it burned calories I am sure)!

After we became a family with college age children away from home, we expanded our "group" to include the young airmen on the installation. We took full advantage of the opportunity to serve meals in the dining hall on holidays! The smiles on their faces and the opportunity to thank them for their service helped bridge the distance to our children living thousands of miles away. We also learned the fun of taking cookies and other "treats" to the men and women on base who could not leave their posts. Imagine their surprise at having a couple of guests arrive with snacks!

After retirement we were able to relocate closer to our extended families and still enjoy the memories of those years of service! Our traditions continue to develop though as we add grandchildren, nieces and nephews and their significant others into the group!

Enjoy the holidays and add to those traditions with a new one this year! Then share with us your great ideas. Ideas meant to be shared along with the joys of the season.

Fruit Basket Upset

Childhood games were the best: interaction, laughter and goofiness reigned in my 'organized fun time'. Fruit Basket Upset required at least 10 friends, names of fruits: each child picked a fruit type. Then, with one less chair we waited for the 'it' to call out two or three fruits - at that time up we would jump and change chairs before 'it' could take our spot.

Perfect name and game for this time of year. Soon the Thanksgiving fruit bowl will be assembled: pineapple, pears, apples, grapes, bananas, oranges and tangerines. The table will be arranged... and usually there is one less 'good' chair than I would like. (NEVER too many people. Never Ever!) Name tags are put at place settings which are usually moved and altered so that like the game - everyone ends up in a different position from where I started.

Before a I purchase the fruit, I try to think of a plan for any uneaten gems that survive the pickings and changes of hands on Thanksgiving day. The lonely pineapple is one that gets the most attention for left over recipes. Desserts come to the forefront of ideas. However at this time of year baking cookies, pies and breads take precedence over pineapple upside down cake.

So, on an evening when dinner cries out to be something other than turkey, try these Spicy Steak Quesadillas with Pineapple Salsa. I'm quite sure they will be a hit.

1 lb round steak, grilled and sliced very thin, and then into 1/2 " pieces
6 10" tortillas
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 cups grated Cheddar cheese
3 cups grated Monterrey Jack with peppers cheese
Pineapple Salsa (recipe follows)

Preheat a large non-stick saute pan over medium heat.
Place flour tortilla in pan and sprinkle with 2 T. grated Parmesan cheese.
Flip over tortilla so the Parmesan cheese side is at the bottom of the saute pan.
Sprinkle tortilla with 1/2 cup each: grated Cheddar cheese, Monterrey Jack cheese and grilled steak.
Cook until the cheeses have melted and the tortilla is browned.
Sprinkle with Pineapple salsa.
Fold tortilla in half and remove from pan
Cut quesadilla into 3 or 4 sliced and serve with a side bowl of pineapple salsa for dipping.

Pineapple Salsa
Makes 2 coups
1/2 Pineapple
1 red Bell Pepper
1/2 white onion, sliced into 1/4" thick slices.
1 can mild chili peppers chopped
1 T lime juice
2T cilantro (optional)
1/2 t. kosher salt
1/4 t. freshly ground black pepper

Directions:
Preheat broiler to high.
Peel pineapple and slice into 1/4" thick slices. On a broiler pan, place pineapple, red pepper and onion slices. Broil pineapple and onions 2 minutes on each side. (Remove pineapple and onions from broiler pan and put Bell pepper back in oven.) Cool pineapple and onions completely remove core and cut into 1/4: chucks. Broil Red Bell Pepper 5 minutes total on one side and then turn for 3 more minutes until browned on both sides. Place in paper bag. Let cool. Remove from bag and remove seeds and peel. Chop into 1/4" chunks.
Combine all ingredients in a bowl, mix well.

Swim Lessons

We had our VERY first swim-lessons on Saturday. I was taking advantage of our new YMCA membership & wanted to get my water-loving, but non-swimming boys enrolled in swim lessons. *E*, 6 years-old was very excited. *C*, 3 years-old was a little timid but a little excited because big-brother was excited.

Once we were to the Y *C* declared right-away he was "not going in the big-pool". Sigh... I was glad that *E*'s lessons started 15 minutes before his, in hopes he would see his brother in the pool and get over his fear of non-baby size pools.

They called *E*'s class to the pool. There were three boys, the other two looked about two or three years older than *E*. Once they were in the pool the other two were swimming like fish. This mom was immediately nervous! Had I signed him up for the right class?! But *E* still had a HUGE smile on his face and was roaring to go. He did a few laps on a board with his new teacher and was all smiles.

Then *C*'s class was called. He very hesitantly walked with his class ... got to the pool side and literally started SCREAMING! Oh Man. There were four kids in *C*'s class and once *C* started crying so did the other boy. They pulled *C* right into the water and started bouncing him and getting him used to it - mean while he was still SCREAMING. (But yes the teachers' persistence did pay off!)

At some point though *E* must have decided he was invincible and tried swimming like the bigger boys. I missed it completely, probably paying attention to my SCREAMING son. So now *E* traumatized from inhaling enough water to sink a boat was really crying.

The ironic thing was towards the end of our 45 minute lessons *C* was only SCREAMING when he had to sit on the edge of the pool while another child was with the teacher in the water. When he was in the water he was a-ok. I don't think he was upset that he had to sit out ... but more-so that he had time to think about the fact that he was upset. (I think this reflects my thoughts about this deployment... just don't give me time to think about it!)

*E* has declared he HATES swim lessons. *C* said he wants to go back next week. Sigh...

We will go back next week. I'm building character, right?! Sometimes moms just need reassurance they are doing the right thing. But I just know that by the end of the eight-week lessons they will be like two little fish. Please tell me I'm not having to drag one child out of the house every Saturday!!


- Leanne from MilitaryAvenue.com

What are your Holiday Traditions?

The Holidays are upon us! There is a chill in the air, the leaves have fallen from the trees and for those of us a bit north we have already seen our first snow. What comes to my mind this time of year but "Traditions".

What are your favorite Holiday Traditions? What are some new traditions that you have made in light of being a military-family? What are some traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation?

Enjoy the comments we have already & then add your own. Then come back again and see what others have added.

Don't forget to subscribe to our Military Family Newsletter! Create a MilitaryAvenue.com account and you can manage your subscriptions to Alerts and our monthly-newsletter.

I look forward to hearing from you!


- Leanne from MilitaryAvenue.com

What is killing our young Marines?

This is startling: "Motorcycle accidents have killed more Marines in the past 12 months than enemy fire in Iraq, a rate that's so alarming it has prompted top brass to call a meeting to address the issue, officials say." (Source: CNN.com)

I realize we are coming out of 'motorcycle' season here in the northern parts of the US but the reminder is still relevant. Ladies and Gentleman ... put on those helmets; take your training courses; and don't forget your other protective gear.

My hubby's Uncle Stan is a prime reminder of how important it is to wear that gear. Stan was 40, had a girlfriend, and was enjoying life! He was a carpenter; enjoyed hanging out with his buds; and his prized posession was his Harley. Nothing bad was going to happen to him, he was invincible. He didn't need a helmet (not legally required in Ohio). He liked the wind in his hair (or what he had at 40 years old).

He was coming home later one night with the girlfriend on the back of the bike. He rolled through the stop-sign. He didn't see the pick-up truck that also didn't stop. His life changed forever in that moment.

It has been almost two years and Stan is confined to a wheelchair, a feeding tube and is back in the care of his 80 year-old mother. His sisters take turns helping him shower, take him to "swim-lessons", and occasionally changing his bed-sheets.

If you are 18 or 80 (or anywhere in between) you are NOT invincible. Your loved ones love you; they don't want to bury you or have to change your adult-sized diaper.

And just in case you weren't sure how serious the military takes your safety... here is just a sample of the articles that the DoD has written:

- Leanne from MilitaryAvenue.com

The YMCA is serving our deployed military-families

Yesterday while my oldest two were at school and my youngest was at the babysitter I made our way to our local YMCA. I was very excited to read that many YMCAs were giving free memberships to deployed families (about a $700 yearly-value for my family of five).

Two weeks ago I contacted the Y here in Ohio to be sure they were participating and 'JACKPOT!' they were. I told them I would be in ASAP to fill out the paperwork and wouldn't you know life happened! (Sinus infections, impetigo, and a knee that needs physical therapy ... all in two weeks for my boys.) My ASAP took a little longer than expected and Shawn, the director of membership, called me twice to make sure everything was ok. How nice of him to take the time to call. I really felt cared about!

So now they boys are signed up for swim-lessons this fall (yay for indoor pools!) and I hope to find a stress-relieving class for myself in the near-future like light aerobics or yoga. They offer child-care, even, while mom is working out. :)

If you have a local Y find out if they are participating: "Family-Support Program Expands; DoD, YMCA Strengthen Partnership". Of course we are missing Hubby more than anyone can imagine, but it is wonderful to be able to use the benefits we are given while he is gone serving our country!

- Leanne from MilitaryAvenue.com

Fish for your Health

The Internet articles are praising the value of fish: brain food, heart healthy mainstay and a great Omega 3 source. I love it that fish is good for you, as I love fish. Have always loved it, and have a storehouse of recipes to flip through each month while I make up the monthly chart of 'marvelous meals'.
I started this monthly chart when the kids were little and they started arguing over who was going to pick what we had for dinner. Cut out that opportunity for a brawl as soon as I could! Their dinner inputs were always welcome and sought after as I wrote up the menu calendar. Fish was usually requested - there was an abundance of this resource in Panama, Florida, South Carolina and Iceland. I grew up a beef-eater and now lean to the seafood suppers.

For 4 people, 1 pound of fresh fish fillet. This weekend we used tilapia.
3 to 4 green onions, green part removed, sliced and chopped
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon celery salt
1 T fresh parsley
1 teaspoon basil
1/8 t (slight) dry mustard

In a small bowl combine all ingredients except fish! Set cheese mixture aside.

Preheat broiler. *** Place fillets on a well-buttered or olive oiled rack (or Foil) and brush with a bit of oil. For cooking time, estimate 10 minutes total per inch of maximum thickness. It is best to under cook a bit if the fillets are thin at one end and thicker at the other. (They can always be put back in!) Broil the fish 2 to 4 inches from the broiler unit.

If using fillets that have the skin, place on broiler pan skin side up. Put 'skin on' fillet under broiler for 3 min. Remove. Skin should peel off. Remove all skin.
If using fillets such as tilapia, with no skin, oil the broiler pan AND the top of the fillets before putting them under the broiler. Broil until fish looses it's shiny appearance about 4 minutes. Remove from broiler, flip fillet over and spread on the cheese topping. replace in broiler 4 minutes more or until fish flakes when separated with a fork.

Amberjack is our all time favorite for this recipe, followed by red snapper and ysa (Icelandic cod). Experiment. You will enjoy the tang of the topping.

Featured MilitaryReward for November 2008

November's Featured MilitaryReward is from Texas! "Other Than Roses Photography" is based out of San Antonio. Their Reward featured offers for weddings and deployments and is aimed directly at their military audience's needs! This is one of the most critical criteria we use for selection! Thank you for your wonderful offer!


Other Than Roses Photography

Military Reward!!

*Active Duty Military Discount's available! - Getting Married? - Want Family Photos? Show your AD ID card and receive 20% any package/session price and 25% off any prints ordered! - Deploying? - Check out Operation Love Reunited at OpLove.org on how you can get a free photo session and a free photo album shipped to you at your deployed location.





You can see the "Other Than Roses Photography" Ad at Lackland AFB Photographers!


Do you see any Rewards that you think should be nominated? Please forward to us through Feedback and we will include them in next month's competition!

Glazed Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Bread Crumbs

We have had our first frost, first freeze and therefore our gathering of the Brussels Sprouts. These little 'cabbage heads' grow on a tall spike, spiraling around the spear from top to bottom. They are not the easiest vegetables to harvest, as they have to be cut off of the stalk, plopped in a bucket and lugged inside... and did I mention that it is near freezing! Ah, but that is just an added touch to these beauties.

There are 9 full quart zip-lock bags in our freezer just waiting to be served in style. I love this recipe as it highlights the Brussels Sprouts, but escapes the bitter taste of my childhood memories of them. The wine glaze sweetens, the bacon adds crunch, and the bread crumbs top the dish perfectly.

6 slices bacon, cooked reserve 2 T bacon fat
1/2 onion, sliced
1/2 green or red bell pepper, chopped
2 cups Brussels sprouts, tough outer leaves removed, stem ends trimmed
1/3 cup red wine
1 T Splenda brown sugar or 2 T of regular brown sugar
1/3 cup toasted fresh bread crumbs (from hot dog bun)
1 T fresh snipped Basil leaves
3/4 t kosher salt
1/4 walnut pieces

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, cut an 'x' in the stem end of each Brussels sprout to ensure even cooking. Add Brussels sprouts to boiling water; parboil 5 minutes until bright green, and just slightly tender; drain - run under cold water, drain again.

In large fry pan cook bacon until crisp, reserve bacon fat. Crumble or chop bacon and set aside. Add onion and bell pepper to pan, place on medium heat. Add Brussels sprouts and cook 3 minutes. To this mixture add brown sugar, basil, and salt. Stir. Cook 4 minutes longer. Raise heat to medium high, - add the 1/3 cup of wine slowly scraping the bottom of the pan as you stir. Add bacon pieces and if necessary a teaspoon of wine to keep the mixture moist. Add bread crumbs, remove from pan.

This is a fantastic taste for fall. This Brussels sprouts dish is full of flavor, rich in vitamins and colorful. Please share your favorite fall dishes. It is a great time to have friends over for dinner, a time to sit and chat and get to know new neighbors!

A Manly Weekend


I had a lot of fun this weekend! Despite a few sore muscles in response to my "chores and fun times", I felt like the weekend was productive. It allowed me to get away from some of the routines that can wear you out.

The weekend actually started out bad due to a broken down car (transmission failure--very expensive). We towed it to a helpful garage from a less than helpful one late Friday! The drive was long and the conditions not the best but we had the time to talk to a son and daughter in law we were helping! We took advantage of tough times and some major frustrations to enjoy their company. Then we stopped at a store offering some specials and got our mid grade gas for $2.57 a gallon. We filled up with less than $40! We bought some salmon and other fish for dinner and the freezer and then enjoyed a late but scrumptious meal!

Saturday arrived early and we were working on projects outside by 8 after some coffee and a bagel. Activities included getting the garden ready for spring by picking the last vegetables (brussel sprouts) and then spreading organic fertilizer--yep it stunk. Inside the house Deb prepared the sprouts for freezing. She then joined me outside to help take down a couple of dead and ugly trees with our trusty chain saw. Deb loves bonfires so we started a big one and she stoked it with the branches from the trees while I made fence railings with the trunks. We ended a busy day in time to enjoy another relaxing meal with fish and some of the sprouts with fresh biscuits.

Sunday included some family time with sons and families and some more tree cutting. We pulled down a good sized one and a dead branch next to it with the 4 wheeler! Very handy vehicle to help with that type of project! Of course, after we worked hard (we moved some logs weighing 400-500 pounds) we had to run the 4 wheeler around the back 40 pasture area! :) Grandsons got rides, son and daughter in law raced a timed course and we laughed a lot! After dinner we had some apple crisp and watched America's Funniest Home Videos! Some more good laughs for everyone!

What do you for laughs and relaxation? We recognize that there may be times when you can't find the time to relax but it will make your family stronger if you can laugh together!

PS: I would have posted a video of the tree coming down with some help from the 4 wheeler but the son's phone camera which I used had a backward lens on it. Took a fine picture of me but missed the tree completely! Haha! Newfangled gadgets!
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