"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
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
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:


'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.

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

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

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
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