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!

Trunk 'n Treat

Friday was a fun time for my boys. Exactly a week before Halloween and they got their first taste of this year's Halloween Candy. MMMMM.... Sugar...

Our local MOPS chapter organized a Trunk 'n Treat in the church parking lot. If you are looking for a fun & safe alternative or addition to the traditional Trick -or- Treat this is the up and coming thing :). All of the families parked their cars in two rows with the trunks facing in. Then the children could go from trunk to trunk, car to car, and pick out some candy. Since most of the moms were escorting their children, the candy was pretty much unattended with the trunks all opened up. For our group the honor system worked [Although I REALLY would have liked to take the one bowl full of Twix candy-bars home and hoard them for myself... sometimes us moms are no better than the kids. Alas, I behaved too. ;)]

Some moms even decorated their trunks and piped some Halloween-ish music out of their car-speakers. It was wonderful to see the creativity. I also really enjoyed seeing the children dressed up in costume; something about 2 year-old Pooh Bears and bumble-bees is just too sweet. (Although my handsome knight and ghoully ghost took the prize in my book.)

The holiday season is upon us. Halloween can be a very scary time for our young ones but this was a nice change of pace. If you are looking for autumn ideas keep this one in mind. It comes highly recommended (from myself and kids alike)!

- Leanne from MilitaryAvenue.com

Your Finances in a Crisis? Part 3 and Final: An Interview with a Financial Expert from USAA

First, a big thank you this morning to USAA and JJ Montanaro and Mike Kelly! They took the time to meet with MilitaryAvenue and help provide you with some very helpful information on the current financial crisis. Today we will talk about credit cards, credit availability and car loans.

One of the issues with the financial crisis is the lack of ability to borrow money. If the larger banks have trouble borrowing, they can not loan money to consumers. Of course the biggest issue has been home mortgages, equity loans and foreclosures. This will now spread to other financial issues such as car loans. I read an article that said that consumers can expect to make larger down payments on car loans to qualify. JJ when asked, explained that the credit arena is getting tighter and could get real tight. We can expect to see it more difficult to get car loans and qualify for credit cards (hopefully that reduces the amount of junk mail I get with credit card offers inside). Increases in credit card interest rates could be around the corner. They did not expect the crisis to affect auto insurance rates as they are set by other standards.

In response to the crisis, we should focus on fundamentals! We should make smart choices on consumer purchases, reduce credit card spending if we can not pay it off monthly and avoid the debt crisis that many Americans are feeling. Remember JJ's guidance to consumers in the first blog, "Spend less than they earn and save some to boot." Plan a budget and stick to it. If possible, do not carry a credit card balance. One way we helped reduce some food costs was to plant a garden and then we canned vegetables the last couple of years. Makes us look real smart when we go the commissary or grocery store (did you notice that the price of food is going up too?). Even a couple of tomato plants in a pot could save you a few bucks at the store!

How are you planning to spend that re-enlistment or aircrew bonus this year? How about the combat exclusion tax advantage? Dislocation allowance? Our car is going to last another year so we can have some savings in the bank for a purchase versus credit. Maybe that large TDY check could go into savings for a new motorcycle next year instead of this year's credit purchase? In the meantime your credit score goes up and you can possibly get a better interest rate. Pay off that credit card balance too!

One last recommendation: If you are not a member of USAA, please consider joining the association. In August they expanded membership eligibility to an additional three million veterans and once a veteran becomes a member their adult family members are eligible as well! They have seen their membership grow by 305,000 individuals in 2008! Any questions please go to their website at USAA to learn more!

This has been a great series despite the tough times and I hope it has been helpful! Please send us comments or feedback!



Armed Services YMCA (ASYMCA) Operation Kid Comfort Program

I just received this information from our FRG leader and thought I would pass it along for our deployed-families out there:

Armed Services YMCA (ASYMCA) Operation Kid Comfort Program

This program is designed to address the emotional stress that children of military personnel suffer during a parent's absence from home. Operation KidComfort serves children of deployed Service members. ASYMCA volunteers collect photographs from military families to make "photo-transfer" quilts (for children 5 years old and under; pillows for those over 5) that bear the images of the deployed family member, alone or interacting with the family. Photographs of the deployed parent are scanned into a computer, printed, and then placed onto the fabric. The quilt or pillow is then given to the child to play with, sleep with or use to comfort them from the grief of missing their deployed parent.

Due to the publicity of the program, requests for quilts are coming in from around the country, mainly from the Reserve/Guard community. As a result, the ASY National Headquarters has developed a "kit" that contains everything needed to produce a quilt/pillow. These quilt kits are then sent to volunteers to assemble. The volunteer then mails (mailing label and postage strip is included) the quilt/pillow to the child for whom it was made.

If you would be interested in participating in the project described above, whether to receive a quilt or be a volunteer quilter, please contact:

Michele Gire Michele.Gire@us.army.mil (614)336-7369


This might be a great Christmas present if you have a deployed member. I plan on ordering three for our boys! I'll let you know when they come in.

- Leanne from MilitaryAvenue.com

(Updated!) PS: Here is a better link than the email address above. It has all of the forms you need and the directions for submitting a request for a quilt: http://www.asymca.org/Programs.aspx?pgmID=28&mid=27

Your Finances in a Crisis? Part 2: An Interview with a Financial Expert from USAA

I wanted to continue to use the expertise of our friends at USAA to talk about the current financial crisis gripping the country. After focusing on mortgages and debt issues in the first blog, I would like to write briefly today about the market and your investments. If your investments are anything like mine I saved a bit each month for many years and then in a couple of months/weeks saw a lot of it disappear. So I asked JJ Montanaro and Mike Kelly of USAA what we should be doing with these investments.

JJ gave me a steady as she goes type of response. However, he said it is a good time to "rethink" your strategy but do not make wholesale changes. Talk to your financial planner and consider where you are at in the scheme of things. He suggested one opportunity might be to stay in the market but sell some investments. These could be taken as a tax loss, then reinvested into the market in another fund/stock/bond, etc. Always consult an expert before making changes and weighing tax issues. For more ways to deal with the Wall Street crisis he recommended USAA Tools and Tips for a Volatile Market.

Invested and nearing retirement? Another great tool from USAA is a scheduled Webinar: Planning Your Retirement in Today's Economy on 29 October (next Wednesday) at 7-8 PM CST. Enjoy this webinar led by JJ from the comfort of your home. Never done a webinar? A webinar is a seminar based on the web. You get the advantages of attending a seminar without the travel or hassle factor of finding it! The experience comes to your living room or office on your laptop or PC! This is a great chance to hear from the experts and plan your future. The best part is that it is free!

I have one more blog to do from my interview with USAA and it will be on the day to day issues of credit cards, car loans, etc and how the bank crisis is going to affect those and your wallets.

PS: During my research for this interview with USAA I found some interesting information about USAA's CEO, General (retired) Joe Robles. Joe Robles began his adult life working in the steel mills of Lorain, Ohio before joining the Army. In an article in the New York Times he relates that he was drafted by the Army and basically never looked back. I can tell you as a steelworker's kid from the Gary, Indiana area that I made a similar decision after 5 summers in the mills during college. I had my grandfather, my dad. my brother and 12 uncles and 1 aunt in the mills with me and it was hot and dirty work! So Joe we appreciate your background and thank you for taking care of our funds in this crisis!

Checklists

The Kocsis Household is crazy-busy. Yours too? I know plenty of us are flying by the seat of our pants with barely time to stop and sip the coffee. Yet, when I settle into bed at night there are days when I can't even begin to recall what I had accomplished that day. Its a sinking feeling to go through the day and feel like you have done nothing, when you were running around raged doing everything.

That is the beauty of 'checklists' for me. I have a weekly calendar that sits very comfortably in my purse. It goes with me everywhere. If I'm sitting at a stop light and suddenly remember something else I need to do - I whip out that calendar and add it to my weeks to do list. What a relief to write it down. Otherwise, I tell myself "Ok, I can't forget this ..." because inevitably I will.

The best part?! Pulling out the black marker (black and bold) to cross out something when I FINISH it! Oh it feels so good. Its a little overwhelming when I start the week with a fresh sheet and think of all the things that need to get done that week. But it is well worth pulling out the black marker and declaring 'DONE!' :)

A little secret ... Sometimes I even write things on my 'To-Do list' ... already accomplished... just so that I can pull out my favorite black-marker and cross it right off! :)

- Leanne from MilitaryAvenue.com

Apple Picking Equates to Picking More Apple Recipes

We are still crunching on Honey Crisps, Galas and a few Ida Reds. Yes, this apple season was a good one. I brought home a peck of Spies (for pies) and I see some are getting a bit ready to be used. Therefore, the oven is on and I am waiting for the Jewish Apple Cake to come out... the aroma has me watching the timer... why does it take so long?

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
1 cup oil
3 cups flour
4 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup orange juice
2 cups sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Apple mix
5 or 6 sliced pared and cored
5 Tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Prepare batter: first 8 ingredients in a large bowl. Pour 1/2 of the batter into a greased 10" tube pan. Place the apple mix on top of this, then cover with remaining 1/2 batter.

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 1/2 hour. Cool in pan 10 minutes before removing. Dust with confectioner's sugar.

Enjoy warm or cool, with whip cream or plain. This moist cake is a repeat performance waiting to happen! Enjoy!

Your Finances in a Crisis? An Interview with a Financial Expert from USAA

In these current and volatile economic times for Americans I decided to ask the military community's financial experts at United Services Automobile Association (USAA) some questions and they kindly agreed! So after my interview last night I shall share several blogs about finances and what the experts at USAA say about how to best deal with the current economic situation in which we live.

Mike Kelly and JJ Montanaro, are both veterans and members of the staff at USAA. Mike is a former Air Force public affairs officer and JJ is a Army Reserve Lt Colonel. They have been there in your shoes/boots and lived the life so I thought it would be great to hear from them.

My first question to the experts was: Is there help for military families caught in a pinch by adjusting their home mortgage rates or restructuring it? JJ stated that USAA uses three service providers/lenders and that the member should contact the one with their mortgage loan. They should discuss their current financial situation versus waiting till they have no or little maneuver room. He said that lenders are interested in avoiding foreclosure and will assist when they can. Obviously the same advice applies to any lender; bad news never gets better with time. They both reiterated the current strength of USAA and its ability to support members' needs. The association seeks to benefit its members during its financial decisions.

I asked JJ if he had one word of advice for military families what it would be. He said, "Spend less than they earn and save some to boot." Seems like a simple strategy but one that takes discipline and budget awareness. They provided a link for a video webinar titled "Wiping Out Debt". It provides a great discussion and answers questions that are applicable for military personnel and family members. Did you know that USAA will lower your credit card interest rate to 4% for members that are deployed?

My next blog about your finances will be on the investment arena and what members of USAA can do during the stock market crisis. Also, I intend to discuss what impacts you can expect on your car loans, insurance, etc as a result of the financial crisis.

If you want to learn more about USAA membership and benefits please contact them through this link at USAA. It is great to have an association with leadership that has experienced our lifestyle and its many challenges!

You have Questions?! We have Answers!

There is much excitement around the MilitaryAvenue office! We have just recently launched MilitaryAvenue Answers.

The military community is a community of problem-solvers. We have questions! Of course we do when we...

  • Enter new worlds, new lands, new territories;

  • Run across problems that mom or dad can't help us with;

  • Know no-one that has been in our shoes...

    ... well except for the other US military families around the globe! That is where MilitaryAvenue Answers comes into the picture:

  • Inquire about the installation you have orders to;

  • Wonder what resources are available to your family while your loved one is deployed;

  • Find out where the best local-pizza shop is for your next TDY / TAD


... the ideas are endless and the potential is amazing! We, the military members & families, are a wonderful, active, helpful community! Let's ask Questions and get some Answers!



- Leanne from MilitaryAvenue.com

Finally! The Federal Government Gets It Right for Military Spouses!

This has taken a long time but finally the federal government has given military spouses priority for a federal civilian work force job! President Bush signed an executive order this week that is going to help military spouses stay employed during their many relocations!

Patricia Bradshaw, deputy undersecretary of defense for civilian personnel policy said that the order authorizes noncompetitive hiring of spouses and should make the hiring process easier and faster for those in this category. The rules will be out in January according to reports and military spouses should be standing at the front of the line to sign up for these jobs!

I remember one overseas location where my spouse who was a qualified, certified, licensed teacher but not part of the federal work force and she was not hired full time. Instead the federal government moved another teacher who had been in their system for a while to the location with all of the associated costs for a PCS. It was a horrendous decision and one that cost the taxpayers money and added to the frustration of a military family who faced a harsh environment for almost 3 years.

Spouses: we will try to keep you updated and you should go to the local civilian hire office on your installation and let them know you are interested. You must be qualified but when they have a position that is open that you can fill--it should be yours. The beauty is that when you are qualified and there is an opening you get priority! Then when you PCS, the next installation civilian personnel office has a federal employee with priority and your job search may have been made a lot easier! In fact, when the military member gets orders you can begin a transfer process for your job if the next installation has a similar job available.

Let me know what happens and if you see any issues so we can keep the information flow moving so that you and other spouses get the job you so well deserve!

What is Next?


We should push a similar program for military brats trying to get summer hire jobs while in college or preparing for college. But that ... is another story for a different blog!

A Friend in a Time of Need

This last week I exchanged some emails with a MilitaryAvenue Partner who had been helping a military family with their mortgage issues. He related the following information and story to me about a military family that he was able help.

The military member will soon be enroute to Afghanistan and had a mortgage with an adjustable rate which can be controlled by the Soldiers and Sailors Relief Act. The costs of their mortgage like many American families had escalated to the point of being beyond their means.

The partner worked a loan modification and during the process found a retired Navy SEAL at the mortgage servicer who expedited the paperwork and helped with the reduced rate approval process! This kind of connection is what we like to see from our MilitaryAvenue partners and their willingness to assist our community during this time of war. Wow! A family in need helped by a military friendly business and two vets!

If you know of any similar stories please send them to us and if you live in the Travis AFB, CA area please look up Paul Walton at Cherry Creek Mortgage Company and say thank you for caring! You can see Paul's ad on MilitaryAvenue and he has some great pictures of an airdrop in progress too!

Words of Wisdom... Wish I Said Them First

Watch your thoughts, they become your words.
Watch your words, they become your actions.
Watch your actions, they become your habits.
Watch your habits, they become your destiny.

Simple truths can be like a map to our daily plans of action. Gems of wisdom lend a light to the steps we take. How nice to have words fitly spoken that are like apples of gold in pictures of silver (Kings Solomon) These would be much easier to eat.. if it came to that!

Hope your day is filled with promise, support and interaction with those who can help you... and with those to whom you can uplift.

A Case of the Cruds

Well the Kocsis Household is officially under the weather.

Somehow I was the first to get it. Usually it is the children that bring the 'bugs' to me. But Friday night I started feeling blecky. I was at the in-laws for a family dinner and they seemed to notice it before me. (I had a little less tolerance for the fact that my children were being ... children.)

Saturday morning I awoke feeling like a train had rolled over me but what is a mom to do when her oldest is scheduled to referee some soccer games 30 minutes away and her middle child has his last soccer game of the season. So "Up and At 'Em". As we were getting in the car my blessed mother-in-law called to ask how she could help me today. I asked how she knew I needed help and she said she just had this hunch. So after dropping *J* off at his games I dropped the boys off at her house & she took care of them the rest of the day (including getting *E* to his soccer game).

When they came home I still wasn't feeling great but I probably would have been a whole lot worse if I hadn't been given the break that I needed.

So I got up this morning to get the kids off to school and I could hear this horrendous cough coming from the boys' room. Both of the younger boys were incredibly congested and sounded like I did Saturday morning. So after *J* (still healthy!) was off to school we ran to the store and got a conglomerate of cold-supplies. Today is officially a "Get Healthy" day.

They each have a water bottle full of water that they need to finish before lunch. (I'm sure there will be a little bit of prodding along the way!) Nothing like flushing the germs out of the body the natural way. The store was out of vapor bath, unfortunately, but that didn't stop us from taking baths when we got home. I made the water a *touch* warmer then usual and we all hung out in the bathroom as the other bathed. The room was nice and steamy and felt great on the lungs!

At some point today I will change the sheets on the beds & wash those germs right down the drain. Ah yes - germs be gone!

I'm still not 'sold' on the concept of not giving my little-ones over the counter medications (Kids' Cold Medicines: New Guidelines). Call it mother's intuition ... but sinus-infections are prevelant amongst my family. The thought of not-treating a stuffy nose before it gets that bad is foreign to me. (And my 3- and 6- year older just have not refined the art of blowing their nose, yet!)

WebMD has some great articles about cold home-remedies and other related tips:
And don't forget that flu season is just around the corner. We don't have flu shots available yet in our area but come November we will be the first in line! :)
So I raise my water-bottle this morning and offer a toast to getting healthy! Tomorrow I just know we will be back to being ourselves sans stuffy nose, coughs and cruds.


- Leanne from MilitaryAvenue.com

Apples Oats and Autumn: MMM Muffins


Weeks ago we went apple picking... we picked more apples than can fit in our refrigerators. I have canned them, baked them, cooked them and savored every bite. Folks walk into the house olfactory nerves a twitching! The aromas from apples are unbeatable.
Here is another sure fire winner for a juicy, solid apple. It only takes one apple to make this confection.

Apple Muffins

1 egg
1 cup milk
1/4 cup oil
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 c rolled oats
1/4 cup Splenda or regular sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 apple peeled, core removed
1 /2 teaspoon cinnamon

Nut topping

1/3 cup chopped nuts
3 Tablespoons Splenda brown sugar or 1/3 cup regular brown sugar
1 Tablespoon rolled oats
1 Tablespoon flour

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Grease bottom of muffin cups. Beat egg; stir in milk and oil. Grate apple. Mix in remaining ingredients just until flour is moistened... do not over mix. Batter should be lumpy!
Sprinkle nut topping over each top. Bake 25 minutes.
Isn't it fun to celebrate the seasons with the food, smells and colors that we can add!

MilitaryAvenue's October Newsletter: Money & The Military Family

We will be publishing our October Newsletter on Sunday, October 19th. The theme this month is "Finances". We have some great professional resources as well as some personal stories lined up for your enjoyment. The Holidays are right around the corner. Take the time to think about your family's financial-makeup before it becomes a major stressor!

The October "Finances Newsletter" will have our regular features including our top 10 MilitaryAvenue.com articles from this past month. Create an account on MilitaryAvenue.com today where you can manage your newsletter subscription! We would love to be in touch.

- Leanne from MilitaryAvenue.com

Military Family Finances--It is Deployment and Holiday Times


Fall has just arrived in most of the country and you have either just recently become connected again after a long deployment; or a member of the family just left for a long one or you are in the middle of one that seems to be lasting forever! And here comes the holiday season--the wonderful time of family, gifts, travel and many other good times!

But your family is separated or just got back together and the rest of the world certainly does not understand the stresses involved in those events! Certainly, not many do. Well if that isn't enough for a military family let's add the planning for a family reunion for the holidays or a well deserved vacation! But... how much do we spend for all of the travel, gifts, hotels, nights out, meals on the road, etc., etc.

I think this was one of the most challenging discussions for my spouse and I during many years of military life. We wanted to be at the events and we wanted to give gifts too but sometimes the pressures just made it a tough time--and then came the bills. Many find themselves deeper in debt or paying for the purchases for several months with lots of interest payments on those credit cards. Sometimes shopping or gift giving is a salve for our wounds as well.

So how do we find the right answers for controlling our spending and coming to agreement while deployed or just returning or maybe even getting ready to leave? First, the key word is agreement. Military families need to be ready to discuss finances before they become "issues"! And it is always better to discuss these in person before or after the deployment if possible. We have some great articles on MilitaryAvenue for financial planning and tips. One from USAA's June Walbert addresses the conflicts that couples sometimes find themselves in and it is an easy to listen to video.

Its hard to discuss something as mundane as spending when you are involved in combat operations or running a household by yourself. But if this discussion is impossible then think about last year. What did we spend and was it a reasonable amount? Did we end up in debt? Set a reasonable budget and stick to it. Agree to something for each category for the holidays, from travel to gifts.

With a plan in place the holidays are more apt to be fun, relaxed and bring great memories for the entire family with smiles and cheer all around! Best Wishes for a great fall and holiday season from the team at MilitaryAvenue!

Pocketful of Apples

A cold snap came and turned our maples and oaks from green giants into jewel dressed wonders. Right now, a steady breeze is filtering those crimson and gold leaves and sending them spiraling sideways with many skidding onto our deck. It is a sight to behold.

Landscaping has become a pure pleasure for Dale and I. He put up a split rail fence that has added a framework to this fall picture outside while I planted vinca under and in front which adds a dark green matting for our portrait. At the end of the day, muscles were talking and our sweet tooth chattered! A basket of apples announced it was time... time for a Pocketful of Apples. Time to sit and watch the evening news, grap the remote and a freshly baked reward.

Pocketful of Apples

Filing: Preheat oven to 375 degrees
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
2 T splenda brown sugar or 1/4 cup of regular brown sugar
2 T butter
2 medium apples, peeled, cored and diced
1 T flour
1/4 t cinnamon

Crust:
http://militaryavenue.blogspot.com/search/label/Crust

Glaze:

2/3 cup confectioners sugar
1/8 t cinnamon
1/8 t pure vanilla extract
2 t milk

Directions:
Combine brown sugar, butter and chopped walnuts with a fork until crumbly. In another bowl, place apples and stir flour and 1/4 t cinnamon on top.

Roll pie crusts on a floured surface into a 16 x 8" rectangle. Cut into into 4 x 8" strips (four strips); then cut each strip in half making four squares. This will give you 8 pockets! Place about 1/4 cup of the apple mixture on right half of each square. Sprinkle with walnut mixture. Fold left side over right side of square - pockets will be full! Press edges with a fork to seal. Prick top with fork.

Place on ungreased large cooke sheet with a rim - to catch any juices that might spill out.

Bake 22 to 28 inutes or unti lgolden brown. Cool 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in small bowl, stir together glaze ingredients until smooth. Drizzle over pockets. Cool completely, about 30 minutes.

Enjoy...

Crisp Air... Apple Crisp


The apple orchards call. They do. Apples to be picked, the long rows of Jonathons, honey crisps, Ida reds and so on just needed to be revisited... and we trooped home with a different variety in the newest bushel: 'Spies for Pies'.
Crisp and juicy, these apples are terrific for snacking and for baking. I love using them in the recipe that represents fall baking: Apple Crisp. The aromas of cinnamon and nutmeg do a frontal attack on the senses followed by the visual of hot bubbling brown sugar and apple juices. Yes, this is just one reason to celebrate the seasons!
I love to have an equal amount of crisp as I do apples, so, use a large baking pan for this one!
Apple Crisp
4 cups sliced pared tart apples ( about 4 medium sized Spies)
1 1/3 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup oats
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2/3 cup margarine
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Place 1/2 apples slices in a 9 x 13 pan. Mix remaining ingredients thoroughly. Crumble 1/2 of the oat mixture over apples, cover with remaining apples and top off with the rest of the oat mixture.
Bake for 30 minutes or until apples are tender or the aroma is just too tempting to leave in there any longer! Serve warm. Happy Autumn to you!

What a week!

It is finally Friday and I am utterly exhausted! I had one of those weeks that I would prefer to just let go down the bathtub drain after a long soak ... Yet through it all I can be so very thankful for support, for friendship, for prayer, for understanding.

Some of it stems from earlier troubles. I have felt that my six-year-old is still not adjusting to this deployment very well. (Deployment Troubles of a 5 year-old) I berate myself for being an ineffective mom and then tell myself to quit being so hard on myself - all in one breath. I finally called MilitaryOneSource on Monday when all the boys were in school.

I talked to a very-helpful counselor on the phone. We both agreed that *E* was too young to be having these troubles. He is putting up a brick-wall and not able to handle conflict AT ALL. A minor conflict between friends, such as not agreeing on what game to play, can send him running inside and hiding under the dining room table. He will refuse to come out & refuse to talk to even me. He holds all of his pain in (no matter how small) and it breaks this mom's heart.

So the counselor set me up with an appointment with a local LCSW 10 minutes from my house. That appointment was set for Wednesday. I had talked to my youngest brother the night before, Tuesday. James is a LCSW equivalent in Michigan and he gave me some pointers for talking with the counselor here in Ohio. James works with prisoners not children so he pointed out that his advice for me was limited. However, it was so relieving to talk to someone, my brother, that I knew really cared for *E* and my own well being.

Wednesday came and an hour before I was to leave for my appointment my dad contacted me to say Mom was in some serious medical trouble. ACK. I hate walking into new situations so I was already on-edge about meeting with the counselor. That feeling was abruptly over-written by the concern for my mom and dad.

I left to meet with the counselor knowing that things with mom were not stable, but what could I do - sit at home and worry and miss my meeting? That wasn't a choice. I'm still not convinced this counselor is a 100% fit for our needs. However, it felt good to make the right steps in helping my son. I have another appointment set for next week and then I will decide if it is time to call MilitaryOneSource again and find a different referral.

I got home and had a message on the machine that 'Mom was fine'. Her earlier complications were a bit of a false-call. The complications were real, but the diagnosis wasn't as bad as feared. Huge sigh of relief! It might have been easy to be mad about getting worked up about not so much. But instead I was thankful that she was a-okay!

That night I had my regular get-together with a small-group of friends. We meet every week on Wednesday nights. After the week I was having so far I was not in the mood to be social though. I told my mom this on the phone, after she called to tell me the good news that she was ok. Her response was of all weeks this is the night I really need to be with a community of friends. I needed their support and prayers. She was so right. I was glad to go and share and to be lifted up by friends.

After I hung up with my mom on Wednesday off to the hospital my boys and I went for an x-ray of *E*'s wrist. He had his yearly-physical earlier in the week and he was in the 4th percentile for his height. (Meaning 96% of boys his age are taller then he is.) A doctor looked at the x-ray to determine his 'bone age'. If his 'bone age' didn't line up with his actual age there could be problems and tests and more tests. The good news is the office called yesterday and his bone-age is normal. My 6-year old is just a bit on the shorter side... he'll make a great wrestler some day his uncle pointed out!

Last night on the way home from *E*'s soccer game "Another One Bites The Dust", by Queen was piping on the radio. My boys were rocking in the backseat! They had never heard it before and I was watching them in the mirror and their faces - It was priceless. I refuse to 'bite the dust' with what this life hands me, particularly while my soul-mate is half way across the world. (But a glass of wine and a bubble bath sure are called for after this week!)

- Leanne from MilitaryAvenue.com

Our National Guard and Reserve Forces and Your Education Benefits

The United States went through such a drawdown in the 1990s that the active forces are now stretched very thin during the global war on terror! The nation must rely on the National Guard and Service Reserve Forces to meet many of our military needs! A quick look at the facts: According to the Veteran's Administration, our citizen airmen, soldiers, marines, sailors and coasties "constitute 50% of returning OEF/OIF Veterans utilizing VA services and their ages range from 18 to 60. And over 500,000 personnel used GI Bill benefits in 2007! There is a great article on the GI Bill on MilitaryAvenue and how it has changed the lives of service men and women. In addition there is some great information on the VA website on eligibility and benefits.

There are 7 Guard and Reserve forces-Air and Army National Guard and the Air Force, Navy, Marine, Coast Guard and Army Reserves. Recognizing the need for support that is different than active forces in many cases, the National Guard Bureau started a Transition Assistance Advisor program for those returning to civilian life after a lengthy military tour. The TAA offices can be found in each state and the reserves have similar assistance programs.

There is some great information on educational opportunities within the Guard and Reserves at DoD Voluntary Education Programs. This site has many very helpful links as well and can be a great starting point for researching your education benefits as a citizen soldier returning home.

Thank you for your service and as we approach Veteran's Day I encourage you to take advantage of those benefits that you have so dearly earned!

Veterans, Start Your Engines on Your New GI Bill

We like to bring important information to the military community and one of the most critical items I can think of in anticipation of Veterans Day on November 11th is your new educational benefits. Like a NASCAR racer you must keep your educational engine tuned for max performance! What an opportunity to grow your expertise and job skills while in the service or post service! Please take advantage of them as many before you have done. They are clearly better now and offer many variables and cover the cost of tuition, books and a monthly stipend is available too!

We have a great article on the New GI Bill on MilitaryAvenue and you should read it to learn more about what your benefits are. Did you know there is a way for many veterans to transfer the benefit to a family member? What a great improvement for a military family with educational costs climbing faster than inflation. Your education is critical to your future and will be something that helps keep you tuned up for the challenges of the future.

Today also starts the addition of Central Michigan University as a base sponsor on MilitaryAvenue and their educational programs fit well with the GI Bill and they can be found at numerous installations and online as well. They can answer questions about the GI Bill too. The education offices at your installation are another great resource for information as well!

As you make that quick pit stop for your education benefits think how many laps you can cover to reach those goals and life experiences with a new degree. The checkered flag is just waiting for you to run past. Don't delay; get on the gas today!

- Colonel K of MilitaryAvenue.com

Fall Produce Features Perfect Bell Peppers

The frost is coming. The temperatures are creeping down each night, going a degree lower and getting within striking distance of the first freeze. The frost will soon be on the pumpkins. Yes Autumn is here. As the garden patch is reduced to empty rows... the bell pepper plants still are heavy with beautiful colors of a fall palate. Our tomatoes are long gone, but the local orchard is still selling them by the 1/2 bushel. So... the mix of the vitamin rich, dark gems of tomato and red/green pepper are just perfect for an evening meal.

I made Stuffed Peppers last night, a great meal for watching the amount of food you intake, as the portion is made up, the option for seconds is not there.

Some slices of sharp Cheddar Cheese add a tangy contrast to this meal.

4 large Red/Green peppers
10 oz ground beef
3 sweet banana peppers, seeds removed and diced.
1 t salt
1 t. crushed garlic
1/2 t dried parsley
1 cup homemade tomato sauce, or one can of sauce
1/4 cup rice
1/2 cup water
1/4 t salt
1 t margarine

Turn oven onto broil. Place peppers on a cookie sheet and broil until skin is browned and bubbled! Turn to brown other side. About 4 minutes per side.
Place immediately in a paper bag, let sit on the counter 5 minutes to cool. Cut off top, discard seeds from peppers. Peel skins from peppers, set peppers aside.

In a frying pan, cook ground beef, banana peppers, garlic, parsley and salt break into small pieces. Brown meat.

In sauce pan, add margarine, salt and rice. Allow this to steam, when hot, add water and put on the cover. When liquid has cooked into rice, add to meat mixture. Add tomato sauce. Remove from heat.

Fill red/green peppers with meat/rice mixture. Stand peppers up in a baking dish place top back on each cut off bell pepper.

Bake at 350 for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and place a slice of sharp cheddar on each pepper as they are served. Serve some cheddar slices on the side for an accent.
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