Banana Sour Cream Bread Recipe

Leanne and I were talking. We love banana bread: love the smell of it baking, the taste, and the smiles that it brings to those who slice a piece (even when it is hot). Plain or with butter... banana bread is a winner!

I have a recipe that my grandmother used. It is wonderful. It uses baking soda mixed with warm water for leavening. It was the master piece, the untouchable recipe. Then, along came one using sour cream. I am a sucker for sour cream recipes. This could be because the cardiologist recommended that it be removed from a 1/4 mile radius of our house. Well, not exactly, but you get the idea.

This recipe is from Karen Roush a fellow military-spouse and was gleaned from: If you enjoy this as much as we did... stock in bananas will sky rocket this week!

This is one I found online somewhere, but make it often for the guys in my husband's shop and they always LOVE it. I hope you like it! It makes a lot - I usually fill up about 2 of the larger silicone loaf pans and then pour the extra in a smaller dish to cook a mini loaf.

1/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup butter
3 cups white sugar
3 eggs
6 very ripe bananas, mashed
1 (16 ounce) container sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking soda
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C). Grease four 7x3 inch loaf pans. In a small bowl, stir together 1/4 cup white sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Dust pans lightly with cinnamon and sugar mixture.

In a large bowl, cream butter and 3 cups sugar. Mix in eggs, mashed bananas, sour cream, vanilla and cinnamon. Mix in salt, baking soda and flour. Stir in nuts. Divide into prepared pans.

Bake for 1 hour, until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

- Deborah at

Old Navy Military Discount

I have to admit I'm a sucker for a discount! So when fellow army-wife, twitter-friend alerted me that Old Navy gives a military-discount on the 1st of each month I immediately sent out an email to Old Navy customer service to find out if this was true, or just a 'legend'.


Wordless Wednesday: JOY!

My family of five, and my father- & mother-in-law

There is no *greater* joy than Homecoming!

April's Military Family Newsletter

MilitaryAvenue's April Military Family Newsletter

It is April! A month my family has been looking forward to for quite some time. Flowers are in bloom, the weather is warming up and most importantly my husband comes home after a very-long deployment. To say we are excited is an understatement.

April is Month of the Military Child. I've enjoyed following the stories of a few outstanding 'Brats' at Voice For The Military Child this month. I have my own stories as the daughter of an Air Force pilot, and now I am watching the stories of my own children unfold as the sons of a deployed soldier. All this lends to the question, "Have you hugged your 'brat' today?"

Also with April comes thoughts of vacations, home-projects, pcs-expenses and much more. Since money doesn't grow on trees (darn!) it has to come from somewhere and leads us to thinking about family budgets and how to use money to the best of our abilities. Read on in our newsletter for a few articles on how to get the most bang-for-your-buck out of the family money-pot.

Cash Out Refinance Loan

You're a veteran or active-duty member, and you would like to get some cash out of the equity in your home. Might I suggest the VA Home Loan Refinance benefit?

The VA offers a Cash-Out Refinancing Loan that allows you to refinance and get some money out of your home while still using the VA home loan guarantee. Although these loans were not as popular just a little while ago, they're coming back because of changes in legislation. The Veterans' Benefits Improvement Act of 2008 has added many improvements (hence the name of the bill) that can save you up to $20,000 more than before.


What's Hot on
Popular Articles during the last month

  • Free Laptop contest for our Military-Families
  • Rocking The Avenue - win an iPod
  • Second Lady Attends Ft Bragg Homecoming
  • Reconciliation Offers Fresh Start in Iraq
  • How to Buy a New Car
  • Fears of Reintegration
  • More Documentation Necessary to Replace or Renew ID Cards
  • PCS Allowances and Entitlements
  • Your next "Home" Decision? Military Housing? Apartment? Purchase a Home? Rent?
  • Are You Getting Married for the Right Reasons: Myths of Marrying in the Military

  • Penny Pinching

    Penny-pinching ... Don't think of it has a burden. Think of it as a challenge! Some people are natural budgeters others of us find it a major stretch. Stretching the value of a dollar is important in this day and age. After all President Obama hasn't included *MY* household in his stimulus package. Although, I sure could use a few thousand dollars if he finds any extra in his pocket-book.All this money-talk though has me thinking about ways that we can save money, a nickle at a time, even. (Continued)

    What is next ...

    May 1st - Monthly "Military Alerts" will be sent out, filled with great-military discounts that can be found around your installation.

    • To subscribe or change your Installation Click Here.

    May 17th - Look for our next edition of the MilitaryAvenue Family Newsletter.

    Help your fellow military-family by answering a question and you will be entered into our monthly-giveaway brought to you by, with support from USAA. Will you be our next winner?

    Some recent questions on MilitaryAvenue Answers that you might be able to help with:
    • What is the website of PSD Jacksonville Florida so I can make an appointment to renew Spouses ID? (Click here to help out)
      I have 5 years and 9 months of military service. I am being involuntarily separated. Do I still get separation pay (Click here to help out)
    • My husband is about to graduate basic from ft. benning in GA, then he is suppose to go to his ait at redstone arsenal right after, yet he has 2 weeks in between do you know if he can come home at all during those 2 week? and i am planning on moving down to alabama from ohio to be with him, should i get an apt for 3 months while they figure out base housing? (Click here to help out)
    • How will I as a military wife communicate with my husband overseas? as far a telephone communication. (Click here to help out)
    • Help out your military-community by answering some unanswered questions. (Click on 'Unanswered Questions'

    Household Penny Pinching from the House Guy!

    We owned homes while on active duty but spent a lot of time in military housing too as we moved so many times. One of the challenges of post military living has been household expenses and budgeting. We chose to live near family in a cold winter environment with a propane tank due to our country lifestyle. As we try to control electrical and propane bills we also saw the rise of fuel prices so it became critical to maintaining our costs. We like to travel and needed to see what we could do to save precious resources. We also saw it as a way to decrease demand and increase supply and help our environment. Our dollars saved can go into the penny pot for travel!

    Here are some Household Penny Pinching ideas that we found to be very helpful: (Continued)'s April 2009 Featured Reward
    This Month's Featured Military Reward is given to Pam's Pristine Cleaning ServiceWarner Robins, Georgia -> "10% off all Services for Military, Retired Military and Civil Service employees." (Continued)

    Find Your Military Reward! has over 6,500 Military Partner Ads on the site. We are adding partners daily to help you find military friendly businesses in your community. Simply find your installation and then click on Military Rewards at the top of the category sign-post.

    Staying in Touch

    Do you Twitter?
    @MilitaryAvenue - @MilAve_Leanne - @MilAve_Col_K - @MilAve_Deborah

    Use Facebook?

    Enjoy MySpace?

    You can find MilitaryAvenue actively using these services! We would love to stay in touch.

    Don't forget to look for your Military Reward in your community. Don't see one, ask! Let your local merchants know about

    Thank you for your service,
    The Team

    Tomorrow's Homecoming!

    This is dedicated to all of the military-spouses and families looking forward to a Homecoming.
    Mine is TOMORROW!

    - Leanne from

    Free “Time-out” for Military Spouses at Fort Sill

    We,, are proud sponsors of the Army Wife Network Event, Field Exercises™: Priceless Packages . I wanted to make sure that all of our military spouses in the Fort Sill area got the word about this wonderful event coming up.

    Contact Tara Crooks or Starlett Henderson of Army Wife Network

    For immediate release April 16, 2009
    A Deployment Survival & Resources Event

    In their ongoing, nation-wide, efforts to provide support and service to military spouses, Crooks & Henderson will appear in person at the Fort Sill Gunner’s Inn on April 23 and 24 to present a deployment survival & resources seminar. To empower military spouses, the two—founders of Army Wife Network—combine a night of appreciation and pampering with real life solutions for most any situation the military family will encounter.

    Attendees at the Field Exercises™: Priceless Packages event enjoy a complimentary meal, dessert, refreshments, and free (limited) childcare. Tips and personal experiences will be shared allowing spouses to learn and teach about deployment survival resources and “priceless” care package ideas for deployed loved ones. These opportunities for sharing information, trading ideas and strategies, networking, and building lasting relationships are just some of the benefits spouses deserve and receive at this free “time-out for them.”

    As an added bonus, registered guests can expect numerous giveaways and well-stocked gift bags (for them and their soldier) provided by a variety of sponsors and supporters that include USAA, AAFES, local Lawton spas and more. The previous success of Field Exercises™ is measured by the rave reviews of prior attendees, the heartfelt camaraderie, and the overall rejuvenation expressed by the deployment-weary military spouses as they reflect upon and share their own personal challenges.

    The Army Wife Network is devoted to changing the lives of our warriors and their families through a sincere desire to help military spouses where it matters most – in the field. Tara and Star both sport a lengthy and diverse background as members of the military community leadership, and understand firsthand the challenges faced in traversing the journey of life as a military spouse.

    Space is limited, so reserve your seat now through the Army Wife Network, or visit for more information. Following their event at Fort Sill, they will visit Fort Bliss, TX on June 4th and 5th.

    Media wishing to cover the event must coordinate with the Fort Sill Public Affairs Office to obtain gate clearance no later than 24 hours prior to the event by calling 580-442-2521.

    About Crooks & Henderson
    Tara Crooks and Starlett "Star" Henderson are co-founders of the newly debuted Army Wife Network Interactive Web site. They co-author a syndicated Q&A column Field Problems™. Previous Field Exercises™ were very well received; check out photos and sponsor/attendee feedback at, click on Events, click on Field Exercises™. Crooks and Henderson host the online broadcast Army Wife Talk Radio of which USAA and are Patriot Sponsors. Learn more at

    Our Partners & Sponsors: We could not do this alone

    A Quick Repair Job, Great Service Attitude and Family Times

    We have a quad ATV that we enjoy for family times--giving rides and pulling things around the woods on occasion as well. A couple of weeks ago a tree got in the way of one rider and the rear axle was bent just enough to make it wobble. So we decided to replace it. It is a saga of fun, frustration at times, a great group of service personnel and a great father/son time on a Saturday morning.

    We found the new axle but could not find the repair manual for it. When you buy something used there are usually no books that come with it and we looked online but most repair manuals were pretty expensive. So on Saturday we took off the wheels and then took some digital photos and headed off to some local ATV dealers. The first two were not much help but the third was just great! The front sales staff talked to us and we told them what we were doing and they took us back to their technician who gave us some great hints. They had the best attitude and we walked away saying, "that is the dealer I go to for my next purchase". They did not have to help since they knew this was a self help project with no monetary gain, but they did! Wow! So if you are in the Grand Rapids, MI area and need to purchase a motorcycle, personal watercraft or ATV try these guys: Treads and Sleds.

    Back to the repair! :) We returned home with the new ideas in mind and the project was done in a little more than an hour! My son and I had fun laughing at our mistakes and trying to keep all the pieces going back on the axle that we took off (we actually stacked them in order but one got misplaced). Eventually the axle fitted right, the parts were in place and tires were on and we took it off the stand (what a back saver to have it off the floor) and cranked it up! The first ride told us it was good to go!

    We had fun and didn't let any "setbacks" cause us to loose focus on our good time! What a great way to spend Saturday morning. What kind of family projects do you engage in? We always try to stay in touch and of course the "projects" with our kids change as we and they get older. But smiling and sharing a project is sometimes the best way to maintain communication and strengthen family ties!

    The Fears of Reintegration

    Thoughts have been welling around in my head for the last two weeks. Thoughts that can take any moment in the day down a windy slippery hill. Thoughts that I'm not sure what to do with. I am quite human you will soon discover.

    What is this fear lodged deep-down in my chest

    R&R was a couple months ago and it was better then our honeymoon. We were inseparable. We didn't even have to be in the same room but I would just smile knowing we were in the same country, same state, same city, same house. I could nuzzle up to him at any point and just soak in his smells, his touch, hear the sweet words coming from his lips. Time would stop.

    So when he comes home to stay (oh such sweet words!) will it be more like reality? Will it be more like pre-deployment? Our love has always been unconditional; but R&R, my fantastical-reality, was some sort of dream. I would often pinch myself. Is this really happening? Can I really love someone this much?!

    When he returns will the stress over paying bills, raising the children, who has to cook dinner tonight, be overwhelming? Will the fact that the basement appears to have had a hurricane blow through it send him over the edge? Is he going to be sullen over the shelf in the closet he lost to my bags? Little variations ... Big changes ... everything in between.

    It's been a year. I've loved him, seen his face on the web-cam, chatted with him on instant message, treasured his letters sent through the mail, held his love close to my heart when I missed him most, thought of him as I turned off the light at night and as the sun shone through the curtains in the morning and every single moment in between. So what will change?

    One week. In one week he returns. In one week I will be complete again.

    ... Until then I need a little reassurance from these voices in my head.

    - Leanne from

    Your next "Home" Decision? Military Housing? Apartment? Purchase a Home? Rent?

    Spring is in the air and many in the military community are expecting to PCS soon! Finding housing is usually at the top of the list for research, concern and action. What is the best housing for you? Many factors will influence your decision in this topsy turvy housing market.

    Today I interviewed the Senior Vice President of Michaels Military Housing, Mr Ron Hansen. Ron is a retired Army officer and what a great advocate for your housing needs!

    After our discussion today I realized that I needed to provide a new perspective of military housing! The Military Housing Initiative which was authorized by Congress in 1996 continues to impact the management and design of new housing projects for you. Ron's company MMH currently manages military housing at Andrews AFB and MacDill AFB and is in the initial development period at Ft Leavenworth, KS where they have already delivered 275 new homes. Today, MMH announced that they have assumed property management and maintenance for Army housing at Ft Huachuca and Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona.

    I asked Ron some questions about military housing. He kindly provided some great insight to help you decide if military housing is the direction you should go when planning that next PCS. He gave me so much great information! First, let me emphasize that military housing has seen a cultural change since the law was passed in 1996. The housing that my family lived in many times is not the same as the new housing that many military installations are seeing now. As Ron explained, the housing allowance (BAH) pays for the housing and as an entitlement it can not be reduced like old housing budgets the services had earlier. So instead of a budget that met 60% of the need, the full 100% is available.

    In addition, the BAH is now determined by surveying/interviews for rent, renters insurance and utilities in the installation's vicinity. So when you move on the installation you are paying rent that includes utilities and renters insurance. Personal property and liability insurance are frequently included by the corporation in the package as well to encourage your decision to live on the post, base, station, camp, etc. The housing management company has to compete for your dollars just like any other business and that is great news for you!

    After some of our family experiences in quarters that were below standard I was concerned about funding levels for the program and he said it is a $30B program--yep that is a lot of zeros! Old housing has been torn down, replaced or renovated. With those resources have come new innovations such as community centers in housing: playgrounds: walkways for hiking, biking, etc; and even dog parks. They are aiming for the same standards of recreation and lifestyle as a high end hotel! The facilities have a community manager and even a community concierge in some cases. He related how the community connections improve the quality of life with cooking classes, support for families with deployed spouses, etc. They have ties with MWR and can provide resources for family events that the government could not provide. In addition, they can ask other businesses to provide benefits in a business to business relationship!

    The customer satisfaction in military housing continues to climb! He suggested that you look at the Residential Community Initiative website for more information and pictures of Army housing. The Air Force site is at the Air Force Center for Engineering and the Environment and the Navy site is at Navy Housing One Stop!

    My last question to Ron: What message would you like me to get out to military families? He responded, "... that the housing is not your parents housing". Not as a cliche, but to show how many improvements have been made! Thank you Ron for your time and your enthusiastic support of military families!

    This is the first in a series of posts on your housing options and I hope you find them informative and please feel free to add comments or ask questions so we can provide the best possible solution to your housing choices!

    Carrots Dressed for Spring with Herbs

    I do love thinking about Springtime. I love seeing plants work their way out of ground that was just snow covered and hard as rock. Now, the plot looks earthy, moist and flower ready. With a selection of flowers to cut to bring into the house brings to mind the garden that will soon be alive with seedlings: our vegetable garden. It grows each year. Grows plants, grows in size and grows in richness as we take care of the soil and plot. I am just hoping the deer won't think it is there growing for them... they are encroaching upon the environs of our house. We did see them in the distance, at twilight. Did. Now, there they are! Picture ready. And I am afraid hungry. No problems yet... except our tulips are now history. But I am hoping the fenced in garden will not be their local snack shop. We shall see.
    In the mean time, thinking of great springtime dishes, I love carrots. They are colorful, our kids always ate them and they are easy to grow. Carrots Dressed for Spring with herbs is a winner.

    4 large cloves of garlic
    1/2 t dried oregano
    3/4 t basil
    3/4 t tarragon
    1/2 t red pepper flakes
    3 T balsamic vinegar
    1/2 c olive oil, for dressing, plus 2 T for carrots
    2 lbs. long, tender young carrots cut into 3/4 inch slices on a diagonal
    3 T water
    Pinch of sugar
    1/2 t salt
    1/2 t black pepper
    1/2 small bunch flat-leaf parsley, leaves only, finely chopped.

    In a mini-food processor, or blender, combine the garlic, oregano, tarragon and pepper flakes. Add the vinegar and grind to a paste. In a thin stream, drizzle in the olive oil and blend until the mixture is emulsified. Set aside while you cook the carrots. In a medium heavy saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 4 minutes or until beginning to soften. Add the water, sugar (if desired), salt and pepper and cover the pan. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, shaking the pan occasionally, for about 5 more minutes. Do not let carrots get mushy. Add a little water to the pan if necessary. Transfer the carrots to a serving blow with a slotted spoon and immediately add the herb dressing. Toss together and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Leave the carrots to marinate for 2 to 3 hours. When ready to serve, stir in the parsley. Serve at room temperature.

    Carrot Cake Cookie Sandwich

    I love carrot cake. It is rich, moist, has great ingredients: it is a party just waiting to happen! Cookies are a great dessert, snack and pick-me-up. Limiting the amount that I happen to pick up is another story.
    These frosted delights have the icing on the inside! Carrot Cake Cookie Sandwich takes a great idea and makes it simple. Makes 1 dozen cookies. Preheat oven to 375 degrees

    1 1/4 c flour
    1 t cinnamon
    1/2 t salt
    1/2 t baking soda
    1/2 c butter, softened
    1/2 c brown sugar
    1/2 c sugar
    1 egg
    1/2 t vanilla
    1 cup grated carrots
    1 cup chopped walnuts
    1/2 can WELL DRAINED crushed pineapple
    1 (8 oz) package cream cheese
    1 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
    1/2 t. milk (if necessary)

    Grease 2 baking sheets. Combine first 4 dry ingredients. In a mixer bowl, cream butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar. Add egg and vanilla. Mix at medium speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Mix in carrots, nuts and well drained pineapple at low speed. Now add flour mixture and beat until just combined.
    Drop 1 1/2 T batter onto greased cookie sheet. Bake for 15 minutes. Cookies are done when lightly browned and they spring back to the touch.
    Leave cookies on their baking sheet for about 1 minute. Then transfer cookies to a baker's rack to completely cool.
    While cookies are baking, blend cream cheese and confectioner's sugar. Add just a slight amount of milk if too thick.
    Frost bottom of a cookie with a generous T of frosting, then put the other bottom on top so that the flat sides are together.

    Artichoke Dip

    This is an all time favorite. It was the dish that I was asked to bring to so many occasions that it almost became known as Deb's Dip! This cooks up in no time and has little preparations needs. You have to love that! The green chilies give it just a hint of a bite, and the cheese is proof that life is good.
    Artichoke Dip

    1 large can artichokes, drained, chopped into tiny pieces.
    1 c mayonnaise
    1 c grated Parmesan cheese
    1/2 c mozzarella cheese
    3 T sour cream
    1/2 t garlic powder
    1 small can mild chopped chilies
    1 small onion minced

    Mix all ingredients, spread in small casserole dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden.
    Serve with crackers.

    How to Buy a New Car

    I have to admit to a certain fear about buying a car! Maybe its the cost, how to determine which one is right for the family's needs, etc, etc. How my older car is running is my biggest concern. In this case, our hero of a Jeep Cherokee is 10 years old has 170,000+ miles on it and it is perfect for our winters and terrain around our home (our driveway is a challenge in the winter). But we have seen gas prices go out the roof and we have several long trips coming up so we thought it was time to find a new car that was a sedan and had a better miles per gallon than our heavy, four wheeled vehicle.

    I put this off for several months due to my concerns about committing to a new car and going through the purchase process but then the time seemed right so we stepped off the cliff. Here are my experiences that might take some of your concern away!

    First, do you have a family member, close friend or someone you know who is a car buff? They can be a great coach and I have two sons who love giving input to dad and mom! :) When dealing with salesmen they can be great advocates and even play good guy/bad guy! Besides they actually enjoy looking and finding the best deal.

    But, the first step is really research and the place I went to is my trusted military association, USAA. Their website has a completely listing of how to's : Research to find the right car, a Step by Step process to buying a new or used car, Tips from an insider (former car salesman) and of course financing. I followed their plan and it saved me time, money and provided a bit of relief for the stress of car buying.

    I read articles from their site and others that gave me insight to the process and then I asked the Car Buying Service to price a model for us. Wow it was great as they allowed me to list specifics on the car and then came up with the price for me. The dealership in their program was some distance away so I elected to use the price from the Buying Service (I printed a copy) and went to a local dealer! But first, I took the next step to get pre approved financing so when I walked in I knew exactly how much money I had and I had a base price to start negotiations.

    Then I took my coach along with me! Yep, one son was available to be the guy who listened, asked questions and was the front person to deflect dealer sales personnel and allow me to decide if this was the right deal. Besides we outnumbered them since my lovely wife went along for the color choice (which really is what she wanted)! Great strategy and I think the salesman was very happy to deal with me after my son worked on the sale for awhile. He was great.

    The salesman called back today with some final details after we left the dealership last night and to let me know he had the right car and right price (it included a different color and an upgraded sound system) for us to come in and finish the deal. I think he was glad I answered the phone instead of my coach! I felt like the deal had gone smoothly, we had a great car, right price and the stress was significantly lower thanks to my research, a game plan and the tips from USAA!

    Best wishes in your search and purchase! Tell us about your experiences and hints! Others would love to hear them!

    PS: As one friend from USAA told me, USAA car buying service does all the work for you! Find-Buy-Insure. What a great program!

    PSS: We finally settled on a Chevy Malibu--hey, we live in Michigan and our family has a long history of employment in the US Steel Mills! It is a beautiful car, with much better mileage and it is very comfortable! Bottom line: it met the needs we established in the process. I will keep you updated on how much we like it in the out years!

    Free Laptops for our Military Families

    Technology ... it has helped me survive this deployment!

    When Hubby is not on "the road" and has his normal routine on base in the sand-box we regularly IM and chat via our web-cameras. There is just something about that 'good-night kiss', that "How was your day, honey?" conversation that ends my day on a very positive note! Hubby gets up extra early and I stay awake a little past my normal bedtime so that we can have face-to-face time together.

    Alternatively, I can tell when Hubby is travelling because... well, he's not on the other end of my computer come 11pm. That next day I am a little more stressed, a little more ill-at-ease. It has made such an impact on me. He is on the other side of the world and still such an amazing piece of my life. (I'd say in many ways the ability to communicate with him like this has had a very positive-impact on our marriage.) has hit the nail on the head with a wonderful essay-contest for our American Military Families. If you have a deployed husband or wife, mom or dad, son or daughter (in other words, immediate family member) tell them why your family deserves this laptop in 400 words. Easy stuff!

    MilitaryAvenue is proud to be part of this wonderful contest. Our own Colonel Kissinger (retired, USAF) is part of the judging-panel. We are very thankful for this fine opportunity!

    If your essay isn't selected for the May 8th contest. Enter again! 2 laptops every 2 months means the judges will be looking at a new set of essays around July 8th! to give away more than $8,000 in technology prizes to military families
    INDIANAPOLIS – (April 6, 2009) –, a leading e-commerce provider of consumer electronics and satellite services, today announces the company’s first essay contest which will award one laptop with an embedded Web-cam (for the family) and an additional Web-cam (for the military member) to two families who have an immediate family member serving in any branch of the U.S. military overseas. Winning families will be announced bimonthly through the end of 2009.

    The contest, Laptops for Flattops, invites participants to submit a 400 word essay that explains why their family deserves to win, and how a laptop can improve their lives and communication with their loved one serving overseas. Families must be able to verify their loved one’s military enlistment.

    “ is committed to celebrating American values and ideals, and we are a proud supporter of our troops – especially those who are serving overseas, away from their loved ones,” said Mike Mountford, CEO of “Providing families with the ability to interact and communicate on a higher, more interactive level than a phone call, is just one way in which we can salute those in uniform.”

    Entries for the contest can be submitted as early as 12:00 AM EDT (24:00 GMT) on Monday, April 6 via and must contain a valid name, e-mail address, phone number and physical mailing address. The contest closes at 11:59 PM EDT (15:59 GMT) on Friday, May 8.

    Judging will be done by a panel of three judges including: Col. (Ret.) Dale A. Kissinger, partner at and a colonel (retired) in the U.S. Air Force, Mr. Scott Davis, an Air Force veteran of Operation Desert Storm and father of Army PFC Sean Davis, who is stationed in Vicenza, Italy and is preparing for his second tour of duty in Afghanistan, and Ms. Jenna Richards, the sister of Capt. Phillip Richards and his wife Capt. Michelle Richards who are active in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division and will be deployed to Iraq for their second tour of duty in September 2009.

    The judges will be looking for essays that describe how their family has been affected by one or more family members serving overseas and how a laptop and Web-cam would improve communication with their loved one(s).

    Winners of the first contest will be announced on Monday, May 18. Families may re-submit a new essay for each bi-monthly contest if they were not previously selected. The contest will continue every other month through December 2009.

    To learn more about Laptops for Flattops, visit Further information on’s products and services is available online at


    About is an established provider of consumer electronics and satellite services, founded in 1983 and acquired in April 2003 by CEO, Michael R. Mountford, and president & CFO, Jon K. Pardieck. is a privately held national retailer of DISH Network, Verizon Wireless, HughesNet; and an e-commerce consumer electronics retailer, headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana. All American Direct is the sole provider of U.S. distant network television channels (ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX) to DISH Network customers, currently serving more than 120,000 active distant network customers. For media inquires, please contact Christy Oberley at Dittoe PR at (317)202-2280 ext. 16. To learn more about All American Direct, please visit


    First of all I want to announce we have a winner! Fellow Army Spouse, Sarah, is our winner. She is a Family Newsletter Subscriber AND as an added bonus she is a fellow Twitter-er. (Do you twitter? @MilAve_Leanne) Congratulations, Sarah! We hope you enjoy your new iPod from and USAA. Our next drawing for 'Rockin' the Avenue' will be around May 1st. Join. Subscribe. WIN!

    And now back to our regularly scheduled reading material...

    Routine... it is what keeps me going. Two days a week my preschooler goes to child-care, two days a week he goes to preschool. Thursday is "our" day, we change sheets & do laundry and find some fun things to do in between. Sundays are church with a trip to the grocery store for the weeks groceries on the way home. Every night after dinner (always around the table) they straighten up the family room while I clean up the kitchen.

    Boring Boring Boring... but the boys know what to expect. Less whining equals happier Momma :) Happier Momma equals Happier Boys.

    Saturdays are the most routine of all. I write a room on the calendar that needs to be cleaned. Then we all get-to-it. Just one room, not overwhelming - but what a difference. Sometimes it is bathrooms, last weekend was the family room. Today is going to be the general category "bedroom". Boys will have to pick up their rooms and dust. (Even a three year older can handle a dust rag.) I will run the vacuum cleaner. Embarrassingly enough my room is the worst of the rooms so I will probably still be cleaning when they are done. But they don't gripe (too much) because it's routine. It's what we do come Saturday.

    Later this afternoon we have Swim Lessons at our YMCA (part of the Armed Services program). What used to be like pulling teeth is now something they look forward to. My three year old has been 'practicing' swimming on our family-room floor all week. Pillow = kick-board; blue rug = water. I love his imagination! We can't wait till summer. Swim lessons have been a wonderful diversion for this deployment.

    But in two weeks my routine is going to be THROWN up in the air and shot to pieces like little pieces of confetti... Why? Because Hubby is comin' home! Oh yeah! And then after a couple weeks he'll fall right into line ;)

    - Leanne from

    Stars & Stripes Mother's Day Tribute

    Is there a special-mom in your life that deserves a Mother's Day Tribute in the Stars & Stripes?

    I've participated in Stars & Stripes for many other occasions. Hubby saved his Stars & Stripes from Father's Day. There was a tribute from me as well as one from my own mom. As he showed the ads to me while he was on R&R he had a definite smile on his face. I am sure they brightened his day.

    Stars and Stripes is now accepting submissions for FREE Mother's Day Tributes. If you know a Mom you would like to thank for her love and care —now is the time to do it. Simply submit a tribute online, and Stars and Stripes will:

    There is a *NEW* option to have a post-card mailed to your special military-affiliated Mom (US and APO/FPO addresses only).

    "Let us know how you would like your Tribute delivered. We can deliver your Tribute shortly before Mother's Day both in an email and a postcard delivered by mail. You may choose one or both forms of delivery, or leave it blank, and your Mother's Day Tribute will still be available online on this site."

    Click here to send your Mother's Day Tribute, now.

    - Leanne from

    Cioppino: A #1 Seafood Soup

    Cioppino is the quintessence of seafood dish. I love tartness, tang and even taste buds on fire. And, I love using the beautiful soup tureens that I picked up over the years. Great food in a beautiful dish... does it get better?
    I still do not know how to pronounce this... I usually point at it on the menu. It is always a wonderful choice, and always a bit different. I have asked for the recipe at several restaurants, and their response has been great; however, the recipes have been for about 45 folk... Not my usual family gathering! This recipe, which serves 6, came from a neighbor who swears it is the best. Oh, she is oh so close!
    1 lb firm fish fillets
    1/2 green pepper
    2 T minced onion
    1 t crushed garlic
    1 t olive oil
    1 (16 oz) can diced tomatoes
    1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
    1/2 c wine
    3 T parley
    1/2 t salt
    1/4 t oregano
    1/2 basil
    3 or 4 slices of jalapeno pepper... seeds and all (Here is the fire!)
    Dash of pepper
    12 oz frozen shelled shrimp
    1 (6 1/2 oz) can minced clams

    Remove any skin from fish fillets and cut fillets into 1"pieces; set aside. Cut green pepper into 1/2" pieces.
    In 3 qt. sauces pan cook green pepper, onion and garlic in olive oil until onion is tender but not brown. Add undrained tomatoes, tomato sauce, wine parsley, salt, oregano, basil and jalapenos. Bring to boiling. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 20 minutes.
    Add fish pieces, deveined shrimp, and undrained clams to tomato mixture. Bring just to boiling. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 5 more minutes until fish and shrimp are done.

    Linguine and Seafood

    Here is a meal that you can pull off of your shelves if need be. The light sauce is a welcome change from heavy pasta sauces. This recipe serves 6 and cooks up in 15 minutes. Busy schedule? Running late day? Linguine and Seafood is a meal you can get from the shelf to the table faster than you could order take out.

    6 Slices bacon, cut into 1/2" strips
    1/4 c sliced green onion
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    6 T butter
    2 (6 1/2 oz) cans minced clams
    1 (6 1/2 oz) can white meat tuna
    1/2 c sliced pitted ripe olives
    1/4 c parsley
    1/8 t pepper
    12 oz linguine
    1 lemon
    Parmesan Cheese

    In skillet cook bacon till crisp; drain, reserving 1/4 c drippings in skillet. Set bacon aside. Cook onion and garlic in drippings until tender but not brown. Stir in butter until melted. Drain clams and tuna; break tuna into chunks: add to skillet along with reserved bacon, olives, parsley and pepper; heat through. Keep hot.
    Meanwhile cook linguine according to package directions; drain. Place in warm serving bowl, top with hot seafood mixture; toss. Serve immediately with lemon wedges and grated Parmesan cheese.

    Planning a "Road Trip"

    We are in the process of planning a military road trip! You know one of those multipurpose trips where you see the relatives, attend a military function and end up at another installation! Ours is going to be long one but we learned a few things during a 30 year military family career!

    We are going to first attend a welcome home for our soldier son in law, Paul, from Iraq near Wright Patterson AFB in Ohio; then visit family in Kentucky (a much loved aunt and uncle with cousins nearby); and then head to Ft Sill in Oklahoma to attend Tara Crooks and Star Henderson's Field Exercise . During the trip home we plan to spend a night at a nephew's place to say hi to their new member of the household! I think it is about a 3,000 mile odyssey and we have some plans made, travel routes, calls and facebook comments made and hotels booked but here are some ideas for planning for a trip like this one.

    First the Plan

    What are the reasons for the trip? Pure business? Pleasure? Family reunion? Etc. Good questions to ask: Can I save some funds by combining trips? Start date and end date are important for planning stops, hotel nights, family times, etc. Is there a national park, zoo, or other neat place to visit to break up the trip if its long?

    How old and numerous are the travelers? You might be able to do 500 miles in a day but can they in a car seat that long? Plan a reasonable distance and frequent breaks for the younger set. At the other end of the age spectrum (grandparents, like us) some medical authorities recommend taking an aspirin when you are sitting for a long time to avoid clots, aches and pains, etc.

    Then the wheels

    Check the car or vehicle for general maintenance items such as new filters, oil change, tire pressure and wear, full fluids such as windshield cleaner, brake fluid, etc. Ask your mechanic how trip worthy it is--worse thing to have a road trip is sitting in a garage waiting for the car to be fixed after being towed. Have more than one vehicle? Which gets the best mileage and provides for the comfort features as well? How about music? Often entertaining and makes the miles go by quicker.

    Overnight Stays

    Staying with family enroute? Do you have the address and phone number? We communicate so much with social networks and email that I had to find a physical address and phone number for one of our stops. Staying on a military installation? Most allow space available quarter signups in advance and the price is right! If not available what about hotels?

    Are you a member of hotel group giving points? If not, why not? They provide free nights or upgrades after you stay several times. One, Choice Hotels even provides upgrades for military members! They sent me an Armed Services Elite Gold rewards program for being a military retiree. We are members of several so we can choose which hotel family is the best for us in a particular location. Also, most allow online reservations and you can cancel up to 6 PM if the trip is rerouted or your planned distance is just not working out that day!

    Getting started

    I like to travel early and get to the stop before or at dinner time. But... are you going through any major cities that day? Consider the rush hour in your start time and avoid it if possible. We have had to travel through St Louis and Chicago frequently in the past and we can save hours by not going through at rush hour. If you leave early keep those young ones in their pajamas and let them go back to sleep for a couple of hours. But don't forget their entertainment! My bride used to provide a great happy moment crossing state lines. Whenever we crossed the line the kids got a small new toy that could entertain them for a while. :)

    Safety and Patience

    This is hard for me to write without sounding hypocritical or preachy. But remember that an extra 5-10 mph may save some time on a trip but the potential speeding ticket will make you wished you had arrived on time with a fatter wallet. Recent news reports have included some states and municipalities that are short of funds using the radar gun as a way to help their balance sheet too! Local officials often appreciate out of state dollars more than the at home crowd too. Keeping a cool head with the passengers fatigued during a long trip is often a challenge but find a way to take them someplace fun for a break for them and you!

    Have a great trip!


    I'm feeling *very* fortunate.

    I have my boys tucked into bed and my feet are up for the evening. *E*, 6 years old is already snoring softly in dream world. *C*, 3 years old, is turning his little-lamp by his bed on and off, on and off, on and off. He is trying. This is what happens when he takes a nap during the day ... bedtime comes and he has no interest in sleep. Who can blame him. But this Mommy craves... desires... NEEDS her "quiet time" as I refer to it after 8:00pm. So in spite of naps he still has to stay in his room till he falls asleep at bed time.

    We had a peaceful evening. The usual rough-housing, car-playing, ball-catching in the family room type of evening; but at 8:00pm Sesame Street and PBS presented "Coming Home" - Military Families Cope with Change. So instead of heading upstairs at 7:45pm for books, our usual routine, we stayed downstairs and had a snack and watched some Elmo.

    I'm not sure what the boys pulled out of it directly. It was a good show! But 3 year old and 6 year old minds work differently. Heck, I'm not even sure what I pulled from it. This definitely gave us something to talk about over the next few weeks.

    The show starts out with a focus on our service-members who have a physical-change, like an amputated arm or leg. I couldn't help but tear up as I watched. (This is where my feeling fortunate came in.) Some of the kids talked about how they were afraid of their Dad & the physical changes when he came back. But they discovered that Dad was still Dad. ugh... I'm so thankful that my boys won't have to worry about that emotion.

    They do look so forward to Dad coming back! He will be home for good THIS month. We have a few events that we have to go to. The Official Homecoming Ceremony of course, as well as a 30-day family event and 60-day family event. But my husband doesn't work in a special ops group or a high-combat group; for that I am so thankful! Really, the only shooting he saw was at the firing range. But that doesn't make me (or the boys) miss him any less!

    So I'm wondering what 'changes' will have occurred. The last segment of the show was on PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) and the anger that sometimes service-members come home with. Will PTSD be there at all for hubby? He does have some real changes to acclimate himself to here at home. The boys got older; I grew to be more self-reliant; nieces and nephews were born; friendships changed. But deep-down I'm just thinking (hoping, praying?) that those are easy enough changes to roll-with-the-punches.

    At the end of the Sesame Street special John Mayer played his guitar and sang "Say What you Need to Say". *C* had been watching the show out of the corner of his eye while playing with cars on the floor. But the minute he heard that music he stood up, grabbed his 'guitar' (a wooden sword) and started dancing. (He just warms my heart when he does that. He is my future rock-star!) What a subtle reminder that the important part of re-acquainting ourselves as a family is to just talk, say what is on our mind.

    - Leanne from

    Featured Military Reward for April 2009

    Springtime brings thoughts of clean up and possibly getting ready for the next PCS for military families! Often included in this process is finding a business to help clean on base quarters or an off base house. During preparations for that big move a bit of help is much appreciated! It is/was a very busy time and finding someone to help can be a great relief. With that in mind we thought this ad fits the season and also offers a great military discount! Their business profile is also a great marketing tool and shows they are "military friendly".

    This Month's Featured Military Reward is given to:

    Pam's Pristine Cleaning Service

    Their Military Reward reads:

    10% off all Services for Military, Retired Military and Civil Service employees. Must Present Proof of Valid Military/Government ID

    Their Business Profile says:

    We all have our fantasies and if you dream of walking into an immaculate house or office without taking the time or effort, well it is no longer a dream; it is reality, because Pam's Pristine Cleaning Service is ready to help. Our cleaning services cover a wide range of tasks from move in/move out cleaning, maid service and minor home repair. Let us serve you while you serve our country so you can concentrate on the important things in life - family, friends, career and hobbies.

    Click here to view coupon featured at Warner Robins AFB.

    A special thank you to Pam’s Pristine Cleaning Service and all of our MAPP partners for supporting your military community with your Rewards.

    We choose a Featured MilitaryReward each month to highlight our Partners and their wonderful support to the military community! Our military family team chooses one based on value for the military family and how well it sends the message "military friendly business".

    Scallop and Cheese Bake

    Another Lenten Friday special meal here. This creamy dish, served with a salad and fresh french bread is a winner. The Gruyere cheese is nutty and adds a new flavor. If you don't have Gruyere, Swiss cheese is a good substitute.

    1 lb scallops
    1 T chopped onion
    4 mushrooms, slicked thin
    3 T butter
    3 T. flour
    1/8 t cayenne pepper
    1/2 c milk
    2 T grated Parmesan cheese
    1 T snipped parsley
    1/2 c shredded Gruyere cheese
    1/2 c finely crushed round crackers
    1 T butter, melted

    Thaw scallops if frozen. Cut any large scallops in half. In saucepan boil scallops with just enough water to cover them. Start with cold water. Reduce heat and simmer 1 minute. Drain, reserving 3/4 c of cooking liquid.
    Cook onions and sliced mushrooms in 3 T butter until tender. Stir in flour and 1/8 t cayenne pepper. Add reserved 3/4 cooking liquid and milk. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat. Stir in Parmesan cheese, parsley, and scallops. Turn scallop mixture into a 1 1/2 qt casserole; sprinkle with Gruyere cheese. Combine crumb s and 1 T melted butter; sprinkle on top of casserole. Bake in 350 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes. Makes 5 servings.
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