Peppers, Green, Banana, Hungarian Wax A'Plenty!

The garden just didn't appear out there over night. And to my recollection, little gnomes haven't been out there weeding, hoeing, rotor tilling, etc.... Especially the rotor tilling part... that machine is a monster that wants to go anywhere but where I feel is straight. (Yeah for Dale on this and so many parts of the pre-harvest work.) At the sound of our behemoth, those little gnomes would have jumped straight out of their gourds and be headed so far out of Michigan as to be fictional memories. So, maybe that's the story!
The beauty of a vegetable garden is that crops sweep in at their own pace and then demand attention. Rather like a pet... out there waving the fruits. In so doing they are calling me to come give them a treat (fertilizer, water) or come out and praise them for their abundant gifts they have to offer. Our pup comes with a stick or a bone with delight in her eyes. I like the veggie's bearing of peppers or spinach much better!
Right now the pepper plants are loaded. We planted enough for the local population as I am always certain that 1/2 the plants will not produce. WRONG. They are up and popping out peppers with gusto. So, my sons, my neighbors and any one who breaths around here are getting peppers. It's a great way to start a conversation. :)
Spanish Peppers is a great side dish, colorful and does not use the oven on a hot night! These can easily saute up on a side burner on a grill.
Spanish Peppers
1 large green pepper, cut into 1/2" strips
1 sweet banana pepper, cut into 1/2" slices; seeds removed
1 yellow Hungarian Wax pepper, cut into 1/2" slices; seeds removed
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 c celery, diced
2 T olive oil
2 or 3 basil leaves (or 1/4 t dried basil leaves)
1/2 t salt
1/2 c homemade ranch dressing
In 8"skillet, cook and stir the peppers, celery and onion in oil over medium heat until the onion is tender. About 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in spiced. Cover and cook over medium heat until peppers are crisp tender. Stir in Ranch dressing and serve.
4 servings.

"Tell A Friend" About Stop Loss Payments $$$$ - DoD Roundtable

Are you a veteran that has served since 9/11? Were you involuntarily extended beyond a separation or retirement date between 9/11/2001 and 09/30/2008? Do you know someone in these circumstances? Or even think they might have been? Be sure to tell them that they are eligible for $500 per month or partial month from the Department of Defense! Please go to to fill out the application! It takes 30 minutes! Average payment has been $3700! The end date for application is October 21st! Less than 3 months! Do not put it off! Tell them today! If you are eligible, file today!

The DoDLive Bloggers Roundtable with Lernes "Bear" Hebert, Acting Director, Officer & Enlisted Personnel Management for the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense, Personnel and Readiness and Major Roy Whitley, the Army project officer to help spread the word to those who are eligible for these payments authorized by the 2009 War Supplemental Appropriations Act established Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay (RSLSP). Approximately 145,000 former and retired service members are eligible from all services and components! Guard/Reserve? Go through the website application process as they have Guard/Reserve specialists to handle your application to meet the laws requirements! Not sure?? Apply! They are willing to review the applications for all you!

Surviving spouses go to the head of the line for review so if you know of someone in these circumstances please tell them too! The site has specific directions and assistance for them! The review process takes 2-4 weeks and is getting closer to 2 weeks according to Major Whitley!

Here are some rough numbers of eligibles by service:
Army 120,000
Air Force 16,000
Navy 250
Marines 8,900

Total: 145,000 Paid: 30,000 Only 10% of the applicants have been denied! I ask why and Major Whitley said that some confuse unit stop loss with individual’s who had a delayed separation or retirement due to stop loss.

What is being done to get the word out? Mailings, posters at VA centers, military associations have been contacted, information at recruiting stations and bloggers are being asked to help! The Army even has a stop loss Facebook page!

Again please go to: WWW.Defense.Gov/StopLoss to fill out the application!

If you would like to listen to read the transcript from this Roundtable please go to DoDLive! Thank you LT Cragg for moderating and Mr Hebert and Major Whitley for helping our deserving veterans!

Photo Credit: U.S. Air Force pararescuemen pay their final respects at a memorial for 1st Lt. Joel Gentz, 25, a combat rescue officer assigned to the 58th Rescue Squadron, and Staff Sgt. David Smith, 26, a helicopter flight engineer assigned to the 66th Rescue Squadron, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., June 18, 2010. The two were among four Airmen killed and three wounded June 9 when an HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter crashed during a medical evacuation mission in southeastern Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Lawrence Crespo/Released)
Photographer's Name: Lawrence CrespoLocation: Nellis Air Force Base
Date Shot: 6/18/2010Date Posted: 6/22/2010VIRIN: 100618-F-0528C-049

Photo Credit: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Eric C. Lavoie, left, Lance Cpl. David P. Longmire, center, and Lance Cpl. Matt R. Battani, all with Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, set up a mortar tube during an Enhanced Mojave Viper training exercise at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif., July 16, 2010, during pre-deployment training. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jonathan K. Reitzel/Released)

Photo Credit: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Patrick Neilson III, a security forces squad leader with Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) Zabul, scans the horizon for activity as Cpl. Michael McGee and Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jimmy Sosa, both also with PRT Zabul, look on during a presence patrol through Qalat City, Afghanistan, July 23, 2010. (DoD photo by Senior Airman Nathanael Callon, U.S. Air Force/Released)

Photo Credit: Lernes J. Hebert, Acting Director, Officer & Enlisted Personnel Management DoD Live

Finishing up one chapter and moving to the next

Well life is spinning ... not necessarily out of control ... but definitely FAST.

I can SEE the finish line.

I can FEEL the roar of the hormones.

Just this morning my mother-in-law said I LOOKED tired ready. AMEN, sistah!

Gestational Diabetes be GONE. Contractions, the most erratic and un-cooperative kind ever, be DONE. I'd like to see my ankle bones again; and ahhh... just the simple task of bending over to shave, tie a 5 year-old's shoe, pick up the food I just dropped all over the kitchen floor (clumsiness ... the pregnancy side effect they forget to tell you about) will be such a relief.

I'm pretty darn ready to close this chapter of my life. I'm SO VERY ready to start a new chapter in our family's life. (You know the chapters that start with the sleepless-nights followed by blurry days; the 'don't forget the diaper bag' every where we go; the sleeping baby in the baby swing, or nestled in momma's arms, or snuggled with Dad. Big brothers oogling over little toes; big brothers saying "Mom, make him stop crying".)

Yep! I'm ready.

August 4th can not get here sooner... and Baby-Boy *L* if you want to come sooner (poke, poke, hint, hint) we are so very ready for you!

- Leanne from

BTW ... I have many passions in life. God and Family are number 1. MilitaryAvenue is WAY up there. I may not be on Twitter / Facebook / 'Our Letters to You' as much in August or early-September but I know that my partners-in-crime, the entire MilitaryAvenue Team, will take great care of our military families and our MilitaryAvenue Partners while I am wiping the sleep out of my own eyes and wondering where I can find the coffee as Little *L* and I get used to this wonderful new life together and as a family!

Day 2 USAA Auto Circle Blogger Event

USAA Auto Circle Blogger Event

Day 2 at the USAA Auto Circle Blogger Event for the military bloggers! They get to see and drive the USAA Preferred Vehicles! Do you have any questions that we can relay to USAA for you? Please leave a comment or forward questions to!

So many great bloggers there! Watch for your favorites as they write about this great event! Have you seen the list of military bloggers on the right side of Our Letters to You? It is an extensive list! If you twitter here is a list of bloggers (including MilitaryAvenue's Dan) and USAA folks at the event gathering information to share with you!

Who is there? From (with hashmark #USAABE) :

@MilitaryAvenue @mymilitarylife @BlueStarFamily @Beth_Wilson @michaelfkelly @JohnHancock61 @ArmyWifeNetwork @EnlistedSpouses @SMUSteffyLou @BudgetsAreSexy @militarymoney @katekashman @kissmygumbo @AskJune_USAA

@michaelfkelly There for our mbrs! RT @MilitaryAvenue: #usaa 's disaster recovery vehicle. About to jump aboard #usaabe #spon

Photo Credit: MilitaryAvenue USAA Emergency Response Vehicle - Eagle One

Tasty Tuesday Basil Butter and Corn

In Michigan it is corn season. Some call it summer, the rest of us know that it is fresh corn on the cob - roadside stand season. The varieties are out there, one field is a bit different than an other. I suppose it is like wine vineyards... the soil content, the water, the hours of sunlight and temperature of the ground give the grapes their subtle taste value... so I am told. I can just tell you that here, each stand is a marvel. Then to top it off, Fridays in Middleville is Farmers' Market day. So, a stroll down the booths lets one see different color ears, price ears and hear how each is the best. I think they are right. I love them all! I love summer!

So, back at the homestead our basil has taken off. I love basil too. I grown way too much, search for recipes, harvest it and dry lots and lots. Our dehydrator does not get a lot of time in the off position.

Here is basil butter. I use this on fresh grill roasted corn on the cob. This is the best, most wonderful and absolutely delicious combination ever. Ha ha ... OK, until I find another tangy treat.

Basil Butter

USAA Auto Circle Blogger Event

USAA Auto Circle Blogger Event

The military bloggers are at USAA including MilitaryAvenue! Be sure to follow on at #USAABE! Some pictures to wet your appetite for all the fun and information coming from

Who is there? From (with hashmark #USAABE) :

@MilitaryAvenue @mymilitarylife @BlueStarFamily @Beth_Wilson @michaelfkelly @JohnHancock61 @ArmyWifeNetwork @EnlistedSpouses @SMUSteffyLou @BudgetsAreSexy

Photo Credits: MilitaryAvenue
1- Entrance to USAA
2- Meeting new friends and seeing old ones too
3- USAA Media Center

A Walk in the Shoes of a Wounded Warrior

Have you ever been confined to a wheel chair? Recently, I had to have surgery on a foot and the doctor prescribed no weight on the foot for a month. Easy enough, let me have those crutches and I will move around I thought! Then came the devastating news! I just didn’t have a lump removed from my foot it was cancer. I visited a couple of doctors for care and one took the cake for lack of patient comfort and bedside manner! Ok, this is an almost exact quote if not the exact words. I have to say I was in a bit of shock but I did have a witness. He said, “I do not know much about this cancer but tough it up soldier and just let them take off the leg”. I went in to the appointment thinking a bit more surgery on the foot and I am good to go! Came out on my crutches, scared out of my mind and wondering what the future held. My mind went wild with thoughts and of course I am a tough airman and I started thinking of all those Wounded Warriors with crippling loss of limbs in their prime of life while defending you and I! They gave me the strength to move ahead with lots of prayers and a strong faith that God is in charge. I had to face my mortality and the fact I might need to deal with something different including how to use prosthesis!

The “kind” doctor did a wonderful thing though, he referred me to a doctor rated #4 in the country for orthopedic surgery oncology (bone and cancer doctor) and off I went to a big medical center and my first experiences with a wheel chair. The plan had been for me to use a scooter that I could push with the good leg while resting the bad leg on it. It worked well until the great doctor ordered a biopsy of another lump found in my upper thigh. After 5 needles (it is a training hospital) into the tumor I was done pushing the scooter and we had more appointments that afternoon in multiple places and at multiple times! Into the wheel chair I went with my loving Air Force spouse pushing! Sit back and enjoy the ride Dale! Off to cardio next. Staff asked Deb to run some paperwork down and I am left alone waiting. Hmmm, is that nature calling? Alrighty, let’s try moving this thing by myself into the restroom! Ha, not so fast, the wheel chair and restroom door are tighter than some of those small LZs I used to land helos in. Ouch, crunch go those fingers! After a bit of grumbling I finally made it through the door and now I am in! Alright I can get into the stall but how do I get out! It is really narrow in there and my steering skills are beginner for sure and it does not seem to work for this very coordinated man’s hands either. I decided to “cheat” and hop to where I needed to go. Clearly the smart choice or I might have lost some digits while trying!

Deb came back to see me sweating at the waiting area and smiled and asked if I am in pain. I said no but I hate wheel chairs and told her about my adventures. We laughed and she agreed to stick with me and avoid any more “solos” till I was properly cleared by an instructor wheel chair operator! We were now off to lunch and a new revelation. Cafeteria/coffee shop displays are not meant for someone in a wheel chair. Frustratingly I can not see the food. I can smell it, I know how much it costs but I buy food based on seeing it too. The counter is way up there and I am way down here. Deb patiently describes the food but I get frustrated and finally say, you know what I like, please pick something out for me! We met some wonderful people that day including an MRI technician who used her special pass to get us through some short cuts as we left late at night and many of the normal routes were closed by security. Back at the car, I picked up the friendly crutches for the rest of the evening.

Since that experience I thought what it would take to make it easier for me to use a wheel chair and what the Wounded Warriors must face every day! Improvements to their homes, ramps to be built, wheel chair friendly vehicles, can they drive, is there someone to help them, facing the world in a wheel chair. We have come a long ways in treatment, many with lost limbs are returning to duty if they so desire but there is still a long ways to go.

My treatment has just started and I do face more surgery but the latest word from the doctors is that I will keep my leg and have surgery on the two areas of cancer and some reconstructive surgery to help retain the function of my foot. I have been blessed but my eyes have been opened! The old adage, walk a mile in my shoes, can certainly be said for our Wounded Warriors! Take a look around you and put yourself in their situation. Is there anything you can do to help? A friendly push of the wheel chair of life would really be appreciated I am sure!

We do have some great informational blogs on Wounded Warriors at MilitaryAvenue!

PS: If you decide to support a Wounded Warrior program with a gift be sure to check them out first. There are some very unscrupulous folks out there that will try to take advantage of any situation.

Photo Credits: Col K visiting Mejier Gardens in Grand Rapids MI while still confined to a wheel chair with family.

USAA Auto Circle Blogger Event

USAA Auto Circle Blogger Event

This weekend I have been invited to USAA's headquarters in San Antonio, Texas. I will be attending along with other bloggers in order to learn more about USAA and it's many programs developed to assist military families with key purchases. This summer, USAA will launch a simplified online and mobile experience for finding, financing and insuring consumer autos and homes, making the entire experience easier and less aggravating.

As I go into the presentations and meetings I ask that you, our reader, please pass on any questions you may have for me to consider asking USAA. I would enjoy the opportunity to share any questions you send our way.

Throughout the event we will be blogging, please come back to our site and blog often to learn more about our visit with USAA!

Please send any questions to or leave them here in the comment box.

Very Respectfully,

Dan Kissinger

Wordless Wednesday: BabyBoy's Heart-beat, Music to a Mom's Ears

Since I have gestational diabetes I go in for a "non-stress" test twice a week to make sure baby is moving around and has a strong heart-beat.  I pulled out the hand dandy camera-phone to get a quick keepsake of the sound of the miracle inside me.

- Leanne from Resources: Are you having a baby?

Tasty Tuesday From Pickled Hot Peppers

Packing pickled peppers, and these babies are hot ones! Isn't it funny how in the heat of the summer, it is time to put the heat in the kitchen and fire up the canner. Our pressure cooker is steaming, rattling, cranking out pints and quarts of the best our land has to offer.
We planted jalapenos, yellow banana peppers and Hungarian wax peppers. Our peppers with heat are the latter: the Hungarian ones. Glad that we have that, as I want to taste that zip when I crunch on a nacho!
Putting up these three varieties melds the taste together. We enjoy the fruits of the summer all year long. But the picking, cleaning and pressuring seem to take that long too! Cleaning the jars is the ultimate first step. Clean jars, new liner and nick free rings assure us that the work we do will produce that wonderful "POP" when we take the cans out of the cooker and let them cool. Love that sound!
This recipe brings 5 well packed pints to fruition. I packed then down and when it was done, when they had cooled, there was plenty of room, they obviously soften up! Here is to some great late night snacking! Nacho toppers at their best.
Pickled Peppers (jalapenos, Hungarian wax, and yellow banana peppers)
5 c 5% vinegar either white or apple cider variety
1 c water
4 t pickling salt
2 t sugar
3 lb.s fresh mix of jalapeno, yellow banana and Hungarian wax peppers
5 baby carrots sliced, one for each jar
Remove the seeds from the Hungarian wax peppers and the yellow banana peppers.
Prepare a boiling bath for jars. Keep h0t while you prepare the jars for pickling.
Make a brine by placing the vinegar, water, salt and sugar in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, stir to dissolve the salt and sugar. Cover and keep hot over low heat.
Wash the peppers and slice 1/4 inch thick; discard the stem ends from all the peppers. Place one sliced carrot into each jar. Pack with the pepper slices tightly. (They do soften.)
Ladle the hot brine over the sliced peppers in the sterilized jars. Process the pints in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. (Cover up to the top with 1" of water) Remove from cooker, do not move for 12 to 24 hours. Store up to 1 year.

Savoring the Moment

I have a confession ...

I am at the tail end of my third pregnancy (at just about 37 weeks) and I am NOT ready to be done. I mean I'm ready to meet our little BabyBoy. I'm ready to take a load off my feet. I'm ready to stop having to take insulin and being on a very strict diet for gestational diabetes. I'm really ready to not be sweating buckets just from sitting.

But I know this is my last pregnancy. I'm over 35 and pregnancy has been hard on my body (this one in particular.) So I'm savoring moments. I'm savoring a foot jabbing me in the side - despite the fact that, ya, it doesn't feel 'great'! I'm savoring watching my belly 'shift' because a tiny little rump is shifting inside of me. I'm savoring the hiccups, the jabs, the moments of silence where I can just rest my hand on a 'hard spot' and know that it is my little-boy!

We will enter a new stage in life soon-enough. Sleepless nights, cuddly baby in momma's arms, nursing (I am SO looking forward to that part, actually. What is it about nursing that is just amazingly awe-inspiring?! I don't get it... but it is to me!). There are brothers that are SO excited to meet their new brother and a dad that will uplift this little-boy like no other father can!

Yep, I can't wait to meet you, BabyBoy *L*. But at the same time, this time I'm not ready to rush you (I was a little inpatient to meet your two older brothers). I'm savoring moments and knowing how very special you already are as I prepare to close this chapter of my lfie!

- Leanne from

Related Articles: Resources: Are you having a baby?

Big, Red, Bouncy Ball

*C*, 5 years old learned something today. The power of a saved-dollar.

He doesn't get an allowance yet. (We started his older brother on an allowance at 1st grade). We don't pay for household chores. My thought is no-one pays me to make dinner, why should I pay them to put away their laundry and get the table set before dinner? Household chores are just part of being a family! So at this point in the game if he has money in his wallet it isn't from Mom.

Stepping up the plate is Grandma. You have to love Grandmas! Especially the ones my boys have. Twice a week my mother-in-law watches the boys so that I can have full days of uninterrupted work. Well once in awhile the boys come home with a bit of mullah for helping Grandma; whether it is from crushing cans, picking up pinecones in the yard, or organizing the corner cabinets that she has a harder time getting to. The coins and bills go right into their wallet and is saved for a rainy day.

Today was that rainy day! [Despite the very sunny, HOT, weather outside. :)] *C* had $5! At 5 years old he thought he was king of the store! We looked at the Pokémon cards. We talked about what he could afford. His brother had enough to get a larger set and was opting to spend money on them. *C* hemmed and hawed over it, as he had enough for a small single pack. He wasn't sure if that was what he wanted. Then he saw them: Big Bouncy Balls! $2.67. He had enough; he was going for it! He bounced that ball all the way to the cashier.

This ball is better then any ball he has ever owned! Why? Because he bought it. He saved his money. He got to pick how to spend his hard earned dollars. And best of all he still has some money left in his wallet, and he knows it!

Learning to save and learning to manage your money is difficult. I am (ahem) over 35 and still learning to manage money. Every day seems to carry a new lesson. But I think starting to learn young is the way to go. He worked hard (by his definition) for that ball! When we work to save up for something, pay cash (in other words, not putting purchases on the credit card that we can't afford to pay off), it makes the purchase that much more meaningful!

A great list of additional resources on "Money Management" can be found on Resources: Money & The Military. Start saving today and maybe your next purchase will bring you as much delight as a Big Red Bouncy Ball!

- Leanne from

Taking a Baseball Bat to Cancer

Sometimes life throws curve balls. I didn't even know that I was up to bat! It was so hectic and now I see bases are loaded and I am NOT going to strike out, or walk or punt (wait... that's the wrong sport!)
See... I really didn't know I was in the game. And then whoosh something flew at me and caught my breath.
I think it was fear.
But just like one pitch, it was thrown at me trying to get me off center, trying to get me to go after it, jerk away from it, recognize it and not ignore it. I did.
Whoosh... next came uncertainty. How can I handle this? What am I supposed to do? What is expected from me? What if I let my partner in life down?
CLANK! SMACK! Reverberation.... off and running! Our first destination the PET CT scan. Knowledge was being mapped out, like the direct lines of bases. Next in this line of bases is see we are go to University of Michigan to the Cancer Center, then back to Grand Rapids to the Oncologist and then to radiation... and HOME plate: Middleville. Let it be so.
No reports have been read as yet. There might be other stops along the way. But I like this plan in my head. I need a visual, a game plan. Head down, armed with fans to support, uniformed in prayer with banners set on the kitchen table! (Aren't friends just wonderful?) WOW! The fans go wild!
Acts of kindness are adrenaline for the psyche! Thank you all for all that you do for everyone. It doesn't not go unnoticed, maybe unsung. But oh the thrill of a home run when it is in the stadium of life!

Blackberry Grunt

Our fields are alive... not with the sound of music, but the glory of berries. The wild raspberries were a healthy crop this year, not the blood letting usual that brought in a meager pint. We served up fruity oatmeal in the morning, fruity salad at lunch and tasty desserts after dinner. No complaints.
Now the dew berries are thick and jet black full of their individual globes of pulp and ready to be picked. They are the precursor to the blackberries: the ultimate gift of the land. We don't have to work for them, the plants are wild, full and laden. It's a walk in the park... or the back acres to pick buckets of these beauties. We do that daily until mid August. These blackberries are the reason we had to buy another freezer! And they are well worth it too.
This is Dale's ultimate recipe. He has tweaked it after finding it in a James Beard cookbook. It just gets better and better! Hope you have the opportunity to try this one out. The molasses in the grunt adds an unusual aroma, and is perfect with the tart berries.

Blackberry Grunt
3 c blackberries
1/3 c Splenda
1/4 t cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg
1 slight 1/4 c molasses
2 T lemon juice
Biscuit crust
1 c flour
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
3 T butter
1 T vegetable shortening
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/3 c milk

Wash and pick over the berries and spread then in a deep 9 " oval dish. Combine the sugar and spices and sprinkle over the berries. Dribble the molasses over them and sprinkle them with the lemon juice. Bake the berries at 375 degrees for 5 minutes, or just until they begin to render juice. Remove the pan from the oven. Increase the oven temp to 425.
Combine the dry ingredients for the biscuit. With a pastry blender, blend in butter and shortening. Stir in the egg and milk. Drop the dough by tablespoons over the berries and spread it to cover. Bake 29 minutes or until the biscuit crust is well browned. Serve hot with cream, or ice cream.

Big Brothers

We have a few 'big brothers' in our house. Our oldest, *J* is 16, *E* is 7, and *C* is 5 and preparing to be a big brother. Each looks up to the other with wide eyed-admiration and I can only imagine what is running through their mind as they interact with, play with, compete with, teach each other.

We spent the early-afternoon at the zoo yesterday.  *J* brought his girlfriend and *E* did not want to leave their side. He was their shadow; their tour guide; their third-wheel. I stayed kind of ahead so as not to crowd them (and to find an occasional bench to sit on) and *C* stayed up ahead with me.

As I watched *J* and *E* stroll through the different exhibits I completely saw the value in programs like "Big Brothers / Big Sisters". Especially for those families that don't have the influence of a dad or mom in their lives. (Even a 12 month deployment can have major influence on a boy missing his dad, or a girl missing her mom.) Kids want older-kids to look up to! They want to know how to 'be a man' or 'be a woman'. Older brothers and sisters have an incredible amount of influence on the generations that follow them.  I realize that my influence on my own children is vast ... but I'm not the only influence in their lives and I don't want to be!  I want there to be plenty of other positive influences to shape them and mold them.

Last night, as I was cuddling with *C* on the couch, he put his hand on my 8 month pregnant belly and he asked if 'baby was sleeping'. I told him he was and then I asked him if he was looking forward to being a big brother. With wide eyes he looked up at me and said "Oh, yes! *BabyBoy* is going to love me!"

I know he will. And I know that all three of *BabyBoy*'s big brothers will love him and play with him, he will be a great shadow and even the "4th wheel" as our family grows to completion!

- Leanne from

PS - If your teenager is looking for a 'volunteer' opportunity find out if there is a need for mentorship in your neighborhood and community; perhaps at a post / base youth-center, at your church, or even kids down the street. A child 8, 9 or 10 years old will really enjoy the companionship of a 14, 15 or 16 year old that *understands* the military way of life; a been-there-done-that influence is a great esteem builder!

Consider the Army’s electric footprint - DoD Roundtable

I had the opportunity to interview a few key players discussing the Army’s energy security mission. On the call were; U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Howard Bromberg, Commanding General, Fort Bliss; U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Dana J. H. Pittard, Deputy Chief of Staff, G3, United States Army Training and Doctrine Command; Mr. Jerry Hansen, Army Senior Energy Executive, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Strategic Infrastructure; Dr. Kevin Geiss, Program Director for Energy Security.

Mr. Hansen defined the Army energy security mission as: “Make energy a consideration for all Army activities to reduce demand, increase efficiency, seek alternative sources, and create a culture of energy accountability while sustaining or enhancing operational capabilities.”

I asked Gen. Bromberg, “Are there any programs out there specifically for military families on the installations to become aware of their power consumption?”.

Gen. Bromberg responded specifically about Ft. Bliss with, “We are just in the infancy stages of that. What we've recently -- through the energy symposium, we have a business partner that has come on and actually offered to take four homes from a partner. These are military family homes, and convert those to solar and still leave them fully functional, the goal is to take them off the grid totally for a period of the next year and have them on the solar panels, and let them help record feedback and experience how you can actually power your home quite satisfactorily off solar. They'll have the ability, obviously, if they have problems, just to go back to the grid if necessary, so we've identified those four homes and we're under way now of actually putting those four homes totally on solar power.

Additionally, we've just signed our contract for recycling for curbside recycling, so actually we'll have the blue buckets in everybody's house so families and soldiers can get involved with everything from recycling through solar. Again, we're just in the starting phases. Our MWR program, as well as our partnership with AAFES and the commissary allows for community involvement. We've asked them to, obviously, not just push the green bags and get people not to use plastic bags and paper. They're actually going to go to incentives for us, so if you use a recyclable bag or a green bag in the PX, you can get a nickel off or something like that, so we can start just getting people to start thinking about being green.

We've partnered with the University of Texas at El Paso, with their department to come and look at all our landscaping, to see if there's smarter things we can do in terms of landscaping and try to bring the whole culture of the environment to the post.” Dr. Geiss added, “I just want to mention that we do have installations, in particular out in Hawaii, the garrison out there, where the privatized family housing has solar hot water and solar power on -- I think actually a few hundred homes, so we do have examples of that other places in the Army.

We have also looked at doing mock billing to the families to make sure that they're aware of what their usage is and looking at incentives for whether they use more or less than what the baseline would be, so that is something that we're considering at other installations. We have also looked at doing mock billing to the families to make sure that they're aware of what their usage is and looking at incentives for whether they use more or less than what the baseline would be, so that is something that we're considering at other installations.”

Gen. Bromberg was asked how far along he felt Fort Bliss was from being Net-Zero, that is, an installation which produces as much energy as it consumes. He responded with, “Well, I think we're still in the early stages of it, if you use the Army terminology, it is a crawl, walk, run, we're still in the crawl phase as an organization.”

This Rountable was very inspiring as our nation moves forward to becoming more efficient and Net-Zero aware. The US military often leads in new technology that will be followed by other industries. Throughout the discussion it was very clear that in order to become more efficient, the Army has to become creative. I dare say that it seems Gen. Bromberg has quite an entrepreneurial spirit that has aided Ft. Bliss goal of becoming Net-Zero. The members of this Roundtable obviously shared a similar goal and direction. I certainly hope the military allows for development and growth in this arena.

In the end I feel that Gen. Pittard summed up the need to create a culture of energy accountability by stating, “It's the right thing to do. And it's more than just the Army; it's the right thing to do for our nation.”

Photo Credit: DoDLive Bloggers Roundtable
U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Howard Bromberg, Commanding General, Fort Bliss

U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Dana J. H. Pittard, Deputy Chief of Staff, G3, United States Army Training and Doctrine Command

A Peaceful Setting Soothes

A peaceful setting soothes the heart. So simple and true. And when it is at your fingertips how sweet is that!
A garden provides so many advantages: outdoor activity, blooms that bring color and fragrance indoors. There is a tracking of the seasons with flowers, bushes and shrubs. Winter was officially over when our irises pushed their way out of the ground and stuck purple and blue lipstick tubes up in the air. At their feet popped the Johnnie jump-ups, bachelor buttons and delphinium. Then came peonies, lilies and pansies springing to life. Now it all out there: sprays of colors, smells and beauty!
So, what should you do? BRING IT IN! Sit a spell and take it in. Life. It is so good!

Up North Shrimp Gumbo

Creative instincts can be great... can get you into trouble... and open doors, or in this case a pot lid. We lived in all 4 corners of the US (CONUS). We savored some great taste sensations. We learned to like produce, fish, fruits that we not on our plates as children. Some were fantastic and some... we just couldn't invite back again! Legumes (any sort of dried bean or pea) are just not my friends! And on that no fly list in capital letters, is okra. Tried it, and believe we are incompatible. Both Dale and I can live with that. But then there is gumbo. I love the idea. I hate picking out the okra. So, I tried it without. I have had successful without recipes (Superbowl Chili). And voila, another! Spicy succulent shrimp in homegrown tomato based sauce is a winner. Give it a try.

Up North Shrimp Gumbo

July Featured Military Reward - Heaven's Best

We are about to celebrate the 4th of July and that means the heat of summer is here! We have selected a patriotic company that recognizes the sacrifices our service families make as our Featured Military Reward for July! Heaven's Best Carpet and Upholstery Cleaning has an exceptional Military Reward for military families in the middle of a PCS move in or move out at Beaufort MCAS! Or maybe you just need to freshen your house after a busy year?

Their Military Reward says:

25% Military Discount Heaven's Best Carpet Cleaning cares and understands the sacrifices that the military community has made in safe guarding our country. Thank You!

Their ad can be seen at Beaufort MCAS in our Military Rewards and Carpet Cleaners categories! Their Reward can also be seen on Military Avenue Alerts! Sent directly to your in box once a month they feature local Military Rewards at your installation! Have you signed up? No? Why not? Register for Alerts at! Top right corner, click on register and provide an email address and your installation! Its easy!

A special thank you to Heaven's Best Carpet and Upholstery Cleaning and all of our MAPP partners for supporting your military community with your Rewards. Do you have a friend with a business that needs to reach out to the military community? Know a Military Friendly business? Tell them why they should offer a Military Reward and how they can have free advertising on MilitaryAvenue! Or send them this link:

We choose a Featured Military Reward 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".

Have a great Fourth of July! While you do, remember our military families that have loved ones in combat zones! Maybe you could even invite them out for a Fourth of July event and share some time with them! They would love it! Our 101 Ways to celebrate the 4th of July will give you some fun and safe ways to participate with them!
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