Valentine's Day Cookies

MMMMM... cookies.  Usually I only bake cookies during  the Christmas Season.  But the urge to bake over took me last week and I suddenly found myself in the Valentines Spirit.

Here is a recipe for /delicious/ Pink-frosted Valentines Cookies (or really whatever holiday you want to make them for.  Just change the shape of you cookie cutter and the food-dye color and viola you are "in season".)

Perfectly Valentines Cookies



Cookie Ingredients
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup powdered sugar
2 cups vegetable shortening
1 large egg, beaten
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (/or/ 4 1/3 cups of Cake Flour if you have it hand) 
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Military Saves Week 2012

Because financial-smarts is a necessity to the overall well being of a military-family  I wanted to be sure you all knew about this ...

Military Saves Week is Fast Approaching!

The official date for Military Saves Week is February 19-26, and more than 120 military installations, financial institutions, and non-profits have already signed up! View the complete liste of participants here.

Check with the Family Readiness Center at your command exact dates and news about this important event!

Be sure to read through MilitaryAvenue's Money and The Military Resource Guide as well.  We will be posting blogs throughout the week of February 19th to keep us all thinking about our financial health.  How about you?

- Leanne from MilitaryAvenue.com

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The Heritage of a Military Brat

*E*, 9 years old, came home very excited.  "MOM! We have a big project at school and it has to be about our heritage, where we come from.  I want to do the country of Iceland!"

What is interesting is *E* is about 25% Hungarian, 12.5% Norwegian, a splash of Irish, Danish and French and the rest German.  Icelandic? There is none in his blood.  But it does run in his veins.

I lived in the country of Iceland from 10th grade through 12th grade at the now closed Naval Base in Keflavik.  My dad flew helicopters out of the 56th Rescue Squadron with the US Air Force.  So when I talk about my younger years and where I came from a lot of times Iceland is mentioned.  I never really thought about my heritage in terms of being a brat.  I knew it influenced who I was but influenced my own children?  I was suddenly excited to think that my 'brat-hood' had an impact on my own children and making a dent in their sphere of a world-view.


For his project he chose to do a diorama.  I called my mom to get some props.  She dug out the old photos of the scenery from our tour in Iceland.  She scanned them and emailed them to us.  (Isn't modern technology great?!)  We did a little official research on the computer about the country and we found a recipe to bring in.  (Part of the project was making a food to share with the class.) 

A Time for All Seasons - DoD Blogger Roundtable

Pentagon Press Secretary George Little
"Put Me in Coach"!

World and national events make this "A Time for All Seasons" and there is a reason that Friday is a favorite weekday of most! But it was with trepidation that MilitaryAvenue dialed into the DoDLive Bloggers Roundtable Friday afternoon to talk with Pentagon Press Secretary George Little and DoD Spokesman U.S. Navy Capt. John Kirby.  Why? - you wonder? We were about to discuss the new 2013 budget proposal from the Pentagon. The subject always seems to be one of the tough issues that never please anyone. Which programs are being cut this time, manpower reductions, aircraft and naval vessel numbers slashed, Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) recommendations, etc.? Do the needs of the military drive the budget or does the budget drive our military needs is always the question?

This Roundtable was a fine example of those discussions. Great questions from bloggers and answers from the Pentagon. But they left me wondering what the message these media experts were sending to us and you. “Refocus attention on skill sets”, “pay growth may slow”, “no commitment to be broken for military retirement”, “F-35 is aircraft of our future”, new BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) proposals, airlift cuts to match troop cuts in Army and Marines, …

The Secretary of Defense announced his budget priorities and these men were explaining those priorities and how they would impact the military community. Troops coming home from Europe, fewer troops (80,000 soldiers and 20,000 Marines), a BRAC like commission to review military retirement (grandfathered for all currently serving), emphasis on special forces and maintaining the number of big deck carriers, - the intent? Save $259 Billion over the next five years and $487 Billion over the next 10 years. Having been a program element monitor (PEM) warrior at the Pentagon, it was apparent that not much has changed since I departed active duty. The discussions will focus on keeping programs in each service, protecting the turf but always looking for ways to save money.

Col K
Why is this discussion important to you? 

Snowmen Hanging In There

Tuesday has to be the best day, my favorite day; it is Esther and Jacob day.  For a few hours I have them in the center of my attention.  Their voices, bursting energy, spontaneous laughter and curiosity are with me.  This is a recipe for a successful day: mirth.
Tissue falling everywhere!



We cook, create with playdough, design with pastels and paper and we chatter.  Songs that I love to sing fill the car on the way down to the house only to be interupted by counting buses, both school and rapid transport.  Seseme Street's Count vonCount would be oh so proud of my charges.

Pinterest and the Military Family

Hours ... I have lost hours to Pinterest.  But maybe lost isn't the right word because Yes! I have successfully re-created some of the great ideas I have found.  Dinner has become more exciting, I've discovered the many uses of vinegar, and it has helped me on my quest to keep "2012 the year of Organization."

I also created some resources that you, the military family, might find useful.  There is a sea of information out there and this is a great way to keep it organized.  Find what you like, pin it to your own board and you'll have it when you need it (or have time to read it!)

Military - Loving the Life
Army Wife - Air Force Brat - and Director of Research and Development at
MilitaryAvenue.com.  Yep, the military-family is pretty important to me.

Tasty Tuesday: Slow Cooking BBQ Chicken

A new baby, a sick family member, a recent (or upcoming) PCS, or 'just because!'; there are many reasons a gift of dinner is so appropriate and heart-warming.  If you are looking for a great dinner to deliver ahead of time this is a great one to try.  (Bonus is that you will have two to give and one to keep!)

Slow Cooking BBQ Chicken:


3 large unpeeled sweet potatoes
4 large green peppers
1 large red pepper
2 medium onions
3 tsps quick cooking tapioca
3 - 4 pounds chicken thighs or breasts
2 8-ounce cans of diced tomatoes
3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
3 tsps Worcestershire sauce
3 tsps yellow mustard powder
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 teaspoons salt

Chop, dice, cut ... into your preferred bite size pieces.  Dump everything evenly into three one-gallon freezer bags (so you are making three meals with this one recipe). Shake it up, seal, label and put in the freezer.

Financial Fitness in 2012

Welcome to a new year, military-families! We have so much ahead of us to look forward to: family time to spend, PCSs to plan, houses to buy, vacations to save for, retirements to plan for, new babies for some and others are sending our babies off to college (Yes, I would fall into that category). 2012 is going to be a great year!

Did you make any New Years Resolutions, or I would rather call Personal Goals? How is that going? My big one this year is to get my home more organized. You can read more about that journey and steps I am taking on our blog 'Our Letters to You', a military family blog: Personal Goals. So far I have stayed on track by taking baby-steps every day. Doing a little bit here and there every day has had a very positive impact on my well-being.

Speaking of keeping Resolutions did you know that Tuesday, January 17th, was 'Ditch the New Year's Resolution Day'? They can be hard to keep, especially if you set the bar high without much planning or vague notions of what you want to achieve. Take a look at what you want to do and see if you can chunk it down into obtainable goals. Sometimes baby-steps are the way to go.

If your goals for the year involved personal-finances then I would encourage you to keep pressing on. Financial Readiness trickles down into every aspect of your life, from your marriage, to your work life, to looking ahead to your future. We hope you can find some help in this month's newsletter to help you keep the pace.

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Sarcoma Smarts

Some people know how to put exactly the right words down in writing so that your mind is able to take the jangle out of thoughts, desires, whim and fog.

I walk in those feelings often. Dale was diagnosed with a rare cancer which is under the umbrella of Sarcoma. This sounded like some troll out of our long forgotten heritage: a member of our family hidden on our family tree that we didn't know existed from an odd country. Sarcoma has come to visit and taken up residency in our thoughts and plans and tries to flick it's ugliness into our faces a bit too often. Sarcoma scares occur: an odd bump, an increasing constant pain, a questionable MRI. The scare is alive and 'unwell' and living with us.

Therefore it is time to clean house. Get rid of the welcome mat for this sarcoma 'fellow'.

We are working on our daily walk.   Dale continues going forward with physical therapy for a joint that froze due to the constant elevation of his leg following cancer surgery. All part of the healing process, part of the newness of being a cancer survivor: scars.

Dale found the Internet to be of such great help. Being armed with knowledge he could read how others progressed. And here lies the inspiration for this account: http://sarcomahelp.org/friend.html.

Common sense cannot be over rated, or over used. Thank you Liddy Shriver Sarcoma Initiative for you work.

Just do Something!”

These stirring words mean so much. The website lists 15 'no brainer' ways to extend your arms, and heart without intruding. Two of my favorites are finding humor (Hooray for laughter and encouragement. Laughter and silliness can provide a sense of balance for someone who spends a lot of time in the serious "cancer world." ) and the second, give a notebook to record this journey. Both actions are so very positive avenues to take.

Go ahead, visit the ideas on the site and tell us what else you can think should be added to the list.

Wordless Wednesday: The Wonderful World of Books


Veterans in the News

I love to see relevant and factual stories about veterans in the news. Their service, patriotism, family touches and caring for others despite the tragedies of war are mentioned often. But why does the media insist on placing “Veteran” in the headline when it has no relevance?

Caring for injured Haitians DoD Photo
There seems to be a trend in the news lately. I am a fan of the news and freedom of the press in the US! It is one of our freedoms that makes this country great and allows us to keep up to date as citizens. By the way, I think that bloggers also should be protected by those same rules and given the protections that other media reps currently have (this is still being tested in the courts).

We can see daily where the freedom of the press can influence world events such as the Arab Spring, Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and even the military response to the Haiti disaster. A piece of the 1st Amendment and Bill of Rights made freedom of the press a right of every US citizen.  Our veterans for generations have fought, been injured and died to protect this freedom that many others do not have.  It appears that some in the media choose to forget this fact. 


Tasty Tuesday: Slow Cooker Goulash - Make Ahead

I love Pinterest. Especially when I find something that looks doable and then I do it!  I've been able to mark a few things completed.  I cleaned out my sink-drains with baking soda and vinegar. We have turned an old dresser into storage shelves in our basement.  Most recently I made Freezer-Ready Crock Pot Goulash, a great recipe for my family and also to give as a gift to a family with a new baby.

This is a super easy recipe for goulash and I made three two-gallon freezer bags of it, each with 5 cups of prepared, but not cooked, goulash in it.  I put it together this afternoon and then can cook it in our slow-cooker a day in the next month or two.


Make Ahead Slow Cooker Goulash

3 cups chopped onions (2 large onions)
2.5 cups coarsely chopped green sweet peppers (2 green peppers)
3 cups of carrots (I chopped 4 large carrots)
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 pounds beef stew meat, cut into one inch cubes
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
4 teaspoons paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 bay leaves




Military News

Over at our parent site, MilitaryAvenue.com, we share lots of great things including Military Discounts, Installation Information, and Current Military News from sources like the Department of Defense, USAA, Military Community and Family Policy and so much more.  This is news that you can use as a military family!

You can receive a daily synopsis of all the new articles we place on MilitaryAvenue.com.  It is easy to scan, click on what you find interesting, share if you so choose, and then hit delete.  (Fellow bloggers this can be a great source of information if wanting to write about current topics)

Interested?  To sign up click here: http://feeds.feedburner.com/MilitaryAvenue and then on "Get MilitaryAvenue Recent Articles delivered by email" (see image below).

How to Subscribe - Click on the image if you need to enlarge it


A sample of what the email you receive will look like



- Leanne from MilitaryAvenue.com

Have your December credit card bills arrived?

Has the New Year been a great start or are you looking at the bills from Christmas and the holiday season and shaking your head? Do you have credit card debt that is being carried month to month? Or do you have savings that you would like to invest for college or retirement?  In either case, you should read this blog!

I had the privilege to interview the president of an organization that can help with your financial issues and their services are free!  My excitement grew as I realized how many resources there were to help the military community.  FINRA – (who said civilians do not have acronyms?) Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has an Investor Education Foundation with a military resource section.  Gerri Walsh made time in her busy schedule to talk so I could help point you to their information and resources to make your lives better! End of purpose – not a sale, no agenda except to help you!

Gerri Walsh was friendly, well in tuned to military issues and was able to list off the names of the family services at each military service (do you know each one?) and a highly experienced financial expert and attorney. We talked for a long time and covered a lot of ground about your finances. I felt like she had walked the military life as we shared information.
Gerri Walsh, President FINRA
Investor Education Foundation
Let’s start with debt – the biggest mistake that military folks make is overspending and getting deep in debt. Walsh described it as an “endless cycle of debt” with “balances carried over” from month to month on credit cards, use of payday loans and other high interest loans to meet obligations. How do you track your spending? Do you know where your dollars are going? We recently purchased a new computer with software to track our personal spending but at SaveandInvest there are some handy tracking tools as well! She said, “we have resources” that are free and include Tips, Worksheets, Printable Budget Plans and Excel Products to track your spending. Did I mention this is free?

Let’s move on to employment! Gerri said that at the end of February/early March they will announce the 50 fellowships available for military spouses to learn and earn an Accredited Financial Counselor™ certificate. FINRA pays for the cost of training and military spouses then use an online program, webinars and two exams at the end of the program to earn this credential while supporting the military community with financial counseling. Great mixture of education, advancing your career and supporting the military at the same time!  Interested?

Starting to think about moving on to that video game you received as a Christmas gift? Instead let's play "Moneytopia!”. The military money center at SaveandInvest describes it as a way to “…learn more about managing your money while having fun.” This game has the purpose to help you reach "The Big Dream” and has short tutorials on every type of financial transaction. This is a resource for young couples and singles wishing to learn more about their finances, reaching a goal and having fun while doing it.  Or is military retirement or separation looming?  Find out if you are ready or what income you will need from that next job to maintain your lifestyle. 

What is essential ...

Three very different churches.  Three very different congregations.  Three different families.

But one common belief, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." - Jesus Christ, John 14:6

Worship today was once again a gift. It spurred thoughts and reminded me (this time) that we (my family, my church-home) are getting it right.  I am blessed to have been raised in a Christian home and am raising my family in that same tradition, the same knowledge that without Christ we are nothing.

Pride in the Uniform




"Being in public when he is in uniform and feeling like the proudest person on the planet"


Relationships

What kind of nouns do you use to describe yourself? 

If I were talking about myself I would include Mom, Wife, Co-Worker, Aunt, Daughter, Sister, Neighbor, Friend, Child of God.

Attainable Goals and the Sky-Blue Hue of Celery


It started as a simple experiment.  My four-year old neighbor was over and she had never done the 'celery experiment'.  Imagine that!  So I dug in my produce drawer and pulled out two stalks.  We put a piece in each cup and then added food dye to the water.  Red and blue.  We watched them through the day and we saw the change.  We noticed how the celery was drinking the water as the celery turned from green to a shade of the color of its water.  We talked about the importance of drinking and how, yes, even plants drink.  Her eyes were widened at this thought.  Then my mind started spinning as I looked at the celery and the very practical life application that was before me.

This Tattoo is Freedom's Call 2012

Got your 2012 calendar ready to ink up?  Flip to Friday, June 29, 2012.  The seventh annual Freedom's Call will recognize the contributions of our military veterans, their families and all American who support them with a spectacular presentation of flyovers, music, narration and fireworks.  This is a free show at Wright Patterson AFB, Ohio guaranteed to raise your spirit of Patriotism to new heights!

Just Wait, military spouse suicide

Spouses looking out for other spouses, Her War, Her Voice! has teamed up with Not Alone to combat military spouse suicide rates and to ensure there is a safe haven for quality help. Melissa and Christina of 'Her War, Her Voice!' continue groundbreaking holistic military spouse retreats, as well as Just Wait, a place where military spouses can empower, encourage, and inspire each other through their art and their stories.

Who do you turn to when you need help?  Make a plan because when you hit that pit - and I know that pit, I don't know many milspouses that don't - you need a plan already in place.  We are military-spouses and we are strong.  But we can't do this alone.  Get involved in your community, make new friends, join groups like MOPS, chapel programs, community organizations, and when life seems to be crashing down around you reach out.

Send a Message to your Deployed Soldier, Sailor, Marine, Airman or Coast Guard

Once again Stars and Stripes is giving you the opportunity to include a Valentine's Message in their print edition or online. What a great opportunity for our military spouses and family members to share a little Valentine's love with their sweethearts overseas and far apart from our hearts:


Cupid is now online!
Stars and Stripes has launched its popular
Valentine's Day Messages website.
Send a message for free!


We are thrilled to offer you the opportunity to publish a love note in the pages of Stars and Stripes to your sweetheart stationed overseas! Your messages will be published in the European, Pacific, or Mideast edition of Stars and Stripes on Valentine's Day, February 14, and will also appear online at the Valentine's Day Messages website. Best of all, it's free to participate.

Behold the power...

... of a clean wall.

As I mentioned in my post about personal goals for 2012 one of those is to get this house organized!  (Personal Goals)  It actually leaves me giddy with excitement to open up the calendar each day to see what needs to be done as I travel along the journey of 365 days to decluttering and organizing.  Crazy, I know.

But today I 'decluttered the top of my cabinets' (which my cabinets don't have a top - they meet at the kitchen ceiling so I cleaned the top of my frig instead.)  It was an easy two-minute job.  Hmmm... I got looking around for something else to help me feel accomplished and I saw the dirt, grease, grime, years of splatters and fingerprints on my walls. 

Inner Strength Builds In the Battle

We were always taught that sports were so good for teens and t'weens.  Agreed.  The rules of the game and engagement are life lessons.  Sports train us to go further than the body at rest wants to do.  Certain venues change, once boxing was at the top of best selling tickets.  News headlines captured America with upcoming bouts.  We loved it.  Teddy Roosevelt must have watched a few jaw breaking, sweat pumping matches before writing a commentary on life.

Words from a plaque on the wall next to my father's desk, encourage and echo the rhythm of each athlete in the game of life.  My sister sent me the words in an email.  I love the second line and she and Dad especially like the last line.

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doers of deeds could have done them better.   The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly.   So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."

Personal Goals

New Years Resolutions.  A yearly tradition.  A list we come up with to make us feel good, look good but easy to forget all about come March or April.

So instead of New Years Resolutions I have come with a list of Personal Goals.  I make them and keep them for my work-life at MilitaryAvenue.com.  It makes sense to do lay them out in my personal life; not just a way to make me feel better or look better but a means of lifting myself up.

These are five of my personal goals for this year:

1.  Stay in better touch with my grandparents.  Send Pop an email every week. Send a letter to Grandpa and Grandma every month.
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