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Date night is back after much traveling! I’m so glad we are getting back into a routine. Last Friday hubby text me and told me to be ready by 6 pm to go out on a date. I was pleasantly surprised. This is NOT something my husband does. Yes we go on dates but planned and orchestrated entirely by my husband, never. We went to a cute wine shop in town that was so sophisticated and cultured that for a moment I forgot where I was… For a moment. The place is small and gets crowded easily so they had to make a table in the wine room for us. It was actually very romantic, it was like we had a private room. The food was superb. To our surprise the chef is a military spouse and trained in European cuisine. The staff is very friendly and you can tell the my take pride in their restaurant. We had a wonderful time. I will say that it is a little pricey, but considering that there are very few places with that kind of attention to detail and excellence in their cuisine its a nice place to treat yourself.  Here are our dishes:



Today was by far one of our best days if not the best day in NYC so far. We started off kind of late, choosing to sleep in since we knew we’d have a relative late night. We did the most quintessential thing you can do in New York… Broadway! Then we went to our favorite part of Manhattan… Harlem and at the famous soul food restaurant Sylvia’s. Finally, we ended the evening at the Apollo, which was an amazing experience. But the best part of it all was doing it all without breaking the bank. Here are some tips for plays and performances in NYC:

1) Broadway on a Budget. Finding reasonably priced Broadway and Off-Broadway tickets really isn’t that difficult, even if you are not military. First, let me define “Broadway” v. “Off-Broadway.” I heard a woman say she didn’t want and off-Broadway show because they’re amateurs. Not true! Broadway v. Off- Broadway has very little to do with the caliber of the performance or its location (there are off-Broadway shows on the street known as “Broadway”). In practical terms the difference between the two is the seat capacity of the theater in which the performance takes place. Broadway theaters all have at least 500 seats, while Off-Broadway theaters have 100 to 499 seats. Theaters with 99 and below are considered Off Off- Broadway. There are few exceptions to this rule and only Broadway shows are eligible for Tony Awards, but that’s the most important difference for the lay person.

With that said there are a few great resources for cheap tickets to live shows. First the USO for military travelers. They often have tickets to free shows and/ or access to discount codes you can use for tickets. While we were in NYC we watched the musical Trip of Love courtesy of the USO.  The tickets range from $45-107. We were in the $107 section which is Front Orchestra and our tickets were FREE! We also received free tickets to a sketch comedy show free, but the theater had a 2 drink minimum. Still, both great deals and greatly appreciated.

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Next, is the TKTS booth run by the Theater Development Fund. Same day and next-day matinee tickets are made available at a 40-50% off discount. The website is a live-action website so you always know exactly which tickets are available.  

I was told to prepare to stand in line for an hour to 2 hours, but the trick is to go to one of the two booths outside Time Square. I went to the one near Battery Park and spent maybe 15 minutes in line and received my first choice of tickets. We chose the matinee so we wouldn’t have to change plans for that day. We saw The Color Purple and it was truly transformative. I’ve read the book, watched the movie, and seen the musical. But this particular Broadway performance was amazing!

    

Finally, a little know tip about theaters is that they like to fill there seats. Artists hate performing to empty chairs. So if you know what you want to see, check the TKTS website, because if they are selling tickets, that means there are empty seats. Then wait until about 15 minutes before the performance walk up to the ticket counter. They will often sell the tickets for even steeper discounts that the TKTS booth and you avoid the fees. If you have a student ID they have $25 last minute tickets at some theaters and some even do military discount, but the TKTS rate is usually better than the military discount.

2) Beyond Broadway.  There are also other performance beyond Broadway. I already mentioned the sketch comedy. But go outside the traditional tourist activities. We went to the Apollo for Amateur Night.
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The historic theater goes out of its way to make sure you get your money’s worth. Regular priced tickets range from $20-33 dollars, so its a good deal no matter what. However their student and military discount tickets are probably the best deal I saw in NYC. $12 dollars gets you the best seats they have open with ID. We sat in the second row, so seats that should have costs us $66 total, for two people, were $24. For that price we got a lively pre-show with great music, a hilarious DJ and MC, and interactive dancing and fun. Then they always have a musical guest who is a great profession and often a recognizable face. The night we went Deborah Cox was the performer and as lover of 90’s music that was a big deal for me. We were even able to meet her and get autographs during the intermission. IMG_0383 It was nice knowing you could be viewing the next big artist with the amateur performers. Let me tell you, most performers may not have made it big yet, but they are anything but second rate. The performances were amazing and even when they weren’t we had the fun of “booing” people of stage in the tradition of the Apollo As they say, “Be good or be gone!”

Movies and more. If movies are more your style, then the New York Parks offers free movie night just about every day of the week and at several different parks. The one I was interested in was the HBO movie series at Byrant Park every Monday, but they have just about every genre and kid-friendly nights as well. Pack food and a blanket and have fun.

We didn’t attend, but there is also a free concert series and theater series through New York Parks.

3. Other Discount Venders. There are also websites that have tickets allotted specifically for military and vets, such as: VetTix; GovX; and Veterans Advantage

We signed up for one before our trip but they didn’t seem to have tickets to any major attractions, rather minor league baseball and small venue rock concerts, but it’s always worth a shot.

All in all, we had a great time and there’s even more tips to come…

 

 



We are on our 30 day leave in between South Korea and our next base. Yay!!! These next thirty days are going to be whirlwind. We plan to visit my family, his family, New York for our anniversary, and finally road trip to the next duty station. Yep, we’re crazy. LOL

  1. Airplane Tickets. Anyways the first big stop on our tour is New York. We found cheap seats to NY on travelocity.com and booked to red eyes to NY for less than $650. We were pretty flexible with our dates and times so that helped. From the airport we took the subway to our hotel. A little note about the subway. I read online that Military ID holders can receive 25% of off passes if you buy them from an MTA office. But the clerk there said there was no such thing, but did say showing ID would let you on buses and subways free. This seems like a big hassle because we would have to stand in a long line in front of the MTA counter, then show our ID and then the clerk would push a button to let us in free. I’ll probably ask a couple more people to make sure this guy knows what he’s talking about.
  2.  Accommodations. Then because we are military we booked rooms at the Soldiers’, Sailors’, Marines, & Airmen’s Club. It’s an old hostel for service members turned hostel for service members and dependents. The accommodations are spectacular but the draw is that they are located on Lexington Ave. and within walking distance of midtown Manhattan. The price is also a draw $130-$165 for a room. Just don’t expect a smiling staff or warm and fuzzy feelings. But considering the next closest hotel runs about$400 a night and we don’t plan to spend much time in the room anyways, it’s a good deal for us.
  3. Manhattan USO. We flew in to the JFK airport and attempted to visit their USO, but it was locked and no one seemed to be scheduled to man the facility. It’s a shame because a few people came by looking for assistance. However, I did find the best help at the Manhatten USO which is located a couple blocks from time square in the Port Authority Building on the second floor (43 Street & 8th Ave.). They have free tickets to shows, discounts on tours, helpful tips from New Yorkers. We met the sweetest woman named Emma and she was amazing, telling us how to get places free, and where the best discounts were. It’s almost too much to describe. So here is a link to them and they have an entire booklet of discounts offered for Active Duty ID holders. Here is a link to the discount booklet.

 

 

 



They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach; and if home is where the heart is, then my home is in the kitchen…

Okay now that I’ve gotten all of my anecdotes and puns out of the way I thought I’d add a new element to the blog. 

I love to cook and I love to eat (thus I devote a lot of posts to weight loss. LOL). One thing I’ve been trying is making healthier spins on some favorites. Not every recipes will be “healthy” per se and I won’t pretend to be a nutritionist. I’m just a gal who loves to cook and who married a man with a military sized appetite. 

Anyone who cooks knows there’s no science to it. I’m an intuitive cook. Sometimes I hit on a win, sometimes not so much. Last night was a win. 

I saw a recipe for Lemon Cream -Sauced Mahi Mahi. I revised it and then  I paired it with fried rice from the night before and cabbage salad. 

  

Mahi Mahi with Lemon Cream sauce

Ingredients

  • Mahi Mahi fillets
  • Garlic Salt
  • Black Pepper (coursely ground)
  • 4 Tbsp. Lemon Juice (fresh)
  • 1 Tbsp. White Cooking Wine
  • 1 Tbsp. Brandy
  • 3 Tbsp. Cream Cheese (whipped)
  • 2 Tbsp. Cashew Milk
  • 1/4c Butter / 2 pats of Butter
  • 2 Tbsp. Raw Sugar
  • 1/4c water

Method

  1. Note: This recipe cooks very quickly so don’t leave the stove. 
  2. Season fish well with garlic salt and pepper. Preheat skillet to medium heat. Steam fish with half the butter in a pan  with a lid for 10 minutes. Turn pan down very low with lid and with water to keep moist. 
  3. In a seperate skillet: Melt cream cheese on a med-low heat. Add lemon juice, brandy, and white wine. Whisk until blended. Bring to a slight boil and immediately reduce the heat to a simmer.  The cream cheese may appear to curdle this is normal. Add a splash of cashew milk (about 2 Tbsp.). Add remainder of butter and whisk well. Then add sugar while stirring.  Simmer about 5 minutes to allow the sauce to thicken. Remove from heat and allow it to sit 5 more minutes. Sauce should appear eggshell white with a creamy consistency. 
  4. Serve over fish and garnish with herbs or sliced peppers. 

Review

I loved this fish recipe it was just the right amount of sweet and savory. Typically I pair some kind of mango chutney with Mahi Mahi but I wanted a change and I’m so glad I tried something new. I think this would be a great recipe for a dinner party. 

My husband loves it as well. He let out an audible “mmm” when he tasted it. 

Side Dishes

Red Cabbage Salad with Mango Vinagrette

Ingredients

Salad

  • 4c Red Cabbage (Half a head)
  • 1c Asian Pear
  • 1/2c Carrot (finely diced)
  • 1/4c Celery
  • 1/4c Bell Pepper
  • 1 Tbsp Lemon Concentrate
  • 1/4c almonds (chopped)
  • 1 Tbsp dried cranberries (optional)

Vinagrette 

  • 1/4c Mango (diced)
  • 1/8c water
  • 2 Tbsp Honey
  • 6 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Method

  1. In a large bowl mix salad ingredients with lemon juice. 
  2. Add craisins and nuts. 
  3. In a blender purée the mango with water. Then combine the purée with the othe Vinagrette ingredients in a smaller bowl.
  4. Toss salad and Vinagrette together. Chill until ready to serve. 

Review

This salad is a spinoff of a recipe I found on Pinterest. The original recipe called for apple as instead of Asian pears. Since I’m in Korea right now Asian Pears are far more plentiful than apples. 

I really enjoyed this salad. It was very refreshing. I thought it paired well with the citrus flavor of the fish sauce. I had a first mind to skip the craisins and only have fresh produce in the salad. I now think that would have been the best. The salad is crunchy and full of flavor. The addition of dried fruit takes from the fresh taste. 

My husband also preferred the salad without cranberries and I’m glad I only put a small amount. However I wouldn’t discourage others from adding the craisins, we love them, it’s just our preference with this very specific pairing. My husband also said to lose the almonds.  I have to veto him on this one. They added a healthy crunch to the salad. He’s just adjusting to a healthier lifestyle. 

Restaurant-Style Vegetable Fried Rice

Ingredients 

  • 2 Tbsp Green onions (diced)
  • 1/2 c Red and Yellow Peppers
  • 1 c Frozen Peas and Carrots
  • 2 Eggs (beaten or whisked)
  • 2 Tbsp Soy Sauce
  • 2 Tbsp Honey
  • 3 c Brown Rice (cooked and refrigerated)
  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • Cooked chicken, beef, or shrimp (optional)

Method

  1. Preheat a skillet to medium heat and add olive oil. Cook onion and peppers until tender and then add frozen vegetables. Push to the side or in a seperate skillet cook the eggs. Allow them to cook almost all the way through before dicing. Once cooked mix with vegetables. Add rice to the mixture, stirring occasionally until heated through. 
  2. In a small sauce pan combine soy sauce and honey.  Cook on medium-low heat until honey has completely dissolved. 
  3. Remove both pans from hat and pour soy-honey sauce over the fried rice. 

Review

We love fried rice. My favorite was from this restaurant that had the slightest sweet flavor to offset the saltiness of the soy sauce. I can’t even remember the restaurant name anymore but I have found that adding a bit of honey provides a very similar flavor. I often add chicken apple sausage to the mix and it is divine. I didn’t this time and I’m glad because it would have destracted from the fish.  




My parents came to visit my husband and I in South Korea! They are our first, and probably only, houseguests. Needles

Because South Korea takes some getting used to, I think a hostess should plan in advance for her guests. 

In preparation of their visit I did a deep cleaning of the house. I thought that this would be a good time to exclaim my love of all things essential oils. Right now my staples are: lavender, tea tree oil, and peppermint. Peppermint is an old southern trick to rid farmhouse kitchens and pantries of rodents. For me, my kitchen just doesn’t feel thoroughly cleaned unless it has the smell of real peppermint. It’s also great for killing drain and sink oder. In my bathrooms and bedrooms I used lavender. For the toilets in particular I combine borax, lavender, and tea tree oil and let it sit after cleaning to fill the bathroom with a clean and calming fragrance.  I use tea tree oil for almost every cleaning combination whether peppermint or lavender or orange oil (for my wood and leather furniture). I don’t support any particular company as I have found I have different fragrances from different companies. Maybe one day I’ll do a review of all the brands I’ve tried. 

After the thorough cleaning I fixed up the master bedroom for my parents. The heat has definitely broken in the last week or so but its still pretty warm at night. The apartments don’t have central air so I decided my parents, who aren’t used to even this cooled down version of heat, should stay in the bedroom with an air conditioner. 

I also prepared a “Korea Kit,” some basic essentials for life in Korea, especially in the more rural area where the majority of military bases are located. The kit consisted of a t-money travel card for subway and bus travel, a reflector belt for after dark travel on roads without sidewalks and speeding cars, a water bottle and towel for walking the everyday heat and humidity, a subway map – map of the base, and contact information sheet complete with instructions to find their way home or to our Seoul hotel if they get lost, a phrase card with basic phases, and an itinerary for the next two weeks. 

South Korea is confusing, even for seasoned travelers like my parents. So I did my best to provide them with the tools they would need to enjoy all that Korea has to offer without feeling completely dependent on me for assistance. My parents loved the kits and found them to be quite useful. I think this is a good idea anytime a first time visitor stays I your area but particularly when you are living overseas. 

Here’s a generic checklist of things to have prepared for them:

  • Basic phrases in the local language.
  • Itinerary for their time in the area.
  • Easy to follow instructions to your (the host’s) home.
  • Basic map of the area.
  • Subway or bus map with important landmarks highlighted. 
  • Subway or bus card with a small amount on it. 
  • Reflecting belt (if they will have to walk from public transportation spots at night). 
  • Items to combat the elements of your particular region that your guests might not be prepared for. We included a towel, hand sanitizer, wipes (check out my bathroom post), a water bottle, and a small umbrella. In hindsight I would have also included sunscreen. I am happy to say that almost all of the items were needed at one point or another and I was proud that I had accurately anticipated the needs of my guests. 

Are there any other suggestions for future kits?



{August 31, 2015}   A Night Out in Seoul

Honey and I went up to Seoul for our first marriage retreat. Yay! It was really nice. Part of the retreat was to go out together for an evening alone. While we’ve visited Seoul before we’ve never been out at night because we had to get back to the base by curfew (yep, there’s a curfew). This time, the Chapel hosting the retreat provided a hotel room. First, let me say, I am seriously dealing jealousy issues being that we are not stationed in Seoul. After going to that base, I am questioning everyone who said our base was the best. I would love to live in Seoul rather than the rural area we live in, but I am thankful I am at least close enough to visit every other weekend. So here are some pictures from our night out. I loved Seoul before, but it has my heart now that I’ve seen it at night.

3 towers -1 3 towers 2 4 religions 1 Aug 29 -1 Cross in the night 1 Dragon Hill 1



It’s all the rage on any military spouse blog: The PCS (Permanent Change of Station) Binder. It’s a lifesaver, a God-send, everything that you could ever need for a PCS. Honestly, this is only my first PCS, so take this with a grain of salt; but I spent more time preparing my PCS folder than actually utilizing it. However, I can see the purpose behind it and it did bring a measure of comfort to one such as myself who has an over-planning, anal, type-A personality. So you may find it helpful. I keep it now as my military folder, because you just never know when you need information quickly and its a ready made filing system. I didn’t use a binder per se. Instead I used one of those plastic accordian folders. I felt it traveled better than a folder (being that is literally more flexible) and I didn’t have to worry about things like passports or paperwork falling out of the plastic lining. I used the folder the most upon arriving on base and getting my SOFA stamp and ration card.

Folder Sections:

1) Personal Records

– Passport

– Driver’s License and Paper Copy

– Military ID card and Paper Copy

– Birth Certificate

– Social Security Card

– Marriage License

2) Travel Documents

– Flight Itinerary and receipt

– Storage and Shipment form: Basically a receipt of our storage shipments

3) Orders

– 5 copies of service member’s orders with my name on them (I had several copies, but I wouldn’t leave a copy with civilians. All they need to do is verify the information on there, because of OPSEC you really shouldn’t let them keep a copy of the orders themselves).

– Service member’s last Leave & Earnings Statement (LES)/ Pay Stub

– Record of Emergency Data (RED): This is a print out that shows that I am listed as my husbands beneficiary and emergency contact

4) Medical 

–  Tricare and Dental Log-In information

– Paper prescriptions for any medication

– (Optional) Health Records: Some people put health records, but I had my log-in information to my medical organizations, so I felt this was sufficient

5) Legal

– Power of Attorneys

– Spouse Dormitory Visitation Letter: My husband obtained permission for me to stay in his dorm with him while we looked for an apartment.

6) Receipts & Misc.

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Here are a couple websites with other examples of PCS Binders, you can find a bunch more here on Pinterest, these had the most pins:

http://arillablog.com/2014/02/20/building-a-pcs-binder/

http://thevollmerfamily.com/MajorMom/2010/11/the-vollmer-pcs-binder-tm.html

http://sunflowerspluslove.blogspot.kr/2014/09/pcs-files-master-pcs-binder.html



My Non-Command Sponsored (NCS) move was a little different from other military spouses I’ve met, in that I didn’t live with my husband before his move to South Korea. Nor did we have the time or ability to combine our household items for a move because prior to our marriage he was stationed in another country. And once we were married and he got on a plane three days later.  What that means for a non-command sponsored move is that while they would move his stuff to South Korea they would not move mine. Because of location and time constraints I couldn’t add my stuff to his weight limit shipment like other spouses have done. Other NCS spouses typically send their stuff along with their sponsor (the service member) and pay for their own plane ticket and no one’s the wiser. Since the government was moving my husband from another country already, I couldn’t send my stuff along. Which means I had to get very creative with packing because I’m attempting to move using only the luggage included in my ticket. I am blessed that because I am moving as a military dependent I am allotted four – 70lb bags, and two carry-on bags through Delta. So while, it will be interesting to pack my life up into six bags, it could have been worse. As the original baggage allowance for an international flight is two 70lb bags and two carry on bags.

First, I packed my carry-on bags. I decided not to waste a bag with a purse or laptop bag. Instead, I used a roller carry-on bag and a very large shoulder bag.  Incarry-on bag one, I packed two weeks worth of clothing. Everything, I would need should something happen to my large luggage. Also everything I will need while I stay in hubby’s dorm and we look for an apartment. That way, I can put the large bags in his storage area and only use the small bags in an already cramped space. Any extra clothing I would need on the flight, etc. Then the second bag was anything I would need for the flight that I would normally carry in a shoulder bag, plus a change of clothing when I landed to change into before seeing my hubby. 🙂 The two large bags were everything I could possibly fit into them for my life in South Korea. I kept an inventory of each bag, which was very helpful considering my large box was opened and inspected while in transit.

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Bag 1: Carry-On Roller Bag 1 ( 2 Weeks of Clothing and Supplies)

  • 16 pairs of underwear (enough for two weeks and couple spares)
  • 4 Pairs of socks (I wear a lot of flats, heels, and sandals)
  • 4 Regular bras
  • 2 pajama sets (to look cute in) (I don’t need a lot of nightwear because I can always use hubby’s t-shirts)
  • Robe – One that is easily fold-able, I chose my sexy black robe 😉
  • 1 tee shirt and shorts night set (to lounge in)
  • 1 Glamorous, wrinkle-proof top
  • 3 dresses
    • 2 Glamorous sundresses
    • Casual dresses that can go from day to night
  • 1 Pair of your sexiest jeans (these can double as a night outfit with heels and a hot shirt)
  • 3 Tank Tops
    • 1 Basic tank top
    • 1 Nice but versatile tank top
    • 1 Dress tank top
  • 2 Basic fitted tees that can be dressed up or down
  • 2 Sports bras
  • 1 Jacket (chose a light cotton/ leather blend)
  • 1 Shrug for nights out
  • 2 Pairs of killer heels
  • 1 Pair of flat-supportive sandals
  • 1 Pairs of comfortable flip flops (for the shower)
  • Items I need but will wear rather than pack
    • 1 comfy jacket with a hood
    • 1 pair of versatile flats
    • 1 pair of comfy but versatile pants
    • 1 good comfortable bra
    • 1 pair of thick socks

Bag 2: Additional Clothes ( All the clothes that I am taking to Korea) This was a large roller suitcase which I packed in sections. Shirts, in one section; pants in another; work out clothes, etc. I rolled all of the clothes and placed additional undergarments on top. On top of the undergarments I laid all of my suits, dresses, and blazers by folding them in half to make them fit.

Bag 3: All Shoes, extra clothing, land linen This is also a large roller suitcase, slightly larger than the first. First, I laid my shoes in the bottom of the suitcase, so that heal of one shoe was touching the toe of its pair. Then on top of that I laid winter clothing, and then any extra business suits and dresses. On top of that I put two queen sized sheet sets and a blanket. Belts and scarf accessories I put in the pockets of the suit case.

Bag 4: Cosmetics:  There’s this idea that just because South Korea has a lower cost of living that one can just repurchase everything they may need once they arrive. I happen to find that line of thought to be very wasteful. As the old saying goes, “waste not, want not.” So rather than buy perfectly good containers of expensive perfumes, lotions, and makeup, I packed a checked bag that would allow for the larger sizes. *This has proven to be invaluable in hindsight. My hubby, God love him, went ahead of me to South Korea and was there for a month. That’s a month of living like a bachelor. So when I arrived there was a lot of things that I find necessary that he did not have or even think to bring. Not to mention, while South Korea may be inexpensive, the base here is not. Simple things are significantly more expensive and while, yes, I can purchase them off base, in the first couple of weeks when you are getting acclimated that is not always a possibility.

Bag 5: Large Box of Household Goods: Thank goodness that most airlines worth their salt have a military baggage policy. When one is permanently changing stations (PCSing), airlines like Delta will allow for a large number of bags and for larger bags in general. This meant that I was allowed a total of 6 bags (4 checked and 2 carry on) and my checked bags could be larger than normal bags. Thus, I used a box slightly larger than a flat screen tv box to store a few items from my wedding and some art that I want to travel with us on our adventures to make our temporary quarters feel more like home. There is no way I would have been able to bring these items without significant cost if it hadn’t been for the military baggage allowance.

Bag 6: Carry on Shoulder Bag:  This bag is relatively unimportant for packing purposes, but I had snacks, reading material, makeup, a large pashima-type scarf to keep warm, hair supplies, warm socks, pressure socks, my journal and my Bible.

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Here is a crude picture of all of my bags and boxes for my move.

Shipped Item 1: Valuables: My final bag was actually a box and it was not checked. Rather it was mailed to me by my parents after I left. I packed it prior to leaving. The United States Postal Services has designated specific zip codes for overseas locations on military bases. When one ships a package or letter to those addresses the postage is the same as mailing something to the continental United States. This helps you save tremendously on postage. All of the blogs advised that I carry my expensive jewelry. Well I am a collector of jewelry, particularly pearls and I never wear the costume version. So for me that would have been an entire bag of nothing but jewelry. Rather than put the jewelry, and some expensive electronics, in a checked bag that could be inspected (and from personal experience possibly stolen) I decided that to mail it in a flat rate box with insurance. For one thing, the priority boxes insure timely delivery and for another the insurance gives me some peace of mind as to the safety of my items. For this box I did take pictures of each item in the box and made an inventory list.

Shipped Item 2: Gift Registry Items: I was very blessed during my wedding, people actually bought items off of the gift registry! However, no one shopped them to my hubby’s military address like I requested, LOL. What this meant for me was that I was going to have to spend more in shipping than some of the items cost, even with an APO address. Instead, my registry was with Macy’s so I returned everything and bought them again and then just shipped them to my new mailing address. It was a much more cost effective way of doing things because Macy’s prides itself on shipping to the military and in general everything over $150 ships free. As one shipment my items were well over the minimum purchase amount. My only caveat is that I shipped my stuff well in advance to make sure they arrived in a timely manner. However after nearly 3 weeks, upon my arrival, no package had arrived. Luckily I keep great records and contacted a manager (after dealing with a tone of people who didn’t know what they were doing). Apparently, the sales woman who did my transaction had never shipped to a military address before and they had no idea where my items were at, but they just reordered them all and shipped them again. All-in-all I still think this was the best way to go, just keep your receipts and records should something go wrong.



{July 6, 2015}   Lessons in Gratitude

Today was a rough day. I am getting a crash course into military-wife life by way of TMO (Traffic Management Office) weight limits, non-temporary storage, bureaucracy, and just overall really aggravating contractors. I am also getting lessons in the kindness of strangers, old friends, and small blessings. So I thought I’d focus on the latter.

Revel in the Little Things

After a highly frustrating day that involved: the express envelope that contained my storage key not being delivered to my friend in my old home state so that she could authorize my military contract movers to move my stowed away furniture and such from my single days, the storage company trying to convince me to pay them a ridiculous amount to cut the lock (basically playing on my desperation, classy move Public Storage. I didn’t take the bait and the key was delivered too little too late), having to reschedule the said move, inconveniencing a very busy solo practitioner. On top of that I was late to an Employment Readiness appointment (great resource by the way), but was able to receive help anyway. The cherry on the day was finding out I’ve been doing all of my federal applications completely wrong, basically rendering all of my experience, education, and skills null and void because my resume is too succinct and to the point. You know the way they train you in school. As the woman told me, “You’re trying to get a job with the government, you’re going to have to learn how do things in the most long and drawn out way possible.” Point taken. Lol.

Anyways, after all of that I decided to go to the running trail by the flight line to clear my head. Just as I’m getting underway Retreat starts (some people call the end of the day trumpet sound Reveille as well as the morning trumpet, but they are in fact not the same). Instantly I stop mid-stride, face the music of the Star Spangled Banner, and put my hand over my heart.  As the music winds down and then stops, I turn to see cars that have stopped in the middle of the street begin to drive, women begin to push strollers and start conversations up again as if they never stopped, runners pressed start on their watches and picked up the pace again. It was like we all were playing freeze tag and someone yelled “GO!” I couldn’t help but smile. My back was to the scene when I stopped. I didn’t know others were nearby. I marveled at how, before getting married I probably hadn’t heard reveille trumpets in 15 years, and yet my response was so automatic, because even as kids, we knew to stop play to honor the flag. It was a simple thing part of my training as a military brat that had never left me, it was ingrained. I thought to myself, “I wonder what this scene looks like to an outsider.” All of the military books I’ve read and tv shows I’ve watched, I can’t remember anyone referencing this shared experience that occurs everyday at 5:00pm or 1700 hours. Because its such a small part of military life, one who has not truly lived this lifestyle probably doesn’t even understand the significance when they are disseminating military stories to the masses. As I saw all of us “unfreeze” I concluded my inner conversation with the thought, “I don’t know how it looks to an outsider, but to me it looked like home.” I’d come home, as a military brat, it was like stepping into the front door of grandma’s house… somethings never change, nor would you ever want them to change. So I spent most of the day aggrevated with the military and government entities in general (thank you United States Postal Service), but I ended it just feeling proud and for that I am grateful.

Angels Unaware…

“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Hebrews 13:2 (KJV)

My second story of gratitude started on a horrendous wedding planning day and concluded on this very frustrating day, almost like a reminder to rejoice in the small things. When I was about a week and half out from the wedding, my parents asked my fiance and I to see if the base had loaner car seats. My sister was to fly across country by herself with a 2 year old and a 2 month old (her husband couldn’t come until later because of work and she was coming early as the Matron of Honor). To make maneuvering easier she was only bringing one car seat and would need another when she arrived. Well much to our chagrin the air force base’s resource centers no longer lend out car seats because of liability reasons. I found this out on a day, when so many things had gone wrong with wedding planning. I decided to try one last place, Adventure’s Unlimited, which is like a sporting goods store on base. When I was a kid you could rent all sorts of out of the way supplies. Well they too did not have car seats, but it just so happened the sales clerk, McKenzie, had just transitioned her daughter out of her infant car seat. She literally gave me the car seat. I offered money, she refused. It was such a nice act that it totally changed my outlook on the wedding and really people. I didn’t know this woman but her generosity was greatly appreciated. She could tell I was frustrated and tired from the day, and her kindness helped me at least accomplish one thing on a day when very few things seemed to pan out. So touched by her graciousness was I, that I bought a gift card to accompany her thank you note.

However, today when I brought in the thank you note, McKenzie no longer worked at the Adventure’s Limited. Now I’m not saying that McKenzie was an angel per se, but I am saying that sometimes we as people are called to be that light of hope and inspiration for others. McKenzie was going to drop the car seat off at a thrift store and instead she said I saved her a trip. But to me, she touched me with her act of kindness. So McKenzie, you may never read this, but Thank You a thousand times. You kept a bride from crying that day. You rejuvenated my faith in humanity. You saved me that day from negativity and despair. The other things that went wrong weren’t fixed that day, but I can’t even remember what they were except that they were pretty big disappointments. All I really remember from that day was McKenzie’s kindness. It was a small act, but that day I just needed someone to care and she did. Thank you again!

For those of you who don’t know what reveille is…  I thought this was a funny example, but it shows how seriously military service members take it. It doesn’t matter what is happening when you Retreat or Reveille starts, you stop!



Wedding Venue – American Lake Conference Center

When we first started wedding planning, I was still overseas with my fiancé so my wonderful parents did some scouting for me. The two places we narrowed in on were the Thornewood Castle and the American Lake Conference Center. Both formidable options depending on your priority of wants and needs for your wedding.

Thornewood Castle (Runner Up)

I loved the Thornewood Castle instantly. I knew pretty immediately that I wanted a European themed wedding. The Thornewood Castle was designed to emulate a small European castle. It had old world charm and amazing grounds. I could see the photos that would come from this place. However, it was extremely expensive and offered little more than ambiance and a venue for the price. My priority for my wedding was for my fiancé and I to be able to pay for our wedding in cash. I didn’t want the bills from our wedding day to go any further than the actual day. After all we also had a marriage to plan for. It was an extremely difficult decision, but I passed on the Thornewood Castle. Rachel the proprietor was extremely sweet but shrewd business woman. We were originally considering a very short engagement. Even shorter than the six months that we eventually went with. Rachel really wanted to fill the one weekend she had available at the Castle. So she offered us an amazing deal and even a military discount on top of that. However, I would have 8 weeks to plan my wedding. That was probably the main reason I passed. I wanted to consider the Castle for our June date, but it felt like as soon as I passed on the winter date, Rachel was no longer interested. It was hard to get a hold of her. Later I wanted to spend our mini-honeymoon there, because it also serves as a bed and breakfast. However, we could never get a return call again and she was always too busy to answer. I felt pretty disappointed by this because I really liked Rachel and the Castle. However, for one day, nothing included it would have cost me a little more than $6000. I couldn’t justify that on a military bride budget. So we went with option two: the American Lake Conference Center.

Photo Credit:https://www.thornewoodcastle.com/photos.htm

American Lake Conference Center (Final Choice)

Photo credit:http://www.jblmmwr.com/AmericanLakeConferenceCenter/images/fsbg.jpg (I’ll put up better images once my professional photography is ready)

I was a little skeptical when my parents suggest the American Lake Conference Center. Military facilities aren’t always as nice as you’d want them. However, this newly remodeled venue was actually a pleasant surprise. The grounds were kept beautifully, its right on the water, right by the security gate, so guest could easily find it. An added bonus was that they had their own baker, caterer, and could help with civilian guest getting on the military base. Plus once you committed to a certain amount of catering about the amount to feed 60 people the building rental fee was waived. I am still pleased with my decision, but we did have some hiccups. I found the hard way, that when working with government workers there is a certain apathy among some people. So before I criticize I will say what went well: Ben the facility manager is a very nice young man. You can tell he really is trying to make his guest happy. However, I don’t know if he has the complete authority over his staff. Sometimes it seems like they just did their own thing. He promised us things, they did what they wanted. Also, the grounds at venue are gorgeous and well-kempt. They lend themselves to amazing pictures. The food was amazing and I am so glad, I made my bridal party fix me a plate to go so I could have seconds! LOL.

First, I called and confirmed that I would be at the venue early to set up and start decorations (I had a day of coordinator, but that’s a different review). The venue only allows you twelve hours to set up, host your event and take down. I couldn’t come the night before because they had another group. They didn’t want to allow me a rehearsal time, which I thought should have been included. It was only until the week of that I could confirm my rehearsal because the conference center staff made it clear they would bump me for another event.

For the wedding day, I confirmed the time twice. However, due to security glitches working with the base, I didn’t arrive until almost an hour and half after my scheduled time. They still were not ready for me to start setting up. There was bird feces all over the gazebo area where I was to hold my ceremony. There were still deflated balloons and decorations from the previous event. In the bridal suite the trash had not even been dumped from the night before and there was a dirty diaper in the garbage. My tables had not been set up yet and I had to give instructions to the custodial staff about what I needed for my self-station and other extras, such as mics and a communion table, we’d previously arranged at our final meeting with Ben. So I had to wait to even begin setting up and I still had to get dressed for my wedding pictures.

At the ceremony we were supposed to have mics provided for the officiate, and one for my husband and I to share and one for the musician. Only one mic was provided for everyone. So unfortunately a lot of people did not hear the ceremony. A podium was also to be provided where we could plug in speakers, again, it was not, but without the mics it didn’t matter.

After the wedding we had a receiving line in the glass covered hallway. The day was hot so it ended up being like a greenhouse in there. I remember asking at an earlier meeting about the room in hot weather. I was told on hot days the overhead shades were pulled to keep the room cool, they were not. It was extremely hot!

At the reception the salad was brought to the table before an announcement of food was made. They also continued to serve while we blessed the food, which I just thought was absolutely rude. We had a lot of people who came without RSVPing so we didn’t have enough salad. That wasn’t the venues fault. However when we asked to quickly have extra tables set up they made a big deal about it. They eventually did it, but not without complaint. Then staff members informed guests that we didn’t have enough food because we as the bridal party didn’t buy enough for the number of people there. I thought that was wholly unprofessional and rude, because they made my guest feel unwelcome.

Finally, the cherry on the cake, was the cake. I’d worked extensively with the previous baker who’d trained in Europe. She was a major reason why I signed with this venue. I love her. She promised me a cake shaped like an Eiffel Tower, I was so excited. The she PCSed. I didn’t even know civilian workers with the military could do that! So military brides beware! You could end up with a completely different staff than the one you started with. I did. The chef, the facility manager, and the baker all were new because my wedding occurred during PCS season. I was nervous when it happened but assured everything would be as promised. I even separately confirmed with the new baker, Nicole about my Eiffel Tower cake. She assured me over and over she could do it. On the day of the wedding, if I wasn’t in the middle of my reception I would have cried. I asked for a cake shaped like an Eiffel Tower, instead I received a rectangle cake with an Eiffel Tower cookie placed on top! I was furious and embarrassed. The worse part was Nicole was completely unapologetic and defensive. She said she’d take 50% off, which I found to be insulting (Ben later compensated the entire cake). I told her, I would have rather had a nice cake that looked completely different than the joke she presented. It was ugly. She didn’t even attempt the color scheme of the wedding, it was grey. Who orders a grey cake! Not only that it was disgusting. The cake was supposed to be a real red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting. Nope… it was a white cake died red and no cream cheese. It didn’t even taste good and only the top was red velvet, the rest seemed like just a white cake they had left over. I eventually walked away from Nicole with my mouth agape because she was so blatantly rude. They didn’t make enough of the European pastries I wanted because one in particular, the Dutch butter cake, she didn’t have recipe for. She was supposed to increase the number of the scones and macroons and confirm the number. She never called again and I had so much on my plate I forgot to call her. Even for the number we confirmed we didn’t have enough pastries. Nicole’s response at the reception was to shrug her shoulders, stating, quote, “I made my one phone call.” Meaning when she called me back after I reached out to her. She had no desire or care to do her job well. If I hadn’t asked to speak to her she would have never made contact. The first baker I dealt with was very involved and wanted me to have just what I wanted on my day. She offered suggestions and asked questions. She promised to do a trial run on the cake and let me know if things didn’t work out. It looked like Nicole slapped together my cake in a hurry. It was utterly disappointing and insulting. She was so rude and disrespectful that the other staff went out of their way to cater to me. They knew I was devastated and I even had a couple apologize to me after the wedding. They knew it was not my dream day, in part because of so many missteps by the venue.

This is what I was promised, complete with my new surname in the banner and glitter to resemble the Eiffel Tower at night:

Eiffel Tower cake

This is what I was given, complete with Nicole’s bitchy attitude:

Eiffel Tower cake at wedding (I don’t have many pictures of the cake because I thought it was hideous)

I will say, many of their failures could have been corrected had I had a good day of coordinator, who knew what was supposed to be happening, but that is another review… (I have to go cry now, after reminiscing about Nicole’s attitude)



et cetera