Monday, January 25, 2016

Steps for Moving to a New Base

Today, we're bringing you a guest post from a very special group, SpouseLink. SpouseLink is a free website for Military Spouses that was created to support, inform and inspire users with a variety of content–anything from pop culture to important Military information. SpouseLink.org was created by AAFMAA, a non-profit, membership association that supports the American Armed Forces community with affordable insurance and widow survivor assistance services.



Steps For Moving To A New Base 
Many military families go through the same experience -- receiving Permanent Change of Station (PCS) order. So what’s next? As a military family you are given many resources to make the move as easy as possible. In addition to being very important that you know what these options are, you also need to act early and take advantage of them as soon as possible. Here are a few tips to get you started.

Set up a meeting with your base transportation office.
This should be the first thing you do and as early as possible. When you talk with your representative, make sure you find out about all of the options available to you. This is when you start making your preliminary arrangements. Each branch has a different name for their transportation office.

Here are the names that might relate to your experience:
  • The Department of Defense: Joint Personal Property Shipping Office
  • Air Force: Traffic Management Office
  • Army: Installation Transportation Office 
  • Navy: Personal Property Shipping Office 
  • Marine Corps: Personal Property Shipping Office 
  • Coast Guard: Household Goods Shipping Office 

Contact the family center at your new location.
Family centers offer specific and unbiased information about the location you will be moving to. These centers offer relocation assistance programs that provide moving information to you and your family. They are available to answer any questions you may have about your new community and what it offers.

Make an appointment with the finance office at your new location.
Moving can be expensive and not all of these expenses are covered by reimbursement. The finance office can give you the rundown on all of your options, as well as any benefits that you may be eligible for. Notify the housing office of your projected move date. If you are living in government housing, make sure you know all the regulations about cleaning your home before you move. Some bases require an inspection before your move out date. Contacting this office will help you schedule any important dates.

Use the handy lists below to get ready to move.
When making preparations to move, it’s often easy to overlook important tasks. While every task is not listed, these items will give you a general idea of what military families need to prepare. If you have any questions, don’t forget about the resources available to you as a military family.

Here is the military related moving list:
Decide whether you want to make a Personally Procured Move (PPM), or have the government handle everything for you.
Save up for non-reimbursable moving expenses.
Notify your landlord you will be moving, but do not give a specific date as plans can change quickly.
Keep track of tax-deductible moving expenses.
If you need childcare at your new location, begin looking into options.
Schedule pick-up and delivery dates with your mover and arrange storage if needed.
Draw up a Power of Attorney in case unforeseen circumstances occur.
If you are an active duty member, check with Travel and Transportation Allowances to see if you qualify for advanced pay or other benefits.
If you are an active duty member, contact your military pay office to recertify Basic Allowance for Quarters (BAQ) and sign-off on your PCS.
Update you military ID card.
Start organizing personal records like birth certificates, insurance papers or warranties. Make copies of these documents if needed, so you have redundancies.
Arrange for temporary housing if needed. This is important if government housing is not ready or if you have not found a home yet.
Begin making shipping arrangements for your vehicles if necessary.
If you are using the Personal Property Shipping Office (PPSO), confirm moving dates and make sure to follow up regularly for possible changes or issues.
If you are an active service member making use of the military weight allowances, separate your professional books, papers, and equipment (PBP&E). These items will be weighed and listed separately on your shipping inventory.

Shop for cheaper insurance in your new area. 
Take advantage of your new move through potential opportunities to save money on insurance that could be cheaper in your new area. Ensure that all health, life, fire, and auto insurance is up to date, and inform these companies of your new address and negotiate cheaper rates.

If you need more information on cheaper rates many companies offer insurance calculators that adjust to your needs. For example, use the life insurance calculator at AAFMAA.com to ensure you are getting the best value on your life insurance.

As a military family you have support and benefits that other families are not offered. Be sure to utilize these support structures to make moving to a new base as easy as possible.

For more information or just to check out SpouseLink, please visit one of the links below!

SpouseLink // Facebook // Twitter // Pinterest // YouTube

AAFMAA // Facebook // Twitter

A note from The Coastie Wife:
As a military spouse, I feel it's very important to know what resources are available to you. Even if you don't feel you need the resources offered by these companies at this exact moment, I would still recommend saving the sites away for the future! You never know when you might need a little extra help and these are some great resources! Thank you SpouseLink for taking the time to share these great tips with us! I know we'll be referring back to them for our future moves!


Friday, January 22, 2016

One Phrase that Military Spouses Use Often

As a military wife, there's a phrase that I've gotten really good at using. It's one that has become the necessary answer to a lot of questions that I'm asked by friends and family. There are times I wish I had a different answer, but I rarely do. Wondering what the phrase is? Keep on reading below.


The phrase is a simple, but annoying one.  "I don't know."

It seems like such an innocent phrase, I know, but just look at how many important questions we answer using that phrase!

Where is your husband?
I don't know is pretty much always the answer. There's a good chance that we really don't know where our husband is during a deployment. And even if we do know where he is, we can't tell you anyways because we want to keep our men safe.

When is your husband getting back?
There's a good chance that we really don't know. If we do know - well, it goes back to the safety of our men. Some information has to be kept to ourselves. 

How long will you be at this location?
Sometimes we have a general timeline, but often times, we don't know for sure. It's up to the military where we go and how long we stay there. We get little to no say in these matters.

Where are you going next?
Until the orders are cut, the answer is "I don't know." We might know that we're going to move but we don't always know when we're moving.

How do you hold it together when he's gone?
This was the most recent question where I used the answer "I don't know." And I really don't - you somehow muddle your way through life and continue moving forward because you have to. There's no easy answer about how you do it.

Can you see how frustrating three little words can be? Welcome to the life of a military spouse. If you're new to the life, I recommend familiarizing yourself with the phrase "I don't know" because your life is about to become a string of uncertainties. Flexibility is about to be your best friend!

Can you think of any other times you've used "I don't know" as a military spouse? I'd love to hear about them in the comments!


Thursday, January 21, 2016

How to Plan a Date Night You'll Remember

I love the websites out there that provide pre-planned, themed date nights for couples. They always include lots of tips and goodies. They don't always have the theme or things that I want though, so I've developed my own system for creating date nights that are themed, fun, and memorable. I may share some of our date nights in the future (I never remember pictures) but for now, I'm going to share the process for planning and setting up a great date night that you're sure to remember.


Stop for a moment and answer this question - what things do you need for a great party?

Why am I asking you to think about parties when we're talking about dates? Well, for me, the planning process is pretty much the same. I start with the five w's (who, what, when, where, why) and then move onto the how. I'm going to walk you through the planning process using one of our favorite date nights as an example.

Who?
This is the easiest part of the planning process. The who should be you and your significant other unless it's going to be a double or group date. Then, the guest list might grow a bit.
Example: Just the two of us because we haven't spent a night focusing on us in a while.

What?
This is where you decide on your theme. Are you celebrating something? Is it just a fun date night? What holidays are nearby? What sorts of things do you like? The possibilities for your theme are endless.
 Example: A fun date night where we can laugh and enjoy each other's company. It's in November and he's growing his mustache out for Movember so why not make it mustache themed?!?

When?
Figure out a date and time that works best for the guest list. This may be an easy step or a hard step if your schedules rarely ever match up. It may be a special night, like your anniversary, or it may just be a random night that works for the two of you. After you decide on a night, mark it on the calendar so that you both know you have a commitment that night.
Example: Let's do a Friday night so that we don't have to worry about work the next day. We'll start around 5:00p to insure we're both home and unwound from work.

Where?
Decide if it will be a date night out, in, or a combination of both. Location is important and should match up with the theme of your night. Don't go to an Italian restaurant if your theme is Cinco de Mayo!
Example: We'll both have spent the day working and we cooked all week so let's make the dinner part out and the rest of the night in so that we can end it when we want to.

Why?
This one goes along with the what and when. Is there a reason for your date night? Remember, you don't need a reason to spend time together.
Example: There's no reason other than wanting to spend some time with the one I love.

After you've established the basic details, you have to decide how it will all take place. For me, this includes food, decorations, and activities. I also always include an invitation for the husband so that he can remember the details of what's to come. It also helps build suspense about what I might have planned. I'll share the details of our mustache date below to give you an idea.

Food
Will you be eating out or will you be eating in? Which restaurant will you go to? What will you serve at home? Think about the time of day, how hungry you'll be, and what fits in with your theme. (Remember our discussion about Italian food for Cinco de Mayo.)
For our mustache date, we went to Applebees down the street. It wasn't anything special but it was close and we both enjoyed our dinner. Dinner wasn't meant to be the highlight of the evening anyways.

Decorations  
Decorations aren't necessary, of course, but they can certainly add to the fun of the night. If you're going to be doing a date out on the town, don't worry about decorations at all. Make your outfit, hair, and makeup your decoration for the night. If you're going to be home for the night, a few decorations can make things feel more special. Dollar Tree, Target, and craft stores are great places to find cute things for cheap. You could even use your creative side and the computer to print a couple of things out for the night.
Example: I picked up a few picture frames at Dollar Tree and printed out fun mustache sayings. Then, I put the sayings in the frames and sat them around for the night. I also printed out a few smaller sayings and left them in random spots for the husband to find as he got ready for work in the morning. This helped build the excitement for the night (and reminded him that we had a fun date night ahead of us!)

Activities
It's up to you to figure out how you're going to fill the night. There's nothing worse than "what do you want to do now?" being asked on a date. If you have a few things in mind, it'll help the night be more fun. Remember - it's about fun, not stress. While I recommend having a plan, make sure it's a flexible one! Don't get upset if the night goes in a different direction than the one you planned. The plans are there to avoid boredom not to dictate how the night goes!
Example: For our mustache night, I planned several different mustache themed games in addition to a Friday night tasting at the local Bevmo (which was on our way to Applebees). We only ended up playing one of the games but we had a ton of fun with the game, so it was still a good night. The husband still talks about our mustache game to this day. (Feel free to email me if you want more details on the game before I share it in a later post - this one has gotten too long as it is!)

Do you enjoy date nights? What's your favorite tip for making them a success?


  

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Too Many Hours to Myself

I'm not going to lie - a post almost didn't go up today. We can go more into the why later but let's just say deployments are hard and sometimes you have to simply take care of yourself. There may have been a burn on my leg from a cup of tea in there today as well. It's been interesting.

I wasn't going to blog and then I found this new link up. Well, it's new to me at least.


The link up is hosted by Aubrey Zaruba, Burke Does, Life of Mrs. Otts, My New Lines, One Hoolie Mama, and The Morrell Tale. I already follow and love Burke Does & One Hoolie Mama, but I'm excited to check out the others hosts.

Each week, they ask a "what would you do" type of question and invite other bloggers to join in by answering the question. This week, the question is "What would you do with one hour of time to yourself?"

Honestly? I spend a lot of hours by myself right now. This will surely change in the future when we start to grow our family and the husband has fewer deployments, but the reality of right now is that I spend a lot of time alone. That being said, I'm going to share a list of my favorite activities to do by myself.

1. Take a walk
2. Eposom salt baths
3. Blog
4. Watch chick flicks
5. Read (Here's some favorites!)
6. Write fiction
7. Organize something
8. Get crafty

The list could go on and on but I tried to pick a few of my favorites. I think I'll answer the question with "write fiction." This is something I haven't done in a long time and would really love to get back to doing. Perhaps I need to carve out a little time away from blogging to work on one of my many ideas for a novel.

So tell me, what would you do with one hour to yourself? And then go link up with those lovely bloggers mentioned above!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Other Places to Visit in California

When you think of traveling to California, you probably think of Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, and Napa Valley as popular destinations. While being stationed in California, we have found so many more delightful places to visit and we're bringing you our list of favorites today. So, here you go - our list of nine other places you should visit in California!


Calistoga, CA

I discovered the Instagram account for Castello di Amorosa long before we moved out here. I initially thought I was following an account from Europe because of the beautiful castle that was always showcased. Then, I learned that it was a winery in Northern California and I knew that I had to visit it! This winery is located in Calistoga, CA, which is a part of the Napa valley area. Not far from the winery is a quaint little downtown area as well. We actually did an overnight trip to a spa in Calistoga before visiting the Castello the next day. The entire trip was enjoyable. Our only word of caution - downtown Calistoga can be pretty pricey but there are good options to be found if you simply look around.



Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA

During a deployment, my friend and I went to The Refuge in Carmel to celebrate my 29th birthday. The Refuge is an awesome day spa. We left feeling peaceful and rejuvenated and decided to check out the nearby town. Carmel turned out to be a nice little town to walk around and look at things. They had a few unique shops that we enjoyed a lot - including an Alice in Wonderland themed shop.



Alamere Falls in Bolinas, CA

Alamere Falls has been one of my favorite natural discoveries in this area. It's about an hour away from San Francisco and you'll have to do some hiking to find it, but it's well worth the adventure! Alamere Falls is a waterfall that cascades straight into the Pacific Ocean! I can't recommend looking into this adventure enough. Be cautious and wear clothes that can get dirty and pants that cover your legs as you may encounter poison oak along the way!



Monterey Bay, CA

When we first moved here, I heard a lot about the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Since we're big animal people, we decided that we had to visit Monterey Bay. It's worth a visit but be prepared for a pricey entry fee and busy crowds. Also be prepared to pay a pretty penny for parking depending on what time you're there. After the aquarium, make sure you walk around and explore the local area to complete a fun filled day!



Sacramento, CA


Somehow the capital of California is not one of it's biggest attractions. Sacramento is located about two hours from San Francisco. It's not filled with a lot, but the Old Town section does make for an interesting stroll. I loved seeing all of the old buildings and even an old school house while we were there. Be prepared to be transported back in time the moment you step foot inside of Old Town Sacramento!



Santa Cruz, CA

If you're a beach lover or want spectacular views of the ocean, then Santa Cruz is the place for you. It's right along the Pacific Ocean and filled with amazing views of the ocean, surfers, and some huge waves. It's a popular surf destination and even has a boardwalk complete with rides! While you're there, scan the beach and see if you can find the artist behind Santa Cruz Sand - his work is outstanding!

 

Livermore Valley, CA

Are you a wine lover? We are! We're also budget conscious and not a fan of the prices you pay in the Napa area for a tasting. This is why we were ecstatic to discover Livermore Valley. This area is in the Bay Area and a popular wine destination (if you know about it!). Livermore produces excellent wines and their tasting fees are much less than Napa. We like to make a day of sipping wine, looking at vineyards, and taking in the spectacular views. This is a must visit for wine lovers.



Crescent City, CA

Up until now, I've primarily mentioned places that are near the Bay area. For this next location, we're going to travel to the top of California (almost to Oregon) and enjoy the majestic redwood trees. Crescent City is a small town with not much to see. However, they are host to some of the biggest trees you'll ever see! We stayed in a KOA while we were there and did plenty of hiking to enjoy this fairy tale setting.



Temecula, CA

For our last location, we're going to travel south. Last year, I emailed the husband (thank you deployments) and asked him what he thought of going to Temecula for a mini vacation. His response was "What's in Temecula?" I answered with a blog conference and a trip was born. Little did we know that it would be an enjoyable trip that we'd do again in a heartbeat. Temecula boasts a cute little town with lots to do. They are also home to several good breweries and wineries. We didn't get to visit any of the wineries but we did enjoy samples of their wine at the Balloon & Wine Festival that was taking place that weekend. They are also home to hot air balloon rides.


Have you been to California before? What sights and places did you see? We're always looking for a new place to explore!



Monday, January 18, 2016

Underway Again: Thoughts from a Coastie

The wife is often sharing tips and tricks about deployments and how to handle them as a military spouse. We rarely show you what it's like from the military member's point of view though. Today, we thought we'd give you a glimpse into the thoughts of the Coastie Husband in regards to deployments.


Underway again

The thought makes me feel a bit like waiting on the gallows. Not in the sense that I'm going to die, but more in the sense that I will once again vanish from the people I swore to protect. Going to recover poison that is shipped into the country by the ton is an honorable goal to be sure, but like making an appointment to go to the dentist, hard times are ahead and there is nothing you can do about it.

So, once again, my wife becomes a pen pal. Socialization gives way to broken language barriers and the same repetitive conversations that resonate through the ship like ripples in a small pond. All who swear to protect the people of the United States make sacrifices. Our jobs, no matter the branch, are inherently risky, and we separate ourselves from the people we swore to protect to take the risks necessary.

When I stare down the barrel of another patrol, I am consoled by the knowledge that the sacrifice I am about to make is for those that I love. All I ask from you is that you keep America great while I'm gone.


Friday, January 15, 2016

Books to Enjoy During a Deployment

Being separated for long periods of time from the one you love is tough. There's no arguing with that. Being separated from each other at some point is something that is all too common for military couples. There's no arguing with that either.

*This post contains affiliate links to help you find out more details about the books mentioned. We make a small amount off of these links but they don't harm you in any way!*


Deployments are unavoidable for many military couples. We've faced four or five in our three and a half years of dating/marriage. Each one is different and there is no perfect trick to dealing with them. One thing that I have found to be true is that keeping busy and trying new things is the best medicine for your heart during a deployment.

I love reading and I find that I sometimes have more time alone during a deployment, which makes getting into a regular reading routine easier. I try to avoid sad or sappy books during deployment because I don't need another reason to cry. Therefore, it's the quirky, fun books that often make their way onto my kindle during a deployment. Every now and then, I through in a personal development book as well!

Here's a list of some fun, light-hearted books that I've enjoyed to get you started! If you want to read more about any of these books, simply click on the cover to be taken to Amazon, where you can read the summary and reviews!

           


           

              

I'll be bringing you a new list of personal development books in a future post. I love finding new books to read and would love to hear your suggestions in the comments below!

Currently reading:  How to Be Single by Liz Tuccillo

What are you currently reading?

 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

How to Save Money When You Travel

We love to travel. We also love to save money. These two don't always go hand in hand but today, we will be sharing a few money saving tips for your next trip! We don't always use all of the tips, but we use at least a few of them on each trip that we take!


Saving money on a trip is easier than you think! Simply read through our tips below and put a few into action the next time you take a trip!

1. Compare prices and book in advance.
When it comes to travel, transportation and lodging can take big chunks of your budget. Take the time to compare prices in advance and to book the best (quality) deal you can find. If you stick with the same chain of hotels every time you travel, you can also earn points towards bonuses, including free nights at some hotels. This could save you on future travel! (Military travel tip: Check your local MWR or recreation department for even more savings!)

2. Look into combined passes for attractions.
Many cities have a pass that gets you into several attractions at a reduced rate. The pass is usually good for the popular attractions in the area, so there's a good chance that you'll get use out of it. You can check for these deals by typing in the city name plus pass to Google.

3. Be picky about your souvenirs.
We hardly ever buy souvenirs. In fact, the only souvenirs we tend to buy are the pressed pennies from penny machines (these cost a grand total of 51 cents each and I've been collecting them since I was a kid!). We also buy an ornament to represent our travels. Otherwise, we leave the cute, expensive items on the shelf.

4. Walk or use public transportation.
Taxis and rental cars can add up. In many cases, you'll find that you can walk to just about everywhere you need (especially if the quality hotel you booked is in a central location). Many cities also have public transportation (buses and monorails) that can help you get from point A to point B.

5. Eat at your hotel.
Take advantage of any free meals that your hotel offers. If you've got a fridge and microwave, you can also eat a few additional meals in your room rather than in town. Eating out is always more expensive than eating in. If you do have to (or want to) eat out, do your research beforehand! Most restaurants have their menu online to help you figure out costs in advance.

6. Set a budget.
Knowing how much you have to spend will help you stay on track. It's much easier to keep track of your money when you've only got so much to spend.

7. Use cash.
Have a hard time sticking to a budget? Get out your allotted cash in advance and only use cash on your trip. It's much easier to keep track of money when you're watching the bills leave your hand.

8. Do your research.
Even if you don't plan out a complete trip itinerary (we never do), it's helpful to look up attractions in advance. This will help you figure out what interests you and how much it will cost. Forget to research before you're there? Most attractions have websites that list their prices! This can help you decide what is worth visiting and what is not.

9. Look into discounts!
Look into every discount that you can. If you're military, it never hurts to ask if a military discount is available. Many places also offer discounts to teachers, students, and other groups.

What are your favorite ways to save money when traveling?  We'd love to hear your tips in the comments! It might even help us save in the future. :)


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Perfect Kitchen Gadgets for Healthy Living

We're working towards healthier living in our home and I thought I'd share a few of our favorite gadgets for creating healthy meals.

*This post contains affiliate links. We make a tiny bit of money from the links but they don't hurt you at all! In fact, they might help you find a product that we've mentioned!*


Programmable Crock Pot

I have been a big fan of the crock pot for a very long time. It makes dinner easy on days that are busy and overwhelming. The husband is slowly becoming a fan of it as well and actually requests chicken tacos from time to time. (The only way I like to make those is in the crock pot. I tried it once in the oven and it was a total fail!) I specifically like the programmable crock pot because it allows you to set a time limit and then it will kick over to warm. This is helpful on long days of work.

I do caution you on one thing though - if you're going to use the crock pot for a healthier lifestyle, you need to carefully analyze the recipes you're using. A lot of crock pot recipes call for condensed soups and other heavy products. Make sure that you're picking recipes with the best ingredients possible.


Spiralizer 

We bought a spiralizer last year after creating our zucchini lasagna recipe. We enjoyed the lasagna so much that we were curious what zoodles (zucchini noodles) would be like in a dish. The spiralizer was around $30 on Amazon and came surprisingly fast! We quickly put it to use and discovered that zoodles were delicious and easy to make with this tool. We're still experimenting with the tool (curly baked sweet potato fries the other night!), but it's quite easy to use and has expanded our food options greatly.


Nutribullet

The Nutribullet was a Christmas gift that we received this year. We've always enjoyed making smoothies and this gadget makes it even easier! The Nutribullet comes with a guide on how to use it and lots of different recipes to try out. It even gives you recipes to help with different things. It's easy to use and makes a smoothie quickly and efficiently. You can take your cup right off of the machine and drink from it as well. This creates less dishes which makes everyone happy in the end!


These are just a few of the gadgets that have helped us on our quest to healthier living. What are your favorite gadgets for healthy living?


Monday, January 11, 2016

Easy to Make Beef Stroganoff

Today we're bringing you an easy to make recipe for beef stroganoff. This makes for an easy weeknight meal that will feed the whole family!


We're going to start with the steps in pictures for those of us that are visual learners!. You can find the easy to follow steps below the pictures.












Ingredients:
Extra wide egg noodles (1 bag)
Ground Beef (1 lb)
Cream of Mushroom Soup (1 can)
Sour Cream (1 cup)
Pepper
Spices to season Ground Beef

Beef Stroganoff

(Complete steps 1-3 at the same time.)

1. Boil noodles according to package. Strain noodles.

2. Prepare cream of mushroom soup as instructed on can.

3. Brown hamburger meat & prepare with spices of choice (ours shown above). Strain hamburger meat.

4. Mix sour cream in noodles until all noodles are covered.

5. Add hamburger meat to the noodles.

6. Stir in cream of mushroom soup until consistency is slightly thin. (It will thicken.)


7. Add black pepper to taste.



8. Serve!