Austin

We’ve lived here 6 months already and hadn’t made it up to Austin. It’s only an hour away and we’ve driven through it a couple times, but never stopped to check it out. My mother-in-law was here a couple weeks ago and she wanted to check it out, so we went. She’s more fun than my husband and will go find random stuff with me, so I wasn’t about to turn her down.

We spent a good majority of the day on Congress Street, browsing the shops and street vendors and checking out the murals. She and I both bought a few things from vendors, nothing I needed, but sometimes it’s too fun to pass up! The little one really wanted to see the horse mural. While she was petting the fake horse, a guy on a real horse showed up. Ok, it was actually a mule, but it’s half horse, so it counts. 

It was hot, like usual, so the kids got shaved ice. It explains her mouth in every picture afterwards and why he  looks like he may have murdered someone. 

After all that, we went to Peter Pan Mini Golf and played a round. It’s an old course, that’s also BYOB, that has a fun obstacle for each hole. All the new putt putt courses don’t seem to have that kind of stuff, which is just sad. Hitting your ball through a replica of the Texas Capitol building is half the fun! I really liked the city, so we’ll have to go back and do/see more. I already have a list, it’s just a matter of when. 

Friday Fives: Kitchen Gadgets

I’m not one to go overboard and buy all the fun kitchen gadgets. I realize I’ll never use half of them, but sometimes they are just so fun and so freaking cute a girl can’t help herself. So here’s what I’m currently loving.

As with most people, I’m not good at measuring spaghetti. I usually just make the entire box. I’ve seen things before to help you measure how much you need, but this one is just too fun. It’s the I Could Eat A Horse spaghetti measurer. Get it?

Source

I don’t actually own a rolling pin. Not a real one anyway. I always roll my cookies out with a little plastic thing that probably came in a kid’s set of something. It’s one of those things I know I should buy, but I just never think about it. I’m thinking I should get one like this though. The little one would love the horses!

Measuring cups. They are so freaking cute. I love them. Mind you, I don’t use the cute ones. I use my practical Pyrex ones. These are just to sit there. I have a set of owl ones and I wanted the Mason jar ones forever, which my mother-in-law bought for me. I’m really digging the forest critter ones.

This is going to sound like a bad infomercial, but every time I try to drain a pot in the sink without using a colander, I end up either not getting all the water out or dumping a good portion of whatever’s in the pot (probably too much spaghetti) in the sink. Maybe this would help?

How fun would it be to stamp your cookies when you make them? I could bake my kids cookies, stamp them with love, and pack them in their lunches. Just call me Donna Reed. I think they would actually really like it. Especially since the little one requested I write a note on a napkin and put it in her lunchbox. She’s bossy.

12 Tips For Saving Money During a PCS

PCSing can be a fun, exciting time or it can be a truly stressful time, but either way, it’s an expensive time. Moving is always expensive, even though the military is helping out and reimbursing a lot of the cost. The cost of the trip to the new location, plus the cost of setting up a new household, whether on or off base, is usually more costly than most of us anticipate. Be prepared for anything and plan ahead. You’ll thank yourself in the long run. 

Before The Move

Before the movers come, go through everything and determine what isn’t wanted or needed anymore. If it’s enough items, have a garage sale. For bigger items like furniture, try selling it on Craigslist or similar sites. I do this every time we move and end up with extra cash, as well as less crap to sort through at the new location.

Start shopping your pantry and freezer for meal ideas. We all have lots of stuff that somehow never manages to get eaten, so make the most of what you have and save some on your grocery bill before you end up either throwing it away or giving it to your friends and neighbors.

Make a budget. Even if it’s a rough one on a napkin, having an outline of costs and what you expect to pay and what you can afford, is helpful. Make sure to also figure out what the military will reimburse and what they won’t.

If you are driving, have your vehicle checked out. Get an oil change, have the belts, tires, etc. checked, just to ensure all is good. The last thing you want is something to break on a cross country drive. 

Also, make sure you are up to date on your car insurance and registration and a copy of each is in the glovebox. The last thing you want is a ticket, or worse, in some random state.

If you plan to live off base, start researching housing options. Talk to people you know at the new duty station or find a Facebook group for the area to get recommendations. This will help you save time once you get there, as well as give you an idea of housing costs and what’s available.

Make sure to weigh you vehicles empty and loaded down with all your belongings and keep the weight receipts! TMO can reimburse you by the pound. Most of us end up with way more than we thought in our vehicles during moves.  

During The Move

Pack snacks and drinks for the drive. It’s so much easier to buy a 12 pack of soda and put it in a cooler than to buy one each time you stop. This works great for the kids too. Pack them juice boxes and snacks and you won’t need to stop for gas station snacks or french fries. If you are really feeling up to it, pack sandwich fixings for lunch. It’s a lot cheaper than stopping for fast food.

If possible, stay with someone you know along the way. If you’ve been in the service a while, odds are you have friends scattered all over the country that would be glad to see you and put you up for the night. If not, find a reasonably priced hotel like TownePlace Suites

Once You Arrive

If you are staying in temporary lodging, take advantage of the kitchen. Buy basic food, even cereal, and eat as much as you can in the room. Sure, it’s not as fun, but eating out all the time adds up quick. If lodging is full and you are in a hotel, find one with a kitchen. TownePlace Suites are located near a lot of bases and come with fully equipped kitchens.

Shop around for utilities for things like TV, phone, and internet. Ask about any deals going on or check online for discounts. Most places offer introductory deals and you may end up paying less than what you were before the move.

There are always expenses we don’t think about when moving into a new place. I like to buy new shower curtain liners, trash cans, and things like toilet brushes. Don’t go crazy and buy a lot of new things because you are sitting in an empty house waiting on your things. Hold off and wait until everything arrives, then shop if need be. Check online sites for used things first though. Someone else may be getting rid of nice stuff because they are PCSing too! We’ve bought a lot of nice furniture this way.

 

St. Louis City Museum

This was not our first trip to the City Museum, nor will it be our last, but it’s too good not to share for those who aren’t familiar with the place. Some might call it a children’s museum, but it’s just as fun for adults as it is kids. Housed in an old building downtown, the museum itself is a collection of architectural and industrial objects, most of which would have just ended up in a landfill. It is all repurposed to create a fun place to explore. The museum bills itself as an “eclectic mixture of children’s playground, funhouse, surrealistic pavilion, and architectural marvel.” They opened in 1997 and have continued to add on and expand their exhibits. It’s hard to describe the place, even in pictures. Everything is built using recycled materials. Statues from buildings that were long ago torn down decorate the walls. Conveyor belt rollers are used as banister rails. The outside playground is a sculpture in itself, with new pieces to explore constantly being added on. The first floor is one huge playground. There are child size tunnels that go under the floors and up in the ceilings. Your kids go exploring, while you sit and wait, wondering where they’ll pop up at. A huge section is built to look like underground caves, complete with little light and dripping ground water. The caves take you up to the 5 and 10 story slides. 

The husband had never been before, but he even thought it was pretty neat. The outside at least. He wasn’t a fan of the noisy, crowded inside. It was too hot to go up on the roof this time, but we went last year. You can see some pictures here. The best part was that the little one was tall enough for the 10 story slide! Last year, she was only tall enough for the 5 story. 
If you are in the area, it’s a must!

PTSD Triggers

PTSD is a funny thing. Memories of events are triggered by sights, sounds, or smells, but they are far from predictable. There have been times when I’ve known that something would bother the husband, possibly triggering things, while other times I’ve been completely clueless. He doesn’t always know what will bother him either, but he does his best to avoid anything that could be a trigger.

I see pictures all the time of little piles of rocks, or cairns, somewhere out in nature. In most cases, these are used to mark trails or as markers for other things. A lot of times, people like to pile the rocks up because it looks neat. Whatever the reason, I will no longer look at them the same.

A couple years ago, we drove out to the San Bernardino Forest in California to go hiking. We didn’t have a set place in mind, we figured we would find a sign for a trail and go with it. While driving up a mountain on a deserted road, the husband suddenly freaked out. I had no idea what was going on. He slammed on the brakes and sat there for a good five minutes trying to calm himself back down. I kept asking him what was wrong, but he wouldn’t tell me. He eventually recovered and we continued on to the trail. After the hike on our way back, he stopped in the same place again. He and I got out of the car and he motioned towards a little pile of rocks on the side of the road. There was maybe 3 or 4 rocks stacked up. It wasn’t anything unusual to me. He went on to tell me that in Iraq, they marked their IED’s with little stacks of rocks. When the military sees the pile, they know what’s there. Seeing that brought it all back. He ended up knocking the rocks over by pretty much kicking the shit out of them.

I never would have guessed that would trigger something. Once he explained it though, it made perfect sense. Every time I see a picture of similar rocks in my feed, I can’t help but think of my husband and what those mean to him.