Ode to Ripped Jeans

I love you ripped jeans, you make me happy.

You look so good it ought to be illegal, but that still does not get you an invite to the home of the Sergeant Major.

You’re not welcome at the Exchange either and we will both get kicked out of the ID office.

Please understand…

We will always have the beach.

 ***

By now, you should have realized that all of my posts have a few pieces of helpful information – and a really scary backstory in support of said information (compliments of me). I have engaged in the buffoonery so you don’t have to!

Now this is not about being  judgey. It’s about digging just a little deeper into the military culture you married into. If you are reading my post then you have some sort of affiliation with the United States military and therefore need to understand what is expected of you. Yes – I said what is expected of you. Spouse, guest, aunt or uncle – it doesn’t matter. Once we step foot on a military installation, we are all bound by the base rules and walk at the behest of the Commanding General.

Believe it.

It is part of our culture that we have strict dress codes and longstanding traditions. To try and rebuff said traditions is a slap in the face to those who came before us both active duty and spouse. Are you proud of your spouse in uniform? Of course you are! So familiarize yourself with your branch’s traditions and have fun!

But back to ripped jeans… I am a lady from the 80’s and we perfected the strategically ripped clothing so when I see people wearing them today, it’s no big deal. It is a big deal however, when we as spouses try to buck the dress codes implemented on all military installations both foreign and domestic. The military has high standards and we as spouses should embrace those standards. Iron sharpens iron people.

The next time you go shopping at the exchange, take a look at the dress code posters near the entrance doors. They are hysterical. Think a cross between The Jersey Shore and a thug weightlifting contest attended by super-hot NASCAR girls.  The posters exist out of necessity.

As new military spouses, we receive so much information all at once it’s as if we are drinking water from a firehouse.

Here is the problem – you don’t know what you don’t know.

Case in point:

It’s 1989 and a young Marine wife who has obtained vertical lift with her bangs and ripped her acid washed jeans to perfection is entering the Navy Exchange in Pensacola, Florida. She is met by the ID checker (yes that was a thing) checking…you guessed it… identification cards. She is also inspecting clothing. She took one look at the young wife (ok it was me) and pulled a stapler from behind her podium. She handed me the stapler and said, “you have two choices.  Staple every hole in your jeans shut or go home and change.” I immediately took the stapler and stapled every single rip shut, tears stinging my eyes and obscenity laden thoughts running through my brain. How could this be? I thought I looked fine!

Well I did not and the dress code is the dress code like it or not. I considered myself schooled that day.

(On a side note, what did I need so badly that I would subject myself to such humiliation?  It had to be a Coach sale).

I encourage newer spouses to remove emotion from some of the rules and regulations you encounter on your military-life journey. Take them for what they are: part of the greater equation that makes the American fighting forces the undisputed power house they are – dress codes and all.

On that note, will someone please pass the stapler?

Entertainingly Yours,

Cassie

And You Are….?

     I am not sure who this post is for, the host or the guest. I will leave it for you the reader to decide.
     Whether you are attending an upscale dinner party or your child’s soccer game, a proper introduction is always important, if not necessary, especially in the military lifestyle. For many of us, the need to give or receive an introduction may be an everyday occurrence. 
While researching proper introductions, I came across a brief explanation from a wonderful blog entitled The Art of Manliness.
The Big Rule:
“The overarching principle when making introductions is deference and respect. You show chivalrous deference to women by introducing the man to the woman. You show respect for your elders by introducing the younger to the older. And in a business setting, you show respect to higher-ups by introducing the person of lower rank to the person of higher position.”
Simple and I could not have written it better myself, hence the backdoor plagiarism. That was so very manly as well. 
And so dear readers, journey back with me if you will to a time and place of long ago. Picture a young Marine wife full of life but most importantly full of herself. She receives a phone call and is politely voluntold to sit on a committee. All right – it was me and I may have trouble articulating tenses so I will henceforth and here unto speak in everyday English.
A committee spot had opened up for a spouse’s organization in Washington, D.C. and a senior leader’s wife called and asked me if I would fill the void. For you civilians out there, that is what is referred to as being voluntold. A healthy fear of saying no… Of course I said yes and off I went to a place I had never heard of before… Fort Myer in Virginia. 
Picture if you will, a beautiful historic home sitting atop a grassy ridge overlooking the Potomac River. “Nice,” I thought to myself as I pulled up in the minivan. “I wonder who lives here…” I have never been accused of over preparing for anything in my life and this day was no different. I walked into the home and as with all good spouses’ meetings; we opened with food and drink. 

 A lovely, older woman (we will call her Susie to protect the innocent and my husband’s career) approached me and we started to chat. I took her for a civilian guest and in my most authoritative of tones began to explain the finer points of military life to include a deep and meaningful explanation of Marine Aviation. Gosh she was so nice and easy going, whose lovely aunt, is this anyway? I wonder where she is visiting from. Our lopsided conversation was coming to a close with Susie being the obvious loser. We politely parted ways and as is the lovely dance of a women’s coffee, I came to speak with another spouse who looked to be around my age. “Wow,” she said. “What on Earth did you talk about with her?” “Who,” I asked. “The wife of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, that’s who!”  

Oh snap.

 

Now, everyone deserves politeness, kindness and the gift of your time but let us be crystal clear, when dealing with the leaders of any organization, and in my opinion, the military, as stated above, it is always about deference and respect. Do you respect your spouse, their job, their field of work? Then why would you not want to put your best foot forward and maintain the customs and courtesies of our culture regarding our leadership? Goodness, I still remember being petrified of my husband’s Staff Platoon Commander!
I was caught totally flatfooted and remained uncomfortable for the rest of the meeting. Why had she not introduced herself? Why had I not introduced myself? Why did I talk so much? Did I actually explain to her what the commissary was? Aren’t there supposed to be nametags at these events? 
The drive home was a swirling of “what did I say” thoughts and “what if I had said” ruminations. It was exhausting. 
Let’s put a bow on this. From a host/hostess perspective; someone at the door greeting, nametags and group introductions are always appropriate. From a guest perspective, do your research. When in doubt, google people, places and events. It helps in conversation prompting as well as history of the location and what to wear. If attending with friends, devise a plan to gather names. Make a game out of it. If you stay in long enough, this will be an ongoing situation for you and your spouse.

Throughout my time on the committee the spouses were all very gracious and I have come to understand that events such as these are where we turn the corner of understanding just a bit more of this military lifestyle.  

Entertainingly Yours,

Cassie

Under-Cooked Dough and Other Things You Should Know

This is about mistakes – entertaining mistakes.

We all experience them; some small, some epic.

But, we recover and we learn from the experience. However, there was a time when I neither recovered, nor learned.

When planning I would create in my mind the party to end all parties, but when the inevitable happened (burnt food, forgotten ingredients or children vomiting on me moments before a guest’s arrival) I became unglued.

I would often think, “Maybe I’m not cut out for this military lifestyle. Maybe I should focus my efforts on other ways to support the command.”

But that competitive, over-achieving military spouse inside of me would raise her fist like Scarlett O’Hara and shout back, “No! I will not be defeated!”

I have not yet lost the war, but there have been a few battles where I threw up the white flag.

Example #1: My Less-Than-Thankful Thanksgiving

After a few years of marriage and countless military functions, I agreed to host my first large Thanksgiving meal.

My husband Joe was attached to a Marine squadron that had a few squadron mates of the Royal Air Force on exchange from England. It was all very intriguing – the accent, their wives, the culture they offered.

One evening Joe came home and announced that we were hosting Thanksgiving dinner for three exchange pilots, their wives, and their children. They had expressed interest in a true American Thanksgiving feast and that’s what they were going to get. Who cares that I had never hosted one before? Or that I had three children under four and my appliance of choice was the equivalent of an Easy Bake oven (compliments of the U.S. government)?

“Yes,” I thought. “I’ve got this!”

I had cooked a turkey before (I think?), I had cooked rolls before (maybe?), and I had even prepared gravy, but for some reason I went into panic mode.

I went against my better judgement and started to take shortcuts. Between caring for my babies, preparing the house and trying to create an unforgettable feast, I panicked and started to change things up in my mind.

“I know!,” I thought, “I’ll use one of those cooking bags to insure done-ness. Oh! And I’ll use rolls in a tin so I have enough bread. And how about packaged gravy to supplement my own…” As you can see, I mentally spiraled out of control. To this day, I still do not know why I did the things I did that holiday weekend.

The big day arrived and no kidding, the kitchen sink backed up and there was no one from housing maintenance available to come out. My dear husband tried to clear it, but it just would not give. The water backed up to the top and the entire sink was unusable. I actually rinsed and peeled potatoes in my bathtub! Throughout the day of prepping and preparing, all of the dirty dishes went into the bathtub as well.  The best part though (ssshhhh don’t tell the British) I had to rinse the turkey under the spigot in the tub. It never touched anything, I promise. There is nothing like a Marine holding out a fresh white towel as if to say, “come to Daddy.”  I handed him the bird as a doctor might present a newborn son.  It was complete insanity.

I felt a bit of relief when the turkey was actually in the oven cooking. Remember I told you I used a cooking bag for the first time? Well, I did not mentally process that the cooking time is literally cut in half when using an oven bag but friends – I cooked it for the full five hours according to the turkey instructions.  – I can still taste it now, it was like tree bark.

On to prepping the stuffing. Dear old Mom’s sausage and nut stuffing. I had made it the week before and… oh my goodness had forgotten to thaw it! “No problem,” I confidently thought. I’ll just pop it in a pan and slowly heat it up. No sooner had I done so then I smelled the acrid scent of scorching food. Sausage stuffing, please report to the trashcan. What would my guests know? They are not even American so how would they know what is in a traditional American Thanksgiving?

Growing up, my mother taught my sisters and I the most amazing yeast roll recipe…why I did not make them, I have no idea. I used the Pillsbury brand in the tin and while tasty – they have directions that MUST be followed.

As dinner was underway, I noticed no one was taking a second helping of rolls. In a moment of true insanity, I grabbed one and ran across the street to my friend’s house (a lovely Navy wife who was unflappable).

I shoved a roll in her hand and said, “Taste this and tell me what’s wrong with it.” As she took a bite and pulled the roll away from her mouth, there appeared to be mozzarella cheese oozing out. She asked me, “did you make cheese stuffed croissants?”

“Uncooked dough!,”  I screamed and ran across the street back into my home. I immediately removed the rolls and watched in horror as no one tried a second helping of the turkey. Riddle me this: what is the actually cooking time of a twenty pound bird if you cook according to the directions PLUS toss it in an oven bag? Ten hours? I don’t know, but imagine my guests chewing with only their front teeth and downing copious amounts of water.

Course three – dessert. What could go wrong? I was a pro at pumpkin pie and had taken no shortcuts. I even prepared homemade whipped cream. I triumphantly paraded my pie to the table. No takers. “Oh we’re sorry love; we don’t eat veg in our dessert.” I could not believe my ears but then thought, “yeah, I guess that is pretty gross.”

 Suddenly, out came the lovely English trifle that was brought as a hostess gift. Have you ever seen rabid dogs fight over a bone? You get where I am going with this. The trifle dish was licked clean and I mean clean.

I guess I cannot blame them. It was a pretty terrible meal.

While so much went wrong that evening, I did do a few things right. I absolutely hid from my guests even the hint of a problem and kept the evening moving with good drink and good conversation. Never allow your guests to see or hear of a problem if you can at all help it. It makes everyone uncomfortable, which is the exact opposite of what a host or hostess desires.

My biggest failure that evening was trying new things. Never, ever try anything for the first time the night of your event. You are inviting disaster.  My husband and I still get a good laugh out of this experience, but I sure wish I could have a redo! And I promise, I have never rinsed meat in the bathtub since.

Entertainingly Yours,

Cassie

MILITARY SPOUSE APPRECIATION DAY

 

Happy MILSO Day!

Each May on the Friday before Mother’s Day, we as a nation, celebrate and appreciate the sacrifices our military spouses make every day.We honor their commitment and dedication to the moment at hand. Whether volunteering in a position of leadership during a deployment or birthing your child alone, this day is set aside for you.

Designated by President Ronald Reagan in 1984, Military Spouse Appreciation Day coincides with Military Appreciation Month and Memorial Day, the last Monday in May. I have included a link to some fabulous military and mil-spouse discounts as seen on military.com:

If you are currently a spouse in a deployed unit, host an impromptu dinner or buy a few dozen roses to place on each fellow spouse’s doorstep in housing.  Deliver a single cigar with a message of thanks or hand written notes letting them know just how special they are and what an integral part they play in the fight.

In true entertaining fashion, today is the day you start planning next year’s celebration to properly honor the military spouses in your unit. Coordinate a luncheon in your quarters or a garden party at the community center on base. The unit spaces are also a motivating location to entertain. No excuses, I just gave you next year’s date. Get creative and remember, it’s a military spouse thing!

Entertainingly Yours,

Cassie

PLEASE RISE FOR THE PASSING OF THE COLORS

Often times, the purpose of military entertaining is to compliment the moment.

That moment may be a retirement, a post and relief, or a change of command and you can be sure that all will likely have a reception or party that follows.

A successful ceremony should easily transition into a successful reception. It’s the natural flow, and has been for years. But how do we personally achieve this? First and foremost: by understanding our detailed roles – whether as a guest in the bandstand, or a VIP in the front row.

To help you understand I’d like to offer you a quick tutorial on our beloved flag.

One question I hear most often pertains to flag etiquette.

“What are the responsibilities of a spouse, or guest, not in uniform during an important event as the flag passes by?”

This may seem like a minor issue, but in reality, it is of utmost importance that you know what to do as you stand among the active duty  men and woman within the command.

To give you a specific example, let’s use a change of command ceremony:

Congratulations! Your spouse has slated for command and more than a million questions are swirling through your mind. Everything from important dates to people to meet, even potential deployments. You’ll find that throughout command, flexibility, fluidity and adaptability will be called for.

However, when it comes to the U.S. Flag Code – none of that applies. The rules are strict and time honored.

For anyone to deviate from the U.S. Flag Code whether knowingly or unknowingly is unacceptable and disrespects our fallen. During the actual ceremony of taking command, there will be a color guard and if you are fortunate enough, a military marching band in full regalia. As the spouse of the incoming commander, you traditionally are seated in the front, left row, second seat in and facing the troops in formation. All eyes will be on you, your fellow spouse, and both the incoming and outgoing commanding officers. As new arrivals to the military, we are all taught to watch the spouse of the senior leader for our cue – when to stand, when to sit, when to place our hand on our heart. The burning question is, who do you watch as the senior leader’s spouse? You can watch your spouse as he or she rises but at this stage of the game, you need to know the rules of etiquette pertaining to the flag so let’s begin!

The United States Flag Code was published by Congress in a joint resolution on June 22, 1942. The Code offers guidance for any and all uses of the American flag. I have provided below the conduct called for during the hoisting, lowering or passing of Old Glory.

Title 4, Chapter 1, Article 9:

§9. Conduct during hoisting, lowering or passing of flag

During the ceremony of hoisting or lowering the flag or when the flag is passing in a parade or in review, all persons present in uniform should render the military salute. Members of the Armed Forces and veterans who are present but not in uniform may render the military salute. All other persons present should face the flag and stand at attention with their right hand over the heart, or if applicable, remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Citizens of other countries present should stand at attention. All such conduct toward the flag in a moving column should be rendered at the moment the flag passes.

Clear and straightforward – though missed by so many.

Here is a helpful tip: as the flag comes into your periphery, stand and place your right hand over your heart. As the flag leaves your periphery you may lower your hand and take your seat. Be bold and committed in your actions. Lead with confidence.

The customs and courtesies of the Armed Forces are like nothing else in society. When you take time to learn and embrace them, you honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

Entertainingly Yours,

Cassie

Going Once, Going Twice… SOLD!

Have you ever attended an auction? Held that funny paddle in your hand? Fought it out with someone across the room for that fabulous antique dresser and won?

Well I am here to let you in on a little secret. Your closest base has an auction for you to attend, compliments of the U.S. government.

Just when you thought you had memorized all the acronyms out there, allow me to share one more: DRMO.

DRMO is the abbreviation for the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office. I have included the link for the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Services (DRMS), which is a broader scoping explanation of what surplus auctions are all about.

As far as I could find, there are twelve different versions of this description (some use redistribution rather than reutilization, etc.) but what it really comes down to is that bases all around the country must unload their old or unwanted surplus and you, my friend, are the beneficiary.

Simply search the abbreviation DRMO and then your installation name. Information should pop right up.

The auctions are held annually or bi-annually in warehouses, hangars, storage facilities and sometimes in parking lots both on base and off.

There are traditional auctions where one registers and purchases a paddle with a number. There are also first-come, first-served with lines wrapping around the event hours before the doors open!

All auctions have some sort of preview prior to the event. Whether it is a walk-thru the day before, a walk thru the morning of, or a glossary of items being auctioned in an online catalogue on the installation website, you will know what’s being sold so you can formulate your game-plan.

But whatever the case, show up early and have plenty of cash.

My experience with the DRMO auctions are somewhat extensive…my first was a live bid auction. I watched with anxious anticipation as a beautiful cherry desk came across the stage. The auctioneer began to call the cadence that only an auctioneer can and before I knew it I was the proud owner of a solid cherry desk purchased for $45.00!

You must have the ability to pick up your newly acquired goods immediately so I pulled my minivan around to the loading dock for pickup. As I turned the corner I saw six identical cherry desks. How fun I naively thought. I handed the gentleman my receipt and he politely let me know that I better move fast if I wanted to get all six desks out by the end of the day.

Mama say what?

You see friends, I had failed to do the walk-thru and missed that the desks were sold as a pallet of desks, meaning a group. I purchased six gorgeous desks for $45.00! A steal in its own right but what a nightmare getting them home and storing them. I subsequently sold all six and learned a valuable lesson of auction etiquette. Make every effort to research what you are purchasing and by all means do the walk thru.

Over the years I have seen camping equipment, old bowling alley pins, daycare supplies and furniture, old hotdog and cotton candy machines from the recreation checkout and more military equipment than one could imagine.

My favorite however, is when the base needs to unload their old glassware, serving pieces and pub furniture from the different social clubs on base. My biggest score ever was a pallet of 180 wine glasses for $22.00! This particular auction was at Offut Air Force Base in Nebraska and the auction was a walk thru style set up. A huge hangar was filled with old and surplus items that needed to be unloaded in order to make room for the new items. The wine glasses were in piles on the floor. I grabbed as many as I could and made an offer.

The collection has been a wonderful addition to my entertaining cache. I have used them at weddings, Christmas parties, brunches, and large scale neighborhood events. Remember though, we are all on weight limits for our household goods so I encourage you to be very selective about what you bring on board. Check out my post, “So were you overweight when you got here?”  to better understand weight guidelines and consequences.

Do your research and go with a group, make it a unit outing. Be forewarned, auctions can be very addictive so pace yourself.

Have you attended a DRMO auction? Share with us your experiences, your finds and that big score!

Entertainingly yours,

Cassie

The Help

For a military spouse, the luxury of hiring chefs, gardeners, florists and house-cleaners is just that- a luxury. As we progress alongside our active duty member, the opportunities to entertain become more plentiful. We all know the effort it takes to prepare for a BBQ, let alone a unit holiday party for six hundred (you know who you are…). Help is essential – without it the event cannot happen!

I don’t mean the volunteers within the unit either (that’s called servitude – google it, just don’t engage in it). I’m talking about your own personal events. The events we host in an effort to continue our valued traditions of fellowship and camaraderie. Once in a while one of my civilian friends will ask, “Is it really like what we see on TV?” No, not really, but it’s fun to dream…
Some of us love to entertain, while others cringe at the very thought, and that’s okay. If you fall in the latter, you simply must be more creative on how you approach the situation. The people in your unit expect socializing. They look forward to it and it is a letdown when gatherings don’t happen. While entertaining is never mandatory, if you are not up to the challenge then pass the torch to someone else in the unit. It’s how the younger generations learn as well!

While stationed in North Carolina, I saw an amazing thing – within our neighborhood on base, if a wife hosted an event, she would put out an ‘all call’ for side dishes or desserts according to her theme. The spouses that were available provided a dish and the hostess would hopefully return the favor at a later date. The same logic applies with cooking, prep and housecleaning. I had a friend not affiliated with our unit come over and bake off all my appetizers while I welcomed guests at my front door. I returned the kindness later by vacuuming and dusting for her event while she was in the shower. You know what I am talking about – you have probably done it many times over. Most entertaining in the military world is on-the-job training.

I have seen spouses host events and singularly preform all the duties that a full staff would normally be hired to do. This calls for self-sufficiency.  Seek out the local or base garden clubs for lessons, a nursery that offers wreath making classes; or better yet, sign up with some friends and take the Williams-Sonoma culinary demonstrations offered in the actual storefronts! Swap your skill of baking for another’s mad skills at setting up a small scale bar. I am constantly amazed at how many self-starters we have right in base housing! Fabulous bakers, designers and decorators are right at one’s finger-tips. Most of us had a profession before we married and would love to swap (or make a few extra dollars) while keeping our skills sharp.

Now for the transparency part of my post: I use my children whenever possible. They live the life, understand the needs, and get the mission. Draw googly eyes on a sock, place it on your three year old’s hand, and tell them the puppet wants to slide on the floor moldings. Dusting is done. I pay them well in Starbucks, shoes and In-N-Out burgers. It’s a great opportunity for bonding over a shared goal and really a lot of fun. Remember though, you get what you pay for and if a better offer comes along (day trip to the beach), I get ditched and I need to be prepared for that!

The bottom line is, we all have certain things we are willing to pay hard cash for. If catering or housecleaning is on your list, then go for it. Get references from friends and work it out.

I will warn you, sometimes wires get crossed and “the help” shows up late or not at all. If you don’t like them, don’t hire them a second time. If you do like them but they were late, provide them their own personal arrival time (two hours before your guest’s arrival time) and give them many courtesy reminder calls.

You know what you are capable of and what you need assistance with. Go for it!

Entertainingly Yours,

Cassie

 

 

 

I’m with the Band

Whether it is a change of command, retirement ceremony, post and relief or military ball, there is nothing more engaging than live entertainment. Unfortunately, there is nothing more expensive either. Not to worry! With a little thought and some prior planning, your fete will be memorable with the addition of musicians, vocalist or dancers.

The military ensembles that we see playing at almost all ceremonies are steeped in tradition and the customs of our respective branches. Who doesn’t love entering an event hearing the sound of a brass band playing an American tune? Music can be patriotic, moving, motivating and exciting. To sit and enjoy a band of active duty military in uniform can be quite an emotional experience for our civilian guests – just ask them.

If your spouse is in command, he or she may “rate the band” for a command function, meaning they can submit a formal request for music at the official command event. You, as the spouse, have nothing to do with this process. As my husband has been known to say to me, “Don’t make requests of the active duty – they don’t work for you.”

*Record scratch*

Your birthday, baby shower, anniversary and going away are absolutely not events that rate a band request. Surprised? Don’t be.

The installation musicians support many different commands, and your spouse must make the request months in advance. String ensembles, brass quartets, full marching bands and vocalists are some of the possibilities offered.

The beauty of these active duty warrior-musicians is that they show up, ready to perform. No dressing rooms, no glass of green M&Ms – no absurd special requests. They are always excellent and after the ceremony *poof* they are gone! Keep in mind, most (if not all) active duty musicians are not only trained professional military, but also hold undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees in their respective fields of music. They should be treated as the consummate professionals they are. Always offer the band members a full brunch, lunch, or dinner (add them to your RSVP count) as well as water bottles (especially if the event is held outdoors).

Always remember that located just outside the walls of every duty station is the culture that surrounds it. For example, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton sits on what was once a thriving Ranchero. The Rancho Santa Margarita y Las Flores (the original ranch house) is a stunning venue for ceremonies of all types. Why not invite the local Ballet Folklorico to preform? There is nothing more beautiful than the men, women and children of the troop, in full regalia dancing with the Ranchero as their backdrop. You offer them a private monetary donation for their school of dance, agreed upon prior to your event and invite them to stay for lunch or dinner (add them to your RSVP count). You should also give them a professional introduction to your guests. This is an absolute win-win for all involved. As military families, we must be continuously reaching out to our surrounding cities in what is essentially good public relations. Our civilian families in turn, have the opportunity to get to know their local military which they love!

I have seen everything from Miss USO singing the National Anthem at a birthday ball to hearing the haunting sounds of bagpipes magnified in the spaces of a Marine F-18 hangar.

Remember, anything you and your spouse choose to do, is financially your responsibility. If in doubt, always consult the command legal team.

Upon arriving to your new duty station, dig deeply into the surrounding areas. What is it famous for? And what are its specialties? Keep your ear to the ground for any spouses who have musical talents. We have concert pianist, vocalists and professional harpists living right in housing. By hiring “in house” you are supporting fellow military families.

Remember, if we all had unlimited funds, my post would be unnecessary. This is about being financially creative yet still hosting the event of your dreams! Now go get your band!
Entertainingly Yours,

Cassie

So, Were You Overweight When You Got Here?

After a few weeks of unpacking and figuring out our new duty station, my wonderful neighbor invited me over for coffee. I was ecstatic at the chance to actually get dressed, put on makeup, and enjoy some much needed conversation with a fellow Marine wife.

The coffee was delicious, the food delectable, and the conversation great. We talked about our children, the schools, the new job and as the conversation flowed the topic of the move came up. I took a sip of coffee, looked at my new friend and politely asked, “So, were you overweight when you got here?”

Now some of you know where I am going with this and some of you must think my question is off the charts hideous. In military life (I’m talking to you newbies here), we are bound by what I like to call the ‘rules of engagement;’ to include a language all our own that only a military spouse understands. As many of you know, the PCS (Permanent Change of Station) experience is a series of endless rules and regulations that, if not adhered to, can cause you much unneeded stress. As my husband often says, “life is hard and it’s harder if you’re stupid.” Harsh – maybe. True – absolutely.

Back to my friend…

I wish there was a way to blog facial expressions. I sat there waiting for her answer – nothing. “You know,” I emphatically exclaimed, “Were your household goods overweight?” “Oooh,” she replied, “I thought you were talking about me being overweight.” Nice. I was horrified and glad this sweet lady was as nice as she was. Back to the rules of engagement…..

It seemed from the time I walked down the aisle with my man in uniform, we were on an endless quest to accumulate what I simply call stuff. Furniture, dishes, electronics, clothes, books, professional manuals, baby furniture, workout gear and the list goes on. It never occurred to me to be considerate of our weight as a family and a household.

Each active duty member is allotted a certain amount of weight according to his or her personal rank. Exceed the allotted weight amount and you pay the government back. It gets better. An automatic withdrawal from your active duty spouse’s paycheck must be set up and the payments begin until the debt is reconciled. It goes without saying that exceeding your authorized weight can create a financial burden with potential disastrous effects on your livelihood, finances, ability to save and quality of life in general. I have included the move.mil link for weight guidelines.

It is a difficult task to maintain a level of discipline when it comes to accumulating stuff. Especially for you lucky ones that receive orders to Europe or Asia. Who can pass up that fabulous German wardrobe or the beautiful Japanese Tansu? I feel your pain… However, it is the financial kiss of death to convince yourself that you deserve something because, “he/she dragged me here and I deserve it.” As a dear aviator’s wife once asked me, “was he not in uniform when you married him?” Meaning, you probably had an idea of what you were in for.

Older wife lecture over- I digress.

The bottom line is, be in agreement with your spouse as to what you are willing and not willing to take a financial hit on. If you accumulate two households, that is on you just be ready to pay for it because the bill will be paid one way or another.

As PCS season approaches, I start going through the house. Room by room, closet by closet, drawer by drawer. Not. Lying. It is time consuming but well worth it. We have needlessly moved sparkly flip flops from San Diego to sub-zero Omaha. Snow boots from Rhode Island to Pensacola. Be mindful of what is easily replaced and what you can live without. Create three piles: keep, throw away and donate. Your local donation point on base is ready and waiting to accept your donations that will in turn directly benefit our active duty families in need. I am partial and most familiar with the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society.

Possibly one of the best ideas I have ever seen was at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. A group of wives got together and scheduled a neighborhood swap in the park located inside housing. Families came with everything one might imagine. People left behind unwanted items, left with needed items and whatever was left at the end of the day was donated to the relief society on base. Utilize your neighborhood Facebook page to organize a “PCS Season Swap.”

What does this have to do with entertaining you might ask? I have found that dishes, stemware, serving dishes and the like are some of my heaviest items in the pack out. They require more packing, more space and are terribly heavy. Be careful as it adds up! Whatever you decide, have fun with your military experience and don’t overthink it. Just be smart about what you do and keep things simple!
Entertainingly Yours,
Cassie

Let Them Eat Cake

In my heart of hearts, I want to bake. I want to create magical masterpieces that light upon the taste buds. I have watched friends who seemingly create fantastical desserts merely by saying it is so. I grew up with a mother who would make croquembouche for Christmas dessert. I bought Bundt and spring form pans, thinking that by osmosis the ability to use them will come screaming to my frontal lobes. I have taken all the Wilton cake decorating courses. I have studied you tube videos only to produce wilting macaroons and chocolate chip cookies that only the dog would love. Sadly, nothing has taken! I have a few go-to desserts and have actually been known to bring out Haagen-Dazs ice cream bars on a footed silver platter passing them around as if they were Turkish Delight.

Perhaps I am slightly exaggerating my lack of ability when it comes to baking, but I do know my limitations, and that is very important when entertaining. You must constantly self-assess, embracing what you can do and finding alternatives for what you cannot. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you must create every item on your menu personally. A famous chef once said, “your guests won’t like you more because you made all the food.”

But back to me not baking…

When I am planning an event that requires a large amount of cake (staff birthdays, small scale ball, wedding shower, combined unit baby shower, etc.) I head over to my big box store and place an order for a plain white sheet cake. I ask that the standard piping be done but nothing else. Upon receiving the cake, I decorate it with the colors or themes of the event. I often purchase a fresh bouquet of flowers cutting the stems down to a three inch length and simply recreate the bouquet on the cake. Place the stems in the cake the exact way you would arrange flowers in a vase. You can be symmetrical or asymmetrical either centering your bouquet or cornering it. Both will be beautiful. I have placed nonpareils (a decorative confectionery of tiny balls made with sugar and starch that come in many colors) at each peak on the piping, sprinkled the cake with coordinating colored sugars or for children added items that they desire like toys or figures. The fun is in as much or as little as you desire.

A traditional cake ordered form a professional baker is a wonderful thing but can run you upwards of fifty dollars for a nine-inch round layered. That could easily deplete your party budget and if you are in a two-year command, this is yet another item that will begin to add up. The big box store’s cake has excellent flavor, is always fresh and has a standard that is consistent. This is a full sheet cake, double layered, for $18.99! If you are staggering your purchases between pay periods, this cake and cupcakes as well will freeze nicely up to six months! Ready to give it a shot?

Entertainingly Yours,

Cassie