Tuesday, December 31, 2013

What did I get myself into?

Will has most of this week off so we were planning on a doing a daytrip or two and relaxing at the house. We've never been big on partying into the New Year. Normally we just hang out, watch a movie, and call it and early night.

Yesterday we ran into one of our friends outside the BX and got to talking. None of us had plans and none of us wanted to do anything big. So we decided to do nothing big altogether.

So now I'm cooking up a feast for tonight. Sure, we could have just grilled some burgers and hot dogs...but I feel like making a real meal.

Wish me luck!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas Reactions

Will and I had a great Christmas together. We opened up our presents early (a little after midnight on Christmas Eve) and spent all day and night playing with our presents. Our families got us the perfect presents and we spoiled each other rotten. The best reaction from Will was the blanket my mom made for him. He thought I was teasing him when I said she made it. Then he pretended it was a cape and made super hero poses. Then he brought it downstairs with him to cuddle with while we watched his new Dragon Ball Z dvds. (I've never watched it and it was his favorite show as a kid so he's been really excited about educating me.)

We rounded out our night with dinner with our favorite people stationed here with us. The kind of people we can spend hours talking to and not run out of things to say and the kind of people who you can laugh with all night long. Basically, the kind of people you want to spend holidays with when you can't be at home.

I hope your Christmas was wonderful, and if it wasn't I hope you get your magic soon.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Travel Tuesday: Cimitero Monumentale di Milano

Travel Tuesdays

Welcome to my Travel Tuesdays link up! I love reading about everyone's travel adventures. All I ask is that you link back to the current week's post (this week's link: http://bit.ly/1exdXj2 if you do decide to link up. Either post a link or use the button above. You don't have to post on Tuesdays. That's just when I'll be posting and opening the week's link up.

When I told my husband that the number one thing I wanted to see in Milan was a cemetery, he gave me a weird look. So did the rest of the guys when I told them. Of course they agreed, but they were skeptical...even after I explained how awesome the Monumental Cemetery looked in pictures. I originally saw pictures from Pinterest. It was one of those "Oh that looks cool, but I probably won't remember to actually go there" kind of things. But it stuck with me and I'm glad it did. We spent a couple hours there and we didn't see everything. It's HUGE! Some of the monuments and headstones were over-the-top amazing, some were plain, some were weird. I'm dying to know the stories behind some of them.

Monumental Cemetery
The front of the cemetery
Monumental Cemetery
Inside the building in the picture above
Monumental Cemetery
If you look at this straight on, it only looks like two figures. It was really cool.
Monumental Cemetery
This was a couple stories high and stood out among all the crypts.
Monumental Cemetery
There were a few mourning widows. So sad, but sweet.
Monumental Cemetery
I'm dying to know the story behind this one.
Monumental Cemetery
Gorgeous glass on a funerary shrine
Monumental Cemetery
Another huge monument over a funerary shrine. I looked in and I'm pretty sure this was for only two people.
Monumental Cemetery
Monumental Cemetery
Strange choice
Monumental Cemetery
Monumental Cemetery
I love the pop of color

If you have a couple hours and want to do something laid back in Milan, I highly recommend the cemetery. It sounds weird, but I promise it's beautiful and peaceful. The grounds are very well kept and there's a parking garage nearby if you can't fit into the small lot in front of the entrance. There are guys that will run up and help you find a spot. The man that helped us was really nice and wasn't pushy about a tip. Will gave him one anyway because he saved us a few euro on parking.

Cimitero Monumentale di Milano
Piazzale Cimitero Monumentale
20154 Milano, Italia

Thursday, December 19, 2013

O Christmas Tree

I mentioned that I had put our presents on the desk next to the window overlooking our town's Christmas tree. Here it is! Our surrogate tree with our presents.

Christmas presents

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Travel Tuesdays: Christmas Markets

Travel Tuesdays

I used to link up with a couple bloggers for Travel Tuesdays, but they've seemed to have ended their series. I love reading about everyone's travel adventures and would like to host a link up. All I ask is that you link back to the current week's post if you do decide to link up. Either post a link or use the button above. You don't have to post on Tuesdays. That's just when I'll be posting and opening the week's link up.

Originally Will and I planned to go to Austria over the weekend. But his weird work schedule had us on a weird sleep schedule so it didn't work out. Instead, we checked out two of the Christmas markets in the area. To be honest, I wasn't really up for it. I found out my grandpa passed away and I've been taking it pretty hard. But my husband thought it would be good for me to get out of the house. So we off we went.

The weather was beautiful, but cold. Will works outside so he thought it was mild. I stay inside all day so I thought it was freezing. Po-tay-to, po-tah-to.

Aviano AB and the Italian Alps
Aviano AB in front of the mountains
Our first stop was the Sacile Christmas market. It was kind of a dud. It was small and mostly food stalls, but we weren't in the mood for any of it. There were big umbrellas in front of each stall so the cute decorations were blocked. Boo. We walked around the teeny park next to the market before taking off.

Sacile Christmas Market
That was the start of the line of stalls and the end was at the end of the bridge we were standing on.
I didn't even notice the Ferrari, but Will definitely did.
We debated back and forth whether we should go home or go to Pordenone. We decided, why not? It's not too far out of our way home. It was the usual town market vendors combined with a section of Christmas stalls. It was gorgeous! I found a few things I wanted, but nothing that I had to have.

Pordenone Christmas Market
So pretty!
I tried to snap a picture of the town Christmas tree, but it came out too blurry. Will and I thought it was funny that they had a falling star at the top of the tree instead of a traditional star. To make up for the blurry shot, I took a picture of the tree in our town when we got home. It's right outside our window so I put all our presents on a desk next to the window so it's kind of like having a tree.

Christmas tree

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Review: Dollar Shave Club

Awhile ago I was looking for a subscription box for my husband. I used to get monthly packages from Birchbox  and he was getting jealous that he didn't get something cool in the mail on a regular basis like me. (The only reason I don't have an active subscription anymore is because they sent me so many awesome things that I had to stop so I could get a chance to use everything without wasting anything.) In my searching I found Dollar Shave Club. At first I was going to get it for Will...but I ended up getting it for me instead. I picked the middle range blade and I love it!

I think it looks great and it feels great. I wanted Will to see it for himself before we ordered it for him. He's picky about what he uses. He's a creature of habit so he has a hard time switching products. As soon as he saw my new razor and blades, he tried to steal them for himself. I guess we'll be signing him up too.

Now he won't have an excuse for tickling me with his scruffy chin when he tries to kiss me and I won't have an excuse for prickly legs.

Dollar Shave Club

**I wasn't asked to write this post. I just wanted to share a great product and a great deal with you.**

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Travel Tuesdays: Noventa Di Piave Outlet Mall

Travel Tuesdays

I used to link up with a couple bloggers for Travel Tuesdays, but they've seemed to have ended their series. I love reading about everyone's travel adventures and would like to host a link up. All I ask is that you link back to the current week's post if you do decide to link up. Either post a link or use the button above. You don't have to post on Tuesdays. That's just when I'll be posting and opening the week's link up.

Awhile back Will promised me a shopping trip to the outlet mall near Venice. I knew it was full of super expensive stores so I didn't have my heart set on buying anything in particular. But sometimes a girl just needs to be around or near pretty things, you know? We finally got the chance to make it out there.

Getting there was an ordeal. I found the mall's address on their site and put it into our GPS. The stupid thing directed us to the middle of freaking nowhere. It was a side road with a couple farms. I thought our GPS had screwed us, but we ran into an Italian couple who were also looking for the mall. We used our phones to try to figure out where we were supposed to go and Will found a different address so we headed there....which also ended up being a dead end. We were next to the autostrade (freeway) so I told Will to just follow it back to the on ramp at Noventa Di Piave and we could just go home. I was tired and hungry and pissed. I just wanted to go back to my house and crawl into bed and whine to myself.

Turns out, the mall was right next to the autostrade entrance. WHAT? If we had turned left instead of right we would have easily found it.

Noventa di Piave outlet mall
Noventa di Piave outlet mall
Normally I'd laugh at a sign like this, but most fountains in Italy are drinkable so it's a fair warning.
As I thought, most of the stores were too expensive for our budget. But we did get an amazing early lunch. I got a prosciutto sandwich and a cafĂ©. Will also got a prosciutto sandwich and a mini pizza. Everything was amazing and totally hit the spot. We were a lot happier after that.

Italian lunch
I swear you can't ever go wrong with a prosciutto sandwich
Italian lunch
As always Will doesn't order his own coffee, but will happily drink some of mine.

In the end, we bought an apple corer and a pair of sunglasses for me. Will came so close to buying me a Fendi tote or a Prada purse, but in the end we talked ourselves out of it. As much as I would have loved to carry one of those beauties around, it just wasn't worth it. Plus I couldn't let him spend that much money on just me. If we were going to spend that kind of money, I wanted it to be on something we could both enjoy.

Fossil sunglasses
New Fossil sunglasses!

Friday, December 6, 2013

My doctor laughed at me

I get impatient waiting in the room for the doctor...so I leaned over and took a selfie in the exam room mirror. I'm a dork, I know. After that I played a few rounds of Candy Crush. I'm stuck on Level 350. It's really pissing me off.

So my doctor comes in, asks how I'm doing...the usual. I had seen a different provider last time so I'm guessing he's glancing at her notes. I'm also guessing that he gets to the part that we talked about my husband being deployed and that we were planning to try for a baby when he gets back. He asks if my husband is back. It still makes me happy to say, "YES!" Here's how the rest of the conversation goes:

Dr: "Are you thinking about trying for a baby soon?"
Me: "Soon...but not too soon."
Dr: [confused/curious look] "Why is that?"
Me: "My friend is getting married and I don't want to alter my dress a bunch of times before the wedding."
I should mention: there were two ladies in the room. One was a tech and one was observing/learning. They laughed and nodded their heads in understanding. 
Dr: [clearly amused by my girl-ness] "What is your method of birth control?"
Me: "Um..well..nothing."
Dr: [busts out laughing and shakes his head]
Me: "But it's okay! The dress I have is a little forgiving so I can be a little pregnant."
Dr: [laughs again]

Like I said, I'm ridiculous. I know. But I love my doctor. He always chats with me and has a sense of humor.  He's real, you know what I mean? Some doctors act as sterile as their environment. I think I mentioned before that my sister was one of his techs when we were all stationed at Elmendorf. She also has a lot of really nice things to say about him from a professional point of view.

No hair product. No makeup. Completely 100% natural, very rare for me.

Before I end this post, I have to point out my amazing hair day. I was super lazy and didn't straighten or put any product in my hair in the morning. Normally I have to use some curl goop to keep the frizzies down or I have to straighten my hair. This time I just let it air dry while I played video games. Then I looked in the mirror and my bangs dried perfectly and there was no crazy frizziness. My hair hates me and this never happens. Ever. It's a fluke. It'll never happen again so I had to document it.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

How we can afford to travel

A lot of people comment saying how they love how much we can travel and it surprises a lot of my family and friends that we can afford it since I don't work. So how do we do it?

Priorities and an interest for the off-beat destinations.

· Do we want to buy a couch or do we want to go to Rome? Rome. Duh.

· We never got around to buying a bed frame. Yep, we sleep on a mattress on the ground. We did find a platform bed frame that we love, but it's 500+ euros. We could go to Prague for a weekend for that kind of money.

· A lot of weekends we'll be low on money so we'll pick a town within a couple hours to explore. We overspent on Christmas gifts for each other last week so we'll be doing that this weekend. It's Christmas market season so I'm guessing we'll end up at one in Italy somewhere...or Austria since it's right there.

· Our base sends out a weekly email of local happenings. Sometimes the events are duds. Sometimes they're diamonds in the rough. If we have nothing going on, we'll pick something that sounds interesting and we'll check it out. Because of this, we've been to some under-the-radar towns and festivals. One of my favorites was the medieval festival in Noale. It wasn't particularly exciting, but getting to see all the animals was a highlight for me. And even though it was small, the whole town was involved. Everyone was dressed up in period costumes. No, not armor and intricate dresses. Realistic clothing for townspeople in those times. So fun!

· Sometimes we go weeks without doing anything. If we're seriously trying to save money for a trip or if we just got back from a big trip, we'll go underground for a few weeks. Usually we play video games and watch shows on Netflix.

Xbox 360

So that's how we do it. How do you afford your travels? We'd love to hear how you do it!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Travel Tuesdays: Milan Cathedral

Travel Tuesdays

I used to link up with a couple bloggers for Travel Tuesdays, but they've seemed to have ended their series. I love reading about everyone's travel adventures and would like to host a link up. All I ask is that you link back to the current week's post if you do decide to link up. Either post a link or use the button above. You don't have to post on Tuesdays. That's just when I'll be posting and opening the week's link up.

Will and I finally made it to Milano! While Will was deployed, he made plans with some of his friends to go to a concert. Avenged Sevenfold & Five Finger Death Punch. He loves 5FDP and is always trying to sneak it onto the car playlist. It's not my thing. I don't like to be screamed at. It pisses me off and not in a fun rocker rage-y way. Anyway, eight of us road tripped out to Milan for the concert. The guys even took Friday off so we could make a long weekend out of it.

concert in Milan

Before I show you our sightseeing pictures, I have to gush on our group a little. We rented an apartment for two nights. It was Will, me, four other Airmen, and one of the guy's mom. I had met all of the guys before, but I've never really hung out with any of them. I was pleasantly surprised by how chill they all were. They were all super easy to get along with and I had a blast the whole time. All eight of us took our turns cleaning the kitchen and cooking. No one complained that they were doing all the chores. No one told someone else to do something. When we went out no one broke off to do their own thing, we all hung out together as a group. (Minus the concert, I skipped that.) Everyone got along and there was zero drama. So it was an incredibly fun weekend.

Okay, sightseeing in Milan...

sightseeing in Milan
Heading out from our apartment to go sightseeing

Our apartment was right down the street from a metro station. SCORE! It was on the line that took us directly to the Duomo. DOUBLE SCORE! When we got to the Piazza del Duomo (the Cathedral square), everyone wandered to take pictures. I walked toward the back of the square to get a shot of the church. I thought Chris and Travis were behind me, but they were getting different shots. I also thought Will was behind me. I barely got one shot before a man came up to me motioning to take my camera to take my picture. I was wary because I'm not about to hand my DSLR over to some guy. I turned to find...no one. The man then took my hand, extended my right arm out, and poured a bunch of kernels into my hand. Three pigeons instantly appeared and fought for a spot on my arm while furiously pecking at the food. I do not like birds. I can walk amongst them, but I don't want them touching me.

pigeons in Milan
This is my "I'm smiling to be polite, but I need to get away from these birds" face.

In the chaos of the birds flapping all around me, the man is again trying to take my camera. I'm trying to find my husband to have him ready to chase this guy down if he tries to steal our camera. In the meantime, the guy is pouring more kernels into my hand and there's another flurry of wings and feathers. FINALLY my husband and Chris arrive at my side. Without a word, the man shoves bird food into their hands. Chris immediately hams it up as I take pictures. Will? Well...this happens:

pigeons in Milan

I can't complain, I'm always bugging him to take more pictures so I can see his perspective of our travels. The guy turned out not to be a thief. Chris handed over his camera and got it back safely. The guy did eke 5 euros out of us for the bird food and his picture taking skills. I wasn't going to pay him, but Will couldn't just walk away.

So back to the Duomo...

Milan Duomo
Duomo di Milano
Milan Duomo
Milan Duomo
The largest organ in Italy. I believe it.
Milan Duomo
A former arch bishop of the church
Milan Duomo
San Bartolomeo (Bartholomew the Apostle). There are three different accounts of his death, the most represented version is that he was skinned and beheaded. This is a statue of him wearing his flayed skin as a stole.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Cake in a Jar

Hello Ech & Will readers! I'm Amanda, and I blog over at Overseas Adventures. I currently live in Germany with my husband (a medic in the Army) and two rambunctious dogs (a corgi and a min pin). I blog about daily life (on post/base and out in the city), exploring Germany and elsewhere in Europe, learning German, going to grad school, and some other random things. Occasionally I also share recipes, and today I want to share one with you: Cake in a Jar.

Carrot cakelets
I didn't take pictures when I made the cakes,
but these carrot cakes appear to have been made similarly.
With the holidays approaching, it's tempting to send baked goods to deployed service members, but it's hard to find something that will keep. Years ago, when looking for something I could send a coworker's brother who was deployed in Iraq, I found a perfect solution in baking cake inside a mason jar. It was a hit with my coworker's brother and his buddies, and I hope it will be well received by anyone you may send it to.

 I originally found this recipe in 2007 on Operation Mail From Home’s Troops Wish List. It was posted anonymously and with side comments by the poster, so I’m not sure who came up with the idea to be able to properly credit it beyond where I found it. Because it’s pretty far down the page, and I wanted to be able to change the wording and add the way I did things, I’m going to post an altered version here. If you’d like to see the original post, click the link above and scroll until you see “A really neat way to send a cake and it stays fresh!! They love this!!!!!!!!!”

Cake in a Jar

This recipe uses pint sized jars, but you could use bigger or smaller ones if you wanted to experiment with the cook time.
Get 8 pint size (16.oz) wide-mouth canning jars with lids and rings. I found mine at Walmart, but you can find them elsewhere as well. Boil the jars to sterilize them before beginning.

Pick a cake mix/recipe. You can use any 18.25 oz packaged cake mix, or a cake recipe of your choosing. The one I used was a chocolate Betty Crocker mix. For the holidays, you may want to try red velvet, cinnamon streusel, or gingerbread.

1. Make the cake batter according to the package instructions or recipe.

2. Grease the jar.

3. Before you make all of the jars, you might want to make one to see how far you need to fill the jar. The original recipe said to use 1 cup of batter. The poster said she fills the jar halfway. If I recall correctly, I used a cup each and then tried to evenly distribute the leftover batter among the jars. Make sure you keep the rims of the jars clean.

4. Place the jars on a cookie sheet on the oven rack so they don’t tip over. Bake them for 30-35 minutes at the temperature recommended by your recipe, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Boiling lids and rings

5. While your cakes are baking, boil the jar lids (rings too if you like) in a pot of water.

6. When the cakes are done, take one jar out at a time and cover it with the hot lid. While the original poster didn’t mention it, I recommend using tongs to do this. If a jar is a little overfilled, mash the lid on top and screw the ring down. It will still seal fine. Then screw on the jar ring, tightening it slightly.

7. The lids will seal as they cool and will usually “ping” when they seal. If you don’t hear a “ping” wait until the lid is completely cool and press the top of it. If it doesn’t move at all, it’s sealed.

8. As the cake cools, it will pull away from the jar slightly. That’s okay. It just means that it will slide out of the jar easily.

9. These should last sealed and unrefrigerated for a long time. The ones I made took awhile to get to Iraq and they were still fresh. But if you have leftovers and want to freeze them, you can do so. If you want to make some for home and don't want to use the sealing process on the jars, they can be stored in the fridge and eaten within two weeks.

10. Do not frost the cake in the jar! You can send frosting along on the side. The one I sent melted and the guys used it more as a glaze. Therefore, I recommend putting the frosting jar in a Ziploc bag and picking a flavor like vanilla or caramel that will make a good glaze if it does melt.

The large USPS flat rate box.

11. Make sure you wrap the jars well. Bubble wrap is best, but you can also use newspaper or clothing. I was able to fit several into one of the large USPS flat rate boxes which currently ship for $14.85 to APO/FPO addresses. Make sure you also include plastic forks and a knife for the frosting. If you want, you can send instructions for how to get them out (unseal, tap gently, pour out). They can be eaten directly out of the jar though, which is what the guys who received mine did. My former coworker said that her brother and his buddies really enjoyed them. I hope anyone you might make them for will as well!

Overseas Adventures
Head over and check out Amanda's blog! I've been hanging out on her blog for the past 20 minutes now and I haven't felt the urge to stop yet. I have a soft spot for military spouses/significant others who blog from abroad. I love seeing their take on living in a foreign country and where they travel. I get lots of ideas for future trips for Will and me from fellow milso bloggers living abroad. I also love that they "get it". They're overseas and they're married to a military man. There are some difficulties and feelings that people can't fully understand until they do it. Thanks for guest posting, Amanda!


While writing our Christmas card letter I had an epiphany...our main points were about our travels. The only other significant thing was Will's deployment. It surprised me how much our lives revolve around traveling. Sure, we consciously make it a priority. I guess I just didn't know how high it was until last night. Later in the night I couldn't sleep and my mind kept wandering to traveling.

Where I wanted to go.

Where we've been.

I came to conclusion that I'm completely okay with our lives being consumed by traveling.

We get so much out of it and it's more than just "Hey let's look at these famous buildings and see these famous cities." I make a point to research before and after our trips. I have this thing about learning about what I'm looking at. Please don't mistake me for a scholar. No no, I do a shallow search on Trip Advisor, Wikipedia, and Google for information. I'm not pouring over thick dusty books at the library. Actually, that sounds tempting and I just might do it if something sparks my interest enough. At the very least I want to know the name of the building/sculpture/person/painting/whatever that I'm taking pictures of and looking at. It gives me a strange sense of satisfaction to be able to caption my pictures with official names.

Ponte Vecchio
I could never caption this with "a bridge in Florence"
I have to name it: Ponte Vecchio.

I also think that it's important to take advantage of opportunities wherever I am. I'm not sure where I got this desire because it's not something that I've always felt. Maybe the fact that I've been a nomad my entire adult life has instilled an urgency to appreciate where I'm at while I have it. I know I didn't experience enough of Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, or Alaska when I lived there. Now I'm regretting it. But I've been fixing the Oregon, Washington, and Hawaii problems whenever I visit my families.

Crater Lake
Crater Lake, Oregon

I hope that we're not coming off as "tourists" all the time. We do act the tourist sometimes. But we try to be "travelers". We try to see the offbeat as well as the popular. We try to truly appreciate the places we visit. We try avoid the mindset of "take a picture just to prove we've been here". We try.