Thursday, November 27, 2014

Don't Forget Those Who Serve

Thanksgiving wouldn't be complete without thinking back on the many holidays we missed during my husbands combat deployments. The thought that comes to mind: don't forget those who serve and their families during the holidays. I know what its like this time of year to have my husband deployed. He was deployed 4 times during the holidays. For me, these were the hardest moments during those year long deployments.
Thinking back on all the memories we missed and how many Thanksgiving's I spent getting together for potlucks with fellow spouses who weren't going home for Thanksgiving, it makes me sad and thankful. I remember being with my son watching other families play together, with just a pull of sadness in my heart, wishing my husband was there. I remember too many Skype and telephone conversations with Thanksgiving wishes with a sad undertone. I remember feeling so desperately alone even though I had my son and my friends to lean on. I remember putting on my happy face counting down the days until the holidays passed and I would be "over" that. I remember asking Mav how the Thanksgiving meal was in some far off country. His reply, "It's alright. Your pie is better."
All of these thoughts and memories bring me back to a place. A dark place where too many tears were shed, too many memories lost forever. But it's also a thankful place. I am thankful for my husband, my hero, who gave so selflessly without one complaint. I am thankful to all those men and women, who are, right now, at this moment, away from their families, half enjoying their Thanksgiving meal courtesy of the United States military. Half enjoying because their other half is half a world away. I am thankful that these soldiers give so freely of themselves so my family can enjoy this day, together, finally. I am thankful for my friends whose husbands are home this year.
I am sad for all my friends whose husbands are deployed right now. I know the desperation in their Facebook plea's. I am sad for all our friends who are missing their family today. Everyone in an Army family sacrifices. Sacrifices memories, happiness, time.
Please don't forget those who serve, as you are serving your Thanksgiving meal today. Say a prayer of thanks for them and their families.

With Thanks,
~Mav and B

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Healthy Pumpkin Spice Syrup

You know the holidays are in full swing when everyone's gotten over their Pumpkin Spice obsession because Starbucks breaks out their Red-Cup-Christmas-World with Peppermint Mochas and white chocolate everything. Let's back it up a bit and prepare a healthy version of a Pumpkin Spice Latte. After all, Thanksgiving is still a week away. Many are going to have full houses Thursday and what better way to treat your guests than with a homemade, healthy pumpkin spice syrup to go with the coffee and desserts portion of the day. It's my favorite time of the day! Or bring this to wherever you are headed for Turkey Day. This syrup lasts for about a week in the fridge. I hope you enjoy this as much as I do!

Healthy Pumpkin Spice Latte Coffee Syrup Using Stevia~Army Aviators Wife
Healthy Pumpkin Spice Latte Coffee Syrup Using Stevia

Sugar Free Pumpkin Spice Coffee Syrup

1 Cup of Water
2 TBSP Stevia (I used 3 1/4 packets)
2 TBSP Pumpkin Puree (I used Libbys canned but you can use fresh if you are so inclined)
1 TSP Pumpkin Spice
1 TSP Cinnamon (or if you have time a cinnamon stick)

Add water and stevia to a saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir until all stevia is dissolved. Add pumpkin and spice (if you use a cinnamon stick I would recommend simmering on low for at least 45 minutes). Even if you use ground cinnamon let it simmer for about 5 minutes so all the spices have a chance to marinate. Once it is cooled, use a rubberband to attach cheesecloth to a regular Pyrex 2 cup glass measuring cup. Then gradually let add the syrup through.

Healthy Pumpkin Spice Latte Syrup~Army Aviator Wife
Finished Healthy Pumpkin Spice Syrup
I decided to attempt my own version of the syrup to save myself time, money and inches to my waistline. Most zero calorie sweetener's are not only a detriment to a metabolism, but your health. Using alternative sweeteners from all natural sources like honey, stevia and agave syrup, is not only healthier but will make your body happier. I do occasionally use white and brown sugar simply because some recipes the alternatives just don't translate well.

I love to use this syrup in my morning cup of coffee. It is delicious without all the guilt! I am so thankful for that!

Happy Thanksgiving All,
"Gratitude is the sign of noble souls." Aesop

Friday, November 7, 2014

Holiday Gift Ideas 2014

Christmas is coming! Christmas is coming! This is my favorite time of year. Not just for the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte or Peppermint Mocha but because I love the music in the air, the reindeer flying across the ceiling of Target, the twinkling lights, everything decked out for the holidays and EVERY store is having a sale!! Bonus!

With all the Christmas talk in the last week since the end of Halloween, it's got me contemplating (fretting, really) my Christmas budget. I'm usually on top of things by now and have usually completed most of my Christmas shopping! I'm so behind and, as any perfectionist knows, I'm now very stressed. Since the budget at this time of year allows for Christmas gifts only, I'll post more outfits, just not of things I've bought lately! Stay tuned, though, for gift ideas, recipes, entertaining tidbits AND a few outfits sprinkled in.

Now on to the least favorite conversation, budget. Budgets are the bane of many peoples existence, except mine. I love, love, love budgets. Mainly because I'm a financial management kinda gal. I love numbers lining up just right. I love having my savings in line, my IRA's in check and a diversified portfolio, all difficult to do with one paycheck, but we manage. I love the challenge of it all. Christmas is no different and probably more important because nobody wants to start the new year with more debt.

For anyone whose husband is in the military and you've either had a hard time keeping your pay consistent through duty stations or have decided to stay home with the kids, you know that we're all budgeting to some extent. My typical Christmas budget is $1000.00 give or take a very little bit. That is every, single, gift, extended family included. Start saving $100 a month, $50 every two weeks (seriously people spend that in Starbucks) in January and you will have $1000.00 by October. This budget hasn't changed since Baby Girl was born three years ago. It's extending my creativity to stay within that budget so I've become quite the crafty connoisseur of all things thrifty gifty. Not that I want to be cheap in my gift giving and I especially don't want my gifts to look cheap. I do think, though, that by spending some thoughtful time not only coming up with a neat handmade gift but presenting it beautifully with a handwritten note, makes every gift special. It doesn't matter if I choose to make a gift or purchase one, it has to mean something special. Isn't that what a gift is supposed to represent?

Now for the nitty gritty. Here are some great gift ideas and sales, sales, sales!!!

Target: Cartwheel App

Every day for the next 50 or so they are doing a toy for 50% off. It uses a unique barcode that's scanned at checkout. Yes, you actually have to go to the store to use the carthwheel app discounts and its a daily dealie type of thing. I'm probably slow on the uptake with this app but it's my new obsession every morning.

Or you can shop in the convenience of your own pajamas at They are offering free shipping with no minimum order!!! Nothing is better than a deal and FREE SHIPPING!

Check out their HOTTEST TOY LIST FOR 2014! The best thing: it's by age range! These are a few of the items Santa will be dropping under the tree this year (and, no, neither one of my children have access to the internet, so no spoilers here):

Nickelodeon, Paw Patrol - Lookout PlaysetPaw Patrol: $29.99

Baby girl asked for this specifically! She loves Paw Patrol!

Razor Ripstik Mini - RedRazor RipStick: $49.99 

It's very important for my children to receive a gift that motivates them to get moving!

For the amazing woman in your life:

By now you know I'm a fitness fanatic. Over the last few weeks, I've taken up running again because I'm so bored with my elliptical machine. But when I went to dust off my GPS run watch, it crapped out on me and as any serious fitness buff knows, this sucks (it was getting cumbersome anyway and was over 7 years old, but still). I may keep it for sentimental value. After all, it has run over 15 races including a half marathon with me. With that in mind, here is my new baby I'm wishing Santa will so sweetly place, beautifully wrapped, under the tree for me (not so subtle hint, Mav) in green, please:

The Garmin 10 GPS RunWatch: $129.00

It has all I need. Although this version does not come with a heart rate monitor which is the first thing I've advised all my clients to purchase if they are serious about becoming fit, it does everything else. After ten years of wearing a heart rate monitor, I'm adept at guessing my heart rate. For running though, pace is most important to me, therefore this watch is all I need.

Other great ideas for the lovely woman/mother in your life:

Your Local Day Spa Gift Certificate: She can pick out the services she likes.

Amazon Gift Certificate: For the avid reader or really anyone

Nordstrom Gift Certificate: For the serious fashionista!

Handmade Jewelry on Etsy: For the sentimental girl. The are many lovely designers on this site.

Housecleaning Gift Certificate: Seriously, though. This is every working mothers dream.

Now for the awesome dude/hubby in your life.

Aaaah, what to get the man that has everything or nothing really. If the man in your life is anything like mine, he just isn't a "things" kinda guy. He doesn't hunt, he rarely fishes, doesn't love cars or tools, plays golf whenever I force him to, enjoys running and being a smarta$$. He's a vanilla kinda guy. By the way, this is a compliment because I love that he's so vanilla because I'm so not. I'm more of a rocky road with rainbow sprinkles, hot fudge, caramel, whipped cream and a cherry kind of girl, so I need all the vanilla life can bring. Hmmm?? What to get the vanilla man in your life?

A GPS run watch. Nah, I really have no idea what I'm going to get him but here are some great ideas of things I've got on my short list. Plus, I can't actually put his gift on here because not only does he read some of these posts, he's also like a kid in that he tries to guess what I get him (and sometimes I think he secretly unwraps his gifts before Christmas Day. Naughty, hubby.)

For the fitness fanatic: GPS Run Watch W/Heart Rate Monitor

garmin forerunner watch with heart rate monitor

For the Sports Fan/Golfer: Red Envelope Personalize Golf Towel among many other cool gifts

personalized golf towel

For the gamer:

For the beer enthusiast: Red Envelope Personalized Beer Glasses. I love this website for unique gifts for the hard to buy for guy in your life. Plus they are doing 15% off your first purchase!

personalized state pub glasses

I really love the Red Envelope website as you can tell and this is not sponsored by them. I could shop on there all day. But alas, the Christmas sales are calling and I've gotta run!

Wow, so many great ideas! More to come. Next on my list: thrifty gifts in a jar. I've found some awesome teacher gift ideas! Keep checking back! Have a great weekend!

My final words:

There are so many reasons I love Christmas. If I had to pick just one, besides the biggest reason, the day we celebrate the birth of the best gift the world received, Jesus Christ, it would be seeing the joy on peoples faces when they receive a gift. To me, there is no better gift, no better feeling in all the world than that. It's not just the priceless looks of my children as they run to the tree to see what "Santa" brought, for I know, we only have a few more years of that, or the twinkle in their eyes from the lights on the tree, its that feeling I get deep in my soul that brings a tear to my eye. Tears of joy knowing the real gift of the season is not anything tangible held in your hand, but overwhelmingly felt in your heart.