Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Thoughts On Starting A Blog

I used to have a blog. It was all about fashion, but I rarely could find the time to take outfit photos. It was a pretty active blog. I posted 3-5 times a week, but I was single and living in Washington, DC. Then I met my husband and I got busy and I shifted my free time from blogging to spending time with him. That's kind of an excuse though. Mostly, I'd just run out of things to say. Blogging wasn't as fun anymore.

I used to love fashion - I even got my degree in it! I still work in fashion now, but it's not as important to me as it used to be. That's partly because I work from home and so, if I'm being brutally honest, sometimes most of the time I wouldn't even put a bra on except that we have dogs that need to be walked and I don't like flopping around! But seriously, blogging about fashion just got to be exhausting and I felt fake. I felt like I had to throw on 17 bracelets, call it an arm party, hashtag my OOTD (outfit of the day) and always have my favorite sunnies and lippie (and I HATE those words) on point. There was a time when I was all about that...or at least, more about that. These days my fashion sense is a lot more simplified. I'm trying to scale down my closet a lot right now - both for the move and just because I want to. I've even been toying with the idea of some kind of year round capsule wardrobe*, but that's a whole other post.

Blogging is hard, but I've been saying for months that I wanted to start it up again. With the move to Germany on the distant horizon, I knew I'd have lots to talk about and share - especially travel posts once we get there! This blog will be sort of anything goes (at least for now). It's a place for me to share the things that I love and enjoy doing - cooking, sewing, music, reading, fashion, traveling. If I can help another person with some of my PCS prep posts then that's great too! So thanks for joining me!

*Side note: I pretty much love every single thing in her closet and if I could just buy it off her in my size my life would be a lot easier. That is my style in a nutshell.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Getting Organized for Your Move

I mentioned before about my Google Sheets document where I'm keeping track of all things PCS/move related. I LOVE making lists mostly just because I love crossing things off. It makes me feel good to see what I've accomplished. So naturally I knew I needed a list (and we're talking a BIG list) for this move.

I have a notebook that I carry around with me for jotting things down. I'll also leave myself notes on my iPhone's notepad, but I knew for this that I'd need something more substantial. I use Google Sheets for work so I was already familiar with it's capabilities and how to use it. The best part about it is that it's SO easy to access. I already have the Sheets app on my iPhone and iPad for work - so I can always access it on the go. When I'm at my computer it's easy to pull up because it just opens up in your browser.

I have five tabs on my list. I'll run through a bit of what I've got on each tab, but they are: To Do, To Store, To Sell, To Buy and Unaccompanied Baggage. You may have more to add and I may need to add more as our move approaches, but for now this is a good starting point.

1. To Do

This is pretty straight forward. This is just my mega, huge, ultimate to do list. I've got everything from getting a new passport (mine recently expired, whoops!), to cleaning out my storage closet and micro chipping our dogs (more on that soon). Right now it's mostly big open ended things, but as the move gets closer I know I'll be adding a lot more specific things to this tab.

2. To Store

So while you're living overseas with the military they will store items for you that you choose to leave behind for whatever reason. For us, the main things we have on the list to store right now are expensive, electric items. This includes our KitchenAid stand mixer, blender and food processor and our Dyson. Why aren't we taking them? Well, we know that we definitely want to live off base and since the electricity is different in Germany any American items will at LEAST need an adapter for the plugs. This is if they're dual voltage. If they're NOT dual voltage, like the items I mentioned, then they will need to be on a transformer to run. Transformers are big, bulky, expensive and they suck down electricity. On top of that, items with motors that are run on transformers will PROBABLY work just fine in Germany, but the motor may burn out or they may not work when you come back to States. I've taken really good care of these items and know that they'll last for a long time so they'll be staying here for the three years that we're in Germany. We will also probably store some books, some of our art and things like my grandparents silver. Lack of storage is one of the biggest complaints I hear from people and we don't want to risk losing any of our valuables during the move.

3. To Sell

Following up with the electricity issue that I mentioned, we'll be selling off a lot of our smaller, inexpensive kitchen appliances like our coffee pot and toaster oven. We're on the fence about our TV's - we will likely sell off our older one and may store our newer one. We'll see! We plan on having at least one yard sale before we go to get rid of other things like our beach stuff and whatever else. Other things we'll be getting rid of: my flat iron, my blow dryer (again with the electricity issue) and whatever Yankee Candles/Scentsy bricks we don't use up between now and then.

4. To Buy

Again, somewhat straight forward, but also a little more complex than you might think. I've got some clothing items on there that I know I'll need - like a raincoat and boots. Then there are items that will need to be replaced like my flat iron, blow dryer and kitchen stuff. Some of this we'll get when we get there and some things like the flat iron I might buy here, but I'll make sure it's dual voltage so that I only need an adapter for the plug. Next are items that will be hard to get in Germany that we'll need or may need to replace in the next 3 years. Lots of things will be available for purchase at the BX or at German stores. However...say you need a new mattress or sheets. First, German bed sizes are different than the ones in the US. So right away you're only able to purchase things that are available at the BX or that can be shipped to you at your APO. For something like a mattress your only option will be the BX and those options may be limited in choices and in stock. We'll be replacing our couch before we go. Lots of people suggest bringing area rugs because many homes don't have carpet in them. If there are a particular brand of jeans that you like, you may want to buy an extra pair or two to take with you. I know my husband will be getting some cold weather uniform gear before we leave since we've heard that it can take a while for stock levels to be replenished in the BX. This will all come down to your personal needs/wants. Do your research! Check those Facebook groups and add things to your own list!

5. Unaccompanied Baggage

Right now this is my smallest list. When you move overseas your belongings will be moved in two different waves. Your household goods will be MOST of your stuff. This will travel on a boat and you can expect it to take 2-3 months. Then you'll also have your unaccompanied baggage. This shipment will travel by air to your new base and should only take a few weeks at most. Your HHG allowance may easily be 8,000-15,000 pounds, but your UB may only be 1,000 pounds. Seems like the biggest regret I've heard is not utilizing all of the allotted weight! There are tons of lists of what to include in this (check these out: one, two, three), but the idea is that you'll want things to set up your new place. Things you'll use immediately like some dishes and pots and pans to set up your kitchen. Maybe the rest of your clothes that couldn't fit in your suitcases. It could include bikes or children's toys. Many people will ship air mattresses too. Unfortunately you CAN'T ship large furniture or TV's, so there are some regulations. I added this tab for me so that when I see people talking about "oh I wish I'd added this to my UB", I can add it to my list. Hopefully by the time we're ready to sort things out with the movers I should have a pretty good idea.

Will you be starting a list? If you've been overseas, what are some things you could have done to better prepare in advance?

Friday, June 26, 2015

More things you can do to get ready for your PCS!

Yesterday I touched on some things that I think will help prepare you for your move overseas. Today we'll run through some of the more fun and exciting things you can do to help get ready to PCS.

1. Learn the language.

Sure, lots of people in Europe (especially in the major cities) speak English. It's not a necessity to learn to speak the local language, but it'll help. Especially if you've got time to kill before you move. I personally think it's respectful to at least attempt a small vocabulary - no one is expecting you to be fluent! We purchased Rosetta Stone, but you may want to check your local library or even see if there's a resource on your current base for this.

2. Shop for things that you CAN use in your new home.

I mentioned yesterday to stop shopping for things you can't take or won't be able to use...but we all know you're still going to shop, so just think about what you might need over there. Coming from Florida I have very little in the way of warm clothes or closed toe shoes. So I've started thinking about those items. Yes, I can get them in Germany and yes, I will definitely shop more when I'm over there, but on a more practical note I know we'll be spending a lot of money when we first arrive so I want to be somewhat prepared for chilly temperatures. We also know that our couch will probably need to be replaced before we get back to the States, so we're planning on getting a new one soon. You may have to just be a little more practically minded than normal!

3. Start daydreaming about all of the traveling you can do!

Have you always wanted to go to Paris? Well, it's only going to be a couple of hours away. Europe is tiny. Germany is only about half the size of Texas. Plus with a great train system and inexpensive airlines like Ryan Air you don't have any excuses for not getting out and exploring. Find some great blogs like We Took The Road Less Traveled and World Traveling Military Family and read through them. Casey, from We Took The Road Less Traveled, is now back in the States and working as a travel agent so she could even help you plan that dream vacation while you're living abroad!

4. Make a bucket list for your current base.

Make the most of the last little bit of time at your current base. I know that the hardest thing about leaving Florida will be leaving our friends make the last few months or weeks really count! It doesn't all have to be about spending money. Maybe it's a simple as finally taking that bike ride you've been talking about for ages or visiting a new brewery together. The point is, enjoy yourself and create some memories!

If you're moving overseas, where are you most excited to visit?

Thursday, June 25, 2015

You're moving overseas, now what?

As I mentioned yesterday, my husband and I will be moving to Germany in the spring of 2016. Obviously we were given a lot of advance notice! Some people aren't so lucky and only end up with 3-4 months notice and have to really hustle to get everything finished. As of right now, we're in the opposite boat so to speak. As far as official "stuff" there's absolutely nothing we can do. So we will wait it out for now!

That being said, there's a whole lot of unofficial stuff that you can start doing to get ready for your move. (While we are going to Germany, a lot of this could probably be applied to any PCS overseas!) I'll touch on some of the more "boring" stuff today and then tomorrow we'll get into some of the fun stuff!

1. Start researching everything!

The internet is FULL of information about moving overseas! There are blogs from people who have lived or are living over there and there are articles from every source imaginable. And let's not forget about Facebook! One of the very first things I did when we found out our new duty station was to join all of the Facebook groups. I'm more of a lurker right now, but I've gotten answers to questions that I didn't even think to ask just by scanning through every now and again.

2. Write things down!

It's been helpful for me to start jotting everything down as it comes to mind. Questions, things I need to do, things I've read, whatever. Figure out what works for you, but seriously, write it down and get a system for it now. You'll thank me later! I have a little notebook that's always in my purse and I will jot notes down on there, but the big thing is that I made a Google Sheet (so an online Excel document) for our move. I have five tabs on it: To Do, To Buy, To Sell, To Store and Unaccompanied Baggage. If you're not familiar with Google Sheets it's just an online version of an Excel spreadsheet. The best part is that as long as you're signing into your Gmail account you can access it! I even have it linked on my iPhone and iPad so that if something strikes me I can write it down. I'll do a simple post soon about what each tab means and what kinds of things you may want to add to your lists.

3. Start saving money NOW!

Brace yourself for this. I've heard that it's not uncommon for people to spend $8,000-$10,000 on a move to Germany. So I cannot stress this enough: start saving your money NOW. Now, let's break that down a little bit. You will get a Dislocation Allowance (DLA) from the military (figure out exactly how much here). So that will knock some off right away. BUT, the military will only pay for us to move ONE vehicle if you need or want a second car you'll have to spend some money. There are lots of used vehicles being sold all the time - Bookoo (kind of like Craigslist) is an awesome resource for this so that's one option and obviously you could spend or as much or as little as you want. The other option would be to pay to ship a second car over, but this could easily cost you up to $2,000. Then let's talk deposits. If you want to live off base, it's not uncommon for you to have to pay a deposit of 2-3 months rent. So if your rent is $1,500 you could easily pay $3,000 or more. Hopefully you'll get that back, but it won't happen until you leave! (Note: There is apparently a way to get a loan/advance from the military to help cover this, but it has to be paid back before you leave Germany so you can't count on getting your deposit back from your landlord to pay back the loan.) What if you have pets? Hopefully you'll be lucky enough to find space for them on the rotator, but if you're flying at the peak of PCS season it may not be available. Which means you'll be flying them commercial. The rates for this can vary immensely. If they fly in cargo while you're on the plane it's cheaper, but could still be a few hundred dollars. If they fly alone it could bump up to $1,000 per pet. This doesn't even touch on the cost of new furniture you might need when you arrive or electric items that have to be replaced because they won't work in your new country. Bottom line, put money away for this move! Are there ways you can earn a little extra money before you leave? I work full time, but I've also taken on some babysitting jobs and am helping out a friend with her Etsy shop. My schedule is a little more flexible since we don't have any children yet, but think of ways to earn a little extra to save or maybe just pay down a bill so that it's one less thing to worry about when you move.

4. Stop buying things that you can't or won't use at your new duty station!

My husband has been dying to get a new TV and I probably would have caved this summer, but with these orders we will be holding off on that. Plugs are different, the voltage is different. Sure, you can run items on a transformer, but they're big and bulky and they just suck up energy. Be mindful of things that can't be packed: liquids, cleaning supplies, nail polish, perfume house plants, candles, Scentsy, etc. Use up what you've got or else you'll be throwing it out or giving it away. You bring some of these items in your checked baggage, but my guess is that you won't want an entire suitcase dedicated to your Yankee Candle collection. Think about how the weather may be different and stop shopping for things you can't wear over there. We are in Florida now and we have 4 months of Hot and 8 months of Hotter. I have accumulated a lot of flip flops, swimsuits and sundresses. Sure, I can use some of this over there, but I'm more likely going to want a new pair five new pairs of boots and some cute winter accessories.

5. Get your passport!

You will have to get a no-fee passport through the military. This is the passport that gives you the ability to live in Germany (or wherever you're going), but if you want to travel then you'll need a regular passport too. This can take 8-10 weeks, so it's best to go ahead and get this out of the way!

Obviously this is just a rough start to get you moving in the right direction. Check back tomorrow for more ways to prepare for your move!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

So we’re moving to Germany…

Yep, you read that right. Germany here we come!

Fortunately (or unfortunately – depending on how you see it) we’ve got about 8 months before we have to be there. Which means, we’ve kind of got more like 7 months to get everything in gear for the big move.

My husband is in the military and we’ve been living in Florida for the last two and a half years. We knew his time here would be coming to an end soon and that he’d be getting his orders at some point. There was a lot of speculating about where we’d be going next, but at the end of the day it was all just speculation.

About a month ago we finally got the official word and we were pretty much shocked. Happy shocked, excited shocked, but shocked. Germany was the place we wanted to go, but never thought we’d actually get the chance.

So I’ll let that sink in because it took us sometime to process it. Tomorrow I’ll share some of the ways I’m preparing, getting organized and generally obsessing over our new home country.