28 February 2013

Sending Mail to an APO

I've recently sent my friends and family our mailing address here and thought it would be useful to post some information about sending things to an APO.  I had to look up most of this information when I got our new address, so I'm sure it's bound to help someone!
Congrats on your PO address!  But wait, I want to mail you guys amazing things from back home.  How do I do that?
It's easy!  If you are mailing an envelope that weighs less than 1lb, is less than 3/4" thick, and only contains paper...you just slap a stamp on that sucker and throw it in the mail.  If you want to mail a package, you'll need to fill out a customs form, and which one depends on how much your package weighs.  If it's under 4lbs, you'll fill out 'CN-22 PS Form 2976', if it's over 4lbs, you'll fill out 'CP-72 PS Form 2976A'.  That one is a bit longer, but not impossible.  You can fill this out either at the post office or online and print it out.  Hopefully your postmaster isn't a grump and is willing to help you.  Oh, and you'll still need a separate address label with the address and the return address. More information (and online forms) can be found at https://www.usps.com/ship/apo-fpo-guidelines.htm

Yay! That doesn't seem too hard. Since you are in another country, how much is it going to cost me to send you amazing things from back home?
You'll love this answer. Because it's an APO address (Army & Air Force Post Office), it's going to cost you the same as sending something to California!!!  When you send something to us, it goes to a military mail center in San Francisco, where the military & state department handle getting it to us.  The "AP" in our address stands for Armed Forces Pacific.  It might be smart to add insurance since it's going to me man-handled so much (usually about 1% of package value).

How long will it take?
Your postmaster probably won't tell you this...because they aren't handling it to it's final destination.  The typical times are as follows:
Parcel Post (Normal Mail = Cheapest) 30-45 days.  It's sent by boat.
Priority 7-12 days, sent by plane.
Express Mail (Um...don't send us express mail, that will cost way tooo much) 2 days.  Sent by an important fast plane.

Are there anythings I CAN'T send you?
Asides from the normal things you can't mail anyway: alcohol, drugs, weapons, paints, matches, etc...you also cannot mail us any type of porn or seminude articles.  Not even as a joke, sorry guys.  I would hope you wouldn't send that stuff anyway, but it really wouldn't be cool at all to send that to another country and to a military base.  And yes, they can check by x-rays and opening the packages if something suspicious is in there.  You also cannot mail money to us. I know, you guys were running to the post office to do that.  Well, I think technically you can, but then you have to declare it and I don't think you want to write on the outside of the package that you have $1,000 cash inside.  So, if you wanted to send us $1,000, you'll just have to wire it.

Do I have to mail you things in a special box?
Nope! Just do what you do when sending things back home.  I would recommend you use those flat rate priority mail boxes, even if half of it is just shoved with packing paper.  If you are sending something with any sort of weight to it, you'll definitely want to use these boxes.  I think they can hold up to 70lbs or something ridiculous like that, not to mention it will only take about a week to reach us, unlike a month or two sending it slow boat.  Because it's traveling around the world, I would definitely take extra time to make sure the box is tightly packed and taped up really well, more so than back home.  These boxes take a lot of abuse, and I've seen tons here that are practically ripped to shreds or looked like it was run over.  The ones that were packed well look like they are brand new.
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26 February 2013


On February 1st, Aaron got one of his favorite birthday presents ever.

I should say that Oklahoma really wasn't horrible.  It wasn't even really bad.  It just wasn't for us.  We stayed busy while we were there and did as much as we could do in the year and a half living there.  We traveled around the middle of the country, we saw lots of flat land and cows, we ate lots of fried onion burgers.  We checked out the sites (yup, there are 'sites' in Oklahoma), learned about the land rush, and realized that Oklahoma isn't as windy as you might have heard.  But it is in the middle of nowhere, and we did our time and were ready to leave.  And trust me, we were ready to leave.

So from the 1st to the 11th, we drove back "home" (the northeast) and spent time with family and friends before we headed to Japan.  There was lots of driving.  Sammy spent lots of time in her kennel in the back.  She had to explore hotel room after hotel room on a regular basis.  I think she should be earning her own hotel and airline points  by now.

Super early in the morning on the 12th, we lugged our bags (you'll see all of them in the next post) to the airport and flew off to Seattle for a day and a half before going to Japan.  I highly recommend taking an extra day before traveling overseas like we did.  It was so relaxing and it was nice to do something just for ourselves.  The past month we had been staying with numerous family members and driving and driving and driving until our arms fell off (no, not really), and it was nice to deplane and sit in a jacuzzi tub for a few hours (literally).   

For those of you who are reading this that are military moving overseas....The military will pay up to $150 for one night stay in a hotel.  They do NOT have to book the room for you.  You can book it yourself anywhere you want.  If they book it, your going to stay at an express hotel across from the airport.  Why not stay at a boutique hotel downtown?  They'll reimburse your taxi to and from the hotel also.

Day 1
My cousin recommended the Alexis Hotel in downtown Seattle, which was AMAZING.  We wanted something within walking distance of restaurants and shops, unique and cat friendly.  The Alexis met our requirements! Oh - and they have a GREAT military rate (your per diem rate).
We were able to get an early check in, which was great since we had the cat.  And that would have been pretty annoying to carry her in the rain everywhere we wanted to go.  The first mission was to find food.  I was starved, and starting to get Hangry, so we headed out to the public market just a few blocks north.  Perfect, because I love farmers markets, I love food, and farmers markets have food.  Bam!
Doing a little chowhounding, we found out about Jack's Fish Spot and the delicious chowder and COD fish and chips.  So that's what we got, and it was delicious!  I also threw in a fish taco which was pretty awesome too.  Just some food that you really can't get in Oklahoma...and if you can get it, you don't want it. It was really tasty and we enjoyed the on-the-go vibe grabbing a stool at the fish counter (watching them scale and filet some).  We loved how normal it was to sit out in the rain in the middle of winter eating some delicious food.
Next up, Beecher's Cheese, where you can watch them make it from the street.  We popped inside where I ate too many cheese curd samples and got stressed out trying to make a decision of which cheese to buy to eat in our room later.  TOO MANY CHOICES!!! And they let us sample as many as we wanted.  Aaron explained that we are probably going to like anything so we shouldn't try anymore, and we opted to blindly choose a soft goat cheese and homemade crackers.
See what I mean? And this was only half the counter.  On the other side, they also had a little deli counter where you could get cheesy sandwiches/paninis made!
With a number of breweries in town, we chose The Pike Brewing Company out of pure convenience.  I got one of their flights and think the Kilt Lifter was my favorite.  Surprise, surprise! HA!
It was a really cute city, and although we only strolled through a couple of the neighborhoods, we really liked the vibe here.  We'll definitely be back.
The flower selection in and out of the market was amazing!
After walking around for a couple of house, we headed back to the hotel for some R&R.  Knowing how much we traveled the past month and the fact that we were moving to the other side of the world in less than 2 days, we didn't want to go crazy.

Dinner was a hard one to narrow down, but I knew that I wanted to check out one of Tom Douglas's places.  I had heard about Tom Douglas a while ago, and it seemed like ever since we knew we were going to Seattle, his name has been popping up everywhere.  Randomly stumbling on blogs about his restaurant  reading a local Oklahoma magazine featuring him, and missing a Tom Douglas cooking demo by just a few hours in Oklahoma.  After surveying up the menu's, we went with Palace Kitchen.

OH! I gotta tell you this part. So prior to dinner we went down to the lobby "wine hour" at our hotel to partake in some complimentary drinks.  On a cold and dreary Seattle evening, we chose hot toddys before we walked on.  We stood in the lobby shooting the shit with the managers (our lobby bartenders) about this being our first time in Seattle, first time at a Kimpton hotel.  Where have we been, where are we going to eat tonight, where we should go for breakfast. We have a cat, we are going to Japan.  Oh! You're moving to Japan!?! Woah! (I know!).  So this cool dude manager Mike says, "I've got a surprise for you!" Um.....Aaron and I just looked at each other...Okay.... He runs up to the front desk and comes back a few minutes later and says, "Well, the executive spa suite isn't available but I've upgraded you guys to another suite for tomorrow night.  You really should stay someplace special for your last night in the states.  Is that okay?"

Is that okay?  Really Mike? Is it okay that after speaking to us for 3 minutes you upgraded us and the cat to a suite?  Um, yeah, I think it will be okay.

Woah.  Right?  That was freaking awesome!!!!  So after many thanks and some more chatting, we left for dinner.  Aaron and I high five as soon as we are out the door.

Okay...so back to Palace Kitchen:
I'm sorry to say I don't have any pictures. The lighting was waaaaay too dark, and I made the decision to forgo fighting with the lighting and just order and enjoy eating my food.  I can tell you what we ordered and that it was all really REALLY good.

We both ordered one of their classic cocktails (Of course, now I can't remember what they were).  For an entree I decided to go with 2 appetizers, which in my experience is usually a wise choice.  This time did not disappoint.  I went with the Puget Sound Black Mussels (with leek, taragon, white wine, and meyer lemon) and the Crispy Fried Pig Tail (celery root, honey mustard, horseradish, chervil).  I really enjoyed this dish.  Mussels are one of my favorite dishes, and I'm not sure if I've ever had Puget Sound mussels before.  These dudes were HUGE! They packed tons of flavor and the leek/taragon/lemon/wine sauce was perfect with them.  The bread they served with the dish was AWESOME, it was charred over an open flame and it was perfect.  I could have just eaten the bread for dinner and would have been happy.  The pork tail was really fun. I had never had it before, and was really happy I ordered it.  Let's see how to describe it.  Each little joint broke apart, so you could get all the meat and fat from between them.  The outside was chewy and crispy...sort of like the tip of a chicken wing, but the meat was tender and fatty.  It was a great combination and fun to eat with your hands (really, the only way to do it).  The horseradish mustard sauce was an awesome addition to it.  Aaron was going back and forth with a few different options here as well, but decided on the meat and sausage plate (actual name unknown by us).  I know he really enjoyed it, but I was so wrapped up into my dish, I don't even remember trying his.  He's asleep right now otherwise I'd ask him to describe it for you.  We were STUFFED, so skipped on dessert and headed back to the hotel.

Day 2
Breakfast.  One of my most favorite things in the world!  Once again, I had done some Yelping and Chowhounding to find something suitable for us.  After grabbing some coffee we walked up to Lower Queen Anne, about a 40 minute trek.  Toulouse Petit was supposed to open at 8am, but had a little trouble getting started, so we strolled through this amazingly cute market just up the street, and then to grab some more coffee next door.  We weren't in a rush, and I was glad Aaron didn't mind waiting, because I really REALLY wanted to eat here.
It was really hard to decide what to get, but eventually we figured it out.  Aaron started with a Creole Bloody Mary, which is always YUM! and I couldn't pass up the Cured Pork Cheeks Confit Hash which had been featured on Food Network's 'Best Thing I Ever Ate'.  Aaron settled for the Oyster and Bacon Benedict.

The verdict?  Bloody Mary - Yum! A great way to start off a great meal.  Enough booze and enough spice to satisfy us!
Pork Cheek Hash? Mega yum.  The veggies included some greens, asparagus, and apple.  Whatever the herbs they used on it were great.  The pork cheek was amazing.  So tender and such a different flavor then other cuts of pork I've had.  And really, 2 sunny side up eggs??? That could make any breakfast dreamy!!!
Although I would definitely recommend the Pork Cheek Hash over and over again. The real winner this day was the Oyster and Bacon Benedict.  A homemade english muffin with wonderfully thick slices of bacon (and very nicely crisped I might add), with HUGE, and I mean HUGE and juicy and tasty and crunchy fried oysters.  They were so huge, I wish I got a picture of one next to my face.  On top of those, 2 perfectly poached eggs and a homemade hollandaise.  No sides forgotten about, these crispy potatoes were some of the best crispy potatoes I've ever had.  I may have snuck one two 30459 off of Aaron's plate when he was too busy savoring the benedict.  It was just an all over perfect combination.  And I want it again!!!!
One thing that is pretty awesome about this place is that they serve breakfast all day, but from 8am-11am  Monday - Friday is breakfast happy hour!  $7.50 drinks and $8 entrees.  There are a few select dishes that aren't $8, but are still heavily discounted.  Mine was $8 (Normally $14) and Aaron's was $11 (Normally $16), and we would have been happy paying the full prices, but it was even better that we didn't!  There are so many yummy things here, that even if you can't get to Seattle for breakfast, I still recommend checking out their menu to drool over.  It was by far the best breakfast we have ever eaten.
I need to stop looking at those pictures because I'm getting SOOO hungry!

How about we talk about music and zombies next? Okay, here we go.

Brendan recommended the EMP Museum to us, and it was only 8 or so blocks away from breakfast.  So after we got there, realized I left my camera at the restaurant, went back to get it, and walked back, we bought our tickets and headed inside.  It's a pretty neat pop culture museum with exhibitions such as Nirvana, Jimi Hendrix, Science Fiction, Horror Films, Guitars, Black Leather Jackets, and The Art of Video Games which was opening a few days later.  It was pretty neat, and they had a hands on room where you could learn to play guitars, drums, keyboards, etc...

After a few house at the EMP, we headed back to the Alexis just in time to switch rooms into our suite.  It was pretty fucking awesome.  Check it out:
You better believe I took advantage of that huge bathtub.  I was so pruney I thought my fingers were going to fall off.  I couldn't help it though, I could practically swim laps in that thing!

It was so nice to have such a big space, since our main goal after walking around all day was to relax.  After all, we had to wake up a 2am the next morning to head off to Japan.  Lounging on the couch(es) in our leopard print robes, we broke into our snacks from the market.  Russian Piroshkies (the smoked salmon pate one was amazing!), Beecher's cheese and crackers, and the rest of our free wine (from the hotel!).
So not only did our manager friend Mike hook us up with the ballin' room, he gave us a call that night to see how we were doing.  "Hey, this is Mike from last night, not sure if you remember."  Really, that's what he said.  And seeing it out of context now sounds like we were up to some pretty shady dealings I wouldn't want to be blogging about.  But I was thinking...Mike!!! Of course we remember, we got this bitching room thanks to you!....I said something sort of similar.  Well, Mike just wanted to make sure our room and service were up to par (I should have requested bubble bath), and he wanted to see when we were leaving the next day because he wanted to have coffee with us and chat.  Just like that.  Maybe we sounded interesting or something.  Maybe it was the whole, getting drunk for free in the lobby and moving to Japan with our cat made us sound really cool or something.  I'll think that for now, it works.  Anyway, Mike wasn't digging the whole wake up at 2am thing, so he hooked us up with some free drink passes for the hotel bar/restaurant.  Sweet!  So to sum it up, our stay in Seattle and at the Alexis was great regardless of our upgrade, but that totally raised our experience up quite a bit.

I'll be blogging about Japan soon, so please stay in tune.  We've been here for about 12 days now, and it's been really interesting!  We've recently moved into a house, trying to get settled and meet new people, so it's been crazy busy...but I'd really like to carve out some me time for blogging and cleaning up the office.

See you soon!

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04 February 2013

MilSpouse First Friday Fill-In (February)

Wifey of Wife of a Sailor came up with this 5 question monthly series to get to know our fellow bloggers better!  Once you post your answers on your own blog, you will submit your link on her site, where all the contributors are listed! Check it, Check it!

Here's my questions and answers for February

1. What’s one thing in the past month you would have changed?  There isn't much that I could have changed, but it would have been nicer to have a smaller gap between finishing up our TDY and starting in Japan.  Let me say this though, I have absolutely no place complaining about Aaron having tons of free time.  We had over a month of just hanging around couch and hotel hopping, which was nice to have a bit of time for relaxing, but it was so much time just WAITING to move to another country.  We are very ready to get started on that part of our lives.  It was nice to find new things to stay busy with and to get to know our family better.
2. What was your favorite thing that happened in January? Spending a relaxing, fattening and drunkening New Years with Aaron, my sister, her boyfriend, and her kitties.
3. What are you looking forward to in February? Moving to Japan, duh!!!!
4. What are your plans for Valentine’s Day? Flying to Japan motherfuckers!!!!
5. What is your best advice for a MilSpouse whose spouse is deployed for Valentine’s Day? I really can't be giving advice to any part of this because Aaron and I don't celebrate Valentine's Day.  Annnnd, he has yet to be deployed.  If I HAD to give advice, I would say start now and admit to yourself that V-Day is just another day on the calendar, cause it is.  And if you can't do that, then buy yourself a container (or two) of Ben & Jerry's (and non of that fat-free shit either), a bottle (or two) of wine, and brag about your night.  Make people jealous you're going to eat and drink and be merry sitting in your underwear on the couch watching lots of reruns of Law and Order or Glee or whatever it is that floats your alone time boat.

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