For Our Deploying and Deployed Troops

A military spouse from Hawaii did this video. Part of the proceeds go to Fisher House, a foundation that assists military service people and their families. Download this song on iTunes if you want to support her. It is an amazing video done with real soldiers and sailors.


What is a Pet Passport? Why do I need one?

Photo by acadmeic

Official passports, tourist passports, visas, movers, car shipping…all big headaches. Just when you think you have it all done, you find one more detail you can’t ignore. You can’t ignore it if you have a pet, that is. You need to apply for a pet passport if you have a fur baby that is part of your family.

So, what is a pet passport?

A pet passport is simply an official record of your pet’s health and immunization records.  It puts all required information in one simple document. After the veterinarian completes the forms, they go to the state agency, which verifies and authenticates the information. Your vet will get the paperwork back an pass it back to you. This paperwork is what you will carry with you when travel.

Why does my cat/dog need a pet passport?

The European Union is in the process of instituting the “Pet Travel Scheme” which is a system which will allow animals to move from country to country will less hassle and red tape. In order to make it easier for country officials to determine that your pet meets the requirements to enter a country, countries began to utilize the pet passport.

In order to enter the EU, your pet will need to meet requirements. The basic requirements include a rabies vaccination less than ten days before entering the country and a microchip which is the European standard rather than the American standard.

Where do I get a pet passport?

Go to your veterinarian to get a pet passport. Vets on military bases may be more familiar with the different country requirements and how to complete the paperwork than local veterinarians who have little experience with importing or exporting animals.

How much does it cost to get a pet passport?

A pet passport will cost you what your vet charges you for the services and the state will charge you for completing the paperwork. (Some vets may charge to fill out the paperwork and notarization.)  If you go online and do a search for “pet passport” you will find companies who would like you to buy their version of a pet passport and add-on the cost of a leather carrying case or some other accessory. These are not necessary. Your vet will still have to fill  out the forms and make sure your pet’s health information is correct on the forms. Save your money and let your veterinarian download the forms from the USDA website!

One more thing to remember…

Make sure your veterinarian is using the most up-to-date regulations when filling out paperwork. Currently, Italy requires people to use a pet-shipping company to bring animals into the country. I know they seem to allow military families to bring their pets into the country if they come on the same flight, but if you wait and have your pet join you later, you will have to pay one of these pet-shipping companies.


Cell Phones in Italy

Will my cell phone work in Italy?

This is a question I have received numerous times from people preparing to PCS to Caserma Ederle.

The answer is… it depends.

What kind of cell phone do you have? In the United States, most cell phones work on a different frequency than in Europe. If you have a typical American cell phone, it likely will not work in Italy. However, certain phones will work in Italy, but you will have to change the SIM card.

A Short Lesson on Cell Phone Frequency

In the United States, cell phones operate on a variety of frequencies determined by the cell phone carrier. These frequencies are all over the place, which is why you can not use any phone for any carrier. In Europe and Asia, the cell phones use GSM (Global System for Mobile communication). This means that the frequency of cell phones are much more consistent.  In Europe, cell phones typically operate on the 900-1800 band.

How do I know if MY cell phone will work?

If you have a dual or quad band cell phone, your phone will work in Italy. You will have to purchase a SIM card, which is pretty easy to do. Typically, AT&T and T-Mobile phones will work in Italy.  If you have a Verizon or Sprint phone, you are likely out of luck. Check your manual or bother ask the local customer service rep from your cellular phone carrier to find out if your phone is dual or quad band. Your phone must be unlocked to use it in Europe. Usually your carrier will help you unlock it if they know you are heading overseas. There are websites that can give you the information if your cell phone carrier is less than helpful.

Can I use my current cell carrier?

Some cell phone carriers in the United States do have international plans. I found these plans  excessively expensive and most had features I did not want. It may work for your family, though. Make sure you check it out.

Where can I get a cell phone once I am in Italy?

Go to the PX and visit the phone center there. Some of the staff speak better English than others, but overall they will understand what you need. I chose a very basic plan, because I don’t have a smart phone. I am happy with my WIND basic pay-as-I-go package for my cell phone, but other packages and carriers are available if you choose them.

Italian Cell Phone Carriers

As in the United States, you can choose from a variety of cell phone companies. The three big carriers are WIND, TIM and Vodaphone. The phone center at the PX can help you with any of these carriers. I have been told that Vodaphone does have English-speaking customer service reps, in case this is important to you.

No matter which phone or carrier you select, cell phone service in Italy is good. I have never had a problem with my phone. Once  you arrive, get a phone as soon as possible. It will make coordinating your housing search much easier!


Blogathon 2011 Insights

This blog entry is the last of Blogathon 2011.  Blogging for 31 days straight was not as easy as I thought it would be, but it wasn’t terrible either. It gave me many insights into what goes into building a successful blog. I know I have a lot to learn, but I have more knowledge than I thought I did.

Blogging is not as easy as it looks. To produce worthwhile content requires some planning. I am not always the best at planning. Many of my fellow blogathoners have editorial calendars or theme days or weeks. Not me, I am more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of participant. It is hard work to make and stick with a plan. I need to get serious about organizing.

SEO is important, but well written content is more important. If a blogger writes great content, then the SEO element is probably already there. Focus on quality more than search engines.

WordPress can do way more than I know. If I really want to make my blog look professional, I will have to either fork out some money to have someone help me out  or learn a bunch more about WordPress. Having said that, I would really love to learn more.

HTML is a foreign languages in which I should be more conversant. Even though I have some really basic tags, I would love to be able to use more HTML. Another item on the list of things to learn.

There are more great blogs out there than I have time to read! There was a huge number of bloggers participating in Blogathon 2011, unfortunately I did not have time to visit them all. Information overload began to kill me after about four days of trying to read so many blogs.

Bloggers are a supportive and interactive group.  If you choose to participate in the dialog that occurs in blogs, you will most likely always get a reply. Ask questions and someone will answer. The same goes if a blogger needs help. Someone will almost always have something helpful to add to the conversation.

There is no way I can actually list all I have learned. Blogging basics, social media, writing skills and so much more goes into the process of blogging. All the little tips and hints that others shared in the Blogathon 2011 Group and on Michelle Rafter’s WordCount Blog (and others) provided as much the information as an organized class might.

All this wisdom for the low, low price of 31 blog entries, which is a pretty great bargain if you ask me!


Remember Military Veterans and The Fallen Today

Oise Aisne American Cemetary, France
Oise-Aisne World War I Cemetery in France
“So to the indifferent inquirer who asks why Memorial Day is still kept up we may answer, it celebrates and solemnly reaffirms from year to year a national act of enthusiasm and faith. It embodies in the most impressive form our belief that to act with enthusiasm and faith is the condition of acting greatly. To fight out a war, you must believe something and want something with all your might. So must you do to carry anything else to an end worth reaching.”
[Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. at an address delivered for Memorial Day, May 30, 1884, at Keene, NH.]

Happy Monday!

Some Wordle Art for you to admire!


A Euro Not A Dollar, Money in Italy

The scene is the same each time. I am shopping with my husband and see something I want.

“It’s only eight dollars.” I say.

“Dollars or euros?” My husband asks.

“It’s eight euros…you know what I meant.”

“Well, then it is _________ dollars.” Fill in the blank with whatever the current exchange rate converts to in dollars. I do not do this calculation, because I stink at math. I know that my husband will do the math, so I just don’t bother!

What is the point of my ramble? Dollars are worth less than euros. Something that looks like a bargain in euros possibly isn’t once you figure out the cost in dollars.

The exchange rate is rarely the same from week to week. The dollar is now weaker than the euro. This means that the dollars you earn from the U.S. Government does not go as far in the European Union as they would back home in the states.

When we arrived in Italy, my $1 bill was worth about .80 euros. Unfortunately, that same dollar is now only worth about .68 euros.  As I said before, the exchange rate is variable.

Other than catching the American Forces Network commercial that announces the cost of gas and exchange rate with annoying frequency, there are ways to figure out what your dollar is worth.

My favorite calculator to use figures what the dollar is worth on a given date. This helps when you have to reconcile expenses at the end of your first year in Italy.

You can find this calculator here.

Now, I’m off to spend some Euro at the market!