Monday, December 23, 2013

December Sponsor Spotlight and Giveaway

Here's to another wonderful month of sponsors! Show their blogs and shops some love and enter this month's giveaway! 

Meet Loren from My {Sub}Conscious Ramblings

Hi, I’m Loren from My {Sub}Conscious Ramblings! I am an Army wife of 4 years, a certified personal trainer, dog-mom & coffee addict. I tend to blog about life as military family, DIY projects, fitness, healthy recipes I cook up & any other randomness that comes my way! We recently PCSd from North Carolina to Oklahoma- so join me as I embrace the craziness that is moving with the Army, meeting new friends, & all of our new adventures in & around “The Sooner State.”

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Meet Natasha from The Artisan Life and Natasha's Nibbles and Noshes! 

I’m currently waiting for my diploma and teaching certification to arrive in the mail and enjoying spending my free time blogging, creating new items for my Etsy store, and finally getting to spend some time with my sailor.

Meet Nicole from Mercantile 519

I launched Mercantile 519 a few months back after some life changing events. For the past few years, I've been knitting and making jewelry, and this is my outlet for these creative endeavours. I sell through my shop online, in several local stores and at craft shows.

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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Review: PeachDish Subscription Box

Disclosure: I received product from PeachDish for a review. I only review and endorse products that I enjoy and believe that my readers will, too. All opinions are my own. 

As with most trends, my sisters originally clued me in to subscription boxes. And then, once again, they introduced me to meal subscription boxes... which made me very curious to try PeachDish when presented with the opportunity! PeachDish, a subscription box start-up from Atlanta, sends a weekly box crammed with fresh ingredients and the recipe to make a two-course dinner. The food is pre-portioned and one box feeds two people. Oh  yeah, and they also throw in a pre-made or easily made dessert item. Just my kind of people! 

Our PeachDish box arrived USPS. The contents were cooled by cold packs and surrounded by insulated packing material. After I removed the material from the top of the box, this is what it looked like:

The recipe card was on top, and I found that dinner for the night was an Italian Chicken Sausage and Sweet Potato Stew.The soup also included rosemary, black beans, and quinoa. Our side dish was a Pumpkin Seed and Persimmon Mixed Greens Salad (complete with a homemade spicy mustard and lemon dressing). I would be lying to say that I was not disappointed; take a look at PeachDish's beautiful past menu photos. You'd be disappointed too! 

Nevertheless, I was determined to make the dinner and give a go of it. After all, I'd never tried those particular flavor combinations (and I couldn't remember having ever tasted a persimmon!). I got to work-- and honestly, with everything labeled and pre-measured, there wasn't too much work. The most I had to do was strip and chop rosemary leaves (which smelled heavenly) and cut up the sweet potatoes and persimmon.  (And as for dessert, PeachDish sent a bag of mulling spices! We haven't used them yet-- I'm saving them for Christmas Eve.)

I was hesitant to dig in, but by this time, our apartment smelled pretty delicious. And I am so glad I did! The recipe was savory and surprisingly hearty (and exceedingly healthy). In fact, John reminded me at the end of dinner to save the recipe card so we could make it again later. It's definitely a keeper! And we were definitely not disappointed anymore!

PeachDish is a great way to explore different taste palettes and introduce yourself (or someone else) to dishes that you might not have tried otherwise. It was really cool to use rosemary and persimmon in my cooking-- two ingredients I hadn't previously worked with. And, I've never made a salad dressing before either! It is certainly a great gift for foodies, wanna-be chefs, those who are crazy busy but want to make homemade meals, and the curious and adventurous.

Note: I made two changes to the recipe: first, I didn't use the chicken sausage, even though I knew it would be delicious. Our post-person left the box on our doorstep without knocking or alerting me, so I had no idea how long the food had been sitting there. When I opened the separate compartment with the chicken sausage, it wasn't very cold, and I was worried about giving John and myself food poisoning. Second, I used spinach to supplement our mixed greens, since John and I like big salads.

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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Review: Quilty Box

Disclosure: I received product from Quilty Box for a review. I only review and endorse products that I enjoy and believe that my readers will, too. All opinions are my own. 

My mom and I share a love of fabric and craft stores. While my mom is the accomplished seamstress, I enjoy going along for the ride and helping her pick out fabrics. In the past, we've worked on quilts together (or really, she's worked on them, I've hung out in her sewing room while she was doing the heavy lifting). When I saw that there is a sewing subscription box, I had to check it out! 

Quilty Box is a monthly, themed sewing subscription box. Every month, they send subscribers an array of sewing and quilting supplies. I had the pleasure to review the November, geometry themed box (which also happened to be Quilty Box's first-ever box!). 

And they weren't kidding on their website-- when you get your box is is chock-full of amazing items! Take a look inside my box! 

Perhaps weirdly enough, my favorite item in the box were these neat gripper clips. In fact, I used them in a Christmas decoration (that I'll be sharing with you soon) for our kitchen. They are exceptionally useful for crafts.

The colors of items in the box coordinated with each other-- the fabrics, zippers, and floss all work together, so I definitely could use them all in a project. Or not. That's the beauty of this box. There are are a lot of bits and pieces that work together or could work in separate projects too.

There was a neat trio of patterns included. (I haven't opened it yet-- I'm waiting to share this with my mom so that we can have fun looking together!)

Then, there was the huge cut of fabric in the box. The cut had both a wall hanging for a 2014 calendar and a faux-quilted cosmetics bag. Love the colors!

And I would be remiss if I didn't also include these cute little guys. They're magnets!

This is a fantastic array of items and was such fun to look through and enjoy. It's like a trip through a sewing store-- but without the wait to get 1/4 yard of fabric cut. I'm excited to use each item! (I'll have to follow-up post when I do!)

Something heartwarming and important to note: Quilty Box donates 5-10% of their subscription box sales to Quilts for Kids, an organization that creates and gives handmade patchwork quilts to comfort children who have life-threatening illnesses or who are survivors of abuse.

Still on the hunt for Christmas presents (or just want to treat yourself)? Until December 31, Quilty Box has an exclusive code for Jo, My Gosh! readers! Use GOSH5 to get $5 off your first box!
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Friday, December 20, 2013

Review: Fair Ivy Subscription Box

Disclosure: I received product from Fair Ivy for a review. I only review and endorse products that I enjoy and believe that my readers will, too. All opinions are my own. 

I am a sucker for pretty things. So, when given the opportunity to review Fair Ivy, a subscription box that provides a gift box every month, there was no way I was going to say no.  Essentially, Fair Ivy is a courier for women's gifts. You choose the woman (you can always choose yourself!), and Fair Ivy sends a monthly surprise package to them. All of the gifts are hand-crafted by US artists, which is pretty cool too. I had a blast checking out the beautiful items from previous months-- chocolates, bracelets, handmade soaps... You name it, they've sent it and it is beautiful

But let's check out my box. My Fair Ivy package came in a bubble mailer. Inside was this: 

I unwrapped the green box and found more cute packaging!

After unwrapping that package, I found these beautiful handmade earrings. I literally squealed-- they are cute, simple, and perfect for me. I've been trying, within the last year, to cull my closet and jewelry case so that I'm classy and timeless instead of trendy. These fit in so well! (And honestly, they're exactly something I would pick out for myself.)

I've already worn these babies to work, the mall, and around the house. They dress up jeans and a t-shirt and make me feel a little prettier in my work polo.

I decided to wear these to John's command's Christmas party! Just a little bit of understated glamour-- these fit the bill!

It is always fun to be on the receiving end of a unique gift. If you're looking for a Christmas gift for a sister, mother, best friend, cousin (or yourself), start the search with Fair Ivy. Fair Ivy is offering the code HAPPYHOLIDAYS for $5 off any purchase for Jo, My Gosh! readers-- so be sure to head over there!

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Wedding Ornament Trio DIY

During wedding planning, I ordered a lot of extras when it came to the Save the Dates, invitations, and ceremony bulletins. (I'm pretty sure this is typical, but it makes me feel a bit neurotic to see how much we have left over!) I've kept a few for our scrapbook (which is slowly in the works) and posterity, but there's not too much you can do with 25 extra of anything! 

In an effort to not just pitch them all into the garbage (it seems a little unceremonious to me), I bought some glass ornament balls from Michaels, pulled out my very (un)trusty straight-edge cutter, and immortalized our wedding ephemera.

It is quite possibly one of the easiest DIYs ever. I was done with all three in no more than 20 minutes. 

You'll Need:
  • Scissors or a paper cutter
  • ephemera
  • fill-able glass balls
  • ribbon, pearls, or other wedding decor you have left 
1. Cut your paper into strips. I varied my sizes so that the wording from our bulletin and invitation could be read. 
2. Using the straight edge of a scissors, slightly curl the ends of the paper strips. 
3. Remove the metal cap and fill the glass ball with paper strips. (Make sure that the strips face out!) If you have ribbons, pearls, rhinestones, or other bits and pieces from the wedding, you can add them once all of the paper has been used.
4. Reattach the metal cap and hang! 

See? Super easy! And cute, too.

Here's our invitation ornament! 

And our ornament using our ceremony program. For this ornament, I cut the strips around the wedding participants so that the names of the people we love are visible on the ornament.

I've got to confess, though. I think my favorite is our Save the Date ornament.

 I can't wait to hang these on our tree every year!

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

How to Wrap the Inside of a Box

It is crazy to think that John's been home for just over six months and a week (not that I'm counting)! I haven't made a care package for more than half a year... until last week. I created a care package for some friends who are currently overseas-- I got to break out all of my care package stuff from last year.  One of my favorite ways to decorate a box is to use wrapping paper. It is so much easier than cutting down scrapbook paper-- and it's mess-free too!

Here's my easy way to do it (and have it looking fab for your gift recipient)!

You'll Need:

  • Scissors
  • Elmer's Glue
  • Box
  • Wrapping Paper
  • Packing Tape

1. Take the box apart. If you're using a USPS Priority Box (which are free at your local post office), there is a tab glued to the inside of the box. Pull it apart, and the box will fall open. Once your box is open, lay it flat on wrapping paper to measure how much you need.

2. On the inside of the box, spread your Elmer's Glue. (Rubber cement dries too quickly.)

3. Flip your box over, press onto the wrapping paper and let dry. Place books or other heavier items on the edges of the box if they seem to be lifting up.

4. Once the box has dried, cut out completely (even between the box flaps). Using packing tape, tape, reassemble and tape the box back together. Make sure to secure the inside tab with glue, and then tape with clear packing tape.

And, boom! You have a snazzy, decorated care package in less than 10 minutes!
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Sunday, October 27, 2013

Guest Post: Deployment Tips for the Significant Others of Submariners

John and I are currently in the throes of PCS-ing (moving, for you non-military folks), and so I've asked one of my close blogging friends and fellow Navy significant others to guest post. Natasha is dating a submariner, and honestly, I don't know how she does it! She and I were dealing with deployment the same time-- our guys actually came home within days of each other. But hers is already gearing up for another deployment. Natasha is a strong, strong woman. My hat is off to her! 

They don't call it the Silent Service for nothing - keeping in touch with a submariner is hard. I hear other branches have these magical things called 'morale tents' where s/he can go to message or Skype with friends and family members. There's no morale tent on a submarine, no way to FaceBook chat or Skype with someone underway on a boat.

So how do you keep in touch?

It is possible to stay in touch with a submariner, it just takes some planning, effort, and a bit of understanding. It was difficult at times, but we managed to emerge from an eight month long ‘six month deployment’ stronger than when he left, and communication was key.

Snail Mail and Packages

You can actually send mail to someone on a submarine, it just might take a while to arrive. Letters have a better chance of making it than packages - they sometimes don't get packages until after they've returned from deployment! They do receive mail when in port, and sometimes when they meet up with other ships at sea. If you want to send mail to your submariner, make sure you have the 'address' before he leaves because it may not be possible for him to email it through his secure email. (I'm not discriminating by saying 'he,' but there are only a very, very few number of ladies on submarines and typing s/he gets cumbersome!) If you send a card or letter, you can use a regular stamp. If you mail a package, the postage doesn't cost anything extra, but your will have to fill out a customs form. Don't forget it or your package will end up back in your mailbox, not with your sailor!

Because mail delivery is uncertain, I planned ahead and sent cards with him when he left on deployment. I knew he would be gone for Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Valentines, Easter, etc., so I bought cards ahead of time. I wrote him notes, dated the envelopes, and then put them all inside a larger envelope with a different, earlier date on it to at least keep him guessing for a couple of extra weeks. I also included a random, encouraging card with 'whatever day you need it most' written on the outside. I know from working in a gift shop that sold cards that many card shops keep out of season cards in store, just not on display. If you talk to store employees and explain the situation, they'll probably help you find the holiday cards you need. When I picked up cards last October, the folks at the store actually just gave them to me after I explained what I was doing!

Email and Censorship

You can email with your sailor while he's underway, but you have to email his secured email address. When they're actually on deployment, someone reads this email and can censor it before passing it along. Sometimes this can take a couple of days, but other times it happens pretty quickly. If your email is edited, you will receive an automated notification with the edited text in an attachment. I never had any real problems with editing, but I didn't discover quickly that automatic signatures added by your email program seem to cause a problem. When I started deleting these email signatures, I stopped getting editing notifications.

Dealing with the Frustrations of Deployment 

Now that we've covered planning and effort, here's where the understanding comes in. Your sailor may not have the time to check his email on a regular basis and, even if he does, he may not be allowed to respond for up to weeks on end. There are times (and they can't even always warn you when they'll be!) when they can receive emails but not send them. It can be frustrating, annoying, and downright lonely, but remember that he is probably incapable of responding if you don't hear back for a while. Also remember that he can read your messages and keep them coming, even if you know he can't write back for a few weeks. I wrote my man every single day of his deployment, even if the email was short and simple, and he told me time and again how much receiving my emails meant to him.

You also need to exercise understanding whenever you’re feeling frustrated. Whether you’re upset because you haven’t heard back from him and need advice or assistance or are on the verge of tears because their homecoming date was changed yet again, remember that your sailor has no control over the situation. If you feel hurt, imagine how he feels knowing he’s causing your unhappiness and has no power over the situation. Whenever I was having a particularly bad day, I always reminded myself that at least I could take a walk outside to see trees and hear birds, a luxury my man didn’t have. I know from talking to him later that every time the boat was delayed, all the guys on board were at least as unhappy as the ladies waiting. By not taking your frustrations out on your sailor, you can help ensure he’s looking forward to seeing you and help keep him in a better mood while they’re away.

Keeping in touch with a submariner who’s on deployment is difficult, but it is possible. I’m thankful I live in a world with emails and even the possibility of hearing from him while he’s gone - a privilege so many with loved ones in the Navy have not enjoyed over the years. When a submariner you love is preparing to go on deployment, just remember to plan ahead, put in some effort, and show understanding and you’ll both have a far better experience.

Hi, I'm Natasha! I love creating things! This fall I'm busy student teaching, trying to get ready for the holiday craft fair season, and counting down the days until I'm back with my sailor. Check out my Etsy shop and blog, The Artisan Life
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Friday, October 18, 2013

Review: The Tender Soldier by Vanessa M. Gezari

Disclaimer: I was contacted by Simon and Schuster  to review The Tender SoldierI was compensated with a product for this review.All opinions and observations are mine. 

Operation Enduring Freedom began when I was a sophomore in high school. We debated it in Model U.N., talked about it in history, and knew of people who deployed with the National Guard and Reserves; however, as the war dragged on, I became less and less engaged with it, as did many other Americans. To be quite honest, even when John deployed to Afghanistan last year, I kept my distance from the news. When I was contacted by Simon and Schuster to reviewThe Tender Soldier: A True Story of War and Sacrifice , I was not sure that I wanted to. Unlike Three Cups of Tea or Kite Runner,  this book seemed like it would hit just a little closer to home.

The Tender Soldier is both the objective and heart-wrenching chronicle of the key players of the Human Terrain System, a project meant to probe and help American military personnel grasp a deeper understanding of Afghan culture. Their goal is to study and analyze Afghan culture so that military personnel can competently, knowledgeably, and strategically communicate and interact with Afghan leaders and citizens. It is obvious that Gezari's purpose is to give us a holistic portrait of this daring undertaking. She is neither nostalgic or harsh, but fair in her assessment and descriptions of the events and people involved.

I'm a sucker for great writing, and Gezari did not disappoint. The author walks a fine line of being meticulous and journalistic in her research and prose and crafting an engaging story. At times stark, at other times descriptive, the prose is always perfect for the moment. While nonfiction-- especially that about the military-- can be tedious and laden with acronyms and jargon for the sake of sounding official, The Tender Soldier does not cross the line of hubris. Instead, I found myself as deeply interested in the intricacies of the Human Terrain System and the political jostling to create it as I was in the lively and engaging profiles of the team members and detailed descriptions of the country and culture of Afghanistan.

While a sobering look at the failures of our presence in Afghanistan, it is also uplifting. Throughout the duration of the book, the members of the Human Terrain System are deeply committed both to sociology and their work in the field. They are optimists and hold tightly to the belief that,cultural understanding and study is an important pillar of military strategy.  This alone makes The Tender Soldier a very worthwhile read.

Got the bug to read The Tender Soldier? Simon and Schuster is giving away a copy to one of my lucky bookworms! Enter below!

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