Friday, May 16, 2014

Patriotic Ribbon Wreath DIY

It's time for BBQs, flip-flops, and three months of patriotic holidays! That's right, Memorial Day in May, Flag Day in June, and Independence Day in July-- the perfect stretch of months for this easy-to-make and beautiful-to-hang flag. Seriously. If you can cut ribbon and tie double-knots, you can make this wreath in just under an hour.

You'll Need:
  • 12-inch wire wreath frame
  • 2 rolls (1-1/2 inch x 4 yard) dark blue ribbon. At Michaels, you can find this in the Celebrate It 360 brand. (Bonus points if you can find this size ribbon with white stars on it! I couldn't!) 
  • 5 rolls (1-1/2 inch x 4 yard) red and white striped ribbon. Again, I found this in the Celebrate It 360 brand. (If you can't find striped ribbon, you can also buy 10 yards of 1-1/2 inch red  and 10 yards of 1-1/2 inch white)
  • scissors
Note: I found all of my materials at Michaels; however, I'm sure that they can be found at other craft stores, too.

  1. Cut your ribbon into strips that are about 6 inches long. If they aren't all exactly the same length, that's okay. Cut your ribbon lengths on an angle
  2. Tape off (or eyeball) a section of the wreath that is roughly 1/4 of your wreath. This will be the blue field of the flag. The other 3/4s will be the striped section. 
  3. Using your 6-inch lengths of blue ribbon, tie a double-knot as tightly as you can. Continue tying double-knots onto the frame until 1/4 of the wreath is covered with blue ribbon. Make sure that the wire frame can't be seen between the ribbon. 
  4. Using the same double-knot technique, add the red and white ribbon to the rest of the frame until the ribbon completely covers it. 
  5. Fluff the ribbon and hang on your door! 

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

5 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Date Someone in the Military

(Phew! Chalk this up to my edgiest post title ever! It was a little nerve-wracking to click "publish!")

There was no particular email or conversation that got me thinking about this topic. Rather, it just seems like it's been a post that's been writing itself for the past (almost!) 3 years as I talk to more and more military significant others who have successful relationships. Military life isn't for everyone. Some of us genuinely like it; others of us put up with it because it is a condition of being attached to the person we love. And I want to be clear: those of us who date or marry someone in the military are no better or worse than any other significant other.

Every relationship has its own difficulties; it just happens that when the military's involved, there's a special breed of inevitable obstacles that spring up. And I think, when you start out dating someone, you rarely think about everything that is coming down the pike. But military life (and military relationships) seem to move just a little faster and need more planning than others. If you're teetering on the edge of this particular path, think through the lifestyle before you jump in:

Don't date him/her if you already know you can't be faithful. (And don't date him/her if you believe that "everyone cheats" during deployment.) Period. During John's deployment, I had more than my fair share of people asking me if we were cheating on each other or if we had ever entertained the idea. (Answer: No and no!) Yes, people in the military cheat. (So do people in the civilian world.) But that doesn't mean everyone does, that we all agree with it, or that it's even the "norm." You will be separated from the person you love at some point during their career in the military. If you need physical touch and constant communication so that you won't stray, you need to do some soul-searching. Being apart is hard, but it shouldn't be hard to stay faithful. 

Don't date him/her if you're not resilient. Military life is hard. You're going to move. You will leave your family. You will leave your friends (over and over again). You will  put up with deployment, weird shifts, emergencies, trainings, and a whole bunch of other stuff that will happen at inopportune times and will be the least helpful thing. It's okay to get frustrated, be angry, and cry, but you've got to pick yourself up and move on. If you have a hard time being resilient in the face of challenge (and if you're not willing to try to be), the military lifestyle probably isn't for you. 

Don't date him/her if you care about rank. Uniforms are cute and all and ceremonies are exciting, but really, if you're attached to the rank rather than the person, do yourself a favor and get out now. That's not a healthy way to begin a relationship and it's not fair to the other person. 

Don't date him/her just because of an impending deployment. Deployments put a lot of pressure on everything-- you, your military member, the relationship. They can be tough for people in the most exclusive, committed relationships. If you know that you want to be with that person and you're committed, then go for it! But don't let the sole reason for committing to someone be because of a deployment. Don't ever let yourself be pressured into something you don't want-- it will end badly every time. 

Don't date him/her if you don't have a sense of who you are. I'll say it again-- military life is tough. It can mess with your self-esteem and sense self-worth.You need to know who you are. Have interests, hobbies, and friends. Have a plan for your education and/or career. If your whole identity is wrapped up solely in your service member, it is going to be a tough, lonely life.

Honestly, I think these are good things to think about before entering into any relationship-- no matter the affiliation to the military. (Of course, you might have to modify them a bit, but the basic gist is there.)

For those of you who have been there and have done that, what other advice would you add?

photo credit: Katie Tegtmeyer via photopin cc
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Monday, April 7, 2014

Guest Post: Incorporating Physical Touch in Long Distance Relationships

Today, Cassie from True Agape is writing about physical touch and long distance relationships. (You might remember Cassie from a giveaway we did together about conversation! ) See what she has to say and be sure to check out her bio below!

If your significant other’s Love Language is Physical Touch and you are in a long distance relationship you might be at a loss on how to show them love. That is indeed understandable! But do not fret- it is not a lost cause! You can for sure still continue to fill up your mate’s love tank with these four easy ideas! 

1) Tell them (in your communications either phone, computer or mail) that you can’t wait to hug and kiss them again. Let them know you miss holding their hand and cuddling with them. Although it is not the same as actual touch this will warm their hearts.

2) Send a “hug” via the mail. Write on there how you can’t wait to really get to hug them, but this will have to do for now. This reminds them that you want to be touching them even though you can’t. It helps ease the longing. 

3) Give them something of yours to cuddle or touch. A shirt, stuffed animal or a pillow case are all good options. This is second best to touching you! 

4) Surprise them with an item that smells like you. A small piece of fabric, or something like a sachet. When they lay down their head next to the fabric on their pillow or walk by the hanging sachet they will smell you. It will almost be like you have been there. It will give your lover peace and comfort. 

Although none of these are actually physical touch they are great ideas to help ease the longing of needing that touch from you. Continuing to make sure your mate is feeling loved in their Love Language during long distances is a must!

I am a big believer in knowing your significant other's Love Language and speaking it often! It truly can make a huge difference in your relationship. There are three ways to find out your mate’s Love Language if you don’t know it already. You can find ideas for all five Love Languages on our Love Language Pinterest boards!

Cassie Celestain is a wife, soon-to-be mommy, runner and a marriage and family blogger at TrueAgape. She believes respect, trust, understanding and willingness creates happy marriages and families. She strives to keep those things the main focus in her daily life and wants to challenge others to do the same. You can get her updates at Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter.

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Monday, March 31, 2014

4 Free Career Programs for Military Spouses

I had the awesome chance to attend MOAA's Spouse Symposium in Alexandria, VA Wednesday last week. Maybe you saw my live tweeting and Instagramming! It was pretty epic, I've got to say. My live tweeting, of course! Just kidding. The symposium was amazing. (And that's a picture of me on the train, amped up, goofy, and ready to get to the conference.) 

Military spouses are notoriously underemployed, and it's easy to get discouraged. Heck, after just a month of being a military spouse, I felt discouraged about my career. I can't imagine what it must feel like after multiple moves and deployments. Increasingly, more agencies and businesses are trying to make it easier for military spouses to become employed and stay employed. There are so many obstacles for maintaining a successful career, but it can be done. 

The whole time I was at the symposium, I was trying to soak up as much information as I could to bring back to you! There are some truly fantastic programs out there-- it's time for you to get connected to them! 

This certificate program is offered by Syracuse University and underwritten by JP Morgan Chase & Co. It is online and it is free for post-9/11 separated or retired vets, military service members transitioning to the civilian workforce in 18 months, and spouses whose military members are active duty or eligible vets.  There are three tracks to choose from: Professional Skills, Tech, and Independent Study.  I'm very impressed by the offerings. They range from CCNA to business analysis to Microsoft Office fundamentals. Check it out, further your education, and make yourself more marketable... for free! 

Simply put, My Career Spark is a resume builder for military spouses. It's created and maintained by Hiring Our Heroes, Toyota, and Blue Star Families. You can build your resume, set and track career goals, read up on interview prep, and refine your job search. 

SECO stands for Spouse Education and Career Opportunities and is run through Military OneSource. This is a fantastic go-to source. There are tons of  resources-- articles, programs, and other links. You can also access MySECO, a personal career portal. SECO offers comprehensive career counseling and can help guide you through tricky problems like certification and licensing issues. They can also help with career coaching, child care referrals, transportation options, job application and resume assistance, and education counseling.

MSEP links Fortune 500 Plus companies that are committed to hiring military spouses. These companies specifically work to make sure that spouses can take their careers with them as they PCS, and if there aren't opportunities where they move, the companies will refer them to other partners in MSEP. (And for those of you interested in working remotely, there's a whole section devoted to those jobs.)  

If you ever have the chance to attend a MOAA Spouse Symposium, go. It's not only an incredible networking event, it's exceptionally informative. There honestly was not a moment of the symposium that I felt was wasted or that I felt could have been done better. Just all around awesomeness. 
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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Commissary 101: Saving More

There are a lot of misconceptions about Commissaries, especially when it comes to the variety of products and the price of them. It's true, shoppers at Commissaries are able to save money, but I think a lot of people think that the savings are unbelievable (remember this fall's Ketchup Gate?).

By law, Commissaries must sell their products at cost. Commissaries are also tax-free. But... there is a 5% fee that is assessed instead to help with the upkeep of Commissaries. There are also no generic brands available at Commissaries like there are at civilian grocery stores. And, if you're driving a great distance to your Commissary, your savings might be negligible when all is said and done. Still, on average, it is possible to save about 30% depending on what you buy, what's on sale, and what coupons you have. If you want to push your pennies at the Commissary a little further, here are some other ways to do that:

Look for Extra Savings
There are a lot of ways to save at the Commissary. One of my favorite ways (because it makes it feel like Christmas) is to look for coupons. They might be printed on bright paper and taped to individual items, or they might be in tear-off packs or dispensers. These coupons are special and specific to the Commissary. When you see them, make use of them! 

Plan Ahead
Check out the Commissary's Savings Aisle. Once you choose your Commissary, you can see what's on sale and how much of a discount you're getting from the retail price. If you log in, you can also see the price that is specific to your locale. Use this in conjunction with couponing and creating your grocery list to make sure you're getting the lowest price possible.

Ask for Gift Cards
Even though the Commissary is only available for military members and their dependents, anyone can buy gift cards online If you're stuck trying to figure out what you want for Christmas or your birthday, you could always go practical and just ask for Commissary gift cards.

Use Third Party Sites
There are a bunch of military-specific savings sites that will alert you to specials, coupons, and price reductions. I use Commissary Shopper, My Military Mommy, Military Wives Saving, and My Military Savings. I've liked their Facebook pages too and have caught a few great sales because of Facebook alerts.  

Most of these sites, like My Military Savings, will announce Commissary-specific coupons and sales that are happening at the commissary. My Military Mommy does the work for you and will give you the link to coupons along with how to use them (what order to stack them in, if you need to use a rewards card, etc.) and the ultimate price of the item. It takes a lot of the pain out of couponing. 

Download Ibotta
Do you Ibotta? If you don't, you should download it and get started. Ibotta is a phone app that alerts you to extra rebates that you can redeem from grocery store, movie theater, restaurant, and pet store purchases. That's on top of any savings or coupons at the store.  Seriously. It's like extra free money. You just scan your bought items and take a photo of your receipt in order to redeem the extra cash. You cash out with your PayPal account, so you don't have to worry about a credit or debit card. And Ibotta works at Commissaries. No lie. It's pretty great. (If you haven't signed up for Ibotta, please use my referral link! Sign up and redeem any offer within 10 days of sign-up, and we'll both get instant cash!)

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photo credit: D.H. Parks via photopin cc

Monday, March 17, 2014

3 Free Photo Editing Programs for Your Blog

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post all about free blogging resources that I had found in the wilds of the internet (4 Free Blogging Resources You Aren't Using (But Should Be!)). I'm sharing again-- this time it's all about photo editing. 

I'm the first one to tell you that the strength of my blog does not lie in my photography or my photo editing. There are other blogs that do it much, much better with much, much more beautiful photos than mine. I am by no means an expert. And if I'm honest, I'm not aiming to be. Photography-- while it's fun-- is not my passion. I would rather be writing and thinking up new, creative ideas! 

I know that quite a lot of bloggers use Photoshop, but an equal number of bloggers aren't there. They either don't want to buy the program (or don't know where to get a bootlegged copy).  So for those of you who aren't attached to your DSLR (or who don't know what that is), or for those of you looking for different options when it comes to photo editing, here are 3 programs that I can really get behind: 

PicMonkey is honestly my go-to photo editor. The vast majority of my graphics and photos are designed through this service. I love that I can design graphics quickly and get them on the blog within minutes. There is a premium version (which I don't subscribe to) so some of your stylistic choices are limited if you're using the free version. I don't think it's a big deal, nor has it really hindered me in my (limited) design experience. 

Fotor  has basically the same interface as PicMonkey and you're essentially able to do the same things with it. The biggest perk of Fotor is that it's entirely free. Unlike PicMonkey, there is (currently) no pay structure or deluxe version. You aren't locked out of any graphics or fonts. I use Fotor when I'm kind of tired PicMonkey's fonts, graphics, or styles. 

You're not going to use Canva as your exclusive photo editor since PicMonkey and Fotor do that much better. But... if you're looking at creating infographics or highly stylized graphics that are already touched-up, this is your mule. Canva offers a lot of templates, graphics, and fonts for your perusal and use, but they are offered on an a la carte basis. Free options are clearly labeled and there are a bunch of them.  

What are your go-to tricks of the trade when it comes to photo editors?

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Commissary 101: The Basics

I am a big, ol' wuss. I will admit it. I cry too much, I get nervous too often, and I always am afraid of looking stupid (and often I do, anyway). Venturing into the Commissary and Exchange was really intimidating to me when we first got married (let's remember that I get nervous just going onto base). So if you're new to this whole military thing and are just a little bit nervous about using the Commissary, here are the basics so that you can walk in confidently! 

Don't Park in Reserved Parking
Make sure that that parking spot that you snag right in front of the store isn't reserved for officers or other VIPs. It will be either spray-painted on the spot or labeled with a sign.  That's a mistake that-- thankfully-- I've never made, but I've heard of other spouses who have. Avoid that embarrassment and keep your eyes peeled.

Have Your Military ID
Access to the Commissary is considered part of the military benefits package. The goods you're buying are priced substantially lower than a civilian grocery store and your purchase is tax-free. When you check out, you will be asked for it to verify that you are privy to those benefits, so don't forget your ID. Don't leave it in the car. Take it with you.

Queue in the Check-Out Line
Unlike other grocery stores where it's every man for himself, Commissaries have one line for express check-outs and one line for all other check-outs. Park yourself in the line and wait your turn. There will most likely be an employee at the front of the line who will direct you to the next available cashier.

Avoid Pay Day
If at all possible, try to avoid grocery shopping at the Commissary on Pay Day. I don't think I need to elaborate. Just don't do it. It's not fun.

Tip the Baggers
The first few times, John and I didn't realize that we were supposed to tip the baggers. Neither of us had ever been to a grocery store where you did that! We totally missed the "Baggers Work Only for Tips" sign that I saw after a third or fourth visit. We were so embarrassed and felt so guilty! Here's the deal: Commissary baggers are not volunteers. They are not paid by the Commissary. Their only income is from the tips they receive when they bag your groceries and take them to your car. Make sure you tip them-- even if you take your groceries out to your car, even if you only tip $1. Otherwise, they've effectively bagged your groceries for free. That's not fair.
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photo credit: D.H. Parks via photopin cc

Monday, February 17, 2014

6 Care Packages for Spring

John's been home for eight months now! It feels like his homecoming was both so short a time and so long ago! Crazy, crazy, crazy! For those of you making care packages right now, you know how crazy it also feels to be working on boxes for the Spring when there's still snow on the ground. If you're stuck or need an idea, take some inspiration from the Springtime boxes I made last year. And remember, even though it seems dreary, snowy, and grey, Spring is coming!

(Click on each picture for detailed information about decorating and contents! I've got you covered!)

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

4 Free Blogging Resources You Aren't Using (But Should Be!)

I've been blogging for a year and a half-- crazy, right? I finally feel like I have a perspective and that I've learned a lot of helpful information in that time. There are a lot of blogging resources out there, but here are four that I think are really useful, easy to use, and are worth your time! 

Giveaway Promote is a completely free clearinghouse for giveaways. (If you'd like increased exposure, there are other options that cost a little bit of cash. But being listed in their directory is totally free.) Provide some information and your link and reach a larger audience. I list each of my giveaways with Giveaway Promote and always see increased traffic after I do.  (If you love entering giveaways, it's also a great place to find them!) 

If you're a female blogger, you need to follow @FemaleBloggerRT on Twitter. Tag them in a post and they'll retweet it basically instantly to their 2,000 followers. They also choose a Female Blogger of the Week every week. It's a great way to get more eyeballs on your post and to find other fantastic writers and social media mavens! 

Full disclosure: I started the Blogging Collective for bloggers to gain more exposure and expand their audiences. Become a part of the Pinterest board-- pin your work and repin others' (they'll do the same). Think of it as a take-a-penny-leave-a-penny dish for blogging! If you'd like to be part of the board, follow it and email jomygosh [at] gmail [dot] com with your handle! 

4. 20SB
20 Something Bloggers is a forum for-- you guessed it-- 20 something bloggers! Because it's a niche site, it frequently has promotion and sponsored post opportunities that are actually attainable. (Remember my reviews of Little Failures and NatureBox? Both of those opportunities came from 20SB!)

What are your favorite blog resources?

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Friday, January 31, 2014

22 Super Dorky Puns for Care Packages

I have to admit, while I was creating care packages, I would wrack my brain and simultaneously crack myself while coming up with puns. So, on the off chance that there's someone out there who is just as goofy and is looking for some ideas, I've created this round up of every dorky care package pun I used last year. It's just what the interwebz needs! 

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Review: Whimseybox (A Subscription Box)

Disclosure: I received product from Whimseybox for a review. I only review and endorse products that I enjoy and believe that my readers will, too. All opinions are my own.  This post contains affiliate links.

Let me cut to the chase: Whimseybox is awesome. It is fantastic. Here's my photographic evidence: 

First of all, the box is beautifully presented. It was all tied up in paper and a ribbon with a gorgeous card. When I unwrapped it, here's what I found:

That's right-- I got to play with clay! More precisely, I learned how to make a textured clay dish. 

Pretty, right? Who woulda thunk?

Because it was air-drying clay, it took about 24 hours for it to be usable. From start to finish, it took me around 20 minutes to create and clean up.

 The box was generous with materials, so I still had a ton of clay left over. I made an "Our First Apartment" ornament for the Christmas tree with a little bit of it. You have definitely not heard the last of projects with air dry clay! 

Did I mention that I absolutely love Whimseybox?! 
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