Saturday, March 30, 2013

Treat Yourself: How I Like to Spend a Night In Edition

*Specialty Note*
Are you pumped for the next Blogger Book Swap? The very end of this post contains more info!

Every once in awhile, I love the feeling of sweatshirt material and the soft wrap of sweatpants as I lounge on one of our couches and enjoy something on Oxygen.  Give me some sorbet or frozen yogurt, a few good blog posts and my dogs sleeping (preferably with Blu not farting) and it's a little slice of heaven.

I feel like I was probably more glamorous in college, kinda like this:

Oh party on Langdon, let me tease my hair.
Gurl, Ima work dat updo

 Themed party? I've got the most perfect corsette for that.  
Oh and it's raining, don't worry we can totally werk rain.

But now, I kinda like this more:

Do I look sexy like this? What about this?
I am soooooo attractive (runs around in granny panties)

Going to the library or local bookstore and pouring over books, shelves, and displays for hours.

Oxygen has been providing me with hours of my favorite movies, including Pride and Prejudice...twice.  So much to the point that I went to Target to buy it for $4 #clutch 
 "Blu you've been farting too much, you need to go outside."
"Holly if you jump on that counter one more time, I swear."
"Everyone went potty, time for a treat!"

There are so many times I would rather take a nice hot shower with some delicious scents compliments of Bath and Body Works, slip on comfy pajama pants and an over-sized tee and just hang out.  I love watching romantic movies or romcoms or even catching up on shows that I've missed.  A Lifetime Movie Network yes, I'll take that.  No make-up all day- my skin is probably thanking me.  My "kids" are my adorable dogs who are a handful and if during a commercial break I can fold laundry, it means I won't have to do it later.  My oh so glamorous life is feeling pretty good right now.  At least I'm comfortable, some poor college girl is running around barefoot on a frathouse floor because she wore heels to the party.  Y'all know those floors are way too questionable. 

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Are you ready for the next Blogger Book Swap?
We're looking for bloggers who love to read and 
are ready to make awesome book packages.
If this is you or someone you know, be on the look out in the very near future for more information and the registration deadlines.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Book Chat: Are You an Aspiring Author

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So excited for this opportunity with Jessica from Sweet Green Tangerine!  She is such a sweetheart and I love her weekly book chats.  Make sure you check out her blog, it's one of my favorites.  The topic this week:
Are you an aspiring author?  

When I was a little kid, my mom made sure that reading was such an elemental part of my life.  My dad was an enlisted sailor and my mom didn't have a job until we moved to Wisconsin.  She wanted me to accomplish so many things in life.  My very first library visit was with my mom in southern California.  I was really young, probably three or four.  My family didn't have a lot of money but my mom was able to check out library books, cassette tapes and VHS movies- remember those?

She would read to me and the first book that I learned to read from was a book that my mom bought on sale at Kohl's.  It was about a duckling and I remember how proud of me she was when I read that book to her.  That's how it started.  I grew a love of exploring the aisles of bookstores, boxes at garage sales, and libraries.  There's something about a library that makes me checkout as many books as my arms can carry.  As a kid, I knew that I wanted to create something that inspired a love of reading in other people and I began writing.  Even though the Twilight series received a lot of criticism because of its lack of literary merit, it did get a lot of folks reading and I think that's awesome.  What inspires someone to create the next great American novel?  What a privilege and an honor! I don't know if my writing would ever qualify for something that awesome, but it definitely is a lifetime ambition to write a novel.

I wrote short stories all of the time and made attempts at writing a novel while growing up.  I've even had the privilege of reading other people's drafts and attempts at writing a novel.  None of my ideas ever turned into a novel, but now as an adult, I've been thinking of putting more concepts down on paper.  I've dabbled with a couple of ideas, both involving military life and some of my stories need some research done.  In the mean time, I've been thinking about creating a special feature on my blog. I've dabbling with it and cultivating the idea and I hope to share it with those that enjoy my blog.

You can follow me here on GFC and at Bloglovin.  
Make sure to follow Jessica's blog at Sweet Green Tangerine.

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To join in...
1. Please follow the host and co-host
2. Visit a few other book chat links and show some support.
3. Link back here in your post. Or use the button provided.
4. Old posts are always welcome if you have blogged on the topic before.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Extreme Easter: Kim vs. Ryan PART II

Of course, right after I posted the start to the basket for Ryan, he started working on mine.
By "working," he left it on the table for me to see.
But he also became frustrated because he doesn't consider himself to be very creative.
My husband is not a creative nor romantic man, so for him to go along with my idea of making each other Easter baskets was a stretch but he was such a good sport.
If you saw my post yesterday, I showed how I chose to pack the basket but I wasn't quite done just yet.  After Ryan became frustrated, he just handed me my basket and the basket I was making him wasn't quite finished.

 I decided to fill the eggs with fun relationship "coupons" and compliments.
Want some fries with that shake? In case you didn't know, I like your butt.
 Yup, I've got all the moves ;)
 I made them rather large and just cut them into strips, like Easter fortune cookies eggs.

 Rolled them up and stuck them inside the plastic eggs that I just love :)

 Holly and Blu "helped" with the basket.  More like Blu kept trying to take the egg fortunes.

 The final product!  Three chocolate bunnies, 12-gauge shell coasters, Skyfall, Argo, stuffed animal bunny, plastic eggs, Reese's pieces carrots and a lot of paper grass.

I loved tucking the carrots into the grass to make them more authentic.

 Don't let that furrowed brow confuse you, he loved it.  Here he is busy reading the egg fortunes.

 Now the moment you've all been waiting for...

the basket Ryan made! =]
 I walked into the kitchen and saw this guy chillen in a bright colored basket.
It's a hamster in a chick costume.
It dances and raps...

Slightly blurry but it was gettin' its groove on.
Definitely not my usual stuffed animal but it's silly and fun.  Ryan also got me pepper spray and a knife.  I've been wanting a knife for awhile now so I was pretty excited to receive one and also got a lesson on how to properly apply pepper spray.

In other news, I've been busy e-mailing the next series of hosts for the Blogger Book Swap.
I am so excited about this and we're thrilled for the opportunity to put together a quality swap.
To get the anticipation going, our theme is:
 Preview to Summer 
It's going to be great and we're also featuring weekly link-ups to make the most out of your experience and why you all love to read!
We're searching for bloggers with a love of reading, books, blogging and a knack for fun.
If you think you would be a great fit, be sure to check back for the registration form in the very near future.  My co-hosts are incredible bloggers who are just kick-ass women.  
I am soooo excited for this!

Thanks for Reading!
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Sunday, March 24, 2013

Extreme Easter: Kim vs. Ryan

Ryan and I are in a competition of sorts for our first Easter together.  I know, totally not the meaning of Easter, but so totally worth it.  Last year, Ryan was deployed to Afghanistan and ever since then we've been trying to make the most out of each holiday and just really live it up.  Whitney, from Everything Happens for a Reason, shared the Easter basket her husband sent her and it inspired me to declare to Ryan, "we're making Easter baskets for each other."  He kind of laughed and brushed it off, but with all things in life, I knew he was thinking challenge accepted.  Over the weekend, Hannah and I ran some errands and stopped into Michael's.  Their baskets are 40% off and so I picked up this gorgeous basket, originally priced at $9.99.  I was able to swing into Walmart yesterday and started picking out some items to start Ryan's basket.

I absolutely love these 12-gauge shell case coasters.  To my friends and family that are reading this, don't tell Ryan! I want him to be surprised and I think he's going to love these. I picked them up in a local store that I have become obsessed with.

We saw commercials featuring chocolate bunnies and Ryan told me how much he loved them so I picked up a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup bunny and a Russell Stover solid milk chocolate one.

 The soft, plush grey bunny was just something I couldn't put down.  What Easter basket is complete without a little stuffed animal friend?

How to pack an Easter basket:
 You'll need a basket and I chose a wicker one because it's something that can be used around the house for storage or decoration, even when it's not Easter.  You'll also need some type of filler, like cloth or grass and I also chose decorative plastic eggs.

 I haven't perused through Target's Easter aisles yet (I know, surprisingly enough) but Walmart has a fun plastic egg selection as well as other fun items.   The most expensive basket items were the larger stuffed animals for $9.99 and the one that's pictured here was around $5.

These plastic eggs are so cute! They're very thin and cost like a $1 for a full package but they look like something you would find at Anthropologie and so I had to get a pack of them.  They also have "grand prize" eggs that are a silver metallic and significantly bigger than the others.
I'm not entirely sure what I'm going to do with the eggs.  Ryan isn't big into junk food, so I'll probably fill them with either cute notes or romantic coupons.

 I chose green paper grass in both light and dark green shades to blend the two together.
I love how it turned out and despite the occasional snowfall here, it makes me excited for warm summer weather. 

 I also selected a bright, shimmery filler to mix in with it and give it a pop.  All together, I probably had five or six bags of the grass/shimmer filler.  They were around $1.37 for each one and there were cheaper alternatives there, but I thought the grass would provide more support and I preferred how that looked to anything else.

 For placing the items, I put the stuffed animal as a base in the back, as well as the other two chocolate bunnies.  Despite having the grass as filler, it's only semi-supportive of the items in the basket.  The boxes help support things and push them more towards the front.

 The basket is still incredibly light with the coasters being the heaviest item.  I plan on getting more items to put in the basket.  Right now I'm brainstorming but thinking about getting the rest of the book series for Game of Thrones and maybe a DVD or two (The Hobbit or maybe some James Bond).  What do you get husbands for Easter?  Underwear and white tees? Who knows, I'll probably throw that in the basket, too. 

How do you make your baskets?

Thanks for reading!
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My Metabolism's Coconut Stand

While I was going through tech school, I gained weight.  I was debating whether to write this post or not because I didn't gain a "significant" amount of weight compared to other folks.  The weight that I have now is some folks' goal weight.  It's not the numbers to me, it's how I could feel myself changing and I didn't like the way I looked.  Admittedly it hasn't happened to me often in the past, maybe a few pounds here and there in the summer, but when I got to my new base it became very apparent to me.  Before our move here, I got rid of a ton of dresses.  They held a lot of memories for me, but kind of felt out place not being in a college scene and I also didn't feel 100% comfortable in them.  I lost weight in college, not a significant amount, and I usually maintained it because I was walking all the time and working out for ROTC.  Thinking on it now, I was constantly stressed in college and running to back-to-back appointments.  I was always on the move and eating as I ran.  Probably not the best, or healthiest, way to go about things but I know many college students do that.
Unlike college, tech school was very stationary.  I did hours and hours of studying, was constantly stressed, and did so sitting most of the time.  By the time I was done studying, it would be 8 or 9 at night and then time to eat dinner.  I would snack or grab something quick throughout the day, not the best things.  If I was exhausted, I made something that was simple and easy.  For the first few months, I was worked out every single day and made use of the workout facilities.  As the material I was studying became more difficult, I spent less time in the gym.  This developed into a bad habit, and one that I had never developed in the past.

I would get into arguments with my husband about it.  I felt overwhelmed by studying, moving, and balancing the new pressures of this job and aspects of being an adult.  When we moved, Ryan would encourage me to go the gym with him.  I would go, run, lift on the machines, etc.  It was good and I started to feel better but I would get bored.  I invested in Jillian Michaels's 30 day workout.  I did it for a couple of weeks, but it started to get redundant.

Amidst all of this, I was frustrated at first because looking at myself in the mirror, I didn't like what I was seeing.  I went from this:
To taking pictures after weekly workouts to see my progress:

I swam competitively for ten years.  This caused me to get a very muscular set of shoulders and back.  My specialty stroke was breaststroke, so I usually have very muscular legs as well.  Seeing that back chub/love handle combo was really devastating on my spirit. I've been athletic for so long, that I've never had to worry about it. I feel like my metabolism has gone on vacation and set up a coconut carving stand.  

So when my metabolism sent me a postcard of my youth, I decided I needed to get more proactive about this.  My grocery lists are filled with healthier items and as always, everything within reasonable portions.  Whenever I head to our fridge or pantry, I can find healthy alternatives and I'm always looking for other healthy snacks or things I can make (feel free to leave suggestions).  I've been drinking a protein/meal replacement program from GNC with almond milk in the mornings to give my metabolism a kick start.  I also try to head to the gym everyday after work and play games like wallyball and basketball with my friends.  I've even been going to Zumba two to three times a week and I love it! I've missed dancing so much and it's a fun way to really work up a sweat without feeling like it's a "typical" workout.

My friend Lindsey also recommended a running app called Zombies, Run! It's pretty sweet.  The whole premise is that you're part of a township in the midst of a zombie apocalypse.  By running, you're able to collect valuable items like medical kits and radios to help accomplish the mission.  It taps into your already existing playlists.  For my first run, it played songs by ZZ Ward and I've got to say, she would be an awesome artist to have on a zombie-themed-survival movie soundtrack...just sayin' ;)

My mom would always say that one day my metabolism would just s l o w down but of course, you never believe your mom until it actually happens.  I feel better about how I look and I am finally get back into my regular fitness routine.  I want to try more with weight lifting and incorporating green shakes (kale) into my diet.  My goal is to do heavy toning.  I want legs like those on Dancing with the Stars.  Have you seen it? The show has become my new obsession since The Bachelor has finished up and hunky Sean Lowe is making an appearance.

If you have any recommendations on workouts, recipes, or kale drinks, definitely comment below.  I would love to hear them! :)

Thanks for reading and here's to a more fit lifestyle!
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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A Picture A Day While You're Away- Otherwise Known as How I Survived a Deployment

My prayers go to the families of the Marines that were tragically killed in the training exercise.
I can only imagine a fraction of what their families are going through and my heart breaks for them.
These types of tragedies, deployments and periods of separation make military relationships so difficult, whether it's your sibling, child, partner, or spouse.

Did anyone catch last night's second episode of the new season of Army Wives (From the Ashes)? It involved the introduction of a lot of new characters, including the timid yet talented pie maker, Holly Truman.  When Roxy came to speak with her about a new business endeavor involving her delicious pies, it came to Roxy's attention that Holly was a newly married Army wife experiencing her first deployment.  Holly broke down and burst into tears.  She had only been married for six months when her husband left for Afghanistan.  Um is this a chapter from my life?  Ryan and I had only been married six months (lived together for three) when he left for his second deployment to Afghanistan.  I was finishing my senior year of college, finishing up my last year of ROTC to commission as an officer, and this was my first go-around being in a relationship, let alone married, and going through a deployment.  Holy shit. Yup, at times that expletive phrase could only describe what it felt like going through all of that.

I was far from any military base and surrounded by college kids.  Very few people could understand what I was going through.  I was 22, married, and my husband was deployed.  Not a typical situation you would find at the University of Wisconsin.  Not like I was part of the norm already.  I was in ROTC so I was one of the college kids you would find occasionally in a military uniform, in a sorority, worked multiple jobs, was a House Fellow (otherwise known as an R.A.), and so much more.  It was a lot to take on but I always appreciated being busy.  People often said to me, "I could never do it," and would look to me with such admiration and respect.  In all reality, you put yourself through all of that because you love someone so much.  That's all you can do.

Going into the deployment, my main goal was to make the most out of the experience.  I was not going to turn to alcohol, food, or to cheating (yikes on that last one) to get me through the separation.  Instead, I filled my life with a lot of positive energy.  I knew that I had to stay busy, more than I already was because it's the moment of true quietness that truly brings reality home.  It's a reality that you don't really want to think about, especially when the love of your life is in harm's way.

The two things that I was most known for in the deployment were my care packages and my Picture a Day While You're Away.  I sent Ryan at least two care packages every month.  I bought a Cricut, some cartridges and stocked up on a lot of scrapbook paper.  USPS provides a care package kit for the military members and I got a bunch of those kits and just kept sending care packages.  I got family, friends, and sorority sisters involved.  For me, it was a way of showing Ryan how much I love him and I pictured him opening each box and thinking of me.  It gets really cold in Afghanistan in the winter months and he was often sleeping in freezing temperatures.  With my Amazon Prime account, I stocked up on everything he could possibly need.  Since I was a House Fellow, the front desk of the dorm that I was an R.A. in would always recognize the Amazon boxes for me.  I turned a section of my closet into a care package center.  Here I would have those USPS boxes, tape, shipping labels, etc. ready to go and I also organized numerous things that I wanted to ship.  Some boxes had a fun theme to them and others were just essentials that he had requested.  Make sure to check out the post to see how I chose to decorate the boxes.

Although not something unique to me, I participated in a Picture a Day While You're Away picture campaign of sorts while Ryan was deployed.  Similar to a 365 project, a documented my side of the deployment with a picture every day.  I had recently gotten an iPhone while Ryan was on predeployment leave and of course had Instagram.  That app was so heavily used while Ryan was deployed.  Those pictures were used for my daily picture project and I included them as pictures in Motomail, but more on that later.

A 7 month deployment consists of:
-7 months of loneliness.
-31 weeks of worrying.
-236 days of sleepless nights.
-5,110 hours of trying to stay busy.
-306,600 minutes of the phone on the loudest ringer possible.
& -18,396,000 seconds of impatiently waiting for him to come home.


There were around 244 photos in this one album on Facebook.  I had friends in other classes, who I hadn't seen since freshman year, stop me on the sidewalk and tell me how much they enjoyed seeing the pictures everyday.  I had folks tell me that they couldn't check it everyday so on their Sunday night study break, they would go through each picture.  So many prayers and well wishes were sent our way and I feel so incredibly blessed to be surrounded by such amazing people.  What I want these select photos to show you, especially if you're about to go on a deployment, is that you can't let this or any deployment stop you from living.


There were times that it was midnight, I had The Notebook or P.S. I Love You in the background and I was crying myself to sleep.  Yup, that is the ugly side of manning the homefront on a deployment.  There were times that I was in an aisle of Walgreens or Target and insanely frustrated because I had no idea what the hell Ryan was talking about when it came to x,y,z products, just that he needed them.  It's not like I could call him up and ask for clarification.  No, you're on your own and you have to make those executive decisions.  It wasn't just silly, minor things that like that either.  I had to take a J-term course (winter break class) online my senior year.  I was freaking out.  One summer I had taken a course at another UW school to cover a set of science requirements and out of the blue, Wisconsin wasn't going to take them.  That would mean I would have to take over 18 credits my last semester.  That just wasn't feasible.  They did take the course, but I did take an additional online science course through UW-Milwaukee and I had no clue how to pay for it.  My student loans were going for my degree at UW-Madison and there just wasn't hundreds of dollars of chump change hanging around.  I made it work but those times when I could have really used Ryan to comfort me and help me work things out, but the country needed him.  Deployments are difficult and it's not a walk in the park.  However, it is up to you and your attitude on how you will make the journey develop.  Apart from keeping active and busy, I never wanted to distract Ryan from completing his part of the mission.  Me being nagging, overbearing, whining, crying, or just a plain ol' hot mess could cause him not be 100% dedicated to the deployment mindset.  That is the last thing I wanted.  So apart from care packages, I wrote him so many letters.  

An awesome program through the Marine Corps is Motomail.  It's like composing an e-mail, but it gets printed out on their end and sent to them like a letter.  I wrote Ryan almost every single day through that.  It was so easy to open up my computer and just write about my day to him.  I knew that he appreciated the letters and hearing about my day.  Apart from the letters, I would also record him mini tapes and send those in care packages as well.  Like my letters, I would tell him about my day or read him articles, etc.  His phone calls and simply hearing his voice would make my day.  I knew that hearing my voice, even if it was a recording, was something he loved.

In terms of self-care, I made myself incredibly busy.  I wanted to experience so many things and also to instill faith in Ryan that I was fine back home.  Living on campus, I didn't have a car, so I made great use of our free bus pass and other great student deals.  I love musicals and at the Overture Center, I could get really inexpensive tickets to shows.  I saw The Nutcracker, Beauty & the Beast, and a few other shows that were part of traveling Broadway troupes.  I also took classes including ballet and even a pole dancing class.  Both were so fun and something I had never tried before.  I also became a more serious crafter with crocheting, learning how to knit and quilt.  You have to be willing to try things on your own, which was never a problem with me.  I went to speeches and events on campus by myself and I also visited the Union South theater to catch movies on my own.  There are so many activities that are free or have a low cost in your community, definitely check them out! If you live on a military base, there are so many activities- make sure to get involved.

I also did and bought silly things as well.  The day before Ryan left for Afghanistan, I went to Build-a-Bear and made a German Shepherd and named him Valor.  I also got a G.I. Joe because I'm a novelty junkie like that.  My room was a mixture of student life, Badgerificiness, sorority goodness, and military love.

Whatever your deployment brings, understand that it will be over and if you ever need extra prayers sent your way, don't be afraid to ask.  Don't be afraid to let people in and don't be afraid to try something new.  You've got to be strong on the homefront and it is totally possible.

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