Jan 3, 2013

Christmas Cracker Gender Reveal!

We had Baby Monty's anatomy scan right before visiting our families for Christmas, so we HAD to do a Christmas themed gender reveal. I wanted something unique, because everything else had been overdone.  After scouring the internet for ideas that led nowhere, I finally thought of a perfectly festive announcement...Christmas crackers!! 

The English tradition of the Christmas cracker is one that I loved while living in England.  They're easy to make, and fun to customize.  I could easily see people making these for proposals, pregnancy announcements, and other fun events.  My crackers were filled with traditional bits of candy, a paper crown, and a (bad) joke.  I customized them with little carabiners, a 2013 wallet calendar, and Christmas confetti...but ONE was the surprise reveal cracker with gender colored confetti and a little ultrasound photo. Everyone loved learning about the Christmas cracker tradition, and it was a fun way to announce that Baby Monty is a.... 

If you'd like to make your own Christmas Crackers just for fun, or for a special announcement, check out Old English Crackers Online.  I only ordered the snaps, and used toilet paper/paper towel/wrapping paper rolls for the tubes.  I also made my own paper crowns and jokes.  

Gender Reveal Christmas Cracker Materials: wrapping paper squares, cardboard tubes, cracker snaps, a paper crown, a joke on a strip of paper, candy, confetti, carabiners, wallet calendars, and the gender reveal ultrasound.
We had a wonderful visit with our families, and now we're back in Texas- ready for 2013 and the welcoming of our son!  Happy New Year everyone!

Dec 24, 2012

Handmade Holiday Series: Christmas Decor on a Dime

It's Christmas Eve, and I'm featuring my last post in the Handmade Holiday Series. I redecorated an old wreath I bought during law school.  It had little styrofoam berries that fell off every time I shut the front door, so I removed those annyoying balls and replaced them with a red and green Christmas candy theme for under $10.

$ .99 cent wood circle & acrylic paint for the "M" monogram
I also recovered a stocking for my doggie girl using the leftover burlap I had on hand.  This is a simple project that can be replicated for little to no cost. 
And finally, add a wreath to your mantel decor without breaking the bank.  I grabbed a $4 wreath, added a $1 star ornament, some ribbon ($2), and a few $2 picks.  I used the ribbon to attach it to the mirror above our mantel. 
I hope you enjoyed the projects I featured on WLAW for the Handmade Holiday Series.  They were such fun to create, and even more fun to share.   To wrap-up the series, I'm sharing the Christmas card I created this year (which also doubled as our pregnancy announcement).  Merry Christmas everyone! 

Dec 22, 2012

Handmade Holiday Series: Burlap Santa Hat Topiaries

I'm excited to share my formal table setting on WLAW, because it was my favorite project from the Handmade Holiday Series. I fell in love with a Christmas centerpiece I found on Pinterest that used Santa hats and candy canes. Then, that same centerpiece was part of a Christmas craft demonstration at my last Officer Spouses’ Club luncheon. So, I ran with the inspiration and designed my own version of the much loved centerpiece. I used the same $2.97/yd burlap I found at WalMart (and used for the No-Sew Ruffle Christmas Tree Skirt) to craft burlap Santa hat topiaries. To complete the table scape, I covered thrift store napkin rings with the burlap.  I also made dinner napkins from an inexpensive gold and beige material which also came from WalMart.

The original centerpiece used red Santa hats and candy canes, but I wanted something that looked a little more chic.  So I chose a silver and gold jingle bell theme to complement the burlap.  

My inspiration for the Burlap Santa Hat Topiaries from PaintMePlaid

Materials I used for the Burlap Santa Hat Topiaries:

-Three glass vases (1 large, and 2 small)
-Foam Trees (1 large, and 2 small) 
-1/2 yard of Burlap
-Quilt Batting
-1 piece of  beige felt (8 1/2 X 11)
-Fur Trim
-Plastic gold trinkets (found a pack for $1.99 in the jewelry section of Hobby Lobby)
-Three 1/4 inch x 12 inches dowels
-Jingle bells (to fill vases)
-Silver and gold garland
-Scrap pieces of Styrofoam
-Hot glue
-1/4″ masking tape
-Wicker white acrylic paint
-Gold acrylic paint
-Glitter card stock (1 sheet)
-Cream card stock (1 sheet)
-Red scrapbook letters
-Glue Dots

 Cut foam to fit in vases, leaving enough room in the large vase to add jingle bells around the edge and garland at the top.  Instead of the bells, I used glitter card stock around edges to cover the foam in the smaller vases.

Paint dowels white (two coats), let dry.  Then wrap masking tape around and paint the exposed areas gold to create the gold/white pattern.

Using a hot glue gun, cover the foam trees with batting.  Leave enough batting at the top to bunch into a ball.  Next, cover the batting with felt- followed by the burlap. Finally, apply the fur trim to the bottom rim, and use it to cover the ball on top.
Stick dowels into the foam base, and secure the entry point with hot glue to prevent wobbling.  Stick the top of the dowel into the bottom of the foam tree and secure the same.  Place trees into vases. Add bells around the inside edge of the larger vase and glitter card stock around the inside edges of the smaller vases.  Cover the top of the foam with garland.  Lastly, use card stock, scrap book letters, and glue dots to create a message for the front of the vase. 
Add ribbon and a gold trinket above the fur trim of each Santa Hat.
Materials I used for the Burlap Napkin Rings:

6 thrift store napkin rings
6 3X5 strips of burlap
6 strips of ribbon
6 large jingle bells
Hot glue

 Fold burlap around napkin rings and secure with hot glue.

Add a piece of ribbon around the middle, and hot glue a large bell to the top. 


Dec 10, 2012

Handmade Holiday Series: No-Sew Ruffle Tree Skirt

I'm on a roll, two posts in one day!  I have a bit of catching up to do, since only 17 days remain until Christmas.  Pregnancy during the holiday season is so much fun! I think I’m an early “nester,” because I can’t stop decking our home with Christmas décor. My best friend, Niki, who authors the Sweet Southern Charm blog, featured a Craft-Made Christmas Series last year.  I’m linking up with her blog, since she prompted my own craft series this month. Be sure to check out all of her fabulous projects! 

My Handmade Holiday Series focuses on a few online ispired crafts, and how I turned them into thrifty, easy,  DIY projects. My first project was a revamped Christmas tree skirt, and I opted for the popular no-sew method. 

I chose a cream and tan burlap to compliment our gold and bronze Christmas décor. The burlap was my first thrifty find, for only $2.97 a yard at Wal-Mart (compared to $5.97/yd at Hobby Lobby).   Our tree is a slim 6 feet, so I covered a small skirt that required only one yard of material.   Below is a quick tutorial on how you can easily revamp your old tree skirt, for pennies.  I spent less than $10!


New-Sew Ruffle Tree Skirt

You'll need...
  • Old tree skirt (If you don't have an old one, grab one for a buck at Dollar Tree)
  • 1 yard of fabric for a small skirt (I used 1/2 yd of each burlap color)
  • Decorative ribbon ($ .97 at Wal-Mart)
  • Hot glue gun, & a bag of hot glue sticks (I used a mini gun and approximately 10-15 sticks)
  • Rotary cutter and mat
  • Modge Podge (not pictured)
  • Foam brush (not pictured)
  • Optional:  needle; thread to match ribbon

Step One:
Cut your material into strips, three inches wide.  The length of your strips is not as important as the width, and can vary in length.  I used my rotary cutter for this step, but you can use scissors if you do not have a rotary cutter on hand- it's just not as efficient. 

Step Two:
Apply a line of hot glue 1 1/2 inches above the edge of the skirt.  Make ruffles by pinching the material and pressing the gathers down on the glue.  Continue this process around the edge of the skirt, and then start a new row.  My rows were approximately one inch above the previous row.  Continue this process until the old skirt is entirely covered.

Step Three:
After you cover the entire skirt, snip all of the frayed ends.  Using a foam brush, apply a coat of Modge Podge to the edge of each row to prevent further fraying. 

Step Four:
Cut four strips of decorative ribbon, based on your desired bow length.  You can secure the ribbon on either side of the skirt slit with hot glue, or with a needle and thread.  I chose to sew the ribbon for a more finished look.

To Finish:
Tie your handmade tree skirt to the base of your christmas tree, turn off the lights, and enjoy!  I love mine so much that I don't want to cover it with gifts under the tree...I will eventually ;) 

Dec 9, 2012

Hail and Farewell

It’s so easy to focus on the negative aspects of army life when the hubs is gone, and he’s been gone a LOT since we arrived at Ft. Hood. Luckily, he's home for a while and we've had a few opportunities to enjoy the more positive things- like the unit's recent Hail and Farewell.  This was one of my favorite military traditions growing up, because it was the first real opportunity to meet the families at a new duty station. The unit social functions serve to welcome newcomers and say goodbye to the departing soldiers and families. I love how this tradition recognizes the soldier and their family as members of the unit- which is something you don’t always experience in civilian workplaces. 

Sometimes a Hail and Farewell is held at a restaurant or someone’s home, but ours was at the baseball park on post- following the unit’s “Turkey Bowl” the day before Thanksgiving. 

The Battalion Commander introducing us to the Mustangs.
Post game shot:  the Officers beat the NCOs in the Turkey Bowl.
The battalion commander introduced us to the unit by saying a few words about John’s background, interests, and role within the unit. Incoming spouses typically receive a yellow rose, and the battalion commander and his wife presented me with one. We said farewell to many soldiers and their families, including John’s company commander. The formal goodbye consisted of a short speech about the soldiers and their families’ involvement within the unit. Then each soldier received a unit plaque and their spouses received red roses.   Hails and Farewells are a great tradition, and we felt truly welcomed and lucky to be part of a supportive army family.

The army spouse coffee groups are another awesome tradition, and I recently had the pleasure of attending my first one here at our unit. It’s the holiday season, so we had a cookie exchange. I loved meeting the other spouses, and trying all of their yummy cookies!  Since I'm pregnant, the cookie exchange was the BEST idea. Ever. Thank GOD I managed to get rid of all the chocolate caramel shortbread cookies I made for the coffee, because having those in the house would have been a disaster.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here, and I’ve resisted the temptation of making holiday treats by keeping busy with lots of Christmas crafts. Lucky for you, I'll be sharing my latest projects here on WLAW! :-)

Nov 12, 2012

Happy 30th Birthday, BABY!!

It's hard to believe, but we recently celebrated John's 30th birthday. I surprised the hubs (and a few of our family and friends) with a video I made in honor of the milestone. I am so happy to finally share it with all of you! Make sure your volume is turned up ;)
(The song copyright limits viewing, so you cannot view it on a mobile device or TV.  Sorry.)

Needless to say, everyone who watched it was genuinely surprised by the ending! ;) We got one of the best reactions from my mother-in-law. She had no idea I was capturing her on video while she watched.

We're so happy to begin yet another chapter in our book of life, and I'm excited to share some of it with you! The first three months were wonderful, even while battling morning sickness and tiredness during our PCS- oh, the warrior life of an Army wife... Now that we're settled in and the news is out, I'm looking forward to posting updates and projects as we prepare for the arrival of our "new recruit"- so stay tuned!

Nov 9, 2012

PCS Pointers

I fully recognize that PCSing can be a nightmare, and that luck can play a huge part in whether or not things run smoothly …but, there are a few things I learned to offset the typical, and in some cases, unexpected, stressors. As promised, I compiled a small list of the things I found helpful after researching PCS tips from other milspouse blogs, referencing my AFTB materials, and combing through DFAS and other government websites for direction. I also recalled some things I witnessed growing up, when my own parents prepared our family for a move.
  1. Research, research, research!: It is never too early to begin researching to prepare for arrival at your new duty location. As soon as you get wind of a possible duty station, create a file for online research and an actual folder for hard copies if important info. Then research EVERYTHING and save important website links, addresses, and phone numbers. It’s always helpful to search for Temporary Lodging Facilities (on and off post), post and local area maps, area crime reports/desirable living areas (if living off post), housing properties on and off post, your new unit and FRG, schools (if you have children), BAH/BAS for your location, etc. Make your reservations for temporary lodging as soon as you have orders in hand!
  2. Utilize Social Networking: Today, social networks, like Facebook and LinkedIn, are extremely useful tools for learning about a new area or linking up with people who are already there. Many post affiliations have Facebook Pages- so look for your post’s area guide page, the MWR page, and unit and/or FRG page. You may also find specific groups on Facebook too, like the Officer Spouses Club (OSC) or the Protestant Women of Chapel (PWOC). These pages can link you up with other spouses and military members who happily answer questions and give guidance to PCSers. It’s also a great way to see what your new location offers, and to get info for future events. If you’re a professional, use LinkedIn to see what professional connections you have to your new duty location. That connection may lead to another, which may then lead to employment!
  3. To DITY, or not?: Once you’ve researched the distance to your new duty station, decide whether you want to tackle a “do it yourself” move, enlist a moving company to pack and ship your HHG (household goods), or if you want a combination of both. We opted for the combo, a partial DITY and the moving company took care of the rest. For a DITY, your spouse is required to complete a Travel Voucher and Application for DITY Move and Counseling Checklist. You must weigh your vehicles (and trailers) both empty and full of your HHG, so visit your transportation office on post to get a list of approved weigh scales for obtaining your certified weigh tickets. For more info on a DITY, and the forms and checklist visit http://www.dfas.mil/pcstravel/milentitlements/dityppmmoves.html
  4. Separate the Items You Plan to Move Yourself: VIP documents, photos, keepsakes, etc. We also kept our cleaning tools and products, paper plates/cups/napkins, handsoap/toilet paper/paper towels, pillows/blanket, medicine/first aid kit, and our dog’s food, bowls, and bed. Except for the VIP items, we focused on setting aside things that would make the transition easier and cheaper.
  5. Monitor the Movers!: If you opt for a commercial moving company to pack and ship your HHG, then you will enjoy the ease of having everything wrapped, boxed, packed onto the moving truck, delivered to your new home, and unpacked. If you desire the unpacking, you are entitled to have your HHG removed from the boxes, and those boxes (and all of the paper they use to wrap every little item) removed from your property when the moving crew departs. In some instances you are entitled to have an item put back together if it was taken apart by the movers (dressers, beds, etc.), and those items should be placed exactly where you want them located. If you want all that you’re entitled to, or less, make it known to your moving company from the beginning. You may also have to remind them more than once of what you want (unpacking, removal of boxes, etc.). Monitor the packing and unpacking, and do not hesitate to make reasonable demands if you witness carelessness or accidents- it happens. We provided lunch for our moving crew in appreciation for their hard work- which often encourages more hard work!  For more really great tips to prepare for your moving day, visit this Army Spouse’s blog post  
  6. Save Everything: Gas receipts, lodging invoices, truck/trailer rental agreements and receipts, the inventory checklists from the moving company, rental property applications and agreements, etc. When in doubt, save it in your PCS folder because you may be asked to submit those receipts for your various PCS entitlement reimbursements.
  7. Calculate Your Entitlements in Advance: PCS entitlements include
    • DLA (dislocation allowance for having to uproot your family and make a new home)
    • TLE (CONUS)/ TLA (OCONUS) (temporary lodging expenses that cover lodging/meals/miscellaneous when you’re displaced at your gaining and/or losing unit)
    • Travel Day Per Diem, (a set amount you receive for each family member for each day of authorized travel to your new duty station)
    • Mileage and Gas (if you drive)
    • If you DITY, then you’ll also receive an amount based on the miles driven and the weight of your vehicles.
The more you project what you’re to be paid, the better you’ll be able to stay on top of your reimbursement request paperwork that is submitted to DFAS and the transportation office. I linked you to the DLA rates, CONUS per diem amounts, and the TLE Computation

I hope my 'PCS Pointers' are helpful.  It's hard to cover every helpful tip that's floating around out there, but it's a good foundation for future moves.  The more we PCS, the more we’ll learn.  I’d love to know, what PCS tips do you have to offer? Even if you aren’t military or haven’t experienced a PCS, please share your moving pointers with us!