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News (July 6th Edition)

5 Jul

Okay, so I don’t blog nearly as regularly as I’d like to. That’s just kind of what happens when you have a family like mine. But I may as well give my dear readers an update on what’s been happening lately in our family:

Little Ian!

I hope my readers can forgive the long break I took about a month ago, but Little Ian was born on June 6th at … I don’t really remember – sometime in the afternoon. In my defense, I was really, REALLY high at the time.

I do remember that he was nine pounds and one ounce. He’s not my biggest one – that distinction goes to Johnny (my VBAC and my ONLY vaginal birth!) who tipped the scales at 9’4″. I remember that they showed him to me in the operating room. Having been used to a hefty two-year-old, the first thing I said was, “He’s so tiny!” The nurse laughed and said, “No, he isn’t!”

I had a scheduled repeat c-section. I have to say that my c-section was GREAT! The anesthesiologist was GREAT! All in all, it was a great experience (for a c-section), even if my husband couldn’t be here for it.

He was very upset that he couldn’t be here for the birth or soon after it, but we’re focusing on moving toward the next adventure very soon.

And speaking of moving…

The Move!

I can’t even express how positively ecstatic I am about the upcoming move! I get to be in the same city as my husband again!!!

The movers will be coming in only 10 days! And we’ll be moving to my husband’s AIT location just a few days later. I’m hoping that the house we applied for will work out and we’ll have housing already lined up by the time we get there. It’s going to be crazy!

But I’m going to take LOTS of pictures, and once I get settled in (and get the computer up and running!), I’ll do a few blog posts on how to maintain your sanity during a move (once I dig my sanity out of whatever box the movers put it in!). So once again, I’ll be off-line for a little while, but I’ll be back soon!

Here’s What I’ve Got in Mind…

Hopefully with the upcoming move, I’ll have LOTS of great stuff to write about! But just to give you all a preview of what’s on the horizon here at TQPH (with the understanding, of course, that I’ll probably get less than half of this actually accomplished), here’s a list of a few projects I’ve got coming up:

  • I have a round dining room tabletop that I want to convert to a chabu-dai table (a low Japanese tea table). I want to get that done before I move.
  • I want to make some zabuton pillows – meditation cushions – for the living room. I’d like to get that done before I move, but I seriously doubt that will happen because I’ll either have to borrow my mother-in-law’s serger or get mine serviced before I can undertake a big project like that.
  • I have this great idea for a couple of paint chip wall art pieces. I’m still tossing around ideas, but I’m planning on something Asian-inspired.
  • I have a few really nice boards in my garage that I want to get cut to size, primed, and painted white before we move so that I can use them as wall shelves with the right brackets.
  • And of course, I’ll be sure to catalog the moving process to share my experiences with my readers.

The Blog

I hope that it’s become clear by now to my readers (both of you!) that I don’t usually do newsy updates. Most of my blog posts are some crafty thing or some homemaking tips or something. Personally, I don’t like blogs that do a bunch of “filler”. I mean, I understand that you’ve got to do some “housekeeping” on a blog. Occasionally you want to do giveaways or something like that, but if I’m watching a blog for homemaking tips, I’m not really thrilled when they spend three days a week doing “Wordless Wednesday” or whatever. And maybe it’s just because I’m cynical and I know exactly what they’re doing when they do that. (For those of you who aren’t bloggers, search engine rankings are largely based on how frequently the blog/website updates. Since almost everybody will run out of material to make a relevant post 5-7 days a week, many professional bloggers will do some sort of “Wordless Wednesday” or “Inspiration for the Weekend” or whatever. It’s a short, totally irrelevant post intended to make it look like the blog is updated frequently.)

Anyway…

I don’t always get my blog updated regularly, mainly because I’m lazy. I could say I’m busy, but I may as well be honest. And I don’t think that most of what I do is really that interesting. After all, do you really want me to write about my two-year-old getting into the markers? You do? Well… They say a picture is worth a thousand words:

Okay, so back to the point: If you want to be updated when I have some new stuff up, please subscribe to my blog. That way you don’t have to keep coming back to obsessively stalk me because you’re craving some new craft projects or cleaning recipes or moving tips; the blog will just send you an innocent little e-mail and let you know that it’s time to come check out something cool! And there’s an added advantage to me: While I can see how many people are visiting my blog, I can’t tell how many of those are robots or some sort of Underworld Internet trolls stumbling across my blog while surfing for porn (you’d be surprised how often seemingly innocent blogs are listed on some sort of weird search page next to porn; it’s weird). Anyway, if you subscribe, then I’ll know that at least SOMEBODY wants me to keep typing!

So now, I’m done. No more boring news (for awhile!). Thanks!

Why is Military Homemaking Different?

30 Mar

In fairness, this is a question I get often from civilian friends who just don’t understand what makes homemaking different as a military wife. Military homemaking combines a lot of challenges that a LOT of homemakers face, but most people only face one or two of these!

  1. The Importance of Homemaking. I believe that homemaking is important for EVERYBODY, but it’s even more important for military families. It’s important for everyone to have a place that feels like “home” – a place of refuge and sanctuary when the outside world is stressful. We all can benefit by having a comforting retreat in times of turmoil. But for many of us, the “home” may be a combination of different areas & different places. The idea of “home” is larger than the house in which we live. “Home” encompasses our neighborhood, our yard, even our friends’ homes! We may feel at home in our schools or our workplaces, and that’s a very good thing. But for military families, all of these external signals of “home” can change frequently. It’s not unusual for Army families to move every 2-3 years! So when your neighborhood and the exterior of your home (and even many elements of the interior!) change, it’s crucial that the interior (the only part you can really control!) remains as stable as possible.
  2. The Importance of Homemaking, pt. 2. Children in particular thrive on stability, and the fact is that the military life is ANYTHING but stable, especially for kids! Dad’s duty hours may change frequently. He may deploy. There are frequent moves, and the keyword in military life is “resiliency”, which is really just a nice way of saying, “Quit complaining!” So a wise mom will do all that she can to create an atmosphere of stability with her children. When the same painting hangs in the front hallway of every home they move to or the living room furniture is arranged in a similar manner no matter where they go, it creates stability, which is critical for military kids. Maybe every Monday is Meatloaf Night, or maybe every night before bed is Storytime in the living room. All these little routines and household minutiae really do help children to be well-adjusted despite their frequent upheavals. These things help to CREATE resilient children.
  3. The Importance of Homemaking, pt. 3. Last one, I promise! Homemaking is important for our husbands as well. When they are away, they are thinking of home. In their down time, they re-create images of home and family based on what they remember. It can be tempting for a mom to change things while her husband is deployed, but this seldom has a happy ending. During a deployment or separation, the kids need stability more than ever, but the husband also needs to know what he’s coming home to. While it may seem like an amusing anecdote, it’s not uncommon for a man to come home, find the living room furniture re-arranged, and immediately move everything back to how it was before he left! He’s been dreaming of “home”; keep it stable for him. (Incidentally, when change can’t be avoided – like when you have to move to a new house or his favorite recliner breaks and must be replaced – take a picture of the new setup and send it to him via mail or e-mail with an explanation. It will make it MUCH easier for him to accept when he gets back.)
  4. Frequent Moves. This one, most people understand. After all, we live in a pretty mobile society, and we’re all going to move a few times in our adult lives. But many people can under-estimate the frequency of these moves and the impact that it has on us. While the average for Army families is about 3-4 years, it’s not unheard of for Army families to move as frequently as 12-18 months! Air Force families tend to have longer tours and be a bit more stable, and Navy and Marine families tend to be somewhere in between (although I hear that Marines are closer to Army relocation times). We will be moving. And even when/if we don’t move, the understanding that we WILL be moving can often be psychologically difficult to deal with. I’ve known military wives who LOVED to garden and went years without planting anything in their garden. One told me, “We’ve been here four years, so we’re overdue for a PCS (a military move). Since I know that spring and summer are prime PCS seasons, I don’t see the point in planting a garden since I’m pretty sure we’re going to move soon.” She actually ended up staying at the same base for 7 or 8 years, but the impact it had on her was significant. Not only will we be moving; we KNOW that we’ll be moving. We KNOW that we’re “short-timers.”
  5. Rental Homes. Most of us who live in the continental United States (CONUS) will be living (at least temporarily) in civilian rental homes or apartments. On-post housing is notoriously hard to get into. But the point is that whether we’re in rental homes or government quarters, we are often prohibited from making major changes to the decor or design. We often can’t paint and are very limited with what type of modifications we can make to the home. This can make decorating on a budget very difficult.
  6. Government Quarters. Clearing government quarters has a justly deserved reputation for being a NIGHTMARE! While it depends greatly on who your housing inspector is, a mostly clean house in government quarters can be cause for all sorts of problems! 
  7. Vastly Different Quarters. If I live in Columbus, Ohio, I have a pretty good idea of what sort of home I can afford. If I get a pay raise and upgrade to a nicer home, that pay raise will probably be fairly modest and any changes to my living quarters will probably be pretty minimal. The point is that my living quarters are unlikely to change drastically. If I can currently afford a 1,500 square foot 3 bedroom, 1 bathroom townhome, I might be able to upgrade to a 1600sqft/3BR/2BA townhome, but whatever I look for will be about the same. But this isn’t true for military families. In one part of the country, they may be able to easily afford a 2,500 square foot, 4BR, 2BA rental home (or that may be the government quarters they’re offered). In another part of the country, they might struggle to afford a 1,000 square feet, 2BR, 1BA apartment. If you’ve been living in 2,500 sq ft and you now have only 1,000 sq ft, how do you fit everything in? Or vice versa? How do you make 1,000 sq ft or furniture look properly scaled in a 2,500 sq ft house? If your last home had a very modern feel and this one is extremely traditional, the furniture that looked great before might look very out of place now. This sort of instability can make decorating especially challenging for military families.
  8. Tight Budget. It’s no secret that the military doesn’t make a ton of money. There are many military families that live below the poverty line, and as Congress continues to slash money-saving programs like the Commissary and MWR programs, we’re going to see a lot more military families in financial trouble. The point for the homemaker is that we have to deal with all of these challenges without the benefit of an unlimited budget. We have to find creative solutions to the problems that we so frequently face.
  9. Decorating to Please Someone who Isn’t There. For many of us, we want to please our husbands, but our husbands are seldom available to go furniture shopping with us. Maybe they’re out in the field, on a drill, deployed, or just unable to get out of work, but we have to go out and guess what he might like and then just hope that we guessed right.  

Anything else? What did I miss?

Asian-Inspired Wall Panel

28 Mar

Geez, what exactly am I supposed to call these things? I feel like I’m naming a recipe here (and I’ve NEVER been good at that! Most of my recipes come out being called something like, “that meat and noodle thing with the sour cream and lemon pepper” or something weird, so my poor kids & husband never know what to say when they want to request that I make something again. Not that it would matter, because I can’t ever REMEMBER my recipes in the first place. And there I go, digressing again…)! Okay, so the point is, I’ve got no idea what to call these little projects.

But on this one, I got an idea that’s just kind of evolved. Let’s not worry about WHERE I got the idea; I couldn’t tell you. It’s changed so much from its original design that I have no clue where it came from.

Oh, wait – yes I do! I saw an idea to make snowflakes and glue them to a contrasting color.

So that’s the first thing I did. I decided I was going to do a little display thing of 4″ x 4″ papers. While I have no clue whatsoever what our living room is going to look like, I already know that I plan on keeping the decorating scheme very Zen (as much as possible). I’m thinking lots of neutrals: tan, cream, white, and that pale green that Chris likes so much. For those little “pops” of color, I’m thinking red (in EXTREME moderation!), black, and white. And because black & white furniture can be used, re-used, re-purposed, moved to different rooms, etc., depending on what our setup looks like.

So I chose pale green and white for the 4 x 4″ pieces. Using my rotary cutter, acrylic ruler, and cutting mat, I found some pale green and white printer paper from the kids’ craft box. (I really need to get my own craft supplies instead of raiding theirs all the time!) I cut numerous squares to that 4 x 4″ size. Then I grabbed several of them and started folding them like snowflakes and cutting on them like we used to do in school every winter to decorate the classroom with snowflakes. When they were done, I took my best ones and used a glue stick (from the kids’ craft box) to glue the snowflakes to the contrasting color. Then the snowflakes were DONE!

Next, I wanted to add a bit more of an Asian (specifically a Japanese) flair to the project, so I started working on the two botanical panels. For one, I wanted to specifically do blades of grass or reeds, so I just cut a bunch of funny looking stems. It was all just freehand and me playing around. Then I just kind of arranged the little stems (glue stick!) onto the background until I thought it looked right. On the second botanical one, I did the same stem thingy and also added a few leaves. I trimmed up the edges with my rotary cutter.

Finally, I wanted to finish it off, so I went looking online for some Japanese Kanji characters. I printed out the ones for “Harmony”, “Family”, and “Serenity”, and then cut them into 4 x 4 squares with my rotary cutter.

I felt like it looked good but needed a splash of color, so I dug some red printer paper out of the kids’ art box and cut it into 4 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ squares, then glue sticked the little 4 x 4’s onto it. Here’s the result:

That’s a lawn & garden trash bag underneath them because I wanted to see how they would look with a dark background. And there’s a large piece of glass over them because they were already starting to curl up because of the glue stick, but I thought they went fairly well together.

I pressed them in my phone book overnight. It’s kind of lucky, because I normally recycle my phone book within days of getting it but I just hadn’t gotten around to it because we just got back from Chris’s BCT graduation when I found the new phone book on my porch, so I’m glad I had it for the panels!

And then today held a trip to Michael’s!

The first thing I thought as I looked at these panels was that they weren’t really even, and there was too much red. So I took my rotary cutter and acrylic ruler and cutting mat and trimmed them up to leave about 1/8″ of red background on each side.

Then, I turned to my foam board. I opted for a foam board for a few reasons: 1) It’s CHEAP! 2) It’s lightweight, so it’ll be easy to hang ANYWHERE. Okay, for two reasons.

But I needed to trim it, so I just used my rotary cutter to trim it to size.

Then I had to mark where the panels were supposed to go. In this case, I wanted them 3/4″ apart with 1 1/2″ as an outside border. So I marked the lines with pencil where I knew they’d be covered up by pictures

and assembled my supplies: Mod Podge Matte (for paper), my foam panel, a paper plate, a large sponge brush, and my panels.

Then, I laid out all my panels just to check the fit:

Next, I used my Mod Podge to glue down my pictures and then put a coat of Mod Podge over the top of all of them.

You can see in this picture that some of them (like the green Kanji in the top row) have curled up, especially along the edges. I could probably prevent that from happening by doing more coats that are thinner, but patience isn’t my strong suit, and I know from previous experience that it’ll all lay pretty flat once it’s completely dry.

The reason it curls up like that is because it’s wet, and I added a final top coat of Mod Podge to it, which REALLY didn’t help with the curling problem, but oh well. It’ll look fine when it’s dry. For now, here’s what it looks like:

See how much better it looks when it dries?

It’s still not TOTALLY dry; you can still feel a little moisture, so there’s still a few little wrinkles on the paper parts, but it’s close enough that I can start working with it.

But it’s not really DONE. It looks unfinished.

So I found this:

I’m guessing that Washi tape would work, too, but I haven’t been able to find it locally. Instead, I ran across this. It’s wallpaper trim tape, but the color looked great, so I picked it up. It’s got these little grids on the back, which makes it a snap to measure out.

Then I peeled back half of it, as you can see here:

Then I put the board over the sticky side and lined it up like this:

I pressed the board down HARD on the tape to make sure it stuck to the back. Then I peeled the rest of the backing off:

And then folded the tape around:

Made sure to press out the air bubbles (with the remnants of my manicure that I got JUST for my hubby’s graduation!):

And voila!

Okay, so the lighting sucks, and you can still see the wrinkles in the front until it dries all the way. I’m going to stick this under some heavy books and press it the rest of the way probably for another day or so, and then it’ll probably look great, but at least you can kind of see what it’s going to look like now.

Hey, I’m a crafter, NOT a photographer! My photography skills suck! But at least you can kind of sort of figure out what I did and how I did it, so you’ll just have to deal with sub-standard photography! 🙂

Okay, so that one really sucks. I’ll add some nicer pictures with better lighting once it’s FULLY dry (in about a day or so), so check back on this post in a day or so and I’ll edit it to show the final product prettier!

A little better? I can’t leave it like that. I’ll leave it like this, but with a promise to update it soon!

Song Pictures

28 Mar

NOTE: Please forgive me, as this is my first blog post here at Blogger, and I’m a little confused! So the formatting may be funky and it might be a little weird, but please bear with me as I’m learning this stuff! 🙂

I got inspired for this somewhere searching Pinterest and looking at … well, I don’t remember exactly what it was I was looking at. And I was listening to my Patriotic Playlist on Vevo and really missing my husband. Maybe it was the playlist. Anyways, that’s not really relevant…

So the idea was to put pictures of my husband with my favorite song lyrics.

That part was pretty easy, and I don’t have a tutorial of it because it was all computer generated.

First, I found the lyrics to a few songs I really liked. Then I opened up MS Word and built a 1 x 1 table and set the size of that table to 5 x 7, since that’s the size I wanted for my pictures. Next, I found a good background image that I liked that looked like parchment. (Then today I found out that my mother-in-law has a huge stack of parchment which would’ve been much easier, but I digress…) I put that picture in and placed it “behind text” just behind the table.

Then, I put the song lyrics in. I used Chopin Script and adjusted the size to make it fit the way I wanted it to.

Next, I added the pictures I wanted. Since they were mostly color shots, I had to play with the coloring & formatting a little bit. I used a rounded rectangle for the shape and then did “Soft Edges” in 5pt or 10pt (depending on what looked right). Then I went to “Recolor” and changed the color to Sepia, and then adjusted the brightness & contrast a little bit to give it a consistent look so that all the pictures looked to have similar lighting.

Finally, PRINT! (I just used regular computer paper.)

Then I used a rotary cutter, cutting mat, & ruler for most of the rest of this (because it’s what I had). I trimmed the printed pages to 5 x 7″. I found some old black construction paper in the kids’ art box (and used the last three sheets!) and trimmed that to 8 x 10″. Then I used a glue stick (also found in the kids’ art box; I used the last one so I had to re-stock them today!) to put the pages on and mat them. I used my clear acrylic ruler to place them evenly.

Here’s the result:

Now you may notice that those ARE in frames, and the frames don’t look half bad. At least, not in these pictures. Because up close, those frames are actually silver (not brass, like it looks like in the picture), and they really don’t work. But I needed the frames, because after I used the glue stick, the sheets were curling up on the sides, so I just stuck all three of the pictures into the same frame and used the frame to press the pictures flat overnight.
Then today I hit Dollar Tree (the “Everything’s $1.00″ store) and found some $1 8 x 10” frames. They were pretty ugly, but they’d do for what I had in mind.
Sorry I didn’t get a “before” picture on the frames; here’s the “after”:

Yep, that’s a can of Krylon spraypaint right there. I put a lawn & garden trash bag in my garage floor and spray-painted the frames. Then I let them dry, put my pages into my frames, and…

Voila!
Personally, I like the matte frames with that kind of light tan finish. I forgot what the color is called, but I love the way it goes with the pictures!

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