Round-Up: September 2016

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“September rain falls on the house.  /  In the failing light.”  — Elizabeth Bishop

  1. Take a family trip. The hurricane interrupted us. Oh well!  We will have to take a trip next month.
  2. Go on family swims.  Super fun!  Our baby is a little fish.
  3. Begin taking photos for and writing my “guide.” It won’t be ready til next year though!
  4. Look into getting a mobile plug-in for theme development.  Fixed my mobile theme issue.  Check it out!
  5. Celebrate our baby’s 1st birthday!  Aww, yes…Happy Birthday my little baby!  It was so special.
  6. Complete her baby book.  Done!
  7. Finish my baby diary.   Someday…
  8. Continue editing my book. Ditto.
  9. Write down 4 more recipes.
  10. Take a few more pictures of our first home and neighborhood.  It’s a great time of year to do it too!
  11. Make a first-home ornament.  I can’t wait to hang it on our tree this year. 🙂
  12. Visit a few favorite places in our city and take pictures. There’s just one more spot to visit!
  13. Participate in the #marriageflashmob by @beating50 on Instagram.  The flashmob ended before I could join. 🙁
  14. Celebrate our engagement!  <3
  15. Do 1 really fun, unplanned thing.  There was a lot of that this month.  One of the most fun things was giving our living room a makeover.  One of the most unplanned things was deciding not to move.   More on that later?

September was good to our family.  It came pouring in with a hurricane, and left with some kind of rain that must be from a tropical storm.  But in between all the wetness were many dogs walks, shopping sprees, mugs of coffee, packages, long drives, rearranging furniture, fall cleaning, baking, reading, classical music, and family photos.  The highlight of the month was definitely celebrating our daughter’s one-year-old birthday.  I was expecting it to be special, but the day was so much more fun and joyful than I even imagined.  Red velvet cupcake hair and all.

Last monthly post, I said I wasn’t going to celebrate fall until we moved.  Despite the pinspiration and instaenvy around me, I was resolute.  Well, now that we aren’t moving, I have let fall into our life.  And I’m loving it.

Here’s to a wonderful October!  What was your highlight of the month?  Thanks for stopping by.

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Glam Bag Unboxing: September 2016

Ipsy September

One of my favorite aspects of Ipsy is that the company really focuses on preparing theme-cohesive bags every month.  Not that there is anything wrong with being random–quite the contrary, sometimes beauty favorites are a random mix.  But it’s really nice to receive five products that all “work” together once a month to add to my latest beauty routines.  The Ipsy theme for the September bag is all about glamour and luxury.  It’s basically glam for glam’s sake.  And I definitely don’t have a problem with that.

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tarte cosmetics tartiest lash paint mascara

I’ve noticed a new emphasis on the beauty world in “dyeing” eyelashes to make their color standout.  Rimmel London released their new “colorist” mascara that gradually darkens lash pigment until even natural lashes look like they are dipped in mascara.  I think this tarte cosmetics lash paint is intended to do something similar, but more instantaneous.  In my opinion, it seems a little elementary.  I thought half the point of wearing mascara is darkening the lashes.  The majority of mascara colors are “black” or “blackest black.”  So I don’t understand the new emphasis on darkening them, as if it was a step further than before.   Regardless of that, I’m excited to try this lash paint.  It certainly has the reputation for being an amazing and luxe product.  Even the package looks like glam for the sake of glam.

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BellaPierre Cosmetics mineral blush – Autumn glow

When it comes to powders, I love anything and everything mineral.  I have yet to find a mineral powder that is chalky, cloudy, or cheap feeling.  Mineral powders just seem to have a transparency and silkiness that is unparalleled!  This BellaPierre blush is no different.  While I did love the degree of pigmentation it gives, I preferred the color as a contour shade, not a blush.  The glow factor is definitely there with this product too.  The glow has almost a sparkle-factor to it, but not so much that it prevents it from being a contour shade.  I am so glad I got this in my September bag!

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Be a Bombshell Cosmetics Nail Polish – Va Voom

Somehow Ipsy must have known that I love changing my pedi polish colors with the seasons.  They also must have known I recently went through my polish collection and threw out any dry polishes (read: made room for new ones).  The paint itself is surprisingly thick, almost so thick that I wondered if it was drying a little already.  It’s not.  This polish is said to be a one-swipe wonder.  I can’t imagine only doing one coat of polish (and so I didn’t) but if any polish could get away with that, it would DEFINITELY be this one.  The only thing I don’t love about the polish is the color, which I guess is a pretty big part of nail polish.  It’s definitely more fall-appropriate than the Strawberry Margarita I have been wearing this summer, but it’s a little darker than I’m accustomed to.  This will get me by!

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Waxing Kara Sweet Lips Honey Lip Balm – Clear

I know clear lip balm might not seem like a glamour item, but there is something very glamorous about smooth lips!  This adds the perfect amount of hydrating and conditioning–either on its own or under a second lip product.  Unlike many lip balms that have a dry or plastic feel, this product is moist and soft.  And as a small yet important side note, I’m not very into minty lip products, so the honey flavor here is a welcome experience!  I love that there are only eight ingredients and that they are all pronounceable.  Seven out of eight of them are also organic…which also makes me happy.  This is a great win!

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Briogeo Don’t Despair, Repair! Deep Conditioning Mask

Again, not a glamorous looking product (neither package nor description) but the promise of glamour is IN this product.  Nothing speaks glitz the way soft, shiny hair does.  This deep conditioning mask is the key to obtaining just that.  I’m a total hair product junkie, and deep conditioning masks are my speciality (that and serums).   This product is a welcome addition to my collection.  It’s claim to fame is in the hair breakage department–a variety of conditioning masks that I am currently running low on.  It is considered to be a 6-free product, meaning it is free from the six big bad hair product ingredients: sulfates, parabens, phthalates, silicones, DEA, and dyes.  That’s what I like to see, both in the bottle and on my hair strands!  I’m looking forward to trying this out.

There it is!  I am pretty satisfied with the September bag.  It’s always fun to see what Ipsy has been cooking up over the past month.  So far, I have enjoyed every single bag I’ve gotten from them, and the September bag has been no exception.  If you liked what you saw here, or liked some of my previous glam bag unboxings, you may want to sign up too!  You can do so here.  Thanks for stopping by and reading.  I hope you have a wonderful day!

*Joining Ipsy using my link does not in any way compensate me, however it does provide my membership with bonus points I can use towards new products!*

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Never Forget

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 “One day of one September / I never can forget. ” –Hilaire Belloc

On the 15th anniversary of the 9-11 Terrorist Attacks, I thought I’d share something from the day that remains close to my heart.  When I thought of publishing this, my intention was to tell “my story”.  Most of us remember September 11, 2001.  Most of them have their “moment” when they first found out about the attack.  Everyone remembers what they were doing that day.  You can ask any co-worker, neighbor, friend, or family member and they will remember the exact moment they found out that America was under attack.  My story of the day can be summed up in one sentence, but I don’t want to do that because even if the day can be recapped in a handful of words, the feelings cannot.  And after some thought, I don’t want to spend this post telling “my story.”

This day doesn’t serve as a reminder of what I went through, during or after the day.  Or of what I remember from it.  It serves as a reminder for what others went through.  Of what happened to people I don’t know, or never will know.  And so I’d rather spend this post telling someone else’s story.

When I visited Ground Zero, there were two spots that struck me most profoundly, the first of which was the Survivor Tree.  The Survivor Tree is a living piece of history–the only living tree that survived the fall of the World Trade Center.  It’s a Callery Pear that was severely damaged during the attack, not unlike so many human victims of the day.  But after some tending and healing, it was restored to it’s plot in Ground Zero, where it remains a symbol of hope, memory, and resilience.  The before and after pictures are highly moving.  This tree is a hero in its own way–it showed that being victimized isn’t always the last step.  There is surviving.  There is rebirth.  And there is hope.  It made it through the attack, and the years of aftermath from the attack.  So can we.

The other place that struck me most was the Memorial Pools.  These pools are the largest man-made waterfalls in the US.  They are bottomless so to speak, and sit on the footprint of the original Twin Towers.  They are covered in bronze panels that are inscribed with the names of every victim from the 2001 and 1993 terrorist attacks.  At night, light shines up through the names of the victims, illuminating them.  In the void of hopelessness, those victims and heroes shine.

There was one plaque in particular that struck me.  On the South Pool the was a bronze panel dedicated to a flight crew member from Flight 77.  Her name was Renee A. May, and the plaque was dedicated to her and her unborn child.

That deeply struck me.

There was a baby, a living person, inside of that flight crew member.  And the death of her meant the death of her child.  Two people.  A mother and a baby were killed on that day.

Sometimes the media reduces children to a mere “hassle.”  Sometimes babies are reduced to being a woman’s “choice.”  And sometimes babies are even deemed to be an “accident.”  I think that plaque serves to remind us all of the dignity of children.  Just as the mother deserved recognition for being a victim, so did her baby.  To those in this world who are not sure what really counts as a human life, that plaque recognizes that human pregnancy is the growth of a human life.  That plaque stands as a memorial for two lives lost for a reason.

The heroic woman who lost her life, and the tiny child who was also a victim that day, deserve the bronze panel set out for them on the South Pool.  The Survivor Tree also deserves its hallowed plot of ground.  There were so many names of heroes inscribed in that memorial, none of whom I ever knew.  But they were there.  It mades me realize that everyday there are countless heroes who we will never see or know existed.  But they are there.

So today I would like to take the time to call all heroes to mind–especially those of the 9-11 Terrorist Attacks–both known and unknown.  In memory of them, I would like to thank the heroes that I do know.  There are many. And to those I don’t know, you maybe not be known —

But you will never be forgotten.

 

 

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3 Plug-ins I’m Loving

You may have seen (probably not) in my earlier posts that, once upon a time, I had a failed attempt at blogging.  I don’t mind mentioning it because every day of blogging has been a step in learning for me, and I can’t pretend that it’s easy.  SEO, CSS, HTML, and all the rest just doesn’t come naturally to me.  I love writing.  With pencil and paper.

In January of 2015 I bought a domain.  And after a month of trying to blog, I had to give up.  I half-blame it on the fact that I was newly pregnant and so everything was tough for me (except the pregnancy, oddly enough).  But I also blame it on the fact that I went from pencil and paper to self-hosting a website with upkeep costs (on an HP that was intent upon crashing every 4 minutes <–mostly true).  In December of the same year–11 months later–I tried again.  But this time, I did it right.

I started a “free” blog, one that was not self-hosted, on WordPress.com.  You can still visit it here.  It was so so so so so much easier the second time around for three reasons:

  1. Free blogs give less control and hence there was less for me to do
  2. There was less pressure because it was free
  3. I wasn’t as confused because I “knew” what a control panel looked like (and what to expect)

And I liked blogging on my free website.  But after about 5 months I was ready to try blogging on a self-hosted one again.  I wanted my blog to really be my own.  And so I purchased a domain, signed up with WordPress, and the rest is what you are reading right now! (Thanks for that!)

Since my journey of blogging, one of my favorite aspects of the back-end of things has been (and always will be) the plug-ins.  If you aren’t a blogger, then think of plug-ins as apps that help your blog run smoothly.  If you are a blogger, you’ll understand why the three following plug-ins are my favorites of the moment.

Plug-in #1: Yoast SEO

This one is helpful because it appraises my posts AS I’m writing them.  It checks for two things: the SEO quality of my posts, and the readability of my posts.  The plug-in gives green, orange, and red lights to me, depending on how I’m doing.  It also gives me an explanation for WHY I’m getting the light that I’m getting.  For instance, I tend to write in the passive voice, but that is not considered as “readable” as the present tense.  I’ll get an orange light at the foot of my page, with an explanation that I have been using 16.7% passive, which exceeds the maximum recommendation of 10%.  Or my SEO will be off.  For instance, I will establish a certain word as my “keyword” to boost my SEO for the post, but the plug-in will give me a red light if the keyword only appears once in my post.

In other words, this plug-in really forces me to be a better blogger.  It helps me construct my articles better, and pushes me to ensure that I am getting good SEO for each one.  Even though the plug-in can’t prevent me from publishing an article with low readability and bad SEO, it’s pretty much impossible to do when I have the ability to monitor both those factors as I type!

Plug-in #2: Jetpack by WordPress.com

This was my LIFE SAVING plug-in when I made the switch from my free blog to my self-hosted blog.  It single-handedly transferred all my followers from the free blog to my current one.  That was NOT an easy task.  And I didn’t think anything could do that.  But it can, and still does, when I need it to!  It has so many functions that can be turned off and on, and the ease of use is incredible.  I recommend it for any blogger, but especially for those who want to bring things over from one blog to another.

Plug-in #3: Wordfence Security

My blog security.  This plug-in monitors and blocks everything from bots to crawlers to hackers.  They send security updates and notifications to my email too.  I don’t want to breach my security by saying everything that it does–but I’ll just tell you this: it gives my blog complete protection and gives me an awareness of any malicious activity that threatens my blog.  This plug-in is an absolute MUST HAVE.  There is a free version and a premium, and either are completely effective and necessary.

That’s a wrap for my three favorite plug-ins.  I use a lot of plug-ins, but it really wasn’t hard to narrow down the list.  These three are ones that I use more than any others, and for good reason.  If you haven’t added a plug-in to your blog in a while, I would highly encourage you to do so.  There is always some plug-in out there to make your life easier.  And if you don’t have Yoast SEO, Jetpack, or Wordfence, those are my top three recommendations!  Leave a comment below if you have a favorite plug-in.  I would love to know so I can get it!

 

 

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How to Address a Basic Training Letter

Getting it Right: The Basic Training Letter Address

 

Anyone who has waited for their soldier’s return from Basic Training will tell you that the letters are absolutely the best part of the wait.  And any soldier will probably agree!  Writing them might come pretty easily, but making sure they arrive at their destination is another thing.  Even after receiving a few letters from your soldier, it can still be tough to know just how your Basic Training letter address should look.  Here are seven steps you can take to ensure a smooth delivery of your letter:

Step One: Start with a Clean White Envelope and a Black Pen

Sounds boring, I know.  But if you read my last Basic Training Letter post (5 myths busted) then you’ll know that it’s sometimes a big deal to the Drill Sergeants if you spice up the envelopes.  And it’s a big deal in a bad way.    To spare your soldier the risk of punishment, don’t put anything on the envelope except a stamp and two addresses.  Bright pink envelopes, stickers, and perfume aromas are only risks that could get your soldier in trouble.  While some Drill Sergeants don’t care about that kind of stuff, some do–and they use it as an opportunity to give your soldier grief.  Don’t feed the Drill Sergeants.

Step Two: His Name and Number

His name is important, but maybe even more so–his roster number.  To the Drill Sergeants, he is known by his roster number.  The first digit in the number designates which platoon the soldier belongs to.  And the other two digits indicate which soldier he is.  Ex: Roster Number 101 means he is soldier number 01 (they go alphabetically by last name) and in 1st Platoon.  Failing to include that number on the envelope is a big deal.  They go by roster numbers more than names when it comes to mail!

Some bootcamps use the last 4 digits of the soldier’s social security number as their roster number.  This makes it easier for you!  (As long as you know their social security…and as long as you know that their addressing system uses socials instead of roster numbers.)  Often, the addresses that require the social security number will also require a class number and platoon number combination (since the social security number says nothing about their location in the company).  For instance, your soldier might be in the 4th platoon, and his class is the 22nd cycle of trainees going through Basic that year (2017).  So his address line would include something like this: “PLT #4 CLASS 22-17.”  And that part of the address would be really important.  It doesn’t denote the individual soldier.  You would still need to include his name and rank, or social security (all three is ideal).

Step Three: His Unit

This matters because your soldier is not in the only training unit on post.  It’s just as important to write as his name and roster number.  Write it exactly how it is specified in the Commander’s letter (see Step Seven).  Exactly.  You can also write it the way your soldier does on his return address labels (as long as you include the roster number or whatever combination of social security/platoon/class information is required).  I chose to just copy my soldier’s address the way he wrote it, even though it was slightly different than the Commander’s Letter.  I got my husband’s letter before the Commander’s and I didn’t want to wait!  You can do that too.  But don’t make up your own variation– either do it exactly like the commander or exactly like your soldier.  Either one will get your letter to the right place!

Step Four: The Training Site Address

It’s the usual building number, street address, etc.  This is just important because the US mail requires it.  After all, this is still “regular” mail in the end.  🙂

Step Five: A Stamp and Your Return Address

See Step Four above.  *Note:*  Letters that go undelivered to the soldier (because you didn’t include his roster number or unit, or because he graduated) will not be returned to you.  I know I said it’s US mail…but nobody is going to take the time to return your letter to you if your soldier doesn’t receive it.

Step Six: End with a Clean White envelope

Like I said in Step One…don’t decorate the envelope after you seal it.  Clear plastic tape is fine if your envelopes have a hard time staying shut (for some reason, mine always did).  But otherwise, leave the envelope plain and inconspicuous.  You never want your mail to be the subject of unwanted attention for your soldier.  The point of your letters are to bring him relief and comfort!  And I know there are exceptions–some girls get away with all kinds of decorations on their letters.  But since there is a 50% chance that this will cause problems for your soldier, I recommend erring on the side of caution.  If you want some fun stationary supply ideas, see this post for my recommendations!

Step Seven: Wait for the Commander’s Letter

This one is the hardest, but most important, of all the steps if you are in doubt as to how to address it (meaning you didn’t get a letter from your soldier).  The Company Commander sends out a letter to all the soldiers’ points of contact on the first day of Basic Training (it arrives 2.5 weeks after your soldier left home).  It specifies the unit and address of your soldier, as well as some guidelines and general information.  WAIT FOR THIS LETTER IF YOU ARE IN ANY KIND OF DOUBT.  Your soldier gets the chance to write his roster number on the outside of the envelope, or to include his platoon and class information.  That unique information is necessary (see Step Two).  Do not send your letters before you get this roster number or unit information.

It is possible that your soldier will have written you before the Commander’s letter arrives.  And you of course want to write him back.  If he has filled out his address fully, then go for it.  But if he only included his name and a street address, with no unit information, roster numbers, or platoon and class details, then you need to wait.  I know.  The wait is a killer.  But be patient– do not send your responses until you receive the Commander’s letter and the information you are lacking!  Your letters won’t even be given to your soldier until about 3 weeks into training anyways.  Red Phase.  Sending your letters early won’t do any good.  🙁  And you even run the risk of not addressing them properly if you send them too early!

**Special Note for Girlfriends and Fiancees*  Your soldier is given an envelope on the first day of Basic Training to fill out, and that envelope is the one that the Commander uses to send his letter in.  If your soldier uses his parent’s address, or a roommates, then the Commander’s letter will go to them.

The Finished Product

When it’s time to mail your letter, an envelope heading to Fort Benning should read something like this:

  • Soldier’s Rank, Full Name, Roster #
  • __ Company, __ IN REGT
  • Street Address
  • Fort Benning, GA 31905

A letter heading to Fort Sill will look similar to this:

  • Soldier’s Rank, Full Name, Last 4 social security digits
  • __ Btry, __Field Artillery, PLT # __ Class ___
  • Street Address
  • Fort Sill, OK 73503

Letters going to Fort Leonard Wood might look like this:

  • Soldier’s Rank, Full Name, Class # __
  • __ Co, ___ Battalion
  • Street Address
  • Fort Leonard Wood, MO 65473

And letters sent to Fort Jackson will probably look close to this:

  • Soldier’s Rank, Full Name
  • ___ IN Bde
  • ___ Battalion, ___ IN REGT
  • ___Co, __ Platoon
  • Street Address
  • Fort Jackson, SC 29207

And don’t worry if your envelope looks different from that– as long as it matches either your soldier’s letter or the Commander’s letter you’ll be fine!  And if you choose to wait for the Commander’s letter, the only problem you’ll have to deal with is patience.  That’s the hardest part.  But wait for it, and in the meantime, just write the letters and hold onto them.  By the time I could finally send a letter to my soldier with the right address, I had written 18 of them.  haha But at least they all arrived!

I wish you and your soldier (and letters) all the success in the world!  If you have any specific questions about sending a Basic Training Letter (or otherwise) that I didn’t cover here, leave a comment below.  Thanks so much for stopping by!

**Shop here for the ultimate envelope-addressing stencil.  It’s a one-of-a-kind tool!  This is an affiliate link.  Or, visit this post to see ALL my stationary supply favorites!**

Read next–The 5 Secrets I Learned to Nailing Army Basic Training Letters

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September 2016

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        “By all these lovely tokens / September days are here, / With summer’s best of weather / And autumn’s best of cheer.”  -Hilaire Belloc

It’s September!  And I am so happy for it.  I have a lot of plans for this month–ones that I’m really looking forward to.  It’s going to be a very special month for a number of reasons, one of which being that it is our last full month in our first home.  While of course it makes me sad to think our time here is coming to a close, I know we get to bring everything important with us–our marriage, our baby, our furbabies, the coffeepot…so the rest is really just the details!  Before I get carried away with talk about moving next month, let me make a list for what I am looking forward to and need to do in this month:

*Warning: as nostalgia comes, this list is going to get much longer than previous ones*

  1. Take a family trip.  Sometimes the best way to welcome a season is to go chase it in a new state!
  2. Go on family swims.  I want to visit the indoor and outdoor pools as summer ends.
  3. Begin taking photos for and writing my “guide.”  Details will be revealed soon….
  4. Look into getting a mobile plug-in for theme development.  Just some blog updating.
  5. Celebrate our baby’s 1st birthday!  She is just the cutest angel and we can’t wait to celebrate her!
  6. Complete her baby book.  Now I will be able to, since she’s turning 1.
  7. Finish my baby diary.  I know….this one keeps making the lists.
  8. Continue editing my book.  This one does too…but it’s because I have to remind myself about it. ugh.
  9. Write down 4 more recipes.  This has been a helpful challenge for me.  I need to keep it up!
  10. Take a few more pictures of our first home and neighborhood.  Here comes the sentiment…
  11. Make a first-home ornament.  Just something to remember our first home by.
  12. Visit a few favorite places in our city and take pictures.  We usually take pictures anyway!
  13. Participate in the #marriageflashmob by @beating50t on Instagram.  Follow me to see it!
  14. Celebrate our engagement.  It happened 4 years ago, and is such a reason to celebrate! <3
  15. Do 1 really fun, unplanned thing.  Wait…is it unplanned if I just put it on my list?

Time to stop!  The list could go on and on.  I feel like this month is going to be seasonally awkward for me.  It’s September, so that seems like fall.  But I live in the south and so nothing looks or feels like fall over here.  Also, I’ve spent the entire summer in this house, and it doesn’t feel right to start turning “fall” in my apartment right before I leave it.  I think this might just be one long golden summer, and I’ll start fall in our next home.  Just some thoughts…thanks for reading!

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