Round-up: November 2016

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“November comes / And November goes, / With the last red berries / And the first white snows.”  

— Elizabeth Coatsworth

This was a long month.  Sometimes it’s nice for fall to end slowly though–sometimes better than being hit in the face with a rush of holidays that are over before you can even catch a breath!  But if I’m going to be hit in the face…the holidays are the best way to take it.  haha  I didn’t get done nearly as much as I thought I would, which is surprising since this month seemed to take forever.

  1. Visit the local library with my baby.  We just did a lot of reading from our home library!
  2. Make my house ready for holiday guests.  Feels so good to be finished with those last touches!
  3. Learn how to make pot pie.  No. But I did experiment with sweet potato gnocchi and “drunken pumpkin” sauce.
  4. Rework some of my Google Ads.  Never got around to it!
  5. Finish the first half of my knitting project. Now I’m working on the front of my baby sweater.
  6. Celebrate Thanksgiving!  And I had a lot to be thankful for!
  7. Start reading a new book.  All that home library reading was children’s books. 🙂
  8. Make an autumn wreath for our front door.  This was so much fun to do.  I’ll have to make a winter one!
  9. Begin Christmas shopping–EARLY.  Yep, it has started.
  10. Get half-way through my baby diary.  ha. ha. ha.
  11. Finish proofreading and send the last few chapters to my junior editor.  HA. HA. HA.
  12. Enroll in a class online. I enrolled in a mini-course on blogging.
  13. Finish watching One Tree Hill.  It’s over!
  14. Begin using Amazon Associates.  I did, but I have to make a new application soon.

This month taught me that when life gives you pumpkins, make pumpkin pie.  Unpacking that a bit– there were some unexpected things that I was hit with this month.  Maybe some of them were downright lemons, but most were just unique, odd, unexpected pumpkins.  While I wasn’t able to necessarily make pumpkin pie out of all of them, there was definitely a good spin that I could put on any of them.  Some things fell my way that wouldn’t have if I hadn’t been faced with those surprises.  And my phone is filled to the brim with hundreds of photos–proof that there were some pretty good times had this month, as always.  And there were definitely some pumpkin spice lattes had this month! (Again, as always!)  All in all, November remains a good month for many reasons year in and year out, and this month was no exception.

What was your November like?  Making lists is a thing around here…I’d love to read yours.  Leave a comment below and tune in soon for my December to-do list.  Thanks for stopping by!

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Thanksgiving 2016

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Happy Thanksgiving!  In the words of John Greenleaf Whittier, may “thy life be as sweet, and its last sunset sky / Golden-tinted and fair as thy own Pumpkin pie!”  Side note: mine is cooling right now.

Even though I am don’t enjoy 99% of traditional Thanksgiving fare, I’m 100% a celebrator of this holiday!  There should be a Thanksgiving every month, or even every week, because there is just SO so SO so much to be thankful for.  I would just like to name four things that right now I am incredibly thankful for:

  1. Faith- I am Catholic and having a faith to hold on to is my rock throughout this unpredictable Army life
  2. Family – my perfect husband is my best friend, and our darling baby is the apple of our eyes
  3. Health- there have only been a few times in my life where I have been generally “unwell” and I hated it!
  4. Memories- as a very sentimental person, it means so much to have years of memories that make me smile

I know Thanksgiving is not simply about being thankful.  It’s historic roots call to mind a sense of patriotism and honor among us.  The holiday also stands as a reminder to give, share, and nurture– both our own family, as well as the families in our world.  I don’t want to get preachy or cliche about it, so I will stop there.  But I would love to hear from you in the comments!  What does Thanksgiving mean to you, and how do you celebrate it?

Happy Thanksgiving!

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What to Expect on Family Day at Army Basic Training

What to Expect at a Basic Training Family Day

I remember the day like it was yesterday.

My husband and I had been married for less than a month when the day came for him to leave for Basic Training.  It was heartbreaking.  I was pining away for Family Day–we both were.  Those 9 weeks of training were the longest we had ever been apart (we lived 8 miles apart before we were married).  When our Basic Training Family Day rolled around, I flew across four states just for the occasion.  And it was TOTALLY worth it!  (Side note: 4 modes of transportation was a lot though–I recommend simplifying if you can. haha)

Let me start out with a quick disclaimer about Family Day: most Basic Training camps dub the day before graduation as “Family Day.”  But if your soldier is attending Ft. Benning, GA for OSUT (meaning he is at Basic to be an infantry or armor soldier), then Family Day is a separate weekend from graduation weekend.  It occurs in the middle of your soldier’s training cycle to give them a much-deserved break.  (They roll straight from Basic into their AIT).  Other Basic camps unfortunately don’t get this mid-way break because they have a natural weekend break between their Basic Graduation and their AIT Graduation.  One more quick note: each battalion may vary in their Family Day procedures a little bit.  The following information is all based on my personal experience.  While it might not be identical to the Family Day of your soldier’s battalion, you can expect something similar!

What Basic Training Family Day Is:

Basic Training Family Day is essentially a weekend break for your soldier.  (See above paragraph for explanation on why they get this!)  It is designed for family (and friends) to get the opportunity to spend time with their soldier-in-training.  It’s gives your soldier a breath of fresh air and some quality time outside of the platoon.

What Basic Training Family Day is Not:

It is not a two-day pass of freedom for your soldier.  (Unfortunately!)  He will have many, many, many rules to follow while he is spending time away from his training area.  While he won’t have to physically train at all during the Family Day weekend, he will absolutely have to adhere to a (large) set of rules.  It’s also not an overnight pass.  That was a hard one to swallow.

When Basic Training Family Day Occurs:

It occurs over a weekend– meaning Saturday and Sunday.  Usually it takes place about half-way through the training cycle.  But not always.  The Basic Training Family Day for my husband’s company was in the ninth week of his fourteen weeks of training.  If you are your soldier’s first point of contact, then you will receive a letter from the commander (that all-important letter I have referenced before) stating when Family Day occurs.  If you are a girlfriend or friend and aren’t receiving communications from your soldier’s commander, you might be able to access the information via your soldier’s Company Facebook page.

Who can Attend Basic Training Family Day:

Basic Training Family Day is completely open to all family, fiancees, significant others, relatives, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, frenemies, and neighbors of the soldiers in training.  There are no tickets or reservations required.  And if no one comes to spend time with a soldier, he or she can still enjoy some time away from the training area.

The Basic Training Family Day Schedule:

This is a brief synopsis of what mine was like:

  • 7:30am arrive at the Basic Training area
  • 8:00am an “introduction to the Army” briefing
  • 9:00am soldiers and families reunite
  • free time all day off-post and on-post
  • 7:00pm drop-off time

There are no activities planned for the family and soldier to participate in together.  The solider will have a special formation beforehand (early on the first morning of the Family Day weekend).  During his formation, the Drill Sergeants will go over the Family Day rules.

Meanwhile, the families will gather in a classroom and receive a brief “introduction to the Army Family” as well as learn the rules that the soldiers will be under during Family Day.  You will learn a little bit about what your soldier has been doing the past few weeks, and then A LOT about the rules.  During the introduction, you might get addressed by one or two of your soldier’s Drill Sergeants, but most likely the Company Commander.   At my Basic Training Family Day, we were also given a chance to ask questions that are related to Family Day.  It wasn’t a question-and-answer session about how to deal with the Army or ask about your soldier’s future assignments– but if we were confused about the rules, that was the time to ask.

After the families are released from their briefing, the soldiers will be finished with theirs.  At the Family Day I attended, the soldiers were all outside finishing up their briefing when we walked out of the classroom.  We reunited right there outdoors once they were dismissed.  Some Family Day procedures may include having the soldiers come to meet their families indoors in the classroom.  I think it just depends on which briefing is finished first.

Once you pick your soldier up, HE IS YOURS UNTIL drop-off time.  Yes, there is a drop-off time.  And since it will vary from Family Day to Family Day, I won’t state an exact time here.  But just know, that time means EVERYTHING.  If you drop your soldier off even two minutes late, it is highly probable he will be recycled and have to begin training all over again.  Do not, under any circumstances, drop him off late.  Unfortunately, there is absolutely no way for you to “take the blame” for him.  Even if you are 100% at fault for why he is late.  That is the Army life.  It’s the soldier’s responsibility, completely, to be back at the appropriate time.  He cannot be shielded by wives or parents or even his children’s excuses.  So, no matter what you do on Family Day, DROP HIM OFF ON TIME.

The second day, Sunday, is similar to the first day of Family Day.  The only difference is that there is no family briefing.  Your solider will have to report to his morning formation, just like the day before.  Though he probably won’t be told all the rules again, he will definitely be told what time he needs to return by.  Once he is released from formation, you may pick him up and take him off just like yesterday.  His drop-off time MIGHT be earlier, since it is the day before training.  ASK your soldier.  Do not drive off until you know what time he needs to return by.  Once you know, drive away and enjoy your day together!

**Special note to those whose Basic Training Family Day falls on a Federal Holiday weekend:  You lucky duck!  It is extremely likely that your soldier will get a 3-day weekend with you!  Obviously, you need to double-check the commander’s memo (the invitation either mailed to you or posted on Facebook).  It will confirm or deny this phenomenon.

Basic Training Family Day Rules for the Family:

The Army can’t really issue out rules to the family or friends of the soldier, but there are still a few that exist:

  1. Do not go anywhere on the training grounds except where the signs and aides tell you to go.  You are NOT allowed to go into your soldier’s barracks.  There will be a sign or two directing you to the parking lot, as well as aides (soldiers) who will be directing you from the parking lot to the gathering area (our gathering area was a classroom).  Don’t go anywhere except where you are designated to go.
  2.  You can’t let (or make) your soldier drive.  Anyone except the soldier is allowed to be the driver, because they aren’t permitted to get behind the wheel.
  3. You can’t go very far away with your soldier.  He will have mile restrictions that, as his visiting family, you must stay within.  The mileage restriction is usually a 25-mile radius, but you will be given the exact rule during the briefing.  Don’t worry though, there will still be plenty to do within the restriction!  Your soldier will just be thrilled to be leaving the training area footprint with you.  This rule obviously only applies when you are with your soldier.  There is no restriction on the visiting family outside of Family Day hours.  It’s a rule simply to keep families from taking the soldiers too far away, risking no return for evening formation.

Basic Training Family Day Rules for the Soldier:

There are many.  So many.  🙁  Unfortunately, this is not a complete list.  Don’t worry, because you will be told (and possibly be given a pamphlet on) all the rules.  It might vary from battalion to battalion, but these are the ones that stick out in my mind:

  • The soldier cannot drink, nor can he smoke.
  • He can not wear anything besides his uniform in public (no going swimming or changing into comfy clothes).
  • As stated above, he is not allowed to drive AT ALL.  Nor is he allowed to travel outside a certain mile radius.  Though it’s a strange rule, he may not sit on the ground (don’t ask…).
  • He cannot bring snacks, or any other prohibited items, back to his barracks at the end of the night.
  • Until he is dismissed from formation (in the morning), he cannot leave the training area.
  •  He can’t return late (missing the return formation).

There are more, but those are the basics.  <–haha see what we did there?

Basic Training Family Day Warnings:

During our family briefing, we were given some heavily suggested “guidelines” that technically weren’t rules, but were basically warnings.  While the soldier is allowed to make purchases, and often families like to go shopping during this time, we were warned to be wary of making big purchases.  Unfortunately there are quite a few shops surrounding Army posts that target brand new soldiers.  They sell boots (an expensive item) and other pieces of equipment that your soldier might want.  After so many weeks of training, he be tempted to buy because “he needs a better or newer thing that he has worn out during training.”  It’s totally a reasonable thought from your soldier-in-training.  But BE VERY CAREFUL.

The Army only allows certain items to be used.  There are regulations on any piece of clothing or piece of equipment.  Many surplus stores sell dupes and “similar” items that are not Army standard.  If he buys an expensive pair of boots but they don’t qualify according to Army standards, he won’t be allowed to wear them.  To be on the safe side, don’t shop for anything Army-related off-post.  He has already been issued the amount of equipment and uniforms that he will need to complete Basic Training.  (And there is a mini store [the PX] nearby bootcamp where he is occasionally allowed to restock on small items: soap, pens, paper, etc.)

There are also a lot of “deals” that air on Family Day weekends.  Car dealerships will prey on new soldiers who have a pile of cash and haven’t been able to spend it.  Just be careful and remember your soldier can’t have much at all in his barracks.  Even if he makes many, many purchases, it is likely he won’t be able to bring most of it back with him to the barracks.  (Especially not a car!)  You don’t want the Drill Sergeants to confiscate his new purchases!

Basic Training Family Day Suggestions:

Your soldier will probably have a lot to tell you!  Try to go somewhere you can talk and catch up.  Drive around town and find a place to walk.  It has been a while since he has enjoyed a leisure meal, so you could treat him to one.  Often this will be your soldier’s first chance to receive military discounts at restaurants and stores!  The day will go by quickly, so don’t try to do too many activities at once.  Just focus on being in the present moment, and giving your soldier a well-deserved break from his daily training.

If there is something he has been running low on, like letter-writing supplies or calling-cards, it is a good time to go shopping for some! (But don’t stress–the PX remains a good backup resource for his needs, if you don’t have time to go shopping together).  Whatever you do, don’t worry about trying to meet his Drill Sergeants or “see your soldier in action.”  You will see his leadership at the graduation ceremony, and there may be a ceremonial display of training during the graduation weekend.  Family Day is all about spending the day away from the training grounds with your soldier!  I also recommend that you spend the final half-hour of the day just chatting in the parking lot.  That way you can squeeze out every last minute of the day without risking him missing formation.

Purchasing Souvenirs of the Day:

If you’re anything like me, then you’ll want to purchase a little token to remember the trip by.  It is very likely that there will be a table of gift items available for purchase before and after the “introduction to the Army” briefing at the start of the Basic Training Family Day.  Many military units sell gift items on days such as Family Day, as fundraisers for future unit events.  However, if those aren’t being sold, you can also purchase military-themed gifts at the local Post Exchange located on post.  Another option is to visit one of the local military museums.  They always have a gift shop with plenty of merchandise.

Final Thoughts about Basic Training Family Day:

Our Basic Training Family Day was two of the best days we had during our first year of Army life.  It’s such a welcome break from being apart, and really helps alleviate the burdens of separation.  Even though it’s not an overnight pass, consider visiting your soldier for Family Day!  While travel is expensive, and it makes sense to place a priority on Graduation Day, Family Day is still a great opportunity for families to reconnect.  If you can make it work, I would definitely recommend visiting for Family Day.

If you have any further questions about the Basic Training Family Day that I didn’t cover here, leave a comment below!  Thanks for stopping by.  If you want any further information on dealing with having a soldier in Basic Training, consider reading my posts about writing Basic Training letters, favorite supplies for doing so, and how to address them.

**Read next: What to Expect at an Army Basic Training Turning Blue Day**

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Glam Bag Unboxing: November 2016


If you are an Ipsy subscriber, then you’ll know the theme for the November glam bag is Rock Starlet.  I didn’t even know that was a thing until I got mine in the mail!  But apparently it is a thing, and it’s not to be confused with the other “rock” themed Ipsy bags.  The other rock bags had a bit of a punk vibe, and this definitely does not.  The addition of the term “starlet” makes all the difference!  The theme focuses on spotlight moments and performance-ready glam.  Everyone’s glam bag turns out a little differently, but I felt like mine reflected the November glam bag theme pretty well.

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ModelCo Instant Brow Pen – Medium/Dark

I haven’t really covered brows a lot on my blog here…and that’s mostly because they are not my hobby horse of the makeup world.  That might be crazy to those whose entire world revolves around their eyebrows.  I wish I knew how to do them the way you do.  But I’ve always like my natural eyebrows, and haven’t found a product that I think is significantly better than my natural brows.  I’m interested in trying this one because it’s a pen, and so it won’t make my eyebrows gummy or slick.  <–Neither of those are looks I’m going for.

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theBalm Cosmetics Mad Lash Mascara

Maybe brows aren’t my thing, but eyes totally are.  Especially lashes.  Even though I am in a completely committed friendship of utility with my L’Oreal Telescopic Carbon Black mascara, I’m always open to trying a new mascara.  And laughing at how poorly it compares to L’Oreal.  Just kidding!  Kind of.

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Benefit Cosmetics the POREfessional face primer

I’m currently using the Maybelline Master Prime face primer, but I would love to compare it to this one.  Truth be known, I’ve been dying to try this product for quite some time now.  It was one of the first “high end” products that I wanted to get after watching it used in a million youtube makeup tutorials, but I could never swallow the price tag.  I like spending that kind of money on skincare.  But there is always the argument that it doesn’t matter how good your skincare is, if you continue to put less-than-desirable products on it (NOT that Maybelline is less-than-desirable).  Basically, I probably shouldn’t belittle the importance of a good primer.

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pur-lisse Blue Lotus Balancing Moisturizer

Speaking of skincare, receiving this product made my day!  I have been running low on the Clinique moisturizers I have been using, and so this came at the perfect time!  This product is a fusion of Asian hydration and French luxury.  It is a lightweight moisturizer composed of marine plants, white tea, and vitamin E.  Yes, please!

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SLMissGlam  – W20 Angled Eye Brush

This might be my very favorite item in the entire November glam bag!  It is.  I have received quite a few makeup brushes during my time as an Ipsy subscriber, but this is by far the nicest brush I have been sent.  It is so feminine and delicate, just like all of the SLMissGlam products.  The fibers are vegan and the handle is basically the cutest I have ever seen on a brush.  This is such a treat!

That’s a wrap for my unboxing!  If you’re an Ipsy subscriber, what did you get in your November glam bag?  If you’re not an Ipsy subscriber, and would like to become one, just follow this link.  Doing so will not compensate me in any way, but will give my Ipsy account some bonus points that I can use on fun products!  Thanks for stopping by and reading!

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My 100th Post!

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“At the touch of love everyone becomes a poet.” – Plato

I simply cannot believe I’m writing my 100th post.  But I am!

To take a trip down memory lane, I started this blog in the winter of 2015, after an attempt in the beginning of 2015.  I had high hopes that this blog would provide me with a writing platform (of course!) and an ability to use my voice.  That’s exactly what it gave me…but oh so, so, so much more.

It challenged me to conquer things I otherwise would never attempt– Google AdSense, I’m looking at you!  Through it, I was forced to stretch my imagination and mindset (read: post when I had no idea what to say).  It encouraged me to practice patience and attention-to-detail.  I began taking photography more seriously, though my abilities hardly improved. 😀  My writing voice developed in a way I didn’t originally plan.  To create content, I had to combine creativity, research, and practical application to my work.  It’s all been part of the process, and a process that I truly like.

It’s funny how goals shift; as consequences reshape those goals into something new and better.  For me, there is one shining thing that has motivated my blog from the beginning.  So far, there has been one thing that has carried my blog through almost one full year.  I have high hopes it will remain the one thing that propels my blog into future glory.  That thing is love.

I started blogging out of love of writing.  My posts are all about things I love.  I look forward to creating and developing a blog I love.  Love has been central to my blog–whether the content or the process–and even in the concept itself.  I named my blog after  the heart, because it’s the center of love.  And I want this blog to center on things I love, on people I love, on love itself.

Hopefully you will be able to see that what I’m posting about is something I love.  And hopefully you can tell that I loved writing those posts.  I don’t always plan to write about serious things, as I’ll still be doing Ipsy glam bag unboxings and the like!  But that’s because I love the little things in life.  However, in my intention to focus on love, I want to create more content that centers on what I love most: my Army family.  In many ways, I think that will harmonize with focusing on the little things in life–after all, being a family is about experiencing life and it’s little treasures together.

So for my 100th blog post, I simply want to re-center my blog, my focus, and my passion on love.  In the end, it will be what propels my blog, as it does every other aspect of my life!  I can only have success here if I love as I go along.  And that’s what I plan to do.  I hope that in the next 100 blog posts to come, my blog is focused on, centered around, and built with love.  I would love that.  <3

 

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November 2016

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“But there is always a November space after the leaves have fallen when she felt it was almost indecent to intrude on the woods.” — L.M. Montgomery

I can’t believe it’s already November 2016…but that’s a good thing.  I feel like it was February last month!   It’s closer to being next February than this past February!  I don’t mind that the months are rushing by, because it means I’m enjoying them, and it also means we’re that much closer to Christmas.  Best day ever.  Before this turns into a Christmas post, let me pull in my own reins and focus on November 2016.  As usual, I drew up a list of hopefuls that I have (almost) every intention of completing.  This list may look familiar, as a third of it is last month’s to-do list (the things I didn’t do on it):

  1. Visit the local library with my baby.  She is already well on her way to becoming a bookworm!
  2. Make my house ready for holiday guests.  Just a few more touches of decoration and organization.
  3. Learn how to make pot pie.  I’ll probably start vegetarian so I can perfect it, and then add meats.
  4. Rework some of my Google Ads.  They are pretty much in place, but I could make some adjustments!
  5. Finish the first half of my knitting project.  I’m working on the back of a baby sweater.
  6. Celebrate Thanksgiving!  Any holiday is a good excuse to make memories.
  7. Start reading a new book.  Either a romance novel or a classic fiction.
  8. Make an autumn wreath for our front door.  I’m thinking fake leaves. haha
  9. Begin Christmas shopping–EARLY.  Last year, shipping time and costs were my enemies.
  10. Get half-way through my baby diary.  Even just writing her birth story would be a big step.
  11. Finish proofreading and send the last few chapters to my junior editor.  Time to start!
  12. Enroll in a class online.  Probably the Aromatherapy class I started a while ago, or a new one.
  13. Finish watching One Tree Hill.  I’ll definitely do this one– now I’m on the last season!
  14. Begin using Amazon Associates.  Just need to do this already!

There are a few more things I want to do, that don’t really need to make it on the list, because they are abstracts for daily life.  Ever since my car accident, driving has been a very scary reality for me–but I should clear my head when I drive, and continue to improve in my confidence and trust.  I also want to think more creatively–whether that’s in my music or in my writing–I want to experience passion again when I play and write.  I need to reminisce more on happy memories, letting my mind wander into nostalgia and relaxing in its comfort.  As it gets colder, and we cozy down more, I want to model my apartment after those den-like feelings: fires in the hearth, cozy music, folded blankets on the couch arms, and a lot of flameless candles.

As the month stretches out, more things mentally make it onto my list.  I’m looking forward to finding out what those are!  What made it on your list for November 2016?  Leave a comment below.  As always, thanks for stopping by!

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