Goodbye, 2016!

 

 

If you read my last post, then you know I kind of wanted to write a yearly round-up post.  I covered my yearly blog round-up in my blogiversary post, and I covered my monthly round-up in my December post, but as a blogger I couldn’t NOT write a year-in-review-post.  It just didn’t seem right to leave it out.

This year held a lot for me.  I think everybody says that.  Because I thinks it’s true for everyone.  A lot can happen in 365 days.  A lot did happen.  The Army threw a lot of curveballs at us, most of which were really good.  Life threw a lot of curveballs at us.  Some of those were not-so-good.  We got in a huge car wreck and lost both our cars.  A dearly beloved fur baby passed away.  But in the wake of those difficulties were some very beautiful and happy moments.  We built an even stronger bond with our remaining fur baby and grew in our appreciation for enjoying the life’s little moments with him.  We also upgraded to better cars, and my confidence in driving has slowly been increasing.  Very slowly.  Slower than pond water.  But progress is progress!

2016 might have been my favorite year yet.   If you read my final post of 2015, I didn’t believe any year could top it!   But maybe 2016 did.  It’s hard to say, because every year is so different that I really can’t compare them.  I couldn’t trade the year I was married for the year we spent with our baby, or the year my husband and I met for the year we met our daughter.  Every year is incomparable, and completely irreplaceable.  2016 was no exception.  I can’t imagine not having this year as part of my life.  There are so many moments I will never forget, so many steps we took together as a family, so many accomplishments and surprises, just so many memories.

I could go on and on for paragraphs about every single moment, and not even scratch the surface of what happened this year.  So instead I’ll just cloud together a blurry paragraph of the feelings and takeaways from 2016.  I learned that the power of a hug is unmatchable.  When my baby runs to my arms, or when my family hugs after Army separation, my heart literally floats into the clouds.  I experienced there is nothing better than just talking over a cup of coffee– nothing.  I felt the importance of having a fur baby around at all times, and the emptiness of losing one.  I finally realized that there is no point to buying a kitchen item that is normal or convenient if I can have a special or one-of-a-kind one.  I began trusting the skills of a hairdresser, and learned so much more about my own head of hair.  I reevaluated makeup and skincare, and discovered new products that I needed in my life.  I experienced first hand the absolute majestic power of God, and how no prayer ever goes unanswered.  I felt love even more, which I didn’t think was possible, and that was my favorite feeling of the year.

2017, if you are even half of the year that 2016 was, then I can’t wait to meet you.  Even if you aren’t, I’m going to spend every day using what I learned from 2016 to make you the year I am hoping for!  This new year is going to be a special one, I can just tell.  Just as this one really was.

See you next year!

2016 collage

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Round-Up: December 2016

december 2016

“Remember this December, That love weighs more than gold!” – Josephine Dodge Daskam Bacon

Happy End-of-December!  This month is my favorite of round-ups, because it’s the round-up of all round-ups.  It almost feels like I need to do a yearly round-up, but that’s basically what I did in my blogiversary post a little while ago.   I guess it didn’t provide a round-up of my life, but it did explain a year-in-review of my blogging journey.  (hint: this has been quite the year of changes for my blog).  But getting back on track, here is my traditional monthly to-do list, which was only half-done!

  1. Make a few ornaments for our tree.  There were 2 “brand” new additions and some fixer-uppers!
  2. Make a Christmas wreath.  Kinda forgot, kinda love my fall wreath too much to take it down.
  3. Visit the local library with my baby.  We found a BABY version of Jabberwocky.  *dies*
  4. Start reading a new book.  Twilight.  Does it count as new?
  5. Begin reading a french blog.  La Revue de Kenza– http://larevuedekenza.fr
  6. Do an act of charity daily until Christmas.  Would like to maybe expand this next year!
  7. Try two new recipes. Mac n’ Cheese (amaze!) and salting pork (not a recipe, but a new technique!)
  8. Rework my Google Ads.  Saving this for January. (read: didn’t get around to it).
  9. Take my blogging course.  See above excuse.
  10. Complete my craft projects for Christmas. I sewed a Mass quiet-time book and cross-stitched a onesie.
  11. Do all my Christmas shopping/mailing!  For the first time ever, I didn’t even feel rushed!
  12. Celebrate Christmas with my family. Truly is the most wonderful time of the year! <3

This December 2016 was really a good one.  It is impossible to not enjoy the holidays–and we definitely enjoyed them!  Decorations were unboxed, stockings were hung, cookies were baked, cards were sent, Christmas music was played, so many pictures were taken, and memories were certainly made.  I even think I saw one single snowflake!  haha  The best part about it all was spending so much time together as a family.   I wrote a post about military Christmas traditions during time of separation, but I didn’t write one about our normal Christmas traditions.  Maybe that will make it on next year’s to-do list?  Leave a comment below about your Christmas traditions!  Thank you for stopping by.

 

 

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Merry Christmas!

Hark, the herald angels sing: “Glory to the newborn King!”

Wishing you a very merry Christmas!  May the Peace of Christ’s birth remain with you into the new year!  Let us welcome Him into our hearts and homes!  Thank you for being a reader.

May your hearts be merry and light!

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Glam Bag Unboxing: December 2016

 

Better late than never!  And this December 2016 glam bag really was better!  I know it seems like I say every bag was a hit, but this one was fabulous.  The “Carpe PM” night magic theme was perfect timing for the holidays.  I can’t complain about a bag dedicated to highlighters and winged eyeliner!  And I can’t complain that every glam bag is a hit either–the beauty match quiz really determines suitable products for individual subscribers.  The best part about that quiz is that you can retake it again and again to alter the products you receive.  I’m pretty happy with the results I get, but it’s nice to know I have the option of revising my preferences.  Speaking of results, this is what I received:

 

OFRA Cosmetics Eyeshadow/Highlighter – Bliss

Luckily I’m getting to that point in my makeup stash where I don’t “need” another highlighter–but as a holiday product I’d say this was a basic necessity for the season!  I prefer it as a highlighter, rather than an eyeshadow, but it doesn’t hurt to have a shimmery primer shadow around.  The texture of this product is very velvety, which I like because occasionally shimmer = grainy = no good. This is a winner!

 

Aurora Intensively Precise EyelinerBlackberry

This eyeliner can own the winged or barely-there look, unlike some nightmare eyeliners.  The precision lets you draw a line so close to your lashes that you hardly have the look of eyeliner, but still get a great eye-framing effect.  However, if you’re going to be using an eyeliner with a tip this precise, it’d be a crime not to do winged liner.   Aspects I liked: gentle felt tip, precision, long handle, and even the luxury matte plastic of the pen. (That was the only appropriate place in this blog for luxury and plastic to exist in the the same sentence).  Aspects I don’t like: it’s not particularly inky.  If you’re going for a bold eyeliner look, you’ll have to do two coats.  Also, after a week of use, this pen feels like its drying up– which is a common issue for these kinds of eyeliners.  Too bad!

 

Hanalei Lip Treatment

This product is the absolute bomb of the entire December 2016 glam bag. And I don’t say that lightly…because if you keep scrolling, there is a liquid gold facial oil coming up next.  But besides being the best item in the glam bag, it’s also the best lip treatment I have EVER tried.  Ever.  That’s how good this lip treatment is.  I could go on all day about the coconut-y scent and the vanilla taste, but those aspects pale in comparison to the velvety, buttery texture of this lip treatment. It’s conditioning powers are magical. Each little pearl of the produt is packed with Kukui nut, grape seed, and agave oil, as well as shea butter. It’s really that good. I don’t say this often, but I will have to repurchase this item when it’s gone, because it’s a new must-have for me!

 

tarte cosmetics deluxe maracuja oil

As mentioned, this little gem was included in my December 2016 glam bag. It’s product like this that make me wonder how Ipsy can even product glam bags at such an affordable price.  It’s also products like this that make me wonder why I haven’t given oils enough space in my skincare routine.  I can’t think of a better oil to trailblaze into my skincare life than the tarte maracuja oil!  While this product is obviously all about the benefits, I have to admit that the scent is very  slight and pleasing too.  The dispensing system–a little glass dropper with a shiny gold button–is just brilliant.  * pause to admire the purple bottle and wooden topper*  This oil couldnt be lovelier.  Oh and it’s for the face and nails as well– not that my skin will want to share it!

 

Beau Gachis Concealer Brush

This brush goes against my usual brush addiction.  Most of my makeup brush collection is white, pink, or bamboo.  Yet, the silvery french embossing and slender handle all of a sudden make this brush stand out to me as totally perfect.  The bristles are extremely soft and dense enough to be effective without being too stiff.  The top of the brush is just slightly tapered, for precision, but the rest of the bristles are spread out enough to have a “paddle” effect for applying concealer. I have even used this for eyeshadow and really enjoyed using it.  As with pretty much every other Ipsy brush, especially the November 2016 brush, this one was a total win for the bag!

Thanks for reading along my unboxing. If you got a December 2016 glam bag, let me know what you got! And if you aren’t currently getting glam bags, but would like to, you can sign up for Ipsy here. *The link does not provide me with an monetary reimbursement, only points to be used towards makeup* Thanks for stopping by!

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One Year Blogiversary

 

“how sad and bad and mad it was – but then, how it was sweet” – Robert Browning

Today marks one year exactly since I clicked “publish” for the first time.  What a year it has been!  Even though I would like to say something cliche, about how I never thought I’d end up where I am now…the truth is, this is exactly where I hoped to be!  And I’d like to say that I thought this blogging journey was impossible (well, some days definitely felt like it), but the truth is, I knew becoming a blogger was completely possible.  I just needed to pour some passion, commitment, and love into this little corner.  I also said many prayers while sorting through the mechanics of design, if we are being completely honest here! haha  My husband’s support is the clincher on what made this all possible, or anything really.

I contemplated what I could do to celebrate this hallmark blogiversary post.  I thought about doing a 7-day streak of posts, in honor of my first 30 days of blogging, which were 30 consecutive posts.  But that was really really tough and I never intend to streak-post again. haha  So instead I think it would be better for me to make this post a “gloat and goals” post.  I would like to celebrate the journey this blog has taken over the year, and also set out some goals for the future year.

Just as a disclaimer, I get pretty in-detail about my thought-process behind the blog.  I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea to go raw here, but I decided for the sake of brutal honesty, the more transparent I am the better.  Besides, how will I be able to chart my progress next year if I am vague about what went on this past year?

The First Half of 2016

I will just get this small (slightly embarrassing) detail out of the way and say you can read my first post ever here.  To recap on that post, I tried to start a blog in January of 2015…but I jumped in way to over my head.  I purchased a domain before I even had heard of the word SEO.  I didn’t understand that in order to have a domain you had to have a website host, or even a writing platform like WordPress or Joomla.  And I certainly had never touched coding in my life.  Like I said, way over my head.  So after about a month of trying, I cancelled my domain subscription and service.  It was just to much for me, and I decided to write a novel instead.  Which I did, and I have no regrets over that decision.

However, the blogging bug never died.  And in December of the same year, I decided to give blogging a try again.  This time though, I wanted to ease myself into by starting with a free blog.  Where the emphasis was on content and not on design.  Where I wasn’t spending over $100 on a hobby that made me pull my hair out.  And where the blog was practically ready-to-go upon sign-up, with minimal room for customization (read: error).  I wanted to test myself to see if I really liked blogging for what it was–as simple relationship of write and read.  Well, turns out I loved it.  I blogged pretty consistently, about two posts per week, and really enjoyed it.  I joined a very welcoming community of free-bloggers and we supported each other’s fledgling efforts.  It was a good time.

The Second Half of 2016

But now May comes along and I realize that this blogging thing is very enjoyable and easy.  Granted, it was a free blog with little customization.  But it was just enough to dip my toes in the water and tell me that this was something I definitely wanted.  I purchased a domain (the same one I had bought back in January of 2015!) and began the lonnnnng (traumatizing) process of transferring content from one blog to the next.  It’s a little too fresh in my mind, in a painful way, to recount all the steps, but I will just say one thing: Jetpack is my friend.  And the website host of choice does matter, a lot.  I became extremely familiar with the customer service line of my hosting company, and let me tell you–the customer service is a deal breaker for which host to choose.  Luckily, mine are really good!

Life in my new blog was wonderful in many ways, once I got the kinks out!  You can read my first “new” blog post here (and it’s only slightly less embarrassing than my first post ever).  I started to develop a new personality for it as time went on.  In the past, I had tried to focus on beauty-related topics because that is what drew readership for me in the free-blog community.  Most of my free-blog friends were beauty bloggers.  It just seemed a good fit for me.  When I moved to a new blog, I tried to add in some fashion posts as well.  And I began to dabble in Army-related posts.  Well–that is when I struck gold.  I finally found a topic that I could ramble about for HOURS without running out of steam (or mascara).  The best part is, it created a niche for my blog to sink into, and began drawing a consistent readership.

Where my Blog Currently Stands

Right now, my blog is still comes across as a hodgepodge of topics.  I wish it was more streamlined, but I didn’t discover my niche until a month or two ago.  But, I’m okay with that because for the first time ever, I have consistent readership.  To be real, it isn’t a high number of hits daily.  But it is the daily part that matters so much to me.  Before, I would only get hits on my blog the days that I published, because the new posts would trickle into my reader’s news feeds and they would click on my latest post.  Now, however, I have daily readership of my archived posts–meaning visitors come to read something that I published previously.  I’m not getting hits because my content happened to pop up on their newsfeed. I’m finally getting readers who are seeking out the information in my posts.

What I Learned this Year

I learned (the hard way) that my hopes of a lifestyle blog weren’t going to be able to come true automatically.  I had to have “information” worth seeking before I could draw an audience to want to read about my life.  Nobody wants to read about a random stranger’s military life!  I found that real and helpful information draws up an audience.  So I plan to use real, informative posts to gather an audience and help me get to know what they are looking for.  Hopefully along the way, they will get to know me too.  And that will eventually open a doorway for the “lifestyle” blog that I would ultimately like to have.  And, as previously mentioned, I learned that some “information” is easier to provide than others.  Basically, I ran out of ideas and energy when it came to blogging about beauty and fashion.  The photos and creativity aspects of it were draining.  But when it comes to anything Army-related, I can’t stop talking about it!  Apparently that is what a niche is…and thus my blog theme was born.

What I Hope for Next Year

In a year’s time, I would like to triple my daily readership numbers.  But even more than that, I would like to have consistent readers who are repeat readers.  It is 100% amazing to have a consistent number of hits everyday.  But it would be even better if those were readers who were gaining a consistent amount of information from me monthly.  I want my blog to be a place they could regularly return to receive (and share) information, and get to know me better.  Social media has helped me gain the daily hits, but over the next year I would like to collect repeat readers.

Another change I would like to see take place (though it slowly is coming into effect) is better niching.  As I said, I recently found my niche.  Subsequently, I still have straggling posts here and there that deal with non-military topics.  While I don’t plant to be extremely regimented about my blog content, it’s really important to me in the early stages of my blog to have a cohesive corner dedicated to what makes my blog special (AKA its niche)!  I think now that I have finally found my niche, I would like for my blog to mirror that over the course of the next year.  This is not to say I won’t add new agendas to my blog (in fact, I already have ideas for one major project), but I would like to add those in slowly, and in an organized manner.  I think time will tell when and how I should introduce topics.  Hopefully! haha

Lastly, I would like to re-design my blog.  Right now, I use a free template, but I would like to purchase one and design my own blog face.  I don’t think there is anything wrong with the free templates available–in fact some of them are absolutely stunning!  But since I self-host now, I would like to take advantage of that freedom and design my blog’s visual aspects.  There are some personal touches I would like to do that just aren’t possible with this free template.  I think redesigning my blog could be a lot of fun, and could help me in all the niche-defining that I was talking about.

My Blogiversary Statement of 2016

This was an incredible year of blogging.  I can’t thank each and every reader enough for spending even half-a-second of their busy days reading my content.  Your time and support are crucial to this blog!  I also have a great appreciation for my free-blog community.  That community really gave me the encouragement I needed to get comfortable and confident with blogging.  Most importantly, I want to give a special shout-out to my family for helping me do what I love, in big and small matters.  It is the reason I can finally do this.  I really am happy to be actually blogging now, after so many years of daydreaming about it.  I hope to make you proud!  In conclusion, I feel so blest to have been blogging for a full year.  I hope to blog for many years to come!  Though this is probably doesn’t make sense–dear little blog, thank you for being you!  Happy one-year birthday!  This blogiversary is a milestone for both of us for sure, and I look forward to all the creative years of the future.  Merry Christmas!

“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:13

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5 Christmas Traditions for Military Families Facing Separation

 

If you are a military spouse then you have probably spent your fair share of holidays apart from your spouse. Our first Thanksgiving married was celebrated via Skype, and to this day, we still have yet to spend a single Halloween together! The separation can be especially difficult if it occurs over Christmas. It’s hard being apart for any holiday. But at least none of the others have songs playing in every store about “being home” during them. You probably already have a set of Christmas traditions, but consider adding in a new one to mix things up during separation.

1. Decorate your tree with red, white, and blue ornaments and lights.

One of my friends does this when her husband deploys, and I think it’s such a good idea.  Decorating patriotically can serve as a constant reminder for “why” you are both enduring holiday separation. While the tree can primarily be covered in red, white, and blue, I think a yellow ribbon in place of the star wouldn’t be out of place!

2. Set up a mini-tree instead.

When we were apart during the holidays, it was too hard to try to set up our Christmas tree as if everything was normal. Because it wasn’t. At the same time, having a bare house when the entire town was fancied up was depressing.  A good balance for me was making my house feel Christmasy without setting up the way we usually did together, with all the special ornaments and the family tree.

3. Find someone who is having a rougher Christmas than you and help them out.

This is definitely not a case of misery-loves-company. It can cheer you up to help someone else, and remind yourself that you don’t have it all that bad.  Of course its lonely to be apart during Christmas. But you have the rest of your lives to spend together once he returns home! There are others though who are expecting to have a rough Christmas, whether that’s because they are homeless or terminally ill or abandoned, and they aren’t necessarily looking forward to better years in the future.  You have all the Christmases of the future to look forward to, but they might not.

4) Begin a new Christmas decoration tradition.

We all have our own way of decorating each year–whether that be a manager scene or a nutcracker collection. But consider changing or adding to your collection something new. Put yellow-ribboned wreaths on each window, or buy a soldier santa for your front lawn. There are many, many, many military-themed Christmas decorations.  Collecting nutcrackers was a good way for me to add a bunch of soldiers to my decor.  If all else fails, there is nothing more classic than a Christmas wreath for your front door that shows off your patriotism.

5) Save Christmas for when he returns.

As an Army brat, growing up we often didn’t celebrate holidays on the day they were supposed to be celebrated, if it meant leaving my dad out of it.  Consider opening a few handmade gifts with your children, or with family if you have any visiting.  But save the “real” Christmas present exchange between you and your spouse for when he is home! It’s just as fun as the real Christmas Day celebration, I promise.

At the end of the day, being alone for Christmas is hard.  And even though familiarity is comforting, don’t try to make the holiday be exactly like it was on the other years.  It’s going to be different, and so embrace it and make it so.  Even though it’s really hard being “left behind,” think about your loved one who doesn’t even get to be home for Christmas.  No matter what kind of separation you are enduring, try to make your soldier a part of the day.  Call, video chat, or even just write a long in-depth “Christmas edition” letter.   Any way you can feel connected during the time apart is a good thing.  And remember, next year, you won’t be spending it apart!

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December 2016

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“God gave us our memories so that we might have roses in December.” – J. M. Barrie

This has always been, and will always be one of my very favorite months–just like the rest of the world!  I am so happy December is here.  It couldn’t have come soon enough, and now that it finally showed up on my doorstep (with some cold weather) my home is all aglow with December feels.  My to-do list for this month is pretty fun, which is good since “fun” and “to-do list” aren’t always synonymous.  But in December, everything is more fun.  Here it is:

  1. Make a few ornaments for our tree.  Until our daughter is old enough to fill the tree, it’s still my job! haha
  2. Make a Christmas wreath.  I can’t decide between traditional winter greenery or snow white fluff.
  3. Visit the local library with my baby.  There are some very fun programs running next week we should catch.
  4. Start reading a new book.  Possibly a result of the above library trip.  But I do have some ready to read too.
  5. Begin reading a french blog.  I’ll leave the link at the end of the month for whichever one I choose!
  6. Do an act of charity daily until Christmas.  Kind of my own version of 25 ways in 25 days.
  7. Try two new recipes.  Hopefully Mac n’ Cheese and pot pie, but we’ll see.
  8. Rework my Google Ads.  They still could use some adjusting here and there.
  9. Take my blogging course.  I enrolled in it last month, but now it’s time to actually TAKE it.
  10. Complete my craft projects for Christmas.  I’m knitting a baby sweater & sewing a Mass quiet-time book.
  11. Do all my Christmas shopping/mailing!  It’s going to be a lot this year.  But so much fun.
  12. Celebrate Christmas with my family.  This is what I’m most looking forward to, naturally! <3

Please pretend I didn’t make a twelve item to-do list in imitation of the twelve days of Christmas.  I have a weakness for matching things up.  It just made sense, to me, that is.

Have a very merry December and as always, thanks for stopping by!  Even though there will probably be some more Christmas-themed posts, I have some other ideas that will be making an appearance.  Until then, Merry Christmas!

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