Saturday, January 28, 2012

Where Have I Been?

We all know that as soon as our spouses leave the house for a significant amount of time, things inevitably go wrong. For example, a couple years back my dad took a trip to Colorado to help a close family friend fix up his vacation home. While he was gone, this huge storm called Hurricane Katrina hit our hometown, maybe you've heard of it. We were without power for weeks. Streets were flooded. My in-laws were living with us because their home was destroyed by the storm. We were all a bit panicked to say the least. And where was my dad? He was racing home from Colorado but managed to miss the worst of the storm.

It seems that every time Hubs goes underway, things start breaking. It usually isn't anything catastrophic. At the very most it is irritating and inconvenient. This underway, I have had to replace 6 light bulbs. How in the world do 6 energy-efficient light bulbs burn out in the same week? By all means I am capable of replacing them, but that is something that Hubs takes care of and frankly I don't need something to remind me that he is not around. Its like the burned out bulbs are glaring at me and silently taunting me. Damn you light bulbs! The worst so far was during last deployment, our 4 year old desktop PC gave up on me...3 weeks before Homecoming!

NOTHING irritates me more than problems with technology, especially computers. I am pretty sure it is because nothing makes me feel dumber than my own computer, 

"What does that blinking light mean?"
"Why is the screen blue?"
"Why won't this damn thing connect to the internet?!"

I just get so frustrated I want to just hurl the computer against the wall, but then I remember how expensive the damn thing is thus making me even angrier and I end up throwing something else across the room. Lucky for me (more like "convenient"), I fell in love with a computer geek and he is my geek squad til death do us part. He manages to solve all my computer woes,

"The blinking light means the battery is about to die."

"The screen is blue because you pressed too many keys at once. And kicking the computer tower probably didn't help."

"The cats managed to unplug the router, fix that and you should be fine."

So yah at the end of the last deployment I managed to kill our desktop PC. I definitely did not want to venture out and buy a new one because I needed Hubs there to hold my hand and make these complicated decisions for me. I needed him to tell me how many gigs and jigs or pigs the damn thing needed to run fast. My sister ended up having a spare laptop and she gave that to me. I got the brilliant idea to wipe the laptop clean so I could make it "my own". I managed to wipe the laptop; I was so proud of myself. Then I put in the install disks. The damn thing froze up on the second disc. For 2 straight days I try to figure out what is wrong. I try to explain to Hubs what is wrong so he can give me some online tech support. He is just as frustrated as I am plus they are almost home from deployment so the last thing that is on his mind is my laptop troubles. In order to save my sanity, I put the laptop aside until Homecoming had passed.

Within a week of Hubs coming home, he decides to tackle my computer issues. Yup, the desktop PC is done for there is no hope of even recovering what was on the hard drive. He starts to work on the laptop. He looks at all the installation discs AND THEN HE CLEANS THEM OFF! He puts them into the laptop one at a time and ta da installation is complete. 


You are telling me that all I had to do was clean off the damn discs and I would've had no problems?! Why did no one tell me that?! ARGHHHHH

So since July the laptop has been running great. No problems. at. all. Last Saturday I get home from my 8am spin class and turn on the laptop. Nothing happens. Oh, I must have thought I turned it on but didn't push the button down hard enough.

*Intently pushes the power button* 

Still nothing happens. I try plugging it into another outlet. Nada. I notice the light is on, but apparently no one is home inside my laptop because I can't even hear the little computer noises.

*I silently pray to the computer gawds*

I soon realize that there is a major problem, and it isn't the person operating the laptop. I call my mom and cry. This entire time Hubs has been gone I haven't shed one tear, the moment my laptop craps out I turn into a sobbing mess. I call a friend. She tells me to bring it to the NEX because the won't charge me to look at it so I run to the NEX. In my sweaty gym clothes. With a screaming toddler. He takes one look at it and tells me it is the hard drive, nothing major, they will call me in 3-5 business days when it is ready for pickup. Sweet! 

For 5 days I am stuck using my phone to send emails and surf the web. Needless to say, my thumbs hurt. On Thursday I happened to be driving by the NEX so I decided to stop in and check on my laptop. *Cue the ominous music* The computer guy looks up my laptop in the computer system, he calls someone and talks in whispers, he hangs up the phone and looks at me like a doctor who had just lost a patient on the operating table, "Ma'am, it seems the motherboard on your laptop is no longer functioning and at this point it would cost more to repair the computer than what it is worth. But we will be able to recover everything on the hard drive and recycle the carcass (EXACT word!) for you." 

Up to this point, I had told Hubs in our daily emails about the laptop situation. I even asked him JUST IN CASE something was seriously wrong with the laptop what I should look for in a replacement. He just told me not to stress and we could look for something new when he comes home in a few weeks. So when the computer guy broke the bad news to me, I went into minor shock. Okay, maybe not anywhere close to shock but you get the point! Immediately I email Hubs and tell him the situation and beg him to help me buy a new one before he gets home because I just don't think my poor thumbs can take it anymore. Fortunate for us, we have the wiggle room to afford a reasonably priced laptop. 

After a few detailed emails we narrowed down our search. I did a few online searches, went to the NEX, and went to Best Buy. I found the perfect cute laptop in mocha chocolate brown that met all of our specifications (500GB hard drive, webcam w/mic, 3 USB ports, HDMI outlet, under $600, works with our router, NOT a Dell or HP) and I stared at it for about an hour and tried to think like Hubs. That started to give me a headache, so I gave up and bought a new Asus laptop. All by myself. I am a big girl now Hooray!

I am one of these crazy people that believes everything in life happens for a reason. Why oh why do my computers seem to breakdown while my computer geek is out in the middle of the ocean? Here is what I think: I think all of this crap happened so I could step out of my comfort zone and do something I am uncomfortable with. I am so stinkin' proud of myself for finding a laptop that met all of our specifications, it was well within our price range, and its even cute! This just goes to show that just because I am unfamiliar with something doesn't mean I can't manage to do it. 

So the universe really isn't conspiring against me, the universe it just trying to teach me a valuable lesson :)

I just hope Hubs is as excited about my new laptop (and my take-home message) as I am!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Are You Deployment Ready: Children & Deployment

Every deployment is going to be a different experience for you and your family, especially in regards to your children. Your babies are growing up, learning new things, and becoming more aware of what is going on in the world around them.

Last deployment, Little Miss was just over a year old. It was easy in some ways because she didn't realize what was going on when Daddy said goodbye for a while. However, after he didn't come home for a few days she figured it out. This time when Hubs is out for work-ups, she knows the instant we drop him off at the pier what is going on and she is not a happy camper.

Here are a few examples of how children in different stages deal with deployment separation:

Birth - 12 Mos.
  • Changes in eating and sleeping patterns.
  • May want to be held more.
  • May seem "fussier"
Ages 1 - 3 Years
  • Show regression in walking or potty training.
  • Cry for no apparent reason.
  • Whine and cling to you.
Pre-Schoolers/Kindergarten Age
  • Clinging to people or favorite toy/blanket
  • Unexplained crying or tearfulness.
  • Increased acts of anger or frustration.
  • Sleep difficulties, nightmares, frequent waking.
  • Worry about the safety of everyone.
  • Eating difficulties.
  • Fear of new people or situations
School Age
  • Change is school performance.
  • Increase in complaints of stomach aches, headaches, or other illness when nothing physically seems to be wrong.
  • More irritible or crabby.
  • Fascinated with the military or news about it.
  • Worry about family and finances.
  • Acting out behaviors (getting into trouble with school, at home, or with the law).
  • Low self-esteem and self-criticism.
  • Misdirected anger.
  • Loss of interest in usual hobbies or activities.

All of those are typical reactions to the stress of separation. To me, that list makes my heart ache for my daughter. What can I do to help prepare her for how to handle all of these emotions? 

Children who cope well with separation often have a good relationship with parents. Hubs is trying to spend as much quality time with Little Miss as possible. When he is home, he is very much a part of her day-to-day activities. Little Miss feels comfortable going to Daddy for help and she is not hesitant to cuddle with him when she needs it.

They have a strong sense of self-worth or self-confidence. I am not quite sure how to do this with a toddler, but I encourage her to try new things and cheer her on. When she gets frustrated, I help her out but I do not just fix the problem for her. She needs to figure some things out on her own. When she does, I can tell she is so proud of herself. When Hubs leaves for a long period of time, I try to be extra encouraging. I will tell her "Good Job!" alot more and give her more recognition, "Thank you for picking up your toys, you make Mommy proud! Good Job!". This can be done for children of any age I would think, a little positive recognition can go a long way.

An understanding of parent's job and why it is important for them to go on deployment. I think this concept is a out of Little Miss's grasp right now. When I tell her Daddy is at work, she is satisfied with that response. For older children, its about educating your child about what your spouse does without scaring them or making them worry about their deployed parents safety. How do you parents out there of older children do this? I would love to hear your suggestions!

Dependable communication between deployed parent and family. Thanks to technology, there are a variety of ways to accomplish this! There are things like Skype and Video Teleconferencing (VTCs). You can use email or snail mail. I think the more you do, the better it will be. Our ship did VTCs during the last deployment and I was surprised that not many people utilized this! We also did a video recording of Hubs reading a book to Little Miss, so we watched that every night before she went to sleep. I plan on doing this again for sure it was a big hit! When Hubs was able to call last deployment, at the end of our phone conversation I would put the phone on speaker and let Little Miss talk to him. She was always so excited to hear his voice. If she were older, I would allow her to email Daddy. Helping put together Care Packages is alot of fun too!

An adult who will listen and talk to them. Although Little Miss cannot communicate her feelings to me very well, since Hubs left I  have been giving extra attention and I have tried to be more sensitive to her needs. I want her to know that whatever she feels is normal and okay; I want to try and normalize her reactions to the separation and stress. While it may be agitating that she is so clingy and needy, she needs me to be there for her. 

As a military spouse, we make many sacrifices. When you are a military spouse and parent, you make even more for the sake of your child. While I may be feeling sad and depressed about Hubs leaving, I can't let those emotions prevent me from being a supportive and understanding parent to Little Miss. She needs me even more than ever when her Daddy is away. This is just another one of those instances where you have to put the needs of your children before yours. At first this may be hard, but in the end both you and your children will be happier and more well adjusted to the situation.

Fleet & Family Support Centers have this wonderful DVD & Booklet (for FREE) from Sesame Street called "Talk, Listen, Connect" that helps explain deployment to the little ones. Little Miss loves Sesame Street so I am looking forward to working this video into our routine.

I think it is important to stick to as much of a routine as possible. However, I do allow flexibility in our schedule for when Little Miss has a bad day. I want to work in new & exciting activities for her as well like going to the water park once a week this summer and taking road trips! So balancing out routine and new, fun activities will be my challenge.

When Daddy leaves, I want to do "A Kiss A Day From Daddy" jar full of candy kisses. I will count the days that he is gone and fill the jar with that many candies. Little Miss will get one everyday that he is gone. I think it will be a fun way to count down the days! There are many different ways to do countdowns that involve the kids. I have a friend that does paper rings for each day they are gone and she takes one down for every day that passes.

Don't be afraid to ask for help or suggestions from friends & family when it comes to ways to help your child cope with deployment. If your children are having a really tough time, you do have resources available to you. Fleet & Family Support Centers are an excellent example. Simply typing "Deployment and Kids" into Google gives tons of results!

Every child is going to adjust differently and at their own pace. Just be as patient as possible and use the information available to you for help!

The next post in my "Are You Deployment Ready?" series will be about the resources that are available to military families.

*All of this information I put together from personal experience & information from Fleet & Family Support Centers*

On a much lighter note, don't forget about my GIVEAWAY for the Yarn Wreath with Felt Flowers! There aren't many entries yet so you have a better chance of winning, just make sure you enter by Friday, January 20th at 12:01AM!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Yarn Wreath with Felt Flowers GIVEAWAY!

Remember in my post on my Patriotic Wreath how I mentioned I started working on another wreath after I ran out of felt? Well this is the wreath I made!

Supplies I Used:
  • Wreath Form - once again I bought a Christmas grapevine wreath and ripped off the decorations, you can't beat $3!
  • Lion Brand Yarn (read the rest of the post to see why I am so specific!)
  • Ribbon
  • Hot Glue Gun and Glue
  • Scissors
  • Felt
  • Circle Stencils of Varying Sizes (bowls, CD, etc.)
  • Disappearing Ink Marker
Since I ran out of Navy Blue & Red felt for my Patriotic Wreath, I decided to start wrapping my grapevine wreath with yarn. I bought some super cheap (both in quality & price) cream colored yarn and started to long process of wrapping. It took forever and was messy because I used the grapevine wreath I had tiny twigs all over.

See how cheap and wimpy the crappy yarn made this look? Plus it took WAY long since I used such thin thread and it kept getting knotted & tangled as I was taking it out of the ball which made me so angry I eventually just cut the knots out. I did NOT like how this looked so when I went to buy more felt for the Patriotic Wreath I picked up some Lion Brand yarn and OMGoodness what a difference it made! I made sure I bought a fatter and bulkier thread plus this stuff felt soooo soft. It was perfect.

So after re-wrapping the entire wreath, which took half the time and the Lion Brand yarn did NOT knot up or tangle once, I was ready to attach my felt flowers. Since I had leftover Navy Blue felt & ribbon from the Patriotic Wreath, I was able to use those along with some yellow felt I found in the scraps bin for cheap! There are TONS of felt flower tutorials out there, I pinned quite a few on Pinterest so check out my DIY board here to see how I made the felt flowers. I had a broken pearl necklace thanks to Little Miss, so I hot glued the pearls into the centers of my flowers. I glued all the flowers down, attached the ribbon, and TA DAH! I have my first Yarn Wreath with Felt Flowers.

I wish I had a better camera and some photography skills because these photos do not do this wreath justice. I love how simple it is and how you can use it both indoors or outside!

Well now I have an issue, I have no need for a wreath indoors and my Patriotic Wreath is hanging on my front door. So I have decided to do a GIVEAWAY for this wreath! I have quite a few more followers lately so I wanted to show my gratitude :) There are 2 options for the wreath, you can stick with the Navy Blue & Yellow flowers -OR- I can replace the Yellow flower with an identical Light Pink flower. The winner will get a choice of Navy Blue/Yellow flowers or Navy Blue/Light Pink flowers.

Simply follow the instructions below and you can enter to win! You have until 12:01 AM on FRIDAY January 20th to enter I will announce the winner shortly after:

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Patriotic Felt Wreath

So I have seen these felt wreaths all over the internet and I decided to make one for myself! I wanted to share it with all of you and tell you how I made it!

  • Felt - I bought 1/2 yard of each color, it was $4.99 yard
  • Wreath - I didn't want to spend the $12 on the styrofoam form, so I bought a grapevine wreath that had a few Christmas decorations on it (hello clearance!). It was 80% off so I paid $3! You can also use the hay wreaths if they are in season.
  • Glue gun & hot glue
  • Ribbon
  • Scissors
  • Disappearing Ink marker
  • Wooden Stars
  • White Paint
  • Covered Floral Wire
  • Old T-Shirt
Since I used the grapevine wreath to save money, I cut up an old shirt into strips and wrapped them around the wreath.

Then came the long process of making the felt circles in all 3 colors. I used my spool of ribbon as a stencil (about 3in. diameter) and traced tons of circles.

Then you get to cut all. of . them. I had a blister on my thumb!

After you have healed up from cutting the felt circles, now you get to put them on the wreath. You will fold them in half twice as follows:

Now take your folded felt and figure out where you want to put it on the wreath BEFORE you put the hot glue on the wreath. *If you are using a styrofoam wreath, you can use straight pins to attach the bottom of the folded felt to the styrofoam.*

Then repeat this process over and over and over until the entire wreath is covered!

Sit back and admire what you have done so far :)

Notice the white spaces between the felt? Just fluff the folded felt to cover those up! Now to add the stars: First I painted mine white with some paint I had laying around. Then I attached them with hot glue to covered floral wire that I coiled up around a dowel.

Then I hot glued the wire to the wreath. I just shifted some felt out of the way then after the wire was set I covered up any blank spaces. I attached a ribbon to the back of the wreath and VOILA!

I LOVE IT! I hung it on my door right away :)

This project, while time consuming, was very easy. Attaching all the felt circles took sooo long because I am a perfectionist and I liked how the felt looked when it was bunched up rather than spaced out. I tried to do this while Little Miss was napping or after she went to bed. I cut out the felt circles while I watched TV one night.

What I Learned:

-Buy a little more fabric than you need. I started out with 1/3 yard of each color, I had to go back and get more navy blue and red. 
-Wrap my thumb before cutting out 200 felt circles.
-I would rather use the hay wreath form instead of the grapevine OR buy the styrofoam wreath form when I get a 40% off coupon for Michaels. 

After I ran out of felt, I started making ANOTHER wreath (a yarn wreath!) that I will be doing a give-away for this week on my blog! Aren't you all happy I ran out of felt?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Are You Deployment Ready: Your Checklist

There are many different things you need to do in order to ensure you are "Deployment Ready". When you attend pre-deployment briefs, all the information can seem overwhelming. The solution? Makes a checklist. Quite a few things your military member will need to take care, but there are also some things the spouse will need to do. 

*I am telling this from my experience as a Navy spouse that has a sailor on a carrier. I am sure it varies from branch to branch and even varies within each branch itself depending on what your military member does*

Here are some things you will need to take care of before your military member leaves for deployment:
  • Is your military ID current and up-to-date, will it expire during deployment? 
    • Did you know when your military member is promoted, you need to update your ID too?
    • Having a valid military ID allows access to medical, dental, the commissary, the NEX, etc. 
    • It is much harder to renew your ID when your spouse is out to sea, there is a special form that is needed from the command to update your ID without your military member present. Please take care of your ID before deployment, notice how this is listed first!
  • Is the Page 2 (Emergency Data Form) correct? 
    • This is the current family contact information for your military member, this is their "Emergency Data".
  • Are you registered in NFAAS (Navy Family Accountability and Assessment System)?
    •  This is fairly new, the Navy developed this after Hurricane Katrina because there were hundreds of sailors unaccounted for. When we had a hurricane hit us here in Hampton Roads, we were told to "check in" on NFAAS to let the Navy know where we were: If we stayed in the area or if we evacuated elsewhere. 
    • If there is a disaster of any sort, this is the place that will provide information and support. 
  • Is your SGLI (Service Members Group Life Insurance) updated and is the correct beneficiary listed?
    • This is something your military member filled out way back in boot camp and may need to be updated.
  • Do you have a current general POA (Power of Attorney), or will you need a specific POA as well?
    • This is a touchy subject, a POA gives the recipient quite a bit of power. However, you will probably need this piece of paper in order to take care of things back home. I had to use mine to renew our lease. I've had to use it to take care of certain things at the bank. I strongly urge you to get this taken care of before deployment because it is not easy to get this document after the ship has pulled away.
    • You may need a specific POA: Are you planning on buying a house or vehicle? You need a specific POA for those. I was told I will need a specific POA for EACH vehicle to renew my stickers (NOT decals).
    • My Hubs took care of my POA on the ship, but you can get this taken care of at Legal on base. Just remember, you will need military ID, be in uniform of the day, and NO children are allowed at Legal. 
    • VERY good information in regards to being "Legally Prepared" for deployment can be found here.
  • Do you and your service member have a will?
    • Even though we definitely don't want to think about this situation, its better to be prepared. 
    • This is something you can take care of through Legal.
    • Not completely necessary if you want everything to go to your spouse (if you are married) or to your parents (if you are single) because that is who everything will go to in the event of a death. But if that is not who you want your things going to, then make sure to get a will drawn up.
    • Once again, check out the Legal information here.
  • Do you know how to contact the American Red Cross and your Ombudsman in case of emergency?
    • "When a military family experiences a crisis, the American Red Cross is there to assist by providing emergency communications twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year. The Red Cross relays urgent messages containing accurate, factual, complete and verified descriptions of the emergency to service members stationed anywhere in the world, including ships at sea, embassies and remote locations."
    • If you are giving birth, the Red Cross will not be able to send a "birth message" until your baby has been born.
    • (877) 272-7337,
    • You will need the following information in order to send a Red Cross message: full name, rate/rank, last 4 of Social Security Number, birth date, dept. or division. The more information the better! 
    • After you send the Red Cross message, contact your Ombudsman! They are your DIRECT connection to the command. They can contact the command 24/7 365. By letting the Ombudsman know about the problem, they can prepare the command and let them know a Red Cross message is coming in!
    • Your ombudsman also help in non-emergency situations. They are your families source for information & referral. If you have a question, they are the ones to ask!
    • Your Ombudsman's information can probably be found on your command's official website. If not, you can find your Ombudsman here, just scroll down the page until you see "Contact Your Ombudsman".
    • SHARE THIS INFORMATION WITH YOUR FAMILY. They may need to send a Red Cross message (what if something happens to you?) so please let them know what needs to be done in case of emergency.
  •  Do you have a communication plan with your spouse?
    • If you plan on using your cell phone to make international calls, make sure it is part of your cell phone plan. 
    • There are special calling cards you will need in order to make calls from the ship. My husband always bought his at the store on the ship. He would give me the card's information and I would call the number on the card to load minutes onto it. It isn't cheap, we spent about $200 and only spoke once every 3 weeks. I know couples that spent well over $1000 on phone calls alone. No thank you, I'll stick to emails as my primary communication.
    • Have you talked about emails? My Hubs and I had quite the adjustment with emails. He had long hours so I would get an email every day or so, I considered myself lucky. He is on a mission, he needs to do his job so I didn't expect tons of emails. So know what to expect. Also, learning to communicate through email isn't the  easiest. Have patience. Don't start silly fights over email. Its just not worth it! Also, don't send nude pictures. Your emails are looked over and when they catch "no-no" things in the email, they will ban your service member from his email account. At first it will only be for a few days, but do it again and its a month. One more time, banned for the rest of the deployment. Also, do you want your nude photo floating around the internet on the ship?
    • Care Packages! They are so much fun to make and I bet they are just as fun to receive. Know your military members mailing address. You can request care package flat rate boxes for FREE from the post office, here. Then there is filling out the customs form. Check out an amazing post here that tells you  exactly how to fill out that pesky form. But please please please do not send expensive items in a care package! What if the box gets lost or gets dropped in the ocean (doh'!)? Putting insurance on the package only covers the box as long as the USPS is handling it. Definitely does not cover when the military gets its hands on it. Be aware your military member will not be the only one going through this package, it will be inspected before they receive it. Hint Hint, do not send nude pictures or anything illegal. 
  • Have you discussed a spending plan for deployment?
    • Make a plan for what to do with the extra money you will make during deployment. For me, its going into savings. Others I know have paid off bills. 
    • Make a plan for spending while in port. Talk about this BEFORE your service member buys you a pricey leather jacket 2 sizes too small.
    • If you do not have a joint banking account, set up an allotment. This is easy enough to do and you will ensure your spouse at home gets the financial support you generally provide. Do NOT depend on wiring money. Hello River City! When communications are down, how do  you expect money to be wired?
    • If you have credit card debt, talk to your creditors. Deployed service members qualify for lower interest rates while they are deployed.
    • Will taxes be due? You can file for an extension if your service member will be deployed when taxes are due. If you plan on filing for your service member and are not filing jointly, you will need a POA to get this done. 
    • Do you have an emergency fund set up? I swear things always break the moment Hubs sails away into the sunset. We have an emergency fund, but not everyone does. Consider filling out a preauthorization from Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society for financial assistance. You can authorize up to $3,000 in an interest free loan. 

Well that is alot of information, probably one of my longest posts! But there is alot to do in order to be as prepared as possible for deployment. So start working of completing this checklist, you will feel better as you check off each one I promise. Nothing will take away the loneliness you will feel when your service member deploys, but the last thing you want to do is have a situation come up and have problems getting it all taken care of. 

The next post in this series will be (much shorter I hope!) about how to deal with Children & Deployment.


Saturday, January 7, 2012

Louisiana Saturday Night!

I am writing this blog while listening to Alabama's version of "Louisiana Saturday Night", maybe I'm a tad homesick. I have gumbo cooking on the stove top and Hubs helped me make our first King Cake. It's Mardi Gras season ya'll! King Cake has a pretty interesting history, for the best explanation check it out here.

Thanks to Pinterest, I was able to find a fabulous King Cake recipe from none other than Holly Clegg! I am a huge fan of her trim&TERRIFIC cook books. I love that she resides in Baton Rouge too, so who else could come up with a fantastic King Cake recipe? I wanted to share this simple recipe with all of you and even if you don't usually celebrate Mardi Gras, do you really need a reason to make cake?

King Cake with Cream Cheese Cinnamon Filling

Makes 16 servings

2 (8-ounce) cans reduced-fat crescent rolls
4 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven 350°F. Coat 10-inch round pizza pan with nonstick cooking spray.
*I used my Pampered Chef stone, so I didn't need cooking spray*

2. Separate crescent rolls at perforations, into 16 slices. Place slices around prepared pan with points in center. About halfway down from points, press seams together.

Our crescent rolls all laid out

 3. In mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, and vanilla until creamy. Spread on dough in center where seams have been pressed together.
4. In another small bowl, combine butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon with fork until crumbly. Sprinkle over cream cheese. Fold dough points over filling, then fold bottom of triangle over points forming a circular roll like a king cake.

*Funny story, Hubs and I both somehow managed to blend step 3 with the first part of step 4. Meaning instead of having 2 bowls of stuff, we had everything in one bowl. Oops!*

See how all the ingredients are in one bowl?

Not going to lie, Hubs did most of the work I just made the icing and took pictures

I did "test" the cream cheese filling, I apologize for not having any make-up on!

Spreading the cream cheese mixture around the dough

All rolled up and ready for the oven!

5. Bake 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool slightly, drizzle with colored Mardi Gras Icing.

Mardi Gras Icing:

1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1-2 tablespoons skim milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Yellow, Green, Red, & Blue food colorings

1. In small bowl, combine all ingredients, except food color. Divide mixture into three bowls.
2. In first bowl, add a few drops of yellow food coloring. In second bowl, add a few drops of green food coloring. In third bowl, add equal amounts of drops of red and blue food coloring (to create purple).
3. Drizzle over baked cake.

Nutritional information per serving: Calories 184 Calories from fat 36% Fat 7 g Saturated Fat 3 g Cholesterol 9 mg Sodium 275 mg Carbohydrate 26 g Dietary Fiber 0 g Sugars 16 g Protein 3 g Diabetic Exchanges 11/2 carbohydrate 11/2 fat

Ta-Da, King Cake! I was so excited I could hardly wait to eat it and it was just as yummy as it looked. And did you see it was only 184 Calories per serving? Even though we messed up steps 3 & 4, I don't see how it made any difference in the outcome. Just one less bowl we had to clean up afterwards. When I made the icing I was worried it wouldn't be enough when looking at it in the 3 small bowls, but after spreading it on the warm cake it thinned out and was just the right amount. 

Overall, I give this 5 stars! Hubs liked it too, his only comment was he wished it didn't taste so much like crescent rolls. I did not notice an overly crescent roll-y taste, maybe because I was paying attention to the yummy cream cheese & sugar BUT for how easy it was to make, Hubs said it was amazing.

As much as I want to sit down and devour this entire cake right now, I must wait for our turkey & deer sausage gumbo to finish cooking! We made it with the leftover turkey from our Christmas dinner.

By the time the gumbo is ready, we should be getting settled in for the Saints game! This is the closest I'll get to a Louisiana Saturday Night for awhile.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Oh Lazy Days!

I haven't been very productive the past few days and to be honest, I am totally okay with it! Usually I am go-go-go and overbook myself. I think we are still recovering from the holidays here and catching up on some sleepless nights. 

For whatever reason, I have night terrors. For those of you unfamiliar with what that is, its like the worst nightmare ever. For me, I am totally aware I am screaming and flailing in my sleep but am unable to wake up. I am able to remember the nightmare exactly and am unable to sleep for a while afterwards, especially because I have scared myself so much I have uncontrollable shakes. Fun stuff right? Apparently it is extremely rare (lucky me!) and runs in families. I remember hearing my mom's night terrors when I was a kid. Anyhow, I average one night terror every 2 months usually which is not bad. Most of the time Hubs is in the bed next to me and can wake me up before things get too bad. But Monday night, I actually sat up in the bed screaming. When he tried to wake me I started slapping him and pushing him away because I was dreaming that something was attacking me. Since it took a while to wake me up I didn't come out of it too well. It was rough but I figured well I won't have another  one for a while now. Unfortunately, I had another one early this morning and Hubs was NOT here to save me. It was probably the worse episode I've had in a while because no one was here to wake me up. This just reminds me how much I hate not having Hubs here and the next deployment if quickly approaching. 

Other than that, nothing much too dramatic going on right now. Well, no drama happening to me personally. Thank goodness! I am glad I could get rid of the useless drama in my life. It allows me to totally enjoy sitting on my butt all day in my PJs even more! I did manage to go to the gym every day this week so today I gave myself a recovery day. Spin class tomorrow morning is going to kick my butt anyways. 

I figured out  how to put my facebook page on my blog, go me! I also finally joined the world of Pinterest. I like that it allows me to organize out my ideas which will come in handy next week when I start back crafting. I am a visual learner so having the boards as a way to assemble my thoughts is very convenient. But I am not addicted to it by any means. For one, its been very buggy and slow the past 2 days. I am VERY impatient with technology. I will continue to use it and to pin stuff of course, but as of right now I don't need clinical treatment for any addiction :)

We don't have much planned for the weekend, our fun money funds are pretty drained from the holidays. Plus, Hubs is heading out sooner rather than later so hanging out at home is probably the number one thing on his list. My plan on Sunday is to make shopping lists for payday: groceries & crafts!

Anyone have any exciting plans for the weekend?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

How I Started Out 2011

Since New Year Resolutions are still on people's minds, I've been asked by some friends how I started out on my weight loss journey. I thought maybe writing a blog about it would be a good idea, then I came across another blog that did the job for me! Check out the blog post here. I figured putting my experience out there was a little overdue.

Last year when Hubs went on deployment (January 2011), I started going back to the gym and seeing a personal trainer once a month. But what I soon realized was that I could no longer just work out and loose the weight, I needed to change my diet. I will admit, I was TOTALLY clueless on how  to count calories and what was healthy to  eat other than a salad. I went to GNC to check out some of their meal replacement shakes and  got to talking to the salesperson. Normally I am very cautious about what they have to say because I know they have quotas to meet. I told the salesperson my concerns and he pointed out the Total Lean 7 Day Fast Loss Kit. It included the shakes I was looking at plus it was on sale. I am sensitive to diet pills that have crazy stimulants in them and I didn't want any of that stuff. The salesperson assured me and even encouraged me to read the label. In the Burn 60 pill, the stimulant was caffeine, as much as a cup or so of coffee. I figured I would give it a shot since the ingredients seemed legit.

I brought the kit home, opened it up, and read the pamphlet from cover to cover. It included packets of pills (Burn 60-energy pill, Waterex-a water pill, and a green tea pill-meant to enhance metabolism) packets of chocolate & vanilla shakes, cleanse drinks, and a comprehensive meal plan. The next day I went to the grocery store and bought everything that was on the included meal plan. So 2 days after I bought the kit I finally was able to start using it. I followed the meal plan exactly, I measured out all the food to get it right. For the first day or two, I will admit I was hungry but I wasn't starving or famished. But I totally expected that because my body was used to a fatty diet. The cleanse drink didn't taste bad at all and it was very gentle. I was never worried I wasn't going to make it to the bathroom LOL.

I was working out in conjunction with the kit. I had more energy and actually felt really good. Granted, I was sore from the workout but I started to feel more energized. The Burn 60 pills really helped me push through my time at the gym. I had more energy throughout the day, I actually had friends notice that I was peppier and happier. I never had the jitters or any crazy side effects from the kit, overall I was very pleased.

When the kit ran out I continued with the Lean Shakes, the Burn 60 pills, and the meal plan. When you buy the Lean Shake it comes with another 14 day meal plan so I had tons of options for my meals. Which is a plus because nothing is worse than eating the same food day in and day out. I like variety in my meals!

I am happy to report that a year later, I have been able to maintain my fitness goals! I still use the Lean Shakes (now they have bars that I can stash in my purse!) and instead of the Burn 60 I am using Be Energized right before I workout. It is basically the same thing as Burn 60, I was just able to get it for cheaper. I only take the Be Energized before I go to the gym, if I am not hitting the gym that day I don't take it.

So that is how I started out my healthier, more active lifestyle. I want to reiterate that there is NO quick fix for weight loss. It takes time, dedication, and change. Good luck on your weight loss journey and don't give up, remember nothing good every came easy!


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Upcoming Sewing Projects!

Instead of letting this freezing cold day spent inside be a waste, I've been searching the internet all morning compiling a list of things I want to make! Santa brought me a new sewing machine that I am anxious to try out. Payday can't come soon enough so I can buy some fabric!

1. Silk Flower Clip
I have one flower clip that I bought for Little Miss when she was first born and I promised myself I would never do that again! 

2. Monogram Letters
During the Monster Sale at The Children's Place last week, we bought Little Miss 4 solid colored long sleeve shirts that I would LOVE to embellish with a monogram letter. I figure as long as I have a tutorial, I can create other things like flowers & hearts too! I plan on using the monograms on the baby blankets and bibs that I will make (see #'s 3,4).

 3. Minky Baby Blanket
Baby blankets make for a perfect shower gift, especially a personalized one. Since quite a few people I know are preggers right now and I am sure there will be a baby boom after deployment, I'd better start stock piling these for gifts!

4. Ruffled Baby Bibs
Once again, another great baby shower gift! Plus it looks super easy to make and I could coordinate it with the baby blanket.

5. Onesie Dress
Onesies was all that Little Miss wore for the first 6 months so I figured any way to jazz them up would be fun. It looks easy enough to make! I don't care for the ruffle around the neck on the picture though.

6. Felt Hair Clips

7. Pillowcase Dress
I love dresses, especially since we will be hard core potty training!

Looks like I have quite a bit already to keep me busy! Though I should find something to make for myself, guess I'll just have to keep searching.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Getting Back on Track

Today is the official end of our holiday vacation; No more overindulging on yummy food and time to get ready for what lies ahead in 2012. I went to my first spin class on the new year. We went to the NEX to buy Hubs undershirts, socks, and boxers for deployment. Went to GNC to stock up on work-out supplements for him as well to make sure he has enough to last until I can send care packages. I made a "honey-do" list a while back and he is slowly crossing things off that list. All of these preparations just remind me that he'll be leaving soon and not only do I need to keep physically preparing, I need to mentally too. Last time, I just pretended that he wasn't leaving. Then after the ship left I just pretended he was on an underway and that slowly turned into me adjusting to him being gone. This time it won't be so easy though because Little Miss notices when Daddy is away.

My plan is to spend quality time with Hubs when we have the chance, but keeping that balance where it doesn't feel like I am smothering him. Because when that happens I get angry, he gets angry, so we are both pissed off and we end up spending our time mad at one another. I have to allow him to have his time to himself (since Lord knows he won't have much of that on the ship!) to play video games or watch the History channel. He does that while I am facebook stalking or cooking or cleaning so it is not like I am standing idly by waiting for his attention.

For me, the hardest thing has been disconnecting from my phones, the computer, and the millions of other things that keep me occupied. I have to make the time for him as well, I've gotten accustomed to doing my own thing on my own schedule. I will admit it bothers me that I have to drop whatever I am doing whenever Hubs has the time for me; that I have to work around his schedule. But it is totally unrealistic of me to expect my schedule and the ship's schedule to coincide. What kind of LaLa Land am I dreaming of, right? This is just one of those sacrifices I have to make, not that I am happy about it one bit. But being pouty and pissed off isn't going to change the situation. In fact, it will only be a bigger waste of time.

 Other than gathering deployment essentials, I started back on track with healthier eating. I definitely indulged during the holidays. I like to eat healthy 80% of the time and as long as I make it to the gym often this doesn't present a problem. I am a huge fan of the Lean Shakes from GNC. They are so yummy, I use them as a meal when I am eating 5 small meals a day otherwise they are a snack. I also picked up the Lean Bars, I love having one in my purse at all times. When I am on the go and suddenly realize I am hungry and home is no where in sight, the bars are a good meal replacement for me so my blood sugar doesn't get too low. What I like best is both of these actually fill me up, especially when I eat a piece of fruit too. I don't feel famished and they don't have any ingredients that make me jittery. They aren't too expensive either when I catch them on sale!

What did you do today to prepare for what is coming in the year ahead?