2017 Favorite Moments

I’d be a little sadder to close the chapter on this year if I wasn’t so excited for this next one to start. I love crossing things off lists, but I also love starting new things.

To help wish 2017 goodbye, I thought I’d count down my five favorite moments from it.

5. Buying our second house

As much as I like calling it our “second home” it’s our first single-family home together. About a week after we found out we were moving to Georgia, we flew down to go house hunting. 11 months prior we had closed on our houses in Alaska so it felt very familiar (and a little nuts) to be buying a second house less than a year after our first. We bought our first as an investment property and although this one we still bought as an investment, we’ve spent more time making it our own than we did with the Alaska houses. I’m also not sure if it was because our ducks were still in a row or if it was our realtor who made all the difference, but buying our Georgia house was night and day from our Alaska experience. We had an accepted offer and completed home inspection in less than a week – and it’s a good thing, too because the houses in our neighborhood are now selling for 10-20k more than what we bought ours at.

4. Leaving Alaska

I liked living in Alaska, but I realized last summer or fall that I was ready to leave and go do something different. I also knew I wanted to take the ferry and drive cross-country again and do some sight-seeing. Although it was the same way I came up to Alaska, it was so different going back. The Alaska Marine Highway system had gone through a lot of changes, I had two dogs with me and was traveling alone, and I felt like I was different as a person, too. I had a great trip and loved it but I was more than ready to get to work on some small renovations in our house when I finally got to Georgia.

3. Rev3 Triathlon

I also wanted to get back into triathlon since living in Georgia where I had options for racing and training was a lot easier. I signed up for a whole mess of races around the state and then as my travel race I registered for the Rev3 Olympic Triathlon in Williamsburg, pretty much right before I found out I was pregnant. I still felt comfortable and strong but dropped all my goals other than to see how it went and finish and had a great time. I don’t know if I’ll make it out to any other Rev3 races this coming year because I’m also going to be juggling a baby, but I’d really love to see if I could swing it.

2. Visiting my brother sister and two of my closest friends

One of the best things about moving around is all the people I get to meet and new experiences I get to have, but I also miss my family and friends when living so far away. I managed to visit both of my siblings as well as two of my best friends from college all in the same year, which is just more impressive to me when I think about how none of them live near each other.

1. Baby!

By far the best part of 2017 was finding out that we were expecting. I had mentally settled in for a long course of trying to conceive when I found out we had, actually. I was a little flustered initially in trying to research just what I could still do as far as training and racing and ultimately decided to pull out of a lot of late-season things I’d signed up for because I couldn’t maintain the training level for it to be a safe idea. As it stands, I’m seven months along now and in a few days I’ll be able to say that my baby is due next month.

Framing Bathroom Mirror – Easy DIY

Both of my bathrooms were gifted with enormous, beautiful mirrors held up by clips. I knew I wanted to frame them and looked up a couple of online tutorials to see how I wanted to do it.

I opted not to do a miter joint because I’m not all that handy with a saw and I thought a more casual frame would go nicer with my style and decor.

I picked up my materials at Lowe’s. In all, I used 6 (4 were needed, but I miscalculated and wasted two) 8-foot molding strips plus 2 8-foot sections of paneling for the sides of the mirrors to keep the mirror edges from being visible. If my mirrors were sandwiched between walls I wouldn’t have bothered.

Plus, a caulking gun (no idea where mine went), some Liquid Nails, some paintable caulk, and I still had plenty of high gloss white trim paint leftover. I didn’t buy a saw because we have something like 3, but they had little miter saws for sale for about $20 that would get the job done.

I used the miter saw to cut the edges and then used blue painters tape to tape the pieces up on the mirror to make sure I liked how it looked before I committed. That’s how I figured out I needed the center pieces to be about and inch longer – back to the store for more molding.

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I tend to hang my swimsuits in this bathroom to dry.

The backs of the molding was primed light so I just glued them on with the Liquid Nails and let dry. I had to tape some pieces up and brace them to make sure they wouldn’t wiggle out of place as they dried.

Once dried, I caulked up the seams and smoothed them as best as I could. Once that had dried, I painted two coats of Sherwin Williams high gloss Ultra White before removing the painters tape and using a razor to scrape off any paint spatters on the mirrors.

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No swimsuits, just microfiber towels for drying the cars.

You can see some of the Liquid Nails if you peer into the corners, but overall the mirrors look great and I’m happy with how much fresher the bathroom looks with this easy update.

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On My Mind

For some reason this week was just unending to me. Partly because I’ve been having some back pain that has made it hard for me to sleep. I’m already a light sleeper but this has been enough to just make me get up so there’s been a few morning when my day has started around 2 a.m. So much for sleeping while I can.

Love.

I read this story this past weekend and got pretty teary-eyed at how sweet and amazing what a love story it is.

Sleep.

Although I’m having trouble sleeping, I also bought a memory foam mattress topper recently and I don’t know how I ever lived without it. I had one while I was in Afghanistan and loved it so when my bed started feeling less comfortable I was pretty sure a mattress topper would help (and it does, I just can’t seem to stay asleep). Even P likes it and he usually likes firmer mattresses. It’s amazing and at only $70 I wish I had done this sooner.

Williams Sonoma Gift Guide.

Okay, so I love Williams Sonoma. I love their store, I love how it smells, how it sells devices that are good at doing only one thing and all their expensive things, but also I love what good quality everything is. I splurged on a really nice Le Creuset deep saucepan when I moved back here because I knew I’d be without my kitchen tools and wanted to buy something I could still use. I got it on clearance and we use it all the time.

Anyway, this guy writes a hater’s guide to their catalog every year. The 2017 one isn’t out yet but his from 2016 is still hilarious.

Dogs.

This comic from 1111 Animals.

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Kitchen Table and Chairs Makeover

I’ve had the same kitchen table and chairs for eight years now, bought all together for $130 from IKEA in Washington. They’ve moved multiple times with me with little complaints but the past couple of moves have left the chair bottoms mostly screw-less and wobbly and require constant tightening. Plus, they’re pine which is pretty but soft, and jean rivets and cat and dog paws have scratched them. I wanted a new table set and I wanted something pretty, durable, and that I could fit more people at than my tiny IKEA table. In short, what I wanted was not going to cost me $130, more like $1,300 at least. I couldn’t pay that much when my table and chairs were still functional so I just kept looking. I really loved the look of farm tables with the white aprons and wood tops, but I also wanted something that I could expand for special occasions.

A couple of months ago, someone advertised a dining room table with a leaf and EIGHT chairs all for the princely sum of $300. I jumped on that the way my cat jumps on wet food. They were moving to Germany and needed to cut weight and wanted a new table anyway. The table had been a gift from their parents as it was a table they’d grown up with as kids, but they just didn’t have the room, weight allowance, or need eight chairs. I don’t need eight chairs, either, but I’m not passing up free stuff. We packed it all up in the back of our pickup truck and drove it home.

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The original color of the chairs and table

The first project I took on was the chairs.  I liked the look of chalk paint so I used Dixie Belle in Buttercream and for the chairs and Haint Blue for the captains chairs. I (foolishly) assumed they were pine and not oak and was slightly horrified when the tannins bled through the paint.

I bought some spray primer from Rustoleum and gave the chairs a quick spray with a little extra attention to areas where the tannins were still struggling to come through. I liked the chalk paint a lot. I tend to be heavy-handed in painting so I did have to temper it down a bit, but I found the paint to be VERY forgiving. I topped the chairs with Dixie Belle Clear Coat in a satin finish.

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The table was a huge pain. I had this vision of a stained top with a white apron and P gallantly took this on almost entirely but that table top would.not.stain. We used Minwax in Jacobean for the stain and every time he’d put it on, it would wipe right off, like a dry erase marker. We tried letting it dry. We tried conditioning the wood. As it turns out, Minwax, despite being available at nearly every store, also has a bit of a reputation for being absolute garbage to work with. He wanted to paint it but I really wanted the stained top finish. I found something that talked about staining over paint and he agreed to try that. I kept researching other options.

 

In searching for stain over paint, I saw some images of tables and other furniture that had been dry brushed with multiple colors of chalk paint. I already knew I liked chalk paint, and also that stain was an enormous pain. I watched some video guides and decided to try it out.

My local Ace Hardware had started selling Dixie Belle so I bought containers of Driftwood and Hurricane Gray and in a wistful fit, also a container of Voodoo Gel Stain in Up In Smoke. I tried out the gel stain…nope.It was a pretty color, but the table took the stain unevenly. I think the top was just made of too many different woods to take an even stain. Next, I tried just painting it in Driftwood and it felt pretty blah, so I tried dry brushing and water washing the Hurricane Gray and liked the look of the dry brush.

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Top left – Driftwood. Top right – color of raw table. Bottom – gel stain 

I did a solid coat of Driftwood over the entire table, let it dry, and then dry brushed Hurricane Gray over it. Some areas were still a little too dark or concentrated for me, so I dry brushed a second light coat of Driftwood over top of it and then sealed the table with several layers of Gator Hide.

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Left is a first coat of dry brushing over the Driftwood, center is attempting wet wash and right is a little bit of the gel stain left

I like the look of it. So much so I’m kicking myself for not doing it sooner and making P go through a stain, wipe, stain, sanding purgatory. I’m so happy with how these turned out overall and I learned a lot in the process, namely, that furniture refinishing is a huge pain and that I’m in no hurry to experience it again.

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The mostly-finished look. The side chairs are Buttercream and the captain’s chairs on the ends are Haint Blue.

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A better look at the dry brush technique on top of the table.

Easy Table Lamp DIY

I’ve had the same table lamp on my nightstand since college because it worked well enough and until a couple of years ago, it was just me so no reason to have more than one bedside lamp. Then in Alaska our house was too small for us to have two nightstands. Now that we have almost doubled our square footage (from 850 square feet to a whopping 1500!) I found matching night stands at a local vintage market and have been passively looking for a nice table lamp since then.

I was browsing Target yesterday and saw these fillable base lamps and knew that would be perfect. It’s from their mix-and-match collection so I chose two fillable bases and then a lightly textured lamp shade that I thought would work well with the style of the lamp and the bedroom.

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Next, I picked up a couple stems of artificial cotton and some sand-colored glass gravel from Hobby Lobby. I used a whole bag of the glass gravel in the bottom of one lamp but decided that it was too much and split it between the two vases. Then I used some wire cutters to cut the cotton stems down to size and arranged them in the base. Total I used one bag of the gravel and three cotton stems, but I bought four bags of gravel and four stems because I’m not particularly good at estimating and it’s easy to return things I don’t end up using.

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How easy is that? I saw lots of other cute ideas online that you could do in these kinds of lamps – tickets, fake fruit and flowers, Legos or small toys in a kid’s room, and my other favorite, creating a little forest scene with artificial moss and miniature trees. I love that we each have a bedside lamp now so P can stay up reading his hunting magazines while I sleep.

 

 

Lady of the Night

No, not selling my body for money except in the sense where I show up to work and they pay me every two weeks for my presence and whatever I do at work.

I’ve been working the mid shift this week which is already a challenge in itself, trying to convince your body that its circadian rhythm is wrong and you actually should be up all night and sleep all day, but also because I’m pregnant I can’t rely on caffeine as much as I probably would if I were not.

I’ve done overnight shifts before, they’re pretty routine in military life, but they tended to be limited to one night every few months and not a dedicated week of mid shift work.

For me, the keys to successfully staying awake all night and then sleeping most of the day:

Bring lots of food. When I worked individual mid shifts I’d get hungry and tired around 2 a.m. necessitating a run to the gas station where I’d buy energy drinks and candy. That’s not sustainable for a week (or adulating, really) so now I take the time to pack my food. I try to pack one actual meal plus plenty of healthy snacks. I love fruit so I tend to pack a lot of fruit.

A pregnancy consideration is I can have about 100mg of caffeine a day so I save my caffeine allotment for the mid shift. I’ll have one cup early in the shift and maybe a second one before the halfway mark, depending on how things are going. I also have tea and hot cocoa if I just want to sip something.

Take walking break. It’s hard to sleep if you’re moving so every hour or so I make sure I get up and walk around a bit.

Daylight lamps help. I bought a “happy light” in Alaska to simulate daylight when it was dark in the winter and to fend off the winter blues. It’s found a second life at my desk where its bright light does the same trick.

Bring something to keep you occupied during down time.. After a point, I don’t produce quality work and start getting a little loopy and tired. I bring a book or knitting with me so I have something low-key to focus on and keep me alert.

GO TO SLEEP. After the shift, obviously. I drive home, let my dogs out, and go straight to bed. To avoid waking up from sunlight, I use an eye mask to help keep things dark and also ear plugs sometimes.

Charleston Getaway

I knew I was going to be bummed about having to pull out of Augusta 70.3, even though I knew realistically that doing a tri in the second trimester was just not a good idea, so to avoid further feelings of sadness and missing out seeing all the shiny, sleek bikes pour into town, I booked us an AirBnB in Charleston for the weekend.

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Pineapple fountain in the Waterfront Park



I LOVE Charleston. It’s where we had our marriage ceremony and I was captivated with it from the start. Funny story-our actual marriage was by proxy as I was living several states away. I asked a friend of his I liked to be my stand-in and we did my vows over the phone. We did our ceremony a while later and chose to do an elope-acation with just us and in a place we’d never been-Charleston.
It also seemed fitting that we go back to Charleston now that we have our little one on the way for some alone time before we become a family of three.

Rainbow Row


We did a half day charter with Charleston Fish Rod Bending charters and had SO.MUCH.FUN. I’d wanted to do deep sea but the weather was pretty choppy from the storms so we did inshore instead. I had such an amazing time.


We caught a ray, a speckled trout, a sand perch, and several red fish (which fought like hell and were so much fun) including one really incredible big one that had a tag. South Carolina Department of Natural Resources has a program where you report catching a tagged fish and they’ll send you a t-shirt. This beautiful fish was a solid 8.75 pounds and 29 inches long. We released all of our fish this time; I am 100% a fan of keeping and eating fish but we were meeting a friend for dinner and I didn’t want to have to stuff fillets into a ziplock bag and try to freeze them and keep them frozen.


We ate at several great restaurants, Ms Rose’s in West Ashley, and revisited some favorites, like Kaminsky’s where we went for dessert after our wedding in the Waterfront Park. Our only disappointment was Caviar and Bananas where our food was just bland and tasteless and the drinks were not chilled enough.

Kaminsky’s Dessert Cafe


We walked along King Street and the Charleston City Market, went back to where we got married in the Waterfront Park, and spent a morning out at Ft. Sumter seeing the old fort.

Ft. Sumter ruin. The original was three times taller.


It was such a fun trip and definitely the right thing to do. I never even thought about the triathlon I was missing and I loved being able to reminisce with P about when we got married.

Lilly Pulitzer After Party Sale

Today is the last day of Lilly Pulitzer’s semi-annual After Party Sale, famous for its deep discounts on a brand that never has a sale section online.

I was fortunate that Disney Springs has a brand spankin new Lilly store and this year they let the stores open their doors for the sale a day early, meaning I got to get some shopping in before we left Disney to head home. There was still a line to get in and then a line for the fitting rooms and a line for the checkout, but I appreciated being able to try things on.

I also stopped by my home store in Georgia and did some shopping online. Each experience had different things available. The items available in the Florida store were different than what they had in stock in Georgia and online so Im glad I was able to try all three.

The last day of the sale ends today and there are still tons of great options available. Since I’m pregnant, I tried to buy things that I could still wear for a bit and hopefully camouflage my growing belly.

Lilly Pulitzer APS
First of all, I loved the Bohdi skirt when I tried it on. It’s lovely and flow and plenty of stretch and I should be able to wear this the entire time I’m pregnant.
The popovers are perfect for fall and I love the extra UPF protection built in, which makes them extra perfect for fall fishing trips or anytime I’m worried about sun exposure.
I saw this Kimora Kimono dress and thought it looked so different, unique, and beautiful. It had great reviews from all different sized women so I’m really looking forward to it arriving in the mail.
Lastly, I admit to loving leggings far more than I have reason to. The luxletic leggings are so soft and snuggly. Unlike this picture, the ones I bought go down to my ankles and I think will be perfect for working out or even tucking into some tall boots for fall.
I bought several other things; I have a definite weakness for their t-shirt dresses, but these were some of my very favorites.

Camping at Disney World

My original plan was two short Disney trips in September and November, but then I got pregnant, P signed a hunting lease, and looking at the crowd calendar I realized those two trips were going to be SUPER crowded at the parks. I canceled the other trips and made a plan for a slightly longer trip at the end of August when the parks were a lot less crowded.

I also managed to swing a discounted rate at Disney’s Fort Wilderness campsites. I think most people don’t know that Disney has a campsite; I didn’t until we went to the Hoop-de-due Revue last trip there. They have everything from tent sites to RV sites and even cabins you can rent. It has water transportation to the Magic Kingdom and bus transportation everywhere else. They also have free wifi throughout the campground, which I didn’t expect at all.

We did a tent site and it was really nice. The site was really big and even had a dedicated parking space in it for our car, though another site fit two cars in there pretty easily. There’s also electricity and water at the site, and a shared restroom/shower facility, called “comfort stations” dotted around so they’re never far away. It was a little like a gym facility, except the cleanest, nicest gym showers you’ve ever had with constant water pressure and hot water. I had read that they tended to be crowded in the mornings from 7 – 9 am, but never really found that to be the case. I never had to wait for a shower, sink, or toilet but that also may have been because we were in the off-season.

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Picture from Disney’s website. That little brown stump on the right has multiple electrical outlets as well as a water spigot.

We didn’t have any issues with mosquitos, either which was my other main concern. We went cat fishing the weekend before and I got bit severely and it was awful afterwards. I brought my diffuser and diffused citronella all night and the resort also gave us free DEET wipes. I think I saw maybe one mosquito around our tent area. P got some bites on his feet but those were more likely from walking through the tall grass.

We are used to Army “camping” so our standards for comfort are significantly lower than the average person and we had the most bare bones campsite out of everyone else. I’d be willing to bet most of those folks out there have never slept on the ground in just a sleeping bag while it rained on them. Others had mosquito-netting popups over their picnic tables and a couple even had AC units that attached to their tents. The hardest thing was just how hot it was at night. P opted to sleep outside while I just took the rain fly off the tent at night to allow for more air flow. We had our sleeping mats so it wasn’t uncomfortable, just uncomfortably warm.

The resort itself is huge and has an internal bus system available, or you can rent a golf cart or bikes. We brought our own bikes but didn’t use them except for the first morning when we rode them down to the commissary for breakfast. Since we got free parking at the parks, it was easier and quicker to just drive ourselves rather than waiting for a bus. Since I’m not drinking, we also knew we’d have a designated driver each night when we drove back.

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We stayed in the 2000 loop which was about 2/3 mile from the boat transportation area.

Overall, I liked it and I would stay there again but I’d do it differently. We’ve already discussed how we’re going to need a bigger tent once our baby comes and since we already have two smaller tents that are good for solo or joint hunting trips, we’d like to get something fairly large and roomy that P can stand up in and can adapt to our growing family. I would also like to look at renting either a pop-up camper or even an actual RV in the future.

I loved how affordable the campsites were. Normal pricing for the off-season started at $53/night and then we also got a reduced rate making it even lower. You also get all the perks of staying at a Disney resort, like Magic Bands and Extra Magic Hours, and can add on the Disney Dining Plan if you want. There were a ton of activities at the resort all day and into the evening and a lot of families seemed to be enjoying themselves. You could honestly just spend all your time there and never even go to the parks.

We did our last two nights of our trip at Shades of Green, a military property on Disney. I have a deep, abiding love for SOG that will never go away. They remodeled recently and now have a big, covered parking garage and remodeled rooms. They’re also right across the street from the Polynesian so we just walk over and take the monorail to wherever we’d like to go, but also have bus transportation to the parks. They have Extra Magic Hours, but don’t do Disney Dining or Magic Bands, and no free parking at the parks. I also like that the pricing is tiered depending on the rank structure and the average room can easily sleep five or more so it’s a great value for military families. SOG has been my default place to stay for years now, but I may be switching my affinity to the campsites now that I’ve got some experience under my belt there.

 

 

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You Get What You Give

I really like listening to podcasts in the car, working out, or just working around the house. I like music, too, but for long things podcasts are nice because I feel like someone is talking to me.

I’ve been a fan of Rachel Brathen, aka Yoga Girl, for several years now and she recently started doing a podcast every week. This week she talked about body positivity but also how the energy you put out is what you get back and I know how true that is.

I used to be such a bitter, deeply angry person because of my life. I was upset that my parents had been taken from me when I was younger and that I didn’t get to have an adult relationship with them, that my stepmother now held all of the things I remembered from my childhood and would never give them up, and so many other things. I felt ugly and bitter inside and showed it outside, too. I was just mean and so envious of good things in other peoples’ lives, because I didn’t have them but also felt that I didn’t deserve anything good. It was just this cycle of being angry with my life and then showing that anger to others and then being angry because (surprise) no one wants to associate with an angry, bitter person (weird).

I can’t put an exact moment on when things started to change, but it’s taken me years to let that go. Years of being miserable and unhappy and selfish.

It’s so true though that what you put out is what you get back. My deployment in Afghanistan changed me in a lot of ways, all for the better I hope. I’ve felt like a different person since I came back, and I felt differently there, too. I feel like what I do matters and that my life is in my control, which is a lot different from how I used to feel that I was powerless and poor-me-can’t-do-anything-about-it. I’ve also noticed that things that used to be hard for me are a lot easier now, either because I’m more comfortable in my skin or because I don’t make people unconsciously want to escape the room I’m in.

That’s not to say everything is perfect and I’m great now. I worry an incredible amount about things that I can’t change and have a hard time letting go of that, I’m impatient, and snap when I feel like I’m getting stressed. But I really do think that the way you put yourself out there makes a huge difference in what you get back from other people and positivity goes a long way.