Sunday, September 21, 2014

DIY Silhouette Art Tutorial

A couple weeks ago, I was snooping around Pintrest for some decorating ideas.  Since I am pretty much decorating impaired, I KNEW I had no choice but to rely on the ideas and innovations of others to decorate my new home in a way that wasn't embarrassing to everyone who walked in my door.

Decorating to me, has always seemed like a colossal waste of time.  I didn't see what the big deal was about spending money to make your house LOOK a certain way.  Who cares?  I mean as long as your house is mostly clean, has a good feeling about it, and you feel safe there -- what does it matter what color your couch or carpet is?  Why does it matter if your picture frames match?  Is my life going to suffer at all because I couldn't care less about my home looking fancy?  Nope.  In fact, I was pretty sure that I would have more time to do more important things, like raising my kids and being a good wife, if I wasn't wasting my time painting stuff and shopping for things I couldn't afford.  Practicality has ruled most of my life and taken charge of my priorities.

But these last couple years, as our little family has prepared to finally be out of the student lifestyle, have a real career to support us, and even have a house of our own... my thoughts have strayed to ideas of decorating.  At first, I dismissed them as silly and trivial... but I couldn't help to look at some of the stuff my friends had in their houses and the things they actually made themselves!  The crafty person within me was piqued!

I am all about saving money.  I have serious remorse when I am forced to buy expensive new things.  So... when I found out that I could buy cheap furniture or stuff and remake it or "upcycle" the things I already had, I was won over.  How fun it could be to have a NICE LOOKING and practical home!  Especially, if I was doing it myself and saving money.

I am a baby step kind of girl.  Especially, being in my eighth month of pregnancy, I have limited physical capabilities. But I have found there are some things I can do to make our new home personal, pleasant to be in, and reflect the creativity of our family.

My first steps were getting curtains.  That's a long story for another time, but suffice it to say that it included me having a total breakdown in Walmart over the prices of curtains and rods and blinds. AND ended with me buying cheap curtains and sticking them up with shower curtain rods to save money and give us some much needed privacy.

Next, I had Ben put up some of our art work in the kitchen area and I did my very first reupholster project on my bar stools:

 Before:
After:
And yes, they are shiny because I covered them in vinyl for protection and easy clean up.
Not SUPER classy, but nice and practical with 3 almost 4 boys in the house.

For the living room, I bought a new rug and some couch pillows.  But I needed something new and classy for the walls in the living room and for the empty wall above our bed.

I searched Pintrest, and found a few things I liked... but nothing I LOVED.  So I ended up picking my favorite of many things, and came up with my own ideas.  I decided I wanted to do some silhouette art of my kids to go with our family pictures and maybe some of those cool vinyl letters that looked so fun.

I made them and posted them on Facebook, and got such a positive response, that I came up with a new similar idea to do some more for the wall in our master bedroom.  Here are the finished products:
Living Room:


Master Bedroom above our bed:

When I posted these, I honestly thought I MIGHT get a few likes and some back pats like: "Good Job, Cat!  You're getting better... keep it up!"  But I didn't expect was the numerous requests for a tutorial!  Seriously?  Really?  Me make a decorating DIY tutorial?!  Did NOT see that coming... not in a million years.

Good thing I took pictures along the way... only to prove that I actually made them myself if anyone questioned me about it.  Yeah, when it comes to this stuff, I KNOW and ADMIT that I am insecure of myself.

But I am also totally winning to share what I know.  So without further ado, here is the DIY silhouette tutorial:

DIY Silhouette Art Tutorial

You will need:

-a camera
-computer and printer
-card stock printer paper
-cutting board
-scissors and/or exact-o knife
-cute scrapbook paper for background (or you can do what I did and print some out)
-black spray paint (I used the chalk board paint)
-glue stick
-frame

Step by Step instructions:

1. First, I took pictures of my boys sitting sideways:


 Then I loaded them up onto my computer in my photo editing program and selected that I wanted to print them out for a 8x10 size (to fit a pre-made frame).  Also, I didn't want them all facing the same way, so I had Sam's printed with the reverse option.  I printed them out in black and white, there was no reason to waste color ink, and on card stock paper

2.  Next I cut them out with a pair of scissors:


3.  Turn them over, printed side facing down (because when the sun shines on your finished product, you don't want to see remnants of the printed picture behind the black paint) and spray paint them the desired color -- I used black chalk board spray paint because that's what I had.
4.  Find some cut scrapbook paper, or you can do what I did and just Google and print out your own on some card stock.  Next, mount your dry silhouettes with a glue stick or whatever works for you.

(You may notice that 4th one on there... that's the St. George Utah Temple where Ben and I were married and it is a symbol to us of the promises we made to each and the start of our lives together.)

5.  Frame them and hang them!! I bought the $4 cheapy frames at Wal-Mart.

Now, if you are wondering how I did the family pictures for our bedroom, here is that tutorial:

For these ones, the steps are pretty much the same, with a couple of differences.

1.  You are going to want a cutting board and exact-o knife to get all the detail in.

2.  Print out the picture you want to silhouette on cardstock.  Make sure to print it mirrored or reversed so when you turn it over to spray it, everyone will be in the proper place to get it right on.

Original:

Print Out:


3.  Next on a cutting board, use the exact-o knife to cut out the out line of the picture.  To give each silhouette a personal touch and to make sure people knew what was going on in the picture, I also cut out some of the highlights in the picture, and things on Ben's uniform so one could TELL he was a soldier.

On the wedding picture, I cut out his white shirt collar, to emphasize the tux, and made a temple to go behind us (which I kept white.

For the family picture, I cut out parts of Ben's uniform, the collars of the boys, and some highlights between Jake and me so you could tell I was holding a baby... otherwise I looked like I had some weird growth...

For the pregnancy one, I had to cut some stuff in so you could TELL I was pregnant and that Ben and I are in fact two people, not conjoined twins.

This is what I came up with:
4.  Next spray paint them!  Once again I used the black chalk board spray.

5.  Just like the other ones, you mount and frame.
... and hang:
Fun!  Easy! Cheap! Classy!

I had all the supplies already, so all I had to buy was the frames: and I got the $4 Wal-Mart ones.  So all and all, I saved a lot of money making these myself!  (Note: Vinyl lettering found at Hobby Lobby -- I got them 50% off!  Score!) And I can't put a price on the feeling of accomplishment every time I look at them!

Happy crafting!!!

-Cat

PS If you like this tutorial, feel free to share :)

Monday, September 8, 2014

Back to School... FINALLY!

The boys were a little sad, back in Oklahoma, when all their friends were heading back to school and they weren't.  School started 3 days before we moved.  I thought, there is no way I was going to enroll them for 3 days... they will survive.

We got to Tennessee the middle of the next week, and as soon as we got into the house, we headed over the local school.  They had actually started 3 weeks earlier -- but I wasn't too concerned with my kids being behind.  After switching schools MANY times, they have learned to adjust pretty quickly.

So, we showed up at the school to get the paperwork and get it going. (It was a Thursday) They said if I got all the work in by the next day, the boys could start the following Monday.

They were so excited to go, they could hardly stand it!

Monday FINALLY came!
They were pumped to get to wear their new Minecraft t-shirts... I mean it was a HUGE deal to them!  And of course, it's always pretty special to start the year with a new backpack and new lunch boxes.

Ben and I took them the first day so we could meet their teachers.  It all went smoothly and we told them we would meet them at the bus stop after school.  They could care less.  They were eager beavers to get to work and making new friends.

I am really proud of my boys.  It isn't easy to start a new school... every year.  Sam is just starting 3rd grade and has already attended 5 schools.  FIVE!  That's a lot for a little guy, especially one with some special needs.  This will be Nephi's 4th school.

I had a reporter call me a few weeks ago.  She wanted to know what it was like being a military family and moving around a bit.  She was writing an article on the effects it had on kids.  We chatted about it for a bit and I explained to her that my kids are actually pretty good sports about it.  She then asked me what my secret is... What?  I don't have a secret... She laughed and asked if I had any tips I could share.  The only one I could think of was this:

As a parent, it's up to us to set the example.  If we are bummed about a move, don't let your kids see it... because they will be bummed too.  Every chance I got, I would tell my kids what an adventure it is that we get to move around!  How awesome for us to have friends in SO MANY states!  How cool that we can start over so many times and have new opportunities!  I would point out all the cool things in the new area we were moving to.  Like for Sam, he is old enough for scouts, but there wasn't much of an opportunity for him to do it in Oklahoma, but HERE in Tennessee our church does it!  So he was SUPER excited for that!  And any time they started to feel a little down, I would remind them of all the cool stuff we were going to do and see... and how our NEW house has stairs! (That's really important to them)... and as soon as we get grass in the back, we will get a play set!

If we as parents are excited, it's super contagious to the little ones.

Was I sad to leave?  Yeah I was!  One friend, in particular, was extremely hard to leave, and I cried.  And my kids saw.  They asked me why I was sad.  I said, "I am going to miss my friends, but I am also happy because I know I will see them again!"

It works for us.

They still miss their old friends, but they are having WAY too much fun to worry about it too much.

That first day of school, they got off the bus grinning ear to ear!  They were SO HAPPY!  Nephi had made a new friend, and Sam proudly announced that he had 3 new girlfriends... typical.  Their teachers have been great and the boys adjusted pretty dang quickly to the new rules, new school, and new teaching methods.  I know they are going to be just fine.

Honestly, though, I don't think anyone was excited to see them come home than little Jake.  He was DEVASTATED when we left them at school... he wanted to stay with them so badly.  Poor little guy.  But it only took him a couple days of them leaving and coming home to get used to it.

Adjustments for everyone!

As for me?  I am beyond thrilled they get to take the bus!  I have been taking and picking up so long, it's been such a hassle. I was super worried about what I was going to do after the baby was born if I had to take and pick up... it's super hard on feeding and sleeping schedules.  So the bus thing... well, it takes away a TON of stress on my part.  AND they love it!  They think it's the coolest thing in the world... so all is well.

-Cat

PS:  I wanted to give a quick shout out to Staples for the AMAZING back to school package they sent us!  We are beyond thrilled with the new backpack, lunch box, and Kindle Fire!  To us, it wasn't just a back to school package, it was a housewarming gift as well!  Got to us the first day the kids went back to school.  So FUN! So a huge thanks to them for their support of families, and in our case, military families.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Big Move: Our 2nd PCS Journey (Part 2)

Day #2 in Clarksville, we got to move into our NEW house!
 There we are looking so happy!!  Our house not even done quite yet!
We took a quick walk through of the place, and when we came back out, the railing in the front was painted and the sod was down! It's the perfect first house for our growing family!
Our lovely gas fireplace with a mounting spot for our TV -- which worked out perfectly for our TV!

 View from the kitchen to our back door. Those trees are on the state line of Kentucky.  We have some grass now... but this is when we first got here.
The backyard and deck:


The living room looking away from the fireplace:

 Upstairs looking down:
 Lovely stairs...
 This is part of my kitchen, we have an awesome customized island coming on Monday!!  Yay for more drawers and cupboards!!
This is our pantry under the stairs:

Here we are camping out our first night at the new house!  Watching a movie and eating ice cream.  The movers came the next morning with all our stuff.
 The builders were AWESOME to let us come move in before we closed on the house.  They charged us daily rent, as they went about and put on the finishing touches.  They knew that we needed a home for our family and came from a long ways away! Just to calm fluttering hearts, we were all clear for the closing on our end, we were just waiting on the kitchen island to be finished to finalize, that's why we got the clear to move in early.
Yesterday, we officially closed on the house!!  Yay!!!  After almost 10 years of marriage, 3.5 kids later, MANY moves, we are finally home owners!  I feel like a REAL grown up now! (As if having kids didn't make me like an adult already, haha.)  The picture above is us celebrating the closing at Texas Roadhouse... which is pretty much like the Texas Roadhouses in the mid-east or in Utah... but they have their own Tennessee twist that was pretty fun too... like line-dancing servers... haha... It was GREAT!

Unpacking has been a little crazy!  We have most of the important stuff done, now it's just the garage and our craft/office/workout room and we are all set!  We love our little house, and I look forward to our time (however long or brief it may be...) at Fort Campbell and Tennessee!  Here's to many new adventures!!

-Cat

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Big Move: Our 2nd PCS Journey (Part 1)

It's been a while since I have posted.  Mainly because of the move prep, we have been incredibly busy!  But FINALLY we have internet here at our new place, so I have a series of posts planned for the next few days. Warning though, I wrote these mostly to update my family, but feel free to read about our adventure, everyone is welcome here.  (Unless you're a meanie, then go somewhere else *wink*)

***

After a wonderful year in Oklahoma, our time there came to an end.  We loved it there, and we will miss it a lot.  But we were ready for our next big adventure in Tennessee and Kentucky.  I say both states because, many people don't know this, but Fort Campbell is located on the Tennessee/Kentucky border, so you can choose to live in either state or on post.  After researching the area, we found ourselves building a home in Clarksville, Tennessee.  You may have seen some of the beginning pictures of project a couple months ago (see post here), but now it's pretty much done and we have since moved in (full story in part 2).

Saying goodbye to friends was really hard.
The packers came for two whole days to pack up all our stuff. And they brought all their packing gear... I tell you, it was a full time job keeping my kiddos away from the bubble wrap roll!

Beware, they will pack some of the most random things if you don't keep an eye on them!  When we got here, we unpacked part of a curtain and a rod that didn't belong to us, the nasty drawer liners that belonged with the rental as well, and some crazy trash!!  They also packed some things we told them not to, like Ben's Sunday clothes.  But I have to give them credit, they packed our stuff crazy well!  All our breakables made it here intact! And from all the horror stories I hear, that's saying something!

After two days of the packing, the movers came and loaded up their big truck with all our worldly goods.

Jake ended up banished to his room with the child gate up for most of the time because the little guy would NOT stay away from the truck and it's ramp.  He wanted to play so bad and was in the way like times five!  While the movers were moving out the stuff, my dear friends came over with breakfast and cleaning supplies and we ate and cleaned place.  It was so fun!  And it meant the world to me that they came to help out!  And after the movers left, I had the most handsome little helpers to help me clean up the rest of house!
And the missionaries came over and helped us weed the garden so the new people who moved in would have a lovely place to come to!

Facebook Update: These awesome missionaries helped us weed the jungle this morning! They braved the goffer holes, massive bees, toads, and various other bugs and critters to make this place more presentable for the new renters. We sure love our missionaries and their willingness to serve. Also a big shout out to my dearest friends who popped by with yummy breakfast foods yesterday with the willingness and positive attitudes to help me clean the place! After they left, the movers came and told me how impressed they were with their kindness and friendship - and how they had made an impression on them (not to mention the yummy food we shared with them). So thanks ladies! (A special thanks to Tammie Sylvester for braving the mouse poop!)
And for the record, my pajama-clad boys did not help at ALL with the weeding.  They were too scared of the bugs that lurked.  But they would never miss a photo-op with the missionaries!

Then come Monday morning, we packed up everything we had left into the car and mini van and off we went on our new adventure!!

I don't know about you, but I REALLY like driving and enjoying the scenery.  ESPECIALLY if I have never been there before!  You wouldn't believe it if you didn't see it, but eastern Oklahoma is VERY green and lovely!
But when you get to Arkansas, all you can see is trees.  Like the WHOLE time.
Walls of trees.  All the way.

Then you THINK the trees will break before you get to the "Big" city of Little Rock.  Ummm... not really.  This is Little Rock coming in:
We crossed over a bridge to more trees and buildings hidden within.

Facebook update: Made it to Little Rock safety, thanks to many guardian angels I am sure. I learned a couple things about Arkansas: first, it's mostly trees, trees, and more trees. Not much to see on the road trip. And those trees in the picture? That is actually the city! Little Rock! Secondly, Arkansas drivers are totally nuts! Mergers coming onto the freeway think they have the right of way and will shove you right off the road or into other vehicles if you don't let them in. We almost died a few times, a couple of those from a heart attack. I was so high strung with stress when we got here, I was very snappy. The kids think I'm nuts. Oh, well. Off to the pool in a few minutes to soak these swollen pregnant legs. Then hopefully a nice sleep!

It was beautiful though!  And I LOVE trees.  Just after 5 hours of driving in trees, I was ready to see something exciting.

Good thing our hotel was pretty dang awesome!!
 This is our view from the third floor of the lobby and eating areas.  Yes, that is a glass elevator and creek with a pond.
 The boys LOVED the elevators!
 Just outside our room. They also had an indoor pool.  We rocked that pool with lots of screaming, splashing, and fun!  The kids were so tired when came back to our room, they were ready to crash!!
Facebook update: The pool was so fun! The kids are sure to sleep like rocks tonight after the long car ride. When we got out, Sam wrapped his towel around his waist and Nephi told him he looked like a girl. Sam replied: "No, I don't. I look like Jesus." Hands down best comeback of the day.

They were pumped that they got their own beds in our suite:

Nephi looked so little in the big bed!

The next day, we headed for our final destination: Clarksville, Tennessee!!

Overall, the drive from Elgin, Oklahoma to Clarksville is almost 12 hours, so we split the days in half and did about 6 hours each day... which was actually 8 with all the potty and snack stops we had to make.  But it worked out just fine!

The highlight of my road trip was crossing the Mississippi River!  Going to Oklahoma was the most east I had been, really, so every foot past that was farther than I had been in the states!  As a history buff, I have ALWAYS wanted to see the Mississippi river, and this was my chance!

Tennessee welcomed us right in the middle!!
And Memphis awaited us just on the other side!!
Tennessee is GORGEOUS!  Rolling hills, GREEN GREEN GREEN EVERYTHING, and lots of trees!  But not the same as Arkansas, because there is more to see within and around the trees.  It was a lovely trip!

But getting into Clarksville was exciting and marked the end of a long road trip.

The kids pretty much passed out at the hotel:
Facebook update: We made it safely to Clarksville! It was a long drive and this little guy is all tuckered out. Not as tired as his mommy is, though! Looking forward to some yummy dinner and a dip in the pool. .. my swollen legs will love me!

We stayed at the hotel for two nights so the builders could put the finishing touches on the new house!! So exciting!!

Part 2 coming soon!

-Cat

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Military Life: Best Tips for Shopping at the Commissary

I posted on Facebook yesterday for all my military friends to share their best tips for shopping at the commissary.  Know how many responded?  Zero.  Zilch. Nada.

Okay...

Either no one shops there, or they don't know how to utilize the commissary... or they just don't care.

So, I am going to share with y'all all I have learned about the commissaries and how we as military peeps can benefit from them financially.

For my readers who have no idea what the commissary is, it is an on post/base grocery store for military families and vets.  Anyone who carries a military ID can shop there.  The commissaries are run by the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCa) and you can find one on any military installation anywhere in the world -- which is great for people in foreign countries who really want some good old American food once in a while... or for families in Hawaii who don't want to spend $7-9 on a gallon of milk at a local store!

The much debated topic concerning the commissary is:  do you really save money shopping there or is it better to go on the civilian side?  Well, the answer to me is, it depends where you are and what you are buying.  According to DeCa, military families can save up to 30% by shopping at the commissary were you pay no sales tax (however, there is a 5% surcharge -- and even this I question a little because when I look at my receipt from my recent visit, it looks more like a 3% surcharge, not 5) and you get items at cost.

Sure, sometimes you can get stuff a little cheaper at Wal-Mart.  Like produce -- but seriously, is anyone impressed by the quality of Wal-mart produce lately?  And there are some things like toiletries, makeup and other non-food items that are WAY more reasonably priced somewhere else than at the commissary.  However, our commissary recently posted a sign that said they price matched... so there you go!

Ben and I decided to put the commissary vs civilian grocery store(local NOT Wal-mart) to the test this last month to see if we really saved or if it was just a bunch of hype.  We went and bought the same items at each store.  Turns out, that we actually saved almost... are you ready for this?  We saved almost $100 by buying at the commissary.  No kidding!  We even thought we were getting specials and deals, when in fact, there wasn't much a deal about it in the end.

Now, here are a few tips on how YOU can save at the commissary too:

1. Register for a Commissary Rewards Card:

Ask any register at the commissary for a Commissary Rewards Card and then pop home and register your card online.  It only takes a few minutes.  What is super cool about this card is that you can load your commissary coupons and savings on it so you aren't hauling around the paper ones.  Then at check out, they will scan your card and they will automatically be applied to your purchase.  How awesome is that?

2. Bring ALL your Other Coupons Too!!!

The commissary accepts manufacture coupons.  So bring them in!  They also have a bunch in the aisles you can collect as you shop along.  I assign one of my kids to be in charge of the coupons and he takes his job as coupon collector very seriously!

The commissary does NOT accept expired ones, BUT they do if they are overseas.

For rules and regulations of commissary coupons, click here.

3.  Check out the Commissary website often for deals!

Plan your shopping around what sales are going on.  You can always buy extra and freeze right?

4.  The Commissary has Case Lots Sales!!!

Yep, twice a year!  Rumor is, they are around May and September, so keep an eye out for more BULK savings!

5.  Shop During the Week BEFORE Payday:

This is the sneaky tip that a lot of people don't know about.  Prices in the commissary go down right BEFORE payday and they have the best deals.  Come payday, the prices go back up a little and the deals aren't as great.  When is pay day?  The official pay day for the military is the 1st and 15th of every month unless they land on a weekend or holiday, then it is the day before.  BUT if you bank with USAA, you get paid the day before!  So the commissary is usually hopping the last day of the month and the first day, and then again on the 14th and the 15th.  So if you plan your shopping BEFORE those days, you will get MORE savings and less traffic.  Seriously, we went the day before payday, yesterday, and there was hardly anyone in the store and the savings were GREAT!

6.  And PLEASE don't Forget:

Parking:  General Parking does NOT mean it's a general parking place!  It is a parking space for Generals and their spouses.  I have heard of people's vehicles getting towed for parking here.  Also, those pregnancy spaces are AWESOME, but some bases require you to have sticker to park there, so ask your OB/GYN office about that.  Here at Fort Sill we don't need one, but where we are going at Fort Campbell, you do!  When in doubt, just park somewhere else... I like to park in the back because I like the exercise... even pregnant.

Always bring your military ID.  No ID no food.  No nothing!  You can have guests with you, but YOU have to provide your card and pay out of your wallet.  If your family or friends want something they will have to pay you back BEFORE or AFTER you enter the store.  I actually asked the cashier about the policy and that's what she told me.

Bring some cash to tip the baggers.  Unlike the civilian world, the baggers are "volunteers" -- which means they don't get paid to bag and take them out to the car for you.  I usually tip $2.  But don't be afraid to tip up to $5 if the weather is terrible or you have a TON of groceries.  If you don't want to tip, then use the self-checkout lane (but I think they have a grocery limit on those lanes).

And don't forget to avoid the paydays!

Seriously, they aren't kidding when they say it's a zoo.  And if you have kids with you it's even worse!!  Better to pop over to Wal-Mart or Target if you have to.

Did I miss anything?  What are your best tips?

-Cat

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