Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Glass Palette

I meant to post this right after Christmas since it contained gifts...
I just now rediscovered it in my "to be posted" section! Oops!

I can finally post about the super cool glass studio I visited in Charlottesville! http://www.theglasspalette.net/

I discovered this store online and made it a point to visit on my last trip to see Brad during his training. It was a unique and lovely experience and the shop owners were both super friendly and helpful. I felt like I was on my way to being a glass pro by the time I completed all of my gifts.

Without further ado, I present each gift in its before and after state :)




Thursday, December 20, 2012


When I was deciding what to give Wesley's teachers, I tried to think through something they would all want that was also affordable. I know they probably get lots of things that they appreciate, but then they're stuck finding a home for yet another mug or what-have-you. So, I knew I wanted to give something that would get used up. I thought homemade cocoa and marshamallows would be unique... Who doesn't like cocoa during the supposedly cold winter months??
Alton Brown provided the Cocoa Recipe and Smitten Kitchen provided the Marshmallow Recipe.
The directions for the marshmallows were deceptively simple and {with wonderful help from Brad} they came together in a snap. I am still a little mystified to think that *we* made actual marshmallows...
kind of gross beginnings...
Brad's first task was to oil and sugar our pan. He did it with his usual level of perfection and precision:

Then we waited *and waited* for our sugary syrup to come to the magical temperature.

They really started to look marhsmallowy after we whipped up the egg whites. The mixture turned white and fluffy right before my eyes.

Brad poured the goo into the expertly prepared pan.
The next day, we had mugfuls of perfect hot cocoa
(mine needed more stirring)
Brad tried one toasted and happily reported it tasted just like a toasted marshmallow.

We also learned that the Chewbaca Mug likes marshamllows.

Peppermint Crisps

I had been brainstorming what type of cookies to make for the Cookie Exchange. I don't know why, but I'm never content just to make some chocolate chip ones. I had several options printed out and showed them to Brad. He headed out to buy supplies and brought home all the things he could remember. He couldn't find Min Extract, but found Peppermint Extract. I had wanted to make THESE. But that didn't work out. Instead, I gave Peppermint Crisps a try.
The first step is to make Peppermint Sugar Syrup. It smelled amazing, but made my eyes sting and even Brad thought it was a little strong. After you melt your sugar and everything together, you pour it out on parchment paper to solidify. I think it was a little too humid for this step. Mine stayed sticky and a little pliable.
So after an hour or so of waiting, I threw it in my food processor. I tried it in my mini processor, but it didn't handle it too well so I had to break out the big processor. It probably did not as well as it could have because it was a little gumy, but it made peppermint sugar eventually.
Meanwhile, I copped up all that chocolate. We just used jumbo hershey bars. Since it was humid, it kept melting to my fingers, but that was a tasty problem to have ;)

 It was beautiful seeing the milk and dark chocolate melted together.

I stirred in the peppermint sugar and cooconut, then smeared it onto my parchment paper. I must admit, I was disappointed at how little it made...
There wasn't enough for me to cut it up with a cookie cutter because so much would have been wasted. Instead, I used a knife and made squares. It was delicious the day I made it, but within a few days, they sort of lost their yumminess. All in all, it was a bit too complex with too little results for me to consider making them again.

Christmas Tree Skirt

It's finally Christmas time and I have been dying all year to make a tree skirt I spotted on Pinterest! Instructions are found HERE.
I gathered my supplies and my instructions and set to work.
I opted to lay out my muslin in layers and then I cut several strips at once. So, once I had cut as far as I could reach, I scooted the fabric forward and continued. This was much quicker than cutting one strip the full length and then cutting the next and so on. Here's a picture in case that description didn't make perfect sense:

I will say, the directions said to cut 2" strips, but I measured and mine look much smaller than theirs.
Also, the directions say to put the line of hot glue about an inch and a half above the previous row. I would say, don't measure and instead lay each strip over the last one to decide where you need glue. the second row, I put the glue in using a rough measurement, but when I stuck the fabric on it left a gap. I later cut short strips and filled in a few gaps so it wasn't a big deal. See:
It took several nights of working in short bursts, but I got it finished. I was really impressed with the final result!

It is sort of too big for our tree, but I assured Brad that one day we might get a bigger tree ;)

It really is beautiful even though the background kitchen chaos sort of detracts. I'll have a separate post about WHY our kitchen was a mess. Stay tuned.

Also, how do you like the deco mesh on the tree this year?
Looks SO much better and more finished than in years past.

Here's a close up without the kitchen chaos...

And, you know, it really makes me laugh to think how long I spent on that tree skirt.
If I had only know that it wouldn't matter once we finished wrapping all our gifts....

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Puppy Maintenance

I have been so thankful for Baylor over the past year or so. I've enjoyed his waggy-tailed company and I love watching him run and play.

But even more than that, I have really appreciated watching Wesley grow as he learns to care for someone else. One of the sweetest things I've seen is their good morning ritual...

Every morning, Wesley greets Baylor with love and tummy rubs. Then, when Baylor lays still, Wesley inspects his eyes to make sure he doesn't have any sleepies ... Because, of course, Baylor can't get them out for himself and Wesley knows how badly they must bother the poor dog.

Baylor, as with almost everything, is incredibly patient... As you can see here:

Once Wes is convinced there are no more issues and Baylor will be comfortable, he snuggles and kisses him before moving on to breakfast (after mandatory hand-washing!)

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Things I Learned About Charlottesville

There were a couple things I noticed about Charlottesville that I thought I'd share with ya'll.

I started picking up on some of them before I even arrived.


This lovely lady was on my flight to C'Ville and she sort of stood out.

I'd says she was late 40's early 50's and she was wearing a large jumper, a plain sweater, orthopedic sandals, a lost expression on her face...

and at least 3 different colors of dye in her all-gray hair.

This gentleman was wearing his LONG hair in dreadlocks. He was easily over 6 feet tall, and his hair came down to his calves maybe even his ankles when he was standing.

He was with a very pretty woman who was wearing a pink cotton dress, chic glasses, and an arm-full of tattoos.

The more interesting thing, though, was not the wearers of these hairstyles... No, the other people were more interesting. Here in MS if someone strolled by looking like this, everyone would stop and stare. Not so in VA, these people were normal and not given a second glance.

Another thing I noticed the first night I was there - At dinner, we were surrounded by a lot of teens and young families (aka people who would be most likely to wear the latest trends).

The women wore their pants up high and their shirts were short, stopping AT or just above their high pants...

It was surreal because I haven't seen that LOOK since...

The women (and men, too) also were very into COMFY SHOES which makes sense since they're more active than we Mississippians are...

BUT the Italians are big walkers, too, and their women know how to dress but, I digress.  ;)

I saw way too many TEVA sandals, tennis shoes with skirts and the like... The following are women's shoes like I saw all ages wearing with dresses, shorts and long pants...

I found this photo online and it matches the style I saw:


The Virginians love their Suburus!

I cannot tell you how many Outbacks I saw. They were about as common as our Honda Accords and Ford Trucks. There were also a healthy number of SUV's, but not the big honkin soccer mom variety. They seem outdoorsy and eco-concious at the same time... I only saw ONE pick-up the whole time I was there.

In addition to the TYPE of car they like, I also noticed that a whole lot of them seemed to embrace bumper stickers! And not just one or two, no no... If a car had ONE bumper sticker, it was just as likely to have 15 of them... And a fair amount of Obama stickers were there, as well.

Since there are a lot of cars ... There was also a lot of parallel parking to go around. I was glad Brad was driving ;)

Charlottesville, VA

Brad has now almost been away at training for a month.

Last week, I got to go for my first visit! Several people were surprised when I said I was going already... but it made the most sense to go while Wesley is not back in school yet so he could stay at my parents' house.

So - on Wednesday, I packed up and flew alone for the first time in my life!

It was super funny to walk across the tarmac to this TINY plane. I had selected my seats when I bought my tickets. Imagine my surprise when Row 8 was not in the middle of the plane, but rather, the second to last row!!!

My flight landed in Charlottesville at 4:17 pm and Brad would be coming straight from class...

When he walked into the airport the few people who were waiting nearby all turned and stared... because our military uniforms just have that affect on people ... including me!!  ;)

I was so excited to see him that the MOMENT we got in his car I whipped out my camera!

It was a short drive back to his hotel and we sort of giddily looked back and forth at each other giggling the whole way like we were excited to be out on a third date with someone we really liked!

That night, we had Chipotle for dinner and it was DELICIOUS! I had never been before, but loved all the information they had explaining their desire to serve responsibly raised meats and healthy, local or organic ingredients where possible... Oh, and it was so massive that I had half for dinner and half for lunch the next day.

The next morning, Brad started his day at 4:30 am (3:30 to my mind since I was not used to the new time zone!!!) He went for his group PT and then reappeared at about 7:15 to hit the showers and grab some breakfast. I decided to hop up and eat breakfast with him (at 6:15 my time!) and that set the tone for the week's daily routine. Every morning he showers and gets dressed in about 10 minutes leaving 5 minutes to go through the breakfast line in the hotel lobby and to eat. I'm pretty sure he didn't have time to chew any of it!! There are about 12 of the JAG students staying at the hotel and they have to share 3 parking passes so every morning, they're all eating and then leaving in groups of 4 to be back at the school in time for class.

I don't have any photos of Thursday because I stayed at the hotel. I washed all of Brad's laundry and made use of the hotel gym. I enjoyed the slow pace and also LOVED feeling like I was really helping him accomplish something so he didn't have to do it later.

The next day, Friday, I didn't have anything so productive planned. I started with the newspaper's crossword puzzle and then spotted the public bus outside. I felt a small surge of bravery and remembered the website Brad had told me about... CatchTheCat.org (Charlottesville Area Transit) I snagged a schedule from the front desk and studied the time table for the one that passed in front of the hotel. Once I was dressed and had my purse loaded with maps, time tables and a water bottle, I headed out!

The fee was 75 cents one way or $1.50 for a day pass... Even I can do the math on that one ;)

I made it to my desired destination and did some shopping. It was so liberating feeling like, "Hey, I've got the hang of this!!" I stocked up on some Christmas gifts and then, it was time to head back to the hotel.

That's sort of where I took a wrong turn.

To go shopping, I hopped on the "#7 Downtown" bus and headed to the right, then got off at the next stop.

To go back to the hotel, I needed to have turned left... But, when I spotted the "#7 Downtown" bus I hopped on and followed along the route in my guide book. I quickly realized that, yes, this bus would take me back to my hotel, but it would go all around the world to do so. I needed to have been on the "#7 Fashion Square" bus because it was headed in my direction!! Oh well, if I hadn't taken the long way home, I would have missed some lovely scenery:

We passed this beautiful church.

I saw several lovely brick buildings with old paintings and murals.

Near the UVA Campus, I spotted the University Baptist Church.

And, if I hadn't taken the long way home, I never would have spotted this character with all his gear... 

 After realizing we would pass my hotel on the wrong side of the road and would not stop til we looped back around, I opted to get off at the shopping center across the highway from the hotel. I double-checked my map and figured out the best way to cross busy roads and a 6-lane highway that didn't have cross walks... It was an adventure, but obviously I survived :)

That evening, I couldn't wait for Brad to get back from class so I could tell him all about my big outing :) He was quite impressed with my navigating :)

The next day was Saturday and that meant No Class :) It did not, however, mean No Schoolwork :(

Brad spent the morning on an assignment and I stayed nearby happy to be in the same room as my hubby :)

After lunch, we headed out to see Monticello!

My sister had been and I had heard it was truly a Must See place... So I was excited and Monticello did not disappoint!

Our tickets were free, too, because there was a promotion going on for Military members and their families. Score! Our official guided tour of the interior did not start until 2:20 pm so we explored the exterior for a while...

Starting with the Jefferson family cemetery: 

I absolutely loved touring Jefferson's vegetable gardens and was green with envy!

I also enjoyed seeing several of the old trees - and their gorgeous roots!

We weren't allowed to take pictures inside so I will just say it was SO cool and worth the trip.

When we exited to the back of the property, I caught site of the most famous view of the home...

Recognize it?

Maybe this will help: 
After touring Monticello, Brad wanted to show me around the JAG school so off we went.
I took a handful of photos, but none of them were all that interesting.
He DID, however, show me one thing I was VERY interested in.

In the Hall of Heroes, there were small stained glass panels honoring all the JAG Officers who have died in combat since WWII. It was a very small amount of panels, and that made me feel a little better about this whole thing ;)

He also showed me their classes sign up on the climbing rope.

Saturday night, he took me to a really cool pedestrian mall downtown where a section of road was closed off and businesses were allowed to spread out into the brick-paved area...

We also ate some yummy and HUGE pizza...

The next morning was Sunday and I woke up a little sad because I knew it was our last day together. We got all dressed up and headed out to church at The First Baptist Church. The service was a little different than I'm used to, but I was so happy Brad was planning to keep attending AND that he had a friend or two who were going there, too.

That afternoon, he still had plenty of work to do so I packed up all my stuff in preparation for departure and got sad all over again.

For dinner, we walked across the parking lot to a little Indian restaurant...

The food was DELICIOUS!!! I can't say the same for the appetizers, but I can't wait to go back for the main course!

 Monday morning was tough because we had to say our good byes at 4:30 am (3:30 to me!) and I really couldn't go back to sleep after that. We ate breakfast together and I tried not to just sit there crying the whole time. When he finished eating, we had one hug and one kiss and he headed out to class. That was probably the hardest part because I knew we had already had our good byes earlier and he couldn't be late. I finished my breakfast and wished I could be like a celebrity wearing dark glasses indoors. I did one last round of laundry for Brad. Then, I hid little notes throughout his room hoping for him to not be too sad to return that afternoon to an empty room. At 9:30 am, the hotel shuttle delivered me to the airport and I was headed home.

All in all, it was a perfect trip because it really helped me understand what Brad's day-to-day life is like (hectic and jam-packed) and made me able to pray for him more specifically than before. I know I should not be so sad being back home without him... And I sure have plenty to do before school starts on Tuesday, but I can't help missing him all the time. I am hoping to go back for another visit in September (for our 5th anniversary no less), but that sure does feel so far away :(