6 Things in 6 Months

May 3rd marked our 6 month anniversary. We’ve been married for six months. Count em.

I made a similar comment to an older lady at church last weekend and she kind of gave me that look like: really. Cut that shit out – six months ain’t shit.

I still feel a bit like going “WHAT? Come at me bro!” to the universe, but I’m going to decline. I know it sounds silly to be so proud of ourselves for making it six months. But these have been a happy, joyous, delightful six months in our relationship, despite the stress of the military and living in a completely new state with no family or friends, plus existing in a world where it is said that the first year is the hardest, where people regret getting married every day, where divorce is so terribly, terribly prevalent.

So I wanted to share a few things that have helped us to build – what I think is – a solid foundation for a lifetime of a healthy marriage. Some of these are things that have always been part of our relationship – others are new to our marriage. No matter what, I think that this list can apply to a relationship at any stage.

red-heart-and-flower.jpeg

One: Communicate

This is absolutely one of the most important things on this list, which is why it’s first – and yes, I know that it is on every single list about relationship tips. But if you decide not to read anything else on this list (which you should – it’s good. I wrote it!), this will help tremendously. Unless you’re having problems involving infidelity, substance abuse, etc that may need a larger hand (ie, a mediator/counseling to work out those issues first, not saying that basic good communication skills won’t help) – this could probably help solve any number of the issues in any relationship.

The key thing is communication isn’t just about talking to the other person and them agreeing with what you say – DH and I disagree all the time. It’s about actually listening to what the other person says and respecting them for it. Especially when you disagree with them – sometimes, all the other person really needs is a validation of their feelings, that they feel or think differently from you, and that’s OK. If you aren’t getting that, you may need to explain that that’s what you need from them. Subtle hints don’t work – flat out say it, so that each party knows exactly what te other needs to stay happy.

Furthermore, you can’t be scared to talk to your SO about a problem you are having – walking away, or clamming up isn’t going to help either of you. Because there is still a problem – and it’s just going to get worse the longer you don’t talk about it.

I’m a member of a number of social network military spouse support groups. One of the best things about these networks is that admins post member questions – especially those regarding issues in their marriage or family. The answer to (and often the source of) nearly all of these questions is communication. Tell him how you are feeling, talk to your mother in law, sit down and have the conversation with her that you just had here on FB – because you didn’t before and now look what happened.

This goes hand in hand with the Weekly Husband/Meetings (which I’ll explain right below). If you have a problem – talk about it, don’t let it fester and don’t let it get worse. If your spouse doesn’t respect you enough to listen to or validate your feelings, then you have much larger issues to deal with.

I’m not saying that it’s easy – when you need to work out an issues, it can really suck and both parties come out of it feeling like crap. But ultimately, in the very end, both will come out healthier and happier.

Two: Setting Weekly Husband/Wife Meetings

This was recommended to us by our mentor couple in the pre-marriage counseling required by our church and is something that I would HIGHLY recommend to anyone in a relationship where either a) you are sharing your lives completely (living space, finances, time, friends, etc) or b) in a LDR. We really enjoy doing them and even though we aren’t always especially thorough, we miss them when we skip. The few weeks that we’ve gone without the meetings have always felt chaotic and distant, so we try our best to keep our weekly dates.

Our Weekly Husband/Wife Meetings happen every Sunday after church (It doesn’t matter when it is, as long as it’s the same day/time every week). We attend the 11:00 mass and then either pick up lunch or eat out. While we’re eating, we do two major things:

First, we do an honest assessment of the state of our relationship. Is everything OK? Is there something that needs to change or that we need to talk about? Let’s talk about that fight on Wednesday – what happened there, why did it happen, and how can we keep it from happening in the future? This is a set time where we get to air any of the problems that we are having either with the other person or with our relationship – in a safe, loving, RESPECTFUL way. It is not an opportunity to bash one another on all the things they do that annoy the shit out of us – it’s an opportunity to keep each person in the relationship both accountable, aware, and happy.

Secondwe talk about what we have going on in the following week. Doctors appointments, extra things at work, what we intend to get done around the house. Our mentor couple informed us that this was especially helpful once they had kids, because they are able to lay out all of the things that the kids need and figure out if there are any timing conflicts or issues getting the kids where they need to be. This is especially helpful for us right now, as we are trying to balance moving and work.

This meeting is also a great time to talk about anything personally that you have been thinking about and need to talk about. Life goals, friends, problems with family… For example, a few weeks ago I brought up possibly going to back to school in the near future for my Masters. We were able to talk about what that would look like for us – and whether that was even going to be possible or not.

Having a set, weekly meeting time can be especially helpful for those in an LDR. Setting up a time, every week, at the same time, to Skype or talk on the phone can both give a sense of consistency and take the pressure off. It’s OK if you are super stressed out and tired and don’t have the ability to call them, much less make your own dinner, when you get home at 9:00 on a Wednesday night – you know that you’ll talk to them later. (This isn’t a get out of jail free card though – you’re still accountable for whatever other plans you make, but you don’t have to feel extremely guilty about not calling and talking about your stress.) It can also bring a better sense of closeness – you’ll know more of what’s going on in the other person’s life, and it’ll feel easier to be a part of it.

These meetings are, plainly, a big ol’ status check – a validation of your relationship and that everything is OK. And even when it’s not – that you are both working to make it OK.

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Reboot

OOfdah.

I’m at that point with this non-existent blog where it’s been so terribly long (over a year) since I updated and kept up that it’s almost embarrassing to try again (notice the blog name change). Things have been crazy over the past year – from job, to wedding, to moving across the country, to no job, to moving AGAIN (within the same town)…

Our wedding was fabulous, with the best people in the world that we know, and I’ll probably do a post about it sometime later so that anyone who really wanted to be there and couldn’t can get a good look at it… which is like, everyone, right? (Honestly, I REALLY just want to show off our amazing photographers.)

Courtesy of our incredible photographers at Agape Moments Photography

Courtesy of said incredible photographers at Agape Moments Photography

The week after the wedding we packed up my bedroom and the dog’s room that I took over with my craft stuff, and my parents, new husband and I drove from Minnesota to Florida. A handful over 1,000 miles in three days, with overnighters in Milwaukee (inlaws live there and, hello – free room and board and food and spending a bit of extra time with our delightful little nieces!) and Kentucky. It. was. crazy. We were exhausted by the end and when we unpacked the u-haul the next day… I have never had more bug bites than I got that day. Which is saying something given that I’ve spent a good number of summers in the deep woods of Northern Wisconsin.

Our backyard

We’ve lived at this delightful little beach-ish property for a little more than six months now while DH has been rigorously training on base and I have been fruitlessly job searching. And it’s been great – I’ve gotten to try a few little DIY projects that make me so happy that I always intended to post but never did. These include a contact paper kitchen counter, some sweet window treatments, and re-doing a patio set that we are in love with. Don’t you want to see those? Aren’t you just so annoyed that I didn’t share my infinite wisdom with y’all? (Is my sarcasm coming across well?) (And yes, I’ve started saying y’all now.)

Well we’re in luck – because we’re moving. Again.

Which, honestly, isn’t that odd since we’re a military family and it’s bound to happen at least like… thirty times, in the span of the military career. Since commissioning, DH has moved three times on his own in the past two years. What.

Our new rental as of June 1st

Our new rental as of June 1st – look at those azaleas!

We are moving closer to base into a sweet 3ish bedroom, 2 bath farmhouse style home on more than an acre of land, surrounded on three sides by trees. So that means huge front porch, open kitchen cabinets, and random rooms that we’re unsure of the purpose. But we love it. If we were in a different situation, we would honestly would consider buying it as it has such amazing bones – after our initial tour, we both looked at each other and had the same thought: can’t you see a bunch of little kids running around here? Not happening any time soon, but it does mean that HOPEFULLY we’ll be bringing a puppy home this June. (Crossing my fingers we’ll be able to figure something out!)

In any case, we’ve started the moving process already and I can’t wait to start some brand new, rental friendly DIY projects and settle more into the newlywed stage of our life. It’s going to be such a great adventure.

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Travelling Those Flyover States

I know, I know. I’ve been completely and totally MIA for a good two months now. To be fair, it has been a crazy two months. I promise that I will be way better about this over the coming months, especially because I have loads of DIY projects to post as well as a ton of wedding stuff – including our Save the Dates and the start of our invitations.

In early February the FI moved to Florida for Flight Training. Given that they fit you in a room (this big) at TBS, he had left the majority of his stuff either at my house, or at his parents in WI. In addition, he needed a car. So… we bought a car (look at that sexy SUV below! I miss it…), packed it full of his crap and then, as I like to say, we meandered our way down to Florida. Here are a few things we learned along the way.

1. Meandering is the best way to go.

I have always wanted to take a road trip where you just stop whenever you want and look at whatever you want for however long you want to. World’s Biggest Ball of Twine, here I come. FL is 20+ hours from where I live, so this shaped up to be quite the epic road trip. We got to spend two nights with FI’s family in Wisconsin, two with one of his groomsmen in Chicago, and two in Nashville, where I got to geek out about country music for a day and a half. Working our route around people we knew not only saved us money, but we also got to spend time with those we hadn’t seen in a while, or knew we wouldn’t be seeing. We got to spend time with his family (many of whom we will not see for many months now), including two sweet and adorable nieces (soon-to-be in my case) and celebrate one of their birthdays. Fi was also able to spend some quality time with one of his groomsmen that he hadn’t seen since last summer. They played video games, I started two new chapters of my book. Surprised? Me neither.

2. They give you great driving experience.

We didn’t have any accidents or close calls (thank god) but the simple experience of driving in other states was… interesting. To say the least. I’d like to preface by saying that I have lived in the same state my entire life. So, naturally, I assume that signs, painted lines, and procedures are basically the same.

How wrong I was.

Driving into southern Wisconsin over the past few years introduced me to the waste of concrete that is the concrete divider for a left turn lane. My first time dealing with one, I almost hit it. Not even kidding.

Driving through the rest of the country… well, lets just say that it gives me a new appreciation for driving our meager 3-4 lane 35W during rush hour. We spent two days in Nashville, where the highways are, at spots, 6 lanes wide. And you need to get into that far lane within 30 seconds or you are going to miss your exit– oh wait, there it goes… Trying to follow a single road required exiting at least three times; why can’t each road be just that – their own road?

Additionally, I fell in love with the lane markers in the southern states. Makes it so much easier to see at night and I wish that we had them in the Midwest. Of course, the snowplows would also take them out, so it would be a bit counterproductive.

A final thing I noticed – the font and format of the speed limit signs. For the most part, they’re fairly standard. In IL and KY (I think), the font is different than any other state we went through. For some reason, it drove me bonkers. You’d think something like that would be regulated – like our health care. *badum-ch*

I didn't want to risk searching for "Sex Emporium" on my computer at work. This will have to do instead.

3) Sex Emporiums and Antique Stores.

When I was a pre-teen my family took a trip to Door County, where all my parents wanted to do was go to winery’s and antique stores. As a 11-12-13 year old, this was, to say the least, not exactly what you would call the trip of a lifetime. Now, I would kill for a trip like that. I frequent way too many antique stores and, given my currently broke status, don’t spend nearly as much money as I want to.

The signs for antique stores are coupled with those for Bob’s Open All Night Sex Emporium. Or Adult Bookstore. Or Adult Videostore. In any case, these places are normally located in the middle of nowhere because, well, would you want an adult superstore in the middle of your town?

Unfortunately, once we decided to hit up both of these places we were apparently too far south to find an adult superstore. Apparently we only like those in the Midwest.

In any case, we did stumble across what, I swear, is the antique capital of the world – Hartselle, AL. There were so many antique stores in this town that they started running out of names for them.  I ended up purchasing a early 1900’s piece of stoneware that I had to leave in Florida, but it’s amazing and I love it and miss it.

4) Leave enough time to actually stop at places

I think that in an ideal road trip world one would check out of the hotel at 11 am, stumbling around with mascara smudged under your eyes and a half empty bottle of wine in your bag. Unfortunately, if you want to get anywhere good, with any time to actually drive to where you need to go, that is just not possible.

We spent a day in Nashville and despite our aim of getting out of the hotel by 10:00 am… I think it was closer to 11:30. We got to hit the Country Music Museum and Hall of Fame, Ryman Auditorium, and the Parthenon Replica before we found out that everything closes in Nashville at 4:00. What the hell.  The World’s Biggest Ball of Twine is probably open at 4:30.

Doing some research beforehand would have probably saved us from this. Unfortunately, we’d just driven the nearly 8 hours from Chicago to Nashville and all we wanted to do was eat pizza and drink the 5 dollar bottle of wine we’d bought at a gas station in Kentucky. It was Valentine’s Day, after all.

I wasn't wearing sandals in the middle of February... but whatever.

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Grieving Separation in a LDR

The start of our long distance relationship was on a concrete driveway behind a half-empty U-Haul on a late June afternoon. The sky was a bright blue, the sun was warm, and a few clouds drifted lazily through the air. It was perfect for a late afternoon in the park, sitting on a blanket with a picnic basket and some books, eating warm watermelon and overly sweet lemonade.

We were exhausted. After spending two weeks in Ireland, we’d been back in the country for a little more than a week. It had been a whirlwind of visiting family and friends, celebrating my sister’s graduation and our two and half week old engagement.

This picture is of us, I promise you. 🙂

After packing three boxes, two seabags, and a uniform bag into the back of my mom’s SUV, we’d driven to a mutual friend’s house for the departure. This friend had to report to a few days before FI at a nearby base and had offered to drop him off along the way. So we took an exceedingly long amount of time to shift FI’s stuff to the U-Haul, because as soon as the reasonable amount of time we could hang around past that was long past, we would have to go.

FI introduced the friend to my parents. Greeted the friend’s mom. Introduced me to the friend’s mom. Introduced my parents to the friend’s mom. We loaded some of the friend’s gear into his car. We quadruple checked that FI had everything.

And then at some point, my mom hugged me and told me that they’d be in the car, whenever I was ready.

It’s such a terrible phrase. “When you’re ready.” When you’re ready to leave someone you love, not knowing when you’re going to see him again. When you’re ready to hug, and kiss, and simply be in his presence for the last time in a long time. When you’re ready to get red faced, let your mascara track down your face, taking with it your last shred of dignity because at this point, who the hell cares when all that matters is your grief?

There is no possible way that you can be “ready” for that.

That first day, the first time we said goodbye, we stood in the driveway, hidden from view by the U-Haul, and hugged, and cried, and kissed, and told each other how much we were going to miss each other, how much we loved each other, to be safe and careful, to not do anything stupid, to stay in touch, to keep your phone charged, skype every week, text every night, sends cards and care packages, I miss you, I love you…for probably 20 minutes.

Since that day, we’ve managed to shorten our goodbye’s considerably. I’ve had to learn how to stop myself from continuing on. You can only say I love you so many times, give so many goodbye kisses, shed so many tears. There is no point where you’re just suddenly “OK” to walk away now. There is no checklist – hug, kiss, say I love you, hug again, kiss again, say goodbye, get in your car, drive away.

There is not a single moment when you’ve said enough, cherished enough, loved enough that it’s OK to walk away now.

I have literally had to teach myself to step away. I’ve gotten to the point where I consciously have to say to myself, “enough.” I have to put my hands on his chest and force distance between the two of us. I think about every step to the car, every breath to keep from breaking down.

And then you cry. A lot.

Kind of like this.

And I know that it’s not unusual. In fact, that’s exactly the appropriate response. Cry in his arms as you stand at the airport/train station/friend’s driveway. Cry on the way home as you try not to crash into the guy in front of you or without making too much noise because the lady across the aisle looks like she’s going to stab you if you hiccup again. Cry at home, as you lay on the couch and listen to crappy music and post melancholy Facebook statuses. Cry when you go to bed that night, hugging his pillow because it smells like him.

And sometimes, if he’s leaving for long enough, if the hurt is just too much, you don’t do anything productive and just cry for a few days straight. No big deal.

I’ve heard people say that it gets easier. In a way, it does. But only because you know what to expect. You know the ache of held back tears in your throat, of imprinting the last touch on your mind, of forcing yourself to drive away. You know how to busy your hands and your mind.

The most important thing I’ve learned though, through all of it: is that this period of time when you’re crying, when you can’t control it, where he (or she) is all you can think about, is important. It is absolutely essential to moving past your sadness and being a coherent, normal, functioning human being for that period of time when he’s not here.

I learned this because when he left after Thanksgiving, I didn’t grieve like I normally did. I barely cried on the way back from the airport; I threw myself into a wedding project as soon as I got home and ignored the frustration, the anger, and the sorrow.

It was probably the worst period of separation that I’ve experienced, beyond the first time that we were apart. I lacked control at the end of a phone conversation; I had to hold in tears like I hadn’t needed to in months. I would watch my sister and her boyfriend interact and get supremely upset that he wasn’t here for me to do all that stupid cutesy shit with. I woke up many mornings upset, and could only sleep after crying. It sucked.

It took me a long, long time to realize that it was because I hadn’t actually allowed myself that appropriate time to simply “be sad” about the whole thing. And there wasn’t really a way for me to recapture the angst I felt in those first few hours after he left: an acute awareness of the amount of space between you and other people, the raw edges of your emotions rubbing ragged under the misuse, and the restart of the ever present countdown to when he will return.

So. Don’t listen to people who say “man up” and deal with it. A) No boy parts here. B) It’s wrong. Grieve. Heavily. For an hour, a day, a week. Without that period of time, there is no way that you’ll be able to pull yourself together for the rest of the time you’re apart.

Until this. (This is the only picture I found of a couple hugging where they weren't naked. What the hell, Google?)

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A Rather un-Pinterest Wedding

I don’t know how many of you are on Pinterest. If you haven’t checked it out yet, you probably should. It’s like a collection of virtual bulletin boards. It will eat away hours and hours of your life and you will fantasize about the million things that you will want to cook, bake, and create, even though you will probably never do any of it.

It’s dangerous. It’s addicting.

Willow Creek Throw from Lion Brand. I don't know how to knit, so I will never make this. But I pinned it anyways...

I first started on Pinterest at the urging of a former coworker about two weeks after I got engaged. She said that it would help me to “organize” my wedding ideas and concepts and ideas. A board for the bride, for the ceremony, for the reception, for the flowers… the possibilities are endless.

Pinterest has done a lot of things for me. Organization is not one of them. I only have three wedding-related boards: Wedding Inspiration, My Lovely Bridesmaids, and the Bride and Groom. Needless to say, not the most effective organization.

Here’s the major thing that Pinterest has done for me: given me  a terrible, terrible amount of inspiration. Clicking on the wedding category will give you endless pins to scroll through. What’s the problem, you say? With all of these endless pins, why would you have a problem with the inspiration, when there’s so freaking much of it?

See what I mean?

Because it’s not the right kind of inspiration. Really, it’s all rather similar.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Pinterest. Dearly. It’s like that really cool guy at work who you run into in the copy room once a week, and he tells you all about his upcoming trip to Paris with his way-too-pretty girlriend, and when they get back they’re going to paint the bedroom of their new apartment – whatever color she wants, really – and he’s going to make her Italian for dinner that night, because he’s just that nice of a guy. You desperately want to be friends with that guy because his life is freaking amazing. You want that life. You want Paris and a pretty bedroom and a significant other who can cook.

My relationship with Pinterest is like that guy. I really, really like like, all of the wedding stuff that I see on Pinterest. The ceremony has kissing pictures at sunset. Cowboy boots are worn under a lace wedding dress. Rings are a carat and a half.  Receptions sit in barns dripping with white swags and twinkling lights.  Wildflowers in mason jars. Fur shawls for winter weddings. Birdcage card holders. Pale bouquets. Black and white photos.

It’s soft. Rustic. Shabby chic.

It’s also not our wedding.

We’re getting married in a church, with high ceilings and an hour long Catholic ceremony. Satin flats. Marine Corps sword arch on the stairs. Our reception is being held in a theater. The walls are glossy stone. Red curtains. Award winning bathrooms. The ceiling hands with a hundred theatrical lighting instruments (that’s a technical term) and massive chandeliers. Light damask tablecloths in corner booths.

It’s bold. Intimate. (—).

It’s not very Pinterest, either.

Two weeks ago I realized that I couldn’t actually use 75% of the things that I had pinned on my wedding inspiration boards. That pale green and orange bouquets would be dwarfed by the stained glass windows. That filling mason jars with roses is money I don’t have to spend because real flowers cost a fortune. That quirky, mismatched, and patterned bridesmaids dresses in no way fit next to the measured formality of military dress.

I’d lost what I actually wanted our wedding to look like.

My Pinterest wedding could simply not exist next to the facts of our real wedding. And when I actually though about it, nor did I really want that Pinterest wedding.

I’m not a cowgirl. Swag and christmas lights are way overdone. Wildflowers aren’t especially pretty and my skin crawls at the touch of fur. And when would I ever, ever use a freaking bird cage again?

BUT, despite the fact that Paris really smells like pee and the amount of garlic used in Italian cooking takes kissing off the table, we still try to be friends with that guy from work, right? It’s because the Eiffel Tower is pretty freaking cool and you secretly want to re-enact that scene from Lady and the Tramp.

Cause that wouldn't be awkward AT ALL. (Thanks for this gem, Google.)

Despite the fact that Pinterest led me astray, I don’t think I’m going to stop being friends with Pinterest. I’ve gotten a lot of great ideas from it. The guest book concepts are unbelievably creative. Getting a list of “quick fix” items for the bathroom at the reception venue was indispensable. I realized that I LOVE lace wedding dresses.

So, ladies. (Because, let’s be honest, are there really that many guys out there nitpicking every detail of the wedding? I didn’t think so.) The moral of the story? It’s important to keep in mind what you actually want your wedding to look like, and not be pulled in the trendy direction just because it’s trendy. Well, duh. BUT also – there are a lot of creative things out there that aren’t trendy that you’ll run across and and think – wow, I haven’t seen this before and so this is awesome. Let’s be honest – would you really want a painted soup can filled with flowers as your centerpiece? I didn’t think so.

Places like Pinterest and the Knot are wonderful for inspiration. But you cannot, under any circumstances, forget what you want for your wedding. One of my biggest fears is that I will get to that day and realize that this wasn’t what I really wanted for my wedding. As lovely as all those other things are, keeping in mind what actually is “us” will ensure that the day will be meaningful and memorable. For us.

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Peanut Butter Munchies (Gluten Free Option)

I’m a passionate baker. Not by choice. It’s because I’m not very good at cooking, and as a woman and soon to be wife, I need to be able to say that I actually know how to use the oven for something other than Sylvia Plath rendition. Especially because FI knows how to cook, so it’s not entirely necessary for me to learn right now. Most of my baking ends up wrapped in saran wrap and sent to Virginia, where FI is. This was a bit of a unique situation.

I got two cookbooks for Christmas this year.  The less exciting of the two was the All-American Dessert Book. The only reason that I can say that is because the other one is a Harry Potter Cookbook. Don’t worry, sometime in the next few weeks I’ll be writing a post detailing our creation of Pumpkin Pasties, Lemon Drops, and Rock Cakes while drinking Butterbeer. Unfortunately, this post is going to be about something else not nearly as enthralling, but equally delicious.


I pulled this recipe from the All American Dessert Book. Which has some insanely awesome recipes that I cannot wait to try. I made the Peanut Butter Munchies as recorded in the book to send to FI and, as the first batch cooled, my sister sneaked one. And then tried to sneak off with the rest of them. So instead of only sending FI 20 of the 32 cookies I ended up with, I decided to make another batch. This time, gluten free so that my entire family could enjoy them, and with a few tweaks from the original recipe to better fit.

This is the first recipe that I really struggled to convert to gluten free. I’m slowly learning that you can’t always just substitute in gluten-free flour and bake it as usual. I almost burned the crap out of the first batch in the oven. After some serious trial and error, I found a combination that ended up with the same result as the non-gluten free ones. You may end up having to tweak this a little bit to fit your oven, as with every recipe, but hopefully it’ll work out for you as well.

The Midwestern version of cooling something in the refrigerator - putting it outside. That's our Christmas tree you see in the corner.

These cookies are wonderfully hearty and robust. With all of the included morsels, you could probably even get away with calling them healthy. Maybe they’ll even fit on your diet plan.

Peanut Butter Munchies (Gluten Free)

Pre-Recipe Notes: 

  • I found the mixer indispensable in this recipe. I normally hand-mix cookies with a wooden spoon, and I’m very happy that I’m decided to use the mixer, especially towards the end when I was mixing a lot of heavy ingredients together.
  • If you don’t like coconut and are considering leaving it out, please don’t. It is more for texture than taste; it helps to hold all the little morsels together and keeps the cookies soft and chewy.
  • As a rule, I also always at least double the amount of vanilla in a recipe. A good friend gave me this tidbit a few years ago and I’ve found that it makes baked goods more flavorful and richer. I’ve never once had a problem.
  • If you don’t want or need to make them gluten free remove the xantham gum, and substitute regular all-purpose flour. Bake at 350 degrees F for 15-20 minutes. Mine took 17.

Ingredients:
2 1/3 cups all-purpose gluten free flour
5/8 teaspoon xanthum gum (Or to your xantham gum’s specifications. I used 1/2 heaping teaspoon, because who has 1/8 of a teaspoon.)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 sticks salted butter, slightly softened
2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4  cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet chocolate morsels
1 cup craisins (dried sweetened cranberries)
1 cup dark raisins
1 cup shredded or flaked sweetened coconut
2/3 cup coarsely chopped salted peanuts (divided)

Directions:
Makes 32 cookies.

Whisk together flour, xanthum gum, and baking soda. In a large bowl, beat the butter, peanut butter, and oil until blended. Add the brown sugar and continue beating until well blended. Add the eggs and vanilla. Continue beating until very light and fluffy.

Add half the flour mixture into the butter mixture until smoothly incorporated. Beat or stir in the remaining flour mixture, the chocolate morsels, cranberries, raisins, coconut, and peanuts until evenly mixed.

Dump the batter onto a piece of parchment or wax paper and shape into a 6-8 inch disk. Cut into four sections and shape each section into a smaller disk. Cover and refrigerate for about 20 minutes or until firmed up slightly. It is important to keep the batter cool during the process. It makes them easier to shape on the baking sheet and they cook a bit more evenly that way. I only removed the disk that I was working with while shaping the cookies and left the rest in the refrigerator.

Position a rack in the upper third of the over and preheat to 325 degrees F. You may choose to grease the baking sheets with nonstick spray – I chose not to and didn’t have a problem.

On a baking parchment or wax paper, separate the quarter you are working with into 8 balls. I did this by cutting it like a pie. It was a bit of an awkward way to separate, but it worked just fine. Space the cookies about 3 inches apart on the baking sheet. Pat down each cookie until about 1/2 inch thick.

Bake one sheet at a time for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the cookies are tinged with brown, just darker at the edges. Mine took 10 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack and let stand for a few minutes. This will help them to firm up slightly. Transfer to a wire rack or paper towel to cool completely.

They’ll keep, stored airtight, at room temperature for up to 2 weeks or frozen for up to 1 1/2 months. Or, you can just eat them all right now and you won’t have to worry about storing them. Trust me, you’ll be tempted.

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Embellished E-Reader or Tablet Book Case

I am so unbelievably excited about this post. For a number of reasons. One, I get to gush about my new kindle. Um, yay. It is freaking awesome. Two, because it’s my first DIY post of the blog. Also a major yay! Three, this is one of the few projects that I have done almost completely from scratch. Which is pretty epic in my book. (See what I did there?)

So, the Kindle. I got a Kindle Fire for Christmas from my amazing FI. And quite frankly, it’s pretty damn cool. I’ve been looking at e-readers and tablets since they first came out and wasn’t ever able to completely sell myself on them – or the price tag. I rented one of the original Kindle’s from my school library and wasn’t entirely satisfied. I also did the mandatory drool over the iPad while browsing through the Apple Store, and nearly keeled over from the price tag.

The Kindle Fire, in my opinion, is a wonderful blend of the two. While it doesn’t have the e-ink technology of the traditional Kindle’s, I don’t feel as though I’m reading off of a computer screen. I can read it for hours without having to rub my eyes and take a break.

Yes yes, I know this isn’t a Kindle review. But opening this gift was honestly one of the highlights of my Christmas.

Because my dad also received one for Christmas, it was also unexpected. While his came fully equipped with screen protectors and a case, mine was (alas) naked. I was allotted one of the screen protectors (because that’s the first thing that we do when we get expensive touchscreen equipment), and immediately went in search of a case. I looked at a lot of them, but the one thing that I kept coming back to were the ones that actually looked like books.

The one on the left is $70. The one on the right is $30 (from Etsy).

Yeah, I don’t have that kind of money either.

The hollowed out version can be made easily for the price of the book. Pick up one used off Amazon or a thrift store for a few bucks and adjust the directions to make it fit your device. I’ll even link you to the tutorial that I used myself a few months ago.

But if you want to make one that looks like the really snazzy one on the left, read on…

You’re going to need:
-Hardcover book
-Tablet or E-reader
-Ruler
-Pencil or Pen
-Elmer’s or other all purpose glue
-Hot glue/gun
-Cardboard
-Scissors or utility knife
-Pretty Fabric
-Elastic
-Needle and thread

Optional:
-Packing padding
-Ribbon
-Lace
-Button

(Most of these pictures are pretty terrible. Sorry. 😦 I was sitting on the floor in my basement, wayyy too close to the project to realize that all the pictures were crap.)

I picked up a cheap hardcover book at Half-Price Books with a gift card I’d gotten earlier in the year. You can also use one that you have around the house or pick one up at a thrift store. It’s fun to choose a book that reflects you: something ironic like I, Robot by Isaac Asimov, a cool hardcover of your favorite classic novel, or a collection of poems by your favorite poet. I grabbed the Book of Lost Tales by JRR Tolkein.

The book needs to be thick enough to fit your device with a bit of wiggle room. The height and width don’t need to be exactly the same as your device, although there are a few less steps that you’ll need to take if your book is the closer to the same size as your device. My Kindle was about half an inch on all sides smaller than the book.

Start by cutting out the pages of the book by slicing through the edge of the binding. Be careful not to cut into the spine of the book. They should come out in one big chunk; this is easier for cleanup and also allows you to keep the pages around (neatly) for other projects.


I used cardboard to mount the fabric on. If your book is thicker than the your device, than the cardboard should be a little thicker (or you can double up on thinner cardboard) to make up for the space. You can also make up the space with a bit of cushion from a bit of packing padding or a similar fabric. Make sure that you test to see if the combination of the cardboard (and padding, if you decide to use it) will fit inside the book. I used one piece of heavy cardboard from an Amazon box we had lying around from all of the Christmas presents, two pieces from a shoe box, and a bit of padding.

You want to cover all of the white paper with the cardboard insert. The measurements don’t need to be exact, but measure the remaining white paper on one side of the book. Measure and cut out two pieces of cardboard to those measurements. (I cut one from the heavier cardboard, and one from the lighter.)

If your device is the same size as the book, you can skip this next step. To get the size of your device you can either trace it (especially if you want the nifty rounded corners) or measure it and then trace it out onto the cardboard, plus a few millimeters.  If you decide to trace it, try to trace it slightly larger than the actual device. Then cut it out and set it aside.


If you decide that you want to add cushioning, this is the time to measure it out. I just laid my device on top of the padding and cut around it. Again, it doesn’t need to be exact. You can either glue it to your cardboard (depending on what you use) or you can count on the fabric to hold it in place. I chose to place to padding on the left side of the book, and counted on the fabric to hold it in place. This way, it will keep the Kindle more snug in the book and provide some cushion when you move it around.

Next, measure the full size of the open book, height and width. Add two inches to the measurement and cut out a piece of fabric to that size. For example, my book was 12″x8″, so I cut out a piece to 14”x10″.

This next part is a little hard to describe. Place the two larger pieces of cardboard onto the fabric. Start by settling the cardboard about an inch in from the edge and cutting a slit from the corner of the fabric to the corner of the cardboard. Fold of the excess inch in and glue it to the cardboard. After it dries a bit, take the fabric-plus-cardboard and set it on the book so that it covers the white space. Grab the second piece of cardboard and align it with the edge of the white space on the other side, on top of the fabric. Glue down the excess. You may not get it right the first time – I certainly didn’t – so if you need to adjust it, that’s OK. You should end up with something looking like this.

These are actually in line with each other, even though the picture doesn't reflect that.

Glue the rest of the excess fabric to the cardboard. It’s important that the fabric is snug to the cardboard. You don’t need to put glue in the open space between the pieces of cardboard, where the binding would be.

Now we turn back to the third piece of cardboard that is the size of the device. If it has rounded edges, start there by folding and gluing one of them in and follow it around the rest of the piece. Try to make sure that the fabric lays as flat as possible on the back. Let it dry until immovable.

There are two possible directions to take below:

With Third Piece of cardboard:
Take a long piece of elastic and tie a knot with the two ends so that it forms a circle. Put your device on the covered piece of cardboard and hook the elastic over the top right corner. Drag the elastic along the back of the cardboard and hook it over the bottom left corner. From the top left corner, take the farmost strand of elastic and hook it up over the corner. Do the same with the opposite corner. It may take a few attempts to get it right. But it’s worth it. Adjust the corners so that all of the screen is available to your touch or viewing.

This is what the back of mine looked like:

Before you glue them, make sure that none of the corners are stretched too tightly. You may have to loosen the circle a bit or adjust the distribution of the elastic. For each loop on the front, hot glue the spot where the elastic meets the cardboard on the back. Make sure not to do it along the side. Also hot glue all of the joints. Try to make the hot glue as flat as possible.

If you decide, after a few attempts, that you don’t want to struggle with it, you can follow the second direction (past the picture), without cutting through the fabric.

Hot glue the cardboard and fabric set into the book. Start with one side to make sure that it is stretched taut, but not too tight – you don’t want the spine to bend at all or you won’t have enough play with it. Next, hot glue the third piece of cardboard in the center of the right side of the book. Make sure that the book is the right side up, or else you will have to take it apart and reglue it. It is possible, but not fun.

Without the Third Piece:

Place your device on the right side of the fabric covered cardboard. Cut out pieces of elastic that will go over the corners and behind the cardboard. Sew and/or hot glue them into place. Cut carefully through the fabric on the inside to allow the elastic to pass through. Hot glue the cardboard to the inside of the book, similar to the photo on the left.

Yay! If you want to, you can finish here. Or, you can take a few additional steps to embellish and/or keep the book closed.

You have a few options to keep the book closed. You can run a piece of elastic around it, reminiscent of a journal, sort of like this, or across the middle of it.

I chose to do something a little different.

We had some linked lace flowers lying around, which were perfect to serve as a simple embellishment for the book. I cut one from the link and sewed a button on it. Make sure that you leave some play for the button to move around and for the elastic to slide in under it. I hot glued it (carefully, so it was a gluey mess) to the front of the book.

Then I cut off a piece of elastic 2-3 inches long and sewed it into a loop. Then I cut a piece of ribbon that would, in combination with the elastic, fit around the edge of the book and hold it closed. I put a bit of hot glue on the end of the ribbon and folded it over, I followed that up with a thin, flat line of hot glue along the end so that it wouldn’t fray. I also did this to the other end. Then I sewed the elastic to the ribbon. Make sure that it is secure, as it will get a lot of play. To reinforce it, I added a drop of hot glue to the connection.

With a bit more hot glue, I attached the elastic/ribbon combination to the back of the book and looped it onto the button.

Ta-Da!

With items that I had around the house, I spent $8 to make this. The only thing that I bought was the book. I already had the hot glue gun I enjoy it immensely and it’s held up well over the past week with daily use. I’ve also taken it to the gym and – yes – I dropped it on the floor in the locker room. Not only did it hold together and keep my Kindle intact and unscratched, but also kept it off of the germy locker room floor.

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