Friday, March 30, 2012

Social Media Buttons

I've been dying to add some little features to this blog for a while now, but considering I'm pretty computer illiterate when it comes to coding and what not, it seemed like a daunting task. But recently, I became determined that I would add some of those cute little social media buttons to the side bar, even if it was going to consume way too much time to figure it out.

After a quick Google search, I came across The Academy, written by Isa Maria, and her super cute (not to mention FREE!) downloadable buttons.

Aren't those amazing?! I seriously wish I knew how to create my own digital design stuff. Maybe one of these days when I have tons of time to devote to it. Or maybe I'll make the hubby learn for me... :)

I loved that her set of buttons included a Pinterest button. A lot of the buttons that I found on other sites failed to include a Pinterest button, which is one of the main sites I wanted to link up to. Plus, the fact that the Turquoise 201 set practically matches with the background of this blog, I think it was meant to be!

Anyhoo, it took me a the better part of an hour to figure out how to set it all up, but with the help of Kira's tutorial she linked to, at Her New Leaf, it made the process a whole lot easier. The only thing I seem to have a problem with is the size the images are coming out at... can't figure out how to make them cute and petite. But, it's still a giant step forward.

So far I've only linked to my Pinterest account and an RSS feed. Hopefully I got the whole RSS feed thing right; it isn't something that I personally use to follow blogs since I have my blogger dashboard. But, I figured enough people must use it if I see it on everyone else's blogs, right?

I'm still hesitant to link to my personal Facebook account. If you've noticed, we don't mention our last name anywhere within this blog, for two reasons. First of all, we still feel like it gives us a slight sense of privacy. And secondly, being that I'm a teacher, I know my students google my name at the start of every school year. I'd like to try to keep my personal and professional life as separate as possible. I'm sure they'll come across this thing eventually, and when they do, I don't want them having access to my Facebook account. I've been thinking about creating a separate Facebook account specifically for this blog, but I was going to wait until I felt like there were enough readers to warrant making one.

As for Twitter, I tried it, and I simply just don't get it. Sorry folks! And I do have a Flickr account, but there really isn't anything on it except for odds and ends that end up right here on the blog anyways.

But for now, I'm really excited about my progress on this little blog. Its the simple things, you know? If you're new to this whole blogging thing, I hope the links in this post help you out as much as they did me. These girls are excellent at making it super simple to understand.

Any other blogging technical tips/advice you've found to be really helpful? What are some things you like to see when you read your favorite blogs? Let's chat!

Newest Additions

In my last post I dropped some hints as to what has been going on lately around our little apartment. It's not been anything major, but still, the little changes all add up and put smiles on our faces. Since I'm still waiting on the hubby to write his post about his new toy, I figured I'd introduce you guys to the newest members of our little family.

Yep, we got some fish! Eight to be exact. We bought 6 guppies - 2 blue, 2 red, and 2 yellow - and 2 albino corys. We've been planning on buying fish for a while now, and we're so happy we finally got everything into place to make it happen.

What had been delaying us? Well, first of all, I've had this fish tank since I first moved out of my parents' house. It's a hexagonal, 35-gallon tank and solid wood stand (you can see it in the pictures below). The hubby and I dream of one day turning it into a salt water tank. But we're both know realistically, a salt water tank while still living in a temporary place is crazy. So, we decided that we didn't want to look at an empty fish tank anymore and started buying supplies little by little to turn it into a full fledged fish tank.

Even though we had the tank (which is the most expensive part), we still had to buy our filter, bubblier, thermometer, gravel, and aquarium decorations. We bought these one at a time each weekend over the course of a month. Then it was finally time to fill it up with water and see it in action.

Problem! Turns out the tap water around here is not only really hard (which we already knew based on the hard water stains on all of our dishes), but it also runs high in pH. Normally we wouldn't worry about it, but when we consulted with the fish store, they said that there was too much of a difference between our pH levels and the pH levels that they had in the store. To put it simply, it would more than likely send any fish we brought home into shock.

So, we babied our fish-less tank for a few weeks waiting for the pH to drop lower through the use of both chemicals and occasionally swapping out the water. Once we got the levels as low as we thought we could get them (which was still relatively high), we figured we'd go ahead and risk bringing home some fish.

I've always been drawn to the pretty color of guppies. Sure, they are a little more expensive then buying neons (which always seem to be on sale for $1) at $2.79 a pop, but we loved the unique characteristics of each of the fish. As for the corys, well, we knew we needed some ground feeder fish, and these guys were on sale for $1, down from $4 a piece. Score! A lot of people purchase those black sucker fish (sorry, I don't know the name off the top of my head), but we feared that he would get too big for our narrowly tall tank.

We've had the fish for almost a week now, and we think they've adjusted well. We did have 1 causality less than 24 hours after we first brought them home from the pet store, but we took him back and exchanged it out. Who knew that fish stores did that? I wonder what they do with the dead fish? Do they flush them down a toilet too? But the girl at the pet store said that it probably wasn't our water. In fact, she said it was probably because the fish had been transported to their store the day before, so because the fish had gone between 3 different tanks in less than 48 hours, it had probably died from shock.

Now that I've rambled on way too long about our fishy adventure, I think I'll leave you with how our other "children" feel about their new house mates.

When we showed Periwinkle the fish, she didn't seem too interested. Every so often I'll catch her staring at the tank, but for the most part, she doesn't seem to care one way or the other about what's happening in the tank.

Cruz on the other hand is a different story...

Yep, he stretches up big and tall to get a better look at the fish. If he's not staring out the office window or bugging us to pick up his wand and play with him, you can usually find him trying to catch the fish. He's done it before - he killed the beta fish that I had at my last apartment. But this time, the tank has a lid! Good luck getting these fish Cruz!

We so happy to have a little more "life" in our apartment. We're constantly going over there to check on them and count them to make sure their all there. In a couple weeks we're talking about adding a few more fish to the tank. The guppies tend to stay near the top of the tank, so we're going to see what fish we can get that swim near the middle to lower portions of the tank.

Any one else out there with fishy adventures? What is your go-to fish for your home aquarium? Any tricks on how to keep it super clean? So far so good, but we know it's bound to get dirty.

P.S. There's a little glimpse of what I've been working on in the dining room in the photos above. I can't wait to share those pics with you guys soon!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Post Without A Title

Sorry I've been a little MIA lately. A lot of things has been going on around these parts lately, but mainly I've been spending some quality time with the hubby and working on little projects around the apartment (all of which I plan on sharing on here eventually).

Since the hubby has been out of work, we got to spend an entire week together while I was off of school for Spring Break two weeks ago. It was so nice just to hang out and relax for a week with nothing on our agenda. Dan has been back to work now for a week, so we've been settling back in to our old routine.

This past week was the first week back to school after Spring Break as well as the end of the 3rd nine week grading period, so I have been frantically trying to catch up on all of my grading. Grades are due first thing this Tuesday morning, so I've got my work cut out for me.

But like I said, we've been working on a few little projects, so here's some of the things you have to look forward to:
  •  The hubby has gotten himself a new toy, and when I mentioned to him that I was going to post about it on the blog, he asked if he could write the post.
  • I've finally gotten around to hanging up some more stuff on the walls around the apartment - both in the master bedroom and the dining room. I even tried my hand at a little gallery wall. (You can see my first attempt at wall art here)
  • I've been organizing the laundry room and it's almost complete - just need to purchase one more thing and snap a couple more pictures, and we're going to call that project finished!
  • We've got some new additions to our little family. No, again, I'm not pregnant, but you'll just have to wait and see what I'm talking about.
  • We made some adjustments to the lighting in our dining room with a quick and easy fix.
So please bear with me for a little while longer and eventually there will be some posts with some actual substance to them. For now, I hope you are all enjoying the weekend! Any fun projects you are working on? I'd love to hear about it - because you know I need another distraction to keep me from grading! :)

Friday, March 16, 2012

Cats Meow: Boxes

I don't know when it happened, but we became one of those people. The kind of people that take way too many pictures of their pets. But I figured, what the hay, if I am going to be one of those people, then I might as well share these pictures rather than keep them all to myself. Thus the creation of the Cats Meow!

Tonight I figured I'd share all the pictures of our cats and their antics with boxes.

But first, let me introduce our cats. The older, fluffier one with a stub for a tail is Periwinkle, aka "Pretty Girl." She's a stray that I like to say adopted me back when I lived with my parents. We have no clue what her real age is, but I'd guess around 7 or 8 years old. The younger, skinnier one with an actual tail is Cruz, aka "Little Man." We adopted him from a local pet store a few months after I moved out of my parents house.

And now for pictures and commentary...

This was at our old apartment. I don't remember why the ramen was out on the floor... but Periwinkle perched herself up there, and wasn't moving. Didn't seem to happy to be having her picture taken either, huh?

This was a common site at the old place. There was never room in our pantry for the case of soda. Pretty Girl claimed it as her spot. 

I must clarify - we are not big into drinking. Yes, we have plenty of alcohol in our apartment. The last time either of us actually touched it? Probably not since New Years. Before that? I honestly can't remember. But, when we do buy alcohol, we buy it in bulk and it lasts us a good long while. Cruz doesn't seem to mind though because it gives him another place to investigate. 

This was a Christmas gift for my mom two years ago. If you leave a box out, Pretty Girl will find it and claim it as hers. I'm surprised she sat still long enough for me to put, not one, but two different colored bows on her head to take a picture for my mom.

Funny story - when I talk to the cats about my mom I refer to her as "grandma." Call me crazy, I don't care. But it was actually my stepdad that started it. One day he started referring to Periwinkle as his "grandcat." I guess he realized that the cats are the closest thing they are going to get to grandchildren from me for a while (even though they already have 11 grandchildren), and decided to embrace it? So now, I call them Grandma and Grandpa when I talk to the cats. And they both get Christmas, birthday, and mother/fathers day cards from the grandcats. Ok, so maybe I am crazy...

Most of the time, Periwinkle has to settle for the shoe box that I've been hoarding for years (it had magazine clippings of ideas for my wedding). 

 But it didn't take long for her to upgrade. This time it was a Father's Day gift for my stepdad.

Sometimes, she's nice enough to let Cruz have a turn with a box. 

This is the box that our wedding album came in. You can see those photos here, here, here, here, and here.

He spent quite a lot of time trying to squeeze himself into this box...

Here's a glimpse of our messy guest bedroom closet.

These photos are only the tip of the iceberg. To begin with, these posts will probably have quite a few photos attached to them, but as I empty out my camera, I'll only have a couple here and there to share.

Anybody else out there one of those people who take more than just a couple pictures of your pets? Or are the hubby and I the only ones out there that does this? 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Waiting for the Dust to Settle

Warning: This post is pretty lengthy. It's not a positive upbeat post. This post is keeping it real. To break things up, I've included some pictures from when the hubby was in firefighter school.

We've been on a bit of a roller coaster for the last couple of months. Back in January we got the call that the hubby was offered a job as a Firefighter/EMT in a semi-local county. To say that we were excited is an understatement. It took nearly a month from that initial phone call for all of the paperwork, fingerprinting, drug testing, etc. to clear before the hubby could actually start the new job. Meanwhile, his previous job was wonderful about working with him and getting him ready for the new job.

As the hubby's start date drew closer, I grew more and more nervous. Could I handle being the wife of a firefighter? Could I handle the long shifts? The potential danger the hubby would be finding himself in? Well, my anxiety didn't last too long...

The training program that the hubby had started was 10 weeks long. Considering what we've heard from other people who graduated with the hubby, 10 weeks is a pretty long training program. Most in our area seem to be only 3-5 weeks. Granted, this training would also provide additional certifications (free of charge!) that other counties in our area just don't offer.

But probably the biggest shocker was the fact that this training was being run military style. Boot camp style. Not at all what the hubby had invisioned. Sure, he knew there would be physical training as part of the 10 week program. Sure, he knew it'd be tough - he'd been warned - but he didn't know just how tough it was going to be. He thought his schooling had fully prepared him for what he was about to walk into. Unfortunately, he was wrong...

Half way through the second week, the hubby was ready to call it quits. He was miserable. I got a call from him one night asking me to make the hour long trip to Orlando to discuss the options that were being given to him.

Let me back track a little bit... About 2 years after high school, and right before he enrolled in the firefighter program, the hubby's back had been giving him problems. It bothered him enough that he went and saw a specialist. The results? Not one, but two herniated discs in his lumbar spine. Although the doctor was hesitant, he gave the hubby the green light to proceed with firefighter schooling. However, he gave the hubby very wise advice, "You're only given one back in your life. We can't replace it like we can hips and knees. My advice? Try to avoid back surgery as long as possible - as in not until you're at least 60."

Why do I bring that up? Well, something that the hubby had to do during training really upset his back. He went to them the next day and told them about the problem, and they put him on temporary light duty. However, they said that he couldn't stay on that forever and that they were going to treat him the same as everyone else regardless of his back problems. Fair enough. You can't fault them for that - they're just doing their job.

He tried to tell them that day that he didn't think he'd make it through the program and he wanted to quit then. They asked him if he had spoken to me about it. We had had a couple of text messages back and forth during his lunch, but nothing in-depth. They suggested that he sleep on it, talk it over with me, and then let them know his decision the next day. I have to say, for all the hate I was feeling for these people after putting my hubby through hell, I totally respected them for that.

So I came home after work, packed an overnight bag, left extra food out for the cats, and headed off to Orlando. We went out to dinner and walked around Cranes Roost in Altamonte Springs. We talked - a lot - about the options and consequences of each option.

After a couple hours of talking everything through, we ultimately came to the decision that the hubby needed to quit this new job. Quit a job that he'd worked many years for. A job that we had been praying would come.

Why? A couple reasons...
  1. As a firefighter, part of your job is to save lives. If the hubby's back were to go out while he was trying to rescue someone from a burning building, he risks not being able to save that person.
    • To expand further, he'd be risking the life of his partner who went into the burning building with him.
    • But, the biggest risk, is that if his back did go out during a call, he'd be risking his own life. Sure, every firefighter is risking their lives. But, typically, these guys/gals have stronger backs and muscles with a much smaller risk of something like that happening.
  2. Even if we look past that scenario, if the hubby tore up his back at a young age, that means surgery.
    • That means a lot of money spent on medical costs.
    • That also means that the hubby could potentially be limited on what jobs he can apply for in the future - could mean a much smaller salary.
    • And, surgery means that he wouldn't be able to be the "dad" he wants to be to our future kids (no, I'm not pregnant). When the hubby was young, his dad had back surgery, and he remembers what it was like to have a dad that was limited on what he could and could not do. He wants to prevent that at all costs.
We both wish we had forseen all of this prior to the hubby quitting his previous job. Heck, we wish that we had forseen this before the hubby had started schooling for this career. Yes, we know what the specialist advised; but we also figured that he could at least get quite a few years on the force before having to leave due to a back problem.

We keep telling ourselves that there had to be a reason for all of this. The hubby went through  firefighter schooling for a reason. We waited nearly two years for the first job offer for a reason. The hubby's back failed him for a reason. Even though we feel at times like all the hardwork and effort were for nothing, we trust that there is a bigger picture that we just don't understand yet.

So where does that leave us?

Well, the hubby has been out of work for the past two weeks. He searched for jobs in our area that his EMT certification qualified him for. But none of our local hospitals are currently hiring.

The position at his old job has already been filled, so that isn't an option. However, the hubby called his old boss when he started to worry that he wasn't going to make it through the program, and she said she would try to work something out for him if he decided to go that route. Let me just tell you, that woman is amazing! She had been creating a new IT position, and agreed to make the job description fit the hubby's qualifications (considering he doesn't have any experience in IT besides his pure curiosity, its not an easy task). The only problem? It's going to take a while for the hospital beauracracy to approve everything.

We were told that it could be weeks or it could be months before the hospital approves not only the new position, but approves the hubby's application for that position. To wait that long for a paycheck isn't something that we can afford. But again, the hubby's boss came the rescue! She talked the hospital into bringing the hubby in as a "pool" employee. He'd get paid less than what he was previously making, because technically "pool" is code for "part-time," but his boss has guaranteed he'd work 40 hours/week. But, it would keep us afloat money-wise until the IT position opened up.

It's not the ideal situation, but we're not going to complain. It's a job. It's something. And it has the potential for higher pay and a new career. Plus, the boss has really pulled some strings to make this all happen. We're just keeping our fingers crossed that the "pool" position isn't going to last too long.

So that's where we are right now. For a while we felt like we were in limbo. But now the dust seems to be settling and things seem to be calming down. On the plus side, I don't have to worry about all the stresses that come along with being the wife of a firefighter. But, I never imagined that that would mean the hubby losing out on his dream job.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Recipe Resolution Meets Challenge: Pizza Style Grilled Cheese

Welcome to all of the first time visitors who are here thanks to the Pinterest Challenge!

I'm really excited that I managed to kill two birds with one stone. How so? Well, not only did I test out a recipe from Pinterest for the Pinterest Challenge, but it also qualifies as one of my Recipe Resolutions. Some might call this cheating. I call it working smarter!

If you remember, one of my New Years Resolutions was to learn how to cook more things. Not only that, but to taste everything I make - which is a difficult thing for a picky eater like me. So each month, I've decided to make one new recipe (you can see my first two recipes here and here) that sounds good to both me and the hubby.


I gave you a teaser last week, but here's the details. I pinned this image a while ago. You can find the original recipe at Forkful of Comfort.


Step One: Gather your ingredients. We decided to use some of our left over shredded Parmesan cheese from our roasted potatoes.

Step two: Start heating your panini press (or pan on the stove). While that's heating up, start buttering the slices of bread.

We noticed once we got cooking that we needed to turn the heat up a little bit more. That, and the hubby had it set to "griddle" instead of "grill."

Step three: Create your sandwich. Our layers were mozzarella cheese, Italian seasoning, pepperoni, Parmesan cheese, mozzarella cheese. Once we tested one sandwich, the hubby came up with the idea to add some of the seasoning to the buttered sides of the bread.

You might want to make sure you have extras on hand for anyone who wants to snack...

Step four: Place your sandwich on the panini press and wait for the cheese to become melted and gooey.

Step five: Enjoy!


First of all, our sandwiches came out a lot more wimpy looking compared to the inspiration pictures... Maybe it's because our panini press smushed them down more?

If I'm going to be honest, I wasn't a fan. In theory, this sounded amazing. But once it was actually created, it didn't have as much flavor as I had anticipated. I think it has to do with the mozzarella cheese. Mozzarella is, in my opinion, a pretty bland cheese. It's great on pizza, but I think that's because the oven helps to crisp it, whereas it doesn't get that when laying between two slices of bread.

Also, I only put one layer of pepperoni on my sandwich, which didn't give a lot of flavor. But when the hubby layered more on his, it created a greasy mess (you can see the grease from his sandwich in the photo above).

I should also mention that the original recipe suggests that you dip the sandwich in pizza sauce. We opted not to do that because neither one of us are big fans of marinara sauce. Maybe that helps add flavor?

So, would I do it again? Probably. Why? Because the hubby really liked changing things up. I think next time I'll just use plain American cheese instead of the mozzarella. On the positive, it's cheaper that way! Also, we talked about using a different kind of butter to make the sandwiches. Our local Winn Dixie has this garlic bread spread that you use to make your own garlic bread at home. We think it might add a lot more flavor to the grilled cheese.


The sandwich was good. Especially when we added the Italian seasoning to the bread - added more flavoring. Would really like to figure out ways to add more flavor overall to the sandwich. Oh, and 3 pepperonis is way too much! And don't forget to double check the settings on the panini press before you start.

So there you have it folks! One more recipe down. Only 9 more to go! Any recommendations to make this sandwich more flavorful? What sort of things do you like to add to your grilled cheese.

I'm linking this recipe up to the Pinterest Challenge: Winter Edition which is being hosted by these four lovely ladies.

They went above and beyond with their projects! Katie brought out her artistic side with a watercolor octopus. Sherry tested her love-hate relationship with sewing to make a bean bag for her Bean. Erin constructed an amazing mason jar chandelier. And, last but certainly not least, Cassie tried her hand at making faux antlers.

Also, at the bottom of each of their posts are a TON of links to other amazing Pinterest Challenge projects and creations.

You can find all of my Pinterest boards here. Leave a link to your Pinterest account or your challenge project below - I'd love to check it out!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Travel Bucket List

About a month ago I shared a little project that I did in our guest bedroom slash office that involved a couple of maps. All it required was two old maps and a few dozen push pins in various colors, and - voila! - instant (not to mention cheap) wall art.

After reading Samantha's before-baby bucket list I realized I never actually shared where we wanted to travel to. So here I am with a breakdown of our travel bucket list. But before I get into that, I thought I would share the different places we've already traveled to.

Places I've Been
  • Florida Keys - I've been three times now. Twice with my mom and once on a cruise.

  • San Francisco, CA - Took a day trip after visiting my stepbrother who lives in California
  • Grants Pass, OR - My stepsister use to live here
  • Evansville, IN - Once again, visiting family
  • Fort Worth, TX - I don't know if this technically counts because we had a night's stay in the city after missing a connection flight
  • Cozumel, Mexico - again, on a cruise
Places the Hubby Has Been
  • Nassau, Bahamas

  • Charlotte, NC - the hubby's family is big time into racing

Places We've Been Together
  • Andrews, NC - church summer camp

  • Fort Walton Beach, FL - we've been three times now to visit our former youth pastor (who by the way officiated our wedding)

  • Niagara Falls (both the American & Canadian side)
  • Edinboro, PA- this is where my Grandpa use to live
  • Atlanta, GA - we love to go and watch the Braves play, not to mention my brother-in-law lives there now
  • Macon, GA (here and here)
  • Coco Cay, Bahamas
  • St. Thomas, USVI
  • St. Maarten

The last three places were where we went on our honeymoon. You can read more about that here.

So now for the good stuff - where we want to travel! There is no real time limit to our bucket list. It's simply just a list of places we'd like to go before we die. Some we think we'll be able to do in the next couple years, whereas other we know we're going to have to save up some major cash before even contemplating purchasing plane tickets. It's all good though. We have to save some stuff for when we retire, right?

Travel Bucket List

These are just some of the places that we want to travel to. All of the images can be found on my Bucket List board on Pinterest. Some other places we want to travel to include...
  • St. Lucia
  • Panama Canal
  • Seattle, Washington
  • Tokyo, Japan
  • London, England
  • New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Vancouver, Canada
  • Richmond, Virginia
  • Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Boston, Massachusetts
The last four places are mainly places that I want to go, simply for the historical significance. But the hubby has agreed to add them to our Travel Bucket List.

But no travel bucket list can be complete without mentioning this place:

Yes, I want to be one of these people...

Ever since I heard about this place, I realized I wanted to go there. I don't care if it's out in the middle of no where. Not many people can say that they've been in four places at once!

So what about you? Have you created a travel bucket list? Or maybe just a bucket list in general? Would love to see it!


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