Instant Pot Chili Relleno Burrito Pie

Super Burrito.

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Hello, Beautiful!

There’s an awesome burrito place here in Reno and they serve the best Chili Relleno burrito. I mean it’s to die for… So mouth watering good. Anywho, in an attempt to save more money, Blair and I sadly turned down an opportunity to get ourselves some Super Burrito the other day. We were sad, but out of that sadness came some true genius mind gold! The birth of the Chili Relleno Burrito Pie or “cheesecake”.

Super easy, super fast. Delicious and Instant Pot worthy. Enjoy!

Here’s the easy-peasy recipe!

  • Medium sized flour tortillas *I love Tortilla Land uncooked flour tortillas, but any flour tortilla will do!
  • Cheddar-Monterey Jack cheese blend
  • Canned refried beans
  • Las Palmas whole green chilies *large can
  • Spring form pan *I use the 6-inch Fat Daddio’s pan
  • Aluminum foil
  • Instant Pot + trivet
  • Water
  1. Place tortilla on the bottom of the spring form pan
  2. Next layer about 1/4 cup of refried beans on top of the tortilla
  3. Then add about 1/4 cup of cheese blend
  4. Cut the whole green chilis in half and pat them dry to remove any extra liquid
  5. Create a flat layer of green chilies on top of the cheese
  6. Then repeat steps 1-5 until you have reached the top. Make sure not to overfill the pan.
  7. For the last layer, I decided to just use cheese and green chilies. But if you have room for beans and want some more, then go ahead and add them!
  8. Place a piece of aluminum to cover the top of the pan to prevent steam from pooling on the upper layer
  9. Add 1 cup of water to IP then place inside and cook on manual high pressure for 10 minutes. Make sure the trivet is in the IP so the pan isn’t sitting in the water. *Use the aluminum foil to make slings for the trivet to help lift the pan out. See photo below.

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    Trivet slings out of aluminum foil.

  10. Turn the steam valve on quick release after the timer goes off.
  11. Pat dry the top with a paper towel if it seems like too much steam got on top. Broil for a crispy finish.
  12. Enjoy!

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Baby Love Pinterest Inspiration.

Babies.

Apparently pinning baby stuff on Pinterest gets people talking…

I didn’t quite realize this until I went back East a couple weeks ago and was bombarded with a ton of baby questions. So, I figured I’d address these questions to the masses on here – NO, I am not pregnant. I just happen to love pinning baby stuff!

Time to calm down people… I don’t ask you if you are getting married just because I see your wedding board! Or if you’re trying to lose weight because I saw you pin a weight loss regimen! 😉

Anywho, I put a little collage together of how I imagine Baby Draper’s nursery when he or she does decide to join our family in this crazy world! These are all pins you can find on my Dreaming board on Pinterest.

Since I have always loved maps and would really like to be surprised with the sex of Baby Draper, having a map room would allow me to create a beautiful gender-neutral nursery! These are just a few of the pins I’ve been inspired by…

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So, mamas to be, how are you decorating the nursery for your lil’ one?  P.S. It’s nice to be back on the blog! I’m finally on break from school. Yippee!3name

Paleo Oven-Baked Rutabaga Fries

Rutabaga Fries.

…Are the best. No joke. I don’t think I’ll ever eat normal fries again. And the best part? Blair loved them too! Yippee!

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Yummy, Low-Carb and Healthy!

Since we started buying local organic fruit and veggies through a co-op where you buy a share or group of items for a set price, Blair and I have been challenged to try new things in new ways. This past week we found ourselves with a rutabaga on hand.

Neither of us had ever eaten this root vegetable that’s a mix between a turnip and a cabbage – so it was definitely a challenge!

You can mash them, roast them, put them in soup, and even hash brown them. We ultimately decided to make somewhat spicy garlic fries in the end – and they are delicious!

Here’s the easy Paleo recipe!

  • 1 rutabaga (will make a little more than 2 servings)
  • salt & pepper
  • minced garlic
  • paprika
  • rosemary
  • olive oil
  • cookie sheet

I didn't need any ketchup - These were perfect by themselves!

I didn’t need any ketchup – These were perfect by themselves!

  1. Preheat the oven to 425° F
  2. Wash and peel the rutabaga, just like you would a potato
  3. Remove the ends and cut the rest into small french fries size slices – Try to make the slices the same size so they cook evenly.
  4. Add a dash of salt and pepper, along with paprika, rosemary, and minced garlic – You can personalize it here!
  5. Place the slices on the cookie sheet and bake in the oven for 30 minutes, turning the “fries” halfway so both sides crisp up – Cooking times will vary depending on your oven so keep an eye on them!

While these aren’t the same as fast food fries, not only are you getting a healthy alternative, but also still able to fix any french fry craving you have! My “fries” fixed my garlic fry craving and went perfectly with my burger! They were perfect.

So… what will you put on your rutabaga fries?

Lauren

The Truth About Careers for Military Spouses by Emma

Hi everyone! Today I’m excited to introduce you to Emma from Smile as it Happens blog. She is a Career and Life Coach in the making and I’m sure she will make a great one! Below are some truths about Military Spouses making careers. If you have any advice for fellow MILSOs don’t forget to comment! – Lauren

As a military spouse, you more than likely have to shoulder more than your fair share of responsibility. You function as both mother and father to your kids when your spouse is away on deployment. You handle frequent moves with incredible grace and stamina. It seems unfair that your position as a military spouse also presents challenges with holding down a stable job. Although there are resources to help you find and maintain employment, you’ve probably heard a number of myths that serve only to discourage you. Let’s take a look at some of those myths and learn the truth about the opportunities available.

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It is possible to have it all!

Myth #1: There are no organizations to help you, as a military spouse, establish and maintain a viable career.

Truth: The National Military Spouse Network exists solely to assist military spouses with career searches and development. This organization provides military spouses with assistance in both personal and professional development, focusing on portable career skills and offering an active community of military spouses and professionals.

 *Funding through MYCAA can get you back on track with schooling too! -Lauren

Myth #2: Most employers don’t care about job seekers.

Truth: In today’s competitive job market, it pays for companies to attract the best talent possible to fill open positions. In order to do this, many employers have simplified the application process. Through the use of mobile recruiting platforms, like JIBE, these companies allow applicants to upload resumes and other documents directly from tablets, smart phones and other devices. Additionally, many companies offer work-from-home options and other perks to qualified applicants.

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Check out sites like edX and Udacity for free information and education!

Myth #3: Although you’d like to go back to school to make yourself more viable in today’s job market, you simply can’t afford it, even with a military stipend.

Truth: There are several places online where you can get free information and education. At Udacity, you can take classes in college algebra, statistics or web development, among other things. A site called edX provides a variety of classes taught by professors at some of the country’s top schools.

Myth #4: Because you’ve had several jobs throughout your career, companies will not want to hire you.

Truth: In years past, many individuals held the same job for the majority of their working life. Today, this rarely happens. Often, workers move from company to company in order to get ahead or gain new, marketable skills. Employers understand this and seldom penalize applicants for it. They will look for consistency by checking to see that you have stayed at least a year at a previous place of employment.

Emma is a mid 20-something year old with a passion for life, love, fitness, and helping others. She loves to be active and get involved in as many sport and community activities as possible. Emma is currently studying to become a Career & Life Coach, and loves to network with people from around the world! Check out Emma’s blog at http://smileasithappens.blogspot.com/!

How to Avoid Becoming Bitter in Life – For Military & Civilians

Bitterness.

I’m not really one to post things on the weekend. Typically weekends are all about Blair and me time, however the last few weeks have been different due to Blair’s squadron being on lockdown while out in the field… I originally wrote this post last Monday. I had just gotten home from school and was taking a much needed break – and this is what I wrote.

The second I got home today, I just sat on the couch thinking about life.

What exactly is bitterness?

Past memories, emotions, thoughts, feelings, actions and more flooded through my mind. And the more I thought about everything, the more bitterness started to seep into my veins and go start to my heart. It was at that point that I knew I had to stop myself from thinking such negative thoughts. In the matter of minutes, I had gone from being ecstatic about the “A” I had just gotten on my nursing test to feeling like I was stuck in the deepest of dark places…

Now, there are a lot of things that have happened in my life and relationships with others that made me become bitter at times. I’m by no means perfect… We all have been there or even are there at the moment.

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Seriously, it is time to stop bitterness from taking over our lives!

And this is what I’m going to tell you: It is time to stop bitterness from taking over our lives.

From Facebook, to Instagram, to Blogs, to School, and sadly even to Church, we, as women (and men), are constantly trying to one up each other. – Relationships, Engagements, Weddings, & Babies, Clothes, Hair, Makeup, Body Shapes, & even Cars – We are constantly publicly trying to make our life “seem” better than others’. And we are constantly NOT loving each other as brothers and sisters.

Yet, that is exactly what we need to do – love each other. Help each other. Support each other.

I know it may seem like I am ranting, but please understand I am not! I just want to explain how I got to the point today and how I eased myself out of the pool of bitterness.

So… the reason why I’m going into all of this stems from recent events in the Army. Blair was working out in the field on a “3 days on. 1 day off” ratio. Then something of extreme importance went missing. And that’s when this all started. Blair’s whole squadron was put on lockdown due to the missing item, and are on lockdown till it is found or until all means of finding it are exhausted. As crazy as that seems, I understand why the Army has to do this, and that my husband, as a soldier, has to follow those orders. But it was at the town hall meeting held a couple days later that I truly became bitter.

There were easily 50+ wives at the town hall meeting wanting answers.

When is my husband going to be home? I’m pregnant – what do I do if I go into labor? Why is my husband who works in MICO (Management Information Control Office), stuck out there when he wasn’t even in the field to begin with?

It’s that last question that got me on a roll. I instantly thought, “It’s not like your husband is more important than mine. Your husband has been out in the field all of three days. Mine has been out there for two weeks.”

It was a nasty thought – one I’m greatly saddened by and even embarrassed to admit. But I think it’s important for me to share because it is one vital step to kicking bitterness out of my life.

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“Stop and Smell the Roses” everyday.

So, I’m going to give you some tips to help combat bitterness. Be honest with yourself when reading these. And try applying them to your life. It’s not easy to do – and it shouldn’t be easy. I constantly struggle with bitterness because it is ingrained into who I am as a person. Society has taught us to be like this. Sin makes it habit. And it takes quite awhile to break habits…

Try to:

1. Recognize your expectations of others may be too high.

This is a toughie one. One that requires lots of internal digging and compromise. We all have expectations of others that we feel that they should be or act like. And, honestly, most of the time they are way too high…

2. Question any feelings of jealousy you have.

Stop and open your eyes to what’s important! We all take things for granted and become jealous when someone has something we don’t have, yet most of us have the same things right before us.

3. Be thankful.

We may not have everything, but we all should be grateful for what we do have. From the roof over our heads to even the pictures of past memories we have hanging on the walls, being grateful for the big and little things are vital.

4. Accept your flaws.

When personally attacked, I get bitter. Most of the time I don’t understand why someone might not like me. I try to be nice and friendly, so why don’t they like me? This is a huge flaw of mine and only one of my many flaws I have… Stop and truly examine yourself and the flaws you may have.

5. Pray.

I know all of you don’t pray, and I know I will probably lose a lot of you at this point, but hear me out. Prayer is powerful.

“There are many things that are essential to arriving at true peace of mind, and one of the most important is faith, which cannot be acquired without prayer.” ― John Wooden

“Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at His disposition, and listening to His voice in the depth of our hearts.” ― Mother Teresa

“The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.” ― Søren Kierkegaard

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I love this! I’m thinking this is going to inspire a future craft project!

Below is an audio clip of Mars Hill pastor Mark Driscoll hitting on the topic of ending bitterness in our lives. It is an amazing audio clip that will definitely get you thinking and even crying. Blair and I heard this months back and it literally changed our lives. It makes you question yourself. I challenge you to go listen to it. Like I said, it is life changing, so be prepared. Here’s the link – Ending Bitterness

Just know that you can pick and choose what you embrace and bring into your life and what you can let go of immediately. Fall back on yourself. Emotions are a normal part of life. You might not be able to control the environment or happenings, but what you have is what you can do with the situation. You have to be strong. And that takes practice and wisdom, my friends…

Lauren

P.S. Blair was finally able to come home on Friday. It was a huge surprise and I was beyond ecstatic! He headed back out to the field today so I will see him in just a few days. I’m grateful I had this weekend with him and am thankful he is safe here in the states. On a different note, I just wanted to say thank you to all of the men and women who are still overseas fighting. And I wanted to tell the spouses that I’m extremely proud of you all! Stay strong! We are all here for you!

Pump Up Your Box Spring – Just Add Legs to It!

Our Bed.

We FINALLY got our memory foam bed in… It took forever to get here, but all I can say is that patience is a virtue – and we definitely got to practice it while we eagerly awaited the mattress’s arrival!

Our originally idea and inspiration... Maybe someday! Either way, I can't wait to get that beautiful comforter below it on the bed!

Our original idea and inspiration… Maybe someday! Either way, I can’t wait to get that beautiful comforter below it on the bed!

Originally, I had grand ideas on what we would do for the bed frame. I wanted a beautiful solid wood platform bed so badly; I even found a free plan online and everything. But I had to stop and be practical… It didn’t make sense for us to make that right now. We are in Washington, in an apartment, and will likely be moving within the next two years or so. The more I thought about it the more it became a bad idea for us to make the platform bed. Then I was simply lost on where to go next. We had a King size bed on it’s way – just no bed frame… So, I went to Pinterest! 🙂

The next plan of attack? Simply add legs to your box spring! *Thank goodness for Pinterest!* The bummer though was that original pin went to a dead site, so it made me brain storm somewhat. I thought it would be easy – that’s usually where I run into trouble and see Blair rolling his eyes at me (lovingly, of course!) – and in the end, it was in fact quite easy. Yay for a Pinterest idea going easily! 😀

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Our bed is finally in!

We bought our box springs off of Craigslist… sounds shady, trust me I know… but I found someone who was selling their’s for only $60 still in it’s original packaging – never opened! Score! And, honestly, you’d be surprised at how many people are selling their brand new box springs on Craigslist. Most of them seem to buy platform beds and no longer need them. Just make sure they come from a smoke and pet free home!

Click on the photos below give for some more details, but basically all we did was:

  • Screw Heavy Duty Top Plates to each of the box spring’s corners. *We have a split box spring so we used eight of these.*
  • Twist the Legs into the plates. *Make sure you use sturdy legs that can hold weight. The ones we used can hold 200 lbs. each.*
  • Put your bed on top!

*If you have a King sized bed, you consider getting a block of wood to place in between the center of the two box springs to support the middle section of the bed.*

Since we were kind of rushing when we put this together, I didn’t paint or stain the legs. At the moment, it doesn’t bother me that they are unfinished, but I’ll probably paint them down the road.

In the end, it cost us around $110 to do this project and about 30 minutes from start to finish. I’m in love with it and can’t wait till Blair is home from the field to be able to enjoy it too! Until then, I’m sure I’ll try to take up the entire king size bed – if that is even possible!

The next To Do on the bed is to cover the box springs with fabric so they can’t be seen! I’m using canvas drop cloths, so stay tuned for that post!

Lauren

P.S. Check out Pretty Pegs for cute furniture legs too! They are a little bit expensive for my taste, but definitely gave me some ideas for what I could do to our’s later on!

What to Know For Homecomings

Hello all 🙂

I am writing this blog post on my flight to Little Rock! That’s right today I get to see my airman! I just saw him about 3 weeks ago, but when your airman gets back from deployment they will have all sorts of leave time available to them. They are given 2 weeks of paid leave where they must stay within so many miles of the base they are stationed at. Once those 2 weeks are up, they can then choose to use some of their leave to return home, or save it. Because of my work schedule in June, Taylor chose to save his and now we are going to be able to take quite the amazing trip together.

Tonight I land in Little Rock and tomorrow we start our drive back to Nevada together. We will be taking 3 days and stopping at places on our way. Thanks to one of Lauren’s previous blog posts I was introduced to Roadtrippers and have our whole trip planned out from start to finish! One of those stops includes the Grand Canyon, which is a little off of our route, but I am sure it will be totally worth it!

So enough about my road trip and back to business…well not really because this is a pretty exciting blog post! Today I get to write about the day your significant other COMES HOME!! It is a day neither of you will forget especially if it is a first deployment. There is nothing like the feeling of accomplishment you get when you are in the arms of your airman again!

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Again, remember Silence means Security! Keep our loved ones safe by staying hush about deployment dates and arrivals.

Again, remember Silence means Security! Keep our loved ones safe by staying hush about deployment dates and arrivals.

I went over this in my previous deployment overview post, but thought I would just recap briefly. Just like when they deploy, you won’t know when your significant other will be coming home until what seems like last minute. When Taylor left we thought he would be coming home May 15th, but once he got there they told him it would be anywhere from May 15th.  Even though this is frustrating, especially if you are trying to make travel plans, just remember it is a safety precaution taken by the Air Force to ensure the safety of your airman.

On May 3rd, Taylor called me with a for sure date of May 20th. Again, this was not information that I shared on social media. He told his mom and then I told my parents so they knew when I would be leaving. I also had to figure out work because as the Game Day Producer for a Triple A baseball team I am not exactly supposed to miss games, but I was going to have to. So, I had to take my boss aside and figure out work plans with her. Other than that though nobody else really knew when I was leaving, or when he was going to be home.
It was not until his plane landed on the flight line and I was in his arms again that I put anything on social media.

travelplans So obviously with me living in Nevada the first thing I had to figure out were my travel plans. I did not want to mess with being late on the day of his arrival, so I made my flight reservations for the 19th. This way I was there a day before he was supposed to be and would not have to worry about not being there to welcome him home. Because I was going be getting there before him I also needed to make sure I had a ride from the airport. So I got a hold of his best friend and roommate Travis, who was able to pick me up and take me back to their house.

I also planned it out so I would be there with him for the full 2 weeks of paid leave he was given. The past couple times I have gone to Little Rock he has always had to work, making doing things or going places difficult. So I knew that with all his time off it would be the perfect opportunity for us to really enjoy being in Little Rock together.

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If you are married to your deployed airman, then this is not something you will have to worry about. However, if you are not make sure you go into the general base information building outside of most main gates and get a base id the day before their return. The morning of I guarantee you there will be a line of people waiting to get base ids. So to save you time just do it the day before.

Needing a base id was another good thing about having Travis. Make sure you have someone who can take you in to get a base id. If you don’t know someone who can go in with you to get you a base id my best advice would be to call, or go in to find out what you will need to do to get one, so you can be there to welcome your significant other home!

gettingreadyMost significant others get all cute and dressed up for the return of their airman. There were significant others dressed in anything from skirts and high heels to others, like myself, in a nice pair of jeans and a cute shirt or blouse. There is really no specific way you have to dress. I chose jeans because I knew that I wanted to jump into Taylor’s arms the minute I saw him and that wouldn’t have been very easy to do in a dress! 🙂 Then there were little kids all dolled up in matching red, white and blue attire with signs welcoming their daddy’s and mommy’s home from Afghanistan. Many of the significant others had signs as well, but for me I was just keeping it simple. It was out first deployment and I was just so excited to jump in his arms that I didn’t want to have a sign to worry about. However, maybe next time I will make a sign.

Just remember, don’t feel obligated to get all dolled up and have a sign welcoming your airman home…you have just accomplished one of the hardest obstacles in a military relationship…just be there to welcome that airman of yours back home!

waitinggameThe good thing about having Travis was that I had an inside scoop on when Taylor would be landing. He went to work after picking me up from the airport and called around 7:00 a.m. to tell me that they had all been told the plane from Afghanistan would be landing early. He was able to get off work and come get me from the house.
However, you really do not need a Travis to know when your airman will be landing. They told us the plane would be landing between 9:30 and 10:00 and it ended up landing a little after 9:00. So find out an approximate landing time and then just get there early!

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Waiting for his plane to land. This is all of the people standing behind the rope they had set up that we were not allowed to go past until they stated getting off the plane.

Because I had Travis I did not really have to figure out where on base Taylor would be landing. Most of the time your significant other will land around their squadron building. If you do not know where this is, or where they will be landing find this information out the day before by calling, or going into the information office that is normally located outside the main gate.  Taylor also called me during his layover when he landed back in the states. They gave them all an idea of when the plane would take off again and how long the flight would be, so I had a bit of an idea myself when he would land in Arkansas.

Once we parked at the squadron building, we walked down to the flight line where they had breakfast items, coffee,  juice and little flags you could have to wave as the plane landed. Of course I took one because I thought it would be a neat souvenir to have from that day! 🙂

They had a rope up that you were not allowed to pass until the plane landed and the cabin door was open. Because we got there early I had a pretty good spot where I knew I would be able to see from when they began getting off the plane. When the plane lands and the doors are open they will let down the rope and everyone is free to run toward the plane and to their airman.

I knew that when they finally let down that rope it was going to get crazy. So once the plane landed, the cabin door opened and they began coming down the stairs I just walked towards the plane and as I walked I looked for Taylor. I didn’t want to run because I was worried I would totally run right past him….and anyone who knows me knows this would happen to me. When I finally saw him I began running towards him and jumped into his arms! I have never felt so relieved and happy to see him. There is seriously no feeling like it! For the first time in a little over 5 months I felt at home….in the arms of my airman.

Once again having Travis was awesome! He took pictures and got ones that I didn’t even think he would! Then we took a couple more pictures and went to go pick up his truck. Because of course he was almost as happy see it as he was to see me 😉 just kidding, but the boy seriously loves his truck. So Travis took us to his truck and then we drove to where they had told us they could get their luggage. After he had his bags and received his in processing folder the rest of the day was ours!

*Remember homecomings vary from military branch to military branch. For instance, Army homecomings are usually ceremonies where all the soldiers are in formation! – Lauren

homecomingdayThis will be different for everyone just depending on how your airman feels once they get off the plane. For us though this was a busy, busy day! Because Travis moved Taylor and himself out of the apartment and into their house while Taylor was in Afghanistan, he hadn’t seen the house yet. So, we left base and went directly to their new house. This was really good because he was able to kind of settle in and get changed before we went to lunch, which he was super excited about. He had been craving chips, salsa and a hamburger for so long and now he could finally have it all! So I took him out to lunch at Chilis and yes I paid 🙂 it felt good to feed my airman his first meal back in the states! I am pretty sure he enjoyed every last bite!

The next thing we did was go to Burlington Coat Factory where we bought him all sorts of new things for his new house. I wanted to make sure that he felt as at home as possible on his first night back. We bought new bathroom towels and a new bedding set! A new house calls for some new things!

Then we went to Verizon. Taylor was going to get a new phone before going to the desert, but they lady at Verizon told him to wait because deploying is hard on a phone. So, if your airman has a nice phone before they deploy make sure they have a really sturdy case that with keep any weather and sand out. Taylor’s Droid barely made it through deployment. By the time we had gone to lunch and shopping it had restarted at least 5 times and factory reset itself. So we spent much of our afternoon at Verizon setting Taylor up with a new phone.
If we had not already been crazy enough we then decided to go and have my ring checked. It was due for its first cleaning and in order to keep the insurance I need to have it checked and cleaned every 6 months. So we went to the jeweler and got that all taken care of.
We got a lot accomplished in that first day he was back, but it actually worked out really well because we had the rest of the week to just enjoy ourselves and being back together again.



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The day after your significant other comes back from deployment they will need to go in for in processing and get all sorts of check ups done to make sure they have come back from the desert healthy.

This takes just about all morning, so don’t make any plans for most of the day after your airman returns.

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Well that is pretty much it! What you do the day your significant other returns is really all up to you and your airman. Like I said it will be different for everyone. Just enjoy every second you have with each other and never take a day together for granted.

You are now a deployment champ and believe me after this I am pretty sure you will be able to conquer anything else the life of being a military significant other has to throw your way! It is not easy, but it is possible to get through. Always remember that each passing day is just one day closer to being in your significant others arms again!

This is it for me in this June series about becoming a deployment champ! I hope I have given you some insight and helpful hints to guide you along the way!

You may hear from me again later down the road, but if you ever need anything or have questions feel free to find me on Facebook! I have been through a lot with my airman and like helping others and giving any advice I can!

Together we can all get through anything! 🙂

Kaitlin Haugen

How to Make a Care Package + Some Cute Ideas!

Hello! This post is all about care packages and what you’ll need!

These were seriously so fun to make and I loved putting them together for Taylor. I would try to make them as great as I could and would put a personal touch on all of them to make them special for him!

Care packages can be anywhere from really basic to really extravagant. Because I was a full time student, whenever I had a chance to send a package I would always try to make it as extravagant as I could.

Care packages took exactly a week if not a day or two less to make it to Afghanistan from Reno, Nevada. The best thing to do to find out how long your packages will take is to go to your local post office and ask them!

Things you will need from the post office: 

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Care Package and the white forms.

All these items are absolutely free! 

You will need to get a large flat rate box. When I was sending care packages they were $16 and because I was sending it to an APO address (overseas military base, which could also be FPO or DPO) I was given $2 off—score! You can fit a lot in a large flat rate box so don’t be fooled by how small it may appear. The only thing you have to make sure of is that your box is not over 50 pounds. Once it bounces over 50 pounds they will ask you to take some stuff out of the box. Then you can decide whether you want to pack it in another box, or just wait to send it in the next care package. However, it is hard to reach that 50 mark. I think the heaviest one of mine was almost 20 pounds and that was because I packed a cake in a Kerr jar.

* The address label to stick on the box. The first time I sent a care package Taylor’s mom and I didn’t get this sticker and they just gave it to us when we brought the package to the post office, but the next couple times I sent a care package I asked if I could have the sticker. I liked getting it all done before getting to the post office to save time.

* You will also need to get the white customs forms. To make sure you get the right forms just ask them for the ones that are for sending care packages to your deployed significant other. I always had them give me a lot of these forms because you have to list every item that you are packing in the care package along with how much it weighs. These forms take a lot of time to fill out, so I would always do them before going to the post office.

The first time I tried to fill out this form with Taylor’s mom, she and I were reading the instructions that come with the form and we were completely confused on how to put in the address because it is different than a normal address. The link below will take you to the website that specifically shows you how to fill it out. This was a huge help for me and cleared up all the confusion I had!

http://www.skipcares.org/228/care-packages/customs-form/

When you take care packages to the post office they will weigh them and go through everything in your form to make sure you are not sending anything you are not supposed to like weapons and alcohol. So it takes some time. This is why I like to have all the forms and the sticker for the front of the care package filled out before even getting to the post office. There is also less room for error if you take the time to do them at home.

Taylor’s Care Packages 

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Valentine’s Day Care Package!

The first care package Taylor’s mom and I sent to him wasn’t until we knew he was in Afghanistan. We waited until he told us that he was there because we didn’t want the package to beat him there. Your significant other deploys on a certain date, but that does not mean they will be to the base they are going to overseas that day. It takes a few days for them to actually get there. So wait to send anything until you know for a fact they are there.

We really didn’t send much of anything in this first care package…because we really didn’t know what to send. So, we sent him his favorite candy, snacks, magazines and a roll of Copenhagen. Tobacco products are more expensive overseas and they are not good quality, so if your significant other smokes or chews you may want to consider sending them a couple packs, or a roll in every care package you send. I never really had to worry about this because his parents would send him care packages and his dad would always make sure to pack a roll of Copenhagen, so I would just send a can or two in mine.

The second care package I sent was a Valentines Day themed package. I did the 14 days of Valentines Day and had a present for every day leading up to February 14th.  I wrote a letter explaining that he was allowed to open one present every day and I numbered each present so he knew what order to open them in. Then there was a letter to go with every gift, which explained why I got him the gift and then wrote something cute and cheesy about the gift and what it represented in our relationship. There were 14 presents and 14 letters. The first present I had him open was homemade Rice Krispies, which sent really well! I got a Ziplock tupperware from Walmart that I wouldn’t care if he just threw away in Afghanistan. I got one that was small enough to fit in the large flat rate box, but big enough to fit enough Rice Krispies in. I then put a sheet of wax paper between each layer of Rice Krispies and Taylor said they were still perfect and chewy by the time they got to him, which I was glad to hear because I was not sure how well they were going to send.

I also sent him a can of Copenhagen, gum, a hand warmer, Chapstick, a blender ball (which he wanted to mix his workout shakes), toothbrushes, peanut m&m’s, Kit Kats, an iPod charger, and his big Valentines present was a photo book I made on Shutterfly of every year leading up to the day he deployed. I combined all of our best pictures from each year into a book and wrote little blurbs about every year. It turned out really great and it was something I knew he would really enjoy. There were other presents too, but I just can’t remember them all!

The next and final care package I sent him was his birthday one. Taylor turned 21 in Afghanistan and I wanted to make sure it was as special as possible. He had about a month left there and so I wanted to send things that I knew he would like and be able to use or eat in that time. I sent him cashews, almonds, beef jerky, pop tarts, peanut m&m’s, Copenhagen, buffalo wing pretzels, birthday cake Oreos, and some other snacks. Then I also made him a cake in a jar, which is super easy and sends really well! I saw it on Pinterest and made one for a friend for her birthday and knew it could be something I could send Taylor in a care package.

The link on how to make a cake in a jar is below:

http://www.babble.com/best-recipes/rainbow-cake-in-a-jar/

You don’t have to make it a rainbow cake you can use whatever kind of cake you want! Then I didn’t send frosting, but if you wanted to I would recommend buying the frosting in those small tubs at the store and packing one of those.

Decorating the Inside of Care Packages: 

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Taylor’s Birthday Care Package!

Taylor’s mom and I did not decorate the inside of his first box, but after seeing all the neat things people have done with care packages on Pinterest I knew that I wanted to do something more on the next ones I sent.

In his Valentines Day box, I wrapped all the presents in red wrapping paper and then bought stickers, tissue paper and construction paper to decorate the inside of the box. I also printed out some pictures, which I just scotch taped to the inside of the box because I knew that Taylor would want to keep them, but not the whole box.

I did the same thing for his birthday box and bought birthday decorations to decorate the box. I also bought a bag of confetti and pretty much confetti blasted the box, but he thought it was fun and I was glad because I wanted him to feel like it was his birthday. Then instead of wrapping everything in this box, I just put tissue paper in the little to no space that was left.

The best place to buy decorations for care packages is Dollar Tree or whatever dollar store you have in your area. These decorations do not have to be top notch. Your significant other is going to get the care package, take all the goodies out of it and then  throw the box away, so don’t waste your money on the things you don’t have to. Buying cheap tissue paper, stickers and confetti allowed me to be able to buy him more goodies for his care packages.

Care Package Wrap Up

I really thought that I was going to go off of what I had seen on Pinterest, which by the way is an awesome place to start! However, I ended up really getting creative and making each box have a little personal touch of my own. You are sending these to your significant other, so use Pinterest to get some ideas and then put your own creative, personal spin on them!

As far as knowing what to pack you really need to ask your significant other what things they would like to have. Taylor’s mom would send him lots of candy, so he always asked me for more snack type foods, which is why I started sending him almonds, pop tarts, jerky and cashews. Then his dad sent him tuna packets, which he really liked just in case there was a day or night he didn’t feel like going to get food. Snacks like those are perfect to send!

You can also send things like shampoo, conditioner, body wash, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and deodorant. It is really all up to your significant other’s preference. Taylor was fine with just running and getting that stuff on base, so I never really had to send anything like that….except toothbrushes because he complained about how terrible the ones were that they sold there, so I sent him some nice Oral-B ones.

Some other good ideas are things like iTunes and Amazon gift cards, or other cards they can use to buy things online while they are overseas. Because hey have Wi-Fi they are able to shop online and have things delivered to them. So, if you have family or friends who want to send them something, but don’t know what have them get them gift cards for iTunes, Amazon, or even regular Visa gift cards that they can use to purchase things online.

Care Packages from Tay

cakepops

St. Patrick’s Day cake pops Taylor sent me!

You are not the only one who can send things. Your significant other can order things online, or buy you things at the base they are stationed at that they can send you. While Taylor was deployed I got a few packages from him. He bought me a pair of Dre Beat ear buds that he found on base and mailed to me. He sent me a quilted deployment heart wreath along with a bouquet of flowers for Valentines Day. Then for St. Patrick’s Day he sent me some cake pops. It was really neat to get things from him as well because it felt even more like we were really connected even though we were a whole world apart.

Kaitlin

Deployment Communication

Hello again all!

Oh how I am so very excited for this post!! Communication is so important during a deployment. For Taylor and I, we are used to making sure we call and Skype each other as much as we can. So making sure this continued throughout his deployment was not that big of a change for us. However, for those of you who live with your significant other you may have a harder time adjusting. So I hope these helpful tips can make it as easy for you as possible!

communicationOnce your significant other is out of the United States their phone will not work unless they go to their service provider and pay for overseas service. Know that this is expensive and so NOT worth it with the other technology available to us today.

They have access to Wi-Fi overseas, so communicating is not as hard as it may seem. They can use every mean of social media and video chatting available and even play certain app games with you like Words with Friends or Draw Something.

*Understand the Time Difference*

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The flowers I got for Valentines Day and the Skype date we had.

There is quite a big time difference between places overseas and the United States. This is one of the first things I wanted to figure out, so I knew how different our days would be. There is a 12 and a half hour difference between Nevada and Bagram, which was quite the difference. However, it worked out pretty great for us because Taylor would be going to work right as I was getting into bed.

Once you find out where your significant other will be overseas figure out what the time difference is going to be. It will make communicating easier if you know what time it is there in relation to what time it is where you are.

callsHere is where you will need to look at apps before your significant other leaves. The one that I heard is the best is called Viber. However, this app needs to be downloaded in the United States and Taylor and I didn’t find out about it until he was already in Afghanistan. So he downloaded an app called Magic Jack that gave him a new number while he was deployed, which allowed him to call me. I did not need the app for it to work. He would just call my regular phone number from a different number that the app gave him and we would be able to talk on the phone. Because it was a random number I saved it in my contacts as Taylor Desert. He would call me whenever he had a chance. I normally never called him, but that is because I was never sure if he was sleeping or working because of the time difference!

Both of these calling apps are absolutely free and will not affect either of your cell phone bills.

firstskype

The first night we were able to Skype!

Whatever your means of video chatting is, it is important to see your airman face to face while they are there—it always made me feel better. I would think that messenger and the calls were enough, but there was nothing like the feeling I would get after seeing him on Skype! For those of you who do not have iPhones with FaceTime there is a Skype app, which is what Taylor and I used because he had a Droid. It was nice to have Skype on the go, so that he could be apart of things he thought he would miss. One night I was at a basketball game with his mom watching his sisters cheer and because I had Skype on my phone he was able to get to see them cheer for a while. It meant a lot to him and even more to his sisters!

Be sure to make time to video chat with your significant other while they are deployed because it will make both of you feel so much better just to see each other’s face!

facebook

Facebook is a great way for family and friends to communicate with your significant other. Taylor’s parents and sisters would write on his wall, along with my family and his friends. Then his grandma would write him a note on his wall every single night. It is a really good way for those who don’t get to talk with him on the phone, to communicate with him. He was busy and when he would get a chance to call it was not for a long period of time, so he would just call me and update me on his day and would message me whenever he would have Wi-Fi. So, for his family and friends who did not have that communication with him his Facebook page was a good place to get a hold of him because he would comment back whenever he would have a chance.

Facebook Messenger: Taylor and I used Facebook messenger as our texting. We both downloaded the messenger app to our phones so we didn’t have to go to Facebook every time we had a message from one another. I would get good morning and good night messages from him and we would message throughout the day about what we were up to and how each other’s days were going. We totally used it just like we do texting and that was our daily means of communication. It was really nice to have because even if we didn’t get a chance to Skype or talk over the phone we were still able to talk to each other through messenger every single day he was deployed. It was really nice to have and something I strongly recommend!

lettersI did not send a lot of letters like I thought I was going to. I bought a notebook and pens with the intention of writing a letter every day, but they took so long to get there.

Taylor’s address was in his deployment packet, so the day he told me he was in Afghanistan I sent a letter. Then the very next day I went to his house and his mom and I put together a care package and sent it. The care package got there a week from the day we sent it and the letter was there 4-5 days later. Because letters took so long to get there I got discouraged and was really bad at sending them. I also felt very spoiled by messenger because I had a way to talk to him everyday making writing letters difficult because I didn’t know what to write that I hadn’t already told him. So, I did not send a lot of letters, but it is still a really personal way to communicate and they are neat to have and keep forever.

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His Birthday Care Package!

Care packages can be anywhere from really basic to really extravagant. Because I was a full time student, whenever I had a chance to send a package I would always try to make it as extravagant as I could.

Care packages took exactly a week if not a day or two less to make it to Afghanistan from Reno, Nevada. The best thing to do to find out how long your packages will take is to go to your local post office and ask them!

Tomorrow will be a post on what you’ll need from the post office, plus some ideas to get you started!

So there you have it! These are the basics to communicating with your significant other while they are deployed and the different ways it is possible. Like I said for those of you who are already in a long distance relationship this will not be too different from what you have already been doing. Don’t get me wrong it is still hard. I was not used to having to wait to get a hold of Tay because he was sleeping while I was up, or because he was on the flight line with no Wi-Fi. It was weird not being able to call or message him at any hour of the day and have him answer or reply right away. Sometimes it would be hours before I would hear back from him, but it is something that I got used to.

If you have been living with your significant other and have been able to see and talk to them everyday then this will definitely be a little more difficult for you to get used to. Just remember that it is not forever, it is just temporary and that if you make sure to communicate as much as possible then the time will fly by and before you know it they will be back in your arms again!

Communication is so important because it really makes you feel less like you are a whole world apart from your airman. It will help you get through everyday if you get those good morning and good night messages from them, hear their voice and see their face. It will also help them! Don’t let the fact that the communication is different stop you from taking advantage of all the great ways of staying connected we have now!

Next week will be my last full post in this series and will be one of my favorites because it is all about the day Taylor came home! I will go over what needs to be done before, the day of and the days after your airman returns home!

Until then!

Kaitlin