A Great Escape – Army Marriage Retreat and Tulip Festival!

A Weekend Trip.

More pictures of the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival below!

More pictures of the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival below!

There’s something to be said about a spontaneous weekend trip. They are random, and fun, and stress-free. So when Blair’s platoon sergeant asked him if we wanted to fill in a couple’s spot at last weekend’s marriage retreat, we jumped on the opportunity to go!

The retreat was in Bellevue, Washington – an hour North of Fort Lewis and right next to Seattle. Our hotel room was a suite with a main room, great bathroom and HUGE king bed. Breakfast, lunch and dinner were provided. And the chaplain did a great job teaching the marriage course “Couple Links”. While the classes were something completely out of our comfort zones,  we ended up loving it and feeling even closer by the end of the weekend.

So extremely blessed to have the opportunity to go – even if it was planned at last minute! Thank you, Army! 🙂

After classes, we had the chance to go out on our own. We ended up going to downtown Bellevue and seeing Place Beyond The Pines (GO SEE THIS MOVIE RIGHT NOW! – Seriously, it was so good!) and driving another hour North to the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival in the Tulip Town Mt. Vernon.

If you’re in the Army or Air Force or a civilian or just in the area this next week, take the time to go see these magical tulip fields. They are jaw-dropping and beyond stunning. Now I might be biased – tulips are my favorite – but it is one of many truly unique festivals that the beautiful Pacific Northwest has.

Jump on the chance to go see the fields soon though – the festival ends on April 30th! You and your family won’t regret it!

Lauren

P.S. Active Duty Military entry tickets to Tulip Town are only $4 a person!

P.S.S. I’ve been getting a lot of messages from fellow wives making the move up to JBLM here soon, so we have decided to do a month of PCS blog posts to happen in the month of May to help you all out! We’re excited – stay tuned!! And message me any questions you have at therealsweetheartblog@gmail.com!

Our First Year Captured

A Year.

A month from today, Blair and I have officially been married for a year. It blows my mind how quickly it’s gone by – let only how fast the last six years have flown by! So to remember our first year together and freeze our time here in Washington, we decided to have our photos taken at the beautiful Tolmie State Park by the talented Marjorie Santiago at Sugar Lilies Photography!

Blair and I have always loved looking at old photos of our parents and grandparents, and I can’t wait to have a huge collection of photos for our kids to look at and ask us about. Marjorie’s photos captured exactly what both of us were looking for. And despite it raining some (no surprise there!) and being very cold outside, she got us to laugh while we stayed snuggled close to each other to keep warm!

Below are just a few of our favorites that we wanted to share with our friends and family around the country. Enjoy!

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Marjorie is one of my all time favorite photographers, as well as someone who has become a good friend here in Washington. She’s everything a great photographer is: talented, friendly, creative and a go getter! But, I’m not going to lie, one of the best things about her is that she is a fellow Army wife! I love supporting fellow Army wives and she is definitely one that is majorly deserving of praise for her hard work and beautiful creations!

If you are in the Fort Lewis area, she’s the gal to go to for photos. She has great prices, creates beautiful photos and is always having awesome promotions (her last one was a free mini session for Easter!). To check out more of her work, visit her site here!

Lauren

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P.S. I asked Marjorie if I could use the photo to the right so I could show everyone what the part of Washington we live in looks like. Washington definitely lives up to their nickname “The Evergreen State” – they are everywhere here!

Tolmie is right by the water, and is a fun place to visit if you are up in Washington too. Such a great state park!

DIY: Ranger Beads

A.k.a. Pace Counters.
Since moving to Washington, I’ve realized that most people up here consider 50 degrees outside to be practically summer. I never understood this until recently though when the clouds split, the sun came out and the air was crisp, yet warm. It was an absolutely beautiful day and the perfect temperature to go hiking.

While I ended up staying inside doing some much needed laundry, I decided that next time the sun came out and the weather was nice that I would be prepared. So that next weekend, Blair and I made some pace counters for us to use when we do decide to go out on a hike.

To Army guys, pace counters are also known as Ranger Beads. When going out on their 4+ kilometer ruck marches, Ranger Beads help them keep track of how far they have gone and how much farther they may have to go. At a Army surplus store, these little guys can cost up to $13, where as this DIY comes out to be about $1 a piece. Talk about a bargain, right?!

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The quick explanation on how to use a pace counter goes like this: There are 1000 meters to every kilometer – so every 100 meters you walk you would slide a meter bead down to the bottom. When you get to the point that you would slide the “10th bead” down, you have gone a kilometer! So go ahead and slide 1 kilometer bead down, and reset your meter beads back to the top.

*While dependent on the length of your stride, my husband and his buddies average about 65 steps per 100 meters (1 meter bead).

**There IS NOT a 10th meter bead! But when it is time to pull that “10th bead” down, you are going to pull a kilometer bead down. So, 10th bead = 1 kilometer bead!

To make these, you’ll need:

  • 550 Chord (a.k.a. Parachute Chord) divided into 25 in. sections (remove the white inner strings to make it less bulky)
  • 13 Black Pony Beads
  • Tweezer
  • Scissor
  • Lighter
  • Ruler

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After folding a 25 inch piece of 550 chord in fold in half, make a knot about an inch down. *This will make the loop for you to be able to hang it on belt loops or ruck sacks.

  • Step 1.Then take the ends and cut them at a narrow angle. You’ll want to carefully reconnect the loose strings of each end by warming it with a lighter and pressing it firmly together with your fingers. *TIP: Make sure to not cut too much away from the ends – you’ll need all of the chord!
  • Step 2. Add the 4 kilometer beads and knot the section off. Leave enough space to slide the beads up and down and to be able to tell which ones you have slid down already! *TIP: Use the tweezers to pull the chord ends through the bead.
  • Step 3. Add the 9 meter beads. Again, leave space to be able to slide them up and down. Then finalize the whole thing off with the last knot.

*TIP: Sway the lighter under each knot as you go to tighten the knot. Since the 550 chord shrinks under heat, this will prevent the knots from ever moving!

This is one of those DIY’s that the second one is always better, so don’t worry if the first one isn’t perfect. With the cost of all the supplies being so cheap, practicing on the first one won’t make you bankrupt! I’m excited to make some for myself that aren’t so Army-ish – maybe a pink one or something like that. But in the end all I can say is that I’m really looking forward to the sun coming out one of these weekends so I can try this little guy out with Blair on one of the many Washington hiking trails nearby!

Lauren

*This post was influenced by Army Ranger Beads on instructables.com.

Howdy, Washington.

We meet again. 

Making the drive to Washington.

Life was a little different two years ago. I was at the University of Nevada, Reno, pursuing a degree in Journalism. And my now husband was across the country trying to get a job with a fire department. Being high school sweethearts, this time apart was really the first time we weren’t within a driving hour of seeing each other. It was a hard time for both of us. I took up blogging to fill the time and that’s how The Real Sweetheart started.

Then life got even busier. Blair came home and school ended and started up again for me before I could even realize where the time had gone. In January of 2012, Blair proposed at Disneyland (our favorite spot) and life was really just starting for the both of us.

Now, we are married and God has put us on a path neither of us expected to be on when we met six years ago. He’s in the Army and I’m an Army wife. We now call Fort Lewis our new home and first duty station. And we have a one-year-old puppy named Costello who keeps us on our feet along with the new adventures married life and the Army has thrown our way.

We try to constantly laugh, experience new things and thank God for all that He has done for both of us individually and as a young married couple.

I hope that you enjoy this new beginning for the blog. I’m honestly beyond excited, yet kind of nervous. Please enjoy, comment if you feel inspired to do so and send any ideas or questions my way!

Lauren

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.

-Pslams 23: 1-2