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Letter to my 45 year old self…

Hello everyone!!I’ve been hearing a lot lately about people writing letters to themselves. You can open it up a year from now or 5 years from now or even 10 years from now. The letter should be something uplifting for your older self. Something you think you might need to hear at that time. I wish I could write a letter to my younger self and have my younger self read it and learn from my older self, but I just haven’t found a way to do that yet. 😉 So until then, this will have to do. I think I know what my older self will need to hear in a year so I’ll try for something like this…Dear Charlene,Read this when you are 45.So here you are, 45 years old and you’re wondering where the time has gone. Please don’t sell yourself short. You have accomplished so much in your lifetime more than you know even though it doesn’t seem like you have. You have lived in 5 states, been married 3 X, divorced twice,have a beautiful 8 year old and a beautiful 6 year old. By now you probably have your real estate license, and you’re helping your husband run a business. It might be starting out slow or you could already be very successful, but what you need to realize is that you are already successful. Having and caring for your children is a success. Providing for them is a success. Taking care of your husband and your family is a success. People need to realize that we need to celebrate the small successes and realize that is what matters in this life. You might also be working a full-time job and that could be taking away from the family. Just remember it’s temporary. Nothing lasts forever. You might be missing your family as well. Just know that they are always thinking of you, and always pulling for you and in your corner. Even though it might not seem like it at times. Be strong.Hopefully the business is booming, and you are looking for your forever home. As soon as you get this forever home I think you should get a puppy. Or even a kitty. Animals fill a void nothing else can. I know there is an empty spot in your heart that Hunny has left. She was the best dog ever. I know you are skeptical if you will find a pet that is as special as she was, but I know you will because most dogs and cats are pretty special. God will be looking out for you and he will match you with one that needs a home just as much as you want to give one to him or her.I’m pretty sure you also went back to school, most likely for general education. Keep your eye on the prize and realize that this is something you were always meant to do. Teaching others, guiding them, inspiring them to do their very best and becoming who they need to be. This is how you will make a difference in the world.Be the change you want to see.I have to go now spend time with your 7 year son and your 5 year daughter. I think some Play-Doh is on the agenda. Remember they are only little for a little while. Enjoy them and their sweetness and innocence.Love your 44 year old self!CharleneI encourage you all to write letters to your future self encourage them, and congratulate them. This life is pretty tough but we should be easy on ourselves, always. Xoxo

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cooking, Dinners, food, Recipes

Macaroni Grill Copycat Pasta Pomodoro Yummmm

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Here is how I made this awesome, beautiful copycat version of Macaroni Grill’s Pasta Pomodoro. This dish only has 5 ingredients! It would be amazing and very impressive for a date night. Pair this with a simple salad like a Cesar and some crusty french bread and you just can’t top it. A nice Chianti or red wine would pair nicely with this rich, red sauce.  It’s my go to pasta dish when I want something quick and semi healthy! 😉

So here we go:

Pasta Pomodoro
Ingredients:
4-6 fresh tomatoes, chopped (I used 4 small campari tomatoes and 1 heirloom)
2 Tablespoons of fresh garlic, chopped (or less if you’re not a fan)
1 small bunch of fresh basil, chiffonade
1/4 cup of your favorite marinara or tomato sauce
1/2 – 1 pound Angel Hair Pasta
Other pantry ingredients: good olive oil, kosher salt or any sea salt

Start a pot of boiling water for the pasta and while that’s going, start on your sauce.

Start with your pan on medium heat and add about 2 Tablespoons of the olive oil. Also add the garlic at this time and WATCH it. Stir often and watch it soften for just about a minute or less. You do NOT want to brown it. Browned garlic is bitter and not good.

The garlic will infuse the oil and it will make this dish YUM! After about 30 seconds to 1 minute swirling the garlic around, add the tomatoes. You can stir occasionally. We are just trying to infuse the tomatoes with the garlic oil and break them down a little so they are soft and flavorful.

After about 5 -8 minutes you can add the marinara/tomato sauce. This helps the sauce to have a richer flavor.  If the tomatoes look like they are drying quickly, turn your heat down and add the sauce sooner. I personally LOVE the Victoria Trading Company Marinara Sauce Old World Style. This is an AMAZING sauce! If you haven’t tried it, I highly recommend it! Here’s a picture:

Victoria Marinara Sauce Old World Style

After adding the sauce, you can add 1/2 of the basil so those flavors can meld together. Add the pasta to your boiling water and after about 7 minutes it should be al dente. Use tongs to add the pasta to your sauce and toss. Also at this point you can taste your sauce to see if it needs any salt.  Top and mix with the rest of the fresh basil. (Optional: add some fresh grated Parmesan or pass it at the table) – I don’t think it needs it, but hey, if you like it that way, go for it!

Serve with your side of salad and a warm french bread! This is also a terrific side dish for Chicken Marsala or Chicken Piccata.

This takes me back to when my sister and I would go to the Macaroni Grill for lunches and get the 1/2 and 1/2. I think my recipe is pretty darn close to the real thing!

I hope you enjoy it and please give me a shoutout or comment if you try it!

Happy Cooking & Mangia!

Charlene

 

 

 

 

Breakfast/Brunch, cooking, food, Recipes

Fig, Arugula & Carmelized Onion Flatbread Recipe

Hi my Lovlies!

I got these beauties at the Farmer’s Market, as you can see from my below post. If you are lucky enough to find figs, I would suggest a Fig, Caramelized Onion, Arugula & Feta Flatbread!  With homemade flatbread of course! Here are the recipes that I used…and if you don’t like arugula, use spinach! If you don’t like feta, use brie! You can customize it however you like!

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I stumbled upon this lovely flatbread recipe that worked great in the oven!  – If you don’t have Pinterest, here is a link to her recipe on her blog.

Once I rested the dough, I floured a surface and rolled it out. I cut it into wedges as shown here and put it on my lightly oiled Pampered Chef Large Bar Pan. You can rise it again since it is a yeast dough, but I wanted it pretty flat and I knew it would puff a little in the oven. I flipped it halfway through baking. I believe I used 350 degrees for about 10 minutes a side. Times and ovens vary, so I would just experiment with it.

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While my dough was cooking in the oven, I was sauteing my sliced onions in a little butter until they were very soft, then I added a pinch of salt and continued until they were nice and caramelized! At the same time I also roasted the figs. To prepare those, I sliced them at about 1/4″, lightly oiled a baking sheet, then topped with a little more olive oil, honey and a sprinkle of brown sugar.

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After that I assembled the ingredients back on the flatbread and popped them back into the oven for about 10-15 minutes. Just until the cheese was melted and the ingredients melded together.

Here’s how I topped them: I brushed them with a good Lebanese olive oil, sprinkled with feta cheese, layered on the onions, then the sliced figs, fresh arugula and then more feta. I left a couple pieces of flatbread plain for the kiddos. (they LOVED it)

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Here are slices of my amazing, delicious finished flatbread! I loved the savory of the onions and arugula with the sweetness of the figs. The cheese was mild and brought it all together! I shared this as kind of an appetizer with my mom friends while our kids played at our apartment complex park. They raved about this! A couple of them are borderline vegans, so it was divine for them. You could even drizzle a little truffle oil on top to be extra decadent! ❤

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Hope you give this a try and love it as much as we did!!

Happy cooking!

food, Food Review, kids

Roseville Farmers Market

Hi y’all!

Today I went to the farmer’s market with the kids. It’s a cute little farmers market in Roseville and they do it in the Whole Foods parking lot. I haven’t been to this particular one in probably 8 years but not much has changed.

The vendor that sells the stuffed Paratha and Chutney is still there! And it’s as good as I remember. A large piece of spinach paratha was $6 and an 8 oz container of cilantro chutney was also $6. I find this very reasonable as it is very delicious! They sell different kinds of paratha, samosas, naan and different chutneys.

The first thing that the kids saw was the kettle corn so of course we had to buy a small bag of that. It’s a decent sized bag probably about 20 oz. It’s a perfect balance of sweet and salty and was $6.

Next up we saw olives that looks pretty good, and were in a salt water brine but a little too pricey for me, one jar of Kalamata olives was $12.

The kids were thirsty at this point but they left their bottled waters in the car. If you do go to a farmers market I highly recommend you bring your own drink not many of them served water or have drinks for kids. Although next up we did see a boba tea vendor who was also selling pork buns potstickers and other Asian food items. I purchased a boba milk tea for me, the kids tried a sip but did not care for it. I thought it was very well made and was only $4, very reasonable.

The pork bun was not a BBQ pork bun which is more of a traditional dim sum, and what I was expecting. The steamed white bun was tasty however inside was a pork filling that was very similar to a potsticker filling. Not what I was expecting although it was tasty. I probably would not buy it again because my idea of a pork bun would be the traditional Chinese cha siu bao. It was also overpriced! It was $3! Normally for Chinese dim sum, it’s about $3 or $4 for 3 buns.

Next up were the cookies. I was very surprised to see that the package said they were made in a home kitchen. When I researched farmers markets before they had told me everything food- consumable had to be prepared in a commercial kitchen. I guess they made some changes in 8 years.

The cookies were from Foresthill Cookie Company, and they were $2.50 each or there was some deal if you bought about six cookies. Considering they were so big, a very large cookie I only wanted to buy two for my kids. My kids sampled them and my son decided on the birthday cake cookie. My daughter wanted the Oreo, chocolate cookie which was called the Oreo dirt clod cookie LOL. It also looked similar to that. These cookies tasted like pure sugar. Not much flavor, in fact it just tasted like a big sugar cookie to me. If I close my eyes and take a bite of each they taste pretty much the same. The owner was friendly and my kids were happy to get a cookie.

Next up where the fruits and vegetables. I usually like to buy something different or unusual at a farmers market. And the next and that I went to had figs and immediately I thought the recent Instagram Picture by Jennifer Garner where she was roasting figs with a balsamic glaze and goat cheese. It looked amazing however I’m not a big fan of anything goat related. However I am a fan of flatbreads so I am seeing a fig, caramelized onion and feta cheese flatbread in my future for dinner tonight. I saw a recipe on Pinterest so if I do make that I will come back to this and Link it for you. I have some naan in my freezer but I’m going to probably make just a simple traditional flatbread.

The ladies that were selling the figs also had some yummy looking cherries. They told me if I purchased two containers I could get the third for $2. Seemed like a good deal. My son picked out the red traditional cherries oh, and I got the figs and cucumbers. About eight mini cucumbers, half of which were a little too bendy for me and did not seem crisp. However I think if I use them right away in the next couple of days, maybe do a cucumber salad, I think they will be okay.

I would have purchased more but at this point I was at almost $50 and surprised that I spent so much money.

Lastly I picked up two small artichokes for $1.50 each. A little high-priced but I think a very nice size for me and the kids. I think I will cut them in half, use a little olive oil, salt and pepper and grill them.

I will post some pictures of my creations and links to the recipes when I’m done. I hope you return to check out what I make with our farmers market finds!

Have a great day!

Flowers, Gardening, Living, Parenting, Sophia

Apartment Patio Gardening – Planting Flowers & Herbs

Sophie was my little helper this morning planting some herbs and flowers on our patio. We have a lovely shaded patio that only gets evening sun for a couple of hours. I wasn’t sure what to plant so I headed to our neighborhood Lowe’s and asked a garden representative what would work best for our shaded patio. I knew that I wanted to have a few herbs that I use quite a bit such as basil and thyme, but I wasn’t sure what else would do well.

The gentleman there didn’t seem very confident, however he pointed me in the direction of the shaded section of the nursery. He said that anything under there would grow well in the shade. I told him that it doesn’t really get much sun, maybe two to three hours in the late evening. I was worried because some of the tags said 1-3 hours morning sun and 6 hours of full sun. He assured me they would still do well.

We found a pretty plant called Coleus, a flowering plant called sunpatiens I’m assuming of the impatiens family, and another flowering plant called a red celosia. My daughter help me make a “flower bed” in each pot with the new potting soil, then we set in the plants and gently covered them with more soil.

The six plants, 1 rectangle plastic pot, one bag of potting soil and 3 pack of gloves was $43 with our military discount.

Not too bad for some quality time with Sophie, some pretty scenery, and some fresh herbs for cooking! Some of my favorite summer things to make are Caprese salad, Margherita pizza, fresh pesto, and using thyme for roasted carrots and my simple everyday vinaigrette. (Stay tuned for recipes to come!)

Sunpatiens and herbs; thyme, sweet basil and chocolate mint!: (planted the chocolate mint just for fun, I love the smell!)

Coleus:

Red Celosia:

Thanks for stopping by! Hope this helps you with your patio planting!!! Xoxo

Family, Life, Living, Writing

Will I Ever Be Good Enough…?

A friend of mine recently posted a meme with a question…

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There comes a point when you have to realize that you’ll never be good enough for some people. The question is, is that your problem or theirs? 

I have thought of this MANY, MANY times myself. It’s time I answer this for me too my friend. However, before I answer this with the quick rebuttal of , ” Theirs. You just be good enough for yourself. That’s all that matters. 💯 true to you. Period, the end.”

I have two questions that come to mind when asked the above question. Number 1 is when it comes down to it, why are you worried if you are good enough for “some people”? And Number two, why are you worried about whose problem it is, if it is anyone’s at all? Now, let me answer these in my own professional opinion. Because it matters.  😉

If you are worried about #1, this would be insecurity. I have some, I admit. I have a lot when it comes to family. Ever since I was little. Did I do it right? Did I do it as good as my big sister and my big brother? Am I as smart as them? Are my parents as proud of me as they are of them? I lived my life the way I wanted to and not the way they would have done it. I took the road less traveled, several times. I made mistakes. I still make mistakes.  I made sacrifices. I made a life that I have to live in. Of course I will always wonder these questions.  I finally realize that I must move on from this. The constant wondering, the constant worrying. It isn’t good for my well-being, my soul. I have tortured myself long enough and have been hard on myself for too long. Why couldn’t I be more like my older siblings? They have their crap together. They seem to,  “have it all”.  I am almost 44 years old and I don’t feel like I have my “crap together”. I did at one point in my life. ONE TIME. I felt like I “had it all”. The house, car, family life, job, living the “dream”. Did I ever hear a “We are so proud of you?” or a “Wow, you are doing really well for yourself?” No, no I did not. I think I heard a “hmm well guess you have everything now huh?” – Nothing changed but the way of MY OWN THINKING. I thought to myself, I’ll do really, really well for myself, then they will be proud of me, then they will say atta girl.  I think that is what I was looking for. Validation. Validation that I was living my life the way that THEY think I should be living it. So the point of that is, well, I should live my life the way I want to because it doesn’t matter what “they” think. If I keep worrying how I am living my life according to their standards, I will always be thinking, “am I good enough”. I have to stop. Stop beating myself up. I don’t HAVE to be like them. I don’t HAVE to feel like I’m not good enough. I need to be ME, do ME. Do whatever the heck I want in my crazy, not-so-perfect life. I live with the choices, the outcomes. Does that hurt them inside? Maybe, but if they are the family that they should be, they will always, always be supportive. They would always say, do what makes YOU happy Charlene, even though they might be thinking “even though that is not what I would do”. What if they don’t say that? Then you move on. You chalk it up to they are not “that” family. They are them, and that’s ok. You be YOU. 

Let’s dissect the question a little bit more. What people? You say “some people”. Do you mean friends? Family? Or just random people? Or guys/girls? Again, you know what? Stop worrying about those “some people”. I have to tell myself this, in fact, I will right now. Charlene – don’t you pay any attention to “those people”. Why would we waste our precious time, our precious breath with one iota of a thought or word towards these negative, hurtful people. Although, maybe they are not negative or hurtful? Maybe they never voice much to you, but you still have these thoughts about “am I good enough”. I honestly think, if I …or you, have to ask, maybe you shouldn’t hang around these people. Don’t put yourself in a position where you have to be near them. Find new friends, find a new tribe. Find your people, because they are probably not it.

Number 2 – Why does it have to be their problem or yours? Or anyone’s? It’s a way of thinking, you think you’re not good enough. Well, I’m here to tell you, you ARE good enough. God made you beautiful, important, unique. You are one of a kind. You are His. You are special and terrific. You matter. You may dance to the beat of your own drum and you know what? That is OK. If anyone thinks you are not good enough, then who cares? That is their opinion and we all know that opinions are like a**holes, everyone has one. HA!  (sorry I had to say that) What I really mean is that everyone is entitled to their own opinion. And my opinion is that you are AMAZING. I’m amazing. You know why? Because out of the 7.7 billion people on this earth God made you, and me. That’s pretty special don’t you think? We all have our unique qualities, quirks and qualms. That is what makes us, well us.

Image result for quote about God creating you

That’s right, His image. Also, what does that say? He looks “past your mistakes”. That is pretty nifty right there. Does your family, or friends or “those people” do that? Why wouldn’t they? Don’t they think you are perfect just the way you are? Stop thinking of what they think of you. God says you are a masterpiece. For those of you that would like more detail on that… masterpiece: “a work of outstanding artistry, skill, or workmanship”. So there you have it.

I have finally answered the burning questions of am I good enough or did I do it right. Yes I am and it doesn’t matter. What is right or wrong? I did it the way I wanted to. I got that tattoo of my son’s foot, I have to live with it. It’s mine and I rather like it. I lived in and sold 4 houses and have not really “settled down”. Those were my choices. Wrong or right, it does not matter. Maybe all of these decisions are leading me to the life I have always wanted and dreamed of. Maybe they are leading me to somewhere better, somewhere I need to be. Maybe not physically, but mentally.

Am I happy, yes. I finally choose to be. Do I have everything I want, no. Do I have everything I need, yes. Is my life “perfect”, not at all. Is it “good enough” for me, yes. If it’s not and that answer is no, I’ll be the one to change it. I’ll change it when I want to, when the time is right and when it works for me. Or I will at least I will work on it the best way I know how. My way. It might not be “some people’s” way or “some people’s” thoughts of how you should do it, but that’s ok. Do it your way, do you.

 

I really, really hope this has helped you. Shoot, it helped me.

xoxo

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crafting, kids, Mom Life

Forky Kids Craft – Toy Story 4 “Forky” Toy

Hello Again Ya’ll! Happy Friday! Am I Southern? No, but I just love saying Ya’ll. It sounds so much better than “you guys”. 😉

So the other day my kids got a spork in their school lunch and didn’t use it. So, immediately I thought, oh my gosh, we could make Forky! Ok, most of you moms are like, “Wow! She’s so crafty!” and the rest of you are probably like “What the heck is a “Forky”? or what the heck is a spork? haha 🙂 Well, a spork is a cross between a fork and a spoon. It’s to be used for either purpose and to save on having several utensils.  A “Forky” is one of the new characters in Toy Story 4 if you didn’t know. Don’t worry, no spoilers here. Just some good, clean crafting! Funny thing is they have a kit you can buy to make your own “Forky”. I saw it on a You Tube video and then saw it online at Michael’s which is around $14, but I again was able to find what I needed in our craft tote to make these little guys for free!20190614_2306188889450931147566309.jpg

So let’s get started…here is what you will need:

1 spork
Red, white and blue clay or you can use wax sticks (and instead of clay, you could use salt dough!)
2 googly eyes (small and an extra small one)
1 red pipe cleaner
1 large Popsicle stick

  1. Take your clay and roll it into the shapes for the eyebrow (unibrow) haha and the mouth. The other style of mouth can be a circle, but my kids preferred a smile. If you don’t have the clay, you can use salt dough and color it with food coloring.
  2. Next glue those 2 on with strong adhesive. I used the Tombow glue in the green/white bottle but the E6000 craft glue would work great.
  3. Glue on the 2 eyes.
  4. Next take the red pipe cleaner and bend the ends back and forth to make 3 fingers on each side. Then wrap it around the spork body a couple of times so it is secure.
  5. Then cut the Popsicle stick (tongue depressor) in half, trim as necessary. Mine were 2″ long each.
  6. Take the white clay/dough and make a little volcano shape and stick the spork in it.
  7. Stick the Popsicle sticks to the clay, glue if desired.
  8. If you want, draw on a rainbow just like Bonnie had on her Forky. You can also color the cheeks red then wipe to show a little pink. We did not do that step.

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That’s it! Your kids will have their very own “Forky” and LOVE it!!! Mine did!

I hope you enjoy this tutorial and pictures! Let me know in the comments below if you do!

Happy Crafting!

Charlene

Crafting, kids, Mom Life, Parenting

Clothespin Alligator Craft

Hi Ya’ll!

One thing I’m doing this summer to keep the kiddos busy is having a craft day!…Or two or three or four 😉 You may have heard of “Make it Monday” or “Try it Tuesday”? Well that’s what we do on those days. Mondays we make something and Tuesdays we try something. I have a whole list of projects and fun things to do with my 5 and 7 year old. Wow. Are they really that old?? Gone are the days of finger painting and water table fun. Now it is on to bigger and messier things like making slime, bath bombs, painting rocks, and making cool crafts.So I saw this cute alligator clothespin craft and thought, I can make that! I even had all the materials on hand in our craft bucket. So read on to see what you need to make this cute little guy! And please come back soon to see what else I’m “cookin up” this summer to keep my kids busy! (and LESS screen time!!!)

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You will need:1 green pipe cleaner
1 clothespin
1 strip of green construction paper (1/2″ x 5″)
2 small googly eyes
1/4 tsp. green craft paint
Hot glue or a strong adhesive like E6000
black fine tip pen (Sharpie is best)
Newspaper, scrap paper or a craft mat to use under painting surfaceStep 1 – Lay down the newspaper or scrap paper to cover your surface where you are crafting.
Step 2 – Paint the clothespin with the green craft paint and let dry. Paint a thin coat so it dries quickly. It should only take about 10 minutes to dry.
Step 3 – Cut 1 piece of pipe cleaner to about 3 inches and the other to 5 inches. Bend the ends around to look like a curved foot. If this is too big for you, trim the feet to the desired length. I started at this length and trimmed them down. Take the hot glue or strong adhesive and put 2 dabs on the bottom of the clothespin, 1 on the back of it and 1 in the middle. Quickly stick on the 2 pipe cleaner pieces.
Step 4 – Use a black fine tip pen to make 2 dots at the front of the clothespin for the nose.
Step 5 – Use a dab of glue about 1/2″ above the 2 dots and stick on the googly eyes. If using the hot glue wait a few seconds for the glue to cool since the eyes will melt a little when sticking to the hot glue.
Step 6 – Take the construction paper strip and fold it accordion fold back and forth or even square folds.
Step 7 – Glue the construction paper right above the eyes to the back of the clothespin and cut off the excess.Done! There you have an adorable alligator clothespin. You can use it as a chip clip or cut up an old magnet and glue a strip to the back so you can use it on the fridge to hang up important artwork! 😉

Happy Crafting!

Charlene

Adventure, Air Force, Mom Life, Parenting

My First Couple Weeks as a *Temporarily* Single Mom

May 20th 2019, my husband left for basic training. At 36 years old he was enlisting into the greatest Air Force in the world.

swearing in

He came to a crossroads in life, a point where he had to make a decision to either go back to school or do something he’s always wanted to do, serve his country.

We we’re both a little excited and terrified for this change. Our children are 5 and 7 so good ages to handle this but still old enough to understand what’s going on and have challenges dealing with having an absent father.

For me the challenge would be to have a busy, fun-filled summer, as a single parent. I would need to be able to balance our life, finances, meals, household chores, and basically everything else.

So far it’s been three weeks since he’s been gone it hasn’t been too bad. I prepared myself by making a summer binder in which I was able to put our summer schedule of activities, fun things to do around town, some free city programs and events, a summer bucket list and even my diet program for a little bit of weight loss. If you’d like to see more about what I created click here! I also included the direct links so you can go to these websites, support the creators and print directly from there! They are a cute design too!

I know my challenges this summer will be to stay busy, spend quality time with my kids, lose a little bit of weight and tone up, and also be able to have some me time in there somewhere…without losing my mind or drinking too much wine! 😜

I’m thankful to have family close by so if there is a need for me to have some help I do have a couple resources. I know they have their own summer plans though so I would only use that as a last resort. Luckily my daughter’s preschool teacher offered to do some babysitting so I have her number if needed!

Only 6 more weeks until my husband’s graduation from Air Force BMT! After that we’ll get to spend only 4 lovely days with him then he will go on to his technical school training in Biloxi, Mississippi for another 136 days.

Right now this seems to be a moment where we are frozen in time, moving at a slow-motion type of pace. It’s only because we are all counting the days till we can see him again, talk to him, hug him and tell him how much we love and appreciate him.

I hope you follow us on this exciting journey. It would be nice to have some new friends, especially military or military supporters. If you are Air Force please give us a shout out and leave a comment below. My husband is in Flight 531, Graduation date is 7/19/19. If you also have a Blog please let me know so I can follow along with your journey as well!

Thank you for reading and supporting us!!! Xoxo

Charlene