Monday, July 29, 2013

365 Days

On this day, one year ago, Chris and I awoke on a bed sheet on the floor of our dining room in Lenexa, Kansas. All of our belongings were packed in the moving truck parked out in front, save for perishables, cleaning supplies, and our bags of items we needed for the day. It was moving day!

It so wild to think that we've already been here for a year. I still catch myself telling customers that I "just" moved here, when in reality, that's not really true anymore! 

I've learned a lot since moving to Ft. Campbell. This whole living on the state border makes EVERYTHING confusing. 

Address is Ft. Campbell, KY. 

But we physically live in Tennessee. 

Cable bill says we live in Clarksville, TN. 

Order from a few random websites that try to tell me I live in Ft. Campbell, Tennessee.

And now my car is tagged in Montgomery County, Tennessee.

But Ft. Campbell is in Christian County, Kentucky.

I don't know.

I become extremely excited whenever I see anything Kansas. Kansas car tags are incredibly rare - I happened to see one the very first day from Johnson County. Believe it or not, I see more Alaska plates than I do Kansas ones. Besides Tennessee and Kentucky plates, I see a lot of New York plates, Georgia plates, and even Hawaii plates. Whenever I'm driving and I see a car with a Kansas plate, I try to see if I recognize anyone in the car. Yah, like it will really be anyone I know!

The Wizard of Oz jokes have been used in my presence a few times. They are a bit funnier when you are the one displaced in a different state. I once was stopped for a random vehicle inspection at the gate, and the guard looked at my license and car tag and said, "Kansas, huh?!" As I got out of the car, he saw my shoes (of COURSE they were red heels) and said "Oh, you've got on your ruby red slippers!" He looked like it was the best thing that happened to him all day. It was sorta cold that night, so he let me sit inside, and when he let me in, he said to the others "Hey - we got Dorothy here!" They all had a good time with it.

I've seen a few Jayhawks around town, too. I once talked to a lady who walked into the store for about 15 minutes simply because she was wearing a Jayhawk shirt. We talked about Lawrence, how different people are in Clarksville, and how much we wanted to go to a KU basketball game. She said I was the nicest person (stranger) she'd talked to in a long time.

Made my day!

I have to say, making my switch from Preschool Assistant Director in Kansas to Retail Assistant Manager once moving here was a BIG (an unexpected) leap for me. But I am loving every minute of it! I am blessed with a WONDERFUL team, a flexible schedule, and of course, that employee discount! The ladies I work with have become my first friends since moving here.

It is still a struggle to meet people here. Let me tell you, I think EVERY SINGLE FAMILY in our little part of the neighborhood has moved away already since we arrived, except for about 3. Moving semis and trucks are a constant. I am happy to have connected with a recent arrival next door; her husband arrives shortly from his deployment! I foresee many cookouts and fun times together!

Our one good friend who graciously took us in when we arrived last year 10 days before our house was ready is getting out of the Army and will be returning to the Kansas City area very soon. It will be so sad to see her go!

It's interesting to see how my viewpoints of everything, of life, and of the future have changed in this past year. It's been one of the biggest changes in my life to have our first PCS. 

And it was not nearly as traumatic as I was making it out to be in my head.

Yes, it was hard. Hard to leave my childhood town and all my friends and family behind. 
It was hard to not have a place to live.
It was hard to not know how to get around town.
It was really hard for me to not know where anything was on post. I constantly felt like people could tell I was the new girl, like I was wearing a red "N" on my shirt. I was corrected by a lady at the gas station on post for not standing in line for the register correctly. I was mortified. I had to ask for help everywhere I went. I didn't leave our house on post for the first few days that Chris was at work. It was just such an unfamiliar community to me.

Now, I've got it down pat. Almost. There are still times I don't know what I'm doing, but now I know that I'm not the only one who has no idea - it's not an uncommon feeling to have on post.

Chris and I often talk of where we hope we will be stationed next. Yes, we are already dreaming of our next move! Call me crazy, but I'm very excited for it. Moving out of state was not as emotional as I thought it would be. There was a lot going on when we first arrived here. I think I only cried once when we arrived because on top of everything involved with settling in, I was tired of having to call maintenance to fix something random (4 electrical outlets not working, leaky pipes under the sink - twice). I guess that was the straw that broke the camel's back!

We hope to go to Germany, Hawaii, Fort Carson (Colorado), and hopefully down the line back in Kansas at Ft. Leavenworth or Riley. And maybe Alaska.


The "adventurousness" has definitely come out in me rather quickly!

We are incredibly hopeful for these next 365 days. Life is never constant in the Army, so I'm anxious to see what happens next!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

DIY Produce Rack

I have seen some cool ideas on Pinterest for ways to store fresh fruits and veggies using fun buckets or storage bins that are anchored to the wall. I think that would be a fun way to store food in a kitchen where counter space is limited.

Just like my kitchen.

I was in Ross the other day - a store very similar to TJMaxx - when I had a light bulb moment when I laid my eyes on this:

A simple hanging shower caddy.

I immediately thought of all those pins of wall produce storage ideas, so I snatched the shower caddy for a mere $6.99!

And this is what I made!

So here is what you'll need:

My kitchen is also short on wall space, so I was assuming I'd either have to hang it someplace weird, or hang it on the end of my cabinets.

So I picked up a few of these command hooks:

One pretty one for the top, and two smaller ones for extra support at the bottom, and also to keep it from swinging. Be sure to pay attention to how many pounds the hooks can hold - produce can get pretty heavy, so I picked the biggest one they made for the top (holds 5 pounds). The bottom hooks support 1 pound each. I picked clear ones for the bottom in hopes to disguise them.

Even the adhesive strips are clear!

So here's how you do it:

First, hold the rack up on the wall (or cabinet) where you want it to be do determine the placement of your hooks.

You can lightly mark (or just eyeball if it doesn't need to be exact) where the top hook will go. I used the grain in the wood to help me eyeball where to place mine:

Be sure to follow the directions on the back of the package for correct application. Nothing complicated, but it's important to follow so your rack doesn't fall down once loaded with groceries.

*Please note that the directions state "wait 1 hour before use".

Then, hang the shower caddy up on your hook. Use the rack for the guideline on where to hang the bottom hooks. I'm sure 1 centered in the middle would suffice, but I chose to use 2 - one on each side.

Once all hooks are applied, this is how it will look:

Now, put the rack back on (after waiting for that full hour) and load it up!

I love it!

It's great because it stores food out of the way, but the food is still very accessible. My command hooks, combined, can support a total of 7 pounds! 

No more random bags of peppers and onions and garlic on the counter! 

The hooks remove so easily, so there are no worries about permanent damage to the wall or cabinet. And this was all for about $15 - the hooks cost more than the rack did!

It's kind of fun to re-purpose everyday items into useful things!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Downtown Dinner Date! Er, sorta...

After our 4th of July stay in Nashville, we decided we should go downtown for dinner date nights once a month to try a new restaurant. We went ahead and picked an evening, last Friday to be exact, and Chris said it was my choice!

But it was a very long week for the both of us, and by the time Friday rolled around, this was our verbal exchange, more or less:

"So, are we still going to drive all the way downtown for dinner?"

"I dunno. Do you want to?"

"I'm a little tired to drive that far."

We still wanted a date night, but we were both so tired from our week and had hardly spent any time together, we didn't really want to waste it driving 2 hours round trip.
So we decided to stay local and dine in Clarksville, so technically this doesn't count as a "Downtown Dinner Date".

But we still stuck to the rules and picked a restaurant neither of us had been to before:

Cheddar's! There is one back home in Overland Park (a past co-worker's dad owns that one) but even for as long as it had been there, neither one of us had ever eaten there. We assumed they served more than cheese (hilarious, I know) and wanted to give it a try.

The restaurant has only been open for a few weeks, and the parking lot was constantly full, all day long! We didn't have to wait too long for a table. We were actually impressed with how quickly we were seated, considering the crowd!

After being seated and checking out the menu, we decided to get an appetizer. The prices were very reasonable, and apparently the portions are GENEROUS! We didn't really need so many onion rings!

I ordered a drink. A pomegranate margarita served in a martini glass. The salted rim was a delicious compliment to a fruity drink. I liked that the drink menu had prices next to ALL the specialty drinks. I hate when restaurants leave the prices off and then shock you when the check comes.

The food arriving at our table didn't stop! I ordered fish tacos (with a side of mashed potatoes...what a weirdo, I know) and chips and salsa, and Chris ordered ribs with chicken strips.

My tacos had a corn-cole slaw on top. I'm still not sure if I was a fan. The first time I had fish tacos I ordered them from Houlihan's. Now I feel as though none will compare! 

But the price was right. They tasted good. Not great, but good.

Chris's delicous southern-looking plate:

I sampled some of his ribs. They were good! After the tip, our check was right at $40. We had a table full of food, full bellies, and a FULL to-go box.

Definitely high value.

Moderately high quality and flavor.

The service was great, too. Attentive to details. Our server got upset when the food runner brought everything out at once instead of giving us time to eat our appetizer before our entrees arrived. That actually impressed me.

The atmosphere was great - brand new restaurant with a fish tank and fun ceiling fans. Even though the place was completely full, it still felt cozy where we were seated. It didn't sound too noisy, and the music made it fun.

Overall, I'd give it a 7 out of 10.

Great atmosphere, great prices, but the food didn't WOW me.

I'd still go back. MUCH better than Applebee's or Chili's. By FAR.

There have been a lot of new restaurants that have popped up since we've been here:

Noodles & Company
...and coming soon...TEXAS ROADHOUSE!!!

I saw the crane lifting the sign today!

These GREAT restaurants are wonderous and much needed additions to this growing college & military town. This area is expanding like crazy! New restaurants, hotels, approval for a mall and movie theater to be built just outside of kind of reminds me of Olathe a decade or so ago with all this new construction!

Oh, and Ross?! Anyone heard of that? It's like a TJMaxx. One just opened in the mall! This leads me into my post that I shall do never know what you'll find in a store like that!

So next time, I promise we will make it back to Nashville for our Downtown Dinner Date.

And it will be a little more exciting.

Until then!


Monday, July 15, 2013

Does Your Vacuum Suck?

Yes, this post is really going to be about vacuums

We got our first vacuum as a wedding gift off our registry. It was just over $100, and I was surprised we got it because I thought it cost so much! I was very excited. 

For a vacuum of my own.

Something about having things for your own place is very exciting to a female, even if it is a vacuum. Or a blender. I think that long-standing "insult" of gifting your wife a domestic tool is not that terrible. If it's an awesome blender, and it will make my life easier, I'll probably love it! Go ahead, get me that new washer-dryer duo. I won't complain!

Anywho, the vacuum was great!

Until it wasn't. 

Not the highest quality, and it failed to suck well. 

Having multiple cats, dirty Army boots, and now a new puppy made suction very important.

My vacuum was starting to run weird. And was abnormally LOUD. I was trying to decide whether or not to invest in repairing the thing, or to just buy a new one. I must say, I am trying very hard not to be a part of this generation that just throws out things because they are broken and could be fixed, and moving on to something new. So I thought a long time about my decision.

I reeeeeeeally wanted a Dyson.


But no matter what sales I saw at what store, nothing could make me justify dropping a half K on a friggen vacuum.

And then randomly one day, I had the tv on and was only half paying attention to what was on when I saw the last 5 seconds of a vacuum commercial. "Hoover Air" was all I saw, and I watched it swivel across the floor with ease. That commercial must have been powerful because it made me go online so I could try to find the commercial to watch it in its entirety. 

I watched it, and immediately looked up where I could find this vacuum in store, and how much it would cost.

Every retailer had it for the same price, as it was a new item. $188! Not bad at all for a Dyson-like equivalent!

I was sold.

And now, this is where my first vacuum sits:
Ironically next to the box my new vacuum came in!

I HIGHLY recommend this vacuum! It is lightweight, easy to use, great suction, and swivels like a Dyson!

Just lookit all that dirt in the canister!
It has a pull out handle for little jobs.
It has a long pull out hose for reaching things up high, or cleaning stairs.
And it has an awesome hose that extends like 30 feet or something ridiculous like that.
Simple switch between floor and hose cleaning.
You can turn the brush on/off with a push of a button for hardwood/carpet surfaces. All the buttons are a fun green color!
One button push to remove the canister for dumping.
Here comes the swivel action captured by still images!
Straight line vacuuming:
Swivel to the side!
It has convenient storage for the attachment tools.
 A very compact vacuum that's powerful, has useful features, is lightweight, and is easy on the wallet. I was fortunate to get it at Home Depot with a military discount.

My vacuum no longer sucks.

It just has great suction.


Monday, July 8, 2013

A Nashville 4th!

It was very different to not attend the fireworks in Corporate Woods in Overland Park, KS for the 4th of July this summer, a show that I have attended for almost every 4th for as long as I can remember. 

This year, we made plans to go to Nashville to watch a show that makes the top 10 list in the nation! We had all sorts of activities planned for the 4th. But it rained ALL DAY! So gloomy. Not a great way to celebrate. We were supposed to go for an hour long horseback ride at the stables on post early in the morning, but waking to thunder and pouring rain told me that would be canceled.

We did go to see Despicable Me 2 and had to walk a thousand miles in the rain to get inside the Opry Mills Mall - that place was packed! The movie was hilarious and very enjoyable, despite the lady that would not stop talking next to us. She was less well-behaved than all the children in the theater! Hate that.
This was the view we had from our hotel room. We had a good view of Broadway street and Bridgestone Arena.

So we bar hopped a little and ate some BBQ before making it down to the stage where The Band Perry was performing!
Fortunately, it was only raining, and not pouring, so we didn't really get that wet, thanks to the umbrellas.
But it was SO. MUDDY. We were lucky to find grass to stand in.
The Band Perry was so energetic and fun to watch! They of course sang their latest song, DONE., and they also did a few patriotic mash-ups, as well as some well-know favorites.
It's really hard to get good photos of events like this!
The rain thinned out the crowd somewhat, so even though we arrived only 30 minutes prior to them taking the stage, we were able to get pretty close!

We were also entertained by an old man in front of us who danced throughout the concert. It's a shame the weather was so would have been so fun in warm, sunny weather! There were food vendors everywhere and lots to see. It would have been fun to check those things out, but the squishy mud made it really hard to get around.

With the fireworks starting at 9:30, we decided to leave the concert area a little early to avoid the crowd. Being dark and muddy, and only one exit in the direction we needed to go, I foresaw at least one of us falling in the mud in the crowd. So we relocated to the riverfront across from the football stadium to watch the fireworks.
It was a great show synchronized to a recording of the Symphony. It was supposed to be a live performance, but water and musical instruments do not mix. It was tough to hear the recording where we were at, but it was still really cool!
I have never seen a fireworks show quite like this one!
Group shot!
Unfortunately, we were downwind, so our whole area was filled with smoke, making it almost impossible to see any of the finale. I got firework dust in my eye.
We decided to walk back to Broadway before the show ended; it was a little eerie with all the smoke and people moving away from it with the finale still going. There were so many fireworks going off at once for so seemed like the earth was exploding! Its a shame we couldn't see it - based on the rest of the show, I'm sure it was AMAZING! The whole thing was about 25 minutes long.
We had planned on hitting up the bars again, but you could just see all the people filtering into the bars the farther up Broadway we went; we figured most if not all of them would be full. A lot of people never left the bars because of the weather. So we just went back to the hotel. I was splattered with mud from the knees down (I even stopped to attempt to wash my feet in a street puddle - that's how bad it was), and still couldn't get the debris out of my eye. I was kind of a mess. 

After washing my feet, then my flip flops (which had absorbed SO much mud), THEN rinsing the tub out, I was definitely ready for some eye drops. Fortunately the other 3 people I was with had all had eye surgery and had drops with them. So thankful for those!

My eye felt much better in the morning. I didn't have to work until later in the afternoon, so Chris and I decided to be touristy around the city. First stop: Krispie Kreme!

I got a dark chocolate caramel and filled-with-some-sort-of-magic donut. Chris got his go-to favorite: glazed and chocolate frosted with sprinkles. SOOOO GOOOOOD! We anticipated stomach aches later.

Then, I got to facetime with Haley! I've been anxiously awaiting the wondrous iPhone purchase from my sister to allow this to be possible! Isn't she sweet?! She even gave me kisses (on the phone screen, haha)!
Our drive took us through the Vanderbilt campus, which is very pretty, by the way. We made our way down to Belle Meade, which is DEFINITELY the Beverly Hills of the area. Amazing neighborhoods with multi-million dollar houses.
One example:
No cookie-cutter houses around this town!

2 more days of rainy weather...and we finally made it to the Carnival on-post! Chris won me a patriotic Care Bear, which ended up costing $25. The guy was talking so fast and confusing us both with the game rules of dart-throwing; we walked away knowing we had been taken advantage of. Oh well. Oh, and we won a goldfish by throwing ping pong balls into small fish bowls, but we didn't really want it and were hoping to just give it to a family nearby. But everyone already had fish! The game was pretty easy. (Beer pong practice, haha!) So we left the fishie there for someone else to win.

We ate footlong corndogs and chicken on a stick. We walked around for awhile; I was impressed with the variety of rides. We decided it would have been much more fun with kids. Hoping that day will come soon! cute! I'm going to re-stuff it. It's filled with styrofoam beads, not fluff. Can you say RIP OFF?!
Saturday night was the only night that the weather cooperated for some fireworks of our own. Dukie and I rode shotgun to a friend's house off post.
I had to teach him how to stick his head out the window.
He had a lot of fun playing with his doggie friends.
A rare shot of them all sitting. Lookit how big he is! 27 pounds already!
Ribs, burgers, pie, and SPARKLERS!!!
This one's my favorite. It's like little stars:
It was a long, rainy 4 day weekend, but we still had some fun times. I have this up on the front door for the holiday:

 So fun! My sister made it for me when she came to visit a few weeks ago.

We saw so many fun places while driving around Nashville after the 4th. We decided that once a month, we will pick a new restaurant to try, alternating whose turn it is to pick. Lots of date nights in the city to come!