Monday, December 23, 2013

Holidays, Family, and Sewing

     I know it has been a while since I posted a blog--things have been really crazy around here! I promise I'll try to be better about it. I have a job now, so that obviously takes up quite a bit of time. I got hired as a Pet Training Instructor at the local Petsmart and started there in August. I finished up my accreditation in November and so far have started teaching two of my own classes (instead of student teaching/shadowing). I absolutely love it! I love working with animals and seeing how happy people are as a result of class. They really do see a difference in their dogs' behavior after these classes. Not only is my job incredibly fun, it is one that is going to be 'move-able' which is incredibly helpful for a military spouse. I also love that the classes themselves appeal to military members and their families since they are consistent across all Petsmarts--meaning if you take a beginner class at one and end up moving you won't end up with some overlap or anything if you take an intermediate class at a Petsmart elsewhere. It is all part of the same program. I am also taking a class with another one of the trainers with Amos so that I can experience the entire six-week training course as a student. Not only that, but because we have basically started over with Amos since he became a stubborn butt-head when I broke my leg.

    In my free time I have been working on training these goofballs. Eventually I'd like to be able to use them as example 'students' for my classes. Amos is finally calming down and is almost two years old. Bruce still gets those spurts of crazy energy that make us wonder if he has found some caffeine, but it is because he is still a puppy. We think he was born somewhere between February and March. Amos has also gotten quite large. He seems to have stopped growing, but it took him about 18 months to get there. He is up to 75 pounds! All of his features have filled out and we think he is a Heeler/Greyhound mix based on his markings, shape and personality. Bruce is a bit of a mystery since he was about 35 pounds when we got him around 5-6 months old and now that he is almost a year he hasn't even hit 45 pounds. We originally thought he was a lab mix but with his small size and fluffy body he is a mystery.

     I have finally gotten around to decorating the house! It only took me about a year, but as my mom pointed out that is pretty quick considering it took her five years to decorate their house after buying it. I took advantage of a sale at Michael's that had all picture frames at 40% off plus a 20% off your entire purchase including sales items coupon to stock up on all the picture frames I needed. So now our house looks a bit more like a home and less like a hospital--but not quite. I wish I could repaint all the horribly white walls (whoever thought it was a good idea to have white floors, white walls, white ceilings, white doors, and white blinds throughout the house needs a lesson from an interior decorator). If we were going to be living here for a few years I would have done some painting but we could be here for as little as 18 months so it is not worth having to paint them back to white. I have family and wedding photos hung up in the living room as well as some prints from artists that regularly visited DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge back home, a beautiful piece that Renee made for us, and a clock that TJ's mom gave us for Christmas this year. When they were visiting for Thanksgiving she noticed we had no clocks except for the microwave and stove because we always just checked our phones. Now that it is up, I use it a lot!

    This year we hosted TJ's family for Thanksgiving, he also had them visit for Thanksgiving while he was in tech school. It seems to be becoming a tradition, which works out for me. It was my first time hosting a Thanksgiving dinner, so I was a bit nervous. We had nine people total in our tiny house (TJ's family + two airmen from his work + us). We had everybody contribute something, but it was a bit chaotic with our tiny kitchen. We picked up a folding table from Big Lots and we already happened to have enough chairs. We did discover that we were a bit low on the amount of serving utensils we own for large dishes. I used the holiday as a chance to use all of the place-mats that my grandma made for our wedding centerpiece setups.

    'The boys,' TJ and his brother Ryan, were in charge of the turkey and it turned out amazing. Turkey is my favorite meat--so I am always looking forward to Thanksgiving and its leftovers. I put together the cranberry sauce, fruit salad, mashed potatoes, and gravy.

     We had a lot of fun with the family while they were in town. We took them down to the boardwalk, played quite a few board games, and TJ went Black Friday shopping with his sister. They also seemed to enjoy the warm weather!

     I have also done some decorating for Christmas. We got a four foot tree from the Airman's attic since we hadn't had a tree with our pets before. I put it on a table covered in foil to prevent the cat from messing with it, and so far the dogs have ignored it. The stockings in the photo were mailed (full) from my mom. She sewed those two. We are going to be opening up stockings with my family over Skype since it is a tradition we've always had to open them all at the same time, usually while watching movies that we received as gifts that year.

     I also made some stockings for our furbabies. These definitely helped with my learning to sew that is still definitely in progress and gave me practice. Sewing around curves was a bit of challenge for me, but I am happy with how they turned out. I definitely can tell that by the third one I was improving greatly. It is definitely the most symmetrical and has the least bunching. Once they are full of gifts the imperfections won't be noticeable anyways. I made two bones--one for each dog, and one fish for Agent Zero. I think they are adorable! I may embroider their names on the fleece as well.

        I found the dog and fish templates here, a website that I will likely be visiting again since they have quite a few free projects.  

     My other project that I finished recently was actually a Secret Santa gift for a co-worker. I drew the only guy participating, so it took me a while to figure out what to get him. Shopping for men can be so difficult. I knew he wanted to be a firefighter--so I decided a blanket would be perfect if I could find any firefighter fabric. I was originally looking for something a bit more 'grown-up.' Who knew it would be so difficult to find fabric! I didn't want to order any since I wanted to make sure it had time to get here with time for me to sew it. I had no luck at Hancock or Jo-Ann even though they both had massive amounts of fleece. I ended up finding firetruck fleece at Hobby Lobby. I am not particularly happy with how it turned out, but my co-worker loves it and it definitely works as a blanket.
     The only reason I am unhappy with it is because it is obvious that I am new to sewing. The blanket is not perfectly rectangular (it does not fold neatly in half). This is because I have never cut such a large piece and basically just need practice and possibly a larger cutting mat or cutting table. It isn't horribly noticeable or anything. The 'opening'--the section that has to be sewn at the end is also noticeably not sewn straight and you can really see the stitching on the back, but again that is something that just improves with practice. 

     I have been trying to get more sewing practice in so that I can start doing more difficult projects and get faster at sewing. I was joking with my mom that the part I hate is ironing and she hates cutting so we really need to live near each other so we can do projects together and do the part that the other hates. 

      My current project is Bree's baby quilt. It is almost entirely done, though! It is all sewn, but I am hand-quilting it. I normally wouldn't hand quilt a gift for a co-worker but I really need to learn how to do it and am enjoying the practice. It is really relaxing--except when I sit and do it for five hours and then notice that my arms, shoulder, and neck are sore. The stitches obviously aren't all the exact same length or spaced perfectly, but that is why I need the practice. I think the fact that I have done a lot of cross-stitch has helped. I am also quilting every block with a different pattern so that I can get some experience doing different things. I figure a baby quilt is the perfect quilt to do that with since babies love to touch things. I will post another blog with pictures when the quilt is finished. I was hoping to have it done by Christmas but my shoulders are telling me I need a break. I would not be seeing her by then anyways, but it will be done very soon! I only have about 6 more blocks (there are 16 total) and the binding. My mom helped teach me how to sew when she visited this fall. She flew down and taught me how to use my new sewing machine (a birthday present) as well as set up two baby quilts. Bree's is one and the other that we have cut-out and ready to start is for TJ's cousin. 

 My upcoming projects, and hopefully corresponding blogs, are:
  • Kathi's baby quilt
  • Jessica's baby quilt
  • A quilt for TJ's mom
  • A lunchbox and pillowcases for Jeanna
  • Pillowcases for Renee 
  • A pincushion for my mom
  • Digital scrapbooks for my wedding, Dargo, trip(s) to San Antonio, and TJ's first marathon, along with printing the Raider one I have completed to give as gifts and to keep in my home
  • finishing up some cross-stitch projects and decorating a bit more with those and my art/nature photos
  • posting about my weight loss, getting into shape, and some of the delicious recipes I've been making
  • Possibly posting some mini-review blogs where I talk about site-seeing and visiting local attractions and restaurants
  • I am also planning on making some time to volunteer-contribute to since I use that site a TON when doing ancestry research

Monday, July 29, 2013


Last Thursday I completed my second pillowcase. It was the first sewing project I have done entirely on my own (no assistance from an instructor or my mom). As a result, it was not as good as the previous pillowcase. But, practice makes perfect. Here's the finished project:

From that picture it might look just as good as the first pillowcase. Unfortunately, close up it has two issues. One: it somehow ended up about 1/2 to 1 inch less wide when held up next to the other pillowcase. I must have sewn a seam a little wider or or something. The second issue is this:

Yeah, not lined up as well. I must not have sewn in a straight line somewhere. 

Even with these two issues, I am happy with it. After all, I did it all by myself :) I'll just need to keep sewing to practice. I think some issues arose since with the instructions. I should have written a couple of notes in the class. That and the take-home instructions were not exactly the same as the instructions in class (a little different ordered, etc.). That helped me in one way: I can read instructions and put something together. But it hurt in that I didn't really remember the extra steps we took in class, which is why I wish I took some notes. Oh, well.  I now have two matching pillowcases and they match the curtains in my bedroom pretty well. 

In other news, I am almost done with all of my classes! I have finished up one of my summer classes and did well in it, and now just have two more to finish. I have four projects and three papers to finish up in the next two weeks (busy home stretch). At the end of August I should be receiving my degree in the mail! It's been quite the wait.

With all of those things to work on, though, I won't be posting much on here. I am still babysitting the adorable, fast-growing, rambunctious husky puppy. He is getting SO big and so dark! I didn't know huskies got darker as they grew, so I learned something new in this experience. TJ and I are debating getting a second dog since Amos seems to really do well with another one around. Right now we are torn between getting a puppy or adopting an older dog. We've been taking Amos and Striker over to the neighbor's to play with their dachshund and Striker absolutely LOVES water. He likes playing in the kiddie pool and dries so easily. I guess that makes sense since they were designed to stay warm in the snow! We'll definitely miss the little fur-ball after we return him to his owners. Hopefully he won't miss Amos too much, or they'll need to get a second dog, too!

I'm also on the job hunt and had one interview last week. I'm hoping to hear back from some other places this week too. Wish me luck! I need a job to fund my new sewing hobby, right? ;) 

After these next couple of weeks with school and job hunting, I already have a list of projects to work on. So you can look forward to:
  • My first quilt (I found a kit at a thrift store that is already pre-cut, a great beginner's project)
  • More digital scrapbooks - finalizing how I want the Raider one, a Dargo one, a wedding one for my wedding (overdue), a 'zoo' one, and a vacations one
  • A baby quilt for a family member
  • Sewing a lunch box
  • Decorating and organizing the living/dining room
  • Finishing up some long overdue cross-stitch projects
  • "Fixing" my garden
  • Practicing my ASL -- I really need to get on this since TJ's family might be visiting us for Thanksgiving! 
  • Actually posting recipes I've been trying! I have a bit of a backlog on this. I'll likely post them on another site and just link them in my future posts. A recipe site will work out pretty well, such as We are gradually trying to cook more from scratch and we have some neighbors that can help us out a lot with this. They are ahead of us, even making their own butter, yogurt and ice cream. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Leg Recovery, Learning to Sew

Hello! Long time no blog! :)

Broken Fibula Recovery
My leg recovery is going really well, though I am really impatient. I have been walking without the boot for three weeks now. I have occasionally had to put it back on after over-doing it. The air boot helps it feel a lot better if I've been using it too much but still need to stand or walk more than I already have. I've been wearing a pedometer to keep track of how much I am walking and it seems if I walk more than about 3000 steps a day (it sounds like a lot but it definitely is not) my leg gets really sore. It seems to swell up by the end of the day everyday still too. I am able to do chores around the house and get around without limping now, so that's progress! I still have not regained full ankle motions (I can't point my foot all the way or move it in all the directions the other one can). I am working on that by 'writing the alphabet' with my foot, as my doctor suggested. I have not gone to physical therapy. My doctor wrote me a prescription for it but said that it's really up to me. It can help, but with this type of break is not necessary. I just have to take it slow and work the alphabet and do everything gradually. I won't be running for a long time. My next goal is to be able to squat and sit down on the ground/get up without pain. Slowly working towards that. It may seem like a weird goal, but this is what happened to my poor, neglected garden after I broke my leg:

It upsets me every time I go outside, but there really isn't much I can do about it at this point. Kneeling down, crawling, etc. just is NOT happening with my foot right now. All of the muscles from my knee to my toes still need slow exercises and are not making as much progress as I would like. I'm sure it is the kind of progress that is expected at this point. For the most part (if I don't overdo it) I can sleep without any pain at all while moving throughout the night. Just looking at my pedometer, if I go over about 7000 steps a day I regret it by bed time and need ibuprofen. 

The good news is, starting about a week ago I've been using stairs again! At first it was much easier to go up them than go down them. My goal at the beginning of the year was to be able to run an entire 5k without walking, so I've had to obviously readjust that goal. 

My Education
I am getting so close to my degree I can hardly believe it. I don't actually think I will believe it until I have it in hand. I am taking three classes right now, two online and one in person. I am really liking doing chemistry in four weeks, I feel like I am learning so much more. It definitely is a lot of work though and ideally I wouldn't have wanted such an intensive course to overlap with the ones I am taking online. They are all going really well, though! Last week was my chemistry midterm and I aced it. By aced I actually mean a 100%. I was in shock. That has definitely not happened to me in any college chem classes before. It really shows that the intensive four week course really keeps me focused on it (I have to work on chem every night since there are quizzes every day, so that helps!). My other two classes are getting pretty intense too. I've been working on my final paper for my composition class (it will be about 10 pages when finished) and it is on the topic of the founding fathers' views on the separation of church and state. It sounds really boring, but the research has actually been really interesting. I just need to set some time aside to finish this bad boy. I had a paper last weekend for meteorology and an exam in there this weekend, so wish me luck! In about a month I will have my bachelor's degree! It's only about three semesters late, but at least I am finally getting it done! I had to take two semesters off for severe illness and one for the move so I'm still happy with it even though it is delayed. I definitely need some time off from school though. Hopefully this degree will help me find a decent-paying job around here! One can always hope...

Speaking of jobs, I have actually temporarily quit applying. With these three classes overlapping I am focusing entirely on school to finish up this degree. I do NOT want something going badly at this point. In about a month though, it will be nothing but job hunting! Luckily with our cuts in spending we haven't had issues with living on one paycheck. It's not like I have any time to be spending money anyways! It will be nice when we have spending money again, though.

I did do one fun thing during all of this craziness! Yesterday I took a beginning sewing class! It helped me get to know my machine (my mother-in-law gave it to me while we were visiting home in June) and I sewed a pillowcase! Basically, it was a project where we had to sew a lot of straight lines. I'll be trying to duplicate it sometime this weekend. That will be the test to see if I actually learned and can sew without the instructor helping me the whole way. Speaking of, Selinda was absolutely amazing! I feel like I really learned a lot even if it was only two and a half hours. You can check out her blog here. She specializes in sewing children's clothes, but don't be surprised if you see more info from her future classes on here. I may try to take her pattern reading class in the future and possibly her Christmas stocking one! I took the class at a really cute store in Shreveport called Lil Miss Priss. It was a great location for a class. There were two other ladies in the class and they were both beginner's as well. I highly recommend Selinda's class to anybody in the area who is wanting to learn how to use their sewing machine or just learn how to sew.

At the beginning of the night I was completely stumped as to the settings, needles, thread, etc and by the end I had made this:

Here is a close-up of the fabrics/colors:

In case you couldn't tell, I was trying to match the curtains in my bedroom. I posted those in a previous blog, my mom made the curtains for me. I'll be attempting to make another pillowcase on my own with the brown as the main fabric and yellow on the outside. First I need to pick up an acrylic ruler because that made it SO much easier to cut fabric. Luckily Hancock Fabrics has a 40% off coupon right now, so I'll be using that!

I'm not sure what my next sewing project after that will be, but I definitely need to sew a lot and make sure I don't forget what I am doing. I am so happy my mother-in-law had a sewing machine she wasn't using (thank you again). It's a simple one, but that is PERFECT for a confused beginner such as myself. This is my machine:

It is a brother VX-1010 and I don't have a manual for it, but luckily there was a manual online for threading it. I cleaned the machine today with an air duster and that has made some improvements but my instructor also suggested I go get it serviced soon. The instructor in the class even had a sticker-measuring tape to make the measurements on the machine from the needle easier to see! Magic!

Other News
In other news, we finally bought a second vehicle. It became much more necessary when I was taking classes. We bought a barely-used motorcycle from another airman here on base. He had it for a few years and basically never used it, so it was a great deal! We finally got it registered (was a bit complicated being non-residents, it was previously registered in another state, loan paperwork and insurance made it a paperwork nightmare), so it now has valid plates and my husband is using it as his commuting vehicle for work. I am not sure how I feel about riding it, and I know I won't be riding it for a while with my leg as weak as it is. Who knows, I might actually like it and need to take the motorcycle course myself. 

We also just got a brand-spanking new and improved battery in our car. Our last one had a cell die and it was way before it was supposed to happen. Turns out, the dealer put the wrong size in last time. They gave us the upgraded one for free due to the warranty! The whole situation before we got it sorted out though was pretty frustrating. Luckily, the battery just had to be switched out at any place that sold that brand of battery. We had a WONDERFUL experience at ABC Auto Parts. Especially after the previous experiences elsewhere. We bought new wiper blades while we were there-which we realized quickly we should have done sooner. I also plan on going back to pick up an air filter for the car at that store since they were so awesome. I got the oil changed yesterday and they showed me the filter....gross. Unfortunately they couldn't switch it out then and there since they were out of that particular size filter. 

For the next two weeks I am watching an adorable fuzzball aka a husky puppy. He is about 8 weeks old (I believe) and still working on potty training so we have our hands full! His owners are in the process of moving and while they are getting everything in order we are taking care of their furbaby. I don't mind at all :) 

Hopefully I'll have another sewing project completed for the next blog or possibly have more decorations on my walls (a goal of mine--our living room walls are still pretty bare). I hope you are all having a wonderful summer! 

P.S. Don't be surprised if everybody gets pillowcases for Christmas!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Updates - Week 7

Broken Leg
Last Thursday I had my sixth-week follow-up at the specialist. My leg is healing really well! I can start moving it (well, trying to move it--it doesn't really move much), and put some weight on it when standing with support. I can't walk with it yet, at least not without support or putting my full body weight on it. However, I can tell that just working with it for one week has made a huge difference. Yes, it is sore, but I am making some progress.

My favorite part of this is I do not have to wear the air cast any longer. I still wear it if I am going to be going to a crowded place or somewhere where I think I may be in danger of being pushed or tripping. The biggest bonus though is that since I no longer have to wear that tight air cast I am sleeping SO much better. I have to keep the pets out of the room though so they don't jump on my leg. It seems to be their favorite thing to try to do, especially the cat.

The full recovery is obviously going to take a while. The muscles in my left leg are basically no longer existent. That happens when you can't use them for over a month. In fact, it kind of grosses me out. My left leg looks like nothing but bone, especially from the knee down. The calf is about half the size of my right one. It looks....wrong. This is also why I said I am 'trying' to move it. I actually physically cannot move my foot much. I was told to 'write the cursive alphabet' with my foot as often as possible. It is easier in the bath as well, but it is definitely some sloppy cursive. I do not have the full range of motion in my ankle, so I can't fully move it in any direction. I feel like I'm mostly 'writing' in the air with my toes instead of my foot. So, progress is a bit slow. It is a really weird sensation though feeling like you are doing the same thing with both feet but only one of them moving. For example, when I try to point my feet my right one points all the way down and my left one lowers about an inch, maybe less.

Over the course of the next week I am supposed to continue 'writing in the air' with my foot--basically this forces all the muscles to move in all directions. In addition to that, I am supposed to keep putting more and more weight on my left foot until I am comfortable standing on it without support and gradually move to walking without support.

The specialist also recommended I go to physical therapy, but since I am on military insurance I had to go to my PCM. I did that yesterday and got the referral to physical therapy done up and that should get processed by the end of next week. So, hopefully in two weeks I can actually start doing physical therapy with a professional. I hope that speeds up my recovery. Especially since I was working towards being able to run a 5k before this all happened. I obviously won't be able to do that too quickly.

Sorry, no pictures this week! Hopefully at my next appointment in a couple of weeks I will acquire some of my x-rays from throughout the whole process to show you the changes that have occurred since the original fracture!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Broken Leg Timeline April 15th-May 25th

Sorry about the delay with updating my blog, some online classes have started for me and I've been a bit busy working on those whenever I am on the computer. I am in the home stretch of finishing my degree! I was planning on graduating this Spring, but postponed taking my final classes to this summer due to the craziness involved with moving. The timing for the start of classes in Spring really did not work out. I only have an online English class and a chemistry class to take and I am DONE. Luckily, LSUS offers in-state tuition to military dependents so my chem class is actually LESS expensive than it would have been back home at the college where I am getting my degree. I found that pretty ironic!

Anyways, here is a bit of the story of the follow-up with my leg. On April 13th, a Saturday, I went to the ER. Since my fibula was broken all the way through they were not sure if I would need surgery or pins put in to ensure a proper recovery. A specialist would have to determine this, so on my paperwork they wrote that I needed to see an orthopedic specialist ASAP, first thing Monday morning. Those exact words. They also only put a short-term temporary cast on my leg.

Well, I am on military insurance. Nothing ever works smoothly on military insurance. Ever. Here is the timeline of what has been done so far.

April 15th-16th
Monday morning, I called the base clinic as soon as they opened and they said I would have to see my primary care manager (my main doctor) before I could get a referral to see an ortho. She couldn't see me until the afternoon. They also required me to get the exact same x-rays done at the base hospital due to procedure even though I got a copy of mine from the ER. This is the original x-ray of my leg:

The x-ray above is basically looking straight at my ankle, so the bone on the upper right (the broken one) is my fibula. No, that "S"-shaped crack going all the way through it is NOT supposed to be there. I highly recommend against doing this. The S-shape is basically indicative of a severe twist.

After going through this entire process with the base clinic, they decided that yes, I did have a broken leg (really?) and that I needed to see a specialist. Tuesday afternoon, they put in the referral to see the on-base ortho. Yes, another 24 hours after seeing my PCM they provided the referral. The base specialist's earliest appointment available was the following Monday. Yes, nine days after I broke my leg before a specialist would make sure that it is lined up properly and put in a protective and long-term cast.

On Tuesday night, April 16th, I actually returned to the ER because I completely lost feeling in my toes and they turned bright blue. This was even while elevating my foot above my heart. The ER was worried I might have compartment syndrome, so they took the cast off and did more xrays. Fortunately, I did not have compartment syndrome. The temporary cast they had put on my leg on Saturday was actually wrapped too tightly and was cutting off the circulation. So, that night they gave me a new temporary cast that was tight, but not AS tight and more painkillers. The xrays basically indicated that my leg was swelling pretty badly, and that was why the cast became too tight. Really confusingly, the ER provided me paperwork that basically said all the symptoms I had were reasons to return to the ER.

April 17th
On the 17th, we found out the reason I could NOT get a referral off base was because the ortho specialist on base accepted my case. Since he chose to see me even though I couldn't fit in right away, that meant I could not go elsewhere. If he had decline the case, I would have been given a referral off base right away. My doctor basically told me to go to the ER in hopes that they had a specialist on duty. I feel like that would be a purposeful waste of the ER's time when I should just be getting a referral to go elsewhere.

My husband's commander was really confused as to why I hadn't seen a specialist yet and my husband worked with him to get me through the system throughout the 17th. By the end of the work day, I finally received a referral to go off base. Unfortunately, it was two days AFTER the ER wanted me to go and I received the referral in the afternoon. So, I could not get an appointment until Thursday afternoon. I feel like this would have been a less expensive (for my insurance), less stressful experience if they had just followed the instructions on the ER's paperwork and let me go on Monday. At this point I had been to the ER three times in a few days: the original visit, a visit that night due to a reaction to the painkiller (switched my meds), and the visit on Tuesday (we spent about 6 hours there because they were busy). My husband would have missed a lot less work, too.

April 18th
Of course the day of my appointment it was POURING. So, I had to wrap my temporary cast in plastic bags and TJ had to run into a CVS and get me knee-highs to hold all the bags in place for my appointment.

Lovely, right? It's called improvising! I was lucky in the fact we had a ton of plastic shopping bags in the car we had earlier planned on taking to recycling. 

My doctor at Highland was super nice, but he was really confused as to why it took so long for me to get in to see a specialist. The temporary cast I was in also had my foot turned in slightly and could have led to improper positioning/healing if left on longer. Luckily, he decided I did not need surgery. He put me in a hard cast to protect my leg and keep me from bending my ankle. He then told me to keep my leg elevated above my heart as close to 24/7 as possible and to come back in two weeks. I was only allowed to move around on crutches and only to do things like go from a chair to the bathroom, to the bed, etc. Swelling from keeping it down would slow down the healing process, cut off circulation, and generally be painful. The first week or so really sucked because my leg would swell up in the short time it took to go to the bathroom, etc. The hard cast was SO much more comfortable than the temporary cast. I never thought a cast would feel comfortable, but compared to the original, it was a pillow. He basically told me I'd likely be stuck keeping my foot up for eight weeks along with doing nothing due to the break. He was happy that it was lined up still and the 'gap' was pretty small. Both good news for healing properly. The pain went down significantly from putting it in the temporary cast and I actually got some sleep that night. Obviously it isn't very easy to sleep with pain from a fractured limb combined with weird sleeping positions  involving keeping your leg elevated...

The cast was even a pretty emerald green color!

April 24th
I ended up needed to return to the ortho specialist on the 24th (much sooner than the two week follow-up), because my skin under the cast felt like it was on FIRE. It burned and itched so bad that I couldn't sleep. Well, when the doc put the cast on I had some scrapes that needed patched up and he had applied antibiotic ointment and band-aids to them prior to putting on the cast. I developed a reaction to the adhesive in the band-aids. Little itchy red welts on the front and side of my leg where the band-aids were. No big deal, nothing major. He did remove the cast and put me in an air cast. Most of the time, they do not put you in an air cast until you can put weight on your foot. Some people refer to them as 'walking boots.' It was pretty neat though, because he wrote a prescription for it and then I had to go to this little 'store' in the hospital that had all sorts of casts, crutches, walkers, wheelchairs, etc. The lady working there was super nice dealing with a ton of paperwork for us and fitted me into a boot. I greatly prefer this to the hard cast, it makes it SO much easier to bathe since I can actually remove it for that. I can also open it up and ice my leg (as long as I'm not moving or in danger of being bumped, etc.). So I've been in the air cast for a month now. I've gotta say though, if I go outside on hot days the black, thickly padded cast REALLY soaks up the sun. Good thing I can take it off and clean the inside....

Here's a pic outside the hospital on the 24th with the aircast. I appreciated the close parking for those of us who are temporarily impaired and don't qualify for the handicapped spots...

May 8th
My last doctor appointment was on May 8th as a follow-up. I was given the good news/bad news on the recovery thus far. They took new x-rays, which I got to look at. I do not have a copy of them to share with you, but basically my leg looked a lot like that original x-ray at the top of the blog except the crack was much narrower/almost closed. It was obviously 'filling in' but you could still distinctly see the crack. Which meant I am still helpless. I still cannot start putting any weight on it and have to keep it elevated as much as possible. 

The past couple of days my leg has actually been hurting worse than it has in the past couple of weeks. This is probably due to the bone-growth healing stage. The swelling is down significantly and my foot no longer looks like a bruise rainbow. I can't seem to find the picture I took of my foot when it was really nasty but for a few weeks there from my toes up to above my ankle was a range of colors from jaundice yellow to black. This is a pic of it on April 24th, but it actually got some darker colors around that time as well:

 Most of those colors have faded. I still have a little bit of the yellowing and a couple red spots (I think from pressure from the cast) but other than that it looks a lot better. My ankle is also looking more 'defined' and ankle-like, though the swelling is not entirely gone. 

I had gone without ANY narcotics from about May 5th until yesterday. They help a lot with the pain but I really hate the intestinal and mental side effects I get with them. I even have some strong anti-nausea meds I take with them and they still make me feel terrible at low doses. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to sleep the past two nights without them (even with melatonin and tylenol PM-what I had been taking for sleep). The pain has made my leg way too uncomfortable to continue refusing to take them. Hopefully that is a good healing sign though (the increased discomfort) and my bone is finally really closing up that gap. The pain is much different than it was previously, too. It is mostly discomfort instead of the shooting pain and it isn't from swelling like before. My toes also don't hurt anymore to wiggle around in my cast--so that's exciting! It's the little things ;) 

My next follow-up is next week and I'll make sure to post an update from the doctor on my recovery time. Hopefully I'll at least have a good idea by then of when I can start physical therapy and putting weight on my foot. It will probably be in the air cast for quite a while more. I'm just hoping to be slightly more helpful around the house and able to enjoy summer a little bit more. I also can't wait to get back into working out--but that will definitely have to wait. 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Mud Fears Me + Broken Leg

It has been a while since I posted an update, but that is because it is incredibly uncomfortable to sit at my computer. I broke my leg and have to keep it elevated pretty high so I am currently in this weird position at my desk where I am sitting in one chair and have a stack of pillows in another chair to rest my leg on. This leads to me sitting at a weird angle with my body turned one way and my leg another. I felt I should let everybody know why I haven't posted, cooked, or done any gardening though.

On April 13th, my husband and I participated in Mud Fears Me.You can read more about it at here.Basically, it is a 5 kilometer long course of mud and muddy obstacles. It was a load of fun--despite the fact that I literally 'broke a leg'! The reason I wanted to do it was because it looked like a blast, I had recently gotten into much better shape than I had been (since January I had lost 5 pounds and was running regularly), and it was something TJ (my husband) could do with me.

The initial challenge was a swim in FREEZING mud water. What a way to get things started! I actually ended up swimming to the side and walking about half the length after I got kicked in the chest by a swimmer in front of me. It knocked the air out of me, and swimming in freezing water is difficult already without the muddy water with shoes and about three layers of clothes. I wore a swimsuit, capris, a long sleeved shirt, plus shorts and a tank top since the morning of the event was cold and I knew I was gonna get wet. It was an incredibly unflattering outfit, but I wasn't really there to look good.
Pre-race photo.

Ready, set, go!

Everybody realizing how cold the water is, but having to jump right in anyways!
The swim!

The next set of challenges showed how important it is to run this event with a partner or team, or at least help out strangers. There was probably a kilometer or so of mud trenches of varying depths (which you could not tell the depth until you took the plunge since they were opaque and muddy). There was a lot of slipping and sliding going on, and the occasional person yelling "Help, I'm stuck!" I got stuck a couple times, and TJ had to help pull me out. One person who ran along us got stuck up to his waist and we both had to help yank him out! It was pretty hilarious. After that stretch there were some obstacles that you would think of as more typical of an obstacle course -- rope climbs, wooden ladders, monkey bars, balance beams, tire climbs, one steep hill 'run' climb, and a few crawling through/under obstacles. All, obviously, covered in mud. There was one steep trench that was really long in the middle of the course that had me doing some 'high knees' to pull my legs up out of the mud. The water went up to my neck and the mud was a little deeper than my knees and probably 30 yards long. That was quite the workout, but that mud was warm so it felt great that morning! Between all the obstacles there was jogging and a few water stations.
I'm in the upper left, and TJ is jumping down on this obstacle. We had to climb up on top of this container and then jump into an 8 foot deep mudwater pit -- then climb out of the pit.

After a tire pile climb, we came over a crest in the course and could see the tents at the finish line, we were almost done! We had once obstacle to crawl under barbed wire - army crawl. I think the purpose of the obstacle was to ensure we were covered in mud head to toe. Then, we had to climb a ramp and slide down into a pit of mud.
The slide -- with the end in sight!

Then there were only two obstacle left after climbing out of that pit: the bridge and another army crawl under nets. The bridge reminded me of those lily pads you see at water parks. Except a bit trickier. They were over a mud 'pond' and were wooden platforms attached to each other by rope and to either end of the pond. You had to really have momentum to run across (a lot of people wiped out in the water). I was basically rockin the bridge, I kept my momentum up running and jumping from each one until I got to the very end.
The fateful bridge.

I jumped off the last platform heading to the land and my foot did not find solid ground. I landed hard on my left foot and slid into the water--I had hit either the edge of the ground or the mud gave way, but either way it came with a severe twist to my ankle. I could not put ANY weight on it and had to be helped up by a lifeguard and my husband who sprinted across that bridge behind me when he saw me fall. I was probably less than 50 feet from the finish line, and only one easy obstacle was between me and it, but I could not finish. The on-site paramedics insisted that I don't move, but they gave my shoe with the timer on it to my husband so he could run it over the finish line (I had already practically finished, right?).

TJ crossing the finish line.

They put my leg in a temporary splint and lifted me onto a golf cart. They then took me to the car, where TJ met us and we then mapped on the GPS the nearest ER: Willis Knighton South. Pretty far from home, but close to the event. Since we obviously could not take advantage of the showers at the end of the race at this point, the car got muddy both inside and out and we were both still soaking wet since we could not change our outfits. TJ put my nice finisher's medal around my neck though, to make me feel better. The entire time the paramedics assumed  I had sprained my ankle. I don't show pain well, but I told them it hurt a lot pretty matter of factually. I am a HUGE baby when I'm nauseous or vomiting and will cry but when I'm in pain all emotion just shuts down and I tend to appear more angry/frustrated or matter-of-factual. My dad actually has accused me in the past of doing this on purpose so the doctors never believe me when I'm in pain. I guess when you just look at them and tell them you are at a level 9 of pain or something they don't take you seriously unless you have tears streaming down your face?

Well, this theme continued in the ER. I went in laughing about it, but when they asked how much pain I was in I said 9 and the nurse basically said if it were that bad I probably wouldn't be laughing, but she gave me some strong painkillers anyways. Then I sent TJ to find a store nearby and buy me some dry clothes because I was FREEZING and the shivering was making me feel worse. When he brought them and helped me change they actually had to change all the bedding in my room because it was soaked through and muddy. I looked like a mud monster or something.

The nurse basically thought I had sprained my ankle until she took off the temporary splint the on-site paramedics had put on me. Her diagnosis of my ankle after unwrapping it (imagine this with a thick southern accent): "Well, honey, that just don't look right!"

I think we can all agree with the nurse that the left ankle does not look right.

TJ had a laugh at that since I basically told him in the car in the past I had torn ligaments, sprained, and fractured bones and I could feel the pain of this was on the end of fracture or worse. I basically 'called it.'

Well, the x-rays came back and the doctor basically asked what the heck I had been doing and agreed that at least the story was good. I had found the perfectly wrong way to land while jumping and managed to fracture my left fibula. Clean break, all the way through.

Since it was a Saturday and they did not think I really needed surgery, though they said it was borderline for some pins, they wanted me to see an Orthopedic specialist FIRST thing the following Monday (i.e. in two days). I believe the discharge papers said "ASAP Monday." I was given crutches, a copy of my x-rays, painkillers, and told to keep my leg elevated above my heart. I also could not get the temporary cast they put on my leg wet at all. So, TJ had to help me wash all the mud out of my hair when we got home.

The temporary cast.

Overall, the Mud Fears Me race was a blast and the money went to a good cause. I would be willing to try another mud obstacle race at some point (there are many different versions with different companies), but I do not think I'll be doing the Mud Fears Me one again. It was fun, but I don't think I should tempt fate with it. Also, some of the climbing obstacles were nearly impossible with the spacing for somebody of my height (5'0"). I couldn't even reach the monkey bars from the top ladder rung. I am looking at a long recovery with the leg though, so I am going to have to basically start over with the getting back in shape and everything. My next goal is to do a color run 5k. In September my husband will be running the Air Force Marathon, and I definitely won't be able to run the marathon but I'll be able to cheer him on. When I told my dad I had a distal fibula fracture his response was "Jeeze, you'd do anything to get out of that marathon!"

I'll continue the story of the misadventures with dealing with military insurance the following week in my next blog post, along with the specialist visits and recovery so far.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Meal Planning + Sweet & Sour Pork

I have started venturing into meal planning. Basically, you plan your meals ahead of time before you go shopping, etc. This has actually helped me eat a lot healthier, try new recipes, and I have saved a lot of money while grocery shopping. There are entire blogs dedicated to this sort of thing. I wanted to share with you guys a couple of recipes I have tried so far that turned out to be quite delicious. Today's recipe will be the sweet and sour pork we tried a couple weeks ago. 

Sweet & Sour Pork
The best way I could describe this is it looks like the kind you seen on buffets. Tastes better though, in my opinion. I found this recipe in a fundraiser recipe book my mom gave to me. It is called "...And a Spoon Full of Love - Steele Elementary School 1985-1986" Due to the writing inside the front cover, it was obviously a gift. 

This is what I ended up with: 

Yum, right? 

If you'd like to try it, these are the necessary ingredients (I doubled the recipe - so basically these are the necessary ingredients per pound of pork)

1 lb. boneless lean pork, cut into small pieces
1 egg
2 Tbsp. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
2 1/2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1/4 cup vinegar
Chinese noodles or cooked rice - we did noodles, but I think rice might be better
3 Tbsp. oil
2 green peppers 
1/2 cup pineapple chunks
2 1/2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup pineapple juice (we used the juice from the can of pineapple chunks)

I am rewording some of this from the book to make it less confusing
1. Beat together the egg, flour, salt and pepper. 
2. Coat the pork pieces in this mixture and brown in the oil.
3. Reduce heat, cover and cook the pork slowly for 20-30 minutes.
4. Cut up the peppers, then boil in water for 1 minute and drain them. 
5. Add the peppers and pineapple to the pork, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes.
6. Stir together the cornstarch, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, and pineapple juice. Cook this mixture until it becomes think and 'clear' (when clear it will very sticky and a dark brown color)
7. Poor this mixture onto the pork, stir and let simmer for 2 to 3 minutes.
8. Serve over rice or noodles.

This pork recipe smells amazing and is really delicious! I hope you enjoy it :) 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Decorating & Gardening

The past couple of days have been productive! I have hung up the curtains in the living room:

My mom made the ones on the end and we bought two ivory sheer panels to fill in the middle. I absolutely love them! They are fun and match the colors of the rug in the living room (and couches). We also put up sheer ivory panels on the back door and front door sidelight. We discovered that both areas are metal and used magnetic curtain rods. They are really easy to use, but when a puppy gets excited and tries to look out the front door by jumping up they become a problem. I've been having to re-hang the sidelight panel about twice a day since hanging it. At least it is easy to do.

I have also gotten some gardening done! I planted the side garden: 

The back row is full of Coleus plants -- a fun variety. They grow well in shade and this garden is almost entirely shade. I used six "Jade Green" Coleus plants, plus one each of: sunset coleus, Red Ruffles Coleus, Gay's Delight Coleus, and Stained Glass Coleus. I love variety! I also planted in front of them two rows of seeds. The middle row has Dahlia and Impatiens seeds and the front row has Marigold seeds. In the past I have had a lot of success growing flowers from seeds, but I have no idea how successful I'll be here. There are a ton of birds around here and they might eat all of my seeds. Since I put them in both the side and front gardens I'll have to wait a couple weeks to see if anything is growing properly. Otherwise I might have to buy a bunch of flowers. 

This is the front garden so far: 

I have mulch in the front but not the side yet. I underestimated the total amount of mulch I would need. I'll be picking some more up this evening to finish off the side garden. Then I'll be soaking everything one more time. In the front garden I have the flowers from before plus I added a couple caladium bulbs, Lantana plants (these attracted butterflies and hummingbirds back in Nebraska when we planted them) in red and yellow, red and pink geraniums, orange and pink gerbera daisies, and the following seeds based on height: moss roses (my favorite), poppies, lupines, bachelor buttons, sweet pea, african daisy, and foxglove. I know that seems like a ton of different things but I gave them each a little area. I'm hoping for some success and will thin them out if they are too successful or plant small flowers that are pre-grown if my success is limited. This morning I also sprayed the front garden with some Bug B Gone - hopefully it works. Unfortunately, it looks like a couple of my plants that I planted in February might not survive the bugs from this past month. 

I also got around to completely ripping out the mess of the little garden near my front patio. It looks much better now:

I also have mulched this one but forgot to take the picture afterwards. I have also purchased a second trellis. I am planning on growing some cherry tomatoes and baby bell peppers. I haven't done much vegetable gardening in the past so I'm starting small.

One question for anybody who has experience with this. We have some massively huge (and scary) hornets/wasps of a variety I have never seen before. I guess they are a southern species. They seem to build their nests from the orange clay that's in the soil here. They like to locate them around our windows. Is there a preferred method for getting rid of these nests and preventing more from forming? 

Friday, March 15, 2013

Dining Chairs and Curtains

Happy Friday!

I know it's been a while since I posted, but here I am! I have worked on a few projects lately, but nothing too exciting. I made some cute Easter cards, but I can't post them on here yet since I haven't sent them out :) I also have a letter ready to send out to all my friends/family updating them with our new address (finally). So they should be expecting to receive that in the mail early next week.

I have bought some new pots for growing herbs that I plan on customizing/painting soon, so I'll make sure to post photos of those when they are done. This weekend I'm also hoping to go to a garden center to buy more pretty flowers for my garden and get that going a bit more. My front garden has a TON coming up and I can't tell what I planted and what are weeds yet. Or what the last tenants planted....

There are a couple things I can share with you this week though. My mom made us some curtains for the living room and bedroom. I have the bedroom curtains hung up and they match a quilt she made for me (leftover fabrics). The curtains are also SUPER heavy since she put a blackout liner on the back. I asked her to do that since TJ will be on rotating shifts for his job soon, and I wanted him to be able to sleep during the day. These curtains block all sunlight, and are really pretty too! Here's a pic:

You can even see a little bit of the matching quilt in the bottom corner :)

I LOVE these curtains! I need to even them out a bit, but other than that I think they look great.

The living room curtains do not have a curtain rod yet, so you will have to wait a little bit on those. We also need to buy a couple sheer panels for our front and back doors still. It's all coming together slowly.

The other item to share is we finally have a full set of dining chairs. I lucked out on a trip to goodwill and found a set of four for $70 after the military discount. I then ran by World Market and found some chair cushions for them on clearance. I think they are pretty cute:

Here is a close-up of the cushion fabric:

We still don't have all of our picture frames up and I'm still on the hunt for a 'ladder' bookcase for the living room and a vanity for the bedroom. So far, though, I've had pretty good luck with my finds. I may have luck tomorrow since base housing is hosting a neighborhood garage sale!

Last weekend we attended one craft fair in the area, it was mostly just clothing and food. We bought a cookbook, some candy (of course), and a few mixes. I will hopefully be able to find a bigger craft fair like those back home soon.

On a side note, we were given a ridiculously high estimate for installing a fence and I was wondering what tips anybody could provide on installing a fence on your own? We are only going to be here 18-24 months and we don't want to pay an arm and a leg for a fence we have to uninstall when we leave. 

My next blog will hopefully include the Easter cards I have made, some work from my garden, and some painted flower pots! I will probably be also posting a blog VERY soon on the blogging "Liebster Award." I had almost forgotten to do so!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Ancestry Research

I consider myself a curious person. Curious people want to know answers to questions, especially ones that they get asked all the time.

One of those questions that I get asked all the time is if I'm Irish. Why? My red hair. For most of my life I honestly had no idea. My family (parents) did not really know our family history much beyond their parents. You can't really blame them, those generations had so many siblings that they had enough to keep track of.

Now that so many records are becoming public and digitized though, this kind of thing is much easier to keep track of--and to find! I have been working on and off for a few years on researching our family tree. It is obviously a long-term project since families go back in time and more and more records are always added to the great invention of the internet. In fact, you can even volunteer to help 'read' these records and transcribe them. It is called the World Archives Project and if you are good at reading handwriting and have some time to waste, I highly suggest you contribute to this project.

I worked on setting up everything my family 'knew' over the past couple of years and even digitized some old photos my father's parents sent my sister when she was doing a genealogy project for school. I have happily added these to my family tree.

This weekend I am planning on doing some more research on our family history. Here are tips I have for anybody who is getting involved in this:

  • is an AMAZING tool. I highly suggest checking it out, even if it is just for a 14-day trial. Warning: it is very addictive and you might not get much sleep while you investigate and build your family tree.
  • Not all 'hints' are correct, the number one tip I have to give to make sure you are adding accurate items to your tree is to click on the suggested document and view it yourself! Do NOT just assume the information was transcribed and interpreted perfectly. Often the document does contain information about the person you are looking for, but many times it is in a different way than has interpreted it. I often end up manually inputting this kind of information in and then citing that suggested document on the tree. I'd say only about 1/3 of the time is the information accurate and complete for it to just be added in the 'review hint' section. 
  • Avoid adding from other members' family trees. They will be suggested to you, and often you will see your relatives working on similar trees. Or even a distant cousin (I've found a few of these--people researching siblings of the people I am researching, etc). These trees are great suggestions because they cite documents that are useful to you--so use those documents instead of the tree itself. 
  • If you are getting frustrated: stop. This is incredibly time-consuming project, with more added all the time. It is also a neverending project unless you were dropped off by aliens or something. Take a break. Do not get angry. Or switch to another person in the tree if you hit a dead end for now. When you do hit a dead end, call a relative! Sometimes they have some hints to pass along. 
  • Do not do a six-month subscription unless you are really dedicated. I usually pay for one month at a time right when I plan on working on it for a while, then make sure to cancel my subscription before I get charged again. These subscriptions are NOT a ripoff. You get access to SO many documents: social security indexes, census sheets, newspapers, military enlistment papers, etc. Wait to pay though until after you build your tree as much as you can on your own. Pay when you need to do real research. 
  • Convince a relative to help you. Two sets of eyes and brains are better than one! 
  • Don't keep it to yourself! Share with all your family and friends all the interesting stuff you learn. It's pretty darn neat!
  • It is very easy to spread the tree 'wide' with siblings, but if you want to concentrate on your genealogy click on 'pedigree' instead. This puts it in a streamlined form of parents only. 

I bet you've been waiting for my answer. I obviously have been spending quite a bit of time trying to figure out the answers to "Are you Irish?" and "Where'd you get your red hair?" 

The answer is: I don't think I am Irish, I have Scottish ancestry instead.  

Obviously, I haven't been able to get very far back on my tree. The good news is I do think I know where I got my red hair from. The bad news is, I don't know if that is the only place I got it. 

I have been spending a great deal of time researching my mom's side of the family. I have managed to trace back a few members of my family past the U.S. borders and found some neat stuff:

  • My mother's father's mother's father's father (my great great great grandfather?) came to the U.S. from Scotland to become a logger. He married a gal from Canada.
  • My mother's mother's mother's mother's father's mother's father (my great great great great grandfather?) came to the U.S. from Scotland as well. 
  • My mother's father's father's mother's parents (my great great great grandparents?) went from England to Canada and their daughter came to the U.S. 
  • In the U.S., most of these relatives have been concentrated in the Michigan area and has history in New York and a few other states in the Northeast/near the Canada border.
So far, those are the only blood relatives I have found past the U.S. Many of my friends have always known their lineage or had more 'recent' ancestors come to the U.S., always making me wonder about my own family's history.

I am always researching more and have yet to figure out where my father's side came from. His last name sure pops up a lot here in the South, more than anywhere I've ever lived before. I'll make sure to share any more awesome discoveries I make about my ancestry and genetics with you. If you have ANY questions about the World Archives project or, just let me know! I've been using for quite a few years now and have quite the handle on it. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Finished Crafting Project - Raider's Scrapbook

Background on the Project
I have finally "finished" a scrapbook I have been working on for a while. I started it a couple years ago, and it took me a while to get to finishing it since I wasn't quite ready until now. It is a scrapbook of the best dog in the world: Raider. We got him when I was twelve years old and he passed away last summer. He was my best friend, and followed me everywhere. He was my 'consistent' friend, since we moved a lot while we had him. We actually adopted him when he was three months old in Dayton, Ohio at SICSA (the Society for the Improvement of Conditions for Stray Animals). He was a lab/dalmatian mix with the loyalty and cuddliness of a lab and the playfulness of a Dalmatian. As my uncle would say: the best of both worlds.

I did put together small photo albums for my parents and sisters of Raider for Christmas, but I wanted something with a bit more sentiment added. Those albums had more photos of him in them, but this scrapbook has more of me in it.

I did each page separately, and at different times. This is why the scrapbook does not have a running theme. The only thing that connects the pages is Raider himself. I wanted it this way so that if one of my parents or siblings liked one page in particular they could possibly frame it. Otherwise, they can be printed off and put in a book.

Digital Scrapbooking (if you want to skip this part, just scroll down to see my scrapbook pages!)
Yes, I did say printed! I am a digital scrapbooker. Although I do love 'real' paper crafts, I feel that I am better at the digital scrapbooks. I enjoy making cards by hand along with painting, etc. The digital scrapbooking allows me to have a TON of options and keeps them all organized and much less messy. The items also take up a lot less space. BUT, my absolute favorite part of digital scrapbooking is that I can give more than one person the pages, so if I make it for somebody I can also keep a copy for myself! I know, it is kind of cheating ;)

I created this scrapbook using Serif's CraftArtist program. It is a very extensive program and I highly recommend it for those with some digital art experience already. It almost gives too many options sometimes for editing, etc. So, if you want to get the full extent of the program I would recommend making sure you are ready for it! It does have 'autofill' layouts, etc. for beginners too. This makes it so you could also 'learn as you go' with additional features.

I recently bought the Stampin' Up digital program: My Digital Studio or "MDS." I haven't gotten to test it out with any projects yet but it does seem simpler. I also am still working on figuring out how to use the 'objects' I have for one program with the other. They both have their own folders and organizers for the materials, so I'll have to figure out how to access the other from each program. I'll let you know when I finish a project using the new program and tell you what I like about each!

The Raider Scrapbook
(Click on each page to view it larger)
I plan on printing one copy for myself initially and then making any 'tweaks' that I feel it needs before printing copies for the rest of my family. They can view the initial project version here, though!