Sunday, July 24, 2016

Forever Changed

Photo Credit: JennyPennyAho

As many of you know Seth and I went through a traumatic event nearly two years ago.  We lived in a Fisher House for 11-months and we literally lived each day as it came.  We couldn't plan ahead because we truly had no idea what the future held for us.  

A couple weeks ago, I saw someone I hadn't seen in over two years and I was nearly brought to tears when they gave me a huge hug and stated how much they are inspired by us as a couple and how happy they are for us after all we went through. 

The truth is, I wouldn't be where I am today without my wonderfully, optimistic husband.  For the first three months after the accident, I was depressed and every single day, I asked various versions of "Why us?".  I couldn't understand what we did to deserve such a horrible, life altering experience.  One evening, I was crying at Seth's bedside while he rested after a long day of physical therapy.  I was blatantly honest with Seth and told him how I was feeling.  Among those feelings were being mad, sad, and confused.  The many questions I asked were: "Why did this happen?....Is this why we miscarried a few months ago?...Why us?...What did we do to deserve this?"  Seth's answer in summary:  "What's done is done and we can't change it.  I have to live with it and there is no reason to be mad at anyone else, but myself."   From that day forward, my outlook was different.  It was as though a light switch turned on. I didn't cry myself to sleep anymore and wasn't depressed about what life had dealt us.  I was proud of Seth for being positive despite the life changing events that had happened and ready to tackle the challenges yet to come.  I simply couldn't continue to ask "Why?"   

Instead, my train of thought changed to thanking God for Seth's life and being blessed with caring friends and family, nurses, doctors and therapists.  We thanked Him for putting a roof over our head and for the military supporting us through the entire process.  With Seth's positive attitude, I realized we couldn't change the past and I began to put my faith in God.  I became more patient (a virtue I had little of prior to the accident) and realized I must put everything in God's hands because He has control and I do not.  This was very difficult because I am a type A person.  Several days a week, I searched the internet for scripture that described my thoughts and feelings.  I found comfort in the scriptures and my friends and family saw a change in me. 

Early in his rehab process, we made a promise to start going to church together.   After 11 months of being away, we got settled back into our home, found a church that suited us and starting going every Sunday.  We went for about two months and I decided I didn't want anything for Christmas, but instead, wanted to renew our wedding vows.  We chose White Sands National Monument and nearly froze our butts off while our photographer snapped gorgeous photos of us.  Our pastor informed us he never cries for ceremonies, but found himself getting teared up when we said our vows.  He generously invited us to join a small group to support other people and learn and grow closer to God.  We agreed and started going in January.  These past seven months have been a blessing and we have learned about God, ourselves, other believers and we have strengthened our marriage with one another.  

I don't tear up every week at church while singing the songs*, but today was different.  Today, I found myself tearing up for all of the songs we sang.  It inspired me to write this post.  Every song had special meaning and made me think of what we have been through.  Every song made me remember God has a plan and we must put our faith in Him.  I am so thankful to be where I am today.  I am forever changed. 

*Songs:  "It Is Well" and "10,000 Reasons"

Friday, July 8, 2016

Makers Gonna Make

Since late May, Seth and I have traveled quite a bit.  We explored Seattle and La Jolla and in the next couple months we will be traveling to Las Vegas, Albuquerque and in the fall I'll be heading to Kauai for a friends' wedding! 

One of the items I always have in my luggage are shoe bags.  My mom made some for me a few years ago.  Over the years, I've used them and even given some away leaving me with only one bag.  I have small feet (size 5.5, sometimes 6) and I use one bag for 2 pairs of sandals or 1 bag for a pair of heels. I finally decided with all the traveling that I will make a couple more, so I don't have to use the ones that came with my Cole Haan heels.

A "fat quarter" is a quilting term, which is a piece of fabric cut to: 22"L x 18"W . When making the shoe bag, you will fold it lengthwise to maximize the fabric.  My mom informed me it costs about $1 in a retail fabric store.  I went in search of some and I paid $3/each. I didn't mind paying more since: 1) it supports a local small business and 2) so I didn't have to drive over an hour to the next closest fabric store.

Note: I recommend measuring your shoes and determine if a fat quarter is appropriate for your shoes.  The length shouldn't be an issue as it is appropriate length for my husbands shoes (sz 10.5), but you could go up to 21"W.  In that case, a fat quarter would not be appropriate and you would just have to choose a fabric and get it cut at the store.

I took measurements of my "fat quarters" when I arrived home and found they weren't the same size.  Since my feet are small, I decided it would work just fine especially after placing them on the fabric. 
22.25" L X 18"W (teal fabric)
(Both are folded in half lengthwise)

Fits a pair of high heels with extra room to spare.

22" L X 19.25" W (green/blue fabric)

Fits 2 pairs of sandals. 
Since I don't have a serger to finish the edges quickly and easily, I started by folding the edges under and then once more to create a rolled hem.  It helps to press it with an iron, but I didn't feel the need to do this, so I just folded as I went.  I decided it was best to use a rolled edge hem to prevent loose threads from getting tangled inside the bag.   

Rolled hem (fold once and then once more to create this hem). 

Once I sewed the decorative stitch on three sides, I folded it lengthwise with the fabric design on the outside.   Then I sewed a straight stitch just below the decorative stitch on the long side and one short side of the bag, leaving the top open.  

Teal bag with decorative stitch and straight stitch.
Green/Blue bag with zig-zag stitch and straight stitch.
Here are the finished products!   The teal bag looks slightly smaller because the fat quarter was a tad bit smaller than the blue/green fabric.  The blue/green bag has my 2 pairs of sandals in it and the teal bag has the black high heels in it (as seen in previous pictures).

Lastly, I put my hand on the bag to show you how much room is left in the bag.  So if you have bigger feet than me (which most people do), the fat quarter should be big enough to fit your shoes. FYI:  Since my shoes are small, I typically fold the extra fabric under the shoe bags when placing in my luggage.  

Sandals in shoe bag with plenty of room to fold the bag when placing in luggage. 
Happy Friday!


Saturday, July 2, 2016

Rules of Engagement

This post is for those who want to take their dog to the dog park, but aren't sure of the "unwritten rules."   

As many of you know we have a dog named Hugo.  He got when he was 3.5 months old.  Now, he is just over 3 years old.  He is a crazy, lovable, adorable, soft and fluffy dog who loves chasing me in the back yard, chewing on kong toys and bones, going for walks/runs and going to the dog park to sniff and play with other dogs.  Many people say "what kind of dog is he? He looks like a fox!"  He indeed looks like a fox and we love him to pieces.  

When he was a puppy we introduced him to the dog park, so he  could expend his puppy energy and also to socialize him with other dogs.  We have learned what to do and not to do at the dog park from our trainer and also from experience.   

It is best to get to know your puppy and work with an experienced trainer to get obedience training completed as soon as possible.  We took Hugo as soon as he was up-to-date on his vaccines.  His obedience training was once per week (1.5-2 hours) for six weeks.  I only have experience with Hugo and do not have any experience with rescue dogs, but working with a trainer is never a bad idea.  The trainer may be able to help you with some behaviors your dog is exhibiting that you thought you just had to "live with" (i.e. destroying toys, dog beds, growling when a toy is taken away, just to name a few).  

Hugo doesn't necessarily need to go to the dog park to expend energy anymore, but once a day he will come to us and bark and let us know "com'on it's time to go to the dog park!"  We enjoy taking him 3-4 times a week.  After all, it keeps makes him happy, tires him out and we get to socialize a bit with other dogs and people. 

Hugo at 3.5 months old.
Photo Credit: JennyPennyAho

Photo Credit: JennyPennyAho

Rules of Engagement {at the Dog Park}:
-do not take your dog to the dog park until ALL of their vaccines are completed. We waited another week or so before taking him just to be sure he was protected.
-scope out the park BEFORE you bring your dog for the first time.  Look for shaded areas, water fountain, small gated area at entrance/exit, dog bags for clean-up, trash cans.  Typically the dog park hours are posted at the gate. 
-never bring treats -- period! Training and/or rewarding dogs with treats should be done at home, not in a dog park. Leave the treats at home or in your car.  If you forget to leave at home, don't get mad if other dogs follow, bark and sniff you -- they have good noses and they will smell it whether it's in a bag or not.
-always bring poo-bags (if not provided at the park)
-always clean up after your dog immediately (goes without saying)
-don't play or talk on your phone. This is extremely annoying! Watch your dog.  Especially when they end up "taking care of business" and you don't see it happen or where it happened. Last evening, I saw a perfect example of someone glued to their phone and not paying attention to when his dog took care of business. We have one lady who typically speaks up and says: "your dog is pooping!"  It gets everyone's attention, that's for sure! 
-do not keep your dog on a leash while entering or while in the dog park.  There is a reason there is a small gated area at the entrance/exit. The small gated area allows you to enter, close the gate and gives you time to remove the leash and introduce your dog to the other dogs through the fence.  The dogs can sniff through the fence. This will allow you time to determine if you dog should even enter the park.  When exiting, the small gated area will allow you time to put on the leash. Typically, everyone prefers to be in the gated area with their dog only.  If you see someone in the gated area, wait 10-12 feet away from it, to allow the owner to leash or unleash their dog and enter or exit the area. 
Gated area at entrance/exit.
Photo Credit: JennyPennyAho

-if you have a small dog or puppy and it's getting surrounded by big dogs, stay calm and do NOT pick up the dog.  The other dogs are just curious and want to sniff, it's how they say hello.  If you pick up the dog, it informs your dog you are scared and then your dog will sense your behavior and will get scared.  Dogs can sense your emotions.  Stay calm! Freaking out and picking up your dog will cause the other dogs to get even more curious and begin jumping up on you (whether well-trained or not).  If your puppy is small, it would be best to introduce when the dog park isn't busy (don't go at dinnertime or when you see it's crowded).  Scope it out and go when it's not busy, so your puppy can be introduced to a couple dogs and then gradually progress to being around more dogs.  It worked for Hugo and before we knew it he was enjoying the big dog park more than the small dog park because he could stand his own ground. 
-don't bring a toy unless you are alright with these simple facts: another dog may steal it, dogs may play tug-o-war with it and/or destroy it some way or another.
-spay or neuter. If you choose not to, please don't bring your dog or if you do bring them, be responsible and watch them closely. 
-don't feel bad you only remember the other dogs' name and not their owners' name 
-accept that fact that there are cliques.  Some people take the dog park very seriously and will ask you to leave if you bring treats, don't pick up after you dog, don't control/take responsibility of your dog.
-do not wear nice clothes or shoes.  You will most likely end up getting dirt and slobber on you, or sometimes worse!
-if you choose to bring your children. Remember the dog park is not a playground.  Screaming, shrieking noises and running around are not actions that should be done around dogs you do not know. You never know how other dogs will react to your children.  To keep your children safe, go when it's not busy and inform your children to ask before petting another dog.    
-Pay attention to your dog and looks for signs that your dog needs to go home. You will learn your dogs cues. When we first arrive, Hugo typically runs around sniffing, taking care of business, running and playing. When he comes over to us and sticks around or lays down near us, we know he is ready to go home.  He knows what "go home" means and will walk to the gate if he's ready.  Typically 45-60 minutes does the trick for expending energy. 
-Look for signs that your dog needs water.  Hugo's tongue gets bigger and more pronounced when he is overheated. Most dog parks provide water fountains, but not all.  Scope out the dog park prior to taking your dog, so you know whether or not you need to bring water with you.

Photo Credit: JennyPennyAho

Photo Credit: JennyPennyAho

Photo Credit: JennyPennyAho

Photo Credit: JennyPennyAho

Last evening, I was at the dog park and Hugo had a blast as usual.  We were about to leave and some woman had obviously never been to the dog park.  She started walking towards the fence, where I was currently putting on Hugo's leash.  Her dog was obviously excited.  He was barking and pulling on the leash (literally yanking her arm in all directions).  I noticed she was walking straight towards the gated area and I had to stop her and ask her to wait until we exited.  She didn't say a word to me, but she obliged and just stood on the other side of the gate only 2 feet from the exit.  Her dog's tail was wagging (good sign), but as soon as Hugo and I exited, the dog immediately started growling and tried to snap at Hugo.  I kept walking towards the car and she entered through the gate. Almost immediately all of the dogs in the dog park ran over to greet her dog and all of them were jumping and barking.  This immediately got the attention of the owners and they all were walking over to their dogs to move them away from the gate. The only good move she made was that she realized was she was losing control of the situation and her dog was too aggressive to enter the dog park.  So, she exited back out of the gated area and went to her car to leave.
My recommendation to her would be:  She should have scoped out the area and brought her dog when it wasn't busy.  There were literally 20 dogs there and she obviously isn't the alpha in the relationship.  After this instance, I knew I had to post this even though it may offend people.  The truth is, you need to take responsibility for your dog and determine what is best for you and for them.  

Monday, June 27, 2016

I Got My Own URL!

Many bloggers I follow have their own URL. I personally find it easier to type in the name of the blog without all of the other mumbo-jumbo at the end.  Now you can easily search for my blog by typing jennypennyaho into your search engine.

Happy Monday!


The Perfect Plant for People Who Lack the Green Thumb Gene

My mom has always had a green thumb and I only inherited her fair skin, height, brown hair and facial features.  No green thumb here!  Seth is constantly reminding me to water my indoor plant.  My problem?  Overwatering and/or forgetting to water it completely.  He has taught me how much the plant actually needs, instead of drowning the poor thing and gives me a gentle reminder each week to water it.  It has flourished since I got it in October.

So with that said, I was out at the store back in the fall and saw a cute succulent plant in a small round pot.  It fit perfectly in a rod iron bicycle pot holder on my front porch.  I water it with 4oz (1/2 cup) of water once a week and it's still alive.  Seriously, I can not believe it.
Small pot of the succulents I bought last fall. Isn't this rod-iron bicycle the cutest?

About a month ago, I found some succulents for sale at the local grocery store and snatched them up.  I figured they had a chance since the small one I had was still alive.  So I spent $24 and split the succulents into two pots.   

Supplies Needed:

  • succulents (I got mine at local home improvement and grocery store, you can also order online)
  • pot with hole in bottom
  • metal screening or coffee filter (I have both, but I used a coffee filter)
  • Miracle Grow Cactus/Palm/Citrus Potting Mix - Fast Draining Formula (it's got the perfect blend to keep succulents thriving)
  • water
  • succulent food (only after the first 6 months)
Tips for Care:

  1. Succulents are fast draining, so that's why you must use the special potting mix listed above.  I was going to buy regular potting soil and then add in the vermiculite and perlite, but I didn't need or want HUGE bags of it and that's all that was sold at the store.  If I get a large pots in the future, I may consider mixing my own, but for now, the premixed bags are in my opinion the best option.
  2. When watering, I typically water once a week in the summer months and once every two weeks in the winter. We have reverse osmosis in our home and you can not use this water to water the plants.  I use the water from the hose/spiket outside instead.  I give it about 6oz (3/4 cup) of water, but as you can see my pots aren't terribly big.  My rule of thumb is to look at the soil and touch it.  If it's dry, go ahead and water it.  If it's still moist or the soil looks moist on top, don't water it and check on it another day and water if it meets the above criteria. Seth reminded me and once I got into a routine, I didn't have to worry about him reminding me anymore.  I suggest setting a reminder in your phone until it becomes a habit.
  3. I live in a dry, desert climate. I keep the succulents outside during the winter and summer.  You can keep them inside as well, but you will need to follow the other tips I provided. Our typical winter here is 40-50* during the day, 30* at night.  Summer is typically 90-100* during the day and 80* at night.   If you live where there is humidity and extreme weather conditions, I would talk to your local nursery for tips. 
  4. Succulents need plenty of light.  I have the small on on my front patio, which is in the shade most of the time, but is thriving.  The two new pots of succulents are thriving outside facing north and tucked close to the house under the awning/overhang of the roof.  Both of them are in direct sun for a few hours each day, but most of the day they are in the shade/partial-sun due to the house casting shadows.  Definitely scope out the area where you plan to put them.  
  5. When my succulents turn 6 months old (from when I purchased and repotted), I will purchase and begin using the succulent food.  I can provide an update on how they are doing when I make this change in feeding them.

I can't wait to buy more, but I'm waiting for our backyard to get redone before I start buying pots and more succulents.  I also started following Instagrammers who post nothing but succulents to get ideas of what I would like to purchase. I am addicted and can't wait to find some with more color than just the shades of green that I have currently. In other gardening news, Seth and I plan to start an herb garden and a vegetable garden using metal horse troughs.  

Thanks for stopping by JennyPennyAho.  Happy planting!  

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Back At It

Seth and I at the Marsh/Rogers wedding in La Jolla, CA.
Photo credit: JennyPennyAho

I am guilty of being MIA.  In mid-May I was tremendously busy completing course development and wrapping up other projects and then immediately left for a week long trip. Since early June, I've traveled twice more and I've been busy doing projects around the house that were left unfinished for months. I have multiple blog post ideas in the pipeline, including:

  • a tour of our master bathroom reno AND master bedroom closet reno
  • gallery wall inspiration
  • a DIY project and several other topics that may strike your fancy.  

So stay tuned my friends! JennyPennyAho is back and is most definitely not suffering from writers' block.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

10 Reasons Why Living Out West Is Extraordinary

Photo Credit: JennyPennyAho
October 2015 Sunset in La Luz, New Mexico

I grew up within 45 minutes from the ocean and had the best childhood a girl could ask for in the fine State of Delaware.  I lucked out and got accepted to nursing school within a mile from the ocean and lived there for 2.5 years.  Little did I know I would meet my true love and move out west and become a desert lover at the age of 24.  Having a military spouse has allowed me to explore the western U.S.  We have absolutely loved living in Colorado, Nevada and now, the Land of Enchantment, New Mexico.

My childhood and early adult years were amazing and I wouldn't trade them for anything, but I am glad that our future children (whenever God decides to bless us) are going to have a wonderful childhood growing up in the western U.S.

10 Reasons Why Living Out West is Extraordinary

  1. Mountains, mountains and more mountains! We can escape the desert heat and be in the mountains within 20 minutes. 
  2. The best sunsets I have ever seen are in New Mexico.  I have lived in four states and none of them have sunsets like NM.
  3. Skiing! Although I haven't been in a few years due to recent changes in our life.  Colorado holds a special place in my heart.  I learned to ski at Breckenridge and Seth and I made three ski trips with our Vegas crew to northern Utah and Lake Tahoe. We have a local ski area less than an hour from us and I plan to get my ski legs ready in the fall to prepare for next winter. 
  4. No humidity! Zero, zilch, none!  End of story.
  5. No mosquitos!  I get eaten alive overtime I travel to Delaware to visit family in the summertime.  I don't miss mosquitos one bit. 
  6. Unique wineries.  I have only visited one winery in New Mexico, but I attended a Wine & Nut festival back in the fall and found the best wine in my local area.  My favorites are from a little winery in Ruidoso, which is less than an hour from our home.  I'm not a white wine lover, but their white wine is delectable and so are two of their red wines.  The name of the winery is Noisy Water Winery.  My favs are:  Tighty Whitey, Dirty and Big Legs Red.  There is another winery in Artesia that has a great bottled sangria too. 
  7. It's hot, like really, really hot in the summer, BUT if you have a shaded patio or umbrella in the summer, you are golden.  With the absence of humidity, you don't sweat like a pig when in the shade.  
  8. Local grown pistachios! Who doesn't love pistachios!?
  9. Fresh tostadas!  Our local market has a tortilleria and their tostada chips are out of this world!  
  10. Local salsa!  I have tried various brands of salas and typical salsa just doesn't cut it anymore.  I guess I've become a snob.  My favorites are from New Mexico.  My favorite brands are:  Pedro's from Albuquerque and Green Chile HATCH Salsa from Hatch, NM.
Have you ever visited NM, CO or NV?  What did you love about these beautiful western states? I'd love to hear from YOU! If you want to see more photos or hear more about NM, let me know and I'll be sure to share them with you!

Thanks for stopping by JennyPennyAho!  

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Doing Something for Myself {& My Family}

05/2015 Our trip to Delaware included a pit stop at King's Homemade Ice Cream in Lewes. Photo credit: JennyPennyAho   

Experienced educators have told me that I need to "give it a year, the first year of teaching is the hardest, but it gets better."  Well, I gave it two semesters (almost) and I have decided full-time teaching is not in the cards for me right now.  I submitted my resignation in late March.  I will finish up the semester and a couple of projects I've been assigned and then I will leave my position at the college at the end of May.

You are probably wondering, why I am leaving after only teaching two semesters.  Well, during spring break in March, Seth and I talked until we were blue in the face and we decided it is best that I leave my full-time position and focus on our family.  I have given 110% and do a fantastic job with developing curriculum and teaching, but I care too much (is that possible?).  My answer, yes it is because it stressed me out!  I'm already a high-strung person and giving my all and then some, really took it's toll on me.

Some things  I discovered since last August:

  • Educators work more than just the 40 hours a week.  It includes nights and weekends and late night emails and grading.  I knew this, but not being able to "shut it off" and thinking about it the moment I woke up everyday was annoying & stressful.
  • Although, I care for my students and want them to be successful, there is only so much I can do to push them along.  It's exhausting dealing with students who don't want to put forth the effort.  I guess I'm a nerd, because I always did my best in school. In fact, I wish I would have cared a bit more in high school, so I could've aced AP Bio, instead of skimming by.
  • I miss clinical nursing A LOT! I never realized I would miss being with patients and just being a nurse. 
  • We really want to start a family and is just hasn't happened yet. We plan to focus on family right now and see where it takes us.
  • Seth and I are taking our religion seriously and we go to church every Sunday.  In fact, we were asked by our Pastor after our vow renewal if we would join a small group that meets once a week.  In January, we joined the small group and we truly enjoy learning more about ourselves, God and our new friends.
Reaching this decision was difficult, but I had a tremendous weight lift off my shoulders after I turned in my resignation.  Teaching is fun and I hope to return as adjunct in the future.  After I leave in May, Seth and I plan to travel and spend time with family and friends.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Talkin' Tuesday: What Matters

Photo credit:  JennyPennyAho (October 2012, Princeville, Kauai, Hawaii)
Sorry I've been MIA.  This semester has been TIRING!  This is the first official semester I'm teaching on my own (10 hours a week) and I am co-teaching in lab for the another course (8 hours a week).   We're on week 5 of the 16 week semester and it finally feels like a normal pace again!  I've gotten proficient at grading assignments, keeping an open-line of communication with my students and following my lesson plans. I've been trying to work on new curriculum, but it's just been too crazy.  This week, I actually got to work on it and I hope to start dedicating at least 10 -15 hours per week to get it done.  I've got an update on the new course I developed all by my lonesome!  It was officially approved and is on the schedule for Fall 2016!  I'm beyond stoked and I know my nerves will kick in June and July, but it will all work out in the end.  I developed it, so I should know it like the back of my hand. Right?

Now that I've gotten my "work" updates out of the way I wanted to share with you an unexpected compliment I received today.  This morning in class, my co-worker did a presentation on "personal branding."  He asked the students to state one word that describes them and then write a short description of who they are.  I assisted him during the discussion and provided examples of how their previous jobs have molded them into the person they are and it can be applied to healthcare (team player, hardworking, motivated, caring, compassionate).   I informed them, they may not have been in healthcare before this course, but previous jobs can bring great value to their new position.

After class, my co-worker pulled me aside and said I was just about to email you!  I said, "Really?  What can I do for you?"   He said "I wanted to thank you for today and every day you help with class discussions.  AND I want you to know that I am completely inspired by you!  You are extremely motivated to get your job done and do what's best for everyone."  When I heard this, I was speechless and started to tear up.  I couldn't help it.  He continued to say, "Whenever I am feeling down, I come to talk to you and I always feel better after I leave your office."  Truthfully,  I had no idea I had any sort of impact on him and never really thought our "chats"  meant anything.  But, he proved that they do matter.

We all have it happen at some point or another, right?  Somedays are worse than others and sometimes we second-guess ourselves.  But today was a great day.  Today, I felt special because someone took two minutes to say thank you and compliment me.  And you know what?  I feel pretty darn awesome. I just wish everyone would do that once in awhile and maybe someone's bad day would get an ounce better because one person took the time to tell us we matter.

"What we do for ourselves dies with us.  What we do for others and the world remains & is immortal."  -Albert Pine