kiddie care packages

I might be using Gabriel for his adorable nephews + nieces.

Since I don't have any of my own yet, and my close friends are still holding out on kiddos, getting to meet the youngest members of Gabe's family over Christmas was such a treat. (I'm pretty careful about posting photos of others here, especially kids, so you'll just have to take my word for it.) Enormous smiles, loads of energy and lots of rock, paper, scissors with four to five year olds.

It will likely be June before I get to see them again, but I wanted them to know I loved meeting them...and how much their Uncle Gabe misses them, even though he's far, far away. So, with Valentine's Day upcoming, I made little care packages for the five youngest members of the family. (Sorry teens in the Contreras fam, but I'm certain you don't want a care package from your uncles weirdo girlfriend.)

Please forgive the fuzzy photos...this project was finished and photographed after the sun went to sleep.

Cost-wise, I think it broke out to about $4.50 per kiddo (mailing not included), and I snagged everything in the Target $1 aisle, or the party section...including the tin mailboxes ($1 each), with which I'm completely in love. My frosting skills may need some work, but what does a five-year-old care? A cookie is still a cookie.

Overall, I'm pretty pleased with my first ever attempt at kiddie care packages. :)


relief + giveaway winner.

Can I announce that I am elated this week is complete? It's just been one big ol' pot of emotions. Saying goodbye to Gabriel and learning to be a lil' lonely again, a new semester bringing new classes and spiking my anxiety for a handful of days, and one big ol' thing which, for space purposes, I'll spill about next week.

Cause really, we just all wanna know who won the giveaway, right? Blah, blah, blah...enough about your emotions, woman! Heavens to Betsy you're an emotional disaster!

The winner of the Valentine's Craft pack is.....

The lovely Alivia!

Alivia, shoot me your address via email (wwrinserepeat@gmail.com), and I'll get this package in the mail for you right away tomorrow AM!

Thanks for playing, all. I like giveaways more than I like chocolate cake...for reals. So I'm hoping to cram in one more before Valentines Day...keep checking back.

Happy weekend, beautiful people. :)


nerds by mail.

My fancy scissors got some facetime in this post. To those who emailed or asked,
my sis gifted it to me...but you can buy yours here. Cute, right? :)

My favorite part about love: silly traditions developed as a couple.

One tradition in particular has stuck with me, even though we're apart. Each night before going to sleep, we find ourselves reading + discussing ultra nerdy factoids. I mean truly, truly nerdy. Things like...the location of the original Vatican, if Gustav Klimt was truly a womanizer (I say he was), the degree to which Pisa Tower is leaning (3.07 degrees) and whether ostriches do bury their heads in the sand (they totally don't).

I miss that. I can't get to sleep now. I just lay there, needing one teensy bit of knowledge and a little more conversation before feeling ready to nod off. Eventually I crawl out of bed and find my way to the computer, where I delve into an article, reading until my eyelids feel heavy enough for sleep.

So, in an effort to send Gabriel a little love...and a selfish effort to combat growing insomnia...I've decided that I'll send him our factoids in the form of postcards. One every night for the next hundred and something days, each clearly marked with its number in our series of postcards. And each bearing lil' creative effort from me.

Here's postcard number one. :)



Two years ago, when I reapplied to college, I had to write the most humbling letter, requesting that a perfect stranger believe in me. Believe that I was a smart girl. Even though I didn't believe I was a smart girl, I hoped a stranger would. Years prior, I'd spent a semester of college battling depression. The world was dark, and getting out of bed was more work than I thought imaginable. Everything was a struggle. I'd flunked out of nearly every class that spring, as I a blew off papers, class attendance and the like. My grades were dismal. After that semester, I'd dropped out of college and planned to never return.

So, clearly, along with my application requesting to return to college, I needed to explain my GPA of 1.82, if my application were to get any further than the receptionist's trash. Although I knew in my heart I could tackle it this time, on paper it looked like I could not. So, I wrote my heart out. I explained my semester of failing grades, my struggle with depression, my characteristically creative self and my high hopes for the future. I sent my application off, and waited, nervously...knowing deep down I'd likely be rejected.

But somehow, miraculously, someone listened. I'll never know who, but I know I'd like to hug him. Or her. Upon receiving the letter of acceptance into my design program, I cried the happiest tears I've ever known.

**see note below**

I've spent the past year and a half righting my academic wrongs, attempting to prove whomever approved my application right. I would become a smart girl. Depression still follows me, yes. But I've kept it out of my academic world. My second chance at education is much too precious, too easily marred, to allow it to be effected. (Or is it affected? Hmm. I never know.) Sleep, social life, personal creative pursuits have all taken a backseat to the challenge of finally proving to myself that I am a smart girl. A girl who will, eventually, obtain a degree.

When I snatched my mail from the box a few days ago, I discovered a large envelope labeled "DO NOT BEND". It was from my college, and I hadn't the slightest clue what it might be. It was...it was something that would set off Happy Tears: Round Two. Inside, a fancy certificate congratulating me on my academic excellence. It was my first academic award: A Chancellor's Award. I didn't know the things existed, but apparently they do.

I feel redeemed. And I finally believe I'm a smart girl.

Note: The certificate itself was ugly. Not my style. So I made the above poster to hang above my desk. To remind me, humorously, of my success.


lesson learned + giveaway.

This I have learned: Do not visit the craft store immediately after kissing your boyfriend goodbye for the next 135 days.  You might say I did some damage. Anything pink, red or frilly went in my basket and I headed straight home where I threw myself into approximately six hours of undivided crafting, pausing only for silly self-pitying sniffles and to stare listlessly at his left-behind sweatshirt.

But, we're getting better at saying goodbye. For example, Gabriel didn't forget to return the rental car this time, and although the past few days have been one teary blur, I do believe I maintained my composure at the airport much better than last time. Hurrah for little victories, eh? :)

Sigh. Pathetic, I know. Now I find myself in this ridiculous self-created world of hearts + frill and lonelier than I truly thought I would be. But, I can think of one thing that always brightens my days....

....is it too early for a Valentine's Day giveaway? Who cares! Leave a comment on this post to win this package of V-day crafting supplies:

Crafting Package Includes...
40 assorted pieces of scrapbook paper
18 gold paper hearts + 12 white paper hearts
15 adhesive die-cuts
8 kraft paper cards
6 yards of assorted ribbon
1 set of pink chipboard letters

If you're feeling industrious do share your favorite V-day memory in the comments, otherwise a simple hello will do. As always, this giveaway is open internationally. I'll announce the winner on Friday, in hopes these goodies will reach the recipient in time to craft for Heart Day.

Happy Monday. :)

P.S. Thanks for all your sweet cheer-up comments + emails last week. You're fabulous.


a proper away message.

**Is that lipstick you're wearing? Why yes. It is.**

Hi there. Remember that girl who fills this place with emotions and photos and life? She got swept away. Tying up lose ends in Sacramento, returning to the midwest, three days in Chicago with family and a few quiet days in Wisconsin before her boy leaves on Saturday.

I've been handling Gabe's impending return to Iraq quite well. That is, with one exception. While picking up a few items at the store, I breezed past a Valentine's Day display. While fully aware that Valentine's Day is a Hallmark holiday, my mind wasn't able to reach my heart in time to stop the tears. February 14th. A day I adore. Three weeks after Gabriel leaves.

Then I cried. A lot. In a place where Gabriel couldn't see me and, as he so often does, feel guilty.

And since that day, things have fallen to the side. My hopes for starting off the year with gym trips and days of creativity. Book reading. Faithful blogging. Cooking. It all feels so little in comparison to being present in this time, before we're once again separated by eight-thousand miles and four and a half months.

So, I hope you don't mind if I'm on "away" for a few more days, while I soak up the time we've got left. But, I cross my heart to reunite with you on Monday. :)

P.S. Here's a lipstick update: Covergirl in Wine Shine is giving me a color I love. Unfortunately, I have to reapply every hour or two. But...in a few days I'll have no reason to lipstick-up, so it works for now!


while he is gone.

Back from visiting the family for the first time! Tomorrow I'll give you a full run down on meeting the family, making friends with at least five puppies and a gaggle of kiddos. But, at this moment, Gabriel has left me at home to run out to the post office before the end of the business day...so I'm just rockin' a quick post.

These thirty minutes are the longest we've been apart for the past two weeks. There's a lot of romantic debriefing that can happen in thirty minutes....this I've realized.

For example: At a young age, I decided that I wouldn't live with anyone before getting married. And I've kept that commitment...and want to continue to keep that promise, both for myself and for whomever I marry. But, there's something to be said for spending a few weeks together, vacation style, fairly uninterrupted. Learning each other's quirks. Discovering how you work as a unit. Uncovering each others flaws. Apparently I leave the bathroom floor a swamp after a shower. (Admittedly true.) He leaves his socks on the living room floor at the end of the night. (True, but he might not admit it.) And yet, we balance nicely.

And, I've learned this: Every morning, he lays his clothes out on the bed. Socks, pants, shirt. Everything.

It's pretty cute. :)


family secrets.

Last night, I sat with Gabriel's two dimple-faced nephews, ages 5 and 7, while they looked at old photos. They giggled as they called out names of puppies, cousins and friends. After a while, a photo of a sweet baby girl opening a present popped up.

That's...Uncle Gabe's kid.


That's Uncle Gabe's kid, he said again.

Oh my. I will not recount what my mind did for the next two hours, as I, unable to corner Gabe away from family, was left to wonder if the mouth of a babe had just revealed some secret left unshared. If only you could have heard Gabe's laughter when I trapped him hours later to ask him if he'd hidden a child from me. He, riddled with laughs, explained that he was definitely not a father. I was embarrassed to say the least, and shrugged off his hugs. I wasn't quite ready to laugh at the incident last night.

Okay, this morning I am willing to admit: It was pretty funny.

A note to those wondering: Do not fear. It was his friend's kiddo who had been around that day. I should have figured this out as the boys stumbled over the identification, and there was one photo of the babe out of hundreds...but you know how minds work in panic mode. Scary for a moment...but funny for a lifetime. :)


a late christmas surprise.

This weekend is Christmas with Gabriel's family, who he hasn't seen in a year, since he spent his last three-week leave with me in Ireland. (Which is where we met and fell in love. So, it was all worth it to us.) His fam lives in the country, with sprawling land, a whole bunch of pygmy goats, a gaggle of pups and a few donkeys. Get this: The pygmy goats just had babies. And I get to name one. You know you'll be seeing photos of that next week. :) (Edit: No babies as we thought. Bummer! Maybe next time.)

Gabriel's parents have always wanted to visit Alaska. But, they had five children, so Alaska went back on their dreamshelf, and they focused on providing for their little ones. What they don't know is that Gabriel and his four siblings have purchased a ten day Alaskan cruise for them. Have I told you how sweet Gabriel is? (I have. But this next part is just incase you're not convinced.) He planned the entire thing. Flights, hotels, the cruise itself, spending hours debating over which room would best suit them and which ports of call they'd enjoy most. We wanted to tell them in a semi-special way, and wrapping up six gifts that hinted at their trip seemed just the thing. A new camera, warm coats, a tour guide book, a few gift cards to pick up mittens and needed items, all packaged with one letter from the word "Alaska". We cannot wait to see their faces. 

As for me, I'm a bit nervous about meeting the fam for the first time. I've quizzed myself on all twenty names, drawn a family tree in my mind countless times. TWENTY. But, I have a deep fear that they'll dislike me, I'll say something awkward or just be a hot mess. But, with ten nieces and nephews...all adorable, I must say...I'm certain we'll have a fun time.

Regardless of my nerves, we're on our way. Wish me luck. :)


from house to home.

Did I mention that Gabriel owns a house in Sacramento? Did I mention that it's 3,000 square feet? Did I mention that sans a few beds, a table and two sofas...it's near bare? He purchased his home while on leave from Iraq two years ago...and until this week had only spent a handful of days here. There's so much blank canvas in this home that my brain is exploding. Like when I used to paint regularly, the wide-open challenge is exciting, but this blank canvas has me a smidge overwhelmed.

We decided we could take on one room on each visit to Sacramento...a few rooms a year. There are twelve rooms, and at some point we'll have to get ambitious, but starting small seemed wise. So, we decided to start on this room. The awkward extra living room.

It's off the front door, which is to your right in this image. Is it a living room? No. There's already one of those. How about a family room? No. That's covered. Perhaps this is where proper folk receive guests, hang their coats and store their galoshes? We have no clue. I've never had a room that wasn't deemed by space limitations and function. So, we're transforming it into a cozy little reading room. Gabriel sweetly mentioned that this might be a great room for me to write, read and blog from in the future, as well as a warm space for welcoming guests. He also told me to go wild. (This was before our first fight...so I know those instructions weren't just a rescue effort.)

My first instinct when decorating is...shabby chic. But, shabby chic is so wrong in this man's modern home. Instead, I'd love to move into a modern, tailored look...something more suiting of a masculine man, and the very feminine girl in his life. I'm thinking clean lines, whites, metallics and pops of color brought in through pillows, rugs and throws.

Our first goal was to pin down chairs or seating options for the space. After trips to Pottery Barn, Z Gallerie and countless hours website shopping, here's what stole our heart:

The Chloe, exclusively for Macy's. I spotted it in the Macy's gallery, and just about lost my mind. I may have squealed while cutting through half of the gallery to get to its side. Of course, the model I first spotted was a chair...and it was aqua. But the graphite sofa and loveseat were nearly as fetching, loss of aqua aside. Gabe quickly warmed up to the button-tufting...something I'd not expected. Before we knew it we were chatting with a sales associate, and making plans to return next week when it's on sale. I'm in love with it.

But here's where I need some help: Is there a website you crafty chicas use to create moodboards? Although our seating will arrive at the house in the next few weeks, we'll be long gone. He'll be back in Iraq, I'll be back in Wisconsin, and we won't return to the house until June. So, I've got a few months to scheme + dream of rugs, curtains and other accessories, but need a place to track and lay it all out visually.

Got a suggestion?


a little rain must fall.

You live in bliss until your first fight as a couple. One day it will come, but you can't be certain where it will happen, or when it might strike. Most importantly, you never know what will set it off. After four months of dating...ours was in a parking lot. Tonight. And it was an accidental insensitive comment which came from boy, directed at girl.

It was a forty minute drive home. Silence and stoplights.

For two hours we passed each other around home like ships in the night. Downstairs, I lay teary-eyed on the couch, listening to him vacuum upstairs. I'm not an angry fighter. I'm a teary-eyed thinker, who would rather pen a letter about her feelings, than be forced to vocally express her thoughts. Time passed, and I wondered if the sun would set with words unspoken. Finally, we caught each other around the kitchen island. Me, on one side, him on the other and an enormous slab of misunderstanding and granite between us. I stood, tapping my fingers against the stone...attempting a move I like to call "Girl Nonchalantly Flipping Through Anthro Catalog". He nervously juggled dishes, and snuck glances at me from his place at the sink.

Eventually, one of us spoke.

"Do you want to talk about it?"

"There's not much to say," I sighed.

"I'm so sorry, sweetheart," he pleaded with me. "I'm gonna screw up sometimes. But even when I do, you know I'll do anything to make you happy. And I'll love you to pieces until forever."

And then he caught an giant tear sliding down my cheek, pulled me into a bear hug and kissed my nose. Team Bethany conceded.

In fifty years, tonight will be a tiny scuff on our shabby chic table of life. The first scratch seems enormous. Glaringly horrific. But over time, it's less noticeable. The daily bumps and scuffs reveal true character. Who knows. Maybe we'll get married and have babies. Then someday I'll point to the kitchen, and sassily tell our kids, "That's where daddy really screwed up for the first time." And he'll say, "That's where mommy first really overreacted." And then we'll laugh, unable to remember what we'd fought over...only that it seemed bad at the time.

For now we'll treasure the little moments that remind us to be more gentle with each other. To carefully handle hearts and minds, as it's easy to forget how delicate love, romance and relationships can be. But, I'll continue to love it all, despite any imperfections. And years down the road, I won't be able to imagine life without these scratches and stained coffee rings. 


simple breakfast.

Somewhere in our travels, I told Gabriel that I love Oh's cereal. Well, look what I found in our cart at checkout yesterday, after I'd strolled off in search of some silly item. I'm quite certain that a high priority must be placed on finding a mate who remembers your favorite breakfast cereal.

Yesterday, we ducked into a Pottery Barn closing sale where we rambled about, debating a killer couch purchase. Ultimately, we decided against it, as it was still a significant investment. But, Gabriel did pick up an icy blue throw I was ogling. He already has a few, but said he wanted one that made me feel at home. And thankfully, he also understands my need to infuse his home with some feminine touches...he "yessed" my addition of some fresh blooms and a few candles to our cart.

Color me in love.

Also, color me sooo far behind on my blog reading. Sweet Gabriel has a blog reader app that syncs to his iPad, so when we're together I can catch up on my reading. He keeps yelling out numbers, "Honey! You have 86 posts to read!" and "Oh wait, now it's 92!" I know, darling. I know.


at 'home'.

We're back from San Francisco! There was eating + napping + bonding with our best friends...it was so good for the heart, but so, so hard to say goodbye. But, I'm excited about the next week. 

Gabriel, when not in Iraq, calls Sacramento home. So we're spending a handful of days at his home just outside of Sacramento. These will be the first few days in our relationship in which we're not checking into hotels, toting about boarding passes or living out of suitcases. (Okay, we're still living out of suitcases. But we're slightly unpacked and can do limitless laundry.) This morning we realized the lack of travel obligations that lay in front of us this week. The next four days are simply downtime before we head north to meet his entire family. Eeek...meeting the entire family for the first time. All twenty of them.

In the meantime, pardon me if I wax poetic about dull daily things.  Although we've traveled the world together, we haven't checked off pivotal relationship steps that often come before that. Big things like: Cleaning the house together + grocery shopping + fighting over the remote. Bring it on.

Bring. It. On.

P.S. I can't lie: This enormous house has me dreaming + scheming about the future. It has beautiful bones, even though it's not the usual Victorian style that gets my heart thumping. It just needs some feminine touches. Currently, my two points of contention with Gabriel are an investment in hardwood floors, and permission to eventually paint his maple cabinets a crisp white, with an addition of some glass drawer pulls. Wish me luck.


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