Of Princesses, Politics, Star Dust, and Halflings

I’ve been asked several times in the past few weeks why I haven’t talked about what’s going on in politics and the world, honestly I’m feeling more and more like I need to go ahead and say something.  I don’t want you to think I am the silent or that I have no opinion (that is frankly impossible).

When I started my presence on social media over 12 years ago it was with a promise to Ryan and to myself.  I swore that there were two things that I would not engage in on any form of social media and for 12 years I have kept that promise.  Those two things are; serious discussion of any disagreement between he and I and politics. 

The first is self-explanatory and one that has never been hard.  Our life together really has become The Princess Bride over the years… it’s gone from “As You Wish” to “Life is Pain” a bit more than I would like in recent years but he’s still my best friend and working things out together has never been something we’ve been tempted to do in the public eye.  I am honest and transparent about what we go through with his knowledge and blessing.


The second is harder.  I do not enjoy politics.  Discussing it does not fire my blood and excite me.  It makes me sick at my stomach and lose sleep and I become a nightmare to live with.  I feel the same way about debate and confrontation.  This year, however, has tested my resolve beyond belief. 

I have watched every rally that was streamed, every debate.  I have read every article I could get my hands on and researched on both sides.  I have read all of your statuses and scrolled the comments.  I have agreed and I have disagreed.  You have not seen me for one reason and it is complicated.  I have traveled the world.  I have people that I love from every walk of life.  From every race and color and religion and from both sides of this fight. 

It is because it has become a fight that I am cautious.  On Facebook, if I like or comment on one thing you post… it opens that post up for everyone on my friends list to see and then your wall becomes the new battleground.  I am unwilling to mediate or apologize for having friends of different viewpoints and so, because I love you and because I will not be used to fuel more fight I have stayed silent here, I have not chosen social media as my platform.  Don’t get me wrong… I have put in literally hundreds of hours of discussion in other ways.  Ryan, for one, is praying for me to lose my voice, I think.

I feel like Frodo in the counsel of Elrond.  A lowly Hobbit whose hard work is done cooling his heels while the big dogs make a choice who then watches all of the giants he respects start to tear each other to pieces in heated debate over what to do next and over who will be the best choice to go.  In horror, he jumps to his feet and declares “I will take it!  I will take the ring into Mordor!”


But there is no ring for me to take… there is no one task I can take on my shoulders, no burden to ease the pain of what’s going on in my tiny corner of social media or for that matter in my country or my world.  This is a burden we all must bear and it is vast and messy and it’s tearing us apart.  I know one very true thing… in less than a month, a choice will be made, this will be done, and we will still all have to live, TOGETHER, on this bit of star dust that we call our home.  


This is my way, it may not be yours.  Your platform may be social media, talking about politics may be what helps you make a decision or you may have a platform that helps others choose.  I do not feel that specific burden.  This is my choice.  I fight this fight in other ways.

Disclaimer: Though I am breaking my rule with great forethought and posting ABOUT politics this post is not a place to discuss politics.  As a dear friend of mine says, “This is a wall, there are many like it, but this one is mine.”

With all my love,

“Never cruel or cowardly, Never give up never give in.” Doctor Who

My little family of three loves a good pot roast.  BUT we can’t eat the whole thing.  The sad truth is that it’s probably the most expensive item on my grocery list every month and leftovers are a problem.  We either forget to eat them or some part gets wasted, most of the time because the leftovers are just uneven.  Too many potatoes not enough gravy!

I think I’ve found the perfect solution to this problem!  I’ve developed a recipe that uses my leftover pot roast dinner as the building blocks for another favorite, Sheppard’s Pie!  If I split that recipe into two glass dishes, one immediately goes into the freezer for a rainy day and I’ve now economized that pot roast supper to the penny.

It’s such a hit around here that I didn’t see any reason to keep it to myself… Are you ready? Let’s get to work!

Get out your left over mashed potatoes and roast.  (Gravy is optional though I chose not to use it this time)


Chop your remaining pot roast.  Meanwhile, brown a pound of ground beef.

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Add a small palm full of dried thyme leaves.   Add another palm full of salt and pepper.

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Add your chopped pot roast and cook until heated through.


Stir in 15 oz can of tomato sauce… and 1 cup of water.

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At this point you can add a bit of your pot roast gravy or a packet of gravy.  I chose packet gravy as my post roast gravy was a bit watery and I wanted a thicker base.  Make sure you use a darker gravy suck as brown, onion, hunter sauce, or mushroom… again depending on taste. You just want that bolder flavor as your base.


Let the sauce simmer until you get a nice thick meat sauce.  Prepare two glass baking dishes.

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Pour your meat sauce evenly between both pans.

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Your second layer is your vegetable layer.  Our little family enjoys a vegetable medley.  Peas, carrots, green beans, and corn.  You can basically use any veggie that suits your family here.  Use about two pounds.


Pour your veggies into your pan with about half a cup of water and a palm full of salt and pepper.   Simmer until cooked to taste.

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Spoon your veggies evenly between both pans.

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Now for the third and final layer… the mashed potatoes!  You are going to want to heat your potatoes to make them pliable.  You may even want to add a touch of milk or cream to make them a bit creamier (I did) because I’m going to ask you to do something fancy.


Once you have them pliable, scoop them into a gallon ziplock and squish them down to one corner.  This is, of course, optional.  But I promise, it’s easier than scooping, it makes the potato layer with leftovers more even, it’s prettier, and it’s so much faster!!!  Once you have it ready to go just use scissors to snip off the corner of your bag.

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When your bag is prepped and ready to go start squeezing tablespoon sized dollops of mashed potatoes over the top of your Sheppard’s pie.


Don’t they look lovely?

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Preheat your oven to 400*.
At this point you can cover one and freeze it and it will last a few months.  To cook the frozen Sheppard’s Pie simply remove from the freezer and allow to thaw in your refrigerator overnight and bake according to the following instructions.

I like to add a few small dabs of butter over my mash potato peaks.  Everything is better with butter.


Once your oven is preheated place your dish on the middle rack, uncovered and allow to bake for 25 to 30 minutes.  You want your mashed potatoes to brown slightly and your meat sauce to bubble.  Remove from the oven.  At this point you can choose to eat your Sheppard’s Pie!  If this is where you want to stop you need to rest it for about five minutes and it’s ready to eat.  If you dare… take it one more step with me…


I add CHEESE!  I use a mexican blend cheese because I like the mix of different cheese flavors.  A light layer across the top will do.

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Put your Sheppard’s Pie back in the oven and set your broiler on low.  (Hi will burn it) You will want it to be under the broiler for about 5 to 7 minutes but watch carefully.  You’ll want to pull it when the cheese starts to bubble and brown.




Let it rest for 5 minutes and then plate it up…




Pot Roast Sheppard’s Pie

Leftover Pot Roast (1 to 1.5 lbs)
Leftover Mashed Potatoes (2 to 3 lbs)
1 lb ground beef
1 15oz can tomato sauce
1.5 cups water
2 16 oz bags frozen vegetables
1 envelope gravy mix (can substitute 1/2 cup pot roast gravy)
1.5 tsp thyme
Salt and Pepper to taste (about 1.5 tsp each)
1/2 cup cream or milk to cream up mashed potatoes
2 tbsp butter (for top of mashed potatoes)
1.5 cups shredded cheese of choice

Preheat oven to 400*. Chop leftover pot roast and brown 1 lb ground beef. Add thyme, half salt and pepper, and pot roast.  Heat until heated through.  Add tomato sauce and 1 cup water. Simmer until thickened. Prepare two 8 x 10 baking dishes.  Split meat evenly between these two pans.

Add 2 lbs frozen vegetables, 1/2 cup water and remaining salt and pepper to clean saute pan.  Simmer until cooked to taste. Layer evenly between two baking dishes.

Heat mashed potatoes.  *Optional* Add 1/2 cup cream or milk to add smoothness.  Spoon warmed mashed potatoes into a gallon zipper bag and squeeze to one corner.  Use scissors to cut the corner from the bag. Squeeze tablespoon sized dollops of mashed potatoes over the top of your Sheppard’s pie.

*To freeze* Cover baking dish and place in freezer.  When you are ready to bake it simply remove from freezer and allow to thaw overnight in the refrigerator and then proceed with the following baking directions.

Place your dish on the middle rack, uncovered, and allow to bake for 25 to 30 minutes.  You want your mashed potatoes to brown slightly and your meat sauce to bubble.  Remove from the oven.  Rest for 5 minutes and serve OR *Optional* Add a light layer of cheese, about 1.5 cups spread evenly across the top. Place back in the oven and set your broiler on low. Broil for 5 to 7 minutes watching closely.  Remove it when the cheese starts to bubble and brown. Let it rest for 5 minutes and serve.

“Life is worth living as long as there’s a laugh in it.” ― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Pot Roast Sheppard’s Pie

I’ll Be Seeing You by Gia Cooper

Twelve years ago I met a woman that quickly became one of my dearest friends… though we have never met face to face. We had so much in common including heartbreaking loss, fairy-tale love, history in the military, and a love of creating. Ten years ago she asked me to read a chapter of a book she was thinking about writing.

I did and I was thunderstruck. The depth, my instant emotional connection to the characters… I told her that I KNEW that someday this book would have a place of honor on my little bookshelf. That I would save a space, and I have.

And now it’s here! It’s published! I’ve bought my copy and can’t wait to have it in my hands… I must know, after 10 years, what happened to Pearl!!! Then, and only then, I’ll place this precious piece of literature and consequently a bit of the history of our friendship in the place of honor it’s always deserved.

Here is the book description:

I’ll Be Seeing You by Gia Cooper
“They joined the Army Nurse Corps hoping to find adventure in paradise. Instead, they found love and war on the battlefield. On the heels of their attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the Japanese Imperial Army launches a campaign to overtake U.S. forces on the Philippine islands. Before the bombing raids, Rose and Pearl enjoyed dates with marines and sunny afternoons on the beach. But now, they’re prisoners of war fighting for their lives and the lives of their countrymen. This is their story. A story of the terror and courage that comes with war. A story of friendship, forgiveness and unconditional love. Can they stand courageously in the middle of a war-torn jungle? Will they discover redeeming love amidst the bloodshed? And most importantly, will they survive long enough to see American forces rescue them?”

Please consider buying one for your very own! (You never know… she might write another!) You can purchase your copy here: http://www.amazon.com/Ill-Seeing-You-Gia-Cooper/dp/1530913551/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1464539958&sr=1-1


My husband has PTSD, so I’m teaching him to crochet.

It’s been forever since I last sat down to blog.  I’ve missed it, but life has been more for living these past years than for writing about it.  (Read that as, I’m keeping my head above water)

It’s been 4 years since Afghanistan.


Saying farewell for now.

I would like to tell you that I knew, right away, that something was not quite right.  That isn’t true.  There were moments of question, little doubts in the back of my mind, but almost from the moment he stepped off of the plane, life accelerated to light speed.

There were a flurry of emergencies back home in Arizona which resulted in several hurried trips… we didn’t even get reintegration leave.  There was one conversation in which I learned that some of his mental health markers had changed on his return but we were slated to move to Turkey in a matter of months and so it got signed off and pushed aside.  The move was stressful and fraught with theft and then separate travel.  The year in Turkey was dotted with him leaving the country for one sort of business or another, leaving Isaac and I there alone.  The political temperature of that part of the world changed and we were all on heightened alert.  My health problems became too severe to treat in Turkey, and I was sent home, with Isaac, while he returned to Turkey and then went on to another deployment.


Saying goodbye again.

In the 22 months between Afghanistan and his return from Qatar and Turkey we lived under the same roof and in a normal home environment for 7 months.


His final return from Turkey and Qatar in 2014.


On his return, there was a sudden death in the family, and his reaction shocked me.  My husband and I were preschool sweethearts.  There isn’t much about him that surprises me… we are old friends.  This reaction was the antithesis of his personality.  I can’t describe to you the horrible panic that settled in my stomach.  Suddenly my world was on it’s head and I knew, without a doubt, that something was horribly wrong, and that I should have seen it sooner.

That night, as we lay in bed in the guest room of my parents house, just two feet from the small bed of our sleeping son, we had a whispered conversation.  The things he told me rocked me to my core.  The things he’d seen, the horrors experienced, his difficulty connecting to his emotions, and how utterly lost he felt. I insisted that the moment we settled in Colorado he seek help.

It’s been two years.  The search for good mental healthcare has been extremely frustrating but he’s finally found a program, a plan that seems to be helping.

Two years of flashbacks, night terrors, walking as calmly as possible out of movie theaters, mediating between him and our son when his patience is gone and his fuse is short, conversations he can’t remember, appointments forgotten, and so many other things.

Two years and we FINALLY have a diagnoses.  My husband has Acute Narcotic/Trauma Induced PTSD.  He has been told that progress will happen but that he will never be whole.  He will never be the same.

Let me explain the Narcotic/Trauma induced. While in Afghanistan he had to take anti malaria medication.  He has a medical allergy that kept him from taking the normal medication so they gave him an alternate.  It is not the commonly used medication because in a certain percentage of people taking it the side effects include but are not limited to night terrors and psychotic breaks.  Unfortunately my husband fell within that percentage.  For the entire six months he was there he suffered horrible night terrors, waking dreams, and a few episodes that were scary.

Everything he remembers did happen, but then was reinforced night after night in horrible nightmares resulting in an severe emotional detachment.  The damage is done.

We will never be the same, those golden carefree days are behind us, we won’t be the fairy tale we once were.  And that’s okay.  We’ll work hard together.  For us. For our son.  We will be a Phoenix rising from ashes… in time.  The road before us is long and perilous.


Our last photo shoot before Afghanistan.

I’ve bought him a very extensive planner so that appointments don’t go forgotten. We have code phrases for use in front of our kiddo so that he is not undermined but doesn’t do damage in turn. I’m teaching him how to crochet because it’s been found to actually heal brain damage.


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He’s learning to chain.  He doesn’t know if he’ll ever get any farther but he’s pretty proud of his nice even tension… it’s the little things.


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I’m so proud of him.  For talking to me, for seeking help, for making changes when he was resistant… I know that, in time, we will settle into a new normal and find our truly happy again.  We have a lifetime to find it.



All my love,

P.S. If you or a loved one suffer from PTSD or any other mental health issue, please seek help.  There is so much available!

The stigma against mental health issues of all kinds is so damaging.  My husband is no less a man for self reporting, for asking for help remembering something, for seeking a therapy such as fiber arts to heal, for letting his wife share his story… is he? I believe it makes him a better man and one I greatly respect.

A Galaxy Far, Far Away

A Galaxy Far, Far Away


Thank you so much for your interest in my blanket! It was a labor of love and a joy to watch take shape. I hope, that if you choose to make one, you enjoy every moment of it and the joy it brings.

What you will need

Size G hook
Tapestry/yarn needle
Worsted weight yarn I used 10 colors and it worked out to roughly 7oz of each color.  Now some of these are Vanna’s choice and they don’t come in 7oz so you’ll need two to get the amount. Also gauge and tension will affect it… so you might want to look through the blanket and add a little. For instance you have 4 navy squares, 4 light blue squares, 4 black squares… maybe get two of those. Unfortunately a lot of this was stash yarn for me so I’m guessing a bit at the amount. Maybe err on the side of caution on the bigger colors and use your scraps for something awesome like a Death Star pillow! 🙂 I hope that helps… sorry to be vague! I could just kick myself as this is the one thing I didn’t keep good track of through this process and of course the most asked question!

Colors I Used

Bernat Super Value in:
Hot Blue
True Gray
I Love this Yarn in:
Vanna’s Choice in:
Red Heart Super Saver in:
Cherry Red
Red Heart With Love in:


Each graph, both those from the following site and my originals, are 30×30 squares done in single crochet. I personally carry my colors behind and drop them as I finish each section.

This set of five videos is a very good set of tutorials for graphing if you want to see it done.

First and foremost, I got some of the graphs I used from another talented designer. Here is the link to about half of the graphs used in this blanket:

From the following link I am using: Death Star, Stormtrooper, Y-wing, Old Rebublic Logo, R2-D2, Tie Fighter, Millinium Falcon, Boba Fet, Empire’s Insignia, C3P0, Scout Trooper, Rebel Insignia, Jengo Fett and the Incomplete Death Star.


These are the square that I made with the above graphs.


Original Graphs

Without further ado… here are my own original graphs! Feel free to use them to make your own works of art! Colors are suggested based on a series that we all know and love but have fun with it! I would love to see what you make!

I’m pairing the 30×30 graphs with my pictures of the actual crocheted squares. In order to save and print these graphs, just right click and choose ‘save picture as’ then save and print! I personally print the graphs so that I can mark my lines with a pencil on completion.


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Three Lightsabers

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Crossed Lightsabers

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Luke Lightsaber

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Sith Lightsaber

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Darth Maul

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Darth Vader

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Jawa (Bonus I did not work this one up)


When you have finished each square, tie off and weave in all of your ends. Mark what will be the front of your work.


Round 1: Using the main color for each square, join in any stitch with a standing single chain. Single chain in each stitch around with a third single chain in each corner. Join with a slip stitch to the top of your standing single chain.

Round 2: Chain 2 (or a standing half double chain) and work a half double crochet in each stitch around, working 3 hdc in each corner stitch. Join with a slip stitch to the top of your chain 2.

Round 3: Chain 3 (or a standing double chain) and front post double crochet in the next stitch. Back post double crochet in the next stitch. *around. Join with a slip stitch to the top of your chain 3.

Round 4: Chain 2 (or a standing half double chain) and half double crochet in each stitch around again working three hdc in each corner stitch. Finish off and weave in your ends.


There are a thousand and one ways to join squares… I’ve tried quite a few of them and none work quite as perfectly as the Zipped Ladder Stitch. You can find the tutorial for this here:



Round 1: Work a row of single crochet around the entire edge of your blanket. In the joins between each square work a s2tg to ensure a nice smooth edge for your blanket.

http://www.crochetme.com/glossary/single-crochet-two-together-sc2tog.aspx Round 2: I delight in using the Giant Granny Patches Border to edge this blanket. I feel that it just sets the whole tone and brings all of the bold colors together. I start with Round 4 of the pattern and continue out until I’m happy with how it looks!


A road I never thought to be on…

I’m sitting in the waiting room of an Army Post, waiting for Ryan to be done with his procedure.   He’s having a vasectomy today.  

Ten years of infertility and the many heartaches and emotions that go with that… All that is behind me, all that we walked through… and this is never a place I pictured myself.

But here we are.

It’s for all the right reasons, so that I can stay with my family and yet I mourn a little… who am I kidding?  This is devastating… and nobody understands why.