What I Learned This Week – Stuff

Here we are just a day away from December, and I am already busier than a raccoon in a trash-pile.

Thankfully though, I have learned a thing or two over the years regarding the month of December. It has a tendency to sneak up on me and THEN, in the blink of an eye, it’s gone. It certainly doesn’t help that we’ll be celebrating two birthdays in two days at our house either.

I’ve spent one too many December holidays fretting over stuff, so hopefully the things I’ve learned will help one or two or ten of you fret less. I say it all the time people, this blog is about so much more than entertainment.

May I present to you a dozen of my best tips and tricks for a more relaxing holiday season.

1. Pack holiday decorations away in groups. (Snowmen for the bay window, bathroom decorations, dining room decorations, etc.) The unpacking will be much more organized.

2. When unpacking my holiday decorations, I find it EVER SO HELPFUL to pack away all of the other stuff sitting around in the empty holiday totes.

3. IF you insist on sending Christmas cards complete with a Christmas picture and a family Christmas letter, get all of that mess out of the way and in the mail as soon as you can.

4. If you’ve been at this holiday decorating thing for awhile, it is a good to follow this rule of decoration: for every new holiday decoration you buy, get rid of one. (You might consider giving the stuff to a newlywed who doesn’t have a whole of Christmas stuff to decorate with.)

5. If your holiday plans include participating in a cookie exchange, you may want to Google the Pillsbury bake-off cookie recipes before submitting your recipe.

6. If you send a blue million lots of Christmas cards, you should purchase them the day after Christmas when they are 50% off and put them up for the next year.

7. Ditto for Christmas stationary and wrapping paper.

8. The blogosphere is a great place to get holiday decorating ideas. It also helps to have a husband who is ready and willing to help you get it all done.

9. There are lots of people searching for Christmas letters on Google. Many of them have shown up on my bloggy door the past two weeks simply because I titled a blog post, Family Christmas Letter.

10. Keep some sweet stuff (cookies, brownie mix) on hand for impromptu visitors.

11. Gather all of your wrapping supplies and keep them handy in a decorative box under your Christmas tree.

12. Compose a couple of blog posts that are ready to be posted in case you get busy one evening and have trouble getting your What I Learned Post up at a decent hour.

Okay, that is all.

Now it’s your turn to  share.

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You can read the long detailed version of rules here, or follow these easy steps.

1. Any time this week, publish your What I Learned This Week post on your blog. AND, if you could, spread the word to your bloggy friends so more people will LINK UP for pete’s sake.

2. Within that post, please mention the What I Learned This Week carnival and link to this post here at From Inmates To Playdates.

3. Then link up with the Mr. Linky below and give a shout out about it on facebook or twitter.

4. Visit the other participants and see what they learned this week. Then leave a comment because comments are fun!

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In a line, in the rain, waiting for nothing.

I’m sitting on the love-seat next to McDaddy. I am writing today’s blog post and he appears to be looking at a forum, probably something to do with automotives. Desperate Housewives is a bust because it is a rerun from a few weeks back which is an aggravation. I put the smack down on Housewives about ten minutes in and now we are watching Sarah Palin’s Alaska. Because we usually watch shows on the DVR, we rarely watch the opening credits. I was surprised to hear Third Day singing the theme song for the Palin show.

It’s been a crazy couple of days around the McResidence

On Thanksgiving morning, my friend Jill asked if I’d like to go with her later that evening to the Toys-R-Us. I love to be out and about amongst the crazies, so I was all over the invitation. We arrived at Toys-R-Us around 9 PM to find hundreds of people already lined up. Fortunately, there wasn’t one thing in the ad that I absolutely had to have, so I was laughing and enjoying the time with my girlfriends. Just as we approached the door, it started to rain. There I was, standing in a line, in the rain, waiting for nothing. We got some awesome deals in spite of the crowd and the rain. After arriving home at midnight, I grabbed a bowl of Reese puffs [OHMYWORD, I love those!] and took my sleepy self to bed.

Four hours later, at O’Dark Thirty on black [cold, wet] Friday, I rolled out of bed and got dressed. It was 35 friggin degrees [I hate the cold] AND, it was raining. Less than ideal circumstances for a shopping extravaganza, I headed out with my parents, armed with ads and a coca-cola classic. We braved the elements and the crazies and then headed to iHop to rehash it all. After I had all I could take, I headed home and slept for several hours.

Then. THEN. I drug my sluggish self off of the couch and with the help of the three sweet people that occupy this house with me, got every single bit of my Christmas stuff out and up (there is a difference) and as I type this, I am watching our gorgeous nine-foot Vienna Pine rotate. You cannot imagine my excitement. McDaddy even went way above and beyond his holiday decorating responsibilities by installing a new receptacle just so I could put our second tree where I wanted it. I love this time of year, even though we have two birthdays, a boat load of Christmas celebrations, family stuff, basketball, Santa’s Workshop, PTA, shopping, church activities, dinners, and wrapping to take care of.

Whew, I’m tired just typing all of that.

I’m gearing up for a busy December.

I Ate This

By the time you read this, I will no doubt be demonstrating my domestic prowess in the kitchen on Thanksgiving Day.

Or something like that.

More likely than not, I will also have eaten my weight in desserts like chocolate delight, pumpkin pie (slathered in cool whip), banana pudding, hairy cake, and cute turkey cupcakes. In between Christmas Card completion phases, and plotting my black Friday shopping extravaganza, I had a little time to take some pictures of some food that I’ve eaten this week.

I thought I’d get all creative and artsy this week, but, it’s hard to do when you’re shooting cardboard boxes and popcorn.

Earlier in the week, I saw some cute turkey cupcakes on Heather’s facebook page. I smiled and thought to myself, I could make those.

And that’s exactly what I did.

And then I ate one.

Oh my word. Aren’t these the cutest little cupcakes you’ve ever seen? I’m not a big fan of the candy corn, but when the time comes, I’ll strip these suckers and eat’em up.

And just because I believe in balance, how about a juicy apple?

If ever you are approached by a cub-scout to purchase some of their ridiculously priced popcorn, you should totally hop on it because it is actually very good popcorn. This is our first go-round with the cub-scout popcorn, and I’m sad to say I only ordered the cheese lovers. Next year though, totally ordering the chocolate lovers.

If you are searching for a way to get in your daily dose of whole grains laced with calcium, it don’t get much better than this.

Oh sweet mercy, I swear I heard angels singing when my lips first met this mess of peanut buttery chocolaty goodness.

That is all.

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!

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Head over to I Should Be Folding Laundry for more You Capture posts.

Family Christmas Letter

I am one of those people. One of those people who send the highly anticipated Christmas letter.  Ahem.

Each year, I attempt to write an entertaining letter. The last thing I want to do is come off sounding like Braggy McBraggerson even though it would be very easy to do when you have two super smart kids anda hot husband. Nor do I want people to do the eye-roll when they retrieveve our letter from their mailbox.

If you are one of the 381 people (I’m kidding people! Kinda.) who receive our annual Christmas ramble letter, you might want to click the little red ‘x’ up there in the right hand corner and find yourself a Reese Cup or something. Otherwise, our Christmas letter will not be a surprise to you come delivery day.

And now, may I present the 2010 McFamily Christmas Letter complete with a hidden message. Do you see it?

May this find each of you enjoying the mayhem and madness of another
Enchanting holiday season. As luck would have it, you’ve been chosen to
Receive the annual McFamily Newsletter where Julie will no doubt
Ramble on about what all the family has been into since you heard last
Year’s account. McDaddy is still working his fingers to the bone as a
Control Systems Specialist for Honeywell and is also Major in the Air National Guard where
He recently celebrated his 19th year. He enjoys off-roading in his Jeep and overseeing various
Remodeling projects currently taking place around the McPalace. As one might
Imagine, Julie is just as crazy as ever and is in her 2nd year as PTA President at
Stevie’s school, F. Elementary. As a homemaker extraordinaire, she takes her job
Transporting kids and cleaning the house as serious as one can while still
Making time to blog at From Inmates To Playdates Dot Com and watching a vast
Array of reality TV. It’s a tough life, but somehow she manages. There is very little
Structure to her day and she is busier than a raccoon in a trash-pile most of the time.
Finding out in June that Stevie NO LONGER NEEDS GLASSES, we celebrated and
Rejoiced. As a second grader, he can rattle off information like nobody’s business.
Oh, he loves to read and apparently inherited the gift of gab from his mama. He is a
Member of the Cub Scouts and plays basketball for the SV Youth League.
Then, there is Alex, our five year old. He is in pre-school and loves to play with Stevie.
He is full of vim and vigor and has two speeds – wide open and asleep. He is a sweet,
Entertaining boy who loves stuffed animals and anything with Lightning McQueen.
Much to the dismay of their parents, the boys are growing up fast. Even though we
Could, we won’t go on about how smart or sweet our boys are. The entire Mc.
Clan (all 27!) plus a few enjoyed a weeklong vacation in Florida which was the site of
Our annual Christmas picture. The four of us also spent Spring Break in Florida,
Lazily relaxing with both sets of our parents. Much of summer was spent at swim
Lessons, camps, travelling with McDaddy on business and camping with friends at various
Area campgrounds. Our little bandof four has been blessed beyond measure with
Many friends and a loving family. While we have no idea what 2011 will hold for us, we are
Sure of Christ’s love and abundant grace in our lives today and everyday.

The Lord has done great things for us and we are filled with joy! – Psalm 126:3
And we hope you are, too!
Love, McDaddy, Julie, Stevie and Alex

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This post is linked to Works For Me Wednesday.

Cute Christmas Letters and Chocolate, Jermagesty

It’s the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. It is also Thanksgiving break here in our school district which means NO ALARM CLOCK for the McFamily this week! And for that, I am seriously thankful.

Today, I completed Phase 2 of the annual McFamily Christmas Card project which means that all 16 boxes of cards have been signed and the address portion of my cards have been addressed. I am moving right along on the 2010 Christmas Card extravaganza and I hope to have them finished by Thanksgiving day. My Christmas shopping is a whole ‘nother story that I won’t get into just yet because Y’ALL, I need to get busy.

In between my visit to the loony bin and my attempt at knocking out my Christmas Card project for another year, I learned some things. And, because I am such a sweet gal, I thought I’d take this opportunity to share them.

1. When you consider the fact that people are losing loved ones daily, a cluttered kitchen counter is not really anything to stress about.

2. If you hold down the control button while clicking on a Facebook picture, the picture will open up in a new window and you won’t have to spend time scrolling all the way back through the status updates each time you view a picture.

3. More than one of y’all hide chocolate in places like closets and behind healthy snacks in your cupboard.

4. Jermaine Jackson has a son named Jermagesty. (As a Princess, I find this simply amusing.)

5. In most cases, the DVR will only record shows that you tell it to record, SO, if you want to watch Skating With The Stars, you should program it into your Daily Docket.

6. If your seven year old tells you that his basketball team name is “Apeheads” there is a very good chance that he misunderstood his coach when she told them their team sponsor is “Apex.” You might also want to hold off on calling the coach to voice your concern about the whole “Apeheads” team name.

7. If your child is invited to a birthday party at the inflatable jumping place, you should ask him to take his glasses off.

8 IF your child is invited to a birthday party at the inflatable jumping place, and you neglect to have him take his glasses off, and he BREAKS his glasses, you should not rush him to the mall to have his glasses fixed until you contact the place where you purchased the glasses, because they MIGHT still be under warranty and be fixed free of charge.

9. If you have five skids or pallets or whatever they are called of cinder block sitting in your [sloped] yard, you should know that it is totally possible for the shrink wrap to give way and the skid or pallet or whatever it is called to tumble over and onto your driveway landing just inches away from your van.

10. There are a lot of people Googling “cute Christmas letters” this week. WHICH I have also finished for the year.

How about you? What did you learn this week?

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You can read the long detailed version of rules here, or follow these easy steps.

1. Any time this week, publish your What I Learned This Week post on your blog.

2. Within that post, please mention the What I Learned This Week carnival and link to this post here at From Inmates To Playdates.

3. Then link up with the Mr. Linky below.

4. Then visit the other participants and see what they learned this week. Then leave a comment because comments are fun!

Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum

Some time ago, McDaddy mentioned that the Jeep Club had been invited to participate in a flashlight tour of a lunatic asylum located about 10o miles from our house. Being the freakweird person that I am, I immediately said, “We should go!” On Friday afternoon we said goodbye to the kids, grabbed our overnight bag (yes, I said overnight! WOOHOO!) and headed to the loony bin. I have a psychology degree, and I knew this would be right up my alley. We’d be like modern-day ghost busters, only not, because I don’t believe in ghosts.

We stopped for a quick dinner with the Jeep peeps before making the short drive to the massive, historical building known as the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum.

We were taken into a meeting room and issued certificates of commitment. McDaddy’s reason for commitment was ‘bad company” and my reason for commitment was “Over action of the mind.”

Oh shoot. If they only knew.

Luckily, I had the good sense to look at the lunatic asylum website before we left. I discovered that there would be no lights and no heat. We met our tour guide and he lead us up four flights of wooden stairs. Since the web-site reports apparition sightings, unexplainable voices and sounds, and other paranormal activity at the Asylum, I had no idea what to expect. The tour guide gave us a glimpse into the care and treatment of the patients and even shared how some of them died within the walls of the massive historical structure.  THEN. Then, as we entered the first ward, the tour guide shared a story about a guy that died in a treatment room named Frank. He did a ‘flashlight’ session with our group and somehow, the flashlight that sat in the middle of the floor went on and off three different times as our guide asked “Frank” or “the ghost of Frank” questions. While I have no earthly idea how that flashlight turned on and off like it did, I don’t believe for one second that it had anything at all to do with a ghost, regardless of claims such as this one:

I enjoyed touring the different wards and hearing about some of the patients that inhabited the facility. Even though we froze our butts off during the tour (it is November in West Virginia), I enjoyed the information that was shared with us. I had to wonder though if we were being exposed to asbestos though because the paint is peeling from every surface and most of the floor tiles are disturbed and cracked. We heard tall tales about ghost sightings and paranormal activity, but aside from the flashlight nonsense, we didn’t witness any of it for ourselves, which is just fine with me, because hello? Paranormal Activity on the television scared the soup out of me for weeks.

If you ever have the opportunity to visit West Virginia, you should definitely visit the loony bin. It is quite the experience, especially in the dark, in the middle of November and more especially with a tour guide who believes paranormal activity, is normal. In its hay day, the 262,000 square-foot structure was no doubt a beautiful building with inspiring architecture. McDaddy and I both agreed we’d enjoy the historical heritage tour offered at the asylum.

The creepy, historical Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum.

I’d love it if you’d like my page!

In the past 24 hours, I have wasted precious time sleeping, or at least trying to. I have not felt the greatest and didn’t have the least bit of energy to do one single thing. I’m hoping by the time you read this I’ll be back to normal because I am way too busy to be sick. I’ve been fortunate because I rarely get sick, but when I do, I do it up right. Last year, for example, I started to feel sick and seven hours later I was in the ER with the stinkin’ swine flu. I got a shot in my heine and headed home.

As I always say, go big, or go home!

Since I’m still not feeling great, I thought I’d make this as quick and painless as possible.

  • I deleted my old facebook page and started a new one. Back in the day when I started my blog page, I made a dumb decision to call it, www.frominmatestoplaydates.comand every time I saw it in print, I cringed because HOLYCOW WHY DID I MAKE THE NAME SO LONG? I’d love it if you’d like my new facebook page. You can click the “like” button over in the right side bar or just find From Inamtes To Playdates on the Facebook.
  • Would you believe me if I told you that McDaddy and I will be making a visit to a lunatic asylum very soon? Well, we are and I’m pretty excited about it. I’m hoping they don’t keep me.
  • Today, at approximately 2:24 PM, I will be whooping it up because I will not be needing my alarm clock for then L-O-N-G days! You cannot understand how happy that makes me!
  • I attended one of those Cash For Gold parties. I took a hand full of gold junk and walked about with over one hundred dollars.
  • I seriously need to get on the Christmas shopping stick. Usually by this time, I have most of it done.
  • I do however, have the 2010 McFamily Christmas RambleLetter written. Each year I wonder if I can come up with something mildly entertaining and each year I THINK I do that. I know there are more than a couple of people out there who don’t much care for the Christmas letter. I love Christmas letters.
  • Eva Longoria just filed for divorce which is sad because they are a beautiful couple.
  • I have a serious case of heartburn. I had a Wendy’s cheeseburger for dinner, but wow, where in the heck are the tums?
  • I am so excited for Christmas. As a child, Christmas was a magical time for me. I want our boys to have a magical time on Christmas morning, too.
  • In 22 short days, I will celebrate my THIRTY-SEVENTH trip around the sun. That’s a lot of trips!
  • I just pulled 16 boxes of Christmas cards out of our loft today. I plan to have them finished before Thanksgiving.
  • I can’t help but wonder how American Idol will work out this year. I still think Harry Connick, Jr. would have been a fine choice to occupy a seat on the judges panel. The new season of Idol begins January 12th.
  • Maksim is still a hottie. I was sad to see him go on DWTS. McDaddyand I were talking today about how entertaining it would be if they had a season of Dancing With The Housewives. I’d choose Maks, Derek, or Mark for my partner.

I think that’s it!

Have a great weekend, y’all!

You Capture – Inspiring

What inspires me?

I’ve discovered this week that finding things that inspire me isn’t nearly as easy I thought it would be. When I think of the word inspire, I think of three things, really. My hubby and my boys. They inspire me to be a better person. A better wife. A better mom. Instead of flooding you with pictures of my fellas though, I tried to think of things that inspire me.

Here’s what I came up with:

Before the deployment, I pledged allegiance to the flag, but it never really moved me. After deployment though? The flag means something totally different. There was a huge flag that flew on a mountain top on Guantanamo Bay. I remember riding around in McDaddy’s military vehicle and seeing that flag and thinking that our family was visiting a place that most Americans will never see because 18 years prior to that McDaddy made a commitment to the United States of America to protect our freedoms. And at that moment, we were visiting McDaddy on a naval station full of history and intrigue. I felt blessed to be there with McDaddy. I felt blessed to be visiting such a beautiful place. And I felt blessed to be an American. I will never look at a flag and not remember what it stands for.

This cross hangs in our church. It is a symbol made of wood, yet it inspires me in so many ways. For non-believers this is nothing more than two pieces of wood. For me though? It is so much more than that. The cross has a story to tell and if it could talk, you would hear a heart-wrenching horror story that seemingly ended in death. But then. THEN!, you would hear the beautiful account of the triumphant and glorious day three days later. The cross inspires me because it means that eternity is all that matters and that things and situations of this world are temporary. And THAT inspires me.

That’s all I’ve got unless you count the Saturn Sky and it just didn’t feel right adding it this week to these two very important inspiring things in my life. I’ll just say that the Saturn Sky inspires me to keep asking and maybe, just maybe, I’ll have one some day.

Check out other things that inspire over at You Capture.

Thursday Thirteen – As For Me and My Mouth

As a blogger, I am always on the search for interesting, entertaining blog fodder. That’s not to say I always find it or produce it. It just means I am always looking for it.

Yesterday, I had my semi-annual dental visit. I hate going to the dentist and mostly that’s because I don’t floss as often as I should which if you’ve been through everything I’ve been through with this mouth, and these teeth, I should be flossing three times every day. Instead though, I floss when I think about it, or when I’m riding in a vehicle, or when I’m not too tired, which pretty much means every three days.

Don’t judge.

As I endured the forty-something minute process, I drafted today’s blog post in my head.

Here are thirteen reflections from my visit to the dentist.

1. The memory foam roll pillow is an added bonus to the comfort of the dental chair. Kudos to the joker who thought of it.

2. As I sat in the waiting room checking the Facebook, the dental office wi-fi showed up on my iPhone. I was slightly amused to find out the name of their wi-fi is ‘Drillem’.

3. I took a trip down memory lane as “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)” blared through the speakers. It reminded me of the roller rink. I made many a trip around that wood rink back in 1987 belting out Whitney Houston’s latest hit. And, I probably had on some type of tie-dye get-up that I thought was really something back in the day. Heaven help my poor fashion sense. Still, I think each patient should be able to adjust the station and listen to whatever floats their boats. It would also be great if the dental chairs came equipped with speakers in the headrest.

4. Heated dental massage chairs would be a great addition to the dental office. Why is is always so stinkin’ cold in there?

5. It is difficult nearly impossible to answer questions when your mouth is crammed full of torture tools. It aggravates me when the hygienist attempts to carry on a conversation.

6. The dental office smells of cold, sterile toothy stuff. Some fall candles could rejuvinate the joint.

7. If you are the office manager and need to speak privately with a patient, you might want to lower your voice. We heard every stinkin’ thing you said to her which is fine with me because I am nosey. Probably not so fine for your patient who needed a payment plan though.

8. Jason Mraz can really SANG. I love his song, “I’m Yours.” Did you know his third album was titled, We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things? Very odd if you ask me.

9. Every doctor should take a lesson from my dental office. I rarely wait longer than five minutes which is awesome because I am not good at being a patient. Certainly explains why we’re called that though.

10. For some reason, our dental insurance pays all but $2.00 of our regular cleaning. TWO DOLLARS. The dental office won’t even send a bill for a $2.00 balance.

11. Somehow, I always end up with water running down my neck during the cleaning and polishing of my teeth.

12. If my face is all scrunched up, there is a good chance that whatever you are doing is painful. There is really no need to ask, “Am I hurting you?”

13. This was the first time in as long as I can remember that did not get “The Lesson” about flossing. I’m guessing my hygienist has had enough of me and my bad habits.

As for me and my mouth, we will praise the Lord that another dental visit is done!

How about you? Anything you’d like to share about the dentist?

When the dust settles

Before I get started, I should let you know that this is NOT a post about dusting.

I hate to dust. In fact, it is my least favorite of all household chores in the history of household chores because the second I am finished dusting a surface, the dust settles and it needs dusting again. I don’t do well in high pressure situations like that because I am high strung and like to see immediate results.

This post instead, is about a fabulous new [to me] hair product that my hair dresser, Frank, introduced me to.

I am a sucker for hair products. They are one of those things that I buy on the spur of the moment, most generally, seconds after Frank has used and effortlessly styled my hair with it. As was the case, with the now extinct Disorder hair gel.

This is what my bathroom counter top looked like at 8:24 A.M. Eastern Time. And I can assure that the counter-top looked much better than Hurricane Hairdo did when I got out of bed this morning. I probably could have given you a good laugh by posting a picture of it, but I have a certain level of integrity I’m trying to maintain around here, so I decided against posting it.

Anyway, back to the post.

After wetting my mop down and then blow drying it, I sprinkled some fairy dust [aka DUST IT] on my hair and ran my fingers through it to style it.

There are several reasons I like the dust it powder.

1. It doesn’t make your hair heavy or sticky. (It does however leave some sort of “dry” residuey feeling on your hands, so I immediately wash the crap off or it drives me crazy!)

2. It holds well, especially if you use hair spray afterwards.

3. While the bottle is costly, it doesn’t take much to create a style. [I have been known to sprinkle the powder that dropped onto my shirt back onto my head so as not to waste it.]

4. It is not a liquid, so you could take it on a flight without incident.

If you are looking for a new hair product that doesn’t make your hair heavy or sticky, you should give DUST IT a try.

It works for me!

This post is linked to Works For Me Wednesday over at We Are THAT Family.