Friday, July 31, 2009

The tissues Jesus made

If I ever meet a really important person and am expected to bring him or her a gift of great value, I know what I'm bringing.

And it's from CVS.

I ran out of tissues at work in the middle of a very bad cold, so I headed to the drugstore to grab some more tissues and some decongestant medicine. I was debating on the bigger, 130 count box of tissues with only lotion, and the smaller, 60-count box of Puffs tissues with Lotion and Vicks for the same price. 

The couponer in me screamed "Bigger box! Better value!" (actually the couponer in me screamed "You idiot! You just bought 3 boxes of tissues with lotion for 50 cents each last week! How could you forget to bring them to work!?) 

For reasons I can only explain by the Holy Spirit moving in me, I grabbed the smaller, 60 count box of Puffs with Lotion and Vicks. 

Best decision I ever made. Including getting married.

I have never had such an urge to become a teeny-tiny person like they did in The Magic School Bus and live inside this box of tissues forever. Or, at the very least, cut little eye-holes in the side, stick my head in, and live the rest of my life with a tissue box on my head.

Within minutes, my sinuses were clear and I had taped a tissue to my face like a mask, where it would stay the rest of the day. (I didn't really tape a tissue to my face, but I'm not going to lie, I'm holding one to my face now and breathing in the goodness that is Vicks.) 

I handed them out at work as if they were precious gold coins. "Take a tissue! Smell this! Isn't it amaaaaaaazing?" They has security escort me out of the building, but at least my head is clear!

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to write Puffs, Vicks, and Jesus a thank you card for making these magical tissues.

And the winners are...

1. Mallory = 824 (Check out Mallory's new blog!)

2. Jess = 712 (Sent your cards)

3. Christopher and Sarah = 467
Sarah seems to have disqualified herself by typing "Hook 'em Horns" in the comment section of an obviously Aggie blog. So sad. Sorry, but we don't allow obscenity here. (Got your e-mail) (Check out Sarah's new blog!)

4. PuNgOhGuRl = 256 (Got your e-mail) (Check out Sarah's new blog!)

5. Julia = 247 (Got your e-mail) (Check out Julia's new blog!)

6. Amanda Sikes = 213 (Got your e-mail) (Check out Amanda's new blog!)

7. The Silvas = 202 (Got your e-mail) (Check out Megan's new blog!)

8. Bethany = 45

9. Kelly = 39

10. Erica = 36

Congratulations to the winners! E-mail me so I can send you the form for a new blog, or to let me know that you'd rather have the thank you cards (and tell me what kind of colors and things you like for them!)

And if you didn't win? You can still get one - visit Blogs by Mandy for pricing and e-mail me with your order!

---

Wow. This was an exciting contest. I mean, for me. For you, it was probably pretty tedious. Seriously. You guys are committed.

I thought I'd take a moment to answer some of the questions you guys asked in the string of comments. If I forget some of them, feel free to re-ask (or ask new ones) and I’ll answer those as well.

Did you ever dream the contest would get this big?

No way! I thought I’d get about 50 comments on this post! If I thought it would get to 3,000 comments, would I have offered another blog makeover for every 100 comments? Nope. (Good thing I capped it at ten because Eeeeyyaaahhh!!!!) But it was really fun to watch – people actually showed up at certain times to chat! Crazy. Makes me feel like getting a BlogFrog forum. Maybe I will. Would anybody actually post there?

Did you get an e-mail every time you got a comment?/Did you read all the comments?

Yes. To both of those.

How did you count all of these up?

I didn’t, actually. The numbers above are just arbitrary numbers I assigned to the commenters based on how much I thought they commented.

Just kidding.

I actually had them delivered automatically to a specific folder in my e-mail client, which allowed me to sort them by name. After I did that, I selected all the messages from one person at a time and had it mark only those as “unread,” so the total “unread” count would be the person’s tally. It wasn’t too hard, though I’m guessing there are easier ways of doing it. Oh well.

What are your weekend plans?

Jack will be competing at a tournament, so I’m going to watch him, and after that, I’m thinking I might have a few blogs to work on. I don’t know, like maybe ten.

How ya feelin’ tonight?

Pretty good! Still a little sick, but nothing a few shots of whiskey won't fix. Just kidding.

I found you on facebook, and it isn’t the first time.

Yeah, Jess, I realize that’s not a direct quote. Or a question. But I still would like to take this opportunity to publically call you a stalker. Stalker!

Wanna know a really annoying way to start your morning?

Sure.

How can I become a fan of your blog on facebook?

That was a real question. I didn't just write that to plug my Facebook fan page. But I'll gladly take the opportunity.

There's a link on my sidebar to do this, but this is the Jack and Mandy blog fan page and you can also become a fan of Blogs by Mandy on facebook too!

How did you and Jack meet? It’s not often that you have a couple who’s 7 years apart that met when one of them was in their teens!

I just wrote this answer and decided that it was long enough to be its own post. So it shall be its own post.

How did you get into blog design?

I started learning about blog design because I wanted to make my blogs pretty. I knew how to do digital scrapbooking, so I just designed headers and such instead of pages and learned the HTML to create a cohesive look. Someone asked me if I would design theirs, and I agreed. When asked how much I would charge, I told her to make a donation to the Multiple Sclerosis Society for my Bike MS ride and that would be good enough. I kept doing that, and I raised about $3,000 for this year’s ride blog designing, and Blogs by Mandy was born.

I’ll be honest: I don’t make much money at it. I probably would if I worked harder at marketing and charged people more, but what I love about this business is that I have something to donate to bloggers looking to do giveaways to raise money for their causes, AND I always have something to give away on my own blog when I want to do a contest (like this one!).

I know that sounds a little silly, but it’s fun to give stuff away, and for some reason, blog makeovers make people ridiculously happy! At this point, with all the HTML templates I have created, it only takes me a few hours to create a blog, so to me, it’s totally worth my time to make somebody happy. Plus, free blog makeovers bring in paying blog orders sometimes too.

I also donate at least 30% of what I make when I actually do charge to a charity I choose each month, so that’s a nice way for me to be able to donate to a cause I care about even when I don’t have a bunch of extra money to donate to them from my own pocket.

How did you learn how to do the HTML stuff for blog design? Did you get a computer degree?

My degree is in Telecommunication Media Studies, which is a little technical but not on the programming side. I went into blog design with some very basic knowledge of HTML, but most of what I know I learned by googling specific questions I had about the HTML as I designed. There are a LOT of tutorials out there on how to do stuff like this!

Is there a place on your blog where you share your blog design tips?

I have written a few posts on blog design, and I plan to write many more. I've said before that I believe anybody can learn this stuff - it's pretty easy. I think people hire me because they're short on time, not the ability to learn, so I don't think I'm taking business away from myself by teaching others. And if I am? Oh well. I usually give them away free anyway.

But to answer your question, yes, there's a "Blog Design Tips" Label on my blog. I will probably add a NavBar soon so it's easier to find, but again, it looks like I need to design ten other blogs before I can do that!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Boy meets girl

So I'm working on a question/answer post (in which I answer some the questions you asked me amongst the 3,000+ comments in the contest post) that will publish with tomorrow's big winner reveal, but this question's answer got so long that I decided that it deserved its own post. Funny I've never told this story before! Thanks for reminding me, Mallory!

How did you and Jack meet? It’s not often that you have a couple who’s 7 years apart that met when one of them was in their teens!

That’s true – it wasn’t exactly a run-of-the-mill situation. Jack was actually my (and my parents’) taekwondo instructor. He was 24 years old and new in town. I was 17 and a senior in high school. (And for the record, we didn’t have any kind of romantic interest in each other when we first met).

My parents have this habit of bringing home single people and treating them like family. I think it’s a great habit (an especially Christian one, in my opinion), and as a result, I have quite a few adopted “uncles” and “aunts.”

So anyway, when we earned stripes coming up in the belt levels, my family would celebrate by going to Braums (the beginning of the obsession? Maybe.) and having ice cream together (counter-productive to workout, yes).

Not long after we started, Mom and Dad started inviting Jack to join us for ice cream on these nights. This led to more invitations to things like disc golf, remote-controlled airplanes in the park, movies, and just coming over to the house after taekwondo to hang out and eat dinner every night.

Needless to say, Jack and I got to know each other pretty well over the next few months of just hanging out. We had similar interests – he went to A&M, and I would be going there in the fall. He was in the band in high school and college, I had been in the band in high school. We got to know each other and spent a lot of time talking late into the night. One night, he stayed after my parents went to bed, and we ended up talking much later than we had planned. At 2 a.m., I was sitting on my kitchen island, still talking to Jack when my dad came out of his room, bleary-eyed and annoyed, and simply said: "Goodnight, Mandy." He turned to Jack. "Goodnight, John."

A while later, Jack held my hand for the first time while we were watching "Coyote Ugly" together on the couch. A few months after that, Dad happened to see Jack kiss me when we were swimming in the backyard (this is quite possibly my Dad's favorite part of the story), and because of that we got quite a few rules regarding not being able to date-date each other. It was kind of a rough (and irritating) time, but we made it though and started for-real-dating when I left for college.

We spent my three and a half college years dating long distance (lived about 3.5 hours away from each other), and we went into it not having too high of expectations. We realized that long distance relationships rarely work, and that I would likely meet new people that I may be interested in dating there. But honestly? Other than the fact that long distance relationships really suck, it wasn't hard. I was never once interested in dating anybody else. Nobody came close to Jack. (That sounds sappy, but I don't mean it to be. It's simply a reality.)

That's pretty much it in a nutshell, I guess. Next step: the proposal. After that: the wedding. Then the honeymoon. Then, well, life.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Some math I learned today

Empty (clean) glass frappuccino bottle

+ coffee 

+ [way more than one serving of] Coffeemate vanilla carmel creamer 

+ 1 packet of Equal 

+ refrigeration 

= A drink pretty darn close to a bottled caramel frappuccino.

Yum.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Dear Cooper

Dear Cooper,

Maybe you think that because you play football and baseball at some hick-town high school that you're a big shot. Maybe because of that, you think it's okay to flip off the lady in the car behind you when she taps her horn after waiting 20 seconds after the light turns green without you moving. Yeah, Cooper, that's classy.

To be fair, I'm sure you had to finish your text message. I mean, you are important, Cooper, and I'm sure there are girls lining up for you, being on the football and the baseball team and all. Enjoy it while you can, kid, because the 16-year-old bimbos that are attracted to you right now are the only "women" that will every be interested in a jerk like you.

The icing on the cake, Cooper, is that big "Younglife" sticker on the back window of your daddy's old hand-me-down 1995 Ford Taurus. I guess you're there for the free food, because you certainly didn't join because you're any kind of Christian kid. Your mom must be so proud.

Enjoy these years, Cooper, becuase they will most certainly be the best of your life. In fact, if history has taught us anything, it's that you will be working in some retail or food service industry in five years, just trying to scrape up enough enough money to pay child support for your illegitimate children.

But we don't have to think about that. Let's stay in the present, and enjoy the time you have one top. Because today, Cooper? Today you shined.

Monday, July 27, 2009

They don't like it when you take those

The other day, I had dinner with my friend Sharon at a little burger place near work. We finished up, threw our trash away, and walked outside toward my car.

Sharon turned around looked at me quizzically as I started to open my car door.

"What are you doing?" she asked. I stared back at her.

"Going home," I answered, slowly, not really understanding her confusion.

"Um, they don't like it when you take those," she said. I looked down. I was carrying the glass of water I had been drinking at dinner.

"Oh." No, I decided, they wouldn't like it if I took this.

The dress

Remember when I wrote about my crazy wedding planning moment beautiful dress here? Yeah, I was right. I did pick the right dress.

I decided to participate in Kelly's blog carnival this week because I realized I never really showed my dress off on the blog before. I mean, yeah, there were a few pictures, but let's relive it, shall we? I know you guys are just dying to relive my wedding, yes? That's what I thought.

My dress was Alfred Angelo style 1816, because originally I was dead-set against a strapless gown (everybody else was doing it, so I didn't want to). My main requirement was comfort - I refused to feel miserable on the happiest day of my life. This dress was nice and comfortable - not too heavy, not too tight, no crazy undergarments required.

But what I really fell in love with about this gown was the train.

The lace-only train looked beautiful on the bright green grass during my garden wedding. I loved it.

I realized it looked way better without the straps, so I ended up just cutting them off (gutsy, I know). At least that made my dress unlike anybody else's!

As much as I loved the dress, I'm not going to lie - I'm glad I'm done wearing it!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Oh yes, she bakes

Cherries were on sale, so I bought a bunch.

I had never made a pie from scratch, so I googled a recipe.

The pie was pretty, but didn't taste quite as nice as it looked.

But we can just pretend that it did, can't we?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A terminal tan (And a blog makeover giveaway!)

I entered this post in a blog writing contest, which awards its winner with either a donation to the Melanoma Research Fund or a gift card. The article is judged based on educational content and creativity, number of comments left on the post, and number of times people click on this link from my post.

--

I hated myself for what I was doing. I laid there placidly, the whole time counting down the minutes until I got to get out of the death machine. It felt like my skin was going to burn off.

It didn’t actually hurt, of course, If you’ve ever been in a tanning bed, you know it’s actually kind of relaxing, laying there with the music and the warmth. But if you know anything about the risks involved, then there’s at least a part of you that is bothered by the fact that you’re there.

The first and only month that I “fake-baked” was the month before my wedding. I wanted a nice, even tan for my strapless dress that could only be achieved by tanning topless, and, well, my neighbors and I just aren’t that close. As I mentioned before, I could not enjoy it.

If you know anything about the symptoms of Melanoma (skin cancer), then you know that it’s not worth the tan. WebMD cites bleeding, pain, lumps, gray skin, chronic cough, headaches, and seizures.

When you move on to the treatment, things don’t get much better. Radiation, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy are long and excruciating treatments, and surgery is risky and leaves scars. Even after treatment, there’s no guarantee that you’ll survive.

According to the American Cancer Society, 11,590 people will die from skin cancer this year. Eleven thousand, five hundred and ninety people. And a good amount of them could have prevented it by using sunscreen, covering up, and not going to tanning salons!

Fortunately, as long as you’re not an idiot parent, your kid will have to wait until she’s 18 to run off to the tanning salon without consent. Texas just passed legislation on June 19 that says that if you’re under 18, you need special permission from your physician to fake-bake without a parent’s consent.

It seems like kind of a no-brainer to me (and apparently to a lot of other people as well): kids aren’t informed enough to make potentially harmful decisions on their own. This is why the smoking age is 18, and this is why the drinking age is 21.

Good call, Texas.

--

The part where I coerce you into to leaving comments so I might win the contest:

Win a free blog makeover from Blogs by Mandy!

The person who leaves the most comments on this post wins a free blog makeover. If you don't want a blog makeover, I'll substitute it for a set of 20 handmade, personalized thank you cards with envelopes.

Also, for every 100 comments, I will throw in another free blog makeover for the next runner up. For example, if there are 500 comments, there will be five blog makeovers (or sets of thank you cards) to give away to the top five commenters.

Updated: Contest ends at noon on July 31! I will count up the winners on August 1 July 31 at 5 p.m.

Update - Due to the fact that you people are both wonderful and cu-razy, I'm going to have to cap the giveaways at 10 blog makeovers/sets of thank you cards. I never thought it would get to a bazillion comments like it has! You can still leave as many comments as you'd like, and the person the ten people with the most comments still wins, but I can't do more then ten blog makeovers! I hope you understand. :)


--

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Buddies and babies

We had a really good time this weekend with Jack's buddies, and contrary to what I may have led you to believe in this post, I really do enjoy weddings (especially if they're Jack's college buddies' weddings since we don't get to see these guys much).

During the ceremony, the officiant gave a great message about marriage, which served as a nice reminder for how I should be acting in my own marriage. And as I listened to the inspiring prose from 1 Corinthians 13, I was thinking one thing.

The lace on her veil is flipped up. It's going to be like that in all the pictures.

I know. I should have been thinking about Kyle and Michelle and their new life together. I should have been applying the message to my own marriage and reflecting on whether I have been a submissive and loving wife lately.

Come on, maid of honor! Fix it!

I'll bet you never thought I had shallow thoughts like that, did you?

Nope. Not me!

---

This wedding had a very different dynamic to it. Since the last wedding 9 months ago, seven couples from the group have had babies. Seven! (Also, it's possible that up to three of them were conceived during our wedding weekend. You. Are. Welcome.) Five new ones (and seven kids total) came down for this one.

They were all adorable and fun to look at, but it really changed the dynamic of the group, and fast. The group's kid-count went from five to twelve this year. The size and focus of the group changed so quickly that it was almost hard to recognize it (though these guys can still pick up right where they left off - they are family).

Moms were holding squirming babies and dads were scrambling to grab pacifiers, bottles, and blankets. Vocal octaves were raised and baby talk was used. Spit up was attended to and cries soothed.

It was different.

As sad as it was to see everyone cut the evening short to get their cranky kids to bed rather than tell the same corps stories over and over late until the night, it was kind of interesting to see the transition. It's pretty foreign to us, since we're still in the "stay up late" and "go wherever we want whenever we want" stage, but it was interesting none the less.

I have no doubt that these moms and dads are and will be fabulous parents, and I love the thought of all these kids growing up together (and later, ours too!), hopefully growing as close to one another as their parents are.

It's nice to be a part of this group. Even if they are growing up.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Expectation exasperation

It felt like the first day of school. Or maybe, like the day of a job interview. But it was neither. Instead, I was meeting my new friend, Jessica, for the first time in person.

Last week, I discovered her blog half through MckMama and half through the playbill at her touring Broadway show, "A Chorus Line" that Jack and I attended. Since then, it's been a flurry of comments between our two blogs, and I felt an instant connection with her as I read her writing (good writers do that to you).

And so when she said she wanted to have lunch with me today before she left Dallas, I was enthusiastic about it. I looked forward to it. A lot.

But still, when I woke up this morning, I only had one thought.

What am I going to wear?

Actually, I had many thoughts. It was more like:

What am I going to wear? What if we don't have anything to talk about? What if it's awkward the whole time? What if she's highly offended by dirty cars and refuses to get in mine as soon as she catches a glimpse of it? What if I get lost in downtown Dallas while she's in the car, silently judging me and wishing she hadn't agreed to meet me? What if she adores geckos? What if I use the word "pirouette" wrong during the meal and she demands that I take her back to her hotel immediately and never speak to her again? What if she was lying about liking Mexican food, finds my taste in restaurants appalling, and [gasp] blogs about how gauche I am!

For the record, I'm not really intimidated by meeting new people (sounds like it, huh?). I'm not even all that worried about what people think of me. I can go to a party and chat it up with new people all night, coming away with either a new friend or someone I'll never talk to again. Either way, doesn't bother me.

But when they have expectations of me...

The first time I talked on the phone with Ellyn, she mentioned that it was nice to actually hear my voice for the first time. Immediately, I froze.

Crap. She did hear my voice. I hate my voice. She must hate my voice.

This blog has been wonderful for so many reasons, but one problem it creates is that I get nervous about meeting people who read my writing before they know me personally (or the people who haven't seen me since high school or before who "love my blog"). Sure, in writing, I can be witty, intelligent, and charming. I get to edit myself and think everything through before blurting it out.

Meeting me in person? Well, it's a little disappointing. I may not measure up so well to your expectations at that point.

This is why I could relate to Mom-101's post about how bloggers are not popular people. It made me laugh until my sides hurt. Google reader on Friday night? Check. Lack of social skills? Check.

But despite all this, some people can still make it easy for you. Jessica was delightful to talk to (so delightful, in fact, that I thought we had only been there an hour and realized it had actually been two!), and the conversation was not awkward or forced at all. As soon as I met her, I forgot every worry I had and just got caught up in getting to know her. I felt like I had known her for much longer than a week.

I guess sometimes it's worth the anxiety.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The one in which I am twelve

But let's be honest: I'm twelve in all of them, aren't I?

Yeah. I just sent my name to Mars (actually our names), a program obviously intended for children. The other twelve six year-olds and I are very excited about it.

By the way, If you want to do it, you'll have to hurry - that microchip will get pretty heavy if they get too many names submitted, and they won't be able to take it to Mars!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Behold! I am brave (again)!

No need to applaud.

I'm no hero.

I just did what any girl would have done in this situation.*

Okay. You can applaud a little.

You can read about more of my (mis)adventures with geckos here (where it started) and here (where it continued).

PS - I'm leaving it there until morning. If it's gone at that point, the freaking out will commence.

---

*This situation, of course, being that her husband was already in bed, grumpy, and would no doubt be less than thrilled to get up and catch a gecko for her at 2 a.m.

Funny men

Today, my dad came over to visit for a little while, and we started talking about how my work friend Eric is moving.

"Oh, where is he moving?" Dad asked

"Just across town," I answered. "Their family needed a bigger house. They still have two more adopted embryos."

"Hm," Dad said. "Seems like embryos wouldn't take up too much room."

[Cue laugh track]

----

Last night This morning, Jack and I were getting ready for bed, and Jack was a little grumpy from being simultaneously tired and hungry (bad wives forget to feed their husbands dinner, you know). He started to head to bed as I was reaching for my toothbrush.

"Aren't you going to brush your teeth?" I asked. He turned around, groggy and annoyed.

"But I'm sooooooo tired," he whined, reluctantly grabbing his toothbrush. "I juuuuust want to go to beeeeeeed." He put the toothpaste on the brush with heavy arms. "I don't know whyyyyy you're making me brush my teeeeeeeth now."

"Alright," I answered, "don't brush your teeth. You're a big boy. You can make your own decisions."

He eyed me carefully, and defiantly placed the toothpaste-prepared toothbrush on the counter. He looked back at me.

"Fine. Then I'm going to leave this for the morning," he said, testing me. "Goodnight."

"Goodnight," I said, casually, and turned back around and started brushing my teeth.

Slowly, he started walking out of the bathroom, still watching me for my reaction. I ignored him.

Suddenly, I heard a sigh, and he was back beside me, picking up his toothbrush and glaring at me.

"It wasn't because of you," he said, as he began brushing his teeth.

Okay honey, you win. You chose to brush your teeth yourself. Either way, everybody wins.

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens Avon mascara and "What not to Wear," these are a few of my favorite things

I'm no Oprah or Lindsay Ferrier, but does that mean I don't deserve to make a current favorite things list? No! Does that mean anybody wants to know what I get excited about? Probably not!

But you're getting the list anyway. Because you are all at the mercy of my RSS feed. Unless, you know, you unsubscribe.
  1. Avon super-full mascara
    My eyelashes are kind of short and, like the rest of my hair, do not hold a curl (technically, I'm simply too much of a wimp to actually use that torture device they call an eyelash curler). But this is the best mascara I've ever owned, and I was buying the $30 Estee Lauder stuff for a while. It curls and thickens like crazy, doesn't clump, and at the end of the day, my eyelashes still look pretty much the same as when I put the mascara on that morning.

    Plus, at under $10, this is a luxury I can actually afford. (Yes, I bought it on my own; no, they didn't ask me to write a review about it here. I'm just not that important in the blog world.)

  2. The little song my dryer plays when it's done drying clothes
    Especially when Jack sings along with it. Du na na na na na na na naaaaaa dunananana!

  3. Pandora
    God's gift to anybody who works a desk job. Visit the website, type in a few artists that you like, press "quick mix," and you immediately have a perfect "radio station" customized completely for you. Also, if you don't like the song, you can skip to the next one. Indicate whether you like certain songs by pressing thumbs up or thumbs down and it will modify the mix to suit your tastes.

    The other thing I LOVE about Pandora is the ability to legally listen to specifically-chosen music that you aren't inclined to actually buy - I've been listening to soundtracks of musicals all week at work, and while I'm not really inclined to buy all the soundtracks I love, I can still listen to that kind of music until I get sick of it again.

  4. Oreos dipped in milk
    A classic. Even if my husband is a freak, I can still enjoy them.

  5. Rachel Brooke Photography
    My single greatest regret from my wedding (aside from letting Jack give his friends the keys to the truck) was not hiring Rachel Brooke as my photographer while she was still doing weddings. She shot our engagement photos, and I can't get enough of her artistic style and vivid colors. Now she shoots portraits, families and babies and such. I will without a doubt be hiring her for my maternity and baby portriats, and if I ever get the nerve up someday, I might just do this with her too.

  6. Adding black beans and cilantro to store-bought salsa
    And mixing it in the food processor. I've been practically drinking it lately. Can't get enough of it.

  7. Tip Junkie
    I could spend hours here. This is where I have gotten a lot of really great, creative ideas, including the Easter bunny jars! Plus, she feature her readers' ideas, so I've been featured there a few times too, which is fun.

  8. Summer TV shows
    What Not to Wear (TLC): Combining my love of making fun of others with practical fashion? Perfection.

    Ace of Cakes (Food Network): Combining my love of cake, creativity, and prettiness? Also perfection.

    18 Kids and Counting
    (TLC): Something between a freak show and a fabulous Christian witness. Can't. Stop. Watching.

    Better off Ted
    (ABC): Always makes me laugh. Portia de Rossi is fabulous, and their Veridian Dynamics commercials are hilarious.

    The Big Bang Theory
    (CBS): Okay, so the Big Bang Theory is not technically a summer show, but it's so new to me that the episodes are all new to me anyway. Love it.

  9. Overstock.com
    The prices are great and they're easy to return to if you buy clothes that don't fit.

  10. "Slap Ya Momma" Cajun Seasoning
    Yum. If you like Cajun food. And if you do like Cajun food, check out Nate's Steak and Seafood. *Drool*
There are more. But I like even numbers so I will be done with that. Plus, I already listed "adding a shot of caramel to iced coffee" in another post.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I need to get back to today's Ace of Cakes. I have responsibilities, for crying out loud!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Mama never said there'd be days like this

Alternately titled: The one which has no definitive ending.
Alternately titled: It's my blog and I can whine if I want to, whine if I want to.

Monday.

I know. Everybody says Mondays suck. Or some variation of "Mondays suck." But Mondays are supposed to suck. God designed it that way so that Sundays would be that much more awesome. That's why he put church on Sunday instead of Monday. No, really, I'm pretty sure it says that somewhere in Leviticus.*

Here's how my morning went.

1:30 a.m. - Jack and I are going to bed from the day before. I'm laying on the top of the bed, reading blogs on my phone, when Jack comes in the room, noticing a big wet spot in the middle of the bed.

"Did Maggie pee on the bed?" he asked.

Uh oh.

After a quick inspection (aka, having him smell the wet spot), it was decided that yes, she did indeed pee on the bed, and we were going to have to start considering sending her to that "farm" [that isn't really a farm].

We got the comforter into the wash and thanked God that 1) it didn't go all the way through the comforter to the sheets and 2) it was summer and we technically didn't really need the comforter this once anyway.

7:30 a.m. - My alarm goes off. I mean, I realize this happens every day, but if I'm going to whine about my morning, I might as well include everything that irritated me.

8:30 a.m. - I'm getting into my car, and as I turn the key in the ignition I glance in the rear-view mirror, and something caught my eye. It a bug that looked about like this*.

In my hair.


Assessing the situation, I did what any rational, mature adult woman would do.

I freaked the heck out.

I flung open the car door, and did the "I have a bug in my hair!" dance (which is basically a folded-at-the-waist version of the "there's a gecko anywhere near me" dance). Still frantically searching my hair, I ran back into the house.

"Jaaaaaaaaaaaaackk!!!!!!!!!" I screamed, and ran into the living room toward Jack, who was brushing his teeth on the couch (don't ask). "There's a bug in my hair and can you pleasepleasepleaseplease make sure it's gone?" I begged in a much higher-than-normal octave.

Jack suppressed a laugh (less for my benefit and more to prevent making a foamy toothpaste mess on the floor) and searched my hair.

"Ah fink it'f gone," he said. "Ah fon't fee one."

And with that, I was off to work again, occasionally slapping myself in the various places that the imaginary bugs were crawling on me during the drive.

Does that girl in the car next to us have tourettes? No, she's just covered in imaginary insects.

9 a.m. - I get to work to find out that today's broadcast had a major error in it and had already aired on some stations. I fixed the error, converted it, and re-uploaded it to the Focus Satellite Network (FSN) FTP and Amb-OS. (Read: Blah blah blah, Ginger).

9:30 a.m. - Everything is uploaded, so I send out an e-mail to our Christian Radio Technical listserv (hundreds of tech people from Christian radio stations all across the country) letting them know that they need to re-download today's broadcast and air the error-free one.

9:45 a.m. - I get a call from a guy at FSN. He wonders if I'm going to upload the updated program to their FTP. I tell him I already did. He says he sees no change. I upload it again. Again, no change.

I'm about to upload it again, when I notice our own FTP address at the top of the window. Brilliant. I've been uploading it to the wrong FTP over and over. Mandy, the professional, ladies and gentlemen.

10:30 a.m. - I get a call from someone at Amb-OS.

"So, in your e-mail, when you said that 6/13's program had been replaced, did you mean that 7/13's program had been replaced?"

Crap.

Yes, in the e-mail I sent out to hundreds of technical professionals, I did indeed mean 7/13 and not 6/13. Fabulous.

11:30 a.m. - Lunch time. And with that, my day got progressively better. (Food+Mandy=True love forever xoxo Mandy hearts food)

[Insert clever, witty ending about silly days here. Gee. Silly days. Jazz hands.]

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*Not really.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Livin' the dream

When I stumble upon a new blog (new to me, not newly created), I love to read the first post they ever wrote. Especially if they have a lot of followers, because it really reveals something about who they are (or who they were before the ads) and why they are in this blog world of ours.

Funny story - Remember back when MckMama had some help from a reader for Dr. B's gift? Basically, her reader, Jessica, who is in the touring production of "A Chorus Line" got Jennifer an autographed poster of the cast to give Stellan's doctor, who loves the show. Pretty cool. 

We had tickets last night to the same production, so when I got there, I knew to look for Jessica in the cast. Since there was only one, I knew that it was Jessica Latshaw, playing the part of Kristine. I noticed that she had listed her website on the playbill, so while I waited, I visited the website and her blog on my phone. 

When I clicked on to her blog, I was shocked to find a post about her reaction to my friend Ellyn's very bad news and hard time. Woah. Small world.

So I left a comment on her post while I was waiting. As the lights dimmed, I hurriedly pressed "post," not sure if it would go through or not. After the show was over, I turned my phone back on, checked to see if it had indeed posted, and lo and behold, she had already commented back. 

And I was all "Woah! Look! She already commented back! During the show." And Jack was all "Wait, wasn't she on stage like, the whole time?" And thus began a ridiculous conversation about ways she could have pulled off commenting while on stage, sending us into fits of dorky laughter. Because it's who we are. Quit judging us.

All this to say, I found a new blog. And today, I read the first post. Which led me to the second and third posts, where I found this in her comment section (she wrote it in response to other peoples' comments):

"The other day, when I was at the bank I was talking with one of the tellers and it got around to me being in A Chorus Line--and he acted like I was a rock star; he told me how it wasn't every day that you get to meet someone really living their dream."

Is that true? It's not every day you get to meet someone really living their dream? I mean, it's true that it's not every day that you get to meet someone living that dream, but that's not everybody's dream, right? 

Jack's dream from 7 years old was to own his own taekwondo school. He's currently running one of the largest taekwondo schools in the country. When I was about that age, I was dreaming about producing Focus on the Family's Adventures in Odyssey, and while I don't actually do that, I got pretty darn close.

It's funny - one of the themes in the show last night was "What would you do if you couldn't dance?" The characters all answered different ways. While my answer to that particular question is: "um, I already can't dance," given the question "what would you do if you couldn't be in broadcasting," I might have to answer the way the first character did: "I'd kill myself." Just kidding. But I honestly have no idea. I don't want to do anything else.

While nobody actually acts like I'm a rock star (except maybe my mom), I like to think I'm still living my dream. The job I've always wanted, the husband who makes me laugh until I cry, the dog who pees on the bed (oh and that's another post entirely... stupid dog) - okay, the urine on the bed is definitely not part of the dream. 

But the house, the friends, the work, the happiness, the opportunities, and the friend I call my husband...

That's the dream.

A revelation

Starbucks iced coffee = mediocre

Starbucks iced coffee with a shot of caramel = spectacular

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The one in which I am pretentious

When I was growing up, my dad took me on "dates." It was his way of both spending time with me and teaching me how I was supposed to be treated on dates. Fabulous idea. Some of my best childhood memories were made on dates with Dad. I plan on having a girl for the sole reason of making Jack do the same with my kid.

Dad used to get season tickets to the Dallas Summer Musicals every summer, and those would be our dates (that, and Tippins before each show). Little did I know at the time that that was freaking expensive! (Um, thanks, Dad! Seriously.)

I looked into it this season, and figured out that we could go to a few shows if we sat in the so-far-away-you-might-as-well-be-outside seats. Which is great! Don't think I don't feel blessed that we get to go at all. I do.

So I bought tickets to "RENT," "Fiddler on the Roof," "The Wizard of Oz," and "A Chorus Line." (But we didn't get to go to "Fiddler on the Roof" because we were in San Antonio that weekend. Waa.) It has been wonderful!

However.

Part of the fun of going to musicals has always been dressing up. I mean, how often do you actually get to dress up? Maybe actually wear a dress? It's special! It adds to the ambiance. It adds to the experience.

When we arrived at "RENT," I noticed that a lot of people were in jeans, and sometimes even t-shirts and shorts, rather than dressy clothes. Okay, I thought, it's probably just because it's a younger crowd and this goes along with the feel of the musical.

Then, at "Wizard of Oz," I was disappointed to see more people in casual clothing. And again, tonight, at "A Chorus Line," even more people in shorts!

When we used to go when I was growing up, everybody was fancy. It was understood that if you're going to a musical, you dress up. What has changed? Do people just not care anymore?

So, this is me being pretentious. I think people should dress up for musicals. Same goes for symphonies, operas, and ballets.

And so ends pretty much the extent of my deep thoughts for the day. You are welcome, world.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Proof that my food quality standards are WAY too low

Jack: "Do you think these potatoes are still good?"

Me: "Are they moldy?"

Jack: "They look weird around the edges."

Me: "Oh. What about the middle? Can you eat from the middle?"

Jack: "Um... the edges are orange."

Me: "Orange isn't green."

Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight!

It started like many other facebook statuses...

...then I commented...

Bahhhahahahahaha

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Unnatural

I watched him with a mixture of awe and disgust. I wanted to say something, to correct him. But it was his to do with what he wanted, and this is the way he wanted to do it.

He picked up another Oreo, bringing it past the tall, cold glass of milk I had brought him with the Oreos, straight into his mouth! Without dipping it in the milk first!

Now, I just want to know one thing: How will we raise the children together?

Friday, July 3, 2009

Congratulations, Angela!!

As they say... better 2 months late than never!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Keeping an eye on your Facebook privacy settings

My friend Nathan posted a link on facebook to an article about yet another Facebook privacy policy settings change, this one being that the default setting for your posts, including statuses, photos, and videos, is now set to "everyone." This means that unless you go in and manually change your settings when you set things up, everyone on facebook will be able to see what you post.

If you're not cool with this (and I'm not), you need to make sure that you're going into the
privacy settings regularly just to check things out and make sure nothing has changed. On the top right corner of your Facebook home page, scroll over "Settings," which will display a link to "Privacy Settings." Click on that and you'll be able to access your Profile, Search, News Feed and Wall, and Applications privacy settings.

For me, the profile settings are the most important settings to keep private. Even though I removed my personal contact information from my profile long ago, people can still find out
where I work, where I went to school, and my
websites through this profile.

While I'm under no illusions that people can't find me if they want to, this does help for both safety reasons and, if you're dumb enough to post incriminating stuff on Facebook (or your friends are dumb enough to post incriminating stuff of you on Facebook), your employment. Set everything to "only friends" (and none of your networks) and you'll be able to control who has access to your profile.

Friend Lists

This brings us to friend lists. Friend lists are a great way to limit who sees what on your profile within your friends. Let's be honest, you may not want your work friends to have access to everything you post (or other people post) on your wall. Not necessarily because you're posting anything bad, but just because you want that buffer between your professional and personal life. You usually can't just reject their "friendships," because they're going to ask you about it. Friend lists to the rescue.

When you click on "Friends" on the top of your home page, it will bring you to this screen. Click on "Create New Friend" list and add the friends you want to your new list and name it something you will recognize.

Then, to keep a list of friends from seeing part of your profile, go back to that profile privacy settings screen you were at before and click on the "Only friends" drop-down menu. You will see at the bottom an option that says "Customize..." Click on that and you will see this screen, where you can add that list of people to the "Except these people" section.


You can create many different lists, and mix and match what you want certain people to see. I also keep up with my limited profile pretty vigilantly, so that people I don't know that well (or people who I think may have friends that would get into their Facebook accounts) can't see any of my contact information.

View your profile as someone else

There is also an option on the top of your Profile Privacy Settings page to view your profile as someone else views it. This way, you can type in someone's name and see what they see on your profile. This is helpful for catching any areas you missed in the privacy settings.

Photo Albums

Another thing to remember is that you have to set privacy settings for each individual photo album. This is helpful when I want some albums, like other peoples' weddings, to be viewable by friends of friends, versus when I don't want anybody except my friends to see an album, such as when there are pictures of my little neighbors. Again, the default for your new albums is everyone on Facebook seeing it, so if you don't want everyone to have access to those photos, be sure to change that setting when you create the album.

You can see what your current photo privacy settings are when you click on "Edit photo albums privacy settings" under your tagged photo section of your Profile Privacy Settings page. Each album has its own drop-down menu, where you can change who can see that particular album.

"Unfriending" your "friends"

Last item: A while ago I wrote this tongue-in-cheek post about "unfriending" quite a few of my Facebook friends. I do that every so often - basically "clean house" and get rid of the Facebook "friends" that I'm not truly friends with.

A rather surprising debate ensued following the post about whether it's unkind to do this. I have to be honest - unkind or not, I think it's safer. If you seriously haven't seen a lot of these people in a long time and your relationship was superficial to begin with, why are you still "friends" with them on Facebook? I didn't realize people actually kept track of who they were and weren't friends with (I don't spend that much time on Facebook.)

I don't unfriend people to be mean. When I really don't know who these people are, or who will have access to their accounts, it's just not worth risking safety or privacy over. Just my two cents.

Just pay attention

No matter how you decide to stay safe, whether it's unfriending people, limiting friend lists, keeping tabs on your privacy settings, or just plain getting off Facebook altogether, it's important to stay informed about the social networking privacy policies and how to keep your information secure. Learn how to change your settings, and check them often!

Coupon Organization Board

Update 8/6/09 - Welcome Tip Junkies! Thanks for visiting! Please leave me a comment (and leave one on all the tips you visit!. It makes everybody happy!) Also, here are more of my couponing posts, crafting posts, and how to posts! Thanks, Laurie, for the feature again! Man, I love Tip Junkie.

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Remember this?When Jack and I used to clip and organize coupons every week, I basically made a giant mess on the living room floor, sorting the coupons as I clipped in little stacks all over the floor. Well not any more! I created an organizer for my coupons for while I'm clipping them!

I took some leftover matte board I got from Hobby Lobby to cover my dining room table while crafting (I suppose you can also use poster board, but I like how thick and sturdy this foam-board is). I measured 3.5" x 4.5" rectangles and drew straight lines on the board with a pencil.
Optional - I took a pretty patterned paper and cut strips out to make my lines. I realize this is an unnecessary step. When Jack saw it, he asked me what it was, and when I said "a coupon organizer," he asked why I was making it pretty. I just stared at him. Has he ever met me?

Anyway, you can make the lines with paper or a marker, but either way, you want to end up with squares big enough for your coupons.

I organize my coupons in a binder with baseball card holders organized by category. I took all the categories from my binder and printed out labels for each square. Then, I just put them in the squares in the order they are laid out in the binder to make it easy for me to put the coupons away.

I ended up with this.

Now, my food is organized alphabetically by brand, so I also cut out the letters for my food brand boxes with my wishblade (you can use stickers or just print the letters from your printer for this if you don't have a wishblade.)

And voila! It's ready for action!

It has worked beautifully for keeping the mess to a minimum when I'm clipping coupons (many times, my clipping takes several days since I'm, ahem, a procrastinator), so it's so nice to have this one place where all my coupons are laying out instead of having them all over my floor.

Also, when I have to move them out of the way or off the floor, I can just pick up my board and (carefully!) move all of them at once.

Plus - now that all the categories are listed and easily found, Jack can help me out with the organizing, since he'll know which categories the coupons go in now! Time will tell whether this helps his coupon-clipping contribution amount at all. :)

Don't know how to "do" couponing? Here's a good place to learn!

Just curious... at what point did it become second-nature to take pictures of every step of making something because obviously I would be doing a tutorial about it on my blog later? I've gone insane.

Reader poll - How do you organize your coupons? Both when you're clipping them, and when they're already clipped? Leave a comment!