Friday, December 31, 2010

Favorite toys of 2010

Life isn't all about things. No, life is about love and family and Christmas with all your favorite people who don't mind when you totally screw up the creamed corn and ham and very much about husbands who do the dishes and cuddle and make you laugh until your stomach hurts.

But.

There are still some things that make you feel all warm and fuzzy every time you use them. I have things like that. And the warm and fuzzy things deserve a blog post. Because, warm. Fuzzy.

(I'm totally using Amazon affiliate links. Because, money. But I paid for all those things myself or got them as gifts from friends and family, because I am so not popular enough for these companies to send me this kind of stuff.)
  • Rubbermaid Easy Find tupperware - Oh my cow, who knew that tupperware could make you so very happy? The almost all-one-size lids all lock together and everything stacks beautifully. Gone are the days of shoving all the tupperware into my cabinet and closing the door as fast as I can before it topples back out on me. The trick is to make sure you get rid of your old stuff though.

  • iPhone 4 - But I don't want to talk about it. It makes me feel dirty.

  • Breville Panini Press - Jack got me this for Christmas. And my in-laws got me one too! (I'm guessing they're going to communicate a little more next year). And oh, the sandwiches. Crisp and fancy and delicious. I'm so in love. DON'T put the tomatoes right next to the bread as they obliterate with their delicious moisture. DO add artichoke hearts on your panini. You're welcome.

  • Kindle - This isn't mine; it's Jack's. But he adores his and takes it everywhere he goes. I have the Kindle app on my iPhone and I'm loving that too. No more trying to figure out what to do with the millions of paper books we've already read! (I mean, I guess we still have to figure out what to do with those, but we won't have to buy any new ones, at least.)

  • Scrapbooks Etc. magazine - My mom gets really, really excited when she gets Handyman Magazine in the mail. I can't for the life of me figure out why she likes that one so much, but that's how I feel when I get this magazine. I scraplift from it for both paper and digital, and they have great tips for both beginner and advanced techniques. It's like Jenni Hufford in magazine format. Love.

  • Revlon Age Defying Moisterizing Concealer - I had Maybelline concealer for a long time. So long, in fact, that I began to refer to it as my "manna concealer" because even though it was "empty" for an entire year, every morning, there would be just enough to use that day. It was cu-razy. But anyway, by the time I finally actually ran out, it had been discontinued, I guess. So I had to do the scary, scary, job of picking a new brand (which meant trying to match my old color to a new color OMG HOLD ME). I ended up going with Revlon, mostly because that's the brand of lip gloss my grandma had that I ended up with and loved. The concealer is equally impressive - much better coverage than the Maybelline and stays on noticeably longer. I am very happy with it, especially for a drugstore makeup.

  • Shark Vac then Steam Mop - I would write a song about this steam mop if I had any kind of talent whatsoever. It would be a love song, in case you were wondering. I used Ellyn's once while I was in Florida this year, and even though it was awesome (yay steam! yay sanitation! YAY LIFE!), it's not quite as awesome as mine. Because mine is a dustbuster first and then a steam mop. So, I win. Sorry, El.

  • Bissell Carpet Steamer - Speaking of steam, Jack got this for me at a garage sale for $30 and it was basically brand new! And I know it's pricey brand new, but I think you can also rent them and they're totally worth it. This is the kind of machine with which I would hold hands and skip through a field of daisies if it was into that kind of thing. I try to steam my carpets at least every other week, and it makes such a huge difference, especially with The Evil Urine Dog in the house. Also, I don't buy the expensive shampoo stuff for it - I just use liquid laundry detergent, and it works great.

  • Fabric coffee sleeve - My in-laws got me this super-cool little Starbucks brand coffee sleeve for Christmas, and even though I'm concerned that people will think that I care about the environment when I use it, it really is very nice. Not only does it keep my hands cool and safe, it keeps my coffee hot and delicious. The Starbucks version has little grippies on the inside like on the bottom of comfy socks, which is very cool. My only complaint with the Starbucks brand one is that it has a great pocket that is just slightly too small for my Starbucks card. Silly. My friend Erin also sews her own version, and they are SO CUTE. She has the best taste ever. She makes birdies and owls and uses vintage buttons and just trust me on this one. If you want to buy hers, let me know. I'll get her to give me pictures and prices.

  • iHome Bike-to-beach speaker system for iPod - I'm not going to lie, I don't love exercise. In fact, I kind of hate it. But I'm pretty much stuck doing BikeMS at this point because my selfish mom wants her chronic disease cured. This iHome is perfect. It mounts where one of your water bottles goes and snaps in tight so it doesn't move, and you have a little remote control you can mount on your handle bars so you can turn it up or down, pause, or skip to the next song. Your iPhone won't fit in it and close for riding though - it's too tall for that, so you have to have an iPod.

  • Rachael's Scraps Store - Okay, so this is totally my secret weapon when it comes to digiscrap design when I'm low on time. She has extremely high quality commercial use products, and I have been very happy with everything I've purchased there. While I'm on digiscrap designers that save me time, I also love Chrissy W. Templates, and my favorite kit designers are Creations by Rachael, Jacabean, and Down This Road Designs (I know, I CT/have CTed for all of those kit designers, but that's because I love them. Fo realz).

  • Kinect for Xbox 360 - Oh my gosh, my brother and sister-in-law sent us this for Christmas and it is SO MUCH FUN. And the technology? Freaking incredible. I probably will never play a Wii again. This one uses your entire body with no controller at all and functions beautifully. We play Kinect Sports with my brother on the Xbox Live network (he lives in Boston and we live in Dallas) and we have so much fun. Also, makes you super-sore. I really want to get Dance Central and the workout one. (Because I don't think we look quite ridiculous enough playing the sports one.) It's all very addicting. AND! We used it as a webcam on Christmas morning and they got to see my mom open the present we all got her. So fun.

  • Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog - Technically I didn't purchase this because you can watch it on streaming Netflix (over and over and over!), but if you haven't seen it, it's really, really important that you do. Have I ever led you astray? Trust me on this one. I mean, Neil Patrick Harris. Amen and amen.

  • Shoowoo.com shoes - Thank you, Lindsay Ferrier. Also, I hate you.

  • Rachael Ray's Lazy Spoon and Ladle set - Jack got me these for my birthday and they are SO COOL. They fit on the edges of your pans so you don't need a spoon rest. They are dishwasher safe, and I like the flexible feel of them. Related: my in-laws just gave me a super-cool spoon rest clippie thing for my pots to use with my regular spoons too! I used it while I was cooking Christmas dinner, and I love it.
More things I love on my running list and last year's favorite things list (which are kind of the same).

Friday, December 17, 2010

He's not going to work any harder

Now that the cat's out of the bag about our big purchase, I might as well tell you something about Jack.

When he finally owns this taekwondo school, he's not going to work any harder than he does now.

There might be more work to do, sure. Actually, there most definitely will be more work, and it will take up a lot more of our time. No doubt about that.

But he will not work any harder.

We will be making the money, and how he performs will directly and significantly impact our income for the first time.

But he will not work any harder.

The instruction he gives his students will make or break us; if they don't like him and leave, we will have to worry about replacing them to pay the bills.

But he will not work any harder.

I am confident about this statement because I have known my husband for eight years, and I have never, ever seen him do his job half-heartedly or below his very best abilities.

He's not going to work any harder because he can't possibly work any harder.

No matter what situation he's in, Jack embodies the commandment from Colossians 3:23-24:

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

Every sales meeting. Every class. Every inventory. Every private lesson with a difficult student. Every late night sorting belts. Every judging assignment at a tournament. Every report he must turn in. Every toilet he scrubs.

He does all of it excellently. With all of his heart. As working for the Lord.

I have so many reasons to be proud of my husband, but one of the foremost reasons in my mind is his work ethic. I think that's one of the most impressive things that his parents ever taught him (well, that, and how chivalrous and respectful he is toward women).

I have seen him perform when nobody will notice. I have seen him excel when there will be no reward. I have seen him care when he hasn't been given a reason to.

And that's how I know that when it's his recognition, his reward, his gain?

He's not going to work any harder for it.

His place

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Only thing to do is jump over the moon

I've been keeping a secret lately. At least, from the internets. We've been working on something very big lately, and even as I'm writing this, I'm not allowed to actually publish it. I'm not really sure when he'll let me. To be honest, I have a feeling he doesn't want me to "jinx" it (not that we believe in that kind of thing).

It all started August 11. That was the day Jack had a meeting with his bosses asking whether he could purchase the taekwondo school that he manages. It was kind of an all-or-nothing kind of meeting for him. Jack had gotten to a point in his career where he just couldn't see himself working for someone else any longer. It has been his dream to own his own taekwondo school since he was 12 years old, and that just wasn't happening.

The first time he tried to buy it, the leasing company wasn't on board and it fell through the week before our wedding.

The next time he tried to buy it, about a year and a half ago, his bosses said "no." The school was making too much money and was supporting the other two schools, so they didn't want to sell it.

The doors just kept closing on us.

But like I said before, this was it. Jack couldn't work for somebody else any longer. He was unhappy, and uncertain about his future.

And unlike a year before when he asked, his bosses said "yes." Not because it was making less money, but I think probably because they knew they couldn't keep him much longer as an employee if they didn't sell it to him. Which was true - he was ready to update his resume and move on if this didn't work out.

We were so excited. But cautiously so. After all, we had gotten this far before. In fact, we had gotten a lot farther than this before. And there were a lot of obstacles.

We had to come up with a rather large down payment. But then a perfect financial partner showed up, interested in investing.

Then, we had to find a new location with more space and a better landlord. And we found one right across the street and got approved for that as well.

Then we had to get a loan with the business plan and school's financial history. And the bank approved its part of it.

We will have to get the new location built out. And the new leasing company offered to pay for most of the big stuff there.

We had to get the business appraised for both the loan and the lease for as much as the asking price in order to get a big enough loan. And it came in way over the asking price.

So far, everything has fallen into place, and we have gotten farther than we ever have in our previous purchase attempts. Currently, the purchase agreement is being looked over by our lawyer and the paperwork has been filed with the SBA. We were hoping to have the school purchase completed by the end of December, though the SBA is kind of backed up, so it may be the end of January before we get the final approval.

But today, Jack signed the lease at the new place. The five-year lease which had to be signed before the SBA will actually loan us the money.

Gulp.

I believe this is what you call a "leap of faith."

But it's happening. This fabulous school, full of amazing, kind, generous, wonderful people who have become family to us, is about to be ours, God willing. And I do mean that "God willing" part. It's very much up to Him at this point, and this entire process has been a test of our patience and faith, as I'm sure actually being small business owners [OMG] will be.

So far, for the first time, the doors have been swinging wide open for us.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

He looked at me and said

"Did you hear that song?

Doo do do doo do do Jump on it. Jump on it. Jump on it. Jump on it.

Why do you always laugh when I sing that song?

I don't know why you laugh at me.

That's a funny song.

I guess that's why you're laughing.

Never mind. I figured it out."

Saturday, December 11, 2010

He's nicer

My friend Nikki is staying with us this week. She's been fun to have around despite her having to study for her finals (in fact, I'm quite sure I didn't help that any over the last few days when I've distracted her from studying with all my shiny objects). The other night, I was making Jack a cake after he had complained for a few days that he wanted cake and demanded that I make him one.

I find it's really beneficial to reward that kind of behavior.

"You're really nice to him," Nikki said as I was complaining that this was just going to teach him that whining pays off. "He had better be nice to you."

I laughed.

"Honestly? He is," I told her, thoughtfully. "He's way nicer to me than I am to him."

And it's true. He is nicer to me than I am to him.

Even though most of the time that I'm annoyed, I snap at him with a harsh tone, Jack barely ever raises his voice or speaks disrespectfully toward me. Though I often forget to do things when he asks because I don't make it a priority, Jack is constantly getting things done for us, such as paying our bills, waiting for people who need to fix things at our house, and even running my errands, like taking my car to get its oil changed. When I am being grumpy and no fun, he is working hard to make me laugh.

We rarely fight and I know that is due largely in part to the fact that he speaks kindly when I am not doing so, and he keeps our lives so organized that there is little left over which to argue.

I have several close friends who have ended up on their own after their husbands left them recently. Sometimes it was a tragedy wearing on their marriage. Sometimes it was a husband's addiction. Sometimes the pressure of differing faiths wore on the couple until they couldn't stay together any more.

Living in a world full of heartbreak and divorce has caused me to really look at the way I act in my marriage, and most of the time, I'm not happy with what I see.

I am rude. I am spiteful. I am mean. I fall short in just about every way. I am surprised he puts up with it.

I absolutely can not so arrogant to think that my husband will never leave me. I have too many friends who have been left when they were willing to work on their marriages to think that. But at the same time, I think that for a marriage to really work, you have to decide that divorce is never an option (and both of you have to commit to that).

Finding a balance between those attitudes is a strange thing.

My dad says the only difference between couples who got divorced and couples who stayed together was that when it was time to get divorced, the people who stayed together it just, didn't get divorced. It's not that it was never so bad that they could have; it's that both of them committed to getting through that hard time together.

"There were times that I thought maybe the only options were to either divorce your mom or kill her," my dad jokes, after having being married to her for more than 30 years.

Fortunately, he hasn't done either yet.

But all it takes is one of those partners not to commit to that and everything you worked for is gone. And I'm guessing that every harsh tone, every ignored request, and every avoided apology from a sinful, haughty wife will wear away at even the happiest marriage.

Even if her husband is pretty perfect.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Hijacked (a tale and a giveaway)

Update - Congratulations Kimber at Pure Joy! You're getting a blogjacking!!

--

I hijacked Ellyn's blog design last night. I have been working with her on a new design on and off for a while and between me being lazy and her being anal adorably particular, it's been taking a while. So last night, we were e-mailing back and forth and I said this:

I'm going to do a Christmas one of my choosing right now. And you don't get a say on what it looks like.

This led to a conversation about a blog design Trading Spaces, and I said that I would definitely do that. "I'll do yours and you do mine," I typed. She wrote back "Okay, but I'm going to have to hire you to do yours." Useless, that one.

Anyway, it was kind of a joking conversation until I found a picture in her Flickr account that I just couldn't pass up. Because when I saw it, I envisioned this header:





Which, of course, led to the blog design she has on there now against her will.





She found out about it today. I don't think she was thrilled about me putting a photo of her screaming child on her blog header. But nobody's thrilled about a hijacking. That's why they call it a hijacking and not a ride-along.

Anyway.

I like to give away a blog design at Christmas every year, remember? It's kind of fun and doesn't really cost me anything. And it means that I get comments on my blog which translates to love and popularity which fulfills my need to be in the spotlight because LOOK AT ME! I'M AN ATTENTION WHORE!

Oh yeah. The blog makeover. Leave a comment on this post for a chance to win a blog design hijacking. The winner will send me up to five photos and their favorite color, all of which I may or may not use. And their blog title, which I will use. Because, come on, it's still your blog. And I will decide what your blog design looks like and design one for you. YOU WILL BE AT MY MERCY.

Of course, if you don't like it, I suppose you could just not let me install it. That's where Ellyn went wrong. Giving me her password all those many years ago. Hooray for constantly abusing privileges given by close friends!

Anyway, leave a comment here to win. For 10 extra entries, donate any amount to either my BikeMS ride or Renee's love-a-thon and leave 10 extra comments if you do. I will have random.org choose a winner on December 26.

Good luck!