Wordless Wednesday: Christmastime

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

(We hid the tickets for an upcoming trip in the box, more later)

I hope you all enjoyed your holiday as much as we did!

My Favorite Christmas Ornaments: A Tradition

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

We have a set of ornaments we consider very special. They're my favorite ones to unpack every year. My dad started giving them to Phil and I several years ago and it's became a tradition that we'd get one from him each Christmas. They're the annual ornaments from The White House Historical Association.

My dad used to work for the Secret Service. He's been to Washington, and The White House, so many times it's become a non-event for him (I was young when we went as a family, but I do remember the VIP treatment we got on every tour we took).

Even though anyone can order these ornaments, I love that they've come from my dad. He started in the Secret Service when I was three. He has such a unique connection to our nation's government and its history. Each year's ornament depicts a different scene, is inspired by White House events or re-creates an era of President's past.

The 2002 ornament is inspired by the glass chandeliers in The East Room.

2004's ornament is of a sleigh ride on The North Lawn, something President Hayes liked to do with family and guests.

The 2007 ornament, my favorite so far, is of President Grover Cleveland's wedding in The Blue Room.

My dad has walked the White House halls, been in these rooms and stood on the White House grounds. Something about that really speaks to me. I love that we will have these heirlooms to pass on to Tyler.

Are there any holiday heirlooms in your family? Who gave them to you?

I'm In A Calendar!

Monday, December 21, 2009

No, not a Women of Tiger Woods calendar. Heh. But, Phil's company publishes a calendar every year with employee submitted photos and we won first place in our category!

Phil got to get dressed up (for him, anyway) and go to a luncheon with the big wigs where they gave him
my a $100 Amex card.

The two other pictures I took that day are in a previous Wordless Wednesday. Lots of good things happening lately, hope they continue into 2010.

Prayers Needed Please {It's A Good Thing}

Saturday, December 19, 2009

I'm at my mom's house dropping Tyler off for his vacation with The Grandmas. Last night, the phone rang at about 10:00. Caller ID showed the area code for mom's hometown, where it was almost midnight. Generally, no one calls that late at night with good news so we were prepared to hear something bad.

It was my cousin calling to say, that after several years on the transplant list, he'd just received a call that a kidney was on it's way! If all the testing goes as planned (which is happening as I type) he'll be in surgery in a few hours.

Please send some positive energy to the midwest that the kidney is a match and the surgery goes well. Also, please pray for the people in Kansas who lost a loved one that they can find peace in knowing someone else's life will be changed forever.

I'm Tired of All the Ugliness in Social Media. A Letter to Those Determined to Ruin the Internet for the Rest of Us

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

One of the reasons I started blogging was because the community totally blew me away. When I was only reading blogs and hadn't started my own, I was impressed, awed and inspired by this group of people I didn't even know existed but was so happy to discover.

They were forging friendships, relationships and support networks that spanned the country and even the globe. This group had formed a community that was willing to support, encourage and help one another. They were totally vested in each others lives. And that was something I wanted to be part of.

But times are changing and not really for the better. The community and the sense that "we're all in this together," is being replaced with divisiveness, attitude, holier-than-thou, anger, finger pointing and a general ugliness that is really detracting from what we've worked so hard to build. Some days, blogging is not even fun anymore.

I read several blogs whose authors are so candid and revealing. They get much more personal than I do here. It's refreshing to read other people say the things I often think but feel I can't put here. Some of the bloggers have recently recounted the emails, comments and Tweets they receive that are so incredibly negative and insensitive. Which, really? Don't do a whole lot of good. Sometimes an actual conversation or dialogue takes place, but more often than not there's nothing but defensiveness. I'm all for discussion and debate. Hell, sometimes I wish I could write the type of post that really gets people talking. But the spite and hatefulness are just not necessary, and it's bringing us all down.

We put our hearts and souls online. And to be slammed by the very people who are part of our community, people we should be able to trust, is such an insult. The spaces we create are for our thoughts, hopes, dreams, hesitations, insecurities, fears, triumphs, joys and sorrows. Our spaces are whatever we need them to be, when we need them to be it.

For someone to step into another person's space and be disrespectful is almost unconscionable. So many blogs read as though we're sitting in a kitchen, having a conversation. If someone came into my kitchen with no other purpose than to spew negativity and vitriol? They would be permanently uninvited. Mind you, I'm not talking about disagreeing with me. I'm speaking of the hostility and judgement that I've seen lately. It's mind boggling. And sad. And disheartening.

It seems that for some, the other side of the keyboard creates this magic force field of righteousness. There are ways to have a conversation without name calling. There are ways to create a dialogue without getting on a soapbox. There are ways to express an opinion or disagree without resorting to, "I'm right, you're wrong."

When I first started blogging, a lot of the advice to newbies on what makes a "good" blog was: keep your blog real. Be authentic. Be honest. No one wants to feel we're getting smoke blown up our asses day after day because life just isn't like that. We want the good and the bad. So many bloggers took that advice and do just that, and then they get hammered.

From where I sit, I hear, "I want honesty, candor and realty, but not too much honesty. I want someone to share the nitty gritty, but take note: If I don't agree, I'll absolutely let them know in no uncertain terms just how wrong they are."

There are people who really seem to think their shit doesn't stink and they have every right to judge. Well guess what? Light a match because I can smell it from here.

I fear that many people I read are going to clam up. They'll get so tired of all the negativity they'll start to edit themselves. That's not honesty, that's self censorship. Who wants to read that? I know I don't. Even worse, what if these people putting their hearts and souls into their work get so tired of the abuse they shut their sites down altogether.

What a travesty that would be. For all of us.

I don't know where this change is coming from. When I first appeared online there was this sense that we're all here to support one another as women, men, parents, entrepreneurs and writers. One minute we're all in a circle, holding candles and singing the Coca Cola song and the next we're tearing each other down. Disagreement doesn't have to equal disrespect.

For what it's worth, I do still see a lot positivity. But the negativity cloud keeps getting bigger and bigger and the few rotten apples in the basket are making it harder and harder to keep perspective and focus on the good. It feels that there used to be a lot more 'unity' in our community. I close my reader sometimes and feel like I need a shower.

Remember Dirty Dancing? "This is my dance space, that's your dance space." In this modern age of 'unfollow,' 'unfriend,' 'unsubscribe,' and all the other 'uns'; if you don't like what someone is doing in their dance space, you have a lot of options. If what I'm doing on my space isn't interfering with yours, then we're all good.

So here's a question for the soap box standers: why are you giving up your power? In my mind, the more time someone spends complaining, pointing out another person's flaws (as you perceive them) and operating in a space of negativity; that's counterproductive. You're giving someone else an awful lot of control over you and your emotions. I'm trying not to speak for anyone else, but I've spent much of my adult years trying to keep my power. Take care of your own business before you tell someone how to take care of theirs.

This post has been in my mind for awhile. It's been floating so long I figured it's best to get it out and hope that I can move on. I'm not linking to anyone or any of the instances I've observed because there are many. I'm not trying to point fingers. This is just a 'state of the blog world as I see it.'

I'm hoping next year is different. I'd like to see a return to courtesy and respect. I think there will always be controversy and asshatery (especially from those who need to hide behind the Anonymous curtain). But I hope whatever feelings people are bottling up can be let out without there being so much ugly and bitterness.

We ask other media outlets to take us seriously. We can't expect them to if we don't take ourselves seriously and behave accordingly. We have a whole new year in front of us. Can we start with a clean slate? Can we all remember there are real people on the other side of the screen?

When we put our minds and hearts together we are a powerful force. I hope we can continue to use that power for good. I'm really looking forward to 2010. I want to be proud of our community again, not ashamed to tell people I'm in it. Please don't let me down.

O Magazine for $5 at Amazon!

Monday, December 14, 2009

I've never seen an O Magazine offer this low and I've been a subscriber for 2 years. I just called customer service (O Mag, not Amazon) and asked if I purchased two separate offers would that give me 2 years. The woman told me I'd more than likely get double issues for one of the months but if I call back they could blend the two subscriptions together. Woot!

*The offer ends this Saturday 12/19. Affiliate link.

Wordless Wednesday: I Didn't Even Know Paris Hilton HAD A Shoe Line

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

I'm a little embarrassed. But I'll get over it.

$5 Magazine Sale at Amazon

Sunday, December 6, 2009

At last count, my magazine subscription number has risen to 22 (it's a sickness). Many I'm getting, like Shape and Woman's Day, are free but I've taken advantage of so many deals I've found online. I've been earning Amazon gift certificates through a web panel I belong to and these $5 subscriptions* have been great for renewing the freebies.

I'm using them as holiday gifts too since we're on a pretty strict budget this year. I'm going to print out the cover of an issue and tie it with a bow to give to the recipient. Hope this helps you guys too!

*It's an affiliate link

Great Find: How I Used the $5 off Hallmark Gold Crown Coupon

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

CLOSED*If you're in So Cal, don't forget to enter my holiday meal giveaway: a spiral cut ham dinner for 6 people!*CLOSED

I got a pretty sweet deal when I went to the Hallmark store today and wanted to pass it along. Several blogs I read posted about a great coupon for $5 off a $5 purchase a Hallmark Gold Crown stores.

I went intending to pick up a few cards since they have a pretty good selection of .99 ones. When I got to the register, they had a small display of Christmas CD's marked down as their 'deal of the week.' I put four of the cards back and got Barry Manilow and Cheryl Crow CD's instead. Barry was $1 and Cheryl $3. With the coupon I paid .43!

I know most, if not all, Hallmark stores are franchised so this could only be an isolated deal but it's definitely worth checking out. I have 4 more coupons left and I told them I'd be back tomorrow to take advantage of the offer again. The CD's will be good stocking stuffers and teacher gifts.
From what I've read, the $5 coupon is now in 10 different magazines:

* Better Homes and Garden
* Country Living – December/January, after Page 96
* Family Circle – after Page 48
* Martha Stewart Living – December, Page 74
* Oprah – December, Page 119
* Parents – between Pages 84 and 85 ($10 off a story book)
* Real Simple – December
* Southern Living – December, insert after Page 62
* Taste Of Home – December/January, insert after Page 42
* Woman’s Day – December, Page 33

Hope you're able to take advantage of it!

*Thank you Couponing to Disney for compiling the magazine list! Sorry for the bad photo, I wanted to get the deal up before family game night.

Win a Full Holiday Meal from Golden Share Foods {Giveaway}

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

*Winner has been chosen and notified. Congrats Ali!*
*Giveaway is for Southern California residents only. Please read the full contest rules below*

Phil and I were trying to remember how many times we've hosted Thanksgiving. Since we couldn't really remember, I have to assume the meals weren't very memorable. There was the time we had my mom over. I think that might have been our first attempt. The turkey was underdone, the skin wasn't crispy brown and we broke the garbage disposal with potato peelings. My mom hasn't had a holiday meal at our house since.

I think we had friends over right after Tyler was born. I say "think" because, even though I have a picture of our friends with the makings of a meal in the background, as a brand new mom of a 24-day old baby, I can't remember a single thing about it.

Fortunately, we had a really relaxing Thanksgiving this year. I made our holiday dinner, and it turned out great. We tried something new this year. Rather than going to the store (or stores) for all the meal components, we ordered a full holiday "dinner in a box" from Golden Share Foods, a food co-op based here in Southern California. We placed our order online and Phil picked up the meal about a week before Thanksgiving.

Not having to run around buying things before the 3 day was one less thing to worry about. After the walk, since I couldn't move and Tyler was running a fever, knowing I had just about everything I needed made prepping and cooking a lot less stressful. Plus, we had so much leftover turkey and vegetables Phil was able to make his turkey bone gumbo. I may just volunteer to host Turkey Day again next year.

What does this have to do with you? I was getting to that. I want to give you the same stress-free experience I had. Golden Share Foods has given me a FULL holiday meal to give to one of you! The package has enough food to feed six people:

1 Spiral Cut Honey Ham w/ Glaze Packet (7-9 lbs)
1 ea. Fresh Celery Sleeved
1 bag Fresh Yukon Gold Potatoes
1 can Pineapple Chunks in Natural Juice
3 lbs. Fresh Sweet Potatoes
1 can Cream of Mushroom Soup
3 lbs. Fresh Apples
1 can Apple Sauce
2 lbs. Fresh Onions
1 doz Dinner Rolls
1 lbs. Fresh Green Beans
1 Whole Pumpkin Pie (10 inch/ 40 oz)

See? That's a lot of food! What do you need to do to win?

1. Visit the pickup locations on the Golden Share Foods site. Come back here and leave comment on this post with the location closest to you. This is required since the giveaway is for locals only.

2. The winner is responsible for picking up the meal at their closest location.

2. I MUST have a way to get in touch with you! I will have to delete comments with no contact info.

3. Comments will close on Sunday, December 6th at 11:59pm CA time.

4. I will use random.org to draw the winner and post the results/notify winners via email and in a "Winners" post.

5. For two extra entries: (not required) Tweet, and/or blog about this contest and leave each of your links in a separate comment (three contest entry opportunities total). You will need a free Twitter account.

San Diego: Win a full #holidaymeal for 6. Spiral cut ham with all the trimmings from @GldnSHAREfoods Ends 12/6.

6. You do not have to follow or subscribe to this blog as a method of entry (but you're more than welcome to!). Tweet as often as you like, but only one Tweet will count as an extra entry. Leave one comment for each entry. Here is the URL to this post: http://bit.ly/GldnShr

*Golden Share Foods gave us our Thanksgiving meal for this review.
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