Archives for July 2010

I Invite You To Share In My Joy

Summer 2010 has been very, very good so far. We have discovered some new and exciting treasures that will no doubt change our lives forever. Or at the very least they will change our lives until mid- to late-August. So we certainly cannot complain.

By the way – my standard disclosure – I’m not mentioning these things because anybody paid me / bribed me / begged me / offered me free fried chicken for life. I will not profit if you buy these items. I am simply one of those annoying people who wants EVERYONE IN MY IMMEDIATE PHYSICAL AND/OR VIRTUAL VICINITY to experience the same unexpected product-related joys that I do. And yes, I realize that saying that probably reveals some degree of moderately-unhealthy codependence on my part, but I really don’t think I’m that codependent except for the fact that I REALLY LIKE THINGS BETTER WHEN YOU LIKE THEM, TOO.

I might benefit from some counseling.

1. Sabra Spinach & Artichoke Hummus

WHY HAS NOBODY TOLD ME ABOUT THIS?

I’ve been a fan of the Sabra hummus for a few years, but I had no idea that they’d ventured into spinach and artichoke territory. I saw this new variety in Costco yesterday and practically threw it in the cart. I was just beside myself with excitement. And it did not disappoint. We had a friend staying with us last night, and her presence was the only thing that kept me from embarrassing myself with this hummus. I think the Lord sent her to our house as a shield of protection against any potential hummus-related gluttony.

It’s so good. And it probably goes without saying that it should be eaten with these.

Like you didn’t already know that.

2. Ben Rector’s “Into The Morning” – Every once in awhile I run across a CD with such unassuming brilliance that it just grabs me by the heart and won’t let go. This CD did that. Does that. Is doing that. Presently. Even now, as I type this.

He’s 23 years old. And scary talented. Can’t wait to see what might be in store for him down the road.

3. Colgate Pro Clinical Daily Whitening Toothpaste

Look. They say it has some sort of special crystals that make it so effective. For all I know there are elves inside who are working their little elfin fingers to the bone to make people’s teeth whiter. But as someone who has never been able to use a whitening toothpaste because I have hyper-sensitive skin that tends to get all red and bumpy when I use a toothpaste with all sorts of tricky additives, I am TICKLED to have found this one. It’s good stuff.

4. Andrew Peterson’s “Dancing In The Minefields” – It’s one of my favorite songs ever about marriage. I mean, just listen to these lyrics. And swoon. Swoon verily, I say unto you.

5. The Sharpie Pen

Every once in awhile I sort of frighten myself with my office supply-related enthusiasm.

Case in point: the new Sharpie pen. THIS IS EPIC, Y’ALL.

I have searched long and hard for the perfect pen since I first discovered the Pilot V5 back in the early 90s. Over time my grip has changed, and the V5 is no longer suitable for my day-to-day pen-related tasks. I’ve been using Sharpie extra fine markers for the last three or four years, but they do bleed through paper, and you really just have to love them because, well, you love them.

But this new Sharpie pen? It’s a game-changer.

Please don’t make fun of me.

I just have very specific pen-related needs. And when you find the right pen – well, you just know. You just know that you know that you know. And I think the Sharpie pen and I are going to have a very long, very happy life together.

I couldn’t be more thrilled.

Giveaway Round-Up

For some reason there is all manner of giveaway goodness going on right now – including a new giveaway that just started today – so I thought I’d better hop to it and make sure I point you in the direction of All The Prizes before I settle in for a night of Master Chef and Top Chef and Chopped.

It only stands to reason that I have to watch the reality cooking shows tonight. MY ANKLE, you know.

Anyway, here’s what’s happening on the giveaway front:

– Thanks to BlogHer’s promotion with The Laughing Cow, you can win a $150 Visa gift card.

– You can win $100 worth of school uniforms/school clothes courtesy of Uniforms & Accessories.

– There’s a prize pack worth $100 up for grabs in McDonald’s Family Time, Happy Time program. There’s a McDonald’s gift card and an AMC gift card in the prize pack (among other things), which means you can feed and entertain your people. That’s what I call a win-win.

Happy Giveaway-ing, y’all.

Cousin Camp

No matter how much I vow and declare that our summers are going to be laid back and calm, by the time July rolls around we have turned into the Clampetts. That is not to say that we have loaded up the car and moved to Beverly (Hills, that is), but we are definitely spend our fair share of time on the road. This probably has something to do with the fact that I have never met a road trip that I didn’t just love to pieces, so when we’re not on a schedule, I’m ready to fill ‘er up and hit the highway.

This week, however, the road trip came to us. My cousin Paige brought her little boy to our house Saturday afternoon so that he could spend a few days at what we like to call Cousin Camp. We started this tradition a couple of years ago – when Paige was under the weather and J stayed with us for about a week – and it’s become one of our favorite parts of summer.

We’ve had a great time so far, even if I’ve had to ask the boys to slow down a time or forty because MAMAW CAN’T MOVE SO FAST ON HER BUSTED ANKLE. The good news, however, is that the pool has been the great equalizer. Because do you know who’s still the fastest one in the pool? ME. And that is why we stayed in the pool for approximately three hours today, only pausing to reapply sunscreen and eat a quick lunch at the snack bar.

By the way, today at lunch I ordered sandwiches for the boys and a salad for me, and when I picked up our food a few minutes later, I didn’t see a fork on my tray. So I asked for a fork, and one of the girls behind the counter smiled and said, “Um? We’re out of forks?”

And I said, “You’re out of forks?”

And she said, “Yeah?”

And so I ate my salad with a plastic spoon.

For some reason that makes me very tickled.

Anyway, the cousins had a most excellent day of swimming, and Alex continued to show his strong and unwavering allegiance to goggles.

The child loves him some goggles. He even wears them when he jumps off the diving board. It makes me so happy.

After we wrapped up our pool time, we came home and had some book time. There was also some light saber battle time, but I didn’t get any pictures of that because I was afeared of getting in the middle of the light saber action. MY ANKLE, you know.

Now that I think about it, maybe it would be wise and prudent to milk the “my ankle” excuse as much as I can over the next couple of weeks.

I’m just as sorry as I can be that I wasn’t able to fold all that laundry. MY ANKLE, you know.

Well, I had no choice but to watch fourteen episodes of “House Hunters” in a row. MY ANKLE, you know.

Oh, of course I’ll have that extra piece of chocolate pie. MY ANKLE, you know.

I think this idea has some real promise!

I’ll be certain to keep you posted on my progress.

Back-to-School Giveaway

Do your kids need new school uniforms?

Or new school clothes?

Well, click on over. I’m giving away a $100 gift certificate to my very favorite uniform store.

(And if your kids don’t wear uniforms, there’s a big selection of polo shirts, khaki shorts and pants, white shirts, fleeces – all sorts of stuff that kids could wear to church or, well, anywhere.)

(So what I’m saying is that you have some prize options even if school uniforms aren’t a part of your daily routine.)

(And I’ll quit rambling now.)

(Because your giveaway awaits.)

McDonald’s Family Time Getaway

This is a sponsored post from BlogHer and McDonald’s.

A couple of months ago I got an invitation from McDonald’s.

At first I was hoping beyond all hope that the invitation was to be a part of some sort of Double Cheeseburger Taste Test Committee (oh, my love for the Mickey D’s double cheeseburger is deep, and it is true), but alas, that was not the case. They were having a Family Time Getaway weekend for some bloggers and their families, and they asked me to be a part of it.

Honestly? I initially had mixed reactions about going. I mean, everybody knows the health concerns that go along with kids and fast food. Everybody knows the health concerns that go along with grown-ups and fast food. And I wasn’t really that interested in dragging my family all the way to Chicago so that I could be a part of what I assumed would be a never-ending focus group. But in the end, my relational side won out. There would be new and interesting people there (I am, as a general rule, a sucker for people), and I’d get to travel to one of my favorite cities with my husband and my son.

As it turned out, it was an absolutely delightful trip. The McDonald’s folks did have some meetings and activities set up for us, but they also gave us time to just hang out and be a family. I can’t even tell you how great that was. In fact, the second day we were there they planned a scavenger hunt on the grounds of the hotel, and our little family of three had the best time. The weather was absolutely gorgeous (I did not get the impressions that Chicagoans are, as a rule, familiar with the same level of humidity that we experience here in the Deep South), and I loved being able to “help” my fellas find the objects on the list while I took lots of pictures of trees.

Trees are my favorite, you know.

It was also great to get some behind-the-scenes perspective from the McDonald’s folks. They were candid, open, warm – and absolutely no topic was off limits. The scope of what they do is absolutely mind-boggling, and they are so passionate about it. What surprised me the most – and I don’t mean to sound like I was Sally Cynical before we met with them, but maybe I was just a little bit – is how much they genuinely care about the kids that they serve and how deeply committed they are to being a help to parents in terms of providing a nutritious alternative to a home-cooked meal (notice that I said alternative – I didn’t hear anybody at McDonald’s headquarters advocating feeding kids fast food five days a week, and I think we can all agree that children need variety in their diets and need to be exposed to a wide range of foods). They would be the first to tell you that they’re not perfect, but they would also tell you – and I would agree – that they’re working hard every single day to get better. As a mama, it was so encouraging to see that side of things.

And as for the Double Cheeseburger Taste Testing, I’m sad to say that it didn’t happen. We did get to sample the oatmeal that they’re testing (it was loaded with fruit, and I was an immediate fan) as well as Egg McMuffins (seriously? did y’all know that they’re made with real eggs? that can be cooked however you’d like them? I HAD NO IDEA). My little man was so taken with the Egg McMuffin that he raised his hand and said, “THIS IS THE MOST DELICIOUS EGG MCMUFFIN THAT I HAVE EVER HAD!”

It was also the first Egg McMuffin he’d ever had. But I think we all know that he’s never really been lacking in enthusiasm.

But here was the biggest thing with me, and it had absolutely nothing to do with the food. The day we were scheduled to leave Chicago, a huge thunderstorm rolled into town. We were waiting in the hotel lobby for our ride to the airport, and all the McDonald’s folks were gone (it was late in the afternoon, and our last official activity that day was at lunch). I was just about to check our flight status on the computer in the lobby, and two of the girls who work with McDonald’s – Heather and Maggie – came running through the lobby doors.

One of them rushed up to me and said, “Are you okay? Is your flight delayed? We were almost home, but when we saw how bad the weather was we thought we’d better come back and check on you!”

Sure enough, our flight was delayed – then cancelled altogether – and they spent the next three hours working to get us home. We ended up having to stay an extra night at the hotel, and they took such unbelievably good care of us. I will never forget how they went out of their way to do that, and it spoke volumes to me about the way McDonald’s does business.

So.

I’m tickled that I get to give away a McDonald’s Family Prize Pack in conjunction with the “Family Time, Happy Time” program. The prize pack includes McDonald’s and AMC gift cards, games, a fleece blanket and other items that are perfect for a fun outing with your family, and the retail value is $100. So if you’d like to be entered to win, all you have to do is answer this question:

What’s your absolute favorite meal to eat for family dinner? Is it something you get from a restaurant? Or is it more of a home-cooked affair?

By the way, our favorite family dinner is country fried steak, mashed potatoes, butterbeans, rolls and homemade chocolate pudding.

We’re terribly sophisticated.

In all seriousness, be sure to visit the other bloggers who are participating in this giveaway (they’re listed over on the BlogHer.com special offers page. And by all means feel free to check out the official rules. This sweepstakes runs from 7/27 until 8/10.

Good luck, everybody – and if you have any questions about what we did or what I learned on the trip, feel free to ask. I’ll do my best to answer!

This giveaway is now closed.

A Lesson In Poise

After spending a few (very fun) days in Memphis with my brother, sister-in-law and nephews, the little man and I packed up Thursday morning and drove over to Jackson, Tennessee to see our friends the Cottrells. We initially thought that we would hang out for a little bit at their house and then head home later in the day, but of course that didn’t happen because, well, we talk too much. So we decided to stick around for supper, spend the night, and then drive home early Friday morning. It was a perfectly delightful plan.

After supper we went back to the house, put on pajamas, and settled in for some visitin’. I don’t remember where we were in our conversation – somewhere between the meanings of people’s names and who is currently kicking our tails at Words With Friends – but at one point I realized that I’d forgotten to get something out of the car, so I ran back to the bedroom, grabbed my keys and clicked the “unlock” button as I walked toward the front door. I turned on the porch light because it was pitch-black outside, and I silently commended myself for not trying to make my way to my car in the dark.

The whole “turning on the light” thing might not seem like a big deal to most of you, but as someone who has never met an object she couldn’t trip over or smash into, I am keenly aware of the importance of well-lit surroundings. I can’t even tell you how many literal and figurative obstacles have been strewn along the path to grace and poise in my life. There was that hole in the hook rug that interfered with my back somersault when I was five. There was that uncooperative gymnastics mat during my early-80s quest for a front handspring. There was the complete absence of upper-body strength that resulted in my 16 year-old self falling into a pond after a misguided attempt at conquering a rope swing. There were the tricky wedge sandals – coupled with an overactive yellow lab – that sent me flailing down the basement stairs back in 2001.

And in The Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Ten? There was the Cottrells’ front porch.

Honestly, I thought I was doing pretty well as I made my way out to the car this past Thursday night, but in a completely unexpected turn of events, the edge of my right flip-flop got caught on a little lip at the top of the steps, and I tripped. As you may or may not know from personal experience, if you trip at the top of a staircase, there is a very good chance indeed that you are going to fall down that staircase. And that is exactly what I proceeded to do – in what felt like slow motion – until I finally, at long and merciful last, came to very awkward stop at the bottom of the stairs. I landed on my right arm, but thanks to my left big toe – which managed to scrape its way down every single step, thus making a mockery of my OPI Parlevouz polish – I sort of skidded into my landing (which was certainly preferable to crashing into the ground after being airborn for five seconds). Granted, I was COMPLETELY MORTIFIED by my clumsiness, but I wasn’t really any worse for the wear – except for a ruined pedicure, some sah-weet pavement scrapes on my right forearm, and a very attractive gravel imprint underneath my right eye.

After I composed myself enough to stand up, I very carefully walked back inside and found a mirror so that I could see whether or not I looked like I’d been in a prizefight. About that time Travis walked back through the living room – he and Angela had been putting the kids to bed – and I guess I looked a little rattled because he stopped and tilted his head like he was wondering what was going on with me. So I said, “I fell down your front steps,” and he said, “You what?” and I said, “I was going to the car, and I fell down your steps,” and he said, “Are you okay?” and I said, “Yes, I think so, except for these scratches on my arm and my face – and the fact that the polish got scraped off my toes” and then he said, “Oh, I am so sorry!” and he tried to look very concerned as he said, “How did that happen, exactly?” and when I started to tell him we got very tickled and for the next five minutes we laughed until we could neither talk nor breathe.

Good times. Precious memories.

The next morning I was almost good as new, and after breakfast Alex and I got ready to go home. Travis wanted us to follow him to a donut shop that has what he vows and declares are the best cake donuts in the universe so that we could buy some for D. I thought it was a great idea, mainly because D was super-busy with work last week, not to mention that he is a deeply devoted fan of the cake donut and always on the look-out for excellence in the cake donut field. I totally get it because I have many of the same feelings for fried chicken.

So I zipped up the suitcase, gave Angela a hug, and when I got to the foyer Travis said, “Hey, I’ll get that” and grabbed my suitcase while he opened the front door. We were joking about the need to be abundantly and exceedingly careful given my acrobatic descent down the stairs the night before, and then I stepped onto the porch, misjudged the distance, and the next thing I knew I heard a really loud pop and felt all the blood drain from my face.

Oh yes I did.

Somehow I managed to not cry and stay calm and say, “Um, I just did something really, really, REALLY bad to my ankle, I’m not even kidding, I just really hurt my ankle, I need to sit down right now.” So I sat down and Travis called for Angela and I kept thinking about that popping sound and decided that I had never been more nauseated in my life. Travis was asking me four or nineteen questions about what they could do to help and all I could think was that he wouldn’t be quite so eager to help if he knew that I was seriously about to throw up all over his shoes.

Angela came to the rescue with a big bag of ice, and that ice is what filled me with resolve that I might be able to stand up and maybe even walk out of the Cottrells’ foyer at some point before Alex graduated from high school. After about ten minutes I discovered that I could still move my ankle, and once I stood up, I hobbled back to the bedroom so that I could rest for a little while (per Angela’s orders) and hopefully determine that I was dealing with a sprain and not a broken foot.

In the midst of all the craziness, I couldn’t help but be a teensy bit entertained by the way Angela and Travis responded. Angela was, as always, level, calm, prayerful and practical. She offered sound advice. She brought me a towel in case the ice pack got too cold against my skin. The sound of her voice made me feel like everything was going to be okay.

Travis, on the other hand, was a little more rattled by the whole ordeal. He apologized ninety-four times, never you mind that IT WASN’T EVEN REMOTELY HIS FAULT. He asked me how I was feeling every one to three and a half minutes. He sang “Froggie Went A-Courtin'” in an effort to lighten the mood. And at some point he apparently called the donut shop, because I have a very vivid memory of him walking toward me and saying, “Really, I don’t want you to worry about the fact that we didn’t make it to the donut shop, because I just called them and they don’t even have any of the cake donuts today.”

PERFECT. Because do you know what was just bothering me to no end in light of my ever-swelling ankle? THE CAKE DONUTS.

Oh, bless him.

I ended up falling asleep for an hour or so, and the nausea was gone for the most part when I woke up. Since I had pretty good back and forth movement in my ankle, I decided that it made sense to go ahead and drive home before the swelling got worse. We had a mercifully uneventful trip home, and once I got in the house and elevated my foot and surveyed the damage for the first time in a few hours, I felt a little queasy again.

Clearly it was healing just beautifully.

But now? It’s so much better. I’ve had my foot propped up for the better part of three days, and I think I’m on the road to recovery.

Thankfully the road to recovery – at least so far – seems to be free of any stairs and/or steps.

My ankles and I are understandably grateful.