A Grace Full Life


Why Is Netflix Sending Me Cat Pictures???

I get prompts periodically from Netflix suggesting what is cool to talk about that particular month.
Don't get me wrong, they are in no way telling me what to write.
Nope just gentle prompts about new movies and such that are premiering on Netflix.
This is the thing: they have no idea who they are dealing with.
Well, I think they do by now because its been a solid year but I am not one to do what I am told.
To follow the rules.
Go with the flow.
Oh yes, I am afraid of authority and all that goes along with it.
I am not NOT following the rules ON PURPOSE.
I am no James Dean.
No siree.
I un-follow the rules by accident.

Oh you want me to write about your hemorrhoid cream in a professional yet discreet manner?
Yeah, I will talk about the time I couldn't sit down for a month with my post pregnancy 'roids.
You would like me to gently tell my readers about this cool disco show for kids in the city?
Umm, I will suggest you find a bar when you get there oh and by the way, my butt sweats when I dance.
Someone like me gives PR people the night sweats.

So when Netflix sent me two pictures of cats from Instagram, I felt like they finally had a finger on the pulse that is me.
Hamilton the Hipster Cat.
A cat with an Instagram account who is hipper than I shall ever try to be and he has a "mustache".
Oh and wears hats.
And KimchiKitty.
Another cat with a hat on......seriously what is up with cats and hats??
I have a deep dark secret- I love animals dressed up as humans.
Dogs with sweaters on in the winter make me squeal with glee.
Cats in rubber boots will make me giggle to the point of tears.

Yes, Netflix found my Achilles heel.
And they will find yours too this month if you like all things animal and dress up related.
Or just animals.
Rubber boots optional.

courtesy of Netflix

Like Puss in Boots or Milo and Otis.
Honestly, if you don't like a movie like Milo and Otis, you have no soul.
I mean if a dog and a cat can go on a road trip together, why can't my children get along in the car on the way to the Target.
Did I say that out loud?

courtesy of Netflix

Monkey Trouble is one of Ellie's favorite movies about animals right now.
When it's not Air Bud.
Oh wait, that's mine.

Okay fine, for you refined animal type movie/television show watchers out there,  there is always Marcel the monkey from Friends!
Or Baxter from Anchorman!

"Baxter! You know I don't speak Spanish!"
"Baxter, bark twice if you're in Milwaukee."
"And you ate a whole wheel of cheese? How'd you do that? Heck, I'm not even mad. That's amazing."


Anyhoo, go get your crazy monkey, cat wearing a hat, dogs eating cheese freak on this month on Netflix.
Hamilton is waiting.


I am a member of the Netflix Stream Team. Meaning, for the next year, once a month I will be writing posts about how my family is using our Netflix. They provided me with a Roku and a voucher for my Netflix account.




How to Take a Head Shot Without Regretting it the Next Morning.

I don't take a good picture.
I talked about it here in detail so this will surprise no one who reads here with regularity or those who follow me on my personal Facebook.
The only good pictures of me are those in which I took the picture myself or orchestrated the edit.
Meaning I said, LET ME SEE THAT and told the taker of said picture to take another one, delete the old one or just blow the camera to itty bitty pieces.

I am not photogenic and never have been.
When I got married two different times, my biggest fear was not tripping on my veil, getting my period on my wedding day or whether or not the minister would show up.
It was the simple fact that I had to get my picture taken.
Lots of pictures taken of mainly me, was my biggest nerve wrack on those two days of my life.
I may have even sarcastically mumbled, "I just can't wait to weed through picture after picture of  me with my eyes closed, my triple chin, my crooked smile. Yay me. Pass the bourbon."

So when I started writing a blog in 2010, I didn't even think about pictures because, see, WRITING.
It was after a few months of having the obligatory Blogger logo in where my picture should be, that I realized I should probably pop something in there.
I wrote a post about how little I know about blogging a few years ago here and shared how little I also knew about creating a good profile picture.

I used a picture of myself pregnant as my first ever profile picture.......

I look high. And not off of those good pregnancy hormones either.

.......two solid years after having the baby.
I don't even know what to say.
The world's first view of me as a blogger was eight months pregnant at my cousin's wedding looking stoned.
I've even used a picture of my husband's amazing chocolate chip cookies as a profile picture in 2011 to get out of showing "you", "me".

I was an amateur, yes, but I went to extremes to not take a picture of myself.
I know how I look in every day life and I am happy with that.
If you would have run into me on the street in 2010, you wouldn't even have known who I was because at the time, I was two years removed from a pregnancy and wasn't smoking a joint.
I figured I needed people to know exactly who they were reading.
Not some constantly pregnant lady who likes bold prints and ganja.

But I refused to have a professional take my picture because that's like hiring a calligrapher to write your personal diary.
Plus I didn't want it to look so much like a head shot, or impersonal because my blog is about being really real.
So I decided to take it into my own hands.
First, having my husband take my pictures for two separate profile pictures then turning to myself to do it because asking him to take 589 pictures was a little much.

Yes, it takes me that many pictures to find one good one.
It's the least I can do for myself and for you.
It's a public service, trust me.

This is all you will need to take your own head shot for your blog, your resume, business card or even for yourself because you are one sexy beast and it should be documented.

Your favorite camera

I use my seven year old digital camera to take my profile pictures.
I have used my iPhone camera as well as my big girl camera.
But it's really hard to take a selfie with a big girl camera.
And it takes a lot more work to get the pictures from my iPhone via email to Picasa.....one by one instead of uploaded all together than it does from my good old digital camera, "Joyce".
I've named my digital camera "Joyce" because she is so very underrated.
Much like one Joyce DeWitt of "Three's Company" fame.

courtesy of en.wikipedia.org

Reliable, always there for you, you can always, ALWAYS count on Joyce.
Well, Janet.
But Joyce in real life and my camera just feels more like a Joyce than a Janet.
Anyway, Joyce's character was always shadowed by Suzanne Somer's character.
Just like my "Joyce" is always shadowed by the slutty iPhone.

the buffalo check behind Ellie is my favorite blanket hung on the refrigerator in my kitchen.

 A backdrop

This could be a cool blanket you love draped over your refrigerator (did this for our Christmas card pictures, see above) or a cool front door you painted two years ago.
I use my green door because I love that damn thing.
I want to be buried with that door.
Slap me on that door and save the money on a pine box.
So I shall be photographed by my green door as long as the green door is in my life.
I also get great light in the front of my house where the green door resides, that is key to taking a great head shot.

or wear a colorful green necklace to match the backdrop. I LOVE GREEN OKAY.


Wearing clothing or not, its up to you although your blog might get blocked but let me know how that goes for you.
I usually choose dark or neutral colors because my backdrop is a bright green door.
I don't want to outshine that beautiful door.
But pick something you love to wear or something that if you ran into a reader/friend/pastor at the supermarket that it would be realistic for you to be wearing.
IE- maybe not the time to wear the fur stole or the feather boa.
Unless you rock that every day and to that I say, you are the sh@#.
And I want to be friends with you.
By the way,  I totally want to bring back the Glamour Shots of the late 80's and early 90s'.
Maybe this is the year to do it........

Below was my first "real" head shot that I took with the help of Joyce:

I picked this apart too...my hair looks fuzzy, I have lines under my eyes......but out of the 600 I took, this was one of three that I liked.
This was before I became best buds with Pic Monkey, though!
Now you can be your own professional photographer/editor with tools like red eye reducer, teeth whitener and even a nip and tuck feature to shave off the triple chin!
I haven't done that yet because if I did, you wouldn't even recognize me.

In fact, here is the same picture after doing some fun editing:

I have always wanted a purple streak in my hair so with this tool I can!
And so can you!
Pic Monkey will be your best friend in the editing process.
But before you get to the editing, you need to shoot some pictures.
Here are some tips:


- shoot the picture early mid day

Not early in the morning or late in the afternoon.
This works out well if you are taking the picture in front of your door because no one is home in my neighborhood around that time.
There is nothing more embarrassing than trying to explain why you are taking 600 selfies in front of your bright green door at 11 in the morning.
Except to have to explain it to the FedEx guy.
True story.

Yes I have stood on a coffee table to get a better shot. You'd do it too if you looked like Al Capone in pictures.

- take the picture on a bright day

Cloudy days are okay if you have to but the best days are when the sun is out but not clear blue skies.
This is why I usually take my pictures in the fall because we don't see sun much here from November until January.
Then we see it for like two weeks straight but I am coming off the ThanksChristmas food binge and don't feel so much smiley for the birdie at that point.
So I wait until fall so the bloat is off and the summer glow is still kinda there.


- take a gazillion pictures and don't keep looking at the camera while taking them

Meaning, check them out some 500 pictures later.
Change your position, look up, down to the side, smile, frown, make goofy faces.
One of them will turn out good, I swear.
I heard once, a long time ago, that before you smile for a picture, you should move your face all around to get the muscles loosened up.
That never worked for me but you give it a try and see how that goes.

The above picture was taken when I was trying to show a friend I had pink eye back in 2012/13.
So I used it for my blog, Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook profile picture for like, a year.
Then my friends were like, "seriously we get it, you had pink eye, it's creeping us out" and I took it down.
My idea of artsy creative and others are totally different.
If you don't care what others think GOOD FOR YOU!!!
If you are me however, ask your personal friends and family to be the sounding board.
But don't get offended when they say, "what are you looking at?" or "ummm why are you staring at my cat in the corner of the room".

So go out there and take your own picture!
Don't be afraid, I know you can do it!
Or come over to my house and I will take your picture in front of my green door.
I am sure I have some feather boa's around here somewhere......that sounded a lot worse than it did in my head.



I Was 14 Once Too

Contrary to popular opinion I used to be 14.
Popular opinion = my 14 year old daughter. 
Very, very, VERY long ago, I too had angst, constant attitude (sorry mom and dad) and fresh cramps.
Serious fresh cramps.
Hence the constant attitude....duh. 
So I get it.
Except when I don't.
It's too bad we don't have our kids when we are, well, kids.
In the worst teenage pregnancy dissuasion conversation ever, the point I am trying to make here is this: have your children as soon as you can AFTER getting your schooling/career choice/marriage taken care of.
Don't wait.
Because the older you get, the more distance you put between your teen years and your child's.
It is getting harder and harder to relate to the feelings, the pain, the pressure that I once undoubtedly felt from 1982-1988.
I have become what we all fear.
A parent.

Annie, I know it is hard to believe but at one point in time, I had mad crushes on boys.
Calling their house only to hear their dad pick up the phone then quickly slam the phone down.
Slam a phone down is probably a foreign term for you.....quickly and fiercely press the end call button really, really hard.
Oh what I would have given for Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook back in 1984.
I feel I would have made much more informed choices in my love interests had I been able to "friend" them and see the faces they make in the bathroom mirror or when they flex muscles in a Kelvin filter.

Yes, I have been "there".
Not exactly "there" but theoretically "there".
I see some similarities.
You don't have to struggle with acne.
You are welcome.
You have amazing friends.
So did I. 
You love music and know all the names of all the artists that are popular.
Like, freakishly know all the names.
I am tha master.
Which I learned from tha grand master, my dad, your papa. 

Would you have talked to me in high school?
Or would you have passed me in the hall, smiling brightly but never getting to know me?
Would we have been in the same classes?
Would we order the same things at lunch?

At 14, I loved to ski, loved to stay at home on winter weeknights and snuggle with my dog.
I was really good at playing the clarinet, had lots of hobbies and tons of friends but I felt like I blended in at school.

In a crowd of people, it was easy for me to just get lost.
Go unnoticed.
I still feel like that. 
Do you ever feel that way?

Blending in. Even in a student council picture.

At 14, I was always trying to make people laugh even at the expense of looking like a goofball.
Making jokes about the school pizza looking like brains....it totally did.
Sneaking up behind friends in the hall and scaring them.
Ruining the French Club school picture with my friend Jenny......

We never got in trouble for this. Probably because I blended in.

At 14, I wore earrings the size of bagels, button up shirts and penny loafers.
Sweaters with unicorns or kitty cats bouncing purple balls IT WAS THE 80's EVERYONE WAS WEARING THEM.
Corduroy pants, jeans with lots of pockets, feathered hair.
I am sure my parents cheered when feathered hair went away because haircut every four weeks.
You know, to keep the feathers laying just so.
Kind of the way we are counting the days until short shorts go away.

...or wear them all at once. Penny loafers? Check. White socks? Check. Unicorn sweater? Check. I look like the Caucasian Michael Jackson .

I also wore a sweatshirt from the Cleveland Home and Garden show a lot my freshman year.
I don't know why but for some reason I loved this sweatshirt and it wasn't even a really cool sweatshirt.
In fact, looking back I can't recall it being any different than most sweatshirts I owned.
It was one day, while sitting in band that I had an A HA moment.
An "umm. I wear this sweatshirt a lot" moment.
A "people are going to start thinking I don't wash it" moment.
I wonder if you think about these things.
Do you talk to yourself about your clothing choices? 

Spending New Years Eve putting party hats on dogs. 

When I was 14, I was still very close to my parents.
I didn't go to band camp this year because I was too afraid to leave home for an entire week.
I also didn't go on the French class trip to Quebec for this very same reason.
I can hear you sighing really, really loudly at this.
And apparently, I also liked to dress up my dog as witnessed above.
But it was New Years Eve!
Me spending New Years Eve my freshman year dressing up the dog is probably one of the many reasons I was spending New Years Eve with my dog in the first place.

Wendy and I on the last day of eighth grade. We didn't have graduation, just shaving cream.

I had amazing friends who I could belch, fart and be a weirdo with, exactly like the friends I have today.
They didn't judge me, accepted me the way I was and helped to form the person I have become..
My childhood best friend Wendy's infectious laugh is part of the reason I love to make people laugh to this day.
She lived five houses down the street from me and we were inseparable until graduation tore us apart.
You had bumps in the road but you have amazing friendships that have developed since starting high school, some from elementary school and you have your own "Wendy" who lives just across the street.

Talking about how the pizza crust looks like brains. IT DID.

I wore musk perfume, had stellar big bangs and always wore blue eye shadow.
I danced and sweated for hours to "I Feel For You" by Chaka Khan in my room behind locked doors.
I was desperately in love with many different boys but didn't have a single boyfriend.
Probably because I was very busy perfecting my Chaka Khan moves and the whole dog dressing up scenario.
I made mix tapes from songs on the radio on rainy summer days.
I roller skated through the neighborhood with my friends while listening to the "Footloose" soundtrack on a boom box.
I played basketball for countless hours in the driveway with my dad, sometimes even in the dark. 

Really, aside from the doggy party hats and unicorn sweaters, we aren't that different, you and I. 
Oh sure, there are generational differences but monumentally, for as much as things change they also stay the same. 
There is no doubt that it has been challenging, these teenage years so far.
Personally, I feel this time around is so much harder.
Going through it on the other side of things as a parent.
There have been lots of tears, yelling and many a sleepless night.
And that has been on my end.
It has been quite an education....speak only when spoken to while around your friends, don't hug you when we are in public, don't wear anything embarrassing to school functions.
Its been hard, I am not gonna lie.

I know someday I will get you back.
I hold onto the promise of a day where I can grab your hand in public and just pull you in close.
Not worrying about who is watching.
But for now, I will steal sideways glances.
Gazing at this amazing creature that I had a hand in bringing into this world.
Remembering that I was 14 once too.
And I turned out pretty OK.



What I Don't Know For Sure

All over blog land people are writing about end of the year-ish things.
Wishing their readers Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! Happy Kwanzaa!
Sharing with their faithful followers their stats, which posts sucked the least, how many readers they gained from the Czech Republic in 2014.
I used to do that, used to blog about which posts you loved the most, where most of my readers are coming from.
It is fun to look back and reminisce.....for ME.
But I have a feeling a post like that is boring for YOU.
So I won't be composing something like that this year.

I am not Oprah, as the title implies.

I know some of you are completely shocked by this.
I am sorry to disappoint you but apparently, I don't know anything for sure.

I thought I had a good read on you, my beautiful readers.
I thought I knew what you liked to read, look at, see here.
I don't and that makes me feel an emotion between sad and puzzled.
When I publish a post that I am so excited about, I can't wait to wake up and hit PUBLISH.............yes I do it the old fashioned way, I don't schedule it.........that post usually farts out like a balloon lets go of air.
But a post that I feel just eh about?
35 comments, 25 likes on Facebook, emails from readers and as much as I love that feedback, I am puzzled.
Because I didn't put my "all" into it and you loved it.

Oh yes, I also go off of my "analytics" to see what you like.
I HATE that word, by the way.
Sounds like such a scientific and laboratory name for numbers of people who read my blog.
But those numbers aren't just numbers to me, they represent you.
You taking the time to read me here.
They represent the aunt you told to read my blog. 
They represent my mom, who reads me regularly and texts me, "great post!" or my sister in law Kristy, who religiously comments on my Facebook shares.
My friend Rebecca who texts me when I don't publish a post on a Monday, worrying about how I am feeling.
My friend Shannon who is almost always, without fail, the first person to comment on my posts.
My long time blog reader Antonia who sends me pins on Pinterest that she knows will make me laugh.
My friend Jen who, along with her friends, shares my posts on Twitter without me ever asking. Weekly.

There are many, many more of you amazing people who read here, comment here, share my blog on Facebook, Twitter etc ( Terrie, Rochelle, Sherri, Leigh Anne and Alison just to name a few) and for that I am so grateful.
I don't do this for the numbers, I am not getting paid to write to you here on my blog, I do it because I love you.
I have this deep love affair with you that keeps me sane, lets me get emotions out, and makes me a much better person that I was even four years ago.
I will try and get a better grasp of what you love to read here but I want your help.
I want your input.
What exactly is it that you want to read?
And don't tell me, " I love you just the way you are" what specifically do you want to hear?

I don't want to ever become so full of myself that I forget why I come here each week and write these love notes to you.
I don't want you to ever stop bringing me flowers.
I love being wooe'd.
Please don't stop wooing.

Instead of a year end in review post, I would like to write you a thank you note instead.
I appreciate the people who read my blog.
I wouldn't write a blog if I didn't have people reading it.
Because then it would be called a diary.
I am heading into my fifth year of blogging in 2015.
Wow, five years.
I have gained so much since sitting down at my then basement office during my two year old's nap that lazy June day.

I have gained friends, lots of friends.
Friends I have never met, friends I have met and regained, friends I have met through blogging who have saved my life.
Literally saved my life.
I have gained cool new experiences since blogging.
Conferences, working for major companies, sky diving, going to cool light shows.
Two words, FREE CRAP.
It's been amazing.

I am a different person than I was in 2010.
I would say a better person.
I don't think that comes from blogging alone, probably aging as well.
But blogging has brought me a confidence I didn't possess five years ago.
I don't care about the little things as much as I did back then.
I like me a lot more than I did a few years ago.
The clouds are lifting in my life and I feel writing is a huge prescription for this change. 

I have to admit, I have been in a bit of a writers slump lately.
I have lots of posts sitting in the inbox as I type this but a slow computer and the holidays have gotten me a little back logged as of late.
I write not only for the blog here but for two outside websites now, something I am excited about but also at times, if I am being honest, am a tad bit overwhelmed by.
I don't want to ignore this blog because it is this little place where my love for writing began.
If I feel like I am ignoring you or my blog, I will stop writing for the other places because I am not built like a corporation.
I love to write, that is it.
I don't ever want it to become a chore which some day's it does start to feel that way.
I hate that.

 I love all of you for opening the link to this page for the past five years.
Thank you so much for hanging in there for the ugly posts, the ones that weren't that great because you knew I was in a slump.
Thank you for sending me messages about websites or products I like because you know I would love it.
Thank you for emailing me after reading a post that touched you.
Thank you for following me on my social media channels and liking statuses, re- tweeting links, pinning recipes.
It means so very much to me.

You were there during darkness when I was sad, you were there when good things happened and I couldn't wait to share it with you.
You were there for lots and lots of baaaad DIY projects and you didn't point and laugh.
You have given me advice about where to grocery shop, what type of leggings I should buy and what the best items are at Aldi and Trader Joe's.
When I write to you, I think of all of you. 
And I cherish every single one of you.

See you in 2015.


Netflix Is Making Me Watch Madagascar and A Giveaway!

No they aren't.
I just couldn't think of a better title.
But no, I have never seen Madagasar.
When they announced this new series on Netflix called All Hail King Julien, I was all....ohkayyy.

Those who know me well know that I don't follow movie/television show/ music trends.
I like what I like.
Not what is the newest/latest/trendiest.
I started appreciating Snoop Dog in 2003 people.
I am aware.

So I decided, I need to get on the King Julien band wagon because I don't like being left out in the cold.
That is until the holidays hit.
I got a case of the holidays, people.
I can't focus.
I don't have time to watch my favorite shows, I haven't seen an episode of Scandal in almost four weeks.

Between driving all over God's green Earth for cheer practices, games and competitions; having to make "mandatory" gingerbread cookies with the six year old because "every friend in my class is"; trying to keep up with the laundry situation, trying NOT to gain ten more pounds to bring me back up to where I was last year- I. GOT. NOTHING.

We have only watched one Christmas movie so far.
I don't honestly know what has happened to me.
Well, I do know but I am not going into it amid a Netflix post.

Today, All Hail King Julien begins airing on Netflix so join in me in putting down the molasses, putting away the car keys and fabric softener and propping our feet up to watch.
I might even pop some corn.

Netflix is going to be my BFF over Christmas Break because I plan to use that time to watch all the Christmas shows, like Love Actually (MY ALL TIME FAVE), Madagascar (because HELLO), Christmas With The Kranks (my teenager's favorite movie) and get caught up on Scandal....after the little one goes to bed, of course.

Netflix is going to be your BFF too because they have generously given me the opportunity to share a year of Netflix with one of you lucky people out there!

I want you to write why you want a year of Netflix.
I would love for this to go to someone who wouldn't do this for themselves because its just one more thing to pay for.
So tell me what you would watch, why you would love to have it, share it all with me in a comment below.
I will draw names out of a hat on Christmas Eve in front of my family (we are all honest folk) and I will announce the winner on my blog Facebook page!

That means you need to follow me on Facebook to be a winner, so go to the sidebar up there ^^^ and press like!
That is it!
I can't wait to hear what you write and I can't wait to give one of you an early Christmas gift!!
I honestly wish I had 1000 of these to give away....maybe next year, Netflix?
Good luck!

A special thanks goes out to Netflix for generously providing this.
I love to play Santa, so thank you for letting me do this for one of my amazing readers.

I am a member of the Netflix Stream Team. Meaning, for the next year, once a month I will be writing posts about how my family is using our Netflix. They provided me with a Roku and a voucher for my Netflix account.


How CVS Minute Clinic Will Help Me Put Down the Big Mac's and Get Sexier In 2015

I have a problem.
A serious problem.
Every year I have my come to the river moment after the holidays.
About my weight.
I love to eat, that is no surprise to those who are close to me nor to my readers who have been on this roller coaster weight loss journey with me since 2010.

Last year, I lost 25 pounds!
I was exercising, eating better and keeping on top of what I put into my mouth.
Get your head out of the gutter.....
I was so proud of myself, I felt amazing and I was wearing my pre-pregnancy size again!
For the first time in seven years!!

Then I got sick with pneumonia around the same time a certain weight loss plan decided it was going to charge me double what I used to pay for just an app.
It all went downhill from there.
Here is the thing: I need to be held accountable.
I need someone to be my partner, hold my hand and slap the bad food out of my little mitts.
When I don't have that, I eat things like Big Macs with extra Mac sauce or Portillo's cake shakes with extra cake.

So when I found out that CVS Minute Clinic offers a Weight Loss Program, I squealed.
This you need to know about my relationship with CVS Minute Clinic: it borders on obsessive.
It started three years ago with a sinus infection, my regular doctor being on a cruise and a nurse practitioner who I may or may not have hugged.
I even became friends with one of the nurse practitioner's at my local Minute Clinic.
Her son came to my youngest daughter's birthday party last year.
I swear on my underwear I am telling the truth.

Knowing that I can go in to any Minute Clinic and get a weight loss assessment, without an appointment and possibly make a new friend, makes me very happy place happy.
They offer customized coaching tailored to your goals and lifestyle.
So maybe they can account for that occasional Big Mac binge?
Yeah probably not.

If you don't have time to head in to the clinic, you can take advantage of the online coaching as well.
I love this for those negative 35 degree days here in Chicago or for when I don't want to get out my jammies but need to know if I am allowed to eat that donut.
This program also gives you membership to DASH which is a portal to give tips, recipes and lists that are based on the popular DASH Diet.
Normally a $69 value!
That is a lot of Big Mac's.

And if you didn't think the CVS Minute Clinic was dope enough, they also offer services such as Eyelash Lengthening Consultations and comprehensive Smoking Cessation programs as well!
So if looking skinny, sexy and not hacking up a lung is on your resolution list for 2015, I think we both know where you need to be.
Heading to your local CVS Minute Clinic to find a new friend who will slap that Big Mac out of your hands. 

Enjoy your holiday and eat all that fruit cake.
But after January 1st, I will be heading down the street to my local CVS.
After hitting the McDonald's drive-thru.

The above was sponsored by CVS Minute Clinic, a company that I stand behind.
Although this post was sponsored, all opinions are my own.


Fun Holiday Ideas That I TOTALLY Didn't Rip Off of a Certain Magazine, Cough Cough.

I used to love the magazine Real Simple.
For years, I would go to Amazon on Black Friday and order the subscription for myself as a Christmas present to me.
For the past two years, I have been getting the subscription for free by taking surveys.
And only receiving the actual magazine like once every couple of months.
Probably because of the whole free scenario.

Over the years though, I have noticed a difference.
Either in how I see the world or how the world sees me but Real Simple became, for lack of a better word, pretentious.
I joked on Instagram that it should be retitled Real Expensive.
Because I don't need to spend $150 dollars on a pencil skirt for a holiday party.
And neither do you.

I am not their demographic, I get it.
I shop for groceries at Target.
I buy most of the shoes that go on my feet at Payless.
I don't buy makeup from a department store.
I am not their target customer, I understand.
But it makes me sad because I like to make my life simple too!
Why can't I create a cool Christmas table without ordering a tablecloth from West Elm?
Why can't I organize my basement without a trip to an Elfa store?
Why can't I go to a holiday party without a trip to Banana Republic?

In a recent issue, a reader wrote to them about this amazing wrapping paper storage situation.
My wrapping paper is straddled all willy nilly all over our storage area of the basement; bows and tape all over the frick frackin' place.
I want a wrapping paper situation!
I googled the name of the wrapping paper storage situation and found that the "life changing" wrapping paper organizer cost $150.
What the ever loving crap????

As I got deeper into the magazine, I found an article that caught my attention.
And I suddenly remembered why I can't quit you, pretentious Real Expensive magazine!!
100 stress reducing ideas to help with the holidays!
I want to have less stress during the holidays!
Some of the ideas were silly, some were helpful and some were just amazing.
So instead of making you wade through the Burberry ads and Elfa inserts, I am sharing the most real and valuable ones with you!
Consider it my present to you.

photo credit by pixabay.com


~ Other than fresh cookies, the happiest smells in our house come from the all-natural holiday decorations we use; pine cone centerpieces, fir wreaths, and cedar wrapped votives. Jessica Alba

I am sure Jessica is not headin' out to the Piggly Wiggly herself to pick up her wreaths and pine cones this holiday season but it is a good idea and a cheap one too.
A few years back, my youngest daughter and I went on a walk on a snowy early December day and she found tons of pine cones at the park near our house.
We picked them up and used them in our Christmas decorations around the house.
Every time I looked at them, I thought of her scrambling to pick the cones up and shove them in her winter coat.
Were we allowed to take them?
Now that I think about it, did we steal pine cones from.......gasp......nature?

photo credit en.wikipedia.org

~ We make ornaments out of oranges. Just push cloves all over them in patterns. Their scent combined with pine needles is heavenly. Heath Goldman

This is not a new idea, my mom did this with us growing up and it smelled amazing.
Oranges aren't that cheap but compared to running to Pottery Barn and buying decor, it is a steal.
And for me, the smell takes me back to my childhood Christmases.

photo credit flickr.com

~ Caramelized bacon is always a hit. I serve bias cut pieces in a bowl in the bar area. First dredge the bacon in light brown sugar, then pop it in the oven on a cookie sheet at 350 for 8 minutes a side.  Amanda Hesser

I don't know about you Amanda, but not many people I know have a "bar area".
But I would totally leave this in my 'house area" because BACON CANDY?!?!
Totally making it this Christmas.
Or all year long.

photo credit youtube.com

~ A cocktail rimmed in edible glitter telegraphs "holiday fun". I buy the glitter on Amazon. David Stark

What up with the unnecessary use of quotation marks "David" "Stark"???
This is kind of a cool idea, quotation marks aside.
I went on Amazon and sure as sand, there was edible glitter.
I could totally put edible glitter on everything.
Pizza? Donuts?? BACON?!?!?!
This could be a game changer, folks.

photo credit en.wikipedia.org

~ Our family eats Danish Kringle from O and H Bakery in Racine, Wisconsin on Christmas morning......Christopher Morocco  

We live an hour from Racine and I have only had Kringle, like, two times.
It is really good, not like OMG I NEED TO HAVE IT ALL THE TIME good but mmm yeah this is some good sh#$ good.
And now all of a sudden I feel like we need to have it on Christmas morning.
Ah the persuasion of the media. 
By the way, I ran the Color Run in Racine a few years ago and one of the swag items was rainbow colored Kringle.
I ate the whole thing the night before the 5k.
If you don't live an hour away, you can order it online here.

photo credit commons.wikimedia.org

~ This year, I'm using little snowflake cookie cutters to dress up hot cocoa for a holiday party. I'll spread whipped cream on a wax paper lined cookie sheet and pop it in the freezer. When it's frozen, I'll cut out the snowflakes and use them in place of marshmallows. Stephanie Sisco

I know Stephanie didn't come up with this herself, you know how I know?
It's called Pinterest and I have seen this idea everywhere!
It's such a cool idea and as soon as I saw it, wished I had thought of it myself.
But I don't have little snowflake cookie cutters, just ones shaped like loons or the state of Missouri..
So I will be making hot cocoa for my little posse here with marshmallow shaped like a north woods bird or the Show Me State.

photo credit commons.wikimedia.org

I love a doughnut bar for a holiday party. Buy plain ones and set them out with toppings like flavored icings, chocolate and caramel sauce, sprinkles and candy. Mary Guiliani

I love you Mary, it is like you have a window to my soul.
My little donut/doughnut eating soul.
Is it donut or doughnut? Does anyone really know?
I think Mary knows because Mary got printed in Real Expensive magazine.
Oh that Mary.....you doughnut pimping sexy beast you.
I am totally making a doughnut bar happen this holiday season.
Or on a random Sunday in the New Year.
I think I just thought of Ellie's birthday party food idea.......

photo credit newarkadvocate.com

We have a Christmas Eve picnic under the tree and every family member gets to choose a favorite guilty pleasure indulgence to be served. It never makes a real meal but it's the best "meal" we eat all year! Andrea Carter Wilson

Just because a "real meal" in your home doesn't include mac and cheese or I am guessing, anything non- organic, why must "meal" be in "quotations"??
But I do love this idea, "Andrea".
Although we eat spaghetti and meatballs every Christmas Eve, since I can remember, so that can be a little messy "under the tree".
I am going to implement this "idea" though and surprise the girls some random weeknight.
While eating "dinner".

credit en.wikipedia.org

My family has Bloody Mary's on Christmas morning, even though the kids have us up at the crack of dawn. It goes: coffee, Bloody Mary (pretty much). Then we're primed for our nap after the stockings and gifts are open. Elizabeth Passarella

I like your thinking Elizabeth!
You lush, you!
Only I have never in my life had a Bloody Mary but since Christmas is all about traditions and family, I am sure I would be more than willing to try an alcoholic beverage that is new to me.
And I bet I can get my mom, aka my sidekick, on board. 
Or just stick with mimosa's.
Extra champagne, light on the OJ...wink wink. 
But this is what it would look like in my home: mimosa, then candy bacon, followed by mimosa, then candy bacon, then mimosa.
I love Christmas.

photo credit flickr.com

We open stockings before breakfast and gifts after breakfast. The meal in between calms down the present opening craze, especially effective when my sisters and I were little. Heath Goldman

This is a good idea in theory AND adds to our Mimosa/Bloody Mary time as well!
I do, however, see problems with this in my little family.
The problems are two fold:
# 1- my youngest gets up on Christmas early enough to milk the cows.
And feed the chickens.
And possibly birth the baby calves.
Which in turn leads to the # 2 of my two fold problem- our 14 year old will not be happy to get up in darkness/cow milking hour to NOT open presents.
The stockings are fun, yes, but the presents are what they are really waiting for.
So I need to work on my girls all through December to make this happen because I love this idea.

photo credit commons.wikimedia.org

I cut up holiday cards from the previous year- the decorative parts not photos- and use them as gift tags. Donna Smallin

This would be so hilarious if you actually cut up the photos and used them on gift tags to that person!
Kind of like a holly jolly ransom note!
Moving on.......

photo credit flickr.com

Friends of ours hang tinsel curtains in the doorway to their living room while the kids are sleeping. In the morning, the kids get to burst through it as they run to find their presents under the tree. Mary Duncan

Love, love, love this idea!
But the living space where we open gifts doesn't have a door way so I want to do this to the girls doors to their bedrooms while they are sleeping on Christmas Eve!
Hopefully they don't freak out when they come out of their door's half awake, in the dark,  being attacked by little shiny paper snakes.
OK this just might be the worst idea known to man.
And JUST the thing I need to kick off opening presents!!

Let me know if you are doing any of these things this year!
Or none of them.
Pass the mimosa.....

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