Monday, May 31, 2010

Mountain Mama

It's time to recap my weekend (which was probably one of the best WV visits I've had in a long time!)

Friday afternoon, Todd & I made the 3-hour trip to Webster County, WV. Nas & Damian Marley's album, "Distant Relatives" entertained us the whole way (I truly love all types of music!)
We celebrated my father-in-law's 51st birthday with Pizza, Cake, and Ice Cream - which I was pretty sure would cause my stomach to burst, after being on a whole grain low-fat diet for months (great news - my stomach is still in tact.) We bought Mike the new Jerry West biography, which should be a pretty amazing book - I want to borrow it after he is finished reading it! After some visiting with the in-laws, I headed to Webster Springs. It was pretty much the fastest 20 minute drive from Cowen to Webster Springs that I've ever made; I was trying to beat the start of the Woodchopping Festival Fireman's parade (which I successfully did) - it's no fun sitting in a car headed down the mountain with the emergency brake set for 30+ minutes (been there, done that, sucks big time!)

I spent the evening hanging out w/Mom and my step-dad, Dannie, who were preparing for Saturday's annual cook-out. I never really help mom in the kitchen - she mans the battle station, and I just sit and sample everything she pushes toward me. I offer to help, but an extra pair of hands usually messes up her flow of things. We had a late, chit-chatty evening, and I winded down by watching Twilight on Encore after they went to bed. Wonderful Friday!
Saturday was fantastic food & fun with fam & friends. Around 60 people stopped by the cook-out in the afternoon, and it was great catching up with everyone. Mom drove people crazy with her digital camera (which is a whole other blog topic i may get to eventually - those crabby people who hate getting their photo taken! WTF? Just be a good sport, ok? At least, decline the photo op in a respectful manner... Or, I know, try this... SMILE and look at the camera - you'll look just fine. Just like you do in real life. Ugh. I've taken some unflattering photos in my lifetime, but it always ends up being ok in the end, doesn't it?) My brother brought the Rhino, which he planned to use for an 8 hour trek the next day. It ended up being super entertainment... I rode around in it, took Todd for a ride (if only our Athens friends could've seen us!), and later in the evening, went on a 2.5 hour mountain adventure with my brother. We ran into some fun folks who were also ATV-ing it up, and I took a ton of photos (which ended up being a ton of tree leaves, mudholes, and blur.) I hadn't been on an ATV in like 10 or more years, so it was pretty crazy and exciting. I also realized that I am a big wimp, and as i posted on FB during the weekend, "you can take the country outta the girl!" I still have the accent, but almost everything else country about me is rapidly disappearing... scary how much one can change in just a few years!
Sunday was really nice, because Todd & I both got to hang out w/our families all day before heading back to Athens. We usually head back first thing on Sunday morning when we go in for a weekend visit, so this was a pleasant change in plans for everyone. Mom and I drove to Holly River State Park for my friend's bridal shower (Congratulations, Kacie!) I caught up with a lot of my high school girlfriends who I haven't seen in a long time. They are always a good time! Cary provided lots of laughter - I almost peed my pants on three separate occasions. Love her sense of humor :) Crystal (a fellow Marshall grad!) brought her youngest baby boy along for the fun, and I have to say - I enjoyed watching her "be a mom". She is so good at it - so patient, loving, and a bunch of other personality traits that I lack. It's truly heartwarming! If Todd and I ever have a boy, I'm turning straight to her for advice - she's raising two!
Kacie received tons of great gifts - It was a sea of Crate & Barrel boxes, and I drooled over every item. I'm wondering if I can create a registry for housewarming gifts when Todd and I move next year - is that acceptable, four years after the wedding? haha...
The shower itself was super cute and classy - the cake was beautiful! Kind of made me want to learn how to do cakes for special occasions... except, I suck horribly at baking. My favorite touch was the Buckeye Candy favors - perfect for the Bride and Groom, who are just finishing up Optometry school @ OSU :) Ahhh... the little things. To Kacie, Crystal, Cary, Sue, Cindy, and all the rest - it was great seeing you for a little while!
Vampire Weekend was the music of choice as Todd & I headed back to Athens Sunday evening. Both of us had a great time visiting w/our loved ones - we needed it badly. It's so easy to feel disconnected from "home" when you have a completely different life that you really enjoy living somewhere else, too. We love our families and wish we could take them with us wherever we go, but we hope to move to a terrific college town where they will have lots of fun when they visit us. Only time will tell... job openings will be posted beginning in late August/early September, and that's when we'll start seeing the real possibilities of where we might end up. I may have to start a whole other blog for that part of our lives!
I hope everyone else had a great weekend as well! Happy June, and as always, thanks for taking the time to catch up w/me!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Friday Free-Write #4

YAY for Friday! And a super YAY for it being the last weekend in May - which, for me, is the start of the summer season. Hot Damn! (literally! It's been HOT outside this week!) I apologize ahead of time - I'm not feeling real humorous or creative today. So this will just be a quick run-down of my fantabulous week:
It has been an off-beat week for me, which started off with a Monday night sushi feast at a friend's house. Most of Todd's friends from grad school are heading out this summer, starting new jobs, getting married, etc. Monday night's little event was a sort of send off, as many of them will not see each other for a long time. I avoided the sushi, because I have strange issues with consuming raw food (I wash raw veggies for like ten minutes under running water before eating them.) Todd enjoyed the sushi, though - and I tried wasabi coated peas for the first time - HOLY SMOKES. They have a crap ton of zing to be so little! After the visit, we returned home where I caught the end of the season premiere of the Bachelorette. I love Ali! (but I think my favorite Bachelorette of all time has to be Jillian.)
Tuesday kicked off the judging of the Hallmark Card Design contest I recently entered, which participants could track on Facebook - this carried over into Wednesday as well. Super exciting stuff! Read the details on it here. Tuesday night was a total bust - my cable and internet went out 10 minutes into the Dancing with the Stars Finale, and came back on 17 minutes after the show ended! WTF??? I was NOT happy. So i did what any other depressed female would do - I popped in the Notebook - which, as is usually the case with Nicholas Sparks movies and books, made me a little sad. So I tried to read - and the current book I'm reading really sucks so far. I gave up and went to bed!
Wednesday was CPR day... My supervisor and I team-teach Red Cross CPR and First Aid classes for the agency, to keep our employees current on certification. It's a nice break from the day-to-day office work, and the students can be a total hoot! I particularly enjoy wrestling the dummies (Red Cross calls them "Manikins", but whatever... they're dummies) when setting up and tearing down the trainings. They're great - they never talk back! I also like wearing the surgeon-like rubber gloves... I feel smart and scientific with them on.
Wednesday Night's American Idol Finale was awesome - tons of surprise performances and shocking moments - especially when Bret Michaels came onstage and performed! I almost fell off the couch. He didn't seem well at all on the Apprentice finale on Sunday night, following the serious illnesses he's just recently suffered from. Everyone I know on the planet gave Janet Jackson's AI performance (and haircut) hell, but I enjoyed it. "She sounded like Michael, it was creepy, wierd, blahblahblah"... I think that may have been the first time several people ever heard her sing a slower song or something - she and Michael sound so much alike when they sing softer, slower ballads. I've listened to both of them ever since I was a silly little girl. I never thought it surprising that they sounded or even danced alike - both were coached by daddy Joe!
Anyway, all the time not spent at work or watching tv this week was spent doing laundry and getting ready to visit the fam in West Virginia this weekend. I will be taking tons of photos and blogging all about the weekend when I return to Athens, so stay tuned - you know you want to!
I also have to add that this weekend is the "Webster County Woodchopping Festival" - all of my hometown pals are super stoked for the annual event, and I hope you all have fun! I don't know if i'll be going to the festivities - not sure I'll have time, but I hope to see some old friends around town while i'm out and about.
As for Diego, he'll probably party with all of his cat friends in Athens on Saturday night. Just look at him - all fat and happy. Don't you wish you could be like him? Not a care in the world... except for a clean litter box, plenty of cat nip, and a surplus of food.

I hope everyone has a fantastic weekend! Enjoy spending time with your family, relaxing if you have some time off, eating good food, and playing outside. And wear sunscreen, for the love of God! The UV index feels like a 432 most days (but they say it is only an "8". Whatever. 432!)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Flashback Friday - Special Playlist!

I'm heading back to my hometown in Webster County, WV this weekend. In honor of my trip to "almost heaven", I made a playlist of nothin' but country music. This was based on the responses I received from FB friends when i posted the question, "What's your favorite country song?"

So, press play and enjoy while you're playing around on the internet!

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

Card Finalist!!!(???)

As my lovely blog readers may recall, I entered the Hallmark "That Says Christmas!" greeting card contest a couple of weeks ago. It was my first Hallmark card design contest, and a chance to have my card design sold online and in stores - and I have to say... it was a terrific experience.

When I received the receipt confirmation email from Hallmark after submitting my design online, I noticed a link to a Hallmark facebook fanpage. I clicked it, thinking "of course I"ll be a fan of this". I didn't realize that I would be joining a fabulous network of card designers, many of whom are past contest winners! The HFB (Hallmark Fan Brigade-cute name, huh?) Facebook page is absolute complete total awesomeness. At nearly 3,000 fans, it's a source of info for current contest participants, future participants, and everyone is so nice and supportive! It's a great place where you can share your contest entry with everyone and get feedback/advice. It's also where Hallmark judges share their exclusive info on behind the scenes contest info, finalists, and winners! Here's a contest run-down:

1. I submitted my design to Hmark on Tuesday, 5/18, and became a fan of HFB/Hallmark Facebook World. I started conversing with fellow fans a little bit, complimenting their design postings, etc.
2. I eventually posted my card design, after realizing this is what almost everyone was doing - and what everyone wanted me to do. The comments came pouring in, and that's when i realized how nice people can be! No jealousy here - at least, as much as I can tell from a bunch of photo comments. I also jumped in on wall conversations, and made some fast FB friends - terrific people!
3. The past winners and contest veterans provided so much helpful, informative advice to all the newbies :)
4. Hallmark periodically posted status updates regarding the contest deadlines.

Here's where it got REALLY crazy and awesome:

5. FLURRIES - once per week, the contest judges would post a trazillion comments about contest entries as they sorted through them. They would post things like "too many dogs with antlers", or, "nice headless frosty", just little clues that would make you wonder... are they talking about MINE? Of course, the HFB peeps were right there, commenting back. Total. Excitement. And so much fun to wait for and anticipate when the flurries would start!

6. BLURRIES (total freaking torture)- on the day of final judging, H-mark posted photos of the finalists' entries (and eventually the winners), but the images were blurred - so what did all of the participants do? Blurred our contest entry images ourselves, to compare to the photo of the finalist board that H-mark posted up (I learned to do this from the contest veterans.)

"Blurry" of the top 37 finalists
(Mine is in the top right-hand corner... I think?)

7. OMG. I. am. a. finalist. I had to be. I knew as soon as i saw the blurred board. Then... i blurred my design myself and compared. Yep, I'm 110% positive.

8. When the finalists were narrowed down and the winners were posted, I did not see my design... bummer, right? Well, sort of... but there were a ton of other people in the same boat, posting away on the FB wall, with such positive messages, lots of humor, and of course - reminding one another that the next contest is only a couple of weeks away (there's one every month or so.) And the winners? They were very gracious and so nice - and i can't wait to go and buy their cards (and say... "that person is my Facebook Friend!!!)

So, in the end, I made lots of awesome new FB friends, found a virtual community where tons of others love art, photography, and being creative - and i even found a fellow HERD/BOBCAT fan who lives all the way down in Texas City, TX! Out of nearly 1700 entries, I think I did pretty well - I was pleasantly surprised! I did notice that Hmark really goes for original photography - ya know, those random, interesting moments when you just happen to have a camera handy. I'm going to give that type of design a try in the next contest (June!) and see how i do.

Regardless of the end result, it was FUN. And I think many of us neglect having FUN. So I would like to encourage all of my friends to give these contests a shot (and.. have... fun!) If you're creative, artsy, and/or love photography, you've gotta do this - it's a great time! I am completely 146% addicted to Hallmark card contests now - I will never miss a single one. Take my word for it - Visit the Hallmark Contests website and read more about it! I'm also including the link to the contest website on my sidebar--->

Entries will be accepted for the next contest, "Crack 'em up", beginning June 7th... so start brainstorming, create something amazing and funny, and submit it!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sign Shoppe

Here they are! My first group of prototypes... it's really hard to decide what to do, because I can pretty much paint anything on a wooden board! All are up for grabs, except for "Country Roads, Take me Home". I'm pricing them at $10-$15 - let me know what you think, and if you would like something in particular, let me know!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Friday Free-write (#3)

Wow, Friday Free-Write now has an official logo! Faanncyyyy…

Can I just say that learning to draw a dog really SUCKS? It’s really difficult for me. I don’t think it’s necessary to provide too many details as to why I’m trying to learn how to draw a dog – it’s one of my latest creative ideas. That idea is going straight down the tube to my “that was a stupid idea anyway” vault.

Things have gone well this week, considering the non-stop, spirit-dampening rain showers, and the road/construction work that’s been going down all over the city of Athens. It looks like a scene from District 9! Bright orange cones and barrels are everywhere. My morning commute is always “fun”, because I never know which half of the road is going to be blocked. Sometimes it’s the left. Sometimes, it’s the right. Sometimes, there isn’t even one half of a single lane to drive in! All complaining aside, I will be glad when the roundabout on Richland Avenue is finished. I should post photos so that those who are unfamiliar with Athens will actually know what I’m talking about! That would be good, wouldn’t it?
Speaking of Athens, Ohio – I would like welcome my new readers from I recently submitted my blog to the local website, which is where you can find all things ATHENS! News, radio, photos… everything. Check it out if you need a little web-adventure, non-Athenians!

I PURCHASED MY TICKETS FOR THE MIDNIGHT SHOWING OF ECLIPSE! Todd’s such a trooper… (and he probably thinks Kristin Stewart is hot.) I’m dying a little bit every day that I have to wait for the soundtrack to be released. Hopefully I can survive until June 8th.

Todd recently finished the first draft of Chapter 2 of his dissertation, and I had the privilege of reading through it this week. I’m so excited about it – his work is extremely thought-provoking and entertaining. I learned some really interesting-yet-troubling facts while reading chapter 2: ”Devil in the Mountains”. For example, did you know that the banjo-playing boy in Deliverance was not an actor, but an actual mentally retarded child from Appalachia who was paid in cash to be in the film? YES! Could he really play “dueling banjos”? Probably not. Equally disgusting was the Tuesday Night lineup on CBS in the 60’s, during which every television show portrayed Appalachians as stupid fools? Back then, you could tune in to CBS and laugh at Appalachians for two straight hours. And also – I really hate the Ellie May Clampett character. I just felt like putting that out there, wherever “there” is. Am I supposed to be like her? Do people think of her when they hear my accent? I hope not. Do people outside of the Appalachian region really believe that we’re monsters? Wrong Turn… Wrong Turn 2… Wrong Turn 3… some of the biggest mistakes of Hollywood. Enough ranting – I’ll leave that to Todd. I cannot WAIT for chapter three!
It’s hard to believe that in just a few months, Todd will be hitting the job market. He’s going to be a terrific professor for a very lucky institution, and I can’t wait to find out where that will be. All I know is, I’m along for every bit of the ride, and I’m loving every second of it. By this time next year, we should know where we’re headed... Diego is hoping it’s a school with a cat mascot! Ha ha. I will cut the job market/job search rambling short – there will be a LOT more of that in the coming months.

I purchased a really nice summer sweater/dress shirt/tie combo from Banana Republic for Todd’s anniversary gift – our 4 year wedding anniversary is June 3rd! I can’t believe it’s already been that long – time has totally flown by while we’ve lived in Athens. I know what you’re wondering… when are they going to have a baby? and I have an answer for you: don’t worry about it right now. Todd needs to become Dr. Todd first. And teach for a while. And we need to get acquainted with our new home. And I need to find a job myself. And then, maybe a baby Todd or Stephanie will be added to the mix!

The weekend is here, and I am PSYCHED. Mostly for some deeeelicious Cold Stone ice cream. Ah, the little things! I plan to paint more wooden signs, but all I ever end up doing is staring at a brown board for two hours – hopefully that goes a little better for me. I’m trying my hand at painting collegiate logos, so be on the lookout for some photo posts! I’ve had so many requests for Ohio State items, and I have no idea how to paint the logo. I know what it looks like, but I also know I’d rather have something that is authentic looking than something that looks like crap!
I hope everyone has a terrific weekend. As always, thanks for reading my blabber!

Video Flashback Friday

On this day in 1994, "I Swear" by All-4-One topped the Billboard Charts. The track was originally written for and performed by country music artist John Michael Montgomery, but was later covered by the California-based R&B group. It topped the charts for 11 straight weeks during the summer of 1994. It was named by the ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers) as one of the greatest love songs of the 20th century. Ahh... takes me back to 4th Grade school dances!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

DON'T Strike While the Iron is Hot

... because if you would have struck while MY iron was hot this past Saturday, the outcome would not have been in your favor. While standing in my "stall", or "stable", ironing (i call it this because i do not move from it for hours at a time and i always feel trapped), I started smelling something wierd. Todd noticed the steam coming from my iron, and asked, "is that normal?" I sarcastically replied that Yes, it was normal - when you apply the steam settings, steam actually comes out of the iron. After about half a minute, I put the smell and the steam together... and THANKFULLY, it hit me! AHHHHHHH my Iron is about to catch fire! I quickly grabbed an old t-shirt and held the iron on it for a second - and burnt a nice big patch all over the front. NICE. So, I've officially destroyed my very first iron. I'm sure there will be plenty more to come in my lifetime. Of course, I had to purchase Iron #2 on Sunday morning because there was a whooooolle lotta ironing ("arning", as we West Virginias like to call it) to be done and I don't "do" ironing during the work week. I always thought of irons as torture devices, but not this new one! TOTALLY CUTE! And works so well! I recommend this for all of my girlfriends who are building wedding registries. :) I flipping hate household chores, but my new cute iron will make things a little more enjoyable for at least a couple of weekends. P.S. it comes in Blue & Green as well.

I recently submitted a card design to the latest Hallmark greeting card contest - which is a Christmas/Holiday theme. I have no idea what will happen with this as far as the contest goes, but I am very glad that I finally entered. Hallmark sponsors several card design contests per year, and I always chicken out at the last minute. I know I have the designing part down... it's the text that gets me. The inside text reads, "Wishing you a magical Holiday Season filled with Joy and Happiness!"... see, totally lame. I suck at words! but here's the design - First, the sketch - then the finished product:
I spent a lot of time on this baby, so if it doesn't win (which it probably will NOT - too many entries with mean naked babies chewing on santa claus' beard and stuff), i'm still going to do something with it this Christmas/Wintertime. Not sure what... and open to any ideas. In any case, my motto always stands: "You can't win unless you try".

I finished up a WV-themed wooden sign this weekend - it's already been claimed by one of my little lady friends back at home (Webster County, WV) - she will be giving it to her father as a present. They will be my guinea pigs - if they love it in person, then I will produce some more! I am still on the fence about whether or not the wooden sign business is something i want to get into - when I get the "right" amount and type of feedback, I'll decide for sure.

One of my friends is having a baby in just a few months - her baby shower is next weekend, and I won't be in town to attend- but I am going to get to work on a few things for her! I have entirely too much energy when it comes to this creative artsy stuff - especially the new, challenging projects. I've never done anything baby-themed before, and have no idea where to begin because I'm completely baby-stupid (I have no idea what to do with a newborn... i always end up petting them, or scratching them under the chin, like a kitten!) ...It's hard to tell what she will end up with!

Have you ever had, or do you have, those nasty ugly red bump rashy looking things on the back of your upper arms? I did... but NOT ANYMORE! A good exfoliant and moisturizer w/shea butter are all you need. I purchased a jar of C.O. Bigelow Lemon Pomegranate Body Scrub and Body Cream - AMAZING stuff. Cleared those nasty gross patches of red mystery right up! Two days... you will see results. Just FYI... it's awesome stuff. It literally makes your skin glow. :)
Enough rambling for the day - I thought it was about time to post something new, I'm sure my readers have been waiting for it! HA HA

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The m&m Critic

m&m's are my favorite candy, and are the cure-all for most conditions - except the ones they actually cause, like obesity, cavities, and whatever health problems the artificially colored shells may lead to (stupid scientists, ruining everything!) Enjoy my rundown of m&m flavors - and feel free to post comments! After all, everyone loves to talk food...
Peanut m&m's - I know these are a classic... and there have been plenty of times when I've had to settle for Peanut because Plain Milk Chocolate wasn't available - but they never hit the spot when I'm in need. For one thing, I usually end up getting these at ballgames - cold football games - so they are extra cold and hard as a rock. Maybe if i warm them up with my body heat before eating? See Milk Chocolate below.

Peanut Butter m&m's - Moving straight from the Peanut to the Peanut Butter, all I can say is... I like the PB much better. Again, it has to be the texture. PB is way smoother, softer, and probably full of more extra additives, which is why i like it more. but the Strawberried Peanut Butter m&ms...

Strawberried Peanut Butter m&m's - I LOVE these. I don't eat them often, because they're extremely rich - but they are delish. I expected them to be gross, but really liked them more and more after every pack. They taste exactly like the description... it's like eating PB & Jelly minus the bread (instead you have a candy shell! haha.) They come in strange colors... a reddish-orange, brown/tan, and white. Not exactly something you would put in a clear candy jar for coffee table decoration, but I believe they would be eaten so fast that using them as a decoration wouldn't even be a consideration. Really. Really. Good.

Almond m&m's - I won't even give these the time of day... I'm just not an almond fan. I'm sure they're super tasty if you're an almond lover... but count me out!

Plain Milk Chocolate - I'm very particular about how I eat these: I only buy the holiday colors b/c they are the freshest. And when I go to the movies, I like to get a bag of them and either hold the bag in my hands, or up against my body somehow during the previews... you've gotta warm them with your body heat, then eat! This makes them all warmish and melty, and yummmmmyyyyy. Cold m&ms are GROSS! (I hate McDonalds McFlurries.)

Plain Dark Chocolate m&m's - I've moved from milk chocolate to these in the past couple of years. I hated the bitter taste at first, but now I love the dark chocolate, and it's better for you, right? They are very hard to find in holiday colors (i typically luck out at CVS, but nowhere else, really), but it's ok - I still manage to eat the largest bag, regardless of the colors or freshness, within one week. My favorite sugary snack to put in a candy jar :)

Wildly Cherry m&m's - If you like chocolate covered cherries and m&ms, then these are obviously for you. They're a little sour, but made with dark chocolate, so it balances out after a few m&ms... I'm not a big cherry fan, so i definitely would not pick these over the Strawberried Peanut Butter or Dark Chocolate. My mom, on the other hand, would LOVE these. They are pretty - the shells are different shades of red. I recommend these around Valentine's Day :)

Coconut m&m's - Didn't think I would like these, but the colors are so pretty (green, light green, white, and brown) I couldn't help it! I confess that i've only eaten one single pack, brought to me by my supervisor one morning, but it made for some good dessert at lunchtime. These would definitely work for the Coconut lovers - and i believe the chocolate used is milk chocolate. ehh... I probably wouldn't buy them. Just sayin'...

Pretzel m&m's - I'm pretty sure my face lit up like a Christmas Tree when I saw these at Kroger's last week! I am a huge fan of chocolate covered pretzels, so i nearly died a happy death in the candy aisle when i laid my eyes on the pretty blue packaging that read, "PRETZEL M&Ms"!!! They are the size of Peanut m&ms, and are very salty - I've gotten mixed reviews from Peanut m&m lovers. Some say they prefer the peanut, some say they're switching their favorite to pretzel... whatever the case, there must be something about the salty/sweet combination that really just does it for people. I would obviously enjoy a little more chocolate taste, but these have just enough to taste like a real chocolate covered pretzel. I wonder how they're made? Do i want to know? Probably not. But SOOOO very good!

Mint Crisp m&m's - I saved my favorite "limited edition" m&m for last... these were first released with other promotional products for the Summer 2008 Indiana Jones film, and I was a little unsure about them at first. Back then, mint/chocolate combos weren't exactly my thing. Mint Crisp m&ms changed that! Once again, a co-worker delivered these to me - her part time job at a local convenience store entitles her to first dibs on the newest m&m flavors, so LUCKY ME! Anyway, I opened the pack and fell in love with the colors - THUNDERING HERD colors! Dark Green, Kelly Green, Mint Green, and White. Instant winner! And then... I ate them. Same texture as the regular crispy m&ms - but minty. They were actually minty enough to freshen my breath. And made w/dark chocolate - woohoo! I wish they were in stores, in huge bags, all year round. Sometimes, I stumble on big bags of them - but it's very RARE that this happens. They were available during the holidays, but i haven't seen them since. Guess I'll have to settle for those Pretzel m&m's!

So there you have it - my m&m review. It's 8:52am on a Saturday morning... and I am not exactly wanting a bowl of cereal anymore! If you love m&ms, i highly recommend the m&ms official website - lots of fun games to play, great recipe ideas, awesome gifts, and my favorite feature, the "become an m&m" app! YOu can literally build yourself... with a colorful candy shell body. I LOVE it, and I have made several versions of myself throughout the past few years (it's one of my favorite extracurricular activities at the office.)

I know you're craving chocolate now... go on, have some!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Friday Free-Write #2

It's Friday... FINALLY! I've had a busy week. Work has definitely kept me on my toes throughout the last few days. My co-workers are learning to be resourceful, and unfortunately, I'm their resource for a lot of random stuff (usually computer-related). At the end of the day, after work, exercise, and dinner, I'm pretty much brain-dead. Anyway, I'm glad to be back in bloggy-land, and I'm predicting that this will be full of random thoughts.
On Tuesday, I traveled to a training in Columbus. I go to the same one every year - it's presented by my agency's national accrediting agency (can I use "agency" twice in one phrase?) and is a summary of business practice updates that we need to be aware of for the next fiscal year. Fabulous. I've done this four times now: same muffins, same juices, same weather (RAIN), same presenter, same training schedule typed in the same font (comic sans), same folders, same nametag (they make us recycle), same people, same stupid questions, same stupid answers. The only thing different this year was the location - but, I had been at that location before, for some other training on "benchmarking" (whatever that is). I've learned over the years that there are more breaks and eating than actual training at these things... I also learned that, at this particular training, "if you're going to wear something to the beach, you shouldn't wear it to the office". The hoity-toity lady gabbing about this during our lunch break was referring to those cute bermuda short suits you see in today's fashion magazines. Has she picked up a magazine lately? I'm thinking not, because she was dressed in a big long cream colored tweed shoulder-padded blazer with 80's pants pulled up to her chin, and big pink dots of blush all over her cheeks. Anyway, she continued griping about how lax dress codes are nowadays, and how everyone's wearing jeans every day of the week. And then, she continued on... jumping to Facebook, which she trashed non-stop for like 15 minutes. All the while i'm stabbing at my horribly undercooked chicken breast. Dress Code and Facebook are my two least favorite topics to discuss in the business casual working world, and I know this is because of the generation gap I come face to face with every single day. I see it - that gap - and how wide it is... so very wide. I think dress codes are fine - but I believe that if given the choice between ironed, dark rinse, well-fitting jeans with a classy pair of flats or heels, versus ill-fitting, wrinkly-a$$ khakis that are fraying at the bottom hem, I believe the jeans would be the most professional choice when it comes to "business casual". And Facebook? Let's just say this - if you suspect your employees are using it to contact clients, and you believe some unethical shizz is going down, grow some balls, then check their computer history, confirm your suspicions, confront, and DESTROY! Otherwise, shut the heck up... now I'm all heated!

I finally got my little toosh to the gym on Wednesday, where I couldn't stop watching some lady doing arm circles while riding the eliptical machine. I was amazed at her incredible balancing act, as well as the tufts of hair under her arms... kinda gross, I.M.O.! This wasn't stubble... it looked like Donald Trump's head! Yes, the Donald's head.. underneath each of her arms. Anyway, while I was analyzing said lady's armpits, I worked out for 75 minutes. And another 75 on Thursday. Then I went to Applebees and dive-bombed into a bowl of Three-Cheese-Chicken-Penne, because it was Friday-EVE and Todd's been doing some fantastic writing on his diss, so we had to celebrate somehow! I went home and took two fish oil capsules to balance out the cholesterol I ingested at dinner, LOL (I probably should have taken the whole bottle of fish oil.)
One of the most exciting parts of my week (seriously) was the release of the 2010 Hallmark Keepsake Ornament Catalog online! My wishlist is made, and I've figured out my payment plan... I love Christmas Ornaments dearly, and Hallmark "ornies" are one of my favorite indulgments. Indulgents. Indulgaments... WHAT is the word??? For Pete's sake... INDULGENCES! Anyway, I have several favorites, but I literally fell in love at first site with The Dwight Schrute Bobblehead... I LOVE THE OFFICE! And I just started watching it this year (As of now, I've watched all of Seasons 1-4... ready to buy Season 5)! So hanging Dwight on my tree will be a perfect symbol of 2010. Ah... the little things.

I haven't been able to take some serious time out and paint something fantastic this week... I'm going to try to get on that this weekend! I will post photos of anything I happen to finish! I'm onto painting wooden signs - surprisingly, it's hard. Wooden signs, in general, are primitive looking and the simple quotes are painted on with a stencil. I'm doing it all free-handed, and trying to come up with other sayings besides "Simplicity", or, "love and happiness"... I like those, but I want to try my hand at something a little different. I'm cooking up a West Virginia/mountain themed sign, so we'll see if my little dream comes alive this weekend - stay tuned!
This week, I posted a facebook status regarding the new Pretzel M&Ms - the response was shockingly huge! So this weekend, be on the lookout for a blog dedicated to the many different kinds of M&Ms, and my "reviews" of each of them. Droooool...
Have a great weekend, my little blogsters!

Video Flashback Friday

Ashanti's "Foolish" topped the Billboard Charts in May 2002. What's so significant about May 2002, you ask? I graduated from Webster County High School. So here's to all the '02 grads, and anyone who happens to be Ashanti fans (hellooo??? are you still out there?) I'm still a fan! And now, I'm in the mood to watch "John Tucker Must Die"!)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Totally Awesome Cool Stuff

All of the following items caused me to smile, drool, giggle, or grunt in appreciation when I stumbled upon them:

Quite possibly the cutest stainless steel water bottle i've seen - this would make anyone look cute at the gym, even the gross tread-milling lady that doesn't wear a sports bra!

This is the mirror for the person who doesn't give a $H#* how he or she looks today

Cute and classy leather sleeves for your Iphone. I don't have an Iphone. I am sad.

A candy dish that looks like an opened Ziplock baggie??? HAHA

How could you not have fun at the office if you had an Alligator Staple Puller?

This AIN'T your Aunt Sally's Wicker Furniture... LUUUUV IT!

Little people, to tack up your most important documents!

And now, where to find these cool little items:
Daisy Print Stainless Steel Water Bottle, $5, OldNavy. Perspective Mirror, $150, cb2. Leather IPhone Sleeve, $38, Horchow. Unzipped Glass Bag, $19, and Crocodile Staple Puller, $7, Perpetual Kid. Wicker Olivine Dining Chair, $79, Crate&Barrel. People Push Pins (Set of 20), $3, cb2.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Art Project

If you're looking for some wall decor to brighten up your childrens' rooms, or a fun, family-friendly piece of art for the living room or den, this little project might do the trick. A BIG plus is that you can make it with your kids!
The Handprint Canvas Kit from Red Envelope (seen here, $40) can easily be recreated for much less $$$ by shopping at your local art/craft supply store -most of the items you will need can even be purchased in the Wal-mart or Target arts & crafts sections, although the selection may be limited.
Decide how many handprints and/or footprints (or both!) you want to feature in your project, then purchase that number of canvases, in a size that will be plenty big for the print (you will also want to leave some room around the print). You should be able to find a pack of canvases for $4-$7, depending on where you shop. Here are some examples of reasonably priced canvases.
Pick up a few small (2 oz.) bottles of craft paint in the colors of your choosing ($1-$1.50 per bottle) - I recommend at least 2 (one light color, one dark color), but no more than four different colors in your project (in this case, 2 lighter colors, 2 darker colors). *Tip: Craft, or Acrylic, paint is non-toxic, water-based, and will clean up super easily! Look for brands like Ceramcoat, FolkArt, etc. Finally, you will need a cheap paint brush or two - flat brushes will work best, but do not use a sponge brush - it will soak up too much paint, and you will be working on the base color of your canvases for a LoooONG time.
1. Lay old newspaper on painting surface for easy clean up later.
2. Paint each canvas completely (front and sides), using a different color for each canvas. You may need to apply two coats of paint.
3. Completely covor the bottom of hand(s) or feet that will be making the print with paint that is a different color from the canvas. Try this method: Light print on dark canvas, dark print on light canvas. An example of light/dark colors is on the left. You can also copy the look of the Red Envelope item up above. For an art-deco look, just use black and white~
4. Continue making prints until your project is complete. Use as many canvases as you want! Let dry completely before hanging. (Canvases can be easily hung on the wall with a nail.) Get creative with the arrangement
5. Easy clean up! Wash off hands/feet, wash out paintbrushes, tightly recap all paint, and pick up the newspaper! You're done! A great way to spend a couple of hours with the kids on a rainy Saturday afternoon.
(I don't have kids of my own... maybe I can attempt this with my cat???)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Happy Mother's Day!

I'm so lucky to have such a beautiful, kind-hearted, sweetie of a mom! She's stylish with a little sassiness, but is also one of the most gentle, down-to-earth people I know. She has always been patient and understanding with my brother and I. I wish I was more like her!

In honor of this special day, I'm going to reflect on some of my favorite memories with my mom, Becky. There are so many, but these are the ones I hold closest to my heart - some were filled with laughter, some were filled with stress and confusion, but all were filled with L-O-V-E!

1. My Childhood Pets: My mother let me have SO many cats when I was a kid. At one point, we had something like 18 outside kitties. Each and every one had a name, and each and every one was fed each day. Why and how she put up with that, I'll never know... she always loved her flower beds, and I can clearly remember the cats digging up the mulch, doing their business, and hiding in/tearing up the bigger plants. When I was 8, she and dad gave in to my demands for a pet BIRD. We also "tried out" several new puppies, which we would always end up finding new homes for - but she was always willing to give just about any pet a shot. As I said before, patience and understanding.

2. Figure Skating: She watched nearly every single Kristi Yamaguchi performance with me from 1991-1994. Kristi won the Olympic Gold Medal in the '92 Winter Games... I cried, and Mom cried with me :) Crystal McCumbers (now Hayhurst) and I wrote Kristi fan letters, and Mom and I went to the post office and had to look in the gigantic U.S. zipcode directory for "Fremont, California" - we found it, mailed the fan letters, and Crystal & I both received return mail w/autographed photos a few months later. THANKS, MOM! (I still have the photo - it's signed, "Always Dream - Kristi Yamaguchi". It's stuck in my bible.)

3. Basketball: She went to every single Glade junior high b-ball game, made sure my uniform was always clean, and probably even ironed my socks. She always kept my b-ball shoes clean, too. After all... a girl's gotta look good on the court!

4. School Trips: these were painful for mom - she hated letting her baby girl go to places like Washington, D.C. and Toronto, Canada - but she always took me shopping for everything I needed, helped plan my outfits for each date on the trip itineraries, and made sure I had plenty of spending $$$ and film for the camera!

5. Boyfriends (aka lots of fighting on the telephone): Again... lots of patience and understanding. How she let the constant arguing go on between me and whoever the unfortunate significant other was, I will never know - I guess she knew her mouthy daughter would always have the last word!

6. High School Prom (Junior Year-2001) Dress Shopping: Mom was completely down with the Easter Grass Green organza poufy-skirt and alligator-scale top ballgown by Alyce Designs. And to top it all off, I had the Ginger Spice hair-do. If I had a picture handy, I would gladly post it!

7. The Big College Decision: I was settled on going to West Virginia Wesleyan College, which was about a 1 hour and 45 min. away from home. Suddenly, over the course of one weekend, I decided to go to Marshall - a way bigger school that was further away. She was supportive and did everything possible to help me get ready :) She believed in me and knew I would do great no matter where I went. And she is STILL like that when it comes to my adventures!

8. Dad/Summer '02: When dad passed away in the Spring of 2002, Mom held our family together. We pushed forward, I graduated, got my first job as a teller @ United Bank, and she started at a new job in nearby Summersville. Both of us worked all summer, spent the evenings together, and "made it" - things gradually looked up, and both of us grew in so many ways. Our relationship started changing from just Mother/Daughter to Mother/Daughter/Best Friends, and what a GREAT change it was! :) Given the circumstances, we really made the most of what we had and even started going to church together.

9. MOVE IN DAY: Prior to moving in to Twin Towers West, an all-girls dorm @ MU at the time, Mom washed all of my new bedding and towels so they would smell like "home" (I just had to throw that in there - it was a very sweet notion)... anyway, needless to say, we were both absolutely scared out of our minds the day I moved to Huntington. She did so well while helping me unpack. She made my bed for me, said a quick good-bye, and left. Thankfully, my brother was driving on the way home... because a little bird told me that she cried so hard as they headed out of Huntington! I don't think she was sad for herself - I think she was scared for me. But let me tell you... I was determined to make her proud. And I think I did...

10. Marshall: The four years I spent at Marshall were absolutely amazing. I grew so much, started learning who I really was, what I really liked, what i really wanted in life - and she was right there, on the phone every single night, listening to me talk about it all. She knew about every essay, every test, and every grade. She was there with me as I fell in love with Todd, and I was there to support her marriage to my step dad and the move to a new neighborhood. My Marshall student "era" came to an end when I graduated summa cum laude in May 2006. Graduation day felt like an official "wrap up" of so many changes that had occurred in the past four years - what a special day! When Robert C. Byrd, the commencement guest speaker, asked all first generation college graduates to stand during the ceremony, I really understood what I had just accomplished, and I know she did, too. I couldn't have done it without her. I always wanted to make her proud - and I still want to. I doubt that will ever change.

11. Wedding: I changed the theme about 900 times, and she loved every single idea (or at least, played along). When we finally settled on a classic black and white theme, it was such a relief! Several trips were made up Point Mountain to Elkins for dress fittings and wedding decor - we had so much fun! Well... I think both of us had fun. She may have been a nervous wreck throughout the whole process, but she always seemed calm and on top of things. She knew she would have a great son-in-law, knew that he and I would be just fine together... I really think her biggest concern may have been getting me home alive from the beautician on the wedding day. My head was bleeding from all of the bobby pins! (I asked for it - I didn't want my hair budging the entire day, and it didn't. Thankfully. Or there would have been hell to pay!) I wasn't too big of a total bridezilla, and I have mom to thank for that.

12. Today: Currently, mom is still being that patient, kind-hearted, understanding person that she's always been. I feel that she has complete faith in Todd and I and all of the things we do. I still call her every day, and we Facebook like crazy. Memories from the past four years include a bazillion trips to the Fiestaware Outlet in Flatwoods, the annual June trip to the Bath & Body Works Semi-Annual Sale here in Athens, watching We Are Marshall in the theatre during the Holidays in 2006, my 2009 Christmas Ornament painting (which will carry over into 2010 as well), and tons of others. Distance doesn't keep us from getting into new adventures and making new memories! Countless numbers of Crayola Markers, Barbies, Babysitter's Club Books, American Eagle t-shirts, Mary Kay Lipsticks, and Fiestaware dishes later, she's still surprising me with presents like I'm still her little girl. I always will be - and I like that. :)

So here's to memories of the past, the present, and the future - there are still lots to come. I'm so lucky to have such a great mom, and I hope that one day I can be as patient, kind, and wonderful to my children as she is to my brother and I!

Happy Mother's Day to all my lady friends! I hope your day is special!

"Look what the cat dragged in" (#1)

My cat, Diego, weighs just over 30 pounds, but he's still pretty active - in very very very short spurts. He LOVES his toys and takes them very seriously - he doesn't like anything that he can't "catch" with his paws (he likes to play "wide receiver"... his vertical is right up there with Randy Moss!)
Diego also prefers a certain kind of catnip - the day that I brought home the "Yeowww! Catnip Purrmuda Triangle", his life changed forever. He's never been quite the same about his catnip toys since. Todd and I were at the airport in Cincinnati when i stumbled on Yeowww! Catnip in a random gift shop. I'd never heard of it, and it was nearly $4, but I missed Diego - so I purchased the little surprise for him and gave it to him as soon as we got home a couple of days later. WHOA... he grabbed the triangle with his front paws, collapsed on his side in the floor, hugged and mauled it for at least 20 minutes. When he finally had his fill, the triangle was a slimy, chewed up mess! I could actually smell the 'nip - and then he just went crazy. He was an extremely high kitty... I knew right then that I had to find out where to buy more Yeowww! Catnip toys!

In the last three years, Diego has mangled a Yeowww! Rainbow, banana, cigar, polluck fish, and many sardines in addition to the purrmuda triangle. He has also consumed an entire
bag of loose Yeowww! Catnip. There have been several occasions when we've left for the weekend, and returned on Sunday to find toys all over the place and catnip all over the floor - clear signs of some hard cat partying.

Currently, Diego's drug of choice is the Stinkies Sardine - he can completely eat a whole one in 2-3 months. My cat is a Yeowww! catnip addict - he won't even lookat any other kind of catnip toy. Does anyone know where I can find a Catnip Anonymous group for him to attend???

Yeowww! Catnip is also 100% Organic - only the best for my fat kitty!

I purchase Yeowww! Catnip at the local PetLand, and also at Moochie & Co in Columbus. It can also be purchased at the following websites:

So spoil your kitty & buy some Yeowww!

Yeowww! Brand Catnip is *Diego Approved