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Friday, February 14, 2014

My Punny Valentine

I just love a good pun, especially on a card, and more precisely, on a Valentine's Day card.   I am not a fan of mushy, lovey-dovey cards.   I think these just depress those who stand in Hallmark reading them wishing they had that "someone special" to send them that card.   And who talks like that anyway?   I am all about the card that makes you pause for a nano-second while the phraseology sinks in. And then you giggle.  Or even groan. A groan is definitely better.

I spent some time googling and perusing Pinterest for  Valentine puns and finally narrowed it down to my top 7 groaners- perfect!  We'll call this the "Week of Pun".  They were chosen based on favorite hobby, favorite movies, insides jokes, and fun memories.    I then did my own take on them for the hubby.    I chose to make postcards using the Avery online design tool for postcards and printed them on plain white cardstock.    Avery has some really cute stock backgrounds and clip art.  I opted to use Avery over Publisher for these cards because Avery also has an easy way to edit each image on the page, and I was making only one of each card.  With a few hours of downloading clip art and fonts and manipulating them in various software packages (Paint and Powerpoint), I was finished.   Each evening, starting on the 8th of February,  I left a postcard on his nightstand, and then this morning I gave him the last one.    

 Day 1: You are so deer to me.   Big T enjoys the hunt.  Here I used some scrap cardstock, camo ribbon, rub-on letters, and a big ol' deer sticker.

Day 2: You are the obi-wan for me.   Married to a computer geek. Of course he likes Star Wars.  I used a download of R2D2 clip art and a Martha Stewart background in Avery.

 Day 3: I stink you are so cute. Pepe is everyone's favorite Looney Tune this time of year.  This is downloaded clip art again with an Avery valentine clip art for the bottom row of hearts. I used a corner punch for an extra touch.

 Day 4: We were condiment to be together.  I actually came up with this one on my own, after seeing a lot of these sweet "you are the peanut butter to my jelly" type valentines. Some things I eat together just gross him out.  Why not make fun of it?  I actually created it in Powerpoint with downloaded clip art and then converted it to a .jpg file in Paint.  I then added an Avery background and it was complete.

Day 5: You are one in a minion.  This is a tribute to one of our favorite movies, Despicable Me.  This is once again downloaded clip art with an Avery background.  I also added googly-eyes for a little extra dimension.

 Day 6: I'm so glad that you are my otter half.  We saw otters in the water when we went on the glacier cruise in Alaska a few years ago. Most of the cards I saw online either used a cartoon or rubber stamp for this.  I opted for a photo, also downloadable.   Did you know otters hold hands when they sleep so they don't drift away from each other?   Everybody say "Awwwww."

Day 7: Will you be my tweetheart?  I just thought a tip of the hat to social media was in order.  This  was also downloaded clip art and an Avery background.  Use any hashtag that strikes your fancy.

I even carried this punny theme over to our Bible class goody bags. This really is a sickness. The teacher had already bought the goodies for the bags, I was just assembling them.   When I saw that she had these adorable heart shaped mazes, I knew exactly what I had to do.   Since I wanted to print multiple copies of the same thing and I wanted to use a font that was not in the Avery software, I used Microsoft Publisher for this one.
(Note to the parents: please don't tell the kiddos. They are getting them Sunday.)

But it could not stop there.  Oh no.  Big T thought he would be smooth and give me a punny card too (with some help from Hallmark).

I really love it.  How did he know that this one was on my top 10 list?

Keep the fun, and the pun, in your relationships!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Stage Fright Spray

Step right up, step right up folks!
Right here I have the greatest thing going in the world of performing arts.  It will give you the confidence to orate without raising your heart rate!   You can walk the dais without being fazed.    Stand before your peers with no fears!    What is this incredible invention?

It comes in seasonal scents and a variety of colored bottles to suit the customer.  The container fits perfectly in a purse or backpack.   Directions are simple and refills are available from the manufacturer so that you can be "green".

Stage Fright Spray was a creation in the most flippant and unassuming way.   Talking with a young friend many months ago, he stated that he had stage fright.   Knowing full well that he had successfully stood before a crowd of over 100 recently, I questioned him about that experience.   His logical answer :  "That wasn't on a stage.  I stood on the floor."    Okay, got me there.    At that point, I made a mental note to use caution when using idioms like "stage fright" in front of children.    In an offhand way, I replied that he just needed a bottle of my Stage Fright Spray, and he would be fine. 

Fast forward to spelling bee time at the local school.   Being the scholar that he is, this same young friend qualified to participate in the school wide spelling bee, and guess what?   Yep, he was going to have to stand on a STAGE.    Two days before the contest, I get a text from his mom.   He wants to know if he can get some of my Stage Fright Spray.   Of course!

Using the Avery online label design software, I quickly made the label from stage clipart and some fun fonts.   On the front it says "Stage Fright Spray"   and "Guaranteed to keep the belly butterflies away!"     The directions on the back say  "Three good sprays on each shoe and the stage cannot frighten you"  with a note at the bottom:  "Testing has shown that one deep breath and smiling after spraying will improve results by as much as 50%."  (I love my friends' kids, especially when I can be cheesy with them.)

I put the label on a travel spray bottle and filled it with water.  Since the bottle was blue and it was winter time, I opted for adding just a drop or two of mint extract from the kitchen cabinet.  After tightening the top and giving it a  good shake, it was good to go.   He was quite excited about getting the spray, but I knew the real test would be a couple of days later when it was go time.    I was nervous.   Would he really get on stage?  Or would he figure this out?  I mean, he is competing in a spelling bee after all; he is one sharp cookie.

I am happy to report that he did indeed get on that stage and make it through several rounds.   He even used the spray again later on a family trip so that he could go on stage at a comedy theater.   

So now I am thinking about the spring and summer version.  It will probably be a citrus smell; lemon is such a sunny scent.  And then I wonder if I will be making him a high school graduation version many, many years from now.

Everybody needs their own little bottle of Phillipians 4:13 every once in a while.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Looking back at 2013 and the Special 5K Challenge

This blog has been a long time in the making, over a year in the making, actually.
Thanks to not-so-wonderful genetics and poor habits, I had been diagnosed with insulin resistance and high cholesterol some time ago, but in the summer of 2012, I had some pretty bad lab test results regarding my liver enzymes. Around the same time, my hubby wanted to join a gym. So, being the engineer I am, I formed a plan. If we were going to invest the money, I wanted to do it wisely.  Engineers are known for being tightwads too.

Step 1: Use for one month to collect data to be used in Step 2.  There are several free websites that work similarly, where you track what you eat and how much you exercise.  The account has an easy setup, and you can use their calculations for your calorie goal or you can customize it.  I used a weight loss goal of 1 pound per week for the calculations, since that was recommended.  My favorite tool is the recipe calculator, because I cook a lot from scratch.  It allows me to see the nutritional information for my recipes, and I can play with ingredients or portion sizes to make them "healthier".   The first week was a real eye opener about what was going in my mouth. 

Step 2: Meet with nutritionist at Wellness Center. She was pleased that I came with “data”, and it made our meeting much better since I had info to give her.   At this point, I had already lost 5 pounds.  We only had to tweak a few things.  The greatest change for me was that she said I needed to snack in the afternoon.  What?!?!?   I was of the "three square meals" upbringing. She gave me a recommended calorie and carb goal, based on my health at the time.  I thought she was crazy, saying that I could have 140g of carbs a day, but she said to trust her.  So I did. And that's why she is the nutritionist and I am an engineer.

Step 3: Pick a gym. Between Step 1 and Step 2, my husband and I did the free week at the local Wellness Center and the local YMCA to see which one we liked better.  Both places have their advantages and disadvantages.  We chose to go with the Wellness Center. When you sign up, they do blood work, an assessment of your flexibility and strength, and give you a recommended routine for your health goals.  Once again, the engineer in me liked this data-based approach to your overall health.  You can see where to you start and get body measurements (besides just weight) along the way to see how you are progressing.

Step 4: Get committed through goals and accountability. One of the things that I was told that I needed to do was cardio 3-4 days a week, 30 minutes each time. I have some girlfriends that wanted to do the Liz Hurley Ribbon Run in October, so I decided that the Couch-to-5K plan would be my tool for committing to the treadmill.  Plus, I asked these same girlfriends to pray for me in this new endeavor.  This kept me accountable as well. Now that I knew I had an audience and a cheering section, I must succeed!  (Pride can be a terrible thing.)   I even bought a pack of smiley face stickers, and every day that I went to the gym or ran in the neighborhood, I put a sticker on that day on our kitchen calendar.  You have to find what works for you when it comes to positive feedback.  I am eternally 12 and goal-oriented, so stickers work for me.  And quite honestly, when you start seeing results, it is much easier to stay committed because you know that what you are doing will actually work.

Step 5: Stay the course by finding support.  Big T and I made the decision together that the gym would be our first stop after work each day.  We were also very blessed by having family and friends to not only support us, but join us, in our lifestyle change.  This made family and social gatherings less of a challenge.  Sometimes you may have to seek out your support.  It may be someone you notice is at the gym at the same time you are.  It may be an online friend on the tracking website.  And if nothing else works, invest in a full length mirror and chat with yourself every day about how good you are doing!  

Step 6: Andi's Rule #7- Find your fun.  For the record, I do not "like" running.  I like weight training.  I really enjoy playing softball.  But more than anything, I really, really enjoy hanging out with my friends. Being social and just to see if I could really do it,  I agreed to what I call The Special 5K Challenge (not to be confused with that cereal commercial).  One of my running buddies thought it was a great idea that we all participate in one 5K per month in 2013 to keep us motivated.  Here is my photo proof of participating in each 5K.  I wasn't able to run 100% of each 5K, but I did run at least 95%:

February- Wounded Warrior 5K-Huntsville

March - RoadRunner 5K-Huntsville
April - Double Helix Dash 5K-Huntsville
May - Poke Salat 5K-Arab
June - Color Me Rad-Birmingham
July - Fiddler 5K-Smithville
July - Blizzard in Blossomwood-Huntsville
August - Autism 5K-Town Creek
September - Schoolhouse 5K-Huntsville
October - Liz Hurley Ribbon Run-Huntsville
November - Attack of the Lions-Monrovia
December – Galaxy of Lights Fun Run (2.5K)-Huntsville
December - Rudolph Run-Huntsville

So now here it is 2014.  My plan is to remain “fit for service”.  Fingers crossed!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Christmas Letter

I debated about this for a while, and decided, why not?   I always loved reading the Christmas letters and notes that my family received when I was a child, especially if it were people that lived far away.  I thought it was neat to hear about what had been going on with them since the previous Christmas.  Of course these days with all of the social media and instant communications, we pretty much know what our friends and family are up to.  And if you are friends with me on facebook, you probably already know most of what I will be sharing here, but maybe I will have a few new things for you.

Greetings from North Alabama!
2013 has been the year of new challenges, but in a good way.   In January, one of our good friends threw down what I will call the Special 5K Challenge.  In order to keep us all motivated to stay in shape, she suggested that we do a 5K a month.  And so I did, after I recovered from having the flu in January.  As a result, we learned about several charities this year that I will cover in a future blog. Thomas decided to pursue his own challenge with participating in USPSA shooting matches each month at Catherdal Caverns as well as teaching an NRA certified handgun course each month.  I even agreed to be a student in the September class.

Due to the untimely arrival of the flu, we had to miss a very important first birthday.  So a few weeks later when I was recovered, we went to see the birthday boy but decided to stay the night at the Chattanooga Choo Choo in one of their sleeper cars.  This was a cool experience - and I do mean the temperature too!  The heater quick working sometime during the early morning hours and woke us.  Needless to say, we were the first folks at the breakfast buffet that morning!  The cars are decorated in antiques and just really nifty.  

 We took a few days in June and went to Pigeon Forge to "do the touristy thing" for the first time.  Even though it rained half of the time, we incorporated getting wet, and muddy, into the plan.( I wrote about some of the things we did in earlier blogs.)  We definitely plan to go back; Dollywood definitely requires two days to do it right!  As you can see below, we left rather dampish.

We have a sad note for this year as well.  We lost our sweet Shadow to what we suspect was cancer.  She came to us just a couple of weeks before we got married hiding under the front porch steps.  I always wanted a short-haired black cat, so I guess God sent her our way.  She was the stereo-typical kitty, and most of our friends and family never saw her because she was always hiding.  Bandit has adjusted well to being an only child and is only more spoiled every day. 

In the fall, Thomas was able to experience his first Auburn football game.  (It was my third.)  His nephew Allen plays the trombone in the Auburn band, and we told him we would come to a game to watch him.  Between runs and matches, the only game we could attend was the Georgia game.  It was VERY exciting to watch the Tigers win with 87,450 of our closest friends.    It was truly a memorable event!

 We wish you and your family a very happy holiday season.  We hope that you have a fabulous 2014!

Thomas, Andi, & Bandit