Friday, June 28, 2013

Clearwater Beach, Shared with You Through Disney's Story App

This post is sponsored by Disney Story. To find out more about this brand-new story-creation app - and how it puts the power of storytelling in your hands - click here.

My kids and I went to Clearwater Beach yesterday. We couldn't have asked for a more beautiful day! There wasn't a cloud in the sky, the sun was hot, the breeze was cool, the water was warm and clear, and the seagulls only stole one cookie from Clay's hand. All in all, it was an awesome day! Not only did we have a terrific time at the beach, but we got to meet up with old friends from Chicagoland who moved to Florida about 5 years before we did. We lost contact at that point 7 years ago, but recently reconnected on Facebook. It was great to get together with them at a cute little beachside grill with live Buffet-type music and boat drinks. 

I used Disney's new Story app to create a little slideshow of our day at the beach. For those of you living in the north, feel free to pull this out come January and live vicariously through us. (I know I totally lived through my friends in the south while enduring Chicago winters!) I really love this app because it's so easy to use! Just take pics with your iPhone, open the app, arrange your photos and videos however you'd like, add captions, and click to share! Check it out! (If it doesn't show up properly on your screen, you can go HERE to view it.) You can click on individual pictures to see them more closely, and you can click captions to read the whole thing.


Download the Disney Story app from iTunes  – for FREE – right here!

Disney Story Twitter

Disney Story Facebook

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Ace is the Place with the Helpful Hardware Man (Who Runs and Hides When I Walk in the Door)

Anyone who knows me, knows I'm not very good at the whole 'home maintenance' thing. Most of my girlfriends can get by. Some are even amazing at this kind of stuff. My friend, Ginny nearly singlehandedly refinished her basement. If she didn't know how to do something, she searched Youtube until she found a video and taught herself. Electrical wiring, drywall, plumbing? No problem. She figured it out. 

My method is a little different. My method doesn't include searching Youtube. My method generally includes whining and complaining. It sometimes involves throwing things around and swearing. Usually, it ends with me giving up although sometimes it ends with me batting my eyelashes and trying to get some big, strong man to do it for me. What? I didn't say my method was perfect, or even effective. But it's the way I do things anyway.

When my sink was leaking, I placed a bucket underneath it. Voila! Fixed. When the bucket started filling too quickly, I got some tape and had Savannah tape the pipe. Ta-da! Good as new!

When my vacuum cleaner broke, I stopped cleaning my floors. No problem.

When the side mirror fell off my car, I duct-taped it back on. Piece of cake!

When my weed whacker/edger stopped working correctly and the string broke after I'd edged only a foot of my driveway, I stopped, took the spool out, rewound the string, inserted it, and picked up where I'd left off. After doing this 10 or 11 times, I went all McEnroe on it and whipped it into the street along with the refill spool of string. The spool rolled down the road and disappeared into the sewer drain with a plunk. I sat down and cried, tears streaking a line through the sweat and dirt already covering my face, and waited for a car to come run over the freaking thing.

Again, I know it's probably not the most effective method of fixing something, but I tend to act first and think later. Sometimes, much, much later.

For a couple weeks, I said, "Who cares about edging and weed whacking? It's a stupid waste of time. But my delightful Homeowner's Association has a different opinion about edging and they're happy to share that opinion with you in the form of a threatening letter. So, I snatched the empty spool from the weed whacker and headed off to Ace. I hate hardware stores because they smell yucky, they don't sell make-up, and they confuse me. But I do like the fact that when I walk in and just stand there all confused-like, half a dozen guys will come up and ask if I need help. They're probably more concerned that I'm having some sort of seizure in their store as I stand there staring across the aisles of guy stuff, than they're actually wanting to help me figure out what I need. But still, I can always count on someone coming to my rescue at Ace.

"Um, yeah, I need more string stuff for my weed whacker and if someone could show me how to wind it up the right way so I don't have to throw the thing in the street again, that would be really great."

The guy just kinda blinked at me. I guess normal people don't throw things around when they get mad.

He looked through the rolls of string on the wall, searching for the correct size for my tool. After a beat, he turned to me and asked, "You really threw it out in the street?" a smirk playing at the corners of his mouth.

Defensive, I blurted, "Well, the string kept breaking every foot or so! I don't know what I'm doing. I'm from Chicago. We don't have to edge our lawns every week because they don't grow a foot a day like down here!" I left out the part about how I'd once shoved my snow blower over when it kept dying. I probably would've thrown it in the street too, but snow blowers are heavy! He didn't really need to know that detail though.

He grabbed a refill pack of string from the wall, handed it to me, and quickly ushered me through the employee area, and out the back door. "Tell you what, go next door to the Stihl shop. I'll call over and let them know you're on your way. He can show you how to wind this correctly."

I'm pretty sure he was just trying to get me out of his store since he'd pegged me for some kind of loose cannon with anger issues. Yep, sending me into a store filled with chainsaws was definitely the way to go. He probably didn't care though. I was no longer his problem. The minute I stepped outside, I'm sure he got on the phone, called his buddy and said, "Sorry man, but I'm sending you a real psycho. See if you can help her. I owe ya, dude!"

So I walked next door and explained my ineptitude to the guy behind the counter. He kindly showed me how to wind the string the right way so it won't break every couple minutes. Turns out I was making it way too complicated. Go figure - a woman making something more complicated than it needs to be. When he was done, I thanked him profusely and walked back over to Ace so I could pay for the string. I looked around for the guy who had first helped me, but didn't see him anywhere. He was probably hiding until I left.

I think I'll bake some brownies for the guys. Then maybe when I come in the next time because my shower is broken and I'm tired of bathing in the sink, they'll offer to actually come over and fix it. Hey, a girl can dream.

Monday, June 24, 2013

In Too Deep

In Too Deep, my awesome, talented friend, Michelle's debut novel  is out now!

I read the entire book in a day. When I like a book, I don't put it down until it's finished. If I don't like a book, I never read past the first chapter. That's how I roll. With Michelle's book, I didn't put it down.

I have to admit that although I loved the book, the story, and Michelle's writing, I wanted to slap the main character, Gracie and say, "Wake up! The guy's an a$$! Run. Run fast!" But it's a lot easier to see an abusive relationship when you're outside looking in, rather than when you're in the middle of it, isn't it? If you haven't yet, you need to read In Too Deep. It's available in paperback and Kindle.

A blurb:
Gracie has just finished her freshman year of college in Memphis when she takes a job at a local pizza joint in her home town of McKenzie, Tennessee. She is the epitome of innocence when she meets Noah. Noah is unabashedly handsome, intriguingly reckless and just cocky enough to be sexy. Gracie’s instincts tell her to stay far away from him and based on the stories she hears from her co-workers he leaves broken hearts in his wake. But still, she can’t explain her fascination with him.

Noah puts aside his bad boy ways when what he thought was a summer crush has him unexpectedly falling in love. But soon after Gracie transfers to UT Knoxville to be with Noah, their unexpected love becomes riddled with anger, deceit and humiliation.

Jake, Noah’s former roommate and Gracie’s best friend, can no longer be a bystander. Gracie’s world falls out from beneath her and when she breaks she turns to Jake for strength. As Jake talks her through a decision she’s not yet strong enough to make, together they uncover a truth so ugly neither of them is prepared for its fallout. Will Jake pull her to the surface or is Gracie Jordan finally In Too Deep?

An excerpt:
The strong force of the wave pulled me under. I gasped for air just before my face disappeared below the surface. My body rolled over and over, my arms flailed, and my head pounded into the sea bed which felt like a concrete floor. The salty water stung my eyes. I forced myself to keep them open, fearing I would slip into unconsciousness from the blow I took to the head. I knew I had to hold it together long enough for the swell to pull me back up when the wave rolled. But something was pulling me deeper. I fought with all my might, kicking against the thick water swallowing me whole. I used my arms like underwater oars and sliced through the depths trying to reach what I needed most, but I was in too deep.

“Get out!” I could barely get the words out before I had to run to the bathroom and void my gut of its contents. Noah didn’t move.

I wiped my mouth with the back of my hand and screamed, “I said, Get! Out!” I stumbled back into the room, grabbed the box of mementos I’d collected from the last year of our relationship, and dumped everything into the trashcan in the corner. Like a communal grave, there lay movie tickets, dried rose petals, a strip of photos from the boardwalk, all the beautiful letters he wrote last fall semester, an empty beer bottle, and all the rest of what was now just a reminder of the guy I thought I knew.

(One of my favorite pictures of Michelle - middle, me - right, and Mimi - left)

For my most awesome, loyal readers, Michelle has agreed to give away a signed copy of In Too Deep! Go like her Facebook page here Michelle Kemper Brownlow (where she has all sorts of bonus features like yummy pictures of Jake, Jake and Gracie's downloadable playlist, and information on upcoming projects). And leave a comment here to be entered into the drawing for the signed copy of In Too Deep! I'll choose a random winner on Friday, June 28. Good luck!

Monday, June 17, 2013

For Sale! One Slightly Used 14-Year-Old!

Let me start by saying that I actually do love my kids. All of them. Most of the time. Okay, all of the time. But some days . . . Well, some days, I don't really like them. Some days I want to place an ad that reads like this: 

For Sale! One Slightly Used 14-Year-Old!

Tired of having leftovers that go uneaten? You won't anymore with this amazing 14-year-old who can pack away food like a goat. Or an elephant. Or a garbage disposal.


Thursday, June 13, 2013

From First Words to First Cars: The Scary Business of your Kids Growing Up

AustinI remember when I had my first child. I was so excited for him to talk! I couldn't wait until he took his first step! I sat on the floor, coaxing him, waiting for him to take those first wobbly steps into my outstretched arms. There were so many fun, exciting firsts! The first time he smiled, the first time he rolled over, his first tooth, his first solid food, losing his first tooth, his first words, the first time he slept through the night, the first time he used the potty seat. Of course, by the time I got to my sixth child, I'd come to the realization that those first precious words just led to talking, talking, and more talking. Somehow, "Mom, can I have some money" isn't quite as fun as that first, "Mama". And by the time my sixth baby started standing up, instead of encouraging her to walk to me, I pushed her back down because, quite frankly, walking is highly overrated as it just leads to whole new worlds of mischief they can get into.


Monday, June 10, 2013

Are You Smarter Than a 19th Century 8th Grader?

I love old books and enjoy collecting them. I spend a lot of time at this cute little used book store in town, and get absolutely giddy when I find a new bunch of really old books there. I love the way people wrote back in the day. I especially love when I find a book that has someone’s handwriting inside the cover or notes in the margins. The penmanship of long ago is just so elegant and graceful. You don’t see that today. In fact, many schools no longer even teach cursive, favoring keyboarding classes in its place. Seeing a name penned inside a book makes me wonder about that person. Who were they? How did they die? When did they receive the book? To whom was it passed?

Continue reading here to take the 8th grade exam from 1895.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The (Online) Dating Game: Seinfeld Style

For a brief time I was hanging out, looking through the profiles of guys on I stopped doing that pretty quickly because I’m convinced everyone on there is either a serial killer, has some serious psychological defect, lives with his parents, has never been married for good reason, and/or is a depraved lunatic. I feel like I should be a character on Seinfeld. Not that I’m so funny or entertaining, but because like the characters on Seinfeld, I’m discovering I’m picky about possible matches. And by “picky”, I mean, I can find something wrong with pretty much everyone. Seinfeld had high talkers, low talkers, close talkers, man hands, double-dippers, mimbos, regifters, anti-dentites, toe thumbs, and none were sponge-worthy.


Monday, June 3, 2013

Jax's Surgery

Jackson had surgery to repair his hernia today. Before he was wheeled back to the operating room, he was given a shot of Versed. It made him loopy. He started singing about belly buttons. As the nurses took him back, they asked him how tall he is. He answered, "8'7" then started giggling as he realized what he said. It was pretty funny to watch.

To read more about it, click HERE.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Say Cheese!

The head shots I've been using were taken in 2008. Seeing as it's 2013, I figured it was time for an update. The only problem was the fact that I hate getting my picture taken. I'm much more comfortable behind the camera. I'm super picky about the pictures I'm willing to let the world see.

I had Wendy Ackerman from Ackerman Photography take some new head shots this weekend. I'd seen a sampling of her work on her website and was impressed enough to give her a shot. I am so glad I did! She took about a thousand pictures of me in several outdoor locations near my home. She let me change clothes a couple times and arranged me in many different poses with different backgrounds. Not only that, but she was really fun and friendly, enabling me to relax and smile effortlessly.

I was super-pleased with the end result!

Check out her Facebook page and like it! And for all you local Florida folks, Wendy is offering a deal right now! If you book a session with her in June, you'll receive a FREE 16 X 20 canvas. Just mention my name when you book. In fact, I'm going to be booking another session with her for Savannah's senior portraits. I wasn't happy with Austin's senior portraits last year. I felt like the studio that the high school used for its yearbook just rushed us through with no individual attention. I know that Wendy will do a great job and will capture Savannah's personality in the shots just like she captured mine here...

Please take a minute to like her Facebook page and if you're local, book a session in June. She does babies, children, senior portraits, families, weddings, boudoir photos, and more. You won't be disappointed! 

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