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Archive for the Category "holiday"

Writer Gotta Write Nov 06

Ah, November. The month of the writer. #NaBloPoMo and #NaNoWriMo here I come!

But wait! Have I already failed? My first published post of the month is today. I only have one other in the works for this blog, and one for my professional blog. My many novel bits and pieces have a layer of dust so thick, they are barely recognizable. 

But does that mean I’ve failed at the yearly writing challenge? 


November is like the new year for writing. It’s a month to remind ourselves why we do write, and should continue to write. And it’s not because the internet tells us to all month long. 

Writing is therapeutic.
Use daily writing to vent your angers and fears. Write them down and throw them away. Writing gives you the opportunity to say what you can’t say out loud in real life. You can also empty all the mundane tasks in your mind onto a task list and turn them into ordered plans and actions. 

Writing helps to enhance communication skills.
Without routine practice, skills deteriorate, and writing is no different. Clear, concise writing allows for better communication between friends, family, and coworkers in our increasingly digital society. 

Writing reminds you why you’re doing this
– whatever this may be. I’m reminded of this every time I see my social media feeds fill with gratitude posts as we count down to Thanksgiving. Too often we find ourselves dwelling on the negative and wondering how we got to this terrible place. For the majority, that’s just not true. There are highs and lows throughout life, and no matter whether you’re on a little low or a LOW low, it’s important to remind ourselves of the good in us, in our lives, and in the world. 

For every one out there that thinks they’ve failed because they haven’t kept up with the national month of writing, think again. And again and again. Then write about what you were thinking about. It doesn’t have to be published after it’s written. Write for the therapy, the enhanced communication skills, and to remember why you’re doing what you’re doing. 

Category: General, holiday, Writing  | Comments off
Countdown to Christmas Dec 03

Last year I put together a 24 Days of Christmas Togetherness list of activities to help the kids and I celebrate the season. With just 27-ish days between Thanksgiving and Christmas again this year, I’m going to do the activities again and add a few more to fill the season with holiday cheer. Here is this year’s revised list!
1. Put up and decorate the Christmas tree.
2. Watch a Christmas movie. (What’s your favorite??)
3. Take a drive and look at Christmas lights.
4. Take a selfie
5. Bake Christmas cookies (possibly gingerbread people)
6. Sing and dance to Christmas songs (I’m thinking this will happen several times ;))
7. Go for a nature walk. This won’t be nearly as pretty in central Florida as it would be in, oh, say, the Smoky Mountains, but we’re going anyway
8. Have a fire in the fire pit.
9. Buy and wrap a present for Daddy
10. Enjoy delicious holiday beverages from Starbucks. Or Dunkin Donuts. We love all things with a pound of sugar and caffeine.
11. Take an informal family photo
12. Make a foam wreath and stockings as interior decorations
13. Check out the tree and lights at Cranes Roost Park
14. Go to Disney and see the dancing lights at Hollywood Studios
15. Make hot cocoa. And not the instant kind.

How do you celebrate the holidays? Does your family have a favorite activity that I can add to our list?

Category: holiday  | Comments off
Atlanta Recap Feb 24

Well, here goes my second attempt at this blog post. I do everything on a mobile device and everything I had written just went poof. Let’s try this again.

It’s been nearly 2 months since we returned from our camping trip to Atlanta. Just more proof how quickly time flies.

The drive up took a little over eight hours. It was fairly easy, but we did arrive after dark which we had hoped not to do.

It took awhile for us to get the camper situated on our site in the dark, especially since it was uneven and took quite a bit of maneuvering to get the camper level.

Once the camper was set up, we started loading in our stuff and trying to get the heater to work. While everything else that ran on propane worked, the heater refused to. There were plenty of options to keep warm still, so we went about unpacking. We were getting hungry, so we started to fix dinner. Or so we thought.

Something had happened during set up or a previous take down and the drainpipe from the sink was broken. Water filled the compartment that contained the drainpipe which also holds the fuse box for the camper.

So instead of making dinner, my husband and I start throwing towels down in the compartment to soak up the water before it can get into the electrical. As we are pulling out the soaking wet towels, we realized that they aren’t just wet but covered in mulch and dirt and other bits of nature. Now we don’t have any towels for showers for the rest of the trip.

My husband says, “We need a heater, new towels, and I need some tools to repair the sink. I’m going out to find a Walmart.” As true as his statement was, the current state of the camper was starting to make my skin crawl. But he went out to find the things we needed and I just kept going through the steps of making the beds and putting our things away one by one until they were finally done.

It only took about an hour for my husband to find the Walmart, shop and return. He also brought with him food from Wendy’s. Wendy’s has never tasted so good.

We devoured our meals, he fixed the sink, and at 11 PM we finally were able to go to bed. And from both beds, we were able to see:


That was the best $20 I have ever spent. It just melted away all the stress of the day.

The next day went much smoother than the first. My husband is a huge fan of Diet Coke, so we had to go visit the World of Coca-Cola while we were in Atlanta. While the kids were not impressed with the exhibits, they did appreciate the holiday decorations:


We also took them to Imagine It! The Children’s Museum of Atlanta. This place was AMAZING and I highly recommend it for anyone with kids under 8, for sure, tho my husband and I enjoyed it as well. The kids were moving so fast from one exhibit to another that I don’t really have any good pictures, but trust me they had a fabulous time.

We took a roundabout way back to the campground from downtown Atlanta and stopped at Fox Brothers barbecue. If you’re a fan of barbecue, this is another stop that I highly recommend. The fried pickles and jalapenos are delicious, as is the macaroni and cheese and the ribs. Honestly, in my two visits there last year, I haven’t had anything that I wouldn’t eat again.


For our third day, our plan was to do the events at Stone Mountain Park. They offer Snow mountain at Stone Mountain and, because it was just after Christmas, we could also participate in all of their Christmas events except getting to meet Santa. Because of course he was done for the year. 😉

The kids had a fantastic time playing in the snow! Unfortunately, before the Christmas events opened, it started pouring rain and we spent the rest of the day stuck in the camper watching TV and coloring.


Our final day in Atlanta had no agenda, so we took a short ride through the neighboring towns and then visited the old mill and quarry in the park. Again, the kids were not impressed, but were able to be outside and active and burn off some energy unlike the day before.


On our way back to our campsite, my husband dropped the kids and I off at the playground while he went back to make dinner. They had a blast! It’s amazing what a new playground will do to a kid.


We spent our last night attempting s’mores by the fire and packing up most of our belongings.


Our final morning, we were up early to finish packing and get breakfast. While my husband took down the pop-up, I took the kids to the massive playground on the other side of Stone Mountain Park. It was way too big for them, as well as too wet, but they really weren’t that interested. They knew it was time to go home and were ready.

The drive home took a little over nine hours and ended with pizza and a friend stopping by to welcome us home. It was a great trip and further fueled our desire to do a US road trip in a few more years.

Category: BIG DEAL, holiday, popup, travel  | Comments off
Camping at Stone Mountain Jan 02

In April 2012, we bought a popup camper. A Rockwood Freedom 2318g, to be exact. Despite construction that doesn’t meet my husband’s stringent standards, we made our tenth trip over the Christmas break. However, this was only our third to someplace other than Fort Wilderness at Walt Disney World.

We LOVE Disney, and have become pretty good at packing for those trips. It helps that we can pack everything up at home and into a cooler without worrying that it will spoil on the trip. That also worked for our trip to Fort DeSoto. But this time, we drove all the way from Central Florida to Stone Mountain, Georgia, just east of Atlanta. Best case scenario was 7.5 hours to get there. Neither my husband nor I was comfortable filling a cooler with food for that long.

So the “plan” was to take a meal that could be cooked without any ingredient needing to be refrigerated. I decided on Barilla Three Cheese Tortellini and sauce. The sauce was supposed to be Prego Italian Sausage, but it wasn’t on sale in the weeks prior and I forgot to grab a jar regardless of price. So instead I took a box of Pomi Tomato Sauce, our McCormick Italian Herb grinder, and my own version of seasoned salt and made do. Or, my husband did when we finally got around to eating them.

Instead of arriving tired and stumbling through our pantry meal, we spent forever leveling the popup on the uneven ground, couldn’t get the heater started (It was already down to 42 when we arrived and the overnight low was predicted for 29.), and discovered that the drain pipe to the sink was broken and we flooded the electrical and plumbing storage compartment. We destroyed the towels that we keep just for camping trying to get the water removed before it damaged anything that would make the popup unliveable. We finally got the water mostly cleaned up and the heater still wouldn’t start. Wal-Mart (ugh) was the only thing nearby, so my husband left to get a heater, new towels, and the groceries I had intended to buy the next day.

While he went shopping, the girls and I hooked up the TV and digital antenna and bundled under all the blankets that belonged on their bed. It was pretty damp and chilly for us Floridians, and the temperature when we left home had been nearing 60 when we left home at 9:30am.

To try and keep this short, we’ll say the shopping trip was a success and we ended up eating Wendy’s for dinner. Then we finally got the popup organized and everyone in bed at 11p. Even the kids were so tired they just fell asleep.

It was a rough start, but the trip continued smoothly after that. We visited The World of Coca-Cola (my husband is a HUGE fan of Diet Coke) and took the kids to the Children’s Museum of Atlanta. They had a BLAST and, if we lived there, would definitely have annual passes. We ate at Fox Brothers BBQ which is kind of a requirement if anyone of our friends goes to Atlanta. The fried pickles and jalapenos are awesome and I’m a huge fan of the rub they use on their ribs. The sauce is more vinegar-y than I usually like, but it also good. And the macaroni and cheese is amazing. The rest of the menu is pretty standard in terms of barbecue and my opinion. But it’s fairly priced and a great experience to check out a local restaurant.

We spent several hours playing in Snow Mountain at Stone Mountain before we spent an afternoon and evening hiding from the downpour in the popup. After the rain subsided the next morning, and we had a huge pancake breakfast, we did some exploring at the Quarry Exhibit and the Grist Mill inside Stone Mountain Park. I could have spent quite a while enjoying the scenery of both, but the kids tired quickly due to the uneven ground and steep incline. We took a short, but somewhat scenic drive through Snellville and had lunch at Boston Market then let the kids play on the playground at the campground for a bit before reality set in that we would be leaving in the morning. So we cooked hamburgers and french fries on the grill and tried to use up the last of our refrigerated goods then started to pack up.

Packing up the night before was definitely sad, but it helped us get going sooner in the morning for the return trip. While my husband took down the popup, the girls and I went to Dunkin’ Donuts (found on our scenic drive the day before) and then to the huge children’s playground inside Stone Mountain Park. It was WAY to big for my 2 years 2 months and 4 years 11.5 months old daughters, but it was also still wet from the rain, so we didn’t stay long. The return trip took 9 hours as compared to 8.5 hours to arrive, so that is probably a pretty average time for us.

This trip taught us to take one step at a time and not worry about the big picture. Stay in the now. It also further emphasized to me that obsessive meal planning is key to any camping trip. I’m not a huge fan of obsessive meal planning, but it’s the only way to maximize food and storage in such a small vehicle over a few short days.

I’ll be uploading pictures of the trip to Instagram over the next few days. The lack of Wi-Fi when you’re out in nature made it difficult to share like I wanted.

Have you ever been camping with young kids? Do you have advice to share?

Category: holiday, travel  | Comments off
2013 Resolutions Jan 01

Holy cow! From Merriam Webster, a resolution is:

1: the act or process of resolving

    a: the act of analyzing a complex notion into simpler ones
    b: the act of answering : solving
    c: the act of determining
    d: the passing of a voice part from a dissonant to a consonant tone or the progression of a chord from dissonance to consonance
    e: the separating of a chemical compound or mixture into its constituents
    f(1): the division of a prosodic element into its component parts (2) : the substitution in Greek or Latin prosody of two short syllables for a long syllable
    g: the analysis of a vector into two or more vectors of which it is the sum

2: the subsidence of a pathological state (as inflammation)

    a: something that is resolved
    b: firmness of resolve

4: a formal expression of opinion, will, or intent voted by an official body or assembled group
5: the point in a literary work at which the chief dramatic complication is worked out

    a: the process or capability of making distinguishable the individual parts of an object, closely adjacent optical images, or sources of light
    b: a measure of the sharpness of an image or of the fineness with which a device (as a video display, printer, or scanner) can produce or record such an image usually expressed as the total number or density of pixels in the image

Yikes, sorry about the formatting, I’m too tired to make that work and I couldn’t just leave it as a block of text. But, the point is, for 2013, I will be analyzing a complex notion into simpler ones. Weight loss isn’t for vanity, it’s for my health and well-being. This will be a goal for the upcoming year any time I am no longer within a healthy BMI range. I need to lose 15-ish pounds. I will be determining the source of the problem and solving or proposing solutions to the problem. Right now, the problem is being pre-diabetic, and it’s time to analyze my blood sugar and my eating habits to lose weight and regain control of my blood sugar. I hope to resolve this issue with permanent changes to my lifestyle and eating habits. This is difficult, and I expect it to take time, but it needs to be done.

On a lighter note, I think I’d like to open an Etsy store and my own PayPal account in 2013. I like crafty things, but rarely need anything I put together, nor do I have the space to store it, so why not sell it? I get the fun of creation and hopefully it will fund even more creative projects.

And I hope to cross things off my list of 30 Things To Do In My 30s. A cruise is in the works, let’s see if we can make it happen!


Beach Getaway Aug 07

Growing up, my husband’s family spent nearly every Memorial Day weekend on Anna Maria Island. It’s one of those childhood memories (like traveling in general is for me) that you really want to share with your kids. While this wasn’t DD1’s first trip (that was way back in July ’09 when she was just 6 months old), it was DD2’s and the first time we’d been there in years. While we don’t need an excuse to go to the beach for the weekend, we did use our nephew’s 18th birthday and his entering the Air Force as good reasons to make the trip July 5-8.

The hotel we stay at isn’t particularly special, but it has great air conditioning, sliding glass doors that open from the first floor rooms straight out towards the beach, and a pool. The rooms are clean, altho the furniture and kitchenette could really use an update, and, since we got a 1 bedroom layout this time rather than the traditional studio, the kids were able to nap while we continued the party in the main room.

The big reason I like to return to this hotel (other than it’s familiar, which helps plan for the kids) is the view.

Yep, we need to spend more time there. 😉

Category: holiday, travel  | Comments off
Wordless Wednesday Flashback May 30

Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights

Category: Disney, holiday  | Comments off
Wordless Wednesday Flashback May 09
Category: Alyson, holiday, partytime, Wordless Wednesday  | Comments off
Wordless Wednesday Flashback to Thanksgiving Apr 25
Category: Alyson, holiday, Wordless Wednesday  | Comments off
This Is How We Do It Dec 31

Celebrate Christmas, that is! (Yes, Christmas. I’m behind. New Year stuff coming shortly.)

Christmas is a big deal in our house. For my husband, it’s about the opportunity to buy gifts for friends and family and watch their faces light up. While this is also important for me, I just enjoy the warm, fuzzy feeling the decorations give me, the opportunity to bake, and the increased niceness of people. Well, until you get to the last couple days before Christmas and all the procrastinators are out and angry that they’re not done yet. 😉

We were all spoiled this year, which was a bit surprising to me. Everything I’ve read in the last few weeks told me to expect hugs or small tokens under the tree, because Christmas is all about the kids. Well, the same quality (if not quantity) of gifts was given to us by our family and friends.

Here’s a few pictures of the Santa magic and our Christmas Day.

If anyone knows where I can buy a bigger house to fit all the new stuffz (preferably in Central Florida), shoot me an email. 😉

Now, it’s time for me to walk away from the computer and go back to enjoying the warmth of the season. Unfortunately. I hear the cool weather will be returning though!

Happy Holidays!

Category: Alyson, holiday, partytime  | One Comment