Saturday, November 29, 2008

call me what you want

I was thinking of an old friend today. It's been years since we talked, so it took me a while to remember that if I were to send her a note, I would have to sign it "Wilkerson".

No one ever calls me that anymore. No one I hang out with these days would even know that was once my name. It instantly made me smile. Wilkerson. That name makes me think of playing tennis in high school.

There have been so many other names over the years and each one immediately brings up a feeling. An emotion. Or just a memory.

Emmy. My oldest sister always called me that. I think I was sort of like her real-life baby doll for many years. My parents or my grandma usually used that name when I was a kid. It makes me feel so loved if someone says Emmy.

Em. That was — and still is — the name used by my middle sister. And lots of close friends through the years. I always thought it was cool when I got to a point in a friendship that someone switched to Em.

Emil-Bleeding-Bloafer. Now there's only one person on the planet who has ever called me that. My brother. Isn't that sort of why you have a big brother? So he can tease you with names that are so, well, horrible? Thankfully, I've graduated to Em with him, too.

Emil. There was a point in high school when absolutely every friend called me Emil. It doesn't sound that flattering, but it was a good name. It meant I fit in. (I really don't like it when people call me that now, unless they were a friend in high school. Otherwise... no.)

EmilLynn. The name my friend Lynnard (aka, Lynn) and I gave our joint self due to the fact we spent so much time together. That name makes me want to drag Main in my Camaro singing Janet Jackson songs really loud.

M-L-E. A few high school buddies called me this in reference to the license plate on my car.

M-and-M. My youth group leader in high school. He and his wife were so nice. Ahhh. I now can only imagine what they put up with back then.

Smiley-E-Miley. There is only one person who ever called me this. The best friend of my college boyfriend. I think he hated me most of the time, but once in a while, when he decided we could be friends, this is what he would call me. On those days, it did make me smile.

Schmem. This was the name give to me by my friend, and identical twin in college, Schmar (aka Sarah). We were both editors at the Daily Illini. The name came from my top priority in deciding who I could and could not date in college. Namely, that I refused to date anyone with the last name, Schmemily. With this unwavering standard in place, I avoided any risk of bearing the unfortunate lifelong name of Emily Schmemily.

Wilks. A buddy at the newspaper where I worked. This name makes me laugh, too. We had so many inside jokes about the criminals around town. The politicians. The attorneys. The other reporters. "Hey, Wilks!"

The newspaper girl. The toy lady.

A lot of people these days use my first and last name together, as if it were one big word. When I was a kid, I didn't know anyone else my age named Emily. Now, I know at least three other adults and, of course, 50 little girls between the ages of 3 and 12, so a lot of people throw my last name on the end. My sales director puts a THE at the beginning followed by the whole name. She actually does that with EVERYONE, but it still makes me feel special.

Sunshine. Darling. Honey. Those names have brought me some serious joy from my sweet husband. I don't even know what he would say if he was going to call me by a real name. I do know I better watch out if he calls me Emily. On those rare occasions, I know I must have made him mad.

So-and-So's Mom. I couldn't believe it the first time people started identifying me in reference to my children. Now, I even identify myself that way.

Mom. Mommy. Mama. Oh, how I LOVE it when one of them calls me Mama! My heart is bursting with love when I hear those names.

A lot of people call me Emily these days. And that's OK. But if you ever want to make me feel good, just leave off a syllable, throw in a rhyme or call me whatever you think might fit. It's sure to make me smile.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

skype is a verb

At our house, Skype also is a noun, an adjective and an adverb.

n. Is Dad on Skype?
v. Can we Skype Daddy now?
adj. We have a very Skypey father.
adv. Dad, you look Skyped today.

That's because many days lately, including a few birthdays and major holidays, our beloved father figure has been joining us via the wonderful free Internet teleconferencing service known as Skype.

He attended our son's birthday present opening ceremony while in China. And today, he helped me cook the turkey even though he was in Switzerland.

In case you're wondering, it wasn't Thanksgiving in Switzerland. So when 30 Europeans planned a meeting in late November and needed one American to attend, they didn't consider the significance of Nov. 27. Anyway, I've dealt with my anger. I've chosen forgiveness. The bitterness is almost gone, and I'm ready to joke about it. Moving on.

Carrying my husband around on the laptop all day does create lots of good family jokes. We carry him through the house, screen facing outward so he can greet each family member. We offer to put a blanket around the computer to keep him warm while we go outside.

We torture him by asking if he thinks the turkey smells good. We offer to let him taste the pumpkin pie. And, of course, when we set him down and forget about him for 15 minutes, we have to move the mouse to wake him up.

Only at our house, do you hear phrases like, "Could you move the screen down a little bit, I can't see?" Or, "Hey! Can someone carry me into the dining room!"

But in the end, the virtual member of our family is something to be thankful for. A Skype husband is better than one who can't attend Thanksgiving at all. Besides, he looks really Skypey on my Macbook.

And, yes, dear, we still Skype you!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I'm thankful for...

Click the play button for a Thanksgiving greeting...
video

What are YOU thankful for this year? We would love to hear from you!!

Wishing you all the best on this day to give thanks! Happy Thanksgiving!!

(If you don't have a Google account but you want to leave us a message, just click "comments" and then select "Anonymous"!)

two Thanksgiving stories

I've been searching the Internet for the story of Thanksgiving to share with my family on Thursday.

I found these two cool versions.

Did you know the full story of the life of Squanto? This is a really cool story. I was reluctant at first to take the time to read it, but glad I did!

Are you thankful, even when life isn't perfect? Are you thankful when it is? This story gives a great perspective!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

"I always feel like... somebody's watching me..." (aka THIS IS FREAKING ME OUT!)

If you can name the artist and title of that song, you must have grown up in the '80s. Personally, I can't remember, but the tune does get stuck in my head.

So... you might have noticed that little Feedjit at the bottom of the page. I was trying to hide it down there, but it's pretty obnoxious.

I need to know. Does it freak you out?

When I first saw it on someone else's page, it almost made me scream: "How does it KNOW a visitor just arrived from Bolingbrook?!?! Is that thing WATCHING me?!?"

Well, then I started watching IT, and I couldn't resist putting it on my page to see what would happen. It's been quite amusing, actually. I find it entertaining to see what kind of people unexpectedly come and go around here.

But I'm wondering if it is making anyone nervous. I don't want to drive anyone away. (As if my fake firing weren't bad enough, I'm really trying hard to KEEP readers now!) I know a fun part about blog lurking is that you can read about someone's life in complete anonymity. They don't need to know how often or for how long you stop by.

So... I could take it off... if you really want me to... Really, I could... I think...

My friend was telling me today about another little gadget called Google Alert. It will actually send you a message any time anyone mentions your name on the Internet.

I seriously couldn't even get up in the morning if I was getting an alert like that in my e-mail. I don't care how positive it might be, I still would cringe to read it.

It's strange how much information is out there about each one of us, isn't it? Of course, many people like me PUT the info out there for others to observe and read, so I can hardly complain.

Would it be better to go back to the way it was before?

I was reading an article about President-elect Barack Obama who will have to give up sending e-mail or corresponding over the Internet once he takes office. I guess any written correspondence can be open to public inspection once you are the nation's top dog.

Will he be able to survive his Crackberry addiction, once he can't type on the little mini keyboard of his Blackberry all day long?

I would be in such withdrawal without my e-mail, it wouldn't even be worth the presidency. I can just imagine my hands shaking, voice slurred, right in the middle of a decision on whether or not to launch a nuclear weapon: "Haaaannnnngggg oooonnnnn. Caaannnn I just check my e-mail for ooooooonnnnnneeeeee minute? Pllllleeeeaaaaasssseeeee?????"

It wouldn't be pretty.

So, tell me the truth about the Feedjit. Is it like a big piece of spinach right on my front tooth? Or can I leave it for at least a few more days?

Monday, November 24, 2008

gotta-have-it, can't-live-without-it

There's still time to leave a comment and get my "thank you for reading" gift (please see previous post).

But with Thanksgiving only days away, I have a burning (could be literally) topic on which I need your advice, so I have to update my blog.

I am the youngest of four children in my family, so until I was about age 21 I was referred to as "The Baby". Now that I'm months away from hitting a mid-life crisis, I think my big sisters and big brother are starting to see me as an adult. (Of course, I'm exaggerating... at least a little.)

They have actually agreed to allow ME to host Thanksgiving. I think I've only hosted one other major holiday when my family drove up here to the 'burbs for Easter about eight years ago. My house isn't the most conveniently located, so I always appreciate them coming to me.

Anyway, I'm not sure if it has anything to do with being the youngest in the bunch, but for some reason I always want everything to be just right. I love to host. Love to make the menu. Love to plan. And I also like to add a twist to the expected.

But with a holiday like Thanksgiving (which is one of my favorites, by the way), you also need to stick with lots of tradition. You really can't suddenly suggest an Italian theme on Thanksgiving Day (and who would WANT to?!?)

For our family, tradition means cooking dinner with the sound of the Macy's parade in the background, eating the big meal right at Noon and then sitting around the table working a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle together while we make each other laugh for hours on end. We're not a big football family, but maybe my brother can sneak off to the basement and turn on the TV if the need arises.

Now for the food. I love all food related to Thanksgiving. I'm a BIG side-dish person, so, seriously, I don't even care about the turkey. But I can't let that slide, so I'm actually going to attempt to make mine in my hubby's prized convection cooker. (He'll be out of town on a business trip, so I'll have to pull this off single-handedly.)

Hopefully, I'll have lots of time to focus on the side dishes: sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, salad, corn casserole, green bean casserole and any other veggie I can add calories to by baking it with butter, sugar or something else to make it yummy. I also LOVE the cranberry element of Thanksgiving so I'm searching for a good recipes for a cranberry relish of some sort. I tried making it from scratch with whole cranberries a few years ago and it was way too sour. HELP!!

So, I'm wondering... What is your absolute, gotta-have-it, can't-live-without-it, it's-not-Thanksgiving-unless element of the Thanksgiving meal?

Tell me, please? Will you??

Saturday, November 22, 2008

what I've learned and GIFT!

OK... So, I've learned a lot over the past few days about blogging. (Please keep reading because there IS something special coming...)

1. It's very difficult to detect extreme sarcasm in the written word. If you write something super sarcastic, you should include a line somewhere that says, "I'm kidding."

2. Lots more people read your blog than you know.

3. Those special ones who comment are extra special and you should never take them for granted. (More about this coming up.)

4. If people take the time to comment, you should offer them feedback, even if you didn't think anyone would check back to see what you had written.

5. Blogging is, for the most part, a one-way conversation, so if you have even ONE person who bothers to read your ranting and raving, you should tell that person THANK YOU! They have just offered you their precious time in life.

So, in the spirit of Thanksgiving and just to really say THANK YOU to my wonderful readers, I would like to give you a cute little gift. It's not expensive, but I think it's cute, and I would like to send you a gift as my way of saying thank you for reading my blog. By the way, I'M ABSOLUTELY SERIOUS! (I know the word "cute" would scare off any man, but if you are a man, I think you might like it, too.)

ALL you have to do is leave me a comment on this topic:

I've been wanting to make my content a little bit more specific. Some ideas I had were my weekly meal plans, recipes, tips that make life easier, inspirational quotes from books I'm reading ... stuff like that.

I stumbled on a blog today where this woman writes a post EVERY SINGLE DAY for the entire year about something to make in the crock pot, along with photos and recipes. Now THAT'S a unique idea!! Other people write blogs about arts and crafts, cars, country music, travel... you name it and there's a blog about it.

So, what would YOU write about in a blog? Or what would topic would interest you to READ IN a blog? Or what topic do you think I should include in mine?? Or if you have a blog, feel free to promote it here. If you don't have an idea, just leave any type of comment.

Leave me a comment by Monday night and I will send you my thank you gift. If you don't have a google account, just click "anonymous" and you will be able to write your comment. If I don't know you, please also e-mail me with your mailing address so I can send the gift. My e-mail is emilyneal@comcast.net.

And if I haven't said it already: THANK YOU for reading! =]

Friday, November 21, 2008

the real story

Ever have one of those days?

You know one of those days where you and your husband are talking about something that's kind of serious. Like for example, how you really love to write and you love it so much you could update your blog five times a day but it seems sort of silly when you only have a handful of readers.

And then you and your husband start joking about how if you don't get more readers you should QUIT! (As if this is a real job.) And then you start laughing more and more about how funny it would be if you DID write a letter of resignation because who would you write it to except the blog itself? And if you did, how sad would it be if no one even read it?

And now you're laughing really hard because you resigned, but YOU were the only one who read that post! And how YOU are the only one who even reads your dumb blog anyway. And you think YOU are hilarious, and you actually laugh out loud at your own jokes.

Now, you are both giggling and you can't stop. Because it's sort of sad when you love writing, but you don't really have many readers. And it's sort of sad that other blogs seems to have gazillions of readers. And it actually IS sad how that makes you feel like a loser. But WHO CARES because it's only a BLOG!?!?! So, instead of being sad, you might as well laugh about the whole thing!

So, then you decide it would be sooooo funny, if instead of resigning from your nonexistent job as a blogger if you actually got fired. Now, THAT would be funny if you were SO BAD that Google actually fired you!! (I realize now that if you don't have a blog, which I didn't until recently, you wouldn't know that it's completely free and open to anyone, regardless of how pathetic or infrequent their posts.)

Well, now you can't even sleep because you are cracking up so much at this idea. And now your husband is completely asleep because he's still jet-lagged from his month in China.

So, since you have nothing better to do (except maybe your laundry or some other household chore) you get out your laptop and write up this whole silliness.

But you are THINKING that because your few readers know you so well that they will know you are kidding. But you didn't really think about it from THEIR perspective... how you've been going along this whole time writing serious stuff and all of a sudden, out of the blue, THIS! Because THEY weren't even there when you and your husband were laughing about it for two hours. And it actually does seem plausible that you might quit given some of your more serious, whiny posts lately, most notably the boy scout one.

And then you feel HORRIBLE that your friends and relatives who you love and who actually love you are taking you seriously and even defending you!!

Oh, boy. Now, you are going to have to break the news that you were kidding and they might NEVER trust you enough to read your blog again. So you decide to blame it on your "other" personality.

Well... I don't know if YOU'VE ever had one of those days, but I just did!

So, will you please forgive me if I made you mad?? I was just being silly.

And P.S. If you do have a passive-aggressive personality like I do, beware! When Ms. Passive and Ms. Aggressive have a war of words, it can get UGLY!!

from "dedicated reader"

To: everydayMOM
From: Dedicated Reader
Subject: time to call it quits

Dear everydayMOM,

NOW look what you have done!!!

I saw you last night. I saw you giggling so hard you couldn't even go to sleep after you wrote that post. I saw you driving around in your car all day laughing about that made-up quote from the Blogger people.

You should know by now that NORMAL people don't understand our warped sense of humor! When will you ever get it through your thick head that normal people DO NOT have imaginary friends? They DON'T have split personalities. And they DON'T even have dramatic and irrational mood swings. Most of your readers are N-O-R-M-A-L-P-E-O-P-L-E!

Now you have gone off and played with the emotions of even your lifelong friends and blood-line relatives with your silly little jokes that only WE find funny! How could you do this?

Oh, and by the way, I just got THIS e-mail from the GOOF-BALL POLICE. In fact, it's from the Chief Officer of the Worldwide Internet Blogging Goof-Ball Tracking Unit of the Western Hemisphere:

"Dear everydayMOM. We would like to notify you that you are in serious violation of manipulating the emotions of innocent blog readers by threatening to quit. If we see this type of activity again, your wireless Internet is going DOWN. Believe me, we have confiscated iTouches for offenses less agregious than this one. So, watch yourself."

Listen, everydayMOM. I really think your problem is that you keep comparing yourself to all of those other cute little bloggers out there. I know. I know. They can post a new casserole recipe and within minutes they have 14 comments.

And then there's The Pioneer Woman. You HAVE to quit reading her blog. Come on. She gets 11,000 comments every stinkin' time she has a contest. But I'm sure there was a day, way back in the beginning of her blogging when she only had 11 readers. At least for the first few hours, anyway.

So, stop comparing yourself to everyone else and appreciate the wonderful readers you DO have. It is almost Thanksgiving! Can't you show a little bit of gratitude!?!

And there's one other thing I've been meaning to bring up with you. I know you think that with just a little more practice you can go somewhere with your lip sync act. But, I have news for YOU. You AREN'T Mariah Carey! You ARE NOT Mandeesa!

So, get your little schizophrenic self back on that keyboard and start typing up some blog posts!

With love,
Your faithful friend and constant companion,
Emily

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

time to call it quits

To My Dear Dedicated Reader,

You've been with me for what seems like forever.

I remember way back in third grade, as a matter of fact, when we would walk home from school together. You would tell me jokes and I would laugh out loud all the way home.

As I grew older, you never left me. People would call me "Giggle Box", but they could never fully understand our jokes. Even now, after 39 years, my kids will catch me laughing and ask me to explain what it's all about.

Well, I have some bad news for you.

I've been notified by Google that I need to give up my space in the blogosphere.

"We don't exactly consider 11 readers on a good day to be what we would classify as record-breaking page visits," the site administrator said in a recent e-mail.

It looks like they are looking for an everydayMOM who is a little less everyday-ish. Maybe someone with a better story to tell, a good sense of humor or maybe just a cooler bio photo.

I've given it my best shot, you have to admit. I've tried to make my readers laugh. I've told them about my struggles. I've tried to encourage them. Heck, I've even revealed secret recipes, had a contest and posted photos of my kids. What more could I really do?

But still, many days, it's just you and me.

Blogger did acknowledge that while my husband was overseas my page views went up significantly.

"It has come to our attention that your husband doesn't know how to subscribe to an RSS feed," they said in the e-mail. "While his repeated clicking on your blog did increase your stats, it still wasn't enough for us to be able to extend your time here on blogger."

Well, that's OK, really. We can go back to the way it was before. Just the two of us. We can continue sharing our stories without posting them for the rest of the world to enjoy. And when someone asks me why I'm laughing, I'll just say what I always have:

"I just crack myself up!"

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

great tips to get the job done!

Many of my readers, like me, are involved in the tricky business of working from home. It is such a juggling act to take care of your home, your spouse, your children, YOURSELF, and also grow a thriving business.

Did you notice I said GROW a THRIVING business — not just hanging on for survival and rolling with whatever comes your way? Oooooo, that's a challenge!

Well, a Discovery Toys buddy of mine sent out these great tips a few weeks ago, and I've been wanting to share them here. They are useful whether or not you have a home business -- good advice regardless of your goals in life:

Turn OFF the TV!

Put away clutter

Get your “why” in place. Why are you working? What is your motivation? If it is income, how much extra income would you like, even if it is just enough to pay for Christmas gifts. Get concrete with this; take a picture of your kids on the couch you want to buy, go shopping for the car you want and figure out what the monthly payments will be.

Share your goal with your family; post a picture of the couch/car/Disney World or whatever on your fridge.

Break down your goal into bite-sized doable chunks and post a chart to track your progress.

Take 10-15 minutes a day to read a motivational book or listen to a tape.

Take time each day to exercise and pray!

Become a better listener.

Think about how you can help others. What’s in it for them?

Stay positive, never dump down or dump to your spouse. If you are having a challenge, talk with a buddy, but be “solution-oriented”.

Keep in perspective what you can and what you cannot change.

You can’t control weather, economy or attitudes or whether people decide to buy or not to buy from you.

You can control how much you choose to work, how well you take care of yourself physically and whether you choose to be positive and thankful in all things.

Don’t wait until the last minute to prepare. Have a daily list of things to do and calls to make.

Instead of filling your day with whatever happens to come along, do your best to take control by having a plan and working the plan (knowing that with kids there ALWAYS needs to be a “Plan B”!)

Oh... and this is MY tip: Think bigger. Believe you can. Make it happen!

What's your goal and how are you tracking? I would love to hear!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

hey, cupcake!


I feel like this might be one of those "mom secrets" that everyone already knew but me. But just in case you are still in the dark, like I was until this weekend, let me fill you in.

I was looking at a photo of some cupcakes on the Internet and I was noticing how perfect the frosting was on top. I realized that if I used my fancy frosting squirter from The Pampered Chef (I'm semi-positive that is NOT the real name) that I could pipe the frosting on the top with much more ease than trying to spread it on.

I gave it a try and sure enough! The frosting went on as nice as a soft serve ice-cream cone!

I made these cupcakes for my son's 8th birthday party. They were MUCH simpler than my usual attempt at decorating a full-sized cake. I just drew a little panda paw print on top of the white frosting, added a little ring of red or yellow frosting and topped it off with some figurines from the Kung Fu Panda movie.

OK... they aren't perfect, which seems so much more apparent now that I'm looking at the photo. But, fortunately, my critics of 7- and 8-year-olds didn't care. They thought they were cool. And the $12 cupcake stand makes everything look even more fancy.

Have you tried the frosting piping trick already? Seriously, I'm dying to know!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

the reality of life

Click here to visit my blog.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Good-bye, Halloween. Hello, Christmas.

It's mid-November, but the village of Bolingbrook is kicking off the Christmas season this weekend with the premiere of its Symphony in Lights.

But what about Thanksgiving? Does anyone else think we should stop and enjoy November before we rush fall out the door?

Thanksgiving seems to have gotten the brush off the last few years as we start earlier and earlier to enjoy December festivities. I understand the need to hang the holiday lights before it gets too cold outside to climb on the roof. But seriously, a few of the houses around town were flipping on their icicle lights before the kids could even finish trick-or-treating...

Read more on my blog in the local newspaper.

** Oh... and if you have a minute, leave me a comment over there. My blog is brand-new and we're trying to get people used to the idea of leaving a comment.

Just click the "comments" link at the top of the page. Fill in your name as you would like it to appear. Fill in your e-mail address (which won't be posted), and then type your comment.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Top-secret recipe

Shhhh. Don’t tell ANYONE! I’m about to reveal my top-secret chocolate chip cookie recipe.

My oldest son’s love language is Mom’s Chocolate Chip Cookies. So for his birthday this week, I made a large chocolate chip cookie for each child in his class, decorated with the number “8”.

He came home from school yesterday and said, “Mom, the kids were talking about you today.”

“Oh, no,” I responded. (Actually, I didn’t. I just said, “Really?”)

“They said, ‘Andrew, you have the best mom. She makes THE BEST chocolate chip cookies'.”

Being the lover of verbal affirmation that I am, I begged for more compliments and then went about the rest of the day soaring on a cloud. “The second graders LOVE my chocolate chip cookies!” I told myself a hundred more times that evening.

Actually, if there is one thing I can cook, it’s a chocolate chip cookie. Much better than my improvised recipe of chicken lasagna I made this week, which went almost directly into the garbage disposal after a long hour of work and waiting. Anyway.

I will brag on myself and say that I have been asked many times for my famous chocolate chip cookie recipe. So, I’m going to reveal it right now.

Step 1. Go buy a bag of Nestle Tollhouse Chocolate Chips.
Step 2. Flip it to the back.
Step 3. Read the recipe.

OK. So, there you have it. That’s my recipe. But seriously, I have found that there are some steps that are JUST as important as the recipe in creating the perfect chocolate chip cookie, and I want to share those with you.

1. Follow the recipe to the T. Don’t mess around when you are measuring the ingredients. In fact, I swear that you MUST use large eggs, not medium. That’s how serious I am about measuring.

2. The one substitution I do make occasionally is that I use butter-flavored Crisco sticks instead of margarine. If you want a perfect LOOKING chocolate chip cookie, this will make it nice and round and chewy. The only thing I don’t like about Crisco is that it makes the cookies dry out more quickly. So usually by the second day, they are dried out.

3. Before adding the margarine, microwave it on high for about 20 seconds. You want it nice and soft, but you don’t want it completely melted.

4. Don’t ever bake chocolate chip cookies in a muggy or damp room. This will ruin them every time. Likewise, don’t make them when you are crying or generally in a bad or sad mood. The cookies KNOW and they will flop if they don’t feel the love.

5. This is the MOST IMPORTANT PART! I find that my cookies turn out best if I make them a bit larger than your standard-sized cookie. I scoop them out with a medium scoop. Then I take a small handful of chocolate chips (four, to be exact) and place those right on the top of the cookie. When it spreads out, these will move apart, too, and the cookie will look like it's bursting with chocolate chips.

6. MOST IMPORTANT PART, CONT'D. Take the cookies out of the oven before they are brown at all on the top. They should be just a wee bit brown on the edges, but the top part should still look like it's not quite done. As the cookies cool, they will harden up a bit. If you bake them until they are brown on the top, they will be hard when they cool.

7. I find that my cookies turn out best if I bake them on a stoneware bar pan. I have tried everything: metal pans, pizza pans, even an 11x7 pan with the sides on it. Some make them too soft, too flat, too cakelike. The stoneware pan is best, but it must be preheated. DO NOT, whatever you do, use one of those insulated pans. They will make the cookies too cake-y. And if you want cake, bake a cake. (This is just my opinion, of course.)

8. Finally, if you are having problems with your cookies, the flour is usually the culprit. Too much will make them hard. Too little will make them spread out like a pancake. Either that, or it could be what my sister did in high school, and you have accidentally substituted powered sugar for flour. NOT a good substitution.

9. I almost forgot one thing. PLEASE use name-brand chocolate chips. I'm fine with generic flour or sugar or even margarine, but the chocolate chips just gotta be a name brand. I prefer Nestle, but I've found that Hershey's are just as good. And I stick with the semi-sweet.

As you can see, I could write a BOOK about chocolate chip cookies. This is a serious obsession of mine. But right now, I'm craving one so badly that I need to go turn on the oven.

Could you please, pretty please, leave me a comment about your most top-secret, never-to-be-revealed recipe? I promise, I will not tell a SOUL!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

can I go back in my hole now?

The unmistakable sound of metal crunching metal. I haven't heard it many times in my life, but it elicits the same response each time.

Oh, no. No. NO. Nnnnnnoooo. Man. Uh-oh. You're kidding, right? No.

Shortly after I got my driver's license, I was hurrying to go to my job at the local grocery store. It was pouring down rain and my mom's bright blue station wagon was parked behind my beautiful silver Camaro in the garage. I didn't want to move her car in the rain, so I decided to try to back around it.

Crunch. The front of my Camaro had hit the huge bumper of the station wagon. The worst part was that no matter what I did -- put the car in reverse or try to go forward -- it was as if I was stuck to the station wagon. I couldn't get free. I finally had to go inside and ask my mom to help me remove the Camaro from the side of her car.

And that's exactly what went through my head on Sunday when I heard that sound. THAT crunch. What if I'm stuck to the car next to me? The shiny silver Nissan that I just hit as I was trying to pull my big red minivan out of the parking lot at church. What if I have to go inside and ask someone to help me get the van OFF of the car.

Fortunately, it wasn't that bad. Still, it was bad.

It was my son's birthday and we were heading out for some fun with a friend of his from church. With four children between the ages of 8 and 4 in the car, we were bouncing with so much joy and excitement that I didn't even notice the little car to my right. Just ran right into it.

Then I had to walk back inside, heavy-hearted, with the four bouncy children and find the owner. Tell him the bad news.

Much better than what I did in high school. I was so embarrased that I told all of my friends someone had run into MY car while it was parked at Wal-Mart.

I would really love to dig a hole and crawl inside. Change churches. Heck, maybe move completely. I feel so awful for the owner, knowing what a pain it is to go get your car fixed. To just deal with the appointments when your life is busy enough the way it is. But I know it could have been worse.

At least there wasn't a PERSON standing there. I soooo wish someone had hit my car instead. It's amazing how quickly things happen. How one instant of distraction can result in so much damage.

I hope I don't hear that crunch again for a very long time.

Monday, November 10, 2008

while you were out

It's only a few more days until my husband returns from his month-long trip to China. Wow! A lot has changed since that warm day on Oct. 15 when he headed to the airport.

The jet lag can be tough enough on its own. Not to mention the culture shock of returning to America. So, just to help prepare him, here are a few things I would like him to know:

We elected a new president. It was history-making. I'm tempted to go on a political tirade right now, but just to keep the few readers I have, I'm going to keep moving.

The leaves on the trees all turned beautiful shades of red, orange and yellow. Then they fell on the ground. Now, we need to rake, but it's 32 degrees outside. Besides, I don't want you to miss all of the fall fun, so I'll save it for you.

Daylight Savings Time ended. We now watch the sunset at 4:30.

Remember when gas cost $3.59 a gallon. That was way back when you left. Now, we can fill up the tank for $2.49 a gallon. Nice, huh?

The kids got dressed up in their favorite costumes. They roamed the neighborhood for two hours. We still have six pounds of candy to show for it. (I scheduled a root canal for the Saturday after you get home.)

Our 7-year-old son is gone. He has been replaced by an 8-year-old with a big gap in the front of his mouth. The adult teeth are pushing through.

Remember our 4-year-old? The one who was drawing circles back when you left? She has taught herself to write all of her letters and numbers, as well as her name and some other simple words.

The oil on the van needed to be changed, so I just left it in the driveway and drove your car for a couple of weeks. I promise I did not let the kids eat any yogurt in your car. Or pudding. Chips? Maybe a couple. But we did our best to clean out the crumbs.

Speaking of cars... I had a minor accident. No injuries, except to my dignity, self respect and general ability to show my face in public. I ran into someone's car in the parking lot at church. We were taking a little boy home for a playdate. He commented, "I've never seen THAT happen before!"

I sort of forgot about garbage day. A couple of times. I know how you love a big job. A challenge. I didn't want to steal all the fun.

The mirror in the bedroom fell off the wall. The fire alarm needs a new battery. The dishwasher is acting weird again.

A new restaurant opened down the street. You'll be really happy. Chinese food.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Eight years old!












Happy Birthday, Buddy!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

and the winner is...

Thank you to everyone who entered my free planner contest. But mostly thank you for your awesome feedback and comments!

I had more than 20 entries so I get to give away two planners! I conducted the drawing when I had several witnesses in the room to make it highly scientific and official.

And the winners are:

Lynn Wagner
and Sarah Williams

WOO-HOO!! (applause)

I will be sending both of you an everydayMOM planner. Please just e-mail me with your address.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

back to my free planner contest

Thank you to everyone who has entered my FREE planner contest. Back to the rules and an update for anyone who still wants to enter. (Make sure you keeping reading for the first ever comment from everydayHusband!)

I have been so excited about all of the feedback I have been getting about my everydayMOM and Brain Book planners.

Just post a comment here about my planner or send me an e-mail. It could be something you love about it or an idea to improve it. If you don't have a planner, send me one of your own organization tips. Or just send me a note to say that you love chocolate, love the color brown or just love life. I'm good with any kind of note.

For every 10 entries that I receive, I will draw the name of one person who will receive a free planner! If you already have one, you can give the extra to a friend. The contest runs until this Friday, Nov. 7.

If you post anonymously, please also send me an e-mail, emilyneal@comcast.net, so I will have your contact info!

More comments:

First, from my everydayHusband who is filling up my love tank with words of affirmation. =]

To all everydayMom’s: As the everydayHusband I just want to take the opportunity along with all of you to talk about the success of this planner from someone that is on the receiving end of an organized home and the sharing of "Moments Of Meaning”. There are times like the present that work takes me out of the country not for a few days, but weeks at a time. I can tell you that it’s not easy leaving knowing the burden that is left on the everydayMom at home to get through the long list of daily tasks that are required of family. One thing that gives me a real peace of mind is knowing of Emily’s ability to keep on task in a God honoring away and meet the needs of our children while I’m away. I cannot tell you what a blessing this is to me! I would encourage each of you to continue to share your success with others and try to find someone this Christmas to pass this planner onto as a wonderful gift to them, but consider the blessing it could bring to their spouse and children by them having the means of organizing their home and making their day meaningful. everydayHusband

Wasn't that the sweetest thing you've ever read?

I love the planner. I love the colors (& chocolate – dark preferably). My only suggestions would be a smaller daily place for household chores, (I am lucky if I get to 1-2 things a day), and a larger daily place for phone calls. I always seem to have a list of them everyday. I hope that helps. You’re a working mom (everydayMOM) hero of mine!

That's a great suggestion!

This one is about the Brain Book: I LOVE the inclusion of "coaching" topics for consultants to have on hand to review for themselves when they are starting out and then to use with their new recruits. A suggestion for in the future layouts, maybe have a section at the back for recruit leads and hostess leads, as I like to not have to flip through pages to find those lists and it would just be a matter of flipping to the back section or a front section for that information. Just a thought!

That's a good thought! I have gone back and forth on how to organize that part. Thanks for your input! You also can put a colored paperclip or a colored post-it note on the page for the current month and the next couple of months to make it easier to find those lists.

I am addicted to my planner. I have it out in plain view all day long and refer to it, write in it, and check things off my list all day, every day! I'm so glad I have one! One thing I would like is if you could add a pocket to either the inside front or back cover. This would be a great place for me to store field trip forms, etc. that I need to follow up on. I suppose a paper clip would do the job too...Thanks for the great planner!!

You are the second person to request a pocket. Maybe I will someday get a real publisher (not a self publisher) who can help me figure out how to add that!

I just checked it out and it looks awesome - I so need to get organized! I love the fact that it has the 2-day month spread and then the weekly pages - great idea! It seems like it's always one or the other and certainly never the cleaning, cooking, pages which I love as well - do they include all the famous Emily recipes??

My goal is to start putting some recipes on my blog. And for those who don't know, an "Emily recipe" is one that is super simple, but looks like it was hard!

I had the 2008 Brain book, and the one thing that I would have liked with that is some blank pages for each month. I use a second notebook for taking important phone messages, Must do contact things that don't fit. Anyway, that's what would make it perfect for me.

Another good suggestion. With each page I add, my cost grows, so it's always a balance!

I really liked the idea of the tip sheets right inside your Brain Books... seems that to run a business successfully, the calendar is always there.. so why not have some inspiration every time you open it up! I also loved the inspirational messages at the top of each page.

You can read more past comments here.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

oh my crazy goodness

My unbelievable, not-to-be-missed, larger-than-life, taking-the-country-by-storm planner contest continues. I will give an update later, but I neeeeeed to write about something else. (Please check my earlier posts to enter!)

I've always loved technology. I've always wanted to be ahead of the curve when it came to navigating the developments in the computer world, whether that meant the Internet, having the latest computer or a basic understanding of how to build a web page.

But until this year, I have been purposely avoiding all of the changes in the way technology is affecting how we communicate. Until recently.

Knowing how much I love technology, I was actually afraid I would get sucked in and before I knew it my laundry would be piled to the ceiling, my children would be eating pancakes every night for dinner and I wouldn't talk to my husband anymore.

So, I would purposely avoid reading the updates of the few people I knew who had a blog. I had heard about MySpace and Facebook, but I didn't like the idea of these social communities collecting my info so long-lost acquaintances could find me. And I knew it was possible to have one of those personalized homepages on my web browser, but I didn't want to go there either.

But OH. MY. CRAZY. GOODNESS. My world has suddenly become digitalized.

Since sticking my toe into the world of blogging, I've found myself sinking deeper and deeper. I've now realized that not just one or two, or three or four of the people I know have a blog -- and have had for years, it seems -- but we're talking five, six, seven, eight, nine, plus the friend I just met at my daughter's ballet class and now I find myself even writing a blog for the newspaper. Even my adorable husband started a blog (which he never updates). I feel like I'm best friends with people I've never even met, like her and her.

Holy cow! What has happened to me?

So, now I get daily feeds of all these people on my Google homepage, which has been quite entertaining. But not nearly as entertaining as the Gadgets! Have you seen these? Now my homepage gives me the latest news, the weather, reminder notes, my friends' birthdays, not to mention quotes and a calendar.

And Facebook. Should I even mention this online society? Should I even mention how people I would NEVER talk to are now giving me daily updates on their lives? And should I mention how much I love it? How addicted I am? How it's great that I'm able to connect with friends from high school and relatives who live far away and even friends who live nearby but I would never talk to?

Even my husband is now a virtual member of our household. During the last three weeks he's been in China, we mostly communicate via Skype. All I can say is, "THANK GOODNESS" I can get Skype on my MacBook. We can carry him around the house, set him on the table while we have breakfast and just close the cover when we're tired of talking to him. It's beautiful. If we go to a restaurant with WI-FI, we can even take him out to eat with us. "Sorry, honey... you have to eat your stir-fried rice. You can't have any of these BBQ ribs I'm enjoying." (That'll show him!)

Technology. I'm not sure whether to give it a big kiss or throw it out the window. I love it. I hate it. It's wasting my time. It's connecting me. Is it filling my void or creating one? Oh, my. What do you think?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Free planner contest, Day 2

I'm having WAY too much fun with my very first ever, one-of-a-kind, earth shattering, let's-go-crazy, free planner give-away contest! Be sure to check the previous post for the rules and then post a comment or send me an e-mail to enter!

Here are some of the great comments I've received so far. Of course, I've also got some really nice little notes from other people that have nothing to do with the planner. And that is wonderful, too. You HAVE been entered in the contest!

Here goes:

Comment/Idea... a page for important phone numbers that you always want with you.... dr., car repair, hair, etc...

Good suggestion! I meant to do that! Actually, I did give more space than in my first edition, but not enough!

Love the section on "grows".... this is the first calendar in which I have EVER seen this incorporated... and it is so crucial to be intentional about our growth... otherwise life and the demands of it... will crowd that out quickly!

Thank you! That was one of my main goals with the planner: to encourage moms (and other people) to take themselves seriously! Set goals. Plan to grow personally. Our kids have to do it in school, sports, etc., and we can too!

I'm telling (my husband) I want one for Christmas! I have really enjoyed reading your blog!

And thank you for reading! I'm always so excited when I get a comment from my best buddy from high school! Remember when we used to be Emilynn or was it Lymily? Maybe you'll win! I could rig the contest, but that just wouldn't be fair.

I bought your Brain Book last year and your MOM calendar this year. I'm trying to "merge" them in my brain! I love the meal planner and shopping list blank pages ... and I really like it that you even gave us your list. I know, it's something that we should all just DO, because there are standard things that I buy and it sure is nice to have them on a list. I've even shown it to 2 of my non-DT friends and they think it's very cool. Nice colors too!

Thank you! Do you think I should make the lists available as a download on Lulu? I've been thinking about it. That IS an option! I was thinking maybe $1 or something and you could download them. That would allow you to print as many copies as you want.

I love your planners. I have both the everyday MOM and Brain book. I actually panicked this morning because I could not find my planner. I did find it, thank goodness! I refer to the everydayMOM planner every morning to see if my children have hot lunch, sports or special things going on at school. I love my Brain book too. If I did not have it, I would have lots of little pieces of paper all over the place with peoples names on them. I can refer to my book to see who I need to call and keep track of my hostesses and potential recruits. Love it!! I also gave the everydayMom planner to my friend after she had her third child and she loves hers too. She told me the night I gave it to her she stayed up late filling in all her dates and info. I am so glad you have created these planners! Thank you!

You're the best! Great moms... I mean minds... think alike!

I have heard how your planner is awesome. I need something like that for next year, now and every year. (My friend) raves about it. And it keeps her nice and organized and accountable to everyday life stuff.

Yea!! Maybe you'll win!!

Finally, after years of searching. A planner that fits my life. Really. I love the design. I have a question, though. In my dream would, it would be a bit smaller like 6 by 9 and have a pocket. Then I realized its lulu...maybe you'd be willing to republish it in the smaller size? So, I'm writing to ask if you would.

I have had several requests for the smaller size, so I AM working on it! I'm just trying to figure out what I can condense to make it all fit on that smaller page. Not sure about a pocket. That will have to wait for another year. Thanks for the great suggestion!


**
If you post an anonymous comment, please make sure you also send me an e-mail so I can enter you in the drawing!

I'm giving away FREE planners!

Thank you SO MUCH to everyone who has purchased one of my everydayMOM or Brain Book planners!

I have been so excited by the great reaction I have been getting, so I decided to have a little contest. This is really to help ME make my planner better in the future.

Just post a comment here about my planner or send me an e-mail. It could be something you love about it or an idea to improve it. If you don't have a planner, send me one of your own organization tips. Or just send me a note to say that you love chocolate, love the color brown or just love life. I'm good with any kind of note.

For every 10 entries that I receive, I will draw the name of one person who will receive a free planner! If you already have one, you can give the extra to a friend. The contest runs until this Friday, Nov. 7.

I will be posting some of my e-mail comments here, as well. If you post anonymously, please also send me an e-mail, emilyneal@comcast.net, so I will have your contact info! I'm looking forward to hearing your feedback!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

funny cake ball heads

We aren't big Halloween people. My kids hate the scary decor. They don't like to drive by homes with bloody dummies hanging from the trees. They beg me not to take them into Michael's because they know there's a headless bride in there. And they really haven't even wanted to trick or treat because they are afraid of the older kids with their scary masks.

So, we have been kind of ignoring the season. It's been a busy month, too, so I didn't even carve my world famous Larry the Cucumber and Bob the Tomato pumpkins this year. (These have also been easily modified in the past to resemble Bert and Ernie.)

But yesterday, I got inspired! I started reading about how to make cake balls on The Pioneer Woman's web site. I had to make some immediately.

Hers are way cuter than mine. I was somewhat limited by my children begging me NOT to make them scary. And the fact that I couldn't find any orange-colored melting chocolate and had to blend yellow and red to try to make something like orange.

But they were yummy!

Pioneer Woman gives complete instructions with photos on how to make the cake balls. And check out THESE! SO cute! I'm addicted. I'm going to be making cake balls for every holiday now.

Today we are going to make taffy apples, carve Bob and Larry and roast pumpkin seeds. Who cares that Halloween was yesterday. We're livin' it up!

What is your favorite fall treat to make at home? I want to hear about it!

Oh, and by the way... here are some pics of the kids. I had to take these with the Photo Booth software on my MacBook because my hubbie took the camera to China.

The weather was beautiful and the kids DID enjoy roaming the neighborhood for several hours despite some of the scary stuff.


My oldest son's outfit was something he compiled after reading a book about a "Silver Swine" somethingerother.


I couldn't believe she opted for the ladybug costume over her princess outfit! She hadn't touched that ladybuy for more than a year!


And this is the spider web that was covering our entire front lawn. We analyzed it closely. It's a real spider web!
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