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I have been accused, more than once, of being an idealist. I believe in things being fair and I believe in “doing onto others the way I’d like them to do unto me.” I believe in the magic of sunrises and love to fall asleep in the glow of moonlight. I am a die-hard optimist. I believe in hope and always root for the under-dog. What can I tell you? I live in a fairytale.

I remember seeing so many Oprah shows back in the day when she would surprise her guests. Remember the holiday “Favorite Things” show when she would give the entire audience each item that she considered a favorite thing for that year? Or what about the time she took the whole audience to Australia. Or…and we all remember this…the time she gave everyone in the audience a car!!! “And you get a car! And you get a car!  And you get a car! And you get a car!”
There’s a famous rapper (and I use that term loosely) named T.I. who each Christmas, picks a store close to where he is at the moment, goes to the layaway department, and just pays off everyone’s layaway. Unbelievable, right?? I love that idea! Not only do people get their really cool gifts but the person buying the gifts gets to keep the money they were going to spend to get those items off layaway. That’s the kind of millionaire I would be! I love to surprise people with a way that is unexpected!
So, when I came across this idea of Random Acts of Kindness (RAOK), it just spoke to me! Doing something so cool and unexpected to bring a smile to someone’s face is everything! The ultimate goal being for them to pay that feeling forward.  With all of the disasters and heartbreak that go on in the world why not spread some joy for a family member, a friend or even a complete stranger. Not knowing what others are going through in their lives, you never know when something as simple as saying “good morning!” with a smile on your face will put a smile on someone else’s.
Random acts of kindness are defined as a person or people performing a selfless act that will help to benefit or cheer up another individual.
Random Acts of Kindness Day is February 17. Join in the fun! In fact, make it an activity for the whole family!  Take a look at the list below and see if you can see yourself doing some of these!  …and if you do, snap a pic and post it to social media. Be sure to tag us @jbmhhfmwr!
·         Assist an individual having troubles getting on or off the bus
·         Let another person have your seat on a full bus
·         Do some yard work for an elderly/disabled neighbor
·         Pay for the order behind you in a drive-thru restaurant line (I’ve done this. The look on their face was priceless!) or pay for the "late afternoon vending machine attack snack"




·         - Cook up a casserole or a dessert and deliver it to someone who has just had a baby, has had someone close to them pass or just because you know they could use a little help
·        -  Donate your old clothes, toys and furniture to a charity
·        -  Go to the dollar store and pick up some bathroom essentials and drop them off at your local homeless shelter
·        -  Hold the door open for someone
·         See someone struggling with something heavy; help them carry it 

  
         - Spot a car parked on the side of the road, offer to help or call a tow truck
·         Say “Good Morning!” to a stranger  
·         Give someone your place in line
·         Let a family member have the last piece of dessert
·         Leave random positive messages on people’s windshields, in the bathrooms at venues and anywhere else that you can think of 
 
-          Read to the children’s ward at your local hospital
·         Sign up for a “help forum” to help others with any problems or questions that they may have
·         Buy a bouquet of flowers or a gift card and randomly a passersby...or anonymously surprise a coworker
























·         Show up at a friend’s house who has kids without notice to give them an hour to do as they please by themselves
·         Buy a pack of blank cards, send them to family and friends telling why you appreciate having them in  your life
·         Send cute cat or dog memes with funny positive messages to random numbers
·         Know someone struggling financially help them out with a bill, a bag of groceries, or a load of laundry
























·         Early meeting? Buy coffee and donuts for all of your co-workers
These are just a few simple and inexpensive things that can light up someone’s life. Imagine how good you would feel if - out of nowhere - someone made you feel special…took the time to notice you…helped you when you needed it…gave you reason to turn your frown upside down…  What a wonderful world it would be.
“Be the change you want to see in the world.” ~ Gandhi

 

Ok, so Valentine’s Day is next week. I remember when I was a single person having to face Valentine’s Day alone. There were days when I was like, “Woe is me. I’m alone on Valentine’s Day.” Then there were days when I was actually super glad to be single on Valentine’s Day. “It feels sooooo good to be young and single and able to mingle!!” Then I got married and… well, it’s back to, “Woe is me. I’m alone on Valentine’s Day.” LOL! Not really, but guys just don’t seem to get the whole Valentine’s Day thing. If I have to hear the “why do I need a special day out of the year to show you how I feel about you?” argument again, I’ll scream!!  …but I do understand the resentment of forced affection. Some dudes just aren’t made for flowers and romance. It takes them out of their comfort zone. Actually (and this is between us), I’m not a huge flowers and romance person either. I prefer experiences and memories to flowers and gifts.  Hence, (insert gratuitous use of a hardly used English word), we’ve pulled together a few super cool ways to enjoy Valentine’s Day without covering your mate with the “ick factor.”
If your spouse enjoys a good cocktail every now and then, consider gifting them a candy heart box filled with miniatures of their favorite adult beverage. My husband is a whiskey man. Not only did this heart shaped box filled with Jack Daniel’s miniature bottles make his day, it saved us a couple of bucks and a trip to the liquor store.
Who doesn’t love a t-shirt?  …and a t-shirt that shows your husband - and the world - that you think he’s the best thing since sliced bread is a home run. He get to brag and about you bragging about him.  Priceless!
What man doesn’t love bacon and junk food? This bouquet of bacon roses, jalapeno poppers and chicken nuggets will be the gift to end all gifts. He won’t be expecting this kind of bouquet and you’ll earn like a million brownie points…maybe even some jewelry. At the very least, he’ll probably watch your next chick flick with no resistance. Just google “bacon bouquet” for how to DIY.

One of the coolest things about my husband is that he’s also my best friend. He’s always down to do any stupid thing I want…though I usually don’t rush right in to play his stupid video games or watch endless hours of soccer with him (a marriage double-standard, for sure). What a cool way to show him he’s married to his best friend, too! Don’t want to cook on Valentine’s Day? The winner picks the place to go for dinner.

Add a little spontaneity and adventure to Valentine’s Day. Pick a starting point (it doesn’t have to be in the neighborhood) and start flipping that penny. You’re spending time together, seeing new places, and hopefully, making a memory.
Alright, so, it isValentine’s Day... Start the day with a sweet display of your love and affection. This breakfast is perfect and has just the right amount of traditional Valentine’s Day sappy sentiment. Throw is some heart shaped bacon and you’ve got a breakfast sure to soften even the most cynical heart.
Valentine’s Day is truly one of those “holidays” that women look forward to...the romance, the gift-giving, the reassurance that you love us as much as we love you. I mean, come on, men, sometimes you aren’t very demonstrative with affection or spontaneously romantic…and, believe it or not, we really do like feeling like those women in the movies.
Ladies, you have to remember that men are men. Everything in their DNA rejects what Valentine’s Day is all about. It’s rare to find a man who will pull out all of the stops to give you’re the romantic Valentine’s Day of your dreams. 
In both instances, we must learn to compromise. This list is meant to provide a touch of romance for us ladies and, hopefully, give our guys a Valentine’s Day that won’t cover him with the “ick factor” but show him just what a cool and thoughtful spouse/girlfriend he has.

THIS NEXT PART IS JUST FOR THE MEN
Ok, guys. I want you to win Valentine’s Day! Trust me, no matter what your lady has told you, she's secretly hoping for a really cool and thoughtful gift and/or date.  Mind you, "cool and thoughtful" DOES NOT mean expensive.
Take a look at the list below for ideas on what to do or give to your Valentine's Date whether she be a girlfriend or wife.
Awesome Girlfriend Gifts/Ideas

These super cute bath bombs are shaped like hearts and includes rose petals. Help her treat herself to a relaxing bath in preparation for the romantic dinner you have planned. She'll feel like queen for a day, especially if you run the bath water and light some candles.

Today's ladies are becoming more and more glamorous. They know how to apply their makeup, wear faux lashes, and paint the perfect pout. Show her you see her effort and appreciate how beautiful she is with this eye shadow palette. This particular palette is a hot item at the moment and a serious plus is that it smells like a chocolate bar.

The ear buds that come with the phone are just so blah. These ear buds are super chic, aren't they? She'll love them!

Awesome Wife Gifts/Ideas

You can't go wrong with perfume but the presentation will make all the difference! Why not fill a box with a dozen roses and place her favorite perfume in the middle. We're suckers for pretty packaging!

As you know, we love our handbags! We'll really a handbag that you give to us - especially if it's a new spring color!

Consider gifting your special lady a pair of diamond hoop earrings. The earrings will go with any outfit, are small enough to be affordable, and (when you're both ready) the earrings can be traded in for the purchase of a new, larger pair or hoops. Accessorizing and investing...these are two of my favorite things!

In the end, kind sirs, just remember that your wife or girlfriend will like any gift you give her as long as it's thoughtful.

 Family & MWR is daring, different, and FIRST!
The directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (Family & MWR) on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall (JBM-HH) has always worked hard to bring service members and their families the best recreational opportunities found inside the Military District of Washington (MDW). They also strive to add value to the programs and services they offer inside the gates. Family & MWR do both of those things with a tight budget and an eye on what’s trending with civilian customers.
Having to face recent budget adjustments, many Family & MWR offices across the Department of Defense (DoD) are looking for ways to fund the events and programs so critical to their installations mission readiness and soldier readiness.  JBM-HH’s Family & MWR picked up on a unique trend taking civilian shoppers by storm and tweaked it for use by their customers. In January, Family & MWR is set to unveil the first ever subscription box in the entire DoD, the “Base Case”!
A subscription box is a shopping trend where businesses work with a particular company to send product samples to those customers who have subscribed to receive those samples monthly, quarterly, or in whichever monthly intervals are available. With the over 3,500 subscription boxes available worldwide, there’s something for everyone…gourmet meals, gaming, organic products, pet lovers, cosmetics, fashion accessories, snacks from around the world, those with strong faith, gym-goers…and the list goes on and on!
Why have these boxes become so popular? It's partly the "treat yourself" mentality of wanting to provide a bit of luxury or pampering for yourself or a friend. It’s the same feeling a service member feels when they receive a care package from home. Who doesn't love to get, or give, a gift? And even better, an affordable gift -- or a whole box full of them -- that keeps coming regularly in the mail?  The benefit of giving a subscription box to a friend or family member is that every time they get it, they think of you.
“As Family & MWR’s Marketing Manager, I’m always looking for ways to provide real value to our customers,” said Ocie Jacobs Pejcic. “The Base Case is about discovering new brands and trying out food samples before you get the full size." Jacobs Pejcic went on to say, "There's a value to not buying something unless you know you really want it."
Whether you’re giving a gift or simply indulging for yourself, the Base Case is sure to please. The Family & MWR Base Case will feature products from local businesses, usually in a single serving or sample size, with a coupon to purchase the full size or multiple products at the customer’s convenience.  Each month of the year has a theme to the subscription box which allows the greatest number of customers to participate. In other words, the Base Case isn’t aimed at a specific gender or interest.  The Base Case will offer products that everyone will be able to enjoy.
For instance, the January 2017 theme is “Baby, Its Cold Outside”.  That Base Case will contain products to fight the chill of the winter months, such as teas, hot chocolate, lip balm, hand warmers, a scarf, mittens, soups or maybe ways to fight a cold. The exciting part is that subscribers will know what the theme of the month is, just not what’s actually in the Base Case.
Brian Meers, Family & MWR’s Advertising & Sponsorship Coordinator said, “Once I started speaking to local companies about getting their product in the Base Case, the interest sky-rocketed!” Meers also said, “Now, I’m talking with Nestlé’s and other national brands! I really think the Base Case provided just what so many companies were looking for to reach this military market - at exactly the right time!” Meers went on to say that the fees earned from business and advertisers for the opportunity to have their product featured in the Base Case will generate income to help offset Family & MWR’s budget challenges.
“That’s the end game.” said Denise James, Director of Family & MWR. “Whether we operate with a fully funded budget or a reduced budget, Family & MWR is still obligated to provide the best programs and services we can for our service members and their families. The success of the Base Case will help Family & MWR stay mission ready and operational.”
“We’ve taken an informal poll on the Base Case and got some great feedback,” said Jacobs Pejcic. “Our customers seem very excited about the Base Case. They think the monthly subscription fee is affordable and they are anxious to see what each theme box will have in it.”
Each monthly Base Case subscription cost $20, including shipping. Discounts are applied for a subscription of three or more boxes (a three month subscription cost $55, a quarterly subscription cost $70, and a six month subscription cost $110). Base Case’s will arrive via postal mail not later than the 2nd week of each month.
Domico Pollard, Family & MWR Graphics Designer is responsible for the logo design and Base Case packaging. “People have said that the packaging for the Base Case is clean and minimalist but eye-catching.” Packaging for subscription boxes is almost just as important as the box contents. “People will be getting the Base Case as a gift, either for themselves or they will have bought the subscription as a gift for a loved one. The packaging has to add to the excitement.”
“Since the first subscription box hit the scene in 2011, small business owners and bigger stores like Target and Walmart have jumped into the subcom (subscription commerce) market and found success,” said Jacobs Pejcic. “Subscriptions and sales are growing. We expect the Base Case to do very well!”
It is also important to note that Family & MWR is very concerned with the impact the Base Case may have on the environment and how it may affect the environmental footprint of JBM-HH. To that end, Family & MWR is using shredded paper for the packing material used to keep items in the Base Case from being damaged during shipping. The Base Case will also include a card each month that provide ideas for how to reuse the box itself. “As much as we want to ‘wow!’ our customers with the Base Case and its packaging, we also want to ‘wow!’ the community by showing how attentive we are to the environment,” said Jacobs Pejcic.
For more information, visit Family & MWR online at www.jbmhMWR.com.
While I was researching inspirational words that may help you choose and stick with your 2017 Resolutions, I came across this beautiful infographic. Then I read the article. She got it right!
Look over the infographic. Basically, she guiding us to rethink how we view Resolutions. Instead of writing up a list of things we may never accomplish and then consider ourselves failures when we fall short, the author recommends we spend each month improving ourselves in a particular way. It’s a challenge to spend the whole year cultivating good habits to replace the bad. By the end of the year, you’ll have twelve new habits that will benefit you for a lifetime.
All I can say is, I’m ready to reflect on how much more fabulous I’ll become in 2017.  Who’s with me?!

“Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. Maybe, Christmas … perhaps … means a little bit more.”  ~ The Grinch
An old piece of wisdom says, “It take a village to raise a child.” I truly believe this to be true. Personally, my village had a looooooooooooot of people in it. My parents, friends of my parents, grandmother, my aunt and uncle, baby-sitters, priests, old mean nuns, extended family members, shop owners, teachers, scout leaders, dance teachers, etc… Shenanigans were NOT tolerated in my village. Sure, we could be kids but we couldn’t go crazy with that. I also want to say my village – not my peers – taught me invaluable life lessons.
One of the most profound lessons I’ve ever learned from my village was to remember the reason for the (Christmas) season. These days, we acknowledge and respect that other religions have important holidays at this time, too, so this blog won’t be about the reason for the season, per se. Instead, we’ll talk about how to get the most out of the holiday season in a way that EVERYONE benefits.
You’ll hear your family say this. Newscasters will say it. It’ll be a funny meme on social media.  …and it’ll be true. This time of year brings out the best in us all. We’re more cheerful, more loving, more generous, happier…the perfect time of year to do things for others!
This year, spend some time showing others the beauty of the season with Random Acts of Kindness. It’s a great way to teach little ones to be grateful for what they have. It’s an anonymous way to show someone who’s having a hard time a little act of charity they otherwise may be too proud to accept. And most importantly (for me), it helps us to remember that Christmas isn’t on sale or gift wrapped and placed under the Christmas tree.  …and of course, it’s another way to see the awesome beauty of a truly genuine smile.
Don’t think you don’t have the means to show Random Acts of Kindness. These ROAKs (as you’ll see them referred to on social media) can be as simple as helping someone at the grocery store load their groceries into the car (or in my case, haul them up 4 flights of stairs). Pump someone’s gas for them so they don’t have to get out of the car. Hold up traffic (safely) so the slower moving person can cross the street at their pace. Or, if your ambitions is to be the King or Queen of ROAKs, we have some great ideas that are sure to keep the recipient smiling for weeks!
Vending Machine Magic
Sometimes, the afternoon munchies hit hard! I don’t know about you but I rarely carry actual money anymore. I use a check card or credit card for most everything so I never have the right currency to raid the vending machine (which can be a blessing in disguise). Finding this ROAK would be right on time! You can also feed a meter or tape coins to a washer at the laundry mat.
Blessing Bags
I love, love, love this idea! Get gallon sized Ziploc bags and add snacks, hygiene products, money, socks, over the counter medicine … whatever you want. When you see a person hold a sign and asking for food or money, you gift them with a Blessing Bag.  Imagine how surprised and touched that person will feel.  Voila! Blessing bestowed, all thanks to you!
Pay Attention to Someone Who is Usually Overlooked
Give your Refuse Technicians (trash collectors) or Correspondence Coordinator (mail person) a shout out this holiday season! My mother always had us kids leave the mailman and trash collectors a holiday card with a $20 bill or gift card inside. “They do a lot for us through the year. They deserve a little something special.” You know what? She was right.
 
 
Pick Up the Tab
I don’t mean foot the bill for dinner at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse or the Capital Grille. Instead, when you’re in line getting a coffee, pay for the coffee behind you. If you’re in a McDonald’s drive-thru, pay for the car behind you. I got caught up in in a “pay it forward/pick up the tab” chain once. When the lady at the drive-thru window told me the car in front of me paid for my food, I paid for the car behind me. She said people had been paying it forward for at least an hour. It felt good to be a part of that and I hoped that the nice feeling we got from knowing someone paid for our meal would ripple through everything else we did that day. I think that’s the point of a “pay it forward” chain. Start your own “pay it forward” chain and know that you’re responsible for good vibes in the universe. We could use more good vibes.
Hopefully, you and your crew are inspired to show Random of Acts of Kindness during this holiday season. I am just as hopeful that you will be the recipient of Random Acts of Kindness; and if you should be, be sure to pay it forward!
If you are going to be a Random of Acts of Kindness Elf, please take pictures of your elf magic and post it to social media. Be sure to tag us @jbmhhfmwr!

Yep. We have overeaten. We will overeat. We are planning to overeat. We are overeating. See where I’m going with this? It’s the holidays. Other than shopping, decorating, and watching holiday movies, what else do we do? We eat. In fact, we eat while we’re shopping, decorating, and watching holiday movies. It’s been said time and time again, we have a tendency to gather around food when it’s time to celebrate and be social.
Some old person once said, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” It took me a few years to figure this one out but basically, the gem of knowledge here is that it’s better not to gain holiday weight than work hard at trying to lose holiday weight.
As of January 1, there are exactly 148 days until Memorial Day weekend. You’ll be so glad you paid attention to your calorie intake and fitness routine when you debut a more toned and fit body at the beach, backyard BBQ, or pool party.
We don’t want to take the fun out of the holidays, though. We want you to enjoy the sweets you’ve waited for all year. We want you to sip the chocolatiest hot chocolate and dunk the sugariest sugar cookies in them. We just want you to do it all in moderation. We also want to see you up your fitness routine to accommodate the influx of holiday calories.
We know a little extra motivation is needed to go to the gym when it’s cold outside so we found a super cool fitness routine that you can do in the comfort and warmth of your own home. We also wanted to find a routine you’d want to do…maybe something the whole family could enjoy. What we found was the “12 Days of Christmas” Workout. You do each move just the way you’d sing the original version of “12 Days of Christmas.”   Like so:
“On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: 1 plank for 20 seconds.
On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: 2 burpees and 1 plank for 20 seconds.
On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: 3 push-ups, 2 burpees and 1 plank for 20 seconds.” You just keep adding days/exercises until you’ve done 12 high knees and finished with that last plank for 20 seconds. Pretty cool, huh?
Here’s the whole workout. Easy, right? Well, it’ll be fun if you include the whole family!

If this workout isn’t for you and you need something more scheduled (which is like me), try this 30 Day Holiday Workout Challenge. Most days, you have to put in work for a pretty decent workout. It’s not called a challenge for nothing. 

Still haven’t seen a workout that fits your personality? Try one of these holiday heart pumpers to keep Christmas calories at bay.

Ok, so maybe we went a little overboard trying to find a way to blend Christmas with working out. The point is to keep moving. Don’t get soft like Santa while you’re enjoying the holidays. It’s so easy to gain weight and so very hard to lose it in time for your summer reveal. If all else fells, just monitor your calories and try to get in 30 minutes of walking in each day. The weight will take care of itself.
If you have any tips and tricks for sticking to a health and fitness routine during the holidays, please let us know. We’d love to share your insights with others!
Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!

I’ve never been a very crafty person. I tried to crochet but all I ever came up with was a reeeeally long and useless crocheted thing. I can’t draw or paint…or sign my name the same way twice. I tried to sew things but they never stayed sewn together. No, no. I realized a while ago that crafty things were not my strong suit. Instead, I have ideas!

When it comes to buying gifts, I try very hard to find something that delivers the “wow!” factor. It’s not that I want to one-up anyone, I just want to make sure the gift is memorable, useful, and that the gift receiver shows a very genuine smile when they open the gift. However, I struggle every year with do I buy big ticket items or things that are more personal? Sure, my single mom friend would love a Michael Kors bag but sometimes I think she’d appreciate a month’s worth of frozen dinners to use at her convenience.

I also catch a case of the “guilties” this time of year, too.  I know Christmas isn’t about store bought gifts but so many people look forward to getting the most popular gifts of the season (like the Michael Kors bag). Me? I have never been the person who wanted what was popular or trendy. I always wanted what was classic and timeless. So, I started thinking about how I could combine thoughtfulness with timelessness.  I came up with two ideas; the first was sticking to a budget (I even have to laugh at that one.  LOL!!!) and the other was DIY gifts. So, I put my brain to work figuring out DIY gifts that family and friends would find thoughtful, useful, and memorable.

I’m happy to report that I have been successful in finding DIY gifts that are so cool you may want to keep them for yourself. I’ve also known people to sell some of these DIY gifts to help stabilize the Christmas budget. Hopefully, you’ll be able to use one or two of these ideas as gifts. If not, maybe you can put them in your guest room over the holiday. Either way, these projects are easy to do, make a huge impact, and will always be remembered.

Bath Bombs, etc.

I am sooooooooooo late to the bath bomb craze! People have been enjoying these little fizz monsters for a while now. And, of course, they have a recipe for making bath bombs that seems as easy making a cake. Bath bombs (and bath salts and whipped body butters and shower steamers) come in all kinds of scents and purposes. Need a “pick me up, wake up” shower first thing in the morning? Try a citrus scented shower melt. Want to be gently lulled into peaceful slumber? Drop a lavender scented bath bomb in a warm bath. Need extra moisturizing during the winter months? Dip yourself in a homemade body butter made with three different kinds of butter.  If this sounds good to you, think of how the person you gift these to will react!



Flavored Butter

Think about it… It’s snowing outside. You’ve got on your cozy pajamas. You’ve just heard that OPM has closed the federal government for the day. The coffee is almost done and you’d love something warm to eat while you watch “I Love Lucy” re-runs. How does a biscuit or croissant - with little pockets of cinnamon honey butter nestled here and there - sound to you? Or, you and your loved one are set to have a romantic dinner; steak, a baked potato, and a wedge salad. Wouldn’t that steak taste like heaven with an onion/red wine butter melted over it? What I’m getting at here is that flavored butters make a great and unexpected addition to any snack or meal. Any foodie would love to have one or more of these flavored condiments for a gift!

Something Cozy

It’s December. It’s cold outside. Everyone will appreciate a nice scarf or hat as a gift. A pair of gloves are always needed. It’s just that these kind of gifts rank up there with socks and underwear. Sure, we need them but they aren’t fun. They’re not cool. They’re not exciting! Something cozy, that’s cool and exciting is an arm-knitted blanket. These are all “they’re” talking about. I don’t even think you need to know how to knit. YouTube has tutorials on how to make these gianormous and oh-so cozy blankets. You knit them using your arms as the knitting needles. How cool is that?? …and they are to die for!!

Potpourri

We all prefer that our houses smell less like cat and soccer cleats and more like suntan lotion or fresh apple pie. For a while, I had three males in my house…two teenagers and my husband. My second floor constantly smelled like armpits, Axe and ass. I should have bought stock in Glade candles based on how many I bought. Which made me think… Instead of buying a candle as a gift, make homemade potpourri. You can customize the scent and make as much or as little of it as you like. All of the ingredients are natural so you aren’t dealing with unknown chemicals in your home (which means the cat or your toddler can eat it without you having to worry). …and if you make the kind that simmers on the stove, your entire house will smell like a Thomas Kinkade painting. Cozy, cozy, cozy!

We’re all paying closer attention to our budgets these days. We want our money to last longer but we also want experiences and to have the finer things in life. In my short time on this planet, I’ve come to realize that, while having a Louis Vuitton bag is sheer, palpable joy, it’s nothing compared to being gifted something that is so “you”…something you know the gift giver spent time thinking about - and in this case - making. Your smile – and theirs – will turn out to be the best gift either of you give.

“Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. Maybe, Christmas … perhaps … means a little bit more.”  ~ The Grinch

If you make any of these items, please post your pics on social media and tag us @jbmhhfmwr.  We’d love to see your handy-work! If you have any DIY projects that would make good Christmas gifts, let us know in the comments below!

Anyone who shops on Black Friday is my hero.  Granted, I got a fabulous deal on a 47” flat screen tv years ago but I had to stand in a line for a couple of hours.  When I did finally get inside, it looked like a bomb had gone off.  Stuff was everywhere. Piles of merchandise were on the floor. Scraps of paper were everywhere. …and the people were acting like they were playing in the Super Bowl. They were shoving, elbowing, jumping over things…  I vowed that I would never again shop Black Friday – and I haven’t.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t help my family and friends who do shop Black Friday sales! If you love to shop, I can understand why you look forward to this day every year. The deals can be amazing! So, to maximize your day out, we did a little research on the most important Dos and Don’ts for your Black Friday adventure.

Check Black Friday Ads

Many sites like BlackFriday.fm, BFads.net, and BlackFriday.infohave every store and their deals listed. Pick out the stores where you want to shop by reviewing their ads ahead of time.

Make a List and Check It Twice

Have a shopping list. Make a shopping list and know when the items are actually on sale, because door busters and time sales are very common for Black Friday. The benefit in knowing sale times is so you don’t show up at the store at noon and your item was on sale from 8-11a.

Keep Receipts

You may end up buying things you thought were a great deal and after you get home you decide to return them. In all the hustle and bustle small little slips of paper can easily get lost. Take an envelope dedicated to sales receipts, to help you keep track of receipts. Also, be sure to take a gift receipt if they offer it at checkout, you never know when you will need it!

Cancel Black Friday

Skip Black Friday altogether and wait for Cyber Monday! No crowds. You can wear pajamas. It’s a no-brainer.

Consider an “Up & Coming” Gift Versus a Popular One

You may know about subscription boxes, but if not – boy, are you missing out! So basically, a subscription box is a package of sample retail products sent directly to a customer on a recurring basis. The boxes target a wide range of customers and cater to a variety of specific needs and interests. The use of subscription boxes are rising in popularity among consumers! Inherently personal (some boxes are personalized to your tastes) and with the element of surprise (you never know exactly what you’re going to get), subscription boxes bring a bit of playfulness back to shopping.

Family & MWR will unveil its first subscription box in January 2017 (we’ll have a theme box for every month of the year). Subscriptions for our first box are being sold now and will mail in December for arrival in January. The January box theme is “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” The five to seven sample sized products in the box will be something related to surviving or enjoying cold weather…could be a new flavor of tea or k-cup, wool socks, lip balm, soup starter, reusable hand warmers…could be anything that fits the theme!

You can see a sample box, ask us questions or buy a subscription by visiting us in the Post Exchange lobby on November 25 and December 2. Look for the big white banner!

Have Reasonable Expectations of Employees

Retail workers want to help customers. They really do.  That’s part of their job. But consider that on a normal day, for example, they’ll help 100 customers. On Black Friday, that number can increase to 500. There’s just not a lot of time and energy to go around. Be patient…and kind to retail employees. As my grandmother used to say, “you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” You may get a little extra attention (and maybe the “last one in the back” if you’re pleasant.

Be Respectful of Those Around You

Other shoppers and retail workers are all trying to enjoy the hectic environment that Black Friday creates. There’s no need to push or be aggressive towards other shoppers. If you and another shopper have your hands on the same item, it’s ok to let go. Watch out for small children. Be pleasant to store employees. Smile. Be helpful. It’s the holidays! We should be on our best behavior. That and it’s the holiday season. We don’t want to see a video of you clothes-lining an old lady to get to a doll that pees. During this time of year, no one has extra money to post your bail.

Shopping on Black Friday feels to me a little like a battle for Middle Earth. There’s hand to hand combat, injuries, and forces at work that cause people to behave opposite of how they normally would. Our hope is that you find one or more of these tips is helpful to you and allows you to maximize your time and budget!   …and may the force be with you.

There’s turkey and eggs…turkey and hash…turkey soup…turkey chili…turkey nachos…turkey kabobs…turkey sliders…Hawaiian bbq turkey pizza…  You cooked a 50lb turkey for Thanksgiving and after feeding a small village, you still have 100lbs of turkey left. Your family has already started complaining about Thanksgiving dinner being on repeat for the last few days and jokes are starting to surface about how many different ways a person can eat turkey. What to do…what to do?



First of all, you did the right thing by visiting the Family & MWR blog. We’re not going to let you down or let your family suffer in the cyclical hell of Thanksgiving leftovers. We have found some great recipes to help you use every last ounce of the bird that in NO WAY will remind anyoneof Thanksgiving. …and we think they’ll enjoy these creative cuisine choices.
 



The Holy Grail of Leftovers: The Cranberry Cream Cheese Thanksgiving Croissant


Ingredients
store bought croissants
cream cheese
leftover cranberry sauce
leftover stuffing
leftover gravy
leftover turkey



Assembly
Split croissants in half with a bread knife and toast them.
On the bottom half layer stuffing (warm if you want), gravy (warmed), sliced turkey, and cranberry sauce.
On the top half spread cream cheese. This is a little tricky because the croissant is really delicate and the cream cheese requires a bit of brute force to spread around, so swipe it on in blobs if it’s cold and stubborn.



The King of Comfort Foods: Pot Pie

Who doesn’t love a nice, warming pot pie when it’s chilly outside? …and the best thing about this is the aroma you’re treated to while it’s cooking in the oven.  Yummy!



Ingredients


3 cup leftover turkey or chicken cut into cubes


2 cup mixed veggies... whatever you want... I used peas, corn, and green beans


1/3 cup butter


1/3 cup flour


1 small onion, chopped


salt & pepper to taste


1/8 tsp dried thyme


1 1/2 cup chicken broth


3/4 cup milk


Ready-made pie crust (you’ll need a top and bottom crust)



Directions


Heat butter in a large saucepan over medium heat until melted.


Stir in flour and cook until bubbly and thickened.


Add onion, thyme, salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is thickened. Remove from heat. Stir in broth and milk.


Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Cook another minute or so longer.


Stir in turkey and vegetables.


Heat oven to 425ºF.


Fill the bottom pie crust with filling mixture.


Cover the pie with the top crust and pinch together edges.


Pierce with sharp knife or fork for steam to vent.


Bake 35 - 40 minutes until golden brown and bubbling up through slits in crust.




The Easy Salad with a Big Name: Cranberry Pecan Turkey Salad


This salad looks festive and like it’s bursting with flavor! Can’t wait to try this!



Ingredients


2 cup cooked turkey, diced


¼ cup chopped pecans


¼ cup chopped celery


¼ cup dried cranberries


½ c. mayonnaise (not sure if Miracle Whip will work)


Salt and Pepper, to taste



Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Season with salt and pepper.




Not Soup. Gumbo!

This dish tastes NOTHING like Thanksgiving dinner!



Ingredients


3/4 cup vegetable oil


1 cup flour


2 cups chopped onions


1/2 cup chopped bell peppers


1/2 cup chopped celery


1 tablespoon minced garlic


Cayenne, to taste


1/2 pound smoked sausage, such as Andouille or kielbasa, chopped


1 teaspoon dried thyme


1 teaspoon dried oregano


3 quarts turkey broth or chicken stock or store bought low-sodium chicken broth


Reserved turkey meat from a roast turkey carcass, at least 1 quart of meat


2 tablespoons chopped parsley


2 tablespoons chopped green onions



Directions
Combine the oil and flour in a large cast-iron pot or enameled cast-iron Dutch oven, over medium heat. Stirring slowly and constantly for 20 to 25 minutes, make a dark brown roux, the color of chocolate.


Season the onions, bell peppers, and celery lightly with salt and cayenne. Add this to the roux and stir until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes.


Add the sausage, the dried thyme and oregano, and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes.


Add the broth and bring to a boil.


Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes.


Add the reserved turkey meat and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, until flavors have mingled and the turkey meat has softened, but not completely shredded apart.


Add the parsley and green onions.


Serve in soup bowls with rice.


File powder can be added at the table according to personal taste.




If you family likes dinner variety, especially when serving Thanksgiving leftovers, try one or more of these recipes. Each one uses a nice serving of leftovers but each dish will have a completely different taste. That should keep them quiet about the many days of leftovers! …that or the mouthfuls of really, really good food.

My parents have always been big into gratitude.  It started with teaching us manners like saying “thank you” for everything gifted or done for us kids. Then gratitude took the form of “understanding the value of a dollar” and learning how much work it took to earn the money that bought those sneakers. Later, gratitude was understanding that although we didn’t have everything we wanted, we should be happy with what we have; that there were “children all over the world who would love to have what you have.”

At Thanksgiving, after we said grace, we would go around the circle and say out loud those things we were grateful for. The young me always had the standard replies: “I’m grateful for my health.” “I’m thankful for my parents.” “I’m thankful to have all of the family under one roof for this holiday.” “I’m grateful for my 1981 Volkswagen Rabbit (diesel) that won’t go over 50 mph even if it’s being pushed by 60 mph winds.”
It wasn’t until I was older, say mid 30’s on, that I understood exactly what gratitude was all about and why I should be thankful for even the littlest things. Now, I’m grateful and thankful for everything…and happier because of it. Now, I can’t wait for my turn in the circle to tell everyone what I’m grateful and thankful for. My list is long!
It’s hard to explain why one should be thankful or how to feel grateful.  Here are a few quotes that sum up Thanksgiving very well.
Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you have now was once among the things you only hoped for. ~ Epicurus
Be thankful for all the difficult people in your life and learn from them. They have shown you exactly who you do not want to be. ~ SimpleReminders.com
We don’t need more to be thankful for. We need to be more thankful. ~ Anonymous
I am thankful for my struggle because without it, I wouldn’t have stumbled upon my strength. ~ Alexandra Elle
You may not be where you want to be but you can look back and be thankful that you’re not where you used to be. ~ Joel Osteen
Gratitude requires awareness and effort not only to feel it but to express it. ~ Bonnie Parkin
Take time to be thankful for everything you have. You can always have more but you could also have less. ~ Anonymous
Enjoy the little things for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things. ~ JopyfulScribblings.com
The more you thank life, the more life gives you to be thankful for. ~ GratitudeHabitat.com
Hospitality is simply love in action. It has much more to do with the resources of a generous heart than with sufficiency of food or space. ~ ReluctantEntertainer.com
From Family & MWR to your family and loved ones, have a wonderful and memorable Thanksgiving!

Here we are again, at our battle stations preparing for Thanksgiving.  Menu discussions have started. Guest lists are being written. Carpet cleanings and household “honey do’s” are underway. Getting ready for Thanksgiving is always a huuuuuuge job but somehow in the end, it all works itself out.
But, what if I told you Family & MWR could make your job hosting Thanksgiving more streamlined and simple? What if I told you we could help you save some time here and there? Oh, yes, my friends! We’ve done the hard research and found a few ways to help you succeed at Thanksgiving without tiring yourself out, getting on your kids “most hated” list or arguing with your spouse.  Ok…you may still argue with your spouse but it won’t be because the turkey isn’t thawed.
We’ve come up with a list of things you can do to help with Thanksgiving prep, cooking, serving, and activities for all ages. If you think you can use a little shortcut, keep reading! Some of these ideas just seem so obvious but until now I’d never even thought of them!
Prepping for the Big Day
 
This makes perfect sense! Use your coolers as small refrigerators! You can either store Thanksgiving ingredients in there or store other foods so there is little traffic at the main frig.
 
You mean, I can go grocery shopping for Thanksgiving one or two weeks before Thanksgiving to buy the canned goods, frozen foods, and household items?? …and by doing so, I won’t have to spend a long time in the store as they become more crowded? I may even be able to complete my shopping a week before Thanksgiving?  Mind. Blown! 
 

Prepare the pie…crust, filling, and top crust then freeze it. Just wrap the pie in plastic wrap and foil before freezing and add twenty to forty-five minutes of extra cooking time to your recipe on bake day.  Voila!

Cut and label your veggies days before they’re needed. Store them in plastic baggies in the frig (or cooler) and enjoy the convenience of prepped veggies on cooking day.
 
Cooking for an Army
This is actually a great idea! I’ve done this! Tape your printed recipes to your kitchen cabinets. The recipes will be at eye-level making reading the recipe a breeze. Another benefit to this is that you save counter space…and your cookbooks from ingredient spills.
Using any normal cheese grater, grate frozen butter directly into pie crusts or biscuits. Keeping the butter cold makes everything tender and flaky, and grating it is much easier than cutting it into flour.  Who knew?
I take my potatoes seriously so I feel it’s my civic duty to get this information out to the masses. All potatoes are NOT created equally and each variety has its own purpose.  For me, the Yukon Gold or Butter potatoes make the best mashed potatoes!
Using a tiered oven rack to bake more than one dish at a time is brilliant! …and if you have two ovens… Wowzers!!! Getting dinner ready should be a breeze!
Activities to Keep Folks Out of the Kitchen
Who doesn’t like a good scavenger hunt? The game can take place inside or throughout the neighborhood.  Pair a younger child with a teenager and give each pair a list of things to find. Set a time limit and let them go a-hunting. They can either bring the actual item or a picture of the item to the finish line. The winning team gets a prize!
 
The objective of the game is for a player to have their partner/team guess the word on the player's card without using the word itself or five additional words listed on the card. Use words that are related to Thanksgiving, have a timer and a buzzer handy and make sure someone is recording the fun!

For this game, you’ll need a big floor-sized easel, flip chart paper and markers. Write Thanksgiving themed words on little pieces of paper or popsicle sticks and put them all in a bowl.  The objective of the game for each team to guess the word or phrase being drawn by their team-artist.  At the end of the playing time, the team with the most correct guesses wins!

There are hundreds of websites that offer free Thanksgiving themed printables (crosswords, mazes, coloring pages, word searches, etc.). Print a couple of pages per child, get crayons from the dollar store, carve out a space for them to spread out and let their little creative juices flow.
Serving
How many times have you done the Thanksgiving Serving Dish Dash? I’ve seen my parents do this. Run from the pantry to the basement to the china cabinet looking for the “big bowl” or the gravy boat. Spend a few days before Thanksgiving finding and labeling your serving dishes so you know what you have and which food goes in which dish. Don’t forget to place a serving utensil with each serving dish.
 


…another brilliant idea! Use crock pots to keep food warm. That way the mac and cheese stays appropriately gooey, the mashed potatoes don’t turn into snow balls and that second and third plate is just as comforting as the first.
 
Whether you serve a seated Thanksgiving dinner or a buffet, how you display the flatware can add a festive touch to the meal. Not only will the flatware be used during dinner but it will serve as decoration before dinner.

You’ve cooked for an army. They’ve eaten all they could (probably more than they should have) and there’s still a ton of food left. How’s about sending each family home with a bag of leftovers? Make a stop at the local dollar store and get the foil carryout/take out containers. As you’re cleaning up after dinner and preparing to store food, you can scoop out leftovers for guests ensuring that everyone can enjoy your meal at least one more time.

It’s not easy to do all that you do so your family and friends can have a nice holiday. We hope these few hacks and short cuts will help take some of the stress off of you this Thanksgiving so that you, too, can have a pleasant holiday! …at the very least, maybe you’ll be able to sit and take longer breaks.
Happy Thanksgiving!


It’s that time again. The days are getting shorter, the air a bit crisper and we can start taking our sweaters and scarves out of storage. Time for flannel pj’s, Ugg boots, hot tea, and cozy movie nights. 

Fall also brings us a seasonal rite of passage: the changing of the clocks. This year, Daylight Saving Time ends on November 6 at 2 am. That means we get an extra hour of sleep (on that day only) than what we’re used to. We'll move our clocks back one hour, going to standard time and gaining back that hour we "lost" in March when we switched to daylight saving time.

(I’m gonna digress here) Since I’m not a farmer, I never really did understand the need for Daylight Savings Time.  A great portion of the planet goes about its life just fine without Daylight Savings Time and civilizations haven’t crumbled. Economies haven’t collapsed. There hasn’t been anarchy.  I just don’t get it.

The official reason for Daylight Savings Time is that during the winter, when the days get shorter, clocks are turned back an hour to get as much light out of the day - during the most active hours. Ok. Got it. My question still is, “who’s benefiting from this?”

In the end, it doesn’t matter who’s benefiting or why this practice was implemented. The fact is, for years we’ve had our schedules tossed around in the fall to accommodate the end of Daylight Savings Time and when the dust settles, we walk away with a whole extra hour. How often have you asked for more hours in the day?

Take this time to initiate a Fall Home Refresher.You’ll feel better through the winter months if you take a little time now (that new found hour) and check one or two of these off of the list.

Change the batteries in your smoke detectors 
Take the time to make sure your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are in working order and have fresh batteries. Flames can consume a home in as little as five minutes, and the risk of dying in a fire is cut in half in homes with working smoke alarms.

Bed Care: Flip your mattress and wash your pillows 
To make sure your mattress wears evenly, you should flip it every six months. Got a pillow-top? Just rotate it instead of turning it over.  Also, oils from your face, dead skin, and dust mites accumulate in your pillow over time, so they need a good cleaning twice a year. Owned a pillow for more than two years? Replace it.

Take stock of your medicine cabinet and pantry 
Now is a great time to de-clutter your stash of food and medical supplies. Toss anything that has expired.

Replace or clean filters around your house 
You should inspect the filters in your heating and air-conditioning units to make your systems are still running well, but also check the water filter in your fridge and HEPA filter in your vacuum.

Clean the oven.
In preparation for holiday parties, make sure your kitchen is in ready shape by running your oven's self-cleaning function — or getting on your hands and knees and doing some old-fashioned scrubbing. We have a fantastic oven cleaning solution on our Pinterest board.  Search @jbmhhfmwr.

Need help adjusting to the new time difference?
Stick to a schedule 
One of the best ways to cope with Daylight Savings Time is to stick to your same schedule. You may be dragging for a little bit but your body will adjust in a few days and you won’t even notice it. Try not to add extra time in bed or go to bed early if you can as it just throws your body off, making you groggy or harder to get started in the mornings.
Take a catnap

If you are just dead on your feet and can manage a nap, don’t take a long one. A 20-30 minute catnap can work wonders on your energy level. A long nap can make it harder to fall asleep at night as you won’t be tired. 

Sleep well 

Be sure you are sleeping well for the first few nights until your body adjusts. If you are having trouble falling asleep, try coming up with ways to make the room completely dark to trick your body into thinking it’s time to sleep. Wear a sleep mask or get some blackout curtains for the windows. 
Workout 

Exercise is a great way to help wake your body up and get ready for the day thanks to the serotonin that is released. I’m not much of a morning exerciser but when I do, it is always better than coffee. The same goes with exercising after work.  Nothing makes me sleep better than a good workout (provided the workout isn’t too late in the evening).

Good luck with the time change!

The answer is to watch, of course!

But because I’m a lily livered chicken (I’m a big enough person that I can admit that), I rarely watch horror movies during the year.  Every movie that comes out these days seems to have gory violence or demons in it and that’s just not me. BUT!!!...all of that is set aside when Halloween arrives. This is the time of year when it’s encouraged for people scream at the movie screen and cover their eyes – because that is a sign that you’re enjoying the movie. I came to terms with this some time ago.  Halloween is the best time of year (for me) to actually watch - and enjoy - a horror movie. I like being scared. Go figure.
I am by nooooooooooooo stretch of the imagination an expert on horror movies. Nope. Not at all. I am, however, an expert at having a good time! I’ve seen enough of them to know which will have you in church every Sunday from Halloween until the New Year; which ones are laugh out loud funny; which ones the little ones can watch; and those that are just a good scare.
So, get your popcorn, a snuggie, light a candle and get close to your favorite living creature and enjoy one of these really good Halloween movies!
Halloween Movies the Whole Family Can Enjoy

I haven’t seen this movie but for some odd reason, I seem to quote from it quite a bit.

I haven’t seen this movie either but I hear that in spite of it being about a ghost, it’s very sweet and touching.

My friends are threatening to boycott me for not having seen this so I guess I’ll watch it with my niece this Halloween.
Classic Horror Movies

This movie made me hate the sound of bells…and pea soup. I never could watch the whole thing.  For all I know, she’s still possessed.
This one is a favorite of mine. To me, it is the quintessential slasher/scream queen movie. …and I loved that the movie took place on Halloween night!

Because of this movie, I don’t like seeing churches at night. I’ll never own a Doberman…or have a child named Damien. I’ll never date anyone named Damien. I don't even like saying the name Damien.
Contemporary Horror Movies

What made this movie so creepy and scary is that it is based on actual events.  What the…?????

Why is it always kids?

My husband and I watched this one at home, in the middle of the day, and still found ourselves holding our breath.  It was awesome!!  (the sequels don’t hold a candle to the original)


Cool Movies To Watch at Halloween

These two…  This was the original family Halloween movie and it had all three of the most popular monsters in it: Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Werewolf.  …too funny!!

I looooved the old black and white tv show (and it’s theme song) so I had to see this move and it didn’t disappoint.

Leslie Nielsen as Dracula?  I’m laughing thinking about it!


If you didn’t see your favorite horror movie on the list, leave the title in the comments below.  We’d love to include some new titles ion our list!

This year, fall officially started for me on Wednesday, October 19.  Yes, I know fall actually started sometime in September but for me – and for as long as I can remember – fall starts on the very day the networks airs one of my favorite cartoons … “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.”  I can’t explain why or how watching that cartoon every year made me excited for Halloween.  It just did!  …and even in my 40’s, watching the show still gets me excited for Halloween and fall. What’s really cool is that I’m not the only one who enjoys this tradition.  I’ve seen quite a few posts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter of people who were looking forward to enjoying this Halloween classic. That being said, that’s the first thing one should do to do “Halloween properly!”
There are oh so many little things to do and hacks (aside from those things you usually do) to make Halloween fun for you and the kids! It doesn’t have to cost a fortune or take a lot of time to stand out among the ghoulishly decorated.  We’ve found a few ideas for you to try that may just make this year’s Halloween one of the best on record.
Decorations
It’s Halloween so the more unexpected the decoration, the better.  Unexpected doesn’t have to be scary, though.  Maybe one of these ideas will help set the stage for your Halloween festivities.

This looks like something you’d find in Frankenstein’s laboratory.  Can you say, “don’t drink the water?”

A Halloween decoration you can make from old toilet paper rolls?  You can get creep-tastic and be environmentally friendly.  Win!

Costume Ideas
Some of the best costumes I’ve ever seen weren’t store bought.  It just take a little bit of creativity to come up with some real winners…and things no one has thought to do before.

I love this because it’s a funny take on a really creepy crime.

This one will work for the PG-13 trick-or-treaters.

Party Food
If you’re responsible for feeding a herd of ghosts, ghouls, witches, and warlocks, consider how you will display the party eats.  Remember, presentation is everything!

If you and the kids can get over how gross this looks, this is actually kind of a cool idea.

This is something boys will like more than girls…but’s it’s still way awesome!

Cocktails
If you’re hosting an “adults only” costume party, there’s no better way to save money and impress your guests at the same time than by serving a “house” cocktail concoction.  You can pre-make these beverages in batches cutting down on time behind the bar.  You’ll shave costs because you won’t need to completely stock your bar.  Score! These kind of beverages make sure that guests who come to party, stay for the “boos.”  See what I did there? J

What could be more Halloweeny that a syringe of blood turned upside down in a glass of green liquid?

This drinks looks like what a mad piece of candy corn would look like.

See? Halloween doesn’t have to be scary or expensive to be enjoyed.  We have these ideas and other on our Pinterest board, search @jbmhhfmwr.  If you see something you like, be sure to like it.  If you post any pics on Facebook or Twitter, be sure to tag us @jbmhhfmwr.  We’d love to see how much you and your crew enjoyed Halloween!


I've always heard that time moves faster the older you get.  I couldn’t understand that while I was a teenager.  In my twenties, I was moving too fast to listen.  In my thirties, I was too busy building a career to care. Now that I’m 45 - and fabulous :), I know exactly what that means.  It seems like just a couple of weeks ago, it was Memorial Day.  The reality is it’s almost Halloween.  …and I’m ok with that!  I love fall or hadn’t you noticed?!

What I’m finding out as I watch the seasons speed by is that I don’t have enough evidence of the season having arrived or what I did to enjoy each season.  I used to have the excuse of “Oh, man!  I left my camera at home” or “Darn it! The store messed up my pictures (this new generations call ‘em pics).”  However, smartphones have done two things: they have made it easy to have a camera with you all the time.  The other awesome thing about having a smartphones is the ability to share your pics as often as you like, with whomever you like, in as many different ways as you like.  So far, we can share pics via social media (you can upload a pic to ANY social media platform), via email as an attachment, from the magical cloud, Air Drop, text, FaceTime … it’s endless.  Which in itself is cool.  The big rub is, how many of us actually take the kind of pictures that record our memories?  We take pics of idiots who parallel park over three spaces or the guy in Wal-Mart dressed as a Care Bear.  I just don’t know if we want a photo stream filled with kind of stuff.  Well, I don’t.
Here’s what started this thought process.  My iPhone alerted me earlier this week that I had a software update waiting to install.  ...and who am I NOT to install something my phone thinks I need?  I downloaded iOS 10 (sidenote: So far, I’m loving the upgrades!).  One of the coolest features is the Memories Button you can find on the bottom bar of your camera app.  That feature provides a slide show of the pictures you’ve taken for the last three months and the best pics you’ve taken through the year.  What a cool idea, right?  Right!..until you look at your slide show and see pictures of a grocery list, the cable hanging off the roof, the dent in the fender.  I keep thinking, “I know I did stuff, why don’t I have better pics?” The only reason I’ve come up with is, I just can’t remember to take the pictures.  This is where the 45 years old part comes in.
In my attempt to be keep informed of the latest trends in social media, I ran across something called a “30 Day Picture Challenge.”  It’s exactly what it sounds like.  Someone somewhere writes out a list of pictures participants should take - one per day.  Pic Challenge categories include general photography challenges, theme challenges (Halloween), monthly challenges (March), seasonal challenges (fall), travel challenges (road trips), location challenges (Rome), hourly challenges, and LOTS MORE! In other words, if the 30 Day Pic Challenge is about Spring things, you'll take one pic a day with a spring theme.  In fact, you'll take a pic of the item listed for that day on the list of pics.  For example, on day one you take a pic of a tulip.  Day two, you take a pic of a sunrise.  Day three, you take a pic of Easter decorations, and so on.
As the pics are taken, participants can either post those pictures on a website or their social media accounts, save them to their computer, or print them to include in a photo album.  Either method ensures the memories of a particular season or event are captured for a lifetime…no matter how quickly time flies.
Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall’s (JBM-HH) Family & Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (Family & MWR) have been on the 30 Day Pic Challenge band wagon for at least a year.  We list the current pic challenge in the fmwR&R magazine (visit www.jbmhhfmwr.comto see the current challenge) or on our Instagram page (search @jbmhhfmwr).  If you visit our Instagram page, you will be able to see pictures we’ve taken when we’ve participated in one of our own pic challenges.

Which brings us to the October/Halloween Pic Challenge (see below).  Have a lot of fun with this challenge!  Have even more fun by inviting family and friends to participate in the challenge with you!  We at Family & MWR like to think of ourselves as your friend so be sure to tag us (@jbmhhfmwr) if you post your pics on social media. We can’t wait to see what’s going on in your world!

Maybe it’s me. I was born with an old soul. I just think today’s world could use a little “old school.” Not the kind of “old school” when people had to walk up hills – both ways – in armageddon style weather to get to school.  I’m not talking “old school” where women stayed home to cook, clean, and raise children (although that certainly sounds good some days).  Instead, I think we need a regular dose of “old school” glamour and an element of being social. 
Sure, we’re social now. We’re digitally social.  I think we’re missing the element of being social in front of another person.  I’d love it if people start planning parties, gatherings, and events that require us to get dressed in clothes other than khakis, jeans, and sweater sets.  We need more home based luncheons, dinner parties, and cocktail parties.  The cocktail hour is a lost social practice.  That was the time of day when you met someone for “cocktails and a catch-up.”  In most cases, people dressed especially for the occasion.  That in itself was glamorous!
I know I may be the only one who feels this way so I’ll have to live vicariously through one of my favorite tv shows, Mad Men (if you haven’t watched it, you should!!).  And, although I may be the only one who yearns for the cocktail parties of yester-year, I know I’m not the only one who enjoys a good theme event.  One of the best ways to marry the two is by having a themed cocktail party.  In this case, a Fallelujah Cocktail Party.
Having a cocktail party isn’t as stressful or expensive as you may think.  However, to have a truly memorable party, you must invest lots of brain power.  Remember that events are made in the details – and the presentation.  Presentation is everything!
Right now, a fall themed event is a no brainer.  People are just dying to throw themselves head first into chilly weather, flannel shirts, and warm beverages. I can already see the fireplace or candles glowing with ambient lighting.  I can smell the gentle scent of cinnamon and cranberries.  I see the buffet table decorated with autumn colors and filled with seasonal snacks.  See, doesn’t a fall cocktail party sound like a good idea for an event?
To help you plan your event, we’ve pulled together a list of fall party planning steps to consider.  You can always make adjustments to fit your event, personality, and budget.
The Details
Check a calendar and pick your day and time.  Note that a cocktail party is usually held from 6 to 8 pm.  As for location, use your home (it saves room rental fees).  Consider even having the cocktail party in the backyard (weather permitting, of course).
Write out the guest list.On average, 60 percent of invited guests will show up to a party. If you invite closer friends only, about 75 percent will come. Men tend to show up less than women, so invite more guys if you want the sexes to be evenly represented. Always invite some new faces to make the party more interesting. And, since there are always last-minute cancellations and no-shows, invite one extra person for every ten who say they are coming.” http://www.epicurious.com/archive/entertaining/partiesevents/cocktailpartyguestsinvitations).
It is perfectly acceptable in today’s world to send Invitations via email or social media.  Be sure to add a RSVP date and contact info, specify whether you’re serving light or heavy hors ‘oeuvres, and if there is a dress code.  You may also (tactfully) let guests know if children are invited.
Decorations are one of the things that absolutely makes an event.  You can never have too many decorations but don’t have enough and people notice.  One of the best party planning secrets is to get decorations from your local dollar store.  Everything costs one dollar (plus tax).  You can buy a forest of autumn colored leaves, an army of scarecrows, ceramic statues, and more.  Not to mention, this is a great place to get napkins, and serving utensils.  Check our Pinterest board titled “Autumn” for decorating and tablescape ideas.
Don’t skimp on place settings.  It’s always best to forgo paper and plastic and use ceramic plates and silver flatware. Think you’ll spend a fortune on place settings?  Not at all!  Shop Ikea.  They have FANTASTIC prices on plates, flatware, and stem ware.  Just make sure that before the party starts your dishwasher is empty.
Plan a most unexpected menu.  Unexpected does not mean expensive.  Serve “mini” versions of your favorite foods.  Chicken & Waffles bites?  BLT bite? Mac ‘n Cheese bites? Spaghetti & Meatball bites? Does a soup bar interest you?  Then round out the menu with veggies, cheese, fruit, and a chicken, egg, or tuna salad.  Find more great menu ideas on our Pinterest board titled “Entertaining.” Search jbmhhfmwr.
Planning the Cocktail Menu is one of the best parts of having an event.  Unless someone is your circle is a bartender, I find it’s better to have a pre-made batch house cocktail…like a FALLelujah-tini or FALLelujah sangria. A batch cocktail allows you to pre-make as much of it as you want.  Naming it the “house cocktail” means more people will try it and refill their cups with it cutting down on the expense of having a completely stocked bar.  You can choose to offer the house cocktail by itself or as part of a wider cocktail menu. Either way, be sure to have one or two non-alcoholic beverages available.
Music is a great way to set the tone for your event.  Play music your guests grew up listening to, current hits or if there’s time – get creative.  Create a playlist with fall themed titles or lyrics. Another unusual idea to play an original song followed by the remake of the song.  Play contemporary versions of old jazz favorites.  You can’t really go wrong with music.
The most important thing to remember is having a party is another opportunity to see close friends and become better acquainted with new friends.  It’s an opportunity to make memories and take great pictures.  And, in this case, it’s the perfect way to bring back in person socialization while celebrating the long awaited return of fall.
Visit our Pinterest page (search jbmhhfmwr) for ideas and inspiration on entertaining and fall decorating.

I know somewhere there are beach bunnies dying by the herd.  They are spending all three wishes begging the genie to extend summer three more months and they’re complaining of being cold when it’s 75 degrees outside.  It’s very difficult for these summer babies to make the transition to cooler weather.  I understand.  I feel the same way at the end of spring.  I know I won’t be sleeping well for three months because even with the air conditioner on, my bedroom is still hot in the summer months.  
But something happened this year that made even this die-hard fall fan take notice.  It seems like A LOT of people started the countdown to fall in early August – with plenty of summer left!  Fall themed commercials started airing early this year.  Starbuck’s unleashed the Pumpkin Spice Whatever earlier than usual.  I started smelling cinnamon at the entry to the grocery store.  It was still 300 degrees outside when I saw suede boots in the shoe store!  People were unmistakably announcing their desire for fall to…well…fall.
So today, September 22, 2016 at 10:21 am, fall will arrive for all of us waiting for all the things that come with the season.  The time will finally come for crisp days and cozy nights.  We can now wear lightweight sweaters and drink silky smooth and deliciously warming (and slightly over priced) gourmet beverages.  It’s the time of year when you can smell an apple pie cooking from miles away.  And in all honesty, I’m good with that.
I do, however, worry about the summer babies.  My husband, for instance, canNOT tolerate cold of any kind.  He bundles up in three or four layers of clothing to avoid any cool air touching his skin.  So, I try to find interesting and unique ways for him to enjoy the cooler seasons.  In my mind, the more distractions there are, the less complaining there is.  It’s sneaky but effective.  The idea is to get him to embrace the season because, really, what can we do?  Fall is coming whether we like it or not.  Am I right?
That being said, here are a few reasons to smile about autumn.

  1. The word autumn is funny-sounding.  …and we only use it during a specific time of year. 
  2. The colors of the trees is definitely something to smile about; from the brightest gold color to the most intense red.  …just gorgeous.
  3. Mini-marshmallows.  Nothing more to say about this.
  4. Caramel apples.
  5. Caramel apples with nuts.
  6. Fireplaces.  They’re warm and romantic.
  7. The way a warm mug of something slowly warms your body and hands.
  8. Halloween.  Halloween parties.  Halloween movies.  Halloween candy.  Halloween decorations.
  9. Coming into the house on a cold day to the aroma of dinner cooking.
  10. Autumn scented candles.
Now, smiling is good but it’s not an activity…and summer babies are use to being active.  I usually begin my activity research at the JBM-HH Community Activity Center.  These guys have lived in the DMV (District, Maryland, and Virginia) for years.  They know what’s fun, how to get there, and will (most times) have discounted admission tickets.  Feel free to give them a call at 703.696.3469/70 or visit them online at http://www.jbmhhmwr.com/community-activity-center.
But this year, I’m taking a different approach.  I know the Federal Government is cutting their budget which means most families will be doing the same.  Knowing this, the Family & MWR Marketing Office compiled a list of some great free or low cost fall activities in the area.  We hope you find one or more to enjoy!
Fall in Washington DC

  1. Let the kiddos release some pent-up energy at one of the many playgrounds found throughout Rock Creek Park, followed up by a refuel with lunch at one of 30 picnic locations. For an additional fee, you can enjoy a horseback ride, or rent a bicycle and feel the crisp breeze take over as you coast down one of the paved bike paths. Another option: spend an afternoon playing 18 holes at the public golf course.
  2. Fall is the perfect time to lace up your hiking boots and trek down the C&O Canal, which traces the Potomac River from Georgetownto Cumberland, Md. The serene trek should include plenty of fall foliage once October rolls around, and on quiet days, you can hear the soothing sounds of nature amidst the surrounding beauty of historic Georgetown and the River.
  3. Enjoy live music, local farm-fresh produce, handmade arts, jewelry, crafts and more than 100 merchants on weekend mornings at Eastern Market. While taking in the beautiful fall surroundings at no cost, warm up with locally made, toasty beverages and baked goods, which will not put a huge dent in the wallet.
  4. As days get shorter, entertainment becomes more important. Get swept away by live music with the National Gallery of Art’s free concerts throughout the fall. Performances usually take place in the West Garden Court, but may also occur in the East Building Auditorium. Speaking of the East Building: the structure reopens on Sept. 30, featuring newly renovated galleries, a rooftop sculpture garden and three new exhibitions.
Fall in Virginia

  1. Westmoreland Berry Farm in Colonial Beach. Acres of Rappahannock River frontage are perfect for picnics and bird watching. The kids will enjoy a play area just for them, as well as the antics of the skywalking goats. Give the goats a nibble from the pulley feeder system; they love it! Westmoreland is a pick-your-own farm offering fall raspberries and pumpkins. Hitch a ride on the hay wagon to head to the fields. The only fee incurred at the farm is the rate for pick-your-own products or any cafe purchases you choose to make.
  2. A beautiful drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway delivers you to Milepost 213 and the Blue Ridge Music Center where Mid-Day Mountain Music occurs daily through mid-October. Listen in from noon to 4 p.m. and take the opportunity to check out The Roots of American Music Museum and visitor center.
  3. It’s rare to find a free three-day music festival, but Richmond has one. Check out the Richmond Folk Festival, held annually the second weekend in October. Seven stages will host more than 30 music and dance groups – ballet, reggae, bluegrass, Vietnamese, Scissors Dance, polka, salsa, gospel, Cajun … the list goes on. And there’s a place for kids with make-and-take crafts and special performers.
  4. The 60-acre Bluebird Gap Farm in Hampton offers a free Fall Festival October 21-23, complete with a pumpkin patch, foggy kayak rides, live entertainment, and hay rides. You can purchase food at the festival or pack your own and find a picnic area to enjoy lunch. After lunch, walk the nature trail or let the kids loose at the playground. 150 domestic and wild animals are on site; bring your quarters to feed farm animals. Hayride is weather dependent.
  5. Check out the two-day Culpeper Harvest Days Farm Tour through Virginia’s beautiful Culpeper County. Held annually the first weekend in October, the tour includes 18 farms and farm related businesses, which allow you to get involved with hands-on activities and demonstrations, as well as mingle with llamas, horses, cattle, and buffalo. Expect to see both traditional and unique farm experiences during this free weekend that really does have something for everyone – even wine and moonshine!
  6. Take a train ride into Clifton for Clifton Day Festival, held annually the second Saturday of October. It’s the only day of the year the train stops in town! The train is free to for arrival but $5 to return (children under two are free), and services stops between Manassas and Rolling Road. The festival is free to attend and includes great entertainment, vendors, artisans, historical reenactments, and more. Food will be available for purchase.
Visit these website to see these lists in their entirety. 
Don't forget!  Family & MWR always has a 30-Day Picture Challenge in progress on Instagram (search jbmhhfmwr).  We have one for both September and October.  Be sure to check those out and post your fall pics on Instagram and Facebook.  Don’t forget to tag us @jbmhhfmwr!
Happy fall, y’all!

We know, we know!  You think your kids spend too much time on “the smart phones.”   You think the kids are going to go blind because they seem to have their little eyes and noses pressed up against “the smart phone” screen all the time.  You think they may grow two extra thumbs because of how much texting and snap-chatting goes on.  Relaaaaaax, Mom and Dad.  Allow them to use their smart phones for good and they may surprise you!


Did you know that some group of mad scientists, somewhere on this planet, created apps that are…GULP!...educational?  Come to terms with that for a moment.  There are apps to help your child improve their spelling, time management, quiz scores, learn a language, take notes and more. 



What has the world come to?  Remember when we had to use a paper and pen to take notes as the teacher spoke...all the while trying to understand what in the name of Zeus the teacher was writing on the board or overhead projector.  …I think I may have dated myself just then.  Oh, well!



The point is, there are apps that can help school age children achieve academic success.  Family & MWR has done the hard research and found five apps that may be beneficial for students in each school level: elementary school, middle school, and high school.  We hope you and your crew find one or two helpful.




Elementary School


1. Barefoot World Atlas


Puts the world at your children’s fingertips! With this incredible app, anyone can fly around the magical, interactive 3D globe and discover the rich wonders of our planet.


2.Learner’s Dictionary

The best dictionary available for all English language learners, include native English speakers.



3. Grammar Pop


A great way for kids to learn parts of speech. Match words with parts-of-speech to pop clouds and progress from nouns and verbs to gerunds and participles.



4. Hungry Fish


Students can practice mental addition and subtraction by feeding the fish.  The fish are hungry for numbers. Keep feeding the fish answers to math problems to win a level and unlock new colors and fins.


5. Spelling City


Spelling City is a fun way to learn spelling and vocabulary words by playing engaging games using any word list.




Middle School


1. Sail Through Math


A fun and exciting way to practice and reinforce math skills. Users face mounting obstacles and surprising hazards as they navigate through Math Facts, Algebra, Number Sense, and Rational Numbers.



2. iTooch Language Arts


More than 1,590 exercises provide a new and fun way of practicing and learning Language Arts for all middle school grades (even though the app art says “5th”, there are apps for all grades).



3. Frontier Heroes


Explore five exciting eras of American history through dozens of mini-games and experience what it was like to expand the boundaries of the American frontier.



4. Wonder Box


This app inspires curiosity and creative thinking while exploring and learning about science, geography, music and design.



5. Science 360


Access to engaging science, engineering images, and video from around the globe and a news feed featuring breaking science. Content is either produced by the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) or gathered from scientists, colleges and universities.



Honorable Mention for elementary school and middle school students.
Every child can learn how to trace and write cursive through a fun app that maintains motivation.  The app is fully customizable to suit every child's needs.  Kids can write letters and words, and you can add your own words with audio.




High School


1. Talkboard


This app is useful for any collaboration work because students can share whiteboard screens and work together effectively.



2. 30/30


This task-managing app actually helps with time management.  For maximum productivity, it gives students 30 minutes for work and 30 minutes for break.  It is easy to set up and sends helpful reminders to keep you on task towards your goal.



3. Quizlet


A great study tool with simple yet effective features that help with memorization.



4. Notability


The absolute BEST note-taking app with a great and intuitive user-interface.



5. Google Drive


This is a great way to keep documents, from text files to presentations, easily accessible and organized for class.


Parents, it’s time to realize that the smart phone isn’t going away.  Our children’s obsession with said smart phone isn’t going away…and it only gets worse with teens.  Their whole world is one huge digital matrix.  I went to a career day at my son’s school and noticed the teachers tapping their white boards (not chalk boards) to get video and power point presentations to appear on the board.  On a school supplies list, they asked for the students to have a USB drive.  School lessons and notes are now filed on classroom pages found on the schools’ website and children have to print the lessons at home.  They even use Power Point presentations to teach lessons.  It’s a whole new world of education out there.  Most of that world is now digital. 



So, in the words of a very wise wabbit, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!”



Please note that these apps were found in the Apple app store.  However, most apps can also be found in droid platform app stores.  Be advised that some apps are just for use on iPads (or tablets) and some may cost to download (though most of the ones featured are free).



If you or your student has had success with an app not mentioned, please leave a review of the app in the comments below.  Other parents and students will appreciate the info.

In the not too distant past, and for as long as I could remember (things have changed now), I was single.  I woke up when I wanted to. Came home when I wanted to. I ate when and where I wanted to.  I even ate what I wanted to.  Ah, that was the life!  No one to be concerned with but myself. 


Then I got married.



Then I was gifted a 12 year old stepson.



Then my husband and I allowed a college-aged family member to hunker down in our house while he went to college.



In the span of three short years, I went from Sex and The City to Modern Family.  Not only was I overwhelmed with these major life changes, I was always tired.  And let me tell you, these are not feelings I was used to dealing with.



In an effort to do the wife and mother thing (i.e. feed and keep people alive until they finally leave home), I started cooking.  So, that went ok for a while.  I think I had had it with cooking every day of the week by, like, Wednesday.



Let me just stop here and say… WIVES AND MOMS ROCKS!!!  SINGLE PARENTS ROCKS!!  DADS WHO COOK AND TAKE CARE OF THINGS INSIDE THE HOME ROCK!!! Y’all make it look so easy.  I will never understand why more of you aren’t drunk or obese, because KFC and Papa John’s became quick friends of my family.  But I digress.



When the guilt of feeding my family yummy, deep fried chemicals and pizza made more of bread than of fresh toppings, I had to acknowledge that I needed to make some changes in the menu department.  I mean, these were boys (husband included).  They really didn’t care what they ate as long as they could spread ketchup over it, roll it in bread, and it didn’t cause a gag reflex.



This is where my Type A Personality kicked in.  I figured I’d have a better chance at feeding My Boys (that’s what I call them) a good, healthy meal if I planned a week’s worth of dinners ahead of time.  Doing it this way would help me cut down on time running back and forth to the grocery store and I could prep the meals a day or two in advance.



Then, the heavens opened…music began to play…angels sang…



I ran across a beautiful thing called Once A Month Cooking (OAMC).  This type of cooking is also known as Freezer Cooking, Make Ahead Cooking, and other such names that capture the essence of the effort.  Whatever you call it, I am totally sold on the freezer meal concept!  In fact, I am pretty sure my family and friends and work colleagues are sick of hearing about this obsession.  To be able to throw “already prepared” food in the crock pot or defrost some taco meat in just a few minutes is so wonderful!  Now that I have meals already prepped in the freezer means I don’t have to stress about dinner. EVER.  I also don’t feel bad about ordering unhealthy take-out either.  Why?  Because we rarely order out anymore!  Score!  Money saved!!  Have you ordered food for two teenagers and a 6’ 2” man lately?  Let’s just say, $60 and a couple of hours later and these boys are back in the kitchen staring into the refrigerator.



OAMC is the ultimate do-ahead dinner preparation technique and a wonderful tool a busy family can use and modify to suit their needs.  It is the simple idea of cooking ahead and then preserving your food by freezing it until you’re ready to cook and serve (like a frozen pizza or chicken nuggets but healthier!).  The secret of the OAMC technique is that you cook all your dinner main dishes for a month (or two weeks to begin with) in one day (or weekend), freeze them, and enjoy eating tasty food every night without the hassle of lengthy meal preparation.  That means more time for the family and more importantly, more time for you!



Another great benefit of OAMC is being able to plan a menu of foods you’ll enjoy even if you have special dietary concerns.  Because you are prepping the email yourself, you can control how much salt or oil to use.  There are a billion low carb OAMC recipes out there.  There are gluten-free recipes and vegan recipes.  Having a prepped meal means you will always have a healthy option available to you!



So, by now, you may be interested in this grand idea of OAMC but wondering, “how do I start?”  Here are a few tips I found helpful when I started OAMC.



1.  Visit the Family & MWR Pinterest board “Once a Month Cooking & Other Recipes


Not only does our board offer tons of recipes for meals that freeze well, we have also pinned a couple of “How to Get Started” or “OAMC 101” articles.



2.  Don’t overwhelm yourself trying to make 50 freezer meals in one day!


Start off prepping and freezing meals for one or two weeks.  Starting small will get you used to planning, shopping, and the time it takes to actually prep and label the meals.  As you get used to this new time-saver, you can increase the number of meals you prep or even join a OAMC Club.



3. Frozen Noodles do NOT taste good when they are reheated


Cooked and thawed noodles can be mushy beyond belief.  It’s best just to spend the 10 minutes boiling noodles.



4. Storing food in freezer bags is best 


Storing your freezer meal in a plastic bag is the best idea.  It takes less room up in your freezer, and, thawing freezer meals by placing the freezer bag in a pot of warm water is, by far, the fastest way to thaw a freezer meal.  Casseroles can be frozen in their pan, just wrap with a layer or two of plastic wrap.



5. Avoid using already- frozen meat


If you are making the type of freezer meal that goes into a crock pot or oven to cook (raw meat with a marinade), do not purchase frozen meat.   First, if you are just adding a marinade to the frozen meat and sticking it in the freezer, it’s likely that your dinner will end up watery (because you never defrosted the meat).  Second, refreezing already frozen meat can contaminate it.



6.  THE MOST IMPORTANT TIP is to make meals your family will actually eat.  If you don’t usually marinate chicken in bottles of salad dressing, then don’t choose to make that meal just because it was included in a list of OAMC recipes.  Trust me, you will be able to find meals for even the pickiest eaters!



Now, let’s talk about the benefits of OAMC.  Well, for starters, you’ll savemoney on gas by NOT taking multiple trips to the grocery store.  You’ll save money on groceries because of fewer trips to the store.  You’ll save time (and brain cells) by NOT having to think of a menu every day of the week.  You’ll save energy and time by NOT having to cook at the end of a busy day.  You’ll save time cleaning up since there won’t be a stove-top covered in pots and pans.  You’ll also save and help build family relationships by spending cooking time talking to family and catching up on their day.  In other words, YOU WIN!



School is about to start.  Schedules are about to become super busy again.  Imagine coming home after a long commute or after soccer practice (or both) and popping an already prepped dinner in the oven or on the grill, and having an hour or more to just sit down and chill in the evening with your spouse and children.  Or, spend that new found time in the gym.  To me, that’s worth the one Saturday it will take to prep and freeze your OAMC meals.



For more information on Once A Month Cooking “how to’s” and recipes, visit the Family & MWR Pinterest board “Once a Month Cooking & Other Recipes.  Search: jbmhhfmwr.



Be sure to comment down below if you’ve ever tried OAMC or if you have any questions. …or post pictures of your OAMC prep session!


Horray, parents! School is almost back in session!



Just a few more weeks and the kids go back to school!  Before we start popping champagne with our spouse or go skipping away from the bus stop on the first day of school, let’s take a moment to survey the situation.  There’s a lot we parents can do during these last few days of the Summer Break Countdown to ensure a smooth transition from carefree kid to successful student.



Re-Establish School Routines


Use the last few weeks of summer to get back into a school-day rhythm. Have your child practice getting up and getting dressed at the same time every morning.  Start eating breakfast, lunch, and snacks around the times your child will eat when school is in session.



Make Going Back to School Exciting


If your child is feeling a bit anxious about going back to school, keep a positive attitude. Recall the fun and exciting events, field trips, projects, and so on from years past, and show excitement about the opportunities for learning new things in the upcoming year.



Do a School Walk-Through


Escorting younger children to their classroom can help ease anxiety. Familiarize your child with key places such as the bathroom, gym, library, and cafeteria — they’ll feel more confident if he knows where everything is.  This is also true for kids changing schools or moving up a grade (from elementary to middle school or from middle school to high school).



Make a Practice Run


How will children get to school? The first day of school is no time to find out it takes ten minutes--not five--to walk to the nearest bus stop!  Also, print and post the bus schedule to prevent a missed bus.  Or, if they'll walk, help them learn the route they'll take and note the needed time.



Nurture Independence


Once the bus delivers the kids to school, your child will be managing a lot of things on their own. Get them ready for independence by talking ahead of time about responsibilities he's old enough to shoulder. This might include organizing his school materials, writing down assignments, and bringing home homework.  Even if your child is young, you can instill skills that will build confidence and independence at school. Have your young child practice writing her name and tying her own shoes.



Create a Launch Pad


Help your child learn responsibility and organization.   Create a dedicated space for every family member to help get the family out the door in record time--and organized.   Things like backpacks and lunch boxes always go in the same place to avoid last-minute scrambles in the morning. You might also have your child make a list of things to bring to school (books and papers, lunch money and permission slips and post it by the front door. 



Set Up a Time and Place for Homework


Head off daily battles by making homework part of your child’s everyday routine. Establish a time and a place for studying at home. Really smart people say it really helps if kids know there is a specific place to sit down and do homework, and that it happens at the same time every day.  As much as possible, plan to make yourself available during homework time, especially with younger kids. It’s ok to read the paper or cook dinner – just be around to check in on your child’s progress.  Displaying your child's projects around the house also helps to keep learning excitement high.



After-School Plans


School gets out before most working parents get home, so it's important to figure out where your children will go, or who will be at home, in the afternoons. You might find an after-school program through the school itself or on JBM-HH. If possible, try to arrange your schedule so you can be there when your child gets home during those first few days of school. It may help your child adjust to the new schedule and teachers.



Talk It Out


Asking your child about school is important. It shows them that you value their education. Try to avoid general questions, like "How was your day?" These will most likely produce one-word answers. Instead, be specific and ask open-ended questions.  “What was the coolest thing to happen in your science class today?” “Tell me one thing you found interesting in your history class.”  “Teach me how to solve this equation.”  They’ll love teaching an adult something!



Create Mission Central


Each school year floats on a sea of schedules. School functions. Team practices.  Lunch menus. Scout meetings and music lessons.  A family event calendar is just the thing to track all of these after-school activities.  A paper calendar with large squares lets you enter information easily. Pre-printed white board calendars are easy to revise when necessary. Color-coding entries by family member helps keep busy lives straight.  Post the family event calendar in a public place near the telephone. Use magnets to attach the calendar to the refrigerator, or tack it to a bulletin board.



All of these things may not work or apply to your family.  We may have left out some really great tips.  The point is to try to find a way to iron out the bumps of a new year beforethe new year starts.  Once the new school year is underway, you may get caught up in the undercurrent of fast moving schedules.  Better to have a life jacket – or a surf board at the ready!



Leave a comment below if you have a Back to School hack or tip that we just haaaaaaave to know about!

I don’t know about you guys but at the start of every summer, I always wax optimistic about all of the things I’ll do and all the places I’ll go.  I always intend to take lots pf pictures so I can create the best photo album ever!  Then the day after Labor Day, I look back at it all and wonder, “Where did my summer go?”

So, in an effort to help us make the most of our last few weeks of summer, Family & MWR has developed quite the Summer Bucket List for kids, teens, couple, and families.  Hopefully, you’ll be able to check off quite a few of these things.  If not, you’ve got your work cut out for you!  What a nice mountain of work to get through, though, huh?