Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall

Family and Morale, Welfare, and Recreation


I’ve always been a bit…precocious (read mouthy). Since being in the comfort of the womb, I’ve always had an answer for everything. If she drummed on my house, I drummed back on her innards. It was a game we played…big fun. But my precocious nature did not always serve me well. In fact, it has been the prelude to many a “I brought you in this world and I’ll take you out” moments. …but I digress.
So, it was 1970-something. I want to say I was about 6 years old (fact checked, I was 6 years old). It was Christmas Eve in St. Louis, MO. Dad was out attending to last minute Santa Helper duties and me, Mom, and the dog were at home enjoying Christmas Eve festivities. …and by festivities, I mean I was chilling in their super huge bed watching Christmas cartoons and she was slaving in the kitchen. I think she was baking. Doesn’t matter. All was right in the world.
The evening has pretty much sped by and my bed time was approaching. Moms comes into her bedroom, interrupts a pivotal moment in the Frosty the Snowman saga and proceeds with, “You better brush your teeth and go to bed. You know Santa won’t come if he sees your bedroom light on.”
Little did this sweet, dear lady know, I already had my evening figured out. I was going to catch a few more Christmas cartoons, eat some Christmas cookies and wait around to catch the Bearded One (that’s Santa Claus to those who aren’t in the know) executing the Christmas Eve Ops.
“I’m not ready to go to sleep,” I told her. “I’m going to stay up and wait for Santa."
“I think you should go to bed, little girl.” She said “little girl” like I was annoying her but I was a precocious and determined child. Oh, I was staying up, alright.
“I’m going to wait for Santa Claus,” I repeated.
She shook her head (THAT was annoying) and went back to the kitchen. By the time I got back to Frosty, he had melted, come back to life and was singing his goodbye song. Which was ok because something else would come on right after his show was over.
Two shows later, maybe about an hour later, She comes back. “Little girl, I told you to brush your teeth and go to bed. You’re going to be very sad in the morning when you wake up and see that Santa didn’t bring you anything.”
I wasn’t buying it. I just turned my attention back to the TV and picked up where Rudolph wasn’t allowed to get in on the games.  Rude.
So, she left and went back to the kitchen. I can’t be sure but I think I heard some under the breath mutterings. “That child is gon’ make me say something to her on Christmas Eve. Lord, help me stay a Christian tonight and not hang her up by her footed pajamas.”  You, know.  The things all parents say about their kids to keep from doing or saying something worse. THAT’S what she was muttering under her breath. I’m pretty sure.
All of a sudden, they interrupted my “regularly scheduled broadcast to bring you the latest news of Santa’s whereabouts.” I have to admit, that got my attention. I sit up on the bed like a responsible and engaged news watcher and waited to her the update.
“Our radar has just confirmed that Santa Claus has been spotted leaving blah-blah-blah county. He is headed toward St. Clair County and should be there within the next few minutes.” Say whaaaaat?? My eyes were as big as ginger snap cookies.
“If any little children are still awake, now is the time to go to bed. We’ve already heard reports that Santa has passed over houses where the lights in the kid’s rooms were still on.” That was all I needed to hear! I jumped off the bed and hauled my precocious little self, padded feet and all, down the hallway to the kitchen.
“Mom!!!!” They just interrupted my show to say they saw Santa headed this way. Is that real???

“Well, child,” she said trying hard not to make me feel bad by releasing the belly laugh that was brewing inside of her, “It’s on the news. Of course it’s real."
I was only six at the time but I think I remember thinking, “what the hell??” I was absolutely stunned.  …but I had a plan.
“I’m going to go to bed now,” I said in my sweetest voice. “Will you come sing me a lullaby?”
You would have thought I had just climbed up a cabinet and smacked her. “Sing you a lullaby?! Little girl…”
Alright. Here’ it comes.
She put her hands on her hip (such a mother thing to do). “I’ve been trying to get you to go to bed for a couple of hours. You insisted on staying up. You wanted to watch TV. You wanted to see Santa.  …and now that he’s on his way you want me to stop what I’m doing, sing you a lullaby and rock you to sleep?”
Side note: She was always a smart lady. She summed up my requirements very well. But she threw some tinsel in the tea.
“I will not sing you a lullaby and I will not rock you to sleep. Next time, listen to your mother.”
What the…??? A Jedi mind trick on Christmas Eve? Who has time for these games??
“But I’ll miss Santa Claus. He won’t leave me any presents.” Was she not getting it? This is the A-Number One Kid Holiday. How could she forsake me like this? Maybe I was adopted. Surely, my own mother could put aside our differences for the sake of me getting gifts. What is this devilry?
Then she said something that let me know I was no longer a toddler. I was a big girl.
“You’re a big girl (there it was). You tell your Mom when you want to go to bed now, huh? Well, big girls also sing themselves to sleep."
This was just too much. Here I was, in danger of missing the zenith of the whole kid year on a technicality. Nothing to do but…
I hauled padded feet back down the hallway and fast as I could with my wonder dog getting in the way with every step. I long jumped from the door way to my bed and within a few second I was covered up, the lights were out and I was gently singing an oldie but goodie… “Rock-A-Bye-Baby” and very lovingly rocking myself to sleep.

My mother says that she came to check on me a few minutes later and I was either totally asleep or totally faking it. She was just glad to have me tucked in and out of her hair so she could finish her Christmas Eve obligations. I’m sure she called everyone she knew and had big laughs at my expense (it’s what I would do).
I can report that since I am not physically, mentally, or emotionally scarred from that fateful evening, Christmas morning was everything I wanted. I can’t remember everything I got that year but I do remember the gorgeous 3 level doll house I got. It had furniture and carpet and was taller than I was. As parents sometimes do, my parents have been paying the taxes on the property since I moved out and grew up. I will, of course, resume ownership of the dwelling and commence with a fairly extensive renovation in the new year. The house is, after all, over 30 years old and I’ve been watching a lot of HGTV.
That Christmas was the Christmas that unleashed my inner Ralphie (from the movie “A Christmas Story”). Every since then, I’ve shaken presents, named Christmas trees, decorated my homes to look like North Pole vacation property, watched almost every Christmas show that comes son TV, hosted many Christmas movie-watchin’ weekends, and well…just enjoyed every twinkling second of my Christmas holiday…including singing the words to every single Christmas carol I hear.
As Buddy the Elf says, “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is signing loud for all to hear.”

…and going to bed when your mother tells you to.

When Christmas morning arrives, the last thing we should be thinking about is all of the gifts under the tree. We should remember how this time of year is for giving from our hearts and not expecting anything in return. We should be thinking about friends and loved ones who may not be doing well this time of year. We should think about the Christmas Miracle and that the little Baby Jesus was born.
But seriously, didn’t we think about all of that at church on Christmas Eve? In my family, my mother has always instilled in us “the reason for the season” and we show our respects at Christmas Eve Mass.
…so that on Christmas morning, we can act like the lunatics we are and rip through the precisely wrapped gifts in record time. Dad always plays Santa (we’re going to ask for his resignation soon because he moves too slow) and one of the younger kids always plays Santa’s Helper. My mom is always singing and cooking in the kitchen and we have to threaten to halt Christmas just so she’ll come sit down and participate. It’s a whole thing at the house but what I’m getting at is – GIFTS!!!!
I’ve researched a couple of ideas that I think will make excellent Christmas gifts for family and friends. These gift ideas are gender neutral and will deliver just the right amount of “ooooo’s and aaaaaah’s” on Christmas morning.
Here’s the list.  Be sure to check it twice!

1.       Art
Normally, art is a personal thing. The owner has to just want to die for a piece of art (or it could just be me). But the art I’m talking about isn’t the hoity-toity art. Find a landmark from a place beloved by the person receiving the gift. Have a unique art application applied to it. The image above is the Eifel Tower with a Van Gogh treatment. Cool, huh? Or take a photo of the person receiving the gift and give it the Warhol treatment. I’m a huge fan of
2.       …and Speaking of Cool Art
Give the gift of sound this Christmas. Have the sound waves of your voice saying a sentence printed on to a canvas with a QR Code that, when scanned, will playback you actually saying the sentence. Choose an inside joke punchline, the standard holiday greeting or those three magic words people never tire of hearing.  Click here for more info:
3.       Cookbook

There are so many recipes floating around the family. Someone knows how to make Grandma’s cornbread dressing and someone else knows how to make her Waldorf Salad. Uncle Carl makes a mean BBQ sauce and Aunt Brenda fries chicken that beats KFC, beaks down! The problem is, none of these recipes are compiled in one place. You can do that. Put together a family cookbook with pictures, stories, and more. That book will become a family heirloom. Trust me! Try this site to get you started www.cookbookcreate.
4.   A DNA Analysis Kit

Ok, so you remember your grandparents telling you how your great-great-great grandparents swam to America from distant shores. Or, if you’re African American, the stories aren’t so clear. Why not answer some questions once and for all and find out where EXACTLY your ancestors came from. Who knows? Maybe your people are from Mars. I know that would explain a lot about my family.  ;)  Get a DNA kit from for $69.00.
5.       Message Band
These powerful little treasures are (your choice of) metal bangle bracelets inscribed with a message meant to give you a daily dose of empowerment. The company I buy my gifts from ( has so many mantras to choose from. A few of my favorites are, “What If You Fly,” “Be You, Love You, All Ways, Always,” “You Are My Person,” “Carpe Diem,” and “Though She Be Small, She Is Fierce.” …and these gorgeous stackable bracelets, for men and women, are only $25 each.
6.       Streaming Stick

Whether you’re a cable cord cutter (see September blogs) or just a tv/movie watcher on the go, streaming sticks are awesome. In a nutshell, they allow the user to keep all of their entertainment choices on a USB drive so it can be watch on any monitor with a USB port. They’re awesome! The basic Roku streaming stick costs $50.00

7.       Tile

My mother, whom I love most dearly, canNOT keep up with her phone. My husband is always losing his wallet. My stepson has issues finding his house key. Let me tell you, I am a woman on the edge. If you too are living the life of that of a Seeker For All That Is Lost, give the gift of Tile. This super slim device can be inserted into a wallet with no bulk, added to a key chain, or slid into a cell phone case. If an item is lost, go to the website and be given the exact location of where it is. I’ll gladly pay $25 for each Tile needed if it means I don’t have to be the one on safari looking for whatever is lost now.
8.       The Inverted, Reverse Umbrella with “C” Handle

You’ve seen the commercial about the umbrella that open in the opposite way we’re used to. All I can say is…get one!! I love mine. It really is super easy to get in and out of the house, car, building door, because of the way it opens and closes. The “C” handle can be used to hold keys, a purse, small/lightweight bags, and will slide over (some) wrists. Currently, these umbrellas cost $27.00 but I’d gladly pay $50. …especially for the ones that have a pretty scene painted on its ceiling.
9.       Subscription Box

It is noooooo secret that I think subscription boxes are the coolest things since the Snuggie (and if you know me, you know I loooooooooove muh Snuggie!) A subscription box is a mail order service that, based on your preference, will mail out goodies to you once a month or every 3, 6 or 9 months for a fee. Do you know a wine lover? Instead of the wine of the month club, give them a “wine by the glass a month” subscription. Want to give a gift that keeps on giving? Give your loved one a subscription box to a service that mails out the latest trends. No matter what interests the people in your life, believe me – there is a subscription box out there. Don’t want to commit to a long term subscription. No problem! Most subscription services have a one-time purchase option. Click here for a list of most wanted subscription boxes:
10.       Cold Hard Cash
If you find yourself needing a last minute gift, cash is always acceptable. It’s easy on you and allows the person getting the gift the opportunity to get something that maybe Santa forgot to leave under the tree. To make it more than just cash in an envelope, try one of these cool presentation. As so many chefs (and parents) know, presentation is everything.
Some people just do not enjoy the whole Christmas gift-buying ordeal. They may be nervous about getting someone the wrong gift. Maybe the budget is a little under the weather (whose isn’t, am I right?) Maybe they’re undercover Scrooges.
Then there are some people who like the whole process of buying Christmas gifts. I am one of those people. I pick the first name on the list and quickly run through my year with them. What did they like or not like? Did they mention anything they’d like to have? Do they have a hobby or interest? If I can’t get a good gift idea from that, I start on Plan B…something unique, unexpected, and that will last years. That’s how this list was developed.
BUT!!...In keeping with what Christmas is really all about, when picking a gift, it really is the thought that counts. Trust your instincts and you’ll give just the perfect gift. You’ll get the perfect gift, too…smiles and hugs are priceless.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Let me introduce a Danish word to you. The word is hygge. Hygge (pronounced hue-guh not hoo-gah) “is used when acknowledging a feeling or moment, whether alone or with friends, at home or out, ordinary or extraordinary as cozy, charming or special.”

Hygge doesn’t require learning “how to”, adopting it as a lifestyle or buying anything. It’s not a thing and anyone telling you different either doesn’t understand it or is literally trying to sell you something that has nothing to do with the concept. You can’t buy a ‘hygge living room’ and there’s no ‘hygge foods’ to eat.

Hygge literally only requires consciousness, a certain slowness, and the ability to not just be present – but recognize and enjoy the present. That’s why so many people distill ‘hygge’ down to being a ‘feeling.’ You have to feel hygge.

Some also refer to hygge as an “art of creating intimacy” (either with yourself, friends and your home). While there’s no one English word to describe hygge, several can be used interchangeably to describe the idea of hygge such as coziness, charm, happiness, ‘contentness’, security, familiarity, comfort, reassurance, kinship, and simpleness.

Danes created hygge because they were trying to survive boredom, cold, dark and sameness and the undefinable feeling of Hygge was a way for them to find moments to celebrate or acknowledge and to break up the day, months or years. With so many cold, dark, days, the simple act of a candle glowing with a cup of coffee in the morning or a home cooked evening meal with friends can make a huge difference to one’s spirit.

By creating simple rituals without effort {such as brewing real tea with a little china cup every evening to stopping at the flower shop every week} the Danes see both the domestic and personal life as an art form and not every drudgery to get away from. They incorporate hygge into their daily life so it becomes a natural extension rather than a forced and stressful event.

So whether it’s making coffee a verb by creating a ritual of making it every morning to a cozy evening in with friends where you’re just enjoying each other’s company to the simple act of lighting a candle with every meal, hygge is just about being aware of a good moment.

(Read the full article at

So how can you bring the art of cozy or hygge into your home this fall and winter?

Use candles … and a lot of them.

Candle light is the biggest component to hygge. They give a comforting, gentle light and help relax people. They make homes look cozy and inviting.

Blankets and cushions

The next thing you need is some cozy, nesting materials for your sofas. Warm snuggly blankets and soft cushions to relax into and keep you feeling warm. Fleece throws, warm socks, a snuggie, a knit blanket… Bring all the blankets and cushions.


You need people for your hygge experience. Snuggling with your partner or family watching a movie; a group of friends sitting around gossiping with a glass of wine, a close friend and a delicious cake or table full of family enjoying a lovely meal by (of course) candlelight. Avoid talking about anything controversial to ensure the feeling of hygge continues - a hyggeligt evening is not about hot debate! It is about simplicity. No fancy competitive cooking, nor showing how clever your conversation is. It is a gathering of people to enjoy the simple pleasures of life together and to feel warm, cozy, and content.

Food and drink

Warm hot chocolate or a pot of tea with a home baked cake is hygge..a bottle of red wine and some nibbles…or just a bag of sweets in a bowl (not out of a bag - packaging is not hyggeligt)! Enjoy these delectable while watching a movie on the TV or having great conversation. Remember, presentation of your food and drink is important to hygge – it’s all about the experience and a commercial package on the table just won’t cut it!

I love the idea of cozy being an art form. I don’t think people pay enough attention to the feeling inside their home as they do the curb appeal outside of their home. The biggest thing for me is that hygge has nothing to do with material possessions but everything to do with people, happiness and enjoying the moment. Thank you, Denmark, for making the idea of people experiences over material possessions and technology popular. I think the world will end up owing you a great debt.

 Did you know I’m a fan o’ fall? If this is your first time on our blog page, (first of all, welcome!). Secondly, it’s no secret that I think fall is the best of all the seasons. Maybe I shouldn’t have a favorite season. Maybe it’s like being a parent and having a favorite child is somehow unfair. But honestly, be it season or child, we do have favorites, don’t we? Don’t worry. The favorite child thing will be our secret.

Although those that suffer with allergies may disagree, fall is truly worth the wait. The air is crisp, the trees are full of beautifully colored leaves, boots and scarves are back “in”, and hot chocolate can once again be consumed in large quantities.

To help me remember to do all of the things I’ve been thinking about since Memorial Day, I make a “Fall Things to Do” list. Yeah, some of the things on the list don’t get checked off…but that’s ok! I can guarantee that I, and everyone around me, had fun doing what we did!!

If you don’t already have a list of things planned to do this season, we can help. Check out the list below.

Things to Do Outside of the Home

1. Visit a Virginia Winery

I’m not a wine drinker so my friends think I’m missing out and my family thinks I’m adopted. However, I did grow up in Germany and have a strong appreciation for the wine process, pairings with food, and especially, the beauty of a vineyard. Lo and behold, Virginia has its own winery’s and vineyards. Who knew? Grab your loved one or your party posse and take a day trip out to a local winery. I bet they even offer free samples. ;)

Start your winery research here:

Greenhill Winery & Vinyards:

2.  Cox Farms Fall Festival

Even if you aren’t a fall freak like me, it’s still a time of year that teens and younger kids can have big fun! Head out to Cox Farms (only 27 miles from Ft. Myer). The annual fall festival has a corn maze, market, food, hay rides, and other attractions. Go there, participate in a few attractions, buy a couple of apples and a pumpkin or two and, voila! You’ve just made a memory!

3.  Rock Creek Park

Become one with nature this fall with a visit to Rock Creek Park. Let the kiddos release some pent-up energy at one of the many playgrounds found throughout the park, followed up by a refuel with a picnic lunch. For a small 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. For those that love the night sky, Rock Creek Park has an on-site planetarium. Park Rangers also conduct free programs twice a day on Saturdays and Sundays. Rangers also lead outdoor night sky programs with telescopes through November. Free tickets may be picked up for these programs one hour in advance at the Nature Center.

4.  Arlington National Cemetery / Tomb of The Unknown Soldier

The National Cemetery encompasses 624 acres overlooking the Potomac River across from Washington, D.C. In addition to The Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers, Arlington contains other monuments and memorials. These include the Space Shuttle Challenger Memorial which honors the crew of STS-51-L who died on January 28, 1986 shortly after liftoff. A similar memorial honors the crew of STS-107 who perished when the shuttle Columbia was destroyed during reentry on February 1, 2003. There are also monuments to Women in Military Service for America and a Cross of Sacrifice honoring Americans who fought with Canadian Forces during both World Wars and Korea. Other memorials honor those who died on Pan Am Flight 103 when it exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland and in the Pentagon attack on September 11, 2001.

Please note that in November, the Changing of The Guard takes place every hour on the hour.

Things to Do Inside of the Home
1. 30 Pay Picture Challenge

Now that we have a camera with us at all times (thanks to the little computer we carry with us disguised as a smart phone), we’re able to take pictures rather quickly to capture all the moments. Put your smart phone camera skills to use for good and participate in a November picture. The premise behind the activity is to take a specific picture each day of the month to capture your life for the month. You can do this with friends or family…or both. Make it fun and show everybody’s pictures at the end of November at a pizza party or offer a prize for the person who completes the whole 30 days. It doesn’t matter how you end the challenge as long as you participate!

2. Make Caramel Apples

Caramel apples is another reason fall is the best season ever! The original caramel apple is delicious on its own but now sophisticated-type people are adding toppings to the caramel. Imagine dipping the juicy Golden Delicious Apple into the warm and melted caramel…then dipping that into a bowl of crushed peanuts, chocolate shavings, or coconut. Genius! I serve these a lot for dessert throughout fall. I take a variety of caramel apples, slice them into wedges, and present them on a serving platter. Yumm-o!

3.  Decorate Your Home in Fall Coziness

I used to think decorating for the holidays was an expensive venture. You need 5 scarecrows, guest towels, kitchen mats, fake leaves, pumpkins, something called “mums”, candles, Pilgrims… That stuff can get expensive, so I thought. We found some really cool and inexpensive ways to turn your home into a beacon of fall coziness. Visit us on Pinterest to see all about it. @jbmhhfmwr

4.  Smell The Sounds of The Season

I looooooove a house that smells like something other than house. A house can smell like boiled, dirty socks, cat, wet dog, stale laundry, last night’s dinner, etc. I like the (not so strong) smell of candles or potpourri in a home. I especially like to smell the season. Nothing is better than walking outside on chilly, somewhat breezy day, and smelling a fireplace or leaves burning. Those smells mean it’s fall! Try a seasonal simmer pot to add a fragrant, seasonal aroma to your beautifully decorated house…especially if company is coming over.

These are just a few things you can do to really enjoy and get the most out of this most beautiful season! Autumn has finally returned and I’ve “fall”en in love all over again.

True Horror Stories

Ok. I think I’ve said this before. I’m a chicken. I’m an evolved chicken because I can admit that I’m a chicken. I think Descartes said, “I’m a chicken, therefore I am.” …but the odd thing is, I like watching horror movies.

Maybe “watch” is a strong word. I like what happens when I plan to watch a horror movie. I like to watch trailers for horror movies and decide if I could even remotely, in the wildest and farthest reaches of my lily-livered imagination think I could possibly sit through two hours of blood, guts, and demonic possession. Once I’ve determined that there isn’t one horror film on the planet I can watch and not scream like a teen at a concert, I find one I know I won’t be able to watch and, well…plan to watch it.

I get the snuggie (a must for a proper chill), the popcorn, and a cross because one can never be to sure (just kidding). I get my body guard (to be honest, the helpless soul who’ll have to baby-sit me through this – usually my husband), we turn off the lights (the first sign that this won’t go well) and proceed to watch the movie (through the little hole in the snuggie I burned with a candle).

In the end, I do more laughing than screaming. The “made you jump” scenes are funny because you kinda feel foolish jumping at something that’s not even happening around you. …and my husband and I are so goofy, it takes us a long time to recover from laughing…me at jumping and him at me. It’s fun! Then I get close to him again (the best part because he always smells soooo good) and we continue with the movie. Good times!

It is a good time because in the recesses of my mind, I know that the winged creature wearing a trench coat and fedora who’s killing innocent people on a dark and lonely highway then eating their organs can’t possibly be real. Some weirdo somewhere ate some bad food, had a dream and made it into a movie. Good times!

It’s the movies based on real stories that really make a chicken out of me. You’d be surprised how many popular and wildly scary movies are actually based on real people. Seriously, just doing the research on this gave me the furry willies. Keep reading. You’ll get the furry willies, too.

Let’s start with the mother of all horror movies (pun intended)


Pyscho's Norman Bates is loosely based on convicted murderer and grave robber Ed Gein, who, during the late 1950s, killed women and dug up corpses in Wisconsin. He also made human skin into tiny keepsakes and knickknacks, such as face masks, lamp shades made of women’s lips, bowls made of skulls, belts made of women’s nipples, and furniture slipcovers. Psycho novelist Robert Bloch based Bates on Gein, but changed the character from a grave robber and murderer into a serial killer who dressed like his mother. While institutionalized Gein admitted to killing these women (who looked like his mother) so he could make a skin suit that he could slip into and become her. Duuuuude.

A Nightmare on Elm Street

Wes Craven based A Nightmare on Elm Street on a series of newspaper articles from the Los Angeles Timesabout a strange phenomenon where young Asian refugees would mysteriously die in their sleep. It was reported that many would refuse to sleep, saying they had terrifying nightmares feared they would die in their sleep.

One story Craven heard about was about the son of a physician who was about 21 years old. Everybody in his family keep insisting that he go to sleep.  The young man kept saying, "No, you don’t understand; I’ve had nightmares before—this is different." They gave him sleeping pills and supposedly he did, but he managed to stay up anyway. He stayed up for six or seven days. Finally, he was watching television with the family, fell asleep on the couch, and everybody said, "Thank god." They literally carried him upstairs to bed; he was completely exhausted. Everybody went to bed, thinking it was all over. In the middle of the night, they heard screams and crashing. They ran into the room, and by the time they got to him he was dead. They found a Mr. Coffee maker in his closet, full of hot coffee that he had used to keep awake, and they also found all his sleeping pills that they thought he had taken. He had spit them back out and hidden them. They had an autopsy performed, and there was no heart attack; he just had died for unexplained reasons.

Child's Play

(I can tell you now, knowing this was based on a true story, all dolls go into the trash…tonight!)  In 1909, a Key West painter and author names Robert Eugene Otto claimed that one of his family's servants placed a voodoo curse on his childhood toy, Robert the Doll (sounds like the name of a serial killer doll, doesn’t it?). Supposedly, the doll would mysteriously move from room to room, knock furniture over, and conduct conversations with Otto. Robert the Doll was left in the attic until Otto's death in 1974. When new owners moved into Otto’s Florida home, they also claimed mysterious activities - connected to the doll - would happen in the house. Today, Robert the Doll is on display at the Custom House and Old Post Office in Key West, Florida (not that I will EVER go there). It’s all very Annabelle-ish.

The Girl Next Door

Based on the novel of the same name, The Girl Next Door is based on the 1965 murder of Sylvia Likens, a 16-year-old girl from Indiana. Sylvia and her sister Jenny were left in the care of Gertrude Baniszewski, a family friend, when their parents left town as traveling carnival workers. Baniszewski, along with her children and a few neighborhood kids, locked Sylvia in the basement, where they tortured and abused her until she died of a brain hemorrhage and malnutrition. What the…what??

The Hills Have Eyes

As this 15th century legend goes, Sawney Bean, the son of a landscaper, had no desire to follow in his father’s footsteps.  Instead he took his wife and headed for a coastal cave in Bennane Head, Scotland. There he would live and raise his family of eight sons, six daughters, eighteen grandsons, and fourteen granddaughters, most of which were the product of incest.

Sleeping the days away in their cave and waiting for the cover of darkness, the Bean’s would ambush travelers robbing and then murdering them. The bodies were then taken back to the cave where they were dismembered and prepared for dinner. For twenty-five years, the family operated in secret. Although nearby villagers were aware of the disappearances, as well as the occasional body-parts which washed up on their shores, they were unaware of who was responsible for the crimes. Eventually, a would-be victim was able to fight off his would-be murderers and the Bean Clan was found, captured, and put to a grisly death. It’s said they killed and ate over 1,000 victims.  This is just a whole new level of nope.

The Serpent and The Rainbow

This movie is based on the experiences of Ethnobotanist Wade Davis who traveled to Haiti to research the real case of Clairvius Narcisse, a supposedly real zombie. Here’s what happened to ol’ Clairivus.

Clairvius checked into a local hospital way back in 1962 because he didn’t feel so well. Once at the hospital, he began to feel feverish, had trouble breathing, and felt what he claimed were bugs crawling all over his skin. It wasn’t too long after that doctors pronounced him dead. Clairvius was buried a few days later. End of story, right? Well, it was the end of the story until one day in 1981 when Angelina Narcisse, Clairvius’ sister, saw him walking down the street. A bizarre sighting considering not one, but two American doctors had declared him dead back in 1962.  I actually saw this movie and it is, to put it mildly, creep-py.

Now, after learning that these movies are based on true life events, you aren’t more scared to watch them then you are, indeed, my Horror Movie Hero! …and I’ll just stick to PG-13 slashers.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, fall is one of the best, if not THE best season! The same green leaves on every tree are starting to turn vibrant orange, yellow, burgundy, and gold…beautiful! It’s warm enough not to need a coat but cool enough to wear a cozy sweater. It’s cool enough to drive with the windows down for the first time in months and not break into a sweat like you’re working on a prison chain gang. Apples, pumpkins, and pears are now the fruit of the season. The food is heartier, the coffee house drinks are warmer, and people start entertaining at home more.
I’m someone who believes that every gathering of people is an opportunity to make a memory. In fact, between you and me, I’ve always wanted to host a Truman Capote-style dinner party. Know who Truman Capote is? He wrote Breakfast at Tiffany’s. His dinner parties (circa 1958-1961) were the stuff of legends and the guest list included celebrities, royalty, international personalities, intellectuals, regular-brained people, singles and couples. Imagine what the conversation smust have been like!
A dinner party with great conversationalists and unexpected recipes always set the stage for making great memories! However, fall recipes don’t have to end with dinner. They start with breakfast and continue throughout the day. You can really enjoy the flavors of fall by incorporating in-season fruits and veggies into each meal. Instead of snacking on strawberries and grapes, switch to pears and apples. Instead of white potatoes, use sweet potatoes.  Instead of broccoli, try brussel sprouts. Seasonal fruits and vegetables just seem to naturally taste good together.
…and if you‘re in need of an awesome autumn menu, keep reading. We found a few fall recipes that not only look fun to make but sound delicious! The recipes for the drool-worthy pictures you’ll see below aren’t in this blog. Instead, find us on Pinterest by searching jbmhhfmwr. All of these delicious recipes are kept there…just waiting for you!

The Perfect Fall Menu

What is breakfast, really, if not a fluffy stack of pancakes or waffles? Surprise your family or out-of-town guests with Apple Cider Waffles or Pumpkin Pancakes.


Since eating healthier lunches are en vogue now, may we suggest a Harvest Cobb Salad or Harvest Tuna. I like that by adding seasonal ingredients you not only up the taste factor but you’re also getting a few extra dashes of vitamins and nutrients.


The thing about fall dinners is that they tend to be so soul-comforting and so warming that after eating, you just glow from the inside out. And the aroma coming from the kitchen while dinner is cooking is like a blanket you wrap yourself in on a rainy day. In my house, we call these kinds of dinners “good eats.”

Although I’m not a drinker anymore (a couple of rough nights in college fixed that), I can appreciate one’s appreciation of a well prepared cocktail. In keeping with the fall theme, these two cocktail feature two of my favorite fruits, blood oranges and pomegranates. Hmmm, maybe I could have just one cocktail…to toast to fall!  ;)

I like to compartmentalize my seasons and holidays. I will only eat cold things, like ice cream, in the summer. And I will NEVER play a Christmas song or watch a Christmas show before December 1. For me, waiting until summer to enjoy ice cream just makes it taste that more sweet and creamy. Starting my Christmas celebration on December 1 means I’ve fully enjoyed Thanksgiving and can now devote all of my attention to candy canes, cranberries, and Christmas carols.
Hence…the caramel apples. Man, do I looooove caramel apples. I eat them A LOT during fall and I enjoy every sweet, delicious, caramely bite.
Pecans seems to be a hot item in the fall and although we’re technically in the South, I still just can’t wrap my head around Pecan Pie. I’ve seen the recipes for that pie. Why don’t they just inject you with simple syrup and just speed right to the diabetes (I’m diabetic and the amount of sugar was scary! J) That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the sweet and savory taste of a dessert with pecans. Try this…

I know. Some of these recipes are not for the Wednesday Dinner Dash so many of us experience during the week. You’re absolutely right. These recipes are for when you want to entertain at know, Truman Capote-style.

Nothing excites me more than finding really cool ways to do things I’ve always done but in a better and more efficient way. I just loooooove trying hacks and finding out that they work. It’s almost like winning the lottery. Almost.
In my mind, all of the life hacks I accumulate are helping to run my tornado of a life into a manageable mess.  …and when I luck onto something that just seems like the best thing since someone said, “I know! Slice the bread!”…well, that’s just the icing on the cake.
Below you’ll find a quick and dirty list of some of my favorite life hacks. I use these every time an occasion calls for it. It never fails that when someone notices my little moment of genius, I get a thumbs up, or a “OMG! I never thought of that.”
I’m sure you’ll see one or two things in the list below that you can start using right away. If not, just print this blog post and keep it for future reference. And, if you have a Pinterest account, feel free to follow our Life hacks board @jbmhhfmwr.
On to the list!

Velcro Strips
I used these bad boys to keep the rug on my balcony from flapping in the wind. Every time we got a little wind, the corners of the rug were waving and blowing around like they wanted to be rescued from the storm. Now, those corners just lay there and weather the storm. …and here’s another little tip about these…don’t use them on wooden floors. Use a rug mat to keep area rugs in place.

Can Tabs
Maybe this is a phenomenon that happens only in my closet but it is seems more and more that the amount of clothing in my closet exceeds the amount of space in my closet. Using a can tab as a way to double the efficiency of a hanger, thereby providing more space. You can also prep your wardrobe for the week using this little tin treasures.

I Don’t Care. What Do You Want To Do?
“Tale as old as time. True as it can be…” How many times have you had this very argument with your significant other? It’s finally time for Date Night and no one knows what to do or where to go. If you’re up for a little adventure, give this a try.

The Devil in Eggs
The holidays will be here before you know it and you may be called upon to make your famous deviled eggs. Oh, wait. That’s me. My family, church, and friends like my deviled eggs. What can I say? I’ve mastered the deviled egg. What I haven’t mastered is being able to get the shell off the egg without ripping it to shreds. It’s a crap shoot, really, as to how many eggs out of a dozen will make it to the serving tray. Hopefully, this will help save time and money.

The Scent of the Season
Sometimes, adding a scent to the air isn’t about removing the smell of boys and wet dog from the house. It’s about adding just the right scent to enhance the season or occasion. Try one of these for an inexpensive, creative, and natural way to make your home smell like a memory in the making.

Keystroke Shortcuts

Ever wonder how people are able to put a symbol like this ”©” into their Word document. The illustration below shows you the keystrokes to use.

There’s No Crying In The Kitchen
Although there are many, many alternatives to you cooking a meal (carry out, take out, meal prep, fresh meal delivery, etc.), chances are you’ll still have your time at the stove. Chances are also that many a recipe will include onions. Rather than cry into your food, try this tip for holding back the onion tears.

Big Bang For Your Buck
A coat or two of paint is an inexpensive way to freshen up the look of a room. It’s the fumes that can make the new and improved room hard to handle. Here’s a way to enjoy a new color on the walls and not have to deal with the fumes that linger behind.

Double Duty Shower Caps
A lot of us have to travel for our jobs. If not, we travel for pleasure. How many of us have taken pause when it comes to packing shoes? No need to scratch your head over this. Use a cheap plastic shower cap to pack your shoes in.

Keep It In The Closet
One of my all-time pet peeves about my kitchen is under the sink clutter. I can never find or reach anything without pulling everything out first. It’s maddening. Then, I saw the idea to re-purpose a hanging shoe organizer. Now, now only is the under the sink clutter gone, cleaning supplies are safely stored and organized in a location that was previously not being used. Win!

Commandment #11 - Carry Straws!
Not that I’m a germophobe but I do wonder just how clean can tops, bottles, and glasses are.  …and don’t start with “but if the glass isn’t clean then the contents are contaminated.” I can’t think about that now. I’ll think about that tomorrow. In the meantime, carry clean straw in a toothbrush holder. Cool, huh?

Lucky Number 13…And The Best Hack of All
If you have kids or a husband/boyfriend, you absolutely need a bottle of this homemade solution around at all times. Who knew white vinegar, the blue Dawn dish soap and hot water was a miracle cleaner?? I’ve actually used this recipe to clean the upholstery in my husband’s car.  IT WORKS! Now we use it to clean the shower, the oven (when mixed with baking soda) and so many other things. Trust me! You’ll want to try this!

Not everyone gets the joy I do out of learning new tips and tricks to doing everyday things. I get that. But, I have to say, I’m a little bit of a rock star in my circle because people are always wanting to see the newest thing I’ve discovered. Try one of these jacks and tell your friends about it. You’ll be amazed at how people will react to your “genius.” Have fun and use your fame for good!

For years, the only way to watch the most talked about TV shows and biggest sporting events was with cable TV. But with prices that are increasing at 4 times the rate of inflation, paying well over $100 a month for a huge bundle of channels that I mostly didn’t even watch just didn’t make sense. I knew it was time to cut the cord and get rid of cable TV. These days, there are several great cable TV alternatives that give you access to all your favorite channels without the high cost, long-term contract, or other drawbacks of traditional cable TV.

I’ve spent hours researching cable TV alternatives and I finally I cut the cable cord. And, unless something really miraculous happens, I’m never going back. I’m saving about $150 a month since I cut the cord.

Believe it or not, getting rid of cable is easy and it doesn’t require advanced technical skills. There are only a few simple steps (more or less) to cut the cable cord. Your time will be spent learning how to work your devices and apps. But that will come later.

Baby Steps
1) Choose your streaming service
All of the streaming services offer pretty much the same things, access to TV and movies. But first, what is a streaming service?

A streaming service is the conduit which will stream (deliver) TV and movie content to your TV, smartphone, or PC. Netflx and Amazon Prime are probably the most popular streaming services. Other options include Hulu, Direct TV Now, PlayStation Vue and Sling TV. You will always access these streaming services to watch your entertainment content.

Please be aware that streaming services do cost. You can pay anywhere from $7.99 to $60 a month for your service depending on what packages your purchase. Content packages include local stations, sports, kids programming, HBO channels and other traditional cable networks, and other genre configurations.

Pay close attention to this. This is an important piece to the puzzle. When you cut the cord, DO NOT FORGET TO GET/KEEP WIFI. Nothing will be able to stream to any device if there is no WiFi. You must have WiFi to cut the cord and access your streaming service. You’ll want to make sure there are no data cap on your internet downloads so you can stream as much as you want.

2) Get a streaming player
A streaming player, such as a Roku or Apple TV, will let you watch streaming services like Sling TV, Netflix, Amazon Prime Instant Video, and other cable TV alternatives right on your TV. Think of this as your cable box replacement, only it’s much smaller, gives you access to way more content, and you own it, so say goodbye to equipment rental fees!

Streaming players like Roku and the Amazon Fire Stick are hand held remotes that deliver your streamed content to your chosen device via USB. You plug a piece of equipment into your TV or PC, open the player and watch the selected programs.

3) Select an antenna
Another one of the best cable TV alternatives is the tried-and-true antenna. Most people don’t realize just how many FREE TV stations they can get with a quality antenna. Chances are that you’re in range of dozens of great over-the-air (OTA) broadcast channels, including NBC, ABC, CBS, CW, FOX, PBS, ION, and a host of other smaller regional stations. Many of the most popular TV shows, local sports games, and local news come on OTA TV in crystal-clear High Definition. And get this – the broadcasts you can pick up with an HD antenna are HIGHER QUALITY than what cable providesbecause their broadcasts are compressed! And did I mention these channels are totally free?! One of the best antenna’s on the market is the Mohu Leaf Indoor Antenna. Another option is Flatwave. This is optional as some streaming services will offer local channels.

What To Watch
Now that you have a streaming service (Sling TV), a streaming player (Roku), and internet service, we can talk about what you’ll watch.  Let me just say, the possibilities are endless.  Not figuratively endless…literally endless. It will take you some time, and a few recommendations from friends and family to decide which channels you’ll download – but that’s part of the fun!

The channels you watch now will still be available to you a la carte style. I use Sling TV. There are two package option with this service. One package offers X channels. The second offers X channels plus Y channels. Then, you can add on additional packages as mentioned above (cable movie channels like HBO, comedy channels, sports, channels, Spanish language channels, lifestyle and entertainment channels and more)…all for a fee of about $5 to $15 a month.

How Much Will It Cost
Obviously, that will depend on which streaming service you select, the cost for the internet service provider, and the packages you add to your streaming service. Here’s how it breaks down for me: Streaming Service: Netflix $10 a month, Roku streaming stick $50 (one time), internet $50 a month, Sling TV $60 a month for both channel packages and two or three add-on’s.

So, for the initial outlay of cold hard cash, I spent $170. My monthly fees are roughly $120. That’s a saving (for me) of about $180 a month.  Just … WOW!!

But don’t trust me. Seriously, don’t trust me. I’m not as tech savvy as most and I’m certainly not an expert on cutting the cord. Do your research and really see if cutting the cable cord is feasible for you and your family. The biggest advantages for me cutting the cord were saving money and only paying for channels I actually watch.

Lastly, don’t be intimidated by not having cable. True, the idea of not watching TV the way you’ve always watched TV may seem daunting but just remember, the way you watch TV is changing…not what you can watch or when. All of your favorite shows, channels will still be available to you…only you won’t be paying through the eyeball to see them!

Comment down below and let us know if you cut the cord or if you still need a little more time to get used to the idea.

The JBM-HH Library, although small, is mighty and the staff is not your average, old-school librarians. Oh, if you haven’t been to the JBM-HH library or gotten your library card, you are soooo missing out!  Our library offers a wide range of services and resources to the community. We know other businesses and companies say that all the time but we really mean it.
As a member of the JBM-HH workforce, be you service member or civilian, you and your family have access to paper books, audiobooks, and DVDs, including Blu-rays. For those with e-readers, we offer downloadable content including eBooks, eAudiobooks, magazines, eMusic, and eVideos. We can also help you access online databases for research and homework help. The library’s dedicated staff will make sure you find what you are looking for and are able to utilize all of the resources available to you.

Let me just interject a little sidebar about our librarians. They aren’t just people off the street who needed a job. They are college educated and trained librarians. They have degrees in the Library Sciences. They are passionate about education, reading, and the importance of libraries in the community.  …and they have a sense of humor! It’s not like in school when Mrs. Turtleneck and Vest would frown at you over her glasses and look down her nose at you. You will absolutely feel comfortable working with and like talking to our librarians. They’re even up-to-date with the latest technology. Oh, my friends, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if you haven’t visited our library, you are soooo missing out.
…and here’s the part you’ll find pretty cool…
You already have our library card. Yep! You probably aren’t even aware that you have the Army’s library card in your possession already. The Common Access Card (CAC) you have to enter the installation…the CAC you use to access your computer…THAT’S your library card! Unbelievable, right? How convenient is that? There’s no additional card to keep track of. All you need is your CAC and you’re ready to take advantage of, well, all of this: computer stations with internet access, personalized help with your projects and questions, meeting/study rooms, a kid’s room, a young adult’s room, plus copy, fax, and print services.  And it’s all free for you and me!
Now, for the fun part. You probably want to know exactly what you can access with your CAC library card. Am I right? Check out the following list of just a few of the super cool things that outside of the gate may cost money to use.
Novelist Plus
How many times have read and loved a book and want to try something similar? Or you’ve read one book in a series and you want to read the others? Novelist is an online resource that allows you to search for an author, title, series, and/or keyword and find more about books and get suggestions on similar titles.  Each page includes a short synopsis of the book, as well as reviews from sites like Kirkus Reviews and Publishers Weekly. No need to wait for the Sunday book review (if the even still have those. I think I just dated myself.)

OverDrive Media is a free application that will unlock the Matrix of libraries for you. Basically, it’s an app that enables users to access eBooks and audiobooks borrowed from libraries and schools—or purchased from book stores. What’s really awesome about this app is that you don’t need a tablet or smartphone to use it. It will open on your PC.  Awesome sauce!

I’m a magazine reader. I love pretty images so I’ll always have a magazine tucked somewhere. Zinio is a multi-platform app that provides you access to well over 5,000 magazines from a wide range of publishers. It’s an e-newstand! your fingertips.

Who doesn’t want to know from where they hail? We’re affiliated with the military so I don’t mean the place of your birth but the birthplace of your family? I knew a woman who was able to trace her family tree back to 1600’s Scotland. She even found out what her family tartan looked like. Imagine the information you can find about you and your family!

Rosetta Stone
In today’s world, if English is the only language we speak, we’re missing the opportunity to know and love another culture! You can learn Latin American Spanish, French, Italian, German, American English, Arabic, Chinese Mandarin, Dari, Dutch, Filipino Tagalog, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Indonesian, Irish, Japanese, Korean, Latin, Pashto, Persian Farsi, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish (Spain), Swahili, Swedish, Turkish, Urdu, and/or Vietnamese. Imagine all of the good food you can try when you can read the menu!

Visit the JBM-HH Library and let one of our Super Hero Librarians register your CAC for an account today. It is, after all Library Card Month. After registering, you can use the catalog to manage your account. The “My Account” feature allows you to renew and request books, access online content, create wish lists, write reviews, and more.

Go, on! Those literary classics aren’t going to read themselves…although, audiobooks are pretty close!

Back to School Hacks
I’m a nerd. I’ve always been a nerd. I will be always be a nerd. In fact, going back to school was always my own little personal holiday. I looked forward to getting my class schedule, getting lost in the “hall maze,” organizing my school supplies (cuz that’s what OCD nerds like to do), and eating square cardboard with little drops of white stuff on it the Cafeteria Ladies tried to pass off as cheese pizza… I loved it all but I think I may have been the only one.

 Who knows? Maybe with today’s technology kids are eager to go to school, what with teacher’s using Power Point presentations to teach, passing out assignments on jump drives, and virtual libraries, it actually seems like students should really enjoy the learning process.

 In the end, though, school is still school. Kids still have to get up early, do homework, write papers, and memorize things. Although how kids learn may have changed, they still need to study and pass tests. So in the end, I guess things haven’t changed that much.

 As a life-long student and step-parent, it’s important for me to keep up with the best ways to learn new information and (this is where being a government employee comes into play) ways to improve current processes. I’ve done a little research and found a few school hacks that may benefit you and your student. Some are pretty cool, too!

Learning The Schedule

This seems like a “no brainer” but I’ll bet so many students have never thought of it! Have your student take a pic of their class schedule and use the pic as their lock screen wall paper. Voila! No searching for a paper schedule. Just look at the phone screen to know which class is next!

Emergency Pack
In this case “emergency” doesn’t mean a condition that requires medical attention. This emergency pack is meant for the little social crisis that may erupt during third period. A little bag that can be kept in a backpack or locker is just the thing for handling minor situations (bad breath, arm pit fumes, stains, etc.).  Boys may not want one but, it’s not a bad idea to pack one for them, too.

When searching the internet, it is so time consuming to sift through multiple pages to find useable information. This tip should cut search times to a minimum and produce relevant results.

Proofing one’s work can be difficult. You’ve been looking at the same text for so long it’s hard to spot the errors. …not anymore!

Writing the long, long paper
This is a great formula for attacking the writing of a long paper. The formula breaks down the writing process into manageable bites and helps with organizing the final piece. Bravo to the scholar who discovered this little nugget!

If it’s not a 90 degree or 45 degree angle, I have no idea what it looks like or how to measure it. This picture did wonders for my understanding of how to recognize various angles.

I’ve always heard there was a more efficient way to study as opposed to the way our parents made us study. Pulling a kid away from Speed Racer or MTV (hypothetically J) and threatening to serve okra for weeks is not the way to encourage study time. My ADD step-son really responded to a system like the one illustrated below. Give it a try!

When All Else Fails, Memorize
Sometimes, we just don’t organically learn the material and we must resort to memorizing. Or, the material just requires memorizing, like learning the Periodic Table. See if this method of memorizing information is helpful.

Why, oh, why, does it cost a monthly car note to feed your kid at school?!...especially when the food isn’t healthy or tasty? Try these hacks to save a few dollars and keep your kid healthy.

Not Lunchables…Mason-ables
To me, this is the best lunch idea since the Ziploc bag. Empty the fruit cup (this is the one of the best parts!). Wash the empty fruit cup container and make sure it’s totally dry before refilling it. Once it’s been refilled with dry food (crackers, granola, cereal, etc.) stand the cup upright so nothing spills out. Take the inside piece of a mason jar lid and place it on top of the cup. Put the lid rim on both pieces (the cup and lid insert). Once the mason jar has been filled with its contents (milk, yogurt, meat and cheese, soup, etc.) just place the lid on as usual. The dry food won’t spill out and lunch is ready to go! Wanna really up your masonable game? Use a second cup on the inside of the jar. You can fill this cup with anything (dip for veggies, nugget sauce, ketchup, etc.). Put the filled up on the inside of the jar and close as instructed as above…and enjoy! …and because of the packaging, you can prep a few of these masonables in advance to have ready whenever they’re needed.

No More Brown Apples, Mom!
Rather than soaking or sprinkling citric acid on your apples to keep them from browning, just cut the apple, “reattach” it and secure with a rubber band.

Hopefully, one or more of these tips will help you and your student be efficient and successful throughout the school year. If you have a helpful tip or hack, leave it in the comments below. As working parents, these little nuggets of helpful information are always appreciated!

Good luck this year and may the force be with you!

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.

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
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!!


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,, 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

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

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!


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)


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!


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!


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

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. ~
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. ~
The more you thank life, the more life gives you to be thankful for. ~
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. ~
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.
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. 

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.
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!

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.”
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
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