Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year! Bring it on, 2012!

It's New Year's Eve! Time to kiss goodbye 2011, with the economy still in a bundle, and look forward to 2012, in hopes of gradually coming out of the economic crunch and heading to an even more prosperous year.

So, raise your glass!

Exciting plans are in store here at Mommy Rantings for 2012! Behind the scene relations with a wide variety of organizations, companies and individuals has brought to light new concepts, theories and products to discuss and so much more information to relay to you! 

2011 has been a very blessed and eventful year, and I can proudly say that the site statistics on the Alexa analysis for Mommy Rantings are super-promising!

With that said, on Tuesday, you will see the first story that is featured in the new This is Our Story series. We'll be accepting submissions for this series throughout the 2012 year, so if you are interested in sending us your story, just click on the Contact QueenMom tab and send me a message!

Articles from the Citizens Commission on Human Rights in Florida, and other authorities and organizations, discussing child behavior, mental disabilities and a wealth of information for you will be featured on Thursdays in 2012.  We're hoping to spread awareness about a plethora of different subjects that will help both parents and children find information and resources to assist through their journey in life.

Other days of the week, you can look forward to a mixture of articles from the circle of guest bloggers and authors that have surrounded Mommy Rantings, and of course, from the QueenMom herself. Stay tuned for new and exciting upcoming features, stories and information throughout this new year!

Thank you so much for a very wonderful year in 2011! And, here's to a prosperous, economy-enhancing, and blessed 2012 for everyone!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Disruptive Child Behavior: Environmental and Medical Origins

There's no doubt that billions of dollars have been invested in promoting the concept that children who are hyperactive automatically have a mental illness.  The term “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder” has plagued schools, parents, and pediatricians for decades now and for many of them, there seems to be a solution. 

Following the diagnosis of this apparent condition, many a pharmaceutical company and prescribing practitioner have lined their pockets only to leave in the wake of this massive launch of child-drugging, tragedies and heart-ache, parents and children who are still seeking an answer.

Looking in the Wrong Direction

Instead of looking at every factor in a child's life that could contribute to their symptoms, many pediatricians are quick to prescribe medications to solve the problem. While parents believe the advice that their child needs these medications, medical science brings evidence to the table that proves that environmental and medical conditions can cause hyperactivity and inattentiveness in children.

Case #1

CBS News quoted a new study out in Pediatrics that shows a connection between high exposure to common pesticides and increased risk for children developing hyperactivity. A study performed on children who were diagnosed with ADHD analyzed their urine for dialkyl phosphates, which would suggest that organophosphate pesticides were in their bodies.

Here’s what they said:

“For a 10-fold increase in one class of those compounds, the odds of ADHD increased by more than half. And for the most common breakdown product, called dimethyl triophosphate, the odds of ADHD almost doubled in kids with above-average levels compared to those without detectable levels, according to Reuters.

Case #2

According to Dr. Doris Rapp, a leading authority on allergies “If you have allergies in your family, your child might not have hay fever or asthma but might simply have an unrecognized form of allergy from dust, molds, pollen, foods or chemicals. Any allergenic exposure could be affecting different areas of the brain or body, so your child feels, acts, behaves, walks, talks, writes and draws differently than normal. This can happen suddenly for no apparent reason.  The answer might be easy and fast to treat—and if it is a food, it also can be very inexpensive.  Many mothers have reported they have a new child in 5 to 7 days after a special allergy diet and an air purifier.”

Furthermore, in an interview with Phil Donahue (back in 1989), Dr. Rapp showed clearly that unwanted and extreme behaviors in children can be attributed to allergies. A quick change can be handled with change in diet. Still, the solution today seems to be prescription medications. Have a look at what she had to say:

Case #3

From another perspective, Science Daily reports that “Thyroid hormone may play a role in the hyperactive and impulsive symptoms of children with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).”

There are many Medical Doctors throughout the United States and around the world who are concerned about the psychiatric medications that are being administered to children.  The FDA labeling on these medications contain seriously scary side effect warnings, including sudden death, suicidal ideation, psychosis, hallucinations and more. 

Parents have the right to be fully informed about other possible causes of symptoms and the alternative treatments that are available for children.

This article is brought to you by our friends at the Citizens Commission on Human Rights in Florida, a non-profit that is not only dedicated to educating Americans about their rights in the mental health sector, they are also actively involved investigating and exposing psychiatric violations against human rights. 

Join us right here on Mommy Rantings on Thursdays in 2012 for our new series that is dedicated to providing parents with in-depth information, resources and personal stories on a variety of childhood disabilities, mental health and behavioral issues.  

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Children’s Holiday Party Ideas

With the “adults” chatting over wine in the living room, sometimes the kids can feel a little left out. Why not entertain them by making your holiday party kid-friendly this year? Here are some ideas to keep you kids happy and engaged this holiday season, whether they prefer parties decked out in Barbies or Mario Bros party supplies.

-  Get Crafty

Kids loved to get involved with crafts and help out, whether it’s in the kitchen or over a craft table. Ornaments or decorations can be easy to make, even for kids. Cut out Christmas trees and have the children color or decorate them over some butcher’s paper while you entertain other guests. If your kids are a little older, they can cut snowflakes out of paper, then string them together to make party decorations before your holiday bash. This will make your children feel like they’re contributing to the overall party.

Another great (but time consuming) craft for kids is building gingerbread houses. If you can get your hands on a gingerbread mold, children of all ages will have a blast decorating with gumdrops, icing, candy canes, and M&Ms.

-  Change the Menu

Brie en croute served with red wine may be a great choice for your guests, but what about the kids? Make sure to include appetizers and drinks that are kid-friendly and fun, too.  Put cranberry juice in plastic wine glasses so that the kids can drink a beverage like the adults or check out these other New Year's Eve Drinks For Kids. You can also decorate Christmas sweets for your little ones, like chocolate covered marshmallows (with red and green sprinkles), Christmas-themed cake pops, or these Tasty Rollo Turtle Treats.

-  Play Dress Up

Give all the kids reindeer hats and Rudolph noses at the start of the party. If your children like to dress up, they will love running around the house and playing in festive costumes.

This year the kids don’t have to just fall asleep on the couch or twiddle their thumbs in the kitchen. Get your children into the Christmas spirit by including them in the holiday planning.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Nomorerack Review

Well, Christmas is over and I'm not sure about you, but I have exhausted every resource available to keep the magic going this year. If you're one of the million shoppers who are sitting behind your computer trying to find the best deals for the Christmas money that you received in a card, you might want to check out

Now, I started by reading nomorerack reviews and the scam forums, just to be sure, before ordering. To be quite honest with you, I've even heard about it on television. As an Internet fanatic and shopping addict, you know I had to check it out.

When you first go to their site, there will be a prompt to enter your email address. Without checking out the site, however, I usually will click the hidden "X" in the top right hand corner of the welcome box. Then, you are brought to the site. Just by clicking to the homepage today, I can see that they have a $129 voucher for an Android 2.3 tablet, some cute dresses for 70% off of retail price and some Lancome lipstick for 55% off of retail. None are something that I would necessarily purchase, but you can imagine the deals that you will find.

Upon further investigation, they claim that they post "Insanity Deals" that are 95-99% off, an show images of products like a Sony Bravia 52" HDTV for 95% off, listed at $59.96, if that just happens to be what you are looking for. The Apple iPhone is also listed for only $51.12, boasted a 92% savings. Of course, these deals only pop up here and there, when they become available, so nomorerack is not only a place to shop at when you need something, it's also a place that we need to check in on every day to see what insane deals they might be posting.


I haven't had the time to search for any coupon codes for shipping, but each item only costs $2 to ship. I love that. You don't have to guess what the shipping will be at the end of your total. Each item shipped is only $2. Period.

Although I'm refraining from spending ANY time on websites purchasing anything else for the remainder of the year, I will be checking out nomorerack again when we can rebound from the Christmas attack.

Update: If you scroll down, you will find comments that obviously have a problem with my review of the beginning of the review, you will notice that I said, "you know I had to check it out", which could be taken word-for-word as my "checking it out", but, in reality, what I MEANT was that I literally checked out, from beginning to end. 

Because my experience was not any different than any other order-on-the-Internet site, I didn't think I needed to post my entire experience, with details including what I purchased, which credit card I used, or anything else that I left out, purposely. 

I did not experience ANY customer service whatsoever, because I didn't have any problems with them and - well, it's an Internet site that you order from! There are no customer service reps when you choose what you're interested in, click on the buttons to order the item(s) and then put in your shipping and payment info.

For someone who has no experience with, I provided information that will introduce people to the site. I didn't experience any problems with the site or the "customer service", but that is not to say that others haven't. 

I have personally read several other reviews about and, in my opinion, I've provided more information that explains how to navigate the site than a lot of reviews that I have found. I posted the information that I would want to read about if I were searching...I'm sorry if you feel "let down" because I haven't told you exactly what you're looking for. 

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Mommy Rantings Christmas Card for Everyone! We Hope You Enjoy!

Merry Christmas!

I don't know about your house, but I can tell you that the children are bouncing off of the walls here. I don't think the excitement - the elated feeling, children floating on cloud nine - could get any thicker around this house! 

We hope something in this Mommy Rantings Merry Christmas 2011 post will bring a smile to your face, no matter who you are, no matter where you are, and regardless of how you're feeling this holiday season! So, sit back, call your kids over and collect around the computer!

This year, we have some super-cool things to share with everyone. This post took us DAYS to throw together! It's packed full of a compilation of Christmas songs, commercials, music, videos, light shows, news story highlights, links to cool Christmas sites, and even photos that we have enjoyed (or found enlightening or made ourselves)...and some of the news stories will make you feel blessed around Christmas time. Sorry if the load time of this page is slow, but I think it's worth it!

Beyond baking cookies and cakes and opening presents that Santa leaves under the tree, we have been enjoying something old and something new.

Slow down, Santa! 

This commercial has symbolized how Christmas feels (for most of us) in the form of trucks...

(My children love those big trucks decked out with lights! Share it with your little people! And, ummm.....we're a Pepsi family here. Sorry, Coca Cola!)

It will come, fast and furious like those fabulously lighted trucks and then it will fly right by, like the wind, whether we like it or not.

Whether we're happy in our hearts or depressed in our souls, have not a penny to our name or flexing bankrolls in our pockets, Christmas is here. Hey, I've felt the economy crunch myself, trust me, but I can find so many, many things to be thankful for, so many things that I'm blessed with.

So, to get us started on our Christmas blog post journey of 2011 and lift up the already light hearted, I-Love-Christmas people. Or to shed some light on the hearts that are a bit heavy this year, here are the 7 Best Christmas Light Shows Ever (you're gonna like this):

Don't you just love the Amazing Grace one?

My Speech the Other Night About Christmas

This year, let's strip it right down to basics. If you're celebrating Christmas, you're celebrating the birth of baby Jesus.

As I reminded my children the other night in one of my frazzled moments, "Christmas is the day that Jesus was born. We celebrate his birth because he was THE kindest, most caring, loving person that ever walked this Earth - and probably will always be. That's what Christmas is about. Right? It's about giving to people from the heart, wholeheartedly, without asking any questions. It's about loving others."

I gave this speech as a reaction to the arguing and bickering that was echoing around the house. It's about loving from your heart, "even if it's only love that you can give". (Santa's elf wrote exactly that in the letter that the children received just today, directly from the North Pole).

But, because things have become so commercial over time, let's take things back in time a bit (when I was a kid):

I've always loved it when they played an oldie-but-goodie commercial that reminded me about Christmases as a child.I have yet to lose the Christmas spirit. Somehow, some way, no matter how depressing Christmas can sometimes be, something always happens to remind me that Christmas is about that spirit.

And, in the spirit of giving and Christmas, I have an


Oh, yeah, don't forget the GIVEAWAY. At this point, just email me for the codes and I will pass the 5 codes that I have out to the first five emailers. send an email to

I'll get you the code to you ASAP.

It feels good to give. I wish I could give more to everyone...

And, while I'm talking about cool stuff on the Internet that is free for for you to give to your children for Christmas, I want to mention:

The NORAD Tracker

My kids are already asking about it today: "When can we track Santa?" I think Nicholas has asked me this well over 30 times in the past 24 hours. I finally showed him where to go and the countdown is, all day today, we're going to be checking the updates.

The NORAD Santa Tracker website is beyond just a tracker that tells you where Santa is at which times. It also has a little village with games for the kids (and grown-up kids - you know who I'm talking about!)

What's the coolest part of the site, as far as I'm concerned, is how you can track Santa on Google Earth - yes, for the scientific people who really want to get technical.

Have You Smiled Yet?

Okay, look, if nothing I've said or shown you has made you smile or feel good about Christmas in some little way, maybe this will help you out (now, I'm going to warn you that there are some naughty bad words on this one -  just a few, so it may not be for your kids):

And, if that didn't bring a smile to your face, you need to check out some of these sites:

  • Elf Yourself lets put your face - or anyone else's face(s), for that matter - on elves and then watch your elf self dance to music. We've hurt our tummies laughing at some of these videos!
You'll also have to check out the videos that we made at MyFunCards:

Here's my three little guys.
And, here is a little family joke...I always tell my daughter that we tried to give her a sister. LOL

  • Highlights lets you design your own gingerbread house. Perfect for pre-schoolers, but I honestly think everyone can have fun with this one.
  • You can even check your very own naughty-or-nice rating, if you dare. :) The kids will love this! Here's what Santa had to say about the members of our family:

Bethany Cousins (QueenMom)
Overall, niceness outweighs naughtiness. Was good a lot last month! Politeness often good, but has room for improvement. Could help around house more instead of watching so much TV. Expected to move even higher up "nice" list.

Hey! Does that mean that I'm going to get something special this year??? Or am I going to have to wait until next year again?

And more from the naughty-or-nice meter...

Randy Cousins (Dad)
Nice, but has naughty lapses. High marks in the good deeds department. Better than average manners. Hopefully, thoughtfulness will continue to be as good as last month. Neatness needs improvement!
(Looks like Santa's got your number!)

Lucas Cousins
"Nice" with just a few naughty marks for excess TV. Also had a tough month back in February, but has shown real "nice" effort ever since. Beware of not cleaning up kitchen messes and forgetting to say "thank you." Very nice job of kissing everyone "good night."
(Lucas, you lucky duck! Santa's elf missed a few things.)
Veronica Cousins
Nice, with a few exceptions. Needs to be nice to everyone not just friends. Could try a little harder when things are tough. Good sense of humor. Made list last year. Needs to be good all December.

(Aha! Santa's elf has been watching you, huh?)

Nicholas Cousins
Nice, but has been naughty at times. Neatness and politeness have been very good over the last two weeks. Shows proper respect for others. Shares well, but could always be better. With a little more effort could be near top of "nice" list.
(Awww....Santa's little elf caught you, Nicholas! But, overall, not too bad)

Wesley Cousins
Just when we were about to give a "Naughty" rating, this one came through last week with a good deed. Great work! Back to the "Nice" list. But watch out for interrupting when others are talking, and burping without an "excuse me"�even when you think no one heard the burp! Remember, I hear it all!
(Whoops! Thank goodness for that ONE good deed!)

Dylan Cousins
Nice, but has naughty lapses. High marks in the good deeds department. Better than average manners. Hopefully, thoughtfulness will continue to be as good as last month. Neatness needs improvement!
(Nice, but has naughty lapses...couldn't get much closer!)

Dakoda Cousins
Teetered back and forth but has made the finals on the "Nice" list. Naughty marks for skipping baths, hiding junk food in bedroom and staying up too late. Is sweet to parents and little kids, though. Really came through with plenty of "please" and "thank you's." Was especially well behaved the last week of last month. Has a good chance of clinching a "Nice."
(Yup, he teetered all right! That terrible two're busted, too, KodiBear!)

I'd be curious to hear where you landed on the naughty-or-nice meter!

And, Here Are Just A Few More Links:

  • Then, there is Planet Christmas. Enough said.
  • has some great displays that clearly show the people who forgot to take a quick drive out of the neighborhood and then pull back in just to make sure that the lights looked right. It probably looked nice and cheerful up close...
  • has all the answers about Christmas...or at least a whole lot of answers. Cultures, customs, colors...I really liked it.
  • Christmas Stories....a little something for everyone here, too.

Is That What Christmas is all About?

Wonder what it's like in the White House for Christmas? Here's a sneak peek:

Although it's huge and somewhat gawdy, sadly, I can almost say it's a fact that the girls did not decorate that one. Maybe they did, but I doubt it. I hope that they have their own personal Christmas tree to enjoy decorating. Isn't that what it's all about? Decorating the tree...wrapping presents...baking cookies....singing carols?

Top 2011 Christmas News Stories

  1. Christmas Brings Unusual Anti-Burglar Measures in Homes (Bored some?)
  2. Fighting to Hold On To a Gift From Santa This is pretty sad.
  3. Mistletoe Gets the Kiss-Off A shortage of mistletoe? Now what do we do?
  4. A Stranger at the Door Highly recommend this.
  5. Six Christmas Traditions From Around the World A good read. 
  6. A Christmas Story - Where Are the Cast Members Now?
  7. Christmas 2011: Five Festive Holiday Towns
  8. Christmas Wish Sparks Facebook Frenzy - Video - WCVB Boston  

Spreading The Holiday Cheer

...this is how some people did it...Secret Layway Santas...God Bless You!

One of my cousins also mentioned on Facebook that someone in the drive-up line in front of her paid for her order. It warms my heart that people are so generous. 

Kiddie Christmas Carols!

And, what's Christmas without some Christmas carols? (I just found this video...she's not my little cutie, but I had to share it with you!)

Our Christmas Tree

We did the Bowdabra thing again this year...our tree is nothing at all like the tree in the White House, but there's a lot of love (and crafting) that went into decorating our tree. :) No, there is not one present under the tree right now, or else the little people here would be tearing them apart. Additionally, Santa's still making his last minute naughty-or-nice you can see, I had a little resistance on these pics. :) (Oh, and the baby was sleeping so soundly during picture time, so we let him get his rest!)

A little resistance...

Getting there...

Still having trouble with getting everyone to smile at the same time...

Okay, forget the smiles! Merry Christmas!

So, here we are, at the end of the Christmas 2011 journey, the tree is ready to have blessings propped underneath it and I just want to say thanks.

To everybody out there who has supported Mommy Rantings in 2011, thank you! Anyone new to Mommy Rantings who came to read this post, thank you, too! Tons of cool things are coming in the year 2012, I promise.

Here's to getting through Christmas with our sanity and heading toward a new year with new hopes, plans and dreams!


Friday, December 23, 2011

The New Year Can be Your Chance: Turn Time at Home into a Career Opportunity

Being a stay-at-home mom is job in itself. However, as your kids get older and you have some free time available, you may want to use this time to take a step towards advancing your career when you return to the workforce.

No Better Time than New Year’s

Whether it’s a resolution or just something to think about, start by asking yourself what you want out of your career. Does the level of education you currently have allow you to pursue the career you want? Where do you see yourself 10 or 20 years from now? If the answer is "no" and you see yourself in a position you currently do not have the qualifications for, it may be time to consider acquiring a master's degree so you can pursue a rewarding and challenging career.

Masters for Moms

If you like the general industry you were in prior to taking time off, acquiring a master's degree just means you will have more opportunity for advancement. With children at home, you want a stable career that allows you to advance and earn a salary that provides for you and those who count on you. A master of business or MBA is the most common master's degree. An MBA can be applied in a variety of business situations and open the door to many advancement opportunities. Before you start sifting through the list of reasons why you cannot obtain a masters, let's focus on how easy it is to achieve this goal.

Online or Offline

Many schools now offer courses online with flexible schedules that allow you to continue pursing a degree while remaining at home or returning to the workforce in a temporary, part-time job. Nearly 2,000 graduate business schools require GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) scores as part of the admission process. This test measures basic math, verbal and analytical writing skills. The test costs $250, but is valid for five years. Testing centers are located throughout the country.

Consider a Dual Degree

Programs to obtain a master's degree range from 1-4 years, depending on your current education level. Some take previous business experience into consideration. If an MBA does not exactly meet your career goals, consider a dual degree. A MBA can be paired with a law, medical or other graduate degree. Keep in mind that an MBA opens a lot of doors spanning many different careers. Adding a dual major allows you to branch out into specialties. For example, an MBA with a dual medical major makes you eligible for several positions in the health care industry. An MBA with a dual legal major can set you on the path to a career in the administrative side of law.

Scholarships & Grants

The biggest obstacle to pursuing a masters degree is determining how you are going to pay for it. Fortunately, there are several options in terms of funding to help make obtaining an advanced education a realistic goal. Many scholarships and grants are available to those who qualify. As an added bonus, this money often does not need to be repaid. You would be surprised at how many grant options are available. A main requirement of many of these grants is to show good academic progress.

Another option is to enter your chosen career in an entry-level or part-time position and receive funding to continue your education and advance into your desired position once you obtain your masters. Many employers are willing to invest in an employee who wants to grow and advance with a company. Education holds the key to your future, the options available today makes opening those doors a lot easier.

Author Sylvia Masters is a mother and a careers counselor and suggests if you have a love for all things computer, you may want to check out to explore all the avenues available, such as best masters in IT project management.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Create a Christmas Book of Memories

There’s something so magical about Christmas. It brings us together to share precious times as a family. So why is it that we become so busy during the holiday season trying to create the perfect holiday that we often forget to hold on to those memories? Creating a family Christmas Memory Book is the perfect way to step back and remember those special times over and over.

Photo Album Meets Scrap Book.

Think of your Christmas Memory Book as part photo album, part scrap book. What can you put in a Christmas Memory Book? Just about anything you want. Photos and videos are, of course, a good place to start. Include photos of your family decorating the house, trimming the tree, hanging stockings, wrapping presents, baking holiday goodies, even attending various Christmas programs. And don’t forget to have the camera or camcorder ready for carolers!

Take Good Notes!

Journaling is another natural feature of a memory book. If you send out an annual family Christmas newsletter, be sure to include a copy in your album. But you can also keep a journal of the highlights of your holiday season. What did your family members do that was unique or important this year? What gifts did you make? What outside Christmas activities did you participate in? What special gifts did you enjoy this year? You could ask each family member to write a page about their favorite parts of Christmas this year, and then include these articles in the album. You might be surprised at what they remember best.

From Ribbon to Mistletoe.

Beyond photos and journaling, you can make your family memory book uniquely yours by including wrapping paper swatches, pieces of ribbon, Christmas cards, tickets and programs from Christmas events, pictures drawn by your children, even dried Mistletoe pressed between the pages. Did you bake Christmas cookies this year? Include a copy of your recipe. How about the Christmas stories you shared together? Add a list.

Wants & Wishes.

Another fun tradition is to keep a family wish list. It might include presents that people want, but it could include some interesting non-tangible items as well. At the end of the season, put the list in your memory album. Looking back over the list in future years will give you a snapshot of things that were important to your family at that time. You could also invite family members to make a list of what they are thankful for.

Straight from the Heart.

A Christmas memory book doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Some stores sell bound Christmas albums ready to go, but a simple three-ring binder with acid-free paper and protective sleeves can hold nearly anything you might want to include. Better yet, it’s versatile, so you can put in whatever fits you and your family. You could keep several years in one binder and use tabbed dividers to separate each year. Or, you could prepare a binder for each year. You can also create digital albums on the computer. Imagine the look on your grown children’s faces in a few years when you give them their own copies of the family Christmas memory album on DVD!

If you enjoy working with photos and crafts, you may have the beginnings of a home business. Many people are neither good on the computer or with scrap books, but they’d enjoy owning a memory book or giving one as a gift.

Having the right logo can make all the difference in the world. Avery Petersen, a small business consultant, helps his clients find the best logo designs at affordable prices. has proven to be the best option time after time. Click here to find out how you can get your own designs that fit in your budget.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Personalized Santa Phone Calls

If pictures of Santa in your living room are not enough for you, you can also have Santa call your children with a personalized message! Simply click here!

Ho! Ho! Ho!

We did it with our kids and it was a blast! - A Great Idea to Surprise the Kids With! (Review and GIVEAWAY!) 5 Winners!

I was recently introduced to a site called and thought it would be the perfect idea for parents who want to surprise their children. Maybe the Christmas bell has stopped ringing for your child, or there might be a chance that this is the last year the real magic will still be alive (I'm facing that with my two oldest right now....just hoping that I can make it last another year).

If your kids are questioning the reality factor of Santa, you can bring him to life in your very own house...with the help of Imagine the look of surprise on your children's faces when they wake up to a picture of Santa in their very own house! You better believe that I will be leaving a little extra something for the kids on the table this year.

Here's how it works:

1) Take a picture of your livingroom, your tree or your fireplace.

2) Upload your photo to your computer.

3) Visit and look through the choices to add Santa to your picture. (Their system is unbelievably easy to maneuver through!) Add the Santa of your choice...and you have "proof" that Santa actually was the one that put those gifts under the tree!

Also, if you just happen to not be chosen randomly for the FREE code, you can use SANTA50 promo code to get 50% off of your order. However, the chances of winning are going to be really good, so enter away! (If more than 30 comments are listed, I will receive another 5 FREE codes, so the more entries, the better the chances are that you will win!)  Good luck!

Merry Christmas!

Hickory Farms at Christmastime!

It's not too late to grab a favorite for the holidays - Hickory Farms! Whether you are looking for a last minute gift to get for a friend or something special to add to the Christmas spread in your own home, why not bring back an old favorite?

This year, we were blessed with the opportunity to review the Hearty Hickory Gift Box, which includes yummy summer sausage, two types of cheese and some mustard dip that adds that kick to the crackers, meat and cheese.

Now, the kids love to see Hickory Farms packages come to the door near the holidays because they mean yummy treats are inside, while I love to see them arrive at our home because they bring back memories from many many years ago for me. Hickory Farms has always been a part of the holidays when I was younger. There's simply nothing like a box full of gourmet crackers, cheeses, sausages and spicy mustards to bring that festive feeling of times of past to the table.

If you're running around like crazy, trying to find that perfect gift for a friend or family member, try a gift box from Hickory Farms. You never know, you may stir up some sweet, nostalgic memories for the person who you bestow it upon.

Happy Holidays!

Holiday Recipe: Tasty Rolo Turtle Treats

Photo courtesy of Glorious Treats

The big day is approaching, and chances are, you’re a little stressed. While you’re checking off that Christmas gift list, your brain is also swimming with other to-dos: cleaning, decorating, and baking (just to name a few) before the relatives get into town. Well, consider this my no-fuss, completely delicious gift to you: a treat recipe so easy, it only has three ingredients! Who knew a hearty pecan, caramel-chocolate Rolo, and salty pretzel could taste so wonderful together? Happy devouring!

1 package of regular waffle square pretzels                
1 package (13 oz.) Rolo candies
1 package pecan halves


·         Cover cookie sheet with aluminum foil and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

·         Lay pretzels out on top of aluminum foil so that all pretzels lay flat and do not overlap.

·         Unwrap the Rolo candies from their packaging and place one piece of candy on top of each pretzel.

·         Pop the baking sheet into the oven until candies are softened (You don’t want the candies to melt completely. They should be softened within 3-4 minutes).

·         Remove baking sheet immediately from oven and quickly place a pecan half on top of each candy, squishing the pecan into the softened Rolo.

·         Let the candies cool completely, then place them in refrigerator for about 15 minutes to “set” the turtles.

Enjoy! And don’t say I didn’t warn you: these little guys are seriously addicting!

Author Bio: Molly Borter loves baking and trying new recipes on the ever-so-wonderful Pinterest. When she’s not devouring holiday treats with her family, she works as a content writer specializing in fashion and health articles on bifocal sunglasses and crew socks. Happy Holidays, everyone!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Everyone Loves a Deal! Discount Eyeglasses

As a mom of seven, I'm always trying to find good deals on the things that we need. With two children who wear eyeglasses and one who apparently has a knack for breaking hers, finding cheap eyeglasses is vital. About 6 months ago, I discovered that ordering online eyeglasses is the trick to getting the best bang for my buck.

Prescription glasses, let me tell you, are unbelievably ridiculous priced in the little outlets I've been to, and especially high priced at the optometrist's office. I think I had a quote of over $200 per pair the last time we thought about ordering from there. That's when I decided that it was time to start investigating the opportunities that were on the Internet.

Cheap prescription sunglasses can even be found on the Internet - did you know that? I saw a ton of really cute ones! But, the best part of all of this is the inexpensive glasses. You're not going to pay top dollar - and you'll still get top dollar lenses and frames.

Discount glasses made it a whole lot easier for me to replace my daughter's broken ones. If you're looking to save money on your prescription glasses, you really should check out They have sections that are set up by price, from $6.95 on up to $48.95. They also have a ton of adorable, fashionable or handsome glasses, depending on your taste.

If you have trouble, they have an area to help find the right size...and 100% satisfaction is guaranteed, so if anything about the glasses doesn't work for you (or your children), you can send them back...and, if you don't like dealing with customer service reps on the phone, they even have a self-service way of returning your glasses on the Internet.  

Right now, they're running a 40% off holiday sale and...

Keep an eye out for a 15% discount on the already great prices at!

Friday, December 16, 2011

That Holiday Feeling in Your Heart

I love the magic of the holidays - you know, that feeling that you get deep down in your heart when:

  • You hear that Christmas song that brings back memories of holidays past or stirs up chiming choruses of "Jingle Bells" and "Silent Night" around the house. 
  • Or you see the joy and wonder in your children's eyes when they see the lights on the Christmas tree and around the neighborhood for the first time - or the tenth time in their life (this year, I have seen the sparkle in my 12, 11, 9, 7, 4, and 2-year old's - and even my 3 month old's - eyes). 
  • You feel that irreplaceable excitement that takes over the house when the aroma from the fresh-baked cookies that just came out of the oven in the kitchen wafts its way through, calling out to anyone who is within nose shot. 
  • You remember to call people who you haven't talked to in weeks, months or years...gee, time sure flies by. Or, send that special message on Facebook or that email with season's greetings.
  • People remember to smile at each other on the street and in the stores and wish a "Happy Holidays", just for the good feeling it brings.
  • The jingling of bells and jolly "HoHoHo's" are normal sounds to hear, no matter where you are.
  • Commercials and movies on television get a lot sappier and make you wonder if you should keep a box of tissues near the couch. 
  • You suddenly experience an appreciation for the early sunsets because it means that all of the Christmas lights can be turned on. 
  • People seem just a tad bit cheerier or find that little hop in their step, for no apparent reason. 

It May Not Be So For Everyone...

It's also the time of year when people may feel a little more depressed, down and sometimes even achy. They don't have the money that they wish they could spend on all of the fantastic people in their lives, including their children. And, even if they DO have the money, Christmas spending puts a true hurting on the pocket. Lots of people are missing lost loved ones and wish they could come home for the holidays...and it hits them hard that holidays will never be the same again. We can all probably think of a plethora of reasons to allow the holidays to affect us negatively.

You Can Make a Difference

But, somehow, some way, regardless of the woes, the magic of the holidays still has its way of sneaking up on us. Hopefully, each and every one of you will find a way to enjoy at least some of the magic that Christmas brings along with it. Take a moment each day to think about how you can positively affect someone else. Drop off some fresh, home baked cookies to someone who may have lost a loved one. Drop off your last year's gloves to a donation center who caters to the homeless. Make a meal for a family who is financially struggling this year. You'd be surprised at how wonderful it can make you feel.

People are homeless. There are thousands of people who are not homeless open up kitchen cabinets to find next to nothing, on a daily basis. People have lost loved ones to illness or shootings or other tragedies. People are fighting illness and death. Let's spread the cheer this year. Let's share that holiday feeling in our hearts.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Happy Birthday to My Oldest Child!

Twelve years ago my oldest child, Lucas, was born. I remember that day very well. It's crazy to look at Chase, our little 3 month old, and then look at Lucas, who is almost as tall as I am, and know that Lucas was once that little. It's crazy that he's 12 today! It's even crazier to think that next year, he will be a teenager!

Anyways, I'm going to keep this one short and sweet and say:

Happy Birthday, Lucas!

I'm so proud to be your mom!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

How to Start the New Year Perfectly with your Family

The New Year is fast approaching and people everywhere are coming up with ideas as to how to get it started off on the right footing. Organizing a robust plan for the year ahead can seem quite daunting but it needn’t be so long as you have a clear idea of the goals you want to accomplish with your family. In fact coming up with New Year resolutions is a great way to talk with your family and have fun sharing each other’s ideas and formulating an overall goal for the year ahead. As such please feel free to consider the following tips that I have compiled to help focus minds in my family and ensure a successful start in 2012.

How to start the New Year successfully

To start successfully you need to remind everybody in your family to let go of all past problems and pains. You can't continue with life if you're always dwelling on past mistakes and failures, so remind everybody from your spouse to your children that you all need to let them go and concentrate on the potential of new opportunities. Get everybody’s minds set and focused and you’ll be starting things off on the right foot.

Focus on an agreed goal

A great way to ensure everyone is pulling together is to plan ahead for a future fun trip. Try to come up with a nice place that you know your children have been dying to visit. For some children, it could be a trip to Disneyland while some may want to see another country. Whatever the choice get everyone involved with researching the alternatives and ensure everybody starts saving a bit of money for the trip.
If a trip is beyond your means try to at least reserve some time in the New Year to do something structured together even if it's just agreeing to a fixed weekly Saturday night of bowling or Sunday night ice skating. Having a shared focus and dedicated family activity is a great way keep your family together as you plan for 2012.

Remember to incorporate several resolutions

By simply encouraging everybody in your family to create a few resolutions, it could make your entire family home life more harmonious. Imagine what it would be like if each of your teens or young kids decided to make it a resolution not to fight with their siblings; wouldn't that just be amazing? Whereas you and your partner might want to agree to increase the number of date nights per month to spend together whilst also committing to spend more time at the weekends focused on your kids hobbies. By doing this everybody in the family has something at stake and will work hard to keep up their end of the bargain.

Creating resolutions are also nice because they are a great barometer and can help you to actually continue on with something you’ve planned. Some people even commit to finally finding a way to make money from the comfort of their own home. If you're in need of cash, why not make this your resolution; it's the perfect time to start making that extra bit of income.

When the New Year strikes, it's always a wonderful feeling to know that your past is gone and you're able to start off afresh. So why not consider some of the above tips and see if there is something in there for you and your circumstances? After all you want to have something to look forward to so why not start planning today?

Grace Pamer is the author of, one woman’s quest to keep romance alive in a long term relationship after the birth of three beautiful kids no matter what the odds. Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter for Romance Tips and advice any time you need.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Crafting with the Kiddies

Crafts are great fun year round, but especially around the holidays. Gather up the construction paper, markers, and everyday supplies you have hanging around the house, like cotton balls, to make some or all of the following crafts. Spend time with your kids and make some holiday decorations that you can cherish for years to come.

1. Construction paper chain

This versatile craft suits all types of holidays. Make a Christmas chain using red and green construction paper or a Hanukkah chain using blue and white paper. You can also use white paper that you decorate with handmade stamps, which can also be purchased at your local craft or stationery store. You can also repurpose brown paper lunch sacks or grocery bags. Once you decide what paper you'll be using, cut into 2" x 8" sections. Decorate with glitter, paint, stickers, ribbon, or anything else that strikes your fancy. Loop the paper strips together and staple or glue to close. This is a good craft to do at the workbench since it can get a little messy.

2. Make a snowperson

This craft helps you find a home for a white sock that no longer has a match. Fill clean socks with a material like dried beans (any kind). You'll be filling three 'compartments,' which should be sectioned off with rubber bands. (You can use any kind of fastener, including ribbon, as long as it's securely tied.) Make a hat from the toe portion of a baby sock, which you can then glue on. Use buttons or beads for eyes and pipe cleaners for arms. A piece of orange paper or felt makes a great snowperson nose.

You can also use Styrofoam balls that can be purchased at any craft store. Choose three different sizes for your snowperson. Use a glue gun or toothpicks to attach the three spheres together. You'll want to level off the bottom of the largest ball so that your snowperson can easily stand up. (You can also glue the largest Styrofoam ball to a wooden base.) Decorate with arms made of twigs, toothpicks, or, again, pipe cleaners. Use leftover fabric or felt scraps to make a hat, a carrot nose, and a scarf.

3. Decorate stockings

This is a personal favorite in our household because it gives kids free reign to decorate however they'd like. Consider making a Santa face with felt and buttons and a beard made from cotton balls. Use fabric paint to draw names or create freehand designs. Make snowpeople, ornaments, candy canes, and more with colored felt and markers. There are a lot of options for this craft, including choosing your own material if you decide to make your own stockings.

Now that you've got some winter crafting ideas, get your creative groove on and welcome the holidays with a bang this year. Start with these ideas and work your way up to making holiday gifts for family and friends. You might even consider opening your very own Etsy store. Have fun!

Holly is a wife and stay-at-home mother who blogs on behalf of Sears and other brands she uses and trusts. She enjoys spending time with her kids, whose next craft idea is decorating the workbench where they make projects.

Monday, December 12, 2011

6 Easy Steps to Winterize Your Deck and Outdoor Area

It is getting colder, with winds blowing, temperatures dropping, and winter approaching. If you haven’t already winterized your outdoor living area, including your decks, it might not be too late.

Certain items can be stored in a shed, or brought into the garage. However, decks and other larger items are going to be subjected to the winter elements. So, they should be protected.

Let’s take a look at what can be done to protect it all.

1. Wooden Structures and Furniture

Perhaps you have a nice wooden deck or a pergola for your outdoor living area. These structures are immobile, and are subjected to all the beatings the weather provides. So, do what you can to protect it all from the weather, especially the winter that is quickly approaching.

Picnic tables and wooden play-sets are also items you should winterize, to assure longevity. In our yard, we also have some nice Oxford Garden furniture, and include this in our winterizing maintenance.

Also, beautiful wooden structures enhance your home and curb appeal, increasing your resale value. So, you want to make sure they are kept in optimum condition, especially if you ever decide to sell your home.

These structures are often built with durable wood, but they still need routine maintenance. Read on to see what you can do to make sure your structures are ready to enjoy again in the spring.

2. Leaves, Dirt, and Debris

If you are surrounded by trees, then you probably have a substantial amount of leaves falling on your deck, especially in the fall. Make sure to remove them often as they pile up throughout the fall months. If you haven’t done this, it’s not too late. Just don’t let them sit on the deck through the winter months.

Also, take a large industrial brush to the deck to remove dirt and debris that is left behind once the leaves are removed.

This step will encourage air flow among the boards of the deck, diminishing the chance for mildew and mold to grow. Mold and mildew not only look bad, but it is harmful the life of your deck. It can also be very slippery when wet, as well as wet leaves. I have slipped a couple times, and would not want a guest to fall and get hurt.

3. Remove the Portables

If you have potted plants, flower boxes, or anything else ornamental that rests on the deck, remove them for the winter. We have an outdoor fan that is fairly heavy, but we also remove that during the winter.

The moisture that can gather under these items will likely leave marks on your deck, as well as encourage mold and mildew. It’s best to store these items elsewhere, if possible.

You may have some heavy urns for plants that are either too heavy to move, or to cumbersome to store. If you do, then consider elevating them off the wooden structure. Find something sturdy to rest the urn on, that also will allow air flow.

4. Kill the Mildew and Mold

Chances are, no matter how careful you are with your structures, there might be a little mildew and mold growing in some areas. Even if you don’t see evidence of it, you might consider this next step just as a precaution.

After ridding the structures of dirt and debris, spray the wood with the following mixture:
3 parts water
1 part oxygen bleach
Apply this mixture lightly with a garden sprayer. Even though the bleach mixture is diluted, it can still harm foliage, pets, and children. So, make sure to not spray excessively, and keep the pets and children away from it for a day or two.

After you don’t see any more mildew or mold, rinse the areas with water.

5. Pressure Washing

If you feel the need to pressure wash your structures, do so with caution. Some woods, such as Western Red Cedar, cannot handle the pressure and will suffer as a result.

Be sure to check on what your structures can handle before you pressure wash. If you decide to take this step, it’s recommended that you set the power washer below 800lbs per square inch.

We have taken the small steps throughout the year, and have never had to power wash our deck. However, if we did, I think I would have it professionally done.

6. Storage Benches and Furniture

Wooden furniture and outdoor storage benches also need a little extra care. Keeping them cleaned off from fallen leaves and debris, just as you would the decks and pergolas, will help to keep the wood healthy for years.

If necessary, use the diluted spray bleach mixture on these items, just as you do with the larger structures.

In Closing

Taking these steps in winterizing your outdoor wooden structures and furniture, allows for years of enjoyment in the warmer months. It also means that your outdoor living area will be ready for you to enjoy when the weather warms up again.


Melissa Cameron is a freelance writer, who through her articles, provides valuable tips and advice for her readers, often on how to save money, or ways make our lives easier. Melissa is in her early 30’s, married with 2 young children, living in Austin Texas. She loves to search the internet for new ideas and deals, and just recently discovered Twitter. 

Getting Your Kids Outdoors this Winter

Helping the kids stay active can be tricky in the summer, but keeping it up over the winter months is a real challenge. Your little ones will probably be less enthusiastic about the great outdoors when it's cold outside and it can be very tempting to batten down the hatches and stay in the house til the sun comes back in the spring. However, it is possible to enjoy being outside all year round. Here are a few activity ideas that might help you get started:

-Keep a photo diary. Get the kids to take a photo of the back yard every morning, or a photo of the local park every week. Some days will be snowing, others sunny or rainy, and gradually, they will start to include signs of spring. If the kids are having fun with their winter project, let them keep it up all year. The result will be an intriguing sequence of pictures showing the progression of the seasons around your home.

-Skiing. Going on vacation this winter? A ski holiday can be more than just a yearly treat. You can extend the fun by heading down to your local dry ski slope (there is one in most major cities these days) before leaving. That way you'll sharpen your skills before hitting the slope and the whole family will be able to get the most from your time on vacation. Dry slope skiing is also a great way to tone muscles and get in shape. With a ski break to look forward to, the kids will have plenty of enthusiasm for improving their fitness.

-Snow sculpture. There is a lot to be said for the traditional snowman, but after a while most kids get bored. Encourage them to be creative and see what they can come up with- snow turtles, snow dogs, even snow giraffes and snow rhinoceroses. Try and build the biggest snowball you possibly can, or write a Christmas message of goodwill in the snow for passers-by to read.

-Wildlife spotting. Birds and animals might not be as easy to spot at this time of year but that can be part of the fun. Looking for fresh tracks in your nearest state park can be one of the best winter activities. With the help of the internet, it's usually pretty easy to figure out which animal made which track. Small birds like robins also like a helping hand in the winter, so your Christmas cookie scraps needn't go to waste. Winter is the ideal time to put up a bird feeding tray in your garden or install a nest box that birds can use in spring.

Every parent knows that their kids need to wrap up warm when going outdoors in chilly weather. If you're going to be out of the home on a winter hike or another activity that might last a while it's also a good idea to take along an extra pair of gloves just in case one gets lost or soaked through. If you buy the stretchy, one-size-fits-all-kids kind, one pair can be the spares for two or three children.

The other outdoor winter essential is the humble vacuum flask. A sip of hot chocolate can go a long way towards warming a child (or a grown-up!) from the inside out and providing a much needed energy boost. We all burn a lot more energy when it's cold, so if you do go hiking in winter, make sure to take along more food than you would in summer.

 There is one more thing all parents should remember that this time of year- the winter is a great time for everyone to enjoy the outdoors. Don't let the kids have all the fun!

Jess Spate is a writer and an outdoor sports enthusiast. She works for Appalachian Outdoors, a leading provider of snowsports gear and skiwear, and loves all kinds of winter activities, from ice climbing in the mountains to sledding in the park.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Wishing for a Jacuzzi Tub Right About Now

The last house we rented had one of those Kohler jacuzzi tubs that easily fit two adults or a whole bunch of boys. LOL There were some serious pool parties in the bathroom! In our new place, the bathroom, I hate to say it, is old and does not have a jacuzzi tub. It's a real bummer if you are used to one.

Why Jacuzzi Tubs Are Cool

Forget about cool. They're super cool, but they are also good for warming up the cold bones during the winter. And, those days when your lower back is aching or your feet hurt, hop in the tub. Switch on those jets and you'll be feeling at least 50% better - and that's a huge relief. I had mine lined with my favorite bath and body stuff that I think everyone enjoyed. A bad day can end up with a nice, relaxing, spa-like half hour (if I was lucky), away from the kids and the rest of the world, submerged in a good book.

What do I do now? Surely, the holidays around my house are not the optimum time for bathroom remodeling. We're already sinking everything we've got into bills and Christmas presents. To be quite honest, I miss the old jacuzzi tub and think about it almost daily now. Maybe that will have to go on my Christmas list for next year!

4 Tips to Creating and Sticking to New Year Resolutions as a Family

Each year, people around the world create resolutions, then promptly forget about them. This year, create a new trend by making sure that your family sticks to their resolutions.

Four Tips to Creating and Sticking to New Year Resolutions

Create Goals that Can Be Achieved Together

Two of the most popular New Year Resolutions are saving money and losing weight. These are objectives that can be achieved as a family. If your family wants to save money, think together about some areas that can be trimmed. Finding a new car insurance carrier is one way to lower monthly bills.

Car insurance for families can get very costly, but by shopping around and getting quotes from other providers, you may find a significant savings. If you are happy with your current insurance provider, contact them and request a new quote for the new year.

Other areas where savings are possible include monthly meal planning, including choosing to eat at home more often. Make and stick to a budget for miscellaneous expenses as well. Get younger kids involved in the resolution and encourage them to save half of their allowance each week.

Plan a Strategy

If your family is serious about their New Year Resolutions, sit down together and plot out a plan on how to best achieve the chosen goals. Whether you have decided to pursue a singular resolution as a family, such as completing a 5k or regularly volunteering, or if you each have your made your own personal vow, you can still work together to find the right path to reaching victory.

The best strategy is to break a goal down into smaller, more achievable parts. A family that chooses to run a road race together may need to start training from the ground up. In this case, pick a goal for each month.

In January, purchase a book running, do online training research, and pick the race in which the family will run. State that by February, you will all have the ability to run one mile. In March, the goal is two miles, and so on until the race has been completed.

Any goal can be planned in a similar manner. All it takes is some time and a little effort to help each family member decide the best way to stick to their resolution.

Keep Each Other in Check

In a centralized location in the house, make a chart with each family member's New Year Resolution. Each week, have each person write on the chart what they did to reach their stated goal. If a family member wishes to learn a new language, they should write the number of hours they studied that week.

If a resolution is to stop smoking or to give up any other type of vice, have them list the number of cigarettes they smoked that week. Go over the chart as a family to encourage each other to succeed.

Another way to keep each other accountable for resolutions is to place reminders throughout the house. Use sticky notes on bathroom mirrors with that month's goal. Really ambitious families can have t-shirts printed with their resolutions emblazoned for the world to see.

Reward the Family for Achieving Their Goals

Consider attaching a reward to the resolution. The rewards can be as simple as a family night out to celebrate or as exciting as a vacation to an exotic locale. Young children may particularly benefit from a rewards system. Let them know that if they do their part in helping the family to achieve a resolution, they will receive a special prize, such as a trip to the movies or a day at a pottery painting studio.

For families that have individual resolutions, turn the process into a game. Purchase gift cards to local shopping centers or to online vendors in varying amounts. The first person to complete their resolution gets the largest denomination, the second to finish gets the second highest denomination, and so on until all resolutions have been completed.

Of course, not all resolutions involve reaching a one time goal. Whereas one family member's resolution may be to lose 10 pounds, another's might be to volunteer at a pet shelter once a week. In this case, rewards can be awarded the following New Year's Eve.

Purchase inexpensive trophies and have them engraved with titles such as 'Most Persistent in Achieving New Year Resolution,' 'Fastest Time to Achieve Goal,' and so on. This can become a yearly tradition that your children will continue with their own.

New Year Resolutions are not made to be broken, they are made to encourage ourselves and one another to be the best we can be. When families are willing to help each other achieve their goals, they strengthen they not only become healthier in mind and spirit, but they strengthen their bonds with each other.

Author Bio: Rachel Peters is a freelance writer and a devoted mother. When she is not busy taking care of her family, she can be found trying to find car insurance online.

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