Lifestyle * Travel * Food

Oct 28, 2016

Get An Early Start On Your Holiday Cards With CardsDirect.com

We have been sending out holiday cards for many years now. It's a great way to send a nice message to those near and far to let them know they are thought of during the holiday season. Most of us can't buy every person we know a gift, so a card is a great gesture. I admit, some years I procrastinate wait way too long and my cards almost don't make it out on time. This year is different. I already have my cards ready for the recipients' addresses and a stamp. We do plan on having family photos taken and I will have them printed to include in the envelope.

We tried CardsDirect for the first time. The site is super easy to use and you can customize your cards to your liking. Whether you want to go with photo cards or standard cards, you will find exactly what you want. I went with a standard card this time around. The only reason I did not make photo cards this year is because as mentioned earlier, we still have to get family photos taken. The hardest part in the card ordering process is deciding from the thousands of styles. Seriously, I got to the point that I had to yell at myself to pick something fast! I decided on this beautiful design called the Grand Snowflake Tree. I always go for elegant and festive at the same time. What do you think?



There are several options that I had when ordering these cards. You can use the prewritten message inside or create your own. You are also able to choose from different fonts and can adjust the size and colors too. Also, for an extra fee, you can have the envelopes printed with your return address to make things a little easier. This means you don't have to put labels on or hand-write your address a million times. I am all for convenience and saving time. The quality of the cards can't be beat. They are super sturdy and are perfect to send out to family, friends, or coworkers. And if you own your own business, they are very professional looking and a great choice to send out to clients and colleagues. Another upgrade for an extra cost is the gold-lined envelope for that added look of elegance.


If you have been thinking about ordering personalized holiday cards, CardsDirect.com is your place to go. From now until 12/31/2016 you can get 15% off your order by using the discount code: MOMFILES16. Don't wait, get this done early so you can have it crossed off your to-do list. Not sure which card is right for you? You can order free samples especially since it's still early. You can see for yourself how good the quality really is.

Disclosure: I received cards for review purposes at no charge from CardsDirect.com. All opinions are my own as always. 
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Oct 26, 2016

Top 10 Christmas Gifts for the Special Guy On Your List

Women get a bad rap for being picky present-openers but, when it comes down to it, men can present their own challenges during the holidays. They certainly don’t drop as many—ahem—hints as women do about what they might want. Plus, men tend to be more the type to go ahead and buy themselves the things they think they need. If you’ve reached your “challenge accepted” moment in the relationship, we can help. Read on for 10 Christmas gifts for the special guy on your list.

1. Totally Ticket Time 

While something your man can physically open is great, an experiential gift can be equally as wonderful (if not more!). Get your main squeeze tickets to see his longtime sports team, his favorite band, or a play at your local theater. The huge bonus of going this route is that you get to go, too!

2. The Way to His Heart is Through His Tummy

You’ve heard this a million times and, unless you’ve found the exception, most men really love to eat. Hopefully you’ve scored one who loves to cook as well. Even if you have, though, you could turn the tables and make him a meal. Another alternative would be to hire a private chef to cook a romantic dinner in. Lastly, the health nut guy in your life would likely love a membership to a home meal service, like Blue Apron or Home Chef.

3. Accessories, Accessories, Accessories

These are the kinds of thing that men often forget to buy themselves. From a new watch that he’s wanted to replace for some time like this hyper masculine JORD wood watch to jewelry (personally, we think men don’t wear this enough), this will be something he’ll love because he likely wouldn’t have gotten it for himself. Allow him to let his personality shine through with a men’s underwear from Stance. These undies definitely put the “fun” in “functional”.

4. Trip the Light Fantastic

Have you been itching for a trip? Of course, buying your loved one a vacation is no small gift by any means, but if you’ve both been talking about it for a long time and you’ve got the means, there’s nothing better than a weekend (or week!) away together. Whether it’s a quick jaunt to the mountains or a trip overseas, this will be something you’ll both treasure forever.

5. Go for the Gadgets

Again with our sweeping generalizations, but there’s no denying that a lot of guys love their gadgets. A new iPod touch, a super sleek smart phone case, or an iPad mini are rarely, if ever, going to go to waste in the hands of a man. Need some inspiration? Simply head into your Sharper Image for gift ideas you might not have come up with on your own.

6. Man Crates

Have you heard about these things yet? This is the dude version of the gift basket. From the Grill Master Crate and NFL Barware Crate to the Personalized Whiskey Crate and the Slaughterhouse Crate (don’t ask), there literally is a man crate for everyone.

7. Clothes

Your man would likely prefer to watch whatever sporting event is being televised than go shopping, so buying him clothes is doubly awesome. You’ll not only help him to be more stylish (right, ladies?), but you’ll also save him from a chore he likely does not enjoy.

8.  Let Him Choose With Bespoke Post

A monthly subscription service like Birchbox for Men is already fantastic, but the reason Bespoke Post takes it to the next level as there are a number of different gifts that men can choose from. So you’re getting him a gift but he still gets the metaphorical remote. It’s a win/win, right?

9. Booze, Bro

While this probably isn’t recommended if you’ve been dating for years (when something a bit more intimate might be appropriate), booze is a great gift for guys when it’s early on in the relationship. If you’ve already done the whiskey thing, opt for tequila.

10. Grown Up Stuff

Let’s face it—many men are resistant to growing up, so they might still be carrying their money in a big wad of cash and their work papers in a backpack. Help your man move on to the next level with a stylish money clip and/or briefcase.

Have a special guy in your life? Get him one of these special gifts during the holidays this year and watch him react with delight.

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Oct 24, 2016

4 Ways Your Cellphone Might Be Making You Ugly

Our cellphones have become so vital to our daily lives. Research has shown that the average person checks their phone 85 times a day and that we spend a total of five hours using our cellphones to browse the web or use apps. For many, our smartphone is the first thing we look at in the morning and the last thing we check at bedtime. Although quick glances at our phone may seem harmless, it can in fact be affecting us physically, mentally and emotionally. We caught up with some experts who help explain the ugly side of excessive cellphones use.

1. Ugly posture
When we look down at our cellphones we are straining our necks and slouching our shoulders. Doing this can cause some serious damage to our overall posture even leading us to lose up to an inch to an inch and a half of height. “I see up to 10 patients a week complaining of severe neck and shoulder pain. When asked how often they use their phones the typical response is all the time. When pain becomes chronic and severe, surgery has to be considered,” explains Dr. Richard Samperisi, CoFounder of Campus Chiropractic Center at Florida International University & Functional Medicine Practitioner.

2. Ugly eye strain, bags and wrinkles
Not only can staring at your phone all day cause serious neck and shoulder pain, the extreme use of our phones is leading to various eye conditions such as blurred vision, eye strain, headaches and dry eyes as well as to a condition they like to call “tech neck.” For those concerned with cosmetics and eye appearance constant squinting leads to wrinkles and under eye bags. New Bern, North Carolina plastic surgeon Dr. John Zannis explains that a combination of surgical and non-surgical procedures that address under eye bags, drooping and sagging usually range from 5 - $10,000 with a recovery time of up to 2 weeks. He’s also seen a rise in complaints about neck lines and wrinkling skin attributed to excessive cell phone use.

3. Ugly skin
Are you constantly struggling with breakouts around your cheeks or chin? Instead of blaming hormones, junk food or a bad skincare routine consider looking at the device in your hand. “Our cellphones are filled with bacteria. We are continuously touching them with dirty hands, throwing them in our bags, stuffing them in our pockets or putting them on counter tops. Then without even thinking twice we put our phones right up to our ears where all of that bacterium from those dirty areas wreak havoc on our face,” offers Board Certified Dermatologist Dr. Kaly Papantoniou.  She suggests frequently wiping the phone screen and using a face wash with benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid to rid bacteria from building up.

4. Ugly Manners
We see people at restaurants who are more focused on snapping a pic of their meal than enjoying each other’s company. Our persistent use of our cellphones can be affecting our relationships with the people and world around us. “When we focus more on our digital lives rather than the individuals we are with; we are not only giving off the impression that we do not care about what they have to say, we are also letting valuable and meaningful moments pass us by,” explains Dr. Sanam Hafeez a New York City based neuropsychologist and teaching faculty at Columbia University. She suggests putting the phone down and even going cell free twice a week.

Give it a try and see how cutting down on your phone use can also cut down on the ugly.

This article is courtesy of Dr. John Zannis. Follow him on Twitter and check out his website at http://www.zannisplasticsurgery.com/
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Give The Gift Of Home Chef For The Holidays ($50 Giveaway)

CLOSED- Winner is Ms. K 
One thing I feel we can all agree on is that we know that one person who seems to have everything. When it comes to buying a gift for them you are left with a huge burden of giving something meaningful that they will actually like or have use for. I have the ideal solution for that-- A Home Chef gift certificate. I did a full review last month in case you missed it. I think that anyone would love the gift of high quality ingredients that are pre-measured and ready to go to cook up your own gourmet meal at home.



You can personalize your tastes according to dietary needs or allergies to assure you get exactly what you want. This is such a great way to be able to experience new dishes you might not otherwise think to try. I absolutely loved the dishes I 'cheffed' up!

Parisian Bistro Steak with dauphinoise potatoes and green beans

Thai Red Curry Shrimp with jasmine rice and snow peas
Giving a Home Chef gift certificate makes the perfect gift for the holidays. I'm sure the recipient would be delighted. Who wouldn't want the gift of good food?
How would you like to try out Home Chef for yourself? I am thrilled to be able offer my wonderful readers the chance to win a Home Chef gift certificate valued at $50. This will cover the cost of 2 gourmet meals for 2 people. You can keep it for yourself or give it as a gift. Enter below:
a Rafflecopter giveaway
This giveaway is open to U.S. Residents only and will end on Nov 7, 2016. Follow Rafflecopter rules for entries to count. One winner will be selected and contacted via email to be awarded prize. Good luck!

Gift code for winner is provided by Home Chef. All opinions are my own as always.
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Brain Food: Tips For Studying

The moments are very crucial at the time of studying. Your brain is considered as a king of your body and sometimes does not show stability when the pressure of failure is somewhat on the higher side. Recently, research has proven that over-thinking on the respective subject will lead you nowhere and you will be left empty-handed. Instead of stressing, there are other methods that can help you find a way out as suggested by the experts. If college classes or school is an issue, you can get some paper writing help which would be an ideal to reform your study material and give your brain a break. With the right guidance, you can get back on track. Below are some of the precautions and actions you need to consider in terms of achieving big and overcoming the stress. 

The Consumption of Healthy Food

It has been noticed that when the time crunch of studying comes along, 80% of students give up their regular diet in order to cope up with their studies. That is the biggest mistake they commit. Always remember consuming appropriate food is the only way out and the food is your best buddy during the this time. For stimulating the proper functionality of your body, you need to consume more of the food that contains high in protein, vitamin and minerals as well. For example, the quantity of food like eggs, fish, chicken or meat are very rich in protein. Mornings can always be started with fruits like apple, guava and fresh oranges with an energetic glass of fresh juice. Always keep space for the rich food during the lunchtime, as studies show that the level of heat of the sun is on the higher side and whatever the amount of food gets consumed during this time gets easily digested. As soon the night arrives,  make it habit of consuming small meals because during the night the power of our immune system is somewhat on the lower side. The less you eat, the better you will feel for your next day. Make sure that you consume at least 3 liters of water a day as the water is the best source of minerals for the human body. 


Have An Organized Agenda 

Eating nutritional food will help you meet your goal of success. Instead of being in the stage of panic, all you have to do is take some time out to build an appropriate timetable for your respective studies. This will help you to focus and have more positive energy towards your studies. Students who prepare well-planned and well-organized form of structure in regards to their studies are set up for success.

A Consultation 

Recent studies show that the human race is not able to utilize the brain power at the utmost. Even one of the greatest scientists of history, Albert Einstein used only 6% of his brain during his lifetime. This proves that we do carry the capability, but aren’t always aware how and when to implement it. One of the best things students need to implement is getting the session of consultation with a counselor, as it will help them a lot truly recognize of their capability and they will learn skills to kill the negative vibes. Positivity leads to success. Getting some extra help won’t hurt.

Getting Appropriate Sleep 

A human mind is just not made of nerves; in fact, the hidden things reside inside somewhere that we are not able to recognize. The power of thinking, sense of feeling, and ability to choose between right and wrong go hand-in-hand with the amount of sleep you get. To improve memory and to increase brain function in the healthier way all you need to do is take enough sleep, around 6 to 8 hours each night. We know you might be thinking how I am going to do that as l have to memorize the entire syllabus? Don’t worry, if you get the appropriate amount of sleep, you would not be forcing or pushing your mind to store the entire syllabus in your mind. In fact, things will work in more accurate and sharp manner because of the enough sleep. 

Heal With Music

Music is the most authentic and best way to shift your brain from stress to relief. Music is the best mind diet recommended by the expert. Not only moments of relaxation, but the power of regaining positive energy are some of its advantages you can take.


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Oct 18, 2016

How Having Kids Changes Your Taxes

Having a child changes everything. Your relationship with your partner, your work schedule, your sleeping patterns—there are few things a new baby doesn’t have an effect on. Many parents are prepared for the sleepless nights, the need to switch to the minivan, and the decrease in social hours with friends, but have you thought about how your new little bundle of joy will affect your taxes? While you often hear how expensive it can be to raise a child, there are also numerous tax breaks and credits to take advantage of. Keep the following facets of the tax system in mind and give your finances the boost they need, from your little one’s birth to their college days.

Use Exemptions to Your Favor

After having a child, you’re allowed to claim them as a dependent on your taxes to receive an extra exemption. This can help reduce your AGI, or adjusted gross income. The government uses your AGI to determine how much you owe, therefore, the lower your income (after exemptions), the lower your tax bill. There are limitations to this, but most can look to save thousands of dollars. Siphon those saved dollars into a college savings account and you’ll be amazed at the difference it makes in paying for your child’s upcoming educational career.

In the Case of Adoption

Perhaps you’re adopting a child. This process is not an inexpensive one, but the IRS recognizes these costly expenses by offering the opportunity to claim these expenses on your income taxes. Last year, any adoptions completed in 2015 allowed a federal adoption tax credit of up to a $13,400 per child. The amount you receive depends on your income. If you and your spouse make less than $291,919, you’re eligible. However, there are limitations. Because this is a tax credit, it isn’t refundable. That means you must owe the federal government some type of income tax, and you won’t be paid out the extra money left over, if any. The adopted child cannot be a stepchild, and they must be under the age of 18 or unable to take care of themselves to qualify.

Child Tax Credit

This refundable credit is designed to reduce the taxes you’re liable for, and can be awarded in amounts up to $1,000 per child. The amount of the credit awarded depends on income and the number of children living in your home. If you claim singly or as the head of the household, you’re ineligible for this credit if you make above $75,000. If you’re married, filing jointly, you must make less than $110,000 to qualify. If you’re confused about what will best work in your financial favor, speak with a professional who can help you determine your filing status.

When it Comes to College

If your child is already in college, take advantage of the American Opportunity Credit. This credit covers certain expenses associated with the first four years of college. There are regulations about how and who qualifies for this tax credit: your child must be in pursuit of a credential or a degree, and must be enrolled as a half-time student at least for tax year. They must also have no felony drug convictions on their record. For each student, the maximum credit you can procure annually is $2,500.

You should also keep the Lifetime Learning Credit in mind. This can help cover undergraduate costs for a student that does not qualify for the American Opportunity Credit, whether that be because they have a limited course load (are enrolled in school less than half-time status) or they’ve already completed their first four years of college credit. This credit can cover expenses including tuition and enrollment fees, along with books and course materials.
Child Care Credit

If you work full time and you must enroll your child in day care, most of those expenses are deductible on your income taxes. This is a nonrefundable tax credit. In order to qualify for the Child Care Credit, you must show proof of payment to a licensed childcare provider while you’re working or in search of employment. The child must be under 13 years old, and you cannot claim this credit if you’re married, but filing separately. This credit can award more than $3,000 per child per year.

The ins and outs of the tax process become more convoluted after having a child. If you’re unsure about which credits and exemptions you qualify for, don’t be afraid to talk with a professional to discover how you can get on the right financial foot- there are probably more than you think!

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Oct 15, 2016

$125 Amazon or PayPal Giveaway

Are you starting to feel a little chill in the air? It's time for apple picking, hayrides, and haunted houses. Don't you just love Fall? This time of year also reminds us that the holidays are right around the corner. It sneaks up on you so quickly and you want to be prepared. I've teamed up with a group of amazing bloggers to bring you a great giveaway that is perfect to help with those holiday purchases. The prize is your choice of $125 Amazon gift card or PayPal cash. I know you want to win! 

Enter here:
a Rafflecopter giveaway
This giveaway starts October 16 at 12:00 AM EST and ends October 30 at 12:00 AM EST. USA, 18+. One winner will be randomly selected from all qualifying entries and contacted via the email they provide. The winner has 48 hours to respond or new winner will be chosen. The winner will be announced on the Rafflecopter after they have responded.

Good luck!
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Oct 14, 2016

Become the Ninja When LEGO NINJAGO World Opens Jan. 12, 2017 at LEGOLAND Florida Resort

I wanted to pass along some exciting news to all my readers who are LEGO® NINJAGO® fans. Starting Jan. 12, 2017, kids are invited to enter a magical martial arts kingdom where you become the ninja in your very own LEGO® NINJAGO® [NIN-JAH-GO] adventure when a whole new theme park land opens at LEGOLAND® Florida Resort.


LEGO NINJAGO World will add an immersive area filled with several hands-on, outdoor activities where kids can sharpen their ninja skills before the ultimate showdown on LEGO NINJAGO The Ride, a dazzling new attraction that blends 3D computer animation, “4D” effects and groundbreaking technology never seen outside a LEGOLAND theme park.


Inspired by the popular LEGO building sets and the “LEGO NINJAGO: Masters of Spinjitzu” TV show, LEGO NINJAGO World puts guests at the center of the action in lots of fun ways:

LEGO NINJAGO The Ride — a state-of-the-art “dark ride” where guests score points using ninja hand moves to blast animated fireballs, lightning and more at waves of 3D villains
Zane’s Temple Build — a giant LEGO building experience where kids can contribute to a model of a mountaintop NINJAGO monastery
Kai’s Spinners — master the ancient art of Spinjitzu at these twirling, whirling, single-person platforms
Cole’s Rock Climb — an outdoor climbing wall to test kids’ balance and endurance
Jay’s Lightning Drill — measure your reflexes with these “lightning fast” light-up targets


The lushly landscaped area also will feature daily meet-and-greet opportunities with sibling ninjas Kai and Nya [NEE-AH], and Wu’s Warehouse, a themed retail shop stuffed with LEGO NINJAGO building sets, toys, clothing, souvenirs and more.



LEGO NINJAGO The RideAssisted by Kai and Nya, LEGOLAND Florida Resort General Manager Adrian Jones announced the land’s grand opening date on the eve of the resort’s fifth birthday, continuing the largest period of growth and expansion in its history.

Since opening Oct. 15, 2011, the place #BuiltForKids has added LEGOLAND Water Park (May 2012), LEGO Star Wars™ Miniland Model Display (November 2012), LEGO World of Chima™ (July 2013), DUPLO® Valley (May 2014), LEGOLAND Hotel (May 2015) and Heartlake City (June 2015). In addition, the resort has unveiled several phased restorations of the historic Cypress Gardens, which celebrated its 80th anniversary earlier this year.


Along with LEGO NINJAGO World, construction continues on LEGOLAND Beach Retreat, which will more than double the resort’s on-site accommodations when its whimsically themed bungalows open in mid-2017. Guests currently can make reservations for stays from June 1-Sept. 4, 2017, with rates starting at $182 per night. A grand opening date and associated festivities will be announced at a later date, along with additional amenities.

For more information about visiting LEGOLAND Florida Resort, including savings on advance purchase of admission tickets, multi-tier annual passes, special events, VIP experiences, educational programs, services for guests with disabilities, on-site accommodations and much more, visit www.LEGOLAND.com/florida.

About LEGOLAND Florida Resort
Built for kids 2-12, this multi-day vacation destination located just 45 minutes from Orlando and Tampa includes an interactive, 150-acre theme park with more than 50 rides, shows and attractions, a world-famous botanical garden and the 5-acre LEGOLAND Water Park. LEGOLAND Hotel, located just steps from the theme park entrance, features 152 rooms and suites, each with its own LEGO® theme and some with beautiful views of nearby Lake Eloise. Opening in 2017 is LEGO NINJAGO World, an immersive theme park land with a groundbreaking, interactive ride inspired by the popular LEGO building sets and TV show, and LEGOLAND Beach Retreat, a lakefront resort with 83 themed bungalows offering 166 separate accommodations. LEGOLAND Florida Resort is a part of the Merlin Entertainments Group (LONDON: MERL).

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Oct 11, 2016

I Finally Got Over My Biggest Cooking Fear

I have been cooking since I was about 10 years old. I had a natural passion for it and have not been afraid to experiment or try new things. The one thing I was not able to do was cook in a traditional stove top pressure cooker. The anxiety and fear was too much, so I avoided it at all cost. I wrote a post about it a couple years back and I cringe looking at it.

Fast forward to now. I have seen the whole Instant Pot pressure cooker craze circulating around social media, so I took a look and did some research. I added like 8 different ones from different brands to my wishlist. Honestly, I didn't think I would ever buy one. The fear was too real and I had no idea what an electric pressure cooker would do. Would it be noisy? Will it explode? I had a few blog friends buy one during one of those big Amazon one-day sales and they swore it was the greatest thing ever. One day I was looking on Amazon and decided to jump on the bandwagon take the plunge. After hours of comparing and researching, I settled on the Cuisinart brand. It was on sale for under $70 and roughly $20-30 less than the comparable Instant Pot. I added it to my cart and patiently waited for the delivery. When it arrived, pure joy and fear washed over me at the same time. I did not know what to expect.
Click on image for full info
I happened to have a chuck roast in the fridge to cook that day so I figured I would try my new pressure cooker out. I watched a couple YouTube videos so I could get a good idea of what to do. I managed to get the roast cooked and something really surprised me. Although I was scared to death the entire time, it turns out that the cooker doesn't make that evil hissing noise while on high pressure. I couldn't believe it! I managed to cooked a perfectly tender pot roast in half the time it would have taken on the stove top and learned I have nothing to fear. I have been missing out on this fabulous kitchen appliance all of this time! As a matter of fact, I've been cooking curry twice a week and it comes out perfect each time!


I have had my pressure cooker for a few months now and use it 3-5 times per week. It quickly became my absolute favorite appliance in the kitchen. Below are the reasons I love my Cuisinart pressure cooker:
  • You can brown, saute, and simmer. 
  • It can be used as a rice cooker and takes only 3 minutes too cook for white/basmati/Jasmine rice. 
  • It has high and low pressure settings with timer.
  • Keep warm feature is perfect for keeping food hot if you're not eating right away
  • I use it even when not using the pressure option
  • Even, fast cooking 
  • You can make soups, stews, curry, chili and more. 
  • Perfect size, not too big or too small
  • Easy to clean with a non-stick pot. Didn't think I'd care for the non-stick surface, but it's really great.
  • Self-locking lid prevents accidents. This helped with my fear
  • The pressure knob can't pop off while cooking. You have to manually jiggle it and pull to get it off. 
  • The texture of food doesn't change like it would using a slow cooker
  • It is SO EASY to use
  • Pretty stainless steel finish that shockingly stays clean 
  • I AM NO LONGER AFRAID! YAY!! 

If you have been thinking about buying an electric pressure cooker or if you are scared to death of them, I highly recommend the Cuisinart CPC-600 6 Quart 1000 Watt Electric Pressure Cooker (Stainless Steel). I am going to purchase a second one so I can use them both at the same time. I know for a fact that this will be the most used appliance in my kitchen. I need to donate my old dinosaur pot now that I think about it.



This cooker would make a great gift for yourself, a wedding, house warming or for the holidays. Trust me, anyone would be thrilled to unwrap this from under the tree! If you are on the fence, you should try this one out. If you decide to purchase one, please let me know. 

**This post contains affiliate links.
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Oct 10, 2016

School Trips Becoming Too Expensive for Parents

School trips are part and parcel of school life. We all remember going on residential visits with school. I know I do. When I was 11, my entire Year 6 class flew to Switzerland for a week and we had a fabulous time learning about glaciers and listening to the cow bells jingle in the early mornings. I am sure my parents probably had to scrimp and scrape to be able to afford the trip, but they managed and I was lucky enough to go.

A Once in a Lifetime Experience

That was an exceptional trip, a once in a lifetime experience, and something I still remember many years later. Back then, trips like this were a rarity and were often subsidised by the school. These days it is becoming increasingly common for schools to organise prohibitively expensive field trips for students. Parents often have to borrow the money to pay for the trip (for more information about the latest loan rates, click the link), but a survey carried out two years ago has found that many parents are saying they cannot afford the cost of school trips.

Examination Course Field Trips

The older your child is, the more likely they are to be asked to go on field trips as part of their examination course. Some subjects, for example geography, expect students to conduct research out in the field. This type of educational trip is a valuable part of the course, but the problem is that many parents cannot afford to pay and are discouraging their child to take the subject, even if they are interested in doing so.

Schools are even asking parents to fund other, non-essential field trips to museums, art galleries and the theatre. Music lessons also fall into this category. To study music, students usually have to play an instrument, which means parents have to pay for lessons, instrument hire, and examinations. The cost of this can be exorbitant.

Expensive Foreign Trips

The cost of educational trips to foreign countries is also on the rise. It is not uncommon for parents to be asked to find £1,000 or more to pay for a trip abroad. For many families, this represents their budget for a family holiday, so if the child is allowed to go, nobody else gets a holiday that year.

For kids with two parents who both earn a good living, paying for school trips and educational extras is not a problem, but if a child comes from a single parent family subsisting on benefits or a low income, the cost is prohibitive. Consequently, it is not surprising that many parents say they can’t afford it and refuse to let their child participate. Expensive field trips are simply not accessible for many parents.

There is very little parents can do if the school asks them to fund an expensive field trip for their child, other than say no. Some schools have a hardship fund, which is designed to subsidise children from poorer families, but if you both work, you probably won’t qualify for assistance.

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Oct 8, 2016

Homeschool Updates

We are a couple months into our second year of school from home and so far, everything is going smoothly. Third grade is certainly very different from second grade. The work load has been a lot more and it can been very tiring some days. I find myself telling William to go take a break while I do the same. I am lucky to have a child who almost never complains and is easy to work with. We have a flexible routine that has been working well for us. 

I make certain every couple weeks to ask William how he is doing and if he misses going to traditional school. He always responds with how much he loves home school and never wants to return to public school. This makes me happy to know that he is genuinely happy and feeling like this was a good choice for him. 

One of his new favorite things to do is to go outside and read while he watches the birds and dogs play. Hey, anything that encourages him to read works for me! As a matter of fact, his reading has improved tremendously and we are working on being more animated when reading out loud. He still has his stubborn boy moments, but he understands that he has no choice with getting his work done. He takes pride in checking off assignments as he completes them, and loves tracking his grades.

A lot has changed for me as a homemaker. A huge chunk of my day is dedicated to William's schooling, so keeping a super neat and tidy home just isn't a priority like it used to be. I try to get things done throughout the day, but don't beat myself up if I don't get to it all. I make time for myself each day just to do whatever I want, whether it's watching my favorite show on HGTV or taking a nap. I have learned the importance of self-care and refuse to allow myself to feel guilty about it. Do I have bad days where I feel like I'm failing? YES. Yes, I do. Thankfully those aren't too often.

William continues to go to his karate classes and swimming. It's funny how much more social he is since doing school from home. He is not shy at all and will chat with anyone who will listen. We still get a lot of people when we are out and about during school hours ask him why he's not in school. He proudly tells them, "I'm home-schooled!". Of course, some people are still very shocked by that and tell me I must be a "saint". I simply laugh it off and realize I too thought the same of parents who home-schooled their kids.

Right about now I am SO happy that I'm not on Facebook trying to push school fundraisers on any of my friends. Yep, don't miss any of that! Overall, we are very happy with school and plan to continue all the way to high school. If you have ever considered homeschooling your child, I suggest you try it out to see if it works for your family. You definitely won't know unless you try. Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!
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Oct 6, 2016

4 Things You Need to Know Before Buying Your Child a Youth Baseball Bat

If you want to help your child hone their baseball skills and make a real go at America’s favorite sport, it’s essential to outfit them with the materials they need to develop into a better baseball player. Your child’s bat could be an integral component to their success on the baseball diamond, so before purchasing a youth baseball bat, keep these tips in mind.

1. Bat Legality

Yes, you can inadvertently buy your child an illegal bat, which will find them not up to bat and you out of a ton of cash. Make sure you look for a bat that’s legal for play in your league. It may need to have the stamp of an official supplier logo, as this indicates the bat is made of the right material, and fits the approved length, barrel size, and knob specifications. Little League rules require baseball bats be no longer than 22 inches, while Junior League wood bats must measure shorter than 34 inches. There are detailed rules depending on the league your child’s involved in, and often a simple Google search will give you the parameters to work with, but it’s always a good idea to check. An easy question volleyed at your coach or league before purchasing will make sure you buy a legal bat.

2. Wooden Versus Metal

There are many facets to consider when deciding between a wooden and metal bat for your child. You’ll find numerous articles and opinions expressing the strengths of one or the other, but the decision comes down to weighing the pros and cons of each and choosing the material that will help your child excel. Metal bats tend to be the most popular, regardless of league. They are definitively easier to swing, weigh less, don’t break, and can provide more power. However, if honing your child’s skills is your aim, metal bats may not be the way to go. They can mask poor technique and will make it harder for your child to improve his or her hitting technique.

Many parents elect to have their child train with a wooden bat, because it has been purported to help develop better swinging practices and techniques. While heavier, wooden bats offer better balance, and will help your child better understand the ways to make powerful contact with the ball. Using a wooden bat will require your child to learn and practice the fundamental swinging patterns that make for a successful hit. If you do elect to grab a wooden bat, you’ll need to decide between the types of wood. Ash tends to be the most popular option, but you’ll find a bevy of options.

Check out Woodbat.org for an interesting scientific breakdown of the history behind the woods used for baseball bats and send your child onto the diamond with in-depth knowledge of just how their new wooden bat is designed to help them hit that elusive homerun.

3. The Importance of Practice Before Purchase

Before deciding between the two mediums, give your child plenty of practice with each. Head to the batting cages a few times a week and each time have them work with a metal bat or wooden bat each time. If it gets too pricey, use Groupon. They often have discounted batting cage prices depending on your area and you can pay half of what you might have—your child will definitely thank you for all the extra practice time, and you’ll be able to make a more informed decision when it comes to your bat.

4. When It Comes to Pricing

If you want to find the best price on a baseball bat, you’ll need to head online instead of to your local sport’s store. There’s simply no beating e-commerce prices, but that’s not to say you should head straight to Amazon. Use a website that has a plethora of baseball bats for sale from a variety of companies to make sure you can find the right fit for your child. Using a site dedicated to baseball bats will help you filter out the different options and make it easier for your child to offer their input.

The type of bat your child practices with can greatly affect their game. Their bat is their indispensable tool; it affects swing velocity, the contact they make, dictates how far and where the ball will travel, and their ability to make a sprint for first base after a successful hit. It’s important to put the time and monetary investment into finding the perfect youth baseball bat for your child.

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Oct 5, 2016

Tech to Get Kids Moving


Getting kids to be active is not as easy as it used to be. So many tweens and teens are enchanted by their tablets and smartphones that they would rather hang out on the couch texting or playing a game than heading to the park or riding their bikes.

Rather than banning electronics from your home, savvy parents can take their kids’ love of gadgets and turn it into a way for them to get and stay active. For example, check out the following devices and apps that will help inspire your kids to get their tushes off the couch:

Active Video Games

Video games do not have to be played sitting down. If you own a Nintendo Wii or XBOX 360 Kinect or other active game console, treat your kids to a few new games that will get their hearts pumping. Great examples are the "Just Dance Kids" series that lets your kiddos mirror dances to pop hits and songs from their favorite TV shows. "Zumba Kids" is another great game that gets kids moving, as is "Kinect Rush: A Disney Pixar Adventure"—in this game, kids can throw, steer, swing and run around while exploring games set in Pixar movies. If your kids love the show "Wipeout," "Wipeout" (Create and Crash) for the Wii, WiiU and Kinect will have them going through obstacle courses filled with jumping, dives and twisting and turning—anything to avoid having their on-screen character plunge into water. Although this game is technically for ages 10 and up, if the whole family plays together even younger kiddos are sure to have a blast moving around.

Fitness Tracking Devices

If you already own a fitness tracking device like a Fitbit, you might have noticed that merely wearing it inspires you to take more steps during the day and be more active. Getting your children kid-friendly devices will probably have the same effect on them. Or, if you don’t already have one, consider investing in fitness tracking devices for everybody, so you can set goals and encourage healthy and fun fitness and health competitions between all of your family members. A great example is the Apple Watch Sport from a retailer like T-Mobile; the nifty little device helps keep track of your exercise, heart rate and other health-related data. If you are not sure about your kids using such a fancy device and would rather have only the adults use it, no worries—there are plenty of kid-friendly activity trackers including the UNICEF Kid Power Band. The device will measure your kids’ steps and movement and also allows them to go on missions that they can track through the accompanying app, earn points and unlock food packets that will go to malnourished children in the world.

Sworkit Kids

Another great way to get kids moving is to transform their love of apps into motivation to exercise. Let your kiddos download some free fitness apps like Sworkit Kids. This app guides them through fun exercise routines that are demonstrated by kids. You’ll enjoy watching your kiddos crab crawl across the living room floor for 30 seconds or see how quickly they can do 10 squats. The app is so fun, chances are good your kids will inspired you to download it and play along with them. The app will sync with Apple Health and your kids can also use it to create custom workouts that improve their strength, agility and fitness levels.

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