Party Entertainment for All Ages

Some parties and party hosts unintentionally exclude many of the people who attend these special events. However, there are many ways you can get people of all ages involved in the activities at a party. This often makes these types of get-togethers more enjoyable for young and old people who attend and provides many happy memories in years to come. These are some of the most popular types of entertainment that can be enjoyed by a wide range of age groups who are attending a special occasion together.

Party Rentals
Party rentals are extremely popular at parties and most people can get involved in these activities. Bounce houses, carnival games, slides, water slides, moon walks, thrill rides and rock wall rental options are available and are just some of the forms of entertainment you can add to your party for most age groups.
Create a Party Theme
Creating a party theme is an effective way to get everyone involved in a party that includes kids, teens and adults. The only limitation with this type of entertainment is your imagination. The most popular types of party themes include film themes, beach themes, popular celebrities or other themes everyone is familiar with. To make things even more exciting and interesting you could hold a competition for the best dressed attendee or similar competitions.
Music
Music taste differ between younger and older audiences. To cater for this, have different areas where each age group can listen to music that’s more suited to their tastes. This is the perfect way for adults to relax and chat, especially if they have taken part in more energetic activities earlier in the day.

Karaoke
If you want music to play a bigger role in a party, Karaoke is normally a sure way to find out who the real entertainers are at your party. It’s the ideal way to get young and old party-goers involved and have a few laughs along the way too.

Computer Games
Many adults are just as interested in gaming as their younger counterparts. A party is the perfect place to hold competitions amongst older and younger gamers to see who’s best. Once again you could provide some prizes for those who fare best in these competitions between young and old gamers.

Unfortunately, not all parties are as good as they should be. Some parties alienate certain people who attend and the party doesn’t have the same feeling you get at a party that includes everyone. However, it doesn’t have to be like this. There are many different ways a host can encourage more interaction between people of different age groups at a party. It’s also a great way for people to get to know people they may not have known very well before the party took place. The two main aims of a party are for everyone to enjoy themselves and take away fond memories of the occasion. Involving everyone in the activities at a party is the most effective way to do this.

#AD: Keeping Our #GameDayTraditions FUN! @SheSpeaksUp @ProcterGamble @Walmart

sampleDisclaimer: This is a sponsored post for SheSpeaks/P&G. Opinions expressed are 100% my own.

gamedaytraditions

Game Day in our house means lots of preparation! I’ve got so much to do! There’s the food to prepare… the house to get clean… every little detail must be taken care of… Even down to what toilet paper I’m going to make sure is available for my guests! (I don’t want someone coming over, using my bathroom, and then going home to tell their spouse, “Ugh. That toilet paper was like sandpaper!” No thank you! Only best for my guests! They deserve the ultra strong, yet squeezably soft goodness that only Charmin can provide.) Luckily, I can head to Walmart and grab everything I need to make our traditions for Game Day perfect.

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Set up is crucial. Spray some Febreze to get the furniture smelling fresh and clean. Then, I need everything laid out just right so my guests can get to it easily. I need the right paper towels to handle clean ups, because with the crew we host on game day, there are sure to be a few spills! Bounty helps me get the counters clean after I’ve slaved in the kitchen all day, and then Bounty paper towels are perfect for clean up during and after the party!

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And then there’s the food. Oh my goodness, the food! Meatballs, sandwiches, chili cheese dip and chips, bread, pasta, desserts galore. I don’t do anything small. I have to make sure there’s plenty of food for everyone, and that there’s no chance of anyone leaving my house hungry!

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And while I’m going out of my mind, trying so hard to make everything just right, I remember the most important tradition I have when it comes to game day: the people I share game day with.

Even though I have ten people living in my house – and we can make any occasion a party! – when we add family and friends to the mix, it’s always something to remember!

Once the game is over, and everyone has left, that’s when I’m thankful I stocked up at Walmart! It’s time for the real clean up! I find dip under the couch. Stains on *everyone’s* clothes. And the bathroom usually looks like a tornado ran through it. (Did you notice all those kids in the picture above?!) Luckily, I’ve got Bounty to help with the clean up of the house, and Tide to help make laundry easier.

After every game day happening, all I want to do is sleep for a week, but I’m always thankful that I’ve had the fun with family and friends. They make every moment of preparation, frustration, and clean up worth it. It doesn’t even matter who wins the game!

Companies like Walmart and P&G make Game Day even easier. I’m thankful for quality products that make everyone happy, at a price that makes my wallet happy!

Want to read about other bloggers and their #GameDayTraditions? Here are the links that will help you do just that:

Now, tell me about Game Day at your house. Do you have any traditions you follow? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!

Moving From the City to the Suburbs

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If you grew up in the heart of a big city or live in one now, you enjoy many benefits of city life — easy access to public transportation, extensive shopping and social activities, vibrant art and culture. But you might be like many who wonder if raising a family in a large city is a good idea. Many parents and parents to-be worry about the quality of schools, frequency of crime and lack of safe spaces for kids to play. You’ll drive more if you live outside the city, but there are some distinct advantages to ditching your city digs and taking up residence in the suburbs.

Affordability
In the city, an apartment or flat costs more. You pay a premium for sidewalks, cafes and theaters, as well as the shorter commute. But you money simply goes further in the suburbs. In Seattle for example, a one-bedroom apartment might cost $1,500 in a moderately priced city neighborhood, but in a suburb a mile away, the same apartment might be $900.

Less Noise & Less Pollution
Suburbs have the benefit of less crowding and more green space. When people aren’t packed in like sardines, crime is also less frequent. You can check out crime rates of an area before you move to see what your new neighborhood might be like. With less people and less industry comes better air quality too. See where your current city ranks in terms of pollution according to the American Lung Association. Less noise and pollution can lead to less stress and a higher quality of life.

Better Schools
City schools often don’t compare to their suburban counterparts. Part of the reason for this is the lack of tax base to support the school districts financially. Lower incomes correlate to school bonds and measures not being funded. So families choose the  suburbs to help ensure their children get a better education, even though doing so often means paying higher property taxes. Last, homes and apartments in good school districts hold their value which is important even if you don’t have kids. Look up schools ahead of time and compare. Global report card even allows you to compare any town or suburb to locales outside the U.S.

More Kids
While there are plenty of children who live in the city, parents usually find more convenient access to child care centers, parks and recreation facilities in the suburbs.

If you are considering a move to the suburbs, rent first, or rent permanently. The benefits of renting include flexibility to move should the commute turn out to be too long or the neighborhood doesn’t meet your needs. Renting may be a great permanent option for your family. It also might be a place to stay while you look for a larger place or house. Check out some of the hottest suburbs in the country for renters. Many of the suburbs on this list are among the safest places in their broader metro area. In some cases the rents might be higher too, but the benefits might be worth the premium.

New Weight Loss Challenge & Bible Study Starting Monday!

At the end of last summer, I started a Weight Loss Challenge/Bible Study called “God Before Goodies.” It lasted 4 weeks, and the results were amazing! The ladies in the group became each others’ cheerleaders, friendships were formed, weight was lost, and GOD was given all the glory!

Since the group ended, I’ve been asked almost daily if I would start a new group. After much prayer and deliberation, I’ve decided to start another group. The new group will be called “Becoming the Woman God Wants Me to Be.”

Becoming the Woman God wants me to be

From January 4th through February 1st, we will look at the lives of different women in the Bible. We will apply the characteristics of their lives to better ourselves in all we do – whether eating, exercising, or living a life for Christ.

I promise you, this is unlike any weight loss challenge you have ever been a part of. We will keep Christ first, help you develop a habit of daily Bible reading, and encourage you in your weight loss goals.

The cost to join is $20 for the month. There are no extra fees. No products to buy. No hidden costs. You are welcome to join for the Bible Study aspect, the weight loss aspect, or both! When you join, you will be surrounded by like-minded women, focusing on your life in Christ, and improving all the areas of your life.

I do have several scholarships available (with no tricks to the scholarship, either!), so if you really want to join but just don’t have the funds, contact me and let me know. I don’t want the fee to keep you from drawing closer to Christ if you really can’t afford it.

I’ve been much in prayer for this study, and I would love to have you join us. It will be run as a secret Facebook group, and only the women who have paid are allowed in the group. (No lurkers – it’s all completely private!)

If you want in, let me know. I’d love to have you join us!

Rejoice in His Blessings this Year. Join Me in #Blessings366

At my most recent MOPs meeting, I was talking to some of my fellow moms and telling them that I wanted a break from social media. Facebook becomes a time suck for me. I get so wrapped up in reading and liking posts that before I know it, I’ve spent an hour getting absolutely nothing accomplished.

So, I had decided that I wouldn’t be doing my “Blessing of the day” in 2016 so that I could keep myself off of Facebook.

One of the moms begged me to change my mind. She told me she had gone through some really hard times this past year, and my “Blessings of the day” posts were what helped encourage her to keep looking up. She told me I had no idea how much those daily pictures and posts had helped her, and she couldn’t imagine not having them to look forward to in 2016.

I told her I would pray about it, and the more I did, the more I knew I had to keep sharing. Not just for her, (though I do love knowing it was an encouragement to someone out there!), but because of the effect it had on me. I was able to look back through this past year and see all God brought us through… and there was a lot! God was so good, and even on the hard days, I was still able to find some kind of blessing during that day. It’s been a great way to remember to be grateful, even when times are tough.

#blessings_366

So, I will keep tradition alive, and I will share my blessings each day in 2016. Because it’s a leap year, I’ll have to change the hashtag, so this year, you can find the blessings at #blessings366 on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

I would love it if you would join me. Your photos don’t have to be anything fancy. Just find one blessing every day and share it using the hashtag #blessings366.

If you are committed to participating in #blessings366 this year, grab the button below and put it on your blog. It’ll help remind you to share your blessings with those around you.

#Blessings366
I am excited to see what the Lord does in 2016, and I’m hoping you’ll be a part of it. Let’s give all the glory to our Savior this year and watch the blessings roll in!

Kids in the Outdoors: The Benefits of Outdoor Playtime

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Confined within the house or classroom, your kids may become stir-crazy. Make sure they have an outlet for all their energy, and let them run free outside. Outdoor recreation has been scientifically linked to physical and mental health benefits. Nature can also serve as an outdoor classroom that teaches your children about wildlife and plant life. Regardless of where you live or how old your children are, there are many ways you can incorporate outdoor outings into your family’s routine.

Learn the Benefits of Nature
Time outdoors reaps many benefits that bolster mental and physical health. The mere act of frequent nature outings encourages exercise and an active lifestyle. The University of Essex studied the effects of colors in relation to exercise. The study found that the color green produces better results — less mood disturbances and lower feelings of exertion — than any other color. From this study, it was deduced that the greenery within nature provides an ideal setting for exercise.

Nature helps improve brain function and concentration within children. A study conducted by the National Center for Biology Information found that children with ADHD who spend time outdoors have lessened symptoms. Those who engage in the same activities indoors do not show the same increase of concentration.

The summer sun provides an ample amount of vitamin D, which increases your children’s bone and cell growth, increases their immune functions and provides them with energy. Make sure that your family wears sunscreen that is 30 SPF to be protected from skin damage or cancer.

Make It a Habit
Make outdoor recreation a habit for your family. Schedule time when you and your kids can take walks through your local parks, go on weekend hikes or try new outdoor activities. You can incorporate outdoor activity into your daily routine, even if you have smaller children with some simple solutions. For example, install a kid seat on your bicycle for regular rides around the neighborhood after dinner or to and from school.

The habit of outdoor recreation can be implemented in any environment or weather conditions. If you live in the city and nature isn’t as accessible, many cities have interurban trails or arboretums that are abundant in greenery. If you’re in a colder climate, there are a number of cold-weather activities you can take part in. Equip your kids with the right winter gear, and teach them about snow and ice safety so they can fully enjoy the outdoors in the winter.

Fun Activities
There are plenty of outdoor activities that the entire family can enjoy. Excite and engage your kids with a variety of outdoor games that will keep them outside for as long as possible. Take your family to a park or some fields with a soccer ball for a friendly afternoon scrimmage. Purchase some small, multi-colored cones to place around the field for a game of frisbee golf.

Bird watching is an activity that provides your kids with outdoor time as well as an increased knowledge of all the varieties of birds. Research the best spots for bird watching in your area and bring along a picture guide and a journal. You and your child can make a game of how many types of birds you spot.

You can also take nature walks with your children to identify plants, trees, insects and wildlife. A number of handy outdoor apps will assist in your identification of all the life that lies within nature.

Exciting Gift Ideas That Any Man Will Love

Whether you’re shopping for your husband, brother or father, choosing gifts for men is never easy. The main problem is that when it comes to buying for him, it can be a real struggle coming up with a fun and unique idea. Often, when we’re gift buying, we ask people what they want, to get a few ideas, but men tend to state that they ‘don’t need anything’. (This is seriously unhelpful and makes shopping for them even harder.)

While picking the perfect gift for the man in your life can be tricky, it doesn’t have to be. To make gift buying a little easier, I thought that I would share a few ideas with you here, that all men are sure to love.

Sports themed gifts

Almost every guy supports one sport or another, so a sports themed gift could be perfect. Think about what his favorite sport is, as well as what team or player he supports, and use this to come up with some gift ideas.

Tickets to watch a match are always a safe bet, as is memorabilia. If he likes to collect stuff, he might love a selection of vintage memorabilia of his favorite sports team or player. You can find some fantastic vintage pieces on selling sites like eBay, so make sure to have a look on there.

If he has always wanted to give a particular sport a try, why not book him in for lessons or an experience day? Men love trying new things, especially if it’s something that they’ve wanted to try for a while.

Gadgets

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Photo source

If the guy that you’re buying for loves messing around with gadgets, something technological could make the perfect gift. The good news is that there are so many options to choose from, that whatever his interests, there should be something that’s perfect.

Ask yourself what his hobbies include. If, for example, he loves taking photos, why not buy him a top of the range camera? It’s important to choose him a gift he’ll cherish and use, so something that relates to an interest he has is a good idea.

Or, for instance, if he’s crazy about remote control cars and helicopters, consider treating him to the ultimate boy’s toy – a drone. These might not come cheap, but if you pick him a good one – check out the Pro Photo UAV website, he’ll have hours of fun with it.

If he doesn’t have a tablet of his own, this could make the perfect gift. Today tablets are affordable to buy and have so many uses, and because of this make great gifts. While ipads are the most sought after device, there are plenty of tablet designs that are just as good and a lot cheaper. (To find out the best makes, have a look online.)

Edible treats

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Image credit: Flickr

If all else fails and you’re stuck for ideas, edible gifts can be a great success. When we think of edible treats, we often think of sweet things. However, savoury foods can also make great gifts. How about treating him to a hamper made up of all his fave treats? Instead of buying the hamper, get creative and make it yourself. Ready made hampers can be a little pricey, so going down the DIY route it best. Plus, that way, you can customize it just for him.

All you need is a basket, some tissue paper, ribbon, and a selection of his favorite food and drink. Pack the hamper with lots of bits and bobs that you know he’ll love, and you can make him the most incredible gift.

So there you have it, my guide to exciting gift ideas that all men will love.

The Benefits of Using Glass Packaging

The production of goods is not an easy job, but a very rewarding one. Owning a business in this type of sector comes with a lot of responsibility. One of the biggest responsibilities that a business owner in this line of work has is choosing the right packaging for their products. Using Glass Products to house a product can be very beneficial. Selecting a great supplier of glass containers is the first thing that a business owner will have to think about. Here are some of the benefits that using glass containers for products can provide.

A Recyclable Material
For most business owners, finding a way to supply the public with products without putting a strain on the environment is a top concern. By using glass containers, a business owner will be able to do just that. The glass that comprises the containers is a completely recyclable material. This means that after the product it used, the glass can be made into other goods and used again and again. By taking the time to do their part for the environment, a business owner will be able to reduce the pollution they put out of their company.

No Effect on the Product
The next benefit that comes along with using glass packaging is that it is non porous. This means that the product will not be affected during transport, which means it will allow for the taste or the consistency to remain intact. The money that is paid for quality packaging is well worth it and will help to ensure that the quality products produced will reach the consumer unspoiled. Be sure to speak with the glass container supplier being used about what can be done to keep the product safe while in transport.

Durable Grade of Glass
Choosing to use glass packaging is also a great way for the business owner to get their product on the shelves in one piece. The tempered glass that is used for this type of packaging will help to reduce the frequency of glass breaks. Be sure to invest the money into getting quality containers. Taking the time to research the various glass containers available will make it much easier for a person to get the right results. A reputable and experienced supplier will have no problem guiding a business owner towards the right type of glass container.

The right supplier can make the choosing and production of the glass containers much easier. Going online and researching a supplier can help a business owner make the right decision with ease.

Guest Post: Three Simple Tips for Selecting the Finest Watches for Women

Women do not have a shortage of jewelry pieces that they can add to their wardrobes. There are necklaces, bracelets, earrings, watches and a whole lot of other items. The same cannot be said for men.

For a long time the only jewelry piece that men could wear was a ring and then came the watches.

Watches have been known as the man’s jewelry but nowadays top watch brands are creating lovely watches for women as well. The only problem that you might have when looking for a woman’s watch is selecting the one that you want to take home with you.

Picking the right watch

The first thing that you need to consider when buying a watch is your body size. The watches that will look nice of plus size women might not look nice at all on women who are slim. Here are a few tips that you might want to consider when you are seeking out a luxury watch for women.

1. Size of the band
It goes without saying that a majority of watches for women come with a very thin band. The slimmer the band is the bigger it makes your hand appear. If you are slim then you should be looking for a watch that is going to make your hand appear to be bigger. This generally means that you should go for a watch with a slimmer band. As a plus size lady, a slim watch will make the hand look bigger; you should look for a watch with a wider band.

2. Size of the face
You do not want a watch with too large a face or too. The rules that govern the band/strap aforementioned are going to apply to the face of the watch as well. Do not over think it though.

3. Color
When buying luxury watches for women you will find a whole lot of colors to select from. This is where companies like Essential Watches come in to save the day. Essential Watches is an online watch shop that is based in Beverly Hills. The company deals with all the finest watches from Switzerland and Germany. Here you will get a watch for yourself and for your man- stylish watch. The colors available to choose from are innumerable- you will be totally spoilt for choice.

Generally when you are considering the colors, you should go for a color that will work for your everyday activities. For instance a watch with a silver face and a black dial will go with just about anything in your wardrobe.

Premium quality watches

Shopping for a watch online can be a dangerous affair. You need not be told that there are con artists online. This is why if you want to invest in a luxury watch you should seek out these products at sites like Essential Watches. This is one of those sites that have been tried, tested and proven to provide nothing but world class quality watches. Investing in a top brand watch is always nice. If the price of a brand new watch scares you, there are used watches available and they come at a cheaper price.

About Author
David Kuttner is a photographer, writer, and a father. When he’s not busy writing, he’s most likely spending time with his wife and their two mischievous dogs: Lily and Bart.

How To Make Your Next Children’s Birthday Party Memorable

Kids birthday parties are one of the joys of having kids. Getting to be there with them on their birthday as they enjoy themselves with their friends is priceless! You want your child to remember their childhood birthday parties forever. Here is how you can make your next children’s birthday party a memorable one, for your child and all those invited!

Pick A Theme
Choosing a theme is a great way to make a kids party memorable! Pirates is a great theme idea, as both boys and girls will enjoy it. As well as having them dress up as little pirates, you can incorporate the theme into your party games. Finding the buried treasure is guaranteed to be exciting! A theme makes a party more personal to your child, as they can involve something that they enjoy. If you are stuck for ideas, there are plenty on the internet!

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Link

Take Photos
The easiest way to make it memorable is to make sure to take lots of photos. Ask your guests moms and dads to take photos as well as you, or hand out some disposable cameras so you definitely get to see them. Alternatively you might want to hire a photographer if you think you’re going to be too busy helping to entertain kids to take photos. The Las Vegas Photographers site tells you how to pick the right one.

Go Big On Food
Make sure you have a wide range of food on offer, as you don’t want your children’s party to be memorable for the wrong reason. Kids can be fussy, and you don’t want them going hungry if they don’t like what you’ve gone on offer. Food can also make the party memorable for a good reason! Consider getting a really memorable cake, perhaps one that is shaped like their favorite cartoon character.

Little Touches
Little touches make a big difference! Make sure to decorate with plenty of banners and balloons to make your child feel important on their special day. A great decoration is a big birthday balloon with their age on it. You could also buy some party poppers, just make sure the kids are supervised with them! Then how about putting photos of them when they were even younger around the house. Older visitors to the party such as family members will appreciate these.

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Link

Choose The Location Wisely
The location is what the kids at the party will remember the most. So choose wisely! There are plenty of options available to you. If you’d rather not have to do the work yourself and run around after kids, you could hire somewhere like a leisure center or a swimming pool. This would also be a great option for kids who like being sporty or active. If you’d rather have something a bit closer to home, why not choose a garden party? You could hire a bouncy castle and arrange party games such as pass the parcel. This is a great option for younger kids, so you are able to keep an eye on them.

Making your child’s next birthday party as memorable as possible is easier than you might think. Try out these tips and see!

#Ad: I’m Happy for You (Sort Of…Not Really) #FLYBY #HydrateForTheHolidays #BookReview

sampleDisclaimer: This post is sponsored by FlyBy Promotions. I received a complimentary copy of the book in order to facilitate my review.

happy for you

Today’s world is full of competition. Do you ever look at Pinterest and get jealous of “those” moms who can do it all? I know I do.

Several weeks ago, I had the chance to hear Kay Wills Wyma’s interview with Focus on the Family. I was so impressed and so moved by the interview that I immediately ordered her book on my Kindle. I get so caught up with feeling like I have to be better than everyone else. Since everyone is comparing their life to mine anyway, I have to give them something that’s worth comparing!

How foolish is that? I can’t imagine Jesus would be very proud of that type of attitude. Nor would He appreciate my coveting the ability of others every time I log into Facebook or Pinterest.

This book is fantastic. A must read for every mom – or woman – who feels like her joy is being robbed by the comparison and competition in her life. Kay shares her own experiences with comparison living and gives her readers simple remedies that helped her family change their perspective and find freedom and joy in every day life.

Right now, we’re in the thick of the holiday season. Boy, that makes comparison an even touchier topic, doesn’t it? Well, I’ve got good news for you! On her blog, Kay is starting to #HydratefortheHolidays, and is helping us all learn how to recapture contentment and joy in our lives. I’m so excited about these posts. You must check them out!

Here are the best ways to check out all the #HydratefortheHolidays posts and interact with Kay:

I truly hope you’ll check out this book. It has truly helped me so much, and I’ve really changed my thought process on comparing my life with the lives of other moms and women, and have started focusing on my own blessings and all God has allowed me to do and have. This book is truly life changing and I will highly recommend it to everyone!

Have you read I’m Happy for You (Sort Of…Not Really): Finding Contentment in a Culture of Comparison? What did you think of it? I’d love to hear if it helped you as much as it did me. Leave me a comment below!

#Sponsored: New DC Super Hero Girls Cartoons & a #Giveaway

sponsoredDisclaimer:This is a sponsored post on behalf of DC Super Hero Girls. They provided the information, but any opinions expressed are my own. They are also sponsoring and controlling the giveaway.

dc super hero girls

In our house, Super Heroes are #1! We all love them. And, now that DC Entertainment has released their new animated series featuring DC Super Hero Girls, we are even more excited! My girls and I are all about a little “girl power” now and then, and this dynamic group of girls are strong, fearless, edgy, and fun! We each have our favorite Super Hero Girl, and even my boys love watching right along with us.

The DC Super Hero Girls YouTube channel makes it easy for our kids to watch their favorite characters, on-demand, and from any device. Thank heavens for wi-fi, because Carly keeps the DC Super Hero Girls channel playing on my Kindle Fire as often as I let her. Take a look at the playlist:

For even more DC Super Hero Girls fun, check out the DC Super Hero Girls website where kids can play games, download free printable activities, and so much more. Head over there now for some *super* fun!

To celebrate the launch of these Super Hero Girls, DC is giving away a $100 Visa Gift Card! Enter below for your chance to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


How excited are YOU about the DC Super Hero Girls? Tell me in the comments below!

#Sponsored: Top Toy Trends for the Holiday Season from #zulily!

sponsoredDisclaimer:This is a sponsored post on behalf of Zulily. They provided the information, but any opinions expressed are my own.

’Tis the season for gifting little ones the toys they’ve been wanting all year long. This year, it’s not just about play – the most popular toys this season promote learning and creativity!

That said, we’ve tapped zulily’s resident toy expert Kenji Yoshinari for a list of trends to keep in mind as you scour the zulily Toy Shop for the perfect gifts that will both entertain and educate your child this season. Kenji’s tips are:

  • Use the Force to make sure you give the hottest toys! With the upcoming December 18th premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, we’re sure Star Wars toys and apparel will be flying off the shelves this holiday season. Make sure to purchase early so you don’t miss out!
  • Look out for open-ended building toys. Giving kids the opportunity to let their imagination run wild and not be constrained by instruction manuals is the heart of this hot trend.
  • Switch from STEM to STEAM. Adding the ART component to STEM gives you more ways to introduce creativity and fun to your children’s world of educated play.
  • Customize Your Play! Make the play experience meet who your child is – from personalized rockers and ride-ons, to a doll that looks just like your child.
  • Retro, classic play remains a top trend. Brands and toys that bring back memories of days gone by are at the top of everyone’s list this season.

zulily toys

In addition, Kenji has pulled together a list of the Breakout Toys of 2015 and I’ve featured a few below:

  • TEGU Classroom Kit – combine art and education for a great gift. zulily toys
  • Green Toys – teach your child to care for the environment with these eco-friendly toys. They are easy to maintain, dishwasher safe and don’t require batteries.
  • Build-Your-Own (Customizable) 18” Dolls from Madame Alexander – Customizable and hands-on building, this toy covers off on two top toy trends!
  • Razor Crazy Cart Spinning Go Kart & JoyBay Pink Swing Car – These toys are perfect for kids on the go.
  • FINIS Mermaid Swim Fin – a fin-tastic choice for kids who love the water!

At online retailer zulily, shoppers have something new to discover each morning including toys, gifts, apparel & accessories, home décor and more. Be sure to check back often on zulily.com or on their mobile app to get the best deals for the whole family this holiday season.

Cleaning Up During The Holidays Shouldn’t Be A Pain

For those of us raised with ambitious holiday cooking traditions, looking forward to a food prep schedule can cause a deep sense of dread. In the American holiday tradition, there has been an arms race of who can prepare the most impressive and delicious spread, and it’s getting harder and harder to prepare. It’s also getting a lot more difficult to clean up after all the holiday cooking, baking, and noshing is complete. This can leave the beleaguered cook with a mountain of dishes high as a yule log (I actually don’t know how big a yule log is….or what it is). With Chinet, this exercise in frustration is no longer necessary.

This holiday season, why not lay down the culinary burden passed down to you by your holiday-happy forebears. Order a pizza, get some take out, or call a catering company. Finally, get rid of all the mess with Chinet. Chinet provides the industry standard in attractive, sturdy, and affordable dishware and flatware. Everyone at your holiday table will be able to eat their fill then toss their refuse in the bin. With meal cleanup as simple as that, you might just be able to, I don’t know, ENJOY your holiday meal this year. It’s a crazy idea, but it just might work.

The holidays shouldn’t be about toiling. Take the toil out of your holiday meal plans, without making your spread look cheap. Chinet is the disposable dishware of choice for people who don’t want to look like they bought it on the clearance aisle at a dollar store. Chinet can hold up under even the most heaping of holiday portions, and is strong enough to even go back for seconds, thirds, and fourths! So grab some Chinet and make this holiday’s meals the happiest and most convenient in living memory.

#Sponsored: Make it an EPIC Holiday with @LeapFrog #LeapFrogMomSquad

sampleDisclaimer: As a member of the LeapFrog Mom Squad, I receive product in exchange for my honest review. While the products are given to me, the opinions expressed are my own.

epic leapfrog products

Have you started shopping for Christmas yet? Around here, we procrastinate and don’t even get started until probably the week before Christmas. We’re crazy, I know! But, I am constantly adding items to my online Wishlists all year long.

With 8 kids, I need toys that I know are worth the money I’m going to invest in them. That’s why I love LeapFrog products so much!

Our recent shipment from LeapFrog was full of really great items! You are definitely going to want to hear about these and put them on your kids’ wishlists.

LeapFrog Epic

leapfrog epic

First up is the LeapFrog Epic. This tablet is fantastic! There is just so much you can do with it. Because it’s an Android-based tablet, so there’s no need for LeapFrog cartridges anymore. Because I have so many kids, I am all about not needing extra “parts” to make something work. Everything my kids need to have fun is right on this tablet.

While the recommended ages for the tablet are 3 to 9 years old, I’ve caught all of my kids playing on the epic at one time or another. There have been many times when I’ve found my 4 year old showing my 11 year old how the tablet works and all the fun games and videos they can find on there.

epic kid

I love the look and feel of the epic as well. It’s thick and sturdy, and has a larger screen, but the fantastic case makes it easy for even the smallest hands to hold. My two year old has no trouble holding onto the epic and finding her favorite part – the videos!

It’s easy to use, grows with my kids, and is just so much fun! While it retails at $139.99, that price is more than fair, and is quite comparable with other tablets made for kids that don’t do near as much. It’s a great little tablet for the money, and one I know your kids will love!

LeapFrog Number Lovin’ Oven

number lovin' oven

Next up, we have the Number Lovin’ Oven. This is Carly’s absolute favorite toy. It’s the very first thing she plays with when she wakes up in the morning. In fact, she’ll get up and “cook” me an egg and a cupcake every morning for “breakfast.” It’s adorable! I think she loves the songs it sings the most. And, believe me, in no time, you will be singing “Put an Egg on it” too! :) Honestly, I sing that song every time I cook in my real oven now too! It’s one of those songs that sticks in your head.

This little oven comes with 16 pieces to play with including 2 cupcakes, 4 slices of deep dish pizza, an egg, and bread. The pizza and bread come apart to help little ones learn their numbers and how to share. (I love that!)

It really is a lot of fun to play with, and at just $24.99, it’s the perfect price too! It’s perfect for the 2 to 5 year old age range, and it will keep them happy and playing for hours on end. (At least it does in our house!)

Your little one will love serving you up breakfast, lunch, and dinner everyday, and they’ll do it with a smile on their face and a song on their lips. This is a must-add product for your preschooler’s wish list!

Scout’s Build & Discover Tool Set

Scout's build & discover tool set

Singing, laughing, counting, matching, measuring, and banging – that’s what you get with Scout’s Build & Discover Tool Set. And it is awesome!

Your child gets all the tools and items they need to build a completely interactive house for your favorite dog, Scout. Your child will count nails, measure the walls of the house, all while they sing along to the number song. While they are doing this, Scout is talking, singing, and cheering them on in their efforts!

This is a great little tool for helping your little one to learn their numbers and how to count. And it’s just a lot of fun! Gage has loved Scout since he was a baby, and so he immediately recognized the voice. He was thrilled to be able to make a little house for his favorite puppy!

The tool set is perfect for ages 2 – 5, and retails for just $19.99. That makes it the perfect gift to give to your favorite little boy, or donate a few to your local women’s shelter and give someone else a Merry Christmas. :)

I am just thrilled to be working with LeapFrog, and getting the chance to share these amazing products with you!

I’ll have more gift ideas and our Holiday Gift Guide coming soon! Be sure to check back.

#Sponsored: Mary’s Secret Ingredients – A Recipe for Success!

sampleDisclaimer: This is a sponsored post on behalf of Mary’s Secret Ingredients. I received a sample in order to facilitate my review. Opinions expressed are 100% my own.

marys_secret_ingredients

Are there ever times when you need a few extra ideas in the kitchen? Or maybe you want to try something new, but you’re just not sure where to start?

Let me introduce you to Mary’s Secret Ingredients.

With Mary’s Secret Ingredients, you can quickly and easily become a pro in the kitchen, discovering fantastic new flavors and products that will make life easier, and make your food taste better!

There are two ways to purchase: Individual boxes (priced at just $25.95/box!), or order a one-year subscription and get 4 boxes shipped to your door throughout the year. At just over $100, the one year subscription is a great option to keep for yourself or give as a gift to that special cook in your life.

Want to know the best part? Mary’s Secret Ingredients has partnered with Feed the Children, so every time you buy a box, you’re helping feed someone in need. Love that!

marys_secret_ingredients

For this review, I received the Fall box from Mary’s Secret Ingredients. I was pleasantly surprised by what I found inside!

The Ultragrain Blend All Purpose flour is already a favorite. It’s what I buy when I make my homemade chicken and dumplings or cookies from scratch. In fact, when I opened the box, Jace caught a glimpse of the flour and asked, “Oh, Mom! Does this mean we’re having dumplings for dinner?”

The POURfect Measuring Spoon Set is to die for! It’s funny, because I was really wishing I had one of these before I got the box. I ordered some cute measuring spoons several months ago, but while they look cute, that’s about all they do. They don’t measure accurately, and I got frustrated every time I tried to use them. Enter the POURfect measuring spoons, and I don’t have that problem anymore! I can quickly and accurately get just what I need – down to the DROP! (Which is 1/32 of a teaspoon, by the way.) 😉

The other items were new to me: Sarah’s Sea Salt, which is a Tuscan Sea Salt, and the Jenkins Jellies are both items I’d never heard of, but I can’t wait to try them out! I’ve got chicken breast thawing in the fridge for tonight. I think I’ll visit the recipe section of the Mary’s Secret Ingredient website and see what I can whip up for dinner. I’m not a fan of spicy foods or jellies, but my 12 year old, Zander sure is. I have a feeling his next Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich will have a bit of a “kick” to it. :)

Whether you are a seasoned cook or just starting out, I encourage you to check out Mary’s Secret Ingredients and order a box. If you avoid the kitchen at all costs, why not order a box for a friend? The winter box would make a fantastic Christmas gift! And, just by ordering a box, you can help feed a hungry child. What could be better than that? Mary’s Secret Ingredients is a gift that keeps on giving.

#Sponored: Watch the Be Cool Scooby-Doo Video & Enter to Win!

sponsoredDisclaimer: This is a sponsored post on behalf of Warner Bros. Information for the post was provided by Warner Bros, but any opinions expressed are my own.

There are few cartoons that stand the test of time. Scooby-Doo! is one of those classics that our kids can enjoy just like we did growing up.

Now, you can watch your favorite team together again in an all new show: Be Cool Scooby-Doo! It’s coming to Cartoon Network in the US!

While one of our favorite cartoons continues to provide entertainment for the whole family, the way our kids watch cartoons is certainly not the same as it was “way back when…”

Now, they can watch videos, play games, and even download printable activities on ScoobyDoo.com!

The Warner Bros Youtube Channel makes it easy for our kids to watch their favorite mystery squad – on-demand, and from any device.

Want to know the best part? Scooby-Doo! is giving away a $100 Amazon gift card. That makes this a great time to check it all out.

Take a minute to watch the video.

Now, enter for your chance to win today!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks to Warner Bros for this fantastic new show – and for the amazing giveaway!

#Sponsored: Check Out the New Quick Cups Video & Enter to Win!

sponsoredDisclaimer: This is a sponsored post on behalf of Spin Master Games. Information for the post was provided by Spin Master, but any opinions expressed are my own.

Take a minute to check out the fantastic new Quick Cups video from Spin Master. Then, be sure to scroll down and enter the giveaway to win one of three grand games packages. (Packages include Fibber, Mustache Smash, Boom Boom Balloon, Shark Mania, Rapidoodle, and Quick Cups and are valued at $125 each.) Also – there are 10 amazing Runner Up prizes of the Quick Cups Board Game!

Haven’t heard of Quick Cups? It’s this great game where kids can outperform their parents IF they have a quicker eye and hands. It’s a game that everyone will love to play, and ANYONE can be the winner!

Here, take a look at the video:

Now, enter the giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck to all who enter!

Also, be sure to thank Spin Master by checking out the Spin Master Games website and the Spin Master YouTube Channel. Because of them, I can bring you these fantastic giveaways!

When You Tell God No

proverbs 3:5-6

Several years ago, my husband was on fire for the Lord. He had a fire burning within him that I had never seen before. He was always doing something with the church. Always at revivals. Always at meetings. I’ll admit, I was jealous. I wanted in on it. But, I was always stuck at home with 5 or 6 kids, needing so desperately to be fed, but not getting anything.

The next year, my husband started feeling like the Lord was calling him (us!) to the mission field. He approached a trusted man of God about it, and was told that God generally calls men to preach before he calls them as missionaries. My husband felt discouraged and figured, “Well, God must not be calling me to be a missionary.” I wanted to help. I wanted to be there for him. So, I went on a mission. I decided it was time for me to get my life on track. If God was calling my husband to be a missionary, I didn’t want to miss that call. I wanted to love him and support him right through it. I started focusing on my own relationship with Christ. I studied my Bible daily – for hours. I prayed every chance I got. I wanted to get as close as I possibly could so that I could be there for my husband as a missionary’s wife – or in whatever capacity Christ wanted.

But nothing ever came of it. We missed our chance to go off and serve the Lord because we didn’t know how. We didn’t know what steps we were required to take next. We knew what we were supposed to do, but we had no idea how to do it.

We both felt the Lord telling us to leave our church. Not because we were angry at the church, but because it wasn’t where He wanted us to be. We both knew it. We had even discussed it at length.

But, we told God no. We didn’t want to leave our church. We had been at that church since the Sunday after we moved down to Georgia. All of our friends were there. Our family was there. It was all that we knew. We made every excuse in the book to stay. “It will hurt so-and-so’s feelings if we leave.” “Our kids are doing so well in church, and they love going. We don’t want to risk them hating a new church.” “How will we ever find a church that can replace what we’ve found here?”

It was all true. We really did love our church. In the 8 years we were there, I got saved and baptized, and 4 of our children were saved and baptized as well. I would watch as Christ would move in the hearts of my children. Many tears were shed on the altar as we would all bring our burdens to the Lord and leave them there.

But, one thing was happening during this time that I couldn’t fix, no matter how many tears I cried, or how many times I went to the altar. For 3 years, I watched my husband slowly pull himself farther and farther away from God and our church. And the entire time, I knew it was because we weren’t where God wanted us to be. Yet, I stayed. I continued to tell God no.

My husband became discouraged. He has a job that requires him to work on Sunday mornings, so he is rarely at church during the morning worship service. Before, he would always make sure to get off on Sunday evenings and Wednesday nights to still be at church. But, more and more, through the years, he would stop doing that. Instead, he would find just “one more thing” that would keep him busy enough that he would be too late for church.

It tore my heart to pieces. All I wanted was to be in church with my husband sitting beside me, but church was the last place he wanted to be.

So, I approached him about it. The first few times I asked, he gave me excuses: things were really busy at work, he had too much to do, etc., etc.

But, recently, I approached him in a different way. I asked him what he needed to get back to the Lord. I was already praying, but I knew he needed more from me. I wanted to make sure I gave it to him. We talked, we cried, and we both realized we already had the answer: God was calling us to move on. To trust HIM to lead us to a new church, one that He had picked out just for us. All those months, Gene didn’t want to say anything to me, because He had seen how close I had drawn to the Lord, and He was afraid by asking me to leave the church, he would ruin that. If only he had known I was already feeling the same way. Why hadn’t we talked sooner?

The next night, we sat the kids down, and told them that we felt like the Lord was leading us to find a new church. Some of the kids were totally on board with it, but one of the kids was completely against it. He started crying and begged us to change our minds. He didn’t want to leave his friends. He told us he would hate any new church he tried, just so we would change our minds and go back to “our” church.

That next Sunday night, we tried a new church. We spoke with the pastor and found out just how missions-minded their church was. In a church with 95 members, their Faith Promise giving was $46,000 for the year. Did you catch that? On top of regular tithes and offerings, this church had promised $46,000 to missionaries. Amazing.

The first service went really well. It was different than what we had become used to for the past 8 years, but not different in a bad way. Just different. Plus, the people were kind and welcoming, and there were lots and lots of kids.

We went back that Wednesday night, and the kids all went off to their own classes. After the service that night, Jace, (the one who had been so against us even trying a new church), came up to Gene and I and said, “I’m so sorry I didn’t trust you or God. I really like it here. If this is where God wants us to be, I’m OK with it.”

Isn’t it nice to know that even the hardest hearts can be changed?

Before Gene and I committed to anything, we wanted to come to a few more services. I needed to try a Sunday morning without my husband there and make sure I could handle it.

The pastor and his wife came even came over one day to hear our testimonies and tell us more about what they believe as a church.

After every service, and almost every night since we had started attending the new church, Gene and I would talk, and it wasn’t long before we both felt that was exactly where God was leading us.

This past Sunday night, Gene and I, along with 7 of our kids, joined Shining Light Baptist Church.

new church

(Pictured left to right: Angie, Carly, Gage, Zander, Gene, Sawyer, Jace, Lucy, Parker, and Pastor Tim Mason.)

Yes, we have 8 kids. And, yes, only 7 of them are pictured with us here. Our oldest daughter is 18. Gene and I both feel she is old enough to make her own decisions in the Lord. We had to do something VERY hard, and let her decide where she would go to church. If the Lord is not moving her on, we don’t want to force her. We are praying every day that she will seek only HIS will, and that she will do whatever is right for her in HIS eyes.

I am praying that the Lord will really use us in this new church. We are excited about serving in whatever way possible. I’m praying the Lord will send Gene a man who will truly encourage him in the things of the Lord, who will become his friend and uplift him in prayer. I want nothing more than to see my husband have that fire burning within him again. I know he wants it to, and I’m praying with everything I have that he finds it here, not because of the people, but because of the Spirit. I’m also praying the Lord will send me ladies that I can draw close to, that I can minister to and to learn from. I’m praying that my kids will find Jesus here. That the ones who are saved will cultivate a real relationship with Him, and that the ones who are not saved will discover the love of our Savior and invite Him into their hearts. God can do mighty things, and I’m trusting Him to do just that.

psalm 91:1-4

Sometimes, the Lord calls us to do hard things. Sometimes, we tell him no, and we suffer because of it. Yes, our kind and loving Father still blesses us from time to time. But just imagine the blessings He will give us when we are willing to follow Him, no matter how hard it may be.

Step out on faith. Trust Him to guide your steps. He has your best interest at heart. You just have to let Him lead. And stop telling Him no.

#Sponsored: @OneSightOrg wants to #HelpTheWorldSee with Your Help! @SheSpeaksUp

sponsoredDisclaimer: This is a sponsored post on behalf of OneSight through SheSpeaks. Any opinions expressed are my own.

#helptheworldsee

I got my first pair of glasses in 3rd grade. At first, I just needed reading glasses. But, over the next year, my eye sight got so bad, I had to wear them all the time.

I was so embarrassed. I hated my glasses, and I didn’t want to have to wear my glasses. I talked my parents into buying me contacts, but I hated them too. So, for over a year, I pretended to put my contacts in every day, and I struggled to see.

When my parents finally caught on, the immediately took me to the eye doctor to see if I had done any damage to my eyes. It turned out, I had. By not wearing my glasses, and straining so hard to see for so long, I had messed up my eyes so badly that I had to go through a year of eye therapy to help retrain my eyes to see.

I had access to glasses, and I made the choice not to wear them for selfish reasons. I look back on it now, and I wish I could go back in time to smack myself. What was I thinking?!

So, when I heard about OneSight and the amazing work they are doing to eradicate the global vision care crisis, I wanted in!

ONESIGHTRICHMOND2_10082015124438

OneSight wants to bring sight to the world, but they need your help! Here’s what you can do:

  • Share a Photo – Snap a picture of yourself or your family using your hands as glasses. Use the hashtag #HelpTheWorldSee and help bring attention to OneSight’s mission to bring sight to the world. (Use my picture with Jace above as a reference!)
  • Donate – There are over 1 billion people without access to vision care. By donating just $1 to the cause will help! Donate quickly and easily at OneSight.org/donate.

Please take a moment to learn more about OneSight and the fantastic things they’re doing:

I can’t wait to see your pictures floating around social media! Get your handglasses on and start shooting! :)