Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 Meme

“For last year's words belong to last year's language 
And next year's words await another voice.” 
― T.S. Eliot

I've done this for the last 5 years (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011) I may as well keep it up another year. If you decide to play along on your blog, leave a comment so I can read your 2012 recap.

1. What did you do in 2012 that you’d never done before?
I became certified in almost all the Microsoft products and also became a Microsoft Certified Trainer.  I've trained software for a long time, but now I'm official with Microsoft.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I set none for last year, so I guess I kept them just fine!  I don't think I'm going to make any this year, but I'm going to choose a word for the year -- INTENTIONAL.  We'll see next year how good I was at keeping that word.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
The eldest daughter of a dear friend gave birth this month.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
Nobody close to me died in 2012.

5. What countries did you visit?
None

6. What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011?
Peace

7. What dates from 2012 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
I can't think of any red-letter days, but there were plenty of days full of love.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Becoming a MCT was a pretty big achievement.  Another was presenting with Nate at the annual NSA Conference.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Nothing I would share with the Internet :)~

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
More kidney issues. Hoping everything is resolved in 2013.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
I can't think of any outstanding purchases.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
My husband, who supports and loves me through everything.



13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
I was appalled and depressed by the behavior of a few people.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Mortgages, medical bills

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Trips to the beach and Grand Canyon with my family.

16. What song will always remind you of 2012?
None comes to mind.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: a) happier or sadder? b) thinner or fatter? c) richer or poorer?
a) sadder; b) about the same; c) about the same

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Travel.  Alone and as a family. 

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
Worrying about other people and what they thought and how they felt.  Plan on doing less of that this year, without a doubt.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
We enjoyed a quiet, peaceful day in our home. My kids thoroughly enjoyed the gifts they received and spending time together as a family. We attended Christmas day mass for the first time in a long time (usually we go on Christmas Eve)  We may have started a new tradition by going out to dinner, as our original plans fell through, and I had no groceries since I wasn't planning on making the meal.

21. Did you fall in love in 2012?
I fell deeper in love with my husband -- it's such a cliche but it's true that as the years go by I find new depths of my love for him.

22. How many one-night stands?
None.

23. What was your favorite TV program?
I like Las Vegas (long time Dennis Quaid fan) and Elementary

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
Nope

25. What was the best book you read?
I read a ton of books this year.  It's hard to pick out the best -- but reading L.M. Montgomery's compilation of short stories may be near the top of my favorites this year.  Short, sweet, gentle and just what I needed during the period of time when I read them.

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?
I enjoyed Willie Nelson's Christmas album that he released this year.  One of my grandmothers really enjoyed his music, although she always followed that up with the fact she didn't like the way he looked. Not only was it a beautiful album, it reminded me of her.

27. What did you want and get?
I got a new camera for my birthday -- something that I really wanted. For Christmas, I received some gorgeous earrings from my husband.

28. What did you want and not get?
Won't say, but it's something that I have realized I'll never have and I'm getting to the point of being okay with that.

29. What was your favorite film of this year?
The Hobbit (I didn't see many movies this year, but the boys read the Hobbit, and I re-read it, and we saw the movie together. It was fun to share all of that with them.)

30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 45 this year. Bo was in Vegas, again.  I worked.

31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Winning the lottery.  A really big lottery.

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2012?
Simple (boring)

33. What kept you sane?
A good friend. the Kindle app. my fluffy down comforter.

34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
No big crushes this year.

35. What political issue stirred you the most?
I'm not a big political issue type of person. I have my views, and I keep them quiet for the most part -- doing what I can to further what I believe is important. Nothing stirred me enough to prompt me to post on the Internet about it.

36. Who did you miss?
I missed my grandparents. They've all been gone for a number of years, but I still miss the fact that they truly loved me unconditionally.  Even if there were times they may not have liked me, they never let on and I only felt their love.

37. Who was the best new person you met?
I met someone new this year that helped me grow as a person, even if I struggled with it.  I found myself frustrated at times, but I know I learned some things and in the end, I'm grateful this person was in my life.

38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2012.
“Change the changeable, accept the unchangeable, and remove yourself from the unacceptable.” 
― Denis Waitley

39. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
That’s the only way I know
Don’t stop till everything’s gone
Straight ahead never turn round
Don’t back up, don’t back down
Full throttle wide open
You get tired, you don’t show it
Dig a little deeper when you think you can’t dig no more
That’s the only way I know
-- Jason Aldean, The Only Way I Know  

Monday, December 17, 2012

Review: Master Lock Safe

Last year, Lydia kept snitching gum from Colin.  We told him to put it away safely, but he insisted that she found it no matter where he hid it.  So, on Christmas morning, he received a Master Lock Personal Safe chock full of packs of gum.  We haven't heard a gum snitching complaint ever since

When Master Lock contacted me a couple weeks ago wondering if I wanted to learn more about any of their products, I told them that I was currently looking for something to hold small electronics.  Sometimes, punishment in our house means losing your screens -- iPod or DSi, usually.  And, sometimes, Mom completely forgets what safe place she puts those items in, so when a kid earns them back, they don't always get them right away.  Or, they will find them and think the punishment is over, so they take back their screen before the punishment is over.  I needed a safe, secure place to put small items!


Master Lock sent me a Security Chest to see if it would meet my needs.  As you can see -- it did!  It's big enough to fit all of the small screens in our house, and even game controllers, if necessary. The sturdy cam lock is secure, and the key doesn't match other Master Lock products (I tried on another lockbox I have that stores important papers.)  The keys are someplace safe (a safe place that I remember!)  I don't have to worry about forgetting where I put their electronics, and we can put a note in the chest about when they can earn them back.

The Security Chest is a good size not just for small electronics, but also important papers or any small items that you want a little extra protection for.  This box is 11" x 14" x 4.38" and retails for less than $40.

Don't tell Nate, but he'll find his own personal safe under the tree this year!

*Disclosure: All opinions, pictures and words are my own.  Master Lock sent me the product disclosed above to facilitate this review. No additional compensation was provided.*


Sunday, December 16, 2012

String Project Recital

When we made the switch from homeschooling to public school, I remember the morning that we visited the school and learned about the different opportunities.  In fourth grade, kids were able to join the orchestra and Colin was entering fourth grade.  I encouraged him to talk to the orchestra teacher that morning, and he wanted nothing to do with the idea.  I remember feeling frustrated and annoyed, then surprised a week later when he came home and told us that he wanted to join the orchestra!

He chose the viola that year, and is in the 3rd year of playing. In the second half of that first year, I learned about a program through ASU's School of Music called the String Project.  They offered group lessons once a week at an amazing cost ($35 for 10 weeks!)  Colin joined and had so much fun he has been working with the group ever since. At the end of each semester, the classes put on a recital at the School of Music, which is always enjoyable.  Last year, he joined the Fiddle class as well as the String Project class.

Again, he didn't think he could fiddle (it requires memorizing the music,) and I admit I pushed a bit (again), but if you ask him today he would tell you how much he loves to fiddle.  And, yes, he managed to memorize the music just fine!

The teachers are learning to be music teachers, and have such fun with the kids.  The program has grown quite a bit since we joined, and the recital tonight almost didn't fit in the hall where it's always held. I'm interested to see where it goes, as Lydia informed us tonight that she wants to be in Strings, too!

I am very proud of Colin and his commitment to musical groups.  I confess that I wish he would practice more often -- but his school orchestra teacher says he does wonderfully and he has become a leader of the extra fiddle group at school that meets before school once a week.  He tells me that he loves music, and will even admit that he is glad that I pushed him to consider orchestra 3 years ago.

Nate played string bass with the String Project classes this semester as well, but unfortunately, he wasn't up to playing at the recital tonight.  It's been a long road to recovery, but we see him improving quite a bit finally.  He is still weak, though, and needs plenty of rest.  He loves music, too, and we hope that he'll be back to performing very soon.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Review: The Blessing Cup

In addition to evening prayers, when we we tuck the kids into bed at night we bless the people in our lives and ask for certain people to be watched over for certain reasons.  I like the idea of blessings, so I was interested in reading "The Blessing Cup: prayer rituals for families and groups" by Rock Travnikar.

The beginning of the book talks about blessings, and encourages the use of a special cup that can be left on display that is used during a blessing ritual.  When I read that, I started to think that I needed to purchase a special cup for this purpose, and then I remembered a beautiful, handmade cup in my cupboard.  This cup has careful roses on the handle, and while I have owned it for years, I haven't used it much because I was always afraid of breaking the roses. I realized this would be the perfect cup to use for this purpose!  Even better, I actually own a pair of them, so if one does get broken, we'll still have a backup.  (Important in a house of kids who aren't always the most careful.)

The rest of the book has a variety of prayer rituals for pretty much any occasion. There are sections for new babies, holy days and even the loss of a pet.  If it could happen in your life, chances are there is a blessing in this book that would fit.

I liked how the rituals were set up. There are prayers for a leader to recite, opportunties for everyone to participate, and call and response sections. Each one was tied to sharing the blessing cup among everyone.

We are going to incorporate some of these rituals into our daily life. I know the kids will appreciate them, and we could always use a little more blessing!

*Disclosure: This review was written as part of the Catholic book Reviewer program from The Catholic Company. I received a copy of the book to faciliate my review. No additional compensation was provided. All opinions are my own. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on The Blessing Cup: Prayer Rituals for Families and Groups.*

Mooey Christmas at Superstition Farm

 We have been visiting Superstition Farm's Thursday night Farmer's Markets for a while and this past summer Nate & Lydia took horseriding lessons there.  Lydia thinks all the cows that live there are her personal friends. Every year, we visit Santa, so I was excited to see that he was visiting the farm this year.

We had a great time last night at Mooey Christmas! Not only was Santa there to patiently listen to the kids and pose for pictures on a big red tractor, but we enjoyed being outdoors.  They had delicious hot chocolate, some simple fare from the Super Farm Truck, the petting zoo was full of goats, sheep & even a couple calves.  One of Lydia's friends came along and all the kids took a ride on the ponies with the ever-patient and sweet young girls who help with the horses. (If you go, say a big friendly hi to Maya and Makalya!)  Then, the kids made s'mores around a bon fire and jumped around on a few hay bales before we headed back home -- thoroughly pleased with our evening out.  The only thing we didn't do was the hay ride - but only because the timing never seemed to work with the kids!

If you're looking for some fun, I highly recommend Mooey Christmas.  If you go tonight (December 15) they are offering FREE admission (usually $10)  The extras do cost a little, but the prices are very fair.  (s'more kits were $1 each, hot chocolate was $1 for a kid sized cup, horse rides were $5 and pictures with Santa were $10)

You'll find the farm at the NW corner of S. Hawes Rd and Elliot Rd in Mesa (3440 S. Hawes Rd to be exact)  You can check out their website, or their Facebook page for more information about all the cool stuff they do. Say "Hi!" to Farmer Jason while you're there!

*Disclosure: Nobody asked me to write this post, and I received nothing in exchange for writing it.  As a family, we really love this family farm and I want more people to know about it!*



Hostess Gift Ideas from Whole Foods Market

I received a fabulous basket full of goodies from Whole Food Markets in Tempe.  I love that I can find dairy-free products there for my dairy-allergic loved ones!  I also appreciate the products there are good for you and good for the people who produced them.

This basket was full of items that were not only high quality, but also had a feel-good quality because of the programs the items supported.

The sturdy, canvas L.I.F.E line bag is made by "mums in Maai Mahiu, Kenya". You can learn more about the program at www.lifeline.org.  I loved being able to see the smiling faces of the mothers who are creating these bags and earning a living for their families.

The coffee in the basket is not only high quality and delicious coffee (according to my mom - who loves coffee), but it also helps support the Whole Planet Foundation by donating 30 cents from each can to help alleviate poverty worldwide where Whole Foods sources products.

I like this beautiful scarf for a couple reasons.  My first name, Melanie, means black or dark and my middlde name is Rose.  Because of that, I have often been drawn to black roses.  This scarf is super soft, and it is made from recycled polyster derived from discarded plastics!  I know - you may be thinking what do I need a scarf for in Arizona?  But, I am actually headed to the Grand Canyon next week so this scarf will come in handy!  I can't wait to wear it.  It was made from a company called Threads for Thought.

The organic chocolate bars are not only delicous, but they also support a schoolhouse project in Tanzania.  The drinking chocolate is sourced from a co-op in Peru and has a flavor unlike any hot chocolate I've had!  It was an absolute treat.

And I have to rave about the Everyday Coconut Super Hydrating Lotion!  It is made with certified fair trade coconut oil, and it leaves my skin very soft.  The winter in Arizona is extremely dry, and it's hard to keep moisturized. I have been using this lotion for more than a week now and I am so pleased with the results.  It has a very mild scent as well, so my husband has been using it as well.   And, like so many products at Whole Foods, some of the proceeds help fund various community empowerment programs.

Even buying a Whole Foods gift card helps alleviate poverty! With each gift card purchased, you can donate a dollar to the Whole Planet Foundation.  The Foundation's mission is to empower poor women living in countries that supply Whole Foods Market with product.  They focus on developing countries by providing microcredit loans for women to start or expand home-based businesses.

I loved being able to learn more about the great organizations that these products help support. This time of year, we are all looking for special gifts for our loved ones.  Any of these items would make a lovely gift that would be wonderful not only for the recipient, but for the individuals being supported by the businesses providing the item.  All of these items can be found at Whole Foods.  The items I received came from the Whole Foods in Tempe, AZ -- which is the one that I frequent.

*Disclosure: I received a selection of products from Whole Foods Market in exchange for an honest review and post. No additional compensation was provided.*


Friday, December 14, 2012

Review: Torani Syrups


I have enjoyed Torani syrups for years.  I didn't realize until recently that they make over 120 different flavors!  I have used the syrups to flavor tea (both hot & iced) and sparkling water.  I was recently sent two bottles to try out this season, and share my thoughts. I received a bottle of Peppermint Torani syrup and a bottle of Torani Salted Caramel Syrup.

This time of year, the kids and I enjoy hot chocolate.  The first thing I tried was adding a couple tablespoons of the peppermint syrup to hot chocolate. My kids who like peppermint and chocolate thought it was delicious!  I added a couple tablespoons of the salted caramel to mine, and liked it quite well!  I am not a coffee drinker, but I know that it's a popular addition to coffee as well.

I made peppermint soda with sparkling water and the peppermint syrup.  It took me a couple tries to get the perfect amount of syrup, but the drink was very refreshing and tasted like drinking a candy cane!

Even though I've been aware of the syrups for years, I have never done anything but add them to drinks. Their website has tons of great recipes to try, and I plan on exploring more of them soon.  I used the salted caramel syrup to make candied pecans, and they turned out fantastic! The recipe is very simple, and the results make a great hostess gift (well, if you can avoid eating them all before giving them away!)  The original recipe from the website suggested plain caramel syrup, but the salted caramel was fantastic in this recipe.  It's easy to throw together, and the kids had fun helping mix the ingredients.

If you want to try them out yourself, here's the recipe from Torani's website:
Candied Pecans
INGREDIENTS:
1 egg, separated
1/4 cup Torani Caramel syrup
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups pecans (or walnuts or a mixture of both)
INSTRUCTIONS:  Preheat oven to 250 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper In a medium sized bowl whisk egg white (save yolk for another use or discard) until light in color and foamy, about 2 minutes. Add Torani syrup, sugar, and salt and continue to whisk until well mixed. Stir in nuts and mix until they are evenly coate. Spread nuts in a single layer on parchment-lined baking sheet. Place baking sheet in the oven. Using a spatula, stir nuts twice during cooking time to allow the nuts to have an even candied coating and bake until nuts are a very light golden, and all of the liquid has dried, about 45 minutes. Let cool completely and store in an airtight container. Makes 3 cups.
A great idea for a hostess gift would be a bottle of the syrup and a dish of these nuts!

You can find Torani syrups at many local retailers, as well as at Amazon and the Torani website.

*Disclosure: I received 2 bottles of Torani syrup from Torani and SheSpeaks, in exchange for writing an original post about the product.  No additional compensation was provided.*




Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Stocking Stuffer Idea: Chuao Chocolate

Santa almost always fills my Christmas stocking with a variety of chocolates.  This year, I was sent three bars of Chuao Chocolate that are available at select Targets.

Let's just say that Santa can fill my stocking with these chocolate bars anytime!

They are definitely premium chocolate, and had a smooth texture and wonderful flavor.  I'm picky about chocolate, and I really enjoyed these.

I tried the potato chip, honeycomb and firecracker varieties.  Of the 3, the potato chip was my favorite. The chip pieces were crunchy and salty and melded wonderfully with the chocolate.  The honeycomb was a very close second, with an extra sweet flavor due to the honey and a slight crunch from the honeycomb. The firecracker wasn't at the top of my list, but I'm not a huge fan of chile and chocolate.

You can find these bars at select Target locations, or order them direct from Chuao Chocolatier's website.

*Disclosure: I received samples in order to facilitate my review post.  No additional compensation was provided.*

Disney on Ice Dare to Dream in Phoenix (Discount Code & Giveaway!)

Do you have a Disney princess fan in your home?  I do, and I can't wait to take her to the latest Disney on Ice show -- Dare to Dream -- that is coming to Phoenix January 9 - 13, 2013 at the US Airways Center.

This show is all about the princesses, and I know Lydia will be thrilled to see her favorites!  There will be scenes from Tangled, Princess and the Frog, and of course -- Cinderella!  The skaters are always amazing and breathtaking, and I have never left a show disappointed. In fact, each show seems to be better than the last.

For this show, Disney on Ice is doing something new and offering one show entirely in Spanish.  The Sunday, 4:30 performance will be presented in Spanish only.

You can buy tickets now through Ticketmaster.com or by calling 1-800-745-3000.   My readers can use the code RAPUNZEL to receive $5 off each ticket (excluding VIP and Front Row Seats, no double discounts.)  Tickets can also be purchased at the US Airways box office.

WHEN: The show is running:  January 9 – 13, 2013
  • Wednesday, January 9th – 7:00 p.m.
  • Thursday, January 10th – 7:00 p.m. 
  • Friday, January 11th – 10:30 a.m. & 7:00 p.m.
  • Saturday, January 12th – 11:30 a.m., 3:30 p.m. & 7:00 p.m.
  • Sunday, January 13th – 1:00 p.m. & 4:30 p.m.* *Spanish Language Performance
WHERE: US Airways Center – 201 E. Jefferson Street, Phoenix, AZ 85004

TICKETS: Ticket price levels are $14, $18, $25, $40 (VIP) and $70 (Front Row). Opening Night 50% Off discount tickets available for “Buy One Get One Free” (excluding VIP & Front Row seating and limited to 6 tickets per order).

Feld Entertainment has generously offered me a family pack of 4 tickets to give away to one of my readers!

To enter the giveaway, I need you to CLICK HERE TO GO TO GIVEAWAY FORM. Once you're there, fill in your information, including the information below:

Name of Giveaway: Disney on Ice
Mandatory Question: Who is your favorite princess?


The giveaway will end on December 24, 2012. You can find all my giveaway rules linked on the top right of my blog.  Giveaway open only to readers in the metro Phoenix area who can attend the show on Wednesday, January 9, 2013.
Good Luck!!

As always, if you like my blog's Facebook page, you can earn an extra entry. (Even if you've already liked it in the past you will receive an extra entry!) My blog's Facebook page is found here (www.facebook.com/mylittlepatchofsunshine)

I hope to see you at the show!


*Disclosure: I am a Feld Family Ambassador, and in exchange for my time and efforts in attending shows and reporting my opinion within this blog, as well as keeping you advised of the latest discount offers, Feld Entertainment has provided me with complimentary tickets to Feld shows and opportunities to attend private Feld pre-Show events. Even though I receive these benefits, I always give an opinion that is 100% mine.*

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Wordless Wednesday - St Nick

Candle PSA

I thought this was a pretty good PSA from the Apache Junction Fire Department (the town next to us) about candle safety.


I recently purchased a set of Energizer Flameless Wax Candles, which are awesome, since they flicker like candles, smell like wax candles (since they are wax), and have an auto turn off so the batteries aren't wasted!

*Disclosure:  None necessary.  I saw the video via Facebook, and spent my own money on the candles.* 

Monday, December 03, 2012

Review: Ozonator - Green Refrigerator Machine

Every once in a while, our refrigerator is smelly.  Now, it's usually my clue to clean it out, but sometimes it's because there's an onion left over from the day before, or some garlicky mashed potatoes leftovers waiting to get eaten.  And, while my kids love celery, sometimes they forget it's in the refrigerator and it turns to rubbery sticks before it gets eaten.

So, I was interested in trying out the Ozonator.  It's a little machine that runs on 4 "D" batteries and sits on the top shelf of your refrigerator. The machine creates ozone, which helps dispel odors and keep foods fresher.  I know I'm upset with myself some days when I have to throw out fruit and vegetables that were perfectly good when I bought them, but we didn't eat them before they turned bad.  I specifically bought celery a few weeks ago and told the kids they couldn't eat it, so I could see if it lasted longer -- and it did!  When I finally let the kids eat it, it was as crunchy as when I bought it 10 days earlier.  I also noticed that when I had a cut onion in the refrigerator, I did not notice the odor every time I opened the door!

The Ozonator is currently $10 off at their website - so you can pick it up for only $39.95.  It's an interesting gadget, and works better on odors than a box of baking soda did in my refrigerator. I also like the fact that it helps foods last longer!  Because while I have good intentions, I don't always use everything up in a timely manner.

You can learn more about the Ozonator at their website, and they are also on Facebook and Twitter.  I have used it, and I would recommend it for anyone's refrigerator!

*Disclosure: I received an Ozonator in exchange for an honest review.  I am also an affiliate with the company and receive affiliate income for Ozonators purchased via my affiliate link.*


Review: Pinypon Dolls & Toys

Lydia, my 5 year old, first saw Pinypon dolls during a cartoon that she was watching. She had to pause the show to find me so she could show me these neat little dolls.  So, when we had the opportunity to check them out and share them with  her friends, she was thrilled!

Pinypon dolls are unique in that all their pieces/parts are interchangeable -- including their expressions!  Each doll has 2 different expressions, all you need to do is pop off their hair and put it on the opposite way and you'll see their fresh face.

Lydia is quite the social butterfly at school, and was so excited to invite a few of her friends over to play with the toys.  We planned our party for after school, the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.  I had even arranged to pick her up with 2 of her friends so they could come to the party, and other moms were bringing their daughters after school. About 45 minutes before school let out, the school called me about Nate (see earlier post about his stay in the hospital - he is still out of school and we are waiting for a pediatric neurologist appointment next week.)

Thankfully, I had everything set up before that phone call, and my sweet mom lives next door, so I checked all 3 girls out of school a bit early and dropped them off with my mom.  She led them in the play of the toys, including the really neat Pinypon - Caravan Playset.  My mom said the girls had a great time, and really enjoyed taking the dolls apart and putting them back together with different acessories. I later talked with one of the moms, and she said she thought they were pretty neat!  We had a caravan to give away at the party and she took it home and has played with it almost every day since.  Lydia has also had a great time with the toys!

With all the confusion, there weren't pictures of the party itself, but Lydia did a video review of the toys:


I think this would be a fun toy to find under the Christmas tree this year!  You can find them at Amazon, as well as local retailers.  You can also check them out on Facebook.  They share great offers, giveaways and information about the toys on their page.

*Disclosure: In exchange for sharing the toys with local friends, and providing an honest review, I received toys from Pinypon and MomSelect. All opinions are my own, and no additional compensation was provided.*

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Superhero by Tim & the Space Cadets

Right about now, anything that brings a smile or a giggle is golden. (I'm looking at one particular friend who made my stomach hurt today from laughing so hard at the videos she made for me! Right now, she's golden!)

I received a pitch letting me know about Tim and the Space Cadets, and I almost skipped over the email, but instead decided to click on the video.  The song has an infectious beat and definitely brought a smile to my face today.  I think you'll agree!




And, because, really?  Who doesn't want to be a superhero??

And, I'm even happier that I read that email because they offered me the chance to download one of their songs for free and give you the chance to do the same! Click HERE for a download of the song, Superhero - which is their first song from their upcoming album, Anthems for Adventure, to be released 1/29/13.

I found it interesting to learn more about the lead singer from the press release -
While most indie-rockers get their start by playing basement shows and dive-y bars,Tim began his career in music while volunteering in the nursery of a homeless shelter in New York City. Currently, he is the curator of his own kids music program called “Little Rock-Its” that is based out of the Williamsburg, Brooklyn play space, Frolic!

The class features a three-piece band of local musicians presenting original songs and lessons written by Tim, and has been embraced by the Williamsburg community, reaching hundreds of kids every week.
I'm going to watch for the release of this album - anything that puts a smile on my face is a good thing!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Thanksgiving & Room Renovations

A few weeks ago, I pushed a bit hard and finally got Bo to agree to work on re-doing the boys' bedrooms.  We had talked about heading to California the day after Thanksgiving, but instead decided to stay home so he could focus on the rooms.  We decided to start with Nate's room -- paint, rip out the carpet, lay down laminate floor, remove the too-tall platform bed and build a new, shorter platform bed.  (While I say that "we" decided, please know that ALL the work was done by Bo. He's awesome)

On Tuesday before Thanksgiving, I received a phone call from the school nurse.  I rushed over, picked up Nate and took  him immediately to the ER.

He was admitted, and this picture you see was from the Thanksgiving meal he and I enjoyed at the hospital cafeteria.   Yes, it was quite the eventful holiday.  Thankfully, he was released in the late afternoon and we made it home to enjoy Thanksgiving with family.  (That Bo spent all day cooking - so I'm glad we were able to make it home and enjoy it.)

We still aren't sure what is wrong, but life-threatening, scary things were ruled out.  He is weak, and cannot yet return to school. The holidays meant that nobody was open on Friday to start setting up appointments, so we have the first follow up tomorrow.

His dad worked tirelessly on his bedroom and it is 90% complete. The blue stripes are on his wall to look like Shelby stripes (the car.)  It was a ton of work, but it probably gave him a great place to channel some energy as we worry about our sweet boy.

We are hoping that the symptoms suddenly disappear as they suddenly appeared, but are ready to do whatever is necessary.  We are grateful that it doesn't appear to be life-threatening, but we are also hoping for some answers in the coming days.

Hug your kids and loved ones tight tonight. Things can happen in the blink of an eye.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Review: Corazonas Tortilla Chips

Yum!  We had the chance to try these Corazonas Black Bean & Cheese Tortilla Chips recently and everyone declared them delicious!

I had a jar of salsa in the pantry, but these had so much flavor that nobody even wanted to dip them in salsa.  We just ate them up!  In fact, the bag went so fast that I had to retrieve it from the trash to snap this picture.

What makes these tortilla chips different than other is that they include plant sterols, which have been proven to lower cholestrol. Sometimes healthy food has an odd taste, but these chips were delicious.  I look forward to trying the other varieties available.

You can find them at Amazon, or at select grocery stores. Enjoy!

*Disclosure: I received sample product to facilitate this review. All opinions are my own.*

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Tell Me Thursday - Whitnall

Bo & Colin are back from Wisconsin, but this is one of the pictures Bo sent me while they were gone.  This was the house we moved out of to make our move to Arizona.

This is the house we lived in when we were newlyweds.

I know it's not pretty - or even charming - but it holds some wonderful memories and it tugged at my heart when I got the text message with this picture.

Memories.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Happy Birthday to my Eldest

Colin, still 11, on the shores of Lake Michigan

This boy is turning 12 years old today!  At the moment, he's 2000 miles away, but before the day is over he'll be back home!  He requested rotisserie chicken, jasmine rice, cauliflower and marble cake with vanilla icing for his birthday dinner and that's just what he'll have!  I need to remember to pick up sparkling juice before he gets home as we have gone through our entire stash.

Colin is bright, inquisitive, passionate, thoughtful, kind, musical, artistic, loving, considerate and an all-around great kid. He loves to read, write, draw cartoons, play his viola, create origami and play video games. 

He has a strong bond with his siblings, as evidenced this week when he made the effort to call and speak to them while he was away. When he talked to Lydia, he asked her what she thought he was going to give her when he got home, and when she asked what, he replied with "A Big HUG!"  She squealed in delight and replied, "I just LOVE your big hugs!"  I know he has missed them, even while having a good time seeing family and spending time just with his dad.

He wants to attend ASU, and someday work for NASA.  He will tell you that he has NO interest in going into space! He wants to work in mission control, staying firmly on the ground. He hopes that there will be a space program when he's older. 

He thinks carefully about things, and cares how people feel.  I like to have conversations with him, to hear his thoughts and opinions on many varied topics. He is proud of his large vocabulary, and likes to tell people he knows so many words because his mom home-schooled him.

He's the child I never thought I would have. I cherish the days we have together, and am grateful for the joy he brings to my life.

Happy Birthday, Colin!  You are much loved!



Wordless Wednesday -- Whitnall

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Jump Start's Madagascar App Review

We recently received a promotional code to try out Jump Start's new Madagascar Preschool Surf - n - Slide app.  Lydia is past preschool, but loves apps, so I agreed to try it out.

The characters from the Madagascar movies are cute, and she loved playing with them.  The game itself is simple (riding down a long chute / slide) and it's broken up by characters asking players to answer some questions (matching colors, letters, that sort of thing;)  When the player completes a course, they earn "stickers" that they can place on a variety of backgrounds, all relating to the Madagascar movies.

I'll admit, at $2.99, I think it's a little pricey. I think the suggested audience of preschoolers is the the right target market, but I would have been more likely to purchase it for a preschooler at $.99.

You can see what Lydia thought about it right here:




*Disclosure: I received a promotional code to download the app from Jump Start. No additional compensation was provided, and all opinions are my own (as well as Lydia's.)*

Monday, November 12, 2012

Company Kids Fun Pillowcases Review


A couple months ago, we received this adorable frog Pillow Friend in the mail from The Company Kids.  Lydia thought it was so cute, and we immediately found a pillow to stuff into the pillowcase.  It's been a companion ever since, and is her favorite snuggle buddy when she's hanging out in the living room watching TV.

Lydia (5 years old) says, "It's really comfy and you can put it behind your back when sitting in a chair. It's perfect for when you're tired and want to relax. Plus, it's sooooo cute!  If you are taking a car trip, it's a great to take along"

The pillowcase is well made, and I really like the fact that there is a hidden zipper that keeps the pillow inside. They have a few other styles, like monkeys, dogs, cats and even a butterfly. A regular bed pillow fits perfectly inside, and it is easily machine washable. 

I think they would make cute gifts, especially with the holidays coming soon.  You can find Pillow Friends, and many other cute room decor items at The Company Kids website -- www.thecompanystore.com.

*Disclosure: We received a Pillow Friend from The Company Store. No additional compensation was provided.  All opinions are my own. The photo was taken by me.*

One of my Favorite Holiday Traditions



*Disclosure: This vlog was sponsored by Your Santa Story, who work with Santa to send out personalized videos for Christmas morning.  All opinions stated are my own.*

Sunday, November 11, 2012

I Need Words

If you've ever heard of Gary Chapman's series of books about love languages, you know that he proposes that people feel loved in 5 different ways -- Gifts, Physical Touch, Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service and Quality Time.  I've come to realize that a very strong love language for me is not Words of Affirmation - but just WORDS.

I need communication in order to feel cared for, loved and . . . well . . . important.  It really hit home on my birthday when I received a phone call from someone I love dearly, but our communication has been pretty much nonexistent for the last 6+ months. It was such a relief to hear their words, to have that contact, to begin building back the ties that had been stretched pretty thin.

And, then, I received a birthday card from someone who I'd lost contact with -- not for any specific reason, it was just a series of events that made it hard to pick up the phone and reestablish contact.  All day, I was expecting to hear from this person in some way, as birthdays have always been important.  It wasn't until the end of the day, thanks to a postman who dropped the card in someone else's box, that I received the card.  I am so grateful, though, for the card that has opened up the doors again and I look forward to reconnecting.

That picture above is a dear treasure of mine.  I'm not sure you can read it, but it is the note my grandfather wrote to my grandmother and aunt the day I was born letting them know the news. (I'm guessing they were at work and school when he got the call.) And, I realize how in this day of text messages and emails how precious those written words are becoming.  Nate wrote me the sweetest birthday card this year, and I took a picture of the text message Colin sent me from Milwaukee. My mom gave me a card and the cover was filled with words, and she wrote in the inside that I was "her Word girl".

I crave communication.  And not just the superficial kind, but I guess I'll take that if that's all there is.  I  have a friend who said to me a couple weeks ago, "I don't think we have ever gotten together in the last 5 years without crying at some point."  She's right.  She's a friend who often knows my heart and has opened her heart to me.  She is a dear friend who I feel closer to the more we communicate.  I feel happier when we've been in touch, because I know there will be plenty of laughter in that conversation.

I received wonderful gifts that I appreciate for my birthday, and will put to good use.  But, the things that made me feel the warmest?  The note in my card from my sister, from my parents, from my sons, from my daughter. The pictures a friend posted as a follow up to her sweet words. Hearing my husband's voice from 2000 miles away.

My intensity sometimes scares people off.  I can remember hearing that I was "too intense" and that's why a couple guys I dated broke it off with me. But, that intensity and passion is what makes me an unbelievably loyal and trustworthy friend if we get to that point. And getting to that point means that we have contact, that we communicate, that we share what's important in our hearts. Thankfully, I met Bo who embraces that intensity, and also tempers it when necessary.  He is not intense, and doesn't crave communication like I do -- but we fit together in so many ways and he tries so that I never doubt his love for me.

I realized in the last couple weeks that as I've gotten older, sometimes I am not open enough to others. A couple people in my life that were on the outskirts made the extra effort to try and get to know me, and I realized that I liked them much better than my first impression led me to believe I would.  I think that I have been hurt in the past, and feel like my life is full, that I've been holding back on making the effort to make new friends.  That's one of the things I'm going to work on this year.  Because maybe if I had a few more friends, the ones I have now won't feel my intense need for words quite as often.

Back when I started this blog, I recalled a boy in college that said I had an "intense and ridiculous need to over-communicate."  He meant it as an insult. But, can the truth be an insult? I don't think I over-communicate, but it is definitely true that I have an intense and ridiculous need to communicate. I don't remember his name, or anything else about him -- but he did have me pegged.


Saturday, November 10, 2012

Happy Birthday to Me!

Yep, today is my birthday!  As the picture shows, I was born with a ton of hair - as I'm only a couple days old in this shot.

My husband is out of town on my birthday for the third year in a row.   I admit I'm a bit sad about that.

The last 2 years it was for work, this year it's because his dad is getting married.  It was a bit of short notice, so we couldn't all head back to the Midwest (plus, it's COLD there), so he and Colin left last night to help his Dad celebrate. Before he left, he gave me an awesome birthday gift -- a new Canon Rebel camera. My old DSLR hasn't been working well, and while we've been a Nikon family for years, I'm excited to put the Canon through its paces.  It's important to me to take pictures to document our lives and cement memories, so a camera is very dear to me.

At least my parents and sister are here, so I can celebrate with them and 2/3 of my kids today. We'll make some memories of this birthday!

When I was very young, we lived in the same town as my mom's sister and I have one cousin that was born 3 years, minus a day after me.  When we were little, we often celebrated our birthdays together at my great-grandmother's home and I remember those days fondly.  I wish I could find a picture, as I know there are a few around!

Another birthday memory I have was when I was probably 11 or 12?  We lived far away from extended family by then, and my dad was out of town.  I expected him to be gone on my birthday, but he came home the evening of my birthday.  I can remember being so happy when he walked in the door!  I'm not sure if he cut his trip short, but I know that it was important in our family to spend our birthdays together.

I remember my 25th birthday because my grandfather passed away. I was in college and rented a limo and had planned to bar hop that night, but instead the hospital called me in the afternoon to ask me to come and be with my grandmother.  I remember thinking that they had argued with her again over my grandfather's care, but actually they didn't want to tell me over the phone that he had died.  I canceled the limo and spent the evening at a funeral home instead.

The first birthday I spent with Bo he bought me warm hiking-type boots because we lived in Milwaukee and I didn't wear appropriate shoes for the weather and he was worried about me.  I love those boots and still have them in my closet, even though I don't need them to tramp through snow anymore.

Then, there was my 33rd birthday when I was hugely pregnant and Bo took me to a steak house where I devoured a huge steak and baked potato.  I remember it was delicious and people commented on how hugely pregnant I was.  Colin was born 4 days later.

I remember last year's birthday because my sweet mom made me a cake that collapsed (her oven was faulty - she's really an excellent baker) and she tried to disguise it with a huge river of golden sugar.  It was also held together with skinny wooden dowels.  It has to be the ugliest cake I've ever seen, but it will never be forgotten!!

The important thing to me always are the people and the memories in my life.  What really matters is the experience of life - not the things of life.  Even the year that my grandfather died, while of course I was full of grief for losing him, it was important that I was there for my grandmother and able to help support her during that time (my mom & aunt both lived far away and arrived in the next couple days.)  And, even though Bo is 2000 miles away today, the memories that we build each and every day in our home build a life I love.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Your Santa Story Video Review

Earlier this month, I posted a review and a giveaway for Your Santa Story.  One of my readers won the code -- Angi's family will be watching Santa talk to them on Christmas morning!

I wanted to share a video review I did about Your Santa Story, in case you were still wondering what it was all about:


*Disclosure: I received a Your Santa Story dvd, as well as one to give away, in exchange for posting.  No additional compensation was provided and all opinions are my own.*

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Wordless Wednesday - concentration

Sweet Makeover from Chuao

It wouldn't be the holiday season without chocolate.  Okay, who am I kidding?  It wouldn't be any season of the year without chocolate!  Have you heard of Chuao Chocolates?  They are hand-crafted, all natural goodies available online, and also at select Target stores nationwide.  To celebrate, they are offering a "Sweet Makeover" sweepstakes along with shopbop.com!  You could win:
  • $1,000 shopping spree at www.shopbop.com
  • A one-year subscription to Birchbox ($120 value)
  • A Broscato Vibrastrait flat iron ($150 value)
  • Philosophy Miracle Worker Collection ($190 value)
  • Clarisonic Mia2 Skin Cleansing System ($150 value)
  • Gourmet Chuao chocolate ($180 value)
(As an aside, I have a subscription to Birchbox and love it!  It's so much fun to receive a box of new beauty things in the mail each month, and I have found some new products that I have continued to use after the samples were gone.)

ANYWAY, if you want a chance to enter the Chuao Chocolates sweepstakes, you have to head over to their Facebook page, like them, and enter the sweepstakes there.  If you win, don't forget to come back and tell me!!  

*Disclosure: I received the information from a PR firm and chose to share on my blog.  In exchange for posting, I was entered into a drawing for a possibility of a gift card. No additional compensation was provided and all opinions are my own.*

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Tiny Prints Holiday Cards Giveaway

Even before Colin was born, Bo & I sent out Photo Christmas Cards (okay, I think we only sent them out the Christmas after our wedding - and then since we've had kids we've sent photo cards each year.)

This year, I'm going to try out Tiny Prints.  Their designs are modern and fun, and I love their new thicker paper that the cards are printed on.  Check out this cute video about their premium double thick paper -


Have you taken photos yet for your holiday cards?  We haven't, but I plan to try and get them done next weekend.  I love the photo cards that include multiple pictures, so I don't have to try and get a good picture of all 3 kids in a single shot!

I want to help you get your holiday cards completed this season!  Tiny Prints has generously given me a $50 credit that I can give away to one of my readers!  (does not include shipping & cannot be combined with any other promos. The credit must be used by 12/14/12 -- NO extensions.)

To enter the giveaway, I need you to CLICK HERE TO GO TO GIVEAWAY FORM. Once you're there, fill in your information, including the information below:

Name of Giveaway: Tiny Prints
Mandatory Question: Have you taken your holiday photo yet?


The giveaway will end on November 15, 2012. You can find all my giveaway rules linked on the top right of my blog. (Giveaway open only to US addresses.) Good Luck!!

As always, if you like my blog's Facebook page, you can earn an extra entry. (Even if you've already liked it in the past you will receive an extra entry!) My blog's Facebook page is found here (www.facebook.com/mylittlepatchofsunshine)

If you want more information about Tiny Prints, you can find them at these social media channels:

• Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/tinyprints
• Twitter: http://twitter.com/tinyprints
• Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/tiny_prints/
• Instagram: Tiny Prints
• Google +: https://plus.google.com/+tinyprints/
• Blog: http://blog.tinyprints.com/

*Disclosure: I received a promotional credit for myself, as well as credit to give away, from Tiny Prints in exchange for this post. All opinions are my own.*

Phoenix Family Fun Day NSA


Nate and I attended the Phoenix Family Fun Day at ASU Campus in Tempe AZ this past weekend.  This was the third year we've attended, and it was great again!

The day before I ended up in the hospital -- thanks to kidney stones AGAIN! I was at lunch with friends, and they ended up taking me to the emergency room where I was given massive doses of painkillers and basically told to go home and wait. (Aside: I know there isn't much they can do, and I was grateful that the stones this time are small enough that they should pass easily, but I was not happy with my care this time.)

Anyway, we had this day planned for a long time, so even though I was still in pain and dopey from painkillers, I had Bo drop us off in the morning so we could attend.  It was great seeing some of the national staff, as well as seeing both of Nate's SLPs attend. (There's another component geared towards SLP where they can earn CEUs.)  We also got to meet a bunch of new people (was kinda sad that people we've met in the past weren't able to attend this year.)

In the end, I was glad we went. Nate had a good time, as always, with the kid activities.  There were 2 informative topics discussed - the new common core standards and how they will affect kids who stutter and then a psychologist spoke about coping with stuttering within a family.  Finally, Nate and I were both on a panel with adult people who stutter and we both answered questions from the audience. 

The best part, though, were the people who came up and recognized Nate from his videos, or his spots on the NSA website and newsletters.  One mom said that her son's SLP said they should come because they "might meet Nate!", and they did!  Her son's SLP had shown her son Nate's videos and interested him in making a presentation to his class.  Nate was also approached by some SLP students who said they watch his videos in class and one sweet girl even asked him for his autograph.  

We can't wait for the annual conference in July!  I'm so excited it will be held in Scottsdale so my entire family can experience the power of the NSA finally!

Old El Paso Coupons

When I'm looking for a quick, easy dinner and we've already had spaghetti, another favorite is Mexican.  Old El Paso products make dinner at home easier and more convenient, because I can keep the products in my pantry for those "What's for dinner?" moments.

This fun micro-site is full of recipes and coupons, thanks to Old El Paso! Check it out below and you'll be serving Mexican in no time!



*Disclosure: I received the code for the Old El Paso micro-site from Old El Paso Brand, but no additional compensation. All opinions are my own.*

Friday, November 02, 2012

Review: A Guide to the New Translation of The Mass

Last Advent, the Roman Catholic Church made some changes to the Mass.  Almost a year later, most parishioners remember to say "It is right and just," but there are still quite a few people who don't know why the wording was changed.  The booklet, "A Guide to the New Translation of The Mass," provides a concise, but thorough, explanation of the changes that have been made.

It's important to note that the essence of the liturgy has not changed at all, but the translations of some prayers and responses have been updated. This booklet takes each one and explains the differences.  It also includes a tear out reference card in the back that is handy to bring along to Mass.

If you or someone you know isn't sure about the changes, this booklet is a great tool. It is only $1.95 at The Catholic Company.

*Disclosure: I received a copy of the booklet to facilitate my review from The Catholic Company.  No additional compensation was provided, and all opinions are my own."

Review: Your Santa Story and GIVEAWAY

Last Christmas morning, after presents were unwrapped, I looked at our DVD player and asked "What's this?"  I popped the DVD into the player and a picture of Santa Claus appeared on the screen.  Then, he began talking to my kids by name -- he mentioned Nate's soccer playing, Colin's love for reading and Lydia's ballet dancing. Lydia's eyes lit up, and even skeptical Nate & Colin weren't sure what to make of it.

Thanks to Your Santa Story, we were able to add another magical moment to our Christmas celebration.  What I really liked was that Santa spoke right to my kids -- it wasn't a computer generated voice, or a computer filling in the blanks.  The story was told from beginning to end by Santa, and it showed.

I admit I wasn't sure what to expect, but I was extremely impressed. I watched it right after we received it, and I almost couldn't wait until Christmas morning to show the kids!  I am glad I waited, though, because their reaction was priceless.

Because of the complete customization of these videos, there are only a limited number produced.  If you want Santa to visit your living room this Christmas, order early!  The process is simple -- you fill out a form with various details and information, review the script,  then submit with payment ($29.95). They can customize your story for military families, ex-pat families, or even use sign language.

Check out their promotional video -- (I made a video of the kids last year, but the boys taped over it with some Lego movie creation.)  The middle of it shows Santa in his workshop talking to a family, just like the video that could be created for you.


You can find them on their website -- www.yoursantastory.com, and also on Facebook, Twitter and even Pinterest.

I'm very excited that I have one code to give away to a reader to make their own personalized Santa Story!  I want to make sure you get it in plenty of time, so this giveaway will end on November 9, 2012.

To enter the giveaway, I need you to CLICK HERE TO GO TO GIVEAWAY FORM.  Once you're there, fill in your information, including the information below:

Name of Giveaway: Your Santa Story
Mandatory Question: Share with me a favorite holiday tradition

You can find all my giveaway rules linked on the top right of my blog.  (Giveaway open only to US addresses.) Good Luck!!

As always, if you like my blog's Facebook page, you can earn an extra entry.  (Even if you've already liked it in the past you will receive an extra entry!)  My blog's Facebook page is found here (www.facebook.com/mylittlepatchofsunshine)

*Disclosure: I received a video last year, thanks to Your Santa Story and MomSelect and will receive another one this year. All opinions are my own.*



Green Giant Veggie Giveaway

Green Giant has come out with a new variety of frozen vegetables, named "Seasoned Steamers."   There are 6 varieties to choose from.  The thing I like about them is that they don't have a sauce.  My family doesn't like sauces on vegetables, but I like frozen vegetables because they are easy and the nutritional content is preserved through freezing.

These vegetables are seasoned, but not sauced.  We tried the Mediterranean Blend pictured to the left and everyone ate their vegetables!  (Not an easy feat in this house.)

My Blog Spark and Green Giant are offering a $1 coupon for you to print and use on your next shopping trip. (Coupon Link)  You can also find information, recipes and more at the Green Giant Facebook page.

I also have a fun giveaway for one of my readers.  You can win a nice white serving bowl, a slotted serving spoon, a fun vegetable print apron, and a coupon for a FREE bag of Green Giant Seasoned Steamers.


To enter the giveaway, I need you to CLICK HERE TO GO TO GIVEAWAY FORM.  Once you're there, fill in your information, including the information below:

Name of Giveaway: Seasoned Steamers
Mandatory Question: Which variety would you like to try? (check out flavors here)

The giveaway will end on November 11, 2012.  You can find all my giveaway rules linked on the top right of my blog.  (Giveaway open only to US addresses.) Good Luck!!

As always, if you like my blog's Facebook page, you can earn an extra entry.  (Even if you've already liked it in the past you will receive an extra entry!)  My blog's Facebook page is found here (www.facebook.com/mylittlepatchofsunshine)

“Disclosure: The coupons, information, and gift packs have been provided by Green Giant® through MyBlogSpark.”



Thursday, November 01, 2012

Review: Chris Mann's Roads

I haven't gotten into the television show, "The Voice", but I do understand the premise.  Chris Mann won last year, and his debut album came out this week.

He is considered a "classical crossover" artist, and after listening to his album a few times, I think that's a great description of his style.  He has a fantastic voice!  I enjoyed listening to the songs on this album.  More than half are covers, but he added a twist to each one.  I wasn't thrilled with his version of Willie Nelson's "Always on my mind", but thought he did a great job with Frank Sinatra's "My Way."  I really liked his rendition of "Ave Maria."  It's one of my favorite songs, and was even sung at my wedding.

I can see myself listening to this album in quiet moments, or the background music for a get together of friends.  It's probably a good end-of-day, driving home album as well.

You can preview 3 of his songs at SoundCloud at this link: http://soundcloud.com/universalrepublic/sets/chris-mann/s-e7O63.

You can buy his album either physical copy or MP3 at Amazon, or it's  available via iTunes.

*Disclosure: I received an advanced copy of this album, and by posting I am entered into a drawing for a prize. No additional compensation was provided.  All opinions are my own.*

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Review: HP Deskjet 3052A Wireless Printer

I've been on the lookout for an e-Printer so I could easily print from my iPhone and iPad.  When I was asked to check out the HP Deskjet 3052A Wireless e-All-In-One Printer, I hoped that it would meet my needs.  Thanks to HP, Wal-Mart & MomSelect, I was able to try one out and even invite a few friends over so they could play with it, too!

When the printer arrived, I put it aside thinking I would need a little time to get it set up.  Then, it came time to have a few friends over and I needed to get the printer set up ASAP!  Thankfully, the set up process was easy and the printer and included software walked me through the steps.  I think it was about 10 minutes from unpacking to printing!

One thing that was a little thing, but that I thought was clever, was that the plastic bag the printer was in had a handle to make it easier to lift out of the box.  Sometimes, it's the small things that really add up.

I easily created a personalized HP email address, and thought it was so cool that I could email documents to the printer from anywhere and they would print.  It's like a fax machine without the telephone line!  (Especially useful since we don't have a land line.)  The only thing that occurred when using that feature was that a couple of the documents I sent didn't print because the  printer thought they were spam.

I also liked that I could set the printer to only accept emails from select email addresses.  That would ensure I wouldn't receive any junk sent to my printer.

Then, I tried printing from my iPhone.  It quickly printed an email and also a picture from my photo album with no problem.  When I tried the same from my iPad -- again, no problems!

And, finally, to be truly useful I need to be able to print to it from my laptop.  Again, it quickly connected and printed out a document that I was working on and wanted to edit with a red pen.  I was ready to show it off!

Once my friends with smart phones connected to our home's wifi, they were able to easily print from their phones, too! If I didn't want to connect them all to my wifi, I could have allowed all email addresses to print to my printer and they could have sent emails to print documents or pictures.

HP has some great templates available on their site for download and use.  Things like greeting cards, recipe cards, and even small boxes that can be put together.  We had fun checking out the different templates available and printing them out.

This printer takes HP XL Cartridges. The cartridges (black and tri-color) are less than $30 each and print more than cartridges in the past.

The HP 3052A is also a copier and a scanner, so it's an excellent all-around printer.

Right now, the printer is under $100 at Wal-Mart.  In fact, I was sent $10 gift cards to share with my friends who came to look at the printer, and I have one left over to give away to one of my readers!  To enter the giveaway, CLICK HERE to fill out my giveaway form.  Use the following information to fill it in completely:

Name of Giveaway: WalMart and HP
Mandatory Question: What's the first thing you would print from your smartphone / tablet / or via email?

Remember, comments left below are NOT entered in the giveaway. For an extra entry, "like" my blog's Facebook page and mention it in the form.  If you've already liked the page, just let me know and you'll earn an extra entry!

I'll choose a winner on my birthday, November 10, 2012!   Good Luck!!

*Disclosure: I received a printer, ink cartridges and gift cards from HP, WalMart and MomSelect.  All opinions stated are my own.*






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