Friday, May 19, 2017

Adorable Gift Ideas for Baby Showers & First Birthday Celebrations

New babies are reasons to celebrate, as are first birthdays. These times allow you to show your support to new parents, while helping to shower their little one with love and gifts. However, the prospect of shopping for a baby leaves some people at a loss. Luckily, the following list has you covered with 4 adorable gift ideas that would be big hits at a baby shower or first birthday celebration. Piggy bank

  • Customized Keepsakes for Later in Life
    From personalized piggy banks with a few dollars to add to, or beautiful silver frames for a picture of the new little family, or even a first teddy bear, there are hundreds of customizable keepsakes that make awesome baby shower or birthday gifts. Be sweet, kind, and sincere in your choice of keepsake. Because these are items that could last throughout a baby’s childhood, and even well into adulthood. They are sentimental for a reason.
  • DIY Blankets & Snuggly, Plush Animals
    If you are the crafty kind, invest in some fabrics and stuffing to make your own baby-friendly, kid-safe stuffed animals. Or, opt for a woven blanket, with tight loops to keep a kiddo warm, secure, and protected through the night. You can go with the traditional colors: pink for girl or blue for boy. Or, make your own blend with colors that the parents love, like a beautiful green and red blanket.
  • Books, Books, & More Books (this is my favorite!) Bedtime reading
    No kiddo can have enough, or too many, books. And it's never too early to instill a love for reading with books galore. Pick your childhood favorites, like Little Golden Books, and bestow them on the parents-to-be. You can bet mom and dad will read these stories often. They are sure to become before-bedtime classics in their household.
  • The Necessities—And Then Some
    If you would rather go the practical route, diapers, bottles, or even gift cards to baby stores, are always winning presents. They aren’t quite as personal, but their association with the baby-to-be makes them adorable. To make these necessities a little more…memorable, consider adding on a customized gift for a combo of fun and sentimental with functional and must-have.
The above-mentioned gift ideas are things that any parent-to-be will love for their baby. Whether you are going to a baby shower, or a first birthday celebration, use them aforementioned ideas as a guide to picking the perfect presents.

Have These Always Been a Thing?

I recently started making Kombucha, thanks to some friends who love it and were willing to share some info and a scoby. I don't really know much about it, so I've been doing a bit of reading, and I read that the scoby should never touch metal. I'm not sure what the reasoning is, and I'm not sure if it's more about actually being stored in metal or just a momentary touching. But, I've used a mesh strainer a couple times - and it's metal - so I thought I'd look for some kind of plastic colander or strainer to use. I did find some really cute and colorful colanders at Aldi - a set of 3 for $5.

But then I found a set of 4 nylon mesh strainers. They look just like the metal ones, except they're nylon, and the mesh collapses for easy storage. How perfect, not just for the kombucha, but also for everything. I use my strainers for a lot of things, but it seems that the metal always ends up rusting, and I haven't figured out a way to stop it. These should completely avoid that rust problem. I'm actually very excited about these things and wondering if they've been around for a while, and I just never noticed or if they're something new.

Does anybody know?

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Get Healthy In 2017

If you want to lead an amazing life, it's important to know that getting healthy will increase the likelihood of realizing that goal. Being healthy ensures that you will have the energy and mood stability necessary to excel in your professional life while also pursuing your personal dreams with passion. Luckily, there are hundreds of wellness strategies you can use to get healthy in 2017. Some of them include:
  1. Focus On Dental Health.
    Focusing on dental wellness is a wonderful way to get healthy in 2017. This technique is important because dental health contributes to overall wellness. For example, people who take good care of their teeth are less likely to experience unwanted conditions such as toothaches and severe mouth pain. If you do find yourself in need of an emergency dentist Charlotte NC residents can rely on to offer exceptional services, the professionals of Charlotte Dental Partners can assist you. To ensure that you select the right dentist, make sure that you use the internet to check his or her online reviews. If the majority of the dentist's online reviews are positive, you can be fairly confident that he or she will offer you the exemplary dental services you deserve.
  2. Develop An Exercise Routine. exercise
    Another strategy you can implement to remain on the path to great health is developing an exercise routine. There are many benefits that result from regular engagement in physical activity. Some of those benefits include:
    • clearer thinking 
    • more youthful looking skin 
    • better memory 
    • improved sleep quality
    • enhanced metabolism
    • better posture

    Note that the ideal exercise program will have three components: cardio, strength, and stretching. Three types of exercises that would contribute to a holistically sound exercise program would be cycling, weight-lifting, and pilates.

  3. Invest In A Monthly Massage. Massage
    One final technique that will keep you on the road to amazing health is investing in a monthly massage. This step will provide you with a wonderful way to combat the anxiety that tends to surface due to factors such as a stressful job, death in the family, new relationship, etc. In addition to helping people fight stress, a monthly massage will help boost your metabolism and improve your digestion!

Don't Delay: Get Healthy Today!

Individuals who want to get healthy should know that there are numerous options they can explore to make it happen. Three of them include focusing on dental health, developing an exercise routine, and investing in a monthly massage. Start using these techniques now to put yourself on the path to better health!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Sometimes You Gotta Spend More to Spend Less

ShoppingWe love shopping at Kohl's. Of course, the fun is in the savings and not really the shopping itself. I don't understand people who actually enjoy shopping for the sake of shopping. But when I can stack savings on top of savings, then I'm having a bit of fun.

Last weekend we stopped into Kohl's because we had some Kohl's Cash ($7.84) from an earlier return, and we needed to spend it before it expired. Combined with the 20% discount we had, we figured it was a good time to find something we needed. I ended up finding a quilt/bedspread - originally priced at $219.99 but marked down to $43.99. Since we had been looking for something just like that, we decided to grab it and go, which is the best kind of shopping trip - in and out without wasting a lot of time.

1st rule of shopping: Start with the clearance racks.

I can't actually imagine that anyone would spend $220 on this bedspread because the 2nd rule of shopping is to never pay full price. Of course, that's similar to the first rule but can also include sale prices. I personally think sale prices are usually too high, which is why I wait for things to go on clearance, and even then I usually wait for 70%, 80%, or 90% off before I'm willing to buy.

So, we got a nice quilt/bedspread for a total cost of $30.94, which was a pretty good deal - until I realized that we had a coupon for $10 off a $50 purchase for Mother's Day. I was thinking women's clothing, jewelry, purses and accessories, etc. and didn't realize it also included items from the Home department - which would include the quilt. No, we didn't spend $50, but we did spend $43.99 (before discounts and Kohl's Cash), which meant that all we had to do was spend an additional $6.01 to be able to use the coupon and save $10. If we had bought something else that cost exactly $6.01, using the same Kohl's Cash and the same 20% discount, we would have spent $27.53, saving $3.41 - and getting an additional item. More merchandise for less money. Who can argue with that?

It gets even better, though. We didn't make it back to Kohl's until this past Sunday. I asked if they could re-ring my purchase if I found something else so that I could use the coupon - because I would have if I'd realized it applied. They said sure, so I found a blouse I liked - not exactly $6.01 but close. It was on clearance for $8 (80% off). After 'returning' the quilt and then re-ringing the transaction with both the quilt and the blouse - with the 30% discount we now have - the total cost was $25.57, a savings of $5.37. (and remember, I got a blouse, in addition to the quilt I originally bought)

Of course, when we have a 30% discount we do like to see what we can find, so we did a bit more shopping the clearance racks. I found some more tops, some dresses, pants, etc. - enough to use the coupon again - and Jeffrey found some golf shirts and t-shirts. We spent enough that we got $10 Kohl's Cash, and when I added the receipt from the quilt and blouse I bought first, we had enough for another $10 Kohl's Cash.

This, of course, means that we have to go shopping again next week when the Kohl's Cash is valid. And if we wait until Thursday, there's a coupon for $10 off a $25 purchase. That means if we find something(s) worth $30, we can use the coupon to save $10 and then pay the difference with our $20 Kohl's Cash, and actually pay absolutely nothing.

Note: Kohl's Cash is only valid during specific dates. If you can't find something you actually need or want, just buy something, anything. Hold onto the receipt, and next time you go to Kohl's, return whatever it was you grabbed. They'll give you Kohl's Cash (good for 30 days) to spend then when you're ready.

Be sure to start with the clearance racks.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Why a Screen Room is a Good Idea for Your Home

Patios, porches, and decks are popular extensions of the home. People like taking a cup of coffee outside and enjoying the sunrise in the mornings, as well as being able to entertain and spend time with friends and family. There is just one drawback to a patio, porch, or deck. Summer brings bugs, and bugs can be very annoying. To enjoy all of the benefits of a porch or patio with none of the bugs, a screen room is a great alternative. A screen room can enclose a pool area, a patio, a small pond, or virtually anything else that you might desire. It is basically up to you when it comes to the many uses of a screen enclosure.

Benefits of a Screen Room

There are several benefits to a screen room. They have been compared to sunrooms, but rather than windows, they have screens. This offers some protection from the sun and rain as well as letting a good breeze blow through during the warm months. Some areas of the country have more warm weather than others making them prime candidates for jacksonville screen enclosures that can be used almost year round.

A screen room offers extra living and entertaining space without the need for heating or cooling. Often people add outdoor ceiling fans to the rooms to help keep them cooler in the summer. A few chairs and tables, a grill, and an ice chest make the perfect place for a meal outdoors without worrying about flies, mosquitoes, or gnats.

Another benefit of a screen enclosure is having a place to let your pets enjoy some fresh air without worrying about them. This is particularly true if you do not have a fenced yard.

One thing that most people do not realize is a screen room can add to the value of their property. Adding a screen room doesn't have to cost a lot, so the property value added versus the investment cost is quite advantageous.

A screen room is also simple to maintain and repair. Most screens have vinyl or aluminum frames that are attached using a spline. There are grooves in the frames. The spline is placed over the screen and a spline tool is used to roll the spline holding the screen into the grooves. This makes it easy to replace the screen if it becomes worn out, torn, or develops a hole.

We really enjoy our sunroom - which also has screens - but if we ever live in a warmer state, I'm definitely going to want one of these screen rooms. Preferably with a pool. How about you?

Friday, May 05, 2017

Do You Think I Got My Money's Worth?

I ordered new flip flops today. I have a pair of black ones that I've worn for quite a few years, but they're not quite as comfortable as they once were. Oh, I can still wear them, but I wouldn't want to walk a mile in them. Not anymore, but I definitely used to walk miles in these flip flops because they are the most comfortable ones I've ever had. I would gladly buy another pair just like them, but of course, they are not available anymore. Why does that always happen when I find something I like?

Never mind that it's been 7 years since I bought them. 7 years! I just found the order confirmation email because I knew it had been at least 5 years, but I wasn't exactly sure. And, since I tend to keep everything and never delete the email that I should delete, I found the email when I went searching for it. On June 9, 2010 I spent $12.74 on a pair of Crocs flip flops - the most I'd ever spent on a pair - and I've been wearing those flip flops every summer since then.

So, even though they don't have the same style anymore (Wake - another thing I learned from the order confirmation email), I thought I'd see if I could find some more Crocs to replace them.  I'm not usually worried about brand names, but since my current ones have been so good, I'm hoping some new ones will be as good. 

Today was the day because several styles on the Crocs website are 30% off right now, and you know how I like saving money. I grabbed a couple pair at 30% off and then added another coupon code (EXTRA10) for an additional 10% off, and got two pairs for about $27 including tax, which is not much more per pair than what I spent 7 years ago. I just had to buy two pairs because shipping is free on orders $24.99 and over, and who wants to pay for shipping when you don't have to?

I wonder if these two will last another 7 years. Each. Which would be 14 years.

But first I need to get them and see how they fit and feel. I hope they're as comfortable as my old pair.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

What is Art?

I don't tend to think of myself as artistic. People who can take pen, pencil, paints, canvas, or other art material and create something that other people can see the beauty in, those people are artists. artwork People who can sing, perform Shakespeare in front of an audience, write poetry, crochet blankets, make jewelry, or knit a sweater are artists.

The first definition of art on is:
the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.
"Of more than ordinary significance" I like that. Art should lift us above our daily existence and show us something special.  It's possibly the best way to share how we see, hear, feel, or otherwise experience the world in a way that others can (hopefully) understand.

And this is where I think, "But I'm not an artist!" I have some very talented people in my family, people who draw and paint, write poetry, and play music. I have a very talented son who can make Shakespeare understandable. I love to watch him on stage! And my daughter can crochet an amazing blanket in an unbelievably short amount of time. I have absolutely no idea how she can take a bunch of string (yarn) and create such gorgeous things. I'm not sure where my kids got their artistic talents, because their dad and I have none of that. It must have skipped a generation and come from their grandparents, though that doesn't explain my musically talented brother and the serious photography skills of my youngest brother. (I'm sure my other brother has some great skills with that truck he drives, but I'm not sure that's art. Or is it?)

Another definition under 'art' on reads:
the principles or methods governing any craft or branch of learning: the art of baking;
So truck driving absolutely can be an art. We already know that it takes some serious skill, and most of us would never dream of driving one of those big trucks, let alone trying to back one up. In fact, I know a truck driver who does not back up. She lets her partner and husband do that. But she's very skilled in all kinds of other artistic things.

But let's get back to that last definition of art and the example used - "the art of baking" - I bake! And I cook. And apparently that can be viewed as an art. Which would mean that I am artistic after all. I may not be able to take a blank canvas and create something you'd want to hang on your walls, but I can definitely create something you'll want in your belly!

It's not quite the same as this video I saw on Facebook the other day, but in a way it is. The artist takes the sounds she hears, and sees as colors, and creates gorgeous pictures. I can usually read a recipe and know what it's going to taste like before I've even tried it, which is why I'm always changing recipes instead of actually following them. They're more like guidelines, anyway.

So now that I know I actually am artistic, what am I going to do? Oh yeah - feed people!

What will you do with your artistic skills?

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Soul2Soul Tour Review

Jeffrey and I had a date night on Saturday - dinner and a concert. Tim McGraw and Faith Hill's Soul2Soul tour was in Indianapolis, and we thought it would be fun to see them. We've loved Tim & Faith for years and were really looking forward to this concert. It had to be good, right?

Two major entertainers, with multiple songs their fans would love to hear, touring together. They could easily fill up the whole evening and leave us wanting more.
McGraw has sold more than 50 million records worldwide and dominated the singles charts with a stunning 41 #1 singles. He is currently riding the Billboard Country Airplay chart with 3 singles in the top 20, a feat he was the first to achieve, and now the first to achieve for a second time. He is the most played country artist since his debut in 1992, with two singles spending over 10 weeks at #1 (“Live Like You Were Dying” and the genre-breaking “Over and Over”). His recent multi-week #1 single “Humble and Kind,” off his “Damn Country Music” album, is his 59th release to hit top 10 or better, and spawned a New York Times Best Seller book. - Soul2Soul Tour
Why in the world would they need an opening act? I definitely wasn't expecting that, but some guy came on stage. I have no idea who he was or what any of the songs he did were, because the sound was horrible. HORRIBLE.

This was our first clue that the concert might not be as good as we hoped...

I was seriously hoping that it was the opening act's sound guy and that the sound would improve when Tim & Faith took the stage. When the opening act was over, we watched while the stage was reset, and we waited for Tim & Faith - for the concert we came to see. The stage was gorgeous. Tim & Faith came up from underneath and began singing, and...

Sadly, there was absolutely no improvement to the sound. There was so much bass and reverb that absolutely nothing else could be heard. Oh, we could tell that Tim & Faith were singing, but we could barely hear them and could not understand any of the words. And because of the wall of sound, it wasn't just the vocals that couldn't be heard - the sound from the band just kind of blended into the noise, and we couldn't differentiate any of the instruments or music. I'm sure some of those songs were familiar, but who could really tell? It was like the sound guy thought he was putting on a hard rock concert and really had no clue what Tim & Faith's music actually sounds like. We've been to several concerts, and this was absolutely the worst sound ever.

There were quite a few very disappointed people who left early, and several comments about the sound on the Facebook event page - though I'm not sure anyone ever read those. They certainly weren't being read or monitored by anyone during the concert because the bad sound stayed bad.
Stage/light show was awesome but sound was awful. Sad that we couldn't understand any words. Anxious to start hearing new songs on the radio so I can hear the words. Still love Tim and Faith but a big disappointment in the show in Indy last night.
The sound was horrible!! Left at 930 bc you could hardly make out what they were singing... and to think we drove 3 hours for a headache!
Sound is awful. Can't understand the words and can hardly even tell what songs are being played. Disappointing to say the least.
We left after Faith's set. It was exhausting trying to make sense of the sound. We came to hear Tim and Faith, not overpowering band and back up singers. I was so disappointed!
The sound really was AWFUL. But we stayed until the end, maybe because we kept hoping it would get better, which it did not. Maybe we're just suckers for punishment, or maybe it's just that we'd paid good money for these concert tickets. We may have been in the cheap seats - though there really is no such thing as a cheap seat when Ticketmaster gets through charging all their fees - but we still expected a decent concert.  (We saw Bon Jovi last month in seats on the same level but almost behind the stage, and while the view wasn't as good, the sound was MUCH better for that concert) This venue hosts numerous concerts, so I'm pretty sure that the sound is usually decent. It has to be, right? They couldn't regularly sell worthless tickets, right?

The lights and visuals were awesome, but sadly not worth much if the music isn't there to go with them. I would have been happier listening to Tim & Faith with absolutely no extra splash - if only I could have HEARD them.

The light show was worth a little something, though I hate to think that Tim & Faith have put that much into their show (heart and soul) and do not realize that the sound is so bad that their fans cannot hear or understand anything they are saying or singing. Because I have to believe they don't know what the show sounds like from out in the audience. It's either that or they're trying to impersonate rock stars instead of being the genuine people I thought they were.

Overall, it was a VERY disappointing concert - a waste of money, and a waste of time. And definitely not up to par with their past tours.
McGraw and Hill have been dominating the music charts since the early ‘90s. They began touring together in 1996 on McGraw’s Spontaneous Combustion tour. In 2000 they created the Soul2Soul franchise with their record-breaking “Soul2Soul” tour, becoming that year’s top grossing and most successful U.S. tour. Their success continued in 2006-2007 when “Soul2Soul II” returned to the road, which was the most attended tour of the year in any musical genre and remains the highest grossing multi-year North American tour in country music history. Pollstar Magazine named it their “Major Tour of 2006,” beating out Madonna, The Rolling Stones and The Red Hot Chili Peppers for the honor.  - Soul2Soul Tour

So, what did you do this weekend? I hear Garth Brooks was in Champaign...