A weekend surrounded by good

Did you ever notice that Thanksgiving weekend starts with a wonderful day of family and giving thanks, ends with Giving Tuesday, and stuck in the middle is a barrage of steals, deals, and overspending?!  Sort of sounds like typical American culture.

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Giving Tuesday was inaugurated in 2012. It is supposed to be the kick start to the charitable giving of the holiday season. It is very likely your favorite charity or nonprofit is having some sort of Giving Tuesday campaign. With that, there are a number of groups that will match your donations.

According to Huffington Post, these are the top contenders to match your donations:

American Civil Liberties Union

The ACLU, which fights to uphold the individual rights protected by the Constitution, will match donations up to $500,000 total.

American Red Cross

The emergency-relief group will match donations up to $50,000.

Best Friends Animal Society

The nation’s largest no-kill animal sanctuary, which works to promote pet adoption, will match all donations it receives Tuesday.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Facebook

The Gates Foundation, which focuses on reducing poverty and expanding access to health care, has teamed up with the social media giant to match funds raised via Facebook’s fundraising tool. The groups will match up to $1,000 per fundraiser.

Feeding America

Motivational speaker Tony Robbins pledged $3 million to match donations made to Feeding America this Tuesday, with a goal of providing 100 million meals via food banks, shelters and other community groups.

Heifer International

Heifer International seeks to curb global poverty by distributing animals to families and giving people agricultural training to become economically self-sufficient. The charity is matching donations made this Tuesday up to $855,000 total.

The Michael J. Fox Foundation

This organization, devoted to researching Parkinson’s disease, will match all donations it receives Tuesday (up to $1 million total).

UNICEF USA

The American branch of the worldwide anti-poverty group is matching all gifts up to $5,000.

Your employer ― maybe

Many corporations offer to match their employees’ charitable donations up to a certain amount per year. Use this search tool to see if your company will match your gifts.”

 

So if you over indulged this weekend on Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday, maybe consider finding an extra $5 (or more) and give to your favorite charity or non-profit. Find a child who might need a therapy dog or a Go Fund Me page to help support a local family. Take your thankful hearts we all had on Thursday and find something near and dear to your heart. Every penny makes a difference.

Make it smart

If you are like me, you don’t want to waste your money on upgrading all your perfectly functional electronics.  Smart TVs have been out for a while now, but when my husband and I moved a few years ago and started our lives together, they weren’t even a thought. We bought a pretty nice, decent size TV (2 of them) and were very happy.  Fast forward some years and Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime video have all taken over. People are cutting their cable and using other means to watch TV… except us.

I love my cable shows. I may watch more TV than the average person. I don’t watch anything in real time and we live off of our DVR– something I couldn’t live without since I tend to fall asleep with 10 minutes left in any show. (So watching stuff ‘On Demand’ is torture because I have to rewatch the whole show and still manage to miss the last 10 minutes. Yes, this happened last week as I was trying to catch up on Designated Survivor and I watched the pilot about 5 times before actually seeing it all the way through.)

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But then Netflix and all these other avenues of watching TV have come out with their own series (my newest obsession- The Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life— I was obsessed with this show when it was actually on and have rewatched the whole series SO. MANY. TIMES.) It was time to be able to watch these shows on more than my 13 inch computer screen. Last year, Black Friday, I went through this whole explanation as to why we need an Amazon Fire Stick. Clearly, I didn’t need a whole speech and didn’t need to plan my rebuttals because he simply said to just get it. It was about $25 when we bought it, so pretty cheap. It has been the BEST purchase. The amount of kids shows and movies that we can get to take a break from the same stuff we watch all the time. The old series of shows (Parenthood — one I caught up on with the help of Netflix, and SO MANY MORE) that you can watch. The exclusive series that are on. I was able to watch the Olypmics through the NBC Olympic app. I can download Amazon Prime movies and watch right on my TV without hooking up anything else but the stick that is already in my TV. I can upload pictures and have a slide show. The possibilities are endless!

All the Amazon Fire Stick does is turn your ‘not very smart TV’ into a smart TV that can connect to the internet. It is still on sale this weekend!!!! Now is the time to get it. I don’t usually say that something is so good that you have to go get it, but this is definitely a winner in my book!

 

 

**Full disclosure regarding content on my blog. I share the items I personally love and want to share with others. I would NOT suggest or promote something I have not used myself and that I do NOT believe in.  I am an affiliate with Amazon, so for those items I am making a small amount if you decide to purchase through my site. Much of what I will make, I will be donating to different causes- Wounded Warriors, Fischer House, and other pop-ups throughout the year like Epilepsy research and St. Jude’s Hospital. I plan to use this blog to help give back while also helping my family while my husband is deployed.

When it rains… it pours.

Ever have one of those weeks that you think, “things can’t possibly get worse,” or if you are little bit more optimistic, “we will get through this and be stronger at the end?” Well let me tell you, I have had one of those weeks. It started with visiting grandparents and my daughter coming down with a 103 fever. She was a zombie. I had never seen her that sick. We headed to urgent care where we were and the doctor was PHENOMENAL. He checked her from head to toe and spend about 30 minutes with us (after we waited for about an hour and a half). Poor thing was checked for the flu and strep and both came back negative and her lungs were clear– no sign of anything. Fast forward to Thursday, she was still fighting a fever (after a 36 hour break) and we were able to head to our pediatrician. Went through the flu and strep test again and now this time X-rays to rule our pneumonia. EVERYTHING was negative. Finally two shots of antibiotics and a blood count confirmed she had something bacterial. She went back the next day for another blood count and ended up with two more shots of antibiotics. Finally the third day (Saturday), her blood count was back to normal and she was given an oral antibiotic. So now the task as hand— NO ONE ELSE GET SICK!!!

UNTIL— my son spikes a fever Monday afternoon (but only 100.something). UGH! Well I take him IMMEDIATELY to the doctor and explain my whole reasoning (which they totally understood) and again, everything came back negative so they wrote me a prescription for an antibiotic but to hold off one more day to see if he gets better. It’s now been day 4 of fever and 2 days of antibiotics, and another doctor visit!!!

Oh wait– and then I have had sciatic pain shooting down my leg, causing me excruciating pain to walk or move quickly, and even worse, getting out of bed is the biggest challenge… and ready for the kicker?! Husband isn’t home!!!! He was luckily home until my daughter was given antibiotic shots, but he hasn’t been home since.

SO— I know we have all been there. We have all had these weeks from hell that we want to just forget about (or maybe we can laugh about later— much MUCH later!) I try to keep reminding myself that it’s only been a week and we can get through it. All of this is temporary. All of this will eventually go away. Fevers reduce, pain goes away. We are lucky actually to hopefully get it all over with in a 2 week period— but I. Am. So. Tired. Positive thoughts, though, or I might just go insane and cry. But, we have all been there.

So to all the moms and dads who just want to throw in the towel— one step at a time. Things will get better. Reach out for help. Surprisingly, people do want to help!!! Yes, sometimes it might not be convenient for you or them, but people want to help and let them!! Parenting takes a village and sometimes in this world, I think we forget that. It’s not all happy kids and fun playdates as seen on Facebook but a daily struggle, so let people in and enjoy the village!

My favorite things…

Happy election day all! Yes, I realize it’s a huge oxymoron for sure. Between the lead up to today and now the long lines (which is a good thing because that means people are actually taking the time to voice their opinion in a constructive way), we need something a little more uplifting. Because this election has the whole nation on edge, let’s think about something happier- hot cocoa, holiday lights, Christmas trees, cookie exchanges, family and friend get togethers.  Today, we leave all the stress and animosity of election day behind to talk about some of my favorite things!
Are you headed to a cookie exchange this season? Maybe 2 or 3? I know I have at least one on my calendar. My FAVORITE cookie for a cookie exchange is Magic Cookie Bars983028I butter the pan instead of using a crisco spray, but otherwise, I follow the recipe. I love these cookies for exchanges because they are a bar vs a traditional cookie so you can easily make 2 dozen in one pan, 4 dozen in two pans. They are super easy. Almost zero clean up! I hve also made my own graham crackers in the past but the blog I found them on is no longer working so I haven’t done that in a while. (The recipe I found was ridiculously easy to follow and make and I am so bummed I can’t find it.)

I always head to my in-laws on Christmas day and every since I dated my husband, I came with a dessert. I always brought a bowl of Reindeer Chow. It can certainly get a little messy making it and it cannot be done in a rush, so make sure you have a bit of time to do it correctly, otherwise it is super easy to make and always a huge hit. I also would bring along a cheesecake. chocolate_raspberry_cheesecake_1My father-in-law and nephew especially like this cheesecake and request it every year. There have been a few years I couldn’t quite get to it and to make it travel 4.5 hours to their house wasn’t always ideal but they can rest assure that they will get it this Christmas. While the Keebler Ready Crust no longer has it on their website, I was able to find it on this blog. It’s the perfect combination of tart and sweet and super easy to make.

A fun holiday tradition we have is to head to look at holiday lights. One of our favorite places to head is Meadowlark Botanical GardensMeadowlark Garden Winter Walk of LightsIt has always been a low key event when we go with not a ton of other people. You get a nice stroll through the park and finish up at the fire. It’s great for little ones to point out different animals and plants, but the adults can also enjoy the hard-work and intricacy of the lights throughout. It’s a great event to get you out of the house and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg $13 for adults and $7 for kids (2 and under are free) and you can save $2 off online ticket purchase on Mondays through Thursdays through December 8 (excluding Thanksgiving). There are over 500,000 lights on display during a .6 mile walk (so not too long so even the littlest ones can get through it). You can pick up hot chocolate before the walk and then shop at the Snowflake Shoppe at the end of your trip.

Are you headed to an event with a grab bag? I have LOVED any and all of Beautycounter’s Holiday Sets, but my three favorite that can be good for any and everyone are the Naughty to Nice Gift SetThe Jet Set, and the Shimmer & Shine Gift Set. I love these because ANYONE can use them! The Naughty to Nice Gift Set is a small spa experience. It combines the Charcoal Cleansing Bar with the Purifying Charcoal Mask, giving a luxurious at home spa regiment. The Jet Set is perfect for that friend or family member who is always on the go. It is a travel set of the shampoo, conditioner, body wash, body lotion, and charcoal bar in a travel pouch. Perfect for a carry on or gym bag! The Shimmer & Shine Gift Set combines travel sizes of the famous Sugar Scrub and Body Butter with a luxurious shimmer body oil. 12276954_1017875141597900_933821065_nAll of these are packaged and delivered in a limited edition red gift box so only a bow is needed to hand these out! If you don’t know Beautycounter, they are a company on a mission to get safer products in the hands of everyone. The US has ban only 11 ingredients in the skincare industry and no laws have been passed since 1938. Beautycounter has a rigorous and thorough screening system in place to get the SAFEST ingredients in their skincare and makeup products. They are not all natural or organic but their products all score a 1 or 2 on the EWG website (which is a non-profit organization that rates products on a 1-10 scale based on their ingredients. If you have not been on there, highly recommend!)

Do you have a kid that has everything?? I have the gift for you!! A subscription to any of the Kiwi Crate is exactly what you need. kiwi-crate-june_zpsbe7ddecdMy daughter has received either a 3 or 6 month subscription of the Koala Crate for her birthday or Christmas and she looks forward to getting them each month. They are filled with 3-4 activities that center around a theme (oceans, colors, farms, etc). It keeps her busy for a few hours and it’s something we do together and we either keep the stuff around for a short period of time or it’s now something she can play with for a long time– for example, she has made a stuffed snake, a stuffed cloud, a tote bag, weather sock and chart, or a wooden car that we have kept around, but items like a glow in the dark moon, 3-D tree, and other crafty things that we adored for a little bit but then after a quick picture of it, found it’s way to the garbage.

Have a friend that has everything?! Have you heard of StitchFix?? o-stitchfix-facebookI am OBSESSED with it.As a busy mom of two small kiddos, I find myself picking up most of my clothes at Target (which is not a bad thing at all— I love my Target clothes), but I tend to buy the same style and I am not a good shopper for myself. StitchFix is a personal stylist who sends you 5 pieces (clothing and accessories based on your preferences) and you have three days to try on and send back what you don’t want and buy the things you want to keep. I do it about 1-2 times a year as I tend to try to buy everything in my box and it runs me about $200, which is WAY more than I would ever spend BUT it’s the clothes I get the most compliments on. What I love most is that you can link a Pinterest board to your account and write notes to your stylist to get the best match. I usually state I want machine washable items that are great for a day with the kids but don’t make me feel mommy. They have provided me with things I have LOVED that if I saw it in the store, I would never have bought for myself. It’s definitely a fun treat.  I love getting a gift card from there.

My very last favorite thing is to take the month of December and make it Random Act of Kindness month. Many families around the country have those pesky little Elves on the Shelves. We are one of them. The first year, luckily my daughter was too young to realize what was happening because I could not keep up with moving it around and coming up with creative things for the elf to do. It took 2 years for me to rethink the whole idea and now our Elf comes down from Santa and gives my kiddos an act of kindness to do each day.  To start you off, here are some ideas thanks to this amazing blog:

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100 ACTS OF KINDNESS FOR KIDS

  1. Put change in a vending machine.
  2. Hold the door open for someone.
  3. Do a chore for someone without them knowing.
  4. Tell a joke.
  5. Return someone’s cart at the store.
  6. Give candy to your bank teller.
  7. Leave a letter in a library book.
  8. Feed the birds.
  9. Leave happy notes around town.
  10. Put a small bin in your car to collect recycling.
  11. Call your grandparents and ask them about their childhood.
  12. Pick up litter.
  13. Let someone go ahead of you in line.
  14. Compliment a friend.
  15. Wash someone’s car.
  16. Write a thank you note for your mail carrier.
  17. Plant something.
  18. Bake dessert for a neighbor
  19. Walk dogs at the animal shelter.
  20. Check in on an elderly neighbor.
  21. Set up a lemonade stand and donate the profits.
  22. Send a card to a service member.
  23. Bury treasure at the playground.
  24. Set the table for dinner.
  25. Leave bubbles on someone’s doorstep.
  26. Put money on a stranger’s layaway bill.
  27. Tell someone why they are special to you.
  28. Donate outgrown clothes.
  29. Buy a coffee for a stranger.
  30. Pass out stickers to kids waiting in line.
  31. Talk to someone new at school.
  32. Write chalk messages on the sidewalk.
  33. Weed or shovel for a neighbor.
  34. Donate food to the food pantry.
  35. Bring flowers to your teacher.
  36. Tell a manager how good your service was.
  37. Tape change to a parking meter.
  38. Donate socks and supplies to the homeless shelter.
  39. Give a lottery ticket to a stranger.
  40. Call a friend you haven’t seen in a while to say hello.
  41. Tape money for the ice cream truck to a friend’s front door.
  42. Take treats to the fire station.
  43. Read a book to someone.
  44. Leave heads up pennies on the sidewalk.
  45. Donate a book to a doctor’s office waiting room.
  46. Tell someone how much you love them.
  47. Say hello to everyone you see.
  48. Make someone else’s bed.
  49. Hold the door open for someone.
  50. Wave at kids on school buses.
  51. Sing songs at a nursing home.
  52. Invite someone to play on the playground.
  53. Tell the principal how great your teacher is.
  54. Donate a toy to Toys for Tots.
  55. Turn off the water while brushing your teeth.
  56. Say thank you when you see service members.
  57. Fill a kindness jar with candy for another family.
  58. Make a thank you sign for sanitation workers.
  59. Make a busy bag for a family with young children.
  60. Bring cookies to the custodian.
  61. Help make dinner.
  62. Donate new pajamas for foster kids.
  63. Make a get well card for someone.
  64. Bring your neighbors’ garbage cans up for them.
  65. Take care of someone’s pet while they’re away.
  66. Leave a popcorn surprise on a DVD rental machine.
  67. Share a special toy with a friend.
  68. Clean up your room without being asked.
  69. Tape a video message for faraway friends.
  70. Leave kindness stones at the park.
  71. Give a candy bar to the bus driver.
  72. Send dessert to another family at a restaurant.
  73. Give spare change to the food pantry.
  74. Buy extra school supplies for a teacher.
  75. Make muffins for your pharmacist.
  76. Teach someone something new.
  77. Reuse paper when you are drawing.
  78. Pay for someone’s toll.
  79. Give someone a hug coupon.
  80. Volunteer at a soup kitchen.
  81. Write a note for someone’s lunch.
  82. Collect money or items for your favorite charity.
  83. Donate coloring books and crayons to the children’s hospital.
  84. Write a poem for a friend.
  85. Ask for donations instead of birthday gifts.
  86. Help someone unload groceries at the store.
  87. Make a candy gram for the police department.
  88. Collect books for the library.
  89. Adopt an animal online.
  90. Decorate tissue boxes and hand sanitizer for nursing stations.
  91. Make a homemade gift for someone.
  92. Clean up your toys without being asked.
  93. Deliver water bottles to the homeless shelter.
  94. Create activity bags for families of deployed soldiers.
  95. Give high fives to a friend.
  96. Make a thank you card for your librarian.
  97. Dry the slides at the park with a towel after it rains.
  98. Make play dough for a preschool class.
  99. Send a postcard to a friend.
  100. Smile at everybody. It’s contagious.

I hope this helped to take you away from the craziness today and enjoy some great things to come!! May we all find a little unity and peace over the next few months, regardless of the outcome today. Happy Tuesday!

This is outrageous!

I’m telling you it’s awful. EVERY. SINGLE. YEAR. They do it to us. They go ahead and make SO MANY AMERICANS infuriated. It becomes the single biggest controversy in November. I thought this year it would be different because of how much heat the election is having, but the controversy is amped up by the already angry public… Starbucks came out with their holiday cup.

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Just look at that atrocity! I have already seen several roaming the streets of my small town today. People joyously holding this green cup like they are drinking happiness.  What does this possibly have to do with the holidays?! It’s green and has all these random drawings all over it.  Where are the snowmen?! Snowflakes?! Christmas trees?! You know, the real symbols of the holidays? It’s just absurd what they are trying to do– where is the holiday spirit?!

And the designer behind the cup? You have to be thinking what his thoughts were, right? What could he possibly be thinking when creating this cup? Something so far from the idea of the holidays as possible— unity. Blasphemy!

Wait. What?! Something this country needs a little bit more of?! Yes, it is in fact unity. The artist decided to create a drawing using a singular continuous line to make 132 faces of different members of our very diverse population. I hope you agree that this idea is just outrageous. I mean, Jesus could not possibly want that message over some snowflakes and trees. The idea we need to accept others and our vast diversity is the farthest thing from where we are as a nation and it is being echoed even through this newest controversy.

Shogo Ota, the artist behind the cup, was reported saying, “Everybody on the Earth. People should feel and think everybody is happy together.” Isn’t that exactly what this time of year is about?  So in all seriousness, may we find the true meaning of the holidays- however you celebrate. May we hold out a loving hand and heart to anyone who is struggling (even if they don’t look like they are). Invite the lonely neighbor over for cookies and tea. Invite the coworker with no family in the area for some holiday cheer. Bring that blasted cup to someone or pay for the person behind you in line. May we find the true meaning of the holiday season.