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Sunday, December 28, 2014

This years movies in review

There have been several movies I've enjoyed seeing this year. Some I have even enjoyed taking the time and money to see in theaters.

Some of my favorites were Maleficent, Dracula Untold, Planes: Fire and Rescue, Guardians of the Galaxy, Alexander and the Horrible, Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, and Big Hero 6 were just a few. Maleficent and Dracula were new versions to old stories. Much like Into the Woods, but that was a chaotic musical that is more of an acquired taste. I'm still trying to get in to see the new Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies. I hear its a great one, though lags with the telling of the love story between the dwarf and the elf. I'm mainly interested in seeing Legolas....
Divergent was pretty good. I'm not sure exactly how I feel, but I did enjoy it as entertainment.

While the Game Stands Tall was a good one as well, even though it was a football movie. I'm not a sports fan, but the story of this dedicated coach was a really inspiring tale.

Future movies I am looking forward to or have an interest in seeing would include Ant-Man and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Ant-Man is another super hero movie. Since producers and writers are on a roll with those types, they are branching out from the widely known to add the heroes we don't often think about. Unless you're a nerd like me... Paul Rudd will be the star of this one coming out next summer on July 17th, 2015. Who among you plans to watch this one? How many of you actually know the story behind the Ant-Man?? I can see some of you looking it up right now....

"Based on the Marvel comic character first published in 1962, Marvel’s “Ant-Man” continues the lineage of epic big-screen adventures chronicled in Marvel’s “Iron Man,” “The Incredible Hulk,” “Iron Man 2,” “Thor,” “Captain America: The First Avenger,” “Marvel’s The Avengers,” “Iron Man 3,” “Thor: The Dark World,” “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” “Guardians of the Galaxy” and the upcoming Marvel’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”

Star Wars has always been a favorite of mine. Can you blame me? I'll admit that the 3 original movies were the better ones, but even the 3 latest had their good things. I'm skeptical about whether Disney will keep in line with the original story and make it worth watching. The teaser trailer looked more like a spoof than the real deal.

I still haven't seen Captain American: The Winter Soldier, The Wolverine, Mockingjay Part 1, How to Train Your Dragon 2 (though I bought it), The Maze Runner, 300: Rise of an Empire... So many on my list that will have to wait until they are Netflix or I catch them on sale because I worry about wasting money on a bad movie. What have you seen? What do you look forward to seeing?

Collage.com product giveaways

I have two codes for free products from Collage.com that include free shipping. Who is interested in winning them? I won't set up a Rafflecopter unless I have a huge request for it. But I can post something else if you are willing to play and comment. So let me know if you are interested by posting a comment and I'll get started. If you want to know more about who Collage.com is, check out my previous reviews.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Clearance time again

It's time for more clearance deals at Target. Everything is getting marked down in the seasonal sections of the stores as they try to purge out the Christmas merchandise to make room for the New Years products. 30% off food items and 50% off everything else. We bought the Lego Friends poly bags for $1.99 each. There are some Chima ones but they are extremely hard to find. We only picked up one. 
If you text EXTRA4 to TARGET (827438), you can get an extra 20% off clearance apparel. 
You will need a smartphone to get the link with a personalized barcode to use at checkout. 
We also found these Lego Creator sets half off.
Normally they are $20, now only $9.98. 
And the last great deal we found was in the electronics department. Wolfenstein is 40% off in Cartwheel. It ends today though. Check Walmart.com to price match before using the discount to save even more. 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Into the Woods movie review

Into the Woods is a slightly chaotic musical that retells several classic fairy tales with a whimsical twist. Cinderella, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, the Baker and his Wife, Jack and the Beanstalk and I want to say that even the witch, played by Meryl Streep, is from a special story.
Though I can't quite put my finger on it. Johnny Depp plays the devilishly clever Big Bad Wolf.
I have to admit, when I decided to see this pre screening, I was mainly interested in seeing the great Johnny Depp. He is my heart throb of course (can you blame me?). But sadly, his character doesn't last very long. And to think, he wasn't even vanquished by a hunter as the classic story would have you believe. Little Red Riding Hood is a bit of an annoying girl who cons bread and sweets from the Baker and his Wife. 
The Baker and his Wife live a simple life and long to have a child. For reasons unknown, they can't. Then one day, out of the blue, the witch next door pays them a visit and explains that they are cursed to never have children because the Bakers parents stole from her garden. She sets them out to fulfill a quest and retrieve special items for her. In return, she will regain her youth and beauty and thus recant the curse.  
Another story unfolds as we meet the lowly Cinderella who is slaving away for the cruel stepmother and her hideous daughters.
She has the gift of talking to birds and requesting their assistance. Let's face it, every Disney Princess has to have such a talent right? Even if it seems a little creepy... 
Rapunzel is the Bakers sister that has spent her life locked away in a tower, growing her hair out to be ridiculously long.
How did she get up there if there are no doors? Just saying... But a prince falls in love with her and will not rest until she is his bride.
He is the brother of Prince Charming who is in love with Cinderella because she keeps running away from him. But is she really what he wants? And does she really want to be a prized trophy princess? 
Then there's Jack. Poor boy is a simpleton with a single mother that can't provide.
He traded his cow for beans, climbed the beanstalk that grew from the beans, and stole from the Giants up in the clouds with the hopes of buying back his beloved cow. But what if he met the cunning Little Red Riding Hood? What if the beans came from the Baker and Wife? What happens when the witch needs the cow but it died? So many twists. Then the giant is killed, but he had a wife who now wants revenge. Who should pay the price of vengeance? 
The end brings a tie to each story. Every character gets to follow a path of their choosing. It was cleverly devised by the writers. There were definitely parts that could've been better. Again, I wasn't into it as much being that it was a musical. I was sad that the Wolf (Johnny Depp) still died and by the hands of a squeamish baker, no less. It was family friendly. It taught values of working together, especially when you're a married couple. Don't cheat on your spouse, you'll end up falling from a cliff right after while he rides off to find his happiness. Don't steal from bakers and listen to wolves, you'll end up waiting for that baker to cut you from a swollen belly. Better hope he's merciful. 
It's fun, with its comical moments. 

Merry Christmas? No thanks!

I'm not a fan of Christmas.
To me it's a huge hassle that usually compounds over the weeks before leading into a disaster on Christmas Day. Buying gifts, sending cards, oops I forgot the family photo, don't forget to cook all the things that no one wants to eat because it's tradition, what no tree?!, do we have to visit that part of the family?, and do I have to get dressed on the one day off from work?! 
I can't really remember a truly happy Christmas Day of relaxing and enjoying myself for at least the past 10-15 years. I pretty much just grin and bear it while hoping the clock will magically speed to the end of it all. Smiling while opening that gift you didn't want and thinking how it's going into the re-gifting pile when you get home. Just remember who gave it to you so you don't give it back! 
Trying to think of compliments to say about someone else's cooking even though you are trying not to eat very much of it and don't want to be dishonest or rude. 
I spend the whole year buying gifts that I can set aside for Christmas. I catch the sales, and pay attention to great deals. When you have 9 siblings, 2 parents, plus all your husbands family... And the occasional friend to buy for.... You learn not to wait until December to get everything. I don't even want to watch tv during the holidays. All you see are ads of 50-70%, but you know they are lies. Stores put prices up higher in the middle-end of the year then announce "sales" to make you think you are getting a bargain. Until they are clearance, I'm not really interested. A couple days after Christmas until the beginning of January or even February, is when the real deals can be found. That's when stores are purging their inventories and prepping for new products to be stocked. Then you also have to listen to your kids saying, "Mom, I want that!" to every toy they see. 
This year was no different. Maybe more miserable, but not different. I was awake about 1:25 this morning with a headache and unable to sleep. Since I didn't want to wake anyone else, I went to lay on the couch and play Hearthstone on the iPad for a couple rounds. Then I dozed off again and woke to a pounding migraine. So much for a restful day. Guess I should be glad that I got so much relaxation the night before. I quickly got to work wrapping the last of the gifts. I stuffed the stockings, made eggs, sausage and toast for breakfast, and began mixing up a batch of brownies for the in laws. We were supposed to go to their house for lunch. By this time, the children are awake. Ravenous little rug rats begging for food and trying to break into the neatly laid out gifts. 
Breakfast first! That's when my daughter throws up. A torrent of chunky liquid all over herself, her father (who freaks out and starts yelling), and the surrounding area. May I just say, I don't freak out. Ever. Panic only makes things worse. I give my husband a handful of paper towels and then gather up my baby girl to go upstairs and bathe. After that, it was a whirlwind of cleaning for me. Something just clicks and puts me on the warpath. First the kitchen, then the floors, the stairs, on upstairs to the bedrooms. My stress levels begin to rise as my husband tried to tell me to stop and rest or continuously ask why I was cleaning. Any other day of the year, he'd be telling me I don't do enough. That if I'm sitting after work, I'm being lazy. After all, when he was the working breadwinner he didn't need as much rest or sleep as I seem to. Also, being the stay at home parent is difficult and he needs me to take over on my days off. But not today? How is it different today than any other day? This is one of my pet peeves. Pick a stance and stay with it. Regardless of day, holidays, or plans. But I digress.
On to opening gifts and deciding what the plan of the day will be.
Since the kids are all sick, we have to stay home.
Can't say I'm too disappointed. I can stay home and get things done, or be bored out of my mind at the in laws. Which would you choose? 
Then I clean like crazy (which is what my husband thinks I am). I plug in the headphones to blast Skillet, AFI, Thrash80, and Sabaton among others. I know it won't help the head pains. It will, however, help to drown out the background noises and thoughts in my weary head. 
My husband complained about not getting gifts for each other. I opened one gift from my parents but he had nothing as he'd already opened his gift from them. My gift to him was telling I'm divorcing him next year. I delivered that last week. No need to gift wrap something after dropping that kind of news, right? 
My daughter again lost her stomach contents just before lunch. It looks to be a long day of cleaning and headaches. But I can't say I'm not happy. I'm not at work. I'm wearing comfy pants. I don't have to answer personal questions from family I don't see often. And I don't have to leave the comfortable, clean, organized chaos of my own home. 
So today, enjoy your Christmas celebrations. Whether you do so in religious ways, with family, or as I'm doing in some form that is uniquely your own - do so with pride and pleasure! Get ready for a new year. It's almost here! 

Monday, December 22, 2014

Solo Universal Fit tablet/eReader case review

Its time for another wonderful product review via Shoplet.com. Shoplet.com offers a wide variety of office supplies. This is for a Solo Universal Fit Tablet/eReader Case.
This comfortable case that protects your tablet, can be used on tablets ranging from 8.5 - 11 inches.
They are universal in their ability to cover several types of tablets.
I like that they have stretchable corner attachments to hold the tablet firmly in place.
I also like the textured outside and soft inside. I know it will be protected.
The clasp on the outside is magnetic.
  I only wish it had an opening so that the camera was usable while the case was on. It would also be better if it had the ability to be its own stand. As it is, my husband takes the case off to set it up on a stand when he wants to go hands-free.
Don't forget to check out the other things that Shoplet has to offer. They have promotional supplies to help you get your business name out there. Or perhaps you could use medical supplies. They now also offer office stationary. Check them out and let me know what you think!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Holiday Gifts: Most Popular Phone Case Designs

I was recently asked if I would share a guest post from Heather Hewitt at Shutterfly. I love using Shutterfly and the post she has is fantastic. Enjoy!

2014 has flown by and the busiest time of year is upon us – the holidays! Your mailbox is about to be
flooded with Christmas cards, party invites, and shopping ads galore. Maybe you'll be buried in a mound of dough as you prepare to bake holiday cookies. And you're sure to be hitting the busy stores in search of the perfect gift for your loved ones.

But what if you could get some shopping done from the convenience of home? Almost everyone these days has a smartphone – and many have the new iPhone 6. Consider creating personalized phone cases online for the tech savvy people in your life. To get you started, here's a list of the most popular designs:

 Collages. When you don’t have just one perfect photo to grace your customized gift, why not
add several? There are many collage designs that allow someone to show off their favorite
photos all in one place – from two or three photos all the way up to twelve or more!
 Patterns. Choose a favorite photo and surround it with a pattern your friend or family member
will love. Chevrons, stripes, and polka dots in a variety of colors seem to be the latest craze.
 Wording. Yes, phone cases aren’t just about the photos anymore, as wording is making a
comeback. Why not combine the best of both worlds and choose a design that splashes
meaningful words – like names, the year, or cute phrases like “Love makes us family” – across a
great photo?
Bright colors. Want to get noticed? Maybe your friend or family member isn't the most outgoing
person, but has a fun-loving spirit all the same. Select a case that features a fun photo of you
and your friend surrounded by a hot pink, purple, yellow, or lime green border.
 Classic. What’s more classic than creating a case featuring a lovely photo tinted in black and
white? Sepia-toned photo cases are also all the rage right now.
 Photos of people. Of course, you want anything you select for your loved one's case to be
deeply personal and represent something about her – and often, it’s those closest to us who fit
that criteria. For a phone case that will make your friend smile every time she glances its way,
select engagement or wedding photos, full family photos, photos of her children or pets, etc.
However, be sure all photos are copyright-free.

Landscape photos. Did your friend take the vacation of a lifetime and you want to give her a
way to remember it all through the year? Create a case with a collage of great landscape photos
– whether they feature mountains or beaches, snow or sun. Beauty is the main qualifying factor.
 Favorite quotes or fun phrases. If there’s a quote that represents who your loved one is, slap it
on the case you're designing. Or maybe there’s a phrase – like those of the “Keep Calm and
Carry On” variety – that’s just plain fun. 
In addition to creative Christmas greetings and new recipes, get a head start on your shopping this year.
Design phone cases for the loved ones in your life and save yourself a trip to the crowded stores.

Author Bio: Heather Hewitt is a seasoned writer and guest author who enjoys connecting people with
thoughtful products, services and ideas as they relate to crafting, photography, gift giving and personal expression.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Collage.com reviews

I wrote a review before on a photo book from Collage.com. They contacted me, asking me to review some other products. I'm feeling pretty good about these...
They say it's the thought that counts when it comes to gift-giving. The more thought you put into what you give, the more you show you care or know the one receiving the gift.
But it's not just the gift itself that holds meaning and thought. How it's presented or packaged has an effect as well. If you wrap something too plain or shabbily, it will seem as though you didn't take the time or effort to make it presentable. Collage.com offers a wide variety of things beyond simple photo books.
You can create personalized wrapping paper to make your gifts extra special.
The paper has a grid on the underside to help keep your cuts straight.
It's just as durable as regular wrapping paper, but with a little more personalization. 
The pictures came out clear and beautiful.

They allowed me to order an ornament, which came out wonderfully as well.
It's a small metal plate with a bright red ribbon to hold it on the tree. It's also printed double sided.
So even if it gets flipped around, you can still see the amazing pictures.

I also received an aluminum 11x14 photo collage that brings the vibrant colors of your pictures to an aluminum backing.
No fear of it ripping or getting water damage. There are pieces of wood on the back to hang it from.
No frame is needed either. I like how its so light weight, very thin, but durable.
I can be confident that my pictures will be enjoyed for years to come on it. There are numerous gift ideas within Collage.com's choices. No matter who you are ordering for this Christmas, or even for other holidays and celebrations, chances are good you will find something for everyone. Don't forget to check out their Facebook page to keep up with their latest news.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Gatti's pizza review

As a part of the U.S. Family Guide bloggers, I was invited to write a review for our local Gatti's. Located at 2921 Pat Booker Road in Universal City, Gatti's offers a fun, family experience for all ages. 
We went at 4PM with the hopes that an early dinner on Saturday night wouldn't be so crowded. We were wrong. The parking lot was already pretty full. 
You can reserve rooms for parties and fun occasions. They also have multiple dining rooms. One of the dining rooms has a large TV where movies play to provide entertainment for the kids while you dine. We chose the Quiet Dining room, though my kids had a hard time keeping their voices down. 
Food choices are abundant.
They have various types of pasta and sauces to choose from, a salad bar, myriads of pizza flavors that are ever changing throughout the day, and a dessert set up.
Some of my personal favorites were the Italian type pasta and jalapeƱo pepperoni pizza. My oldest son devoured a plate of spaghetti right off the start. Normally I can't get him to be as enthusiastic when I make it at home... My younger son loved the macaroni and cheese. Apparently I don't make that right either since he had far more gusto for Gatti's than he has for mine. They have baked potatoes and even potato salad that was pretty good. 
From the drink choices, I really loved that there were 4 types of tea to choose from. I chose green tea, though you have regular sweet and unsweet as well as Nestea Raspberry to choose from. 
As with any buffet-providing restaurant, clean plates are never ending. You finish one, dump in a receptacle for such and grab a fresh one. 
There is a huge game room to play in.
Games are typically .25 or 50¢ each though some cost more, such as the bumper cars or (my favorite) Fruit Ninja
which are $1 or more.
You can either purchase a game card, or use cash to pay for the games.
There's a little something for everyone. One of our favorites was the Goal Rush.
You get a set amount of balls and you have to toss/roll them upward and into various point value "goals". We ended up playing it over a few times. 
There are plenty of ticket-rewarding games. Tickets can be used to redeem prizes.
The ticket machines were having issues counting and adding credit to the cards. So the lines were a bit long. But that's to be expected with such a high volume of people using them daily. 
It was a great experience for my family. My husband is even talking of making it a regular thing. And if you sign up for the Gatti's newsletter, you can receive emails letting you know what the latest deals are. And if you're tired of having turkey for your holiday meals, maybe you should consider taking the family out one night!