Sunday, December 25, 2011

Review: PartyLite

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of PartyLite Simple Pleasures Holiday Sweepstakes for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

I've hosted more than my fair share of in home shopping parties. Cooking shows, make-up, jewelry, but surprisingly, I've never hosted a PartyLite in-home party. However, I have owned several PartyLite pieces and candles that I've received as gifts.

Maybe in the new year I can find a PartyLite consultant and have my friends over for some Spring redecorating. From browsing their website, I know the benefits of hosting a PartyLite party are pretty good. I wish I hadn't missed out on the December hostess specials. One of them is 12 dozen tealights for $12! That would be a crazy good deal even if it wasn't PartyLite! I can't think of anyone I wouldn't invite because all of my friends love pretty things. And love to make their homes smell nice too.

You can always keep track of the newest deals, and not miss them the way I did, by liking the PartyLite Facebook page. I really like the Clearly Creative collection and the way that I could fill the bottoms with items to match any theme - candy, stones, feathers, curling ribbon.


The PartyLite Simple Pleasures Holiday Sweepstakes has ended, but you can still shop their Winter catalog, which premiered on December 16. 

Visit Sponsor's Site

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Decorating Christmas Cookies

Carefully applying sprinkles...

And some more icing...

Mary did surprisingly well with the squeeze bag.

Notice my Christmas card covered door? It's missing about half of the cards!

Bruce joined in too. :)

Enjoying the fruits of our labor...

It's okay that she licked her fingers, we were done decorating!

PS - Canned cake frosting isn't a good choice for cookies.

Christmas Shopping with #JCPLastMinute

I hate last minute Christmas shopping. But does that stop me from doing it? Not usually. It doesn't matter how carefully I plan. I start buying Christmas gifts over the summer forming nice stockpiles in the dark depths of my closet. Then, some how, in the midst of Christmas parades, baking, and sending the annual family photo card designing, I forget about them.

Or I realize that I forgot about someone on my list. A year or two ago it was my dad. Christmas day didn't go well for him and I've always felt bad about that. Not this year. His gift is going to be great! I planned ahead and thought carefully about what to get him and how to get it.

Of course, my laser focus on him meant someone else got neglected. They read this blog so I can't tell you what I bought them, but I'm just glad I don't live too far from the mall!

Because we only buy gifts for those closest to us, I can't confess here what last minute gifts I've bought... don't want anyone knowing it took me until today to figure their gift out! But I can tell you I am very excited about the new Isotoner Touchscreen Compatible Gloves. With all the people in my family buying iPads and smart phones, these make perfect sense. And if I had a to buy a gift for a co-worker, I'd probably go for these since at about $20 they fit most office gift giving guidelines.

If you are like me and have some last minute gifts to pick up, I have some good news for you. For the next 2 days (Friday & Saturday) they will open at 7 am! There's no excuse to not get what you are looking for if you wake up bright and early. JCPenney will be open until midnight on Friday and 6 PM on Saturday.

And since I know my girls will be up at 6 am tomorrow... I know where I'll be at 7 am!
JCPenney Don't Panic Last Minute Shopping Guide

“I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of jcpenney and received a promotional item to thank me for my participation.”

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Fixing Facebook Timeline

I was pretty excited about the new Facebook Timeline. Still am. But there were a few minutes last night that I was a bit freaked out.

I used the feature that allows you to see what your Timeline looks like to the public and almost started hyperventilating when it showed EVERYTHING I had posted since I joined Facebook in 2008!


I had read that I could fix that by changing the settings for each item.

Did you catch that? Each. Item. No way! Not sure about you, but I don't have time to do that. So I did some more sleuthing and found a way to do it with just a few clicks of the mouse. I figured I wasn't the only person who might freak out about their entire FB history potentially being available to the whole wide world, so I thought I'd walk you through the steps to make your Facebook Timeline private. And just so you know,  you can't undo this action unless you go through and change each individual post.

How to Make Your Facebook Timeline Private

1 - Click the arrow next to Account (in the upper right hand corner).
2 - Select Privacy Settings.
3- Scroll down and click Manage Past Post Visibility.

4 - Click Limit Old Posts.

5 - Click Confirm.

6 - Click Close.

Pretty easy isn't it. Now, you can go back to your Timeline now to check what your profile looks like to the general public. If you're Timeline is like mine, you'll still see polls showing up. From all that I can find, the only way to remove those is to click on the poll and unvote. If you can't figure out how to do that, let me know and I'll show you how. But if you are comfortable with Facebook, then you can probably figure that part out pretty easily.

I hope this helps you feel more comfortable about choosing the Timeline. Ultimately, everyone on Facebook will be converted to it anyway, so you might as well accept it. Or delete your Facebook account.

EDIT: After you make your past posts invisible, make sure your settings are also set to limit the audience for new posts to Friends Only. From the Privacy Settings page, you want to make sure you click the Friends button.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Oral B & Mommy Parties

I've had a lot of fun hosting parties with Mommy Parties. My most recent sponsored party experience featured Oral B Stages toothbrushes and toothpaste. We started with some yummy snacks and fun gift bags. Each guest received a toothbrush, full-size toothpaste, coupons, and a full-size Disney Baby Naturals body wash/shampoo. I also threw in some fun kid-friendly flossers that my own daughters like to use.

My favorite snack (other than the Jello Jigglers!) was the "tooth brushes" I made out of pretzel rods dipped in chocolate, then rolled in chopped peanuts.

After we played a game with some toothy flash cards, the children enjoyed watching the new Winnie The Pooh movie. I'll be perfectly honest though, they only really enjoyed the movie for about 5 minutes... then their attention spans couldn't handle that many kids trying to sit still in the living room.

Instead, the moms talked about helping our children keep healthy teeth and which products we all liked to use. I am especially happy about the Disney Baby shampoo because it is sulfate free.

Overall, everyone had a good time, even if it was kind of chaotic trying to corral so many children under 4 years old to watch a movie.

Friday, December 16, 2011

More Than "Just A Mom" - Help End Child Slavery

"I'm just a mom."

Have you ever said or thought that? Have you ever heard a friend say that? It's not really true you know. We are never "just" anything.

In fact, we've been created with hearts of compassion that are meant to ache when we read stories about the atrocities in this world. One that grips my heart and mind every time I am reminded of it is child slavery. I first became aware of this issue after listening to the audio book Not for Sale.

In some ways, I read the book and my despair grew. How could I, "just a mom" do anything to help children half a world away. I could barely get my own child to fall asleep, let alone rescue another child from a life of hard toil! Children like Malavika who, at 5 years old, had already done more hard labor than I've probably done in my entire life.

Fortunately, the book didn't leave me feeling hopeless. I discovered that I have a tool so obviously available for this fight that I always surprise myself when I am reminded of it. (It's a surprise because I can't believe I forgot about it!)

If you are reading this, then you have access to that same tool. We can remember that we are not "just a mom" and we can help encourage good things in this world.

You may not have tons of money to pay for lobbyists or legal expertise to draft legislation, but you do have an email address. (I presume this is true since you are savvy enough to read my blog.)

And what can you do with that email address?

You can email your senators. I did. And I used the email generator at The Human Wrong to make it quick and simple. Just click that link, fill in your contact information so they can contact the correct senators, and then personalize the pre-drafted letter.

IJM - Gifts of Freedom It took me about 3 minutes, and that included stopping to answer a toddler's question. Specifically, by sending this email, you'll be asking your senators to support the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, which is considered the cornerstone of U.S. policies against slavery. According to The Human Wrong, "This bill will allow the U.S. to remain the global leader in the fight against modern-day slavery by preventing vulnerability, protecting survivors, and prosecuting those who enslave men, women, and children." You can also read additional details about the TVPA at the International Justice Mission's TVPA campaign page.

After you send your email, if you have some Christmas money left to spend, then check out and Shop To Stop Slavery.

If you used the Human Wrong link to send an email to your senator, would you leave a comment and let me know.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My New Entryway - Finished!

Don't you just love it when an idea becomes reality? Me too!

At the beginning of October, I posted about a possible re-design of my entryway. And over Thanksgiving break, Bruce turned my plan into reality!

I am really pleased with the hooks we chose. They match the brushed nickel on the door knob and give a spot for a light back pack and a coat.

We used 1x3s for the trim plus bulls-eye corner pieces to add a slightly decorative touch. Our not-so-little secret is that the entire thing is attached to the wall with Liquid Nails. Each piece was attached separately and we have to be careful that nothing really heavy hangs on it. But for our purposes it is absolutely perfect!

What's your most recent home improvement project? I'm thinking I'll start working on the kitchen next. Do you have any good, inexpensive ideas for interesting backsplashes?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Giveaway: San Disk Memory Vault

Ever have one of those days.... where you know a deadline is looming but you just can't get yourself motivated to do it? 

Well, today has been that day. And to be fair, it is only the most recent in a very long string of days in which my to do list gets longer and longer. When that happens, the only things that get done are those with a deadline.

This is one reason I have photos of my family languishing on cds tucked in random places, flash drives hanging out in miscellaneous drawers, or on a gazillion different websites. I have just been hoping that they will all still be handy when I am ready to make that scrapbook of my 4 year old's first year!

I was really excited then when Mom Central offered to send me a SanDisk Memory Vault, which is "designed for long-term preservation." In reality, it looks and functions an awful lot like a standard flash drive. But what intrigued me about it is that it "engineered" to help my photos and files stay safe for at least 100 years. 

Now, we aren't going to be around in 100 years to verify that claim. And of course, USB memory technology hasn't been around that long to have experience to rely on. Instead, SanDisk is relying on complicated (to me) algorithims and software to make it happen. You can read more about that here on the SanDisk Preserve page. And if you are going to invest this much money into a storage medium, then you should look at that information.

Currently, the largest size they offer is 16 GB. Even at that size, I wouldn't be using this as my primary photo storage for every single picture I take. Seriously, I take far too many pictures for that. Instead, I would use those 16 GB to store important documents, photos, and videos that give key insights into the life of my family. From a picture perspective, that basically means everything on this blog. Which probably won't even be around in 100 years!

I think the SanDisk Memory Vault would make a great Christmas or Hanukkah present for your favorite scrabooker, blogger, or photographer. If you are considering it, then let me help you make it a little easier to buy. I have 4 coupon codes good for 20% off the 8 GB San Disk Memory Vault at Shop SanDisk. The first 4 people to leave a comment with their email address will get it. The codes are good until December 31st, so don't wait to ask for and use your code.

“I wrote this review while participating in a campaign by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of SanDisk and received a product sample to facilitate my review, and coupons to giveaway.”

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Review: Hickory Farms

As much as I try, I always end up needing last minute gifts for extended family or acquaintances. One of the easiest things I know to get is a Hickory Farms basket. We've received one as a gift each of the last few years and it always makes my husband happy. He likes it if I take the summer sausages and use them to make homemade lunchables. Of course, this usually only happens in January after we've received our annual gift of cheese and cured meat. That's how we roll with holiday traditions around here.

If you need to ship a Hickory Farms basket, they are offering free shipping for orders over $35 or their $3 3 day shipping deal which guarantees that your gift will arrive within 3 days. Plus, if you buy the Party Planner gift box, they will donate $5 towards Share Our Strength's No Kid Hungry Campaign, a national nonprofit that is working to end childhood hunger in America. Additionally, Hickory Farms honors our servicemen and women by offering free shipping on select products to APO/FPO military addresses across the globe, This means that no one will have to miss out on holiday traditions. 

I know that I'd be really happy if someone wanted to send me this Orchard's Bounty Basket ($78)! My girls love apples and there isn't anything in here that our family wouldn't eat up. And really, the basket this gift comes in is beautiful as a gift all on its own.
If though, you are on a tighter budget (ahem, like me), you could send the most popular Hickory Farms gift basket, the Summer Sausage and Cheese Gift Box for $38. This is the one my family is enjoying this year.

Does your family have any holiday traditions involving cured meat? I'd love to hear about them.

FTC Discoluser: I wrote this review while participating in a campaign by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of Hickory Farms and received a product sample to facilitate my review.

Friday, December 09, 2011

How to Have A Children's Christmas Card Exchange

One of our new (as in, we've done this 2 years in a row) Christmas traditions is to have a Christmas card exchange for the littles in our life. It is a wonderful way to guarantee your children receive actual mail and its also another way to focus on others during the busy holiday season. 

To set it up, I chose 9 other families with children my daughters knew well and asked them if they'd like to exchange cards. I tried to make sure that all of the families knew each other so no one was sending a card to a stranger. Then, we all posted our addresses and the proper spelling of our kid's names so no one had to dig around for the contact info. For me, a Facebook event was the easiest way to manage the exchange of information. Then, once you've got your participants, it's time to make the cards!

Last year, I bought dollar store cards and Charlotte colored or wrote a note inside each one. This year, I wanted them to do something a little more handmade, but on the appointed morning, I decided I also didn't want to spend any money buying new "craftivity" supplies. (I really need to bust my craft stash!)

After browsing lots of ideas for kid's Christmas cards, I finally settled on a hybrid craft/hand-colored card.

First, I laid out 5x7 sheets of plain colored scrapbook paper and several bells I had cut using the Ellison machine at our local library. Charlotte's first job was to match up a bell with a sheet of paper. I tried to be laid back with the color combos and remind myself it's about the process as much as it is about the product.

Then, I worked on keeping my patience as Charlotte put way too much glue on every single bell. Someone please tell me I'm not the only mom who can nearly ruin a fun morning of crafting by getting hung up on how much $0.25 glue we use. After a short prayer, I thankfully reigned it in and we carried on with making our friend's Christmas cards.

Of course, once everyone had smiles again, I needed to record the proof that my children had not been irreparably harmed. They both cheerfully gave me their Christmas card poses.

I let Mary use some glue too. She was not nearly as heavy handed as her older sister. Thankfully.

To add a little pop I dug out some Christmas tree ribbon to add to the top of the bell.

Here comes the hybrid part. I asked Charlotte to draw a Christmas-y picture and she chose to draw a tree. Then, I scanned the picture so I could edit it a little in Picnik.

Charlotte helped with the Picnik editing and this is what we came up with for the back of our card:
I liked this method of making pictures for her friends so much better. Even though we limit the number of families we exchange with, Charlotte is unlikely to have the patience to make 10 separate pictures and have them all come out neat.

I did step outside of my own box a little and let both girls try their hand at trimming the printed drawing. The glee Mary expressed when she was done was unimaginable. It really doesn't take much to make my girls happy.

Here is the finished project. Next, we get to make some envelopes to mail these cards in.

Do you do a children's Christmas card exchange? If not, there's definitely still time to organize one.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

My Christmas Decorations

Believe it or not, 2011 is the first year that my family has ever really put up a Christmas tree. When it was just Bruce and I it never really seemed all that important, especially since we were usually traveling on the holiday itself. But last year, after Christmas was over, I snuck over to a clearance sale and bought a 6 1/2 foot fake tree. It's been hiding in my daughters' closet ever since. Well, until Black Friday.

And then last night, it was finally adorned with ornaments that I've been collecting over the last 14 years. I especially love my tree topper, which has been sitting on tables for the last few years since it never had a tree to go on. It is a metal nativity piece featuring Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus.

For posterity's sake, I thought it might be a good idea to note when some of my favorite ornaments were acquired so my children won't have to guess one day.

This ornament is from Charlotte's first Christmas.

And this one is from Mary's. Her's is dated 2008 instead of 2009 (the year she was born) because I bought it on clearance after Christmas, in anticipation of her birth that coming Fall. Hope she appreciates that frugal legacy!

We don't do Santa in the Sabin household, but I can get behind the notion in this ornament. It was a gift from my mom in 2009 after she found me admiring her similar table piece. She actually collects Santas.

This ornament was from Charlotte's 3rd Christmas. It suited her perfectly because she loved coloring on the sidewalk in front of our home.

In 2010, Hallmark produced this UNICEF ornament that I chose for Mary. It is whimsical and I thought it suited the heritage of her name.

I don't really remember how many years ago I purchased this laser cut ornament. But I have 2 of them in this series and think they are beautiful.

In the weeks before Christmas 2010, Ms. Lindsey was babysitting my girls and made these hand ornaments with them. The snowmen are the fingers from their hand prints and each plastic ornament is filled with glitter and other holiday scatter. I showed these ornaments to the girls this morning and marveled with that at how much their hands had grown in the last year.

I purchased this ornament in 2005 while in China. It is a reminder to me to pray for fellow Christians in China during the advent season.

I think the White House ornaments are gorgeous! In 2005 Bruce and I took our only trip together to Washington D.C., and even though we didn't make it into the big house, we were able to tour the visitors center. This is the commemorative ornament from that year and features James Garfield's presidency. I bought a couple of other ornaments that year from the National Geographic Museum also.

I also have a nativity collection. This one gets the most action every year. Both my girls love it and reenacting baby Jesus's visitors.

Several of my nativities are on this small table, beneath our stockings. I have a range of styles and appreciate all of them.

This particular nativity was purchased in Sedona, AZ and I rather delicate so it goes up high where my girl's can't break it.

The nativity on the left is decorating an upcycled fence post, turned candle holder. And I made the blocks that spell "JOY" myself at a recent MOPS meeting. I can flip them to match the seasons or general decor. If my friend Amy doesn't post a tutorial for me to link to, I will try to get it done soon.

This wall tree is also an upcycled treat. It is a new addition to my Christmas decorations this year and was made by my good friends at The Flock. I'd normally hang it a little lower on the wall, but the nail was already there from something else.

Here is our daily Christmas countdown calendar. Each morning Charlotte moves the star into the next pocket.

This nativity decorates my bathroom. I figure people have time to contemplate it in this location.

For my door, I love this nativity wreath.

I have one more nativity that isn't pictured. And it's the one I've owned the longest. The only reason it isn't out is its size. I don't have a good place to display it so I think it will stay in the closet this year.

I'm sure everyone has had their decorations up for weeks already. If you share it on your blog I'd love to see it. Please comment and leave your link for us to visit.