REVIEW: Get Safe Email for Kids at KidsEmail.org

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As my son gets older, he is definitely wanting to do things more and more on his own, and wanting a bit of privacy. At 6 years old, he has already learned some computer skills in his Montessori kindergarten classroom.  I decided now was the perfect time to get him an email of his own.

KidsEmail.org is the perfect solution for kids who want the freedom of their own email address, and parents who want to be able to have some control over what their child sees.  Parents have the option to choose who their child can email and who can email them. You can block senders, filter language and attachments, and so much more!

On the kids’ side, they get to pick a fun login name and customize what their email screen will look like. There are many designs to choose from–here are a few examples.

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My son chose the “Racing Champion” template, as I knew he would. There are cool designs for both boys and girls, younger kids, tweens and teens.

Speaking of teens, with KidsEmail your child has the option to have his email grow along with him.  As your child feels they might be getting a little old to have a “kiddie” email address, their account can be changed to a KMail.org address–but still allowing parents that monitoring option.

All of these features are available at one low price, and you can even get your first 30 days free! Try out the KidsEmail service free for the first month, then choose from one of the low priced subscription plans–as low as $2.99 a month.

(Please ignore my perpetually cluttered desk!)

My child thought it was so cool that he could have an email of his very own, and I could tell that he was proud of it and felt so grown up.  It was very easy for him to understand the interface, and he got the hang of his inbox really quickly. He is already asking to check it every day!

If you’re looking for a safe, fun, highly customizable email for kids, look no farther than the award winning KidsEmail.org!

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Saving on Electricity Bills in the Winter

During the winter months many people enjoy staying inside because it is warmer than being outdoors. Monthly electricity bills begin to increase when fall comes around. Companies that provide services similar to Columbia Utilities can easily see the increase of electricity used by many families.

Prevent Heat from Escaping
Heat can escape a home in many different ways. Small gaps between doors and windows in a home can be easily sealed with a few supplies found at a local hardware store. Silicone, foam and foam sprays are all effective in sealing areas like this.

Turn Off Electronics
Electronics that are on most of the day in many homes include: TVs, computers and tablets. Most of these electronics can be turned off when they’re not in use and this will decrease the electricity bill each month. Many people like to have these devices on at all times because they don’t feel like waiting for them to startup. The Environmental Protection Agency has researched the usage statistics of electronics not in use but still powered on. They found out that the idle devices can drain more than 100 billion kilowatt hours of energy each year for the entire nation. $10 billion is estimated to be lost each year alone.

Use Gadgets to Estimate Energy Use
There are many devices on the market that can help families limit their electricity use during the winter months. One device measures the kilowatts of a plugged in device and display this information to the user. Timers, like those used for Christmas lights, are another great invention that can turn off a device when it will not be used. On those days where everyone rushes out of the house and no one has time to turn off the electricity, these timers can turn everything off in an instant.

Usage Hours
The bill can also be reduced if electricity is used during non-peak hours. These hours will vary from home to home but they are usually in the morning and evening. Many energy companies will provide peak-hour information to customers for free.

Families like to be cozy when the temperature is below 13 degrees. A plastic sheet can be taped onto windows to insulate them when it is cold outside. The thermostat should be adjusted and lowered as much as possible to avoid high electricity usage.

REVIEW & GIVEAWAY: VeggieTales Noah’s Ark DVD

NOW AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE!

Carrots meet cubits as VeggieTales builds an ark filled with fun, adventure and important lessons about trusting God in NOAH’S ARK, its first Bible-themed production in more than four years. Starring Wayne Brady and Jaci Velasquez, along with Larry the Cucumber, Bob the Tomato and a whole crew of Veggies, NOAH’S ARK will be available March 3 on DVD and digital download.

In NOAH’S ARK, Shem and Sadie return home from their honeymoon to find that Noah (played by Pa Grape) has begun, at God’s direction, to work on a massive ark, which his wife Naamah (played by Madame Blueberry) and sons Ham (played by Larry) and Japheth (played by Bob) are helping construct before the start of 40 days and 40 nights of rain.

But Shem doesn’t understand Noah’s unshakable faith in God, particularly when animals start arriving two-by-two – while the rain is nowhere to be seen. When the deluge does come, Shem begins to understand Noah’s determination to preserve humanity’s future … and the importance of trusting in God.

MY THOUGHTS:

Though my son, at 6, is on the upper age group of VeggieTales’ target demographic, he still enjoyed watching Noah’s Ark.  He is in kindergarten at a Catholic school, and has learned the story of the ark–so seeing the tale brought to life was a great way to bring the message home.

I also showed the film to my one year old niece while babysitting one day. She absolutely loved the songs and danced every time she heard one.  Both kids laughed at the silly voices and antics of the characters.

As a mom, I appreciate knowing that there is a kid friendly way to teach my kids the lessons of the Bible,  and also that I don’t have to be watching TV over my kid’s shoulder for fear of him seeing something inappropriate.

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The VeggieTales excitement continues with five all-new episodes of VeggieTales In The House, the hit animated series, debuting exclusively on Netflix – bringing the total of VeggieTales In the House episodes to 15 as the series continues its first season.

To learn more about NOAH’S ARK, and to order the DVD, visit the official VeggieTales website at http://www.veggietales.com, or call the toll-free VeggieTales Hotline at (844) 2-VEGGIE (U.S. callers only).

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I have an extra copy of VeggieTales Noah’s Ark to give away to one commenter! Let me know if you have ever seen any VeggieTales films before!

Giveaway open to US only, and will end on Easter Sunday, April 5.

TRAILER REVEAL: Hillsong–Let Hope Rise #HillsongMovie

Hillsong–LET HOPE RISE chronicles the spectacular and unlikely rise to prominence of the Australia-based Christian band, Hillsong UNITED. Directed by Michael John Warren, the film follows the band they labor to record their next album and explores the history of Hillsong, a 30-year journey from a tiny church in the Sydney suburbs to a vibrant international ministry. The movie culminates in a transformational concert experience spotlighting the humble hearts behind this worldwide sensation.

They changed the world, but the world’s not changing them.

Watch the OFFICIAL TRAILER for Hillsong – Let Hope Rise now. #HillsongMovie

Find out more about Hillsong–Let Hope Rise on the Facebook and Tumblr pages.

REVIEW: Pretty Ugly by Kirker Butler

Pretty Ugly

by Kirker Butler

Literary Fiction/Satire

Book Description

From a producer of Family Guy, a satirical look at a dysfunctional family complete with a stage mom, 9 year-old pageant queen, philandering husband, his girlfriend, and the crazy grandmother.

Miranda Miller’s mission in life is to make sure her nine-year-old daughter, Bailey, continues to be one of the most successful child pageant contestants in the southern United States. Lately, that mission’s been difficult. Bailey has been secretly binge eating to gain weight so Miranda will let her retire; and the reality show Miranda been trying to set up for Bailey (and herself) just went to their biggest rival, Starr Kennedy and her tyrannical stage mother, Theresa.

But Miranda’s got an ace up her sleeve. She’s seven months pregnant with her fourth child, a girl, thank God, and Miranda is going to make damn sure that this one will be a pageant champion, too.

Unbeknownst to her, Miranda’s husband Ray, a nurse with a hobby of popping random pills, has knocked up Courtney, the less than brilliant seventeen-year-old orphan granddaughter of one of his hospice patients. With a wife, a mistress, two jobs, three kids (and two more on the way), a mountain of debt, and no real friends, Ray is desperately hoping his life puts itself back in order.

Meanwhile, the Millers’ two boys are being “homeschooled” by Miranda’s mother, Joan (pronounced Jo-Ann), a well-intentioned widow who spends most of her time playing solitaire and planning a murder with Jesus. Yes, that Jesus.

They’re just your typical dysfunctional American family.

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MY THOUGHTS: 4 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS

Pretty Ugly: A Novel by Kirker Butler

Oh my God, this book was so awful in the most amazing way. It tells the story of young Bailey Miller, pageant queen extraordinaire, and her family. Mom Miranda was a queen in her day but pushes bailey to be even better; dad Ray is hardly ever home due to the time he works to cover Bailey’s costs; grandmother Joan believes she has a personal line to Jesus and waits for his command and advice in everything she does. Meanwhile, Bailey has decided she is done with the glamour life and sneaks chocolate bars when she’s supposed to be practicing.

Nearly every character in this book is a huge caricature of someone Southern–and as a Southern lady myself, I recognized each one. Ray is having an affair with a teenager. Miranda is pregnant but that doesn’t stop her from getting in fistfights. I could really go on and on, but I don’t want to ruin your reading experience. Trust me, the more you get to know the Miller family, the better (worse?) they get.

Don’t go into this book thinking it’s all about the pageant scene–actually not much of the story happens at pageants. The family’s dynamics are the heart here.

I would imagine some people will be thrown off or quickly dismiss Pretty Ugly because its’ characters are such ridiculous stereotypes…don’t do this. I promise, you either know or are one of the people in this book, especially if you are a Southerner.

I subtracted one star because there are a few moments that are predictable, and also because sometimes the author goes off on tangents describing the backgrounds of people we don’t really need to know about. The book is a standout, however, one of the most unique I’ve read lately.

View all my reviews

About the Author

Kirker Butler is an Emmy nominated writer and producer. His TV credits include Family Guy, The Cleveland Show, and Galavant among others. Kirker grew up in Kentucky, and now lives in Los Angeles with his family.

PURCHASE:

Amazon | B & N

The Best Photo Book For Mother’s Day Gifts

What better way to celebrate the important women in your life this Mother’s Day than with a beautiful photo book full of memories! We’re all guilty of taking hundreds of pictures throughout the year but never printing them out to remind us of the magic moments spent with our loved ones.

Enter Montage, the best photo book choice for quickly and beautifully printing out your pictures in keepsake form. Montage photo books come in three sizes starting at $29, and they do all of the work for you. They automatically place your photos in the best layout, factoring in chronology, important moments, and picture quality, and then allow you to make adjustments where desired. The entire creation process takes less than 15 minutes, making it the best photo book for those of us who are crunched on time. The books come standard with an eco-friendly leather cover and premium lay-flat pages, guaranteeing you get a keepsake product that will last for years to come.

This is a mother’s day gift that is sure to keep on giving!

Montage

REVIEW: Apothecary Extracts 100% Pure Australian Tea Tree Oil


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Many years ago, I used to go to a hairdresser who used an amazing shampoo when she washed my hair.  It made my scalp tingle, and smelled spectacular too! When I asked what she was using, I learned that it was a salon grade shampoo and conditioner containing tea tree oil! Ever since, I have been on lookout for products containing tea tree oil.  There aren’t a ton, but I am excited to say that thanks to Apothecary Extracts, I can now create my own beauty recipes!

Apothecary Extracts 100% Pure Tea Tree Oil comes in a huge 4 oz size.  I am so excited at the prospect of everything I will be able to make…and when you purchase the oil, Apothecary Extracts will send you an ebook containing over 50 uses for your new oil! You can use it for everything from facial scrub, to hand wash, to a cold remedy, or acne treatment.

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In the few weeks I have had my bottle, I have already found a lot I can do with tea tree oil.  I have put drops in the bath to make it soothing and muscle relaxing.  I have used it in my vaporizer next to my bed at night, to help relieve serious nasal congestion due to a sinus infection.  I have added a few drops to the floor of my shower (only in the corners!) to make it an aromatherapy experience.  I have rubbed a bit on my temples when I had a particularly bad headache.  Tea tree oil is one of nature’s most versatile gifts, and can be used in almost any way you can think of!

Apothecary Extracts 100% tea tree oil is very, very potent, and for most jobs, no more than 10 drops will do what you need it to.  That is definitely not much, so I am thinking this huge bottle will last me for a while yet! And when I run out, I will surely be getting more.

DISCLAIMER: This post powered by BrandBacker.  I received free product for review purposes, but no other compensation was given. My thoughts and photos contained herein are my own.

Packing For The Trip

As the time approaches for leaving on your vacation, you probably want to start packing. If you have children, then they have probably packed a suitcase a few weeks before leaving. There are some things to consider when packing for your trip. If you’re going to another country, you need to make sure you know of all of the rules and regulations of what you can take into and out of the country. Whether you’re flying to another country or to another state, you need to look at the fees associated with the number of bags that you have. Some airlines will only let you check one or two bags before paying additional fees.

When you start packing, think about what you want to bring back home with you. There might be a few souvenir shops that you want to stop at before heading home, so you will need to have room in the car and in your bags for your purchases. Another thing to keep in mind is whether you want to pack all of the extra items in your car on the way home. You might have a small car that doesn’t have room for a chair that you purchase to sit in the sand on the beach or stuffed animals that you might win at an amusement park. If you plan on bringing home a good bit of merchandise, consider taking clothes with you that you were going to donate or not wear anymore. You can leave the clothes in the room after you wear them, and you will have space in your suitcase for the new items that you purchase.

Instead of packing your toiletries, consider getting them at a grocery store or retail store when you arrive at your destination. This can prevent any spilling in your suitcase while traveling. You can also save money by using the items that are in the rooms of Honolulu hotels or hotels in other cities. If you only want to take one or two suitcases, try rolling your clothes instead of folding them and placing them in a bag. You can roll socks and underwear in the clothing to save even more space.

MOVIE REVIEW: Confessions of a Prodigal Son

I must confess; although I am a practicing Catholic and my son currently attends a Catholic school, watching faith-based movies isn’t really a hobby of mine.  I chalk it up to having a Catholic school education myself–those films we watched in religion class were usually real snoozers, so corny us students made fun of them behind the teachers’ backs.

When I got the chance to review Confessions of a Prodigal Son, however, I thought I’d give it a shot.  The parable contained within the title is one of the most famous bible stories–even non-Christians probably have heard it.  I also appreciated that such a young guy wrote the screenplay and starred in the movie. Most importantly, I had read that for Lent, not only should you give something up, you should add something of God to your Lenten preparations…so I delved back into the world of Christian film.

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The prodigal son in question is Sean Matthews, pastor’s son and college sophomore.  After high school he left home on quite bad terms with his parents, taking his college fund along with him.  Two years later, he is wallowing in a cycle of drinking, spending his money recklessly, partying, and going to class perpetually hungover.

Something’s gotta give, and it seems Sean doesn’t even know how stuck he is in his life until he meets Ali, a pretty waitress and dancer who teaches children at a studio.  When Sean learns that not only does Ali have actual goals for her life, but that she intends to fulfill them with the help of God, he is wary–as a pastor’s son, he has heard enough of God for several lifetimes.  Due to some bad decisions, Sean struggles and must determine what things he really needs in his life to succeed.

First, let me say that you should know this is a first film for the screenwriter, Nathan Clarkson.  His acting is OK, but his writing is better.  My favorite moments are between Sean and his friend Cameron, because they add some necessary moments of humor and levity.  The banter is also realistic between Sean and Ali, even making the conversation naturally turn towards matters of religion–and if you’ve seen any Christian films, you know this is not always so easily done.

One issue I had with the story overall was that I wished it would have been more clearly explained exactly what happened between Sean and his parents.  The viewer is just told that Sean was tired of their expectations for him and was ready to forge his own path in life.  This is kind of a generic answer, but the son taking the money and going off on his own is in direct correlation back to the original Prodigal Son Parable.

Overall, I would say that the best thing about this film is that it doesn’t beat you over the head with the mentions of God and his love for us, like a lot of more heavy handed Christian films can do.  The viewer is left with a feeling of love, yes, but also forgiveness and choice. I especially loved this because it gave me a lot to reflect upon during Lent.

With a minimal cast and a simple storyline, I think viewers of high school age and above will appreciate this movie most.  A lot of teenagers may relate to how Sean feels when it comes to wanting to escape his parents’ expectations, and I think this film is important in portraying that anything can be forgiven, even when you are at your lowest point.

The DVD will be released on March 24, 2015 and is available from several vendors both in store and online.

For more information, visit the Confessions of a Prodigal Son website and Facebook page.

How to Start a Resort

Owning a resort can be a lucrative business, but you need to know how to manage the business and how to get started. You can purchase a resort that is already established, or you can start from scratch and build a resort in an area where there are no others.

Planning

There will be a good amount of planning before you actually open the resort. You need to decide what kind of resort you want to open, such as one that has a golf course or one that has a casino. The kind of resort can affect the operating cost as well as the overall price of the business in getting started. People like Steve Wynn have created businesses from resorts that are attractive to numerous types of people. The thing to keep in mind with a resort is that you need to market it to families as well as singles and couples who are looking for a fun experience. A resort on the beach could give guests access to snorkeling and other water activities while one in the mountains could lead guests to ski slopes.

Getting the Money

After you have a business plan, you need to look for the money. There are loans available, or you can use money that you have saved so that you don’t have to pay back a loan with a high interest rate. If you use your own money, it’s a good idea to start small so that you can see how the business will do before you expand. If the business isn’t profitable, then you won’t be out as much money as you would if you were to start a large resort with several floors. Talk to banks and finance companies to find out who has the lowest interest rates and who has the best payment plan. Think about investors and how you can get them involved in your venture.

Staff and Extras

Before you open the resort, you need to think about how many staff members you will need and how much you will be able to pay them. Put ads in local newspapers in plenty of time for the opening of the resort so that you can get employees trained. You will need someone to work at the front desk, people to clean the resort inside and out and people to work in the various departments of the resort, such as the restaurant or gift shop.

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