Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Ideas: The 2020 friends and family holiday gift guide!

christmas gift ideas for friends and family in the year 2020

As much as I can't believe it, it's that time of year again.  The time where I share with you my favorite finds and gift ideas for friends and family.  This Christmas may be a little different because of the pandemic, but we will still acknowledge the important people in our lives with a little something.  Actually, I think it's more important this year then ever before.  As a full time working mother with a toddler and an elementary school age daughter, I can't even begin to tell you how supportive friends and family have been.  I feel like it took an army to get our little family of 4 through this!  They deserve as much appreciation as I can afford to give.  That being said, I hope this gift guide helps you come up with a good idea for the people in your army!

the ultimate list of gift ideas for 2020 christmas

Disclosure: This site contains affiliate links to products.  We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links. Please note that I would only recommend products that I would use myself and all opinions are my own.

The 2020 friends & family holiday gift guide!

Call me naive, but I've never heard of a bacon press before!  This cast iron bacon press is the perfect holiday gift for all of those bacon lovers.  It's also pretty enough to display somewhere as a functional piece of decor!  Yes, I'd do that, please don't judge..
Can be found here.

We love this special holiday gift for the kiddie's teachers.  It's thoughtful, great quality, and less expensive then the hot chocolate and mug sets we used to get!
Can be found here.

I love Duke Cannon products since I discovered them as mentioned here.  These bars of soap smell fantastic, get the job done right, and have zero waste with the included soap pouch.
Can be found here.

This wifi cloud photo frame is the perfect gift for an immediate family member or someone who lives far away.  You have the ability to share pictures with your loved ones through the wireless uploading.
Can be found here.

This gift idea is super inexpensive and such a fun idea for the wine lovers in your life!  Slap on a picture of a favorite memory, include a meaningful phrase, and pair it with their favorite bottle of wine.  This is what I'm getting my BFF this year! Shh don't tell..
Can be found here.

This is perfect for the Disney lovers in your life or for one of the kiddies!  I got one for my nephew and one for my son.  There's nothing wrong with a little Disney magic at Christmas!
Can be found here.

This hummingbird feeder will bring our favorite little creatures right up to your window so that they can be enjoyed up close and personal.
Can be found here.

This bangle bracelet is something that can be worn every single day.  It's stylish, sleek, will match almost everything, and is totally Long Island!
Can be found here.

While I haven't tried these yet, a coworker of mine swears by them.  She's been staying away from the communal tea supply in the kitchen and using these tea drops instead.  Especially with the pandemic, this is a great concept for a gift.
Can be found here.

These heavy duty inflatable snow tubes make the perfect gift for the older kiddies that live in the colder climates.  Forget the wooden sled when you can slide down a mountain uncontrollably while gripping onto a dinosaur or unicorn tube!  Can I play too?
Can be found here.

What are your 2020 holiday gift ideas?
Monday, November 30, 2020

List: A holiday gift guide for the fabulous women in your life!

 Every year I post a gift guide for all the ladies out there.  Little did I know up until a couple of years ago that my husband relies on this to do his holiday shopping!  He never reads R&W, so you could imagine my surprise as he literally asked me to post it a little early this year.  Never one to disappoint, I immediately put together this gift guide with unique, inexpensive, and fabulous gift ideas!  Hands up if this is cheating..

thoughtful and inexpensive holiday gift ideas for her

Disclosure: This site contains affiliate links to products.  We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links. Please note that I would only recommend products that I would use myself and all opinions are my own.

A holiday gift guide for all the fabulous women.

1.  Perky Pet Squirrel Be Gone Bird Feeder
This feeder holds up to 8 pounds of seed, can be hung on a hook or attached to a pole, and has a weight mechanism that closes off the seed for squirrels.  Not only does it have grade A features but it's absolutely gorgeous!  Pretty enough to use as garden decor, actually.
Can be found here.

Layered door mats seem to be popping up on stoops everywhere, and I absolutely love them!!  This one is super cute and something that would pair perfectly with that Buffalo plaid bottom layer.
Can be found here.

Every woman needs some cute stationary on hand so that she can write out last minute cards or send out a quick note.  This boxed set of 32 super cute birthday cards is the perfect one to add to anyone's collection of stationary.
Can be found here.

As silly as it sounds, my cookies always come out uneven because I just can't master baking with a teaspoon.  A measuring spoon should be the answer, but the dough sticks to the plastic.  This handy spoon has a little mechanism to easily push it out making it an economic and clever stocking stuffer for your fabulous woman.  Besides, it may encourage someone to do more baking!
Can be found here.

When these first came out, I thought it was the most fabulous idea ever!  Around here, plastic straws, plastic bags, and even coffee stoppers to my horror have been banned.  While it may be good for the environment, the spurts of coffee that spill out is horrendous.  These car coasters are the perfect solution and would be fabulous in my new company car!
Can be found here.

Every woman needs a hot pair of boots to rock all Winter long so why not gift it?!  Ugg boots or similar can leave you feeling hot and uncomfortable while indoors.  These boots will keep your feet warm, looking stylish, AND without giving you heat exhaustion.
Can be found here.

This bird bath is easy to maintain and camouflage in your garden.  The heated water will give all of our birdie friends a warm place to wash and drink in the Winter while giving us something pretty to look at!
Can be found here.

In a world that's going green and mid pandemic it makes sense to invest in your own insulted coffee mug instead of reaching for the community paper cups in the office.  This one is extra special because you can personalize it so that it's the perfect gift for that fabulous woman!
Can be found here.

While I haven't tried this yet myself, I've heard great things about it!  Anything that makes a fabulous woman's hair great is definitely a good gift idea.  This brush has forced hot air that comes out of it making it a one step hair style.  Besides, my local mom's board has been raving about it and they know all.
Can be found here.

These gloves are stylish, will keep your hands warm, AND are perfect for working your touchscreen cell phone!
Can be found here.

This would be the perfect addition to a fireplace mantle when laying out your holiday decor.  I also love that it's handmade so they warn you that each sign may be slightly different.  This just adds to it's hominess appeal.
Can be found here.

I get way too annoyed by wine glass charms probably because they move and I think it's a bug.  That's part of the reason why I really LOVE this idea.  You can write the person's name, a cute message, or draw a little design in a metallic color.
Can be found here.

What's on your wish list this year?
Friday, November 27, 2020

Life: Friday Ramblings

supernatural series party ideas and cake

Life:  Friday Ramblings

Last week we had a blast at...
...our little Supernatural "party" more like a gathering to celebrate the end of an era.  Surrounded by our closest friends, we did what everyone does during a break up.  We cried and ate a lot of ice cream!!  We had an ice cream cake from Carvel and gallons of chocolate, vanilla, and cookie dough flavored ice creams.  We had toppings galore.  The ice cream definitely helped to ease the pain of the end of this 15 year relationship especially when they cut me a slice of Sam Winchester..

My husband and son made my night by...
...being good sports and dressing up as Sam and Dean Winchester for the event!

It was all fun and games until...
...I actually watched the series finale.  It was so God awful that I can't even talk about it.  The only thing that I will say is that it was so sad that I legit was left dramatically sobbing as in serious ugly cryingIt was the exact ending that I feared.

We had a small Thanksgiving dinner with...
...our family of four, my grandparents, and my aunt.  While I still cooked as if my entire extended family was coming, it was a little depressing that we each had to separate this year.  Instead of daunting on that, we were grateful for all of our blessings.

This year I'm extremely grateful for...
...our health.  Whenever I get stressed, I've been trying to remember that my family and I are blessed enough to still be here to enjoy another Thanksgiving when so many families have suffered unimaginable losses including loved ones and livelihoods.

I'm hoping that... all enjoyed your Thanksgivings this year despite things being a little different!

I'll end our ramblings with...
...the joke I told before cutting our Supernatural themed cake courtesy of Misha Collins.

How does Castiel make holy water?
By boiling the hell out of it.
Are you laughing?  I am!

What are your Friday Ramblings?

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Life: Happy Thanksgiving!

We're spending our day knocking off everything on our check list so that we're extra prepared for tomorrow's Thanksgiving day.  It may be a day early, but when am I ever guilty of that?

Related Post:  The only check list that you'll ever need to host Thanksgiving day!

thanksgiving cookie jar decor

I'm wishing all of you that celebrate a very Happy Thanksgiving filled with delicious food, family, love, and appreciation for all that we have.  If you don't celebrate, you can still take a moment to appreciate the blessings in your life.

Over here, I'm thankful that we are healthy despite living through a pandemic.  I'm thankful for our mild mannered pooch, Thor the Puppy of Thunder, who never nips at my toddler when he pulls his tail.  I'm thankful for my family who has been extra supportive since the world turned upside down.  I'm thankful for my beautiful children that inspire me to be my best.  I'm thankful for my husband who never takes a break so that we're all happy and cared for.  I'm also especially thankful for this Turkey that we're about to eat and hopefully not overcook!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

What are you thankful for?

Related Post:  The only check list that you'll ever need to host Thanksgiving day!

Monday, November 23, 2020

List: Ten low maintenance houseplants that liven up a room.

 Every Autumn we dedicate at least one weekend to giving our houseplants a little refresh.  Each one of our houseplants gets an over the top assessment from my husband.  During their annual check up, he will determine if they are being under or over watered.  He'll let me know if it's time to upgrade their pot to something bigger.  Sometimes his assessment will even come with a medical diagnosis and a prescription.  No, I'm not kidding.

I remember when I was pregnant with my first baby and I decided to get a plant.  We walked into the nursery and I asked "Which plant is the hardest to kill?  Great.  I'll take the one."  I named it Sam after Sam Winchester, obviously.  I really loved and cared for that plant.  When it got sick five years later, my husband bagged it AND BURNT IT.  I was devastated, but he didn't want the contagion to spread.  Ever since then, I take the health of my houseplants seriously and haven't had anymore unexpected losses.

Despite our traumatizing loss, I love to have a house filled with plants.  They naturally purify the air for us, give the kids a fun chore to do, and make the house look pretty.  While this is all true, I try to only house low maintenance plants because I don't want my man's brain to explode.

houseplants that are hard to kill

Disclosure: This site contains affiliate links to products.  We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links. Please note that I would only recommend products that I would use myself and all opinions are my own.

Ten low maintenance houseplants.

This lovely plant is the newest addition to our home and is pictured above.  He's recently been repotted into a lovely teal green planter and placed under our large bay window in the living room.  All the plant needs is a partially shaded area, weekly watering, a good drainage system, and a lot of love!  As a bonus, it surprised us with some pretty pink flowers this week.

This plant was my first ever houseplant.  This is also the plant that I mentioned in the story above.  While Sam sadly perished, we now have Sam Jr. who is way passed his toddler years!  This plant is nearly impossible to kill.  It thrives in almost any condition, doesn't need much light, and can survive with being watered only twice a month.  It does grow quickly and may need to be repotted each year.

Note:  When our original plant got sick, it was infested with spider mites.  If caught early enough, this safe insecticide would have saved it.  Unfortunately, we didn't catch it early enough.  Now I always keep a bottle of the insecticide handy under the sink and use it often on my HIGH maintenance lemon tree and roses.

Similar to the ZZ Plant, this low maintenance houseplant requires almost no care.  We have two of these in our basement to act has natural air purifiers.  They survive despite living in a dark space and only being watered a couple of times a month.  As an added bonus, this plant is super sleek and goes very well with modern house decor.

We have this low maintenance houseplant in a gorgeous teal green pot hanging from a rope in the kitchen.  It loves the sun from our large, four panel glass door and numerous sky lights.  While it's thriving with all the sunlight, it's survived two previous moves which included some dark places.  It grows like a weed vine because it is one and needs to be constantly trimmed.  It's already spawned several children from it's clippings and is displayed throughout my office at work!

Note:  If you trim this plant by cutting it mid stem and immediately planting it in fresh dirt with lots of water, it will grow into it's own gorgeous plant.  Just remember to give it extra water as it's roots are starting to form from a cut stem.

While this plant looks super chic thanks to it's pink coloring, I promise that it's low maintenance.  All it takes to prosper is some indirect light, bi-weekly watering, and some polite conversation.  Although, fair warning that we've had this plant for five years and have already repotted it twice.  Next year it will need a third, very large pot.  While it's low maintenance to care for, you'll need to be ready for it's growth spurts.  This is also the second houseplant on our list that actually flowers although the flowers don't smell all that nice.

Another plant that you can find throughout my home are little succulents.  They are low maintenance houseplants with no special treatment required.  My only complaint is how quickly they grow.  Part of their appeal is their small size, but don't be fooled by it because they grow rapidly.

Note:  My husband came up with a great idea of what to do with our succulents!  We're going to get a shallow but wide planter to put them all in together.  It will be a succulent arrangement that looks pretty and saves us some space.  I'll make sure to share some pictures when my all knowing houseplant master is done.

Bamboo is a super invasive plant that is nearly impossible to kill.  It's so invasive that it's literally illegal to plant on Long Island.  While it's not good to plant in the ground, it makes for a resilient, low maintenance houseplant.  A few years back my husband gifted me a bamboo plant trained to shape it's trunks into three hearts.  It's been years and it's still flourishing in it's little pot filled with pebbles and water!

Growing up, Madre always had an aloe vera plant on hand.  It not only looked pretty, but she would break off a leaf whenever we got a minor burn.  The gel inside of the leaves is soothing and great for your skin.  Our plant is doing extremely well with high levels of sunlight and limited water.  I only water it about twice a month.

This lovely little, pink trimmed plant livens up my little office at work.  I'm lucky enough to have an office window, which this plant loves!  I nestle her between my filing cabinet and window so that it doesn't get full sun.  I make sure she's watered once a week.  This low maintenance plants seems to be very happy with her simple life.

Note:  During our annual houseplant maintenance, my daughter's job is to polish the leaves of the plants.  She uses one washcloth to delicately dust off the leaves and then sprays the plant with this so that the plants stay shiny and looking healthy.  When my husband first met me, I used to do this chore with mayonnaise which he quickly put an end to.

I saved this one for last because it's my favorite of all of the houseplants.  We currently have two of these that have both more than quadrupled their size.  They are now living in pots so large that they only way to repot them again would be to break the flower pots.  They flower several times throughout the year this pretty, white, cup shaped flowers that make me squeal every time!  They've lived through dim light conditions and full sun conditions, and never complained about either.  They get watered about once a week.  If you do forget to water them, they will droop their leaves as a reminder that they're thirsty.

Note:  The Peace Lily plant makes for a lovely gesture to send to someone as a sympathy gift.  When my close friend's grandmother passed, we sent him a little plant that he uses as a memorial for her.  It's appreciated and appropriate for the occasion.

Do you have any houseplants?

Friday, November 20, 2020

Life: Friday Ramblings

I am still in complete SHOCK that...
...there are flocks of Quaker Parrots also known as Monk Parakeets living on Long Island!  When my husband first told me of his discovery, I thought that he was absolutely losing his mind.  I figured that some poor soul lost their pet birdies.  When he insisted there was hundreds of these parrots, I had to go see for myself.  As shown above, we grabbed the kid's binoculars and began our hunt.

I really hate admitting that...
...he was right!  Living right on one of the busiest roads on Long Island, Montauk Highway, was about twelve giant nests FILLED with Quaker Parrots.  Like he said, you hear their horrid screeching before you see them.  For those of you that know me, you know that I'm unnecessarily loud.  Well, this was one of the days that I embarrassed myself being loud.  I was running up and down this busy road where traffic is pretty much stopped dead screaming "LOOK!!  There are PARROTS!!".  I couldn't believe that only 5 miles west of me was hundreds of parrots flourishing on Long Island.

Naturally, I Googled how...
...the parrots got here.  Turns out that years ago a couple of Quaker parrots from Argentina escaped from a shipping container at JFK airport.  They have since settled on the south shore of Long Island, Queens, and Brooklyn.  They were smart enough to learn that if they nested between the transformers on electric poles that they would be able to stay warm enough to survive.  The parrots have since multiplied significantly making quite the extended family on this very unexotic island that I call home!

Don't believe me?
That's OK.  I took some videos.  See for yourself!

What are your Friday Ramblings?

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Travel: A detailed review of Villa Roma Resort in Callicoon, NY.

 My family and I look forward to our trip upstate every single October.  We like to escape the hustle and congestion of Long Island and take the trek up north into the mountains.  After living through the heart of the pandemic a couple months back, we were looking forward to this trip more than usual.

Callicoon, NY is a beautiful place to visit, but with very limited things to do.  It's farm country deep in the middle of the Catskills.  To help us appreciate our visit, we like to stay in a resort called Villa Roma.  The best way to describe Villa Roma is to compare it to the resort depicted in the movie Dirty Dancing right down to the retirement like activities and talent show.  It's a place that has all the entertainment, food options, space, unexplored territory, and events to keep you very happy without ever leaving the grounds of the actual resort.  Truth be told, even after all these years, I still haven't experienced everything this place has to offer.

review of villa roma resort in upstate new york

Disclosure: This site contains affiliate links to products.  We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links. Please note that I would only recommend products that I would use myself and all opinions are my own.

Review:  Villa Roma Resorts

At Villa Roma you're given a daily list of activities as shown above with times, descriptions, locations, and hosts.  As you can see from the example above, the options for activities are practically endless.  There should be something there that everyone in your group will enjoy and you won't have time to do it all!

The events that my kid's loved the most at Villa Roma were the hay ride, farm visit where they fed chickens and rode miniature horses, turtle races with real turtles, horse racing with fake horses, bumper boats, pumpkin painting, rock painting, and go kart racing.  My two year old son wasn't amused with BINGO or left right center, but my seven year old daughter loved these events probably because she won almost every time.  My grandparents enjoyed the excitement of their $1 bets and the nighttime entertainment.  The nighttime entertainment included a wide range of events such as a musical show called A Tribute to the Troops, a talent show with the guests, a comedian, and a live DJ where we got to dance the night away.  My husband and I enjoyed everything, especially not having to work.

Onsite at Villa Roma is the Main Dining Room where they serve lavish, four course meals in an upscale atmosphere.  This is also the location of the famous Caesars night where the staff wears togas, Caesar himself comes for a visit, you listen to live music, and the food doubles in portions.  Also onsite is the Roman Garden Cafe which is less pricey and more casual, but just as tasty!  This is where they have their famous pasta night.  Trust me and order the pappardelle pasta with bolognese sauce.  It's so good!  Other dining options include The Grill Room, Eleanore's Pizzeria & Deli, Pool Grill & Raw Bar (Seasonal), and Ski Chalet Snack Bar (Seasonal).  We did not dine at these locations, but those options are available.  Finally, they have a small space where you can buy delicious ice cream and Starbucks coffee.  We happily frequented this cafe a lot.

review of villa roma in upstate new york

We stay at a timeshare which are separate, large buildings scattered throughout the property to the right of the main hotel.  Each building has two floors with several timeshare units on each floor.  Each floor also has it's own washer and dryer.  The timeshare rooms that we stay in at Villa Roma contain two bedrooms, a living room area, a dining room area, and a full kitchen.  They are a little run down and outdated, but they're spacious, convenient, and comfortably hold my large extended family.  The kitchen is complete with everything that you would need to prepare a meal and then clean up afterwards.

The timeshare rooms are usually immaculate, but I was disappointed to see the rooms not as well kept this year.  We would like to blame this on the pandemic, but housekeeping was not up to par this year at all.  This was probably our only real disappointment this trip.  Additionally, we had several large spiders and one mystery bug in our rooms which is another thing we did not have years prior.

We have never stayed in the hotel rooms in the main building at Villa Roma.  While I'm not sure what they're like, I can imagine them being convenient since most of the activities are located in the main hotel building.  Villa Roma also provides free bus services to quickly shuttle you back and forth to where you want to go onsite.  Theoretically, you may never even have to use your car during your stay!

things to do near villa roma resort

If you do decide to venture off the resort like we did, there are some places that I would recommend visiting.

1.  Stone Arch Bridge Historical Park - This is the home to the three arched bridge that was the site of an ancient hex murder.  In addition to the history, it's a beautiful park complete with a jungle gym and grass to run.
2.  Diehl Homestead Farm - In addition to the beautiful backdrop and fall scenes to take pictures, they have an array of farm animals to entertain the kiddies and fresh produce for the adults.
3.  Bethel Woods Center - This is the home to Woodstock.  The museum is fun and interactive and the grounds are gorgeous.  Make sure to check their calendar of events since they have the best festivals!

We don't venture offsite often, but when we do, it isn't for long!  The best part of Villa Roma is their staff, including their main man, Doc Holiday.  They make you feel like you're part of a family and really engage in making your stay enjoyable and unique.

I would highly recommend a stay at Villa Roma in Callicoon, NY.

Do you have a regular place to visit?
Monday, November 16, 2020

List: Top ten BEST Supernatural episodes from Seasons 1 through 15.

 In 2005, I was an awkward teenager preparing for her senior year in high school.  Ok, so I'm still awkward, whatever.  In 2005, I was worried about getting a date to the prom, regents exams, college admissions, graduation, and raging hormones.  2005 is also the year that I started watching Supernatural.  That year, Sam Winchester became plastered all over my school binders, the catalyst of playful arguments with my mother, and even my re-occurring Thursday night past time with my future prom date.  Since 2005 to now, so much has changed, but I never stopped squealing like a dumb high school girl whenever it is time to watch Supernatural!

Instead of crying over the end of an era, we're going to celebrate.  This upcoming Friday I'm having a Supernatural "party" with our closest friends.  I'll be putting Sam, Dean, and Castiel on a cake, streaming the last few episodes, and trying not to get emotional!

To continue the celebration of Supernatural's FIFTEEN SEASON RUN, the Rhyming Cat and I decided to link up!  We're going down memory lane and listing our top ten favorite Supernatural episodes of all time.  With 326 (the 327th airs this week) episodes to choose from, all with the stunningly handsome Sam Winchester in a lead role, it wasn't easy to narrow them down.  For the record, I wanted to do the top 40 and the cat gave a hard no.  Boo to him.

supernatural from first season to the last sam and dean

Fun Fact:  My husband and I have almost nothing in common except for our favorite TV show dating back to our high school years!  When we moved in together, the only thing up for argument was whose Supernatural DVD collection would we keep.  We compromised and kept both!

The Top 10 BEST Supernatural Episodes

**Spoiler alerts:  Do not read further if you're just joining the Supernatural family because there are spoilers listed below.**

1.  Season 13, Episode 16:  Scoobynatural
This was one of the more fun episodes!  Sam, Dean, and Cas get sucked into a haunted television and end up animated and in a Scooby Doo episode!  It was nostalgic and filled with laughs until Vilma kissed my SammyWe loved this episode so much that last Christmas I gifted my hubby with a Socoobynatural throw blanket!

2.  Season 1, Episode 15:  The Benders
As much as I loved the pilot episode of Supernatural, this one sealed the deal for me.  It showed their brotherly bond despite their rocky road and revealed that their enemy wasn't Supernatural at all.  Instead it was the worst monster of them all in my opinion, deranged human beings that were using people as pawns in their hunting expeditions.

3.  Season 3, Episode 16:  No Rest for the Wicked
This episode made me cry and it still makes me get emotional every time I hear the song Wanted Dead or Alive by Bon Jovi.

4. Season 5, Episode 22:  Swan Song
This episode was originally supposed to be the series finale, yet here we are ten years later!  Sam has no choice but to give into his fate, but Dean still won't go down without a fight.  I can still hear the music as Dean showed up with his Impala to kick some serious butt.  Unfortunately, this episode ended in tears both on and off screen.

5.  Season 11, Episode 22:  We Happy Few
In one of the most epic episodes of Supernatural, several unlikely teams pair together to fight "The Darkness", aka Amara, aka God's sister.  The witches, demons, and even Lucifer himself all band together to defeat a common enemy that may not even be an enemy at all!

6.  Season 5, Episode:  Changing Channels
We get to see the Trickster in this episode which later turns out to be a crucial character in the heavenly family tree.  He puts Sam and Dean in a TV show world where they get to rank on top rated shows like Grey's Anatomy.  My favorite part of this fun Supernatural episode was the Japanese game show called The Nutcracker!

7. Season 14, Episode 15:  Peace of Mind
While this Supernatural episode may not be epic it's full of Sam Winchester and is one of the funnier shows.  Castiel and Sam find themselves in a picture perfect town where Sam falls under their influence.  This episode won me over when Sam awkwardly growls the word "roar" to his wife when asking for an extra olive.  I laughed even harder when Castiel yelled out that he doesn't wear a hat!

8.  Season 8, Episode 2:  What's Up, Tiger Mommy?
While this isn't the most epic episode or the funniest, it has two underrated characters.  That's Crowley and Kevin's mother.  While we're sad that they weren't in more episodes throughout Supernatural's life, we can watch reruns of this one!

9.  Season 4, Episode 6:  Yellow Fever
This Supernatural episode makes my sides hurt from laughing so hard.  Ten years later, and I'm still laughing but don't judge me.  Dean Winchester gets a case of ghost disease that leaves him itchy, paranoid, and completely out of character.  As a double bonus, this is the episode where he sings The Eye of the Tiger for us while dancing on his Impala!

10.  Season 11, Episode 8:  Just My Imagination
This was one of those episodes that had a little bit of everything.  It has Sam & Dean kicking some butt, humor, and Dean in a bathrobe!  This is one of our favorite episodes to watch over and over again on repeat because it never gets old.

Which is your favorite, Sam or Dean?
Friday, November 13, 2020

Life: Friday Ramblings

indoor lemon tree real lemon

Friday Ramblings

This week has been super stressful because... are due at work!  Of course I waited until the last minute and am now trying to get all 18 done in a week on top of my regular job.  So basically it's my own fault but I'm going to complain about it anyways!

Let me introduce you to...
...this little baby lemon!!  It's officially the BIGGEST lemon that I've ever grown and I'm way too proud of it.

Speaking of lemons... husband nicely requested that I stop telling our guests "do you want to see my lemon?" the second they walk in the door.  He claims that they don't care.  But, we all know he's wrong!

I'm nose deep in... newest read!  It's called The Secret Letter and it's absolutely amazing.  Some books take a few chapters to suck you in, but this one did from the start.  I find myself lingering in the car or staying away longer at night just to find out what happens next.

I'm mourning the loss of...
...Castiel in Supernatural!  I really thought that he'd make it to the grand finale, but his saga ended just shy of it.  I started the episode laying down and relaxed.  I ended the episode sitting up, clenching my daughter, and ugly crying.  The rest of the night I spent looking up Castiel memes and watching videos of my favorite episodes with him.  Next Friday is the series finale and our grand Supernatural celebration.  We're crossing our fingers that he somehow comes back to life!

What are your Friday Ramblings?

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

DIY: How to make professional looking holiday cards all by yourself.

After going to a professional photographer for holiday photos year after year, I finally decided to call it quits.  It wasn't just one thing.  There were several things that made me finally quit the bad habit.

There's the session fee per person or if you're lucky, per family.  There's the rushed time slot that results in forced and unnatural photos.  Then there's the feeling of obligation to purchase those photos that you're unhappy with because no one has time to do this again or money for more session fees.  Finally, there's the ridiculously HIGH price tag to purchase those photos and even higher prices to turn them into holiday cards.  After all that stress and money, then you wait a long time to get your personalized products.

Anyone else over all that?  I certainly am.  I'll just do it myself.

holiday cards at home

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How to make professional holiday cards.

Step one:  Decide what camera you will be using.

The year that we decided to quit the commercialized holiday picture gimmick, we decided to invest in a family gift.  We purchased a high quality camera for a great deal on Black Friday and put it under the Christmas tree with love, from Santa.  We calculated that after two years of skipping the professional photographer, that the camera will pay for more than itself.  We'll save money and have fabulous holiday cards like we hired a professional photographer!

We purchased a Canon EOS Rebel T7 + accessories.  Learn more about that camera here.  It takes crystal clear images.  Is super easy to use.  Connects to your phone and computer through wifi and has a fabulous shutter sound.  We've gotten countless gorgeous pictures from this camera and couldn't be happier with it.

If you're not looking to splurge for a new camera, that's totally OK.  It's a luxury and mostly unnecessary.  If you have a modern cell phone, chances are that you're able to take quality pictures right from your phone.

Step Two:  Make sure that you have good lighting.

You can set up the perfect scene and invest in the highest quality camera, but if you don't have the right lighting, it's all in vain.  Too much lighting is bad and too little lighting is almost worst.  Avoid setting up your space directly in front of a window.  Additionally, try to strategically position whatever lamps or lights you have so that the room is well lit without direct light.  Do take the time to snap a few test shots before setting up the scene to make sure that the space is bright enough with the perfect amount of light.  Also, be aware of shadows.  They can be sneaky and ruin your professional looking holiday cards!

If you're serious about this, you can try investing in a professional continuous lighting kit like this one, but I think it's unnecessary for once a year.  Unless you have kids, then maybe it is!  I mean think about it - birthdays, graduations, dance routines, etc.

Step Three:  Set up the perfect scene.

To make a professional holiday card you need to mimic a professional studio's scene.  Pick a space.  Clear out the furniture and transform it into a Winter wonderland.

If you have holiday lights, plug them in and display them strategically around the floor.  Find holiday themed props around your home and temporarily place them beautifully throughout your scene.  Gather a wooden bench or stool to use for the pictures.  Keep smaller props on hand like a pretty ornament or an antique looking book.  Get creative and create the picture perfect space, literally.

Take the time and money to invest in a back drop.  Some of my personal favorites that are under $25 are listed below.

After investing in a backdrop, it's important to remember that you will need a place to display it so that it looks natural and not like a crumpled drawing behind you.  This studio set is relatively inexpensive and easy to put together.  I recommend the set because this is an investment and something you'll be using for years to come.  If it's not something you want to commit to at this time, try these heavy duty clamps to use to hang the back drop on something you have in your home like maybe a banister.

Step Four:  Dress up for the event.

Take time to pick out the perfect outfit or two.  You're on your own time so do the wardrobe change!  Remember to coordinate outfits and colors with your family so you don't all clash.  Additionally, remember to coordinate with your scene.  You don't want to wear yellow with a red backdrop, unless ketchup and mustard is your thing.  Mismatched outfits could make would be an amateur holiday card FAIL!

Step Five:  Come prepared with poses but still take natural shots.

Have FUN with this!  Make it a day thing.  Research some of your favorite poses and then try to recreate them for the holiday cards, but also be natural.  It's a great idea to pick up your child and throw them in the air playfully so that you get that natural smile.  It's OK to wrap a little something and ask them to open it for another natural smile.  Maybe make a homemade cookie and have the whole family dunk it in a glass of milk.  Whatever the scene or idea, be creative and try to be natural.

If you're using a cell phone, be prepared with a phone stand like this one.  It's inexpensive and something you'll use a lot more than you think.  It's important to be prepared with this because you're going to want family pictures.  To do this, you'll have to set it up in the perfect spot with a timer.  This is the same thing if you're using a professional camera.  Invest in a stand if you didn't get the accessory kit and utilize the built in timer.  If you're extra lucky, ask a friend to come over and play photographer.  You can pay for their time with those milk and cookies.

Step Six:  Upload those pictures to a secured location.

Whenever I take pictures, I make sure to back them up with Google Photos.  It's completely free and unlimited storage for all of your media as long as you don't opt for special sizing or anything.  It's organized and fabulous.  You're welcome.  

Additionally, I upload those pictures directly to whatever platform I'm using to order the prints, photo book, cards, etc.  I'm emphasizing this because if you upload to one site and then re-upload to another, you're losing picture quality.  I've done this before so trust me.  Upload those pictures a second time directly to the site.  I always use Snapfish.  To do this easily, I keep the Snapfish app on my phone so I can upload phone photos directly to the site.

Step Seven:  Create or personalize the perfect holiday card.

I've used other brands in the past, but Snapfish is the best for quality and price.  You can use similar brands out there, but for me, this is the best one of all those choices.

They have a gigantic selection of cards of all different sizes, designs, shapes, and holidays.  You can select a design that you love and personalize it or you can create your own card from scratch.  I love the designs they have already made so I typically start with that and then make it my own, but this is YOUR card.  Do you because it will be fabulous!

Pick your favorite photos and commit to 3 or 4 to adorn your holiday card.  Place them where you want them to be.  Use the given greeting and saying or create your own and override what's there.  Don't forget to sign your name and to add your return address to the envelope.  It's super easy and actually a lot of fun to do.

While you're there, use Snapfish to order unbelievably inexpensive prints in all different sizes in higher quality than some professional photographers.  You can even do some editing like a professional direct on their site.  My absolute favorite part is that SnapFish ALWAYS has a deal going on.  

Chances are they'll have a deal for those holiday cards too.  To be honest, I don't think I ever paid full price for them.

Step Eight:  Mail your holiday cards out.

Make a night of it!  Pour yourself a good glass of Pinot Noir, play your favorite holiday playlist, and address those envelopes so that they're prepared for the post office in the AM.  You'll save crap tons of money, make some memories in the process, and be really glad you made you're own holiday cards this year!

Do you use a photographer?