Friday, August 24, 2012

What Kids Want for Christmas This Year

Yes, it’s only August, but the holiday season will be at our front doors before we know it. Even though you probably won’t even start thinking about going Christmas shopping until mid-November, it never hurts to start planning your strategy early.

Christmas shopping for your children isn’t always the most enjoyable task, but with a little research, you can easily find what’s popular these days with the elementary crowd. In fact, I’ve already done a little research for you and found that you should expect your children’s wish lists to include one or more of the following four popular/new toys.

All Things Victorious

Nickelodeon’s popular children’s television series Victorious was named “Favorite Television Show” at this year’s Kids’ Choice Awards. Both boys and girls love to watch this after-school show, which tells the story of aspiring singer and performing arts high school student, Tori Vega. There have been several Victorious-themed toys produced in reaction to the show’s popularity. Most of these toys are marketed towards girls, and all of them can be purchased as affordable Christmas gifts. Top-rated items include the Hollywood Arts Debut video game for Nintendo DS, the Victorious tote bag and the Victorious Microphone Stand. All three of these items can be purchased for under $30.

Fisher-Price Servin’ Surprises Cook n’ Serve Kitchen and Table Set

This new item was a hit at this year’s American International Toy Fair. It’s a play kitchen that doubles as an activity table. While kids pretend to make food items like pizza and cookies, the magical serving tray recognizes the play items and responds with related sound effects and songs. The kitchen includes a stove-top burner, grill and light-up oven and comes with a four-slice pizza, toppings and pizza cutter, as well as four cookies and a baking tray. Also included are two forks, spoons, cups and plates. To convert it into an activity table, simply slide the oven off and flip the stovetop over. This toy can be found at any major toy retailer for around $80.

K’NEX Angry Birds Sets


There are a few new themes for K’NEX this year, including the Angry Birds sets. These setsare perfect for children ages five and older, and are both educational and interactive. The Angry Birds sets are especially fun, because they mimic the popular app game. Kids can use the catapult to launch bird figures and knock down the structures they build, just like the game! Each set is designed to look like a different Angry Birds level and can be purchased at most toy stores for between $30 and $45.

Collector’s Edition PAC-MAN Connect & Play Video Games


This video game toy is expected to be the most popular, by far. It won’t be released until sometime this fall, but both children and video game-loving adults alike are waiting for its arrival. Manufactured by Bandai, this connect-and-play console will contain 12 retro arcade games, including the famous Pac-Man Level 256. Other games include Disdug, Galaga, Mappy and Xevious. Look for this product to be sold anywhere video games are sold. It should be released by mid-September and will be on sale for around $25.

If you can stay on top of what your children are interested in and learn about the newest and hottest toys before they hit the shelves, your Christmas shopping season will be as easy as pie. Good luck and have a happy holiday!

Maria Rainier is a hardworking freelance blogger who dispenses education advice and useful data for students, instructors and parents interested in topics related to online education. Please share your comments with her below!

Homemade Halloween Costumes

(For those of us who are not so crafty!)

Almost all the blogs I have been reading lately are about how to save money in one way or another. It seems as though it is a common theme these days. In the spirit of this theme I am offering up some very cool homemade Halloween costume ideas that will work for even those of us who are not so crafty. And for those of you who are I offer these ideas as a basis for you to upgrade at will! More than half of these ideas come from my own stab at creativity with my children and others come from people all over the country. As I was searching for homemade costumes I was amazed at how many imaginative, creative people there are in this world. But then necessity is the mother of invention and when it comes to our children we often find ourselves creating new ways to do things.

  1. Superman
When my daughter was two she was enamored with Superman. I was showing her some of the older Superman movies and cartoons and that is all she could talk about. When Halloween came up that year I knew what the request would be! I found an old comic book and looked at his costume. I wasn’t a big sewer but I could stitch a little here and there. We found a set of blue tights and long sleeve leotards in her size. I went to the fabric store and looked through the discount bin and found some yellow material and a larger piece of red. I cut out the yellow background and the S for his chest and tacked it on the leotards. We “borrowed” a pair of whitey tighty underwear from one of her boy cousins about her age which I dyed red and pulled up over her tights. I cut a cape out of the red material, covered a belt with the yellow material (or cover a thick piece of elastic), and for the boots I found a red pair of adult socks and pulled them on over her rain boots (because they were black). If you have a red pair of rain boots then you are set! She was absolutely thrilled. She flew all over the neighborhood. She was Superman for a couple years after that too!


  1. Mouse
A few years later we were into the An American Tail movies with Fivel. She wanted to be a mouse. We found the tights and long sleeve leotards in brown. At the craft store they had the thin wire; I think it’s for soldering. We bought a little brown and pink felt for the ears. We already had some of the plastic head bands for her hair at home. We made the shape of ears out of the wire and covered it with the brown felt; you can use glue or staples if you don’t want to sew. We then cut a circle of pink for inside the ear and glued it on. I attached the ears to the brown headband. Then I made a brown tail out of some left over brown material; I cut it in a sort of long cone shape, sewed it down the side and then turned it right side out. Then I tacked it to her bottom. We painted whiskers on her face and a pink circle on the end of her nose. This would be an adorable mouse in itself but I had to go on…. I get that way sometimes. I wanted to add a piece of Swiss cheese… get a remnant of yellow felt-like material that will not be as saggy. Cut out holes in the material randomly (like Swiss cheese), big enough to fit whoever you’re making the costume for. Sew the ends together and put it over their heads with their arms sticking throughout the cheese holes. The little mouse is eating the cheese!


  1. Geisha Girl or Japanese Doll
Easy peezie as can be. Paint the face white with round red cheeks and red lips. They also make their eyebrows more pronounced with eyebrow pencils if you check out a picture online. Put the hair in buns on each side. Put on a kimono and some thong type shoes. You can add more to it if you want to. A Japanese umbrella, Japanese fan, or Japanese type hair accessories (the kind that looks like chopsticks through the buns) and Japanese hair combs.


  1. Black Bat
As my daughter got older she was very into bats, the real ones and Batman. The black tights and leotard were simple enough. We created the bat ears like we did in the above mentioned mouse costume with the wire and black material or felt on a headband. The wings were a bit trickier, which I made with black material and had to use all the creativity I could muster on the sewing machine. I laid out her leotard and with the arms straight out I cut the material in a fan shape, I wanted excess material so that I could make some gathers in the material to make it look more like a bats wings. I sewed in some elastic pieces to make it look more like the divisions in the wings. I cut the bottom of the wings with in a scallopedpattern to make the pointy wing look. Then I sewed it to the arms and sides of leotards. We put a brown dot on the end of her nose. She loved it. However, as I was looking for more homemade costumes I saw another bat idea where the person cut an umbrella in half and attached that in between for wings. In hindsight that sounds a lot easier. We had fun creating this together however, so it was worth it!


  1. Mummy
This is one that is right up my son’s alley! Wrap them all up in gauze, make it look old or molding with dirt or paint on green mold. Wrap their legs so they have the walk, but not enough to cut off circulation (wouldn’t that be awful?). Paint the face white and put age lines to “age” the mummy.


  1. Raggedy Ann or Andy Doll
I actually did this for myself one year for a Halloween party. I had some old pajamas, a long sleep top and long pant type. I bought some lacey trim and sewed to the wrists and ankles to make it look ruffley and the pants look like pantaloons. I found an old apron type dress, made it shorter, and sewed ruffles on the sleeve edges and made it a lot shorter. I wore red and white striped socks and added some baby doll shoes… or like ballet type slippers would work. Then I took some panty hose and cut the legs off and used the crotch part to put on my head. I bought some orange yarn and pulled it through all over the panty hose knotting it underneath to stay. I then cut it for bangs and shaped it with scissors. I put red circles of rouge on my cheeks, a red triangle on my nose, and fake long eyelashes which you can buy or paint on with eyeliner. You could make an Andy Doll with a cute pair of overalls that have been shortened and sew on some large buttons. Use a red and blue checkered shirt with a blue bow tied at the neck. Add red and white knee socks and shoes, along with a sailor type hat with the orange hair. For this one you could attach the orange or red yarn inside the hat. Add the triangle nose, red circle cheeks and eyelashes.


  1. Cluster of Grapes
I’ve never done this one but it sounded so cute I thought I’d share. A purple leotard and tights and some purple balloons attached in a three, two, one pattern. Three on top then two and one at bottom attached on front and back of leotard to become a cluster of grapes! You can do the same with green if you prefer green grapes… or the color goes better with your eyes. You can add a green felt hat for the stem and you’re the hit of the party!

You may wonder why I didn’t mention more costumes for my son. It’s not that I did not have any ideas for boy costumes; it’s just that he refused to be anything but a skeleton for all but two Halloweens that I can remember. I just wanted to share this fact with you so you don’t get the impression that I left my son out! 

These are just a few of the great homemade costume ideas out there. What is great is that we can share them with each other. I am hopeful that there are a couple costumes here that someone can create this Halloween. Enjoy making costumes with your children; they will think you are a creative genius!  

Author Byline:

Ken Myers as an Expert Advisor on multiple household help issues to many Organizations and groups, and is a mentor for other “Mom-preneurs” seeking guidance.  He is a regular contributor of “”.  You can get in touch with him at

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Benefits of a Tankless Water Heater

No Energy wasted with Tankless Water Heater
The tankless WH is the best thing you could buy for your home today. A tankless WH allows the homeowner to save on energy like never before. There is no standby heat loss and when taking showers, you can truly have endless showers with no worries as the next person takes their shower. A typical shower will use 2.5 gallons of water per minute and the mid size tankless WH will supply around 6 to 7 gallons of hot water per minute. That is a big difference and well worth the investment.
The best thing about a tankless WH is more than one person can take a shower simultaneously.
The tankless water heaters have the best tankless technology and are very sophisticated with computer controlled appliances. The technology controls the water temerature to prest level regardless of water volume and pressure. If you live in the Houston area, the only placto look at and purchase your tanless WH is at the Houston TX Plumbers at Mamoth Plumbing. Mammoth Plumbing offer their clients the Rianni Tankless Water Heaters from the Rianni Corporation patented water heater technology. Other tankless water heater manufactuers are Noritz, Takagi, and Bosch. These are the most durable tankless water heaters on the market today.
The best thing about the tankless water heater is the temperature feature. It does not matter how much water is being used, the temperature is the same regardless if there is a second shower turned. The gas burner or electic heater modulates the engergy, gas or electric to the desired level to achieve the set temperature. If this temperature feature is amazing, then you will like that it lasts 3 times longer as a storage tank WH with no noticeable degradation in performance or efficiency over time. Tankless WH models like Noritz 751 or Takagi TK-3 can supply an entire house with continuous hot water and save energy and money.
Looking for a Plumber in Houston is easy as 1-2-3. Houston is a pretty big city, this means there are a lot of plumbers in the phone book or online. Right not, all you have to do is bookmark the Mammouth Plumbing website for all your plumbing needs and to have a tankless WH installed today.     
Government incentives make Tankless WH more affordable than ever before
With today's government subsidies, tax credits, tax rebates and sometimes additional local utility companies offer, rebates for tankless water heaters can compete favorably. This is especially true when it comes to replacing your old fashion Storage tank water heater. If you think these tankless water heaters are a lot, think again. Even if  their initial cost looks expensive, their cost has come down and the payback on energy savings can be very substantial.

There are some statistics that suggest  30% to 40%  of the energy cost in most typical homes is consumed by the water heater. Installing the tankless water heater will reduce this current percentable by more than 50%.  The tankless water heater, although popular in the home, is also popular for commercial and industrial applications. Models like Noritz 751, Noritz 842 and Noritz 931 can be installed in series to provide almost boiling water. Restaurants, Hair Salons, Gyms and many other commercial businesses can benefit from the energy savings of tankless water heaters in addition to the space savings. Smaller units like Noritz 631 are well suited for smaller applications, like apartments or smaller homes.

Some of the tankless water heater units allow for the desired termperature setting on the control panel that can be installed in a bathroom or another room. If a homeowner or business owner need to change to a higher termperature of 182 degree F for example, this would be easy to set with th digital control panel. This will be useful when filling a SPA or bath tub. Whether it is a home, office or vacation home, the tankless water heater will work in all these locations. In some areas, electricty might be expensive compared to natural gas and a natural gas or liquid propane or LP tankless water heater may be more economical.

Correct Installation makes the difference
The tankless water heater is a sophisticated appliance. This means it is critical they are installed correctly. It is important they are installed by a licensed, factory certified and experienced professional. Customes will be looking for a Plumbing Houston company. The only place to find experience and professional installers is at Mammouth Plumbing. Before purchasing your tankless water heater, it is important the location is picked out for where it will be installed in a home, office or vacation home. The tankless water heater has to be near the gas meter and the gas line for it to be property sized. This allows the water heater to supply the volume of gas needed. Utility gas meters can also be restrictive and not able to supply enough gas. Since tankless water heater modulates its burners it adjusts the gas flow to the burner for desired temperature.

The gas supply and volume is very important to have a trouble free operation. It is not that tankless water heaters use more gas; they use more of it when heating the water instantaneously versus the tank WH that slowly heats the water. It is important how efficiently that energy is used. A professional installation also tries to minimize the pipe length from the tankless WH to the next bathroom. This reduces the amount of cold water that is flushed before the hot water reaches the faucet.
A variety of pump products that continuouly circulate hot water in the pipes so that hot water is immediately avaibale if you open the hot water faucet.These types of water hearts happen to be very wasteful. The energy wasted with these type of water heaters are not insulated and made of copper. Copper is a very good heat conductor so all the hot water in the pipes are constantly radiating heat to the surrounding and cooling off quickly. Hot water is pumped through it to cool and these pumps and associated valvles us the cold water pipes for the circulation of water. This allows the cold water in the pips to become warm as well.
The best thing about a tankless water heater is the size. It is compact and can almost be installed anywhere and not necessarily where the old water heater was. This tankless water heater has to also carry the same volume of water as the old fashioned water heater. The tankless water heater needs to regulate the flow because it does not have to capacity when needed. Because of this fact, it mean that multiple showes may not have enough hot water at the same time.  Even though a tankless water heater, it still needs a minimum flow of water to start heating water. It takes 0.5 gallons per minute to begin heating water.

If there is a very low flow of water in the tankless water heater, homeowners should know it might not come on or it will turn on and off again quickly. The one handle shower faucets are also known to do this. The mixture ratio of cold and hot water is set according to the storage tank water heater temperature which is higher than the tankless WH.
Finally, it is easy to fix and adjust the mixure ratio of the vavle to match the tankless water heater temperature. If the flow of hot water coming out of the shower is not hot enough, it is not directly related to the operation of the water heater itself.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Back to School Savings from Dollar General

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Dollar General for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.
Oh yeah, school is back in session. This means kids, high schoolers and college bound students will be needing to buy school supplies. School supplies are important at any grade level. The many school supplies for the Back to School Saving from Dollar General are backpacks, pencils, paper, notebooks. markers, desk supplies and so much more.
If you are anything like me, you will love shopping at Dollar General because it is all inclusive. This means you do not have to go from store to store looking for what you need. It certainly is nice when all it takes is a one stop shop.
Just as students need supplies, so to do teachers. Yeah, Dollar General have classroom supplies for teachers too. Let's see, there is a 4 pack of glue sticks, 6 pack of dry erease pens, office pocket highlighters, drawing, colorng, paper, notebooks and more. This is one amazing store my friends and family.
I do not know what your top 5 needed school supplies are:
  • Pencils
  • Crayons
  • Paper
  • Tape
  • Scissors
Yeah, these are some of the school supplies my girls need for their new school year. If there is something you do not see on the Dollar General website, email them and let them know what you need.
One more thing, these days almost everyone has a smart phone where they can take a picture of their product(s) they want. Well at the Dollar General, they have a Back to School mobile coupon embedded with the QR code. Or, if you want, you can also text "bts" to 34898 from your mobile phone.
Visit Sponsor's Site

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Shutterfly is having their Summer 2012 Sweepstakes

That is pretty cool don't you think!  It would certainly be nice to get away from the same ol, same ol for a while. Rest, relaxation, fun, laughter and memories can be made by escaping from the everyday routine. The best place to make special memories can only be found in a land where the sun shines, the waters shimmer and shine and there are warm sands. This is the hottest month of the year, by far, and it does not matter where you live, you will want to get away for a while.

If you love taking photos like I do, and I know you know I am an am photog, there is no better place to go than an amazing island sponored by one of the best online photo companies, Shutterfly.

Another great thing about getting away from the norm is when a company like Shutterfly has a sweepstakes going on. Shutterfly is having their Summer 2012 Sweepstakes to go to the Bahamas. Oh I just love sweepstakes and enter them quite often.  This sweepstakes is very easy to enter. All you have to do is follow my instructions below:
  1. Grand Prize: WIN A TRIP TO THE BAHAMAS FOR FOUR, and a professional photo shoot so you will remember your amazing vacation forever
  2. All you have to do is "Like" Shutterfly on Facebook, upload a photo and caption based on the theme of the week
  3. Everyone gets a gift just for entering too

So see, this will be fun and there was no sweat involved. Can't you picture yourself  lying on the beaches of the Bahamas for a while and just taking a break, if just for a while, from the real world? Oh it certainly sounds good to me.

All you have to do is click here to "LIKE" Shutterfly on Facebook.

Monday, August 6, 2012

It is Back to School BOGO

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Famous Footwear for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

Oh wow, school is just around the corner and this means buying school clothes and shoes. Nobody can go back to school with old shoes and this is why the BOGO + 15% off Famous Footwear Coupon is right here to help. With feet constantly growing, it is a good idea to always buy more than one pair of shoes. In fact, if your kids like the shoes a lot, it is best to buy two of the same shoe so your kids will have that specific pair of shoes all year long.

When it comes to shopping for shoes, school shoes that is, you have to go to Famous Foothwear. They have so many varieties to look at and choose from. For girls and boys shoes, there are some very cool tennis shoes, sandals, boots and flats to look at right now. If you have two or more children in your home, this BOGO coupon will really come in handy for you and your family.


When you join the Rewards Program right now, you will earn $1 for every dollar you spend online, earn enough points to receive a $100 certificate, a discount just for signing up and other insider perks. This is awesome, especially when you have kids whose feet are growing like weeds.

Once you are signed up with Famous Footwear, you can print out the coupons from the Famous Footwear website and use them in the store between 8/2-8-/18. It is always nice to save money where you need it most, especially shoes.

Visit Sponsor's Site

Thursday, August 2, 2012

TwiceGirlies at Local Park

A couple days ago my twins and I walked to our local park. We live about three blocks from the park so we walked over with one chair, one blanket, four beach towels, lunch and drinks. My twins had a blast. They played on the playground and in the water feature.

It is a good thing our city finally put a water feature in one of the parks in our city. The water feature was put in last year if I am not mistaken. So, while at the park, my twins befriended a little girl their age. They were talking and playing on the playground and water feature. My twins have no problem meeting new kids their age. In fact, they have always been this way.

When I was their age, I was not this way at all. I was shy until my senior year in high school. After high school I finally became the outgoing person my twins are today. What is that saying, "I have never met a stranger." Well, I am not sure if this is such a good saying today, but it guess it just means a person is not shy in public or just meeting other people.

Here are some photos of my twins on the playground and water feature:

The Nordstrom Anniversary Sale Ends Sunday, August 5th

Nordstrom is one of the most popular department stores to shop at. Nordstrom is famous for the adult and kids apparel and especially their ladies shoes. It would be sad if this Anniversary Sale ended before you were able to save on all the things you like.

Fall is just around the corner and the NORDSTROM Anniversary Sale only takes place once a year. Nordstrom customers have the opportunity to save on new fall fashions for the entire family. Fall fashions will put you in the mood for a season change and have you wearing the fall fashions you will want to talk about.
Last days to shop and save big on the newest apparel, shoes and accessories for women, men and kids! Prices go up August 6. Shop the NORDSTROM Anniversary Sale, plus get free shipping on all orders
Come on now, there is no time to waste. It is always nice having new clothes in your closet. Put a smile on your and your famlies face today and buy all your fall clothes today.