White Christmas Lights? You’ve Got to be Freakin’ Kidding Me

christmas tree lights

Turn down the Christmas carols! It’s time we have a chat! It has come to my attention that there are people who actually believe in their hearts of hearts that — shudder — white Christmas lights are absolutely adorable.

If you are one of those folks whose tree is already experiencing a riot of color thanks to a string of reds, blues, greens, yellows, and maybe even some pinks, sally forth and go drink a mug of hot chocolate or snack on some advent chocolate — you’re well on your way to a hap, hap, happy holiday season.

If, however, you are one of those people whose tree is rather lacking in imagination, read on, as you must be injected with a true shot of holiday spirit before it is too late!

So. White Christmas lights, huh? [Read more…]

Grab All the Christmas Movies … It’s TIME!!

A Very Merry Pooh Year

America! Halloween is over. We are half way to Thanksgiving. Do you know what this means? It’s officially time to bring out the Christmas movies again! Or as those of us who like to indulge all year round like to call it “time to tell the rest of the world we just pulled them out because” (wink, wink, nudge, nudge).

And this holiday season just got a little bit merrier. Disney has done one of their vault openings and brought out not one but two holiday classics.

Winnie the Pooh: A Very Merry Pooh Year and Mickey’s Christmas Carol both got the Blu-Ray treatment this time around!

Aside from the fact that Mickey’s Christmas Carol is making me feel old (how could it be time for a 30th Anniversary Edition, HOW?), when I got the news from Disney about this one, I felt like Christmas came early (yes, I promise that is the last of the holiday puns). Unlike a certain other Christmas Carol re-telling from the Mouse (cough, Jim Carrey version, cough, cough), Mickey’s is a truly kid-appropriate version of the classic tale. But what really makes this Blu-Ray are the Disney holiday shorts that send me right back to childhood, especially Goofy’s Art of Skiing.

A Very Merry Pooh Year is a newer film — so new that I actually had it on DVD from the get-go — but it’s hard to beat an upgrade to Blu-Ray that comes with a regular DVD for the kids’ little DVD player and the digital copy for the iPad. Think a little holiday entertainment for that trip over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house this holiday.

Basically, if you’re a holiday movie fan (guilty) and a Disney fan (ahem), these two are worth adding to the collection.

What is YOUR favorite holiday flick?

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Disclaimer: I received review copies of the films mentioned, but was not otherwise compensated. All opinions and Christmas tomfoolery are my own.

If Only I Could Believe in Santa Claus

Christmas. We’re here. The Mayans were wrong after all.

I never believed them anyway. If they could predict the end of the world, why couldn’t they predict the end of their own civilization?

Fact is, I don’t believe in much. But sometimes I wish I did. I look at my little girl, confident that she will wake up on the morning of the 25th, wander down the stairs in her PJs, and find a treasure trove delivered the night before by a fat guy in a red suit.

I’m at least two decades and then some from believing in Santa Claus, but boy do I miss it.

The wonder.

The magic.

The idea that somewhere out there is a mystical creature who loves children so that he would make miracles happen just to put smiles on their faces.

If I still believed in him, I wonder, would I feel better about the world, about a place where horrors like the shooting at Sandy Hook can happen? Where bad men and women hurt children every day?

Santa has been getting a lot of flak from the parents who insist parents who let their kids believe are selling the kiddos a bill of goods that will make things uncomfortable when it’s time to actually settle the bill. I’m of the other camp, where my child is encouraged to believe for as long as it makes sense, to extend the wonder and magic, to keep her childhood safe in a world where childhood is increasingly undervalued.

But this isn’t about the kids.

It’s about me.

I want to believe, if not in Santa than in something, something good and pure and able to set aside petty differences to make children happy.

And if he could bring me a new camera and maybe a check to pay off the mortgage, well, I wouldn’t say no.
Hey, as long as I’m dreaming …

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New Christmas Movies: Because Your Traditions are Tired

I’ve been on a mission to do something a little different this Christmas season. We bake the same cookies every year, string the tree with the same lights, watch the same movies.

I get the lure of traditions. I even asked around on Facebook about favorite movies because people love to watch the same thing over and over and over again. But COME ON. Some of it is a little … tiring.

So this year I’m changing things up just a smidge. I’ve switched out the annual “eat Christmas cookies all Christmas morning” tradition for making an actual morning meal (French toast bake anyone?). I got my shopping done BEFORE it was too late to find anything in stores. And we have expanded beyond the traditional Christmas movie line-up.

So we may or may not have watched the Santa Clause series a few times too many already this year (may, may, may), but we have also added the following to the mix:
Babes in Toyland — A throw-back to my childhood (actually my parents’ but this is my story), Disney dragged this one out of the vault this year to release on Blu-Ray. It’s one of those films filled with what used to count as children’s fair: songs and slapstick. And maybe I’m just an old softie, but that stuff still works for me. The story itself — Mary Quite Contrary (yes, that one) facing off against an evil guy who tries to ruin her wedding — is timeless. But what makes this a holiday movie is the trek into toyland, where Mary and crew have to help a toymaker get the toys out in time for Christmas. Only bummer: I was hoping for some special features, especially since Disney took the time to put out a Blu-Ray version, and there are none to be found.

Prep & Landing: Totally Tinsel Collection — So “totally tinsel” may or may not be a new phrase in my household, but this Blu-ray combo truly is totally … awesome. It features both of the Prep & Landing TV specials Disney has produced — the second of which I got to see in production stages during a visit to Disney’s animation studios in 2011. Both are the stories of the elves who are behind the magic of Christmas Eve; the little guys who go out before Santa to prepare the houses for his arrival. They’re the sort of specials with just enough humor that goes over kids’ heads to make the parents happy but nothing so naughty that it ruins the magic for the kids.

What Christmas movies have you added to the collection in recent years?

Still looking for movie ideas for your shopping list

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Disclaimer: I received review copies of both of these movies, but was not otherwise compensated. All opinions are my own … they’re just lucky I was a huge fan already!

5 Movies You NEED Under the Christmas Tree

Pitch Perfect DVD

We’re down to the wire, aren’t we? I’ve seen more shout-outs for ideas for stocking stuffers this week than I have during the entire holiday season!

So let’s talk DVDs, shall we? The best of the movies from 2012 that have made it to DVD? If they’re on this list, I promise, you can’t go wrong.

1. Pitch Perfect — OK, did you like Bridesmaids? Nevermind that question; everyone liked Bridesmaids. That said, this wasn’t as good (I know, I know). But the two drew obvious comparisons when Pitch Perfect came out in theaters earlier this year: they’re both female-driven comedies, both vehicles for up-and-comer Rebel Wilson, blah, blah, blah. Honestly? I loved it because it was like Glee with a grittier, girl power edge. I loved it because I got a review copy on Friday, one of the worst days in American history, and it took me away and actually let me laugh a little. Laughter is, as they say, the best medicine … and we all need some of that these days.

2. Brave — This is the anti-princess princess movie that taught our kids that they can choose their own fates, yes, even if they’re girls. Plus: it didn’t hurt to see a spunky redhead on the screen instead of another blond beauty. If you only get one children’s movie, this is it.

3. People Like Us — I was looking at a graphic built by my friend Kas of Southern Bella’s Ways to Save today. It was a review of the Disney slate from 2012, and it included this little gem that was sadly ignored by audiences. I say sadly because there are few films that move me to tears, but this one did. The adorable Chris Pine and Elizabeth Banks play half-siblings who never knew each other, brought together after their father’s death. Yes, it’s a tearjerker, but it will also make you laugh (although not in the way of Pitch Perfect … a more introspective laughter). It will remind you that your’s is not the effed up family on the block … it could always get worse. And then, well, it could get better too.

4. The Avengers — This is my nod to the blast it made at the box office, and the fact that I know a ton of people who have it on their list. But it’s also a fact: I thought I’d hate this movie, and I walked out loving it. Director Joss Whedon has pretty much everything to do with that. He took what could have been a niche flick for the geek set and made it work for the masses … in a quirky, smart, hilarious way. Buy it. Trust me.

5. The Princess Bride 25th Anniversary — It’s inconceivable to me that it has been 25 years since my favorite movie on the planet first came out. But you know what’s more inconceivable? I saw it on the sale rack the other day. Please! Let’s boost the sales so the stores recognize what an important piece of our culture this is. Sheesh!

None floating your boat? Check out the rest of the movies that have caught my eye.

What movies have you purchased for gifts this holiday season?

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Disclaimer: I received review copies of the movies included in this post, however all opinions expressed are my own … even the obvious plea to make my favorite movie the best selling flick of all time (especially that one).

5 Stocking Stuffers for Little Girls That Don’t Suck

Ah, stocking stuffer time. The time when you have to decide between a bunch of candy your kids don’t need or some useless junk that, wait a minute, your kids don’t need!

I have done all that year after year. This year, I refuse. I am stocking the kid’s stocking with fewer things, but it’s all going to be stuff I won’t regret on December 26.

Here are my tips for stuffing a little girl’s stocking:

1. Tattoo Earrings — How,  how, HOW did I not invent these? I have spent too many years to count fighting with those ridiculous sticker earrings that fall off about 2 minutes after they’re stuck on. And yet, at 7 and still a bit of a slob (sorry, but it’s true), my kid is not ready for real earrings. These are sort of the best of both worlds; they stay put but they’re not permanent. And what kid doesn’t like tattoos? The folks at bINK’D sent me one of their gift sets, and even I’m hooked. They’re made from vegetable-based dyes, and they come in itty bitty containers so you don’t have all these tattoos sitting out.

non toxic nail polish

2. Piggy Paint. I’m not going to lie; over the years I’ve been sent a few bottles of the kid-safe non-toxic nail polish for review, and I have used it on myself a few times. It’s too cute not to. They’re even taking a page out of the goofy nail polish namers that work on the big girl brands with names like “How Merlot Can You Go.” There are already a few bottles of this stuff stowed in her stocking because you can never run out (seriously, this stuff comes off pretty quickly, so you need to do frequent touch-ups).

kids earbuds

3. Earbuds. Don’t ask how, but we have already gone through two pairs of kids headphones this year. The first set lasted a few months. The second set didn’t even make it a whole week before the wire was somehow split in half. I’ve decided it’s time to try earbuds instead. Maybe without that band across the head, if she yanks on the cord (the way kids do), the buds will simply pop out of her ears and keep the whole thing intact. Hey, a girl can dream, right? I loved these LaLaLoopsy Earbuds that were sent to me in a package from Jazwares recently because it’s hard to find buds that actually fit little ears. But now she can play her Nintendo DS without me having to listen to Mario all the time!

Harakuku Mini

4. Mini Journal. My kid can’t be the only one obsessed with writing little notes to her parents. She leaves them on our pillows. She posts them on the fridge. Everywhere we go, there one is. I hit the dollar section at Target and grabbed a few with some of the girls from the Harajuku Mini Line (one of my little fashionista’s obsessions), and we are all set.

5. Hello Kitty Toothbrush. Just because it’s functional doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. Dr. Fresh (makers of the Firefly Toothbrush) sent me a bunch of toothbrushes awhile back, and now my kid always wants to use a Hello Kitty toothbrush (with the blinking timer of course). If it gets her to brush, I am not one to argue. If you want to call it bribery, go ahead. I’ll even let her say it with her minty fresh breath.

What are you stuffing in the little girl’s stocking this year? Are you still struggling?

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Giveaway: Rendi Style Photo Gifts $50 Gift Card

Seriously, taking a photo of a photo is just weird

Ready for Christmas? Yeah, me neither. But I’m getting there. I finished up my kid’s stocking, and a few photo gifts landed on my doorstep yesterday.

Ever heard of Rendi Style? I hadn’t until recently, when an offer showed up in my inbox to check them out, although with a free gift card from the company.

Usually I bypass these kinds of things, but I am a photographer. I see “photo gifts,” and I have to at least check them out. And Christmas is coming (need I remind you?).

Turns out it’s a site where they work mostly with wood to produce photo-related products. Everything from frames that you can customize with a favorite saying or your baby’s vital stats to scalloped plaques with photos printed on the front.

The prices looked decent — $24.95 for a small scalloped plaque (9 inches wide by 7 inches high). But you never really know until you get the thing home, right? I learned my lesson on cheap photo printing a long, long time ago.

So I gave it a go. I pulled up one of the only pictures that exists of my entire family. It’s not the best photo ever taken — a random tourist did the job for me while we were on vacation. But still, it’s us. And I knew it was crisp enough to withstand some manipulation and printing on a plaque. I set it up. Clicked buy.

I had to pay some shipping to get my purchase, but my walls are begging to be updated. I got the dining room painted in, um, March … and I still haven’t done a thing to them except throw up some old pictures in random and not . I figured it was worth it.

Best news? Shipping was amazingly fast. I purchased last week, and it arrived on Monday. Considering the holiday slam on the shipping industry, that’s not bad.

The product itself is … not bad. That doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement, I know. Which makes you ask why I’m writing about this thing at all (because y’all, I’m not one of THOSE people). But like I said, the photo was not the best ever. And they reproduced what they were given quite well.

What’s more, they gave me something different from the same old, same old photo in a frame that I always put on the walls. I haven’t found a forever home for it yet, but right now it’s watching over me while I work. It’s cute (even came with a little chain for easy hanging), it’s unique, and it makes me grin every time I look at it.

Basically, I’m a Rendi convert not because I got something free but because it’s not the same old, same old photo gift that we’ve grown accustomed to. Come on people, really, how MANY photo mugs do you need? Keychains? Puzzles that you’ll lose all the pieces to? New options really are the gift all in and of themselves, aren’t they?

I’m debating putting up the cash to get one of their square plaques made out of that one Instagram photo of my daughter that I am in love with (yes, go ahead, make fun, but her eyes look fabulous!!). It’s so hard to find anything that is a perfect square … 

And since I ended up actually being all happy about this situation (thank God because otherwise … awkward!!), I’ve got a $50 gift card to give away!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: I received a free gift card from Rendi Style that helped inform this post. Decision to write the post was all mine, and all opinions are too. So are the photos, so there!

The Christmas Card That Almost Wasn’t

It was a Veterans Day miracle. I finished my Christmas cards on the weekend we celebrated our Veterans. I even saved $72 with a bunch of coupon codes (because I am becoming that woman). I was ahead of the game!

And then they arrived. And they sucked. The blue edging had leaked over into the photo, and it was just this giant mess.

I should have known it was going to happen. This IS my life after all.

Putting in a new order was my only option. The photographer in me can’t send out Christmas cards that look like crap even if it does mean I’m early.

So here’s the re-do, done up on Shutterfly, which has a deal where you can throw it up on your blog to share the look (and get a coupon … told you I’m that girl):

Stationery card
View the entire collection of cards.

If the real things look even half as good, we may actually get the cards to people before, well, before the 25th this year. What do you think my chances are?
If you need a code, right now HOLIDAY gets you 40 percent on cards, and SHIP30 gets you free shipping on anything over $30. And a good trick I’ve learned with Shutterfly — they’re one of the few sites that takes multiple coupons! So enter ’em all!

Where do you get your holiday cards done? Do you shop for big deals?

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I Took My Kid Black Friday Shopping & I Survived

Oh reader, what you’re about to read may shock you. Well, maybe not (have you read any of my Bad Parent essays?), but let’s just say it may make you put your judgy pants on. Because I, Jeanne Sager, took my kid Black Friday shopping. And no, I don’t regret it.

I might even do it again some day.

This makes me one of those moms that Mommyish writer Lindsay Cross just “doesn’t understand.” I’m part of a bunch she derides for being “just plain super crazy.”

Of course Cross (whose posts I generally like … I have no problem with the writer here, just her post) puts a disclaimer on her whole rant against Black Friday shopping moms by admitting that she has never once done it, even without kids in tow. In fact, her sole basis for claiming that we are putting our kids in the midst of a war over cheap Tickle Me Elmos is one stint as a manager at a retail store on Black Friday when she was in her 20s.

I, on the other hand, have been Black Friday shopping for several years now, since I stopped working jobs that required me to work on the day after Thanksgiving.

I’ve done it enough years that I have a handle on my “strategy,” and this was the first year I brought my daughter into the mix.

I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t think she’d be safe.

In fact, the only thing I was truly worried about was my own sanity. An entire day of shopping about one month before Christmas, with my 7-year-old in tow, was bound to mean a whole lot of the following:

“Mom! Can I have that!? I promise to be good!”

“No! What are you going to ask Santa for if we buy you that now?”

“Moooooom, I want that soooo baaaaad.”

“Didn’t we just get you a new dog?”

It was, pretty much, how the day went. From store to store we went, and from store to store, she found things she absolutely had to have. Part of it was my bad. The babysitter (who I should note was along for the ride because we like spending time with her; I wasn’t paying her to watch my kid while I shopped … I’m not one of THOSE mothers) had to duck into Spencer’s. I was not taking a 7-year-old into Spencer’s, so I headed upstairs to make a return at The Gap. Only to get to The Gap in our mall, you have to walk right by Build a Bear. And what 7-year-old girl do you know who can bypass a gingerbread Hello Kitty stuffed animal? Not mine. We went in and “looked.” But I held my ground. No more dust collectors stuffed animals in this house, thankyouverymuch.

But wars? Stabbings? I didn’t worry about any of it. We left at a very sane 9 o’clock (that’s a.m. … on Friday morning, no less) and go to the mall a little after 10. We hit a certain mega toy store first to get a “deal” on a new XBox after my husband’s took a crap earlier in the week — what timing, right?

We took our time in the mall. I hit The Children’s Place for a decent deal on her clothes. I hit Target for my necessaries, the kind of things I buy any day, and most definitely was getting now considering I’d driven an hour to the mall — such is life in a small town. I didn’t shop for her because, well, she’s 7, not an idiot.

There were lines, but they weren’t crazy.

There were idiots out, but there always are.

We were tired, but I was coming down with what has turned out to be a wicked virus. And she still had plenty of piss and vinegar for candy collecting at the local parade that night. 

But with few days off between now and Christmas and even fewer when I will be sans child, taking the kid Black Friday shopping wasn’t just NOT “super crazy,” but it was the smart choice for us.

Now sitting at home alone all day with a 7-year-old over-excited about the parade that night? THAT would have been crazy.

Would you Black Friday shop? Would you do it with a kid?

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Image via RobHolland/Flickr

The Thanksgiving Reminder Every Mom Needs

I had to work on Wednesday this week, but because it was the day before Thanksgiving, the school system offered me a holiday gift of trying to function with a 7-year-old running around the house.

I let her play too much XBox and watch the entire season of Pound Puppies on her Kindle.

I’m a great mom, let me tell you.

But I’m not ashamed to admit that there are days that my daughter drives me absolutely nuts. Because we are human beings, and that’s what human beings DO to each other.

And also because after a somewhat crappy day that ended in a God awful sinus headache, the following happened to remind me what I’m truly thankful for this Thanksgiving:

She can drive me nuts and drive me nuts and drive me even more nuts. Because she always makes up for it.

What are you thankful for today?

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