PicFlips Make Memories

If you’ve been to special events are weddings, you have probably experienced the craze of photo booths. But, have you seen flip books? They are a fun and interactive way to capture your memories. Recently, I came across PicFlips mobile studio at a store grand opening. It turned a short video with my daughter into a memory that we will keep forever!  It only took  minutes of her playing a guitar, then we flipped through the pages and saw them come to life!

PicFlips flip books are wonderful personalized party favors, allowing you to entertain your guests and provide a keepsake at the same time.  I guarantee that they are a customized keepsake that won’t be eaten or tossed after an event. You should create a flip book of your own and watch the memories flash before your eyes!

For more information, visit their website at www.iloveflipbooks.com.

FREE Birthday Gifts to You!

Today’s my birthday and like many of you, you like to treat yourself to some good food, drink, sweets and spa services. Many offer free or discounted goodies in honor of your big day.

Some of my favorites require you to subscribe to their e-mail lists, but the reward is worth it!

Ben & Jerry’s – FREE scoop of ice cream
Benihana – FREE dinner up to $30
Dairy Queen – FREE blizzard when you buy a medium blizzard
Dickey’s BBQ – FREE BBQ sandwich
Dunn Bros. Coffee – FREE drink of choice only on your birthday
Firehouse Subs – FREE medium sub only on your birthday with ID
Fuddruckers – FREE 1/3 lb burger
Grimaldi’s Pizzeria – FREE Pizza with one topping up to $18
Houlihan’s – FREE menu item up to $15
IHOP – FREE Rooty Tooty Fresh & Fruity
McAlister’s Deli – $5 off your meal
Medieval Times – FREE admission with the purchase of an adult
The Melting Pot – FREE Chocolate Fondue for two
Red Robin – FREE Gourmet burger of your choice
Rosa’s Cafe – FREE dinner
Souper Salad – FREE lunch or dinner buffet
Taco Cabana – FREE Chicken Flautas Dinner
Texas de Brazil – FREE dinner with a purchase of a full dinner

So, you better get online and sign up before your birthday pasts, and you miss on these amazing deals!

Kidville: Where "The Cool Kids" Are

Kidville offers a wide range of developmental classes including Little Maestros, Run Wiggle Paint & Giggle, My Big Messy Art Class, Big Muscles for Little Babies, Big Muscle Workout, Kidville Sports and yogees yoga 4 kids with Taylor Yoss. This location will also feature Play Village, two Big Muscles Gym, retail boutique and birthday parties. Silver Membership is free with enrollment in any Kidville class, while upgrades to Gold, Platinum and Diamond levels are also available.

Preston Royal Village
6025 Royal Lane, Suite 130 (NE corner of Preston & Royal)
Dallas, TX 75230

Are You An Average American?

I use Facebook mainly to keep up with friends and family. I try to avoid games and quizzes. Occasionally, I get tagged to questionnaires that grab my attention. Here is a recent one: BBC thinks the average American only has read 6 of these books.  The goal is to show the Brits that we, Americans, are smarter than what they perceive us to be. There is a little truth to this survey….unfortunately, we don’t read as much as we could or should, but it is not because we don’t want to. There are things in life that take our attention such as our job, our family or our volunteer work. But, what is great about this study is that it makes you evaluate how much you do read and what are books you might want to pick up this holiday season. Fortunately,  I’ve completed 25. 🙂

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen 
2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
3  Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4  Harry Potter series – JK Rowling 
5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell 
9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare  
15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulk
18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch – George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens 
33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis *Isn’t this the same as #36?
34 Emma -Jane Austen
35 Persuasion – Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe – CS Lewis Isn’t this a part of #33?
37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh – A.A. Milne
41 Animal Farm – George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery 
47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood 
49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding
50 Atonement – Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel
52 Dune – Frank Herbert – the whole series!
53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons 
54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck 
62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
72 Dracula – Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses – James Joyce 
76 The Inferno – Dante
77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal – Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession – AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker 
84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web – E.B. White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
94 Watership Down – Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl 
100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

BTW I’d like to add that this is the kind of “competition” that I enjoy, where we are challenging ourselves to read more, which in the ends makes us a more knowledgeable person. Bring it on, Brits!

Reasons Your Blog Needs to be on Facebook

Everyone seems to be using Facebook to connect with old friends, but do you realize what this huge network could mean for your blog?

The state of Facebook is astonishing, and that’s a big deal for your blog. Facebook Page can be thought of in much the same way as normal profiles on the site – brand or celebrity Pages have the ability to have friends, they can add pictures, and they have walls that fans can post on. Pages communicate by “updates” which show on the update tab or a person’s wall if they’re a fan and have allowed the page to show updates. Pages can have applications as well. Here, for example, is the Real Posh Mom Page on Facebook: facebook.com/realposhmom

Here are crucial reasons your blog needs to be involved with Facebook:

1. 500 Million Global Users and Counting. Facebook announced recently that they had passed 500 million members, making Facebook the third-largest country in the world, if it was a country.

2. 150 Million U.S. Users. Facebook is strong around the world, but nearly 30% of all Facebook users are here in the U.S. Facebook has almost 150 million American members.

3. Users Spend Over 700 Billion Minutes Per Month. That’s a lot of Facebook time. How can your company grab a bit of consumer attention?

4. Average Facebook User Has 130 Friends. Will Facebook users continue to add more friends at a rapid pace? It depends upon how they view their Facebook connections. If Facebook continues to revolve around relationships that you actually possess in three dimensions—people you “actually” know—then the addition of bunches of new friends may slow considerably. But, if Facebook makes the leap to tie people together more casually (like Twitter), average friend counts could rise dramatically.

5. Only 4% of Pages Have 10,000 or More People Who Like Them. If your Facebook page is a not growing as fast as you’d expected, you’re not alone. A study by Sysomos shows only 4% of pages have 10,000 or more fans. That’s why it is so critical to focus your Facebook strategy on quality of material you give to people who “like” your page, not only on the quantity of those who “like” it. By the way, congrats to Cafe Brazil for making this milestone!

6. Wall Posts Don’t Mean Popularity. But, there is a strong correlation between amount of other content (notes, links, photos, videos) and number of people who “like” your page. Thus, if you want to grow your Facebook page, it is imperative that you move beyond simple wall posts and add photos, videos, links and other content.

7. The Power of Real-time Search. Facebook makes most content available publicly, unless you tell them not to via your privacy settings. Twitter opened their data stream to anyone. Google and Bing are incorporating this data into search results, in real-time. This has tremendous implications for search engine optimization.

Facebook may not be the ideal environment for every social media initiative, but its huge size forces you to at least consider participating—regardless of what type of blog you run. Everyone from the small business to the Fortune 500 corporation are placing bets on Facebook.

Is your blog taking advantage of Facebook? How important is it to your social media efforts?

Social Media Cannot Be Ignored

Facebook has 550 million people now. 200 million people are using Facebook on their mobile device. Twitter is the fastest-growing search engine. The fastest-growing demographic is over 55 years old. It’s growing faster than the group under 30. It’s amazing how fast the world of social media moves!  Take a moment and watch the statistics and graphics. (Via: Socialnomics)

Stats from Video:

  • Over 50% of the world’s population is under 30-years-old; 96% of them have joined a social network
  • Facebook tops Google for weekly traffic in the U.S.
  • 1 out of 8 couples married in the U.S. last year met via social media
  • Years to Reach 50 millions Users: Radio (38 Years), TV (13 Years), Internet (4 Years), iPod (3 Years)
  • Facebook added over 200 million users in less than a year
  • iPhone applications hit 1 billion in 9 months.
  • If Facebook were a country it would be the world’s 3rd largest ahead of the United States and only behind China and India
  • 2009 US Department of Education study revealed that on average, online students out performed those receiving face-to-face instruction
  • 80% of companies use social media for recruitment; % of these using LinkedIn 95%
  • The fastest growing segment on Facebook is 55-65 year-old females
  • Generation Y and Z consider e-mail passé – some universities have stopped distributing e-mail accounts; Instead they are distributing: eReaders + iPads + Tablets
  • The #2 largest search engine in the world is YouTube
  • While you watch this, 100+ hours of video will be uploaded to YouTube
  • Wikipedia has over 15 million articles…studies show it’s more accurate than Encyclopedia Britannica…78% of these articles are non-English. If you were paid a $1 for every time an article was posted on Wikipedia you would earn $1,712.32 per hour
  • 25% of search results for the World’s Top 20 largest brands are links to user-generated content
  • 34% of bloggers post opinions about products & brands. Do you like what they are saying about your brand? You better.
  • 78% of consumers trust peer recommendation, only 14% trust advertisements & only 18% of traditional TV campaigns generate a positive ROI
  • Kindle eBooks Outsold Paper Books on Christmas
  • 24 of the 25 largest newspapers are experiencing record declines in circulation
  • 60 millions status updates happen on Facebook daily

The Very Hungry Caterpillars

My daughter loves butterflies. I decided that her first introduction to science observation would be the Butterfly Garden by Insect Lore. My Kindergarten scientist would have firsthand experience observing and studying the lifecycle of a butterfly in her own lab…her home. I found the kit on www.amazon.com. The kit comes with a coupon to redeem at www.insectlore.com for your caterpillars. The caterpillars were sent to me within a week. All five arrived in a small plastic container. We observed the growth of the caterpillar checking their progress daily.

After a week, we saw them in their chrysalis. At that point, we extracted them from the plastic container and place them in the pop-up habitat. We were anxiously awaiting this stage. It isn’t everyday she will have the opportunity to see a chrysalis and watch butterflies finally emerge from one. Immediately, we saw movement in their chrysalis. We didn’t know what to expect, but the whole family couldn’t keep our eyes off them. A day later, our butterflies emerged. For a few days, we watch the painted ladies gain their color as they enjoyed sugar water from fresh flowers. Finally, we released the butterflies. What an amazing learning experience NOT just for my daughter but for myself.

I strongly encourage you to do this type of hands on experiment with your child. This method has fully engaged her into learning about the lifecycle of the butterfly. It is an easy lesson to teach, yet it provides such wonder and excitement for a young scientist. It also introduces your child to the skill of observation and patience.

10 Ways Bloggers Can Use Social Media

Bloggers-Use-Social-MediaTwitter, Facebook and other social networking venues work to engage readers, drive your popularity and increase your sales. When it comes to building an audience and driving traffic, bloggers are turning to social media with record results. Instead of relying on organic search, successful bloggers know they have to develop a following on key social networks as a way to promote their brands and ultimately get more clicks.

1. USE YOUR BLOG NAME AS YOUR USERNAME EVERYWHERE. Promote your personal brand by consistently using your blog’s name for your Twitter handle and so on. Then, people don’t have to wonder about your blog’s name — it’s right there. Also, people will remember you easily across platforms, which is key as you develop up your online community.

2. QUALITY PRESENCE COUNTS. Don’t just create a Facebook page, and let it sit: reply to comments, post interesting content and pursue friends. Update your status regularly and give your business a positive online reputation. If you have limited resources, you may have trouble maintaining an exciting presence on every single social media platform. Choose the number and types of sites you can manage well rather than risk leaving stale or poor quality content everywhere.

3. DISPLAY YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA ICONS ON TOP OF YOUR BLOG. Make it as simple as possible for your blog readers to connect with you on various social media platforms. They shouldn’t have to hunt around to find your Twitter handle, but should be able to click on a button and be taken right to your profile. Bonus points if your social media icons reflect the overall design or feel of your blog.

4. ADD SOCIAL SHARING BUTTONS ON TOP OF POST. It’s easy to add sharing buttons on your blog. Within a few clicks, these candy-colored icons will appear right there in your blog. Customize these social sharing tools, so they are promoting you in a tweet or a post, and not themselves.

5. LINK YOUR BLOG WITH LINKEDIN. As long as your blog somewhat pertains to your professional goals, you should be showcasing it on LinkedIn. List it as one of your three websites in your profile, where it will be labeled “Blog.”

6. PUT YOUR WHOLE NETWORK TO WORK. If your blog has contributors besides you, encourage them to post social networking updates. This gets your whole team involved in the marketing effort while increasing the exposure of your blog in the social world.

7. DO NOT SPREAD YOURSELF TOO THIN. If you have limited resources, you may have trouble maintaining an exciting presence on every single social media platform. Choose the number and types of sites you can manage well rather than risk leaving stale or poor quality content everywhere.

8. MANAGE YOUR REPUTATION. Do you know what your customers or potential customers are saying about you online? Pay attention to the comments you receive on Facebook, keep a Twitter search running for key names and topics that relate to your company. Set up Google Alerts and handle problems and complaints head on. What a great opportunity to show the world your willingness to engage people to resolve their problems and address their concerns!

9. SUPPORT OTHERS. Promote other bloggers’ content. You can’t simply only share your content — you need some variety in every social media stream. So why not check out what your fellow bloggers are posting and give them a retweet or a share whenever you can. Don’t forget to reciprocate and share content from bloggers who share yours.

10. BE PATIENT. Don’t be bothered if instant success doesn’t happen. Keep up a fresh, dynamic and engaging social presence, and you will reap rewards.

Our Kindergarten Homeschool Curriculum Picks

Education is very important to my husband and I. This fall, I’m setting off to a new adventure, I will be homeschooling my first-born, who is entering kindergarten. I’m excited and nervous about our upcoming year, and I think it’s going to be a memory maker!

I’ve been researching and attending conventions preparing for this day for 2 years. I have read Cathy Duffy’s 100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum: Choosing the Right Curriculum and Approach for Your Child’s Learning Style. We will have “structured” class Monday through Thursday with Friday open for “Life Lessons” and exploration.

Want to know what our curriculum plans are for the year? I’m sharing our kindergarten homeschool curriculum picks!
IMG_6662 Language Arts
Spell to Write and Read

Cursive First

Reading and Literature
Reading and literature is definitely an area where we have so much freedom as homeschoolers, and I plan on fully embracing it this year. We’ll be using Honey for a Child’s Heart for our literature journey, and I will be sure to keep you posted on our reading and activities!

MathUSee is a great curriculum, especially for the child that is visual and loved tactile learning.

Butterfly Garden and Ant Hill are ways to introduce science to my kindergartener.

PE, Art, Music & Other Electives
Local gym studios and private lessons will round out our electives.

What are you most excited about this school year?

Room to Grow

I cannot help but blog about a conversation at the breakfast table this morning between my hubby and me. First, let me just say it is amazing how differently men and women look at the world and all our responsibilities.

Our family might be in the situation where we will receive an increase of cash flow. I suggested to my hubby that we use this “extra” money for a lawn guy. He quickly adjusts his posture and said, “What?! Well, what if we used that money for a housekeeper?” I responded quickly and said, “OK!” We both broke out in laughter.

Now looking back on the conversation, when I said we should think about hiring a landscaper, what my hubby thought I suggested was that he was not pulling his weight in the household. What I really said was: “Honey, I know you work really hard and study even harder. Why don’t we give that little chore to someone else, so you can focus on the family during your ‘free time.'”

Communication is an art – sometimes it is concrete and other times it is abstract. It definitely adds animation to the marriage 😉