Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year!

May 2015 bring many blessings to you and your family!

New Year's Rituals Around the World

Around the world family, friends and loved ones come together on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day to celebrate. In the United States we gather on New Year's Eve to "ring out the old and ring in the new" by raising our glasses at midnight while sharing hugs and kisses and listening to, or reveling, Auld Lang Syne. (The term, "ring out the old and ring in the new" comes from the United Kingdom where, at the approach of midnight, the head of the household would open the front door and hold it open until the twelfth chime from Big Ben has rung in the New Year, then he would close the door. The song, Auld Lang Syne, comes from Scotland, where it is sung at the beginning of their New Year's Eve hogmanay festival, a festival where men parade throughout the streets swinging great balls of fire over their heads.)

Other cultures around the world use clothing, food and effigies to celebrate the New Year. For example, in the Philippines people wear polka dot clothing believing it will bring luck for the New Year. In Italy people wear bright colored underwear -- red for passion and love and yellow for wealth and happiness. In Mexico, some people wear white clothing believing it to ward off illness and bring good health for the New Year. In Ecuador, they burn effigies at midnight of people who have brought them harm in the past year, while in Panama they burn munelos -- effigies of popular celebrities or politicians.

People of many other countries celebrate the New Year by eating food.

Spain -- In an effort to use their surplus of grapes and get more customers, several Spanish wine farmers in 1865 began a tradition of having their customers eat 12 grapes at midnight. They chose 12 grapes to represent each of the 12 months of the year. At the stroke of midnight, and for each of the 11 chimes of the clock thereafter, Spaniards eat one grape. It is believed if you consume all 12 grapes your dreams will come true. It's actually funny to watch everyone stuffing grapes into their mouths in an effort to get them all down with each chime of the clock.

Netherlands -- The Dutch believe eating donuts (called Oliebollens) on New Year's Day brings luck since the shape of the continuous round sharp of the donut symbolizes the continuous passage of time from the end of one year to the beginning of the next.

Argentina -- People eat beans before midnight because they believe it will bring them good luck in their careers in the year ahead.

Cuba -- Since the US has announced that you can soon travel to Cuba, if you are there on New Year's Day you most likely will eat pork. The Cubans believe because pigs never move backwards, eating pork will help them move forward into and through the New Year.

Asian Countries -- Most Asian people cook unbroken long noodles and eat them on New Year's Day believing the "Long Noodle" will give them longevity in life, but only if they eat them whole.

And in other countries, such as Canada, they celebrate New Year's Day with their traditional Polar Bear swim. With all due respect to the Canadians, I'd just as soon celebrate New Year's Day drinking a warm mug of Sippity® hot cocoa by my fireplace.

Countdown Recipe (For Those Age 21 and Older; Those Under 21 Should Leave Out the Whiskey)

countdown
Recipe Ingredients
  • 1 Envelope Sippity® chocolate flavored hot cocoa mix
  • 1.0 Ounces Whiskey
Preparation Instructions
  1. Heat 6 ounces water in microwave for 1 minute 30 seconds.
  2. Stir in 2/3 of 1 envelope of Sippity® chocolate flavored hot cocoa mix until smooth.
  3. Add 1.0 Ounces of your favorite whiskey.
  4. At 10 seconds to midnight on New Year's Eve, begin the countdown: 10! 9! 8! 7! 6! 5! 4! 3! (Drop the whiskey shot glass into the glass of hot cocoa mix), 2! 1! 0 -- "Belt" it back -- HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!
Written by Bob Jenkins, Founder & Chief Executive Officer of Southwest Beverages

Bob has had the privilege of working for some of America's largest and well run public and private companies, including Philip Morris, Canada Dry, Dr Pepper, Cadbury Schweppes, Snapple Beverage Corporation, Tasker Capital Corp. and The Water Club and River Cafe -- two of New York's finest fine dining restaurants. He has worked in various capacities as Finance Manager, Controller, Director of Finance, Vice President Finance & Administration, Chief Financial Officer, Secretary, and Treasurer.

Bob holds a Master's of Business Administration degree in accounting from the University of Tennessee and a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting from the University of Arizona. Southwest Beverages® is a manufacturer and marketer of two brands of premium quality dry mix beverages: Sippity® hot cocoa mix and Kemosabe® gourmet flavored coffee. All Southwest Beverages® products are uniquely blended flavors that contain all the ingredients necessary for you to enjoy the ultimate hot beverage experience. Simply add water and stir -- then sip, savor and enjoy.

For more information, please visit www.southwestbeverages.com.

Disclosure: I have previously received complimentary product samples from Southwest Beverages to facilitate my honest review of their products.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Walt Disney Studios 2015 Motion Pictures: It’s Going to Be an Amazing Year!

I just received information on the new releases from Walt Disney Studios for 2015. I have to admit that I’m most excited about the new Star Wars movie, but many others look terrific, too. Which ones are you most looking forward to?

January 23, 2015 - Strange Magic (Touchstone Pictures / Lucasfilm) #StrangeMagic


TRAILER:


February 20, 2015 - McFarland, USA (Walt Disney Studios) #McFarlandUSA


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March 13, 2015 – Cinderella (Walt Disney Studios) #Cinderella


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April 17, 2015 – Monkey Kingdom (Disneynature) #MonkeyKingdom


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May 1, 2015 – Avengers: Age of Ultron (Marvel) #Avengers #AgeOfUltron


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May 22, 2015 – Tomorrowland (Walt Disney Studios) #Tomorrowland


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June 19, 2015 – Inside Out (Disney / Pixar) #InsideOut


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July 17, 2015 - Ant–Man (Marvel) #AntMan


October 9, 2015 - The Jungle Book (Walt Disney Studios) #TheJungleBook


October 16, 2015 – The Untitled Steven Spielberg Cold War Spy Thriller (DreamWorks Pictures)


November 25, 2015 – The Good Dinosaur (Disney / Pixar) #TheGoodDinosaur


December 18, 2015 – Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Lucasfilm) #StarWars #TheForceAwakens


TRAILER:


Monday, December 29, 2014

When You Make a Purchase at Shop to Change a Life, You Can Make a Real Difference in the World! (GIVEAWAY; 4 Winners)

I recently featured the wonderful website Shop to Change a Life, and two lucky winners received prizes from this organization. However, if you didn’t win, I have another opportunity for you! Read on to learn more about Shop to Change a Life, their products, and how you can enter to win some of them!

At Shop to Change a Life, founder and author Samira Rao features Fair Trade Products that are imported from India. Samira donates 6% of the net sales of the Fair Trade Products sold on Shop to Change a Life to Chinmaya Vijaya, a girls’ orphanage in Vijayawada, India, and to The Child Evaluation Clinic (for sexual abuse in children) at the McLaren Regional Medical Center in Flint, Michigan.

Check out some of the unique products on her site:

Maharani Earrings

Item description:
These beautiful earrings feature a silver and gold loop with cutout filigree and small beads.

The story behind them:
The Ana Art Group began as a small artisan movement working from tiny, congested work spaces in Old Delhi. They are now a large community with an increase in education and improvements in health and environmental impacts. In the past 3 years, the group has grown from 15 members to 100. Wages have also increased for this group and family income is about 20-25% higher than standard for artisan work in their area. The increase in wages and community growth is due to the sustainable and continuous work the artisans have received and has allowed them to fulfill their basic requirements for a decent living. In the communities in this area, it is very common to send children to work after their 5th standard, in order to help earn income and help support the family. However, due to the sustainable growth of this community and the counseling SETU has provided the artisans, the group has begun keeping their children in schools. Even girls are beginning to attend school! The average literacy of the group has increased to 10th standard and the artisans are very proud that their children are capable of furthering their education. Artisans have opened up so much to the idea of education that they have even arranged night classes for themselves. The community expressed their excitement for the first member of the group to attend college!

Floral Hand-Painted Papier Maché Bud Vases

Item description:
These curvy bud vases in yellow, turquoise and pink are each handpainted with a floral pattern. Fill them with dry or fake flowers or display on their own as sculptural pieces.

The story behind them:
The Persian art of papier maché was brought to the Himalayan region of northern India centuries ago. Today the state of Kashmir is home to thousands of artisans who craft papier maché products for their livelihood. Artisans first soak used newspaper for several days until the paper disintegrates, then mix it with cloth, rice or straw to form a pulp. The mixture is molded, dried and cut into shape. Artisans coat the surface with glue paste, rub it smooth with baked clay, and paste layers of tissue papers. The base color and motifs are all created freehand with non-toxic paints, then burnished and coated with lacquer. Once known as “Paradise on Earth,” Kashmir suffered a dramatic decline in its once booming tourism industry due to violent territory disputes between India and Pakistan. Industry jobs are scarce and farming is impossible, so most villagers rely on craft production. With design assistance, training and a fair income partnership, the small group has expanded from 6 to 20 artisans. They now have access to new markets and are able to live better lives.

Indian Rosewood Tops

Item description:
This wooden top is fun and fair! It is made of wooden pieces of different colors and carved into a smooth shape.

The story behind them:
The traditional craft of woodcarving plays an important role for many Muslim artisan communities in small towns and agricultural villages in north central India. Each artisan uses hand tools to skillfully carve blocks of sustainable Indian Rosewood into fine treasures. This art form requires mastery to create the intricate carving, filigree and inlay work. Many of the patterns are deeply influenced by cultural motifs from Muslim dynasties that ruled the region centuries ago. Artisans finish and detail each item with natural wax and non-toxic paints. The woodcraft partner artisans belong to collectives in the region that provide basic services and development solutions to enable self-sufficiency, including healthcare and education. Literacy rates and income opportunities are quite limited in the area, so woodcraft production is vital for community livelihoods. Most woodcraft artisans are men, and some women work in finishing and production assembly. The main focus for their continued development is sustainable income generation, skills development and raw material allocation.

Tree of Life Cuff

Item description:
This adjustable bracelet is made of silver plated brass and is intricately etched with vines and flowers and framed with beaded edges for a bold and sophisticated statement.

The story behind them:
Ornate jewelry is a proud cultural tradition in India, and every piece in this collection hints at a deeper story. In the sprawling urban center of Old Delhi, this partner group of nearly 80 artisans delicately bends, etches, beads and polishes jewelry from stones, glass, upcycled metal and wires, seeds, bone and other materials. They inherit their craftsmanship from their ancestors, who were master jewelers. In 2009, Matr Boomie, the fairtrade wholesaler Samira supports, was contacted by Sana, the young daughter of an artisan in this mostly Muslim group, who was dissatisfied with the exploitative treatment of her family and community by local tradesmen. Since their fair trade partnership began, their earnings have doubled, they have upgraded to better workspace, and children are staying in school longer. In fact, Sana became the first girl in her village to attend college!

Visit Shop to Change a Life and make a purchase to help support these worthy causes. Their beautiful jewelry, handbags and scarves, children’s toys, decorative accessories, and more make treasured gifts and unique collectibles!

GIVEAWAY

Samira is generously donating one of each of the products featured above for a giveaway. One winner will receive the earrings; a second winner will receive the vase; a third winner will receive the top; a fourth winner will receive the cuff. Enter through the Rafflecopter form below. This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only and ends at 11:59 PM EST on Monday, January 12, 2015.

a Rafflecopter giveaway




Disclaimer: Susan Heim on Parenting is not responsible for prize fulfillment.

Video Game Review: Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition (PS4)

Product Name: Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition
Publisher / Developer: Square Enix / United Front Games
Platform: PC / PlayStation 4 / Xbox One
Release Date / Window of Availability: October 14, 2014
Price: $59.99
Summary: SLEEPING DOGS: DEFINITIVE EDITION is a re-mastered update of the critically acclaimed SLEEPING DOGS which released in 2012. The capabilities of today’s hardware have truly brought the vibrant Hong Kong experience to life. In addition, a total of 24 pieces of downloadable content have been integrated into the gaming experience including the story-extending episode Year of the Snake and the horror-themed add-on Nightmare in North Point.
Note to Parents: This game is rated M for Mature audiences, age 17+.

Review by D.T.

Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition is an update/re-release of the hit game of the same name released in 2012. It takes place in Hong Kong, where you are Wei Shen, an undercover cop trying to infiltrate the Sun On Yee, a Triad organization. As such, this game definitely deserves its mature rating, both for its language and graphics. At first, it feels very similar to the popular Grand Theft Auto series. It is an open world where you get to explore much of a virtualized Hong Kong and interact with almost anyone. The main differences are that, even after a few hours in, I still do not have a gun, and vehicle chases are a lot more fun. In addition, the Hong Kong atmosphere is definitely interesting, and you do get a feel for the culture of the area.

The definitive edition features a few upgrades to the original title. The main upgrades come in the form of graphics updates and the addition of all the post-released downloadable content. The main thing that drew me in was the story of Wei Shen. He is not a grizzled criminal like many games of the same genre try to create, and he’s not even the best criminal. He has to slowly work his way up the ladder, and is constantly questioned on his loyalty and prowess. He fights well, and you slowly learn of his background in kung fu and other nuggets of his past. However, he is also skilled in gadgetry, which is interesting to see when it comes to light. Your first mission is to hack a surveillance camera and use it to point out a person of interest for arrest, so that you do not have to make the arrest yourself and risk blowing your cover. Altogether, it is an exciting game, and I can’t wait to play through the rest of it and the downloadable content.


Winners for the Week of December 21, 2014

Paddington Giveaway: $25 Visa Gift Card and Brownie Brittle


Congratulations to the winner: Tina R.!

Night at the Museum Giveaway: $25 Visa Gift Card and 4D Triceratops Skeleton Fossil


Congratulations to the winner: Jennifer P.!

Four Children’s Christmas eBooks by Indie Authors


Congratulations to the winner: Vicki W.!

Premier Pack of LEVEL Life’s Sweet Snacks


Congratulations to the winner: Brittney H.!

Mommy’s Music Angel Children’s Journal or Wooden Tank Truck from Shop to Change a Life


Congratulations to the winners: Kathy A. and Misha F.!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Super Saturday Giveaway Linky (December 27, 2014)

Welcome to the Super Saturday Giveaway Linky ... the last of 2014! Let's celebrate the year by entering some giveaways! Check out my right sidebar and the linky below for the chance to win some terrific prizes! And if you're hosting a giveaway on your blog or website, please share it in the linky and tell your Facebook and Twitter friends about this page. Happy holidays!







Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

O Come Let Us Adore Him
O Come Let Us Adore Him
O Come Let Us Adore Him
Christ the Lord!

Time to Replace Your Artificial Christmas Tree? Check Out Tree Classics’ Clearance Sales!

Tree Classics, makers of the World’s Finest Artificial Christmas Trees, is having a massive Christmas Clearance Sale, and it’s already started! If you want to have a beautiful new tree to put up next year, now is the time to get it.

All of Tree Classics trees have Real Feel lifelike branches, a 5-year foliage warranty and long-lasting Worry Free Lights, and the selection is huge!

Watch for these amazing deals at www.treeclassics.com!

12/23-12/26: Massive Christmas Clearance (Save up to 65%)

12/27: 1-Day Clearance Bonanza! (Save up to 65%)

12/28-12/31: End-of-Year Clearance Blowout (Save up to 65%)




Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Happy Holidays from Baymax! #BigHero6 #MeetBaymax


Have you seen Big Hero 6 yet? I took my twins and their friends as a birthday treat, and I'm so glad I did! Honestly, I wasn't sure that I would enjoy it, but it was so much better than I expected! It was entertaining, humorous, sweet, and just plain fun. I hope you'll check it out if you haven't seen it already.

Big Hero 6 – Trailer


From Walt Disney Animation Studios, the team behind Frozen and Wreck-It Ralph, comes Big Hero 6, an original action-comedy-adventure about a robotics prodigy and a plus-sized inflatable robot, who develop a special bond on a quest to solve an unsettling mystery.

"Hiro Hamada’s older brother Tadashi has created a cutting-edge robot, Baymax, who’s designed to take care of people,” says director Don Hall. “Baymax’s one programmed desire is ‘How can I help?’ He’s filled with compassion. And Hiro is a teenager who has lost his way -- their personalities play off each other in a way that is both funny and heartwarming.”

When a devastating event befalls the city of San Fransokyo and catapults Hiro into the midst of danger, he turns to Baymax and his brilliant fellow nerds: adrenaline junkie GoGo Tomago, neatnik Wasabi, chemistry whiz Honey Lemon and fanboy Fred. Determined to uncover the mystery, Hiro transforms his friends into a band of high-tech heroes called “Big Hero 6.”

Like BIG HERO 6 on Facebook
Follow Walt Disney Animation Studios on Twitter
Follow BIG HERO 6 on Tumblr
Visit the Website

BIG HERO 6 is now playing in theatres everywhere!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Winners for the Week of December 14, 2014

Skylanders Trap Team Starter Pack for Wii U


Congratulations to the winner: Heather H.P.!

Jingle All the Way 2 (Blu-ray)


Congratulations to the winner: mrsshukra!

Sandra Boynton’s Philadelphia Chickens (CD)


Congratulations to the winner: Vickie M.A.!

Hoodie Bear, Sweater Bear or Funky Friend from Teddy Bears Personalized


Congratulations to the winner: Marci R.W. and Mallory R.!

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Special Edition Pop-Up Book from Silver Dolphin Books


Congratulations to the winner: Tara O. and Melissa D.!

SOL REPUBLIC Tracks Air Wireless On-Ear Headphones


Congratulations to the winner: Jesselyn A.!