As a child, I always remember my grandmother getting Christmas cards, usually starting the first week of December. She’d place them all over the huge bay window along with her decorations and I’d marvel at them as they accumulated. My other grandmother had her piano absolutely covered in them from December 1st through January.
Now I consider how many cards we’ve gotten in the last few years – maybe one or two per season? It’s a tradition that is more often than not going out of style, and that’s very unfortunate. The feeling of going to your mail and in the midst of all the ads and bills finding a colorful card with warm greetings is impossible to replicate with email or Facebook posts.
Keeping the Christmas Card Tradition Alive
If you’ve got fond memories of Christmas cards or the concept simply sounds interesting, keep reading. We’ve got some great tips for dipping your toe into the holiday card experience or upping your Christmas card game if you’re a seasoned pro.
Recruit your kids
Nothing resonates with the holidays more than the love and wonder of children. Getting a holiday card with a message of season’s greetings from a child is the height of holiday cheer.
This is also a good exercise in writing for your younger children. Have them write their own well-wishes and draw a picture. If they’re not great at drawing or they prefer coloring, a quick Pinterest search will pull up thousands of card templates for them to color and customize. This is also a good time of year to get their most recent school photos out to friends and family they don’t see often.
And if you don’t have human children, you can always make some cat Christmas cards. Meowy Christmas! (that pun’s free)
Try your hand at a new hobby
Personal card making is a creative, fun hobby with a practical purpose. Many hobby outlets sell cutting dies, card stock, stamps and other decorative accessories.
Especially around this time of year you can find plenty of starter sets for card making. If you poke around on Facebook or Pinterest, I guarantee you have at least one friend who does it that could help teach you.
The key isn’t getting wrapped up (har har) in making the perfect card. Rather, you should focus on the zen of creative pursuit that allows you to express yourself while engaging in a cherished holiday tradition.
Even if your cards look a hot mess, your friends will be stoked to get them.
Utterly wow your friends and family
If you’re ready to dive headlong into the next level of holiday Christmas cards, you can enlist the help of a professional. Basic Invite is revolutionizing the holiday card and invitation process with layers up layers of customization. With over 180 colors to choose from and nearly unlimited combinations of those colors, you have complete creative control over your card making. They’ll even print you a sample of your card before you commit to buy, letting you see exactly what you’re getting.
You can even customize the color of the envelopes your cards get mailed in! They’ve got stock photos and illustrations, but of course you can add photos of your family, decorations or a really cool cloud if it tickles your fancy. There’s even an option to apply a foil layer to the cards in gold, silver and rose gold, which after a childhood of collecting Pokemon cards, carries a certain appeal.
Whether you’re looking to invoke the ancient tradition of holiday cards or you’re mulling around Christmas party invitation ideas, Basic Invite is a great place to get it all together. Their intuitive address capture tool allows you to post on Facebook, Twitter, etc asking for your friends and family to provide their addresses for correspondence. Basic Invite will store this information and allow you to autofill it when you go to create cards, printing it on the envelopes for you. All you have to do is get them to the post office!
You can check out the full range of services that Basic Invite offers. If you decide you want to totally rock the holiday card tradition this year, use promo code 15FF51 to save 15% off your order.
Indulge in a classic tradition
No matter how you engage in the holiday card exchange, it’s a fantastic tradition to pass on to younger generations. It’s also a great way to brighten someone’s day, especially older family and friends for whom holiday cards were a fact of life.
Whether you make them yourself, enlist the help of your kids or you go through a professional card maker like Basic Invite, Christmas cards are a tradition worth keeping.
We bought what I would consider to be a first generation air fryer a few years ago. It was fine, in that it cooked food crispy and but not particularly quickly, AND it was tiny. You could seriously only fit a couple of chicken tenders in it at a time, and it took 20 minutes to cook them, so it wasn’t efficient, either.
For Christmas this year, we tried again, only with a much bigger 5.7 quart fryer and it is a game changer. On busy nights it pairs perfectly with some frozen, not-the-healthiest-but-mama-doesn’t-have-time-for-kale food (lookin’ at you, Lean Cuisine pizza!)
On relaxing days, I spend hours experimenting with it, frying up all manner of things I wouldn’t have even considered frying.
Why Buy an Air Fryer
What is an air fryer?
At its core, an air fryer is a convection oven, using hot, circulating air to cook your food. The differences are nuanced but important, however.
An air fryer is typically shaped in more of a cone or dome, making the hot air circulate faster. This allows the outside of the food to crisp up while still cooking the inside quickly, preserving the juiciness while adding a perfect crunch. It also cooks faster than a countertop convection oven.
Most of the countertop ovens I looked at cost about twenty percent more than a similarly sized air fryer as well, and I’m not quite sure why. Convection ovens can typically go over the seemingly upper limit of 400 degrees that an air fryer has, but “frying” temperatures are usually between 350 and 400 degrees, so this isn’t surprising.
The best air fryers on the market have broad bottoms, allowing for a maximum amount of food cooked at once while still retaining the “frying” properties they boast. Because of this somewhat conical shape, they tend to take up less space than countertop ovens.
Benefits of Cooking with an Air Fryer
An air fryer cooks food faster than an oven would typically, and because it doesn’t require oil as a cooking medium, the food is lighter calorically and healthier in general.
As I mentioned earlier, you can toss in a layer of frozen chicken tenders, or fries, or whatever else you have on hand and dinner is ready in like 10 minutes.
On the model we have (Magic Chef), the timer is also effectively the “on” switch, so if you set it for 10 minutes, it shuts itself off in 10 minutes. There’s no “oh no I forgot the food” moments where you find that your salmon is blackened a bit more than you’d like; once the timer is up, it shuts off.
Fresh burgers come out juicy on the inside without flipping and splashing grease, and it reheats food more evenly (and pleasantly) than a microwave, though it takes longer.
Consider how microwave-reheated leftovers from a restaurant never taste as good, and you don’t typically want to preheat your oven just to heat up some chicken tenders. An air fryer is like your oven and your microwave had a baby and it was born being better than both of them (in certain applications). Reheating food is one of those applications!
Things to look for in an air fryer
Hands-down the most important attribute – and I cannot overstate this – is the size of the available cooking space. You can really only get the crispy benefits of the air fryer if your food isn’t stacked up on top of itself, so a single layer at a time is what you’re shooting for. This requires a decent sized basket so you’re able to cook quick, large batches. Ours is 5.7 quarts and it’s great for our family of 4, but if you have a bigger family or a party, something even larger might be ideal for you.
Ours is also manual, but there are digital ones out there as well that offer a wide range of preset cooking times and other fun add-ons.
Make sure you get a removable basket as well. Our first one didn’t have a removable basket, just this weird black insert that kinda held the food over the bottom of the fryer but not very well. The one we have now is a removable metal basked that clicks into the base and allows for total air circulation and for drippings to fall completely away from your food.
Finally, consider price when buying one. This isn’t a brand-new technology where higher price commands respect or the latest advancement. At its core, this is a very focused convection oven that fits on your countertop. Our Magic Chef was about $80, and it’s great. The only thing that you really need to pay extra for is a bigger model.
Why does every parent need an air fryer?
You’re still not convinced? Well, let’s recap then:
Cooks food quickly and crispy while retaining juiciness
Economical, especially if you’re considering buying a countertop oven
Heats faster, cooks quicker, and crisps up food better than an oven
Healthier than deep frying by a significant amount
Doesn’t require oil to cook most foods
Obviously consider your needs before picking one up, but if you’re on the fence about buying an air fryer, I hope this helps you see that they’re not a fad kitchen gadget. It saves us time, calories, effort, and money and it will for you, too!
Do you already have an air fryer?
Comment below, I’d love to know YOUR favorite thing to cook in it!
I’m so excited to share my experience with hosting our first Chuck E Cheese birthday party! I’m a bit of a control freak, so I can’t say I wasn’t worried about how this party would go down, but it was even better than I could have expected.
It’s important to note here that I’m in no way affiliated with Chuck E Cheese nor am I receiving anything in return for this post. It’s simply an experience worth sharing with other mommas in need of party planning help!
How does a Chuck E Cheese birthday party work?
When my daughter announced she wanted to hold her 4th birthday at Chuck E Cheese, my frugal brain immediately went to the cost. So I went on the Chuck E Cheese website and was pleasantly surprised by the affordable options. Even when we go the party-at-home-DIY-route (like we did for our Dr. Seuss birthday party!) there’s still the stress and time planning it all.
I truly love to throw parties, but not necessarily during the cold days of February, which happens to be my daughter’s birthday month. So this time I handed over the party planning reigns and here’s what happened…
Chuck E Cheese Birthday Party Review
What’s the schedule like?
We arrived at Chuck E Cheese about 15 minutes before the party was set to start. Everything was set up in the back already and our host greeted us. She handed over a bag of play passes as well as a birthday bracelet for my sweet birthday girl.
Our host then went over our order (we opted for extra pizzas and drinks for the adults). From there, she went over the schedule, which looked like this:
12pm – party starts, kids play
12:45pm – pizza time! Our host served the children and made sure they all got what they needed.
After pizza, Chuck E himself came out to dance with the kids. We then sang “Happy Birthday” while the host cut and distributed the cake. Since we got the Mega Super Star package, it also included Dippin’ Dots (yum!!)
From there, it would’ve been gift time, but we nixed that to do gifts at home.
After cake, it was ticket blaster time! My daughter wasn’t too keen on it, so her big brother stepped in.
Do they have to do the ticket blaster?
Our host was kind enough to show my daughter how the ticket blaster worked, but even then, my daughter wasn’t interested. My 5yr old son was all about it, though, so he stepped up to get those tickets. That said, there was also the option to skip the ticket blaster and simply collect 200 tickets (plus her 1000 bonus tickets as a part of the party package).
After the ticket blaster, the kids are then welcome to go back to playing.
Can you bring your own cake to a Chuck E Cheese birthday party?
Absolutely! While Chuck E Cheese offers a number of gorgeous cake options, you can also bring in your own cake and ice cream.
Do you tip for a Chuck E Cheese birthday party?
I’ve actually reached out to Chuck E Cheese to see if they have a policy/common practice on this. While I in no way felt pressured to tip, there’s no doubt our hostess deserved it! Our total party cost was $300, on which we tipped $40. This might seem like a bit much to some (like my husband…hehe) but I’ve worked in food service before and the tip was well earned.
Is the Mega Super Star package worth it?
It really, really is. It was so nice to not have to worry about goody bags or ice cream, plus the unlimited play for the 2 hours really helped parents better enjoy the experience and not worry about watching (or having to re-up!) their child’s play points. I also love that the goody bags allow for every child to leave with something, regardless of how many tickets they earned.
What happens if you have no-shows?
Sure enough, on the day of the party we had a couple children who suddenly couldn’t make it. Luckily Chuck E Cheese offers a 2-child no-show policy so we weren’t charged for the absent children.
The Easiest Birthday Party Ever
Overall, I truly could not have been happier with the whole experience. I did EVERYTHING online on my own schedule and it was the smoothest, most relaxed party I’ve had. Frankly, I’m considering hosting my own next birthday party there – they do have beer, after all! 😉
Have you had a Chuck E Cheese birthday party experience?
Would love for you to comment below and share your thoughts!
I’m a big fan of Alton Brown and his idea on single-use items; there are a lot of really odd, single-use kitchen gadgets out there that might seem cool at first but will honestly just take up space and you’ll end up selling them at a garage sale and all you’ll have is .50 cents and a small pile of regret.
That said, there are some really cool items that fill a niche role but do it so well – or can be used for other things – that they’re absolutely worth having in your kitchen, pantry, or in your grill kit.
Amazon is a fantastic resource for cheap prices and lightning-fast shipping, but Its catalog has gotten incredibly vast over the years, so shopping for that perfect item is a slog. We’ve put together a list of 10 fun, useful, and best-of-all cheap kitchen gadgets that will delight anyone who rules the roaster in their household.
10 Must-Have Single Use Kitchen Gadgets for Under $20
Please note that the links below are affiliate links, which means I may earn a commission should you click through and make a purchase. This in no way impacts my recommendations or the cost to you.
Our son LOVES buttered toast but for real, cold butter is a substance that defies physics and destroys all bread it touches. This knife fixes that problem by allowing you to cut razor-thin slices, fun spirals, or spaghetti-esque noodles of butter, straight from the fridge!
My husband is Italian, so we eat a lot of pasta during the week, but my husband is also absent-minded, so we clean up a lot of boiled-over pasta water during the week, too. This silicone lid sits on top of your pot in lieu of your traditional lid. It allows steam and bubbles to escape without boiling over and covering your stove or putting out your burners. They’re also adorable and can help strain pasta as well!
If you don’t drink wine, you know someone who does. I personally am not fond of digging around in the utensils drawer for the corkscrew and then trying to stuff the cork back into the bottle without sending it spiraling down into the wine itself and then having to Google if drinking cork-wine will kill me. This set has a foil cutter, a corkscrew, an aerator spout, a stopper, and even a drip ring, if you’re messy. It’s all stored in a convenient, cute wine-bottle shaped spy kit. How fun is that?
We had a small air fryer and we hated it – it just wasn’t big enough for anything useful. We got this particular air fryer for Christmas and it’s AMAZING. Food comes out crispy, it cooks quickly and with minimal oil, and it doesn’t take up much space on the counter. My husband uses it at least 4 times a week for dinner, and I love it because I can toss some hashbrowns or bacon into it for breakfast and go get ready while they cook perfectly. We have the manual one which is a dream, but there’s a digital one as well with more settings, if you’re into that.
Wire brushes are, while commonplace in grill-cleaning kits, very much not ideal for the task. The shards of wire can seriously hurt someone if they ingest them and it’s more common than you think. This brass – well it’s not a ring exactly, but it’s definitely a shape – cuts through stuck-on food and carbon extremely well and can fit nearly any standard grate-spacing, without the fear of metal shavings in your burgers.
Ice cream is, like revenge, a dish best served cold. This makes it fun and delicious, but also a pain in the wrist to scoop efficiently without flinging it all over your kitchen. This particular heat-conducting scoop is leagues above the traditional scoop with the little level that dishes out ice cream. Heat from your hand travels into the spoon and cuts through the icy treat and the heavy-duty utensil will stand up against even the coldest, hardest-packed ice cream possible.
Finding a place to put your spoon isn’t a difficult task, but this cute, fun utensil rest really makes a “splash”. With its vibrant color and deep grooves, it should keep a handle on any size spoon you need to set down for a moment.
The cutest things often come in small packages, and this little hot dog …dog… is proof of that. Sometimes it only takes a little bit of fun to encourage kids to eat their dinner, and this cutter makes small enough pieces for little hands and then holds them in place. Bonus doggie dish for ketchup or mustard dipping!
Look, nobody is going to argue that pizza is the best but sometimes the cheesy pie is difficult to cut and serve without losing all your toppings. This pizza cutter gives you ultimate control, cleans up quickly and easily, and you can use it on anything that needs sliced. I use it on my kids’ pancakes in the morning, on grilled cheese, and quesadillas and while it seems such a simple thing, it really does make a big difference!
Do you have any single-task or highly specialized kitchen gadgets that you’ve found you simply can’t do without? Let me know and I’ll add them to this list!
In a world where more and more people find themselves driven to profit from their passions, it can be hard for live entertainers to find their break in an already inundated industry. So how do you make money from your genius when you’re still struggling to be seen?
Enter Damon Wayans, Jr. and Kristopher Jones – the two creatives behind the oh-so-amazing Special Guest App, a booking app that makes it simple to connect gigs with paid talent.
Special Guest App Review
Special Guest is a platform for talent to use to find gigs in a far easier manner than the traditional route (and best of all, it’s free!)
Entertainers and the like can create profiles within the app to showcase their talent and personality. Venues are then able to use the Special Guest App to search for talent based on things such as location, availability, price range, etc.
This means that anyone, anywhere can use Special Guest to hire live entertainment with just a few simple touches of their phone! From finding a guest speaker for your next podcast to hiring a magician for your child’s birthday, Special Guest makes it easier for everyone to connect.
One of the best parts (in my opinion) of Special Guest is that they handle the legal agreements, including cancellation policies. They have many other fantastic features, though, such as:
In-app messaging to reduce e-mail clutter
Easier to use discovery tool to help you narrow in on exactly the talent you need
Ratings and reviews of the entertainment so you can trust in your hiring decision
Facilitate payments on behalf of the venue so you don’t have to stress about how/when that check will be cut
This app is truly great all around, whether you’re looking to hire or be hired.
As a busy mom, it means a lot to have this app available should I need to hire a band for my friend’s wedding or a face painter for our school’s fun fair. But I don’t just support it because it makes my life easier! I love that it gives entertainers the virtual space to be seen. It’s so important to support each other as we work toward living lives on our terms and Special Guest helps to do just that.
Don’t just take my word for it, though! As I said, it’s FREE! So go check out Special Guest now and enjoy!
When I was offered the chance to review the Crenova 3-in-1 Automatic Food Sealer Saver, I wasn’t quite sure if it was something that would be worth my time. Sure, it seems like a good deal, but I very much subscribe to the Alton Brown line of thinking — don’t have appliances that have only one function, they’ll only create clutter!
Regardless, I thought I figured I’d give it a try and see what happens…and oh. my. goodness.
Crenova Vacuum Sealer Review
Note: The links below are affiliate links, which means I’ll receive commission should you click through and make a purchase. This in no way impacts my recommendation of said product.
I decided to try out the Crenova 3-in-1 Automatic Food Sealer Saver one day after realizing we had way too much leftover galumpki (cabbage and beef). Galumpki is one of my favorite dinners, but go figure, the kids aren’t a fan. Rather than let it go to waste, though, I decided it was a perfect opportunity to see if this food sealer was actually worth a spot in my kitchen.
The Crenova 3-in-1 Automatic Food Sealer Saver is incredibly light weight and seriously could not be easier to use. If you know me, you know that it’s not actually my kitchen so much as it is my husband’s (there’s a reason he runs a keto recipe blog and I don’t!) It’s a good day if I can microwave hot dogs for my kids, let alone work the other appliances!
While not my kitchen, though, this is my blog and I can’t recommend a product if I can’t actually use it. So I skimmed the directions and decided to charge full speed ahead!
The Crenova 3-in-1 Automatic Food Sealer Saver has a few different variables on it, namely the option to customize based on your food. I decided to go with “wet food” for the galumpki to account for the sauce. In a matter of 30 seconds, I not only figured out how to use the but it was done – the galumpki was sealed up and ready for the freezer!!
This appliance is so quick and easy to use. It’s sure to not only save you time (seriously I used to do the ol’ freezer bag dipped in hot water to get the air out enough to freeze stuff!) but it’ll save you so much money as well! Personally I’m going to draft up a meal plan and then keep my husband company one Sunday while he cooks a bunch of freezer meals that I’ll then vacuum seal. Team work, people!! hehe
If you’re on the fence about investing in this product (or gifting it to a loved one!) I would very much recommend you join Crenova Kitchen Appliances for Beginners – it’s a great Facebook group that can help you master this wonderful product. The admin are so kind and helpful and the community itself is just wonderful! Be sure to check it out today!!