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Pool Party Time!

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There’s nothing like a pool party on a hot day! Great food mixes with fun with your friends mixes with the refreshing setting of the pool, making it the perfect summer get-together. So now that the warm months are here, it’s the perfect time to throw one. Putting one together at the last minute can seem a little tricky, but with a few key ingredients, you’ll be able to throw the perfect event for you and your friends!

First, make sure to plan a venue. If you have your own pool, then you’re all set, but if you’re wanting to book a public pool for an event, then make sure to call ahead and make the reservation.

Next, plan your guest list. You can’t have a party without people, and if you are organizing a last-minute party, it’s important to first identify who you want at your party and get invitations sent out to them so that everyone can set aside the time to make it. Put together your list of invitees, and then get to work letting them know the important details of where, when and what they should bring. While you can call or text everyone on your list, it may be easier to create an event on social media and invite everyone through that.

Don’t forget to remind everyone of what they should bring. For a pool party you might want to suggest a bathing suit, goggles, towel, sunblock and a hat.

With the guest list in place, it’s now time to plan the menu. Food is a key part of any party, and swimming can really amp up the appetite. Stock up on munchies and finger food style appetizers, as these will allow people to snack intermittently while enjoying the water and visiting with friends. For the main course, consider going with an easy option like hot dogs and hamburgers, corn on the cob and a variety of side salads and dishes. To make things even easier, make your party a potluck and have your guests bring along their specialty dishes. Don’t forget to stock up on drinks and pick up a fun dessert to complete the meal plan!

To make things easier, pick up paper plates, napkins and disposable cups and cutlery. You don’t want to run out of any of these, and you don’t want to be stuck doing a huge amount of dishes once everyone goes home.

Because it’s a pool party, it’s already going to be fun and entertaining, but you can make it even better by planning a few entertainment ideas. Plan to play a few group games in the pool, whether it’s a classic such as “Marco Polo” or water tag or something new and silly. Use the Internet to search for fun new ideas. If you can get a volleyball net, water volleyball can be a great group sport, and you can encourage a little friendly competition.

Don’t forget a little party atmosphere either! Download some new music and put together a party playlist on your phone or MP3 player and bring out a few speakers, or bring a radio out to the pool to get the energy up for a little partying!

You may also want to run out and buy a few cheap pool toys such as noodles or floaties for people to enjoy.

With these few main ingredients, you should be all ready to throw a pool party to remember! Rally a few friends to help with setup and get ready to have a great time!

June 19, 2015 |

8 Ways Window Tinting Can Keep Cooling Costs Down

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You may have read somewhere that residential window tinting can save you money on your cooling costs. Well, according to the website energy.gov, this is certainly true. Window tinting is listed as an energy-efficient window treatment. 40% of the heat buildup in the home comes in through it’s windows. Window film helps by blocking the heat and harmful UV rays that cause furniture and carpeting to fade or look bleached in spots.

During summer one of the biggest expenses of the month is your cooling bill. One of the best ways to lower your cooling costs is to not use your air conditioner as often, but that may be an impossible task depending on where you live. Of course the less you use of something, the less it costs. What you can do, if you can’t turn off your air conditioner completely, is to lower the thermostat a few degrees during the hottest part of the day. Covering sun-facing windows in the afternoon blocks heat and keeps down humidity making your cooling system work more efficiently.

Most consumers never consider window tinting as a energy-efficient tool for saving money. Tinted windows help keep your car’s interior cooler in the summer, why wouldn’t it do the same in your home? Residential tinting comes in different shades and degrees of tint so you can customize your windows to your liking. Popular shades include gray, brown, clear, frosted and mirrored.  Tinted windows are also harder to see through from the outside adding a feeling of security for occupants alone in the house.

Another type of window film increases your home’s security by making windows resistant to breaking. This type of film adheres to the glass and bonds with it making it stronger and more resistant to shattering.  If for any reason the window does break, the shards are held together by the window film so there is less danger of cuts from picking up broken glass. This added layer of protection keeps intruders out as well as the excess heat.

Here are a few ways that residential window tinting helps lower your seasonal cooling costs:

Homeowners spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars during one cooling season (depending on how much you use your air conditioner and temp settings) and  60% of those costs can be attributed to heat gain through the roof and windows of the home. By shading these areas, not only does your home stay cooler inside,  but your overall cooling costs for the season will be much less.

For more tips on cooling your home naturally and saving money,  this resource from NREL.gov gives some helpful information for money-saving home improvements.

June 19, 2015 |

What Does Military Funeral Honors Include?

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Planning a funeral is an emotional experience. You want to provide the most honorable way to remember your loved one, yet there are so many things to consider. If your loved one was a member of the United States Armed Forces then they may be eligible for Military Funeral Honors. Learn what this entails, who’s eligible, and how you can request it.

What’s involved in Military Funeral Honors

Eligible veterans can receive Military Funeral Honors free of charge. In fact, it’s mandated by law. Your veteran will receive an honor guard detail for their funeral. It will consist of no fewer than two members of the Armed Forces. One of these members will be a representative of whichever branch of the service your loved one was involved in.

While honor details can vary, at a minimum they will perform a ceremony which includes folding and presenting the American flag to their next of kin. This may be their spouse, child, parent, or other family member. During the folding and presenting process Taps will be played. When possible, it’ll be played by a bugler. However, if no bugler is available then an electronic recording of Taps will be played. The representative of the branch of the Armed Forces your loved one was involved in will present the flag.

Who’s eligible for Military Funeral Honors

Not everyone who’s served in the Armed Forces is eligible for this process. Generally speaking, those who were dishonorably discharged are not eligible. Those who are eligible include:

  • Active duty military members.
  • Active Selected Reserve members.
  • Previous military personnel who served active duty and left under non-dishonorable discharge.
  • Previous military personnel who finished at a minimum one term of enlistment or period of initial obligation in the Selected Reserve and who departed under non-dishonorable discharge conditions.
  • Previous military personnel who were discharged from the Selected Reserve as a result of a disability that occurred during the line of duty or was aggravated in the line of duty.

Proving your loved one is eligible

The easiest way to verify eligibility, and the preferred method, is to complete the DD Form 214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty. If said DD Form 214 isn’t accessible, then you can use any form or document that shows anything other than dishonorable discharge. However, you can also obtain a copy of the DD Form 214 online from the National Archives.

How to request Military Funeral Honors

If your loved one is eligible all you need to do is speak to your funeral director and provide the required documentation. The funeral director will then contact the correct branch of service to request honors. Remember that your funeral director is there to handle issues like these. While you can request it on your own, it’s best to go through the channels of an experienced director.

June 4, 2015 |

Fun Things to Do Besides Games at a Baby Shower

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So many baby showers seem to revolve around the same games. If you’re looking to break away from the tradition of playing games there’s actually a lot of low cost, and low maintenance activities you can do that’ll keep your guests entertained. Here’s a list of fun and memorable things to do at a baby shower that doesn’t involve games, opening gifts, and eating.

Gender Reveal 

One of the most exciting things to do besides games at a baby shower is to have the gender reveal right there at the party. Have your doctor write down boy or girl on a piece of paper, put it in an envelope, and give it to the person in charge of the baby shower. They can create a fun way to reveal the gender at the baby shower.

One way to reveal the gender is to have the inside of the cake blue or pink. They could also fill a big box with blue or pink balloons. At the party the parent, or parents will open the box to have the gender revealing balloons float out.

Video Message

With modern technology making a video is easy these days. Throughout the party have each guest leave a message to the baby on camera. In the message they can talk about the first time they met the mother, their hopes for the baby, or fond stories about the parents.

Wish Book 

On a table have an empty notebook. Throughout the baby shower guests can write down things you should do with your newborn during the first year of their life. Guests could also write words of encouragement, and words of wisdom. It’s a great way for people to spread their knowledge of parenthood while showing how much they care for you.

Onesie Signing

A fun activity that doubles as a keepsake is having a baby onesie signing. If you know the name of your future child have it put on a plain white onesie. Throughout the baby shower guests can sign the onesie. Once the party is over you can frame, and hang it in your newborn’s room. If you don’t have a name yet, get a white onesie with a cute saying already on it like “You’re Loved.”

Door Prizes

Another fun thing to do besides games at a baby shower is to hand out prizes. You don’t have to play games to give out thank you gifts to guests. Once someone walks into the baby shower have them write down their name on a piece a paper and put it in a bowl. While the mother-to-be is opening gifts she can pull a name out of the bowl. When a name is called the person has to give their best parenting advice for a prize.

Craft Table

Guests can decorate solid colored onesies with cute iron-on patches. At a craft store you can find hearts, animals, and more. On the craft table lay out the onesies and patches. The guests can choose which patches they want to iron onto a onesie. Make sure to have an iron and ironing board set up so they can be created at the baby shower.

At the party you could also create a baby shower scrapbook. All you need is a Polaroid camera, blank pieces of scrapbook paper, and different colored markers. The mother will take a picture with each person at the party using the Polaroid camera. They can paste the picture onto a blank piece of scrapbook paper. Around the picture they can decorate or write a note to the baby.

April 22, 2015 |

Dealing with Lost or Damaged Property when Moving

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Moving from one home or one city to another can often be accompanied by more headaches and stress than you’d prefer, for a variety of reasons.  While many people move to a new city with a new home already waiting for them, some do not, and finding a place to live in a city with which you’re not familiar can cause a great deal of anxiety.

Other moving stresses could include packing and preparing your belongings for relocation, taking care of transporting pets and small children, both of which require greater care and attention during the transition, and finding the perfect moving company to trust with your possessions.  Choosing a moving company that you can trust with your items is a decision that shouldn’t be undertaken lightly, and even if you receive guarantees and assurances regarding the safety of your property during transit, there is still the potential for the unexpected to occur.

While you can anticipate nearly any eventuality that may occur with packing and moving your belongings, it can still be a shocking surprise when something does happen, like your belongings becoming damaged during transport or getting lost altogether.  How can you handle this type of scenario in the most effective and efficient way?

Handling the loss or damage of your property at the hands of a moving company you have entrusted them to is something that you should prepare for before you even make the choice of which company to use.  A detailed inventory of your items should be taken and maintained as you pack and prep your property.  You should also make notes regarding the condition of those items, especially larger items like furniture or more valuable items like antiques and family heirlooms.  This list can be invaluable when determining what, if anything, has been lost or damaged.

When you’ve ascertained that something has been lost or damaged, the first step you should take is to make a list of those things that are missing or damaged.  It is recommended that you also review any contracts or other documentation provided by the moving company to review their policies regarding lost or damaged items.  If you signed an agreement that states the company is not responsible for loss or damage, or there is a financial limit for compensation, or claims for loss have to handled a certain way, you need to be aware of these terms and conditions before taking the next step.

After reviewing your documents or contracts, you should then contact the moving company as soon as possible and speak with a manager or high ranking staff member; someone who has the authority to make decisions and take action on the behalf of you, as the customer, and the company itself.

At your meeting with the company representative you will want to remain calm, speak clearly and concisely, and be prepared to provide your original list and the list of damages or losses.  If any items were insured, a copy of the insurance policy should also be on-hand for reference purposes.  Determine what resolution would be satisfactory to you before you speak with the company representative, and give the respect that you’d like to receive when you start discussing the situation and the options available to both you and the company.

Dealing with the loss or damage of personal property while it was in the care of a moving company can be a stressful or frustrating situation, but you can be proactive in minimizing the negative impact by being prepared to deal with the situation in the most professional, logical, and thorough way.

April 21, 2015 |

Funerals Around the World

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With life comes death, and every culture has a unique way of honoring and saying goodbye to their loved ones. Here are some of the most interesting funeral customs from around the world.

The Malagasy of Madagascar. The Malagasy culture remember and honor their ancestors with a funeral tradition called Famadihana, also called the turning of the bones. Family members remove the bodies from the crypt, rewrap them in fresh clothes, carry them around the village and even dance with them to live music before returning the bodies to the crypt.

South Korea. While some customs are ancient others are born as answers to contemporary problems. In 2000 South Korea (a small country) passed a law that loved ones had to be removed from their graves after 60 years, making burial a less popular option to cremation. Rather than housing the cremains in urns South Korean families are having their loved one’s ashes pressed into “death beads”. These beads can be pink, turquoise or black and are beautiful when displayed in glass containers.

Mongolia and Tibet. The Vajrayana Buddhists of Mongolia and Tibet believe that after death the soul leaves the body and the body becomes an empty shell that should be returned to the earth. They aid this process by performing what is called a Sky Burial. The body is chopped into pieces and placed on a high mountaintop to expose it to the elements, including vultures, to insure it’s quick return to nature.

Bali. Balinese tradition dictates that bodies are cremated to release the soul and allow it to inhabit a new body. This cremation process is considered a sacred duty, but is not supposed to be at all sad. Instead, a huge party is thrown, often complete with huge wooden structures of bulls or dragons which are carried through the streets of the city. Even more interestingly, sometimes the dead are buried temporarily until many dead, or even in some cases royalty, can all be cremated together in one huge celebration. When the head of the royal family, Agung Suyasa, died in 2008 he was cremated along with 68 commoners in an incredibly lavish ceremony.

Aboriginals. When someone dies in the native Aboriginal culture of Australia there are several traditions to observe. First there is a smoking ceremony held in the deceased’s home to drive away their spirit. Then a celebratory feast is held complete with food, dance and body painting of the mourners. Finally the body is placed on a platform, covered with leaves and left to decompose.

New Orleans. While many American funerals are somber affairs New Orleans has found a way to turn them into celebrations. Borrowing from their well known jazz traditions mourners are often led to funerals by marching bands. The bands begin by playing mourning music but then transition to jazz dancing music. Onlookers are invited to join the mourners in their march as they follow the band to the funeral.

The Bo. The Bo of Southwest China were wiped out by the Ming Dynasty over 500 years ago; while we know what they did we don’t know why. The Bo interned their dead in coffins secured to the side of a rock face almost 300 feet above water. The coffins and rock face are decorated with bright red murals that can still be seen. Locals call the area “Sons of the Cliffs”.

ApayoThe Filipino group the Apayo have a unique way of insuring the dead are honored as they would want. Their dead are interned in hollowed out tree trunks that they themselves picked when they were still alive.

April 16, 2015 |

How Residential Window Tinting Can Reduce Your Utility Bills

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You may have already heard that residential window tinting can give your home more privacy and a greater sense of comfort.

While that’s true, residential films can also lend an aesthetic quality to your home and allow you to customize the particular tint and hue that goes with your room’s layout. A residential film can also give you more privacy while reducing glare and harmful UV rays.

The really surprising thing about window film, though, is its ability to reduce your utility bills 365 days a year.

Going Green with Residential Window Tint 

Residential window tint is a great way to help save the planet and your own personal financial ecosystem at the same time.

As Americans spend, and in some cases squander, hundreds of dollars on heating and cooling during months of more extreme weather, something needs to be done to put more money back into homeowners’ pockets. The solution is coming from an unconventional player: residential window film.

The Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Energy have both come to the conclusion that over half of a home’s heating and cooling efforts are undercut through heat gain and poorly sealed windows. Coupled with the fact that the average homeowner spends over $2000 on heating and cooling annually, there’s some serious money at stake when it comes to eliminating heat gain.

Fortunately for homeowners, there’s a very affordable yet effective solution in residential window tint. Most residential films reduce glare by approximately 90% and the sun’s damaging UV rays by 97% or higher, which translates to more comfort and safety for your entire family.

Many films are also specifically formulated to repel the most harmful UV rays – UVB rays – and keep your furniture from aging prematurely. Installing window film isn’t even that difficult, and it can usually be sized and applied in under an hour. Ensuring that your rooms are glare-free and safe for your family is definitely worth the effort.

Window Tint Beats Alternatives 

When you consider the cost and expense of replacing single-pane or poorly ventilated windows compared to the ease and affordability of simply installing window tint, the latter option turns into a no-brainer.

Estimates show that window tint is actually 10% the cost of replacing an entire window. In light of the fact that window tint comes with so many stock benefits – glare reduction, improved energy efficiency, etc. – there’s really no compelling reason to spring for a replacement when you can have such great energy efficiency with residential window tint.

Here’s another important fact that you might want to consider – the United States Department of Energy recently found that just under a quarter of a home’s outer exposure is made up of glass. Homeowners around the country infuriated by their escalating utility bills probably already understand that windows, even with drapes, offer poor ventilation in the winter months.

Now this next statistic might actually cause some readers to do a double take – the U.S. Department of Energy also found that over $30 billion in utility costs are squandered every year due to poorly ventilated windows!

Switching to Window Tint 

The statistics referenced throughout this article should, at the very least, give homeowners pause. Most homeowners, though, are already a little peeved at having to spend upwards of $2000 annually on utility costs and are looking for ways to save.

Window tint can save you potentially hundreds of dollars during the winter months and have you saving significantly in summer as well due to tint’s ability to repel heat gain. Glare reduction, enhanced safety and UV protection is just icing on the cake.

April 14, 2015 |

Tips for Dealing with an Awful Neighbor

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As nice as it would be to have a friendly relationship with your neighbors, that’s not always the case. Sometimes you find yourself at odds, or even annoyed by the behavior of someone you live near. If you find yourself living next to an awful neighbor, it’s never good to yell, threaten, or argue. Instead of losing your cool try one of these tips on how to deal with an awful neighbor.

Approach the Neighbor.  One of the best ways to deal with an awful neighbor is to talk to them about the problem. Make sure to approach them in a non-confrontational manner. You’ll want to do this in person, and not leave a note. If you leave a note telling them not to do something, it could seem aggressive or rude.

Never talk to them inside your, or their house/apartment. Meet outside on the property line, or on the sidewalk. This is for your safety in case they have a temper, or things get heated.

Contact the Landlord.  If you live in an apartment, or complex in which you have the same landlord, tell them about the awful neighbor. This is a great way to deal with the neighbor if you want to stay anonymous. Just make sure to tell the landlord that you don’t want your name brought up.

If you’re going this route, make sure to make detail notes about how your neighbor is being annoying. Make a list that shows the date, time, and what they did and give it to your landlord. If your neighbors know someone’s keeping track of their bad behavior, they might stop.

Talk with other Neighbors.  If you’re friendly with other neighbors, ask if they share your concerns. If they do, that’ll reassure you the issues aren’t in your head. You should also ask them for tips on how they deal with the awful neighbor.

In case they are friends with the awful neighbor, don’t talk bad or say rude things. Keep it a light, and friendly conversation. If they are friendly with the person you’re having problems with, that’s a good thing! Ask them for advice on how to deal with the situation.

Hire a Mediator.  If you feel as if the situation is getting out of control, hire a mediator. It’s a lot cheaper than taking them to court, and a professional mediator has experience with all types of disputes. If your neighbor agrees to this, the mediator will help you two talk out the problem in a civil manner.

Get the Cops Involved.  If this is an extreme situation in which your property was destroyed, or safety was compromised, it’s time to call the cops. They can defuse the situation and the threat of jail will hopefully scare your neighbor into leaving you alone.

If the awful neighbor is having a loud party and disrupting your sleep, you could also call the cops. Most neighborhoods have noise ordinances, and if the music is loud enough to keep you up, it’s probably violating the ordinance.

March 19, 2015 |

The History of Braces

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Dental braces would seem to be the kind of invention that was developed in the Victorian era and refined during the 20th century, as so many of our modern items seem to be. Given the necessary finesse in constructing and attaching braces, combined with the needed understanding of orthodontics, this hypothesis stands up to reason – but not the facts. Remarkable though it may be, braces have a far longer history than is commonly assumed.

Classical Braces

Dental braces go back not one or two centuries, but over two and a half millennia. The Greeks discussed ways to straighten teeth, for example, and archeologists have found remains with metal bands and catgut attached to the teeth such that the most reasonable conclusion to draw is these were early efforts at dental braces. The Etruscans, meanwhile, seem to have applied dental braces to their deceased, apparently in an effort to maintain the shape of the teeth for the afterlife. The Romans also provide examples of dental braces as well as occasional discussion on how it might be improved.

Unfortunately for the people of the era, the fall of Rome and the ensuing chaos of the Middle Ages halted development for a long, long time. Not until the 17th century would new developments be made in the field.

The Renaissance

As new ideas about science and learning spread, a great wave of new development swept across Europe. During the 17th century this led to new advances in medicine, including in dental matters, and by the 18th century it was yielding radically more effective new ideas. The Frenchman Pierre Fauchard, often called the Father of Modern Dentistry, published a book entitled The Surgeon Dentist in 1728, and with it revolutionized the field. Among the tools he used was a “bandeau”, an iron device intended to assist in correcting the dental arch, much as modern orthodontics does with more advanced devices today.

Soon Fauchard’s work would spread and be built on by many other learned people, including another Frenchman, Louis Bourdet, who was personal dentist to the King. Bourdet would go on to refine and improve the bandeau as well as making other developments in what would come to be called orthodontics.

The Victorian Era

With the advent of many new scientific theories and technological advancements, the Victorian era is when orthodontics truly came into its own. As the 19th century progressed, new advancements significantly improved the state of dental healthcare and allowed for far more effective (and more comfortable) orthodontic work. Inventions like the wire crib and gum elastics helped radically improve the efficacy of the field, whilst other dentists would work on describing the mouth and jaw, and developing theories about how dental corrections could be improved.

20th Century Changes

The ‘father’ of modern American orthodontics is Edward Angle, a dentist who came to specialize in orthodontics and would work on several great advances to help dentists understand what they faced and how to perform orthodontic work. By the 20th century he had begun to found orthodontic schools as well as the American Association of Orthodontists that promulgated his ideas, and today’s dentists still use Angle’s system of classification to describe teeth for the purposes of orthodontics.
Thanks to developments stretching back at least 2,500 years, people today enjoy refined and effective orthodontics which are much less intrusive than that of previous eras. It remains to be seen where the next big developments will come from, but the field will surely continue to advance.

March 19, 2015 |

The Benefits of Having Your Child’s Birthday Party at Home

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A self-hosted birthday party lets you and your child build a wonderland that is uniquely your own. You get to go on a planning adventure together, adding every piece of magic until you have an event that expresses both of your personalities. The result is not enjoyed solely on the day itself, only to vanish in the aftermath of candy wrappings and leftover red velvet cupcakes.  Instead, the organizing phase creates a new bond with your child and memories that don’t disappear quite as easily as a single day at the local picnic grounds would.

Control, Creativity, and Simplicity

Children often have more fun with their gift wrappings than their gifts. For them, life is all about the fun, not the cost and frills. Filtered into party philosophy, that means they only want to feel treasured–and do plenty of splashing and bouncing. Keeping things simple is unlikely to spoil the fun and nor are mistakes. Lack of caring will, though, and that’s what party hosting companies are good at.

Breathe deeply and remember that planning is a complicated odyssey for every mom. When you’re going the home route, you have the power to make the party as small or daunting as your whims allow. Your cost and space issues are within your control, because the sheer enormity of the party vending industry means even the smallest and simplest razzle-dazzle can be ordered, paid for (economically) and forgotten about until the day arrives.

False Economy

Your purse is one of the first things that is going to start heating up in your pocket when you think about hosting a home party. The general, but false, consensus is that hosting at a restaurant is lighter on the bank account. This is not always the case. Your restaurant has a menu with prices that don’t change according to your preferences, no matter how sly your strategizing is. If you’re committed to saving, a self-hosted party will morph to your budget through Scrooge-worthy planning.

Decorations and snacks are your primary cost concerns. Décor is an easy hurdle to leap over. Bedazzles and a week’s worth of art projects can whip up enough tissue flowers and streamer decorations to make even a seven-year-old girl feel she’s had her share of Technicolor and glitz. As for the snacks, no mom gets away with offering an empty smorgasbord, but when planning, remember how your kids spent their last party: odds are that the attention was on the water slide, not the party favors. Many a mother has ended a party wondering why she baked more than one cake. Focus on the fun and penny-pinch on the things that were ignored at your last party.

Building the Fun

When you find an outside host for your child’s birthday party, someone else creates the landscape, atmosphere, and games. Your home party is your opportunity to sparkle, and your child’s enthusiasm will be your inspiration. If you want a magician, you’re the one with the ‘abracadabra’ that makes that happen exactly as you’d like it to. If your child is a water baby, no restaurant manager with a face like Voldemort’s is leering over you saying, “Well…no.”

If you’re looking into the mirror and noticing your lack of resemblance to Martha Stewart, there are ways to kick your intimidation to the curb. You needn’t stuff your own invitation envelopes or bake your own shortcakes. That’s what vendors are for. Rentals and planners are all a terrified mom needs to replace her Xanax:  Today’s businesses do everything from delivering the jumping castle to creating the entire scene, theme and all.

March 11, 2015 |
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