Assassin’s Creed III – Amazon’s Gold Box Deal of The Day #AC3Gold

 

Thank you to Ubisoft for sponsoring this post. Please visit Amazon.com to get your own copy of Assassin’s Creed 3, today’s Gold Box Deal of the Day! I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective. All opinions are my own.

My entire family loves video games. While we all play many different kinds of games including those that keep you fit, test your knowledge and flex your strategic muscles, my tween son, my six-year old daughter, my husband and I all have our favorites.

Jackson and Ed love role playing games, especially historical, action-adventure games like those in the Assassin’s Creed series. On both their Christmas lists this year is the recently released Assassin’s Creed III by Ubisoft.

Assassin’s Creed III takes place on the East Coast in 1775. Taking on the role of an assassin, players conspire with real historical leaders and engage in warfare in either single player or online multi-player modes.

This game is violent in nature for sure. But for those who are mature enough, it’s a challenging combat game which requires critical thinking skills in order to outsmart opponents. Jackson played Assassin’s Creed III at a friend’s house recently and said that he likes the virtual world where the graphics are really good and there are many missions that keep the player constantly engaged. He has a great time playing with both his dad and his friends.

Great Game At An Unbeatable Price!

If someone you are shopping for this holiday season has Assassin’s Creed III on his or her wish list, I have GREAT news. Today, Tuesday, December 11th, starting at 12:01am PST, Assassin’s Creed 3 is Amazon’s Gold Box Deal of the Day! You can score a copy of this game for just $33.00 on Amazon.com. This is a great price on a newly released game which normally retails for $59.99.

Note: This game is rated M (Mature 17+) for scenes which include blood, violence and strong language.

Win Assassin’s Creed III!

In addition to this great deal on Amazon, Clever Girls is giving away 5 copies of AC3 today, December 11, 2012, via Twitter to folks who RT the following:

Amazon Gold Box Deal of the Day: Assassin’s Creed 3! To buy: http://clvr.li/AC3Gold - RT to enter to win a copy! #AC3Gold

So don’t wait! Order your copy on Amazon today and tweet to win a second one for a friend!

What’s on your Christmas list this year?

 

 



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Countdown to Christmas – Making Sweet Treats for Friends

There are just 15 days until Christmas and in the word’s of Clark W. Griswold, I was having ” a full-blown, four-alarm holiday emergency…”

  1. I still have Christmas presents to buy for almost everyone on my list.
  2. My Christmas cards are sitting in a stack on my counter waiting patiently to be addressed, stamped and mailed.
  3. I have the supplies for Christmas crafts and inside decorations gathered, but untouched and Clark would shudder at the lack of any sort of exterior illumination on the outside of our house.

Yeah, Christmas kinda snuck up on me this year. Can anyone else relate?

BUT – our Christmas tree is up and we finally got the hole in the ceiling from the pipe leak we experienced the day before Thanksgiving patched.

So with a renewed sense of hope, I woke up inspired the other morning after looking at the Kid’s Kitchen section on Imperial Sugar’s website. I decided to put all the other holiday “have-tos” on hold and get in the holiday spirit by making some sweet treats for my neighbors with Annie.

Not wanting to bite off more than I could chew or frustrate Annie who knows her way around the kitchen but is still just six…I picked an easy project that wouldn’t require hot stoves or ovens.

We decided to decorate sugar cubes and wrap them up with some hot beverage mixes in a holiday mug to give to those in our neighborhood who we feel need a little holiday cheer.

All we needed to make them was cookie icing, Imperial Sugar Cubes and assorted holiday sprinkles. Easy-peasy!

After warming up the icing in the microwave, Annie and I dipped the top of cubes in the icing and then put different candy toppings/sprinkles on them like candy canes, holly, Christmas trees and snowflakes. (After a bit, the icing dries on the cubes and holds the sprinkles in place.)

 

Annie had to take a couple of  “quality control” breaks and I’m happy to report, they passed the taste test!

The great thing about this project is that you can’t mess it up…anything goes so it’s perfect for kids to do and therapeutic for stressed-out adults! Look at the level of concentration going on!

After about 30 minutes playing with Annie in the kitchen I started to feel the stress melt away. We giggled a lot and had a contest to see who could get the most decorations on one sugar cube. (Annie won!) And when we were done, we had this plate of goodness.

These decorated cubes are perfect for your holiday tea or coffee and look great set out by the coffee pot at a holiday get together. We packaged them up along with some tea, coffee and cocoa mixes. And feeling like they needed a little something extra, I later made some homemade, corn-syrup free orange, mint and gingerbread marshmallows (soooo good!) which were also all on Imperial Sugar’s website. How cute will these be to deliver to our neighbors this weekend?

For more ideas about edible projects you can make with your kids, check out Imperial’s Kid’s Kitchen.

Lesson learned. When you get cooking with your kids, you’ll likely end up making more than something good to eat. Annie and I made some great memories. And those will last way longer than any twinkling lights or Christmas cards!

This post was sponsored by Imperial Sugar. All thoughts, experiences and opinions are my own. 

 

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Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker Ballet Winners!

Congratulations to the following folks who will each get TWO tickets to see Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker Ballet performed by the Mariinsky Ballet Theatre on December 3, 2012, at 2:00 p.m. at Cinemark 13 in Cypress. 

  1. Julie Fitzpatrick
  2. Robyn Postell
  3. Melissa Cleaver
  4. Brandee S.
The Ballet will be shown in select theatres nationwide for ONE DAY ONLY! Don’t miss out on your chance to see this spectacular show in Real D 3D! Ticket winners will be contacted shortly with information about how to claim your prize. For those who didn’t win, you can buy your tickets here

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The Heart Of Christmas: Movie Review, Interview and Giveaway

Before I became a freelance writer and blogger, I worked for a national, non-profit organization for children with cancer and then later for the cancer center of a children’s hospital in Houston. I was inspired daily by the strength and love I witnessed from families faced with the illness and the doctors, nurses and other professionals who cared for them.

When I heard about the inspirational movie, The Heart of Christmas, which premiered last year and was released recently on DVD October 16, 2012, I knew I wanted to see it.

Starring Candace Cameron Bure (Make It or Break It, Full House), Burgess Jenkins (Remember the Titans, The Reaping), Kelsey Kingsbury, George Newbern (Father of the Bride, Justice League), Dendrie Taylor (The Fighter, Sons of Anarchy, True Blood), and GRAMMY®-nominated recording artist Matthew West, the movie tells the story of Austin and Julie Locke, who are devastated to learn that their one-year-old son, Dax, had been diagnosed with AML M7 leukemia.

After several failed treatments and experimental therapy, The Lockes were faced with the fact that their son would most likely die before Christmas. So in October 2009, they decorated their home for the holiday so Dax could enjoy the lights. When their neighbors saw their holiday decorations and learned about the reason why they set them out early, they rallied behind the family. As their story spread, soon the town of Washington was lit for Dax. His story appeared on CNN and captured the hearts of people around the world. Dax did live to see Christmas day but passed away soon after… on December 30, 2009.

You can watch the trailer here.

I had the opportunity to visit with Julie Locke to visit with her about the film and her experience. The movie, while certainly sad, is also incredibly uplifting. The message of hope and peace of God’s love is woven throughout the entire film…displayed through the relationships that the Lockes developed with other families fighting cancer at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the medical staff that never gave up on them.

Julie Locke

When I talked to Julie, she said that one of the greatest results from the movie so far is how it has positively impacted people’s lives.

“Many people have reached out to me after seeing the film to tell me how it made a difference in their own lives,” said Julie. “People have shared with me that they cherish their families more and most importantly, that they have built a relationship with God. I see clearly now that this movie was part of God’s plan,” she said.

The Lockes were approached by singer, Matthew West who wanted to write a song about their story. “I didn’t know who Matthew was at the time, but I just believe that you have to put yourself out there and let God work through others,” said Julie. “We’re not strong enough to do this on our own.” (West was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Original Music and Lyrics for his song about The Lockes “The Heart of Christmas” this year.)

As a mother, I know the fear that comes with every cold, fever or broken bone. To have your child  faced with an illness like cancer is unimaginable. When I worked at the hospital here in Houston, I remember asking my friend whose son was fighting the disease how she did it. She told me – you do it because you have to. You wake up each morning and you put your feet on the floor and you move forward because your child needs you.

But most parents at the hospital would tell me that you don’t have to (and really can’t) do it alone. For Julie, it was the strength and support of the families she met at the hospital, the caring doctors and staff at St. Jude…and God, that gave her the power and peace to move forward.

“I never had experienced that before Dax was sick…the true love of God. It really started when I met Elizabeth’s mom (a patient at St. Jude). I found God through the experience and learned that even when I wasn’t trusting Him, He trusted me,” said Julie.

The Lockes, like many others who have lost a loved one, miss Dax daily and struggle with his loss especially at the holidays. “I live for Dax by taking care of other people,” said Julie. “But during the holidays we really try to spend time together as a family, just us. Especially on the day he died…. taking time to cherish every moment we have together. It’s the most important thing.”

For those that are struggling with loss this Christmas, she says – “Lean on God. He loves you. Allow Him in your heart and surround yourself with His spirit. I did that in Memphis. Before that I had my walls up, but His love is so powerful.”

Julie and Austin Locke with their daughter, Madeline, on the set of The Heart of Christmas.

Today, Julie spends time fundraising for St. Jude and raising her two-year-old daughter, Madeline who was born after Dax passed away. It is the Lockes’ goal to raise $1.8 million dollars in Dax’s memory, the cost of running the hospital for one day. “I lived there for a year and never paid anything,” said Julie. “I remain so touched by what St. Jude does for patients and their families. They gave me 1 1/2 years with Dax.”

For more information about the film, visit The Heart of Christmas on the web. To learn more about the Lockes, their true story of hope and compassion and how you can get involved, visit the Dax Locke Foundation.

A Giveaway!

The Heart of Christmas is available at Target and Walmart and online at Walmart.com. However, two readers of Still Living The Dream will win a copy of the DVD. It’s my hope that you will watch the movie and share the story and the Lockes’ message “Cherish Every Moment” with as many people as you can. Just leave a comment telling me what you cherish the most. Two winners will be selected at random on December 5, 2012, at 11:59 p.m. CST.

Help spread the word about this important film and get another chance to win! I would love for Julie to get tons of tweets from people sharing her message of love.

  • Tweet this: “I will cherish every moment this Christmas in memory of Dax Locke @jpatrickcomm @JulieALocke #TheHeartofChristmas http://www.stilllivingthedream.com/2012/11/the-heart-of-christmas-movie-review-interview-and-giveaway.html”
You can get even more chances to win by leaving a separate comment for each additional item you do below.
  1. Follow me on Pinterest
  2. Follow me on Twitter
  3. Like Still Living The Dream on Facebook
  4. Like The Heart of Christmas on Facebook
I was given a copy of movie, The Heart of Christmas to review as well as the opportunity to visit with Julie Locke. No compensation was received and all thoughts and opinions are my own.
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How I Came To Sparkle Again – Book Review, Author Interview and Giveaway!

 

I haven’t been reading as much as I like to lately. Life has gotten busy, which usually happens this time of the year. I have to remember to slow down and enjoy the holidays. One of my favorite ways to do that, besides spending time with my family, is to curl up on the couch by the Christmas tree with a fire going in the fireplace….reading a good book.

Before the mad rush to Thanksgiving started, I did get my hands on a great, newly released book and devoured it quickly. How I Came To Sparkle Again, by author Kaya McLaren who wrote Church Of The Dog and On The Divinity of Second Chances was released on October 2, 2012, and is getting great reviews from folks like best-selling authors Kristin Hannah, Susan Wiggs and Nancy Thayer. I can see why.

For me, good books are just like a yummy feast…they are food for my soul. This one has a lot to offer readers in terms of reframing a negative situation and starting over. There are a lot of hope-filled messages to pick up on in between the lines of an entertaining story.

Here’s the skinny:

Jill Anthony spent her young adulthood in the ski town of Sparkle, Colorado.  But more than a decade has passed since she left when, only weeks after a very late miscarriage, she finds her husband in bed with another woman, she flees Austin, Texas for the town she knows:  Sparkle. 

Lisa Carlucci wakes up one morning after another night of meaningless sex, looks in the mirror and realizes that she no longer wants to treat her body like a Holiday Inn. She’s going to hold out for love.  The only problem is, love might come in the form of her ski bum best friend, who lives next door with his ski bum friends in a trailer known as “the Kennel.” 

Cassie Jones, at age ten, has lost her mother to cancer and no longer believes in anything anymore.  She knows her father is desperately worried about her, and she constantly looks for messages from her deceased mother through the heart-shaped rocks they once collected in the streams and hills of Sparkle. 

So yeah, each of Sparkle’s main characters are going through quite a bit. Which may make you believe that the book is heavy. But it’s not. The relationships that develop between all three make for a pretty uplifting story and while it doesn’t have the suspense of a page-turning “who dunnit”, I found myself turning them quickly until I came to the end.

If you are a skier or fan of Colorado (like me!), you are going to love the setting of this book. I wanted to jump in the story on several occasions and soak in the beautiful, winter atmosphere.

I had the fabulous opportunity to ask author Kaya McLaren some questions about the book. If after you read through her answers you want to dive into the book yourself, you’ll be happy to hear this – I have two books to give away to Still Living The Dream readers just in time for the holidays!

Kaya McLaren, author of How I Came To Sparkle Again

Author Interview

1. Where did you find the inspiration for the main character, Jill?

I was living and teaching on the Jicarilla Apache Reservation, and by the spring of my first year, I’d pull into the driveway of the school each morning and cry because I didn’t know if I could make it through one more day with the really tough class I had that year. And then I rediscovered skiing. The next year, I got a season pass to Wolf Creek. There, a group of young guys took me under their wing and helped me be a better skier. They were such unlikely angels, but man, they pulled me out of a deep funk and brought me back to life. They absolutely were my angels. So I really wanted to write something that was a tribute to them– something that showed what good friends on snow could do for a girl’s spirit. Woven into that, I had a friend who was an OB/GYN nurse who had a miscarriage, and another friend whose parents were missionaries in Africa and would send out mass emails implying that she wasn’t going to be with them in heaven.

2. Why did you choose a skiing community in Colorado as a setting in the book?

One thing I love about skiing fast is that it forces me to be fully present in any given moment. If my mind wanders, I eat it. Bad. Really bad. So for people like me with really busy minds, doing something at really high speeds can force us to meditate and give us extended moments of peace. I think, too, that mountain communities have always been my home, and yet they are rarely the setting of books. It’s foreign to a lot of people. I wanted to write about my world. It’s full of really great characters– strong, adventurous, courageous people, crazy funny people… people who are stuck in an early moment of their life, and people who are growing.

3. You seem to be deeply moved by the environment. Why are Jill’s surroundings (the snow, change of seasons, small town) so crucial to her healing?

Life is full of cycles– good times and bad times, sickness and health, courage and fear, love and loss, rain and sun, the cycle of the seasons. Nothing lasts. Nature heals me over and over. This world we construct in our culture where we are so important is a little much. When I walk away from it and into nature, I’m reminded of my place in the grand scheme, and how small and temporary I really am. It puts everything else into perspective. Nature is the answer to most of my questions.

4. Tell me about the unique dynamic between Jill and Lisa and the Kennel boys. Is there any hope for guys like Eric and Hans to find love and a lasting relationship?

Occasionally it happens! I see it. It shocks me every time, but yes, it happens. All of the guys I skied with at Wolf Creek are married now. I did not see that coming. But you know, there are people who are damaged in different ways and their capacity to love may be different or take different forms. Who are we to say that lasting relationships are success and a semi-solitary life skiing with friends is not?

5. I found the descriptions and character views of “kidney love” versus “luv” so interesting. How did you come up with this perspective on male/female relationships? Have you experienced “kidney love”?!

I love really easily. Rather, I “luv” really easily. But generosity is more difficult for me. I have non-sexual, non-romantic kidney love for soul sisters and family members. None of the men in my life were around long enough to reach that point. Kidney love takes time.

6. Jill experienced a lot of loss and troubled relationships. Why was her struggle with her parents and the Mormon religion an important part of her story?

I think religious upbringing absolutely affects a person’s self-worth. And it could have been countless other denominations or religions. It’s about judgment and acceptance. When things go south, judgment never heals. Only love does. And love is accepting. I picked Mormon parents because I could easily model them after my friend’s parents and get the details right. If my friend had had Baptist parents, I would have picked that. I think it’s an interesting impasse we reach with people we love who think we are going to hell or who think we are brainwashed, or who think they have the answers. It’s heartbreaking. And the things they feel entitled to say in our lowest moments can be atrocious. When everything is going wrong in my friend’s life, a little part of her does question whether this is all happening because she left the church. I was surprised to hear that. I wasn’t raised with religion, so it fascinates me. Sometimes I wish I had the rituals and the community that comes with it, but my capacity for that kind of faith is limited. All the characters and their different approaches to faith are part of me though. Faith or the lack of it absolutely shapes our perceptions of what happens to us and what the opportunities are in any given situation. I think it can affect our resilience, as well as our understanding of what is within the realm of our control and what is not. I don’t know how to tell a story without dealing with a character’s faith. I try to be equal-opportunity about it, because I perceive that faith really works well for a lot of people. I think I’m usually pretty neutrally fascinated about it… unless someone crosses the line and starts talking about gay people going to hell. Many of my friends and family are gay and I assure you, they are good people and absolutely not going to hell.

7. I loved renaissance man and supporting character, Uncle Howard. Did you have an Uncle Howard in your life that this character was based on?

No. I am Uncle Howard. I am the one who over-thinks things, who leads a pretty solitary existence, who offers people books and unsolicited advice that they don’t understand (because advice wasn’t what was needed– after all judgment is an inherent piece of advice). I’m currently reading Siddhartha again because I was curious whether I’d get something entirely different out of it thirty years later. So far, nope. Maybe that means I haven’t grown as much as I thought I had.

8. Things wrapped up pretty neatly for most of the Sparkle characters. Did you consider taking a different approach to the book’s ending? Do you believe in happy endings?

In my original ending, Jill ends up single in her own house. Eric is her friend with benefits who does occasional home repair for her, and Mike is like her platonic husband with whom she has this unconventional family experience. That seemed more realistic to me. I really wanted her to end up single and happy like me. Yes, that’s what I wanted to do– write a book that told the world that you could be a happy, single woman like me. But it was strongly suggested to me that this would not be a satisfying ending to readers, and you know, there really wasn’t much plot in being a single, happy woman. And so now I have a book that says you need to have a man to have a happy ending. It made me really, really uncomfortable at first and I had to make my peace with it. I realized a couple things. First, that I perceived wanting that kind of a happy ending as ridiculous weakness. And only two days ago my friend and fellow author, River Jordan, said to me, “Well, when you’ve had your heart broken a lot, it CAN feel like weakness.” Epiphany. And I realized that everyone wants to be appreciated for who they uniquely are, and comforted, held, and loved, and everyone wants some sizzle in their life, so what is the problem with this ending? There’s no problem. All of that is part of the human experience. And if you read to escape (not everyone does and that’s okay), you want things wrapped up much more neatly than they are in your own life. So there you have it. It’s candy. Enjoy.

9. All your books contain a common theme….second chances. Did you get a second chance that changed your life?

Oh, no, that’s not it. I just think life is a series of mistakes and second chances.

A Giveaway!

How I Came To Sparkle Again is available to purchase at Barnes and Noble, but how about the chance to win a copy of your own?! All you have to do is leave a comment below about what you love about the holidays. Two winners will each receive a copy of the book to enjoy over the holiday season (Christmas tree, couch, cozy slippers and fire in the fireplace must be all provided by you!!) Two winners will be selected at random on 12/2/12 at 11:59 p.m. CST.

Life’s about second chances, right? How about five more chances to win?! You know the drill, leave a separate comment for each that you do below.

  1. Follow me on Pinterest
  2. Follow me on Twitter
  3. Like Still Living The Dream on Facebook
  4. Like author Kaya McLaren on Facebook
  5. Tweet this: “I want to win a copy of the book How I Came To Sparkle Again @jpatrickcomm http://www.stilllivingthedream.com/2012/11/how-i-came-to-sparkle-again-book-review-author-interview-and-giveaway.html”
I received a copy of the book for review purposes only. I did not receive compensation for this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

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Hill Country Holidays at The Westin La Cantera Hill Country Resort – Giveaway


I love Christmas.

I actually love the entire fall/winter season. The period between Halloween and New Years Day is my absolute favorite time of the year.

But it always goes by too quickly!

And if I’m not careful, I let holiday preparations (sending out Christmas cards, shopping for gifts, meal planning and food preparation, etc.) take over and I miss out on the actual joy of the holiday season itself.

Which is why we always try to do something special together as a family each December. Ideally, we try to get away from home because of all the “stuff” that always seems to need to be done. I step away from my Christmas lists and trying to figure out the perfect gift for everyone. I leave the stack of cards to be addressed on the dining room table and we go out to spend time together as a family.

Living in Houston, we are lucky. We are just a stone’s throw away from the beautiful Hill Country and there is so much to do in San Antonio. We love to go to SeaWorld and see the park decorated for Christmas. Sometimes we go camping and enjoy the outdoors and cooler weather.

This year we are going to the beautiful Westin La Cantera Hill Country Resort for their annual “Hill Country Holidays,” event – a unique holiday winter wonderland program that runs from November 22, 2012 through January 6, 2013. We can’t wait to see the resort come to life with Christmas lights and decorations and participate in a variety of activities right on the property like ice skating, arts and crafts, cookie decorating, carolers and (of course) a visit with Santa!
In addition to Frost; their synthetic outdoor skating rink, they will also have live shows by the Magik Theatre of San Antonio and The North Pole complete with an elves playland and magical snow fall!

We can’t wait!

With The Westin La Cantera Hill Country Resort’s special Holiday Package, it’s an affordable weekend getaway for the entire family. Rates start at $189.00 a night and the The Hill Country Holiday Package includes a $25.00 resort credit per night of stay which can be used to experience any of the Hill Country Holidays activities or  in any other resort amenity including the restaurants. To find out more, visit them online or call 800-WESTIN1 and mention ratecode “HCHPKG”.

A Giveaway!

Do you want to visit The Westin La Cantera Hill Country Resort this holiday season? How about for FREE! One lucky, Still Living The Dream reader will receive a prize that includes a one (1) night stay at the resort and tickets for Frost (the outdoor, synthetic ice skating rink) for a family of four (4).

All you have to do is visit  http://bit.ly/WLCholidays2012 and then come back here and leave a comment telling me what you what you like most about the Hill Country Holidays event. A winner will be selected randomly on Saturday, November 24, 2012 at 12:00 noon CST.

Want more chances to win (I always do!) Here they are. You know the drill. Leave a separate comment for each that do below.
  1. Follow me on Pinterest
  2. Follow me on Twitter
  3. Like Still Living The Dream on Facebook
  4. Like The Westin La Cantera Hill Country Resort on Facebook
  5. Tweet this: “I want to win a night @WestinLaCantera Resort for their Hill Country Holidays event. @jpatrickcomm http://www.stilllivingthedream.com/2012/11/hill-country-holidays-at-the-westin-la-cantera-hill-country-resort-giveaway.html”
I received a one-night stay at The Westin La Cantera Hill Country Resort for their HIll Country Holidays event, but received no other compensation. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 
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Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker Ballet – A Giveaway!

It dawned on me today that there’s only 39 more days until Christmas! This time of the year goes by so quickly and if I don’t remind myself to stop and enjoy the season, it flies right by me.

A Christmas tradition in my family is to see The Nutcracker ballet. The music, the costumes, the dancing…it just brings the season to light. And when that Christmas tree grows on stage and Clara dances with the Nutcracker Prince and snow falls to the ground….magic!

I was SO excited to hear that I don’t have to travel far to see this holiday classic this year. On Monday, December 3, 2012,  at 2:00 PM and 7:30 PM, Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, performed by the Mariinsky Ballet Theatre,  is being brought to movie theaters nationwide by NCM Fathom Events and More2Screen.

This is the first time ever it has been shown in select theater locations, and there are several locations in and around Houston including Cinemark 19 in Katy, Cinemark 18 in Webster, Cinemark in Spring, Cinemark 13 in Cypress, Memorial City Mall, and Houston Marq*E, so don’t miss your chance to see this timeless class in Real D 3D.

To purchase tickets before they sell out, visit the Fathom Events website.

A Giveaway!

Do you love The Nutcracker? Would you like to take a friend or family member to see this holiday classic to start celebrating the holiday season? Do you live within driving distance to the Cinemark 13 theatre in Cypress? I’ve got FOUR pairs of tickets to giveaway to four, lucky, Still Living The Dream readers for the December 3rd matinee showing at 2:00 p.m. at the Cinemark 13 in Cypress.

All you have to do is leave a comment stating what you love most about the Christmas season. That’s it, easy-peasy! Four winners will be selected at random on Wednesday, November 28, 2012, at 12:00 noon CST.

Want more chances to win? I know you do (and I’ve got em!) Leave a separate comment for each addition item you do below.

  1. Follow me on Pinterest
  2. Follow me on Twitter
  3. Like Still Living The Dream on Facebook
  4. Tweet this: “I want win tickets to see The Nutcracker Ballet @jpatrickcomm http://www.stilllivingthedream.com/2012/11/tchaikovsky’s-the-nutcracker-ballet-a-giveaway.html”

Disclaimer: Winners and their guests must arrive 10 minutes prior to redeem seats at the theatre (seats are 100 percent guaranteed until 10 minutes before show time). Winners will receive ticket vouchers to bring with them to the theatre. All federal, state and local regulations apply. A recipient of prizes assumes any and all risks related to use of prize, and accepts any restrictions required by prize provider. Fathom Events, Allied- THA, and their affiliates accept no responsibility or liability in connection with any loss or accident incurred in connection with use of prizes. Prizes cannot be exchanged, transferred or redeemed for cash, in whole or in part. Not responsible if, for any reason, winner is unable to use his/her prize in whole or in part. Not responsible for lost, delayed or misdirected entries. All federal, state and local taxes are the responsibility of the winner. Void where prohibited by law. No phone calls. 

I was given a pair of tickets in exchange for posting information about this great event on StillLivingTheDream.com but all thoughts and opinions are my own. 

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Living The Dream In My New Apron

I’m a “pile” girl. You know – piles of bills, piles of clothes, piles of toys (and because I work at home) piles of project related stuff.

Sorta like “stacks”.

Except less dangerous.

So I’m at work this morning at my dining room table making my through one work related “pile” and I kept glancing back to my Christmas craft stuff “piles”.

I’ve been blessed with a lot of work this month and so happy! But a little bit of me aches when I see my glue gun and mod podge just sitting there without anything to stick together. Unfulfilled.

So I gave myself a mini deadline (write one more sentence then take a break – very attainable) and then put the work pile aside and got on my new apron.

Which made me really excited because How STINKIN’ cute am I in this apron?!!!

Aprons are fabulous when you think about them. They keep you tidy, make you look thinner (hello? two please!) and keep everything you need close by (well – if your apron is super cool with pockets like mine is).

I got my apron at ApronsandSmocks.com. They have all sorts of styles and colors available and they are very inexpensive. You’ll see that they cater a lot to the food industry because (obviously) a lot of people who cook and serve food wear aprons (and they carry caps, shirts and other chef apparel, too) BUT aprons aren’t just for cooking!

Think painting, glueing, gardening, spraying, dabbing, cuting…lots of messy activities.

I’m also totally wearing mine at next year’s community garage sale and I think it will be great for wearing up at school when I work on PTO stuff. And they do carry art smocks – but I love aprons…even when I’m doing art!

The kids aprons are so sweet and only $4.05 each. I’m thinking about getting them for Annie’s next birthday party to wear while we do our project then they can take them home as a party favor. Cute?!

Aprons and Smocks.com does embroidery, too so you can get “Still Living The Dream” sewn on your apron in different colors of threads and in different fonts. I mean, they’ll write other stuff, too – but you should totally get a “Still Living The Dream” one I think.

I mean…it works. No matter what you are doing (cleaning the garage – not fun) or making snowflake garland (fun) you can say, “I’m living the dream!” just with a different tone of voice.

Because sarcasm is needed for the first scenerio.

Unless you like cleaning the garage.

Which is weird but I’m not here to judge.

I can’t believe I’ve gone so long without a “Still Living The Dream” branded pink apron. Wearing it, I’m already happier.

I’m working on some decoration ideas I got from my friend Margie Romney-Aslett. I recently took her Spark Your Christmas class online and its full of all kinds of homemade goodness. Check it out! It’s not too late to get your glue gun on! Just get your cute apron, first Ya’ll!

Music note covered clothespins for attaching tags to gifts.

Glittery foam snowflakes to use as decoration in your home and on presents.

These went to my super-cute and the most wonderful, bestest grandma in the world in New York!

I received an apron to review from Aprons & Smocks.com but no other compensation was received. All opinions and thoughts are my own… and quite frankly – they are sometimes scary! 

 

 

 

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Cookie Exchanges Do More Than Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth!

Thanks to Duncan Hines for sponsoring my writing. There’s no limit to the baking possibilities, so grab your favorite Duncan Hines mix and Comstock or Wilderness fruit fillings and Bake On! www.duncanhines.com.

Every year in the beginning of December, my friend and neighbor, Judith, has a get together for the gals before life gets crazy during the holidays. Held on a Monday morning, those who participate in her annual Christmas cookie exchange get together to make the “swap” but others are invited to attend for food and fellowship as well.

Although I’ve done it in the past, I didn’t participate in the cookie exchange this year. I’ve been so swamped with work and writing deadlines, I just didn’t think I had the time. And this morning while I sat working at home on my computer and 10:00 a.m. rolled around, I thought I was too busy to get away…even for a couple minutes. And I almost didn’t go.

But Ed loves those chocolate mint surprise cookies that someone almost always makes, so I grabbed my camera and walked down…you know, to get him a cookie.

I’m so glad I did!

I’ve been so isolated with looming deadlines that I forgot what a little time away could do. I caught up and laughed with a good friend I hadn’t talked to in a while (thanks, Phoebe!) and stole several bites of  yummy sweets – you know, for quality control purposes.

It was so good to get together with a group of ladies and just relax. I think every neighborhood needs a Judith, by the way. She’s the kind of person that gets things done and has been instrumental in forming other long lasting groups like the cookie exchange (which has been going strong for 11 years under her leadership!) such as a baby sitting co-op, book club and advent ornament exchange.

Refueled (with several cookies and great conversation!) I got a lot of work done today. It’s amazing what a cup of coffee and a snickerdoodle can do for your productivity! I was just sad that I didn’t make the time to make cookies for the exchange. If I had, there would be 12 dozen different yummy goodies on my counter top when my 3:00 p.m. wall hit!

But I was working so hard I didn’t even look up from my computer until 3:30 p.m. when the kids got home. Then at 4:00 p.m. the door bell rang. Judith had put together a plate of cookies for me! I was overwhelmed by the kindness of the thought.

I have to remember to take time out to get together with good friends when I’m feeling pressured and stressed. And I have to remember to thank those like Judith in my life who make get togethers like this possible.

And I think I’m going to get out the cookie sheets tomorrow and “pay it forward”. I don’t care how busy I am. Maybe someone else needs a snickerdoodle and a smile, too!

Judith with Ann (who started the cookie exchange in 1990!)

Remember to check out Duncan Hines’ website www.duncanhines.com to find some great recipes for your holiday get-together! I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective.

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Christmas Tradition – Decorating the Tree with #TysonGoodness

Every year when we get out the tree and ornaments and begin to deck the halls, sometime after Thanksgiving Day but usually before St. Nick Day on December 5th, we have a tradition. I get an assortment of finger type food and we have an hors d’oeuvre dinner. Sounds fancy? Nope. I’m talking about easy, peasy yummy finger food we love on plates in the living room coffee table where we can grab and go as we decorate (with a Christmas movie playing in the background, of course!).

A couple of staples are:

1. baked potato skins (my favorite)

2. a cheeseball with crackers (Ed’s favorite)

3. frozen pizza cut into small bites (we all love this!)

A couple new things we tried this year. Carmalized onion and cheese puffs (I loved them but no one else did. However, they will be back next year!) And the new Tyson Mini Chicken Sandwhiches.

Tyson chicken nuggets are in my freezer 24/7/365. If we get low on this item, bells and alarms start sounding because my kids are crazy for their chicken nuggets and they are a fast lunch, snack or dinner option when things get hectic in our household. And they do get hectic!

Now we have another #TysonGoodness favorite. Knowing I was going to be reviewing the mini sandwiches (and almost certain the kids were going to love them) I bought them at Walmart and tucked them in the freezer for our annual tree decorating event.

That night I went to get them out and HELLO…all but one of the packages were gone! Guess who already tried them out? My husband! He had been taking the microwavable packages (each with 2 mini sandwiches in them) to work during the week and having them as a breakfast or snack and LOVES them!

So with Mickey Mouses Christmas playing on the TV and the artificial tree halfway assembled…I cooked the last two mini sandwhiches for Jack and Annie. After giving dad a hard time, the kids dove in and loved them!

Since then we’ve had them as after school snacks and weekend lunches because they are so easy to prepare (just pop em in the microwave in their package for about a minute on each side). I’ve been told by the kids and Ed that they have a place on the “staples” grocery list next to the regular Tyson nuggets.

A GREAT Deal on Tyson Mini Chicken Sandwiches!

 

Still Living The Dream readers, you know I loves me a good deal and love it even more when I can pass one on to you! Currently if you buy two Tyson Mini Chicken Sandwiches at a participating Walmart, you’ll receive a $5.00 Walmart Gift Card!

Hello good deal, nice to meet you!

My freezer will be well stocked now! Just be sure to checkwww.Tysongoodness.com to find out where to go because they aren’t available at all Walmart stores. Click here for more information about the promotion which ends on 1/13/12.

 

So tell me, what’s one of your holiday traditions? Do you cook something special for the occasion?

 

This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Mom Spark Media. All opinions shared are my own. 

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