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Introducing Xfinity xFi – a new way to make the home Wi-Fi experience customized to suit your family

 

My husband and I often reminisce about how life was when we were younger. We didn’t have cellphones, Internet, cars that can stop before you hit something or e-readers. We used phones attached to the wall that you had to dial. We went to the library when we needed to do research as well as to take out books to read, and we certainly didn’t have cars that did some of the work for you.

I think the Internet is by far one of the greatest “inventions” (for lack of a better word) in our lifetime. To this day I am still amazed at all you can do on the Internet – research, shopping, find a recipe for dinner tonight, find old friends from school, get directions, buy movie tickets… the list goes on and on.

I try to explain to our kids (17 1/2 and 20) how life was BEFORE the Internet. They have a hard time grasping the concept of having to look at a map for directions or looking up a phone number in a giant book of phone numbers.

As amazing and indispensable as the Internet is… there are also negatives that many family find themselves having to address.

One of the biggest issues we used to have when our kids were younger was having them disconnect from the Internet during times they were supposed to be doing homework, dinner time and “Family Movie Night.” You can tell them to stay off their computers, but that was easier said than done. They would find ways to sneak back online. There was even a time we had to remove the computers from our kid’s rooms at night because we found them online in the middle of the night. We even went so far as to change their passwords so that they could only go online when we logged them in.

As parents we NEED to have control over our children’s Internet usage. The Internet is great for research, and for the occasional game, but school work, family time and play time are more important than “surfing the ‘net.”

There is a new feature now available for Comcast Internet customers called xFi. It puts YOU in charge of how your family engages with the Internet. Best of all, there is no additional cost for Comcast Internet customers.

Comcast Launches xFi home devices photo shoot on Wednesday, April 19, 2017, in Villanova, Pennsylvania. (Jeff Fusco/AP Images for Comcast)

With xFi YOU control your family’s Internet usage, giving YOU the ability to set parental controls as well as see which devices are connected to your WiFi.

We have A LOT of devices on our WiF. We have several iPads, five laptops, two e-readers, security cameras and more. We would appreciate a better way to keep on top of these devices as well as to easily add or remove them as needed.

It also shows which devices are most active, and which are least active. That is a great way to know which devices to deactivate from your WiFi. Why keep something connected that you barely use?

You can also set up profiles for each family member and include the devices they use. With this feature you can easily see which child is using what device, and what parental settings are set up for each one they use. With this feature, if your child is supposed to be doing homework, you can log on to their profile and see if they are currently using their gaming console. Kids won’t like that feature – but as a mom I think that is awesome!

With the profiles, you can clearly see how much Internet time each family member is using.

My favorite xFi feature is being able to pause the Internet. That means you can prevent devices, such as laptops or video controllers, from accessing the Internet. This feature is especially handy during dinner or homework time. You can even turn off the Internet at night time, preventing your children from sneaking on to their laptops at night when they are supposed to be asleep.

Check out this brief video that tells you more about xFi and some other great features that will be coming in the future.

 

You can even check out this blog post from Comcast to learn more about Xfinity xFi.

We don’t have Comcast, but after learning more about xFi I wish we did. I checked the availability, but it’s not currently available in my area.

You can check the availability of xFi by visiting the Internet Coverage Area page on the Comcast website.

I love how Comcast is putting control back into the hands of parents. It’s important that we continually monitor our children’s Internet usage. Children can easily have their time consumed by video games and social media, as well as other things they can access online.

I truly wish that other Internet providers would take a lesson or two from Comcast and provide their customers with similar controls – at no additional charge.

Once this is available in our area my husband and I are going to consider switching to Comcast as our Internet provider. Right now we’re stuck with the provider that we have.

If you would like to learn more about Comcast’s Internet service, xFi, you can visit them online at Xfinity.com. You can also check them out on social media (Facebook and Twitter). Those links, as well as their YouTube channel link, are found at the bottom of their website.

Are you a Comcast customer?

What feature (or features) do you like most about xFi? Is there another feature you would like as far as parental controls is concerned?

Feel free to share your thoughts. I always love to hear from readers.

Comcast Launches xFi home devices photo shoot on Wednesday, April 19, 2017, in Villanova, Pennsylvania. (Jeff Fusco/AP Images for Comcast)

Kimberly

*This post was sponsored by Comcast. All opinions are my own.  

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5 Steps to Take Before You Grocery Shop

 

Healthy (and budget minded) grocery shopping starts before you leave home. There are steps you can do to ensure that your shopping cart reflects what you meant to buy, and not just the items you were lured to.

Keep an organized pantry and refrigerator: If you can’t see what you need, then how will you know what you need? A clean pantry and refrigerator will reduce waste (by ensuring you eat foods before they expire) and save money so that you don’t end up with a several bottles of ketchup (or none when you need it). Save yourself from having to do an extensive pantry/fridge check prior to leaving for the store by keeping a running list (in a visible spot so that everyone in the house can contribute to it).

Start with a helpful list: It may sound simple, but beginning with a list is essential. Your round up of needed groceries shouldn’t just be a quick review of the basics, but reflect the meals you intend to cook and the healthful convenience items you may need to get through a busy week like prewashed lettuce bags or microwave brown rice pouches. A list that is at targeted as possible will not only make your shopping faster, it will lead to a balanced cart of foods that actually work together to create meals (and avoid take out!).

Think about a basic meal plan: Whether you shop several times a week or just once a week (or every two weeks!), starting with an idea of what you want to make is crucial to ending up with the right ingredients. Nobody likes making “emergency” trips to the market for that missing item! It doesn’t have to be formal, just a simple plan of your main dish on each day is enough—you can often wing it on the side dishes provided you have a fairly well-stocked fridge and pantry (see #1 above).

PLAN to be flexible in the produce department: You know that you need fruits and vegetables, but unless you need particular produce to complete your meals, approach the produce department with flexibility to take advantage of seasonal savings and the best options. Keep color and variety in mind and you will be sure to have a cart full of antioxidants and other nutrients.

Have a balanced meal: You’ve heard that you should eat before you go to the store to avoid “splurchasing” on foods you don’t mean to buy (you know, those that simply “look good to you”). However, it’s important to recognize that simply “eating” isn’t enough and that what you eat matters. Choose a balanced meal or snack that includes protein and/or fat along with carbohydrate and possibly filling fiber, such as a piece of fruit with nut butter, a few whole grain crackers with cheese or a large salad with grilled chicken.

About the authors: 

Kitty Broihier MS, RD, LD, Scientific Advisory Panel at Guiding Stars

Allison Stowell, MS, RD, CDN, and dietitian for Guiding Stars

 

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Connecting and opening up conversation with your teenager

 

Our son and daughter

I have a hard time saying this… I’m the mother to a 17 1/2 year old and an almost 20 year old. How in the world do I have a twenty year old child? Wasn’t it just yesterday when she was staring Kindergarten?

Sigh… time flies by way too quickly.

I used to think that getting up at all hours of the night to feed babies and change diapers was rough (lack of sleep!). And that the “terrible twos” were not easy either. But that all changed when our kids became teenagers. The teenage years are by far the most challenging (and rewarding) years.

The “rewards” include seeing your teen get their first boyfriend or girlfriend, go to prom, get their first car, get their first job and of course graduate from high school.

The challenges… they will keep you up at night, stress you out and turn your hair gray practically overnight.

I remember being a teenager myself. The teen years were rough with pimples, puberty, peer pressure and trying to figure out who I was. That was back in the 80’s. We didn’t have social media back then. I think social media has put even more pressure on teenagers.

Me as a teen (18) back in 1986.

I make it a point to talk to our kids often about drinking, smoking, drugs, sex and peer pressure. They do feel awkward talking to me about these things, but they know that eventually I find everything out so they might as well get it out in the open.

Our son hasn’t done anything so far. He graduates from high school in June and he JUST got a social life at the start of his senior year. He’s been out a few times with friends but they mostly go to the mall or out to eat. He doesn’t go to parties or anything like that.

He does have his first girlfriend, and we’ve already given him “the talk” about what he shouldn’t be doing (mostly sex). My husband and I have faith in our son that he’ll “do the right thing.”

Our daughter… well, she’s another story. I think she is more like a typical teen who has experimented with things (drinking, smoking marijuana…). She KNOWS she’s not supposed to do things like that, and she has admitted to doing them (and being grounded for them). At least she feels comfortable enough to admit to me when she’s broken the rules, talking to me about it and accepting the consequences.

I know first hand that trying to connect with today’s teenagers is not an easy task. Luckily there are things you can do to open up the lines of communication.

Believe it or not, one way to start a dialogue with your teen is the watch the shows and movies that they enjoy watching.

If you are having a hard time reading the infographics above you can on these links to view a large image – Netflix US Infographic on Talking to Teens and Netflix Parenting Cheat Sheet – What Parents Should Be Watching.

According to a recent study by Netflix 83% of parents have watched a show their teen has seen to feel closer to them. The biggest surprise? 74% of teens are willing to open up and talk to their parents about the shows they watch.

Our daughter recently watched 13 Reasons Why. She read the book as well. It was written by Jay Asher.

Newcomer Katherine Langford plays the role of Hannah, a young woman who takes her own life. Two weeks after her tragic death, a classmate named Clay finds a mysterious box on his porch. Inside the box are recordings made by Hannah — on whom Clay had a crush — in which she explains the 13 reasons why she chose to commit suicide. If Clay decides to listen to the recordings, he will find out if and how he made the list. This intricate and heart-wrenching tale is told through Clay and Hannah’s dual narratives.

No one wants to think about someone they love committing suicide.

Did you know…

  • Suicide is the SECOND leading cause of death for ages 10-24.
  • More teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease, COMBINED.
  • Each day in our nation, there are an average of over 5,240 attempts by young people grades 7-12.
  • Four out of Five teens who attempt suicide have given clear warning signs.

The breaks my heart to read those statistics presented by the Jason Foundation.

I was curious as to why our daughter wanted to watch the series on Netflix. It turns out that she read the book and she was curious to see if the series on Netflix was a lot like the book. She actually thought it was very well done and Netflix and actually encouraged me and my husband to watch it.

I did watch the first episode (in all fairness I haven’t had a chance to watch more of it, but I plan to).

We did have a discussion about suicide as a result of 13 Reasons Why. We talked about her friends and if any of them talked about suicide or if she knew anyone who died from suicide (thankfully she doesn’t know anyone and she says her friends never talked about it or showed signs they were going in that direction).

My husband really like the film Frank. It’s an odd movie. I don’t know what he sees in it. I’ve watched it and I thought it was really strange. He initially saw the film on Netflix at the recommendation of a friend of his. He loved the movie so much that he purchased a copy of the film as well as the soundtrack.

To our surprise our daughter and her ex-boyfriend (back when they were dating) actually watched Frank on Netflix. Our daughter wanted to watch it to see why my husband/her father saw in it. She actually liked the film (her boyfriend liked it more than her and actually watched it again and downloaded a few songs). It was interesting to see our daughter sharing her thoughts on the film that my husband likes so much.

Our daughter loves to watch One Tree Hill, Grey’s Anatomy and Breaking Bad on Netflix. I can understand One Tree Hill since it’s about young adults, but I was surprised to learn she watched Grey’s Anatomy. I was fortunate enough to visit the set of Grey’s Anatomy a few years back and speak with a few of the actors. If you are interested you can read about my on set experience and see all my photographs in this post – On the set with ABC’s hit television show Grey’s Anatomy. *PLEASE NOTE there are some graphic photos in that post (FAKE intestines and such).

I never watched the show, but my daughter was more than happy to tell me all about it. When I told her I visited the set and shared my experience with her she thought it was the coolest thing ever! I should mention that when I did the site visit she didn’t watch the series and knew nothing about it which is why she didn’t care about it back then.

As for Breaking Bad, I don’t really know much about that show. I do know it’s about drugs. I asked her why she liked watching it and she said that her ex-boyfriend watched it and she got interested in it through him. To date I have not watched the series, but it’s on my list of things to watch on Netflix.

For my part, I do encourage our daughter to watch things that we watch on Netflix and recommend things to watch.

Being a young adult she’s not really into Disney or Pixar movies anymore. I have recommended a few to her that she should check out on Netflix like Zootopia, Pete’s Dragon and Finding Dory. She did watch Finding Dory. She loved Finding Nemo and was happy to check out Finding Dory. 

Our son doesn’t watch movies or television. He prefers to watch CNN and MSNBC. He’s more into world news then television shows or movies. In fact he recently went to the movies with his girlfriend and it was the first non-premiere movie he’s seen since Eight Below (2006).

Who would have thought that something as simple as watching a movie or a television show together, or on your own, could open up the lines of communication and discussion with your teen.

Is there a movie or television show that you and your teenager watch together? Have you ever watched something that helped to open the lines of communication with your teen? Feel free to share your story. I always LOVE to hear from readers.

Kimberly

*I am a member of Netflix’s Stream Team. I was not compensated for this post but I do receive free membership to Netflix in exchange for my participation. The opinions expressed are my own and not influenced in any way.

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How Do I Pay For An EIN?

 

An EIN is a tax identification number that will help the IRS identify your business. While the purpose of the EIN number is mostly limited to the tax season, obtaining an EIN and properly filing and paying taxes on your business is crucial. The IRS has long been a formidable entity and it does have the power to impose fines and liens if your taxes are not properly filed. Here’s a bit more information to help you get your EIN and avoid getting on the bad side of the IRS:

How to Apply for EIN: To apply for an EIN number, you will need to fill out Form SS-4 and submit that document to the IRS. The form can be submitted online, by fax or by mail. Applying online is the fastest method and will help ensure that you have your EIN in time for tax season.

How to Pay for EIN: When you apply for an EIN, you may need to pay administrative fees. Check the site that you are registering through for information on how and what to pay when registering your EIN. Fees can vary from registrar to registrar, depending on your specific needs.

How to Check your EIN Status: Once you submit your SS-4 form, you can check the status of your application online.  If you apply online, you will receive your number immediately in most cases. Keep in mind that if you choose to mail or fax your form, the information may not appear online for several days.

Once you receive your EIN, you will need to use that number to file the taxes on your business. Keep you EIN in a secure location as this will be the number that you use when filing your taxes every year.

Visit www.irs-ein-tax-id.com for more.

*I have partnered with the brand to bring you this information. The opinions expressed are that of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect my own. 

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Oriental Trading – your one stop shop for all your crafting supplies (and more!)

 

I love to do crafty things. Over the years I have dabbled in painting, drawing, jewelry making, stencils, making home made soap and beauty products and more. Sadly, I don’t have as much time as I used to when it comes to doing something fun like crafting. By the time I get home from work I’m exhausted and the weekends are spent catching up on things I couldn’t get done all week (cleaning, blogging, running errands…).

For a while I didn’t get a chance to craft at all. Ever since I started my new position at my job (this past September) I get to craft on a daily basis with the kids I work with.

I work as a teacher’s assistant in a kindergarten program. Every day we read the kids a book and do a craft/project based on the book.

It’s not always that easy to find crafts to do, especially on the spur of the moment. Often my boss, the classroom teacher, has no clue what book he’s reading that day let alone a craft to go with it. We don’t always have the supplies we need to do some of the crafts we want to do either. I swear, the kids I work with go through glue sticks like crazy!

Thank goodness for Oriental Trading Company. Its my favorite place to shop for not only craft supplies, but also craft projects. They even offer crafts that contain everything you need to complete it. Those are my favorite kinds of crafts from Oriental Trading to use with the kids I work with. I LOVE having everything we need in neat, individual packages.

I love having several crafts on hand, and Oriental Trading offers so many to choose from. They have crafts for boys, girls, unisex and even adults.

Here are some of my personal favorites that we have utilized lately in our classroom.

Oriental Trading offers several Magic Scratch crafts. A Magic Scratch craft is something you use a small plastic “stick” (included) to scratch out a colorful design. There are so many designs to choose from including holiday, seasonal, superheros, dinosaurs, animals, religious symbols and more.

I picked out the Magic Color Scratch Superheroes for the kids that I work with. They are really into Marvel and DC superheroes. I knew they would go crazy for the superhero scratch off shapes.

The kids couldn’t get enough of these.

They are so simple to use. Simply use the plastic “stick” that comes with them to scratch off the back coating to review the bright colors underneath.

The kids had fun making their own superhero logos on their scratch off figures uniforms.

I plan on getting more of these for the kids. They were a fun project they could do at one of the classroom centers. We also have dinosaur scratch offs that I am saving for when we are into our dinosaur unit.

We do a lot of projects based on the different holidays and seasons. Now that it’s officially Spring time we were excited to share the Spring crafts from Oriental Trading with the kids.

Oriental Trading has A LOT of delightful spring crafts to choose from.

This “Ducky About Spring” craft turned out super cute. It was so easy for the kids to make too. All they needed to do was peel off the back of the foam pieces and put them together on the foam sign.

Each sign came as a “kit” with all the pieces you needed to make it. The kit even includes extra pieces. Some of the girls took the extra bows for the kite and the flowers to make a girl ducks. They turned out so cute!

Another fun and easy Spring craft the kids I work with had the opportunity to do recently was the Paper Plate Spring Bird’s Nest Craft Kit. This is another great, easy to do craft that requires nothing extra. Everything you need is included in the kit. All of the foam pieces have self-adhesive backs on them. The nest did require glue but we were able to get it all to stick with stick glue, so there was virtually no mess involved (liquid glue can get messy with 5-6 year olds).

The kids I work with (most especially the girls) love to make necklaces and bracelets out of beads.

I found a cute Geometric Shapes Necklace Craft Kit at Oriental Trading. Each individual kit comes with 10 big, colorful wood beads that are easy to string with the included 30″ cord.

What I love about this kit is that it comes with pieces for the end so you can open/close the necklace when you want to put it on or take it off. Most of the necklaces the kids make in our class either have to slide over their heads or they get tied on and have to get cut off because there is no other way to do it.

I had pictures of one of the kits, but I can’t find it. It looks like the image (below). You can mix/match the beads and design it any way you want.

Oriental Trading has a lot of jewelry craft kits to choose from including plenty of holiday/seasonal ones as well as kits for adults.

The most recent craft we did which came from Oriental Trading is the Stand-Up Easter Sign Craft Kit. Instead of using this one for a class project we used it at one of the activity centers. This craft was REALLY easy to make. So easy that the kids were done with in about three minutes, give or take.

It’s OK. We can always use fun things for the activity centers and the kids really enjoyed this one and couldn’t wait to take them home to show their families.

We still have one more craft to use with the kids which is perfect for Spring – Pom-Pom Caterpillar Note Holder Craft Kit.

We haven’t made this one yet, so I don’t have a photo of the finished product made by me or one of our kids. I can’t wait to make them. They are going to be so cute!

You don’t have to be a school teacher or teacher’s assistant to appreciate these fun craft kits for all holiday, seasons and every day fun. These kits are great for scouts, Girl Scouts, Sunday School, birthday parties, gifts for classmates and rainy day fun. The kits vary in size. Some are only a few kits where as others might have enough to make a dozen of the craft project. For my job I go with ones that have a dozen kits in one since we have 23 kids in our class (I order two sets).

You could always give away extra craft kits (they would make great handouts for Halloween!).

Oriental Trading Company is my favorite place to shop for not only crafts, but also supplies, home decor and my personal favorite – holiday decorations! Their prices are very affordable and I find that they ship pretty quick too.

If you would like to discover all the goodies available to you at Oriental Trading Company visit OrientalTrading.com. The links to their social media sites are found at the bottom of their website.

Check out Oriental Trading for fun summer time items too including Luau party supplies, outdoor games and activities and so much more.

Do you shop at Oriental Trading Company? If so, what is your favorite items to shop for?

Kimberly

*I received free products to review. There was no compensation. The opinions expressed are my own and not influenced in any way. 

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Take your coloring to the next level with Prismacolor

 

Are you into coloring? It seems as though “adult coloring” is all the rage these days. There are a plethora of coloring books made specifically for adults who enjoy coloring. In fact, I own about a dozen or so of those kinds of books.

My husband (yes… my husband!) and I have been coloring together for decades. We find it very relaxing. We especially love to color holiday/seasonal coloring pages. I prefer to color cute things. My husband enjoys coloring landscapes or pages with a lot of details.

Every Christmas for the past 20+ years I gift my husband a brand new box of crayons. He prefers crayons that are sharp and he likes having a variety of colors to choose from.

I do a lot of coloring at work. I work with children and they all love to color. As a teacher’s assistant, I make sure to print out new coloring pages for the kids every other week. I take requests and try to find coloring pages that they would enjoy. They tend to prefer popular characters like X-Men, Avengers, My Little Pony, Shopkins, Monster High, Strawberry Shortcake and more. I also look for holiday and seasonal coloring pages too.

The kids I work with are kindergartners. They are not exactly easy on the crayons, markers and colored pencils that we keep in the classroom. For that reason I bring my own coloring supplies with me in my tote bag. I enjoy having a variety of mediums to choose from (crayons, markers, pencils) and I like having coloring pieces that are not broken or worn out.

Here are some coloring pages I did at work during the holidays.

When I sit and color with the kids I use the classroom materials. During nap time (45 minutes) I like to color after I have my lunch. I find it very soothing and relaxing, most especially when I work with two dozen overly energetic children.

Recently I was sent to review a set of fine tip markers and colored pencils from the brand Prismacolor. I have heard of the brand before, and I have seen their products sold online and in local retail stores, but up until now I have never had the opportunity to try them out.

I tend to prefer crayons, but many adult coloring books feature images that are too fine to color with crayons. You need colored pencils or markers to get into every single little detail.

I also like to blend colors. I don’t like using just one color because I think it makes the image look “flat.” I like to add different colors, blend them together, and give an image highlights and shadows to really make it “pop” from the page.

I received a package of 24 colored pencils from Prismacolor.

I like the variety of colors that came in this package. It includes the primary colors as well as different variations of them. It even includes a white pencil. You might think that a white pencils is pointless, but it’s not. You can use it to highlight details in your drawing or coloring page.

The pencils are soft and glide smoothly across the paper. They also blend beautifully.

Here is a piece I am working on. It’s more evident in the photo that I need to blend some areas on the flower better (it doesn’t look like that in person), and do some more shading. Aside from that, I think it’s turning out really nice.

You can tell from the first time that you use these pencils that they are quality pencils. They are not rough and hard like other coloring pencils. These are soft and smooth. These are artist quality pencils.

I also received from Prismacolor a set of fine tip markers.

Some adult coloring books/pages have really find detail. I prefer to use colored pencils for those types of images because it’s easier to get into the tight spots. However I do enjoy the look of a page colored in markers. Most markers are too thick for some areas.

The Prismacolor fine tip markers are VERY fine tip. The tips are incredibly itty bitty. They are great for tiny spaces, but coloring a larger area with them would take forever.

I do have several adult coloring books, and I know that these will come in handy when combined with other markers (regular tipped ones).

I have a few travel adult coloring books. The entire image on each page is very small. These markers are perfect to tote along with those books. They need markers like this.

You can see in the image below just how fine tipped these markers are.

I see in the photo I had places to fill in. In my defense I suffer from Carpal Tunnel, and some days are better than others. I can’t always be perfect when I color. Not only that, I do it for fun and to relax – I’m not entering any coloring competitions. LOL!

If you enjoy coloring or drawing, and you are looking for quality materials, check out the line of products available from Primacolor.

For more information you can visit Prismacolor.com. Primacolor products are available at many retail location across the country, as well as online.

The brand is also available on social media. Their links can be found on the top of their website.

Do you enjoy coloring and/or drawing?

Are you familiar with Prismacolor?

Kimberly

*I received free samples in order to do this review. There was no compensation. The opinions expressed are my own and not influenced in any way.

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