25 Tips To Help You Enjoy The Holidays

I know that so many of us want to make the holidays perfect. However, I think so many times we forget what perfect is. Perfect is different for each family. Perfection is defined by what we expect of ourselves. Do you expect gorgeous pictures to share with the world, or do you expect to enjoy the time with your children, carry on traditions, make new traditions, and make memories? Yeah, that's my definition too! 

This post is dedicated to sharing my tips for achieving that perfection. I know, it's hard. We want to share those perfect family moments and I have to pause sometimes and remind myself that it's okay. After all, it is just about my family- the rest of the world does not matter. 

We took Tbomb and Kodabug to see Santa last Saturday. I was getting frustrated when Tbomb would not sit still and look at the camera, even though Kodabug was just sitting there pretty as can be. I was trying everything and he just wouldn't do it. In fact, I didn't even get a quick photo that I could put here (I have to wait for them to come back). The lady taking the photos, that I have known for about 18 years, told me that most kids react that way. That's when I realized that it is okay. I will cherish those photos forever. 

That experience is what got me started thinking about this post, so I want to share with you some tips to have the perfect Holiday season. These tips will allow traditions, new traditions, memories, and fun- without all the stress. 

Here goes y'all! 

1. Decide what kind of holiday you want. Do you want a quiet season, a picture perfect time, or to focus on making memories? 

2. Try out a simple advent calendar that will be easy to keep up with. I printed one with a nativity scene and the stars are what counts down (sermons for kids). We actually put star stickers, but you can color them as well. There are also some I've seen that you can glue cotton balls on Santa's beard (Spend With Pennies). 

3. Select only 10 or 15 Christmas activities. Let's face it, most of us do not have the time in our days to add a different Christmas activity each day. We have 15 different items on our "Christmas Bucket List," with a range of activities. Some are as simple as PJ day, while others are more like decorating cookies. We have also included things like have hot cocoa and a movie, make ornaments, look at Christmas lights, and even deliver cookies to the neighbors. Just put your desired items on a list and do them as you have free time throughout December. 

4. Get prepared for random acts of kindness. Create bags with snacks and hygiene items for those in need, print some quick cards explaining about random acts of kindness, and gather your loose change. Have gift cards for free food, you can even leave those around. In fact, as a member of Chic-Fil-A moms, I have received some gift cards for free food. I love Chic-fil-a but also want to spread holiday cheer, so I have left them in random places with a note to pass it on. 

5. Stock up on batteries! I cannot stress this enough. This is probably the biggest tip. I have also invested in a portable charger this year, so that I can always charge my phone (and the kids' electronics) on the go. (Another thing to help with pictures- make sure your smart phone is set up to automatically back your photos up to dropbox or google. You will be glad)

6. Get organized! Take some time to update your calendar, double check dates, and decide which events you definitely want to attend. I promise, you will be glad you did this. 

7. Need hostess gifts this season? Go ahead and get what you need now, instead of waiting until the day of the party to pick one up. Go ahead and pick up a couple generic ones in case you decide to attend a last minute holiday party. Want to take it one step further? Pick up some of these cool packs for the host/ hostess kids. They come in a variety of characters. (They are only $1 and can be picked up at Wal-Mart. There is also a $5 pack that has more stickers, crayons, stencils, and a bigger book). 

8. Keep activities handy for your own kids. My Tbomb tends to get more anxious during the holidays, so I do not leave the house without activities for him (I usually don't anyway). I have picked up a few of those play packs, travel games, and little notebooks. This way, he never gets bored. 

9. Throwing a holiday party? Opt for a brunch with your closest friends, a cookie swap, or tree trimming party. Much simpler and more enjoyable. 

10. Does decorating stress you out? Figure out what makes your family the happiest. For mine, it is the outside lights and the Christmas tree. That's what we focus on.

11. Gather all the Christmas books in one spot. Ours stay out all year, so at Christmas, I put them in a basket, so Tbomb gets to pick two books each night to read. 

12. Gather "go-to" outfits for the kids. I have 3 for Tbomb, and 5 for Kodabug. These are their nice, festive clothes for special events/ church/ photos. This way, when he have to be somewhere with nice clothes, I just grab an outfit. Also, go ahead and change out the clothes in the diaper bag. This time of year, I keep a "play" outfit and a nice outfit for each kid in it. 

13. Make gifts for family members/ close friends when possible. Include the kids in this. You are making memories and saving money. Also, most o the time, these are the most appreciated gifts. 

14. Are you doing Elf on The Shelf, Christopher Pop-In-Kins, or another elf? Keep it simple. I have a few things that Christopher "gifts" to the kids, but for the most part, I just move him to a different place each night. I don't want to stress about this, so I don't. 

15. Cook quick, simple meals most days. Save the more difficult/ time consuming meals for special days, Sunday dinner, or cozy days at home. Why not go ahead and make some big batches of lasagna, soup, and chili to freeze. Then, you have a hearty meal quickly. 

16. This year, we have started something new. We have been wrapping the kids' gifts as we get them. This way, we have less to do on Christmas Eve. In fact, we are even considering having a Christmas Eve bonfire for those that do not have family near. 

17. Keep a holiday binder with your recipes, addresses, wish list, and everything else you need for the season- then you have it all together. 

18. Get the whole family in on signing and addressing Christmas cards. 

19.  If affordable, get your parties/ big dinners catered. You will enjoy it a lot more. You may be able to afford it, even if you think you can't. Many places, like Chic-Fil-A even cater!

20. Have your heart set on a big party, get a couple of your girlfriends to co-host with you. 

21. Get the whole family in on cleaning. First thing (after coffee, of course), get the whole family to cleaning. Assign jobs everyone can do. (Tbomb helps dust and holds the dustpan). It will get done quicker so you can enjoy your day. 

22. Set up a holiday playlist. We add to ours every year. We play it randomly during dinner, while cleaning, and other times throughout the day. It gets everyone in the spirit. 

23. Buy up some generic gifts. This is especially handy for family Christmas parties. I cannot tell you how often this has saved me. I always throw in a couple extra in my basket that I carry gifts in. This way, if someone new is there, someone you forgot, or that was unexpected- you still have a gift on hand. 

24. Figure out what is important to your family, focus on making memories, keep your camera handy, and have as much fun as the kids. I watch them play and get excited and it always gets me in a better mood and melts the stress away. 

25. Smile! When you are smiling, everyone else will have fun too! 

Our family is not big on eating fast food. The exception is Chic-fil-a. It is a wholesome, family friendly place to eat and I know the kids are getting healthy food that is also real food. Even with that, my favorite thing is the atmosphere- always so friendly and it always makes me smile to hear "have a blessed day." Plus, the kids can play, even though it is cold outside. They also have special holiday events at each location (check your location for details). 

This year, Chic-fil-a has a special treat. They have started a holiday focused blog to help moms get through the season. Check out the Chic-fil-A Holiday Guide

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post, and I was not asked to write it. I simply want to dedicate it to my fellow #chicfilamoms as we all strive to give the #giftofpresence this holiday season. 

GoPro Housing: I'm Dreaming of A Techy Christmas

Disclaimer: I received a product to review. All opinions are my own.

My new obsession is my GoPro Hero 3 (more on that later), but there are some drawbacks to it. The biggest of which is the shiny waterproof case. This may not seem like a big deal to some, but for paranormal investigators, bigfoot hunters, hunters, and anyone who films in the dark it is quite a big deal. See, there are other cameras rolling and the shine can cause issues when taking pictures, and may even cause it to look like there is something else in the photo. Being a paranormal investigator, I try to minimize shine when I can, although I have mistakenly wore shoes with reflectors on them. (believe me, I only did this once). Shiny objects can cause the same type of problem. As an example, let's check out this Instagram photo that shows what reflectors do.

A photo posted by cari (@cari_on) on
Do you see that little bit of shine? Imagine in a completely dark room and a powerful flash or IR lights going? That is why the stock housings have a drawback for paranormal investigators.

There is a really cool solution though. While you can get neoprene covers and stickers for the housings, they are just not the quality that is desired for a camera like GoPro Hero cameras.

How gorgeous is that? Guess what? I used a flash. Can you tell how amazing this housing is? The paint and quality of the job is amazing. Even better than the product is the story of how it came to be.

Here is the story:

I am a Veteran of OEF 11/12 and have a business where I custom paint the housings for the very popular GoPro series of Camera’s, specifically the Hero 3/3+/4. I started making these in Afghanistan as I wore a Hero on my ACH Combat Helmet during most of the operations that we went on. When I was overseas, several other soldiers that also had GoPro Hero camera’s saw the quality work that I had done on my GoPro housing and asked me to camouflage theirs as well.

Cheers and be safe!

Rob currently makes about 15 different camos and sells them exclusively through Stuntcams.  I always love hearing what veterans are up to and being able to support them. While I know that these are very beneficial to many of us, I imagine they have saved lives when used in military settings. Good job Rob!

A New Chapter: 10 Pound Pledge #pq10poundPledge

Disclaimer: I am participating in a promotional review campaign. All opinions are my own and I promise to be honest as I go through the process.

As I have written about before, my weight has been a constant issue for many years in my life. It is something I struggle with and I know it will be a challenge for the rest of my life. I have tried many different tactics to get the weight off. However, most of these tactics have been designed to lose a lot of weight as quickly as possible. That is obviously not the best tactic for me.

As I've gotten older (I turned 30 in June), I've realized just how important it is that I get my weight under control and do it in a healthy way that will help ensure that it stays off. Well, now, I am trying a different tactic. I am going to be starting The 10 Pound Pledge.

This program is designed by fitness coach Kamila McDonald and the challenge is to lose 10 pounds in 5 weeks. This makes me feel confident, and not like I am not setting myself up for failure.

Kami has designed workout ad a nutrition plan to help us achieve this goal. They are available for help throughout the program as well. There is no shake to make, no special meals to buy, no huge equipment to buy. Once you join the program, you have everything you need. How great is that? You can get started right away!

I am so excited about this, I would like you all to join along with me. Are you wanting to lose a lot of weight, a few pounds, maintain your weight, or even get healthier? Then join in with me. You can do the program, and join me in this pledge. Let's use #pq10poundPledge in social media.

If you want to come along on this journey, you can get a special 10% discount by going here.

So, head on over and sign up. Then share a tweet, Facebook post, or Instagram post letting us all know you are joining in. (Be sure to tag me @cari_on on Twitter and Instagram and fb.com/thepalmettoqueen on Facebook).

Be sure to join in, get excited, do some exciting social media shares, and get ready to do this thing. We will start December 26th!

I'm Dreaming of A Charming Christmas

Disclaimer: I received a product to review. All opinions are my own.,

I received the cutest little bracelet for consideration in the blog. As soon as I saw it, I knew I would include it. It may not be techy, but it's blingy- that's always a win. Although Kodabug can't wear it or play with it, but she sure did ooh and ahh when she saw it (she is always trying to take my jewelry).

Isn't this the CUTEST bracelet ever?!

CHARM IT! by High IntenCity is an iconic, detachable charm jewelry line
for girls from five to fourteen. Nearly fifteen years since its launch,
the brand remains a popular jewelry product adored by girls and parents
alike. In fact, CHARM IT! is a favorite among celebrity moms, including
Sarah Jessica Parker and Heidi Klum.

These charms are beautiful and perfect for a young girl or teenager. This is Kodabug's jewelry box waiting for her. That "Girls can change the world" charm is actually a locket. This bracelet was sent at random, but perfect for my little miss. She may be only a year old, but already has so much personality. She is such a miss priss and got her ears pierced as part of her Christmas, so that makeup case is perfect. She loves cookies, music, and we have a boston terrier. That anchor is awesome, I have an obsession with them. This is partially because I'm from the coast, but also because of what they stand for. I hope this charm always reminds her to stand firm and that her family will anchor her. 

"Empowering girls with the gift of self-expression is the heart behind
the brand," says High IntenCity president Renee Levy. "Our number one
mission is to inspire individuality and celebrate creativity."

It is so simple to give a personal and custom gift to the special girl in your life with these charms. The charms range from $5 to $16. What better gift to encourage individuality than a charm bracelet. No matter the personality, there is a charm for her. Start a collection for her today!

CHARM IT! products are available nationwide at specialty retailers and premium department stores (like GapKids). 

Merry Christmas, Little Hoo: I'm Dreaming Of A Techy Christmas

Disclaimer: I received a product to review. All opinions are my own.

I have a love and passion for books, especially for my children. I especially love Christmas books. There are so many learning opportunities with them. So many things to teach. This year I have had even more fun exploring Christmas books with the kids because Tbomb got a tablet for his birthday, so we have been loading up on Christmas books for his Kindle app. (No, the kids do not use my tablet, that's the one thing I keep to myself).

Merry Christmas, Little Hoo ($2.99 kindle), by Brenda Ponnay is among the cutest I have seen so far. It is in the style of the classic Goodnight moon. I love this little owl, Tbomb is already asking for the others in the series, which have been written for other holidays and milestones.

Little Hoo is in his bed Christmas Eve, when he keeps hearing strange sounds throughout the house, and thinks they must be Santa, the elves, and the reindeer. He has to get up ad investigate, only to find that it is nothing strange. Find out what happens when he finally falls alseep.

As a homeschool mom, I love to tie cute little books with our lessons (especially since Tbomb is only 4). We used this book to learn about stopping to pay attention and inference. It was a fun lesson!

August EP640 Headphones: I'm Dreaming of A Techy Christmas #Giveaway

Disclaimer: I received this product to review, all opinions are my own.

I rave quite frequently about my love for the products released by August International. I have not used a product by them yet that I do not LOVE. My favorite though is the August EP640 Headphones. 

Did you see this on Instagram?

Well, I was not disappointed. I have used these headphones for listening to music, making phone calls, editing audio, and even listening for EVPs. I have never had a pair of headphones I was happier with (even other August International ones). The sound quality is absolutely amazing. I'm talking concert hall quality.

 These headphones connect via bluetooth, but also come with a 3.5 audio cable for use on non Bluetooth devices. They are also NFC compliant for easy connectivity. The Bluetooth version 4 chip will allow connection within seconds.

There is also a built in microphone (only available when using Bluetooth). They charge via micro USB for up to 10 hours of use (12 days standby). The handy thing is though that the audio cable allows them to be used even when the battery dies. The headphones also include volume, music, and calls control buttons.

I have a problem with most headphones because of my different cartilage piercings. Most headphones rub them and it gets quite painful. These are roomy enough thought, so that is not a problem. Also, the cushions around the ear pad is like a pillow, allowing for hours of wear. The top band also has padding. These are some comfortable earphones. The August EP640 headphones have a very sturdy build. In fact, I can just throw them in my bag and don't have to worry about them. However, they do make a case for them as well. They come in a nice matte finish. The colors to choose from are Red, Black, and White.

These headphones are on Amazon for less than $60.


August International is so awesome, they are going to give two wonderful readers of The Palmetto Queen a pair of these amazing headphones. To enter, just tell me what your favorite feature is. Don't forget to include which color you prefer (red, black, white) and your email address. 


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