Friday, August 30, 2013

An Open Letter to Myself: Just Say No to the PTA

Dear Self,

The kids go back to school next week, and let's face it, that means you do, too.

But it doesn't have to mean that. It could mean freedom and relaxation this year instead of endless PTA projects and class mom responsibilities that never seem to end.

Self - let's do things differently this year.
Let's not do what you do every year. Self, do you remember last year? You attended that first day of school meeting for all of the parents, and when the representatives from the PTA stood-up in front of the crowd and explained how imperative parent involvement was... you said yes to everything. And when you over-commit, I over-commit.

And this year I'm not doing it.
I'm reminding you what you promised you would remember to do this year:
Just Say No to the PTA.
We can't take another year of school-wide volunteer coordinating, party planning, fundraising over-drive and over-kill.
I will not sit by while you willingly sign-up for another year of agonizing over how to get the remaining three families to contribute their class dues.

Or watch you worry about how to most effectively balance the dietary needs of the lactose-intolerant classmates with those suffering from acute tree nut allergies. And don't forget the needs of the mom who called you before each-and-every party to remind you which foods or child particularly liked, or even more importantly, disliked.
I will not suffer through another poorly planned class party that resulted in the misstep of giving twenty-four 3-year-olds noise makers as part of a pretend New Year's Eve party celebration. Nor will I endure the phone calls from other parents who wanted to know what the hell we (you, really) were thinking serving preschoolers mocktails at 10am.
And most of all, I will not be here to whisper encouragingly 'You can do it!" as you wonder if you can muster the strength to pick up the phone and beg yet another parent to chaperone the class camping trip.
This year, I'll be relaxing on the couch watching Dexter and Modern Family. I'll be taking leisurely baths while reading the latest issue of Us Weekly The New Yorker.
This year, I hope you'll join me - and not the PTA.

This post is a republish from last year. I still need the pep talk. Do you also need to be restrained when it comes to volunteering?

Thursday, August 8, 2013

HP Photosmart All in One Printer from Staples - A Great Photo Printer and More

Remember how a few days ago I was all agog about my new Acer Chromebook? Well, that was just one of the two great products I received from Staples to review.

I also received an HP Photosmart All-in-One Printer.

I'll be honest, before I got the printer I told my husband of it's imminent arrival in hopes he would take my passive aggressive comment in the manner in which it was given: my way of telling him I would like him to set-up the printer for us.

"Oh," he said "Another photo printer that won't really work, we definitely need one of those." I laughed nervously, disagreed, and secretly figured he was probably right.

The printer arrived, and with just the slightest of cajoling he said he would give it "five minutes, but that's it." And would you believe, it only took five minutes to get it up and running? And it's wireless so there's no cables or connections to worry about either.

Perhaps even more impressively, I've been able to use the printer since the initial set-up without any problems, and to use it for a lot more then just printing photos.

I've also scanned photos that I've wanted to scan for not just months, but for years. One of the great features of this All in One Printer is that you can send a copy of the scanned photo to either your own computer or your own email -- the second option will ensure these photos I've wanted to scan for forever will also get sent to the people I've wanted to send them to for forever, too.

The front of the printer has a touch screen where you can make your selections, which is easy and intuitive to use. A sample of some of the screens are shown below, and you can see how easy it is to select first "photo, copy or scan." Then, for photos, you can choose the size and it prints right out. For scanning, you can choose if it is a photo or a document. And, you can also choose to send it directly to your computer or to an email address.

Another great feature is you can scan and print directly from a memory card, also shown below.

The quality of the printed photos printed is really amazing -- just as good as one you would get from a traditional photo-printing service -- and it's very easy to get the photos to print the size you expect them to be. It might be just me, but with other photo printers I was always seeming to print my photos in extra-giant size or teeny-tiny size.

So if you are a friend or relative to whom I've promised a photo any time in the past ten (or even twenty) years, expect it to come in the mail with an extra scanned copy via email any day now.

Summer camp photos, you're first!

The HP Photosmart 6520 Printer is $149.99 at, and as of this writing, currently eligible for $30 instant savings, for a final cost of $119.99.

I received an HP Photosmart 6520 All-in-One Printer from Staples for purpose of review. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

August Handprint Crafts: Beach, Butterflies and Back-to-School

This post from 2011 is the most visited one on my blog. So, for the second year in a row, I'm giving it an August  re-publish. If you're looking for handprint crafts to celebrate the August holidays - you're in the right place.

How is it August already? While we still have a good long month of summer to go, there's no denying back-to-school and fall are right around the corner.

Here are a bunch of handprint crafts for August - there are some for those still on summer vacation, and one for those (sorry) who are already in back-to-school mode.

For those still on summer vacation:

And for those heading back to school:

And last but not least, here's how to make a gorgeous handprint butterfly. Whether it's a symbolic commentary on your child's year ahead, or just a final celebration of summer, handprint butterflies are a perfect August handprint craft.

How are you celebrating August and the end of summer days and the return of school days?

For a full year of Handprint crafts for every holiday and occassion, you can find the full list here.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Ten Reasons Why I Love the New Acer Chromebook from Staples

A few days ago I received an Acer Chromebook from Staples for review.

In short: It's Awesome.

Here are Ten Reasons Why I Love the New Acer Chromebook from Staples:

1. Sleek design. I have it on my kitchen counter, and it looks great and doesn't take-up much room.

2. Lightweight. I can easily move it from room to room with no problem - it weighs just about 3 pounds.

3. Goes from "power off" to "on" in just a few seconds.  If you're inpatient like me, it's great not to wait for-evah for the computer to boot-up.

4. Completely 100% hassle-free to set-up. Seriously. The whole process was so easy. I turned on the computer and within five minutes I was surfing the web and enjoying my awesome new computer.

5. Excellent computer for travel. For all the reasons above, the compact size and light weight makes the Chromebook ideal for business trips and vacations.

6. Great first computer for kids. I don't really like to share my work laptop with the family, and the Chromebook is a perfect "family computer." There's even an option to use the computer as a guest, which means your log-in names, passwords and search history aren't saved.

7. Google Docs is already installed. It may not seem like a big deal, but it was fantastic to find Google Docs fully installed and ready to use instantly.

8. Google Keep/Scratchpad. I'm obsessed with this feature, which makes it possible to indulge my to-do list mania digitally all day long.

9. Security. Chrome Browser is pre-installed, and not only is it incredibly simple to use but it has fantastic security features, too. And, the Chromebook has additional pre-installed security features and build-in virus protection as well.

10. The Price: $229. Yep, all this awesome is priced under $250.

So yeah, I like my new Acer Chromebook. A lot.

To learn more, or to order one for yourself, click here.

Disclosure: I received an Acer Chromebook from Staples to facilitate review. All opinions are my own.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Week in Review: Smurfs, Sports and More!

Summer. We've been enjoying ours, and I've been writing about it, too.

For Barista Kids I wrote about seeing Smurfs 2: A Great Summer Family Film and all about our Lake Placid Family Vacation.

For New Jersey Family magazine I wrote about Fun (and Free) Things to Do with Kids in Essex County. There's so much to do from movies to outdoor concerts.

For Wonders of Westfield, I covered Westfield's High School Sports Teams and Where to Get Ice Cream, Gelato and Frozen Yogurt in Westfield.

This week, I've promised to take the kids to the mall, the movies, to play tennis and to the playground.

In return, the kids have promised not to drive me crazy.

Next week we'll find out who told the truth! Predictions?

Have a great week, everyone!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Mom's Ultimate Summer Bucket List

It seems everywhere I look - including the handwritten list in my own kitchen - I see a list of awesome things to do with your kids before summer ends, usually given a jaunty title like Ultimate Summer Bucket List.

Favorite must-dos that I see appear over and over again on these lists include:
  • Catch lightening bugs
  • Make s'mores
  • Go out for ice cream
  • Have a sleepover under the stars
I will note that these activities involve late nights and disrupted bedtimes, sugar overloads, and me needing to light a real-live actual fire.

In short, while these may be great, memorable activities for my kids there's not so much in it for me.

Which is why I've decided to spend less time making sure we check everything off a kid-centric Ultimate Summer Bucket List and spend more time getting to the items on my newly created Mom's Ultimate Summer Bucket List.

In no particular order, here are 20 things I plan to do before summer 2013 kicks the bucket.

1. Sleep-in to 9:00 am. Just once.

2. Pee alone. This includes not talking to me through the closed door.

3. Shower alone. Again, I'm not alone if someone is talking to me.

4. Drink one full cup of coffee, while still hot, completely uninterrupted.

5. Read a novel in the backyard hammock.

6. Eat a grown-up dinner at a nice restaurant with my husband. After 8:00 pm.

7. Mother-daughter trip to the mall. (Note: the mother referred to here is my mom, and I'm the daughter.)

8. Eat hard-shelled crabs on the deck. With beer. Lots of beer.

9. Take a family hike. Bonus request: no whining.

10. See the sunrise - by choice, not as an unfortunate result of getting-up with early risers.

11. Have power of selection over the TV for an entire night.

12. Ladies lunch in Manhattan with my mom and daughters. I choose the restaurant.

13. Mother-son outing to the dog park. Admire the canines, but none of them have to be taken care of by me.

14. Watch a Rated R movie.

15. One entire day when no one - including me - requests to use the computer or the iPad or to check "just one quick thing" on the phone.

16.  Enjoy the sweet sounds of my children playing for more than 10 minutes before fighting ensues.

17. Visit our old neighborhood in Manhattan while the kids listen with rapt attention to stories about when they were babies.

18. One good celebrity sighting.

19. Spend a day at the beach and no one gets sunburned.

20. Go to sleep at 9:00 pm. Just once.

What about you? What's on your Summer Bucket List?

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