Family Fun: How to Make a Movie Together

According to Samsung, 2.5 billion people around the world own a digital camera. Put your camera to good use and switch your setting from taking still shots to video. Put your camera to good use and get the kids involved to make a family movie together. Consider a documentary or montage of your year, or something more ambitious like an action-packed feature-length film starring mom, dad, the kids, and even the family pets.

how to make a movie with your family

Here are some ideas on how to start your next family film:

Make It Look Professioniol

Making a movie for fun on your smartphone is a great idea, but there are ways to make your family movie look professional. Pick-up a DSLR camera, borrow one from a friend, or rent one for a day. A DSLR camera can take snapshots while also filming your family movie. They typically have larger sensors for a bigger depth of field and a more cinematic look than a traditional camcorder or smartphone. Stabilize your camera on a table or use a rig to keep it steady to avoid your images from going in and out of focus.

Think about some of your favorite feature-length films. Was it the location, costumes, or props that compelled you to keep watching? Get out old Halloween costumes for a frightful scene, or shoot on an old bridge over a creek for a reflective scene. Write up a script, but encourage kids to improvise as they see fit to bring some spontaneity and emotion to your masterpiece.

Get Creative

Add titles, graphics, and transitions like wipes and dissolves to your footage. Most computers come with installed video editing software, like Apple’s iMovie. Take your film to the next level by incorporating stock footage. Choose stock video footage from a website like Shutterstock to add to your holiday video, such as footage of fresh snow falling over a Christmas tree, an animated dancing Santa, reindeer prancing in front of a moon, or a family opening gifts. Use it as an opener to your film or dream sequence to really add a punch of professional pizzazz.

Conduct Interviews

Take your film to documentary heights by interviewing members of the family. Ask questions about their favorite family memories or ask them to recall their favorite things about a lost relative or pet. Discuss each family members’ dreams and ambitions as a live recording of where you and your family were in history. Keep adding to the film every year with the same questions and watch your film evolve into a family archive. Watch what answers change and which ones stay the same, and discuss the new developments with your kids.

Choose a Fun Soundtrack

A film isn’t complete without a fun soundtrack. Pick an adventurous tune when the kids are swinging from the monkey bars and racing into the tree house. Choose a tune that’s mysterious and dark during a tense scene where the kids discover a monster in the cellar. Or pick something happy and light for a montage of your family adventures for the year.

How to be Happy Calm and Focused #giveaway

I was recently contacted by a company, asking if I’d like to try a supplement called “HCF” (which stands for Happy Calm and Focused). I was skeptical, of course, that a pill full of amino acids could have any of those effects on my brain, but I figured I didn’t have anything to lose.

Since I had my second baby and subsequent Postpartum Depression, my brain chemistry has been a  little “off.” I was on antidepressants for a while, and when I got pregnant again, the PPD came back. Since then, I’ve stopped taking the anti-depressants, but I’m much quicker to lose my temper than I used to be, and I often just feel sad in general.

And as a work-at-home mom, focus is a huge obstacle for me. Some days, I feel like my brain is just fuzzy and trying to get anything done is more work than it’s worth. Do you ever have those days? The days when if you don’t write every single thing down, it just gets lost in the abyss of your overworked brain?

So yes, I was skeptical about taking HCF, but I figured it was worth a shot. Within a few days, I honestly felt a change in myself. I even told some of my friends that I was just…happy. I hadn’t felt content as a state of being in so long that I had forgotten what it was like.

It wasn’t like that every single day. I still had fuzzy brain days and I lost my temper when my kids wouldn’t listen, but it was better. I felt better.

A few days after I finished my 30 day supply, I was back to being short at my kids again, and more of my days are “fuzzy brain days”.

Here’s some of the science behind HCF, from the website: At the core of the renown HCF formula are two key amino-acids called F&Q. Combined with our balanced delivery system of micro neuro-nutrients, HCF naturally supports the increase of “feel good” neurotransmitters in our brain very similar to what you would actually find in whole-food proteins.


It seems to me (because I don’t really understand all of the science behind it), HCF gave me some of what my brain was missing, and it felt good when it was no longer starved for it. (I know, highly technical, right?)

If you’d like to try HCF for free for 14 days, sign up for a free trial here. And better yet, I’m giving away a 30 day supply to one of you lucky readers.

Do what I did and try it out for yourself. What have you got to lose? (besides wasted hours in your day, maybe?)

I received a 30 day supply of HCF to review, and my opinions are 100% my own. I received no compensation for this post.

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Getting Organized with Thirty-One Gifts

I don’t know about you, but getting organized and staying organized in my home office is a full-time job. I’ve shared tips and resources for maintaining a clean, organized home and office, but when my work gets hectic or I need to leave the house for my job and take it with me, it can get a little out of control again. Does that happen to you?

I had the opportunity to try out a couple of products from Thirty-One Gifts, designed to maintain order and organization.

Getting organized with thirty-one gifts

The Fold N’ File and Zip Top Organizing Utility Tote are made to fit together, so you can easily pack away your files, forms, information, etc and take them with you. My job is such that I work from home most of the time, but make visits to local high schools for testing, enrollment, and things like that. So, I have booklets, forms, files and paperwork to carry with me sometimes that I need to have easy access to as soon as I get home and can enter data into the computer.

The two fit perfectly together…I can fill the Fold N’ File and slip it into the tote to take with me. It zips right over the top so I don’t have to worry about anything spilling out in the car, and the tote has pockets all around the outside for my pens, keys, phone, and whatever else I need to take along.

Getting organized with thirty-one gifts

Getting organized with thirty-one gifts

What I love most about Thirty-One Gifts products is that not only can you personalize and customize them with colors, prints, and embroidery, but they’re made to last. I will never worry about a strap breaking as I’m carrying my tote into a school, because they’re so durable and well-made.

Along with the Fold N’ File and Organizing Totes, there are a lot of products available for travel, organization, the kitchen, laundry room…anything you need, you can find something that fits the bill.

I also received a super fun tote for Halloween, featuring glow in the dark embroidery and an adorable owl. I chose the hot pink zip-top tote from the Spirit Collection, but there are several other products (available only through October 31!) that you can design with the special Owl-loween embroidery, including the perfect trick-or-treat bags to last for years. Did I mention it glows in the dark?

Getting organized with thirty-one gifts


Getting organized with thirty-one gifts

I’ll be taking mine to the school Halloween parties to carry all of my games and treats, and as my purse when we trick-or-treat. But…I’ll keep using it after October because it’s so darn cute.

Thirty-One Gifts not only offers great products, but they also have an amazing work-at-home opportunity available for women…a complete $400+ enrollment kit is only $99 to get a business started, and consultants make up to four times more than the average direct seller.

They also give back to the community through Thirty-One Gives. If you’ve ever placed an order, you’ve seen the chance to round up your total to the next dollar for charity. I love that, because it’s so easy and doesn’t take a lot out of my budget, but it helps.

Check out Thirty-One Gifts on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, and browse their site to see the amazing products and opportunity they offer.

I received the Fold N’ File, Zip Top Organizing Utility Tote and Owl-loween Zip Top Organizing Utility Tote for review, but received no compensation. All opinions are 100% my own.

How to Boost Productivity at Home

According to the United States Census Bureau, almost 10 percent of workers have a home-based office and about half of those work the majority of time from home. With more than 10 million women-owned businesses, we can guess that many of these home-based offices started as stay-at-home-mom ventures. Trying to maintain a favorable work and home balance while being productive on both fronts can be a task. Happily, there are some experts with tips on how to boost productivity at home, in your home office.

How to boost productivity at home

According to Psychologists

Music and workplace productivity have been studied by psychologists since mp3 players became commonplace in the office. Overall, music has a positive effect on productiveness with few caveats. Music with lyrics can be distracting, leading to loss of concentration. Oddly enough, these disruptions are counteracted with fewer mistakes. Research on people that type as part of their job description found that people typed slower but made fewer errors, with a net positive effect on productivity. If you are going to rock out at home, you may need a good pair of headphones to drown out the sounds of kids or TV shows in the background.

According to MBAs

A social networking company called the Draugiem Group, using the DeskTime productivity app, found that there is an ideal ratio between work and break. The study found that we should have a 17 minute break for every 52 minutes of work to get the maximum recuperative benefits. The importance of breaks is not new in the business field. Not only does a break renew your mental energy, breaks are also times of creative thinking that reduce stress and increase overall health. Since most people tend to forget to take breaks, set a timer to go off every 52 minutes. Make the 52/17 rule a part of your daily routine.

According to Doctors

Twenty minutes of exercise in the morning and another 20 in the afternoon may be the best way to increase workplace productivity. In a American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine study, researchers found that people that have physical exercise, even if it was enforced, report increased levels of self-reported productiveness. Not only did productivity go up but sick day usage went down and overall health went up. Breaking up the workouts into two smaller at home exercise routines stretches out the neurochemical high associated with physical fitness so that it lasts throughout your day. It also lessens some of the negative effects of over-exercising.

According to Your Kids

There is a reason that you are working from home. It probably involves making money and seeing your children. Your real bottom line is that you want happiness, both for you and your family. Positive psychologists are recently figuring out what children have always known. The best life is one full of happiness and fun. The good news is that fun is not contrary to productivity. Scientists are finding that happy people are more productive at work. Find your happiness in your home office. Let your kids be your guides to a happy and productive workplace.

Fall Fixes: 4 Ways Busy Moms Relax and Recharge

Autumn means back-to-school madness, busier work weeks, more social obligations, holiday preparations and, to top it off, shorter days. It can be easy for moms to get overwhelmed, especially working moms. Almost three-quarters of surveyed mothers said they frequently experience stress, according to Pew Research. As you get swept up in this busy season, don’t forget to take some time to relax and have a moment to yourself. Use these quick fixes to recharge and show yourself some appreciation.

5 Ways Busy Moms Relax and Recharge

4 Ways Busy Moms Relax and Recharge


If you think adding an exercise routine to your already jam-packed schedule will only make things more hectic, think again. Any form of exercise will help relieve stress. Even light and moderate exercise causes the release of endorphins, which give you that feeling of euphoria right after physical activity. Concentrating on running up a hill or completing that set of crunches will take your mind off the hassles of the day. Other benefits of exercise include better sleep, higher self-confidence and reduced anxiety and depression. Get your kids involved by taking them along on a hike or playing tag with them in the backyard.

Retail Therapy

What better way to melt stress away than a therapeutic shopping trip? According to a study by the Journal of Psychology and Marketing, 62 percent of shoppers have bought something to cheer themselves up. Buying a new dress or pair of shoes might not make you happier or less stressed in the long run, but the act of shopping can help you relax, escape monotony and even boost your creativity. Keep in mind, however, that this doesn;t mean you should blow your money on a bunch of frivolous things. But splurging on that new phone you’ve been wanting or treating yourself to a luxurious new handbag you’ll treasure for years will add a little pleasure to your life. Plus, you deserve it.

Social Hour

We all love our kids and know they can be a lot of fun, but sometimes we need time with our adult friends. Social connections are a great way to reduce stress and feel supported. Talking through frustrations and relating to some close friends can help you work through the tough stuff and feel better physically and emotionally. Try to schedule some quality time with friends at least once a month. Whether it is a quick lunch, drinks after work or a game night with lots of laughs, friends will help you stay happy and healthy.

Mindful Meditation

In an article for Harvard Health Publications, Dr. Elizabeth Hoge, a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital, said effective meditation methods, such as mindfulness meditation can help treat anxiety and stress. “People with anxiety have a problem dealing with distracting thoughts that have too much power,” Hoge said.

Mindfulness meditation helps you distinguish your thoughts from your worries and teaches you to relax and separate them from your life. You can practice meditation at home for 10 or 20 minutes a day, or find a group near you to practice together. Whatever helps you to relax and reduce stress, it’s important to stay healthy and happy.

Four Websites For Teens

Websites for Teens

Being a work-at-home-mom can be an immensely rewarding experience. In addition to avoiding a daily commute through rush hour traffic, you can often adjust your schedule so you to drive your kids to school, attend their school events, and be there when they return back home.

As you probably know quite well, teens usually figure your WAHM status really doesn’t apply to them when they are home, and you will be at their beck and call to help them with anything and everything they need. While you certainly want to be there for them whenever you can, there will be times when your kids will have to take the proverbial bull by the horns and handle certain tasks alone. The following websites for teens are ideal and can help keep them ahead of the curve while giving you the time you need to meet your next deadline:

If your teenage son or daughter is dying to get a learners permit and wants you to quiz him or her on the rules of the road right in the middle of a huge work project you are trying to finish, use for help. The website allows young drivers-to-be to take permit practice tests online and check out their knowledge and skills before heading to the DMV for the real thing. The site includes practice tests for every state in the country, and it’s so easy to navigate teens can take the practice exams on their own.

When it comes to food, teens are notorious for being bottomless pits. They are also notorious for expecting their sainted mother to drop everything she is doing to fix them a snack. In order to boost your teen’s cooking knowledge and skills and fill their tummies while you are trying to get your work done, ask them to check out The site is filled with simple recipes and cooking instructions that are ideal for cooking novices. For example, the peanut butter and jelly toaster tarts feature just three ingredients, and the easy-to-follow instructions will get your teen on the road to independence. Of course, cooking skills are something teens will need as they get older, and this user-friendly website will definitely help them get on their way.

For teens who enjoy learning, offers a wide variety of online courses for free. The site features over 400 classes that are designed by top schools, and teens can attend “class” on their own schedule, like when they are home from school for a holiday weekend and you are working in the home office. For example, if your teen is interested in nutrition and eating healthily, Coursera offers a course called “Nutrition, Health and Lifestyle: Issues and Insights.” Teens can watch video lectures, take interactive quizzes and connect online with other teens and their instructors. Coursera also offers peer assessments, which will allow your teen to review and provide feedback for other students’ work. By taking some online classes at Coursera, it can help teens boost their learning and skills with topics that interests them.

Teens who enjoy anything and everything to do with computers and websites are sure to enjoy, where they can learn how to code interactively for free. In addition to teaching them skills they can use right now on their own computers and the family website, teens who are knowledgeable in coding will have a leg up when they start applying for jobs in the IT market. Maybe one day your teen can help you in your work by upgrading your business website or helping with computer glitches.

Non-Toxic Cleaning With Bona

I received products for review, but no compensation. And as always, all opinions are 100% my own. 

The more I learn about the amount of toxic chemicals in our cleaning products and the instances of cancer and other diseases in the people I know and love, the more I associate one with the other. I personally don’t want to fill my home, clean my floors, and wash my dishes and clothes with chemicals that could actually be making my family sick rather than healthier. So when I went to the BlogHer blogging conference this summer, I was very excited to stop and talk with a representative from Bona, a line of more natural cleaning products and hardwood floor systems.

bona products

I’d already been using several of Bona’s cleaners in my home, and love them. The hardwood floor mop is the tool I use to clean all of our floors (we don’t have any carpet here), with its washable microfiber cloth and spray bottle attachment. Just like those other brands you see in every store, the Bona mop is easy and convenient to pull out of the closet and clean the floors with, quickly and effectively. Unlike those other mop systems, the Bona cleaner doesn’t use harsh chemicals to do so.

The only thing that would make the mop system more convenient is disposable pads to stick on the bottom of the mop and toss when you’re done. So imagine my delight when the Bona representative at the conference told me about their new cleaning pads for the mop! Again, the cleaning pads are just as convenient as the “regular” brand at the store, but they contain Bona’s non-toxic cleaning solution AND they contain 75% less plastic for the landfill. Awesome, right? When I tested a disposable pad out on my mop, I’ll be honest….my floors hadn’t been cleaned in a while. But one pad cleaned the floors of our three most high traffic rooms (kitchen, living room, and dining room) and it cleaned them well. I didn’t hurt my back scrubbing the spots off the floors (you know what I’m talking about). When I don’t have time to do a super thorough whole-house floor cleaning with the spray, these cleaning pads absolutely will do.

I also had the opportunity to try out the Wood Furniture Polish. Again, I’m just going to be honest here. Our dining room table has seen better days. Like, before-we-had-four-kids days. Our table is used for eating (obviously), but it’s also used for crafts, homework, LEGO building, glitter-gluing, etc etc etc. Usually, it looks, shall we say….not so pretty. It’s often dull and covered with breakfast crumbs, glue spots, stuck paper pieces, glitter globs, and marker marks. Like this:

bona before

bona before2

But the furniture polish (again, non-toxic, no harsh chemicals to ruin this wood that has been in the family for years and years) was able to remove all of the paper and glue and shine it up like new. It couldn’t remove the Sharpie marker marks, but I’m not sure anything could:

bona 1bona 2

Bona’s cleaners are GREENGUARD Gold Certified, meaning that they have been tested for their environmental impact and will not harm the air we breathe with toxic chemicals or particulates. In other words, they’ve gotten a third party seal of approval for being low on the scale of harmful to the environment as a whole, and especially the air. I don’t want my kids and pets to be walking around our house and getting toxins through their bare feet from the “clean” floor, or breathing in harmful fumes. Do you?

I’m a Bona for customer for life now.


You can find Bona cleaning products and professionals by entering your zip code here. And by going to the Bona website, you can sign up for special coupons.

How To Personally Connect With Customers

Working out of your home requires strong time-management skills, especially since you don’t have administrative or marketing support. Since everything hinges on you, you have to use your time wisely to take care of existing customers and cultivate new ones.

how to personally connect with your home-business customers

Home Business Magazine reports there are more than 18 million home-based businesses across the U.S. If you’re seeking to cultivate new business, consider the power that word of mouth can have over your personal brand. Steady, positive customer reviews can help your products or services stand out from competitors. Here are some tips to create a meaningful, positive buzz around your home-based business and personally connect with customers:

Build a Network

If you’ve launched a home-based business, chances are you’ve already relied on family and friends for some early sales or other types of support. That’s great on the surface, but those relatives and friends won’t be able to sustain your business on an on-going basis. Ask those family members and friends for testimonials and positive reviews that will work to help attract new customers for the future.

Make a list from your Rolodex and consider the various connections within your own network of contacts. That’s the first step toward finding people who could make good customers. Make an effort to get in front of people at key meetings in your community. Depending on the line of work you’re in, you could find connections at Chamber of Commerce meetings, local civic associations, PTA meetings, trade shows and professional conferences and networking events.

Similarly, social networking is essential to personally connect with potential customers. With Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social sites, it’s more about making a direct link to people than spamming acquaintances with messages about your wares. These basic sites, and even others like Yelp or Trip Advisor, provide people with a forum to share their personal experiences.

Amanda DiSilvestro of Yahoo Small Business Advisor offers the following advice to small business owners: “Make efforts to earn quality reviews, and communicate with the team about updating and managing comments.”

If you focus on striking up general conversations first, people will sense that you’re confident enough with your business, and they’ll take a look for more information or provide positive reviews knowing they’re not being directly propositioned for a transaction.

Find Ways to Educate Consumers

The best way to explain what you do is to place some type of thoughtful demonstration online—a searchable, optimized website is a great first step.

Physical demonstrations also work, and allow your personality to shine at public events. Speak with other businesses, especially more established small businesses in the community, and figure out ways where you can fill a need at events.

Following up with thank-you notes or gifts is a memorable way of letting clients know you’re interested in their continued business. Simple gift baskets can brighten someone’s day and indicate that your business will continue to give them more than they expect.

Want more like this? Check out How To Make Social Media Marketing Work For Your Business.

The Secret Society Hidden Mystery Game

I became a stay-at-home-mom almost nine years ago when my oldest was born, and having been working freelance writing jobs and keeping up with two websites since then. But I recently started a part time job, mostly from home, that involves coordinating a lot of people and juggling a lot of balls in the air. I need to be able to focus in order to not drop any balls, not miss any deadlines or forget about what I should be asking and answering of everyone, but after days of doing that, I also need to be able to turn my mind off and relax. A game I recently discovered, called The Secret Society Hidden Mystery game from G5 Entertainment, is helping me do both of those things.

In the game, you play as the nephew of a man that has disappeared in order to protect the “Seekers.” The story goes that he was part of a Secret Society called the Order of the Seekers that can do magic. He took pictures but had to destroy them so whomever he was trying to disappear from wouldn’t find the pictures and discover clues to his whereabouts. But, your job as his nephew is to take his place in the Order and put those pictures back together to figure out where he is.

Basically, the game is a series of puzzles. You earn coins, experience points, tools, and energy from solving the puzzles, which give you clues and unlock other puzzles.

Secret Society: helping moms relax

For example, there’s a picture of a Christmas scene. You can unlock it after you’ve found specific objects in other puzzles and earned a certain number of coins. The first thing you have to do is put the picture back together that your uncle has torn apart.

Secret Society: helping moms relax

Secret Society: Helping moms relax

Once you’ve done that, you can “Research” the scene to find hidden objects and earn goodies. The more you play a certain scene or puzzle, the more you earn and the further you advance in the game.

Secret Society:helping moms relax


There are also other puzzles, like matching games and brain teasers, and those are my favorite. This isn’t a game that I would normally ever even look for, let alone download. I didn’t even have games on my phone until now….I would normally just kill time on Facebook or Instagram. But I find myself relaxing at the end of the day by playing Secret Society for a few minutes at a time, looking for hidden binoculars or trying to turn the pipes so they line up or matching cards to each other. It actually feels really good to use my brain in this way, and I’m finding that when I am working my job during the day, I’m better able to remember things and stay focused on what I’m doing.

The game is free to download, and you can earn tools and other helpful things by playing solving puzzles or making in-app purchases of coins and crystals to speed up your progress. I’ve become hooked on the hidden object adventure game and look forward to spending a few minutes on it here and there every day.

The Secret Society – Hidden Mystery is available to download for iOS, Android, Kindle/Kindle Fire, Windows 8, and Mac.

I received credits for in-app purchases in the game, but was not compensated otherwise for my review. All opinions are 100% my own.



5 Ways to Toddler-Proof Your iPhone

The most recent data from Pew Research indicates 58 percent of Americans over age 18 have a smartphone, and according to the T-Mobile website, at least 209 million of them are using lightning-fast 4G LTE connections. All that speed and power, and you’re still being foiled by a 4-year-old? If you’ve experienced cracked screens, missing apps and unexpected Apple store purchases one too many times, it’s time to take action and toddler-proof your iPhone. It’s easy to put your phone on lock-down when you don’t want curious little fingers tapping away on your device.

How to toddler-proof your iPhone

Invest in a Sturdy iPhone Case

An internally restricted iPhone won’t do you any good if the damage happens on the outside. A sturdy phone case makes a world of difference, particularly when your iPhone is in the hands of a toddler. According to Lifehacker, not all iPhone cases are equal. Otterbox, for instance, creates high-impact cases made of hard polycarbonate with soft silicone corner bumpers. For a sleeker look, Case Mate offers full-body, military-grade protective cases. If these cases are tough enough to withstand combat, then you know they’ll hold up against a tantrum.

Use the iOS Restriction System

The iOS Restriction System is the easiest way to restrict and customize access on an iPhone, iPod or iPad. To begin, go to Settings > General > Restrictions to set a four-digit PIN number. This passcode locks down various iPhone features you don’t want your child to access or change, says Tech Radar. For instance, these restrictions can keep your child from using Safari, making in-app purchases or logging onto iTunes. The pin also keeps toddlers from accidentally deleting or installing apps on your phone.

Turn Your iPhone into a Fun Phone

Obviously, there are instances when you don’t want your children using your iPhone. And guess what? There’s an app for that. If handing a locked phone to your fussing toddler no longer keeps them entertained, turn it into a pretend iPhone. BabyCenter’s PhonyPhone free app keeps children from accidentally making a real phone call with a faux number pad that teaches numbers and colors while playing music. The oversized screen is perfect for small fingers that are eager to place a pretend phone call.

Enable Guided Access

This nifty feature in the iOS 6 software update limits your toddler’s access to a single app. Enable it by going to your phone’s settings, visiting General > Accessibility > Guided Access. Turning this option on lets iOS know if it should recognize touch or motion based input and if its sleep/wake and volume buttons work, states TIME Magazine. To fully set up, launch the desired app, triple-click the Home button and enter your passcode. And there you have it, you’ve set up a virtual play space for your curious tech-savvy tot.

Turn Multitasking Gestures Off

The clumsy fine motor skills of a 2- or 3-year old mean they may inadvertently swipe or pinch out of an app. Fix this problem by going to General in Settings and turning Multitasking Gestures off. These gestures allow older iPhone users to use four fingers to swipe between apps or five fingers to “grab” the screen and get back to Home, explains Gigaom. Install easy to use apps designed for young children, like Baby Piano and I Hear Ewe to it easier for toddlers to manipulate an iPhone’s touch screen.