Friday, December 19, 2014

You still have time for these glowing Christmas light displays: Georgia and Tennessee

You still have time! Grab the extended family and venture out for some twinkling festivity.

It is a favorite December activity of ours: driving around to view shimmering displays of holiday lights. With our penchant for road trips and US travel, we have managed to experience a several of the below favorites in Tennessee and Georgia. Are you near any of these displays? Here are a few select Christmas light experiences southern folks might be able to view this week and the next:


 Note: most of these require a fee; check the websites for pricing and operating hours.

Georgia

Garden Lights - at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens (extended until 1/10!)

Magical Nights of Lights - Lake Lanier Islands Resort in Buford, GA (ends 12/31)

The Lights of Life - Life University in Marietta, GA (ends 12/31)

Petit Creek Christmas - Petit Creek Farms in Cartersville, GA (ends 12/30)

Stone Mountain Christmas - Stone Mountain Park (ends 1/4)

Fantasy in Lights - Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, GA (ends 12/30)

Ludy’s Christmas Light Spectacular - Columbus, GA (private home)

Meckley Family Christmas - Kennesaw, GA (private home)

Enchanted Garden of Lights - Rock City, Lookout Mountain, GA 


Tennessee

Speedway in Lights - Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, TN (ends 1/3)

Snowy Nights in My Big Backyard - Memphis Botanic Garden in Memphis, TN (ends 12/30)

Starry Nights - Shelby Farms Park in Memphis, TN (ends 12/28)

Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland - TN Smokies Stadium in Kodak, TN (ends 1/4)

Christmas on the Cumberland - Clarksville, TN (ends 1/3)

Chad's Winter Wonderland - 8-acre farm in Lebanon, TN (ends 12/31)

Lights on Old Charlotte - Franklin, TN (ends private home)






Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Baby boy's current favorite toys - 11 months old

Do you need a last-minute gift idea for a 10-18 month old? We celebrated "Thanksmas" with my family after Thanksgiving dinner, so my kids received a few of their gifts several weeks ago. Andrew, currently just shy of 11 months old, has some very clear favorites.

This post is not sponsored, but these toys for 10-18 month olds are life savers right now! So I thought I would share, as some of you may still be finishing up your gift shopping. I have the Fisher-Price Go Baby Go Poppity Pop Musical Dino in my master bathroom so baby boy can entertain himself while I get ready in the morning. And the Bright Starts Having a Ball Cluck and Learn Barn is downstairs so he can play most of the day.

If you need a gift idea for Christmas, Hanukkah, an upcoming birthday, or any other occasion for a 10-18 month old, I recommend these. My nephew also loved both of these toys around his one-year birthday.


The Fisher-Price Go Baby Go Poppity Pop Musical Dino is a popper toy dinosaur that bounces six colored balls (and any other lightweight objects) inside a cute blue dinosaur. The balls also drop into a hole and roll out the dino's mouth, so baby can continue to put the balls back in. I think Andrew could probably do this for at least 30 minutes, consecutively. That's an eternity in baby concentration! The dino plays music while it pops and the moment I turn the "on" switch, Andrew begins to clap and bounce. He truly loves this toy.


The Bright Starts Having a Ball Cluck and Learn Barn was a bit more difficult for baby boy to master, because it takes coordination to get the little chicken head balls into the top of the chicken head. He still misses quite often, but that makes it all the more exciting when he gets one in and it rolls out toward his feet! The balls randomly roll out one side or the other, so he never knows where to look next. The toy barn also has three large easy-to-press buttons on the side that play tunes and make animal sounds. We like it a lot!

Any affordable toy that can entertain my on-the-go little guy for over 10 minutes is my favorite too!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Favorite decor highlighting the "reason for the season" #Christmas

When I was in the holiday shopping traffic the other day with Amelia, I mentioned to her that shopping and buying are not the meaning of Christmas. Her reply? "I know, it's presents!"

Alas, it has been too long since private church preschool. I realized that, other than her art projects from her former preschool, our Chirstmas decor in the home was all exceedingly commercial. Therefore, I launched 'Operation Bring Baby Jesus Back' in the house.


A friend recently posted a photo on Instagram of a perfect Advent calendar - a nativity scene that you build upon each day, with cute little stuffed figures that reside in pockets until their given day. I searched online and found that it is made by Vermont Christmas Company and I could order the nativity Advent calendar via Amazon.com. Yes to free shipping!

The calendar now hangs on the door to our deck, in the hustle bustle area of the kitchen so we can remember it each day. Amelia is having fun adding a character each morning, and we talk about the shepherds, kings, angels, Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus. The calendar is really big and I love that. It is now a perfect eye-catching and fun keepsake to hang up year after year.


Speaking of preschool Christmas art, I still hang this one by the front door - an adorable hanging angel banner. Amelia made it with the help of teachers during her final year of pre-K. The banner was made with blue felt, white and brown paint, puffy glitter paint, and thick white and silver wired ribbon. Plus some hot glue to adhere the ribbon for wings and a black Sharpie pen for the eyes and mouth. After the banner is created and dried, fold down the top of the felt so a wooden dowel can slide through. Finally, tie on shiny cord for hanging. It is a cute and pretty hanging for a lovely family Christmas keepsake. Don't you just love kid art?

Christmas is on its way! 2014 was pretty much a blur.

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Follow BalancingMama on Pinterest for more kid crafts, kid science, travel, Disney, holiday décor, cute food, easy entrees, kid style, and more.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Inspector Gadget would enjoy the Ford Flex

Atlanta area - don't forget to bring your holiday donations to John Bleakley Ford in Lithia Springs! They are accepting donations of toys (through 12/18), canned dog food (through 12/31), and coats (cold weather months) for area families and the Douglas County Animal Shelter.
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Da da da da dah, Inspector Gadget! 

Children of the 1980s know who I'm referencing... remember Inspector Gadget? The animated TV show series with a sometimes bumbling bionic police inspector was one of my favorites. He had all kinds of great gadgets! I have been driving a new 2015 Ford Flex this week, courtesy of Ford Southeast, and it has some auto gadgets I have never seen before.

Like the chiller compartment: the available second-row refrigerated console can chill up to seven 12-ounce cans, four half-liter bottles or two 20-ounce bottles in refrigeration or freezer mode! We are often rolling down the highways on family road trips, and I always bring a small cooler with a few drinks and snacks. This would save us from needing that extra piece to lug around and no more melting ice cubes or plastic freezer blocks that do not stay cold long enough. Family travel approved.

And the BLIS system: the Blind Spot Information System warns drivers of objects in the blind spot when backing up, helping to avoid aggravating parking lot mishaps. It uses radar to  detect the relative position of other vehicles and warn drivers before a potential impact.

Friday, December 12, 2014

What goes on in their heads? Inside Out trailer now available from Disney/Pixar

This newly-released trailer for Disney/Pixar's summer release made me chuckle. Just take a look; moms, you will know exactly why! INSIDE OUT seems to be about a typical family with an angst-ridden child and pretty normal parents. But we get to see what's going on inside their heads which are apparently, run by colorful happy creatures.



This looks to be a great movie for grown-ups and big kids! I'm sure younger children will love the creatures and basic storyline as well. I am always amused by the masterful way Disney/Pixar weaves in grown-up jabs and "old school" references to keep Mom and Dad entertained through films as well.

INSIDE OUT opens in theaters on June 19th.

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Thursday, December 11, 2014

That time I really surprised him...

I was sweating the schedule, big time. We were supposed to be on the road but he wanted to meander the sidewalk a bit more slowly, take a few additional photos, drive to peek at the golf course. I tried my hardest to push him along, all while bursting with a big secret. He did not know why I wanted to rush off from this lovely location so soon.

When my husband turned thirty years old, I set up a big surprise. He knew we were going on a trip and I told him what type of clothes to select for the suitcase. Other than that, he was kept in the dark. I drove the car and with his knack for maps, he continually guessed destinations.



On Friday night that week, we stopped in Savannah at a lovely hotel with a comfortable room and a sparkling view of the lights along the river. He thought we were done, but I informed him that we had another trek in the morning. We were staying just one night. He thought the surprises were over, but I had a big trick up my sleeve.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Unique and thoughtful gifts come from shopping local #WhiteRabbitMarietta

As a working parent, I frequent the "big box" stores and chain drug stores when I need everyday items quickly. I also purchase online when I know what I want, because the convenience is fantastic. But sometimes, I just want to shop.

Sometimes, I want to see beautiful items in person and experience a lovely store with my own senses. I want to take in gorgeous arrangements of products that I have not seen in the box stores. I want personal service and kind hellos. For special people who have touched my life, I want to select truly unique and heartfelt gifts. Something I can place gently in a basket while perusing the tables and shelves, instead of a quick grab-and-toss into a squeaky cart before trudging to a further aisle for some toothpaste.


If you are near Atlanta or visiting soon, take a little trip over to Marietta, GA and look up the White Rabbit Cottage. This store is loaded with sparkle and shine, cute and sweet, and tasty and fragrant. The original building of the White Rabbit Cottage is set in a 1920s farmhouse with charming rooms and original rustic pine floors and has been a popular décor and gift destination with Marietta locals for over ten years. The store expanded into a second building about seven years ago to house more décor and gifts, plus larger pieces like paintings, furniture, and a clearance area (right now, Fall décor is 40% off!).

I recently browsed the holiday cheer within the White Rabbit Cottage with some fellow area bloggers. The look of the store changes with the seasons, but here is a glimpse of the offerings right now at the White Rabbit Cottage:


Holiday reds

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