Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Exploiting our Kids

Footsteps in the sandphoto © 2007 Andi Sidwell | more info (via: Wylio)
So ever since I read Elizabeth Esther's column at the OC Register last week, I've been seriously thinking about the issue that she raised regarding blogging about our kids. I don't know that it's weighed heavily on my mind exactly, but it's definitely been in the background, making me think about how we "use" our kids.

While this blog is less about my kids than the name might indicate, they have definitely been a part of it since...always. Because it was started at least in part as a way for out-of-town family to keep up with what goes on with us, I've posted pics and stories about my children.

And, most likely, I've "used" my children as examples in some of my own stories or questions. And this is where Elizabeth's question really hits home for me.

As a mom, much of what happens to me in my day to day is a result of me being a parent. I will be vocal about a social justice issue because I want my kids to be compassionate people and know that it's okay to speak up. I question something because I don't want my kids to just blindly accept everything that is thrown at them, just because the person doing the throwing is an authority figure. I look at how people are treated and wonder how I would feel if it were my son or daughter in their shoes. Not all, but a LOT of what I write about is motivated in some way by my love and concern for my children.

I think part of the difficulty in sorting this out is that this is the first group of kids who are growing up on the internets. I'm certain that children have always been used to prop up various ideologies. People have been toting kids along to protests and rallies and political and religious events for as long as they've existed. But this is really the first time we've been able to do it from the comfort of our own homes and for a much larger audience. There have always been cute but embarrassing pics of kids. Heck, that's classic sitcom fodder there. I just wonder if it's okay for those same pictures to be trotted out to make a point? Or trotted out at all?

"Think of the children" has become such an over-used phrase that I worry that we may actually forget to sometimes think of our children when we blog. I think our kids are going to be far more comfortable with their digital footprint than we may be, since it's pretty much a part of their entire existence, but does that comfort give us the right to use them? Or is it using them at all?

I'm not sure.

Are you uncomfortable seeing kids mentioned on blogs? Is any mention exploitation? Do you talk to your kids (especially older ones) about what you share about them? 

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Review & Giveaway: alight.com




If you're looking for plus-sized clothing, alight.com is a fantastic choice. I am not really a major fashionista, but particularly when I'm looking for something to wear with Under Shelter, I want something that is stylish and looks good. And alight.com totally delivers.

They have a massive selection of clothes. They have nearly 100 brands and over 900 styles, so no matter your taste, they will have something that fits the bill. Their sizes are from 14W to 34W, so there really is something for any plus-sized woman! Additionally, the site is really easy to navigate. You can search by item, by brand, by size, by style, by price - just about any combination that you can imagine. Really, I've looked around their site a good bit and there are just a ton of nice, affordable items available. Here are a few of my favorites that I've found:




If you haven't stopped by alight.com yet, you definitely want to right away. A nice new dress or top for the holidays is always a great little moment!

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Giveaway!

This is a pretty exciting thing! I get to partner with alight.com to bring you the opportunity to win a top, skirt or dress (*at alight's choosing*) for one lucky winner a month! So even if you don't win this time, there will still be other opportunities to win! Open to USA only.

Mandatory Entry: 
  • You must sign up for their mailing list/newsletter on alight.com then come back here leaving me a comment telling me that you did and which email you used to sign up for it with.
    You must sign up for the alight.com newsletter and leave a comment with your email to be eligible to enter this giveaway, winners who are not signed up with the newsletter will forfeit their winning prize and a new winner will be chosen.
Extra Entries:
  • Like alight on Facebook.
  • Follow alight on Twitter.
  • Follow my blog on GFC.
  • Follow my blog on Networked Blogs.
  • Like my Facebook Page.
  • Follow me on Twitter.
  • Tweet this contest using the following: Win a free plus-sized top by @alightcom from @BigMama247! http://bit.ly/gpqW3O #giveaway #win #ppro (Can be tweeted twice a day, at least 2 hours apart.)
  • Blog about this entry (leave a link).
  • Post my button on your blog (leave a link).
  • Subscribe to my blog by email (must confirm).
Please make sure that I have a way to contact you (if you leave an email in your Disqus comment, I'll have it even though it's not visible to everyone). If I can't contact you, I'll make a different selection. This contest will be open until noon EDT, December 30. I will choose a winner using the Random.org random number generator. I will send an email to the winner who will have 48 hours to respond. If I don't hear from you by then, I'll select another comment. 

Thanks and good luck!



Disclosure: While I did receive a complimentary item from alight.com for review, the views expressed in this post are 100% my own. You can read my full disclosure here.

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Sponsor Highlight: Wholly Guacamole



A few weeks ago I posted a link to Wholly Guacamole for a coupon they were offering on their Facebook page. Later I received an awesome cooler filled with their unbelievably delicious dips. 

Seriously, wow.

I received some of the classic queso, their medium salsa, and the regular and spicy guacamole. Let me tell you, these were some of the most delicious products I've ever had.

The first thing I noticed is that everything was crazy fresh tasting. I really like to make my own salsa and guacamole because most things tend to taste a bit too processed for my taste. But this? No chance. It tasted absolute spectacular (particularly the salsa -- it seriously tasted homemade). I still like my homemade stuff, but if I get in a pinch and need to buy something, I will only be purchasing Eat Wholly products from now on. They are far superior to everything I've tried (and I like dips, so I've tried a lot).

Eat Wholly has offered to be a sponsor for the Holiday Gift Giveaway Hop. Two lucky winners will be receiving coupons for free Wholly Guacamole products. Be sure to stop by here December 1-5 for your chance to win!

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Monday, November 29, 2010

Review & Giveaway: Electric Scalp Massager

Sponsored by Tomoson.com

Massage is one of those things that is incredibly good for the soul. Or the body, anyway. One of my favorite things in the whole wide world is to sit on the couch and get a foot massage from my hubby. It just melts away all kinds of tension. Because of our opposite schedules they don't happen very often right now, but honestly, I could stand a foot massage pretty much every day. (And I promise, I give too! He likes neck massages and I think I manage to do the job in a satisfactory manner in most instances.)

There are so many benefits to massage. It helps to relieve pain, it reduces stress, it improves circulation, it releases endorphins which make you feel better. There are so many reasons to enjoy a nice massage.

When I was pregnant with Christopher, the group of moms that I hung out with gave me a gift certificate to get a massage. I absolutely loved it. I scheduled it for his due date (which, despite him being the fourth kid and the third in thirty-one months, he was STILL late!), and it was just wonderful. Being massively pregnant, it was just wonderful to rest and enjoy a moment of peace and relaxation. To me, that was one of the best gifts I ever got! Certainly when I attended births as a doula, massage was a given. One woman was completely confined to her bed, so I massaged her feet for hours. When a client had back labor, counter pressure was necessary to help alleviate the pain.

I recently received an electric scalp massager from www.massagetable.net. This is a really nice device. Scalp massage is always really pleasant, but it's definitely not something that's easy to do to yourself. There's no question that it feels much better when someone else is doing it. This little massager does the job pretty well.

The massager has ten adjustable prongs that you set down over your head and they are attached to the device that actually does the massaging. My husband found it a bit painful, but the kids and I all found it rather enjoyable. It's definitely loud, which is probably my biggest complaint about the item. With it all close to your head, having a loud noise isn't the most wonderful thing, but I find the actual massage itself to be quite nice. It uses two AA batteries, which were included.

Nothing will ever beat a hands-on massage. There is definitely something special about physical touch that can simply not be matched by any machine. However, if you're looking for a quick pick-me-up, this is a really nice substitute.

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The kind folks over at www.massagetable.net have offered one free scalp massager to one of my readers.

Mandatory Entry:
  • Tell me about a (CLEAN!) massage experience you had. Or hope to have!
Bonus Entries (leave a separate comment for each):
  • Follow my blog on GFC.
  • Follow my blog on Networked Blogs.
  • Like my Facebook Page.
  • Follow me on Twitter.
  • Tweet this contest using the following: Win an electric scalp massager from @BigMama247! http://bit.ly/i9W4R7 #giveaway #win #ppro (Can be tweeted twice a day, at least 2 hours apart.)
  • Blog about this entry (leave a link).
  • Post my button on your blog (leave a link).
  • Subscribe to my blog by email (must confirm).
Please make sure that I have a way to contact you (if you leave an email in your Disqus comment, I'll have it even though it's not visible to everyone). If I can't contact you, I'll make a different selection. This contest will be open until noon EDT, December 15. I will choose a winner using the Random.org random number generator. I will send an email to the winner who will have 48 hours to respond. If I don't hear from you by then, I'll select another comment. 

Thanks and good luck!


I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255 Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising. Tomoson Product review & giveaway Disclosure.

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Musical Monday

One of my favorite holiday things ever was going with my family to the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra to do a Handel's Messiah Sing-Along. It was always fantastic to grab our copies of The Messiah and head down to Heinz Hall to sing with the other music geeks in the Pittsburgh area. It's been a long time since I've done that, but I remember those evenings with great fondness.

Really, no matter how many times I hear it, the Hallelujah Chorus just gets me. I know it's become a hugely cliche piece of music, but it doesn't change the fact that it's really a pretty stunning work of art. I don't remember as much of the alto line as I would like, but I remember more of it than I thought I did.

In addition to liking that piece, I absolutely love those Improv Everywhere and Random Acts of Culture events. So I was absolutely thrilled to see the Random Act of Culture where a crowd of hundreds broke into the Hallelujah Chorus at a Macy's in Philadelphia. It is really just a beautiful moment. I sometimes feel a bit bombarded by pop culture and it's nice to see that there are still a number of people who have an appreciation for more classical endeavors as well. Don't get me wrong. I've been belting out Mariah Carey's All I Want for Christmas. But taking a minute to sing a round of the Hallelujah Chorus? Yeah, I'll do that too.



Did you ever perform the Hallelujah Chorus? What part did you sing/play? What's your favorite flash mob video?

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Sponsor Highlight: Foggy Morning Sundries

This sponsor for the Holiday Gift Giveaway Hop is really special to me, as I know this business owner personally. Foggy Morning Sundries is the home business of my good friend Misty Chaffins and I'm so stoked that she's going to be giving away a gift code to her new Etsy shop!


We did a "goods swap" a few weeks ago and I got some of her fantastic soaps to sample.

First, these smell absolutely amazing. I got a soap on a rope in Buttercream & Snickerdoodle scent and honestly, I just wanted to take a giant bite out of it. Nom. I sniffed a bunch of the other soaps as well, and they all are just delightful. No matter what you choose, you will not be disappointed.

But aside from that, the soap is just really, really nice. It all looks pretty and it feels fantastic. I didn't get one of her massage bars, but I have no doubt that would be absolutely lovely for a nice pampering bath, especially with all of the stress of the holidays starting to pile on.

Misty also sells some soaps in shapes of puzzle pieces. She has a son who has autism, and she is very active with autism activism. The sale of these soaps will go to benefit the autism community. I think they would make a fantastic gift for someone with autism or the parent of an autistic child.

Today Misty is featuring a 40% sale at her store. You can read her blog here to get the code for your 40% off code. You can also follow her on Facebook to keep up to date with new soaps and any other deals she might run!

And be sure to stop by here on December 1-5 for a chance to win a gift code for her shop!

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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sponsor Highlight: Eight Days Designs

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I was so excited to finally get a snazzy new blog design a month ago. Laura Greene at Eight Days Designs took my very meager offerings and made something that feels absolutely like me. I couldn't be happier with what she did here.

You can check out Laura's portfolio here. I'm really impressed with her work and I know that when I'm ready to update my look again, I will definitely be using her for a new design. She has just the right blend of modern and cute without being TOO cute (which was my biggest frustration when looking around for a new design -- everything was super adorable, which is great if you're that girl and not so much if you're ME.). Plus, how can anyone dislike someone whose brand is all wrapped up with The Beatles? I mean, that's full of win right there.

Laura has graciously offered her Rubber Soul package to one lucky participant in the Holiday Gift Giveaway Hop. Having worked with her, I know that whoever wins is going to have a fantastic design! (And I hope that the winner will send me a link so I can see what she does for you!)

Be sure to stop by Laura's website and give her a follow. She runs a lot of deals and contests, so you want to be in the know!

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Stuff I've Been Reading

These are some of the best posts I've read over the past week. I hope you find something here that piques your interest.
  • Bryan Allain wrote my absolute favorite Thanksgiving post. Well, apparently he wrote it a few years ago, but this is the first time I've read it. And it absolutely killed me.
  • Kely Braswell offered some tips to spot worship avoiders. I shudder to think how many people he has completely shut down with this list, even in just the few short days since it was published.
  • A little more than a week ago Jen over at Epbot asked people to support a little girl who was being teased for liking Star Wars. The little girl's mom posted an update last Sunday. And the video made me cry. As the mom of a geek girl, I absolutely loved this story.
  • Elizabeth Esther wrote a fantastic piece about mommy bloggers, asking how far is too far when it comes to writing about our kids. I don't know if there are any easy answers, but I'm glad that she started the conversation.
  • Katie McNemar wrote a great post about the latest Harry Potter movie and makes some comparisons between her life and the characters of the books.
What have you read/written/watched/listened to that moved you this week? By all means, link up to your writing!

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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Sappy Saturday

When my friend Julia moved away in May of last year, I really didn't know what I was going to do. I am a bit of a friend junkie and she was my first "grown-up" best friend. We had hooked up through our kids and I just wasn't sure how to find a new best friend with all of my kids in school and me not being the typical soccer mom type. I will say that I spent a fair amount of time praying about a new best friend. And true to "not what I expected" form, God hooked me up.


Photo by Amberlee Christey 
(used with permission)
I've posted here a few times that I was sure that any best friend I would ever have would be a woman. Like, completely, totally sure of this.


So of course my best friend now? A guy.


Honestly (and this probably loses me points in the bff scale), I can't remember when I first met Rich. I'm sure it was some music thing at church. I had seen/heard him play long before we ever met and when I was cleaning out a drawer about a year ago, I ran across one of his business cards that my brother in law had given me when I was thinking about learning to play the guitar (before I gave THAT idea up for good). But the first time we actually shook hands and exchanged names? No idea.


But we did meet. And I am so incredibly happy about that.

Most of my friendship with Rich has been forged in car rides to and from gigs with Under Shelter. I’m not sure why he opted to ride with me rather than someone he knew better to the first gig I played with the band, but he did and since then, we’ve always traveled together. Which means that,  while we’ve not been friends for a super long time, we’ve had many opportunities to get to know one another rather well. (That we’re both talkers certainly doesn’t hurt things!)

In talking with him over many hours, it was pretty clear that he was someone I wanted as a friend.

I knew I wanted to be friends with Rich because of how he talks about his wife. They’re best friends. They genuinely like each other. And I can’t think of a conversation that we’ve had that he hasn’t shared with me just how awesome he thinks she is. When traversing the unknown terrain of an opposite-sex friendship, knowing without a doubt that each is thoroughly in love with their spouse takes a load off.

I knew I wanted to be friends with Rich because of how funny he is. Not everyone makes me laugh, so when I meet people who do, I definitely gravitate toward them. Rich and I share a very similar sense of humor, so there was a certain inevitability about our friendship.

I knew I wanted to be friends with Rich because he is an amazing encourager. When I was stressed out of my mind about playing with Under Shelter for the first time, he talked me down. When I have expressed fears about playing or writing or some other creative expression, he has built me up. Not everyone puts up with that level of neurosis, so when you find that ability in someone, it’s pretty special.

I knew I wanted to be friends with Rich because he takes time to listen and respond thoughtfully. Most of our car conversations are about goofy stuff, but sometimes they’re not. He was one of the first people to ask me why I write about controversial issues and to actually take the time to listen to my reasons. When I share concerns with him, he doesn’t give flip or pat answers. He’ll offer advice when he has it to give and when he doesn’t, he’s just a sympathetic ear or a shoulder to cry on.

There were lots of reasons to be friends. He’s my best friend because he’s ALL of those things. 


My favorite last line of any book is the end of Charlotte’s Web.
"It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both."
Wilber recognized that these things alone are rare and beautiful and that he was lucky enough to have found both in Charlotte. With Rich, I’ve been lucky enough to find a friend who is devoted, funny, encouraging and thoughtful. Alone each of those are fantastic traits, but put together, well, that’s someone worth investing in.

Happy birthday, bestie. I know it’s your special day, but your friendship has been a gift to me.


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Friday, November 26, 2010

Winners: PediaCare Products & Bracelet-Mate

 PediaCare Product winner: Kristy H
Bracelet-Mate winner: Heather R









I've sent emails to both of the winners to let them know. They have 48 hours to respond or I will choose another winner.

I also have two other contests running right now, so you still have other places to enter!

Pear Tree $30 Gift Code (ends 12/3)
Bethlehem Skyline Vol. 2 (ends 12/6)

You can always find a complete list of my giveaways here on Prizey, along with a list of past giveaways and winners.

Thanks for your entries and congratulations to the winners!


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Review: SodaStream

It's officially Black Friday. Terrifying. I quit doing Black Friday sales when stores started opening at 4am and you had to be there 3 hours before to even think about grabbing the good deals. It's just not worth the hassle AT ALL in my mind. Sleeping is just much more fun.


So to save you time, I'm just going to tell you now, go order a SodaStream.

I received a SodaStream Jet unit to review at our house and honestly, this has been the most exciting thing that our family has received.

The item is incredibly simple to use. It took us no time to set it up at all. Just screw the carbonator into the back of the machine, fill the bottles with cold water, secure the bottle onto the front of the machine, press the button a few times and then add the flavor. The kids are able to do it themselves, which they love. The hardest part we've found is securing the bottle to the machine to add the carbonation, but the older kids can do that without any major problem.

SodaStream has a huge variety of flavors. We received 12 different flavors and while we haven't had the chance to try all of them yet, the ones that we have tried are really excellent (Okay, everyone hated the energy flavor. But to be fair, I hate Red Bull and it tastes just like it. They're just ALL super gross in my opinion. So it's an accurate flavor and if you like Red Bull that's a great substitute.). Most of the flavors cost between $5-7 per bottle and each bottle makes 12 liters (or about 33 cans). The pop flavors are a mix of sugar and Splenda (not high fructose corn syrup) and the diet flavors are made with Splenda. SodaStream also has a line of all-natural flavors with no preservatives, artificial colors, sweeteners, or flavors. They also offer a line of flavors to make a lighter flavored sparkling water.

One of my favorite aspects of the SodaStream is that it has a pretty serious environmental benefit. By using this product, you reduce the amount of waste from bottles and cans and other packaging, and you reduce the amount of pollution used to transport those items. And when your carbonator is empty, you don't throw it away, you recycle it so that it can be used again. Even though we do recycle here, even the energy and water used to create bottles and cans is enormous. Being able to cut back, even just a little bit, on that is a really awesome thing.

Really, I can't recommend this product highly enough. It saves money. It saves the environment. It's fun. It's cute. It's easy to use. I genuinely can't think of a reason NOT to buy this.

To purchase your own SodaStream, go here right away. Then go back to bed. No need to battle the crowds when you can give this gift!

Disclosure: I received a SodaStream Jet for the purpose of review, however my opinions are 100% my own. You can read my full disclosure here.

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving

Pi piephoto © 2008 Paul Smith | more info (via: Wylio)

Generally I use Thursdays for the Not Alone series, but with today being Thanksgiving, I decided to go ahead and take a pass on that for this week and just share a little bit about some of the things that I'm thankful for. You are, of course, welcome to add your own thoughts to this! Happy Thanksgiving! (And if your not a USAian, have a fantastic day anyway!)
  1. My Husband -- Yeah, I know it's all schmaltzy and stuff, but for realsies, I adore this guy. Jason is just one of the most interesting, funny, smart, honest people I know. I am unbelievably proud of what he's doing with school and work and family. It's just a thrill to watch him follow his dreams. I am thankful every day that he chose me to be his wife.
  2. My Kids -- Honestly, I don't know how I lucked out into these hilarious little people that live here. Seriously. I mostly don't think I was cut out to be a mom, but I managed to have four kids that crack me up on a regular basis and who are just as snuggly and delightful as I could ever hope for. 
  3. My Parents & Sisters -- I am blessed to have a family that I get along with remarkably well. We may have our disagreements, but I know that I'm accepted by these folks and that's a great feeling.
  4. My Besties -- People who get to have one really close friend are unquestioningly blessed. I have two of those folks. Rich and Tina are a constant source of (loud) laughter and support for me. Not to mention the source of countless blog posts. 
  5. My Church Family -- Every now and then I stress big time about writing something here because I'm afraid it's not going to be Christian enough. Yet time and again, my church family encourages me by reading, commenting and/or sharing my writing. And that doesn't even count the more general encouragement I get through hugs and comments on a Sunday morning.
  6. My Virtual Village -- It's a little wild to me just how important the invisible internet people are, but I'd be making a huge omission if I didn't give you a nod in my thankful list. I'm really grateful for your contributions both here on my blog and (for many of you) through your own writing.
Have a terrific day! Love to you!


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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

More About You: Thanksgiving Edition

Point!photo © 2007 Lisamarie Babik | more info (via: Wylio)
I don't have tons of time to write what with the impending holiday (that sounds much more ominous than I intended), so it's time for another round of tell me about you! (My answers in the first comment, unless someone is faster than me.)
  1. What song/cd says "autumn" to you?
  2. What is your favorite Thanksgiving food?
  3. Do you travel for Thanksgiving or stay in?
  4. If you have them, what do you do with the falling leaves (burn, bag, mulch, etc.)?
  5. Harry Connick, Jr.'s When My Heart Find's Christmas: Great Christmas album, or Greatest Christmas album?
  6. What do you do after a big holiday meal?
Thanks for stopping by!


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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sponsor Highlight: Jasmere.com



Holiday Gift Giveaway Hop

It's time for another sponsor highlight for the upcoming Holiday Gift Giveaway Hop (December 1-5 -- plan accordingly because it's going to be huge!).



Today I wanted to let you know about Jasmere.com. This is a really fascinating site. Every day they feature a different shop or product and offer it at a lower price. But what is really cool is that as more people order the product or voucher, the price continues to go down. And your card won't be charged until the sale ends. So if you go and order a $50 product for $25 but the price continues to drop to $17, you will be charged the lowest price. So there's a good chance that you might pay less than you had planned to pay. Which in my mind is always a good thing.

As a bit of a teaser, I have a $10 gift code to offer to two lucky readers!

I'm making this one super simple today. Just one way to enter: Follow my blog on Google Friend Connect and comment that you did. Also, this is a quick one -- the contest ends on 11/26 at noon ET. Open to US only. Thanks and good luck!

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Musical Monday: Review & Giveaway Bethlehem Skyline Vol. 2

In keeping with the "Christmas is closing in fast" theme (not to mention with the "I love Christmas music so stinking much" theme), today I'm reviewing Bethlehem Skyline, Volume 2 from Centricity Music.

This is a huge contrast to the very acoustic/rough cut I featured last week. This is a much more produced, finished product. Bethlehem Skyline is a compilation album, featuring eight artists: Downhere, Jason Gray, Andrew Peterson, Me in Motion, Lanae' Hale, Sixteen Cities, High Valley, and Matt Papa. Despite being a fairly eclectic group of musicians, the overall sound of the album is very balanced. I was a bit concerned that it might have a disjointed feel to it, but the flow is really quite nice.

The album has a great blend of new songs mixed with traditional Christmas carols. For the most part, I liked the updated carols, though I admit, there are a few that I'm just a purist about (I don't know if I've ever heard a contemporary version of "O Holy Night" that I've liked). That said, I enjoyed Lanae' Hale's version of "Carol of the Bells" & Matt Papa's "Little Drummer Boy." And Downhere's version of "Silent Night" is one of the most beautiful that I've heard in a while.

My favorite new song was definitely "Love Has a Name" by Jason Gray. Absolutely fantastic lyric, and a beautiful melody. There were other good songs, but that one stood out to me. I will certainly be looking into more of Jason Gray's music in the future.

Here is the full list of songs:
1. Give It Away, Me In Motion
2. Rockin Around The Christmas Tree, Me In Motion
3. Christmas In Our Hearts, Downhere
4. Silent Night, Downhere
5. Do You Hear What I Hear, Jason Gray
6. Love Has A Name, Jason Gray
7. Away In A Manger, High Valley
8. Carol Of The Bells, Lanae Hale
9. Starving Artist Christmas, Lanae Hale
10. Morning Star, Sixteen Cities
11. O Holy Night, Sixteen Cities
12. Long, Long Ago, Andrew Peterson
13. Little Drummer Boy, Matt Papa
14. Hope Has Come, Matt Papa

If you're looking for a new pop-inspired Christmas album to play this holiday season, I would recommend checking this out. You can listen to excerpts and purchase the album here.

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Giveaway:
Centricity has graciously offered a copy of this album to one lucky reader! This is open to the US only.

Mandatory Entry:

  • What is your favorite Christmas song?
Bonus Entries (leave a separate comment for each):
  • Follow my blog publicly on Google Friend Connect.
  • Follow my blog on Networked blogs.
  • Follow me on Twitter.
  • Like Big Mama's Blog on Facebook.
  • Tweet this contest using the following: Win a copy of Bethlehem Skyline from @BigMama247! http://bit.ly/cOUySA #win #giveaway(2x per day at least an hour apart)
  • Blog about this contest. Leave a link in your comment.
Please make sure that I have a way to contact you (if you leave an email in your Disqus comment, I'll have it even though it's not visible to everyone). If I can't contact you, I'll make a different selection. This contest will be open until noon EDT, December 6. I will choose a winner using the Random.org random number generator. I will send an email to the winner who will have 48 hours to respond. If I don't hear from you by then, I'll select another comment. 

Thanks and good luck!

Disclosure: I did receive a copy of this music to review, however I was not compensated for my review and my thoughts are 100% my own. You can read my full disclosure here.
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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Stuff I've Been Reading

These are some of the posts that really grabbed my attention this week. Click on through and see if you agree!

  • With the release of Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows (part 1) this week, I really loved Tyler Taver's post showing how maybe Harry Potter can offer some object lessons on faith. Normally I read Tyler for funny stuff, but this was pretty insightful.
  • My friend Misty opened an Etsy shop where she's selling her soaps. If you're looking for a nice Christmas present and want to support a mom's home business, I suggest you check her out!
  • Tara Sophia Mohr hosted a synchoblog about the Girl Effect this week. I've not read all of the posts yet (it's not easy to read some of these sobering statistics and think about my own daughters), but lots of really great stuff there.
  • Kristin Tennant reminds us that encouragement is more than just "nice," it's essential. Like her, I'm not a words of affirmation person, so it's easy for me to forget this.
  • Matthew Paul Turner tells us about his fascination with goats. And offers an opportunity for us to help families around the world get their own goats through World Vision.
  • Rachel Held Evans wrote a spectacular poem about living the way she writes. Really lovely thoughts.
  • Quad Mini Jasons (college friend Chuck Larish) has a new song. I encourage you to like him on Facebook. All the cool kids are doing it.
  • And in what may possibly be my new favorite phrase, Jonathan Acuff wrote about the Jesus Juke. Seeing this happen both snarkily and for real on the Twitters this week cracked. me. up.
What have you read/written/watched/listened to this week that moved you? By all means, link up your stuff -- I love reading new, interesting blogs!


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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Sappy Saturday

Alonephoto © 2007 Maria Moreno | more info (via: Wylio)
Last night I did something that I rarely do - I went out alone.

If you ever read my blog, you know that I'm a people person. I like hanging out with people. I'm not a party gal, but I much prefer spending time with people, whether we're having a conversation or even just being together. I'm just not a loner. There's a scene in an episode of Spongebob Squarepants where Squidward joins an interpretive dance class and he says, "It's even better in a group!" That's totally me. I like the people.

But last night was not that way. I invited a few folks to join me to see Brad Yoder, but none were able to make it. Jason is sick, so he wasn't able to go. So it was just me. There was a brief moment when I thought about skipping it and just staying home and watching the end of Scott Pilgrim, but I really wanted to meet Brad in person, so I climbed in the old minivan and drove north.

And you know what? It was really, really nice. I took along a little knitting that I'm working on, got a big coffee and enjoyed some music. Being me, I of course talked to a few people who were also there to see Brad, but for the most part, I just enjoyed being alone for a while.

I think there can be something really nice about being alone. I'm not talking about being lonely. That sucks big time. I hate it. But there is definitely good alone. Time to do something we enjoy, just for our own enjoyment. We don't often celebrate solitude.

I would encourage you to find a minute to do something alone. We're coming up on a really busy season and it's easy to get overwhelmed with the Stuff To Do (tm). Think about a chance to grab a minute by yourself. By all means, enjoy time with friends, but don't forget to give yourself some time as well.

When was the last time you spent some time alone? What is your favorite thing to do by yourself?

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Friday, November 19, 2010

Winners: K-Y Brand Kissable Sensations & Intense

The winners have been chosen for the K-Y Brand Kissable Sensations giveaway! Thanks to all who braved the embarrassment to enter. Well done, my friends, well done.

And now the lucky winners!





The winners were: MistyDC29 (#19), Emy (#16), Amber (#7), Bwp1984 (#4) & Kristy K (#2). Emails have been sent to all of the winners letting them know.

There are still several other contests to enter (and more coming soon).



Thanks for stopping by and entering!

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Holiday Gift Review: CEIVA Digital Sharing Picture Frame

I love that I live close to a lot of my family. We live just a few minutes down the road from my sister & brother-in-law and from my in-laws. However, we're a few hours from my parents far away from my other sister. We get to see each other once in a while, but not nearly as often as I'd like.

One way to do try to keep in touch some is through pictures. So I was really excited to be able to review the CEIVA Digital Sharing Picture Frame.

This is a really amazing product. This is a digital picture frame, which is really nice, but it is so much more! This frame allows you to stream in pictures from anyone automatically. You don't have to transfer information on an SD card or a flash drive -- you just hook the frame up to your internet connection (this can be done wirelessly or wired, whatever works for you) and the frame picks up these new pictures whenever you refresh it. I absolutely love that feature! My parents were able to send me a ton of pictures from our family vacation this year directly to our frame. And what is really neat is that one doesn't have to have a frame in order to send pictures to someone who does (though honestly, you want one of these frames because they are super cool). Pictures can be sent from anywhere in the world. (In fact, if you want to send me pics, leave a message with your email and I'll send you an invitation!)

In addition to the ability to send pictures, the CEIVA frame also has different apps that you can set up. Right now I get an art quote of the day, the word of the day and the weather. They also have countdown calendars (we'll be setting up the Christmas countdown here in a few days), recipes, news, sports and lots of other channels.

Really, this is a truly fantastic product and would make a wonderful gift for just about anyone that you want to connect with more through pictures. Here are some of the holiday deals that CEIVA is running:

  •  CEIVA Pro80 Starter Pack (includes one-year PicturePlan Photo Delivery Service and WiFi adapter)- $119.99  
  •  CEIVAshare Starter Pack (includes one-year PicturePlan Photo Delivery Service)- $99.95 (Wifi adapter optional)
  • We also have free shipping for orders over $99.
  • Purchase any two frames (not including outlet items) and receive $10 off.
  • Purchase any three frames (not including outlet items) and receive $20 off.
If you were considering picking up a digital frame for someone for this Christmas, I would definitely consider getting them a CEIVA Digital Sharing Picture Frame!

Disclosure: I was provided a CEIVA Pro80 Digital Sharing Picture Frame for review, however the opinions expressed are 100% my own. Full disclosure available here.






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Sponsor Highlight: CSN Stores (Holiday Gift Giveaway Hop)


The holidays are fast approaching and our friends at CSN have tons of items available to make this holiday something special. For the person on the go, they have tons of awesome sling backpacks. Not long ago I ordered a French Press set from them and I absolutely love it and use it all the time (and now I feel like a really, REAL coffee drinker. And I'm totally taking it on stage for the Christmas Eve service.). I will say that I'm concerned with the sheer number of robot "toys" they offer, but I suppose if one wants to defeat the enemy, one must first be intimately acquainted with the enemy.

I'm really excited that CSN Stores will be donating a gift code to the Holiday Gift Giveaway Hop (that's coming up December 1-5). In the meantime, be sure to stop by their over 200 stores and start thinking about how you might want to spend your gift. And if you're like me and still looking for some Christmas gifts, they have a lot of fantastic stuff to check out -- and purchases can go toward CSN Rewards where you can earn free stuff!

Of course, be sure to keep your eyes on those robots. They're tricksey little things.

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Apothica carries great cosmetic brands including Oscar Blandi hair care! Check out their amazing products!

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I'm a wife to an amazing man, and mom to four incredible kids. I'm a Christian woman who sometimes struggles with doubt. I'm a musician and a writer who is sometimes afraid to play and write. I'm trying to be more authentic every day.
 
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