Monday, November 25, 2013

Holiday Festivities and Deals

Wow, where de heck did the time go?!  I really can't believe it is Thanksgiving week already!

It seems like I'm late with my annual holiday post, with all the stores having their decorations up weeks ago and deals already in progress.

I've seen lots of folks following suit and decorating early as well, which I'm cool with.  If you're going to spend all that effort to decorate for the season, might as well get to enjoy it for longer.  Let's not let it linger for months into the new year though, not pointing any fingers here...MOM...

Anyheu...Let's kick things off with a huge listing of holiday TV shows and movies!

Holiday TV Show / Movie Listings

That is a pretty great list with shows listed for every single day between Nov 26th and Dec 26th!

When it comes to shopping, I really despise dealing with the crowds, traffic and frustrations of going to a store and either not finding what you're looking for or finding that all the good things are already sold out.  Then it's back home to shop online, which I should have just done in the first place!

This year I'm going to try and remember this and shop 100% online, except maybe for the smaller stocking stuffer type things.  I think I will be MUCH happier and have better results that way as well, we'll see how it goes!

Amazon Holiday Deals

Amazon is definitely my go to place and they have some great deal pages I've been checking daily, which I will include here so that you have them all in one place.  They already kicked off an entire week of Black Friday deals and they will also be having a Cyber Monday week all of next week as well. 

Best Selling Products - Updated Every Hour

Hot New Releases - Updated Every Hour

Top Gift Ideas

Most Wished For Items

Top Rated Products

New Deals. Everyday. Handpicked By Editors

And now is the perfect time to sign-up for an Amazon Prime free 30 day trial as well.  If you do so, you'll get free 2 day shipping on everything you buy between now and Christmas day, in addition to unlimited streaming of movies and TV, similar to Netflix and access to the Amazon Kindle lending library as well.  

Black Friday Ad Scans

The go to spot for Black Friday ad scans is  You can either use the browse button to scroll through to the store you're interested in or just search in the box at the top.  Another very handy feature on that site is that you can choose deals by category.   You can select TVs for example and within that category you can search for specific brand names and can sort the results by price. 

On the individual store pages on that site, they also list when the sale starts.  For instance, the sale at Best Buy starts at 6pm on Thanksgiving day, while the Kolh's sale begins at 8pm on Thanksgiving day.  It seems there is no more waiting until Black Friday, with Thanksgiving being so late this year, the stores need to get those sales in sooner.

Additional Tip

In addition to all the great deals online, another benefit to purchasing online is that you can usually get additional cash back by shopping through the website of your credit card company.

Discover for example has a 'Shop Discover' site where you can browse through the various companies, click on the store BEFORE you make any purchases and then you will get an additional cash back credit of between 5-20%.

If your credit card does not offer that option, you can do the same thing by going to the Fat Wallet holiday cash back page, sign up for an account and click the store BEFORE making any purchases.  Many stores are offering additional cash back bonuses for the holidays.

Hope you enjoyed this year's edition of the holiday deals and festivities and hope you all have a nice short work week or perhaps the whole week off and get to enjoy the time with family and friends!

Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Hanukkah to all the Jewish peeps out there as well!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Fiverr Christmas Gigs & Gift Ideas

I received an email from Fiverr that they are in full holiday mode, with lots of Christmas related gigs available now.  I browsed through them myself and found a few that I thought were worth highlighting.

Handmade Christmas Ornaments

10 Custom Made Votive Candles

You get to select the scents: cherry blossom, amber musk, black raspberry vanilla, orange ginger, cotton blossom, apple, strawberry champagne, vanilla, milk chocolate, spiced cider, cinnamon pumpkin, frosty cocoa, pomegranate, gingerbread, sugar cookie, cinnamon, smoked applewood, jack frost (peppermint/vanilla), blueberry, cranberry, frasir fir (Christmas tree), and Christmas Cheer (apple/cinnamon).  They come in color that match the scent.

Custom Story About Your Child

There is also a gig where a writer will create you a custom 800 word story about your child that you can tell as a bedtime story.  Pretty neat.

Personalized, Custom Video From Santa

You can have Santa create a customized video for your child.  Perhaps they have not been behaving and you'd like to get them to do their chores.  Santa to the rescue! 

Christmas Makeover For Your Website Logo

But the one that was the most popular on that page, which was also the gig I ended up purchasing myself, was the one to give a Christmas makeover for your website logo.

And I REALLY like how mine turned out up at the top of the blog.  It was exactly what I was looking for and they actually delivered it in less than 4 hours. What do you think?

There are lots of other cool things, so definitely check out their main page for other fun, unique ideas!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Thank You For Serving & Happy Bday Hadley!

Thanks to our brother-in-law James, my Dad, friends and everyone that has served or continues to serve our country! 

And a big Happy 1st Birthday to our little niece Hadley, who isn't so little any more!  Hope you have a super fun day and we'll talk to you tonight!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Converting to MailChimp

As I mentioned to my email subscribers today, I switched over to MailChimp from FeedBurner for my email list.  I did the same over on my site last week.

The main reason for doing so on that site was to gain a few features I was looking for.

One was to receive email notifications immediately for new subscribers.  The other was to be able to automatically send new subscribers a welcome email with a link to download a free eGuide on keyword brainstorming that I put together for that site.

I was trying to offer the bonus as an incentive for folks to subscribe and I didn't realize that FeedBurner does not notify you when you get new subscribers.  I had a few people subscribe over a period of several weeks and had no idea.  So they never got the eGuide in a timely manner, which bothered me greatly since I like to under promise and over deliver, not the other way around.

I did some research on AWeber and MailChimp, since those were the heavy hitters I was familiar with.  AWeber is the one most online marketers promote and I figured out why.  They offer a 30% recurring affiliate commission on any sales, which is a great payout, but not necessarily the best option for those folks just starting out.  

AWeber charges $1 for the first month and then $19 a month after that.  If you're just getting started and don't yet have regular $ coming in from your online adventures, it doesn't make sense to start recurring monthly fees. 

MailChimp on the other hand has the same features and in many cases reviews I read mention how they're slightly ahead of the curve when it comes to their GUI and feature set and the best part is they're absolutely free for anyone starting out.

As long as you've got fewer than 2,000 subscribers across all lists in your account, you can send up to 12,000 emails per month without paying a dime. They won't even ask for a credit card.

SOLD...that was all I needed to hear.  I did check their pricing in comparison to AWeber for when you do outgrow their free service and it is within a $1 per month for comparable plans.

Another deciding factor was that you can seamlessly import your FeedBurner or any other list of email addresses via comma separated value (CSV) file or manually add them without your subscribers needing to reconfirm their email addresses.

After signing up, one other cool feature I'm about to try out is how MailChimp handles embedded videos.  If you click their checkbox to 'auto-convert video', they'll attempt to scan your content for embedded videos and show an image in place of your video and if you click the image the video will play. 

At least that is how I'm understanding things.  Not sure if will play right in the email or if it will launch a video player.  Typically videos embedded in emails either do not show at all or they don't work.

For a test, I'm going to embed a video of the Buffalo Bills beating the Patriots at the Bills backers bar here in town.  Can't go wrong with that!  Then anyone who has subscribed via email will see if/how it works when we receive the email for this post.  Hope it works!

If you have your own blog or website, you should definitely start building a subscriber list if you haven't already and I would definitely recommend MailChimp.  Check out my post 
Converting Your Email List to MailChimp for full details.

And if you haven't subscribed to my blog here yet, now is the perfect time!  Subscribe here.  

Monday, November 4, 2013

Best Toys for Toddlers

Being an uncle is super fun! You get to pick out way cool gifts and toys!  But being relatively new at the uncle thing, it always took a lot of research and reading reviews to try and pick some of the best toys out for the kiddos.  

Since the holidays are just around the corner, I thought I would share some of the best toys for toddlers for anyone that needs a bit of help and would like to save some time on the research.

These toys all have the Max and Hadley (Nephew and Niece shown below) seal of approval and they would all make great gifts for those special toddlers in your life!

Without further adieu, here are the Best Toys for Toddlers, in no particular order:

Fisher-Price Laugh and Learn Fun with Friends Musical Table
This one is a real must have item and it is really inexpensive.  Both Max and Hadley really loved this one and both played with it all the time.  Max would get the music going and start dancing. (6 months to 3 years)

Bright Starts Start Your Senses Safari Activity Gym, Spots and Stripes
This activity mat is great.  It has lots of lights and sounds to keep the little ones happy and entertained. (1 month and up)

VTech Sliding Songs Bead Maze
This is a fun one that makes noise when you move the characters around the maze and it also plays music when you hit the buttons.  It keeps their attention for a while. (9 months to 3 years)

Neat Solutions Neat-Ware Table Topper, 60-Count
This isn't really a toy per se,  however it does keep the kids entertained and keeps the mess contained.  This one is essential when dining out.  Max is making his "cheese" face. 

Megabloks Big Building Bag, 80-Piece
These are great because they are so big.  They're just like Legos, without the small piece hazards to be concerned with.  The colors are real bright. (1 year and up)

Fisher-Price Laugh and Learn Click'n Learn Remote
The kiddos love anything with sound and lights and this one does not disappoint.  This one is also a good substitute when they're trying to grab cell phones or existing remote controls. (6 months to 3 years)

VTech Sit-to-Stand Learning Musical Walker
Hadley loves this one!  She really likes to zoom around.  As her mom says, it is the BEST TOY EVER for her right now, at almost the 1 year mark. (9 months to 3 years)

Melissa & Doug First Shapes Jumbo Puzzle
These wooden puzzles are great for coordination and fine motor skill development.  They are big with nice big round handles on the puzzle pieces so they won't easily get lost. (1 year and up)

Pacific Play Tents 6' Find Me Multi Color Tunnel
These tunnels are real fun.  He likes to crawl in and play, as well as going from one side to the other. (Recommended for 18 months and up, but he enjoyed it much earlier than that)

Fisher-Price Go Baby Go Sit-To-Stand Giraffe
This is a fun one where you put the balls in at the top and then as they come down and pop out the different holes at the bottom it also plays music. (9 months to 3 years)

Combi Adventure Mobile Entertainer, Black
Max REALLY loved this one.  This was a lifesaver.  He loved chasing the dog around the house and this one has a full range of motion.  This one was so essential that when they were visiting Hadley in another state, they bought another one to keep there since Max really missed it and it kept him happy. (6 months and up)

Step2 Whisper Ride II, Blue Car
Max loves to be pushed around in this car. This is the one he graduated up to after outgrowing the walker car above.  They also have a Pink version. (18 months to 4 years)

Those are some of the best of the best when it comes to toys for toddlers.

I hope that helps you pick out some great gifts for those special kiddos.  They will surely love them!

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