6 Ways to Introduce Black History Month to Kids

It's officially Black History Month and today we share with you some ways to introduce Black History Month to Kids.

As an African-American mother, it is my job to educate my children. February, however, is the perfect time to talk to kids about the contributions of African-American historical figures and culture to our society. It’s also a great time to look back at lessons learned and all of the struggles that have been overcome. While it seems like there are racially charged issues in the news every day, it’s important to teach children how far we’ve come and to inspire them to continue striving for positive change. But where do you start with really young kids? How do you get the ball rolling? Here are 6 ways to introduce Black History Month to kids.

1. Eat soul food. This cuisine dates back to pre-colonial Africa, but the term didn’t come about until the 60’s. The traditional West African diet was predominantly vegetarian for centuries, consisting of rice, peas, okra, hot peppers, and yams. Meat was used sparingly, as a seasoning, but that has evolved over time. Soul food is thought of as food of the South, where the word soul in the 60’s was used to describe African-American culture in general. Cook up some black eyed peas, chicken and dumplings, collard greens, corn bread, and vegetable soup to give kids a taste.

2. Listen to the blues. The blues originated on Southern plantations by slaves in the 19th century. The music evolved over time, from African spirituals, to hymns, to country music, to something sounding more like jazz. Little kids learn a lot from music. Ever notice that children’s TV shows always include songs? Sing and dance along to the blues! You can even try to play a few songs on instruments (kiddie or legit) that you have at home. Not sure where to begin? Try B.B. King or Muddy Waters.

2. Eat soul food. This cuisine dates back to pre-colonial Africa, but the term didn’t come about until the 60’s. The traditional West African diet was predominantly vegetarian for centuries, consisting of rice, peas, okra, hot peppers, and yams. Meat was used sparingly, as a seasoning, but that has evolved over time. Soul food is thought of as food of the South, where the word soul in the 60’s was used to describe African-American culture in general. Cook up some black eyed peas, chicken and dumplings, collard greens, corn bread, and vegetable soup to give kids a taste.

3. Read together. While you may not be able to get into the heavy topics with very young children, it’s important to start introducing them to black history, culture and civil rights as early as possible. Start with Coming On Home Soon or How Many Stars in the Sky? for Kindergarteners. Henry’s Freedom Box and Two Friends begin to tackle more complex subjects.

4. Sing a song. While This Little Light of Mine may be a simple Sunday school song, it actually became an anthem of the civil rights movement. It’s an easy one to sing with kids and there are even hand motions to make it fun. You might explain that one little light may not seem like enough, but when many gather, they can light the world.

5. Introduce Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Use the book Martin’s Big Words to introduce Martin Luther King to your little ones.  You can use this great biography website for kids to talk about other important civil rights leaders, like Nelson Mandela and Rosa Parks.

6. Bake cookies. In Africa, sesame seeds are believed to bring good luck. Why not whip up a batch of sesame seed cookies together? For some sesame seed inspirations you can check out Pinterest. There's a plethora of sesame seed recipes just waiting for you to explore.

Annmarie John

Tips for a Better You with Better for You Snacks

A new year has begun and most of us have made resolutions, resolutions to live healthier and happier lives. While I haven't personally made any resolutions this year myself, one of my goals this year is to lose the weight that I have gained over the holidays and even before that. I have made it my business to eat better and also for my kids to eat better than they did last year. I'm big on snacking and I always have a snack or two for my kids, not just for school and after school, but also for when we're on the road. I always make sure to head to my local Sam's Club and pick up whatever I need. One of those better for us snacks just happens to be Annie’s® Popcorn Snack Packs and Honest® Kids Organic Juice Drink. Believe it or not, they're better for me and my little monsters, as I like to call my kids sometimes. I keep a package or two in my car and they're also in Madison's lunch box whenever she goes to school. I feel good knowing that I'm providing her with snacks that are better for her and best of all they taste great.

Madison goes to school on a daily basis and is at that age where there is still snack time. Last year I had problems trying to figure out what to put in her lunch box. Everyday it seemed like it was the same thing. This year I wanted a bit of variety but I also wanted snacks that were good for her. When it comes to my kids lunch boxes, having Annie® Popcorn Snacks and Honest® Kids Organic Juice Drink in there was a win-win. I felt good knowing that they were eating and drinking better snacks, and they were getting snacks that they also loved. They were the perfect lunch box solution! Not only are they better, but they're also convenient too. They're a great pick me up and are also perfect for our family movie and game nights.

With this however, being a brand new year, if you're looking for better snacks that aren't packed with sugar and you're looking for ways to be a better you, I have a few tips for you.

5 Tips for a Better You

1. Stop Putting It Off. Start Now!
Your first step to a better you is to start now! Stop putting it off by making every excuse that you can think of. However, start off slowly, don't just rush into it, and make little gradual changes. It's easier to make small changes gradually than big changes all at once. Hit the gym maybe twice a week and then work your way up to 5.

2. Get Moving
Make physical activity a part of your daily routine. If you have a pet, instead of telling your kids to take the dog out for a walk, you do it instead. Go for brisk walks early in the morning and again in the afternoon. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Get off the bus a stop or two away and walk to your home. Once again do this gradually, but just do it!

3. Eat Regularly
Now this one is very important. Most people like to skip a meal or two thinking that it will help with weight-loss, but au contraire. Skipping meals usually ends up with you overeating because you're hungry. Eat smaller portions, but don't skip. Snacking between meals can also help but be sure to count your calories. That's why I just LOVE the Annie's® Organic White Cheddar Popcorn. It is Organic and made with 100% cheese, it's naturally gluten free and made with whole grains. There are no artificial flavors, synthetic colors or preservatives and I get less than 75 calories per cup.

4. Hydrate
We all need water to survive and it's recommended that you drink at least 8-8oz glass of water a day. Once you start getting active you also want to replace the water you lose when sweating. Carrying around a water bottle is a great way to remember to drink your daily requirement. However, a lot of people, including me don't really like drinking water. My kids don't either, so I make sure that I have the Honest® Kids Organic Juice Drink around. They are USDA Organic and sweetened only with fruit juice. They're also available in delicious flavors such as Berry Berry Good Lemonade, Goodness Grapeness, Super Fruit Punch and Appely Ever After. I get 100% daily value of vitamin C and only 30 calories per juice box.

5. Sleep
Make sure that you're getting your recommended sleep at night. It's recommended that you sleep at least 7-8hrs at night. Personally I can survive on 5 but getting enough sleep goes a long way at making sure your body is well. Did you know that you actually lose weight while you sleep? So go ahead, sleep more at nights.

So whether you're looking for a better lunch box solution this year for your kids, or looking for better alternative snacks for yourself, head to your local Sam's Club and pick up Annie’s® Popcorn Snack Packs and Honest® Kids Organic Juice Drink, they're definitely better for you and your kids will love them!

Let's discuss: Have you tried Annie’s® Popcorn Snack Packs and Honest® Kids Organic Juice Drink?

Annmarie John

Celebrate Love this Valentine's Day with Teleflora

Share some love and bring a smile to your love one's faces this Valentine's Day with Teleflora's handmade with love bouquets.

Valentine's Day! It's the one day that most flowers are delivered to spouses, girlfriends and everyone that you love. This is my 2nd year celebrating Valentine's Day without my mother whom I lost 2 years ago. I would send her flowers on Valentine's Day because she was my love, and she also loved me unconditionally and she was also the only mother that I would ever have. My mother-in-law, who I considered my other mother, also receives flowers and she gets excited when she does. There's nothing quite like surprising a loved one with flowers from Teleflora. These floral bouquets are professionally arranged by a florist that is local to your area. They are freshly cut, carefully prepared and handmade with love. You know when you get a bouquet from Telefora that they are going to be fresh. I love receiving them to use as decor for my entry way table and their aromatic fragrances just delight your senses as soon as you walk in the door.

I have had to wait on occasion sometimes 3 days for my bouquet to fully bloom but when it does, it's amazing! I am no good at taking care of flowers, but it seems like Teleflora's bouquets just seem to take care of themselves. They just seem to last forever and they look great even after a week or two. If you're into flower pressing, then these are just the bouquets you need to do the job. I have quite a collection of pressed flowers from former bouquets that I have received from Teleflora that are just awesome. Can you tell how much I love them? Enough about me! If you're considering surprising someone you love this Valentine's day, by giving them that will make them smile and think of you, take a look at Teleflora's 2017 floral collection and their keepsake containers.

Teleflora’s Shining Heart Bouquet
This beautiful bouquet comes straight from the heart. It's ceramic keepsake vase is adorned with a sparkling rhinestone heart and combines a vibrant mix of  red roses, purple alstroemeria, red carnations, huckleberry and other lush floral stems. What better way to say "I Love You" than with this keepsake.

I had a choice of bouquets to choose from and I chose this one. I have never been disappointed ever in a Teleflora bouquet and this was no exception.

Teleflora's Love’s Passion Bouquet
The name speaks for itself, this is a bouquet filled with passion and romance. Just look at that elegant, luscious twisted red glass design. It's the perfect vase for your sophisticated lady. This bouquet will surely spice up your night by catching your Valentine's attention. With classic red roses, tulips and white Asiatic lilies, it's an unforgettable symbol of love.

Teleflora’s True Lovelies Bouquet
Looking to surprise you Valentine sweetheart and make their heart dance? This particular bouquet will not only delight, but it'll let them know that they are truly loved. This bouquet dazzles with red roses, delicate pink alstroemeria, seeded eucalyptus, and other fresh blooms, and is delivered in a pretty pink feminine keepsake vase, with gold metallic script message that reads "loved".

Teleflora’s Swirling Heart Bouquet

How about celebrating a friendship or that special family member that is closest to your heart? Then this charming floral bouquet will surely brighten their day and make them smile. Just check out the glazed stoneware container with it's intricate heart design. It's a keepsake that they'll cherish forever. This bouquet is filled with dark pink and red roses, dark pink and light pink miniature carnations and accented with fresh variegated pittosporum. I can think of so many ways to reuse this swirling heart cube container and I'm sure so will they, and whenever they see it, they'll be reminded forever of your love.

Teleflora has such a vast selection of bouquets and gift ideas and it may be difficult to choose your favorite, that's understandable. I always have a difficult time too. However, if you're still looking for flowers for your loved one, or flowers just to make that special someone in your life smile, then be sure to visit Teleflora. All of these bouquets are currently available on Teleflora and come in standard, deluxe or premium sizes.

Here are the ways to connect with Teleflora:

Annmarie John

DIY Popsicle Soap

Looking for a way to get the kids to wash their hands EVEN MORE? Then these popsicle soap will do the trick!

While going through my computer of pictures I took last summer, I came up on these popsicle soap that Madison and I did while bored one day. It had been a hot couple of weeks and with weather like that, I tend to stay indoors. With there not being a beach near by and the waterpark over an hour away, I much prefer to stay inside with the A/C on and relax in what is considered my oasis. However, I have a 4yr old by the name of Madison who believes that if you're at home, you should be doing something. I don't blame her because I've instilled in her that it's not ok to be lazy, no matter how much I like just lazing about. With a craft center that just keeps getting bigger and bigger, thanks to Michaels and their amazing deals, there is always something for us to do. While at Michaels, I happened to pick up some soap making craft supplies. I had no idea what I was going to do with them since I'd never made soap before, however my first soap project just happened to be this one that I'm sharing with you today, our popsicle soap.

DIY Popsicle Soap 

Supplies Needed:

Popsicle Mold (I got mine at IKEA)
Glycerin Soap
Soap Coloring which is different from food coloring
Essential Oil Fragrance
Microwavable Bowl or Measuring Cup
Rubbing Alcohol in Spray Bottle


Step 1

Cut as much of the glycerin soap that you'll need into small chunks and place them in your microwavable bowl or measuring cup. Place in the microwave for about 30 seconds until they melt.

Step 2

Add in your color and your fragrance and pour into your popsicle mold to your desired height. Spray your alcohol to get rid of the bubbles before it sets. Let it cool before adding in your second color.

Step 3

Once your first color has cooled, place a popiscle stick in the middle holding it in place with either tape or a clothes pin. Repeat Step 2 until you get the desired number of colors that you want. We went with 4 colors.

Step 4

Place in your refrigerator and let it cool overnight

Step 5

This is the most difficult step. If you used a silicone mold it should come apart easily. If you didn't and used a plastic mold, you're going to have to continually squeeze it until you get your popsicle completely out of the mold.

If you have kids who hate washing their hands, they'll finally start making up reasons to start doing so. Who wouldn't want to wash their hands with a popsicle? Remember this isn't edible but it's a whole lot of fun. You can also use other molds and make 1 color molds in any desired shapes. Let your imagination go wild. Soaps are so easy to make once you have the supplies, that you'll wonder why you've never done them before. By the way, can you tell I'm ready for the summer and popsicles already? Who's with me?

Annmarie John

Button Heart Frame

This simple Button Heart Frame will bring joy to your heart this Valentines Day!

I'm going to be honest, I'm not big on Valentine's Day. I don't celebrate the day and haven't in quite some time. That doesn't mean that I don't like receiving flowers and chocolate like the next girl, but I'd much rather receive cash. When it comes to gifts from my kids, however, I much prefer to get gifts that they have made. I still have a flower box that my son made for me almost 6 years ago and a card with handprints that Madison made when she was 2. A gift made with love means a lot more than a gift purchased at a store, unless it's Tiffany's of course. No girl can resist a Tiffany blue box. Madison just loves crafting and every free time she gets, she brings my craft supplies so we can get busy. Having just created my Button Spring Flowers Shadow Box, I still had a lot of buttons that I could turn into something crafty. With Valentine's Day just a few weeks away and needing something to make my home look a little more "valentiney", I decided to do a button heart frame that I could either place on my entry way table or hang on the wall. If you're not crafty, like I am, this is perfect for you. It takes approximately 20 minutes and when you're done, you'll wonder, what took you so long to use those extra buttons you had laying around.
Annmarie John

How to Get Ready for the Big Game - #BigGameBabbleboxx

With the big game fast approaching, I want to share with you some tips on how to get ready!

Game Day is big in our home. We get our jerseys together and we root for our favorite team on the big screen. Sometimes arguments ensue between friends because the other team is winning, but in the end everyone remains friends. Football while a competitive sport brings family and friends together. Today I want to share with you how you can get together for a game day without breaking the bank while enjoying some delicious goodness. Game Day isn't complete without food and drinks. As a matter of fact in order to have a successful Game Day event, you need to have what people like to eat and drink. Most of the time we have food catered but you don't have to break the bank. I teamed up with BabbleBoxx in order to bring you these delicious treats that you can serve at your own Game Day that your family and friends would enjoy.

Make Sure there are Chips and Nachos!
Game Day isn't game day without chips and nachos. Have a variety for the picky chip eaters. I was sent Garden of Eatin' Tortilla Chips and while I've never had them before I couldn't believe how delicious they were. I'm a big fan of organic snacks and these non-GMO organic corn tortilla chips were a hit. Available in both Nacho and Ranch, you have two flavors that you really can't go wrong with. The Ranch is made with buttermilk, garlic and onion, while the Nacho is made of farmhouse cheddar and paprika. These are USDA Organic, Gluten Free, Certified Kosher, Non-GMO and contains No artificial flavors or preservatives.

Don't Forget the Dip
Now that you have your chips and nachos, please don't forget your dip. There is nothing worse than forgetting your dip. You don't want to hear "where's the dip?", and nachos and dip go hand in hand! I have to suggest the skillet re-fried red beans dip by Better Bean Co Dips. If you're a fan of re-fried beans, then you're going to love this. Made in small batches with regional ingredients in a dedicated kitchen free of top allergens, think of it as being made in your very own kitchen. It tastes like homemade too. Don't think of it as being only for your nachos, they are very versatile and you can eat it with practically anything, from eggs to just right out the container, because it comes ready to eat, they're just better beans for you. They're also Vegan, Gluten-Free, Soy-Free, Non-GMO Project Verified, BPA-Free.

For a Buy One Get One Free Coupon, store finder & game-day recipes visit: www.betterbeanco.com/superbowl

Think Burgers!
Now you want something a little heavier as well. Something that will keep their mouth busy and their tummies a little bit fuller. While we have our chips and dips, you're going to want to have something like burgers to compliment their snacks. If you've never had Big AZ Sandwich then you're totally missing out. I got the BIG AZ Cheeseburger, AZ Kickin’ Jalapeño Cheeseburger, BIG AZ Country Fried Chicken Sandwich and BIG AZ Biscuit Stacker. I couldn't decide which one I wanted to try first. Loving everything spicy, I decided to give the Jalapeño Cheeseburger a try. What a mouthful of flavor it was. Packed with tasty pepper jack cheese, my favorite and jalapeños between a delicious bun, you're going to love it! The Big AZ Cheeseburger, is one massive protein packed beef patty topped with American cheese in a sesame bun is perfect for the big guy in your life. Love Country Fried Chicken, the you'll love the Big AZ Country Fried Chicken Sandwich, which has a huge crispy breaded chicken made with breast meat,  topped with creamy white cheese also within a sesame seed bun. It's a chicken lover's paradise. The BIG AZ Biscuit Stacker™is not to be ignored. It starts with a fluffy protein packed egg, topped with melty American cheese and they've also added their savory signature sausage and bacon for extra added protein, and who can truly resist bacon. This all between their homestyle mouth watering buttermilk biscuit.  A Game Day celebration truly isn't complete without an Big AZ Sandwich.

For a $1.00 OFF Coupon visit www.bigazsandwiches.com/coupon/

Have Something to Wash it All Down With - AKA Drinks
Now while the kids at your game day celebration will have their juice boxes and or maybe even soda, the big kids or as they liked to be called, ADULTS, want something a little bit stronger. I'm a big fan of beer. I grew up in the Caribbean where we made exquisite beer and my love of it developed there. If you're looking for a classic, all-malt lager that's crisp, smooth, and refreshing, look no further than Sessions Premium Lager. Winner of multiple gold medals at the top national and international competitions, Session Premium Lager is a beer that truly crosses boundaries, from blue collar to white, red state to blue, cocktail bar to bar-be-que. It tastes great, which makes it easy to drink and comes in this retro cool bottle. Did you know that Sessions Premium Lager was named #1 American Pilsner on the “Top Ten List of lagers Brewed in the United States? Don't have a Game Day party without it!

Paper Plates / Paper Cups/ Napkins /Plastic Utensils
Unless you're from the stone age and your family/friends are cavemen, you're going to need to have something for them to place all this deliciousness on. Paper plates and cups are the best way to serve food at any party. Not only does it make clean up a breeze but they're also better for the environment since they are biodegradable. Plastic utensils are also recyclable thus better for use as well. While participating in your game day activities, you still want to think about our planet Earth.

Enjoy your big game and remember, there's always next year if your team doesn't make it.

Annmarie John

How to Explain Valentine’s Day to Kids

Valentine's Day is fast approaching and it's not just about candy and flowers. Learn how you can explain Valentines's Day to your kids.

Valentine’s Day is a fun and simple holiday for children to celebrate, but the origins of the day are actually pretty complicated. While the roots of Valentine’s Day are murky, born of both pagan and Christian traditions, the common thread is love, and that’s an easy theme for kids to get behind. Here’s how to explain Valentine’s Day to kids.

Side note for parents: The notion of a man named Valentine delivering love notes far and wide isn’t exactly true, and written Valentine’s Day cards didn’t even surface until the 1400’s, but the day slowly evolved into an opportunity to send cards to loved ones, and then expanded into yet another gift-giving holiday.  Today, an estimated one billion Valentine’s Day cards are sent out each year, and more than $19 billion are spent on the occasion…and the holiday isn’t even celebrated worldwide! (Only the U.S., France, Australia, Mexico, Canada and the United Kingdom celebrate it.)

It seems the best way to teach kids the meaning of the holiday is to emphasize the idea of love, and to take the following approach:

Take stock in those we love. Help your child make a list of everyone he loves. Explain that love comes in many forms, not just the kind shared between parents! Ask him to think of different kinds of love. For example, he might say he has a little crush, he loves his dog, he loves his friends, and that he loves his grandma. You can talk about gratitude during this conversation, too. In this way, you can include all of the people he may be grateful for in the list of those he loves. (His teacher and his babysitter might fit here.)

Give tokens of affection from the heart. After the two of you have compiled a list of recipients, help your child come up with small gifts she can make to express her feelings toward her loved ones.  Baking cookies, and making cards or crafts might make the brainstorming list. Getting your child involved in the process of thinking for herself, preparing to make a gift, shopping for the supplies and then putting her time, energy and love into making the item will help her comprehend the holiday better than if you do it all for her.

Learn to enjoy making other people happy. After working so hard, your little one will probably be excited to deliver his gifts and see the reactions of the recipients. Lead by example by doing the same for some of your own friends and family, and letting him see the smile on your face as you give to others. This might also be a good opportunity to teach your child to give to others without getting anything in return, especially when giving anonymously to charities. Why let Christmas be the only time your child helps you donate to others? In this way, you are reinforcing the lesson that there are many ways to express and celebrate love.

Annmarie John

Button Spring Flowers Shadow Box

Are you already longing for Spring? Have lots of buttons laying around and need something to do with them? My Button Spring Flowers Shadow Box is easy to make and will add a dash of color to your home.

I can't be the only person tired of Old Man Winter, can I? I'm not a fan of the cold weather, I'm a Caribbean warm weather baby and love the sun on my face. I don't like excessive heat but a nice warm sun with a cool breeze is what I'm about. Unlike what most people think of the Caribbean, it's not hell fire hot in the Caribbean, after all, the islands are surrounded by the Caribbean sea, so there is always a cool breeze blowing. Yesterday, we had a fairly warm day here in Colorado so Madison and I went outdoors and decided to do what we do best when we're bored, we started on a craft. I like simple and easy things, I'm not a fan of spending hours working on a craft. Those hours can be spent doing other things. However, we had a ton of buttons just laying around and I needed something to do with them. I also had a few shadow boxes left over. Shadow boxes are so easy to create and you may remember my Jingle of Joys Holiday Shadow Box.  Whether you're a perfectionist or an amateur like I am, shadow boxes are a joy to make and always look beautiful, even with their imperfections. They are also fairly inexpensive to make, compared to buying them in store.

Annmarie John

Time Saving Dinner Hacks

Save time with these Time Saving Dinner Hacks.

Picture this, your family seated around the dinner table having great conversations over a meal cooked special just for this moment that brings each of your days to an end. The almighty dinner time is a great time for families to reconnect as a unit and bond over a warm home cooked meal. The problem with dinner time is the cooking process involved, it can take away precious time from other responsibilities you may have. This is why today we are going to share some time saving dinner hacks as a means to free up some time so you can still enjoy that quality family time.

Buy Quick Cook Meats
Think about what recipes you will be cooking up for dinner, does it call for a specific meat or poultry item.  Purchasing thinner slices of meat or ground meat will make the cooking process go quicker and thus saving you time cooking dinner.

Use Foil for Lids
Don’t have a lid or can’t seem to find that proper lid for the pan you want to use for dinner tonight? No worries, keep some tinfoil on hand at all times. Tinfoil works great as a make shift lid for quick access to start cooking without the endless search through your cupboards.

Make Pasta in the Microwave
An easy dinner hack is to cook pasta in the microwave. Place pasta in a microwave safe bowl then cover with water about one inch. From there you start the microwave on about 10 minutes and let it cook. No dirtying extra pans and you can make the other portions of dinner while the pasta cooks up in the microwave.

Cook Extra Ingredients
If you are cooking something that has a base sauce or ingredients that you will be using in a different dinner later on in the work, cook extra! This is the perfect dinner hack to ensure you don’t have to go through the preparation process another night during the same week.

Plan a Make your Own Night
This is the perfect dinner hack to please everyone in the family unit. Setup a bar of food on the table to select from and allow each family member to make their own simple dish out of the ingredients, then sit down to enjoy dinner together.

Breakfast for Dinner
The most fun dinner hack ever is to just have a breakfast for dinner evening, think ahead by making pancakes that can be frozen while waiting for dinner then just toss them in the toaster or microwave oven before dinner time. Sausage, eggs, etc. all do well for a quick breakfast dinner option.

Wear Gloves When Cooking Meat
A time saving dinner hack is to wear rubber gloves when handling different kinds of raw meat. This alleviates the time involved in washing your hands over and over again. It’s a great way to work with multiple meats without getting yucky raw meat on your fingers too.

Shred Meat Faster
Making a recipe that calls for shredded meat such as chicken, turkey or maybe even pork? Use a handheld mixer to shred meat faster than by hand or using a couple forks. This is the perfect way to have meat shredded just right while saving time!
Annmarie John

5 Tips for Surviving a Hurricane

Learn how to survive a hurricane with these tips.

Last week Colorado Springs, Colorado was hit with winds going as much as 110 miles per hour. Now I've lived in Colorado for the past 5 years and while we've had our share of crazy weather, nothing quite prepared me for this. We've had snow storms, rain storms, hail storms, but never a wind storm. Semi-trucks were left turned over on their sides on the highway, trees were uprooted, power lines were down and thousands were left without electricity. I took it upon myself to go outdoors and document it on a Facebook live video and almost got blown away. Note to self, DO NOT GO OUT IN 80 MPH WINDS.

When you reside in an area that has frequent hurricanes, it’s important to learn tips for surviving a hurricane. While not every country or state is susceptible to hurricanes, the majority of the Atlantic and Gulf Coast areas in the United States are prone to this weather pattern. Hurricanes are a tropical storm that unleashes torrential rain fall, storms and flooding for nearly 2 weeks at a time.  If you have found yourself residing in a location that may experience a hurricane read on for some tips to survive.

1. Be Certain Your Property is Hurricane Safe – if you are in an area prone to hurricanes then you should quickly learn that your property must be secured and ready for this weather pattern at all times. Consider having permanent storm shutters for every window, a way to keep your roof safe from the torrential rains and keep landscaping at a minimum so that the debris doesn’t fall onto your home during a hurricane.

2. Keep a Family Disaster Kit – sometimes a hurricane may hit without much notice for you to hit the stores to get supplies. When you reside in a location prone to hurricanes you must always have a family disaster kit ready and on hand. A family disaster kit should include water, food and other necessities to ensure your family can wait out a hurricane for a number of days. Consider keeping backup prescriptions in this disaster kit that is if you are on consistent meds.

3. Keep Yourself Informed – always keep a battery operated radio on hand to ensure you can tune into the emergency broadcast system during a hurricane. There may be pertinent information that you need to hear during a storm, so keep the battery operated radio in a quick access location with backup batteries in case of a long term power outage.

4. Have Emergency Cash on Hand – think about keeping a decent amount of cash on hand locked up in a fire safe security box at all times. This cash needs to be a reasonable amount to survive should power be out for an extended period of time during hurricane season. Most ATM’s won’t be available if the power goes out, so this emergency cash can come in handy.

5. Be Ready to Move – some hurricanes give advance notice and you may be instructed to evacuate where you reside. In these scenarios it’s best to have the above four items ready in addition to a backup plan to ensure your pets are safe. Keep your gas tank full on your vehicles prior to a hurricane so that you can drive for a long distance without running out of gas. When living in hurricane country, you must always be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.

While no one will know for sure how to be fully prepared for a hurricane thrown at you by Mother Nature, it’s important to follow each of these 5 tips to survive a hurricane so that you can rest a bit easier during this emergency situation. You made the decision to reside in hurricane country, now it’s time to continue to keep yourself educated on how to survive hurricanes.

Annmarie John

Crock Pot Candy with Mixed Nuts & Pretzels

Are you ready for something sweet but still good for you? Our Crock Pot Candy with Mixed Nuts and Pretzels will be sure to hit the spot.

It's my first recipe for the year and I wanted to start it off with something sweet but not too sweet. My family are huge nut lovers and Madison is obsessed with pretzels. I buy the mini packets so that she can take them with her as snacks and I snack on them myself. While I can't eat peanuts, that doesn't mean that I don't have them in the house, after all the kids just seem to love them. I have a nut allergy but it only stems from ingestion so I can touch them, just not eat them. That's not the case with all allergy suffers, but that's the case with me. My body is weird, for example, I can't eat raw apples or most red fruits, but I can drink apple juice, not sure why, but that's just the way it is. However, with the holidays wrapped up, you may have some candy stash that you may not have eaten. I'm truly not big on purchasing candy for my kids, I'm all about them eating as healthy as they can but every once in a while they get a sweet treat, however, making my own candy is a treat in its own and our Crock Pot Candy with Mixed Nuts and Pretzels is a winner.
Annmarie John

24th Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival

Get ready for the 24th Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival!

Celebrating 24 years when it kicks off March 1, 2017, the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival will jump-start spring with gardens of earthly delights plus new character topiaries, entertainers and food and drink offerings. The festival, which expanded to 90 days in 2016, will open with an irresistible array of fresh surprises and new treats:

  • Fresh, farm-market food and beverage flavors will debut at two new Outdoor Kitchens that will join 13 returning Outdoor Kitchens. Guest can sip and savor their way around Epcot, enjoying chef-inspired noshes and refreshing libations with or without a kick.
  • The new generation of princess topiaries (Snow White, Anna and Elsa – the first to be designed and created with topiary facial features) will welcome a brand-new Belle topiary as fans remember her from the Oscar-winning Disney film, “Beauty and the Beast.” Located outside the France pavilion with the Beast topiary, Belle will come to life with sculpted facial features and her yellow ball gown created with golden blooming Joseph’s Coat plants.
  • Another festival first will be a 6-foot-tall topiary of Figment, the feisty dragon mascot of the park’s Imagination! pavilion, perched atop a 5-foot-diameter ball fashioned from yellow Joseph’s Coat.
  • The brand-new Epcot front-entrance topiary garden inspired by a vintage Walt Disney short film will spring to life with a floral-festooned maypole featuring Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Daisy and Pluto.
  • The popular Garden Rocks concert series will expand to four days each week, with three concerts each Friday through Monday presenting pop musicians that span multiple genres over four decades.
  • New Garden Rocks Dining Packages will be available on select days at a number of Epcot restaurants.
  • Reimagined interactive play gardens will include a new take on the “Cars”-themed garden introducing a new character topiary from the June 2017 release of the Disney•Pixar sequel, “Cars 3.” Music Garden Melodies play area will return with new garden and topiary elements.
  • For the first time, the event’s Festival Center will extend operating hours from Wednesday, March 1 through Sunday, March 5. Throughout the rest of the festival, the center will be open each Friday through Sunday with an entertaining mix of gardening seminars and DIY workshops.

One of the popular Outdoor Kitchen gardens, Urban Farm Eats, will return with savory bites, sweet treats and ideas for planting produce that can inspire growing numbers of guests who want to learn to grow their own edibles.

The 2017 festival forecast will be sunny with colorful floral bursts by day and a nighttime landscape aglow with twinkling lights:

  • Topiaries of Donald Duck and nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie will share Future World space in front of Spaceship Earth with Chip and Dale for a “Fresh Epcot” selfie and family photo opportunity.
  • Anna and Elsa topiaries will return to the Norway pavilion festival landscape in celebration of the park’s new Frozen Ever After Nearly 100 festival topiaries in all will include up to 70 character creations such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Lady and the Tramp, Simba, Timon and Tinker Bell.

  • Guests will encounter garden surprises and special appearances related to Earth Day and other spring activities.
  • The Butterflies on the Go garden will return with the story of the Monarch’s epic journey across the continent and featuring butterflies emerging from their chrysalises.
  • On the way to the new Soarin’ Around the World film at the Soarin’attraction in The Land pavilion, guests can discover gardens featuring edible flowers, plants that benefit health and healing, and a pollinator paradise.

Dozens of Disney-crafted “flower towers” and beds of multi-colored blooms will transform the park’s landscape.  At least 70,000 bedding plants will surround the Future World east and west lakes alone; on the water, 220 mini-gardens will be set afloat.

For more information about the 24th Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival, call 407/W-DISNEY (934-7639).  As the festival nears, you can see more details at epcotinspring.com. The festival, including all gardening programs and exhibits, is included in regular Epcot admission.

Annmarie John

Lunar New Year Celebration at Disneyland Resort

Are you ready to celebrate the Year of the Rooster? See what's in store this year's Lunar New Year Celebration at Disney California Adventure Park.

Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Mulan and Mushu will join guests for a bigger-than-ever Lunar New Year Celebration at Disney California Adventure Park, from Friday, Jan. 20, through Sunday, Feb. 5, 2017.  This joyous celebration for the Year of the Rooster expands to 17 days, with colorful live performances, fun-filled activities, beautiful decor, Disney characters in their Lunar New Year costumes, and special food and merchandise offerings.

Guests at the Lunar New Year Celebration will discover new Disney magic as they experience Asian culture through a variety of live performances, including Chinese acrobats and authentic musicians. Each night prior to “World of Color,” a new feature called “Hurry Home” will tell the tale of a journey home for Lunar New Year. The six-minute feature is presented in sequences, utilizing projected animation along with the lighting, special effects and powerful fountains of “World of Color.”

As “Hurry Home” unfolds, guests will get to follow along on the journey of a Little Lantern returning home for the annual celebration of good luck and fortune. Little Lantern encounters three “dream sequences,” featuring appearances by Mulan and the dragon Mushu. “Hurry Home” employs two contrasting animation styles, with fully rendered CG animation and sequences inspired by traditional Chinese paper cut-out style animation. The story is scored with music created for the opening ceremony of Shanghai Disney Resort by Academy Award-winning composer Tan Dun (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”).

Lunar New Year, traditionally celebrated within Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese cultures, commemorates the moment when both the sun and the moon begin their journey for another year. Highlights of the Lunar New Year Celebration at Disney California Adventure include:

  • Three new Asian marketplaces offering foods inspired by Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese cultures
  • Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Mulan and Mushu, dressed in their Lunar New Year attire to welcome guests and join them for photos
  • Live performances with an impressive array of authentic performers, acrobats, musicians and more
  • A New Year’s Wishing Wall, where guests may add their own wishes for a wonderful future
  • Lunar New Year décor, including beautiful ornamental lanterns and banners wishing guests a Happy Lunar New Year in English, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese
  • Lunar New Year commemorative merchandise, including a specially designed t-shirt, pin and the traditional red envelopes for gift-giving

For a limited time only, Disneyland Resort guests may celebrate the tradition, sights, sounds and tastes of Lunar New Year with a touch of Disney magic, only at Disney California Adventure. Guests may check for daily entertainment schedules as they become available, at www.Disneyland.com/LunarNewYear.

Annmarie John
[name=AnnMarie John] [img=https://3.bp.blogspot.com/-X9gUeVik-ZY/WJjwNTOobII/AAAAAAABTJ4/qEhU0n62_AIo-j6-6LA2OFOr44lKCHASwCLcB/s100/AnnMarie%2BJohn%2BHeadshot.JPG] [description=AnnMarie John is a lifestyle blogger, mom of 4, retired army veteran and a huge Disney lover. Formerly from the beautiful island of St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the Caribbean and now living in colorful Colorado, she loves sharing her opinions on everything, crafting and food.] (facebook=https://www.facebook.com/theannmariejohn) (instagram=https://www.instagram.com/theannmariejohn) (twitter=https://www.twitter.com/theannmariejohn) (pinterest=https://www.pinterest.com/theannmariejohn) (email=mailto:annmarie@annmariejohn.com)