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Waiting to Bloom Again

by Desiree Miller on July 22, 2015

Flower bud

There’s a tree in my front yard that I was sure was dead last winter.  We almost dug it out and tossed it, but I didn’t want to give up on it that easily.  Surely, the warmer spring weather would make a difference, and maybe, just maybe, that little skeleton of a tree would make it.

Imagine my thrill when it gave us a few little blooms about a month later.  Not a whole tree full, but enough to let me know it was trying to come back.  Those blooms were like a little thank you to me for hanging in there with it, a promise of more to come.

Now, that tree is full of leaves and you wouldn’t know from looking at it these days that it was so close to being gone forever a few months ago.

Yes, I know, my little tree did what many do when they’re moved…it struggled to survive, even wilted for a while, but it has come back with a vengeance, ready to fill the world with its blooms over and over.

tree

I’d like to think I’m a lot like that tree right now.

I was planted before, but struggled each day to bloom.  It didn’t happen often.  I felt like my leaves were falling day after day and my growth had stopped.

So, I made some changes.  Dug myself out and, after careful consideration, planted myself again.

In the meantime, I watched friends going through similar issues find new places to grow, too.  And now, I see them thriving, beautifully blooming all around me.

But I’m not there yet.  I see a new leaf or two every now and then, but can’t help but wonder when I might see the ripe rewards of new growth that my friends are enjoying.

It fills me with doubt.  Did I pick the wrong place to plant myself again?  Maybe I’m not getting the right kind of nutrients to really blossom.  Or, maybe I just need to be more patient.  I want so badly to be strong again, to feel strong again.

A friend told me yesterday to let nature take its course, so to speak…to turn this over to a higher power and let that guide me.  So, I’m trying, and waiting for a sign letting me know I’m where I’ll blossom best.  And hoping that the right mixture of rain, sunshine and TLC finds its way to me until my roots are firmly planted forever, until I feel like that the tree in my front yard, ready to fill the world with my blooms, forever this time.

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animation academy instructor

Disney’s Hollywood Studios has officially closed the Magic of Disney Animation to make room for another attraction.

To say I’m a little heartbroken is an understatement.

I always considered the Animation Academy one of my favorite spots at Hollywood Studios.  It was a place my entire family enjoyed, a great spot for spending 30 minutes inside the air conditioning, giving our legs a rest, and learning from the best animators around.  It was our go-to spot when we had to catch our breath, or a break from the rain.

Inside the Animation Academy, the Disney animators taught us how to draw our own Disney characters and we were always amazed at our final product.

I have sketches we’ve all done through the years, following the step-by-step instructions offered by the animators.

Through the years we’ve mastered Minnie, Winnie and on our last trip, Goofy.

goofy sketch 1

goofy sketch 2

We could look into the different animator offices and see peeks from the past of some of Disney’s best work.

It’s the most recent in a number of changes being made at Hollywood Studios.  A name change for the park is coming, and the famous Sorcerer’s hat was removed earlier this year.  The Studios Backlot Tour is also gone, along with the American Idol experience.

I’m all for updates, but this is one attraction I’m really going to miss on my trips to Disney.  Maybe they’ll relocate the concept to another of the theme parks.  Until then, I’ll consider our past art even more priceless.

goofy animations

Goofy sketch

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serena williams holding us open trophy  

Roger Federer serve

Serena Williams and Roger Federer.

These two amazing tennis players are my favorites…they couldn’t be more different in many ways, yet, they share so many similarities.

Serena is passionate. Volatile even. She’s let ‘em have it when a bad call was made, and paid dearly for her outbursts.  She may have a huge temper, but it’s so easy to understand if you’ve ever played a match where your opponent made a bad call on an important play.

Roger is as cool as it gets. Always. I have watched countless matches and can’t remember a time when he even appeared upset.  I’m sure he’s all kinds of ramped up on the inside, but he ‘never lets them see him sweat’.

Serena is solid.  She’s not fat, not by a long shot, but she’s not the skinny mini that you see so many other female players built like.  Serena is sheer muscle, along with her curves.  I like seeing a woman with a ‘real’ body out there getting to the ball, using her power to hit a winner over and over.

Federer is svelte.  There are tennis players with tree trunks for thighs now…many of the guys are built like that, but not Roger.  That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have muscle.  He gets to the ball and puts it away…he’s just really smart about putting it where his opponent isn’t.

Roger Federer to net

Serena Williams Victory Wave

So how are they similar? 

Well, they’re both simply the best.  The best at winning, the best at their sport, the best at being, well, themselves.  Their serves are ridiculous…ridiculously powerful, ridiculously accurate.

They’re both fighters when they play.  It’s like there is a part of their personality that hates to admit defeat, so they keep finding ways to win.

They’re both classy about winning, too, saying kind things about people they just beat, even though I feel like in their head they must be saying ‘what a chump!…that guy really thought they could beat me?’…ok, maybe they’re not thinking that, but we all are at home.  Because here’s the thing…when they win, pretty often, they win BIG!  I sometimes think they throw a game or two so their opponent doesn’t feel so bad.

And they’re both a blast to watch.  I’ve been lucky enough to see both of them play in person while at the US Open.  I have to admit, these matches rank right up there as some of the best times of my life (all of the photos you see in this article were taken while I watched matches when they were playing.  If you’re even a remote tennis fan, you have to go watch them play…you won’t regret a trip to the US Open).

They both make winning look so easy.  I’m sure it’s not.  I know they’ve poured their lives into training and learning how to be the best.  But you don’t see that when they play.  You just see winners.

Guess that’s what makes them most alike.

They ARE winners.

The very best in the world.

I couldn’t even imagine having to pick between them if they ever faced each other across the court.  Can you fathom what an incredible match that would be?

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  Andy Roddick serving

Do you have your tickets for the BB&T Atlanta Open yet? Many of the players you’ve seen doing well at Wimbledon will be taking to the courts in Atlanta, including the beloved Bryan Brothers and Georgia’s favorite, John Isner.

The venue is a fun one.  The BB&T Atlanta Ooen is returning to Atlantic Station from July 25-August 2, 2015. This is part of the official ATP World Tour leading up to the US Open in New York and is promoted as a ‘world class field, world class fun’.

If you don’t have your tickets yet, there are several ticket deals being promoted currently.  There are Living Social deals running for limited dates, along with some promo codes you can access for savings.

John Isner

Want to know what kind of action you’ll see?  Well, there’s nothing like watching John Isner serve ‘in real life’. His height is going to stun you…it’s most noticeable when he’s standing next to another player or tournament official.  He’s scheduled to play Tuesday night, July 28th, so if you want to see him, that’s one night you know you’ll be able to catch him in action.  There are others, like Marcos Baghdatis, Jack Sock, Vasek Pospisil and a few others you might recognize…

bbt atlanta open   pospisil bbt atlanta open

Andy Roddick will be back for the first time since his retirement.  He has an exhibition on Monday night, July 27th, and will be joining his pal Mardy Fish in doubles play.

And you can’t talk about doubles tennis without bringing up the Bryan Brothers.  Yes, they’ll be playing in a match on Wednesday night, July 29th.

Other fun worth mentioning:

  • Saturday, July 25: Kids Weekend + kick-off concert with The Commodores
  • Sunday, July 26: Kids Weekend & Doubles Pro-AM
  • Monday, July 27: Opening ceremonies, ALTA Night, & exhibition match featuring Andy Roddick
  • Tuesday, July 28: College Night
  • Wednesday, July 29: Post-match concert with LoCash
  • Thursday, July 30: Ladies Day
  • Friday, July 31: USTA Member Appreciation Day & post-match fireworks
  • Saturday, August 1: Fan/Volunteer Appreciation Day
  • Sunday, August 2: BB&T Champions Day

Tickets to the BB&T Atlanta Open start at $15 on Qualifying Weekend, $39 for Weekday rounds, $62 for Semifinals, & $65 for finals.

Fuzzy Lexus

There are also booths and special attractions like the Lexus Fuzzy car on display, along with a serving station where you can time your serve.  The biggest serves each night will have prizes for different categories, so be sure to give it a try.

I’ve been every year this event has been held in Atlanta and love the venue at Atlantic Station. You can count on seeing me out there again this year!

These are previous posts about the event.  It’ll give you a taste of the fun you can then go on to have at the US Open, another great place to see your favorites!

http://stressfreebaby.com/2012/07/a-tennis-weekend-in-atlanta-roddick-isner-and-me/

http://stressfreebaby.com/2014/08/us-open-best-place-watch-best-tennis/ 

http://stressfreebaby.com/2012/09/andy-roddick-retires/

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How to Host a Mystery Party (for Kids or Adults)

by Desiree Miller on July 8, 2015

mystery party

Birthday parties for tween girls can be tough…you need to find something fun, hip and not too baby-ish.

We’ve done the pool party more than once. Sleepovers, too.  And we’ve had fun with themes from Frozen to Turtle Man (not the ninja turtles, we’re talking about the Kentucky guy who finds turtles and other critters and puts them back in the wild).

This year, my now ten year old decided she wanted to do a Mystery Party.

She requested a murder mystery, but I vetoed that, thinking not every kid can handle murder, and we went with a thriller that needed to be solved…the case of Mystery Manor.

I have to say this was my favorite party so far.

Sometimes, girls have a way of pairing off, and inevitably, feelings get hurt.  With this party, there was no time for that.  Everyone was assigned a character and as soon as everyone showed up, we were ready to go.

Here’s the how-to on what we did and how we did it.  Hopefully this makes it simple for you to duplicate if you decide this is the kind of party your kiddos will enjoy.

question mark poster

First: figure out who you want there.  It’ll be important to know how many guests you have and whether they’re all girls, a mixture, and the ages.  This will help you pick the right mystery theme for your crowd.  We searched online for free mystery party scripts and found a few, but in each case we still would have needed to tweak the script and I honestly wasn’t up for that.  We picked a script that was for all girls and invited the exact number of guests that we needed to pull off the plot.  We could have invited others to be private investigators, but I liked having each guest get a character role.  I paid $35 for the script we went with and don’t regret a penny of it.  I was immediately emailed a template that walked me through every step of what I needed to do.  Easy breezy.  Just the way I like it.

  poison fruit cups  

Important note:

You can’t really start the party until every guest has arrived, and it’s very important to have backup guests ready to fill in if an invitee can’t show at the last minute.  This happened with us and we simply had an older sister jump into that character’s spot.  It would have been a nightmare if we hadn’t lined up a backup, since that particular character ended up being the one responsible for the crime (total coincidence).

INVITES:

We created invites using an image from the kit I downloaded.  I added personal details, like our address, RSVP info, and stressed that we needed to know for certain if the child was attending because they’d be filling a role in our mystery.

It’s the first time in a very long time that parents actually did RSVP by the time I requested and that was a nice change.

mystery party guest kit

DECORATIONS:

Again, I hit the Internet for suggestions on decorations.  I hit Pinterest and found a couple mystery party suggestions.  These were great.   We decided to create a big question mark poster to hang near our door for guests to see as they came in and didn’t do much more than that in terms of decorating, other than putting together personal kits for each guest.  This included their printout of information they’d need for their character, some fun disguises we picked up at the Dollar Store, and a magnifying glass that they each got to keep as part of the party favor (to assist with future sleuthing).  The kit also included a name tag so that everyone else knew who that character was.

mystery flavored jelly beans

FOOD:

Pinterest had plenty of food suggestions, so we duplicated those and came up with a few of our own.

question mark cake

We made our own question mark cake (I decorated this on my own using white icing and oreo cookies for the question mark shape…super simple).  We also made individual cupcakes, which the girls seemed to prefer.  They ate pretty much non-stop during the party, which in our case started at 4pm and lasted until 6:30.  In hindsight, I would have made it last 30 more minutes because it truly took us 2 and a half hours to get through the mystery.


pop the question popcorn

The kids also ate ‘pop the question’ popcorn, ‘mystery meat’ sandwiches (we bought several kinds of sandwich meats and served that for something with substance), along with mystery cheese blocks (mixing up spicy pepper jack with a variety of cheddars) and ‘poison fruit’ cups.  We also bought assorted flavored jelly beans and had fun watching the kids’ reactions to the different tastes.

Our final food was a mistake, but ended up being the biggest hit.  My daughter loves jello layered with different flavors one on top of the other, but we started this dessert too late to do it right, so we ended up putting the different flavors into different bowls. That’s when it hit us that we could cover each with whipped cream (the birthday girl’s favorite treat) and have each guest guess the flavor.  This was a huge hit.

guess the jello flavor

OTHER FUN:

My big fear was that the girls would solve the mystery in less than an hour, so I wanted to have some games to keep them busy if that happened.  We decided on ‘fingerprint’ art (all suspects need to provide a fingerprint, right).  That craft only required an ink pad and some pretty paper that they’d decorate.  I bought frames they could make, too, and personalize.

We also were prepared to play a game of ‘sketch artist’ where I was going to describe a person in a painting that I had hanging.  The child who most closely matched the painting would be the winner.

However, we never got around to either craft because these girls took every bit of the two and a half hours to solve our crime.

The beauty of that was they all had fun, there was none of the drama that can send the birthday girl off running to her room, and you truly could host this party anywhere.  They never even left the dining room where we set all the action up for the party.

IN SUMMARY: 

I highly recommend this for parties for children turning 10 and up.  I don’t think younger children would want to take the notes about suspects that these girls were taking (pages and pages—this was serious business).  I don’t think there’s an age limit for the fun.  I’d even enjoy hosting a mystery party for friends my own age.

fingerprint art supplies

 

 

 

 

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Get Ready. Get Safe. Protecting Your Children Before Disaster Strikes

July 7, 2015

Imagine…a storm hits…and your children are at school…or you’re at the store while your family is at home…and after the emergency, you can’t find them.  Think of enduring seven hours of worry…now seven days…seven weeks…can you even fathom seven months of being separated? Well, that’s how long it took for some of the survivor families to reunite after Hurricane Katrina hit ten years ago.  That’s right…imagine seven months of wondering where your children are…or, even worse, imagine being a child, wondering where your parents are, or if they even made […]

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US Women’s Soccer Team Takes the Spotlight with #SheBelieves

June 29, 2015

I’m a huge tennis fan, and with Wimbledon just starting for the year, I’m watching matches during the daytime while I work, but I have to say another sport has grabbed my attention: women’s soccer!! Have you seen our US Women’s Soccer team kicking it out of the park (pun intended, #sorrynotsorry) in the past few weeks? They’re in the semi-finals for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup and have a monster of a game set for tomorrow night—Tuesday, 6/30—at 7pm Eastern time.  They’re going head to head against Germany. […]

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Atlanta Baby and Child Expo Wrap-up and Plans for 2016!

June 25, 2015

Where else can you go to find incredible and unique products, enjoy sweet treats and meet up with professionals who can make your life easier?  The 2015 Atlanta Baby and Child Expo combined all this and more to give new and expectant parents a fun day of  discovery.  This video showcases many of the vendors who were part of the fun. The annual event at the Fox Theatre Ballrooms combined more fun than ever with a dance off this year for prizes that included strollers, car seats and much, much […]

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At Home Store Review–Thousands of Ways to Update Your Home

June 24, 2015

(Reader note: I was provided with a gift card to purchase items to make this review possible at their request.  I was not otherwise compensated and my opinion, as always, remains my own.) We all know how something small can totally make an old space look new again, whether it’s a great rug, decorative lamp or even a small pillow.  I’m a sucker for conversation pieces and love any item that tells a story, so to speak.  That kind of thing is what turns a house into a home…it’s what […]

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Atlanta, Tennis and Lexus; Lexus IS 350 F Sport Review

June 24, 2015

There are a few things you discover fast when you live in Atlanta.  It gets hot here, really hot.  We like our sweet tea cold.  And our traffic is ridiculous—and not in a good way, so we want our cars to be comfortable.  And one more thing.  We love our tennis. Recent statistics show there were 347-thousand tennis players in Atlanta last year. That’s more than any other city in the country.  And that’s despite our insane summer heat. Our BB&T Atlanta Open offers world-class fun as part of the […]

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