Monday, July 11, 2016

3 Favorite Places for Kid's Summer Birthday Parties in Oklahoma City

One thing that I love about having a birthday party during the summer is that there are always a lot of things to do. There are many places to host a kid’s summer birthday party but nothing is better than getting it done without breaking the bank. The three places that are listed below are my favorite places to have kid’s summer birthday parties and even as an adult I still return to them each year.

The PlayZone

If you are looking for a place to host a kid’s summer birthday party, you have got to check out the PlayZone. All of the birthday areas are air conditioned and are separate so you don’t have to worry about intruding on someone else’s fun. The birthday child will receive a birthday t-shirt and 2 free gymnastics class. The guess at the party will get 1 free trial class or 1 free visit to the playzone. The party dates are on Saturdays from 12 to 2 pm, 2 to 4 pm, and 4 to 6 pm. The cost for a kid’s summer birthday party is $110 for up to 10 children and $5 for each extra child. If you want an exclusive party you can do so for $265 and up. The cost of the party may include playzone fun, time in the party area and time in the gymnastics area. The location is 7212 West Hefner Road in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Cactus Jack

Cactus Jack was one of my favorite places to go when I first moved to Oklahoma City and I have found that it is great for kid’s summer birthday parties. Cactus Jack is reasonable when it comes to your wallet since their birthday packages start out at $75. They are open for parties seven days a week but they only do parties on Saturday at 11 am, 1 pm, 3 pm, 5 pm, and 7 pm and on Sundays at 1:30 pm, 3:30 pm, and 5:30 pm. Reservations are required and you will get two tables for an hour and a half for the birthday. With the birthday party you will get 25% free tokens with a minimum of $75 of tokens bought. There are a lot of games but it tends to get crowded on weekends. Cactus Jack is located at 1211 N Council Road in Oklahoma City.

The Oklahoma City Zoo

The zoo is one of my favorite spots for kid’s summer birthday parties. During the summer the Oklahoma City Zoo offers different exhibits such as the dinosaur exhibit. The admission rates are $7 for adults, $4 for kids, $4 for seniors, and ages 3 and under are free. There is also a discount for groups of 15 and larger. The summer hours are April through September from 9 am to 8 pm. The Oklahoma City Zoo is located at 2101 NE 50th Street. There is a lot of parking and a lot of fun going on here.

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3 Experiences in Berlin

Checkpoint Charlie Museum

Checkpoint Charlie was a well known crossing point between East and West Berlin during the Cold war. Now it serves as a museum, powerful in its representation of the state Berlin was in after World War II. The museum offers many different exhibits including pieces of the Berlin Wall and fascinating exhibitions regarding human rights. I found the museum to be an eye-opening experience as well as essential to those who wish to further understand the heart of Berlin.

The Fernsehturm

Serving as the tallest building in Berlin, the TV tower has a revolving restaurant and a 360 degree panorama stunning view. In order to reach the top of the tower, an elevator ride of only 40 seconds travels 670 ft. Once I survived the elevator ride, I found myself spending a large amount of time overlooking Berlin in a speechless manner. The view of Berlin was overwhelmingly beautiful, experiencing the view in person has made a lifelong impression on me.

Fabulous Pretzel

Walking around Berlin, I came across a women selling pretzels. They were huge and simply irresistible looking, I had to buy one! I will admit to eating the entire pretzel in a timely fashion. The pretzel definitely tasted just as great as it looked, irresistible and unforgettable. During the rest of my time spent in Berlin, I was on a look-out for those carb-loaded works of art!

Traveling through Berlin I gained a multitude of experiences during the short time I was there. I believe that each experience I gain during my travels strongly contributes to the person I am. Checkpoint Charlie gave me a deeper insight into the dark past of Berlin that leaves an imprint on all those who visit. The Fernsehturm provided breathtaking views that not even a photograph could properly describe.

Berlin, I look forward to the day I can once again visit.

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3 Easy Ways to Become an American Hero

#1:
Adopt a homeless family. This doesn’t mean that you have to be responsible for everything in their lives. Your commitment could be a ride to help them find permanent shelter. Or it could be bus fare. Your help could be as little as $10 or as much as you can afford. But by helping in this way, just one homeless family in anyway you can. I guarantee you will get more from it than you give.

#2:
Have a meal at your local homeless shelter or any homeless shelter. While you are there, make sure that you look around, meet people, both the servers and the victims of poverty. Most of the workers there are volunteers. So a pat on the back or the shaking of an hand goes a long way for them so don’t forget to give a kind word. This should not cost you more than your everyday fare at a fast food restaurant. Just donate what you would have normally spent that day at your favorite venue for lunch. And I am sure it will be money well spent. I would encourage you to write a letter to your Mayor and local legislatures and ask them to become a hero using at least one of these methods.

#3:
Write to your congressman and ask “What is being done presently for the homeless?” Tell him or her that your vote ,in much part, depends on his or her answer to that question. And ask “What can you do” to help solve the problem.

These 3 simple steps will be more rewarding to you than it can ever be to the individuals that you help. There are probably many other things that one can do. Find as many as you can. Remember that any help makes you a hero. As a war-time veteran, I have voluntarily given to my country and I know that as Americans, I am not alone. When you help those most vulnerable, you do the greatest good. I challenge everyone reading this, to do the greatest good. Be An American Hero.

Please share your stories of what YOU have done so that others may see the many other ways that they can help. Suggestion…a representative of every city in the United States should have to report to the state and local government on the progress of what is being done for the homeless, every year. That information shoulsd be sent to congressional and snate representatives and presented to the President every year. There should be a failing grade and a passing grade. Every state has to show improvement. Every city has to show improvement. Every year.

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3 Ethnic Food Markets in Santa Monica

Within walking distance of the high tide line in the beach town of Santa Monica in California are some of the most exciting and unusual ethnic food markets and delicatessens this eclectic country has to offer. Whether you have a craving for anchovies or a yen for zabaglione, you can find it all in this culturally diverse enclave.

German, Dutch, Swedish

Shoop’s Delicatessen Gourmet & European Market
2400 Main Street, Santa Monica
(310) 452-1019

With Matt Shoop officiating behind the deli counter and his wife counseling customers in the market, this place has the crackle and energy of a power station. The Shoops specialize in German and Dutch grocery items with some Swedish products on hand for good measure. When Swedish clients made special requests, Shoop found himself ordering wheels of Swedish cheeses the size of big rig tires. “A normal piece for them is 2 or 3 pounds at a time,” he points out. The Shoop’s knowledge of European provisions is deep and passionate. For example, just a few different brands of German mustard would probably suffice, but just look at the dizzying array available on their shelves. You will also find a selection of German language newspapers, cookies, biscuits and European candies.

On a recent visit, the delicatessen was doing a brisk business in Matt’s hand-crafted sweet and sour cabbage soup of the day in spite of the 80-degree heat outside (it’s that good) and his wife was offering a sort of undergraduate couse in pumpernickel bread to an appreciative customer. “This kind is better for parties,” she advised. The delicatessen is open for breakfast and lunch and serves dishes as light as “1 German weiner and a cup of soup” to a prospect known as “The Clevelander” which is described as “a sandwich with a serious attitude; hot lean corned beef, baby swiss, choice of sauerkraut or coleslaw, Russian dressing, spicy mustard and horseradish.” (Price is $7.75.) Of course, you can get German potato salad with that.

Before he opened this location about 5 years ago, Matt Shoop had been personal chef to Mohammad Ali and had run 4 restaurants. He loves preparing and sharing good foods the way Bret Favre loves playing football. His all-embracing philosophy is found in the motto on his menu: “We’re all in this world together.”

Ukrainian, Russian

Ukraina Deli
1207 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica
(310) 393-2399

This beautiful little delicatessen, market and gift shop serves Ukrainians, Russians and Armenians from all over the area. A small but carefully selected assortment ranging from tinned delicacies to boxed chocolates adorn the shelves. Most products are labeled at the source, so if you don’t read Russian, you may have to ask what’s what. They have borscht, pirogi and caviar. Behind the counter are souvenirs and gifts from the home country, such as hand painted nesting dolls, procured by owner Olga Tseryasina. The delicatessen cases contain a full assortment of cheeses, salt cod and sausages sold in servings to suit your needs. Just grab your balalaika and you’ve got all the makings of a great picnic.

Italian, Greek, Argentine, Middle Eastern

Bay Cities Italian Deli & Bakery
1517 Lincoln Blvd., Santa Monica
(310) 395-8279

The name of this market is only part of the story. The sign out front says you will find not only Italian, but also Greek, Argentine and Middle Eastern foods. It doesn’t end there. On a recent visit, a customer said, “I’m looking for Scandanavian flat bread,” and he was immediately ushered to some section of the store that apparently had such a thing. It goes even further. If you are in need of, say, a 24 ounce tin of pure goose fat from France, you can find it here. Let’s just say the place is inclusive.

The shelves contain not just a few, but dozens of varieties of sardines prepared every which way. There is a veritable Disneyland of vinegars, with the Tiffany-like blends under lock and key. There is enough olive oil to fill the Exxon Valdez. You can get a 4 ounce tin of stuffed squid in ink sauce for under $3.00. Seemingly every hot sauce ever made is here, from “Ass In Space” to the lethal “Pure Cap” which is 2 ounces of capsaicin sold in an eye dropper for about $11.00 but should be available by prescription only. On any given day, there are 24 different types of fresh olives on display in pretty dishes and 16 different types of bottled and tinned capers from every country that sees the sun. Bay Cities also has a full wine shop featuring blends that can stand up to their food.

The delicatessen is always crowded. Be prepared to take a number and wait. They need a traffic cop to take care of the constant flow. There are daily specials, like BBQ beef hoagie or eggplant parmigiana on Thursdays, or perennials like the “Godmother” sandwich containing Genoa salami, mortadella, coppacola, ham, prosciutto and provolone cheese. (Priced at $5.60 for the small and $7.30 for the large.) And no substitutions. Don’t even ask. Don’t expect the warmth of the Shoop’s personalities here. But do expect 24 types of olives.

-End-

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3 Essential Reasons for Omega 3 Fish Oil

The miracles of fish oil have a multifaceted healing power on the body and mind. Research has shown remarkable healing benefits found in what is known as omega 3 fish oil. The following health benefits are more than enough reason for each of us to incorporate omega 3 fish oil supplements into our daily routine for better health maintenance. As the extraordinary benefits of omega 3 fish oil are so vast, it makes narrowing down the most beneficial a bit of a challenge.

1. Omega 3 fatty acids, particularly EPA can lessen pain and inflammation due to the positive effect it has on the inflammatory response. The fundamental components found in omega 3 fish oil regulate the body’s inflammation cycle. Through this regulation that the omega 3 fish oil manages to prevent and relieve painful conditions like arthritis, prostatitis, cystitis and anything else ending in “itis.”

2. Omega 3 fatty acids are renowned for their ability to improve the inner working of the heart and promote cardiovascular health. The miracle of omega 3 fatty acids does not stop there. It also is proven to work surprisingly well on the miles and miles of arteries and veins that form the cardiovascular system. Omega 3 fatty acids have the power to lower cholesterol, tryglicerides, LDLs and blood pressure. In addition to lowering cholesterol the acids can increase good HDL cholesterol. In fact, the increase of good HDL cholesterol adds years to your life expectancy.

3. When it comes to providing protection from stroke and heart attack omega 3 fish oil is unbeatable. There is nothing more powerful on the market then omega 3 fish oil for heart disease prevention. Omega 3 fish oils are safe to take and enhance every aspect of the arterial walls. This is especially useful for cases where plaque build up on arterial walls has occurred. Once that build up breaks loose the harmful result is what is called thrombosis. Thrombosis occurs when a clot becomes stuck in the brain causing stoke in the victim. The clot can then block up an artery. When this happens the end result is often a heart attack.

Medial studies have confirmed that all of the above can be avoided with a daily intake of omega 3 fish oil supplements. The omega 3 fatty acids supplements break up any clots that might occur long before they can create damage.

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3 Eco-Friendly Fireplace Options that Fit Any Budget

It seems there are more options each day for seekers of eco-friendly options for their home, and with all of those options it can definitely get a bit confusing. With the need to stay warm in the winter I’ve put together a few eco-friendly fireplace options that are useful, stylish and options that can fit any household budget.

1. Mayweather Petite Electric Fireplace – Antique White

This simply beautiful electric fireplace will provide you with a year-round warm glow without having the hassles of a real fire. It’s made of Asian Hardwood and MDF with Veneer. It produces zero emissions, so your can feel comfortable having it in your home.

Size: 34″H x 34.5″W x 13″D

This is an affordable Eco-Friendly fireplace option for only $399.99

2. Lotte Glass Eco-Friendly Freestanding Fireplace in Black or White

This eco-friendly fireplace option features an elegant design, and is made from stainless steel. You can get it either in black or white. It features over 2-10 hours of burning time and will hold 50 oz. of bio fuel in the adjustable fuel tray made from stainless steel. I must admit this is without a doubt one of my favorite designs as it adds the elegance of luxury while remaining eco-friendly at the same time.

Size: 35.5 in. L x 9 in W x 19.75 in. H

This is an elegant Eco-Friendly fireplace option for $1,810.62. While not the most inexpensive option, it’s by far one of the most elegant eco-friendly fireplace options you can find.

3. Anywhere Fireplace – Gramercy Indoor/Outdoor Floor Fireplace

This eco-friendly fireplace option features a stylish, contemporary stainless steel design. It’s also requires no electric hook up, and is totally vent less. It will burn for 5 hours per liter of bio-fuel.

Size: 32 L x 12 W x 17 H inches

This is an affordable Eco-Friendly fireplace option for only $139.99

With these eco-friendly fireplace options, not only will you help save the planet, but you’ll also be able to save some of your hard earned cash, and stay cozy with warm heat through out the winter months. I’ll also mention that I’m in no way affiliated with these eco-friendly fireplace options, and receive no compensation from any of the product providers for my review of the product here.

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3 Easy Ways to Increase Your Beach Body Confidence

As the weather starts to warm up, most people’s thoughts turn to summer. You may already be planning your summer getaway to the beach. But if your beach body confidence is at an all time low, you will want to think of ways to boost your self-esteem so that you do not spend your holiday worried about what others think of you.

Wear a Sarong

If you are self-conscious about the size of your thighs, tummy or other parts of your body, a sarong is just the answer for all body shapes and sizes. A sarong will offer either partial or complete coverage of your torso so that you do not have to worry about exposing parts of your body you would rather keep hidden. You can either loosely tie a sarong around your waist or higher up on your chest, if you want fuller coverage and less exposure.

Choose a Flattering Sundress

While many women like to strut around in their string bikinis on the beach, as they show off their well toned abs, others would rather run and hide than show off their body. A sundress can flatter the body without exposing too much flesh. Opt for a sundress that has a halter neck or is more loose-fitting around the midsection if you have a fuller figure, to cover up the extra pounds. Wear the sundress over the top of your swimsuit if you plan to take a dip during the day or on its own if you plan to sip cocktails at the bar.

Choose a Swimsuit that Flatters Your Body Shape

No two women are alike, which is why the market is full of different styles and designs of swimsuit. While your younger sister may be able to sport an itsy-bitsy barely-there bikini, you may need extra support for your fuller figure. Look for swimsuits that offer extra support for large-breasted women such as hidden underwired support, a panel for extra tummy control or co-ordinating shorts and bikini tops. Even if you are concerned about being out of proportion, there are many varieties of swimsuit that will give you a sleek, flattering look.

Beach body confidence does not come easy to many women, even for those with a catwalk model look. But if you would like to increase your beach body confidence rather than miss out on a fun trip to the beach, there are many simple ways to do so. Wear a sarong over your swimsuit, choose a flattering sundress and do not forget to choose a swimsuit that flatters your body shape.

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3 Great Burger Joints in Anaheim, California

If you’re tired of eating at the same old fast food hamburger place, then the following locations should prove to be a refreshing change of pace next time you’re in the Anaheim, CA area.

George’s Best Burgers at 1745 South Anaheim Blvd, Anaheim, CA 92805. Phone 714-991-8570. This place is a very tiny hamburger joint. It has less than10 tables, and looks like it’s been since Disneyland opened back in 1955. However, inside it is very clean. There’s a pretty good assortment of burgers from plain to toppings like cheese, bacon, avocado and more. They offer an assortment of burger specials that include the hamburger, fries and a drink with prices ranging from $4.29 on up to $5.99 each.

If you’re not in the mood for a burger or someone in your party would like something different, don’t worry. George’s Best Burgers offers something for everyone. They have chicken sandwiches, Mexican plates, corn dogs, salads and everything in between. They are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Another great burger joint in Anaheim is Angelo’s Drive-In at 511 South State College Blvd, Anaheim, CA 92806. Phone 714-533-1401. This burger joint has been around over 40 years. Everything served at Angelo’s is fresh and cooked to order. There’s none of this pre-cooking and sitting under lamps or zapping in microwaves going on at Angelo’s. Plus there’s the added bonus of being able to order a beer to go with your burger (though please be sure to drink responsibly).

Angelo’s offers ¼ pound and ½ burgers, and both are reasonably priced. This burger joint is also more than just burgers. You can also get chicken, pastrami, submarine sandwiches, Mexican specialties, and much more. It’s a fun place to go with your kids or a group of friends and just have a good time. This place has a very 1950’s feel to it. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine “The Fonz” walking in and saying “Heeeey” to everyone.

The final change of pace burger joint would be Paul’s Place located at 1040 North Magnolia Ave, Anaheim, CA 92801. Phone 714-761-4351. Paul’s Place like the two locations above serves more than just burgers. They also serve Mexican specialties and for a really nice change of pace they offer Greek specialties, too. Their menu is very varied. You may actually have a hard time deciding what to order. A must have side dish is their fried zucchini. It’s some of the best fried zucchini I have ever eaten.

As a suggestion you should try all the above burger joints and then decide which one or ones you like the best. In any event you’ll have some refreshing changes from the normal run-of-the-mill fast food chains.

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3 Good Reasons to Incorporate School Uniforms into Your Homeschool

When many people think of families who homeschool, they probably envision moms and kids wearing pajamas as they conduct school. And for some homeschooling families, this may be true. After all, part of the beauty of homeschooling is that teachers and students can be comfortable while they work. However, many homeschooling parents do require their children to be dressed in regular clothing for their school day. This can be just preference, or it can be because homeschooling families need to be dressed and ready to head off to the many education related activities that they take part in away from home. For most, it’s likely a combination of both.

School uniforms may not be something that crosses the mind of many homeschoolers, and to most non-homeschoolers, the idea of homeschooling kids wearing uniforms might seem completely unnecessary. The reality though, is that some homeschooling families really do consider incorporating school uniforms into their educational lifestyle. If you are a homeschooling parent who is searching for reasons that you may want to use school uniforms, here are a few reasons why other homeschooling parents have found them beneficial.

Uniforms can make field trips and outdoor excursions simpler – The truth is, that many homeschooling parents are very tired of the stares and questions that come their way when they happen to be on an educational outing with their kids. It can become disruptive to continually answer questions about why your children are “not in school”. Homeschoolers often have a lesson plan which corresponds to the field trip we’re conducting, and it’s easy to become weary of repeated interruptions caused by those questioning why our children are at that particular venue during school hours. However, if the kids are wearing uniforms (which can be as simple as T-shirts screen printed with your homeschool name on them), the uniforms answer everybody’s questions before they even have to ask them.

Uniforms can help separate school time from non-school time – Sometimes with homeschooling it can be difficult to help kids make the switch from non-school time, to school time. Uniforms can be useful in this situation, for obvious reasons. When the kids are wearing their school uniforms, there’s no question as to whether or not it’s school time.

Uniforms can make dressing in the morning a lot easier – This is my favorite aspect of using uniforms in homeschooling. It simplifies the task of all the kids getting dressed in the morning. There are no more arguments with my eight year old over the fact that she cannot wear her blue sundress when it’s 22 degrees outside, and my five year old can easily pick out which clothes he needs from his dresser all on his own. In our homeschool, our “uniforms” consist of many pieces of matching clothing, including shorts, t-shirts, and sweatpants. All of these items are navy blue, gray, or white. All three of my children also have matching navy blue zip-up hooded sweatshirts to wear if it’s chilly, and they are allowed to pick any combination of their uniform items as they want. We haven’t put our homeschool name on any of the items yet, although we plan to. The kids absolutely love their school uniforms, and the time spent getting dressed in the morning is cut in half simply by having specific clothes set apart for school days.

Homeschool uniforms obviously won’t be something that all homeschooling families feel the need to incorporate into their educational lives. However, for those who do decide to use them, homeschool uniforms can simplify several aspects of daily homeschooling life.

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3 Fun and Frugal Attractions in Temecula, California

Searching for fun family activities in Temecula? Temecula, California has long been known for being a family-friendly community with loads of fun activities. If you don’t know where to start your search, begin with these amazing family friendly activities in Temecula.

1. The Imagination Workshop. Also known as Pennypickle’s Workshop and the Temecula’s Children Museum, this children’s museum is a must for any family with small children. Inexpensive admission coupled with plenty of fun activities once inside ensure that your time spent here is fun filled. This is a hands-on museum with a “wacky scientist” theme. Step into the lab and enjoy! At just $4.50 per person, this is one of the best values around.

2. You won’t want to miss the second best value in Temecula: The Temecula Museum. With a small suggested donation, the museum is definitely frugal. It’s also loaded with exhibits documenting Temecula’s place in history. During the summer, the museum hosts week-long summer camps for 8-10 year olds with an incredibly frugal price of just over $60 for the week. Located in Old Town Temecula, the Temecula Museum makes a terrific starting point before you venture off into the streets. After visiting the museum and learning about the area’s history, you’ll have a better appreciation of the buildings you see lining Front Street. Plan on a walking tour of Old Town or having lunch at one of Old Town’s restaurants after your museum visit.

3. Finally, one of the least known Temecula attractions is also one of its prettiest: Rose Haven. Temecula’s own rose garden is hidden amongst the ranch homes along Jedediah Smith Road. This is a spectacular setting for a quiet picnic, a romantic stroll through the rose garden, or simply getting out of the house and letting the kids enjoy the outdoors. Best of all, it’s free. Enjoy the gardens, view one of the “Painted Ponies” from a citywide art project long since retired, and breathe in the rose-scented fresh air at this hidden rose garden in Temecula.

Each of these three locations offers a fun retreat for families living in or visiting Temecula. Not only are these activities in Temecula fun, they’re also inexpensive. Spend some time enjoying these family friendly places in Temecula and enjoy!

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3 Free Great Places to Store Files Online

If you have files on your computer that you would like to access from another location there are several ways that you can do it. One is that you can burn the files on a CD and take them with you where you go and send them by email and access them there or subscribe to an online File storage website. There are many file storage websites out there, some are free and some you have to pay. Some of the free sites you can grant permission for other people to access them also. With online file storage, this is also a great way to send large files to another computer. Simply upload from one computer then download to the other computer.

XDrive is one place that you can store up to 5GB of files for free. This is a product of AOL, and is password protected. If you want to store more than the 5GB you will be charged. The price for 50GB it is $9.99 a month. You sign up using your AOL/AIM name and password. If you don’t have an AIM name you can sign up for aim. This is easy to sign up and use. This is easy to upload your files to. You can choose which folders and files you would like to share with others. With this you can easily share photos and songs with other friends, or back up from your computer for your own personal use. This is a great way to back up the important files that you simply can not replace.

Box.net is another place that allows you to store up to 1GB of files. For the 5 GB of files it would be $7.95 a month. This also has an easy interface, and you can share the files with others. This website allows you to edit documents online if you need to. Again this is password protected. This is easy to use they walk you through step by step on how to upload and use it.

MediaMax is the place that you can upload 25 GB of files for free. This can be videos, photos, movies, or music and office files. These then can be shared with others or accessed from other computers. Of course you can just upload for backups. Now with the free service from MediaMax you can only upload a maximum of 10 MB at a time. That is still a pretty big file. You can get more storage for a monthly service fee. It only takes a few minutes to sign up and begin using.

Any one of these is great and all are password protected. If you are looking for a place to upload big files, or want to have an offsite place to store your photos and files, you many want to check out on of these places.

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3 Free Autotune VST Plugins for Fl Studio

Want to autotune your vocals but can’t find a vst plugin that delivers the results you need for free? Autotune has taken off in the music industry in the past decade with the use of the pitch correction tool exemplified by artists like T Pain and Cher. While autotune has been overused it is still a fun plugin to play around with when you feel like experimenting with the sound of your vocals. There aren’t too many free autotune vst plugins for FL Studio that you can find that are worth downloading but there are a few good ones.

GSnap

GSnap is an autotune vst plugin that was designed by Graham Yeadon and is compatible with many digital audio workstations including FL Studio. I have downloaded GSnap and used it a few times before. As far as free autotune plugins go this might be the best one that is available. GSnap performed well when I used it and I’m not a singer so the fact that it got me close to the actual notes is quite a feat.

KeroVee

KeroVee is another pitch corrector that can produce the autotune effect for you. KeroVee is very basic in it’s interface and functions but it does focus on giving you that T-Pain sound specifically.

Autotalent

Autotalent is your third option for free vst autotune plugins. It is also very basic and features shifting for specific notes on the musical scale. If all you need is something to download quickly and that is easy to figure out and use Autotalent would be a great choice.

Antares

Antares isn’t a free vst plugin but if you are willing to spend money to have more professional sounding vocals and many options to choose from this is the best bet. There are three different versions of Antares to suit your needs specifically including Auto-Tune EFX, Evo, and 7.

If you are in the need for an autotune tool to use in your home recording studio you do have three great vst plugins to choose from that won’t cost you a dime. All you need to do is download them, put them in Fl Studio and you’ll be sounding like T-Pain in no time.

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3 Financial Lessons I Learned in My 20s

I am fairly hard headed, and in my 20s I was overly optimistic and thought that I knew it all. I had seen the money mistakes made by my mom and dad, and was convinced I would not repeat them. The excellent news is that I did not. The unfortunate news is that I made my own.

Debt is not your friend

Initially, I had a uncommonly nifty handle on this one. Throughout my childhood, I listened as the creditors would call mom and dad for late payments or missed payments. I learned that having excellent credit was tantamount to financial security, and for a long time I did just that. I kept my debt down, and bought a house when I was 25, but was always conservative with my spending. I continued building strong credit, and then made the mistakes I swore I would not.

Going from a 600-square-foot apartment to a 2,200-square-foot house meant I needed furniture. Instead of saving up and buying in cash as I knew I should have, I applied for credit and racked up $10,000 in debt filling my new house with the furniture I wanted. This was a terrible move.

After that, I decided to buy a car. Instead of purchasing something economical with a low monthly payment, I opted for a brand new, $23,000 Durango. Now, my debt had reached a ceiling of $33,000.

To make matters worse, I suddenly began using credit cards, and was making only the minimum monthly payment each month. I knew better, but I did not care because I was getting new “stuff” all the time and enjoying myself. Before I knew it, I had racked up another $10,000 in credit card debt, bringing my “grand total” to $43,000.

Even the best plans fail

In my career, at 27, I was on the upward climb. I was working for a proprietary school and making $100,000 per year. My debt did not seem to matter, since I was on top of the world and always had enough cash to pay the bills. I did not have a care in the world, and failed to plan for anything further than the next day.

Through a series of unfortunate events, however, I lost my job. I hit a low point. I stopped caring about being on time with credit card payments, and eventually stopped paying my bills all together. I was depressed, I was out of money, I had spent my savings, yet the creditors kept calling.

I could not find another job, because my job loss coincided with the worst of the recession in 2007. Eventually, I lost my car; was placed into collection for unpaid debts and nearly lost my house in that same year. All because I failed to plan for contingencies.

Credit is cyclical

Now, at 32 years old, I have begun rebuilding my credit and my life. I worked online from 2007 – 2010 and built several businesses doing so. Now, I have money in savings and my life is recession proof since I created multiple streams of income. I am focusing on my credit and rebuilding it, and while it will require time, it is slowly improving. The only debt I carry now is my mortgage and one secured credit card. By keeping my credit limit low, and paying off the card every month, my credit is improving by several ticks every month. Over time, I will regain my nearly 800 FICO score, and this time, I will keep it that way.

In your 20s you can be a jet setter, climbing the ladder of success without a care in the world. But falling off that ladder hurts, and it hurts a lot more if you haven’t planned for contingencies. Had I followed my gut and stayed out of debt, maintained my savings strategies and built several income streams throughout my 20s, losing my job would not have had such a severe impact on my life. By planning properly, you can weather any financial storm.

More from this Contributor:
The Color of Money: Or at Least How We Spend It
Creating Your Mad Money Budget
Why I Don’t Count on Social Security and Why You Shouldn’t Either

Tags:3 Financial Lessons I Learned in My 20s

3 Grain and 2 Pea Soup

My family is not real big on soup, but they ask me to make my “3 Grain and 2 Pea Soup” frequently. When I make this soup, I mix the dry ingredients so I’ll have enough on have to make about 7 batches. It costs me around $8.50 to have enough on hand to make 7 batches of soup. Each batch will feed 6-8 people. That comes out to about $1.20 per batch. You will need to purchase some fresh ingredients to go in the soup, and that normally costs me around $3.50 per batch. So the total cost per batch is about $4.70. If you’re really trying to make the dollar’s stretch, this recipe is the way to go.

The first thing I do is put together the soup mix. Dump all the dry ingredients, listed below, in a one gallon plastic freezer bag. Like I mentioned, this is enough for 7 batches of soup. It will not go bad and you will have plenty on hand. It’s great for potlucks, and emergency meals.

DRY INGREDIENTS

16oz~ Dry Split Peas
11oz~ Barley
1 ½ cup~ Brown Rice
16oz or 1 lb~ Whole Wheat Macaroni
16oz~ Lentils

Combine and store dry ingredients in a one gallon plastic freezer bag.

Fresh Ingredient List:

1 lb~ Ground Turkey
1 medium~ White Onion diced
4~ Carrots peeled and sliced in circles
4~ Stalks of Celery chopped
The following spices to taste: Salt, pepper, oregano, basil, garlic powder, and Italian seasoning

To make the soup:

Boil 10 cups of water in a large stock pot. Add 1 1/3 cup of the dry soup mix. Add salt, pepper, oregano, basil, garlic powder, and Italian seasoning to taste. I like a lot of seasoning so I shake the spices in the pot till the top of the water is covered in herbs. I don’t have exact measurements, so you’ll have to experiment and adjust to suit your family’s likes and dislikes. Let the water come back to a boil, turn the heat down to low and cover the pot to let the rice cook. I leave the lid on for about 40 minutes because brown rice takes longer to cook than white rice. If you’re using white rice in the mix keep the lid on for about 20 minutes.

In the meantime, get out a large skillet and brown 1 lb of ground turkey. You may use any meat you like, but ground turkey is very lean and inexpensive. Save-a-Lot has ground turkey for only $1.39 per lb. You can also make this vegetarian by omitting the meat. You will have a complete protein with the rice and peas.

While the meat is browning, dice one medium white onion, slice 4 carrots, and chop 4 stalks of celery. After the meat is done browning, and the vegetables and sauté until the veggies are soft and onions are translucent.

Add the meat and veggies to the pot and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes.

Tags:3 Grain and 2 Pea Soup

3 Good Reasons to Love Fantasy Football

As Irene ripped up the East Coast this past weekend, there were people stocking up on food and batteries, water, sandbags and other items that are useful in case one is unable to leave the house or forced to live without power for a few days. The rain came down here in Maryland beginning Saturday afternoon and continued until early Sunday morning. As many around me were preparing to stay in the house Saturday and weather the storm, I had one thing on my mind – “My fantasy football draft is today at 2 p.m.”

I have had Aug. 27 marked on my calendar since I first heard that would be our draft date. Geeked up I even gave my friend the Bart Scott response “CAN’T WAIT” when asked would I be able to attend this year. My feeling as soon as I found out back in early July about our draft was literally, I wouldn’t miss it for the world. Or hurricane.

Why did I venture an hour in the rain, actually driving closer to the water, to make sure I was in attendance at this year’s draft and able to pick the team of my choice? The answer is quite clear, I am officially hooked on fantasy football.

Bill Parcells once said that for him to coach in the National Football League he wanted to be able to “buy the groceries.” Parcells was basically saying he wanted to be able to draft the players that he was going to be required to coach. As a fantasy football team owner, you are both owner and coach all in one. As the owner of the team you are responsible for drafting your players, and watching the waiver wire for that all important mid- season free agent pick up. You are constantly watching the injury report to see if a player is injured and if so, how serious. Unproductive players are cut in order to make room for someone that will put points on the board. And as your role as the coach, you are responsible for selecting the best players on your team each Sunday that will give you the best chance for victory. The best thing about being a fantasy football owner is its “fantasy,” you don’t have to pay those million dollar salaries.

When you own a fantasy football team you get a chance to compete every Sunday. Yes we all have a favorite football team that we root for and feel every touchdown, interception and sack, but this is your actual competition. It is an entirely different adrenaline rush when you have points on the line and are actually involved in the game. Many of us played sports at some point and time in our lives and fell in love with playing the game of our respective sport against opponents both familiar and unfamiliar. The unknown outcome of the game, victory or defeat, is what makes games so intense and exciting.

The last point many readers can identify with, especially if your team is the Raiders, Panthers, Lions, or like myself, the Rams. The main reason I joined fantasy football last season, was to have something to root for every Sunday. A win in fantasy football gives you something to help ease the pain of a loss by your favorite team. Fielding a competitive fantasy football team gives you something to look forward to in November and December when your team is in the verge of being mathematically eliminated from the playoff picture early.

It only took half the season last year for me to be hooked on fantasy football. There are many men, and women, out there that share my same feeling and are anxiously waiting for Sept. 8 when the 2011 season is under way. To all fantasy football owners out there, study hard and have fun.

Tags:3 Good Reasons to Love Fantasy Football

3 Free Seattle Summer Festivals

As school quickly comes to a close and summer nears, families begin to look for ways to occupy the kids. With summer so short and precious in the beautiful and rainy city of Seattle, the proliferation of wonderful summer festivals is to be expected. But for a family on a budget, which festivals are worth attending and also affordable? Three festivals every local family should see include Family 4th (of July) at Lake Union, the Chinatown-International District Dragon Fest (formerly Summer Festival), and the Bite of Seattle Festival.

Known as one of the best fireworks shows in the nation and funded by the community, the Family 4th begins at noon on Independence Day at Lake Union with family activities and entertainment such as kite flying, games, and face painting. The park allows families to bring their own food, with the exception of alcoholic beverages. Lake Union also has food vendors and a beer garden for those families that would rather not carry a cooler along. Admission is free but the event does have a security check prior to park entrance. Fireworks begin later in the evening and are wonderfully and carefully synchronized with patriotic music, leaving the whole family with an experience to remember.

The Chinatown-International District Dragon Fest of 2011 comes to Seattle on Saturday, July 9, between 12 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sunday July 10th, from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. With programs, food, and entertainment, the festival is a great family-friendly way to spend a day on the town. Located in Hing Hay Park (S. King St. and Maynard Ave. S.) and surrounding streets, the event sports family-friendly entertainment ranging from dragon dances, arts and crafts, and booths from community organizations to drumming, drill teams, entertainment, and, of course, food. Admission is, naturally, free.

Between July 15-17, the 30thBite of Seattle Festival takes place in the Seattle Center between 11 a.m. and 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. on Sunday. Take the time to sample many different Seattle restaurant offerings. The festival itself is free, and, at the request of the public, over 50 different restaurant samplings and over 30 food product companies are offering smaller food portions at a lower price so families can try more. With a comedy club, a kid’s stage, music, and entertaining acts, the event also provides a way to burn off those calories and allow the kids to find an outlet for their energy.

Tags:3 Free Seattle Summer Festivals

3 Foods/Snacks that Aren't as Healthy as You Think

The food industry does a wonderful job convincing us that certain foods are actually healthy or good for us. Let me make this clear, however – the majority of the time, the foods that catch your attention are not healthy. Yes, they may be marketed as ‘light’ or ‘25% less fat when compared to the leading brand’, but should that be enough to warrant a consistent trip from the shelves into your grocery cart? Here are 3 foods/snacks that aren’t deal-breakers, but are definitely not as healthy as you probably thought they were.

1) Fruity Yogurts (Light or Regular) – I know this may be a tough one to read, especially considering the extensive amount of information and advocacy of these tasty treats. Yes, yogurt contains moderate amounts of weight-loss friendly calcium, a good amount of natural protein, is generally decent in the calorie counting department, and even boasts healthy bacteria; however, there is a significant drop in nutritional value when going from plain yogurt to its ever-popular fruit-filled counterpart.

The main problem with fruity yogurts is that they generally contain way too much sugar. Typical fruit-flavored yogurts can have anywhere from 14 to 40 plus grams of sugar per serving! It’s rare to find brands with 9g of sugar or less, and the average falls somewhere in the range of 25-35g of sugar per serving. If you’re looking to lose weight, too much sugar can definitely serve as a roadblock or major speed bump.

What you can do: Opt for plain yogurt next time and mix in a small handful of blueberries or diced fruit. Otherwise, limit your fruity yogurt consumption or find a brand with less sugar and make sure to eat it first thing when you wake up. This better ensures that the sugar is actually used for energy and not stored as fat.

2) Baked Frito Lay Chips – I’m sure this is definitely another tough one to read. Frito Lay has honestly done a wonderful job convincing the public that their tasty products are suddenly healthy if you opt for their Baked chips series. Heck, there’s something about the bags themselves that even look healthy. Don’t be fooled.

Although Baked Chips from Frito Lay are surely the better alternative to the standard versions, there’s a price you pay for how tasty the baked chips still taste. The reason why Baked Frito Lay Chips still aren’t healthy snacks isn’t just because of fat content. Surprisingly, a good percentage of the fats in these chips are usually of the unsaturated kind (poly and mono) and are far healthier than saturated fat. Still nothing great though. If anything, you have to remember that chips generally come from potatoes.

Potatoes are fast carbs (high glycemic index), meaning that they absorb much faster and are thus more likely to be stored as fat. Carbs that are low glycemic index (brown rice, whole wheat bread, etc.) are much healthier because they provide a much steady supply of carbs due to their slower digestion rate. Because of this, low glycemic index carbs are more likely to be used up for energy rather than going to fat storage. Baked Frito Lay Chips and many other chips for that matter are definitely high glycemic index foods.

What you can do: Eat smaller serving sizes, but try to avoid chips as snack food. You don’t have to cut these baked yummies out of your eating habits completely, but be aware that they’re better off as treats.

3) Harvest Sun Chips – Like the two above, I love Harvest Sun Chips, but I know enough about its nutritional value to make sure that I only pop open a small bag on a rare occasion. The marketing genius of Harvest Sun Chips is the 18g of whole grains per serving, conveniently located inside of a nice, red heart. Although 18g of whole grains is a good thing, it’s also neatly tucked into 27g of carbs altogether, the other 9g of carbs being high glycemic index carbs. This unhealthy aspect of Harvest Sun Chips is pretty much the same as Baked Frito Lay chips.

What you can do: Just as with Baked Frito Lay chips, limit your consumption of Harvest Sun Chips.

Hopefully this list wasn’t too painful to read. I know that these three foods/snacks are common refrigerator or pantry items for many of you, but it’s important that you’re made aware of what you’re putting into your body. May I reiterate that fruity yogurts, Baked Frito Lay chips, and Harvest Sun Chips aren’t the worst of snacks, but it conversely doesn’t mean that they’re healthy for you.

Tags:3 Foods/Snacks that Aren’t as Healthy as You Think

3 of the Greatest (Imaginary) Threats to Our Nation

It’s election time and every politician needs to show that they are the only one who can save us from what is threatening our nation. However the real threats either take complex solutions, or come from people who are paying them so naturally they to make stuff up. Here are the scary menaces politicians say the boogie men, or to use the political term Enemies of Freedom, are going to use to destroy us.

1) Suitcase Nukes.

The US Military actually made a few of these in the 70’s and 80’s, they weighed 70 lbs, had a explosive capacity of about one tenth that of Hiroshima and had to be rebuilt every 6 months in order to remain workable. They also achieved their lightweight by using rapidly decaying nuclear isotopes making them useless today. The Soviets were rumored to have made a couple prototypes as well, theirs were a little bulkier. They weighed about half a ton and had a slightly smaller yield. Like the American version they needed to be rebuilt every 6 months to remain effective. They used high grade plutonium as the core which may or may not have degraded to the point of uselessness.

For a terrorist organization to use one of the Soviet models, They would have to get one, get the Russian manual on how to rebuild it, get a Russian nuclear tech willing to start World War III to show them how to fix it, (It’s not like rebuilding a car that sat around for 30 years.) Get the necessary parts most of which haven’t been made in over 30 years, Smuggle it into the county, (It’s a half ton object emitting near lethal levels of radiation.) Drive it to its target, (It’s low yield means it would have to be placed at a very strategic place.) and hope they rebuilt it correctly (Its not like you can test it before hand). If they managed to use it, in say the Sears tower, they would have to hope the placement was right to take down the tower and wait for the cleanup crew to get deep enough into the rubble to hit the radioactive places before anyone knew a nuke was used. After finding out it was a Soviet nuke it would be a simple matter for the Russians to track down who was looking for the specialized parts and it would give Russia a reason to clamp down harder on the Muslim rebels.

What the politicians would like to do about it: Pass the Patriot Act II, declare martial law and have the citizens lock them selves in their homes afraid to talk to their neighbors as they take away our civil rights one by one.

The imaginary solution to this threat: Anti-Radiation missiles. These were developed in the cold war to home in on Nuclear missiles. Their main drawback is that they couldn’t tell the deference between man made radiation and background radiation. But if you shoot a few in the desert, who would know it you hit something.

2) Global Warming.

You are probably thinking, “Wait Global Warming is real, it’s backed up by countless studies.” And you would be correct. However the threat of Global Warming is so overblown it can be considered imaginary. The theory of Global Warming was confirmed in the ’60’s. Basically our burning of fossil fuels will warm the Earth by 1 to 6 degrees over the next 100 years. In the last 50 years studies have shown that our burning of fossil fuels will warm the Earth by 2 to 4 degrees. I will throw out a prediction that further studies will show that our burning fossil fuels will warm the Earth by around 3 degrees in the next 100 years. So we have scientists narrowing in on a 3 degree warming trend. But the politicians are talking about everything from 0 to 18 degree temperature change. Dealing with a 3 degree change is a workable problem, it takes reworking building codes and advanced planning to be ready for the changes.

The imaginary solution to this threat: Carbon trading. The idea is to make an imaginary market for carbon emissions to let the free market pressure industries to cut back on burning fossil fuels. The people who suggest that look at the Dutch tulip market, the stock buying frenzy of the ’20’s, the Dot.com market and the housing market and say, “Imaginary markets don’t go through wild boom and bust cycles dragging down the legitimate markets with them.”

3) Iran.

Iran recently released Photochopped pictures of their latest missile launch. Confirming what I have long suspected. They are the Internet trolls of the world’s nations.
They have proven to the world that they have imaginary nuclear capabilities and an imaginary delivery system.

The best Imaginary solution: Treat them like trolls. Either ignore them or beat them at their own game. We have a lot more Photochoppers than they do. Imagine their reaction if every American with basic computer skills Photochopped a missile launch in their backyard. They would know that ordinary Americans could launch imaginary attacks and destroy their imaginary weapons.

Worst Imaginary solution: Strategic Defense Initiative (Star Wars.) Spend billions of dollars on a system that will never work.

Tags:3 of the Greatest (Imaginary) Threats to Our Nation

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