Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Wednesday Hodgepodge {Vol. XVII}

It's been a long time since I have participated in Wednesday Hodgepodge or even blogged at all.

1. Share one favorite moment/memory from your Christmas holiday. 

Watching my kids open their gifts. 

2. What was the best thing you ate over the holidays? Was it homemade or store bought? If it was homemade did you make it?

We didn't do much for the holidays. I had to alter our menu this year so we only had Turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, corn, and green beans with bacon. I will have to say the turkey, which I couldn't season with much, as well as the Green Beans made with little sodium were the best things I ate. I did make them both. 

3. What was one of the most beautiful things you saw over the holidays?

My children's smiles. We have had a rough month and a half so those smiles were worth it. 

4. What does fresh start mean to you?

Starting over. Not being judged based on past decisions but current/future decisions. 

5. On a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being very positive and 1 being not so great) how would you rate 2016 in terms of personal achievement and well being? Explain. 

2. I'm really glad that 2016 is over. It started out GREAT. Moved to a nice house in a nice neighborhood. I started back to grad school and had a 3.8 GPA. Then right before Thanksgiving everything went downhill and those few days made 2016 the worst year of my life (and I promise I will explain in a separate post so bear with me). 

6. Every January 1st since 1976 Lake Superior University has published a list of words they'd like to see banished from the Queen's English. Words may be banished due to misuse, overuse, or just general uselessness. Go here to read more about how the words were chosen or, if you're like me, to find out what in the world the word or phrase even means or the context in which it's used. There were quite a few on this year's list I'd never heard before.

Here's the 2017 list of banished words-

You, Sir-focus-Bete Noire-Town Hall Meeting-Post Truth-guesstimate-831-historic-manicured-echo chamber-on fleek-bigly-ghost-Dadbod-listicle-get your dander up-selfie drone-frankenfruit-disruption

Which word on the list would you most like to see banished in 2017? What word or phrase would you add to the list?

I actually heard this Tuesday morning while driving my daughter to an appointment. On fleek needs to go. I detest that phrase. If I could add a word, it would definitely be bae. I hate it. 

7. Large or small, light or deep, share with us one goal you have for the new year. 

This year I plan to take better care of me. This is something I have been lacking in for a long time. 

8. Insert your own random thought here.

I have so much to do and it seems like I have so little time. I wish there was 24 extra hours in a day because I definitely need them. Also, stay tuned to a post dedicated to what in 2016 made it the worst year ever. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Review: Tapjoy

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I began to play a mobile app that uses Tapjoy for users to obtain extra game currency rather than buy it. This review is about my experience with Tapjoy in relation to the game that I play.

When you run out of the daily allotment of game currency that the app gives you each day, you have two options to obtain more. You can either use your credit/debit card and purchase more or you can complete tasks via Tapjoy to be awarded various amounts of currency.

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Above is an example of tasks available.
Below is an example of a detailed task once it it opened.

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Some tasks are not worth this many coins. Some are worth 500 - 4000 coins. Those are the easy tasks. Usually it's a short quiz about health topics, downloading and running an app, or reading a quick webpage of information. I have never had a problem receiving my award from these tasks. However, that is where the easiness of Tapjoy ends.

Tasks such as the one shown above are rarely awarded coins. I performed this particular task by purchasing this very domain name. I waited for my 336,000 coins. Nothing. See on the first screenshot at the bottom right corner where it says "Missing coins"? Well, I tapped on that and was taken to a form to choose the offer I had not been awarded for as well as supply an email address. Once that was submitted, I received an email. This email asked for proof of completing a task whether it be a screenshot, welcome email, or billing invoice. I replied back with a screenshot of my order as well as the welcome email from GoDaddy. I waited. No coins were received.

Tapjoy then directs you to download their app so that you can track tasks and coins. That screen is shown below (and don't judge me. Yes, I play a Walking Dead trading card game).

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This screen shows the tasks opened, not necessarily attempted. The yellow clock means you are waiting for a reward. The green check means that the coins have been awarded. If Tapjoy decides you have not completed a task, there will be a red exclamation point. Many of my previous large amount tasks have this red exclamation point. 

This is where my problem with Tapjoy comes in. Their process seems almost sketchy. For many of these tasks, you provide information in order to be awarded. This information includes name, address, phone, email, DOB, as well as income range. I rarely get my awards when I complete a form like this. If the task says to take a survey, you answer question after question and when you get to the point there is no more "Next" buttons, you are told you are done. However, there is a list of offers on the final page. I never sign up for these "extra" offers but I also don't get the coins promised even with screenshot proof. This is one thing that infuriates me about this service. 

Next, there are offers much like the GoDaddy one mentioned above. However, some of these offers are free trials for a period of time and then they charge your card or paypal account. Some I have signed up for, I am awarded the coins. However, there is another one that I was denied coins for that required me to sign up for a free trial to a credit score agency. This included providing a payment method for after the trial. I did all that was asked in the task and was denied. Just from this task and the GoDaddy task, I am owed over 500,000 coin credits in this game. This doesn't include the other tasks that I am not mentioning. 

A third thing that bothers me about this service is that there is no way to actually contact Tapjoy. They do not respond to Twitter. You get form emails in reply to missing coins complaints. There is no contact information on their website. I did find one email address but again all you get is a form response from them. I have emailed them several times and explained that I was being denied credits even after demonstrating proof of completion, not once, not twice, but three times! I got so annoyed with the lack of communication that I contacted GoDaddy and informed them that I was directed to their site for the deal because of Tapjoy and then not awarded what was promised via Tapjoy on behalf of GoDaddy. They agreed to look into it considering I am very obviously using the product purchased. 

My advice when it comes to Tapjoy: Try to stay away from it. Many of the tasks seem really sketchy considering I am owed a large amount of credits for all the tasks I have completed. I have also talked to others in the game community who are also owed several hundreds of thousands of coins from Tapjoy. Most are from the same tasks I was also denied for. 

** NOTE: I was not approached by Tapjoy to do a review. I was given nothing in exchange for this review. All opinions expressed in this review are mine. **

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Guess Who's Back?

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It's been over 5 months since I was last here at The Italian Bella Diaries. A lot has happened since then.

  • We moved. I hated where we were. Crazy neighborhood and just not worth the money to be there. We found a a nice 5 bedroom house in a wonderful neighborhood. This process took up the first 3 months of the year. 
  • Our son, CJ, turned 6 right in the middle of our move. We tried to give him a decent day despite the chaos. He had a homemade cake and went shopping for Paw Patrol toys. 
  • In April, I went back to grad school after taking 6 months off. I switched schools and am really loving my new school. I originally decided to go back for my Masters in Psychology with an emphasis in Industrial/Organizational Psychology. By the end of my first class, I had decided that I still wanted to be a Sport Psychologist so I switched. Luckily, my first class was a general one that has to be taken no matter the course of study. 
  • In May our oldest, Tina, turned 18. Not quite sure how I got to be old enough to have an ADULT child... We gave her the one thing she had been asking for since we moved and that was a keyboard. She has another year of high school left so she's sticking around for a bit. 
  • I also bought a domain name for this blog. What does this mean? I'll be around a lot more. I kind of missed it here. I may not post every day but I'll be posting more. 

Sunday, December 27, 2015

A Fork in the Road...

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I've come to the proverbial fork in the road. 

I love this blog. I've made this blog {and the location before it} my home on the web since 2008. I have shared my life, my family, my thoughts for 7 years here. 

But, my life has taken different turns since then. I went back to college. I got my bachelors degree in Psychology. I started grad school. And the childhood dream of mine to be an author keeps resurfacing. 

Between the things I have to do {take care of my family, home, etc} and the things I want to do {write a novel or two or three...}, my time is scarce. I enjoyed writing here for the last month on a more regular basis. 

But, this isn't where my heart is anymore. 

So, after a little thought, I have decided to leave writing here for awhile. There is no time frame on this. I will still complete my 30 Things My Kids Should Know About Me on this blog. I will be doing Wednesday Hodgepodge and Monthly Goals from my author blog. I will write here if I feel like I need to share something that I do not feel appropriate for my author blog. 

For those that wish to follow me over there, here is a brief run down of what I share over there. I share poems or writing prompts that I write. I share progress on my novel and other writing projects. I share some about myself through writing. I do not share much, if anything, about my kids. I do keep them out of my "author" life and may mention them in passing. 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

And, Another Christmas Tag...

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1. Holiday plans for this year?

    Same as every year. Nothing. We don't live near family. We don't travel to see them and vice versa. It's just us and our Christmas dinner.

2. What is your favorite Christmas color?

    I am really liking the new trend of blue, white and silver.

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3. Do you like to stay in your PJs or dress up for Christmas?

    Since we stay home all day, I can stay in my PJs all day if I want.

4. If you could only buy one person a present this year who would it be?

    My kids. I guess I could find something that could be a joint present.

5. Have you ever built a gingerbread house?

     Not from scratch but we did build one from a kit last year.

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{© Crystal @ The Italian Bella Diaries, 2014}

6. What do you like to do on your Christmas break?

     I don't have much of a Christmas Break, per say. But, I when I was younger, I liked to relax and read. Now, my holidays consist of shopping and cooking.

7. Any Christmas wishes?

    Health and happiness for my family. That's it. But, there are a few things that I wouldn't mind having...

8. Favorite Christmas smell?

    Baked goods like cookies.

9. Favorite holiday drink?

    I don't really have one. I don't like eggnog. What else qualifies as a holiday drink?

10. Candy cane or gingerbread men?

      Candy canes.

11.What is the weirdest gift you have ever received?

      Oh... I have no idea. I don't know if I have ever received a weird gift.

12. Have you ever made a snowman?

       Yes, I sure have. They weren't pretty but they were snowmen just the same.

13. What is most important to you about the holidays?

       Family and Jesus.

14. Do you make New Years resolutions? Do you stick to them?
       Kind of. I make New Years Goals. These are usually things I want to work towards.

15. What makes the holidays special for you?

       My Kids. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Our Christmas Traditions

{© Crystal @ The Italian Bella Diaries, 1999}

My family was never big on traditions when I was growing up. The only real "tradition" we had was that me and my mom would watch White Christmas together. Other than that there wasn't any real traditions. 

I always wanted to have traditions with my family but in all honesty, I sucked at starting traditions and keeping them. 

But lately I have been thinking of ways to change all that. 

When my oldest child was born, I had a Baby's First Christmas Ornament. I couldn't tell you where it is now because everything I used to own is still in storage in another state. I can't even remember if I had one when my second oldest was born. I have searched the internet and found sites where personalized ornaments from the past could be bought. I know it's really crappy of me to do it this late in the game, but hey, I want the personalized ornaments for my kids. When I move into a bigger place and get all my old stuff from storage, I plan to fix the fact that I didn't have ornaments for each of my kids' First Christmases. 

In 2013 we learned about a thing called Speedway Christmas held at Charlotte Motor Speedway. We went once as a family and then again with my brother, the girl he was dating and her 3 kids. I really enjoyed the lights display. We missed 2014 because of vehicle problems. Then we went again this year. It has definitely changed a lot and wasn't worth the money we paid for it (here is my Yelp review; it's listed under Carolina Christmas). It is a tradition I want to keep but it depends on how the lights display is next year whether we continue or not. 

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{© Crystal @ The Italian Bella Diaries, 2015}

I learned about the Christmas Eve Box on Pinterest. The idea is that the child gets a gift box on Christmas Eve with new pajamas, a movie, a book, popcorn, and hot chocolate on Christmas Eve. Then the child puts on their new pajamas and the family sits around and reads the book and watches the movie while eating popcorn and drinking hot chocolate. We began this tradition last year. I bought each child a new pair of pajamas and then the book and movie were to share. I bought the mixed popcorn tins for us to share. This year we will be doing basically the same concept. I bought them all new pajamas and a Christmas Book to share. I also checked some Christmas books out from the library for us all to read. We will be getting movies off of Amazon Instant Video. We will still have popcorn. We are debating over hot chocolate or making chocolate/strawberry milk (It's supposed to be 70* over Christmas here!) 

This is really all of the traditions we have. I have wanted to add more but just haven't yet.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Christmas Tag

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1. What is your favorite Christmas film?
     My favorite "Christmas" movie has always been White Christmas. That was a tradition I had with my mom where we would watch it together. I also love some of the classics like It's A Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carol and Miracle on 34th Street. I like To Grandmother's House We Go starring the Olsen Twins as well as The Santa Clause. I like the animated How the Grinch Stole Christmas and of course, Rudolph and Frosty. I also consider Home Alone 1 & 2 as Christmas movies so add them to the list as well. {Note: I did a post on Holiday Movies in 2009 on my old blog. It's hard to read because I lost access to it. I'm still mad, Google. I still haven't seen the two I said I wanted to see then. Doh!}

2. Have you ever had a White Christmas?
    I probably did as a child. I really don't remember any as a teen or adult. But, I don't like snow so it would be a repressed memory anyway.

3. Where do you usually spend your holiday?

     As a child, I went to either my maternal grandparents' or my uncle's for breakfast. This was a time just for eating and socializing; no presents. For lunch I went to my paternal grandparents'. Then for dinner we went back to my maternal grandparents'.

     When I had my oldest daughter, we had to change it up a little. At first, my in-law's would have us over for breakfast and then they changed it to in between lunch and dinner for a dessert type thing and presents. Now, we live out of state and don't travel back to our homestate for the holidays so it's just us alone on the holidays.

4. What is your favorite Christmas song?

     I'm not a fan of Christmas music. However, I like Carol of the Bells and Silver Bells.

5. Do you open any presents on Christmas Eve?

    I allow the kids one present on Christmas Eve and that is the "Christmas Eve Box". It's a new set of pajamas for each kid as well as a Christmas movie (although this year we are getting the movie through Amazon Instant Video) and a Christmas book. Then we have hot chocolate and popcorn and watch Christmas movies.

6. Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer?

    You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen. And then Rudolph.

(I sang the intro to Rudolph when I typed that)

7. What holiday traditions are you looking forward to most this year?

     We already did the Speedway Christmas thing. We are doing the Christmas Eve Box.

8. Is your Christmas tree real or fake?

    I had a real tree once. Never again.
9. What is your all – time favorite holiday food/sweet treat?

    Reese's Peanut Butter Trees. And no, I have no complaint about the shape.

10. Be honest: do you like giving gifts or receiving gifts better?

      I think we all like receiving gifts even just a little. But, I prefer to give better.

11. What is the best Christmas gift you’ve ever received?

       I have pick just one? I loved my Polaroid Camera I got when I was about 7 or so. I thought it was the best thing ever. I have gotten several stereos during my pre-teen and teenage years. I loved the TV and VCR I got when I was 10. My Letterman's jacket when I was 14. My Hope Chest. I got a ring every year when I was a teenager. My own phone line when I was 12 or 13. See, it's really hard to choose a "best" gift.

12. What would be your dream place to visit for the holiday season?

      Hawaii?? Remember, I don't like snow. Or maybe, Disney World.

13. Are you a pro present wrapper, or do you fail miserably?
      I'm a perfectionist so I mastered gift wrapping before I could drive.

14. Most memorable Holiday moment?

       Probably my oldest daughter's first Christmas. That was the first time I truly understood Christmas as something other than being about me.

15. What made you realize the truth about Santa?

       I found a bunch of gifts in my mom's closet when I was around 8. I asked who they were for and she told me my cousin. I got them on Christmas morning from Santa. I figured it out then.