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By: Zani Polk



Pan (releases October 9, 2015): No one wants to grow up, which is why the Peter Pan story never gets old. In this new movie, learn about the origins of Peter Pan and how he became the legend we know him to be today.


Jem and the Holograms (releases October 23, 2015): Four sisters are flung into fame after a video of their music is posted on the internet. But with the fame, the bonds and relationships  they hold closest are tested. This movie takes you on a journey that will make you rethink who you are and what you choose to be.


Goosebumps (releases October 16, 2015): Back in the early ‘90s R.L. Stein’sGoosebumps series was the biggest thing at school book fairs and library trips. Maybe you read some, maybe you remember reading them to your siblings, or maybe you helped your kids pick them out. Regardless, this Halloween season, Sony Pictures Entertainment and Jack Black bring the spookiness ofGoosebumps to life. It’s a great alternative to a scarier movie on Halloween night.





The Peanuts Movie (releases November 6, 2015): For Thanksgiving you may be ripping out the old classic, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, but you don’t have to wait that long to see Charlie Brown in action. In this 3D film, a new kid moves to town and Charlie Brown gets another chance to prove he’s a winner. Join in to watch all of your favorites—from Lucy and Snoopy to Peppermint Patty.


My All American (releases November 13, 2015): It may not be the Crimson Tide, but it is football. Catch this heartwarming movie about sportsmanship and determination, as a young athlete—seemingly too small to compete—makes it in college football.  


The Hunger Games: Mocking Jay—Part II (releases November 20, 2015): In the fourth and final movie of the series, Katniss Everdeen brings her fight to the Capitol. Finally she must take on President Snow and defend the current and future freedoms of the people of Panem.


The Good Dinosaur (releases November 25, 2015): Pixar has done it again! Imagine a world where humans and dinosaurs existed together. Imagine dinosaurs replacing dogs as man’s best friend. In this heartwarming tale, see a young boy bond in friendship with a good dinosaur and combat the elements of earth’s earliest periods.


Article sponsored by Belle Chambre.

Find them on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/BelleChambreTuscaloosa



A summer past time everybody remembers is taking a huge, refreshing swig of water from the water hose while playing outside. Nowadays, there’s more than one way to catch that refreshing swig all over again. We’ve listed some virtually inexpensive water games that don’t even require you leaving the driveway to cure the summertime boredom we all face. Other than slip ‘n slides and water balloon fights, these fast and easy games will offer a quick way to cool off without breaking the bank.


Cold Potato

Unlike hot potato, cold potato is considerate of the summer heat. Using a pin to poke a small hole in a water balloon, the ‘cold potato’ is passed around in a circle before it runs out of water. The idea is that every one cools off, but not too much.

Add a twist: The player who catches the balloon as it runs out of water gets an entire leaky water balloon squirted at them.


Marco Polo – without the pool

The idea is the same but instead of treading water, the infamous Marco is blinded and strapped with a water gun to seek out his or her Polos. Mixed with a bit of hide and seek, Marco counts to ten with his or her back turned, and then calls Marco. When a Polo is successfully drenched, switch roles.

Add a twist: Add some water balloons to the Marco’s arsenal.



Maybe one of the easiest water games ever. The goal? To make the biggest splat with water balloons. Just throw them in the air. The higher the throw, the bigger the splat. Winner is the player with the biggest splat.

Add a twist: Challenge players to create a shape from their splats.


Bobbing for Apples

A carnival tradition, bobbing for apples is a perfect way to chill down. Just stick your face in the water and try your best for a fruity prize.

Add a twist: Switch up fruits and turn the edible prizes into smoothies.


Article sponsored by Alabama Power and Tuscaloosa Environmental.  

Find Alabama Power on the web at: http://www.alabamapower.com


Find Tuscaloosa Environmental on the web at: http://www.tuscaloosa.com/recycle

By Tori Linville


Back to school isn’t just about backpacks and new classes. It’s the one time of year that a student’s immune system is re-exposed to millions of germs after a three month break. It’s back to the cafeteria for school lunches instead of food at home. It’s back absent-mindedly touching doorknobs and noses. If you’re not too grossed out, here are some reminders and tips to helping the transition from home to school easier on the whole family.


Stress the importance of common sense when spreading germs, meaning:


·      Washing hands after using the restroom to reduce the spread of sickness. For little ones, reminding them to wash their hands through the duration of the Happy Birthday song two times in their heads can be a helpful tip.


·      Cover mouths and noses when coughing or sneezing


·      Keep hands away from eyes and mouth


·      Regularly use hand sanitizers and disinfectants, especially after touching eyes, mouth, keyboards, community tools such as scissors, etc.


·      Don’t share food, drink or personal items with classmates in order to reduce illness and other possible contagions


·      Double check for possible sicknesses before arranging any play dates or sleepovers


·      Pack a lunch complete with more whole grains, fruits and veggies. Low-fat dairy products and low-sodium and low-fat choices are best along with portion control to make a healthy meal


·      Ensure plenty of exercise and sleep for a healthy body



Some products that are backpack and pocket-friendly and can help slow down sickness include:


·      Pocket sized Germ-X

·      Personal Tissue Packs

·      Tea Tree Oil (to prevent lice)

·      Sanitizing Wipes

·      Vitamin C Drink (or drink mix)


Photo Credit: Barterco.com


Article sponsored by Med Center Urgent Care.

Find them on the web: http://www.medcenterurgentcare.com

By Tori Linville


Being at college, let alone paying for college, can be a completely nerve-wracking experience. The game has changed and so have the finances. There are so many different avenues to financing a college education that it can easily be overwhelming and confusing. While there’s a never-ending amount of information about student loans and other ways to pay for college, the first step isn’t what you might think.


Organize your thoughts and prep mentally for the Financial Aid Jungle.

Doubt and assumptions are your worst enemies when looking to apply for a loan or scholarship. Believe it or not, many people assume they’re not good enough in some type of way to qualify for the various types of aid. It’s never too soon or too late for investigating which loans and scholarships you can apply for.


The best tools to use are perseverance, tenacity and self-control. Just getting started with the search for the correct aid is an extremely large step to finding the best aid possible. Taking on a controlled money-saving plan to supplement whatever aid you receive is also a big battle, as cutting corners is something that isn’t taught in a college course but picked up along the way.


Lastly, every bit counts. If that means writing a five page essay for a $50 scholarship that you won’t have to owe later plus interest, why wouldn’t you do it?


Exhaust all avenues of securing aid


To figure out what kind of funding you can secure, you need to know all the different ways to get some moolah. See rachelcruze.com for further info. about what types of aid to look out for.


·      College-Specific Aid – colleges are sneaky sometimes. Scholarships aren’t always published and to see what you could be missing out on requires some dedication and legwork. While a phone call is okay, the ideal would be to visit the financial aid office to check for any and all opportunities you could be eligible for.


·      Federal Aid – this is where your FAFSA comes in. While federal aid does have the largest amount of aid available, it’s mostly based on financial need that is reflected by the household income. A.k.a. don’t rely on just your FAFSA to get you to the finish line.


·      State Aid – this kind of help is usually financial need + achievements = money. This is where the hard work and studying pays off.


·      Military Aid – if you or a family plan on serving or have served the country, military aid is a definite possibility.


·      Personal – obviously, this comes from your wallet. Last resort only.


Use loans as a last option for funding your experience and remember that debt is NOT a requirement for a college education.


Focus on Federal loans first: Known as federally guaranteed Stafford loans, these are usually offered as part of financial aid awards and have lower-than-market interest rates. Unsubsidized loans begin accruing interest immediately, while subsidized loans don’t start until you graduate.


After that, consider a PLUS Loan: Federal Direct PLUS loans are open to parents of dependent undergrads and graduate students. They’re based on your credit rating and FAFSA. The government insures the loan and sets the interest rate and benefits. Parents have to apply for this loan and an application can be found at a financial aid office. You can defer the repayment until six months after no longer being enrolled.


Finally, consider private loans as a last resort of the last resort. (College financial aid offices occasionally give private loans. These don’t have to be accepted.)


Research other secure and stable strategies to help generate funds


Look into 529 College Savings Plans: These come in two different breeds, but can help a ton.


A 529 college savings plan simply helps save for college. These are usually managed by an investment company and are state-sponsored. You can enroll in a plan from any state – eligibility isn’t determined by residency.


A 529 prepaid tuition plan cover future tuition at today’s prices.

To enroll in a 529, there are additional requirements. See collegedata.com for tons of free and useful information to get started with your financial aid journey.


Article sponsored by Belle Chambre.

Find them on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/BelleChambreTuscaloosa

By Tori Linville


The smell of pencils and excitement will soon fill the air for students and summer break will end. This doesn’t have to mean the end of fun altogether, as some would have you believe. Back to school shindigs to celebrate the coming of a new school year are the perfect re-introduction to academia that will have your guests ready to go. We’ve scoured blog after blog for some of the best back to school party ideas so you don’t have to. The simple, must-have ideas are below, with more resources and how-tos for your unforgettable celebration!


·      Create a cute tablescape that ties into your theme


Glue a some felt leaves onto a red plate to make an apple plate. Throw in a cute table runner to add. See how Spaceships and Laserbeams rocked these ideas.


Feature a centerpiece with composition books as a platform, pencils as the flowers.


·      Add some back-to-school inspired edibles


Some created their own custom cookies that look like chalkboards, pencils and more. Pepperidge Farm’s Goldfish are perfect snacks or even some alphabet cupcakes could do the trick. Checkout these ideas in action at Pizzazzerie.


·      Handout some crafty invites


Stun all your guests with your craftiness before the party even starts. Using file folders like this blog did will stand out as thoughtful and will list everything they need to know. If you’re not feeling like going the extra mile, that’s okay too. They have free, printable invitations anyway that will work in a snap.


Checkout these diy invites that are also free and printable. While they are pretty specific, you can use them your own way for your own invites. Additional supplies such as stickers, note cards and more are also available.


For a back to school party with a bookworm theme, check out the party courtesy of Giggles Galore. Or for another full-fledged party scheme to follow, visit this blog for ideas too.


Article sponsored by Tuscaloosa Tire and Service Center.

Find them on the web at: http://tuscaloosatireandservice.com

By Tori Linville


School is almost in session for another year. Teachers will be sending home assignments to complete and requests for classroom supplies. Children will be stuffed with knowledge and lunches. To survive the back to school daze, we’ve got some great ideas to try that will supply smiles all around. Good grades not guaranteed.


Teacher Survival Kit


A great way to get on a teacher’s good side is an unforgettable survival kit. The start to the new school year requires tons of supplies that teachers need for the day to day of operating a classroom. Grab a small dollar store basket and line it with some tissue paper. Then, load it up with some of these goods:


·      Germ-X or any type of hand sanitizer

·      Post-It Notes

·      Pens

·      Pencils

·      Printer Paper

·      Notebook Paper (wide ruled)

·      A box of tissues

·      Paper Clips

·      Binder Clips

·      Dry-Erase Markers

·      Dry-Erase Board Cleaner

·      Candy

·      Stickers for grading


Back to School Candy Pencil


Send your kiddos back to school with these treats to hand out to classmates. They’ll be sure to be a class favorite and allows for a quick break from all the learning!


What you’ll need:

            Rolo candy

            Hershey Kisses

            Yellow scrapbook paper

            Pink scrapbook paper

            Metallic of foil scrapbook paper

            Paper cutter (optional)

            Markers, black

            Glue Stick



            1 piece of lined paper (to guide)

            Large skewer or scoring tool


What you’ll make:

1.     Cut Paper

Yellow paper: cut 3.5 in. by 4.5 in.

Pink paper: cut .5 in. by 3. 5 in.

Metallic paper: cut 3.4 in. by 3.5 in.


Cut a circle from another piece of pink paper by tracing around the rolo candy and cut out.


2.     Using the lined paper as a guide, score the long side of the yellow paper every two lines.


3.     Write a fun, nice message in the middle of the paper. Fold the paper on each of     the scored lines.


4.     Attach the pink and metallic paper to the end of the yellow with glue.


5.     Carefully remove the white paper from the Kiss and color the tip with a black marker.


6.     Using glue, wrap the Rolo candy with the paper and secure, then add the Kiss.


7.     Attach the circle of pink paper to the end of the candy with glue.


Check out this website for more fun school-themed craft ideas.


School Countdown/Art Display


Using a simple picture frame and some twine, you can generate excitement about the upcoming school year by displaying a countdown and then displaying any artwork the children come home with during the year.


Just take a large picture frame and wrap it with twine. Start by tying a secure knot with the twine at the top right of the frame, then wrap around the frame.


Hang a fun, festive countdown by securing sheets that display the days with a clothespin. After school has started, use clothespins to hang artwork and enjoy!


Article sponsored by Holy Spirit Catholic Church.

Find them on the web: http://www.hschurch.com


By Marlena Rice


It is officially summer. Parents of older children probably just said a prayer of relief after that statement. For them, this hiatus in classroom learning means no more dropping off to school before work in the mornings, and no more late work lunches in order to make plays, parent teacher conferences, and holiday classroom parties. I just heard multiple sighs of relief, because although we enjoy all of these things and love watching our little people discover themselves as they participate in their activities, my goodness, it gets exhausting!


But what happens when your child goes to school year-round?


I have a preschooler. And, although my son’s official preschool session has ended, as all preschool mothers know, the summer leaves us with 2 and 1/2 months of preparation for the next “big boy” and big girl” class come the fall. So, while our babies are attending preschool day camps full of movies, water days and other hot weather fun, it is up to us to continue enriching their learning experiences as they grow.  Here are some great ideas:


Visit the Zoo


Taking your child to the zoo can result in multiple lessons about a wide variety of land and sea animals. Take photographs, and afterward your child will have pictures to reference as he learns the animals’ names and about the habitats in which they live.


Hit the Blue


Go to the pool, the river, the beach or play around in the sprinklers in your front yard. It is never too early to teach our babies to enjoy and not to be afraid of the water. Visit a local department store, get some fun water floats and toys, and work on everything from counting multiple buoys to learning to differentiate varying colors as you play together.


Flashcard Fun


You know what your child loves more than anyone. “M” is for Mickey Mouse, and “P” may be for Popsicle. Your next step? Hit up your computer with your little one and find pictures that match your alphabet. Make flashcards. Sit together for 30 minutes to one hour each day and you will be surprised what can happen during summer break.


Explore the Outdoors


If you live in a wooded area with lots of greenery or near a walking trail or park, grab your child’s stroller or wagon and go on a nature walk. Be on the lookout for flowers and plants, bugs, rabbits, and creepy crawlies that your littles ones might love (even if you don’t) and combine your exercise session with a lesson about plants and wildlife.


Take Up a Shared Hobby


Despite the fact that most of us working parents don’t have a summer break like our children (and yes, I’m extremely envious of all my teacher friends), our kids’ summer freedom often means just a little more free time for us as well. If there is something that you love doing, whether it’s picking up the old guitar in your spare bedroom or taking photographs, incorporate your child into your hobby. Teach them a little more about the fun side of yourself.  


Pictures are always fun and are such an easy and fun way to document our memories. Pack a picnic one day, grab your camera and buy a disposable one for your little person and have a photo day! Once you’re done, visit a crafts store and build your own scrapbooks or make a collage of your memory together.


Whatever you do, have fun with your kids this summer!


Photo: Marlena Rice


Caption: Beaux William watches the giraffes at the Birmingham Zoo.



By Tori Linville


If you don’t have the vacation time saved up for a trip to some far-off destination, water parks are quick weekend mini-vacations that offer something for the whole family to enjoy. Whether it’s the lazy river or a stomach-turning slide, water parks are known for having a little something for everyone. We’ve listed a couple of Alabama’s top rated water parks for you to visit and decide for yourself.


Alabama Splash Adventure


Free unlimited soft drinks for the 2015 season is just one reason to visit Alabama Splash Adventure. This water park sits in between Tuscaloosa and Birmingham in Bessemer and offers a variety of services and freebies for visitors. The more than 15 attractions include a 5-story water ride drop and a 50 foot plunge into a splash pool. Season passes are on sale for $69.95 plus taxes.


·      Free parking, sunscreen, inner tubes, WiFi and life jackets

·      Snacks from Fin’s Surfside Grill, Mama Lizetti’s and Chubbies offer American and Italian foods

·      General admission for adults from 18 to 54 is $29.95

·      Seniors are $24.95

·      Children are $19.95, two years and younger are free


Visit alabamasplash.com to find out hours and directions for your visit.


Spring Valley Beach


Spring Valley Beach just opened and the ratings are just right for your next water park experience. In between Huntsville and Birmingham, Spring Valley Beach boasts a collection of mind-blowing slides sure to make any drop worthwhile. The Kid Zone is perfect for family fun and the Spring Valley Beach pool is the largest in the southeast. General admission rounds out at around $25 and season tickets are on sale.


·      Concessions offer burgers, hot dogs, etc.

·      Visitors are allowed to bring their own food, non-alcoholic drinks, picnic baskets, grills, etc.

·      Clothing must be family friendly

·      Pavilions are available for rent starting at $25

·      General admission parking is free, but parking by the pool area is $10


See springvalleybeach.com for more information on hours and ticket pricing.


Point Mallard Park


Point Mallard Park offers more than just a water park in Decatur. The year round park has a golf course, ice complex and more for visitors to enjoy. With many different attractions to enjoy within Point Mallard, it’s prime water park season in the summer. The relaxing lazy river, the speed slides and kid area are just a few of the things to visit at Point Mallard. Season passes start at $100.


·      Rain checks and refunds are not issued at Point Mallard

·      General admission for adults is only $20

·      Free soft drink and water refills are available for the entire season upon purchase of a $25 season cup.

·      The Hard Duck Café, Point Pizza and Icy Oasis offer food and beverages for visitors

·      No outside food or drinks are permitted


To plan your next party or to see water park hours, visit pointmallardpark.com.


Waterville USA


The combination amusement and water park that makes Waterville USA is hard not to be excited about. The park sits in Gulf Shores and is perfect for a day away from the beach. Water park attractions include a 60 foot drop slide named the Screamin’ Demon and other rides designed for a chillin’ or thrillin’ time. The amusement park features rollercoasters and mini golf to round out the experience at Waterville. Water park season passes start at $150.


·      Free parking, tubes and life jackets

·      No cash refunds are given for inclement weather and rain checks are not issued for season pass holders

·      Nascar Go-Carts, House of Bounce and Trampoline Thing can all be found at the amusement park.

·      No outside food or drink (even water) allowed


Check out watervilleusa.com for contact information and pricing.



Coastal Alabama Today is the Alabama Gulf Coast's premier community publication, covering the great people, places and activities of the area.

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