Archives for December 2014

Messy Play Ideas for Kids – Printing and Painting

Getting messy with your kids is important for developing many aspects of their health – from their biological immunity to their sense of curiosity! Messy play doesn’t need to be dangerous to your children or soft furnishings. Read on for some messy play ideas, as well as cleaning tips for afterwards.

Children under the age of eight are rarely the neatest of painters, so embrace the opportunity to help them develop some finer motor skills. Potato printing is an ideal candidate. First, paint-proof an area. You’ll need plastic tablecloths, or plastic dustsheets of the sort used in decorating. Tape them around your tables to avoid mishaps. Make sure there are plenty of paper towels at hand, and a clear route to the nearest sink. Before you start, use a knife to halve several potatoes, then use the tip of the knife to carve raised shapes into the exposed flesh. Try simple geometric shapes to start with, or letters and numbers if you feel a little more confident. Mind your fingers! The raised stamp should stand about a centimetre clear of the surrounding surface.

Now it’s time to get messy. Pour water-based poster paint into shallow dishes or saucers, dress your kids in old clothes, lay out some large sheets of paper, and ask them to make a picture. They need only gently dip their potato stamps into the paint before pressing it into the paper. After a few goes they’ll get the hang of it! You could try prompting them to use the stamps to create animals, buildings or landscapes. When they’re done, place the paintings somewhere high up to dry, and wash your kids before you wash anything else.

Your kids can make their own stamps for painting as soon as they’re old enough to use safety-scissors. Find some inexpensive sponges (a couple of centimetres thick) in a bargain shop, and set them to work cutting out their own shapes. These stamps can be washed out and reused, or even made from old kitchen sponges, so are ideal for a quick lesson on recycling!

Another easy paint-based activity to try is marble painting. For this, you’ll need an old roasting tray, some saucers of paint, some paper, and a few marbles. Follow the same paint-proofing procedure as before, making sure to allow free access to the sink to wash the marbles. Cut some thick pieces of paper to fit inside the roasting tin.

To paint, coat a marble in a single colour of water-based poster paint, and drop it into the tray on top of a piece of paper. Show your kids how to tip the tin and make the marble roll across the paper, leaving a trail of paint. They’ll need refreshing occasionally! This activity acts like a ball-bearing puzzle, helping kids to develop coordination and patience, while getting messy in the process. Take a look online for more messy play ideas to help your children learn and grow. Try holding a competition to see who can make the prettiest pattern. Of course, everyone gets a prize in the form of a lovely painting, and a satisfying mess! Watch out for marbles dropping onto tiled floors, as they do occasionally break – a high-sided roasting tin is safest.

These techniques are ideal for getting your kids covered in paint, while producing something colourful and fun that they can be proud of. Then…tidy up.

Extraordinary Ways to Celebrate This Holiday


The Christmas season is one of the holidays that seem to be filled with wonders and cheers. The most common Christmas Season routine celebration could either be secular or religious. However, there are other extraordinary ways one can celebrate the Yuletide season with family and friends. Some of these extraordinary Yuletide Season activities include the following:

  • Tiny Tim’s A Christmas Carol. This activity is held in the Adventure Theater every November 14 to January 1. Tickets are sold for $19.00, but there are deals being offered in selected dates where one can get a ticket at a cheaper price. This adventure theater is about a boy named Tim who wanted to celebrate the Yuletide season with his father. However, the mean old Mr. Scrooge would not allow Tim’s father to go on a day off. Tim then finds a way to change Mr. Scrooge’s mind. Guests must get ready to venture into their wildest Christmas ride ever!
  • A Christmas Carol. This activity is held at Ford’s Theatre every November 21 to January 1. Tickets are sold at a range of $32.00 to $87.00. This music-infused theater production presents the ghost of the Christmas Past, Present, and Future as they lead the mean old Ebenezer Scrooge on a voyage of revolution and revitalization. This play is recommended for anyone 5 years old and up. The program takes about two hours, which includes a 15-minute intermission.
  • Magical Holiday Express. This activity is held at the B&O Railroad Museum every November 22 to January 4. Tickets are sold at $16.00 for adults; $14.00 for senior citizens; $10.00 for children ages 6 to 12; and free for B&O members. The remarkable festivity in the B&O Roundhouse is dedicated to trains of various sizes and shapes, Yuletide celebrations, a winter wonderland activity for family and friends, and a manner of helping native charitable foundations who help those in need during the holiday season. There is something to look out for everyday at this affair with all the new holiday decorations, handmade crafts and contests, train rides, live entertainment, appearances by Santa Clause and Mrs. Claus, Frosty the Snowman, and many more.
  • Garden Railway Exhibit. This activity is conducted at the Brookside Garden every November 28 to January 11 with free admissions. In commemoration with the Washington, Virginia, and Maryland Garden Railway Society’s partnership, the South conservatory conducts a miniature landscape where trains and trollies wind their ways through the country scenes and towns, passing by the exceptional models of the Brookside Gardens Conservatories, the Chautauqua Tower of Glen Echo Park and the Dentzel Carousel. Furthermore, colorful paintings complement all the landscape.
  • First Night Alexandria. This unique activity is held in the Old Town Alexandria every 31st of December. Tickets are sold for $15.00 until the 17th of December, and $20.00 after the 17th. Kids of 12 years old and below are free of charge. This is the most enormous family-centered and alcohol-free New Year’s Eve affair in the region. This affair showcases more than 100 presentations on indoor stages all the way through Old Town Alexandria. Performers include honky-tonk bands, clowns, blue grass musicians, magicians, and classical musicians. The evening concludes with a magnificent fireworks spectacle on the Potomac River at King Street!

For those who are celebrating Christmas alone away from home, they can enjoy the Yuletide season with various activities online. For instance, casino lovers can visit for online Casino Games. Casino lovers could enjoy playing at the comforts of their homes even in an event of snowfall.


5 Family Traditions You Can Start This Year

5 Family Traditions You Can Start This YearWhether intentional about it or not, almost every family has its own unique traditions that to look forward to and remember every year. Family habits around the holidays and throughout the seasons are a special part of childhood that many people look back on and hope to replicate with their own children someday.

If you want to celebrate more family togetherness, here are seven starters to help you establish your own unique family traditions.

1. Saturday Morning Breakfast

While most of us realize the important of sit down family meals, it is much trickier to make eating at the table with everyone at the same time a consistent habit. Between soccer practice, homework projects and late nights at the office, life is hectic. So why not try a special Saturday morning breakfast. Unlike busy weeknights, Saturday morning is typically a free time to sleep in a little and walk around in your pajamas. Look for the open spots in your family’s schedule, and take advantage of these windows to creatively fit in family time.

2. Daddy/Mommy Dates

Most children truly value one on one time with their parents. That is why a special “date” with either both parents or one at a time can make an incredible impact on them. recommends doing stuff your child likes to show them your interest. And then invite the child into an activity you enjoy. This demonstrates how you care about their hobbies and ideas and also includes them in what is important to you.

3. Family Football Night

Another great way to enjoy everyday life with the family is to plan a family football night. Whether it is because of your favorite team or a special player, pick a game you want to watch one week and turn it into quality time with the kids. With a few tailgating snacks like chips and hotdogs, you can turn an ordinary TV night into a fun time talking with everybody and rooting for your team. Some families will even enjoy a friendly rivalry when cheering for opposite sides.

All you will need for this fun and memorable evening is a great TV package like, some cool foods from the local grocery and your team spirit, and family football night can become a standard tradition in your household.

5 Family Traditions You Can Start This Year 24. Group Service Projects

A fantastic way to teach your kids great values and character is by joining a community service project all together. Volunteering is an amazing opportunity to teach kids about the world around them while giving back. Leading by example is the best way to put all those lessons you’ve repeated into practice. Here are some activities to try:

  • Work at a soup kitchen
  • Sing carols together at a retirement center
  • Serve at a community clean up
  • Donate items to a charity thrift shop
  • Help with set up at a free event

5. Sing and Dance Together

It might sound a little goofy, but sometimes a little goofy is just what your family needs. Younger kids will naturally burst out into song and dance when they feel good. Encourage this expression by singing along with them or putting on some fun music and having a dance party in the living room. Some parents may find it difficult at first because you can feel a little foolish. But throwing caution to the wind just like a child might truly help you connect with your kids.

With these five ideas, your family has a great starter list of family traditions to adopt for itself. A tradition does not have to be formal or serious to count. Any way you can spend special time with your kids is reason enough to celebrate.

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Helping a Friend to Make Funeral Arrangements


Dealing with a death in the family is always difficult. Even more so if you are on your own without a spouse or children to help you to deal with your grief and make the funeral arrangements.

Often someone in this situation will turn to his or her friends for help. If you should find yourself being asked by a friend to help arrange a funeral this is how we suggest you approach what could be for you a delicate or daunting situation.

Do not take over completely

In this situation, you need to be careful not to inadvertently take over completely. Your friend needs to be the one to make the key decisions.

By all means make suggestions, but try to ensure that it is your friend who decides on the type of service and details like whether there will be flowers and what will happen after the funeral. Asking about the wishes of the person who has died can often provide answers to the type of funeral that needs to be arranged. It acts as a catalyst, which can motivate them and keep them on track.

Often all your friend needs is someone to assist them. They are really looking for someone who will make sure that nothing is forgotten. Often those who are grieving do not feel in complete control and are frightened that they will forget something important. Often having you there to monitor progress is what they need the most.

Make a list

As with any complex task, it is best to make a list of what needs to be done. If you make the list on a spreadsheet, you can put the date each task needs to be done by then sort your list by date. That way the most urgent tasks will be at the top of the list.

As you, complete each task tick it off. You can print the list off and cross things off as you do them or do that on the spreadsheet. Even relatively simple tasks like putting together a funeral order of service or ordering the flowers should be on the list to ensure nothing is forgotten.

If you are at all unsure about what needs to be done for a funeral ask someone who knows. The best sources of information are funeral directors and the person who will conduct the service.

Offer practical support

As well as helping to make the funeral arrangements offer other practical support if your friend needs it. For example, cook them a meal or walk their dog.

You could take phone calls when they are resting or just need a break from talking to other people. If your friend does not have appropriate clothes for the funeral take them shopping for them. Perhaps your friend has young children, in which case you could help with meals or playtime.

Do not take on too much

Our last piece of advice is to be careful not to take on more than you can handle. From the start, try to enlist the help of others, so you have the option to delegate tasks should you need to. Speak to your friend before doing this to make sure they are comfortable with your asking these individuals for help.

How The Addition Of A Dog Can Improve Family Life In The Country


They say that a dog is a man’s best friend, but really a dog is a best friend for the whole family. Of course you can keep a dog in most homes, as long as they have space to live comfortably in the house, and a place to be taken for a daily walk. If you are lucky enough to live in the country, then your environment lends itself well to the needs of your canine friend.

There are many ways in which a dog can bring happiness, joy, and lifestyle improvements to your life in the country.

Your Dog Needs Walking… And So Do You

One of the main responsibilities, and the main joys of living with a pooch, is that dogs need to be walked everyday. Far from being a chore, for many people this is a way to take some exercise themselves, while enjoying the bond that they create with their canine friend, and the friendly atmosphere often associated with dog walking.

The truth is that you need exercise as much as your dogs does, and owning a dog will give you the necessary incentive to ensure a decent exercise routine for yourself, bringing vast health improvements to your life, as well as improving your leisure time.

If you have friends who also have dogs then you can walk together, and you are likely to meet other dog walkers along the way, if your route is reasonably well walked. Don’t worry- your dog will break the ice, so you don’t have to. There are even social network sites for dog lovers, such as My Pawson, so you can always be sure to find like-minded dog-lovers.

It Can Teach Your Children Responsibility

What better way to teach your children about responsibility than to put them in charge of another life. Make sure that your children are ready for this commitment, and talk to them about it prior to buying a new dog. If you feel they are mature enough to look after an animal, then go ahead and allow them some of the responsibility; put the feeding or walking in their hands, and watch as they learn the direct impact they can have through their care, or lack thereof.

Of course, you should closely monitor the situation and be ready to pick up the pieces, and the dog poo, if their sense of responsibility should go out of the window. The dog should never suffer from negligence, and your own responsibility will be tested too.

Owning a dog can greatly enhance your children’s lives, and lead to more responsible, well-rounded individuals.

Unmatched Loyalty and Companionship

All that care and responsibility is greatly rewarded by your canine friend, who has a great sense of loyalty and companionship. Dogs, like humans and most mammals, are pack animals, and they (like us) are hardwired to respond to social signals, form deep emotional bonds, and remain loyal to their pack (AKA family). They achieve this better than humans because this is their main program- they do not have to abandon you for a career, and they will never move packs.

Even though they are often bottom dog of the family they are unconditionally loyal and loving. You can learn a lot from this. You will also enjoy the company, especially if you live alone in the countryside, or if you spend a large chunk of the day alone. With a loyal and loving dog you will never be alone again.

Dogs Add An Extra Dimension To Life

The benefits of living with a dog are profound, and could even be lifesaving as well as life changing. Owning a dog could actually increase the health of owners, without even factoring in the extra exercise that they encourage. Doctors have suggested that interacting with our pets can release oxytocin, a stress relieving hormone that helps to reduce physical illness.

Pets provide purpose, and add a healthy routine to your life in the country. They fulfill your need to nurture, promote responsibility, and apart from anything else gives you genuine friendship. Consider a dog now to improve family life in the country.

Organizing A Cute Birthday Party For Your Daughter: Easy Steps

Little girls adore birthday parties. If you have a daughter, you will know how excited she gets in the lead up to her birthday. To make her big day extra special, you need to plan a cute party for her. It can be difficult to arrange a gathering of lots of children. You have many things to plan when organizing a kids’ party. Remember, it is only difficult if you make it so. Keep things super simple, and you should have no problem planning a great event for your daughter. Here are some simple steps that you should follow.


Step 1: Invitations

The important thing to remember when inviting people to your daughter’s party is to ask about ten guests to come. If you try and host a party with twenty young girls, it will stress you out loads. The best thing you can do is keep the guest list low. That way, you only need to look after a handful of children, rather than loads of kids. Ask your daughter who she wants at her party, and she will likely give you a long list. Tell her she has to choose ten friends and no more.

Step 2: Choose an activity

There should always be one primary activity at a children’s party. If you have one main thing for all the kids to focus on, your job will be simple. If you try to plan loads of little party games to entertain the group, you will find that you spend loads of time overseeing games. Instead, take the girls somewhere where they can play a game or take part in an activity. Bowling is always a great idea for kids’ parties, but you might also want to consider ice skating or dancing. Find something that your daughter enjoys and choose that as the main party activity.

Step 3: Transportation

If you are taking your guests to the venue, you need to make sure that they have proper transportation. Trying to fit ten girls inside your car is illegal and dangerous. Instead, why not make the party extra fun by hiring a limo for the girls? Young girls obsess over celebrity culture. They see Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez riding around in limos all the time, and they want to have a go too. Companies like Limos North West have a lot of experience in the kids’ party industry, and so you might want to hire them for your event.

Step 4: Party bags

Don’t forget to make little goodie bags for your guests. In each bag, you can put a cute memento of the party for your guests. Fill the bags with sweets, toys and games for all your party guests. You can make some bags yourself, using some card and string. Making each bag unique to each guest is a great way to thank people for coming along to your kid’s party. That way, everybody will go home with a huge smile on their face.

Step 5: Safety

When you host a party for other people’s kids, you need to think about their safety. The other parents trust you to look after their children and make sure that they are safe throughout the party itself. Ensure that you talk to the other parents about what the party will entail. Tell them where you plan on taking the girls and what they will be doing. You should also ask the other parents if their children have any special requirements. For example, if one of the kids is allergic to peanuts, you need to know about it before the party. That way, you won’t have any accidents during the event.

Home Gym Vs Gym Gym – Which is Best For Helping You Meet Your Fitness Goals?


At this time of year, many of us turn our thoughts to New Year’s resolutions, and if you are anything like the majority of the population, these resolutions are going to involve losing weight or improving fitness. It can be an appealing idea to get started by investing in a gym membership, but the other alternative is to buy some gear and create a home gym. While there are other options that are cheaper, such as starting to go running around your neighbourhood, here we are just going to compare these two options.

Both have a sizable cost outlay (though not huge if you seek out a budget gym membership or try and get a good deal on home fitness equipment), and so it is important to get the most out of your investment by choosing the one that will best keep you motivated and help you reach those new year fitness goals without too much hassle. So, which is best for you, home gym, or ‘gym gym’?

The Pros and Cons of a Subscription Gym

Many people already do some exercise in their everyday lives, for example walking the dog every day, walking further than required to catch the bus, and occasionally going swimming. And many people also have a few fitness DVDs and some weights at home. This may seem like enough of a solution until you actually look at your level of activity – while you may walk a lot, anything beyond that, as in anything that will truly boost your heart rate or help increase your muscle strength, may not be happening. Many people find that they have more success when they sign up to a gym subscription, such as at the gym Camden by This way, you can use whatever equipment you want to, and that there are also instructors to help advise you on the best type of activity to help you reach your goals. You may also find you love the classes and the social aspect. The only downside to using a subscription gym is having to travel there every day, and it can dampen your progress.

Home Gym

A home gym gives you the option to work out whenever you are at home and have some free time, which is very good in fitting the activity into your life. However, with this option you may find that you are more limited in the machines you can use and you may also lack the motivational support from the trainers and other gym goers. It can be too easy to put off working out when you don’t have to really do anything beforehand, and just have to get changed and start using the gear.

In short, there is no easy option to which is best out of working out at home and going to a dedicated gym. While it is the more expensive option, many people find it’s best to visit a subscription gym, but also keep some gear at home so they can still work out even when they’re busy. If you are planning to get fitter in the New Year, it is worth considering these pros and cons before you decide which route to take, but a compromise between the two is a good choice!

It’s All About the Beans: Tips for Choosing and Using a Coffee Grinder

IMG_00271[1]If making great coffee was as simple as it sounds, then there wouldn’t be a need for baristas to show us how it is done by the professionals.

The art of making the perfect cup of coffee is a combination of factors, from the beans that you choose for your coffee, to how you grind the beans and also how you brew it for best results.

Getting the right equipment is definitely part of the equation and once you have ground your coffee, you can then let choose something like a Bunn® coffee maker from an online supplier such as

The right coffee grinder

Getting a flavorsome coffee can only really be achieved consistently if you have a coffee grinder to go alongside your coffee machine.

The components required for good coffee that a barista would be proud of, are a fresh supply of top quality coffee beans, a good grinder and then freshly drawn good quality water to help you brew a brew to be proud of with your coffee machine.

The type of grinder that you have and the settings it offers, does make quite a difference to how your coffee will end up tasting. When it is time to grind your coffee, you need to decide if you want fine, medium or coarse, or whether or not you are looking for Turkish style coffee.

A good coffee grinder will not only offer you a variety of grinding options but it will also grind the beans properly, equally and consistently, so that you have the best chance of getting the most flavor and texture from the beans.

Manual or electric

A manual grinder is always a tempting option because it is inexpensive compared to an electric version but if you are serious about making barista standard coffee, you will need the grinding options that electric versions offer.

The other choice is whether to go for a burr or blade grinder. A blade grinder is not going to grind the beans as finely and consistently as a burr grinder and in addition to this, a spinning blade can reach a high temperature, which could actually burn the beans and spoil the flavor.

The right grind

The settings you use will depend on the type of coffee you want to make and the type of machine that you are using.

A coarse grind will be best for use in a French Press or a Vacuum Coffee maker, whereas a medium grind is best for an Auto Drip Maker. A fine grind will work well with a Stove Top Espresso pot and also some drip makers, where you put the coffee in the cone shaped filters.

If you do decide to spend the money on a good burr grinder, you will be rewarded with accurate grinding that gives you the best possible chance of making that perfect cup of coffee and you should certainly notice and taste the difference.

Coffee making is an art, but with the right equipment and ingredients, you are giving yourself the best chance of making a brew as good as any barista can achieve.

Jean Murphy is a busy mom who loves a great cup of java. An avid writer, she enjoys sharing her interests and insights with others. Look for her articles on many of today’s top blogs and websites.

Great Ideas For Enriching Your Child’s Life

If you are forever despairing at your kids for having the TV on or games on their tab, don’t fret. They may genuinely be picking up useful skills and information. Some kid’s shows wrap up education in glitz and glamor, but the core lessons are there. They are presented in volumes and quantities we could never achieve at home on our own. With the art of TV presentation, they also seem to have our little ones fixated for a full 25 minutes at a time!

 Games too may be more beneficial than you think. A lot of what we teach in the home might be little more than explaining something verbally. A game requires the child to interact with the concept and experiment with it to fully understand the lesson. Admittedly, the vast majority of games are mind numbing and provide no useful stimulation whatsoever. Try out some games yourself to pick and choose which show some promise.

 Banning the TV or console games completely may just put barriers up between you. But it is important to provide wholesome alternatives. All kids should have hobbies. They could be across a number of areas like homemaking, sports, music, literature and art. A good week of activity should include examples of each.

 Homemaking provides important life skills like cooking, hygiene, and repairs. Music feeds the soul and increases intelligence as well as providing your little ones with skills to communicate with others. Sports are incredibly important to maintain health and fitness later in life, but also to develop gross and fine motor skills in children. Socially speaking, team sports provide excellent skills for working environments as adults. Art and literature define us as a species. Kids should be encouraged to express themselves on the page in words and pictures, as well as discussing the ideas presented by others.

 If your kids are quite creative, they might like to try their hand at making decorated fabrics like handkerchiefs or tee-shirts. Buying them a sewing machine like one of those at will give them a creative outlet as well as teaching them important homemaking skills. If you have a budding musician, try enrolling them in a children’s orchestra where they will learn to work as a team and meet like-minded kids. Singing songs and playing guitar together is a good way to assess a child’s potential for music.

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 Writing stories each week, or even just reporting on their week of activities gives their creative mind a boost when putting pen to paper. They could draw a picture to represent one of the things they did or saw. Try to expose your children to as many sports and physical activities as you can. Swimming, football, climbing and baseball, all provide great exercise. They also enhance balance, coordination, and problem-solving skills. If there are few opportunities for team sports in your area, try hiking together. You could buy a fun backyard trampoline to encourage exercise for children who are not keen on sports.

5 Practical Tips to Improve your Chances of Getting Pregnant


Are you having trouble getting pregnant?

Do you just wish that you could get pregnant a little faster?

Maybe it seems as if you have been trying forever, and you are just wondering if there is anything that you could be doing wrong – and might not even be aware of. Well, here you will find some important things that you should be doing – so if you are not doing them, you can start right now to ensure you don’t have to wait any longer for a baby than you absolutely have to.

Bear in mind that only around 20% of couples conceive in the first month of trying. Make sure you start with a bit of patience and realistic expectations.

Some of these tips are things that you should do to increase your chances of conceiving. Others are steps that your partner should take to make it easier for you to get pregnant. So, if you are having trouble getting pregnant and want a solution, it is going to take some effort on both your parts.

You Should: Visit Your Doctor for a Check-Up

It is important to make sure you are healthy if you want to get pregnant. There could be a problem that you don’t even know about – but you will be sure to find out if you go see a doctor. A general check-up is a good idea because you need to be as healthy as possible, for both your sake and the baby’s. Educate yourself about what you need to do to become even healthier – for example, do you need to eat better?

Your Partner Should: Stop Drinking and Smoking

Jenny, fertility expert at IVI Fertility, tells us that “drinking too much alcohol can mean a reduced sperm count in men, and smoking can make sperm function poorly. So, if your partner makes these simple changes, this may be the key to getting pregnant faster. These changes are quick and easy to make if getting pregnant is important to you both.”

You Should: Mark Your Calendar

You need to be aware of when ovulation will occur each month. Then, mark this on a calendar so you know when you will be most likely to conceive if you try. There are several days when you should really set aside time to try to conceive if you want to become pregnant fast. 5 days before ovulation and the day of ovulation are the most fertile periods.

Your Partner Should: Get the Right Nutrients

Proper nutrition is not just important for you – it is important for your partner as well. Zinc, Folic Acid, and Calcium are very important for strong sperm. In addition, Vitamin C and Vitamin D will help with both sperm count and sperm health.

You Both Should: Try Often

As stated above, you should know when you ovulate and try to get pregnant at these times. However, it is also important to try as much as you can if you want to really increase the odds that you will become pregnant.

If you are having a lot of trouble getting pregnant, you might want to consider other options. Jenny suggests that “one option is in vitro fertilization. In vitro fertilization results have been very positive for many couples. Be sure to get more information on IVI if you are feeling despondent, as there are things that can be done.”

95% of couples fall pregnant within 2 years of trying. It is a sprint for the sperm, but it can be a marathon for you. Persistence can be the key.