Lifestyle * Travel * Food

Aug 30, 2015

Cheap or Free Ways You Can Help Others

The inspiration for this post came from something I heard my 7 year old son say... "Wow, my dad helped the neighborhood and he helped the world". I wanted to share some ideas of how you can help people in little ways to make their lives better. This may spark something within them to want to pay it forward and help someone else.

  • Volunteer at your child's school. 
  • Getting rid of outgrown clothing from younger, school-age children? Consider donating them to your local elementary school's nurse's office. They always have the need for bottoms, underwear and socks. 
  • Text a friend just to let them know you are thinking about them.
  • Smile. A genuine smile triggers other people to smile. 
  • Check up on your neighbors.
  • Be a "Mystery Reader" for your child's class.
  • Offer to help an elderly person in the grocery store.
  • Hold the door open for someone.
  • Compliment a stranger (within reason).
  • When you get a buy-one-get-one free deal, why not share the freebie with a friend or neighbor.
  • Offer to babysit for a new mom.
  • Give your neighbor's dog a treat at the fence.
  • If you are in a store and see someone purchasing something that you have a coupon for, offer it to them. You would be amazed at the joy $1 off can bring to someone.
  • Be the Coupon Fairy. Leave coupons in front of the items they are for in a store. Someone will be very happy to save a little extra money. 
  • Call someone out of the blue. 
  • If you baked something, send in extra for you child's teacher.
  • Always ask the cashier at the store you are at how their day is going. No matter the attitude they may give off, you can still show that you care.
  • Tell someone that you love them. 
  • If you get a gift certificate for purchasing a certain amount in a store, consider giving it to someone. My kids give me their $10 Kohl's cash certificates all the time and it makes me so happy.
  • Hug someone.
  • Make people laugh!
  • Rake or blow leaves for your elderly neighbor.
  • Do a chore for another person in your home. I love when my walk into my bedroom and see my bed already made up.
  • Paying with a gift card and have a small balance left? Give it to the person behind you in line. 
  • Saying, "good morning" or "have a great day" gives off a positive vibe. 
  • A simple "thank you" is always in order.
  • Allowing your inner happiness to shine can bring much needed light to others.
  • Send in a special treat for your child's class or your spouse's co-workers.
  • Write notes to your family members.
  • Write a letter and mail it to a friend. Embellish the envelope with fun stickers.
  • Let your kids eat dessert for dinner once in a while. There's nothing wrong with the occasional ice cream sundae dinner.
  • Show gratitude and appreciation every day.
Sharing love is FREE! What will you go out and do today that will make a difference to others? 
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Aug 24, 2015

CardNInja Smartphone Wallet Review #TossYourWallet

I don't know about you, but I am a sucker for gadgets that help make my life a bit easier. I'm a busy woman and I admit, I love convenience. I received a neat item called the CardNinja Smartphone Wallet. I have heard about it before and was curious to see it in action. I was so happy to get one in magenta. Isn't it pretty?



The CardNinja comes in 6 colors: black, steel, eggplant, gold, blue raspberry & magenta. So what exactly do you do with this thing? This sleek smartphone wallet has an adhesive back designed to stick to most phone cases. All you have to do is peel the paper backing off, position it on your case, cover or phone back itself, and you are ready to use it. You can store your license or ID card, credit/debit cards, cash, earbuds or a single key with ease. This means not having to carry a wallet or purse when it's not convenient.

This is the perfect item for me to take to my son's school on days that I volunteer. I usually take my license out of my wallet and put it with my phone in my pocket. This always had me so paranoid because I once dropped my license on the floor and a teacher handed it to me. With the CardNinja, I can easily keep my license in the pouch along with my car key and feel confident about not losing anything.
You can purchase the CardNinja Smartphone Wallet on their website currently for $9.99 (reg $12.99) or at select retailers including CVS and Walmart. I think this is a perfect back-to-school gift for high school seniors and college students. It's also perfect for moms or dads who are always on-the-go, and would be a good teacher gift or stocking stuffer for the holidays. I love my CardNinja and I know I will get a lot of use out of it.

Find CardNinja on the web, Facebook and Twitter.

I received a sample product for review purposes and all opinions are 100% mine as always. 
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The Women's Roadmap To Health

National Girlfriends Day was earlier this month, but it's always a good thing to have a friend remind you about keeping up with your annual wellness check-ups. It's easy for time to pass you by or to just put it off. Joining forces with your friends can be the push you need to get things done. My doctor even has a group of girlfriends who all schedule their annual woman's check-up in the same week and get together in one evening for margaritas to celebrate each other getting their health screenings done. I think that is such a cute idea.

Check out the infographic below from Oscar Health Insurance Company for details on what specific screenings you should have done and when. They're a new company wanting to shake up the health care field and help their members be proactive about their health through their various incentives. If you're in these areas, check out their health insurance plans in New Jersey and New York. Feel free to share with your girlfriends and family members.

Go here for additional information. Be well! xoxo
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Aug 21, 2015

Double-Dipped French Toast from IHOP (Review)

I recently stopped by my local IHOP to try out their latest menu item-- Double-dipped French Toast. They come in two flavors:  Lemon Strawberry and Cinnamon Sugar. I decided in the Lemon Strawberry because it screamed summertime. I had the bacon combo which came with 4 strips of bacon, 2 eggs and hash browns. I was definitely most looking forward to trying the French Toast first. The fact that they use brioche made me already know that it was going to be extra delicious. The entree came with two thick slices of French toast that was dipped in a vanilla batter, then dipped a second time in crispy corn flakes and oatmeal, griddled, then topped with cool lemonade cream and glazed strawberries. The actual French Toast had a very light texture and was cooked to perfection. For some reason, I was expecting it to be a bit crunchy on the outside and it wasn't. I'm glad! I think the texture was exactly what you would expect from perfectly cooked French toast. The lemonade cream was so smooth and creamy with a nice balance of both sweet and tart. The strawberry topping was delicious and the perfect pair with the lemonade cream. It was like summer on a platter. There was not a single bite left on my plate! 
This lemon strawberry French toast was not too sweet and oh so scrumptious! 
I plan to go back this weekend with my family to try the Cinnamon Sugar variety to celebrate the kids going back to school. The Double-Dipped French Toast at is available until September 20th, so grab your family and head to your local IHOP to try it out for yourself. I promise, you'll love it and will want it to be a permanent menu offering (hint, hint IHOP).  
This combo was fairly priced. Perfect for a family meal out. 
Be sure to stay connected to IHOP on their website, Facebook and Twitter for their latest updates and promotions. Don't forget, IHOP gift cards make great gifts for teachers, college students and as a "just because". 

I received a gift card to try out the latest menu offering from IHOP in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own as always. 
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Aug 17, 2015

NEW Softsoap Fragrant Foaming Collection Hand Soap Line (Giveaway)

CLOSED- Winner is Jacqueline A.- Congratulations! 

Softsoap has been a household brand name for many years. The brand has grown so much and offers a wide variety of products for bath and body. Their latest products are the Fragrant Foaming Collection Hand Soap line. What makes this line different from the others is the elegant bottle design and luxurious feel and fragrance. The scents include:
  • Jasmine and White Cotton: Impress your guests with the fresh scent of Jasmine and White Cotton. Its airy aroma makes every hand wash sparkle, while lush foam gently purifies the skin. 
  • Whipped Cocoa Butter: Pamper your skin with the rich foaming lather infused with real cocoa butter extracts. The decadent scent of Whipped Cocoa Butter makes every hand wash a treat.
  • Kitchen Citrus Bliss: Awaken your senses and brighten your home with the crisp, sun-drenched scent of Kitchen Citrus Bliss. Its vibrant aroma invigorates every hand wash, while lush foam gently cleans and soothes skin.

These hand soaps are perfect to place in guest bathrooms, your kitchen or any where you have a sink. It's always nice to enjoy your hand-washing experience in my opinion. I love the pretty bottles. These hand soaps are just as good as the high-end boutique brands I have tried for a fraction of the price! I don't think I can pick a favorite scent, because they are all amazing. I think these hand soaps would make a great addition to your home or office and even make a nice little gift. I can see adding this to a housewarming basket or even for a teacher, coworker or neighbor gift. I know I would LOVE it if someone gave it to me.

Stay connected to Softsoap on the web and on Facebook for updates on the latest products and promotions.

How would you like to try the NEW Softsoap Fragrant Foaming Collection Hand Soap Line for yourself? Enter below: 
This giveaway is open to U.S. Residents only and will end on August 31, 2015. One winner will be contacted via email to claim prize. Be sure to follow all rules in Rafflecopter widget for all entries to count. Good luck! 
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Break Out Of Your Flavor Rut With Cheerios #CheeriosFunFlavors ($20 Paypal Giveaway)


Next week marks our first week back to school and I am organized and ready for the busy months ahead. I do all I can to make things easier on myself so I don't lose my mind. Having planned out meals are important to help keep my family healthy and well fed. I get stuck in a rut when it comes to having enough variety sometimes. When it comes to breakfast and snacks, I do all I can to offer my kids healthier options. One great breakfast that is quick and requires no effort is Cheerios and milk. I recently found out that Cheerios makes a variety of flavors including favorites like Honey Nut, Original, Apple Cinnamon and newer flavors: Banana Nut, Frosted, Multi-Grain, Multi-Grain Peanut Butter and
Apple Cinnamon Cheerios.

I did not realize there was a Banana Nut variety and I could not wait to try it for myself. I'm pretty simple when it comes to cereal, so I either like it as is with milk, or dry as a snack. I think I may have found my favorite new flavor! I made the mistake of letting my husband and kids try it and now it is their favorite as well. Looks like I better stock up on a few more boxes. Speaking of which, right now you can print a Publix coupon for buy-one-get-one FREE of Cheerios. That's right, you can buy one box of your favorite Cheerios, and try a new flavor for FREE! Now is the time to really stock up with back-to-school season in full swing. Hurry and get your coupon while they are available.

Did you know that besides serving Cheerios in the more traditional ways, you can use them in fun recipes? Check out all the great Cheerios recipes that are sure to please your whole family. I plan to make some Cheerios snack bars for my little one's class as a surprise treat. I'm sure they will all enjoy it!

To help you stock up in Cheerios and take advantage of the BOGO deal, one Mom Files reader will win $20 PayPal cash. Enter below:
a Rafflecopter giveaway
This giveaway is open to U.S. Residents and will run until Sept 2, 2015. One winner will be selected and contacted via email address to claim prize. You must follow all rules stated in Rafflecopter widget for entries to count. Good luck!
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Aug 11, 2015

Our Visit To SEA LIFE Aquarium Charlotte-Concord #hosted

Last week, my family had the great pleasure of visiting SEA LIFE Aquarium in Charlotte-Concord, NC. Lucky for us, we live just an hour away, so getting there was not bad at all. SEA LIFE is located inside Concord Mills Outlet Mall, at Entry 7. When I heard they were building an aquarium inside of a mall, I thought it was a joke. Well, seeing is believing in this case. SEA LIFE Aquarium was impressive in so many ways.

The ticket counter/check-in process is a breeze and the great part about this aquarium is that once you get your tickets and hand stamped, you are free to return to the facility for the entire day. This made it convenient for us to step out for a bite to eat or to visit the other shops in the mall. At check-in, we were able to get brochures about exhibits, feeding times, and featured events as well as a Dive Log Book for the little ones. Tips: You will get the better rates if you pre-purchase your tickets online. If you live in the area, it might make the most sense to purchase a season pass if you plan to visit several times a year. Additionally, you have the opportunity to have your family photo taken before entering the actual aquarium, so be prepared for that. 

Although the actual facility is not as large as most aquariums I have been to, this one made great use of every square foot! Each exhibit (known as "Dive Stations") was put together beautifully and had a touchscreen nearby so you can identify and check out facts about each animal in the tank.

We all learned so much. The SEA LIFE staff members were very friendly and eager to answer any questions we had. At the end of each Dive Station, we were able to stamp our Dive Log Book which gets your little one a prize at the end of their visit. SEA LIFE really did a great job at keeping both children and adults engaged throughout the visit. My son is a self-proclaimed 'Animal Expert', so he wanted to lead us as if he was our personal tour guide. It's amazing how much you can learn from a 7 year old kid.

There was so much to see and I really loved the instrumental music that was playing in the background. It was really soothing and made the experience even better. There was a nice variety of fish, shark, sting rays, jellies, eel and even some crustaceans. The touchpool experience was awesome. We were able to touch live crabs and starfish. This was like a major nerd moment for my son.


At the end of the aquarium sits a cute gift shop where you can purchase souvenirs and photos that are taken at the beginning of your adventure. Usually gift shops are very expensive, but SEA LIFE had so many great items at very affordable prices. We bought some cute plush sea animals for William.


On our second visit for the day, we overheard a SEA LIFE staff member telling another patron about a behind the scenes tour of the facility. We were told to join in and we are so glad we did! We got to learn how the aquarium is operated as well as seeing the different stations where animals are cared for if they get sick and how their food is prepped. We saw what the aquarium looked like from above. It was magnificent to say the least. There were locker rooms with dive equipment for the marine biologists who dive daily to clean the tanks and tend to the animals. They made about about how safety and cleanliness are an extreme priority and they work every single day to make certain the animals are fed and cared for.


I spoke with our lovely tour guide and told her how amazed I was that we are standing in a full-fledged aquarium that is in a shopping mall. It's one of those things you have to see in person to truly appreciate it. She was telling us that they have another 10,000 or so square feet that they will be expanding on and hopefully will get the papers in order to have a sea turtle tank. I sure can't wait to see all of that come together.

Before I forget-- if you have preschool aged children, SEA LIFE is featuring Disney Junior's The Octonauts from August 7-23

Participate in Octonauts Training Academy and learn what it takes to become a member of the crew. As cadets, they'll master the specialties of their favorite characters across 6 fun zones, meet Kwazii and Captain Barnacles in person and then be rewarded for completing their training with a very special Octonauts certificate! Check the website for more details.

As you can see, no matter the age, anyone is welcome to take a photo with their favorite characters. Also, they have some very cute Octonauts merchandise in the gift shop, so be sure to take a look.

We took away so much from our visit. The most important thing was the urgency to protect marine animals. SEA LIFE has provided a state of the art facility to not only showcase these animals, but also encourage better environmental practices to preserve these precious creatures. Although I have read reviews about people complaining about the cost to visit for such a small venue that doesn't take long to get through, I honestly feel like it is well worth the ticket price. You can go in as many times as you want for the full day of operating hours. I feel like we got even more the second time around by joining in the behind the scenes tour. The joy on son's face and seeing my husband and adult daughters behave like children were priceless. We fully enjoyed our time at SEA LIFE Aquarium and if you are ever visiting the Charlotte area or live in the vicinity, I highly recommend you check it out.

Be sure to visit the SEA LIFE Aquarium website for more information and follow them on Facebook and Twitter for promotions and updates.

I was offered media tickets in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are 100% my own as always. Many thanks to Sea Life Aquarium for hosting us! 
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Aug 10, 2015

5 Back to School Tips for Parents

Preparing your children to go back to school can be stressful for your son or daughter, but it can also take a toll on parents as well. Make sure you are prepared for the school year by following these 5 tips.
Image courtesy of taesmileland at http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/

1. Get Organized
Getting organized is possibly one of the most important steps in preparing for a new school year. Take note of all information and dates you should be aware of and write them down. You definitely don’t want to miss out on meet the teacher day or other important events like parent teacher conferences. Also, take the time to get to know your child’s teacher and take advantage of any opportunities to interact with them. You definitely won’t regret having an open communication line with your child’s teacher.

2. Take Advantage of Sales
Shopping for back to school supplies can be somewhat expensive, but you can manage these expenses by finding the best deals and sales. If you are lucky enough to live in one of the states that offer tax free holidays, you can save a lot of money! Scope out the sales and make shopping lists. If you know your child will need more than just a few notebooks, pens, and pencils, go ahead and buy extra.

3. Set Schedules
Before school starts back, set schedules and make sure your child is aware of who will be picking them up and dropping them off at school as well as what time each day. By setting a regular schedule, your child will feel more comfortable.

4. Establish a Routine
Along with setting schedules, parents need to make sure that they follow a routine for each day. Set a time that gives your child (and you!) enough time to wake up, eat breakfast, and get ready for school each day. Of course there will be days that don’t go according to plans, but if a routine is in place, it will be much easier to stay on track each day.

5. Have a Discussion with Your Kids
Before your child goes back to school, make sure you take the time to talk to them about doing their best in school and motivate them for a great year! Also, take the time to talk to them about emergency plans, schedules and routines.

Here’s to a great school year ahead!

By Guest Author: Lauren Byrd

Lauren is a contributing writer and media specialist for Mavis Discount Tire. She regularly produces content for a variety of lifestyle and automotive blogs based around driver safety tips, auto service tips, and more. 
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Back-to-school Beauty Essentials from KISS & Instrumental Beauty #AD

In less than 2 weeks, my kids will all return to school. My girls will both be at the University of South Carolina and are very excited for the year ahead. They have been hustling around shopping for those last minute must-haves and beauty products are very high on that list.

Lucky for them, they have some great items we received for review to get them ready to head back. First up, it's all about the fabulous hair styles. Although both of my girls have curly hair, my younger one straightens hers and likes to add some curls for a more polished look. The KISS InstaWave Automatic Curler is the perfect tool to make quick, easy waves and curls. What makes this tool so great is that it works on all hair types. It even works on my silky hair that usually won't hold a curl for very long. I posted a review before if you want to check it out. You can purchase the KISS InstaWave at KissInstaWave.com for $59.99. Any young lady would love this item and it would make a great gift for your favorite college student heading away to school this fall.

Along with great hair, you can't forget to take good care of your skin. My older daughter goes through some trying phases when it comes to her face. The Instrumental Beauty Sonic Facial Brush is the perfect thing for her. The best part about using a sonic facial brush is that it removes dirt and impurities traditional face-washing can easily miss.

The cleaner your skin, the healthier it looks and feels. My daughter has used her facial brush a couple times so far and can feel a big difference. She's so pleased that it hold the charge for a long time and has a built-in timer that alerts you when it's time to switch to another part of your face. Go here for a full review of this item. The Instrumental Beauty Sonic Facial Brush can be purchased at select drugstores and at InstrumentalBeauty.com for $80.00.

My younger daughter, Brie loves playing with color and especially when it comes to her nails. KISS imPRESS Manicure ($7.99 / Walgreens) is an easy way to get a fabulous mani with minimal effort. With so many colors and designs, you can have a fresh new look as often as you would like.
Here is what Brie had to say:
When I first saw the Kiss brand imPress press-on manicure nails, I was very excited to apply them to my own nails because of how beautiful and professional-looking each pattern of nail tips was. When applying the nails, the process was very simple. Directions were included both in and on the box, but I did not really need them because all that I had to do was clean and prep my nails with the included nail file, then remove the sticker from the back of the nail tip, and finally stick it onto my fingernail firmly for about 30 seconds. Due to the variety of sizes of nails included, I was able to select one to fit each of my fingernails with ease. I received several compliments on my manicure, and many people were shocked to find out that it was a stick-on manicure that I did myself due to the high quality of it. Although the application process was easy, several nails began to fall off after a few days. That may have been due to me not pressing the nails on securely enough in the application process, which I will definitely keep in consideration next time I apply the nails, likely in the near future. This nail product is very practical and professional overall. 

She is planning to play around with the KISS Salon Secrets Nail Art Starter Kit ($9.99 / Walgreens) this week. Since she is already and artist, this art kit makes her very giddy. I'll post at a later date with what she came up with.

I received sample products in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are 100% my own as always.
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Aug 2, 2015

Useful & Budget-Friendly Kitchen Gadgets You Didn't Know You Needed

I have been a long time fan of kitchen gadgets. Anything that makes life easier is always a plus for me. Sometimes these gadgets come with a big price tag and I am more likely to not purchase them. Today I want to share some of the latest gadgets I received to review that are very economical.


First up is the IMUSA Avocado Slicer. I admit, I really wasn't too sure how to use this item at first. It took me a few tries to figure it out. It is good for if you are cutting multiple avocados at once. The IMUSA Avocado slicer features an ergonomic handle with stainless steel accents. This plastic avocado slicer cuts and peels an avocado half in easy motion. Available at Kmart.com for $2.99.


Also from IMUSA, is the Citrus Squeezer. To say that I am big into home cooking and baking, I did not own one of these before. This handy tool that makes extracting citrus juice a breeze. This colorful and stylish hand-held press has an ergonomic design for comfort, and a bright yellow exterior finish to add a pop of color to your kitchen.  The squeezer juices lemon or limes quickly, without the seeds or mess. Available at Target.com for $8.99. I LOVE this item so much and I'm so happy to finally have one in my kitchen!


Finally, I received the The COOKINA Cuisine Reusable Cooking Sheet and the COOKINA Gard Oven Protector. The reusable cooking sheet can be used for baking cookies, pastries and other desserts. The Cuisine is an innovative product that creates a nonstick, easy-to-clean and healthy cooking and baking experience. Ideal for using as an alternative to aluminum foil, parchment and wax paper. The excellent non-stick feature means having no need to use oil or needing to clean the tray and oven afterwards. The neat part is that you can cut the sheet to fit your pans. I was able to cut mine down to 2 sheets so it was like a 2-for-1. It also comes with its own scrubber for a super easy clean up. You can purchase it at cookina.co for $12.99.

The COOKINA Gard Oven Protector is a toxin-free, easy-to-use product that helps home cooks keep the oven clean with minimal effort. Home cooks need not worry about cleaning the oven after each use with this product. Users can simply place the oven protector on the bottom of the oven to catch every spill and splatter for an easier clean-up, without any odor. This will be super helpful during the holiday season when my oven is being used almost daily. Available at cookina.co for $12.99.

I think that all of these gadgets would make a great gift for the home chef in your life or as a house-warming present. The prices are excellent when compared to some of the competitors' brands.

Disclosure: I received product samples for review purposes and all opinions are 100% my own as always.
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