Lifestyle * Travel * Food

Nov 27, 2018

Top 6 Benefits To Visiting Japan

Japan, the land of the rising sun, is a nation that was rich for its warriors, spirituality, and technological marvels even when the rest of the world was still technologically impaired.

Even today, Japan is a country rich in culture and history unlike any other nation in the world. Thankfully, travel has never been easier, or cheaper than it is today, so if you’re craving intrigue and adventure, Japan may be where you seek.

Here are the top six benefits to visiting Japan:

Tradition Meets Modern

From the very second a tourist steps off the plane, one may find themselves both captivated and alluded by the unseeing marriage of ancient traditions of perfectionism and honor married with modern technology and pop culture.

What may appear as a chaotic combination, you’ll soon come to realize that japan is anything but, everything serves a purpose, often rooted deeply in tradition but designed to fit the constructs of the 21st century.

Cherry Blossoms

In the early weeks of April, both natives and foreigners alike come to Maruyama-Kōen park in Southern area of Higashiyama to witness the blossoms of Japan’s legendary yet beautiful pink cherry blossoms.

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Visitors will be graced with the simplistic and understated elegance of nature on the small footpaths that lead through the parks forest to a small pond in the parks center which is guaranteed to lend a moment of silent meditation and the possibility of sudden enlightenment.

Mount Fuji

If you wind yourself in Japan during its optimal cloning months, ranging from early July to the end of August, one may consider attempting the historic and mysterious mountain of Fuji. 

The mountain itself has ten levels to reach the summit, starting at the base of the mountain, and spanning to the tenth level at the summit. For first time climbers, there are plenty of buses and tours that will take you half way up the mountain to the Yoshida Trail, which is a moderate level trail that gives adventurous hikers five to six hours of unparalleled beauty high above the clouds to the summit of the mountain.

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For more seasoned hikers and adventurers, there is the old Yoshidaguchi trial which is a 19 kilometer hike from the town of Yoshida to the summit.

There are several other paths you can take depending on if you’re coming from Osaka or Kyoto but it’s advisable to start small and work your way up a more populated pathway until you’re familiar with the terrain.

Oku-No-In

For the spirituality and philosophically minded, the temple of Oku-No-In is said to be one of the most beautiful and spiritual places in all of Japan.


A center of Japanese Buddhists, visitors are greater by a massive alpine forest where the ancient stone path begins, bordered by a seemingly endless amount of stone lamps, also know as stupas, all of which lead to a massive Shingon Buddhist temple which houses the remains of what the Japanese call “the waiting spirits”, which also is home to over 200,000 graves, some of which are the final resting places of feudalistic warlords and legendary monks who were a part of the spiritual revolution of japan.

If you’re feeling adventurous, once at the temple, just off the path, visitors are greeted by the Miroku Stone, which is housed in a small cage.

It is said that if a visitor can lift the stone from the lower tier to the upper platform with one hand, the purer the soul of the person, as it is stated in legend that the heavier the stone, the more malevolent the soul.

Jigokudani

Jigokudani, translated to “Hell’s Valley” due to its boiling hot springs and steam vents that emit from the surrounding landscapes, situated in a frozen valley surrounded by steep and jagged cliffs.

Aside from the hot springs and vents, Jigokudani is home to a native species of Japanese snow monkey that move down from the heights during the freezing winter weather to warm themselves in the parks hot springs before retiring to the cliffs after they get their fill.

Himeji Castle

A classic example of ancient Japanese architecture, Himeji castle is considered one of the most beautiful and preserved structures of antiquity from the feudal era of Japan.

The castle has survived and been rebuilt after countless attacks over the centuries, it and its fortifications still stand over the surrounding landscape like a bird of the prey.

Visiting Japan

Japan is an island nation is blossoming with culture, history, and beauty where a traveler won’t find anywhere else. So take a step back and forget what you thought you knew, because this is a land unlike no other.

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Nov 25, 2018

The LEGO® Movie 2: The Second Part – In Theaters February 8

The much-anticipated sequel to the critically acclaimed, global box office phenomenon that started it all, “The LEGO® Movie 2: The Second Part” reunites the heroes of Bricksburg in an all new action-packed adventure to save their beloved city.  It’s been five years since everything was awesome and the citizens are now facing a huge new threat: LEGO DUPLO® invaders from outer space, wrecking everything faster than it can be rebuilt.

The battle to defeat the invaders and restore harmony to the LEGO universe will take Emmet, Lucy, Batman and their friends to faraway, unexplored worlds, including a strange galaxy where everything is a musical. It will test their courage, creativity and Master Building skills, and reveal just how special they really are.



Reprising their starring roles from the first film are Chris Pratt as Emmet, Elizabeth Banks as Lucy (aka Wyldstyle), Will Arnett as LEGO Batman, Charlie Day as Benny, Alison Brie as Unikitty, and Nick Offerman as Metal Beard.  They are joined by Tiffany Haddish, Stephanie Beatriz, and Arturo Castro as, respectively, new characters Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi, Sweet Mayhem and Ice Cream Cone, and by Maya Rudolph.

“The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part” is directed by Mike Mitchell (“Shrek Ever After,” “Trolls,” “Sky High”).  It is produced by Dan Lin, Phil Lord, Christopher Miller and Roy Lee, the team behind the LEGO film franchise since “The LEGO Movie” debuted in 2014, and by Jinko Gotoh.  The screenplay is written by Phil Lord & Christopher Miller, based on LEGO Construction Toys.

Serving as executive producers are Jill Wilfert, Keith Malone, Matthew Ashton, Chris McKay, Zareh Nalbandian, Ryan Halprin, Will Allegra, and Chris Leahy. Patrick Marc Hanenberger (“Rise of the Guardians”) is the production designer, and Claire Knight is the editor.  The music is composed by Mark Mothersbaugh (“Thor: Ragnorak,” “The LEGO Movie”).  Trisha Gum is the animation director.

The film opens nationwide in 2D and 3D on Friday, February 8, 2019.

Warner Bros. Pictures and Warner Animation Group present, in association with LEGO System A/S, a Rideback/Lord Miller/Vertigo Entertainment Production, “The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part,” distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures.

LEGO, DUPLO, the LEGO logo, the minifigure and the brick and knob configuration are trademarks of The LEGO Group. ©2018/2019 The LEGO Group. Used with permission. All rights reserved.
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Nov 19, 2018

8 Tips For Fabulous Curls This Winter

Ah, winter. It’s the most wonderful time of the year – the holidays, hot chocolate, cute sweaters, the list goes on! But it can also be a not-so-wonderful time of year for your curls, if they’re not properly taken care of. Whether you’re a longtime curly girl or now embracing your curls, these tips will help you keep your curls happy this winter.


  1. Consider going “no-poo.” Shampoos with sulfates strip our hair of moisture, which is literally the opposite of what we want. I committed to the “no-poo” lifestyle last year, and it was a game changer. It’s weird at first not to feel the typical shampoo lathering, but my hair feels softer, stronger and more moisturized. My favorite is the DevaCurl No-Poo Decadence for super curly hair.
  2. Do. Not. Skimp. On. Deep. Conditioning. During the summer, I could get away with deep conditioning twice a month, but now I have to do it once a week. If your hair craves extra moisture like mine, it will thank you for the deep condition. You can make your own with your favorite oils, or take the easy way out like me and buy it. My favorites are DevaCurl Heaven in Hair, DevaCurl Melt into Moisture and Hask Monoi Coconut Oil. 
  3. Use coconut oil (AKA the lifesaver). I put cold-pressed, unrefined coconut oil on my ends for extra moisture and curl definition. When I tell you it keeps the curls POPPIN’, I’m not lying! A little goes a long way, so use it just on your ends, and not on your scalp. If you use too much, your hair will look super greasy (don’t ask how I know…).
  4. Don’t towel-dry your hair. Drying with a towel creates too much friction, leading to frizz. You can use a microfiber towel, but that old cotton t-shirt you don’t know what to do with will work just as well. I’ve been using t-shirts for about four years and haven’t looked back.
  5. Sleep with a satin cap or pillowcase. This will preserve your curls and prevent them from becoming matted. I use the satin pillowcase because caps always fall off my head in the middle of the night. 
  6. Don’t sleep with your hair down. Sleeping with my hair down (even with a satin pillowcase) is disastrous. My hair looks flat, which is a big no-no for me! I prefer to put my hair in a “pineapple,” which is just a high ponytail and naturally, makes me look like a pineapple. Depending on your hair type, you can pineapple, braid or twist – whatever works for you.
  7. Use a diffuser instead of a blow dryer. I air dry my hair because it doesn’t get so cold in South Carolina. But if you live in colder areas or need to dry your hair quickly, a diffuser will dry your hair without stripping its moisture. Every once in a while, I do diffuse my hair with the Bed Head Curlipops diffuser. 
  8. Get a trim. Trimming your ends regularly is essential for hair growth and health. When you’re a curly girl, it can seem like light years have passed before any growth appears. I recently started using liquid biotin to aid my hair growth, so regular trims won’t seem as daunting.

Here’s to fabulous, happy curls this holiday season!

This guest post was provided by my fabulous daughter, Chardonnay Ismail

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Nov 15, 2018

Winner's Choice $25 Gift Card Giveaway

The holiday season is here, and I wanted to give you all the opportunity to win a little something for yourself. After all, it is the season of giving! One winner will have the choice of one $25 digital gift card from Amazon, Sephora, Starbucks or PayPal cash. Enter below, and good luck! 
a Rafflecopter giveaway
This giveaway is open to everyone worldwide since gift card will be delivered digitally, and ends on December 7, 2018. Must follow rules in Rafflecopter. One winner will be chosen randomly. Mom Files is not responsible for any lost or stolen prizes. Good luck!
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Nov 6, 2018

Is Your Home as Energy Efficient as it Could Be?

If you've never considered an energy audit for your home, you might be surprised to find that it's well worth your time and effort. After all, drafts and air leaks cost the average American homeowner hundreds of dollars every year.  Finding out how your home uses energy is one way to find out if you need upgrades to your heating and cooling system or elsewhere in your home. Check out these three tips for learning more about your home's energy efficiency. 

Check for Faulty Insulation

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Image via Flickr by ryochiji

Insulation can deteriorate over time, leaving gaps that cause air loss. If the insulation in your attic is below the level of the floor joists, add insulation to compensate. Check the insulation's depth with a measuring tape to find out if it meets the manufacturer's recommended levels. 

Check wall insulation by turning off the electrical breaker in each section of your house. Remove the electrical outlet cover to probe the interior wall using a screw driver. If you don't feel resistance, consider installing more insulation.

Seek Out Air Leaks

Air leaks pull air out of your home, causing your HVAC system to work harder in the summer and winter. The incense test is one of the easiest ways to locate problem areas that can drain your wallet. To do this test, close all doors and windows. Turn off appliances, water heaters, and exhaust fans to reduce the airflow in the home. This will help to identify the pesky leaks that you want to plug.

Burn the incense in areas that you suspect are drafty, including near fireplace dampers, outlets, baseboards, foundation seals, and windows. The incense will waver or disappear into leaky areas. Seal these areas to ensure that your home's warm or cool air stays inside.
Photo by Daniel von Appen on Unsplash
Leaks often occur through windows and doors, so you'll want to make sure that your windows are airtight. Installing energy-efficient windows can save you a lot of money in heating and cooling costs. If the incense test reveals air leaks around the doors, adjusting the door on the hinges will ensure a tighter seal.

Inspect and Maintain Appliances

Your home's appliances and systems can also cause serious efficiency issues. Analyze your home's energy usage with an energy calculator. Many online calculators help homeowners perform DIY audits for refrigerators, lighting systems, dishwashers, and other appliances. Schedule maintenance for appliances that are wasting energy or take advantage of tax credits by installing energy-efficient machines.

Regularly inspect your outdoor HVAC unit to make sure that it is free of plants, weeds, and other debris. Call your local heating and air conditioning technician for annual tuneups and efficiency checks.

If your current HVAC system isn't efficient enough, consider an upgrade. A ductless system can help you save energy while still keeping your family comfortable, no matter the season.

These easy steps for improving your home's energy efficiency can make a world of difference when it's time to pay the bills. Small changes and a little effort can decrease your household energy consumption and save you money.
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‘Tis the Season for Great Wolf Lodge’s Snowland Extravaganza

Great Wolf Lodge rings in the holiday season with its annual Snowland celebration from November 24, 2018 to January 4, 2019. The Lodge is spreading cheer to families this year with daily snow showers in the Grand Lobby, and visits from Santa Claus along with a life-sized Gingerbread House and more. Families will get into the spirit of Christmas, splash in the 84-degree waterpark, and create memories together that will last a lifetime.


Adults and children alike will be merry and bright as they arrive at Great Wolf Lodge’s winter wonderland complete with hundreds of twinkling lights, Christmas trees, and other jolly decorations in the Grand Lobby. The centerpiece of the Snowland celebration is the life-sized Gingerbread House constructed from more than 600 pounds of gingerbread dough, 1,300 pounds of sugar and hundreds of candies. For a truly delectable experience, guests can also dine in the life-sized gingerbread house with a small donation to the Ronald McDonald House. For reservations, visit GreatWolf.com/Snowland.


Snowland returns this year with guests favorite complimentary activities including Hot Cocoa with a Great Wolf Kid, the weather outside might be frightful, but the Lodge’s delicious hot cocoa bar will warm even the chilliest of guests up; Cookies with Mrs. Claus, where children have the opportunity to decorate cookies in the Gingerbread House with Santa’s leading lady; the Polar Wolf Walk, a tour of the lobby that teaches children about polar bears penguins and more. Families can wind the night down by cozying up to watch a holiday movie in the Grand Lobby during Festive Family Flicks.


Snowland’s most popular offerings are available including visits from Santa Claus; Santa’s Letter Depot, where kids can mail a letter to Santa in the Grand Lobby; and North Pole University, where kids complete fun, holiday-themed assignments around the resort for the chance to earn a Snowploma. During the howl-iday season, children’s activities such as Story Time, Yoga Tails and Paws on Projects will also get dash of Christmas cheer.


In addition to two days of play in the water park for each night stayed at Great Wolf Lodge, all of the Snowland activities are included complimentary as part of an overnight stay. Activities vary daily and based on location.  A complete listing of daily activities and times can be found in the Lodge Life event schedule provided to guests upon check-in, or verified in advance by calling the location directly.

For more information on Great Wolf Resorts and its brands of indoor water park resorts, visit greatwolf.com.
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Nov 5, 2018

The 2018 Holiday Hess Toy Truck Is Now Available For Purchase

Hess Toy Truck has launched its annual, highly anticipated, Holiday Hess Toy Truck. The brand new model, a Hess RV with an ATV and Motorbike, is a three-in-one toy that features a sleek and modern recreational transport loaded with lights, and a dynamic wheelie-popping pair of team mates, eager for on and off-road action.

For over 50 years, Hess Toy Trucks have remained one of America's favorite Christmas traditions. Each year, a new and unique design is revealed, which is collected and gifted by families throughout the U.S. The Hess Toy Truck is known for selling out before Christmas every year, so hurry and get yours while you can.

The 2018 Hess RV with ATV and Motorbike is now available for purchase exclusively online for $33.99 with free standard shipping and 8 Energizer® batteries included.
The sleek and modern RV, loaded with 60 LED lights, comes equipped with three ramp doors that fold down for access to the ATV and Motorbike inside.  The oversized ATV and touring-style Motorbike are both designed with wheelie popping racing motors.  The 3-in-1 toy features green and chrome accents with a total of 73 brilliant lights, the most ever on a holiday Hess Toy Truck.



Hess also has made available for free download a new science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) curriculum with 8 lessons featuring the 2018 Hess Toy Truck. The curriculum can be used by teachers and parents as a learning tool to help teach core STEM concepts

The Hess Toy Truck, offered exclusively online, remains a highly sought-after collectible and treasured holiday tradition that has been shared among families for generations. To stay up to date, sign up for alerts online and follow Hess Toy Truck on Facebook and Instagram. For more information on Hess STEM, visit www.hesstoytruck.com/stem.
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