Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Bear Your Heart this Valentine's Day #BeartYourHeart #ad

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I have always loved the Snuggle Bear. He is so soft and cuddly. I also love the loving campaigns that surround him, so I when I had this opportunity to share about the #BeartYourHeart Campaign in exchange for a Snuggle samples (full disclosure here, peeps), I couldn't turn it down. After all, who doesn't love heart-felt expression and Snuggle LOVEmojis? (Found free in the Apple and Android app stores.)

Do you struggle bearing your heart to others? If so, you are not alone. In a recent national survey (Harris Poll on behalf of Snuggle in January 2016):

  • Four in five people (80%) would appreciate a loved one showing them heart-felt emotion on Valentine’s Day.
  • A significant proportion of people (37%) admit to being challenged when it comes to expressing heart-felt emotion to those they care about.  And for men, the number is even higher at 41%, compared with women at 33%.
  • Surprisingly, one in ten (10%) would rather go to the dentist than talk about how they really feel. 
  • Half (50%) say writing it down is an easier way to express themselves than saying it.

But never fear, Snuggle Bear is here! He not only softens laundry, but hearts. Snuggle Bear is the embodiment of all things sunggly and soft will help people express their emotions this Valentine's season with the #BearYourHeart campaign.  This awesome campaign offers digital Love Notes and Snuggle LOVEmojis to show those we care about how we really feel.  In addition, Snuggle Bear will invite New Yorkers to bear their hearts in a rare appearance right before Valentine’s Day.

Starting today on National Hug Day and continuing through Valentine’s Day, the #BearYourHeart campaign will give people the opportunity to express themselves to those they love through Love Notes, Snuggle LOVEmojis, and other engaging tools and tips. 

To celebrate the campaign, New Yorkers are invited to visit the Snuggle Bear Den on February 11 at the Flatiron Plaza by Madison Square Park.  Snuggle will warm up The Big Apple with a full day of #BearYourHeart activities:

  • Snuggle Bear will be on hand to meet and take pictures with guests and encourage them to bear their hearts.
  • Guests can write a Love Note to someone special, take a picture, and watch it become part of a beautiful mosaic with thousands of other Love Notes which will be displayed on a massive digital screen. 
  • Guests can receive a plush Snuggle Bear of their own and get a chance to win the ultimate Valentine’s experience package. 
  •  Everyone can follow along on FacebookTwitter and Instagram or go to www.snugglebearyourheart.com to join in the fun if you are not in New York.
Snuggle has been making the world a softer place for over 30 years. This year, in addition to softening hearts during Valentine’s season, Snuggle is launching innovative new products to help people snuggle up even more.  Draw people close with the exhilarating scent of Snuggle’s new Cherry Blossom collection and help eliminate tough odor with new Snuggle Plus Superfresh liquid fabric softener.

Disclosure: I will receive samples in exchange for sharing this information.

A MUST for Keeping Kids Tech Safe!!!






Did you know that today, February 9, 2016, is Safer Internet Day? That reminds me of a presentation I recently attended at our PTO meeting by CBTS regarding teens and technology and keeping them safe. Even though I read a lot about internet privacy and security, I was eager to hear what he had to say because I was pretty sure I would learn a thing or two. I mean seriously, who can keep up with how fast technology is changing? I was right, of course (in that I learned some things), but even the speaker, Stephen Smith, who does this for a living, admitted that he can't always keep up with the changing technology. (Visit his blog at A Wired Family.)

Why is it so important to know what your kids are doing online? Because it can effect them now and in the future. 

First and foremost, he says, unless you are willing to manage your child's online activity, do not give them a smart phone. He also suggests that you own your child's iTunes/Google passwords so you can see what they are downloading. Did you know there are apps to hide apps (you know--the ones your kids don't want you to know they are using)? He also suggests having tech free zones--don't allow kids to take phones into the bedrooms. Keep them in common areas, because guess what? 30% of kids between 13-18 take a nude photo of self. When they do that, they have created child porn. If they send it to someone, they have distributed child porn. Same goes for if someone sends it to them and they share it. All these things are ILLEGAL! (If your kid receives a nude photo, take it straight to the police so your child doesn't get in trouble.) Also, make sure that that location services are turned off on your child's device. If not, people can find out exactly where photos were taken (and then possibly your child).

Guess what? Thirty-two percent of colleges look at social media when reviewing applications and 32-34% of businesses do as well. What your child shares (EVEN IF DELETED) is still out there. (Warning even to parents--not a good idea to tag your child in a photo.)

There is also the whole privacy issue. When you sign up for an app, you agree to the Terms of Service, which basically means they can sell data about you.

There are apps, like Afterschool, Meercat, Whisper, YikYak, that are anonymous. Anyone can pretend to be anyone. Kik has texting and is known as a pedophile app. Kids can be hurt emotionally and physically by other kids, or worse, by adults. 

Our kids have enough pressures on them. Ten percent of students suffer from depression and just at Cincinnati Children's hospital alone, 3,200 kids were admitted for suicidal ideation last year. And suicide is the second leading cause of death for 15-24 year olds. Social media can create or add to everyday stressors for teens, especially if they are being bullied online. Likes and FOMO (fear of missing out) anxiety is a very real thing for teens.

There are some things parents can do (in addition to the above listed). Smith recommends two sites for parents to use is to help keep an eye on their kids activities: uKnowKids or Teen Safe. It's a very different world out there--take the time to keep your kids safe!






Why You Should Play in the Dirt


benefits of dirt

I know this may sound strange, but dirt is one of my favorite things. (No, not dirt as in dirty house, but dirt as in rich soil.) I was thinking about that this past weekend when I was potting some plants and had my hands in the soil. A brief thought crossed my mind that I really ought to put gloves on because I was getting dirt under my nails, but I quickly dismissed it. I love the feel of the dirt. The smell of the dirt. And what it does (you know--all the good stuff--helps plants grow and all).

Dirt is good.

Yes, dirt is good. In more ways than one. Did you know that research has shown that a strain of bacterium in soil, Mycobacterium vaccae, provides emotional health benefits? This was discovered when a physician, in London was testing an experimental treatment for lung cancer that involved inoculating his patients with the bacterium. The doctor not only observed a decrease in cancer symptoms, but noted an improvement in her patients emotional health. Since this discovery, researchers have discovered it lowered the stress in mice and are now looking at the possibility of a vaccine with the bacterium to treat depression (I am sure that's a long way off).

So, get out and play in the dirt! (Or, if it is too cold, pot a houseplant.)

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Your Child Might NOT be Safe in Their Car Seat--What You Need to Know!

I don't have little ones anymore, but it is so important to keep them safe when traveling. You buckle them in and think they are safe, right? Maybe not. Winter poses challenges for children and car seats. Bulky coats pose problems--and just adjusting the harness straps isn't the answer. That's why I wanted to share this important informaion put out by Allana Pinkerton, Global Safety Advocate for Diono.

The Dos and Don'ts of Coats and Car Seats

BIG DON'T: Never place a child in a car seat with a thick, bulky winter coat because the harness might not be snug enough to perform as it should during a crash.
WHY? If they are wearing a thick coat, the padding in the coat will not allow you to snug up the harness correctly and the harness will actually be loose on the child.  The padding in the coat will compress during a crash until it gets to the body which doesn't allow the child to ride the crash down appropriately.
Important to note: Car seat manufacturers cannot determine if it is safe to use a thick winter coat because they do not crash test with coats on the test dummies. They do test for misuse and they can determine if a loose harness causes injury.
DO: Follow the car seat manual for proper harness fit, installation and use. The manuals are written based on crash test data.
DO: Use an appropriate car seat no matter what the weather conditions are outside.
DO: If there are no safety issues in doing so, heat up the car ahead of time.
DO: Put a thin fleece jacket on your baby, toddler or older child.
DO: Put a toboggan hat and gloves on your child. This definitely helps retain some internal warmth.
DO: For a newborn baby, many infant carrier car seats come with a "warming boot" to put over the baby. If not, one may be purchased from the manufacturer of the car seat or they may have approved the use of one manufactured by another company.
DO: Throw a blanket around your child when carrying them out to the car to keep them warm. (If you are super nice, you might have even warmed it up in the dryer first.)
DO: Place them in the harness and snug it up. Then you can place the blanket over them so it doesn't interfere with the harness and tuck it in around the child's sides. To avoid the possibility of suffocation do not put the blanket near their head.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore--You Won't Believe You are in Indiana!

I am behind on posting this trip, but what better time to do it than in the midst of a blizzard in the eastern part of our nation? We have wanted to visit Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore for a while.  It touts beaches, biking, birding, botany, hiking and a diverse ecosystem in a relatively small area. From beaches to bogs to marshes, this area boasts it all.  We finally made it to visit the summer before last and had no regrets!

Indiana Dunes
Public beach taken from concession stand
The campground was very nice and very well maintained. Pads were over-sized and level. You can walk or bike to the beach, although it is a ways, or hike dunes from the campground. One note--if you plan to stay on the weekend in the summer, it is important you get your reservation in early. Also, as they usually fill up, they are very strict about check out times. You may get lucky for early check-in, but I wouldn't count on it.

If you stop at the Visitor Center, you get learn more about the area through displays and an activity center. While you are there, you can pick up brochures, area maps and trail maps as well as shop in their book store.  Since it is a national park, children can participate in their Junior Park Ranger Program and earn a badge. You can also sign up to participate in the Three Dune Challenge and earn a decal.

Hiking on the dunes can be challenging as the sand is deep and slippery. Flip flops are not recommended (for any hiking in my opinion, but especially here). I wore my hiking books and didn't get too much sand in them, but at times, I just took them off and walked on the sand. Other places, the sand was a bit more packed. There are steep hills on the dunes, which, with the sand, can make them challenging to hike.

The beach is absolutely beautiful! The sand is soft, white and powdery. I liken it to Sarasota beaches, and at that, it is deeper. Surprisingly, the water, although Lake Michigan, was not freezing cold. It was also very clear, similar to the Gulf of Mexico. Another plus is that you are able to see the Chicago skyline. (Chicago is just about an hour away by train.) The only drawback to this area is if you look too far to the right or too far to the left, you will see smokestacks from the steel factories.

I am including some of my favorite photos. I hope you enjoy them!

Indiana Dunes
Public Beach

Indiana Dunes
Clear water--similar to the Gulf of Mexico


Indiana Dunes
Sun setting over Chicago
You don't know you are on a sand dune till you look down.

Indiana Dunes

Indiana Dunes
What a surprise coming over the dune from the campground.
To gain perspective, notice the size of my daughters in this picture.

Indiana Dunes

Indiana Dunes

Indiana Dunes
This is like a Where's Waldo picture. Do you see the Canadian Geese?



Indiana Dunes
A Scarlet Tanager was just one of the beautiful birds we spied.


I couldn't begin to include pictures of all the different wildflowers we saw. It was beautiful!





Below are examples of how diverse the area is.





Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Ever Shop at Justice? Then Could Get Cash


Justice Store SettlementJustice from Justice--finally.

Justice is a store I really don't like. I have always thought they were way overpriced (especially for the quality) among other things. I very clearly remember the conversation with my daughter where she was insisting that the store was 40% off. 40% off of overpriced, I said. I remember telling her that 40% was really the regular price. Try convincing an 8 year old. It was a tough sell and I think she was still doubtful. It was probably actually easier for a mom to convince the courts, which one mother successfully did. And guess what? That means if you shopped at Justice anytime from 1/1/12 and 2/28/15, you are due some money or vouchers.

With no receipts, you can select either a $13 check or $20 in a Justice voucher (off purchase of $25 or more). Or, if you have receipts, you can get more. Read all the details here: https://www.justiceclassaction.com/en. It is very easy to file your claim--simply enter your information, choose the type of settlement you want and click enter.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Winter Care for Your Lips Plus Carmex Coupon @Carmex #Carmex #sponsored

Anyone who knows me knows how much I despise winter. I could go on and on why--dry skin, static hair, bulky coats and gloves, cold steering wheels, cold feet and don't forget chapped lips. I received a complimentary gift pack from Carmex and now at least one part of winter is better for me--my lips! Even though I got a Carmex gift pack for free, what I am about to say is the honest to gosh truth.

I dig this stuff! First of all--I completely love the limited addition packaging on the Carmex Moisture Plus Lip Balm. Before I could even decide which one I wanted to open, my girls snagged their favorites. They have very cute designs with colors from Pantone's official color forecast and prints and textures taken from the runways. It's like designer lip balm! And,they change the packaging colors every season.

I like this thin tube, too, because it is light weight and can easily slip in my pants pockets undetected. The true test is how well it moisturizes. I'll be honest, once I had a small pot of the Carmex. I hated using it because you had to use your fingers to put it on. I also didn't care for the smell so I didn't use it although I know people who swear by it.

The Carmex Moisture Plus is completely different. It glides on smoothly from a stick and has a light vanilla scent and flavor (not that I lick my lips often, but did just to test it). It contains aloe and Vitamin E as well as SPF sunscreen (truly love that because I will use it in the summer). I like that it has a soft, clear gloss finish on my lips. Not super shiny like lip gloss, but just a bit of a satiny shine with a natural look. It feels light to wear and right way, my lips felt softer. Even my daughter, who had super chapped lips, commented on how smooth her lips felt. This one gets the thumbs up and will replace what I am currently using.

It retails for just $2.49 and you can pick it up in the checkout lands of Walmart, Walgreens or Dollar General. Even better, print off a coupon for 75¢ HERE.

So, which style would you choose?


Disclosure: I received a Carmex gift package in exchange for my honest opinions.

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