Fitbit Blaze Sweepstakes: Smart Fitness Has Never Looked Better #vzwbuzz #FitbitBlaze

Fitbit Blaze Sweeps Graphic

This is a sponsored conversation on behalf of Verizon and OM Media.

A journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step. ~ Chinese Proverb

Fitbit Blaze 3

As a reluctant exerciser, this phrase motivates me daily. And while I’m just working toward 10,000 steps each day, meeting that goal begins with just one step. Whether it’s walking in the neighborhood, pushing through the pre-set workout, or just being active around the house, seeing those steps add up on my fitness tracker is motivation to keep going.

With so many fitness trackers on the market it’s hard to know which one to choose. Well, I’ll make it easy! How about a Fitbit Blaze? One of the newer fitness trackers on the market, the Fitbit Blaze is a fitness watch that looks like a watch so you don’t look like you’re wearing a fitness tracker. Designed more like a watch, it allows you to see text and call notifications.

While I have a different fitness tracker, I love the sleek and versatile design and function of this smart fitness watch. And did you know that the Fitbit Blaze automatically recognizes and records your exercise for you, so you’ll get credit for a workout even if you forget to log it? My tracker has a similar feature, and I love it because at the end of the day when you’ve put in your steps you want to get credit for them, right.

One really important feature is the continuous heart rate monitoring. This will help maximize the benefits of your workout. I thought I was getting the most from my workout until I found out about the heart rate monitoring feature and now I can really focus on getting the best workout. Another feature I really like about the Fitbit Blaze is that it gives you music control so you don’t have to fool with your smartphone to get to the song you want!

A new feature from Fitbit is the FitStar workout, which can be used right on your screen. It’s like having a coach right on your wrist! You’ll get step-by-step instructions right on the screen so you don’t have to keep doing the same few exercises you’ve always been doing.

I know you’ll love the Fitbit Blaze as much as I love my fitness tracker. It’s stylish, versatile, and can likely help you reach your health and fitness goals. As always, before you start a new fitness program consult with your personal health professional. And always be careful if you’re outside with your earphones on. So, what are you waiting for?

  • No purchase necessary to enter.
  • Must be 18 years of age or older to enter.
  • Open to US Residents only.
  • Void where prohibited.
  • See Official Rules for details.

Enter now for a chance to win a Fitbit Blaze Smart Fitness Watch


Fitbit Blaze Sweepstakes

Official Rules

More Things You Could Win!

Verizon is working with a few of my friends to bring you other great tech. Check out their posts and enter for a chance to win.

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Fitbit Blaze Sweeps FB Image

Sara

5 Tips For Getting Your Child Their First Smartphone

Tips for Kids First Phone

FTC Disclosure

As we approach the gift-giving season, I’m seeing many parents asking about “the best” smartphone for their child’s first phone. Most teens who’ve had a smartphone are very clear on which new device they want. When it comes to getting a first device for a child, or for the kids to share, there are many different opinions. And sometimes they have exactly what they have in mind.

While you may be decidedly in the iOS or Android camp, there is so much more to giving a child their first smartphone than picking out which device. While I do believe that there is such a thing as ‘too much phone’, the fact is you should choose a device that can grow with your child so you’re not needing to upgrade too soon. But there’s so much more to think about beyond which device to get. Sometimes I think picking out the device is the easiest part. Currently, I’m splitting my time between an iPhone 6 Plus and the new Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge Plus Verizon just sent me. I love them both, for different reasons. But my almost teen daughter isn’t a fan of either of them.

5 Helpful Tips For Parents Getting Their Child Their First Smartphone

Talk About Expectations Before You Give Them A Phone – This is not the time to treat the kids like the crazy animals they sometimes are. Don’t throw the phone at them and run for your life like you’re feeding a wild lion. I fully realize they may not hear but a fraction of the words you’re saying., but take a deep breath and set expectations. Even better, consider a written agreement so the expectations are very clear.

Teach Them About The Importance of Using WiFi When Possible – Certainly you’ve heard stories of parents getting huge cell phone bills because the kids have been using data 24/7. Not only is wifi often faster than the data service, it also keeps data usage in check. Even if you have ‘unlimited’ data, you’ll quickly see that it’s not as unlimited as you think it is. Of course, not all wifi is secure so that should be discussed as well.

Require Their Login Information – This isn’t about snooping, it’s about parenting. If you ever believe your child is in danger, at risk, or doing stupid stuff you should be able to access their accounts from anywhere. You should have the ability to shut down your child’s access by logging in from your device and changing the password. They may not like it, but when used correctly this is to protect them from themselves and others.

Explain Social Media Etiquette and Reality – Kids use social media differently than we do. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t rules, both universal as well as age-appropriate. Be very clear on the rules for using the device at school, taking photos of other people, sharing their location, giving out personal information, and other things that are of concern to you. In addition, make sure they understand that not everything they see on social media is reality. This last one is so important since they may not be aware that their favorite celebrities and Youtube or Instagram stars are posting photos that do not include any disclosure about being paid to post, it being staged, or that it’s really an ad.

Trust Them – I know this isn’t really a tip. And I know there are times when we need our kids to check in with us. Remember back when there was a time when we’d go to the movies, the mall, the beach, or just hanging out with our friends and our parents couldn’t get in touch with us. Yes, times have changed. But if you’ve laid the foundation and set the groundwork trust that they’ll do the right thing. Of course, you reserve the right to check in and to go all forensic scientist on their device while they’re asleep. So give them some freedom to grow and learn. And remember that talking about phone etiquette, the realities of social media, the risk of online predators, and other things about the online world will happen with or without our input. This is the time to make sure those lines of communication are open and free of judgement.

Bonus tip don’t surprise the kids with a phone you would want, get something they want. Sure, they’ll use it because the option of being without a phone isn’t really an option but their hands are smaller, they don’t usually carry a purse or bag to put it in, and wanting to be cool among their friends is important to them. You’d think BabyGirl would have the latest and greatest, but she doesn’t. She still has the Droid Ultra she got 2 years ago and she loves it. For her, it’s the perfect phone because it’s slim, lightweight, and very durable. It does everything she needs and she never worries about damaging it. And, ironically, it doesn’t have a case. Just a screen protector. There weren’t many cases made for it and she has chosen to be careful rather than have an ugly phone cover. Hard to argue with that, really.

If you’re thinking of passing on your phone to your child and upgrading, my newest obsession is the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge Plus. It’s beautiful, lightweight, has a sleek design, and a totally drool-worthy camera. And those Edge features? Super efficient and functional. Samsung has so many helpful features like Samsung Pay, wireless charging, reducing window size, opening multiple windows, and so much more. Whether it’s because you want a beautiful phone or need one to help keep your busy life organized, definitely take a look at the S6 Edge Plus.

And now that you’re likely getting a device for your child, or maybe you already have and just stopped by, what other tips do you recommend before getting the kids their first smartphone?

Sara

End of Summer Pool and Spa Care – For Less Work Next Season

This is a sponsored conversation on behalf of Clorox Pool & Spa to encourage us to make the most of the last days of summer.

When I was a kid, Labor Day weekend was kind of the last hurrah of summer. We’d hang out by the pool and laugh, eat way too much food, and spend a lot of time yelling “Mom, watch this!” as we did some crazy jump into the pool. Lots of good memories!

After Labor Day, though, we spent less time in the pool as the nights grew colder and the days shorter. There may have been a weekend or two we’d try to get in a last shot of summer, but for the most part pool time was over. Toward the end of September I’d go to the pool store with my mom and get the few things we’d need to close up the pool until the next spring. I remember following a checklist very carefully because one year we didn’t close our pool right and it was a huge mess when we uncovered it at the first sign of pool weather the next season.

Friends back east are starting to talk about fall and cooler temperatures. There’s less “let’s hang out by the pool” and more “can’t wait to get the fire pit going”. So even though we don’t have a pool, we’ll be marking the end of summer as the temperatures begin to get cooler. Closing your pool doesn’t have to be daunting. Here’s a checklist, which includes the Clorox® Pool&Spa™ Shock XtraBlue™ product to get you started.

Pool Closing Checklist:

  • Check for algae and brush all pool surfaces
  • Remove debris from water and skimmer baskets
  • Test and balance water
  • Adjust Free Chlorine to the high end of 1-4 ppm
  • Check and clean your filter
  • Shock the water and let it circulate at least 6 hours using the Clorox® Pool&Spa™ Shock XtraBlue® product
  • Apply an algaecide to prevent algae growth
  • Shut down equipment per owner’s manual, this may include a partial water drain
  • Cover your pool if desired

Following these closing tips will keep you covered for the season and the benefits of the Clorox® Pool&Spa™ Shock XtraBlue® product is added security.

The Shock XtraBlue® product is a 6 in 1 shock with algae-killing crystals that does the following:

  • Kills and controls green, black and mustard algae
  • Kills bacteria
  • Clears cloudy water and removes swimmer contaminants (body oils, sweat and lotions)
  • Reduces chlorine odor
  • Improves filter performance
  • Won’t impact pH

This product is quick and convenient and available in an easy-open, easy pour resealable bottle, which makes it safe for households and easy to store.

 

Sara

No One Wants The Nickname Dragon Breath

Disclosure: I received several products from Johnson & Johnson Healthcare Products Division of McNEIL-PPC, Inc. and The Motherhood as part of my participation in this LISTERINE®” education program. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this post, unless noted, are my own.

Parenting a tween or teen has many challenges. I spend quite a bit of time asking the same questions over and over. I know I’m not alone in this, too. It starts early with the reminders to wash hands, turn off lights, close doors.

You’d think by time they’re 10 or 11 they’d get tired of hearing us ask them these questions. But, the mind of a tween and young teen is so busy with other things the mundane and routine often gets overlooked. And at the same time their concern for how they look starts to take on more importance.

My interest in oral hygiene began early with routine visits to the dentist, followed by braces, and over a decade wearing a retainer. Over the years I’ve met many people who don’t like to smile or hide their smile because they don’t like their teeth. I get that not everyone can get their teeth fixed. But, what shocked me were the results of the May 2015 “The Social Impact of Poor Oral Health” survey conducted by LISTERINE Brands on the social implications of poor oral health. I figured that poor oral hygiene has implications on a person’s overall health and that it could affect other aspects of their lives. But, the extent to which poor oral hygiene can impact not only general health and hygiene, but career and relationships made me realize my diligence for myself was a good thing and that all those ‘did you brush your teeth’ questions are important.

I remember seeing movies with British characters and there were always jokes about how bad their teeth were because they’re British. Maybe in that context it’s funny. But the reality is that more than 7 in 10 Americans believe having an unhealthy mouth can negatively impact one’s confidence giving a speech (75%), and more than 6 in 10 believe it can affect a person’s willingness to speak in a meeting (64%), and their ability to lead a meeting (61%)*. Add to that similar statistics about relationship success, smiling, kissing, or being close to someone when talking and it’s easy to understand why it’s so important to instill good oral care habits in our kids.

While we shouldn’t judge people on their oral hygiene, the truth is we do. If you’re in a job that has a great deal of face to face engagement, you can’t help but be aware of the other person’s teeth and breath. This goes way beyond the garlic chicken at lunch or the broccoli stuck between the teeth. Daily we make judgements about people based on their teeth and breath. And we do this to kids as well as adults.

Today it could be reputation suicide if a middle or high schooler took a toothbrush to school, but back when I was a teen I packed a toothbrush and religiously brushed my teeth after lunch. Even back then I knew I didn’t want to be that kid with bad breath or food stuck in her braces. The social implications were very real back in the 80s.

Years ago, CycleGuy worked with one of the leading Periodontists in the country. I learned so much about the importance of good oral hygiene as we age. Oral health impacts the foods we can eat, our nutrition, and our weight and health. Many of us take this for granted because we brush and floss daily. But for those who don’t, it’s not just the bad breath or the discolored teeth. And while some dental issues are genetic, it’s all those times we were asked ‘Did you brush your teeth?’ and ‘Did you floss?’ that help us throughout our adult life.

So while my daughter rolls her eyes at me when I ask, I’ll continue to ask if she’s brushed her teeth and flossed. I’ll continue our family’s check-up schedule and we’ll keep using our Listerine Brand mouth rinse. BabyGirl began her dentist visits when she was about 6 months old. Sure, she was there because I was. But the dentist took a peek at her tiny tooth peeking through and encouraged me to keep wiping her gums and then begin brushing her lone tooth once it came in. She’s never been afraid of the dentist. We shouldn’t be afraid of the dentist.

Starting good oral care habits early make it easier as the kids get older. We always have an array of toothbrushes on hand because a worn out toothbrush is quite harmful to the teeth and gums. I buy Listerine mouth rinse in different flavors so we don’t get bored and forget to use it. And I have a number of different types of dental floss because we all have our favorites. Why? Because brushing alone misses 75% of your mouth.

If you’re interested in learning more or want to share your parenting success with getting your kids to brush and floss, I’ll be participating with the Motherhood and LISTERINE Brand in a 1-hour Twitter party on Tuesday, October 27th at 12 p.m. ET (9 a.m. PT). During the party, we’ll discuss the social and health impact of oral health care.

LISTERINE Brand is committed to promoting healthy oral care habits.  That’s why the brand is partnering with Oral Health America, whose FALL FOR SMILES campaign educates the public about the positive impact good oral health can have on overall health and well-being. Oral Health America’s mission is so important to LISTERINE that the brand will be pledging $20K to support their work. We hope this inspires you to join them and help double the donation. During the Twitter party, use #LISTERINEgives to trigger a $10 donation from the LISTERINE Brand to Oral Health America (for a maximum donation of $40,000).

I hope you’ll join me in making a difference for our families and others. Because we all have a lot to smile about!

 

* LISTERINE Brand’s “The Social Impact of Poor Oral Health” Survey, GFK, May 2015

 

Sara

Is There Such A Thing As 80s Remorse? #SwitchersRemorse

Switchers Remorse

Disclosure: As part of the Verizon Influencer team I have been compensated to share with you a situation in my life where I made a decision I later changed or wish I had. Because, really, who among us hasn’t had at least one of these?

Have you ever listened to Snap Judgement? It’s a show on NPR and I love it. It’s addicting (fair warning)! Mainly because I think the stories are so different than anything I would do. It’s stories of people who make decisions that take them down a path they never imagined. It’s so fascinating, and usually throughout the entire show I’m on edge and my heart is racing.

I’m not a seat-of-the-pants decider, but I know how to make a quick decision. I’ve had my fair share of times when I’ve over analyzed or have gotten into that “analysis paralysis” mode and have made decisions I regret as soon as the words come out of my mouth. That being said, I will never have a story on Snap Judgement. Ever! Really, those stories are just that weird. Anyway, …

When I look back, I don’t have many regrets for the decisions I’ve made. That’s probably because I was raised to make informed decisions and believe I made the right choice. My grandfather was a missile instructor. Making the wrong choice when you launch a missile can have grave consequences. And since I lived with my grandparents, my grandfather had a lot of influence in my formative years.

The interesting part is that he believed you can correct course on most decisions when it came to life. And that’s what I was taught. Few decisions in life are fatal and those that are require serious attention. I’m a “serious attention” person for almost all the decisions I make. Although I can make quick decisions, I don’t make them without consulting as much information as I can within the time I have.

There are a few decisions I’ve made that I regret, but there are a few I wish I would have done differently. Fortunately, most are pretty low-level. But still, let’s take a look at a few decisions gone wrong. And don’t say you can’t relate.

SFH 1990Totally 80’s hair – Probably the best decade for hair. Unfortunately, some of us kept it well past its prime.

Shoulder pads – Melanie Griffith in Working Girl I was not. But I loved that “put together ” look. Looking back, I was probably a big ol’ “fashion don’t”.

Blue eye shadow – make that cheap blue eye shadow. Although it’s starting to make a comeback, no one ever really needed opalescent powder blue eye shadow.

Bonfire in the desert – maybe your high school wasn’t near a desert so you don’t know about these, but in parts of Texas they’re pretty popular. And by popular I mean a place for doing things you know you shouldn’t but you’re in high school so you know more than everyone else. Thank goodness there was no social media back then.

SFH 1987Hideous prom dresses – what were we thinking? These were more confections than clothing. No wonder there are websites now that totally mock our 80s clothing choices. Just wait, though, they’ll come back in style. Mark my word!

The Brick Phone – Please don’t make me feel old by saying you don’t know what I mean. First mobile phone, my friend. OK, I didn’t have enough money to afford one so I had the lame cousin of The Brick Phone, The Bag Phone. Yep, mobile phone in a leatherette bag. As if I was some undercover agent or something. I probably still had the 80’s hair and thought I was totally stylin’.

People who don’t understand distance – I’m serious with this one. The first month of college I needed to go to Target. I couldn’t get a ride so I figured I could walk there. I asked a few people who said it was “not far”. So I set out. About an hour later I stopped in a store along the way, and asked where the Target was. “Just up the road a few blocks” is what I was told. Liars! They’re all liars! If I was in a car I’d have been there in 20 minutes. But I was being transported by two size 8s and that darn Target store was like 5 miles away. And so now I rarely ask people for directions (thanks GPS!), because I walked 10-freakin’ miles for a stupid laundry basket and other random junk I likely didn’t need. Could I have turned back at any time? Sure. But the call of Target was strong! Not far, huh?

Volunteer MugHalf the times I’ve said “yes” to volunteering – Ugh! When people ask me if I’ll volunteer for things because I can’t say no. I grew up in a house where service to others and volunteering were part of the fabric of our lives. It’s so ingrained in me, it’s taken me until recently to actually say “no” or ask if I can get back to them. I’ve said yes to standing in sweltering heat handing out water bottles to band kids, of which I had none. I’ve said yes to getting up when it’s still night-time to help set up, and then when other people didn’t show I stayed despite being so tired. And while I always had a positive outlook and did my best, after a while I just started to feel like I was being asked because they knew it was more of a rhetorical question. But then my friend staged an intervention and gave me this mug.  Which I love!

Hitting send – I think we all have a story about hitting send when we shouldn’t have. Whether it’s work-related or personal, there really needs to be an “undo” button on anything we can send. In my younger years, it wasn’t all that much an issue because you had to schlep yourself to the post office and that time gave you an opportunity to think about all that would go wrong. But these days it’s so easy to be “keepin’ it real”. But “keepin’ it real” does go wrong. And while my moment of regret when I hit send wasn’t all that bad, it did require a meeting with one of the firm’s partners and an apology letter to a client. Which I why I never participate in those stupid forward-this-to-5-people-and-Bill-Gates-will-send-you-$5 million schemes. And why Snopes is one of my favorite websites.

I’m sure you have decisions you regret. Hopefully they’re nothing major and you were able to change course pretty easily. Or, at least, learn from them.

If you switched away from Verizon and are regretting it, don’t worry. They’re making it easy for customers to come back. For more information, head over to your local Verizon store and tell them you have #SwitchersRemorse.

Sara

Summer Snacks For The Whole Family

Easy Summer Snacks

Disclosure: I received several products from Johnson & Johnson Healthcare Products Division of McNEIL-PPC, Inc. and The Motherhood as part of my participation in the LISTERINE® “Totally Take Care Of” campaign. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are my own. 

When summer rolls around, the last place I want to be is in the kitchen heating up the house or playing short-order cook to a house full of kids. I love that the grocery stores and farmer’s markets are stocked with fresh fruit and vegetables so I can have easy snacks available. Plus, CycleGuy is the master juicer in our home so delicious treats made with fresh juice are always on the menu.

With a busy schedule filled with camp, sleepovers, travel, and exploring the fun things around town, it’s nice to have easy, delicious, and healthy go-to snacks in the house. To help you get ready for summer and make sure your family is taken care when a “snack attack” sets in, I’ve put together some of my family’s favorite summer snacks. These are great for moms and dads, too, and when the kids have friends over too!

1. Frozen Grapes – one of my snack staples, frozen grapes are a great way to get liquid into the kids when they don’t want water and you don’t want them to have sugary drinks. Frozen grapes make for a fun alternative to ice cubes, too. You can also make frozen bananas by cutting bananas into rounds and freezing them in a single layer until firm. Blueberries work too, but I think they get mushy too quickly.

2. Rainbow Fruit Cups – instead of putting each fruit in a different bowl, use clear plastic cups and layer a bit of each fruit to make a rainbow. This is a great way to get the kids involved in making their own snacks. You can quickly and easily layer watermelon, mango, pineapple, strawberries, blueberries, kiwi, grapes (I usually cut them in half or quarters), and orange or tangerine segments. You can make them an extra-special treat with a dollop of whipped cream on top.

3. Frozen Juice Cubes – even if you rely on your ice maker, head to the dollar store and pick up a few ice cube trays to make your own ice cubes with fresh juice and fruit. Not only are they pretty, they’re a great way to add flavor to water and keep everyone hydrated as the mercury rises. Place a few pieces of fruit in each compartment of the ice cube tray, fill each with fresh juice, pop in the freezer, and now you have a tasty way to take care of that sweet tooth in a healthy and fresh way.

4. Quick and Easy Frozen Pudding Pops – I loved these when I was a kid. My mom would stick a spoon through the top of a pudding cup and stick it in the freezer for a few hours. These were so delicious! You can make your own pudding and pour them in to individual popsicle molds, but there’s something about those store-bought pudding cups that make these seem like such a special treat. Since they come in several flavors you can get whichever ones your family enjoys most. You can also do this with yogurt cups and have frozen yogurt pops, too!

5. Grilled Stone Fruit – while not exactly a quick snack, these are a wonderful dessert. I love grilled peaches, nectarines, and plums. Cut the fruit in half and remove the stone. Place them cut-side down on the grill until soft, about 10-15 minutes. Since every grill is different you’ll need to watch them the first few times you make them. Serve with ice cream, yogurt, or a drizzle of honey and you’ve got a quick and easy dessert everyone is sure to enjoy.

6. Graham Cracker Eclair Cake – this is not an everyday snack, but it’s a no-bake dessert that can be whipped up pretty quickly and is a great alternative to s’mores for a summer evening backyard cookout. When you know the kids are having healthy snacks throughout the day, you don’t feel guilty with this kid-friendly dessert.

And while you’re enjoying a summer evening outdoors, why not make sure you’ve got these 3 stargazing apps on your smartphone or tablet. I have fond memories of staying up late during the summer and looking at the stars. Today, technology makes it easier.

Don’t forget that good oral hygiene is especially important in the summer when the kids are snacking and maybe heading off to bed with a different routine. Walgreens has you totally taken care of on this with a range of wellness products, which includes Listerine Total Care products for the whole family.

With great snack options, fun desserts, and stargazing you’ll have this summer totally taken care of! And everyone will be smiling for the photos.

What summer memories do you remember most from your childhood?

Image Credit: Love From The Oven (edited with permission)

Sara

Holiday Traditions With Food

Holiday Foods

Thank you to Safeway for sponsoring this post and asking me to share
my thoughts on holiday traditions.

Mention any holiday and pretty soon we’re talking about food. Food comes into the conversation as memories from childhood, treats for teachers or co-workers, desserts we’ve always wanted to make, or all the delicious delights for a cookie exchange. Food is a universal connector, even when it’s not your holiday.

Growing up, Hanukkah was spent either at my grandparent’s house or at the Jewish Chapel on base. There were latke parties, games of dreidle, and lots of laughter. But, ultimately, we all came for the latkes. Holiday traditions for Hanukkah almost always feature latkes. And while latkes are really very simple to make, for some reason they’re almost always reserved for Hanukkah. The debate around how latkes should be made and eaten can lead to heated conversations and great divides among friends. It’s hard to understand how two simple toppings – applesauce and sour cream – can cause grownups to argue.

These holiday traditions, some new and some passed down for generations, keep us connected. Maybe it’s to a more simple past or fond memories. Or maybe it’s new traditions to take the place of those we don’t feel connected to. Either way, as holidays come around we strive to create some meaning in what we do, what we serve, and how we observe.

As I walked up and down the aisles at the store, I hear people talking about the meal or appetizers they’re going to make. It’s fun to hear kids talk about making cookies or helping in the kitchen. Even though I don’t celebrate Christmas, one of my fond memories of childhood is making Christmas cookies with my mom. We’d make 10 or so different kinds and she’d package them up for her coworkers, the postman, the ladies in the office at school, neighbors and friends. Lots of cookies for lots of people. It’s something I really miss and just haven’t been able to recreate.

One thing I have been able to recreate is making sure others have food for the holiday. Even though we didn’t have a lot, my mom always made sure we gave food baskets to others who were in need. Some years it was adding to the canned food drive. Other years it was an “adopt a family” type program. This year, Safeway provided me with a gift card to share. I was able to ensure that several Jewish families would be able to have kosher food for Hanukkah. Often overlooked, it’s important to me that religious Jewish families are able to maintain their observance even though times are tough. Luckily, the Safeway stores have excellent kosher-food sections and the prices are very good. Doing good deeds, especially around the holidays are a wonderful way to multiply joy.

If you’re thinking of new food traditions – maybe it’s cinnamon rolls to greet the kids, fluffy biscuits for breakfast, or delicious hummus for snacking – now is always a great time to start. Sharing food is a wonderful way to show your love. What are your favorite holiday foods and traditions?

From my family to yours, Happy Holidays!

 

Photo Credit: Coffee and festive Xmas doughnuts by freefoodphotos.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. Image edited.

Sara

6 Ways To Ensure The Holidays Are Merry And Bright

Tips for Happy Holidays

This post is part of the HEALTHY ESSENTIALS® 2014 program by Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies, Inc. and The Motherhood, who sent me a box of products and compensated me for my time. Opinions, experiences and photos shared here are all my own. Thank you for reading and I hope you’ll take some of these tips to make the holiday brighter.

Winter and “the holidays” start to take over our conversations as the year comes to a close. There’s lots of talk about food, activities, decorating, more food, ugly sweaters, cookies, lots more food, and the inevitable cancellation because someone is sick. Every year I vow not to get so stressed, and I learned a big lesson about that in 2013. So as winter and “the holidays’ come around for 2014 I want to share with you some healthy essentials to making this time of year more merry, happy, and bright.

1. Eat Breakfast – We all know what happens when mama is sick. Add to it trying to get everyone to wear matching clothes, having to bake 12 dozen cookies for the cookie swap, wrapping a present or two, and keep the kids busy while they’re off from school and there’s just no time in the schedule. I can go on and on about eating healthy and avoiding this food or that. But, how about we just eat. Something. Other than the cookies we’re baking. Starting with a real breakfast – whether it’s a power smoothie, a quick scramble, or even leftovers – is really what we need. Sure, grabbing a muffin on the go works in a pinch, but we’re worth that few minutes to have a real meal.

2. Go to bed at a decent time – See, I didn’t say at 8pm or 10pm. Just a decent time. I’m terrible about staying up late and trying to get all the things done that didn’t get done during the day. Then I’m dragging in the morning. We hustle to get the kids in bed so they get enough sleep, so they don’t get sick, so the jam-packed schedule isn’t sent into disarray. Yet we stay up. I tell you, that’s no way to keep things merry and bright (although some good concealer would help with the bright). Go to bed and if something has to give, then so be it. Chances are, though, you’ll be better prepared to take on the day when you’re rested. Think about it. Santa pulls ONE, JUST ONE, all-nighter a year and he manages to get everything done. The guy’s not up late 365. Embrace your inner Santa and go to bed!

3. Meditate – I’m not talking about communing with the monks or ohming yourself into a trance. I meditate every day. I’ve been doing this for most of 2014 and I find that my 20 minutes of guided meditation make a huge difference. When I’m feeling overwhelmed or rushed it’s nice to pop in the headphone, go to a quiet place, and tune out the world and all its busy-ness for a short time. Sure, locking yourself in the bathroom so you can check your email or just get away for a few minutes sounds great. But, let’s not kid ourselves. No one leaves us alone in there.

4. Be present – Invite friends over, turn off the tech and have a game night, snuggle up and watch a favorite movie, pile in the car and go look at holiday lights. Forget the list of things that have to be done, stop the multi-tasking, don’t keep checking Facebook to see what everyone else is doing. Be present. Being present is a gift to ourselves just as much as it is for the people we’re with. It’s so much fun to take photos and share them immediately, but sharing photos isn’t really all that fun if when you look back on them and you don’t have the 1,000 words to go with them.

5. Make memories – During the holidays we talk a lot about memories. I grew up with big latke parties, huge gatherings at the synagogue, singing, and every night rushing to light the menorah and say the prayers. Memories are what connect us to our past and keep us doing all the things we do for our kids (or grandkids). So we have to help them make their own memories. And when I think about it, rarely are the memories about specific items. They’re about feelings and emotions from shared experiences.

6. Give to others – While giving is a message we hear a lot during the holiday and winter seasons, it’s one of the easiest ways to incorporate good things for us, our family, and others all in one. The best thing is that it doesn’t have to be anything huge or elaborate. Drop a few coins in a donation bucket, take the kids to buy a gift from one of the angel tress at the mall, make cards to drop at a nearby senior center, tuck a positive note where someone will find it, or use your love of technology and Donate a Photo. Giving to others is such an amazing way to boost your own spirit. And it’s a wonderful teaching opportunity for our kids.

None of that seems too hard, does it? Sometimes we just need to see these things and realize we’re worth it. As a way to help you enjoy the holidays more, Johnson & Johnson wants to help you stock up on Healthy Essentials – or create a gift to donate – by helping you save up to $35 on your favorite products (like those Frozen Band-Aid bandages you know would make most any little girl squeal with delight!). Just visit the HealthyEssentials website to grab fantastic savings on those everyday essentials to keep your family healthy.

Sara

Make Trick or Treat Time Safer With Life360

Life360 App Halloween

This post is a sponsored conversation about family communication.

It’s that time of year when little ghouls and ghosts take to the streets to plan a few tricks, but mainly to grab lots of treats. For some people Halloween is a big celebration. Not so much for me. But I do buy the good candy!

Each year, though, BabyGirl dresses up and heads out to say hello to friends in the neighborhood. As she gets older, though, she’s more interested in hanging out with her friends than walking alongside mommy. She’s also invited to trick or treat with friends from some of her other activities, in areas we’re not very familiar with. Then there is the bonanza that is Trunk or Treat!

I’m determined not to let my apprehensions about Halloween become her issue so when Life360 asked me to share how I use their app it only seemed to make sense. It’s an app I’ve been using for quite awhile, but mainly as a way to stay connected with some of my online friends. It wasn’t until we were at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party when I realized Life360 could be the perfect way to keep my family connected without relying solely on text messages.

I’ve written about Life360 as way to stay connected with your tween or teen in case of an emergency. So it makes total sense that Halloween and the nighttime festivities would be the perfect time to create a Life360 circle. How could you use this family communication app for Halloween?

Life360 Logo

4 Ways To Take The Trick Out Of Your Trick or Treat with Life360

1. Divide and Conquer – Instead of relying on back and forth texts of “Where are you?”, families can split up but still see where each other are located. This is especially great if the kids are going out with a sitter or grandparents. Instead of trying to figure out exactly what street you are – are we two streets over or three? – just check-in and others in your circle will know where you are.Life360 CheckIn

2. Teen New Drivers – What good is letting the teen get a driver’s license if we have to drive them everywhere? With Life360 you set up a Place location, and rather than the teen having to check in with mom or dad (which you know is totally not cool) once they get to the Halloween party you’ll get a notification. When they leave the party you’ll know that too. No need to text and drive because they forgot to let mom and dad know they’re on their way home. Safety times a bazillion!

3. Increased Independence – You got the kid a smartphone, but what good is it if they’re too cool to send mom or dad a text. (As if they’d actually call!) Having the Life360 app on their phone kids can check-in when they get where they’re going. No need to text mom or dad while their friends are looking. Or, gasp, risk a text from mom popping up while you’re trying to be cool in front of that cute guy or girl. Instead, communication within the app is more private and secure. And, kids are more likely to check in or let you know if there is an issue when they can do so without risk of being called-out by their friends.

Life360 Messages

4. Block Party – Teens and young adults have more opportunities now to attend large-scale parties for Halloween. Since Life360 is about keeping in contact, the app is flexible and allows groups of young people to stay connected. No need to hang out waiting for everyone to show up, just use the app and put everyone in a circle so you get notified when they arrive. Again, no need to text them 87 times because they’re driving and aren’t answering their phone. Let technology work for you!

I wish I had used the app more when we were in Florida. It would have been easier than texting. I had been using it more for business than for family communication and I was totally missing out on how amazing the app really is. I love the safety features built-in to the app that would allow BabyGirl to hit PANIC if she got separated and flustered. I really like that she can just check in and I know she’s OK. It’s tough being an only child when it comes to learning about independence. While she’s used to doing a lot of things on her own, sometimes it’s me who needs the push to let her try her wings.

About Life360

With users in over 200 countries, Life360 is connecting families near and far. Backed by $76 million in venture funding, the app has grown more than 400% over the past year to become the world’s largest network for family communication. Whether it’s dinner plans, car pool, or just making sure the kids got home safely from school, Life360 gives families simplified communication and peace of mind right at their fingertips.

Download the FREE app for iPhoneAndroid, or Windowsphone.

If you’re on social media, you can enter to win a $100 Amazon gift card from Life360 by sharing a photo of your costume. Tag your photos #Scare360 and share them on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

On Instagram, follow @Life360app and tag your costume photos with our handle and #Scare360.

On Facebook, share your photos on Life360’s wall and tag them #Scare360.

On Twitter, follow @Life360 and tag them and the photo with #Scare360.

Note: Image information obscured for privacy.

Sara

5 Ways To Help Protect Your Identity When You Travel

Ways To Protect Identity

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post for LifeLock.

Just 10 years ago, if you headed out-of-town for work or vacation only a few people knew. Today, it’s likely most of your co-workers, friends, and family know everything about your trip. Unfortunately, it’s also very likely many strangers do too. And while it may not be intentional, we exchange so much information online in general conversation that we forget there may be others “listening”.

In addition to the time-honored tips our grandparents passed down – stop the newspaper and mail service, let a trusted neighbor know you’ll be out-of-town and to keep an eye on your place, and get some timers for the lights – there are many other ways to keep your personal information safe while traveling. It’s no longer just a matter of someone physically breaking in to your home that we need to be concerned with. Each year millions of people experience some sort of data breach related to mobile, online, or credit card use.

Whether you are heading out-of-town for work or play, by plane or car, add these 5 tips to your travel checklist and gain some peace of mind.

Check your social network settings

Of course you want to share updates about your life with your close friends and family. But social networks can change settings without you knowing. Before going out-of-town, double-check your settings to make sure you have the privacy you are expecting. It’s also a good time to talk to your kids, if you have them, about what they should and should not be sharing.

Find your phone

Almost every mobile phone platform and provider offers some type of app to track your phone or shut down your phone if it’s lost. Don’t make it easy for anyone to gain access to your private information and stored passwords. Before you go is a good time to look over what is needed if your phone is lost or stolen, especially if you are going out of the country.

Be aware of unsecured WiFi

Free wifi often sounds like a good deal. And, for the most part it is. But unsecured internet connections at hotels, museums, airports, or other public spots can be a way for unscrupulous people to gain access to your data, passwords, or other private information.

Safeguard your credit cards and identification

It’s tempting to just leave your wallet or purse in the drawer as you head down to the pool, but use the hotel safe. It’s easy to leave your credit card on file at the hotel or bar, but always ask if you can just charge it to your room or pay as you go. It’s more convenient to throw your wallet in the little bin at the airport security checkpoint and send it through the scanner, but keep it in your larger bag if you can. Know where your ID and credit cards are at all times.

Turn off your home wi-fi

While it’s not always possible to turn off your home wi-fi due to alarm connectivity or having a house sitter, if there is no reason to keep your wi-fi active then turn it off. It’s one less access point to your information. If you must keep it connected, make sure you are using a very strong password and, if possible, hide the connection so it’s not visible to anyone with a wi-fi enabled device.

Identity theft is a top consumer threat that targets people of all ages. There are ways to monitor your identity, depending on your level of need. The LifeLock Site offers many resources to help you determine how to best safeguard your identity as well as providing educational tools to teach your children about keeping their information secure.

Stolen Identity BookIf you’re more of a book reader or want to share information about protecting oneself against identity theft, Stolen Identity: What Anyone with a Name, Birthdate and Social Security Number Needs to Know Now is an excellent resource.

If monitoring your accounts is something you’d like to learn more about, visit the LifeLock Site and compare their product offerings. LifeLock Junior is specifically designed for advanced monitoring of your child’s personal information. If you decide identity theft protection services are for you, visit the LifeLock Site and use LIFELOCKSAFETY for a 10% discount. Identity theft can happen to anyone at any time. Learn how to protect yourself and your family, especially while you’re out working hard and enjoying life!

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Disclosure: This is a compensated conversation on behalf of LifeLock. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Sara