Latest Blog Entries

Wipe Out Breast Cancer with Pink Wiper Blades

I partnered with Valvoline Instant Oil Change for this project, however, opinions here are my own. 
Valvoline Instant Oil Change Service in Estero, FL

Wipe Out Breast Cancer


October is, of course, Breast Cancer Awareness Month ... and when football players wear pink uniforms. While the pink ribbon might have become ubiquitous now, it's important we not forget that it represents an important cause and a reality that impacts many families.

I'm honored to be showing my support daily for Breast Cancer Awareness with AutoTex PINK Wipers on my car.

Say what? Yup, you read that right!

Participating Valvoline Instant Oil Change (VIOC) locations are selling special pink wiper blades throughout October with proceeds going to National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF). You can choose from full Pink Wipers or Black Wipers with a small pink ribbon. Each swish of my wipers during rainy/hurricane season here in Florida is a reminder of this health issue.

AutoTex PINK Wipers at Valvoline 
VIOC has raised over $86,500 for NBCF through this campaign to date. To learn more and find a location selling pink wipers near you, visit viocpink.com. Also, If you do end up Pinking Your Ride, you can submit pics in the pink photo contest for a chance to win up to a year of FREE oil changes here.

Double Donation Day


On National Mammography Day October 19, VIOC is making a double donation on all wipers sold that day. So if you're in need of new blades go in on 10/19/18 to make an even bigger impact.



Valvoline Oil Change Coupon:


The most convenient part about a Valvoline Instant Oil Change was being able to blog right there in my car while they performed the service and checked out my car. I simply drove up to my local VIOC store without an appointment and was waved to an open lane, then directed forward like at a car wash, but for a drive-thru oil change instead.

Customers stay in their cars during the entire service making necessary car maintenance easy for busy people and moms since, the kids don’t have to get out of the car. The whole thing took about 15 minutes and that included my inside air filter changed, new blades, the tire pressure checked and put to the recommended requirements and my fluids topped off. They even reset the annoying Service alert on my dashboard! All why I sat there like a VIP.

Get a $10-$15 discount off of an instant oil change by printing the following Valvoline coupon (Wipers cannot be discounted because it would lower the donation amount):



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Ant-Man & The Wasp Blu-ray Giveaway

Marvel Studios' Ant-Man & The Wasp is available on digital 10/2 and Blu-ray, 4K Ultra HD on 10/16. I so can't wait for a family movie night in!

I really liked the first Ant-Man film in 2015 even more than I was expecting because although I'm a fan of all Marvel films, I didn't know anything about the character going into it. Now, I think he's one of my favorites. Plus, Paul Rudd is so adorable.


In Ant-Man and The Wasp, Scott Lang is grappling with the consequences of his choices, as both theSuper Hero Ant-Man and a father, in the aftermath of Captain America: Civil War. As he struggles to rebalance his home life with his responsibilities as Ant-Man, he’s confronted by Hope van Dyne and Dr. Hank Pym with an urgent new mission to rescue Janet van Dyne from the Quantum Realm. Scott must once again put on the suit and learn to fight alongside The Wasp, all while attempting to serve house arrest, assist fast talking-Luis (Michael Peña) and the X-con Security crew, and thwart the efforts of a new adversary called Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) and her ally Bill Foster (Laurence Fishburne).

Ant-Man & The Wasp was the 20th consecutive Marvel Cinematic Universe film to debut at No. 1 opening weekend and ranked in the box office top 10 for six consecutive weeks this summer.

Blu-ray Extras 


Exclusive Blu-ray extras include an up-close look at the making of the film, the tiniest Super Heroes in the world’s biggest film franchise, commentary, deleted scenes and more!

Ant-Man & The Wasp Blu-ray Giveaway 


Enter to win a copy of the Blu-ray. Good luck!

Ant Man and the Wasp

Related post: Ant-Man Screening With Paul Rudd
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Behind the Scenes of Disney On Ice Mickey's Search Party


I received an advanced behind-the-scenes look at Disney On Ice's newest production, Mickey’s Search Party. It's called a "search party," because Mickey and the gang follow clues to help release Tinker Bell's fairy powers. The cast even calls out to the crowd asking for advice and answers. It's pretty cute seeing the kids jump out of their seat in order to lend a hand.


New Technology

While I've been to four previous Disney on Ice shows, this is by far the MOST stunning. It combines interactive audience elements, new technology, and high flying circus-like acrobatics.

Disney On Ice presents Mickey’s Search Party extends the performance space beyond the ice surface to better engage and interact with the audience on a new, transformative level. Executive Producer Nicole Feld explains that the ice gives them a large white canvas to work on, and this production takes advantage of it. Projection mapping visually immerses and transports guests to each of the magical worlds of the Disney stories, using 12 projectors and approximately 31,000 Lumens equaling about 186 classroom projectors.

High flying action with skates on!


New characters come out to skate too!
 


There are approximately 45 performers in the production and a total of 40 Disney characters featured. Plus songs from Moana and Disney Pixar's Coco, along with Classics like The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Toy Story, Aladdin and Frozen! Plus, of course, the fab five and Tinker Bell and Captain Hook!

Maui from Disney's Moana joins Disney on Ice - You're Welcome!
This combination of new films mixed with beloved favorites will help to keep both kids and adults riveted. Also, it's a perfect balance of Princess and action ideal for both boys and girls alike.

Disney on Ice Mickey's Search Party Behind-the-Scenes Look and Tips

Arrive Early! 


You don't have to wait until showtime to see the Disney magic. There is a preshow of sorts featuring Pirates and Tinker Bell.

Where to Sit 


Sit higher up in the cheap seats to see all of the lighting effects, however, if you'd like your children to interact more with the performers, try sitting close on either stage left or right. During the Coco segment, performers dressed like sugar skull skeletons and using a "sway poll" they practically fly over the heads of the audience, causing several gasps. It's really cool.

Disney On Ice rehearsal, performer using the Sway Poll
Also, during the Toy Story portion, the iconic Pixar ball gets thrown out into the stands to be tossed around. I actually had the chance to hit it back to the cast, so cool! Plus, if you're lower you'll also get snowed on during Frozen.

What to Wear


Your Disney gear obviously, but have your children wear something white or neon that will glow under the black light during the Coco section for added enjoyment. You might also want to order a light up wand ahead of time to bring with you too, but they can be purchased from the vendors at the stadium too.

Save Money on Tickets

Disney on Ice Mickey's Search Party will be coming to Southwest Florida at Germain Arena in Estero Sept. 21-23. Tickets start at $20 and are available online at DisneyOnIce.com, at the Germain Arena box office or by calling 800-745-3000. Get your tickets now!

Use code FTMMY18 for a $15 flat ticket price in lower level areas. Valid on all performances, on select price levels. Go through the checkout process and on the third step of the ticket purchase page, there’s a box in the upper right corner under the banner to enter the coupon code.

Read on for more tips for attending Disney on Ice with Toddlers


Tips for Taking Kids to Disney on Ice for the First Time

Disclosure: I am a Feld Entertainment Blogger Ambassador, and in exchange for my time and efforts in attending shows and reporting my opinion within this blog, as well as keeping you advised of the latest discount offers, Feld Entertainment has provided me with complimentary tickets to Feld shows and other exclusive opportunities.
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Guide to the Instagram Walls of Disney World


No Fear of Missing Out Here!

Sure, it's fun to find the hidden Mickey's throughout the park, but how about the Disney Walls? I brought different changes of clothes and went on the hunt during my last trip.

What are Disney Walls? Disney fans with an Instagram account know the must-have shot at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom isn’t in front of the castle, but in front of these walls.

Each Disney park has their own photo wall standouts. Go find them all!

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How to Have a Great Staycation

It’s fun being a tourist in your own town sometimes. Before school started for my boys, we spent some quality fun time together during an overnight getaway at IHG Staybridge Suites in Naples, which is only twenty minutes away from our home.

Sure, "staycation" is a buzzword and I was skeptical, but after experiencing one, I'm so down. It's great to check out without having to incur the extra expense of traveling far. And forget an Air B&B when you can have all the conveniences and amenities of a suite and a hotel. In fact, I didn't want to leave and go back to reality.
Staycation Guide and Hotel Review: Staybridge Suites Naples Gulf Coast, Florida

What works for Families and Staycations at Staybridge Suites Naples :

  • Large suites, all with full kitchens are ideal for families. Our two-bedroom suite had a patio with direct pool access, so I was able to watch my boys swim from a private lounge chair in the shade, while sipping a pina colada.

  • Complimentary breakfast each morning with kid-friendly options too, plus juice and coffee.
  • Location! Although not on the beach, but US-41, you're very close and can walk to Waterside Shops or take a short ride to Downtown Naples' 5th Avenue and the Naples Pier.
  • Tiki Bar by the pool. Kids can spend the entire time splashing and you can be sipping, thus a win/win for families ;)

  • Free Social Hour! WHAT? Yup! Starting at 5:30 p.m. out at the Tiki Bar, just flash your room key and receive a glass of wine or beer on draft at no fee. Be sure and tip the friendly bartender of course. My husband had a stout and I called a Cab, Cabernet that is! 
  • Appetizers in the Lobby - besides the generous glass of red wine, they have appetizers and snacks in the lobby in the evening. The evening that we stayed, the hotel had yummy grilled cheese, salad, and tomato soup available for guests. My boys loved it so much that we ended up going light on dinner after.
  • Bicycles are available to rent at this Naples hotel.
  • Parking is also free (I always hate that additional expense). 
  • Fitness Center - it's not grand but has everything you need. I also loved having it to myself at night and even turned the volume up and channel to Twilight. This wellness me time was really appreciated. 
  • DVD library The lobby has a catalog of complimentary movies available, you just need to put down a $10 deposit, which you get back once the disc is returned. And yes, there are DVD players in your room. After the kids had a bath, we watched Muppets in Space that evening together. 

Tips for a Great Staycation - act like a tourist in your own city. Load up the car like you can't go back home again (wine, pool noodles, etc.)

Tips for a Great Staycation:


  • Pack like you can't easily go home. Go big, so you don't have to go back home, lol. After all, you're driving, so load that trunk up. I even tossed in our pool noodles for the boys. The key is to make this stay your temporary home away from home, but without having to clean up after. *sigh*
  • Go overboard on wine and snacks. The wine to unwind and the snacks to indulge. Again, you don't have to worry about oz counts for flying! And whatever you don't finish you can bring back with you - nothing wasted. 
  • Act like a tourist in your own city. Go do something that all the visitors do, but you either haven't or hardly ever take advantage of. We went to the Naples Botanical Garden for the first time after living here for four years and it was beautiful. If you need ideas, look through the pamphlets in the lobby.
  • Relax! After all, tomorrow is another day. Sure, you're still close to home, but pretend you're much further away. Don't think about money or what needs to be done after you get back, just chill! This is your staycation vacation! 
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Top things to do during your Tanzanian family holidays


National Parks & Animal Viewing

Tanzania is a large country, and over 38% of its surface is dedicated to wildlife protection in its 16 national parks. Yes, 16! It is also home to the Serengeti where thousands of wildebeest make their annual journey to the waters of Lake Victoria. Considered to be the prime wildlife spot in Africa, this is definitely the best way to spend your holiday in Tanzania with the family.

From the Ruaha National Park to the Ngorongoro National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, there is a lot to choose from and it might take some planning, especially if you want to include more than one destination.

In most of the national parks you can spot the African big five: elephant, buffalo, rhino, lion, and leopard. There is also rare game like the black and white rhino, the African wild dog, sable and gerenuks. Among the fauna, Tanzania is home to over 1 000 different species of birds that nest along the shores of the many rivers and lakes, including flamingos in the Ngorongoro National Park where over 70% of the world’s population of flamingos come from.

Most of the national parks are accessible by vehicle and make for great game viewing in the dry season between June and November. During the wet seasons from December to April, you can experience boating safaris for a closer look at the hippos, crocodiles and birds that live on the shores.

A post shared by Fallon Rechnitz (@fallonjr) on

The natural plant growth in Tanzania is also something to behold. With acacia trees, baobabs, palm trees and many smaller shrubs and bushes, the tropical plant growth near the Ngorongoro National Park and Arusha, and the incredible site of “God’s Garden” where hundreds of different flowers bloom during September in the Kitulo National Park, every family member will be satisfied with these natural sites.

Camping

A great family activity is ‘roughing it’ in one of the world-class parks in a tent. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for kids to experience wildlife like never before. There are many wonderful guides that will make sure you are safe and comfortable, and you get to enjoy Africa up close and personal. There is nothing like sitting around a campfire at night, listening to the sounds of the bush with a lion’s roar a few kilometers away.

Hot air balloon rides

If you have done a safari drive, the nature walk, and the camping, another way for the family to see some of the amazing wildlife in Tanzania is to take a hot air balloon ride. Basically, it's like riding on Sorin Around the World at Epcot and going over the savannah, but the real thing, lol. 

In the Serengeti and Tarangire National Parks, you have the opportunity to see Africa from a bird’s eye view. The balloon takes off early in the morning, just as the sun rises and you spend the next hour drifting with the wind over the plains where hundreds of animals do not even realize you are looking at them. After the balloon ride, there is a big breakfast with champagne or fruit juice for the kids.

Beach holiday and water activities

Be sure to include a visit to the coast on your trip to Tanzania. You will love the relaxed atmosphere on the sandy beaches, and the kids will love the warm Indian Ocean with its calm waves and coral reefs. There are many spots along the coast, including places like Bagamoyo and Dar es Salaam, where you can dive or snorkel, or enjoy other water activities like fishing, canoeing, water skiing, and many more. One of the best sites to visit is the famous Zanzibar islands. Though it is accessible by plane, there is also a ferry that travels between the city of Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar.

There are a couple of islands in the Zanzibar Archipelago, some quieter than the rest. The main island, Unguja, is home to the Old Stone Town, large spice plantations, slave trading stations and caves where escaped slaves used to hide. There are also many isolated beaches, coves and lagoons to explore.

Cultural tours

Tanzania is home to over 120 different tribes, some of which have inhabited Tanzania for over 2,000 years including the Hadzabe and Datoga. These tribes still live exactly like they did when Europeans first settled in Tanzania, and they offer you tours of their villages. On these tours, you will learn how they hunt, make weapons, build houses, collect food and hear some of their oral histories.

The Maasai tribe that lives in the Ngorongoro National Park also offers tours of their villages, and the colorful clothing they wear is representative of their colorful culture with art, music, and dance being a central part of it. This is a great opportunity for kids to see how other people live. There are also a couple of ancient sites that show how humankind progressed through evolution, and they are quite educational.

Climbing

If you are a family that enjoys an adventure, consider climbing Mount Meru near Arusha. Or if you seek more of a thrill, dare to climb the highest mountain in Africa, Kilimanjaro. There are a couple of routes to choose from, and it is a big feat to be able to say you climbed the mighty Kilimanjaro in five days.
Lake Tanganyika

If you like tropical weather and hiking, Lake Tanganyika has lots to offer. From Kigoma you can take a boat to the Gombe National Park, well known for the research of Jane Goodall. This park and the Mahale Mountains National Park are some of the only places in Africa where wild chimpanzees and other primates still live undisturbed, protected from predators and poachers by mountains and valleys. Both these parks are only accessible by boat, and there are no roads meaning you get to hike through them to track the chimps.

Lake Tanganyika, the longest lake in the world also offers beautiful beaches, water activities like snorkeling and the cool waters is great to swim and relax in. This lake is home to fish colorful fish species that can be found nowhere else on earth and makes for a great holiday destination.

More Tips for Traveling to Tanzania with Kids




Top things to do on a Tanzanian family trip




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