Archives for March 2013

Identity Theft on the Rise During Tax Season: Tips to Keep You Safe

On this fine Easter weekend, I had something I dread on my to-do list.  It wasn’t buying gifts, ironing our Church clothes or even cleaning the house for company.  It was taxes.  <insert creepy suspenseful music here>.  On Saturday, my husband and I made the trip to our family accountant praying the whole car ride that we wouldn’t owe additional money.  You see, with the loss of my job this year, I had no idea how this would pan out.  Many factors had changed for us and I didn’t know how it would effect our return.

Before we got down to the nitty-gritty, our accountant told me a story about a couple in Florida that were selling stolen identifications with the purpose of using them to file fake tax returns for profit (apparently this process is easier than you think).  When a fraudulent tax return is filed using your personal information, you will be unable to file your actual tax return because you cannot file twice using the same social security number.  With these type of scheme on the rise, it is imperative that you protect your personal information.

I am so happy that LifeLock has my back.

LifeLock constantly monitors my accounts for any sign of fraudulent activity and alerts my immediately.  In many cases, time is of the essence!  Plus, by playing the LifeLock for Life Sweepstakes, I have gained many tips on what I can do to protect my personal information at tax time including:

  • Don’t store tax files on your computer. Save them to a CD or USB drive and keep them in a secure location.
  • If you come across an IRS website that doesn’t start with www.irs.gov, report it to phishing@irs.gov.
  • If you are filing electronically, remember to use a strong password!
  • Make sure your tax preparation company is on the up-and-up with the Better Business Bureau by visiting your state’s BBB website: yourstate.bbb.org
  • Your tax preparer should never base his or her fee on the amount of your refund.
  • The IRS will never initiate contact with you via email or social media.

With Tax Day just two weeks away, take the above tips to heart to keep you and your identity safe from prying eyes.  Want more info?  Play the LifeLock for Life Sweepstakes for great tips and the chance to win $1,000!

This post is the opinion of The Experimental Mommy.  I am a LifeLock Ambassador and am compensated for my time and effort.

Get Naturally Beautiful Skin with Neutrogena Naturals

As a teen, I was one of the few lucky ones who did not have trouble with breakouts.  I didn’t fully understand how grateful I should have been for avoiding dermatology appointments and having to test out every home remedy to achieve clear skin.  But now that the stress of life has increased exponentially as I approach my 40’s, the occasional breakout is not uncommon.

Because I am unfamiliar with most acne remedies, I turned to a brand I trust…Neutrogena.  I have been a fan of their On-the-Spot Acne Treatment for a while now so I was thrilled when I learned that the team developed the NEUTROGENA® Naturals Acne collection.

“While many consumers are seeking natural skincare solutions, they often dismiss natural products when it comes to acne because they believe natural ingredients do not offer real, visible results. But why should they compromise? The latest offering from the brand that is recommended two times more than any other skincare brand, the NEUTROGENA® Naturals Acne collection harnesses the power of naturally-derived Salicylic Acid in Wintergreen to enhance the proper function of healthy skin and meet the need of consumers of all ages seeking an efficacious, natural alternative to traditional acne remedies.”

In a recent interview with one of Neutrogena’s lead scientists, I learned that the Wintergreen is processed in a unique way, resulting in USP Grade Salicylic Acid that meets the OTC Monograph for Acne Treatment. It is free of harsh chemical sulfates, parabens, petrolatum, dyes and phthalates.  If you are looking for a gentler solution, the NEUTROGENA® Naturals Acne collection is formulated with 1% naturally-derived Salicylic Acid to deliver clinically proven results without over-drying skin.

I have tried the Neutrogena Naturals On-the-Spot Acne Treatment and have found no difference is efficacy when compared to the regular On-the-Spot Treatment.  Plus, the Naturals packaging is made from recycled material, too!

I am also in love with the NEUTROGENA Naturals Acne Foaming Scrub which has a very light citrus scent.  The natural Jojoba beads gently exfoliate your skin and the 1% naturally derived Salicylic Acid penetrates deep into pores, too.  If you want to give the products a try, the entire Neutrogena Naturals line is available now!

This post is the opinion of the Experimental Mommy.  While a product was received to facilitate this review, all opinions remain 100% mine.

Let Sears Be Your One Stop Shop! #MoreatSears

As a busy Mom of two active daughters, there are a few things I am short on:  time, money and patience.  Work meetings, PTA gatherings, dance lessons, and household chores leave me running from one end of the Earth to the other in a 24 hour period of time.  Because I value the time I have with my family, I despise anything that wastes the precious commodity.  Number one on my list? Standing in endless lines.
Trying to save money is also key but there is a delicate balance between saving money and wasting time running to a million different stores to accomplish the day’s tasks.  My heaven? A store that saves me money and time.  And has an endless supply of chocolate.
Imagine browsing a site that’s mastered the art of one-stop shopping. With the limited amount of square footage in retail stores, we’re excited to know Sears offers an expanded assortment online (no waiting!). Thank goodness for unlimited virtual space! Don’t see a size, color or style you want in store? Visit the Sears website for millions of additional options at your fingertips (you might want to sharpen your decision making skills)! In addition to the trustworthy Sears brands you know and love, Sears.com carries some of your favorite designer brands like Tory Burch, Ray Bans, Nike & more! So you can get everything you want in one place without the traffic and endless lines.  With new arrivals every week, you never know what you’ll find!
This is a sponsored post. I am a Sears blogger, though all opinions are my own.

How to Save for a Disney Dream Vacation

For many young families, a dream vacation means taking the kids to Disney World in Orlando, Florida, or to Disneyland in Anaheim, California. Disney is all about entertaining children and families in a wholesome, safe and fun environment and people travel from all over the world to share the Disney experience with their families.

President’s Day, the period between Christmas and New Years, and the summer vacation months are traditionally the busiest times at Disney properties.  And to make matters worse, these dates are usually blacked out from the special packages and deals. If you plan on taking the family to Disney and traveling during a busy season, be sure to check the fine print on all offers to make sure the promised money savings will be in effect during your visit, and be prepared for long wait times and bigger crowds at the parades and special events. On the upside, staying during the holidays mean special parades, shows and events (have you seen the holiday lights?) at the Disney parks in the United States.

Depending upon the dates of travel, the level of accommodations and amenities desired, making the most of packages and deals, and the cost of travel from your home to either Orlando or Anaheim, a family of four can enjoy a modest vacation of between 5 – 7 days at Disney for between $2,500 – $3,500 dollars.  It is always a good idea to plan that type of expense in advance and adjust your monthly household budget to allow for saving money for your dream vacation at Disneyland or Disney World.

If you have a full year to plan for the vacation and expect to spend about $3,500 on the trip, start making that amount your goal and start looking for ways to shift about $300 each month toward the vacation fund. It is easier to not spend money if you don’t have it in your hands, so if you can afford to just redirect the vacation funds from your paycheck, check with your employer to see if they can deduct the designated amount from your check and deposit it directly into a dedicated savings account. If this is not available through your employer, consider opening a bank account with online access and transfer the funds yourself to that account every payday.

Not everyone can just redirect 10-15% of their paychecks to a vacation fund, so you might have to tighten the belt and make some changes to your spending habits to “find that money.” Household and discretionary expenses that typically have some flexibility to make adjustments include:

  • Food and Beverage – eat out less and make more food at home
  • Personal Care and Grooming – use less expensive products
  • Transportation – ride share and consolidate errands to make less trips
  • Entertainment- search for free family entertainment (check your local library)

If you get a windfall, such as a large tax refund, a bonus check at the holidays or a large commission check, put away a lump sum into a savings bond or certificate of deposit (CD) with a bank or credit union. Check with several banks to see who has the best interest rate cd and make sure that the CD is insured by the FDIC. Certificates of Deposit have different minimum amounts and varying lengths of time that you must commit to, so check around and find the plan that best meets your needs in the time frame you have.

Having your vacation paid for before you leave makes for a much more relaxing time!  What do you plan to do for summer vacation this year and how to do you plan to save?

This post is brought to you by guest author, Jenna Smith.

Fill Your Basket with Hershey’s This Easter

In just seven days, the Easter Bunny will come hoppin’ down the bunny trail!  Are you ready?  Fortunately, my Easter Bunny sent us a custom basket filled with some of the new seasonal products from Hershey’s!  Chocolate delivered to my door?  Yes, please.

My bunny was generous!  A beautiful pink basket filled with Easter grass and lots of treats.  Personally, I went straight for the Cadbury Creme Mini Eggs which are individually wrapped and contain a egg-like creamy fondant filling.  The kids dove into the chocolate peanut butter Reese’s Mini Reester Bunnies which are too adorable to pass up.  For the hubby, the bunny knew he is a kid at heart when it comes to Twizzlers.

Has your bunny topped off the baskets in your home?  If you need some creative inspiration, head to Celebrate with Hershey’s and check out seasonal recipes, crafts and themed basket ideas.  My daughters are very creative and would love the Little Artist’s Basket!  What a great idea to fuel their imaginations with art supplies such as markers, colored pencils, glitter paint, stickers and craft paper.

What will the bunny put in your basket?  I’m still looking for more ideas, so leave me some inspiration in the comments below!

This post is the opinion of the Experimental Mommy.  While a sample was received to facilitate this review, all opinions remain 100% mine.

Are You Headed to See “The Croods?” {Giveaway}

Now that my kids are a bit older and have a longer attention span, I absolutely love taking them to the movies.  Seeing their eyes wide with anticipation and excitement (and let’s face it, there’s always popcorn) makes this outing one of our favorites.  Because my girls are still young, most of the movies we see are animated and who does animation better than Dreamworks?  No one.

Starting March 22nd, take a trip to the movies and enjoy Dreamworks Animation’s newest release, The Croods.  From the press release, “The Croods is a 3D comedy adventure that follows the world’s first modern family as they embark on a journey of a lifetime when the cave that has always been their home is destroyed. Traveling across a spectacular landscape, the Croods are rocked by generational clashes and seismic shifts as they discover an incredible new world filled with fantastic creatures — and their outlook is changed forever.

To get your kids ready for the fun, check out the FREE new game app “The Croods” by Rovio Entertainment available now on iOS and Adroid.  This is a great way to keep the kids entertained until show time! And don’t let the fun end when the lights come back on.  Continue the party with the new Wii game, “About the Croods: Prehistoric Party!”

The Croods: Prehistoric Party! combines the ultimate fun of a family party game with Croods-style action as you journey through 30 unique and addictive multi-player mini-games. Game boards bring the Croods’ world to life, complete with hazards, never-before-seen creatures from the film, hilarious surprises and rough and tumble competition that only the Croods family can bring.

Why not complete your day with some incredible Crood-themed snacks and activities?  Check out this Pinterest boardfor tons of inspiration!  Now that you are in a “crood-mood”, I have a great giveaway to help you get started.  Two of my readers will receive a $15 Gift Card to the iTunes App Store and The Croods: Prehistoric Party for Wii (ARV $44.95).  Enter below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

This post is the opinion of the Experimental Mommy.  While a sample was received to facilitate this post, all opinions remain 100% mine.

 

Top Ten Egg-cellent Easter Gifts Under $20

With just about two weeks until the Easter Bunny comes hippity hopping down the street, it is time to start looking for basket gift ideas.  I don’t know about you, but after Christmas and three birthdays already this year, our Easter Bunny is in a bit of a financial pinch.  For bunnies in the same situation, I give you the following list of Egg-cellent Easter Gift Ideas all under $20!

1.  Disney Easter Matching Game by Wonder Forge ($7.99):  My little one (age 5) absolutely loved this Disney themed game.  With the characters all dressed up for Easter, she didn’t even realize that she was building memory skills and learning the value of taking turns.

2.  Nickelodeon™ Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles™ Clash Alley™ Strategy Board Game by Wonder Forge ($16.99):  Boys ages 6 and over will love this 3D strategy board game! Run, climb, and leap as you race through the 3D warehouse on important missions to rescue April, recover objects–and even pick up a pizza while battling mutants, Kraang, and Shredder.

3.  Toy Story Zing Ems Rocket Rumble ($19.99): For Toy Story fans ages 4-6, this game reminds me of pinball but with your favorite Toy Story characters.  The kids loved shooting the characters around the rocket tracks and I think it’s neat that you can buy additional characters to play, too!

4.  Kids Sailboat Mini Beach Towel $18: Our Easter Bunny likes to stock up the kids for Summer vacation.  This beach towel is perfect to get the kids beach ready!  Made of thirsty velour, this towel does a great job soaking up water while looking cool.

5.  Old Navy Swimsuits ($16.94): Old Navy is a great source for swimwear…stock up!

6.  Neutrogena Wet Skin Kids Sunscreen Spray SPF 70+ ($11.49): Protect your child’s skin with a sunscreen spray that instantly cuts through water, creating a broad spectrum protective barrier with every application. When applied to wet skin, ordinary Sunscreen can whiten and drips off but Neutrogena® Wet Skin Kids promises full strength sun protection even when applied on wet skin.

7.  Baby and Kids Sun Smarties Sunglasses with Strap ($15.95): Don’t forget about their little eyes!  These sunglasses block 100% of UV rays and are impact and shatter resistant, too.

8:  Plush Personalized Easter Basket ($19.99):  Now that you have some goodies, you will need something to put them in.  These personalized plush baskets are adorable.

9.  Handmade Seasonal Marshmallows by Sucre New Orleans ($13.00):  Sucre has a TON of delicious chocolatey treats but these handmade marshmallows are tasty and pretty, too!

10.  Kissing Bunny Necklace ($18.99):  Simply put….cute!

11.  Tiny Prints Spring Cards: I couldn’t stop at ten, because I am loving the trends for Spring at Tiny Prints including Chalkboard, Glitter, Typography, Bright Colors and Artistic Techniques.  These cards would be a great option for spreading the bunny love to family and friends without breaking the bank.  In fact, I will be ordering some First Communion Invitations pretty soon!

This post is the opinion of the Experimental Mommy.  In some cases, a sample was received but all opinions remain 100% mine.

Tips for Traveling with a Toddler

My family and I are by no means considered jet-setters.  But, we have made a few successful trips with our kids in recent years including several Hurricane evacuations with toddlers which required living in a hotel room or campground for several weeks.

Traveling as a family is not always an easy task. Whether it’s flying across the country or taking a road trip, toddlers have a hard time keeping their energy confined to a small space. While there’s no simple solution for plane delays or small seats (or the path of a devastating Hurricane), parents can make a world of difference by incorporating activity and healthy food into travel.

Eating fast food on the road may seem convenient, but for growing children, these meals won’t provide much-needed nutrition and energy to last the trip. For road trips, you can bring fresh fruit and snacks in the car. Traveling by plane is a little trickier with strict security on fruits and vegetables. Sprout baby foods has 3.17 ounce pouches of pureed fruit and vegetable recipes that can be brought through security.  These pouches are re-sealable as well (so easy for car trips), so your little one can snack are their leisure without the mess. Here are some ways to incorporate fun and food into travels to make mom and dad’s job a whole lot easier:

1. Bring a variety of flavors so your toddler can decide what to eat. Toddlers love being independent and being able to choose their favorite snack allows them to be in charge and eat what they like from a variety of healthy choices.

2. Eat the rainbow. For a long travel day, challenge your little one to eat a food of each color of the rainbow. Bring along crayons so they can draw the healthy colorful snacks they’ve eaten throughout the day.

3. No-mess art projects. The portable DVD player will only keep your child occupied for so long and will actually make them more restless. Keep them busy and active by bringing along some colors and plenty of paper.  I love the Crayola Color Wonders for a worry free art project. Creating with their hands and having quality attention from mom and dad will be a treat for your toddler.

4. Help your toddler learn a complicated card game. Teach them to play UNO or Slap Jack on the plane. These games are trickier to learn and there’s plenty of time while sitting in the car or waiting for a plane.

5. Fun geography. Whether you’re flying over or driving through, kids love learning about new places and saying that they’ve been to ‘new states’. Print out a blank map and let your child color in the state they’ve seen or visited.  I recently bought my daughter an Atlas and she loves to locate the places we’ve been or plan future vacations.

Whether it’s a small jaunt or a long haul, keeping toddlers happy on a vacation is the key to success!  What tips do you have for traveling with a toddler?

 

Gerber Life “Bring Dreams to Life Video Contest”

When I was little, I wanted to be a teacher.  A few years later, I decided on a Rockette.  Being that I was always the shortest in my class, I switched to backup dancer for Janet Jackson which was followed by Scientist.  Quite the range of careers.  Now, it seems that both of my daughters have lofty dreams as well.  On the first day of school, I started a tradition to record what they want to be when they grow up.  I think it will be fun to look back and see how their interests change over the years.

From now through April 1st, you can share your child’s dreams and enter The Gerber Life “Bring Dreams to Life Video Contest.”  Simply record a video of your child (ages 8 and under) sharing his or her life’s aspirations and upload to the Gerber Life Facebook page.  If you share with your friends and family and gain more than 100 votes, you will automatically be a finalist to win is a $10,000 Gerber Life College Plan grand prize!  Need more info, head over to Gerber Life for details.

Need a little encouragement?  Gerber Life has given me one $25 VISA gift card plus a Gerber Life pen to give away to one lucky reader!  Enter below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This post is the opinion of the Experimental Mommy.  While a sample was received to facilitate this review, all opinions remain 100% mine.

It’s Time to Geek Out and Celebrate Pi Day! #MCPiDay

Math and Science Geeks UNITE! Today is National Pi Day! The day we celebrate that little mathematical constant than wreaked havoc on my grade in Physics, Calculus and many a science lab report.

π (better known as Pi)= 3.14159265359

Naturally, we celebrate National Pi Day on 3/14 (the first three digits of Pi).  I know you are thinking to yourself, “So, we are celebrating a number?  Come on, this has to be some sort of Internet scam.”  However, according to Wikipedia, the United States House of Representatives supported the designation of Pi Day in 2009.  At least they could agree on something, right?

The question remains, “How do we celebrate Pi Day?”  In heading over to Pinterest to find possible Pi Party ideas, I came across this:

Source: yfrog.com via Jodi on Pinterest

GENIUS.  So, π=Pie!  Any day that includes dessert is my kind of holiday!  As much as I am excited about my new found love for Pi Day, the reality is that I am a Mom who works outside the home and has little time for tasty homemade pies.  Walking down the grocery aisle, I had a an epiphany similar to the discovery of Pi….Marie Callender’s frozen pies!

Marie Callender’s offers a wide variety of dessert options such as coconut cream pie, key lime pie, peppermint pie and even a chocolate satin pie.  But knowing I had to face the kids when I returned home, I opted for their favorite Apple Pie.  After preheating the oven to 400 degrees, placing the pie in the oven and baking for 55 minutes, the house smelled divine.  Finally, the girls helped to crumble the cinnamon topping and we baked for an additional 10 minutes. This pie looks anything but frozen and could totally pass for homemade.

My girls are a bit young to understand the significance of Pi Day, but they sure were excited about eating pie! If you want to join me in celebrating Pi Day, print this $1.50 off a Marie Callender’s frozen pie at take it to any national retailer (expires March 31, 2013).  Need more inspiration?  Check out the Marie Callender’s blog for more tips on celebrating the most delicious mathematical number!

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective, and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.