Taking Halloween to a Whole New Level of Scary

This post was written by the Experimental Mommy in partnership with AtmosFX. All opinions remain 100% my own.

For the last several years, the idiom, “scared of my own shadow” described my household perfectly. My two young daughters were scared of everything Halloween so our decor ranged from happy pumpkins to friendly ghosts and certainly didn’t include anything remotely ghoulish. But now that my girls are older, it’s time to up our game and get into the business of scaring the neighborhood on Halloween and I found the perfect way to do it.

AtmosFX Digital Decorations Projector
We completely skipped over the goblin inflatables, strobe lighting and creepy music and dove straight into the insanely realistic world of digital decorations by AtmosFX.

Through the magic of digital projection with our Digital Decorating Kits and a little help from props, screens, and Hollywood-style magic, you can quickly turn any room or space into an unforgettable experience.

I couldn’t describe it better. Atmos FX is so much more than traditional decor. It’s an experience. To make the holidays come to life, all you need is the Digital Decorating Kit which includes a projector, mounting tripod, remote control, and AtmosFX Standard Window Projection Material. The kit comes with an SD card pre-loaded with 14 AtmosFX Digital Decorations: 8 Halloween-themed scenes, and 6 seasonal scenes focusing on Christmas and other holidays.

digital decoration set up
The standard window projection material feels like a thin vinyl material (pictured above) and comes with adhesive strips to easily mount to any window. Once your surface is ready, find an ideal spot for your projector, plug in your SD card and select which digital decorations you would like to display. It’s that simple…but the results are fantastic!

digital decorations
I also received the semi-translucent nylon Window Projection Material which I used on an interior door frame to spice up decor for a recent party. I liked this material better as I felt the image was crisper and the material seems like it would hold up longer. But both materials worked just fine and scared the heck out of people walking by our home! Would it scare you?

What I love about the AtmosFX Digital Decorating Kit is that it is not just for one singular holiday. The kit comes with scenes for Christmas, Easter, birthday parties, Valentine’s Day and more. How many holiday decorations can you use for more than one season? I would venture to say none which makes this an unbelievable deal!

How will you digitally decorate this year?

 

 

Writing with the Faber Castell Op Art Water Lily Fountain Pen

This post was written by guest contributor Maureen of LumenNOLA. The pen reviewed here was provided by the manufacturer.

Hey pen friends! I have long been a fan of Faber Castell writing instruments, but must admit that most of the Faber Castell items in my home are art supplies used by my husband, who is a visual artist. I was therefore excited to be offered the opportunity to try a fountain pen of that brand. I have been a fountain pen fan for many years, and I love to experiment with new writing tools of all kinds.

The pen arrived packaged in a white box with a drawer tray, and accompanied by an instruction booklet. The pen has a descriptive tag attached to the clip. The clip itself is springy, but solid. I would have no concerns about using it to attach the pen to a notebook, or the pocket of a bag or briefcase.

Faber Castell Op Art Water Lily Pen with box
The Op Art fountain pen is thinner than the pens that I usually gravitate to, but guess what? With its interesting grooves and lines, combined with a light well-balanced weight, it felt very comfortable in my hand. The surface texture prevented my fingers from slipping toward the nib as I wrote. I have had that problem with other narrow pens.

Faber Castell Water Lily Pen
Also different from my standard preference was the nib size, medium. I like a fine line, especially with European made pens, which have naturally broader nibs than Asian made pens. Like the pen surface, the Op Art nib was also a pleasant surprise. It is a very smooth-writing, steel nib that lays down a solid line! It is a pleasure to write with. The pink of the barrel paired beautifully with a purple ink (my favorite ink color!).

The silver cap of the pen securely snaps onto the section, or onto the back of the pen to write while posted. I found the pen top heavy with the cap posted, but know that I never write with pens posted. The extra weight might balance very well for someone who prefers a heavier pen.

Faber Castell Pink Fountain Pen
The pen has a steel nib embossed with dots, the Faber Castell logo, and the nib size indicator, M for medium. There is no breather hole, which is consistent with other Faber Castell fountain pens I have written with.

The cap also has the logo and company name embossed.

The more I look at it, the more mesmerizing I find the grooved surface of the pen. The construction was solid. All attachments fit well, with no loose joints. The Faber Castell Op Art Water Lily is a nice pen to treat yourself or someone else too. And what a great way to introduce a pop of color and interesting texture as the darker evenings of winter approach!

Make Reading Fun with McDonald’s Happy Meals

This post was written by the Experimental Mommy in partnership with McDonald’s®. All opinions remain 100% honest.

As a child, I could often be found sitting on my windowsill with my nose stuck in a book. From an early age, I loved reading and my parents encouraged my obsession by enrolling me in summer reading programs at our local library. I always knew I wanted to pass this love of reading on to my own children and by the time I became a Mom, I was well aware that research by the American Academy of Pediatrics showed that reading daily to young children stimulates early brain development and helps build key language, literacy and social skills.

After the birth of my first daughter, I made a point to read her a bedtime story every night not only for the obvious benefits to her brain development but for the ultimate bonus of endless baby snuggles. Now that she is 12 and an avid reader herself, I can say that the many stories read together were time well spent (and greatly missed)!

Happy Meal Books

In celebration of National Literacy Month in September, McDonald’s in partnership with HarperCollins Publishers, will distribute four Happy Meal-sized books in Happy Meals from September 5-18th. Treat your child to any Happy Meal for just $2.99 in the greater New Orleans area and you will find one of the following 4 books inside:

  • “Pete the Cat’s Got Class” by James Dean
  • “Amelia Bedelia’s First Day of School” by Herman Parish
  • “Just a School Project” by Mercer Mayer
  • “If You Take a Mouse to School” by Laura Numeroff

Happy Meal Books

I love that McDonald’s is adding efforts to promote early literacy to a long list of the company’s actions supporting children’s well-being. Did you know that between 2012 and 2016, McDonald’s has served over 78 million cuties and over 2 billion servings of fruit and low-fat dairy options like Go-GURT?

McDonald’s is also a proud supporter of Reading is Fundamental (RIF), the nation’s largest children’s literacy organization, which seeks to promote literacy by making it easier for children throughout the country to have access to interesting, captivating reading materials. By 2018, McDonald’s will have donated approximately 400,000 books from the Happy Meal Books promotions to RIF literacy efforts and programs across the country.

If you want to enjoy some quality time with your little one, grab a Happy Meal at one of the 90 McDonald’s locations in the greater New Orleans area and settle in with a good book! To help you on your way, one Experimental Mommy reader (living in Louisiana or Mississippi ONLY) will win a $50 McDonald’s gift card! Enter below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Combat the Summer Slide with Samsung Kids

This article was written by Janette of Experimental Mommy in partnership with Samsung. All opinions remain 100% honest.

In our home, we do not claim to be technology geniuses of any kind, rather, we are very limited in what we know and understand in the tech world. My husband and I, try as we may, do our best to “keep up with the Jones’” to some extent. We’ve always been quite hesitant to supply our kids with tablets and other tech devices. We both admire the “let ‘em get dirty” and “too much screen time” ideals. But admittedly, there are good things to be learned from the tech-savvy day and age in which we live. We are not too proud to admit that this is a lesson our children have taught us! So, when we were asked to test out the Galaxy Tab E Lite pre-loaded with Samsung Kids, we were thrilled to give it a go.

Samsung Kids is a subscription service that offers children a library of top quality, educational content. The service is an ideal way to keep kids busy as they engage with games that promote math, STEM, language and creativity, along with favorite books and characters that help inspire a lifelong love of reading.

Let’s just say, Samsung has perfect timing. As summer began, my brain was busy coordinating both fun and educational activities; you know, that obligatory summer reading list and math facts practice we need in order to slide effortlessly into 1st grade. Well, Samsung was there to help save the day (and the summer)!

Samsung Kids
Let me remind you: not tech savvy and only non-Samsung products experience. So, getting to know the Galaxy took some adjustment, but we did it rather painlessly. Once we got into the groove, it was smooth and we were quite impressed with what this little device had to offer. First, the Samsung Galaxy Tab E Lite for Kids comes in a neon-colored, protective bumper and was so easy to set up. After connecting to my Google account and agreeing to the license, we were ready to subscribe to the Kids Service.

I was excited to learn that the Samsung Kids service is a library of educational games and books mapped out to the United States Common Core Standards with a special emphasis on STEM education. As a mom who is also a teacher, this is golden! The best part is that I can control the content and subjects my 6 year old has access to based on what is appropriate for her. If you have more than one child using this device, each can have his/her own sign-in and the content each child sees is geared to his/her specific interests/needs. I absolutely love that new content is added monthly so that my always-on-to-something-new daughter never gets bored. This subscription based service can be purchased for $7.99/month or $59.99/year.

Samsung Kids Parental Controls
With this service, I have peace of mind knowing that my kids are using apps that are safe and appropriate plus there are no in-app purchases or ads to interrupt their experience. In fact, my parental pin (established during set up) must be entered in order to get out of this service. Parents can set the time limit to monitor how much time is spent reading or playing games.

While this tablet is marketed and sold as a tablet for kids it can be used by both parents and children. It is a tablet with a service made specifically for kids and which allows for versatility among children, teens and adults. Basically, it is a tablet that grows with your child. We can download any app that can be found on a standard tablet and operate it as an “adult” tablet when not in kid’s mode.

Overall, we love the Samsung Kids service and plan to continue using it in the future. How do you combat the “summer slide?”

Cruising with Tweens on the Carnival Dream

This post was written by the Experimental Mommy in partnership with Carnival Cruise Lines. All opinions remain 100% my own.

Snapchat. Selfies. Friends. Instagram. Facetime. These are the staples of my tween daughters’ lives. While they loved cruising with Carnival 3 years ago, I was not sure how they would take to being unplugged and disconnected from friends for an entire week.  Last time we sailed on the Carnival Dream, the girls loved participating in Seuss at Sea, hanging with Mom and Dad at the pool, and learning to make towel animals. But this time I knew would be different.  I knew my two tweens would want a little more independence (which is scary for Mom) but I was also excited to experience the new adventures available to us now that the kids were older. While this cruise visited ports we have already explored, I knew it would be a whole new World!

How to Keep Your Tween Entertained while Cruising (and even forget about Snapchat!)

  1. Hit the Slides: Not only is Carnival’s WaterWorks a great way to cool off in the summer heat, this activity is one way I was able to give my tweens a little independence. Many lounge chairs within sight of the water play area, so I picked a home base and off they went! Bonus: I brought my favorite book and enjoyed a few hours of relaxation myself!
  2. Laugh it Off:  After dinner, my tweens loved attending the family friendly comedy nights at The Punchliner. There’s nothing like making fun of parents to put a smile on your tween’s face.
    Zero Proof Drinks on Carnival
  3. Head to the Bar: For non-alcoholic drinks, of course! My tweens loved the frozen zero-proof beverages and they are still asking me to make the infamous Nutella Pizza.
    Nutella Pizza
  4. Get Pampered: Being without your iPhone can be stressful. Tweens can chillax at Cloud 9 Spa aboard the Carnival Dream during the one hour Teen Pamper Party (additional fee required).
  5. Go for the Gold: There’s nothing wrong with a little healthy competition. Take your tween to the onboard arcade, mini golf course, foosball tables or basketball court….and maybe “let them win” once or twice.
  6. Team Up: We all loved cheering on teams consisting of other Carnival passengers as they competed in “Hasbro, The Game Show”
    Monkey Encounter
  7. Go On An Adventure: Because we were traveling with tweens, there was a ton of shore excursions to choose from since their ages did not exclude them from much. We decided on excursions that would take them out of their comfort zones such as braving the zipline, cave swimming and encounters with monkeys. Watching them conquer fears and support each other was worth every penny.
    Canoeing in Mexico
  8. Go On a Hunt: Circle “C”,  a dedicated lounge just for kids ages 12-14, hosts Scavenger Hunts in the evening. It was a great way for my tweens to make new friends and have some parent-free time.
  9. Dive-In to the Big Screen: Catch a movie at night under the stars on the Lido deck while swimming in the pool! Mom and Dad can lounge on the deck and enjoy some popcorn, too!
  10. Eat It: Unlimited ice cream. Enough said.

In the end, my tweens survived an entire week disconnected from their screens and actually enjoyed spending time with family and living life to the fullest. While wifi packages are available on board, we managed to keep that secret hidden well! To learn more about cruising with Carnival, visit www.carnival.com.

cruising with tweens

Explore the New Poptropica Worlds

This review was made possible by iConnect and Poptropica Worlds. I was provided compensation to facilitate this post, but all opinions stated are 100% mine.

School is out for summer! But in my home, we didn’t make it two days before my daughter was claiming that she was bored (that’s actually 1 day longer than I thought she would make it). While we limit screen time in the summer, I am a bit more lax since we are not swamped with homework and after school activities. Of course, it’s not a free for all and I still monitor online activity closely.

Poptropica Worlds
Because my daughter has loved Poptropica games in the past, I was excited to learn about the release of the new Poptropica Worlds! On May 23rd, StoryArc Media’s Poptropica launched Poptropica Worlds, a reimagining of an old favorite. Created by Jeff Kinney, author Diary of a Wimpy Kid book series (which we also love), Poptropica Worlds is about immersive and interactive storytelling in a safe, engaging, and interactive environment.

Poptropica Worlds Avatar
I downloaded Poptropica Worlds for iOS (but it is also available on Android) on our iPad and was excited to learn that setting up a new account is totally anonymous in order to protect my child’s safety. It did not require any personal information at all with the exception of age and gender.

Next, we picked a name from a selection of options and the avatar we liked best and we were off to explore Poptropica Worlds. Kids are empowered to explore a chain of story-based islands where they battle monsters and solve mysteries and complete quests. As a scientist, I liked Crisis Caverns the best because it is modeled after the supervolcano in Yellowstone National Park, and is focused on teaching geology concepts. My daughter thought it was fun to explore while gathering clues to solve problems.

Crisis Caverns
Take a look at the Poptropica Worlds trailer and then start your quest by downloading the app today!

Learn the New School Way of Doing Laundry!

This post was written by the Experimental Mommy in partnership with Tide and Downy at Walmart. All opinions remain 100% my own.

Welcome WGNO Viewers! Join me on Sunday, June 4th from 1-6pm at Walmart in Metairie for a New School Laundry Event featuring free samples and high value coupons for the products featured in the TV segment.

If you are anything like me, a walk down the laundry aisle at the grocery store can be quite intimidating and confusing. With so many products lining the shelves, it’s hard to know which one will work best for your laundry needs. So, how do I cope? I close my eyes and head straight for the same bottle of detergent I have purchased for years. But, because my daughters are growing and their activities are changing (plus Summer is sure to add tons of swimsuits and beach towels to my laundry basket), the same old routine may need a reset.

New School Laundry with Tide
Let go of your old habits! There is a new school way of doing laundry with a fresh regimen from Tide and Downy! Did you know that the average American throws away 65 pounds of clothes every year? But how you launder your clothes can make a huge difference in the longevity of your favorite items. The new school regimen includes 4 steps which are super easy to follow:

New School Regimen TV Segment

  • Tide PODS: These 3-in-1 pacs contain exactly the right amount of detergent, stain remover and brightener. Simply throw a pac into the drum of your washer and it will dissolve in any water temperature, meaning you can save money and extend the life of your clothes by using cold water rather than warm with each load.
  • Downy Protect & Refresh Liquid Fabric Conditioner: This is so much more than a fabric softener! This product locks out bad odors, giving clothes in-wear protection from offensive odors all day long. Just add Downy to your fabric softener reservoir (drawer or center of agitator).
  • Downy Fresh Protect Scent Boosting Beads: This is one of my favorite products! The beads are motion activated and provide 24-hour odor neutralization and freshness – they’re like deodorant for your clothes! You can shake a little or a lot directly into the drum of your washer before starting the load. The level of scent is totally up to you!
  • Downy Dryer Sheets: Finally, complete the laundry regimen by controlling static, preventing wrinkles, softening and providing long-lasting freshness by tossing a Downy Dryer Sheet into the dryer with your freshly washed clothes.

If you are in the New Orleans Metro Area and would like to learn more about this New School Regimen and receive free samples and high value coupons for the Tide and Downy products listed above, join me at one of the New School Laundry Regimen Events on Sunday, June 4th from 1-6pm at the following participating Walmart locations:

Walmart Supercenter                       880 N Highway 190                                            Covington

Walmart Supercenter                       300 W. Esplanade Ave                                       Kenner

Walmart Supercenter                       4810 Lapalco Blvd                                              Marrero

Walmart Supercenter                       8912 Veterans Memorial Blvd                         Metairie

Walmart Supercenter                       5110 Jefferson Hwy                                            New Orleans

Walmart Supercenter                       39142 Natchez Drive                                          Slidell

Walmart Supercenter                       410 N Canal Blvd                                                Thibodaux

Lunch Bag Lifecycle with Lysol Laundry Sanitizer

This post was written by the Experimental Mommy in partnership with Lysol. All opinions are 100% my own.

Remember the poem that starts, “sugar and spice and everything nice, that’s what little girls are made of?” I guarantee the author has never met my youngest daughter. While she is indeed the sweetest kid you will ever meet, she is full of spunk, personality, energy and playfulness. There is nothing dainty about her and I love her for it!

Fleur_de_Lis_Lunchkit
With her “all-in” philosophy of life, she can be quite hard on her clothes, shoes, and schoolbag. But for this Mom (who happens to hold a degree in Microbiology), the most cringe-worthy item has to be her lunch bag. As I take great care in packing a healthy lunch with a few of her favorite items, I am envisioning all of the places her lunch bag will go throughout the day and more importantly what will tag along for the ride.

lunch bag in grass
From the moment it leaves home, the lunch bag becomes a magnet for dirt, stains and GERMS! In one day, her lunch bag rides the school bus, rests on the classroom floor, sits on the cafeteria table, tosses onto the play yard grass (maybe taking a turn or two on the slide), drops onto the restroom floor, and finally hides in the trunk of my car on the ride home after which I am supposed to replenish it with FOOD THAT GOES INTO MY DAUGHTER’S MOUTH?! Um, nope.

lunchbag on bathroom floor
I always make a point to buy washable lunch bags, but sometimes soap just doesn’t seem like enough! Thankfully, I just learned about my new best friend, Lysol® Laundry Sanitizer.  This revolutionary laundry additive kills 99.9% of bacteria that detergents may leave behind without chlorine bleach….even in cold water! Just add Lysol® Laundry Sanitizer to the fabric softener compartment at the start of the laundry cycle and let the magic begin. It’s this kind of clean that allows this Microbiologist Mom to put food back in the lunch bag that takes one heck of a journey day in and day out.

lysol laundry sanitizer
And you know what? I don’t even cringe anymore. You can be cringe-free, too! Enter the giveaway below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Honey Soy Grilled Skirt Steak Recipe with Morton Salt

This post was written by Experimental Mommy in partnership with Morton Salt. All opinions are 100% my own.

When people learn that I am from New Orleans, they automatically assume that I must be a great cook because I am surrounded with culture and incredible food in my City. However, that could not be further from the truth. Since attending Morton Salt’s Next Door Chef: New Orleans event a few months ago, I have been putting my new skills and knowledge into practice and I can honestly say that it has made a huge difference!

Morton Salt New Orleans Next Door Chef
As you may remember, I was welcomed into the home turned pop up restaurant of Siobhan, a New Jersey transplant living in New Orleans for the past seven years. The multicultural meals Siobhan shared with her Grandmother when she was growing up inspired her love for new and exotic foods. To learn how to enhance her cooking through the proper use of salts, Morton paired Siobhan with Nina Compton of Compère Lapin restaurant (runner-up on Season 11 of BRAVO’s Top Chef) and I was lucky enough to taste the results of the partnership!

Morton Salt Salad
This Morton Salt Next Door Chef event was tied around summertime cooking and grilling, which I couldn’t wait to learn more about since grilling is a staple in my home. I could not get enough of the Honey Soy Grilled Skirt Steak so I wanted to share this recipe with you!

Chef’s Tip: For this recipe, you will use Morton® Kosher Salt because it helps break down the fiber of the meat, resulting in ideal tenderness while also providing seasoning.

Honey Soy Grilled Skirt Steak
Honey Soy Grilled Skirt Steak (Serves 4–6)

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 ½ tsp. Canola oil
  • 1 ½ tsp. Reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1 ½ Tbsp. Honey
  • 1 tsp. Chili flakes
  • 1 ½ Tbsp. Red wine vinegar
  • 1 ½ tsp. Fresh ginger, grated
  • ½ tsp. Garlic, minced
  • 12 oz. Skirt steak
  • 2 Tbsp. Morton® Kosher Salt
  • 1 ½ cup Scallions, finely sliced

DIRECTIONS

1) Combine 1 Tbsp. Morton® Kosher Salt, canola oil, reduced-sodium soy sauce, honey, red wine vinegar, ginger, chili flakes, 3/4 cup scallions and garlic to create a marinade.

2) Pour over skirt steak and let marinade for 1 hour.

3) Remove the steak and reserve the marinade.

4) Prepare stovetop grill or preheat broiler.

5) Grill or broil steak on high heat for six minutes, turning over halfway through and brushing with the marinade.

6) Remove the steak from the grill and allow it to rest for 2–3 minutes.

7) Slice the steak into 1-inch pieces, top with remaining 3/4 cup scallions and season with the remaining 1 Tbsp. Morton® Kosher Sea Salt.

To learn more about Morton Salt’s Next Door Chef: New Orleans including more recipes from the event and tips for elevating your cooking game using the proper salt, check out the video.  Don’t forget, if you use table salt for all your cooking needs, you’re doing it wrong!

Beyond the Arches: Ronald McDonald House Charities

This post was written by the Experimental Mommy in partnership with McDonald’s®. All opinions remain 100% honest.

When I walk into my local McDonald’s in New Orleans, the first things that come to mind are my favorite crispy fries, a cold drink to help with the New Orleans heat, delicious apple slices and of course the convenience of a quick balanced meal for my kids at a great price. But did you know there is so much more to McDonald’s than the menu?

mcdonalds charities
Since 1974, Ronald McDonald House Charities® has been McDonald’s charity of choice, with the mission to provide a “home-away-from-home” to families of seriously ill children and other programs that give comfort, compassion and care to children and their families.  Locally, the Ronald McDonald House is located on Canal Street in New Orleans and opened in 1983. This 15 bedroom home includes a huge kitchen, two laundry areas, a toy room, two dens, outside patio and serves an average of 85 families each month.

New Orleans Ronald McDonald House
In addition, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southern Louisiana (RMHC-SLA) provides:

  • Free immunizations for children in New Orleans and surrounding parishes via the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile.
  • College scholarships for students in financial need who have demonstrated academic achievement, leadership, and community involvement. With the support of McDonald’s owner/operators in the greater New Orleans area, RMHC-SLA awarded 40 – $1,000 scholarships to students in the greater New Orleans area last year.

So the next time you run in to McDonald’s with the kids, know that you are supporting a great cause because McDonald’s donates 1¢ to RMHC for every Happy Meal and Mighty Kids Meal sold. In fact, I will send you on your way with one $50 McDonald’s gift certificate for one Experimental Mommy reader (enter below). Ready to do more? The RMHC of South Louisiana has volunteer opportunities, too!

a Rafflecopter giveaway