Celebrate a Birthday with Carnival Cruise Lines

On July 16th, it happened.  Even though I attempted to flee the Country in hopes this day would not come, I was unsuccessful.  Forty found me.  FORTY.  What?  Wasn’t I just turning 21 like a year ago?  Despite my hesitation about this milestone, it turned out to be the best birthday ever (except for my 9th birthday when I had a party at McDonald’s and got a purple boombox from my Grandma…that was pretty rad).

My hubby (in cahoots with Carnival Cruise Lines) was a Rockstar and deserves all the props for making me feel like a Queen on my special day.  Here are some ways you can help a loved one celebrate their birthday while aboard the Carnival Dream.

1.  Decorate the Cabin: Cleverly hide some decorations from a local party supply store and deck out your stateroom with balloons, streamers, banners and signs.  Some Carnival ships offer this service for a fee if you cannot seem to hide the decor in your carry on bag.

2.  Breakfast in Bed: Order room service the night before so you can enjoy a leisurely breakfast in bed instead fighting the crowds at the breakfast buffet.

3.  Spa Appointment: The Carnival Dream has a lovely “Cloud 9″ spa which offers services for women, men and children, too.  My hubby surprised me with a morning massage and facial. It was a great way to start the day!

4.  Bucket List Excursion: Following my spa treatment, we headed off to swim with the Stingrays in Grand Cayman.  It was just the right touch of adventure and relaxation to make for a memorable birthday.

5.  Signature Dining at the On-board Steakhouse: While the regular dining options are fantastic, the steakhouse is a whole other level of exquisite.  Make a reservation and let them know you have a birthday being celebrated at your table.

6.  What’s a birthday without cake? Special decorated cakes can be ordered at the Steakhouse and I can tell you that it was delicious! A whole cake was delivered to my table complete with candles and of course the obligatory birthday song.

7.  Roses Are Red. And yellow, white and pink, too!  A dozen multicolored roses can be purchased on board (the Carnival Dream offers this at the Cherry On Top shop) and delivered to your stateroom.

8.  Send a Gift: Not on board with your loved one? You can still arrange to have a gift sent the their stateroom to let  them know you are thinking of them on their special day.  One of my best friends sent me a Carnival Sweatshirt which was much needed at the chilly theater on board.

9. Make a Memory: Professional photographers are on hand several nights on all Carnival ships.  I absolutely loved having a professional shot taken of my precious family. It was the perfect end to the perfect day.

Turns out, 40 is not so bad after all.

Top Ten Travel Essentials for Cruising

I wrote about my experience with Poise Microliner as part of a sponsored post for Socialstars. #PoisewithSAM

In just 5 short days, I will be boarding the Carnival Dream and heading off on an epic 40th birthday celebration.  This trip has to be perfect so I thought I would share with you my Top Ten Essential Items for Cruising.

Cruise Essentials #PoiseWithSAM

1. Downy Wrinkle Releaser Plus: Did you know that cruise ships don’t have irons?  For this wrinkle-phobic Mom, I may have had a panic attack.  Fortunately, this product kept my family and I looking elegant night ready!

2.  Brita Water Bottle: Half the fun of a cruise are the exotic excursions and exploring new parts of the World. But to keep the fun going, you need to stay hydrated.  Don’t forget to take along your water bottle every time you leave the boat.

3.  Cute Accessories: There is just something about setting sail that just begs for a killer sandal, trendy sunglasses and a floppy hat.  Check out my Pinterest Board for inspiration!

Follow Bridgette’s board Sail Away With Me on Pinterest.

4.  Poise Microliners: I am sailing away to escape turning 40, but unfortunately I can’t escape my LBL I was left with after having 2 kids.  But, because Poise is thinnest liner available in the light incontinence category, I can be confident on those rugged adrenaline filled excursions. Get a free Poise sample for your next adventure!

5. Sunscreen: Don’t forget to shield yourself from harmful UV rays.  My essential sun protection product is Neutrogena Wet Skin SPF 85 Sunscreen which is perfect for our beach destination.

6. Lanyard: Consider purchasing a different lanyard for each family member before boarding. It’s much easier to keep track of your “Sail and Sign” card when it’s around your neck leaving your hands free for more food and drinks!  Letting the kids choose their own lanyard not only gives them some ownership to their card but provides an easy way to tell the cards apart in a hurry.

7.  Waterproof Phone Case: You are going to want to take pictures…and lots of them! But don’t ruin your phone in the crystal clear water and on the pristine beaches. Protect your tech with a waterproof case.

8.  Light Jacket: So you are cruising to the Caribbean, why would you pack a jacket? If you plan to partake in any onboard activities such as comedy clubs, casino or live theater, they can be downright cold. Be prepared.

9.  Hand Sanitizer: Is it obvious that I have a degree in Microbiology? Happy Hour is EVERY hour for bacteria and viruses on cruise ships. Stop them in their tracks by using hand sanitizer and anti-microbial wipes.

10. Bungee Cord: Want to fall asleep to the sounds of the Ocean? Hold open your balcony door with a bungee cord or use it to hand wet swimsuits overnight.

11. (BONUS) Your Inner Child: Don’t forget to have fun! Go down the waterslide, dance the night away, cartwheel on the beach and cross off as many bucket list items as you can. Enjoy!

What is one of your cruising essentials?

Reading Under the Stars with Scholastic #SummerReading

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

One month ago, my daughters both accepted the Summer Reading Challenge.  Now in its 8th year, the challenge is dedicated to stopping the “Summer Slide” and getting kids to read throughout the summer months when school is out. We have always had a dedicated reading time before bed, but now we are logging minutes for a cause.

I helped each girl create an online account and they began tracking their number of minutes read.  The goal?  To help Read for the World RecordThrough this program, Scholastic inspired more than 130,000 kids from 4,200 schools in all 50 States and 31 countries to set a new record for summer reading of 176 million-plus minutes in 2013 and this year kids are being challenged to break the record.  So far, kids around the globe have logged over 172,000,000 minutes making the 2014 goal within reach.

To help my girls log additional minutes, I decided to spice things up.  This year’s Summer Reading Challenge theme is “Reading Under the Stars” so I thought it would be fun to take the books outside for a change of scenery. Because this year’s theme is powered by EVEREADY, the maker of batteries and flashlights, to encourage families to discover new and fun ways to explore reading, we headed to the backyard with flashlights to add minutes to the record.

My daughters thought snuggling in a sleeping bag, enjoying the beautiful stars and snacking on some popcorn while reading their favorite books was a ton of fun!  In fact, it was so much fun that they have requested a “Reading Under the Stars” Slumber Party before school begins.  What a great way to encourage summer reading!

if your kids want to join in the summer fun?  Get more information at scholastic.com/summer and start contributing minutes to reach the 2014 challenge.  How do you encourage your child to read?

Lighten Up with Denny’s Fit Fare Menu

This post is written by the Experimental Mommy. I am a Denny’s Ambassador however all opinions remain 100% mine.

Within the last two years, my husband has done the amazing task of losing 75 pounds.  He has now entered maintenance mode and I am so proud to say that he has kept the weight off for over a year now.  One of his secrets to success is planning.  Each week, he comes up with a meal plan and does his best to follow it.

However, life happens and we are not always able to cook meals at home.  In this case, research is his friend.  He takes to the Internet and apps on his phone to find out which restaurants have meals that will help him accomplish his goal (and not sabotage his meal plan).

As a Denny’s Ambassador, I was thrilled to learn about the Fit Fare menu and share the options with my hubby.  The family and I decided to head to Denny’s on a hot summer night and let them do the cooking for us.

Denny’s has many dish options guests can enjoy for under 550 calories, and offer delicious alternatives that don’t compromise on taste, value or variety.  An online ‘Meal Calculator’ provides guests with an interactive way to mix and match menu items and customize a meal suitable for their needs.

Perusing the menu, healthier options are noted with Fit Fare icons indicating Lean, Light, Protein or Fiber.  Hubby opted to the Fit Slam menu item which included a English Muffin, turkey bacon, egg whites with spinach and a side of seasonal fruit. We also found many other Fit Fare options such as a Cranberry Chicken Salad which looked delish.

I love that you can lighten just about any menu item by asking for a wheat bun, seasonal fruit instead of fries, or asking for a veggie patty all at no additional cost.  Of course, the kids were thrilled to eat breakfast for dinner and choose the Jr. Grand Slam option with pancakes, eggs and bacon.

If you are heading out to dinner, don’t let the selection ruin your meal plan.  Head to Denny’s and check out the items on the Fit Fare menu!

Join the Feed the Children Tweet Up and #HelpKidsBeKids

For my family and I, summer is about relaxing and taking a break from our normal routines.  You will oftentimes find us at the ice cream parlor or escaping the heat with a movie and popcorn.  But, recently I was reminded that not every kid has such an enjoyable summer.

Unfortunately, hunger is more prevalent in the summer when children are not receiving meals at school.  In fact, in Oklahoma the school lunch program that lower-income families depend on shuts down for the summer break, which means roughly 300,000 children may be left without a stable source of nutrition.  But, Feed the Children‘s pilot program called The Oklahoma Summer Food and Education Program is trying to change that by testing this new initiative this summer.

While the USDA’s Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) helps fill that gap over the summer, in Oklahoma – Feed the Children’s home state –very few agencies are involved with the summer meals program making another effort necessary to end child hunger. The Oklahoma Summer Food and Education Program will:

  • Provide Better Access to More Meals — Feed the Children will provide 115,000 meals, many of which will be purchased with private funds, that can be brought home.
  • Nourish Bodies and Minds At 11 USDA FNS-approved feeding sites, Feed the Children will provide books and educational resources for children, as well as backpacks and supplies for the school year.
  • Provide Results– Results from the pilot will be offered as evidence-based research to Feed the Children partners to identify ways to better solve summer food insecurity that have impact, are far-reaching and cost-effective.

Learn More about Feed the Children’s new vision at the upcoming Tweet-Up to be held Wednesday, July 9th at 1pm EST.  Hunger hurts 1 out of every 7 children, and is deeply rooted in larger, uncovered issues. But you can learn how Feed the Children plans to lead the charge to end child hunger by simply RSVPing and participating in the #HelpKidsBeKids Twitter Party.

Need more incentive? The Motherhood, your host, will be giving away five $25 VISA gift cards throughout the Tweet-up, based on correct responses to trivia questions. No purchase necessary; winners must be residents of the United States and 18 years of age or older.

Hope to see you there!

I Hate Dishes But Dawn Makes it Bearable #MyDawnSummer

Dawn has provided product and compensation for this post.  All opinions stated are my own.

I love to clean. Just kidding. I hate it…a lot. In fact, the worst part of my weekly chores is washing dishes.  I just don’t like to touch yucky greasy dishes.  And I am guessing that my Mom feels the same because from a very early age, washing dishes was on the top of my chore list. So, I am feeling a lot of love from Dawn Hand Renewal, since they recently sent me over a pack to “Simplify My Summer” and take a little me time with an oatmeal face mask.

I already knew that Dawn was a great product and my first choice for washing dishes, but I didn’t know that it would help soften my hands while powering
away grease and leave my dishes sparkling clean.  Yes, you read that right, it would be like giving yourself a moisturizing hand treatment every time you wash your dishes.  And, this mama will take my spa treatments anywhere I can get them!

My Dawn Hand Renewal Kit included:

  • Dawn Hand Renewal samples
  • Hand towel
  • Headband
  • Mixing bowl
  • Muddlers
  • Oatmeal
  • Oatmeal face mask recipe

After using the following recipe, I made myself a relaxing Oatmeal Face Mask to gear up for washing the dishes later. Be sure to have the following ingredients on hand.

  • 1 TBL Ground Oatmeal
  • 1/2 Banana sliced
  • 1/2 tsp milk

Mash all of your ingredients together in a bowl, be sure to grind the oatmeal before you start, and apply to your clean and dry face. Apply using a circular motion with your fingertips. Let the mask sit for 10-15 minutes then rinse off with warm water. Splash with cold water, pat dry and enjoy your beautiful skin.

What a quick and easy way to refresh and hydrate your skin, all while relaxing!  Another way to hydrate is by using Dawn Hand Renewal to wash your dishes.  This soap still fights grease, just like the original Dawn, all while moisturizing your hands.  And, it will give you noticeably softer hands after just three uses, which is just like having a mini spa in your sink! (or close enough for me) This is without me even going into the fantastic scent of this dish soap, which comes in the following varieties:  Cucumber Melon, Pomegranate Splash, Lavender Silk, Eucalyptus & Orchid, Peach & Almond, Cool Springs, and Tropical Shea Butter.

Be sure to stay connected with Dawn, by checking out their site or following them on Facebook and Twitter.

No Parking on the Dance Floor #PoisewithSAM

I wrote about my experience with Poise Microliner as part of a sponsored post for Socialstars. All opinions are 100% mine. #PoisewithSAM

Tomorrow is one of my favorite days of the entire year.  My daughters will get a chance to showcase all of the hard work at our annual dance recital.  Last month, I talked about my history in dance and how much I miss performing but tomorrow I will be living vicariously through my girls.

After having my second daughter, I experienced light bladder leakage that took me off the dance floor.  But, I am slowly getting back into shape now that I have found the Poise Microliner.  It is the thinnest liner available in the light incontinence category from Poise and is virtually invisible while wearing my workout gear giving me the confidence to start an exercise plan again.

I am so happy that the liner is invisible from the outside, but does it feel invisible from the inside?  The last thing I want to focus on is the placement of the liner but I am happy to report that it stays put, moves with my body and is hardly noticeable at all.  In fact, they are so thin that there are 54 in that tiny box!

Problem solved.

If LBL is a problem you struggle with, get a free sample of the Poise Microliner here.

Get Tough with #NexcareNana

This post is written by the Experimental Mommy and brought to you by Nexcare Waterproof Bandages.  All opinions are 100% mine.

When I visit the ballet and see the finished product of a professional production, I am in awe of the delicate and demure ballerinas performing on stage.  They are so graceful, limber, elegant and peaceful.  But being a dancer myself and the Mom of two little ballerinas, I know the hard work that goes on behind the scenes.

Hours, days, and years of hard work go in to the making of that graceful ballerina you see on stage.  And underneath the glittery tutu and tiara lie many bumps, blisters and bruises.  Viewing my daughters’ dance class is proof that dancing takes dedication, strength and toughness which are qualities you don’t normally associate with ballet.

Often things are not as tough as they seem.

At the dance studio, there is a drawer for emergencies which includes pony tail holders, bobby pins, safety pins and Nexcare Waterproof Bandages.  A dancer’s feet are their most valuable commodity and must be protected with a tough bandage that will stay put under the most extreme conditions.

Fortunately, in the Nexcare “Will It or Won’t It” series, the Nexcare Nana has gone through great lengths to show just how tough these bandages can be (and Nana is pretty tough herself) in over the top situations.  In her first video, Nana puts the Nexcare Waterproof Bandages to the test against the strength of a fire hose. Don’t worry, no Nanas were injured in the making of this video!

Nana’s strength and toughness shine through in each video, symbolizing the staying power of Nexcare Waterproof Bandages. Nexcare Bandages stay on because the 360-degree seal provides a protective barrier to keep out water, dirt and germs, making them useful in everyday life.  These bandages stay in place and stand up to long-wear making them perfect for a dancer’s feet.

Do you know someone as tough as the Nexcare Nana? Explore all of her videos and nominate someone special in your life for the Tough-as-Nana Sweepstakes for a chance to win one of three trips including swimming with sharks, skydiving or a race car driving experience.

Stop the Summer Slide with Scholastic #SummerReading

When the last bell of the school year rings, my kids run in the front door, throw their school bags in the closet, dump their school shoes in the garbage and turn their brains to “off.”  I may be more than 20 years removed from my school days, but I remember the feeling well.  I think the decompressing phase of Summer is essential so I let the kids completely relax for one entire week.

But 9 times out of 10, I hear the words “I’m bored” before time runs out.

Fortunately, I have two girls who love to read.  So after the week of relaxation, they will usually suggest that we head to our local library and pick out some summer reading books.  Shhh….don’t tell them that they are actually learning and investing in their own futures.  Did you know that 3rd graders who don’t read on grade level are 4 times less likely to graduate by age 18 than proficient readers?  To avoid the “summer slide” and lapse in reading skills, my girls will be participating in the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge  powered by EVEREADY®.

From now through September 5th, my girls can log their reading minutes (online or via smartphone) as they help Read for the World Record, enter sweepstakes to win fabulous prizes, and earn digital rewards when they complete weekly reading challenges. Through this program, Scholastic inspired more than 130,000 kids from 4,200 schools in all 50 States and 31 countries to set a new record for summer reading of 176 million-plus minutes in 2013 and this year kids are being challenged to break the record.

My daughter and I set up her account and she has already begun entering her minutes to contribute to the new record.  She loves that she can track her progress and earn badges for success.  In this digital world, anything “tech” inspires my daughter, too.  So, I downloaded the free Scholastic Reading Timer App which encourages reading every day allowing users to time reading minutes with an interactive stopwatch and track minutes on a weekly log. Plus, parents can check children’s reading activity in addition to browsing daily tips, articles and book lists. We also connected her account to her school so she will also be contributing towards minutes earned by her school.  The elementary school with the most minutes read will win a school visit from bestselling author/illustrator David Shannon!

This year’s Summer Reading Challenge theme is “Reading Under the Stars.”  Next month, we will be hosting a party with some family and friends to read together while enjoying the outdoors.  Tune in and blast off with us!

Need more resources? Follow the Summer Reading Challenge Pinterest Board and check out #MondayMinutes on Twitter to see the progress towards breaking the record!

I Control The Remote (Sometimes) #StreamTeam

This post was written by the Experimental Mommy.  While a Netflix subscription was received to facilitate this post, all opinions remain 100% mine.

I will admit that I know more about Disney Channel TV shows such as Jessie, Dog With A Blog or Good Luck Charlie than any adult TV programming.  Gone are the days when I can sit down and watch my favorite sitcom uninterrupted.  That is until I discovered Netflix.

After a long day of work, I love to unwind before bed with my favorite comedy TV series.  Because most of the time, I am not hitting the sack until well after 11pm, my guilty pleasures are generally not on TV at this time of night.  So, I simply fire up Netflix and find something to make me laugh to end the day.

A few of my go-to series that are guaranteed to make me smile are How I Met Your Mother, Scrubs, What Not to Wear and 30 Rock. Some of the episodes are not exactly “kid friendly” so I love that with Netflix I can cue up my favorite episode and enjoy a few minutes to myself at night.

If you are looking for a new series to watch, Netflix has a selection of titles to get you through the Summer months.  And yes, that includes all-new episodes of Netflix originals such as Orange Is the New Black which released Season 2 on June 6.

What are your favorite TV shows you can watch on Netflix?