New Year, New You….New Car?

DisclosureThis post was made possible by iConnect and Kelley Blue Book. I was provided compensation to facilitate this post, but all opinions are 100% mine.

There is no doubt that as the calendar year came to a close, you started to think about what was in store for you and your family in 2016. As for me, I made a few new year resolutions including finding more time to just do me. As a business owner, scientist, Mom, and wife, time is certainly of the essence so in order to achieve my new year resolution, streamlining daily tasks is paramount.

Buying a new car can definitely be a time drain. Between researching, test driving, deliberating and financing, you can be caught in a never-ending loop for weeks. Fortunately, Kelley Blue Book can help! Not only is the book itself an invaluable resource for determining the best value for your trade in, but the “Best Buy Awards” can help you find the perfect car for your budget and needs as vehicles are given awards in 12 major categories.

Screen Shot 2016-01-15 at 11.27.15 AM Designed as a service to the American new-car buyer, the Best Buy Awards recognize the best of all available 2016 model-year vehicles completely eliminating hours of footwork for you, the consumer. The awards are the culmination of a year-long regimen of expert vehicle evaluation and testing of nearly every new vehicle available in America (over 300 tested each year!), along with analysis of a broad swath of vehicle-related data, including pricing/transaction prices, 5-Year Cost-to-Own information (which includes depreciation, insurance, maintenance, financing, fuel, fees and taxes for new cars), consumer reviews and ratings, and vehicle sales information.

Knowing that the winners were thoroughly tested by experts definitely helps to narrow down the list of potential purchases significantly cutting the time I will need to spend in local showrooms. If you are looking for a new car in 2016, make sure you check out the Kelley Blue Book Best Buy Award winners included in the infographic below. Happy shopping!

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Finding My Fringe Hours

In the last few months of 2015, our family was struck with a tragedy. My mother-in-law was rushed to the hospital and found herself in the midst of an 8 hour brain surgery that changed her life. Fortunately, she is stronger than any adversity and has truly amazed us with her resilience. Even though I was not the one going through a life changing event, those few weeks changed me forever.

Life is fragile.

As the ball dropped on New Year’s Eve, my year flashed before my eyes. I saw myself starting a new full time career. I saw myself growing iConnect Influencer Management to it’s biggest numbers to date. I saw myself hosting a successful blogging conference and helping colleagues grow their own brands and businesses. I saw myself raising two beautiful girls, helping with homework, attending dance recitals, working the school fair and chauffeuring my little ones to many social events. I saw myself taking care of the home, bills, and laundry. And I did see glimpses of spending quality time with my husband. What I didn’t see? Me just being me.

If not now….when?

During this little flashback, it was obvious that I had a busy year. But I definitely noticed that I spent very little time focusing on me and that needs to change. But since my life pace is not anticipated to get any slower in 2016, how am I going to find time for myself? Fortunately, I have some pretty amazing friends in this world of blogging and Jessica Turner reached out to me to take a look at her new book, The Fringe Hours: Making Time for You.

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What is a fringe hour? Turner defines it as:

“…a limited or appointed piece of time that is found in the margins of the day….something decorative. Activities and passions pursued in the fringe hours make your life more beautiful.”

Sounds great, right? But how do you find your fringe hours? Well, you will have to read the book! But I will tell you that following Jessica’s suggestion of tracking your time for a week was a real eye opener. This exercise allowed me to better understand where my time is being spent, how I can streamline activities and where I can possible find my fringe hours.

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While it is still very much a work in progress, I am genuinely excited about finding time for me in 2016.  Want to join me in finding your fringe hours? You can find the Kindle version of The Fringe Hours by Jessica Turner on Amazon for just $1.99 this week! It’s time to focus on YOU. If not now….when?

This post was written by the Experimental Mommy. While I was compensated for my time and effort, I genuinely love the book and know you will love it, too!

New Orleans Welcomes Fogo de Chao Brazilian Steakhouse

Tonight, we had the pleasure of being some of first guests of the newest restaurant in New Orleans, Fogo de Chao Brazilian Steakhouse. Located inside the JW Marriott hotel on Canal Street, Fogo de Chao offers a truly unique dining experience. From the beautifully appointed decor to the Brazilian trained gaucho chefs, you immediately feel a sense of hospitality when walking through the door.

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After being seated (I recommend requesting second floor seating so you can take advantage of the balcony views) and a quick explanation of how the dinner would flow, we headed to the centerpiece of the restaurant, The Market Table. Immediately, you will notice the colors of the offerings as the market table is almost a work of art.

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A spread inspired by the grand kitchen tables on the farms of Southern Brazil where family and friends gather to share the finest and freshest from their harvests. We bring you seasonal salads, irresistibly fresh vegetables, imported meats and cheeses, artisan breads and more.

 

My husband and I tried a sampling of many of the foods but my favorite was the butternut squash soup and the brown sugar black pepper bacon while hubby could not get enough of the Feijoada (black bean stew).

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On every table, you will find the “red light/green light” place cards. When you are ready for the gaucho chefs to begin bringing a selection of meats to your table, simply place the card on the green light and get ready to eat!

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Our Brazilian-trained gaucho chefs carefully select and prepare every item before presenting at your table. From the best cuts of meat to the fresh selections of our Market Table, they ensure every bite will be memorable.

With sixteen variety of meats, you are sure to find something (or many things) that will delight. The gaucho chefs bring a cut of meat to your table on a sword and carefully carve it table-side. Shortly after, another chef appears with another selection until you call it quits by turning your card to the red light. We tried sirloin, bacon wrapped chicken, lamb, and pork ribs along with garlic mashed potatoes, polenta and caramelized bananas. Every dish was seasoned beautifully and cooked to perfection (I prefer my meats medium well so they gaucho chef brought selections to our table that were cooked to my liking).

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If you are looking for a unique date night in NOLA, my hubby and I would highly recommend checking out Fogo de Chao!

Encourage Active Play with OgoDisk RAQ

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

It amazes me how different two children can be. My oldest son would be happy playing video games all the time as long as someone tossed food into his cage…room every now and then. My younger son, however, wants to be outside. He’s one of those kids who we have to force to come in when the streetlights come on. So, outdoor toys are a must for us. He has a bike, scooters, basketballs, soccer balls, water guns, etc. But there’s always room in the garage for more cool active toys. He was thrilled when the OgoSport OgoDisk RAQ arrived.

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The OgoDisk RAQ is basically a handheld trampoline. There are two OgoDisks, so it can be a two-player activity. You bounce a ball on the disk and volley it to the other player. As an added bonus, the ball included with the OgoDisk RAQ has ‘tails’ you can attach to make the ball move more slowly. This is a great feature for younger kids and for new players. But if you are looking for a more intense game, the handle on the disk gives you incredible control and power.

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My son loves playing with the OgoDisk RAQ! He and our neighbor’s kids played with it for a couple hours the first day. Then, when Carson was out of town with his Grandpa, the neighbor’s kids knocked on the door to ask if they could play with it. The OgoDisk RAQ has gotten used almost every day for weeks and it still looks practically new.

I think it will continue to be a favorite outside toy for a long time. Plus, I’m looking forward to trying it out in the pool next summer. If you are looking for an active toy for your child, check out the OgoDisk RAQ which retails for just $38.00!

Be Merry with Wyndham Extra Holidays

This is a sponsored post with Wyndham Resorts. However, all opinions are my own.

Shopping, baking, wrapping, cooking, decorating, cleaning, traveling, caroling and re-connecting with old friends. I love the holidays but they are anything but restful and relaxing. Once the holiday has passed and the gifts have been opened and put away, it would be nice to escape for a long weekend with my husband ring in the new year.

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Given that the budget has already been stretched thin due to a little too much shopping, justifying a getaway will take some work. Fortunately, Wyndham resorts is offering up to 35% off during their Extra Holidays promotion (you can stay for as low as $84/night).  Simply book no later than 1/4/16 using code HOL2015 for at least two nights and travel by 4/30/16 to take advantage of this special deal.

Still looking for the perfect gift for a spouse or loved one? Put a little magic in their stocking and treat them to a holiday getaway with Wyndham!

The fine print: Valid for new reservations only. Reservations subject to availability. Reservations not valid over holidays and special events. Cannot be combined with any other offer. All monetary amounts are noted in U.S. Dollars unless otherwise noted.

 

Tween Gift Idea: Acer Chromebook

My tween daughter’s Christmas wish list has taken a dramatic turn this year. Gone are the dolls, stuffed animals and dress up clothes which have quite suddenly been replaced with hair dryer, shoes, gift cards and of course, electronics. I have to admit that I was a bit sad but each new stage with my daughter brings some excitement, too.

As I sorted through the list trying to reconcile her wishes with my pocketbook, I kept going back to #1 on her list….a computer. I am unsure if she is responsible enough for such a big ticket item but now that she is in middle school, she has been assigned many projects and research papers where a computer would surely make life easier. Decisions, decisions.

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After doing some research of my own, I learned that Acer Chromebooks have been growing in popularity and have been increasingly rolled out in many K-12 schools. The affordability, popularity of Google apps for education, fast boot times, cloud-based storage, and built-in virus protection certainly makes the Chromebook R11 an interesting option so I was thrilled to be able to test it out.

Upon opening the box, I instantly knew my daughter would love it. The compact and light design (2.76 pounds) makes it perfect for her small desk space. Despite the size, the monitor features an 11.6-inch 360-degree display, so it can be used in 4 different modes including laptop, pad, display or tent. The versatility makes it perfect for homework but also for gaming and entertainment, too.

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After powering on, I was pleased to see how fast the Acer Chromebook booted up. The Intel Celeron quad-core processor provided for quite the snappy performance.  And the best part? The Chromebook R11 is available on Amazon for just $269 and you can have it before Christmas!

If you are still struggling for a practical and affordable gift with a serious WOW factor for your tween, definitely give the Acer Chromebook some serious consideration!

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

12 Reasons that Netflix Makes a Great Gift this Holiday Season

This post was written by the Experimental Mommy. As a member of the #StreamTeam, a subscription is provided to facilitate this review however all opinions remain 100% honest.

With Christmas just a few days away, hopefully you have made a list, checked it twice and decided who has been naughty or nice! Their is no doubt that there is at least one person on your list that stumps you. What do you give the person who has everything, right? How about months of entertainment at their fingertips with Netflix?

A Netflix subscription starts at just $7.99 a month and you don’t even have to stand in long holiday lines to get it! Not convinced? Here are 12 more reasons that Netflix is THE gift this season:

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12. You can watch anywhere — by the fire on the big screen or at the breakfast nook on a tablet.
11. With a wide variety of shows, Netflix provides entertainment for any age and any interest!
10. The kids can meet up with old friends in new ways, like racing to the edge with Hiccup and Toothless.
9. Mom can play White Christmas over and over again and encourage her daughters to reenact “Sisters” like Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen.
8. It’s so easy to set up, your five year old can help you do it.
7. Watching tiny dancers marvel at the classic holiday extravaganza with the Radio City Christmas Spectacular with the Rockettes is what memories are made of.
6. Legos, Legos and more Legos.
5. Family movie time can happen any day of the week.
4. Learn all you need to know from the first family, aka The Croods.
3. Saturday morning cartoons, solved. (Especially if Inspector Gadget has anything to say about it.)
2. Date night with Frank and Claire.
1. With Netflix, the whole family wins: Mom gets Jessica Jones, Dad gets Narcos and the kids get Care Bears, Project Mc2, Fuller House and five more minutes before bedtime.

To get you started, I am doing a Flash Giveaway of a SIX MONTH Netflix subscription!  Simply comment on this post before 11:59pmCST tonight (12/17/15) to be eligible to win!

Get a Taste of the Holidays at Denny’s

This post was written by the Experimental Mommy. As a member of #DennysDiners, I am compensated for my time and effort but all opinions remain 100% mine.

In typical New Orleans fashion, I believe we will have another “shorts and flip flops” kind of holiday. Definitely no white Christmas, roasting marshmallows by the fire, or Jack Frost nipping at our noses as the songs suggest for New Orleans residents this season. Because of the warm weather, I am having such a hard time getting in the Christmas spirit!

With two small kids, we are searching the City to find ways to inject some Christmas cheer into our holiday despite the fact we are selecting our tree in tank tops. Fortunately, we found exactly what we were looking for at Denny’s. With three new dishes and a few returning favorites, guests of all ages are sure to feel the holiday spirit at breakfast, lunch, dinner or any time in between.

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As soon as we walked in, my daughter spotted an advertisement for the new Rudolph Pancake Breakfast and told our server that she did not even need a menu because she was eating Rudolph. The dish includes two fluffy pancakes topped with turkey bacon antlers, whipped cream, chocolate eyes and nose, served with two eggs and crispy hash browns (I will admit that I secretly wanted to eat Rudolph, too).

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But after taking a look at all of the holiday offerings, I am a sucker for traditional turkey and stuffing so I knew I had to give it a try. This dish features the finest tender sliced turkey breast, savory stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce, served with a choice of two sides and dinner bread….and was delish! While I was too stuffed to make room for dessert, I can’t wait to go back and try the Santa’s Milk & Cookies Shake made with creamy vanilla ice cream blended with tasty sugar cookies and topped with whipped cream and more cookie crumbles. Honestly, I think Santa would love if we left this for him on Christmas Eve.

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If you need a holiday pick-me-up, take the first sleigh to your local Denny’s and try out the new holiday offerings. This special menu is available through January 6, 2016.

Gift Idea for the Doll Lover: Guidecraft Table and Chairs

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

With Christmas just around the corner, I took my seven year old daughter to see Santa Claus.  Of course, she brought along her extensive wish list which she has kept closely guarded.  As I listened to her quietly tell Santa all of those items her little heart desires, there was a very obvious theme. The list went something like this:

  • Doll Bunk Beds
  • Doll Table and Chairs
  • Doll Dresser
  • Doll Clothes (fancy and pajamas)
  • Dolls

Oh yes, my girls loves her dolls. She lovingly cares for each one and puts them to bed every single night (in a shoe box).  But when Guidecraft offered to send her a Doll Table and Chairs, I knew she would be over the moon. From the website:

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Made of hardwood solids, our heirloom-quality Doll Furniture Collection is the perfect playtime ensemble. Designed for dolls up to 21″, each piece features classic styling and playful design features. The bed, cradle, buggy and bunk bed feature a poly-cotton three-piece bedding set: a soft pillow, bed lining and comforter. Available in white, natural and espresso finishes. Adult assembly required.

We have owned a few Guidecraft items and have been absolutely thrilled with the quality but this is the first doll furniture we have had the opportunity to test. I have to say that the company puts as much pride into their doll furniture as they do into the real furniture.

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Immediately when opening the box, you can smell that this is real wood. Yes, some assembly is required but the tool needed is included and assembling the entire set took me 10 minutes. Thankfully, I moved fast because my daughter already had her dolls dressed for tea and ready to be seated at her new doll “restaurant.”

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If you have a doll enthusiast on your Christmas gift list, make sure you check out the quality items from Guidecraft. You just cannot beat the quality at the best price! See more gifting ideas by following Guidecraft on FacebookInstagramTwitter and Pinterest!

 

 

Bedtime Negotiations Foiled with Netflix #5MoreMinutes

This post was written by the Experimental Mommy. While I am a member of the Netflix Stream Team, all opinions remain 100% honest.

My kids can be perfectly healthy all day long. Running, jumping, playing, and laughing every minute of the daylight hours. But when the sun goes down and bedtime looms, I have two suddenly very ill children.

  • I can’t go to sleep now because my head hurts!
  • Before I go to bed, I need cold water because my throat is killing me!
  • All of a sudden, I have massive stomach pains!
  • I can’t close my eyes because my eyelids hurt! (my personal favorite)

And there solution to these mysterious bedtime aches and pains? Staying up past bedtime. Apparently, watching just one more episode of their favorite TV program cures a multitude of ailments. Who knew? Thankfully, Netflix knows the struggle is real and invented what may be the most genius trick of the parental tool bag: Five Minute Favorites.

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Netflix and DreamWorks Animation launched Dinotrux 5 Minute Favorites, new episodes of the latest hit, all in a nice little 5-minute package — letting your little negotiator think they’re getting away with the age-old ‘just five more minutes’ ploy. In a mere 300-seconds, your kids will be speechless as they march themselves up to bed knowing they got exactly what they wanted….just 5 more minutes.

Do you have a bedtime negotiator on your hands? What tricks of the trade can you share?