#ImBornTo Support the March of Dimes

This post was written by the Experimental Mommy in partnership with The Motherhood and March of Dimes. All opinions are 100% my own.

As one of 39 Moms (one for each week of a full-term pregnancy), I have loved being part of a team of bloggers to help raise awareness for the incredible things March of Dimes has (and continues to) accomplish with your donations. The #ImBornTo campaign has helped shine a spotlight on the fact that in the United States, one baby is born prematurely every minute and approximately 72 children die each day before reaching their first birthday. This fight to save babies and help all moms have healthy, full-­‐term pregnancies has been the focus of the March of Dimes’ mission for the last several decades.

Recently, I hosted a few friends at my home to let them know about the amazing work done by March of Dimes and how exactly  they could help fulfill their mission. Over some sweet Southern tea and dessert, I shared with them a few ways they could be a part of the solution.

From Mother’s Day to Father’s Day, the March of Dimes encourages consumers to shop, donate or take part in partner promotions to support the cause. Each partner including Martha Stewart, Bon Ton, Mud Pie, KMart, Alex and Ani, eBay, AE Jewelers, and Blue Rhino have different promotions to support the cause and you can help by simply shopping the deals!

Need more reasons to shop? Support of the March of Dimes last year alone provided 15,700 babies lifesaving surfactant therapy, developed by March of Dimes researchers, and gave 90,000 families with a newborn in intensive care comfort and information through NICU Family Support®.

What will you do to help babies reach their full potential?

 

Building a Blog as a Business through Consistency

This post is written by guest blogger Ponn Sabra and is one-stop in the month-long Blogger Babes blog tour which began here with it’s opening post on Double Duty Divas’ blog. To read this post in-context, we recommend starting at the beginning–then hop along with us for the full journey.

While many bloggers start blogging as a hobby; that wasn’t the case for me. I was a freelance writer and published in academia for over a decade when I came online to simply publicize my debut book as an author. I knew my blog had to serve 3 main purposes:

  1. Position me as an expert,

  2. Build a following of my target market, and

  3. Help publicize my services and products.

So, I came into blogging with a totally different mindset. From the get-go, I was strategic in what I chose to write, even my very first blog post over 10 years ago.

But, freelance writing, especially AP style in my role as the networking columnist of Entrepreneur magazine’s women’s site was very time consuming and hard to balance with a new family of 3 girls under 5 years old. So, I found my joy of “hobby blogging” by having my side mom blog. Those 6 tiny blogs ultimately became my “professional mom blog” for the next 6 years. Now a decade later, I’m transitioning back into a blend of both those worlds in my role as the managing partner of Blogger Babes.

My point is: no matter which route you take, the intentional (like my first blog), or the accidental (like my second) there’s something you ultimately have to decide:

Is your blog a hobby or business?

Can I use a strategy to leverage my passion of blogging and growing audience to turn a profit? Or, am I fine just blogging for the the joy and pleasure of blogging–which there’s nothing wrong with at all.

Bridgette and Cecelia found a way to leverage their experiences and relationships with blogging, and successfully launched and run the awesome blogger network Double Duty Divas. As a blog network owner myself, event planner, and brand-to-blog campaign organizer, I can attest that this may not be the “job” every blogger aspires.

But, that’s not your only option.

Building Traffic through a consistent blogging calendar

Simply blogging in one particular niche, adding affiliate links or having an ad network are three great ways to make a steady income. And, our Blogger Monthly Tutorials help you figure out if you have the time and stick-to-it-iveness to blog regularly, so you can actively have enough traffic to make a good income through your numerous affiliate relationships.

The only way to maintain traffic is by always giving fresh, unique content for your readers to come back too. And, being consistent is much more important than writing 10-days in a row, then not blogging for 10-weeks.

When I came on-board at Blogger Babes, it took me a couple months to get my blogging calendar set–and in January I have been able to maintain a steady Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday schedule. Our readers expect it and it helps me stay organized. This is one thing I felt was very important in developing steady blogging habits–that’s why our debut Monthly Trainer has a blogging calendar sample for you to duplicate.

Need Help writing consistently? Click here to sign up for the Early Bird special release of $5 per month!

Win Two-Hours of Blog Coaching with Heidi and Ponn ($298 value)

We’re crowdsourcing the name of our Monthly Training tutorials. Creating the eKits is one-thing, and publicizing it through a 25-blog blog-tour is another… and trying to tackle a creative training title is something my poor brain cannot handle alone.

So, we need your help!

Grand Prize: Two-Hours of Blog Coaching by Blogger Babes Co-Founders (Value $298)

  • Two one-hour blog coaching sessions, one with Heidi and one with Ponn. Coaching will be conducted separately on the phone (domestic), Skype, or our recorded webinar room (international).

How to Enter:

  1. Make one comment below for each monthly subscription title you create. Make sure you use your primary email, so it’s easy for us to reach you if you win!

Rules:

  1. Any age, any country. Minors with guardian’s permission.

  2. Unlimited number of entries across any/all guest blog posts from now until Monday, April 20, 2015.

  3. Deadline date: Monday, April 20, 2015 11:59 pm Pacific Time. [After all, we need time to design the covers. 😉 ]

  4. Winner selection: Heidi and I will select one winner and announce it Tuesday, April 21, 2015.

You can even champion your title by letting us know on Twitter @TheBloggerBabes or Facebook @TheBloggerBabes.

[Note: these actions do not serve as contest entries. Official entries must be made on this blogpost…but, we’d love to connect with you nonetheless.]

Next Steps:

  • Check out our draft sales page now, take some time, and share your proposed title below in the comments area on or before April 20th 11:59 pm Pacific time. While you’re there, sign up for our Early Bird release special!

Ponn Sabra is a best-selling author and homeschool mom of three tween and teen daughters, also bestselling authors and probloggers. The Managing Partner of Blogger Babes, Ponn has a secret passion for sewing…what’s your secret passion you’re willing to share?

Join me for a #MusselmansBigCup Twitter Party!

Something BIG is brewing at Musselman’s!  Come learn all about it and win some great prizes, too!

Musselman’s Big Cup Twitter Party
Tuesday, October 8th at 9 pm EST
Hashtag: #MusselmansBigCup

Who to Follow: @Musselmansapple,@DoubleDutyDivas @BridgetteLA, @CeceliaMecca @AngieKcom, @WhatMommiesNeed, & @RamblingChick 

Prizes:
Winners will be selected at random, for a total of four winners:
$25 Gift Card + Musselman Product
$25 Gift Card + Musselman Product
$50 Gift Card + Musselman Product

Grand Prize: $100 Gift Card + Musselman Product

RSVP at http://twtvite.com/MusselmansBigCup

Join me for a #Care4Today Twitter Party on October 3rd

In New Orleans, we are eagerly awaiting our first cold front of the Season to chase away the humid Southern weather.  We are longing to break out the sweaters, sip a hot pumpkin spice latte, and get outside to enjoy the cool breeze.  But with the change in Seasons comes an increase in seasonal allergens.

I don’t know about you, but I do not want my pumpkin patch-hayride-cornmaze filled day to be ruined with itchy eyes, a runny nose and constant sneezing!  My defense?  Allergy medicine.  But I have to be consistent.  Miss a day and I am doomed.  Fortunately, I was recently introduced to Care4Today™ Mobile Health Manager, a free mobile app and website with new features that are designed to support and motivate people to stay on schedule with their medications.

Want to learn more about the app?  Join me for a Twitter Party to chat about this wonderful tool and managing fall allergies!  Here’s the deets:

When: Thursday, October 3, at 1:00pm CST

Where: We’ll be on Twitter – follow the #Care4Today hashtag to track the conversation. You can see the details and RSVP via this Twtvite: http://twtvite.com/care4today

Hashtag: #Care4Today

Prizes: Five prizes will be awarded throughout the party to participants who respond correctly to trivia questions. Each winner will receive a $50 Visa gift card and a Vera Bradley pill case.

Hosts: @theMotherhood, @theMotherhood25, @CooperMunroe, @EmilyMcKhann

My fellow co-hosts:

@ParentPalace – Amber, Parent Palace, http://parentpalace.com
@EcoBabyMamaDram – Bri, Eco Baby Mama Drama, http://ecobabymamadrama.com
@BridgetteLA – Bridgette, Experimental Mommy, http://www.thenotsoblog.com
@debthompson – Deb, Just Short of Crazy, http://www.justshortofcrazy.com
@DonnaChaffins – Donna, Blog by Donna, http://blogbydonna.com
@waystosave – Kas, Southern Bella’s Ways To Save, http://www.southernbellaswaystosave.com
@amomsimpression – Kathy, A Mom’s Impression, http://amomsimpression.com
@blueviolet – Liz, A Nut in a Nutshell, http://www.anutinanutshell.com
@lomargie – Lori, A Day in Motherhood, http://www.adayinmotherhod.com
@suelee1998 – Susan, Susan’s Disney Family, http://www.susansdisneyfamily.com
@cookiesANDclogs – TerriAnn, Cookies & Clogs, http://www.cookiesandclogs.com

Hope to see you there!!

Join Me for a #PampersLoveSleepPlay Twitter Party!

Pampers love sleep play

Pampers Love Sleep Play Twitter Party with the Double Duty Divas

When: Thursday, August 29th at 9 pm EST
Where: Twitter
Hashtag: #PampersLoveSleepPlay
Who to Follow: @Pampers,@DoubleDutyDivas @BridgetteLa, @CoolBabyKid, @MyFourMonkeys, @WhatMommiesNeed, & @RamblingChick

Prizes: Winners will be selected at random, for a total of five (5) winners:

  •  1 one-month supply of Pampers diapers and wipes (retailing at approximately $72 each) chosen from the RSVP list
  •  3 one-month supply of Pampers diapers and wipes (retailing at approximately $72 each)chosen from the party.
  • 1 Grand prize to help your baby Love, Sleep, & Play which includes a 3 month supply of Pampers diapers and wipes, Lovie blanket, “Good Night Moon” book, Cloud B Sleep Sheep, and Playskool toy.

RSVP at http://twtvite.com/pamperslovesleepplay

Love twitter parties? Make sure to check out the Latina Mom Bloggers as they host another party with @PampersLatino on Wednesday, August 28th at 9pm EST. Follow the hashtag #PampersAmorSuenosJuegos to join and click here to RSVP.

Want the Divas to help promote your brand and promote you via Twitter to their combined 85k+ followers? Contact us at admin@doubledutydivas.com for rates.

Swimming with Dolphins in Cozumel #CCLSummer

This post is the opinion of the Experimental Mommy.  I won the cruise during a social media scavenger hunt sponsored by Carnival Cruise Lines. Excursions were purchased by my family.  All opinions remain 100% mine.

After visiting Honduras and Belize, our final port on our 7 day Carnival Conquest Cruise was Cozumel, Mexico.  After such a busy day in Belize, we were thrilled to visit Chakanaab Park for a Dolphin Encounter.  As we approached Cozumel, I immediately noticed the beautiful water.  The color was by far the most impressive of our stops.

At the pier, we boarded passenger vans for the 15 minute ride to Chakanaab National Park.  Our tour guide helped us get fitted for life jackets (required for everyone) before entering the dolphin encounter area in the Caribbean Sea.  We entered a sectioned off portion which included two dolphins about 3 years old.  The dolphin trainer began by showing us what the dolphins can do! My girls were in awe as they jumped, swam and waved in front of us.

We stood on a ledge as each person got a chance to kiss, hug and shake “hands” with the dolphins (there were about 12 people in our group).  For the next 40 minutes, the trainers were great making sure that every person had multiple encounters with the dolphins ending with a few opportunities to “pet” them before exiting.  While you are not allowed to bring cameras, you can purchase pictures from the local photographers.  There are several dolphin excursions to pick from, but if you have young kids that are a bit anxious about interacting with the animals, this one is perfect.  If your child is a bit older and more adventurous, you can do a Dolphin Push, Pull and Swim excursion which offers more interaction.

After the dolphin encounter, we were free to explore Chakanaab on our own time.  We chose to check out a free sea lion show, do some shopping and have my daughter’s hair wrapped in colorful string.  For lunch, we decided on an outdoor cafe that served nachos, tacos and quesadillas….all delish!

Finally, we took advantage of the beautiful pool which has a large shallow end perfect for my two daughters.  For most of the day, they were the only kids in this section of the pool which made it very enjoyable.  Shuttles back to the pier left every hour, so we could choose to stay as long or as little as we wanted.

I would highly recommend this excursion through Carnival Cruise Lines.  Everyone was very friendly and it was well organized.  When the kids get older, I would love to return and do another Dolphin Encounter.  Have you been to Cozumel?  What was your favorite excursion?

 

 

 

 

It’s a Sandwich Showdown with #HotterPockets!

This post is the opinion of the Experimental Mommy.  Travel expenses were provided to facilitate this review but all opinions remain 100% honest.

Because I work outside of the home, I generally have to pack a lunch or eat something super quick at home before returning to the office.  Without tons of time, my go-to lunch consists of a turkey and Swiss sandwich on wheat.  Exciting, right?  While it certainly does the trick, I get bored with this option and have the tendency to resort to fast food.

Earlier this year, Linzy from Crawfish Tales had the opportunity to represent Experimental Mommy at the Nestle Test Kitchens to take a sneak peek behind the scenes at Hot Pockets.  While we have shared a little about her trip, we can finally unveil the big news:  the new and improved Hot Pockets sandwiches are here!!

With all new varieties made with premium cuts of meat, buttery seasoned crusts and real cheese, lunch never has to be boring again.  Linzy had first crack at tasting some fresh Hot Pockets including Ham and Cheese and Pepperoni Pizza.  The new sandwiches are made with premium meats like 100% Angus beef, Hickory Ham, Signature Pepperoni and White Meat Chicken while the crusts have baked in flavor like the new garlic butter.

Are you ready for a Sandwich Showdown? How does a Hot Pocket stand up against your favorite sandwich variety?  For me, I am a huge fan of a good meatball sub.  So, I was very interested to see how the Hot Pocket Meatballs & Mozzarella compared to a Meatball Sub from a national sandwich restaurant.  Take a look at the below graphic:

I love that the Hot Pockets are perfectly proportioned so I am not tempted to go overboard which saves me calories in the long run, too.  While I am craving the Meatballs & Mozzarella, my husband is most looking forward to trying the BBQ Beef Hot Pocket which is made with 100% angus beef in a sweet and tangy bbq sauce covered in a crispy buttery seasoned crust.  My kids?  The Four Cheese Pizza made with Parmesan, cheddar and reduced fat provolone and mozzarella cheeses in a garlic buttery seasoned crust, of course.

Not sure if you will like the Hot Pocket variety?  Scared to try something different?  Hot Pockets is so confident that consumers will love the new recipe that they are offering a money back guarantee.  No questions asked, just visit the Hot Pockets website for details.

If your mouth is watering, come back in the next few weeks when I will be giving away an awesome Hot Pockets prize pack!  Which variety are you most excited to try?

Taking a Look Behind the Scenes at Hot Pockets #Ambassador

I am excited to announce that I am a Hot Pockets Ambassador.  While I was unable to attend the brand event, Linzy from Crawfish Tales represented Experimental Mommy.  In this post, she shares her experiences and thoughts on the trip.  Travel was provided but all opinions remain 100% honest.

I am a mom, so that means one of many things. It means that from the day I became a mom I put myself even lower on the totem pole of my priorities. This results in my appearance, which I spend less than two minutes on in the morning, disheveled while my daughter is perfectly coordinated and her hair perfectly placed.

This is also means that I most likely forgot to eat breakfast or pack lunch for the day, but of course she is well taken care of. It is like the unspoken mom code. We all do it and we all forgive each other, especially in the mornings.

While I am still human, I need to eat. This sounds simple but there are a couple of issues with this. First, is that our family does not eat fast food. It is just not a part of our regular diet and is something reserved for specific situations like road trips. Second, is that eating out is expensive!  I can’t remember to pack a well-balanced lunch for myself but to purchasing lunch every day is just not in the budget. I can think of a million other ways that I would rather spend that money. Finally, I need to eat smart. I am not a supermodel nor do I have the metabolism that I did in high school.

So that is quite a list of criteria to put in to one meal on the go that has to be quick and easy.

Recently I was invited to go to the Nestle facility in Ohio to get a behind the scenes look at their Hot Pocket and Lean Pocket Brands. I was able to touch and taste the quality ingredients put into the sandwiches, meet with their lead nutritionist to learn about the great efforts they put into the nutritional value of the sandwiches and hear from the CEO himself about the company’s mission on producing healthy family friendly foods.

I really enjoyed hearing from the nutritionist. She talked about her personal goals of why she works for Nestle and how the company supports her requirement of producing quality products. She has put a lot of time and effort and her stamp of approval on the products.

One of the things that she mentioned is that portion sizes are quite out of control at many restaurants and even in the meals we make at home. Because a Hot Pocket comes prepared, the portion size is controlled. Partnering a Lean Pocket, with a fresh fruit or vegetable serving offers minimal additional calories and adds even more nutrition completing the meal.

I learned first-hand about the premium quality meats and real cheese in every bite as good sources for protein and calcium. While I know I was looking for a solution for my on the go breakfast and lunch needs, I was very excited to know that many of the Nestle products, including Hot Pockets and Lean Pockets, fit into the Balance Your Plate initiative.

If you are not familiar with the Balance Your Plate initiative, it is a tool kit designed by health and nutrition professionals to show consumers how to create a deliciously balanced, perfectly portioned meals that include the foods they love while meeting the current dietary guidelines.

This is perfect for moms on the go but as well as families on the go. It is hard to get a home cooked meal on the table each night and this is a great resource for mom as a go to meal planner to help insure that your family is getting the nutrients they need.

Be on the lookout in the coming months for exciting news, products and initiatives from Hot Pockets right here on Experimental Mommy!

Ten Things to Know Before Camping at Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park

This post is the opinion of the Experimental Mommy. Our cabin rental was provided to facilitate this review.  All opinions remain 100% mine.

Like any family, the end of the school year has been incredibly busy.  From tests to projects and parties to graduations, we have been non-stop all month long.  Fortunately, we were able to escape to Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park in Robert, Louisiana for a two night stay in order to take a deep breath and have some fun.

Here are the Top Ten Things to Know Before Camping at Yogi Bear’s Jellytsone Park:

10.  It’s only about an hour from New Orleans.  The kids barely had enough time to say, “Are we there yet, Mom?”  I had no idea this fun escape was so close to home.

9.  Cabins are available with two separate bedrooms.  Moms and Dads need their quiet time, too!

8.  Consider bringing a mattress topper or egg crate.  While two double beds are provided in the Louisiana Lodges (plus a daybed with a trundle), the mattress could use some help in the comfort department.  Also you are required to bring your own linens and towels (and I would recommend bringing your own pillows as well).

7.  Cabins are available with both air conditioning and heating. During a hot Louisiana summer, this is pure heaven.

6.  The kitchen in the Louisiana Lodges include a stove, microwave and refrigerator/freezer.  Cooking meals is a snap! Plus, if you bring your own ice trays, you can have a constant supply of ice for your drinks!  Outside of the cabin is a grilling area, which smells amazing at dinner time.

5.  There are two different “Hey Rides.”  The morning ride is a fun sing-a-long lasting about 15 minutes.  In the afternoon, the “Hey Ride” becomes a rolling super soaker adventure…bring your water guns!

4.  Take advantage of the Rec Center! The campground has done a wonderful job of lining up constant activities for the kids.  We painted ceramics and colored pillowcases but you could also tie dye T-Shirts, play bingo or participate in the Watermelon eating contest.  While most activities are free, some require a cash fee.

3.  Some cabins, like the Louisiana Lodges, surround their own private pool.  I highly recommend taking advantage of this zero entry pool as it was much less crowded than the main pool.  We always had a lounge chair to sit in and relax as long as we liked.

2.  Concessions are available on the grounds. Until about 6pm, you can purchase snacks such as nachos, chicken fingers, ice cream, snoballs, and more!  Plus, a convenience store stocks things you may have forgotten to bring.

1.  You will have fun!  In just two days, we swam, played at the splash park, mini-golfed, colored pillowcases, took a Hey Ride, spent time on the playground, took a ride on the paddleboats, made a campfire, played Bingo, met new friends and the infamous Yogi the Bear.

But the best part is that we spent quality time together as a family away from the hectic pace of everyday life.  To find out more about Yogi Bear Jellystone Park in Robert, Louisiana, follow them on Twitter and Facebook!

I’m an Auntie Anne’s Pretzel Pro!

Recently, I had the honor of attending Auntie Anne’s Pretzel Academy, to learn all about the pretzel experience. I was more than happy to stand in for Bridgette, especially since pretzel tasting was involved. And, while I have always loved the sweet cinnamon sugar pretzel sticks that Auntie Anne’s has to offer, I will admit that I did not know a lot about the company.

 

 

Founded by Anne Beiler, Auntie Anne’s started as a stand in a farmer’s market where they were raising money to help counsel families in need.  And, as they say the rest is history!  Following Anne’s motto: ”Give, to Get Back, to Give Again” the company continues to grow and partner with great causes, such as Alex’s Lemonade Stand.

 

While in Lancaster, PA, home of Auntie Anne’s, I learned all about the pretzel making process and what makes their pretzels stand above the rest. From the special dough, which is shipped directly to the franchise stores, to the variety of pretzels offerings, Auntie Anne’s is like no other. They serve only the freshest pretzels, which are guaranteed to be fresh out of the oven, within 30 minutes of serving them.  And, this can be seen by how fast they are growing as they are now the world’s largest hand-rolled soft chain with more than 1,330 stores in more than 25 countries and 46 states!

I did learn the pretzel making process and now know that it is no easy task. The dough must take time to rise and then is hand rolled into that special shape we all know and love. I also was taught how to roll a pretzel from Anne herself, which was just a little intimidating! (brag moment) But, I must have learned well, since I won the pretzel rolling contest!

The best thing that I learned, is that I have a new favorite pretzel, which is the Almond Pretzel with caramel sauce! Super yummy!! Be sure to follow Auntie Anne’s on Facebook and Twitter, and keep checking back here on Experimental Mommy to keep up to date on all things pretzel.

This post was written by Renee of What Mommies Need.  Auntie Anne’s covered travel expenses for this trip but all opinions remain 100% honest.