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

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!

The Best $15 I Spent at Walt Disney World

A few days ago, my family and I returned from an epic adventure at the Disney Social Media Mom Celebration. As part of the event, I gained inside access to upcoming Disney movies, resort and park news which I can’t wait to share with you (posts coming soon). The conference agenda was jam packed with pixie dust which only left us a few hours to explore Disney World on our own. Armed with our Fast Pass+, I set out to maximize the fun in a minimal amount of time and in the process, I found an invaluable resource you must know about.

Disney’s Express Bus Transportation is hands down the best $15 I have ever spent at the parks.

Disney's Express Bus Transportation

Because we had only a few hours in the parks, we intended to hit EPCOT, Magic Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios in a single day. Ambitious? Maybe. But we did it thanks to the Express Transportation service! So why is this service arguably the best $15 I have ever spent at Disney World? Let me break it down.

On the first morning, I simply asked our Disney resort concierge to add the Express Transportation tickets right to our Magic Bands. The cost is just $15 per person per day (and $24 per person for extended stays).  Because the service does not begin till 10am, you will make your way to the park and go through security as usual. When entering our first park of the day, EPCOT, we stopped at Guest Services to inquire about the Express Transportation schedule and location for pick up. The buses run every 30 minutes but you want to get the daily schedule so you are not wasting precious park time waiting for the next bus to arrive.

In EPCOT, the pick up location is near Guest Relations by Spaceship Earth. Just look for the signs and check in with the cast member who will scan your Magic Band. You will promptly be escorted backstage and onto an Express Transportation Bus which uses behind the scene roads to get to your destination quicker than using the regular park transportation. Another plus? You are dropped off inside your desired park allowing you to skip the long walk and security lines.

No lines. No crowded buses. Shorter commute. Less walking. No security lines. Faster to the fun! BEST.SERVICE.EVER.

We were literally the only people on the bus which allowed tired eyes to take a quick nap and rejuvenate. The Express Transportation dropped us off inside Magic Kingdom near Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin which was made it super easy to get to our “Be Our Guest” reservation in plenty of time. Again, don’t forget to ask the bus schedule when you arrive at the park if you plan to hitch another ride that day.

Disney's Express Transportation

After hitting all of our favorite rides in Magic Kingdom, we headed back to the Express Transportation pick up, checked in and were on our way to Hollywood Studios (again being the only family on the bus). The bus dropped us off right behind Tower of Terror allowing us to again skip security lines and head straight to the magic.

If you have Park Hopper passes and plan to hit multiple parks in one day, the Express Transportation is WELL WORTH THE PRICE. A few final notes:

  • Since the buses drop you off inside the parks, you will miss the “grand entrances” to each park (for example, walking down Main Street towards Cinderella’s Castle). If those photo opportunities are important to you, be aware that you will have to double back to see them.
  • Because you are behind the magic when you are escorted to your bus, photos and video are discouraged.

If you are looking for a way to pack more fun into a Disney vacation, definitely consider the Express Transportation option! We found it to be truly magical!