The Ultimate Mom’s Night Out from Mom, Baby & Beyond {Giveaway!}

Attention South Florida moms and moms-to-be!  Do I have your attention yet?  Good, because a fabulous event is headed our way.  On Tuesday, September 23rd The Ultimate Mom’s Night Out is coming to the Heron Bay Marriott in Coral Springs!UMNO

Sponsored by Belly Love Spa and Whole Foods Market Coral Springs, this event is a can’t miss, full of prizes, speakers, vendors, and so much more.  Oh, and did I mention samples and swag bags?  Oh, yes, they’ll be there too!  Right along with Sara Haley, a pre/post natal fitness expert and one of the 50 hottest trainers of 2014 featured in Shape Magazine, who is sure to have a few tips on working out during pregnancy and how to get that pesky baby weight off after your baby is born. 

To learn more about The Ultimate Mom’s Night Out be sure to like them on Facebook and plan to be at The Ultimate Mom’s Night Out by registering here.

You can also enter below to win a pair of general admission tickets to The Ultimate Mom’s Night Out, by entering below:

    • 1 winner will receive a $25 gift card for Whole Foods Market Coral Springs
    • 1 winner will receive a manicure and pedicure at Belly Love Spa
    • 1 winner will receive a Sweat Unlimited DVD from Sara Haley Fitness

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A Mid-Summer Swim Update

Disclosure:  I’m a SwimWays Swim Team Ambassador.  The items photographed below were given to me in order to facilitate my review.  All thoughts, opinions, and photographs are my own.

As I lamented to my mother about Greenleigh’s refusal to swim earlier this year, she assured me that it would happen.  She said that I was the exact same way, and that I eventually just decided that I wanted to swim.  She told me that it took time and patience and a certain amount of “letting it go” before it happened, but I did in fact swim on my own.  She told me that Greenleigh would be the same way.  And deep down, I knew it was true.  She would swim.  I just wasn’t completely convinced that it would happen anytime soon.  After all, she’s been adamant about not swimming since…well…last summer.

But today?  This girl can swim!SwimWaysSwimming

She’s practically half fish.

The secret?  Well, honestly, I don’t know that there is one.  I know that our SwimWays Power Swmr helped a ton.  It seemed to build her confidence in a way that my encouragement didn’t.  And although I removed the first of the inserts without her knowing, she actually became a part of the process after removing the first two, and seemed to delight in the challenge of removing inserts.  She actually asked me to remove them on one occasion.  It was fun to see her enjoy swimming, even if it was assisted.

And then a funny thing happened.  My mom came to visit and went swimming with the girls.  But before they got into the pool, she took 6 pennies out of her purse and said that they were going to play a game.  She threw the pennies into the pool and encourage Greenleigh to dive for them.  Always up for a game – and never wanting to lose – Greenleigh proceeded to dive for the pennies on the floor of the pool, but even at it’s lowest setting, her Power Swimr wouldn’t let her reach the bottom of our shallow end.

Greenleigh begged me to take the Power Swimr off and I agreed, so as long as my mom was right there with her.  My mom then helped her dive for the pennies and encouraged her to swim to the side of the pool when she had one.  In approximately one afternoon, she learned to dive to the bottom of the pool, find the penny, and swim to the side.  It was progress and it was amazing.

But the pennies were far from a long term solution.  They’re not safe for the pool or my pool cleaner, and although I loved my mom’s intentions, I secretly cringed every time they were thrown into the pool.  Just one left behind could lead to big, expensive problems.  Which is why I was particularly excited to see that SwimWays sent me pool toys in my latest SwimWays Ambassador shipment.  These SwimWays Squidivers are so much safer for my pool than pennies.  Cuter too!SwimWaysSqui

If you haven’t seen them before, Squidivers are soft, flexible diving toys, that stand upright when thrown in the pool, so they’re easy to grab.  Each pack of Squidivers come with 3 toys, each brightly colored with numbers (10, 20, 30) on the side, which makes them perfect for pool games (the SwimWays website lists 8 games that you can play them!).  They even have adorable little eyes and smiley faces.  They’re designed to develop underwater swim skills, which is exactly what they’ve done for Greenleigh.SwimWaysDivers

While the idea of swimming unassisted used to terrify her, she now dives for her Squidivers and smiles when they’re retrieved.  I almost can’t believe the change, but I’m so grateful for it.
SwimWaysSquiDivers

For Hazeline, who’s showing great progress in her PowerSwmr although not yet swimming on her own, the nice people at SwimWays sent Gobble Gobble Guppies.  A pool toy specifically geared towards preschoolers 2 years and up, Gobble Gobble Guppies brings learning into the pool.  Using the trigger, preschoolers open the whale’s mouth to gobble up the multicolored guppies, each of which has a number on its side.  Preschoolers can gobble guppies in numerical or color order, making that afternoon in the pool pretty educational.SwimWaysGuppies

This toy was a hit from the second I took it out of the box.  Hazeline loves gobbling up the guppies in order based on color.  I just have to remind her not to cheat and push the guppies into the shark’s mouth using her other hand.  SwimWaysGobbleGobbleGuppiesSwimWaysSharkAnd while it’s really made for preschoolers, I can assure you that this almost-kindergartner loves to gobble too.  This toy has been “borrowed” more than once.
SwimWaysGuppiesGobbling

So as it turns out, the answer to our swim problems was simple – play.  Unlike last year, my kids are enjoying their hours in the pool this summer and showing a ton of progress.  I’m a very happy mom.  Thank you SwimWays!SwimWaysToys

But we aren’t done having fun just yet – be sure to stay tuned for my next SwimWays update.   There’s a lot of summer swimming left!

Standing is a breeze & I’m a Believer {Plus, a Very Special Giveaway from 4moms!}

Confession: Lately, I’ve been a little really worried about Everett’s development.

It all started when Everett was just shy of 6 months old.   A friend of ours who had her baby 2 weeks before I had Everett, posted pictures of her baby at the pediatricians office waiting for his 6 month check up.  Her baby was sitting - unassisted - and smiling for the camera.

So I did that thing that moms aren’t supposed to do – I compared my baby to someone else’s baby.  As moms we are constantly told that all babies are different, babies develop at their own pace, that they’ll hit all their milestones (eventually), blah, blah, blah.  But it’s just so hard not to compare.  And at just under 6 months old, Everett wasn’t showing any signs of sitting, let alone sitting unassisted.  To make matters worse, I clearly remember both of his sisters sitting unassisted by 5 months old (and even dug through some pictures to prove it to myself).

I made excuses in my mind as to why he could be developmentally behind, namely that we battled reflux for several months which greatly affected his weight, but I couldn’t convince myself.  Instead, I brought my concerns to the pediatrician’s attention at our 6 month appointment.  The pediatrician listened intently, sat Everett up between her hands, let go, and watched as he held the sitting position for all of 3 seconds before wobbling over.  “Yeah, that’s about normal.  I’m not worried,” she concluded.   She said we’d evaluate again at his 9 month appointments as I racked my brain to remember if I needed referrals for these types of issues under our new insurance policy.  Because I was sure there was something wrong.

A few weeks later Everett started showing interest in sitting, but even at 7 months he was still falling over after 30-60 seconds.  We practiced often, but it didn’t seem to help.  He was far more content laying down and rolling in his desired direction, than sitting up and crawling towards it.  Being the mom of 3, I wanted to stay calm and enjoy the non-mobile stage, I really did, but it was hard.

So imagine my surprise when I walked into daycare to find Everett doing this last week:4moms breezeOkay, so that’s a reenactment at my house, but you get the picture – He’s standing!  What!?!

“It’s all he’s wanted to do all day,” the teacher explained to me as Everett giggled from the crib where he was standing.  “I can’t even put him with the other babies because he just wants to stand all the time and he tries to crawl up and over the walls of the play area,” she continued.  She then told me that she had to assist him into the standing position and help him hold on, but that he took it from there.  Sure enough, I took him home, plopped him in his soft sided baby pod, only for him to be halfway over the soft-sided wall seconds after I put him down.  “Up” was definitely a direction that he was now interested in.

So I took out our new 4moms breeze playard.  That soft sided baby pod was great while it lasted, but it was no longer going to work.  We needed a place for Everett to be able to stretch his legs…and his smile.breeze3

And chew every now and again…4moms breeze chewing

Thankfully, the breeze isn’t one of those playards that I need to fight with.  It sets up and comes down with one simple push/pull (yeah, I know, I wouldn’t have believed it either, but you can see a video here), and is light enough to be moved all around the house, depending on where I need it.  I can assure you our breeze has been getting a lot of use lately.  And because it seems just a little bigger than our old playard, Everett has more room to move around.4moms breeze laying

Days later, Everett started trying to crawl.  So as it turns out, maybe I should have believed the pediatrician.  I guess he just has his own order for things.  Oh, and he’s sitting pretty consistently now too:4moms breeze sitting down4moms breeze sitting

But now that I know he can do it, I kinda wish that we could go back to that immobile stage.  ‘Cause I have a feeling that 3 mobile kids are going to keep me pretty busy!
4moms breeze everett

Are you tired of battling your playard every time you want to use it?  Do you have a little one that might enjoy the 4mom’s breeze?  Great, because I’m giving one away right here on my blog!  And make sure to like the 4moms Facebook page because they’re giving away a breeze each day for the entire month of June!
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Summer Grilling Tips & a Savory Summer Giveaway Hop!

I can’t believe that we’re already halfway through June!  Where is the time going?  While I realize that it isn’t “officially” summer yet, it sure feels like it – the temperatures are rising, the kids are outside more, and every weekend it’s another barbecue at our house.  I think our grill has gotten some serious use in the past few weeks.  Which is why I thought this would be the perfect time to share some Summer Grilling Tips!Summer Grilling Tips

Marinate Overnight

When grilling steaks and chicken, it’s natural to marinate your meat, but throwing the marinade on the meat at the last minute isn’t enough.  For full flavor, marinate your meat for 24 hours (in the fridge) before grilling.  I also find it helpful to cover my marinating dish, either with a lid, plastic wrap, or foil (this also helps with possible contamination issues).

Don’t Contaminate

Every year people end up sick because bacteria at a barbecues.  It’s frightening, really.  So once you’ve used that brush to spread marinade your meat, put it in the sink to be washed.  And once your meat is cooking on the grill, don’t try to use the left over marinade on the meat (one brush immediately after you put it on the grill is okay, but after that, throw it out).  Reason being, that brush and marinade has bacteria on it from the raw meat and that bacteria can get you really sick.  On a similar note, make sure to keep your hands, spatula, grill, and other surfaces clean.  Antibacterial wipes can really help here!

Skip the Squeeze

When my husband hands the spatula over to me, it takes everything I’ve got not to press the meat on the grill.  I think a little part of me thinks that pressing the meat down will help the food cook or show me if it’s done, but the best thing that you can do is to leave it alone and skip the squeeze!  Let the food cook for several minutes, flip it over to cook some more, then gently press down on a small section of the meat (to see if the juices run clear), and remove it from the grill when done.  This will keep all those  juices in your food making it extra flavorful!

Meat Needs Rest Too

This is something that I learned very recently.  By immediately cutting into meat after it’s taken off the grill, you lose the juices that make meat taste flavorful.  Instead, allow the meat to sit after taking it off the grill.  This will allow the meat to cool to a safe temperature and trap more of the juice inside.  It doesn’t need to rest long, but 10 -15 minutes can make a definite difference and improve flavor!

End on a Sweet Note

After you’ve devoured your grilled goods, your bound to be full, but there’s always room for dessert…and what dessert screams summertime more than Bomb Pops?  I can’t think of one!  So sit down, relax, and enjoy a cool treat!BombPop

So how do you plan to celebrate this summer?  Would a little gift from Publix & Bomb Pop help?  Great, because I’m giving away a Patriotic Prize Pack to one lucky reader.  The Patriotic Prize Pack is valued at $50 contains:Bomb Pop Prize Pack Photo

  •  2 coupons for free boxes of Bomb Pop (found at Publix)
  • $25 Publix gift card
  • Patriotic Star Cupcake Combo Pack
  • Patriotic Tableware Caddy
  • Red, White & Blue Fan Decorations
  • Patriotic 3-D Star Centerpieces
  • Chevron Treat Bags

Enter using the Giveaway Tools form below and it could be yours!  Good luck everyone!

And now for the hop… 2014savorysummerpostbanner Welcome to the 3rd annual Savory Summer Giveaway Hop! I have teamed up with our host Measuring Flower and a group of amazing bloggers to bring you a compilation of awesome food and food-related prizes! This is a giveaway hop which means that, after you after entered my giveaway below, you can “hop” on to the next participating blog to enter their giveaway, too. You can find a list with links to all the other bloggers towards the bottom of this post. 2014 grand prize image Oh, and don’t forget to check out this event’s totally awesome grand prize giveaway! It’s for a 10-piece stainless steel cookware set from Calphalon!


Disclaimer: Diary of a Working Mom and its authors are not responsible for other bloggers’ sponsors who do not fulfill their prizes.

This event brought to you by Measuring Flower Events.

Seventh Generation Diapers: Convenient & Eco-Friendly!

Disclosure:  Thanks to Seventh Generation for sponsoring this post and allowing me to try their Free & Clear Diapers and wipes.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.SeventhGenerationDiapersandWipesA few months ago I was in the grocery store when I happened to see Seventh Generation diapers on the shelf.  I’d heard of Seventh Generation before – mostly for their plant-derived dish and laundry detergents – but I didn’t know that they made diapers.  A few moments later, I noticed Seventh Generation wipes in an area nearby.  Now, I’m typically pretty loyal to a particular brand of diapers in the first few months of my baby’s life, but once they become mobile?  All bets are off.  I’m always looking for a diaper that’s softer, more flexible, and won’t allow leaks.  With Everett definitely being mobile, I figured it was the perfect time to give these diapers and wipes a try.

If you haven’t heard, Seventh Generation Free & Clear diapers are the very first FSC (Forestry Stewardship Council) Certified Diaper made in North America.  What does that mean exactly?  Well, while Seventh Generation has always used sustainable pulp in making their diapers, being FSC certified takes Seventh Generation diapers to a whole new level.  FSC standards require encouragement of healthy forest growth and prohibiting loss of natural forest cover and use of highly hazardous chemicals, among other things.   Basically, these diapers are greener than ever before.

I’ll admit, upon opening the package, I was surprised that the diapers were brown.  I was expecting bright white diapers and cute prints, but the more I thought about it, the diapers being brown, just made sense.  Seventh Generation Free & Clear diapers are free of chlorine processing, inks, synthetic fragrances, and petroleum-based lotions.  And logically, that means they aren’t going to be bright white and there won’t be any patterns.SeventhGeneration

After getting past the initial shock of the diapers being brown, Everett put them to the test.  I think these diapers fit a tiny bit smaller than other brands, but they adjusted well to his waist line and hugged around his legs.  Plus, the tabs were strong and didn’t pull off the diaper when I was putting it on or taking it off (as sometimes tends to happen).

We didn’t have a singe leak in the entire time that we used them, which I don’t think is a coincidence.  Seventh Generations Free & Clear diapers have a totally unbleached core.  That allows the diaper to absorb more while still being safe on baby’s most sensitive skin.  And no matter how active Everett was, these diapers held up.  Not even the smallest drop escaped. While I don’t think that these diapers are absorbent enough to be used as an overnight diaper (for kids that are sleeping 10-12 straight hours at night), I think they are very reliable when it comes to leaks, making them a great daytime option.

Like the diapers, Seventh Generation Free & Clear wipes are free of synthetic fragrances, dyes, parabens and are hypoallergenic.  They’re strong and cloth-like, and they didn’t tear as I took them out of the package.  I found that one of these wipes could take care of a mess that might take 3-4 of another brand’s wipes, so you’re actually using less, which means less waste.  And I love the size of their travel wipes package!  Sixty four is the perfect number to fit in the diaper bag, but be enough to last on a longer trip away from home.  For example, I brought one package of Seventh Generation travel wipes with me to Disney and used it with all three kids and we still had plenty left over when we got home.  But again, you don’t need as many of these wipes.

But most of all, I like that with Seventh Generation, I’m making a greener choice.  You see, I’m not really what you would consider a “green mom”.  I try to do the right thing for the environment, but often I cave to the less eco-friendly, convenient option.  With Seventh Generation, I get both – convenient and eco-friendly.  What could be better?

SVG...1To learn more about Seventh Generation, be sure to check out their website and follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.  And be sure to check out their Instagram contest going on now through June 30th.  One lucky winner is going to receive a 6 month supply of Seventh Generation Free & Clear Diapers!

Have you tried Seventh Generation Free & Clear Diapers?  What did you think?

How to Plan the Perfect Family Movie Night with TWIX® Bites

I am a member of the Collective Bias® Social Fabric® Community. This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper amplification for #CollectiveBias and its advertiser. #EatMoreBitesTWIX Family Movie Night There are few things that my girls love more than family movie night.  Just the mere mention of movie night will cause them to run upstairs to change to pajamas before plopping themselves down on the couch.  They love everything about movie night – the characters, the snuggle time on the couch, and the snacks.  Oh, the snacks!  I love movie night because it’s a break from the go, go, go that is my life…but I like to snack, too. Because our family movie nights tend to occur on a whim, I constantly cruise the candy aisle at Walmart to keep us stocked with movie night supplies.  Which is why I happened to take notice of TWIX® Bites when they arrived at our store late last month.  But if I’m being totally honest, I wasn’t the first one to notice them:TWIX and HazelineYes, someone inherited my sweet tooth!  But who could blame her?  Cookies and caramel doused in chocolate – that’s pretty delicious.  Plus, the new TWIX Bites are smaller in size, making them perfect for kids and their little hands.  And the resealable bag allows you to eat a few and then seal it back up for later.  Although just by looking at the package I realized that resealing the bag before it was empty would be hard.TWIX Bites on Shelf So I picked up a few – 4 to be exact, 1 for each of us – and we were on our way.  But they didn’t even make it home…  How could I let them sit all by themselves in the back of the car?  That just wouldn’t have been right.  Not right at all.  Instead, they were sampled in the car.

And it was at that point I was certain that they were going to be the perfect addition to our family movie night, because they tasted exactly like the regular TWIX bars that we love, but in smaller bite-size pieces.  And while the package may look small enough to toss in your purse, there are a ton of bites in the package.  We weren’t going to need 1 package each, but I was glad to have a few extras on had because it was clear that these snacks were going to go quick!TWIX Inside So Monday evening, after we got back from Disney World, we deemed it family movie night.  I was exhausted, they were exhausted, and we all just needed a break.  Family movie night was the perfect way to unwind.  We all snuggled on the couch and enjoyed Parent Trap together as family.  And TWIX Bites were there!TWIX Movie Night 2Which got me thinking…  How do you do family movie nights?  Here are my 4 tips for a fabulous family movie night:

Get Comfy.  This is your time to let your hair down and get comfortable.  Wear your favorite pajamas or sweats and settle down on the couch.  For a little extra fun, view movies in themed costumes – we do this for Frozen, where the girls wear their princess dresses and I wear a crown.  They think it’s pretty much the best thing ever.

Something Salty.  My girls love popcorn, so it’s a must for us during family movie night.  If you have little kids, make sure to give each child their own portion of popcorn in their own bowl.  This will avoid fights and reduce the amount of popcorn that ends up on your floor.  For younger kids, try using covered snack traps to keep the popcorn contained.

Something Sweet.  This is where TWIX bites come in!     TWIX Movie Night 1They are the perfect compliment to those salty snacks and will satisfy any sweet tooth.  If you’re looking to stock up on TWIX Bites, right now you can save $1 off when you buy two 2.83 oz or larger bags OR $3 off when you buy two 6 oz or larger bags!2539_21mars_wmt_CB-Bite-Assets_vBOr you can try this coupon for $2 off any two (2) MARS Brand Bites, 6oz. or larger. Includes TWIX®, 3 MUSKETEERS®, MILKY WAY® Simply Caramel, MILKY WAY® & SNICKERS®

Drink Up.  Don’t forget the drinks!  But rather than cola - especially because bedtime is just around the corner – try making fruit infused waters.  If your kids need the bubbles, try mixing orange juice with sprite (70/40).  The kids get the bubbles of cola but with fruit juice and no caffeine.

Movies Everyone Can Enjoy.  My kids love Frozen, but I’m pretty over that one right now.  So instead we’ve been sticking to the classics – Parent Trap, Pollyanna, Mary Poppins…all in their original versions.   Old movies (that are free On Demand!), but my kids haven’t seen them so they’re brand new for them.   No matter what movie you select, it should be one that everyone can enjoy.

What are your favorite films to watch as a family?

What’s in my Diaper Bag: Kuddles from Winn Dixie {Review & Giveaway}

Thank you to Winn Dixie for sponsoring today’s post.DiaperBag

About a month ago, I was in Winn Dixie when I realized that we needed baby food.  I landed in the baby section and began looking for my normal brand of baby food when my eyes landed on something I hadn’t seen before – a brand called Kuddles.  I picked up the baby food twin pack and liked what I saw – two small, round plastic containers, with snap on lids (very similar to tupperware).  Since my normal baby food came in a glass jar, I thought that this was a perfect alternative for my diaper bag when we’re on the go.  I mean, who wants to travel with glass if it can be avoided?  Plus, the price was perfect at about a dollar per twin pack, or fifty cents per serving.  I ended up grabbing a few flavors – Berry Banana, Tropical Medley, Pear Squash, and, of course his favorite, Applesauce.

After being incredibly happy with the baby food – both in price and quality – I started noticing Kuddles in other sections of the baby aisle.  Diapers, shampoo, juices, puffs, the Kuddles name was everywhere!  And all at very budget friendly prices.  But Winn Dixie’s Kuddles brand doesn’t stop at a great price.  Kuddles takes it so much further.  Their cute patterned, soft diapers contain hypoallergenic and fragrance free liners.  And they’re virtually leak-proof…trust me, Everett really put them to the test!  I especially loved the fitted (but expandable) waistband in the back, which catered to his slightly smaller waist.  And unlike other store brands, I didn’t have any problems with the tabs pulling off or tearing.kuddlesdiapers

Kuddle’s wipes are alcohol-free and come in 10 different scents, including new Soothing Shea Butter, Lavender and Green Tea. They’re strong and cloth-like, which makes them perfect for any mess thrown at me…even if it’s by one of my older kids.  But the best part about Kuddle’s wipes for me, is that they come in so many different size varieties.  Smaller travel packs for the diaper bag, larger travel packs for long trips, wipe refills for daycare, or multi-travel packs.  No matter where you’re going, Kuddles wipes can go with you!  When you’re home – and need more than wipes – Kuddles shampoo, lotions, body wash, baby powder, and baby oil are there to help.kuddleswipes

And with formula costs often being a budget-buster, Kuddles can help!  Kuddles offers five different varieties of formula that have been FDA reviewed and approved, with DHA and ARA included.  I noticed that these formulas were about $8-10 less (on average) than the national brands.  And of course, Kuddles has juice and puffs for when they get a little older.KuddlesFormula

With Kuddles, you get great products at great prices, and because they’re at Winn Dixie, they’re easy to find.  Once you try Kuddles – like I did – you’ll see how much you can save, making you and your little one pretty happy.

So now, after being something that I picked up on a whim, Kuddles has a standing spot in my diaper bag.  I stock up weekly!KuddlesWinnDixieWant to try Kuddles for yourself?  Great, because today I’m giving away a $25 Winn Dixie gift card!  Even better?  There will be TWO winners!  That’s right, two winners will get the chance to stock up on Kuddles baby products to save time, save money, and make happy happen!  Just enter using the rafflecopter form below and it could be you!
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Make Room for the 2014 Toyota Highlander – We Did!

A very special thank you to Southeast Toyota for sponsoring this post and giving my family the opportunity to test drive the 2014 Toyota Highlander.  I received a gas card for use during my test drive.  No other compensation was received.  ToyotaHighlanderYou may or may not remember, but car shopping was hard for me.  Really hard.  At the time I had 2 kids, a full time job, a million other responsibilities, and blogged on the side.  I had no time or desire to research cars, go to dealerships, or haggle with salesmen.  And money for a sitter to watch my kids so I didn’t have to drag them from dealership to dealership whining that they were tired or bored (I seriously want to strangle the person who introduced them to the word “bored”) or hungry?  No.  Just no.  So when I finally got my car about 18 months ago, I planned to keep it…well…forever, just so I never have to go through the process of car shopping again.  I had no intention of looking at another vehicle, let alone test driving one, for the rest of my natural life, or as long as my new car continued to run.

But this spring, I was offered a unique opportunity – test drive the newly redesigned Toyota Highlander for 8 days and tell Toyota what I thought.  Sounded easy enough.  And telling people what I think is why I started this blog.  So I eagerly accepted, drove to the dealership, and picked up the keys.highlander

For 8 days, I put this car through the ultimate “Busy Mom Test”.  I took this car everywhere!  From dance class to birthday parties to Literacy Night at the kids’ school to a mouth-watering Mother’s Day brunch at one of my favorite Italian restaurants.  I even managed to squeeze in a very rare girls night with Greenleigh and Hazeline.  And everywhere we went the Highlander caught people’s attention.  Maybe it was the intoxicating new car smell that seemed to ooze from the vehicle or it’s sleek, stylish design, but either way, this car was noticed.  And it was pretty fun to drive too.  So in no particular order, here are just a few of the things that I loved about the 2014 Highlander:

Perfect for Kids 

My kids loved this car.  My oldest actually gave the car a hug when the valet brought it around for us after brunch.  I wish I would have caught a picture of it, but quite frankly, I was laughing too hard.  Most of their admiration stemmed from the presence of the Bluray player, but they were also huge fans of the captains chairs (which made it easier to get to their seats), built in window shades, and cool blue night lighting illuminating the doors when you got out.ToyotaHighlanderBlueLightingBut again, the Bluray player got most of the credit.  The car was nicknamed the “TV car” pretty early on.  I think they watched Frozen a thousand more times in the 8 days that I drove this car.  ToyotaHighlanderBluRayHonestly, I didn’t love how long it took for the Bluray player to boot up and then having to skip through the previews each time, but the wireless headphones?  You know the ones that made it so I didn’t have to watch Frozen a thousand more times?  A definite win!

BluRayPlayer

It’s Fun to Drive

Having test driven tons and tons of SUVs while I was car shopping, I feel confident saying that the Highlander drives more like a car than a truck.  It responsive and easy to maneuver, even in tight spots.  Parking isn’t a problem.  You don’t feel like you’re driving a school bus – at all.  To say it’s a joy to drive would be an understatement.HighlanderDash

Interior Design

When I was shopping for a vehicle, the biggest problem that I had was finding one for 3 kids (we only had 2 at the time, but we always planned to have 3).  I needed to have room for 3 car seats, two of which were convertible car seats that are quite bulky.  Most SUVs we looked at didn’t allow for 3 car seats in the second row, and the SUVs that did offer third row seating, I often found that the third row was cramped, difficult to actually put into use, and/or left no room for luggage.   Plus, the third row always seemed way too close to the rear window, which concerned me considering so many accidents are rear end collisions.ToyotaHighlanderwith3kids

But with the Toyota Highlander, 3 kids are no problem.  In fact, 3 kids and luggage are no problem.  Kids and luggage and a stroller?  Still not a problem.  The captains chairs in the second row along with the third row seat allow each child to have their own space, and the tether point for the back row, ensures that the car seat in the back row is safe and secure.  And when the third row is in use, there’s still room behind the seat for luggage, meaning it isn’t right up against that back window. You can even use the split design for the third row and leave more room for luggage.  In fairness, I question whether I could fit my Bumbleride Indie twin stroller, Urbini umbrella stroller, and luggage in the back (using the split design of the third row, leaving only part of the third row up), but I never tried it…luckily, most people don’t have the addiction to strollers that I do.

To give you a visual, here’s the Highlander with the third row in use – you can sort of see where the third row splits, too:
ToyotaHighlanderwith3rdrow

And here’s the Highlander with the third row down:ToyotaHighlanderwith3rdrowdown

Essentially, it’s got a minivan feel on the inside (by virtue of the captains chairs), but with the stylish appearance of an SUV on the outside, complete with removable center console between the captains chairs, rear climate control, and even a traditional power outlet!ToyotaHighlanderCenterConsoleToyotaHighlanderRearClimateControl

Convenience

We’ve all be there – you walk out of the grocery store when you realize that you may have taken a few too many bags and leaving the cart behind was a bad idea.  Now you have to put all those bags down, unlock your car, open the door/tailgate, and then lift all the groceries again to get into the car.  Not the case with the Highlander.  It has an automatic lift gate that opens and closes with a simple press of a button – either on the remote or on the vehicle itself.ToyotaHighlanderAutoTailgateIn addition, the car also has voice activated navigation that not only give directions, but help you find a destination even if you don’t have a full address.  It’s like Siri meets GoogleMaps, but better.

Safety

This car comes with a backup camera – get this – standard.  ToyotaHighlanderBackUpCamYep, every single one has a back up camera.  There’s also a blind spot monitoring system in the side view mirrors and park assist.  And as someone who just recently had her purse stolen out of her vehicle, I was so happy to see that the center console could fit even my big purse and conceal it completely!  Of course, if you don’t want to use it for this purpose, it also has a tray insert that you can put in it instead.  HighlanderCollage

Creature Comforts Galore

Heated and air conditioned seats.  Touch screen in the dashboard.  Keyless start.  EnTune Audio (that allows you to pause & rewind live radio!).  I could go on and on…  Of course, these things aren’t necessary, but wow do they make life easier and more comfortable.  This car takes care of it’s driver and it’s passengers.   It’s luxurious but very practical at the same time.  I can’t tell you how much I miss that touch screen in the dash and huge storage area underneath the climate control area. [Insert heavy sigh here]ToyotaHighlanderStorageI loved this car so much I was actually sad the day I had to return it.  And my sadness didn’t even come close to how sad distraught my kids were when they realized that the “TV car” was gone.  By the end of the 8 days it was clear that my family had found a way to Make Room for the Toyota Highlander and it’s definitely on our short list if we ever go looking for another vehicle.

highlanderfamily

Oh, and if you happen to find yourself in South Florida and looking for a vehicle, make sure to stop by and visit Elvis and Duane at Toyota of Deerfield – they’re good people…who even stopped to answer my frantic call inquiring about the headphones for the DVD player on a Saturday evening.

Full Disclosure: We had the Limited model, which is just one of many models of the 2014 Highlander.  Some of the items described above are not available on some models or may be an additional cost.

#Ad How to Fit a High Protein Breakfast into Your Morning

Disclosure:  I am a member of the Collective Bias® Social Fabric® Community.  This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper amplification for Collective Bias and its advertiser. #StartWithTyson #CollectiveBiasTysonDayStarts1A few weeks ago, I wrote a post on how to simplify your family’s morning routine.  In that post I listed all the little things that I’m doing to make our morning easier – laying out clothes the day before, packing lunches for the next day while making dinner, not turning on the television or checking email, etc.  And for the most part, those changes have been really good for us.  I can honestly say that we’ve been getting out the door about 15-20 minutes earlier each day.  But what you may have notice in that post is that breakfast wasn’t given much of a priority.  Don’t get me wrong, I work very hard to ensure that my kids go to school with breakfast in their tummies or in their hands (breakfast is often an on-the-go experience for all of us)…but breakfast for me?  Not so much.  Day after day, I find myself skipping breakfast in the morning just so we can get out the door a little sooner, only to find myself absolutely starving by 11:30 am.  Then I binge on snacks and find myself full by lunch time.  It’s a vicious cycle.  Needless to say, I’m always on the lookout for an easy way to squeeze a high protein breakfast into my morning.

Which was why I was pretty excited to see the brand new Tyson Day Starts make an appearance at my local Walmart.  I literally stopped dead in my tracks when I saw them in the frozen breakfast case.
TysonCollageAlthough my store only had 2 varieties, there are 7 total, including southern style chicken biscuits, flatbreads, and omelet wraps.  Each filled with wholesome, healthy ingredients like natural cheeses, eggs, and Tyson quality meats and all ready in under 2 minutes.  But the best part?  The protein!  Tyson Day Starts are packed with protein, totaling 24%-34% of your daily protein requirement.  That means you won’t get hungry an hour after you eat breakfast.  This is a breakfast designed to not only fill you up, but stick with you until it’s lunch time.  I was so excited to see these in my store, I decided to pick up one of each – the Sausage, Egg & Cheese Biscuit and the Egg, Cheese & Bacon Flatbread.  Because let’s face it, even I have 2 minutes to make breakfast.TysonDayStarts

Just in case you’re wondering if it’s really that easy, I can assure that it is.  Simply pop the Day Start in the microwave on high for 60-65 seconds (directions my differ depending on the type you’re eating; these are the instructions for the Sausage, Egg & Cheese Biscuit when frozen) and you’re ready to go.  And unlike so many other bland high protein breakfasts that I’ve tried, Tyson Day Starts are full of flavor – the flaky biscuit, fluffy egg, and melty cheese…YUM!   They’re pretty easy to take with you too, which makes them perfect for my on-the-go mornings!

TysonDayStartsOntheGo

To add even more protein (and a serving of fruit!), I paired my Tyson Day Start with a Strawberry Vanilla Smoothie.  Here’s the recipe:StrawberryVanillaSmoothieRecipe

You will need - 
1 1/2 cups fresh strawberries with stems cut off (you can use frozen strawberries, if you prefer)
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vanilla yogurt
1 cup ice
1 tsp honey

Directions - Throw all ingredients in the blender and blend for 60 seconds until smooth (which happens to be the exact time that your Sausage, Egg & Cheese Day Starts will be in the microwave!).  If the honey sticks to the side of the blender, open the top, stir with a spoon – scraping honey off the sides of the pitcher – and continue to blend.  Serve immediately.  Enjoy!TysonDayStarts2

For recipes and to learn more about Tyson Day Starts, be sure to like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.  So what will you pair your Day Starts with?  Coffee?  Juice?  A smoothie recipe of your own?  Leave me a comment and let me know!

Win a $25 Amazon Gift Card in the Fantastic Father Giveaway Hop!

fantasticfatherWelcome to the Fantastic Father Giveaway Hop!  For this event lots of fabulous bloggers have come together with prizes to honor dear ol’ dad and all that he does.  So what does your father like?  Would he like a $25 Amazon Gift Card?  If so, make sure to enter my giveaway here:
a Rafflecopter giveaway
And after you do that, stop by The Review Wire for The Grand Prize and enter for your chance to win a Casio Pro Trek Watch PRG270B (RV $200)! Thanks to Casio for sponsoring the Grand Prize! This Casio watch offers Triple Sensor which delivers altitude, barometric pressure, and direction readings that are more accurate than previous models, and a Barometric PressureTendency Alarm alerts the wearer to sudden changes in pressure readings. Design features include a CORDURA, a nylon fabric band for the ultimate in good fit and durability, and a case designed for outdoor gear performance. Large side buttons and one-press access to digital compass, barometric pressure and altitude, and temperature readings keep important information at your fingertips. Other features include Tough Solar, 100-meter water resistance, and more. Everything about these models is designed and engineered to make them essential pieces of outdoor gear.

And don’t forget to hop around to all the other blogs to check out their giveaways!



Disclaimer: This giveaway ends at 11:59 PM EST on June 6, 2014. The Fantastic Father Event Bloggers are not responsible for sponsors that do not fulfill their prizes. Companies and bloggers, if you would like to participate in group giveaway events like this one, sign up to be emailed about future events hosted by The Review Wire.