Surface Lightens Load for Backpack Awareness Day #lightenmyload #windowschampions

Times have changed a whole bunch since I lugged all of my notebooks and textbooks to all my classes from K through my grad school time.  I never had a laptop, a tablet, anything!  Students are kicking off the new school year, and it goes without saying that technology like laptops, tablets and readers are more present than ever before. This ends up with the vast majority of students carrying more limited-purpose devices, rather than consolidating to fewer devices that can help them do more. Recent research by Microsoft, found that 96 percent of people who carry a tablet also still have a laptop. All of these items increase backpack weight and take a toll on health, with back pain being the most frequent physical health complaint among college students. In fact, Karen Jacobs, an occupational therapist and clinical professor at Boston University said that according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission more than 22,000 people were treated for backpack-related injuries in the United States last year.


Surface Pro 3, a powerful and portable tablet that can replace a laptop can cut the weight a student carries in half. It weighs in at only 2.41 pounds with an attached Type cover and Surface Pen for digital note taking via OneNote meaning that it can replace the need to carry multiple devices and notebooks.   September 17, marks the American Occupational Therapy Association’s (AOTA) National School Backpack Awareness Day, created with the assistance of Jacobs in 2000. Microsoft will be taking part in a weigh-in event at Boston University where students can weigh their bags, get more info and tips to help reduce health impacts and learn how using one devices like Surface Pro 3 for everything can help lighten their loads.   Additional Points and Facts: o   When students and parents take in guidance from the AOTA about how to select and pack a backpack to maintain good health, they should take a hard look at Surface Pro 3 as a device that can do everything they need and more, while reducing the weight they carry around campus. o   The Problem:

  • Students often carry multiple limited-purpose technology devices in their bags, along with text books, notebooks and other necessary school items. All of which add up to a heavy load – with the average college student’s backpack now weighing over 11.5 pounds – which can strain the lower back and cause long-term health problems.
  • Back pain is the most frequent physical health complaint among college students.
  • Twenty-nine percent of college students report having lower back pain.
  • According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 28,000 people were treated for backpack-related injuries in the United States last year. That figure included 8,500 children between the ages of 5 and 18 who wound up in doctors’ offices and emergency rooms.
  • The cost—in medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and legal liability—tops out at more than $1 billion annually.

o   Surface Pro 3—The Tablet That Can Replace Your Laptop (and your notebook)

  • Surface Pro 3, is a powerful and portable tablet that can replace a laptop, and at only 2.41 pounds with an attached Type cover and Surface Pen for digital note taking via OneNote, it can cut the average weight of technology a college student carries in half – with a 14” laptop weighing an average of 4-5 pounds.
  • Surface can actually replace a student’s tablet, laptop, notebooks and pens to help them be more productive, organized and stay entertained while moving around campus with more ease and reducing the chances of damaging their health.

o   AOTA Tips for Preventing Backpack Injuries:

  • Check that your packed backpack weighs no more than 10 percent of your body weight. If it weighs more, determine what you can leave at home that day to reduce the load.
  • Always select a backpack that is the right size for you.
  • Distribute weight evenly. Load heaviest items closest to your back and balance materials so that you can easily stand up straight.
  • If a backpack has a hip belt, wear it to improve balance and take some strain off sensitive neck and shoulder muscles.
  • If the backpack is still too heavy, consider a book bag on wheels.

For More Information: Visit the Surface website, your local Microsoft retail store or AOTA website for more health tips and resources for student backpack use. National Backpack Awareness Day page for additional information on events.



Information provided by Microsoft’s PR firm. No compensation received for this post. 

Dining al fresco

Summer’s wrapping up and it’s coming upon one of my favorite times of the year, fall. I adore this season almost as much as spring. Why? It’s the best time to get outdoors EVER. Summer was great, but some days are just soo scorching hot that you find yourself pining away for the comforts of air conditioning and indoors. Many times the walk from the car to the door of your destination alone can leave you dripping in sweat. Convincing my family to eat outside during the sweltering heat can be a challenge in the summer.


In the fall and spring, however….


We’re all about dining Al Fresco!


What’s dining al fresco? Just a fancy name for eating outdoors. There are several ways to dine al fresco on a nice day. My husband actually just finished making a large table for our screened porch (from a tree that we lost during Hurricane Irene) so we can enjoy dining al fresco with more friends and family at once.  Here are a few ways we enjoy dining al fresco:


Dinner at Dusk –


Sure, the summer BBQs are fun…. But there’s something so fun, relaxing and special about actually setting up the outdoor table to mimic a more formal indoor settings, and enjoying a meal together at the table as the sun goes down. Bug repellant candles are great aids in setting the ambiance! We usually serve something easy to transport to the outside table. Dr. Oetker’s Ristorante Pizza is perfect for this. Simple to make and serve, while still retaining the fancy taste of a top of the line restaurant… without ever leaving home!  There are several varieties to tempt your taste buds- sophisticated toppings that appeal to the more adult flavor choices… so they are great for entertaining as well.


Dine Outdoors –


There are several restaurants that offer outdoor dining. Don’t be afraid to take up the opportunity when it’s available. Not only will it allow for a different mood for your family, you’ll likely find getting seated to be MUCH quicker when you opt for an outdoor table, rather than an indoor one. Don’t like the idea of sitting close to the street or can’t get a reservation? Head back home and pop a Ristorante pizza in the oven and bring it to the patio for an easy, quality meal!


Get Dessert –


Some desserts are just best eaten outside. Ice cream being at the very top of my list. Whether you dine outside at the local ice cream shop, or enjoy popsicles with the family in the backyard, an outdoor after dinner dessert is fun and most importantly, makes cleanup MUCH easier!


As you can see, there are great ways to dine outdoors! I encourage you and your family to get out there and try it. Be sure to dress for the weather, and take proper precautions against the sun.


And most importantly…



tasty triumphs

Be sure to enter Ristorante’s Tasty Triumphs Sweepstakes which runs on Facebook from September 3rd – November 5! There’s a chance to win up to $1,500 in prizes and hundreds of daily instant win prizes.



Not sure if Ristorante is available near you? Check out their Store Locator to see if your local grocery store carries it!





Fall Allergy Cleaning Checklist

Fall is here, and if you’re like me you worry about allergy season. When the seasons change, my family finds ours flaring up often. In the past, we’ve been reactive and scurried around to find solutions for our horrible allergies. We quickly learned the importance of being proactive when it comes to combating them! There are several things that can be done to help prepare your home for fall allergy season.


Fall Allergy Cleaning Checklist


–          Change Filters: Your air filters should be changed every 3 months minimum. If you haven’t swapped them out for the fall season yet, you’ll want to get on this!


Allergens LOVE to be captured by filters.  They do.  But not older filters that haven’t been changed.  Don’t wait.  Change them now, not later. Your air will thank you.



The Filtrete Healthy Living Ultra Allergen Reduction Filter MPR 1500 is a great addition to your  for fall cleaning list- it can help create a healthier home by capturing large airborne particles like dust, pollen and mold spores from the air passing through the filter. It also attracts and captures microscopic particles that can carry bacteria and viruses.

The Filtrete Healthy Living Ultra Allergen Reduction Filter (MPR 1500) is effective at capturing 90% of large airborne particles such as dust, pollen and mold spores from the air passing through the filter.


–          Dust…Everywhere: You should dust your house from top to bottom to prepare it for fall. Dust is a key allergy trigger, and can hide in nooks and crannies that regular cleaning may miss. Dust from top to bottom, starting at high ceiling fans. Be sure to wear a mask if dust is an allergy trigger for you.



–          Clean carpets: You’ll want to thoroughly vacuum after dusting, of course. If you had a very high amount of dust, or thick shaggy carpet, you may want to consider a deep cleaning for your carpet. The dust you removed from other areas of your home is likely stuck in the folds of your carpets.


–          Use mattress covers: Dust and other allergy triggers love to hide in the folds of your mattresses (eww, right?). Using a allergy proof mattress cover not only protects you from these, but allows you to remove and wash often.



–          Check for mold: Mold is another allergy trigger. It loves to hide in damp areas like basements, garages, kitchens, and bathrooms. Check these areas thoroughly for any mold, and be sure to remove immediately. Take extra caution in protecting yourself, as some types of mold are severely hazardous if inhaled. If you are unsure whether a particular mold is hazardous or not, don’t hesitate to contact a professional.


–          Air your house out: After dusting and cleaning (and during) open some windows and let some fresh air circulate through your house. Do this now, before the weather changes and becomes to cool to do this!

filtrete- allergen-defense

Following these tips will help your family avoid some of the common allergy triggers, and enjoy your home more comfortably during the fall months!



Register to receive seasonal e-newsletters featuring special offers, filter change reminders, better home living tips and more at



What’s your biggest allergy trigger?



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“I am proud to be a 3M-sponsored blogger, and as part of my responsibilities, I get the

opportunity to evaluate 3M products. Opinions are my own and additional products used in the

project were selected by me. ”

Build a Boxtroll and Win! #BuildABoxtrollSweeps #TheBoxtrolls

With just under a month until The Boxtrolls comes to theaters (9/26), the kids decided they wanted to make their OWN Boxtrolls.  We saved some shipping boxes (the kids wanted to make themselves Boxtrolls, I decided we should start on a smaller scale…). Really, what you need are some cardboard boxes and your imagination.  Maybe a few other odds and ends and craft supplies, too.  After that? make-own-boxtroll   Then, let your  imagination run wild. My kids are really, REALLY into duck tape lately so… when we show you our final Boxtrolls next week- you’ll notice there’s duck tape on them all! boxtroll-american-girl

Create your own Boxtroll and enter to win a trip to the movie premiere!

build-a-boxtroll-sweeps-#buildaboxtrollsweeps Prizing

An all-expense paid trip for 4 to the L.A. movie premier of The Boxtrolls How to enter Make a totally awesome Boxtroll Snap a pic Share your photo on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with the #BuildABoxtrollSweeps hashtag That’s it!! Legal and Official Rules  No purchase necessary. 18+ years old. 50 US States + District of Columbia only. 8/4/14-9/5/14. 

What will YOUR Boxtroll look like? 


This post is part of an ongoing partnership with The Boxtrolls and SocialMoms.  Opinions are my own.

Back to school safety #LifeLockUltimatePlus

It’s back to school time again, and a common subject that comes up is that of safety. While that’s always something to worry about (especially when you’re a parent), back to school time brings up a whole bundle of concerns in itself.

 Back to School Safety

How will your child get to school?


Can they walk to the bus stop alone?


Can they be trusted to stay home alone?


Can they be trusted with their own house key, or should a neighbor let them in?


This and many other issues are things that you must consider during the fall. Safety is important, especially when it comes to children. While there isn’t any easy button for parents to magically keep your children safe (trust me I’d be the first investor), there are logical steps that you can take to prevent as many hazards as possible.


Same rings true for your household, and your identity.


That’s why, if you haven’t already, you should include LifeLock’s identity theft protection to your back to school list. The LifeLock Site offers an entire suite of products tailored to fit your individual needs. Purchase as much, or as little protection as you need for your family.

lifelock logo

Here are some of LifeLock’s newest features:


Traditonal LifeLock Standard is still just $9.99 and includes all the create features it always has.


In addition to the standard version, you have a few more options; LifeLock Advantage at $19.99 and LifeLock Ultimate plus at $29.99. Both of these products include personalized activity alerts on credit card, check, and savings account transactions.


The LifeLock Ulitmate Plus product also includes activity alerts on member’s investment accounts adding more peace of mind against identity theft. Want to protect your children as well? Of course you do. LifeLock offers a junior product for children alont with the adult membership. This gives you an alert anytime someone is looking for your childs info for credit and services. If something is found, you’ll be alerted by text, phone or email.


LifeLock covers the bases for your entire family. Hop over to and use the promo code “LifeLockSafety” to receive 10% off your purchase with LifeLock.


It’s back to school time again, and a common subject that comes up is that of safety. While that’s always something to worry about (especially when you’re a parent), back to school time brings up a whole bundle of concerns in itself.


How will your child get to school?


This post is brought to you by our friends at LifeLock. Opinions are my own.


#BuildABoxtrollSweeps: Enter to Win! #TheBoxtrolls

We are just over a month out from the premiere of The Boxtrolls movie. My family cannot wait to see this movie- if you remember, we’ve been reading the book that the movie is based on, Here Be Monsters (The Ratbridge Chronicles). The Boxtrolls promises fantasy, whimsy, ingenuity and, of course, a whole lot of fun.  Arthur, a young boy, and the  Boxtrolls (shy creatures who live below ground and wear boxes) must fight Snatcher to save Ratbridge.  There’s adventure, danger, and lots more.


Filled with whimsical illustrations and very short chapters, this story (and the book itself) lend themselves quite nicely to a read-aloud for all ages and a fun ‘challenge’ book for young chapter book readers.  I thought my oldest and I would be doing the reading for the most part, but my little guy has stepped up and he’s been the most enthusiastic about taking his turn for some chapters!


To get all of us more excited about the arrival of the quirky and adorable Boxtrolls, there’s a REALLY fun sweepstakes going on!  We’ve all been challenged to build our OWN Boxtrolls.  So get your crafty supplies together and think outside of the box (Get it? See what I did there?) and start building your Boxtroll!

I told the kids tonight at dinner that we’ll be making our OWN Boxtrolls (stay tuned for progress and pics on those) and all 3 immediately had very, VERY different ideas on what to make.  So apparently, the Martin family will be making not one but 3 Boxtrolls.  I’m kind of excited about their ideas. I can’t wait to see yours too! This is the kind of thing that helps us to get so excited for movies to come out (this one is due in theaters 9/26/14).



How To Enter For A Chance to Win the Sweeps:

Sweeps Duration: 8/4/14 Midnight EST – 9/5/14 11:59PM EST

Prize: An all-expense paid trip for 4 to the L.A. movie premiere of Boxtrolls

  1. Make a totally awesome Boxtroll

  2. Snap a pic

  3. Upload your photo to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram with the #BuildaBoxtrollSweeps hashtag

No purchase necessary. 18+ years old. 50 US States + District of Columbia only. 8/4/14-9/5/14. Official rules.


So what kind of Boxtroll are YOU going to make?




This post is part of an ongoing partnership with The Boxtrolls and SocialMoms.  Opinions are my own.

Surface Pro 3 $150 Off for Students

Microsoft is offering $150.00 off Surface Pro 3 for college students between August 3 and September 6 to help them get the tablet that can replace a laptop for a great price. It’s the perfect classroom companion for any student: just click in one of the colorful Type Covers to turn out a term paper, or open a OneNote page with the click of the all-new Surface pen for hand-written notes or doodles.


This offer is available at Microsoft Stores, Best Buy, Staples and Tiger Direct in the U.S., and Microsoft Stores and Best Buy in Canada, and to be eligible for the promotion, students must be enrolled in college or university and have a valid .edu email address.


I would officially like to announce that I want to go back to school. I want a Surface Pro 3! Especially the Surface pen- that just seems AMAZING and like the perfect tool for me. It’s thinner and lighter than the MacBook Air, too. The Surface Pro 3 is a laptop and a tablet. All in one. I’m so wanting one.  You’ll just need to choose a cover once you make your purchase.  That would be the hardest part of my decision!


No compensation received for this post.  I received this information as part of my #WindowsChampions ambassadorship.

Monitoring driving habits #StraightTalkTesters #giveaway

The Safe Drive Car connection by Straight Talk is a really great device, which greatly decreases the worries of having a driving aged child. As part of Straight Talk’s new product category “connected life” the Safe Drive Car Connection helps you keep up with your teenager when they’re on the road, and allows them to sharpen up their driving skills in the process. Monitoring driving habits (of your kids and yourself) with smart devices is something many of us should consider. I know it’s made me more cognizant of things! car_connection_straight-talk

We all know texting and driving is one of the most dangerous habits in young people and adults alike. We also know that it can be hard to fight the urge at times, especially for younger, easily-distracted drivers. With the free, third-party ZoomSafer app, available on both the iTunes App Store and  Google Play, Safe Driver Car Connection can restrict text messages and phone usage while driving to eliminate this risk. It also allows you to track your vehicle through the use of GPS at any time, right from your home computer OR from your cell phone or tablet. You can see if your car is being towed, moved, or if your teen has driven outside of a predetermined area you gave them permission to drive! That feature alone is enough to convince me of its worth!







But there’s more! Ever wondered how your child (or spouse) drives when you aren’t present? Safe Driver Car Connection actually allows you to receive a driver score report to monitor anyone’s vehicle use and driving habits! I’m not going to tell you who was driving the van recently.  (Photo above) You’ll notice the driving score is a 70 – one of us has been a little heavy on the gas pedal.  That number may not seem significant, but as you scroll through the data on the Car Connection app, you can see how those types of habits literally cost you more money, based on the average price of gas for where YOU live. It IS significant.


Another device in the Connected Life line of products is the Remote Alert System. This system allows you to stay connected with your household while you are away. Its built-in wireless module can send an SMS Text message or place a phone call to up to eight pre-assigned numbers when a sensor is triggered in your own home. You can enhance this kit further by adding accessories like an additional motion sensor, magnetic door/window sensors, and a remote control key fob.

One reader will win a Safe Drive Car Connection Device from Straight Talk!



This post is brought to you as part of my ongoing participation in the Straight Talk Testers program.  While I am compensated via service, product and payment for my participation, I’m also well into my third year of being a Straight Talk customer and have been very happy with the services offered.

Fabulous Side Dishes (Giveaway)

Whether you’re cooking a dinner for two, cooking for the family, or hosting a dinner get together, you’ll need some good side dishes. While it’s true that the main dish is usually the hero of any meal, side dishes are still important! You certainly don’t want to serve canned corn to guests! With these recipes, you’ll find some classic side dishes with a twist, and some absolutely mouthwatering dishes that are sure to impress! Sides don’t have to be simple, they don’t have to be fancy- they can even be the star of the meal if you want. Live a little.  Bend the rules.  Sometimes we like to do a quick main dish and focus on the sides that go with them- a Ristorante pizza or chicken on the grill can be made into a fabulous meal with something special on the side to go with it!



I’m sure you remember by now that Ristorante by Dr. Oetker is our go-to frozen pizza brand. I always have 2-3 of them on hand in the freezer downstairs.  It’s quick, it’s easy, and with plenty of delightfully pleasing toppings, something for everyone.  The gourmet toppings lend themselves to a full meal and not just quick pizza fixes, so you feel like you are indulging a little!


To see if Ristorante pizzas are available near you, check out the Store Locator. Don’t see Ristorante in your supermarket? You can put in a request with the store manager!


Be sure to like Ristorante Pizza on Facebook and enter their Savor Your Summer sweepstakes for fun giveaways before it’s over!


I love Ristorante because of its delicious toppings, particularly the veggies. Check out these fabulous side dishes we found around the web- wonderful side dishes to complement Ristorante pizzas and sneak even more veggies into your meal!

Summer Salad with Pepitas

We have a garden and are fortunate enough to be able to grow much of what we enjoy IN our salads right in our backyard. Salad’s always a quick and easy side dish, all year round, but in summer, we like to mix things up a bit.  Fresh chopped broccoli and pepitas add some fun new flavors to this salad, a little more calcium and protein, and a little extra crunch! Perfect with a pizza for dinner on the porch.


Grilled Zucchini– This is a favorite simply because it’s a quick and easy recipe you can make with just about any in season veggie.  Simple seasonings and a quick turn on the grill make for flavorful, healthy and delicious sides.


Lemon Parmesan Broccoli


Lemon Parmesan Broccoli goes SO well with the Pizza Vegetale. Lots of delicious flavors and no meat- a great Vegetarian dinner idea that’s quick and easy.

Lemon Pepper Asparagus


Asparagus is one of our top 3 veggies in this house- we’ll eat it any time of year with just about any meal.  The simple flavors of this side dish pair also pair well with any of the Ristorante pizzas- they will serve to complement the pizza toppings and not pull away from them.  Lemon pepper asparagus is also a great side to pair with fish for a main course!

Roasted Cauliflower


Pizza and a salad with roasted cauliflower?  Great dinner idea, ready in no time!


What are YOUR favorite side dishes?


Ristorante by Dr. Oetker is going to send one of my readers a Side Dish Prize Pack including:

10.5″ Serving Bowl, Crate & Barrel
13.75” Platter, Crate & Barrel
Wooden Salad Servers,
2 Ristorante coupons


 This post is sponsored by our friends at Ristorante by Dr. Oetker.  Opinions are my own. 

Things to do before you travel #LifeLockSafety

Being prepared for a vacation can make or break the entire experience. If you’re anything like me, you spend countless hours preparing to make sure that nothing is forgotten. I make lists. I make lists of my lists. I go over and over the luggage, to be sure that each article of clothing is included. Next, I check that we each have everything we need in our carry on bags, all of our personal hygiene items are packed, we’ve got cash, cards, itinerary’s, tickets, hotel reservations, etc.   Once I’m satisfied that we’ve packed each and everything we need, I inevitably spend the entire ride to the airport wondering whether we’ve remembered to close the garage door, shut off the iron, and lock all the doors.

One thing I never thought about, however, was that traveling actually leaves you even more open to another kind of threat. Identity theft. Advertisement Luckily, I have peace of mind against identity theft. I have LifeLock! LifeLock is at the forefront of identity theft protection.


In fact, a recent article on their website gives some awesome tips to help protect you against identity theft during the summer travel season.   Here are a few of the my favorites things to do before you travel from the LifeLock list:

Stop mail: Call your local post office and have your mail stopped while on vacation. Letting it pile up, or even having a neighbor deliver it, is an indicator to predators that you are not home.  

Call your bank and credit card companies: Be sure to alert them that you will be traveling. Alerting them to when and where you will be traveling will help them to monitor your accounts right along with you.

Don’t tell the world you’re traveling: Save your travel photos until you return home, when possible, and be careful sharing on social networks that you will be traveling.


These are just a few of the many great tips provided by LifeLock. Be sure to read the full list here. LifeLock also has a new book out called  “Stolen Identity: What Anyone with a Name, Birthdate and Social Security Number Needs to Know Now.” Identity theft is one of the most widespread and fast-evolving crimes, but many people don’t realize that it goes far beyond having a credit card number stolen. It can jeopardize your healthcare, block you from receiving the tax refund you’re due, interfere with a job or loan, and even run up debt for your children or elderly parents. Learn more about the alarming ways identity in which thieves operate today and what you can do to reduce your chances of having your identity stolen.

I value the peace of mind I get with LifeLock, and would love to share it with all of my readers. Hop on over to the site and use the promo code “LifeLockSafety” for 10%!

lifelock logo

This post is brought to you by our partnership with LifeLock. Opinions are my own.

One of my readers will win the new LifeLock new book, “Stolen Identity: What Anyone with a Name, Birthdate and Social Security Number Needs to Know Now.”