Unlimited cell phone plans: Straight Talk #StraightTalkTesters

I used to have one of the “traditional” cell phone plans with a major service provider.  I was delighted when we signed on with my husband’s 15% employee discount available to us.  What did I get for that?  Well, I got unlimited night and weekend calling, and voice mail. 250 minutes to use otherwise before I had extra charges incurred. No texting.  No data. The discount covered taxes and that’s about it.  Being a blogger, I really needed a phone to be able to get online so that I could use social media when I was at events or doing campaigns for clients.  That’s hard to do without data. We didn’t have the money to pay for a plan with data from any traditional cell phone plans and needed other options.

That’s when my friend Leandrea told me about Straight Talk.  Once I grasped what she was saying, and to be honest, she had to repeat herself a few times, I was sold. I had always (wrongfully) assumed that no-contract phones were for people who had no credit or less than stellar credit.

So why ditch other cell phone plans for Straight Talk? For me it was a no brainer.  I could get the same popular smartphones with the same coverage for a huge discounted price.  With no commitment, except when I chose to commit to.  (I pay 12 months at a time, because it offers an extra savings by doing that, so it drops the price a bit lower even).

Unlimited Cell Phone Plans: Straight Talk

straight talk logo

Same nationwide coverage as on America’s largest and most dependable networks

This was HUGE for me. We live in an area that has dead spots (and they have decreased since we moved here 9 years ago but there are 2 spots remaining in town that no providers have service.)  They are small but they are there.  I wanted to be certain that my phone would work anywhere I need it to since I’m the primary caregiver, being home full time, and need to be reached at any time.

straight talk data

Get up to 8x more high speed data than other $45 no-contract plans

With the $45 30-day plan you get Unlimited* nationwide talk, text and data (high speed data for the first 2.5 GB of data use)
• Easily check your balance and service end date at http://bit.ly/R3DoyT
Straight Talk is available exclusively at Walmart, Walmart.com and StraightTalk.com

You can even BYOP (Bring your own phone)

With Straight Talk, you can use almost ANY phone.  You can purchase one of the many Straight Talk ready smartphones or Bring Your Own Phone (BYOP) to Straight Talk. I’ve had an iPhone of one kind or another for 2 years on this plan, and couldn’t be happier about the service. I honestly don’t remember what I had before my iPhones- I’ve had an iPhone 3, iPhone 4, iPhone 5 and currently, a hot pink iPhone 5c.

straight talk same phones

Switching to Straight Talk Wireless is so simple

This is even easier than before. Got a smartphone and don’t want to pay the rates of other cell phone plans? Simply bring your phone and buy a new SIM or network activation code (on CDMA) to get started with unlimited talk, text and data for $45 a month.

Half the Cost

This is the big one for me.  Straight Talk is half the cost.  $45 a month for Unlimited talk, text and data.  You aren’t bound to a contract, no termination fees, nothing.  Just service and pretty much any phone you want to use.

I don’t know what you pay for cellular service in your house. I can tell you that most people I’ve talked to seem to pay $90 or more for their plans for just one person and have not spoken with anyone who pays less than $160 for 2 people in a house.  That may be regional, but I talk with a lot of people about their cell phone service. I like to spend smart.  I don’t want to pay $90 or $100 for service when I can get the equivalent for half of that.  I’d rather use that other $45 a month to have some fun, go on a date with my husband, pay down our mortgage principal- but not give it to a huge company!

The hardest part for me has been deciding WHICH phone I’d like to use.  I can’t wait to see what’s coming next for Straight Talk.

So I have a question for you- what kind of cell phone plan do you use?  Have you considered switching to an unlimited cell phone plan like Straight Talk?



This is a partnered post as part of my participation in the Straight Talk Testers program.  Opinions are my own. 

Teaching kids to give back #SiennaDiaries

I haven’t talked a ton about this on here, but I’m starting my fourth year as a Girl Scout Leader this year.  I’m also active in our church, and am in a shared teaching position in our Sunday School for 1st and 2nd grades.  One thing I have learned from the kids I am around in these activities is that they all want to do for others.  All of them.  I’ve yet to meet a kid who showed no interest in doing something for someone else.  Given an opportunity, the kids will run with an idea.


My Scouts, Brownies this year, were all very into animals.  We’d voted around the holidays to give back to an organization to help families, but the girls had all expressed wanting to do something for animals.  We quickly realized this was going to be a way for the girls to not only be able to learn about giving back, but also to learn about the care and keeping of pets, a little more about Philanthropy, and help them to earn not one but 2 patches for their sashes in the process.

We discussed together as a group what we’d like to do, specifically, and the girls came to the agreement that they wanted to do a drive with boxes around our town to collect pet food, towels and blankets for the Humane Society.  We talked with them about what we needed to do, how to accomplish that, and the girls set to work making some posters to hang with the boxes we’d be putting up around our school and at the town library.

We left our donation boxes out for 3 weeks around town.  The result was that the entire back of the 2014 Toyota Sienna was FULL of wonderful, amazing donations…. more animals would have full bellies, and a comfortable place to rest their head, and 19 Brownie Girl Scouts (plus 3 4 year old Scout siblings) learned a whole lot about ways that kids can help give back.


My heart was bursting with pride for my girls when we arrived to drop off the donations and the staff had to go get a second cart to wheel our donations inside!


Teaching kids about giving back doesn’t have to be a somber, serious experience. I wish I had pictures of the posters the girls made…. fun, bright colors, sparkles…hand drawn pictures of animals… letting them have a little creative license helped them to feel like they had a BIG say in the whole process, and letting them choose who they’d give back to really empowered them as well.  Several, including my oldest, asked friends for food donations in lieu of presents at their birthday parties (seems to be a growing trend with this class, and it’s so sweet). They had a BLAST planning, organizing and collecting the items needed, and were all left feeling like they really were able to make a difference.

Find something that kids can relate to- at holiday time- perhaps a gift drive.  Mitten trees are pretty easy and someone always needs warm gear in cold months.  There are SO many things that kids can do for so many recipients- talk to the kids you are with, and ask them questions. I’m wagering you’ll be quite pleasantly surprised to see just how eager they are to give back.

How do you go about teaching kids to give back?


Thanks to Toyota for the use of the fabulous 2014 Toyota Sienna.  The trunk has more cargo space than my 2004 Sienna and we were able to make the donation delivery in  much greater comfort.


5 tips for hosting a garden party

Hosting a garden party can be tons of fun. Garden parties are great because they are almost always laid back and casual. Kind of like a perfect ladies’ night. I have this idea in my head that I want to have a Garden Party with my girlfriends this spring. Parties are fun. Parties have food. Who doesn’t like food? Parties with girlfriends are as fun as date night at home, just in a different way :) This post is brought to you as part of my partnership with Ristorante pizza.  Opinions are my own.


Truth be told, I’m turning 40 in May (gulp) and I think it would be fun to have a little something to celebrate. In a dream world, we’d have wonderful comfy seating and a large screen to watch a movie outdoors, plus lots of fun snacks and beverages. There’d be all kinds of little paths to wander down and fresh flowers everywhere (as I type this, we still have snow on the ground in places).


In reality, we’ll laugh and eat and drink and watch no movie, and probably won’t even notice! But the garden party setting is still a fun idea, and a great change of pace from being indoors for so long during the winter months. Regardless of weather, I came up with 5 tips for hosting a garden party.

tips for hosting a garden party

1. Lighting– I always envision garden parties being in the evening or at night. That generally means you’ll want some kind of lighting available for your guests.  You don’t want someone stumbling in the dark and falling.  You also don’t want a spotlight on someone’s face that makes them feel like they are about to perform a solo on broadway! Illuminated Garden has these Fairy Berries lights that look just awesome- and would be great for so many party themes, not just a garden party!

fairy berries

Photo Credit: IlluminatedGarden.com

2. Space – Are you trying to keep guests to a patio area? Do you want to encourage them to meander? Once you make that decision, plan to define your party area either with your seating, lighting, and/or a combo of both. If you don’t have tons of space, be creative. I saw a great idea on Pinterest for using a wheelbarrow filled with ice for cold drinks. This image is part of so many breathtaking photos of a backyard wedding – so many amazing garden party ideas – taken by Mel Lawrence Photography. You can place it at the edge of the area you want your guests to be – it’s fun, free if you already have a wheelbarrow, and easy to access.

wheelbarrow drinks

Photo credit: Mellawrencephotography.com.au

3. Theme and Décor – Do you want a theme? Do you want to go simple, sans theme? Match your decor to your vision for the party. If it’s just laid-back and casual, then make sure your decorations and plates, glasses, etc, reflect that vibe. Mason jars are a versatile decorative item for a garden party – you can use them as lanterns, beverage holders or centerpieces. They are fun, casual and pretty inexpensive. These mason jar centerpieces from Studio DIY are so simple and so beautiful!


I’m loving these utensil holders from Simply Seleta the bright colors are fun but they are so practical. Plus you can reuse them!

 display utensils

4. Bugs – Plan for a way to keep the pests away from you and your guests. Bug spray isn’t always fun to wear, but some strategically placed citronella candles or propane/butane operated mosquito traps and devices can make a world of difference to keep guests happy.


5. Food – Stick with simple.  It’s a garden party, so it’s fun, relaxed and casual. Go for easy-to-prepare meals. Think finger foods, but with a little bit of a sophisticated twist like tea sandwiches, cheese and crackers and crudité. Cut things into pretty shapes. My favorite go-to quick and easy food is Ristorante Pizza – with their gourmet toppings and thin crust, it makes a great finger food for adults. Just cut into small pieces and serve!


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!


·         Mozzarella: Fresh mozzarella, sun-ripened tomatoes, zesty pesto sauce

·         Spinaci: Savory leaf spinach, mozzarella, garlic sauce

·         Funghi: Aromatic mushrooms, mozzarella, tomato sauce, parsley, oregano

·         Quattro Formaggi: Four premium cheeses: Edam, mozzarella, Emmental, and blue cheese, with basil seasoning

·         Vegetale: Tangy chilies, tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, sour cream sauce

·         Speciale: Pepperoni, cooked ham, spicy herbs

·         Pepperoni Pesto: Pepperoni, sliced roma tomatoes, pesto, mozzarella cheese

·         Formaggi & Pomodori: Goat cheese, diced cherry tomatoes, pesto, mozzarella cheese

Ristorante Logo

And, if it’s a specific celebration (like someone’s 40th), a cake is definitely in order.


Have you entered Ristorante’s Perfect Night In sweepstakes yet? Visit the Dr. Oetker USA Facebook page, take the quiz and find out what your perfect night in looks like – maybe it’s a garden party!

 garden party prize pack

We’re also hosting a giveaway to get you started with your own garden party planning! Enter for a chance to win some Ristorante coupons, a 1.5-gallon beverage dispenser and Mason jar mugs (ERV ~$100). 


8 Reasons to Upgrade to Windows 8.1 at Staples (Twitter Party) April 7 #byeXP

I am a Windows Champion and have partnered with Windows and Staples to host this Twitter party. Opinions are my own.

I hope you’ll join Windows and Staples (and me!) on Monday, April 7.  We’re going to be talking about 8 reasons to Upgrade to Windows 8.1 at Staples during this party, because who doesn’t want to have the most current technology? Really, as service for WindowsXP ends on April 8th, if you aren’t using a newer form of Windows, you could be putting your information at risk.  Be smart. Be safe. Besides…I find  8.1 to be so much more FUN to use than XP ever was!

I myself have been using Windows 8.1 for many months and I find it so much easier to use than any other Operating System I’ve come across.  The touch screen devices only help to enhance the experience and make it even more user friendly.

I hope you’ll come join us for some tech talk and fun… and a fabulous giveaway!  Of course Windows and Staples aren’t going to have all this talk about upgrading and cool new operating systems without a fantastic prize for someone lucky!

XP & Staples Twitter Party Promo Image

Date: April 7

Time: 12-1 PM PST/ 3-4 PM ET

Who to follow: @brettbmartin (Host) @Windows  @Staples

Prizes/Giveaways: One Microsoft Surface Pro 2 valued at $999.00 courtesy of Staples

Hashtag: #byeXP


Not sure if you are running XP on your current device? Visit amirunningxp.com and you’ll know instantly when the page loads. During the party, we’ll also be talking all about a fabulous Staples Upgrade Offer, and reasons you want to have current technology for both your home and work devices. At the end of the party, we’ll be giving one very lucky participant a Surface Pro 2 valued at $999 thanks to Staples!!


Staples Upgrade Offer:

“Bring in any working Windows XP computer and receive a free data transfer with the purchase of a Windows 8 PC.”

  • Runs Sun 3/30- Sat 5/3
  • Windows XP computer must be able to boot into the operating system
  • Valid in-store only
  • Not valid on Windows 8 RT or Android tablets


 To be eligible to win the Surface Pro 2, you must RSVP with your Twitter URL (see below for linky) and be an active participant in the party using the hashtag #byeXP.  

Winner to be chosen randomly from those who are both RSVP’d and have participated actively. US residents only.  Staples will be selecting the winner after the end of the party and contacting them directly.

5 things to clean monthly

Being proactive with your cleaning will help keep your home a healthier one, and likely save you money in the long run because your appliances don’t have to work as hard to be efficient. It also means your home will smell fresher and not get stinky. It’s finally spring and a good time to start spring cleaning- but let’s not forget these 5 things to clean monthly.  I’ve also included tips to clean these items without harsh chemicals for a healthier clean!

5 things to clean monthly

1. Washing Machine– There are products available for purchase to clean your washing machine.  Buy them.  Or, better yet, run a cycle with vinegar and call it a day.  You want to run it on a hot cycle with an extra rinse.  Be sure to clean the detergent, softener and bleach compartments when you clean the washer.  For front loaders, be sure to wipe down the rubber gasket.  This is a big part of why people’s washers start giving them stinky clothes.  Stay on top of things save yourself time and money.

We learned the hard way that you have to clean the front loading washing machines on a regular basis.  Somehow, when we first purchased ours, we missed that detail.  Oops.  Lesson learned, after all laundry and our basement smelled gross and we couldn’t figure out why!!  Vinegar.

2. Dishwasher– Again, you can buy cleaner for this, or you can simply run vinegar through a cycle.  Also be sure to clean the drain trap each month.  Build up in there can cause backup and trouble starts with that.  You want your dishwasher running efficiently so be sure to empty the trap and clean your dishwasher!!  This keeps your dishwasher from being stinky, too!
3. Dryer Vent — The foil-ish thing that the air and moisture travel with the lint through?  That totally needs to be cleaned.  Regularly.  It’s a fire hazard.  I’m assuming you clean the lint trap before or after each load goes through the dryer.

4. Ceiling Fans- I actually try to do these when I change the sheets on Saturdays, but often just don’t….and it ends up being monthly.  Any longer than that and we get a build up that is just gross, and I fear we’ll end up turning them on before cleaning them and have all that dust and build up flying all over our bedrooms.  2/3 of our kids have allergies- this is NOT something I want flying around.

When I do my ceiling fans, I either use a pillow case so the dust and stuff fall into my case and not all over the room, or I use a damp microfiber cloth.  No chemicals needed, but still effective.

filtrete odor reducing filter

5. Filter(s) Filters for your furnace, filters for your air conditioning unit- whatever you have, change or clean them once a month.  Filters help to clean the air in your home and really, who wants to breathe in all the stuff filters work to keep OUT of our homes? (GROSS).

The Filtrete Odor Reduction Filter is 65 times more effective than other carbon filters at removing odors from the entire home, such as those from cooking, tobacco smoke, pets, mildew and cleaning chemicals.

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

Filtrete Brand Ambassador Badge

This post about 5 things to clean monthly is brought to you as part of my Filtrete Healthy Home Ambassadorship.  I was compensated for my time but opinions are my own.

Tips for Tax time and helpful budget tips

As I sit here looking at the far too big folder of all of our tax papers… and really just would like to avoid the task one more day, it got me to thinking about  budgets and taxes and ways to stay on top of things. My friends at Windows sent over these tips for tax time and helpful budget tips and I thought I’d share with you all.  I mean, we all have to pay taxes, right?  Whether we like it or not?

helpful budget tips

Are finances on top of your mind this month? With taxes due April 15th, there’s no better time to catch the budget bug!

 bing finance tips

Whether you’re interested in maximizing your refund or streamlining your finances for the year ahead, apps from Windows and Windows Phone have your back.  We love our Windows devices in this house (some of which were sent as part of the Windows Champions program but most of which we bought on our own.


1.       Check Your Status


Everyone has the same question as they’re filing their taxes – what’s my refund going to be?! Apps on Windows and Windows Phone remove the guesswork. TryTaxCaster on Windows Phone, utilizing the same calculator found in TurboTax, to quickly enter some basic information and watch your refund amount add up. Once you’ve filed, MyTaxRefund on Windows will allow you to quickly check the status of your return and give you an immediate estimate of when you can expect your refund.


2.       Make the Most of Your Refund


Sure, you’ve probably already made plans for how you want to spend some of your refund once you get it. What about the rest? Invest and maximize your refund with Bing Finance on Windows Phone and Windows, which helps you stay on top of fast-changing market conditions so you can make the most informed financial decisions. Keep an eye on all of your investments with SigFig, and sync all of your accounts in one place to track all of your stocks, funds, 401ks and IRAs in real time, available on Windows and Windows Phone.


3.       Budget Tips


Get in the mood to save more money for next tax season. On both Windows andWindows PhoneMint helps you understand where you’re spending your money with helpful charts and graphs that make saving easy. Use Billminder on yourWindows Phone or laptop to keep an eye on all of your monthly bills so you never miss a payment (and know how much you have left to spend!). Save for the next step of your life with MoBu Financial Management on Windows Phone andWindows. MoBu allows you to view your current financial assets as well as the opportunity to simulate your future savings with how much you can save in 5, 10, or 20 years!

 windows budget ideas

Make it Easy with Microsoft’s New Wireless Mobile Mouse 1850


You’ll find Microsoft’s new Mobile Mouse 1850 very helpful when trying to do your taxes, or stay on top of your finances from the road. Make your life easier and spend a little of your tax refund on this value mouse, that retails for only $14.95.


Designed for comfort and portability, the Wireless Mobile Mouse 1850 is great for life on the go, offering wireless freedom and built-in transceiver storage for ultimate mobility.

red mousenavy mousepurple mousepink mouse

Comfortable to use with either hand and with a scroll wheel for easy navigation, this mouse is the ideal device for your modern, mobile lifestyle. I really would like the pink one.  I love pink. In case anyone’s asking…

Savings Challenge(1)

If you are doing the weekly savings challenge, and you’ve maybe fallen behind or want to do a boost, consider throwing some of your tax refund towards it.


Have you filed your taxes? Do you have any helpful budget tips?


No compensation received for this post.  As part of my Windows Champions Ambassadorship, I have received devices to use to familiarize myself with Windows and Microsoft.  Opinions are my own.

Date Night at Home

When you don’t have family around to babysit for you, and don’t have a lot of disposable income, going out for date night isn’t always feasible. I mean, it sure is fun, but there is the cost incurred of paying a sitter and whatever you actually do for your date night. That can add up quickly.

One thing that my husband and I have been making an effort to do at least once a month is to have date night at home. It isn’t always (rarely) fancy, and it’s definitely not expensive, but it’s an evening where we feed the kids and get them to bed, and then have our own evening plans. This post is sponsored by Dr. Oetker.

Usually, we’ll make an adult-friendly meal, which may be take out, delivery, or something we make.  Someday, maybe we’ll make something together. We’ll often set the table, or at least get out placemats, my china, and light a candle.

date night at home
We enjoy a meal together, just the two of us.  No plastic cups (unless we decide to dine al fresco on the grass in the yard), no kids spilling, no cutting anyone’s food — just a husband and a wife, reconnecting over a nice simple meal. This past weekend, I wasn’t feeling well (again) so we did super simple.  We had Ristorante Pizza Spinaci and Pizza Mozzarella with some salad and ice water (normally, that would be wine in my glass!).

Dr. Oetker’s Ristorante pizzas are one of my go-to meals for our stay home date nights.  They are quick and easy, with more sophisticated flavor varieties, and oh so delicious.

We had a movie night after dinner. And nope.  No romance here.  Unless you consider Catching Fire romantic… although the time snuggling on the couch with phones, tablets, laptops off and just the two of us sharing some popcorn was romance enough for this girl. I just like the dedicated time to be just the two of us, as a couple, husband and wife, and not just mom or dad.  It’s really important to work on that relationship while parenting too!

 Ristorante Logo

Make your Perfect Date Night at Home with Ristorante pizzas! Visit the Dr. Oetker USA Facebook page for your chance to win the Perfect Night In sweepstakes and take home everything you’d need for your dream night in.

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!


Do you have date night at home?  What do you do for your date nights?



This is a sponsored post about having date night at home on behalf of Dr. Oetker USA LLC. I received compensation for this post; however, all opinions stated are my own.






The Microsoft Store in Farmington, Connecticut #WindowsChampions

A few weeks ago, the new Microsoft Store opened at the Westfarms Mall in Farmington, Connecticut. I was all kinds of excited to attend the media tour before the Grand Opening celebration and check out the store itself….but sad for me, I had a nasty bout of strep throat and wasn’t even able to get out of bed. My friend Kathy came to the rescue and headed down to cover the opening for me.

microsoft store farmington ct


I’ll be heading over in the next few weeks, because I just can’t stay away… if for nothing else but to drool over the Nokia Lumia line of phones and wish again that I had one of my own… So.  Microsoft Stores aren’t just a place to go and shop.  I mean, trust me, you want to go shop there. It’s just there’s a whole lot more to the stores.  Service, sales, community events and programs are all key components of the Microsoft Store Experience. (I feel like it needs that capital E because it really is an experience, not just a store).

microsoft store xbox

When new games are released they’ll host a tryout party so people can try games before they’re even released. That’s right. A party.  I’m not really sure if there will be balloons or cake, but there’s always hope, right? Still, trying before you buy especially with expensive games is a great thing.  It’s also nice if someone in your life is asking for a game and you aren’t sure if it’s going to be the best game for them- age appropriate, content, etc…. you can pop in and check it out BEFORE purchasing.  We’ve not bought tons of games to date but even with the few we’ve purchased we’ve found some duds.  That’s never fun to waste money.

This “Living room” area lets you try the games. Family friendly during the day so it’s kid safe. That’s a win for me, because I have this little guy in my house who would love to play video games all the time but given that he’s 6, I really don’t want him seeing many of the video games that exist in the world.  Family friendly is where I’m at in life and that’s what I like to see when I have my kids nearby.

microsoft store nokia lumia

Remember I mentioned the Nokia Lumia phones?  Do you know why I love them so much?  This love affair started months ago when I was in Seattle and I’m still thinking about them.  There’s a 41 megapixel camera on the Nokia Lumia 1020 windows phone. That’s more megapixels than I have on my Canon 60D DSLR. Yea.  That many. You can zoom in so close without losing quality. Lots of accessories including my favorite battery charging grip case. Office built in. Stabilizer for photo and video. Different lens effects. Blink mode is great to capture motion. (Just a note, I’m turning 40 in May, right around Mother’s Day, so if the Microsoft Fairy were to ask what I’d wish for….refer to this please). Remember, this is a PHONE we are talking about, with these features.  Not a camera. A smartphone.  There’s even different colors!!

microsoft store

Got tech questions?  Issues? There’s an Answer Desk at your Microsoft Store… with free services. Doesn’t even need to be purchased here NOR need to be a Microsoft product to get free help. Data recovery for $149 if they can help you in store. They’ll load your software purchased there too. My nephew Kyle will be REALLY happy I have someone else to bug with every.little.question that pops in my head about laptops, tablets or computers. Ecstatic maybe.

microsoft store theater


This is the Theatre. Microsoft will do personal training and workshops on days before the store opens to train on software. Oh yea!  Training . So when you get that new software and aren’t sure how to get familiar?  Go to the store.  Help is there!   There’s a 103″ tv for training. (I wonder if I visit if they’ll pull up my home page of my blog and let it stay on the tv for a while… imagine? 103″ of my own little piece of the internet??!! Crazy). The space can also be used for free community events. A business could bring in employees to learn Outlook. Or Boy Scouts could learn how to make movies and borrow the cameras in the store. Someone could rent the space for a gaming tournament. You can schedule your free event online. Yea. Free.  Sweet, right?

microsoft store 3d printer

This section features newest emerging tech like this MakerBot 3D printer. You can watch it work in the store, making these objects. And like all MS products, they’re all  easily compatible with other MS products. I got to see the MakerBot 3D printer printing about a foot away from me at Microsoft Headquarters in November.  Blew my mind.  I still have  hard time wrapping my head around what happens, but really? Its something to see.  I wish my grampa was alive to see, because he’d be blown away.

So– can you see why I have to call it the Microsoft Store Experience?  It’s not just a store. It’s oh so much more. Have you been to a Microsoft Store yet?

Five things I love #DunkinMugUp

Happy Valentine’s Day, my friends!! I can’t believe it’s this far into 2014. Where does the time go?

With the day of love coming tomorrow, it seemed kind of appropriate to talk about things I love. So without further ado, here are 5 things that I love.

#1 My family- they are my heart, and nothing matters more to me than my husband and our three little ones. I also love that my 8 year old is old enough to make me coffee now.

#2 My family and friends- The family of my heart and of my blood, and my friends- without whom, my world would be empty. I love them all.

#3 Coffee. Specifically, the caffeine from coffee. Super specifically, the caffeine in Dunkin Donuts coffee. Love it. (And my family and friends will tell you I love things a lot more after I’ve indulged in some coffee in the morning)

We actually combined my love of #2 and #3 and made a coffee care package to send to my nephew Kirby who’s away at college. I’d promised him I’d send him some Dunkin Donuts coffee but since it’s Valentine’s Day, we decided to add a few little surprises into his box before we mailed it. (Can you tell my 4 year old likes tape? I think she used a roll of tape on that card!!)

#4 Laughing- there’s nothing better in the world than having a good laugh, unless it’s sharing a laugh with those I love.

#5 Chocolate. Which is something I should love less, but I can’t help it. It’s like one of the Sirens of mythological times. (Did you know that Dunkin Donuts has chocolate in some of their flavored coffees? Trus

I hope by now you’re feeling the love. Show Dunkin’ Donuts your love for coffee by uploading a photo of you and the mug that you love here for a chance to win prizes in the Mug Up Contest.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Dunkin’ Donuts . The opinions and text are all mine.

The Joy of the Right Pet

The Joy of the Right Pet

the perfect pet

This post about how welcoming a new pet into your home is always a joyous occasion is a guest post. Puppies, kittens or even iguanas add play and companionship to any family. However, the success of that introduction depends upon taking a few steps to ensure comfort not only for your family, but also for your new pet. Following three easy guidelines will go a long way to building a positive life-long relationship.

Choosing the Right Pet

There are a number of important factors to finding the right pet for your family. The first thing to consider is the time you will need to devote to your new pet. Do the adults in the house work? Are the children old enough to take some responsibility, like feeding or walking the new pet? For instance, if both parents are away during the day, a new puppy will not be getting the interaction, training and exercise necessary to develop into a good family pet. On the other hand, a cat does not need that level of attention, and may work well in a working household. Other low maintenance pets like fish or turtles may work well to introduce small children to the responsibility of pet ownership without adding tasks to parents’ already busy schedules. Also, consider your living circumstances. For instance, a Great Dane is fine on a 5-acre lot but miserable in an apartment. Choose the pet that best fits your family’s level of activity and space.

Make the Right Preparations

While toys are important, it is critical to have the necessary materials before your pet comes home. You can often find things like food and water bowls, leads, harnesses and collars, and high-quality pet foodat retail outlets. Additionally, you can find discounts and savings at MyCoupons or others online or in the paper, allowing you to save a bit on these necessary purchases. If you are going to have your dog spend any time outside, you must provide adequate shelter, which means buying a doghouse and providing a fence to keep them safe. Cats need a quiet private space where you can set up a clean litter box and a scratching post so they don’t shred your furniture. Exotic pets like chameleons, iguanas and some tropical birds require carefully controlled conditions and special foods. You should research these animals first to understand what is necessary to keep them healthy.

Choose a Vet and Get a Health Check

Young animals will need to have their shot regimen begin immediately. For puppies and kittens, this means a commitment to a 12 to 16 week course of vaccinations. Older pets will need to have rabies boosters, tags and often a license. Even if you adopt your pet from the ASPCA or the local shelter where rudimentary care has been provided, you ought to get a health check before you bring them home. Often shelters only vaccinate against rabies, so you will need to find out what else your pet needs, including Parvo shots for puppies, and Feline Leukemia boosters for kittens. Some shelters are rife with conditions like kennel cough or parasites, and so it is important to get these problems seen to immediately. Ask your friends with pets for recommendations, check out reviews online on sites like Angie’s List, and make an office visit before you choose the vet. These steps will ensure that you choose the clinic that best meets your needs.

Pets add quality to life, and provide companionship and joy to every member of the family. Beginning that relationship on the right footing by following these guidelines will insure a long and healthy life for your pet.