Windows Gift Cards for apps now available (Giveaway) #WindowsChampions

Last month, I was invited by Microsoft to fly to Seattle and learn all about Windows 8.1, Windows Phones, Laptops, Desktops, Tablets, AIO PC’s and XBOX One. While I was there, I learned a TON about Windows and how to navigate, use, and appreciate all of the features and elements that make it so user friendly.  One thing that so many of us noticed almost immediately when we were there was that many of the awesome apps in the Windows App store had a fee associated with them.  Now, I am not one to always buy paid apps, but when I like something, and I feel it’s worth it, I’ll gladly pay for it. I do like to know what other people’s experiences are when it’s a paid app- I hate to waste money.  So here are a few of our current fave apps (and one that we don’t have (yet- saving it for a specific occasion to download) from Windows. Please note- Windows Gift Cards for apps are now available!

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Where’s Santa?: NORAD Tracks Santa on Windows 8.1 is ready to begin the countdown on December 24th! Track Santa in real time as he travels the world delivering gifts. See where’s he’s been and where he’s headed next. Learn more about how and why NORAD tracks Santa, watch videos about the journey, play games, and hear special holiday greetings.

 

Interactive Education: Get your kids out of their seats and enhance their learning and education with Sesame Street Touch & Learn TV. This TV viewing and interactive experience is an extension of the Kinect version, available exclusively on Windows. Kids can search for a variety of hidden objects in the eight 20 minute episodes for a more touch-centric experience. (This one we are saving- we have a very long doctor appointment coming up and we’ve decided that a new and fun app like this will be a great distraction for our littlest one)

Create: Morph and manipulate your pictures into funny photos with Crayola Photo Mix & Mash on your Windows tablet or PC and Windows Phone 8. And from now until the new year, Windows Store and Windows Phone store users will get an exclusive coupon for the Mix and Mash tool set!

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Holiday Cards: It’s not too late to get your holiday cards out in the mail! Create a personalized getting card from your Windows 8 tablet or PC and send directly to the mailbox with Hallmark Go Cards. Add a photo from your camera roll or snap one while using the app. Access the Message Library for inspiration and ideas, add your signature and save your favorite cards to rework and send again.

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From now until December 28, when you purchase a Windows touch PC under 14”, you’ll get a free $25 gift card to purchase apps from the Windows Store!  Then you’ll have to decide WHICH apps to get…

One reader will win a $25 Windows Gift Card!

 

 

Internet Safety While Traveling Abroad

Many people travel to faraway lands for business or pleasure trips. Chances are they also have some electronic device in which they can connect to the internet in their carry-on or luggage. Most countries offer some sort of internet access, and connecting to the internet to read/send email or for other matters is the norm, no matter if you are a tourist or a local. This makes internet safety while traveling abroad a huge issue and we need to protect ourselves!

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Image via Wikipedia

Locals in a foreign country may know how to protect themselves on the internet. However, many tourists are not aware of things they should or should not do in order to protect their internet privacy and their internet accessible equipment from hackers.

Tips to Keep You Safe on the Internet While Overseas

  1. Avoid Public Internet Access- When traveling overseas; avoid using public computers for internet access. This means do not use public computers that are in libraries, coffee shops, or internet cafes. There is no guarantee that the network is secure. Those who may be looking at what you are doing could easily intercept your personal information. There could also be a device monitoring every keystroke that you make.
  2. Have a Good Firewall Installed- If you should happen to take your laptop with you on your trip, make sure that you have a good firewall program installed. This will help to ensure that your computer is safe from viruses and spyware.
  3. Do Banking on Your Own Computer at Home- Make sure all your internet banking is done at home. There is no need to do your internet-banking while in a foreign country. There is no way to make sure that the internet is secure.
  4. Use a VPN Connection- When on your laptop overseas; make sure you connect via a Virtual Private Network. This will help to ensure that your internet connection is secure and cannot be intercepted. With a VPN connection, your internet traffic is routed through that server.

Be internet savvy when you are overseas by utilizing the above tips to keep your personal information secure.

hotspotshield

You may want to consider using Hotspot Shield- a VPN service. Hotspot Shield secures browsing sessions, detects and blocks malware, hides IP addresses, and allows you to access blocked websites (e.g. Netflix from certain countries). It’s a free download and can protect your kids while they are online.

 

How to annoy your spouse with Microsoft OneNote #WindowsChampion

First and foremost, you have to know that I am a Windows Champion for Microsoft this year.  As part of my partnership with them, I got to go to Seattle and learn oh so very much about Microsoft, Windows 8.1, Office365 and OneNote. Of course, being me, I can’t just share with you about how it works I have to be me.   So naturally, when we started using OneNote  on all of our devices, I started having some fun.

So he’ll have a to-do list.

microsoft-onenote-phone-funAnd I’ll add some things.   Like… A list of things to do. And maybe just one thing, or maybe every line, I add some commentary. Or suggestions. Or I paste in photos of things I think are funny.

microsoft-onenote-phone-fun-2Or of things I want.   Or maybe I change up the puncutation.   Or include a really HILARIOUS video.

microsoft-onenote-funny-wifeThat’s what’s FUN about OneNote.  It’s like instant fun.  Everything saves by itself, and you never have to actually “save” it. So if someone happens to come in and you close the app quickly, well, it’s still there.  Your funny is auto saved.

 

So it’s not like he’d see that it was “last edited by” his awesome wife tonight, like I’m doing now.

Internet Safety with Kids

The internet is an amazing source of information. It can give people who use it information about anything in a matter of seconds. When it comes to kids and the internet, it does cause parents some concern, and rightly so.

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This post about internet safety with kids is sponsored.  

Most kids should be taught how to be internet savvy, no matter their age. Parents should also make an effort to teach their children certain rules about the internet. What may seem to be a relatively harmless search could end up reaching a website that is full of pornographic material. This sort of website could be reached by some simple spelling errors on the keyboard.

Thankfully, there have been laws enforced in regards to internet safety and kids. The law is called COPPA, which stands for Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. This law is designed to protect the privacy of children online. This act enforces a website to have their privacy policies in full view, which explains that no personal information on a minor is collected, stored, or used without the consent of a parent.

When it comes to gaming and the internet, gaming sites are not permitted to obtain certain information for a child who is under the age of consent. The only information the website is permitted to collect is perhaps a made up screen name to allow the minor to participate in a contest or game.

This law protects a child’s privacy somewhat. However, it is up to the parent to regulate and enforce internet safety rules when it comes to a minor. You could protect your child online by utilizing various online tools to block access to certain websites. Another way to ensure your child’s safety is by checking to see if your internet service provider offers parental control options. Check with your internet service provider to see if these options are available.

Overall, it is up to the parent to become computer illiterate so you can monitor your child’s online activity. It also helps to have the computer in a common area where you will be able to see what activities your child is participating in online. When a computer is behind closed doors, you can never be sure of what type of websites your child is visiting nor whether or not they are in a chat room forming a conversation with a potential predator.

Keep your child safe online by enforcing internet safety rules in your home and for publicly accessible computers.

 keeping-kids-safe-online

You may want to consider using Hotspot Shield- a VPN service. Hotspot Shield secures browsing sessions, detects and blocks malware, hides IP addresses, and allows you to access blocked websites (e.g. Netflix from certain countries). It’s a free download and can protect your kids while they are online.

2 Ingredient Fudge Recipe

I am participating in a sponsored brand ambassadorship with ALDI. All opinions stated are my own.

I’m about to blow your minds, my friends.  Delicious, creamy fudge recipe.  2 ingredients (3 if you add nuts) and total cost: $2.48.

Oh, yes.

You see, my Aunt Dianne (who probably won’t ever see this but hey, I love you Aunt D!!) has made a certain famous recipe fudge for- well, forever for holidays  in our family.  I tried several times to make it, failing all but once.  So complicated. And you guys know, and I know, that I like EASY stuff.  Simple.  Yummy.So today I’m going to blow your minds.

Fudge made from 2 ingredients.

easiest-fudge-recipe-ingredients-#aldiraves

1 can of Sweetened Condensed Milk

1 12oz bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips

And all you do is melt them together in the microwave (or stovetop) until the chocolate melts. Stir it. Place in 8×8 greased dish. Let it chill to set. A few hours later, enjoy.

If you do it in the microwave, it’s maybe going to be a 5 minute process….including cleanup. Stovetop?  A few more. You can of course add things like… nuts, candies, seasonal sprinkles (I’m going to call them shots though), flavor extract. You might even want to use different kinds of chips. I stuck with straight up simplicity.

easiest-fudge-recipe-#aldiraves

I went to ALDI for a bunch of my holiday baking essentials today, like eggs, sugar, brown sugar, and spent less than $25 on a TON of stuff.  Which I promptly forgot to snap a picture of. I also got a lot of muffin and bread mixes to donate for holiday food drives, roll Italian sausage for my semi-famous (at least in my own mind) stuffing for Thanksgiving (I should totally share that recipe with you) and super thin pizza crusts I like to keep on hand for those (frequent) nights when I run out of time to make dinner. I’ve really been really happy with my ALDI finds — but what has made me happiest?  The total at the checkout.  Each time I go to check out I have to ask the cashier to be certain they got everything in my cart.  I love it!  ALDI has tons of fabulous prices on a lot of pantry staples we use.

 

I moustache you how you prefer your coffee! #DunkinMugUp

I moustache you how you prefer your coffee?  There are so many ways to enjoy your coffee- and a moustache to go along with them all!

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Maybe you like it all serious, just your coffee, and no frills. Just like this no-frills ‘stache

 

Or perhaps… you like A WHOLE LOT OF EXTRA CAFFEEINE

 

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You know, the extra boost of caffeine ‘stache folks?

 

 

OH!! Or maybe you just really like thick, sludge like my parents drank.  Black or not, that stuff would grow hair on your chest.  Daily.

 

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Or maybe you are like me and like it like most people – a little sweet, maybe some fun flavors?

 

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So that coffee perks you up, like this ‘stache?

 

OR MAYBE…just maybe…

 

you are a coffee loving Red Sox fan like me…and love the beards!

 

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Don’t forget about Dunkin’s Mug Up Contest, this month’s theme is… wait for it…. moustaches!!  You can earn prizes includnig a $250 Visa Gift Card just for posting photos of yourself with that ‘stache… AND make yourself look downright silly on the internet.  It’s all so fun!!

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So, how do you take your coffee?  And your ‘staches?

Dunkin’ Donuts is celebrating mustaches in November by asking you to share your favorite photo of you, your dream mustache, and its favorite mug buddy here. Mug Up this month for a chance to win a year’s supply of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, a $250 VISA gift card or a Dunkin’ Donuts coffee mug.
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Dunkin’ Donuts . The opinions and text are all mine.

So Aldi blew my mind

Earlier this week I headed into Aldi for the first time ever.  Yes, that’s right- I’ve heard of the awesome of Aldi for a long time but I rarely have cash on me and so I was always like “oh shoot, I’ll head in next time I’m shopping” and time got away from me.  I bought a lot of items- we didn’t need a full shop but we were really low on snack stuff for the kids’ lunches and I wanted to replenish- since Aldi was kind enough to invite me to be one of their Ambassadors and share three posts featuring Aldi, I figured this was as good a time as any.  So I went.  I saw.  I spent.  I saved.  I bagged.  I left. My friend Lisa swears by so many Aldi products and I coerced her into going with me for my first visit.

aldi-shopping-#aldisaves

 

Before you go into the store, you’ll see carts outside.  I’d heard you have to use a quarter to get a cart, and I wasn’t sure how that was going to work out.  Pop your quarter in, and your cart is released from the chains holding it to the other carts.  Just know that the quarter doesn’t go in all the way, and when you hook the cart back up to the rest when you are finished shopping, the quarter comes back out.

aldi-shopping-carts-quarters-#aldisavesOnce you are in, at least in our local stores, you enter by snacky food.  (Beware: don’t shop hungry!!) There’s a lot of yummy chocolate options, beware.  Or put some in your cart.  I had a recipe idea in mind for Silly Turkey Pops and grabbed some of the Aldi cookies that look just like Oreos- why not spend smart?!

turkeypop

The dairy is along the back wall of the store – which is really nice, because with the small store size, when you forget something before you finish, like I do every single trip to the store, it’s a 10 second walk to find what you wanted instead of 3 minutes.  I was very pleasantly surprised at the variety of dairy products.  My kids love frozen yogurt tubes for morning snacks-

Lisa’s favorite thing about Aldi is the dairy products….so I had a list in mind of what I wanted to get.  The Aldi Moo Tubes (yogurt tubes) that occasionally go on sale 2 packs for $5 were less than $2- everyday price.  Curious, I peeked at the ingredients- no high fructose corn syrup!! Score for the Martins!!  I also found cream cheese about half of what we pay at the grocery store, plus pumpkin spice cream cheese, which my kids have fallen in love with- again, for about half the price we normally pay.  That’s crazy to me.  Crazy but I’ll take it.

In the next aisle were baking supplies, and also holiday/seasonal items.  TONS of Halloween themed baking products and even a pretty decent selection of costumes for just $12.99!!  I have heard from friends in other areas for years that random “hot” toys will show up inexpensively priced at Aldi and now I can shop and share my fabulous finds right along with them.

Staple pantry items are available, as well as breads, and a NICE selection of produce.  I’m pretty particular about

So how does Aldi offer these prices without sacrificing quality?  That’s easy.  It’s a smaller store (which is honestly very refreshing- it’s a lot quieter and not as much stimulation- very relaxing), there’s no bagging clerks (yep, you’re on your own to bag, but it’s ok- there’s ample space to bag just past the checkout or you can do what Lisa does and bag in your car before returning the cart), no bank, no pharmacy, no florist… you get the idea.  Aldi takes a back-to-basics approach.  You come in, you get your food, you pay, you bag, you leave.  Oh! Don’t forget your bags- although there are some available for purchase!  All of these things combine to help keep the Aldi prices so competitive.  :)

I walked up to that checkout assuming I’d spent $80-85 on my items. I had a lot of dairy and produce in my cart and those items add up very quickly. Imagine my surprise (and delight) to find that my total was $63.48!  Got Aldi? Try them.  #AldiSaves, indeed!

 

 

Online protection. It’s not negotiable.

Today I took some necessary steps to protect myself and my family online a bit more.  We’ve had online protection since we had the internet installed at home… but lately- with the kids starting to use the internet more, and multiple devices in the house….my oldest has had a few research projects she’s needed to use the internet for-it’s time to step things up.  While we supervise, we’d just rather protect ourselves as much as we can. We decided to look for a program that can offer us the protection we want so much for our laptops that can also offer us that same protection on our phones and tablets.

It kind of stinks that we have to even think about securing our phones- but really, they aren’t “just” phones anymore and it’s kind of reckless in a way to NOT protect them.  Tablets, too.  My kids like to play on the tablet or phone while we’re waiting for appointments.  Often, it’s with free wi-fi.  That’s like asking for trouble- and that kind of trouble isn’t always easy to fix.  What’s that our grandmas used to say?  An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure?!  Well, here’s your prevention.  Online protection.

What I want from online protection is simplicity, ease of use, and the option to use the SAME protection on all of our devices- in one place.  I have a hard enough time remembering passwords for various accounts I access daily, I don’t need to add multiple others to that ever-growing list.  I found Hotspot Shield recently and have been really happy with it- up to 5 devices (which is what we have here at the house – hubby’s phone is through work so protected from their program) and ONE account.  That’s right- it’s one account, one login, and that makes me happy.

whyhotspot-shield

Photo Credit: Hotspot Shield (and no, that’s not my IP address)

Hotspot Shield is a VPN service (that’s a virtual private network for those of you who are like me and didn’t know what that meant immediately). The product secures browsing sessions, detects and blocks malware, hides IP addresses, and allows you to access blocked websites (e.g. Netflix from certain countries).  Basically, it protects your devices so if you are surfing the web at the airport, you’re covered and protected just like you are at home on your private network.

Lots of companies offer security and protection online.  It’s hard to know what one to choose- some that have gotten rave reviews from others didn’t work well at all for our family, and vice versa.  One thing that intrigued me about Hotspot Shield is that while they do offer the protection, they also understand the importance and value of a dollar- and offer ways to earn rewards for sharing about your experience with friends and family.  You’ll pay just $29.95 for Hotspot Shield Elite.

Yep.  You will pay for the protection (which I can’t recommend you do enough, never be online unprotected) but you can lower your cost by sharing from your Hotspot Shield account and earning free weeks.  They also have frequent giveaways on Facebook so if you are on Facebook, be sure to like them so keep up to date on giveaways! (Right now it’s iPad Mini and Kindle Fire).

  • Encrypted and private communication in public Wi-Fi spots
  • A secure gateway to access censored and blocked sites and ports
  • Masked IP address for complete online anonymity
  • Real-time protection from a wide range of malware
  • Proprietary data compression technology
  • Works on PC, Mac, iOS & Android
  • Virtual Locations in USA, UK & Australia

So here’s my question for YOU– what is it that YOU look for when you are wanting online protection? 

How long do cats live? #HillsPet

This post about cat life expectancy is brought to you by Hill’s. I am being compensated for helping spread the word about Hill’s Science Diet for Cats, but This Mama Loves only shares information we feel is relevant to our readers. Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Inc. is not responsible for the content of this article. #HillsPet

Our Raistlin was 14 1/2 years old when she passed.  She had a very, very long and full life.  When my husband found her in a dumpster, she was a teeny tiny little fireball of fur and was ready to take on the world.  When I met my husband, she was a few years old and much, much calmer (and larger….).  By the time we had kids, Raistlin was 7 and a full-on mature…when she passed ,she was very much a senior. We’re back at the kitten stage again in our house, but with kids this time around, we have a lot more questions.

With kids come questions.  Some are easy to answer.  What do cats eat?  Do cats use a pillow?  Why don’t we get shoes for the cat?  Can I paint the cat’s nails? Can the cat take a bath with me?

how-old-is-my-cat-#hillspet

A big question?

How long do cats live?  
Any household with pets and children will have this question come up (and probably 100000 more), because obviously pets have shorter life spans than people.  Given that pets are members of the family, it makes sense that we’d give them different foods for different stages of their lives.  Most of us aren’t going to give a full steak on a bone to a 5 month old, simply because it’s not the best for their dietary needs at that age.  With cats, their dietary needs change as they age, too, by offering them foods that match their stage in life, we are not only helping them to be healthier, but can also help to improve their quality of life, energy levels and possibly risk of chronic illnesses!

raistlin

Our beautiful Raistlin

I remember with Raistlin, when we started noticing behavior changes or right around when she did enter a new ‘stage’ of her life — not by the calendar, but kind of us noticing she maybe was slowing down, or sleeping more…that’s when we’d start to reevaluate her food and maybe call the vet or head to the store to look at new options.  I’m not sure it was so much that we knew she was in a new phase of life needing different formulas or just instinct, and probably won’t know, but in retrospect, knowing what I know now…within 3-4 months of her hitting 7 years and about 11 years, we changed her foods.  We’ll do the same with the kittens as they get older, too.

hills-science-active-longevity hills-age-defying-formula

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’ll be looking at Hill’s® Science Diet® healthy aging formulas when the time comes for the kittens.  These formulas help to  MAINTAIN health while aging with Science Diet® Active Longevity™ foods — or to  DEFY the visible signs of aging with Science Diet® Science Diet Senior 11+ Age Defying.

I never stopped to think how lucky my family has been my whole life- most of our dogs- and cats- have lived fairly long lives.  Which leads me to ask… do you have pets?  Or have you had pets? How long did your pets live? 

I’ll show you mine if you show me yours #DunkinMugUp

 

Happy Fall, my friends.  Happy October! I can’t even believe it’s October already, largely in part due to my denial and also because it’s 75 degrees here in Connecticut today.  The only surefire signs that fall is here are the sounds of the leaves rustling on the trees as they get drier and drier, and the lovely notices that tell us that Pumpkin flavored coffees, donuts and muffins are to be found at Dunkin Donuts stores.  To celebrate fall, Dunkin Donuts has started fun promotion called Dunkin Mug Up that they have asked me to share with you (and the self-humiliating portraits are not required, FYI) and it can all end with….

you.

winning.

prizes.

 

Oh yes, my friends.

All you have to do is put your scariest face on, grab your mug of coffee (or cup, I don’t judge how anyone drinks their coffee) and snap a pic.  Hashtag it with #dunkinmugup and share with the folks at Dunkin Donuts and YOU COULD WIN.

Prizes.

Of the fun kind.

So just snap that pic like I did (yes, this is what I look (and act) like before coffee

Then share it with DunkinDonuts and Instagram with the #DunkinMugUp hashtag.  Feel free to tag me, @brettbmartin, and I’ll gladly like or comment on your scary face!

I don’t want you to fret.  Once I have some coffee, I’m a happy witch, and you can feel free to ask questions and talk to me.

Well?  I showed you mine, now you show me yours!  Scary face, that is!

Trick or Treat! Dunkin’ Donuts Coffee is both – a treat that tricks you out of bed and on with your day. Enter this month’s Dunkin’ Donuts Mug Up Contest for a chance to win sweet prizes by uploading a photo of you, your coffee mug, and your spookiest face here!

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