Friday, August 28, 2009

Giveaways on the web

I have decided to participate in a new (at least to me) program called the MckLinky Giveaway Blog Hop. On weeks like this one, where I am running a giveaway, I will post the Mcklinky at the bottom of the giveaway, and also will put a new post every Friday with the new list. If it is possible, on weeks I do not have a giveaway, I will just post the list on Fridays. The list changes every Friday at 4AM CST, but new contests are added through the week so be sure to come back and check it often. Have fun and please let me know if any of you win any fun prizes.

MckLinky Blog Hop

Thursday, August 27, 2009

This week Thursday

Be sure to enter my giveaway for a Fiber One Yogurt Meal Pack and to vote for my video on Verizon FIOS to be entered to win a webcam.


-Wisconsin Cheese is offering a free Kitchen Kids Cookbook.

-Be sure to get your free sample of Honey Nut Cheerios and a coupon for $1 off.

-There is a free sample of DentaBurst available to the first 250,000 that sign up. These are portable toothbrushes you put on your finger.


- Be sure to stop by Organizing With Sandy for a chance to win a $500 Wal-Mart gift card to re-do your teen's (they actually can be as young as 8, no older than 17) bedroom with Wal-Mart's Your Zone products. (ends 9/10)

- Pinch That Penny 'Til It Screams is giving away a Jessie Steele Designer Apron. These aprons are very cute! (ends 8/31)

- Saving Money for a Wedding currently has a giveaway for a 5-pack of tickets to see a movie at any Regal Entertainment Group theater. (ends 9/3)

- icefairy's Treasure Chest has a cute 5-in-1 Tasty Baker by Pop Art Toaster, as a giveaway prize. (ends 9/5)

- Here is a great prize for those who know a little one. Jolly Mom is giving away a Stork Craft wooden rocking horse. I would love to give this to my little guy at Christmas.

Cool Things I found this week

- Check out how Erin at Sutton Grace turned an old entertainment center into this cute play kitchen:

- The Suburban Jungle shares how to get a great workout, without having to join a gym, pay for a personal trainer, or buy expensive equipment or a Wii.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wellness Wednesday: The Benefits of Yogurt (and a giveaway)

Yogurt is one of those snacks that just about anyone can eat. There is whole milk yogurt for babies and those who need extra fat in their diets, and there is light and low-fat yogurt for the rest of us. Flavors include dessert-like flavors such as cheesecake, Boston cream pie and vanilla and there are plenty of fruity flavors from the basic strawberry or peach to the more exotic key lime pie and mango. Yogurt can be eaten as is or frozen for a special treat. On top of all this, yogurt is pretty good for your health, too. Check out these yogurt facts:

- Yogurt is a good source of protein, calcium, vitamins B-2 and B-12, potassium, and magnesium.
- Many yogurts contain pro-biotics which can help improve your immune system and maintain good digestive health.
- Eating yogurt regularly can help keep and/or restore the vaginal pH levels which helps keep yeast infections away.
- Various studies have shown that increased dairy consumption, including yogurt, can reduce the risk of osteoporosis and can lower blood pressure. This is best when combined with vitamin D. Some yogurts have no vitamin D and some have a fair amount. Be sure to read the label.
- Those who are lactose intolerant, can often eat yogurt without a problem. Live yogurt cultures produce lactase which helps digest the lactose in the yogurt and thereby, alleviating the need for the body to try to break it down.
- You can substitute fat-free yogurt when baking and cooking. In baking, use a complementary flavor or plain yogurt for some or all of the oil or butter in a recipe. Plain yogurt can be used in place of sour cream in many cooking recipes. Please note that cooking yogurt often kills the live enzymes.

If you are watching your weight, or trying to avoid sugar for other reasons, be sure to check sugar content before buying yogurt. You also want to check the type of sweetener used, especially in light varieties, if you are avoiding certain sweeteners. The best way to control the amount of sugar is to buy plain, fat-free yogurt and blend in your own flavors by using fresh, canned, or frozen fruit, granola, jams, etc. My favorite is to blend sugar-free strawberry jam with plain yogurt and sprinkle on fat-free yogurt. You can also make your own yogurt at home in either a yogurt maker or crock pot. One of my favorite blogs, A Year of Slow Cooking, shares the directions for making yogurt in your slow cooker here.

On top of all the health benefits yogurt offers, Fiber One has gone a step above and added fiber to their yogurt, 5g per serving for 20% of your recommended daily intake. Plus, it is fat-free and only 50 calories, and most importantly, it tastes delicious. It is available in vanilla, strawberry, peach and key lime pie.

Now for the giveaway...

My Blog Spark and Fiber One are giving all of you a $1.00 off coupon, but that is not all. They kindly sent me the gift set shown above. It included a coupon for a free pack of Fiber One yogurt; an insulated lunch bag; a covered, divided dish; a 24-oz, covered cup with measurements on the side; and 2 nifty little all-in-one utensils (knife,fork and spoon all in one). The best part is they are giving me 3(!) identical sets to give to my readers. So here are the details:

Mandatory Entry:
- 1 entry for leaving a comment with your favorite yogurt "stir-in", yogurt recipe or at least your favorite yogurt flavor

Optional Entries:
- 1 entry for visiting Verizon My Fios contest page and voting for my video. It is listed as Danielle, New York. Include what number vote you were when you comment. Voting will also enter you in the Verizon contest to win a webcam. This can be done three times, once each day until 8/28.

- 1 entry if you become a public follower of this blog

- 1 entry if you subcribe to this blog

- 5 entries if you blog about this giveaway and post the link here. If you are not a blogger, feel free to post this on your Facebook page (if I am not already your friend, you will also have to ask me to be, so I can see it posted. I am on there as Danielle Parent Garcia)

The contest will remain open until Wednesday, September 1st at 11:59PM. I will use to draw the winning comments. Winners will be contacted via e-mail and will have 48 hours to respond. If they do not respond, a new winner(s) will be chosen. Good luck!!

MckLinky Blog Hop

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Update to Verizon contest

A few weeks ago, I posted about a fun little contest Verizon Fios is running. I had created a video about why my family "needed" (I use that word very loosely) a new entertainment package. Well, thanks to all your votes, I have been named as a Fan Favorite Finalist. Now, I just need you all to go back and vote for me again. There are 3 pages (only 4 videos per page) of finalists and I am on page 1, 3rd video down, titled Danielle, New York. The link will bring you to page 2, but if I figure out how to fix that, I will. Anyway, like I said in my previous post, anyone who votes is eligible to win a webcam from Verizon Fios as well. So, not only can I win, but you can too!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Money Monday: Saving Money on Hotel Stays (Priceline Review)

On Friday, I wrote about eating on road trips and many of the tips I gave also will help your budget. Today, I will share how we saved money on our hotel stays, including the cute lodge-type hotel, Oasis Inn(review in upcoming post), we stayed at in Oacoma/Chamberlain, SD.

I can sum this up in one word: Priceline. I had grabbed some of the motel coupon booklets from the rest stops and checked their prices. They were definitely reasonable, but I wanted to see if using Priceline and their Name-Your-Own Price feature could get us a better deal. We were in South Bend, IN (actually Mishawaka, IN) and I learned that the Martin's grocery store offered free WiFi (more on this in a later post), so we stopped there and I went to work. I told Priceline that I wanted a 3 star hotel for $5 less than the cheapest motel price in the coupon book. They accepted my price and we stayed at a really nice Courtyard by Marriott in the business area of Mishawaka. The next day, we found the motel that we would have stayed at if Priceline had fallen through. It was run down and was located in a not-so-nice area of town. Now, we could have saved more money by offering less on a 1 star hotel, but we had decided we wanted a nicer place to stay. It is all up to what is important to you. We had similar luck in several other cities as well, such as Salt Lake City, Boise, and Orlando (on a different trip).

Some tips when using Priceline, Name-Your-Own Price feature:

- You can use this feature to get a room for the same night as long as it is before 11PM EST. After 11PM, you can only request a room for future nights. It is important to remember that it is EST as well. We had gotten used to being able to get a room at 9PM at night, but when we went looking for a room near Seattle at 9PM, we were unable to use the Name-Your--Own Price feature. You can still use their discounted prices though and those are still decent. The hotel pictured above was booked through their discounted price around 11PM CST for a total price of $77, higher than I like, but breakfast was included and we were there at the end of Sturgis week, when prices are high.

- Be reasonable in your request. Priceline will tell you the average price for the type of hotel you are requesting in that area. By all means offer less, but don't offer too little or it will be rejected. If your price is rejected, you will need to either change your location, date(s) of stay, or number of stars for the hotel you want. In bigger cities, changing the location is often easy as they divide the city into several areas and you can just choose another area (they still look in the original area as well), but in smaller cities and towns, you will often not be able to change your location without choosing another city/town all together. If you exhaust all your options, you can still use their "regular" discounted prices.

- Only choose one area and the top number of stars you want for your first request. This gives you some wiggle room if your offer is rejected. If you choose a 2-star, they automatically will check for star levels above that. It is nice, but if your price is rejected, you will have to choose a lower star level than you originally chose.

- Understand that you do not get to pick your exact hotel, only the area and star level, when you name your own price. If you have a hotel loyalty card, you cannot use it.

- You are guaranteed a room for 2 adults. Bed size and smoking preference are assigned at check-in. We were able to get what we wanted every time (2 beds, non-smoking). Many hotels also offer cribs/Pack N' Plays, just ask at check-in. Also, if traveling with children, some hotels offer a king-size bed with a sleeper sofa. This is much nicer for the adults than 2 double beds;0)

- Be prepared to pay more than your offered price. Taxes and Priceline's fees tend to run about $12-$14 on a $50-$75 room. Also, in the more upscale hotels, breakfast is not always included so be prepared to buy it. Parking is also sometimes an additional cost, but in the many times we have used Priceline, we have only ended up paying for parking three times and it was in big cities (Orlando, Chicago, and Salt Lake City). The plus is, it is often a patrolled-lot or a parking garage. The total amount is still less than you would have paid normally. If you do not want to have to pay for breakfast or parking, choose hotels that are 2-star or less, as the majority of them tend to include breakfast and rarely charge for parking.

- Use Priceline's Name-Your-Own Price for other travel needs as well. You can Name-Your-Own price for flights and car rentals as well. They also offer discounted prices on cruises, vacation packages, and attractions.

- If you have time, research your other options as well so you know at what price to walk away from naming your own price. Not every hotel uses Priceline and I have yet to find a bed-and-breakfast listed on there. It is possible that you could find other acceptable options on your own or through other travel web sites, especially if you are not able, or choose not, to use the Name-Your-Own Price option.

What tips do you have for saving money on hotels? Do you have any great deals you have snagged through Priceline or other travel websites?

Side note- Although this seems to be an all out commercial for Priceline, I was not asked by Priceline or anyone else to write it. This is my opinion and is all based on my actual experiences. I have not been paid for this review and we paid for all our stays on our own.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Family Friday: Road trip food tips

We recently returned from a cross-country road trip (NY to Seattle and back). Our traveling party consisted of my husband and I plus our 4 children, ages 8 years, 7 years, 2 years, and 1 year. Leading up to the vacation, I was quite afraid of what to expect. 3,000 miles each way is quite a trek for an adult, let alone young children. Now that we have returned, I am actually looking forward to the next road trip. Over the next few weeks, I will share some tips based on our experience. Today, I will start with food tips.


- If you have a cooler, be sure to refill the ice at each hotel stop. Also, they sell plug-in coolers (ours is also a heater) that you can plug into your cigarette lighter. When you stop, you can use an adapter to ensure your stuff stays cold or just put the food into the hotel refrigerator. To be honest, even though we own a plug-in cooler, we only used it for the beginning of the trip and decided to just buy those things that we like cold, as we needed them. The coolers are great for a short trip, but take up valuable space on a long one. Next time, we will simply freeze a few things (juice boxes, bottled water, yogurts, etc) ahead of time, consume them when they defrost and just buy the cold things as we need them.

- Avoid fast food meals if possible. Not only do they cost a lot, but they make you feel yucky, especially after a few days of eating just that. If you do stop for fast food, check the value menus and look for healthy options to balance out the not healthy options. We fed our entire family breakfast one day at a McDonald's in South Bend, IN for about $10. The older kids, my husband and myself each had a Sausage McMuffin ($1 each) and a yogurt parfait ($1 each). The babies shared a yogurt parfait and apple dippers ($1 each). We all drank water with the meal. When we left, we were satisfied and were not feeling weighed down by a heavy meal.

- When traveling with younger children, try to stop at places with playgrounds. Allow the kids to run off some energy while the adults eat. When the adults are done eating, the kids can then eat in the vehicle. This gives the adults some much needed "quiet" time and allows the kids to burn off some energy. It also prevents the children from lollygagging while they eat and holding up the trip. (Thank you to the Johnson Family for sharing this tip with us)

- Think about the "portability" of the snacks you choose and the potential for mess. Handing out yogurt for a snack is a nice idea, but younger ones will undoubtedly spread it all over themselves and neighboring children/books/windows. I also found it easier to bag up all the snacks into individual portion sizes for the kids before leaving on the trip. I could then just pull out a bag and pass it back without dealing with excess packaging being thrown on the floor.

- Stop at grocery stores and/or roadside stands and picnic in the parks along the way. This is the time to give the children things like yogurt and other potentially messy foods. For about $10, you can pick up a cooked rotisserie chicken, yogurt for everyone and some fresh fruits or veggies. That is much less than you would spend at a restaurant and so much healthier for you too.

- Limit the consumption of beverages before extended periods of driving and at every stop, have everyone at least try to use the rest room. We even had to have our 7 year old go and then count to 20 and try again. She had gotten into the habit of not completely emptying her bladder so she would need a rest stop 20 minutes after we left the previous one. When she started counting and trying again, the extra rest stops were no longer needed.

- As I have mentioned, it is important to balance your meals when traveling, especially when traveling for more than 1-2 days. The things you consume will affect how you feel and the number of rest stops you need to make. Still, this is a vacation, so feel free to indulge a little, just keep it in balance. Trust me, your tummy will thank you later.

I hope these tips will help you on your next road trip. Please feel free to share any tips you have regarding food when traveling.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

This week Thursday


There is still time to vote in the Verizon FIOS contest for the chance to win a webcam.

I posted a bunch of school-related giveaways on my homeschooling blog, and here are a few more giveaways I have come across:

Cheer detergent is giving away an LG washer and dryer and other prizes. You can enter daily and some prizes (Cheer t-shirt, Cheer laundry bag, free Cheer detergent) are instant win.

Have a baby at home, one on the way or know someone who does? Enter the online baby shower at Babies Gotta Have It to win over $700 in baby-related prizes. The prize package has gifts for feeding, clothing, cleaning and playing with your baby.

Fru"Gals" in Training is offering (5) 1-day passes to Sam's Club and a $25 Sam's gift card.

Contest Corner has a giveaway for 250 Customized Greeting Cards from Digital Room. The winter holidays are just around the corner and winning these would be a great way to trim the holiday budget. There is also a giveaway for a Coach Slim Wallet from JomaShop


You can get free samples of Fizzie Wizzies. These are colored, effervescent tablets that you add to bath water to make bathtime more fun.

Monday, August 10, 2009

A fun contest from Verizon

I recently received an e-mail from MomSelect, informing me of a great contest Verizon is holding. The grand prize is a whole new entertainment system worth up to $20,000, including 2 flat-screen LCD tvs, a Blu-Ray player, a surround-sound system, a notebook computer, and 1 year of Verizon Fios service. Unfortunately for some of my great readers, that prize is only available to residents of the states of NY and NJ, but do not despair if you live in one of the other 48 wonderful states, they have a contest for you as well. See, the way the first contest works is that people create videos telling why they need a new entertainment system, then viewers (from any of the 50 states), vote on their favorite. The judges' top choice videos (1 from NY and 1 from NJ)and the fan favorite videos (again 1 from NY and 1 from NJ) win prizes and each week voters can win a Web Cam, regardless of what state they live in. Be sure to check out the contest. If you live in NY or NJ, get a video together and post it on the contest site before August 16th and leave a comment if you do. There is also the possibility of entering the contest at a live event if there is one available in your area. If you do not live in NY or NJ, or if you do but don’t enter a video of your own, be sure to come and vote for your favorite (or you can just vote for mine because you like ME!) and get in on your own chance to win.

As I said above, I created a video entry for this contest. You can find it under the New York entries listed as "Danielle, New York Why we need a new entertainment system". It is currently the first video listed under recently added videos. Please note, this was the very first time I have ever created and downloaded a video onto a computer. The video camera was also a brand new one for me and we were (still are actually) traveling on a cross-country drive to Seattle and back so I was very tired and short on time while creating it. I am not sharing this for sympathy votes (though feel free to give them ), I just wanted to explain/defend the corniness of it . Thanks for your support!