My #StickaPic Craft Party – HP Social Media Snapshots Photo Paper @Staples with Special Discount

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I love to make things, especially during the holiday season. It’s fun to give homemade gifts and when I use photos in my DIY projects, it makes them extra special.

As an HP Smart Mom Panel member, I have been able to give HP insight into what a small business owner, blogger, mom and DIY/crafter likes about products such as printers and photo paper.  I’ve also been able to try out new HP products first hand. Recently I travelled to San Diego for the HP Print and Pamper Retreat where I was able to visit HP headquarters and meet with executives to give my input about product development.

During the trip, we also were treated to a craft night. I was in DIY heaven when I walked into the conference room at the Rancho Bernardo Inn and saw tables and tables of make and takes. I was inspired by the projects and couldn’t wait to get home to share what I learned with my friends! These projects and more can be found online at

Taking an hour or two during the day to get creative with good friends is such a gift. Even though we haven’t even celebrated Thanksgiving, I put on some Christmas music and lit some cinnamon candles as we visited and snacked on some pumpkin goat cheese and scones. As my friends arrived, they printed photo “name tags” on HP Social Media Snapshots sticky photo paper with their favorite hashtag. It was fun to see what word they each picked to describe themselves.

stickapic party collage

Other friends picked love and awesome. I chose brave.


My friends loved using the free HP Snapshots app to access and print photos straight from their social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook as well as their smartphone’s photo stream. HP Social Media Snapshots 4×5 sticky back photo paper is perfect for creating projects. We made three easy and fun photo projects perfect for gift giving.

craft projects

1. Tile Coasters

How to make yourself: Get some stone tiles in the bathroom section of Home Depot. You can also use ceramic tiles for a more polished look. Print a photo onto HP Social Media Snapshots photo paper from Instagram using the free, HP Snapshots app. You can pick a white or black frame for your photo, or trim the border off completely, like I did. Peel off the protective backing from the back of the photo and adhere it to your coaster. Cover the top of photo and coaster with Mod Podge. After it dries, put four, small felt pad dots on the back of the coaster, one in each corner, to protect your coffee table.

2. Photo blocks

How to make yourself: You can buy wooden blocks from a craft store like Michaels, but I had my husband cut them from wood. The HP Social Media Snapshots photo paper is 4 x 5 but the image will be smaller when you trim off the bottom portion that contains the message below the photo from Instagram. I left a border on my photo and trimmed it down to a perfect square – 4 1/8 x 4 1/8. You’ll need 9 equally sized square blocks to fit together to make a 4 1/4 x 4 1/4 square.

After printing a photo onto the HP Social Media Snapshots photo paper using the HP Snapshots app, trim your photo. Apply a thin layer of Mod Podge to the blocks, then adhere your photo to the blocks. Let dry then use an exacto knife to cut the photo along the lines of the blocks so they can be separated. Sand the sides of the blocks for an even finish. Repeat on all or any of the remaining 5 sides. You can also paint some of the sides with acrylic paint.

3. Christmas Ornaments

How to make yourself: Purchase a glass ornament at a craft supply store like Michaels. You can get a round glass ornament with a flat front and back surface which works well for adhering a photo. Print a photo onto the HP Social Media Snapshots photo paper using the HP Snapshots app. A smaller image works best for this craft. Punch out the image you want with a circle punch. Peel back the protective backing and adhere to the ornament. Using Mod Podge, cover the entire photo as well as a small border around the photo. Sprinkle glitter on the exposed Mod Podge (you can cover photo or just the border like I did). Tie ribbon around the top to match the colors in the photo and/or the glitter.

While in San Diego, I met the creator of the PicCollege app. You can make the coolest photo collages on your phone with their grids and templates that include themes for holidays and events. They even have templates for phone cases and greeting cards.

This is a PicCollage I made of my guests working on their projects. So cute! If you haven’t used this free app, be sure to give it a try.


Deal Alert!

Now through November 30th, HP Social Media Snapshots are Buy One Get One Free at Staples when you use this link and click “redeem now”.

What are you making for the holidays?

As an HP Smart Mom Panel member, I received free products in order to host the HP #StickaPic Party. All opinions expressed are my own.


Goosebumps Movie Review & The Inside Scoop from Lead Actors Jack Black, Odeya Rush, Dylan Minnette and Ryan Lee

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As a huge* Jack Black fan, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to screen Goosebumps as well as interview Black and the other lead actors from the movie, which will be released nationwide in 3D on October 16, 2015….just in time for Halloween.

Goosebumps (rated PG) stars Jack Black as author R.L. Stine, Dylan Minnette as Zach (who also appeared in Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day), Odeya Rush as Hannah (The Giver and The Odd Life of Timothy Green) and Ryan Lee as Champ (This is Forty and Super 8).

The movie is about teenager Zach Cooper who is upset about moving from NYC to a small town in Delaware. Shortly after moving in, Zach meets his beautiful neighbor, Hannah and her father who he later finds out is Goosebumps series writer, R.L. Stine. Stine is a prisoner of his own imagination because the monsters from his books come to life if not kept locked within their pages. When Zach unintentionally unleashes the monsters from their manuscripts and they begin to terrorize the town, it’s up to Stine, Zach, and Hannah along with Champ (Zach’s likable but easily frightened new friend) to get all of them back in the books.

Since 1992, author R.L. Stine has written nearly 200 Goosebumps books featuring monsters of all shapes, sizes and varying degrees of scariness. I read books from the Goosebumps series to my son when he was younger and we’d both liked the stories that struck a balance between fear and funny that made the books enjoyable for both kids and adults.

According to Black, that was the main thing R.L. Stine wanted to come across in the movie as well. “R.L. told me to be conscientious of his audience,” said Black. “There are a lot of kids that will come to the movie so don’t go too terrifying. You can scare, but don’t traumatize. Keep the laughs and the scares coming and make it more like a thrill ride then a nightmare inducing horror fest,” said Black. “Like there’s no blood in the movie….we rode that line.”

It’s this balance that director Rob Letterman (who also produced and worked with Black on Gulliver’s Travels) and the actors worked to create in the movie and they definitely nailed it.

“I sat next to him (Stine) when we watched it (the movie) in New York and he was super stoked,” said Black. “That was the most important audience member to me, more than any of the critics, it was ‘What does R.L. think?’ – the fact that he loved it was gold to me.”

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One example when humor breaks up the intensity of a scary scene is when they are in the middle of a car chase and Lee (whose character, Champ, is a big fan of the author Stine) tries to take a selfie with him to post on Instagram. Black (as Stine) throws his smartphone out the car window and Lee is crushed.

The struggle is real, Lee! I tried to control any possible Black fangirling in an effort to act professional during our meeting, but couldn’t resist getting a selfie with him and the rest of the gang which immediately (obviously) went up on Instagram!

Goosebumps the movie is based on the books written by R.L. Stine but not adapted from any one story. In fact, you’ll be happy to see dozens of the monsters you loved to hate from the series including the infamous Slappy the Dummy who leads the monster’s revolt against Stine. “He’s like the Hannibel Lecter or Darth Vador of all the characters because he’s the mastermind, he’s the smartest and the most sinister, he represents the darkest part of R.L.’s psyche,” said Black.

Black is the voice of Slappy and Avery Lee Jones was the puppeteer.


In the beginning of the movie, Jack Black is downright mean…but after the monsters are released and he begins to work with Minnette, Rush and Lee to save the world, he’s very funny and extremely likable.

Black visited the real R.L. Stine while preparing for the role; however, the movie’s character does not depict the real R.L. Stein’s personality who is actually very funny and down to earth. “He’s an amazing guy,”  said Black. “He’s a brilliant writer so I kept that in mind while I was playing him. But the character in the movie is a lot darker…he has this sinister quality about him and is an antisocial guy who has locked out the outside world and that couldn’t be further from the case with the real R.L. Stine,” he said.

Stine didn’t mind the major departure. “He understood that’s the way we needed to play it,” said Black. “And he loved the movie.”  Black gave the character a bit of an Orson Wells type accent with a taste for the finer things and a bit of vanity and pride about his writing track record. There are several funny mentions of a rivalry between him and Stephen King.

Look for the real R.L. Stine who appears at the very end of the movie, albeit very briefly, as the new drama teacher named Mr. Black.

There are Easter Eggs throughout the movie including during the kitchen scene when the garden gnomes attack Black. They tie him up much like what was done to him in Gullivers Travels. There’s also a nod to the Cuckoo Clock of Doom in Stine’s basement. “Every monster that was ever in a Goosebumps book is in the movie somewhere,” said Black. “Sometimes they’re way in the back ground, so it’s fun to look for them – like a Where’s Waldo!”

You’ll see characters like The Ghouls from Attack of the Graveyard Ghouls, Snake Lady from Escape from the Carnival of Horrors, Bog Monster from You Can’t Scare Me! and others such as Cronby the cave troll, The Evil Clown, Vampires, The Witch Doctor, The Werewolf and The Abominable Snowman (who is the first to be accidentally released).

The Bug-Eyed Aliens, Praying Mantis and Blob were key monsters in the movie and the visual effects were cool. “The blob was entirely computer generated, so it was all imagination and the director painting the picture for us,” said Black. When it sucks Black into his body in the movie, Black was actually just standing on a table pretending like he was in jello.

Given the film’s rating and how comedy offsets the darker side, I do recommend the film to families with children. Yet, Slappy can be a little disturbing. Dolls that come to life and want to destroy the world can be a little creepy, so know your kids and what they can handle. I won’t have a problem taking my 9 year-old daughter and 14 year-old son. But I’ll probably cover my eyes when Slappy is on screen. He gives me (wait for it) goosebumps!

Check back on Still Living The Dream for a post about other fun things I learned during my visit with Jack Black and the other cast members!

*For clarification, when I say “huge” I’m referring to the amount of admiration I have for Jack Black not my actual size. I mean, I do have some weight to take off – but I’m only 4’10” which is actually quite small!

Disclosure: I was invited to a movie screening and given the opportunity to interview the actors as a member of the press for review purposes. I did not receive any compensation and all thoughts and opinions and fear of ventriloquist dummies are my own!


PediaQ (Pediatric Urgent Care House Call) is coming to North Houston!

Thank you, PediaQ, for giving me the opportunity to share this wonderful service with my readers. While I was compensated for this post, all thoughts and opinions are my own.




These two. They are my loves.
And when they don’t feel well, I will do anything I can to help them feel better.


Have you heard about PediaQ? It’s a pediatric urgent care house call service that started in Dallas, but it is coming to North Houston next month!


After contacting PediaQ through the free APP, a nurse practitioner comes to your house in the evening or on weekends to diagnose and treat your child for symptoms and illnesses including strep & the flu, vomiting & diarrhea, UTIs,  stomach ache, ears & sinus problems, eye infections, asthma & allergy related problems, Pneumonia & RSV, cuts, bites & burns, and sprains & strains.

I love this concept because of how convenient it is for parents. As a mother of two children, I understand how difficult it can be…especially for those who have younger kids, to have a child get sick in the evening or on the weekend when the doctor’s office is closed. This can be especially difficult if your spouse isn’t home.

Several months ago a friend of mine had a sick child. Her husband was out-of-town on business and it was after the pediatrician’s office had closed. She knew it was probably an ear infection as her son often gets them; however, he was in a lot of pain and she didn’t want to wait another 12 plus hours to get him in to the pediatrician’s office. She didn’t want to wake up her two younger children to take them with her and her son to the urgent care center because while the wait at an urgent care center is much shorter than an emergency room, you just don’t know how long you will be there. Plus – it’s not ideal to take healthy kids into doctor’s office/hospital to be exposed to germs.

Luckily, her mother was able to watch the younger kids while she took her older one to urgent care. But it was still a while before her mom could get there. Two hours later…she was back home with her son and she was right – it was an ear infection. With antibiotics in hand, her son slept well that night but it would have so much more easier (and quicker, too) if she could have kept her son at home, comfortable in his bed, and had a PediaQ nurse practitioner come to their house to diagnose him and prescribe antibiotics. They even pick up prescriptions for patients!

So what’s the skinny about PediaQ?

How does it work? 
1. Download the free PediaQ app and request a nurse practitioner visit.
2. Receive a phone call from the nurse practitioner within 10 minutes to discuss your child’s symptoms.
3. Your nurse practitioner will arrive within one hour AND he/she will stay with you a minimum of 30 minutes to properly diagnose and treat your child!What does it cost?
Whatever your regular urgent care co-pay is! Your insurance is billed as if you drove to an urgent care center. Their is an additional convenience fee of $50 if you call before 10:00 p.m. and $100 after 10:00 p.m. BUT the convenience fee is waived for a limited time right now during their back-to-school special!If you don’t have insurance, or don’t want to use it, PediaQ’s cash pay pricing is very competitive compared to pediatric urgent care centers, and much less then the ER for common illnesses. Check them out online for more information about PediaQ’s insurance policy.
10369200_1674163772802869_8045093916687603366_nWhen is this service available?
Seven days a week – weekdays from 4:00 p.m. to midnight and weekends from 8:00 a.m. until midnight.You can check them out on Facebook to learn more and read some of the reviews left by people who have used the service.PediaQ is so excited to offer those in The Woodlands area this service starting next month (October 2015).  Personally, I can’t wait until it’s available every where!

I was compensated for this post; however, all thoughts and opinions are my own. 


Five Ways Traveling Helps Connect My Family #TravelforReal #FamilyForward

I love to travel.

Over the couple of years I’ve had the opportunity to visit several different destinations …but the best experiences I’ve had by far have been the adventures I’ve taken with my family.

It’s funny because I’ve noticed recently that the further we get from home, the closer my family tends to get.

At home we all stay so busy and so focused with whatever is consuming us at the moment….school, work, scouts, soccer, running events, musical performances, housework. While we make it a point to  sit down together for dinner as frequently as possible and spend time as a family together on the weekends…it’s hard to coordinate schedules as the kids get older.

When we travel – it’s like we’re all in on the same page. We get closer on vacation by:

1. Navigating different roads – Whether we’re taking a full-on, Griswold family road trip across several states in the mini-van or we’re just trying to get our rental car from the airport to the hotel….finding our way together has a way of bringing us closer. Sometimes we give each other a hard time, but there’s a sense of adventure even in getting to your destination.

5 ways traveling helps connect


2. Experiencing something new  – Whether it’s paddle boarding or visiting the world’s largest ball of string …when we all try or see something that is new to all of us for the first time – we bond. I especially love it when do something different spur of the moment and all end up loving the experience….thrilled with conquering something new….together.

3. Trying different food – I don’t know what it is, but my kids will try new food/dishes when on a vacation that they’d never try at home. And I love to eat out…no dishes, no grocery shopping! When we are by the ocean, I crave seafood. When in New Orleans, I had to have a beignet from Cafe Du Monde…Paris – macarons! One of the things I always do before I leave on a trip is to ask friends and family where there favorite restaurant is.

4. Meeting new people  – It’s always fun to meet people while traveling. Some of the coolest conversations I’ve had have been with locals in a non-touristy spot. But we also love to talk to people who, like us, are vacationing. When in Destin, we bonded with some SUP enthusiasts when we rented paddle boards and ventured far from the shore. Others doing the same thing would give us tips on paddle boarding or a good spot to dive for sand dollars. There’s something about being on a similar adventure that brings you closer to those you’ve never met!

5. Staying at a nice hotel – Call us crazy – but we love staying in a nice hotel room all together. At home, we scatter after dinner for homework, chores and practice. Even when we sit down to watch a movie together – I get up frequently to put in a load of laundry, answer the phone or do something else “I just remembered I didn’t do but really need to”. When we are in a hotel room – there aren’t any distractions. I have no desire to clean. When we watch a movie – I pay attention. We even like to bring cards or small games to play before going to sleep.

loews royal pacific

We are so excited about our next adventure! In less than two weeks, we’ll be joining families from across the country as part of the #FamilyForward Universal Orlando Adventure hosted by Mom It Forward along with Universal Orlando Resort, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, DohVinci, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and Loews Royal Pacific Resort.

This trip is unique because in addition to going to Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure, watching the Blue Man Group, visiting Universal’s Wet n Wild Waterpark and staying at the beautiful Loews Royal Pacific Resort,  Mom It Forward has organized other activities and projects that are designed to bring families closer together. We can’t wait to see what’s in store for us!

We’ve been counting down the days and have loved getting a first-hand look about what it will be like to stay at Loews by seeing photos other families who are staying there are posting on Instagram on the #TravelforReal hashtag. We are so thankful they are doing this because it allows us to get a REAL look at what it’s like to stay and play there from the perspective of families like us. From what we’ve seen, we are in for a real treat! From the hotel room, to the pools and restaurants – the hotel looks amazing and we are so excited to get there.

We can’t wait to share our experience with you – so be sure to follow us on Instagram and Twitter .



Inspiration Where You Least Expect It

Tonight my nine-year-old daughter told me to get on my running shoes and come outside with her. I begged her to go upstairs and play. I didn’t want to go outside. It’s like Mars in Houston right now and I’ve been feeling bad about myself for skipping work-outs. I have had a hard time keeping up with my running group….a bad start to a new running season. So I thought I should watch Big Bang Theory re-runs and eat chocolate instead.

The truth is I’ve felt bad about myself about a lot of things lately. I had an incredible experience at an oil and gas company leading a group of extraordinary people over the last year. I was in awe of their talent each day and I think I made a difference, too.

But I didn’t see my kids. I was missing school functions and even when I was home. I wasn’t home. Things slipped through the cracks. My health wasn’t good. And other things at home weren’t good either.

So I took a leap of faith and accepted a contract position which allows me to work from home and will give me more time to be with my family. To take care of myself.

To blog!

So there’s a learning curve and I’ve fallen a couple times over the past couple of weeks. But I’m getting my sea legs…figuring out my cadence….finding my new normal.

Still – I didn’t want to run tonight. But Annie told me to run with her. So I put one foot in front of the other and before we knew it – we ran 2 miles together.

Here’s the thing – the inspiration I didn’t realize I had has been sitting on her canopy bed down the hall reading Judy Moody chapter books to her stuffed animals and turning cartwheels where ever she can find six inches of clear space.


She talked to me the entire two miles. Telling me that I was awesome. And that she admired me because I keep running even when it hurts. Even when I’m tired. Even when I feel I can’t. That I take the longer route because while it’s harder, it’s worth it.

She told me that running is like having a lemon aid stand to earn money to buy a camera (hint, hint – she wants a camera!) You can’t just have one lemon aid stand and expect to earn all you need for the camera you want. You have to have a lot of lemon aid stands….and you know – it just kinda all adds up.


When did my daughter get all smart and insightful.

And damn. When did she become a good runner?!

So maybe I’m not in the best shape after our little run tonight – but I’m better.

And also…I’m back.






Massage Envy Spa (Giveaway for 1-hour massage in Cypress, Texas!)

Did you happen to see my Sprint Tri recap post last year? I talked about how a massage helped me prepare for the race. I’ve competed in several triathlons since then, and massages are such a huge benefit to help me prepare and recover from these athletic events.

But I’m learning that massages are really a good thing for me to experience on a more consistent basis. I was reminded recently why I love Massage Envy and how I need to sign up as a member so I can take advantage of the therapeutic benefits (relieve stress, relax muscles and improve range of motion) at a cost so much more wallet-friendly then other spas.

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The Massage Envy Cypress location off of 290 invited me to see their newly renovated space and treated me to a fabulous hour-long massage. It was incredible. They recently moved a stone’s throw from their previous location into a much bigger facility; a 15-room, 4200-square-foot spa which includes four upgraded spa rooms, two couples’ rooms and a large tranquility room.

When I arrived, I filled out paperwork so my therapist, Jessica, could understand exactly what I needed and wanted to get out of the session. My wellness coordinator, Kathy, asked further questions to be sure I knew all my options. I wanted a deep tissue massage with some stretching. Kathy suggested the Deep Muscle Therapy, warming and cooling thermal products to provide deep muscle pain relief from injuries and chronic conditions or limited mobility due to athletic training, to enhance my experience. 

I was relaxed the minute I walked in, so I didn’t take many photos – but I did get a couple of the tranquility room. Look at that beautiful stone wall.

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Jessica brought me back almost immediately and the session was amazing. The Deep Muscle Therapy was wonderful and so worth the extra $12.00. She made sure the pressure was comfortable and immediately found the spots on my neck that needed to be worked out and helped stretch my legs and arms. I felt like a million bucks when I was finished and I can’t wait to go back to see Jessica again. I felt like she really cared about my health and both Kathy and Jessica were so helpful and caring…it was like I had my own wellness team!

Massage Envy offers members a great rate of just $59.99 for a monthly massage and additional massages during the month are only $39.99. They also offer Murad Healthy Skin Facials, which I would love to get sometime soon!

Do you leave in the Houston/Cypress area? Want to win a free one-hour massage at Massage Envy to try it out for yourself? Be sure to enter the giveaway! For more information about Massage Envy in Houston, check them out on Facebook!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I was given a complimentary massage in order to write a review. No other compensation was received and all thoughts and opinions are my own. 


Salata Eat Light at Night Promotion (free salad or wrap!)

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I’ve shared with you my love of Salata before.

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Salata, The Next Generation Salad Bar, offers over 50 toppings including my favorites: grapes, strawberries, black beans, crab and the absolute best fat-free mango dressing EVER (which is 0 Weight Watchers PP – BTW!) They also have wraps, soup and some of the best iced-tea and lemonade flavors.

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So naturally, I was thrilled when Salata recently invited me to enjoy a complimentary meal to learn more about their current Eat Light at Night Promotion and awesome offers for free food items for their mobile club members.

I often visit Salata during the day to eat, but salads aren’t just for lunch. In fact, a good salad with lean protein makes a great dinner.

A recent article on recommends eating lean proteins, veggies and fruits in the evening and specifically avoiding starchy carbs three hours prior to bedtime to maintain weight. Melissa Lanz, founder of The Fresh 20, said in a HuffPost Healthy Living article that “nutritionally, dinner should be a light, well-proportioned meal that is under 500 calories.”

Salata ELAN

On September 8th, Salata began offering mobile club members  in participating Texas, California and Illinois locations a coupon every other week for free items, complimentary protein upgrades and add-ons.

I know, I know, it’s way past September 8th….but it’s not too late to get in on the deals. 

How to become a Salata Mobile Club Member

To join – just text “Salata” to 777111. You’ll get a a coupon that’s good for a week. New members will also receive a buy one, get one free salad or salad wrap offer immediately!


Do you love Salata? What are your favorite toppings?

I was given a complimentary meal at Salata in order to review and share news about their Eat Light at Night promotion. I didn’t receive any other compensation and all thoughts and opinions (and favorite salad toppings!) are my own!


Color Fun Fest 5K – November 1st in Houston (Discount tickets!)

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I love attending local fun runs and have participated in many over the last several years. I can’t believe I haven’t had the opportunity to experience a color run yet. I was going to go to the Color Fun Fest last spring, but the event date conflicted with the kid’s swim team meet, so I couldn’t go.

I am so excited that the Color Fun Fest 5K is coming back to Houston this Fall for a Halloween Edition on November 1st and that they invited me to be their guest to join in on the fun.

My kids participated in two triathlons this summer and Jackson is on his school’s cross country team, so you could say that races are starting to “run” in the family. (I know, I’m terrible. I just couldn’t help it!) So we are all going to do the Color Fun Fest together. The best part is, kids 12 and under participate for FREE!

Since the event is the day after Halloween, costumes are encouraged. They have two runs; a day run at 5:00 p.m. and an evening run at 7:00 p.m.

This is a fun run so it’s not timed. The 3.1 mile course includes:

  1. 5 color stations along the run with thousands of pounds of color to shower runners (made of vibrant food-grade cornstarch that is safe and natural)
  2. High energy music along the course to keep families pumped up
  3. Night run features industrial strength blacklights and visual effects
  4. 2 water stations on the course
  5. A course with enough lighting to safely run at night
  6. Post run celebration with vendors, food and live entertainment


Color fun fest w-logo nighttime

Event Details:

November 1, 2014 : 2:00 pm – 10:00 pm. Day Run starts at 5:00 PM / Night Run starts at 7:00 PM. Event concludes at 10:00 p.m.

Sam Houston Race Park – 7575 North Sam Houston Pkwy W, Houston TX 77064

Discounted Tickets:

Join the fun and get your tickets now. Still Living The Dream readers can score tickets for an epic discount….just $20!

Use discount code: LIVINGTHEDREAM when you register here. 

Not in Houston? Color Fun Fest events are happening all over the country. Check them out online for a city and date near you!

I am receiving complimentary tickets to the race on November 1st in return for promotion of the event; however, I’m not receiving any other compensation and all thoughts and opinions are my own.


Free Fire Safety App: Sparky and the Case of the Missing Smoke Alarms

Did you know that it’s National Fire Prevention Week?

When I was little, my mother’s friend’s apartment caught on fire. I remember how devestating it was to her. All of her belongings were destroyed but thankfully, her injuries were treatable.

My family used the opportunity to talk about fire safety and we figured out a spot to meet outside if our house ever caught on fire. But we didn’t talk much about fire safety after that. As a parent, I’ve made it a point to talk to my kids about what to do in case of a fire and we’ve revisited the topic from time to time to make sure we are all on the same page and remember our plan.

National Fire Prevention Week is a great time to get together with your family and devise a plan (if you don’t already have one) or revisit safety tips if you already have a plan in place.

Yesterday Annie and I talked about the topic when she got home from school. I asked her what she remembered from when we last chatted (it’s been awhile!). We’ve talked about not hiding if she’s or smells smoke, about the quickest way to get out of our house and where to meet outside.

I’m so thankful that there are resources available that make having these discussions easier with our kids.

I recently discovered a free app that makes learning about fire prevention and safety fun; Sparky and the Case of the Missing Smoke Alarms. I was very happy when they asked if Annie and I would give it a try and share our thoughts with you!

The NFPA and Fire Prevention Week app has both an interactive story and music video…plus many other resources for parents and teachers.

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Annie started with the story and she read along with the narrator (although the words are pretty small) as Sparky and the kids investigate why an intruder stole Aunt Dottie’s smoke alarms. She loved clicking on the different pictures to see lights come on, wind chimes ring, instruments play and characters (even those in paintings) talk.

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TIP: Be sure to check out the Magic 8 Ball on the stairs on one of the pages, it was her favorite….so cute!

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She could also learn about safety tips throughout the story by clicking on white “sparkles” on different pages such as facts about smoke alarms, evacuation information, etc.

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At the conclusion of the story when Annie found all 9 fire safety tips, she received a superstar certificate she personalized with her photo!

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The music video, What’s that Sound by Recess Monkey, was also fun and Annie got up and danced. It’s the next day and I’m still humming it which is good… and bad!!! :)

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The app also included questions for Annie and I to discuss what we learned:

1. Why was it dangerous for Jerome Jinx to borrow the smoke alarms?

Annie – “Even though Jerome meant to do a good thing and felt bad about his mistake, you never know when there will be a fire so they always need to be there and be working.”

2. What would you teach Jerome about fire safety? What does he need to learn?

Annie – “Teach Jerome that there has to be a fire safety plan…like how we would meet out front at our big Oak tree.”

I’m proud of what Annie learned and how fun the app made the process! For more information about the app and additional resources for parents and teachers including free fire-safety materials, check out the Sparky Schoolhouse site.

  1. What do you do to help teach fire safety to your kids?
  2. Do you have smoke alarms and change out batteries regularly?
  3. Do you have a designated outside meeting place for your family to gather in case of a fire?

While I received compensation to share information about the National Fire Protection Agency’s Fire Prevention Week app, all thoughts and opinions are my own. I believe in teaching fire prevention safety tips to my children and applaud organizations like and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)’s resource for kids, who help me do it in such an entertaining way!


#FitMadeFun – Healthy Lifestyle for Kids with CLIF Kid and LeapFrog LeapBands!

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School is back in session and while it’s still hot (really, really hot!) in Houston, the Fall season is really just around the corner.

For the love of pumpkin bread, I heart the Fall! As the holiday season approaches, the temperatures will finally begin to drop which makes for much better outdoor running weather!

The kids and I stayed pretty active over the summer despite the heat. Now that they are getting back into a routine with school, organized sports keeps them busy – but we also try to have fun and keep moving around the house.

Which is why we were really excited to be invited by MomSelect to host a Fit Made Fun party sponsored by LeapFrog and Clif Kid. We received a party kit with free product in order to host the party. To inspire kids to get up and active, LeapFrog coordinated an event in Santa Monica, California, on September 6, 2014, where hundreds of kids and parents joined together to break several Guinness World Records with fitness activities.

We participated at home in Houston and while we probably didn’t break any world records, we had a blast!

Annie showed her friends her new LeapBand – a cool wearable activity tracker that encourages kids to move around throughout the day. Like my FitBit, the LeapBand tracks movement – but it also has several fun games, up to 50 fitness challenges you can take and even virtual pets you can create and rewards you can earn.


Instead of logging steps, you earn jewels which unlock even more fun activities. I really like that you are rewarded for your movement and also that parents can lock the device during certain hours during the school day and/or night so games won’t be a distraction during class or while sleeping  (but it can still be used as a watch and continues to track activity!)

For our Fit Made Fun party, we used the CLIF Kid 60 Minutes of Motion cards, a combination of 25 motion, activity, adventure and game cards, to inspire relay races and other fun activities. My friend Kelly and her kids came dressed for the occasion!

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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends kids have 60 minutes of daily physical activity. This card deck, available to download for free starting September 15, 2014 here, is a fun way for busy families to incorporate physical activity into their daily routines.  Star jumps, crab walks, nutrition tips and choose-your-own adventure prompts are just a few of what you’ll find in the deck.

After our activities, we took a break for a healthy snack including fruit, cheese and crackers, hummus and Clif Kid Zbar Protein Parfaits. We crumbled up the Chocolate Chip, Peanut Butter Chocolate and Chocolate Mint flavored bars and the kids used them as toppings on vanilla yogurt. It was a huge hit!


We are already fans of Clif Bars for grown-ups. My older son, Jackson, eats one before races and early morning cross-country practice. I always have one before a long run or triathlon. They are easy on my stomach and provide the nutrients I need to keep going.

Clif Kid Zbar Protein are great for kid’s growing bodies with calcium, vitamin D, iron, Zinc and 5g of protein. I also like what they DON’T  have – no partially-hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, synthetic preservatives and artificial flavors.

My kids just like that they taste good!

After we played (even the moms got into some of the hula hooping fun!) we gave away a LeapBand to one of our friends! Annie was so excited to draw the winning ticket and her buddy Michael was even more thrilled to win a LeapBand of his own!


The LeapBand can be found at stores like Target, Walmart and Toys R Us for just $39.99.

What do you do to help keep your kids active?

How do you track your progress throughout the day/week and what helps keep you motivated to stay active?

I received free products in order to host the LeapFrog and Clif Kid sponsored MommyParty but did not receive any other compensation. All thoughts and opinions are my own.