Salata – The Next Generation Salad Bar (Giveaway)

Salata logo

By now you probably can guess that I love to go out to eat, but finding healthy food options (especially  for a quick bite) can sometimes be challenging.

One of my favorite places? Salata.

So when Salata, The Next Generation Salad Bar, recently sent me a gift card to have lunch on them and gave me another one to give away to a, lucky Still Living The Dream reader, I was beyond thrilled. They have a lot of exciting things going on including summer promotions, new locations and new menu items.

I love that Salata doesn’t charge by the weight. You just go down the line and tell them to add whatever you want… they offer unlimited toppings at one set price of $8. But it’s the type of toppings they offer that keep me coming back.

With nearly 50 ingredient options, there is something for everyone.

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Here’s how I built my salad yesterday:

  1. grapes
  2. strawberries
  3. carrots
  4. black beans
  5. cilantro
  6. cucumbers

For just a small amount more ($2 for chicken and $3 for seafood) you can add protein. I added crab meat and topped my salad with fat-free mango dressing (YUM!) and baked pita chips.

Nutrition info (Weight Watchers Points Plus):

Salata’s 10 dressings, all made in-house, are gluten-free. While they are all delicious – they range in calories/fat content. The best options if you are watching your intake? Fat-free Mango and Fat-free Sun-Dried Tomato. Both are delicious but you’ve got to try the fat-free mango…my absolute favorite which is (wait for it) 0 WW points plus! (based on a 1 ounce serving which is 1 ladle at the restaurant) it gives your salad a light but flavorful punch.

Worth the splurge – Chipotle Ranch…not too bad for 3 PP. Delicious but higher in calories/fat – Balsamic Vinaigrette (4 PP) and Lemon Vinaigrette (4 PP).

For the adventurous types, Salata will mix dressings. Fun combos include Ginger-lime and Chipotle Ranch and Mango and Chipotle Ranch.

Salata also offers broccoli, tomato basil and tortilla soups and tortilla wraps and has great homemade tea and lemon-aid flavors.

salata teas

Summer Tea Promotion:

Speaking of tea and lemon-aid, from now until July 31, guests who purchase a half-gallon tea or lemonade variety will receive one free, reusable Salata tumbler – limit one tumbler per purchase per visit while supplies last!

The house-made teas and lemonades are available in premium flavors like peach lemonade and green tea lemonade, or plum cinnamon tea and the portable jugs are available for $8.00 at any Salata location that serves its signature teas and lemonades. To find the Salata nearest you, visit www.salata.com.

Houston-area Peeps: A New Salata Restaurant Location!

Salata, a Houston-based salad-bar restaurant, has more than 30 corporate-owned and franchise locations in Texas and Southern California and has signed agreements to open 40 more by 2016. They are opening their 34th restaurant (19th in Houston) tomorrow, Thursday, June 19th in River Oaks (1440 W. Grey St.). Doors open at 11:00 a.m. and the first 34 guests to dine will receive a free salad or salad wrap and signature drink of their choice!

A Giveaway!

Can’t make it to the Houston River Oaks restaurant for the grand opening and still want  to try Salata for free? One lucky Still Living The Dream reader will get a $15.00 gift card to check-out Salata’s greatness first-hand. Just leave a comment below telling me what ingredients you love in a salad. Easy-peasy! I’ll select a winner at random on Monday, June 23, 2014 at 11:59 p.m. CST.

I was given a gift card to enjoy lunch at Salata. No other compensation was received and all thoughts and opinions are my own!

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Big Deals at New Store – #FiveBelowHouston

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On June 6, 2014, Five Below, a retailer of trendy items targeted at the pre-teen and teen market, opened eight stores including the following locations in Houston: Memorial City at Hedwig village, Richmond at Bella Terra, Tomball and Copperfield.

They invited me out to visit during the grand opening weekend and gave me a gift card so I could go shopping and share my experience with you. Annie and I went on Sunday, June 8 to check it out and here’s the skinny.

All items at Five Below are priced at $5.00 or less.

Yep. Nothing over 5 bucks.

They had a sporting goods area with balls, bats…even yoga mats and foam rollers, arts and crafts supplies (we loved the drawing kits and sketch pads), home goods items, a big selection of cosmetics and beauty supplies, cards and gift wrap, candy and even headphones and chargers for cell phones.

 fivebelow stuff

Check out all we got for just $20.00!

  1. a nail file
  2. black sharpie
  3. composition notebook
  4. a sketch book
  5. set of 10 velvet hangers
  6. bubble set
  7. subtraction flashcards

Annie really wants to work on her  math and reading skills this summer and they had many different work books, flash cards and educational games for all ages.

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The store was much nicer and the items were of a higher quality then a dollar-type store. Five Below would be a great place to go for birthday presents (they had an awesome collection of nail polish) or for birthday party favors and supplies.They also had just about everything you’d need for a trip to the beach including sand toys, sunscreen, flips flops, towels, beach umbrellas and sunglasses. With a lot of seasonal items, I’m looking forward to seeing what’s in store during the holidays this fall!

Check out Five Below and see what you think. You can find a store closest to you by checking them out online.

Have you been yet? What do you think?

Annie bubble

I was given a gift card to Five Below in order to review the store, shopping experience and merchandise. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own.

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A Look at Papa Murphy’s Take and Bake Pizza #PapaMurphysMom

I don’t mean to brag, but I’d like to think I know a thing or two about pizza.

I have two kids and since we keep pretty busy with work, school and after-school activities, we’ve definitely had our share of “pizza for dinner” nights. Sometimes we are literally so busy, there’s just not enough time to cook a full meal at home. But honestly, sometimes we have plenty of time, we’d just rather spend it playing together then cooking in the kitchen.

When I learned about Papa Murphy’s and their take and bake concept, I was intrigued. As a Papa Murphy’s Mom ambassador, I’ve had the chance to learn more about the food and the company. And I’m impressed.

The Concept

Unlike most pizza companies, Papa Murphy’s prepares their dough from scratch on-site. When you arrive, you select the type of dough and fresh ingredients and they make the pizza right in front of you. Then you take the pizza home to bake. I love this because you can pick up the pizza anytime and then bake it fresh at home (ideally within 24 hours). Your house smells great as it bakes, but you leave the preparation to the pros!

 Papa Murphys group pic

I was able to take a behind-the-scenes tour of a local store on Tuesday. Don Huff, owner of the Papa Murphy’s in Katy, Texas, showed me, Fred with Mocha Dad, Kristi with Mom’s Confession and Tonda with Digital Kids Media (not pictured) the ropes. As a family-owned business (his wife, son and daughter all work with him!), he caters to those in his community. His goal is to have each customer on their way home with a freshly made pizza under five minutes from the time they arrive. He offers specials like $10 Tuesdays  and supports many events in the community including school activities and the YMCA Turkey Trot.

I didn’t realize that Papa Murphy’s started in 1981. Relatively new to the Houston-area (there are currently 19 stores in the Greater Houston area but they have plans to expand), they are the fifth-largest pizza company in the United States.

I love that the store has a kid’s sized picnic table available so kids can sit and color while mom or dad is placing an order. They also offer Mini Murphs  - a kid’s size kit in a mini pizza box with pizza dough, sauce, cheese and one topping for just $3.00 so kid’s can make their own pizza at home!

Papa Murphys pizza being made

Nutritional Facts

If you are watching your calorie/carbs/fat intake – there’s good news! Papa Murphy’s has delite crust pizzas. The  thinner crust is delicious and a healthier option. Last night we had the family size delite with made with half Herb Chicken Mediterrranean and half pepperoni. It was delicious!

  • Herb Chicken Mediterreanean (with Olive Oil and Garlic, Mozzarella, Chicken, Spinach, Sun-dried Tomatoes and Feta Cheese).- 5 Weight Watchers PP per piece – (1/12 of he pizza)
  • Pepperoni – 5 Weight Watchers PP (9 Weight Watchers PP for a slice of Family Size pepperoni pizza on original crust)

A slice of delite crust pizza with cheese is only 4 Weight Watchers PP (7 Weight Watchers PP for a slice of Family Size cheese pizza on original crust).

papa murphys baked pizza

Grilling It Up!

In Houston, summers are pretty hot and humid. We try to keep things cool by not heating up the house with the oven. I was excited to hear that Papa Murphy’s Pizza tastes great on the grill as well. I can’t wait to try this next time! They offer instructions for charcoal, wood pellet and gas grills.

Houston Text Club

Want to find out about coupons and special offers from Papa Murphy’s? Text PAPAHOU to 90421. Everyone else, be sure to visit Papa Murphy’s online to find out where the closest store is to you and to take advantage of similar deals!

Have you had Papa Murphy’s pizza? What’s your favorite kind?

As a Papa Murphy’s Mom, I receive products, promotional items and educational material to use and share as I see fit. All opinions are my own and reflect my actual experience.

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Getting Ready for Disney Social Media Moms with Magic At Play Clothing from Kohl’s (Giveaway!)

DisneySMMoms2014

I’m so excited to be attending the Disney Social Media Moms Conference again this year! It’s an unbelievable opportunity to learn from industry experts while having fun at the happiest place on earth! This year the conference is at Disneyland and there have been hints that some of the speakers will include Maxine Clark; Build A Bear, Doug Bowman; Twitter and Donald Driver; Super Bowl Champion. An awesome speaker line-up, the opportunity to network with incredibly talented bloggers and social media experts AND the chance to play at the park with my family? Dream. Come. True.

Needless to say, my family and I can’t wait to go next week…but we need to start packing. Preparing for a family vacation to Disney combined with a conference can be tricky. We don’t want to forget any park essentials (water bottles, back pack, sunscreen) along with conference must-haves (laptop, camera, mobile chargers). Check out some preparation and packing tips I posted about our Disney World trip last year.

And then there’s the most important part…what to wear!

We like to show our #DisneySide at home with Disney-themed clothes featuring Princesses, our favorite movie characters and (of course) classic Mickey and Minnie Mouse. Wearing Disney-inspired clothes at Disneyland is a must, so we were thrilled to learn about Magic at Play, a clothing collaboration between Disney and Kohl’s that came out April 3, 2014. I was given a gift card to Kohl’s so I could check out the apparel line by Jumping Beans for infants, toddlers, boys sizes 4-7 and girls sizes 4-6x and share what I thought with you.

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Annie had so much fun, but admittedly had a hard time deciding which pieces to choose from because there were so many options available at Kohl’s in stores and online. In the end she selected three tops, a pair of shorts, leggings and a dress. We loved the blinged out Mickey shirt and the subtle hints of Minnie on the sundress. A major plus….many of the pieces go together, giving you more outfit options. Also, Kohl’s often offers many sales and coupons so you can maximize your dollars. When we went, the entire Magic at Play Jumping Beans clothing line was 30 percent off. We also had an addition 20 percent off coupon AND a $10.00 off coupon that you can use if you spend $30 in apparel for children. Saving money on cute clothes makes me so happy.

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What do you think…pretty cool, right? Want to make your dollar stretch even further so you can get more from the collection? How about a giveaway for a $50.00 Kohl’s giftcard?!

A GIVEAWAY!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thank you Kohl’s for giving us a gift card to purchase Disney Jumping Bean apparel in order to review. No other compensation was received and as always, all thoughts and opinions are my own. 

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How to Make the Best of a Rainy Vacation (Review of The Woodlands Resort)

The Woodlands community is just a short drive from where we live in Houston, but with the beautiful scenery…. it feels like a million miles away. When my family and I were recently invited by The Woodlands Resort for a visit over Spring Break, we were thrilled. We all really needed a break and we were curious to check out what new things will be unveiled at the resort this summer.  We were especially excited about the chance to play on the water slides and relax pool side with good food, live music and other entertainment they had planned for Spring Breakers of all ages.

 umbrella

Unfortunately, the weather had other plans. Mother nature – you can be cruel sometimes. It was cold and rainy during our entire two-day, one-night stay. Not ideal for outdoor fun…but we still got to enjoy the resort, find out about their renovations and we learned a couple of tricks about how to make the best of dreary weekend weather.

The Woodlands Resort is in the middle of a $60 million dollar expansion including the addition of a new building with 184 guest rooms …plus they are renovating their existing rooms. Check out the new look coming soon!

 woodlands resort rooms

They are adding a 900-foot lazy river that will wind around the property’s existing Waterscape pools and play area. We can’t wait for this new addition which will be ready in time for summer fun!

In addition to many other renovations and additions, a new steak house is being built to overlook the 18th green of Panther Trail Golf Course as well.

Even with all the new and exciting changes on the horizon, The Woodlands Resort is already a great place to relax with your family and friends. One of the things we enjoyed the most was the excellent customer service and even with the less then ideal weather conditions, we still had fun.

Tips for Making The Best of a Rainy Vacation

1. If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em 

Swimming in rain

It’s hard for kids to be so close to beautiful pools and water slides and not dive in. While it was a chilly 60 degrees (that’s cold for Houston!) the  Woodlands Resort heated their smaller pool in the back. When the heavy rain slowed down (and there was no sign of thunder or lightening) we let the kids enjoy some time in the water. The nice staff members even let our kids go down the water slide in the front pool (which wasn’t heated – brrr!) once or twice so they could experience it!

2. Enjoy the Rhythm of the Rain

Our room had a balcony overlooking the Forest Oaks Waterscape. While we couldn’t enjoy lounging by the pool, we loved sitting on the balcony with a good book. Protected from the raindrops, we were able to enjoy the outdoors without getting wet.

3. Fun Indoors

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The Woodlands Resort moved some of the Spring Break activities they had planned by the pool inside one of their ballrooms including clowns, balloons, live music, games and a movie in the evening. We also played a family game of pool and shuffle board and enjoyed some live jazz music in the lobby. For moms and dads, there’s also a fitness facility and spa. (I definitely intend to take advantage of a massage the next time we visit the resort!) When we had enough of the indoors, the Woodlands Resort shuttle took us to nearby Market Street to enjoy some shopping and dinner at Tommy Bahamas restaurant.

4. Good Food and Conversation

 lunch

We had a late and lazy lunch in the resort’s dining room. With great views of the property…we enjoyed yummy chicken lettuce wraps. We laughed, acted silly and took our time enjoying our meal. This is a rare treat in our world of rushing from band practice to cheer leading and lacrosse in the evenings. It was really relaxing. Next time we might not even leave our room…we might just put on a good movie and order room service!

What are your tips for making the best of bad weather on vacation?

Many thanks to the Woodlands Resort for treating us to a nice stay at their resort. While some of our expenses were covered in order for us to review the property, all of the thoughts and opinions (and lazy Saturday afternoon) are all my own!

 

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What I’m Wearing This Fall: Soybu for Fitness and Fashion (Giveaway)

If you’ve followed some of my posts in the past about fitness, you know that I’m almost as addicted to work-out wear as I am to actually working out! One of my favorite fitness clothing companies is Soybu. Their apparel is so comfortable and fashionable and the Uptempo tank has become my go-to race tank for 5 and 10K’s.

The great thing about companies that offer high-quality fitness attire like Soybu is that they also make casual clothing. I wore my Soybu black and white infinity scarf all around Paris this summer and my latest dress, the Oasis is going to become my wardrobe staple this fall.

I was so excited to be given the opportunity to review this dress in Storm Heather at no cost by Soybu. The Oasis has the same comfortable, breathable feel to the material that I love about my tanks and pants and I love how versatile it is… I can easily dress it up or down.

Soybu dress Collage

Can you see the cute ruched ¾ length sleeves on this dress? I tried three different looks by pairing it with different shoes and accessories:

  • Paired with sand-colored patent leather sandals (Tory Burch) and an infinity scarf (Soybu), for a relaxed, fun and chic look. Perfect for running errands on a Saturday afternoon.
  • Paired with tan boots (Nine West) and a chunky turquois necklace for a western feel. Great for a Saturday night out with friends.
  • Paired with pink ballet shoes with a small heel (Repetto), black leggings and a long necklace makes the outfit a little more dressy but still fun. Nice for a work meeting or volunteering up at the school.

This dress is form fitting. I’m 4’10” and wearing the small. As you can see, it hits me at about the knee.

I’m definitely going to wear this when I attend the Blog Elevated social media conference in a couple weeks. I’m excited about the other possibilities about this dress (I’m thinking…layers!) that also comes in a colorful pattern called Japanese Mums.

You can get this dress online in sizes XS-XL for $58.00, but how would you like to win one for FREE for yourself?!

soybu logo

A Giveaway!

Score an Oasis dress in Storm Heather for you and enjoy the fall in style. Just leave a comment below about which of the three looks above is your favorite. I will select a winner at random on Saturday, September 21, 2013, at 11:59 p.m. CST.

More chances? You know it. Leave a separate comment for each that you do below.

  1. Follow Still Living The Dream on Pinterest
  2. Follow Still Living The Dream on Twitter
  3. Like Still Living The Dream on Facebook
  4. Tweet this: “I want to win a @soybu dress to enjoy the fall in style http://bit.ly/18eO3qA @jpatrickcomm”

Thank you, Soybu, for giving me the Oasis dress in order to review. No other compensation was received and all thoughts, opinions are my own.

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Sprint Tri Success! (Massage Envy Review and Giveaway)

I did it!

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On Monday I finished my first Sprint Triathlon – a 400 meter swim, 12 mile bike, 3.1 mile run event.

My friend, Tanya, and I have been training for most of the summer and I knew I still had SO much room for improvement, but I finished strong and…

It. Felt. Great.

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My swim was definitely my weakest link. I knew that going into it. I finished next to last (21st out of 22) in my age group (40-44 year old women). But then I picked up speed during transition and passed many people in the bike portion…moving up to 13th in my age group.

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Then…the run.

It was one of the hottest runs I’ve ever done (it’s still summer in Houston!) and after the 12-mile bike ride my legs felt like bricks. I thought I was running close to 11 minute miles but I found out afterwards that my pace was 9:05! I finished the run in 8th place in my age group…11th place overall.

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I’m hooked! Soon, I’m going to sign up for swim lessons and start working towards my next one.

People have asked me how I prepared. I didn’t follow any certain plan but two things I attribute to my success:

1. Having a friend to work out with. Working towards a common goal with Tanya helped me stay motivated, focused and made the process more fun. I couldn’t have done it without her.

2. Taking it a bit easy during the week before which included an hour-long massage!

I worked out intensely for an extended period of time, so taking it a bit easy the week before helped me regroup. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to be treated to a massage by my friends at Massage Envy Spa in Houston. They treated me to a 60-minute massage at one of their 29 Houston locations. It was a great experience.

massage envy

The timing for their invitation was perfect. I had no idea how much I needed it until I was done! I thought I’d be in for a relaxing experience…which it was. But when you arrive at Massage Envy you fill out paperwork that helps them get to know your needs and what areas to work on. When they found out that I was preparing to race, they paired me up with a massage therapist, Melissa, who has experience with stretching and deep muscle massage.

The experience was almost like a combination of yoga, stretching and massage. She worked out the kinks in my shoulders (from leaning over on my bike’s aerobars), released the build-up of lactic acid in my legs and stretched out my muscles. It felt so good. I truly felt like she was helping my body heal and prepare for Monday’s event.

One of the reasons I don’t get massages more often is because of the cost. Massages at most spas can be very expensive but Massage Envy Spa offers member clients a monthly massage  for just $59.00, plus any additional massages for the month at just $39.00. While they offer massage at a discounted price, the visit for me was even better than I had experienced at some spas that charge two or three times the amount.

The environment was relaxing (the tranquil water-fall room was so peaceful!), the staff was knowledgable, experienced and caring (they asked me questions about the race and cheered me on…even the folks who worked at the front desk!) and Melissa (my massage therapist) was a pro.

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Thank you, Melissa, for taking my health in your hands and taking good care of me last week. I know that I was better prepared for my big day because of your help!

Whether you are preparing for an athletic event, have a problem area that needs addressing or just want to relax and nurture your body and soul, I highly recommend Massage Envy Spa. A great day to go to Massage Envy would be September 18, 2013 when the 29 Houston-area Massage Envy Spas will donate $10 from every one-hour massage or facial to the Arthritis Foundation during their Healing Hands for Arthritis Event.

A Giveaway!

How would you like to be treated to a free massage? Thanks to Massage Envy, one Still Living The Dream reader in Houston will score a free 1-hour massage. All you have to do is leave a comment below telling me why you need to relax. One person will be selected at random on Wednesday, September 11, 2013, at 11:59 p.m. CST to receive a massage at one of Massage Envy Spa’s 29 Houston locations.

Do you follow me?

Yes? Well, you rock! For every one below you score an additional entry. (If you don’t already do one or all below then no worries. You can still get extra entries by signing up. Just leave a separate comment for each that you do.

  1. Follow Still Living The Dream on Pinterest
  2. Follow Still Living The Dream on Twitter
  3. Like Still Living The Dream on Facebook
  4. Tweet this: “I need to relax with a free massage from @MassageEnvyHou http://bit.ly/1dGDQva @jpatrickcomm”

Thank you to Massage Envy Spa Houston for sponsoring this review and giveaway and offering me and one Still Living The Dream reader a complimentary massage. No other compensation was received and all thoughts and opinions are my own. 

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My Kids Make Me Smile! – A #FABsmile Giveaway!

Summer is almost over which is really bittersweet. While it will be good for the kids to get back to a routine and I personally love the fall season in general, I also enjoy the extra time I get to spend with my kids during the long break from school.

With less than two weeks until school starts, I decided to take the kids on a last soiree to enjoy the sun and sand in Galveston last weekend. While I was packing I asked my kids Jackson and Annie, to bring me their toothbrushes. When they finally brought them to me, I was shocked. The condition of these brushes made it clear to me that they were being used way past their “expiration” date. Matted down bristles with reminents of old toothpaste caked on the bottom. Um – gross.

The American Dental Association recommends flossing every day and changing out your toothbrush every three months. Clearly these were way older than three months and there wasn’t even a bit of floss to be found in the kid’s bathroom. Pretty weird that they didn’t tell me we were out, right?!

Not my best “Mother of the Year” moment! But in my defense, it is hard to remember to change toothbrushes out regularly….right?

Luckily I had heard about a unique program that makes it easy for you to have floss and new toothbrushes on hand. My friends at FlossandBrush.com provided me with a free kit which included a new toothbrush and roll of floss for each of my family members to try out. The clean teeth gods must have been looking out for me because the package of dental goodness arrived the day before we left for our overnight trip!

For just $1.00 per month, per person, FlossandBrush.com ships a box of fresh, quality toothbrushes and floss to your home every quarter. Shipping is only $1.00 per person, but orders of three or more brushes ship for free!

You don’t have to think about when it’s time to get a new brush or count on the kids to tell you when you are out of floss, they just arrive. They offer four different packages including one for adults, one for youth and one for small children that each include an age-appropriate toothbrush and mint, waxed floss…plus a package for $2.00 a month that also includes a carbamide peroxide whitening gel with potassium nitrate (which helps eliminate sensitivity) that can be used with your own tray or one you can purchase separetely from them. By the way Still Living The Dream readers can purchase a whitening tray from FlossandBrush.com for 25 percent off! Just use code “tray25″ when you check out. You can find the whitening trays online here.

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We received GUM brand toothbrushes (all in different colors which makes it easy to know which one belongs to each of us) and 60 yards of minty floss.

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Seeing my kids smile makes me happy. Knowing that because of FlossandBrush.com I might have a chance at winning Mother of the Year (or at least regarding good oral hygiene!) NEXT year makes me feel like a better parent.

A Giveaway!

How would you like to win a FlossandBrush.com Prize Package worth $107.00?! One, lucky Still Living The Dream reader will receive both a free annual FAB  membership (quarterly toothbrush and floss delivered to your door) AND a free annual FAB plus White4Life Membership (FAB’s professional grade whitening gel to be used in a custom whitening tray provided by you).

Entering is Easy!

First:

1. Sign up for FlossandBrush.com’s mailing list.

Then:

2. Visit FAB’s Pinterest page and repin an image for any one of the Smile Boards and include the #FABsmile hashtag and a description in your pin that explains why the image makes you smile. In order to enter you must sign up for the mailing list and share your photo link in the comments section of  this post. A winner will be chosen randomly on August 23, 2013, at 11:59 p.m. CST.

I received three regular FAB memberships as well as a FAB plus Whitening Gel Package in order to review for this post. No other compensation was received and all thoughts and opinions (and clean teeth!) are my own.

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A Tea Party in the Country with Cadbury Blue Bunny Ice Cream Bars

Have you been Living The Dream this summer?

For me, it’s been one of the most activity-filled summers in a long time. We started before school even let out with a dream trip to Disney World. As soon as summer break started, we hit the road for a weekend trip to San Antonio for fun at Sea World and Aquatica. Then I went to Paris with my mom and sisters….an incredible adventure. Barely through customs back in the states, my family and I went to Galveston for a week to visit with Ed’s side of the family and Annie and I just returned from a girl’s weekend trip to Austin.

Plus, I’ve been training for a sprint triathlon in September with my friend Tanya and I joined a runner’s group to start training for a half-marathon in the fall! I have so much swirling around in my head to share with you and now that summer is winding down…sigh….I can finally sit down and gather my thoughts!

Starting with….Tea Time at the Lake Made Sweeter with Cadbury and Blue Bunny!

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What better way to spend a lazy July weekend in the hot summer sun than with girl friends, big floppy hats, ice-cold sweet peach tea and Cadbury Blue Bunny ice cream bars? Cadbury sent us some free sweet treats to try and so Annie and I brought them with us when we joined her four friends and their moms at a friend’s country house in Austin for the weekend.

cadbury getting ready

After an afternoon of kid-led yoga and swimming in the pool with a beautiful hill country view behind us we had high tea 7-year-old style! Moms and kids got gussied up in big, colorful floppy hats and we sipped on sweet, peach tea properly… with pinkies up! We took some fun photos on the lawn….then things got a little less proper and a lot more fun…with Cadbury ice-cream bars!

cadbury hat photos

Blue Bunny ice cream (a brand I love for their reduced fat but still yummy products!) partnered with Cadbury (hello – chocolate, I love you!) to create two, new premium ice cream bars; Royal Dark and English Toffee, which joined the already delicious Caramello and vanilla chocolate bars. These mini bars are the perfect size for a sweet snack and are unbelievably delicious (and a better choice with reduced fat ice cream.) For those of you, like me, who count Weight Watchers points…the Points Plus values of these bars are 4, with the exception of the English Toffee was is 5 PP.

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The kids loved them! All four flavors were a hit, but the classic Vanilla Chocolate stood out with the younger crew. The moms loved the English Toffee, Royal Dark and Caramello (vanilla ice cream mixed with carmel sauce and covered in mil chocolate). My favorite was the Royal Dark but I gladly enjoyed an English Toffee for seconds and snuck in a Caramello later when no one was looking…sshhhh!

If you want to take it up a notch, Blue Bunny has some great ideas and recipes about how to turn your Cadbury ice cream bars into an even more decadent treat on their website. Check out this one for the Caramello Raspberry Mousse bars. Um – hello? Yes, please!

Our tea party was the perfect mix of proper and pretty and good old-fashioned messy summer fun. You don’t need much to make summer-time memories with your little ones that will last a lifetime. Grab your daughter’s dress up clothes and tea set, mix up some tea and pass out the ice cream bars to friends and family. The rest just sort of happens on it’s own. It’s the kind of fun I remember as a child. Laughing away the afternoon with your little girl…it just doesn’t get much better than that.

Have a SWEET Summer! Love, Jenn and Annie

Have a SWEET Summer! Love, Jenn and Annie

I received a tea party kit from Cadbury and MomSelect. No other compensation was received and all thoughts, opinions and chocolatey kid smiles are my own!

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Summer Road Trips with Savings From Shell Fuel Rewards Network

Are  you taking a family vacation this summer?

StillLivingTheDream DisneyWorldTangled

Since we just took a big one in May to Disney World and I’m going on a once in a lifetime trip abroad to Paris with my mom and sisters this summer, we plan on taking several short getaways within driving distance while the kids are out of school.

Call us old school, but we like to pack up the ol’ family truckster (mini van) and hit the road Griswold style. In addition to saving money on plane tickets, you can create a lot of memories when traveling in the car. Spending time together on the road can be a great family bonding experience as you navigate road maps, plan on road side stops for food and quickie sight seeing (gotta see the world’s largest ball of string if you’re passing by, right?!) and play travel games like “I Spy” and the oldie but goodie license plate game.

We now even laugh about those constant and annoying backseat cries of  “are we there yet?” or “Annie’s touching me!” from the kids on our trip to Colorado and South Dakota last summer.

It’s a rite of passage for kids to complain about long stretches of time spent confined to a small space with just one’s siblings and parents….the very thing you’ll remember with fondness later in life.

StillLivingTheDream Aquatica

Luckily our home base of Houston is also close to many places that are great for a weekend getaway…especially the Hill Country. We take a trip to San Antonio several times a year and especially love the River Walk and SeaWorld and Aquatica. In fact, we just got back from attending a mini blogging conference called AdventureCon hosted by SeaWorld. While I learned more about mobile apps and photography, Ed and the kids enjoyed time in the parks. When I was finished I joined them for time in the sun and water and to enjoy the new SeaWorld show, Pet’s Ahoy. We just love Aquatica and SeaWorld and going to these parks is always on our Summer Family Bucket List.

StillLivingTheDream fuel rewards network logo

While traveling by car is less expensive then plane, gas is certainly an expense. I’m always looking for ways to save money and I recently heard about The Shell Fuel Rewards Network program that helps people pay less for gas. I received a loaded Fuel Rewards Network Card so I could experience the savings and how the program works.

Here’s the skinny about the Fuel Rewards Network Program:

  1. To earn up to 75 cents a gallon (for up to 20 gallons of gas per vehicle/per visit) at Shell stations, you start by signing up at fuelrewards.com.
  2. You can get your card online (they mail it you) or you can get it at a participating Shell station.
  3. You must activate the card online before using

You save money per gallon by presenting the card when you:

  1. make purchases for convenience store products, car washes and auto services at Shell stations
  2. dine at more than 10,000 participating restaurants (you earn 10 cents a gallon for every $50 you spend!) We were excited to find out that one of our favorite restaurants close to home participates. You can view the entire list and search by zipcode online at fuelrewards.com.
  3. shop online at 700+ stores including Best Buy and Gap (earn 5 cents a gallon for every $50 you spend plus some merchants offer two to time times rewards to save you even more!)

We signed up and are earning rewards with purchases and almost to a rewards savings of $2.50 off a gallon. Last time I filled the minivan up when almost on empty, I put in 18.2 gallons and gas was $3.28 a gallon.

With the fuel rewards network savings, I will only pay 78 cents a gallon; a total of $14.20 for a FULL tank of gas. This would normally cost $59.70 – a savings of $45.50!

Since your card resets back to zero after you fill up (whether it’s 1 or 20 gallons) it’s best that you go with a low tank.  Some people even bring a gas can to fill up as well if they can’t  hit 20 gallons by filling up their tank. Smart!

The Fuel Rewards Network is also offered at Shell in ADDITION to the Kroger rewards program which is awesome and will save you even more cash! You can use the mobile app to check your reward balance so you can see how far you are to reaching maximum savings!

With the Fuel Rewards Network program, I can afford more weekend road trips to SeaWorld and other fun places! Since it started in 2012, customers have saved about $68 million in savings at Shell. Are you one of them? How else do you save money for road trips with your family?

I was given a pre-loaded Fuel Rewards Network card in order to review for this post but received no other compensation. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

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