Office Depot Another Year for National Backpack Program

I’ve had the pleasure of making sure our readers know about the Office Depot National BackPack Program for the past two years. Last year they sent me such beautiful backpacks but our kids already had ones so we donated them to our teachers. It was perfect as we had 5 backpacks and 4 teachers. Our teachers found students in their classes that needed a little extra help and were able to pass them on. I’m excited that Office Depot is coming back for their 17th year of the National Backpack Program.national backpack

For the past 17 years, the Office Depot National BackPack Program has donated more than 4 million sackpacks to children around the world as part of its National Backpack Program. This summer, the Foundation, which is the independent charitable giving arm of Office Depot, Inc., will be donating 100,000 colorful new sackpacks to nonprofit organizations, schools and agencies across the United States and internationally.

To deliver sackpacks directly to children, the Foundation is hosting Back-to-School celebrations in select cities across the U.S. in July and August. This year, in addition to donating sackpacks to children who need them most, the Foundation is highlighting the importance of STEM and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) programs in our nation’s schools. To encourage kids to explore these important curriculums, the Foundation has partnered with Office Depot National BackPack Program, America’s first African American female combat pilot, who will make special guest appearances at the Foundation’s Back-To-School celebrations in Los Angeles and Chicago.

Thousands more sackpacks are being given to kids through the Office Depot Foundation’s continuing partnerships with a number of nonprofit organizations serving children nationally and globally. The Foundation is collaborating with Food For The Poor, Feed the Children, the National Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) Association, the National Foundation for Women Legislators and the AARP Foundation.

The specially designed, drawstring-style sackpacks come in seven bright and fun colors. Each one includes a zippered pouch containing a pen, pencil, pencil sharpener, eraser, six-inch ruler and four crayons.

5 Ways to Stay Safe While Walking

I’ve been on a kick with a few friends to get more exercise. It’s been great to have someone to be with while working out. We change up our routine and do swimming and walking to use different muscles and get some more work outs in. But walking can be unsafe so I wanted to give you 5 ways to Stay safe while walking. 5 Ways to Stay Safe While Walking

  1. Be aware of your surroundings. This sounds like an easy, no nonsense, who could forget rule but think about it. How many times have you been walking and you have your headphones in and you’re favorite song comes on, you pic up the pace and the volume. Guess what now you can no longer hear what’s truly going on around you. So while it’s great that you’re into your walking, remember that you need to be able to hear that car coming behind you or the person walking behind you or the cyclist that wants to pass on the left.It’s another way of saying keep your guard up, but it’s not about being hyper vigilant or paranoid.  Think of it like a low-level hum of mental activity, like when you look both ways before crossing the street.
  2. Know where you’re going and how to get back. We were just talking about this the other day. I went on a walk while training for the 3 Day a few years ago. I got so lost and I was within 3 miles of my own home. But it was a route I had never taken before, I was exploring and at the time my smart phone didn’t have navigation. (Remember when you still had to pay extra for that??) Needless to say I had to call Steve and he had to mapquest directions to get to me and how to get home. Sounds really funny until you’re the one lost in the middle of nowhere! Being familiar with your route will help you identify abnormalities or deviations in what should be expected.  Every environment, and every person, has what is known as a baseline of what is normal noise and behavior.  Note any changes, such as a car repeatedly driving by or an unknown person or a hazard along your route.  Stay alert and don’t be taken by surprise when there is a change.
  3. Keep hydrated. Its difficult to go on a long walk with a water bottle because it weighs you down. The problem is especially in the summer, you will get dehydrated much faster. Take the extra ounces to make sure you’re safe and not dehydrated. Drink consistently while walking and you won’t have to worry about passing out from heat exhaustion or dehydration.
  4. Shoes. Sounds silly right. How are shoes going to keep you safe? Well when you’re walking for new distances and/or on new terrain and you get a blister because you wore you’re old shoes this is definitely a safety issue. Make sure you have shoes that are fitted for your feet. I love getting special fitted inserts from Road Runner Sports. I use the one in Elkridge and they are super helpful and its an amazing difference to have shoes that fit for my feet. They will also talk you through what type of sneaker is best for you. Yep sneakers are different for every foot.
  5. Walk with someone. Skip the headphones and enjoy having an actual conversation with someone. Like I said I’ve taken to walking with a couple of friends. We’ve consistently been doing at least 1 mile walks each time and the whole time we talk. We get to learn more about each other, our families and its great to have someone that wants to just listen to what’s going on with me.

What tips do you have to stay safe while walking?

The Queen is Coming to Tea Giveaway

Summer time is the perfect time to enjoy some special time with the kids. I’ve been spending most of my time with Charlie since Rachael is visiting my parents. But I went down last week to spend some time with her and also spend some time with my parents. One of Rachael’s favorite things is to read. She absolutely adores reading. In fact while down there, she has gone through at least 15 books. She’s so proud of herself. I was excited to bring her a new book to read. We were sent a copy of The Queen is Coming to Tea for review purposes. All opinions are our own.

I love the soft colors in the illustrations. They’re also significantly detailed as well. Add to that the story is just so dang sweet.


When Ellie finds out the Queen is coming to tea, she snaps to attention! With her best friend, Langley the Elephant, Ellie travels to Paris, China, Italy, and New York to make sure they have everything they need for tea with the Queen. But will the Queen patiently wait? And what exactly will be waiting for the Queen?

Rachael adored the book and spending time just chilling and reading. She’s been working hard on some sewing projects down at my parents house and this month she actually completed a TeePee using this TeePee DIY tutorial. She did make a few changes by using scraps of fleece to make her walls but it came out really cute. Its the perfect size for her to read in and it its perfectly on my parents front porch!

Here’s a great tea recipe for your littles:
Peach Mango White Iced Tea Recipe

4 Cups Water
3 White Tea Bags
1 Peach
½ Cup Chopped Frozen Mango
1 tbsp sugar plus Sugar to Taste

Boil the 6 cups of water; remove from heat
Steep the tea bags about 5 minutes; remove bags and allow tea to cool to room temperature
Add chopped peaches and mango to a mixing bowl and mix with sugar; let fruit soften
Place fruit in pitcher and pour cooled tea on top; add sugar to taste and stir
Chill and serve

The best part is Source Books wants your little ones to enjoy a cup of tea while reading The Queen is Coming to Town and are giving not only a copy of the book but also a child’s tea set! queen is coming to tea

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Traveling with A Tween: The Great Smoky Mountains

Its time for another trip for us! This week Charlie and I are staying around our area but checking out some things he’s never seen before. But a few weeks ago we got to visit the Great Smoky Mountains.

great smoky mountainsFirst of all I highly suggest looking into The Great Smoky Mountain Railroad. They have several different rides available including right now they have one that has the Wizard of Oz. Yep a 2 hour train ride and during the ride they do a retelling of the famous story! We went on the Polar Express ride back in December and the kids loved it. But this time we ventured on the Nanthala Gorge Excursion. This is a long train ride through the country and mountains. You can get tickets in all price ranges and some that include lunch. We chose the coach tickets which were perfect for us. You travel halfway along the line and then stop for a 1 hour layover.

While on the train you will have all sorts of entertainment. There was a strolling minstrel that not only played his guitar and sang but he took requests. But I think our favorite was Tim the storyteller. He was down right hilarious to listen to. He actually had a great breadth of knowledge about the area and the railroad but he also had fun while educating the riders.

During the layover you can explore the Nanthala Outdoor Center. The NOC includes a couple of restaurants. We were encouraged to call ahead to order food in order to make it easier to eat. We called first thing in the morning, placed our order and it was ready when we arrived. We quickly grabbed a picnic table and were able to eat. Around the NOC are several activities including ziplining and kayaking/tubing. They were still building the rope course when we visited but I believe it is up and running at this point. The layover isn’t quite long enough to do it all but visiting the NOC while on the excursion gave us enough knowledge to know we would want to visit again and explore more activities. We did have enough time though to take our shoes off and wade in the water a little!

great smoky mountains

great smoky mountains

great smoky mountains

great smoky mountains

There really are more things to do in the Great Smoky Mountains than one might think. Charlie and I had such an amazing trip and we can’t wait to see more of the area surrounding the Great Smoky Mountains. There’s even a Cherokee Indian Reservation right there to visit as well!

Make a Splash this Summer-Seven Cosmetic Procedures That Will Get You Swimsuit Ready

Swimsuit season can be a reason to show off the body in an itsy bitsy bikini or grab the terrycloth cover-up. Suddenly, those spider veins, bulges and sagging body parts that have been hiding under layers of winter clothes are on full display.

The impulse is to jump start a diet and exercise plan. The reality, however, is no Pilates class or low carb diet can fix Aunt Ellen’s saddlebags or your mother’s size A cup breasts. Genetics and age-related hormonal changes will always be at work.

make a splash

Thanks to advances in cosmetic surgery there are plenty of procedures that can enhance your appearance. Here, just in time for summer, are seven of the most popular, some of which are so minimally invasive you can hit the beach within a few days of being treated.


The Lunchtime Quickie

If you’re close to your ideal body weight but fighting fat on your thighs, tummy, flanks, bra roll or arms, Coolsculpting is an option. This FDA approved technology safety and effectively freezes fat to improve the contour of those nasty bumps and bulges that are resistant to exercise and diet. Within four to 12 weeks after the treatment, the body eliminates the crystallized frozen cells, giving patients visible and long-lasting results.


“Because Coolsculpting only takes a couple hours, this is one of the procedures patients can do on their lunch hour and then head back to work,” says Dr. George Bitar, an award-winning plastic surgeon based in Northern Virginia who has performed more than 10,000 cosmetic surgeries.


For stubborn fat, a more aggressive approach would be liposuction. The results are immediate and allow for better contouring. Doctors can even use the liposuction for abdominal etching, creating a perfectly natural looking six-pack abs in roughly an hour.


Get a Smooth Tummy and Defined Arms

With significant weight loss, pregnancy and aging it’s not uncommon to have loose skin. “A tummy tuck, which takes roughly two to three hours, will tighten the abdominal muscles to create that firm, sleek stomach, and waistline.”, says Dr. Larry Lickstein, a Harvard-educated, board certified plastic surgeon at the Bitar Cosmetic Surgery Institute in Northern Virginia. For that hanging skin that looks like “bat wings,” an arm lift is often advised. It involves removing excess skin and residual fat to create a firmer arm. It can even be combined with liposuction for a more defined look.


Show Off Your Cleavage

Google trends report breast augmentation is highest between June and August. For the procedure, the scar can be placed either in the under-arm (axillary), the crease under the breast, or at the lower border of the areola.


According to Dr. Bitar, who specializes in the auxiliary breast augmentation, there are many advantages to this approach. “Muscle and breast tissue are not cut, there is also minimal bleeding, less scarring and a shorter recovery time with minimal complications,” he says. “The milk ducts are not touched, so the risk of losing the ability to breast feed after a breast implant with this approach is negligible.”


Look Good Coming and Going

Women now not only want to be fit and toned, but they want Kim Kardashian’s derriere. The Brazilian butt lift is a relatively simple procedure where the fat is harvested from the belly and around the buttocks through liposuction and reinjected to create a heart or ideal round shape. The procedure yields natural results with minimal recovery time.


Wear Short Shorts with Style

Dread showing your legs? There are vein treatments to fix those ugly blue and red veins that spread across your legs as you age. Sclerotherapy, for example, involves injecting the veins with a saline solution. The veins then scar and are reabsorbed into the body. In most cases, the treated veins will fade within a few weeks.


Finally, before you undergo any procedure, do your research. Make sure the surgeon has done hundreds if not thousands of procedures and is affiliated with a good hospital. Also, think twice before traveling abroad for cheaper surgery. As Dr. Bitar advises his patients, “Three things you don’t want to compromise on: your parachute, your scuba gear, and your plastic surgery!”


Why Summer Camps for Kids Build Self Esteem

Have you ever thought about Why Summer Camps for Kids Build Self Esteem? Summer camps for kids are designed to revolutionize the way children think, talk, believe and ultimately behave. When a child believes in his ability to accomplish new goals and projects, he will be able to take on the next new project without fear and intimidation. Learn more about how summer camp can transform your child’s self-esteem and provide them with new accomplishments and skills in areas that they already love including sports, computers, art and more.

Summer camps for kids provide high-quality programs that incorporate self-esteem and strengthening of core relationship skills. Enrolling your boy in summer camp can revolutionize they way they think, talk, believe and behave, building them into stronger men for the future. Challenges in areas such as academic work, social skills, sports and arts can be overcome through building a stronger foundation in these areas which will lead to advancement. A mature and strengthened young manwill return home after a fulfilling experience at summer camp. A well-rounded summer camp which is designed to provide one-on-one, first name interaction between counselor and camper as well as unique hand selected summer activity program which specifically focuses on each child will result in the maturity and strengthening of each child. The child will return home with a new level of inner-strength, respect for others, maturity and self-esteem after experience a summer packed with positive attitudes and a series of successes in areas that interest them such as competitive sports, arts, computers and more.

Overnight camps provide an away from home experience that is safe yet freeing. Safety is provuded through a 2 to 1 camper-counselor ratio as well as through multiple age-appropriate activities. The summer camp is not designed for the special needs or behaviorally challenged children and instead provides focused safety for children while providing them with ample opportunities for maturity and acceleration. There are special needs camps available but are harder to find and even harder to be accepted to. Your child will not experience bullying and untoward behavior while away from home when you rely on the expertise of qualified, experienced leaders with generations of successful summer camps for kids.

Freedom comes into play as campers experience new relationships in a safe and healthy environment as they are also provided with programs and activities that best meet their needs. Many camps provide swimming lessons and children return home with the accomplishment of learning to swim. An accomplished swimmer is a huge asset to any child and adult. This skill is best learned during childhood and is easily built upon and produces agile and confident swimmers. Swimming is a lifelong skill that is gained in the beautiful weather and water. Turn to experts who have provided overnight camps for generations, providing campers with new levels of self-esteem as they have ample opportunity to enhance skills that they enjoy.

These are just a few ways Why Summer Camps for Kids Build Self Esteem. Have you signed your kids up yet?

Welcome to Our Youth: Toys Are Making a Comeback

We’ve all seen those silly posts, things a child from the 80s couldn’t live without or this is a blast from the past. Well there really is a resurgence especially with toys making a comeback. We recently found that several of our favorite toys are making a comeback. I happen to love seeing the nostalgia. Here are a few of my favorite ones that I’ve found so far. We received a few items to help us prepare for this post but all opinions are our own.

Fraggles: Let the music play, down at Fraggle Rock! Super Impulse and The Jim Henson Company have partnered to bring your favorite Fraggle characters out of their caves and to life. Fraggle Rock is based on the iconic HBO show from the mid-Eighties, with the quirky Muppet-like characters that people know and love: Gobo, Red, Mokey, Wembley and Boober.

toys are making a comeback

I love the detail including a post card in Gobo’s pocket!

World’s Smallest: This is a special set of toys as they take some of our favorite toys and make them as tiny as can be! It’s a blast from the past with World’s Smallest toys: they’re classics that never go out of style! This successful line of toys from Super Impulse are adorable miniature versions of everyone’s favorite toys. They’re all fully functioning such that the World’s Smallest Rubik’s really does work and you can put your Yo-Yo skills to the test with World’s Smallest Duncan Yo-Yo.

Wiz-z-zer: Wiz-z-zer’s back, back again… The 1970’s spinning top is wizzin’ back into style with the return of the original Wiz-z-zer! With a whole new look that is both retro and contemporary, this spinning top requires no batteries, string, ripcord or launchers to spin. The tricks are endless with the Original Wiz-z-zer, which spins at an impressive 10,000 RPM! Also joining the Wiz-z-zer family are the Wiz-z-zer Wheelz-z-z: jacked up cars that can race, battle, stack and crash. Stealing the show is the Wiz-z-zer Wheelz-z-z Spin & Battle Arena, which features 2 ramps for double the battle and play action! I think this was the one the kids had the most fun with. It comes complete with instructions and pieces to do certain tricks.

So many toys are making a comeback! Which ones are your favorite?

Traveling with Tweens-Making It Fun for Them and You

Two years ago, I was lucky enough to be able to take a European vacation with my tween sons. For 19 glorious days we explored the sights, enjoyed our time together and made lasting memories. To this day, we still find ourselves talking about something we did, saw or ate. We definitely had a few missteps early on-from activities they found boring to food they thought was weird-but we soon found our footing and had a truly fantastic time. What I learned traveling with tweens can save you some frustration and money.traveling with tweens

  1. Include them in planning. We watched several travel channel shows of our destinations then spent time during dinner talking about the cool places we would see or fun things we could do. They each chose the one place on our itinerary they were most excited to visit, then did some internet research to find fund facts for everyone to learn before we left. The months leading up to the trip connected us as much as the trip itself because they were part of it at every step.
  2. Pack light and do not check baggage. Travel is an adventure. Treat it like one. One of our favorite family shows is The Amazing Race. Inspired by it, I gave them travel backpacks and told them that if the racers could pack for every situation without having a clue where they were going, we could manage 19 days in known locations in the middle of summer. I saved hundreds on checked bag fees alone.
  3. Rewards Points. Our whole family signed up for United’s mileage plus plan at no charge-then paid a small fee to transfer their miles to me post trip. I was thrilled to learn that I had nearly enough miles for a free ticket.
  4. Daypacks are a must. We packed snacks and refillable water bottles (another great money saver) along with maps, sunscreen and whatever else we needed for a day of exploring.
  5. Give them a camera. Nothing fancy, a cheap digital or even a disposable works great. Now they can see and record their vacation, their way. Side benefits to you are lower souvenir costs and easy packing for the trip home.
  6. Budgeting lessons. I gave each of them 20 euro per day. It was up to them to figure out what was worth spending it on- be it souvenirs or gelato. The rule was: Once it’s gone, it’s gone. I promised not to question how they spent their money as long as they promised not to ask me for more. It wound up being a terrific lesson in money management for them. I’m proud to say that they each returned home with nearly half of their allowances unspent.
  7. Build in time for calls and updates home. We bought a calling card right away for nightly calls home. It helped keep away the homesickness that inevitably sets in on long trips. Internet cafes provided great (and cheap) opportunities to send emails and check in with family and friends.
  8. Build in downtime. Take a break from the museums, cathedrals and ancient architecture to explore the parks and shopping malls.
  9. Break the rules. This is your vacation. Gelato before bedtime won’t hurt. Neither will being up past midnight laughing, playing and talking. The parenting hat never truly comes off but there is nothing wrong with tipping it toward fun and memory-making every now and then.
  10. Enjoy the moments and enjoy your kids. This is a huge time in their lives and you do not want to miss a second of it.

Do you have any tips for traveling with tweens? Where are you traveling with tweens this summer? Charlie and I will be working on some DC and Baltimore travel.

Summer Books for All Ages

We love reading but I also love activity books. You know the ones that encourage you to do something, make something or make you think a little more. If they can combine some of my favorite things then I’m even happier. With this in mind I wanted to share a few Summer Books for All Ages. I was sent a copy of each of these books to test out.summer books for all ages

  1. The Battles of Tolkien: I remember as a kid my dad and I reading the Lord of the Ring series. It was so much fun to read The Hobbit together but now we can go further in depth in the world of Tolkien with this book.
    Synopsis: The history of J. R. R. Tolkien’s fictional world of Middle-earth is filled with epic battles in an ongoing struggle between good and evil. The Battles of Tolkien recounts many of the greatest conflicts over thousands of years, from the earliest skirmishes of the Valarian Ages to the defining battles in the War of the Ring. Insightful commentary by Tolkien scholar David Day discusses how the people, tactics, and weapons influenced the outcome of each battle, and also how the legends of Middle-earth relate to the real-world mythology on which Tolkien based his famous literary creation. Maps and full-color illustrations help bring this rich universe to life, making it an invaluable reference book for Tolkien fans of all ages.Summer books for all ages
  2. Where’s Kitty? Dot-to-Dot: This is a perfect book for in the car. The kids were able to work together to go through the huge dot-to-dot pages and work together to make the picture come out as well as figure out where Kitty is now. I love that the kids discovered new places together.
    Synopsis: From Rio to Paris, Kitty shows up in some unlikely places! These thirty puzzles will keep your tail twitching with more than 500 dots to join on each page. Find out if Kitty is stretching her legs on the Great Wall of China, passing the time in the shadows of Big Ben’s clock tower, or enjoying a lazy afternoon in the sun at the Taj Mahal. Connecting the dots to find Kitty can improve concentration, increase hand-eye coordination, and will provide hours of fun for all ages.
  3. For the crafter we received Zootopia Crochet and Star Wars Even More Crochet. I love these kits because not only do they come with the patterns to make all the characters featured but they also come with enough materials to make two of the patterns. I think this is a fabulous idea for a crafter that wants to expand their work. We’ve reviewed a few of the other crochet kits before including the Disney Princess one that Rae still sleeps with her little Princesses.
    The Zootopia kit comes with enough materials to make Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde. The Star Wars kit comes with the materials to make my favorite BB-8 and Jawa.


Summer STEM Learning with SPRK+ and Best Buy

Last year Charlie participated in a summer STEM program at a college in North Carolina. He really loved it but this year we have so much traveling and racing scheduled that we just can’t make it work. So I’ve been looking at different ways to get him active and still learning. We received a Sphero when we went to the CWIST event. Charlie was so excited to win it. It was kind of cute. But the capabilities are a bit limited until this year that is. The reviewer has been compensated in the form of a Best Buy Gift Card and/or received the product/service at a reduced price or for free. We received a Sphero SPRK+ from Best Buy to play with and learn from this summer. I think I love it as much as the kids do. sprk+

What’s in the box you ask? Well there’s the Sphero SPRK+ itself, a charging base, charging cord and maze tape. SPRK+

The tape is great because you can lay it out on a hard surface and using the Sphero EDU app you can program your SPRK+ to go through the maze. The SPRK+ is designed to inspire curiosity, creativity, and invention through connected play and coding. It’s far more than just a robot. Powered by the Lightning Lab app, you can easily learn programming, complete hands-on activities, and share your creations with the community. But how does the app work? Charlie and made a short video so you can see it truly in action:



  • Feature/Benefit:
    • SPRK+ is a great toy to play with in the house or on the go
    • SPRK+ is a great way to infuse classroom-type learning outside of the classroom
    • Some fun activities SPRK+ is programmed to do: navigate mazes, swim across water, be a magic 8 ball, and painting pictures
  • Price Point: $129.99
  • Product Age Rage: 8+