Stop snacking spills with Snackeez 2-in-1 drink and snack holder




Like all kids, mine love to snack. They're always on the go, so smaller meals combines with healthy snacks makes perfect sense. It also means that the back seat of our van is all too often an icky, sticky mess. The cup holders are always full of crumbs and wrappers and squeezed-out juice boxes (with juice dripping and puddling at the bottom of the cup holder).

This week we tried out Snackeez, a cool new solution for mess-free snacking. A Snackeez looks like a regular lidded cup with a straw, but the top section is actually a snack container. Kids can hold their snack and their drink with one hand, leaving the other hand free to turn the pages of a book or hold a pencil or do whatever it is that kids like to do when they eat.  The snack container lid snaps shut, so crumbs and spills are minimized.  Even spills are minimized, thanks to the lack of a vent hole -- it becomes more difficult to sip the liquid.  

The kids have been seeing ads for Snackeez on TV for a while, so they were excited to try it. based on past experience, Alfie and I have in a healthy sense of suspicion for any "As Seen On TV" product -- but I have to say that Snackeez actually does deliver what the ad promises. It's fun to use, the kids love the bright colors, it's easy to clean, and it doesn't spill when you knock it over (we tried holding it upside down and shaking it, and juice did begin to dribble from the straw, so it's spill-resistant, not spill-proof!). I wouldn't pack it into the kids' lunch boxes, but I think it's perfect for car trips and great for nighttime TV snacking!

Disclosure: I received a sample product for review. All opinions are my own.
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Bonggamom's Friday Finds: list your giveaways here


Bonggamoms Friday Finds

Welcome to Bonggamom's Friday Finds! I'm glad so many of you are finding this to be a useful way to get more traffic to your giveaways. And as a person who loves entering giveaways, I have to admit it's a great, easy way to find out where all the best giveaways are.

So feel free to leave links to your giveaways, everyone. And don't forget to get cracking and enter everyone else's, too!


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Republic Wireless: making the most of WiFi & Cellular to offer cheap plans, great service




Tired of paying big bucks and signing your soul away into a long-term phone contract?  Youve got to check out Republic Wireless.  They have phone plans starting at $5 per month!  Republic Wireless sent me a Motorola MotoX phone to try out with their $40 plan (unlimited talk, text and 4G data on WiFi and cellular networks), and I think this one's a winner.  Keep reading to get an overview of their service, and what I think about it (and enter to win a Google Chromecast!).

The Basics

Republic Wireless is a low cost, no-contract cellular phone service. They offer 2 kinds of phones:

  • Motorola MotoG ($149)
  • Motorola MotoX ($299)
... and 4 plans:

  • $5 WiFi only plan 
  • $10 WiFi + Cell Talk &Text 
  • $25 WiFi + Cell (3G) Talk, Text & Data
  • $40 WiFi + Cell (4G) Talk, Text & Data (available only on Moto X) 
How do they keep prices so low?  Their phones utilize Hybrid Calling technology to take advantage of WiFi networks for calls, texts and data when a WiFi network is available.  When a WiFi network isn't available, their phones use the Sprint Network for calls, texts and data (if the phone plan you sign up for includes it). Their techonology allows for a seamless WiFi to cellular handover experience for uninterrupted calls and high call quality.  No extra steps or apps are required to make a phone call, even when on the WiFi network).  Utilizing WiFi whenever you can makes so much sense!

The Bongga

Republic Wireless wins on all of the 4 C's of cellular service -- cool phones, coverage, convenience, and cost!

Cool Phones: I'm LOVING the Moto X!  It's a really nice Android phone, with a very sleek and sophisticated profile, sporting lots of bells and whistles.  The camera is AWESOME.  It takes great photos!  Check out these 2 amazing photos my daughter snapped on the fly with the MotoX, no editing or Photoshopping needed.

 

Coverage: Republic Wireless runs on the Sprint network, which is the network I use for my cell phone plan.  I have no complaints about Sprint network coverage, so I'm confident about the coverage for the Republic Wireless phone!  So far, call quality has been great, no interrupted calls, even when I'm walking from my car (cellular network) and entering my house (switch over to WiFi).  Sprint's 3G network tends to be slow, but only if you're browsing the web on your phone -- it's perfectly fine for checking email, or posting to Instagram/Facebook/Pinterest, or using most web-enabled apps and games.  Sprint's 4G network is lightning fast, even for web browsing.

Note, I have yet to enter a location that offers free wifi with sign-in (i.e. Starbucks, McDonalds, airports, etc...), so I don't know how seamlessly the phone will switch from cellular back to wifi, or whether it will switch at all.  The Republic FAQ page says you'll have to sign in the first time, then subsequent visits will be seamless, but I do need to try it out for myself.

Convenience:  With a Republic Wireless plan, you're not bound to a contract.  You can even switch from one of their plans to another -- up to twice per month!   And because the data plans are all-inclusive, you're charged a set amount each month, and you don't have to worry about hidden costs.  The only fees you incur are state and local taxes.

Cost: I can't think of any all-inclusive, no-contract service that's cheaper than Republic Wireless.  Even the phone itself is inexpensive:  just $149 for the Moto G and $299 for the Moto X.  This is how much you would pay for a phone with the other big networks -- but only if you lock yourself into a 2 year contract!


The Blah

There are only 3 things I'm not fond of:

1) You cannot make any international calls on a Republic Wireless phone.  This is a major deal breaker for Alfie and me, because all our family is overseas (it's not a deal breaker for our kids' phones, though, since they can always use our phones to call their grandparents in the UK and the Philippines).

2) You cannot bring your own phone over to a Republic Wireless plan -- you have to purchase one of their phones, and currently, your only option is the MotoX or the MotoG (which only works with 3G plan, not the 4G plan).  It's not a problem for me because I love the MotoX, but if you're wedded to a particular brand of phone, you're out of luck.

3) You can't use your Republic Wireless phone with any other plan.  This is because Republic's phones are specially modified to be able to use WiFi calling without having to open another app, and to use the WiFi around you.

The Bottom Line

If it weren't for the no international calls restriction, I would sign up for a $5 per month Republic Wireless plan today, and make that phone our Home Phone.  Other than that, Republic's low cost option has definitely won me over --when The Pea's phone contract comes to an end, I think we just might be switching her over to Republic Wireless!

Win a Google Chromecast

TWO lucky Bonggamom Finds readers will receive a Google Chromecast! This digital media player plays audio/video content on a high-definition display via streaming Wi-Fi.  In other words, plus Chromecast into your HDTV, and you can watch YouTube, Internet shows, or any content that you can stream over your WiFi network from the internet!
(photo source: Wikipedia common images)

Required Entry
Leave a comment on this post and tell me which Republic Wireless plan would be right for you.

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For extra entries, you can do any or all of the following. Please leave a separate comment for each extra entry with a way to verify the entry (i.e. tweet link, blog post link, Facebook id, Twitter id, etc.).

1) Follow bonggamom on Blogger (1 entry)

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3) Follow bonggamom on Pinterest (1 entry)

4) Pin this giveaway on any of your Pinterest boards (1 entry -- you can use the "Pin It" button at the bottom of this page!).

5) "Like Bonggamom Finds" on Facebook and write this on my wall (1 entry):
I entered the Google Chromecast giveaway from Republic Wireless!  Giveaway ends 9/5 at http://ow.ly/A4MT2

7) Tweet this once per day (1 entry per day)
Enter to win a Google Chromecast fr @republicwireless! Giveaway on @bonggafinds ends 9/5 http://ow.ly/A4MT2

8) Join any open giveaway on Bonggamom Finds (1 entry for every giveaway you join)

The Rules
This giveaway ends at 11:59PM PST on September 5  2014; I will draw a winner at random, on September 6 and post their name after they confirm acceptance. Continental US residents only. For additional giveaway rules, click here.


Disclosure: Republic Wireless provided me with a MotoX and 3 months of Republic Wireless service to facilitate my review, and Chromecast units to give away.  product or give my opinions. Product information (in italics) is provided by the featured company/product. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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Kia Soul: High End Feel, Low End Price


I tend to do a lot of driving during the weeks leading up to the First Day of School.  There's so much to do to prepare-- the last of the summer camps, Back to School Shopping, PTA volunteering -- and let's not forget the One Last Summer Road Trip that we just have to squeeze in before school starts again!

I've spent a LOT of time in the car this last week -- but fortunately, I was able to spend it test driving the Kia Soul. Never in my life would I have thought that I would grow to love the Kia Soul as much as I did!  I've always hated boxy-type vehicles -- too square, too trying-hard-to-be-hip, too claustrophobic.  But I couldn't help falling in love with the Kia Soul.  Yes, it's square, but it's so cute and cheeky, it's hard not to fall in love.  Here are some reasons why:

* The perky green color (the official name is "alien green", how cool is that??) only adds to the appeal.  The green is kind of in-your-face, but in a cheerful, zippy way.

* The interior feels much roomier than it should, given the car's small size. Everyone loves the leather seats, panoramic sun roof, and cool front speakers that change color to the beat of the music! FYI, the Soul is on Wards Auto's list for 10 best interiors, alongside cars that cost $10,000 more.  Kia has received a lot of praise for the Soul's premium feel. 

The Soul is not just style at the expense of substance. It earned the government's highest overall safety rating in NHTSA crash tests.  Also, Cars.com just named the 2014 Soul as one of its Top Five Cars for Urban Families.  

Best of all, despite its premium feel, the Kia Soul starts at a $15,000 base price!  Alfie and I were shocked when we Googled it; we expected it to cost about $5000 more.  What's more, the 2014 Soul won ALG's Residual Value Award for subcompact utilities, retaining its value better than any other vehicle in that segment (57% of its value after 3 years of ownership).

Of all the cars I've tested out and written about this past year, the Kia Soul just might be my favorite -- it's about neck and neck with my previous favorite, the Kia Optima Hybrid.  In fact, the only 2 things that would make us love the Kia Soul even more would be if they offered a hybrid version, and if they offered a turbo version (unlike the Kia Optima Hybrid, acceleration for the Soul felt a bit slow and sluggish, even with the EcoDrive feature turned off).

I think the Kia Soul looks just perfect in front of our house, don't you?  We think so too!  In fact, it looks like our next car just might be a Kia Soul -- we're looking to replace our BMW 328 in a year or two, and thanks to last weeks's test drive, the Soul is currently our top pick! After all, if the Kia SOUL is good enough for Pope Francis, it's good enough for us :)


Disclosure: I was lent a Kia Soul to drive for a week, for review purposes.. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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Banish Back-to-School tangles with The Wet Brush


I received a sample for review

Our school year begins tomorrow, and in just about 12 hours we are going to wake up to the sound of an alarm for the first time in 10 weeks.  Goodbye, lazy summer, and hello, rush-rush-rush school morning routine!  The Pea and I will soon be racing against the clock to eat breakfast, pack a lunch, and look decent, all before 6:30am.

One of the most difficult things about our morning routine is taming our wild, wavy, frizzy hair.  When The Pea was a toddler and preschooler, she used to scream whenever I would try to brush her tangles away!  Now that she's older, she  grits her teeth and does it herself, but it's no less of a pain (literally and figuratively).  Starting out with wet hair does help tame the frizzies somewhat, but brushing wet, tangled hair isn't good for hair -- it weakens the shaft. Fortunately we've discovered The Wet Brush.  This detangling brush has Intelli-flex bristles that glide through knots and tangles.  I honestly don't know how they do it, but it's true!  It's like they've doused the bristles in conditioner.  It's noticeably easier and less painful to comb through wet, tangled hair.

This is what I look like coming out of the shower. Note the wet, tangled mane of hair.


Here I am, beginning to brush out the tangles with The Wet Brush. I don't feel my hair pulling or stretching at all, and the bristles don't dig into my scalp.  


Even 3Po told me, "Mom, this brush really does glide through your hair much easier than your other brush!".


My hair is all smooth and straight and shiny -- and undamaged, thanks to The Wet Brush!

If you have anything other than ultra-straight, silky hair, you definitely need to get The Wet Brush!


Disclosure: I  received a product sample to facilitate my review, but have not been paid to review the product or give my opinions. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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Back to School with ApparelnBags.com



Back to school shopping can be tiresome and expensive, but there's a great online site that makes it easy for busy parents to outfit their whole family in timeless basics for the whole year.  ApparelnBags.com carries over 100 brands and hundreds of thousands of items -- tops, bottoms, outerwear, bags in all kinds of styles and colors, for men, women and children.  They sell clothing from many of my favorite brands, like Adidas, Hanes, Bella, Fruit of the Loom, and more.  They have the cheapest American Apparel shirts I've seen anywhere, and the rest of their products are just as reasonably priced!

ApparelnBags.com offers basic clothing as well as some not-so-basic customization services such as custom embroidery, screen printing, applique, laser etching, decals, and stickers -- which makes them great for team wear, school uniforms, school logo wear, band uniforms, and other school and afterschool activities. .

ApparelnBags offered to send me an item of my choice so I could see their quality and service, so I went online to begin my search.  Because fall is coming soon, I chose a Sport Tek hooded fleece vest to keep me warm while watching the boys' soccer games on chilly autumn mornings.  All of the vests I see in retails stores cost $40 or more -- this one only cost $19!  My order arrived before I even had time to remember to check, and I couldn't be happier with the style and the fit:

The material (combined cotton/poly) is super soft and comfy. I love the soft heather grey color, and I love the stylish hood.  I feel so swag when I wear it! :)

Definitely check out ApparelnBags -- it's one-stop outfit shopping for Back to School!


Disclosure:  I received a product sample to facilitate my review, but have not been paid to review the product or give my opinions. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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Bonggamom's Friday Finds: list your giveaways here


Bonggamoms Friday Finds

Welcome to Bonggamom's Friday Finds! I'm glad so many of you are finding this to be a useful way to get more traffic to your giveaways. And as a person who loves entering giveaways, I have to admit it's a great, easy way to find out where all the best giveaways are.

So feel free to leave links to your giveaways, everyone. And don't forget to get cracking and enter everyone else's, too!


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Use social networking to help raise money for your child's team with PearUp.com




With 2 parents who love soccer, it was almost inevitable that 3Po and Jammy would play soccer. they started when they were about 2, when they would sit on the sidelines as their big sister played soccer with her kindergarten friends. The Pea's coach saw how eager the boys were to play, and bless his heart, he let them join. At that time, the soccer ball reached above their knees!  They haven't stopped playing since.   They have been playing on a competitive team for three years now, and they love it. soccer dominates our weekends, both on tv (watching the English Premiere League) and in real life (playing league games and tournaments).  They love it so much, and they say they want to play soccer professionally!  Even though they may never play in a professional league (or on a college team, even!), soccer is teaching them so much about dedication, teamwork, sportsmanship, and hard work.

Right now, soccer is the boys' only after school activity. It's a big investment in both time and money! We have to pay for uniforms, player registration fees, tournament fees, even teambuilding events like an end-of-year pizza party!  It can be difficult to find the money for the team, but guess what, there's a new company that makes it easy for teams to raise money by using the social networks of the team parents and their friends.  Pear is a social engagement platform that helps groups earn sponsorships from brands – for free.· Pear matches up sponsors with groups and organizations within the communit
Pear works as the middleman to help connect sponsors and groups in need.· Pear helps the group leader create a Pear, and the group leader invites others to join.· A dedicated community manager at Pear will help groups get the most money from their Pear.· Groups earn sponsorship money by creating a Pear for their group and sharing with others who complete digital incentives to earn more money.

Here's a video with more details on how PearUp.com works:

Sponsorships can come in various forms, such as fundraising donations, food donations, shirt donations, and more.  One item that every team needs is a set of uniforms.  It helps with team morale and it looks great on the field! If your child's team needs uniforms, you're in luck!  Safeskin Sport Wraps & First Aid Tape has joined PearUp.com as a sponsor, offering up to $1,000 towards custom t-shirts for qualifying teams on PearUp.com. Here's what you have to do:
  • Sign your child's team up at PearUp.com
  • Each team member completes a series of social network actions on behalf of Safeskin -- things such as liking Safeskin on Facebook, following Safeskin on Instagram or signing up for an email. For every step team members complete, they'll get dollars towards their goal.
  • Team members have 10 days to complete their online tasks.  At the end of the 10-day period, the team can claim an online certificate for whatever amount was earned by the whole team.
Does your child's team already have uniforms?  You can always support another team, like the Coweta Soccer Club!  All over the country, there are teams looking for sponsors via PearUP, and it only takes a few minutes of your time to engage with brands and help the teams out.

It's easy and it's free.  What a great way to keep the team spirit alive on the field and off the field!


Disclosure: This is a sponsored post, courtesy of Global Influence.  The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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Find some Runs Worth The Drive with the Buick Verano Turbo


Stanford Dish
I've been running to stay in shape for almost 20 years now.  It's free, it's easy to learn (not so easy to do!), it's great at burning calories -- and I love the runner's high I get that makes me feel like I could conquer the world!

Most of the time, all I have to do is step out of my front door and start my workout.  But convenient as it is, running around the neighborhood, time and time again, passing by the same houses and cars and sidewalks, can get old.  Sometimes it's nice to get in the car and drive somewhere totally different.

I'm definitely not alone in this; in a recent survey, 71 percent of users of MapMyFitness apps said they drove to a specific location to start their workouts. Whether it's a new route or new scenery or a new challenge that you crave, mixing up your runs can definitely keep your running workouts fresh and exciting!  That's why Buick partnered with MapMyFitness this summer to create the "Runs Worth the Drive Challenge" -- to help runners find, record and share their favorite routes, while also learning how vehicles like the Buick Verano fit into an active lifestyle.
Buick Verano Turbo

The Challenge ended last week, with a record-breaking 89,000 participants!  I was one of those participants; Buck actually loaned me a Verano Turbo for a week, encouraged me to sign up for the Challenge, and challenged me to explore some running trails to see whether I could discover some "Runs Worth the Drive".  After a week of driving the Buick Verano Turbo to some great running trails, I have to say I enjoyed the drive to the trails just as much as I enjoyed running those trails!  Here's what I loved about the Buick Verano Turbo:

Buick Verano Turbo

* It drives like a dream.  The problem with driving to trails, of course, is that you need to allow time to get there, which makes your total workout time a lot longer -- but the Verano Turbo zips along the highway like a dream.  Driving this car gives me a sense of freedom and "one-ness" with the road that I get when I'm running down a hill!   I'm not surprised that Buick claims the Verano Turbo is "more powerful and faster than Lexus IS250, Acura ILX and Audi A3".

* I feel safe driving it. Even though it can drive really fast and accelerate like no one's business, I still feel in control.  And I love the safety sensors that beep when you're in reverse and something (a car, a pedestrian, a bike) is approaching the car from the side (it's called Rear Cross Traffic Alert).
Buick Verano Turbo

* The interior screams luxury and comfort.  After a tiring run, it's so nice to get back to this car, turn the airconditioner on, and just take a moment to breathe.  The interior is nice and roomy, and the model I drove came with beautiful leather seats.  And even though I get all hot and sweaty and gross after a run, Buick tells me that the interior has been tested for resistance against the effects of sweat, sun, sunscreen and bug spray -- so the car won't start smelling funky after 3 months of driving it.

* It's surprisingly affordable.  Guess what?  MSRP for the Buick Verano Turbo is $29,990!  Car and Driver says the average price paid is $28, 491 (note: I think these prices are for the 2014 model; pricing for the 2015 model is still unavailable).  I think that's great for a car in the compact luxury class. In fact, the Buick Verano was recognized for 5-Year Lowest Cost of Ownership of Entry Luxury Sedan by Kelly Blue Book.

I do think they could have made the car look a bit more like a sports car and less like a sedan, but on the whole, I think the Buick Verano Turbo is a great car for anyone who wants a car that can keep up with their active lifestyle.

Now, on to the big question: are there any Runs Worth The Drive in my area?  You betcha!  I ran 4 times that week, at three of my favorite local running destinations:

Cornelius Bol Park
Bol Park has a trail that's great for beginners: it's about a 1.5 mile loop with mild elevation.  There are so many trees, you'd never guess you were in a neighborhood park (yes, some lucky folks don't even have to drive there!).  The trail leads you past a creek with a rope swing, past the famous Barron Park Donkeys, and across two creeks.
Cornelius Bol Park, Palo Alto

Baylands Preserve near Shoreline Lake Park 
Shoreline Lake Park has a trail running through about half of the lake's edge, but there are nicer, wilder, and longer trails just behind the lake, where the paths join with the Palo Alto Baylands. There are a ton of trails of various lengths, weaving in and out and around the Baylands, and the surrounding area is filled with plants and wildlife.
Shoreline Lake, Mountain View

Stanford Dish
The Dish is my favorite running trail to drive to!  I try to go there at least once a week (I went twice last week!).  I can't even take a photo of the car next to the trail, because you have to park a bit of a distance away.  The Dish is not for the faint of heart; a complete loop is 3.7 miles of up-and-down torture.  I have never been able to run it the whole way, and even walking it is guaranteed to give anyone a great workout -- but you are rewarded with a view of practically the entire Silicon Valley, as well as close encounters with all kinds of wildlife.  I have seen squirrels and gophers and hawks and deer and snakes; I haven't seen mountain lions yet, but sightings are common.  The beauty of this place never fails to fill my soul.
Stanford Dish, Stanford


Disclosure: I was loaned a Buick Verano Turbo for a week.  Product information (in italics) is provided by the featured company/product. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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DreamWorks Dragons Adventure: World Explorer launches for Windows phones and tablets (win 2 movie tickets!)



Have you watched How to Train Your Dragon 2?  We loved the first movie and the book series, so of course we had to watch the sequel, and we enjoyed it every bit as much as the first movie.  It's thrilling, funny, and heartbreaking at the same time.  I highly recommend it!

If your child liked How to Train Your Dragon, he or she will definitely like Microsoft's and DreamWorks'  new mobile game, DreamWorks Dragons Adventure: World Explorer.  This isn't just your run-of-the-mill app -- it takes real location and map data and transforms a real map into the world of Berk!  Kids can fly around on the back of Stormfly or Toothless or other dragon, and explore whatever location they happen to be in -- San Francisco, LA, or your local neighborhood -- but it's redrawn into the How to Train Your Dragon world.  How awesome is that for keeping kids entertained during road trips??  Keep reading to find out more... and enter to win 2 movie tickets!

About the Game

DreamWorks Dragons Adventure: World Explorer mobile game, built in conjunction with Microsoft and DreamWorks Animation and inspired by this summer’s hit animated feature “How to Train Your Dragon 2,” transforms the real world around you into the game as you drive, turning any car ride – from routine runs to the grocery store to long family road trips – into an interactive dragon-flying adventure, sure to keep kids entertained. The game is available now as a free download for most Windows and Windows Phone 8 (and higher) tablets and mobile phones.


DreamWorks Dragons Adventure World Explorer, built in conjunction with Microsoft and DreamWorks Animation, transforms a family drive into an interactive dragon flying adventure. Inspired by one of the hottest films of the summer, "How to Train Your Dragon 2", the free game uses HERE Maps to transform real world roadways, time of day, traffic conditions and weather into the fictional Isle of Berk. Players take flight and soar freely on the back of their favorite dragon in an at home mode and also in a driving mode that transforms the real world around you into the game as you drive. This one-of-a-kind experience makes drive time, magical time.


Win a DreamWorks Animation Studio Tour

Win a trip to Los Angeles and tour of DreamWorks Animation Studios for two! To participate, simply share why you should win – via Instagram, Vine or Twitter – using the hashtag #WorldExplorer. Enter by Aug. 29, 2014. Winners announced Sept. 29, 2014.  Full contest details, go to http://nokia.ly/WorldExplorer



Win 2 free movie tickets

One lucky Bongggamom Finds reader will receive 2 free movie tickets, courtesy of Microsoft!

Required Entry
Leave a comment on this post and tell me your favorite How to Train Your Dragon character.

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I entered the DreamWorks Dragons Adventure: World Explorer movie ticket giveaway ends 8/27 at http://bit.ly/1rsyY0b

7) Tweet this once per day (1 entry per day)
We're celebrating the new DreamWorks Dragons Adventure World Explorer w/ a movie ticket giveaway! Enter by 8/27 http://bit.ly/1rsyY0b

8) Join any open giveaway on Bonggamom Finds (1 entry for every giveaway you join)

The Rules
This giveaway ends at 11:59PM PST on August 27,  2014; I will draw a winner at random, on August 28 and post their name after they confirm acceptance. Continental US residents only. For additional giveaway rules, click here.


Disclosure: . Product information (in italics) is provided by Zebra Partners for Microsoft. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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Just 5 days left to help KIPP Academy in the Bronx through Schoola's 20Days of School Program


We are lucky to live in Silicon Valley, but living among such wealth also means that our city is classified by California's Department of Education as a Basic Aid district.  Basic Aid districts are perceived to have enough local tax revenue to meet minimum school funding.  This means our city's public schools receive relatively little state funding, and have to rely heavily on the generosity of local donors to support many of the programs and services that our schoolchildren enjoy.










One of the programs that rely on donations is the district's music program. The benefits of a music education are so well known that I don't even have to list them here (just Google "music education benefits").  I can see the benefits in my own children.  The Pea has played the flute for 3 years now, 3Po has played the cello for 1 year, and Jammy has played the recorder for 1 year, all through their school music program.  Both boys also had private piano lessons for 3 years, but we had to stop this year because we no longer have the budget.  We're so lucky that they can still learn music at school.


It's really sad that schools no longer have the funding for music programs (if they ever had it in the first place), and parents have to pitch in to raise money for music instructors, musical instruments, instrument stands, and sheet music. One great way to raise money for your school is to donate used kids' clothing to Schoola, an online consignment store that donates 40% of your purchase to the school of your choice.  Another great way is to shop for clothing at Schoola!  Check out the Schoola website to learn about how it works, and keep reading below for the chance to earn even more money for schools:

Join Schoola's 20 Days of School Program

You can make a difference not just to your school of choice, but also a very special school: KIPP Academy in the Bronx.  KIPP Academy in the Bronx is part of the KIPP (short for "Knowledge is Power Program") network, the largest network of charter schools in the US.  Nationally, more than 90 percent of KIPP Middle school students have gone on to college-preparatory high schools and more than 80 percent of KIPP alumni have gone on to college.  In 2014, KIPP Schools won the prestigious Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools in 2014; the award honors charter systems in urban areas that are improving performance and closing achievement gaps between minority and low-income students and their white or higher-income peers.

Like most of their KIPP counterparts, ninety-five percent of students at KIPP Academy in the Bronx qualify for free or reduced-cost lunch. Music is one of the ways they reach and engage every child who enters their doors.  That's why I'm hoping you'll help me raise the $25,000 they need to keep their music program running.

Here's how you can help KIPP Academy in the Bronx though Schoola's 20 Days of School Program.

*shop on Schoola via this link:

http://schoola.com/?utm_source=blogger&utm_medium=post&utm_campaign=bts2014-bonggamom

For every transaction made through this unique link, Schoola will donate $1 to the KIPP Academy. Schoola only sells the highest quality, gently-used clothing on their website (any donated clothes that do not meet their standards are donated to Goodwill), and they encourage donations of name brands, so anything you buy on Schoola will be something your child can use again and again.  I recently bought some clothes on Schoola, and discovered that it was the easiest thing ever.  You can search and sort by gender, age, size, brand, and category.  The prices are great (70% off new MSRP!), and 40% of your purchase is donated to the school of your choice!

*request a Schoola donation bag via this link:

http://schoola.com/?utm_source=blogger&utm_medium=post&utm_campaign=bts2014-bonggamom

For every person who requests a Schoola donation bag via this unique link, Schoola will donate $1 to the KIPP Academy. BUT WAIT, THERE's MORE: when you donate clothes and fill out your school information, $2 of every $5 made will go back to that school you have chosen to support! It's a Win/Win for the KIPP Academy, and for your readers' schools!

The 20 Days of School program runs through August 16 -- that's just 5 days more! -- so please spread the word, request a Schoola donation bag, and shop at Schoola!




Disclosure: This is a sponsored post.  The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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WHAT’S FOR SUPPER: 5-Ingredient Weeknight Meals: review and giveaway



I'm forever asking myself, "What shall we have for dinner" -- 30 minutes before it's time to eat! I want to minimize eating out or taking out, and I want to avoid cooking with processed foods, and I don't want to have pasta with tomatoes and olive oil three nights a week! The thought of being able to cook from-scratch meals with only 5 ingredients, in just 30 minutes, sounds too good to be true -- but that's what Southern Living's new cookbook claims to do.  I received WHAT’S FOR SUPPER: 5-Ingredient Weeknight Meals to review.... keep reading below to see what I think of it (and enter to win a copy of your own!)

The Basics
How do you pull off cooking a from-scratch meal every night of the week? Southern Living has the tips and tricks of the trade with their new book, WHAT’S FOR SUPPER: 5-Ingredient Weeknight Meals (Oxmoor House; August 27th, 2013; $19.95/Paperback) written by Southern Living Test Kitchen Specialist Vanessa McNeil Rocchio.

Faced with the daily challenge of cooking healthy, affordable, and quick meals for your family is reason enough to head to the take-out menus, but WHAT’S FOR SUPPER: 5-Ingredient Weeknight Meals will have you saving both time and money. Drawing upon the brand’s legacy and expertise, the book shows home cooks how to make family-friendly meals such as Ginger Pork Chops with Grilled Peach Relish, Smoked Salmon with Goat Cheese and Asparagus Frittata, Sausage with Kale Grits, and Molten Hazelnut Brownies.

The Bongga
  • Recipes are extremely simple to prepare
  • There's a wide variety of dishes to please (almost) any palate
  • The color photos with each and every recipe inspire me to cook!
The thing I like best about this cookbook is that I don't feel like I have to follow the recipe to the letter; that is, if I substitute an ingredient, the dish won't taste terrible.  For example, I made the Chicken Mushroom Pot Pie, but I didn't have a pie crust or puff pastry, so I used refrigerated dough biscuits.  The dish turned out great, and everyone loved it!


The Blah

  • Recipes rely on prepared foods such as cooked diced chicken, or processed foods such as jarred marinara sauce or canned soup -- so I wouldn't make the claim that this cookbook lets you cook meals from scratch in 30 minutes.  
  • Vegetarian and vegan options are limited.  I think every cookbook nowadays ought to have vegetarian or vegan options (unless the cookbook is specifically dedicated to meat, poultry or fish!).


The Bottom Line
"5 Ingredient Weeknight Meals" is great for busy cooks who don't like to spend ages thinking about what to cook, and don't like to spend ages cooking!  The recipes are easy to follow, or you can let the photos and recipes inspire you to put your own spin on the dishes, or even create your own!

Win a copy of the book

One lucky Bonggamom Finds reader will receive a copy of WHAT’S FOR SUPPER: 5-Ingredient Weeknight Meals

Required Entry
Leave a comment on this post and tell me a favorite dinner recipe that you'd like to be able to complete in 30 minutes!

Extra Entries
For extra entries, you can do any or all of the following. Please leave a separate comment for each extra entry with a way to verify the entry (i.e. tweet link, blog post link, Facebook id, Twitter id, etc.).

1) Follow bonggamom on Blogger (1 entry)

2) Follow bonggamom on Instagram (1 entry)

3) Follow bonggamom on Pinterest (1 entry)

4) Pin this giveaway on any of your Pinterest boards (1 entry -- you can use the "Pin It" button at the bottom of this page!).

5) "Like Bonggamom Finds" on Facebook and write this on my wall (1 entry):
I entered the "5-Ingredient Weeknight Meals" cookbook giveaway!  Giveaway ends 8/24 at http://ow.ly/AaG3C

7) Tweet this once per day (1 entry per day)
Enter 2 win a copy of Southern Living's new cookbook, 5-Ingredient Weeknight Meals! Giveaway  @bonggafinds ends 8/24 http://ow.ly/AaG3C 

8) Join any open giveaway on Bonggamom Finds (1 entry for every giveaway you join)

The Rules
This giveaway ends at 11:59PM PST on August 24,  2014; I will draw a winner at random, on August 25 and post their name after they confirm acceptance. Continental US residents only. For additional giveaway rules, click here.

Disclosure: I received a product sample to facilitate my review. Giveaway prize was provided by YC Media. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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Taste the flavors of fall with Duncan Hines



Much as I've enjoyed the summer, I have to admit the heat is wearing me down, and I'm excited about fall.  I'm looking forward to the cool, crisp, fall weather. I'm looking forward to jumping back into my new school job and seeing my friends from school. I'm looking forward to seeing those distinctive fall colors -- orange, yellow, russet, gold, caramel, red, and brown -- and tastes.  Caramel, cinnamon, apple, squash, pumpkin... yum!

To celebrate the flavors of fall, Duncan Hines is introducing two new delicious and easy products with on trend flavors and colors: Duncan Hines® Limited Edition Autumn Velvets cake mix and Caramel Apple Decadent cupcake mix. Duncan Hines aims to make holiday baking easier, so that bakers can share the most wonderful time and treats of the year with those who matter most, without the stress and hassle.   Duncan Hines® sent us samples of their new mixes, which are always a standout at our home because I'm way too busy to bake, and The Pea loves to decorate and frost more than she likes to bake from scratch -- and everyone loves to eat!

The new Duncan Hines Limited Edition Decadent Caramel Apple Cupcake mix (MSRP $3.29) includes everything you need to make a batch of yummy cupackes: apple cake mix, caramel frosting mix, and a pastry bag to fill and frost.  

Many times, following cake or cupcake mix directions straight out of the box results in a bland, boring finished product, but The Pea and her friends followed the basic recipe and ended up with a delicious, great-tasting cupcake!  The apple cake was so moist and tasty, and it went perfectly with the caramel frosting.  Personally I thought the frosting was a bit too sweet, but The Pea and her friends loved it so much, they devoured the whole batch in record time.




The Duncan Hines® Limited Edition Autumn Velvets cake mix is part of their new line of velvet cakes.  Like the Blue Velvet, Pink Velvet, and Spring Velvet cake mixes I reviewed earlier this year, the Autumn Velvet goes beyond the traditional velvet!  You get 2 mixes in each box: an orange velvet and a brown velvet. Neither tastes like a red velvet, but neither tastes like their color namesakes (orange or chocolate) either -- it's that light, fluffy texture that makes it similar to a red velvet cake. The colors are so pretty, just perfect for making a fall layer cake for football tailgates, Halloween parties, or Thanksgiving dinner.

The mix tastes great just as it is, but we decided to get creative and make some biscotti.  We added pumpkin pie spice to both the orange and brown mixes, and we drizzled melted orange and white candy melts over the top to make it look pretty.  They tasted as great as they looked!

Autumn Spice Biscotti

(recipe courtesy of Duncan Hines)

Hands-On Tie: 20 Minutes
Total Time: 60 Minutes
Servings: 30 Biscotti

Ingredients:
1 package Duncan Hines Autumn Velvets Cake Mix
4 large eggs, divided
8 Tbsp. (1 stick) butter, softened and divided
½ cup all-purpose flour, divided
4 tsp. vanilla extract, divided
1 Tbsp. pumpkin pie spice, divided*
1 cup toasted chopped pecans, walnuts or almonds, divided**
1 container Duncan Hines Creamy Vanilla or Chocolate Icing, melted (optional)**

Baking Instructions:
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking pan with parchment paper.
2. Combine Orange Velvet Cake mix with 2 eggs, 4 Tbsp. butter, ¼ cup flour, 2 tsp. vanilla extract and 1-1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice in a large bowl. Beat at low speed with electric mixer 30 seconds or until just moistened, scraping sides of bowl with rubber spatula. Continue beating at medium speed 2 minutes. Stir in ½ cup nuts. Dough will be thick. Repeat in separate large bowl with Brown Velvet Cake Mix.
3. Arrange each dough onto baking pan and with floured hands, pat each into 12”x4” logs.

4. Bake 40 minutes. Let cool slightly. Slice each log into ½-inch diagonal slices. Arrange slices on baking pan and bake an additional 20 minutes. Transfer to wire rack and cool completely.
5. Melt frosting in a microwave safe bowl on high for 20 seconds or until just melted. Drizzle on biscotti.

Notes:
* As a variation, use 2-teaspoon ground cinnamon and ¼ teaspoon allspice.
** We did not use any nuts!
*** Instead of melted frosting, we drizzled melted candy melts (with a bit of vegetable oil mixed it, to make it runny) on top of our biscotti.

Disclosure: I received a product sample to facilitate my review. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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The opinions expressed on the Bonggamom Finds blog are the personal views of the author; any reviews or recommendations are not intended to constitute medical advice or treatment in any form. In addition, neither the Bonggamom Finds blog nor its author are liable, and cannot be held liable, for any dissatisfaction you may have with the product, sponsor or any injuries that may be caused by use of that product.

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