McDonalds is giving away FREE merchandise to celebrate McDelivery on July 26


McDonalds McDelivery merchandise

When I first heard that McDonald's will be partnering with UberEATS to offer delivery service, I was excited. Finally, a way for people who can't get away from their desks or homes (I see you, stay-at-home moms with kids napping!) to enjoy their favorite Big Macs or McRibs! Now I'm even more excited because McDonald's will GIVING AWAY FREE McMerchandise on July 26 to celebrate! Think Big Mac onesies, Egg McMuffin hoodies, Quarter Pounder pillows and more. Go to McDeliveryatMcDonalds.com on July 25 to see if your city is one of the lucky ones that will be participating in the freebie bonanza. The McDonald's delivery service via UberEATS starts July 26.


Disclosure: I did not receive a sample or monetary compensation for this post.  The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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Summer Fun at California's Great America



Summer is halfway over, and if you haven't been to California's Great America yet, you're missing out! We spent the first half of summer traveling, but now that we're home, visits to California's Great America are definitely on our agenda. In fact, we already have season passes! Even if we weren't able to use our season passes for the first half of the summer, there's still plenty of time to enjoy all the rides and attractions at Great America. And since the season pass is good all the way through December, we get to enjoy Great America for many more months to come. That includes Halloween Haunt and Winterfest.... but I'm getting ahead of myself. There's so much summer fun to be had!

One of the best things about California's Great America during the summer is Boomerang Bay. There are times we go to the park just for Boomerang Bay! It's such a fun way to keep cool when the temperatures soar. It's by far our favorite water park in the Bay Area.  Whether you enjoy plunging down slides...

... or floating lazily on a river....


... or getting dunked while climbing on a playground, Boomerang Bay is the place to go.


Of course there are all the great Great America rides, including the meanest, fastest wooden roller coaster in the Wild Wild West, Gold Rush.


My kids adore Tiki Twirl. It's probably the only spinning ride that I enjoy, so I take advantage and ride it whenever I can!


This ride is NOT for the faint of heart. My kids could probably ride this all day long.

The double decker carousel is a perennial favorite, whether you're 2, 12, 22, or any age. The kids all have their favorite animals, and it makes a nice shady break. An added bonus: there's rarely any line!


California's Great America also has a lot of carnival games and shows, so there's plenty to keep kids entertained all day, every day. Our season pass is so worth it!


Disclosure: The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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Save big with Groupon Coupons


Over the years, I have used Groupon to get some fantastic savings on everything from bikini waxes to driving school for my daughter to airport limos to yoga classes to a box of KrispyKreme donuts. Seriously, what could be better than a Groupon deal?  Well, how about Groupon Coupons? Now you don't have to wait for a Groupon deal to show up! With Groupon Coupons, you can enjoy great savings at your favorite stores. You can find Groupon Coupons for hundreds of stores, whether they are in your area or not.

So exactly what is Groupon Coupons? Groupon Coupons is a partnership between Groupon and over 9,000 national retailers with the aim of passing savings along to customers. Every company needs to reduce inventory through sales and this is the perfect bridge for that. Groupon Coupons is an entirely free and efficient way for shoppers to find thousands of coupons and exclusive promo codes from popular stores and companies like Sephora, Ebay, Oakley, PetSmart, Nordstrom, Walgreens, and so many more. Shoppers simply search by store to find the best deal for them.
For instance, we just got back from a fabulous vacation to the Philippines, Thailand, and Bangkok. Usually whenever we travel, I get a photo book made to commemorate our trip. Shutterfly is one of my favorite photo book companies because it's so easy to make photo books with their online software. I just upload photos and the photo book practically makes itself. Shutterfly always has great deals, but Groupon Coupons just happens to have a ton of Shutterfly coupon deals right now! I love that the deals are all in one place, so I can choose the coupon that gives me the most savings. For instance, here are some of the Shutterfly deals on Groupon right now:

  • 40% off everything
  • Free shipping
  • Free 8x8 photo book
  • Free luggage tag

Want another example? I'm currently on the market for a new cell phone -- which means I'm also on the market for a new cell phone case! It would be inconceivable for me to get a phone without a case. For my past 3 phones I have gone with Speck phone cases, and they have worked unbelievably well for me. I can't tell you how many times my phone has been saved by my Speck case! I have dropped phones on the floor, on the street, and off table edges, and my phone screen has survived intact. What's more, even though Speck phone cases offer military grade protection, they don't look like a military tank! Speck phone cases are fun and colorful and I love them.  The Groupon coupon site for Speck currently has some fantastic deals, including:

  • Free shipping on any order
  • Upgrade to 2-day shipping for only $5
  • Up to 50% off select items

These are just some of the great coupons featured on Groupon coupon!


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

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Summer Camp and Label Daddy


Label Daddy

Are your kids headed out to summer camp? Make sure all the stuff is labeled so you don't have to spend a fortune replacing everything! Label Daddy labels are the perfect way to keep track of everything. These labels are super durable peel-and-stick washable labels -- they're washer/dryer safe, microwave safe, dishwasher safe and UV resistant! Label Daddy labels are also fun and attractive. You design your own labels! Pick from tons of colors, sizes and logos, including MLB, NBA, and NHL team logos, other sport and fun logos, and more. These labels are made in the USA and shipped directly to you worldwide.

Label Daddy let me choose a set of labels so I could see how easy it is to order labels and how great the labels are. Of course, I already know this because I've been a Label Daddy customer since 2009! But Label Daddy is always innovating with new designs, colors, and fonts, so took them up on their offer. I was certainly not disappointed. It's amazing to see all the design options! Kids going off to summer camp can get labels made with logos from popular summer camps. Sports fans can get labels with logos from the NBA, MBL, and NFL. There are emoji logos and many more. You can also get labels without logos or designs.

Whatever you need for camp, Label Daddy has a label for it. Allergy labels? Check. Clothing labels? You can choose from iron-on or stick-on! Bag tags? Yup, they have it, along with shoe labels and all-purpose labels for everything from flashlights to toothbrushes.  The labels I ordered arrived quickly, and the colors were true and bright. I've never had a Label Daddy label fade, so I don't expect these will fade, either. Check off one more item from your kid's summer camp to-do list and order Label Daddy labels ASAP! You can even save 25% on your entire Label Daddy order - this is the best discount available anywhere. Use code USFAMILY25 when you check out at www.usfamily25.labeldaddy.com
Label Daddy


Disclosure: I received free labels from Label Daddy. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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Five easy snack ideas with California Walnuts


Walnuts, how do we love thee? Let me count the ways! When California Walnuts challenged me to come up with ideas for snacks or dishes using walnuts and other pantry items, it was hardly a challenge at all. Walnuts are a staple in our house. Alfie loves walnuts and eats them every single day.  We love having walnuts in our salad or on cereal. We eat walnuts with cheese, olives, and crackers. Walnuts make a great crunchy batter for fish or pork. Finally, they are wonderful in baked goods!  Here are four dishes that I was able to make using ingredients already in our kitchen -- no last minute grocery run needed:

1) Instead of munching on potato chips, grab some walnuts! Just a handful of walnuts will fill you up, and they're chock full of nutrients including omega-3 fats, folate, antioxidants and more. They're a true superfood! If you don't like raw walnuts, you can toast them with a pinch of salt, or make candied walnuts.

2) One of the easiest and most delicious ways to enjoy walnuts is to toss them into a salad. Walnuts go well with fruit and cheese (two other pantry staples!), so in the salad below we topped mixed greens with a combination of walnuts, gorgonzola cheese, and cranberries. You can a drizzle of olive oil and lemon, but this salad is already so flavorful that you won't need much.
salad with walnuts


3) When we aren't in the mood for salad, we just skip the greens and enjoy walnuts, fruit, and cheese!


4) If you're in a baking mood, you can't beat walnut chocolate chip cookies! This recipe from Country Cupboard Cookies is divine. The walnuts give these cookies a wonderfully nutty taste and keep the cookies from being overly sweet. Instead of using walnut pieces as the recipe specifies, I prefer to grind the walnuts to a fine crumble. That way the walnut taste is evenly distributed across the cookie.


5) Another walnutty treat we love is cranberry orange walnut muffins. These are great for a quick, hearty breakfast.They're not overly sweet, almost like a scone, so you can enjoy them with jam or honey. They have a wonderfully fluffy, moist texture thanks my secret ingredient - yogurt - but they're nice and hearty thanks to secret ingredient number 2: walnuts! You can find the recipe on my blog. Enjoy!
walnut cranberry orange muffins


For more walnut recipes, go to walnuts.org. You 'll also find preparation tips, snack ideas, storage info, and more.



Disclosure: I received sample products from California Walnuts  The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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Summer fun means Label Daddy


Label Daddy

Save 25% on Label Daddy labels! Label Daddy is the number one solution for labeling your belongings! Their exclusive laminated coating gives labels an extra layer of protection and is a must for camp! Remember to label all clothing, sports equipment, electronics, and other personal belongings your kids bring to school, camp, sports leagues, day care, vacation, and other places. Label Daddy labels keep them from getting lost or mixed up with others. These labels are great for adults too! -- Put them on your sunglass/eyeglass case, phone, camera, sports equipment, tablet, e-reader, hats, clothing, and more.


These labels are super durable peel-and-stick washable labels -- they're washer/dryer safe, microwave safe, dishwasher safe and UV resistant! Label Daddy labels are also fun and attractive. You design your own labels! Pick from tons of colors, sizes and logos, including MLB, NBA, and NHL team logos, other sport and fun logos, and more. These labels are made in the USA and shipped directly to you worldwide.

Save 25% on your entire Label Daddy order - this is the best discount available anywhere. Use code USFAMILY25 at checkout. www.usfamily25.labeldaddy.com

Label Daddy



Disclosure: I am receiving a code for free labels in order to facilitate my review.  The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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Meet the Easter Bunny at the Great Mall of the Bay Area!


Easter is almost here! Avoid the Easter Sunday rush and get your photos taken with the Easter Bunny before April 18. The Easter Bunny has taken up residence at the Great Mall of the Bay Area, and he's waiting to make friends with children of all ages -- including teens like my kids. It has been a while since the kids have posed for photos with the Easter Bunny, so when the opportunity arose to take some photos with the Easter Bunny, I jumped at the chance. 

You'd think my teens would be whining and groaning about it, but they more than game to see the Easter Bunny. To be honest, it's not like we need much of an excuse to visit the Great Mall of the Bay Area.  Even though it's a bit of a drive from our home, we love going to the Great Mall because there are so many outlet stores with great prices, and they're all in one place, so I can get all my clothes shopping done in one visit. My teen boys actually ask me if they can go to the Great Mall to buy clothes! Their favorite brands like Vans and PacSun and UNIQLO and Adidas and Nike and Forever 21 are all here, as well as their favorite Filipino fast food restaurant, Jollibee. 
  
Easter Bunny at the Great Mall of the Bay Area

 You'll find the Easter Bunny in the center court at Area 2 of the Great Mall of the Bay Area. His little spring hut is brightly decorated and the perfect setting for your family's Easter photos.

Easter Bunny at the Great Mall of the Bay Area

You can choose from several print packages which range from $25 to $35, with add-ons like photo magnets, photo keychains, and photo CD.  You can also select an all-digital package which consists of all your photos on a CD for $29.99. Each package comes with coupons for a free photo book on Shutterfly, and it's given to you in a cute shopping bag printed with images from the animated movie Sing!.

Because we live in a digital world, I selected the photo CD package. I think it's the best deal of all because you get multiple poses (we got 7!) and all the rights to the digital images, so you can send them via email, post them on social media,  or print them in any size you want.

The cd includes a printout of the thumbnails of your images, which is very important, because this printout contains the id number of each pose. When I got home and loaded the cd onto my laptop, I discovered that I had been given a blank cd! This was annoying, as you can imagine, but thanks to responsive customer service and those all-important id numbers, I was able to contact someone and they were able to retrieve my images! I was so relieved and happy. I can't give enough praise to the Great Mall customer service team as well as the Noerr Programs Photography team for how they handled the whole thing.


Despite that momentary glitch, all's well that ends well. How could I not be happy with these happy smiles?!  It has been a while since my kids visited the Easter Bunny, so it was quite the reunion. They were a bit too large to sit on his lap, but there was plenty of room on Easter Bunny's garden bench.
Easter Bunny photos
Easter Bunny photos
Easter Bunny photos


The kids had so much fun hamming it up with the Easter Bunny. My favorite photo is this one, where they're all giving each other Bunny Ears!
Easter Bunny photos



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

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Enjoy gourmet treats every month with Sweets GiftBox


Sweets GiftBox


Whenever I'm at the checkout line at a gourmet store, I'm always tempted by the gourmet bites for sale -- squares of caramel, a beautifully frosted cookie, a small chocolate sampler, a bag of nuts -- but I never know which ones to get. Buying them all to take home and try seems like too many calories and too much money. A more practical -- and fun -- solution is a subscription to Sweets Giftbox, a service that sends you 4-5 curated gourmet treats every month. They find the best treats around and send them to you so you can have a delicious time discovering new favorites!

Sweets Giftbox sent me their latest box to try, and I'm so glad this happened in February, because each monthly box has a different theme, and February's theme was -- you guessed it -- chocolate and caramel.
Sweets GiftBox

The box contained:

A Mayana Fix Bar, which like a gourmet Twix bar: vanilla bean shortbread cookie topped with fleur de sal caramel and covered with dark chocolate. I'm already a fan of the ordinary Twix bar, so the Fix Bar was absolute heaven. I'm craving another one already. It's going to be my new fix!
Sweets GiftBox



A pack of fleur de sal caramels from Sweet Jules Gifts. They are sooooo good. All I can say is that I'm glad that 3Po and Jammy have braces and that The Pea is recovering from dental surgery, so none of them can eat caramels right now and I can eat them all by myself.
Sweets GiftBox


A caramel milk chocolate bar from Ethel M. Chocolates. We've visited the Ethel M. museum and factory in Las Vegas so I know how scrumptious their chocolates are, and I can't wait to enjoy this.
Sweets GiftBox


Funky Chunky chocolate caramel pretzels. The salty crunchiness of the pretzels goes so well with the chewy sweetness of the caramel and the creaminess of the chocolate. Shhhh, I ate these all by myself. I couldn't stop!
Sweets GiftBox


The kids attacked and demolished the Lucky Guy brownie before I had a chance to photograph it separately, so I wasn't able to show you how fudgy and rich the inside of this brownie was. It was absolutely divine!
Sweets GiftBox


Other than Ethel M, I have never heard of these brand before, so if it weren't for Sweets GiftBox, I would never have discovered them (seriously, I'm already making plans to buy more of that Mayana Fix Bar).  Other months will have different themes and different products -- think of gourmet chocolates, cookies, candies, popcorn, nuts, etc... You won't know what's in the box beforehand (that would spoil the surprise!) but based on the quality of the treats in the box I received, I think I trust their taste.

You can sign up for a monthly subscription for $25 per month (1 box per month), or you can sign up for just a single box for $30. Shipping is included in the price. That's an average of $5 per treat, which might sound pricey, but I looked up the Mayana Fix Bar online (I told you I was serious), and it costs $8. So you're getting a curated box of goodies at a great price. It's a wonderful present for a friend or a wonderful way to treat yourself to new flavors and yummy discoveries every month. Use the code below to save on your first Sweets GiftBox and taste it for yourself!

Sweets GiftBox

Save on your first Sweets GiftBox

Use the code SWEETSTUFF and receive 50% off a new subscription or 40% off a one-time purchase

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

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Test driving the Mazda CX-9



We've owned a minivan for 12 years now, and it has served us well. But now that our kids are older, we're finding that we need less vehicle space -- no more car seats, strollers, and diaper bags. The van is getting older and as we start to think about replacing it, we find that our eyes are beginning to wander towards SUVs and crossovers. These vehicles still have the space that we need, but they're a bit more sleek and stylish!

Sleek and stylish is certainly the vibe given off by the Mazda CX-9, an SUV crossover designed for families who need performance in a vehicle as much as they practicality. We test drove the Mazda CX-9 during our holiday road trip to Hollywood and Disneyland, and I have to say, it certainly made the 6 hour (8 with traffic!) journey between Northern and Southern California a lot easier to bear!



LUXURY EXTERIOR

Before you even step inside the CX-9, you know instantly that this is a luxury vehicle. The shape is sleek and aerodynamic, and the body has chrome trim throughout. Even the most basic trim level comes with 18-inch wheels, and 20-inch wheels come standard with the Grand Touring level and up. Our vehicle came in a handsome slate grey which really adds to the air of sophistication.


LUXURY INTERIOR

The interior is just as beautiful. Some of the plastic interiors (like the dashboard trim) almost look like rosewood and leather, The leather seats are nice and wide. They're so comfortable, it honestly feels like you're relaxing in a recliner. The CX-9 does a great job of drowning out the outside noise, so you get a smooth, quiet ride. The only thing that keeps me from giving the CX-9 a perfect score for comfort is that the roof is quite low. I'm 5'8" and my husband is 5'11" (which is decently tall but not towering), and we both felt like the ceiling was touching our heads.


I have to give extra points for the pull-up window shades, which is soooo convenient when you have young kids. These shades are perfect for when your kids nap in the car.


INTERIOR SPACE

The CX-9 comes with 3rd row seating, and I was surprised at how roomy the 3rd row was. In many vehicles with 3rd row seating, my 13 year-old twins have to sit with their knees practically to their chest. But in the 3rd row of the CX-9, they were able to sit comfortably for a couple of hours without suffering from stiff legs. That being said, I wouldn't sit a tall adult (5' 2" and up) there for more than an hour at a time.


The split seat capability (60/40 in the 2nd row, 50/50 in the 3rd row) can really improve the space issue, because if you only need one seat in the third row, you can adjust the seat in front of it to give the 2nd row seat a little less legroom, which gives the 3rd row seat a bit more legroom. There's plenty of legroom in the 2nd row, so if you have two smaller adults, you can seat one in the 2nd row and one in the 3rd row directly behind, and share the legroom!


CARGO

With the 3rd row of seats down, there is a good amount of cargo space. I've read reviews of this car not having enough cargo space, but that really wasn't the case for us.


With the half of the 3rd row up and half down, there was enough luggage space for our family of five on a five-day trip.


I love how the rear has so many little storage compartments. Removable panels reveal little spaces to store emergency packs, extra clothes (a must if you have little kids), even your purse or camera. It's the perfect hiding place because no one can see what you're storing inside!



PERFORMANCE

Driving up mountains and passing cars on the highway was a breeze thanks to the 2.5L engine. You barely need to touch the gas pedal and this car immediately begins to zoom zoom zoom! It's definitely a lot of fun to drive (and the responsiveness definitely makes me feel safer in situations where you might need to speed up quickly).  You'd think this vehicle would be a real gas guzzler, but since it only have 4 cylinders, not 6, the fuel efficiency can be as good as 22 city/28 highway.


TECH 

The CX-9 has all the latest tech: color LCD screen with navigation, compass, and trip info, bluetooth connectivity (and lots of charging ports throughout the vehicle), display projection on the windshield, stereo sound, all the bells and whistles. But I have to admit that the touchscreen infotainment system and I did not get along at all. The controls were not intuitive, and even after a week of daily use. Also, I found the projected display (the LCD screen is projected onto the windshield) distracting. Unfortunately, the projection always defaults to "on"! I had to devise my own workaround (lower the viewing angle) to get it to disappear without my having to fiddle with the controls every single time I started the car.


Where Mazda does get the technology right is in their safety features. The backup camera, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert really helped us during our road trip. We felt extremely safe in this car, even when driving in torrential rain at night.


OPTIONS AND PRICE

The CX-9 is offered at 4 levels: Sport, Touring, Grand Touring, and Signature. If you can afford it, I would definitely go for the Touring trim level or higher, because you get quite a few luxury features as standard, like leather seats, power front seats, power hatchback and the cool safety features. You can get the CX-9 at its highest level (Signature), fully loaded, for under $45,000, which is a great value compared to other competitors in the 7-seater SUV field. Add in the decent (for its class) fuel economy, and the CX-9 should definitely be part of your short list when shopping for a new vehicle.


CONCLUSION

We had a great time with the Mazda CX-9 on our road trip. It's a comfortable, good looking vehicle with the right amount of space and power for our family's needs.  Check out the Mazda CX-9 at your local Mazda dealer and take it for a test drive!


Disclosure:. DriveShop lent me the use of the Mazda CM-9 for review purposes. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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