Concrete ways to make a difference in the fight against breast cancer

This week I found out that a friend of mine was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. During Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Oh, the irony.

Breast cancer is a personal issue for me because my family has a strong history of breast cancer. My grandmother had breast cancer. So did her sisters (my great-aunts). So did her daughter (my aunt). Sometimes it's disheartening and I think it's just a matter of time before I get it too.

For years I worked hard to bring awareness of breast cancer through my blogs. I wore pink every day and blogged about it every day in October, along with pleas to donate to breast cancer research and get regular mammograms (or encourage the women in your life to get mammograms).  Gradually I began to see that awareness is no longer the issue. Wearing pink and posting your bra color on Facebook are cute memes that are designed to raise awareness, but everyone is already AWARE. The time for AWARENESS is done, and it's time for ACTION.

So this October, I pledge not to wear pink every day, but to talk to people about concrete steps they can take to make a difference in the fight against breast cancer:

Know your family history

Do you have a family history of breast cancer? Would it make sense to get tested for the breast cancer gene? Knowledge is power! Note that the new guidelines for breast cancer screening put forward by the American Cancer Society do not apply to those with a family history of breast cancer!  My parents were always open about my strong genetic link to breast cancer and the need to stay vigilant through self-care and regular check-ups.

Live a healthy lifestyle

I try to be positive and do everything I can to reduce the risk of getting breast cancer in other ways. I try to eat healthy foods and avoid foods containing known carcinogens. I try to get regular exercise. I have never smoked and I have never done drugs. I don't drink regularly.  I think everyone, not just people with a family history of breast cancer, should do the same.

Be a friend

If you have a friend with breast cancer, don't be a stranger. Instead of words of sympathy, offer to take over part of her carpool duties. Invite her kids over to your house after school on the days she gets chemo treatments. Cook dinner for her family.

Donate to breast cancer research or care programs

The marketplace is flooded with pink products, which in my opinion isn't a bad thing. I don't have a big problem with pink products, even though I've already said enough with the awareness. I would buy pink products more to show support rather than to spread awareness. Also, be aware that not all of the money you spend on pink products will go towards research.

For the biggest impact, donate directly to a nonprofit organization that funds research or programs that help people with breast cancer. Do your research to make sure that a big chunk of your donation doesn't end up being spent on marketing and fundraising. Check out Charity Navigator or check out this post for a summary of reputable organizations.

Get screened

Early detection is key! Even as the second most common cancer among women in the United States, millions of women are surviving breast cancer thanks in part to early detection and improvements in treatment. Follow the American Cancer Society's recommendations for breast exams, including regular mammograms and breast self exams.

Get insured

Consider insurance policies that can help ease worries about the financial cost of breast cancer if it were to occur. Fighting breast cancer can be expensive, even with health insurance. In addition to treatment costs, extra costs include child care, transportation to the hospital, grocery delivery, and more. Aflac has a cancer insurance policy that can help cover those out-of-pocket costs. Plus, with Aflac’s recently introduced One Day PaySM initiative, which allows Aflac to process, approve and pay eligible claims in just a day, you can have the cash you need in hand faster than ever before.

How Aflac is supporting the cause this Breast Cancer Awareness Month

For Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Aflac will be partnering with the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) again for its second annual “This Duck Wears Pink” campaign.

Aflac is selling a variety of campaign-related merchandise including the plush duck, hats and a breast cancer ribbon pin, with all the net proceeds going to the AACR for the specific purpose of funding research aimed at finding a cure for breast cancer.

Aflac supports the groundbreaking work of the AACR – the first and largest cancer research organization in the world with a membership of more than 35,000 professionals residing in 101 countries working on the front lines of the effort to eradicate cancer. The AACR backs every aspect of high-quality, innovative cancer research.

You can donate and shop for merchandise here.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

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Label Daddy: Label the things you love

Are you forever losing things?  No doubt someone has run into them, but unless your stuff is labeled, they have no way of knowing it belongs to you, or how to contact you. Pretty much everything in our house is labeled. Not only does it help our stuff get back to us, it also helps my kids distinguish between their stuff when they own identical stuff.

Label Daddy is one of the first online label companies, and I been a fan of Label Daddy since 2009. Kids love their adorable designs (they even have Disney and Marvel characters, MLB, NBA, and NHL team logos!), and parents love the durability. They're washer/dryer safe, microwave safe, dishwasher safe and UV resistant!

I was thrilled when Label Daddy invited me to review a pack of labels. I chose the small all-purpose labels, which come in an 80-count pack for just $20. The smaller size is great for adults because you can tastefully label just about anything -- sunglass/eyeglass cases, phones, cameras, sports equipment, tablest, e-readers, lunch cases, to name a few things. Label Daddy also makes larger sized labels which are great for preschoolers and elementary kids.

You can customize your labels with different text styles, colors, and icons.  We have used these to label our kids' sports equipment, water bottles, pencil cases, backpacks, sleeping bag cases, hair brushes, toothbrushes, and so much more. If it can get lost or left behind, you should label it!

For extra extra durability, you can get your labels laminated for an extra $4.95. Laminated labels will resist fading even after prolonged exposure to sunscreen, chlorine, and other chemicals.

Save on Label Daddy

Save 20% on your entire Label Daddy order - this is the best discount available anywhere. Use code USFAMILY20 at checkout.

Disclosure: I received a set of labels for review purposes. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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Everything you need to know about Halloween Haunt at California's Great America

Great America Halloween Haunt

Halloween is my favorite time of the year! Every year, I like to take my kids to fun places and events to enjoy the spookiest fun of the season.  Now that my youngest are in middle school, they're old enough to enjoy the scarier side of Halloween, namely all the haunted houses and mazes!  This year we visited Halloween Haunt at California's Great America for the first time ever, and we had an amazing time.

We had no idea what to expect, because strangely enough, I couldn't find too many guides or articles about Halloween Haunt. So I decided to write my own guide, for families who think they might want to attend, but aren't sure because they don't know what to expect.  Keep reading below for everything you need to know about the Halloween Haunt at Great America!

What is Haunted Halloween?

Every year, zombies and skeletons and ghosts descend upon California's Great America, transforming the park into a monster wonderland on weekend nights in October. The park features special Halloween attractions, including haunted mazes, scare zones, and live shows.

Haunted Mazes

This is what everyone comes to Halloween Haunt for!  Great America has nine spooky themed mazes, all decorated down to the last horrifying detail, including strobe lights, black lights, fog, and creepy music to set the mood.  As if that weren't enough, costumed actors are lurking through the maze at every corner, ready to jump out at you without warning and have you jump out of your skin!

The Haunted Mazes at Halloween Haunt for 2015 are:

  • Insanitarium -- No one gets better at this medical facility.
  • Dia De Los Muertos -- Black light illuminates the legends and mysteries of the Day of the Dead. Probably the least scary and the most visually appealing maze. 
  • ZombieHigh -- A high school reunion to die for.
  • Wax Museum Chamber of Horrors -- A haunted wax museum where you can't tell which displays are wax and which ones are alive. Our favorite maze!
  • Roadkill Road House -- Zombies with meat cleavers invade a barbecue restaurant, spattering guts and gore everywhere.
  • CornStalkers -- Scarecrows live up to their name as you make your way through hay bales and corn stalks.
  • MadameMarie’s Massacre Manor -- A haunted southern mansion filled with voodoo and ghosts.
  • Mirror Mirror -- The classic fun house mirror maze is anything but fun.
  • Toy Factory -- Creepy toys comes to life. 
Great America Halloween Haunt (3)

Scare Zones

In additional to the Haunted Mazes, Halloween Haunt features three Scare Zones, which are outdoor areas that all visitors pass through as they make their way around the park. Each Scare Zone is decorated in a specific theme, and costumed actors roam the area scaring guests out of their wits interacting with guests. Each Scare Zone has lots of fog and spooky lights, so if you're too scared to enter a Haunted Maze but still want some of the spooky atmosphere, walk through a Scare Zone! The monsters and zombies in the Scare Zones are a bit friendlier than the ones in the mazes; often they'll say more to you than just "Boo",  and they are happy to pose for photos.

The Scare Zones at Halloween Haunt are:
  • Killer Clown Town, featuring zombie clowns with hammers and chainsaws
  • Lockdown, featuring zombies coming out of giant shipping containers
  • Evacuate, featuring zombies crawling out of abandoned vehicles
Great America Halloween Haunt (42a)

Live Shows

Live, Halloween-themed performances happen throughout the park. We watched a group of amazing percussionists combing drumming, neon lights, and sparks into one entertaining show at Planet Snoopy.
Great America Halloween Haunt (43)

Regular Attractions

Many of the park's regular attractions are open, so you get the thrill of riding your favorite rollercoasters like Flight Deck, Gold Striker, The Grizzly, and The Demon in the dark.
Great America Halloween Haunt (24)

Dates and times

Halloween haunt is open at California's Great America on weekends in October:

Friday and Saturday nights through October 11: 7pm-midnight
Friday and Saturday nights, October 16-31: 7pm-1am
Sunday nights: 7pm-midnight (opens 7:30pm on October 4 and 18)

Note: tickets to Halloween Haunt do not grant park admission during the day, and there is no readmission to the park.
Great America Halloween Haunt (19)


Halloween Haunt tickets start at $36. Many discounts are available, including volume discounts, discounts for 2015 and 2016 regular season pass holders, student discounts, AAA discounts and more. Admission is free for 2015 and 2016 Gold Pass holders.

Extras: Fright Lane passes cost an additional $50 (combo discounts with Haunt tickets are available). and the Haunt Boo-fet (all-you-can-eat dinner, 5:00-7:00 on selected days) costs $13.95 per person.
Great America Halloween Haunt (38)


  • The event is recommended for ages 13 and up.  They don't enforce the age restriction, though, so parents will have to decide. My boys are 11, and my 14 year-old daughter was way more terrified than they were! If you do want to celebrate Halloween at Great America with younger kids, buy a day time ticket and enjoy The Great Pumpkin Fest with Snoopy and the Peanuts Gang. They have trick-or-treating, pumpkin decorating, and a hay maze until November 1.
  • Grab a map after you pass through the ticket stiles so you can find all the Haunted Mazes, Scare Zones, and shows.
  • Visitors are not allowed to come in costume. 
  • Actors are not allowed to touch you (and vice versa!).
  • Flash photography is not allowed (but you can take photos/videos without a flash).
  • You can purchase a "No Boo" glowing necklace so you can pass through the Scare Zones without any of the actors approaching or scaring you. Note, the No Boo necklace doesn't guarantee a no-scare experience because the actors may not see the necklace until it is too late. Also, No Boo necklaces aren't allowed in the mazes.
  • The lines for the mazes were as long as 30-40 minutes. One of the people I spoke to said the line for the Roadkill maze reached 2 hours long the night before! If you want to make sure you see all the mazes, purchase a Fright Lane pass. Note however, that the Fright Lane pass does not work for any of the regular park rides, only the 9 Haunted Mazes
  • If you want to visit the Mirror Mirror maze, go there first (it's near the Flying Eagles and Firefall attractions). Space is limited, so they will assign you a return time (kind of like Disney's Fast Pass) on a first-come, first-served basis until the attraction is full for the night.

Halloween Haunt is a great way for older kids and adults to celebrate Halloween! I would definitely recommend it to families with middle-school kids and up to go to California's Great America for some spooky fun..... if you dare.......
Great America Halloween Haunt (62)

Disclosure: I received complimentary media passes to Halloween Haunt to facilitate my review. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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Get ready for Game Day with P&G and Lucky Supermarkets

Procter & Gamble

It’s hard to believe the NFL season is already upon us! Families are gearing up for game day week after week, so Lucky Supermarkets and Procter and Gamble have you covered for all your game day party needs. Laundry essentials like Tide, Downy, and Bounce make sure you have clean, fresh towels in the guest bathroom and crisp, comfortable team gear to show your team’s pride. And, to help tackle that post-game mess, products like Dawn, Bounty, Cascade, Swiffer and Febreze have you covered.

This year, P&G is partnering with Lucky Supermarkets to bring NFL excitement and savings to shoppers, and to celebrate the partnership, San Francisco 49ers alumni Roger Craig made an appearance at the San Bruno Lucky Supermarket last week.
Procter & Gamble

I attended the event and it was amazing to see how beloved Roger still is among 49ers fans. The line to meet him seemed to last forever!
Procter & Gamble

Fans got to meet Roger, shake his hand, get his autograph, and pose for a photo.
Procter & Gamble Roger Craig, San Francisco 49ers

Even better, shoppers who purchased $40 worth of P&G products that day received a mini pink football signed by Roger!
Roger Craig, San Francisco 49ers

Look who's got her pink football, all ready for game day!
Roger Craig, San Francisco 49ers

Roger could not have been nicer to all his fans, young and old. Thank you to P&G for inviting me to such a fun event!
Roger Craig, San Francisco 49ers

How do *you* prepare for game day with Procter & Gamble products? Leave a comment below with your answer, and you'll be entered to win a special P&G prize package that includes:

· $25 Lucky Supermarket gift card
· Tide PODS
· Cascade Action Pacs
· Febreze Air Effects
· Pantene 2-in-1 Shampoo/Conditioner
· Crest Toothpaste

1 comment per person please! I'll draw a winner at random on October 31, 2015. Winner must have a US address. Good luck!

Disclosure: I received a prize package from P&G, via Blue Chip Communications, as a thank you for posting. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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The Moscow Ballet's Great Russian Nutcracker s coming to Cupertino

The Nutcracker has been a holiday tradition for me ever since I was a little girl. Even when I couldn't see it live, I would watch it on TV. My daughter has been performing in her dance school's Nutcracker since she was 7 years old -- she is now on her 8th year!  We also try to catch live performances with local ballet companies to inspire and enchant her.

I've always wanted to watch the Moscow Ballet, and now I will get the chance because they are coming to the US to perform the Nutcracker! I can't wait!

It's the ultimate holiday tradition and creates memories for a lifetime. The production includes over 200 romantic costumes and 10' tall playful animal puppets; shimmering colorful, backdrops splashed with 3-D effects; life-sized Matrushka (Nesting) Dolls and a puppet show for shadowing the Nutcracker Story at the opening Christmas Party. During the battle with Nutcracker Prince and the 3-headed Rat King, a golden cannon shoots roses! In the Magical Snow Forest an authentic Russian style Troika Sleigh, known as the fastest sleigh in the world, is escorted by Father Christmas (Ded Moroz) and Snow Maiden (Snegurochka) on their way to Act II. The Great Russian Nutcracker is known for its dedication to world peace with Act II named the "Land of Peace and Harmony." The first scene of Act II features a stunning "Dove of Peace" with a 20' wingspan and danced by 2 dancers each with one feathered wing. All ages feel the spirit of the season at Moscow Ballet's Great Russian Nutcracker!

Here are the dates for Northern California:

Bakersfield, CA:
Fox Theatre
December 17, 7:00 PM

Cupertino, CA:
Flint Center- De Anza College
December 18, 4:00 PM
December 18, 8:00 PM

Fresno, CA:
The Warnor
November 29, 3:00 PM

Redding, CA:
Redding Convention Center
December 25

San Francisco, CA:
The Warfield
November 28, 3:00 PM
November 28, 7:00 PM

Santa Rosa, CA:
Wells Fargo Center for the Arts
December 19, 3:00 PM
December 19, 7:00 PM

For a Full Schedule of Event Dates/Venues and Times  visit  And use the code JOY to get the biggest discount of the season for your family!

Save on the Moscow Ballet's celebrated Great Russian Nutcracker 2015 North American Tour. USE PROMO CODE: JOY

Disclosure: I am receiving complimentary tickets to view and review the show, courtesy of The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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Five Tips for Easy Travel with Kids

Alfie and I love to travel, and we have been traveling as a family from the time we got married. I took all three of my kids on long-haul flights before they were a year old! Since then we've visited many cities and countries, and stayed in everything from five-star resorts to campgrounds and everything in between.  Vacations with kids can be "challenging" -- kids don't deal well with changes in schedule, hunger, fatigue or sleepiness (come to think of it, neither do parents!). But we've learned a lot of tips and tricks along the way to help keep our kids happy and keep our vacations more enjoyable.

I'm listing five of those tips below. And since I happen to be a 2015 Resident Blogger Ambassador for Marriott, I also want to highlight how one of Marriott's most family-friendly brands, Residence Inn by Marriott,actually makes is a lot easier to implement those tips.  Here are five tips to make travel easier with kids (and five ways Residence Inn can help):

Separate sleeping quarters

Maintaining bedtime and naptime schedules are always difficult while away from home, and families should be flexible when it comes to staying up past their kids' bedtimes. But rest is essential for young kids, and things are much easier for everyone in the family if your little sleepers have their own room. That way, grownups can pull the curtains, close the door, and let young travelers recharge while they relax in a separate room.  What's more, multi-room suites like the ones at the Residence Inn are even better in the morning when the little ones wake up before you do!

Eat a good breakfast every day

When you have a day packed with adventures ahead of you, a good breakfast is essential. Having breakfast at your hotel is so much more convenient that having to track down a cafe or restaurant in the morning. When the breakfast is fresh and ready to eat like it is at the Residence Inn, that's even better -- everyone gets healthy choices no matter what they like to eat!

Make sure your room has a microwave (or better yet, a kitchen!)

Need to warm up a bottle in the middle of the night? Have a picky eater who doesn't like any of the food at the cafe (or a child with food allergies)? Residence Inn's mini-kitchen means that you never have to leave the comforts of home!  Bonus: having a kitchen also means you can take a break from expensive eateries and have a pizza dinner in your room without leaving crumbs all over the bed.

Have a back-up plan for snacks and supplies

No matter how well you plan for your trip, you're going to forget something. Or you're going to need something you didn't even anticipate. Just accept that! If your toddler accidentally spills all of his Cheerios, or if you run out of toothpaste, or if you just had an extra-tiring or extra-stressful day and need a midnight snack, take note of the convenience stores near your hotel and check their opening ours. If you're staying at a Residence Inn, you're in luck: they have a mini market with all the staples you need. They also have coffee and tea in the lobby.

Take advantage of technology

The internet is a wonderful planning tool -- take advantage of it! Use it to check out bus routes, make restaurant reservations, and even to buy attraction tickets online before you go -- it saves you time in line, and for many big museums, it guarantees you entrance during your chosen time window. Residence Inn makes sure that you have internet access throughout your stay.  They have free wifi throughout the property, a business center with workstations and printer, even a boarding pass center where you can check in to your flight and print your boarding pass (hey, that's one less line you have to go through at the airport!)

Many people say that traveling with kids isn't really a vacation, but I beg to disagree. With my tips above, you'll find it so much easier, and you'll make a lot of precious family memories!

Disclosure: I am a Resident Blogger Ambassador for Residence Inn by Marriott, and I was given a gift card to experience the Residence Inn while traveling with my family. No other travel expenses were provided. The views and opinions expressed here are my own..

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