Tire Tips for Winter Road Trips

Now that the kids are back in school and fall is upon us, though it's no fun to consider wintry weather around the corner, it will come to pass sooner than later. So, as you're planning your ski trips and your island escapes, make sure to plan a little time for your tires, too. Here are some of my best tips for winter travel and good tires to keep you rolling through snow and ice.

Examine Your Treads

Did you know if you have a penny and a quick lesson you can make sure the tread life on your tires is good to go? It's true! Get out your penny -- put Abraham Lincoln headfirst into a tread bed -- if you can see any of the top of his head, time for new tires. If you happen to have a set of Cooper Tires, they have a tread indicator on the outside of the tire to make it that much easier, especially if you're fresh out of change!

Tire Pressure

One Christmas, my husband put a tire pressure gauge in my stocking. Not jewelry, nor candy. This TOOL! I wasn't impressed, but as he explained that he wanted me to be safe, that he'd put it there to ensure the safety of our little family on a day-to-day basis, it made me melt! (And then he DID give me some pretty adorable Mukluks that holiday, too!) But it's a simple skill to have -- everyone has a phone these days that can quickly look up appropriate seasonal pressure if you forget.

Tire Rotating and Alignment 

I've nearly had to switch mechanics because every winter I bring my car into the shop. "It's clunking and shaking and I cannot go faster than 45 mph without feeling like I'm in a rocket, about to blast off!" It took three times of this happening before I realized it was always the same problem! I went in thinking I desperately needed my tires rotated and left blushing, my tires and wheels freshly pressure-washed by the garage. You could say I was a tire hypochondriac, but the mechanic assured me it was better to be a little embarrassed than to go without regular rotation. (If you live on a dirt road, or one that gets a little sloppy, you might get ice knocking around in your wheels.) You should still be vigilant in rotating tires, even if you aren't rushing in constantly, like I was! Tire rotation is important because each tire carries a different amount of weight, so they wear differently. Consult your Owner's Manual for all specifics, BUT, usually a good rule is 5,000 - 8,000 miles. 

Invest in Winter Tires

Look for M+S on the tire if you're unsure -- generally for All Season tires, this means "mud and snow."

Winter tires offer extra grip and turning capabilities that for ices, snow, and freezing conditions. Even if you have 4-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, you still need winter tires!
Winter tires are made to perform better on wet roads, snow and ice--where I live, that's about 85% of the time. 
Tires that are made for warmer weather aren't going to perform well in colder temperatures -- they could limit your safe maneuvering! You might be thinking -- okay -- get All Season tires and you're always covered. Not so. All season tires are good for average conditions, overall. If you live where there are extremes weather conditions -- opt for more extreme tires. Deep snow and ice-covered roads will be better met with appropriate tires--take it from a gal that grew up with heaps of snow and skating on ice!

Other Helpful Hints

Check tire pressure at each fuel up -- maybe ask for one of those sparkly tools for Christmas?!

Stock Your Vehicle with Essentials

Add Roadside Assistance (or check to see if your insurance carries this already -- some policies do and you aren't even aware!)

Remember your tires can change your trip -- for better or worse -- depending on how YOU prepare before you hit the road! Make it a happy and safe holiday season by taking a little extra time and care and by following my easy steps to a safer winter road trip.

*Disclosure: Consideration was provided by brands mentioned in this post. All opinions are my own.* 

New Kids Subscription - Brick Loot

I'm pretty addicted to subscription boxes. It's no secret! I just love getting a surprise in the mail each month. I've managed to pass that love along to my oldest son, as he's discovered how fun it is too with Brick Loot!

We've gone through the block/brick chronology in our family. It all started with the giant mega/big blocks for building as a small child. Then came the Duplos. Those were a hit for a while, but there was a short gap of time when Legos were still too frustrating and Duplos were "for babies." That was a rough month! Ha!

Now, we're solidly interested in Lego building in this house. However, as you well know, Lego kits can get expensive! A great way to keep your Lego collection fresh without costing an arm and a leg is by signing up for a subscription club like Brick Loot!

Kids will get some new bricks and some other fun swag as well as activities to keep them busy! This means you don't have to run out to the store, they won't grow tired of what they have as quickly, and you don't have to deal with the "I'm bored" droning. They have fun and are occupied and it's economical!

There are various levels of subscriptions all around $25/month. That won't even buy one set unless you find super clearance sales, don't care what the subject matter is, or get a teeny tiny kit. Plus, you end up in Target and goodness knows that costs much more than $25 --- at least for me it does!

Disclosure: This post is brought to you by my affiliation with US Family Guides.

Mama Has Costume Drama -- Do You?

Disclosure: This post was crafted in part by my affiliation with US Family Guides. Consideration may have been given to featured brands and products. 

HalloweenCostumes.com is one of the largest costume retailers on the web. As far as costumes go, you can find many of the cheaper, mainstream costumes popular for this year based on movies and books in pop cultures at ANY website with costumes. It takes a little
searching to find some of the more unique options in a plethora of sizes and even a breadth of quality/cost options. This is that site!

I find it's even sort of fun just browsing costumes! Did I mention we love festivities and holidays in this house? I sort of wish every holiday or situation warranted dressing up! It's always a struggle for me to make decisions -- it should be like the Emmy's in my opinion, at least three costume changes on Halloween! And adults should be in on the fun! Family costumes are the BEST! Now, I have kids old enough to be interested in telling me what costume to buy for them. Yes, BUY. I'm not ever going to be the mom that can make anything other than a brown paper bag with eye holes -- I'm OKAY with that! 

Are there any dramatic decision making costume dilemmas in your household?

After you have found the perfect costume or costumes you want for Halloween or your next theme party, you can feel safe and secure placing your order with them knowing that they are Hacker Safe, Verisign Secure and certified by the BBB. 

FREE Shipping at HalloweenCostumes.com on orders over $65!


Disclosure: This post was crafted in part by my affiliation with US Family Guides. Consideration may have been given to featured brands and products. 

I Love You Just Because [Children's Book Review]

One of the many blessings that I've been afforded in motherhood is that my children simply love to read! I know that repetition is a building block of early literacy, but it's HARD to read Green Eggs and Ham 53 times. HARD I tell you!

I Love You Just Because

This is a feel good book that leaves children with confidence and the warm and fuzzies. A great read for parents that aren't super forth-coming with words of affirmation, seeing different varieties of bears and knowing that those differences make them special and relating it to your child's own unique characteristics makes learning about acceptance cute.

I love the material of the book, it's the "slightly springy plastic-type nearly board book but not quite but much sturdier than paperback and yet not quite hardcover" variety.

While I loved the themes and the faith-based extras -- there are passages relating mostly to God's love of children on each spread, I didn't like the number of words on the page. Now before you laugh, I'm not opposed to lengthier stories -- it just didn't match the whimsical nature of the bears and the subject manner. Maybe it is the addition of a passage for each bit of narrative, maybe it's just a slightly smaller font than I'd have liked. Something about the pages feels busy to me. Nothing major.

Other than that tiny idiosyncratic complaint, this is a fantastic, sturdy, heartfelt story and book and has been read more than a few times before bed. Sometimes a good story and some cuddly bears are all it takes to explain why everyone is someone special!

Disclosure: Consideration in some form was given to the writer because of her affiliation with Flyby Promotions. 

Travel Book Spotlight: "The Unofficial Guide to Mall of America" By Beth Blair [a review]

I'm a nerd. Through and through. Lately, well ever since we descended upon Walt Disney World Resort last spring, I've been a guidebook nut. Even if it's a place I'm not currently planning to visit, I just love pouring over guides and dreaming of one day visiting each destination. Then work brought me to Mall of America over Memorial weekend. I was dreading going to a giant shopping mall. I'm NOT a big shopper. BUT...

The Unofficial Guide to Mall of America by Beth Blair
 photo courtesy of Unofficial Guides
I LOVED IT. So did my preschooler. In fact, I may NEVER be able to come up with a mother-son date night to top the one we had at Nickelodeon Universe.

"You're the best mom ever!!"
(That really was emphasized that night...)

Granted, we were treated pretty awesome. Not your typical experience -- no lines, we played carnival games, we ate great food...no little brother to scream or dad to become bored or homesick! It was optimal to say the least. I think we rode the log flume a total of 12 times. I might have also spoofed and told my five-year old that Paul Bunyan (who makes a cameo inside the faux mountain) said "Hi there, little boy!" (You couldn't REALLY hear WHAT he was saying, because the water noises were muffling his speech.) So, naturally, I invented all sorts of fun, personalized dialogue!

After that experience, I put Mall of America at the top of my list of favorite times and travel locales with my family. And we didn't shop AT ALL the entire time we were there.

The Unofficial Guide to Mall of America 

When I saw that Unofficial Guides (my FAVORITE guide for Walt Disney World) had just published a guide for Mall of America (MOA) I knew I had to read it! Reading it has done nothing to cure my love of MOA, in fact, now I just keep pining away for another trip to the "megamall."

The author, who happens to be a friend as well, Beth Blair, is a Minnesota-dwelling "soccer hockey mom" of sorts and is a font of knowledge when it comes to the monolithic mall.

The thing about Unofficial Guides that makes them fun to thumb through is that they are quite frank. You don't find a lot of the flowery spew about how everything is DELICIOUS and MOUTH-WATERING and it's not the adjective dumpster that many guides have become. I'm awful guilty of over-flowering descriptions of things I love. We all are. These guides push past that and point out what rocks without making you feel like you're in a Hello Kitty dream-scape.

The Unofficial Guide to Mall of America by Beth Blair takes would-be mall-goers through the process of not only touring the mall but also getting there, eating there, staying on-site (or off) and making decisions that are optimal for their mall experience. This is helpful to locals as well as tourists and ranks everything from the best dining to the places that have great credit card offers and deals down to what day of the week to bring the kids.

There is a LOT of information available in the book which incidentally becomes priceless to have in your purse or pack and retails for just $15.22 on Amazon. (At the time that I wrote this article.)

Disclosure: Beth kindly provided me a copy of her book to tell you all about it. I think if you're going to the Mall, even if I weren't the author's friend, that I'd totally recommend buying it! Promise!

Illumibowl...So YOU Won't Go Bump in the Night! [review]

I'm finally at the age where occasionally, I actually need to get up in the middle of the night to use the loo. I'm not so old that I've forgotten the five million midnight pee trips during both of my pregnancies. Everyone knows the wrath of bright white light (or the pain of stubbing errant toes on door jambs) when you flick the switch. Until now.

Illuminate Your Bedtime Breaks

You may remember Illumibowl from Kickstarter, where it was funded about two years ago. Or, in more recent history, you may recognize the product as one that is backed by Kevin O'Leary of ABC's Shark Tank. The product is sold in Bed Bath and Beyond stores all over the country today.

Illumibowl isn't something I would have immediately swooned over. It's not an item I'd see on an end cap at a store and toss into the cart. It seemed frivolous ... until I tried it. I can immediately see why it would do well on Shark Tank -- where the sharks get to see a product in action, hold it, try it out. You
absolutely have to do that to give Illumibowl a chance to shine. And shine it does.

First off, the kids LOVE it. My preschooler thinks it rocks that the toilet lights up and my toddler was smitten with everything about the toilet to begin with (the flusher, the water, the angry response mom gives when you put things into it...) so add lights and he's basically at Disney each time he goes in dunny now!

Illumibowl Basics

The device is super duper easy to operate. Throw in three AAA batteries and push a button. Boom! You're lighting up your loo! You can set the Illumibowl to slowly progress through nine colors or you can pick one and keep it there.

Since we have a bathroom adjoining our master bedroom (which is generally home to at least three of our family of four on any given night) we like to have the bit of ambient light when we venture out of bed, trying not to wake the children in the process. I generally strap my incredibly bright headlamp to my head and muddle through. If my husband whispers something to me, he's struck with the blinding light, cursing my penchant for new, powerful batteries!

You could get creative and use the "fun lights" as incentive to kick that night time bed-wetting or to entice children to potty train.

Knowing that I might need to fiddle with the Illumibowl has led to a vast leap in my bathroom cleaning routine! Normally I cleaned in there quite regularly, but these days that toilet is ALWAYS sparkling. I see this as a total fringe benefit!

It's just plain fun. This is one of those items that brings me a small bit of joy each time I walk by and see the pretty lights of my toilet. It's a simple joy but it's real!

Motion activated, the world's first toilet night light.

It's a universal fit, so any toilet should theoretically work!

I haven't had to use the satisfaction guarantee -- but from faulty suction cups to any other issue one can think of that might surface with Illumibowl -- it seems like it's covered. Even though the product retails for only $14.99, it's nice to know that 100% of the time, you're going to be met with the guarantee.

Illumibowl Limitations

The AAA batteries are drained rather quickly unless we close our washroom door. The sensor is pretty darn sensitive and goes off from our walking through the adjacent hallway (which is about
three feet away.) We've set it to face different areas, but have yet to find "the sweet spot."

The luminescent part of the device does have to get dangerously close to the "business" area of the bowl. You can absolutely clean it and rinse it and keep it sparkling clean - but setting and resetting something that has dangled near the toilet is hard for me. I am the kook that always must have the lid closed to flush and uses a tissue to open public restroom doors... So it's been a hurdle for me to handle Illumibowl -- but I like the colors so much that I've conquered the germaphobe factor.

Oh The Places You'll Go - Giveaway Hop Event

Enjoy the last lingering days of summer as you anticipate the kids heading back to school! If you're blue about letting go of your growing babes or if you're over the moon excited about that first morning at the bus stop, waving goodbye to kids and hello to morning silence, either way, you'll have fun with this huge giveaway hop event hosted by The Kids Did It  and  The Mommy Island!!'


There are so many prizes to be won in this one! Lots of back to school themes and packages, lots of other great goodies too. Winning is an automatic day brightener no matter how you look at it! 

I like a good mystery and since I've worked with a lot of fun companies over the spring and summer -- since last school year really -- I wanted to gather up some of the best and send it along to you. I will be compiling a package of some of my favorite sponsors and prizes (all NEW items) and sending them to you! If you want clues, you can look around and take a gander at the folks I've worked with in the last year! You might be on to something if you do! The package will include some cloth diapering items, books, and a few items that are back to school (or for mom to use in her office, etc!) The package will be worth at least $50 ARV. 

Remember! This is a giveaway HOP! So make sure to enter all the giveaways you're interested in on the linky (list) below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: These items are some of my faves. Since I'm footing the bill on shipping for this one, I'm sorry to say it's US only. Not the norm for my giveaways, but shipping is getting expensive, ya'll! Only one person will win. You must be 18 yrs or older. Play by the rules. Have fun. Be kind. Good luck! 

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