Come See the Monkeys #MonkeyKingdom #InsideOutEvent

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Come See the Monkeys

#MonkeyKingdom #InsideOutEvent

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What does this adorable monkey, Maya, and the strength of a Mother have to do with each other? Well Maya is the adorable star of Disneynature’s newest film Monkey Kingdom and she is the epitome of a strong mother.

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I had the opportunity to screen Monkey Kingdom and it was adorable.  Rather than your normal run of the mill documentary, Monkey Kingdom tells a story. That story is about Maya and her fight to climb the social ladder.  I had no idea that monkeys even had social ladders!

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Not only is it a fun story, but you actually learn about the monkeys as well.  This will be a great movie to take the whole family to.

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With Disneynature’s MONKEY KINGDOM opening in theatres everywhere this Friday, I wanted to make sure you were aware what happens when you buy a ticket opening week!

See MONKEY KINGDOM opening week (April 17-23) and Disneynature will make a donation in your honor to Conservation International to help protect monkeys and other endangered species in their natural habitats. Learn more at http://nature.disney.com/monkey-kingdom.

The Family Activity Packet and Educators Guild can both be easily downloaded from the official MONKEY KINGDOM website here!

Monkey Kingdom Trailer:

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Follow Disneynature on Twitter: Twitter.com/Disneynature

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Visit the official MONKEY KINGDOM website: http://nature.disney.com/monkey-kingdom

MONKEY KINGDOM opens in theatres everywhere this Friday, April 17th!

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House of Gems Beads

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 House of Gems Beads

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I love to craft.  It not only alleviates stress, but I get to make pretty things.  I love to paint, fuse glass, and try just about everything at least once.  One of my favorite crafts is wire wrapping.

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I love to find beautiful beads in all sorts of colors and even wire in other colors.  House of Gems has a great variety of beads, wire, and tools.

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House of Gems is the best online source for wholesale beads and jewelry making supplies. All their products are sourced from manufacturers and distributed directly to the consumer without the middle man. They have all the material and supplies to fill your craft and making jewelry hobby fun.

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Top Five things People Wonder about Wireless

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Top Five things People Wonder about Wireless

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I don’t know about you, but I use my iPhone 6 for everything. It has my calendar, monitors my fitness level, stores notes and alarms, delivers emails and social media notifications, and even allows me to make phone calls. I really do have my whole life in my phone.

From work to entertainment, every aspect of our lives can be managed by our wireless devices.

More than half of today’s wireless consumers report using smartphones as a morning alarm, to check weather forecasts and stay updated on news, according to a recent survey conducted by U.S. Cellular.

Since wireless devices have become an integral part of the daily lives of consumers, there are a number of questions that people have consistently asked. Here are U.S. Cellular’s solutions to some of the most common:

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What is the best way to disinfect my wireless device?

The best way to keep your device free from germs, especially if you have a touch screen, is to use a screen protector like PureTek. Then, you can disinfect the protector with a simple alcohol or disinfecting spray. Pre-soaked wipes aren’t ideal as moisture can damage the device. Spray a soft cloth with ethyl or isopropyl alcohol and be sure the cloth isn’t soaking wet. Turn off your device and wipe it down. The less moisture you expose your gear to, the better. Be extra careful around the charging port and headphone adapter.

How can I make my device charge faster?

The fastest way to charge your smartphone or tablet is to turn it off and plug it in. The screen needs the most power, and users often have apps that run continuously in the background. If you don’t want to turn off your device, switch to airplane mode, which will disconnect you from cellular data and Wi-Fi. You also can stop all apps running in the background and reduce screen brightness to conserve the battery.

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Can my smartphone read texts and emails out loud to me?

Most of the latest devices have this feature internally, and you can set voice control to your preferences. If your Android device does not have this feature, download the Voice Commands app to allow access to your phone’s core features and control system. Some hands-free driving devices, like the Jabra FREEWAY Car Kit, automatically turn on when you are in the car to enable these services.

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How can I take a photo on a tablet without needing two hands to focus the photo and press the shutter?

Most devices have autofocus and allow users to touch anywhere on the screen to focus the shot. Apps such as Say Cheese Camera also let you use voice control to take pictures, turn on the flash and rotate the camera view. You also can purchase remotes and tripods to take your wireless device’s photography capability to the next level.

Can my smartphone alert me to messages other than through sound or vibration?

Most smartphones have LED lights that can flash different colors for emails, text messages and phone calls. On the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, users can enable the LED light flash, which will activate the device’s camera flash to signal an alert or phone call.

Thinking of getting your kids a cellphone? Here is a free Parent Child Agreement that really helps start that conversation.

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The Longest Ride Review and Interview

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Longest Ride Movie Book #review Nicholas Sparks Britt Robertson Scott Eastwood interview donnahup #TheLongestRide #LongestRide

The Longest Ride

Review and Interview #LongestRide

Longest Ride Movie Book #review Nicholas Sparks Britt Robertson Scott Eastwood interview donnahup #TheLongestRide #LongestRide

I’m a huge fan of reading. Ever since I have been little I have loved to get into a good book and let my imagination take over.  I remember going to the library every week in the summer and picking out several books to read.  I still enjoy it but don’t have the extra time that I used to when I was younger.  I especially love reading Nicholas Sparks novels.

Longest Ride Movie Book #review Nicholas Sparks Britt Robertson Scott Eastwood interview donnahup #TheLongestRide #LongestRide

One of his more recent books, The Longest Ride, is an excellent read. I read it on the plane when I was traveling and finished it that day.  It’s one of those that you can’t put down.  I grew up going to the rodeo so I loved that fact that one of the main characters, Luke, was a cowboy and rode bulls.

As I read the book it went back and forth between the stories of two couples – Luke & Sophia and Ira & Ruth.  At first I couldn’t figure out how they would relate, but I love how Sparks eventually tied their paths together.

Longest Ride Movie Book #review Nicholas Sparks Britt Robertson Scott Eastwood interview donnahup #TheLongestRide #LongestRide

Britt Robertson, Myself, Scott Eastwood

I had the opportunity to interview two of the main characters in the movie adaptation – Britt Roberston (Sophia) and Scott Eastwood (Luke).

We chatted about the movie vs the book.  Both had read the book after receiving their scripts.  Robertson had been a huge fan of Sparks’ novels and Eastwood was a fan of the Notebook. They both really enjoyed the book and were proud to be part of the movie.

**Warning: Eastwood does use language at the end of the ride. Please do not watch in front of children if you do not want them hearing it.

In the movie, Eastwood had a stunt double to bull ride for him.  After the movie though he actually rode his first bull (video above). Warning: Eastwood does use language at the end of the ride. Please do not watch in front of children if you do not want them hearing it.

We asked him why he decided to ride the bull and his thoughts on the experience.

He shared that he had been a big fan of the rodeo since he was a child.  When he first saw the PBR (Professional Bull Riders) the riders were bigger than life and riding a bull became a bucket list item for him.

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One of his best friends had bucked a bull and he kept calling him to say that if he didn’t buck a bull, he’d never hear the end of it.

“You did it just for him?” Robertson teased him.  “No” Eastwood laughed, he shared that after hanging with the guys for 4 months and having respect for them he thought it was only right to try it once.

We asked him what he thought about it afterwards and his response was “I thought it was an awesome adrenaline rush, but I won’t do it again.”

Longest Ride Movie Book #review Nicholas Sparks Britt Robertson Scott Eastwood interview donnahup #TheLongestRide #LongestRide

Anytime there are books converted to movies you can’t put the entire book into a movie due to time constraints.  You know that going into the movie and just hope they stick as closely to the story as possible.  We discussed this with Robertson and Eastwood and asked if there was anything in the book that they wished had been in the movie.

Longest Ride Movie Book #review Nicholas Sparks Britt Robertson Scott Eastwood interview donnahup #TheLongestRide #LongestRide

Eastwood expressed how extremely proud of the movie he was  and that doesn’t happen all the time. He really enjoyed how Sparks described when Luke first met Sophia. He described a comfortable silence that you have with people andthat happens with people you fall for. “There’s something really nice about how comfortable she felt in his silence and didn’t need to be words.” He strongly pushed his opinion about that scene when they first met, but some things hit the cutting room floor and that’s what happened. They did film a lot more of that opening scene than was shown in the movie.

Longest Ride Movie Book #review Nicholas Sparks Britt Robertson Scott Eastwood interview donnahup #TheLongestRide #LongestRide

Robertson was kind of curious to explore the stuff about Sophia’s life before – her family, and just where she comes from. She explained that it’s hard to relate to a human being without knowing anything about their history. That happened to be a big point that a lot of people brought up, but now seeing the movie she can’t imagine it any other way and is really happy with the way things turned out.

Longest Ride Movie Book #review Nicholas Sparks Britt Robertson Scott Eastwood interview donnahup #TheLongestRide #LongestRide

Britt Robertson, Emmylou, Donna, Scott Eastwood

One of my other writers, Emmylou, came with me to the interview and actually screened the movie prior to the interview.  Check out her thoughts below in her YouTube video.

The Longest Ride is in theaters now!  Make sure you check it out. Here’s the trailer below:

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Hasbro continues to encourage children’s imaginations!

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Hasbro continues to encourage children’s imaginations!

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Maddie, my eight year old loves animals and dreams of some day working and training dogs. Hasbro has a toy for that! We are not quite ready for her to have a real dog yet and the Fur Real Husky dog is a great way for her to enter into imaginative play as she dreams of one day having her own dog.

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Her Fur Real dog barks, howls, and makes the same noises a real dog would make. As if it couldn’t get any better her Fur Real dog also has soft fur just as a real dog would have.

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Our family recently welcomed our fourth child to our family. Naomi, my five year old is totally hands on when it comes to helping. She wants to be able to do everything I am doing and is a wonderful little mommy to her baby brother. Once again Hasbro comes through again creating the Baby Alive doll which comes with a sippy cup and a diaper.

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Naomi is able to fill the little sippy cup and give her baby a drink just like she would her little brother. Then like all babies, what goes in must come out and she is able to change her Baby Alive’s diaper. The doll comes with one diaper, but Hasbro sells refill kits in local department stores. Naomi loves carrying around her Baby Alive everywhere she goes giving her a feel of being just like mommy!

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My husband grew up playing with Transformers and now he is able to get to be a kid once again as he shows our son Titus how to transform the different characters.

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Titus, our son, is very mechanically minded and watching the wheels turn in his head as he transforms the character Sideswipe from a car to a transformer is so much fun. It’s wonderful that my husband and Titus are able to spend time together over a toy that has stood the test of time and continues to be a favorite among my son as well as his many friends’!

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I have been looking for toys that will fit easily into our diaper bag for our three month old son. The Stack n Go cups are perfect! They are three toys in one, which means Timmy will be entertained that much longer as we travel and wait.

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They offer opportunities to teach colors, shapes, stacking, and a fun way to interact as he explores the world around him. Hasbro has done a great job with this toy! As a mom the biggest thing I appreciate about it is the lion’s head securely latches allowing a secure base so it doesn’t easily fall over as my kid’s are playing with it.

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Once we’re ready to put it away it doesn’t fall apart all over my diaper bag. The latch allows it to stay neatly together, so when we are ready to pull it back out to play with it I won’t have to dig through the diaper bag to find all the pieces. Genius!

As a kid I remember playing with so many of the same Hasbro toy’s my kid’s are playing with now! It brings back so many wonderful memories, memories I am now able to share with my kids! Thanks Hasbro for being a part of the memories of my childhood and now bringing creativity and learning to my kid’s as well!

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My Day at Pixar #InsideOutEvent

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My Day at Pixar #InsideOutEvent

Unique ideas. Compelling stories. Visual artistry. Cutting-edge technology. They all come together under one roof at Pixar’s 22-acre Emeryville campus.

I am a HUGE Disney Pixar fan and honestly I’ve always wanted to be in an animation.  I mean, how amazing would that be?!

My Day at Pixar #InsideOutEvent

I had the amazing opportunity to spend some time on the Pixar campus and it was all I dreamed it would be and more!

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It’s a magical place as soon as you pull into the lot.

My Day at Pixar #InsideOutEvent

Check out my fancy and official badge.  Yes, that was taken on the desk when you enter the Steve Jobs building.

My Day at Pixar #InsideOutEvent

Yes, the Steve Jobs Building! He actually designed it.

My Day at Pixar #InsideOutEvent

Photo Credit: Grace from HapaMama

He designed it all around this gorgeous common area. There’s food, tables, and lots of sunlight.  It’s a place where everyone walks through.  I loved the atmosphere.

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There were Pixar characters all over the building.

My Day at Pixar #InsideOutEvent

It seemed like it was such a fun place to work in.

My Day at Pixar #InsideOutEvent

How could you not smile every day at work?

My Day at Pixar #InsideOutEvent

We couldn’t take pictures upstairs, but we did get a chance to walk around. They had galleries with work from employees, featured artists, movie storyboards, and even a wall with pictures of those who worked there.

My Day at Pixar #InsideOutEvent

Photo Credit: Grace from HapaMama

The Pixar ball and lamp are even outside.  Speaking of the outside …

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It’s absolutely gorgeous! Not to mention the weather was fantastic.

My Day at Pixar #InsideOutEvent

They have a soccer field that they actually use to play soccer.

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There’s a pool to swim in too.  I even passed by a group doing yoga outside.  Pixar really promotes health and wellness.

My Day at Pixar #InsideOutEvent

Photo Credit: Grace from HapaMama

They even had their own amphitheater. They used to have meetings outside but there was no sound wall making it harder to hear and they moved them inside.

My Day at Pixar #InsideOutEvent

The other building we checked out was The Brooklyn.  It had the same feel as the jobs building with a central meeting area, but at the same time it was opposite. This meeting area was much more quiet and had a warmer feel to it. It even had a beautiful fire place.

My Day at Pixar #InsideOutEvent

There were all sorts of Pixar characters around the building.

My Day at Pixar #InsideOutEvent

There was also lots of fun artwork.

My Day at Pixar #InsideOutEvent

My Day at Pixar #InsideOutEvent

It was such an amazing time.  While we were there we got to learn all about Inside Out and go behind the scenes with the very people that created the movie. I can’t wait to share more about it with you, so make sure to stay tuned!

INSIDE OUT opens in theatres on June 19th!

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Soapsox Bath Pet

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Soapsox Bath Pet

Kid tested mother definitely approved!

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My son Titus like many other boys does his best to get out of bath time, but as soon as we received Ray our Soapsox bath pet he asked me if he could take a bath! In my opinion anything that invites my son to want to take a bath on his own is an instant success!

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Usually bath time begins with me having to persuade Titus to get in the bathtub, but not since our Soapsox arrived! Not only did he get in the tub willingly he was able to easily put the soap into the wide opening of the Soapsox, get it wet to bring out the lather, and wash his body all by himself!

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Having one more thing my son can do makes bath time that much easier for me and that much more fun for him! With spring times arrival it has brought with it the usual puddles and mud, the Soapsox even does a great job at being able to scrub all the mud and dirt off from the day. After all my kids have had their bath for the day the Soapsox is able to be hung up to allow it to dry or it can easily be put into the washing machine. Never would I have imagined my son volunteering for bath time!

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The soapsox makes bath time for Timmy, my two month old, more interactive and fun as Titus was excited to help give him a bath. It was easy to hold onto for Titus’s small hands and soft and gentle enough to be used on Timmy’s sensitive skin.

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Having the Soapsox already to go with soap inside it and ready to go made bath time go much faster and easier. It is definitely a fun addition to our bath time at our house! My family is into sea life which is why we chose the manta ray, but Soapsox has a variety of animals in fun colors and soft material!

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Baskin-Robbins brings March Madness with Snacknado

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Baskin-Robbins brings March Madness with Snacknado

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March’s Flavor of the Month combines multiple snack-time favorites in one whirlwind of a flavor. Salty caramel flavored ice cream loaded with chocolatey potato chips and pretzels swirled with candy pieces and chocolate fudge and salted pretzel flavored ribbons.

Now that is March Madness if you ask me!  It’s like flavor overload and let me tell you, it’s amazing.

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No matter what the flavor of the month is we always have a great time when we hit up Baskin-Robbins. It’s our favorite after school and weekend spot.

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The munchkins love the flavors and taste of the ice cream and it’s a fun family outing.

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It’s fun for all ages too.

BASKIN-ROBBINS INTRODUCES SNACKNADO, A WHIRLWIND OF SWEET AND SALTY FLAVORS,

AS THE MARCH FLAVOR OF THE MONTH 

Guests can also celebrate the spring season with Green Waffle Cones and festive lineup of ice cream cakes

CANTON, Mass.  (March 2, 2014) – Baskin-Robbins, the world’s largest chain of ice cream specialty shops, today announced its new March Flavor of the Month, Snacknado, which is a delicious whirlwind of its guests’ favorite sweet and salty snacks. Snacknado features salty caramel-flavored ice cream loaded with chocolate-covered potato chips and pretzels, all swirled together with candy pieces and chocolate fudge and salted pretzel ribbons. Guests can enjoy Snacknado ice cream in a cup, cone or as a sundae for the ultimate sweet and salty treat all month long at participating Baskin-Robbins shops nationwide.

To celebrate Baskin-Robbins’ Snacknado ice cream flavor,  movie star and TV personality Ian Ziering  recently visited a Baskin-Robbins shop in Burbank, CA to surprise guests and offer them the exclusive sneak peek of Snacknado before it was officially launched at Baskin-Robbins shops nationwide. Ian Ziering encourages all ice cream lovers to try Snacknado this March in the following video: http://youtu.be/JNePYyEkuqs.

“Snacknado is every ice cream and snack lover’s dream with its delicious combination of the most popular sweet and salty snacks all in one flavor,” said Jeff Miller, Executive Chef and Vice President of Product Innovation for Dunkin’ Brands. “Snacknado is the perfect flavor to kick off the spring season, along with our wide variety of creative and customizable ice cream cakes available for the St. Patrick’s Day and Easter holidays.”

Baskin-Robbins is also celebrating special occasions this spring. In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, guests can feel extra lucky by upgrading to a freshly-baked festive Green Waffle Cone with the purchase of any double scoop, for no extra charge at participating Baskin-Robbins shops nationwide. The brand also offers a St. Patrick’s Day Cake, which is decorated with green icing and a rainbow leading to a pot of gold.

Additionally, Baskin-Robbins is offering guests the perfect frozen treats for any spring or Easter party with its Bunny Roll Cake and Flower Garden Cake. The Bunny Roll Cake is a roll cake decorated with bunny ears and a cute cotton-tail, while the Flower Garden Cake features a colorful array of spring flowers. Both cakes can be customized to include any ice cream and cake flavor combination and are sure to liven up any party. The cakes are available at participating Baskin-Robbins shops nationwide and can be pre-ordered in-store or online through the brand’s online cake ordering website.

On Tuesday, March 31, Baskin-Robbins shops nationwide will hold a special “Celebrate 31” promotion where guests can enjoy special deals on ice cream scoops and sundaes. This month, any 2.5 or 4 oz. scoop of ice cream in a cup or a cone will be $1.31 and Baskin-Robbins’ Classic Two-Scoop Sundae will be only $3.31, so be sure to stop into your local Baskin-Robbins shop!

For more information about Baskin-Robbins’ wide variety of ice cream flavors and frozen desserts, visit www.BaskinRobbins.com or follow us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/BaskinRobbins), Twitter (www.twitter.com/BaskinRobbins) or Pinterest (www.pinterest.com/baskinrobbins31).

 

About Baskin-Robbins

Named the top ice cream and frozen dessert franchise in the United States by Entrepreneur magazine’s 36th annual Franchise 500(r) ranking in 2014, Baskin-Robbins is the world’s largest chain of ice cream specialty shops. Baskin-Robbins creates and markets innovative, premium hard scoop ice cream and soft serve, custom ice cream cakes and a full range of beverages, providing quality and value to consumers at more than 7,500 retail shops in nearly 50 countries. Baskin-Robbins was founded in 1945 by two ice cream enthusiasts whose passion led to the creation of more than 1,200 ice cream flavors and a wide variety of delicious treats. Headquartered in Canton, Mass., Baskin-Robbins is part of the Dunkin’ Brands Group, Inc. (Nasdaq: DNKN) family of companies. For further information, visit www.BaskinRobbins.com.

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Thomas Hill Organics Bistro & Wine Bar

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Thomas Hill Organics Bistro & Wine Bar

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“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”
– J.R.R. Tolkien

I love spending time in the central coast of CA.  It’s so beautiful there. One of my favorite spots is the Thomas Hill Organics Bistro & Wine Bar in Paso Robles, CA.  The food is so delicious and it’s a great place to hang out with friends.

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Thomas Hill Organics is a bistro and wine bar dedicated to serving creative, fresh food and highlighting unique wines from the Central Coast.

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We had a full 3 course meal and dessert.  Everything was amazing!

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The first course salad was my favorite.  It had the most incredible flavors that all blended together with every bite.

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Everyone at the table raved about the scallops.  I’m allergic to shellfish.

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So they prepared another amazing salad for me. It was delicious.

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The steak melted in my mouth and I wanted to lick the sauce.  I ate every bite of every course and didn’t think I could eat anymore …

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.. that was until dessert arrived.  It was so decadent and not overly sweet.

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We had the chance to meet and talk with the executive chef, Christopher Manning.  Not only was his food divine, he had the gift of pairing wine with food.  The food and wine totally complimented each other.

If you’re in the Paso Robles area, Thomas Hill Organics is a must!

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Jackpot Candle Review

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Jackpot Candle Review

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I’m a huge fan of candles. I love lighting them and letting the aroma fill the air. That also means I’m pretty picky with my scents.  When I was asked to review the Jackpot Candle I was excited – not just because it was a candle, but there was a prize inside!

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The smell of the candle was very fragrant, but not overpowering.  I also loved waiting for my “surprise” to show up. Thankfully it was closer to the top so I didn’t have to wait very long.

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I used a spoon to lift out the treasure. I love that it was in a baggie inside the foil so there was no wax on the jewelry.  I waited for it to cool off and peeled it open.

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Check out the beautiful ring I received! I really like it. It even had a tag with a code so you could check out the value of your jewelry on their site. Mine wasn’t all that much, but I like it and it was a lot of fun. Jackpot Candles are like cracker jack boxes for adults. I got a beautiful candle and a beautiful ring. I’m thrilled.

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Get Whiter teeth with Smile Brilliant!

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Get Whiter teeth with Smile Brilliant!

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I brush my teeth daily but they’re definitely not as white as I’d like them to be.  I was really excited to try out the Teeth Whitening Kit from Smile Brilliant!  They included everything that I needed in the kit to whiten my teeth including a tray to make customized trays for my teeth.

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It came with two types of pastes and a mouthpiece. The instructions seemed simple enough, but it sat on my table for at least a week. I really wanted to get it done and have whiter teeth but I was dreading the mouth piece. I gagged at the thought of making a mold.

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I finally gave in and decided to just try it. I started by mixing the the two pastes together.

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It was easy enough and the smell was pretty pleasant.

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Then came the mouth guard and I had to leave it in for 2 whole minutes!  Okay, so it was totally not as bad as I thought. I think the fact that you did the upper and lower separately really helped.  I set the timer on my phone and was done in no time.

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I sent away my molds and got my mouth pieces pretty quickly.  Now on to the even easier part – the gel.  Everything has step by step directions and it’s so easy to use. I’ve seen great results and I can  totally tell it’s working.

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I like that it’s happening more naturally too. I would hate to have bright white teeth like Ross did on Friends ;)

Do you want whiter teeth? You definitely need to check out Smile Brilliant!

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Bottle Pets Review

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Bottle Pets Review

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Leo the Bottle Pet Lion

Leo is the name my kids have given to our new Bottle Pet. He is cute, soft, and cuddly! The material is amazingly soft and comforting to little ones learning to hold their bottle. It actually invites them to hold the bottle earlier because of the softness and the arms of the Bottle Pets give them something easier to hold on to instead of a slippery bottle.

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When our little guy wasn’t using Leo as a bottle holder my older kids also loved using our Bottle Pet as a puppet to entertain and interact with him.

Our bottle pet works better with the 8 to 10 oz bottles rather than the 4 to 6oz bottles. The bigger bottles were able to stand on their own while the smaller ones had to be laid on their sides risking the bottle leaking. The bottle pet also had to be taken off and on instead of sliding easily into the bottle holder of our diaper bag, but that was easily overlooked as it was easy and quick to simply slide the bottles in and out of the wide insert of the bottle pet.

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I love that I can easily throw it into the washing machine for easy cleaning and it’s ready to be used once again. The bottle pet is a cute and creative solution to adding comfort to feeding our little one! I picked the lion bottle pet because I loved the inscription Jesus Loves Me on its back. Something I really want my son to know.

Right now, they’re offering all our readers 10% off their purchase! Just use coupon code dh10 at checkout!

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Summerwood Inn – The Perfect Wine Country Experience

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press trip disclaimer Summerwood Inn

The Perfect Wine Country Experience

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I love to travel for many reasons. I love new adventures and discovering new places.  Another reason I enjoy traveling is to relax and just enjoy the beauty around me.  I had the opportunity to stay at the Summerwood Inn in Paso Robles, CA this past fall and fell in love with it. It has to be one of my favorite places to stay.

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The Inn itself and my room were so inviting and relaxing.  The bed and comforter were very comfortable. There’s nothing worse than a bad sleep on a vacation and wanting to go home to your own bed. I didn’t want to leave this one.

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They did have a wifi and a desk so that I could check my email, but I was barely on the computer because there was too much to enjoy.

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My room overlooked this courtyard which was even more beautiful at night.

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Behind the Inn was the winery. It was so peaceful.

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Chef Kelly Wangard is responsible for the decorating and the amazing cuisine. She also won Cut Throat Kitchen.  We were watching the Food Network and the repeat came on. I got this great pic of Kelly watching herself.

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There is a reason Kelly won. Her food is so delicious.

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You could order breakfast the night before and it was prepared for you in the morning. The Eggs Benedict just melted in your mouth and it was served with a side of greens and potatoes.

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In the evening Kelly had wine and h’ordeuvres for us and dessert, coffee, and tea in the evening.

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Then you could unwind with a hot bath and their exclusive bath soaps and lotions – they smell amazing!

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You could curl up and read a book or check out the surrounding area. I highly recommend doing both.

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No matter what your reason is for taking a vacation Summerwood Inn is the perfect place to stay while you’re in wine country.

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The DUFF – Movie Review plus Interviews with the Cast!

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movie disclaimerThe Duff

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The Duff is a new teen comedy based on the 2010 Novel by Kody Keplinger. Quirky, relatable, and laugh out loud funny (I’m not kidding), the adaption of this beloved YA book does a beautiful job of taking the core ideas behind the story and translating it to screen. Earlier this month I had the chance to listen in on a conference call with Robbie Amell, Mae Whitman, and Bella Thorne. Here are some of my favorite questions fellow high school students asked.

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Q: So, how did it feel playing a mean girl in the movie since in most of your roles you’re really preppy and stuff?

Bella Thorne: It was very interesting. The hardest part was having to be mean to Mae, because number one, she’s five foot, she is so cute and mini-sized and I’m 5’8″, and I had to be towering over and I just felt like I was digesting her the whole movie.

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Q: Mae and Robbie, did any of you experience this kind of social phenomena when you were in high school?

Mae Whitman: I did. I definitely was bullied and called weird names, and stuff. And that’s a big reason why I was drawn to doing this movie to sort of communicate that.  A lot of people go through this and that I certainly had. So I wanted to use my experience to sort of make people feel less alone. It gets better after school. It definitely gets better.

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Robbie Amell: I grew up in Toronto where everybody is polite and apologizes for everything. So I had a very tame high school experience but you know I always would have stood up and would stand up for anybody that was getting bullied or that I saw get bullied just because it’s such a silly and stupid thing to do. 

Q: What about the idea of The Duff and that kind of high school set the interest in doing for trying these different characters?

Mae Whitman: For me, I like the idea of sort of breaking down the need for people to compare, and judge, and keep people down, and keep people in specific boxes. I think it’s really limiting for everyone involved and it’s just not real. And it’s hard when you don’t really have any perspective, especially when you’re in school. And everything feels so present and so there, and it really hurts. But I wanted to try to provide a perspective that none of that stuff is real and you don’t have to participate in anything that doesn’t feel like it makes you the best version of who you are. That people that try to drag you down or put you in a box it’s usually because they’re insecure and threatened by you. So I just really wanted to kind of provide a little bit of perspective because I was bullied in school too. So it was important to me to communicate that you know the coolest kids in the world are bullied, just like me. I’m the coolest kid in the world.

Robbie Amell: And it was super refreshing to read a teen comedy script that kind of grasps what it’s like to be in high school. You know everybody is trying to find their way and figure out who they are. And dealing with their own issues and issues with friends, and other people. So it was just nice to see that in something that actually turned out to be so funny.

Bella Thorne: I really favor the dialogue over, like I love the dialogue. It’s been so hard to try and communicate that. There are so many movies that have tried it and failed. So hopefully, ours will do well because it’s really, really funny guys. Seriously funny.

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Q: So my question for you guys is, what was your favorite scene in the film?

Robbie Amell: We had a lot of fun. Part of making a movie is you spend you know 12 to 15 hours a day with the people you’re shooting with. So you just have to hope for the best and that they’re good people. And we got really lucky, we got an incredible cast. It was almost like summer camp. We just got to have a lot of fun every day, you know make fun of each other. And one of my favorite scenes in the film in the movie was Think Rock. And they gave Mae and I kind of free reign on the dialogue. We just got to goof around and have a good time. And it was raining on and off so we had to run in and out of the rain. It was just kind of a weird day of filming and it ended up being a lot of fun. Bella was in near the end of the day, and she came in and we all just had a good time. You know some people came to visit because it was a beautiful location. It was that kind of stand out for me as a real fun special day of filming.

Q: There’s lots of teen movies like Clueless and Mean Girls that portray the heroin is needing to be fixed in some ways, to fit in, so how would you say the Duff is different?

Mae Whitman: Well, I will say one thing that I thought was really cool about this movie from the beginning is that she doesn’t change who she is the whole time. You know she kind of tries on different clothes, and it was like, “Whoa, what do I need to do in order to make high school easier for me?” But she never changes her personality or who she is, or  any of that. And I think that’s what’s really cool because oftentimes it’s like, oh the big makeover, or the (thing). And it’s not, the big reveal here is her being like I don’t need this, I don’t need to feel that way. It’s more illuminating the process of what makes people feel like they need to change rather than actually anybody changing. And just more about like realizing that people usually try to make other people feel like they don’t fit in because they’re threatened or they’re insecure. And so I think it’s a really cool thing to sort of shed some light on and help people get a perspective on that you know just because other people are insecure and try to put you in a box. It has nothing to do with you. It’s their problem.

Robbie Amell: Also you know it’s a bit of a spoiler, the main relationship that comes out of it, it’s not on aesthetic thing, these people you know the guy that Bianca ends up with isn’t who she wanted to be with from the beginning of the movie. You know that wasn’t the dream guy for her. It’s really the relationship that these people build and come to find within each other throughout the movie.

Bella Thorne: Yes, they break their own stereotypes of themselves and of each other. And really see each other for the layered and complex individuals that they are, and they find themselves.

My review

Ok! So I read the book at the start of January and ABSOLUTELY fell in love with it.  This was totally my kind of story, I often feel that contemporary YA books glamorize high school into something it’s not, but Keplinger’s story felt so honest. If you HAVEN’T read the book, go see this movie. If you HAVE read this book, go see this movie. I’m not kidding when I say that I think many readers will be happily surprised with the changes the filmmakers made, and non-readers won’t know the difference.  The major changes in storyline seemed, to me at least, inevitable. It makes the movie not only much more approachable for parents to let their kids see, but also helped keep the rating at PG-13. I can’t imagine what an adaption that stayed absolutely faithful to the book’s plot would have been like…I don’t think it would have been made. Anyways…. onto the juicy bits.

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The dialogue in this movie is hilarious. It’s honestly been a while since I laughed at a movie. What’s great about this film is that it doesn’t take its own humor too seriously. They’re not gunning for you to understand every joke and gag, it feels like they genuinely just threw things in there because they themselves got a kick out of it. This movie also doesn’t play down the teenage-aspect of its humor though. Be warned if you’re taking younger teens/kids to this movie, there are a few risqué bits, but they’re all done with reasonable good taste. I still crack up every time I think about Bianca’s monster voice.

The characters are some of my favorites. They felt less cookie cutter American high school students, and more like…Bianca your best friend. Granted, yes, Bella Thorne’s character Madison is the “mean girl”. And okay Wesley is a “football jock”, but they’re portrayed with much more honestly then usual. I just loved the characters okay? I can’t help it.

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Now for those of you who have made it ¾ of the way through this review and don’t know what a DUFF is, let me explain. A “DUFF” is a designated, ugly, fat, friend. Bianca is labeled by Wesley as the “DUFF” of her friend group. He says that it doesn’t necessarily make her fat or ugly, but that she’s the DUFF in comparison to her two best friends, Casey and Jess, who are tall, skinny, and hot. This is a hard topic to deal with, because I think at one point or another we’ve all felt, or will feel, like we’re the DUFF of our group.  I know that for some the name and concept might steer them away from the movie or the book, but once you’ve seen the film (or read the book, or both) you’ll not only understand a whole lot more about the word, but also about yourself.

The DUFF is a new classic, with great humor and a story line to match. From flash-forwards, to over the top internal moments of celebration, this film is, dare I say it, the Mean Girls for an entirely new generation. You won’t be sorry if you take the time to see this film, in fact, you might even thank me because in the end, we’re all DUFFS.  

EmmyLou Sig

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McFarland,USA Movie Review

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McFarland,USA Movie Review

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McFarland, USA is a story a great struggle and triumph. It takes place in, you guessed it, McFarland, California, a poverty stricken real life city in the southern part of the state. The city is home to many Latino families who work the farm fields to survive. Even high schoolers, who get up before the crack of dawn every morning to work the fields before going to school, and return to them after school ends. It’s a vicious cycle that engulfs many young students who feel they have no choice but to continue to help support their families by working. Cue Walter White, the new bio teacher, and makeshift track coach who see’s the potential in this unlikely lot of kids. The audience then has the chance to follow along on this uphill journey as the boys train and ready themselves to compete against highly selective Cross Country teams from surrounding cities.

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            So what separates this sports movie from all the rest? Plain and simple, it’s ability to tell not only a true story, but also one filled with honest inspiration. Think Field of Dreams good. Through the movie the characters deal with racial issues, tough competition, and learning to fight one’s inner demons, as well as finding their true passions.

            This film is nothing short of beautiful. It’s raw and although it tells the story of McFarland’s Cross Country Team of 1987, it still holds its relevance to today. With a wonderful mix of sports and story, McFarland ,USA will give you a completely new perspective into the lives of these teens and their families. I can honestly not rave enough about this story. It’s a wonderful film for the whole family. McFarland, USA is a tale of hard work and achievement that is a can’t miss of 2015.

EmmyLou Sig

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