How I was Able to Share an Ice Cold Coke with my Office Teammates

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #ShareIceColdFun #CollectiveBias

How I was able to share an ice cold Coke with my teammates #ShareIceColdFun #ad

As mentioned a few weeks ago, I recently made a career change. I left my job as an Instructional Assistant, working with lower elementary school students with Special Needs. Now I work with a nonprofit organization. I get to help adults with Special Needs find meaningful work in the community. I’m not going to lie. This was a bittersweet decision. I really enjoyed working with those kids. But it was also a no-brainer.

I’ve joined a pretty amazing team of Employment Advisors. I’m excited to work with them. And they’ve been very helpful as I’m trying to get up to speed. They’re a hard working, dedicated, and passionate group of people. It’s an honor to join forces with them to help change lives in our community.

I wanted to show my appreciation for the work my teammates do. They have been so patient and welcoming and accommodating during this transition. I also wanted to take the opportunity to introduce myself to everyone on my team. So I created a little gift basket to share, thanking them for making me feel like I’m already an important part of the team.

My quest for the perfect gift basket.

This Summer, the Coca-Cola™ Share an Ice Cold Coke campaign has returned. It’s bigger and better than ever before. They’ve added a thousand new names this year.  They’ve also added last names!

That’s right. Last names.

I had to include personalized Coca-Cola, Coca-Cola Zero™, Diet Coke®, Coca-Cola Cherry, and Coca-Cola Life bottles in this gift to my teammates. It just made sense. So, I visited our closest Giant Eagle store, the Market District in Carmel, and went about grabbing some personalized bottles and some other goodies to share with my team.

Why a Giant Eagle store?

Have you seen their bulk candy and trail mix section?

Giant Eagle treats #ShareIceColdFun #ad

It’s amazing.

So I hit the road for my local Giant Eagle (you really should check out their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest profiles) on a quest to find some goodies for this special basket I’m creating. When I walked in the door, it was like the heavens opened up before me. There, right before my eyes, was the sea of personalized Coca-Cola bottles. It was right there in the cold drinks section at the entrance.

It was glorious.

So I grabbed the appropriate Share an Ice Cold Coke bottles of Coca-Cola. I went over to the bulk area and got a bucket of cheesy popcorn and created a container of trail mix. Although i probably could have spent another hour or two wandering through the store, I had other things to get done that evening. That’s what’s great about Giant Eagle stores. I love the layout. I love the products they have. And of course I love their bulk confections. I’m never disappointed when I visit a Giant Eagle store.

An appropriate gift basket for a small nonprofit office

Share an Ice Cold Coke with an office gift basket #ShareIceColdFun #ad

In addition to some tasty treats and personalized Share an Ice Cold Coke bottles, I wanted to give some things that were fitting for our team’s setting. It shouldn’t be a surprise that there are times where our equipment and supplies can feel cobbled together. Such is the nature of an organization like ours. Our time, money, and energy are focused on serving our clients to the best of our abilities. So, some necessities might become a little scarce sometimes.

I ran to a local discount store and found a few things that every office like ours must have. And I included them in my gift basket.  Our office has a refrigerator. It has a microwave. But it’s almost near impossible to find any eating utensils. So I included plastic cutlery in my basket. And speaking of the basket, I decided to use a stackable mail tray as the container to hold all of these tiny gifts. That will come in handy with keeping things organized. I also found some inexpensive buckets to add a splash of color to our office.

The nature of our work requires that we keep detailed records. There are timesheets and follow up sheets and sheets upon sheets upon sheets. Almost all of them require black ink. I don’t know about you, but it’s hard enough for me to keep track of my pens. It’s like they grow legs and walk away. Black ink pens are even harder to keep track of. So my gift basket included a package of black ink pens to support the cause. Because if we don’t have black pens, we cannot do our jobs effectively. They’re that important.

I considered putting the basket in the Break Room, but this is a gift for my team. So I sat it on a desk in the office that our team shares. Giving office supplies in a gift basket might be considered “out of the box,” but I thought it was a highly appropriate gift for my teammates.

I hope they enjoyed it. Because I know I appreciate them.

Share an Ice Cold Coke Gift Basket for my office #ShareIceColdFun #ad

Who will  you share an ice cold Coke with this Summer?

3 easy steps to a romantic steakhouse dinner at home

I have partnered with Life of Dad and Idahoan® Foods for this campaign, but my opinions are my own.

3 Easy Steps to a Romantic Steakhouse Dinner at Home #KingOfSoup #ad

When Christy and I were dating in college, one of our “go to” dates was to go to one of the local steakhouses and order potato soup. We would sit and talk for hours, munching on the endless rolls they would bring us and savoring every bite of the creamy soup. It was something we did quite often. We even went there for potato soup and rolls after I proposed to her (and almost dropped the engagement ring into the Doe River). I guess you could say that potato soup has a special place in our family’s story.

Since those college days, we have eaten at some pretty memorable restaurants over the years, including an airplane restaurant and chapel-turned-microbrewery. I’m sorry to say that we haven’t taken many opportunities to eat at fancy schmancy steakhouses, though. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve eaten at some pretty amazing and romantic establishments. But we really haven’t gone out like we used to. And we haven’t shared a bowl of potato soup in a long time. Continue reading “3 easy steps to a romantic steakhouse dinner at home”

7 Popcorn Toppings That Will Change Your Movie Night

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #MakeItAMovieNight #CollectiveBias

7 Popcorn Toppings

There is nothing like a family movie night. With everyone’s hectic schedules and all of us running this way and that, it’s hard to get our whole family to sit down in the same room for 10 minutes at the same time. So when we’re able to gather around the TV for a movie night, we want to make sure we’re maximizing our time together and making memories along the way.

Our most recent Family Movie Night? War Room with a nice big bowl of popcorn topped with peanut M&M’S® Chocolate Candies (more on this amazing combination in just a minute) and a nice, cold bottle of Coca-Cola. It’s a perfect Movie Night snack.

Ever since it was released in movie theaters earlier this year, I’ve heard a lot about how good War Room is. “It’s better than any of the other movies the Kendrick Brothers have made,” was a review I heard on a regular basis. I wanted to see it. I wanted to see if it lived up to the hype. But the theaters weren’t showing it anymore by the time I could go see it. But now that War Room is a new release at Walmart, I was excited to finally get to see the movie.

WarRoom

There’s a lot of truth in this film. And I think it lived up to the hype. It certainly did not disappoint. It’s something I suggest you include in one of your future movie nights. Because if we’re going to make memories with our families, why not watch something that will help them change the world while we’re at it?

Growing up, we had regular family movie nights. We’d rent a movie from the local video store, grab a bottle of Coca-Cola, and head down into the basement and begin watching a family-friendly movie together. As the movie started, mom would come downstairs with a big bowl of popcorn for us to share.

Oh, that popcorn.

I don’t remember many of the movies we watched together. But I do remember that popcorn. It wasn’t just any old bowl of popcorn. This popcorn was different. It was Taco Popcorn. She would make other toppings, too. Some weren’t that great. But others, like Taco Popcorn, were pretty amazing.

Every time I sit down with a bowl of popcorn, I think of the different toppings my mom used to make for our popcorn. I believe popcorn is the perfect movie night snack. It’s great on its own. But it’s also a great vehicle for some pretty amazing toppings.

In the spirit of my mom’s memorable popcorn toppings, here are some toppings that you really need to try. They’re pretty simple. But you might not ever eat popcorn the same way again.

7 Popcorn Toppings That Will Change Your Movie Night

These toppings are amazingly simple. But they’ll revolutionize your movie night experience. Of course, you’re welcome to adapt and adjust these recipes to your own personal taste as you take your popcorn experience to the next level.

M&M’S® Chocolate Candies Popcorn

MMs Popcorn

I remember when I first tried this topping a few years ago. I wondered where it had been all my life. I was definitely missing out. I love M&M’S® Chocolate Candies – especially the Plain ones. I also love popcorn. Combining the two? Well, that’s just a match made in heaven. The chocolatey goodness of the candy mixed with the buttery saltiness of the warm popcorn? Oh, it’s an experience beyond any mere human description.

This is a classic combination that everyone must try.

Ingredients:

1 Package M&M’S® Chocolate Candies (any variety)
1 Pop Up Bowl Orville Redenbacher Popcorn

What to do:

1. Pop popcorn, following instructions on the package.
2. Pour M&M’S® Chocolate Candies into bag of freshly popped popcorn. You should do this while the popcorn is still warm because it will soften the candies ever so slightly. I promise: it enhances the popcorn eating experience.
3. Eat and enjoy!

Curry Coconut Popcorn

Curry Coconut Popcorn

We’re big fans of Indian food at our house. So this warm, spicy creation is right up our alley. While I’m usually not a fan of coconut, I could eat this popcorn all day, every day.

Ingredients:

1 Tablespoon Coconut Oil
2 Tablespoons Coconut Flakes
1 Tablespoon Curry Powder
1 Tablespoon Ginger Powder
1 Pop Up Bowl Orville Redenbacher Popcorn

What to do:

1. Melt coconut oil in a microwave-safe bowl (approximately 30 seconds).
2. Combine curry, ginger, and coconut in the oil. It will look like a thin paste.
3. Pop popcorn, following instructions on the package.
4. Mix spice paste in the popcorn.
5. Eat and enjoy!

Taco Fiesta Popcorn

Taco Fiesta Popcorn

This is the recipe that started my popcorn topping discovery adventure. It’s amazingly simple. But it’s also amazingly good. I still think of my mom every time I have this popcorn.

Ingredients:

3 Tablespoons Butter
1 ½ Tablespoons of your favorite Taco Seasoning
1 Pop Up Bowl Orville Redenbacher Popcorn

What to do:

1. Melt butter in microwave-safe dish.
2. Mix taco seasoning into melted butter.
3. Pop popcorn, following instructions on the package.
4. Pour popcorn and seasoning mixture into a gallon-sized bag.
5. Shake bag until popcorn is evenly coated.
6. Eat and enjoy!

Cinnamon and Sugar Popcorn

Cinnamon and Sugar Popcorn

Cinnamon and sugar on top of your popcorn? Yes, please! Experts say that the perfect ratio is ¼ cup of sugar to 1 Tablespoon of cinnamon. I like it a little sweeter than that, so I add another dash or two of sugar to my mixture.

Ingredients:

¼ Cup Sugar
1 Tablespoon Cinnamon
1 Pop Up Bowl Orville Redenbacher Popcorn

What to do:

1. Pop popcorn, following instructions on the package.
2. Combine cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl.
3. Sprinkle cinnamon and sugar mixture over popcorn. Don’t skimp! Sprinkle liberally so you cover all of the popcorn.
4. Place remaining mixture in an airtight container and store for later use.
5. Eat and enjoy!

Peppermint Paradise Popcorn

Peppermint Paradise Popcorn

My wife introduced this treat to our family a few years ago. While we generally reserve this treat for the winter months, there’s really no reason you can’t have this cool topping any day of the year!

Ingredients:

2 2-oz. cubes Vanilla Almond Bark
2-3 Candy Canes
1 Pop Up Bowl Orville Redenbacher Popcorn

What to do:

1. Pop popcorn, following instructions on the package.
2. Place candy canes in a small plastic bag.
3. Crush candy canes.
4. Melt vanilla almond bark in microwave-safe bowl. Allow to slightly cool.
5. Pour slightly cooled almond bark over freshly-popped popcorn.
6. Mix popcorn and almond bark.
7. Sprinkle candy canes over popcorn.
8. Eat and enjoy!

Garlic Parmesan Popcorn

Garlic Parmesan Popcorn

Another simple recipe. You’re welcome to adjust the garlic to Parmesan recipe according to your family’s taste. To be honest, we usually estimate our garlic and Parmesan, sprinkling each ingredient in until we’re satisfied with the amount.

Ingredients:

½ Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
½ Cup Garlic Powder
1 Pop Up Bowl Orville Redenbacher Popcorn

What to do:

1. Pop popcorn, following instructions on the package.
2. Combine Parmesan and garlic powder in a bowl.
3. Sprinkle over popcorn. Store remainder in an airtight container.
4. Eat and enjoy!

Buffalo Ranch Popcorn

Buffalo Ranch Popcorn

Do you like Buffalo Wings? Then you’ll love Buffalo Ranch Popcorn!

Ingredients:

⅓ Cup of your favorite Hot Sauce
3 Tablespoons Butter
1 Tablespoon of your favorite Ranch Salad Dressing Mix
1 Pop Up Bowl Orville Redenbacher Popcorn

What to do:

1. Melt butter in microwave-safe bowl. Allow to cool, slightly.
2. Pop popcorn, following instructions on the package.
3. Combine hot sauce and dressing mix in melted butter.
4. Pour popped popcorn into a large mixing bowl.
5. Add sauce mixture to the bowl.
6. Toss popcorn in sauce until evenly coated.
7. Eat and enjoy!

War Room Movie Night #MakeItAMovieNight #ad

I hope these popcorn toppings help add another layer to your family movie night memories. I don’t know about you, but I want to build on the memories I’m sharing with my own kids. We want our family movie nights to be an experience they will remember for the rest of their lives. Fortunately, Walmart has made it easy to make it a movie night together.

In store collage

If you purchase four eligible products in one transaction between now and February 2, 2016, you’ll receive a $10 VUDU movie code* via email (*while supplies last. Limit one [1] per person). Simply purchase a 6-pack of Orville Redenbacher popcorn (you can find them here on facebook, twitter, and instagram), M&M’S® Chocolate Candies (facebook, twitter, and instagram, and pinterest, a 6-pack of Coca-Cola (facebook, twitter, instagram, and pinterest) .5 liters, and select DVDs from Sony Pictures (facebook, twitter, instagram, and pinterest) – including War Room, a movie that has changed lives around the country. Snap a picture of your receipt and upload it here for your free $10 VUDU movie code. Then you’ll have enough snacks and entertainment for multiple family movie nights! You’ll also be ready to try these amazing popcorn toppings and create some family memories of your own!

#MakeItAMovieNight

Looking for more ideas? Be sure to check out more fun movie night ideas here and be sure to take advantage of the VUDU offer and make it a movie night tonight!

3 signs that Bella might be too bright for her own good

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #BrightMind #CollectiveBiasBella Close Up #BrightMind #ad

Well, 30 days on the Purina Pro Plan Bright Mind formula (plus 7 days of transitioning to the new food) have come and gone. And it’s clear that Bella really likes her new food. And I think we’re starting to see some changes in her alertness.

Purina Pro Plan #BrightMind #ad

That’s a very good thing. Because that’s the purpose of Purina Pro Plan Bright Mind. It was designed with older dogs in mind. And of the 87 million dogs in the US, it’s estimated that 44 per cent of them are seven years old or older. So there’s a large population of “Man’s Best Friend” that can benefit from the Bright Mind formula. And right now, if you spend $10 on any Purina Pro Plan Dry Dog or Cat Food* at PetSmart by October 4, you can save $10 on your next Purina Pro Plan Dry Food purchase of 14 pounds or more, on or before November 1 (*subject to availability. Transaction total is after discounts and before taxes). That’s a great deal!

Bella was already a pretty smart dog. In many ways, she was already too smart for her own good. Sometimes, she winds up getting herself into some trouble because she was a bit too smart.

Here are 3 ways Bella might be too smart for her own good:

Bella at the top of the steps #BrightMind #ad

 

1.) Bella is an alert watchdog.

She sits atop the steps whenever someone leaves and patiently awaits that person’s return. And if she hears any movement from anyone – human or dog – outside, she’ll bark out the window until she has successfully scared away the potential intruder.

2.) Bella has “trained” us to feed her in a special way.

Bella loves to eat. And she especially loves to eat the Purina Pro Plan Bright Mind formula. Of course, she can’t merely eat her food out of a bowl. That would be too simple.

That’s right. Bella insists on being hand-fed her food.

Mihret feeding Bella by hand #BrightMind #ad

And not only that. She wants us to throw it to her.

Throwing food to Bella #BrightMind #ad

Although this makes Bella’s dinner time last twice as long as it really should, it’s a win-win situation for us. When Mihret feeds Bella, she’s able to get in some extra occupational therapy in by picking up the individual pieces of food. And Bella gets some extra exercise by chasing down the morsels.

Like I said, it’s win-win.

3.)  Bella is an expert at hiding bones.

Bella loves rawhide bones. In fact, she loves them so much that instantly tries to hide her bone whenever you give her one. We don’t have any other dogs, so I guess she’s afraid the kids are going to steal it from her.

So she wanders through the house with her bone in her mouth, whimpering at the top of her lungs until she finds the perfect hiding place.

Bella hiding her bone #BrightMind #ad

 

More often than not, it’s buried between the cushions of one of our couches. I’ve also found bones in our closets and hiding under piles of dirty clothes in the Laundry Room.

As you can see from the picture below, she’s an expert bone hider. It’s really hard to see that bone in the couch cushions (unless you know to look for it).There is the bone hiding in the couch #BrightMind #ad

In fact, Bella’s so good at hiding her bones, that she forgets where she hid them! And then she whimpers and whines as she searches the house in a desperate attempt to find the bone she had just buried.Bella looking for the bone she just hid #BrightMind #adIs Bella really too smart for her own good?

No.

But I’m glad we’re able to encourage her to be mentally sharp with Purina Pro Plan Bright Mind’s enhanced botanical oils that promote attention, trainability, and memory.

 

Effortless Apple Nachos for an effortless meal

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #EffortlessMeals #CollectiveBias

Apple Nachos Recipe #EffortlessMeals #ad

I don’t know what it’s like at your house, but Fall is the season of controlled chaos around here. Well, I hope it’s controlled. Our three kids are enrolled at three different schools and their events seem to be stacked on top of each other. I’m working two jobs and Christy’s job requires a lot of prep at home. Homework demands, doctor appointments, and church commitments keep us on our toes. And in our free time, we’re usually taking Aiden to and from something football related. Yes, our lives are hectic. Sometimes it even feels like Christy and I are expected to be in three different places at the same time. In the midst of our family’s hustle and bustle, we still try to make sharing a meal together a top priority. That’s why I’m glad Walmart has effortless meals that are quick and easy. They’re the perfect meal for busy families like ours. Continue reading “Effortless Apple Nachos for an effortless meal”

Aly, Bella, and Purina Pro Plan Bright Mind formula

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #BrightMind #CollectiveBias

Bella Close Up #BrightMind #ad

It wasn’t meant to be…

Nine years ago this Fall, our family walked into a local animal rescue shelter in Upper East Tennessee, determined to bring home a dog named Bella. Christy and Aly had been there earlier and they had fallen in love with this beautiful, gentle giant of a dog. As we all walked in to meet Bella for the first time.

As we entered Bella’s cage to meet her, a family walked in with a leash. They had just adopted her and were taking her home. We were sad. I think Aly was pretty close to devastated. They already had a connection with this dog and we were looking forward to  having her join our other dog, Diego, as part of our growing family. Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be.

Perfect timing.

As we walked around the rescue shelter, wondering what to do next, Aly watched a family bring in an adorable 10 week old puppy. She was white with some brown spots. Nobody was sure what breed she was. Maybe some type of beagle/pointer mix?

The details really don’t matter that much. Because Aly was instantly in love. As soon as the family left the building, we made a beeline to the volunteer who was working that evening and instantly began the paperwork to adopt this precious little puppy.

We named her Bella, in honor of the Bella we were originally planning on adopting. We left home that night, fully intending on bringing a Bella home. It just wasn’t the Bella we were expecting.

Puppy Bella

The photo above was taken shortly after we brought her home. Just look at that face! Who can resist those legitimate puppy dog eyes? We instantly fell in love with our Bella. And Aly has considered her to be a sister since Day One. And their personalities really do mirror each other. It’s kind of spooky how much they’re alike sometimes. These two have a very close bond. They have very similar spirits and temperaments. It’s almost like they’re soul sisters.

She’s growing up like everyone else.

Bella’s definitely not a puppy anymore. In fact, now that she’s older than 7 years old, she’s considered a senior. Now that Bella’s older, her nutritional needs are changing. Like any other family member, we want to give her what she needs to remain healthy. And providing the proper nutrition is pretty important. The experts at Purina  have discovered that a dog’s brain chemistry begins to change significantly. This change can have a pretty big impact on a dog’s memory, awareness, and decision-making. That’s why Purina has created the Purina Pro Plan Bright Mind for adults. Their formulas were created with senior dogs like Bella in mind. Owners who include Purina Pro Plan Bright Mind as part of their dog’s daily diet may see an improvement in their dog’s memory, attention, and trainability.

#BrightMind available at PetSmart #ad

We want the best for our dog. After all, she’s kind of like family. So we went to our local PetSmart to give this new formula a try. Purina Pro Plan Bright Mind includes enhanced botanical oils that promote mental sharpness in older dogs like Bella. Some owners have seen improvements in their dogs’ mental sharpness in as little as 30 days. That’s pretty remarkable! So we wanted Bella to give it a try.

Purina Pro Plan #BrightMind #ad

Because changing dog food can cause unnecessary stress on a dog’s digestive system, it’s important to take a few days to transition to a new dog food. For Bella, most of her diet consisted of the original dog food with a few bites of Pro Plan Bright Mind mixed in. Each day, we increased the amount of the new food while decreasing the amount of the old food. By the end of the week, she had transitioned completely to the new Bright Mind formula. Transition to Purina Pro Plan #BrightMind #ad

It might sound like that was a lot of transition, but it really wasn’t. It only took a few extra seconds to mix the food. And it was worth that extra effort to ensure a smooth transition for Bella’s digestive system. After all, she’s like family to us. And we want to do what we can to care for her properly.

I wouldn’t be surprised to find out Aly already has plans for Bella to be an integral part of her bridal party if she gets married somewhere down the road. I wouldn’t expect anything less from Aly and her “soul sister.”

 

7 must-have apps for international travel

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and Walmart Family Mobile. All opinions are mine alone. #Tips4Trips #CollectiveBias

7 Must-Have Apps for International Travel #Tips4Trips #ad #cbias

As mentioned earlier, a lot of moving pieces finally came together at just the right time in just the right way in order for Christy to be able to meet “W,” the teenage boy we are in the process of adopting. Late Sunday night/early Monday morning, I drove Christy to the airport. Nearly 18 hours later, she landed in Ethiopia. There were times where I wasn’t sure if we were going to be able to pull the whole thing together. With my full time job, Christy’s responsibilities at her school, and taxiing the kids to and from sports practices, church activities, and camp, it just felt like too daunting of a task to get together all of her necessities plus a bag full of donations in less than two weeks’ time. I honestly don’t think we could have done it without our unlimited talk, text, and data/web from Walmart Family Mobile.

Ethiopia or Bust #Tips4Trips

If you’re looking for the lowest priced unlimited plans with access to a network that covers over 280 people, Walmart Family Mobile is the place you should look first. Their Unlimited Talk, Text, and Data service plan starts at $29.88 a month for the first line. In addition to unlimited talking and texting, you also get access to up to 1G of 4G LTE data per month. Plus, they have a variety of phones available at some pretty incredible prices, including the Alcatel One Touch Pop Astro for only  $64.88.

Disclaimer: All prices for phones and plans included in this post are accurate as of the date of posting; however, these prices are subject to change. Please refer to this link or your local Walmart for current pricing.

#Tips4Trips Store Collage at Walmart

While we’ve taken several vacations in the States, I think it’s safe to say that we’re no world travelers. And we definitely haven’t made a habit of jet-setting around the globe. So when it was finally decided that Christy was going to make this trip by herself, life became a bit more hectic. And life was already hectic with the kids’ activity schedules.

We had travel agents to call. And social workers to call. And our adoption agency to call. We had to make sure my work schedule was arranged in such a way that I could be home as much as possible. We had doctors to call. We had family to contact. We had to collect items – diapers, wipes, educational supplies, DVDs – that we were going to donate to the Care Center. The to-do lists kept piling up, adding more and more chaos to this whirlwind.

You know what we didn’t need during this mad rush to get everything done and ready for Christy to get on a plane? A phone service that dropped all of my calls. Or a phone that was so slow that it would be easier to send documents via passenger pigeon or the Pony Express. Been there. Done that. Not going back.

Ever.

Luggage and phone at the airport #Tips4Trips

That’s what I love about using Walmart Family Mobile. I don’t have to worry about wonky Internet connection. And I can be confident that I’ll be able to have an actual conversation on my phone without worrying about how many minutes I’m using. That’s pretty important when you’re in a time crunch.

And the phones are pretty cool, too.

In preparation for this great journey, I discovered some pretty cool apps. I think these are some tools that every traveler should have in their digital suitcase. They’re very helpful. And they’re free, although some can be enhanced with in-app purchases.

7 must-have apps for international travel:

Android Apps SmartTraveler #Tips4Trips

SmartTraveler

Provided by the U.S. State Department , SmartTraveler gives a plethora of information about countries around the globe, including local customs and laws, political climate, and the location of the U.S. embassy. It also keeps you up to date on travel alerts and warnings that have been issued by the State Department.

 

Android Apps iBlueButton #Tips4TripsiBlueButton

You never plan on having a medical emergency while traveling. But just in case the unforeseen does happen, it’s a good idea to have iBlueButton. It keeps all of your medical information and medical history in one place so you can access it with just the swipe of your finger.

 

Android App Google Hangouts #Tips4TripsGoogle Hangouts

This was pre-installed on our Androids, and although it’s gotten some negative press in the past, Christy and I have been using it to communicate over the the thousands of miles between us. You can use it to send text messages. You can also use it for free video calls via wifi, too.

Christy checking the phone at the airport #Tips4Trips

Android Apps iTranslate #Tips4Trips

iTranslate

With over 90 languages available on this app, you can translate words and phrases in a matter of moments. With an extensive dictionary library, you’ll be able to discern contextual clues and dialects. It’s easy to use and essential for a world traveler.

 

 

Android App Google Goggles #Tips4TripsGoogle Goggles

Let’s say you’re overseas and you see a landmark some 30 miles away but you don’t have any idea what it is. It looks important, but that’s about all you know. With Google Goggles, you can take a picture and search the web with that image. This app has some serious potential.

 

Android App FlightAware #Tips4TripsFlightAware

FlightAware was the perfect app for me to use while Christy was up in the air. No matter where I went that day, I could check the app and track her flight. And if you’re using it while traveling, you’ll be able to keep up to date on the flight schedule and which terminal you have to go to. That’s amazingly helpful if you have a short layover.

 

Android App XE Currency #Tips4TripsXE Currency

You can keep up to date on the exchange rates with this app. It’s a great way to make sure you’re getting the most out of your currency.

It’s also helpful if you’re trying to plan and budget your trip.

 

There are so many apps available that are related to travel. I’m sure I’ve missed some good ones. Now that Christy’s begun her journey, I can start planning for my trip to Ethiopia, which should happen within the next few months.  What apps should I add to my list? Leave your suggestions in the comments below.

#Tips4Trips Phone and suitcase

 

Our family is ready for The Avengers! How about yours?

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #AvengersUnite #CollectiveBias

My family of Super Heroes #AvengersUnite

Have you heard? Of course you’ve heard! The Internet has practically exploded with each movie trailer release over the past few months. A huge impact has already been made on the international box office.

MARVEL’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron is almost here!

Super Heroes Assemble Screenshot #AvengersAssemble
Check out the Super Heroes Assemble app for exclusive MARVEL’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron content!

I’ve done my best to turn my family into a gaggle of geeks, and I think it’s starting to pay off. We are super excited about this super hero movie. To help us get ready for the coming blockbuster, I downloaded the Super Heroes Assemble app (available via Google Play and iTunes) and discovered tons of great stuff about MARVEL’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron.

With this app, you can unlock all kinds of cool features like character bios, featurettes, special behind-the-scenes features, a tour of the Hulkbuster facility, and other great content by heading over to Walmart or Walmart.com and scanning specially marked displays.

Walmart Collage #AvengersUnite

You can also unlock content on the app by scanning specially marked packages. And starting today, you can unlock a special digital comic book thanks to Dr. Pepper. All you have to do is scan a Dr. Pepper sign at Walmart. Or you could scan any Dr. Pepper 12-pack that has The Avengers on its package. It’s a pretty cool feature and it’s the perfect tool to help you and your family to get ready for MARVEL’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Product Shot #AvengersUnite

There’s even an opportunity to use the app to “suit up.” Our family, however, decided to take that whole suiting up thing one step further. It’s really only the next logical step – especially for a gaggle of geeks like mine. Right?

My family the Avengers
So watch out, world! I grabbed these masks and other accessories from The Avengers at our local Walmart. So now our family has suited up and is ready to take on any foe that may come our way. You might find us walking the halls of an upcoming convention. Or you might even find us roaming downtown dressed as these heroes. Just for the fun of it.

We didn’t choose these heroes in a willy-nilly fashion. Each of these characters from MARVEL’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron has a connection with each of our family members. That’s right, friends. There was a method to our madness. Here’s how characters from The Avengers universe connect with my family:

Christy as Captain America #AvengersUnite

Christy as Captain America

Captain America has a strong moral compass. He stands up for what is right with little concern for any personal gain or profit.

That’s my wife. She has an inner strength and compassion that compels her to act on the behalf of others, giving a voice to the voiceless and remembering the forgotten. She is always helping others and trying to make the world around her a better place.

Aly as Thor #AvengersUnite

 Aly as Thor

Thor, a visitor from another realm, has a strong connection with the natural world. Thor can control the weather and has the ability to call down lightning from the heavens. He alone is worthy to carry his hammer, which focuses his power.

Aly can’t call down lightning from the sky, but she has a deep connection with the world around us. When she was little, she said the animals would talk to her. I don’t know how, but there were times where it sure felt that way. She is in tune with the nature around us. It’s almost superhuman.

Aiden as Hulk #AvengersUnite

 Aiden as the Hulk

Bruce Banner is smart. He’s super-smart. His alter-ego, the Hulk, is a giant mass of muscle and is misunderstood by most people. The Hulk possesses superhuman strength and can smash just about anything.

Aiden is smart. And as a teenager, he’s often misunderstood. And much like the Hulk, Aiden is a man of few words. He has been working out with the high school football team for the past six months. He’s become a lean, mean, muscular machine. Because of his strength, he has been called upon several times to help move furniture.

Aiden SMASH #AvengersUnite

Mihret as Iron Man #AvengersUnite

Mihret as Iron Man

With the help of sophisticated technology, Tony Stark can suit up in a powerful set of armor to become Iron Man. Much like Dr. Banner, Mr. Stark is very smart. And his creativity knows no bounds. He’s a determined person whose Iron Man suit helps him accomplish his dream of protecting the world.

Mihret’s nickname at school is “Miss Determination.” Much like Mr. Stark, she won’t take “no” for an answer. Although she requires the use of mobility aids in order to walk and get around, she is always using her creativity to find new ways to achieve what doctors have suggested she wouldn’t be able to do. She always has on her “armor,” ankle and foot orthotics that help her walk. She is able to use the assistive technology available to her to help her achieve her goals and accomplish her dreams.

Our family is united

When you watch the trailers for MARVEL’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron, it’s apparent that, once again, the world needs these heroes to unite together in order to defeat a powerful foe. Working together as a team isn’t always easy. It requires sacrifice, humility, honesty, and teamwork. It can be messy. But when they work together, they can accomplish much.

That’s not unlike our family. Sure there are personality clashes at times. And we a little rough around the edges. Life together can be messy – both physically and emotionally. But we’re united. And when we work together, we can accomplish much. Who knows? We just might end up changing the world.

I know what you’re asking. What about me? Which members of The Avengers am I? Well, he’s really not an Avenger, but I think I might relate the most closely with Nick Fury, who gets things done in the background and does his best to help the rest of his team succeed.

How about your family?

Why not check out the MARVEL’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron section at Walmart.com and find the perfect snacks and equipment for the super heroes in your life? I’d love to hear which members of The Avengers are most like your family members.

Feel free to share those connections in the comments!

When hunger bites at you, bite hunger back!

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #BiteHungerBack #CollectiveBias

Bite Hunger Back #BiteHungerBack #ad

I had forgotten how much growing teenagers eat in one day. We have two teens in our house right now. One of them (who shall remain nameless) is pretty much a bottomless pit. This kid would still complain about being hungry after eating a seven-course meal.

I get it, though. They are teenagers. So I understand the change in eating habits. School takes a lot out of you. Athletics takes a lot out of you. Following your favorite Boy Band’s every move takes a lot out of you. So you’ve got to eat. It’s part of being a growing teenager. I get that. I really do. But – holy cow – they can eat. A lot.

Hungry teens with forks #BiteHungerBack #ad

And this has me worried.

We are in the process of adopting a boy from halfway around the world. If everything goes the way we hope, hell be home with us by the end of this year.

He’s a teenager, too.

So that’s going to make the challenge of keeping our family’s bellies full without breaking the bank even more difficult. Don’t get me wrong. He’s totally worth it. And he’s going to make our family complete. But if he has half the appetite our other teens have, we could be in a heap of trouble.

Fortunately, there’s HOT POCKETS® Breakfast Bites and HOT POCKETS® Snack Bites.

HOT POCKETS® Snack Bites and Breakfast Bites

Made with high quality ingredients, HOT POCKETS® Snack Bites and Breakfast Bites can help fulfill your kids’ seemingly never-ending hunger. The Snack Bites are available in a variety of flavors, including Hickory Ham and Cheddar, Pepperoni Pizza, and Cheesy Beef Nacho. The Breakfast Bites flavors include Bacon, Egg, and Cheese, Sausage, Egg, and Cheese, and Ham, Egg, and Cheese. Once you try them, you’ll discover that they’re a satisfying snack with some serious staying power.

HOT POCKETS® Snack Bites and Breakfast Bites at Walmart #BiteHungerBack #ad

You can find HOT POCKETS® Snack Bites and Breakfast Bites in the frozen snacks section of your local Walmart. And during the month of April, you can save $1 off HOT POCKETS® Snack Bites with this coupon!

HOT POCKETS® Snack Bites are great any time!

Pepperoni Pizza HOT POCKETS® Snack Bites

When my teenager with the bottomless pit as a stomach complains about hunger pains a half an hour after dinner, HOT POCKETS® Snack Bites can help tackle that appetite. It’s great. My kids can pop them in the microwave without supervision and in almost no time at all, they can have tasty, cheesy goodness for a hearty snack. HOT POCKETS® Snack Bites are made with quality ingredients, including 100% real cheese. With the snack that bites hunger back, you can satisfy the hungriest of appetites.

Kick-start your day with HOT POCKETS® Breakfast Bites

HOT POCKETS® Breakfast Bites Close Up #BiteHungerBack #ad

I’ll be honest. Nobody in our house is a morning person. So breakfast before school is usually a pretty big chore and it’s also kind of miserable. With HOT POCKETS® Breakfast Bites, however, we can make the most of our morning with bites full of breakfast awesomeness. Much like the Snack Bites, these Breakfast Bites are stuffed with quality ingredients like 100% real cheese. They are a great way to bite through your morning hunger and start the day off on the right foot.

Thanks to HOT POCKETS® Breakfast Bites and HOT POCKETS® Snack Bites, I feel a little bit better about our family’s future with three teenage mouths to feed under one roof. I know their hunger will be satisfied with these hearty snacks. Now I can worry about other things: like how to get three teenagers to share a bathroom. Or share the remote control. Or put their dirty dishes in the sink. I hope I’m not biting off more than I can chew.

Be sure to check out HOT POCKETS® online by following them on Twitter, liking them on Facebook, and following them on Instagram for more great ways to bite hunger back when hunger tries to bite you.

 

I’m not myself when I’m hungry at work

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #WhenImHungry #CollectiveBias

I'm not myself when I'm hungry #WhenImHungry #ad

I love my job. I have talked about how difficult the job can be at times, but I really do love it. I had no idea how fulfilling this job could be when I signed on. I had no idea how exciting and humbling and awe-inspiring it would be to watch a student write his name for the first time. I get more high fives and fist bumps and hugs in one week than I did during my entire tenure at my previous place of employment. I love these kids. And I work with a great team.

I love my job.

And that’s why I need to be at the top of my game. I want to give these kids my best effort every day. They need my best effort. And that doesn’t happen when I’m hungry. Because I’m not myself when I’m hungry. I’m more like a grumpy, grizzly, grouch.

Hungry Face #WhenImHungry #adMy palms get all clammy. Beads of sweat start to form on my forehead. My stomach starts to grumble. My lips begin to tremble. And my eye begins to twitch. I’m rarely a happy camper when I’m hungry.

It doesn’t exactly create the best academic environment when one of the instructional assistants is distracted and coming close to going on a rampage because he’s hungry. So I turn to SNICKERS®. I’ve especially become a fan of the SNICKERS® Peanut Butter Squared.

SNICKERS® available at Kroger #WhenImHungry #ad

I can pick one up in the checkout line at my neighborhood Kroger. It’s the perfect combination of peanut butter, nougat, peanuts, and caramel covered in milk chocolate. Oh, man. It’s so good. And it really hits the spot. It’s the perfect snack for when I’m starting to feel smacked around by my hunger in the middle of the day.

It fits perfectly in my backpack so I always know where it is and I can get to it easily. And since two squares come in one package, I can eat one and save the other for later. Of course, I can eat both squares in one sitting, too. Either way, my hunger will be satisfied.

SNICKERS® in my backpack #WhenImHungry #ad

I need to be able to give my full attention to the kids who are under my care when they’re at my learning station in our classroom. There’s no time to become a grumpy, grizzly, grouch. My time with these students is too precious. So there’s no time to be anyone but myself when I’m teaching them. So I can’t get hungry. Because I’m not me when I’m hungry.

SNICKERS® saves the day #WhenImHungry #adI’m definitely not myself when I’m hungry. Who are you when you’re hungry? Why not share it with the world? Enter the SNICKERS® “Who are you when you’re hungry?” contest by uploading a personal photo or video from your Computer, Facebook, Instagram or use the SNICKERS® Meme Generator to create something new! Voting begins at Noon on 5/11/15 and ends at 11:59:59AM ET on 7/15/15.

Be sure to check out more fun stories and recipes by visiting #WhenImHungry, too! You just might find yourself inspired. And you’ll definitely find ways to have your hunger satisfied.