Posts Filed Under Reviews

Reconnections

posted by Momo Fali on October 12, 2011

One of the best things about social media (other than the fact that it pays the bills around here) is that I have been able to get in touch with people who I knew many years ago; people who, at one time, taught me, inspired me and befriended me. Finding them again, after much time has passed, has allowed me to be taught, inspired and befriended all over again!

One of those old friends is Melanie…and this is her guest post…actually, it’s the inaugural guest post on this site! Enjoy and be inspired to get organized!

Isn’t it great to reconnect with others you haven’t seen in some time?  It’s refreshing to know that they are genuine, kind, and still so humorous, even after many years have passed. This is how I feel about Diane, and I’m so glad to know her, a former high school classmate.  I feel blessed to be able to do my first guest post on her wonderfully realistic, witty, and entertaining blog. 

The process of getting organized is often about reconnections, too.  Have you noticed that?  Think about a successful organizing system you’ve used in the past, and about how it has worked for you.  Instead of trying a new-fangled tool, resource, or system, keep things simple.  It’s not that those newer tools aren’t useful, but we can reconnect to what we already know works.  Go back to the basics, and rediscover the simpler ways that help you to feel in control of your spaces.  Your organizing systems don’t always have to be up-and-coming or sparkly-new; rather, they may be simple and basic.  For example, to contain mail and cut down on clutter, you could simply put a box in your kitchen to collect mail.  Your succinct and to-the-point system may help you to establish a visual limit, thereby cutting back on piles and piles of mail that threaten to take over your kitchen table.  You may not need an expensive color-coded filing system to keep your daily mail under control.

Keeping things under control and thinking “back to the basics” makes me think of my own profession. School has started for the year, and as a teacher, I know it’s the same process here too.  I don’t need to worry if my classroom includes all the newest gadgets, but instead, I should focus on what is working, and trust in those systems wholeheartedly.  There are enough distractions in my day, so I must be able to understand what is working for me and what organizing systems help me to remain productive in my teaching life.

Here’s to reconnecting.  Reconnect with people, ideas, strategies, and solutions that help you grow, make you stronger, and give you passion to improve your life.  Sometimes, reflecting on those things in the past are the things that propel us forward in the future.  It’s the same with getting organized.

Melanie Unger is a teacher and professional organizer.  She started her own professional organizing company in 2008, called Organized Inspirations.  She recently published her first book, Organized Teacher, Happy Classroom, which includes specific strategies and tips for helping teachers become their most organized. 

 For more information about her book, blog, or her company, check out her website:  www.organizedinspirations.com.

 Follow her on Twitter:  www.twitter.com/MelanieUnger

Lake Erie Shores, Islands and Cedar Point

posted by Momo Fali on September 5, 2011

For the 16 years that my husband and I have been together we have made a trip, 2.5 hours north, to Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky, Ohio every summer. It used to be us and a group of friends, but once we had kids it became a family getaway. We usually drive up on a Saturday afternoon, buy twilight passes for Saturday evening, all-day passes for Sunday, then drive home Sunday night. We never go anywhere but Cedar Point.

There’s a good reason for that. Cedar Point is awesome. If you like roller coasters, there is no better park in the United States. I’m not lying.

Amusement Today has voted it the best amusement park in the country for the past 13 years and BONUS! We can get there in under 3 hours. There are SO MANY great coasters at Cedar Point that it’s hard to say which one is my favorite. I’ve always loved Raptor, but Millennium Force is the most amazingly fast, smooth and exciting ride I have ever been on (watch this video to see it).

Maverick is the most unique and Top Thrill Dragster is quite a ride. And, I haven’t even come close to naming all of the coasters, let alone the other rides. My kids love roller coasters just as much as we do. Thank goodness, because I would hate to have to disown them.

But, there is one thing that’s wrong with liking Cedar Point so much; we never see anything else the Lake Erie shore has to offer.

This year we did things differently.

Do you ever feel like you have to take a break? That’s how I was feeling a few weeks ago. Like I was being pulled in so many different directions that I didn’t know which way to turn first. I needed a little getaway with my family to get myself centered again.

We drove to Sandusky on a Sunday morning and checked into our room at the Sawmill Creek Resort. This sprawling hotel is on well-kept grounds with a golf course on site.  The accommodations were nicer than where we usually stay for our Cedar Point trips, but if you take little ones, ask for a room near the lobby. It took us a long time to walk to the common areas like the pool, restaurants and gift shop.

The amenity most notably missing was that there was no wifi in the room. There was one dial-up source, but that meant that my husband and I couldn’t work at the same time (it should be noted, the blogger won that battle).

We had a 12:30 tee time that afternoon for the whole family and as we neared the very first green, rain came at us from every angle. With lightning suddenly striking, we floored our golf carts to the nearest shelter, which happened to be a storage barn.

After about 20 minutes, the rain slowed enough that we could drive back to the clubhouse and request a tee time for the next morning. They were happy to oblige.

So, there we were at 1:00 in the afternoon, and our plans were rained out. THIS is why you should stay at a hotel with an indoor pool. Between swimming and a trip to Walmart for snacks, we still managed to have a fun-filled day.

The next morning, we hit the putting green at 7:45am. Luckily, the weather was cooperating.

The course was beautiful and we, mostly, had it to ourselves.

The kids were even getting along.

After 18 holes of golf, we drove to the Miller Ferry in Catawba, where we pulled our car right onto the boat.

Then we climbed to the top level and enjoyed the ride to Put in Bay, which is a small Lake Erie island.

We started the afternoon with a tour of the Heineman Winery and Crystal Cave. The cave is the world’s largest geode and you can stand inside of it! I felt like Superman.

A tour of the winery followed, where my homemade-wine-making-husband had vat envy. These don’t look like our five gallon jugs!

Before we left the winery, we stopped for a glass of wine and the kids got grape juice. My daughter loved it…

…but, my son was unimpressed.

To distract him, we walked across the street to Perry’s Cave Family Fun Center and the Butterfly House.

We saw some gorgeous flowers and exotic butterflies.

This one hitched a ride.

By this time, the kids were getting tired. Okay, so was I. My husband insisted that we wait for a tour of Perry’s Cave, but let’s just say there was some serious whining going on. It was so HOT, which is why I am really glad we waited for that tour.

Perry’s Cave is deep underground and naturally air-conditioned at a delightful 50 degrees. It was dark, damp and kind of freaky, but it felt so good! Warning! Low ceiling!

After that, we were rejuvenated! The kids really wanted to run through Fort Amaze’n, which looked far too complicated for me. I, instead, watched from a viewing stand. The kids were sent in with a challenge to find four letters, stamp a card, then exit within 5 minutes. If you could do that, you got a free pass for a rock climbing wall.

It turned out to be too difficult for the kids as well. My husband jumped in to help our son and our daughter ended up crawling under the partition after about 15 minutes of trying to get out.

Because our golf game had been postponed until that morning, we didn’t have as much time on Put in Bay as we would have liked. We took a quick drive around the island, before taking the ferry back to Catawba.

Beautiful, isn’t it? Bet you didn’t know that Ohio looks like this.

After dinner, the kids somehow had enough energy to go swimming, which put the cherry on top of a very full day. We loved our visit to the Lake Erie shore and there was so much more we could have seen. I guess that just means we have to go back next year!

The next morning, we woke early and made our annual drive to Cedar Point. We spent all day on roller coasters, then changed into our bathing suits for some of the water rides. My son thought it was hysterical when I got completely drenched. Truth be told, I kind of did too.

We always have a fabulous time and this year was no exception. Cedar Point makes me feel like a kid again.

And, as an added bonus, the prize from the ball toss game made an excellent pillow for the ride home.

The good thing about amusement park prizes is that they don’t even mind if you snore.

A BIG thank you to Cedar Point and Lake Erie Shores and Islands for accommodations, ferry passes, a round of golf and attraction tickets!

Ford Explorer and the Little Things

posted by Momo Fali on August 29, 2011

Just after my husband and I got married, we bought our first new car. It was a 1997 Mercury Mountaineer. After 14 years and 145,000 miles, I’m still driving that SUV. I have had it so long that they don’t even make Mountaineers anymore. I might as well have an Edsel.

Even though my car has a rear door that won’t open, a horn that doesn’t honk, a CD player that won’t release my CD’s, a liftgate that slams down on your head and a speedometer that barely lights up at night, I didn’t think I was missing out when everyone around me went through two or three cars in the last decade and a half. After all, my car is comfortable, it has needed minimal repairs, I feel pretty safe in it and we have used the heck out of the abundant cargo space.

But, it is becoming more and more apparent that Bessie (as we lovingly refer to her) is beginning to show her age; not to mention that she only gets about 9 mpg. It is time that we start looking for another car.

I want something with more seating than the Mountaineer’s five seats, I want safety, good mileage, cargo room, towing capabilities, comfort and it has to fit in my garage. That is key.

I drove a Chevy Tahoe a few years ago and fell in love with it because of its ample space. Actually, there was too much space. I would have needed to tear out my garage door and raise it a few inches in order to park my car.

When Ford contacted me recently to test drive a vehicle from their media fleet, I immediately wanted to try the Expedition. Can you tell I like roomy cars?

Unfortunately, because of my garage door, I knew there was no way I could end up with an SUV that big. I looked at Ford’s website and chose an Explorer instead. It had six or seven seats (depending on the model), plenty of cargo space and best-in-its-class highway mpg. With fuel close to $4 a gallon, that’s a no-brainer.

The Explorer didn’t disappoint when we recently took it on a trip to Lake Erie. It had all of the above and a whole lot more. As much as my must-have list of features are important to me, I found that it’s the little things that make one, BIG impression. I had no idea what I’ve been missing.

Let’s have a look, shall we?

Cup holders – What? Cup holders are a big deal. I have spilled enough drinks in my car to know this. The Explorer had two, DEEP cup holders in the center console AND each door has a cup holder as well. It was the same way for my kids in the back seat too. That meant my husband and I could have our hot coffee safely stored and have a water bottle in the door instead of rolling around on the floor.

BLIS® with Cross-Traffic Alert – See that little car in the side-view mirror? When another car is in your blind spot, it lights up for you and warns you not to switch lanes. Awesome.

Push Button Start – Say you have your hands full with grocery bags, or you just got a manicure…cough…me…cough…you can open your door AND start the car without ever needing to dig the keys out of your purse. The door unlocks when you’re within range and you push start the car. I loved this feature. Also, my purse is a mess.


Powerfold Seats – You don’t have to remove either row of seats to add to your cargo space. With the push of a button you can stow the seats. It is completely easy and effortless.

Heated AND Air Conditioned Seating – Sure you’ve had your hind end warmed, but have you had it cooled? Mmm hmm. Need I say more?

Who knew that your navigation system could tell you the speed limit of the road you’re on? Not me.

Um…that’s a power outlet. Heating chili at a football tailgate just got a whole lot easier.

Collision Warning with Brake Assist – The Explorer is so smart that it will keep a set distance between you and the car in front of you and will slow down automatically. You don’t have to mess around with cruise control. This was my husband’s favorite feature.

Remember how my original list included cargo room? The back of the Explorer held FOUR sets of golf clubs, a full-sized cooler, a smaller cooler, a backpack, a duffel bag, an enormous suitcase and an exhaust fan. My husband doesn’t just like white noise for sleeping, he likes jet engine noise. Oh, and there was also one surly preteen and an impish nine year old.

Folks, I could go on and on. I was so impressed with the handling, the padded seatbelts my kids wore across their chests, the ability to turn off the passenger side airbag (my car doesn’t have that capability) and so much more. This is one incredible vehicle.

And, as soon as Bessie tells me she’s ready for the salvage yard, I’d like to park an Explorer in my garage. Oh, and I tried…it fits.

filed under Ford, Reviews, Traveling and tagged with

Gas Giveaways #5 and #6 and a BONUS!

posted by Momo Fali on August 19, 2011

That’s right. This week’s commute better tip post comes with two more gas card giveaways AND a chance to win a commute kit provided by BP!

A few days ago, I had the honor of speaking to a group of Columbus Moms about making commuting more enjoyable with your kids in the car. I don’t drive anywhere for work and I don’t have far to take the kids to school, but my daughter plays golf, volleyball, basketball and softball and my son plays baseball and is involved with Scouts. I drive. A lot.

One thing I can’t do without, is my go-to bag. I take it with me everywhere and keep it in the car whenever possible. It is filled with essentials like bug spray, sunscreen, tissues, wet-wipes, hand sanitizer and snacks. During sports season, I keep a small first aid kit in it as well.

I can’t tell you how many short trips to a drug store we have avoided because I’m prepared for just about anything. And, the other moms know who to come to if they need something. I’m talking to you, Amy.

For long drives, don’t forget the electronics! And, if you have a child who gets motion sickness, I have found that books on tape are great at keeping them occupied without the need to take their eyes off of the road.

Sweatshirts keep young ones warm if mom and dad are cranking the air conditioning and they can double as pillows for sleepy kids.

When I’m driving around town, I keep a hot/cold bag or a cooler with frozen milk jugs inside, so that I can do my grocery shopping while I’m out and I don’t have to make a special trip. I don’t have to fill up my gas tank as often and I can avoid unnecessary wear and tear on my car.

So, which tip would you use most often?

1. Having a container filled with commuting essentials

2. Using electronics or books on tape for long drives

3. Putting frozen jugs of water in a cooler before you run errands so you don’t have to go out of your way to go to the grocery store

Just tell me which tip is your favorite and I will enter you in the drawing for one of  TWO $40 gift cards. AND, a lucky third place winner will get a commute essentials kit from BP. You can earn extra entries by tweeting about this giveaway, then leave your tweet link in a comment on this post. Contest ends Wednesday, August 24th at 5pm Eastern.

Three winners will be chosen at random. Make sure to leave a valid email address, so I can contact you if you win.

Good luck and happy commuting!

*UPDATE* Congratulations to the gas card winners, Lisa and Rachael and to the commute kit winner, Jennifer Marie! Stay tuned for more giveaways!

filed under BP, Giveaway, Reviews and tagged with