Feeling all the feelings with Disney-Pixar’s #InsideOut (UPDATED)

Disclosure: The boys and I were privileged to see a prescreening of Disney-Pixar’s new movie Inside Out. All opinions below are our own.

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Oh Disney-Pixar, is it any wonder that whenever the boys ask me, “What’s your favorite Disney-Pixar movie, I can’t pick just one? I fall in love with every new movie they release: the storytelling, the characters, the colors and animation. They set the bar higher and higher each time. Inside Out is no exception.

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Disney Side@Home 2015 Party Prep

(Okay, so this took me a little a lot longer to finish than anticipated. And it is also longer than I anticipated. So long, I’m dividing it in two. Here’s the first part. Read it all, I promise you’ll like it.)

Some weeks ago (really? Was it almost three months ago?! Better late than never…), we hosted our second Disney Side@Home Party, and I’m happy to report it was as great, if not better, than our first one last year! I got very crafty this year, and I’m thankful that my friend Amy Kikita, who’s got a genetic predisposition for amazing party planning, was on-hand to help  take over  lead the party planning committee.

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How to save for your child’s college education with the Florida 529 Sav­ings Plan

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Florida College Prepaid and Bloggin’ Mamas, opinions and experiences are 100% my own.

When I graduated high school, there was no financial plan in place for me to attend college. With three kids in the house, my mom and stepdad had to make end meet weekly, and there was no one to give them advice on how to best save for their children’s futures. I worked a part time job and with a little help from my parents paid my way through local college. I was fortunate enough that halfway through my college career I began working for the University of Miami, and because tuition remission is an employee benefit, I was able to obtain my Bachelor’s degree after completing Associate degree.

Not every child has a scenario like mine, or earns scholarships to prestigious schools. In fact, those scenarios are few and far between, the most common scenario is that of parents struggling to pay for their child’s higher education, putting it on credit cards and owing thousands of dollars in student loans. These days, student loan debt has reached $1 trillion nationally. With my eldest finishing his first year of middle school, and my youngest already halfway through Elementary School, my husband and I know we have to start planning for what lies ahead. Thankfully, these days parents have several options to prepare for this milestone.

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What is a 529 Savings Plan?
529 savings plans are named after section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code 26 U.S.C. § 529 and are designed to encourage saving for future higher education expenses of a designated beneficiary. Many states offer 529 savings plan options, including Florida Prepaid.
Money from a 529 plan can be used for tuition, fees, books, supplies and equipment required for study at any accredited college, university or vocational school in the United States and at some foreign universities. The money can also be used for room and board, as long as the fund beneficiary is at least a half-time student. Off-campus housing costs are covered up to the allowance for room and board that the college includes in its cost of attendance for federal financial-aid purposes. Qualified education expenses do not include student loans and student loan interest. There is legislation currently going through Congress that will expand the qualified expenses.

What is Florida Prepaid?
Florida Prepaid is the largest, longest running and most successful prepaid program in the nation and we are here to help Florida families understand the importance of investing in education and make it is easy to do so. Florida Prepaid offers two types of savings options: Prepaid Plans and 529 savings plans. There are five different types of Prepaid Plans, and they can only be purchased during Open Enrollment (which usually runs from Oct.-Feb.).Every college savings plan opened with us represents an investment in a child’s future, and in our state.

The Florida 529 Savings Plan
The Florida 529 Savings Plan can be started at anytime and only requires a $25 initial deposit to open. Even if you can’t save for your child’s entire college education, starting something is always better than doing nothing. The funds in a Florida 529 Savings Plan can be used for any qualified higher educational expense, including tuition, room & board, textbooks, graduate school and much more. This gives you extreme flexibility to use the funds as you see fit, for whatever your child may need. And should those needs change during his/her college years, individuals are free to adjust as well.

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Have you started planning yet? If not, today is a great day to start: it’s National 529 Day. I encourage you to check out the college planning options at http://www.myfloridaprepaid.com/what-we-offer/529-savings-plan/.

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Marvel’s AVENGERS: Age of Ultron in theaters NOW!

Disclosure: I was invited to a pre-screening of Avengers: Age of Ultron by Disney Pictures. All opinions are my own.

Avengers posterThe wait is over, it’s finally here: Avengers: Age of Ultron hits theaters across the country today! Can you believe it’s been three years since the last Avengers movie? We had a few movies from the Marvel Universe to help pass the time (Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy), but the Super Six are back in this one, with a couple of new faces too.

I had the extreme pleasure of attending a pre-screening of Avengers: Age of Ultron this past Tuesday, and it was epic! Iron Man (my favorite…shhh, don’t tell the others), Captain America, Thor, The Incredible Hulk, Black Widow, and Hawkeye take us on a new adventure as they protect the world from Ultron and his plan to change life as we know it on Earth.

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Each character gets individual screen time, allowing us, the audience, to get to know them just a little better and relate to them a bit deeper than just their superhero persona. Their relationship as a team is tested by Ultron (perfectly voiced by James Spader), who is set on executing his plan, no matter the cost. But he is no match for the Avengers and a few new allies, including someone a bit familiar… (no spoilers here! Go see it and find out who I’m talking about!). Speaking of familiar, if you’re a Disney fan, you’ll recognize a familiar tune, with a bit of a creepy spin to it…

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I heard Chris Hemsworth say in an interview this week that the first film was like the first day of school, and this second one was like a high school reunion. I really like this analogy. Avengers: Age of Ultron, while filled with the great fight scenes we all expect, also shows how the relationship between these characters has evolved and how they work together in spite of their differences. That cohesiveness, once they’ve gotten more comfortable not only in their own skin but as parts to a whole, make them a better team.

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Here’s the OFFICIAL BOILERPLATE:

Marvel Studios presents “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” the epic follow-up to the biggest Super Hero movie of all time. When Tony Stark tries to jumpstart a dormant peacekeeping program, things go awry and Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, including Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, The Incredible Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye, are put to the ultimate test as the fate of the planet hangs in the balance. As the villainous Ultron emerges, it is up to The Avengers to stop him from enacting his terrible plans, and soon uneasy alliances and unexpected action pave the way for an epic and unique global adventure.

Marvel’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron” stars Robert Downey Jr., who returns as Iron Man, along with Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Mark Ruffalo as Hulk and Chris Evans as Captain America. Together with Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow and Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, and with the additional support of Don Cheadle as James Rhodes/War Machine, Cobie Smulders as Agent Maria Hill, Stellan Skarsgård as Erik Selvig and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, the team must reassemble to defeat James Spader as Ultron, a terrifying technological villain hell-bent on human extinction. Along the way, they confront two mysterious and powerful newcomers, Pietro Maximoff, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and Wanda Maximoff, played by Elizabeth Olsen and meet an old friend in a new form when Paul Bettany becomes Vision.

Written and directed by Joss Whedon and produced by Kevin Feige, p.g.a., Marvel’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron” is based on the ever-popular Marvel comic book series “The Avengers,” first published in 1963. Louis D’Esposito, Alan Fine, Victoria Alonso, Jeremy Latcham, Patricia Whitcher, Stan Lee and Jon Favreau serve as executive producers. Get set for an action-packed thrill ride when The Avengers return in Marvel’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron” on May 1, 2015.

At 141 minutes, the running time seems long, but it won’t matter. There wasn’t a slow moment in the entire film, it was edge-of-your-seat action from start to finish. You’ll sit through it, and want more when it’s over. And you’ll get more: Phase 3 for the Marvel Cinematic Universe begins early next year!

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As with all the Marvel movies, don’t forget to watch out for Stan Lee, and look out for that extra scene during the credits. Go see Avengers: Age of Ultron this weekend, and let me know what you thought!

Stay connected to Avengers: Age of Ultron
Like THE AVENGERS on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/avengers
Follow THE AVENGERS on Twitter: https://twitter.com/avengers
Visit the official website: http://marvel.com/avengers

Posted in Disney, Entertain Me, Here's What I Think, Movies | Leave a comment

Wordless Wednesday – Disney Side Party Prep

DisneySide Party Prep A few weeks ago we hosted our 2015 Disney Side party. My friend Amy Kikita helped. A lot. I had lots of great ideas, but was not confident that I could execute them. She helped me put the Mickey and Minnie centerpieces together out of styrofoam balls, make a decorative flag pendant with scrapbook paper in different colors and patterns that matched the theme (which we called “Hipster Mickey”), and helped me paint and prep items for our fun photo booth. It was perfect (and did you notice that even my walls matched?!)! Stay tuned later this week as I recap the rest of our party.

Posted in Disney, Entertain Me, Fun Stuff, Wordless Wednesday | 1 Comment

Waffles and Sunday Mornings

Hubby works six days a week, and with our conflicting schedules it is practically impossible most days to sit down for a meal together. Except for Sundays. Sunday is his day off, and since he’s a morning person, he’s usually wide awake by 7am (as are the kids). I, on the other hand, am a night person, and I like to sleep in. He lets me sleep until about 9am, or rather, that’s the time when I can’t keep my eyes closed anymore because the boys are being loud. Almost immediately after I get out of bed, I’m hungry, so I nudge hubby that I’m ready for food. We stumble to the kitchen to get started on our weekly tradition, family breakfast.

Nine times out of ten we make waffles and Cafe con Leche, usually accompanied with bacon, and more often than not there are strawberries or blueberries on hand to add onto the waffles. And by we I mean he, he likes to make the waffles, he won’t even let me make the mixture. And he is the expert in our house making Cafe con Leche. I sit there and watch, set the table and make the bacon, then watch some more until everything is ready.

A friend shared this simple waffle recipe with us years ago, and it’s been our Sunday breakfast tradition ever since!

Recipe:
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-3/4 cups reduced-fat milk
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground clove

Place all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and combine well. Do not overmix.
Let batter stand for about 5 minutes before cooking waffles. Heat waffle iron on 3 or 4, depending on desired crispiness. Makes 5 to 6 Belgian waffles or 8-10 thinner waffles.

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Posted in Family & Friends, Feed Me, Life Happens | 2 Comments

Good Luck Charms Miami Spring Giveaway!

In Bloom by GLCM giveaway

Today is the first day of Spring, and In Bloom by Good Luck Charms Miami is the perfect accessory to wear during the season!

This gorgeous set of (3) is adorned with Almond Vanilla Accent Swarovski Crystals and Embellished with Spring Pastels and Metallic Metals, Stardust Beads and Facetted Crystal and Gold Bicone Accents. Its the perfect set for Spring Love!

We’ve once again teamed up with Good Luck Charms Miami to host a seasonal giveaway. This set would make a lovely gift for yourself or loved one for Easter, Passover, or even Mother’s Day! Check out their Instagram feed for other amazing creations! (Profile is private, but please feel free to request)

GIVEAWAY: One lucky Brandon’s Puppy reader will win the gorgeous three piece set pictured above from Good Luck Charms Miami. Just fill out the required entries on the rafflecopter form below. (For first time visitors, one of the entries is a comment on this post. Please scroll to the end of the post and “leave a reply”.) Winner will be announced on Friday, March 27th. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Posted in Fun Stuff, Giveaways | 9 Comments

5 Reasons to go see #Cinderella, in theaters now!

Disclosure: I was invited to a pre-screening of Cinderella by Disney Pictures. All opinions are my own.

I had the pleasure of having a girls’ movie night earlier this week and going to a pre-screening of Disney’s Cinderella with two friends. We had all been looking forward to this live action retelling for months, and it was a joy to be able to treat them to a screening before the movie’s release. Here are the top five reasons you should go see Disney’s Cinderella this weekend:

1. Brilliant talents including Lily James and Sophie McShera from Downton Abbey star as Cinderella and her stepsister Drisella, respectively (with Holliday Grainger cast as Anastasia, Cinderella’s other stepsister); Academy Award nominee Helena Bonham Carter plays Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother; Academy Award winner Cate Blanchett owns the role of Lady Tremaine, Cinderella’s stepmother; Academy Award nominee Kenneth Branagh directs.

2. The Transformation Sequence: The transformation scene, from the lizards as coachmen and mice as horses to the iconic pumpkin into an absolutely perfect golden carriage, and of course Cinderella’s rags to stunning ballgown, is Disney perfection.

3. The Prince. No more words needed.

4. It’s visually captivating: Ella tending to the animals, the kingdom’s landscape, the costumes, the sweeping staircase and chandeliers at the ball: Every aspect is breathtaking, perfect for the retelling of this timeless fairy tale.

5. It’s simply charming! Disney’s Cinderella does not try to reinvent or modernize the classic fairy tale. Why mess with a formula that works? It reminds us that it’s still okay to believe in magic and happily ever afters.

Official boilerplate:
The story of “Cinderella” follows the fortunes of young Ella (Lily James) whose merchant father remarries following the death of her mother. Eager to support her loving father, Ella welcomes her new stepmother (Cate Blanchett) and her daughters Anastasia (Holliday Grainger) and Drisella (Sophie McShera) into the family home. But, when Ella’s father unexpectedly passes away, she finds herself at the mercy of a jealous and cruel new family. Finally relegated to nothing more than a servant girl covered in ashes, and spitefully renamed Cinderella, Ella could easily begin to lose hope. Yet, despite the cruelty inflicted upon her, Ella is determined to honor her mother’s dying words and to “have courage and be kind.” She will not give in to despair nor despise those who mistreat her. And then there is the dashing stranger she meets in the woods. Unaware that he is really a prince, not merely an apprentice at the Palace, Ella finally feels she has met a kindred soul. It appears her fortunes may be about to change when the Palace sends out an open invitation for all maidens to attend a ball, raising Ella’s hopes of once again encountering the charming Kit (Richard Madden). Alas, her stepmother forbids her to attend and callously rips apart her dress. But, as in all good fairy tales, help is at hand, and a kindly beggar woman (Helena Bonham Carter) steps forward and – armed with a pumpkin and a few mice – changes Cinderella’s life forever.

Go see Disney’s Cinderella, in theaters now!
Website: http://disney.com/Cinderella
Like us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Cinderella
Follow us on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/CinderellaMovie
Follow us on Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/DisneyCinderella
Follow us on Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/disneystudios/cinderella

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In which Rachel and I run in the Florida Keys

So when my friend Rachel told me she wanted to come to Miami for her birthday, I was thrilled. Then I get a text, “Are there any races March 7th or 8th in Miami?”. We searched high and low, found two, and made a decision between those two. We completed the Sombrero Beach 15K Challenge on Saturday, and overall it was a fantastic experience!

We woke up at 4am on Saturday and left my house by 4:45am, ready for the 2 hour drive. I expected traffic because there was a biking event in the Upper Keys, but we got there without any issues, and by 6:35am we were parking in the lot at Sombrero Beach Park. We made it out of the car and walked over to the shore, just in time to see the sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean.

We picked up our packets and loitered about the beach, snapping pictures and taking in the beauty of this little park. Before we knew it the parking lot started to fill up and the crowd got bigger, and it was 8am, time for the race to start.

Off we were, ready to tackle this 15K challenge. First up was the 10K course, which started at the beach and headed up Sombrero Beach Road, along a bike path. The course turned left onto Sombrero Boulevard, then along the Sombrero Country Club golf course, then a left by the back nine. We then headed up a small bridge onto Flamingo Island, a small residential island, ran through the neighborhood and followed the same route back to the beach.

Rachel and I did amazing! Our pace was on-point, staying at or below a 13-minute mile throughout the 6.2 miles. I got a small cramp right at the 5K mark in my right thigh, but it quickly passed, and we finished the 10K in 1:22:05, a personal record for both of us. We were on fire!

We approached the finish line just minutes after the 5K race started, crossed the finish line, grabbed some water, turned around and headed back out onto the course. At this point it was around 10am, and we figured we’d be uncomfortable, but no worries…we’ve got this! After all, we had “just a 5K” to go, which is roughly another 40-42 minutes, given our usual pace. But we didn’t have it. For the first mile I was great, trying to stay on pace and encouraging Rachel along, but the heat got the best of both of us. We just couldn’t keep up the amazing pace we had earlier. Shortly before the 2nd mile, Rachel felt ill, and we walked the rest of the course. Even so, we finished the 5K at 49:37, not terribly bad, all things considered. Also, we weren’t last, and that’s always a good thing.

Once we were done and able to refuel our bodies we were fine, and if the organizers of this race change the start time, we’d definitely do it again next year!

Posted in Family & Friends, Health & Wellness, Run Manders Run | 2 Comments

Running Related

I’m super excited: there’s a running store opening in the shopping center close to our house. I saw it last weekend. I’m not sure when it’s opening, but I’m so happy about it. I’ll have easy access to accessories, running fuel, and new gear pretty soon. Hubby may not be as happy about this as I am….($$$)

I’m participating in the Carnaval Miami 5K this weekend. It’s one of my favorite races of the year! I’ve run it the last several years in Key Biscayne, and this year it’s being held on Calle Ocho, which is totally appropriate since it’s the precursor to Carnaval on the Mile and Calle Ocho, coming up over the next two weekends (respectively). This year, I’m a Carnaval Miami Blog Ambassador (did you notice that cute little badge on the right?), and I get to be a part of these events that I love in a different capacity. So cool.

In even more fun, running related news, Rachel is going to be in town for her birthday next weekend, and we’re going to register for a race! We’re currently torn between the Biggest Loser 10K and the Sombrero Beach 15K Challenge in Marathon Key. We’re both leaning towards the Sombrero Challenge, as this will be a unique opportunity to run through an gorgeous scenic route. I can’t wait for this one, I’ve never run in the Florida Keys before.

Posted in Fun Stuff, Run Manders Run | 1 Comment