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No-Sew DIY Emergency Facemasks You Can Make At Home {VIDEOS}

diY FACE BASK TUTORIAL

diY FACE BASK TUTORIAL

The CDC is reconsidering its initial advice regarding the wearing of mask. Previously, under the current directive, the agency recommended that Americans leave the mask wearing to those who have COVID-19 already and medical professionals.

However, since then, it has been well reported that people can have the virus and be asymptomatic, meaning they would have no symptoms associated with the disease. Because it was being recommended that only known patients wear masks, the asymptomatic coronavirus sufferers would be out there spreading the disease without knowing it.

Masks are available online though not readily or quickly available. The paper mask that would not suffice to shield out the  virus but is probably good enough to wear while grocery shopping is available for $5.90 $18.88 for 50 on Amazon but it is going out of stock fast.

The professional grade N95 masks are just not available at all. We have a sewing machine in our house but no one in here knows how to sew. Thankfully, YouTube stars have been great about sharing their quick tutorials on how to make a no sew mask!

Here are a few videos:

First, my fave bc it is the simplest:

 

 

Make your own face mask at home using fabric you can find in your closet. No skills needed, no sewing machine needed.

Posted by Nifty on Wednesday, March 25, 2020

 

Shop For Your Student Athlete {Guarantee Delivery By Christmas}

This post contains some affiliate links. If you click thru and purchase any of the products I suggested, I will earn a small commission from referring the sale to the brand. 

I know I promised to just do one gift guide this year but since I also re boosted my mom-to-be guide and posh parent gift guide from last year, I thought I should update my fitness gift guide for kid athletes this year.

I polled some friends on Facebook and asked them what their kid wanted for their sport for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and generally, for the holiday season and beyond.

I then conducted some online and in store research and came up with the following list of 13 items.

ALL athletes

1 Noise cancelling headphones:  First, for all athletes, in between events, traveling to away games or for just tuning out the distractions and noise, there is noise cancelling headphones to help them get in the right mind set to compete. Now these headphones can get pretty pricey  so I would only recommend getting the higher end on the list for the very responsible kid who isn’t going to leave it around carelessly, on the floor by the pool where it can get wet or damaged or forget it out in the open on the field in a public park.

The best out there, which is going for the lowest price right now per my research, is Sony’s WH-1000XM3. It is on par with Bose’s, the gold standard in home audio equipment. It’s $278 right now on Amazon and the cheapest you will ever see them this year.

Now if that is out of your budget, Wired magazine says best of the lower cost headphones is TaoTronics Active Noise Cancelling headphones which is just about $49.99 and has 45 hours of battery life and it pretty light weight. Get it at Amazon.

2. A Sports Back pack:  Student athletes got a lot of gear, uniform and sport-related equipment they have to lug to school, to practice and to games, meets, tournaments and competitions.  They need a back with a lot of compartments internal and external so they can organize all their stuff. The UA Hustle 4.0 Backpack is the ultimate back pack for any student athlete. It has a front pocket for shoes and lots of interior pockets to separate all the gear and keep the soiled stuff separate from the clean. The side pockets can hold large 24 ounce bottles of water or recyclable water bottles. It’s light weight and sturdy for a sports bag only. Don’t have it double as a school backpack.  This backpack is usually $55 but is down to $40 for the holidays. I’m getting three: one for my soccer player daughter, my track and field middle kid and my cross country eldest kid. That’s three sports.

You can personalize it and add your kid’s sport or name to it too!

BONUS: All athletes need training apparel and there is no need to break the bank stocking up on them. Hit the overstock stores like TJMaxx, Burlington Coat Factory, Marshalls and Ross to get some after market deals.

Alternatively, all of the major brands have Factory Stores that are also online if you want to avoid the crowds or do not have one near you.

Nike Factory Outlet has sales going on now.

Adidas – Free shipping on Orders over $49 and Use Code 20EXTRA for extra

UnderArmour- Take an Extra $30 off all orders over $100

New Balance has free shipping on orders over $50

Puma – Use code Extra10 for an additional 10% off items and there is a sale of up to 50% off

Reebok – Take an Extra 55% off select items including sale ones.

Umbro– Get on it! Save 25% when you spent $75. Tomorrow is the last day to ship for Christmas delivery!

Cross Country/Cold-Weather Training

3. Athletic Outdoor Training  Shirt: For your Cross Country or Outdoor Track kid (or for any kid who engages in a winter or cold weather sport),  Nike has its Sphere Element Running long sleeve shirt with thumb cut out to keep the hands warm and made of the company’s patented Nike® Therma fabric which offers lightweight insulation and warmth, while keeping sweat off the skin via the Dri-FIT® technology..

The shirt is a steal at $50, down from $70 at Dick’s right now.

Today only, you can spend $100 worth of gear and pay just $80 at DICK’s

4. Running Shoes: For running, there are many brands that offer superior quality shoes.  My two sons’ high school is sponsored by Under Armour and we have had success for three years in the HOVR Infinite  which lasts an entire season of training runs and meets. Don’t just take my word for it. The HOVR won Runner’s World Magazine’s recommended running shoe recognition this year! The best tech in the shoe is the  ‘zero gravity feel’ to maintain energy return that helps eliminate impact step after step. It’s a good shoe overall and has great reviews.

The shoe costs $120 but if you purchase it for the holidays you can get it for $30 at the UA website off if you use the code FRIENDS30 at checkout!

You can still have it delivered by Christmas if you order it up to this weekend!

5. Training Compression Pants: For training runs in the cold, the UA  Qualifier Compression Tights works best! It’s made of compression material and made to feel like second skin.  The pants comes with a pocket large enough to fit a big mobile phone like a Samsung Galaxy or iPhone X or Plus size. It has the traditional wicking material which keeps sweat off your skin and dries what accumulates fast as you run. The best is the anti-odor tech that staves off the growth of funky odor causing microbes. It’s the best and a steal at just $65 compared to more expensive running pants that I’ve seen out there sold by other athletic brands! Gift these to your XC Runner or other sports trainer who runs outdoors in the cold weather!

Basketball Player

You’d think every student basketball player athlete would want an official Spalding NBA Basketball and a portable backboard to practice at home with. Yes, those too, but the serious ones are thinking ahead.

6. Agility Ladder: Per the experts, an agility ladder like the SKLZ ladder is a great tool for ambitious basketball players who want to improve their footwork and coordination. It’s just $25.49 on Amazon and can be delivered well before Christmas if you order soon!

7. Shooting Sleeve: Throw in a Nike Pro Combat Elite Shooting sleeve for $19.90 and your aspiring basketball NBA or WNBA star will be one happy kid!

Swimming

8. Swimming Goggles: All of my three kids swim, in the Summer rec league and one year round for a club and for his school so we are always in the market for swimming gear.  Goggles are always in demand and  Speedo’s MDR 2.4 googles delivers performance with its Innovative Elastomeric™ technology  which reduces goggle pressure against your kid’s face and Clearsight lenses eliminates distortion for a clearer view without eye fatigue.  These goggles also offer a middle eye fit with liquid silicone seals and an adjustable strap and is just $24.99 at Dick’s 

9. Flippers: Or get em a pair of Floti’s flippers with an extra long blade to emphasize the kick, a flexible foot pocket with ankle support and easy on and off functionality on sale at Swim Outlet for just $19.99, which is 23% off the regular price, and just $15.99 if you used the code GIFT25 at checkout!

Gymnast

10. Balance Beam: For your gymnast, there is still time to get an FBSPORT floorbeam from Amazon in time for Christmas. This adjustable and foldable portable beam has a 5-inch to which is the same width as those used in competitions but has a 6 inch base to stabilize it so it won’t topple over.  Per the manufacturers, it’s made of “high density EVA foam, our padded beam is covered in suede-like material with a nonslip rubber bottom for a soft sturdy practice surface that won’t flatten over time.” Get it for $59.99 today!

Lacrosse

11. Rebounder: To help your lacrosse player hone his or her passing and catching skills, a lacrosse rebounder is a great gift for a goalie, offensive player or for team practice drills to increase your kid’s reaction skills. Dick’s has an exclusive deal for the PRIMED rebounder for $129.99 right now. It can also be picked up if it is available at a Dick’s near you.

But if that price point is not in the budget,  Champion Sports sells one for half the price at $59.99 on Amazon. Both can be ordered and delivered before Christmas.

Soccer

12. Cleats Dryer: For the active soccer player who either plays in various travel teams, or year round rec leagues, a cleats dryer I hear is an in-demand item. Amazon Prime members can get Lavieair Shoe Dryer shipped for Free before Christmas for just  $36.99. 

If you are not an Amazon Prime member, it’s free to join! Sign up here for 30 Days FREE!

Tennis

13. Nike Workout Gear: Nike’s Court line has these popular hoodies for after play starting at $60.  It’s made of French Terry cloth and has a boxy shape that makes it unisex though Nike sells a female and male version of the hoodie! It comes in other colors than the traditional Tennis white and you can still get it in time for Christmas!

JJ’s Favorite Things {2019 Gift Guide}

This year, instead of producing 15 holiday guides with tips and suggestions of products I’ve learned about from others, marketing materials sent to me or from what social media says is the hottest “must-have” items, I’m publishing just one guide/list.

This list includes items that I have either 1) purchased or was gifted personally and I use and love; or I have researched and inspected and want on my personal “wish list”.

Therefore, followers and readers of this blog will get my authentic, genuine and unbiased perspective on what items I believe are great gifts!

naipo shiatsu massager

1

First up is this Naipo Shiatsu neck and upper back massager. The makers gifted this to me over a year ago to review and I must say it is the absolute best. My husband and I are still using it today and it has not malfunctioned and continues to provide almost daily relief to our achy necks and backs after a long day at work, sitting at a computer desk all day or after waking up from a restless night sleep. The massager cover is made of leather and has oscillating balls and three settings that deeply kneed into your muscles to break up knots, soothe aches and pains.

An expecting or new mom would absolutely love this as she experiences the aches and pains of carrying a baby and caring for a new born.

It’s $49.99 at Amazon.com with free shipping for Prime members.

I absolutely recommend this massager as a gift. Tell the recipient it came highly rated by me! They will love you for it

ABC 3d

2

Second, as a work at home mom blogger and solo-preneur who works from home, I am always on the go, covering events, shuttling my kids to sports, music activities, practices, meeting up with clients at coffee shops, blogging from cafes and lounges and local libraries and just hustling about.

Although my children are t/weens now, not long ago, I used to buy them toys and books for Christmas. I discover some at the library, book stores and am pitched several. My fave books for a baby or new mom are these 18 board books for Baby’s First Library

But if you want a book that is visually stunning, stimulating to a young brain and eye popping as a gift, I highly recommend the ABC 3D pop up book by French designer and artist Marion Bataille that I discovered while thrifting and vintage shopping one day. Each of the 26 three-dimensional letters move and change before your eyes.  SEE It for yourself up close in this YouTube Video!

You can buy it for just $10.55 on Amazon!

3

I have several stylish and colorful oversized bags that I chuck all my stuff, laptop, umbrella and other remote office stuff in before hitting the road, but I really need a deep sturdy laptop backpack instead.

I found the Incase Icon Pack in black online that I like because it has several compartments I can use to store an umbrella, pens, make up, my phone, a water bottle, and other items separately so I can find them in a pinch. I am otherwise always digging and rummaging around a big abyss when I need to find something.

I also like it because it looks sleek and has a sexy silhouette. Get it for $90 from Amazon.

This backpack would be much appreciated by the blogger, student, mom, dad or anyone in your family who need to stay organized and is always on the move.

4

When my son was being incubated in my belly during my first pregnancy, I played The Nutcraker Ballet’s “Dance of the Sugarplum Faeries” song regularly and when he was born, whenever he would fuss while in the back seat during travel, for example, he would immediately stop crying, cock his head towards the music and calm down. Music miraculously can calm, soothe and wire our babies brains for intelligence, I believe.

 

Invest in some belly buds to gift to a mom to be. The results will be long lasting, I think. There are a lot of brands out there and a relatively new comer to the market is mbrio which stands out because it pipes out music at a lower volume than its competitors for a safer level for the baby. Moms-to-be can clip the soft medical-grade silicon covered buds to their pants and connect. The buds are  just $34.95 and are compatible with apple iPhones and devices.

.

5

I am not certain a woman exists on earth who would not appreciate a trip to the spa. I know some people out there dislike strangers touching their bodies and face, yes, but they are the minority. A Spa Gift Cardis a perfect gift for any  expecting mom could use a massage, facial and some good old fashioned pampering while she waits for her bundle of joy.

You can purchase a card starting at $25+ and add on from there, depending on the cost of spa services in areas where you live

 

6.

Anything personalized is usually more cherished and loved because the giver obviously had forethought to seek out something just for the receiver. At this late stage in the game, time is running out to purchase a personalized item. I’ve given each of my kids when they were younger a personalized book and they loved it and still have it in their bookshelves today.

You can still get a personalized children book in time for Christmas from Uncommon Goods for US buyers for just $35.

 

 

7.

I just got an iPhone 11 and purchased a basic black Otter Box case which works functionally. I only use Otter because it is the only case that I can rely on to keep my phone safe but the black is not cutting it because it gets lost in the bottom of my purse too easily and I lose track of it all the time because it blends in with counters, and tables. I’ve left my phone several places and luckily got it back but I really blame the cover’s color for this problem. So I’m hoping to get an Otter case in a bright color for Christmas.

It sells all sorts of colors but I would love to get it in yellow for $50

 

insta pot

8.

Because slow cookers have been updated and now it’s quicker and easier to whip up a nutritious meal for the family with minimum effort, Instapot is the hottest thing around. The holiday season has revealed the lowest prices ever for them now as well. Currently, an Instant Pot DUO60 6 Qt 7-in-1 Multi-Use Programmable Pressure Cooker  which is almost $100 can be purchased for half off at $49 over on Amazon.com!

9.

Here is a personal thing. I am in love with Caroline Herrera scent “Good Girl“. It is my new second fave to Jessica McClintock’s self-named perfume which works with my chemistry and gets me compliments every time and all the time. If you are familiar with a fave scent, get it because many come with a free gift at the department stores. If you order Good Girl from Ulta for $69.99 you can get a free gift, a luxurious soft throw or robe. Nice! It’s like two gifts in one!

dooney and bourke wallet

BONUS.

Finally, I would love a new leather wallet. I have a very cute square coin purse wallet my brother in law gifted me from Brooks Brothers years ago. I get a lot of compliments because of the odd shape but it is not practical. I think anyone would love a nice quality new wallet for the new year!

I’m eyeing Booney & Bourke‘s Saffiano Large zip around wallet which the brand sells on its website for just $69! Woot!

 

There you have it! My 9 (10) favorite things for 2019!

Black History Month: This is My All Time Children’s Storytime Book Featuring Black Characters

Since we are currently in the midst of Black History Month, you may have come across quite a few sites and blogs sharing lists of books about Black History or featuring black characters in case a parent is looking to diversify his or her child’s library to include all races of characters….or if you are a black or brown parent and want a book that represents your child.

I like the list that Scott Woods Makes List created last year of 28 More Black Picture Books That Are Not About Buses, Boycotts or Basketball because while there have been a lot more books out, the subject ranges have been limited to the aforementioned topics. Phew!

And as most parents who have small children know by now, books are important and being read to in early child development is just as if not more important!

Somewhere between 12 and 18 months, your child will realize that those sounds he’s been hearing you read — words — actually mean something.

The more you talk and read aloud to a child at this time (and from the start, for that matter), the better her vocabulary will be.

Look for books with a wide variety of visuals, words that repeat often, and clearly labeled objects, both common and unfamiliar.

When you read aloud, pause frequently to ask your child questions about the objects you see, answer her questions, and talk through the book’s action and images.

You don’t need a big book budget for this age group.

Hearing three or four titles over and over is better for a child than trying to introduce lots of new books.

When my children were little we discovered a wonderful book called “So Much” by British author of Dominica, Caribbean-parentage Trish Cooke and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury who is most well known for illustrating Tickle Tickle, All Fall Down and her own books.

Children will appreciate ethnic diversity and the fun story about the anticipation of arrival of guests at a party for a young baby’s dad.

I love this book so much, I buy it for friends I know who have kids. I have shipped off several copies. See proof below the number of times I personally ordered and purchased it for friends:

My fave part about this book is the playful language uses repetition and I could read it in a different accent each time to make it fun.

The author was born in Bradford, West Yorkshire in the UK and comes from a large family, with six sisters, three brothers, eight nephews, six nieces, three great-nieces and one great-nephew, all of whom provide her with the inspiration for her picture books as the publisher notes Cooke has said.

“There’s always some conversation or other going on somewhere that I can eavesdrop on – language is very important to me. I love music and rhythms and when people talk, it is as if sometimes they are actually singing. I remember Sunday mornings, the smell of saltfish and johnny cakes wafting up the stairs, Mum singing and Dad telling stories that were always ‘true’.”

The kids loved it and enjoyed seeing me pull it off the bookshelf each time.

They are a lot more treat books out there featuring black characters nowadays compared to year’s past.

If you are looking for a fun book to add to your child’s library to diversify the images they see in books or to present a reflection of your brown or black child, I highly recommend So Much!

If you get it, I recommend purchasing the Hardback version because you’ll be using it so much and can get it starting at $3 on Amazon.

If you get the paperback version, it’s a good bet too and much lower now that the title is older.

Your DIY Baby Food Making Guide + 12 Books To Help You Get Started

There have been a few baby food recalls in recent weeks that have prompted some new moms to consider making their own baby food from scratch for their little ones.

The idea of blending, pureeing, storing, thawing and making batches of baby food or toddler pouches can seem daunting, and time-consuming, but fortunately, in recent years, technology in the form of baby food blenders and scores of new books have cropped up to demystify and simplify the process.

Blender

To start, you may want to go out and get a blender with a puree function on it. I like the Magic Bullet for making smoothies and milkshakes for my little ones because it is easiest to clean. The company that makes it also sells a special version just for baby food making called Magic Bullet Baby Bullet Baby Care System which retails for $59.99 on Amazon but is sold in retail stores like Target, Walmart and the like.

Storage

Next, you’ll have to invest in tiny containers to store the foods you make. The Baby Bullet comes with its own containers and lids but you can also order storage containers. Sage Spoonfuls Big Batch Storage Set includes twelve 4 Ounce containers for about $20, enough for vegetable, desserts and other purees. They are freezer, dishwasher and microwave safe and durable portable jars with leak proof and easy to use screw on lids.

Recipes

Then comes the hard part: whipping up yummy recipes. Here are some books with tips, recipes and other suggestions.

ONE

The Amazing Make-Ahead Baby Food Book: Make 3 Months of Homemade Purees in 3 Hours ($17.88)

This popular hardback book will give you to tools and tips for making up to three months’ worth of healthy, homemade baby food in just three one-hour blocks of time. It has unique combos like Peachy Strawberry Salad, Coconutty Mango Lassi, Plum-Gingered Brocco-Quinoa, and Purple Papaya Flax Yogurt, blending in a rainbow of nutritious options while expanding your baby’s palate.

TWO

Real Baby Food: Easy, All-Natural Recipes for Your Baby and Toddler ($10.79)

The toughest part really is making the time but this book helps new moms create a routine that is easy, fast and flexible. The author starts with the building blocks of solid foods, and shares how to recognize food allergies, and easy ways to cook in bulk. Recipes progress from single-ingredient purées to multi-flavor blends like Salmon, Kale, and Sweet Potato Smash; then move on to finger foods—Turkey Meatloaf Bites, Maple Graham Animals—and finally toddler meals and snacks. Most can be made ahead and frozen, many are easily adapted for grown-up tastes, and all include full nutritional information. Nice!

THREE

101 DIY Baby Food Pouches ($10.99) specializes in baby food pouches for older babies and toddlers. This book includes instructions for filling your own pouches for cheaper, healthier, and eco-friendly options for your little one.

FOUR

Fast & Fresh Baby Food Cookbook: 120 Ridiculously Simple and Naturally Wholesome Baby Food Recipes ($11.87)

This book targets the early stage new mom who “can’t keep up with the laundry” or “can’t fit into anything but yoga pants” and “can’t make your baby sleep through the night.” The book promised to help this mom “make the best food for your baby in 30 minutes or less.”

FIVE

Little Foodie: Baby Food Recipes for Babies and Toddlers with Taste ($13.59)

This book comes from a certified baby chef and blogger over at Baby FoodE, Michele Olivier.  She offers over 100 food recipes, helpful FAQs and a comprehensive overview.

Baby food recipes include: Apple + Mint + Ricotta Purée / Fennel + Pea + Peach Purée / Pumpkin + Thyme Purée / Sesame Tofu Sticks + Peanut Sauce / Curried Egg Finger Sandwiches + Mango Chutney / Slow Cooker Chicken Tagine + Couscous / Sausage + Kale Over Creamy Polenta / DIY Toddler Sushi Bar, and more.

SIX

Super Easy Baby Food Cookbook: Healthy Homemade Recipes for Every Age and Stage  ($11.74)

This book focuses on super simple recipes  with just 5- ingredients each and includes over 150+ nutritious recipes that grow with your developing child. It has time saving sample menus for kids 4 to 18 months.

SEVEN

The Baby and Toddler Cookbook: Fresh, Homemade Foods for a Healthy Start ($15.68)

Packed with over 90 recipes and loads of nutritional information, The Baby & Toddler Cookbook makes cooking healthy meals easy, even for busy parents. By setting aside only a few hours a week, you can make and store an array of nutritious foods to keep baby happy and fed. All along the way, this book will give you helpful hints, guidance, and plenty of recipes to ease your path to nutrition.

EIGHT

Top 100 Baby Purees ($10.52)

Like the other books, you’d learn to wean your baby who is transitioning to solid foods, discover food allergies and how to make  100 Baby Purees  with information tricks on finding the hidden nutrition in everyday foods. Dr. Michel Cohen, New York pediatrician and author of The New Basics: A-to-Z Baby & Child Care for the Modern Parent opens the book with a forward.

NINE

Cooking for Baby: Wholesome, Homemade, Delicious Foods for 6 to 18 Months ($12.30)

This book is organized by age and has smart tips on prep and storage with added suggestions on transitioning as baby grows. From celebrated children’s-food author Lisa BarnesCooking for Baby is a fully illustrated, gorgeous, four-color book that takes parents through the basics of preparing nutritious, delicious (and easy!) meals for your child, from six to eighteen months.

TEN

The Pediatrician’s Guide to Feeding Babies and Toddlers: Practical Answers To Your Questions on Nutrition, Starting Solids, Allergies, Picky Eating, and More (For Parents, By Parents) ($12.30)

A team of doctors came up with this comprehensive manual for feeding your babies and toddlers during their first crucial yeas of life. With The Pediatrician’s Guide to Feeding Babies and Toddlers, you have the expertise of a team of pediatric medical and nutritional experts—who also happen to be parents—in a comprehensive manual that takes the guesswork out of feeding. This first-of-its-kind guide provides practical, easy-to-follow advice to help you navigate the nutrition issues, medical conditions, and parenting concerns that accompany feeding. With recipes, parenting stories, and recommendations based on the latest pediatric guidelines, this book will allow you to approach mealtime with confidence so you can spend more time enjoying your new family.

ELEVEN

201 Organic Baby Purees: The Freshest, Most Wholesome Food Your Baby Can Eat! ($10.25)

When you can have 100 recipes, why not 201?! This book has even more healthy recipes that are organic and blends classic combinations such as turkey, sweet potato, and corn; Superfoods like avocado, blueberries, and spinach; and Puree-based transition recipes including soups, biscuits, frozen desserts.

TWELVE

The Happy Family Organic Superfoods Cookbook For Baby & Toddler Hardcover ($14.54)

This book comes from the organic family-focused food company Happy Family Organics and Cricket Azima, founder and CEO of The Creative Kitchen. Inside, find more than 70 easy-to-prepare recipes made with all-natural ingredients. It includes recipes with ingredient vegetable and fruit purees, including Happy Family’s best-selling spinach, mango & pear recipe, to recipes with quinoa, chia, and kale —Shazi’s and Cricket’s superfood recipes will nourish and please every kind of baby. Recipes for toddlers (1–3 years) include avocado & chicken whole wheat pizza; 3 bean farro risotto; and baked salmon with peas & rice balls; toddlers will love tasty snacks like strawberry-beet pudding with coconut milk and chia; avocado, melon & mint smoothies; banana, chocolate chip & quinoa muffins; and grilled nut-butter sandwiches with smashed berries.

Good luck!

2018 Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD {Family Vacay Vehicle Review}

blog review Mazda CX-9

A few school systems in several regions in America and across the globe have started a new school year already. Still, many more are still out and this means that families are sneaking in their last minute getaways and vacations. Personally,  I can share that on my various social media platform feeds, I see many friends and family on weekend and weeklong excursions.

On Sunday, my family of 5, my baby sis and niece did the same and headed to Virginia Beach about four hours south of our home outside DC.

To get there,  on the drive down, I partnered with Mazda USA and Driveshop  and tested out its signature top-of-the line luxury three-row crossover sports utility vehicle, the Mazda C-X9We ABSOLUTELY LOVED this vehicle and were honestly sad when we had to return it at the end of the week.

First, it looks really regal and very expensive! The atomic grey version of the premium vehicle we were generously loaned to drive came with decadent auburn interior leather seats.  The SUV itself doesn’t even look like a heavy cargo vehicle from the outside because the car’s design features a sloped rear and sleek aerodynamic exterior.

Very nice!

Full disclosure: this was my first time driving a keyless entry, push-button start vehicle and I was nervous about leaving the key in the vehicle,  but good thing, the SUV alarms if the engine is running and you walk away with the key.

Some of our adventures during the week, during which I celebrated my 19th wedding aniversary.

Tech Features

For today’s modern tech obsessed and addicted families, this vehicle is loaded with high tech features. This 2018 model comes with its own Wi-Fi. Also new for this year are two head rest videos with wireless headphones and remotes. For our drive up and back from Virginia Beach, the kids plugged in their Amazon

Firestick on one monitor and the Roku on another, then tethered our family’s unlimited wireless phones so they could enjoy Amazon, Hulu and Netflix on the trip.

There is an XM, Pandora, and other streaming services options. We could control the dashboard as a touch screen or using a dial on the center console. There are two USB ports in the center console, two inside the pull down arm rest and cup holder. The trunk and inside the passenger side panel both have cigarette lighter ports that can be used to house another dual USB port, making it possible to charge 8 different electronic devices at the same time if we wanted.

There is an active driver hologram on the window above the dashboard that shows the miles per hour being driven. I was in awe to see a small Stop sign appear on the windshield each time the car approaches a street with an actual Stop sign on the corner. During the highway drive, each time there was construction on the road, a yellow strip appeared on the hologram to warn the driver of the more dangerous road condition. Similarly, each time the car would get close to the shoulder, there was a signal in the hologram signal. Amazing!

Active Driving Display appears on the windshield above the driving console.

All of these features are great to supplement driver’s instincts and assist for the safety of the precious cargo, the family!

A push of the button activates the push-to-talk hands free dashboard and another button toggles the dashboard monitors: miles driven, Trip A and Trip B analytics for comparisons, the gas mileage, the vehicle service update and more.

The trunk features a hands free open. You just hit the key fob and the rear opens automatically, with one touch of a button near the keyhole, it auto closes. If something is in the way, the door will retract a bit and will not close.

Navigation

The navigation system is Smart and sophisticated.

Besides the standard navigation options, even when you haven’t programmed the vehicle to give you direction anywhere, as you drive, the dashboard indicates the name of a street  or cross street you are about to enter and gives you the speed limit sign for the road you will enter before you enter it so you know how fast oncoming cars should be traveling and how fast you should go once you merge into or enter that lane of traffic.

There is a rear camera that helps you get in and out of tight parking spots or to parallel park.

The Safety Features

The high tech options on the full package  vehicle we tested included innovative safety features. One of my faves is the blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. If a pedestrian is close to the car walking across the parking lot as you’re about to back out of a space or if another vehicle is close to passing, the CX-9 gives out an audible alert. You can also see it through the rear view camera which I also appreciated because while using it, I was able to back into a parking spot at the grocery store absolutely perfectly!

There is also a blind spot signal on the side mirrors that illuminates each time another vehicle on the road coasts in your blind spot. Neat! There is a touch emergency brake button on the center console that can be easily released with the touch of a button.

It also includes in suite of active safety features such as automatic high-beams, lane-keeping assist, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and adaptive cruise control.

Handling

The car had great maneuverability and handling, typical for any all wheel standard car. I looked it up and the vehicle comes with Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control, a system that reduces engine torque imperceptibly as the vehicle enters a corner to help improve cornering stability.

The CX-9 crossovers is a 2.5-liter turbocharged I4 making 227 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque, which is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.  The SKYACTIV®-G 2.5T Dynamic Pressure Turbo engine is a reaction to the new category of hybrid vehicles on the market. It helps this SUV get more miles per gallon. We traveled about 4 hours and a little over 200 miles from Virginia Beach to right outside Washington, DC on a half tank of gas. That’s highway miles. Excellent fuel economy.

Luxury Comforts

Although we didn’t need it this trip, there are heated seats for the driver and front seat passenger and second row seats.

Reviews

It has a close to 5-star rating by Car and Driver magazine and is listed among its 10 Best SUV Cars and Trucks List.  Edmunds gives it close to 5 star ratings on most categories too!

Price

For $38,655, you can get the front-wheel-drive CX-9 Touring with the Premium package. That Touring Premium package is an additional $1750, but adds a long list of features, including navigation, automated emergency braking, a 12-speaker Bose audio system, SiriusXM satellite radio, LED fog lamps, and a power sunroof.

Overall Pros: This vehicle is great for a medium to large family of 3-7. It looks and feel great from the exterior to interior. The sporty sleek look gives it a very top-of-the line feel, comparable to other SUVs in the market, including luxury brands. The tech features are up to par with all of the innovation out there on the market and what modern, tech driven and connected families need. The safety features gives you an extra layer of security for the family.

Cons: The USB ports in the front in the center console is hard to reach when driving and the cigarette lighter one along the center console floor paneling is awkwardly placed and very difficult to reach. It would be better if it was placed below the dashboard so it is easier to maneuver.

While we appreciate the slope in the back giving off a more sporty feel, it took away cargo space so we weren’t able to carry as many suitcases because we had two extra people in our party. However, for the average family of 5 who are traveling on a road trip, you can easily fold down the third row to accommodate more bags back there.

See some of our LIVE reviews on the Bellyitch Instagram account under “Reviews” or Watch some clips of my review above in this compilation:

Back to School: 8 Ways to Get Deals on Electronics

Bellyitch Rewind

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It’s back to school time again and parents are scraping their pennies in anticipation for shopping to send their kids off to school. Electronics can make up a substantial part of the budget. Kiplinger’s editor Cameron Huddleston offers parents 8 suggestions on easing the burden:

  1. Shop on sales tax holidays—seventeen states will have sales tax holidays in July and August that will allow consumers to purchase back-to-school items, such as clothing, computers and school supplies, tax free. If you live in these states, plan to do you electronics shopping on a sales tax holiday—it could help you save 4% to 10% depending on your state.
  2. Shop online—shopping online makes it easy to compare prices from several retailers. And there are plenty of sites that do the bargain hunting for you. Dealnews.com has a page devoted to the best computer deals; Amazon and PriceGrabber are good sources for comparing prices.
  3. Take advantage of price-match policies—if you find a good deal online but don’t want to pay shipping costs, you might be able to get the same price in a brick-and-mortar store if it has a price-match policy. For example, Best Buy and Target will match Amazon prices.
  4. Buy refurbished—you can save a lot by purchasing refurbished tech items, which are used but restored to like-new condition and usually have a one-year warranty. Try Apple.com, BestBuy.com, Dell.com, Newegg.com and Walmart.com to find refurbished electronics.
  5. Take advantage of trade-in programs—one way to pay less for new tech items is to trade in a used item. A number of retailers, including Best Buy and Radio Shack, have trade-in programs that offer cash, a gift card or credit that can be applied toward the purchase of a new item.
  6. lLook for bundles—look for bundle deals, which are popular back-to-school promotions among tech retailers. The deals typically include a gift card, printer, gaming console or other accessory along with a laptop—at a price near what you would expect to pay for the laptop alone.
  7. Get a free phone—mobile phone service providers, such as AT&T, Sprint and Verizon, often offer free smart phones when you sign up for a two-year service plan. Considering smart phones usually cost $200 or more, this can be a major savings. Or you could buy an unlocked phone and cut the cost of a service plan by more than half by opting for a prepaid wireless provider.
  8. Don’t splurge on features you won’t use—when buying a laptop for your child, look for systems with a dual-core processor (not a pricey quad-core setup). And you’ll spend about $270 less if you opt for Intel’s Ivy Bridge system—which should meet a student’s needs—rather than its new Haswell system. Also, say no to tech support and retailers’ extended warranties—your credit card might offer an extended warranty.