School supply shopping for charity thanks to Toyota


Back to school

Back to school shopping used to be a lot of fun when my kids were little. I truly enjoyed helping them to pick out their character lunchboxes, colorful backpacks and folders decorated with animals and funky graphics.

My kids are teenagers now. They rather we give them money to buy their own supplies, or they stuff everything into one binder. I think I would be in total shock if either of them had a folder with a cute character on it.

Sigh… I miss those days.

When children are little, back to school shopping can be the highlight of the year (next to their birthday and holidays of course). Sadly, many children across the country and their families cannot afford even the most basic supplies. That breaks my heart. That is why each year I take advantage of the awesome Back to School sales and purchase more than my kids could ever use to donate them to kids in need. I know a lot of people who do that.

This year Toyota is partnering with Volunteers of America’s Operation Backpack to donate school supplies for kids in need too.

Operation Backpack wants to help children start the school year off right. Your donation to Operation Backpack provides backpacks, supports after-school and mentoring programs, and offers other vital services to a child in need.

It’s not just about school supplies – it’s also giving a child a chance to learn and grow.

Toyota was kind enough to send me a 2015 Toyota Camry and a $50 gift card to purchase school supplies to donate to children in need. For me that will be where I work. I see a lot of children whose families don’t have much, let alone school supplies.


This past Saturday my husband and I canvassed local stores (Staples, Office Depot, Target…) to see what sales were going on for Back to School shopping. I was determined to get the maximum amount of supplies out of the gift card.

Notice how empty the trunk is in the Toyota Camry. I was determined to fill it up with school supplies.

I’m glad that Toyota sent us the Camry. We did a lot of driving that day. We hit up eight stores that – EIGHT! Not to mention we had to stop for lunch.

Our daughter had to work so we took our son along with us. It wasn’t exactly what he wanted to do that day but after a while he really got into it and it turned out to be a great lesson in budgeting, looking for the best deal and giving to those in need.

The first few stores we stopped at DIDN’T have any great deals. They did in their flyer, but we didn’t come across any in the stores.



I was hoping to find crayons for less than $1 each.

We hit up four stores in the same shopping plaza. We really didn’t see anything that we thought was a great deal, so we hopped back into the Camry and drove up the road to Staples.



Staples had a lot of awesome sales going on and plenty of products in stock – except for the crayons I wanted to stock up on.

Staples didn’t have any small boxes of crayons in stock, but we were able to score single subject notebooks for .25 cents, loose leaf paper for .75 cents and two pocket folders for .15 cents. Talk about a great sale!





We made sure to pick up a variety of colors for the notebooks and folders (two of each color).

We also picked up pens, pencils and a few more goodies.

I was shocked that the bill came to $18 and change. WOW!!! We picked up 18 single subject notebooks, four packages of lose leaf paper, nearly two dozen folders and more. That meant we have a little over $30 left on the gift card. It was time to go to another store.



Filling up the trunk of the Toyota Camry with school supplies.

Filling up the trunk of the Toyota Camry with school supplies.

We still had more to get. I was determined to get crayons. I also wanted to get pencil pouches or cases to make up a few “sets” to hand out to children.

Our next stop was Target. There we did find crayons. They were more than I wanted to spend, but, at least I had them.

We also picked up erasers, pencil sharpeners, scissors and a few other goodies.


My husband, son and I were very pleased with all the goodies we purchased, and we still had a little money left on the gift card Toyota sent me.

Target 2


The Capt’n Crunch was for me – not back to school shopping.

After a quick lunch we headed over to our local Dollar Store to see if they had pencil cases/pouches and rulers.

Thankfully the Dollar Store had some awesome pencil pouches. Because I was running low on funds we were only able to get six of them – but that was OK. We picked up three girl-friendly colors and three boy-friendly colors.

In addition to the pencil pouches we picked up small flash cards (alphabet, colors, shapes, numbers…) to put one pack into each pencil pouch. We also picked up six books. I was hoping they fit in the pencil pouches. They did but once we filled the pouches the books no longer fit.


When we got home we poured out our “bounty” on the coffee table to separate everything. My husband and son helped me to fill the pencils pouches with crayons, scissors, an eraser, pencils, stickers, flashcards and other goodies.

My “game plan” is to give each child a filled pencil pouch as well as a folder, notebook and reading book. All the additional supplies (the left over glue sticks, notebooks, folders…) I’ll also donate.


I am very pleased with how they turned out.

Currently I have all the supplies and filled pouches in a tote bag that I am going to take to work with me this week. I cannot wait to see the look on a child’s face when I hand him/her a nice assortment of supplies to start their school year off on the right foot. I just wish I could have picked up more.


supplies 2

This was such a fun day and I a glad that my husband and son were able to help me on my quest to get as many supplies as I could. Although he won’t admit it (you’ve got to love teenagers) my son enjoyed himself too.

It always feels great to give back. It makes my heart smile.

A special thank you to Toyota for letting us use one of their Camrys and for the gift card to purchase supplies.

The 2015 Toyota Camry that we drove is really nice. I have never been in a Camry before. I have seen them but never had the opportunity to drive one.

The Camry is very roomy. Even my son, who has long legs, was very comfortable in the backseat.

The trunk was also very roomy which was great because it held all our school supplies.

I love the color of the car they sent. Its an awesome blue color.





The Toyota Camry is a great family car. Both of my kids said they felt like they had plenty of room in the backseat. As both a driver and a passenger in the car I also felt like there was more than enough room.

The car drove very nicely – very smooth.

It has great pick up too. We live near a parkway which we drive on frequently and we were able to merge into traffic with ease.

Everything was positioned nicely as far as the interior is concerned. Everything was easily accessible.

We received a hybrid and it was VERY quiet. At one point when I was driving and stopped in traffic I thought the car had turned off because I didn’t feel or hear anything. It shocked me for a moment. I thought the car had broke down or shut off.


front seat

We used the car a lot so far and it’s doing good with the gas as well. We haven’t had a need to fill up yet and we’ve used the car every day as well as the air conditioner.

If I hadn’t just purchased a new (used) car a few months ago I would certainly consider the Toyota Camry. So far I am enjoying the ride.

For more information about Toyota, or to find a location near you, visit www.Toyota.com. You can also connect with the brand on social media (all of the links found on the bottom of their website).

Be sure to check out the hashtags #ToyotaGivesBack and #LetsGoPlaces too.

I hope this post will inspire you to donate school supplies to children in need in your community or to donate to Volunteers of America’s Operation Backpack.



*I received use of a car for one week as well as a $50 gift card in exchange for my participation. There was no compensation. The opinions expressed are my own and not influenced in any way. 

Enroll today in the Toyota Teen Driver Safety Clinics


Teen Driver

Do you have a teen driver in your family?

Our 17 year old finally took the plunge and got her learners permit. Now we’re just saving up to get her driving lessons. My husband and I both don’t think we have the patience or the “know how” to teach our daughter how to drive. We also feel like she would do better with a non-family member. We think she’s more likely to focus better. We’re also afraid that we might miss telling her important things. It’s best to  leave it to the “experts”.

I worry about my daughter driving. I don’t think she’ll be a bad driver, I just worry about the other little things she can’t control – like other drivers. Her safety is our #1 priority.

I remember when I first learned to drive. I think I was super paranoid at first. Then once I knew what I was doing I admit I showed off to my friends a bit and had a bit of a “lead foot”. In hindsight I was really foolish and if I could go back in time I would have taken safety much more seriously.

One safety tip that I learned that really came in handy was what to do if you are being followed.

When I was in my early 20’s I dated a guy who lived 6 hours away from where I lived. We would take turns driving back and forth to visit each other every other weekend. It was a long drive and many times the road was desolate. I was literally driving in the middle of no where. If I broke down I’d be in serious trouble. This was back in the day before there were cellphones.

Teen Driver 2

I would leave after work on Friday evening and leave to come home Sunday evening. I usually got back home around midnight.

On one of my trips back home there was a suspicious car behind me. I don’t know why the car stood out to me but it did. I suddenly felt very nervous.

I got off at one of the exists and the other car followed. Then I made my way back on to the main road and the car was right behind me again.

Then I remembered what my parents told me – if I am being followed I need to pull into a public place, or better yet, a Police station. Since I was unfamiliar with my surroundings I didn’t know where a Police station was. So I kept driving until I came across an exit where I knew there were stores and restaurants. I pulled my car into a restaurant parking lot (in a well lit area) and remained in my car with the door locked. I saw the car that was following me pass by. A few minutes later I saw it pass by again.

I waited a bit longer until I didn’t see the car, then I moved my car to another parking lot near by that was also well lit in hopes that if the driver came back they would see that my car was not there anymore and drive away.

After several minutes I felt confident that the driver was gone and I headed right back on the main road again and got out of there as quickly as I could. It was a very scary and dangerous situation.

I have told this story to my kids over and over again so that they know to do the same thing  if they are in a similar situation. Thankfully we have cellphones available to use these days so they can call 911 for help.

There is so much to teach teen drivers about safety. Toyota wants to help keep kids safe too. That is why they created the Toyota Teen Driver Safety Clinics. You can sign up for the clinic at a local Toyota dealership.

Here is more details about the Toyota Teen Driver Safety Clinic.

This FREE 2.5 hour non-driving interactive session provides both pre-driver and new-driver teens, as well as their parents, a beyond basics approach to road safety. It includes car care tips, coaching techniques and other practical tools in a safe, non-sales environment. Families participate in hands-on activities in class and around the car to promote safe-driving behavior.
This interactive clinic will cover topics such as:

  • Defensive driving “universal truths” and best practices
  • Understanding your vehicle’s performance dynamics
  • Dangerous driving distractions and how to avoid them
  • Car operations, safety features and basic maintenance fundamentals
  • Communication and coaching tips for parents and teens
  • Mutual driving agreements for pre-driver/new-driver teens and their parents

I really like what these clinics have to offer. I was never taught car care tips when I was a teen driver. I’m in my mid-40’s and I still don’t know how to change a flat tire!

I also like that they teach defensive driving. I think that is super important for teens (and adults!) to know.

Best of all these important clinics are FREE! I really appreciate Toyota offering this to consumers. You don’t need to own a Toyota to participate either.

Currently I only have locations in the New York and New Jersey area.

  • 9/20: Liberty Toyota Burlington, NJ
  • 9/21: Holman Toyota Mount Laurel, NJ
  • 10/04: Gault Toyota Endicott, NY
  • 10/05: Lia Toyota of Colonie Schenectady, NY
  • 10/11: DCH Toyota City Mamaroneck, NY
  • 10/12: DCH Freehold Toyota Freehold, NJ
  • 10/18: Millennium Toyota Hempstead, NY
  • 10/19: Penn Toyota Greenvale, NY
  • 10/25: Autoland Toyota Springfield, NJ
  • 10/26: Bay Ridge Toyota Brooklyn, NY

I’m not sure if they are adding other dates or other states. I hope they will. I think everyone should have the opportunity to take one of these special clinics.

If you would like more information, or to attend on of the events, please RSVP here.

You can follow Toyota on Twitter (@Toyota) and the official hashtag for this event is #TeenDrive365.

What do you think about what Toyota is doing to keep teen drivers safe on the road?

Do you plan on attending one of these events?

Feel free to share your thoughts or personal stories about teen driving.

Car Keys


This post was written as part of my association with TeenDrive365 and the Toyota Teen Driver Safety Clinic. For more information on the Toyota Teen Driver Safety Clinic, please visit http://ly/1nfUJ0e

Take the pledge and win great prizes (giveaway ends 8/31/13) #ArriveinStyle


This post was written as part of my association with Toyota for Arrive in Style. I received a promotional item as a thank you for participating.  The prize was provided and may be shipped by Toyota.  Toyota is not a sponsor, administrator, or connected in any other way with this giveaway.


A few weeks ago I posted about a campaign by Teen Vogue and Toyota called “Arrive in Style”. If you didn’t read the original post you can find it here – Arrive in Style with Teen Vogue and Toyota. Please note that giveaway is over.

As a parent it’s important that you teenager knows the importance of following the rules and playing is safe when behind the wheel of a car. They MUST be responsible at all times and take driving seriously. They also need to know that things like texting and talking on the phone with friends can wait.

My sixteen year old daughter has not taken her permit test yet. She’s studying for it, but I don’t think she’s taking it too seriously. She found a couple of apps for the phone that have practice questions. She keeps getting basic ones wrong. For example, one question asked what you should do if the phone range while you were driving. There were multiple choices for the answer. She chose the one that said to pull over on the side of the road and take the call. The correct answer was to let the call go to voicemail. If it was an emergency situation then yes, pulling over would be acceptable. For non-emergency calls the caller can wait. I tried to explain to her that pulling on to the side of the road can sometimes be a mistake. You could drive over something and get a leak in your tire or a stranger could pull up behind you and you never know what they might do.

It’s very important that your teenage driver know the rules, and I’m not just talking about driving rules. I’m talking about things like talking on the phone and texting, driving under the influence, taking on rowdy passengers, speeding, driving recklessly and things along those lines.

Teen Driver

I was a teenager once too. I thought I knew it all and was invincible. Two near car accidents while driving in snow and one nasty accident involving a dear on the highway, as well as many points on my license due to speeding and almost getting my license taken away was enough to make me realize I was going about it the WRONG way.

I remember how “cool” it was to drive face or race people on the road. I learned my lesson. Now I need for my kids to learn from my mistakes.

This is why it’s essential for parents and teenage drivers to sit down together and talk about what is expected of them when driving. What rules would you like to put in place and why? Your teen needs to know the reasons WHY you have  rule in place. The more the understand the better and the less likely they will to rebel.

Teen Vogue and Toyota are committed to helping families across the country to understand driver safety, especially teen drivers. That is why they are asking parents and teens to take the Arrive in Style Teen Vogue safety pledge.

The pledge does not ask for any unnecessary personal information and only asks you and your teen to go over and discuss a few safety points. Once you both agree on them you check off the appropriate button. At the end you and your teen both agree to the pledge. That’s it! Plus you’ll have a chance (if you want to) to enter the Arrive in Style sweepstakes.

Some of the discussion points you find in the pledge look like this;

General Safety

I agree to ALWAYS obey the posted speed limit.

I agree to consider the weather and road conditions and adjust my speed appropriately.

I will not tailgate, speed, weave in and out of traffic or participate in any aggressive or reckless driving behavior.

I will not drive when I am angry, frustrated or emotional.

I agree to not be a passenger in any vehicle where I do not feel comfortable or safe.

Safety Belts

I agree to wear my safety belt at all times.

I agree that I will not drive the car until all passengers are buckled up. No exceptions.

I agree that I will not ride in a car as a passenger without being buckled up.

I agree that I will not ride in a car where the driver and other passengers are not buckled up.

There are a few others.

As you can see it’s mostly common sense stuff.

To take the pledge please visit http://arriveinstyle.teenvogue.com/pledge50-american-express

To help encourage readers and their teens (or grandchildren) to take the pledge I am giving away several prizes.

(1) $50 American Express Gift Card

(10) Two-Pack “Arrive in Style” safe driving promise rings

(2) “Arrive in Style” beauty boxes

The “Arrive in Style” beauty box will look similar to the contents of this one;


The “Arrive in Style” safe driving promise rings are cute. Each winner will get a pair of them.


This giveaway is open to US residents only and will end on August 31, 2013 at 11:59 PM (EST). The winners will be chosen at random using a random number generator from all eligible entries. The winners will be notified via e-mail and will have three days to reply or a new winner will be chosen in their place.

To enter take the Arrive in Style pledge (found here). Once completed you’ll have the opportunity to share the pledge on Facebook. Share that you took the pledge on Facebook and copy/past the URL of your Facebook post in the comment section of this post.

If you don’t use Facebook you’ll need to copy/paste the URL of the completed pledge in the comment section of this post.

For extra entries you can use the Rafflecopter widget (below) but you MUST complete the initial entry requirement or the additional entries won’t qualify (I DO check). Extra entries are optional.

a Rafflecopter giveaway



*This is a compensated post however all opinions expressed are entirely my own and not influenced in any way. 

Arrive in Style with Teen Vogue & Toyota (giveaway ends 6/8/13) #ArriveinStyle


Today is my daughter’s 16th birthday. You know what that means – she’s old enough to learn how to drive and to get a driver’s permit. I cannot tell you just how much my husband and I have dreaded this day.

I don’t know which is worse – boys or the idea of my daughter behind the wheel of a car?

We’re already having issues with boys and boys wanting to drive my daughter in their car. She’s not allowed in the car with another teen (boy or girl), at least for the time being. After all, teenage drivers are not always the most responsible drivers. I would prefer a teen driver who has had their license for a while. Right now with all her friends getting permits or recently getting their licenses I don’t think it’s safe enough for her to hop in a car with them.

She was super excited about getting her permit, but she hasn’t picked up the book to study in weeks. That makes me and my husband feel a lot better. We know we’re going to be a wreck the moment she gets behind the wheel of a car. We feel like she’s easily distracted. A family joke is that she’s a lot like the dog, Dug, from the movie UP where he’s introducing himself and suddenly stops because he sees a squirrel. No worries, she thinks it’s funny too and agrees with us that she can be easily distracted.

We also tell her that we want her purse with her cellphone locked up in the trunk while she’s driving. I don’t want that phone to be a distraction when she’s driving. She knows it’s against the law to be on the phone when driving but you know teens – they think they know it all and rules were meant to be broken.

Teen Vogue (my daughter subscribes to this magazine) and Toyota has teamed up to help teen drivers, especially female drives, to Arrive in Style and stay safe on the road.

Arrive in Style Pledge

Did you know that Teen Vogue has a readership of 3.5 million people. In addition they also have 3 million people who follow them socially on Facebook and Twitter. This is why teaming up with Teen Vogue is a great idea.

Were you aware of the fact that Toyota offers a variety of resources for teenagers to help them to become safe drivers including behind the wheel safe drive clinics to online games.

This initiative with Teen Vogue is helping to bring awareness to these resources as well as important driving issues that both teens and their parents should know about.

As a parent we want to ensure that our daughter knows all the facts and is well equipped to handle any driving situation. We want her to keep her safety and the safety of her passengers first and foremost in her mind.

Teen Vogue has set up a special website, www.TeenVogue.com/ArriveinStyle to help mothers and their teen daughters learn more about driver safety. When both mom and daughter sign the Arrive in Style pledge they will be eligible to win monthly beauty boxes from Teen Vogue featuring must have beauty products that both mother and daughter can enjoy.

My daughter and I received one of the beauty packages (assortment will vary). My daughter managed to take at least half of the products. But that is OK with me. I was most interested in the Miss Dior perfume. 🙂

Beauty products

This promotion ends on December 20, 2013.

In addition to winning one of the monthly beauty boxes you and your daughter (or granddaughter) can also enter another contest to win a trip to New York City and a chance to be featured in Teen Vogue.

To enter you will need to snap and upload a photo of your daughter (granddaughter) “air driving” on the Arrive in Style website (linked above). You are also encouraged to share your air driving photo on Instagram using the hashtag #ArriveinStyle.

Here is an example.


You can also see more air driving photos on the Arrive in Style website (some of them are pretty funny).

If you share your pledge on Facebook you’ll also get additional entries into the contest.

I TRIED to get my daughter to pose, but she’s being a moody teen. Originally she had her phone taken away (grounded) for getting into a car with another teenager (a boy – a double no-no!). She got her phone back now but she’s still in a mood. Eventually when I catch her in a good mood I’m going to snap one. I would have taken one with my son but this is more of a mother/daughter promotion.

I think this is a wonderful promotion. Not only does it encourage safe driving for young female drivers, but it’s also a fun mother/daughter thing. Not to mention the chance to win fabulous monthly beauty prizes and a chance to be featured in Teen Vogue.

Arrive in Style banner

Thanks to Toyota and Teen Vogue I have a special beauty box prize package to giveaway to a lucky reader, similar to the monthly beauty box prize you can win on the Arrive in Style website. The variety of products will vary. As you can see from the photo of the box we received you’ll get a lot of great products from top brands.

This giveaway is open to US residents only and will end on June 8, 2013 at 11:59 PM (EST). The winner will be chosen at random using a random number generator from all eligible entries. The winner will be notified via e-mail and will have three days to reply or a new winner will be chosen in their place.

To enter please visit the Arrive in Style website and take the pledge (it only take a moment of your time). Then come back here and leave a comment and let me know that you took the pledge.

For extra entries you can use the Rafflecopter widget (below) but you must complete the initial entry requirement or the additional entries won’t qualify. Extra entries are optional.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


*This post was written as part of my association with Toyota for Arrive in Style. All opinions expressed are my own and not influenced in any way