Since moving to D.C. I've had the fortune of being introduced to the city's booming event/night life. Everything from charity events, to drink competitions, menu tastings, invites to wine tasting as the Embassy's, and whatever else under the sun that you can think of. And, while I will typically ride the metro into the city, just because of the sheer convenience, I couldn't help but wonder what it would be like to arrive in a stylish car I'd be proud to have the valet park for me.
I had a few things set up for the week that I was supposed to review the 2014 Kia Forte. The one I was most excited about was the Aroma Espresso Bar menu tasting in Bethesda, MD. Unfortunately I got sick that week and my plans ended up being cancelled. I mean, I was pretty much down an out for the majority of the week. Prying me off the couch was nearly impossible. (I'm also pretty sure no one wanted someone who couldn't stop coughing and sneezing near any of their food.) Super bummer, right?!
The 2014 Kia Forte EX arrived with little fan fare. Usually smaller cars don't get my engine running. I'm also a slightly timid driver in the city's traffic and prefer to be sitting up a little higher so I can see better. Plus, if I'm going to get into an accident I'd rather be the one taking someone out than getting crushed to death. But, larger vehicles really aren't the best for city driving, and especially not for commuting into the city, so I was excited to give this one a test run.
The Forte's Abyss Blue color was absolutely stunning. (This coming from someone who doesn't usually care for blue vehicles.) The color was eye catching, and snazzy. Definitely a head turner when you pull up to your social obligation. The overall exterior design of the car was sleek and sassy. I definitely felt like a million bucks driving it around. And not the old-as-heck "money in the family" sort of million bucks who are going to go for the Cadillacs and Buicks, but the "just landed my first big job in my awesome career, and I'm still in my 20's and 30's" sort of million bucks.
My timidity quickly left me when I took it for a drive on the interstate. I never felt so comfortable in a car that I hadn't driven before, especially one that's relatively low to the ground with crazy people driving all around me. I got my seat situated, and off we went. I found that the 2014 Kia Forte handled highway driving really well, and the steering wheel had just enough resistance to make driving fun instead of a harrowing experience of over-correction. The Kia Forte came with me onto a few gravely parking lots and bumpy roads and handled both like a champ. The ride was comfortable. We weren't bouncing around everywhere, and the vehicle was very easy to maneuver.
Even though it's nice to have a car to show off when you go out for the night, it's also important for me as a mom to have a vehicle I can actually use to tote everyone around it. The Kia Forte easily fit my daughter's booster seat and my son's massive car seat. We also fit a 3rd person (a little uncomfortably) between the two in the back. The front, while I didn't think had as much leg room as I would have liked, was still spacious over all.
My favorite features included the sun roof, as usual, and the navigation system and backup camera. Of course the push button start is also a favorite. I loved that the seats had a knit and woven soft cloth trim and weren't a sort of sticky leather. You know the type.... it's 80 degrees out and you have to peel your legs from the seat. The driver's side also had ventilated seats. LOVE that! The Eco feature is always a winner in my book. Until gas is under $2.00 a gallon, it's always a smart choice to save as much as possible. For more information about all of the fantastic features the Kia Forte offers, make sure you check them out online. Many are standard, but for a couple thousand more, it's nice to have the option of upgrading for some of the conveniences and little touches that really make one want to show off the vehicle.
Out of all of the cars (I'm not including the Kia Sorento in this statement), the Kia Forte has been my favorite. Not only was it in a price range I can afford when it is time for me to purchase a car, but it looks more expensive than it really is. It had every feature that I could possibly want, and nothing that I thought was useless. It was easy to get used to, comfortable, great on gas, and just a beautiful little car to behold. I'm definitely filing this one away as a, "must convince husband this is a viable option" car. I loved this car, and was REALLY bummed the plague that has been going around managed to knock me off my feet in the worst way possible the week I was scheduled to have the vehicle. Ugh. 'Till we meet again, Kia Forte. 'Till we meet again!
*I received the 2014 Kia Forte free of charge for 1 week in order to facilitate this review. All opinions are 100% mine. See Disclosure Policy.
Several years ago I traveled to Nepal and stayed for an entire month. During the time I was there, Tibet opened its doors to tourists, and while I had wanted to go, I didn't really have the time or extra money to secure a visa. I did however bring home several Tibetan goodies as souvenirs for myself and family members. My favorite item I brought home was a gorgeous Tibetan Singing Bowl. Unfortunately over the years it has gone missing from my possession, so when I ran across Silver Sky Imports I was thrilled to see the variety of handmade items from the Himalayas that they carry.
Silver Sky Imports offered to send their 4.5" Black Cast Tibetan Singing Bowl for a review. I figured since we're closing in on the holidays, featuring an item from a pretty nifty online store would be perfect for those of you that have to shop for more of the eclectic crowd but often times don't know where to start.
"This Tibetan cast singing bowl comes in its original form with superb smooth rim and covered in various designs. This bowl also includes a striker which is used to make the bowl sing. Each bowl is hand selected for its tone, size, and quality. It has a wonderful tone and is very easy to sing, great for the beginner." ~ Silver Sky Imports
The singing bowl I received is beautiful. Not my personal preference (I tend to like monotone coloring), but that's neither here nor there. Silver Sky Imports definitely carries the type that I'd most likely choose for myself. The bowl is weighted nicely, and the tone is pleasant. Because it's a smaller bowl with a smaller opening, the tone is higher. (I like to torment my dog with the sound since she's never sure exactly what is going on.) The bowl is extremely easy to sing. A gentle but firm tap with the striker and within a matter of a few strokes around the bowl and it is singing beautifully.
I love that the bowl comes with a striker. When I was in Nepal I had to buy these pieces separately. I ended up coming home with two, and while one worked perfectly, the other I happened to pick up was not a good match. With the two pieces coming together I think it's safe to assume the striker received will work with the bowl.
Although there isn't a lot of information known about the origination of Tibetan Singing Bowls, they're often used for meditation practices, relaxation, stress reduction and Reiki. If you're like me, and not really someone who practices meditation or Reiki, they're a just a neat handcrafted decorative instrument. Honestly, I'd like to have an entire collection of them adorning my home. Silver Sky Imports has a huge selection of singing bowls ranging from small to large, antique, and even zen singing bowls.
Silver Sky Imports is offering a $50 Gift Certificate Giveaway! Enter below on the Rafflecopter form for your chance to win. Please thoroughly read the instructions and follow the rules. Any entrants that fail to properly do the mandatory entry will be immediately disqualified.
As some of you may know, I've recently joined the fantastic foodie team at Girl Meets Food as a food and events photographer! This is a new development I am SO excited about, and you should definitely start following them via Social Media to see what we're all up to in the Washington D.C. area. So anyway, thanks to Girl Meets Food I was offered an invite courtesy of General Motors to their pre-show reception on August 5th at Wolf Trap before the OneRepublic concert. I had no idea what I was in for, but I knew that the brand new, completely revamped 2014 Chevy Impala was going to be there and I was excited. I love cars! Who doesn't??
The reception was a lot of fun, and was catered by Mindy's Catering local to Washington D.C. and the food was delicious! Drinks were also provided for all attendants along with a door prize for tweeting about the reception. Once we took a look around we went and found the 2014 Chevy Impala. She is a SNAZZY vehicle! I had the opportunity to talk to Clarence Davis, Jr. the GM Communications Coordinator. I asked him what he thought the best redesigned feature of the Impala is, and he said it was definitely the new grill. I can see why he said that. I think it's sleeker, more edgy, has more detail and looks beautiful. (I got him to pose for a photo for me!)
I also had the chance to check out the vehicle. Don't you just love being handed the keys to a car that isn't yours?
My husband and I checked out the revamped 2014 Chevy Impala inside and out, and we were both genuinely impressed! The trunk is massive, there is plenty of room in the back seat for pets or minions, and the front is spacious with every button and gadget you could ever need or want. My favorite feature, and it usually is on any car is the sun roof. It was really quite big compared to the size of the car, and I just adore being able to see the sky and have the natural light in my car while I'm driving.
There are several features of the newly designed 2014 Chevy Impala, but for the sake of time and space I'm just going to list a few of my favorites. You can read about all of them HERE.
- Aerodynamic exterior contours
- Roomy & Quiet
- Ergonomically placed controls
- V6 Engine offers 28 MPG Highway
- Rear Park Assist
Chevy certainly impressed with the 2014 Impala. Just wish I could have driven it! Definitely a car to check out if you're in the market.
Once again thank you to Girl Meets Food and GM for the reception!
To read more about Monday's reception follow @DistrictDrive on Twitter and search #mychevystyle.
A New Way to Roll
A couple weekends ago my husband and I decided to take our little ones to Pennsylvania for the weekend. We went on assignment to check out Hershey's Chocolate World, and Dutch Wonderland. Because we decided we'd like to do an overnight trip, we needed a vehicle that could pack a little extra stuff. We needed to bring a cooler (because we had zero intention of buying lunches at the attractions we visited), plus we knew we'd probably be coming home with lots of chocolate and that weekend it was 100ºF. Who wants melted chocolate??
I've always wanted to try out a Kia Soul. The look of the car is just really... unique. It has that weird boxy look to it, and that is one sort of car I never bother test driving when I was looking around at vehicles to buy, so when the 2013 Kia Soul was offered for a review, I said, "Heck Yeah!" (OK - I probably just said that in my head, but you get the picture.) When the 2013 Kia Soul was dropped off, I quickly skimmed the paperwork and noticed that the color of car we received was called "alien". I kind of giggled to myself. Between the color of the car, and the overall design, I thought it was quite fitting.
The 2013 Kia Soul is a middle of the road car for me. There were several things I liked about it, but there were also a few low points that will probably keep me from considering this model as an actual car buying option. Perhaps these things will change in the next few years. I always like to see improvements and am happy to change my mind when something meets my standards. And of course my preferences are not everyone's preferences.
One HUGE selling point for me is the price of this vehicle and the gas mileage. The 2013 Kia Soul starts at $14,400 for the base model. The model we were given to test out started at $19,900 for a 2.0L automatic transmission. This particular model also had a premium package tacked on which included a navigation with Sirius system, Push Button Start with Smart Key, Leather Trim Seats, Heated Front Seats, Automatic Climate Control, Rear Bumper Applique, Cargo Net, and EC Mirror with Compass. That's a really decent price for a vehicle these days, even with an additional package added on. The 2013 Kia Soul is also rated for 26 MPG for the City and 34 MPG for the highway. We gauged that was about what we got as well, and were super satisfied that filling the tank doesn't actually cost all that much.
The next best thing about the 2013 Kia Soul is the SPACE. This is one of those "don't judge a book by it's cover" cars. Heck, don't even judge the size of the interior until you actually start packing things into it, and hop in for a drive. We opened the trunk when it arrived and were initially a little worried. It didn't look like there was really that much space, but we figured if we could master Tetris, then we could master packing our crap into the back of this car for our weekend away. And, master it we did with very little effort. The back seats DO fold all the way down, but since we have 2 kids in car seats, and since they HAD to come with us folding them down for the extra space wasn't an option. However, everything fit, with even a little extra room to spare. It wouldn't have been big enough to use for camping if we had to bring the kids, but for a family of 4 just going away for a night... it was no problem. My husband is also a rather tall man, and he had plenty of space in both the driver seat and the passenger seat which is rare for a normal size vehicle.
There were less important aspects about the 2013 Kia Soul that we really liked as well. There are virtually no blind spots, and it has a pretty good turning radius. Driving in the city and finding parking tend to be one of those "oh crap, I need that spot", and you turn last minute. Bigger vehicles or vehicles with a wider turning radius tend to make those last minute decisions more difficult, and require backing up and trying again. I really liked the dashboard control panel. It was easy to figure out, and wasn't overwhelmingly button-heavy. The small sun roof was also nice. It was a little too small for my taste, but I was glad it was there none-the-less. Who am I go to complain about how much of the sky I get to see through the roof of my car when every vehicle I've owned has been void of sunroofs? The vehicle overall was comfortable and supportive, but the seats were a little hard. The speakers have mood lighting around them in the front which was a nifty aesthetic feature. I didn't notice until hubby said something though. (We hadn't driven the car in the dark yet.)
Now, onto the two things I didn't really care for. The suspension is a little tight, which means you can feel every. single. bump. in the road. It's not as bad as some other cars I've tried out. The Scion TC was the worst, and I've heard Lotuses are pretty bad in that regards as well. However, those are meant to be sporty vehicles. I don't really see the 2013 Kia Soul as a "sporty" car. To me it's more of a family car and comfort is more important than sportiness. But, if you like that sort of drive, then it isn't a problem. It just took some time for my butt to get used to it, that's all. The second thing I found disappointing was the engine. The 2013 Kia Soul comes in 1.4L and 2.0L. I could have SWORN the one I had the opportunity to test out was the 1.4L. There was a lot of engine lag, and the "pick up" was rather dismal. We didn't even bother with the Eco option while driving it. I've owned small, older cars with smaller or equal sized engines and they out-performed the Soul. If you have the time to build up speed, that's one thing, but sometimes while driving on the highway, you need to put the petal to the metal and get out of the way, or quickly change lanes.
Overall it's a cute, little, affordable car, with plenty of space, and some pretty snazzy features. There were definitely some bonuses about it that I look for when searching for a new car, but there were also a few downfalls based on my personal preferences. I think it's definitely worth a test drive if you're in the market for a new car. I have a friend who saw that I was testing out the 2013 and commented that she has a 2010 Kia Soul and loves it. So, you know, to each their own, right? Test it out, and tell me what you think! Or, if you have one of your own, I'd love to hear your thoughts.
*I received the 2013 Kia Soul free of charge for 1 week in order to facilitate this review. All opinions are 100% mine. See Disclosure Policy.
"It Has an Answer for Everything"
I'm not above appreciating a good mini-van. I hate how they look though. But, with 3 kids, a dog, and a husband to tote around I understand how awesome they can be. However, I'm more of an SUV type gal. I think the styling over all is better, and I enjoy the 4WD or AWD options many of them have. (Living in Maine, it was not uncommon to take a family trip in 6 inches of snow with it still coming down.)
My family and I had planned another camping trip. This time we were heading up to NY to spend the weekend on a friend's farm. We needed enough space in the trunk for our tent, food, sleeping stuff, etc. And, we also decided we were going to bring our dog along. I was a little worried that we'd be offered a review vehicle that wasn't going to be big enough. If we were camping closer like last time, that wouldn't have been such a big deal, but with our destination being 318 miles away... a vehicle that doesn't fit everything kind of poses a problem.
Luckily we were offered the 2014 Kia Sorento EX AWD + Touring Package (in a STUNNING Wave Blue color)! I have to admit I'm always a little wary when I hear the name Kia. Unfortunately, in my mind Kia is synonymous with cheap. (I know, I know, that's awful to say.) But, it is what it is. I would have never considered a Kia until I had the opportunity to drive the 2014 Sorento around. I fell in LOVE with this vehicle. I joked around about hiding it and never giving it back. I found my perfect mommy vehicle! It's spacious, comfortable, feature packed, and drives amazingly well. There was not a single thing I didn't like about the 2014 Sorento. Now, I can't quite comment on how it'll hold up after a couple of years, but driving it around for 2 weeks, including a really long trip, it was amazing.
So anyway, we packed up the trunk of the Sorento. I think we had a massive tent, 2 sleeping bags, a cooler, a box, 4 camping chairs, 3 or 4 bags with clothing and toiletries, 4 pillows, an air mattress, and we stuffed my daughter's Trunki under her feet. Then we put in my son's car seat, my daughter's booster seat, and stuck the dog in the middle seat. Needless to say the car was packed pretty much full, but if necessary we could have fit more stuff in there. And off we went!
My husband and I are very critical. Not just about cars, but we certainly believe that if we're going to make a big investment it needs to be worth the money. We spent hours during our drive up to NY discussing the features we liked. I mean, HOURS of all of the positives that we loved, which I'll get to in a bit. However, there were only TWO negatives we could come up with, and neither one of them is a fault, just a personal preference. The first thing we found a little annoying was the incessant beeping when you leave the car on, but walk away with the key. I get it. It's there to let you know the key isn't in the car. However, we would occasionally step outside for a cigarette break (no judging) during our trip, and leave the kids inside with the dog and keep the radio and AC running. Heaven forbid one of them figures out how to get out of their seat and lock the doors on us. So, they remote key stayed on our possession at all times. The beeping wasn't necessary.
The second thing I didn't like, mostly because it scared the daylights out of me the first time I heard it, was this alarm sound when it's not safe to merge. Again, I get it. It's a safety feature, and a smart one at that. But, I'm a slightly nervous driver in 4 lanes of close traffic, and the alarm almost sent me into another lane. Thankfully that feature can actually be turned off. (Perhaps someone else realized it was kind of a distracting sound.) But that's it. Those two negatives are certainly nothing to write home about and wouldn't deter me from buying the vehicle in the slightest. I can deal with some beeping and dinging especially if it's a safety feature.
This review will drone on and on if I don't edit myself a bit and just stick to my favorite features of the 2014 Kia Sorento. If you want to know EVERYTHING that this beauty has in store for you, definitely check out Kia online. My husband and I talked a bit, and we thought these would be the best features to mention. First of all, the Sorento is absolutely stunning inside and out. We loved the beige leather (black is also available in this model). We've decided we really hate black leather interiors. The vehicle just gets WAY too hot, and black shows EVERYTHING. I normally don't like wood accents (real or fake), but the shiny dark wood accents inside really added to the beauty. It was done tastefully and didn't overwhelm the interior.
The panoramic roof with power sunshade was the coolest thing ever. My kids LOVED that I could open the sunshade and you could see the sky through almost the entire top of the vehicle. It went almost all the way back. Then throw in the fact that the window also opens on about half of the roof, and you just have a spectacular sky view. I LOVE sunroofs. That's one feature I've never had in a car that I've owned, but for me they're always a strong selling point. We also thought the memory drivers seat and mirrors were super cool. I always forget to put the seat back if my husband is driving next and we end up struggling to find the perfect spot each time we need to go somewhere. Not with this vehicle! There are buttons for two settings. I had mine at #1, and my husband did #2. Just push the button you need and your seat moves to the EXACT spot that you want it to.
The navigation system was pretty snazzy. Sometimes it hiccuped, but what GPS doesn't? We used the GPS a LOT on our trip. The same panel that does the radio and GPS also turns into a backup camera when you put the vehicle in reverse. My husband said this was definitely one of his most favorite features. Safety and functionality.... perfect! Two other nifty features were sun shades in the back seat windows, and single push button lift gate opening/closing. And finally, our favorite little feature was vented seats. It has been in the 90's for the last two weeks, and while at first I thought the vented seats felt funny, I was thrilled to have a little coolness helping out my bum and lower back while driving. This feature was also used quite a bit.
So, we all know little features are great, but they mean nothing if the rest of the car doesn't hold up. The 2014 Kia Sorento handles like a true champ. The bumps were smooth (we had to take it partially off-roading at the farm), and this vehicle turns on a dime. Finding a parking spot last minute in a crowded parking lot? No problem. There was almost never a reason to back up and try again just to make sure the car would turn successfully into the spot. There is also an eco button feature that (please excuse my lack of full technical knowledge on this) helps improve your fuel economy. I'm not sure if it reduces the amount of pistons firing in the engine (bringing it from a V6 down to 4 cylinders being used), or if it just reduces the overall RPMs. Whatever it does, I noticed a significant jump in fuel economy. We were averaging about 18 MPG without using the Eco feature, and jumped up to averaging about 23.7 MPG on the highway.
The 2014 Kia Sorento EX AWD + Touring Package is really quite a beauty. Kia FAR surpassed any and all expectations I had going into this review, and convinced me that they're a brand who is in it to win it. My husband and I couldn't come up with anything we were really disappointed with, which is difficult. There's always something we don't like. I would purchase this vehicle in a heartbeat, and I don't think my husband will ever hear the end of my nagging. I mean really, I'd give my left arm to own this car. No joke.
*I received the 2014 Kia Sorento free of charge for 2 weeks in order to facilitate this review. All opinions are 100% mine. See Disclosure Policy.
"INCREDIBLE DRIVING WITH INCREDIBLE FUEL ECONOMY IS NO LONGER A DREAM. IT'S A MAZDA."
One of the many cars I've test driven while searching for new vehicles is the Mazda 3. This was several years ago, however this, much like the Mazda5, was not really one of my favorites and we bypassed purchasing it. It felt cheaply made and when I compared the price of the vehicle to what I perceived as a lack of quality, it just wasn't adding up in my favor. I recently had the chance to review a new 2013 Mazda3 i Grand Touring. Our family didn't have any big trips planned so we wanted to try out a car that would be great for living in the city, putting around for errands, and commuting into work. Our biggest concern when purchasing a vehicle is almost always the interior size of the vehicle. My daughter is still in a booster seat, and my son still rides in a massive car seat. Plus, I have an 11 year old step-daughter who insists on having a lot of room even if we're just going a mile down the road. A smaller more compact vehicle almost NEVER fits us all comfortably. Of course fuel economy, comfort, and most bang for your buck are also all important qualities we look for as well.
"Quick off the line and aggressive in the curves, in the world of compact cars the Mazda3 is the true driver’s bread and butter. And with up to an EPA-estimated 40 MPG Highway,† the driving excitement goes on and on." ~ Mazda
I have to admit that I've never operated a car that had a keyless ignition. It was really quite pathetic trying to figure it out. The car was telling me to "compress break to start". So I did that. And I did that again. It didn't click for awhile that I needed to HOLD the brake down with my foot and push the ignition button simultaneously. Duh. Okay, once I figured that all we were all set to get this review started. The first thing I noticed was that the brakes weren't quite as sensitive as I normally like them to be. I felt that I had to push the brake pedal down about half way before the car would begin to slow down. After getting used to it though, I think it really was just a personal preference of mine and nothing more. By the time I drove it a couple of times I didn't even notice what I hadn't originally like about the brakes.
When my 6' 2" husband gets into a car, the first thing he does is move the driver's seat ALL the way back as far as it can go. When he did that with the 2013 Mazda3 it went back TOO far. That NEVER happens! He was so beyond impressed. "This is the first car that I can't put the seat all the way back in. I can't reach the pedals if I do." Granted this means that if the seat is all the way back there isn't much room for little legs in the back seat. However, this also means that my 6' 10" Uncle could probably comfortably drive this car.
The back seat was spacious enough for very short trips. We went grocery shopping, and to Home Depot, and since these places weren't more than a couple of miles away, no one complained about lack of room in the back seat. The back seat would definitely work well for 3 kids without car seats, and is probably most comfortable for 2 who are in car seats. The one thing that really made up for a smaller back seat was the massive trunk. This car can hold a LOT of stuff in its caboose. My husband picked up several shelving units amongst some other things and brought it all back home in the trunk of the vehicle with space to spare! Definitely a fantastic car for grocery shopping, or even traveling overnight somewhere with luggage for the entire family. I started imagining all of the trays of plants I could bring home for my sad looking flower bed.... Heck, I think it was big enough to sleep in.
It was suggested that we check out the handling of the vehicle. Basically we were given permission to find some corners and see how well this baby could take them on. Once we were in a parking lot, my husband took over. I guess technically we were speeding for a parking lot, but not by much, and he was whipping us around like we were on the Tea Cup ride at Disney World. (Slight exaggeration.) The 2013 Mazda3 handles SUPER well for the speed we had it at. Unfortunately we didn't end up anywhere that we could test it out on corners above 45 MPH. We did notice however that we weren't super fond of the engine. We noticed that when we started the car the engine ran a lot louder than we would have expected for a 4 cylinder engine. (I think it might have been because we left the radio and AC on when we would turn the car off, and maybe with how hot it was the engine was just working on overtime to get everything running.) The other thing we noticed about the engine was that it wasn't as responsive as we'd have liked it to be. There was often a delay between pushing down on the gas pedal and the car's RPM's increasing. It was significant enough to the point where my husband really complained about it and continued to demonstrate that it wasn't just in his head.
Our final test of the Mazda3 was my husband commuting into work. We live a good 10 miles or so outside of Washington DC where my husband works and DC is notorious for terrible traffic. (This is why he either takes the metro or rides his moped into work.) He said he got about 30 MPG which is probably thanks to the Skyactiv technology. He didn't have any issues with blind spots and that the car navigated through the traffic well. He said it was a great little commuter car. He did come home and say that he was glad he didn't rely on the blind-spot monitoring system because it didn't always work. There would be times that he thought the lights should come on to warn him of vehicles next to him, and they didn't, but other times in the same sort of situation they did.
The 2013 Mazda3 boasts many additional features which were all pretty nifty and instead of listening to describe them all you should definitely check out Mazda online. I do want to say that one of my favorites was the moon roof with one-touch open controls and the two 12v power outlets. The heated mirrors and seats are also a great touch if you live in states that stay cold during the winter. The seats were extremely comfortable, and included child safety seat anchors, including three top anchors in the back seat, and a cross-chest seat belt in the middle seat. The government safety rating on the Mazda3 is also pretty good with an overall 4-Star rating and was named top safety pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
We definitely enjoyed driving this little beauty around. She was snazzy, fuel efficient, had tons of space for the type of car it is, and felt that it would make a good option for a future car purchase!
*I was provided a car for a week from STI & Mazda in order to facilitate this review. All opinions are 100% mine. See Disclosure Policy.
So, it happened again. My husband decided it was time for us to go camping. Camping in April? What?! This isn't a thing that normally occurs in Maine and needless to say I was relatively unprepared. We usually borrowed supplies from my mother, but that was just not possible with our relocation to DC. LightSpeed Outdoors had been fantastic last September and let us review their Vermont 4 Pro tent. We loved it so much, that I reached out again to see if they might have another tent on hand they'd like a review on. I mean, that tent had stood up to the weather of whatever hurricane had come through the US coast last September. Rain, wind, it handled it all and we loved how easy it was to set up and take down.
LightSpeed Outdoors offered their Compound 8 tent for this camping trip. Oh my holy goodness was this a monster of a tent. And by that, I mean this tent was HUGE. Hugely awesome that is (and huge in size).
"The Compound 8 offers three rooms divided by zippered walls, making it the most spacious Lightspeed Outdoors® tent yet. The main area sets up with pre-attached poles and the compression hub system. Telescoping poles elevate the main tent upward and lock into place. Additional poles are attached to frame out the remainder of the tent. While this tent is very easy to set up, we recommend trying it at home the first time to become familiar with the setup process. In addition to the sleeping area, a large screened porch can be used to get out of the sun or to help keep bugs at bay." ~ LightSpeed Outdoors
There were so many amazing features about the Compound 8 that I'm not even sure how to begin. Much like the Vermont 4 Pro, the Compound 8 comes in a large duffel bag which makes it really easy to pack away. You know those old school tents that used to have the tiniest bag ever, and you'd have to fold it a very specific way after getting all of the air out with the hope that it might just fit back into the bag the way it was supposed to. (My mother had written instructions packed away with her tent so she could remember how to pack it back into the bag.) Disassembling the tent was as easy as removing the polls, releasing the compression hub, and rolling it up. The tent even comes with extra compression straps so everything stays together and easily packs away.
Setting the tent up was almost as easy as taking it down. I say almost, because there just seemed to be a lot of steps. While it doesn't quite go up the way the Vermont 4 Pro did, it's also very similar. All you need to do is lay out the tent, attach the compression hub, extend out the telescoping poles, thread the poles through the sides, steak it down, set up the porch and you're done.Most of the poles are already attached! The only additional poles are for the outer rooms, and the front porch. The poles are also color coded so it's pretty fool proof. I had watched the "how to" video before taking the tent on our trip and I could easily direct my husband on how to set it up. Hey, I was taking the photos or else I would have set it up. Turns out that he only needed my extra set of hands a couple of times, and in all probability he most likely could have set it up alone if he had really tried. The duffel bag also has the printed instructions sewn into the side of it, so even if you didn't watch the video, the 8-Step directions break it down for you. One of the things I love is that there are very few actual parts. The tent comes with a rain fly, 4 steel poles with grey tape, 2 fiberglass poles with grey tape, 2 steel poles with red tape, 1 fiberglass pole with red tape and 33 stakes. One little feature that I think while not super significant, is still pretty nifty is that the rain fly directly buckles to the tent. It definitely won't be going anywhere in a storm!
Like I said, the tent itself is MASSIVE. My husband and I camped out using the Vermont 4 Pro (still think we should have given that one to the kids), and we stuck our kids in the Compound 8. There was MORE than enough room for all of them, plus our bags we packed, and anything extra we needed to store. My husband and I could have easily fit our queen size air mattress in there along with everything else. Having dividers in the tent is also a plus if you want to sleep in the same tent as your kids, or even other friends. The tallest part of the tent is nearly 7 feet tall, which means both my husband and I could easily stand up straight in it.
The only thing I had a slight issue with, is that I accidentally broke one of the poles. Not one of the telescoping ones that are pre-attached, but one of the smaller steel or fiberglass ones. And it wasn't that I broke it in half and can't fix it, it was just that where it hinges together I kind of unhinged it. Nothing a pair of pliers and some patience can't fix. Or my husband. I think I was a little excited to be heading home and just got carried away trying to take the tent down as fast as possible. Oops. I don't think it was a flaw of the tent, just my poor judgement and user error. We can't wait for our next camping trip this year! LightSpeed Outdoors has become a brand I will immediately recommend if anyone is looking around for a new tent. Both have been fantastic to us, and we absolutely love the products.
The LightSpeed Outdoors Compound 8 retails for $499.99 (shipping included) directly from LightSpeed Outdoors.
You can find LightSpeed Outdoors on Facebook too.
Guess what? LightSpeed is giving DealPeddler readers a chance to win a Compound 8 tent! Once the giveaway is live you'll be able to enter [HERE]. Giveaway is open to legal residents of the USA who are 18+.
* I was given the above mentioned product free of charge from LightSpeed Outdoors in order to facilitate this review. All opinions are 100% mine. See Disclosure Policy.
"Designed for Life Unexpected"
Since meeting my husband I feel like I've been through 1,001 vehicles. When we met I had a Hyundai Accent, and he had a Toyota Camry. Then he traded that in for another Toyota truck of some sort, and I got a Jeep Wrangler. After finding out I was expecting my first child the Wrangler went bye-bye and I ended up with a Pontiac Vibe. Then we were gifted an old mini-van and my Vibe went away so we could save some moola. We drove that mommy-van all the way from Maine to DC when we moved, and it decided to erm... pass away, leaving me without a family vehicle. Thankfully we live right near the metro, and have a truck and a moped (my husband decided he wanted a new toy), and we can rent a vehicle every now and again when we all need to get somewhere. We are looking around for a new car, however my family wanted to go camping ASAP since we've had gorgeous weather, and we really didn't want to have to shell out a couple hundred dollars just to get to a campsite.
I was very blessed because an opportunity to test out a car for Mazda came knocking at my door. The only problem, was figuring out which would work best for our family. "Umm... I have three kids, and two with car seats, so if possible could you please let me try a car that will fit everyone?" They came back and said, "How about the 2013 Mazda5 Grand Touring? It has third row seating." PERFECT!
I've test driven so many vehicles. (I'm one of those people who even if I think I know I'm not going to purchase the car, still might take it out to see if a test drive might change my mind.) About 4 years ago I test drove a Mazda5. I wasn't impressed. The suspension felt like I was driving a little race car, and the interior and controls just felt cheap. It was kind of like driving a matchbox car. Needless to say, this past experience had me a little worried about not liking the 2013 Mazda5. But, I figured that it has been several years, and car manufacturers are known for improving issues and hopefully not creating new ones. Who knew? Maybe I'd find my next family vehicle.
"With sporty performance, pure athletic style and a roomy interior, the Mazda5 defies category labels while delivering on versatility. The 6-passenger seating is easily accessible by two sliding rear doors, while the 2.5L DOHC engine delivers impressive power without compromising fuel efficiency. Because calling it a minivan doesn't mean it has to drive like one." ~Mazda
When the Mazda5 was dropped off, I was given a quick rundown of all of the features. Have to be honest, it all kind of in went in one ear and out the other because there were SO MANY FEATURES. See all of those buttons and knobs on the console? Yeah, I had this car a week and still didn't need to use them all.
The Mazda5 is Bluetooth and Audio Connectivity capable. Which means you can connect your phone and answer calls or listen to music through the car's 6 speaker audio system while remaining hands free. Just push the button on your steering wheel and you're good to go. I could definitely see my husband using this if we had the car longer. He already connect our house phone to our cell phones. The Mazda5 also has a USB input port so you can easily connect your MP3 player (or charge a cell phone). I can't forget to mention the available Sirius Satellite Radio with 120+ radio stations too. I think my husband picked up on all of the gadgetry faster than I did. I was more concerned about comfort, and safety.
The Mazda5 pretty much has it all when it comes to comfort. Something my husband always looks for is the cruise control feature. The Mazda5 has the controls right on the steering wheel making it super simple to use. MY favorite luxury was the power controlled moon roof. I've always wanted a vehicle with one. Something about cars make me feel a little claustrophobic, but having a little window in the roof definitely improve my personal comfort levels. The seats are cushy and ergonomically correct. Along with the leather trimmed upholstery, the front seats are also heated. Obviously didn't need to use that feature since the week I had it our weather was in the 70's, but it's a nice feature I've never had in any of my other vehicles.
The seats I think were my favorite feature. The middle row seats quickly fold down with just a single pull of a lever, and they also adjust forward and backward too. The third row also has a lot of space due to the fact that it only seats two, but the seats, while separate, also sit flush with each other. Now, that's not to say the second row isn't huge either. My son's car seat is MASSIVE and there was plenty of space for it and room for his feet. Both second and third row seats fold down FLAT. My Vibe did that, and I've always thought it was the best idea ever. Another neat little feature having to do with the seats is that the second row has a little bit of storage space underneath the cushions. The seat on the right side of the vehicle also houses a little try for food and drinks under the cushion.
Now, because I travel around with three kids, safety is definitely important. The Mazda5 has rear back-up sensors which will beep if you're getting too close to something. Not that I've ever backed into anything, but... I've come close a few times and not necessarily realized how close. Halogen headlights come standard, but you can also upgrade to Xenon High-Intensity Discharge headlights. Either way, the road is illuminated at night really well. No problems seeing ahead into the distance, or down the nose of the car. The Mazda5 also boasts 4-wheel disc breaks, Electronic Breakforce Distribution, Dynamic Stability Control, Traction Control, tire pressure monitoring system, six standard airbags, and fast inflating air-curtains. Thankfully none of these were needed. But, ya gotta admit it's nice to know they're there!
Earlier I mentioned that the last Mazda5 I drove I really had an issue with the suspension and interior. This car did a complete 180º since the older model. The suspension was SO smooth. My opinion of Mazda's quality definitely improved with the 2013 Mazda5. The interior I felt was much better quality too. It didn't FEEL as plastic and cheap as the one I tried before. In fact, it felt rather luxurious.
There was only ONE thing that I was a little disappointed with. I was really hoping that this car would fit all 5 of us, the dog, and our camping gear, but the trunk space just wasn't large enough. Even with one of the third row seats folded down. It easily fit 3 people and the dog, and probably could have handled 4 people and the dog, but that entire third row needed to be folded down to get everything else in. It's not a big deal if you don't need to carry that much stuff with so many people, but we are a large family and enjoy taking trips together, even if it's just for a weekend of camping. I still absolutely LOVE this car, and would definitely recommend it if you're looking for a mini-van/crossover. It's perfect for a family car, running errands, and even taking long trips in if you don't have tents, sleeping bags, bedding, food, etc. to pack. There was nothing in the 2013 Mazda5 Grand Touring that I didn't want, and everything that I could EVER want.
*I was provided a car for a week from STI & Mazda in order to facilitate this review. All opinions are 100% mine. See Disclosure Policy.
Last Fall I worked with Teton Sports and had the opportunity to review their TETON Sports Celsius XL –18°C/0°F Sleeping Bag. It was a FANTASTIC sleeping bag. It was perfectly huge, soft, warm, and I still can't get over how much I love the storage bags with the compression straps. Well, my husband decided we needed to go on a Spring camping trip this year. The weather had been extremely nice lately, and while it's nice to camp when it's super hot out because of all of the swimming options that tend to be available, camping is a lot of work. And, a lot of work in the sweltering heat just kind of takes away from the fun of being outdoors. Because I loved working with Teton Sports so much last year, I reached out again to see if we could review a new product. We settled on the Fahrenheit Regular 0°F Sleeping Bag. (Unfortunately it didn't arrive in time for THIS particular camping trip, but I can still give it a solid two thumbs up and will definitely be using it in the future.)
"This well-built sleeping bag keeps you warm in all but the most extreme temperatures. Cozy cotton flannel lining feels like luxury bed sheets Zipper and shoulder baffles keep drafts out of the openings Dual layer construction with staggered seams distribute fill evenly to reduce compression and eliminate chilly spots. Mummy style hood snugs around neck with drawstring. No-snag, self-repairing zipper opens top or bottom for adjustable ventilation and connects easily to second bag for shared sleeping space." ~ Teton Sports
There are so many fantastic features about this sleeping bag but I think the most important is that it was constructed for durability and warmth. The flannel liner is 100% brushed cotton making it super soft and breathable. Several of my photos have my daughter in it. She jumped right in and pretended to sleep even without a pillow (which she ALWAYS needs). Yeah, the inside of the sleeping bag is THAT soft. I figured she can play and model the bag for me all she wants, but at the end of the day, I'm staking my claims on it.
The top part of the sleeping bag has a drawstring to turn the head part into a hood so your head and pillow stay off of the ground. Personally, that's what I use an air mattress for, (I'm a slight pansy when it comes to camping.) however I've used other sleeping bags with hoods like this to keep bugs off of my face. Nothing like trying to get a few hours of sleep before everyone is awake at the crack of dawn and having to swat mosquitoes away from your face every 10 minutes.
The shell of the bag is made from taffeta which is lightweight and lends to the warmth and durability of the sleeping bag. Then there are little things about the bag that I also really appreciated. There's a Velcro strap at the top of the bag where the zipper ends so it prevents drafts, and I think it also helps keep the zipper from sliding down on its own while you're sleeping. The zipper is also amazing. It's self-repairing and zips OH SO smoothly. The sleeping bag is also constructed with full length draft tubes which is a huge bonus for me. While camping the other weekend we brought our other Teton bag with us and used it as a blanket. While warm, it wasn't warm enough because of the drafts. I can only imagine how well this one would have performed given the ability to zip it up instead of having to share one big one.
If you're looking to create one HUGE sleeping bag, you can buy left and right zippered bags so you can zip them together. (Isn't one of the fun parts about camping getting to snuggle with your hunny?) Teton Sports also has a limited lifetime warranty on the sleeping bag. Oh, and it's non-allergenic.
Although not super significant, I think my favorite feature is the Oxford Compression Sack that comes with the bag. You don't even need to roll up the sleeping bag before stuffing it in, and the compression straps let you shrink it down even further to conserve space. If you're like our family you have to pack a TON of stuff just for a few nights away and any little extra space counts.
- Dimensions: 80" x 33"
- Temperature Rating: 0°F
- Fill: SuperLoft Elite™ 4–Channel Hollow Fiber
- Shell: Taffeta
- Lining: 100% Cotton Flannel
- Storage: Oxford Compression Sack with Drawstring Closure
- Zipper: Left or Right Hand
- Pack Weight: 5.5 lbs
- Pack Size: 15" x 10" x 10"
- Color: Grey
Teton Sports has also offered to give away a Fahrenheit Regular 0°F Degrees! Once giveaway is live you'll be able to enter [HERE]. Giveaway will run for approximately 1 week. Open to US residents who are 18+.
*I received the above mentioned product free of charge from Teton Sports in order to facilitate this review. All opinions are 100% mine. See Disclosure Policy.
About a week before Christmas, I was asked to review a bouquet of 50 Medium Stem Burgundy/Purple Calla Lilies from Flower Muse. My intention was to have the review done, along with a project in time for New Years, because I'm sure many of you entertained company and could have used some beautiful centerpieces for your tables. Unfortunately, I had some stuff come up with family in addition to still unpacking, and it just didn't happen. Then I realized, Valentine's Day is coming up, and people are still have those beautiful Winter weddings, and Spring is only a couple of months away - so this review is still within the perfect time frame of flower buying.
I was given the option of reviewing hydrangeas or calla lilies, and since I like my flowers a little more streamlined and modern looking (I also used mini calla lilies in my wedding bouquet), I thought a bouquet of burgundy callas would really make my new place pop with a little color. I had purchased a medium height circular vase, along with some clear glass vase filler beads, and found some silver ribbon in my craft bin. Shiny beads, silver, and burgundy just screams holidays to me. My intention was to try something similar to the photo pictured that I found on the Beyond Events blog. Since I couldn't find the floating candles in my store, I planned to use ribbon wrapped around the outside and tied in a long elegant bow instead. However, like I said, I just didn't get to the project before the calla lilies lost their freshness.
The flowers were delivered by FedEx, wrapped in sets of ten, and placed strategically in a sturdy box so there wouldn't be too much jostling. I even had to sign for the package which is rare. But, it's nice to know that Flower Muse wants to definitely make sure the flowers were delivered to a person, and not just left on someone's doorstep for who knows how long. Not only does Flower Muse make sure that you are home when your flowers arrive, but they make sure that they are as fresh as possible. The flowers are sourced as "farm direct" meaning that they aren't going through any middle men or warehouses before arriving at your door. You are enjoying your ordered flowers only 4 days after being cut!
"These Schwarzwalder mini-callas are considered purple by some and burgundy, near black by others. Whichever your opinion, if you are looking for a deep and dark natural flower that has a great modern look, this is the variety for you. These "bouquet length" mini-callas are ~14 inches long and are great for both vase arrangements and handheld bouquets." ~ Flower Muse
I have a black thumb, so thankfully they came with care instructions. Just snip off about 1 inch off of the ends, place in room temperature water, and change the water every couple of days to maintain freshness as long as possible. As you can see, the flowers were STUNNING. All but one was in perfect condition upon arrival. The burgundy color was just perfect too. They were so sleek, and even without any added decoration, they made my dining room stand out that much more. They were certainly the biggest eye-catching piece in the entire room.
The fantastic thing about Flower Muse is their huge selection of flowers and color choices. Everything from calla lilies, to orchids, roses, peonies, and so much more. Right now you can check out their Valentine's Day selection - tulips, roses, orchids, calla lilies, and hydrangeas in various varieties an colors. I have to say, my favorites are the lavender roses, calla lilies, and purple parrot tulips. (Can you tell that purple is my favorite color yet?) Not really into Valentine's Day? No problem! They have a vast selection of wedding flowers available too - everything from packages, to bridal bouquets, to center pieces.
Make sure you take the time to check out Flower Muse online. You can also follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, and Tumbler. Flower Muse also has some great DIY tips too that you should check out if you're looking into adding fresh cut flowers into your room decor.
*I received the above mentioned product from Flower Muse free of charge in order to facilitate this review. All opinions are 100% mine. See Disclosure Policy.