Passports with Purpose –Travel Writers Give Back

by Desiree Miller on November 19, 2014

Passports with Purpose


One of my favorite parts of traveling to new places is meeting the locals, the people who call the destination home.  I often want to connect with them on a deeper level, learning about what they are proud of in their region, and experiencing the things they’d want to share with their friends who visit.

I immediately think of Sharon, Wes and Chendel, who embraced me like family and showed me how a local enjoys Carnival in Aruba, or Maggie in Costa Rica, a masseuse who works hard each day helping others to relax.

We may come from very different places, but we all share the same ultimate goal of happiness and if there’s a way I can leave their land better than when I found it, bringing them some happiness, well, that makes me happy, too.

That’s why I’m so proud to support the Passports with Purpose campaign.

It’s the annual travel bloggers’ fundraiser held during a two-week period in November and December.

Passports with Purpose unites our online community, leveraging the social media platforms of more than 200 travel bloggers around the world.

Previous initiatives have benefited Heifer International; the Passports School with American Assistance for Cambodia; a village in Tamil Nadu, India for 25 Dalit families with Land for Tillers’ Freedom; two libraries in Zambia with Room to Read; five wells in Haiti with; and in 2013 two schools and two adult literacy programs in Mali with buildOn.

This year’s campaign partner is Sustainable Harvest International, and the money raised will help support their work in Honduras.
Since 1997, Sustainable Harvest International has worked in Honduras to help families improve degraded land, grow their own food, and learn how to prevent tropical deforestation from logging and slash-and-burn agriculture practices.

Each $5,000 raised through this year’s Passports with Purpose campaign can help Sustainable Harvest International nourish a family and community in Honduras for five years.

Learn more about Sustainable Harvest International’s work here.
Learn more about Passports with Purpose by clicking here.

Passports with Purpose was recognized by Travel + Leisure® magazine with a Social Media in Travel  + Tourism℠ Awards (SMITTY) for “Best Use of Social Media by an Independent Journalist/Blogger.”


I’ve partnered with my friend Sue Rodman of Fieldtrips with Sue to organize a prize that you’ll be able to bid on online.  We can’t share the details until December 1st, when the campaign goes live, but we can say we have generous donations from some of our favorite companies, including Joovy, Britax and TravelKiddy.

There will be dozens of other prizes as part of the auction, too.  I hope you’ll consider submitting a bid.



Omaha Steaks Coupon

(Note to readers: I was given this product to review but was not otherwise compensated.  As always, my opinion remains my own. #SaveAtOmahaSteaks, #ad)

The holidays are creeping up on us and it’s a matter of time before we’re scrambling from one festivity to another, so wouldn’t it be nice to have a healthy meal ready to go for your family, where all you have to do is pop it in the oven and, voila, the family is fed?!

Well, I experienced just how awesome that can be recently when I was asked to review Omaha Steaks.

I’m sure you’ve heard of the company.  I had…plenty of times…but had never tried them, until last week.

I picked up my product at the Omaha Steaks store near my house.  It included:

  • 4 – 4 oz. Top Sirloins
  • 4 – 4 oz. Burgers
  • 4 – Stuffed Baked Potatoes
  • 4 – Caramel Apple Tartlets

I knew I wanted to feed it to the family that night, and worried a bit about it being frozen.  The store manager made it clear most of it could be cooked straight from the freezer to the oven.  He advised me to run the steaks under hot water for a few minutes and he was right, that worked like a charm.  I marinated them for a few minutes and then popped them in the oven, too.  I saved the burgers for another night.

That’s about all the prep I needed…we were eating less than an hour after I removed the food from the containers.

I loved how easy it was and the family loved how delicious it tasted.

I realized this may be the ideal baby present for a set of new parents.  It could also be super for a friend who might need some extra help while going through a difficult time.

And here’s some good news: we have a special discount for you!

The Regular Price for the set my family ate is- $104.98.  But Omaha Steaks has arranged a special rate for Stress-free, Baby! readers to get the offer for $29.99.  You just have to use the coupon. You can show the coupon on your mobile device or print it and bring it with you to the store.  The coupons are good at any Omaha Steak store.  A list of locations can be found by clicking here:


Omaha Steaks Meal


omaha steak store



jscreen test kit, genetic testing

(Note to readers: As part of this review, the company tested me for genetic diseases at no cost.  I was not otherwise compensated and my opinion remains my own.)

There’s nothing that means more to me in the world than my family.  My children are my whole universe.  And nothing worried me more as an expectant mother than the health of my baby, in the womb and after.

Think about it. So many things can go wrong.

So, what if there was a way for you to find out—before you were even pregnant—whether you might pass along a disease that could make their life incredibly difficult?

Lots of us get tested once we’re pregnant—but what can we really do with that information then?

Wouldn’t you want access to that information BEFORE?

Well, it’s possible with genetic screening.

And now, it’s possible with genetic screening that you can do right at home.

I was asked to do a screening for a review by a company known as JScreen in Atlanta.  They’re based out of Emory University, but anyone can be tested, anywhere.

No, I don’t plan to have more children.  But, if it’s possible I have a recessive gene for a disease, I’d like to make sure my children are aware of that for when they plan to have babies.

That’s where JScreen comes in.  They explain, the key to protecting our kids from devastating diseases is raising awareness among parents thinking of adding to their families.  They don’t want screening to be scary, but want to help people through the process.

Yes, JScreen targets the Jewish population.  I’m not Jewish.  But as the JScreen site explains, “although occurrences are less frequent outside of the Jewish population, the 19 diseases are found in other ethnicities as well. In addition to the 19 Jewish genetic diseases, there are many other genetic diseases that are commonly found in the general population.”

My screening process was simple.  A box arrived in the mail with a vial and instructions.  It involved filling the vial with my saliva up to a certain level.  Then, I tightened the cap, which released another liquid to properly store my sample, and filled out the label that was included. I dropped it off at a fed ex location and it was on its way.

Easy breezy.

About a week or so later I got an email instructing me on how to get my results.

In my case, it was all good news.

I didn’t show a trace of the diseases, and they tested me for more than twice the amount than most obgyns test for during pregnancy.

It’s good information for me to have, and great information for me to share with my children.

jscreen genetic test results


NETGEAR Travel Router and Range Extender Review

by Desiree Miller on November 12, 2014

Netgear router

(Note to readers: I was sent this product to review through the NETGEAR Ambassador program.  As always, my opinion remains my own.)

Traveling on the job means having access to WiFi is pretty important, so it’s tough when I get to a hotel or conference and can’t get online.

Not just tough.  Impossible.

That’s why I find something like the NETGEAR Trek device so helpful.  The N300 is a travel router and range extender.

It was sent to me for a review and I put it to work right away in my home.  Yep.  Sometimes the WiFi signal in my house stinks.  It’s slow.  That could be because between all of us, we have 5 smart phones—any one of which could be livestreaming a video at any given moment, two laptops that are almost always online, and two iPads—actually three now that I add it up—that are also being used at least once a day.

So, the Trek adds a little umph to my signal.

It allows you to turn a wired Internet connection into a secure WiFi hotspot.

On the road, I can also use this gadget to tap into free hotspots that might otherwise put my info in jeopardy (as public hotspots tend to do).  The Trek allows me to create a secure, protected WiFi network when using public hotspots.

And it allows me to share one hookup with my other devices when I’m at a hotel or conference where the property charges for each connection.

It costs about $60.

And is super easy to set up.  You can hardwire it with a cable or just plug it into any electrical outlet.


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Open Letter to Our College Kids–Seeing Past Suicide

by Desiree Miller on November 4, 2014

when you reach the end

I read her status updates each day and hurt for her.

My Facebook friend.

Every post is about her son.  And her grief.

Her sweet boy is gone.

One day…full of life and laughter.

The next day…gone.

He took his own life.

The life full of so much promise…now over.

He was just 20 years old.

I can’t help but think of my own son, also 20.

Also in college.

And also a little bit lost.

So I text my child, hoping to catch him tonight, just to tell him I love him.

He’s not a talker.  I wish, but he’s not.

And that’s ok tonight.  Trust me, he’s already heard more than he wants to about my other friends whose children call every day.

But tonight, I don’t want him to hear disappointment.

I want him to hear my love.

I want him to feel my love.

Because I know right now, he’s struggling.

As much fun as college can be, it’s also really hard for him.

Sure, he’s made some great friends, but he’s also had some heartache.

And he’s not doing as well in his classes as he needs to be doing right now.

He knows all about everyone’s expectations.  And he’s trying to meet them.

But he also still isn’t really sure what he’s going to do with his life.

While his friends make plans for the perfect career, he is still searching.

To be honest, I think he’s still trying to figure out who he is, not just what he wants to be.

In a way, I think he’s still not sure there’s a place for him out there.

As his parent, I walk a bit of a balance beam.  Strict. Demanding. Stressing that sleeping in or missing class isn’t ok.  Nobody is ok with failing grades.

Meantime, making it clear it’s ok if he needs…or wants…to take some time off to go get some perspective. Do some soul searching.  Travel the world. I’ve encouraged it.

I want him to be successful…to graduate…to launch that career of his dreams.

But I also know that career might not be his dream.  And I want him to know that’s ok, too.

Mostly, I just want him happy.  To be a good person.  To get through this tough stage…I hope it’s a stage…and to know, more than anything, that if he needs help, I want him to get it.

Because I’ve seen the numbers.  And they scare me. A lot.

According to Emory University, there are more than 1,000 suicides on college campuses each year.

Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among people aged 25 to 34 and the third-leading cause of death among people aged 15 to 24.

Groups that are particularly at risk are male, white, and under the age of 21.

There are four male suicides for every female suicide.

One in 10 college students has made a plan for suicide.

College may conjure up memories of fun and good times for you now, but think back to when you were there.

Risk Factors Specific to College Students

  • New environment
  • Loss of a social network
  • Loss of the safety net found at home
  • Pressure academically or socially
  • Isolation and alienation
  • Lack of coping skills
  • Difficulty adjusting to new demands of college life
  • Decreased academic performance and subsequent feelings of failure
  • Experimentation with drugs and alcohol

Understand why I’m so scared now?

Nobody wants to talk about it, but we should.  We must.  Our kids need to know there’s help out there. That they’re not alone.

Our children–and even at 20, they are our children–need to know they are loved and that even if they can’t see a bright future, we can.

I know my friend wants you to know that, too.

Maybe that’s the only good that can come of her own son’s sadness.



Disney’s PLANES FIRE AND RESCUE Serves Up Heroes with Humor & Heart

November 2, 2014

(Note to readers: This post is sponsored by Disney and I’m being compensated to share my story about the Everyday Hero in my life.  As always, my opinion remains my own. #FireandRescue #PlanesFireandRescueSweeps #ad)  Where there’s a will, there’s a way. That’s what my mom always said, and it’s a phrase I use often with my own kids, including the youngest, my nine-year old daughter. She lives it, too, facing each day with fortitude, perseverance, and determination that makes me believe she will be able to accomplish every goal she […]

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THE Gift to Buy This Holiday Season–Perfect for Ages 6 to 60

November 1, 2014

When you find a cool gift that you KNOW people are going to love, you just have to share it. Well, I have the perfect gift for 2014′s holiday season.  And no, I’m not being paid a dime to say that. It’s the MaKey MaKey. I saw it this week at the Hot Holiday Toy event, the HoliDay of Play, hosted by the Toy Insider. There were lots of toys and some really great companies at the event, but the Makey Makey took the cake. I honestly was blown away […]

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Showing Thanks through Macy’s Heart of Haiti & Rwanda Peace Project

November 1, 2014

  (I am a member of the Everywhere Society they provided me with this product for review. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.) We can all find plenty to complain about every day.  Most of us do. Traffic is bad.  The kids are whining.  My pants don’t fit.  The money ran out before the month did. But in reality, do we have it so bad? I mean, for you to know traffic is bad, odds are you’re sitting in a car that runs, to a job that pays.  That’s […]

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Pareting in Two Minutes: National Brush Day

November 1, 2014

So, the trick-or-treaters earned their bags of candy, but unless you want them earning big ole’ cavities, too, make sure they know all about National Brush Day on November 1st. It’s part of the Ad Council and The Partnership for Healthy Mouths, and Healthy Lives (a coalition of more than 35 leading dental health organizations). Kids probably know they’re supposed to brush their teeth in the morning and before bed, but odds are they treat this like many other ‘obligations’ expected of them…they do it when they want to, or […]

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My Dream to Look and Feel Beautiful

October 28, 2014

(Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post. However, all thoughts and opinions are my own.) Growing up, my older sister was the pretty one. The label I was given? The smart one.  Even though she was the one who got to skip a grade because they recognized early that she was ‘gifted’. Guess they figured she couldn’t have both titles. With her blue eyes and long, light brown hair, she really was pretty. She still is. And I suppose I can agree with them—I am smart. But I don’t think I […]

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