Crock Pot Creamy Tortellini and Chicken Sausage Soup

Crock Pot  Creamy Tortellini and Chicken Sausage Soup

There is nothing quite like hot soup on a cold day. And since cold is synonymous with Michigan, we eat a heck of a lot of soup during the winter.

I am totally digging this recipe, which I’ve tweaked to our liking over time. Since we’re amid the holidays, I love that it’s red, white and green too. That means it’s festive, right?! Right.

This simple soup gets a good flavor thanks to chicken sausage. We’ve tried quite a few different varieties, but I always seem to come back to this spinach and mozzarella one made by Meijer. So flavorful, delicious, and often on sale.

Chicken Sausage - Creamy Tortellini and Sausage Soup

Just dice up these babies and brown them on the stove and voila! You’re ready to dump them in the slow cooker along with all the other ingredients except the tortellini. [Read more…]

Family Getaways In Michigan During Winter

Family Getaways In Michigan During Winter

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It’s getting to be that time of year…We’re all starting to get antsy for some sunshine. While a vacation to California or Florida sounds wonderful, it isn’t always logistically feasible to travel that far with children, nor is it affordable.

My solution is to plan a mini weekend giveaway that’s a bit less intimidating to plan and much easier on the wallet. We are so lucky here in Michigan to be surrounded by plenty of family friendly destinations, whether it’s heading north for skiing, to a waterpark for pool time, or to Frankenmuth for a family-style chicken dinner.

Here are some ideas for family getaways in Michigan during winter:

NORTHERN MICHIGAN

Boyne Mountain’s Avalanche Bay Indoor Waterpark {Boyne Falls} — At 88,000 square feet, Avalanche Bay is Michigan’s biggest indoor water park featuring slides, rides, kids pools, climbing walls, lazy river, and even a surf simulator. Of course, there’s skiing, snowshoeing, zip-lining and more on the property, too.

Crystal Mountain {Thompsonville} – While skiing is the most popular pastime at this mountain resort, there is plenty of other things for families, including campfires, an indoor pool and outdoor hot tub, magic shows, snow castle building, dog sledding, snow biking and more. Plus, plenty of hotels, town homes and more on the property to accommodate guests.

Great Wolf Lodge {Traverse City} – An 84-degree indoor water park and more than 38,000 square feet of water excitement. What more can I say?! Slides for thrill seekers and zero-depth entry areas for little ones. Outside the water park, kids can battle a dragon in MagiQuest or get an ice cream-themed manicure in Scoops Kid Spa before gathering your family in the Grand Lobby for nightly Story Time. {Additional fun can be had a nearby snow tubing hills!}

Lake N’ Pines Lodge {Interlochen} — For bigger kids, check out this quaint lodge near the largest snow tubing on the largest snow hill in Michigan. Check out their Hills and Hops package featuring food and brews from North Peak Brewing. 

Shanty Creek {Bellaire} – With 53 ski runs on two mountains {Schuss and Summit Mountains}, 30km of cross-country skiing, a 6-lane alpine tubing park, winter sleigh rides, indoor pools and more, there’s plenty for to do here. Plus, with more than 400 lodging choices, there’s something fit for every family’s size and budget, too. {And for the adults? Short’s Brewing Company!} [Read more…]

Michigan Product for Families: The Green Glove Dryer {+ Giveaway ENDS 12/22}

The Green Glove Dryer Giveaway
The post below is sponsored by the Green Glove Dryer. All opinion expressed are my own.

Every once in awhile a product catches my eye as something I never knew I needed until I saw it. One such product is The Green Glove Dryer, made by a Michigan mom who was searching for a greener way to dry her boy’s winter gear after playing in the snow.

Mompreneur Karen Smoots invented the Green Glove Dryer out of necessity after feeling like drying her kid’s gloves was an endless task.  After years of attempting to dry them in the dryer or over a heat register trying to prop them up, or turn them inside out {only to wake up the next morning and they had fallen over} was frustrating to say the least.

The dryer is a non-electric glove or mitten drying solution that is placed directly over a floor register or leaned against a baseboard register. When your heat turns on, it captures it and forces it up to top of the mitten, drying it from the inside out. The dryer does not use any electricity other than your furnace running, which would be doing so already. This saves homeowners money on energy costs by not having to utilize a dryer and allows you to leave your home or go to sleep at night without the fear of any fire hazards. Best of all, you will wake up or return with dry, warm gloves or mittens.
 The Green Glove Dryer

The Green Glove Dryer in action. Works perfect, even for drying little boots!

Getting Back on a Healthy Track in 2015 {+ New Unilever Dry Sprays Available at Meijer!}

Running Pic

My husband and I at The Color Run a few years back. Love having a partner in crime to keep me motivated!

The post below is sponsored by Meijer. All opinion expressed are my own.

Almost two years ago, I was privileged to be a part of the Shaklee 180 team of blogging women from across the country. Together, we lost weight, encouraged each other, and gave each other tips for working out and eating healthy.

Now that the partnership is over, and I’ve had my third child, I am finding it’s a bit of a struggle to find time to work out. Not because I don’t know how…It has just been a major challenge to find an hour to myself with three small children and a job where I work in the morning and at night.

I refuse to fall victim to excuses though.

I have slowly been trying a new routine of walking and running. I bought myself a Fitbit Flex for Christmas, and try to challenge myself to get 10,000 steps in at least three times per week. It isn’t always possible, especially during the holiday travel season, but I am trying. This works because I can do it while the baby naps, and just have the girls play in the basement while I am on the treadmill. It’s not ideal, but it’s what I need to do until the baby isn’t as needy.

Even when I walk, I tend to work up a sweat, so I am thankful for the new Dry Sprays from Axe, Dove and Degree, found in the deodorant aisle at Meijer.

Dry Spray

These new 48-hour antiperspirant sprays are unlike anything available and go on instantly dry for a cleaner feel. Unlike with ordinary sticks or gels, dry sprays leave no visible residue on skin or clothing. My preference has been for the Dove one, and my husband likes the Axe one {and so do I…It smells SO good}. [Read more…]

10 Children’s Books by Michigan Authors Every Kid Needs {+ Giveaway with Bucket Fillers Inc. ENDS 12/18}

10 Children's Books by Michigan Authors

Amazon affiliate links used below. When you purchase items from these links, you support my blog {and the author too!}.

One super simple way to support our state is by purchasing books written by local authors. As a mama who is passionate about early literacy, I am constantly looking for fun books to read to my minions. Lucky for me, we have a pool of insanely talented authors right here in our home state.

These are 10 books I think every infant and young child needs to start their Michigan library. These would all make fantastic presents this holiday season ;)

Baby’s Bucket Book by Carol McCloud, illustrated by Glenn Zimmer — This colorful, rhyming board book starts the process of teaching infants that they each have their very own invisible bucket. The book illustrates how happy a little one is with a bucket full of love and light and how sad when something causes that love and light to disappear. You’ll quickly see that the love and light in a baby’s bucket is the joyous result of simple, caring interactions that fulfill a baby’s essential needs for security, love, belonging, independence and fun. {This is my new must-give for showers to start baby’s library!}

See a past review of some of my other favorites from Bucket Fillers Inc. including Bucketfilling from A to Z and Have You Filled A Bucket Today? These are excellent books for kids of all ages!

Baby's Bucket Book

Daisy and Josephine by Melissa Gilbert {you may know her from Little House on the Prairie. She lives in Michigan!} — Everyone has a favorite person, and Daddy is Daisy’s. But when the two of them are on the road for Daddy’s work, Daisy sometimes feels lonely. So Daddy gets Daisy a surprise: a puppy named Josephine. This charming story of an unlikely friendship, based on actress and New York Times bestselling author Melissa Gilbert’s own childhood and her very own French bull dog named Josephine is one that everyone can relate to. {We adore this book!}

Daisy and Josephine

A Moose in the Basement by James Miller and Leslie Kelly – Take a tour of Willoughby’s home full of wild animals. You’ll have fun exploring with Willoughby as he shows you animals you may or may not know exist. {My daughters also both love A Spider Lives In My Belly and A Monstorous Smile by the authors, too! Our copies are very well loved.}

A Moose in the Basement

Who I Am, Not What I Am! by Tara Michener — Janelle is a fun girl who discovers the secret to happiness is loving herself for who she is, not for fitting into what others want her to be. Join her on her adventure as she learns that true beauty comes from who she is not what she is. {Such great lessons to be learned here, and we love the colorful illustrations! Check out Tara’s other books for pre-teens too.}

Who I am, Not What I am [Read more…]

Michigan Goodies Flash Giveaway! {Ends 12/12}

I am very thankful for all of you, so when I was out shopping local the other day, I thought it would be fun to shop for one of you. Thank you for reading. It means the world to my family and I!

To celebrate the season, I am awarding one lucky reader a prize pack full of goodies from some of my favorite businesses, all purchased from Heart of Michigan, one of my favorite local shops in Howell, Michigan.

Michigan Goodies Giveaway

Here’s what’s inside:

  • A bag of Better Made Barbecue Chips
  • Williams Cheddar & Smokey Bacon Dip
  • Sanders Hot Fudge
  • Sayklly’s Fudge and salt water taffy
  • Heart of Michigan Toasted Coconut coffee
  • Fireside Coffee Coconut Creme instant coffee
  • I {heart} Michigan magnet
  • Finnish Family Bath Products – black cherry lip balm and mini Michigan goat soap in lavender

Either keep it for yourself or send to a friend in need of some Michigan loving!

Must be a Michigan resident to win. Ages 18+ only. Contest ends Dec. 12 at midnight.

Good luck!

P.S. I am testing the new giveaway tool below. It may need a second to load. Please let me know if you have any troubles or if you like it!

Michigan Goodies Giveaway

What are your favorite Michigan made items? Tell me in the comments and I will try to work with them for a future giveaway!

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5 Reasons To Visit Milford, Michigan This Holiday Season

5 Reasons To Visit Milford, Michigan This Holiday Season

I posted on my Facebook last week how I had the opportunity to visit Milford for the village’s Big Reveal of holiday-inspired storefronts. Many people responded and even mentioned my photos alone made them want to visit. {P.S. You need to go check out these photos of the event. So fun!}

I had baby boy in tow, so I couldn’t capture as many photos as I would have liked during the event, but I will say this: You all need to visit if you need to get into the Christmas spirit. For real. This downtown is beautifully decorated, has welcoming shops and lots of restaurants.

Which brings me to point #1: This is an amazing shopping destination! Some of my personal favorite stores are Your Nesting Place, Acorn Farm, Home Again Decor and After The Rain, but honestly, I could list about 10 others I adore as well. [Read more…]

Family Fun in Southeast Michigan in December 2014 {Ann Arbor, Detroit, Flint and Lansing}

Do you hear what I hear? It’s December!

A few weeks ago I shared a post about 25+ Christmas events happening around SE Michigan, so today’s post is focused on everything else that’s happening in the month of December, which of course, includes a TON more holiday-related events. So many fun things going on…Plan some fun today!

Family Fun in Southeast Michigan in December 2014

Photo taken at the Big Bright Light Show in downtown Rochester. Such an incredible event!

FAMILY FUN IN SOUTHEAST MICHIGAN IN DECEMBER 2014

December 4 — Christmas Open House {Milford} — This seasonal event brings strolling entertainment, horse-drawn carriage rides, holiday caroling, special promotions and deals at downtown stores and restaurants as well as a highly anticipated visit with Santa Claus in Center Street Mall. 6-9 p.m. FREE.

December 4-6 — A Christmas Carol the Musical at the Village Theater at Cherry Hill in Canton {Canton} — The classic tale of Ebenezer Scrooge is brought to life in musical form on the stage. $22/ticket.

December 4-7 — Rock ‘n’ Roll Santa at the Village Theater at Cherry Hill in Canton {Canton} — It is the late 1950’s in Santa’s workshop. Like most teenagers of this era, the reindeer are all about rock and roll! When the North Pole finds itself in ‘debt’ – it’s Blitzen’s fault… the deer organize a rock and roll band – but need a famous lead singer… guess who takes the job? $12/ticket.

December 4-7 — It’s a Wonderful Life at the Penn Theatre {Plymouth} — An angel helps a businessman discover that his life is wonderful by showing him what things would’ve been like without him. Show times are Thursday: 7 p.m., Friday-Saturday: 7 and 9:25 p.m. and Sunday: 4 and 7 p.m. Cost is $3.

December 5 — Light Up The Night {Novi} — Visit Novi for live reindeer, marshmallow roasting, Santa, ice sculptures and more from 6-9 p.m. FREE.

December 5 — Cranbrook Institute of Science {Bloomfield Hills} — Visit this gem for FREE after 5 p.m. on the first Friday of the month courtesy of the MASCO Corporation Foundation.

December 5-7 — Snow Queen at Ann Arbor Civic Theatre {Ann Arbor} — An original spin on the Hans Christian Andersen story, performed by youth. Recommended for ages 4+. Show times are Friday: 7:30 p.m., Saturday: 1 and 7:30 p.m. and Sunday: 1 and 3 p.m. $8/adults, $5/child.

December 5-21 — Flint Youth Theatre presents Pinocchio {Flint} — The classic tale is brought to life on stage with youth. Advance tickets are $12/child, $14/seniors/veterans/teens and $16/adult.

December 6 — Junie B. Jones presented by Not Just For Kids {Ann Arbor} — This storybook girl lives out her tales on stage from such favorites as First Grader (at Last!)Boss of Lunch and One-Man Band. Recommended for age 5+. Show is at 1:30 p.m. $10-$12 for tickets.

December 6 — Holiday Extravaganza Parade {Pontiac} — Enjoy an ice carving competition, petting farm, live reindeer, s’mores, face painting and more. The parade steps off at 11 a.m. FREE.

Howell Nature Center Breakfast with Santa

My girls at the Howell Nature Center’s Breakfast with Santa 2014

December 6 — Breakfast with Santa at the Howell Nature Center {Howell} — Visit the nature center for a pancake breakfast complete with a visit from Santa who will have a special gift for each child. $8/adults, $6/children, 2 and under are free. 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. time slots. Call to register in advance. {We LOVE this event!}

December 6 — Kids Workshop at The Home Depot {Nationwide} — Make a holiday yard stake {so cute}! This hands-on workshop is designed for children ages 5 – 12. All kids get to keep their craft, receive a certificate of achievement, a Workshop Apron, and a commemorative pin while supplies last. Register online in advance. FREE.

December 6 — Hometown Holidays {Berkley} — Visit downtown Berkley for vintage trolley rides, carolers, a petting zoo, and more. Additionally, the Holiday Lights Parade will kick-off at 5:30 p.m. FREE. [Read more…]

Shop Small and Local With Erin’s Headbandz for Cute Winter Gear {+ Giveaway ENDS 12/12}

The first place I look when shopping for presents is through my friend’s list. I am incredibly lucky and have many friends that make the coolest stuff ever! I am thankful for well-marketed days like today’s Small Business Saturday to have the opportunity to highlight a fellow momprenuer.

One of my best girlfriends, Erin, is a crafty knitting mama and makes a ton of adorable hats and headbands with her side business Erin’s Headbandz. As a mom to four little ones and a labor and delivery nurse, I have no clue where she finds the time, but she has always love creating things.

She has made me a ton of cute things through the years. Most recently, she made Kinley {below} a Monsters Inc. Mike Wazowski hat and Kin is obsessed with it. She always gets a ton of compliments when wearing it out in public. Check out some of her other adorable creations:

Erin's Headbandz

Erin can make everything from flowery headbands to Elsa and Anna {or other Disney-inspired princesses}, Spiderman and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Just message her on her Facebook page to place an order. Headbands are just $15 and hats are $20. Super affordable and perfect for all on your Christmas list! [Read more…]

#ShopSmall With FREE Money from American Express {$30 in Credit!}

#ShopSmall

I don’t know about you all, but I LOVE the Small Business Saturday movement, which is coming to a local street near you this Saturday, Nov. 29.

American Express cardholders can register their cards TODAY for a FREE $10 credit, which can be used a total of three times {at different spots} for $30 in savings, at participating #ShopSmall retailers.

There are LOTS of local spots that participate in this around Michigan :) Check out the MAP here. {For me here in Howell, it is nearly all of our downtown businesses.} I can’t wait to spend this at the stores around me. Bonus since my husband has a card too!

A little snippet of the fine print:

Get ready to Shop Small® on Nov 29. Spend $10 or more in a single, in-store transaction at a qualifying small business appearing on the Shop Small Map. If your transaction qualifies, you will receive a $10 statement credit within 90 days. You can take advantage of this offer up to three times, for a total of up to $30 in statement credits. Online transactions do not qualify.

YOU GUYS. This is FREE money! Plus, it’s just the perfect excuse to spend a day in your hometown checking out amazing small businesses. What’s also cool is that many restaurants participate as well. Holla for $10 off a meal after you shop!

My husband and I are both Amex cardholders {thanks to Costco}, so we have the credit on both of our cards. We did this last year and saw the credit show up on our next month’s statement. Easy peasy! I was super happy to have knocked out a few really cool gifts this way, too.

Even if you are not an American Express card holder, I urge you to shop local this holiday season. You all know I love saving money, but sometimes the feeling you get shopping small far outweighs the financial benefits.

Grab the credit while it’s available, have fun, and be sure to tweet with #ShopSmall!

VISIT HERE TO ENROLL YOUR CARD!

This isn’t sponsored, I just love this promotion and wanted to be sure you all knew about it. 

Where are your favorite Michigan cities to #ShopSmall?

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Michigan Gift Ideas for Busy Moms {+ Giveaway for Meijer Gift Cards!}

bcbsm-logo

The post below is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. All opinions expressed are my own.

One of my favorite local corporate blogs is aHealthierMichigan.org from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. The writers and social team publish GREAT content, and I often find myself clicking on their links to learn more about the latest and greatest in the health world, including recipes, tips, and more.

So when I was approached about publishing their gift guide featuring Michigan-inspired retailers, services and products, I knew it would be good stuff, and of course, a fab fit for this blog.

Blue Cross Blue Shield is my family’s insurance provider. Little did I know that I could get discounts with the Healthy Blue Xtras program. I am ecstatic to find this out, especially since supporting Michigan businesses is a passion of mine. Pair that with saving money, and I’m smitten!

You can visit the website to access more than $7,000 in exclusive discounts and offers on a ton of healthy products and services like food, fitness, recreation and much more.

Healthy Blues Extras

A few of my favorite discounts available that would be perfect for busy moms:

[Read more…]

30 Gift Ideas for Toddlers and Preschoolers {That Moms Will Love Too!}

Gift Ideas for Toddlers and Preschoolers

Post contains affiliate links. When you click on these links and purchase items, you help support this blog.

With three little ones, I often am asked for gift recommendations. Since my oldest is 4, my expertise pretty much ends at the preschool set. But I think I finally have it down as far as which toys get the most love and will be played with for many years.

I’m personally all about experiences over gifts, but sometimes that is just not something grandma wants to hear! She wants to see the look on her grand babies’ faces as they tear open the paper unveiling a new fun item. Understandable, I suppose.

So with that taken into consideration, I decided to put together a fun list of suggestions. These toys are low-tech and offer hours of fun, all the while developing skills or burning energy! Additionally, many of these are easy to find for great prices on Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. Be on the lookout!

30 GIFT IDEAS FOR TODDLERS AND PRESCHOOLERS

Inexpensive {$15 and under}:

  • Puzzles
  • Craft Kits from the dollar store {My kids love coloring those black fuzzy pictures}
  • ALEX Toys Early Learning Sets – These are great for helping children to learn how to cut, paste, and craft. They have a great variety of kits available for under $10. Alex Toys
  • Stickers! I especially love these big reusable sticker pads from Melissa & Doug
  • Books – You can never have too many ;)
  • Play-Doh and coordinating accessories
  • Animal action figures – I haven’t met a little kid yet who doesn’t enjoy playing with these. Bonus points if you get a great variety and provide a fun container for them to all go into! {This bucket set is super cute!}
  • Dot Markers – These are amazing for the mom who doesn’t have time to clean-up the mess paint creates. Great for helping little hands to practice ‘squeezing’ skills.
  • Bath Toys – Look for water scoopers and animals that can easily be cleaned!
  • Games – Favorites for this age range include Hi-Ho Cherry-O, Candyland, Chutes and Ladders and Cootie {These often can be found for $5 on Black Friday}
  • Mr. Potato Head – This toy never goes out of style. Many skills can be learned playing with it, too.
  • Fisher-Price Doodler Pro – This is an excellent toy for learning to draw, and it’s great in the car.
  • Sleds, or any winter fun items.

[Read more…]

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