Olga’s Kitchen Mediterranean Cruise Giveaway + Gift Card Contest {ENDS 10/13}

Olga's Kitchen

I received my own gift card in exchange for promoting the giveaway below. All opinions expressed are my own…and yes, I reallllly love Olga’s!

Anyone who grew-up or currently lives in metro Detroit knows a local restaurant chain that is sure to get folks talking: Olga’s Kitchen. Just typing that word makes my taste buds dance with cravings of their Snackers, an Orange Cream Cooler, and an Original Olga. So delicious.

I’m excited to let you all know I’ve partnered with the company to help share a giveaway they are working to promote: the Destination: Mediterranean, Olga’s Cruise Giveaway, through which one loyal customer and a guest will receive an all expense paid 7-day Mediterranean Cruise.

I don’t know about you all, but I sure could use a getaway right about now. It has been several years now since I’ve gotten on a plane, and I am really itching to travel. Also, I am a quarter Greek, so this would mean I could visit the land of my ancestors, which would be amazing. This trip is for sure on my bucket list. {Also on my bucket list? Meeting Olga herself!}

It’s easy for you to enter too! The cruise giveaway, sponsored in-part by Pepsi, offers new and existing Olga’s Reward Points members the opportunity to win a free, all expense paid 7-day Mediterranean Cruise aboard Celebrity Cruises, with stops in the Greek Islands and Turkey, as well as a $500 cash card. Sounds awesome, right?

Olga's Greece Cruise

Seriously…Doesn’t this just look magical?

To enter the giveaway, participants can visit http://bit.ly/olgascontest and add their Olga’s Reward Points account number and information {there is a link on the Facebook app to show you how to find your number if you don’t have a card}.

To sign up to become an Olga’s Reward Points member, visit www.olgasrewards.com. I have been a rewards member for a few years now, and I LOVE it! We often get great deals sent to our email, so I make the hubby pick some up on his way home from work, or we dine-in. I love how kid-friendly they are, too, and our kids actually love the food! Exclusive offers we’ve received include coupons, free appetizers and free birthday desserts.

Once entered, Olga’s Reward Points members have the opportunity to earn one additional entry each day they dine at Olga’s during the giveaway when using their Rewards card or phone number. You can also get extra entries when people register to win through your unique URL you can share on Facebook, Twitter or through email.

For more information on Olga’s and its menu, visit www.olgas.com, or give them some social love on Facebook and Twitter.

GIVEAWAY

To celebrate the cruise giveaway, I am giving away one $15 Olga’s Kitchen gift card to one lucky reader. Must be a U.S. resident, age 18 year or older to win. Contest ends Oct. 13 at midnight.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Freezing Time With Prints and Printsess {+Giveaway for Local Readers!}

Prints & Printsess

I was provided with a keepsake plaque and giveaway item from Prints and Printsess in exchange for this post. All opinions and experiences expressed are my own.

Knowing Miles is my last baby has me a bit sad. I know in my heart I am done with having children, but I just feel young and worry that there could be a chance later on down the road I may change my mind.

But since it takes two to tango, and my husband has no questions in his mind about being done {he’s logical like that}, he is my last baby. Because of this, I am trying to cherish every moment.

One way I was recently able to capture him at this very stage is by making a 3D plaque with his little hands and feet with local business Prints and Printsess. It meant the world to me to be able to freeze time, and I look forward to the future when we can compare his little hands to his toddler hands, boyhood hands, and beyond.

Owners Ricky and Ashley Raleigh knew they wanted to own a business, so they explored their options before settling on the ceramics concept. They have a studio at their home in downtown Howell, but also travel throughout southeast and mid-Michigan to attend events and make 3-D clay plaques for local families.

The Raleighs - Prints and Printsess

The Raleigh family…with baby #2 on the way! How cute are they?!

I had the opportunity to visit their studio, and it was such a great experience. They are such sweet people, and really know their stuff. Ashley showed me all of the types of creations they make and they were all incredible and unique. The entire time I just kept thinking what great gifts they would make for Christmas, birthdays, or welcoming a new baby.

THE PROCESS

After I arrived, I was able to choose my overall design {options are here}. I wanted a handprint and footprint, so I chose the 3-print 3D plaque.

Ricky rolled out the clay, and then we were ready for little man’s hand and foot. I let them hold him to do it — after all, they are the experts! They were great with him and knew all the tricks to getting the perfect hand and foot print. Even at just three weeks old, he took it like a champ.

Footprint with Prints and Printsess

From there, I was able pick out a border,  glaze color, the font I’d like, and coordinating stamps. They have everything from robots and rockets to princess crowns and every animal you can think of! They also have sayings, and holiday themed stamps {think Mother’s or Father’s Day, for example}. Since Miles’ room has an animal theme, I went with that.

Prints and Printsess Options

BIG List of Halloween Fun in Southeast Michigan 2014

October is one of the best months of the years…Beautiful leaves falling to the ground, hot apple cider, and of course dressing up to trick-or-treat. I had a great time putting this big list of Halloween fun in southeast Michigan this month, and can’t wait to attend some of the events. Please note most cities have their own downtown trick-or-treating events, so check out your city’s website…I couldn’t list them all ;)

BIG List of Halloween Fun in Southeast Michigan 2014

RE-PIN HERE

So, without further ado, a BIG list of Halloween and fall-inspired fun happening in October!

October 3-5 — Trenton Scarecrow Festival {Trenton} – A fall festival with fun for the entire family, complete with contests, prizes, games, arts & crafts, scarecrow building, a dog costume contest, live music, a carnival and more. FREE.

October 4 —  Ghoultide Gathering {Chelsea} – This looks like a really neat event! Three dozen artists will gather to sell unique style Halloween items such as paper-mache sculptures, paintings, art dolls, pottery, soft sculpture, ornaments, and wood carving. Admission is $5. Children 10 and under are free.

October 4 — Autumn Magic at Independence Oaks {Clarkston} — From 2–4 p.m., bring the family for some sweet, colorful autumn magic. Press apples into cider, enjoy a fall snack and craft a leaf- print T-shirt. Experience the magic of nature in the fall with a naturalist-led walk, song and activities in beautiful Independence Oaks County Park. Bring a light colored T-shirt for printing. $5/person.

October 4-5 — Fall Festival at Kensington Metropark {Milford} – Enjoy a fun-filled weekend of activities for the whole family. Tour the farm and view demonstrations, entertainment by Rosco the Clown, and more. Also, take a hayride to and from the pumpkin patch to pick your perfect pumpkin. Many activities are free with park entry.

October 4-26 — Upland Hills Farm Harvest Festival {Oxford} – The Upland Hills Farm Fall Harvest Festival takes place every Saturday and Sunday in October from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Enjoy cider and donuts, visit the animals, milk a cow, watch a farm demonstration, be amazed at Baffling Bill’s Magic Show, enjoy a hayride in the woods, walk the storybook trail, pick a pumpkin, or take a pony ride! Admission to the farm is $9 per person. Children 24 months and under are free. {Admission includes magic show, farm show, hayride, storybook trail, visiting the animals, and milk a cow.}

October 4,11, 26 — Fall at the Farm at Northfolk Outback {Webberville} – Games, horseback rides, petting zoo, kids train, pumpkin decorating and more. $12/person, age 2 and under are free. Book ahead of time, as these weekends fill up quick!

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Coming Soon to Auburn Hills: SEA LIFE Michigan Aquarium

SEA LIFE Michigan Aquarium

I am a SEA LIFE Michigan Aquarium Parent Ambassador and will be receiving an exclusive first look at events leading up to the attraction’s grand opening early next year and complimentary tickets. All opinions expressed are my own.

I have posted a few times on my Facebook page about the SEA LIFE Michigan Aquarium coming to Great Lakes Crossing Outlets in Auburn Hills in spring 2015 and have gotten a HUGE response from my followers. I mean, I don’t blame you — our family is super excited too!

Yesterday there was a groundbreaking ceremony, complete with a kid reporter and local dignitaries, and some fab announcements were made.

SEA LIFE Aquarium Groundbreaking

Local kids helped with the groundbreaking

I was also able to see some renderings of what the space is going to look like…and it’s going to be so rad for Michigan families. Take a peek:

SEA LIFE Michigan Aquarium Renderings

Looks fabulous, right?

Here’s more on what’s to come from press materials:

SEA LIFE is the world’s largest aquarium brand, with more than 40 attractions worldwide. The company is focused on offering amazing, breathtaking and educational experiences that wow guests and inspire them to take an active role in conversation so these amazing creatures and their environments are preserved for generations to come.

In addition to weaving conservation information and tips throughout our exhibits, SEA LIFE takes an active role in conservation through its Breed Rescue Protect initiative. Additionally, they run breeding programs to help sustain endangered species, rescue hundreds of sick and injured creatures and nurse them back to health to return them to the wild, and actively campaign to protect individual species and marine environments from exploitation or destruction.

You’ll find more information about these initiatives in the new 35,000-square-foot aquarium, along with more than 5,000 amazing creatures from our world’s oceans, including sharks, stingray, seahorses, fish and much, much more. There also will be creatures from our very own Great Lakes and other Michigan waterways. Through SEA LIFE’s one-of-a-kind, engaging exhibits, such as a 180-degree underwater tunnel and interactive touchpools, guests will have the once in a lifetime opportunity to come nose to nose with these creatures and learn about them and their environments.

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So exciting, right?! I’m looking forward to reporting updates in the future as more is announced…Stay tuned! :D

In the meantime, be sure to follow SEA LIFE Michigan’s websiteTwitter, Facebook and Instagram for more updates.

All images in this post are courtesy of SEA LIFE Michigan Aquarium.

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Letters To My Children – The First Weeks {Miles}

Letters To My Children

My Dear Miles,

Oh my sweet, sweet baby. I can’t believe how fast these first six+ weeks have gone! You are growing like a little flower and changing on a daily basis, and I am enjoying your babyhood so much. Someone once told me there was just something special about your third baby, and I totally get it now.

You have been a dream and are insanely laid back. I keep telling people I’m not sure if it’s because I have baby experience now, or if you just are good-natured, but something tells me it’s a combo. You sleep anywhere and everywhere and even sleep with the chaos of your sisters running around you. Thank goodness, because we are constantly on-the-go and you seem perfectly happy with that. I’ll even go out on a limb and say it: Transitioning to a third child has been much easier than going from one to two. I mean, look at all the love radiating from you kids! Adorable.

Siblings Collage

I can get you to smile in about 5 seconds, so you are living up to your “Smiles” nickname. You just love when your daddy, sisters and I talk to you, and you’re already trying to talk back to us. We love hearing your little coos and seeing you pump your little legs with excitement. Believe me when I say you are SO very loved! In fact, my biggest challenge is keeping your sisters from picking you up daily. They just adore you.
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Cuddling Up With Huggies Little Snugglers #MC #Sponsored

I participated in an Influencer Activation Program on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Huggies and Target. I received samples for this review and a promotional item to thank me for participating.

After almost FOUR years straight of changing diapers {!!!}, I’ll say this: All diapers are not created equal. Some leak, some give rashes, some feel cheap and others are super soft. Also, each brand works differently for different kids. I’ve tried brands that worked great for Kinley, but gave Karina a rash. Now, with a little boy, I’m finding other challenges in the diaper chaining department.

We recently had the opportunity to try out Huggies Little Snugglers — with my newest addition, and I have to say, I am impressed! In fact, these may be my new favorites for the first weeks of baby’s life.

Huggies Little Snugglers at Target

Shopping for Huggies Little Snugglers at one of my favorite places ever — Target! These are also available at Target.com. They were easy to spot on the end cap at my store. 

First, they fit perfectly, which says a lot because Miles is pretty close to 14 pounds at just 6 weeks old. I love how the curves fit around his thighs, and the tabs seem stronger than some brands, which is so crucial in the first weeks when you’re changing a newborn with little frog legs! Additionally, the GentleAbsorb Liner seems to help keep pee and poo away from his skin really well. We’ve had zero issues with diaper rash, and I think this may be why since my guy seems to have sensitive skin in other areas.

In the early weeks of changing a baby, it’s soooo needed to have the little wetness indicator to show if baby wet. Otherwise, I would have no clue since sometimes they go such a little amount, but will cry from the discomfort of sitting in it. I mean, wouldn’t you? Huggies to the rescue!

Huggies Little Snugglers

See how it turns green when baby has wet? Otherwise, it’s just yellow. How awesome is that!?

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Crockpot Applesauce Recipe {With Michigan Apples!}

Michigan Apples

It’s apple season here in Michigan, and I couldn’t be happier. Move over everything pumpkin spice, this has been the year for all things apple! After a rough apple crop last year, I’m so happy to see apples a-plenty growing in abundance here and helping all of our wonderful orchards and cider mills stay in business.

Our favorite local orchard to go to for picking apples is Spicer Orchards in Fenton, Michigan {about 15 minutes south of Flint}. Not only is in scenic, but there is TONS to do for kiddos {playground, huge sandbox, corn barn, tractors, etc.}, which makes it a big draw for us. We make sure to go several times throughout the season for outdoor fun, fresh donuts, apple cider and apple picking.

Spicer Orchards

A few weeks back, we  trekked out for apples. I love apple picking because it’s easy to do with small kids in tow because it’s relatively quick. Also, I like being able to choose what size apples we grab — the small ones are perfect for kids so they don’t waste! On this day, we picked a peck, which was $11 for the bag. To me, that’s pretty reasonable since we were able to squeeze a ton of apples into our bag. We picked mostly Gala apples, one of my favorites, along with some Mollies Delicious.

Check out this infographic full of all things apple in Michigan, courtesy of the Michigan Apples Committee. I love the stats in here!

Infographic Revised Sept 2014

Michigan sure rocks apples, huh? Woot.

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12 Tips for Natural Childbirth {One Mom’s Experience}

“Birth sticks with a woman, remaining in her bone and her flesh as an embodied memory long after the baby has left her womb.” – Pamela E. Klassen

When I posted on my Facebook that Miles was born, I contemplated whether or not I should add that it was a drug-free birth. I went back and forth, hoping it wouldn’t come across as bragging, since lord knows us moms need to feel inferior about something else.

I asked the husband, and he said after all I went through during my first two labors, I deserved to brag. So I did it. Because you know what? I am damn proud. Proud my body, heart and head finally aligned for our third and final baby.

After two births that were traumatic to me, I finally have the story I am proud to share.

Before this, when I thought of my births, I had a bit of hostility…Why didn’t my body just allow birth to happen? Why did an epidural not provide me relief? Why did I need the vacuum during my first birth, pitocin during my second, and painful episiotomies both times when I didn’t have many friends who experienced these medical interventions? Of course, I was elated when my girls arrived healthy, but thinking of the entire process, I felt bitter, especially as I grew more educated about birth.

These factors are one of the reasons I chose a midwife for my third baby {in a hospital setting}. After studying what they do different, I knew that would be the route I should go to avoid having a repeat of my first two births where I didn’t feel in control at all.

During my first meeting with my midwife, I spoke nervously to her about my past birth experiences and she suggested I had postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder and should consider talking to a therapist. I am not above seeking help when needed, but I knew I could overcome my birthing fears on my own if I educated myself more.

Having a natural birth was such a healing process for me, so I want to share 12 things I did differently this time around.
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Smoked Sausage, Egg and Cheese Bake Recipe for #MIDairy

Smoked Sausage, Egg and Cheese Bake

The post below is sponsored by the United Dairy Industry of Michigan. I was compensated for developing a recipe using dairy products, however, all opinions expressed are my own.
 
With three little ones, I’ll admit it: I don’t cook a full-blown breakfast as often as I’d like these days. Not that we go out, either. Between needy kids and a loves-to-nurse in the morning babe, I’m just usually scrambling in the morning and throwing whatever is in the fridge together. I need recipes that are EASY since I usually am holding the baby and attempting to keep the toddler out of the pantry and fridge.
 
With school in the afternoon for Kinley and general toddler pickyness, I need them to eat a FILLING breakfast because the rest of our day is generally a crapshoot of what they will actually eat.
 
This smoked sausage, egg and cheese bake is one of my absolute favorite recipes to throw together for both breakfast and brinner {breakfast for dinner}. It is a HUGE hit in our house. Since it seems pretty rare these days that we all like the same things, I make this one often, especially when smoked sausage goes on sale and I have beautiful farm fresh eggs from my friend who raises chickens.
 
Eggs - Smoked Sausage, Egg and Cheese BakeAren’t farm fresh eggs just the prettiest? I love how they come out in all different colors and sizes!
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Our Experience at Breakfast On The Farm {Uphaus Farms in Manchester, Michigan}

Breakfast on the Farm - Michigan

Supporting Michigan agriculture is a passion of mine and something I have enjoyed learning about since marrying my husband who grew-up on a farm.

My kids absolutely love visiting my in-laws farm. From checking out the tractors, to sticking their hands in the corn crib and grabbing feed for the cows — it truly is such a great learning and sensory experience for them, and I love watching them run all over the yard with excitement.

We recently had the opportunity to visit another cattle farm in Manchester, Michigan — Uphaus Farms — through the Michigan State University Extension Program, Breakfast on the Farm. We all had a ball! OK, the baby just slept the entire time, but he got lots of stimulation in the form of moo-ing, baa-ing and lovely cow smells ;)

If you aren’t familiar, Breakfast on the Farm (BOTF) gives consumers and farm neighbors a first-hand look at modern food production, and the farm families who work hard to produce a safe, wholesome food supply for Michigan communities and the world.

The night before the event, power outages swept across the region, leaving thousands without power, including the farm. That didn’t stop the event from happening with the help of generators. Because of mud and outages, they had busses transporting us from a parking lot to the farm. While we weren’t thrilled with needing to bring a stroller on board, the girls were SO excited to ride a real school bus – ha!

When we arrived, we were shuffled into the food line. I was happy because I was hungry! Good thing too, because they had LOTS of food: Eggs, pancakes, sausage, yogurt, muffins and milk. We all ate like kings — especially the girls who really seemed to enjoy it all :) Woohoo for a FREE farm-fresh breakfast!
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Summer Wedding Memories + Giveaway with Papyrus and Meijer {ENDS 9/22}

Meijer-Logo-300x120

The giveaway below is sponsored by Meijer. I received promotional items and a gift card in exchange for this post.

I love that summertime creates so many memories among friends and families. One of my favorite things about summer is weddings! For me, there’s nothing quite like a wedding…From the flowers and dancing to witnessing a couple make the ultimate decision to be together forever – it’s all so beautiful and always pulls at this hopeless romantic’s heartstrings.

I have been lucky to be invited to some pretty epic weddings over the years. One friend had a carnival-themed wedding outside, which was SO fun. Another friend is Chaldean and had the most beautiful ever with tons of friends, family and traditional Arabic dancing.

Carnival Wedding

Being goofballs at a friend’s carnival-themed wedding

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Baby Week + New mPerks Features for Meijer Shoppers

Attention Meijer shoppers! There are some BIG changes happening over in Meijer land today that just may officially make me a forever loyal Meijer shopper.

First, if you don’t use mPerks and shop at Meijer, go get it now. You can register by visiting mperks.meijer.com or by downloading the mPerks app for free in the iTunes App Store and in the Google Play Android app store. I love having it on my phone because I can easily scan through and grab savings while in the car before heading into to store. There’s also the ability to make a list, which makes it easier to shop.

mPerks personalized rewards First, if you log into your account TODAY, you will notice that mPerks is launching a Personalized Rewards update which includes:

  • Rolling start dates which give customers four weeks to earn after they clip their reward {with that said, don’t clip the reward until you are about to go to the store!}
  • Ability to earn towards any or all rewards at the same time — in the categories of your choosing {produce, paper products, health/beauty, etc.}
  • No waiting until the next month—when customers complete a reward, they can start a new one {This is helpful because I always would forget otherwise!}

new rewards 2

Once a reward is earned and clipped, they are located in a new ‘earned rewards’ section of the site, which makes it easy to keep track of all the savings. Updates are available at mPerks.com and on the Meijer mobile app. If you already have the app, be sure to download the update to gain access to mPerks Rewards 2.0.

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