Momma Cuisine & Sabra family fun #SabraFamPicnic

I was so honored to be invited to Momma Cuisine’s Sabra Family Picnic, weekend before last. The kiddos had a ball. We met other families, caught up with some of my blogging friends, and ate great tasting healthy foods. I want to thank Johanna and Sabra for throwing such a fabulous event.

Check out a few of our pictures:

The personalization was just so cute.

The kiddos loved the basket full of healthy goodies!

I’m a huge fan of mason jars so these just stole my heart.

Look at the spread! The Sabra bags were filled with footballs and Frisbees. The different varieties of hummus were super cool to try and the tasty salads, snacks, and hot dogs were so filling.

The kiddos didn’t even realize they were eating healthy! LOL. They enjoyed the food, company, and fun!

Thanks again=)

My day 3 recap: Social Media Week Chicago 2013 plus 5 tips every blogger should use! #SMWChicago

Day 3! I had a jammed packed day, less sessions than day 1, but more than I had on day 2.

The first session of the today was “Mommy blogging your way to success” and it was an early morning one. So of course I was running late. After I took the kiddo to school I kind of got into relax mode thinking “oh I have more than enough time” and ended up running to catch the train, literally. Thank God he kept the doors open I’m sure everyone on the West Side of Chicago saw me running. Even though I caught the train I would still be late because of the train stopping and going pretty slow so to avoid having to run anywhere else I made it up in my mind to cab it from the train stop. I made it to Tribune Tower with about 10 minutes left until start time which was impressive since I had just left my house only 30 minutes prior 😉

Like I stated previously The first session was centered around Mommy blogging and boy was it packed! I guess a lot of mommies want to start blogging. We all have stories to tell. The panel of mommy bloggers was very impressive and motivating and they dropped sooo many gems. One hour was not enough! Here are some tips I picked up that I feel every blogger should know and use:

1. Generosity IS currency in the blogging world. The best thing you can do is share, comment, & like. Let that blogger know you like what they are dishing out! We all love a pat on the back.

2. Write about what matters to you. What’s your passion? What can you talk about for hours and hours and not get bored? That’s your niche! There is somebody out in the world with interests just like you.

3. If you started blogging just to make money or to get stuff you may as well STOP right now. Sure a lot of people make good money off blogging, but guess what it started off as a hobby or something they loved to do and then evolved to a business. You can’t just focus on the dollar signs because you will lose sight of your readers and or content.

4. Write as if you are a celebrity. Don’t down yourself! If you don’t believe in yourself who will? You never know maybe Oprah will read your blog and you are a overnight sensation!

5. Privacy act! if you have children come to an understanding if you will post their pic, name, or even mention them. Also the same with your mate. Some bloggers share there children pics & name but keep their mate private or vice versa you just have to do what’s comfortable to you.

After the first session I caught up with my blogger friend One Haute Mommi and then ran to grab lunch before my second session started. I had one of the best burgers ever! From coast burgers. Yummy!

The Second session was at Tribune as well and it was about starting or saving your blog and it was a great class. Some of the things mention was a repeat of what I heard earlier of course in a different way. I also heard fresh information, but most importantly I left feeling empowered.

I went home after session 2 because I had a 4 hour wait before my next session and I missed my husband and son 😉

My boys drop me off for my last and longest session of the night it was about how to become Facebook famous (super cool title). The panel was super cute and had a wealth of real life experience. A Social Media tool I learned about and can’t wait to use is Flickr. The questions the audience asked were great too.

The three workshops yesterday gave me the fuel and info I needed to keep going. As I walked out of the Tribune last night I embraced the light walk and the wind. It felt so inviting yet limited so I cherished it plus I was able to capture a few shots.

Today is my last day of sessions with #SMWChicago and I’m super excited. Ii will do today’s recap tomorrow.

My day 2 Recap: Social Media Week Chicago 2013 #SMWChicago

History
History

I didn’t over do it today. I only took one class today. I was extremely tired this morning when it was time to wake the kiddo up, so I am glad I took it easy today. My session was at the Tribune Tower on Michigan Ave. The building is just so historic. I was on time and found a seat easily. The core of what was taught today was basically how to keep your readers engaged through the various social media sites. The speakers were Social Media gurus from Lincoln Park Zoo, Shedd Aquarium, and Entertainment cruises. Here are a few tips that I felt were very useful:

1. Have a quick response time on your social media outlet. If someone tweets, repost, or comments to you then have the decency to respond even to negative comments.

2. Only post things that are funny, important, or relevant. You can lose readers if you are always posting random things unless that’s your style and or brand.

3. Be consistent. Have a voice and stay in that lane. If you are claiming to be a car expert please don’t venture off into make up tutorials!

The class was about 50 minutes long and then they opened the floor to questions. I learned some pretty cool tips and have already notice more responses.

Tribune Tower
Tribune Tower
With all those floors available my class would be in the basement. LOL
With all those floors available my class would be in the basement. LOL

Afterwards the sun was shining and the weather was just right. I felt like a tourist in my own city so I took a few photos with my beat up iPhone. (Brag: all the pictures posted from #smwchicago was taken with my iPhone.)

The wind was just right...
The wind was just right…
A quick picture of the city life!
A quick picture of the city life!

I walked to grab a bite to eat at Panda Express (my fave) and I enjoyed the alone time and the use of their electric socket to charge my dying iPhone lol. I then made a quick… OK, long stop at forever 21 for a few items. Overall it was a good day. Looking forward to tomorrow’s line up, I have 3 sessions on the slot for tomorrow and 2 for Thursday and then I’m done:)

Social Media Week Chicago 2013 Day 1 recap #SMWChicago

This is my first year going to Social Media Week here in Chicago and I am super pumped! I have a full agenda planned.

Here is a quick blurb from their Facebook page in regards to what Chicago Media Week is:
Social Media Week is a global initiative to explore the cultural and economic impact of social media. The event highlights expert discussions, workshops and networking opportunities, with most events free and open to the public.

The Google sign

My Social Media Week agenda started off with Google. The Google+ session was fantastic! Just the whole thought of being at “Google” was pretty inspiring. Oh and the cute green dot pen they gave us was petty cute. The host was Interactive Amy and she was funny, well informed, and pleasant. The information she presented was helpful, well organized, and relevant. I struggle with totally understanding Google+ so this workshop gave me a little more knowledge and the motivation to really figure it out.

Inside the Google conference room

Google’s office space is innovative, fun, and engaging. They have different themes on each floor and I just fell in love with one of the floors they decorated from the theme of Chicago in the 1920’s. They have a Speakeasy! How cool is that? Let’s not forget the view! The office is dead smack in the middle of beautiful Downtown Chicago and the view of the skyline is priceless from their floor to ceiling windows. Thank you Google!

The view...

MorningStar

After leaving Google at 3:55 (Google doesn’t think any meeting should be a total 30 minutes or a full hour so all their meetings are either 25 minutes or 50 minutes so you can have time to get to your next meeting). I rushed to my session with Morningstar. Since I was running late I took a cab. I was only about 5 minutes late, but it seemed like the class was in session for a while because the presenter was deep into his personation. The whole auditorium was packed so I struggled to find an open seat once I secured one and took out my notebook it was only a few minutes left. Although the session was slotted for 1 hour the presenter only used 35 minutes and wanted to save the other 25 minutes for questions. I picked up a few gems out of the class, but I believe this class was for business owners trying to get their websites noticed.

Thank God for Aleve

As the session ended I was hit with a blinding headache. I believe it was from hunger and also looking at computer screens and power point presentations for over two hours. Thankfully there was a Walgreens across the street from Morningstar and I was able to grab a travel size of Aleve. I then quickly walked a block and a half to McDonalds to grab something to put on my stomach before I took my pain pill. I was able to kind of gather my thoughts and prepare for the other planned events that ware less than an hour away.

Food from #foodiechats created by Yolk

After I took my pill, ate my food, and took a breather I took a Cab to Yolk for the #foodieChats event and was pleasantly surprised with the food and drink selection. Everything was well organized and the food was tasty. They had giveaways and I even won a $25 gift card to an upcoming boutique! I made a mental note to check out Yolk again, next time with my husband.

Mimosa!

I'm a WINNER!

After the tasty Banana French toast skewers and fresh strawberry orange juice mimosas, I hiked to Billy Dec’s Rockit Bar and Grill for Social Media Week Chicago’s opening party. The walk wasn’t bad, but since I had a pretty full day I just wasn’t feeling it. I was carded at the door (yes I have a baby face) and I entered to see tables full and the bar packed. No one came to seat us or lead us to an open table (if there was one) so I just looked around one good time and left. I was exhausted.

Crossing the Chicago river on my way home..

But overall day one was pretty cool. Great experiences and I am excited for the rest of my week exploring Social Media Week Chicago!

Tamar did that! Love and War Album Review

Fun, upbeat, and cute are the three words that pop into my head when I listen to Tamar Braxton’s second album.

“Love and War” was released September 3rd and the Tamaritans (her fans) went crazy on Twitter to help promote the album. With hits “The one” and “Love and War” being two of my favorite songs this past summer I knew I had to grab the album. So Last Tuesday on a random shopping trip to Target I picked up Tamar’s album and couldn’t wait to listen to her creation. As a viewer of her reality show on WE TV I knew she put a lot of hard work and tears in making this album.

Tamar and Vince
Tamar and Vince

So It has been a week and I have been listening to the CD everyday. I have some favorite songs that I repeat (“She did that” and “Hot sugar”). Overall the album is good. It’s not something my husband would want to hear while driving in the car with me, but it’s perfect for a night out with the girls or a solo drive to work. The album has ranges from a club banger type of feel (Hot Sugar), Love song ballad (Pieces), and even a gospel song (Thank you Lord)! I believe Tamar stepped out of her comfort zone and tried different techniques when creating “Love and War” and it worked for her. I also think her Marketing Team is AMAZING! =)

Tamar Braxton Love and War
Tamar Braxton Love and War

Final Letter Grade: B
Recommend: Yes
Regret: No
Final thoughts: She did that!

Nationwide Fun Fall activities for the kiddos + Money saving coupons

Being born and raised in Chicago has taught me one thing…weather has a mind of it own. Hence it was 95 degrees this past Tuesday now it’s 55 degrees! But the drop in temperature means one thing….FALL! I am super exited about the Fall season because it’s my favorite season, the weather is amazing and the Chicagoland area always have a million Fall festivities to participate in.

Nothing like taking the kiddos out for some Fall fun for cheap and guess what? I have some great coupons for you! Are you ready for some Fall Festival Deals?! Here is great list of Corn Maze Coupons and Fall Festival savings nationwide. Download or print these valuable coupons for Corn Mazes, Pumpkin Patches and Fall Family Activities.

Arizona
Schnepf Farms – Queen City

California
Forneris Farms – Mission Hills

Colorado
Anderson Farms – Erie
Flat Acres Farm – Parker
Fritzler Maze – La Salle
Sunflower Farm – Longmont
Mile High Farms – Bennett
Wishing Star Farm – Calhan
Harvest Farm – Wellington

Texas
Devine Acres Farm – Devine
Fiesta Farm – San Antonio
Yesterland Farm – Canton
South Texas Maize – Hondo
Dewberry Farm – Brookshire
Brazos Valley Maize – Brenham

Louisiana
CM Farms – Dry Creek

Georgia
Lane Southern Orchards – Fort Valley
Poppell Farms – Odum

Michigan
Farmer Charley’s Corn Maze Adventure – Monroe

Indiana
Amazing Fall Fun – Waterloo
Harvest Tyme Pumpkin Patch – Lowell
Hobson’s Fun Farm – Rockville

Illinois
All Seasons Orchard – Woodstock
Kuipers Family Farm – Maple Park
Odyssey Fun Farm – Tinley Park
Siegel’s Cottonwood Farm – Lockport

Maryland/DC
Summers Farm – Fredrick County

Massachusetts
Sauchuk Farm – Plympton

Missouri/Kansas
KC Pumpkin Patch and Corn Maze – Gardner
Shuck’s Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch – Pleasant Hill

Mississippi
Seward Farms Maze – Lucedale

Minnesota
Afton Apple Orchard – Hastings

Montana
The Maize at Grandpa’s Farm – Billings

Nebraska
Camp Fontanelle – Nickerson

NewJersey
VonThun Farms – Monmouth Junction
Sahl’s Father Son Farm – Egg Harbor City

New York
Wright Family Farm – Warwick
Harbes Family Farm – Mattituck

North Carolina
Patterson Farm Market and Tours – Mount Ulla

Ohio
The Corn Maze at the Sharp Run Market – Millersburg
Meadow View Growers – New Carlisle

Pennsylvania

Hurricane Hill Farm – Coatsville
Triple B Farms – Pittsburgh
Reillys Summer Seat Farm – Pittsburgh

Rhode Island
Confreda Greenhouses & Farms – Hope (Western Cranston)

Virginia
Cows-N-Corn – Midland
Wayside Farm Fun – Berryville
Belvedere Plantation – Fredericksburg

Utah
Cornbelly’s Corn Maze & Pumpkin Fest – Spanish ForkFor Daily Updates on these coupons and coupons for other family attractions please visit and bookmark: http://www.usfamilycoupons.com

Plated – Quick and Simple dinners sent to your door

Let me first say Thank you to Choya from The Real Frugal Divas for letting me know about such a great company.

I like when things are quick, simple, and reasonably priced. As a mom time is not my friend and I run late…a lot. (I am working on that.) So when I heard about a company that has menus created weekly for you to select different dishes from (and the amount of those that you are serving) and all you have to do is wait for the ingredients to arrive to your door and be prepared to cook, I was all ears.

There is nothing like having a meal thought out and the meat thawed out to realize you are missing a key item. It’s 7PM the kids have school in the morning and you really don’t want to leave the house for potatoes and garlic so you think of another dish and it’s not what you wanted, but you settled to get dinner done. Well no more of that foolishness. Plated.com is here to help you. Here is a little blurb about how it goes:

You choose. Each week, They select a new menu of recipes created by featured chefs.

They shop. All the exceptional, ready-to-cook ingredients you need are delivered to your door.

You cook. Whip up a culinary masterpiece in your own kitchen in no time!

Last week we received our box and could not wait to rip it open. The first meal we prepared was the Chicken and Veggie fried rice and boy was it good! It was suppose to be for two but the portion sizes are large because it fed my family of three, plus gave us left overs for lunch. (in my Tamar voice: “Won’t He do it!”) The dish was wonderful the kiddo loved it and my husband who is a cook was very impressed. Plus everything was fresh and well organized. Check out our Unboxing video here:

Cool Right? Now you have a chance to experience making a masterpiece. Sign up now and get 4 plates FREE! Use the code FIRSTPLATED and let me know when you order plus post pictures when you are done so I can see=) I can’t wait to see what you cook up in the kitchen!

Join Macy’s Culinary Council and Chef Takashi Yagihashi in Chicago

If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram then you know I LOVE FOOD! Yes, I am one of those people that takes pictures of their food and posts them on social media =) I can’t help it!

My husband is a cook so we eat a home cooked dinner at least 4 times a week. Now don’t count me out, I cook at least twice out of the four…But I am no pro. I enjoy watching cooking shows on TV, looking up recipes on Pinterest and Facebook, but I really love watching live cooking demonstrations. I can actually see how they create their dishes. No editing just raw cooking!

If you are a cooking or food enthusiasts like myself this upcoming event is perfect for you. On Thursday September 12th at Macy’s Downtown Chicago location at Noon the Macy’s Culinary Council presents Chef Takashi Yagihashi!

World renowned Chef Yagihashi has appeared on many television shows like Top Chef Masters, Martha Stewart, and Iron Chef! Not forgetting about his top rated restaurant here in Chicago and several magazine features. He is a Chef to really learn from. This event will be a refresher course with new and fun ways to create classic dishes for your family at home. Plus, with any purchase of $35 or more in the Home Department you snag a $10 Macy’s Gift Card and a Macy’s Culinary Council backpack which Chef Yagihashi will autograph after the demonstration. If you want to start getting an ‘A’ on your after-school menu Call 1-800-329-8667 or email TakashiYagihashi@eventbrite.com to RSVP for this tasty event!

When: Thursday, September 12 at Noon
Where: Macy’s on State Street (Lower Level) Chicago

I am a member of the Everywhere Society and Everywhere is compensating me for this post on Macy’s Culinary Council.