Monday, June 30, 2014

Dishes Made From Scratch and Sourced Locally: 8 Seasons Grille {#ReviewCrew}

Review Crew logo
While my family makes an effort to take advantage of many of the incredible sights, locations and events that our city (and surrounding areas) has to offer, there are times when I feel as though there is so much more that we have yet to see.

Case in point, 8 Seasons Grille!


Conveniently located in downtown Madison only blocks from the capitol, 8 Seasons Grille prides itself on purchasing as many locally sourced ingredients as possible and turning them into handmade, deliciously satisfying dishes.

This neighborhood restaurant not only caters to individuals and families, however, and is also known for hosting all sorts of special events — birthdays, engagements, weddings, theme parties and more — in their comfortable, casual atmosphere (they offer indoor as well as outdoor seating).

With our bellies hungry for lunch, we were excited to hop in the car and see what 8 Seasons Grille had to offer.

8 Seasons Grille Madison

We had no problem locating 8 Seasons Grille (they even have free parking in case you have trouble finding a spot on the street) and, after a peek inside the smallish dining room, we took a table out on the patio so as to enjoy the beautiful weather with our meal.

8 Seasons Grille Madison WI

I'm always a fan of restaurants that not only have a large menu, but one that is unique and different from the norm. As for 8 Seasons Grille, they definitely fit that description!

Their menu changes eight times a year to take advantage of what is in season locally and offers everything from pastries to sandwiches to entrees to plenty of wine, cocktails, beer and teas.

8 Seasons Grille menu

So many choices!

Unfortunately there is no designated children's menu, so Big Sister E and Little Sister B were somewhat dismayed to find that they had to pick from the "regular" offerings and that there were no crayons and coloring to entertain them while we waited for our food.

Also, as we arrived partway through a large post-wedding group event, the 8 Seasons Grille staff were mostly tied up taking care of the 40 people that were a part of that crowd. So, although it didn't take a huge excess of time to put in our order or receive our food, it was a bit hard for the girls to hold their patience (it was also difficult to get any extra service from any of the servers, e.g. having ketchup brought to the table, having my water glass refilled or cringing watching a nearby table practically beg a server to take their order because their server had all but abandoned them).

All that aside, the food itself was quite tasty!

brunch food

With our collection of brunch and lunch options, we found that each of our plates were filled with fresh deliciousness and that it was tasty all the way until the last bite. I would definitely have my Ultimate Grilled Cheese Panini (mmm, pesto!) again!

pesto sandwich

Overall, I'm happy that we had a chance to visit 8 Seasons Grille and can see my husband and I stopping in again if we happen to be downtown without the kids.

Although both of the girls ended up happy with their meals...

kids eating

...I think the two of them are better suited for more of a traditional restaurant setting and food offerings. I, on the other hand, would be interested in seeing what new items appear on their menu as the seasons continue to change!

We found that the prices at 8 Seasons Grille were reasonable to begin with, but of course the fact that we used a gift certificate made the whole meal even more of a bargain! Who doesn't love to save a little extra money when they go out to eat?

For more information about 8 Seasons Grille or to plan a visit if you're in the Madison area, head to To find out about all of the money-saving options that has to offer in your area (or in an area that you are planning to visit), head over to as well as on Facebook and Twitter.

As a member of the Review Crew, I have been provided gift cards and compensation in order to facilitate my reviews. However, all thoughts and opinions are honest and my own. 

4th of July Memories Made in the USA!

Rayovac logo
Although there are some holidays that I find myself approaching with a "take it or leave it" approach (hey, the milk was green on St. Patrick's Day, isn't that enough?), the 4th of July is in a category of its own. It's Independence Day and it's time to celebrate! 

Whereas for some families that means BBQ and for others it means remembering members of their own that have served this country, for us there is always a parade.

For as long as my husband and I have been together, we have hopped in the car on the morning of the 4th and driven (about an hour and a half) back to the city of his childhood and the annual celebrations that occur there. At first it was just the two of us (sometimes with our crazy dog, who howled at the sirens from the fire engines), and then Big Sister E came along, followed two years later by Little Sister B (who wasn't a fan of the sirens, either).

For us, there is just no better way to start off the 4th of July than by all of us being together watching the floats, bands, animals, performers, mascots and acts that come down the street!

4th of July parade

The remainder of the day has always been filled with food, fun, family entertainment, keeping cool and, of course, fireworks. From tossing water balloons to shying away from the camel rides to simply pulling out the hose and putting on swimsuits, there's nothing better than a holiday filled with smiles.

While the times have changed, the togetherness has stayed the same and it is clear that the memories continue to grow and grow!

outdoor fun

Just as sunscreen is a necessity each year on Independence Day, having my camera with me to document our yearly antics often feels just as important. I keep it charged and at my side and ready to record just about anything and everything.

I'm not taking any chances (Rayovac's alkaline and hearing aid batteries are made in the USA, so what better choices for the 4th of July?) that I'll miss an expression of pure joy like this one!

kiddie pool

What does the 4th of July mean to you and your family and how will you celebrate this great holiday?

This post is a part of an ongoing partnership with Rayovac as one of their Rayovac Power Bloggers and products and/or gifts have been received. However, all thoughts and opinions are completely honest and my own.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Cool Off This Summer with Old Orchard Brand Lemonades {Review & Giveaway - 5 winners!}

Old Orchard logo
In my mind, apple cider is the traditional drink for fall, eggnog is the unofficial drink for the holidays and lemonade is the must-have drink for summer.

Say all you want, but you just haven't experienced summer if you haven't kicked back with an ice cold glass of lemonade!

While we've tried a variety of lemonades in the past — everything from bottled to frozen to powdered mixes — I was excited to find out that there was a new line of naturally-sweetened lemonades that have debuted just in time for this summer from one of our favorite brands, Old Orchard.

Old Orchard lemonades

Available in classic Country Style and tasty Strawberry, Old Orchard's new lemonades are refreshingly delicious while providing the great taste of real fruit juice with no artificial flavors or preservatives. No need to mix or add anything (except ice, if you prefer a little extra cold), just pour and enjoy!

Considering that lemonade is a family favorite around here, all four of us were excited to try these two new additions to Old Orchard's lineup.

Old Orchard Lemonade

Containing 11% real fruit juice, both the Country Style and Strawberry Lemonade are naturally sweetened with real sugar and Truvia brand stevia.

At the same time, a single serving of these tasty drinks provides 100% of your daily Vitamin C and only 90 calories, so the only question is which one to reach for first!

Old Orchard lemonade review

The preferences have ended up split around here, but both varieties of Old Orchard Lemonade have been extremely well-received! Country Style has the traditional, lemon goodness of classic lemonade while Strawberry has the added sweetness of the fruit... both end up lip-smacking good and extremely refreshing!

No matter what our plans for the rest of the summer include, I have no doubt that Old Orchard Lemonade will be a part of our meals, parties, relaxation times and more!

lemonade summer

But as well as being a part of the fun summer moments enjoyed by families everywhere, Old Orchard has made the introduction of their new lemonades even more exciting with their Stay Cool Summer Video Contest.

Old Orchard video contest

Are you ready to point, shoot and inspire others to Stay Cool this summer for your chance to win?

Simply shoot a short video (30 seconds or less) depicting how you're planning to stay cool this summer and upload it to Easy, right? That's all you need to do to be entered to win one of two Ultimate Summer Getaway packages (official rules found here)!

One grand prize winner will be chosen by popular vote, the other by judges at Old Orchard Brands. Both winners will each receive a $2,500 summer vacation getaway (wowza!) while 25 additional winners (chosen by vote) will receive free Old Orchard juice valued at approximately $100.

What are you waiting for? This contest ends July 31st, 2014, so start shooting your video and be sure to encourage your friends to vote your way to the Ultimate Summer Getaway!

#StayCool contest

Find out more about Old Orchard's complete line of delicious juices by visiting and connecting with them on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest and keep an eye out for their wide variety of drinks the next time you're at the store.

Plus, thanks to their generosity, five people will soon be able to kick back and enjoy an icy cool glass of lemonade as well, because...

(5) lucky people will win a coupon for free Old Orchard products!

Old Orchard juice

A big thank you to Old Orchard for providing samples for me to review as well as free product coupons for 5 lucky giveaway winners. The opinions shared are my own and honest and if you really need to see more, click here to see how I roll.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Now Available in K-Cups: The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf {Review}

The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf logo
My family took an amazing European vacation recently and, while there were aspects of home that each of us missed (Europeans don't like peanut butter? Whaaaa?), I was particularly mournful over not having my Keurig.

While I have discussed the ability to travel with your Keurig in the past, it wasn't in the cards (i.e. suitcase room) for this trip and I somewhat-mistakenly thought that it would be no big deal.

Right. Between the odd flavors and trying to brew my own coffee using a machine and grounds that were printed in anything but English, I was more than ready to give my Keurig a hug as soon as we returned home.

Even better? Arriving and finding that The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, the oldest and largest privately held specialty coffee and tea retailer in the United States, now has their coffee available in K-cups.

Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf K-cups

Known for sourcing and providing the finest ingredients and flavors, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf is very selective about only using the very best coffee beans and the finest teas. Whether you are enjoying your favorite brew at home or are lucky to live in a location with one of their cafes nearby, then you already know why CBTL is known for their dedication to providing the highest quality products and customer service.

So having the ability to enjoy their signature coffee at any point in my day in less than a minute with their handy new K-cups? Of course I wanted to give them a try!

Coffee Bean Tea Leaf

Available in a variety of different flavors, it wasn't long after my CBTL K-cup was brewing before the aroma was making me feel as though I was kicking back in one of their coffeehouses.


Coffee Bean Tea Leaf k-cups

Starting with the classic Café '63 Roast (the signature brew that helped build the brand into what it is today), I was happy to find that this K-cup resulted in a smooth, tasty cup of coffee.

Having read the description for this coffee as being "fruity," I was slightly concerned that it would have a bit of an artificial, fake flavoring, but that wasn't the case at all with this light roast. In fact, as I'm not a fan of roasts that are extremely dark, the Café '63's lighter attribute struck me as deliciously satisfying from the first sip to the last!

CBTL Cafe 63

After enjoying the brightness of the Café '63, I was looking forward to my experience with CBTL's Toasted Amaretto flavored coffee... and wasn't disappointed in the least!

This medium roast coffee has a rich, nutty fragrance and a full, creamy taste to match. While again I was slightly hesitant — this time that it would have a manufactured almond-flavoring taste to it — instead my taste buds have been thrilled with the silky sweetness that complements (but doesn't overpower) the underlying coffee.

In short, yum!

CBTL Toasted Amaretto

If you're already a fan of The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, you'll love that their delectable coffee is now available in K-cups. Or, if you haven't tried CBTL before but are a devoted Keurig user, I recommend picking up a box (head over to the fabulous Cross Country Cafe for a great deal!) to give it a try today!

As a Cross Country Cafe Ambassador, I have been provided with products in exchange for my continued work with their company and affiliate links are included in the above post. The opinions shared are my own and honest and if you really need to see more, click here to see how I roll.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Quick Hair Removal with the Emjoi eRase e60 Epilator {Review}

 emjoi logo
As much as I have been excited for the arrival of summer, I can't ignore the cons that come along with the warmer weather.

I love pulling out my flip flops, but that means keeping my toenails looking painted and pretty. I love the sunshine, but that means being extra diligent about sunscreen. And I love pushing all of my layers and layers of clothing to the back of the closet, but wearing shorts and skirts means hair removal if I don't want to go out in public with my legs looking like a sasquatch.

While there are those women (that I am in awe of) that make shaving or waxing a part of their daily routine, I have just never been able to find the motivation. When you add up all of the time and money that is put into the upkeep of fabulously smooth legs, my laziness always wins out in the end. That's what long pants are for, right?

Fortunately, it's now time to put away ineffective hair removal creams, painful waxes and tedious razors in exchange for the newest epilator to hit the market, the Emjoi eRase e60.

Emjoi eRase e60

If you're not familiar with epilators, they are electrical devices that resemble razors but instead remove hair by mechanically grasping multiple hairs simultaneously and pulling them out. So picture 60 pairs of tweezers moving at once!

While yes, the entire process is not painless, Emjoi epilators have long been touted as providing exactly their users most want: quickly and effectively removing unwanted hair from the root, while doing so with the absolute minimum of discomfort. Even better is that these gadgets leave the skin smooth for up to six weeks afterward!

Considering that Emjoi's range of technically-advanced epilators have been the go-to choice for removing unwanted hair from any part of the body for quite a few years, I was eager to try out their newest release and see if it could be the answer to my hair removal woes.

Emjoi epilator

Right out of the box, I appreciated that the Emjoi eRase came with everything needed (included a great little storage/travel case) and that the device itself was much smaller and more compact than I had thought. This isn't a bulky item that it going to take up a lot of room in your bathroom drawer or cabinet!

Emjoi eRase epilator

After a quick read of the instructions, it was clear that Emjoi had thought of just about everything to make using the eRase as easy as possible.

Simply plug in the power cord, position the unit correctly and use the power button (complete with safety switch lock) to select your desired speed for the 60 tweezer action discs.

Emjoi eRase epilator review

Using an epilator differs from a razor in that you don't move it in long strokes but rather short movements of small sections. With just light pressure, you move the unit from section to section until the unwanted hair is removed.

As the Emjoi eRase includes its innovative Erase Glide Technology, this enables the user to glide it either back and forth or in a circular motion over the skin to remove hair in seconds, while being gentle enough to remove individual facial hair on chin or upper lip.

The eRase e60 also comes with a sensitive attachment for the epilator head, resulting in a product designed to be mild enough to remove hair where the user is most sensitive, including underarms and bikini line, yet still remain easy to use and reliable.

Emjoi eRase epilator sensitive cover
The sensitive cover works by essentially stopping some of the tweezers from reaching your skin.

While I found that use of the eRase e60 resulted in a stinging sensation on my skin (that was more or less painful depending on the location and the length of time I had been using this epilator), Emjoi's tip on using it immediately after a warm bath or shower on dry skin has been helpful.

Also depending on the area and thickness of the hair, the eRase is able to remove most hair on the first pass, therefore reducing possible skin irritation while saving precious time. Even better, unlike shaving where stubble begins to appear later that same day, the eRase removes hair from the root, leaving the skin smooth for up to six weeks!

After use, I simply clean it off with the provided brush, replace the cover...

Emjoi epilator cleaning

...and store each and every piece in the case so that it will be ready for the next use.

Emjoi eRase e60 case

With the growing trend of home spa experiences for privacy, relaxation, efficiency and affordability, the eRase provides a new option for hair removal at an affordable price (retail, $79.95). Why continue to purchase and repurchase razors and shaving cream to spend all summer dealing with unwanted hair when this trouble-free product can provide superior results?

To find out more about the eRase e60 as well as Emjoi's complete selection of grooming and personal care products, visit their website at and connect with them on Facebook.

Other than the eRase e60 I was provided by Emjoi in order to facilitate my review, I was not compensated or enticed to do this post in any way. This review is solely my honest opinion of this product.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Keep Your Kids Reading with Scholastic's Summer Reading Challenge!

Scholastic summer reading logo
While children everywhere are celebrating the end of school and the arrival of summer, we all know that doesn't mean that everything and anything educational can be completely ignored until after Labor Day.

But did you know that studies show that early and sustained summer learning opportunities improve academic outcomes for youth and lead to higher graduation rates and better preparation for college? We've all heard of the "Summer Slide," but how many parents take active steps to prevent it?

This summer, as well as ensuring that your child's skills don't experience a setback, ensuring easy and continued access to books for summer reading is even easier (and much more fun) thanks to Scholastic's Summer Reading Challenge.

Scholastic Summer Reading

Now in its 8th year, the Summer Reading Challenge program is a free, online/mobile reading program that helps prepare kids for back-to-school by encouraging them to read every day all summer long.

Kids simply keep track of the number of minutes that they have read and, along with their peers, see if the cumulative amount can beat the world record! In 2013, Scholastic inspired more than 130,000 kids from 4,200 schools in all 50 States and 31 countries to set a new record for summer reading of 176 million-plus minutes!

How cool is that? This year Scholastic has added a unique twist to the Summer Reading Challenge by giving it a theme of "Reading Under the Stars" (powered by EVEREADY®) to encourage kids to go outside and open their worlds to reading. Throughout the summer, kids will read around the galaxy and unlock star constellations as they log their reading minutes, enter sweepstakes to win fabulous prizes, and earn digital rewards when they complete weekly reading challenges!

summer reading challenge

Both of my children absolutely love reading, so it was a no-brainer that we headed right over to Summer Reading Challenge website and couldn't wait to sign up.

Right off the bat, I appreciate the way that Scholastic divided their site into three clear categories for kids, educators and parents. Whether you are visiting to log reading minutes, discover book lists, track reading progress or more, it's all only a click or two away.

table of contents

While my kids definitely wanted to start logging their minutes and earning rewards, we browsed around a little more (videos with messages from authors and astronauts! A map of the world so that you can see how your school's reading minutes compare! Puzzles, games and polls!) before completing the fast and easy registration process.

welcome message

I'm not sure we could be any more excited about summer reading!

As well as everything that we've been enjoying on the Summer Reading Challenge website, Scholastic has even included a host of other fun additions.

First, the Scholastic Reading Timer app encourages reading every day while also making it fun! This free app allows users to time reading minutes with an interactive stopwatch and track minutes on a weekly log. Plus, parents can check children's reading activity in addition to browsing daily tips, articles and book lists.

Second, every Monday we can check in with Scholastic on Twitter for the #MondayMinutes (the total number of minutes kids have read to date) and every Friday we're keeping an eye on the Scholastic Facebook page for Friday Freebies and the Summer Reading Challenge Pinterest Board for a new collage of summer books.

kids books

Are you ready to read with us? My girls are thrilled to be adding up the minutes that they spend immersed in their books and can't wait to take things even further next month when we literally put the "Reading Under the Stars" theme into effect. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, head over to sign up for the Summer Reading Challenge and amp up the excitement about reading for your young reader even more with these great tips!

getting kids to read

This post is part of a collaboration with Scholastic. All thoughts and opinions expressed are honest and my own.

Sunday, June 22, 2014


The lucky winner of a $25 Domino's gift card is...

The lucky winner of a Silicone Popsicle Tray Penguins from HABA is...

The lucky winner of (5) coupons for free Krusteaz products is...

The lucky winner of a Typhoon 2.0 bubble machine from Gazillion Bubbles is...

The lucky winner of a WaterSavers Prize Pack is...

The lucky winner of a $25 gift card to Pier 1 Imports is...

The five lucky winners of four Free Pretzel cards from Auntie Anne's are...

Thank you to everyone who entered these fun giveaways!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Little Effort, Lots of Flavor: Chocolate Chip Brownie Cheesecake Recipe {#KraftRecipes}

Kraft logo
After waiting what feels like 34 months for the arrival of summer, now that the warmth is here for good, I feel like I can't bask in it quite enough. I want to spend long hours watching my kids play at the park, go on sunset walks as a family, marvel at the magic of fireflies, sit out on the deck laughing with friends, relax in our hammock with a good book, and much, much more.

Truly, summertime means spending quality time doing what you love with the ones you love. And nowhere in that description does spend forever standing in the kitchen cooking or slave over long, complicated recipes fit into the mix.

Nope, summer is about finding the tastiest and easiest recipes for things like pasta salad and smoothies and being able to throw them together without spending any extra valuable minutes in the kitchen.

So, what better way to celebrate summer than by combining my two all time favorite desserts, cheesecake and brownies, into one delectable treat? That's why now is the perfect time to whip up a favorite recipe passed to me from a friend, easy and effortless Chocolate Chip Brownie Cheesecake.

Chocolate Chip Brownie Cheesecake

My mouth is watering just at the thought of rich, luscious brownies being blended with the smooth, creaminess of cheesecake and these individual portions are just right!

While these do involve pulling out the mixer and turning on the oven, there is plenty that kids can do to help (crushing the cookies for the crust is always a guaranteed giggle-producer in my kitchen!) and the overall process involves very little effort.

As for the result?

brownie cheesecake recipe

Kraft Recipes is hosting my complete Chocolate Chip Brownie Cheesecake recipe and instructions, so head over today if you're looking for a delicious and simple way to usher in the joy, relaxation and decadence of summer.

Whether you are bringing these to a potluck or serving them at your backyard BBQ, your family and friends will take one bite and think that these individual chocolate cheesecakes are a complicated, time-consuming dish. Little will they know that you simply had to soften some PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, blend it up with brownie mix and toss it in the oven!

This summer, be sure to browse the large number of recipes available at to find a huge selection of snack, meal or dessert ideas that are creative, delicious, fun and perfect for a tasty, carefree summer.

This post is a part of a partnered campaign with Kraft Foods, however, all thoughts and opinions shared are honest and my own.