Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Baked from Scratch with Love: The Mixing Bowl Bakery in Sauk City, WI {#ReviewCrew}

2015 Review Crew Blogger Badge
While my family enjoys hopping on a plane to travel far and wide, we also try to take advantage of the times when the kids have a few days off of school to take a smaller trip that is closer to home.

In particular, we are fortunate to live less than an hour from Wisconsin Dells, the waterpark capital of the world — and who doesn't love to take a trip zooming down a waterslide outdoors in the heat or indoors in the middle of winter?

Recently, prior to one of our jaunts to the Dells, we took a look at and discovered that one 10-minute pit stop could provide us with a plethora of incredible baked-from-scratch goodies to delight our taste buds. How have we made this drive so many times and never stopped off at The Mixing Bowl Bakery?

The Mixing Bowl Bakery logo

Conveniently located in Sauk City, Wisconsin, The Mixing Bowl Bakery is on a mission to "satisfy your baked goods desires by making all our items from scratch." This family-run bakery never uses any pre-made batters, doughs, or fillings while also opting for as many non-GMO and organic products as possible.

The end result? Muffins, cinnamon rolls, cookies, scones, pies, cheesecakes (as well as coffee, espresso, tea, yogurt, honey) and much more in a quaint, friendly atmosphere that makes you feel right at home!

The Mixing Bowl Bakery Sauk City

Right inside the doors of The Mixing Bowl Bakery and I was struck with the way that the ambiance felt more like a friend's living room than a formal restaurant.

This isn't a stiff, traditional room filled with rows and rows of tables. Instead, this spacious bakery is filled with plenty of seating to enjoy your tasty food; as well as overstuffed leather couches and chairs; a bookshelf filled with games, puzzles and books; a counter and stools with a view right into the kitchen to watch the magic happen; and even a back corner with a large television and children's toys to keep little ones occupied and happy.

The Mixing Bowl Bakery dining room

One table was even set up with a large, colorful puzzle for customers to spend a little or a lot of time working together to get it all together!

cupcake puzzle

But no matter how welcome a restaurant or cafe makes you feel, it's all about the selection, quality, and taste of the foods, right?

Never fear, The Mixing Bowl Bakery fulfills that aspect just as well!

The Mixing Bowl Bakery review

The most difficult part of visiting is definitely deciding which of these (plus many more) goodies to try first!

Fortunately, the staff of The Mixing Bowl Bakery were very patient with us as we went back and forth trying to pick our favorites... and eventually we had our box of baked goods picked out, boxed up, and ready to go.

After admiring the hard work that the younger family members were putting in to help out throughout the bakery (there was an adorable baby in an exersaucer and multiple preschool-aged children helping bring tools and supplies in from a large truck), we were back in our car and on the road. Had we not wanted to take a good look around and see the full selection, we could have saved even more time by going through the drive thru!

A short while later we were at our destination and couldn't help but lay out our goodies to admire them.

Mixing Bowl Bakery Sauk City
There may or may not also have been two smoothies that were devoured during the drive and a large chocolate chip cookie that mysteriously disappeared. Ahem.

Just from the photo you can probably tell how amazing these baked goods tasted! Everything was soft, fresh, and flavorful and the items that we saved until the following morning were still just as delicious. The only problem is that once we ran out, the rest of our breakfast wasn't nearly as tasty or fulfilling!

But now that we made the discovery of such a unique and delectable, locally-owned, family-run establishment, I have no doubt that we'll stop in to visit The Mixing Bowl Bakery again in the future. Our smoothies and bakery items were amazing, we saved a bundle by using a certificate (SO easy to just pull it up right on my phone!), and everyone ended up happy!

If you have yet to try out, you're missing out on all sorts of unique dining options in your local area as well as where you might be traveling. I love using their convenient app to look up locations when we're on the go and the Deals Near Me feature makes it a snap to find one-of-a-kind tasty locations when we're out and about and getting hungry. Don't miss out!

For more information about The Mixing Bowl Bakery, their location, their huge coffee selection, their daily specials, and more, connect with them on their website and Facebook. 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. 

Monday, December 21, 2015

There's Still Time to Shop the Ridiculously Awesome 2015 Kmart Fab 15 Holiday Toy List! {#Fab15Toys}

Kmart Fab 15 logo
Even though I roll my eyes and make comments on the number of toys that are already in our house, when the holiday ads and catalogs start arriving, I secretly get a little excited every year. There's just something fun about seeing my own kids go through page by page and point out each item that they dream will be under the tree Christmas morning just like I used to do!

Do you know how many years I had to ask Santa for a Snoopy Sno Cone Machine before he finally brought it? I circled it in marker or cut out the picture and glued it to my list Christmas after Christmas after Christmas before that ice-crushing sugar-syrup-dripping thing eventually showed up.

If I recall correctly, I think I used it approximately twice to make sno cones. So... maybe it's possible that Santa knew something that I didn't?

Regardless, these days it is much easier for parents everywhere to have help picking out the very best in toys for children of all ages thanks to Kmart's Fab 15 Holiday Toy List!

2015 Fab 15 Toys

Featuring the ultimate toys that kids want for the holidays, the Kmart Fab 15 Holiday Toy List provides parents and gift-givers with insight into the season's hottest trends. These aren't just a random collection of toys, Kmart carefully selects their Fab 15 each year based on industry trends, input from kids and parents, as well as more than 50+ years of experience in knowing what toys resonate with different ages, stages and play patterns.

This year's collection of hot toys has even been tested by Kmart's first-ever Kid Toy Advisory Board – a select group of kids of Kmart employees who are serving as toy experts and holiday toy consultants. From big toys that make great, unexpected gifts to toys inspired by characters that kids know and love, just take a look at what the Kmart Fab 15 list of hot holiday toys for 2015 includes!


The breakdown includes:
  • Ages 1-2
    • Playskool Sesame Street Play All Day Elmo by Hasbro
  • Ages 3-5
    • Hot Wheels Ultimate Garage
    • Hot Wheels® Ultimate Auto Garage by Mattel®
    • Imaginext Ultra T-Rex by Fisher-Price®
    • Paw Patroller by Spin Master™
    • Disney Frozen Sing Along Elsa Doll by Jakks Pacific®
    • VTech® Kidizoom® Action Cam
    • Star Wars Signature Lightsaber by Hasbro®
    • Zoomer Kitty with Toy Mouse by Spin Master™ (Kmart exclusive)
    • MONOPOLY Here & Now by Hasbro®
    • Monster High® Boo York Floatation Station™ with Astronova™ Doll by Mattel®
  • Ages 6-8
    • Holiday Auburn Barbie
    • Holiday Auburn Barbie™ 2015 Doll by Mattel® (Kmart exclusive)
    • FurReal Friends Star Lilly the Unicorn by Hasbro®
    • NERF® Zombie Strike Doominator by Hasbro®
    • Hulk Smash RC Vehicle by Jakks Pacific®
  • Ages 9+
    • LEGO® Friends Pop Star Show Stage

I have no doubt that my girls would have a blast with just about all of these toys, with Little Sister B reaching first for the Sing Along Elsa Doll and Star Lilly the Unicorn while Big Sister E would lean towards MONOPOLY Here & Now and Zoomer Kitty. What fun!

holiday gifts toys

This year, remove the stress of toy shopping and the endless wandering up and down the aisles in confusion! Instead, Kmart's Fab 15 includes hot brands like Disney’s Frozen, Star Wars, LEGO®, Barbie™ and NERF® and offers ideas for kids of all ages and stages.

With so much input and research that has gone into this list, moms, dads, aunts, uncles, grandparents and friends are sure to find something that will make the children in their lives extremely happy when they unwrap their gifts this holiday season!

Ready to shop for these ridiculously awesome toys and games? Members and customers can pick up any of the items on the Fab 15 list (as well as an endless number of others options, of course) at local Kmart stores nationwide or​ ​online anytime at Check out the Fab 15 and the 2015 Toy Book today!

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post on behalf of the Role Mommy Writers Network and Kmart. All opinions are 100% my own.​​

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Educational, Active Video Game System for Kids: LeapFrog LeapTV {Review}

LeapFrog logo
As a mom, I feel constantly torn between all of the choices that I make for my children that contrast what they want. I want them to eat healthy, they want foods that are as sweet as possible. I want them to get plenty of sleep at night to be well-rested and they want to stay up as late as they can to not miss out on any fun.

When it comes to video games, they would surely love to have all of the latest and greatest gaming systems so that they could play game after game all day long, but we all know that just sitting and staring at a screen isn't the most beneficial activity ever.

Fortunately, we have been introduced to a way to incorporate education, movement, and action into gaming all in one unique, child-friendly way thanks to the LeapTV by LeapFrog.

LeapFrog LeapTV system

LeapFrog is known as a leader in education innovation throughout the world. Their award-winning learning toys, interactive book and map experiences, reading systems, educational gaming handhelds, and learning tablets are age-appropriate, trusted by parents, valued by teachers, and loved by children.

Which is why I wasn't surprised to hear that LeapFrog figured out how to make gaming smarter with their interactive LeapTV. This innovative system provides three ways to play — body motion, pointer play, and classic control — to keep kids ages 3 to 8 entertained, involved and having a blast!

Knowing that just about any kid would have a great time pointing, jumping, wiggling, dancing, twisting, and more (while also practicing their reading, math, science, problem solving, etc.), it was time to spend some time being entertained in an educational way!

LeapTV and games

Right off the bat, setting up the LeapTV proved to be just as easy and convenient as I had hoped. After simply plugging in all of the included cables and cords, it only took a few minutes of connecting the LeapTV to our internet connection and completing the registration process.

Then it was time to play!

LeapTV set up

Just as I suspected, we had a blast!

The kids were immediately curious about the transforming, easy-to-hold controller and the instant the colorful home screen appeared, there was no stopping them from getting started.

As opposed to traditional gaming systems where I have had to spend time explaining every last detail about the gameplay to my children, the LeapTV has a simple and intuitive user interface (and clear audio prompts) that kids are able to understand and control effortlessly. I barely had to say a word or give an instruction the entire time both kids took turns playing again and again.

LeapTV controller

Even better, as the LeapTV features today's most popular kids' characters, who is going to want to say no to playing (and learning) with buddies like Elsa, Anna, and Olaf?

LeapTV game cartridges

The LeapTV has a library of 100+ LeapFrog educator-approved game cartridges, game downloads, and videos, so the likelihood of running out of fun is pretty small!

LeapTV Frozen
In Disney Frozen: Arendelle's Winter Festival (ages 4-7), users can play solo or with a friend as they proceed and interact with five magical, fun-filled Arendelle adventures.

Sculpt ice; create jewelry from snowflakes; join in a festival by using counting, addition, subtraction, place value, shape recognition, and number sequencing; and much more!

I find it hard to believe that any Frozen fans wouldn't have a blast trying to make Olaf fall into the dunk tank or creating an ice skating path for Elsa and Anna. This game is the perfect mix of enchantment and wonder with great math skills!

LeapTV Blaze
For slightly younger children who are into a little more action, Blaze and the Monster Machines (ages 3-5) focuses on the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) skills all while helping Blaze and his friends build an awesome stunt track.

Featuring everything from number recognition to physical science and problem solving, this game is part monster truck and part educational adventure!

LeapTV Letter Factory
Or, when ramps, loops, and straightaways aren't cutting it, LeapTV Letter Factory Adventures (also ages 3-5) brings children through a variety of adventure games as they take a train ride through the alphabet from A to Z.

At each train stop, players learn the name, shape and sound of the letter, build words, customize an alphabet book, and more.

Even though this game is a little too young for my girls, they have had a great time bending and twisting themselves into letter shapes, popping bubbles to find letters and complete words, and racing the clock to show off their alphabet knowledge. Overall, this game is a fun and active way to play solo or with a friend to ride the rails to learning fun!

LeapTV Mr. Pencil Presents DoodleCraft
Finally, for the ultimate in constructing your own custom island, Mr. Pencil Presents DoodleCraft involves a little bit of everything: creativity, building, sorting, memory, observation, matching, and much more.

Players earn blueprints to construct buildings; unlock art tools to add paint, patterns, doors, windows, glitter, stickers, and more; and go on quests to unlock and explore five different neighborhoods to find hidden objects and locations.

I love that, along with educational skills, this game also promotes important everyday skills, as players recycle, clear away obstacles, tidy up messes, scrub buildings clean, and more to keep their residents happy. Whether played alone or as a team (or two players can make their own separate islands and go visit each other!), Mr. Pencil Presents DoodleCraft is open-ended and challenging enough to encourage kids to return to it time and again.

LeapFrog LeapTV review

Since the arrival of the LeapTV and these games, I have been nothing but impressed with LeapFrog for inventing such an active video gaming system. I love the way that kids of all ages (we have had players between the ages of 5 and 9) have had no problem using the controller, transforming it from a classic controller into a pointer, or moving easily between options and games.

My girls and their friends have gotten a kick out of seeing themselves right in the action ("I'm on TV!") and the way that LeapFrog designed the games to automatically adjust the levels depending on the age of the player ensures that they are challenged without being frustrated. They truly have made gaming smarter, more educational, perfectly appropriate, and kid-friendly!

LeapFrog LeapTV reviews

While we have long loved LeapFrog and the way that their unique toys and learning solutions provide entertainment as well as educational advancement, the addition of the LeapTV fits right in. Kids are able to express their creativity and have active, happy fun all while learning and practicing a wide variety of educational skills. What more could I ask for?

This innovative video game system is available now from LeapFrog, on Amazon and in stores near you with an MSRP of $59.99 (a crazy good deal for the holidays, considering its debut price was $149.99!) with game cartridges sold separately for $19.99.

Find out more about LeapTV and all of the available games and accessories available for it by visiting and connecting with them on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

As a LeapFrog Mom Ambassador, I receive products, promotional items and educational material to use and share as I see fit. However, any opinions expressed by me are honest and reflect my actual experience.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Tylenol #HowWeFamily Showcases "Family Is Not About Who You Love But How."

Tylenol logo
I have received information from the makers of TYLENOL®. The opinions stated are my own. This is a sponsored post.

Recently, in a conversation about our family not always eating at the most traditional of restaurants, Big Sister E chimed in with, "Our family isn't normal. We're crazy!"

Even better than the fact that she was so cheerful about that statement, is that she was right. Our family certainly is a little unique and quirky, but you know what? So is yours! So is everyone's! Whether we have that one eccentric uncle or the black sheep cousin or we all just happily dance to the beat of a different drummer (is that how the phrase goes?), the whole point is that we're family.

It doesn't matter the age, race, gender, orientation, appearance, abilities or any other factor, family is not about who you love but how.

And no one has summed that up in a more beautiful, heartwarming way this holiday season than TYLENOL®. Please, take less than one minute to watch their amazing #HowWeFamily video. It has sent chills down my spine and brought a tear to my eye every time I have seen it due to the pure simplicity and incredible message it portrays.

You watched it, right? Just click that little arrow, you won't be sorry after you've seen this compilation of real moments from real families and their joy, laughter, surprise, and unconditional love!

TYLENOL® has been caring for the well-being of families for over 60 years and I couldn't applaud them more for believing that perfect single line of family is not about who you love but how. This video and the corresponding #HowWeFamily program showcases the stories of 11 real American families (including one from spokesperson Gabrielle Union) and truly celebrates all families and how they come together.

Putting aside the food, shopping, presents, lights, parties, and more this holiday season, isn't simply coming together and appreciating those that you love what actually brings a smile to our faces?

santa with family

This holiday season, TYLENOL® is continuing to celebrate all families, so be sure to visit the TYLENOL® #HowWeFamily website at and connect with them on Facebook.

How does your family share their love this time of year?

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Assembling the Perfect Diaper Bag with Huggies Little Movers Diapers {$25 Sam's Club Gift Card Giveaway!}

Huggies logo
Although I would never claim to be anywhere close to an expert in parenting, the past 9+ years have taught me quite a bit about expecting the unexpected. If it seems like all logic and common sense is lost on children, that's because it is.

So, although there is no way to be 100% prepared for everything that might possibly come your way, that doesn't mean that you can't do your best at trying.

Case #1: The diaper bag.

First, the bag itself. You'll want one that is high quality, has lots of pockets, and is large enough to comfortably hold all of the essentials, but not so large that it is too cumbersome or feels like you are dragging a suitcase. Also be sure to keep in mind the style, design, print, colors, etc. if you are expecting your significant other to also tote this bag around at some point.

Second, the content. This will obviously vary from person to person depending on personal preferences and the number and age of your children, but let's focus on the most important when it comes to little ones: diapers.

We tried just about every variety of diaper made over the years and, in the end, it pays to go with quality. No one wants to take time out of their already-busy day to deal with leaks or blowouts (and their disgusting aftermath), so if you can find a diaper to contain it all, you buy them in bulk.

Which is exactly what is possible when you head to Sam's Club and pick up a box of Huggies Little Movers!

Huggies Little Movers at Sam's Club

As exciting as it is when your baby starts moving, it clearly brings on a whole new set of challenges (and places and items to baby proof). All that wiggling, scooting, crawling, dragging, leaning, rocking, shaking, and more requires a diaper that can hold up and hold it in!

Have you heard of Huggies Little Movers? They can do it all!

Huggies Little Movers diapers

These great diapers are shaped for fit and flexibility and are available in sizes 3, 4, 5 and 6. They have a DryTouch liner to absorb on contact, a SnugFit waistband to keep them in place, and Double Grip Strips for a comfy fit that lasts. They are now even more absorbent with Leak Lock Protection that lasts up to 12 hours!

Why would you choose anything less to keep your baby dry throughout all of their little adventures?

Huggies Little Movers

Whether you have a little mover in your household or are picking these up to make a fantastic gift this holiday season, be sure to head to your nearest Sam's Club to grab a box today. Don't have a Sam's Club membership? What are you waiting for? The amount of money that you'll save will more than pay for the membership cost itself!

The next time you are packing up your diaper bag, remember that Huggies Little Movers diapers stay in place like no other and have a unique, contoured shape to provide a comfortable fit while your baby moves and plays.

Ready to test them out to see for yourself? One person will soon be prepared to head to Sam's Club to do a little shopping there themselves, because...

One lucky person will win a $25 Sam's Club gift card*!

Sam's Club gift card
*Can be used without a Sam's Club membership by acquiring a day pass from the service counter.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Available Today: Minions Movie Blu-ray Combo Pack!

Minions logo
While there will forever be movies and characters that fall into the take it or leave it category, there are also those that manage to capture the hearts of audiences everywhere and delight children as well as adults.

Therefore, it is no surprise that folks everywhere were excited to hear that the breakout stars the world fell in love with in Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment's Despicable Me global film franchise were finally headlining their own film.

And, if you missed it in theaters (or just want to relive the laughter over again), you'll be happy to know that Minions is now available on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD and On Demand today, December 8th!

Minions movie

A much anticipated prequel to the unprecedented worldwide blockbusters Despicable Me and the beloved sequel Despicable Me 2, Minions is an immensely entertaining (and hilarious!) film for all audiences.

Starting as single-celled yellow organisms, the story of the Minions begins at the dawn of time and evolves through the ages as these cute characters perpetually serve (and accidentally eliminate) history's most despicable of master villains.  However, as the Minions are continuously unsuccessful at keeping these masters—from T. Rex to Napoleon—the Minions' latest explosive mistake leaves them without someone to serve and causes them to fall into a deep depression.

But one Minion named Kevin has a plan, and he—alongside teenage rebel Stuart and lovable little Bob—ventures out into the world to find a new evil boss for his brethren to follow.

Minions Kevin, Stuart, Bob

The trio embark upon a thrilling journey that ultimately leads them to their next potential master, Scarlet Overkill (voiced by Academy Award-winner Sandra Bullock), the world's first-ever female super-villain.

Minions Sandra Bullock

From frigid Antarctica to 1960s New York City to 'mod' London, Kevin, Stuart, and Bob eventually end up being challenged to save all of Minionkind from annihilation. Will they succeed?

Minions movie characters

This unique and inventive tale is just too fun! Plus, along with getting to see the Minions headline their own movie for the first time, the Blu-ray Combo Pack and Digital HD of Minions also comes with three all-new mini-movies (Cro Minion, Competition, and Binky Nelson Unpacified) and a slew of great bonus features:
  • Deleted Scene – Me, Myself and Stuart
  • Around the World Interactive Map – Explore the world of the Minions with this interactive map featuring a collection of games, trivia, featurettes, storyboards, and more all themed to movie locations.
  • Behind the Goggles – The Illumination Story of the Minions – Get a "behind the googles" look at the history and evolution of everyone's favorite yellow henchmen.
  • Writer - See how the Minions evolve throughout the different time periods. Writer, Brian Lynch discusses creating distinctive personalities for the three main Minions, his VillainCon idea, and the Minion family.
  • Boss' Office – Illumination Entertainment CEO and founder and Minions producer, Chris Meledandri discusses the origins of Illumination Entertainment and the genesis of both Despicable Me and Minions.
  • Art Department – See how the Minions came to life, from the original art concept of the henchmen to the final creation of the Minions and how to differentiate them between new time periods. Also, see how the idea of Herb and Scarlett Overkill's characters came to be. 
  • Gallery – Stuart Hot Tub Storyboard (stills)
Minions Stuart Hot Tub
  • Gallery – Concept Art (stills)
  • Gallery – Color Script (stills)
  • Composer – Listen to how composer Heitor Pereira creates the sound of the Minions and what it takes to create big music for small characters.
  • Actors Studio – Listen to the actors' experiences being part of the Minions movie, who their favorite Minions are, and why they love them so much.
  • Notice Board (stills)
  • Illumination MacGuff Animation – Go behind the scenes and hear about the challenges and excitement behind the Minion characters and bringing them alive through animation in the movie.
  • Lighting, Layout and Effects – A look at the ways in which layout and lighting plays a big role in the emotion and motivation in the movie. Also see the ways in which they try to keep the 60's vintage look and the challenges they face with very technical shots, where one shot can take weeks.
  • 3D Models Gallery (stills) 
  • Jingle Bells Minion Style – This holiday favorite is brought to life in a merry-Minion way. Now you get to sing along to the beloved video that was the most shared piece of content on Facebook in 2014.
Minions Jingle Bells
  • Directors – Directors Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda discuss the unique challenges of creating distinctive personalities for the Minions.
  • Producers – Producers Chris Meledandri, Janet Healy, and Executive Producer Chris Renaud discuss the three main characters – Kevin, Stuart, and Bob – little family in the movie and the goal of creating a special bond between them and the audience when they leave the theater.
  • Editorial – Editor Claire Dodgson discusses the distinctive editing style of the Despicable Me franchise and the three-year process it takes to make these movies from the original storyboards to cutting scenes with Minion dialogue.
  • Storyboard Artist – Learn how the actions of the words of the script turn into visual drawings and how much work is put in from the rough sketches to the final cut of the movie.
  • The Secret Life of Pets Theatrical Trailer
What more could you ask for? With a running time of 1 hour, 31 minutes, the Minions Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD and On Demand is available at your local retails (as well as online) now from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

Find out more, watch trailers, do crafts, find recipes, and much more by visiting You can also connect with all things Minions on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, Tumblr, and at the #Minions hashtag.

Other than the copy of Minions that I was provided by Universal Pictures Home Entertainment 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.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Moscow Ballet's Great Russian Nutcracker {Review}

Moscow Ballet logo
With the holiday season upon us, families near and far are celebrating the sights and sounds in a wide variety of ways — from time-honored traditions to new and exciting activities.

While my own family has already participated in fun and festive events of all kinds, I was recently also able to experience one show that has delighted audiences from coast to coast with its incredible artistry, costumes, performance, puppetry, music and more: Moscow Ballet's Great Russian Nutcracker!

Moscow Ballet Nutcracker

The company of almost 40 dancers is the only internationally touring ballet group to perform to critical acclaim in over 75 North American cities annually. The renowned, award-winning principal dancers and corps de ballet thrill audiences with their expertise, dramatic expression and stunning leaps, turns and drops... and I, for one, was excited to see this fantastic show for myself!

Nutcracker Madison WI

Once inside the beautiful and historical Orpheum Theater in downtown Madison, WI, it didn't take long before we were shown to our seats to eagerly await the opening curtain.

I'll admit to being vaguely familiar with this story (the Nutcracker comes to life, what more did I need to know?) and soon found myself completely drawn in by the beauty and grace of the performers. I can only imagine the number of years and endless hours of practice that they have put in to be able to dance and soar across the stage as they did!

As for the show itself, the Great Russian Nutcracker opens with eccentric Uncle Drosselmeyer preparing the magical toys he will bring to Mayor Stalhbaum's Christmas Eve party. When he arrives the party is underway with adults and children full of merriment and joy.

Nutcracker opening scenes
As flash photography was not allowed, my photos are not the highest quality. Moscow Ballet has a beautiful gallery if you would like to see closer, more professional photographs!

At the party we meet Masha, her brother Fritz, and their friends, who are delighted to find out what presents they will receive. Masha instantly loves her gift of a Nutcracker Doll, but mischievous Fritz accidentally breaks it!

Heartbroken, Masha sleeps and dreams that mice and the Rat King battle with the brave Nutcracker, who defeats them. The Nutcracker Prince and Masha then journey to the Snow Forest and meet folk legends Ded Moroz and Snegurochka, who escort them to the Land of Peace and Harmony.

Nutcracker ballet

After a 20 minute intermission, Act II opened with the much-anticipated Dove of Peace (danced by two dancers each with one feathered wing)...

Nutcracker Dove of Peace dancers

...and a great celebration ensued! Emissaries of Spain, Africa, Europe, Asia, and Russian performed in honor of Masha and the Nutcracker Prince and playful animals joined them to represent gifts for Masha — the bulls offered daring, elephants offered wisdom, lions offered pride, the dragon offered playfulness, the bears offered strength, and the unicorns offered kindness.

These larger than life animal puppets were definitely a highlight of the show, as they were incredibly detailed to look at, while also acting in a bit of a fun and goofy manner. I hadn't realized I would be laughing out loud while at a ballet!

Nutcracker puppets

Finally, Masha and the Nutcracker Prince were entertained by the Waltz of the Flowers and then danced a grand Pas de Deux as their gift in return.

Nutcracker ending

Last, to bring the story full circle and to a close, Masha awakens and finds her beloved Nutcracker by her side. A perfect ending to a beautiful tale!

Nutcracker Masha

A big of romance, a lot of beauty, incredible costumes, fanciful effects, life-size dolls, shimmering backdrops, and much more... Moscow Ballet's Great Russian Nutcracker was two hours of amazing talent, gorgeous music, and overall wonderful artistry. The audience was filled with everyone from very young to quite old, and we all left the theater smiling from ear to ear after giving a standing ovation.

If you are looking for a great way to get into spirit of the holiday season (or to start or continue a cherished family tradition), be sure to head over to today to see the full schedule of event dates/venues to check for your area.

But why not shop with a discount? Use the promo code JOY to receive the largest discount available (up to $30 off!) so that you can save money while partaking in this wonderful holiday tradition!

This post is part of a promotional campaign with Moscow Ballet but all thoughts and opinions expressed are honest and my own.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Find Your Robitussin "Feel Better Formula" to Get Relief Fast! {$50 Netflix Gift Card Prize Pack Giveaway}

Robitussin logo
As if life here during winter in the Midwest didn't already have its problems (if I see one more photo on Facebook of you and your kids outside in tank tops while my family is bundled in 12 layers and snow pants, I just might unfriend you), my annoyance of the cold weather doesn't compare to the dread of my family coming down with a cough, cold or the flu.

Can't we go one winter without the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declaring a flu epidemic? While we always try our best to stay healthy and avoid sickness altogether, as soon as the first sniffles, sneezes, and throat tickles arrive, you're left with two options:

1. Pretend you're not sick and hope for the best (I admit to doing this when I really shouldn't).

2. Take the first steps to feeling better and tackling your symptoms.

For the latter, it's easy to turn to Robitussin 12 Hour Cough Relief and Robitussin Maximum Strength Severe Multi-Symptom Cough, Cold & Flu to help you take on whatever this cold and flu season throws your way!

Robitussin relief

It pays to be prepared in the event that a cold or the flu does make its way into your home, as who wants to be up all night coughing, sniffling and feverish if you could be receiving relief instead?

Robitussin 12 Hour Cough Relief is available in great-tasting orange and grape flavors and this cough suppressant delivers fast, powerful relief to control your cough for up to 12 hours. One dose delivers long-lasting cough control and all day and all night for adults and children ages 4 and older!

When you have multiple symptoms getting you down, Robitussin Maximum Strength Severe Multi Symptom Cough, Cold & Flu comes in both daytime and nighttime formulas to offer powerful relief from coughs, colds, and the flu. This maximum strength, dual-action formula soothes your throat on contact while tackling even the worst of other symptoms and is intended for adolescents and adults ages 12 and older.

But while Robitussin is there to take care of many of your cough, cold, and flu symptoms, we each have our own "Feel Better Formula" that goes along with it. Do you read a book? Take a nap? Watch a movie? Call your mom and beg her to come and take care of you? Whatever it is that you need plus the powerful relief of Robitussin is your own personal "Feel Better Formula!"

Robitussin Feel Better Formula

Robitussin clearly knows my "Feel Better Formula," as they sent over the perfect combination of items for me to have on hand the next time I get even the smallest of sniffles.

Robitussin Care Package

When I'm sick my "Feel Better Formula" includes spending as much time as possible wrapped up in my bed with a cup of tea and my favorite shows on television. So what could be better than this blanket, mug, and Green Tea Sampler Pack to go along with a $50 Netflix gift card?

I'm completely prepared to enjoy some screen time while staying warm, sipping tea to soothe my aches and pains, and napping!

Robitussin medicines

From homemade chicken soup to a super soft pair of slippers, this season be sure to fill your medicine cabinet with Robitussin Maximum Strength Severe Multi-Symptom Cough, Cold & Flu and Robitussin 12 Hour Cough Relief to create your own "Feel Better Formula." The combination of your own must-have and a proper dose of Robitussin is sure to be the best relief from cough, cold, and flu symptoms!

Find out much more about these and all of Robitussin's high quality products by visiting and connecting with them on Facebook and Twitter.

And, thanks to their generosity, one person will also be on their way to feeling better fast this winter as well, because...

One lucky person will win a "Feel Better Care Package" from Robitussin!

Netflix gift card giveaway
Package includes (1) $50 Netflix gift card, (1) Robitussin-branded blanket, (1) Robitussin-branded mug, and (1) Green Tea Sampler Pack.

The Robitussin® products, information, and additional gift pack have been provided by Pfizer.