Friday, April 11, 2014

Our Bunny Photo Experience

When I see the Easter Bunny makes his debut each year at the mall, it truly makes me happy because it signifies that spring has sprung and we're well on our way to summer, which is my most favorite time of year! Our yearly tradition is to visit the bunny at The Shops at Mission Viejo, a Simon Mall, which is very close to our home. 
Their Bunny Photo Experience is run by Noerr Programs and is decorated so beautifully. I must admit that the fact that their Easter Bunny is a very friendly and welcoming one, unlike some other mechanical bunnies we've encountered in past years, brings me relief because there's nothing worse than a scary bunny that sends your kid running for the hills!
Every year, Emily gets excited to go shopping to for a new spring dress for her bunny pics. It's very important to her that she coordinate with his setup. 
Perfectly coordinated with the bunny's setting, she's ready to go pay him a visit....camera bag and all! 
This year the Bunny Photo Experience is offering something new....RESERVATIONS! Yes, you read that correctly! I was ecstatic when I walked up to see the sign!

It basically means that I could check in with my phone, go online and choose a preferred time, and then we could spend some time shopping instead of standing in a long line. What an amazing offering! When it was our turn, or appointment, to visit the bunny and take photos, we simply entered in the return line and we were next. 
Even though I was skeptical about this new system when I first saw the sign,  I found this process to run smoothly. I am excited for Santa photos next year because they'll also be offering the same reservation program! This is going to be a game changer for so many, especially families with small children who have a difficult time waiting an hour to see Santa or the Easter Bunny!
The bunny greeted Emily with a hug, a few high fives, and even did a little bit of a dance with her, before he sat down for photos. I think this type of interaction helps alleviate any hesitation a child may have about taking pictures with the bunny. I loved the bunny's costume and the background that they had and I especially LOVED the way Emi's pictures turned out, don't you? 
Having these keepsake photos to look back at year after year is something that's important to me, as a mother. I know Emily will appreciate having them to show her own children, one day too.
Noerr Programs offers a variety of affordable packages which are priced to fit a family's budget. We purchased keychains in addition to our package, which were an inexpensive add-on. 
With the purchase of a photo package, they'll also allow you to snap a picture with your own camera, so we took the opportunity to go where most have never gone before....we took a selfie with the bunny! I'm pretty sure Emi thinks I'm nuts for making her do this!
I guess we can cross THIS off our Bucket List! 
They also send you home with a link for online sharing of your pictures, which makes it easier to share with friends and family on Facebook and Twitter. They also send you home with some coupons for Gymboree and Crazy 8
We LOVE these 2 stores AND The Shops at Mission Viejo has them BOTH! 
Gymboree is the sponsor this year 
for the Bunny Photo Experience.
If you haven't made your way over to a Simon Mall to visit their Bunny Photo Experience, then hop on over before Easter! For a list of Simon Malls click here.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

My Fabulous Night Out at Elements Massage Costa Mesa

When I received an exclusive invitation to attend the 1-year Anniversary for Elements Massage Costa Mesa, I jumped at the chance to spend a night getting pampered with some of my social media friends. 
Erina Buckley, owner of Elements Massage Costa Mesa, and her wonderful staff!
(photo by The Suitcase Studio)
Upon arrival, I was checked in and immediately scheduled for a complimentary mini massage, which is one of the services they offer as part of their Wellness Program. You can count me "in" for anything that involves the word massage! Not only was I entered into a drawing for some fabulous prizes, but I was also one of the first 20 guests to check in, and therefore got one of the amazing swag bags filled with goodies inside from Philosophie, AlternaVites, LeBrisa, Violet Love, and COCOMOCORN! 
Raffle prizes were provided by Elements Massage, SkinAgain, Dermasuri, Pursecase, Violet Love, and Clean Cocktails!
(photo by The Suitcase Studio)
I was excited to meet up with my friend, Alma and also have the opportunity to mingle with some others who I also consider to be fabulous social media superstars. 
+CidStyleFile+FieldTripMom & I representing the SoCal Lady Bloggers!
(photo by The Suitcase Studio)
Hanging out with some fun ladies!
(photo by The Suitcase Studio)
It was fun to see that Michelle from The Suitcase Studio! She just happens to be one of my favorite photographers and was there to capture this fun event with her magical camera! 
Michelle is so tolerant of my "selfie with friends" policy, too! Aren't we cute? 
At the reception, in the lobby of the spa, there were some amazing cocktails being served by Clean Cocktails and a delicious, healthy snack being provided by My Fit Foods. LeBrisa Designs was also there displaying some of their latest pieces, which we had fun trying on. The ambiance was just so relaxing and inviting, which is what I like about this location. 
Samantha from Clean Cocktails serving up some deliciousness!
(photo by The Suitcase Studio)
Healthy AND delicious!
(photo by The Suitcase Studio)
Just some of the beautiful pieces by LeBrisa
(photo by The Suitcase Studio)
It was inspiring to listen to Erina Buckley speak about how she came to be the owner of this Elements Massage location, just a little over a year ago, after first being an Elements Massage client, herself. She told the story of how she exited the corporate world to do something she felt far more passionate about and how she wanted to do something that has a positive influence on others in their journey for overall wellness. 
Erina Buckley, the owner of Elements Massage Costa Mesa. Such a fabulous and passionate female entrepreneur!
(photo by The Suitcase Studio)
I love the idea behind the concept of this spa. What they refer to as the Elements Way is something they created to help individuals achieve overall health and well-being through relaxation and rejuvenation. They use a holistic approach and strive to deliver a personalized program for each individual, connecting health and massage. It's a truly unique program that you won't find at other spas or massage places. 
When it was my turn for a "mini massage" I followed the masseuse back to one of the rooms, where he proceeded to ask me some questions about the areas I thought needed most attention and what type of pressure I preferred. He also asked if I got massages often and when the last time I got a massage was? At that point, I think you could hear crickets in the room, as I truly couldn't remember! I explained to him that I'm a mom and I don't have very much time for myself, especially not for things like this. He then gave me some very important advice and explained the importance of taking time out for myself, in order to do something to make ME feel better. He said that my excuse of "being a mom and not having time for myself to do these types of things" was even MORE of a reason why I needed to do so! It felt like I'd melted into the table after my 15 minute mini-massage! I think I'm going to take his advice and get back into Elements Massage Costa Mesa for a full massage right away! That 15 minutes felt like a paradise vacation, so I can only imagine what a full hour will be like! 
A post-mini massage group selfie! We sure do all look relaxed! Thank you Elements Massage Costa Mesa!
In honor of their 1 year anniversary, Elements Costa Mesa is offering a special month-long promotion. You can book two 55-minute massages at $69 for each appointment, regularly $99, between now and May 31, 2014 and receive a complimentary upgrade to an 80-minute massage during your second appointment. This is a total of $100 in savings! Mention the promotion "Anniversary" when booking, to redeem this special offer. Both services must be redeemed by May 31, 2014. 
Elements Massage Costa Mesa is located at 2701 S. Harbor Blvd, Suite E-3 in the Mesa Verde Center. To book your appointment call 714.850.0500.
It's amazing how easy it is for me to drink water when it looks like this!
(photo by The Suitcase Studio)
So, can YOU remember when the last time was that you did something for yourself? 
If not, then you really should change that!



Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Our Perfect Day at the Irvine Park Railroad's Eggstravaganza

We had so much fun spending an afternoon at the Irvine Park's Easter Eggstravaganza, which is located inside of Irvine Regional Park. 
In addition to the beautiful natural scenery, it's all decorated for Easter too! Everywhere you turn, there are adorable children, dressed up in their best spring outfits. It's the perfect setting and occasion to photograph some precious moments, that's for sure!
The Eggstravaganza features so many different activities to choose from that we weren't sure where to start. 
The activities include: 
     *Easter egg hunts
     *Photos with the Easter Bunny
     *Train rides
     *Hay rides
     *Cookie decorating
     *Face painting
     *A bunny bounce house
     *Various picture stands for photo opportunities
     *Carnival games
So, we basically decided to do them all! 
I loved how organized the Easter egg hunt was. We first obtained a wristband for the age-appropriate time for Emi. They created very fair rules for the children, first sitting them all down together, to explain the rules for the hunt, discussing how many eggs they could "find" and take home in their baskets, as well as other candy they might find on the ground. The kids were so excited to get started and sprinted at the cue to begin. 
Although we remembered to bring our own basket, they do have baskets for sale there, as well. 
Emi was mesmerized by how much candy there was in the egg hunt area, in addition to the eggs! 
After the egg hunt, we strolled over to visit the Easter Bunny. He was extremely interactive with the Emily, first playing peek-a-boo with her, which helped make her unafraid to sit with him. That's something that might be a relief for parents with hesitant children. 
Pictures like this, melt my heart! 
Apparently visiting the Easter Bunny makes you hungry, so we stopped by the snack shack for some freshly popped popcorn, before heading on over to the face painting area!
The artists in the face painting booth that would create each child's ideal design for them. Emi let her artist know that she preferred more of an arm design, as opposed to having her face painted. 
She loved her "tattoo" so much, that I think she hid from the water in the shower hitting that arm for as long as she could! 
I loved all of the different photo opportunities there were throughout the area. Emi tried to convinced me to get in this one, but I let her do the honors! 
I love this one! My little chick!
I was most startled by this one..it shows how tall Emi is getting! She's only 8! Wow! 
Next, we hopped aboard the train, which for me, is the best part of the entire thing. There's just something about trains that reminds me of childhood! Emi chose to sit directly behind the engineer! We took the token "train selfie" as we relaxed on the long ride.
For our finale, we visited the cookie decorating booth, where Emi got her very own sugar cookie to decorate with colored frostings and sprinkles. What more could a kid ask for? 
It was such a fun afternoon. 
Head on over before the fun ends on April 19th! 


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Farrell's is Teaming Up with The American Red Cross to Help!

There is nothing scarier than experiencing an earthquake of a significant magnitude, in addition to several aftershocks, like the residents of Southern California did this past weekend with the 5.1. It really makes you think about important things such as having a plan of action for your family, in case of an huge earthquake or other disaster and just having overall earthquake preparedness at home. It's not something that any of us like to think about, but we DO need to be ready, in case of the unexpected. 
As if a 5.1 earthquake wasn't scary enough for many of us to experience last weekend, we then watched news of a deadly 8.2 magnitude quake that hit Chile yesterday, resulting in such great loss and devastation! It's difficult to watch things like this on the news! It makes you feel helpless, in the sense that you can't make it better or directly help the people who are affected. 
It makes my heart happy when I see businesses I support and frequent, come forward to make efforts to reach out and help people in need, like the people of Chile. It's no secret that I'm a fan of Farrell's, and it makes so proud to spread the news about what Farrell's is doing to help with this recent tragic situation. Farrell's has teamed up with the American Red Cross to raise earthquake preparedness awareness in the wake of these recent earthquakes. 
Beginning today, Wednesday April 2 through Sunday April 6, all 7 Farrell's Ice Cream Parlour locations will be offering a limited edition "Quake Shake" for $4.99, with 100% of sales going to the American Red Cross. In addition, you'll also receive a handout about earthquake preparedness, with instructions on how to be ready for a large magnitude earthquake.
Locally we were all very fortunate not to have suffered any major damage or injuries as a result of last weekend's Southern California earthquake, but the people of Chile weren't as fortunate. The Farrell's family is making this great effort to help the American Red Cross reach people and areas in need. These kinds of situations remind us how important and essential it is to be prepared and we should all do our part to make sure organizations like The Red Cross are funded and ready to assist those in need, when a disaster like this occurs. 
Please support this effort by visiting your local Farrell's and enjoying a "Quake Shake", which is a Rocky Road flavored shake, made with rich chocolate ice cream, marshmallow swirl and topped with whipped cream, almonds and a cherry. Remember, 100% of the sales from this $4.99 "Quake Shake" will be donated to the American Red Cross. In addition, monetary donations will also be accepted at each restaurant. 
For more information, visit FarrellUSA.com or for direct donations visit RedCross.org
photo courtesy of Farrell's

Monday, March 31, 2014

Blended Conference 2014: Why YOU Should Attend!

Last Fall, I had the opportunity to attend Blended: A Conference in the Desert. It was the first blogger conference I ever attended. I was what you'd call a "newbie blogger". (I actually still am) Although I was excited to attend, I was also very nervous about it. (I now know there was nothing to be nervous about) Although I'm not a shy person, blogging, and all that it entails, was an area new to me, so I really wasn't very sure of myself or even HOW I'd come across to others. At that point, I was even still trying to figure out my blogging niche, as well as the tech side of blogging.
I cannot even begin to describe how invaluable that experience of attending Blended last year was to me! It was a 1 day conference last year. This year, it's an entire weekend and after I saw the location  and the agenda for the weekend, I got even more excited!
I'm going to give you 5 great reasons why YOU should attended Blended this year!
Reason #1
You should attend because I will be there! 
Yep, I wouldn't miss Blended Conference 2014 for the world! I am so excited for the little road trip back to Arizona, from California, to see all of the friends I made at the conference last year, as well as to meet a whole bunch of new ones! (including you!) I'm not saying that I am like a headliner for the conference or anything, because I'm not, but I would consider myself a pretty fun bloggy friend to have. Oh, and I LOVE taking selfies with friends! Please attend so I can meet you!
Reason #2
You should attend because the ladies who are responsible for running the conference are are not only amazing, but are also both named "Wendy", which happens to be my name, so seriously, how can that NOT be a good enough reason on its own? 
I first met Wendy O'Neal from Around My Family Table and Wendy Wright from Choosing Love and Arizona Moms Network online. Before getting to actually meet these 2 in person, I was worried I'd be intimidated when I met them, but once we were all together at a dinner the night before the conference last year, I immediately felt comfortable talking to them and several other people I'd refer to as super bloggers, who I'd also only met online. I will admit that I sat there #fangirling Wendy and Wendy at the conference, but that's a good thing. They definitely land in my book as "superwomen" and I'm proud to be a part their #TeamWendy. Obviously if your name is also Wendy, you REALLY need to make sure to get to this conference!
Reason #3
You should attend because you'll have so many opportunities to network with other bloggers, the speakers and with some brands. 
This is a very important reason, especially if you are a new(er) blogger! Networking, meeting other bloggers, including the conference speakers, and actually starting relationships and friendships with them, is probably one of the most useful things you can take away from a conference. There is a big difference between meeting someone online, like on Facebook or Twitter, and actually meeting them in person, allowing them to get to know you, and you being able to get to know them. You never know who the person sitting next to you or across the table from you, really is, or what connections they may have. They also may see something in you that they like and throw some great opportunities your way! You just never know!
You also have the opportunity to network with brands, because there are brands represented at Blended conference and at certain times during the conference days, you have time to actually introduce yourself and meet some of the brands' PR people. PR people are really just regular people, so although it may be intimidating to approach them, you should just do it. Approach them with your business card, introduce yourself and just chat with them briefly.
You honestly never know who is going to make a positive connection with you or when it will happen, but it will! I speak from experience and like I said before, I'm still a newbie.
Reason #4
You should attend because, once again, there is a going to be a fabulous agenda with fabulous speakers (and fabulous food) at Blended this year! 
If you take a peek over the agenda, what you'll find is a ton of fun and knowledge coming your way!
*Scheduled Head Shots with Kate Eschbach on Friday afternoon! 
*Hands-on Workshops on Friday night
*Maureen Fitzgerald, also known as Wisconsin Mommy, will be talking about Creating a Media Kit.
*Christine Pittman from Cook the Story, will have a Food Styling...Live session.
*Dan Morris of Letters from Dan and Blogging Concentrated, will be presenting SEO Simplified.
*Rachel Martin of Finding Joy, will show How to Create an ebook from Your Existing Content
*Marley McMillan Beelman of Namely Marley, will present The Joy of Blogging
*Dear Blogger breakout sessions, for both beginning and advanced bloggers
*no hosted blogger dinners
*Blogging Concentrated for advanced bloggers presented by Dan Morris of Letters from Dan
Reason #5
You should attend because Blogging Concentrated for advanced bloggers is going to have its own day during Blended this year! 
This is an incredible offering that you just shouldn't pass up and very unique to this conference to have a component piggy backing like this! I had the pleasure of meeting Dan Morris recently at another conference and not only is he going to present a wealth of information, he is also a really fun guy to hang out with!

I could probably give so many more reasons why YOU should attend Blended Conference this fall! Maybe I'll write a 2nd post with Reasons #6-10....maybe!
To get more information about Blended and register for it, click here.
 I hope to see you there! 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Hop on Over to See the Bunny at a Simon Mall Near You

Spring has sprung! Yep, it's that time of year again! I know one of things that Emi enjoys doing is putting on her newest spring dress and visiting the Bunny at The Shops at Mission Viejo. The Bunny Photo Experience begins this year on March 22 and runs through April 19, at all 3 Simon Mall locations in the Southern California area.
The Bunny Photo Experience gives children the chance to visit with the Bunny and take home a treasured snapshot of the fun occasion. The presenting sponsor for the 2014 Bunny Photo Experience is Gymboree. 
Hop on in to the following locations:
  • Brea Mall: Begins March 22 and runs through April 19 on the mall’s lower level near the JCPenney wing. Visit www.facebook.com/events/1472396026309210/ for a complete list of dates and times.
  • Westminster Mall: Begins Thursday, March 27 at 5 p.m. and runs through Saturday, April 19 at 7 p.m.in Macy’s Court at Westminster Mall. Visit www.facebook.com/events/637522406300826/ for a complete list of dates and times.
  • The Shops at Mission Viejo: Begins Saturday, March 22 and runs through April 19 on the center’s lower level, near Nordstrom. Visit www.facebook.com/events/255388734631932/ for a complete list of dates and times.

In addition to regular mall hours for Bunny photos, this will be the first year they'll offer the Caring Bunny™ event The Shops at Mission Viejo. The Caring Bunny™ event will offer families that have children with special needs a subdued environment to participate in the Bunny Photo Experience. Caring Bunny has been developed by SPG and is guided by AbilityPath.org, a national online resource hub and special needs community. Over 80 Simon® properties will host the Caring Bunny this season.

On Sunday, April 13, from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., many steps will be taken to reduce sensory triggers, creating a more comforting environment for children’s cherished visit with the Bunny. The subdued environment is likely to include (specific elements or aesthetics may vary):
  • Turning off in-mall music, stopping escalators located near the photo set, dimming the lights and shutting down fountains for the duration of the event.
  • Eliminating queue lines through the use of a numbering system whereby guests approach the set when their number is called.
  • Special activities geared toward the needs of the child during the ‘wait’ period to help the child understand what activities will occur during the visit.



Simon Kidgits Club Easter Events  
The Simon Kidgits Club® will also host special Easter events in Orange County this April. Participants will receive a Kidgits® Easter bucket and Kidgits bunny ears as a keepsake to take home. The egg-citing celebrations will take place at the following centers:


  • Brea Mall: Kidgits Easter Spring Time Fun event on April 12 at noon at the Bunny Photo set, located on the lower level near the JCPenney wing. Kids can participate in various spring and Easter-themed craft-making activities and games.
  • Westminster Mall: Kidgits Eggcellent Easter Extravaganza event on April 12, 2014 from 10 a.m. to noon in Target Court. Kids can participate in various activities and games including a bounce house and crafts provided by Westminster Mall retailers.
  • The Shops at Mission Viejo: Kidgits Easter Eggstravaganza event on Saturday, April 5, from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. on the lower level, near Forever 21. Kids can participate in various activities and games including crafts courtesy of the retailers of The Shops at Mission Viejo, entertainment from The Best Bubble Parties and a special visit from the Easter Bunny. The Bubble show starts at approximately 8:45 a.m. and the Easter Bunny will visit with children around 9:30 a.m.

The Simon Kidgits Club is a fun and informative program that focuses on health, wellness, education, safety and entertainment for children ages 3-8.  The Simon Kidgits Club has kept children and parents alike amused for over a decade with various events and activities while providing incentives for club members, such as special offers, rewards and games.

For more information about the Simon Kidgits Club, visit www.simon.com/kidgits/.
photos courtesy of Simon Malls

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Day We Partied With Barbie and Ken at Farrell's

Barbie turned 55 yesterday! She's looks absolutely amazing for her age, don't you think? 
I grew up loving Barbies. I think Barbie was a favorite of most little girls and still is. 
Emi and I had the chance to attend Barbie's birthday celebration at Farrell's Restaurant. At each of their participating restaurant locations, there was a special celebration which included appearances by Barbie and Ken, games, prizes and even a special Barbie Birthday Zoo for the kids to share. 
We arrived a little bit early to find several little girls anxiously awaiting the start of the party and playing with their own Barbies outside of the Farrell's door.
When the doors opened and we were welcomed into the party room, 
we saw that the room was decorated for Barbie's birthday. 
Emi insisted that we bring her own Barbie table and chairs and she set it up right on the party table. (notice Barbie's own tiny banana split and homemade birthday card on her table). 
All of the children were so excited when the party host first introduced Ken! Everyone clapped and Ken appeared in the room. I couldn't help but laugh out loud because he kept the stiff posed arms throughout the celebration. The Ken they chose was so adorable and had so much personality!
Soon after, Ken introduced Barbie and when she came out, 
with her stiff arms too. Barbie was as adorable and talented as Ken was.
They were the most amazing performers that this Farrell's could've found for this event and were both beyond animated, beautiful, and never broke character. You could just tell that "Barbie" and "Ken" were genuinely having fun with the kids. I certainly appreciate their version of this Barbie song...
video
The kids  were so excited to play games with Barbie and Ken. First they played a trivia game, to see how much they knew about Barbie! Emi actually won TWO prizes in the trivia game! I have no idea how she knew Barbie's full name, but that was one of the questions she answered! 
Then they played "Hot Pig" (it's like Hot Potato) with Barbie while Ken played the drum.
 Did I mention that this Ken is amazing on the Farrell's drum? 
video
After the games, the kids all got to share the special Barbie Zoo! What a treat! 
Emi was in heaven getting to have ice cream at 10:30 a.m. and before lunch!
At the end of the party, the kids got to have their pictures taken with Barbie and Ken! 
The most powerful part of the whole event for me, was the statement Farrell's made, without saying a word! For them to show the children (and adults) in attendance at Barbie's birthday celebration, that Barbie and Ken are NOT ALWAYS blond-haired and blue-eyed with white skin, was something that I wish more companies would do.  I don't think there was one child at the party who noticed anything different about this Barbie and Ken, which is what makes me smile most! I thanked the manager, Chad, not only for hosting this fun event, but also for opting to feature a non-traditional Barbie and Ken to the kids! I honestly think there needs to be more of these kinds of occurrences in our society! Thank you Farrell's! You really wowed me...again!