Family Vacation Plans in Missouri #VisitM

This post brought to you by Missouri Division of Tourism. All opinions are 100% mine.

I realized the other day that I’ve never been to Missouri.  You might be thinking “well, that’s not so strange” but it kind of is, since one of my sisters lived there and was married there.  I also have friends there- some “real life” and some blogging friends, and I’d love to visit with them and connect in person.  Missouri also seems to be a very family friendly place to visit.  I was quite pleasantly surprised at just how much there is to do, even on a tight budget!

We love to explore when we travel.  We are not sit on the beach and sun ourselves kind of people, although anyone who knows me knows I did my fair share in high school and college.  We like to get out and explore, see and do what there is to find.  Hiking famous trails?  Yes, please.  Water activities?  Absolutely.  Animals? Of course! My husband and kids would be happy to just go fishing in a new spot daily- I’m fine with fishing, and I do enjoy it, I just don’t like to touch the worms.  Or the fish.  I guess I like to cast and reel the line in.  There’s apparently thousands of great hunting and fishing spots in Missouri.  Who knew? (Probably people in Missouri knew, I do realize that).

If we were to make a trip out to Missouri, I think we’d probably spend a week- a few days to chill and visit friends…and a few days just exploring.

Exploring Day 1:

Ever heard of a float trip? Me either.  Or rather, I hadn’t until today. I Bing’ed it and I want to go tomorrow. it. We’d do this on day 1.

Visit Laura Ingalls Wilder’s home.  My kids love the books and they love the show.  It would be a “must do” for us.

Exploring Day 2:

Visit St. Louis Zoo (it’s FREE!)

Visit Grant’s Farm

Exploring Day 3: See where the “Wild West Began;”  visit St. Joseph and Independence, Mo.

Exploring Day 4: Professional Sports Game (season dependent) and kid museum visit!

Definitely see “the Arch” and enjoy some barbecue!!

Be sure to like VisitMO on Facebook and follow VisitMO on Twitter for news and events!  

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Campfire in A Can Portable Propane Fire Pit

A few weeks ago, while searching for camping gear, I came across a really neat product. I contacted Campfire in A Can and they sent me one of their products to try out. Within 10 minutes of receiving it I was able to get it hooked up to a propane tank and fired up.
campfire in a can feature

My family and I love to sit around a campfire and talk while watching the flames flicker. Sometimes I wish I did not have to get dirty starting the fire or smell like a campfire when I go to bed. Thanks to the great people at Campfire in a Can for sending me a great solution. Campfire in a Can is a portable propane fire pit for the backyard and camping. It can safely be used on a deck and you can also cook on it. I can see us using this all year-round and really enjoying it.
It comes with a cover that can be closed tight or left open a bit to allow for the propane tube to stay attached.
Campfire in a Can with Cover

Features

Compact light weight: Dia.15″ x H 10.5″. Easy to carry at only 16.5 lbs.
Aluminum canister top functions as a stand and protective carrying case
Adjustable shut off valve allows easy control of desired fire size up to 64,000 BTU’s
Pedestal style base provides easy internal storage of 10′ hose & regulator
Removable cooking grate, perfect for the coffee pot or skillet
Easy RV hook up: Propane hose fittings are 1/4″ thread
Collapsible carry handle folds flat for easy storage
Realistic one-piece log set for an authentic wood burning campfire appearance
Fire Ban Approved, enjoy a campfire anywhere, anytime
CSA Certified
Can be converted to Natural Gas
No Messy Vermiculite

I love that you can cook on it and it comes with a cooking grate.  A fun and quick way to make some s’mores or hobo pies.  We are going to get so much use out of our Campfire In A Can.

Hobo Pies campfire in a can

Look HERE to see if there is a dealer near you or order on line and receive free shipping.

 

I received the product to help facilitate my review.  All opinions are my own.

 

 

Where would you use your Campfire In A Can?

 

 

VISIT FLORIDA’s 500 Years of Adventure Sweepstakes

This post brought to you by VISIT FLORIDA. All opinions are 100% mine.

Ponce de Leon first explored Florida in 1513 paving the way for 500 years of exploring the Sunshine State by billions of visitors from all around the world. What better way to celebrate 500 years, than to give away a trip every week in 2013?  That’s what VISIT FLORIDA was thinking with their Florida’s 500 Years of Adventure Sweepstakes- they decided to give away a trip EVERY WEEK in 2013.  A trip. EVERY WEEK.  Sign me up please (Literally.  Sign. Me. Up. and pick me?). One of my favorite things about this promotion, aside from the giving away of the trips, is that it’s not all the same trips, nor to the same area of Florida.  Each week is a different trip showcased so if it’s not a week you’d be interested in, you simply don’t enter that week and sit tight until the following week.

Enter the Florida’s 500 Years of Adventure Sweepstakes for a chance to win a new Florida adventure every week! Each week VISIT FLORIDA is giving away exciting Florida adventure packages that include rental car, hotel accommodations, and other exciting “what to do about town” activities!

Entry into this sweepstakes is super simple.  The entry form asks for name, email, phone number and also asks if you want to opt into 4 separate items. It looks exactly like this:

And takes all of 30 seconds to complete.  More if you need to stop to refill your coffee like me. Once you finish, you’ll get a confirmation screen…

And that’s it.  You are entered. I hope you win.

For me, I’ve been to Florida many times.  Or rather, I’ve been to Orlando many times, and Tampa a few.  That’s about the extent of my Florida experience.  While I do love doing the amusement parks and have thoroughly enjoyed each and every Disney World visit and my few times at Universal Studios, as well as my other jaunts like the Makinson’s Island hike, Florida EcoSafaris and Boggy Creek Airboat Rides, there are just so many other areas of Florida I  have yet to experience.

I’d love to head to some of the beach areas and just relax and enjoy beach living for a few days or a week….like maybe Key West?

Be sure to follow @VISITFLORIDA on Twitter to keep up with the latest Florida adventures.

Are you going to enter the Florida’s 500 Years of Adventure Sweepstakes?  What are your favorite Florida memories?

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I can’t believe this is Walgreens #BosWag #CBias

I was invited to the opening of the Walgreens flagship store opening by Collective Bias®.  I was compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias ™ and Walgreens #CBias #SocialFabric  All Opinions are my own.

walgreens flagship downtown crossing

About a month ago I received an email telling me that there was going to be a Flagship store grand opening for Walgreens in Boston, Masachusetts.  Intrigued, I wondered just what a flagship store could be… and did I want to come up and attend the opening, and then share with my readers?  Well, yes, yes I did.  Now I’m going to tell you about this amazing store and I apologize if you end up wishing you lived in an area where there was or will soon be a flagship Walgreens store.

walgreens flagship boston pharmacy

First things first. I want you to take all of the things you know and think about with Walgreens, and then kind of push them aside.  I mean, yes, the things that your local Walgreens sells are still at the flagship store. Why? Because….

You can get fresh sushi prepared by chefs.  In front of you.  At Walgreens.

manicure in boston at walgreens

You can get a manicure (for $12!).  At Walgreens.  You can get designs applied, or a gel manicure, for a little bit more.  High end products, and trained and licensed nail technicians.  At Walgreens.

You can get your eyebrows “done” or your eyelashes applied.  At Walgreens.

walgreens flagship pharmacist out front

You can see the Pharmacist, seated, ready to talk with patients and give them quality care. You can also see the consultation room just off to the side. That door shuts and the room is soundproof.

You can have a private consultation with your pharmacist behind a closed door in a sound proof room.  At Walgreens.  Which reminds me- there’s this whole concept Walgreens has with their pharmacy, and they want to focus on the care their pharmacists can provide to customers so the pharmacist is sitting out front, accessible and approachable.  At Walgreens.

You can pick up wine, beer and spirits.  At Walgreens.  (Please note, when I say wine, beer and spirits, I am not just talking about a few shelves.  The Walgreens at Downtown Crossing (School and Washington)  has a mezzanine level that’s all wine, beer and spirits, including a section with imported cheeses, chilled wines (hello, staying in an area hotel?  STOP BY!)…and a fun little machine that helps you pair the aforementioned mezzanine level items with your dishes being served. Remember, this is still at Walgreens.

Want a soda?  (Do you call it pop where you live? I know people do, but it’s kind of strange to me, having spent all 38 years and 360 days of my life to date living in New England) There’s a Coke Freestyle machine and you can choose from 146 flavors.  One hundred forty six options.  At Walgreens.

Love smoothies?  There’s a smoothie bar.  At Walgreens.  And something super fun about the smoothie bars is the local “flavor” in the smoothie varieties and names- in Boston, there are references to the Red Sox (my team!) and lots of other local sites, teams, and historical references.  It is, in 2 words, wicked awesome.  At Walgreens.

walgreens flagship localization

Local foods, local spirits, local beers and local culture are all pulled into the Downtown Crossing Flagship store. It’s wicked fun to see all of the Boston “phrases” and expressions in huge prints on the wall when you first enter this building- and yes, wicked is on there.

Love high end cosmetics and beauty items?  The Look Boutique has it all.  So many brands, so many products….and so much fun.  The folks who work in the Look Boutique are specially trained and know their stuff.  If you haven’t heard of Ramy Cosmetics, well, I’m sad for you.  Ramy is known for his eyebrow technique (No waxing! No threading!) and he tamed my wooly caterpillar brows for me.  At Walgreens.  (When you are there, you need to look for the magic wand. I need to go to Boston so I can buy like 5 of them. I totally forgot to get some before I left. The official name of this is the Perfect Eye Wand but really, it’s a magic wand).

You’ll find the everyday brands that you are used to finding at Walgreens in the flagship stores, but you’ll also find Mineral Sea Mud products that I thought only came from exclusive salons and if you ask nicely (and I did, not surprisingly), they might even give you a little demo on your hand, so you can see what this stuff can do.  (It comes off with a magnet! I wish I had a video- especially of my face when they pulled a magnet out!).  All of this…at Walgreens.

Other amazing things you will find at a flagship store: Virtual Makeover Kiosks so you can see just how that Maybelline or Loreal product will look ON YOU.  There’s a sample kiosk that offers $1 samples of many, many beauty products- it works like a vending machine- but you’re getting a sample enclosed in a very nice envelope (it looks like a present!) and with the samples?  $2-$3 coupons to use on the full sized version of the samples you purchased.  One of the other bloggers who attended this event with me tried this Sample It machine (from Coinstar, and you won’t (for now) find it anywhere else in the country) and tried the machine- she got a lip gloss sample- several colors came in that envelope- very generous sample, and a very generous coupon to boot!

Want to see more photos from the opening?  Check out my Google Plus album! I want to know what you think- can you believe this is Walgreens?

flagship walgreens grand opening

Next time you are in Boston, go to Walgreens.  It’s worth it.  I can’t wait until I’m in Boston again and can visit the store once more. This is not your mama’s drugstore chain.  It’s not your mama’s Walgreens!

 

 

ENO Singlenest Hammock

ENO Singlenest hammock

When ENO/Eagles Nest Outfitters agreed to send me one of their Singlenest hammocks I got really excited.  I love to lay in a hammock but I don’t want a large frame in our yard or to have to install posts to hang one from.  The ENO Singlenest is very easy to set up.  In addition to the ENO Singlenest hammock, they also sent me a set of the Altas straps.  These straps are durable and so easy to use.  Within 5 minutes of receiving these products, my 8 year old and I had the hammock set up on the deck.  This hammock will always be in our camper and ready to be hung wherever we travel.

ENO singlenest hammock packed

The ENO Singlenest hammock weighs only 17 oz, holds up to 400 lbs and has an attached compression stuff sack for easy storage.  This makes it great for backpacking, RVing and throwing in the picnic basket.  It is made of breathable, quick drying nylon so if you leave it out over night you don’t have to worry about it being wet all day.  ENO Singlenest Hammock comes in at least 25 different color combinations and would make a great gift for that hard to shop for person.

ENO singlenest hammock with atlas strapThe ENO Singlenest and other ENO hammocks can be purchased online or at many brick and mortar locations.  Check for you nearest retailer HERE.

I was provided with the products to facilitate this review.  All opinions are my own.

CareFree Mats for RVs, the Patio or the Beach

The great people at CareFree Mats sent me this awesome mat to put under our RV awning.  I love the pattern of the mat and that it is so versatile. The first thing our campground neighbors said to us when we set up was, “Can we have your mat?”

Care Free Awning Mat

This CareFree Mat helps limit the amount of dirt and rocks that get tracked in to the RV and also defines an outdoor living space while we are camping.  It was set up quickly by a 5 year old and an 8 year old.

CareFree Mats can be used under an RV Awning, or under a tent as ground cover.  They are also great on a deck or patio to limit the tracking of dirt from the yard.  They are easy to clean and to store.   A few other places these mats have been used are  daycare centers, party events, flea markets, horse racing, dog shows, car shows, Nascar events, and camper shows.  CareFree Mats come in sizes that make them a great choice for a picnic or day at the beach.

They come in several patterns (2 new patterns will be launched soon) and colors

and 3 sizes:  6 feet by 9 feet, 9 feet by 12 feet, and I received the 9 feet by 18 feet mat.

From the CareFree Mats Website:

The CareFree Mats® brand Mat is made from 100% Polypropylene (plastic) tubes.  These tubes are woven using a special technique to produce a Mat this is strong yet allows air and water to pass through.  A UV stabilizer is used to protect the color of the Mat to resist fading and damage from the sun.  The combination of unique manufacturing, weaving and polypropylene (PPL) tubes produces a Mat that is well suited for outdoor activities while being eco-friendlyCareFree Mats® brand RV Awning and Patio Mats are lightweight, and available in custom designs, colors and sizes that are perfect for your outdoor activities.  All of our Mats are SEAMLESS with nylon reinforced corners that have a stake down loop.  Each Mat has two fold lines that make it easy to fold into a compact size (even our largest Mat) and store in our free, high quality, Storage / Carrying Bag.

CareFree Mat with mallet and stakes careFree mat for camping in storage bag

 In addition to a great product, the customer service and quick replies to emails was outstanding.  I think that says a lot about a company and how much they stand behind their products.

A CareFree Mat was sent to me to facilitate this review.  All opinions are my own.

Westin Kids Club Activities at the Westin Copley Place

Over President’s Day weekend, the kids and I headed up to Boston for a few days of fun.  The Westin Copley Place invited us to come up and check out their Kids Club, which was having it’s first vacation event.  There’s nothing else to say except that we had a blast!  I was particularly excited to visit the Westin because they have a lot of green and sustainable ideas that they put into practice. Environmentally friendly bath products, vouchers given for days you refuse maid service, CFL and LED lightbulbs throughout the hotel, salt water pool, low flow shower heads and more.  They are a pet friendly hotel for dogs up to 40lbs.



We had no idea when we were on the way to the hotel that we’d be on the top floor.  We had views of most of the city!  The rooms are beautiful- and the beds make you never, ever want to leave. Ever.  If  I was the stealing type I’d have snuck the sheets and comforter into our luggage.  And the mattress.  It was most definitely a Heavenly Bed as promised.  Even with my 3 year old kicking me in the neck both nights, I slept better than I have in years.

westin copley rooms

Shortly after our check in for the Kids Club Winter Vacation event, housekeeping knocked on the door and we got some cookies and milk– Westin style! The kids were amazed at this spread- I was too!  Huge warm cookies, fresh milk in real milk bottles (on ice), and an assortment of fresh fruit.  Sparkling and spring water for the adults was also included with a nice welcome note from the hotel management.  Top notch.  Also, complimentary for the Kids Club Winter Vacation program guests.  My kids haven’t ever had room service before so this was a huge treat in many, many ways.

cookies and milk westin

Shortly after the cookies were gobbled, we headed down to paint some ceramics on another floor, the Kids Club vacation activity for the day.  I’d assumed there would be a few pieces to choose from, but there were several, and the kids were allowed to paint more than one if they wanted!  Lots of fun, and the planning that went into this was great- normally paint your own pottery has to be kiln fired but the staff was able to find some glaze that made the pieces look fired, even though they weren’t. I need to find out if I can use my mug that my son painted for me for my coffee- I’m not sure if the glaze is food grade or not.  Regardless, the kids had a blast.  The snack spread in the room that was available at all of the Kids Club Vacation events was great for both adults and kids- cold drinks, fruit, and snacks.  Excellent touches to make things easier for us.

pottery painting at westin kids club

Each day of the week held a different Kids Club activity during the week.  There were family movie nights, family game nights, crafts like picture frame making, pottery painting, cookie decorating, tie dye-ing t shirts, and more.  Each activity was set up with the snack station so that parents and kids didn’t have to look far for cold water, juice, soda or a light snack.  There were a lot of details that were very well thought out.  Having all of these activities planned throughout the week was really great for families who didn’t want to be on the go, go go all day every day.  We actually enjoyed things so much we never left the building while we were there- we did go explore the attached mall across the Skywalk when there was blizzard-like conditions on our second morning but rushed back to enjoy the cookie decorating and tour of the kitchen with the Chefs.  That was my kids’ favorite part of the trip- it was really fun to see where all of the foods and supplies are kept and made to feed so many people!

turner fisheries dinner

The food was fantastic everywhere we ate while at the Westin.  Anyplace who serves cookies like this must have good food, yes?  We got to eat at Turner Fisheries and oh.my.goodness. Delightful experience. I wasn’t sure how well received I’d be with the three kids in tow but we were welcomed with open arms, seated in the solarium part of the restaurant so we had a view of the street- which was lots of fun for the kids to people watch.  The kids were excited they got colored pencils for coloring on their placemats instead of the normal crayons (maybe we don’t get out much?) so that was big news.  The food was amazing and it was nice to be at a restaurant that believes in sustainable fishing practices– while none of us had seafood (my oldest wanted lobster and they didn’t have any right then, and my dinner came with crab meat on top of the filet but I don’t eat things from the water…) its always nice to know of places who are like-minded to the idea that we have to be responsible in how we interact with our world.

If you are looking for a different spin on a hotel stay, definitely check out the Westin Kids Club Vacation Packages.  You’ll save a lot and get a lot of extras with your rates- at the Westin Copley Place, the rate included breakfast for kids (with adult), milk & cookies at check-in, parking ($47/day) and all of the activities and crafts.  There’s a nice and not super deep heated pool that kids can enjoy from 5am to 10pm that’ll keep the kids active and let them get some energy out!

For everyday with the Westin Kids Club, younger guests get coloring books and bath toys, and enjoy the story line, a bedtime story service over the phone. Westin Kids Club® is the only hotel children’s program that offers special services and amenities for infants.

Other items available on request at no additional charge:

  • Bottle Warmers

  • Diapers and Wipes

  • Strollers

  • The Heavenly Crib

  • Bed rails

I can’t wait to see the next vacation week plans that the Westin Kids Club makes- and I hope we get to be part of it! Thank you so much for having us!

No Limits: Top Three (European) Budget Holiday Destinations

Regardless of how much you’ve saved up, holiday costs can feel never ending. Even once your flights and accommodation have been taken care of, you’ll need money for insurance, daytrips, dinners out – not to mention those spontaneous purchases you’re unlikely to be able to resist…and with the weather outside creating conditions like this one below, the thought of vacation is more appealing than ever! I want to escape- now!

snowstorm

So if the thought of paying out is putting the kibosh on your holiday plans, why not consider going somewhere a little less pricey than usual? By choosing a location which is outside of the tourist trap, the living costs will be low, ultimately allowing you to gain an authentic – and more importantly, low-cost – experience. Here are our recommendations for just three destinations to visit on a shoe-string!

Portugal

As an already established holiday resort, Portugal’s Algarve coast is assumed to be pretty pricey. However, it is in fact one of the most affordable destinations in the whole of Europe. A recent survey uncovered the surprising statistic that on average, a small supermarket shop is likely to cost just half the amount of one in similar holiday resort like Corfu. With lots of travel companies offering budget flights to various towns in the Algarve, you’re bound to find Thomson vouchers to enable you to get even more money off.

Egypt

With the unfortunate political situation dominating most of the news surrounding Egypt, many people have been put off visiting the country in recent years. However, the recent changes do spell good news for tourists looking for budget destinations. Although some of the biggest tourist sites are still fairly expensive to get into, the beautiful scenery of places like the Sharm el-Sheikh’s reefs are totally free; furthermore, by trying to get your hands on free Expedia discount codes you could end up booking flights at a reduced price. With a lovely combination of good weather and cultural attraction, a trip here could be just the ticket.

Russia

As most holiday makers flock to sunnier climes during the summer, locations within Russia remain happily untouched. Although Moscow is often thought of as an expensive city, as tourism increases, hotel owners are becoming a bit savvier with regards to hotel prices – if you search for Thomas Cook vouchers, you’ll be surprised at the amount of deals available! For even more of an unconventional trip, head into hidden Russia; locations like Tatarstan and Ivanovo are guaranteed to provide a really authentic and culturally rich experience.

If money worries are threatening to destroy your holiday dreams, simply think twice about the location! With a bit more sense and an adventurous spirit, you could end up having a real travel experience to remember.

Husky Liners Review and Giveaway

Husky Liner Cargo MatOur new Husky Liners cargo liner and floor mats arrived the day before a huge blizzard hit Connecticut.  I was so excited to see the boxes on the front porch when I arrived home from work.  We love Husky Liners because they are custom-fit for each make and model.  They also have raised containment walls and tread pattern the mess stays away from your shoes. With a lifetime warranty against cracking and breaking, it is hard to beat the value of this great product.  The are available for Front Seat, 2nd Seat, 3rd Seat, Center Hump and Cargo in Black, Grey or Tan.  Husky Liners are also Made in the USA.

Husky Liner mats delivered hours before the blizzard hit.

Husky Liner mats delivered hours before the blizzard hit.

Features of the Husky Liners

  • Features the original “classic tread plate” design (My husband loves the diamond plate design)
  • Designed to contour the complex surfaces of your specific vehicle’s floorboard, using the latest in laser scanning technology. Laser Scanning Technology provides a precision fit contour design for your specific vehicle’s floorboard.
  • Raised containment walls to help keep mud, mess and spills on the liner and off your vehicles expensive, hard to clean carpet.
  • Most late model vehicles feature the Patented Form-fit Edge™ design.
  • Front & Back Seat Floor Liners are sold separately.
back_carseat_HuskyLiner

These mats hold the messes and are easily removed to be rinsed out. Also, look how it covers the hump between the seats.

floor_mat_HuskyLiner

This is after one week of use. I love the high sides that protect the carpet from all that water, salt and sand.


One reader will a set of front floor liners (subject to availability for specific make and model)
.

<aa Rafflecopter giveaway

I was provided with product to facilitate this review.  All opinions are my own.

 

 

 

Happy Campers, We Got an RV

CamperRVTravelMy family and I love to take trips and we always try to keep it affordable.  So, after spending some time at local campgrounds with some friends we decided to buy a camper.    I had no idea the amount of activities and amenities they offer at the campgrounds.   Previously my camping experiences consisted of damp tents, long walks to the bathrooms and bad sleep.  I don’t hate tent camping but RV camping is more desirable.  I spent a few months reading about RVs and learning the difference between, popups, hybrids and travel trailers.  I searched Craigslist, went to an RV show, and finally found one I really liked on Bargain News.  We took a look at it and we made an offer.  A few weeks later we became the proud owners of a cute Cruiser Fun Finder.

RV TV Stereo amenities

RV amenities, microwave, gas stove

The Fun Finder is currently parked in our yard.  We are getting to know all of the systems in it and enjoying just hanging out in it.  The first day we had it we watched a Garfield movie and had snacks in our home on wheels.  The three of us, my husband, son and I, are ready for some new adventures.  We love to see new places, be outdoors, hike, ride bikes and be together.  We are all excited to hitch the RV up and head to some new campgrounds.  We will start off staying pretty close to home as we get used to towing it.  There are some really great campgrounds in CT that offer daily activities for the kids, heated pools, large playgrounds and restaurants.  We also want to try out some of the state parks.  We won’t always be traveling alone.  Our dog, Beta will be an RVer soon too.

RV camping with a pet

Check out this great game for camping or backyard fun.    http://mamalovesherbargains.com/2012/07/snipe-hunt-family-game/

Have you ever been camping in a tent, RV, Yurt or small cottage?  What is your favorite thing about camping?