Sunday, April 29, 2012

Giveaway: Hallmark's Interactive Christopher Story Buddy and Storybook

As I mentioned in my last post, I recently attended an event put on by Hallmark. Aside from the many other great things about the event, we also got to take home a pretty spectacular swag bag, and one of the items inside was Hallmark's Interactive Christopher Story Buddy and Storybook. In the past three days since the event, Ava has played with him nonstop. I'm pretty sure I could recite the book by heart!
Now, I'm going to give one of the very same items away to one of my fabulous readers! All you have to do is follow my blog via GFC! If you'd like extra entries, here are some ways to score them:
- Follow me on Twitter.
- "Like" me on my new Facebook page.
- Tweet about the giveaway with this link (can be done once per day):
 #Giveaway: Enter to win a @Hallmark story buddy and storybook at Unexpectedly Expecting Baby here

This giveaway will close at 11:59 PM CST on Saturday, May 5th, 2012. For disclosure information, click here.

Happy entering, and - to steal a very popular expression these days - may the odds be ever in your favor :)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Moments and Milestones: Hallmark Tour Visits Austin, and Invites Me!

Not to brag, but last week I received an email, inviting me to participate in a breakfast event that Hallmark was putting on in Austin this morning. Being a big fan of greeting cards, snail mail and all things expressing one's feelings, I jumped at the chance, taking the morning off for a "doctor appointment" (blog event doesn't suggest quite the same urgency...) and heading over to the gorgeous Mansion at Judge's Hill.
I was one of the first people there, despite punctuality usually being my weak point, and as such had the wonderful opportunity to meet and talk to the lovely ladies behind the event: Danielle Mousley, graphic designer and photo stylist; Monica Delaorra, editorial director; and Linda Morris, innovation leader.
After the initial introductions, we sat down to a lovely breakfast and got right down to business. The first thing that we were shown was a lovely compilation that Hallmark had put together from little snippets and photos we had submitted prior to the event on what motherhood meant to us. It was a beautiful, heartwarming presentation, and also helped us all to get a better feel for one another as bloggers: some were humorous and some were heartfelt, but they all captured the essence of motherhood in a way that no parenting book could. After the video, we also checked out the upcoming Hallmark commercial for Mother's Day, which was a great segue to the topic of the event: moments and milestones. The premise, one that Hallmark is an absolute professional in, was how important it is to our loved ones to tell them how we feel and how much they mean to us not only on special occasions, but every day as well. This really hit home for me for so many reasons, not least of which is that this is a sentiment I really want to pass on to Ava. I try to not take things for granted, and I want to teach her to do the same. I saw a quote the other day that really stuck for me: "What if you woke up tomorrow only with what you thanked God for today?" The premise that we should be thankful for what we have most importantly applies to people, and what better way to show our gratitude to have them in our lives than to tell them how we feel. And, to that end, what better way than with a greeting card?
Each of the three speakers then had a chance to talk about how they came to work at Hallmark, and what their job was. All three women's jobs really interested me, but the presenter I found most interesting was Danielle, the photo stylist, because I had zero idea about all that went into her job. Did you know that they iron tissue paper for photo shoots? It'll be a cold day before I break out the iron for clothes, let alone tissue paper, but it was one of many interesting tips Danielle gave on the creative process behind photo shoots! Another fun thing we did - and one that made it easier to get to know other ladies who were at one of the other two tables - was fill in the prompt "tell me..." on the pink shirts we were given at entry. What are things you'd want to tell someone, or would want to be told by someone you love? So many people had great responses - almost all centering around their children - and it was a great activity. Unfortunately I had to leave before the event ended - "doctor's appointments" seldom top two hours - and so I only just got to participate in the writing activity we did where we captioned photos that they showed us, but it seemed like a ton of fun! And, last but not least, we got to take home some major swag. Ava may have missed me all morning, but it took seconds for her to forgive my absence with the goodies I brought back:
Despite having to cut my time at the Hallmark tour short, I had an amazing time. In fact, I left there with the feel that I would adore working for Hallmark - all three ladies seemed to adore their jobs! And, on a side note that I'll talk more about in another post, I'm available ;) Thank you so much to the wonderful team at Hallmark for this amazing, interactive event this morning!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Our Trip to the Houston Zoo!

In case you're not already on picture and animal overload from my post yesterday about our Sea World San Antonio trip, today I'm going to share with you pics from this weekend, when we headed down South to see David's parents, and go to the Houston Zoo. It was a surprisingly fun trip, except that I was SICK. Even so, I rallied and spent a family day at the zoo, soaking up being a newly confirmed member of the family :D If you haven't been to the Houston Zoo and live near enough to make a day of it, I highly recommend the trip! We've been to a lot of zoos in Ava's two years, and this one was by far the nicest. I was extremely impressed by the facility, as well as the range of animals and experiences. We'll definitely be going back! Check out some highlights: Gorgeous scenery EVERYWHERE!
This tunnel was one of the coolest things we did!
He needed a boost...
Ava loves turtles. Even mean ones.
"It's the Circle of Life..."
Bevo. On steroids.
Too cool for school.
It looks like there isn't even a barrier!
Waltzing through the caves:
Feeding the giraffes:
Group picture:
American Eagle:
Ava driving a ship :)
Brushing the goats at the children's petting zoo:
I'd never seen a real life Mandrill before!
Monkeying around with grandpa!
How awesome are jellyfish (when behind glass)..?
Daddy and Ava at the zoo!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Our Mini Honeymoon - Family Style!

I've hinted at a little trip of ours in previous posts, but only now am I far enough out from wedding chaos and whatnot to get to sit down and tell y'all about our mini honeymoon and trip to San Antonio. First off, let me tell you how excited I was when GM contacted me after my car accident. They reached out and let me know that they, too, knew how devastating it could be to feel unsafe in your vehicle after a major accident, and that they'd like to offer me the chance to drive something in their super safe fleet of cars/trucks/SUV's, if I'd like. And, to make sure that I got the complete driving experience, they threw in a trip to San Antonio to stay and visit Sea World with Ava, who just thought the entire experience was divine!
Naturally, I said yes. I've had my eye on a Chevy Tahoe or GMC Yukon for some time now, and with the increased safety features and bells and whistles, I thought that now was the optimal time to take one for a spin. They delivered my GMC Yukon Denali (woot woot!) to my door, and it took no time at all before Ava and I were IN. LOVE. Now I'm no stranger to luxury features in a vehicle - I like my cars equipped. But let me tell you, even I was amazingly impressed with all that the Denali had to offer. One touch sunroof? Yes please. DVD in dash with two screens? Um, absolutely! Blind spot sensor to alert you to the possibility of a collision? I feel safer already! Back up camera? Where have you been all my life? And my personal favorite - the remote start. You guys know it's hot as all heck in Texas, so with the remote start, the car could be practically cool by the time I got Ava into her car seat. WIN.
Once we established that the features were top of the line and learned to work them all, we decided that it was time to take her for a spin. Now, I don't say this lightly. I've been driving Fords for seven years, including two Explorers and an Expedition. BUT, if I'm being completely honest, after driving my Denali for week, my Explorer feels like a clunker! The Denali rode so smoothly and so nicely - it was an absolute delight to someone who gets so motion sick!!! As for Ava, she's been asking me nonstop if we can watch Yogi bear when we get in the car. Doh! Definitely missing that DVD player!!!
As for GM, I cannot say enough good things about the entire company, but especially Vicki Cosgrove! Our trip was amazing (pics in a minute!), but it ended on a stressful note with Ava getting pretty rapidly sick. Whether it was from the heat - despite it being a gorgeous day, Ava has a history of severe heat sickness - or from something she ate, we weren't sure, but when we were in a panic over how to take her home, they swooped in and saved the day! We are so grateful! Now, here are some pics of our fun family trip! We arrived to find a special honeymoon gift for us to enjoy! So thoughtful!
The view from our balcony (oh yes, that's a swim up bar!):
Ready to par-tay!
Sea World:
Family shot:
Shamu, just walking around the park :)
Coral Reef tank:
Ava was captivated by the Shamu "One Ocean" Show. She LOVES Shamu!
We splashed and played at the Sesame Street Bay of Play - a HUGE hit!
We even got to hand feed dolphins!!!! Definitely the coolest part for mama!
All in all, it was one of our best family days ever! We had such a lovely time, and are so thankful and indebted to GM for the amazing trip and ride! In fact, we're currently doing a bit of car shopping!!!!! Thank you SO much, GM! Something tells me we'll remember this trip our whole marriage long :)
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