August 31, 2013

Grand Rapids, MI :: Cool City. Great Beer. Perfect Getaway.




I actually had no idea that such a cool city was waiting for us just three hours away. My husband I went on a fantastic getaway to Grand Rapids, MI. I was surprised that it is such a thriving and cultural city. Downtown is very much alive and kicking and reminded me a mini Chicago. 


Grand Rapids has so much to do and see. We had a very hard time deciding how to spend our three day getaway! You can definitely easily fill an entire week with all of the museums, attractions, restaurants and breweries. Yes, I said breweries. Did you know that Grand Rapids was named Beer City, USA?! Neither did I. But more on that later.


Experience Grand Rapids booked us an amazing room at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel. We were welcomed with a lovely welcome bag! This premier hotel blends the elegant history of the 1920s Pantlind Hotel with modern amenities of today. With 682 attractive guest rooms and suites, you'll experience the timeless beauty of the early 20th century. We had a corner room in the 29-story Glass Tower. It was absolutely stunning. Amenities include a fitness facility, 24-hour room service, as well as boutiques and a Spa and Salon.


The Amway has everything you need including a sports bar, deli, Starbucks, family restaurants, as well as fine dining. We got breakfast one morning at Conucopia (left) which is more of a grab and go kind of establishment. Another morning we chose the breakfast buffet at Bentham's Riverfront Restaurant (center). The breakfast buffet offered a very nice selection in a quiet environment with a great river view. We even got dessert at GP Sports Bar one night (right). I have never seen so many TVs! Just about every game you can imagine was playing on one of them. That was a more casual environment.


Our corner room was incredible! Two entire walls were windows giving us the most amazing views of the city! The night views were my favorite. If you stay at the Amway Grand, make sure you request a corner room. You will not regret it! The service and accommodations were fabulous.


I liked wandering about the hotel corridors as much as I loved being in the room. The classical architecture is just breathtaking. I felt like I stepped onto the set of an old Hollywood movie. All of the gold and the chandeliers were gorgeous! 


The Amway Grand Plaza has been making history since the original hotel - The Pantlind - opened in 1913. Fashioned after English Adams architecture by designers Warren & Wetmore, the hotel's special details included one of the world's largest gold-leaf ceilings in the Pantlind lobby. By 1925, The Pantlind was rightfully ranked "One of the Ten Finest Hotels in America." That distinguished history paved the way for the new Amway Grand Plaza Hotel.


These are all views at different times of the day from our room. I mean come on! It looks like a postcard! Our stay at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel was one we will not soon forget. I would highly recommend you stay there not only for its history, beauty and premier service, but it is also very conveniently located downtown. Just about everything we wanted to see and do was within walking distance.


We enjoyed dinner one night at Charley's Crab Restaurant located on the Grand River. We love seafood, so we decided to give it a try! You will find fresh fish and seafood in this business casual upscale restaurant. I loved our table (left) which had a great view of the river. I ordered the Macadamia Coconut Shrimp (center) which was delicious and flavorful. My husband ordered two appetizers, the Maryland Style Crab Cake and Dynamite Scallops (right). He loved both. We could see why Charley's Crab was voted Restaurant of the Year by Grand Rapids Magazine. Expect to pay for this experience though. The prices are on the high side, but well worth a lovely night out.


We spent much of our time in Grand Rapids exploring Beer City, USA. Fun fact, did you know that in a given week, Grand Rapids' breweries sell over 30,000 glasses of beer? Yea. Pretty incredible. So we had to see what all of the fuss was about. We started our beer tour at Founder's Brewing Company. We went on a Monday and we could not believe how crowded it was! We later discovered that it was Cheap Pint Night. From 7pm to close, you can enjoy $2.50 class 1 pints or $3.50 class 2 pints. Nice. 


I tried both the Pale Ale and the Rubaeus. Both were pretty awesome. My favorite is the Rubaeus, which is Founders’ way to celebrate the season’s warmest months. Optimizing the flavor of fresh raspberries added at multiple stages during fermentation, this stunning berry red masterpiece is the perfect balance of sweet and tart. That berry kick was absolutely perfect for a warm summer night. My husband loved the Centennial 45. We also enjoyed dinner there, ordering a Cheese Pizza, Pulled Pork sandwich and Beer Cheese Dip. I highly recommend the Beer Cheese Dip! Warning - you get huge portions of everything (right)!


One of my husband's friends had told him about the unique atmosphere at Brewery Vivant, so we had to check it out. It is a short drive from downtown, but worth it for the experience. Much of the inspiration behind Vivant comes from the small breweries that you find in the countryside in Southern Belgium and Northern France. From the moment you walk in, you feel transported. Brewery Vivant is housed in an old chapel from the early 1900's. It is really something to see. I went for the Belgian Wit, which I found quite enjoyable. I favored the Turkish orange peel added to this brew giving it a crisp citrus punch. My husband chose the Trebuchet, which also had doses of citrus. Very enjoyable.


HopCat was our next stop, which is known as a beer bar. In fact, it was rated the 3rd best beer bar in the world by Beer Advocate. Our sever, Allie, was awesome. She knew a lot about beer and helped us make an informed decision. This was important because the menu had tons and tons of beers! I have never seen so many! They specialize in Michigan brews, but also offer a wide range of regional craft brew, global beer, and a large Belgian selection. Decisions, decisions.


With the help of Allie, I decided on the Zugspitze, which happens to be a HopCat beer. Delicious. Loved it. I also ordered a Classic Burger with "Crack Fries" - named that way due to being highly addicting. I would have to agree. My entire meal was awesome. My husband ordered The "Voted Best!" Wings which Allie explained were done just perfectly, along with the North 45. He loved both. We really loved the atmosphere, the selection and the service. From the super cool staff to the huge selection of beer to the great music playing the background during our visit - we loved it all. This place is awesome.


The last stop on our beer tour was Grand Rapids Brewing Company. Harry, our server, was very friendly. He had the same vibe as the whole establishment, very laid back and cool. Upon Harry's recommendation, I tried Roslynn’s Bliss Blonde - named after ward #2 city commissioner and her passion for local craft beer. I loved the subtle apricot and tea flavors that complimented this classic blonde ale. Hubby tried John Ball Brown - named after a true Michigan pioneer, John Ball. We found out that John Ball was instrumental in the development of downtown Grand Rapids! Cool. We really liked this place - perfect for a few drinks with friends.


Okay enough of the fabulous breweries. It is time to check out some of the must-see attractions in Grand Rapids. It is also time for another fun fact! Did you know that Grand Rapids was named the #3 city in the nation for fun and recreation?! I told you there was a lot to do! First stop, Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. Just minutes from downtown, this 132-acre haven integrates horticulture and sculpture throughout its site, setting it apart from other more traditional botanic garden or art museum experiences.


This huge attraction features the most comprehensive outdoor sculpture collection in the Midwest, indoor and outdoor gardens, the largest tropical conservatory in the state, nature trails, a guided tram tour and 5 acre Children’s Garden. We tried to take in as much as we could! There was so much to see! From the masterpieces of art to the surprising silhouettes and endless kaleidoscope of colors, there was beautiful inspiration around every corner.


You should plan at least four hours and up to eight hours to enjoy all there is to offer. We decided to partake in the Tram Tour ($3) to save a bit of time. It took you through most of the sculpture collection, with a nice narrated tour explaining the significance of what we were seeing. The permanent collection focuses on works by established and emerging sculptors from the Modern tradition to the present. The Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park is a must-see for sure during your visit. Don't forget your camera!


Gerald Ford, the 38th President of the United States wasn't born in Grand Rapids, but he was raised there and represented the city in the House of Representatives from 1949-1973. Just across the river from our hotel was the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in downtown Grand Rapids.


My husband, the history buff, loved this one. I really enjoyed it too. One of my favorite parts of the museum was the original Watergate burglar tools. The Watergate gallery also includes a six-minute, multi-screen history beginning with the June 1972 break-in. Another very cool exhibit was the Oval Office replica. It has been updated and expanded with dramatic overhead lighting synchronized to a narration detailing activities in America's most famous room.


Just across the street from the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, you will find the Grand Rapids Public Museum. It is among the oldest history museums in the United States. But you would never know when you stepped inside this sparkling facility, which rises three stories above the downtown riverfront! Inside, you will find a fascinating panorama of permanent collections and temporary exhibits preserve the treasures of the past and the present. There is a Collecting A-Z exhibit, which is a great way of presenting just some of the million or so objects the Museum has collected. I loved the Streets of Old Grand Rapids, a detailed recreation of an 1890s street scene. It is like walking through time.


If you visit soon, don't miss one of the biggest shows in the Museum's history - "Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition." This amazing exhibit, there until September 8, 2013, allows visitors to view more than 150 legendary artifacts conserved from the Ship’s debris field are showcased offering a poignant look at this iconic Ship and its passengers. Your journey begins as you go back in time to 1912 as you receive a replica boarding pass of an actual passenger aboard Titanic. Then you begin a chronological journey through the life of the Titanic, moving through the ship’s construction, to life on board, to the ill-fated sinking and amazing artifact rescue efforts. If you get a chance to see this exhibit, you must!


Finally, we ended our getaway with a visit to the John Ball Zoo. This classic urban zoo is located just two miles west of downtown. The John Ball Zoo is home to more than 1,100 animals from five continents. We really enjoyed our visit, seeing some amazing animals like stingrays & sharks, wallabies, camels, chimpanzees, a grizzly bear, snow leopards, a Komodo dragon - and many large and small primates. This zoo is very visitor friendly. It is easy to enjoy all of the exhibits in a few hours time. 

Needless to say, we absolutely loved our visit to Grand Rapids! We are already planning our next trip back. The city has this great vibe and is thriving with cultural activity and is just plain fun. If you are looking for a fun-filled visit to Western Michigan, you are looking for Grand Rapids. It has a big city feel with small city friendliness. We love Grand Rapids! Begin planning your trip by visiting Experience Grand Rapids. You will find everything you need to plan your visit. You can also find them on Facebook and Twitter.



August 25, 2013

Poetic Pen and Stylus for Touch Screen Tablets and Smartphones :: Review




If you own a digital device, chances are you have heard of Poetic. Poetic designs mobile cases and accessories that are unique and functional. They infuse technology, function and imagination into their cases. I own a Poetic case for my Samsung ATIV. It fits is perfectly and has all of the features I need. I most recently reviewed the PenPal Combo Pen and Stylus for Touch Screen Tablets and Smartphones.


I love the sleek look of this product. It is black with silver accents. It is also not too large, making it the perfect size for your tablet sleeve or handbag. The Poetic PenPal Capacitive Stylus offers twist style operation for Touch Screen Tablets and Smartphones. It works on all capacitive touch screens including the iPad 2.


The stylus is soft to the touch so it will not damage your screen in any way. The soft cushioned tip allows users to type accurately and comfortably. I always find my fingernails getting in the way when I type on my iPhone. This makes it effortless and easy. I would recommend this product for the 'on the go' individual who needs a product to suit multiple purposes. It is especially convenient for students who can use the stylus on their screen and take paper notes on the side. 


Not only does this product provide a fine stylus, but the PenPal also has a ballpoint pen built in with just a convenient twist of the shaft. The black ink flows smoothly, making it so convenient to go from one to the other. This two-in-one PenPal by Poetic is conveniently sized for effortless use, and precision response on both touch screen and paper. I love it!

Gone Digital? Check Out musicMagpie!


In the world of digital music, I find myself buying less and less CDs. I am such a music fan, I almost feel guilty purchasing digital music instead. Here is why. I was once so proud of my CD wall in my home. When the iPod came along, all of my CDs were moved into the basement. There they sit. All of my awesome U2, They Might Be Giants, Depeche Mode, and so many more CDs that I once treasured so much! But all things must change. We are no longer acculturating CDs, DVDs and Games. Now we just click download and we have it on our phones, tablets or whatever device you use.

So the question I have been asking myself is: What do I do with all of my old CDs? musicMagpie  is a fantastic new service that makes it east to sell CDs, DVDs and Games. To make things easy, all you need to do is simply enter the barcodes of your items into their Valuation Engine and they’ll give you an instant price – Cha-Ching!

They see it as their mission to help customers sell their unwanted items quickly and easily to make a little extra money. Not to mention, think of all of the extra space you will create in your home! They also make it easy to ship. You can ship all of your items in one box for free. Pretty cool right?

As if that wasn't already easy enough, you can also get their free iPhone or Android App! Use the app to scan in your DVDs, CDs and Games quickly and easily, complete your trade, edit your details and check the status of your order. I am very cusrious to see how much money I could make with musicMagpie. Aren't you?! Start entering those barcodes now and see what kind of a check you could be cashing!



August 22, 2013

Casetagram :: Review and Giveaway


Did you know that you can create tech cases using your Instagram or Facebook photos?! Meet Casetagram, the world’s first social design service to create your very own custom mobile cases with your favorite Instagram and Facebook photos.


Casetagram is a social design service where you design your custom iPhone/iPad cases with your Instagram photos, and we use our patent-pending technology to turn it into a real case. I tried the case designer and it is so easy to use! I just upload some of my favorite photos from Instagram. You can turn them into squares (see below), circles, triangles (see above) or more cool designs using the templates.


The evolution of phoneography (photography via a smartphone) has made it easier than ever before for people across the world to capture and share their memories. Founded in 2011, Casetagram is the world’s first social design platform to make customizable cases for phones and tablets using social images, including Instagram and Facebook photos. Casetagram provides an easy-to-use platform to bring personal photos to life, making it more customizable than ever. Combining quality and brilliance, Casetagram continues to search for ways to turn social images into extraordinary products and celebrate the creative along the way.


Even after all of my playing around with the templates, I decided to order one that was already made that I liked more. Here is what it looked like when it arrived. It is made of a slim, lightweight and easy snap on hard case. You can choose whether you want to see the sides of your device using frosty white or prefer a dark charcoal surrounding. Mine is the frosty white.


You can see what the case looks like on my iPhone5 shown above. It was easy to snap on. The sides still show a little bit, but most is covered with the frosty white plastic. The back was very bright and colorful! I was impressed by that. Shipping did take quite awhile (3 weeks), so prepare for that, especially if this is a gift. 


Casetagram offers customizable cases for iPhone 5/4S/4, iPod Touch 5/4, iPad Mini, iPad 3/2, Google Nexus 4, Samsung Galaxy 4/3/2, and Samsung Note 2/1. All designs can be made using the Casetagram mobile app or web portal, offering over 15 different layouts and filters, and are printed on slim and easy to snap on cases.


Just shoot it. Case it. Place it. Customization is totally yours! The possibilities are endless. One of my lucky readers will get a chance to create any personalized case of their choice (up to $39.95).

August 21, 2013

Enter to Win a $150 Amazon Gift Card!



Welcome to the Amazon Giveaway! One lucky reader will win a $150 Amazon Gift Card which you can use to purchase … well, just about anything. I shop on Amazon ALL the time! I just bought some things for my classroom this week. You can't beat those free shipping deals!

Some awesome bloggers and I are giving our readers a chance to win a $150 Amazon Gift Card! This will really make your summer end with a bang!


Brew Over Ice :: Review and Giveaway :: #LoveBrewOverIce




Did you know that you can create refreshing iced beverages with your Keurig® brewer? No need to go to the coffee shop and spend way too much money! Let's get brewin'! Whether you’re craving an iced coffee, or a home-brewed iced tea, you can enjoy delicious beverages from the comfort of your own home with Brew Over Ice K-Cup® packs!


I love iced tea so I am constantly using my Keurig® brewer to make delicious and refreshing iced tea. I love the new Snapple® iced tea line that you can Brew Over Ice right on your Keurig®! With a variety of mouth-watering flavors, you will have no problem creating the perfect beverage to revital-ice your day. Simply fill a tumbler with ice, choose the brew that best suits your taste buds, hit the 6 or 8 oz button on your Keurig® brewer, and get ready to enjoy the sweet sensation of Brew Over Ice! I normally use the 6 oz button and I have great results!


To help share the cool side of Keurig® with beverage-lovers across the nation, Brew Over Ice is giving fans a chance to win $10,000 in cold hard cash by entering the Brew Over Ice Sweepstakes! After you enter the giveaway, be sure you also head to Brew Over Ice to download a $2 off product coupon and watch a Brew Over Ice video!
Brew Over Ice

Another variety I really like is the Vitamin Burst®. They come in Strawberry Pomegranate or Acai Berry. Vitamin Burst® is a cold splash of icy refreshment that meets your thirst head on. The fruit is gently dried to retain its active ingredients. Your Keurig® brewer then unlocks the fruit's power when you brew it over ice. I love using these Brew Over Ice K-Cups when I am looking for a non-caffeinated option. Each 8 oz serving is high in antioxidant vitamin C and naturally sweetened, which means no artificial colors or flavors. They taste fruity and really quench your thirst!



My husband really likes the iced coffee, there is something for everyone! One lucky reader will get a chance to try Brew Over Ice and find their favorite variety!

Discover a Diamond Alternative



Moissanite is a wonderful alternative to diamonds when it comes to beautiful jewelry. What is moissanite? Moissanite is a natural compound that is found in the earth and actually grown into gorgeous gems within a lab. The technique was founded by Charles and Colvard at Moissanite.com and is becoming a trend in the jewelry industry. Sometimes it can be difficult to determine what is moissanite and what is diamond because they look similar and have many of the same properties. However, moissanite rivals diamonds in many ways and to a trained eye, the difference in the two can be quite obvious. Moissanite appears more brilliant and actually colorful in natural light. Let's discuss some ways that distinguish moissanite from diamonds.

The brightness and luster of moissanite jewelry draws the eye directly to the piece, whether it be earrings, solitaires, pendants, or bracelets. The reason for the eye-catching factor of moissanite is its high dispersion factor, which refers to its high refractive properties and contributes to the way the light bursts out in all directions and creates a brilliance that is unrivaled. Dispersion is another property that moissanite boasts. This refers to natural light being actually split into all the colors of the spectrum. Finally, we have birefraction. Birefraction is something that diamonds simply do not possess, but moissanite does. This is the bending of the light into just one ray of light, but it being split into two separate rays of light, creating even more brilliance and fire. For further information on moissanite and its properties, please refer to Moissanite.com.



Content and/or other value provided by our sponsor, Moissanite.com.


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