Winter in Michigan – What We’re Up To

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Backwards.  That’s how life seems to go for us.  I don’t necessarily mean it as a bad thing, just an odd order for life to flow in.  Our move to Michigan last year was no different.  Michigan wasn’t really where either one of us wanted to go.  We both dream of moving somewhere warmer, with better weather even than what we had in North Carolina…yet here we are.  Ranked based on how miserable the Winters are, we moved from #38 on the list of 50 to #2.  Look at us go.

I feel like I see the sun once a week (maybe a few times more in the last week or two) and there is no chance you’re going to find us doing anything outside.  It’s been incredibly windy, so we can’t even enjoy the weather being above 32 degrees because it still feels like upper teens / low 20s.  We have found plenty to keep us busy inside though.

triple-chocolate-cake-with-strawberriesI have wanted a KitchenAid Mixer for what seems like forever.  Well, I finally got one for Christmas and I have been using it every chance I get.  Hubby loves chocolate.  And cake.  Valentine’s Day seemed like a good excuse to bake, so here we are.  Now I have a huge cake sitting on my counter, staring at me, begging me to eat it.  French Macarons will be my next experiment.  I love, love, love them.  I hear they are hard to make, and between that and what I just spent on ingredients, I now understand why you will pay $2 or $3 each for good ones.

As much as I may want to stay in the house and never venture out into the cold (believe me, it has been cold), we try to get out of the house and do something every weekend.  There was one weekend we didn’t leave at all.  It was the weekend I did our taxes.  That process sucked all the wind out of our sails.  I really just wanted to hide when I was done, but there is no hiding from the IRS.

Sloan Museum FlintAmong the least fun activities we’ve taken on, I would have to say that mattress and furniture shopping would have to rank at the top.  We want a new mattress, we need a new mattress, my husband and I can’t agree on a new mattress.  The truth is, we both want the complete opposite, so we continue to sleep on what we’ve got (which isn’t all that terrible, but it’s definitely near the end of it’s life cycle.)  In addition to mattress torture, we’re also in the market for a new couch for the living room.  We really want a sectional, and we’ve found one we like, we’re just having a hard time pulling the trigger.  And sectionals are expensive, you guys.

That’s not my living room, or even my house, in the picture above.  It is one of the displays at the Sloan Museum in Flint.  We originally headed over because the traveling Titanic exhibit is here right now, but ended up checking out the rest of the museum too.  I previously visited the Titanic exhibit when it was at the NC Museum of History in Raleigh, NC several year ago.  Nothing has changed, but it was really neat to go through it all again.  One of the cool parts of the exhibit is that you are assigned a boarding pass when you enter the exhibit.  You get some basic info on the passenger you represent (where they are from, where they are traveling to, etc) and you can find out if your person lived or died at the end of the exhibit.  When I went through years ago, my assigned passenger did not survive.  This time though, my passenger was one of the lucky ones.  I wish I could share pictures with you, but unfortunately photography of any kind is not permitted within the exhibit.

novi-home-showWe’ve also made a few trips to the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi for various events.  The picture of Pikachu and me was taken at the Novi Home Show.  There were tons of vendors there and I left lusting so badly for a hot tub for our patio.  If you follow me on Instagram, you may remember seeing me post a video of the water dogs at the Michigan Winter Classic dog show.  It was the weekend just before the home show and honestly, I felt like the home show would’ve been better if the pups had still been hanging around.  I love my animals.  My husband is totally prepared to come home to either a) another cat, b) a hedgehog or c) something I’ve rescued from the backyard.  I’d be swimming in a sea of puppies if either of us worked less, but our days are just too long for a puppy right now.

flint-firebirdsLast, but not least, we’ve hit up a few hockey games.  I’ve never really been a huge fan, but when you live in the north, being a hockey fan is expected.  I’m trying to embrace the differences in the North and the South and hockey is definitely one of them.  We haven’t been to an NHL game, but have been going to the league below and watching the Flint Firebirds.  It’s fun, inexpensive and can be planned on the fly.  I love that we can just walk in and get tickets.  It is cold in there though.  Very cold.  I never take off my coat, even wear gloves sometimes, and will pay $2 for a cup of instant hot chocolate without thinking twice!

Our weather is supposed to be a bit warmer this weekend (signs of Spring?) and I am very much looking forward to getting outside.  You know it’s been a long Winter when 45 starts to feel balmy.  Next week, I’ll be working on a review of the Mitsubishi Outlander (courtesy of Mitsubishi), so please keep a look out for pictures on Facebook and Instagram.  I will also hopefully be tackling those French Macarons in the next week or so and will have my success (or failure) story to share on those as well.  Last but not least, we’ll be heading off to Traverse City later this month, so be sure to check back for a recap of our adventures there.

Have a great weekend!

 

 

 

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Free Valentine’s Day Card Printables

Valentine’s Day is the same date every year, yet prepping Valentine’s Day cards for my kiddos’ classmates sneaks up on me every. single. time.  Why am I so ill prepared?  It rarely fails that I am running to Walmart or Target the night before we’re supposed to turn those suckers in, and I’m over it.  I know I’m not alone, so I’m going to share our Valentine’s Day cards with you!

They are girly and traditional pink and red (no, they aren’t Minecraft themed, sorry) but Valentine’s Day is traditionally a mushy, pink and red heart-filled love-fest, so why not?!

Printable-Valentines-CardsThese print out on standard sized card stock.  Cut them out, add a To/From on the back and you’re set.  To download the image, just click on it to open the full size file, right click on the image and save it to a location on your computer.  From there, you can open the image and print it.

We’ll be taping candy to the back of our cards.  Hopefully I’ll remember to buy it (and tape!) before February 13th!

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Jump Start Every Day – Grab and Go Breakfast Savings with belVita


belvita-dark-chocolate

My morning routine has changed a lot of the years, but I dare say it is still pretty hectic. Some of that is self induced, especially in the Winter when it’s dark out both when I leave for work and when I get home.  It’s very rare that I actually eat breakfast before I leave the house (usually because I’m trying to squeeze every second out of the alarm clock).  I usually just grab something from the fridge and roll out at the last possible second. I always aim to pick something that is both filling and gives me the energy I need to get through the morning.

I came across belVita products several years ago.  They were in one of the “trial” boxes you see me post about from time to time.  I feel in love with them then and still buy them now.  They are a major staple in my Gran and Go routine.  Their biscuits have 4 hours of steady nutritious energy to keep you going all morning long, when served with fruit and dairy. The flavors are so delicious, it is hard to pick a favorite, but I think I have to go with Blueberry.  That’s what’s in my pantry right now, along with Vanilla Yogurt belVita Breakfast Sandwiches.

belvita-breakfast-sandwiches

I also love that I can take a whole box to work (where I also keep milk in the fridge and fruit in the kitchen) and have myself covered in the case I forget to grab before I go!

On January 4, 2017, Ibotta will be releasing a coupon on the app. You can use the Ibotta offer to save more on delicious belVita Breakfast products at your local Walmart.  You can also visit your nearest participating Walmart on Saturday, January 7th for even more exclusive savings at belVita Breakfast in-store events.

belvita-at-walmart

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We Got Married And Announced It With A Wedding Selfie

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I guess you could say the Thanksgiving holiday was busy for us.  We trekked back home to NC (11 hours each way) with both cats in tow, had Thanksgiving meals at three different houses and had a wedding. Our wedding.

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We had a few reasons for not telling the world (well, Facebook) what we were planning, one of which was that we wanted a small, private ceremony for our immediate families. We knew how quickly invites could spiral out of control, and we didn’t want hurt feelings, so we kept the secret from all but those close family members invited until we said our “I do”s. We took a selfie before our minister announced us, yes – during our wedding ceremony – and then post “So, we got married today” and our selfie on Facebook.

wedding-selfie
An odd way to announce a marriage? Maybe. What can I say? Maybe we’re just trendsetters!

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2016 Holiday Gift Guide (20 Stores!)

The following gift guide is sponsored by Savings.com and contains affiliate links.  That just means that I make a small commission off items purchased through the links.  It doesn’t cost you a penny more!

Today officially marks the start of the holiday shopping season, and if you’re like me, online shopping has become your go-to.  This year, I joined forces with other DealPros and Savings.com to compile a 20-store holiday gift guide!  Each participating DealPro handpicked our favorite gifts from our retailer (I worked with Home Depot) to give you gift options for every man, woman and hard to buy for recipient on your list.

Skip the lines and shop these 20 fantastic retailers instead!  Let me know what you think of the gift guide, what you’d add and who your “hard to shop for” gift recipients are this year.  Click on the image below to view the full 20-store gift guide!

Home Depot Gift Guide

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Hand-Painted Wine Glasses – A Simple How-To

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Hand Painted Wine Glass How ToI love to give gifts, but sometimes I really struggle with choosing what to give the person who has everything.  Most of my girlfriends are huge fans of wine, so we often gift each other with wine or new wine glasses for special occasions.  I decided to try my hand at something new… hand-painted wine glasses.

Hand Painted Wine Glass Supplies

I try to make my gifts personal, something with meaning for the recipient.  Hand-painting your own wine glasses will let you make something as personal as you want it for your recipient.  Maybe you paint a phrase that has a meaning for you, or maybe a funny saying.  Maybe they love roses, or sunflowers or bunnies?  The possibilities are endless, and it’s so much easier than you think!

Swirly Wine Glasses

First things first, you need your supplies:

wine glasses

acrylic paint

paint brushes

Step 1 – It’s super important to start with exceptionally clean glasses, so I run my glasses through a dishwasher cycle.  Let your glasses dry thoroughly before you begin the painting process.

Step 2 – Layout your design, or decide to go at it free-handed.  You don’t necessarily have to put your design on paper, but having a good clear idea of where you’re headed will make the process a whole lot easier.

Hand Painted Wine Glass SunflowerStep 3 – Paint!  Start slow and don’t be in a rush.  The best thing to do is find a place where you can leave your supplies set out for a few days and do this a little at a time.  It gives your paint a chance to dry between payers/coats and allows you to add depth to your painting by layering lighter colors on top of darker colors.  See how I used lighter colors to highlight the sunflower petals?

Step 4 – Once completely dry – at least 24 hours after your last painting – you want to use the oven to set the paint.  Place your glass(es) on a foil lined baking sheet and put them in a cold oven.  Turn the oven on at 350° and let it heat for 20 minutes.  Turn the oven off and leave the glass inside for another 10 minutes to cool before removing it from the oven.

Hand Painted Wine Glasses with SwirlsViola!  Your hand-painted wine glasses are done and ready to gift!

Hand Painted Wine Glasses - All About the DetailDo you love giving and receiving handmade gifts?  What’s your favorite?  Has trying hand-painted wine glasses been on your crafting to-do list?

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Gift Wrap 101 Plus Free Customizable Gift Tags

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #WrapGiveRepeat #CollectiveBias

gift-wrap-101

While I know that gifts have nothing to do with the true meaning of the holiday season, I can’t help but be excited about the prospect of shopping for my love ones, picking out the perfect gift and watching their expressions when they open the packages I have carefully wrapped to reveal the goodies hidden inside.  I aim for the gifts I give to be a visually pleasing part of our holiday decor from the time I place them under the tree until we had out gifts at our gift exchange.

My grandmother taught me how to wrap gifts.  I’ve practiced a lot over the years and here are a few of the things I’ve learned.

img_34351. Choosing a sturdy wrapping paper is a must, especially if you’re wrapping odd shaped gifts.  Corners are killer on thin paper.  (Tip – I you are using a thinner wrapping paper, cover the corner areas with a small strip of tape.  You can pick up a Scotch® Gift Wrap Tape 3 Pack Caddie or Scotch® Magic™ Tape 3 Pack Caddie near the wrapping paper at Walmart.)

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2. Always use a small strip of Scotch® Gift Wrap Tape to secure your starting edge to your package, preferably on the backside of the package.  This keeps the wrapping paper from slipping and makes sure you have a nice, even seam.  I really love using wrapping paper that has grid lines on the back.  It helps me keep everything nice and neat.

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3. Nice, tight folds on the end will keep you gift wrapping job neat.  Don’t skimp on the Scotch® Gift Wrap Tape.  You only need small pieces, and you can generally hide them under the folds.  Try to keep in mind where the front of your gift is, and fold so that you are folding the last flap toward the back of the package.

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4. Gift wrapping isn’t complete without some embellishments.  Add ribbon, string or a bow to your gift for extra color and dimension.  Scotch® Gift Wrap Tape is the perfect way to adhere bows, ribbons and gift tags.

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5. Speaking of gift tags, don’t skimp on those!  One thing that people always notice are your gift tags.  Of course, they have to!  That’s the only way to see who a gift is to and from.

You can always buy gift tags, but we really like making our own.  We’ve made a variety of tags over the years.  This year, I’ve designed some printable tags that can be customized with To/From names and as well as blank templates that allow you to design your own!  All of the files you need for the options I describe below can be downloaded here.

printable-character-christmas-tags

Wrap.Give.Repeat for a great holiday season!  There is no better time to stock up on all of your gift wrapping needs than right now.  Visit your local Walmart for an amazing selection of all of the gift wrap essentials.  Find everything you need from start to finish, including a full selection of Scotch® Brand products.

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Scotch® Brand is working with Fisher House, a charity that provides a network of comfort homes where military and veterans’ families can stay at no cost while a loved one is receiving treatment, and is donating $200,000 to the cause this holiday season.  By shopping Scotch® Brand products, you’re helping support the mission to aid military and veterans’ families.  Bonus, you can save by shopping early with 50% Bonus Rollback at Walmart.

Do you have a special wrapping technique or pattern you follow year to year?  We’d love to hear about it.  Share here in the comments or on our Facebook page.

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Holiday Hot Chocolate Mousse

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #YourSeasonIsServed #CollectiveBias

hot-chocolate-mousse

I am all about quick and easy, especially when the holidays roll around.  My to-do list is a mile long, generally getting longer by the minute, so I am always looking for short cuts.  I consolidate my shopping trips, buy some items pre-made and use mixes as recipe starters. All of this saves me time and money, yet still allows me to make fantastic meals, snacks and desserts to impress family and friends.

I had the most amazing chocolate mousse at our company picnic this summer.  It was flavorful, creamy and had an amazing texture. After getting the recipe from my co-worker, I realized it was also far more time consuming than I had any interest in pursuing. With the holidays right around the corner, I decided to try my hand at a less labor intensive version of chocolate mousse.

hot-chocolate-mousse-cups

Chocolate mousse is much lighter and fluffier than chocolate pudding. It’s all of the air in the whipped egg whites that make it so puffy and delicious. Rather than melting and flavoring chocolate from scratch, I decided to take a product I love, Swiss Miss Milk Chocolate Hot Cocoa Mix, and use it as a base for my mousse. Mousse is really a simple recipe. Along with your chocolate base, all you need it egg whites, cream and a little sugar. Since I’m always using short cuts, I skipped the cream and used Reddi-wip® instead. After all, Reddi-wip® is made from real cream.

whipped-egg-whites
The most complicated part of this whole recipe is whipping the egg whites, but if you follow these simple rules, you won’t disappoint yourself.

Use a glass or metal bowl.  No plastic.

Make sure your bowl is super clean and free of oil (including residue from your fingers).

Make sure not to get any yolk in your egg whites.  Separate each egg into a small bowl, then transfer the separated white into your large bowl.  Doing this will keep you from messing up several egg whites when you accidentally bust a yolk.

Don’t add the sugar to your egg whites until they are already forming peaks.

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Your chocolate base (details in the recipe below) gets folded into your egg whites while it is still hot, essentially “cooking” the whites, making them completely safe to eat.

This recipe is so simple!  It will definitely be the easiest mousse you will ever make.  I can’t wait for you to try it.  What are some of your favorite holiday dessert shortcuts?  Share them with us here in the comments or on Facebook.

Holiday Hot Chocolate Mousse

Holiday Hot Chocolate Mousse

Ingredients

  • 6 Egg Whites
  • 1/2 Cup Sugar
  • 8 Packets Swiss Miss Milk Chocolate Hot Cocoa Mix
  • 1 Cup Reddi-Wip® (plus additional for garnish)

Instructions

  1. Separate egg whites into a clean, glass or metal bowl. Discard yolks. Allow to reach room temperature.
  2. Using a mixer, beat the egg whites at medium-high speed until the egg whites more than double in volume and begin to form peaks.
  3. Add 1/2 cup sugar and continue beating the egg whites until firm peaks form. Set aside.
  4. In a sauce pan over medium heat, combine the Reddi-Wip® and Swiss Miss packets. Stir to combine and heat until bubbling.
  5. Gently fold the hot chocolate mixture into the egg whites. Fold until mixed. Do not over mix.
  6. Transfer the mousse mixture into individual serving glasses or ramekins and refrigerate overnight before serving.
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Find Marie Callender’s Dessert Pies, Swiss Miss and Reddi-wip® products in a Kroger or Kroger banner store near you. Kroger banners include Dillons, King Soopers, Frys, Fred Meyer, Ralphs, Food 4 Less, QFC, Smiths, and Harris Teeter. Find a store near youReceive a FREE Reddi-wip® (6.5 oz) when you buy one Marie Callender’s Fruit or Cream Pie (11/16-11/24).*

kroger-shopping

*Discount automatically applied at register with qualifying purchase. Must use shopper card with purchase. Participating locations only. Offer expires 11/24/16. See store for additional details. Limit 1 per transaction.

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Dark Chocolate Peppermint Mocha Fudge

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #DelightfulMoments #CollectiveBias

dark-chocolate-peppermint-fudge-recipe

My family only really gets together for two big holidays per year, Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Those are the two days that we can get everyone in the same place, spend hours catching up on everyone’s lives, and enjoy some great food.  There is always great food.  No matter how many of the delicious mains and sides we enjoy, we always save room for coffee and dessert.  We love sharing coffee and dessert while listening to stories about what everyone is doing in life, what each has planned in the coming year, and inevitably there stories told of days gone by.  Those are my favorite!

And where there’s coffee, there is always International Delight® Coffee Creamer.

My family and I, we all love our coffee, so it’s no surprise that coffee would be a big part of our holiday gatherings too.  For most of us, it’s a part of our everyday routine.  I get up, head to my office, usually track down my coffee cup from the day before and head straight to the kitchen for a hot cup of coffee flavored with International Delight® Coffee Creamer.  Now that International Delight® Peppermint Mocha Coffee Creamer is back on the shelves for the holiday season, almost everyday is a peppermint kind of day!  Some days are an International Delight® Salted Caramel Mocha Coffee Creamer kind of day.

What would the holidays be without a delicious chunk of fudge?  Creamy, gooey, delicious fudge is always a hit!  My Dark Chocolate Peppermint Fudge recipe uses International Delight® Peppermint Mocha Coffee Creamer in place of other liquids, lending both a great flavor and a unique texture.  It also helps keep your ingredient list short and makes this fudge recipe a money saver too!  My co-workers don’t know it yet, but they can expect to see this fudge in a break room in a few weeks.  I can’t wait to share it with them.  They are all coffee drinkers, like me, and I know they will enjoy this Dark Chocolate Peppermint Fudge with a warm cup of coffee as much as I do.

how-to-make-peppermint-fudgeFudge doesn’t have to be scary.  You don’t need special equipment or tools, just a small sauce pan, a glass bowl and a dish (for forming your fudge).  You can nest a glass bowl over a small sauce pan filled with a little water to mimic a double boiler.  This keeps you from burning your chocolate. It’s as simple as melting three in, stirring in a fourth, pouring and sprinkling. You can totally do that, right?

melted-fudgeThe hardest part of the whole process is not sampling from the bowl as you’re melting the chocolate.  Don’t worry though!  After you dump that delicious chocolate mixture into your pan for forming, there will surely be a little clinging to the edges.  The cook gets to lick the bowl, right?  That’s the way it works in my family.  Give this super simple fudge recipe a try and let me know what you think.

Dark Chocolate Peppermint Mocha Fudge

Dark Chocolate Peppermint Mocha Fudge

Ingredients

  • 3 Cups Dark Chocolate Chips (for a sweeter fudge, you may substitute semi-sweet chocolate chips)
  • 1 Cup International Delight® Peppermint Mocha Coffee Creamer
  • 1/4 Cup Butter (half a stick)
  • 1/2 Cup Powdered Sugar
  • Crushed Peppermints (Optional)

Instructions

  1. In a double boiler (or similar set up), melt the chocolate chips, creamer and butter.
  2. Stir the mixture frequently to combine the ingredients.
  3. Once the mixture is completely liquid and smooth, add the powdered sugar and stir until completely combined.
  4. Spread the mixture into a pan lined with wax paper.
  5. Sprinkle with crushed peppermints.
  6. Refrigerate the fudge for 2-3 hours or until completely cool.
  7. Remove the fudge from the pan and cut it into cubes.
  8. Store in an air tight container.
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You can find International Delight® Coffee Creamers in a variety of flavors, including Peppermint Mocha and Salted Caramel Mocha at your local Walmart.  Most stores have a large bin display of creamers, but if you can’t find that, you can always find them in the refrigerator case.

where-to-find-international-delight

Check out other great holiday recipes like mine by clicking here.  And, watch the video below for a great Pumpkin Pie Spice Frappe Recipe!

Who will you share your International Delight® with this Holiday season?

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American Girl Doll Giveaway

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Enter to win American Girl’s
2016 Girl of the Year
Lea Clark

Lea Clark™, the 2016 Girl of the Year, dives in to new adventures and explores what’s in her heart. The 18″ Lea doll is only available until 12/31/16, or while supplies last. This American Girl Doll giveaway is for a Lea Clark American Girl Doll, Lea’s Exclusive Collection, and her book Lea Dives In–written by Lisa Yee, valued at $180. Giveaway ends on December 11, 2016 at 11:59 pm. Shipping just in time for the holidays!

Details

Meet Lea, the 2016 Girl of the Year™! She dives in to new adventures and explores what’s in her heart. The 18″ Lea doll has warm hazel eyes that open and close, and long, light-brown wavy hair with sun-kissed highlights. She has a huggable cloth body, and her movable head and limbs are made of smooth vinyl. Lea and her bundled starter set ($180 value!) comes with:

  • Brazilian festival outfit: A bright, multicolored dress, featuring an attached braided belt and braided trim on the straps
  • Sandals with crisscrossed laces
  • Underwear
  • An embroidered canvas messenger bag with colorful woven straps
  • A pretend compass necklace
  • Lea Dives In paperback book
  • Lea’s Beach Dress (available only in this collection): A tie-dye-print dress with bows at the shoulders
  • Green flip-flop sandals
  • Matching sunglasses
  • A pretty butterfly hair clip

American Girl Doll Giveaway – Lea Clark 2016 Girl of the Year

Sponsored by:

Mama Mommy Mom

My Mommy Brain

Good Girl Gone Redneck

Sunny with a Chance of Sprinkles

It’s me, debcb!

Beauty in the Mess

Merlot Mommy

Emmy Mom

Penney Lane

Amber Nicole

Embellishmints

Kiss My Tulle

Simply {Darr}ling

Adventures In Familyhood

A Madison Mom

The Best Crowe’s Nest

 

 

 

Terms & Conditions
This American Girl Doll Giveaway is open to US Residents 18 years of age or older. Giveaways ends December 11th at 11:59 PM ET. Winner will be chosen by random drawing. Winner will have 48 hours to reply via email to accept the prize or another winner will be chosen. All entries will be validated. Sponsors reserve the right to invalidate any entry at their discretion. Entering will add your email to our mailing lists. We NEVER share our contacts.

This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with American Girl, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube or Pinterest.

Posted in Current Giveaways, Giveaways | 8 Comments