And please remember - if a giveaway says that a step is required to be entered, I will be checking. I had to disqualify a few entries this time around!
Plus, I received only a single entry (really?) into the BioGaia probiotics giveaway that was ineligible due to not being in the US. Probiotics are good for you, and these taste great. I'm extending the deadline so that you can go enter (please?) here.
And now onto the good stuff!
Last weekend, I was invited into the city by the Silicon Valley Moms which hosted the Chicago Moms Blog Event at the Hard Rock Hotel. I was so excited to go, not just to see the sponsors, but also to meet some of the other writers there. I got more than I bargained for. In fact, I could have stayed another couple of hours chatting. You know it's a good time when you start to forget to take pictures, right?
When I first arrived, I met up with Melisa and Lucy at the Base Bar in the hotel to try out Melisa's sister's (brother's cousin's boyfriend's dog's uncle's friend's mom's) favorite drink - a lavendar tonic. It. Was. Good.
As we finished those up, we went to the roundtable discussion at the event for two hours on branding and blogging. It was quite the informative session, and we could easily have spent more than two hours discussing. The central question we were left with was how do you build a relationship between a blogger and a brand. I've been noodling this over and there's a post on this coming on my regular blog.
From there we moved to the event itself, where we had plenty of sponsors to chat with. It's going to take me far more than a single post to get through all of them, but this at least gives you a good sense of what was there. I was surprised by how many products existed that I didn't know about, but I'm glad I did as I'm now using many of them in my daily life.
This being bloggers, we were also giving drink tickets, and really - how cute are these little guitar picks?
My first stop was with the iGo green people. I've heard about the electrical outlets that have pieces for your various devices, but they always looked a bit bulky to me. Plus, with all the new devices, how do you know that your device will work with it? The iGo green Charge Anywhere solves these problems, and one more. There is a rechargeable battery within the charger. When you're on the go and can't plug in, the iGo green will still allow you to charge your device up to three times. Tell me that isn't awesome? In fact, when I was in Galena this past weekend, one of the women had her iGo green, and I was able to use the USB from my Droid to charge to her iGo green while she was charging her iPhone at the same time while we were on a bus back to our rooms. This one is so useful that I can't decide where to have it live - car, bedroom, suitcase, or office. As you change your devices, you simply buy a $9.99 tip that fits your device and the iGo green chargers again work for you. Brilliant. This was definitely one of my favorite items out there - and again, one I'd never heard of. They also offer towers that allow you to selectively shut off power completely to power sucking items like your toaster or charger, which costs Americans and average of $200 per year in electric bills. While I try to remember to unplug everything, I don't always remember. Then there's the tv that I can't do because it's hard to reach and has the DVR and cable that need to stay on - the Power Smart Tower has eight outlets, four of which shut power off completely with the flick of a switch and four of which stay in standby mode. I unfortunately didn't win the one they're giving away, but how perfect is this for our current lifestyles? It may need to be my Earth Day present to myself!
I headed to Cinnabon's table next where they were introducing us to their line of cupcakes. Yep, Cinnabon now does cupcakes. It's a good thing I don't live near a mall where they have a location or I'd be in big trouble (pun intended). The cupcakes are gorgeous, of course, but they're as decadent and yummy as you'd expect from Cinnabon. They offer six different flavors: Cinnacake Classic (a takeoff on their buns), Chocolate Passion, Vanilla Bliss, and 24-Carrot Cake (my choice and YUM!). It's possible that I'd be better off not knowing that this existed, but I'll take my chances.
Next up was the Babies movie. Much like March of the Penguins documented life of penguins and fascinated us, Babies follows four babies in four different areas of the world - Namibia, Mongolia, Tokyo, and San Francisco - in their first year of life. We saw some clips of the movie, and they are so cute and all so different. The movie opens Mother's Day weekend (good timing, no?) and has already won a Heartland Truly Moving Picture award.
I hopped next to Garrett's Popcorn (are you noticing a food trend here?), which is my favorite popcorn place in all of Chicago. F-A-V-O-R-I-T-E. They make fresh popcorn throughout the day in cheesecorn, caramelcrisp, and buttery (Chicago mix being a mix of cheese and caramel). Proof that it's good? There are hour plus lines outside their locations wrapped around the block with happy people waiting for their popcorn. How often do you see people happy in line? We each received a small bag of the Chicago Mix, and my husband was grateful when I got home and gave him his treasure as a payoff for hanging out with the wee ones all day. I'm a cheesecorn kind of girl myself, but when I was visiting friends in NYC last year, I stopped at the Garrett's location in New York (yep, there's one there, too) and bought them each a bag of the Chicago Mix. Somehow, they'd never had it before, but they were very grateful for my impromptu gift. Even if you don't live in Chicago or NYC, you aren't out of luck - they have online orders for all sorts of occasions and great tins and other products. It's well worth the price, and I suddenly have a craving now....
Next up was the nice guy at the Energizer booth. Energizer. Batteries. Enough said, right? Actually, they do more than I thought they did. They now make the Energizer Smart Charger - rechargeable batteries that come in their own little recharging case. Cool things about this new product? It tells you how charged the item is and how long before it's fully charged. No more grabbing a battery and realizing too late that it had barely and juice. Plus, it charges both AA and AAA batteries. With two wee ones, you can imagine how often we go through batteries. Mister Man has actually learned how to change them by himself. My little recharging kit will definitely come in handy - and yes, I'm kicking myself for choosing to forego the second recharging kit when I won that on the spinny wheel and instead took the cosmetics case. Too much excitement! Look for an Energizer giveaway to be posted tomorrow!
Phew! Just one more for today before I let you take a break from all the reading!
My next stop was bitdefender, which again was something I'd never heard of. bitdefender focuses on internet safety and offers security software for both PCs and Mac that protects up to three computers for a year for $49.95. It's a strong program with regular updates and protects against the traditional viruses and spyware but also includes identity protection, firewall, antispam, parental controls, and optimized performance. In addition, they have an organization called BitMoms - an interactive website and social network to provide news, content and tools for moms and mom bloggers. They have all kinds of information on safety and security information including video content and an article library - perfect for keeping our kids (and our computers!) safe.
I'm exhausted just writing this - but oh what a great event. Thank you again to SV Moms and the Chicago Moms Blog for hosting this - especially Linsey, Jill, MJ Tam (and everyone else!) who put in a ton of effort and did a great job!
I've added Part II to this recap, and you can see that here.
In the interest of full disclosure, I was invited to the event which was free and provided with sample products from many vendors, including those listed above. I did not receive any compensation and am providing a recap of my own volition.