Maria Smith

Monday, July 21, 2014

Kids Birthday Party Venue: Main Event Entertainment center

Main Event Alpharetta, Kids birthday party venue
Looking for a unique kids birthday party venue?  Check out Main Event Entertainment center!  I ALWAYS find myself in the predicament of looking for a different kids birthday party venue. Being a "mom of many", I need three things when it comes to hosting a birthday party: Easy, Affordable, and Fun. I heard about a new "entertainment center", Main Event-Alpharetta and it seems to have all three!  I think this might be the place for my son's upcoming 6th birthday party!  

Not near Alpharetta? Main Event has 18 current or coming soon entertainment centers in Texas, Arizona, Illinois, Oklahoma, and Georgia.  Main Event Entertainment is the fastest-growing family entertainment center in the US. The 65,000 square foot Alpharetta location opened last month, and a new location in Atlanta's Cumberland Mall area will open later this year. Main Event centers pride themselves on knowing how to throw a great kids birthday party and are consistently voted as "best birthday party venue" in their markets.

Main Event Alpharetta, Kids birthday party venueI like the kids birthday party options at Main Event because it is one-stop-shopping.  They handle all the details so moms don't have to.  The kids can explore their multi-level laser tag arena, bowl, play the virtual and interactive games, and/or maneuver through the "gravity ropes obstacle course".  (Know that kids must be 48" or taller for the ropes course and laser tag.)  Every birthday party package include a birthday balloon bouquet, plates, silverware, cups, drinks and choice of food from their party menu. They even give the guests a $5 or $10 arcade card (depending on the birthday party package booked).  There is even a birthday party package that also includes a souvenir bowling pin as a take home prize. All parents need to bring is the cake and maybe a goody bag...if you feel you must. Kids birthday parties start at $13.95/person (minimum of 10 children) and even the most expensive option is just $19.95/person.

Main Event also has specific birthday party options for those hard-to-please tweens and teens and even adults too. Just remember that they need at least 72 hours advance notice for all party packages.  Want to save some money?  Book parties on a Sunday through Thursday to get the $5 arcade card upgraded to $10!  Want to save even more?  All parties booked in July and August get a $25 discount! 

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Main Event-Alpharetta and these opinions are my own. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

#BackToSchool is upon us! #GoBackHealthy with @MinuteClinic #ad

Disclosure: I received compensation for this post.  All opinions are my own. 

Back to school time is upon us.  Ok...so it might just be upon me and my fellow Atlantans but it is coming soon everywhere else. And I am NOT READY. I have no paper, notebooks, or the 10 boxes of tissues I'm supposed to bring in 2 weeks from now.  And I have will have two kids in grade school this year.  I need to get started...like yesterday.

Feeling a little overwhelmed myself, I was really intrigued when I heard that MinuteClinic at CVS is offering a variety of back-to-school vaccinations so moms can take that one back to school item off their list. I just spent two days in the doctor's office this summer getting updated vaccination records for summer camp and it was A PAIN to say the least. You don't want your kids don't miss their first day so it's important to know your state's requirements for vaccinations such as meningitis and pertussis. (To find out which vaccinations are required in your area, go here.)

Got some soccer, volleyball or football players this Fall?  MinuteClinic also offers pre-participation sports physicals for just $39 (that's $20 off!). Even if it's not required, it's important to make sure your little ones are healthy enough to participate. It might just be for "mom" peace of mind but at $39 that's well worth the price. And though I am far from thinking about this, anyone who has kids leaving home for college should know MinuteClinic offers college physicals too. No matter the age of your "little" one, make sure they start off on the right (and healthy!) foot.

MinuteClinic is also offering a FREE $22 coupon book when you visit. (No purchase necessary. Available while supplies last through 12/1/14.) So go on in and check them out.  And while you're there can you pick me up 4 wide-rule notebooks, 2 reams of typing paper, 5 differently colored folders with the three-prong inserts, 2 packages of washable markers, 1 box of plastic baggies...etc..etc...

[VIDEO] "Planes: Fire and Rescue" is a movie for everyone


Disney's Planes: Fire & Rescue Extended Trailer on Disney Video
I had the pleasure of taking two of my sons to a complimentary preview screening of Planes: Fire and Rescue this week.  To say they were excited was an understatement. They have been seeing the MANY commercials during all their favorite Disney Jr. shows lately and have been asking to see it for weeks. Truth be told, I wanted to see it too!  And we were not disappointed.

I love how Planes: Fire and Rescue didn't have any bad guys, or monsters, or things that jump out. The scariest part in the movie was a forest fire, and quite frankly, that's something my kids should be scared about.  There was a sweet overall message about doing the right thing and taking care of friends instead of thinking about one's self.  And it was funny.  There were more than a few parts when I LOL'd and my kids asked me why I was laughing. I like those kind of movies.

Even though I just took my boys to this screening, this is not necessarily a "boy" movie.  My daughter would have loved it and I plan to take her soon.  The whole family could really enjoy this movie with no need to worry about sensitive kids remembering some scary character a bedtime (like the giant snowman in "Frozen" which kept us up for several nights).  Planes: Fire and Rescue was a hit with my crew!

Planes: Fire and Rescue opens TODAY July 18, 2014. Here's the boiler plate from Disney/Pixar:
Rated: PG
“Planes: Fire & Rescue” is a new comedy-adventure about second chances, featuring a dynamic crew of elite firefighting aircraft devoted to protecting historic Piston Peak National Park from raging wildfire. When world-famous air racer Dusty (voice of Dane Cook) learns that his engine is damaged and he may never race again, he must shift gears and is launched into the world of aerial firefighting. Dusty joins forces with veteran fire-and-rescue helicopter Blade Ranger (voice of Ed Harris) and his courageous team, including spirited air tanker Dipper (voice of Julie Bowen), heavy-lift helicopter Windlifter (voice of Wes Studi), ex-military transport Cabbie (voice of Captain Dale Dye) and a lively bunch of brave all-terrain vehicles known as The Smokejumpers. Together, the fearless team battles a massive wildfire and Dusty learns what it takes to become a true hero. Directed by Bobs Gannaway (“Secret of the Wings”) and produced by Ferrell Barron (“The Fox and the Hound 2”), “Planes: Fire & Rescue” hits theaters in 3D on July 18, 2014.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

I'm the @HeartofHaiti Ambassador for #TypeAParent Conference

Heart of Haiti products from Macy's
Heart of Haiti products are all handmade.
I am feeling really grateful right now. I was selected by the representatives at Everywhere, an Atlanta-based digital marketing agency, to represent the Heart of Haiti collection at the Type-A Parent conference this Fall.  Obviously, it's always nice to win anything, and in this case a ticket to one of the hottest blogging conferences and a hotel stay at the conference hotel, the Grand Hyatt Buckhead, are certainly great prizes.  But this ambassadorship is not about me...it's about telling YOU about the great work Heart of Haiti is doing.

Heart of Haiti is a collection of products all handmade by amazing artisans of Haiti and sold at select Macy's and on macys.com.  Using primarily recycled materials, the collection includes beautiful items for the home. Quilts, jewelry, vases, picture frames, candle holders, and more are included. Each item comes with an individual hangtag designed to connect cultures through business, art and understanding.

The sales of Heart of Haiti products at Macy's put real, sustainable income into the hands of the artisans who create them, changing their lives in remarkable ways. These artists are able to become entrepreneurs and business owners. They are able to take care of their families, to educate their children, to pull themselves out of the clutches of poverty, because of this program.

Heart of Haiti products are available exclusively at select Macy’s (25 stores including 5 flagships) and on macys.com through a unique partnership with Fair Winds Trading and The Clinton Foundation. Heart of Haiti is built upon the principle of trade instead of aid. The sales of these works put real, sustainable income into the hands of the artisans who create them, changing their lives in remarkable ways.  These people don't want a hand out...they want a hand up.  I'm beyond thrilled to be a part, however tiny, of promoting this fantastic collection.

Please follow @HeartofHaiti on Twitter and like them on Facebook. They are being the change they want to see in the world.  I'm happy to tag along.

Disclosure:  I will receive a conference pass to Type A blogging conference and hotel accommodations at the Grand Hyatt Buckhead as a Heart of Haiti Ambassador.  Truth is, I'd tell you about them anyway. But I love how they are giving me a hand up too.

Passing on my LOVE for tennis

Maria playing tennis
I am not a great tennis player.  But I do love to play. I'm an athlete at heart and so I can play just about anything relatively well but tennis is something I've continued to play over the years because I just have fun playing, not because I always win.  I love that I can be strong and tall and athletic but also feel feminine in those oh-so-cute tennis outfits. (I mean...even if you don't like tennis you have to admit the sport's wardrobe is the best.)  I've recently gotten back to playing and every time I'm on the court I just have fun!  I even joined an ALTA team (which is the biggest recreational tennis organization in the country) this Fall.

Two oldest kids with tennis racquetsNow that I've gotten back into it, I want my kids to learn to love this game too.  They spent a week at Concourse Athletic Club in Sandy Springs (which was gratis in return for telling you all about it) learning the basics of tennis and getting a huge jump start into playing the game well. The tennis director, Issac Yarell, is very hands-on and doesn't baby the kids.  He expects a lot out of them and it is amazing how kids rise to the level of expectations. My kids had such a great time, they begged to cancel another camp and come back to tennis camp again.  I love that and signed them up for another week!
Want to immerse your child in the sport of tennis?  The Youth Tennis Camp at Concourse Athletic Club will do that for you.  They still have openings available for the final three weeks of summer!  The camp runs Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.  Cost: $300/members $325/non-members. For more information contact the Tennis Desk or Isaac Yarell at 770.698.2080 or iyarrell@wellbridge.com.  In addition to hours of tennis instruction, they also swim everyday and have time for fun and games.  And by the way, Concourse Athletic Club is an amazing facility with a very posh, country club feel

In addition to tennis camp, I'm taking the kids to a real live professional tennis match this weekend for the opening matches of the BB&T Atlanta Open at Atlantic Station.  It's Kids Weekend so kids 18 and under get in free with an adult. I love that they have activities for all ages and keep the kids entertained.  Truth is, I've never been to a professional tennis match in person so I'm stoked that the nice PR folks for BB&T Atlanta Open invited me!  

Disclosure: I received complimentary camp registrations and tickets to the BB&T Atlanta Open in order to facilitate a review. My opinions are always my own though.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Summer isn't over yet! @WorldofCocaCola giveaway!

Smith kids at World of Coca-Cola
Yes, I know that back-to-school items have been on sale for a month.  I know that the reading lists and over-the-summer assignments are now being worked on. I know that the countdown to have the massive school supply list finished has begun.  But I want to scream: SUMMER ISN'T OVER YET!

In Atlanta we still have three weeks of glorious summer relaxation before the pencils, books, and dirty looks during homework ensue.  So let's make the most of them!  Who wants to spend one of those days at the World of Coca-Cola in downtown Atlanta with your family?  See below how to enter!

I visited the World of Coca-Cola with my 4 kids this summer. It was on our summer "bucket list" (that the kids created) and I was happy when I was offered complimentary admission for a bloggers get together there. My kids love that place and I do too.  But for different reasons.  Soda is a treat in my house but they know that when we go to the World of Coca-Cola the rules are relaxed.  It's the 'when in Rome' thing. They just love sampling all the different flavors from around the world. The Tasting Room is by far their favorite place. I used it as a mini-geography lesson.  Win-Win.

In addition to the Tasting Room, the World of Coca-Cola has a sweet new movie, Moments of Happiness, at the beginning of the tour.  I was looking around for a tissue afterward. It seriously is touching.  Also check out the new exhibit, Howard Finster: Visions of Coca-Cola, which highlights the work of this American folk artist. Of course, you can't miss The Vault of the Secret Formula or Bottle Works (another "edu-tainment" part of the facility.)  The 4-D movie is also a hit, but if you have little kids like me, sit in the non-moving seats. You will thank me.

The World of Coca-Cola also has a new mobile app to make your visit better, easier and more enjoyable. It is free to download on iPhone and iTouch devices. It is not available for my android just yet but I saw it in action from a friend's phone and it looked great. It lets you customize photos, learn interesting facts, connect instantly to social networks, and learn basic facts about the attraction.

The World of Coca-Cola is a uniquely Atlantan attraction.  It should be a must-visit for tourists but locals need to see it too!  There are changing exhibits and it seems like there is always something new (or something I missed before). Want to go for free?  Enter this giveaway below!  One winner will win 4 tickets to the World of Coca-Cola.  The winner will be chosen on July 15, 2014 and the tickets will be mailed out as soon as possible after I get the winner's address.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Say it with me...SUMMER ISN'T OVER YET.  Now go have some more fun!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

[VIDEO] Oprah, Steven Spielberg collaborate on "The Hundred-Foot Journey" hitting theaters Aug. 8



Culinary movies are a favorite for me.  Perhaps it's because I am not the world's best cook. Or maybe it's because I love food. Either way, I love a good foodie flick. So, I'm excited to see the new DreamWorks production "The Hundred-Foot Journey".

Photo: DreamWorks Pictures

Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey have teamed up as producers on this film which features Academy Award winner Helen Mirren as Madame Mallory, the proprietor of a famous French bistro fighting against the opening of a new Indian restaurant in the south of France.  Madame Malllory protests the newcomer vehemently until she recognizes her rival’s undeniable brilliance for preparing masterful meals.

DreamWorks Pictures' says: "The Hundred-Foot Journey” abounds with flavors that burst across the tongue. A stimulating triumph over exile, blossoming with passion and heart, it is a portrayal of two worlds colliding and one young man’s drive to find the comfort of home, in every pot, wherever he may be."

Can't. Wait. Will you go see it?  Check out this new featurette and let me know what you think!