I am Thankful for Small & Local Businesses

Did you know that for every $100 you spend at a small business, $68 stay in the local economy? And that shifting 10% of your purchases from chains can create new jobs?*

I think it’s pretty clear that supporting local and small businesses are important.

But even without researched facts, I love to and would much rather shop small and/or local shops.

While I can’t deny that I’ve had ok customer service and great deals at the big chain stores, I have never built a relationship with a big box store like I have with small shops.

Small shop owners have become my friends.  They have swapped life stories with me.  They have checked in with me.  They have collaborated with me to create truly unique and personal gifts.

In short: They are approachable.

In celebration of the fact that tomorrow is Black Friday, Saturday is Small Biz Saturday, & Monday is cyber Monday, I have compiled a list of small and/or local businesses that I would encourage you to support this weekend.  The list is pretty diverse, so there should be something there for many on your holiday shopping lists…

Flawed Perfection Jewelry: pretty and affordable…such a sweet gift for any girly girl in your life.  I have this necklace and every time I wear it I get loads of compliments.

Changing the Universe: super cute handmade coasters and pillow covers.  She even has Christmas-themed ones in the shop right now…just right to add that holiday touch to your decor.

Lichterman Law, PLC: this practice is local to the Grand Rapids, Michigan area.  Remember my post about the Priceless Conversation and our estate planning/will creating experience?  This was the lawyer we worked with.  If you are local to me and have been thinking about getting your ducks in a row, Mike is your guy.  I mean, he even linked to me in a blog post.

R&L Design: This is my newest obsession favorite shop. I have already gotten three pairs of earrings and a necklace just for myself because her stuff is so incredibly cute and affordable.  I have a feeling I will be shopping for friends and family here too (I can’t stop myself)!

Bella Joy Pottery: Ah another local gal.  That just makes my heart happy.  As does her AMAZING pottery pieces! I cannot think of a more special and unique piece to get someone on your holiday list than something from Bella Joy Pottery. I already have my eye on something for someone on my list…but I can’t tell!

GCS Design & Print: If you’ve been around these parts for any amount of time, you know my heart has been sold to Courtney of GCS Design for over a year now.  She makes designs from birthday party favors and invites to my biz cards to this very blog…they all fit my personality and tastes perfectly.  It’s a very special relationship once you have found a design artist who “gets” you.  I have found mine. ::cue happy sighs::

Coconut Robot: When my heart needed her most, Kacia was introduced to me via twitter.  Not only has she been a rock and an inspiration to me spiritually, but she made Charlie a pair of booties that will forever be part of my heart.  When he is a big, hulking teenage boy someday, I will be able to look at those booties with his name on the leather soles and remember my baby bird.

Naptime Diaries: This is a new shop to me (introduced to me by Kacia) and I have fallen hard for it.  Cort and I have poured over the products trying to decide on a few as gifts. I can’t wait to start making those holiday purchases.

Stitched Simplicity: Oh Erika. One of my longest shop loves. I have been ordering baby blankets from Erika for years now.  she makes the most lovely (and baby-friendly/durable) products. Her bibs and blankets have a unique backing that I have yet to find elsewhere.  Bonus? She is the crafty hand behind Charlie’s stocking. It’s good to have crafty friends!

Sew Curly: I am sure you all read my swoony post about Kristina earlier this week, so you KNOW she makes this list! And guess what?  Good through cyber Monday she has a 15% discount code for you. YES YOU! Enter THANKFUL at checkout to receive the discount. I got excited about this discount too since again, I have a whole list of nieces and nephew who will be getting things from her shop for Christmas.

mL photography: Missy is my photographer. My ONLY photographer.  She makes this world beautiful.  Not just with her photos, but with her heart and her smile.  She is local to me too, so if you’re in the area and are looking for a great deal on gorgeous photos, you need to contact her. Want proof?  Look at my about section, her work is all over that.  As is my head shot up there. She exudes awesome.

Papersalt: Gifts from Papersalt make the best stocking stuffers.  Their products are family-oriented and focus on positive characteristics like giving and making time for family. We have a few of their books and just love them.  And bonus for you?  From Black Friday through Cyber Monday you can get 40% off all orders of $50 or more!

babEblessings: If you follow me on instagram (ksluiter) you have probably seen my daily #SheReadsTruth posts.  The journal I use is from babEblessings. I love it. LOVE IT.  We also have some prints by Jacqueline posted around our house and my classroom.  They are wonderful reminders of all the wonderful blessings in our life.

Gussy Sews: She needs no help getting exposure, but I would be remiss not to mention her.  I adore her product, but I also love Ms. Maggie to the moon.  She was a local girl…until she ran across the country with her man and put a baby in her oven. I will always consider her local though.

 Local Lustre: Lindsey makes two seemingly unrelated products: kidswear and home decor.  Specifically you can get your state made out of burlap as a cute door hanger. And guess what? She has a 15% discount for you this weekend!  Just enter SBSTHANKS at check out!

addyeB: Have an art-lovers on your list? Then this is the shop for you.  Beautiful pieces of modern art that will add a total SHA-ZAM of color to any room!

Junky Brilliance: This is THE shop for ugly holiday sweaters.  No seriously.  She thrifts them so you don’t have to.  Have an ugly sweater party coming up?  Browse in the comfort of your own home instead of schlepping through thrift shop bins. You’re welcome.

Imagine Toys: This is another business local to me (Battle Creek, Mi), and one for whom I contribute a monthly blog post.  Not only do they have awesome products at great prices for the kiddos on your list, but they are busy doing good this weekend as well.  Check it out:

click on the picture to go directly to their fb page and “like”

There are many, MANY more I could mention…but I think this is a great list to get your shopping started.

What small or local businesses do you love?

Where will you be giving your business this holiday season?

*Thank to Guilty Squid for the small biz facts. Love ya, girlie.

Kate vs. Wal-Mart

I know Kimberly is not doing Secret Mommyhood Confessions today since it’s a holiday and all…but I have one for you.

I hate Wal-Mart.

Now, I know some of you are running to your Google readers and hitting unsubscribe as fast as you can because I just insulted the temple of all frugal mommies…but hear me out.

I don’t necessarily hate YOUR Wal-Mart…just every Wal-Mart I have ever been in–which is pretty limited.

In fact, up until today, I don’t think I had been in a Wal-Mart in over three years.

I know.

Go ahead.  Soak that in.

So what brought me there today?

Christmas returns.

Sigh.

Yes, Wal-Mart AND returns.  I know.  What was I thinking?

I eased myself in.  First I had a very pleasant return to Kohls.  Then I pleasantly returned something to Bed, Bath, & Beyond.

Before leaving that parking lot, I said a little prayer for my life, started the car and headed to Wal-Mart.

As soon as I got into the parking lot, I began to curse.

First of all, they have those stupid slanty parking spaces–you know, the ones where you have to drive a certain way to park into.

Those parking places alone do not make me mad.  They have them at Macy’s too and I have never been bothered by them there.

But at Wal-Mart?  People do not know how to operate the parking lot.  Even though it’s been this way forever.

So I am already frustrated because it takes me 5 minutes to get into a parking spot…not because I couldn’t find one…because I had to wait for people to figure out the parking lot.

The car parked, I start toward the entrance.

As soon as I got to the door, I was bombarded by no less than THREE homeless-looking guys asking for donations to several things.  Now, again, I don’t mind giving to charities (in fact I give to Salvation Army when the ring their bells, and we give to others regularly each year), but I do mind strange, large men getting all up in my grill about saving people.  uncool.

Moving along…

I get inside and an old man takes my item, scans it, and sticks a return sticker on it for me.  Ok, whatever.  Not sure why Wal-Mart has this process, but it doesn’t bother me.

I quickly find the Customer Service at the front of the store and let myself think for a second, “huh.  they’ve re-done this Wal-Mart since I have last been here.  Seems cleaner and newer…still smells the same though.  Eh, maybe it won’t be so bad.”

Mistake.  Wrong.  Incorrect.

I stand in line with my helicopter to return.  I am behind an older couple with a cart and one item.  The customer service desk has four ladies behind it–three who appear to actually be doing returns and one who is supervising and helping.

From this distance?  Things are still fine.

The middle customer service lady finishes up, sends someone on her way, and takes the old couple.

I wait patiently as it looks like the customer service lady on the Left will be opening up.

She does.  She begins talking with the supervisor lady about her headache.

I am the only person in line with my lonely toy.

The supervisor suggests that she is hung over.

Seems inappropriate conversation seeing as there are little kids with the lady on the right.

Middle lady finishes with old couple.

I am eagerly waiting to be waved forward.

Middle lady adds to headache conversation (perhaps Left lady should have her blood pressure checked.  What?)

Finally Middle lady sees me.  I smile.  She says, “well?”

Wait…what?

I tell her I want to return my item, please.

She takes it from me, scans it, shoves a return receipt at me and says, “sign this.”  (um…please?), and grabs it away.

While this is taking place, Right customer service lady finishes (all this while?  Headache conversation has been going on.  Along with much talk of booze.), and a larger man in pajama shorts and a Red Wing T-shirt with holes in it approaches her and says, “yeah I called earlier because you people didn’t give me my full refund on my thing.”

Middle lady (who is still not talking to me.  not sure what I did, but at least she is actually still working on my return) says, “oh yea, I totally e-ffed (yes, she said ‘e-ffed’ and not the REAL word) that one up.  It’s right there.”

Still inappropriate.

Then she turns back to me, hands me cash and says, “15.92, bye.”

“Um, thank you.  Happy New Year,” I say back.

She is already talking about how maybe she needs to “get  laid” to get rid of her headache.

Um.

So I start to walk to the toy section to pick Eddie a new toy when I realize, they just gave me cash.  I do not have to shop here!

Yippee!

And with that?  I leave stupid Wal-Mart.

But not before another parking lot struggle.

Oh and? I bought Eddie some Melissa and Doug toys at a local toy store, in case you were wondering.

I guess I won’t be sponsored by Wal-Mart to go to any blogging conferences.

Happy 2011.

It’s the hap happiest season of all…

Before you read this post?  Check out our new sponsor over there on the right ——->  It’s Peggy Ann Design!  She is awesome!  Think awesome as in “OMG!  BEST PRESENT EVER” kind of awesome.  If you get my hint.
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Christmas is a time of some pretty major traditions for our family.  While we have been learning to let go or change some Thanksgiving traditions, we have worked very hard to foster and cling to our Christmas traditions.

I love Christmas.  All of it.  I really do. The family traditions are always my favorite part.  I think I just love the feeling of happiness and security that doing the same things and seeing the same things over and over each year create.

Yesterday we got Eddie all bundled up to go pick out our Christmas tree.  Every year of my childhood, my parents took us out to get a tree.  To be honest, I hated it.  I hated having to trudge through the muddy, cold fields arguing over which tree would be best in our house.  Then standing their while dad cut it down.  And of course then?  We had to drag it back to the truck, get it secured in the trailer, and get home.

And none of that meant that dad was going to hurry up and get the tree in the stand.  And even if he did?  It usually had to sit there and “dry” before mom would allow it in the house.

All of this was excruciatingly slow to us, and after awhile, my dad just went out and got one on a Saturday morning by himself.  One that was already cut.

But…we NEVER had a fake tree.  Ever.

And we still don’t.

Saturday morning we bundled Eddie up and took him with us to Bosch’s in Holland to pick a lovely pre-cut, REAL Christmas tree. It took us maybe 5 minutes to pick out this colorfur (I think that is how it’s spelled).  By the way, this place smelled WONDERFUL!  I wish you could scratch and sniff your computer screen because each time they sawed off the end of someone’s stump it smelled like pine heaven.

Anyway, after getting our stump trimmed, and some ooo-ing and ahhh-ing by Eddie at the giant inflatable snowman, we loaded our treasure up.

psst.  by the way?  that super duper cute hat Eddie is wearing?  Is from Baby Butterfly Boutique. Super awesomely cute baby stuff and ridiculously awesome customer service!

Ahem.  Anyway…

We took our tree home.

I am pretty sure this is our best-fitting tree we have ever gotten.  And the needles are so soft i could almost cuddle them.

Eddie did a pretty good job helping with the lights.  Until he found our ‘step’ button for turning them on and off.  Then we had to remove him from the situation.

(also, please ignore my dumpy-looking socks in this picture.  they are too big and out of control).

I don’t go with the themed-tree or the color-coded tree or anything that elegant.  The ornaments on our tree don’t cost much money.  We don’t get the little white lights that twinkling in the pretty dark room.

Nope.  Our tree is what we call a “family tree” or as my actual family calls it a “tacky tree”.

When we were kids, my mom and my grandma put the huge colorful lights on the tree and filled it with ornaments that were handmade and told a story.  That is what I always wanted my tree to be too.  It tells the story of our family.

newlywed ornaments

first ornament made in daycare by our firstborn

first Christmas as a married couple

ornaments that reflect hobbies

ornaments that reflect careers

personalized ornaments (a new one each year!)

good luck ornaments

and those to remind us that some of those we love are celebrating in heaven

all put together to make the perfect Sluiter Family Christmas tree.

Some may say our tree is tacky or gaudy or just weird.  People might laugh at our choices of ornaments or decorations.  But to us, this tree is the story of our family.  And we will put new ornaments on it each year to reflect what new parts of our lives.

Decorating the tree is one of my most favorite traditions of the season.  what is one of yours?

Stay tuned for Top Ten Tuesdays:  Things I would like to Do/Change about our House.  Join me, won’t you?

Why it’s Called McFATTY

If you are into punctuation and the art of editing your writing?  I am getting all English teachery over at The Red Dress Club today.  Take a read.

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First of all, I am not unaware of the hullabaloo this article has created all over the internet.

It makes me crabby that someone cares more about overweight people kissing on TV than the fact that they have everyone constantly making fat jokes about it all.

Something is wrong there, people.

Where were all these grossed out people when Rosanne was getting frisky with Dan 20 years ago?

Oh wait, people liked it because it was REAL.

Anyway, I am a REAL person and I am overweight at 191 pounds (yes, I went up a pound.  I blame the Halloween candy).  I am 5’7″ (roughly) and 191 pounds.  That is way overweight.

And you know what? To my knowledge?  No one has ever gagged or thrown up in their mouth when Cort and I smootch on each other.  I mean, if I have ever offended someone by holding my husband’s hand or kissing him, well, then…TOO BAD!

My point is that people who crab about fat people?  Need to shut up.  That is my McFatty lecture for the day.  There is more that I could add, but really?  I don’t think it needs to be said.

Publicly bashing fat people for grossing you out?  is hurtful. Just don’t look.

And now?  Back to me (because that is what it is really about yes?)

So I mentioned that I gained a pound.  I blame this:

This used to be full. And we only had like 6 trick or treaters. oops.

I am not even going to post on here in all of public how many bags of candy we went through..BY. OURSELVES.

It’s ugly.

And I am just thanking my McFatty stars that i only gained a pound.

Anyway, this week while I was battling with myself not to eat yet another “fun sized” treat, my friend “The Rocky Mountain Mama” informed me that she does a Meal Planning Monday.  I thought this fit pretty well with McFatty Monday since besides telling you all what I weigh, I am struggling to make better food choices.

For us, meal-planning starts on Sunday–before Cort goes and gets the groceries for the week.

First we decide together what would be a yummy meal for Tuesday night–the one night a week we get to eat as a family.

This week we decided on baked chicken with rice (recipe to follow).  Then I make the list and dig through my coupon holder to match up with what we are buying.  Before finalizing the list, I flip through the Meijer sales flier for the week to see if they have anything listed on sale that we could stock up on or use in lunches.

After all that, I add anything else we need in the house like TP or dish soap.

Lastly we think about what we will eat on the nights we are apart.  I usually eat PB sandwiches on wheat bread.

And that is it.  Cort takes a look at the list to make sure he knows what I am talking about, then he gathers up the Meijer reusable bags and the coupons and he is gone for an hour.

That’s it.

This week’s dinner:

Baked Chicken with Rice

2 cups of minute rice (I use brown)

1 can of cream of chicken soup

1 can of cream of celery soup

1 can of golden mushroom soup

1 package of dried onion soup (I use Lipton)

1.5 cans of water

**mix above together and spread in a greased 9×13 glass baking dish

**Put chicken (can be in bone, but I use 3 or 4 skinless breasts) on top

Bake for about 2 hours at 350 degrees

I like this recipe because we will have leftovers that I can take in my lunch.

We also usually have a veggie of some sort with this.  This week we are having corn.

So there you have it!  Hopefully I can make better choices now that the candy is almost gone from our house!

Want to link up for more meal plans? Click below:

Meal Planning Monday

Want more of McFatty Monday?  Click below:

Also? Tomorrow is Top Ten Tuesdays here in Sluiter Nation.  We are listing our Top Ten Favorite Children’s Books!  Join in!

Celebrating Those Who Serve By Eating a Corndog

So I know I have a whole trip to Indy to tell you about.  And normally on Fridays you get to come and see my flip-offs.  I don’t have flip-offs this week.  Well, maybe to the 102 degree weather in Indy that had sweat rolling down my back and into my…well…anyway.  But other than that?  Nope.  I had a great week.

But of course if you are longing for the satisfaction of reading some flip-offs, definitely do head over to Kludgy Mom and read hers…and link up, if you’re a blogger.

ANYWAY…this post?  This post is about something that was a LONG time coming for me.

I’m talking about the Coast Guard Festival.

I live less than 30 minutes from Grand Haven, MI where the annual Coast Guard Festival is held.  It’s kind of a big deal.  There is much festival-ness about it, and for good reason!  The Coast Guard is a very important part of our Armed Forces!  And here in Michigan, living on the lake, we rely on them for search and rescue, but nationally the protect our waters!  They are a REALLY big deal, so it’s pretty awesome that we have this festival right here on our own turf to honor them.

And I?  Had never been to the festival.

My friend Missy–you know, my super fantastic talented beautiful friend, Missy?  This one right here? Yup, her family lives in Grand Haven and goes annually.  She decided Sluiter Nation must…MUST…attend the festival this year.

So we did.

On Friday morning we headed out into the pleasant weather to first visit the Craft Show.  I had never been to a craft show either (I know, I know…I am gradually coming out from under the rock), and I was pretty impressed!

There were tons of really cool local crafts.  If it wasn’t so dang busy (meaning if we could actually PUSH OUR STROLLERS through the paths, we would have stayed). But it was too crowded for the whole family to move comfortably.

So…we moved on to the FOOD!

The best food booths were right along the water.  So we strolled through Grand Haven and down to the shore.  This?  Is where I found a delightful corn dog and the best invention ever…butterfly fries.  Freshly cut potatoes in swirly formation and deep fried.  They were like chips, but yummier.  WAY yummier.

And I ate them too fast to take a picture.  Sorry.

Eddie and his BFF, Ethan, had a great time enjoying fruit and fried food from the comfort of the strollers.

And what would going to Coast Guard Festival be without touring an actual vessel?  So we walked to the boats.

And the boats?  They are big.

But the guys and kids toured them.  Because that is what boys and kids like to do.

The mommas and the babies sat and chatted.  and maybe got a sun burned part.  It’s NOT dandruff, people!  It’s pealing!

Ahem.

By the time the guys and kids were done touring the big boat, the rides were open.  Missy was determined to get me on a ride.  I generally do NOT love carnival rides, but Missy wanted me to and I love her, so I went on the ride.

Please notice that we sat near the middle because that is supposed to be the least scary spot.  Also notice the small girl sitting next to me?  Yeah, stay tuned about her.

So now you can see that I was holding on for my life.  This?  was terrifying.  It was high.  I don’t like heights.  I screamed.  A lot.  And that sweet looking girl next to me?  She MOCKED me.

Me:  ARGHHHHHHHH!!!!!!

Tiny Girl:  Wait.  Are you SCARED?

Me:  It’s SO HIGH!!!!

Tiny Girl:  Really?  This ride is really not scary.  You should go on the ZIPPER!  That is scary!

Me:  ARGHHHHHHHHHH!!!!! (because I can clearly NOT have this conversation right now while the pirate ship is trying to kill me).

Oh that Zipper ride that Tiny Girl was talking about?  This was it.  This was what Jeff (Missy’s bearded hubby) wanted to ride.  With Cort.

As they were standing there in line, I almost vomited just watching the thing squeal and turn.  And Missy told me that Jeff was all excited because NO ONE that they ever take to Coast Guard will go on this thing with him.  Oh boy.

So they get put in this cage thing, see?  And that cage…can totally spin around WHILE the ride is ALSO spinning.

How is vomit NOT going to occur?  I just don’t know. Especially after those corn dogs.  Oh those corn dogs.

That?  Is Cort and Jeff.  Those are their hands holding on for dear life.  I had to stop taking pictures because my stomach was turning.

And yet?  All happy with no puke!  In fact…Cort said he would GLADLY go on again with Jeff.

Yes, we are officially their Coast Guard Festival buddies from now on.  Just based on the Zipper.

Of course, Eddie needed to ride a ride too.  The only thing he could really go on was the carousel.  But he loved it.  I know he’s got his straight face on, but that is what he does when he is taking it all in.  Those little piggies were clamped tight to the horsey and he was holding tight to the pole.

When it was over?  He fussed.  He wanted more.

Although he was also very, very tired. So tired he couldn’t get it together for one last shot with his BFF and his momma’s bestie.

And so, we traveled home.

But we will be back.  Because the Coast Guard?  Is important.  And when they have a Festival?  They serve great corn dogs.

Oh Hey…Another Guest Post:  
So I am over at Tie a Little Ribbon today.  Krystal is all kinds of cool and funny and hilarious and when she asked me to guest post, I just couldn’t say no.  It’s fitting that she runs this post today, after I have been a guest this week.  So head over, leave me a comment over there, and show Krystal some Sluiter Nation love. 

Put Us In the Zoo!

One very fun thing that Cortney and I have in common is our love of zoos and aquariums.  It seems that every summer we somehow find our way to one (well, not last summer.  Last summer we had a zoo in our home with our newborn and everyone coming to look at US).  This week, thanks to my mom, we were able to take Eddie to his first zoo.  But before I get to that, a little retrospective of past zoo/aquarium visits.

The summer of 2004 (the summer when we got engaged) we took a trip to NY to visit friends who were living in Rochester at the time.  We stopped at the Buffalo Zoo for an afternoon.  Of course they had buffalo.

And they also had a rhino.  This zoo was WAY smaller than we expected, but had some good animals.  However, the giraffe feeding, elephant washing, and camel rides their website advertised?  So were not happening.  I was crabby about this.

On a rainy day on our honeymoon in Myrtle Beach in June of 2005, we went to the Ripley’s aquarium.  Cort was braver than I was with all the touching and the holding of sea creatures.

In 2006 we took a trip to Seattle.  We visited the Tacoma Zoo and saw whales and…

reindeer!  It was fun, but sort of hot.  That was one of the nicer zoos we’ve been to, although it was sort of a long drive from where we were staying.

We also visited the aquarium on the Puget sound.  I went into the kid section for some pictures.  What did I think I was doing with that polo and hair do?  Ugg.

In 2007 we went out to Montana.  No zoos, but in South Dakota we saw some REAL buffalo (Cort made me get back in the car because there were signs all over the place about how they will KILL you)…

and in North Dakota we saw this big cow.  But it wasn’t real, so I guess it doesn’t count as part of our animal experiences.

In 2008 we went out to NY again for a wine tour with our friends near Rochester, and on the way home we stopped in the Toledo Zoo.  This has been my favorite zoo so far.  Look at those big polar bears!

They are big…see?

They had camels at this zoo.  I think Cort was trying to impress the camels with his super suave ways.

Did I mention we visit the gift shop at each zoo and buy a new animal?  It’s true.  we were collecting animals for Eddie’s nursery before Eddie was even conceived!  I knew I wanted an animal themed nursery.  Leave it to Cort to find the hooters in Toledo.

On Tuesday my mom brought our little family to the John Ball zoo about 30 minutes from where we live.  Even though we love zoos, Cort and I hadn’t been to the one near home in YEARS!

We saw this Kamodo Dragon.  It was creepy, but pretty neat.  My mom thought it was icky and after he opened his mouth like this she kept talking to it trying to get it to do it again.

We saw lots of monkey butts.  Here is Eddie watching a chimp moon him.  He didn’t seem too traumatized though.  He actually enjoyed watching all the different monkeys.

He even got to play an African drum on his way out of the African exhibits.  Anything that makes noise is cool with him.

 Grandma really wanted Eddie to pet the pygmy goats.  He preferred to point, not pet.

One thing grandma REALLY wanted us to do was ride the camel.  She brought extra money just so we could do it.  I believe her words were, “C’mon, Cort.  I’ve got five dollars burning a hole in my pocket just waiting for you to ride that camel.”  So he did.  We didn’t want to disappoint Grandma!

Even I got on Angel the Camel.  In a skirt, no less.  The ride was much less glamorous than Sarah Jessica Parker made it look in Sex in the City 2, let me tell you!

We saw bears.  A grizzly and a brown bear.  My mom thought those claws were pretty big.  See?

Then we hit the petting zoo where again Grandma tried to get Eddie to pet a goat.  He had more fun running around the area away from the animals.

Eddie and daddy thought the penguins were pretty cool…even after we sneaked the stroller in…shhhhh…

And wouldn’t you know it?  We bought Eddie his own camel to take home!  And he has been sleeping with it every nap and every night.  He loves that darn thing.  I don’t blame him, it is SOFT!

And when we got home?  Louis was in a box.  I guess he felt left out.  He wanted to be looked at in a “habitat” too.

Our family sure does love zoos!  We can’t wait to visit the Indianapolis Zoo (hopefully!) in just a few weeks!

Hungry? For a Giveaway?

Remember how I said I wanted to buy more locally?  Well, one of my family’s FAVORITE–locally owned–places to eat lately is Zoup!  Holland JUST opened a Zoup! franchise this spring and we have been completely addicted.  Seriously?  We go about once a week minimum.  I know it’s a franchise, but it’s locally owned by a super cool family.*

*this family just happens to be related to me, but I would eat there if it was a different family too.  Just sayin’.

Usually we use their super-convenient online ordering.  We can order AND pay online and just skip the long lines at the store and pick it up.  And there ARE long lines…because it’s so dang good!

The staff is SUPER friendly!  They are starting to remember us and that we are usually online order customers.  Which is funny because they get a really confused look when we just stop in to eat.

And even though we usually take our order and eat at home, the restaurant is so clean and open!  We ate in yesterday and they had high chairs that were clean (we all know most places have a hard time with this), floors that we let Eddie walk on, a table we felt fine putting his food directly on, and a super friendly staff.

For anyone unfamiliar with the whole concept behind Zoup!, it’s most famous for his (addictingly) yummy soups.  They offer up to 12 different soups every day, and the best part?  They TOTALLY encourage taste-testing!  I mean, you could ask to taste EACH soup and not only do they let you?  They WANT you to!  My favorites so far are the lobster bisque (which they have every day) and the crab corn chowder.

They also have super yummy sandwiches (Cort’s favorite thing to pair with soup) and WAY yum salads (I like to get the Asian Chicken salad with my soup).  You also get fresh bread.

Cortney and I could not love this place anymore than we do.  Seriously.  You NEED to try it.  So, we (Sluiter Nation and Zoup! of Holland) have a Giveaway!!!

Win a $20 gift certificate to Zoup!
to the Holland, Michigan Zoup! only.  Sorry non-locals.
 This?  Is a super great prize.  Cort and I usually both eat for under $20!  So it’s at LEAST two meals…free!
Mandatory Entry:
Head over to Zoup! of Holland’s facebook page, “like” them, AND then tell them what you love about Zoup!   (If you’ve never been to Zoup!, tell them why you are excited to try it!)  
Make sure to tell them you’re from Sluiter Nation.  Then come back here and leave a comment that you did your entry (only entries left in my comments can be counted in the draw for the gift card.)  This is worth ONE entry.
For all you overachieving Zoup! Lovers:
To earn EXTRA entries you can do each of the following.  But make sure you leave a SEPARATE comment for each entry you do.  Each comment is an entry!
1. “like” Zoup! on FB and come back here and tell me you “like” them.
2. follow Sluiter Nation using Google Friend Connect, Networked Blogs, or Feedburner and then tell me you did in the comments.
3. “like” Sluiter Nation on FB and then come back and tell me you do in the comments.
That is it!  Four chances to win $20 to eat some YUM Zoup!
Wait…need another way to win some free Zoup?  Once you “like” Zoup! of Holland on facebook, you can get clues to the Zoup! Rocks Rock.  What is that?

The Zoup! Rock is hidden somewhere in the Holland/Zeeland area.  Zoup! of Holland leaves clues on their facebook page and if YOU find it and return it to the store?  You get a free meal (up to $10)!  Crazy great deal!  Every time someone finds it, they re-hide it.  ALL SUMMER!

So what are you waiting for?  Enter this giveaway, support local business, and eat some ZOUP!

Terms: Giveaway will run from Thursday, July 1st until July 8 at 6pm EST.  A winner will be drawn using Random.org and announced on Friday, July 9 at 8:00 am. Anyone who is local or can be local to the Holland Zoup! is eligible to win this giveaway. You must have a valid email address to enter.  Do not leave anonymous comments without somehow identifying yourself.  Spam, inappropriate, or anonymous comments will be deleted.  Incorrectly done entries will also be deleted.  PLEASE FOLLOW DIRECTIONS!
Disclaimer stuff:  Zoup! bought my family and me lunch to discuss this giveaway and are provided the gift cards.  My lunch was delicious.  I recommend getting the veggie chips.  They are gluten free!

Keeping Our Business Local

This past week I blogged about how Cort and I just purchased our gear for running from Gazelle Sports in Holland.  Lately we’ve been making more of a concerted effort to shop more locally.  We have some of the greatest unique shopping downtown Holland, and it’s ridiculous that we don’t spend more time down there. 

So today Eddie and I packed up the stroller, grabbed my mom, and headed downtown to the Farmer’s Market.

We got there just before 10:00am, which seemed to be the best time.  Lemonjellos (a GREAT local coffee joint) had a nice little booth at the “beginning” of our journey. (that is my mom pushing Ed up there on the right, by the way.  you’re welcome, mom).  It wasn’t too busy when we got there, so pushing Eddie through the crowd was pretty easy.

Right away there were TONS of beautiful perennials for sale.  Had I known I could have such a variety to pick from at such a low price, I would have waited to get mine!  Next year for SURE!

And then there was the yummy produce….it pretty much speaks for itself….

those strawberries and asparagus totally came home with me.  YUM!

Did I mention the GORGEOUS flowers?  I have to admit, I think coming home with a fresh bouquet might just be my favorite part of the Farmer’s Market.

And of course they sell other things too…like smoked meats, maple syrup, jewelry, dried flower arrangements…

…and wooden outdoor furniture (see it in the back behind the pointing baby?).  Eddie loved looking at it ALL and chatted it up with anyone who would listen (which was usually cute old ladies).

My mom and I also stopped to buy Dutch Bros. bread.  I got the Dutch Crust Bread.  Um…YUM!!!!  Sandwiches for lunch this week!

They even had a cooking show going on.  I don’t know what these guys were making, but it looked great!  Every week they have a different “demo” going on by someone.

And there are street performers, of course (hopefully I will be doing a post on Holland’s Street Performer series soon!  Stay tuned…stilts are sometimes involved!)

Eddie and I had a great time with my mom a the market (see my sweet flowers?)  We will definitely be going back again…soon!

By the time we were getting ready to leave, it was getting pretty crowded and it was hard not to completely take someone out with the stroller.  Cort had given me $20 to spend and I bought strawberries, asparagus, shucked peas, and flowers, and still came home with 50 cents!

Now, if I could get myself off “spending lock down”, I could take you, my readers, to more cute places in Downtown Holland.  But for now, I hope you can enjoy the Farmer’s Market!  I know we did!

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