Payin’ It Forward With Pumpkin #AJO

It's Pumpkin Season at Dunkin (coffee, iced pumpkin coffee, and pumpkin donut)

~ Photo Provided by Dunkin Donuts through Tilson PR~

Nothing quite says fall like Pumpkin!  So I was super pumped when my friend Teresa over at Making It All Work invited me as her plus one to sample some delicious and fabulous fall treats at Dunkin’ Donuts this past Tuesday!  I have to tell you it didn’t take much persuasion as I’m a lover of all things pumpkin and it turns out pumpkin is what was on the menu!

We arrived and were greeted by  Maru who asked us if we’d downloaded the Dunkin’ Donuts app yet?

Um… but of course!

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Apps rock!

Especially when they give away free stuff and this particular app does just that! Not only does this app give you special offers, it also helps you find the nearest Dunkin’ Donuts!  AND it doesn’t stop there…  you can also buy a Dunkin’ Card and pay for your purchases and/or buy gift cards to send to your family and friends for the holidays!  How cool is that?!

I know very cool right!

After we discussed the app we met Maria the store manager!  I was so impressed to learn that Dunkin’ Donuts actually allows its staff the creativity to come up with a donut of their own.  Maria’s particular store, located at 4012 Armenia Ave in Tampa, came up with a Latin infused Guava filled donut topped with a vanilla cream icing and toasted coconut.  I’m not a huge fan of Guava, but I have to say it was really good!

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My mouth was watering and my taste buds were dancing when Maria started bringing out all of the pumpkin items.

First we sampled their new Pumpkin Pie Donut

Pumpkin Pie Donut & Coffee

~Picture provided by Dunkin’ Donuts through Tilson PR~

This was one of my favorites donuts, filled with a pumpkin pie flavored buttercream and then topped with a white icing and sprinkled with graham crackers!

Next we sampled the pumpkin donut and their little pumpkin counter parts the munchkins!

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I was begged to bring home some of the pumpkin munchkins by my little one who informed me I was “The BEST mom EVAH!” as she sat and ate them!

Win!

Oh wait…

Did I tell you we also got to try their different pumpkin coffees?

Pumpkin Beverage Line Horizontal Lifestyle

~Picture provided by Dunkin’ Donuts through Tilson PR~

I couldn’t make up my mind which was my favorite:  The Pumpkin Iced Coffee or the Pumpkin White Chocolate Latte!  I guess, because the weather can run hot and cold a little further into the season I could go with the Latte on the cooler mornings and the Iced Coffee when it gets sunny and hot!

My all time favorite thing pumpkin is Dunkin’ Donuts Pumpkin Muffin!

Pumpkin Muffin

~Picture provided by Dunkin’ Donuts through Tilson PR~

I must have one of these bad boys every year when pumpkin season rolls around!  As a matter of fact I may end up going out and getting another one today!

If for some reason you’re not in a pumpkin kind of mood, but you want something a bit more hearty for breakfast Dunkin’ Donuts also offers the Angus Steak Big N Toasty!

Angus Steak Big N' Toasted

~Picture provided by Dunkin’ Donuts through Tilson PR~

We were given samples of this sandwich and I can tell you a few of us took a second sample because they were really tasty!

We chatted with Mura about the things we liked the best and then thanked her for the opportunity!  As thank you for coming out she handed us each a swag bag with a lb of coffee, a cute DD mug and a $20 gift card inside!

I didn’t think much about the swag bag till later that night when a friend sent me a link to an article about a young girl name Alyssa O’neill!  My heart ached for her family and as I read on I couldn’t hold back my emotions when I learned Alyssa had suffered a sudden seizure which had ultimately taken her life. SUDEP (sudden unexplained death in epilepsy) is a fear of mine and a fear for most parents of children with epilepsy, but  for this family it had become a reality.

The day before Alyssa passed her parents had received a text from their daughter about wanting to try a Pumpkin Spiced Latte and unfortunately it never came to pass, but in an effort to remember their daughter they bought and paid for 40 Spiced Lattes which were given out to strangers.  They only asked that #AJO (Alyssa’s initials) be written on the cups and that they tell the people who received them about Alyssa’s story.  Moved by this others began to pay it forward and #AJO went viral.

Immediately after reading the article I thought of the gift card I’d received and the next morning I headed out to my local Dunkin’ Donuts.  I pulled the manager aside, shared Alyssa’s story, and asked if I added a little money to the gift card could they mark it with #AJO, retell Alyssa’s story and pay it forward.  The manager agreed, I thanked her and headed home feeling like I had helped Alyssa’s family in some small way tell the world about their daughter!

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I am deeply, deeply  sorry for the O’neill’s loss as no parent should ever have to bury their child, but I’m also thankful for their simple act of kindness!  People, including myself, were moved by Alyssa’s story and began sharing pictures on twitter and Facebook.  Now a simple act of kindness to remember their daughter has become a movement!   #AJO pay it forward has gone global and attracted the attention of news networks, talk shows and celebrities.  Your daughter can never be replaced, but her memory will help so many others including my own daughter, by bringing attention to Epilepsy and SUDEP!

~While I was invited to sample these products, the review and opinions on them are my own.~

Disney Should Stand With Special Needs Families And Continue To Create Magical Memories

I remember the first time we took Meg to Walt Disney World! It was for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas, she was 4 months old and I was really nervous about the trip.  Meg had started having seizures just three months prior and we had spent so much time in and out of the children’s hospital they had begun to know her by name.  It was our first trip as a family and  I remember talking to her epileptologist and asking him if we should go?  Where were the hospitals?  What if she were to have a seizure at the park?  How would we handle the people around us?  Our epileptologist reassured us Orlando had great medical care for children with epilepsy “just go… enjoy yourselves!”  So we decided to go with our family, who had originally planned the getaway!

I remember arriving late and being so nervous, so full of anxiety!  The parade had already started so we made our way through the crowd and found a spot where we could see.  Erich had picked up Meg and there were these big, bright, illuminated toy soldiers marching towards us.  I glanced over  at my daughter, so content in her daddy’s arms, and I could feel my throat start to tighten and my eye begin to well, she was so beautiful and she was smiling!  I wasn’t sad!  For the first time, in our short journey, I felt like everything was going to be okay!  For that brief, but precious moment I could let go of all the fear and anxiety and just fully submerge myself in her joy!  Tears streamed down my face as the parade came to an end and we made our way to the hot chocolate and cookies stand.  My  husband looked at me and I didn’t have to say a word, he embraced me and even though we were standing in the middle of thousands of people we shared a special moment, just the three of us!

Eleven years later,  we are more informed about epilepsy and aren’t quite as nervous or scared about taking trips to Disney!  We now know with most parks or venues we can always call ahead to find out where the medical facilities are located and what their protocol is in the event of an emergency.  We know seizures can be scary, but we also know Meg’s seizures can be managed with the right combination of meds and her epilepsy should never prevent us from getting out and enjoying life.

Lately there’s been a lot of controversy surrounding Walt Disney changing its Guest Assistance Card Program.  Our family could easily benefit from this program, being my daughter has epilepsy and I suffer panic attacks, but we choose not to use it!

Why?

Not because we don’t need it, but rather we’ve always felt there are other families who need it much more than we do, but knowing the program exists is comforting!

I’m deeply saddened and disappointed by the poor choices of a few and outcries of others who don’t fully understand the negative impact they’re having on special needs!  They don’t realize how their actions  can and will change the system in place that has worked so well for so many special families.  It is so important for Disney to send a strong message that they stand with special needs as they’re such a huge force and really set the standards and pave the way for other corporations.  In my heart I feel Disney will do the right thing and continue to make magical memories while still providing accommodations to special families.  As for us, we take each day/moment as it comes and try not to sweat the small stuff!  We see every day and milestone as a blessing and are thankful for those who don’t join the lynch mobs, take the time to educate themselves and fight for the rights of others.

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Still A Work In Progress

My husband knows how much I enjoy taking pictures so last year he decided to buy me a lovely Cannon Rebel.  I’m really enjoying playing with it and learning how to use all its fabulous settings.  Over Christmas my sister and her boys let me take their family photos.  I think they came out pretty good considering I’m still a fairly novice photographer.

PicMonkey Collage

We drove to two locations, but settled on the second as it had a few different areas with lots of colors and textures which made for interesting pictures.  I had so much fun, they’re a good-looking bunch and were willing to try anything I asked.  Of course we had to do one picture Gangnam Style as my youngest nephew is a fan! I definitely think we might have to head back there again soon as I’ve got a few more great photo ideas.

Christmas Town, Jars Of Clay and a Wonderful Christmas Time

This past weekend we got the opportunity to meet the guys from Jars Of Clay, the popular Christian rock band from Tennessee, who were performing at the opening of Busch Garden’s Christmas Town.

It’s a funny story really…

My sister-In-Law Denise was able to get tickets to the opening of Christmas Town and we were really excited to go!

We’d heard Jars of Clay were performing at 10 o’clock and we’d planned on heading over to see them, the only problem was we were standing in line waiting for Santa!

Seriously!

We were standing in line a really, really long time and while the elves were extremely cute and really good at keep Meghan entertained…

the repetitive “just hear those sleigh bells ring-a-ling ting ting ting-a-ling too…” accompanied with bird whistling was driving me completely bonkers!

To make matters worse, hubby and Meg realised the music was wearing on me and started imitating the whistling so as  to drive me completely insane, but I digress…

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It was the grand opening of Christmas Town so we fully expected it to take a little while to see the jolly old fella and Meg kept peaking in the windows to see if she could see him.

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Finally we were led into Santa’s house where we were met with more elves who led us into the kitchen to meet Mrs. Claus.

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After gobbling a few chocolate chip cookies and learning a song with Mrs. Claus we were ushered through some red curtains by another elf into a hall of mirrors.

The elf told us her name was Jingles and this was the getting cleaned up for Santa area!

Jingles asked Meg which mirror was her favorite and then did a secret knock…

 the knock was returned from the other side of the mirror and Meg’s face completely lit up when the elf on the other side revealed the mirror was actually a secret door to Santa.

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With a big smile on her face Meg quickly told Santa she wanted Olivia’s House (Friends Lego) for Christmas and promised to be good.

While it took a long time to get in to see Santa it was well worth the wait!

Meg was beaming from ear to ear while we stood outside waiting for her cousins to come through.

Hoping to catch the end of Jars of Clay’s performance we high tailed it to the other side of Christmas Town, but sadly we were too late.

Determined to continue our fun and because Meg had never seen snow before we headed over to Snow World where Meg threw her first few snow balls!

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I was so proud of Meg for being brave enough to go down the snow slide by herself although I would’ve had a giggle had hubby gone up and done it with her.

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While I was taking pictures of Meg going down the ice slide I happened to notice the guys from Jars of Clay just a few feet away chatting and taking pictures with fans.

So I motioned to Hubby and Meg and we headed over to see if they minded taking one with us.

Stephen Mason greeted us with a smile and asked if we’d happened to see their set?

Unable to lie I told him we’d missed it on account of waiting for Santa.

  He was really sweet and told Meg not to worry Santa was more important anyway!

*phew*

Stephen was just a really nice guy and we found out, while he was chatting soccer with hubby, he’s an Arsenal fan which makes us like him all the more!

By this time the rest of the band had gathered around for our picture!

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They were sincerely a great group of guys and I’m glad we got a chance to meet them!

So today for Music Monday I’m featuring a few of my favorite songs by them.

First up their christmas remake of Paul McCartney’s Wonderful Christmas Time!

Eyes Wide Open

Two Hands

For more information of the band or to check out more music visit their website www.jarsofclay.com