Saturday, January 30, 2010

REVIEW: The DSO Classical Roots Concert with Regina Carter

The DSO "Classical Roots" Concert with Regina Carter - Refreshing and Beautiful!

As a lifelong Detroiter, I have prided myself on knowing about most Detroit traditions. But until this month, even I did not know about one tradition that dates back 30 years - The Detroit Symphony Orchestra's "Classical Roots" concert series.

The "Classical Roots" concert series started back in 1978 and showcases the DSO with featured African American composers and musicians. Last night, courtesy of the DSO, I and my friend Linda attended the season's first concert in this wonderful series.

Friday night was the "Classical Roots" Student and Family Night concert so the audience was full of children and teenagers who were music students. When we arrived, the kids were leaving a ConcerTalk sponsored by Ford Motor Company where the students heard from DSO conductor Leonard Slatkin and the featured performer for the night, Detroit native and violin great Regina Carter - I wish I had arrived earlier to be part of that talk.

Since 1978, every Classical Roots concert has opened with the DSO playing "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing" - also known at the Black National Anthem. For this song the DSO was accompanied by the wonderful voices of Detroit's own Brazeal Dennard Chorale.

Next, the DSO played "Lumina" by celebrated African American composer Olly Wilson. Leonard Statkin forewarned us that this number was very different - in that the composer wanted us to "hear" sights and colors as opposed to melody. And he was right, it was very different and reminded me of music that was part of Alfred Hitchcock movies.

The Brazeal Dennard Chorale returned to the stage to perform beautiful "a cappella" negro spirituals which included "Joshua Fit The Battle Of Jericho", "Lord Fix Me" and "I Opened My Mouth to the Lord". The Chorale was just wonderful! This was my first time hearing this group, but my friend Linda was very familiar with them since the founder of the Brazeal Dennard Chorale is a member of her church.

The evening concluded with a violin concerto performed by Regina Carter. I think most of the audience came to the concert just to hear her play. As a native of Detroit and a graduate of Cass Technical High, Regina has a very large and proud fan base in the city of Detroit. I used to go see her perform at Hart Plaza when she played Jazz violin with the all female jazz quintet "Straight Ahead". And she did not disappoint at this concert when she played as part of the World Premiere of a violin concerto composed by Billy Childs.

The entire evening was refreshing and beautiful. Everyone left the DSO humming a tune and still enjoying the music of the night.

The "Classical Roots" Concert with Regina Carter will perform again tonight at 8:30pm at the DSO. And the next edition in the "Classical Roots" series will take place on March 6, 2010 at 8pm with former DSO conductor Thomas Wilkins and the return of the Brazeal Dennard Chorale. Be sure not to miss it...

Movie Review: "Dear John" by guest blogger Patti Dudek

Movie lover Patti Dudek followed @freeismylife on Twitter to score two advance screening passes to see "Dear John". Patrica kindly agreed to share her opinions in this movie review.

A great film touches you, even when there is nothing to relate to and I want to tell you that Dear John is that type of film, but I can’t. It touched me- but mostly because I could relate to lots of it!

The loss of a great love is heartbreaking, and watching a film about loss brings back that heartbreak – no matter how long ago it was. This film is also painful as it takes viewers back to the drama of 9/11, addresses the worries/stress of raising a child with a disability, making peace with imperfect parents and our imperfect life choices. It shamed me for forgetting to appreciate the continued sacrifices of those that bravely serve our country and those of us that love them.

The acting was realistic especially the role played by Richard Jenkins as the flawed yet devoted single father with a love of coin collecting. He is an underrated and under appreciated actor, like my beloved Kevin Bacon.
All this pain and love were actually enjoyable until the end of the film. It helped that the main actors are beautiful! The collective groan from audience at the end was illustrative that we were all cheering for a happily ever after for these two lovely characters. My comment was that this is the worst ending since Gone with the Wind’s , “After all tomorrow is another day”. My wise daughter however thought about it long and hard. She determined the ending was ok by her because it allowed us to create the best of all endings for each of us in own imaginations.

So, enjoy and please share your stories of lost love; and the wonderful endings you come up with…

Patricia Dudek is the principal of Patricia E. Kefalas Dudek & Associates. Her law practice concentrates in elder law, Medicaid and estate planning, estates/trust administration, probate, administrative law, and disability advocacy. You can follow Patricia on twitter at @PattiDudek.

REVIEW: General Mills Fruity Cheerios and Oat Cluster Cheerios Crunch Cereals

At the end of 2009, General Mills announced a commitment to further reduce sugar in cereals advertised to kids under 12 to single digit grams of sugar per serving. The company has already been reducing sugar in cereals while increasing key nutrients, such as calcium and vitamin D, and providing whole grain.

Did you know that ready-to-eat cereal eaters consume less fat, less cholesterol and more fiber than non-cereal eaters? Cereals also deliver important vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients, making cereal a top source of key nutrients in children´s diets.

So when I was sent coupons to try General Mills cereals for free, I jumped at the chance. My family is always on the go and morning routines don't leave alot of time for breakfast choices. Eating cereal is quick and provides a good way to start out the day with a good healthy meal.

When I went to the store, I gave my son the opportunity to pick his choice of General Mills cereals. He choose Fruity Cheerios and I choose Oat Clusters Cheerios Crunch. We both loved the taste of the cereals (always important), but I loved the nutritional factors also. Both cereals have 2 grams of fiber in each serving. And fiber is something that I look to include in each meal choice during the day. My son loved his choice so much that he wanted to also eat it for dinner! So I think we have a two thumbs up from us both on General Mills cereals.

For more information about kids and cereals, please visit Cereal Health and Wellness. Right now if you visit here you will find a $1 off coupon for one of four General Mills cereals.

Disclosure: My free cereal coupons were provided by General Mills through MyBlogSpark.

DISCOUNT @ Detroit Science Center with your Blue Cross Blue Shield Card

Detroit Science Center visitors can show their Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance card and receive $2 off an adult $1 off senior/child general admission.

The Detroit Science Center is located
at the corner of Warren Ave. and John R St.
in the University Cultural Center.

5020 John R Street
Detroit, MI 48202
Map and Directions

This offer is valid through January 22, 2011 (next year)

Friday, January 29, 2010

Homeless in Detroit - Help Save the Shrine Circus

Sign a petition to help save the Shrine Circus in Detroit

Did you see the article in today's Detroit News about the Shrine Circus being "Homeless in Detroit"? The Shrine Circus has been coming to Detroit to do their yearly fundraiser for 103 years. Pretty impressive. But this year the tradition may not happen.

The Shrine Circus had been located at the State Fair Grounds in previous years. Well, we all know that the State Fair closed last year after 160 years due to our state's economic problems. Now, due to the closing of the State Fair Grounds, the Shrine Circus does not have a home either.

The Shriners are petitioning the Governor to let them still have their fundraising event at the State Fair Grounds. Their event helps to bring $40,000 to our troubled economy.

If you want to help, please sign the petition.
Also tell me your thoughts on this issue by leaving a comment below. Should we try to perserve our Michigan traditions like the State Fair or take the stand that if a organization cannot support itself, it should not be in business...

Thursday, January 28, 2010

FREE Kindle Book: Star Wars: Lost Tribe of the Sith #2: Skyborn

I just found another FREE Kindle book for you Star Wars Fans: Star Wars: Lost Tribe of the Sith #2: Skyborn

I don't know how long it will be FREE so you should get it while it is available.

May the force be with you...


Make 10 FREE CUSTOM business cards like you have never seen

Have you heard of No? Well neither had I until I read about them in Lucky Magazine. makes custom business cards - the type that people cannot throw away because they are soooooooo beautiful and different.

One side of the card in your standard business info and the other is a high quality photo that you can either choose from their site or upload from your computer. They also make adorable mini business cards. They business cards would be great for an artist, or photographer, or anyone really who wants to make an impression and be remembered.

Now these cards are not cheap (starting at $20 for 100 mini cards), BUT you can make 10 custom business cards for FREE - including FREE SHIPPING. Now that got your attention, didn't it??? And each of the 10 cards can have a different photo!


Follow FREEISMYLIFE on Facebook

FREE Orange Juilus when you join the OJ Quench Club

Do you love the taste of a Orange Julius? Did you know that if you join the Orange Julius Club that they will send you a coupon good for one FREE 20 oz Julius Fruit Drink or Premium Fruit Smoothie?

Well, now that you know, what are you waiting for? FREE don't last forever..

Click here to join.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

FREE Big Kahuna Reef [Game Download] on - Limited time offer

Here is a FREE game download from of Big Kahuna Reef. This game has great reviews. I don't know how long it will be FREE, so you should act now!

Big Kahuna Reef Features
-A Gorgeous Underwater Adventure
-Discover Exotic Sea Life
-Revolutionary Multi-Player "Mouse Party" Gameplay
-Go Hawaiian In This Classic Matching Game.

DEAL: Get $40 in Fuddruckers GC's for only $20 - Sales starts 1/28 at 9am

Get $40 worth of Gift Certificates to Fuddruckers for only $20. Only 125 available. Sales starts 1/28/10 at 9am and continues until all the GC are gone!

You will receive four (4) $10 certificates. Certificates valid only at Bloomfield Township, Dearborn, and Detroit locations.

Fuddruckers of Bloomfield 42757 Woodward Avenue Bloomfield Township, MI 48302 (248) 333-2400

Fuddruckers of Dearborn 18900 Michigan Ave. Bldg. K119, Dearborn, MI 48126 Phone: (313) 982-1799

Rivertown Fuddruckers 2630 East Jefferson Detroit, MI 48207 (313) 568-1000

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Movie Review: Edge of Darkness

Tonight, I went to an advance screening of the new Mel Gibson movie, Edge of Darkness. I received the movie passes courtesy of Movie Show Plus.

Before you see this movie, you need to ask yourself some questions: What would you do if your only child was murdered right in front of your eyes? What if your child was the only thing that was truly important to you and you are now a person with nothing to lose?

Any parent would want justice for the murder. And that is how Edge of Darkness plays out to the audience. We all fall in love with Detective Thomas Craven, who loses his only daughter in a horrible execution style slaying on his own front porch. Now he must use all of his skills as a detective to figure out why she was killed and who is responsible.

The movie takes the viewers with Craven through plot twists, mind games, revelations and disappointments with trusted friends and government officials, and finally an understanding of why all this madness has happened.

Mel Gibson gives a wonderful performance as a father who deeply loved this daughter and wants only revenge for her death. You feel the depth of his pain and sorrow and his need for justice.

As the body count goes up, the audience is rooting for Craven, but we all know that when a man has nothing to lose, and is on the edge, nothing is what we expected in the end.

This is a thrilling movie, but also very sobering. It will get every parent right between the eyes. When I came home, I made sure that I kissed my child and told him that I loved him.

Edge of Darkness opens this Friday, January 29th...

Monday, January 25, 2010

FREE Family Fun Days hosted by Panera Bread 2/13 3/13 4/10 5/8 6/12 9/11 10/9 11/13 12/11

Panera Bread and United Way for Southeastern Michigan Team Up to Host FREE Family Fun Days

Panera Bread has partnered with Early Learning Communities, a United Way for Southeastern Michigan (UWSEM) program, to provide free educational activities and information for children and their parents on the second Saturday of each month during the school year.

Early Learning Communities is a network of neighborhood-based hubs providing free training and resources to parents and caregivers of children aged birth to five.

From 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. on select dates, children will participate in educational crafts and reading activities. While the children play, parents will have the opportunity to learn about the Early Learning Communities program and how to best prepare children for school. The events are open to all ages.

The Early Learning Communities was started to ensure that all children enter kindergarten ready to succeed. Research shows that the first three years of life are critical to a child’s ultimate success in school and in life, making it an important time to intervene to guarantee long-term achievement.

“Studies have shown that children who can’t read by first grade will spend their entire lifetime catching up,” said Annemarie Harris, director of early childhood initiatives for UWSEM. “In partnership with Panera Bread, we hope to bring families together to discuss how parents can get their children ready for school.”

United Way for Southeastern Michigan is Panera Bread’s Operation Dough-Nation® partner in metro Detroit. For all donations made to Panera’s Community Breadbox, located near the registers, Panera matches a portion back to UWSEM.

Panera Family Fun Day dates and locations:

Feb. 13 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Panera location:
Rochester Hills, 2508 S. Adams Rd.

March 13 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Panera location:
Southgate, 13665 Eureka Rd.

April 10 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Panera locations:
Dearborn Heights, 26580 Ford Rd.
Sterling Heights, 36808 Van Dyke Ave.
Livonia, 37091 Six Mile Rd.
Farmington Hills, 37611 Twelve Mile Rd.
Allen Park, 3112 Fairlane Dr.

May 8 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Panera location:
Roseville, 31960 Gratiot Ave.

June 12 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Panera location:
Southfield, 23719 Greenfield Rd. (between 9½ Mile and Greenfield, located in a shopping plaza)

Sept. 11 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Panera locations:
Woodhaven, 23061 Allen Rd.
Troy, 823 East Big Beaver Rd. (located in the Troy Commons Plaza)

Oct. 9 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Panera location:
Livonia, 28551 Schoolcraft Rd.

Nov. 13 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Panera location:
Farmington Hills – KT Plaza, 34635 Grand River Ave.

Dec. 11 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Panera locations:
Orion, 4804 S. Baldwin Rd.
Canton, 41950 Ford Rd.

For more information on Family Fun Days and the Early Learning Communities program, visit

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Contest: Enter to Win a Frigidaire Affinity Washer & Dryer AND Support "Save the Children" ENDS 4/26

Take a Spin for a Chance to Win and Support "Save the Children"!

Frigidaire and Jennifer Garner have teamed up to support Save the Children. Play Frigidaire's Spin and Win to be entered in a drawing for a chance to win a prize your kids will love AND the grand prize: a time-saving Frigidaire Affinity washer and dryer. A winner will be drawn each day and a grand prize winner each month.
Best of all, every time you play, Frigidaire will donate $1 to Save the Children, as part of their $250,000 commitment to support Save the Children's CHANGE program, dedicated to providing nutritious snacks and promoting healthier lifestyles for children living in poverty in the United States.
The Frigidaire Spin and Win contest ends on 4/26/2010.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Disneyland on the Cheap - by guest blogger Laura Terbrack

One mother bravely decides to take her family to Disneyland during the busiest time of the year – while saving money and time.

You have got to read this story…
The love of a child is an amazing thing. It can inspire you to be a better person, take on a fight you never imagined, or talk yourself into going to Disneyland during Christmas week. Yes folks, you read that part right. Disneyland during Christmas week – what was I thinking?!?! Now that it's over, I can look back on the experience and smile for two reasons. The most important reason is that my children were very happy. The second most important reason was that I spent the day at Disneyland for almost no money out of my pocket. Yes, you read that part right too! Let me explain…

Months ago my husband and I decided we would take the family from Detroit to California over the Christmas break to visit his sister's family. She lives in the Anaheim area, so their house is in the perfect location for visiting everything in Southern California. My first goal was to score four airplane tickets for a decent price. If you have been watching the travel industry, you know that airline ticket prices were crazy for a while. With no free vouchers or rewards miles left, I was concerned that I'd end up paying $2000 for everyone. I used a nifty tool called SideStep to track prices for me and it would email me price changes. Using this tool, I managed to get the tickets for $306 per person, including taxes, etc. With that major expense out of the way, I turned my attention to Disneyland.

The Chase Disney Visa Card – My new love!
A few years ago I got a Chase Disney Visa card, knowing that I would eventually take my children to Disneyworld in Orlando, FL. The basic premise of the card is like most other reward programs. For every $100 you spend on the card, you receive $1 in Disney Reward Dollars. You can use these dollars for just about anything Disney related, including park tickets, merchandise at Disney stores or at, hotel stays at Disney resorts, etc. I had planned on just accumulating these reward dollars until we eventually visit Orlando (probably in 2011), but then I started researching the price of Disneyland tickets. A one day ticket, without the park hopper option for California Adventure, is $72 for adults and $62 for children age 3-9. My first reaction was OUCH because I wanted to buy tickets for my sister-in-law's family too since they let us stay with them for free. PLUS another brother-in-law made the trip with us, so I felt I should buy his ticket too. That left me looking at approximately $600 just in ticket fees. After getting over the nauseous feeling in the pit of my stomach, I looked at my rewards balance and saw enough in there to cover all the tickets plus some to spare. I decided that this would be a good use for the dollars and redeemed my Disney Rewards Card. I got a little extra on the redemption and was able to cover most of our food expenses for the day. I would have walked out of Disneyland without spending any actual money, but my husband disappeared and came back with mouse ears for everyone…MEN!

The 411 on Disneyland at peak season.
If you are adventurous enough to visit Disneyland during the peak or holiday seasons, let me give you a few tips. The most important thing that you can do is arrive early. We got there on the Tuesday between Christmas and New Year's when the gates opened at 8:00 AM. Since we were buying one day, one park tickets, you can only get them at the gate or via phone. We went with the gate option and that early in the day had no problem. The same cannot be said for families that arrived after 3:30 PM that day, since they stopped selling tickets at the gate due to park capacity. Rumor has it that the capacity of Disneyland is 85,000 people, but no one was willing to confirm that for me.

Fast Pass your way to success.
The next important thing you can do after arriving early is to determine which rides are the most important for you to visit. With crowds the size we saw, you will never be able to get on all the rides in one day, but there are ways to maximize your riding chances. The best way to do that is to use the Fast Pass system. You can go to a ride, such as Splash Mountain, and get tickets to ride the attraction later in the day. The system tells you the time block when your ticket will be good and then you can come back later during the time block and pretty much go to the front of the line. We did that with the Indiana Jones ride and the Autopia ride. We had planned on using the system for Space Mountain, but we went over around Noon to get the Fast Pass tickets and the next available riding time block was for 9:30 PM that evening (which would have interfered with the fireworks we wanted to see). On further inspection, we realized that the actual line for Space Mountain was pretty short and just waited in that instead for about 45 minutes. Considering the crowds, we were able to visit 12 attractions, see the Christmas Parade, eat lunch and dinner, and view the Christmas Fireworks in a 13 hour time frame.

Don't leave me this way.
My final tip for everyone is to NOT leave the park when the fireworks are over. If you are lined up on Main Street, you are in for quite a sight when ½ of the people on that street head straight for the exit when the firework show is over. Save yourself the grief of waiting for the trams with everyone else and head back into the park. We got in line for the Jungle Cruise and enjoyed seeing the attraction at night while many other people were grumbling and trying to get back to the parking lots. When we finally decided to leave, the line for the tram was reasonably short and we only waited about 10 minutes to board one for the parking lot.

I would be lying if I said that the entire day great. There were moments of great stress and annoyance due to the crowds, but the scene of my children sleeping in their mouse ears that night made me smile. Ah, the love of a child…

Laura Terbrack is a wife, mother of two and a self-professed tech goddess. In addition to her busy job as an IT professional, Laura is starting her own blog called "Laura in the Motor City". Follow her on Twitter at @lterbrack.

Monday, January 18, 2010

REVIEW: Volunteering on MLK Day at Osborn HS

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said "Life's most persistent & urgent question is- What are you doing for others?" If you follow me on Twitter or receive my weekly newsletter, you know that I stress giving back to the community. So on this Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I decided that my son and I would volunteer with American Express, United Way for Southeastern Michigan and City Year Detroit to beautify Osborn High School on Detroit’s eastside.

I have been looking for a good way to volunteer with my nine year old son and this project was perfect. It took place from 12:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. which was just enough time where my son would stay interested without becoming antsy. Volunteers worked on a variety of projects that included painting and cleaning bathrooms, painting murals and lockers, cleaning stairways, and creating a study area for Osborn students.

The day started out with a pizza and salad lunch provided by the AKA Sorority. All the volunteers were addressed by Dan Mulhern (pictured above left), the husband of Governor Jennifer Granholm who also brought his son Jack (pictured above right). Although there was a power outage at the school due to a traffic accident, that did not stop the volunteers from getting right to work.

My son and I were put on mural painting for the beautification of the school. We and two other volunteers painted a 5 foot mural of a recycling bag filled with fruit. My son had a great time, especially when he "mistakenly" tossed paint on me. Painting was definitely something that brought out the kid in everyone. And since these murals were large and intricate, the process was very time consuming but worthwhile.

When our mural was nearing completion, my son and I went around to visit the other projects. The murals were all fantastic, large and very colorful. The bathrooms were sparkling clean and freshly painted, and the stairways were shining from where volunteers had cleaned them on their hands and knees!

My son and I had a great time and it was wonderful to be able to give back to the Detroit community. We both learned today that some holidays are for working and not just resting.

Click here to learn how you can volunteer with the United Way of Southwestern MI.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

FREE MP3 from Lincoln MKT: "Under the Milky Way" by Sia (as heard at the Auto Show)

Have you been the North American International Auto Show yet? In my Tweetup Preview of the show, I mentioned that the Lincoln exhibit was playing the TV Ad from their 2010 Lincoln MKT campaign. The song from that TV Ad is called "Under the Milky Way" by Sia.

You can download the song for FREE at the Lincoln website. Pick the MKT "Perceptions" TV Ad and there will be a link at the bottom of the window to download the song for FREE. I just downloaded it to my phone. It's a nice reminder of my great auto show experience.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

REVIEW: Tweetup Preview of the North American International Auto Show

Tonight, I experienced my first tweetup at the North American International Auto Show. Starting at 7pm, eighteen bloggers, photographers, and tweeters were allowed to preview the cars and displays up close and personal for one hour. It was a fast moving and exciting time where I learned that one cannot successfully tweet, take photos, and take notes for a blog all at the same time - but it was fun to try.

This is an exciting time for Detroit and the auto industry and I was proud to be a part of it tonight.

Let me show and tell you about some of the great things that I saw tonight...

We started our tour at the Mercedes exhibit. What really needs to be said about Mercedes other than to say that the cars are slick and fabulous. Here is a few photos of the SL 550...

I have heard a lot about Maybach (but mostly on the Real Housewives of Atlanta). So I had to get a few shots of a car that has a price tag of $500,000! Does it come with a driver and a vacation home? You will see a lot of security around this car when you come to the Auto Show...

We all know that Ford won two awards for the Car of the Year and the Truck of the Year. Both awards are fashionably on display in their exhibit.

So the rapper Nelly was in Detroit yesterday at the Auto Show to show off his Mustang 5.0 that he designed for Ford....


And here is a shot of the most anticipated Ford Fiesta in a very cute green color...

The all black and white Lincoln exhibit was slamming. They were playing the music from their TV commercial "Under the Milky Way Tonight.." Very classy...

The most interesting part of the night was on "Electric Avenue". I don't know about you, but this C-Zone vehicle looks more like a golf cart with windows than a car...

The strangest car of the evening on "Electric Avenue" was The Tango. It seats two people: one driving and one in the back seat. And it is only 2 1/2 - 3 feet wide.

This Mini Cooper got the most buzz of the evening. Everyone wanted to sit in this thing and we all wanted to get one. It is so cute...

Everyone wanted to photograph this Dodge Viper. So cool....

This Morgan was the hit of the crowd. Doesn't it look like something that James Bond would drive? And the inside is fabulous with the softest leather you have ever felt. Like a baby's bottom...


I have lots of other pictures, but I don't want to spoil it for you all so I will stop here. The North American International Auto Show starts this Saturday morning. Hope to see your there...