Making Memories At Brookfield Zoo

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Disclosure: This is a sponsored post but all thoughts are my own.

One of the great things about the Chicago area is that there are so many fun family-friendly things to do. One of the places we enjoy going as a family is the Brookfield Zoo. Some of my favorite zoo memories are pictured below, from the hot summer days to the cooler days at their ‘Boo at the Zoo’.

This summer, Brookfield Zoo is encouraging families to make even more memories inside their gates. On Friday and Saturday evenings, through August 13th, they are hosting Summer Nights.

The zoo stays open until 9pm these nights so people can enjoy Brookfield Zoo in a new light with cooler evening weather, enhanced dining, a beer and wine garden, live music, roaming performers, kid’s entertainment, and a new laser light show, all surrounded by wildlife and nature.

The summer fun isn’t limited to night time though. During the days families can find all the great exhibits they’ve grown to love, along with other exciting attractions like Dolphins in Action, Festival of Flight, Hamill Family Wild Encounters and Hamill Family Play Zoo. This summer the boys went to their first dolphin show and to Hamill Family Wild Encounters for the first time.

In the “Wild Encounters” area, visitors get a number of hands-on experiences including opportunities to touch and feed animals, including parakeets and goats. Lucas enjoyed brushing the goats and sitting with them in the goat area. We also got to see reindeer up close which is any Santa loving child’s dream!

Visiting the zoo with young children? Then you’ll want to visit the Hamill Family Play Zoo. Children will have fun touching, exploring, building, and playing while connecting with nature. They can pretend to be a zoo keeper, dress up like a lemur, or make some crafts.

Imaginative fun isn’t limited to the Hamill Family Play Zoo. My boys found it all over the park!

We loved checking out all the animals, too. The dolphins and penguins were my favorite. Lions and tigers and bears were a must-see on Luke’s list and Jake wanted to checkout the reptiles. I loved this guy (pictured below) who slowly came over and stood as still as could be just looking at me, letting me snap his photo.

Love birds? Now through Labor Day the zoo has ‘Festival of Flight’ which is a 20-minute presentation offered a few times through the day, that features more than 20 species of birds.

Have you visited Brookfield Zoo yet this summer? It’s not too late to make some more wonderful family memories!

Summer Festival Must-Haves {Giveaway}

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Festival season is in full gear and here in Chicago we are gearing up for one of the biggest music festivals of the summer season- Lollapalooza (more affectionately known as Lolla). I’m not going to be able to make it this year but I thought I’d put together a list of some festival must-haves so those of you that are going to Lolla (or any other festival) have the best experience possible.

Sun protection

There is nothing more unfashionable (and painful!) than a sunburn so make sure to pack some sunscreen, a floppy hat and your favorite sunglasses to protect you from the hot summer sun.

Oil blotting sheets

One of my favorite products for the summer months, oil blotting sheets will keep your face looking fresh.

Refillable water bottles

It’s essential to drink plenty of water while you are outside all day, especially with this heat wave we’ve been having here in Chicago!


Keep your breath minty fresh with some gum.

Portable phone charger

You’ll want to send snaps and share ‘grams of your favorite moments but won’t be able to do so when your phone dies.

Toilet paper or flushable wipes

Let’s face it… you are going to have to use the bathroom while you are at the festival and port-a-potties are not the cleanest places in the world. And am I the only one that always picks the one that’s out of toilet paper? If you bring your own flushable wipes, like Cottonelle® Flushable Cleansing Cloths with CleanRipple® Texture, or toilet paper you don’t have to worry because you are all set. Cottonelle® with CleanRipple® Texture is a proprietary innovation on all Cottonelle® toilet paper and flushable cleansing cloths that is designed to clean better (than the leading national value brand) so you’re clean & confident enough to go commando if you want to!

Pain reliever

It’s always good to have a pain killer on hand in case you have a headache or are in pain from walking so much.

Hair tie

Whether it’s to tie your hair back to get some air on your neck or for another use, I always make sure to have a hair tie with me.

Light sweater

When the sun goes down it can get a little chilly, even during the summer months, so having a light sweater in your bag will come in handy during those times.

Makeup setting spray

To make sure you look just as good after hours in the heat as you did when you first started the day make sure to spray some makeup setting spray on your face. ‘Melted’ is not a good look for anyone ;)

Lip balm

Just like you want to keep your body hydrated you will want to keep your lips hydrated so they don’t crack as you are singing along to your favorite song.

Now that I’ve shared my must-have list I’m wondering, what items are on your list? Guiliana Rancic shares her top must haves (pictured below) and we are giving them away to a lucky winner!

Enter via the form (or link) below. Good luck! :)
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Giveaway Entry Details:

The Cottonelle® “Festival Must Haves” Reader Giveaway (“Sweepstakes”) starts at 12:01 a.m. EST on July 25, 2016 and ends at 11:59 p.m. on August 8, 2016 (the “Entry Period”)


Cottonelle® Festival Must Haves Kit ($50 ARV). Each kit will include a selection of fabulous festival “must haves” — Cottonelle® Flushable Cleansing Cloths with CleanRipple® Texture (for your bum!), a floppy hat, makeup setting spray, tinted moisturizer and moleskin.

Also, click here to learn how to enter the Cottonelle® sweepstakes for a chance to win an all-inclusive trip to Wanderlust 108 Festival in Miami (October 22)


I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Brunch At Grand Lux Cafe In Downtown Chicago

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When we aren’t at an early morning game there is nothing I love more than enjoying a good breakfast (well, okay, maybe sleeping in is more enjoyable but that doesn’t happen anymore with kids so a delicious breakfast- that I don’t have to clean up- is the next best thing). A couple weekends ago we spent a Sunday in the city and started it all with brunch at the Grand Lux Cafe. Thanks to the restaurant for hosting my family and I.

Perfectly situated on Michigan Avenue, this restaurant is lined with windows so diners can enjoy the views of the city while they eat. Inside, the views are just as nice, with high ceilings and ornate decor.

The perfect brunch in my mind starts with a morning cocktail. I remember my mom and dad always getting Mimosas at Sunday brunch. I was debating between a Mimosa, a Strawberry Bellini and a Bloody Mary but finally decided to try their Strawberry Bellini made with fresh strawberries. It was a wonderfully refreshing bubbly drink and perfect for the start of our day outside in the sunshine.

As a family we decided to try the breakfast beignets while we waited for our breakfasts. They came out warm and covered with powdered sugar along with four dipping sauces.

Sinisa ordered the Eggs Benedict with ham and hollandaise. He loved their take on this classic breakfast staple.

I waivered between the french toast and an omelet, my typical breakfast fare. I loved the variety of omelets they had and chose to order the Crab and Asparagus Omelette. Full of Lump Crab, Fresh Asparagus, Oven-Roasted Tomato and Fontina Cheese and topped with Hollandaise Sauce it was as delicious as it sounded.

The kids split an order of “Churro” French Toast. This Grand Lux Original is made with thick, crispy pieces of custardy french toast and smothered with cinnamon-sugar, chocolate and Dulce de Leche caramel sauce. My boys have huge sweet tooths!

Overall, we had a really great experience at the Grand Lux Cafe and look forward to brunching there again next time we are downtown! If you’d like to try their brunch, they offer it on Saturdays and Sundays from 9am to 2pm.



The KIDZ BOP Concert Is Coming To Chicago {Giveaway}

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Thanks to Live Nation Chicago for sponsoring this post and giveaway for my readers.

The boys are both huge fans of KIDZ BOP and are really excited that their ‘The Life Of The Party Tour’ concert is coming to the Chicago area this Summer. They have never been to a concert other than when they were younger and went to one for a preschool show. Now that my oldest is almost a tween (seriously, how did that happen!?) I think they are going to be wanting to go to concerts more often and I think this one would be the perfect one to start with because it’s aimed towards their demographic and I know they won’t be hearing any bad words.

KIDZ BOP, the number one music brand for kids, is bringing The Life Of The Party Tour to FirstMerit Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island on August 7, 2016. The KIDZ BOP Kids – Ashlynn Chong, Sela Hack, Matt Martinez and Grant Knoche – are headlining the tour. The ALL-NEW live show features the biggest pop songs of the year, awesome choreography, and more fun surprises from The KIDZ BOP Kids. The Life Of The Party Tour is the ultimate pop star experience, and the perfect concert event for the entire family!

If your child loves Kidz Bop you are in luck because I’m giving away 20 tickets to the Chicago concert! FIVE winners will each win FOUR tickets. I thought four packs were a good idea because then you can go as a family or you can take your child and a couple of their friends. Enter below. Good luck!

(Please note: You do NOT have to do all of the entry options below to be elgible to win. You just need to do at least ONE of them. The more options you do, the better your chances of winning.) 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Party For The Planet At Brookfield Zoo

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Every day is Earth Day at Brookfield Zoo, but on April 24th they will be showcasing some of the steps you can commit to that will truly make a difference for animals across the globe at their Party for the Planet! Visit the Eco Expo featuring over 40 Earth friendly vendors, drop off recycling, enjoy live entertainment, plant a tree, and enjoy green activities and crafts. Party for the Planet will be filled with educational, engaging, and fun activities for the entire family and I’m excited to be attending with my family courtesy of Brookfield Zoo.

During the event, Nature Cat will be in the Discovery Center to greet all of his fans and Chicago’s own WTTW will be engaging kids in an eco-friendly activity. NATURE CAT is the hit new PBS KIDS series that was recently nominated for a Daytime Emmy® Award for Outstanding Writing in an Animated Program.  NATURE CAT follows Fred, a house cat who dreams of exploring the great outdoors. In each episode, once his family leaves for the day, Fred transforms into Nature Cat, “backyard explorer extraordinaire.” Nature Cat can’t wait to get outside for a day of backyard nature excursions and bravery, but there’s one problem: He’s still a house cat with no instincts for nature. With the help of his animal friends, Nature Cat embarks on action-packed adventures that include exciting missions full of nature investigation, “aha” discovery moments and humor, all while inspiring children to go outside and “play the show.”

List of special events during Party For The Planet:

9:30am – 3:30pm – FREE PARKING in the North Parking Lot if you donate recyclables (see website for items they accept)
10am – 4pm – Eco Expo – Pavilions
10am – 3pm – Meet Nature Cat from WTTW’s new public television series.
11am – Tree Planting – Butterflies!
11:30am, 3pm – Giraffe Zoo Chat
12:00pm, 1:30pm – Green Thirteen Performance – Bison Pavilion
1:15pm – Bilingual Zoo Chat – Bison Pavilion

*Update 4/25: It was such a fun event! The boys liked meeting Nature Cat and our family enjoyed the beautiful day at the zoo!


The Birthday Party Debacle Avoided


This is a sponsored post but all thoughts are my own.

My kid’s birthdays are in June but that doesn’t stop them from starting the birthday party planning as soon as Christmas is over. They have been in almost daily debates about where their party should be and still haven’t come to a decision. Having already been to a few parties this Spring they are sick of the typical party places and want to try somewhere new.

Thankfully I’ve recently discovered BirthdayMasters, a new website designed to help parents find birthday party venues, talented entertainers and great party rentals. The site currently focuses on San Francisco, Los Angeles, Dallas and the Chicago area. BirthdayMasters makes choosing a party venue or party entertainment for your child’s party a lot easier. Each party place or entertainer has their own profile listing with party package descriptions, pricing, photos, and additional party information including party add-ons, and other customizable options which makes it easy to search, compare, and book parties.

I’ve started researching Chicago birthday party places and was amazed at how much variety I found on the BirthdayMasters site. This easy to use site features locations for all interests. There were some locations I had never heard of before and others that our family had been to that I didn’t realize were open for birthday parties. Party goers in the Chicago area can get a thrill racing go karts, splash around at an indoor pool party or learn how to ride a horse.

The BirthdayMasters site provides all the contact information I need along with details about the location and the party packages they offer. They even tell you everything you need to know about any guidelines they have for outside food, party deposits and things like that. This is really helpful for busy moms who are trying to plan a birthday party in between conference calls and baseball games.

Right now I’m considering hosting a party for the boys at one of the places I found on the site called Adventure Realm. This place has laser tag, live action role playing and an arcade. It’s completely different from any of the other places they’ve been lately and offers a unique experience for all.

BirthdayMasters also offers birthday party ideas for those planning home parties as well which I thought was nice. Check them out and let me know what you think!

Get Paid To Participate In Focus Groups Or Test Products

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The following is a sponsored post from Focus Pointe Global that I’m sharing in hopes that it can help someone :)

For moms, it can be tough to make extra money and, as expenses pile up, opportunities can be really hard to come by. One way to earn extra money is by registering to participate in focus groups. One of the top companies conducting opinion research is Focus Pointe Global, a national company with 2 locations in the Chicago area – Downtown, and in Oak Brook, IL. They have an interactive website for their panel members at, where you can quickly register and fill out your profile. Participating in a focus group or product test is a fun and easy way to earn some extra spending money – from $75 to $250 for only a couple of hours of your time talking about topics such as children, pets, food products, and more!

See below for upcoming studies and check out or add them on Facebook at Focus Pointe Chicago for more upcoming studies!

Week of September 21st:

* Topic: Skin Care. Respondents: Nurses and others working in the Medical Field. Incentive: $250. Duration: 2 Hours. Link:

* Topic: Education. Respondents: Parents of Students in 11th/12th grade, Students in 11th/12th grade. Incentive: $100. Duration: 2 Hours. Link:


Week of September 28th:

* Topic: Beverages. Respondents: Men and Women ages 25-55. Incentive: $100. Duration: 90 Minutes. Link:

* Topic: Pet Food. Respondents: Pet owners Ages 21-65. Incentive: $70. Duration: 1 Hour. Link:

Finding Relaxation In The Chicago Suburbs

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(Disclosure: I received a free stay and spa service but all thoughts are my own.)

Now that school is back in full swing I find myself wishing I had a break from the craziness to relax and take time for myself. While I don’t have time for a vacation right now I definitely think that it’s important to find other ways to take a mental break and get away. Le Méridien Chicago, located in Oakbrook, provides just what a mom needs.

I recently stayed over night there and enjoyed a spa service. Unfortunately, Sinisa was out of town so I had to bring the boys with on my little getaway but I left feeling relaxed so I can only imagine how much more tranquil it would have been sans kids.

When we first got to the hotel we checked out the room which was beautiful and then headed to Oakbrook mall which is right next door. It’s the perfect location for those who enjoy shopping and the hotel even offers complimentary rides between the mall and hotel. After I got coffee we went to a few stores I wanted to visit and then a couple the boys insisted we go to. Once it started raining we were ready to head back to the hotel. One thing I will note here is that it’s best to give the car service notice of when you will need to be picked up so you don’t have to wait. If you have your own vehicle it’s probably just easiest to drive yourself over there.

Once we got back to the hotel we enjoyed their VIP lounge which had a delicious selection of snacks and non-alcoholic drinks. They had some prepackaged choices and some freshly made options from their kitchen. We enjoyed our view of town as we ate.

When it was time for my spa treatment someone came to my room to get me and the boys. I wasn’t sure how it would go with them in the room while I was getting a facial but I was pleasantly surprised to walk into a hotel room that was set up to entertain my boys while I enjoyed some relaxation. There were snacks and water for the boys, a small building set for each and a television they could watch. They were excited to see all of that and I loved the thought that went into making sure everyone was taken care of.

My massage therapist was friendly and explained everything that she was doing. She gave me tips on taking care of my combination skin and what I should be looking for in products which I really appreciated. After a nice facial I planned to head back to the room with my boys but she told me that everyone who has a spa service gets to stay in the room for an hour after their facial or massage. Half the room was a serene bathroom so I was more than happy to soak in a big tub while my boys built their LEGO sets outside of the bathroom.

Afterwards we headed back to the room where the boys quickly claimed their bed. We ordered room service for dinner and watched television before we fell asleep in the comfort of our hotel beds. It was such a great day and the perfect way to relax when you only have a day to escape reality.

Exploring Glenview, Illinois With Kids

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Thanks to Go Roma for sponsoring this post.

I love taking road trips and one of the best things about living in the Chicago area is the amount of fun things there are for families to do within just an hour or two of where we live. A few weeks ago we headed to a town I’d never been to before called Glenview which is about 14 miles North of the city.

The boys and I spent a whole day exploring the town and didn’t even get to do everything on my list. Here are the things I’d recommend doing on your next trip to Glenview.

Play: Little Bear Garden Park

My boys spent hours playing at Little Bear Garden Park. It was a wonderful area with something for everyone. There was a playground, splash pad, huge sand pit, and plenty of grassy area and seating. There was also a path that went around the park with storybook pages every so often which would be perfect for families with preschoolers to walk around and read a book as they went along the path. The park was busy but large enough that it did not feel overcrowded.

Eat: Go Roma

I enjoyed eating at Go Roma when I was pregnant with Jacob so I was excited to see that a new location opened in Glenview. Go Roma features quick and delicious Italian foods. Their pizza is my favorite. Go Roma was affordable which I appreciated when I was working retail and on a very tight budget and I still appreciate.

When we tried out their new location for lunch I got the BBQ Chicken Pizza which I really enjoyed. I loved that the chicken was very prevalent on the pizza instead of diced up really tiny and barely there like at some other places.

Jacob got the kid’s cheese pizza and Lucas got the kid’s macaroni and cheese. They were so excited to see that their kid’s meal came with a cookie and they happily gobbled up their entree to get to their dessert.

Shop: The Glen Town Center

If you love shopping you will enjoy spending time at The Glen Town Center. It’s a beautiful, outdoor shopping area with stores, restaurants, and even a movie theater. I found Fourth of July shirts for the boys at Carter’s and looked around a few other clothing stores. We stopped by The Book Market and then stepped out of the sun for a bit and spent time reading our books while I enjoyed a coffee. We checked out the local candy store, Rocket Fizz, and ended with a trip to GameStop so the boys could look at Skylanders.

Some other places located in Glenview that we didn’t get to visit are Wagner Farm, the Grove and Kohl Children’s Museum. There really is enough to keep families busy for a day or two and it’s so close to the city for those who want to visit Chicago but then escape the hustle and bustle (and parking fees) of the city!

Have you been to Glenview? What other fun places should we check out next time we visit?


List Of Free Things To Do In Chicago This Summer


Traveling to Chicago this summer? It’s possible to make the trip on a budget! Here is a list of FREE things to do in the city and the suburbs.

1) Walk around Navy Pier. Don’t miss the stained glass display!

2) Take a picture in front of “The Bean”

3) Enjoy the weekly fireworks display (every Wednesday and Saturday evening in summer)

4) Head to the Lincoln Park Zoo to see animals

5) Spend a day at one of the beaches and swim in the lake

6) Enjoy a free movie or concert in the park

7) Walk along the lakefront

8) Window shop on Michigan Avenue

9) Walk around the city and look at the amazing architecture

10) Take the kids to Bear Garden Park in Glenview to play on the playground, build sandcastles and splash around

11) Go to a museum on a free day.

12) Go to a playground (try Maggie Daley in Millennium Park)

13) Walk around a Farmer’s Market

14) Splash around in Crown Fountain

15) Check out the Skokie North Shore Sculpture Park

16) Watch the water display at Buckingham Fountain

17) Go to story time at a library in the city or suburbs

18) Enjoy the beauty at the Chicago Botanic Garden

19) Check out the Children’s Garden at Garfield Park Conservatory

20) Attend a Vacation Bible School

21) Learn to dance at the Spirit of Music Garden in Grant Park

22) Explore nature at Emily Oaks Nature Center

23) Visit a farm (like Wagner Farm in Glenview)

24) Phillip’s Park Zoo and Playground (Aurora)

25) Build with legos at the Lego Store in Water Tower Plaza

26) Visit Chinatown

27) Go to a parade

28) Enjoy the sights and sounds at Taste of Chicago

29) Go bowling (check out the Kid’s Bowl Free program)

30) Walk around Downtown Naperville



2015 Summer Bucket List (And Tips To Get The Most Out Of Summer)

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I am so excited to share this year’s summer bucket list with you all! I have a general bucket list for kids and also am sharing some of my favorite Chicago area bucket list ideas as well. Before I share those though, I wanted to share some of my tips for getting the most out of summer!

First of all, extend your summer! Who says “summer” needs to start in June and end in August or whenever the kids go back to school? I declared May 1st as the start of our summer and we are going to enjoy fun times as long as the weather will let us (which will hopefully be into September!)

Make sure to plan it. We’ve had many Saturdays that were filled with errands and before we knew it, we’d wasted a gorgeous day off with things that can be done in little chunks of time elsewhere throughout the week. Schedule the fun in! I have our summer bucket list in a notebook that I carry around so that if bad weather cancels Jake’s baseball game I can come up with an indoor activity to do.

Lastly, don’t forget to record it! Take lots of pictures of the memory making. Another thing we are doing this summer is having the kids write in journals daily. They’ll practice their writing skills but also record all the fun times they had.

When planning my bucket list I thought of all the fun things I’ve enjoyed in the past, either as a child or with my own kids. I also looked into events going on in my community and found many free ones. I discovered many places have free activities and events including ToysRUs, Home Depot, Walmart, bowling alleys and more so make sure to look at stores in your town as well! Anything we definitely wanted to do I added to my calendar as an event. I then made a list of all the passes we had along with free or discount days at places, open gyms, story times, farmer’s markets and anything else that happened on a semi-regular basis or had certain hours.

Creating my bucket list took almost a whole day but if you don’t have much time I encourage you to start one and add to it as you think of things. I found splitting my list into categories helped me so I have it split by: places I want to travel to, day trips, Chicago city fun (since I live in the suburbs), neighboring towns, my town, home- outside, home- inside, and things to learn/practice. I also made a bucket list for myself since mom needs a bucket list, too!

Now to the fun! :)

Our Family Bucket List


Home- Outdoors:

  • Fly a kite
  • Have a water balloon fight
  • Draw with chalk
  • Make smores over the fire pit
  • Play in a bounce house
  • Ride bikes and scootes
  • Blow bubbles
  • Play on the slip n’ slide
  • Get ice cream from the ice cream truck
  • Play in the rain
  • Host a BBQ
  • Play water balloon baseball
  • Race remote control cars
  • Paint with water
  • Catch lightning bugs
  • Wash the car by hand with soapy water
  • Treasure hunt in the sandbox
  • Play in the water table
  • Build a sandcastle
  • Have a water gun fight
  • Watch a sunset
  • Play catch

Home- Indoors:

  • Make homemade pizza
  • Have a cousin sleepover
  • PJ/Movie day
  • Make lemonade
  • Have a family game night
  • Bake cookies
  • Make rootbeer floats
  • Do science experiments
  • Make homemade popsicles
  • Build a fort in the TV room
  • Eat watermelon
  • Have an indoor scavenger hunt
  • Enjoy breakfast for dinner
  • Make ice cream sundaes
  • Cook dinner together

Things to do in our town or neighboring towns:

  • Go to garage sales
  • Visit at least 5 different playgrounds
  • Have a picnic in a local park
  • Visit the local Farmer’s Market
  • Go to ChuckECheese
  • Attend library storytime
  • Have a family walk around the neighborhood
  • Go to a kid’s workshop at Home Depot or Lowe’s
  • Spend a day at the local pool
  • Go paddleboating
  • Play mini-golf
  • Go fishing
  • Ride horses
  • Go to the local arcade
  • Go out for ice cream
  • Make your own pottery
  • Feed ducks at the lake
  • Star gaze
  • Eat a sno cone
  • Go geocatching
  • Attend a craft class at Michaels
  • Go on a nature walk
  • Enjoy a movie or concert in the park
  • Go for a train ride
  • Pick fruit
  • Go to a parade
  • Watch fireworks
  • Ride go karts
  • Play laser tag
  • Go to a drive in movie
  • Go to an amusement park
  • Go to a baseball game
  • Go to the movies
  • Volunteer together
  • Go to a waterpark
  • Attend an art class
  • Go bowling

To learn or practice:

  • Learn: how to ride a bike without training wheels
  • Learn: how to tie shoes with laces
  • Learn: a magic trick
  • Learn: how to dribble a basketball (Luke)
  • Learn: site words (Luke)
  • Learn: how to swim
  • Learn: to skip rocks
  • Practice: reading
  • Practice: writing
  • Practice: sports

Mom’s to do list:

  • Have a spa day
  • Clean out and organize garage
  • Create travel display
  • Complete a puzzle
  • Have a date night in Chicago
  • Spend an afternoon reading in the hammock
  • Travel somewhere at least a few times a month
  • Enjoy a pina colada
  • Go to lunch with family
  • Go to Sunday brunch
  • Eat a meal by the water

Our Chicago Bucket List



  • Navy Pier
  • Hard Rock Cafe
  • Taste of Chicago
  • China Town
  • Millenium Park
  • Michigan Avenue
  • Water Tower
  • Visit “the bean”
  • Museum of Science and Industry
  • Shedd Aquarium
  • Donut Vault
  • River tour via boat
  • Get a lobster roll
  • See Chicago from Montrose Point
  • Walk along the lake
  • Get popcorn from Garrett’s
  • Stay overnight in the city
  • Splash in Crown Fountain


  • Great America
  • LegoLand in Schaumburg
  • Downtown Naperville and the riverwalk
  • Air show in Bolingbrook
  • Sky Zone
  • SciTech
  • Morton Arboretum
  • Blackberry Farms
  • Outlet mall
  • Phillips Park Zoo
  • Ravinia Fest
  • County Fair
  • Ribfest in Naperville
  • Wolfe Wildlife Refuge in Oak Lawn
  • Children’s Museum in Naperville
  • Red Oak Nature Center
  • Brookfield Zoo
  • All Aboard Diner

Day Trips:

  • Diecke Discover Zone- Huntley
  • Indiana Dunes
  • Starved Rock
  • Bourbonnais- Bears training camp, Strickler Planetarium, Perry Farm Park
  • Long Grove
  • Valporaiso- Valplayso park

Weekend Trips:

  • Camping
  • Wisconsin Dells
  • Michigan- Beach and Saugatuck
  • Mackinac Island
See our past bucket list here.

ROBOTS-4-U And Art & Design Summer Camps Now Enrolling


Disclosure: This is a sponsored post.

Planning your summer fun? I have two new camps to share with you today that are all about S.T.E.A.M. education (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math)! The first camp is ROBOTS-4-U - where fun, thinking and learning comes to life!  Campers will be learning about Robotics and Science, in an independent and exciting way! The other camp is the DYNAMIC ART & DESIGN Summer Camp – where technology meets creativity. Campers will have a BLAST, while learning and playing in a dynamic environment.

The camps are for girls and boys ages 7 to 14 and offer hands on learning that is self-paced for beginners to experts with a ratio of 1 instructor to 16 participants. Each Camper Individually uses a ROBOTICS or DYNAMIC ART Kit. Robot kits do not go home with campers but are available for purchase!

Camps are offered in one week sessions during June, July and August. Each camp is 1 week (5 days) long. They are Monday to Friday from 9-11:30am and 12:30-3pm. Visit the web sites and to see dates and locations for these Chicago-area day camps.

Register early as camps do fill up quickly! Get 60% Off Robotics Science Summer Camps using the code: “USF1550r”.

Free Kid’s Clubs For Chicago Sports Fans


Have a child who loves sports? I’ve rounded up all of the FREE kid’s clubs for Chicago teams. Most of these teams also have kid’s clubs with membership fees that offer more options. Know of another free one? Leave it in the comments below!

Chicago Bears:

  • Membership card
  • Welcome letter and Staley autograph card
  • Periodic newsletters and contests throughout the year
  • Invitations to Kids Club events
  • Pro Shop discount
  • Birthday postcard

Chicago White Sox:

  • Pack of White Sox Baseball Player Cards
  • Two (2) Upper Level game tickets (to be redeemed online with a promotional code)
  • Membership certificate
  • Two (2) Digital Newsletters
  • Other special ticket and merchandise discounts

Chicago Wolves:

  • One (1) free ticket to one (1) home game
  • Autographed photo of Skates
  • Autographed photo of a player
  • Birthday E-Card from Skates
  • Wolves games & prizes
  • Discounts on Wolves merchandise

Chicago Fire:

  • Membership Card
  • Welcome Gift
  • Special Ticket Offers
  • Monthly E-Newsletter
  • Access to Exclusive Contests
  • Invite to exclusive player autograph session

Jewel-Osco’s New Savings App: MyMixx


This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Jewel-Osco. The opinions and text are all mine.

I am a full time working parent and always short on time to do my grocery shopping. Recently I have discovered a brand new mobile app by Jewel- Osco called MyMixx that will revolutionize my shopping experience. Jewel-Osco is a staple grocery store in our neighborhood and the app will make Jewel our top grocer.

MyMixx is a free app available for apple and droid products. Very user friendly. Once downloaded you will want to choose your neighborhood Jewel-Osco for the updated ad of the week. Once you are signed up MyMixx will do all the work for you beside push the cart. MyMixx sends paperless receipts via email, lets you create a shopping list and discover recipes, and the best exciting part is the electronic coupons directly at your fingertip. It was always hard to find time to clip the coupons and remember to bring them and now I do not have to anymore.

Jewel has absolutely created a very unique personalized shopping app. In a blink of an eye I was hooked. I constantly look for something to do on my phone so now I can do something useful and creative. But most importantly MyMixx saves me time and money.

Looking up recipes and then creating a shopping list is easy and fun. MyMixx remembers your purchases and promptly finds savings on selected items. Redeeming the coupons and savings is easy as pie at the checkout. All someone has to do is enter their phone number they used for signing up. I found this very useful especially at the self checkout.

Over the next few weeks there are several exciting occasions happening such as Valentines Day and beginning of Lent so I will be looking for special recipes and deals to share with everyone. Try the app and let me know what you think and if their shelves are stocked with Sobe let me know.

Free Chicago Museum Days This Month {February 2015}


One of my favorite things to do when I head to the city is visit the many fabulous museums we have. Every month some of the museums have free days but this month, two of the best are free for the whole month of February. It’s the perfect thing to do on a cold day here in the windy city.


From February 1 through February 28, 2015 the Museum of Science and Industry Chicago is offering FREE MUSEUM ENTRY to kids, ages 3-11. (Two free kids tickets permitted per presented voucher with purchase of one paying adult)

To claim this special offer and receive your voucher, visit  Vouchers for Free Kids Museum Entry must be printed in advance and redeemed on-site at the Museum ticket counter; they cannot be used for online ticketing.


All Illinois residents enjoy free entrance to the Field Museum during the month of February which gives them access to most of the permanent exhibits at the museum. Want to check out some special exhibits? Illinois residents have the opportunity to see ticketed exhibitions and 3D films at a special price throughout the month.

Chicago Children’s Museum: Thursday Evenings 5pm – 8pm
Shedd Aquarium: February 2, 3, 9, 10, 13, 14 , 15, 16, 17, 23, 24

Art Exhibit Encourages Parents To Talk About Tough Topics

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As a mom of young kids, the hardest topics I have to talk to my children about these days are sharing, being kind to others and taking turns. In a few years though, I know I will have to tackle tougher topics like drinking, drugs, and physical intimacy. I’m actually very nervous about those talks so I’m happy to be partnering with Rosecrance, a private not-for-profit organization offering behavioral health services for children, adolescents, adults and families, and learning more on how to approach these conversations.

I participated in a Twitter party earlier this week and loved hearing from parents that have teens now, women that I admire in business who are also amazing moms. I also got some tips on talking about difficult subjects from Dr. Wright, the Chief Medical Officer at Rosecrance. Though my oldest is only six, I’m already in the process of figuring out how I am going to approach hard topics.

If you are a parent of tweens or teens and live in the Chicago area I’d highly recommend checking out the “In My Shoes” art exhibit at the Robert Crown Center in Hinsdale, IL during National Drug Facts Week. The exhibit was created to help parents understand teenagers’ points of view about the pressures they face and how they are confronted with the potential to use and abuse substances.

Developed by teen patients at Rosecrance’s adolescent campus in Rockford, “In My Shoes” displays shoes that have been painted and decorated by teens to tell their stories about substance use. From shoe selection to showcase, the process of creating shoe art is a meaningful experience because each shoe is unique and tells a teen’s story about addiction, recovery, and most important, their hopes and dreams for the future.

Here are all the details:

  • WHERE: Robert Crown Center, 21 Salt Creek Ln, Hinsdale, IL 60521 (SEE MAP)
  • WHEN:  Monday, Jan. 26 – Friday, Feb. 6, 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.  Open house: Jan. 31, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
  • WHAT: During the open house there will be activities, presentations and screenings to raise awareness about substance use and prevention.
  • WHO:   Jennifer Thammavong, art therapist, will be onsite during the community open house on Saturday, Jan. 31
If you don’t live in Chicago, see if the exhibit is coming to a town near you here. They also have other resources on their site like this ebook about teens and weed.
Join in the conversation online using the hashtag #InMyShoes.


Pizza Making And Fun At Four Seasons Hotel Chicago

kid-friendly four seasons hotel chicago

(Disclosure: My family and I received accommodations courtesy of the Four Seasons Hotel Chicago but all thoughts are my own.)

What’s more fun than eating pizza? Making it! My boys stepped into the kitchen at the Four Seasons Hotel Chicago during our recent stay there and had a lot of fun creating their very own pizzas.

The kids donned their chef’s hats and were greeted with an assortment of pizza ingredients on a table and a cook who was there to help them create the perfect pizza pies. First they slathered sauce on the dough, then they sprinkled cheese on and finally they started adding the ingredients.

Jake tried making his as colorful as he could by adding lots of peppers and ingredients by the handful. Lucas on the other hand was very specific in placement and put each ingredient down in just the right place, as if he was creating an artistic masterpiece.

The boys really loved creating their own pizzas and still talk about the fun they had. They were very proud of what they made.

After we made the pizzas we headed upstairs to our room for the next surprise- dessert before dinner! The “Ice Cream Man” (who was actually the ice cream lady) arrived at our room so we could create our own personalized sundaes.

Jacob and Lucas liked the assortment of toppings available and loaded their sundaes with whipped cream, sprinkles and chocolate sauce.

Even mommy got her own ice cream sundae! So delicious!

After our ice cream we decided to checkout the indoor pool area. The 50 foot long pool is in a gorgeous domed room and there is a hot tub for adults, a swimming lap lane, and plenty of lounge chairs.

Pool image courtesy of Four Seasons Hotel Chicago website

The kids worked up an appetite while playing in the pool so we called down to the kitchen to have the pizzas made. They were quickly brought up to our room on a room service cart. The boys were excited to see that their doughy creations had turned into our dinner.

While the boys had fun making the pizzas I don’t think they realized that whatever they added would be on the pizzas we were going to be later eating. If your children are picky eaters you may want to remind them of this fact. Jacob likes peppers so he was okay but Lucas added a little of everything to his and then wanted everything picked off his slice when it was time to eat.

After dinner we decided to check out another area of the hotel- their kid’s clubroom. Seriously, the fun at Four Seasons Hotel Chicago doesn’t end! We went up to the room, opened the door, and discovered a room full of toys and games. The room also had a great view of the city to enjoy while playing.

When we were done playing it was time for some family cuddle time while we watched a movie. The hotel had a nice selection of family friendly movies that you can borrow to watch in your room.

They also provided us with popcorn and coke that we could enjoy while watching the movie.

Once the kids were fast asleep it was mommy’s time to relax and I got to pretend I was at a spa and take an {uninterrupted} bubble bath in the extra large tub. It was heavenly.

The perfect ending to our day in Chicago was being able to sleep in a nice bed.

The next morning I got to lounge around and enjoy the view a bit since the bedroom had a door to separate it from the sitting area.

Want to enjoy a little family getaway to Chicago? When you book your stay at Four Seasons Hotel Chicago just request the Let’s Get Away package. It includes:

  • A visit from the Hotel’s Ice Cream Man or Martini Man, or Pizza Making Class with a chef
  • A USD 50.00 Spa credit or overnight valet parking for one vehicle
  • Age-appropriate in-room amenities
  • Luxurious accommodations in an Executive Suite

Always available to guests of Four Seasons Hotel Chicago:

Gurnee Mills: Great Deals & Fun For Everyone {Giveaway}

gurnee mills favs

(Disclosure: I received a gift card from Gurnee Mills but all thoughts are my own.)

A couple weekends ago the boys and I headed to Gurnee Mills Outlet Mall to do some shopping. What I love about Gurnee Mills is the great selection of stores with many of them having deep discounts on items. Being on a budget I really appreciate being able to keep my kids in the same brands they typically wear while being able to save money.

Shopping with kids is an experience as we always tend to get sidetracked. The first store we went into was The Disney Store and my little Toy Story lover found the Lotso bear that he’d been hunting for. I liked the price which was over $30 less than the only other Lotso bear I had previously found at a toy store. He also found a bunch of other little friends and with the buy 3 or more discounts (and armed with a gift card) we went a little crazy…. 

Lucas had the biggest smile on his face and kept thanking me and hugging his stuffed friends. Jacob on the other hand kept asking where the LEGO store was. I promised him we’d stop there after mommy got some clothes for them.

I shopped at Carter’s, Gymboree Outlet, OshKosh B’gosh and The Children’s Place Outlet which are all the stores I typically go to for kid’s clothes. I found so many great deals it was unbelievable. I typically find good prices at outlets but there seemed to be even more sales than normal. Here are a few of my favorite finds:

Apparently yellow and gray are popular colors this season :) I swear I bought plenty of colorful items including a few matching shirts for the boys. Don’t they look handsome in these blue shirts?

When we were done looking at clothes, I fulfilled my promise of stopping at the LEGO store so Jacob could pick something out. Both boys made a few custom minifigures which they loved doing. Jacob has really been into LEGOs recently and has told me that when he is an adult he is going to collect all the minifigures. They each picked out an Advent Calendar also which is something I had my eye on last year but never bought. When we went to check out we got four free gifts. Four! Each boy got a LEGO magazine and then we got a little LEGO Chima set and a LEGO Astronaut set.

After a busy afternoon of shopping we enjoyed an early dinner at the Rainforest Cafe. I’ve been to three locations and I have to say that their Gurnee Mills location was the nicest one. It wasn’t too busy which was nice. Lucas loved the kid’s macaroni and cheese which he said was “Heaven”. I’d never heard him describe food like that so you know it was good :)

As we were walking around we discovered there was a lot more to do at Gurnee Mills than shop. There was a movie theater, an arcade, golfing and even an ice skating rink! Though I’d been to Gurnee Mills before I’d never noticed all the fun things there were to do there.

After a long afternoon carrying numerous bags I was exhausted (note to moms everywhere: pull out the stroller…trust me….). We headed home and I listened to the boys talk about how much fun they had. Lucas played with Lotso and the Peas in a Pod and Jacob looked through his LEGO magazine and talked about minifigures. Before they drifted off to sleep Jacob asked me when we’d be going back again. Considering we’d spent most of our time in clothing stores I’d consider this a win :)


Enter to win a $50 American Express Gift Card

(Please note: If you win you will have to pick it up at Gurnee Mills Outlet Mall)


Comment on this giveaway telling me why you want to win

For an extra entry, share this giveaway and leave the link in the comments below

Giveaway ends October 1, 2014 at 11:59pm CST.

Walking Around Chicago {$50 Aerosoles Gift Card Giveaway}


Sinisa and I got to go on a date this past weekend which was so nice because quality one-on-one time is so rare. AEROSOLES sent me a pair of shoes and gave me some spending money to go out so we headed to Chicago to enjoy the warm, sunny weather before Chicago turns into “Chiberia” again. There are so many things to do in the city and most of them we don’t get to experience with the kids so we took full advantage of the day and tried to cram as much as we could into our afternoon.

First we stopped for lunch at Da Lobsta. I had my first Lobster Roll in Boston back in July and I’ve been craving one ever since. If you love lobster this is a must-stop lunch place! We then decided to head over to Navy Pier.

Navy Pier seemed more crowded than normal since it’s under construction but I love how lively it is. You get a beautiful view of the city from the Pier and an even better view from the 150-foot high Ferris Wheel. I hadn’t been on the Ferris Wheel in years since I was nervous to take the kids on it but it’s a nice activity to do without the kids. It should be noted though, that if you have less than 4 people in your group they make you sit with other people which is a little uncomfortable at times (like if you are with a couple who seems to be getting engagement photos like we were!)

After we walked along the Pier we took a taxi over to Millenium Park. We walked along the path that went by the garden area, watched families splash in the huge fountain area and stopped at “the bean”. The park was pretty busy because there was a festival going on.

We ended up at The Park Grill’s outdoor patio where we enjoyed drinks and an appetizer. I had almost forgotten how nice it was to sit and just talk without being interrupted! It started getting late so we headed back to the Pier and home to pick up our babies. It’s amazing what half a day can do for a person and a relationship! I felt calmer and more connected.

All this walking and relationship building wouldn’t have happened without my AEROSOLES shoes! AEROSOLES designs women’s footwear featuring exclusive technologies that deliver the most comfortable shoes possible. They feature unique “Diamond-Flex” soles that absorb impact and disperse friction with every step and “Stitch ‘N’ Turn” technology which creates the MOST flexible and comfortable shoes possible; with no break-in time required. I really loved how comfortable they were. Many times when I wear flats, the bottoms of my feet hurt after a few hours, almost as if I’d been hitting the pavement barefoot. I didn’t feel like that at all with these shoes. My feet were well cushioned.

Want to try AEROSOLES yourself? Enter to win a $50 AEROSOLES gift card below!


{Do any or all of the following, leave a separate comment for each you do}

1) Comment on this giveaway with your favorite city to walk around in

2) Share this giveaway on a social network

3) Follow Aerosoles on Twitter

4) Follow me on Twitter

Giveaway ends September 20, 2014 at 11:59pm CST. Must be a US resident and 21 or over to enter.

Celebrate Play in the Windy City this Saturday with Let’s Play!


As many of you know, I’ve been working to help share the importance of play in the lives of children as a Play Ambassador for Let’s Play, a community partnership led by Dr Pepper Snapple to get kids and families active by providing them with the tools, places and inspiration to make physical activity a daily priority

Play is important to children’s physical, emotional, social and intellectual development. It is more important than ever for kids and families to get outside and play, especially in Chicago, where playgrounds are often lacking at public elementary and middle schools, according to research shared by the Chicago Tribune.

That’s why I’m so excited to announce that Let’s Play is helping bring play to Chicago this Saturday, August 9 and we want you and your family to join the fun! In the morning, Let’s Play will be working with its partners KaBOOM! and Good Sports and a team of volunteers to build a playground from the ground up at O.A. Thorp Scholastic Academy and donate nearly 2,000 pieces of new sports equipment valued at $68,000 to eight youth organizations in Chicago.

In the afternoon, you can come on down to #LetsPlayChicago, a FREE community event for families and kids of all ages, featuring fun play activities like bouncy houses, obstacle courses, face painting and snacks. The #LetsPlayChicago community event is from 12:30 p.m. 4:00 p.m. at O.A. Thorp Scholastic Academy (6024 W Warwick Ave., Chicago, IL 60634). It will be a fun time for all and a great way to get active with your family!

For more information and to register to join the fun, visit

Disclosure: I am currently serving as a “Play Ambassador” for Let’s Play. This is a sponsored post, however, the opinions expressed are my own.


Travel Back In Time At Medieval Times

medieval times 4

Looking for something fun to do inside where it’s nice and cool? If you live near a Medieval Times this would be a great time to visit a castle! My family had the chance to go to a complimentary show a couple weeks ago as part of a blogger event and enjoyed our evening there.

As soon as you step into the castle you are transported back into time. From the knights on horses to the way employees are dressed to the dishes you eat upon- everything is similar to how it would have been back in the Medieval time period. It’s fun to getaway from life for a bit.

Before the show starts everyone is given a paper crown to represent the knight that they will be cheering for during the show. We cheered on the black & white knight, Don Iofre Santa Creu – defender of the ancient shrine at Santiago de Compostela. Our section of seats was pretty loud but then again it was full of bloggers and our kids– we can be a rowdy bunch ;)

During the show we enjoyed a large feast. Included in the meal is garlic bread, tomato bisque soup, oven roasted chicken, a spare rib, herb-roasted potato and an apple pastry. There is so much food that I always have leftovers to bring home! (Parent tip) Keeping with the themed time period there are no utensils so if you have kids make sure to put a couple spoons in your bag if they are too little to sip their soup from the bowl.

We enjoyed the show and the story of the Knights and the Princess. The sword fighting got the boys attention and I loved all of the beautiful horses that were part of the show. The castle is pretty amazing as well.

Want to learn more about Medieval Times? Visit their website. While you are there sign up for their birthday mailing list and get free admission on your special day!

Brighten The Day With A Colorful Snack

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Chicago is gearing up for the Color Vibe race tomorrow and, to celebrate, I’m partnering with Tum-E Yummies for this sponsored post.

The Color Vibe event is a fun event where you’ll get blasted with color while you run the 5k. To go along with the theme, I thought I’d share a quick, colorful snack with you all that my kids love. This would be the perfect thing to snack on during the race or really anytime!

I made a snack mix with cheerios, fruit loops, peanuts, m&m’s, and raisins. The fruit loops cereal and m&m’s made it a very colorful treat! For more fun we paired it with the Tum-E Yummies fruit flavored drinks. Luke’s favorite was the red fruit punch flavor. I liked the green apple one.

You’ll notice Luke wearing a colorful wiggly headband and ribbon as well. We found those at Target by the party favors (along with some rainbow colored necklaces). We are ready for a day of colorful fun!

Want to join in? Check out the race schedule below to find one of these colorful races near you!


Energizer Night Race For A Brighter World {Giveaway For Chicago Race Registration}

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(Disclosure: I am a Blogger Ambassador for the Energizer Night Race but all thoughts are my own.)

Did you know that 1.3 billion people lack access to clean lighting, forcing them to rely on kerosene lamps? It sounds innocent, but kerosene is actually responsible for 1.5 million deaths annually. Without adequate lighting, children in these rural communities can’t study effectively. Physicians can’t provide proper medical attention after daylight hours. And, kerosene is so expensive that it ends up costing these families half of their income.

Energizer has decided to help by donating 14 million hours of light to families around the world through their partner, One Million Lights – a non-profit that provides clean, safe, affordable solar lighting to rural communities globally.


Energizer is hosting a series of races this year where participants race at night, with the light of an Energizer® headlight to guide them, letting them unite to raise awareness for the global need for safe, affordable solar light for the 1.3 billion people in the world living without electricity. This year’s Chicago Energizer Night Race is on June 7th.


Two readers will each win registration for the Chicago 2014 race


 Tell me why you want to win


Share this giveaway on a social network

Giveaway ends June 1, 2014 at 11:59pm CST. Must be a US resident to enter. Giveaway includes registration only and does not cover any other costs including travel, parking, etc…

Family-Friendly Event: Run Or Dye Chicago {Giveaway}

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(Disclosure: I will receive compensation and admission to this event in exchange for this promotional post.)

Run or Dye, the world’s most colorful 5K, is headed to Toyota Park on May 24, 2014!  Bring all your friends and run a color-blasted 5K, where you get showered in safe, eco-friendly, plant-based cornstarch dye every kilometer. Then enjoy the world-famous Dye Festival afterward, where you can Tie-Dye the Sky (not to mention all your friends!) in this ultimate celebration of life, friendship, fitness, and fun.

Run or Dye is for everyone! Whether you’re a recovering couch potato or an avid marathon runner, you’ll love the atmosphere and experience at Run or Dye. You’re welcome to walk, run, dance, or skip your way to the finish line. And Run or Dye is family-friendly — kids 6 and under participate for FREE and do not require registration!

Use the code: BLOGCHICAGO to save $10. CODE EXPIRES MAY 17th!  If you join a team you can save another $5!


Enter below for your chance to win two codes for free admission to Run or Dye in Chicago on May 24th, 2014. Giveaway ends 5/10/2014 at 11:59pm. Winner will be send the codes via email within 48 hours of the end of the giveaway.


So who wants to join in on the fun with me?!

The Ritz-Carlton Chicago: A Kid-Friendly Luxury Hotel

Ritz baking collage

Despite living only about an hour away from Chicago, we don’t really go downtown that often. I wanted to go somewhere over President’s Day since the boys were out of school and I had the day off from work, so our family headed to Chicago for a couple days of fun in the big city. I was really excited about this trip because I would be reviewing The Ritz-Carlton Chicago hotel. I had heard of this hotel, and assumed it would be too “fancy” for me to bring the boys to, but when they invited us for a “family sleepover” we decided to go and I’m so glad we did.

When I checked out the website I noticed a few things immediately that keyed me in to how great it would be for kids. Room-wise they offered childproof rooms which I think is great for people with young children. They also had a bunch of amenities just for the kids. To keep children occupied they also had a pool, cookie baking, and a candy cart that you could have come to your room.

When we first walked into the suite I was amazed at how large it was. We were staying in their Deluxe Lake-View Suite. It was about the size of my first apartment. Here is a video walk-through of the suite:

This suite was located on the 24th floor and was on the corner so we had lake views from every room. I even got to wake up to the lake outside of my window as I laid in bed! That to me is a dream!

The boys were so excited to see a little tent in the room. One of the maids also came before bedtime for “turn down” service and made the pullout couch into a bed for the boys. Some of my other favorite kid-friendly features in the room were the bathrobes and kid-toiletries. 

We didn’t make it to the pool but the boys loved baking cookies in the kitchen. They were then delivered to our room about an hour later with whipped cream and sprinkles so the boys could decorate them and then eat them.

There were delicious treats for mommy and daddy, too!

Along with the fun inside the hotel, guests of The Ritz-Carlton can take an elevator down to the Water Tower mall. This was perfect for our winter visit to the city because we could enjoy the mall and it’s restaurants without having to put on our coats and walk in the slush and snow outside. The boys enjoyed playing at the LEGO store and Luke and I walked through the American Girl store. We also went up every escalator in the mall and then took the elevator down.

Another thing I liked was that the check-in and check-out times were really generous. Check-out was at noon so we were able to walk down Michigan Avenue and relax in our room a bit before we had to leave. We wanted to avoid this wintery weather for as long as we could….

Are you looking to enjoy an evening in Chicago? While the $785/night suites are a little pricier than my family would normally stay in, I think it’s worth splurging a bit to experience the luxury that we did! When I checked there were also hotel rooms priced at $295/night. Along with the beautiful hotel located in the perfect spot on Michigan Avenue, the staff was excellent and the beds were really comfortable. I think both couples and families would enjoy staying at The Ritz-Carlton Chicago. It is definitely a hotel we will go back to!

(Disclosure: My family received a free stay at the hotel but all thoughts are my own.)

Chicago’s Favorite Chocolates

Fannie May gift ideas

(Disclosure: I received a box of chocolates for review but all thoughts are my own.)

You all know I love chocolate. As a Chicagoan, I am lucky to have one of the very best chocolate companies based right here in my area- Fannie May! I can’t remember a Christmas without a box of Fannie May chocolates. My favorites include their pixies and their mint meltaways. I also enjoy their boxes of assorted chocolates.

I’ll tell you a funny story that I am extremely embarrassed to share…. when I was younger (a long time ago) we had a box of assorted chocolates in the fridge. I don’t remember how old I was but I was young enough that I couldn’t just eat as many chocolates as I wanted because they were limited to a dessert item. Well I had my favorites and then flavors I had never tried. I was in the fridge one day when I decided that I wanted to try the other flavors but didn’t want to be selfish and eat the whole piece of chocolate so I took a bite of a few of them and left the other halves in the fridge.

At the time it made sense in my head to share the other half with someone else but, as you can imagine, my dad was not very happy that I had left half-eaten chocolate in the fridge. He probably would have preferred that I just ate the whole piece. Looking back I realize now that a knife would have been a better cutting choice than my teeth. I think about that story every time I have a box of chocolates from Fannie May and it brings back memories of my childhood every time I bite into a piece of chocolate. 

Along with the special memories I have of Fannie May chocolates, I think the chocolate is delicious. I took a look at their website and chose some of the gifts I think *someone* would like if you haven’t bought me them a gift yet ;)

Sea Salt Caramels


Milk Chocolate Pixies


Artisan Holiday Bark


Mint Meltaways

I checked and it’s not too late to place your order for Christmas. There is a 20% off sale and free 2nd day shipping promotion as well. Head on over to their website for full details!

How To Make Perfect Sugar Cookies

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With baking season in full-swing I wanted to share these 9 tips from Country Woman magazine to help you make the perfect sugar cookie. I’ll be baking with the boys tomorrow so these tips came just in time!

1.    Don’t Be Too Touchy: Use a light touch when handling the dough. Over-handling will result in tough cookies.

2.    Stay Cool: Refrigerate the dough before rolling for easier handling.

3.    Avoid Sticky Situations: Prevent sticking by lightly dusting with flour both the rolling pin and work surface. Be careful—working     too much extra flour into the dough will make the cookies tough.

4.    Start Small: Roll out a portion of the dough at a time; keep remaining dough in the fridge so it stays easy to work with.

5.    Create An Even Playing Field: Roll from the center to the edge, keeping a uniform thickness. Check thickness with a ruler. Uneven dough means cookies will bake unevenly, and thinner cookies may burn before thicker ones are done.

6.    Get a Clean Cut: Dip your cutter in flour or use nonstick cooking spray to keep dough from sticking to the cookie cutter.

7.    Take Out the Tools: Keep cutouts intact before and after baking by transferring them to and from the baking sheet with a large    metal spatula or pancake turner that supports the entire cutout.

8.    Keep it Simple: Limit designs and colors when decorating. Too many colors and shapes can be overwhelming.

9.    Leave Them Out to Dry: Let decorated cookies dry overnight before packaging them for gift giving or freezing.

Illinois Moms: Become A Field Mom

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(Disclosure: This is a compensated post. I am an Illinois Farm Families Ambassador® but all thoughts are my own.)

Have you ever wondered where your food came from? If so, I have an exciting opportunity to share with you! Illinois Farm Families® is now accepting applications for it’s 2014 Field Moms program.

“Field Moms” are moms from the Chicago area. They visit different Illinois farms throughout the year to learn more about the farmers and their families and what they do on their farms. Four Saturday trips are planned for the year. They also get to ask questions about food and farming topics they see in the news.

2013 Field Moms

Along with visiting farms, the 2013 Field Moms followed the growth of an acre of soybeans and an acre of corn at Donna’s farm and a pen of pigs at Jen’s farm. This gave the Field Moms a chance to experience first-hand what it is like to be a farmer.

Here are what two moms had to say about the Field Moms program:

“As a person concerned with the overall public’s health and as a self-declared ‘foodie,’ how (and where) our food is provided, butchered and served is of utmost importance to me. Clearly, cattle steering is not an easy way to earn a living. I was impressed with the family’s candor and openness when faced with tough questions.” –Renee Keats, 2013 Field Mom

“Integrity, hospitality, hard work, intelligent, precision farming are all words or terms that shined through on this visit to Paul and Donna Jeschke’s farm. We learned so much about corn and soybean planting. They hosted us even though they were still planting on the day of our visit.” –
Susan Herold, 2013 Field Mom 

Want to join in on the fun and learning? Find out more about the Illinois Farm Families, the Field Moms program, and how to apply here.


Chicago Toy & Game Fair {Giveaway}


(Disclosure: I am receiving free tickets and attending their complimentary media breakfast but thoughts are my own.)

Kick off your holiday fun! Go to the Chicago Toy & Game Fair, the largest toy and game fair in the US that’s open to the public. Come out to preview, play with the hottest new TOYS and GAMES from around the world, and meet the inventors who created them. Other fun includes: tournaments, contests, meet costumed characters, see Radio Disney AM 1300 Road Crew, live stage entertainment, contests, and much much more!

I went two years ago and found lots of great new toys and games for my family.


Navy Pier, Festival Hall A


Saturday, November 23, 2012 – 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM
Sunday, November 24, 2012 – 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM

Click here for ticket info and a $2 off coupon.


3 people will win Weekend Family Passes to ChiTAG


1) Tell me what your favorite game or toy is

2) Share this giveaway on a social network

Giveaway ends November 15, 2013 at 11:59pm Central time. Must be a US resident and 18 or older to win. This giveaway includes tickets only. All other fees including parking/travel are the responsibility of the winner.

Family Fun At The Pumpkin Farm

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(Disclosure: We received free tickets into Pumpkin Fest but all thoughts are my own.)

I love going to Fall festivals with my family. Last weekend we went to Pumpkin Fest at Siegel’s Cottonwood Farm in Crest Hill, IL. There was so much to do there and the kids were in awe as they ran from activity to activity. We only were able to stay a couple hours but they jumped on inflatables, rode a pony, went on a hayride, went through a haunted barn, went through an obstacle course, saw animals at the petting zoo, and played on giant climbing structures.

There were pumpkins for sale throughout the farm and a big pick-your-own pumpkin patch. Other activities we didn’t get a chance to do included paintball, stories told by the Pumpkin Princess, a big bouncy inflatable “cloud”, a giant corn maze, a rock climbing wall and a train ride.

Here are some pictures from our afternoon of Fall fun:

The boys posing on the pumpkins {the one must-take pumpkin patch photo!}


Wooden train play area


The cornfield maze


Jacob and Daddy


Big spider web climber


Luke on his pony ride


The haunted barn we went in (which wasn’t all that scary but good for kids)


The playland area the kids loved


The pick your own pumpkin patch we got to by hayride

What a fun afternoon! Visit Siegel’s Pumpkin Fest in the next couple weeks to make great memories with your family.

Chicago Mix Popcorn

Chicago Mix Popcorn

(Disclosure: I received samples but thoughts are my own.)

Chicago Mix Popcorn

Have you ever heard of Chicago Mix Popcorn before? It’s a concept that is fairly new to me but I love it. What it does is take the sweet taste of caramel popcorn and the salty taste of cheese popcorn and combines the two flavored popcorn into one bag. No idea how it got it’s name but it’s delicious!

I recently received samples of GH Cretors Popcorn. The caramel corn is made the old fashioned way: by hand, in copper kettles. Cane sugar, brown rice syrup (a non-GMO alternative to corn syrup with a lower glycemic impact) and real butter is heated over a flame and then stirred slowly by hand to develop its rich complex flavor and crunch. For the cheese corn, real cheddar cheese is melted in special kettles and then gently mixed with locally-grown, air-popped corn. The result is a perfect combination of tastes, two-cheese to one-caramel in every bag. And, this treat is all natural and completely free of GMO’s, artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives!

Not a fan of mixing your popcorn flavors? You are in luck because GH Cretors sells “Just the Cheese Corn” and “Just the Caramel Corn” separately. Also, just in time for Halloween, they are selling single serve sized bags of the popcorn that is just right for handing out to Trick-or-Treaters.

Which flavor would you try first?

Literacy Events Around The Nation Today


Join the record-breaking literacy celebration today, October 3, with Jumpstart! People all across the country will read the children’s book Otis by Loren Long in support of Jumpstart’s mission to work towards the day that every child in America enters kindergarten prepared to succeed. Joined by Tiffani Thiessen, actress and star of USA’s White Collar, Jumpstart hopes to break last year’s record of 2.3 million participants reading the same book at the same time.

Jumpstart will host several large scale events on October 3 in cities and towns across the country with marquee events in Boston, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco. In addition, many of Jumpstart’s campaign Reading Partners and sponsors will be hosting events. Gymboree will host events in every Gymboree, Janie & Jack, Crazy 8, and Gymboree Play & Music locations across the country. Additionally, official Reading Partner, We Give Books will have Otis available to read online for free in both English and Spanish at

”Jumpstart’s Read for the Record is a meaningful way for Americans to support the critical need for high-quality early education in our country,” said Jumpstart’s president and CEO, Naila Bolus. “We know that for children living in low-income communities, this need is significant. By the time these children enter kindergarten, they are already 60% behind their more affluent peers. Jumpstart’s Read for the Record brings light to this national issue and gives citizens a platform to voice their support for this cause.”

Learn more at

Chicago Area Events

Chicago will hold two events today in honor of Jumpstart’s Read for the Record.

Lincoln Park Zoo:

The Lincoln Park Zoo will host three readings of “Otis” by Loren Long on Thursday morning. The readings are open to the public, and U.S. Congressman Mike Quigley will attend. Readings are at 9:30 a.m., 10 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.

Chicago Children’s Museum:

The Chicago Children’s Museum will also hold an event. Kraft Family Free Night will be held from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and is open to the public. There will be readings of “Otis“ throughout the night.



Bears Football And Buffalo Wild Wings: The Perfect Combination

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Buffalo Wild Wings for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

I’m sure you all know by now that I love football.  I loudly cheer for my Chicago Bears and have even been getting my young boys into the game (though lately my 4 year old has started cheering for the Packers so I obviously have some more work to do there).

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One of my favorite football foods is wings and not just any wings but honey bbq boneless wings from Buffalo Wild Wings. I often send Sinisa out to pick them up when there are night games since the kids are sleeping. Thursday night games are great because then he can get a deal on my wings during Boneless Thursdays.

Mid-day Sunday games are my favorite because we can go as a whole family to enjoy the game and some family time at the restaurant after we go to Church. The boys love the arcade like games they have as well and I don’t have to worry about them being loud because the whole restaurant is loud- especially when our team scores a touchdown!

I look forward to many more football games at Buffalo WIld Wings with my family because there is nothing better than football and wings with the ones I love! Connect with Buffalo WIld Wings! Follow Buffalo Wild Wings on Twitter or Like Buffalo Wild Wings on Facebook.

Visit Sponsor's Site

Microsoft’s Creative Workshop in Schaumburg, IL 10/3 {Microsoft Gift Card Giveaways}


Tomorrow, LA artist ArtMobb is going to be in the Chicago area for a Microsoft Store “Creative Workshop” event at Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg. Mike Farhat and Chris Hoyle of Art Mobb have established themselves as two of Los Angeles’s most innovative artists by creating sought after mixed-media artwork for the NBA elite and other top athletes. ArtMobb will be demoing different things you can do with the “Fresh Paint” function on Microsoft’s Surface tablets.

Image via

ArtMobb’s is also going to be debuting a cool, brand-new unique Bears painting while in town. As a huge Bears fan I’m so jealous of everyone who will be there and can’t wait to see it!


Woodfield Mall, Schaumburg, IL

Thursday, October 3

5:30 – 7:30 p.m.


5 winners will win a $50 Microsoft gift card


 {Do any or all of the following, leave a separate comment for each you do}

1) Tell me what your favorite Microsoft product is

2) Share this giveaway on a social network

3) Follow @artmobb on Twitter

4) Follow me on Twitter

5) Follow @FreshPaintTeam on Twitter

6) Comment on another one of my posts

Giveaway ends October 16, 2013 at 11:59pm Central time. Must be 21 or over and a US resident to win.

(Information and prizes courtesy of Microsoft.)

Kuipers Family Farm: Apples, Pumpkins, And Trees {Maple Park, IL}

kuipers 4

(Disclosure: I am receiving a family pack of passes to the pumpkin farm.)

Kuipers’ Fall season began in August when the orchard opened for apple picking (Sat & Sun only) and the aroma of fresh apple cider doughnuts, home-baked pies, fudge, pasteurized apple cider and hand-spun caramel apples from The Orchard Shop and Bakery lingers in the air.

September 21st the west side of the farm opened for some down-on-the-farm-fun like The Maize Corn Maze, hayrides, farm animals, a haunted forest, tractor tire mountain, peddle tractor derby, nature walk, jumping pillows,  pumpkin picking and much more.  Be sure to catch the Pig Races and The Cowboy Randy Roping Show on the weekends.  The Pumpkin Farm is a great place to host your child’s birthday party or visit with your Scout group (see website for package details). 

November and December at the farm is dedicated to the holidays with pies and specialty foods for entertaining, unique gifts for giving and of course, Christmas trees.  Harvest your own right from the fields or select a freshly harvested Fraser Fir from our huge selection.

Save on Fall fun at Kuipers Family Farm with this coupon! Visit Kuiper’s Family Farm online here.

Find Fun Near You With {Chicago Children’s Museum Passes Giveaway}

children's museum giveaway

It’s rare to find “free” time where I’m not working and the boys aren’t in sports, school or other activities. I love taking the kids places when we have that extra time but the hard part is figuring out what we can go do. I was contacted by and have decided to partner with them because I love the service they offer.

Parents can create wishlists based upon their different interests and discover new things to do in their city. I created two wishlists to start- “fun for the kids” and “time for a date” {a mom can dream, right?}.

One thing that I think sets this site apart from the other “event” type sites I have been on is that you can look for events based on when you are available down to the time of day. Want to see what is going on tomorrow afternoon? You can search the date and time of day along with a category (ie. kids, food & drink, etc…)

There are lots of great locations on that are sharing their events and activities. One of those places is the Chicago Children’s Museum. I’m thrilled to be able to offer 2 of my readers a family 4 pack of tickets to this fabulous children’s museum located on Navy Pier in Chicago. Giveaway ends at midnight on October 13, 2013.

(Disclosure: I received passes for the Chicago Children’s Museum in exchange for posting. Thoughts are my own.)

Siegel’s Cottonwood Farm {Crest Hill, IL}


(Disclosure: I am receiving admission to the pumpkin patch for my family but all thoughts are my own.)

Live in the Chicago area? Siegel’s Cottonwood Farm in Crest Hill, IL has lots of fall fun for your family! The Siegel’s have been farming this same land since 1909 and is a 4th generation working family farm.

Harvest your Family Memories on 40 Acres of “Affordable Family Fun” with over 20 different attractions included in General Admission. Siegel’s Cottonwood Farm features a pumpkin patch where you can pick your own pumpkins right from the vine! Not many places around Chicago let you do that. Also, new this year are the Statesville Zombie Paintball Ride and Lexi’s Jumpin’ Blob Jamboree!

Make sure to grab this coupon before your visit and save $5 off the price of a ticket if purchased ahead of time or $2 off at the gate.

First Swim Lessons At Goldfish Swim School

goldfish swim school collage

(Disclosure: My boys are receiving free lessons at Goldfish Swim School but all thoughts are my own.)

My boys started swim lessons at Goldfish Swim School last week. I was really excited to check out the facilities and get the boys back in the water swimming.

Goldfish Swim School is definitely a happy place to be! Look at all the bright colors and fun murals on the walls.

The viewing area for the parents is even fun.

Arriving early is no problem because there is plenty to keep the kids occupied while they wait for their lessons to start.

I like that Goldfish Swim School has small class sizes. My boys class size will never be more than 4 kids to 1 instructor. Also, the water is always nice and warm at 90 degrees. Cold water was one of the things that Jacob hated at other swim lessons. We won’t have that problem at Goldfish!

There was also someone doing assessments of the children while they were swimming and at the end of the lessons we were able to see how where they were at skill-wise. The boys even got ribbons and balloons to celebrate their first lesson. What a nice treat for the kids!

After lessons we headed into private changing rooms to get out of the bathing suits. There is also a hair drying station which will be nice when it’s cold outside and I don’t want to bring the boys outside with wet hair. Goldfish Swim School seems to have thought of it all.

Overall, the boys loved their first lessons at Goldfish Swim School. We can’t wait to go back next week and continue to learn how to swim.

Fall At The Morton Arboretum {Giveaway}

Morton Arboretum Visit {Fall 2009}

Morton Arboretum Visit {Fall 2009}

Fall is quickly approaching and The Morton Arboretum in Lisle, IL is a great place to see amazing fall color, and enjoy the smells, tastes and sounds of fall. We love visiting the Arboretum and the Fall is one of our favorite seasons to go. Here are some fun events coming up in the next couple of months:

Tails on the Trails

For the first time, man’s best friend is taking over The Morton Arboretum. Tails on the Trails will be offered Saturday, September 14 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., rain or shine. Enjoy a “paw”fect day out with your pet as you meander down the Arboretum’s 16 miles of hiking trails. Then, check out canine demonstrations and local vendors by Meadow Lake.

The cost is $5 per dog. A portion of the proceeds will go to a local animal shelter. All dogs must be current with vaccinations, be social with other dogs and be kept on a leash at all times while on the Arboretum property.

Honey Bee Weekend

September is National Honey Month. Celebrate at The Morton Arboretum’s annual Honey Bee Weekend, September 7-8. Explore the Honey Bee Expo, featuring honey and bee-themed products such as honey mead, candles, lotions and beekeeper kits.

One out of every three bites we eat depends on pollination by bees. But recent headlines have been full of warnings about the health of our bee populations – should we be concerned? Over a honey-themed buffet lunch, entomologist and author May Berenbaum of the University of Illinois will update us on the health of our honey bee populations during Honey Lunch & Learn: Healthy Bees, Healthy Food, Saturday, September 7 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Learn their biology, find out just what honey bees eat, hear the latest on Colony Collapse Disorder and more! Cost is $22 for members and $30 for nonmembers. Register at, in the Visitor Center or by calling 630-719-2468.

An opportunity to have May Berenbaum’s books signed by the author will follow at 2 p.m. at the Honey Bee Weekend booths in Arbor Court.

Learn all about honeybees, their favorite flowers and how honey is made on a Family Honeybee Hike. Hike includes a viewing of Arboretum beehives and sampling of our Arboretum honey! 45 minute hikes are available Saturday, September 7 or Sunday, September 8 at 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m., 1:30 p.m., 2 p.m., 2:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. Cost per person is $5 for members, $6 for nonmembers. Designed for families with children ages 2 and up. Register at, in the Visitor Center or by calling 630-719-2468.

Take a Bee Hive Tour on Friday, September 6 or Sunday, September 8 from 9 to 11 a.m. with Greg Fischer, the Arboretum’s beekeeper. Bee netting will be provided. Enjoy a sample of honey for a sweet finish to the tour. Cost is $22 for members and $30 for nonmembers. Register at, in the Visitor Center or by calling 630-719-2468.

Submit your own honey in our second annual Honey Competition on September 6. A certified judge will award best in class and best in show ribbons in a variety of categories. A complimentary workshop on how to prepare honey for competition will take place on Sunday, July 28 at 1:00 p.m. in the Sycamore Room. No registration required.

Enjoy honey inspired food paired with mead, a honey wine at the Arboretum’s second annual Honey Mead Dinner on September 5. Arboretum beekeeper, Greg Fischer will be present explaining the pairings and how mead is made.

Wish the Children’s Garden a Happy Bee-day! Celebrate the garden’s 8th birthday by making bee masks, meeting a real beekeeper and checking out the hives we have in the Children’s Garden! The party is happening September 7-8 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is free with admission. Cook DuPage will be present with their Observation Bee Hive.

Interested in starting your own hive and harvesting your own honey? Already have a hive and want to learn more about managing it? Join Greg Fischer of Wild Blossom Meadery and beekeeper for the Arboretum, for Beginning Beekeeping. Explore the history of beekeeping, bee anatomy, starting and managing a colony, equipment basics, honey bee pests and diseases, harvesting honey and more. All participants will receive their own hive tool to take home. This four week class will be held September 10-October 1, from 6 to 8 p.m. Cost is $80 for members, $94 for nonmembers. Register at, in the Visitor Center or call 630-719-2468.


Follow the action – literally – of some time-honored stage productions during the unique Theatre-Hikes® program at The Morton Arboretum. Performances are each Saturday and Sunday, through October. Shows in September begin at 1 p.m. Shows in October start at 3 p.m.

The first Sunday performance of each month will be a low-impact hike (suitable for strollers, walkers and wheelchairs). Each performance lasts approximately three hours, so please wear comfortable shoes, dress for the weather and bring a chair or blanket, water bottle and insect repellent. All performances begin at the Thornhill Shelter (Parking Lot 21).

Tickets are on sale now and include Arboretum admission. For members, tickets cost $12 for adults and $8 for children. For nonmembers, tickets cost $19 for adults and $13 for children. Season tickets are available and cost $40 for member adults, $25 for member children, $60 for nonmember adults and $45 for nonmember children. To purchase tickets, call 630-725-2066, visit, or stop by The Morton Arboretum Visitor Center.

A Walk with Mark Twain

Weekends in September Meet Mark Twain as he shares two of his famous stories: The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County and The Diaries of Adam and Eve. In our first story, Jim Smiley, a man with all the luck in the world, finds his luck has run out when he gambles everything on a giant frog that he figures can’t lose. Then, Twain retells the creation story, with a reclusive Adam who finds himself unprepared for the arrival of Eve, a talkative, emotional female. Will they find a way to get along? Appropriate for all ages.

Fall Color Festival & 5K

Fall Color Festival kicks off with The Morton Arboretum’s 10th annual Fall Color 5K Run & Walk and Kid’s Dash on Sunday, October 6 at 8 a.m. The 5K follows a challenging USATF-certified course along the East Side Main Route through rolling terrain. ChronoTrack B-Tag timing system, a technical t-shirt, awards and recovery food and water are included. Cost is $25 for members, $30 for nonmembers, or $35 on race day including admission.

The Kid’s Dash begins at 9 a.m. for ages 2-10 and includes a cotton t-shirt and participation ribbon. Cost is $10 for members, $12 for nonmembers and $15 on race day. Register at or in the Visitor Center.

Scarecrow Trail will be back around Meadow Lake, with nature-based scarecrows created by local Girl and Boy Scout Troops. Open daily in October, 7 a.m. to sunset.

Plus, fulfill your fall food cravings at the Fall Color Festival. Enjoy juicy brats, build-your-own taffy apples and other mouth watering bites available for purchase in Arbor Court. Plus, sample complimentary wine tastings. The festival will be open weekends in October and Columbus Day, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Glass Pumpkin Patch and Workshops

This fall, The Morton Arboretum announces the return of the Glass Pumpkin Patch, a cornucopia of unique blown-glass artwork set against a backdrop of the Arboretum’s colorful trees. From Wednesday, October 16 through Sunday, October 20, the event will feature 3,000 glass pumpkins and other autumnal designs such as apples, gourds, acorns, and more. The Glass Pumpkin Patch will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, and is free with Arboretum admission.

During glass blowing demonstrations, visitors can watch top glass-blowing artisans, called gaffers, from around the country turn molten glass turn into works of art. Meet the artists and see how they work the molten glass, adding colors and creating different patterns and shapes. The glassblowers use an outdoor furnace, assembled on site just for the Patch, which reaches temperatures higher than 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

After watching a demonstration, visitors can walk through the Glass Pumpkin Patch to see finished pieces in a wide variety of styles, sizes and colors. The Glass Pumpkin Patch will be open for viewing and glass blowing demonstrations on Wednesday and Thursday as well as on Friday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The pieces will be available for sale starting at 1 p.m. Friday, October 18. The pumpkins and autumnal designs range from $35 to $300 per item based on the artist’s experience level, techniques used, color, size and style of the pumpkin, and are only available for sale at the annual Patch.

The event is co-produced with Shannon Jane Morgan, of Girl Glass Studio in Sacramento, CA and features many local glass artists.

Morton Arboretum Children’s Garden {Fall 2009}


One reader will win a family four pack of tickets to The Morton Arboretum


{Do any or all of the following, leave a separate comment for each you do}

1) Tell me which event you think your family would love attending

2) Share this giveaway on a social network

3) Follow Morton Arboretum on Twitter

4) Follow me on Twitter

Giveaway ends September 19, 2013 at 11:59pm Central time. Must be 21 or over and a US resident to enter.

(Disclosure: Information provided by the Morton Arboretum. I was not compensated for posting this event info and giveaway.)

UniverSoul Circus Is Coming To Chicago {Giveaway}

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UniverSoul Circus, one of the top three circus acts in the country, is returning to Chicago Wednesday, September 18 in Washington Park, as well as expanding to Union Park beginning Oct. 11. The unexpected, one-of-a-kind show features an incredible cast of performers hand-selected from around the world, from Africa and Ethiopia to Trindad and Ivory Coast. The cross-cultural spectacle incorporates pop and hip hop music for a truly modern take on the traditional circus act.Among the awe inspiring performances will include:

  • Caribbean dancers – Decked out head to toe in colorful, festive costume, dancers from the the islands of Trinidad and Tobago perform stimulating, show-stopping routines.
  • Irina Markova’s comedy dogs – The talented dogs take the show to new heights with jumps, leaps and tumbles through hoops.
  • Contortionists – Twisting and contorting in unimaginable ways, the unbelievable Ethiopian performers are known to stun audiences.
  • Teeterboard acrobatics – One or more acrobats jump from one end to launch a flyer from the other, propelling into the air for a must-see display.

Tickets, ranging from $16 to $35, are available now at and 1-800-745-3000. Children under 1 are free.

There will also be a free “Circus Camp” on September 17 at Washington Park from 3:30 pm until 7:30 pm. Kids will be able to come after school and learn a thing or two about how to be a circus performer, with everything from mini tightropes to small scale stilts.


One reader will win a 4 pack of tickets to UniverSoul Circus in Chicago


{Do any or all of the following, leave a separate comment for each you do}

1) Tell me what your favorite part of going to the circus is

2) Share this giveaway on a social network

3) Follow @aliciamarie112 on Twitter

4) Comment on another one of my posts

Giveaway ends September 18, 2013 at 11:59pm Central time. Must be 21 or over and a US resident to win. Giveaway does not include coverage of any other costs such as parking. This giveaway is for the tickets only.

It’s Football Season!


Football season ranks at the top of my Fall favorites list {right up there with Pumpkin Spice Lattes} so you know we are all wearing our Bears jerseys today in honor of the first Bears game of the season.


Fall Family Events at the Chicago Botanic Garden

Image courtesy of Chicago Botanic Garden

Image courtesy of Chicago Botanic Garden

Fall at the Chicago Botanic Garden is brimming with activities the whole family can enjoy. I can’t wait to take my family for a visit with the passes the Garden sent me. Here are some of the fun things your family can do there this Fall:

Discovery Backpacks – Available Year-Round

Families visiting the Garden can borrow Discovery Backpacks from the Information Desk in the Visitor Center. Backpacks include two magnifiers, two binoculars, and field guides. Discovery Backpacks offer a highly interactive experience for individual families. They are available year-round and will be loaned out on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information please visit, or call (847) 835-5440.

Discovery Programs: Buehler Enabling, Regenstein Fruit & Vegetable, Elizabeth Hubert Malott Japanese and English Walled Gardens – Wednesdays through Sundays, continuing through October 6

Volunteers stationed at discovery carts and throughout the gardens offer information and hands-on experiences on a variety of topics through Discovery Programs. Hours are from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday on Friday, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. In the Fruit & Vegetable Garden, topics include: bees, tools, herbs and composting. Volunteers at the dry garden and Shoin House in the Malott Japanese Garden provide cross-cultural insights and an introduction to Eastern garden design. In the Enabling Garden, volunteers demonstrate the advantages of a universal design garden while performing maintenance tasks. The Tool Shed, a resource center staffed by volunteers who answer questions and demonstrate tools that make gardening easier for people of all abilities, is also open. Volunteers in the English Walled Garden share seasonal highlights with visitors and identify the variety of plants growing in the garden. or call (847) 835-8392 for information on volunteer opportunities in the Discovery Programs.

Family Drop-in Activities in the Regenstein Fruit & Vegetable Garden – Saturdays and Sundays, September 7 to 29, 2013

Free harvest-themed family drop-in activities will be held from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on September weekends at the Regenstein Fruit & Vegetable Garden. Programming includes a fall fragrance challenge, pumpkin prints to take home, and chef and root vegetable activities.

Model Railroad Garden: Landmarks of America – through Sunday, October 27

The Model Railroad Garden features the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., and a refurbished White House this year. Eighteen model G-scale trains run on 17 tracks, winding over bridges and trestles, and around nearly 50 models of American landmarks. The 7,500-square-foot exhibition is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily (weather permitting). Special evening hours keep the event open until 8 p.m. on Wednesdays from June 5 to August 28. Cost is $6 for adults; $5 seniors; and $4 children (3-12). Members receive $1 discount off these rates. Admission is free on Wednesdays for Garden Plus members. The Model Railroad Garden is generously sponsored by Bank of America. Visit for more information.

Nature Nights: Prairie Prowl – Saturdays, September 7 or 21

Bring a picnic dinner and spend an evening in the Garden! Children ages 4-10 and their families will explore different areas of the Garden and enjoy a variety of discovery-based activities. Explore the Dixon Prairie to learn about how prairies grow, find the plants and animals that call it home, and pot up a prairie plant to take home. Each Nature Night also includes a tram ride, a planting project, and s’mores around the campfire. Class is from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Registration costs $25 for nonmembers. Garden Plus members receive a 20 percent discount. Visit for more information.

Malott Japanese Garden Family Sundays – Sunday, September 1 and 15

Drop by the Elizabeth Hubert Malott Japanese Garden for hands-on activities related to Japanese arts and culture. Practice using chopsticks, rake miniature dry gardens, make Japanese kites, and more. The free activities vary each time, and are subject to change.

Little Diggers – Select Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, starting September 12, 13, and 14

Learn about flowers, discover animals, experience the changing seasons, and more! These four-class series for children ages 2-4 and caregivers meet mornings, once a month. Each program includes group activities, time for free play, and a planting project. Programs run 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. from September through December. The fee is $75 per child for nonmembers. Garden Plus members receive a 20 percent discount. Registration is required in advance. Visit or call (847) 835-6801 for more information.

Model Sailboat Sunday – Sunday, September 15

Bring your child (and childlike wonder) and watch model sailboats race across the North Lake! Demonstrations are organized by the Chicago R/C Model Yacht Club and held at the Waterside Terrace on the Esplanade. Admire spectacular views of the North Lake and Smith Fountain as you watch the race, and learn about building and operating model sailboats. Club members will be on site to answer questions about sailboats, races, and regattas. Hours are from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. (weather permitting). Visit for more information.

Sukkot Family Activities – Sunday, September 22

Families can celebrate the Jewish harvest holiday, Sukkot, and help decorate the sukkah with handmade decorations. The sukkah, a branch- covered booth, also features fall fruits and vegetables, including dried corn, squash, and gourds. Activities are sponsored by the National Council of Jewish Women, Chicago North Shore Section. Hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visit or call (847) 835-5440 for more information.

Fall Bulb Festival – Friday, October 4 through Sunday, October 6

Celebrate the season with the Fall Bulb Festival, an event that includes an outdoor market on the Esplanade and a bulb sale inside the Regenstein Center. Families can enjoy shopping among local vendors selling seasonal produce, roasted nuts, pottery, kettle corn and much more. Children can participate in Family Drop-in Activities (Saturday and Sunday only), navigate a straw-bale maze and dance to live music. Shop for bulbs that you can take home and plant as a family that will bring delight the following spring. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visit for more information.

Spooky Pooch Parade – Saturday, October 19

The Chicago Botanic Garden is going to the dogs! For two hours only, cleverly costumed canines are invited to the Garden to celebrate Halloween. Activities include several categories for judging, a parade through the Garden, and an awards ceremony. Nonprofit animal advocacy groups and local vendors will share information and sell dog-related products. Registration forms, complete with the dog-gone rules, will be available in the Visitor Center, or on the web at Parade spectators are welcome—no ticket needed. Regular parking fees apply.

Trains, Tricks & Treats – Saturday, October 19, and Sunday, October 20 (weather permitting)

Celebrate Halloween at the Model Railroad Garden, specially decorated with spider webs, spiders, ghosts, goblins, and pumpkins, as well as seasonal plant materials. Visitors are encouraged to come in costume. An array of treats to take home can be found throughout the Model Railroad Garden. Kids can take part in a planting activity. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets are $6 for adults, $5 for seniors, and $4 for children ages 3-12. Children 2 and under are free. Members save $1 off each ticket. for more information.

HallowFest – Saturday, October 26, and Sunday, October 27

Celebrate Halloween if you dare at the Chicago Botanic Garden’s HallowFest: A Garden of Good…and Evil. Take either the “friendly” or “spooky” path to activities in the Regenstein Center and McGinley Pavilion. Experience family-friendly thrills and chills, including two stages of entertainment and face painting. As night falls, walk through the Model Railroad Garden, decorated in ghastly lights and running special ghost trains. Hours are 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday, and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday. Visit or call (847) 835-5440 for more information.

(Disclosure: I received passes to the garden.)

Santa’s Village Autumn Harvest Fest {Giveaway}

santas village

(Disclosure: I received a family pack of tickets to Santa’s Village but all thoughts are my own.)

Santa’s Village is tons of fun in the summer months but did you know that the Chicago area amusement park has special activities just for the Fall season? Starting in September, the park will begin its annual Autumn Harvest Fest days. Open Weekends & Columbus Day, Sept. 28 through Oct. 27, Harvest Fest offers fun for families looking to perk up their weekends with a seasonal celebration. Harvest Fest provides guests with all the summer magic that Santa’s Village Azoosment Park has to offer, but with an exciting fall twist in the air.

In the spirit of the season, the park will be decorated with pumpkins and autumn colors. Enjoy new additions such as a straw maze, magic shows and your favorite fall treats like chili, caramel apples, specialty funnel cakes, pies and beverages. As the season comes to a close, celebrate Halloween at the park on October 26 and 27 with trick-or-treating and a costume contest from 2 p.m. -3 p.m. both days. Regular park admission fees apply.

We were planning to go today but because it’s raining we chose to push our visit to a later date. Here are some pictures from last year’s visit to the park:




One reader will win a family pack of tickets to Santa’s Village


{Do any or all of the following, leave a separate comment for each you do}

1) Leave a comment telling me why you want to win

2) Share this giveaway on a social network

3) Follow me on Twitter

4) Follow Santa’s Village on Twitter

5) Subscribe to this blog via email (look in upper right corner)

Giveaway ends September 11, 2013 at 11:59pm Central time. Must be 21 or older and a US resident to enter.

(Disclosure: I received a family pass to the park in exchange for posting. All thoughts are my own.)

Chocolate Pecan Bourbon Pie {Recipe}

chocolate pecan bourbon pie pin

Pie image courtesy of Delightful Pastries

Did you know that August has two pecan “holidays”? Yesterday was National Chocolate Pecan Pie Day and today is National Pecan Torte Day. I had to share this delicious pie recipe from Delightful Pastries,  a family-owned and operated Chicago bakery.

Delightful Pastries’ Chocolate Pecan Bourbon Pie

By: Executive Pastry Chef & Owner, Dobra Bielinski


  • 6 ounces butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 6 ounces pecan halves
  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon
  • 1 9-inch pie shell


  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  • In an electric mixer, beat the butter with the sugar till smooth. Add the corn syrup and molasses, then the flour and mix well.
  • Beat in the eggs one by one, scraping down after each egg; add the vanilla extract and salt. Fold the pecans and chocolate by hand, add the bourbon.
  • Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, till the top is dry and the filling is barely jiggling. Let cool. 8 servings.


If you live in the Chicago area, Delightful Pastries is celebrating the “holiday” at all three of its locations (Chicago French Market, N. Wells St., and Jefferson Park) by offering their delicious Chocolate Pecan Bourbon Pie ($5.25/mini pie; $25/8-inch pie) by executive pastry chef and owner Dobra Bielinski. Delightful Pastry also has the Chocolate Pecan Pie available without Bourbon.

“The Dump” Luxury Discount Home Furnishing Store Opening In Chicago Area {Giveaway}

the dump

The Dump, America’s fastest-growing furniture outlet which features famous name furniture at dramatic discounts, is coming to the Chicago area! It will officially open its new location in Lombard on August 30th. 

The Dump, which is located at S. Highland Ave and Butterfield Road, in the former Great Indoors space, will be open Friday, Saturday and Sunday every week. Totaling a massive 134,000 square feet, The Dump is the largest high-end furniture outlet in the Chicago marketplace. 

“The secret of our success is based on our unique retail business model, which is focused on delivering the best savings for our customers,” E.J. Strelitz continued.  “For example, at The Dump, we are only open Friday, Saturday and Sunday, which allows us to keep the cost of doing business down as well as refresh and replenish the entire inventory before the weekend rush. This demonstrates our intuitive understanding of our customer, who prefers to buy furnishings with other family members or friends, making the weekend an ideal time to shop.  Plus, shoppers can expect to find something new every weekend at The Dump, which attracts a high level of increased traffic among our loyal customer base.”

 “At The Dump, we have always been completely transparent with our buying model,” says Randi Strelitz, Executive Vice President, Haynes Furniture/TheDump.  “Our customers know we don’t pay full price, which means they don’t pay full price.  We accomplish this by purchasing overstocks, one-of-a-kinds, factory sell-outs, showroom models, and design prototypes – all brand-new, top-quality merchandise at highly discounted prices.  This creates the ultimate shopping experience for our customers every weekend of the year.”

“The Lombard store will feature the latest furnishings at 30 to 80 percent discounted prices for all areas of your home, including modern living and dining room furniture, chic rugs, and much more,” added Randi Strelitz.


One reader will win a $134 gift card to The Dump


{Do any or all of the following, leave a separate comment for each you do}

1) Leave a comment telling me what piece of furniture you’d like to get for your home

2) Follow The Dump on Twitter

3) Follow me on Twitter

4) Share this giveaway on a social network

5) Leave a comment on another blog post

Giveaway ends August 30, 2013 at 11:59pm Central time. Must be 18 or older and a US resident to win.

(Disclosure: I was not compensated for posting this. I was invited to the Chicago grand opening and can’t attend but I wanted to post because I thought you all would enjoy this.)

Chicago “Walk For Water” Charity Event

Image courtesy of Living Water International

Image courtesy of Living Water International

Living Water International Chicago is hosting a “Walk for Water” on Aug. 24 in suburban Glen Ellyn. Participants will walk 1.5 miles as a group to Lake Ellyn, where they will collect water in gallon jugs – comparable to the jerry cans used in developing countries. They will then walk back carrying the water, putting themselves in the shoes of the millions of children and adults who spending hours walking each day to reach a water source.

Registration is $20 at; all proceeds will go toward wells to be drilled in India. Children under 15 may participate for free.

More than 783 million people face the daily challenge of finding water. Many spend 20 hours per week – often trekking seven miles per day – collecting contaminated water, which can lead to life-threatening diseases. Clean water means better sanitation and hygiene, disease and infant death prevention, freed time for paid work and school, full hydration with improved focus and energy and more cooking water for meals.


Saturday, Aug. 24 at 8:30 a.m.


Ben Franklin Elementary School
350 Bryant Avenue, Glen Ellyn, IL 60137

About Living Water International

Living Water International began drilling water wells in 1990. Working in 25 countries around the world and motivated by Christian faith, Living Water strives to implement the most effective and sustainable water, sanitation and hygiene solutions. For more information, visit

Disney On Ice Celebrates 100 Years Of Magic In Chicago {Giveaway}

disney on ice

(Disclosure: I am receiving tickets to the show in exchange for posting about it. All thoughts are my own.)

Join the celebration as more than 60 of Disney’s unforgettable characters from 18 beloved stories come to life in Disney On Ice celebrates 100 Years of Magic! You’ll be captivated by the one and only Mickey Mouse, the irresistible Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Donald Duck, Jiminy Cricket, Pinocchio, and many Disney Princesses.  Experience a skating spectacular you’ll remember forever as Disney On Ice celebrates 100 Years of Magic!

The show will be coming to the Chicago area September 11-15, 2013 at the United Center.


**Spanish Performance on Sunday, Sept. 15th at 7pm

Opening night tickets are only $12! Other shows range from $13-$70 a ticket. Save 40% on all weekday shows and Save 20% on all weekend shows with the discount code “MOM”. Purchase your tickets here.


One person will win a 4 pack of tickets to the Chicago show.

Performance choices are Sept. 11th or Sept. 12th.


{Do any or all of the following, leave a separate comment for each you do}

1) Leave a comment telling me who you would take to the show

2) Follow Disney on Ice on Twitter

3) Follow me on Twitter

4) Share this giveaway on a social network

5) Leave a comment on another post

Giveaway ends August 16, 2013 at 11:59pm Central time. Must be 18 or over and a US resident to enter this giveaway.


FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer At Chicago Farmer’s Market Tomorrow

Freshness Chart

I am excited to announce that I am partnering with the FoodSaver brand to share about their NEW Vacuum Sealer. I will be at the Green City Farmers Market in Chicago with Alli of Couponing for 4 tomorrow, Saturday August 10th, helping people keep their fruits and vegetables fresher longer! Using the FoodSaver system, people can save money by purchasing food in bulk and preserve it for future use.

With a FoodSaver system, families can enjoy fresh, nutritious food throughout the year at a reasonable price. Check out the chart below to see how much longer your food can last!

This past week, I used the FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer myself to keep some broccoli fresh.

I found the system so easy to use. You literally stick the food in the FoodSaver bag, put the edge of the bag in the system, and it gets all the air out of the bag. You then press a button and it is sealed. I really liked that there is a button to manually vacuum out the air so you don’t squish items like breads and soft berries. The system also has multiple pre-made sized bags and a roll of “make your own” size bags.

I look forward to using the FoodSaver system more tomorrow and will share more in depth about it and my experience at the Farmer’s Market in my next post. If you are local, I’d love to meet you there tomorrow.

(Disclosure: I am being compensated for my time but all thoughts are my own.)

Calling All Chicago Cubs Fans! {Giveaway}


Calling all Chicago Cubs fans!! I am so excited to be working with the Chicago Cubs to offer a giveaway of their Kid’s Club membership. I loved being on the field and I know the little one in your life will love the chance to tour Wrigley Field and run the bases themselves.

The Cubs Kid’s Club, presented by ComEd, is a great way to get kids involved in the game and Wrigley Field by providing club membership benefits. These benefits include:

  • Official Cubs Kids Club membership card
  • Cubs Kids Club lanyard
  • Cubs thermal lunch tote
  • Cubs mesh drawstring bag
  • Cubs baseball cap
  • Coupon for one free Wrigley Field Tour ticket (A $25 value!)
  • Front-of-the-line privileges for Kids-Run-the-Bases (All Sunday home games)

A Kid’s Club membership is valued at $20 with a $2 convenience fee and a $6 shipping per membership. More information can be found here.


One winner will win a Kid’s Club Membership


We want to hear or see why your little one should win!

You can leave a comment below telling us, tweet us, or share a picture of them in their Cubs gear on instagram or pinterest!

Make sure to include the hashtag #CubsKidsClub and tag the applicable profiles so we see it:

Pinterest: cubsbaseball and aliciamarie112

Instagram: cubs and Alicia

Twitter: @Cubs and @aliciamarie112

 For an extra entry, share the giveaway on a social network!

Giveaway ends August 10, 2013 at 11:59pm Central time. Must be a US resident ages 18 and older to enter. Winner will be chosen at random. Winner is responsible for all additional costs including travel to the game and parking.

(Disclosure: I was not compensated for posting this giveaway.)

ONE DIRECTION: THIS IS US Free Advance Screening Passes {Chicago}

‘One Direction: This Is Us’ Screening {Chicago}

(Please note: The flyer contains a code that will allow anyone who is interested to log on to and enter the code listed on the flyer for the chance to redeem a free admit-two pass to the screening this Saturday at 10:30AM at AMC River East (322 E. Illinois St., Chicago, 60611). You have to scroll down on the document above to see the code. The passes are first-come, first-served and a pass does not guarantee a seat. Those with passes should arrive early.)

Synopsis: ONE DIRECTION: THIS IS US is a captivating and intimate all-access look at life on the road for the global music phenomenon. Weaved with stunning live concert footage, this inspiring feature film tells the remarkable story of Niall, Zayn, Liam, Harry and Louis’ meteoric rise to fame, from their humble hometown beginnings and competing on the X-Factor, to conquering the world and performing at London’s famed O2 Arena. Hear it from the boys themselves and see through their own eyes what it’s really like to be One Direction.

Directed by Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me) and produced by Simon Cowell, Adam Milano, Spurlock and Ben Winston.