How I deal with Stress (or at least how I try)

I thought since April is Stress Awareness Month, I would share some ways I deal with stress (or at least how I try). We all have our moments, days, weeks, or even years that just suck and how we manage them is all so different.

I work part-time with students with cognitive disabilities, anything from ADHD, dyslexia to learning disabilities, which often lead to anxiety in many of them. A lot of my work is helping students deal with stress. School and just life can be so overwhelming for them, so I have a lot of executive functioning training and stress management is a huge part of my job. I thought I would share some tips I have learned working with my students and just being a mom, wife, blogger, and person.

dealing with stress

Prioritize and Organize: I really can’t say this enough. When we are faced with huge challenges that we know are stressful triggers for us, you must plan ahead. This can be something with your child and those oh so fun toddler tantrums. If your child hates getting dressed in the morning, plan out the outfits together the night before. Have everything laid out to avoid a meltdown. If bath time is a struggle, figure out a way to incorporate them into preparing the bath. Lay out the towel, the toys, soap, etc. Obviously, it doesn’t always work out, but having a plan always helps with stressful situations.

What I repeat almost daily with my students is to really plan out your week. This goes for adults too. If you know there’s a big meeting on Thursday, make sure everything else is done before then. Clear your schedule of any distractions and work everything else around that meeting. It will help keep your mind clear and focused. If your not an agenda person (I couldn’t function without one), make lists for different parts of your life. Home, self (crucial to do things for yourself), and work. It’ll feel good crossing everything off throughout the week.

Lastly, ALWAYS perform your hardest, challenging tasks first.¬†Doing the harder things first means you are more likely to find unexpected hurdles earlier in the project. Finding hurdles earlier then means you have more time to deal with them before missing a deadline. There is nothing worse than scrambling at the last minute before a deadline. Overall, it’s just better in the long run, although our brains will always pick the easier way out.

dealing with stress

Treat Yourself- Ok, I know this is really taboo, but it’s true. But for me, this doesn’t mean binging on fast food or drinking too many glasses of wine (which 1-2 is great of course). When I do this, I actually end up just feeling worse. For some people, I think it totally works, but for me, it has the opposite effect. I like to get a blowout, cook my favorite meal, get my nails done or even a massage. I actually get massages every three months or so (I have a bad back too), but I really think it helps. It could be going for a walk, turning off your phone and just unplugging. Sometimes, that’s the best feeling, just disconnect.

dealing with stress, at glowout salon getting a blowout

Honestly, we all handle everything in our own way. As long as we know our own limits, you know what’s best for you. If you are stressed out, need a break, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. I find myself saying ‘yes’ to everything and fill my plate until it’s over pouring and then I break down. But I’m learning to take it all in stride. Motherhood has probably slowed me down a bit, but it’s also adds other stressful factors. But we are all a work in progress and maybe one day, stress won’t even be a thing. One day ūüôā

I’d love to hear how you guys deal with stress! Let me know.

Until next time,

Christine

 

 

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Our Favorite Children’s Books & Nighttime Routine

INTERNATIONAL CHILDREN'S BOOK DAYTwo-year-olds aren‚Äôt always that bad. Sometimes, they are pretty awesome ‚ÄĒ especially when they can’t put a book down from their chubby little hands. I started reading with Noah consistently when he was around 3 weeks old and we haven’t stopped since. Although, I use the term “reading” loosely, we just look a lot of pictures and repeat words. It’s the best feeling to watch him grow and find a love of reading. As a former teacher, I was always reading, except it was children’s books (my personal favorites are¬†Hatchet and anything by Jerry Spinelli). I have a love of children’s books.

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Every night, our bedtime routine is a bath, brush our teeth, read two books and sing two songs. We try to stick with it and he is now reminding us if we forget any part (that’s the cutest). I think whatever your nighttime routine is, it’s important to be consistent. Toddlers are so observant and will definitely notice when part of your normal routine is missing. My mom gave me this advice when Noah was an infant. We started our bath, two books and two songs when he was weeks old (and had no idea what was going on), but now he expects it and sleeps 12-13 hours a night. Definitely a work in progress, but it’s so helpful to have a clear routine.

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(*glider by Delta. I love it for our small room)
Here are 5 books we love right now:

1. Where Do Diggers Sleep at Night?  by Brianna Caplan Sayres, illustrated by Christian Slade

For any vehicle-obsessed little ones (I hear the word “truck” in one day more than I can count) can expect repeat requests for this story at bedtime. From diggers and dump trucks to tractors and cranes, sweet rhymes about familiar bedtime routines gently lull trucks (and kids) off to sleep.

2. My Big Animal Book by Roger Priddy

Two-year-olds love animals, and this giant board book might be his favorite. It groups animals into various categories such as pets and farm animals. Toddlers will recognize their favorite animals and learn some new ones too. Noah loves to point and quiz me, just to make sure I didn’t forget any of them ūüôā


3. Where is Baby’s Belly Button by Karen Katz.

We actually got this for a baby shower gift and was one of the first books to read to him. This not only teaches primary and secondary body parts, the lift-the-flap book is the best part of it. This is apart of a series and they are all engaging.

4. Pirate Pete Polly-Potty Training for Boys 

If you have been following me for awhile, you know we have been trying to potty train¬† (but really that can be a whole other conversation or two itself) Noah for awhile. It hasn’t been easy, but Noah is at least entertained by pressing the cheering button when he attempts to go. Maybe it helps, but either way, it’s his potty reading material.

5. Teeth are Not for Biting by Elizabeth Verdick

Our nanny (when I was working full time) bought this for Noah. Yes, we went through a rough biting phase. I have to say, I think this book really helped. The visuals really showed Noah how it can hurt other children and he has grown out of it. Although, it’s frightening for parents to have to deal with it. This book is a must for all biters.

I would love to know your favorite children’s books! Let me know.

Until next time…

Christine

March Roundup

We are having a baby girl

Instagram is nice and pretty, but I decided I needed another outlet to summarize everything that is going on. A short caption doesn’t really capture everything IRL (for those not familiar, in real life). So every month, I am going to summarize everything I love, some not so great stuff and anything else that happened during the month. I hope you guys like it!

The Good

The most exciting thing I shared was earlier this month, in case you missed it, is I will now be a contributor at Chicago Scene Magazine. They are relaunching starting with their website and going to print shortly after. To be honest, it kind of just landed on my lamp. It’s a new adventure, but I can’t wait to share some articles with you guys. You can read more¬†here.

I did an interview with the online publication, Voyage Magazine. This was pretty cool to be included in their Trailblazer section (because honestly, I feel like I barely keep my house afloat) and how I got my start. I explained a lot of why I started CGL and what keeps me motivated. The interview is here.

There was another #goodandsassy event at¬†Go Glow¬†There were lots on influencers trying out a customized spray tan for the very first time. (I go rather often and I discovered this place). We had wine from¬†Jolie Folie (My absolute favorite ros√©. You can find it at Foxtrot or Goddess and the Grocer), adorable custom cookies from¬†Sugar Fan Club¬†and lots of meat and cheese from¬†Boar’s Head.¬†It was a great event and it’s probably one of the best tans I have ever had. There is another location in Minnesota and they are new-ish to Chicago. It was perfect way to start spring and get ready for warmer months. The facility is clean, easy, and the tan lasts at least a week.

tan from go glow

One day post tan

Manny and I went out for St. Patrick’s Day for the first time in 8 years. Yes, we did the math. It had been that long since we went out. We had a baby free weekend (it was actually really nice to have some freedom for a little) and went to the penthouse at the¬†Swissotel Chicago. We watched the Chicago River being dyed and went out with friends all day. After the hotel, we went to a cool place called Tapster in Wicker Parker and ended with dinner at Dove’s Luncheonette. It was one of my favorite days of the year.

After the hotel, we grabbed drinks along the river

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Watching the river being dyed

Green eggs and ham with corned beef and hash

Noah and I went to the¬†Chicago Children’s Museum¬†for the first time and had such a great time (although, N did have a major breakdown and I ended up Facetiming Manny in tears, but that’s another story..). He absolutely loved it. I also couldn’t believe how big museum was! There is really something for everyone, even for little ones. I often find sometimes places like that are always geared toward older kids, but this isn’t. There is a new exhibit, Growing up Seoul. It’s a sneak peek into life growing up in Korea. Super cool.

We then walked around Navy Pier and he ran after the ducks. It was a great day. Pro tip: I used Spot Hero for $15 and walked two blocks to Navy Pier. Super easy (but a very long day for mom).

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Noah and I infront of EnerGeeWhizz

I have been working out a lot recently and really getting back into shape. I was feeling so good, but my back was starting to get a little sore. Sunday night, I went to grab Noah from the tub and got stuck. Literally. Manny had to come and help pick me up with Noah in my arms. My back was shot. I have been pretty much bed-ridden and have been relying on Manny and my mom a lot.¬†I am a person that likes to do 700 things at once and this time, I really can’t do much but lie in bed. It’s been a real bummer.

How this all got started….

When I was 19 years old, I was in a pretty bad car accident on my way to the University of Iowa to visit a friend. It was the middle of February, wasn’t snowing, but we hit black ice and the rest is history. I broke one of the lowest lumbars in my back, skull fracture, punctured a lung, broken ribs, collarbone, and much more. I was airlifted to the trauma center in Peoria and went through emergency back surgery. I now have 2 metal rods and 4 screws. I healed everywhere else just fine (with lots of physical therapy), but my back can be pretty temperamental with the weather, pregnancy, etc. This past Sunday, it hadn’t been that bad in years. To say this least, that’s been a huge downer this month. I am taking it one day at a time.

This month has been so busy. Lot’s of events and I did some really fun things I did with Noah. Honestly, those are probably my favorite.

Let me know if you guys like the monthly wrap ups!

Until next time…

Christine

A Family Friendly St. Patrick’s Day: Events and Activities for Everyone

Green Leaf Clover St Patricks Day Instagram Post

With St. Patrick’s Day approaching, there are lot’s of events and activities happening, many involving over indulging in some adult beverages and creating some fuzzy memories. But just because you have a family now doesn’t mean the fun can stop. There are a ton of family friendly activities happening and even ones that involve green beer just for you parents. Yes parents, you deserve a green beer or two.

Events

Old St. Patrick’s Church: St. Patrick’s Day Civic CelebrationРIf you are looking for other ways to celebrate the day, attend mass at Old St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church in Chicago’s West Loop. The Old St. Patrick’s concert choir will be accompanied by The Sheila Tully Irish Stepdancers, and the Shannon Rovers Irish Pipe Band, keeping the festive spirit going throughout the day. Highly recommended to get there early.

Closed out St. Paddy's Day Weekend with the St Patrick's Day Community Celebration at @oldstpatschicago complete with bagpipes, Irish Stepdancers, and soda bread. ūüćÄ

Photo by @urbanaohana

Saturday, March. 17, 9 .m. (doors open at 7 a.m.)

Old St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church, 700 W. Adams St., West Loop

NY Kids Club– Celebrate with your little ones for a St. Patrick’s Day Party during a supervised open play in their state-of-the-art gym. We have been here a few times since they recently opened and really enjoyed the space. They have a more gymnastic based equipment like a mini-trampoline and balance beam.

There will also be Irish sing-alongs and open art. The festivities include pizza for children and hors d’oeuvres, beer and wine for adults. Families will also receive party favors on their way out.

Friday, March 16th, 3:30 PM – 5:00 PM ,
Chicago – Lincoln Park NY Kids Club
Tickets $48 per child

St. Patrick’s Festival at the Irish American Heritage РFollowing the downtown parade, head over to the Irish American Heritage Center on the Northwest side. The family-oriented annual event will include traditional and contemporary Irish music, Irish step dance performances, food and drink, children’s activities and an arts-and-crafts fair with an Irish flair.

Saturday, March 17th, 1 p.m.-midnight
Irish American Heritage Center, 4626 N. Knox Ave., Irving Park
Tickets are $15/adults, or $12 for advance purchase if bought by the end of the day on March. 15; free for ages 11 & under

Northwest Irish Parade- The Northwest Irish Organization (NWSI) kicks off its 15th annual parade to celebrate all things Irish. This is probably the most manageable parade with a family compared to the downtown and southside parades. With over 100 parade group participants and 2,500 people marching, it is an hour and a half for the whole family.

The after Party will take place at Immaculate Conception Elementary School Recreation Center from 1 p.m.-5 p.m. Tickets for the after party include dinner and drinks for kids and adults. There will be corned beef, entertainment, face painting, balloon magic and raffles.

Sunday, March 11th, noon
Begins at 6634 W. Raven

After party 1:00- 5:00 pm
Immaculate Conception Recreation Center 7271 W. Talcott Ave
Tickets: $10.00/12 and over, $5.00/children under 12. Drink Wristband (optional) $5.00 -21 years & older only (includes beer & wine)

Hard Rock CafeРNeed somewhere to go after the downtown parade? Hard Rock is having their 10th annual GET SHAMROCKED! This all ages event starts at 10:00 AM.  You can head in Cafe or out in the heated tent for all the festivities. There will be Live Music by The Hat Guys & The Shannon Rovers along with green beer, Irish grub and jello shots and more.

#GetShamROCKED! Happy #stpatricksday #Chicago!

A post shared by Hard Rock Cafe Chicago (@hrcchicago) on

63 West Ontario, Chicago, IL 60654
$5 dollar suggested donation to the Hard Rock Heals Foundation

Restaurants

Krispy Kreme-¬†¬†In the mood for doughnuts? What about green doughnuts?! Krispy Kreme Doughnuts is joining the St. Patrick‚Äôs Day celebration’s and serving green doughnuts for two days for the first time ever!

Krispy Kreme is bringing back its ‚ÄúO‚Äôriginal‚ÄĚ Glazed Doughnut on Friday and Saturday,
March 16-17, at Chicagoland’s Krispy Kreme shops located at 17815 South Halsted Street
in Homewood and 9150 South Western Avenue in Evergreen Park. The O’riginal Glazed Doughnut is specially formulated with green dough and glazed hot in traditional Krispy Kreme fashion.

Definitely perfect for those little ones with a serious sweet tooth in your family!

Krispy Kreme doughnuts serving green doughnuts for St. Patrick's Day

Chief O‚ÄôNeill‚Äôs Pub & Restaurant-¬†Named one of the ‚ÄúTop Ten Irish Pubs in the World‚ÄĚ by Irish of the Welcomes magazine, Chief O‚ÄôNeill‚Äôs is very authentic and also, family friendly. In fact, we celebrate many special occasions here my family including their father’s day bruch. They have several family friendly activities going on all weekend like their¬†Little Leprechaun Family Breakfast Feast¬†(8am ‚Äď 11:30am).¬†

The chief….

A post shared by Matteo Violare (@thorndayle) on

Saturday Parade Day 3/17/18   OPENING 7AM

Little Leprechaun Family Breakfast Feast¬†(8am ‚Äď 11:30am)

    • Buffet breakfast for adults and kids featuring Irish and American breakfast favorites;¬†Bacon, Sausage, Corned Beef Hash, French Toast, Waffles, Irish Cheddar Scrambled Eggs, Breakfast Potato Casserole, Eggs Benedict, Scrambled Eggs, Breads, Fresh platters and more‚Ķ..
    • Live traditional Irish music
    • Complimentary tin whistle lesson with the Irish Music School of Chicago at 9am for all kids ages 6 ‚Äď 12. Bring your own whistle (Key of D) buy one for $10 or borrow one of ours! Pre-registration required at www.irishmusicschool.org
    • Face painting and balloon animals
    • Free Irish Dance lessons 10am, kids 3 to 10yr with The Trinity Academy of Irish Dance
    • An appearance by St. Patrick himself at 10am
    • And much more!

3471 N. Elston Ave., Avondale
Breakfast Food Service, Adults $15, Kids 10 and under $12

Legno Chicago– Although you wouldn’t think an Italian restaurant would have much for St. Patrick’s Day, but this Portage Park gem is joining the party. Legno is an Italian gastropub located in what Parent Magazine called, “the most family friendly neighborhood in the city”. They will be serving corned beef, shepard’s pie and have drink specials all day long.

4250 N. Central Avenue
Chicago, IL 60634
773.736.2854

Lady Gregory’s –¬†Lady Gregory’s Irish Bar & Restaurant¬†in Andersonville¬† is one of our family’s favorite lunch spots. Named after the passionate Irish author, this charming wood-paneled pub focuses on farm-to-table, sustainable, local ingredients and authentic Irish fare. Try to secure a table in the cozy library with a fireplace. Start with the hard cider steamed mussels and move on to the classic fish and chips served with minty peas.

5260 N. Clark Street
Chicago IL 60640

773 271 5050

XO Marshmallow– This is not only dessert heaven, but kids love it! The space is fun and the marshmallows are delicious. They are serving Green River mint lemonade and pistachio marshmallow all month long.

6977 N Sheridan Rd.
Chicago, IL 60626

Activities

Celebrating at home? Here are some ways to enjoy the festivities at home with your family.

Gold Maze
Are you lucky enough to find the gold at the end of this maze? Education.com is here with learning games and educational activities just like this maze_gold. 

Crossword Clover 
Find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow as you practice your spelling with this fun crossword_clover printable. Education.com is here for you with more spelling and learning activities.

Popular Children’s Books

  1. How to Catch a Leprechaun

2. The Itsy Bitsy Leprachaun

3.¬†Curious George- Happy St. Patrick’s Day

For the Adults

  1. St. Patrick’s Day Wine Labels

2. Photo Props

St Patrick's Photo Booth Props Irish Day Photo Props Tinksky Funny Creative Toy St. Patrick's Party Favors 34pcs

So however you are celebrating it, be safe and enjoy the day with your family!

Until next time,

Christine

My Lil’ Kicker: Soccer Lessons with Lil’Kickers

Soccer lessons at Lil' Kickers

Staying indoors all winter long with a toddler can be really, really boring. To help bare with the cold months, we started soccer lessons when Noah was 20 months and we LOVE it. The program is designed to help develop children’s social, emotional, and cognitive skills while providing physical exercise. They promote players who are good sports and good teammates, on and off the field. The coaches are very encouraging, always high-fiving, and players get stamps at the end of each lesson (my son‚Äôs favorite part). My favorite part? Noah get’s to get channel some of his energy all while having a positive learning experience. It is a 50 minute lesson with an adult, but at the age of 3, a parent is no longer required.

Ages: 18 months Р9 years
Classes: Weekday & Weekend
Spring Session: Mar 19th РJun 17th

You can book a free trial class using this link.

TIP: They have locations in Chicago and Chicago-land suburbs.

(TheChicagoGoodLife is a partner of Lil’Kickers)

Valentine’s Day: The Family Way

Before having our son, my husband and I rarely went out on Valentine’s Day. It’s so much more fun to stay in and cook a big meal of all our favorites (and also a lot cheaper!). Now with a toddler, we still celebrate with a home cooked meal, but it’s slightly different. If you are staying in with your family, I put together an easy meal for you with a fast cleanup that you and your family to enjoy together this Valentine’s Day.

Drink- Shirley Temples

One of my favorite drinks to order as a child was a Shirley Temple. I always felt so grown up. To be honest, I occasionally still order them. This makes the perfect Valentine’s Day drink because kids love it, it’s festive and adults even make it more “adult” like if they’d like ūüôā¬† I prefer using tall plastic SOLO cups because really, kids and glassware just don’t mix.

IMG_1512.JPGIngredients

  • 1¬†(12 ounce)¬†bottle Grenadine
  • Ice
  • 1¬†(2 Liter)¬†bottle lemon-lime soda
  • Maraschino cherries¬†for garnish

Instructions

  1. Pour 1 ounce Grenadine over ice in a glass.
  2. Top with 8 ounces lemon-lime soda.
  3. Garnish with maraschino cherries.

Shirley Temple Recipe using SOLO cups for Valentine's Day

Shirley Temple Recipe using SOLO cups for Valentine's Day

Main Dish- Pizza with Heart Shaped Pepperoni

Heart shaped pizza is such a fun Valentine’s Day dinner, but to save time on making it, why not just buy your favorite pizza and make heart shaped pepperoni? It’s easy and you can do it together.

Making heart shaped pepperoni pizza for Valentine's Day

You can use a cookie cutter, but I just used scissors and cut the pepperoni into heart shapes.

Making heart shaped pepperoni pizza for Valentine's Day

Making heart shaped pepperoni pizza for Valentine's Day

Heat it up and serve on SOLO plates. These can later serve as crafts for your kids to color and make their own hearts!

Making heart shaped pepperoni pizza for Valentine's Day

Dessert- Cake “Fondue”

Now, for the best part, dessert. Instead of the traditional cheese fondue, replace the cheese with frosting. This cake “fondue” is so fun to dip your mini cake pops into different icings and everyone customize their own Valentine’s Day treat.

Valentine's Day kid friendly fondue using solo products

Ingredients

  • 1 box Funfetti cake and cupcake mix
  • Sprinkles of your choice
  • Cookie sticks (quantity depends on how many you want to make)
  • Cream cheese frosting
  • Fruit of your choice (I like pineapple with cream cheese frosting!)
  • Mini chocolate chips
  • Pink, purple, red and white gel food colors
  • Mini cupcake liners
  • SOLO bowls with lids
  • SOLO plates

Instructions

  1. Bake the mini cupcakes according to the instructions on the box
  2. While baking, make your frosting colors in the SOLO bowls.
  3. Let the cupcakes cool for 10-12 minutes.
  4. Place the mini cupcakes on the cookie sticks
  5. Dip away!

Valentine's Day kid friendly fondue using solo products

Valentine's Day kid friendly fondue using solo products

Valentine's Day kid friendly fondue using solo products

Valentine's Day kid friendly fondue using solo products

Valentine's Day kid friendly fondue using solo products

Valentine's Day kid friendly fondue using solo products

For the leftover frosting, stick a lid on the bowl and place in the fridge.

Valentine's Day kid friendly fondue using solo products

Enjoy your Valentine’s Day meal with your loved one!

Until next time,

Christine

This post was sponsored by SOLO cup however all opinions and experiences are my own!

Game on: A Kid-Friendly Super Bowl

Super Bowl is one of my favorite events of the year, but you guessed right, not for the game. But for THE FOOD. Super Bowl food is the best. I took some classic Super Bowl recipes, fun hosting ideas and made them a little bit more kid-friendly. So whether you have a family or a party with kids, there is a little something for everyone to get you ready for the big game!

Setup
I love hosting. It’s one of my favorite things to do. But if there are a lot of people, especially with little ones, I need easy ideas for setup and clean up. I decided to minimize the dishes and use¬†Solo Cup Products¬†to make clean up easy¬†and less complicated.¬†They are completely disposable, recyclable and really durable. Once you are done with them, they can also be used for kids to write and color on them. It’s a win, win right?

Some fast and easy ideas are a snack bar, pigs in a blanket, tater tot skewers and individual 7 layer dip cups (because nothing says football more than dip).

super bowl kid friendly ideas using solo products. Snacks and food

SOLO has¬†write on cups¬†that are perfect to label the snacks. The kids can make their own snack¬†bowls with lids.¬† These bowls are easy for them to hold and whatever they don’t finish, the bowls serve as to-go cups. The small, clear cups are the perfect size for the individual 7 layer dip cups. Lastly, the¬†paper plates¬†are the adults for the skewers and other snacks. Don’t forget about the red and blue cups for the adult or kid beverages you serve. Plus, they add lots of color to your table.

super bowl kid friendly ideas using solo products. Snacks and food

Snack Bar
The best part of a snack bar is that you can customize it to your guests preferences. Since this is more kid friendly, the options are kid friendly, but even adults would enjoy them (I know I do!)

super bowl kid friendly ideas using solo products. Snacks and food

Snacks
Here are the snacks I used:

  • kid puffs
  • graham crackers
  • ring pops (everyone’s a champion!
  • M & M’s
  • pretzels
  • Doritos
  • blue corn chips

super bowl kid friendly ideas using solo products. Snacks and food

super bowl kid friendly ideas using solo products. Snacks and food

super bowl kid friendly ideas using solo products. Snacks and food

Pigs in a Blanket
This is an appetizer that everyone likes. You can definitely make them with recipes like this or you can buy them frozen, whatever makes your life easier! But either way, they are a great for kids and adults.

super bowl kid friendly ideas using solo products. Snacks and food

7 Layer Dip
These are perfect for a few reasons. The cups are very sturdy, so they are able to hold a lot without feeling too heavy. They are great size for those small hands and you don’t have to worry about any double dipping ūüôā

super bowl kid friendly ideas using solo products. Snacks and food

Ingredients:

  • 1¬†(16 ounce) can refried beans
  • 1¬†(1 ounce) package taco seasoning
  • 1¬†cup¬†guacamole or homemade guacamole
  • 1¬†(8 ounce) container sour cream
  • 1¬†cup¬†chunky salsa¬†
  • 1¬†cup¬†shredded cheddar or Mexican blend cheese (I used both!)
  • 2¬†Roma tomatoes¬†, diced
  • 1/2¬†bunch of green onions, sliced
  • 1¬†(2.25 ounce) can of sliced olives, drained (Optional- my son doesn’t like olives)
  • 6¬†(9 ounce)¬†SOLO cup plastic cups
  • tortilla chips (I like blue corn chips)

Instructions:

  • In a small bowl mix taco seasoning with refried beans.
  • Add about 2-2 1/2 tablespoons for each layer
    • Layer 1: beans and taco seasoning
    • Layer 2: sour cream
    • Layer 3: guacamole
    • Layer 4: pico de gallo
    • Layer 5: cheese
    • Layer 6: tomatoes
    • Layer 7: green onions and olives
  • Garnish with one tortilla chip. Store in the refrigerator until serving and serve with chips. Makes around 6 individual dips.
super bowl kid friendly ideas using solo products. Snacks and food

 

Tater Tot Skewers
These are super easy to make and really fun to eat. You can eat them right off the skewer or add it to your SOLO plate. 15-20 minutes at 425 degrees, let them cool and add 4-5 tots to each skewer. You can add ketchup to the small SOLO cups for dipping.

super bowl kid friendly ideas using solo products. Snacks and food

So if you are inviting friends over to watch the Super Bowl or watching it with your family, enjoy the game, whoever is playing….most importantly, enjoy the food with a no fuss clean up.

Until next time,

Christine

This post was sponsored by SOLO cup however all opinions and experiences are my own!

Winter Fun for Everyone: Indoor places for the Family

Chicago winter months can be brutal, especially with little ones. The days can become even longer when you are stuck inside all day. I have rounded out a list of our favorite indoor spots. I have included classes, open playrooms and additional fun, indoor activities to keep everyone entertained (hopefully!) and sane during the cold months. I also got some help from fellow moms too and included their favs. Even included a special discount code, a promotion and several free options because who doesn’t like to save some extra cash right?!

Chicago:

Merry Music Makers– Music based classes from kids birth to 5 years old. Children can learn to sing in tune, keep a beat and participate in the music of our culture, provided their early environment supports such learning. Merry Music Makers offers research-based curriculum.

TIP: There are three locations throughout the city; Lakeview, Andersonville, and Edgewater

NYC Kids Club– Just recently opened, this gym has various classes, but several are gymnastic based. We have done one open play and a Gym Tots class and really enjoyed it. They have some great grand opening specials that includes¬†Monthly ‚Äď 50% off your first month + 1 year unlimited open play!¬†Offer expires January 31.¬†

TIP:  There is a parking lot on the side on the building.

NY Kids Club- Chicago

Bubbles Academy– We have been to several events and open plays here, Noah has always enjoyed it. They focus on an art integrated curriculum and have many classes like art, music and creative movement. The facility has lots of space and they are always having FREE events. Some upcoming parent workshops like potty training and building math skills are really informative for parents.

TIP: Sign up for their newsletter and get the latest events, workshops, and classes.

Bubbles Academy

Purple Monkey Playroom– Located in Bucktown, this playroom is nice for children to explore in the large play space. They have free coffee, tea, and WiFi. I really like the mini kitchen area to heat up lunch and have some snacks. We have always done a day pass for $15 and usually stay for at least minimum of two hours. I think its a great place for play dates on a cold day.

TIP: They have lot parking available in the 90 mile Cuban Cafe gated parking lot at 2449 W. Armitage, directly under the El tracks. It’s about a 3 minute walk to the playroom.

Purple Playroom

Sod Room–¬†Sod Room is an eco-friendly, indoor play space located in the South Loop of Chicago.¬† They provide toys and materials from recycled cork flooring, low VOC paint, and reclaimed wood. It is uniquely designed to utilize as much natural light as possible.¬† They also have workshops and classes. A day pass is $15 dollars.

TIP: They also feature a retail boutique which offers local, organic, fair trade, and recycled products and gifts for children and parents.

Goldfish Swim School- Through some research and word of mouth, we found Goldfish Swim School and we LOVE IT! It’s our favorite activity to do as a family. We each take a turn in the water with him during the 30 minute class (because of his age). We have the same teacher each lesson in a very small class and they work with you and the level your child is at. You can read more about our experience here. By lesson 3, Noah was enjoying it and learning to do the activities much more independently. After we showered, they have diapers, blow dryers, lotion and wipes to help get ready after the shower.

TIP: They have locations in Chicago and Chicago-land suburbs.

IMG_2645

Lesson 1- He definitely warmed up ūüôā

Lil’ Kickers Soccer– We started soccer lessons when Noah was 20 months (now turning 2 in two weeks) and LOVE it. The program is designed to help develop a child‚Äôs social, emotional, and cognitive skills while providing physical exercise and developing players who are good sports and good teammates, on and off the field. The coaches are very encouraging, always high-fiving, and players get stamps at the end of each lesson (my son’s favorite part!). It is a 50 minute lesson with an adult, but at the age of 3, a parent is no longer required.

TIP: They have locations in Chicago and Chicago-land suburbs.

LIl' Kickers soccer practice

Mini City on 21– Located in Norwood park, this is an open playroom that is a parent/guardian supervised indoor play, party and cafe. They have have classes and birthday party packages available. Day passes are $10 for children 1 – 10 years old and $7 for children 11 – 12 years old. 0-11 months are FREE.

TIP: You can get a¬†MINI “PASSPORT”¬†(only for children 1 -10 years old) with a 5-day pass, $40, 10-day pass, $80 or 15-day pass, $120.

Tinkergarten–¬† All classes take place outside at a local park.¬†Outdoor classes where children can play with other children alongside adults to learn through well-designed, outdoor play-based activities. They help kids develop a host of important capabilities, including empathy, collaboration, creativity, persistence and problem solving. Classes range from 18 months to 8 years old.

TIP: Free trials in March for the spring season

Zumbini–¬†Created by Zumba¬†and BabyFirst for kids ages birth to 4 years old, the Zumbini¬†program combines music, dance and educational tools for 45 minutes of parent and child bonding! Also taught by a local fellow mom! Check out their schedule for classes all over the city.

TIP: Use the code Mamatribe15 for 15% off (only valid at the Irish American Heritage Center).

Young Explorers at the Adler Planetarium– Children between the ages of 2 and 6 years old can check out Young Explorers‚Äô Mondays from 9:30 am ‚Äď 1:00 pm, where children and their families can try hands-on activities like Fly a Kite, Stories Under the Stars, and more. Or add a sky show to your day when you purchase a Basic Pass that includes¬†One World, One Sky: Big Bird‚Äôs Adventure.

TIP: Free with admission.

Kids playroom at the Adler Planetarium

Kidsyard–¬† Located off Irving Park Road, it is a 2,400 square feet play center for children aged 0-12 years. They have¬†soft play structures, giant blocks and a climbing wall. All activities are created and appointed based on the age of the children and other safety requirements. For the babies or children under 4, there is a specific area to enjoy, with activities that engage their senses, body and mind. They have their own ball pond, mini slide, soft play blocks to crawl on and play equipment.

TIP: They do NOT allow outside food, but have a cafe.

Learning Loop Academy-Learning Loop Academy is dedicated to providing a safe and caring learning, playing and growing space where parents and caregivers can spend time together with their infants and toddlers. It is an interactive area to gather and explore many aspects of movement, music, art language and literature with the opportunity to meet and connect with other families. Check website for pricing.

TIP: Free parking and Wifi

Image result for learning loop academy

Chicago-land Suburbs:

Kohls Children’s Museum–¬†Kohl Children‚Äôs Museum in Glenview, offers 17 interactive, hands-on exhibits for children ages birth to 8. All of our exhibits and programs are aligned to the Illinois State Learning Standards and are designed to nurture a love of learning in young children. Adults and children are $12 dollars.

TIP: Children under 1 years old are free.

Adventure PlaylandРLocated in Mt. Prospect, it is an indoor playground for the kids while serving food, coffee and free WiFi for parents. Open to children 6 months to 7 years old.  Children under 1 are free with paid sibling. Monday-Thursday is $10.00, Friday & Sunday is $12.00. An after school special on Monday-Thursday after 3:00PM, is $7.00 per child

TIP: They have punch cards available.

Adventure Playland

Fun Republic Play–¬†Fun Republic in St. Charles, was founded by three local moms whose main goal was to create a play center to help children not only develop basic motor skills and social skills, but also develop self-confidence while having fun. Fun Republic strives to offer a safe, creative and exciting play setting for children of all ages.

TIP: Kids under 1 years old are FREE.

Wonder Works¬†¬†Wonder Works is 6,400 square feet of fun, a place of creative play for kids birth to age eight.¬†Located in Oak Park, the children’s museum helps kids, their parents and caregivers unleash their imaginations. Wonder Works Children’s Museum provides a hands-on environment for children from birth to age 8 years old. The museum includes¬†six permanent experience zones¬†and hosts¬†parties,¬†field trips, concerts and other fun,¬†educational events. Plus, an outdoor organic garden.¬†Regular Admission is $7 per person, child or adult

TIP: Wonder Works also offers reduced admission for groups of 10 or more children when scheduled in advance through our field trip program.

Peekaboo Playroom– A playroom located in Oak Park, children from 0-6 years old can enjoy the variety of toys, play hide-and-seek in between the little house, read books in the book corner, play basketball, climb and slide in the clubhouse, and much much more. One day unlimited play is per child $12, sibling #2 and Sibling #3 FREE.

TIP: 1 hour pass for $6 dollars

Meet at Gather– Located in downtown Evanston, this playroom offers a place to Gather for art and music classes, workshops and events, open to all ages and abilities. They are open for drop-in art and play Monday-Saturday.

TIP: They have won for Best Playroom in 2017.

Gather for kids in downtown Evanston

Gather in Evanston

Free:

Story Time at Barnes and Noble

Dawn- Marie’s Toddler Jam Sessions

Garfield Park Conservatory

Harold Washington Library

Swedish American Museum

Free Thursdays at the Nature Museum

French Story Time (Various locations)

When all else fails:

Have the fun delivered to your door! These are kits that are toys with a purpose. Ranging from science to arts and crafts. Here are some kits that you can customize based on your child’s preferences.¬†

HOOT for Kids-¬†For newborn to 6 years old, these treasure boxes are customized based upon your child’s age and developmental stage. They are toys with a purpose.

Bramble Box–¬†Bramble Box award winning Play and Craft Kits are hand-curated activity boxes for kids age 3-7. Mom created and kid tested for hours of fun (& learning) with items to inspire imaginative play and all the materials for at least 2-3 hands-on activities and crafts.

Curiosity Pack–¬†Curiosity Packs inspire a love of learning through age-appropriate activities. Children will learn about letters, numbers, friendship, science, art, love, and every other intriguing subject you can imagine.

My Giant Box–¬†My Giant Busy Box will keep ’em busy! ThB001AQDA50ere’s 16 projects, mold dough animals, collage a farm and sticker art. Decorate paper bag puppets and tissue art pictures, then frame them. Includes plastic frames, animal punch outs, bright dough colors, peel and stick tissue art pictures, tons of tissue paper, glue, and easy to follow instructions.

Building Tiles Set for Kids

Magnetic building blocks are hands on learning tool. They can be combined in so many different ways! It includes a set of 102 pieces, including magnetic alphabet blocks & numbers. 

With a few more winter months left, I hope some of these ideas help out your little ones (and you!)

Until next time,

Christine

 

Top 5 Kid-Friendly Brunch Spots

(See collaborating post here with Fab Food Chicago)

One of my favorite weekend activities to do in Chicago is to try different brunch spots around town. But after I had my son, my brunch requirements changed. I didn’t want to stop going, but needed to find accommodating places. A children’s menu with lots options (or at least something kid friendly on the menu), good service and a welcoming atmosphere are all qualities I look for now. With so many brunch places in Chicago, I have narrowed it down to the top 5 kid friendly brunches in the city.

Stella Barra

Located in Lincoln Park, Stella Barra is connected to Summer House and serves an All You Can Eat Chef Inspired Brunch for $19.95 for adults and kids under 12 eat free. There are so many options for the adults and children. They have pancakes, French Toast (my son’s personal favorite), house made cinnamon buns, biscuits and gravy, chilaquiles (this is a must) yogurt parfaits and so on. Mimosas and Bellini’s are $5 dollars as well. The service has always been great; giving children crayons, coloring menus and very accommodating on seating. There is also stroller parking in front and lots of dining space. Great food and service really make this place kid friendly. They also take reservations.

Stella AYCE brunch- kid friendly brunch

AYCE Brunch-Photo @StellaBarra

TIP: They have an outdoor patio in the back with lots of seating for large groups.

Location: Lincoln Park || 1954 N. Halsted, Chicago, IL || P: (773) 634-4101

Cornerstone Café

With two locations, Lincoln Park and Logan Square, this diner is the first brunch we ever brought our son to. This casual café is an easy diner to bring children of all ages for breakfast or an early lunch. It is a great value, friendly service and have breakfast and lunch served daily. 

Friendly brunch spots at Cornerstone Cafe

Brunch-Photo @tjs_grams

They open at 7am and you can find lots of children and families there. They are very accommodating with seating and strollers and will make you feel right at home. They have plenty of sweet and savory options, with delicious pancakes and French toast for children and a variety of omelette options for the adults, all large portion sizes. Their corned beef hash and sweet potato fries are great options for brunch too. Service is fast, friendly and the food is all worth checking out. They do not take reservations, so I recommend going early.

TIP: The Logan Square location is BYOB.

Location: 

Logan Square || 2753 N. Western Ave, Chicago, IL || P: (773) 235-1155

Lincoln Park || 2200 N. Clybourn Ave, Chicago, IL || P: (773) 270- 4343

Knife and Tine

Knife and Tine was a place I was initially hesitant to bring my son. It is small and rather intimate, but I cannot say enough about their service and willingness to work with you and your children. And of course, the food. I have been several times with my son for happy hour, dinner and brunch, and each time, the food and service go beyond expectations. I have even dined by myself with my son and they have been extremely helpful. They will help you with the stroller, seating accommodations, and even give your little ones a box of Legos, stickers and crayons with coloring sheets. For the adults, the shrimp and grits with scrambled eggs is amazing. It is made with white cheddar and apple smoked bacon. For the children, they have banana pancakes, French toast, grilled cheese and other fun dishes. The food is incredible, service is very good every time. They also take reservations.

Pumpkin spice French toast#knifeandtine #breakfastlover #frenchtoast #foodlife #pumpkinspice

Pumpkin Spice French Toast-Photo by @tymtrouble

TIP: They have delicious coffee cocktails.

Location: Lincoln Park ||1417 N. Fullerton, Chicago, IL || P: (773) 697- 8311

Wishbone

This Lakeview and West Loop Southern comfort restaurant is great for any meal, but the perfect place to bring your family for brunch. The crab cake benedict, red eggs and their biscuits are delicious. Definitely don’t skip the biscuits, they are some of the best I have ever had. You can also ask for a side of honey.

For children, my son loved the strawberry pancakes. He devoured them. There are other options like eggs, grits and mac and cheese for children. All the portions are large and easily could be shared.

The service is friendly, fast and accommodating. There is lots of dining space for you and your family. They do take reservations, but only for parties of 6 or more on the weekends.

om nom nom nom ūüôĆūüŹĺ Belgium waffles are my favorite, halleloo lordt.

Belgium Waffles-Photo by @mochiibear

TIP: One Free entree from the Kids menu for every regular adult breakfast (must be ordered by 9 am)

Location: 

Lakeview ||3300 N Lincoln Ave||, Chicago, IL || P: (773) 549-2663

West Loop ||1001 W Washington Blvd, Chicago, IL || P: (312) 850-2663  

Kingsbury Street Cafe

This Near North Side upscale diner has extremely good food, innovative dishes and fast service. The menu has items like lemon pancakes, shrimp egg white frittata, and salmon hash. One of their most well known dishes is the Piggy Moo Cluck Sandwich, which is eggs, ham, bacon and cheese served on ciabatta bread. It’s amazing and not your average brunch sandwich. They serve some really delicious coffee and brunch cocktails to accompany the food.

Friendly brunch spots with my son at Kingsbury Cafe

Lemon Pancakes-Photo by @TopChicagoEats

For the children’s menu, it isn‚Äôt extensive, but they have typical items like pancakes and chicken fingers. However, many of the items on the adult menu could be shared with children, even for the pickiest eaters. My son and I shared the lemon pancakes and we both loved them.

This cafe is great weekend brunch with a fun, lively vibe with a little something for the entire family. It does get very busy on the weekends. I would highly recommend reservations.

TIP: They sell pastries to go.

Location: Near North Side||1523 N Kingsbury St||, Chicago, IL || P: (312) 280-1718

Until next time,

Christine

Our Little Goldfish

swimming lessons at Goldfish swim school. They are offering a great holiday package this year.

Growing up, I was always around water and was taught how to swim at a very young age. In fact, I remember taking swimming lessons with my mom when I was 8 years old. Manny, on the other hand, learned how to swim in his adulthood. He has a slight fear of water and we did not want to pass that same feeling along to Noah. I view swimming as a life skill and it is extremely important to teach him at a very young age, plus it’s a fun experience for all of us!

Through some research and word of mouth, we found Goldfish Swim School¬†and we LOVE IT! It’s our new favorite activity to do as a family. We each take a turn in the water with him during the 30 minute class (because of his age, we are in the water with him). We have the same teacher each lesson in a very small class and they work with you and the level your child is at.

swimming lessons at Goldfish swim school. They are offering a great holiday package this year.

At first, Noah cried and kept trying to get out of the pool. I never felt embarrassed or worried what the teacher would think. She worked with Noah and did not force him to do anything, just made modifications along the way. During lesson 2, he went completely under water. I was shocked! It actually took my breath away, but he loved it and does it in the bath now ūüôā

By lesson 4, he was finally using the barbell, kicking his feet and using his arms to paddle. We couldn’t believe how much progress he was making. Not only is he learning how to swim, he is more confident in the water compared to the first lesson. This is priceless.

But one of the best features is there are showers, soap, lotion, diapers, wipes, hair dryers, and changing tables. Everything is there for you! Even when it’s super cold, Noah just plays with the various toys and activities until we are all dry and ready to go. He is learning such an important skill he will use his entire life and we are all having the best time while doing it.

They are also offering a great holiday package this season. With 12 locations across the Chicago-land area, they offer swim lessons for children ages four months to age 12. This year, the holiday gift package includes:

  • 2 months of swim lessons
  • the annual registration fee
  • a gift basket of Goldfish retail items

All for $189 (*regular price $220). Such a great idea to gift an experience you can do as a family in the new year!

swimming lessons at Goldfish swim school. They are offering a great holiday package this year.

Until next time…

Christine