A Stroll down Southport Corridor (adults only)

The Southport Corridor may be known for strollers, moms and boutiques, but recently, there has been a surge in places for adults to play. So ditch those strollers, grab a glass of wine, and take a peek into some adult friendly places popping up on the Southport Corridor.

Coda Di Volpe-  Boasting Southern Italian fare like pizza, steak and seafood, they are most known for their Neapolitan pizza that comes with a side scissors to cut your own slices. Chef Thompson brings his own flair with a seasonal menu, house-cured meats, along with a contemporary vibe that all creates a great spot on Southport.

Coda has a great wine list (award winning in fact) and a creative cocktail menu.  As for starters, my absolute favorite appetizer is the goat cheese with beets appetizer (I am not sure this is on the menu anymore, sigh…) and the pork & prosciutto Meatballs.

How’s your Friday night looking? #chicago #tailofthefox

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Goat Cheese and Beets Appetizer

Next, pizza! The Funghi and Diavolo pizza are both delicious, but really, they all look fantastic.  Thompson crafts traditional VPN-certified Neapolitan pizzas served with authentic pizza shears that adds an element of fun to the dining experience.

Next up, pasta. All the pastas are made in-house and available gluten free upon request. A stand out dish is the Trombette Trapanese made with Coda’s fennel sausage, tomato, almond, garlic, and basil. It’s also just beautiful to look at.

They are also now serve brunch on the weekend. It’s perfect for date night or a night out with the ladies.

Ella Elli- The newest addition to the 4 star restaurant group, is the wine bar, Ella Elli. This sexy, romantic spot is so swanky, I felt like I had been transported downtown to a fancy hotel in River North. The over sized lanterns, fireplace and couches, make for THE perfect date night spot.

We love Fridays! Stop in for a drink at the bar before we fill up! 📸: @nadia.ryan

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 The wine list is extensive, but Pinot Noir Rose by Willamette Valley really paired nicely with our cheese board.  We also tried the creamy mushroom toast with creme faiche and thyme, this would make me come back. Everything is presented beautifully and our server paired everything really well with our wine.

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Ella Elli

They have pizza great for sharing, pasta and burgers. The burger is supposed to be outstanding, as well as their brunch menu  When I visited, we shared the charcuterie  and toasts, which really can be a meal in itself. Next time, the burger is on my list.

@Eater_Chicago named our pizzas as some of the hottest in Chicago!! Have you tried them yet?

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If you need a date night, Ella Elli should absolutely be on your list.

Tied House– Just opening in February 2018, this is brand new on Southport. The reviews are rolling in and everything about Tied House has been outstanding.

Schubas Tavern has been around for three decades, and now there is a new addition  with the opening of Tied House, the owners’ new restaurant next door. The modern architecture and the courtyard that separates the restaurant from Schubas with a giant outdoor fireplace just dazzles from the inside and out.

Schubas will continue to have the same menu, Tied House’s chef, Debbie Gold (who happens to be  James Beard Award-winning chef) to create her own menu, including short rib, crudo, porridge with beets and house made ice cream.

Tied House will be perfect for pre and post concerts and is a great addition to the area looking for more “adult” friendly dining.

With so many options now on Southport, there is really something for everyone.

Until next time.

Christine

 

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National Margarita Day (but that could be any day really…)

Turquoise Margarita Day Trivia Facebook Post

If you know anything about me, I enjoy two kinds of drinks: a glass of Cabernet and a margarita with salt.  But margaritas can be overly sweet, watered down, or just really, really bad. Whether it is Cinco de Mayo or a warm day in Chicago, a margarita is the perfect cocktail to sip on. To help you get your buzz on,  I have rounded up a few of my favorite marg’s around the city.

Big Star– This might be the most obvious choice, but their margaritas are really tasty. Either by the pitcher or glass, I prefer the Big Star mezcal rather than the Classic. The classic is made with blanco tequila, which doesn’t give the smoky taste I prefer like the Big Star. They have an amazing patio and it’s perfect for the warmer Chicago months, and of course, let’s not forget their tacos.

Masa Azul– This Logan Square Mexican and cocktail bar is a little gem that might have the best margaritas in the city. Seriously. Their margaritas are that good. With almost 20 cocktail options to choose from, all ranging from $6- $12 dollars, lots of tacos (lots of vegetarian options), this is my top 5 favorite Mexican places in Chicago. This is a bold statement, considering my husband’s discerning taste. With such a variety of options, there might be a margarita for everyone.

#nationalmargaritaday

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The two margaritas I recommend are the Prickly Pear and Where there is smoke. This has mezcal joven with a Serrano Chile. Smoky with a little spice.  Pair it with their guacamole = perfect meal.

Crio Bar and Restaurant– Located in West Lincoln park on Clybourn Avenue, this Latin American gastropub has some really flavorful margaritas, great empanadas and drink specials throughout the week. On Tuesdays, Margaritas are only $6 dollars.

New Guava Margarita 🙌🏽 it's so refreshing, already had 10 😜

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$6 margaritas for Lunch and Dinner 😜 #happytuesday #tacotuesday

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I have two go-to drinks here. First, the hibiscus marg is a delicious combination of sweet and spicy.  Second, they have a version of a Moscow mule, made with mezcal, which is really good. Plus, for all you instagrammers, the mural and flower wall make a great photo opportunity.

Del Toro– Located in Pilsen, this little gem is always packed and always worth the wait. The tacos are delicious, but the margaritas is make me coming back. My favorite is the  jalapeno margarita.  It literally comes with a flaming jalapeno which is not only entertaining, it makes for fun experience. It was also delicious – which is a double plus.

These are just a few places, but Chicago is full of so many amazing places to grab a margarita. I’d love to hear your go-to places!

Until next time…

~xoxo~

Christine

Bring Your Own Date and Booze: My Favorite BYO Spots in the City

Gold Fancy National Wine Day Social Media Graphic

BYO (bring your own booze, beer or wine) is one of those great restaurant qualities that  many look for when dining out. It’s cheaper (usually), much more casual and a great place to dine with groups. Chicago has an abundance of BYO options ranging from casual to upscale dining, so I have rounded up a list of my favorite spots throughout the city.

Sushi Mon – Located in Lincoln Park, this BYO sushi restaurant has a wide variety of sushi rolls, sushi bowls, pressed sushi and an impressive list of veggie rolls. My personal favorites are the Godzilla, V6 and Sparking rolls (see all three below). They recently expanded from one tiny room to now a much bigger space. The service is friendly, prices are great and no corkage fee. Go check it out and tell them I sent you 🙂

Sushi mon is a BYOB in lincoln park

Various Rolls at Sushi Mon

Sushi Mon: 2441 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60614

90 Miles Cuban Cafe– My family has been coming to 90 Miles for years now for their traditional Cuban cuisine. We have celebrated graduations, anniversaries and birthdays here. It is huge, has an outdoor seating and the decor all make for a fun dining atmosphere. The empanadas and ropa vieja are not to be missed, some of the best I have ever had (sorry mother-in-law!)

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Photo by Lindsey Howald Patton

The service is top-notch, especially since there are many large groups at time. They take reservations and it is definitely recommended. In addition to being BYOB, they have a sangria and mojito mix, so bring wine or rum they will make you a cocktail. There are a few locations in the city. To find out more information, click here.

1. 3333 W Touhy Ave, Lincolnwood, IL 60712

2. 3101 N Clybourn Ave, Chicago, IL 60618

3. 2540 W Armitage Ave, Chicago, IL 60647

Home Bistro Chicago– The first time I dined at the cozy and quaint Home Bistro, was on a date (with my now husband years ago) when we first started dating. Located in Lakeview, with a constant changing New American menu, along with no corkage fee, this is the ideal date night spot.  They have an option for a prix fix on Wednesdays and Sunday brunch. For parties of 7 of more, they have a family style prix fixed menu at $45/person. They take reservations and are highly recommended.

Photo from Home Bistro

Home Bistro Chicago: 3404 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60657

Caro Miro- For our very first Valentine’s Day (7 years ago…), we came to the Italian BYO Caro Miro and have gone several times since. Located in Ravenswood, this cozy, neighborhood spot has homemade pastas with huge portions, big enough to share. The pesto filled gnocchi is the best and chicken parmesan is also another favorite. There is not a corkage fee, but if you plan on sharing entrees, there is a $4 sharing fee. They recently expanded their dining room and take parties to up to 80 people now. Reservations are taken for parties of 4 or more. Bring your appetite and a bottle or two for some delicious Italian food.

Gnocchi Gratinati @ Caro Mio Italian Restaurant

Photo from Food Spotting.com

Caro Miro: 1833 W Wilson Ave, Chicago, IL 60640

Semiramis- This Lebanese restaurant is intimate, welcoming and the food is fantastic. I love the mixed grilled platter, falafel, and hummus are delicious. There is plenty of street parking, but it is located right off the Kedzie Brown Line stop. There is a corkage fee and don’t take reservations, but so worth the wait. Promise.

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Photo from @TammyGreen

Semiramis: 639 N Kedzie Ave, Chicago, IL 60625

There are plenty of BYO restaurants to choose from in Chicago and a little something for everyone. Now get those appetites and bottles poppin’. 🙂

Until next time…

Christine

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 🙂  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 🙂

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)
  • (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 – 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.

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Lesson 1- He definitely warmed up 🙂

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’s 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’ Mondays from 9:30 am – 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’s 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’s 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 Playland– Located 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

 

Getting Cheesy: National Cheese Lover’s Day Party

Let’s be honest, who doesn’t love cheese? It is one of my favorite things to eat and create some really fun dishes with. Since cheese is always such a hit, I decided to throw a cheese party for my friends (and for my son because it’s his absolute favorite). And why not a MAC N’ CHEESE BAR?! I have a few vegetarian friends and this would be perfect. Everyone can customize their own mac n’ cheese bowls and we can celebrate National Cheese Lover’s Day!

Setup

Since the holidays, I have been kind of entertained out. Over doing the dishes, the clean up, etc. I also have a toddler running around, so something fast and easy is preferred. I decided to minimize the dishes and use Solo Cup Products to make my clean up easy and less complicated. They are completely disposable, recyclable and really durable. I knew this would be the best option, but still keeping my party looking right.

IMG_1262

They have write on cups that are perfect to label all the toppings. It looks clean and organized in your setup. Everyone can make their own mac n’ cheese bowls with lids Whatever they don’t finish, the bowls serve as to-go plates. Lastly, the paper plates serve for meat and cheese platters. It’s perfect and fuss-free.

National Cheese Lover's Day Party

National Cheese Lover's Day Party

National Cheese Lover's Day Party

Mac n’ Cheese Bar

And for the best part: the MAC N’ CHEESE. Honestly, you could make it from scratch or get a pre-made box. Whatever makes your life easier. From scratch, I like recipes like this. But you can grab a box and totally add in your own ingredients. I took a box of mac n’ cheese, added mild cheddar cheese, bread crumbs and baked it at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. It turned out DELICIOUS!

National Cheese Lover's Day Party

Toppings

Cheese is so versatile. It can be paired with so much. Here are the toppings I used:

  • hot dogs
  • salumi
  • bacon bits
  • cheeze its
  • broccoli
  • spinach
  • jalapenos
  • green onion
  • cubed cheese

National cheese lover's day party using solo products

National Cheese Lover's Day Party

National Cheese Lover's Day Party

Extras

The more cheese the better right? For an appetizer, I made a meat and cheese plate with salami, cheddar and pepper jack cheese with pita crackers. Really, anything would work; spinach artichoke dip, cheese dip, etc.

National Cheese Lover's Day Party

For the drinks, the best wine to pair with macaroni and cheese all depends on how fancy and cheesy your mac and cheese is. With a regular, old-fashioned recipe, you might just want a simple glass of white wine. An unoaked Chardonnay might be your best bet for an original recipe or even a dry Riesling. If you got a little fancy and added truffles to your recipe, champagne pairs perfectly. No wine drinkers? Cider pairs well with cheese too.

A party that will please everyone with an easy clean up? To go cups already set!

IMG_1296

Doesn’t get better than that!

Until next time,

Christine

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

My January Reboot

Like everyone else, I completely overindulged in December. Being a food blogger in Chicago, there is food everywhere! It is kind of hard not to try different foods and restaurants. But this January, I have decided to do a complete “reboot” of my life. My mind, body, home, and LIFE. It isn’t just about losing weight and setting unrealistic goals, but hitting the refresh button in all areas of my life.

Me in 2015. I was focused on working out and eating healthy

This was me 2015. I was focused on working out and eating healthy. My goal is make this a priority again.

I want to start the year strong by developing really great habits and so far, I have been really proud. I am taking it day by day, but not without any help. Below are some of the tools I am using. Whether it is at home workouts, barre classes, or recipes, they are all helping reboot my life in January.

Workouts

  1. The Barre Code– This gym offers cardio, strength and restoration classes. Right now, they are having a special for two weeks for $60 at any of their 10 studios in Illinois and beyond.
  2. I started these online workout classes when I couldn’t make it to a class or the gym. It’s perfect when Noah is asleep and he has even joined me sometimes. They range from 15-35 minutes, which is perfect for a busy day.

3. Just get out! Even though it may not seem like enough, you would be surprised how many steps I get in walking around Target 🙂

Mind

This is one that is often forgotten, but so important to have your mind clear and stress free when trying accomplish anything. For me, my workouts are TERRIBLE when I don’t have a clear mind. Below are some things I have done. I know I don’t do this enough and it is a real goal for me this year.

  1. Chill Chicago– This is a completely designated space to just CHILL. I made an CHILL Chicago is a place to meditate and relaxappointment for myself this Saturday and CANNOT WAIT to meditate and relax. The classes range from 30 – 60 min with a focus on breath, insight, rest or yoga and meditation.
  2. Meditation App (FREE)– This is a FREE download on Amazon. This is great to help settle the mind before sleep if you are having one of those day.
  3. Count to 10- Don’t underestimate the power of taking a moment for yourself. I know when Noah is amidst a toddler moment, I am learning to breath and step back (although very difficult). I find creating space for myself can be very beneficial.

Recipes

I have mapped out the recipes I will be making this month. I list 14 recipes of my own and other favorites from Tasty to Delish to Cooking Light.

1. Recipe: Easy Beef and Broccoli Easy recipes: Beef and broccoli meal

2. Spiced turkey meatballs butternut tomato stew- http://www.cookinglight.com/recipes/spiced-meatball-butternut-tomato-stew

3. Chickpea tacos- https://tasty.co/recipe/chipotle-chickpea-tacos

4. Spicy turkey tacos- http://www.delish.com/cooking/recipe-ideas/recipes/a50920/spicy-turkey-tacos-recipe/

5. Lettuce wraps- https://damndelicious.net/2014/05/30/pf-changs-chicken-lettuce-wraps/

6. Warm Brown Rice and Chickpea salad- http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/brown-rice-chickpea-salad

FacetuneMy video here.

7. Turkey squash bowls- https://www.skinnytaste.com/turkey-taco-spaghetti-squash-boats/

8. Quinoa Soup- https://cookieandkate.com/2017/mexican-quinoa-stew-recipe/

9. Recipe: Egg Muffins with Turkey Bacon and Kale

easy egg recipes

10. Crockpot turkey chili- http://www.delish.com/cooking/recipe-ideas/recipes/a55200/easy-turkey-slow-cooker-chili-recipe/

11. Crockpot chicken noodle soup- http://www.delish.com/cooking/recipe-ideas/recipes/a55661/easy-crockpot-chicken-noodle-soup-recipe/

12. Chicken stir fry- http://www.delish.com/cooking/recipe-ideas/recipes/a8866/chicken-vegetable-stir-fry-recipe-campbells-1109/

13. Panko crumb chicken fingers- https://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/oven-fried-chicken-tenders/46a69e4d-4c31-485b-9d43-67d40b353f2e

14. Recipe: Skinny Pumpkin Bars

skinny pumpkin bar recipe

If you one of man that are counting calories this month (sigh, yes I am), this Calorie Counter is an affordable, reliable option. I wouldn’t say it is like an Apple Watch (we can only dream right?!), but it gives you somewhat of a range.

I hope some of this will help you this new year! Every day is a fresh start and it will never be perfect, but all we can do it try.

Until next time,

xoxo

Christine

 

 

 

 

Recipe: Egg Muffins with Turkey Bacon and Kale

This simple breakfast is easy, will save you time and toddler approved. Noah didn’t even taste the kale. You can freeze them in an air tight bag and you will have breakfast for the week. Enjoy!

easy egg recipes
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 12
Ingredients:
  • 10 large eggs
  • 1/3 c. milk
  • 1 c. reduced fat cheddar or Mexican cheese
  • handful of chopped kale
  • 6 oz. cooked turkey bacon
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • Optional: chives

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a large glass mixing bowl, combine eggs and milk and whisk well.
  3. Stir in 3/4 c. cheese, cooked turkey bacon, kale, salt, and pepper.
  4. Divide mixture evenly among 12 greased muffin cups. Fill in 1/2-3/4 way.
  5. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes or until centers are set and muffins are beginning to brown.
  6. Enjoy!

Recipe: Acorn Squash Bowls

Recipe: Acorn Squash Bowls

acorn squash with chicken sausage and kale recipe

Acorn squash is in season right now and I found them for $0.69 cents at the store, why not take advantage. Since the holidays, I have been trying to eat lighter and this dish is perfect for a weekday meal. I find that acorn squash isn’t too sweet and it takes on whatever flavor you combine it with, which makes it very versatile! For a vegetarian version, I think soy chorizo would be great in these.

Although the acorn takes 30-35 minutes to cook, the rest of the dish takes minutes to prepare. It could be a good idea to cook the squash the night before and just prepare everything the following day. Check out my Instagram page for more photos here.

Prep time: 40-45 minutes
Cook Time: 2 minutes
Total Time:  50 minutes
Servings: 4 servings

Ingredients: 

  • 2 medium acorn squash, halved down the middle, seeds removed
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Cooking spray
  • 3 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • 4 sausage links
  • 1 small onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 4 cups chopped kale
  • 1/3 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons grated fresh Parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs
  • Optional- red pepper flakes
    1. Heat oven to 375°. Cut a thin slice off round side of each squash half to create a stable base. Sprinkle with salt and pepper; coat with cooking spray.
    2. Place squash flesh side down on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil; bake until golden and tender, 30-35 minutes.
    3. Remove from oven and set aside.
    4. Heat broiler.
    5. In a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, heat 1 teaspoon oil. Add sausage, onion, garlic and chicken stock. Cook 5-7 minutes.
    6. Fill squash bowls with sausage and kale mixture. Sprinkle panko and parmesan
    7. Broil until panko is golden, 2- minutes.
    8. Enjoy!