It’s that time of the year! My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving, but Friendsgiving is a close second. I love having my friends in our home, catching up and spending time together before the craziness of the holidays. But in reality, our home isn’t huge, specifically the kitchen. After years of hosting this annual tradition, my husband and I have somewhat gotten this hosting thing kind of figured out. I wanted to share some easy recipes and tips we have learned along the way, with some help with all the ingredients from Tony’s Fresh Market. They have some specials on turkeys, their produce is some of the best and I even got some of the table decor there. Best part of it all? You are just having your friends over, so it doesn’t need to be perfect! Some time spent together is really what it’s about.
I am sharing 10 tips along with our brunch Friendsgiving menu below. Welcome to cooking with the Good Life!
The holidays are pretty much here. The season goes by so fast with parties, events, shopping, etc. It’s hard to experience it together as a family. But it’s not too late to get out there and enjoy some festive activities throughout the city as a family. I rounded out some events that are still happening and some of our own personal favs. Enjoy!
1. Nutcracker– The Joffrey Ballet is running Nutcracker from now until December 30th. Tickets run from $35 to $100 dollars. You can also find them on Stub Hub here.
This tour is great for even Chicagoans that want to enjoy the holiday lights as a family out of the cold. As a bonus, A FREE holiday cupcake from Sprinkles is given to all riders. Tours are running now until December 23rd, 2017. Adult tickets are $29 dollars and Kid’s tickets are $18 dollars (ages 5-15). Reservations are highly recommended due to the popularity of the tour. You can make reservations here.
3. Holiday Market- Randolph Street Market– The market is a unique shopping experience for the whole family. There are unique gifts from thrifty to extravaganza. It is December 16-17 from 10am-5pm. This is an indoor market with free parking onsite. They have a $30 dollar family package that includes 2 adults/drinks (wine, beer, champagne) and up to 4 kids plus a kids snack (online special only) You would definitely find a gift for even the pickiest shopper on your list.
Photo Courtesy Randolph Street Market
4. Caroling at the Cloud Gate- Get ready to sing some holiday classics during Caroling at Cloud Gate. This festive series is part concert, part sing-along at Cloud Gate, aka “The Bean” on Fridays, through December 15 from 6-7pm. Weather permitting.
5. White Christmas at Music Box Theater– In its 34th year, this annual tradition brings the family together at the Music Box theater to see Santa Claus, sing along and watch a holiday classic. Santa welcomes the audience and, accompanied by Music Box organist Dennis Scott, leads them in the sing along to the most cherished Christmas carols. The lyrics are projected onto the theater’s screen so no one misses a chance to sing their hearts out. Then, the audience gets to enjoy a Christmas movie classic.
6. Christkindlmarket- Park at Wrigley – We have enjoyed many family friendly activities at the Park at Wrigley since it opened this year like movies, Green City Market, and live music for children. But now it is turned into a winter wonderland perfect for any age. I found this to be a little easier to navigate with little ones compared to the Daley Plaza Market, especially if you have a stroller or with several children. There is ice skating and rentals are available, lots of food options and unique shopping. Santa does make an appearance on Saturdays (and it is inside!) It runs now until December 31st, with ice skating until February 2018.
Photo Courtesy of Alex @sassyconfetti
7. Santa Suite at Swissotel– One of the best things we did as a family this holiday season was our first Santa visit at the Swissotel. On the 41st floor, in a 5 room Presidential Suite, it is completely transformed into a winter wonderland experience. The space is decorated with twelve Christmas trees, a table set for Santa, and even a station to write letters to the North Pole.
Writing Letters to the North Pole
They also have different pop up shops, including floral crowns from Crowning Event.
We even brought along the grandparents, had some wine and RELAXED in the suite. Santa visits on Saturdays from 11am-4pm, but the suite stays open until 8pm. Sometimes, Santa visits can be stressful, but this was not! We had a few tears meeting him for the first time, but overall was a wonderful memory for all of us. And the best part, it’s FREE!
1. Social Sparking Wine– This sparkling sake is a local Chicago company and makes the perfect gift for all your holiday parties. Especially for any foodie hostess. Buy a case, stick a bow on it, and your gift is done! You can get 15% off using the code socialchristine when you purchase them online here. If you stock up for the season and spend $49 dollars, shipping is free!
2. State of Illinois cutting board makes a cute gift to either use in the kitchen or for display. They are usually really expensive, but I found this one on Amazon Prime for $15.99. You can find it here.
3. Chicago Pizza Tours– If your foodie friend likes to get out and explore, Chicago Pizza Tours is great way to experience the city and the best pizza around town. They offer different types of tours great even for your out of town guests. Use the code holiday2017 and you get 15% off any ticket or even gift certificates (the gift certificate still has the same full value) Book here.
4. This Chicago flag apron makes a great gift for men and women that love two things: Chicago and food. Available on Amazon Prime for $28.99. You can find it here.
5. Bumble and Bustle- Who doesn’t love a cute coffee mug right? These mugs make the perfect gift (I own two!) and there are a lots of options to choose from. Best part is the owner is right here in Chicago. You can get 10% off using the discount code GOODLIFE10.
6. Old Town Olive Oil – Did you know most olive oils in stores are actually filled with canola oil? I learned that a few months ago after a visit to Old Town Oil. You can sample lots of different kinds (my favorite is Tuscan Herb) and they bottle it right in front of you. They have sampler boxes with 2-4 bottles that make the perfect gift for every foodie and chef in your life.
7. Chicago Food Planet– Offering various tours around the city, taste the diverse food and drink of Chicago as a neighborhood food expert offers a local’s perspective of the city. It’s really quite an experience to eat and drink at the best places around the city. From now until the end of the year, you can book a private group tour for 15% discount. A great options for family and friends outings of 8+ people looking for a private food & beverage experience. Private tours can be booked directly at 312-932-932 ext. 5.
8. For any Chicago pizza lover, this shirt is perfect. And who doesn’t love pizza? Available on Amazon Prime for $11.50. You can find it here.
9. Chicago Wine Candle– This local candle company has been working up with local bars and cafes around the Chicago land area to receive used wine bottles. They have unique scents like champagne, bourbon (personal favorite), sangria and wine. They also started candle making classes. You can find more information here.
10. Saving the best for last. Every true Chicagoan knows how we eat our hot dogs. You can find it here.
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.
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 🙂
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!