May Photo Breakdown

“Photo Breakdown” came about while looking back through old photos on my Instagram feed and remembering all the back stories that comes with each photo. A lot of times, there’s so much going on behind each picture that doesn’t always get shared. Captions don’t allow to give the full background of what’s really going on in real life. As a result, I will take one photo each month and give the breakdown of the real deal. I hope you guys like it! I’d love feedback or any suggestions for next month. And like always, thanks for reading ❤️.  Read more LifeHeadshots at north avenue beach

 

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April Roundup

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Ok, so I know it’s May 8th already and I am a little behind, but forgive me ok? I will try better next month. Promise. So here it is…

Bad

I am going to start with the bad this past month because April was crazy. I officially declared it my families unhealthiest month we have ever had. So much so, I didn’t even disclose a lot of of it on social media because I literally didn’t think people would believe me. Like I was making it up or something.

Week 1: I threw out my back after taking Noah out of the bathtub and literally couldn’t walk for a week. I have a bad back and this just made it ten times worse. I couldn’t lift him, took some time off work, and was basically bedridden.

Week 2: Noah had a double eye infection and a nasty cold. He was home from daycare all week, so I was on full mommy duty and no work. It was a long, boring week indoors.

Week 3: I somehow managed to get strep throat, which actually landed me in the ER. I was in so much pain and it became so difficult to breath. After a few rounds of steroids, fluids, and antibiotics, I was feeling better in about a week. Again no work and bedridden. Yes, it sucked.

Then, bam. April was pretty much over. Yes, very, very unhealthy month for us. I didn’t accomplish much, no blogging, events, or work. But we are all better now and looking forward to a healthier May.

The Good

Now thats out of the way, there was some good stuff that happened in April.

I was invited into Glow Out Salon to try out one of their services. I chose a blow out and it was fantastic. The space is also super, super grammable and fun to hang out with your friends. They offer spray tans, braids, blowouts and nails. It’s really a one stop shop. Definitely worth checking out if your in the area.

Glow out salon for a blow out

I had been having a serious burger craving and needed a big, juicy burger. Over the summer, I had tried Big Bob and Fritzys at Roscoe Village Burger Fest and I was hooked. I had never been to the Lincoln Park restaurant and very happy I did.

Their Angus Chuck burgers are grilled perfectly and they use Merkts Cheddar, it’s delicious. They also have shakes and sweet potato waffle fries with honey mustard, so so good. They also deliver on Grub Hub, I promise you’ll love it.

Big Bob and Fritzy's burger Lincoln Park

Since April was crazy, I was definitely feeling overwhelmed. I took a little break during my lunch and took a meditation class at Chill Chicago with a friend. It was so nice to just unplug and relax (although, meditating is so much harder than people realize). I need more practice, but Chill is such a zen place, I instantly felt a little lighter after leaving.

Meditation class at Chill

One of my favorite things I did ALL month was the Spring Bouquet making class at Flowers for Dreams. I am the least non-Pintrest person and really can’t put together a bouquet for the life of me, so I was really excited to try this class. They go through it step by step, and you also make a fun cocktail and they serve food along the way. It’s $40 dollars, but part of the profits are donated to nonprofits they work with. It’s such a great time and it’s for a wonderful cause. I plan on bringing my friends back in June for the flower crown class.

Flowers for Dreams

Flowers for Dreams bouqet

I am looking forward to May and so far, it’s been off to a great start (and healthy one at that!)

Until next time,

Christine

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 🙂

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

Until next time,

Christine

 

 

Our Favorite Children’s Books & Nighttime Routine

INTERNATIONAL CHILDREN'S BOOK DAYTwo-year-olds aren’t always that bad. Sometimes, they are pretty awesome — 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 🙂


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 rosé. 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

National Nutrition Month: My Favorite Healthy Tips to Get Ready for Spring

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I am going to be honest with you guys. Last year I lost the baby weight and somewhere towards the end of the year, I gained some of it back. I didn’t feel comfortable, my skin wasn’t the best and my confidence was low. I made it a 2018 goal to get my health back on track.

National Nutrition Month

Assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables

Since January, I have been working out consistently, eating better, and I feel like myself again. I have started taking Smarty Pants vitamins (you can find them at Whole Foods or here) and have made adjustments to my diet. I wanted to share of things I have been doing with you and maybe help you get ready for those warmer months. 🙂

Workouts

The Barre Code– This gym and I go way back. I started with them when there was only one studio and it was actually called “Barre Bee Fit”. Now, they have studios all over Chicago, and in fact, the country. The classes got me ready for my wedding and have helped me stay in shape, but I slacked off after I had my son. 2017 wasn’t the year of exercise for me. I rejoined and I am so glad I did. I forgot how much I loved it. Everyone is so friendly and supportive, no matter your fitness level. Barre Code offers cardio, strength and restoration classes.  My favorite is TBC- Total Body Conditioning. It is strength, cardio, and HARD, but so rewarding.

Image result for barrecode imagesI think my favorite part are the challenges they encourage everyone to participate in. Every few months, they do a challenge for prizes, raffles, etc. Right now, I started their annual Spring it On, which is 15 out of 21 classes. Difficult, but gets you ready for spring. The next challenge is SPF (Strength Power Fuel), starting in June. I am already excited to participate in that one.

Definitely check it out if your elliptical workouts are starting to bore you!

(Side note- I am not sponsored in any way. I genuinely love it and see such great benefits)

Home Workouts

1. I started these online workout classes when I couldn’t make it to a class or the gym in January. You wouldn’t think they are challenging, but they really are! They definitely get raise your heart rate and you work up a sweat for sure. My husband still does them every morning (he’s an early bird) and it has helped him also get back into shape.

It’s perfect when babies are asleep or you don’t have time to make it to the gym. They range from 15-35 minutes:

2. This is going to sound obvious, but sometimes, cleaning the house while Noah sleeps is a workout for me! I make sure I track my steps and I can get thousands. I put on a good playlist (warning, it’s very pop) and get my heart rate.

  1. “1, 2, 3” — Sofia Reyes (featuring Jason Derulo and De La Ghetto)
  2. “Single Ladies” — Beyonce
  3. “Anaconda” — Nicki Minaj
  4. “Low” — Juicy J (featuring Nicki Minaj, Lil Bibby and Young Thug)
  5. “On to the Next One” — Jay Z
  6. “Mi Gente” — J. Balvin and Willy William (featuring Beyonce)
  7. “Roar” — Katy Perry
  8. “Get Me Bodied” — Beyonce
  9. “Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself” — Jess Glynne
  10. “Work B**ch” — Britney Spears

Snacks

Snacking is one of my biggest areas I need to improve. My snacks always seem to end in meals (sigh). All about portion control. Here are some I like:

  • Saffron Road Chickpeas (you can find them at Whole Foods or here).- I have a slight addiction to chickpeas, so these are perfect.Saffron Road Crunchy Chickpeas, Chipotle, 6 Ounce
  • Kirkland Almond Butter on a rice cake with a banana and chia seeds.
  • Bark Thins- I like these because it satisfies a sweet tooth, but uses a few, simple ingredients, Non-GMO Project Verified and there are so many different kinds. Click here for more all the flavors.
  • String Cheese- I have one almost everyday.
  • Turkey and cheese rolls ups- I like Hillshire Naturals turkey from Costco.

Recipes

  1. Salads– I have one every Monday. I like that you can add whatever you want! My go-tos are corn, chickpeas, avocado, tomato and feta cheese. I am not a huge salad dressing person, but I use olive oil and McCormick Salad Seasoning. I am obsessed with it. Once you use, there is no need for dressing.

2. Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos

Serves 2-4

Ingredients: 

  • 2 pounds sweet potatoes (3 to 4 medium sweet potatoes), peeled and sliced into 1-inch chunks
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt

Spicy black beans

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • Fine sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • ⅓ cup water
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Extras 

Top with avocado, guacamole, feta cheese or salsa

  1. Roast the sweet potatoes: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Using foil, line the baking sheet. Toss the sweet potatoes with the olive oil, cayenne and salt. Arrange in a single layer and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, tossing halfway, until the sweet potatoes are tender.
  2. Prepare the black beans: Warm the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and a sprinkle of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions have softened, about 5 to 8 minutes. Add the cumin and chili powder and cook for about 30 seconds while stirring. Pour in the beans and water. Stir, cover and reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer.
  3. Cook for 5 minutes, then remove the lid and use a potato masher or a fork to mash up at least half of the beans. Remove from heat, season with salt and pepper, and cover until you’re ready to serve.
  4. Add your toppings and serve with warm tortillas!
  5. Enjoy!

3. Sweet Potato, Beans and Avocado

Ingredients:

Serves 2-4

  • 1 small onion
  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1-inch chunks
  • Chicken Broth (I use 1 tsp of Better than Bouillon found at Costco)
  • 1/2 can black beans
  • 1/2 can corn
  • 1 packet of Sazon Goya- I use these.
  • Avocado

Directions: 

  1. Cook the sweet potatoes first in the chicken broth for 10-12 minutes with the onion
  2. Add corn, beans, and Goya
  3. Stir occasionally until sweet potato and beans are tender
  4. During this time, cook your egg. (I like a runny egg)
  5. Add your avocado
  6. Enjoy!

Some extra tips:

  • Add cottage cheese to your eggs! It makes them fluffy and gives your extra protein
  • SLEEP! I always eat better with 8 or more hours (I actually can’t function on less than 7)
  • Add fruit to your water! I like lemons.
  • Make small goals: workout 2-3 times a week.
  • Go for a walk! Track your steps. You get a lot of steps just running errands.

I hope you find some of these tips helpful! They have definitely helped me get back in shape and ready for spring.

Until next time,

Christine

 

 

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

A post shared by Coda Di Volpe (@cdvolpe_chi) on

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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

A post shared by Ella Elli (@ellaellichicago) on

 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?

A post shared by Ella Elli (@ellaellichicago) on

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

 

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

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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!