My First Mom-cation and Why I Want Another One

I will admit it. I have never been alone overnight without Manny or Noah. I usually have one or the other with me. Not sure if that is coincidental, but leaving the both of them was definitely different for me.

I was invited to a Chef’s Dinner at Three Embers Restaurant ,which is inside the newly renovated Lincolnshire Marriott Resort. The chef was preparing a dinner for Chicago influencers to highlight their locally sourced cuisine. We had the option to spend the night because it’s about an hour away from the city.  At first, I was so excited to get away by myself for the night for the first time, but that morning, I literally

Lincolnshire Resort Marriott Staycation

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Southwest, Michigan: Where to eat, sleep and play

I have been visiting New Buffalo, Michigan since I was a little girl. In fact, my parents even had their joint bachelor and bachelorette party there over 30 years ago. I grew up going to the beach and going to the farmer’s market every summer. For our very first family vacation with our 4 month old, it seemed only right to head to Michigan. We rented a house on the beach and really had a vacation I’ll never forget. Ever had one of those?

Our family vacation to Southwest Michigan

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5 things to take your Turkey Day to the next level

With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, there are a lot of things we need to do. Whether it is cooking, creating the right place setting or finding the perfect hostess gift, Thanksgiving can be overwhelming. I have rounded out some great recipes and fun gift ideas to make your Turkey Day a little more enjoyable with your family and friends.

Beet Bruschetta with Lavender- Vanilla Honey Drizzle

IMG_0156 (1)I don’t know what says more than Thanksgiving than beets. It’s like a must right? So why not take those beets and turn them into something fun that everyone would like?! This recipe is from the Ryanne, the blogger at Pineappple Expression. Her stuff is always amazing and under 40 minutes, it is sure to be a serious crowd pleaser.

Prep and Assembly time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes Prep
Total Time: 40 minutes

Ingredients: 

  • 1 French baguette loaf of bread
  • 1 (5.02 oz) small package of Boursin Cheese (garlic and herbs flavor is best)
  • 1 medium sized red beet
  • 1 package of fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh lavender
  • 1/2 of a vanilla bean
  • 2 tablespoons of honey
  • 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar
  • kosher salt

Directions:

  1. First, preheat the oven to 375F.  Peel and slice the beet into 1/4 slices.  Place the slices on a roasting pan and toss with a light drizzle of olive oil, salt, pepper and a few sprigs of thyme.  Roast the beets for 30 minutes, but flip after 15 for a more even cook.  When the beets are done, pull from the oven and let them cool.
  2. While the beets cool, slice the bread as you would for bruschetta.  Coat lightly with olive oil and place in the oven under the broiler for a maximum of 5 minutes.  The slices should still be soft, but have a nice golden color to the tops.
  3. In a small bowl, combine the honey, lavender and vanilla bean (scrape the insides out to produce the black flecks) along with the apple cider vinegar.   I love this combo!!
  4. After the beets have cooled, chop into cubes as evenly as you can.  1/4 inch on each side.  First cut into strips, then rotate the knife as you move through.
  5. To assemble the toasts, use a butter knife to spread a layer of Boursin cheese onto each slice of bread.   Next, crumble on a small mountain of the roasted beets.  Using a spoon, drizzle a little bit of the honey mixture over the tops of each toast.  Sprinkle with some coarse kosher salt or flaky sea salt on top.   For more pizzazz, use the sprigs of thyme to garnish the plate.
  6. Enjoy!

Thanksgiving Wine Bottle Labels

Whether you are bringing wine or serving it, these Thanksgiving themed labels would get a good laugh from all your guests at the table. A set of 4 is $8.89 and available on Prime. Perfect for all wine lovers. Find them here.

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Skinny Pumpkin Bars

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Whether a pre-dinner snack or a dessert, these pumpkin bars are delicious.  They are not overly pumpkin and the chocolate chips are a great addition. My son devoured three in one day (he’s 20 months) and I am not going to even tell you how many I ate…..

Prep time: 25 mins
Cook time: 25 mins
Total time: 50 mins
Serves: 24
Ingredients
  • 3 1/3 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened (I tried margarine. It doesn’t taste the same)
  • 2 eggs and 4 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 (15oz) can All Natural mashed pumpkin (I like Trader Joes and Aldi)
  • ¾ cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

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 Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Coat a cookie sheet with cooking spray; set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl whisk together flour, spices, baking soda, baking powder, and sea salt; set aside.
  4. In a large mixing bowl cream butter and sugars; mix until creamy.
  5. Add eggs one at a time; beating and scraping bowl with each addition.
  6. Add egg whites; mix until fluffy.
  7. Add applesauce and pumpkin; mix until all blended together
  8. Add dry ingredients all at once and mix until thick consistency.
  9. Add in mini chocolate chips.
  10. Evenly spread into prepared cookie sheet.
  11. Bake 23-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
  12. Cool and enjoy 🙂

Thanksgiving T-shirt- Turkey, Wine and Feeling Fine

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Ok, I know this technically doesn’t go on the table, but how cute is this t-shirt? And pretty accurate right? Thanksgiving is about turkey, wine and RELAXING. It is available for men and women.

It is $17.99 and available on Prime. You can find it here.

Thanksgiving Party Boxes

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I really like these party boxes for either your adult guests or a nice addition to your kids table. It can be filled with candy from a candy bar, leftovers or desserts to go, it is a cute way for your guests to leave with something special from the day.  For a set of 12, it is $11.04 and available on Prime. You can find them here.

However you are celebrating, I hope you have a blessed day with friends and family, because in the end, that’s all that matters.

Until next time,

Christine

Getting Social with Social Wine

It’s no secret that I love wine. I always have. I love trying out different kinds. Red, white and even canned wine. There has been a trend in canned wines recently and some of them are just too sweet. But I did find one that I absolutely love! It is called Social Sparking Wine. It is sake that is certified organic, gluten and sulfite free, has 1 gram of sugar, and only 88 calories. In fact, they even will go as far as saying that are the “cleanest alcohol available today”. One of my favorite parts, they are a local, Chicago company!

I have taken them on walks with Noah, drank them on Sunday Funday and even to go while we went trick or treating on Halloween. With 4 flavors for every season, they are just so good. You can find them at Mariano’s, Whole Foods and Binnys.

But I have something even better for you guys. You can now get 15% off using the code socialchristine or here.

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Get social with me and let me know how you like it!

xoxo

Christine

 

Old is New Again: The Berghoff

My parents grew up going to The Berghoff in downtown Chicago. Most Chicagoan’s probably have. I used to go as a kid, but the last time I was there, I was in high school. In fact, I thought for the longest time it was closed. Recently, I had the opportunity to dine and tour the restaurant and was so impressed. Not only because of the history, but the revival of the menu.  The Berghoff is known for their German food like Weiner Schnitzel’s, bratwursts and giant Bavarian pretzels. Of course, those dishes are legendary, but there are new additions to the menu that are more modern and appealing to a younger generation. More contemporary dishes that even include certified gluten-free options. But first, let me tell you about the history and how it all began. 

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The Berghoff has been around since 1898, and is rich in Chicago history.  Herman Berghoff posted right outside the Chicago’s World Fair in 1893, similar to a pop-up cafe. His success from that, is how he made enough money to bring his family to Chicago and open his cafe.  

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End of Prohibition- 1935 (Photo Courtesy of The Berghoff)

During the prohibition, the bar remained opened by selling a “Near Beer” which contained less than 0.5% alcohol. This made it possible for Herman to sell and stay open. After prohibition ended, The Berghoff was issued Chicago’s first Liquor License. Chicago has honored this every year and they will always receive the first license.

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The Berghoff had a separate men’s only bar until 1969, when Gloria Steinem demanded service and this ended the male-only streak.

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Now for the food. We sampled a lot of everything, some classic dishes and contemporary ones. I also had the opportunity to meet Chef Matt and Chef Javier. Their love for not only the food, but their passion for working at the restaurant shined through. They have been at the restaurant for years and are dedicated to making great food. Chef Matt went into detail on how everything is made in house. With a bakery and 4 kitchens in the 50,000 square feet space, everything is made on site. That is something unique and many Chicago restaurants can’t claim. To take a closer look at the behind the scenes in the bakery, look here.

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With all that being said, my top 3 dishes are:

3. Red Velvet Cake- I am not usually one for dessert or sweets in general, but this red velvet cake is fluffy with the right amount of sweetness. Served with a side of vanilla ice cream, this dessert will make anyone go out of their way to dine here.

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2. Braised Short Ribs- This is fantastic. Melts in your mouth good. Served with a side of mashed potatoes and topped with fried onions. The textures are just right. Perfect comfort food during the cooler months.

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1.Butternut Squash Lasagna- Layered with diced butternut squash and Manchego, then topped with grilled asparagus and glazed walnuts, it is outstanding. The combination of the sweetness from the squash with the cheese is perfect. It is light enough to eat year-round and vegetarians should go crazy over it. Definitely a stand out dish.

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The Berghoff is also known for Oktoberfest. This runs from September 7th- October 7th. With live music and food specials, it will put you in the mood for the fall festivities ahead.

Whether you are from Chicago or here to visit, The Berghoff is a must stop for great food and some Chicago history.

Until next time…

Christine

 

End of Summer (Head) Shots

IMG_6341I had an awesome chance to work with the talented photographer, Sarah, from Levine Moore Photo We took some updated photos for my blog at North Avenue Beach and at the new swanky Shore Club. We had lots of fun and the photos turned out amazing. Now we have teamed up to do a FREE 30 MINUTE HEADSHOT GIVEAWAY. See my Instagram account for details. 📸📸

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SafeHouse with our Junior Spy

We are always on the hunt for fun activities to do as a family. Things that are different and unique, but still kid friendly. We recently went as a family to the spy-themed restaurant, Safehouse on 60 E. Ontario in River North and had such an adventure! This was probably the most unique dining experiences we have had in Chicago. I am usually not one for themed restaurants, but they go all out and stay in “character” the entire time.  There is so much for everyone to do, you could spend hours just exploring. But not only is it entertaining for the entire family, the food is INCREDIBLE. Read more at Motherhood & Family

Summer Isn’t Over Just Yet! Finish the Summer Strong with Children Events in the City

Summer is slowly coming to an end, but the children summer events in Chicago are still in full swing. I have rounded out a list of some of our favorite kids events in the city for $10 dollars or less.

  1. Sing Along at Lincoln Park Zoo–  Children can sing, dance, and clap along with Mr. Singer every Wednesday and Friday at 9:15 and 10 a.m. in the Main Barn of Lincoln Park Zoo’s Farm-in-the-Zoo. Mr. Singer will play original songs and classic sing alongs. There is always a wide range of ages, children bring their own instruments and can request songs as well. The best part is after the concert, you can visit the petting zoo, feed the cows and goats and then have a picnic at Green City Market (Wednesdays only). All FREE!
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    Green City Market on Wednesdays (Our House Pizza)

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    Noah had so much fun at our picnic at Green City Market

    2. Monica & Andy-  Miss Alexis from Bubbles Academy performs every Tuesday from 10:30- 11a.m., at the Monica and Andy store at 2038 N. Halsted. If you haven’t seen a Miss Alexis concert, we love her! She has sing alongs with small musical instruments. props and is overall very engaging! She will explain how each song helps learning in different stages of development and even incorporates sign language into her performance.

    Noah is 18 months and he is one of the oldest that attends, so I think this might be more for babies and crawlers. Although, he loves it and we will continue to go. $10 dollars.

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3. Whole Foods- Lincoln Park At the Lincoln Park Whole Foods Market on 1550 North Kingsbury Street, there is FREE Bubbles Academy children’s concert every Wednesday and Thursday morning from 10:00 to 10:30 a.m with Miss Alexis. I always like this Whole Foods because it is large and has lots of parking available.

At the Whole Foods in Lakeview on 3201 N. Ashland Avenue, Sarah Jane performs every Thursday from 10-10:30am on the Porch. It does very crowded, so I recommend going early. TIP: They sometimes give out yummy snacks for the kids too.

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4. The StoryBook Mom-  The StoryBook mom is an interactive read aloud is for all ages. This is great way to introduce young children to theatre, storybooks, music and engage their senses in an immediate and interactive way. She performs at various locations across the city. Monday’s at Shop Little Threads in Roscoe Village on 2033 W. Roscoe at 10:30am. She is also at Monica & Andy and Purple Monkey Playroom on Wednesdays. All the weekly performances are FREE. 

5. Park at Wrigley –

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Photo Courtesy of Park at Wrigley

The Old Town School of Folk Music, Wiggleworms, performs every Tuesday at 10-10:45am, except on game days. It is an interactive performance with music, movement and dancing. They will even have shakers, bubbles, singing, dancing and more. It is geared toward children 6 and younger along with their caregivers.

There are so many more events across the city like FREE classes at Home Depot, or FREE bowling Kids Bowl .Jump on the Water Taxi for $6-9 dollars (depending on the distance) or all the FREE family and child friendly events at Maggie Daley Park. 

Let me know what you think!

~xoxo~

Christine

Picnic Essentials

There are many items we need for the park, but there are a few that we MUST have before we leave the house for long periods of time. Now that Noah is a toddler, some of the items are necessary to keep him entertained and make motherhood just a little easier on our summer adventures.

This waterproof picnic blanket is the best! It folds up really small, easy to clean up spills and has handles to make it easy to carry. Picnic Blanket ( 70x80 extra large fold & portable )for family travel , camping , outdoor concert tablecloth lawn or beach mat with color stripes , best kids water-resistant mat tote bag with handle Read more at Motherhood & Family

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Texas Tourism: More than BBQ and Tex-Mex

IMG_5073I was recently invited to a Christmas in July event hosted by Texas Tourism at Raised Bar in the Renaissance Hotel. The event was for Chicagoans to learn about different cities to vacation in Texas during our cold, bitter months. I got a chance to talk to representatives from different cities and learn more about each one. We ate, drank wine, decorated Texas cookies and I got to thinking I may just need a trip down to Texas. Read more at Travels & City Adventures