Girls Day Downtown

There is nothing quite like a girls days with my little girls. They love being downtown and going on adventures, and now that they are older, it’s easier for me to do the adventures by myself. Diapers? Don’t need them. Snacks? Still needed but they can open them by themselves. And, although their legs get tired after walking all day, we no longer need to haul a stroller around town.

We recently had a girls day downtown doing two of their favorite things: eating and shopping at American Girl Place and shopping at Disney Store (this is a big deal mostly because there are so few locations of Disney Store, now…..there had been a location very near us but that closed a couple years ago).

Part of the fun of shopping at Disney Store is finding all of the buttons to press and then see what noises or actions those buttons make happen.


And, of course, watching all of the cartoons and movie previews on the big screen.


Now, going to American Girl Place and eating there requires a little more planning. You can, of course, just go to shop. However, there is a lot of do while you are there.


Some things to remember:

  • Tea is fun but is served later in the afternoon so it may not a good option if you haven’t already eaten lunch. Your kids will be hangry. (Trust me. I know.) The lunch is very filling. If you’ve already eaten lunch before arriving, go ahead and do tea!
  • In addition to tea and lunch, there are also brunch and dinner options depending on the time of day that you are going.
  • If you only have a small group with you and you are already there to celebrate a birthday, go ahead and go in for the birthday package. It’s a set price, you get a full meal including a starter and your main course, you get a cake (we always go home with extra), and the kids get a goody bag. Definitely a good deal when you look at the the prices of the meals. (The basic package is $37 for kids and $27 for adults.)
  • If you are planning on taking a doll to the salon, book that as soon as you arrive. The salon can get very busy!
  • Plan on at least 45 minutes to just browse and shop. (Even if you aren’t planning on making any purchases.) The store is set up so that girls can play with almost every item that’s for sale. And, from experience, this takes awhile.


Our list thus far:

Movie Time

We usually see several movies throughout the summer. We see movies outside. We see movies in the theaters.

So far, we have seen Incredibles 2 while on our camping trip.


And we recently saw the new Hotel Transylvania.


I am looking forward to seeing Christopher Robin in a week!

What movies have you seen this summer? What movies are you looking forward to seeing?


Seeing movies is always an item on our summer bucket list.

Our list thus far:

When A Race is Not Just a Race

I did it. I got my Remix Challenge medal.


This medal was a year in the making. This weekend of running meant a lot more to me than just a few miles.

Last year, I was scheduled to complete this challenge. I finished the 5K and was all set to do the 10K the following day. I was using the Run Rock ‘n Roll Chicago race weekend as an early version of the Princess Challenge weekend (you can read about that experience here). 5k and 10k in one weekend to prep for 10k and half-marathon in one weekend. Good plan, right?


As with many things, last year’s Remix Challenge weekend did not go as I had planned. I had an accident – I’m still not entirely sure what happened or how it happened – as I got out of the car. Ryan and the girls were dropping me off and I was going to walk to my starting coral.

Somehow I lost my footing. My head met the curb of the road, specifically, my left eyebrow. My sunglasses fractured, right into the bridge of my nose. There was blood. A lot of blood. This was when I learned that runners really are some of the best people that you will ever meet. So many runners, who were on their way to their own starting coral, stopped, helped me up, stayed with me. One guy gave me his towel (yea, he never got that back because it was covered in my blood…..). Ryan was able to park on the street and wait with me as we waited for the ambulance.

So, what should’ve been me completing a 10K and getting my 10K medal and my Remix Challenge medal, ended with me getting nine stitches – 6 on my eyebrow and 3 on my nose. I still have scarring on my face and on my knee from the road rash when I fell. The injuries thankfully did not include any broken bones, but it would be several weeks before I could restart my training.

What led to the fall? Was I dizzy? Was there some sort of other issue? I had been very tired from the training. Was I too tired to even stand properly? Honestly, I probably won’t know exactly what led to the fall. It happened so quickly that I never really was able to figure out how my run ended before it could even begin. But, I knew that this wouldn’t be able to stop me.

I made a mental plan to return in 2018 and conquer this weekend and the Remix Challenge.

This weekend’s runs were not easy or fun. It was a rainy, windy weekend. Each morning’s run was met with downpours. Not fun.



But, at least it wasn’t super hot, right?

And, I finished Saturday’s 5k feeling optimistic about Sunday.


Sunday’s run was not just a run. It was something that I’ve wanted to complete for a year now. My name on my bib? Revenge.


It was a hard run (I’ve realized recently just how much my slacking on my training has impacted my running goals….definitely will be remedying that beginning this week). But it was a powerful run. The rain was pouring. The wind off of the lake was cold. And when it wasn’t raining, the humidity felt like it was 90%. And none of that was going to stop me.

I did it!

And then…..was told that they had run out of 10k medals.  After messaging Run Rock n Roll, I found out that someone had moved the boxes of medals to a dry spot in a downpour but didn’t tell anyone who was in charge of giving out medals.  Run Rock n Roll is mailing me a 10k medal but it might not arrive for several weeks…..

Thankfully, I did get my Remix Challenge medal (I was told later that day that they had run out of the challenge medals!) because if I had gone this whole year waiting for this run and then would go home medal-less, well, I would not have been happy.



I’m glad that I did it. I’m glad that I got two out of my three medals and that the third will be in the mail. I’m glad that I completed this weekend without any injuries. I’m glad that my girls were able to see me accomplish something that was a challenge for me. And I’m glad that I was able to get my revenge on this race. 🙂

Happy Running!



Keeping it Old School, Really Old School – Bristol Renaissance Faire

One of our favorite summer time activities is to spend the day at the Bristol Renaissance Faire. The Faire is full of fun activities, interesting shopping, and yummy food. It really is great for the whole family but I have some tips to help make your day even more enjoyable.


Plan your day!

Get on the mailing list and/or follow Bristol Renaissance Faire on Facebook to get coupons and find out the theme weekends. Even if you don’t dress in character for the theme weekends, it can be a lot of fun to see other costumes! You can also purchase tickets online in advance.

Once you arrive at the Faire ground, you will find that there are two parking lots. There is a pay lot that is really close to the grounds of the faire. However, there is also a free lot – why spend money on parking when you can save the money for treats inside the faire? Yes, you will need to walk a bit to get to the grounds but you’ve saved a little bit of money.

As soon as you enter, pick up a map and a schedule for for the day (all on one paper, front and back). Take careful note of times for performances. It is also important to note any age recommendations next to certain performances.  There are many performances that are a bit, well, bawdy and not appropriate for young children. However, there are many (many!) performances that your kids will love. I recommend picking a time to view jousting and then plan the rest of your day around that. If this is not your first time, I recommend trying to see at least one performance that you haven’t seen before. This summer, we saw the falconry demonstration and it was fascinating.


There are porta-potties throughout the grounds, but the only flushing toilets are near the front of the grounds. If you have small kiddos with you, be sure to stop at the bathrooms when you enter and hopefully you won’t have to stop at too many porta-potties. (Porta-potties with small kids = ewwwwwww.)

Go shopping!

There are many things to purchase throughout the grounds that your kiddos will probably be asking for. And although it might be tempting to buy everything, let me make a suggestion: think of some of the bigger souvenir purchases as something that you will use over and over again. My girls love their flower crowns that we purchased at the Faire. They wear them each year, and they each got to pick out one when they were 2 years old. Yep. These are the same crowns that we purchased when they were toddlers. After the Faire, They still look great after years of use. (I keep the crowns in my room because they will come apart if played with every day. But we get them out again the following summer.)


If you are looking for a fun souvenir that won’t break the bank, you can purchase pennants during the jousting for $5 and the knights will sign them afterward. Some of the price of the pennants goes toward the horses used by the Faire.



A Kingdom for the Kiddos

The Kids Kingdom area has lots of fun activities for kiddos. You will find storytime in this area, other activities, and a fun playground. My girls were talking about this playground a week before we went! There are also bathrooms (porta-potties) in this spot. You will also find a changing table in this bathroom area.


The throne room is also located near Kids Kingdom. The throne room has six different themed thrones that you can take pics in. There have been recent changes made to the throne room that I think work really well. A guide walks with you through the different throne rooms, and will take your picture for you! This means that the whole family can be in each pic! And it’s not as rushed because each guide ensures that their group waits before moving.  So, I took pics of the girls in each throne and our guide took a couple pics of all of us. So fun!

Eat all of the food!

Some food, you will find in several locations (grilled corn-on-the-cob, mushrooms) and some food, you will only find in certain sections. If this is your first time at the Faire, I recommend that if you see a food that looks good, go ahead and get it. Chances are really good, it’ll be yummy. But, chances are also really good, that if you walk away it’ll be hard to find it again.


Remember, it’s outside….and it’s summer.

Seek out shade throughout the day. Since the Faire is only held on weekends during the summer, it can be a very, very hot day. And even though they are only porta-potties, most of the bathroom areas have running water in the sinks. Take advantage of this running water and damped a paper towel to wipe your face and neck. This can do wonders when you are trying to cool down yourself, or your kids.


Wear comfortable shoes. You will be doing a lot of walking and the paths can be kind of dusty and although your sandals might be very comfortable, if you are wearing sandals your feet may very well be filthy by the end of the day.

Tip your waiter! And your fire whip performer!

Bring cash. Although cards are accepted, some stalls have a minimum purchase if you are using a card. And be sure that some of that cash is in smaller bills. Many of the performers pass around a tip basket or have a tip basket on display. Performing is how many of these actors support themselves so, please, tip them! They work very hard all summer to ensure that your Faire experience is an awesome one.

Have you been to the Bristol Renaissance Faire? What are your tips for a fun day at the Faire?



Our summer bucket list thus far:

Family Fun Festival – Lots of Family, Smaller Space for Fun

The Family Fun Festival has always been one of our favorite summertime activities. We go for songs, storytime, crafts and lots of gross motor activities. Well, this year we went and had songs, storytime, crafts…..and that’s pretty much it. There is a huge white tent that holds the Family Fun Festival in Millennium Park and that had been, in the past, the only main activity that it held during the summer. However, now the majority of the space has been given to Afterschool Matters programming. I am certainly not saying that the teenagers involved in this amazing program (seriously, look up all that Afterschool Matters programming does! It’s amazing!) should not have use of this space. It was awesome to see so many teens working on different projects in the tent. However, it was a little strange to see how little space the younger kids had when we’ve been going to this programming for years and there would be lots of gross motor activities – blocks, hula hoops, lots of space for dancing and playing. There would be enough there to keep kiddos occupied for several hours.

We still had fun!

We sang songs, listened to stories and made puppets with the Hyde Park Arts Center. (Be sure to look at the schedule online to see what organization will be leading the crafts each week.)


Have you been to the Family Fun Festival this year? Did you go in past years?


Our summer list thus far:

Hunting Trolls – A How To Guide

We recently went to Morton Arboretum to check out the new Trolls experience. This is a super fun experience for all families. The girls were so excited when we saw our first troll, the one overlooking the highway.

(We did eventually hike up to this one to see it up close.)


It was a very hot day when we went, and honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect. You are given a map to help find the trolls and that’s definitely useful. The map also details which parking areas to use to get closer to each one. The map itself is not as super exact as the trail maps that are located on each trail. However, it is very useful. And, there are signs throughout the trails (and on the roads) letting you know which way to go to hunt trolls.

When you find a troll, you will also find a clue written on a sign. Write down this clue on your map! (There is a section on your map for gathering clues.) It will help you to find the troll hideout.

The first four trolls are found starting at the parking lot and moving in a big circle. This circle is over 3 miles (I’m not sure the exact mileage but I asked a couple Arboretum employees and they each said at least 3 miles  – and then congratulated us for hiking those miles!). The trails are absolutely beautiful. And hiking the paths allows you to see some truly beautiful areas.


But be warned, some of the trails are in some deep wooded areas and were very, very, very mosquitoe-y when we went. Very mosquitoe-y.

The trail leading up to this guy was especially buggy.


The sculptures are all amazing. (And made from reclaimed wood or leftover wood from other projects.)


Seriously cool. However, I would not really recommend doing what we did – walking the trails to find the first four trolls. It was hot. It’s a lot of walking for small legs. And the mosquitoes made it a bit of a miserable experience. If you are planning to hike it, please be a bit more prepared than we were. Please, please, please, please bring insect repellent. We were definitely covered in mosquito bites after this hike. Yuck.

Realistically, the hike wasn’t all bad. My girls are accustomed to doing long walks and/or hikes so the distance wasn’t terrible. And we had snacks and water bottles in my backpack. Much of the hike was very beautiful. I am glad that we were able to see things that we wouldn’t have seen otherwise. The views were gorgeous. And, many of the trails were areas of the Arboretum that we hadn’t explored before.


But, after we made it back to the visitors center after finding the first four trolls, we ate lunch, cooled down at the Children’s Garden (one of our favorite spots in the entire Arboretum), and we stopped at the gift shop to make a very important purchase.


Definitely necessary! (I beg you, do not attempt hiking the paths to find the trolls if you don’t have bug spray! Drive and park!)

Since we had already done plenty of hiking for the day, we drove to find the last two trolls. Honestly, if you are attempting this with younger kids (and you should, you really should. It’s such a fun, magical experience for kids) I recommend using the troll hunting map to find the closest parking spots and then walk just a bit to find the trolls. It’s a much more pleasant experience if it is super hot and/or super buggy.

After you have found the last two trolls, you can put the clues together to find the troll hideout! This was hands-down our favorite part of the experience. It’s such a fun spot to explore. The entire area is a very clever design that really sums up the entire troll hunting experience. So fun!


The troll hunting will be at the Morton Arboretum through summer of 2019. I am looking forward to finding them again in the fall. I think it’s going to be even more beautiful to explore when the leaves are changing colors!

Have you checked out this experience yet? What did you think?


Going to the Morton Arboretum and going on a hike were both items on our summer bucket list!

The list thus far:


Zoo Day

One of our favorite activities, year round, is to go to the zoo. The girls love seeing all of the different animals. We are members at Brookfield Zoo and that helps zoo days to still be enjoyable days for us. We each pick one (or two) animals that we want to see and perhaps we will do one extra activity – carousel ride, butterflies, dolphin show, etc. Narrowing down the plan definitely helps to keep everyone happy because we will be able to see the things on the list without spending all day at the zoo.


During the summer, the zoo also offers activities at night on Friday and Saturday evenings. This is definitely a fun thing to do and will be something that we do later in the summer. You can find out more about nights at the zoo by clicking here.


The list thus far:


Splash Pads and Fountains

Our girls love splash pads. Sometimes great splash pads are even better than a pool (sometimes). We love the splash pads at Maggie Daley Park in Millennium Park. Not only are the splash pads fun and in the middle of a playground that you can play on, but they in the middle of Millennium Park so you can take a quick walk over to Crown Fountain to extend the fun!

This trip was the first time that big girl did not want to go on the big playground at Maggie Daley. If you’ve been there, I’m talking about the big bridge section. While we were at the playground, you could overhear other parents having similar discussions…..although this playground is a lot of fun…..there are just too many entrances and exits in each area and it is just too easy to lose track of children. Big girl did not want to go to the bridge section (also my least favorite part) because she “couldn’t see us” last time we went. And it’s true. The playground is huge and there are just too many directions that kids can run off to. If you’ve been there, you probably know exactly what I’m talking about.

But, although one of the splash pads sections was closed, we had a lot of fun playing in the sections that were open and playing on the not-bridge sections of the playground. And then, a walk over to Crown Fountain for more fun!


Our list thus far:

I Scream…You Scream…We All Scream

For ice cream!

We eat a  lot of ice cream throughout the entire year but we really hit peak ice cream time during summer. No wonder it’s always one of the items on the bucket list that we do much more than once.

Some of our favorite places for ice cream are:








Bodega Imports


At Munchies

Where are your favorite places for ice cream?

Our bucket list thus far:

Super Easy Pasta Salad

During the summer, who wants to turn on the oven? No one. No one wants to turn on the oven. So, let me share one of my favorite summer time recipes.


This summer salad is so simple and is super quick to throw together. Plus, the only thing that needs to be cooked is the pasta.

1) Cook your pasta (cook until just al dente). You can use any type of pasta that you have on hand.

2) Cut up veggies. Any veggies. I had green pepper, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, and radishes. I also had some leftover grilled zucchini and corn from earlier in the week (this salad is a great way to use up leftovers, too). We’ve had lots of veggies on hand lately thanks to our Imperfect Produce deliveries! Try to be sure that everything is close to the same size.

3). Add the cooked pasta and your veggies into a large bowl.

4). If you want, you can add a protein. Shredded chicken? Tuna? Yum.

5). Drizzle with olive oil, pinch of salt, pinch of pepper.

6). Stir. Stir. Stir. Be sure that everything is lightly coated.

7). Now drizzle Italian dressing. Use whatever brand Italian dressing that you like.

8). Stir. Stir. Stir.

9). Taste. Does it need more salt? More pepper? How is the dressing? Do you need more?

And that’s it! Super easy. Super tasty. And the kids love it! You can even include them in the preparation of the salad. They can do the stirring. Or, they can practice cutting some of the veggies.