A Weekend at Mimi and Pa’s House

Usually, when we have a weekend at Mimi and Pa’s house (my hometown) we don’t have too much planned. This summer, however, we had an epic weekend because it was the weekend of my 20th high school reunion (20 years?!?!?!?!?) and it was also the weekend of the county fair.

So……..we did a lot. 🙂

Ryan and I went to my high school reunion.

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The next day, as a family, we went to the county fair. We went to the demolition derby (one of my favorite fair memories), ate some fried food, and rode some rides.

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We ended our trip with a trip to the playground, lunch at Cracker Barrel, and my mom and I went to swim aerobics (p.s. I want to find a place with year-round swim aerobics! So fun!!!).

The list thus far:

 

 

 

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How to do the Free Admission Museum Days – And Still Have Fun

If you’ve been reading the blog for awhile now, you know that our family are big fans of the museums in Chicago. These amazing institutions are some of the biggest perks of living in or near the city! But this is not new information. Lots of people know that already and are ready to take advantage of all that they have to offer. The museums are not cheap, though. A family of four could easily drop close to $100 just to get in to the museum. That’s why the free admission days are such a big deal!

On the free admission days (for Illinois residents) you get free general admission at the museum. Each museum is different and the free days are different for each one (be sure to look up that information on each museum’s website!). And, although we generally take advantage of the ones during the summer months, there are days offered throughout the entire year so, if you are an Illinois resident, definitely check these out!

Since so many people want to, and should, take advantage of this money-saving perk, it can get a bit crazy. We’ve done it many, many times and in that time I’ve picked up some tips.

  1. Try to arrive as close to the museum opening as you can. If there are exhibits that you know that you want to check out, head there first. The crowds definitely build after 11:00am. Most museums open at either 9:00am or 9:30am. Generally, if you arrive at 10:00am, you won’t have to wait in much of a line and can walk right in.
  2. If possible, take public transportation. But, if you have to drive, as long as you arrive close to opening you can probably get street parking. This is usually cheaper than parking in the museum parking lots or the lot at Soldier Field. Plus, you can pay for what you will use. Just planning on being in the museum for a couple hours? Just pay for a couple hours of parking!
  3. Bring snacks! But, pay attention to where you can actually eat your snacks in the museum.
  4. Food is pricey at the museums, especially if you are buying for a family of four. I usually buy a lunch for myself at the museum, brings snacks for the girls, and will purchase a cheese plate or fruit cup for the girls to share. Many of the museums do not want you to bring in your own food to eat in their restaurants, but since I’ve also purchased something each time no one has said anything. But, most museums also have an area for use by those who brought lunches. If you are not purchasing anything, I recommend scouting out one of those spots. If you can’t find a spot to eat, ask an employee for assistance.
  5. If you can, eat a late or early lunch. The lunch areas are usually less busy after 1:30pm or right at 11:00am (or whenever they start serving lunch). There are usually many schools, camps, and daycare groups at the museums, but they tend to eat their lunch before 1:30pm since they need to return to their camp, daycare, or school.
  6. Some of the Illinois resident day admissions include almost everything (the Shedd Aquarium is great for this – you get general admission, Stingray Touch, and can get into Wild Reef and Polar Playzone – this all had at one time been an extra add on on the Illinois resident days. So glad that that’s changed!!!) but most of the admissions only include the basic admission. So, if there is a special or traveling exhibit that you want to see be sure to calculate the price of that into your visit.
  7. Do you have younger kids and will plan on spending some time in the areas designated for kids? (Like Polar Play Zone at Shedd, Play Lab at Field Museum, Idea Factory at Museum of Science and Industry, and Planet Explorers at Adler) These tend to be less busy during peak lunch time hours. So, again, if you can, try to do a later or early lunch.
  8. Do your research! Some exhibits, although free and included in your admission, still require a timed ticket. Idea Factory at MSI is one of those. Get your ticket as soon as you arrive because you might not be able to get in to the exhibit for several hours. Some exhibits are not open every day. The Play Lab at Field is only open Thursday – Monday.
  9. After 12:00noon, the museums tend to get really packed. Keep this in mind when trying to plan bathroom breaks. It’s no fun for anyone when a bathroom break is necessary and the bathroom has a line out the door.
  10. Remember – have fun! It can get chaotic and when you start to feel the chaos, take a break. Have a snack. Step outside. (Many of the museums have an outdoor spot where you can eat, and take in a beautiful view of Lake Michigan and/or the skyline.)

 

 

The Simple Joy of the Train at the Mall

We go to the mall frequently. We have two malls near us and they both offer different stores and restaurants. But, both malls are also really good about offering different activities that are available to members of the community (outdoor movies, musical performances, etc.).

Some of our girls’ favorite activities are riding the rides at the mall. Do you have a train ride at your mall? Our mall offers free rides on the train on Tuesdays for Toot-Toot-Tuesdays. (Although it’s not very expensive to ride any day of the week.)

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Our summer list thus far:

Some Not-So-Fancy Food

Some of my girls’ favorite foods are the very simplest foods possible. Peanut butter and jelly. Buttered noodles. Grilled cheese.

Some of their favorite foods to cook (in which they do most of, if not all of, the work) are also pretty simple.

They like to make cookies – the break-and-bake ones are amazing if you are trying to do this with kids. Yes, it is important to teach fractions and how to measure ingredients and all of that. But, seriously, these cookies are fine! And it means that you can have cookies whenever you want with very little effort (or mess to clean up!).

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Every summer, the girls put making banana pudding on the list of things to do. This summer, we learned that Lily doesn’t like banana pudding anymore…..So, although that might change in the future (she also decided that she doesn’t like string cheese, so who knows what she’s going to like or not like) making banana pudding probably won’t happen very often in the future. However, when we make pudding of any type, I like to make it in plastic cups. It’s easy to portion out that way and you don’t have a giant bowl taking up a lot of space in the fridge.

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The final food that the girls request to make every summer. Lemonade. And, not just any lemonade. The powdered stuff that takes all of two minutes to make. Well, it sure makes it easier to knock things off of the list.

Our summer list thus far:

Milwaukee – A Weekend Trip

We recently had a week long trip in Wisconsin. Some of that trip was in the Wisconsin Dells area (that will be a separate blog post) but the majority of the trip was in the Milwaukee area. My in-laws live there, Ryan grew up there, and there are some things that we always try to do/see/eat when we are there.

Milwaukee is so close to Chicago. If you have a free weekend, a quick Milwaukee trip is a great getaway!  It’s great for families! There are so many family friendly activities to do and places to go.

Places to go:

Head to Betty Brinn Children’s Museum – There are so many fun exhibits in this museum. One of our girls’ favorite sections is the Home Town section. This area is like a mini-Milwaukee and encourages lots of imaginative play. This whole museum is great for young kiddos!

Find a park – There are so many different outdoor areas that you can explore. Get outside and find an adventure!

Go to a beach – Milwaukee is right on Lake Michigan so there are lots of beaches. Atwater Beach is my favorite. As you can see in the pic above, it’s just beautiful. The beaches are generally clean, and actually fairly quiet. There are so many great family beaches. Definitely a great way to spend a summer afternoon.

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Visit Milwaukee Art Museum – This museum has a wonderful collection to explore and it’s not huge so spending some time here is not overwhelming for young travelers. They have, in my opinion, one of the best family programs. There is a studio space that is a lot of fun. When we went, there were two different art projects that you could participate in. One of the best parts of their family programing is that you can check out several different items to use in the museum for further exploration. We borrowed drawing materials to sketch art pieces that caught the girls’ eyes. We also borrowed fabric tubes that were so much fun! The instructions gave us the locations for a few pieces of art that matched and we got to just have fun! Seriously. So fun! And so different from any other museum experience that we have explored.

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Go to Discovery World – This is one of our favorite places to explore in Milwaukee. There are lots of cool science exhibits to engage with. Most of the exhibits are STEM related. There are a lot of activities that allow your child the change to learn about physics by doing hands-on experiences. There is also an aquarium! The aquarium is not as big as going to a stand-alone aquarium (like Shedd or someplace similar) but you can still see some interesting animals. You really can do a little bit of everything at this museum. One of the coolest things that you can do is to go for a trip on the tall ship S/V Denis Sullivan. What an amazing experience and a great way to get a different view of Milwaukee.

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Places to eat:

Cafe Corazon – This is one of our favorites. During one trip to Milwaukee, Ryan and I ate at Cafe Corazon three times in one week. That food is all good. The drinks are delicious!

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Cubanita’s – If you are in the mood for some classic Cuban food, this is your place in Milwaukee. My favorite? go on Monday for the daily special: arroz con pollo. Delicious comfort food.

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Kopp’s – If you are in the Milwaukee area during the summer and don’t go to Kopp’s, well, you’re not doing summer correctly! Go for the custard, of course. (And you can check in advance to check what the flavor of the day will be by looking at the website, or just driving by – it’s posted on the signage outside.) The custard and custard treats are all yummy, but their burgers are some of my favorite – anywhere.

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Sprecher’s – You can find Sprecher’s sodas at some stores outside of the Milwaukee area, but, there is just something about getting it from the source. There are several locations in Wisconsin (check the website). The drinks are good, there are sodas and beers! And the food is yummy and definitely family friendly. And, as you can see in the pic, for dessert you can get a flight…a float flight!

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Movida – One of my favorite types of meals is to get tapas. Yum yum yum. I was so happy to find a great place for tapas in Milwaukee. Not only does Movida have a great selection of tapas (seriously, look at that menu!), but they also have delicious churros for dessert!

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Have you been to Milwaukee? What are your favorite places to go? Where are your favorite places to eat?

 


Going to Granny and Pa’s house and having some Milwaukee adventures (going to the beach) were on our summer bucket list.

Our list thus far:

 

 

Love Your Library!

When I was a kid, going to the library was a weekly event during the summer. Not only did we check out books and movies, but it was a great escape from the heat. (At that time, we did not have central air conditioning in the house.)

Now, I take my girls to the library. We don’t necessarily need to go there to escape the heat but we do go to check out new books, borrow new puzzles or games, play on the iPad and update the girls’ summer reading challenge books.

We are usually pretty good about reading every day. But, reading can be pushed to the side when you get really busy. That is why I love summer reading programs so much. The program helps to keep us on track to ensure that we are keeping up with our reading even when we get busy with other activities.

This is the final week of the summer reading program and, although we have gone to the library a lot, we haven’t spent as much time in the library as we have during years past. The reason?

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Our library is going through a major renovation! Not all of the books and materials are easy to find because they have had to move due to the construction. Yes, it’s a bit annoying right now to not be able to find some things as easily as we have in the past and there isn’t as much space to play but, it’s mostly exciting because these renovations are going to make our library even better than it was.

 

Our list thus far: