Summer List 2019!

It’s finally here! Summer vacation! And as usual, we have a bucket list of things to accomplish throughout the summer.

Follow along as we try to have the best summer ever!

Our list thus far:

  • Go to Disney World.
  • Pick blueberries.
  • Go bowling. Bake some treats.
  • See outdoor movies.
  • Go to the museums.
  • Go to LEGO Discovery Center.
  • Visit Brookfield Zoo.
  • Go to Morton Arboretum to see the Lego sculptures.
  • Visit the Art Institute.
  • Eat ice cream.
  • Play on the playground.
  • Go on a hike.
  • Go to the library.
  • Go to a festival.
  • Have a slumber party.
  • Have a pajama day.
  • Watch movies at home.
  • Visit Granny and Pa.
  • Visit Mimi and Pa.
  • Have a beach day.
  • Pick dandelions out of the yard.
  • See fireworks.
  • Go to the splash pads.
  • Visit Chinatown.
  • Play outside.
  • Have tea at American Girl.
  • Play in our house.

Now….some of these things we will definitely do several times throughout the summer. And some of them are on the list specifically because we already know that we are doing them (Disney World).

What’s on your list?

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Use Those Leftovers!

I am notoriously terrible at eating leftovers. Seriously. It’s bad. I’ll eat them. But I don’t really want to. (Except for holiday leftovers – I eat those for sure!) But, I’ve learned something…if I just add one or two new ingredients and transform it just a bit I can trick my brain into eating something new.

After a run on the treadmill, I was hungry. Like really hungry. And I needed something quick!

You know what we had in the fridge? Eggs. And leftovers.

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I threw a couple eggs in a pan with some olive oil, salt and pepper.

Then, I added some leftovers. (These were from a quick skillet dinner that Ryan made earlier in the week with chicken, brussels sprouts, carrots, golden raisins.)

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The skillet was really good during the first meal (I had two helpings of it for dinner that night) but I really wanted something different.)

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The finished product? It doesn’t look very pretty but the eggs, olive oil, and the hot pan transformed these leftovers into something new. And I ate all of it.

What do you do to be sure that you are using your leftovers?

Christmas Traditions

Part of having a family is making our own Christmas traditions. Some things have remained the same since Lily was a baby. We visit one side of the family the weekend before Christmas. We visit a second side of the family the weekend after Christmas. But, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are just for us.

On Christmas Eve, we snack and snack throughout the day. We watch movies in our jammies. We take a break to make a gingerbread house. (Or this year….a gingerbread volcano.)

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Then, Christmas Eve Mass and driving around to see Christmas lights (this was the Christmas Eve tradition when I was little.)

One of our favorite places to see lights is by walking through Lilacia Park. We’ve actually never gone to this part any other day except for Christmas Eve.

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Then, Christmas Day, we wake up, open presents and hang out all day. Recently, Christmas Day has become our big “special dinner” that Ryan plans and puts together.

Our traditions have changed some throughout the years but the main purpose has remained the same: to build low-stress memories with our girls.

What are your Christmas traditions?

 

A Scarecrow Filled Staycation

I am a big fan of using Groupon to find deals on places to eat, things to do, places to stay – essentially everything. We’ve lucked out that there has been a Groupon two years in a row during a staycation weekend for us. Every year, St. Charles hosts a Scarecrow Fest. We’ve gone every year since we moved into our house but last year we changed it up a bit by staying overnight and we returned to that same resort this year as well.

That resort? Pheasant Run Resort.

After we checked out of the hotel, both Ryan and I recognized that we just didn’t have a lot of time to really explore the resort itself. We spent a lot of time in downtown St. Charles at Scarecrow Fest, which honestly is the point of this staycation weekend, however we both acknowledged that there were enough activities in the resort itself that you could stay busy for a weekend. Perhaps this is something that we will look into during another weekend?

The Room

This year, we had an accessible room. That meant more space in the aisles and a much more spacious bathroom. I’m guessing that this won’t happen again but last year’s room was just fine. The beds are cozy and the bathroom is nice.

Side note: I’m guessing that the reason that we were given one of the accessible rooms is because the resort was packed during this weekend! There were several wedding groups throughout the hotel. And, members of the Doberman Club of America were also staying at the resort. There were so many dogs. !!!!!!

The Pools

There are two pools. One is an indoor/outdoor combination pool. We did not venture into that one this year. Last year, I got out of the pool because the indoor pool is just too cold (because it is actually attached to the outdoor pool, you can swim from one to the other). So, this year, we only went to the indoor-only pool. It was a bit funny to hear from other families as they joined us in the pool as they commented about how much warmer the indoor pool was.

When you check in, each member of your party gets a bracelet that gives you access to the pools. I’m guessing that the indoor/outdoor pool may be in high demand during the summer….but at not time were our wristbands checked by anyone at the pool.

There is a hot tub in the same area as the indoor pool which I was looking forward to using on the day that we checked out. However, that morning, the hot tub was filled with bubbles. Absolutely filled with bubbles. The woman that replenished the pool towels saw the water and quickly called for service. Yep. Those bubbles are not supposed to be there. Did someone add something? No idea. But, yea…no hot tub for me.

The Gym Facility

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The workout facility is really nice for a hotel gym. There are multiples of each machine. When I went down to the gym, there were four other people working on and no one had to wait for the machine that they wanted. Treadmills, ellipticals, steppers, stationery bikes, and several weight machines and some free weights. Lots of options and, when I was there, enough machines so there was absolutely no wait.

The Food

This time, since we were not in the resort itself for very long, we did not eat in any of the food options. However, there are restaurants, bars, and room service is also available. We ate most of our meals downtown St. Charles.

And, of course, we had my favorite snack: “Chewy Chips Ahoy in a hotel bed while watching Food Network.”

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The main reason to go, of course, is Scarecrow Festival.

The Festival

This is one of our favorite fall activities. The scarecrows are very cool to see, there’s a craft fair (which we did not get to at all this year but has been lots of fun in the past), you can make your own scarecrow, there is lots of food in the festival and, of course, lots of restaurants in St. Charles. There are lots of carnival rides, which the girls love. All in all, it’s a great weekend and a great way to kick start fall.

Costco – Our Necessities

Shopping at Costco can be an overwhelming experience. There is just so much to see! And so many foods to sample! (Seriously…sample everything). Honestly, the only time that we were in and out of Costco in less than an hour was when we were ordering tires. Yep. You can order tires. (Seriously….they have everything!).

When shopping at Costco, keep in mind the following tips:

  1. Make a list. Do your best to stick to that list but be willing to purchase the yummy new food that you just sampled.
  2. Remember that not everything that you want will be there. Sometimes, they stop carrying items for a short time. Sometimes, they stop carrying items for a very long time.
  3. Understand that it will seem as though 90% of the suburbs are in Costco with you. Everyone is frustrated. Try to keep calm.
  4. Park your cart as far over to the side as you can. (See number 3).

We have several things that we always buy while there. Feel free to use this list as a starting point if you are new to the wonderful world of Costco. 🙂

Paper products: toilet paper, paper towels. You know that you will need these items so if you have the means to store them, stock up.

Beauty products: We buy deodorant, body wash, and razors! And there are frequently Oil of Olay products if you use any of those.

Baby products: I love the baby wipes! They are very soft and are so cheap! We never really purchased diapers because they never carried the brand that we liked for our girls. However, if you are in the diaper-buying stage, check what they are currently carrying.

Snack foods: We buy a lot of the lunchbox ready snacks like popcorn, veggie straws, string cheese, crackers, etc. They have it all.

Dairy: Cheese! We go through a lot of cheese in our house. And if you go through a lot of yogurt or Danimals, you can find those here too. Honestly, I am not a fan of the milk but give it a try because you might like it.

Grains: Buying cereal can be a great deal if you go through a lot of cereal. Not a great deal if you aren’t – the cereal will be stale before you get to the end of the box. Bread can be a good deal but you might need to freeze some.

Fruits and veggies: There can be great deals to be had, if you have the ability to freeze the fruits or veggies. The produce, in our experience, tends to go bad pretty quickly and there’s a lot of of it. So, buy it and throw it in the freezer. However, if you are planning a party, the large bags of salad are a great buy!

Freezer foods: This is so much better now that we have a chest freezer. Frozen pizzas? Throw them in the freezer. Frozen treats or desserts? Yep. In the freezer. If you do not have a chest freezer, I recommend being careful how much you buy. Remember, it will all have to fit somewhere.

Canned foods: You will almost always find cans of chicken stock and chickpeas and jars of peaches in our cart.

Bakery goods: The muffins are some of my favorites. I like them even more than muffins from the grocery stores that we buy from. They also have great croissants. Although we’ve never purchased a cake, you can get sheet cakes of almost any size if you need that.

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Throughout, you may seem us stocking up on seasonal items as well. It’s back-to-school so I purchased a new set of Sharpie markers. 🙂 You can also frequently pick up construction paper or pens. Right now, you can purchase Christmas decorations. (Yes, it’s a little early and there will probably be more selection in the coming weeks so you don’t need to rush in for this one.)

After all of that shopping, you’re hungry, right? Time to pick up a super cheap hot dog or a slice of pizza. You can also pick up a whole pizza  but that takes some time to prepare (so, start at the counter, place an order for your pizza, do your shopping, and pick up your pizza!).

So now I want to know, what are your Costco necessities?

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:

 

 

 

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: