Just a Spot of Tea

One of our girls’ favorite activities is…well…anything related to American Girl. They have dolls, clothes, furniture, accessories, books, etc., etc., etc. And one of their favorite things to do with their dolls is to go downtown Chicago to the American Girl Store and Cafe.

If your girls are in to American Girl (or just in to dolls in general), this is a great way to spend an afternoon!

Some tips:

  • Buy your parking ahead of time. I’ve been able to get great spots using the SpotHero app! That allows me to save money, get a great parking spot, and not waste a lot of time trying to find a spot.
  • Make reservations! Make reservations for your meal (brunch, tea, lunch, or dinner) but also keep in mind that you can make salon reservations for your girl’s doll and you can now make reservations for your own girls to have a spa day (this is new! We haven’t tried it out yet but now I’m guessing my girls will want to have matching girl/doll spa days.)
  • Celebrating a birthday? Consider switching your regular meal reservation to a birthday celebration. It’s a set price (and not actually much of a difference from the regular meals) and you can pick from a selection of food choice for your meal. And the girls get a party surprise. It would definitely be pricey for a large party but if it’s just you and your own girls, it’s definitely a great choice.
  • Because the meals are offered at set times, they can easily fit into your day. However, I have found that the afternoon tea is not a swap for a lunch. It’s just too late in the day. But, if you and your girls enjoy a lunch before your tea (we usually end up eating a sandwich for an early lunch so we’re not too hungry for tea) you’ll be fine and can enjoy all of the yumminess.

Enjoy your trip! It’s definitely a fun way to spend the afternoon. 🙂



Our list:

  • 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.

Holiday Bucket List

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

It’s that time of year once again when I put up with the weather because the holidays are just so much fun!

There are many activities that we do every year around this time of year. (It’s a little crazy to think that it’s holiday time once again!) As with our fall bucket list, there are some things on the list that we’ve already done – or will be doing very very soon. So check out the list! There might be some things that you can do along with us!

Some of our favorites:


Illuminate 900  – This one we actually did Thursday night. We rarely ever go to the 900 North Michigan Avenue shops, mostly because we just never shop that far on Michigan. But, this is a great way to kick off holiday celebrations. It’s free! But, you can add a donation to Make-a-Wish. This year, I got the free wristbands for the girls and I paid for an upgrade wristband for myself. Cookie decorating. Christmas decorations. Music. Dancing. Santa. Yes, it’s a school night, but it’s a lot of fun.


Mag Mile Lights Festival – This one we will be doing today! This is definitely one of my favorite Christmas activities. Christmas lights. Shopping. Santa. And Disney! When I worked on Michigan Avenue, this was a stressful day to be at work. But, now, I love it! lol


Holiday Magic –  One of our favorite Brookfield Zoo activities is seeing the decorations and lights throughout the zoo. The lights are beautiful and there are special holiday activities throughout the zoo.


Look at Christmas decorations – We pretty much do this one all season long. I love wandering through downtown Chicago and looking at decorations, store windows, Christmas trees. There is just so much to see! Plus, after attending Mass on Christmas Eve, we drive around our town and look at decorations. This is a tradition that began when I was a kid and now my own girls look forward to going for a drive after Mass to see the lights.


Go to Christkindlmarket – Each year, we’ve gone to the downtown Chicago location. This year, my goal is to check out the Naperville location and maybe even hit up the Milwaukee location!

Visit with Santa – Well, we’ve sort of done this. We’ve seen Santa a couple times now but haven’t had the “sit down and tell me what you want for Christmas” conversation with him yet. We did, however, write down lists and mail them off so I think that we have this task completed.

Drink egg nog – Oh, how I love egg nog. And I love to drink egg nog out of my Santa mug or one of my many holiday glasses. This will be happening. Probably several times.

Sit by the fireplace – One of my favorite things in our house is the fireplace. We weren’t able to use it during our first winter in the house because the chimney needed to have some, um, safety problems fixed first. Now, however, it’s fixed, works well, and is just so nice to sit near.

Now, I want to know….what’s on your list of must-do holiday activities?


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.


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.




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!).


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.


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:

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:

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:

An Evening at the Children’s Museum

The girls love going to the Chicago Children’s Museum. There is a lot to do and it is designed perfectly for young children. I love going on Thursday evenings. Did you know that the Chicago Children’s Museum has free admission from 5:00pm-8:00pm every Thursday? Year round? It’s a great deal! But, be sure to get there as close to 5:00 as you can because this gets busy. Really busy. If you arrive too late, you might not be able to get in.

I recommend doing two things first before exploring the entire museum.

1) Get a ticket for the art studio. There are a set number of spaces open for a 5:30 and then a 6:30 studio time. During the studio time, an employee will lead you through different art projects. We’ve done sculptures, pillow characters, and water color painting during these sessions. The Art Studio space has moved from into a new space. It’s huge! In the new space, there are opportunities to do more than one activity. The last time we went, we did water color painting, and then the girls did a group activity, and explored with blocks. It’s a great experience. However, you have to have a ticket to get in. If you don’t get a ticket for the sessions, you can wait by the door when the session begins. Sometimes people don’t show and then there might be a wait list.


2) Early on in the evening, check out the changing exhibit. Right now, this is a Boats exhibit. The exhibit in this space changes every few months and since it changes, it gets packed. The Boats exhibit gets especially busy because there are large, well, boats and they take up a lot of space in the room.  When it gets very busy, it feels a bit claustrophobic because there just isn’t a lot of space for everyone.


After you’ve done those two activities, you can take your time to explore the rest of the museum. There is a lot to do! Since this is a museum for kids, please don’t feel that you have to do everything. There is a section devoted to fire safety and firefighters. It’s always a very popular section. There is a sign on a bench in this section that really applies to the museum experience as a whole.


It’s ok if you don’t see the entire museum. If your child is perfectly happy in one section, they are learning as they play. Have a seat (or join in as they play) and enjoy watching as they learn through experience.

Keep in mind, there is no restaurant in the Children’s Museum. There are, however, spots for you to eat if you have brought your own snacks to enjoy. You can also check out any of the many restaurants on Navy Pier when get hungry. I recommend eating an early dinner before you arrive or having a few snacks during and then eating a late dinner (this is usually what we do).

Have you been to the Chicago Children’s Museum? What are your favorite activities to do at the museum?


Our list thus far: