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?

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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:

 

 

 

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.)

 

 

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:

 

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.

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And we recently saw the new Hotel Transylvania.

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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:

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.)

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

 

Our summer list thus far: