Make Your Own Spring

Spring has arrived! But, we live in the Midwest which means that spring won’t really feel like it’s here for several more weeks. It’s not uncommon for Illinois to get snow in April. This week we may have 70 degree temperatures….and then the forecast has mentioned a chance of snow for the weekend. It’s hard to keep waiting when you are really really ready for sunshine, warmer temperatures, and gardens. I have some suggestions of things that you can do to make your own spring when spring seems so very far away…..

Check out an Indoor Garden!

The spring show at Garfield Park Conservatory is always a great way to gear up for spring sights and smells. This year’s theme “Understory”, has the visitor viewing the plants and flowers that grow beneath the forest canopy. The entire Conservatory has long been a favorite place for our family to escape the cold, rain and/or snow (all of which we might have on the same day in Illinois spring). You can check out the spring show until it closes May 12th.

Start Planning Your Garden!

So many different home improvement stores are full of flowers and plants right now. Lily and I went to Home Depot over the weekend and checked out the many annuals that they have in stock right now. They also had a few perennials. I already have some ideas for my container gardens.

Get outside as often as you can!

When those really nice days arrive, take full advantage of them! Get outside. Go to a playground. The weather can change very quickly so it’s important to take advantage of the sunshine while it’s here. I feel the same way during the summer months. If it’s nice out, we should get outside (for at least some of the day). Save the movie marathons for the rainy days!

Eat Warm Weather Foods!

Sure, I’ll eat ice cream year round. But once the snow has melted, it just seems to taste better. Do you agree? Being able to eat an ice cream cone without my fingers freezing…yea…the ice cream just tastes better. And once the temperatures start to inch above freezing and stay there, that’s when I want one of my favorite warmer weather meals – a Superdawg with everything, onion chips, and a strawberry soda. Yummmmm! Just thinking about it makes me feel a little bit warmer. 🙂

IMG_3763

Check out a professional garden!

The Chicago Botanic Garden has a useful chart here that lets you know what will be in bloom and when. Yes, this one is really more for days when it’s a little warmer….and hopefully not snowing. But, this lets you plan for what dates you want  to try to check out their gardens. (Especially if you know you really want to see the tulips in bloom!)

If you were lucky enough to check out the orchid show (which sadly has closed already) you were treated to some absolutely beautiful flowers and arrangements. I loved it! It was like a mini tropical vacation! I mean, just look at these flowers! Beautiful!

Advertisements

48 Hours in Minnesota – What we did….

We recently were in the Minneapolis area for a wedding. We arrived late in the afternoon on a  Friday, the wedding was going to be late Saturday afternoon/early evening, and we were driving back home on Sunday. We needed a plan to fill in that open time. Here’s what we did….

The first thing that I like to do when we arrive at a hotel is just get situated. Figure out where the suitcases will go on the room. Get the sleeping arrangements figured out. Find out where the pool is. (Yea….we realized too late that this hotel did not have an indoor pool – just an outdoor one. So, even though we brought out swimming stuff, there was not going to be any swimming done, in Minneapolis, in March.)

Find a local spot to get dinner.

A quick yelp search gave us several options and the hotel had some recommendations, too. A quick search can usually give you several options of places to catch a quick dinner. And if not, always ask the hotel staff. Where do they recommend? Where are their favorite spots?

We were staying in the downtown area and much of it is very walkable. I definitely recommend hitting up somewhere local for dinner!

7bi+EXyZQ7a12Cb5alAcCg

Find a way to work off some excess energy!

Our original plan had been to let the girls spend several hours in the pool Saturday morning. Well, that didn’t happen. Once again, yelp gave us some great ideas of things to do with kids. (Remember, it was March in Minnesota – so spending several hours outside wasn’t really going to happen.)

Our solution? A quick drive to the Minnesota Children’s Museum. If you’ve been following the blog for awhile you know that we are big fans of hanging out in children’s museums and this one is a lot of fun! There’s currently a Wild Kratts exhibit so that made it even more fun. (And a great way to get rid of some of the excess energy!)

The wedding was Saturday evening. Sunday morning, we went to a brunch with several guests from the wedding. Before we got back in the car to begin the drive back home, I thought that it would be a good idea to do something to get some fresh air. (Keep in mind, the temperatures were still chilly but definitely above freezing.)

Get some fresh air!

We went on a walk through the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. I can definitely imagine that this spot would be absolutely beautiful in the spring, summer, and fall. It’s beautiful in the winter, too…but it’s a different kind of beautiful. A cold beautiful. lol.

 

We definitely need to get back to Minneapolis for a longer trip….and a longer trip when there isn’t snow on the ground! And in a hotel that has an indoor pool.

Where are your favorite spots for a Minnesota weekend?

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

IMG_5518

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.”

IMG_5515

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.

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.

IMG_2576

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.

IMG_2540

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.

21768740_10213426884287406_4580438134587024463_o

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!

13592785_10209070350856793_6709866130179773871_n

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.

IMG_2614

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.

IMG_2581

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!

IMG_2839

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!

IMG_2551


 

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:

 

 

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:

Welcome Spring!

Yesterday,  I was able to do some work outdoors when I got home from work. First off? Sweeping the piles of leaves and sticks that have accumulated on the deck and the driveway. Second step? Time to get out the outdoor furniture!

IMG_8755

We have plastic adirondack chairs, a small table and chairs set for the girls, and the outdoor rug. As soon as they come out, it feels like it’s really spring! Pretty soon, it’ll be eating outside weather!

IMG_8780

Big girl looked out the window and squealed “You put out the summer stuff!” It’s amazing what a huge difference bringing out the “summer stuff” makes.

Happy spring!

Changing Up the Routine

It’s snowing. It’s actually snowing again. I, along with many in the Midwest, am just so done with winter. Come on spring! Let’s get going!

However, in the meantime, it’s time to get back into the workout routine. I took some time off after the the RunDisney Princess Half-Marathon weekend………

IMG_6913

19.3 miles in two days…..well, that’s the most that I have ever done in that amount of time. So, taking a rest was definitely ok with me.

My left foot was very sore in the days/weeks following the race weekend, so I’ve been taking it easy to let the (self-diagnosed) plantar fasciitis heal properly. No running. Lots of stretching. And lots of massaging with golf balls – rolling my foot over a golf ball really worked well to give a deep massage on the arch and heel of the foot!  – I am not a doctor and in most situations have no idea what I’m doing…..so please do not take that as medical advice. It’s just something that worked for me.

Since I am not currently training for something in particular, I am going to be changing up my workouts a bit more. Yes, I’ll hit the treadmill during the week and run outside on the weekends (as long as it’s not snowing……..) but I’m also planning on adding in some classes. I’ve never actually taken a workout class. So, it’s a bit nerve wracking to even think about. But, Yorktown Mall in Lombard (hey suburbanites!) has a really great deal right now where you can try out two classes at each of their fitness studios for free! You can find info about the program here.

So, who wants to look ridiculous with me in a class? Come join me!