Final Forty MNO Chicago

And just like that the last of our foursome turned 40 in November. So we celebrated with a overnight trip downtown Chicago. One night, 4 friends and lots of food and drinks…

on the walk to dinner

We checked into our hotel with it’s beautiful city view and then walked over to The Purple Pig for dinner.

There was a wait there so we headed across the street for a drink at Dylan’s Candy Bar while we waited.

 

Birthday Cake Shots!!

Dylan’s Drink Menu:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We tried the Chocoholic, the Pop Rocks Explosion and the Cotton Candy Clouds.  All super fun and yummy!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feeling good after drinks and some candy shop shopping

Back to The Purple Pig…

 

After trying a TON of stuff at the Purple pig we weren’t quite ready to call it a night so we stopped for some wine…

I did the Candyland flight!

After a lot of giggling, and finally cracking open that ’40’ pinata, which was filled with little bottles and liquor candy we called it a night.  The next morning we were back out wandering the city, shopping and EATING of course.

Although we had to wait OUTSIDE in line for a bit, I would highly recommend checking out the Nutella place.

Seriously soooo yummy!!!

Door County WI Trip

I’m not sure how it’s possible that my older boys have been going to Door County for YEARS each summer but in 40 years, I’ve never been.  It seems like everyone in our area has vacationed to Door County at some point in their lives, with many friends sharing their favorite spots or memories when hearing I was FINALLY going to go.

My first trip would be a quick one, just one night, staying in Ephraim.  But we made the most of it and I can NOT wait to go back. We drove up from Milwaukee Saturday morning. We’d technically missed the PEAK fall colors but it was still a really pretty drive. Saturday was a little rainy and windy and cold. But we made a couple stops at shops and orchards and sampled wines and cheeses. And had lunch as Husby’s in Sister Bay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then we checked into Somerset Inn & Suites and packed up and bundled up to do the one thing I REALLY wanted to do while there. See the sunset over the bay.  It was COLD and windy but still totally perfect.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We spent the rest of the evening by the fire in our room enjoying wine and cheese etc.

Sunday morning it was beautiful. Much less windy and sunny! We stopped for breakfast at the Old Post Office Restaurant and one more visit to the water before heading home.

And of course one last stop on the way home for some custard!!!

Autumn Drive

Fall, or autumn, is my absolute favorite season. So when friends suggested we pack up our families and do this Autumn Drive event, it sounded like a great idea.  The weather ended up being absolutely gorgeous so all the places were PACKED but we managed to check out a few cool antique shops, a lot of craft vendors and enjoy some good food and finished up the afternoon at the pumpkin farm with apple cider donuts and fresh cider.

Pumpkin farm fun with friends…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yummy chocolates…

 

 

Forty is Fabulous

In July I turned 40.  Admittedly, I am not exactly where I would have liked to be in life at 40. But I did my best to celebrate the milestone and all the good I DO have in my life.

 

Started with my birthday Starbucks and the most amazing donuts in the world (which I’ve only ever found in Kenosha, WI).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then ended the night with dinner at Tsukasa where the boys enjoyed a Hibachi meal for the first time.

And then took home a little Cheesecake Factory for dessert.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In continued celebration of all of our 40th’s we did our own Pinterest inspired Cake Smash photo shoot…

Mom’s Night Out: Escape Chamber

You know how to tell that you have the world’s best friends? When you comment on wanting to try the latest thing you heard about….escape rooms and 20 minutes later they’ve found a Groupon and you’ve got a time slot booked!

Because we weren’t really familiar with the apparently wide spread phenomenon we didn’t realize there were so many, including one much closer but the groupon was for Escape Chambers in Milwaukee so we made an evening out of it and stopped for dinner before our time.  We planned to hit Rock Bottom Brewery but when we got there the wait was way too long. So we wandered across the street to Mo’s Irish Pub where we were seated right away and had the most amazing food. Oh and of course a cocktail…

Seriously the best grilled cheese and delicious tomato soup that was almost too cute too eat…almost!

We may have eaten a bit too much and were ready for naps after dinner, but we walked it off a bit by walking to the mall where Escape Chambers is located.  Once there we met the rest of our group (if you don’t meet the minimum group size for a specific room you’ll be combined with another party for your time) and learned the details of the room we selected.  Most escape room places have multiple different themed rooms to choice from Escape Chambers Milwaukee has four.  I won’t ruin any of the details for you but we chose the Stalk Photo room. Here’s the preview from their site:

So we had an hour to find the clues etc to escape…and we made it to the very last obstacle/lock but didn’t make it out before the time ran out.

“Almost” Escaped

It was fun but if I did it again I’d definitely make sure to go with enough people to make up the full group as we found the rest of our group fairly pushy and honestly didn’t listen to us or even let us see some of the elements (we never even made it into the last room to see the last lock, maybe we could have figured it out).

Although we didn’t QUITE escape, we figured we still deserved a treat and we’d seen Mo’s had a yummy looking cookie for dessert so we stopped back in for dessert before hitting the road.

And then as it usually is with this crew, a stop at Starbucks was a must…

 

 

 

 

Enjoy #McCafeAtHome This Holiday Season #IC #AD

I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for McCafé packaged coffee. I received product samples as well as a monetary promotional incentive to thank me for my participation.

 

20151213_135929

I LOVE the Christmas season.  I love the sights and sounds and the time spent with friends and family.  I love ALMOST everything about it.  There are actually TWO things that cause me stress this time of year. One is the cold white fluffy stuff that falls from the sky.  I know, it’s beautiful and I don’t mind it if I don’t have to get out and drive in it…or shovel it.  Thankfully it’s only snowed once so far this season.  It was a big heavy snow that actually wrecked some havoc but it WAS gorgeous….

12347753_10156242565875510_7723369427249872506_n

The second thing that stresses me out over the holidays is simply a lack of time.  With so many things I want to do and so many people we want to see there simply aren’t enough hours in the day.  For this reason, I spend this season more fueled by caffeine then any other.  My kids have learned that most of the time when we’re out running around and our car makes that turn in to McDonald’s, more often than not it’s for a little delicious pick me up.  This is why I was super excited when I hear that I can now brew delicious McCafé packaged coffee at home in both ground and K-Cup® pods forms.

20151213_140149You can now find McCafé packaged coffee in seven varieties including different roasts and blends, such as Premium Roast, French Roast, Breakfast Blend and Colombian, and different flavors, such as French Vanilla and Hazelnut where ever you buy groceries.  But don’t worry, your favorite McCafé beverages are will still be available in local McDonald’s this is just another way to enjoy them.

So far my favorite variety is also the first I tried, the McCafé Hazelnut K-CUPS.  I am in love with the fact that I can enjoy the flavor of McCafé with the simplicity of the K-CUPS, especially in this hectic season.  And while I typically grab my coffee on the go to be able to keep moving.  I made a point to take a breather, and enjoy one cup while curled up next to our Christmas tree, focusing on the joys of this season and why any lack of sleep is completely worth it for the memories we make with those we love this time of year!

IMG_20151213_191034

For more info about all the varieties and flavors of McCafé packaged coffee visit www.mcdonalds.com/mccafeathome or on Twitter: @McCafe

 

 

Sponsored Video: Family (Kitchen) Portraits

This post has been sponsored by GE Appliances, but all thoughts are our own.

If home is where the heart is, the heart of the home is where the stomach is.  While I’m not the best cook, I do completely appreciate the way a family revolves around the kitchen.  Food can make us feel connected, feel loved and just FEEL like home.  I’ve lost three amazing woman in my life, my mom and both of my grandmas.  My father’s mom was the quintessential grandmother, always baking something and not happy until you were thoroughly fed.  She made many delicious things while donning her colorful aprons but the one that most makes me feel like I’m right back in her kitchen is her homemade cinnamon rolls.  They are pretty much happiness baked in a pan.  My mom and her mother, they weren’t quite so domestic.  But they each had a few meals they made that could bring a smile to my face even on the worst day.  My mom made the best meatloaf and the best split pea soup! And her mom made my favorite chicken and dumplings ever!  I’m not sure what things my boys will take with them as feeling like home, but I do hope that they will remember the moments around the table snacking on flutternutters and giggling at their silly stories as much as I do.

GE Appliances GETS that the kitchen is really the core of your home and they want to make it easier for YOU integrate food into your own special family story.   One of the families GE Appliances features in their videos,  Richards family is a great example of richards-familydoing just that.  Parents Ken and Doris adopted five children, three from Vietnam and two from Africa.  I don’t know the Richards personally.  But I know a family much like them.  The family we know also has 5 kids.  All five are adopted. Though their story is slightly different as they were adopted from here in the US, through the foster care system, I’ve still had the chance to see first hand how their family is exactly like any other family whether brought together by birth, marriage or adoption.  It is very clear that what makes family is love.  Whether you are creating a link to a culture through food like the Richards or spending time baking cookies, GE Appliaces wants to help you create those moments.  Check out GE Appliances on Facebook, Twitter, YoutubePinterest and Instagram for lots of great inspiration on how to bring YOUR family together for meals.

Single Skillet Dinner with #HillshireSausage #spon

#spon: I’m required to disclose a relationship between our site and Hillshire. This could include Hillshire providing us w/content, product, access or other forms of payment.

Growing up Hillshire Farms smoked sausage was a regular menu item.  My mom wasn’t the best cook and many of her meat options hit the table nearly impossible to chew but the smoked sausage was simply and delicious and came out perfect every time!  She typically just cooked it whole and served it along with some veggies and pasta.  So when I had a family of my own and quickly learned that I had inherited her poor cooking skills, I also began making Hillshire Farms smoked sausage pretty regularly.  I got a little ‘fancier’ than she did as I typically slice it and brown it that way.  But probably more out of convenience since I was having to cut it up for 3 kids once it was cooked anyway but I also like it done this way.

20150328_160640

But I have been attempting to branch out and try to be braver with our recipes, so when I was asked to showcase a way our family enjoys smoked sausage I wanted to try something new but that wasn’t so different that the kids wouldn’t be open to it.  So I decided to try this mac n cheese recipe.  First of all it sounded delicious.  Secondly, it was a very simple recipe made in ONE pot.  Those are my favorite kinds of recipes.

So the recipe calls for turkey kielbasa (which Hillshire Farms also makes) but I didn’t see why it couldn’t be make with smoked sausage.  It really was simple.

20150328_161213First I browned the sausage in a large skillet, and set aside the meat.   In the same skillet you boil water, evaporated milk and dry pasta.  In a small bowl you make a mixture of cornstarch and evaporated milk to add to the skillet. Remove from heat and melt in cheese. And finally stir in your smoked sausage.

20150328_165945

 

For the full recipe including times and measurements visit Table for Seven here.  This was a huge hit and we will definitely be making it again soon as well as checking out lots of other great quick and easy smoked sausage recipes.   I am not sure there is anything else out there that is quite as flavorful while being so simple.  Even when I consider the other meat options that we make, the simplest thing we usually do is using the grill.  But even then those things usually end up getting spiced up with something.  Hillshire Farms smoked sausage is one of the very few things that hits our table ready to eat just how we like it.  And that’s because Hillshire Farm smoked sausage is crafted to be better. Their experts have perfected the pre-seasoning of our smoked sausage over the last 75 years.

20150328_165935

 What’s YOUR families favorite way to prepare Hillshire Farm smoked sausage?

 

 


 

Our #HillshireNaturals Taste Test #spon

#spon: I’m required to disclose a relationship between our site and Hillshire. This could include Hillshire providing us w/content, product, access or other forms of payment.

This weekend my boys and I made lunch with the new Hillshire Farms Naturals Lunchmeats.

IMG_20150331_083912Because of our busy schedules we tend to eat sandwiches pretty regularly.  Sometimes as lunch, sometimes as a snack after school on nights we will have a late dinner and on occasion when it’s just been a long day and I declare it DIY night and the boys make their own dinner. While I can usually convince myself that a sandwich is better than say a bowl of sugary cereal, I do often worry about the junk I know is in many of the lunchmeats I purchase.  But  Hillshire Farm Naturals™ lunchmeats are crafted to be both 100% natural and 100% delicious.  This helps me feel a lot better about feeding my kids sandwiches so often.

More on Hillshire Farm Naturals™ lunchmeats:

  • Naturally smoked with a blend of hardwoods for incredible flavor (Black Forest Ham)
  • Slow roasted in their own juices
  • Always select cuts of meat
  • Natural goodness
  • No artificial ingredients or preservatives
  • No added nitrates or nitrites

And you can try it for yourself with confidence because Hillshire Farm will provide a 100% refund for every package of meat that a consumer is not satisfied with.

Now I’ll be honest.  On a typical day, a sandwich is some bread (usually a whole wheat) and lunch meat and cheese. Of course, everyone has a different condiment preference. One wants NO condiments.  He apparently HATES mayo so don’t even try to sneak it past him.  One wants only mayo. And one insists on mayo AND mustard.

But since we were dealing with some special lunchmeat, we wanted to treat it right.

IMG_20150331_084138

 

We started with some fluffy Italian bread (yeah I know it looks like plain ole white but it cost twice as much so just play along), some fresh lettuce and tomato.  Then of course after a quick taste testing of the four varieties of Hillshire Farm Naturals™ lunchmeats we found at our local store, we couldn’t decide on just ONE for the sandwich so it includes a little of ALL FOUR.  And it was as delicious as it was pretty!!

Everyone ate some variation of this creation and enjoyed the lunchmeat.  But honestly, my favorite thing was eating the honey roasted ham all by its self.  My son pointed out that it tasted just like Easter ham and in our house I don’t think there’s a higher praise than that.

Find Hillshire Farm Naturals™ lunchmeats near you and try it for yourself!

 

 

Sponsored Video: Home Again

This post has been sponsored by Knorr, but opinions expressed are my own.

 

knorr flavour of home

Knorr’s believes in bringing flavour to people’s lives. The brand’s new film, ‘Flavour of Home’, captures this sentiment while celebrating the greatest flavour on earth, the taste of home.

Nothing in life feels as good as a mother’s hug.  No matter how old we get, we always have moments when what we long for more than anything is to be able to feel the warmth and love from our mom.  Unfortunately for far too many of us that isn’t always possible.  Whether separate by thousands of miles or, in my case, by death we can’t always experience the literal embrace of our loved ones.  But if you’ve ever doubted that you can FEEL the love without being face to face watch this video.

 

 

Nothing feels better than being ‘home’ and I don’t think there’s anything that can make you feel more at home than mom’s cooking.  My mom was NOT a great cook.  There were plenty of recipes I prayed she’d never try again.  But there were certain things, like her split pea soup and her home made spaghetti sauce that I am certain I will never be able to beat.  Yet in the moments when I need to ‘feel’ her with me I will make my best effort to create the flavours we shared together.  It must be hereditary because I, too, am not a great cook.  But I hope that there are a few things that my boys will take with them, that will remind them of me and that will give them the ability to feel my love even when I am not able to be right at their side.