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…

 

 

Make Memories This Summer at Medieval Times #sponsored

This post sponsored by Medieval Times but all opinions are my own.

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If you’ve always wanted to take the family to Medieval Times to enjoy the exciting tournament while feasting like a king now is the time with this great LIMITED Time Four Pack Offer for JUST $128!

Four Pack includes:

  • Four Admission Tickets
  • Four Course Feast Fit for a King.. or Queen!
  • Two rounds of Select Beverages
  • Two Hour Action Packed Show
  • And Parking is ALWAYS FREE!

 

If you visit before the end of the month your kids can train with the knights.  My boys did this about 4 years ago and enjoyed it!

Read all about our first family visit to Medieval Times Chicago here!

Aquatic Experience – Chicago Ticket Giveaway

Second annual Aquatic Experience – Chicago makes a splash with additional 130+ tanks of tropical fish, return of Live Shark Encounter and Kids Aquarium Contest
November 7-9, 2014

Everything under one roof also includes:
Fish from Around the World display
Children’s Touch Tank
Two inaugural aquatic competitions
Educational seminars
…and more!

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The World Pet Association’s (WPA) second annual Aquatic Experience – Chicago makes a splash Nov. 7-9, 2014, with the addition of over 130 aquariums of tropical fish and return of the popular Live Shark Encounter and Kids Aquarium Contest. Show attendees will find “everything aquatic under one roof” at the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center, from saltwater and freshwater fish to pond and aquatic plants—including a Fish from Around the World display with Children’s Touch Tank, two inaugural aquatic competitions, educational seminars and a thriving show floor of exhibitors showcasing the latest in aquatic trends and products.

Daily family passes ($25), individual tickets ($10), weekend passes ($99) and Saturday dinner and keynote tickets ($60) are now on sale for Aquatic Experience – Chicago. Registration for the Kids Aquarium Contest for children ages 5-16 is $5 and includes a 10-gallon aquarium kit complete with filter, lighting, heater and thermometer, plus a wristband for free admission to the show floor with a paying adult. For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit www.aquaticexperience.org.

The new display of over 130 aquariums of tropical fish, presented by the Florida Tropical Fish Farmers Association, will include a wide variety of tropical fresh and salt water fish farmed in the US and provide inspiration for retailers, advanced hobbyists and fledgling aquarists all three days of the show. Haai Inc’s Live Shark Encounter, the only travelling shark show in the country, returns this year to give attendees the chance to see sharks up close as a diver swims and interacts with these awe-inspiring animals, providing entertaining and educational information.

Aquatic Experience’s educational seminars on hobbyist and retail topics will feature keynote speaker and Newport Aquarium Zoological Operations Manager Jeff Gibula, in partnership with Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium, taking a behind-the-scenes lighthearted look at public aquariums and their relationship to today’s hobbyists and their home aquariums. This year’s show also hosts two inaugural aquatic competitions: the Aquascaping Live! Contest presented by the Aquatic Gardeners Association, and the Aquatic Experience Fancy Guppy Competition presented by the International Fancy Guppy Association.

Additional aquatic experts presenting at educational seminars this year are Anton Lamboj, Bob Fenner, Brandon McLane, Charles Delbeek, Chris Lukhaup, Eric Bodrock, Francis Yupangco, Heiko Bleher, Jake Adams, Jen Reynolds, Joe Olenik, Jonathan Dooley, Julian Sprung, Karen Randall, Kevin Kohen, Oliver Knott, Oliver Lucanus, Patrick Dontson, Rusty Wessel, Sandy Moore, Sanjay Joshi, Steve Lundblad and Ted Judy. Topics include: aquarium and water garden plants; fish breeding; changes in the aquatic world; specialty stores in niche markets; hiring and training strategies; designing a successful fish room; and aquatic explorations of Thailand and Lake Tanganyika.

The World Pet Association (WPA) is the oldest industry organization promoting responsible growth and development of the companion pet and related products and services. WPA works to inform and educate the general public in order to ensure safe and healthy lifestyles for our animal friends. WPA is the host of America’s Family Pet Expo, the world’s largest consumer pet and pet products expo, held annually in Costa Mesa, California. The organization also produces SuperZoo, an annual pet industry trade show that showcases a comprehensive collection of exhibits and offers a variety of informative educational seminars, and Atlanta Pet Fair, the Southeast’s largest competition and trade show for the professional pet stylist. For more information, please visit www.worldpetassociation.org.

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Guest Post: Thinking British — An Educational Day Out in the UK

Palace_of_Westminster,_London_-_Feb_2007The UK is known for its wealth of historical attractions and glorious countryside and here are plenty  of fabulous things to see on a day trip. Educational attractions such as the Houses of Parliament can provide an insight into how the nation runs its affairs and make for an unusual day out. The tour would involve lots of walking, so youngsters might not appreciate it as much.

One of the great ways to learn about the country while you enjoy the sights is to use discount vouchers. A single voucher can get you into a wide variety of places. Try a Portsmouth Historic Dockyard voucher for real value. Possess one of these and you’ll have access to the Royal Marines Museum, The HMS Alliance, as well as Explosion, the Royal Navy Submarine Museum, The Museum of Naval Firepower, the new Mary Rose Museum, the HMS Warrior 1860, the HMS Victory and much more. They have the Action Stations, the National Museum Royal Navy Portsmouth, Harbor Tours, a Hear My Story Gallery and a Racing to War Exhibition. All of these offer a tremendous amount to teach people, young and old, and new features and exhibitions are added every year.

The Shakespeare’s Globe Exhibition and Tour is a place where visitors may experience the plays of the world’s most famous scribes within a recreation of Shakespeare’s original Globe Theatre. Students are often asked to write about the Bard’s plays. If you’re lucky you may be able to catch the one that your child is studying.

Perhaps if “Hamlet,” “Romeo and Juliet” and other such plays don’t grab your kids’ attention, you might want to treat them to something a little more “pop” culture. Enter Madame Tussauds, with its wax statues of people from Marvel superheroes to famous historic figures. This attraction, which combines fun with education, has been drawing people for over 200 years and can keep even the most restless kid happy.

If history and learning is getting too much, then try the Pooh Corner in Hartfield. It has the largest collection of paraphernalia in the world for A.A Milne’s famous creation and is free to enter, though it’s best to call ahead to be sure they are open. In Chalfont St Giles you’ll find the Chiltern Open Air Museum which displays restored and rescued and restored buildings. Or, you can try Chester zoo, which allows you to buy tickets online and beat the queues when you arrive. They have the most active reptiles in the country and often have educational school trips that explain how they save endangered species.

The UK is renowned throughout the world for some of its institutions and landmarks. It’s a country that offers visitors a fun day out, and the flight across the seas is certainly one that you won’t regret.

Another Fabulous Season at The Bristol Renaissance Faire

All thoughts shared are our honest personal opinions

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If you haven’t been to the Bristol Renaissance Faire you simply don’t know what your missing.  In fact, even if you HAVE been before, you probably STILL don’t know what you are missing.  You see, a single trip isn’t enough time to begin to fully explore the sights, sounds and shows of the Ren Faire.

This is our THIRD trip to the Bristol Renaissance Faire and while the boys were slightly disappointed not to get to see a single joust, I was on a mission to see entirely new and different things this time.  At the suggestion of a friend I knew that we needed to check out the “Fire Whip Show.”  And I’m super glad we did because it was very exciting.  I’m pretty sure if it hadn’t been so humid, leading to some decent perspiration…I might have even peed myself at one point.

adam crack fire whip show Bristol Renaissance Faire - CopyYeah, look that’s a flaming whip! Ok, so maybe that isn’t shocking, given then name of the show and all but what he did with a hot, flaming whip may have terrified me just a bit.  But I won’t ruin the surprise for you.  Just take my word and hit the Privies (that’s the bathroom for you contemporaries) before the show.

The other two shows we caught were merely by chance as one of the Swordsmen asked the boys if they liked sword fighting just as we were walking by and let them know their show would start in a just a few minutes.  With enough swinging action for the boys and adult humor for the grown ups, it is another recommended watch as far as I’m concerned.

swordsmen show Bristol Renaissance Faire

And then Barely Balance took place on the same stage immediately following so we stayed for that as well.  And I’m glad we did.  They were super funny and incredibly talented.  These photos simply don’t do it justice, but I highly recommend taking the time to see them!

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One area I didn’t do a good job branching out and looking for something new was the food.  We all craved our previous favorites: ice cream, onion stryngs and pickles.  But I didn’t snap a pic but we did get to sample the cheese fritters thanks to some friends we bumped into that just couldn’t finish them and they were super delicious!

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Whether it’s your first or your fifth trip to the Bristol Renaissance Faire, I’m pretty sure you’ll love it.  If you’re new to the faire, the shows are spread out throughout the faire and when you enter you’ll get a map with a schedule on the back.  If you’re interested in a specific show, you’ll want to check out the schedule when you arrive as most shows run 2 or 3 times a day so happening to be in the right place at the right time may be unlikely.  But if you aren’t sure what you want to do it’s a pretty good bet, something fun will find you!!  Be sure to take your time as you wander to notice all the small details that really make this an amazing experience.

Check out our first trip to Bristol Renaissance Faire here, and last year’s trip here.

The Bristol Renaissance Faire is located just west of I-94’s Russell Road exit, near Kenosha, Wis. Open rain or shine, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., every Saturday and Sunday, July 5 through Sep. 1, and on Labor Day Monday, Sep. 2, tickets are $23.95 for adults and $11.50 for children, ages 5 to 12. Advance ticket discounts are available at renfair.com or by calling (847) 395-7773.

Have you been to the Ren Faire?

 

 

Kick Off Chicago Preseason Football with Essex Inn

Essex Inn sponsored this post and provided game tickets and hotel stay, however, the opinions I share in this post are my own.

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Check out this amazing preseason football game package from Essex Inn.  In addition to watching the BEST¹ team in the NFL without the threat of frostbite this Essex Inn package includes everything you’ll need for a unforgettable game day experience.  This is the perfect package for any fan with a reception with former Bears wide receiver, Marcus Robinson and fan pack with game day goodies. Being only minutes away from the stadium means you’ll be back at the beautiful Essex Inn in no time where you’ll be able to enjoy all the fabulous amenities (including rooftop pool, fitness center and free wi-fi)  it has to offer.

Add a second night for more time to explore Chicago.  Visit EssexInn.com for tons of fabulous area attractions!  While you’re there, be sure to check out the variety of other fabulous packages available from Essex Inn.

Join  special guest Marcus Robinson* (former Bears wide receiver) at Chicago’s Essex Inn for finger food and football talk at our exclusive Pre-Season Reception before each game.
Don’t miss out! Availability is very limited so sack this deal and secure your spot for these special events.

Starting from just $219** per person, the package includes:

  • Entrance to the special Pre-Season Reception prior to the game
  • Fan pack filled with game day goodies
  • Two tickets to a pre-season Chicago home game
  • One night’s accommodations for two people, including tax
  • Hotel valet parking for one car during your stay
  • Free pool, fitness center, sauna and Wi-Fi
  • Free shuttle to The Magnificent Mile and Museum Campus, please check at reception for schedule

To book, call 312-542-5119 and ask for the Pre-Season Pre-Game Event Package.

Hurry, book your package now before they are all sold out! Our reservations team is available Monday – Friday 8am to 4pm CST at 312-542-5119.

*Special guest appearance is not guaranteed and may be cancelled or substituted without notice.
**This package is designed for two people sharing a room. One night stay required, pre-paid at the time of booking and is non-refundable. Talk to our package specialists about taking your whole family.

The Pre-Season games are August 8 and August 14.

Don’t forget to ask about adding a second night!

 

¹Claims not endorsed by Essex Inn and are the sole responsibility and opinion of the writer!

Kenosha Kingfish, Ozzie Guillén and Family History

 

This past weekend we finally got the chance to get up to see a Kenosha Kingfish baseball game.  Because of our love of the sport, we’ve been known to take in a game of just about every level at a wide variety of locations and stadiums.  But there is some definite personal family history at the newly renovated/updated Simmons Field in Kenosha, WI.  You see, my father played baseball at Simmons Field for the Kenosha Pirates, a semi-pro team sharing the fields with legendary players like Satchel Paige.  Simmons Field started as a family tradition with my dad’s Grandpa taking him to games when he was young and comes full circle with him taking his grandson’s there….

And what a great time we had making a ton of fabulous memories.  The Kenosha Kingfish have done an amazing job with not only the stadium but the entire experience.

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This particular night the Kingfish honored the Kenosha Comets.  If you’ve watched a League of Their Own you’ll recognize some of these uniforms (and if you haven’t, you should, right now!!!)…

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AND Ozzie Guillén was at the field signing autographs.  This made my lil sports collector super happy. (Yes we’re Cubs fans FIRST and FOREMOST but have love for all of our Chicago teams).

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Timmy just happened to be wearing Bryan’s Sox hat from T-Ball because he was tired of wearing it after a double header, and Ozzie insisted on signing it for him in addition to the photo!

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It was a great, beautiful day for a ball game with my boys.  And the fact that the Kingfish won was just icing on the cake.

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And the fireworks…were the cherry on top!

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Country’s Best Renaissance Faire Set to Open July 5

Our family will once again be hosted by the Faire in exchange for our coverage of the event.

All thoughts shared are our honest personal opinions.

ren faire 2014Bring the family to the Bristol Renaissance Faire for a day filled with food, fools and fun.  Check out the great time we had on our first ever vist to the Faire.

 Voted “Country’s Best Renaissance Faire” for the third consecutive year in 2013, the Bristol Renaissance Faire will open Saturday, July 5, for nine weekends through Labor Day Monday. This summer’s 27th annual Bristol Renaissance Faire promises the same perennially popular compliment of 16th Century merriment, music, food and games that have repeatedly earned top national honors from subscribers of Renaissance Magazine and the Renaissance Festival Podcast, along with some new twists, like a super-charged joust that producers are touting as the most exciting in the country.

An explosive spectacle of thundering horses, bone-crushing hits and surprise theatrical finales, this summer’s joust will raise the bar on Faire-goers’ favorite spectator sport. Knights will boldly fight to be the day’s champion through a series of equestrian endeavors and alternating tests of skill, then determinedly compete to best one another in fully armored jousts of adrenalin-pumping intensity. The lances will be solid, the hits real, the tempers genuine, the dynamics ever-changing, and the outcomes edge-of-your-seat unpredictable.

Also among the unprecedented, Bristol’s interactive, multi-player fantasy game, RenQuest, will unveil a brand new DaVinci-inspired story line. Producers are also premiering Queen’s College, an immersive environment in which Faire-goers can learn period skills ranging from basket-weaving and candle-making to chain-maille construction. Further enhancing the living landscape of the 30-acre village, an expanded Bristol Marketplace will welcome an eclectic array of resident merchants and rotating guest artists; stages will resound with one of the best line-ups of nonstop entertainment to-date, and always-bustling streets will be dotted with an extravagant entourage of larger-than-life animal puppets.

Flying Dragons and Clashing Swords

Sixteen Bristol entertainment stages feature nonstop music, merriment, feats of daring and an eclectic assortment of comedic performers who invite their audiences to become part of the act. Joining Faire favorites, including Dirk and Guido, the comedic sword-fighting duo known as “The Swordsmen,” ropewalker, juggler and foolish mortal MooNiE the Magnif’Cent, Guinness World Record-holding fire whip artist Adam Crack, the Barely Balanced acrobatic comedy troupe, and the Sturdy BeggarsTM Mud Show®, will be a breathtaking aerial silk act making its U.S. debut at Bristol this summer. Suspended from the trees of the wooded Faire site, the Draiku aerial duo will provide a dazzling display of airborne Chinese Dragon artistry.

Among this summer’s special musical guests, the explosive Celtic group, Tartanic, will appear during the Faire’s first and third weekends; Wolgemut, a high-energy minstrel troupe whose name in ancient German literally means “to be in a good mood,” will perform two weekends in July, and VaNa MaZi will arrive with its unique brand of Gypsy Jazz, throughout the month of August. Making their Bristol debut in 2014 are the Merry Wives of Windsor, an 11-piece, all-female folk band that has taken the West Coast Renaissance festival circuit by storm.

One-of-a-Kind Wares

Bristol’s ever-expanding Marketplace offers a breadth and depth of unique shopping experiences that can’t be found anywhere outside the country’s top Renaissance faires. Nearly 180 artisans and crafters display wares ranging from stage-combat-approved swords and handmade chain maille to Scottish kilts, handcrafted leather masks, tapestry wall hangings, sterling silver jewelry, hand-caned brooms, bamboo flutes, even steampunkery and jester socks. Often, patrons have the chance to watch potters, glass blowers, bowyers, blacksmiths and other working artisans create their wares on-site.

Expanding upon the interactive nature of the Bristol Marketplace, the new Queen’s College transports would-be crafters and history buffs alike into an immersive environment where they can learn a rotating variety of 16thCentury arts from basket-weaving and candle-making to chain-maille construction.

Live Action Fantasy-Play

Bristol’s ever-evolving live action fantasy-play game, RenQuest, has become one of the most highly anticipated events of the Faire season. Following the epic conclusion of RenQuest’s Chaos Trilogy in 2013, this summer’s departure to a DaVinci theme opens up the playing field to endless inspiration from the inventor’s imagination. Originating in 2008, RenQuest brings the worldwide popularity of massively multiplayer online role-playing games, like World of Warcraft, into the live action dimension of the Renaissance Faire. The interactive theatrical gaming experience offers players an unprecedented opportunity to experience the Faire through completing quests, honing skills and defeating evil villains. The game spans the entire 30-acre Faire site and employs 30 non-playing characters dedicated to enriching the fantasy experience for patron-players.

Kids Quests provide the Faire’s younger patrons, ages 4 to 10, with two daily opportunities to embark on their own, age-appropriate adventures. Led by Jack and Jill, the 30-minute quests team youngsters with Bristol’s fairy tale creatures in a search for treasure and excitement.

More Kid-Friendly Fun

The Bristol Renaissance Faire is filled with kid-inspired experiences, including more than 30 games and rides, shows that make kids laugh, and special play areas bursting with whimsy and photo-snapping charm. Always entertaining and engaging, Bristol’s Kids Kingdom boasts a climb-aboard pirate ship, giant sandbox, crafts and games activity center, its own theater and a full cast of beloved characters. New to the Kingdom this summer, the Normal Sisters will invite children into their world of witchcraft for a hilarious, interactive stage show called “Caldron Mishaps.” Daily magic shows, story-telling and interactive role-playing adventures also take center stage throughout the day, and at 4:30 p.m., Queen Elizabeth herself shows up in Kids Kingdom for the celebrated Knighting Ceremony, at which she personally dubs all attending children lords and ladies.

Other popular, kid-friendly diversions include mad-cap tea parties with Lady Ettie, kid pike drills at the Military Encampment, toy ship sailing on Mouseboro Pond, and chance encounters with the Faire’s most elusive inhabitants, curious faeries known as Fantastikals, who this summer will be enjoying a newly landscaped Fairy Garden.

 

Taking its framework from the summer day in 1574 when Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth visited the English hamlet of Bristol, the Bristol Renaissance Faire is located just west of I-94’s Russell Road exit, near Kenosha, Wis. Open rain or shine, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., every Saturday and Sunday, July 5 through Sep. 1, and on Labor Day Monday, Sep. 2, tickets are $23.95 for adults and $11.50 for children, ages 5 to 12. Advance ticket discounts are available atrenfair.com or by calling (847) 395-7773.