Discover the Forest this Summer

Disclosure I was compensated for this post but my opinions are my own.

Today is officially the first day of summer.  Now is a great time to gather up the family and head outside.  If you need help finding some great new places for some outdoor adventures check out today. which features an interactive map tool that enables users to search for nearby forests and parks, and filter by zip code and desired activities. Free outdoor activities are also available for download and printing, which you can take the next time you visit.

As a mom of three active boys I don’t really need any encouragement to get my boys outside because I KNOW first hand that getting their little bodies moving in the fresh air is great for all of us.  But in case you need a few good reasons to get out to the forest, check out this info from

Research has shown that kids who spend time outdoors:

  • Demonstrate more creative/imaginative play
  • Are generally healthier
  • Have lower stress levels
  • Have greater respect for themselves and others
  • Express a greater appreciation for the environment

Stress Less with Easy Family Travel Tips

easy family travel tipsDisclosure I was compensated for this post but my opinions are my own.

If you’re anything like me, you LOVE to travel! But planning a family vacation can be stressful.  I have been traveling all my life. I even have photos of the first time I was stranded at an airport thanks to a Chicago snow storm when I was a toddler.  Yet, every time I travel I stress out. I have however lessened this panic over time. And with some of practice and a few tips I not only survived my first as a single mom traveling with three kids but I honestly managed to thoroughly enjoy it.

Here are my three ‘secrets’ to successful stress-free easy family travel:

1.  Plan ahead

Planning ahead really does make a huge difference in your experience.  Doing your research ahead of time allows you to have a game plan and know what you are doing while you travel.  It allows you to hopefully get the most of your time.

For me it’s important to create packing lists and budgets as well as daily schedules of activities.  I create packing lists using an app and our schedules on Google Calendar.  I also like to include specific info on attractions or shows like times, addresses and confirmation numbers if applicable in Google Calendar.  You never know when you’ll be stuck somewhere with no reception frantically trying to find that email with your ticket confirmation.  If you need ideas for great priceless experiences at your travel destination be sure to check out Mastercard Priceless Cities.

2.  Forget the plan

Ok, so you spent weeks, maybe months researching all the fun you want to have with your family but don’t get TOO stuck in your schedule.  Be sure to stay flexible enough to remember the reason you’re on the trip to begin with.  Often the most precious memories created during family travel are those we didn’t plan or anticipate.

It is easy get caught up in getting to your next “big” thing and totally miss the chance to create spontaneous memories.  Years ago we took the older boys to Myrtle Beach.  We went to an aquarium, saw the ocean for the first time etc.  But one of the things that stands out the most to the boys from that trip to this day was when we stopped at a souvenir shop who’s entrance was made to look like you were walking into a sharks mouth.  We’d passed it several times and the boys thought it was so cool.  So one day we finally stopped and took some photos.  Be flexible…be spontaneous! You’ll be glad you did.

3.  Let others help

For many people, myself definitely included, this one can be the hardest! It can also be the biggest stress reliever.  This applies to letting family help by watching pets or taking you to the airport.  But it also includes everyone from the bell hop to concierge.  Often we try to do it all ourselves, whether out of pride or attempting to save costs, it’s rarely worth it.  Could you manage getting all your bags AND your kids up to your room? Yes, I’m sure you can.  But if you’re exhausted or stressed out when you get there, is it really worth it?

To me this was the biggest lesson to learn to really help me out, especially when traveling alone with three kids.  Of course it helps when you go somewhere where they are experts at this.  But even if your destination isn’t the best at this, you can get and array of top notch assistance from Mastercard Concierge Service.  From hotel and travel reservations to entertainment and executive services, they’re ready and able to help you.




Hope you’ll join me and the Traveling Mom #TMOM Twitter Party for lots more easy travel planning tips and tricks!

#PricelessTravel Twitter Party 6/23

When: June 23rd 9-10 PM EST

Hashtag: #PricelessTravel

Follow: @travelingmoms @kimorlando @CherylGuerin @cindyrichards@AmyBarseghian  @ramblingstump @debmomof3 @ChildMode @therebelchick @lisanoel03 @mominthecity  

RSVP for the Twitter party here!

Be sure to follow the#TMOM #PricelessTravel hashtags so that you don’t miss anything during the party!

Leapin’ Lipizzans! Tempel Lipizzan Performances to Begin June 21

It’s funny how often we miss out on the local attractions literally in our backyard. The Tempel Lipizzans are very close to us and every summer I swear I will find the time to take the boys, and every summer wraps up without making it there. Hopefully THIS summer will be the one!
Tempel Lipizzan chicago local family fun event attraction show horses performance 1 Best known for seemingly gravity-defying leaps that have prompted many to describe their breed as the equine equivalent to Mikhail Baryshnikov, the Tempel Lipizzans will begin performing their internationally-acclaimed “Ballet of the White Stallions” on Saturday, June 21, this summer. Performances are scheduled for 6 – 8 p.m. on select Saturday evenings, and 1 – 3 p.m. on select Sundays and Wednesdays, through Sep. 13. All shows take place at Tempel Farms in rural Old Mill Creek, Ill., where the rare Lipizzan horses are bred, trained and perform.

Set to classical music, Tempel Lipizzan performances follow the horses’ training from the basic movements of the youngest stallions, through “high school” dressage – rhythmic, choreographed dance steps on the ground – and the dramatic Pegasus-like “Airs Above the Ground” for which the breed is famed. Lipizzans are one of very few breeds that possess the combination of physical power, athleticism and suppleness to perform these airborne moves.

An early breed established in Europe many centuries ago, these powerful horses were originally trained for medieval battle maneuvers for royal armies. Their graceful moves were refined to a form of entertainment during the late Renaissance in the royal courts of Europe. Today, two places in the world are most closely associated with classical Lipizzan performance, the famed Spanish Riding School in Vienna, Austria, and Tempel Farms in Chicago’s far north suburbs. Here, the dancing stallions continue to entertain and delight audiences ranging from local horse lovers and history buffs, to urban families seeking a countryside getaway, and international tourists.

Following each performance, guests are invited to enjoy a self-guided tour through the stallion stable, visit the yearlings in the pasture, and ask questions of Tempel Lipizzan rider-trainers. Tempel Farms’ outdoor café opens for lunch at 11:30 a.m. on performanTempel Lipizzan chicago local family fun event attraction show horses performance 2ce Sundays and Wednesdays, and at 4:30 p.m. on performance Saturdays for dinner and drinks.

Tempel Farms is located in northern Lake County, Ill., a 50-minute drive from Chicago or Milwaukee, near Great America.  Saturday evening performances are scheduled for June 21, July 19, August 16 and September 13. Matinee shows will be held on June 25, June 29, July 6, July 9, July 13, July 23, July 27, Aug. 3, Aug. 6, Aug. 10, Aug. 20, Aug. 24, Sep. 3 and Sep. 7. Tickets purchased in advance are $25 for adults, $20 for active military and veterans, and $15 for children under the age of 15. Tickets purchased at the gate are $30 for adults and $20 for children and active military/veterans.

In case of inclement weather, performances are held indoors.  Parking is free. To purchase tickets online or for more information, visit or call (847) 623-7272.

The Tempel Lipizzans began in 1958 when the late Tempel and Esther Smith imported 20 Lipizzans from the Austrian stud farm in Piber and started what became the largest privately owned herd of Lipizzans in the world. Their prestigious appearances include several Presidential Inaugurals and special exhibitions at the White House, the U.S. Capitol, the Taste of Chicago, Ravinia Festival, Arlington Racecourse and Madison Square Garden.  In 1997, the President of Austria presented the Smith family with the Officer’s cross, Grand Declaration of Honour for Service to the Republic of Austria, in recognition of their “careful management of a cultural institution with such close ties to Austria.” Tempel Farms is the only place in the United States where these rare white horses are bred, trained and perform on the same property.

Lincolnshire Marriott Resort Makes a Great Family Destination



Our family was recently hosted by the Lincolnshire Marriott Resort for a quick staycation.  I had previously been to the resort for events and weddings but had never stayed overnight.  I was excited to see what there was for families.




We arrived late in the afternoon.  And found that the beauty of the location started before we even entered.  The grounds are gorgeous and the boys wanted a photo by this water feature before we headed in to check in.



The lobby was also beautiful.



The room was very comfortable.



And the view was very pretty.



But our favorite part….was having the pool and hot tub almost entirely to ourselves.

IMG_20140503_213754 The fact that it was not crowded really gave us a chance to relax, be silly and enjoy each other’s company!!

IMG_20140503_214049We spent several hours playing in the pool before heading to bed.


In the morning we got up and had a fabulous breakfast buffet at The Fairfield Inn Restaurant with made to order omelets, freshly prepared waffles and pancakes and lots of fresh fruit, pastries etc.


And I had coffee!  And the server made my morning by even bringing me a to go cup to fix a cup to take with me!!



After breakfast we wandered around the property until it was time for the show we were seeing at the theater (link to my post about that here).  I have to say I really was surprised by how great of a family destination Lincolnshire Marriott Resort was.  The staff was all fabulous and we all had a great time!


And it was totally a bonus that The Cheesecake Factory is less than a mile away so we HAD to stop there.


School House Rock at Marriott Theater in Lincolnshire

IMG_20140504_093253We were recently invited to check out the Marriott Theater in Lincolnshire.  Specifically were got to check out a Sunday morning show of School House Rock part of their Theater for Young Audiences series.  This happened to be the final show of the season for the series, but no worries, they’ll be back at it next school year.

I have been to a few shows at the theater over the years so I didn’t really have any doubts about the quality of the show.  And the boys enjoy live theater so I was confident they’d like it.  But I was very pleased with how much fun it was.  The show was super cute and included some great pop culture references.  The singing and choreography were fabulous.  And I LOVED that at the end the performers came out, introduced all the other individuals involved in the production and then took some time for an Q&A.  As a mom I thought this was extra special because my boys enjoy theater and often have questions about how things happen.

Boys are already asking when we can go back for another show!!


Special note, we arrived about a half hour before and there was almost no one there, the theater filled quickly in the very last few minutes before the show.


Check out Our Video Recap of #DisneyKids

The boys and I had a blast at Walt Disney World  a couple weeks ago and many more posts will be coming soon but this video is a fun recap from the boys and I about the trip and what we loved!


Sunday’s Plans for #DisneyKids

Today is our last day.  Kids will get to experience a runDisney Kids Race at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, and a tour of Disney’s Art of Animation Resort before sadly heading home. Be sure to follow along on Twitter or Instagram to see all our fun!



ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex

Play at the next level at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. These 230 acres of professionally run, state-of-the-art facilities host over 60 sports and thousands of events for athletes of all ages and abilities. Train and compete with your team—or catch the excitement as a spectator—in this grand sports setting where classic athletic ideals meet contemporary innovation


art-of-animation-resort-dining-gallery-00 Disney’s Art of Animation Resort

Be surrounded in the artistry, enchantment and magic of Walt Disney and Disney•Pixar movies. Stay at a Disney Resort hotel that invites you to explore the storybook landscapes seen in such classics as Finding Nemo, Cars, The Lion King and The Little Mermaid. From delightfully themed family suites to wondrously detailed courtyards, Disney’s Art of Animation “draws” you and your family in to become a part of some of your animated favorites.

Saturday’s Plans for #DisneyKids

Today’s plans include two amazing character dining experiences and fun and freetime in Disney’s Hollywood Studios®. Be sure to follow along on Twitter or Instagram to see all our fun!

hollywood-and-vine-gallery01Breakfast with Disney Junior Friends at Hollywood and Vine

Join popular Disney Junior pals for Character Dining as they host 2 fun-filled, musical meals.

A few of your Disney Junior favorites are coming to Hollywood & Vine—don’t miss this chance to eat, play and dance along with friends from Doc McStuffins, Sofia the First, Jake and the Never Land Pirates and Handy Manny during this fun and interactive dining experience.

The breakfast buffet features such favorites as Mickey waffles, frittatas, pastries and fresh fruit. For lunch, you can treat your taste buds to a buffet of kid- and adult-friendly entrees like baked chicken, deli meats, hearty pastas and fresh salads.

Be sure to save room for a treat from the ice cream sundae station too!

Character appearances and entertainment are subject to change.



akershus-royal-banquet-hall-gallery01Princess Storybook Diner at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall

Her Highness the Queen is holding a feast in honor of the world’s best-loved Storybook Princesses—and you’re invited! Dine in a medieval castle as Disney Princesses and Friends mingle with Guests to give autographs and pose for pictures.

All who attend the royal banquet can expect to meet several of the following Disney Characters:

Snow White
Princess Aurora
Mary Poppins

Reservations are recommended and can be made up to 180 days prior to your visit. Character appearances and entertainment are subject to change.

Friday’s Plans for #DisneyKids

Today’s plans include a character breakfast, a parade and a magical makeover.  Be sure to follow along on Twitter or Instagram to see all our fun!

crystal-palace-gallery02Breakfast with Winnie the Pooh and Friends at The Crystal Palace

Join Winnie the Pooh and a few of his Pals for a willy, nilly, silly good time!

Inspired by Victorian greenhouses of the late 1800s, The Crystal Palace brims with light, topiaries and tropical palms—and is an enchanting spot to meet some favorite Disney Friends!

Plus, while you dine on scrumptious fare, Disney Characters stop by for laughs, photos and autographs.

Reservations are recommended and can be made up to 180 days prior to your visit. Character appearances and entertainment are subject to change.

festival-fantasy-parade-04Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade

Celebrate the stories you know and love in a whole new way with a magical mix of innovative floats, vibrant costumes and original music.

Paying homage to the unbridled magic and vivid pageantry of Fantasyland and its many inhabitants, the Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade is a thrilling sight-and-sound spectacular that winds its way through the streets of Magic Kingdom park each afternoon.

Be a part of this grand gala, which includes spectacular, state-of-the-art floats starring Characters from some of your favorite Disney stories, plus colorfully costumed performers on stilts, pendulums and swings.

During the fantastical procession, be on the look-out for:

A garden of Disney Princesses, starring Cinderella, Belle, Tiana, Elsa and Anna
Flynn Rider and Rapunzel from Tangled sailing in an ornate longship in search of another “best day ever”
An under-the-sea jubilee starring Ariel, Sebastian and an enchanted ocean ensemble from The Little Mermaid atop a sparkling music box
Peter and Wendy from Peter Pan soaring through the sky aboard a pirate galleon pursued by Captain Hook, Mr. Smee and Tick-Tock the Crocodile
Merida from Brave accompanied by her triplet “bear” brothers and a troupe of Scottish dancers, atop an enormous bagpipe
Maleficent as a fire-breathing, clockwork dragon wrapped in battle with Prince Phillip and his mighty Sword of Truth
High-flying fun with Mickey and Minnie in a giant hot-air balloon, plus a cavalcade of beloved Disney Characters from Pinocchio to Snow White

It’s a dazzling sight unlike anything you’ve even seen or heard, and a festival of fun for everyone!



The Pirates League

Avast! Captain Jack and his crew of scallywags are scouring the high seas in search of treasure—and new recruits! Sail away with The Pirates League, and transform ye self into a living, breathing swashbuckler from the days of olde.

First, be ye christened with yer Official Pirate Name from the leather-bound captain’s log. Then, make yer way o’er to the Muster Station, where the League’s veteran pirates will give you a marauder’s makeover as the adventurer of yer choosing:

Thursday’s Plans for #DisneyKids

Today’s plans start with a VERY early morning wake up and the boys first ever airplane flight!  We’ll have a few hours to explore on our own before heading to a welcome dinner. Be sure to follow along on Twitter or Instagram to see all our fun!

We are staying at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. It looks AMAZING!!



Step into the heart of Africa at this magnificent Resort hotel. Inspired by the traditional African kraal, the horseshoe-curved design provides spectacular views of 4 lush savannas that over 200 hoofed animals and birds call home. Delight in dazzling pool areas, exciting animal programs and one of the largest collections of African art in the United States as you experience your own African safari adventure with a touch of Disney magic. animal-kingdom-lodge-std-pv-2-q-g00