Dinner Downtown: Markethouse Chicago

Last weekend, I headed downtown to meet my college roommate who was in town for a conference for dinner.  We haven’t seen each other since my wedding (which just happens to be exactly 8 years ago this week) so of course the company was fabulous.  But because of my late arrival (that’s a whole other post for another time) we didn’t have time to venture out to find a place to eat that I was familiar with. So instead we opted for the restuarant in her hotel.

We were a little nervous that we were under dressed for Markethouse, but once we were brave enough to step in we saw that while the decor of the resturant is gorgeous the overall feel was comfortable and we fit right in.

We quickly learned from our waiter that Markhouse prides its self on providing delicious sustainable food, using local farmers and even has its own rooftop garden.

Much of the menu was a little fancier than my taste but they did have a burger and mac n’ cheese. But not the kind of burger or mac n cheese I make at home. This stuff was awesome and while the prices were rather downtown looking on the menu, we really did get a ton of food.  Since they listed the entrees and sides separately and there was no mention of fries, I ordered a ‘side’ of mac n cheese.  The waiter pointed out that it was ‘healthy’ portion and suggested we share it (we both ordered a side).  But we didn’t heed his warning, so I was stuffed when we left and I actually could not eat everything, which is a rare occasion for me when dining out.  And everything tasted amazing!! 

10 oz Grilled Black Angus Burger: over a half pound of savory Black Angus beef, stuffed with BBQ braised short ribs, roasted peppers, onions and topped with succulent, melted Carr Valley aged white cheddar

Mac & Cheese Gratin: apple wood smoked bacon; 7 year aged Carr Valley white cheddar
I don’t know how I’ll ever manage to eat Kraft mac n cheese again!  This was so yummy and even the ‘petite’ portion probably could have been a meal and actually left me with room to even LOOK at the dessert menu!

Disclosure: I paid for this meal and have not been compensated in anyway.

Chicago Fire Soccer

This weekend we attended a Chicago Fire soccer game for the first time.  Being from the far northern suburbs, this stadium (in the southern suburbs) is quite a drive for us but totally worth it in my opinion. 

The stadium is clean and new feeling and though it was no where near a sell out crowd there was still a lot of enthusiasm in the stands.

Bryan totally got into twirling his tower and making noise.  He especially loved the fireworks that went off with each Chicago Fire goal!

I have previously admitted here that I’m fairly clueless about soccer.  My oldest son had to inform me that we could expect two 45 minute halves.  But then play continued well past the 90 minute mark, so I’m still confused.  But the play was very fast paced and exciting to watch.  And they won 2-0!

Family Fun at Bristol Renaissance Faire

 Despite living in this area my entire life, I have never been to the Bristol Renaissance Faire (or at least not since I’ve been an age I can remember I think my parents took me when I was TINY).
Honestly, until I had the boys, it wasn’t something I ever really had the interest to do.  But each summer, the last few years I kept telling myself we’d get out to see what it was all about.  It is literally minutes away from our house so there really should have been no excuse.
When we arrived, I really didn’t know what to expect.  But we found the people to be amazing.  When we stopped to get the boys swords the shopkeeper happily went over the schedule with us pointing out the things not to be missed and those that were best for kids.  The top of the ‘must see’ list was Moonie.  And as luck would have it the next show was just a minutes from starting.  So we headed straight there and I am so glad we did.  Most of the show went a bit over the boys head but it was the highlight of the day for my husband and I.  I have since recommended it to friends who were visiting for the first time also and got enthusiastic response back from them too.
 Once we got the boys their swords (or actually they bought their own swords) they seemed more drawn in.  We headed to the joust arena and watched our first (of two) jousts of the day.  It was a huge hit with the boys and honestly a lot of fun for all of us.
After the first joust we wondered around and found something to eat while we listened to music.  
And then headed back to the arena for a battle ‘to the death.’ I should probably be more concerned by how excited the boys were at this prospect but I’m chalking it up to their firm grasp of reality vs make believe!
 And then we wandered some more.  There is so much to see that despite being there for 7 hours, we only saw a fraction of everything there.  But we couldn’t pass up the giant pickles, yum!
 Everything is just so pretty there. For me it was fun just to walk around and take it all in.
And take it in we did.  The sites, the sounds, oh and the food.  I really liked sampling all the food there but costs could easily add up for a family.  We saw many people with their coolers in their cars.  The parking lot isn’t too big or far away so it would be easy to go back to the car for lunch to help cut down on the extra expense.  In addition to food, the rides and other attractions are not included in the ticket price.  While there is plenty to do that IS included, you will want to consider your budget before you visit. 
 Beef jerky was super delicious!
 I was tired but still sad to say goodbye to our time at the Ren Faire.

 I can promise you we won’t wait nearly as long before we go back!

Until next time….

Don’t miss YOUR chance to visit the Bristol Renaissance Faire this summer.  There’s still time to try one of the 45,000 turkey legs or 450,000 gallons of ale, wine, tea or fresh-squeeze lemonade that will be served this season while enjoying any of the 90 different stage shows.  The Ren Faire is open every Saturday and Sunday (plus Labor Day) from 10 a.m. – 7p.m. through September 5.

Admission is $19.95 for adult and $9.50 for kids (5-12yrs old) at the gate but discounts are regularly available online.   Get your tickets today, don’t let another season slip by without visiting this great local attraction!

Disclosure: Our family received complimentary tickets to visit the Bristol Renaissance Faire but all opinions expressed are my own honest personal feedback. I have no been compensated for a positive review.

Hornblower Cruise, San Diego, CA

 On my recent trip to San Diego, I was able to take some time to take a two hour boat tour with Hornblower Cruises.  I am so glad I had the chance to do this.  We were able to relax in the sun while we took in the sites of San Diego.

In the two hour tour, there is actually two separate tours where the ship actually docks briefly in between.  There’s the north and south tour and they are hugely different so I’m very glad we were able to experience both.

The south tour includes the ship yards and a much more industrial view.  The helicopters flew over head repeatedly and we noticed that they seemed to be dropping something into the water. (Later confirmed with my navy veteran father that what we were most likely seeing was SEAL training where men were being dropped into the water and swimming into shore.) And the northern portion was where I was thrilled to get to spot some sea lions and pelicans. 

 Overall, I thought Hornblower Cruises was a phenomenal experience.  I felt like I got to see a lot in two hours without feeling rushed from running from site to site.  Being able to see it all with the sun beaming down on us and the wind in our hair was even more than I expected.

Check out Hornblower on Facebook

Disclosure: Although all opinions expressed are my own, we did receive complimentary tickets for the two hour tour.  I was not compensated for a positive review.

Cirque Shanghai Extreme at Skyline Stage, Navy Pier, Chicago

This past Sunday the family hopped a train to downtown Chicago.  

We were headed for Navy Pier for Cirque Shanghai Extreme at the Skyline Stage.  If you’ve never been there, the Skylines Stage is outside on the pier but is covered and sort of enclosed.  It was a pretty warm day and without the breeze from the lake it was fairly warm in the auditorium, but once the show started we never even noticed.

I’ve never been to a Cirque show but they always look exciting, and this one certainly was.  The action was nonstop and the skill was amazing.  Many of the acts use the same performers so the cast is actually fairly small, which to me only makes it all the more incredible.  For instance, the girl at the top of both of the photos (above, in yellow, and below, in blue) are the same adorable little girl.  She can’t be more than 8 years old and amazingly strong and brave, AND SMILEY!

These guys did some super entertaining hat tricks.

Obviously these guys are strong and there was a TON of strength involved in all of the acts, but there was also a ton of well choreographed beauty too.  There were constant stage and costume changes.  The time flew by!  

If you enjoy the skill and strength acts of your typical circus, but would like to pass on the clowns, THIS is the show for you.  Cirque Shanghai Extreme is about an hour long show of nonstop action and suspense.  I promise I’ve left many surprises for you if you decide to check out the show at Navy Pier.

Cirque Shanghai Extreme now showing at the Skyline Stage on Navy Pier through September 5. This spectacle for all ages features acrobatic performers direct from China who are leaders in their craft of tumbling, juggling, balancing and more. This year’s all-new production goes to the extreme with a death-defying motorcyclist on a wire, action-packed sword fighting and thrilling new twists on family favorites. Kids are $15 all summer long!

Check out this special discount offer!
Use code KIDS for $25 Adult Gold Circle tickets for Wed-Fri performances for July and August.
Tickets now on sale through ticketmaster.com or by calling 800-745-3000
Disclosure: My family received complimentary tickets to this show for review purposes.  All opinions expressed are my own honest personal feedback and I was not compensated for a positive review.

Skydeck Chicago Ambassador

 Last Monday I went downtown to check out Skydeck Chicago for the first time in YEARS.  I had the pleasure of getting a personal tour from the General Manager, Randy Stancik and I have to say I am honestly in love with this breath taking local attraction.

While at Skydeck Chicago, I had the pleasure to get out on “The Ledge” for my first time.  Well I think it was my first through 5th or 6th.  Once I overcame the initial fear (and proved to my brain that I would not in fact plumet 103 stories to my death) I couldn’t get enough of it.

My new found love for this gorgeous view, is courtesy to my ambassadorship for Skydeck Chicago.  For the next two months I will be in a friendly competition with 3 other amazing ladies to earn a cool private party at Skydeck Chicago.

As part of this competition I would like to ask you all to like my ambassador page on Skydeck Chicago’s facebook page. (click HERE for FB page)  If you are on Twitter, I would love your regular Tweets that include my personal competition hashtag #LisaSkydeck.   Tweet this! If you’re up for asking your followers to like the facebook page via tweet WITH my hashtag, well that would be amazing and appreciated.  I will be giving away pairs of tickets to Skydeck Chicago so if you’re interested in those be sure to watch my Twitter account.

And lastly, if you’re local or coming to Chicago this summer and may be considering visiting Skydeck Chicago, let me know and I will give you some tickets that you can drop off when you go for a chance to win a 4-pack of tickets directly from Skydeck Chicago. 

Here is a brief pictorial of my visit to Skydeck Chicago.

KeyLime Cove Waterpark

As the snow continues to come down here in IL, we were getting a little cabin fever in our house.
It’s been three LONG years since we’ve gotten to take a vacation and it SEEMS like its been that long since we’ve been able to play outside and run off some energy. So we took advantage of some deals at KeyLime Cove and packed up for a night.
We arrived around 5pm on Friday. It was pretty busy (my husband said an employee told him they were totally booked) but there were still tables in the water-park and plenty of room in all the pool areas. We spent about 3 hours Friday night in the water-park )before retreating to our rooms for some snacks I’d brought along.) The water park wasn’t quite as big as I’d imagined. But it had an activity pool, with 6 or 7 basketball hopes in it. A large water playground (shown in the background of the first photo below) with several slides of variety sizes for kids. Plus tons of water guns and buckets to be dump on an unexpecting passerby. And of course the huge pineapple that dropped 250 gallons of water every so often!
They had 4 large water slides which none of us tried out, including ‘the toilet bowl’ which my brother in-law had tried on a previous trip and assures me was a ton of fun.
And a small lazy river that runs through a wave pool. The older boys LOVED the lazy river!! (Bryan wasn’t comfortable in an inner-tube so he couldn’t go.) And they ALL loved the wave pool. I spent MANY hours hanging with Bryan in the wave pool. (And I can still feel it my shoulder!)
They also had a small area, secured in a gated fence, with smaller wading pools and small slides.
And last but not least a large hot tub. I didn’t make it in but my husband testes it out and assures me it was awesome! Maybe next time!
Saturday we were in the pool just after it opened at 10am and stayed until almost 6pm. The boys were all exhausted. Mission accomplished. Had fun, burned LOTS of energy and I think we may just be able to make it until the weather gets better now!!!
Edited to Add: Someone asked if my boys are good swimmers and if I thought KLC was a good place if they weren’t. My boys can NOT swim. I guess I didn’t get any photos of them in their life jackets but they were in life jackets the entire time, as it gave all of us some added security. But at 6 and 7 years old, the older boys could touch the bottom of any of the areas were in. I would say that I am a very nervous mom when it comes to my kids and water but once the boys thoroughly understood my boundaries (so I can see them, I have this issue water or not) I was really able to relax and just watch them have a good time. Because Bryan was happiest in the wave pool and that took some hanging on to him, I was a little sore from that but I was pretty confident that the older 2 were fine.
Here are a few photos of our fun. I didn’t take many as I focused on just spending the time enjoying each other….