Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Nerdy Nummies - My 4-year-old's favorite YouTube Channel

In the world of entertainment, there is one show that my 4-year-old daughter and I both truly enjoy watching together: Nerdy Nummies, a YouTube cooking show hosted by Rosanna Pansinos. Featuring lots of fun designs ranging from fantasy, sci-fi, comic books, anime, movies and video games - Ms. Pansino manages to transform pop culture into super cool, edible creations. If you're looking to surprise your kid with a super-awesome treat like Lego Pinata Cookie, Unicorn Rainbow Poop Cookies, or Rubic's Cube Brownies, head over to YouTube and subscribe to Nerdy Nummies STAT. 

This is what my daughter and I watched yesterday - Nerdy Nummies Frozen Treats! We're going to try making these adorable Olaf-inspired ice cream treats this weekend!




Monday, April 28, 2014

#MakesMeSmileMondays An Afternoon at the Opera #LyricOperaChicago

Yesterday, I took my daughter and one of her best friends to the Civic Opera House to see the Lyric Opera's Sound of Music. 95% of the fun for these two girls was dressing up, walking to and from and exploring the Civic Opera House. It was one of those days where I felt thankful for being able to enjoy a lazy Sunday morning at home, reading my Chicago Tribune and then gardening, followed by lunch, and then afterwards, just a short jaunt and we'd arrived to one of the most renown opera houses in the world.
Silly girls at the Lyric

Cinderella loses her pink cowgirl boot

Catch us if you can!
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Friday, April 25, 2014

Mother's Day Gift Ideas at Best Buy #GreatestMom #spon

Disclosure: I've been compensated in the form of a Best Buy Gift Card. As always, all opinions are my own.


What kind of mom are you?



Can you cook a celebrity chef under the table? 
Are you always On-The-Go?   
Did you close a deal, sign a new client and make it to soccer by 5:00? 
Do you love adventure?  Do you have the traveling bug; always looking for a great family adventure?  

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Tolalu: Personalized Gifts for Kids #spon

Disclosure: Special thanks to Tolalu for sponsoring this post.All thoughts and opinions are my own.



 Looking for unique kid's gifts that are beautifully designed, high quality, and customized?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

#RealLifeMoments with Stonyfield - Plus, New Yogurt-on-the-Go Pouches! #spon

Disclosure: I participated in a Blogger Activation on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Stonyfield. I received coupons to facilitate my shopping trip and a promotional item to thank me for participating.

 


Finally spring has arrived and summer is on its way! 


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Spring is one of our family's busiest seasons...we are gearing up for the end of the school year and a summer filled of fun. These busy days mean that I need to think ahead when it comes to snacks: I always make a point of carrying something healthy along with us as we travel, play and attend sporting events, school events, band concerts, zoo outings, etc., during the busy springtime season. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

#MakesMeSmileMondays The Virgin Islands: Paradise

On Saturday, we returned from a lovely trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands. What an adventure! We flew on a seaplane, swam to our hearts content in the crystal clear waters, met a sea lion, dived with sea turtles, took a catamaran to an island with the 2nd oldest lighthouse in the U.S., the kids earned yet another Jr. Rangers badge at the National Parks on St. Croix, explored an old rum still... and so much more. I will be following up in the next couple of weeks with links to articles with tips and must-dos for families traveling to the USVI.

The one thing that stands out above all was the water...so many shades of beautiful blue. I will be dreaming of the beautiful blues until I return again!
Chiara in St. John 

Chiara, St. John, USVI

My view from a catamaran in St. Thomas

Diver Dan, my son

Catching the seaplane. What a thrill!


Designer Kids' Clothing (at thrift store prices!)

Disclosure: Special thanks to MoxieJean.com for sponsoring this post. As always, all opinions are my own. 


My kids grow like weeds. It seems as if every season, I am buying new clothes and shoes for the two of them. Every time my son has a band concert - three each year - I find myself rushing out at the last minute because he's outgrown his requisite black dress pants and white dress shirt and shoes - oh my son and his ever-growing feet! We always have an overload of hand-me-downs to pass on. 

My kids grew faster than the morning glories in
our garden this past summer. 

Thankfully, there is a new online shopping site where you can find designer kids' clothing - at thrift store prices!!!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Spring Break!

Next week, blogging will be temporarily interuppted as we head....


to paradise.



When we get back, I'll look forward to sharing the best of the best (and the family friendliest of the best) on the islands of St. Thomas and St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands!


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Review: 2014 Topps Baseball Series 1 Cards #Spon

Disclosure: Special thanks to Topps for sponsoring this post. The Topps product, information, and gift pack have been provided by Topps

As baseball season comes into full swing, here's a great way to kick-off the America's favorite sport: 2014 Topps Baseball Series 1 cards!  They are a fun way to learn about the exciting new rookies while also looking back at the greatest players of today and yesterday.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Review: New Dove® Advanced Hair Series at Walgreens #Spon

Disclosure: Special thanks to Global Influence for sponsoring this post. As always, all opinions are my own. 


Lately I have been riding my bicycle to work, which used to mean that I arrived at work with flat, lifeless hair. 

Here's my solution: 

Review: Secret® Clinical Strength #spon

Disclosure: Special thanks to Secret for sponsoring this post.



Whether it’s caused by a work deadline, chaotic day with the kids, or visit from the in-laws, stress stinks… literally! Out of the three causes of sweat—heat, activity, and stress—stress sweat has been proven to smell the worst.  Stress sweat produced from the apocrine gland increases bacterial, and Water + Nutrients + Bacteria = Odor. Ewwww

Review and Giveaway! Milk-Bone® Brushing Chews #Spon #Giveaway

Disclosure: Special thanks to Milk-Bone for sponsoring this post. 

Our dog, Gizmo, truly is a part of our family: we  would do just about anything to keep him happy and healthy, and we're always looking for better ways to show we care. 
Our dog Gizmo has an awesome smile.

Traveling Kids: Before and After #DisneyWorld


My kids are slowly becoming seasoned travelers. I secretly captured them in action on our most recent flight.


On our flight to Orlando...my son is playing solitaire on his iPad, while my daughter is reading up on in-flight safety instructions. 



On our way back to Chicago...My daughter made a pillow from her blanket and quietly went to sleep for the duration of the flight. My son is still wearing his "Happy Birthday!" button five days post 13th birthday and is playing a game on his phone. 






I love traveling with my kids! Even more so now that they are able to keep themselves occupied in-flight!

Losing Weight with Muay Thai Training in Thailand #spon

For many years, Muay Thai has been a great solution for anyone looking to not only improve health but also to increase strength. Muay Thai helps build strong stamina, helps you lose weight, increases self esteem, and  gives confidence while teaching useful self defense skills.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Old El Paso Frozen Entrees - A Mexican Fiesta from Freezer to Table in Minutes #Spon #OldElPaso

Disclosure: The information and prize pack have been provided by Old El Paso® through Platefull Co-Op.
Here's a new take on the frozen dinner: Old El Paso Frozen Entrees promise delicious Mexican food that you can take from freezer to table in mere minutes. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Chicago Travels: Family Dude Ranch Adventure at Nine Quarter Circle Ranch, Montana

This article originally appeared on ChicagoParent.com.


This past summer, our family set off on the adventure of a lifetime: we rented an RV and drove from Chicago to Gallatin Gateway, Montana, stopping at all the must-see classically American destinations along the way: Wall Drug, the Corn Palace, the Badlands, Mount Rushmore and Old Faithful. The capstone and highlight of our trip, however, was our final destination: Nine Quarter Circle Ranch, a family guest ranch overlooking the northwest corner of Yellowstone Park on the eastern slope of the Continental Divide. Stunning vistas, beautiful horses and challenging trails brought our family closer together as we made memories to last a lifetime. For one unforgettable week, we became a family of cowboys and cowgirls, living the good life on an idyllic Western dude ranch.

With its secluded mountain location at 7,000 feet, surrounded by millions of acres of National Forest, Nine Quarter Circle Ranch pretty much seemed like paradise on Earth for our city family. This guest dude ranch is a Wild West style all-inclusive "resort," where families live in cabins on the extensive ranch property. All meals are included and served family-style in a magnificent lodge and "resort" activities include horseback riding, hiking, taking dips in a swimming hole, square dancing, fishing and more.

My kids, ages 12 and four, loved running free in the grassy plains, splashing on the banks of the Gallatin River and chasing the bunny rabbits. We all loved donning our cowboy boots and hats every morning and opening our cabin door to gorgeous mountain sunrises. But more than anything, we all fell in complete and utter love with the herd of 120 beautiful Appaloosa horses that live on the ranch.

Our family has some experience with horseback riding, but we still fell on the beginner side of the skills range. Nine Quarter Circle arranges 2 two-hour morning and afternoon trail rides, for beginning, intermediate and advanced riders, into the timbered forests and through the grassy meadows. Since the horses are all raised and trained by the ranch owners - the Kelsey family - they know each horse's temperament and stamina in the mountains; you can be sure that your skills and personality will be perfectly matched with the right horse, who will be "your" horse during your entire stay.

In addition to the trail rides, two all-day rides are offered during the week for the intermediate to advanced riders, with one of the all-day rides following a trail through Yellowstone Park. The weekly overnight pack trip, for intermediate to advanced riders ages 13 and up, will take you into the high country by horse, where you'll camp for the night near a mountain lake or stream.

The entire family will enjoy participating in the Gymkhana (games on horseback) held on Saturday mornings, where ranch guests have a chance to show off newly- acquired riding skills.
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My 12-year-old son honed his horsemanship skills over the length of our stay, gathering confidence and pride as he steered his magnificent horse over streams, alongside mountains and through deep forests. It was such a treat to watch him ride, while I steered my own horse, on several trail rides.


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Meanwhile, my four-year-old daughter was able to ride a horse for the very first time, thanks to the expert wranglers. I won't ever forget the look of pride upon her face as she first sat on a horse's saddle, wearing her pink cowgirl boots, looking towards the mountains, ready to hit the trails.

Nine Quarter Circle Ranch also has "Kiddie Wranglers" and babysitters on staff. The Kiddie Wrangler helps out with the the kids ages six to nine, teaching them to ride and leading them on daily kid-friendly trail rides. The babysitter looks after children six and under on the playground or at the barn with a short lead ride around the pasture. As the mother of two kids with quite a wide age gap, it was nice to be able to go on more advanced rides with my son while my daughter played with her new friends at the park or on a pony ride.

All meals are served family-style in the log constructed Main Lodge with it's huge stone fireplace. The hearty, home-style cooking was so outstanding and our days so packed with refreshing outdoor activity that we usually filled and then emptied our plates with relish.

Several outdoor meals are scheduled each week including a late afternoon ride to dinner on the farther reaches of the ranch. Families can opt to be seated together, but most of the kids ended up sitting with their peers. The little kids enjoyed a "small fry" table where the Kiddie Wranglers and babysitters were on hand to keep everyone well fed and entertained. Dinner is also served early to the children so mom and dad can relax and enjoy happy hour in the rustic lounge. I enjoyed meeting the other ranch guests from around the world, and because guests are limited, we all had a chance to truly get to know one another over evening cocktails.

The log cabins were cozy and comfortable, furnished with forest furniture and handmade quilts. Single bedroom cabins are available, but our family opted for a two-bedroom cabin so the kids could bunk in a room of their own. There are also several three and four bedroom cabins to accommodate larger family groups. Best of all, the cabins are wonderfully technology free: no one in our family missed TV and technology for our week at the ranch.

Wifi is available at the main lodge and cell phone service is available but may be spotty. Trust me, you won't miss any of it at all. At night we nestled into our little log cabin, heated by a cozy wood burning stove and enjoyed quiet evenings reading or just talking while rocking on the wooden chairs on our porch.
Many of the Nine Quarter Circle guests have been literally coming for generations. I met one extended family that has been coming to the ranch yearly since the 1970's, with new family members tagging along each year as more children and grandchildren are added into the mix.

Our family had such a wonderful time, too. We will no doubt be returning.

While we chose to drive via RV from Chicago, you can also fly to Bozeman, MT where you'll have to rent a car for the scenic one and a half hour drive to the ranch. Some guests also opt to fly into Salt Lake City, rent a car and then drive. Salt Lake City is only six hours from the ranch. Other more adventurous guests fly directly to the ranch thanks to its 4,000 foot long airstrip.

For more information on this amazing family travel experience, visit Nine Quarter Circle Ranch online at ninequartercircle.com

Fueling Myself for the Marathon of Life! #spon #StonyfieldSuperFan

Disclosure: This post was created in partnership with Stonyfield. All opinions are my own.


While I don't run marathons, every day of my life is like a marathon. From the moment I wake up to the moment the sun goes down, I'm on the go go go. 

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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Disney World: It *really* is the magical place on Earth for our family!

We've been MIA from everyday life this past week as we traveled to.....

Disney World!

For our family, Disney World really is the most magical place on Earth. It's where our family makes fun memories that truly do last a lifetime. I've been coming to Disney World since I was a little girl! This was my 10th visit!

We were fortunate enough to travel with our entire family! And Disney World with grandma, grandpa, aunt, uncle, and of course, the cousins magnifies the fun by 1000. I am so thankful that everyone in my family is not only healthy and active, but always up for fun!



Here are just a few things we enjoyed....

Swimming at the Alice in Wonderland Tea Party pool at our hotel, the Grand Floridian...


Meeting all our favorite characters...

Boating around the Seven Seas Lagoon in mini speedboats...



And of course, just exploring all the parks with our family!


This morning my daughter decided that she wants to go back to Disney World for her birthday. And for Christmas. She just can't get enough of Disney World!  

I'll be working on some articles on our adventures at Disney World and I'll be happy to share the links here soon!

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Review: New Nature Valley Products at Target! Easy, Protein Packed Breakfast Solutions


Disclosure: Special thanks to Platefull Coop for sponsoring this post. 

I am always looking for easy breakfast solutions for those days when we wake up late and are on the go, go, go. Nature Valley recently introduces three new products that not only taste great but are packed with whole grains and will fuel you up on the go for a busy spring or summer day.

Review: Fiber One® Brownies NEW 90 Calorie Caramel Sea Salt Bar

Disclosure: Special thanks to Platefull Coop for sponsoring this post. 


One of my favorite flavors in the world is salted caramel....I just love that perfect combo of sweet, buttery caramel and sea salt. Here's a new snack that manages to combine the sweet and savory taste of salted caramel in a low calorie and high fiber snack.