Thursday, November 20, 2014

GIVEAWAY: Put Me in the Story #BookMagic





I love sharing my love of reading with my three kids. We visit the library on a weekly basis and our shelves are overflowing with books.  My 4-year-old has really started getting into it, and my almost 3-year-old, as always, follows what his big bro does. It just melts my heart when I see the magic in his eyes as he plops down on his belly and opens a book for the first or the twentieth time.

That's exactly the reason why every Christmas you can find books underneath the Christmas tree for 
each of my kiddos. This year I plan on doing the same but I'm making it extra special - the books they'll be getting will feature them! How cool is that? Put Me In The Story personalizes books so that your kiddo is the star of the story. Take a peek at their website - there's so many books to choose from. There are the usual favorite characters such as Hello Kitty and Elmo, plus other books for special occasions such as Halloween, Christmas, and even weddings.

Although there were tons to choose from, having two boys (ages 4 and 3) in their superhero phase was an easy choice - superheroes Avengers and Jake and the Neverland Pirates.  





For my 2-month-old baby girl, I though getting the Whoo Loves You? book looked oh so cute!






GIVEAWAY TIME!

Interested in making one of these yours? Put Me In The Story is giving away a $500 shopping spree on Put Me In The Story, plus 50 winners will receive a free personalized book of their choice. So what are you waiting for? Enter away! Winners will be drawn December 6th.

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About Put Me In The Story

We think that books change lives, and we love the magic that the greatest stories create for kids – and adults, too!

As parents, we know there’s nothing better than snuggling up for storytime with your kids. Sharing a good book together is about much more than the story – It is about the small moments with your child:
·         Rocking and whispering On the Night You Were Born to your baby

·         Watching your child clap his hands as he hears his name in his favorite story

·         Seeing your reluctant reader eager to curl up and read a book again and again

·         Taking a breath at the end of the day with that extra special snuggle and story

At Put Me In The Story, we create a personal connection between you and those special books you love. Our partners are the world’s greatest characters and favorite bestselling books. In our stories, you can assist Doc McStuffins on house call, explore the world of great women throughout history, suit up with Avengers, or simply tell your little one just how much you love them.

By taking the very best stories and giving families a way to personalize them, making their child the star, magic happens!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

GIVEAWAY: Chicago Toy & Game Fair


Disclosure: Our family was invited to the Chicago Toy & Game Fair. I was not required to express a particular point of view and all opinions are my own.

Imagine yourself as a kid and you've just entered a huuuuuge room full of toys waiting to be played with. That's exactly what the Chicago Toy & Game Fair is - a huge toy room where it's okay to play with everything you see. Not just any toys but the hottest toys of the season., Needless to say, this is always a hit with my boys. We've gone for the past 3 years and we always have a great time. We can try out all the latest and greatest toys. We can even buy them right on the spot if we wanted to.

Read on for highlights of the .


Highlights:
  • Cool events! Each year there are different main events. This year we are excited to check out Bumblebee from Transformers. Awesome! Plus, there will be dinosaurs and even a Frozen parade.
Add caption
  • Seeing the latest and greatest toys of the season. You can even buy them directly from the vendors if you wish.
  • Getting to PLAY with the hottest toys of the season.

Credit: Zachary Johnston, joholla projects
  • Meet the inventors of some of the games. 
Tips to enjoy the Chicago Toy & Game Fair:
  • Get tickets on the cheap! Click here for ticket info and a $2 off coupon.
  • Bring $$$ if you plan on purchasing anything. 
  • Pack snacks or step out for lunch at Navy Pier.

While you're here...

  • Stop by the Children's Museum at Navy Pier. Read a review here: 
  • Be a tourist and browse the shops at Navy Pier.

    Bottom Line:

    It's always fun playing with toys, so this is an obvious hit with the kiddos!

    Nitty Gritty:

    Website: http://www.chitag.com
    Ticket prices: $10 Adult (ages 13+) - $5 Child (ages 3 - 12) - Children under 3 are free
    When: Saturday, November 22 and Sunday, November 23
    Location:  Navy Pier, Festival Hall A
    Parking: Covered parking garage at, Navy Pier
    Stroller-friendly? It does get pretty congested, so I would avoid bringing the stroller if you can.
    Crowded: Yes, we've always gone the first day and have noticed it does get a little busy, but there are places where you can stray away from the crowds (by the walls) if you need to sit down and have a breather
    What to expect: Tons of toys to try out and vendors that are actually selling toys. Get ready to get some Christmas shopping done early or at least have your kiddos add some goodies to their wish list.

    GIVEAWAY TIME!

    Interested in checking out the Chicago Toy & Game Fair? Leave a comment on your favorite toy of all time and I'll randomly pick a winner. Easy peasy! I'll pick a winner on Thursday 11/20.



    Thursday, November 13, 2014

    Holiday Family Fun Review: Cuneo Mansion and Garden's Winter Wonderland Holiday Light Show

    Credit: Cuneo Mansion
    It's Day 5 of our holiday series, "A Few of our Favorite Holiday Experiences." If you're catching up here are some of our favs (with a couple giveaways!)

    Day 1: The Museum of Science and Industry's Christmas Around the World exhibit (AND GIVEAWAY!)
    Day 2: Chicago Trolley Holiday Lights Tour
    Day 3: Morton Arboretum's Illumination: Tree Lights (AND GIVEAWAY!)
    Day 4: Illinois Railway Museum - Happy Holiday Railway

    Today, we're giving away tickets to one of our favorite holiday lights show - Cuneo Mansion's Winter Wonderland Holiday Lights Show in Vernon Hills, IL

    Nitty Gritty:
    Website: http://www.luc.edu/cuneo/holidaylightshow/
    When: Friday, November 28, 2014 until Saturday, January 3, 2015 (closed Dec. 24 & 25) from 6 pm to 10 pm
    Where: 1350 N. Milwaukee Ave, Vernon Hills (Note: Entrance is NOT on Milwaukee Ave)
    Admission: $5/car- Monday-Thursday, $10/car- Friday-Sunday

    Highlights:



    • Driving through 97 acres and pointing out our favorite lights, scenes, and some of our favorite characters.
    • We could turn the radio on to a station and hear Christmas songs playing.
    • Driving through was the perfect length - not too long and not so short
    • Passengers could participate in a scavenger hunt to find snowmen.
    • Here's a video to get an idea of what to expect


    Tips to enjoying the Winter Wonderland Holiday Light Show with the family:
    • Try to go on a weekday. To avoid crowds (and long lines) it's probably best to swing by during the weekday if possible. We waited a looong time in line just to get in. Thank goodness we had a van with a DVD player, or else our kids would have lost it!
    • Bring CASH!
    We wish...
    • ...that we went on a different day in order to avoid the long lines. Go earlier in the season!

      Bottom Line:

      Our first ever drive thru lights show did NOT disappoint! Even though we waited a long time to drive through the show, we still enjoyed ourselves!

      Interested in checking this out for yourselves? Enter below for free tickets!

      Giveaway Nitty Gritty:
      Win FREE tickets for your family!

      One lucky family will receive a pass to this drive-thru lights show at the Cuneo Mansion in Vernon Hills. I do check each and every entry. Contest ends Thursday, November 20, 2014 at 12:00 a.m. Winner will be notified by email.

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      Holiday Family Fun Review: Happy Holiday Railway at Illinois Railway Museum

      It's Day 4 and we're excited to share our love of trains. If you're catching up here are some of our favs (with a couple giveaways!)

      Day 1: The Museum of Science and Industry's Christmas Around the World exhibit (AND GIVEAWAY!)
      Day 2: Chicago Trolley Holiday Lights Tour
      Day 3: Morton Arboretum's Illumination: Tree Lights (AND GIVEAWAY!)

      While there may be no shortage of Polar Express rides around, we enjoyed riding the rails at the Illinois Railway Museum.

      This is a repost with updated dates:

      We had such a great time over the summer at Illinois Railway Museum's Day Out With Thomas  that we thought it would be perfect to check it out again.

      Nitty Gritty:
      Website: http://www.irm.org/events/hhr.html
      When: December 6th and 7th, 13th and 14th
      Ticket prices: $12.00 per person over the age of 1
      Location: 7000 Olson Road, Union, IL
      Parking: Plenty of parking
      Crowded?: Tickets for the event were sold out, but the train wasn't crowded as I imagined it would be
      Stroller-friendly?: These are vintage trains with narrow aisles -  I would leave the stroller at home
      Tips: Mark your calendars for next year - they are selling the tickets on October 1st, 2013

      Highlights:

      • Just riding the rails - my son just loves being around trains, so he was extra excited to be riding on one
      • The conductor, Mrs. Claus, and Santa gave the kids plenty of goodies to make my train-obsessed toddler happy - coloring books, cookies, a cute train card, and a goody bag filled with train related items
      Train goodies: coloring book, hot chocolate, DIY greeting card
        • The obligatory Santa photo. My youngest couldn't stop staring at him (hey, at least he wasn't screaming like my oldest last year!)
        Santa drops by!
        •  Picking up train gifts at the "North Pole"
        • Knowing that everyone helping with this event are all volunteers
        We wish:
        • ...there was music or singing on the train. Anything to make it more festive.
        • ...the train ride was a little longer

        Bottom Line:

        The boys always enjoy themselves whenever they get to ride trains. This was no exception. Although we would have liked to spend more time on the train, the kids still enjoyed the activities and the goodies at the "North Pole" and of course, meeting the jolly old man himself.

        Do you have a favorite holiday train event that we should check out?

        Read a list here of other holiday train events.

        Read my entire review on



        Disclosure: Though our family was provided complimentary tickets for the Happy Holiday Railway Event, I was not required to express a particular point of view and all opinions are my own.

        Wednesday, November 12, 2014

        Holiday Family Fun Review & GIVEAWAY: Illumination: Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum



        Disclosure: I was provided complimentary tickets in exchange of my opinions. I was not required to express a particular point of view and all opinions are my own.

        It's Day 3 of our series, and here's a recap of our holiday favorites so far with reviews:

        Day 1: The Museum of Science and Industry's Christmas Around the World exhibit (AND GIVEAWAY!)
        Day 2: Chicago Trolley Holiday Lights Tour

        Here's another fun review and giveaway of the Morton Arboretum's Illumination: Tree Lights.  Ready to take the holiday lights experience to a whole new level? From November 22, 2013 to January 4, 2014, Illumination: Tree Lights offers a wintertime experience far beyond traditional twinkling lights, engaging the senses with dazzling projections, trees that respond to touch and sound, and vivid, electric colors throughout.

        Last year we headed to The Morton Arboretum in Lisle for the debut of Illumination: Tree Lights. It was like a holiday lights show on steroids!

        Highlights:
        • Fun, light experience that combines cutting-edge light technology and nature. People were able to "hug" trees, or respond to the sound of voice and touch
        • Getting up close and personal with the trees beautifully lit up




        Credit: Morton Arboretum
        Tips:
        • It's about a mile-long walk from start to finish, but there is a way to "cut" so you don't have to do the entire mile walk.
        • Other than the lights, it is dark
        • They were selling glow sticks and toys. Bring your own!
        New this year:

        This year they are making it bigger and better than last year. Check out these additions:
        •  Symphony Woods: Enchanting lights dance in synchronized patterns to seasonal music from the renowned Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
        • ·Meadow Lake Magic: Light-patterned trees and a series of lit orbs dotting Meadow Lake create a visually entrancing experience.
        •  The popular Tinsel Colonnade will be expanded in 2014 to double its size, as cascades of multi-colored strings of LED lights hanging from the trees like tinsel.


        • More kid-friendly features: 2014’s event incorporates child-friendly elements to engage the whole family, including simpler interactive stations and a scavenger hunt to find the “Glow Man” hidden along the Illumination path for a special prize.
        • Live entertainment: Catch top local bands every weekend during Illumination. Check the Illumination website for the latest schedule.
        Nitty Gritty
        Website: http://www.mortonarb.org/events/illumination-tree-lights-morton-arboretum
        When: Frday, November 21 to Saturday, January 3. Illumination opens every day at 5:00 p.m. with the last entry at 8:30 p.m. and lights out at 9:30 p.m.
        Where: Morton Arboretum, 4100 Illinois Route 53, Lisle
        Tickets: Prices range depending on when you visit and if you are a member or not: $12-$20 Adult/$6-$13; Child (2-17) See their website for exact pricing.
        General Admission: Daytime Arboretum admission the same day as your Illumination ticket is included with your ticket price.
        Parking: Free


        Interested in seeing this interactive lights experience for yourselves? Enter below for a family four pack.

        GIVEAWAY NITTY GRITTY:
        Win (4) FREE tickets for your family!

        I've got four tickets for one lucky family for see this new lights experience at the Morton Arboretum. I do check each and every entry. Contest ends Wednesday, November 19, 2014 at 12:00 a.m. Winner will be notified by email.

        (1) Lucky family will receive 4 tickets to the Morton Arbortetum.

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        Tuesday, November 11, 2014

        Holiday Family Fun Review: Chicago Trolley Holiday Lights Tour



        Disclosure: This review was based on complimentary tickets to the Chicago Trolley Holiday Lights Tour.. I was not required to express a particular point of view and all opinions are my own.

        It's Day 2 of A Few of Our Favorite Holiday Experience series. Yesterday, we wrote about the huge Museum of Science and Industry's Christmas Around the World exhibit (and giveaway, so enter!). For today, I'd like to talk about the Chicago Trolley Holiday Lights Tour. We went last year and we couldn't think of anything more family-friendly! We'd never taken a Chicago trolley tour or been to Lincoln Park Zoo's ZooLights or Christkindlmarket, so it was fun to knock out three things from our holiday bucket list. It's become a familly holiday favorite!

        Nitty Gritty:
        Website: https://www.coachusa.com/chicagotrolley/
        When: Tours operate Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, November 28 - December 21, and every day December 26 - January 4th with departure times at 6 p.m., 6:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.
        Where: The Trolley boards at the John Hancock Plaza (875 N. Michigan Ave.) The Trolley makes stops at Lincoln Park Zoo's Zoo Lights and Christkindlmarket for 30 minutes each.
        Parking: We parked at John Hancock's parking garage
        Duration: Two and a half hours
        Ticket prices: Tickets are now on sale, $29 for adults and $19 for kids and must be purchased 24
        hours in advance at www.chicagotrolley.com. New this year, Chicago Trolley offers riders a Holiday Combo ticket which includes the Holiday Lights Tour and the Signature Hop-on Hop-off tour, $66.50 for adults and $35 for kids.
        Stroller-friendly? We didn't bring our stroller, but I suppose you could bring an umbrella stroller and stow it on the trolley.

        Highlights:
        • Cool stops! We had never been to Lincoln Park Zoo's ZooLights or the Christkindlmarket as a family and had a great time even though the stops were only half an hour.
        • Nothing cooler than getting to see the city in all it's twinkling glory
        • Not having to drive and park! Sure you can go ahead and drive yourself to Lincoln Park Zoo or Christkindlmarket but then you'd have to worry about parking (bummer) and traffic (double bummer). 
        • Let's face it - riding on trolleys are cool!

        • Delicious treats! You get a voucher for a brownie and delicious hot chocolate from Hershey's Chicago.
        • Informative. The drivers are also tour guides, so they were able to share their knowledge about the city.

        Tips to enjoying the Chicago Holiday Lights Tour with the family:
        • Go early! Plan for traffic. You don't want to miss your trolley.
        • Buy your tickets ahead of time. There are a limited number of seats on the trolley plus it runs only on weekends.
        We wish...
        • ...that we had more time to spend at some of the stops.

          Bottom Line:

          The Chicago Trolley Holiday Lights Tour is a relaxing way to see the beautiful city of Chicago in all its twinkling glory. We definitely recommend it, but get your tickets in advance.

          Read my entire review on: 






          Monday, November 10, 2014

          Holiday Family Fun Review AND GIVEAWAY: Christmas Around the World at Museum of Science and Industry



          Disclosure: This review was based on complimentary admission to the Museum of Science and Industry. I was not required to express a particular point of view and all opinions are my own.

          To kick off the start of our series, A Few of Our Favorite Experiences, I'd love to introduce you to our favorite museum in the Chicagoland area - The Museum of Science and Industry! And once the holidays roll around, MSI gets even more festive and always puts our family in the holiday spirit. Read on!

          Nitty Gritty:
          Website: http://www.msichicago.org/whats-here/exhibits/christmas-around-the-world/
          When: November 13th, 2014 to January 4th, 2015
          Location: 5700 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago.  MSI is located in Hyde Park
          Parking: $20 for parking in the attached parking garage
          Ticket prices: Exhibit is included in general admission prices. General admission costs: Adults are $18; Children 3-11 are $11
          Stroller-friendly? We always bring our double stroller and never really have a problem navigating

          Highlights:
          • The awesome 45-foot grand tree is decorated in conjunction with the temporary exhibit. Last year and this year it's a Disney theme to coincide with their Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives. 


          • It's cool pointing out all the Disney ornaments on the trees.

          • Different cultural acts each weekend and select weekdays. Unfortunately, we haven't timed it so we could actually see one of the acts. Here's a listing of all the performances
          • Finding our favorite tree! There are over 50 trees that are decorated by a different culture. It's always so neat finding a favorite among them. 
          • It's snowing! My boys love trying to catch the snow.

          • Cool ornaments. Stop by their gift shop for different types of ornaments. 

          Tips to enjoying the Museum of Science and Industry with the family:
          • Don't expect to do it all! It is after all the largest museum in the western side of the hemisphere. Pick and choose what you want to see. And make plans to come back again.
          • Bring your camera! Tons of photo ops with the grand Christmas tree and decorations throughout. 
          Read my entire review on: 


          While you're here...
          • Check out the new permanent exhibit - Numbers in Nature: A Mirror Maze
          Never look at the world the same way again. Numbers in Nature: A Mirror Mazeis an interactive and immersive new permanent exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago that exposes and explains the mathematical patterns that abound in the natural world—from the delicate nested spirals of a sunflower’s seeds, to the ridges of a majestic mountain range, to the layout of the universe—providing a different and unique perspective to our daily surroundings.

          The centerpiece of the exhibit is an 1,800-square-foot elaborate mirror maze in which guests can lose themselves in a seemingly infinite repeating pattern of mirrors. Interactive elements throughout the exhibit allow for hands-on learning to understand that math is all around us in everyday life, revealing the beauty of our world through numbers.
          • Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives - They've added a small Frozen section, along with costumes from Santa Clause and Maleficent. Plus, learn how to draw holiday versions of Mickey and Minnie Mouse.

          Bottom Line:

          Visiting the Museum of Science and Industry is always fun, especially around the holidays with their Christmas Around the World exhibit. We look forward to seeing it every year, and has become a holiday tradition.

          GIVEAWAY:

          Now to the fun part - win yourself a pack of four tickets to the Museum of Science and Industry where you can see the Christmas Around the World exhibit along with their new permanent exhibit, Numbers in Nature: A Mirror Maze.

          GIVEAWAY NITTY GRITTY:
          Win (4) FREE tickets for your family!

          I've got four tickets for one lucky family to visit the Museum of Science and Industry during its Christmas Around the World celebration. Tickets will include (4) general admission to the Museum of Science and Industry. I do check each and every entry. Contest ends Monday, November 17  at 12:00 a.m. Winner will be notified by email.

          (1) Lucky family will receive 4 tickets for general admission tickets to the Museum of Science and Industry.

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