Monday, July 21, 2014

Renaissance Blackstone offers a fun Chicago Fire Soccer package


This past weekend, we had the opportunity to stay at one of our favorite hotels in Chicago - The Renaissance Blackstone. Why do we love it so much? Well, besides the location right on Michigan Avenue, the rooms are upscale yet comfortably, and the hotel even historic! Read more about our review of The Blackstone Renaissance here. Our timing couldn't have been better since they were offering a Chicago Fire package that included tickets and other Chicago Fire goodies for staying. 

Cool package with a Chicago Fire scarf, notebook, tickets, and sangrias!
We had a chance to enjoy awesome seats for our first Chicago Fire game, and we can't wait to make our way back!


Chicago Fire's newest fan!

Read more about the package details below. Definitely a fun staycation for a soccer lovin' family or one who has always wanted to see a Chicago Fire game. One of the most family-friendliest games we've been to!

Get ‘Fired Up’ for Chicago Fire Soccer at
the Renaissance Blackstone Chicago Hotel

‘Fire Up’ Package Includes Two Premier Level Tickets and Soccer Fan Amenities Plus Chance to Win Two Club Level Tickets to a Future Game with a Stay in The Blackstone’s Presidential Suite 

Chicago Fire soccer fans can now “Live in the Red” before and after games at the RenaissanceBlackstone Chicago Hotel this season. The hotel is offering a special ‘Fire Up’ package for soccer fans, including two Premier Level tickets to a Chicago Fire home game, a special Chicago Fire amenity gift bag, a welcome cocktail and more. Guests who book the ‘Fire Up’ package will be entered to win a drawing for two Club Level tickets to an October Chicago Fire home game and an overnight stay in the Renaissance Blackstone Chicago’s Presidential Suite.

“As an official partner of the Chicago Fire we are excited to support the team and help fans get the most out of their game day experience,” said Kim Corrigan, general manager of the Renaissance Blackstone Chicago. “Toyota Park is a short drive from the Renaissance Blackstone Chicago, making it a perfect location to stay for a game all while discovering downtown Chicago.”

The ‘Fire Up’ package is available now through October 24, 2014 on nights surrounding Chicago Fire home games. Rates for the ‘Fire Up’ package start at $199 a night, per room and include the following:
·       Two premier level tickets to a Chicago Fire game
·       Chicago Fire gift bag including branded bag, commemorative Chicago Fire scarf and Chicago Fire notebook
·       Complimentary internet access
·       Two welcome sangrias
·       Entry into an early October drawing for two complimentary Club Level tickets to an October 2014 regular season home game and an overnight stay in The Blackstone’s Presidential Suite

For reservations or more information call 312-447-0955; or visit www.renaissanceblackstone.com.

For The Chicago Fire home game schedule visit http://www.chicago-fire.com/schedule.


About Renaissance Blackstone Chicago Hotel

A classic Chicago landmark, the Renaissance Blackstone Chicago Hotel is located on famed Michigan Avenue with sweeping views of Chicago’s lakefront and just steps from Grant Park/Millennium Park, the financial and theater district of the Loop and many other local attractions. The Blackstone ranked on the 2014 T+L 500 Best Hotels Worldwide list, CondeNast Traveler’s Annual “Reader’s Choice Poll” in 2013 and was named one of the best hotels in Chicago by U.S. News & World Report in 2014. Since 1910, The Blackstonehas played host to sports legends, royalty, presidents, and movie stars. Its exquisitely renovated neoclassical Beaux-Arts architecture lendsthis legendary landmark an air of distinction and magnificence. The Blackstone’s 332-spacious guest rooms and signature suites feature a distinct décor for a comfortable and luxurious home away from home. Offering more than 11,000 square feet of event space including the magnificent Crystal Ballroom overlooking Grant Park, The Blackstone provides one-of-a-kind gathering space in a gracious and sophisticated atmosphere. With more than 1,600 pieces of original artwork by celebrated local artists decorating the common rooms, The Blackstone’s décor is a dynamic mix of historic architecture and savvy design combined with luxury amenities and thoughtful guest services. For reservations or more information call 312-447-0955; or visithttp://www.marriott.com/chirh. You can also find the hotel on Twitter @BlackstoneHotel and Facebook at Facebook.com/TheBlackstoneHotel

About Chicago Fire Soccer Club

The Chicago Fire Soccer Club is a premier franchise of Major League Soccer (MLS).  We provide an engaging and authentic soccer experience for the city of Chicago and for all of our supporters around the world. The Fire enters its 17th season in 2014 looking to continue its winning legacy both on and off the pitch. The Club proudly embodies the spirit and diversity of our sport, and since its inception in 1997, the Fire have captured an MLS Cup in 1998, and remains the only MLS team to have won the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup four times. The Fire's home venue is Toyota Park, a world-class soccer stadium located minutes from downtown Chicago in Bridgeview, Ill. For more information on the Fire and to purchase tickets, please visit the Club's official website at www.Chicago-Fire.com.

Lake of the Ozarks - Alhonna Resort Boat Rentals - Get on the water!


Disclosure: This review is based on a complimentary rental rate. Alhonna Resort did not state any requirements that I express a particular point of view.  All opinions are my own.

Since we were at the Lake of the Ozarks, we knew we just had to explore the area by water. Thanks to Alhonna Resort, we were able to do just that with their boat rentals. As you may have guessed, this ended up being one of the highlights of our entire trip!

Nitty Gritty


Alhonna Resort & Marina
Website: http://www.thealhonnaresort.com/boat-rental
Location: 677 Outer Drive, Lake Ozark, Missouri
Parking: Parking is free

Highlights:

  • Safety first! Life vests are included.
  • Spacious! We rented a pontoon boats that could fit 10 people

  • Variety of other boats as well including fishing boats, deck boats, open bow ski boats

  • Just being on the water and taking in the sights including million dollar homes, people jet skiing, Bagnell Dam,  plus a great way to cool down on a humid 90 degree afternoon.


Tips:

Bring drinks and food. Better yet get some food from Bobber’s Restaurant and Lounge located on the Resort. Delicious and not to mention convenient!
There is a minimum of two hours for rentals and we found that 4 hours was enough to explore.
Afraid of getting lost? There are mile markers located by the shoreline.

Bottom Line:
Renting a boat at the Lake of the Ozarks is a must! The family-owned Alhonna Resort is a great place to rent one, and you'll be sure to have a great time!

Read my entire review on: 









Friday, July 4, 2014

Family-friendly Restaurant Review: The Firefly Grill, Effingham, Illinois




Disclosure: Our family was given a giftcard to enjoy at the Firefly Grill. I was not required to express a particular point of view and all opinions are my own.

One of the highlights of our stopover at Effingham, Illinois was dining at Firefly Grill. . It was a culinary experience (one that my husband and I rarely have), that you'd expect to find in big cities such as Chicago. Best of all it was extremely family-friendly!


Nitty Gritty:

Firefly Grill
Website: http://ffgrill.com/
Location: 1810 Ave of Mid America, Efffingham, Illinois
Hours: Open for brunch, lunch, and dinner. Check out their website for hours.
Parking: Plenty of free parking

Highlights:


  • Great family atmosphere! It was definitely a foodie atmosphere, but not at all pretentious and unfit for younger children. Described as modern roadhouse, the decor was cool yet included rustic touches that made for the perfect balance. You can choose to sit indoors or outside by the screened patio. 


  • Perfect family-friendly diversion! How cool is it that we could walk out back and feed koi fish and catfish in their pond? The pond housed some of the biggest koi fish and cat fish we'd ever seen. Don't forget to ask for fish food!


  • The delicious FOOD! Wonderful presentation, great combination of ingredients, plus it taste good too. We tried and loved:
    • Roasted halibut shipped fresh from Alaska. Delicious, light and flaky!Though I could have had a whole plate of the ravioli it was paired with. YUM!
    • Woodfired brick oven pizza - perfect for the kiddos!

    • Of course we had to have dessert - strawberry shortcake with ice cream and goat cheese



  • Friendly and attentive staff.  We met the owners for a few minutes and they are the sweetest. In fact, she was on her way home since she makes it a goal to be with her daughter by 6 p.m. Love the family values!

Bottom Line: 
Firefly Grill is worth a stop if you are anywhere near the area. It's a fabulous foodie paradise but still kid-friendly! Plus, the owners seem really passionate about food they provide.


Read my entire review on



Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Family Fun Review: Heider's Berry Farm in Woodstock, IL


One of the items on our summer bucket list include going strawberry and berry picking. We know that the strawberry picking season is here for a limited time, so we wanted to get picking right away! We saw that one of our good friends had a great time at Heider's Berry farm, so we decided to see for ourselves. So glad we did! It was the perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon with the family. Check that off our bucket list!

Nitty Gritty:
Heider's Berry Farm
When: Open everyday 8am-5pm but check their Facebook page for up to date information.
Location: 1106 N. Queen Anne Rd., Woodstock, IL, 
Admission: FREE!
Prices: U-Pick strawberries $10/4 qt. box; rasberries $3.50/pint; prices differ if you want pre-picked



Parking: Parking is free and plentiful

Highlights:

  • Cool story. This farm goes back 5 generations. After a hiatus of 25 years, the Heider's are back at it again.
  • Simplicity at its best! Nothing but picking berries with the family. It's a no-frills operation, 
  • Close to the action. We didn't have to walk very far to reach the orchard, which is very convenient for this 8 month preggo momma! 
  • Plenty to pick from. There are 2.5 acres of raspberries and about 4.5 acres of strawberries. Plus, we heard that that they'll have more strawberries from August to late October, and raspberry picking will continue until late October. Their black raspberries will be available about July 10 until late July, and in 2015 they will have blackberries to pick from. 

  • So delicious! There's nothing like picking fresh berries off the vine. You can definitely taste the difference from those store bought.
  • No harmful chemicals. Natural just used fungicide (stuff used in hand soap).
  • A fun educational experience. It was great to show the kids where food comes from and how things grow, especially for fruits that they love to eat. 

We wish.. 
...wouldn't change a thing! It was the perfect first time berry picking experience.

Tips to enjoy Heider's Berry Farm:


  • Since it was our first time strawberry and raspberry picking, John Heider, one of the owners taught us a tricks of the trade:
    • With raspberries, the redder the better, watch out for those with mold on them, you should easily remove the raspberries from the vine with your thumb with little to no effort
    • It's best to stay in one spot and try to go to the middle of the bushes to find unpicked raspberries. People tend to just go down the aisle and pick as they see them.
  • Baskets are provided after you check in.
So eager to get our strawberry baskets!
  • Bring cash! They only accept cash or check.
  • Stay tuned! They will have fall berries as well. We saw the golden raspberries starting to sprout.
  • Wear close toed shoes. It will be much easier to walk around.
  • Go ahead, bring a picnic. There is a place to sit and enjoy, and they will be expanding the area with more benches.
  • Hurry! You have until about July 10 for strawberry picking, but like I mentioned they'll have more strawberries to pick from starting in August, raspberries, and even black raspberries.
Bottom Line: 
What a fun summer day! We loved this experience and will be back. Next time you are at the farm say hi to John or Sue. They are a pleasure to speak with!



Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Family Fun Destination: Effingham, Illinois



On a recent roadtrip to St. Louis, we made an overnight stop at Effingham, Illinois, a small town in Central Illinois. We were pleasantly surprised at the town's offerings, and if we ever find ourselves in the area, we will be back!

Reasons why we will be back to Effingham, Illinois:


  • Car lovers will love checking out the display of Corvettes at the MY Garage Museum.
  • See what all the hype is about at John Boos & Company where they make specialty cutting boards and butcher blocks. Even celebrity chefs such as Emeril and The Cake Boss use butcher blocks from this oldest industry in Effingham. There's even a discounted section of butcher blocks! A definite must-stop! Read this awesome article on John Boos & Co.
Signed butcher block from The CAKE Boss himself
Given the time restraints, we didn't get to explore Effingham. Here are places we'll check out the next time we're in town:

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Family Fun Review: Three Oaks Recreation Area in Crystal Lake


Disclosure: Our family was given complimentary admission to the Three Oaks Recreation Area. I was not required to express a particular point of view and all opinions are my own.

We had the opportunity to visit Three Oaks Recreation Area, a former quarry turned lake in Crystal Lake, and absolutely enjoyed ourselves. From beaches to a park to picnic areas, this is a perfect diversion for families on a nice, summer day.


Nitty Gritty:

Three Oaks Recreation Area
Location: 5517 Northwest Highway, Crystal Lake, Illinois
When: Open Monday - Saturday now until November 16, 2013. Closed Sundays. 
Hours: 5:30 a.m. to sunset
Parking: Parking is free if you are a resident and $5 for non-residents
Admission: Admission is free except the Lake House: Non-resident adults: $10, youth $6, kids 3 and under free. Check their website for more rates including matinee fees. 

Highlights:

  • Beach fun. There aren't that too many places in the Northwest suburbs where we can enjoy the beach. A definite hidden gem!



  • Safety first. Clearly marked signs signifying a change in depth plus attentive lifeguards along the beach.


  • More fun for kids.  Kids can stay cool in the splash pad or release any extra energy in the playground or even go on a paddle boat.

 
  • Culvers restaurant on site. Perfect for days when you'd like to chill out and have ice cream.
  • Interested in learning how to standup paddleboard or scuba diving? They offer lessons here!

Bottom Line: 

We had such a great time at Three Oaks Recreation Area in Crystal Lake. Even though the weather may not have been in our favor, we are excited to make a repeat visit. We are lucky to have this hidden gem so close to us so we will definitely visit soon!



Read my entire review on

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Review: Red Bull Flying Bach performance at Civic Opera House

Credit: Carlos Cruz Photography
As I mentioned previously, Red Bull Flying Bach, a performance where classical music and break dancing merge, was coming to Chicago. We had the opportunity to attend yesterday's opening night performance and we were blown away!

Highlights:

Be prepared to be wowed! Some of the moves are unbelievable - from never-ending headspins to jumps to freezes, you'll be amazed.

Credit: Carlos Cruz Photography

Live classical music. Not only did we get to see hip hop and break dancing, but listening to live classical music being played by two different pianists was a treat.

Credit: Carlos Cruz Photography
Family friendly. The performance is only 70 minutes long, perfect for our toddlers that have well no attention spans! In fact, a 4-year-old, 3-year-old, and 2-year-old were mesmerized by the break dancing, and stayed content in their seats (most of the time).

Gorgeous setting. Visiting the Civic Opera House is always a treat! It's absolutely beautiful!

Credit: Carlos Cruz Photography
Now, they are here for a few more performances for this weekend and next weekend. What are you waiting for? Go ahead and get your tickets at Ticketmaster and Goldstar, and be prepared to give a standing ovation!

Here are more details about the show!

Nitty Gritty:
Website: http://www.redbull.com/us/en/music/events/1331631781067/red-bull-flying-bach-chicago
When: Red Bull Flying Bach is performed over two weekends only:  Friday and Saturday evenings, June 20, 21, 27 & 28, at 7:30pm, and Sunday afternoons, June 22 & 29, at 2pm.
Where: The historic Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive, June 20 – 29.
Cost: Tickets, ranging from $24 to $88, are now on sale at Ticketmaster.com or by visiting the Civic Opera House box office.


EXCLUSIVE U.S. ENGAGEMENT of
RED BULL FLYING BACH, IN CHICAGO ONLY,
OPENED TONIGHT WITH PRE-SHOW RED CARPET, RAUCOUS PERFORMANCE & POST-SHOW VIP RECEPTION

Performances continue at Civic Opera House through June 29

CHICAGO (June 20, 2014) – Tonight, Red Bull Flying Bach opened in Chicago, making its U.S. debut in an exclusive Chicago engagement after three seasons of sold-out performances around the world.  Over 2,200 people were in the audience, taking place at the historic Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive.  Red Bull Flying Bach runs for five more performances through June 29.

The evening began at 6:30 pm with a Red Carpet where the stars of the show – Berlin-based dance crew The Flying Steps – were greeted by local celebrities including Cheryl Scott, Hebru Brentley, Jordan Lynch, Red Bull athletes Louie Vito, David Colturi and Nico Cabera.  Following the 7:30 pm performance, an exclusive After Party at Paris Club.

In Red Bull Flying Bach, four-time break dance world champions The Flying Steps combine contemporary hip-hop power moves with live classical music.  Berlin-based opera director and pianist extraordinaire Christoph Hagel serves as Music Director, performing Johann Sebastian Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier live for each show.  In between Bach’s rolling preludes and fugues for solo piano and harpsichord (harpsichordist: Daniel Trumbull), electronic beats created by Ketan and Vivian Bhatti remix the well-known melodies into explosive anthems.

The show itself, 70 minutes in length, features the seven break dancers of The Flying Steps along with contemporary Swedish dancer Anna Holmström in a lively series of vignettes, each showing off the multi-talented dancers’ strengths, including a dazzling array of breaking, popping & locking, flares, head spins, hand spins, footwork, acrobatics and unison work.  A loose storyline follows the dancers in the rehearsal studio as they prepare for a major competition.  The inner conflicts among the group melt away when a new girl enters the studio and the dynamic completely changes.  Note by note and step by step, The Flying Steps bridge the worlds of break dance and classical music with playful rhythms and contagious energy.  Red Bull Flying Bach is choreographed by Flying Steps Artistic Director and dancer, Vartan Bassil.  Red Bull Flying Bach has sold out theaters in Austria, Australia, Canada, Chile, Germany, Iceland, Japan, Russia and Sweden.

About The Flying Steps
The Flying Steps are one of the most successful urban dance crews worldwide with breathtaking shows and one-of-a-kind choreography, appealing to a diverse audience.  The group was founded by Vartan Bassil and Kadir “Amigo” Memis in 1993 in Berlin.  The Flying Steps specialize in urban dance styles like b-boying and popping & locking and have won several world championships, like the Battle of the Year and Red Bull Beat Battle.  In 2007, they opened their own dance school in Berlin, The Flying Steps Academy.  With a mission to guide the next generation of urban dance and offer young prospects an opportunity with social projects, the Academy is how the Flying Steps set the stage for the next generation of dance.  To learn more about The Flying Steps, visit www.flying-steps.de/en/b-boy-crew.

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