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Monday, November 30, 2015

Who's Ready For Christmas?

Today is the last day of November which means that for me, the Christmas season officially starts tomorrow. It starts at a different time for everyone. I've been watching Christmas movies since the second week in November. I know of people that started decorating 3 weeks ago. But for me, it officially starts on December 1st!
Tonight, we are going to finish cleaning the house and start decorating the house. I actually meant to start decorating this past weekend, but I just couldn't get everything ready in time.
Tomorrow, I will be starting the 25 Days of Christmas series sharing our daily activities that we will be doing to celebrate the season. I will also be sharing our elf, Zippy's, daily antics.
I hope you enjoy this coming month. Spend time with your family. Be joyful and thankful for everything and everyone.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Christmas Photos

Hi Everyone! Now, if you've ever read my blog before, you know that I am a big fan of photography. That being said, I don't think it's necessary to go out and pay for every single mini session you can find. If you only get your family's picture taken once a year, do so before Christmas! Please oh please take advantage of the Christmas Card Photo Sessions that people host.

Personally, we struck a deal with one of our friends to take their Christmas pictures if they took ours. Plus, we just got our pictures taken with the reindeer at our local zoo this past Saturday. I will post those when I get them (Wednesday!). Here are our pictures folks! (Click images to view them larger)

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City, IN

So, if you've read any of my travel/vacation posts before, you know that I do a lot of research before doing anything. This time is no different. My mother-in-law just turned 50 and to celebrate, we wanted to do something fun for her. She likes to gamble and spend time with us (of course) so we ultimately decided to go for a long weekend in Michigan City, Indiana (2.5 hours from us and 45 minutes from her). Our plan was always to go to the Blue Chip Casino, but we weren't sure whether or not we actually wanted to stay here so I did some research. In the end, this seemed to be our best option.

There are quite a few parking options here. And by that, I mean that there a lot of spaces available. Near the Blue Chip Tower, there is a parking garage. This is where most people seem to park. We were staying in the Spa Blue Tower though, so we parked near that side door. Most of the time, we could find a spot fairly close. Also offered is valet parking.

Check In
We arrived early so our room was not ready yet. However, we did all of the check-in things when we got there, and they were able to reserve us a room on a fairly high floor (14) facing the lake. My suggestion if you're staying in the Spa Blu Tower is to get there early so that you will be more likely to receive a room on a higher floor facing the lake. I assume if you get there later, all of these 'premium' rooms will already be gone.

The Room
There are 2 different towers to this hotel. The old one (The Blue Chip Tower) which is where the pool is located and the newer one (The Spa Blu Tower) which is closer to the spa and has nicer rooms. We chose to pay more and get the nicer room in the Spa Blu Tower. There were 2 queen beds, a chair, a dessk, a dresser, a nice bathroom, and all the amenities you would expect with an upscale hotel. I realized I had left my razor at home and really wanted to shave my legs before going to the pool so I called down to the front desk and the woman quickly brought me a razor and a couple packets of shaving cream.

The Pool
I'm glad there was a pool. My 5-year-old son really took advantage of it. I was surprised by the large number of children that were there though. And everything echos so much that you could easily get a headache from being in there too long. I'm not sure why other people didn't seem to have an issue with this and practically encouraged their children to be ridiculously loud. Just be aware of this fact before leaving. Towels are located on a rack in the pool area. There are two hot tubs.

The Casino
Since our 5yo son couldn't go into the casino, my husband and I took turns going with my MIL on one night. The other night, my husband's uncle and cousin came and the cousin watched our son in the room while the adults gambled. It was a lot of fun. The employees were all so nice. My husband and I wanted to know how craps worked and one of the employees (at a table that wasn't very busy) explained everything to us. At the end of our trip (playing all slots), we actually walked out with $200 more than what we came with. I'm pretty impressed!

The Spa
We got my MIL and myself pedicures for her birthday. It was fun. The woman that did them was very nice and everything seemed very tranquil in the spa area. However, while I was on the phone the week before-hand trying to make reservations for some spa packages, I got very frustrated with the woman on the phone. She would say there was an availability at a certain time and then 2 minutes later, it wasn't available anymore. This happened at least 4 times before I was just too annoyed by everything and ended up just booking some pedicures so that we had something.

The Food
Kids are only allowed in 2 out of the 5 restaurants so we didn't eat in too many of them. When we first got there, we ate at Nelson's Deli. The portions were huge. We each got a meal that was a big mistake. We should have just gotten 2 between the 4 of us and split them. We ate at Options Buffet one day and I thought it was very good. There was a large selection and everything we ate was very delicious. I was actually just looking at their website and I saw that Blue Chip now has it's very own food truck! That's exciting.

There were 2 different stores. They are very different from each other. And they sell things that are very cheap and quite expensive. It's a nice mix. Plus, I did notice that they had a very large variety of sizes. I saw sizes in dresses ranging from XS-3X. I really enjoyed souvenir shopping in these shops. The one closer to the casino is more about souvenirs while the other one is more about generic (sometimes expensive) clothing and purses and stuff.

Check Out
Check-out was a breeze. It takes no time at all and we had no issues so everything went great.

Bonus Tip: If you get a room facing the lake, you can very easily see the fireworks on the 4th of July. In fact, you can see fireworks from all over.

Overall, I would definitely suggest coming here and staying in this hotel if you are in the Michigan City area.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Stocking Stuffer Ideas

It's time to start thinking about stocking stuffers! I love getting them. And I love giving them even more. I don't have a lot of experience with buying a lot of stocking stuffers for boys and girls of all ages, but here are a list of a few things I have gotten people in the past. I have tried to name at least 2-3 ideas per age group. Please leave any ideas you might have in the comments and I will update this list as often as new ideas come to me! Enjoy!

Boy or Girl: Under 1
1. board books
2. teething toys
3. bath toys
4. Lots of Links

Boy or Girl: Age 1-3
1. Block Buddies
2. bath toys
3. toy phone

Boy: Age 4-6
1. Lego Minifigures
2. Mini Lego sets
3. Candy bracelet
4. Pez Dispenser
5. Go to Party City and pick out a bunch of 'goodie bag' gifts. They have a ton for under $1.

Girl: Age 4-6
1. coloring book and crayons
2. bathtime crayons
3. stickers

Boy: Age 7-9
1. handheld games
2. Batteries (if they are receiving any toys that need them)

Girl: Age 7-9
1. jewelry
2. Sunglasses

Boy: Age 10-13
1. handheld games
2. small remote control car

Girl: Age 10-13
1. Bracelet
2. Nail Polish
3. Lip Gloss

Girl: High School
1. Baby Lips or other fancy lip balm
2. Nail polish
3. Earrings
4. Gift Card

Boy: High School
1. game for handheld device
2. Gift Card

Men: Adult
1. Pocket Survival Tool
2. Flashdrives (which you can usually find super cheap on black friday)
3. Jigger
4. Gift Card
5. Lottery Tickets
6. Star Wars Jelly Bellys
7. Mini bottles of booze
8. Bar mix or peanuts

Women: Adult
1. Fancy hot chocolate and a mini whisk
2. Nail polish with emery board
3. Watch
4. Silicone Spatula
5. Gift Card
6. Fuzzy Socks
7. Anti-Bacterial in fun scents

And you can always get candy. Most people like candy.
What are some of your ideas?

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Recipes: Sex on the Beach

My maid of honor got married a couple years ago. I am so excited for her! I can tell you one thing, I love being married and I hope everyone can be as happy as I am. She got married on a beach in Florida. It was so beautiful and I was so excited to be there right by her side the way she was there for me. Anyway, the point of this whole post: For her bachelorette party, I made a drink to go along with the whole beach theme and it went over really well. It's simple and it's a classic. And if you're already starting to miss the beautiful summer weather, perhaps this drink could bring back those wonderful summer memories for you!

I didn't do exact measurements. I actually used a red solo cup to measure everything so when I say cup, it means red solo cup. Since I was making a large pitcher, it worked out perfectly.

2 cups Vodka
1 cup Peach Schnapps
3 cups orange juice
3 cups cranberry juice

Mix everything together.

It was delicious. I hope you like it too.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

New Yarn Storage

So I bought these storage things from Walmart a while ago with no ideas about what to use them for. They were about $3.50 each and I bought 6 of them so we're talking about $21 here. They kind of lock together so there isn't a worry about them sliding off of one another.

Anyway, I was cleaning my living room and these crates were just sitting there with no purpose and then it came to me! I had seen many yarn storage shelves that seemed so permanent and I love the way they look, but I need something that I can move for now. We're not done building my craft room/office yet. So here it is!

I think it looks pretty nice. Plus, I can see all the colors that I have. It case you can't see, I have 5 skeins of grey heather. I'm not sure why I kept buying it, but at least by viewing everything this way, I know that I don't need to buy that color for a while.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Arlington International Racecourse

2200 W Euclid Ave
Arlington Heights, IL 60005

My sisters and I decided to take my parents here to celebrate their birthdays. It turned out to be a great day. The weather was perfect. It turned out to be a beautiful day. Our server was very friendly (he even took a picture for us). The races were very entertaining. The kids had a great time. A couple of us even came out ahead with our bets! I would call the day a success.

My sister actually bought our tickets ahead of time. We wanted things to be nice so we got Executive Box seats. These were $17 per person. We went on a Saturday so the races started at 1:15pm. The gates to the track open at 12pm. And the gates to park open at 11:30am.

We decided to make some sandwiches and bring them to the park. They had tables near the entrance where we ate lunch. Then, we went to the area where they parade the horses. They bring them out 20 minutes before each race. Then, they get them ready for the race. After the the jockeys mount them, they walk one by one to the track 5-10 minutes before the race starts. This is a great time to see the horses. If you bring kids and they get restless, this is also a great time to stretch your legs.

There are places set up all over where you can make your bets. They have machines or you can place your bet with an actual person. This was my first time using a machine and I found it to be very easy. In the end, my husband and I won $11.20. Anything above $0 is a win for me!

Our seats were great. They were covered so we wouldn't get wet if it rained. We wouldn't get hot if it was too sunny. We could see everything really well. We ended up with 2 boxes right next to each other because we had 11 people. There are 4 padded seats that line the back of the box. Then, there's a large table with a TV that has 2 office chairs at it. The TV shows the race and everything that is displayed on the giant screen on the track. It can also pick up a couple other channels if you want to watch something else. Our waitor told us if the Cubs were playing, you could usually pick that up. To get your waitor's attention, you raise this little flag in front of your box.

Overall, we had a great time and we'll definitely be going back again.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Jelly Belly Factory in Kenosha, WI

We decided to drive out to the Jelly Belly packaging plant while we were in Kenosha. I had heard that you could take a tour. So we made our way out there. Apparently, we arrived at just the right time because there was a very large group of kids (like 40 or more) that showed up just after us.

You start out by waiting in this really long line. Now, it wasn't that long when we got there, but we still ended up waiting about 30 minutes. That was less than enjoyable, but sometimes you just have to tough out the line to get to the good stuff (or so we thought). Don't get me wrong, I'm glad that we went on the tour, but it was a little boring. We will definitely never do it again. You mostly watch screens with little videos telling you all about how Jelly Beans are made and the history. It was fine I guess. They ask you not to take pictures though. I guess it's a nice way to spend 20 minutes sitting down in the air conditioning.

The best part about us coming here was the gift shop though. They have a tasting bar where you can try any flavor that you want. It was great! I am surprised to tell you that the Pancakes and Maple Syrup flavor is pretty darn good! There are so many flavors that you can buy and different products (not just Jelly Beans). Plus, they have t-shirts and Jelly Bean dispensers and things that are hard to find in other stores.

I'm glad that we went, but if we ever go back, it will be just to buy some Jelly Beans.

Saturday, July 11, 2015


The Aquanuts is a group of young people in southern Wisconsin that compete in water skiing competitions. They do free shows on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 6pm when they don't have a competition. We were visiting the Kenosha area in late June and decided to go see them. They were great.

First, you drive out to Lance Park at Twin Lakes, Wisconsin. There is a parking lot, but it fills up pretty fast. We ended up parking on the street. The street has a lot of clearly marked parking spaces. Then, you just follow the crowds of people headed to the showing area. You will see a ramp in the water. You have a couple choices on where to watch from. There is a seating like area. However, we chose to bring a blanket and sat on the grass to the side. If you walk around, you'll see people sitting anywhere they can find a spot. We attended on a Wednesday and it was packed.

Food. I saw plenty of people bring their own food and have picnics while watching. We meant to do this, but I accidentally forgot the food in the hotel room. No big deal. They had a concession stand to buy hot dogs, nachos, pretzels, chips, soda, etc.

The actual show was very impressive. These athletes clearly know what they're doing and they try to make the stunts and everything go with a storyline which I wasn't expecting. It took us about 40 minutes to get there from Kenosha, but I would say it was worth it. It's something different to do. And it's very entertaining. They take a break in the middle and ask for donations. Girls walk around with buckets. This is a free show so do think about donating. By the time they're finished with the everything, I believe it was about 50 minutes long.

Overall, we had a great time.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Boathouse Pub in Kenosha

4917 7th Ave
Kenosha, WI 53140

We stayed at the Best Western on the harbor and the Boathouse Pub is just down the street from there so we chose this location to eat at while in town. Don't quote me on this, but it looked like they even had boat parking on the lake (and after checking their website, they do offer this!).
You have two choices for where to sit: inside or outside. We chose to sit outside because it was such a beautiful day and as long as the weather is good, I definitely recommend sitting out there.
Our waitress was so friendly. She was so nice to my son and very patient with him while he tried to decide what he wanted for dinner. He ended up having chicken strips, fries, and an apple juice. I had a taste and it was pretty good. I would say the kids menu is pretty on par with most kids menus that we're used to.
I chose to start off with a side salad. It came out nice and fast so that was good. I got the Barge Buster which is a ½ pound burger grilled and topped with cheddar, pepper, and swiss cheese, crispy onion strings, bacon and BBQ sauce and served on a toasted bun. It was seriously delicious. And huge. I only ended up eating about ½ of it. It came with fries, which were very good. Now, if you're the drinking type, I would suggest looking at their huge selection of Long Island Iced Teas. First of all, the list is huge. Second, they all look amazing. I only had the chance to try one of them and it was fantastic. I tried the Tidal Wave which has Blue Curacao and 7-UP in it. And these aren't small either. It's a large 32 oz.
The full menu is available online so check it out ahead of time.