Christmas recap and hopes for the New Year

December is always such a busy month for our family, there is always so much going on that sometimes I get lost in it all.  We had an amazing Christmas, as usual, great times with family, awesome food (diet time!) and some really nice presents.  I got a laptop and a much needed external hard drive YAY! The kids, well they got spoiled like usual…Santa must really only see them when they’re being good…so here are some photos…

We had a super white Christmas….lots and lots of snow!


She could stay out in the snow all day if I let her


 This was right before he had a meltdown because he couldn’t spell fart, threw his tiles down and stormed off to his room crying…poor guy 🙂



We love sledding!



Really love this guy!


The most patient I have ever seen him


So hopes for the New Year?  We personal goals include losing that pesky 10 pounds I gained over the year that I lost 2 years ago (here we go again), trying to spend more one on one time with my children, try not to stress so much over things I can’t control….and of course making some more blogging friends!  What are you looking forward to in 2018?

Why My Family Loves Oatmeal for Breakfast

 This is a sponsored post on behalf of Quaker and their line of breakfast foods.

We all know that a good breakfast is the key to starting our day.  It is especially important that our kids have healthy choices on the breakfast table, this is why my family loves Quaker products.  Quaker has been committed to fueling healthy families for over a century by giving them great tasting, healthy breakfast choices.

My family is always on the go and we play sports year round, everything from little league to martial arts.  I encourage them to choose at least one sport or physical activity each season so that they stay active and healty.  So with this much activity I have to be sure that when my kids eat breakfast they will have enough fuel to last them through whatever it is that we are tackling that day.  I need to also make sure to get enough fuel myself each morning, so that I have the energy to take them wherever they need to go and cheer them on.  My favorite Quaker breakfast is a hot bowl of oatmeal with brown sugar, I swear it tastes even better in the winter when the mornings are cold and dark.  My kids prefer cold cereals so they like to eat Whole Hearts, which also make a great snack on the go (just without the milk of course).  We also keep a stash of Quaker Chewy Granola bars in the car for another quick snack.Quaker’s commitment to fueling healthy families has led them to partner with Major League Soccer club The Chicago Fire.  Quaker is a proud sponsor of The Chicago Fire Juniors which is the clubs youth development program.  This program supports over 10,000 soccer kids and families not only in Chicago but also nation wide.  Soccer is a great sport for boys and girls, both of my kids played soccer and loved it.  It is actually the first sport either of them played.  Soccer teaches kids about teamwork and it is fast paced so that their little attention spans stay interested the entire gameAugust 9th through the 11th, Quaker and The Chicago Fire are hosting The Quaker Invitational which will bring together hundreds of Chicago Fire Juniors teams from around the country.  This will be a weekend filled with soccer, community and lots of fun.  The two teams that win will get a chance to play on The Chicago Fire’s home field in Bridgeview, IL.  Not only that but each player in this tournament will also receive a free game ticket to the Chicago Fire vs. Montreal Impact game at Toyota Park on Saturday Aug. 10th.  I love that Quaker is so involved in this sport and that they support so many soccer families.

If you are looking for some delicious and healthy breakfast options for your family, look no further than the Quaker brand.  They have everything you need for breakfast as well as snacks and their oat based products will keep you full and energized all morning long.

On the Spotlight: A Backpack Company With a Mission for Helping Kids

backpack company gives back to kids

Hi everyone, long time no see!

It’s been a busy couple of weeks (*cough, months) but I’m glad to be back to my regular posting schedule. I’ve got a few posts in the works currently, but I wanted to give a quick shout out to a company that I recently came across.

Just Porter, based in Chicago, is a backpack company that creates high-quality backpacks for travelers, commuters, students, and professionals. I was on the hunt for a gift for a relative, and seeing that he was going to start college soon, I thought a backpack would be a great choice.

During my search, I stumbled upon Just Porter’s site and was pleasantly surprised to learn about their mission to help children. As it turns out, every Just Porter purchase provides a child in need with a backpack filled with school supplies. I looked over their bag choices, and I narrowed it down to the commuter backpack and sable rucksack. Unsure of what would be the better option, I emailed the company asking for advice regarding the size and capacity and within minutes the support team responded. Grace, from support, provided helpful references about the sizes of the backpacks, and I ended up choosing the Streeter Backpack.

A few days later, my package arrived at my door, including a lovely handwritten note from the CEO himself. The backpack itself looks incredible and feels durable, and my relative was excited to receive it. So if you’re looking for a great backpack, I highly recommend these guys. Their customer service is phenomenal, and I promise you won’t be disappointed with their products either.

The 5 Basics of Disney Vacation Planning: Part 4-Should you get the dining plan?

I am going to come right out and say it, I am a huge fan of the dining plan and always have been. While I realize it might not be for everyone, I strongly encourage you to look into before you just brush it off as a rip off or scam.

Like everything else, Disney offers you option in your dining plan choice. There are three main dining plans:
Quick Service
Plus Dining
Deluxe Dining

Before you get lost delving into the basics of what differentiates these plans let me give you a few reasons I like the dining plan and why you should consider it:

The prices are higher than you think. You won’t find grocery store pricing in WDW and its resorts, and prices on even the “cheap” items will be more than you bargained for. A bottled water is $3 so you can imagine what a hamburger and fries will set you back! It adds up!

You’re going to eat anyway! The thought of packing something from outside the parks to eat or go off property to get a more affordable meal doesn’t always work (especially if you aren’t staying at a villa resort and therefore have no kitchen). By the time you pay for transportation off property to get your food, package it and bring it to the parks and it faces the elements…the chances of you wanting to eat it are slim. Likewise scheduling time to utilize transportation to go back to your resort or travel off property for a meal won’t be as cost efficient as paying for the dining plan.  

There IS a value. The estimated savings aren’t fake…the dining plans really do offer a value and you can certainly maximize it if you know what you’re doing or use an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner (like myself) to help you.

So what are the differences and how do you choose? The dining plans are based on a per person, per night rate, so each allotment listed is per person, per night. Here are the basics: 

Quick Service Dining Plan:
Save approximately 10% per adult on dining
(2) quick service meals 
(1) snack 
(1) resort refillable mug per person

Year round pricing:
ages 10 and up $34.99 per night
ages 3-9 $11.99 per night

Plus Dining Plan:
Save approximately 15%-20% per adult on dining
(1) quick service meal 
(1) table service meal
(1) snack
(1) resort refillable mug

Value and Regular Season Pricing:
ages 10 and up $51.54 per night
ages 3-9 $15.02 per night

Peak Season Pricing:
ages 10 and up $53.54 per night
ages 3-9 $16.02 per night

Deluxe Dining Plan:
Save approximately 30-35% per adult on dining
(3) table service meals
(2) snacks
(1) resort refillable mug 

Value and Regular Season Pricing:
ages 10 and up $85.52 per night
ages 3-9 $23.79 per night

Peak Season Pricing:
ages 10 and up $89.52 per night
ages 3-9 $25.79 per night

There are also 2 other plans: The Premium package and the Platinum package

Premium Package:
(3) table service meals
(2) snacks
(1) resort refillable mug

Unlimited use of select recreation:
Golf: Four 18-hole championship golf courses with inclusive green fees, electric cart, shoe and club rentals and range balls
Unlimited use of select watersports at Sammy Duvall’s Watersports: parasailing, water skiing, wake boarding, tubing and personal watercraft rentals
Boat rentals, guided fishing excursions, horseback riding and more* 
Admission to Cirque du Soleil show La Nouba (one admission per person, category 2 seating) reservations are required.
Unlimited admission to select Disney Tours 
Unlimited admission to select children’s activity centers
Admission to Grand Gathering experiences

*Some restrictions may apply and advance reservations may be required 

**Standard Disney guests accompanying a Premium or Platinum guest can enjoy a 10% discount on all activities at Sammy Duvall’s Watersports Center 

For more information on the Premium package click here 

Platinum Package:
(3) table service meals
(2) snacks
(1) resort refillable mug

*The Platinum package includes everything outlined in the Premium package plus the following: 
Personalized pre-arrival itinerary planning
Accommodations in either a Deluxe Villa Resort or a Deluxe Resort
Preferred fireworks viewing for Wishes or Illuminations
Magical Evening Events: Reserved seating for Fantasmic (some restrictions apply), a fireworks cruise to view Illuminations or Wishes (one cruise per reservation, some restrictions apply)
A complimentary spa treatment
Richard Petty Ride-Along experience
Disney’s PhotoPass CD

And now you have a million questions about the dining plan and where you can eat and if the food is any good…and I can tell you, most of it is pretty darn good if not fantastic! Head over to the Disney Food Report, a website designed by the faithful foodies at Pixie Vacations to read about the dining delights at Disney!

The Truth About Paleo (Or Whatever Diet this is)

A couple of weeks ago my husband said he wanted to try this diet that his friend had a lot of success with, he said he wanted to cut out wheat and see if he could lose some weight.  I immediately jumped on the bandwagon because thanks to the holidays I have some extra meat on my bones.  I knew this would be super hard for me because I live on bread and pasta and I have a huge sweet tooth, but I thought I would give it a try.  So it started out as just cutting wheat and sugar but has turned into cutting out all grain and pre-packaged foods, more like the Paleo (Paleolithic, or Cave Man) diet.

Since it has been a little while, I think its safe to say I have learned some truths about this diet, so here goes.

1.  The first few days will be the worst of your life, period.
2.  The cravings go away after about day 5
3.  You will rarely go down about 50% of the food isles at your supermarket
4.  You will be cooking all the time (all the time)
5.  You will have a ton more dishes to do (due to all the cooking)
6.  Your kids may not be so easily persuaded to follow this diet.
7.  There is no way in hell I’m giving up cheese
8.  You will consume a whole lot of eggs, especially if baking something
9.  Your kids will look in the cabinets and say there is no food in this house….because you won’t be buying pre-packaged food, it won’t take up space in the cabinets
10.  People will doubt you
11.  You will doubt yourself
12.  You will cheat at least once
13.  Soon you will realize how much better you feel, how much more energy you have and just how good real, clean food is compared to boxed Mac N Cheese
14.  Best place for Paleo recipes is Pinterest
15.  You may start to see the number on the scale go down, or clothes fitting looser, or your midsection shrinking (hell to the yeah!)
16.  You will wonder why in the world it took you so long to try eating like this
17.  You will also realize that you are now paying less for groceries because its cheaper to buy ingredients and put meals together yourself
18.  You will succeed!

I walked through the bakery section at the store, where normally I would stop and grab some fresh baked french bread, rolls and sandwich bread…..and it felt so good to pass it all by.  I’m sure that I will have ups and downs with this new lifestyle but I am feeling pretty confident that I will stick with it,

Zoo Run Run at Brookfield Zoo

Registration is now open for Brookfield Zoo’s Zoo Run Run for the Animal Care and Conservation Fund, a 5K race that promises to be a wildly fun time on Sunday, September 21. Runners, walkers, adults, and children alike are invited to sprint, scamper, and stride past the animals at Brookfield Zoo during the annual fundraiser, which is dedicated to making a difference for animals across the globe.Zoo Run Run features a choice between a 5K chip-timed run and a 5K fun run/walk. Proceeds from the event benefit the Chicago Zoological Society’s Animal Welfare and Conservation Fund, which supports research and education efforts around the world and at Brookfield Zoo, including the Society’s Center for the Science of Animal Welfare and the Center for Conservation Leadership.

“The fund is an important part of the Society’s conservation efforts and we certainly appreciate the efforts of the run’s participants who help raise significant donations,” said Stuart Strahl, Ph.D., president and CEO of the Chicago Zoological Society, which manages Brookfield Zoo.

The chip-timed run begins at 8:00 a.m. in the zoo’s Discovery Center parking lot, with the fun run/walk starting at 8:20 a.m. The course takes participants under a forest canopy of 100-year-old oak trees and continues past the American white pelicans at the Formal Pool,; the bison at Great Bear Wilderness; the giraffes, zebras, and camels along 31st Street; the kangaroos at Australia House; and the endangered black rhinos outside Pachyderm House. The final stretch of the run routes participants past the lions, sloth bears, tigers, and snow leopards.

Runners can register as individuals or maximize their fun by forming a race team. The more funds that participants raise for the Animal Welfare and Conservation Fund, the more prizes they win:

Anyone who raises $100 receives a special long-sleeve commemorative Zoo Run Run shirt.

Anyone who raises $250 receives a $25 Brookfield Zoo gift certificate plus the commemorative shirt

Anyone who raises $500 receives an additional $25 Brookfield Zoo gift certificate, a complimentary upgrade on his/her next purchased membership, plus the previous levels’ premiums

Anyone who raises $750 receives a voucher toward a Backstage Adventure experience at Brookfield Zoo, plus the previous levels’ premiums

Anyone who raises $1,000 receives two tickets to the Chicago Zoological Society’s Wines in the Wild, held on Saturday, October 18, 2014, plus the previous levels’ premiums

The top fundraiser for Zoo Run Run will receive a VIP Red Carpet Day of experiences at Brookfield Zoo, plus the previous levels’ premiums

In addition to individual fundraising prizes, teams are eligible to win prizes. Each team that raises $2,500 or more will receive a private reception for 20 that includes a unique animal experience at Brookfield Zoo. All members of teams are eligible to win the individual prizes listed above as well.

Registration for the chip-timed race is $35, and the fee for the fun run/walk is $30. (Members can enter a promo code to receive $5 off their pricing.) For participants who register on the event day, the fee is $40 for the chip-timed race and $35 for the fun run/walk (there is no member discount on race day). In addition, registered participants may bring family and friends to cheer them on and enjoy the zoo afterwards at no additional charge.

Zoo Run Run is presented by Walgreens, Aquafina, and Gatorade. Details of race packet pickup will be announced closer to the race date. For further information and to register as an individual or a team, go to

The Chicago Zoological Society, which manages Brookfield Zoo, inspires conservation leadership by connecting people with wildlife and nature. The Chicago Zoological Society is a private nonprofit organization that operates Brookfield Zoo on land owned by the Forest Preserves of Cook County. Open every day of the year, the zoo is located off First Avenue between the Stevenson (I-55) and Eisenhower (I-290) expressways and is also accessible via the Tri-State Tollway (I-294), Metra commuter line, CTA, and PACE bus service. For further information, visit

LEGO Fans Mark Your Calendar! #Chicago

LEGOLAND® Discovery Center Chicago Celebrates Buddy’s Birthday!
You’re Invited to the Brick-tastic Birthday Bash on Aug. 11
WHAT: LEGOLAND Discovery Center Chicago is celebrating Buddy’s Birthday on Aug. 11, and everyone’s invited to join the brick-tastic celebration! We’ll be partying it up with goody bags, games and plenty of cake. But that’s not all! Kids who bring Buddy a homemade, LEGO-themed birthday card will receive free admission and be entered for a chance to win a birthday party package (value $395)The grand prize includes:
  • Admission to LEGOLAND Discovery Center including all rides and attractions
  • Exclusive party room for 90 minutes with party host
  • Each child receives an Activity Lanyard
  • Private Model Builder Workshop and each child gets to take home the LEGO model they build
  • Free Annual Pass for Birthday Child
  • 3 Cheese Pizzas
  • Unlimited Pop
  • LEGOLAND Discovery Center Birthday Cake
  • 1 LEGO Framed Birthday Party Photo
  • Birthday Party Crowns
  • Gift for the Birthday Child
  • 10% off in the LEGO Retail Shop for all guests
  • Each child receives a free ticket to return to LEGOLAND Discovery Center
WHEN:             Saturday, August 11
                        10 a.m. – 7 p.m.
WHERE:           LEGOLAND Discovery Center Chicago
Streets of Woodfield
601 N. Martingale Rd.
Schaumburg, Ill.
About LEGOLAND® Discovery Center Chicago
LEGOLAND Discovery Center Chicago is an indoor family entertainment destination with over 3 million LEGO bricks and nine attractions including: Model Builder Workshop; Jungle Expedition; Kingdom Quest Laser Ride; LEGO City Construction Site Play Zone; Technicycle Ride; LEGO 4D Cinema; Build and Test; LEGO Factory Tour; and MINILAND featuring iconic Chicago landmarks.
Located at the Streets of Woodfield, 601 N. Martingale Rd. in Schaumburg, LEGOLAND Discovery Center is 30 minutes from downtown Chicago by car. Adult Admission is $19. Child Admission is $15. Special annual pass and ticket discounts are available at Last guest admission is two hours before closing. Extended hours are available on school vacation days and national holidays. Visit for updated daily opening times. LEGOLAND Discovery Center is a part of the Merlin Entertainments Group.

We Have our Banner and are Ready for Cookie Season!

We had another super fun Girl Scout meeting tonight, I love girls that we have in our troop they are really a great group of girls.  There is something else I love about Girl Scouts and that is cookies of course!  When the weather gets cold, you know its almost time.  This year we prepared in advance, we ordered a really cool vinyl banner from Signazon.

The banner we received is a  2 ft x 4 ft vinyl banner that was really easy to create and came in the mail lightning fast.  Signazon offers templates that you can use or you can custom design your banner from scratch.  I wanted our banner to be simple and easy to read so I chose big bold letters and just the Girl Scout emblem.  The banner is great quality that will definitely withstand the cold wind and snow that is sure to show up the day we decide to sell outside.  This size banner is under $30 which is a great price for a nice, re-usable sign.  I’m sure we will also use this one in other events such as parades.  You can use these banners to advertise your business or use them for Holiday parties or family reunions, they are really versatile.
Of course Signazon offers tons of other products such as yard signs, window lettering, stickers and car magnets, and you can check out everything that they have to offer by clicking HERE.

**I received a banner for review purposes, all opinions are my own and I was not compensated for this review**

What to do On a Rainy Summer Day?

We love summer and warm weather and we like to spend a lot of time outside, but what do you do when its raining out and the kids are home on summer vacation?  We love snuggling up on the couch and watching Netflix.  The kids take turns choosing episodes of theirr favorite shows, complete with blankets and snacks.  For the same price as a couple of movie rentals, you can stream Netflix on any TV, computer, iPad or tablet in your home, in fact Netflix is available on hundreds of devices that you probably already own. You can watch as many shows and movies as you want and there is no worrying about returning anything by a certain day and time.Our favorite feature is the just for kids section.  This section is perfect for ages 2-12 and is filled with my kid’s favorite shows such as Transformers Prime, Johnny Test and H2O.

He is a cute little claymation penguin who is always doing silly things.  I love hearing the kids laughing at this show.  The best part about the kids only section is that every show and movie there is for children, and I don’t have to worry about them clicking on something that is for adults.  Netflix is really the best value for your money and you can take your favorite shows with you everywhere you go.  Whenever we have a long wait, like at the doctor’s office, I can just log on to my Netflix account on my phone and the kids can watch their shows.  Some nights I like to let them stay up a little later and watch a good movie, then I know they will sleep in the next morning and so will I.
Someone is really cold and wants to wear her footie pajamas for movie night
What are you watching on TV with your family? Netflix has family favorites from Disney, Disney Jr., Hasbro, Cartoon Network and Dreamworks that are available to stream anytime, anywhere.
And streaming is easier than you think! Download the free app on your iPad, click on the Netflix app on any gaming device, go to the website on your computer – and you’re in business. Check it out here!
This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of NETFLIX.