Friday, August 30, 2013

Healthy Menu Planning with Fresh Ingredient and Recipe Delivery Service

Recently Doug's coworker invited us to try Relished - a new fresh ingredient and recipe delivery service in Chicago. Of course I jumped at the opportunity to obtain a box full of food prepped by an experienced Executive Chef!

Who should try it?
Relished would be ideal for a wide variety of Chicagoans...
Is it hard to find time to go grocery shopping regularly?
Do you have no idea where to start when it comes to meal planning, finding recipes and certain ingredients? 
Are you bored of your usual go to meals that you cook at home?
Are you sick of spending money on going out to eat and ordering take out when your fridge is empty?
Do you enjoy trying and cooking new foods but don't know where to start? I was able to cook fish (which I almost never do), kale (which I've never purchased in my life), and ginger (which I used to think I didn't like).

How does it work?
As a subscriber, one box of fresh produce and protein is delivered to you each week with recipe cards. This one {insulated} box contains nearly all of the ingredients and instructions you need to cook three meals at home!

What'd I think?
My meals consisted of Rainbow Trout with heirloom carrots and cous cous, Peach Glazed Pork Chops with rosemary potatoes and kale and Asian Chicken with kimchi, snow peas and peppers
+ All three meals had a few ingredients I don't normally use (fish, kale and ginger) which made it all the more interesting to try! Having the ingredients and recipes provided to me makes working with new ingredients less intimidating (where do I find it at the store, how do I cook it, etc). And now I won't mind buying fish or kale and know how to incorporate them into my meals.
+ Everything I needed was perfectly portioned out in labeled containers, making prep a breeze.
+ I also liked how the meals didn't require too many pots/pans/dishes. I try to avoid recipes that result in excessive amounts of dirty pots, pans, bowls, etc that leaves my kitchen looking like a disaster.
+ The recipes were easy to follow and the meals were prepared in my usual dinner prep time, between 30-45 minutes.
+ Most importantly, all three meals were delicious! {I was too hungry to take a picture of the Asian Chicken.}

Now what?
Would you be interested in a service like this? As part of the test group, I gave Relished my honest feedback. I'd love to hear what you think about this whole concept. Relished is now accepting orders - Be sure to check out their website for more information!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Visiting the Sears Tower in Chicago

Shooting weddings and children's portraits leaves free summer weekends few and far between. So when my planner shows an empty box {yes I do use a physical planner still!} we always try to make the most of it. After giving Mia the choice of 1) the lakefront 2) a Cubs game or 3) the Sears Tower, she picked the latter.

With free street parking on Sundays, we easily drove into the loop and found street parking. The Skydeck Chicago opened at 9am and we arrived at 1045am thinking our timing would be right with Mia's afternoon nap. While the line outside didn't appear to be very long and moved rather quickly, once we got inside, we were in for a surprise!

Once inside, they take you in an elevator to go downstairs. To wait for TWO HOURS. Am I the only one who didn't know this?? The line weaved around and around so you could take in all the facts displayed along the walls. After going through metal detectors, the line split for those with pre-purchased tickets and those who have yet to purchase tickets. Doug is not a patient man, so as we waited in line, he decided to purchase tickets online with is phone. For him, the $7.50 online processing fee was worth skipping ~30 minutes in line. After purchasing tickets, they have you wait some more and be distracted with fact laden walls until you enter a small theater to watch a 10 minute movie. I actually liked the movie and learned a lot! And then finally!! We were able to take the elevators up 103 floors to the long awaited SkyDeck.

Given the bright summer day, the views were spectacular. Although she's only 3.5, Mia is familiar with her Chicago skyline buildings from various books {especially our version of Good Night Chicago!}, pictures, and trips downtown. It was exciting to have her see and identify them from a new perspective. She wasn't even scared of The Ledge!

After the two hour wait, $55 admission for three, and one hour taking in our gorgeous city, we took the ~60 second elevator ride back down to discover that now at 2pm...there was NO LINE. w.t.f. So folks, don't try and go "early", try later in the afternoon! But all in all, we still thought our mini trip into the loop was worth it. However, if you only have two days in Chicago, you might want to spend your 3 hours elsewhere.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Ravinia Family Picnicking

This summer we were able to take Mia to Ravinia twice. Once for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and another time for Aida, our first time listening to the opera!
Of course I brought some Polka Dot Riesling to cool us off on a hot and humid summer night. And we never picnic without cheese and crackers. Mia already looooves cheese like Mommy does! Doug and I enjoyed a light salad that I prepped the night before topped with rotisserie chicken that I shredded before we left.

We love spending as much time as possible outside!

Mia's been to Ravinia three years in a row now. I love that we are starting family traditions from the get go! Although she does want to go back to Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park like last year's Jazz Festival. What summer traditions do you have??

Friday, August 23, 2013

DIY Bingo Game for Toddlers and Preschoolers

Recently, Mia came home saying she won something out of the prize box at school. Turns out she's been playing BINGO at pre-school! For the 3-5 year olds at school, they were playing  BINGO with pictures. To take the game a step further, I made a custom BINGO game for us to play at home so Mia could practice writing and recognizing the sound of letters - for free! Here's how to make your own free custom DIY BINGO game to play with toddlers.

Materials (instructions for each below)
blank BINGO cards
DIY BINGO markers from cardstock
clip art with a picture for each letter of the alphabet (i.e. apple, banana, cow, dog, elephant, etc)
Cost: ZERO!

Instructions: blank BINGO cards
1. Open a word doc. Or just search the internet for one to print off.
2. "Insert" a "table" with 5 rows and 5 columns. Right click your table and go to "table properties". Set each row to be 1.5 inches.
3. Type BINGO at the top, above your table. Adjust letter size and spacing as necessary. Don't forget to type FREE in the middle box!
4. Print as many as you'd like!

Instructions: BINGO markers
1. Use a craft punch to punch circles out of card stock. If you don't have a craft punch, use scissors or a paper cutter to cut squares. The number you'll need will depend on the number of players (at least 25 per player). My pink and grey circles are Valentine's Day party leftovers (via The TomKat Studio) and the purple circles are leftovers from Mia's Winter ONEderland birthday party.

Instructions: clip art for each letter of the alphabet
1. Open a new word doc.
2. Search for clip art for each letter of the alphabet and copy and paste into the word doc. (i.e. apple, banana, cow, dog, elephant, etc). I liked the free clip art at She even makes it easy by having pictures for each letter readily available.
3. Double click the image in the word doc and resize the height/width to be 1 inch. All 26 images should fit on one page.
4. Evenly space out each image on the page so your toddler can easily cut each picture out with straight lines.
5. Print and have your pre-schooler cut each picture out. 

How to play:
1. On the blank BINGO card you printed out, have your pre-schooler write one letter in each box. Don't duplicate any letters. Have each player do this for their own cards.
2. Put all pictures in a container (box, basket, bucket, etc).
3. Have your toddler pull out a picture. Have them figure out what the first letter for that picture is (i.e. apple = A). If that letter is on someone's board, they can mark it with a BINGO marker you made.
4. Take turns pulling pictures and continue play until someone gets 5 in a row!

Mia was super excited to play with us and I don't even think she realizes that she's "learning" at the same time!

linked up with Tatertots and Jello

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Cantigny Park Family Portraits

I recently spent a summer afternoon with my friend and her family for portraits at Cantigny Park in Wheaton. With her dad's recent milestone birthday and brother being in town, it was the perfect time for her mom to round up all the kids, spouses and grandkids for good ol' family photos.
 Drew and Jack did just as well this time as they did at their session two years ago.

 At ten years old, we're already talking about girlfriends and looking forward to driving. Man!

 Maya and Jenelle are definitely not new to the blog! Maya and my daughter, Mia are 3.5 years old. Which is when I met Andrea (Maya's mom). Thinking about our future as a family and where we want to live and where Mia should go to school is a daunting task. If we want Mia to have lifelong friends like Doug and I did (7 out of 10 of our bridal party was from grade school!), we need to decide on our forever home soon! Does that stress anyone else out? Every decision you make as a parent affects your child. This seems obvious, but no less important every time I think about where our choices will take us in life...

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

{Corby} - 9 months

I love photographing Baby Corby at milestones throughout the year as he gets bigger and bigger right before my eyes!
'sup ladies!

Look how much Corby's grown from three, six to nine months. He has the same big smile though!

Love those big droopy cheeks and chubby fingers and toesies!

Thanks for being so good lil man!

Monday, August 12, 2013

DIY Printable Paper Dolls

After Mia and I had a peaceful breakfast on the balcony on a quiet Saturday morning, I wanted to make use of our non-busy time at home while Doug slept in a little longer. Well, most of the time she "read" me princess stories from my IKEA catalog while I enjoyed my bagel, warm coffee, the unseasonably cool summer breeze and the little person behind this vast imagination.

We made easy DIY paper dolls together thanks to free printables from Mr. Printables. All you need are the printables, scissors, tape and fifteen minutes! Mia likes to dress, undress and change their interchangeable clothes. According to Mia, these girls live in a castle in Evanston while the {royal} ball is in Northbrook. Sounds like we have a future North Shore girl on our hands! She requested boys or other dresses, but there are none. However, there are cute Halloween costumes and winter outfits! We'll definitely be cutting those out for a rainy day activity. 

Normally I would let Mia cut out our paper projects, but the round and small patterns would've been difficult for her three year old hands. Mia had no problem patiently waiting for me to cut and tape each girl and outfit.

They even come with tiaras or bunny ears for their heads.

And it's always a plus when toys can be cleaned up nicely! The paper dolls and outfits easily stack when not in use.

And this little lady insisted that I take her picture as well. 
Check out Mr. Printables for other free kids activities, like this USA map puzzle and alphabet wall art

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

As Seen On {Tiny Prints}

This week, I had the pleasure of being featured on the Tiny Prints blog! If you're stopping by from there, I hope you take a peek at the other parties I've styled.  Thanks Tiny Prints for having the perfect invitation for my pink, gold and glittery 30th Birthday Party! If it weren't for finding this invite, I might not have had a party at all!