Wednesday, August 29, 2012

One Last Summer Getaway - Our Family’s Trip to Adler Planetarium

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As most of you know, we are way out in the Chicago burbs, but me and the hubs are really into getting the kids to the city as much as possible.  I grew up about 3 hours south of Chicago and didn’t visit it very often back then.  We live close enough that there is no excuse to not have them see all that our great city has to offer.  And they love it!

So, when Adler Planetarium contacted me about an opportunity to visit them one weekend, I jumped at the chance!  My husband had visited the planetarium years ago in school, but this was a first visit for me and the kiddos.

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We were all so excited to get away for a night after finishing our first full week of school.  Upon checking into the beautiful Swissotel, the kids ran to the window to check out the spectacular view of Lake Michigan and Navy Pier.

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Even though we go downtown pretty often, we rarely stay overnight.  This was a treat for all of us and the novelty of it wasn’t lost on the boys.

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After eating a lovely complimentary snack in our room, we headed out for dinner.  The walk to Lou Malnati’s worked up quite an appetite in all of us.

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We’re usually thin crust pizza people, so digging into the giant deep dish slices at Lou’s was a yummy break from the norm.  The look on the boys’ faces when the giant deep dish arrived was priceless!

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The next morning we got up and enjoyed some fun time at Swissotel’s pool. 

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That’s a mosaic tile behind Lanham, btw.  The pool is on the 42nd floor and has almost 360 degree views of the city.  Just gorgeous!  I loved the work out area too.  Unfortunately I forgot my workout gear and I think I could have used a little burn after all that pizza the night before.  Oh well.  Relax Sabrina.  RELAX!

Next stop, Adler Planetarium

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I’ve said this before, but I love Chicago!  The museum campus in itself is gorgeous.  The magnificent old buildings and classic architecture set right up next to the lake.  Beautiful!

Adler Planetarium has both interactive exhibits and shows  to enjoy .  We first picked out our show times and headed into the exhibits.   Most of the shows are 20 minutes each, so you can stagger them throughout the day and visit the planetariums many exhibits in between. 

And there is SO many things to see. 

We checked out the “Our Solar System” exhibit first.

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I loved how all the planets were hanging up this huge atrium overlooking the lake. 

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We ate lunch at Adler’s CafĂ© Galileo’s. I was really impressed by the variety of their menu.  Not your typical burgers and fries.  There were wraps, salads and of course great options for kids.  After lunch, we went to see our first show, “Welcome to the Unviverse”. 

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The show really made me feel very VERY tiny and the vastness of our universe is kind of mind boggling.  Lanham loved how it made feel like we were flying through space! 

We explored some more and went to our second show, “Deep Space Adventure, The Searcher”.  The show takes you through deep space with another intelligent being as your guide. 

I think the kids enjoyed the Planet Explorers area of Adler the most.

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It seemed to go on forever! A very interactive learning/play zone for kids of all ages.

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There is a rocket ship where the boys could pretend to be astronauts and that totally got into working on their “mission”.  Big BIG fans!  We had to pull them away to make it to our last show, “3D Sun”. 

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There were so many things to check out at that we couldn’t possibly see it all in one day, so we will definitely be going back! 

To end the day, we took a boat tour ride, courtesy of Shoreline Sightseeing, from the museum campus to Navy Pier. 

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The boat tour gave me a chance to take some great shots of the city skyline. 

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It was a pretty hot day in Chicago, so the boat ride on Lake Michigan was a nice place to cool off.

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This trip was truly a fun packed quick getaway for the family and we loved every minute!  A huge thanks to Adler Planetarium for making this weekend a really special treat.  You can get more info on the planetarium at their website or check out their Facebook page.  We also want to thank the Swissotel, Lou Malnati’s and Shoreline Sightseeing for their generous contributions to our family night away.  We enjoyed it all so much!

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Check out addition pictures of our fabulous weekend!


Disclosure: I received this visit in exchange for my review.  All opinions are 100% my own and no other monetary compensation was received.

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Monday, August 27, 2012

Tastes of Summer - Tomato, Zucchini and Yellow Squash Bake

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The ol’ maters have had a rough year around here. 

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Between the record breaking high temps and crazy random wind storms, they had a hard life this year.   

Production is just starting to taper off so I’ve been trying some new recipes with them.  I happened to pick up a few zucchini and squash the other day.  Oh and basil.

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There is ALWAYS basil around here. So, I pulled this recipe together the other night by just looking at what we had on hand.  It’s always one of those “crossing the fingers” moments and luckily this one turned out pretty great.

Tomato, Zucchini and Yellow Squash Bake

  • 1 medium zucchini, sliced 
  • 1 medium yellow squash, sliced
  • 2 medium tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup finely shredded mozzarella or Italian blend cheese
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh basil (dried will work to but use less)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Prepare casserole dish with cooking spray. (I used a 2.5 quart Corningware dish, but will use slightly smaller one in future.
  2. Slice zucchini, squash and tomato and lay flat on several layers of paper towel to absorb excess moisture (about 5 minutes or so). IMG_0874
  3. In a large bowl, combine mozzarella, Parmesan, oregano, basil, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper, and set aside.IMG_0875
  4. Arrange half of the zucchini and squash slices in the pan. Sprinkle 1/3 of the cheese and herb mixture on top. Arrange half of the tomatoes. Repeat with the final layer being the cheese mixture.     IMG_0876
  5. Bake uncovered in preheated oven for 25-30  minutes.  Cheese will brown slightly.  Enjoy immediately!IMG_0877

This recipe really hit the spot and was super easy to pull off for a middle of the week dinner side dish.  I paired it with some grilled Italian sausage, but think that it would be great with steaks or grilled chicken too.   My big boy even gave it a try and was surprised at how much he liked the flavors. Italian herbs and summer veggies…what’s not to like?

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The little guy thought that the zucchini were pickles and therefore wouldn’t give it a taste. Maybe next time. I hope you enjoy this end of summer dish as much as we did the other night!

Linking up…Tempt my Tummy Tuesdays   Beauty and Bedlam Pin It

Friday, August 24, 2012

Happy Birthday Mamaw and back to school!

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Today is my lovely mother’s birthday!  We won’t say which one…you’re welcome mother.IMG_0010

We won’t be able to see her today, but I wanted to give her a little shout out.  My mother and father are a great source of inspiration and the reason I can do many of the things in life that I’ve shared on this blog…including parenting.  The cooking, the crafting, the DIYing.  Now if only she could teach me how to sew.

Love you mom!  Hope you have a GREAT day!

On to more news…

My boys started school last week! 

To kick it off, we took them downtown for Jazzin’ at the Shedd. 

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GREAT limited time program by the way.  Lots of fun for the kids and adults.  Who doesn’t want to see fishies with a glass on wine and live jazz music?

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Lanham’s in 4th this year!

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Braden is in Kindergarten!  Can’t believe it!

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We had a hard time getting decent first day of school pics this year…it RAINED!  Almost zero inches of rain all summer…first day of school?  Downpour.   Ugh.

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Just want to squeeze them.

We had our annual ‘hood back to school breakfast and I served up The Frugal Girl’s Cinnamon Twists.

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Didn’t snap any pictures of the food.  Rain = HUGE lines at the school.  We had to get a move on.

And so the 2012-13 school year begins and so does the busy busy.

Tonight we leave for a mini family vacation in the city and the kids are super excited.  The Adler Planetarium, a Shoreline Sightseeing water taxi ride, a pool on the 42nd floor of the Swissotel and dinner at Lou’s?  Yes…mommy’s excited too!  Check back next week to see how it all went down!

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Monday, August 13, 2012

Project Overload – My Return To DIYing

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So I’ve been back in the stay-at-home mom world for a little over a month now and we’re loving every minute of it.  Being with the kids is great and I love the all around togetherness that has returned to our home. 

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Of course, it wouldn’t be me being me if I also hadn’t dove headfirst into a long list of house projects.  Pulling myself in several different directions isn’t the best method of task mastering, but it’s the method I’ve used this go ‘round.  Therefore, I don’t have one totally completely project to share.  Just a lot of different projects in various states of un-doneness. 

Let’s see…where to start.

Oh…I demanded, yes, demanded that our garage finally become a organized and working space.  We’re almost 100% on that one, but here’s a little sneak peak of what we’ve worked on.

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Where there was only sad studs we now have WALLS!   A huge step up.  And where there are walls…

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Organization people.  Makes my heart soar!

Then our neighbors moved to Hawaii.  Yep.  Hawaii!  And I scored was this awesome old trunk from their garbage.

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Win!  Although, I’d take Hawaii.

Inside the trunk, was this lamp…

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I’m taking it apart, painting it and putting it back together.  Someday.

Derek was then thrilled when I made him go back to the pile of neighbor garbage for two of these gems…

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No, not the lawn mower.  Not the scooter.  The pallet!  Don’t laugh.  There are some awesome projects out there using pallets. Just wait.  Ok.  Don’t wait.  It could be awhile. 

As if my list wasn’t full enough, I decided to redo Lanham’s big boy room.  He’s had baby blue walls for 6 years and needed a change.  Doing some artwork using my own photography similar to this…

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…with some fun editing.

And I’m installing a new closet organizer for him, among other things.

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Of course now, B-boy wants me to rid his room of the “scary monkeys” now too.  Ugh. 

Oh and did  mention that school starts soon?  Like in three days soon!  B-boy is heading to kindergarten.  ACK! 

See???  Spread myself WAY too thin.  Just me being me.  All scatter brained and wanting it all done.  Yesterday.  Hoping to have more completed versions of the above projects to share with you all soon.

Until then, wish me luck with getting the kiddos off to school this week.  The tears.  They are coming.  Good luck to you all too during this busy busy back to school season!

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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Blueberry Season! Blueberry Lemon Pound Cake

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We were fortunate enough to visit my in-laws’ lake house during peak blueberry picking season this year.  What a treat!  Yes, it was hot.  We’ve had one heck of a HOT summer here in Chicagoland.  However, it’s SOOOOO worth it.

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Braden totally gets into the picking and played OWO’s picking partner.

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BTW…O.W.O. is code for Oh Wonderful One…Derek’s father has a funny sense of humor and named  himself when the grandkids came along. Hee Hee!

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We ended up coming home with 4 pounds of delicious hand picked blueberries.  What to do, what to do???

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Well, first off you eat and eat and eat them.  Then my mind turns to baking.  The past years’ muffins were a hit, so I decided to try something in the lemon/blueberry theme.  Something new perhaps?  Martha.  Nuf said.

These pound cakes, yes, CAKES plural since this decadent recipe makes two, are in NO WAY healthy.  Well, they have blueberries in them.  Which IS an antioxidant rich fruit.  So I suppose…  Either way, its superb! 

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I’ve never made pound cake before, and I’m a huge Sarah Lee fan.  I have to say, though, that I totally enjoyed this recipe…as did the family and my husband’s coworkers.  What?  You thought we actually needed to keep both for ourselves?  Read the ingredients.  I wanted to sort of look semi-decent on the beach this year.  Ha!  Hope you enjoy this year’s bounty and give this one a try.

Blueberry Lemon Pound Cake (adapted from Martha Stewart.com)
Ingredients
  • 3 1/4 cups, plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon coarse salt
  • 3 sticks softened unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 9 large, room-temperature eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 2 1/4 cups blueberries
    • Glaze:
      • 2/3 cup powdered sugar
      • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Prepare two 5-by-9 inch loaf pans with cooking spray.  Cream butter, sugar and sour cream in a stand mixer on high for about 8 minutes.  Mixture should become fluffy.   Scrape down the sides of bowl, reduce speed to medium.  Lightly beat eggs and add them to the mixing bowl along with the vanilla extract.  In a separate bowl, combine 3 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour and 1 tablespoon of coarse salt.  Reduce speed to low, and add flour in four additions, mixing thoroughly after each addition and scraping the sides of the bowl. Mix until just incorporated. Add lemon juice and zest, again mixing until incorporated.  In another bowl, toss blueberries in remaining 2 tablespoons flour.  Fold the coated blueberries into the batter. Divide batter equally between two pans, tapping filled pans on counter to evenly distribute, and smooth out the tops of the cakes with spatula or large spoon.  Place in oven and bake for about 65 minutes, or until something inserted into middle of the cakes come out smooth.  After baking, allow cakes to cool completely on wire racks before tipping upside down and removing them from the pans.  Use a kabob skewer to poke small random holes on the top of the cakes.  Prepare glaze by dissolving the powered sugar with the lemon juice.  Use a pastry brush to generously coat the tops of the cakes.  Enjoy!

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