Monthly Archives: June 2010

Backyard Safari Outfitters Review

It’s HOT outside. I’m not kidding. HOT. 101 kind of hot. So we’ve been spending a lot of time in the pool this week. But last week it was pleasant outside. Pleasant enough to be out exploring and having fun. We were sent some fun exploring items from Backyard Safari Outfitters to play with. They have such a cool line of toys. These are toys that create imagination and quite frankly toys that I don’t mind playing with them. It gets them outside instead of sitting in front of the TV and the Wii.

We were sent the…

Cargo Vest (Ages 5& Up – Retails $19.99)

The Cargo Vest is a great item. You can fill it up with all of your outdoor gear. There are special pockets for binoculars and the field guide. All kind of stuff. There are also D-rings so you can clip other Safari toys like the Field Tools.

Mega View Periscope (Ages 5 & Up – Retails $24.99) – sidenote: on sale at ToysRUs for $11.98

The kids LOVED the periscope. It’s actually a perfect edition to our play fort in the backyard. It’s a little heavy for them to handle when it’s fully extended. But it does have super sturdy handles and it’s easy for the kids to handle when only extended twice. I like the latch on the periscope that keeps it closed and the best part which we have unfortunately yet to try you can submerse it in water to see underwater without having to get in. So cool. It’s a great product.

and the Bug Vacuum (Ages 5 & Up – Retails $19.99)

I gotta say that my favorite product is the bug vacuum. The kids like it too. But man this means that I can suck up all those gross spiders that seem to make it into our house without calling my hubby. I can suck them up and take the unit outside. Unscrew the cap and shake it back outside (where it belongs). My kids like how the middle section has a magnifying glass. They can see all kinds of bugs up close. So far we have seen plenty of lightning bugs. They get freaked out by the rest but we’re working on it. :)

Each of these toys comes with a fantastic pop-up field guide. The field guide is full of illustrations and information for every subject related to outdoor and nature exploration, such as Field Communication, the Solar System, Butterflies, Fossils and Beetles. The kids love all the pictures and it’s very easy to fold, I don’t really have to worry about them tearing it or asking me 1,000 times a day to fold it up.

I think that these toys are AWESOME. I really think that these are going to be our go to gifts for birthdays and such. You can’t go wrong with toys that encourage outdoor play, exploration and imagination. You can find all their toys at Toys R Us, Wal-Mart, Barnes and Noble, Amazon.com and Target. Of course you can purchase them directly from the source and view more information at http://www.summitoy.com. You can also find them on Twitter and Facebook.

Thanks to Team Mom for the opportunity.

Chicago Day 2 – The conclusion

We were only there for one night. We definitely need to stay longer next time. We would get a city pass and do a whole lot more… in fact I already have a list made of what to go back and do.

  • The Willis Tower
  • Aquarium
  • Field Museum
  • Speedboat Tour

You get the idea. All the touristy things. Hopefully next time my mom will be able to go with us. L really wants to take her to see the American Girl store, isn’t that sweet?!

Back to our story… after the AG store JT mentioned that we should run the packages back to our car. I said “NAH, let’s just keep going.” Mistake. By the time we made it to the Lego store that AG bag was so heavy it was cutting into my hand. Plus the two days of walking was catching up with J. Poor guy couldn’t keep up. So I had him on my back and the AG bag plus it was warmer this day. Next time he will be older but we should have put him in the stroller that we’d brought but it was back at the car. Yeah every once in a while JT is right.

We walked up to the river and explained to the kids how they make the river green every year for St. Patrick’s Day. They loved that.

Off to the Lego store, which I know where it is… It just always takes me a while to find it. We actually walked past it once. While we were in the AG store he asked a minimum of 30 times when it was his turn, when were we going to the Lego store…. AAAAAHHHHH!!!!! He was driving us nuts. Once we finally made it there he was all smiles. First guy we saw was this guy… he loves this guy.

L stayed at the Lego table almost the entire time. She loved playing there.

J walked around with either JT or myself deciding what he wanted to purchase. I took his picture with all of his favorite lego creations

He did find some things he wanted. A spongebob set and of course a few Star Wars sets. He would not put the Star Wars sets down either. He had a death grip on them while walking around.

I’m not sure why but this is my favorite one, he just looks so sweet next to R2-D2

We were finally able to pull L away from her table to take some pics of her too.

Legos purchased we went back to the hotel and packed up the room and the car. Kept the car in the garage and headed to Millennium Park. Had to see the Bean before we left. Everyone needs a bean picture if you visit Chicago.

Before we crossed the street into the Park the kids saw this cow. So they rushed over for me to take a picture. Normal children would stand next to the cow, my children decided to “milk” the cow.

Finally weirdness aside we made it into the park and saw…

The Bean

Bean pictures…

After bean pictures we decided to get a couple more of the family.

Last cab ride, back to the hotel to retrieve our car. Time to go home.

A little sad to be leaving we all would have liked to stay one more day and do some other fun things, maybe another time.

Goodbye Chicago

or so we thought. We got about 10 minutes outside downtown Chicago on highway 55 when we came to a dead stop. 2 hours we crawled on 55. Ugh. It was miserable. The ride home was fine. Poor kids were exhausted and slept for almost 2 1/2 hours on the way home.

Someone had a great time…

On the way home we were going to stop in Springfield and let the kids run around Lincoln’s home but by the time we were out of traffic and headed that way… it was closed. Oh well. We stopped for dinner at Cracker Barrel (yum) we always stop at one when we travel by car.

The kids played checkers while JT snoozed a little before getting back in the car for the final miles towards home.

Finally the arch was welcoming us back home.

It was a fantastic mini vacation.

Chicago Day 2 – American Girl

It was a really bad night’s sleep. You would think that we would have slept well, JT and I each had a double bed to ourselves and the kids slept together on a pullout sofa, but JT and I did NOT sleep well at all.

The kids woke up and opened the curtains right away to let in all that nice bright sun. They enjoyed sitting on the air conditioner looking outside at everyone walking to work.

It was a big day. It was American Girl store day!!!! We all got ready and headed down to eat our free breakfast. I forgot that we got 2 $10 gift cards for breakfast when we checked in. That was really nice we only had to pay $5 for breakfast. After that we headed up to get L’s dolls, we had a lunch reservation at 11:00 am and we were going to walk around a little. First stop… Starbucks. :) There was one 10 steps from our hotel. Love that. After my morning coffee run we walked back to the Disney store. There was someone special the kids wanted to buy a present for. We were 15 minutes early for opening so we sat outside and enjoyed the beautiful day.

The kids watching cartoons waiting for mommy and daddy to finish getting ready

J made himself at home while waiting

A pic of our hotel

Sitting out side the Disney store waiting for store open.

She’s holding a naked Samantha, we were going to admit her to the hospital at the AG store. I was holding Molly. After the Disney store gifts had been purchased we headed down to the AG store to look around before our reservation.

You walk in and it takes your breath away. L was so excited. She knew which doll she wanted to purchase so she kept trying to pick her up but we told her to be patient, let’s check everything out first, have lunch and then she could shop. She was busting at the seams. She had saved all of her birthday money (it’s what she asked for this year) and we were treating her to a new doll for her belated bday gift.

The store when you walk in

So we explored. Found the doll hospital, talked to a nurse about Samantha and decided that she might not need to be admitted, instead just cleaned up so we made her an appointment in the salon.

Soon after it was time for lunch. My mom had a special gift at the table for each kiddo. They were really excited. The cafe is beautiful. Very cheery with a great view all the way around the restaurant. The meal was okay. Next time I will probably just order one of the kids dishes.

Opening her gift

It’s a mini Kaya and J received a new Iron Man toy

They brought out appetizers and our drinks, Molly was at the table with us in her special high chair. Also at the table there was a cute box with slips of paper they were conversation starters. So cute. L loved answering some of the questions.

Miss Samantha’s appointment was done at the salon so JT ran to pick her up (such a good daddy) and she joined us for lunch.

Here’s the restaurant

L with both her dolls

They sang Happy Birthday to her, which was so sweet. The desserts were so good.

Lunch was definitely worth the money. It’s a little girly, I think JT and J were at their limit but it was worth it for for L.

After lunch she was off and running. At one point I looked back at JT who was bringing up the rear and he gave me a look like geez I can barely keep up. So funny.

I loved the historical characters section. The displays were awesome and she loved walking around looking at everything.

Off to pick up Kit, her next doll

picking out her mini dolls, she only needs to add Addy to her mini collection and she’ll have all of them

With all of her purchases before we left

She had a blast and as we walked out she was talking about her next visit. I was so happy for her. Up next Chicago Day 2 – The rest…

Chicago Day 1

For L’s birthday we promised her a trip to Chicago so she could visit the American Girl store. Not to leave J out we told him we’d take him to the Lego store. Needless to say they were super psyched.

JT and I have been to Chicago many many times separately and then a couple times together. Our first time there together was January 1998. We were dating back then. Next was our honeymoon, it was a layover stop for us. On the day of our return flight we woke up in a Chicago hotel near the airport to a blizzard and canceled flights to STL. We took a cab to the bus station then we had to walk with our luggage, in the snow, in sandals to the ATM so we could purchase two bus tickets we then proceeded to take a bus home. Worst trip ever!!! The next trip would be in 2006, JT planned a trip there with friends for my 30th birthday, kid free trip. We had a lot of fun.

We love Chicago. It’s expensive though so we don’t visit as often as we’d like. We usually drive, we’ve flown a couple times but next time we plan on taking the train because that would be fun. We drove this trip, not too bad.

The kids packed up in the car and ready to go… L had all of her dolls ready to go. BTW the tables we bought a couple of years ago are the best purchase we ever made. Love those things for traveling.

The kids love to scream “goodbye arch” as we leave

JT and I love to play the license plate game, I found this one at Target a couple years ago

The kids were really excited to go and JT and I were in money saving mode (we’re saving for Disney later this year). Do as much as we could for as little money as possible. Not easy.We arrived on Thursday, May 27th. Our hotel was awesome. We stayed at the Four Points Sheraton it’s a block off of Michigan Ave. Awesome hotel, plus they had an American Girl package. L would get checked in with her doll, register to win another doll, get an A.G. bed and fresh baked cookies for bedtime. It was worth every penny. Plus they were playing the Molly movie in our hotel room non-stop. She loved it. After we checked in and relaxed a bit we headed out to grab some lunch. We were starving. When we visited in 2006 we ate at Giordano’s, it happened to be down the street a couple blocks from where we were staying so we decided to eat there. Our kids love pizza so we knew they would like it too. Super yummy. When we sat down poor L knocked over her water all over my shirt and shorts. It was bad. But she was so upset so I acted like it was no big deal. I didn’t want to upset her more. I was wet and it was cold downtown (more on that in a second).

The kids waiting to be called to our table at Giordano’s

After lunch we walked back to the hotel because I had to change my clothes. :) Wet and cold were not a good thing plus I don’t have an incontinence problem, I didn’t feel like walking around looking like I had wet my pants. Back to the hotel I changed into my capris and put J into a pair of pants plus grabbed their sweaters. Got love the cool breeze on Michigan Ave. After the wardrobe change we caught a cab to Navy Pier. We thought the kids would like to ride the Ferris Wheel and explore the Pier.

First cab ride for the kids

At this point I finally got my camera out and stopped taking pictures with my phone :) On the Ferris Wheel

Awesome, awesome views of the city and water.

Kids on the pier…

After the Pier we caught another cab to Michigan Ave., we thought we would walk the mile and head back towards the hotel. Museums were out because they are super pricey for 4. So this was entertaining enough for them.

We looked in the AG store windows, visited the Hershey store, went in the Disney store (they closed ours here) and let the kids buy stuff and just went in a couple other stores before heading back to the hotel to play with the kids new toys.

Finally after resting and playing again in the hotel we went out to eat at Weber Grill. Love this restaurant, it’s so good. The kids were tired though because we had a late reservation so to keep them happy we let them play with my iPhone and JT’s iPod Touch. Remember when crayons and paper kept kids busy.

After we ate we were off to bed. So tired and it was almost 10:00 (late for the kids).

Dance Recital 2010

This last weekend (saturday) my two kiddos had their dance recital. We were so proud of them. They did fantastic. They had a routine to Follow the Yellow Brick Road and you will see their costumes….

I present Dorothy and the Tin Man (taken with my iPhone)

Rest taken with my D70 – Here’s a picture of them sitting on the stage earlier in the day during rehearsals (my babies are in the front row, middle)

Finally on stage, L was so fantastic. She was always ahead of the rest and right on cue. J just watched her to see what he should be doing next.

Bravo!! Bravo!! Bravo!! They did fantastic!!!

Shrek Forever After – Wii Review

We have a gamer. Our son is 4.5 and he is a HUGE gamer. I am not kidding. He would play Wii all day long if I would let him. Which I don’t. At least with the Wii he has to be up and moving around for most games. His favorite games are Mario and character games. Right now he is obsessed with the Shrek Forever After game. It’s made by Activision and they have a great site for the game here.

Mom Central sent me a copy to review and I knew my family would go nuts for this game. We are huge Shrek fans and we were excited to see the new movie. The game is a lot of fun and gave us a great sneak peek at the movie. My 4.5 year old needs help playing the game but my 6 year old can do most if not all the tasks.

The game is true to the movie and kind of fun to sit and play. We ended up spending a whole afternoon playing the game. There are a lot of rules and it can be confusing at first. For instance you have to use the directional controls to change the characters, it took a few turns to get used to it but by 10 minutes into the game you pretty much have the concept down. All of the characters have specific tasks that they can do, like Shrek moves the large objects, Donkey kicks items, Fiona lights fires and Puss climbs stuff. That’s why it’s important to get their controls down ;) They work together to take down Rumpelstiltskin. You can work with your friends because it accepts up to 4 players. It’s not a violent game it’s actually perfect for any Shrek fan. Activision has made the game for other platforms. It’s available for DS, XBOX 360, PC, PS3 and of course Wii.

I highly recommend the game. You can purchase it at the usualy places… Walmart, Target, ToysRUs, GameStop, Best Buy and Amazon.

“I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour campaign by Mom Central on behalf of Activision and received the items necessary to facilitate my review. In addition, Mom Central sent me a gift card to thank me for taking the time to participate.”

Asparagus and Noodles

It’s Friday and Friday is our eat out night and since we live in the city there are so many options to choose from. But one of our favorites is Noodles & Company. Yum!! We love Love LOVE Noodles & Company. It is so family friendly and the food is fantastic. In their own words; “Noodles & Company, a fast-casual restaurant chain with 240 locations, recognizes the importance of access to nutritious food served quickly and strives to provide customers with affordable meals prepared from fresh and healthy ingredients.” Another reason I love Noodles & Company… it’s not crap. I get so sick of filling my kids up with crappy fried foods. At least with Noodles it’s something nutritious. They have 14 fresh vegetables on their menu. That’s awesome. We usually pull up, walk in, order our food, we either stay or go (depends on our day) and it’s ready in 5 minutes or so. So quick for good food.

Mom Central recently gave me the opportunity to review Noodles & Company’s new pasta dish (um, yes please). They are celebrating Asparagus. It’s in season from April to June here in the US and I love asparagus it’s definitely my favorite vegetable. The dish is called, Asparagus and Lemon Linguine. It’s a fantastic dish. Very good, light and perfect for summer. Not only is it asparagus but also snap peas, mushrooms, red onions and feta cheese. It was really good I really can’t even tell you. You have to experience it for yourself.

I’m one of those people that usually goes into a restaurant and will order the same thing over, over and over. I’m not a try something new person. This blog tour forced me to try something new and it really was a great choice.

“I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour campaign by Mom Central on behalf of Noodles & Company and received five Noodles & Company bowl cards to facilitate my review. Mom Central also sent me a thank-you gift certificate.”

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