Thursday, July 23, 2015

Chicago: Embassy Suites with Kids Review

**This is the last in our series on Chicago. In this series are our reviews of the Shedd Aquarium, the Willis (Sears) Tower or the Museum of Science and Industry). **

When we stay in a hotel, our preference is a suite - that includes breakfast (and even better for one that includes happy hour). We really enjoy having our kids sleep in a separate area, but not necessarily next door. We often end up at the Embassy Suites in downtown Chicago (600 N. State Street). (While we sometimes get rooms to review for the blog, we paid for this one ourselves).

The Embassy Suites in Chicago
We were very happy with the rooms, though we did pay the $10/night extra for the city view and weren't impressed with the view. Next time we won't pony up for the extra. Not worth it, even being on the 9th floor.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Chicago: Museum of Science and Industry with Kids

**This is part of our series on Chicago**
We flew into Chicago early morning, and took a taxi straight to the Museum of Science and Industry (as for luggage - we sent that ahead with my husband who had other plans for the day). We planned to spend the day there but I didn't realize we would spend the ENTIRE day there. So much to see and do. And we still missed out on some of the exhibits. My kids are tween/teen age, and they loved it as much as I did. Plenty for the younger set too.

The motion simulator ride
Some planes "flew" over the miniature set with trains below.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Still time for summer adventure

The summer is halfway over for many of us (maybe more than halfway for others!). Have you lost your momentum for creating some fun and adventure? Are the kids glued to the television? Even if they are, there are ways to get their creative side out with inspiration from the shows you're watching.

This summer Netflix introduced a new original series: Dragons: Race to the Edge (see the trailer here). Sound somewhat familiar? It includes Hiccup and Toothless from How to Train Your Dragons film. To get ready to watch the television show, try coming up with some crafts (or let you kids do the brainstorming) for snacks and props you can use while watching the show or acting out scenes during play time.

Need some ideas?

Make labels like "Dragon Scales" or "Dragon Claws" to put on bags of Doritos or Bugles. Use inflatable or plastic swords (do you have those around from Halloween or in the dress-up bin?). Make your own dragon wings with a black blanket or pantyhose stretched over bent hangers. Draw dragons and castles with sidewalk chalk on the driveway. Make some JELL-O Jigglers dragon eyes (I did some Halloween ones a few years back that fit the bill - check out the eyes - they're just like the dragon's!).

Of course you can come up with creative ideas for any TV show or movie. What are your ideas?

Disclosure: I'm a Netflix StreamTeam member.

Coming Up: American Craft Council San Francisco Show

Interior design lovers - don't miss the American Craft Council's 40th annual San Francisco Show. It features 225 top contemporary jewelry, clothing, furniture, and home d├ęcor artists from across the country. It's the largest juried fine craft show on the West Coast. They expect 12,000 attendees.

They'll feature two special showcases:

Monday, July 20, 2015

Chicago: Willis (Sears) Tower with Kids

**This is part of our series on Chicago.**
I've been to Chicago many times, and finally made it to the top of the Willis Tower, the Sky Deck, better known to you probably as the Sears Tower. The view from the 110 floor top is amazing - as you'll see in my beautiful pictures below!

If you plan to go, make sure to read details at the bottom to save yourself some time and hassle. You will be in for a major wait most likely, so minimize that!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Chicago: Shedd Aquarium with Kids

This is first in a series of posts about taking the family to Chicago. There's still time to go this summer, and fall is a great time to visit too. One stop on the family list is the Shedd Aquarium. Situated on Lake Michigan, It's the world's largest indoor aquarium though we still like the Monterey Bay Aquarium better!

If you plan to go to the aquarium, plan ahead or you'll be waiting in the huge line like you see in the photo above. More info on strategies to get in quickly at the bottom - trust me, you'll need it!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Review: Games for Kids - Niya and Wink

I wanted to share a couple of games we tried recently. We're big fan of Blue Orange Games, as we play Spot It and Gobblet frequently. You can read our reviews Spot It and Gobblet here, as well as some other kid-friendly games). Here are two more games from Blue Orange that our family has now adopted.

Niya by Blue Orange Games  $13.99 (or less)
Ages 7-adult
This is a strategy game where you have 8 qualities (maple leaf, rising sun, birds etc.) and you put your clan token in the space where a garden tile is, calling out the two qualities that square has. Your goal is kind of like tic-tac-toe, only need 4 in a row, or a square of 4. Your opponent then has to put their marker down on another square that has one of the qualities you just mentioned. Then it's your turn - again, using one of the qualities called out. You try to get 4 in a row and block them from getting it. My 11 year old loved it, and it's challenging, though very quick to learn and the games are short. And it's good for adults too.

Wink by Blue Orange Games - $14-16
Ages 8-adult
I'll admit that my husband was not eager to play this game, though the kids couldn't wait. Here's the concept. You set up the cards like you see below, in a big grid. You have your own set of cards, and you pick a number on the board that is not in your hand. Before it gets to your turn again, the person at the table who has that number card in their hand has to wink at you without getting caught. When it's your turn again, if you successfully identify the person, you each get a point. If someone catches them winking at you, they accuse the person. If right, the accuser gets two points. "This was surprisingly fun" my husband said, which is a huge endorsement. The game was pretty silly and resulted in a lot of laughing. We played with people, though it would be even more fun with a bigger crowd. And you should play at a square table, not a rectangular one, to make it more fair. I can see this one getting taken out of the cabinet many more times in our future.