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Saturday, July 2, 2016

HarborPark: Kenosha, WI

During the summer months, there are a lot of fun events that happen at HarborPark in Kenosha, including the recent Border Wars Beer Fest and the annual Taste of Wisconsin, which we have attended several times. And even when there's not something going on, it's a lovely place for a stroll with beautiful views.

Just steps away from the park are the Kenosha Public Museum and the Civil War Museum as well as the tracks for the electric streetcar system. Anytime we are near the Kenosha lakefront, my kids love to hop on and take a ride. We also love all the free and easily accessible beachfront that you can spend time at. There's a lot to love about Kenosha and the lakefront is at the top of the list. For more info on events at HarborPark and within Kenosha, go to VisitKenosha.com



Friday, July 1, 2016

Caboose Lake: Remington, IN


On several trips over the years to Indiana Beach we'd pass Caboose Lake Campground in Remington, IN and it looked like a fun place for the kids. So, as we planned our most recent visit to Monticello to visit the amusement park, we decided to make it into a little getaway. We spent a full day at Indiana Beach and then a full day at the campground where there's a lot to do.

I had been wanting to do camping with the kids for a while. We'd stayed at a lot of campgrounds, but always in RVs or cabins, not actually "roughin' it." And we had a sizable tent that hadn't been used other than for backyard campouts and a once a year cub scout camp.

So, we set-up our tent and slept under the stars that night. I'm glad we experienced it, but I learned that I am no longer into roughin' it. I hadn't done that since I was a teenager. It was muggy. My inflatable mattress deflated in the middle of the night. Bugs were buzzing. My kids snored and kicked. The neighbors in the camper beside us were up late and then up early and really loud. Luckily, they have both rental RVs and cabins, so on our next visit, we will have to take advantage of that.

The boys enjoyed fishing with their dad, playing on the playground, making s'mores, swimming and playing on the beach and just strolling around the campground and eating ice cream. For a one-price wristband you have unlimited use of the Summer Beach Family Fun Zone during the times they are open. It includes a big inflatable water slide, bumper boats and a Water Wars water balloon game. Different fun activities are scheduled on weekends, such as horse shoe tournaments, train rides and corn hole tournaments. The kids took advantage of all of the above.

Caboose Lake provided a nice time for all of us and a chance to enjoy time as a family without electronics and screens. I'd recommend it as a place for a weekend family getaway if you're in Northern IL, Northern IN or Southwest, MI as is not too far and t'd it's a great stop to pair up with a visit to Indiana Beach. For more information, follow Caboose Lake Campground on Facebook or check out the website at cabooselake.com.






Sunday, June 19, 2016

Locavore Farm offers Dine-on-the-Land Dinners

Summer is a lovely season for dining, whether it's on a trendy downtown rooftop or al fresco on a patio or enjoying a picnic at a scenic park. But, for the ultimate in outdoor dining, you need to pay a visit to Locavore Farms in Grant Park, Illinois.

There's so much to love about this place, including the backstory. A busy professional suburban couple, Chris and Rachael Jones, tired of their hectic life and grabbing easy, but not so healthy food made a conscious decision not only to make a move with their two children to live a quieter more rural lifestyle, but to grow their own food and focus on sharing that bounty with others while also bringing in other local farmers with a similar philosophy of wanting to provide good food for people and providing an opportunity for them to slow down and really appreciate where it comes from.

They open up their farm, which has just begun season two, several times a year for visitors to come enjoy life on their small family farm. The events include a tour, five-course dinner, craft beers and cocktails, hay rides, a fire-pit to relax by. Beautifully decorated with chic country touches, like painted mason jars filled with wildflowers, benches and seats adorned with colorful quilts and throw pillows, lighted jars hanging from trees that give a lovely glow as the sun sets, you almost feel like you've stepped onto the site of a photo shoot for a magazine. Everything looks perfect.

The food is always a spectacular feast of what's in season, with five courses prepared using fresh ingredients from their own garden and from local farms by creative chefs. For dinner, guests gather at a custom made table that seats 100. Tickets go quickly for these events, so don't wait. There are three remaining dine-on-the-land dinners scheduled this year (August's is already sold out) and there will be an Oktoberfest celebration there on October 8.

It's truly a lovely experience of arriving in late afternoon as the sun shines and the blue sky as a backdrop as frogs croak in the pond, stems of emerging crops blow in the wind and a perfectly situated hay bale sits covered in a floral quilt. Then listening to live music on a blanket as the sun sets caps off the diner perfectly.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Mushroom Hunting in Galena

Earlier this month, I was invited to an exclusive media event at Galena's Eagle Ridge Resort. It had been a good 15 years since I had been to Galena, so I was excited for this little getaway. I had never been hunting for morels before, so it was a fun experience. We had the opportunity to be taken to a top secret spot by Eagle Ridge's executive chef and food and beverage director where we received tips on what to look for and how to spot them. Though I only found a couple, it was quite a thrill to search and finally come one.

Along with our hunt, we were treated to creative meals that featured morels (more to come on that on my food blog - chicagofoodiesisters.com)

Eagle Ridge is a top rated luxury resort with some of the most beautiful, lush surroundings for golfers. In 2014, Midwest Living rated Eagle Ridge as one of the "45 Midwest Resorts We Love." As part of the 6,800-acre Galena Territory, it includes 80 rustic, elegant rooms and over 200 homes and villas, a 6000-square foot spa, award winning restaurants and 63 holes of championship golf. For more information, go to eagleridge.com.            


Sunday, May 22, 2016

Free country concerts to stream live in Chicago this week

Country music fans in Chicago are in for a treat this week as The Soundtrack of America: Made in Tennessee exclusive live streamed concert series begins tomorrow. Three concerts will be streamed live from iconic attractions in Memphis, Nashville and Knoxville to Congress Park in Chicago.

The series includes performances from country stars Citizen Cope, Jason Isbell and Old Crow Medicine Show and Ashley Monroe, featuring a two-sided video wall in a high traffic location in Chicago and will have interactive capabilities between artists and the audience as well as 360-degree panoramic camera angle, making it the first long distance concert of its kind. The concert series is being hosted by the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development to give Chicago a taste of Tennessee’s music scene as well as some of the foods and beverages famous to the state.  


If you're in the area this week. Stop by and check it out.



Concert Location and Times: 
Congress Park (Southeast Side across from Congress Plaza Hotel) 
Monday: 5:30 p.m. (Live Streamed from Memphis) Citizen Cope 
Tuesday: 5:00 – 5:30 (IVE STREAMED FROM NASHVILLE) Old Crow; 5:45 – 6:30 Jason Isbell 
Wednesday: 5:30 p.m. (LIVE STREAMED from Knoxville) Ashley Monroe


Citizen Cope, known for his eclectic and versatile sound, will be the first artist to take the stage on May 23 live from the famous Stax Museum of American Soul Music in Memphis. Two-time GRAMMY® Award winner Jason Isbell will perform day two of the experience live from Music City on May 24th at Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and singer, songwriter, and member of the country music trio Pistol Annies, Ashley Monroe will come back to the city she calls home for a live performance at the historic Tennessee Theatre in Knoxville on May 25th. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Spa at the JW Marriott

The invite from the JW Marriott in Chicago for an overnight and spa visit couldn't have come at a better time. It was just after the final weeks of winter when everything just feel blah. And at a time when I had been working like crazy and really needed an excuse for a getaway. Also, nearly all our getaways during our almost 25 year marriage have been with the kids in tow - so this time hubby and I made it into a little weekend alone. 

So, we headed downtown during the last weekend of March, hitting the Good Food Festival at the UIC Forum on our way there. We checked in mid-afternoon and were greeted by this:

And also this. It was a lovely welcome. I probably could have just hung in the room all weekend soaking up the silent time away from our houseful of boys. But...it's hard to go to the city and not take in as much as you can. Oh, and I had a spa appointment that I was looking forward to, as well.



My spa appointment was for a 50-minute massage and one I was really looking forward. Don't laugh -- ok, you can laugh. It's pretty absurd. My most recent massage was in January at a post-holiday party for a non-profit board that I sit on. The group thought it would be fun to go bowling. So, we played a few frames, overindulged in authentic catered Mexican cuisine and then had a chance to get a chair massage. Well, the massage chair was set up in the lounge. And for most of the night, it was quiet and dark in there. Well, by the time it got to be my turn, I think there were some complaints that the NFL playoff game wasn't on. So, as I went in for my massage, they turned on the t.v. and the room filled with rowdy, liquor-filled football fans. The massage chair happened to be in a corner right beneath the big screen. So, as I closed my eyes and tried to relax, the game went into overtime and everyone in the room went crazy. The game was blaring above my head. Not exactly the most tranquil setting. LOL. Sometimes I feel like I'm being followed by a hidden camera crew or unknowingly been insterted into an SNL skit. So, this time I was excited to get a massage and do it right.

The greeter in the reception area took me for a little tour when I arrived of the rooms where I could prepare for and relax after the massage. The massage therapist was wonderful - working the areas I requested without too much pressure. 

I then retreated to the relaxation room where I enjoyed cucumber water and some amazing roasted marcona almonds and thumbed through fashion magazines. I got lost in a wonderfully serene zone and hubby finally texted to see if I'd gotten lost. Had we not had dinner reservations that night, I probably would have lingered just a little longer.





Our dinner reservation was right inside the hotel at The Florentine. We sipped wine and savored such wonderful dishes as Mozzarella di Buffalo and braised pork shank. (More will be posted on dinner at the Chicago Foodie Sisters blog.)














The evening ended with a relaxing bubble bath. Then we were up early the next day to do some exploring. The valet parking allowed us a few hours beyond check out, so we checked out and checked our bags and went on our way for a bit. The JW is located in a great spot - close to theaters, shopping, the financial district. We decided to do a walk over to Millennium Park, stopping on the way for lunch and a pint at the legendary Berghoff Restaurant. We also popped in to check out the Chicago Cultural Center and the Pritzker Military Museum & Library. 

The JW Marriott - and its Central Loop location - makes for a great getaway for those living in the burbs, like me. A train ride on Metra to the Van Buren station is just a short walk from the JW Marriott, so if you'd rather not have to worry about parking, that is another option. For tourists, it's a great location that is close to so much that you'll want to see and do while in this magnificent city. And, the spa is a must - do whatever you can to fit it into your itinerary. I've utilized the spa at a couple other Marriott properties and it's a luxurious addition to the stay that brings it pretty close to perfection.

Keep the JW Marriott in mind for your summer travel plans - can't believe summer is just around the corner! 

P.S. The lobby and open areas are pretty stunning.



JW Marriott
151 W. Adams
Chicago, Il 
(312) 660-8200
marriott.com

***The J.W. Marriott provided a complimentary one-night stay and spa service. I was not compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.

Friday, April 1, 2016

The Berghoff in Chicago



Boasting liquor license #1 after prohibition in the city of Chicago, this old school dining spot is legendary in Chicago. If you're a fan of German cuisine, it's a place you'll want to add on your itinerary on a visit to the Windy City.

The restaurant opened in 1898 as a men's only salloon where the food was secondary - a free corned beef sandwich with a stein of beer. It was during prohibition that it became a full-service restaurant serving soda.

There's a large menu of German specialties - sauerbraten to Spinatkn√∂del to sausages, but I usually go for the basic but delicious wiener schnitzel. The tender, battered veal cutlet comes served along with German fried potatoes and a vegetable.

No visit is complete without sampling the brews. If you're not sure what to try, go for the flight where you can try out the five most popular beers on the menu. Find more info at theberghoff.com.

An old menu hangs on the wall at the entrance to the restaurant.