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Mazda fares well on family road trip

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I received a loan of a Mazda CX-9 for a one-week period in order to provide a review. I was not compensated for this post. All opinions are mine.
Although according to the calendar it is still summer - and will continue to be for a couple more weeks, the kids are back in school and summer as we know it is coming to an end. It always goes by too quickly, so I always try to seize the opportunity to do some short family road trips with the kids each summer. It’s getting harder and harder as they get older and are involved in activities and are committed to work schedules. I did manage to get in a nice trip this month, though, with 3 of our 5 sons and I was so excited to have use of a Mazda CX-9 as we traveled.
My everyday driver is a small sedan, so it was nice to have something as roomy as the CX-9 for traveling. The 7-seater had all the bells and whistles I’d hoped for - and much more. We made our way out of the Chicago area, through Indiana and up the west coast of Michigan in our SUV. …

University of Notre Dame

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For the past six years I have been making my way to the University of Notre Dame in South Bend each summer to attend the Shakespeare Festival. I have a son who has been involved in a youth theatre group where they do a Shakespeare production each year through their Education Through Theatre Program. In mid-July, he and his fellow youth actors take the stage at Washington Hall on the campus of the University of Notre Dame for Shakescenes - a variety of Shakespeare-related skits from several youth theatre groups. 

It's something I look forward to each summer - obviously it is exciting to see my son perform, but even moreso when it is on a stage at the University of Notre Dame! However, I also love this annual event because it gives me a chance to spend time on this amazingly stunning campus. I'm not exaggerating when I say that I take a deep breath as I enter the grounds and I can just feel the stress melt away. The winding roads, architectural masterpieces and natural beauty ma…

Palmer House Hilton

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As I was cleaning out my inbox this week, I noticed an email from the Palmer House Hilton for a special July deal with rooms for this winter starting at $115 per night. I'm tempted to plan a little getaway because that is a great deal - especially during busy times of year. The deal is good for bookings through July 31 for stays from November 16 - January 31. When I hit the link and plugged in a couple dates, I came up with rates even lower than the advertised $115. I found some dates as low as $94.

The email also took me back to a couple years ago when my son and I stayed there in January when we attended the Cubs convention. This Chicago hotel is a historical and architectural gem built for business magnate Potter Palmer. It is said that the hotel was a wedding gift to his bride Bertha (who was 23 years younger than him.) The hotel burned in the Great Chicago Fire just 13 days after its grand opening. He rebuilt and the new hotel opened in November 1873.

The Golden Empire Dining R…

Serenity Springs

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A few years ago I came across a place online called Serenity Springs and I jotted it onto my list of places to visit at some point. It came back on my radar this month as I was scoping out possible spots for an anniversary overnight that wasn't too far from home and Serenity Springs seemed the perfect spot. It was within an hour's drive of my home in Chicago's South Suburbs (it's between LaPorte, Indiana and Michigan City) and from all the online photos and descriptions sounded like a romantic, secluded place to get away. It absolutely lives up to the name - it's complete serenity from the moment you enter the grounds.


We reserved a room for a Thursday evening and as soon as we got there realized we really should have reserved two nights. The place offers much more than a room to spend a night in. The 85-acre grounds are beautiful and have 31 unique cabins situated either on their lake, pond or creek. There are five different rooflines, so there are different layout…

Blue Chip Casino Spa

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Last week we were spending a couple days in Michigan City, Indiana as we celebrated our wedding anniversary. After an overnight at nearby Serenity Springs, we spent the next day at Blue Chip Casino, which included some couples services at the spa.  

Located a few floors up in the Spa Blu Tower, the 10,000 square-foot Spa Blu has a long list of offerings, from foot, hand, skin treatments to manicures to massages to hair styling to make-up applications - with lots of extras and enhancements that can be added on to the experience. 

Within the locker room areas, there's both a steam room and whirlpool to enjoy and you can order an alcoholic beverages to also help you unwind. When I visit a spa, I always linger for a while in the relaxation room. I absolutely love to sit back with a cup of tea and read a magazine, but it's something I just don't make time for at home. So, anytime I am at a salon or a spa, I try to put the phone down and indulge in some alone time with tea and a g…

Cloud Gate and Millenium Park

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If you Google the top tourist attractions in Chicago or in Illinois, you'll find Millennium Park in the top 10 of just about any list. And according to the City of Chicago's official numbers, Millennium Park became the most visited site in 2016 in not just Chicago or the state, but in the entire Midwest. Millennium Park is the site of many events throughout the year - music events like the Chicago House Music Festival, the Chicago Blues Festival and the Chicago Gospel Music Festival along with free movies in the park each Tuesday from June - August during the Millennium Park Summer Film Series and free music on Mondays and Thursdays as part of the Millennium Park Summer Music Series. It's the home of Chicago Gourmet. It's right next to the Chicago Cultural Center where you can enjoy a multitude of performances and activities. And below it is Millennium Station where you can travel in by train from the suburbs. It sits besides Maggie Daley Park, which has a plethora of …

Sable Points Lighthouse Tours

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I've always been fascinated by lighthouses and they always look stunning with the blue water and blue sky as a backdrop. I've had the opportunity to climb a lighthouse and peer out from the inside and it was amazing. 

I was recently in Ludington, Michigan where there are two lighthouses (with others not far away), but I was too early in the season to have a chance to get inside. However, there are four lighthouses that are run by the Sable Points Lighthouse Keepers Association that can each be toured. They are:

BIG SABLE LIGHTHOUSE

LUDING NORTH BREAKWATER LIGHT

LITTLE SABLE POINT LIGHTHOUSE

WHITE RIVER LIGHT STATION

You can climb each lighthouse for $5 for adults and $2 for children. 

The Big Sable Point Lighthouse will open for the season May 8 and it will be open daily from 10 a.m - 5 p.m. through November 4. This year it turns 150 and you can celebrate during the Michigan Lighthouse Festival in Ludington August 15 - 27.

The other three lighthouses open May 26 and each is open daily…