Monday, July 27, 2015

Share the Love: Don't Forget Date Night! (#giveaway for @ShorelineSights cruise tickets)

Before we left the country for a month at the end of May to bring home our daughters via international adoption, we made about two dozen lists of things to do and bring and pack.

One of the things that made the "must do" list before leaving the country was a date night. A real date, at that. Not one of those dates in disguise we sometimes like to do out of shear convenience, ease and desperation. (Going on a Target date always seems like a good date idea ... until you get there and realize it's just a glorified grocery shopping trip with less whining, less cart tipping and more time spent in store resulting in a larger haul of stuff that's alot less grocery and a lot more questionable because that's what happens when you don't have to get in and get out, people!)

So anyway, we realized we really needed a real bonafide date that included adult conversation, perhaps mental stimulation and also maybe leisurely enjoyment of food, drink and maybe the great outdoors, if we were going to get fancy about it.

When Shoreline Sightseeing invited us to take an Architecture Tour on the Chicago River, I sorta hesitated a bit to do this for date night. We'd previously been on a different company's architecture tour along the river, and it was, um, kinda boring for me. Hubby on the other hand had mostly enjoyed it because he really really likes history and information. (When we first met in Egypt, he wanted to spend some time at the Cairo Museum and after FOUR hours spent looking around was shocked when I told him I was ready to leave because!)

So I'll be honest: the only reason I'd agreed to make this into a date night is because I really, really, really love my husband ... and we had two extra tickets, and I figured I could talk with my girlfriend during the tour while he geeked out and feasted on information.

But we didn't even have the chance to occupy ourselves! From the moment the cruise started, we definitely were engaged by the crew and our tour guide. Our tour guide Ben was born, I think, to give architecture tours. As if memorizing information and then making the history of architecture interesting isn't a great enough task, our guide did it with humor, a bit of sarcasm and poise. You guys, I literally laughed out loud several times. He made such a huge difference in our experience. I also learned things. Yup, that's right -- I learned that Art Deco is my absolute most favorite of building styles in the city.

And we got some fantastic views of the city at sunset. So that's a win, too. My compliments to the captain for pausing for a good long while to enjoy it. We'll definitely do it again if the opportunity affords itself to us!

Wanna go on a date-night cruise, too? Shoreline Sightseeing has kindly offered one reader four tickets to be used this season. Simply enter the giveaway using Rafflecopter. No funky logins required. Easy!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Share the Love: Taking the Classroom Outside This Spring at the Chicago Botanic Garden

Last fall we decided to transition our oldest son out of traditional school and into a hands-on school setting that includes homeschooling and a Waldorf-based co-op. It's been an exciting year of learning, growth and development for him and for me!

But when we traded workbooks for real-life experiences, I began to realize that we were going to have to venture out further into the world (and outside of my poor kitchen) to keep exploring -- especially in the realms of biology and ecology. 

We've long been fans of the Chicago Botanic Garden, but this spring we have found a renewed love after taking a nature walk there as part of science "class."

The boys and their friends skipped along the paths, marveling at the different blooms popping up in the spring. 

They intently watched the carp swimming in the ponds during our expedition in the Japanese Garden.

And they excitedly monitored a family of frogs and frog babies hiding out in the grass just off the beaten path. 

What an adventure we had as they discovered spring in a very hands on way! And the conversations we have had in the aftermath have been great as well as its given way to talking about how new life blooms in the spring. 

Of course, we don't have to be homeschoolers to enjoy a nature walk with our kids! Right now the garden is in full spring bloom, and it's a great time to take a day to walk, explore and enjoy. 

Some ideas I'm considering:

  • make your nature walk into a scavenger hunt
  • bring pads of paper and colored pencils along for budding artists to draw what they see 
  • do a gallery display of the different drawings from the garden during spring, summer and fall and invite grandma and grandpa over to hear all about it

Of course, if you prefer programs that are already put together, the garden has plenty this time of year. Here are a few favorites we want to catch!

Fruit & Vegetable Garden Family Drop-in Activities – Daily, May 30 through August 30
Enjoy free summer activities each day during family drop-in activities in the Regenstein Fruit & Vegetable Garden. Activities vary from week to week and include Plant Parts, Powerful Pollinators, Super Seeds, Rainbow Garden and Wiggling Worms. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Click here for more information.

Nature Nights – Select Saturdays, May 30 through September 5
Bring a picnic dinner and spend an evening at the Chicago Botanic Garden! Children ages 4 – 10 and their families will explore different areas of the Garden and enjoy a variety of discovery-based activities. Participants will park in lot 1 or 2 and check in at Annex 2 or the Fruit & Vegetable Garden classroom. The program facilitator will lead them to the activity site where they will eat their homemade sack dinners (not provided) and begin the exploration activity. At each Nature Nights, participants will enjoy a short tram ride, plant a take-home plant and conclude the evening by making s’mores at a fire pit. Hours are from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Cost is $26 per chregister and for additional information. The event is held regardless of weather; indoor spaces are used in case of rain.

Click HERE to see more family activities planned at the garden for this spring and summer and check back at the beginning of summer to see what else we're up to at the garden this year!

Disclosure: Because my family loves the outdoors, we are happy garden ambassadors for the Chicago Botanic Garden. We receive a membership in exchange for writing about garden happenings.