MUST-SEE Chicago 2015: Cirque du Soleil’s KURIOS – Cabinet of Curiosities #KURIOS

If you’re looking for something fun and unique to do in Chicago this summer, I’ve get the perfect solution for you. You can never go wrong with a Cirque du Soleil show. This summer, Cirque is bringing their newest production, KURIOS – Cabinet of Curiosities, to the Windy City and it promises to be epic!

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Written and directed by Michel Laprise, the new touring production will premiere under the iconic blue-and-yellow Big Top at the United Center parking lot, located at 1901 W. Madison Street, beginning August 6, 2015.

Banquine-h-credit Martin Girard shootstudio.ca

KURIOS – Cabinet of Curiosities premiered to the world in Montréal in April 2014 and is Cirque du Soleil’s 35th production. Since its debut, the critics have been raving: “KURIOS is Cirque du Soleil’s strongest act in years…one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen on a stage” (Toronto Star) and “KURIOS is the best Cirque du Soleil show in a long time.” (San Francisco Chronicle).

Contortion-credit Martin Girard shootstudio.ca

KURIOS – Cabinet of Curiosities is a tale in which time comes to a complete stop, transporting the audience inside a fantasy world where everything is possible. In this realm set in the latter half of the nineteenth century, reality is quite relative indeed as our perception of it is utterly transformed. The name of the show refers to the humble and strange characters that inhabit the Seeker’s Cabinet of Curiosities.

Tickets will be available for purchase beginning TODAY, April 17, 2015 by visiting Cirque du Soleil or calling 1-877-9 CIRQUE (1-877-924-7783). Tickets range from $35 – $145.

Have you ever been to a Cirque du Soleil show? Which one did you see?

Disclosure: I will receive complimentary admission to KURIOS in exchange for this post.

Travel: Best Places to Visit in Los Angeles with a Teen

Recently, I had the pleasure of traveling to Los Angeles with my teenage daughter.  Neither one of us had ever been to California, so I spent countless hours researching what to do, where to stay, and what to eat.  I scoured websites and blogs, talked to a few friends, and even contacted Discover Los Angeles, the area’s department of tourism.

We decided early on to skip the big amusement parks in the area (Disneyland, Universal Studios, and Six Flags Magic Mountain), mostly because we only had 4 days in L.A. and wanted to experience as much of Los Angeles as we could.  Going to any of the there parks would’ve been an all-day outing!  So if you’re planning a visit to the L.A. area, here are a few of our favorites:

WHERE TO STAY

Doubletree by Hilton Hotel Los Angeles - WestsideDoubleTree Hotel Los Angeles – Westside

6161 W Centinela Ave  Culver City, CA

If you’re looking for a safe, no-frills place to sleep at night, I highly recommend the DoubleTree Hotel in Culver City.  We knew that we weren’t going to spend a ton of time at any hotel, so a nice, clean, and safe place was all we were looking for.  This hotel delivered on all fronts.  Their location right next to Highway 405 was especially nice since it allowed us to easily be on our way (although L.A. traffic is just as bad as everyone says it is!).  The convenient highway access and proximity to so many tourist attractions are what initially drew me to the DoubleTree in Culver City and for those reasons alone we would return anytime.

WHAT TO DOPacific Park

Santa Monica Pier/Pacific Park/Santa Monica Beach

At the end of Colorado Avenue, Santa Monica, CA

Santa Monica is beautiful!  Endless shopping, restaurants, and entertainment made Santa Monica a must on our recent trip – and we were not disappointed!  We walked the beach for a couple of miles and ended at the Santa Monica Pier.  While many of the rides and carnival games were deemed too “young” by my teen, I can see a family with smaller kids (under the age of 10) having a total blast here.  Pacific Park is reminiscent of an old-fashioned carnival and, even though we didn’t ride on any of the rides, we both thoroughly enjoyed strolling the area.

 

Madame TussaudsMadame Tussauds/TCL Chinese Theater/Hollywood Walk of Fame

6933 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood, CA (Madame Tussauds)

These three attractions (along with many more) are located right next to each other in Hollywood and all are a must-see!  Madame Tussauds is really the only attraction we paid to see in CA, but it was well worth it.  We had a blast clowning around with the “celebrities” and taking some pretty funny photos.  We were the first ones to enter on a Saturday morning and my daughter was initially so scared to 20130511_105123approach the celebs that I had to touch them to make sure they weren’t real.  It was hysterical!

We didn’t do the tour of the Chinese Theater, but we did spend some time looking for star’s footprints and signatures in the cement outside.  It was cool to see some stars we knew, like Will Smith and Michael Jackson.  We even saw the Shirley Temple signature from 1906!  The Walk of Fame goes on for blocks and blocks, but it was fun to see some names we recognized (and a whole bunch that we didn’t!).  Fun Fact: Did you know that even Kermit the Frog has a star?

 

20130511_132439The Grove/The Original Farmer’s Market

189 The Grove Drive, Los Angeles, CA

If you’re traveling with a teen or a pre-teen, the Grove shopping center is a must!  There’s shopping, dining, and even a huge movie theater on the premises so you definitely won’t be bored.  Usually they have some pretty cool events and concerts going on, but not when we were there. Sad smile Parking is nuts, but it’s helpful that the garage has a digital counter that lets you know how many spaces are left.  My personal favorite part of The Grove – Sprinkles Cupcakes!  And, yes, they are just as good as everyone says they are.

IMAG0910Connected to The Grove is the Original Farmer’s Market.  I will say that the teen wasn’t as excited to be there as I was, but it is worth a visit.  The fresh food smells unbelievable, and most dining options were reasonably priced.  Some shops had lines that wrapped around a few corners so you know it had to be good!  We walked through pretty quickly because my daughter was itching to get out of there, but I managed to pick up some dried bananas and a Farmer’s Market reusable tote on the way out.

 

Manhattan Beach

2 Manhattan Beach Blvd, Manhattan Beach, CA

20130512_141647This was, by far, my favorite beach that we visited on our trip.  And to think, it wasn’t originally on our itinerary!  One morning while out to breakfast I asked a couple of locals for their recommendation for a good beach and they steered me in the direction of Manhattan Beach.  It was pretty cloudy when we visited, but we still had a great time.  It was really, really hard to find parking here though.  We drove around for the good part of 20 minutes trying to find a spot!  And the meters at the few parking garages only allowed for a maximum of 2 hours.

Some of the homes here were spectacular!  Manhattan Beach is considered to be a very pricey area, and you could tell that we hit up the swanky beach just by looking around at the other beach-goers.  (A HUGE difference from IMAG0920what you’ll find at Venice Beach, I can assure you.)

The beach is beautiful, and the food we had at the Shark’s Cove Sports Bar was really, really good for bar food.  If you want to take a walk on the beach, swim, surf, or play some volleyball, Manhattan Beach is the place for you!

WHERE TO EAT

20130511_123239(0)In-N-Out Burger

Locations throughout California, we dined at 7009 Sunset Blvd, Hollywood, CA, just blocks from Madame Tussauds and the Chinese Theater.

How could we make a trip out to Los Angeles and NOT have an In-N-Out Burger, right?!?!  This is the place where Hilary Swank celebrated her Oscar win, in her fancy Oscar dress, no less!  I received plenty of recommendations to go here, and to ask for your burger “Animal Style” (includes pickles, extra spread, grilled onions, and mustard fried onto each meat patty).  I’m sure the cashiers could tell right away that I wasn’t from the area because at first I forgot the right words and, instead of asking for my burger “Animal Style”, I asked for the “Kitchen Sink” burger.  Doh!  It was sooooo tasty though.  I can’t say that it beats my favorite burger joint in Illinois, Portillo’s, but it comes dang close!  It’s a messy burger, but it’s nice that it comes in a sleeve of wax paper to keep spillage to a minimum.

 

The Boiling Crab

3377 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA20130511_221000

I don’t even know where to begin with The Boiling Crab, other than to say that dining here is an experience!  You should definitely plan to get here early to get your name on the list, because wait times can exceed 2 hours.  We walked up at 7:00pm, and weren’t seated until after 9:00pm – a very late dinner for us.  I will say, though, that The Boiling Crab lives up to the hype and does NOT disappoint.  They have some of the freshest seafood I’ve ever eaten.  We ordered shrimp and king crab legs and they were divine!

My daughter was a bit squeamish at first, since the shrimp is delivered to you with both the head, legs, and tail still intact – she wouldn’t touch them!  I’d peel them for her and she’d quickly gobble them up and ask for more.  (We got to the point where all I had to remove was the head and she’d take care of the rest…we made progress!)  In the end, your table is the biggest, sloppiest mess of sauces and it’s all cleaned up in one fell swoop.  I highly recommend The Boiling Crab if you’re into seafood!

 

Pinkberry

Pinkberry

Locations throughout California, we tried 11301 West Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA.

I have heard about Pinkberry from so many people, that I knew it had to be on my “must” list for California.  Frozen yogurt has gained in popularity the last few years and I was so excited to try Pinkberry.  The employees at the Pinkberry we visited in West L.A. were awesome.  We explained how we were out-of-towners and that we had no idea how to construct our yogurt. (There are a ton of toppings at Pinkberry to choose from.)  We ended up getting the original flavor yogurt with strawberries, peaches, coconut, almonds, and chocolate shavings for our toppings.  Wow…so, so good.  You can really taste the yogurt…it does not taste like ice cream!

Overall, we had a great time in California.  For this trip we stayed near the Los Angeles/Santa Monica/Hollywood areas, but California has a ton to offer and I hope you and your family get to experience it one day.  This list is by no means all-inclusive, but it does list the best of the best of what we experienced.  It was the perfect mother/daughter trip.

Venice Beach

Monster Jam at Allstate Arena {Review}

Holy engines…I had NO IDEA what to expect when I headed to my very first monster truck show, Monster Jam at Allstate Arena, but no one ever told me about the decibel level being off the freakin’ charts!!!  From the very first roar of the engines, these humongous trucks let you know who was boss.  They were bad ass, for sure.

Monster_Jam_Allstate_Arena

What I also didn’t anticipate was my son being terrified of the noise.  Terrified in the there’s-no-way-I’m-going-in-there kind of way.  Luckily my husband was a good sport about it and decided to take him to the Target next door to browse around so Mommy could watch the show.  {I know – your heart is melting.}

I was actually surprised at how much I liked it…and at the masses of people that turned up to watch this thing.  It was a SOLD OUT show!  I had no clue that monster trucks attracted such a massive audience.  Well, consider me schooled!  Not an empty seat in the house.  Unreal!

To those of you that just might be as clueless as I was, Monster Jam is a motorsports competition event.  Yeah, it’s not just trucks with big wheels paraded around like show dogs – these trucks are in it to win it!  The first competition was the Wheelie Event where trucks drove up a pile of crushed cars to, well, pop a wheelie.  Pretty cool, really.  These giant trucks got some big air!

Monster_Jam_Big_Air

Then it was time to start the truck races.  I liked how the jumbotron gave you the heads-up on what was going on too.

Monster_Jam_Jumbotron

The monster trucks aren’t no-name trucks riding around a track, either.  Each truck is a Monster Jam celebrity and competes around the U.S. at arenas around the country.  Some of my favorites were Grave Digger:

Monster_Jam_Grave_Digger

Bounty Hunter:

Monster_Jam_Bounty_Hunter

And the Team Hot Wheels truck:

Monster_Jam_Team_Hot_Wheels

All-in-all, I really enjoyed it…I just wished my son wasn’t so sensitive to all the noise {or would agree to wear the $20 headphones I purchased for him to wear!}.  But, definitely, if you have older kids – take them!  They’ll love it!

Monster_Jam_Panoramic

Visit the Monster Jam Official Website to find out when Monster Jam is coming to a city near you.

Disclosure: I received complimentary admission to the Monster Jam show in Chicago to facilitate this review courtesy of US Family Guide.  However, all thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.  Monster Jam ROCKS!

Chicagoland Spots: Monster Jam at the Allstate Arena

Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam is the most exciting form of family motor sports entertainment on the planet.  The stars of the show are the biggest performers on four wheels: the Monster Jam trucks! The twelve-feet-tall, ten-thousand-pound machines will bring you to your feet, racing and ripping up a custom-designed track full of obstacles to soar over – OR smash through. The 2013 touring season brings more Monster Jam excitement with the celebration of Maximum Destruction’s 10th Anniversary providing entertainment tailored perfectly for your family’s budget, and these colorful, larger-than-life beasts are sure to capture the hearts of both young and old. All 5 shows were sold out last year, so get your tickets EARLY!  Playing Allstate Arena Feb. 8-10.

CLICK HERE to save 33% off tickets with promo code MOM3.

This is such a great show for moms with boys!  Hope to see you there!

Disclosure: I will be given complimentary admission to Monster Jam 2013 in exchange for this post thanks to Windy City Kids Guide.

 

If I Hear “Mom, I’m Bored!” One More Time…

Ugh.  I just want to scream!  My lovely, almost 12-yo daughter, Miss-Y, needs to develop her imagination already.  I am inundated DAILY with groans of “I’m bored”, “There’s nothing for me to do”, or “Mom, let’s DO something”.  Are you kidding me?!?!  I don’t ever remember being this bored growing up.  There was always something for me to do – and I DIDN’T grow up in this new age of technology either.  No Wii.  No Xbox.  No cell phone.  No laptop.  Come to think of it, what did I do? LOL

I did plenty.  These are the options I gave to little Miss-Y and a few ideas for you too:

Go Outside

I don’t care what temp the weatherman says it is – just go out there and play!  If it’s snowing, build a snowman.  If it’s warm, ride your bike.  Invite a friend.  Play hopscotch.  Play tag.  ANYTHING!  Just go!  Friends not around?  You don’t have to go by yourself – I’ll join you.  Just ask.

Read a Book

It amazes me how my love of reading completely skipped over this child.  I can read for hours!  She can’t stand reading for minutes.  I figured that she was just reading the wrong material.  I asked her what kind of stuff she’d be interested in and she said – scary short stories.  Great!  Now get on that little laptop of yours, look up some books, and I’ll gladly swing by the library and pick them up.  It’s that simple.

Make Something

Arts & crafts are a great way to allow kids of any age to express themselves.  Draw a picture.  Make a card for someone.  Paint.  Learn to sew, knit, crochet.  All great ways to keep a kid’s mind occupied.  It really doesn’t matter what you do, as long as it gets your creative juices flowing.

Get Online

Not to chat, or instant message, or Facebook, but try to find some cool sites suitable for your interests and age group.  A few that I love for bored tween girls are:

girlslife.com – eZine for tweens & up

beinggirl.com – great site with articles, games, and quizzes

girlsense.com – makeover site where you can design your own clothes

stardoll.com – makeover your own doll, or one of a celebrity

cosmogirl.com – Cosmo’s site for young girls

Pick Up the Phone!

Stop texting & start calling.  Kids today hardly ever opt for voice contact.  They’d rather spend HOURS texting a conversation that could’ve been had within 10 minutes on the phone.  So try it.  You’ll get to know your friends much better that way.

Pick any of these activities – or choose one of a million others – and just DO something.  Please.  You’ll have fun – and you just might stop telling me how bored you are.

Music Review: Adele – 21

I’ll start this review by saying that I have been waiting a LONG time to get my hands on an advanced copy of Adele’s 21 (CD officially releases in the U.S. February 22, 2011).  This album has been well worth the wait!  Adele is one of my favorite artists and she does not disappoint on her spohomore album.  I would pay to listen to this woman sing me my insurance policy – she is that good.  Here is a run down of the 11 songs on this album.

Rolling In The Deep: The first single off this album, released in early January, has been on my favorites list since I first heard it.  Her powerful, bluesy voice captivates you as you listen to a scorned lover’s fantasies of revenge.  The up-tempo, tribal beat beckons you to move.  Smart choice for a 1st release.

Rumour Has It: Another song told from the perspective of a once-scorned lover, but this time the man leaves his fling to return to her, then she leaves him for another.  Phew, what a romantic mess!  The beats in this song are great to listen to, but the “rumour has it” chants throughout the song are a bit much.

Turning Tables:  This beautiful, slow song is about self-empowerment and her unwillingness to be controlled.  The song is her send-off to the sordid relationship and she vows to become stronger on her own.  Beautifully written and performed.

Don’t You Remember: Here, Adele channels her inner-Martina McBride.  I could totally hear this song on country radio one day.  Hey, if Gwyneth Paltrow can do it, so can Adele!  This song has Adele pining for a lover who’s left her, she believes due to her own short-comings.  She’s asking him to remember the good times, and return to her.

Set Fire To The Rain:  This song is absolutely superb!  Her passionate voice overwhelms this track – in a good way, of course.  It may be released as a single, and her fans will undoubtedly love it.

He Won’t Go:  This song is pretty catchy.  I listened to the whole album on my way to work this morning (long commute) and these lyrics stayed with me all day.

Take It All:  Adele’s gospel-singing at its best.  Her voice, accompanied only by a piano and a gospel choir make the hairs stand on the back of my neck.  I cannot get over how much her voice moves me. Just. Beautiful. Period.

I’ll Be Waiting: This song sounds vaguely reminiscent of the Billy Joel and Elton John jams I love.  Piano pounding, jazz trumpet goodness.  Ooh yeah.

One And Only:  An elegant, bluesy love song to a love interest.  Passion, power, grace, strength – Adele fits them all into this lyrical gem.  I pity the fool (in my best Mr. T impersonation) who doesn’t love this song!

Lovesong: Adele’s cover of The Cure’s 1989 top ten pop hit.  She transforms the song into a soulful work of art.  I just might prefer this version to the original.  I also loved that I has another opportunity to sing along in the car (the only other song on this album I’d heard prior to today was Rolling In The Deep).  Love it!

Someone Like You: This track is my absolute favorite on the entire album.  Rumored to be the second single released, Someone Like You is a true lyrical masterpiece!  Her sultry voice on this song, accompanied only by piano, is stunning.  Goosebumps.  Really.  If you’ve ever suffered from a broken heart, this song’s for you.

All in all, what can I say?  Adele is just amazing – and so is her new album.

Need. Coffee. Now.

I don’t care how you serve it up – I just need it!  Downtime is really hard to come by at my house these days.  My four-month-old boy, Baby B, has been so cranky lately!  It’s nice to know that he’s a happy baby during the day, but he is such a different child when we get home from work.  Nothing seems to make this boy happy.  And someone please explain to me – how do babies seem to know when the person carrying them has sat down?  The WHAAAAAs begin within seconds of hitting the couch.  Unbelieveable!  Baby B (as cute as he is) is a 4-month hefty weighing 18 pounds.  It’s nearly impossible to carry him for long stretches of time.  Lordy Lord, please calm this child!  (And pass a cup ‘o joe while you’re at it.)

Baby in Bouncy Seat

I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a quiet night tonight.  Tuesday is the best TV night at my house.  Starting with my DVRd Oprah (yes, I love her show – no comments, Peanut Gallery) then Biggest Loser, Glee, and Parenthood.  All quality shows.  Ooh, and the OWN network is premiering Lisa Ling’s Our America tonight.  Can’t wait to watch.  I love her journalistic style and the topics she covers are fascinating.

On second thought, after re-reading that last paragraph, I just realized how awful that sounds.  All those shows add up to 6 HOURS of television in ONE night.  Just a tad bit excessive, don’t ‘cha think?  Maybe I won’t sit through a TV marathon tonight.

New challenge: Only watch one hour of TV a day this week.  My DVR may go on overload, but I think I can do it.  What to pick this evening?  Parenthood.  Definitely.  I can relate to so many characters on this show.  My least-favorite is Kristina Braverman (Monica Potter).  She’s married to Adam Braverman (Peter Krause) on the show.  She’s just…annoying.  Yeah, that’s a good word for her.  I just love to hate her.  I cringe at some of the things she says or does, then I realize that I am so much like her.  It’s pretty scary.  It doesn’t help that she’s my husband’s least favorite character too.  Think he’s trying to tell me something?  I hope not.

RHOA – Season 3 Reunion, Part 1

Real-Housewives-Atlanta-Season3_370x278

Let me start this post by stating that the Real Housewives franchise is my ultimate guilty pleasure.  RHOA Season 3 was AWESOME!  It’s trash TV, I know.  It’s unnecessary drama, I know.  But I absolutely LOVE IT!  I haven’t watched New York or Beverly Hills, but that’s not to say I won’t.  Just haven’t had the time.  (Miami is starting soon – can’t wait!!!)

Thanks to an old friend of mine (and by old I mean I’ve known her for a long time…she’s not that old) I started out watching the Orange County show.  She used to stop by to visit every now and then and we’d watch TV.  She turned on the O.C. and I’ve watched ever since.  After that, I was hooked.

So, back to the reunion show…

NeNe, NeNe, NeNe – what happened to you?  She used to be my favorite Atlanta housewife, and now she’s my least favorite.  I know the placement of her eye-rolling and otherwise ugly facial expressions had a lot to do with editing, but still, she is just so ghetto!  Kandi says it best – that woman is just boughetto!  I still think that the fight with Kim was all for show and it just gave her another change to explode on television.

Phaedra – quite possibly my new favorite housewife!  When she told NeNe “Your claim to fame is THIS show, I’m PRE-Housewives” I almost died!  Way to go Phaedra!!!  I loved how she could put NeNe in her place without the unnecessary hollering.  Phaedra was cool, calm, and collected and I now love her.

Could you tell that Kim was pregnant in this episode?  I sure couldn’t.  Good call on wearing black, Kim. But, looks aside, did I hear Kim say that she was writing a book about her relationship with Poppa?  Please say it ain’t so!  Kim needs to focus on her relationship with Kroy and leave Poppa in the past – where he belongs! Hmpf!

Can’t wait to watch Part 2!  I’m sad that the promos for next week show Kandi crying over her money issues with Kim.  At first I thought she would’ve been crying over talking about AJ, or not having a man.  Didn’t think she’d let Kim get to her that way.  Keep ya head up, Kandi.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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