Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Winning Wednesday ChiTAG Winner Announced #giveaway

Happy Halloween.   Here's a treat for you--no trick.  Our winner this week is Melissa K.

We're still picking winners every Wednesday until ChiTAG for a total of SIX winners of free family passes.   Spread the word and enter like we vote in Chi, IL...early and often.

*Wait for Rafflecopter to load up right here (if you've gone through RSS feed or are scrolling down the blog and don't see it, click on the actual page title or "a Rafflecopter giveaway link" and it should pop right up).   Enter like we vote in Chi, IL...early and often.

Thanks to ChiTAG for once again providing us with 6 sets of 4 tickets for our give aways.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Check out our photo filled past ChiTAG coverage right here.

We'll soon have features on some awesome toy inventors we've met at ChiTAGs past, reviews of top toys for a variety of ages, and more! 

ChiTAG or The Chicago Toy & Game Fair is one of our family's favorite annual events!!   This year we'll be celebrating 10 years of ChiTAG fun with 6 weeks of great give aways for our readers.   

On our Winning Wednesdays we'll pick a new family 4 pack winner EVERY week starting now through 11/14-that's 6 winners!   

We'll be featuring our past, photo filled ChiTAG coverage, original hot toy reviews, inventor features, and more every week as we count down to ChiTAG on November 17th & 18th.   Enter here for your chance to win.   Enter early and often.   Entries from prior weeks do carry over.

**Click here for a $2 off coupon per ticket and more ChiTAG info.**

Punkin' Prom at Lincoln Hall With Chic-A-Go-Go #chicagogo #photorecap #halloween

Chic-A-Go-Go's Punkin Prom has become a rockin' annual tradition at Lincoln Hall every Halloween season.   Check out our photo filled recap.   

Here are my favorite monkeys in two of many costumes for Halloween 2012....Chewie and vampie

The little cutie in the Avatar get up won first in the costume contest--earning a $50 Toys-R-Us gift card.   

Our buddy, Charlie, in the creative Vote Ratso costume won 1st for his piggy pumpkin.

Costume votes were by audience applause.   I loved the Raising Arizona family....especially that baby face!! 

Punkin Prom is free and for $5 you get a good sized pumpkin.   Bowls of fruit and candy made the event extra sweet.  

We had two earlier events, so we missed the bands and dancing and just caught the tail end of things this year.   Hopefully Punkin Prom will still be rockin' in 2013.   Check it out!   

As always, tune in to Chic-A-Go-Go on public access TV and come out for their tapings for your 15 min. of fame.   The shoots are a hoot!   Check out their main page here for taping specifics, show times, special events and more.   They're truly a Chi-Town treasure.

ChiIL Steampunk Mama

Yay Matty K! Halloween Fun Hardware Store Style #photorecap

FREE Pumpkin Painting, Mask Making & Treats Sunday 10/28 at Matty K's in Lincoln Square, Chicago

We adore big city living.   Raising kids in the heart of Chicago gives us so many great cultural and multicultural opportunities.  However, sometimes families in the burbs or small towns just see the crime, grime, and cold impersonality of sharing a home town with millions of people.   That's just not always the case.   Chicago is a giant city of neighborhoods, family friendly fun, and good old fashioned family businesses.   

Buh bye summer time.   Hello fall!   Where grill sales meet free pumpkin painting...Matty K's.

Here at ChiIL Mama we're all about buying locally whenever possible, keeping our neighborhoods thriving, and supporting family run enterprises and entrepreneurs.   One of our favorites is Matty K's Hardware.    They're theatre peeps with an adorable toddler daughter and a welcoming store. They run rockin' free arts events for kids and cool workshops like home brewing for the big kids (AKA:  adults).   They always put out a snack spread.

Salty sweet....salty sweet...and a BIG urn of coffee.   My new BFFs.

Matty K's is stocked on green living goodies, unique gifts, hardware and gardening staples, seasonal items, and Soda Stream supplies.   They're
knowledgable and helpful.  If you're anywhere near Lincoln Square, check em out!    Follow them on Facebook here for updates on what's up.

I've heard of separated twins doing the same stuff....but my kids--two years apart and sitting back to back, started their pumpkin painting in exactly the same unconventional way!!   Neither of them saw the other and they were both totally surprised.

Have a creative, fun and safe Halloween!    

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Mama's Goin' Back To School With Social Media Masters Summit #SMMS12

ChiIL Mama will be there...will YOU?!

As a full time blogger, freelance writer and PR/Marketing professional, I know it's invaluable to put the social and networking in social networking. I'm excited to be making connections and meeting brands that are a good fit for our readers.  To that end, I attended The Brands and Bloggers Summits in 2011 & 2012, I'm registered already for BlogHer which will be back in Chicago in the summer of 2013, and this week I'll be attending 2 days of Bloggy Bootcamp with The SITS Girls.   

I'm particularly jazzed for next Tuesday's Social Media Masters Summit with Chicago's own Digital Megaphone!

ChiIL Mama's Du-Jay (11) juggling and Sagezilla (9) the bridge--performing at Architectural Artifacts in a fabulous benefit for CircEsteem.

Now to juggle the kids and bridge career and family life....

My husband's now on a TV shoot over both days of Bloggy Bootcamp and The Social Media Masters Summit, so, like usual, I'll be wearing many hats as
Mama-taxi driver-cook-activities director-large animal wrangler-and more.   Between workshops and speakers I'll be running the kids to and from school, circus arts classes, Girl Scouts' Journey World, pottery, and gymnastics team!!   Good thing Moms ROCK at Multitasking!   I'm excited to share with all of you, once the dust bunnies settle.   I'm also excited that I have a good excuse to get outta laundry duty for 3 days!

Want your own get out of laundry duty free card?

Digital Megaphone's 4th Annual Social Media Masters Summit is a MUST attend event for top Agency / Brand Marketers, Community Managers, PR pros and Bloggers created BY a team of high level Marketing pros who seek out the best speakers and SocialMedia case studies.

The one day format allows you to soak in a tremendous amount of knowledge in condensed format so you can get back to doing what you do best!  But with a little extra energy and inspiration for your next campaign.  

We once again have an outstanding line-up brand speakers from:

1.) Baby Center - Marketing to Women
2.) American Airlines - Big Social Media Results on a Small Budget
3.) Mike's Hard Lemonade - Multi-channel Engagement
4.) Shaklee - Advance Session - Working with Bloggers
5.) U.S. Cellular - Handing the Community Management to Your Employees

And more..

For more information visit:

Ready to register?  Visit:

Walgreens:  Mobile Marketing
Zach West, Social Media Manager

The Story of Walgreens and Foursquare - How mobile is driving Walgreens Social Strategy.

Ricki Lake Show: Building an Online Community
Dabney Porte, Community Producer and Social Media Consultant for the Ricki Lake Show and Owner, Girlfriend Productions, LLC

Handing the Social Media over to Your Fans  - Building  a Community of Vocal Brand Advocates, the Friends of Ricki Community

So You Wanna be a Designer:  Simultaneous Engagement

Hope Bertram, Founder and CEO, Digital Megaphone

Simultaneous (Multi-channel) Engagement - leveraging the second screen to increase engagement and excitement about your brand

(For the first time, I will be speaking at the Summit, sharing a case study from the exciting and Emmy nominated reality show, So You Wanna be a Designer, I had the pleasure of working on while at Suite Partners) 

Find out more details about this and all of the sessionsat:

With these last three sessions, our 4th Annual Social Media Summit agenda is complete, and I couldn't be more excited.

This year is truly a year not to be missed!

Tickets are going fast, so make sure you grab your spot at:
Use code VIP50 to save $50 off registration:  

Other talks include sessions from Marketing Leaders at:

Other talks include sessions from Marketing Leaders at:

US Cellular American Airlines  Mike's Hard Lemonade Baby Center Shacklee  

Sparz Media Spredfast 

Thank you to our Event Sponsors

  microsoft   rightpoint consulting

*Disclaimer:   I was given a ticket discount to be part of the Summit Buzz Team.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Go Gogobot Before You Go #GogobotTravel #travel #neworleans

My husband's in the TV industry and he was on a shoot in New Orleans just a few months ago, in June of 2012.   These are a few of his photos.

We dig traveling and do a lot of it, with and without our family along.  We're savvy when it comes to sussing out deals and interesting places to check out.   That said, most of our best leads have always been word of mouth--either from friends of ours who have been somewhere before or from people we met during our travels.  We like to check out the big "must sees" then drop off the tourist grid and explore like locals.  The best feel of a place is in the magical little places, off the tourist track.

So, we were pretty jazzed to hear about Gogobot, the award winning site that puts the social in social travel.  This week we gave it a spin for New Orleans, a trip that's high on our current wish list.  My husband and I have both been there a number of times BC--before children.  We used to go to the annual Jazz and Heritage Fest every other year and we even got engaged there.

Here's the very bench, on the picturesque banks of the Mississippi River, where my best friend and now husband of 12 years shocked me speechless by  dropping to his knees and proposing while we were on vacation in New Orleans!   On our 12th wedding anniversary this year, he was called to shoot a TV show there and took a photo of "where it all began".   I was dying to go with him, but the scheduling didn't work out.

New Orleans' music, food, art, and culture are so vital and unique, it's always been one of our favorite cities.   We've been considering a romantic, kid free escape, but our 9 & 11 year olds have been clamoring to check it out, too.   So we're leaning toward taking them with us this time.

Gogobot made it easy to log in and begin to plan our dream vacation.   They have loads of photos, suggestions for places to see and stay, and ratings and input from real people who have been there and done that.  It was fun to flesh out my passport on Gogobot.   Just off the top of my head I filled in 4 countries and 37 cities I've been to, before I quit procrastinating and reliving fond travel memories and got back to work.

Know Before You Go...Gogobot
Gogobot, a social travel site that launched in 2010, is a place on the web you should know about. The company has racked up accolades including being named one of Time’s top sites of 2011 and winner of the 2010 Crunchie award for Best Design.

Our 9 year old daughter has become particularly interested in New Orleans since last year's release of the American Girl historical dolls Marie-Grace and Cecile who are from 1853 New Orleans.   She's read a number of their books and has both dolls.  

In our New Orleans vacation plans, we're considering a steam boat ride, museums, and other historical sites that were around back then, since the books brought history to life and sparked the kids' imaginations.   We also love checking out New Orleans' cemetaries.   They're rich with history and art and are so different from our own, since the swampy land and high water table mean all the graves are above ground.

Here are the top hotels we're considering via Gogobot:

  • New Orleans Marriott
  • The Marriott Renaissance New Orleans Arts Hotel
  • JW Marriott Hotel New Orleans

A Marriott related hotel would be our first choice, since our family is in a network of their properties and the kids enjoy a place with a pool.  Although, we would also certainly consider a kid friendly bed and breakfast.  Location is key, since we'd like to walk and take the street car whenever possible, although with children we don't want to be in the heart of 24/7 drunken revelry.   We did include some parents' night out hot spots for live music, more adult dining and drinking, but well rested kids will be key for an enjoyable vacation.   

Gogobot is broken into easy to search categories including overview, hotels, vacation rentals, things to do, and restaurants which are further broken down into useful subcategories.  I was a bit surprised to click on the children's activities filter under things to do and find a completely blank page staring back at me.   There are loads of great, family friendly things to do in New Orleans, they just didn't get categorized there, evidently.   Otherwise, the site was remarkably easy to use, with one touch buttons to add possible places to a trip plan.

Here are a number of New Orleans Vacation things to do and places to eat we're considering, broken down into family friendly fun and parents' nights out.

On Gogobot, they're all easy to find, along with maps, reviews, and links.   The asterisks below are places we've personally been and recommend checking out.   New Orleans is full of character and characters!

With Tweens:
  • *Musee Conti Wax Museum (highly recommended)
  • Natchez Steamboat
  • Audubon Zoo
  • Audubon Park
  • Audubon Insectarium
  • Aquarium of the Americas
  • Lousiana Children's Museum
  • Old U.S. Mint
  • *Riverwalk Marketplace
  • *Riverwalk
  • *Woldenberg Riverfront Park
  • *French Market
  • *Mother's Restaurant
  • *Pat O' Brien's 
*Cafe Du Monde (Chicory coffee for the adults and the best beignets for all ages!   One of our frequent favs.)

  • *Jackson Square
  • *Lafayette Square
  • *The French Quarter
  • *New Orleans City Park
  • *New Orleans Jazz Festival (Highly recommended!)
  • Haunted History Tours
  • *St Charles Street Car (Street cars are cheap, fun, historical and a great way to get around town.)
  • New Orleans Musical Legends Park
  • Jean Lafitte Swamp Tour
  • The Spice and Tea Exchange
  • Ninth Ward Rebirth Bike Tours
  • *PJ's Coffee of New Orleans
  • Voodoo Authentica
  • Voodoo Experience
  • New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum
  • New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park
  • American Aquatic Gardens
  • Cajun Pride Swamp Tour
  • Louis Armstrong Park
  • Ogden Museum of Southern Art
  • Magic Walking Tours
  • Esplanade Ave.
  • Elms Mansion
  • *Lake Pontchartrain Causeway
  • *Lake Pontchartrain
  • *St. Louis Cemetary #1
  • *Metairie Cemetery
  • *Lafayette Cemetery
  • Southern Candymakers
  • Orleans Levee District
  • Long Vue House & Gardens
  • *Bourbon Street Restaurants
  • Contemporary Arts Center
  • Canal St.
  • New Orleans Botanical Gardens
  • Mardi Gras World
  • *Magazine Street

Without Tweens:
  • *Snake & Jake's Christmas Club Lounge
  • *House of Blues
  • *Tipitinas
  • *Preservation Hall
  • Old Absinthe House
  • *Lafittes Blacksmith Shop
  • *The French Quarter at Night
  • *Dragon's Den
  • Louisiana Music Factory
  • Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro

Depending on the time of year, we'd also consider going down for the Jazz and Heritage Fest or the Crescent City Blues and BBQ Festival.

Try on the fly...Gogobot 

The best laid plans...often change once you're actually on location.   Sure we book the big things and travel with a "must see" list, but we love the flexibility and freedom of dropping the agenda and just exploring.   Some of our most serendipitous travel discoveries were places we hadn't planned on and never knew existed.   Gogobot works in real time, too, not just for the uber organized advanced planners.   I can't wait for our next vacay to do an on the fly check in.

Gogobot’s big win is that it allows you to connect with your friends to get their advice on where to visit, what to eat, and where to stay when you travel. You can use the service to plan things ahead of time, or you can poll your friends on the fly.

Gogobot allows you to tap into the knowledge of your friends when planning a trip anywhere. You can find like-minded travelers and inspiration for your next vacation, creating easy-to-use wishlists you can return to again and again.
And when you are not in vacation mode or planning a trip, you can discover hidden gems in your own neighborhood for entertaining guests or a weekend as a local tourist in your own town.
The best part? Every page on Gogobot is personalized. You can see reviews from your friends and people you are following at the top, which allows you to weed out the noise and fraudulent reviews that become a problem on other review sites. Check out Gogobot today!

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Gogobot. The opinions and red text are all mine.