Monday, August 31, 2015

At Netflix Girls Rule and Smart is Cool on Project Mc2 #StreamTeam

All-new Netflix 
original series Project Mc2 

Here at ChiIL Mama, we're all about smart girls, STEM and STEAM. I have a 12 year old daughter entering an IB (International Baccalaureate) Academic Center honors program for junior high this fall, so we know smart girls rock. We're so excited that Netflix has a new mystery series where smart IS the new cool. My daughter and I have watched all the episodes out so far and it's a hit!

Disclosure: ChiIL Mama is a proud member of the Netflix Stream Team. We've been compensated for sharing monthly posts with our readers.  As always, all opinions are our own. ChiIL out with ChiIL Mama next month, for more Netflix fun in Chi, IL and beyond!

This month our Netflix Stream Team Theme is: The Final Countdown/ Back to School

Many of our friends and readers have already send their kids back to school, with fresh supplies and Pinterest worthy, clever grade signage for those BTS photos. Here, we are truly in the final count down. My kids start a week from today, the Tuesday after Labor Day. In the meantime, we're still enjoying the final days of summer by playing outdoors, relaxing with our new 2 month old Husky/Malamute puppy, Howl (named for the Miyazaki anime movie, Howl's Moving Castle), and watching Netflix. 

We quite excited about the brand new Project Mc² Netflix Original Series, that premiered on Aug. 7, for older tweens. 

It's girl powered mystery solving like Nancy Drew and her friends from waaay back in the day, plus modern gadgets, STEM skills, fashion, a multi culti cast, and a ton of brainy fun. It proves smart is the hottest BTS trend. The show features four supercool teen spies who show how girls can use their science smarts and math problem-solving skills to save the world. 

Check back with ChiIL Mama early and often. We'll have lots more photo filled Project Mcfeatures in the coming month. Thanks to Netflix for sending us a fabulously fun Stream Team box of Project Mcgoodies, experiments and more, including a Project Mc2 McKeyla McAlister Doll & DIY Lava Lamp kit ($25.00 value) we'll be giving away shortly to one lucky reader!

Sure, summer's been fun, but the summer slump is real. Netflix is ready to help. We've got some awesome educational Netflix TV shows and movies for a variety of ages listed below to get you started. Whether your kids are going back after Labor Day, like mine, or they're already into the first days of a new school year, families can get kids back to firing up those brain cells, while having so much fun they won't realize they're learning.

We got sucked in to Project Mc2 and binge watched the first season. These girls are brainy and beautiful. And they're poised to make science and math skills super cool.

The days of smart girls dumbing it down to fit in are over. Bullies beware. SMART is the new COOL.

Check out Project Mc2, only on Netflix.

Need Some Smart Flix Inspiration? Check out this brilliant list of kids movies and TV shows to stream, from our friends at Netflix.

Got younger kids? The offspring of favorite fairytale characters in Ever After High's new Way Too Wonderland adventure (debuted Aug. 14) empower kids to write their own life stories. Whether Royal or Rebel, your actions, behaviors and choices are your own to make.

Get the little ones ready for new experiences with shows like the Netflix original Dinotrux from DreamWorks, (premiered Aug. 14). Prehistoric hybrid dinosaur-construction vehicles team-up to use their different skills to solve problems and show that even the most uncommon of duos, like Ty-Rux and Revvit, can form friendships of a lifetime.

Early learners can also go anywhere and be anything by letting their imaginations soar on a Reading Rainbow journey, now available to stream.

ChiIL Mama will be back in September with more Netflix fun. Have a great back to school season and check back with ChiIL Mama soon.

And remember... smart is the new cool, for boys and girls!

Disclosure: Once again, ChiIL Mama is a proud member of the Netflix Stream Team. We've been compensated for sharing monthly posts with our readers.  As always, all opinions are our own. ChiIL out with ChiIL Mama next month, for more Netflix fun in Chi, IL and beyond!

Wave Summer Goodbye At Raging Waves Waterpark #EndlessSummer

Slide into Fall with Style
Last Call to Make Endless Summer Memories at Raging Waves

ChiIL Mama has loved being 1 of 5 Raging Waves Waterpark Ambassadors this summer. We chilled out with friends many times this season, and had awesome Aussie themed fun "down under" Chicago in Yorkville, IL. 

Disclosure: Once again, we're happy to partner up with Raging Waves Waterpark and have been compensated for sharing this information with our readers monthly, throughout the summer. As always, all opinions are our own.

Check Out Our Video Here:

The signature ride at Raging Waves, twist and turn and drop 40 feet in this popular heart-pumping multi-passenger ride.



These 2 slides were the unanimous favorites of our tweens & teens! 

Raging Waves Features:
  • 19 water slides
  • Quarter mile lazy river
  • Giant kiddie areas to delight children of all ages
  • Humungous Wave Pool
  • Pedal tractor course
  • Brock's Giant Sandbox - sandy beach area

Raging Waves closes after Labor Day weekend so don't miss your last chance to make a splash in 2015 and slide into fall in style, with a few last endless summer memories. We've been making fun family memories with Raging Waves since way back in 2010!

ChiIL Kids, Dugan & Sage Then & Now
2010 & 2015

Raging Waves is still buckets of fun for the littles, while they wait to grow to the magic 48" that opens up as many slides as they're brave enough to ride. 

Here are my own two, back in 2011, rockin' the kids area.

It's been a blast being a Raging Waves Blog Ambassadors for 2015! Thanks so much for all the endless summer memories. We'll see ya Labor Day weekend for one last splash. Then we'll see you next year!

We'll see you out there! Throughout the year, remember to check back with ChiIL Mama like we vote in Chi, IL... early and often. We have the scoop on what's hot, great nationwide giveaways, and loads of original content including photo & video filled features on Chi, IL and beyond.

Disclosure: Once again, we're happy to partner up with Raging Waves Waterpark and have been compensated for sharing this information with our readers monthly, throughout the summer. As always, all opinions are our own.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

It's Back to School Time, Got a Minute® Ready to Serve Rice?

Tracking Pixel Here at ChiIL Mama, our family is preparing for a big back to school year for both of my kids. My son is starting high school at one of the best schools in the nation. My daughter is heading to a new school for junior high that's an IB honors academic center. Smart kids make smart choices for lunches, too. Mine frequently pack rice, so we were elated to be chosen to partner up with Minute® Ready to Serve Rice for a sponsored post. They've just made lunch even quicker and easier than ever, and portion control's a no brainer. 

Spice up lunch time with Kid Friendly 
Chicken Jambalaya.

Back-to-school season is a crazy, busy time for most families, and kids are almost universally sad about the end of summer vacation. With a little creativity, school lunches can be a New Orleans worthy celebration! Got a minute? That's all you need to reheat and eat this tasty treat. We're all about creating meals that are tween and teen friendly. Quick and easy is a must for our busy, on the go family, so Minute® Ready to Serve Rice is one of our "go to" choices for the coming school year. 

We were asked to create an original dish using Minute® Ready to Serve Rice, and we were more than happy to rise to the challenge. Our Kid Friendly Chicken Jambalaya recipe is a flavorful blend of both chicken breast and Andouille chicken sausage, for a New Orleans kick. It's decadently delicious over brown or white Minute® Ready to Serve Rice. It's also low fat and kid friendly. We've dropped the shrimp, toned down the spice a bit, and dropped the onions, peppers and other bits kids sometimes avoid in traditional Jambalays, but of course you can customize it for your family's taste.

Kid Friendly 
Chicken Jambalaya (6 servings)
This quick and easy, low fat lunch is one of our favorites! Customize the spice level for little taste buds.

1 tbsp olive oil
1 packages of fully cooked Andouille chicken sausage  
1lb of boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into strips 
28 oz crushed tomatoes (Basil & Garlic rocks for Jambalaya but any will do)
2 cups chicken stock
Minute® Ready to Serve Rice brown or white
1/2 teaspoon of cajun spice
hot sauce on the side

Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. TOSS chicken with spices. Add to skillet. Cook and stir 2 to 3 minutes or until cooked through. At this point, you can easily chop the chicken into smaller cubes with a firm spatula. Add sausage and cook until browned, about 3 to 5 minutes.  Add tomatoes and the chicken broth and bring to a low boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Individuals can spice it up to taste.

Pack it in lunches right away or refrigerate it for up to 4 days as an easy, kid friendly topper for Minute® Ready to Serve Rice. If your child has microwave access at lunch time, pack a sealed Minute® Ready to Serve Rice and they can heat it for a minute when they're ready to eat. If not, pop a Minute® Ready to Serve Rice open in the morning, mix it in a microwave safe bowl with the Jambalaya, heat it, and pack it in a heat safe container for later. Either way, it's a quick and tasty way to spice up your kids' lunches.

As self sufficient as my kids are becoming, I'm in still in the heart of the "mom taxi" years, and it's also still my job to keep the pantry full of healthy food choices for my family. We'll absolutely be stocking up on easy Minute® Ready to Serve Rice packs, available in many varieties including: Whole Grain options of Brown Rice, Brown & Wild Rice and Multi-Grain Medley, Jasmine Rice, White Rice, Chicken Rice Mix, Yellow Rice Mix, and Fried Rice Mix. We can't wait to check out the newest option, Minute Ready to Serve Black Beans & Rice. It's ready in just 90 seconds. 

Growing minds and bodies need quality fuel to function well. This year my kids will be waking at the crack of dawn to catch busses to two different school. I'm glad to know Minute® Ready to Serve Rice makes healthy options and a great base for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for kids. Of course Minute® Ready to Serve Rice makes a great base for money saving mom and dad lunches, too.

Summer may be ending, Mardi Gras like fun can live on, with Minute® Ready to Serve Rice & Kid Friendly Chicken Jambalaya.

I've got a competitive gymnast daughter who is tiny but has a mighty appetite. She often eats two dinners on either side of her 3 hour team practice. My 14 year old son plays on an Ultimate Frisbee team, and he's pretty much always hungry whether he has practice or not. Parents of teens, know what I mean?! Minute® Ready to Serve Rice is an ideal portable solution for a quick lunch or really any meal, because you can eat it on-the-go, straight from the cup. In just 60 seconds, you have fully cooked rice with nothing to add or customize it for a sweet or savory treat. 

Send Back to School Blues on the run with New Orleans style fun. Minute® Ready to Serve Rice & Kid Friendly Chicken Jambalaya.

Although it's a bit bittersweet for me to have 12 & 14 year olds instead of cute little preschoolers, the up side is they are so much more self sufficient at packing their own lunches, getting after school snacks, and even dinners when I'm working late or on the run to activities and events. It's a joy to see my kids grow into such cool, creative, independent people. Need recipes for your 

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Minute® Ready to Serve Rice. As always, all opinions are my own.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

PHOTO FEATURE: ChiiL Mama's Adventures at Bristol Renaissance Faire 2015 #ChiILPicksList

ChiIL Mama's ChiIL Picks List

Bristol Renaissance Faire has been a favorite of ours for decades. It's a short, hour(ish) drive north of Chicago near the border of Wisconsin and back in time. This family friendly fav is great for all ages. The shows, shopping, food, and lhuman powered rides are a blast and it's some of the best annual people watching around. We're not the only ones who think so either. Bristol Renaissance Faire has been voted THE #1 Renaissance Faire in the whole country 4 years running!

Disclosure: Thanks to Bristol Renaissance Faire for comping us tickets once again this year for review purposes. As always, all opinions, adventures and photos are our own.

Kids rule at Bristol Ren Faire! NEW Redo For 2015:
Huzzah! The Kids' Area has been expanded and redecorated in a whimsical, wonderful way! 

We adore the Hobbit houses and the enhanced stage, ships and mini slide. There is a small bathroom in the area for easy access with the littles. The backdrops rock with a kraken and dragons for the brave and cute fairies and forest creatures for the littles. It's a site to see. Highly recommended!

What to Wear to The Faire?! 
We adore dressing up, and at this fest imagination knows no boundaries. Expect to see authentic full on Renaissance wear as well as an homage to an impressive array of pop culture favs like Dr. Who and Harry Potter. The cosplay kids are out in fantasy garb and Bristol Ren Fair has even added an official steampunk weekend, though any day's a great day to rock the steampunk look in our book. 

Photo Credit Dugan Kenaz-Mara

Photo Credit Dugan Kenaz-Mara

Embrace your inner knight, dragon or garden gnome. Come in a kilt or your favorite 2015 era t-shirt and shorts. Anything goes as long as it's fairly family friendly and you zip tie any actual weapons you're bringing as props.

Photo Credit Dugan Kenaz-Mara

Favorites will also be embedded below. Photos by Bonnie Kenaz-Mara AKA: ChiIL Mama unless otherwise noted.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Each weekend features rotating smaller acts so we try to catch the new ones. The major players remain the same and are always a treat to see again, like The Swordsmen, Gypsy Geoff, Adam Crack: Fire Whip, Barely Balanced, The Jousting, MooNie the Magnif'Cent and more.

Foodie Fun:

It's not truly a Ren Faire weekend without conquering the "Mile High Chocolate Crepe". Highly recommended! We also dig the Giant Brats, Butterfly Potatoes and Pickle or Cheesecake on a stick. 


When the kids were younger, we did the Kids Quest for $5 a kid (ages 4-10), which is super fun for families. Opening day, my 14yo son, Dugan and I tried our hand at the adult (& kids 12+) version of RenQuest which is $10 a day to play. The game takes approximately 2 hours and it's recommended you play early. Sign up closes at 2pm each day. The role playing and plot were quite fun, and the family's returning to play the next part of the story today. Everyone gets to chose a path and a name. I was a bard (go figure-story teller) named Dragonfly and Dugan was a mage (magician) who wants his name to remain secret. We loved it and will make a point of joining Renquest again. 

Do note, you will work HARD to figure this out and it takes a solid 2 hours or more. It's more fun if you play the same character type with at least 1 friend or family member. The Renquest plot line is complicated and you'll have to solve lots of riddles and puzzles, talk to a zillion characters, and embrace your role playing personae. Only half of the people who started with us the first day made it to the final scene! If that's not your cup of tea, then skip it for another kind of fun.

ChiIL Mama's ChiIL Tips: 

Modern Plumbing/Renaissance Charm:
No need to pee in a ditch or bring thine own chamber pot. There are now two sets of flush toilets supplemented by porta potties throughout the grounds. If you're in costume, the modern plumbing is a huge help! Flush toilets are now to the left of the main entrance and straight back from the action stage.

Don't Fear the Faire:
We've run into more than a few people over the years who have NEVER been to Bristol Ren Faire because they thought costumes were mandatory, or felt it "wasn't their scene". Bristol Renaissance Faire is one of the most welcoming places and you can be a spectator in street clothes or play along to your heart's delight in historically accurate glory, or anything in between. If you've never been, we challenge YOU to check it out. We're willing to bet you'll have an excellent time.

We highly recommend Bristol Renaissance Faire. Check out their main site HERE to purchase tickets, and get a discount by signing up for their mailing list. Walgreens also has discount coupons. More faire details, special themes and rotating acts are listed on their site. Bristol Renaissance Faire 2015 runs from July 11th-September 7th. 

Check back with ChiIL Mama early and often. We hope to head back to merry olde England via Bristol Renaissance Faire at least a time or two more in 2015 before they close on Labor Day Monday, and we'll have more photo recaps to share. 

Disclosure: Thanks to Bristol Renaissance Faire for comping us tickets once again this year for review purposes. As always, all opinions, adventures and photos are our own.

Photo Favs:
ChiIL Mama's 14yo son, Dugan on opening day.

Never seen THAT before: 

Giant, full arm puppets!

(Photo Credits Dugan Kenaz-Mara, 14)

Deante' Fettuccine The Pasta Juggler-Father/Daughter Duo:

Gypsy Geoff: 

Hey Nunnie Nunnie:
quite pun filled & aimed at adults

Huzzah for Ren Faire Regulars:

Adam Crack: Fire Whip 

Lady Ettie 

All the Great People Who Run the Games of Skill & Human Powered Rides 

Barely Balanced

Fairies in the Garden 

Strolling Minstrels and Costumed Characters 

Seen On The Scene:

NEW Redesign for the Kids' Area:
We love this special space for the littles! Truly magical.


NEW Circle of Themed Thrones--Perfect for Pictures: 

The Joust:

Danse Macabre-The Dark Side of Ren Faire:

A Few of Our Favorite Vendors:

Gemini Glass
Run by Chicago Theatre Friends of Ours 

Hair Twisters:

ChiIL Mama's ChiILin' out just north of Chi, IL with a brand new twist on my usual pony tail or braid with a dragonfly charm! Dugan got an amazing dragon head there, too. The ribbon braid we each got for completing part 1 of Renquest.

Miss the tie-dyed roses at the first night of the final Grateful Dead Shows? You can find them at Bristol Renaissance Faire! Dry it as a lasting memento.

Till Next Time:

Fare thee well!