Saturday, December 24, 2016

Last Call For HGTV's Santa HQ at Fashion Outlets of Chicago

Have you taken the littles to see Santa yet?! With school in session in Chicago up till 12/23 it may have been tough. If you haven't seen the jolly old elf yet, go already! It's not too late.

Waaaaay back on November 10th, I had the chance to check out Santa HQ by HGTV at Fashion Outlets of Chicago. Check out my original photos below. 

ChiIL Mama ChiILin' with Santa just north of Chi, IL at HGTV's Santa HQ at Fashion Outlets of Chicago

Since then, thousands of Chicago area families have enjoyed this high tech trek to Santa. If you haven't had a chance to check it out, go already. 

Fashion Outlets of Chicago is one of our favorites, and a stellar spot to find last minute gifts. We also recommend taking your holiday money there next week to treat yourself. I was given a fun goody bag for coming out to cover Santa HQ. I was not compensated in any other way. As always, all opinions and experiences are my own.

ChiIL Mama's Adventures at Santa HQ

Look! I made the top of the "Nice List". 

After exploring Santa HQ and telling the big guy in the red suit what I wanted for Christmas, I went to Hot Topic, The Body Shop, and a close out sale at Aeropostale where I found a great deal on a bunch of awesome jeans for my teen daughter, 4 flannels, and loads of cozy polar bear and panda socks for stocking stuffers. 

We're wishing you and yours happy holidays, magical memories, and warm winter fun with family and friends. 

Stick around outside of Santa HQ for fabulous tips on holiday gifts from HGTV!!

Oakbrook Center's Adventure To Santa With DreamWorks And Holiday Happenings

It hardly seems possible that it's Christmas eve already! With the big day falling on Sunday, many kids, including my 2, were in school right up until Friday the 23rd. Now that the kids are finally on break, there's still time for last minute shopping and fun visits to jolly old St. Nick himself. Festive fun will be happening throughout the whole winter break and you'd better believe we'll be enjoying our vacation weeks between Christmas and New Years and the first week of January. We've partnered up with Oakbrook Center to highlight some of their happenings with this sponsored post. We have been compensated for sharing this info with our readers.


Find a little more holiday magic this winter thanks to some special developments at Oakbrook Center, one of Chicagoland’s premier outdoor shopping destinations. From new restaurants and an upgraded Adventure to Santa attraction to a debut Winter Market and a multitude of new stores, the opportunities for holiday cheer are endless.

Oakbrook Center is a favorite of ours and I plan to head there with my teens. Now that they're old enough to go off on their own to hang out and explore with friends, they're excited about shopping again.

“The holidays are a special time here at Oakbrook Center, as we create an unparalleled shopping experience for both local and out-of-town guests,” said Caryn Torres, senior general manager of Oakbrook Center. “This year, several new additions to the shopping center will guarantee treasured memories for the whole family.”

The District at Oakbrook
As the latest addition to Oakbrook Center’s continuously growing repertoire of restaurants, The District at Oakbrook provides several chef-driven, convenient and affordable fast-casual food options. The 14,000-square-foot space will be home to numerous restaurants including DMK Burger Bar, Nando’s PERi-PERi, Pie Five Pizza Co., Porkchop, Stan’s Donuts, Potbelly Sandwich Shop, Greek Kitchen, DAVIDsTEA, Freshii and Cilantro Taco Grill. The District gives guests options for every palate and preference, providing them with the fuel they need to successfully complete their holiday shopping. 

“The highly anticipated District at Oakbrook will be ideal for on-the-go shoppers, large groups and families throughout the holiday season as well as all year-round,” said Torres. 

Adventure to Santa
Back by popular demand, Oakbrook Center and DreamWorks Animation are again teaming up to present Adventure to Santa, with this year’s narrated tour featuring the cast of Kung Fu Panda. Adventure to Santa elevates the traditional mall holiday visit by blending the latest technology with captivating stories while Kung Fu Panda and his friends guide family members on an unforgettable adventure to the North Pole to meet Santa. 

Reservations can be made online at with the purchase of a photo package. Adventure to Santa will kick off the holiday season on Saturday, November 5, and will be open during extended Oakbrook Center holiday hours through Saturday, December 24.

Winter Market
Oakbrook Center will debut a Winter Market nestled amongst the alluring shops of the Village Green lawn area near Crate & Barrel, offering a variety of locally-made specialty products.

Gifts such as hand-crafted jewelry, adorable children’s items, fun treats for a favorite pet, beautiful hand-made apparel and much more will be available for visitors’ perusal. Winter treats, such as donuts, cider, hot chocolate and adult beverages, will be available to satisfy all tastes. 

Unbeatable Shopping
The holiday shopping experience would not be complete without new retail options to help guests check items off their gift lists. 

Two new athletic stores will provide great gift options for both fitness enthusiasts and casual exercisers. Fabletics brings shoppers on-trend designs that inspire an active lifestyle with stylish and high-quality gear at an accessible price point. Providing more than just a class, a cycling studio and a bike, the new Peloton location at Oakbrook Center delivers an engaging experience with the technology to make every workout effective, and the social connection to make every workout addicting.
Oakbrook Center also welcomes two new fashion-forward retailers. A globally-minded company dedicated to creating a unique, inspiring retail environment and philanthropic efforts, Altar’d State offers a place of respite with the latest fashion finds and the most sought-after accessories, along with charming home décor and gifts. ALEX AND ANI creates meaningful, eco-conscious jewelry and accessories to positively empower and connect humanity. The brand’s products are proudly designed and crafted in America and made with love. 
For those looking for sweet holiday gifts, Sugarfina’s shelves are lined with colorful artisanal candies in Lucite cubes, any of which can be packaged into three, four or eight-piece bento boxes. Guests can mix-and-match or buy a themed ready-to-go giftset. Sugarfina offers complimentary holiday gift-wrap ribbon with purchase and phone orders for in-store pickup.
Leisure and Luxuries
Once everyone is crossed off the holiday shopping list, guests can take a break and visit the new, state-of-the-art AMC Theatre, located on the Upper Level between Nordstrom and Sears. Featuring IMAX screens, the 12-screen cinema offers guests an upgraded film presentation and RealD® 3D capability. The theatre also offers reserved seating and plush power recliners, as well as a full menu, seat-side service and a full bar serving beer, wine and cocktails.

Creating a more relaxing holiday shopping experience, a three-level parking garage next to the new AMC Theatre will improve vehicle access. Further enhancing parking efficiency, the garage will feature a real-time digital management system that will help customers find a parking space, easing the search for a spot. 

Check out their site for up to the minute information about holiday happenings at Oakbrook Center, as well as Facebook, and Twitter and Instagram @OakbrookCenter.

Oakbrook Center is located in Oak Brook, Ill., on the corner of Route 83 and Cermak Road just off of Interstates 88 and 294. The center features a unique collection of more than 160 shops and restaurants. Shopping hours are: Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Call 630/573-0700 for further questions.

About Oakbrook Center
Oakbrook Center is owned and managed by General Growth Properties (GGP), Inc., an S&P 500 company focused exclusively on owning, managing, leasing, and redeveloping high quality retail properties throughout the United States. GGP is headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, and publicly traded on the NYSE under the symbol GGP.

About DreamWorks Feature Animation

DreamWorks Feature Animation (DWA) is a division of the Universal Filmed Entertainment Group (UFEG).  Its 20-year feature film heritage includes many beloved characters and animated franchises, including Shrek, Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda and How to Train Your Dragon. DWA's 32 feature film releases have generated more than $13 billion at the global box office, garnered numerous awards and fueled a robust consumer products business.

Disclosure: It was our pleasure to partner up with Oakbrook Mall on this sponsored post. We have been compensated for sharing this info with our readers. As always, all opinions are our own.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

RECAP: CLUTCH 10/25/2016 at House of Blues Chicago

Chi, IL LIVE Shows On Our Radar

It was our great pleasure to catch an epic CLUTCH concert during their 2016 fall tour, on their annual Chicago stop. We got to celebrate a dual birthday night, with lead singer, Neil Fallon, and tour manager, Oscar, both born on October 25th! Direct support on this tour was Zakk Sabbath and Kyng. 

Some of the crowd in the know broke into a spontaneous rendition of "happy birthday" as the band returned from set break, and the enthusiasm was contagious. We were all treated to a high energy set with plenty of old CLUTCH classics and quite a few songs in rare rotation, along with requisite favorites from their latest release.


HOB Chicago 10/25/16 set list (This is the only photo here that's not mine. It was publicly posted by Tim Sult, guitarist for CLUTCH, who makes a point of sharing most, if not all, set lists on his Facebook page, as the band tours.)

We love that the band members trade off writing the set list for the night, so this show left me wondering if we were along for a ride through Neil Fallon's favorites for his birthday. 

Check out our full set of CLUTCH shots in the slideshow here:
More favorites are embedded below.

This meteoric metal band keeps getting better with age, and their last 2 albums were the most commercially successful, yet they're no sell outs. CLUTCH, often called stoner metal, defies easy categorization, with intelligent, intelligible lyrics of mythic proportion and riffs that cross metal, rock, funk, blues, folk and then some. Unlike many bands who have been touring together 25 years, CLUTCH is no washed up nostalgia act. We've been enjoying their quirky brand of genius since the early 90's an have even road tripped to 3 neighboring states to see them, in addition to catching every Chicago regional show we could. Check out these Maryland badasses. CLUTCH is the real deal and always a good time live.

A bit of CUBS luck must have rubbed off on this long time Clutch fan who caught not only a guitar pick, but a drumstick too! 

Clutch fans are the best! Unlike most metal bands, Clutch manages to cross gender, age, race and socioeconomic factors to reach a unique and varied fan base of loyal rockers.  We've even met 2 and sometimes 3 generations of families at shows together!

Neil has the steely eyed stare of an old time preacher on the tent revival circuit. 

With Tim Sult laying down tight and tasty lead guitar riffs, Neil's hands are free for intense gestures of conviction, and he can focus all his energy on his distinct, growling vocals so many fans have come to love, with an occasional foray into cow bell or guitar.

With JP (Jean-Paul Gaster) and Dan Maines on drums and bass respectively, this band is a force to reckon with. These 4 have a long history and chemistry that can not be denied.

More Favorite CLUTCH Show Shots 10/25/16: