For those of you in the Chicagoland area, you are going to want to grab your kids and head over to Navy Pier this for the 2012 Chicago Toy & Game Fair. I have taken my kids twice now and it’s a blast. This year is the Fair’s 10th Anniversary and I’m really looking forward to their best show yet.
There are more than 250 inventors and brands showing off their next big toy or game, as well as some old favorites. You can play giant versions of some of your favorite games, like Banagrams. It’s also a great way to try out new games for free and I love supporting the small game and toy inventors before they become big! My daughter enjoyed learning how to play Kubit2Me at the last fair we attended.
Good News! ChocolateCakeMoments has free tickets for you and your family to attend the show. See details below and enter by midnight Friday, November 9th to win.
According to Mary Couzin, founder and CEO of the Chicago Toy & Game Group which hosts the Fair, “For our 10th anniversary we’re pulling out all of the stops with more toys, giant-sized games, awesome tournaments and contests, specialty programming and much, much more. It’s like a giant interactive and bottomless toy box!” Open to the public both Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 17th and 18th, the Fair at Navy Pier offers two full days of fun for everyone in your family.
If you have a child who is a Star Wars fanatic you have to take him or her to the Star Wars Lunch on Saturday Nov. 17th from 12 – 1 p.m., where you can get your kids’ picture taken with some pretty impressive Star Wars characters. (The costumes are amazing.) You need to buy separate tickets to the Star Wars Lunch and you can purchase them at www.ChiTagFair.com. Tickets are $30 for kids 12 and under and $36 for adults. Tickets will sell out! But even if it is, don’t panic. The characters usually walk around the Fair for photo opportunities during the show. It’s just way more crowded. You can see my daughter liked the storm troopers.
The Fair also offers some pretty cool contests and game tournaments. You’ll have some fun playing games, find some cool new ideas for Family Game Night and even grab some unique Holiday gifts to get that shopping done early.
Here’s an extra idea! On Saturday, plan a memorable Family Fun Day by hitting the Chicago Toy & Game Fair in the afternoon and then enjoy the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival Parade. That will get the family in the Holiday spirit and create some memories!
So, how do you get your Free Family Pass to the Chicago Toy & Game Fair? Follow the instructions on the contest widget below. Hurry, contest ends on Friday, November 9th at midnight CST. Here’s How to Enter:
a Rafflecopter giveaway
If you don’t win, don’t worry. I’ve got coupons! Click here for ticket info and a $2 off coupon.
Have fun at the Fair! I hope to see you there.
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Want to do something fun with the kids this weekend but out of ideas? Here are 5 easy, inexpensive and yet incredibly fun activities to do at home with things you already have around the house. Wow the kids with your creativity this weekend!
1. Spa Night – A little pampering makes everyone smile – even Dad!
2. Movie Night – Add a little creativity to make movie night at home extra special
3. Host a Family Game Night – Raid the closet, play some games, and let the competition begin. Invite a neighbor family over to make it more fun.
4. Camp in the Great Indoors – It’s cold outside so bring the camping fun indoors. It will get the family in camping shape for summer.
5. Go on a Date … With Your Child – Spend some one-on-one time with your child. It will make their day to get you or Dad all to themselves!
Whatever you do this weekend, have a blast and make some memories!
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Here’s an idea for some family fun. Does your family like to play games? Do you know other “gaming” families? Why not start a Game Night Club? I have been trying to start a Gourmet Club with some friends in my area where we would get together every other month to cook, gnosh, and have fun over fabulous food. It would be a great excuse to actually start making those recipes I pull out of my food “porn” magazines. But it got me thinking about a Game Night Club as well. It would save you money since you wouldn’t be going out, you can include the kids so no sitter needed, and you can use the games you already have in your closet. Well, put like that, what are you waiting for?
Here’s how it would work:
Find 2 or 3 other families to join and pick a consistent date to get together like the third Sunday of every month or the first Saturday of every quarter so that it is easier for people to keep their calendars clear. Consistency makes it easier to plan and creates anticipation.
Choose a host for the first Game Night. You can rotate houses going forward so you only have to clean your house every now and then. The host family provides drinks and a snack. Other families bring a snack to share, as well. Set up a kids game table and an adult game table, if you want, especially if you have big age gaps in the attendees where you need more age-appropriate games. You can also have several tables set up around the house with different games and adults and kids alike can travel from table to table as the games are completed. Try to make sure that no one is sitting out at any time. That leads to boredom which leads to unruliness which leads to a ruined evening. (You know I’m talking about the adults here, right?)
Get some prizes for the winners or inexpensive little trinkets for everyone to get in a festive mood. Candy bars, ribbons or medals, and small drink umbrellas seem to make everyone feel like a winner.
Finally, the host family gets to pick the games. Not everyone will like every game but that is part of the experience – trying new games or playing a game you never would have chosen yourself. When you host, it’s your choice. However, the guests do get some veto power. Anyone can ask to stop a game, but at least one or two others have to agree that the game is lame and then you can move on. Over time you’ll start to recognize the types of games that work well for the personalities and preferences of the group.
Most importantly, have a good time.
Stay tuned, on Friday, we are going to announce a Family Game Night Giveaway. It will be the perfect prize to get your Family Game Night Club started.
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To make your Family Game Night extra special, you need to add some great food. Really, that rule applies to anything but there are some special considerations for choosing the best Game Night food offerings. Are you eating dinner while playing or just looking for some snacks? Are you going to take breaks during game play to eat or gnosh while playing? If you are eating while playing, make sure your food offerings are easy to eat with your hands and are non-greasy. The last thing you want is to get grease stains all over the cards or have your favorite game smell like buffalo sauce for the next 12 years. If you are going to take a break between games to eat, then anything goes.
Here are some suggestions for spicing up your Game Night with the perfect food pairings.
Keep it Simple
If Family Game Night is on Friday after a long work week and you are just looking to unwind, keep it low maintenance by ordering in pizza, making chocolate chip cookie bars, or setting up an ice cream sundae bar. (Read my post on how to set up an awe-inspiring ice cream sundae bar.) Indulge in your favorite munchies like popcorn, Chex Mix, or movie theater style candy boxes. Grab some of those gourmet popcorn toppings to literally spice up your snacks.
If I am out and about on Game Night day I like to stop by my favorite Mexican restaurant and get some guacamole and chips and salsa to go. Nothing says Fiesta! like chips and salsa.
If you are inviting friends over, keep it simple by having everyone bring either a dessert or snack to share.
A Little Extra Effort
If you are feeling more inspired, try out some of those appetizer recipes you keep marking in food magazines and then never making. Game Night is the perfect excuse. Here are some recipes I’m dying to try:
Barbara Beery always offers some great kid-inspired and easy-to-make recipes. I’m dying to try these Popcorn Cupcakes for some baking fun with my kids. Check out her blog for other kid-friendly recipes.
Guy Fieri’s Ham & Swiss Pretzels look awesome and could count as dinner.
Rachel Ray’s Spicy Pigs in Blankets with Chimichurri Dip.
Finally, Giada’s Shrimp and Beef Skewers with Soy, Scallion Butter looked so delish.
Do you have a killer appetizer recipe that you always make when you are invited to a party where you need to bring a dish? It’s easy, everyone raves about it and asks for the recipe but you only get to make it once a year because NO ONE EVER INVITES YOU ANYWHERE! (Hint, hint people!) Well, Game Night is the perfect excuse to make it just for yourself. Here’s my “Go To” appetizer recipe that people always rave about.
Don’t Forget the Drinks
For the adults, have some beer in the fridge, make a pitcher of margaritas, or try out that new drink recipe you’ve been oogling. (See Rachel Ray’s site for some great drink recipes.) Don’t leave the kids out, though. Make non-alcoholic versions of the new drink recipes for the kids. Or, let them have a special drink they don’t normally get. My kids rarely get juice boxes or soda so Game Night is special to them because they can have these high-calorie drinks. Or, make homemade milk shakes. Always a kid pleaser.
What is your favorite recipe for Family Game Night? Please leave us a comment and share.
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Have a “Go To” appetizer recipe that you make all the time because it’s easy, travels well, but most importantly is super tasty? I wanted to share mine because I think it would be perfect for any upcoming Super Bowl, Oscar, or “Winter Blah” Family Game Night Parties.
Goat Cheese and Spinach Pesto Spread
2 cloves garlic
1 1/4 cups fresh basil
1 cup fresh spinach
1/4 cup fresh parsley
3 Tbsp. pine nuts
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
freshly ground pepper
8 ounces fresh goat cheese, room temperature
1 3-oz. package cream cheese, room temperature
1 jar (7 oz.) sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained, chopped
Crackers or french bread
To make the pesto: Place garlic in food processor fitted with metal blade and process to mince. Add basil, spinach, parsley and pine nuts and puree. Pour oil slowly into processor through feed tube with machine running. Process until combined. Add Parmesan cheese and combine. Add pepper to taste.
Mix goat cheese and cream cheese in bowl of electric mixer or with a hand mixer until smooth. Spread cheese mixture on bottom of 10-inch quiche pan or glass pie pan. Spread pesto on top. Sprinkle with chopped sun-dried tomatoes. Refrigerate, covered for 3 hours or until set. Serve with crackers (I prefer Rosemary crackers) or crostini.
Note: To make this recipe even easier, you can buy store bought pesto. But the flavor of this pesto as well as the deep green color provided by the spinach makes it worth the extra effort.
Prep time: 30 – 40 minutes
Chill time: 3 hours
Yield: 10 appetizer servings
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Is your Family Game Night feeling a little stale? The kids aren’t that excited about it anymore? Or, do you have a hard time convincing the family to even have a Game Night? Here are 5 ideas to inject a little more fun and creativity into your family’s special evening. (By the way, to help spice up your Family Game Night, we’re offering a 20% discount on all family games at www.ChocolateCakeClub.com. Sale ends January 31, 2011. Grab some today and be ready to play next weekend!) (more…)
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Looking for something fun to do this weekend with the family? How about hosting a good, old-fashioned Family Game Night? You can take turns with each member of your family picking their favorite game. Or invite friends and neighbors over for a casual, inexpensive, and very fun evening.
Whether you plan a big game event or just spontaneously pull some games out of the closet, Game Night is an easy way to have fun together. Depending on the games you play, the night could be challenging, educational, silly, relaxing, competitive and most importantly fun. It’s the perfect excuse to try out those games you got as gifts over the Holidays.
In a new series of posts, I’ll share some ideas on how to make family game night even more fun with a little planning and creativity. I’ll review some new games we’re selling or that we discovered at the Chicago Toy and Game Fair. I’ll be sure to share my family’s top picks for games in this series, as well.
Pick the Right Game.
To pick the right game for Family Game Night, you need to take a few things into consideration like the competitive level, playing time, age range of the players, and mood.
How competitive are your friends and family? Does the adrenaline kick in when the competition is fierce? Do you have little ones (or big ones) who get mad when they lose? Do you like games where everyone wins? Deciding on how competitive the players are will help you pick the right game. There are some games where there still is a winner or loser, but it’s based purely on chance. A game like Gamewright’s Dog Dice where the winner is chosen based on the roll of the dice may be one where the youngest players will win often enough to avoid tears or meltdowns.
Also, for safety reasons, if you have a hyper-competitive group you might want to steer clear of more physical games. I remember a not-too-distant Holiday where a teen cousin got thrown to the floor playing the card game Spoons. While she was part of instigating the “scrum” to grab the spoon, it still shouldn’t have happened. (Although it is a good family story and fun to bring up again and again.)
Some good non-competitive games are The Ungame or conversation games like Family Dinner Box of Questions or Chat Pack for Kids.
How much time do you have to play games? If you have little ones, do you only have an hour before bedtime? Do you want to play several games in one evening or really sink your teeth into one good strategy game? If you have guests over, you might want to set up several games on different tables and everyone can get up and switch periodically. If that is the case, don’t pick a game that feels more like a marathon that never ends. Pick one that ends in 20 – 30 minutes. Take a break, grab a snack, and move onto the next challenge. Read the game box to see the estimated game playing time. I still like to play Trivial Pursuit (because I’m good at it) but that can go on for hours and people get sick of me pulling random trivia out of my … head.
Check out Beat the Parents or Cash Cab for a faster moving trivia-based game.
Age Range of the Players
If you have a mixed age range of players, you either need to find a very simple game that is fun for all or pick a game that can be modified for the littlest one at the table. For example, we recently had some friends over for dinner and I wanted to try a new game I bought at the Chicago Toy & Game Fair. It’s called 5 Second Rule. We had an 8-year-old, 10-year-old and 4 crazy adults playing. Although the game suggests ages 10-years-old and up, we were able to modify the game so the youngest could play and win, too. In the game you have 5 seconds to blurt out 3 possible answers to a question. The adults had to name 3, the 10 year old only had to name 2 and the youngest only had to name one answer to win that hand. This worked perfectly to keep it “fair.”
Some games that we really like that are suitable for 3 or 4-year-olds, but won’t bore the heck out of the rest of the family are:
- The Zoo I Drew
- Birds, Bugs and Beans
- Dog Dice
- Card games like Go Fish or Crazy 8′s with the Little Hands Deluxe Card Holder Game Set
- Take the Cake
Finally, gauge the mood of the players. Is everyone tired? Sit on the couch and play a kid-friendly version of Scene It. All you need to do is yell at the TV. Are you in the mood to be active? Get everyone moving by bowling or playing Wipe Out on the Wii. Does everyone need a good laugh after a long week? Some of our favorite silly games are Flapdoodle and Snorta. (I hate recommending Snorta because the Out-of-the-Box Game people were so rude to me when I was starting my company, but we do really love to play the game. It’s also a fabulous drinking game, but you didn’t hear that from me.)
Do you want your game to be educational, like Spanish Bingo or even Scrambled States of America? Our kids love Mexican Train Dominoes for the silly train sound effects but we secretly like it because it helped my daughter learn to count.
Check back for more posts on Family Game Night. What is your absolutely favorite family game?
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I was thrilled to be invited to WGN-TV today to share my ideas for a Kid-Friendly New Year’s Eve Party. Watch the video and let me know what you think. What do you normally do for New Year’s Eve? If you stay home with the kids, how do you celebrate?
For more information on my party ideas, check the write-up on the WGN site or my last blog post.
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Friday night rolls around and you want to do something fun with your family, right? However, you’re tired, it’s cold out, and you didn’t plan anything. No worries! Use this list of easy ideas to have some extra special fun with your family this Fall! Best part, you can use whatever you have at home already. No shopping necessary and these ideas work with kids of all ages. Have fun!
1. Disco Dance Night – Turn the dance music up real loud and dance the week’s stress away. Good fun and good exercise.
2. Neighborhood Fire Pit – Put the fire pit on the driveway and have the kids round up the neighbors.
3. Camp in the Great Indoors – Too cold to camp outside? Camp inside. Cook the s’mores in your fireplace.
4. Family Slumber Party – Put the PJs on, get your sleeping bags, and play games.
5. Bring Game Night Back– Get those games out of the closet and rediscover some fun.
6. Family Movie Screening – Make movie night more special by watching yourself on screen. Get out the wedding video or watch the movies you’ve taken over the last few years of the kids and haven’t watched.
7. Wii Tournament – Challenge the family to Bowling, Raving Rabbids, or Mario Kart.
8. Bake cookies – Take turns licking the batter and making some favorite recipes. Bake Holiday cookies, freeze them and have them ready for upcoming Holiday parties. Now that’s organized!
9. Create your Holiday Newsletter – Have everyone write their section for the Holiday newsletter or better yet, film it this year and send out a CD or post the video on YouTube.com. People will love seeing 3-year-old Michael talk.
10. Family Room Picnic – Lay out the blanket, grab your paper plates and eat dinner on the family room floor. A change of routine makes an ordinary dinner seem extraordinary.
What does your family like to do on Friday night to have fun?
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Slumber parties are a blast but why should just the girls have all the fun? Throw a family slumber party where Mom, Dad, sis, bro, and the various pets in the family get to experience the late night bonding. It’s a great and inexpensive way to have fun on a Friday Night and you can also “test” out recipes, games, and movies for a future slumber party that the kids want to have with their friends. It’s very funny to see Dad and brother playing “girlie” games, too.
Here are some suggested activities for your family Slumber Party:
Mix and match pajamas. Everyone should wear pajamas for their slumber party but wouldn’t it be funny if you wore each other’s pajamas? Your kids would find it hilarious to wear Mom and Dad’s large pajama pieces or see Dad trying to wear Jr.’s slippers for the evening.
Flashlight Board Game – Pick your favorite board game and play by flashlight or candlelight to make it a little more spooky or special.
Spin the Nail Polish Bottle – If the boys in the family are up for it, this makes a hilarious game. Take several colors of nail polish and place the bottles in the center of the group. One person picks a bottle and spins. Whoever it points at has to paint one of their toe nails that color. Keep going until you have a rainbow of colors on your feet.
Pillowfight – You can’t have a slumber party without a pillow fight. Your little kids will love it. Keep the fighting away from the big screen TV or Dad will be mad.
Custom Made Pillowcase – Even if you aren’t a crafty family or have any artists in the house, it’s fun to make a “You Are Loved” pillowcase for another family member. Pick up some pillowcases and some fabric markers at a craft store. Put everyone’s name in a hat and each of you will pick a name. Now use your pillowy canvas to draw or describe why you love that person. (We do something similar as dinner time conversation when we are having bad days to booster everyone’s spirits. I thought it would be fun to take it a step further and remind a family member why you love them. They’ll be smiling every time they sleep with that pillowcase.
Sleepiest View in the House – Have everyone lay out their sleeping bags on the floor to watch a movie together. Or, if your family room couch is a pull-out bed, pull the bed out and have everyone pile on to watch together.
What to Watch? – The movie you watch depends on the age of your kids or your family’s interest. If your kids are older, you can watch scary movies. If your kids are younger, Monsters Inc. is a great slumber party movie. For a “Girlie” movie – Princess Diaries 2 is a good choice because there’s a slumber party scene.
Home Movies. – Don’t forget that you can watch family movies as well. Our kids still love watching the video of our wedding.
Popcorn, ice cream sundaes and chocolate fondue are our top picks for a slumber party.
Here’s our recipe for Chocolate Fondue:
2 lb. of your favorite milk chocolate bars (we like Ghiradelli’s)
8 oz. dark chocolate bar
1 1/2 cup heavy cream (can use half and half for less calories)
2 Tbsp. vanilla
Break the candy bars into pieces and place in your fondue or hot pot. Turn to a low setting. Add cream and stir constantly until chocolate is melted and smooth. If you are melting this on a stove top, don’t walk away or the chocolate will boil and be ruined. Add the vanilla right before serving. Then dip away! (Serves 12)
- Hazelnut or almond biscotti (more for the adults)
- Salted pretzel sticks
- Cubed pound cake
- Sliced bananas
- Stem strawberries
- Large marshmallows
Send us photos of your family slumber party. We’d love to see them.
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I was on WGN News a week back talking about some inexpensive ideas for having fun at home on a Friday Night. I was able to showcase some of our favorite Friday Night Family Fun products on the segment. Check out the clip and let me know what you think.
Hint: There is a coupon code in the segment for 20% off some of our Family Fun favorites.
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Looking for something fun to do Friday Night with the family? Why not host a Game Night? Start a tradition in your family that every Friday Night you stay in and play games. You can take turns with each member of your family picking their favorite game. Or invite friends and neighbors over for a casual, inexpensive, and very fun evening.
We’ll give you some ideas on how to host some awesome game nights, as well as our top picks for family fun games.
Why Your Family Game Night is going to rock –
Add some great food.
Keep it low maintenance by ordering in pizza, making chocolate chip cookie bars, or having an ice cream sundae bar. Indulge in your favorite munchies. If you are feeling more inspired, try out some of those appetizer recipes you keep marking and then never making. For the adults, have some beer in the fridge, make a pitcher of margaritas, or try out that new drink recipe. (See Rachel Ray’s site for some great drink recipes.) Make non-alcoholic versions for the kids. If you are inviting friends over, have them bring an appetizer or dessert to share.
Serve up some silliness!
Play some games that are just downright silly so everyone will be laughing. Some of our favorite gut-busting games are:
3 Years Old and Up:
Birds, Bugs and Beans – This card game will be a hit with your pre-schoolers, but the rest of the family will love it too. This is a wild, loud, and fun card game where you throw cards down and then react quickly based on which card is showing. You’ve got to tweet for the birds, clap for the bugs, and toot for the beans. Who doesn’t love making raspberry sounds for the Bean cards???
6 Years Old and Up:
Flapdoodle. In this game, you’ll have to use your creativity and imagination to answer crazy questions and do silly stunts. For example, you might have to take off your socks and shoes and have your two big toes talk to each other about potato chips. Crazy characters like Super Ninja Monkey, Pirate Luigi Pepperoni and the Platypus help you cruise around the board. This game is a huge favorite with our kids.
8 Years Old and Up
This game is perfect for larger gatherings since 8 people can play. We’ve played it during Holidays when the relatives are over. We’ve taken it on vacation for some evening fun. In the game, each player chooses the sound of a typical farm animal. As cards are quickly flipped over, tongue-tied players stumble and stutter to blurt out the animal sounds of the other players. The fun part of the game is that the animal on the card is not the animal sound you need to make so you get all confused and tongue tied. This game is hilarious. (It’s also a great drinking game for adults but you didn’t hear that from me.)
Put on a Costume.
Why just play a game when you can play the game in a silly way? For example, if you are playing a pirate game, have everyone wear pirate hats or eye patches. If playing Snorta, wear an animal mask. Make them out of paper plates before the game begins.
If you invite a few families over for Game Night, have them each bring their favorite game. Set up a game in the kitchen, one in the family room, and one in another room. Each person then moves round robin to the next game as they finish playing. That way you’ll end up playing a few different games and not end up stuck playing the same thing all night. Have a kids game table and adult game table if you want and make sure everyone knows which table to move to at the end of their game.
Get those cards out!
Whatever happened to the fine art of playing cards? My parents said that when they were just married and having babies, one of their main forms of entertainment was to invite over friends, also with babies, and play cards. I believe they said they used to line us babies up and throw us snacks as they played cards, although I could be imagining that.
The poker craze brought a newfound attention to card playing again, but it’s not the only card game in town. There are some other very competitive games to try. My husband’s family is from Iowa and they play Eucher. In Iowa, Eucher is treated as if it were a religion. Wikipedia has the rules. Backalley Bridge is another favorite. When playing for cards, use pennies or macaroni noodles for “betting” or keeping score.
(I’ve included links to the rules here but if you are like me, I have a hard time reading the game rules and then actually figuring out how to play it. So, a better strategy is to invite someone over who knows how to play. Create your guest list based on who knows how to play what.)
If you are going to play games, you’ll need prizes. Large chocolate bars or movie-theater size boxes of candy are great prizes to give to the game winners. If you are playing with younger kids you’ll need to make sure that everyone is a winner but for older kids and adults, let the competition begin. You can also play for chores or activities as prizes. If Mom wins, she gets to give a chore coupon to someone in the house so they have to empty the dishwasher. Before the game, have each player write down 2 – 3 coupon ideas. If they win, they get to hand in their coupon to another player. The other player then has to do what it says on the coupon. (You might need to set some limits but feel free to be creative.)
If you have a Nintendo Wii, you can always have a Wii Game Night. We’ll do a separate post on that in the future.
We hope these ideas have inspired you to stay home and play games one night soon. By adding some creativity, you can make sure everyone will want to come to your house on Game Night. We’d love to hear your ideas on how to have a great Game Night at home. What are some of your favorite games?
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