Win Tickets to the 2012 Chicago Toy & Game Fair

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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5 Easy, Inexpensive Ideas to Have Fun with the Kids This Weekend

Camp indoors

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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Tags: Family Fun Ideas · Family Game Night · Family Movie Night · Friday Night Fun

Start a Family Game Night Club

Family Game Night Games

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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Tags: Entertaining at Home · Family Fun Ideas · Family Game Night · Friday Night Fun · Games

Spice Up Family Game Night with Some Awesome Food

game night snacks

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:

snowy_popcorncakes1
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 and Swiss Pretzels
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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Super Easy, Yummy Appetizer Recipe for Super Bowl Party

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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Tags: Entertaining at Home · Family Game Night