Mom Things, Travel

The New Ikea – Oak Creek, WI

If you’re looking for an impressive Ikea experience, the new Ikea in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, is well worth your drive. Not only was this store extremely well organized (traffic + parking wise), the customer service and assistance in almost every aisle was very much appreciated. We didn’t know the layout of this new store, so having help available was key to making our shopping trip effective and timely (we live 2 hours away). Somehow, my list grew while I was shopping and I needed help getting a few heavy items off the shelves + into my car.  The employees at this specific store were over the top amazing when it came to helping me with exactly I was looking for. The store has a special place in my heart since it’s located in my hometown!

Willow Heights subdivision is where I grew up, it’s located off of Puetz and 13th street in Oak Creek. It is conveniently located just 15 minutes from downtown Milwaukee.  The new Ikea is now within biking distance from my childhood home. How cool is that?! Perfect for Ikea lovers!

My love for Ikea really began when I was in High School and preparing for college.  Having the coolest dorm was our goal, so my best friend and I shopped until we dropped at Ikea in Schaumburg, Illinois (the closest Ikea to us at the time).  Keep in mind, this is before high speed internet, smart phones, shopping apps, and the ability to view store inventory / order online quickly.  So shopping in person was basically the ONLY way to shop in 2001. This took a lot of TIME.  My best friend and I spent an entire day shopping and all of $50 each to get our dorm set up. We felt so cool. Such a good deal on cool things to make our dorm perfect.

This week, as I prepare for the annual Rhapsody in Bloom fundraiser at Olbrich Botanical Gardens, Ikea seemed to be the perfect place to shop for the silent auction baskets that I’m working on.  And it was. I took my little guy, Carter (4), with me to scope out the new Ikea Oak Creek store, to visit my old neighborhood and build out some gorgeous baskets for a good cause.

Check out my first silent auction item, Two for Tea. It features:

You can bid on this item online from Olbrich’s website + online bidding system, Gesture.

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My needs from Ikea have changed over the last 20 years. From dorm room decor to fundraising swag and I’m happy that Ikea has always been my number one low-cost option since it’s classic and cool.

Stay tuned – this week I’m working on building out silent auction baskets and I’ll be posting some more photos here on nutfreemomblog.

For the nut-free component of my Ikea visit, PLEASE try the Swedish Meatballs! You can purchase them in the store at the restaurant or in the freezer section at the check-out. They are nut free and have a great allergy statement. The sauce is sold separately and is also nut free. I’ll make a separate post when I prepare them. Because you KNOW I bought some to bring home 🙂

 

 

 

 

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How to be Nutfree, Mom Things, Snacking, Travel

Starbucks and Nut Allergies

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Starbucks is a common stop for us.  Grownups love it, kids love it and what is a better way to deal with YET MORE SNOW IN WISCONSIN than a nice warm cup of coffee or tea?! Literally, I have no words for April snow. I mean, COME ON!

When we were first diagnosed with nut allergies, we avoided Starbucks completely. However, that’s no way to live life {coffee deprived, are you KIDDING me?! Also known as Mean Mommy!}.

Once we figured out how to navigate the Starbucks menu a bit, we learned that our favorite treat was no longer completely off limits.

If you follow me in Instagram @nutfreemomblog, you’ve seen my posts about “how to Starbucks” – well today, I thought it deserved a blog post of its own since we just drove through.

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How to Starbucks {with a nut allergy}

  1. Choose a Starbucks that you can walk into
  2. Make sure you have your epi pen / benadryl JUST IN CASE {these should be with you already anyway}
  3. Have a conversation with the barista at non-peak hours regarding food allergies.
  4. Order a drink that is recommended safe by the barista.
  5. If you have almond allergies, this might be a little riskier for you, but soy milk is always an option. Cross contact can’t be 100% avoided, so just make sure you’re talking with the barista.
  6. For many peanut and tree nut allergy sufferers, almonds can be safe to eat. So anything made with or around almond milk, will not affect your nut allergies, which is the case for us. THANKFULLY!
  7. Many Starbucks locations have dedicated steam arms / handles for specific milks. This is the case for SOY MILK {most of the time} + again, talk with your barista.
  8. Our “go – to” safe drink for my daughter is the  kids size steamed vanilla soy milk.
  9. If you tell them it’s for a child, they will not steam the milk as hot as for an adult, the portion is also a lot smaller.
  10. Using the soy milk handle ensures that we probably wont come in contact with any nut based milk or coffee (hazelnut coffee does have trace amounts of actual hazelnuts, but the affect on allergies varies, obviously).
  11. Note that coconut is not a tree nut, but restaurants many times consider them to be.
  12. Our back up drink is always a milk box or juice box.
  13. Most of the food at Starbucks is NOT safe, especially the bakery items, and hot food items. However, if you are in a pinch and need a snack, they do offer some to-go items in the cafe, just check the labels as these snacks rotate frequently and we dont have  a go-to snack item there currently.
  14. If you have the SLIGHTEST doubt that your Starbucks just might not be fully understanding your food allergy or requests, DO NOT RISK IT and go with the 100% safe option, bottled water, milk box or juice. It’s not worth it.
  15. The bottled water and banana are also 100% safe and we’ve never {knock on wood} had an issue with the drinks or service at Starbucks after we tell them we need a nut-free drink 🙂

 

What’s your favorite drink at Starbucks? I have a few…

  1. Tall, non-fat chai tea latte
  2. Tall, skinny mocha latte
  3. Tall, cafe latte
  4. Tall, non-fat dirty chai tea latte (two shots of espresso)
  5. Cafe americano
  6. Passion fruit ice tea, light ice

 

Make sure you sign up for Starbucks rewards app on your phone to snag some free drinks! It’s worth it + kind of fun, too!

Is this the Mondayest Monday or what?! Enjoy your day!

 

 

 

Mom Things, Travel, Weeknight Dinners

Menu Planner

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If you’re trying to minimize your trips to the grocery store, perhaps a menu planning list is for you.

Most families do not have a chalkboard refrigerator like we do. And even if you do, you’re not always around the fridge to write down what you’re thinking about for dinner / snacks.

Most of the time, families are on the go.

I’ve been asked several times by friends if there is a paper method for planning meals that I prefer. Actually, Cara Clark Nutrition has a wonderful meal planner included in her food challenges if you want one from a real nutritionist. However, when I was shopping around at World Market the other day, I found this one. For $6.99, you get a small note pad with 60 sheets, enough for a year, and then some if you mess up or your kid spills something on it. The latter is most likely.

This notepad is also available on Amazon in case you find this Wisconsin Winter Weather (WWW for short, a.k.a. January 96th) extremely depressing and want to stay at home and do nothing. Like I want to do. And eat carbs. YUM. Carbs. If you do the Amazon route, you get to choose from an ARRAY of colors. I wish I would have known this because my favorite color is green. Although if I went with pink, I’m sure Chloe would have written all the menu plans for me then 🙂

This paper pad is a good substitute for “on the go” menu planning. We can tear out one of these sheets and binder clip it to my weekly “to-do” notebook or insert it into m y weekly paper planner. Either way, it’s a food list to help organize meals and snacks for a well-balanced lifestyle….or so we like to think 🙂

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Mom Things

Online Grocery Shopping & Tipping

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With Amazon Prime Now, Metcalfes grocery delivery, Hy-Vee grocery delivery and Peapod so graciously bringing us our goods, we have to be mindful of tipping! Tipping is still expected, even as new services like these become mainstream and already include a service fee.

That Panera you just had delivered? Yep. Tip.

Groceries delivered with a fee? Yes, you still tip.

What if you order groceries online, but choose to do in-store pick up? Yes. Someone else did the work for you, still tip them $1 per bag.

This kind of tipping is different though. It reminds me of the European tip of, “a few dollars to show you’re grateful for a good service, not exact percentage.”

This kind tip isn’t a percentage of a bill like you would normally calculate when dining out. I like to think of the etiquette I’d use to tip at a hotel. So, about $1.00 per bag of groceries, and about $1.00 per entree delivered by carry-out. For example, I usually have 5 bags of groceries delivered one time per week, I’d use a $5 for the tip, even if I have 4 bags or 3 bags, $5 is easy, unless I have singles on hand.

A few times I’ve been in a jam since I am not usually a cash carrying kind of lady. In these instances, I’ve given Starbucks gift cards for $5 that I have in my wallet or a handmade card from my kids to say Thank you, we appreciate what you do. But usually, I try to have the tip cash on hand so I can easily say Thanks! And don’t sweat it if it’s not exact. It’s the thought that counts.

Mom Things

The Mom Re-Set

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So you’ve had a week, or a month or even a year (Do you like that reference right there?! Love Friends!) that has just been MEH. Right? I have.

So how do you re-set? Start over? Feel better as a Mom who’s always ON? Well, here’s my top 5 and if you follow me on IG, you saw my night out last night, which was AMAZING and so necessary!

5. Pick a solid 4-6 hour of time and block it. Find your babysitter or service, or grandma and grandpa or spouse and just block off your time.  Don’t do this too far in advance, you never know what could pop up! Last minute is best 😉

4.  Pick an activity that you find relaxing and schedule it 1-2 days before your planned time off.  Manicure, pedicure, massage, dinner with friends, ice cream out, concert, whatever floats your boat. Sometimes it’s as simple as hanging out at Barnes and Noble with a chai tea latte to relax and feel “off duty.”

3.  Wine down. Music up. Make sure your down time includes some wine to relax, or a cocktail of your choice with you favorite music. Take the edge off! If you don’t have time to do this when you go out, have a glass once you get home. Music is powerful and can help you relax!

2.  Find your tribe. Text your friends or your Mom or Dad to say you’re off duty and find out what time works for a quick visit. Seeing your friends and family is a great way to reconnect and feel human!

1  Make yourself up. Put on your makeup, blow out your hair and find a cute outfit. You’ll feel so much better about yourself when you make yourself up.

It’s so important to get out, Moms! It reminds us of who we are, where we are going and why we are working so hard! We are better Moms when we have time off and can reconnect with the world. This may come in small chunks of time so make sure you take advantage of it!

Happy Saturday!

Mom Things

The Mom Drawer

The kitchen is the heart of the home. It’s the pilot of the plane, queen of the castle, commander in chief, the central gathering place every time we host a get-together. No matter how hard we try to entice guests into other rooms of our home, the kitchen is the hub. Everything happens here and naturally guests want to be part of what happening. Cooking, drink shaking, conversation, dessert unveiling, guests like action. So why not make part of the kitchen more functional for what we do every day?

I started thinking about this idea when we had company over the holidays and I automatically shoved all of my “mom things” (check book, bills, pens, epi-pens, stamps, junk in general) into a drawer in order to appear to have a clean counter top. Thou shall not hide gorgeous iceberg quartz, right? The problem was that I could never find anything. So I decided to clean out a junk drawer (we have a few) and call it my MOM DRAWER.

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I found an old bamboo divider from Crate and Barrel and it works well.  Target has one similar that would do the trick. This is our Kitchen Controls Drawer / Mom Drawer. Now when guests come by, we still can quickly hide stuff, but now it’s organized and we will have easier access to the things we use EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

Do you see the to-do list in there? The check book to pay the babysitter? Stamps. Calculator. Scissors. Thank You notes because you can NEVER write enough of these! And my favorite new creation is gift card storage. I know, nerd alert. The things that bring me joy now are quite funny.

This Christmas we received a crazy number of gift cards. Honestly, I am TERRIBLE when it comes to actually using them. The worst, actually. Since I left corporate life a few years ago, I didn’t need these business card holders anymore, so our gift cards replaced old business cards. Ta-da! Easy to access and everyone can see them now they are not buried at the bottom of my purse!

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So there ya go – Moms, take a drawer from the kitchen. You need it. SO much happens in this space, it is a game changer. Yes, most of this stuff belongs in our office downstairs, but life happens fast and having a mini-office in a drawer makes things so much easier until I have a chance to go downstairs and file.

One thing not pictured in the mom drawer is CHOCOLATE! I cannot survive a single day without some sort of chocolate. So add that.

Have a great week – it snowed here today and we had a ball sledding!

Thanks for stopping by 😉

Mom Things, Travel

Allergy & Family Friendly Chicago Hotels

We’re pretty picky travelers when it comes to choosing the right hotel for our family get-away. The last thing we need is poor sleep, cranky kids and overtired parents in an unfamiliar environment. Not only do we travel with two little buddies ages 7 and 4, we also have food allergies. Most of the time we roll with it, but we do like to know in advance how much we can eat as a family at the hotel, or if we need to stock up on safe snacks.

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Chicago is a place we travel to fairly regularly, either as a couple or family for some fun activities and good eats. Today I wanted to share my top 4 personal favorites for family friendly and allergy friendly places in the Windy City.

4. Hilton Homewood Suites Chicago – Downtown:  We fell in love with Homewood Suites two years ago when they rescued us from our Airbnb “Buggy Bungalow” in the Vanderbilt Neighborhood of Nashville, TN. Homewood Suites welcomed us with open arms and little did we know that every room was a large suite! We all had our own beds, and a cute newly renovated kitchen to make nut-free meals for our daughter.

The best part about Homewood Suites is the continental breakfast where most of the items are nut-free. The willingness and time the staff took to get to know our family and our food allergies was amazing. Most week-nights Homewood Suites offers a cocktail and snack hour which can double as dinner if you have littles traveling with you. Family friendly + allergy friendly, I highly recommend Hilton Homewood Suites. This is a budget friendly hotel at $125 / night. This hotel is also partnered with American Girl – Chicago and offers extra fun for your little ladies.

3.  Ivy Boutique Hotel Chicago: This hotel is our standard “go-to” when we visit Chicago and I have my best friend to thank for finding this. She’s an incredible CPA and will always find the best of the best for the best price.

Ivy is a small, 16-story hotel off of Ontario + Michigan. It’s quiet and out of the way of the hustle of Michigan Ave. The staff is very personable and the rooms are HUGE. Personally, I like how each room feels like two rooms so we can put the kids to bed and still watch TV without them right there.

This hotel was recently renovated and the rain shower is incredible. Nightly dessert wasn’t too bad either 🙂

During the day, we visited the hotel’s roof top bar + restaurant, everyone was over the top about our daughters food allergies and made kiddie cocktails so the kids could enjoy the panoramic downtown city views like the big kids.

Ontario is sprinkled with quick service dining, so we had plenty of options for safe nut-free food. Garrett’s Popcorn is on this street as well, so if you’re a fan, you can beat the line! The price is right, usually around $259 on weekends, but during the week this hotel is only $159. A steal for how large the rooms are!

2. Omni Hotel Chicago:  We’re excited to try this hotel since it seems like the most family focused hotel we’ve stayed at in a long time. The Omni Kids Crew Program offers:

  • Activity book with stickers
  • Crayons
  • 2-in-1 card games
  • Binoculars
  • Small tabletop game
  • On their first night at the hotel, kids also receive milk and cookies delivered to their room.

The Omni is also an all-suites hotel so we’ll all have our own beds and solid night of sleep. This hotel is also partnered with American Girl ensuring even more special goodies for your American Girl Doll enthusiast. Free wifi, two sun decks and an indoor swimming pool, I think we’ll all have a great time! There is something for everyone and after speaking with the head chef at the 676 Restaurant, allergies will be a piece of cake. Rooms start at $189 during the week, and are a little higher during peak times + weekends.

1.Four Seasons Chicago: Hello family luxury. I just love the family focused offerings the Four Seasons has put together.

  • Ice Cream Man: a cute ice cream cart is wheeled to your door and a fresh made sundae is custom made for your kids (and you too!). How fun!
  • Martini Man: when the ice cream truck is done, Martini Man comes around for parents, helps take the edge of a fun day in the city. LOVE this idea.
  • The indoor pool was featured in Home Alone 2.
  • Kids Clubroom is full of activities for kids of ALL ages.
  • Babysitters available.
  • Children’s welcome program, kiddies are greeted with stuffed animals, games, etc.
  • Free wifi
  • House-car service for 2 mile radius
  • Childproofed rooms upon request. ie: outlet covers
  • Special VIP access to area attractions

What really drew me to the Four Seasons was the Family Fun in the City offer, a two night minimum, but worth it. Also, their attention to detail and food allergies. The Allium restaurant located inside the Four Seasons specifically calls out Sunbutter as their alternate to PB+J sammies. I know they get it. And that is comforting.

A standard room during the week is around $400 / night. This price looks steep, however, all of the extra services are worth the splurge. The Four Seasons offers laid back luxury that is perfect for any family looking to be taken care of, 100%.

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Those are our favorites. The beauty about visiting a big city like Chicago is that there is SO much to choose from and while we have stayed at a variety of hotels (not listed here) there are many, many more to choose from that may have just as great or better experiences and prices. I love that part. Exploring a city and finding those nuggets of goodness. Traveling with kids is much different than traveling alone, so we’ve been re-discovering Chicago over and over again for the past 7 years 🙂