Fantastic Hotel Deal at Chicago’s Essex Inn

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Chicago’s Essex Inn has a Black Friday flash sale on January hotel rooms.

Chicago’s Essex Inn is offering 50% off your 2nd night for two night stays in January 2014, and with room rates starting from only $99 + tax, that is one seriously good hotel deal for a great Michigan Avenue hotel!

The hotel is clean, modern and comfortable, and it has nice amenities, like a swimming pool, a sauna and a fitness center, which guests can use for free. The Inn also runs a free shuttle to the shops of the Magnificent Mile, and up to the Museum Campus. Just ask at reception for the timetable. I also like their range of hotel packages, which range from including theater tickets or pro sports tickets, to tickets to see Buddy Guy. Some of these would make great holiday gifts for your friends and family.

Here’s the fine print on this deal:

  • Get 50% off your 2nd night for stays in January 2014
  • Rates start at $99 plus tax
  • Valid for stays in January 2014 only
  • Limited availability, rates subject to change
  • Advance reservations required
  • Pre-paid at the time of booking, non-refundable
  • Cannot be combined with any other offers

Go to the Essex Inn’s website to book this deal.

Holiday travel? 25% off hotels at

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Over at, get 25% off hotels with code CHEAPTASTIC through 11/24. Note that this excludes some of the major chains, so you need to go off the beaten path and look for those that say “promo code eligible.” However, some of the other chains have their own discounts, so it’s a nice site to browse for discount hotel deals.

Anyone been to Aruba?

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This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Aruba Tourism Authority for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

When I got this invitation to check out information about Aruba and share it with you, it made me realize how few places I’ve actually traveled to — I mean, I first got a passport way back in 2001 for a rare family trip, and the only time I used it since was for a conference in Canada. (And it’s now expired, lol.) But my gosh, look — gorgeous! Maybe one of these days I will overcome my homebody tendencies and check out Aruba travel.

Honestly, my previous knowledge of Aruba pretty much began and ended with the Beach Boys song. So, let’s see what I’ve learned from the Aruba site:

Deals on vacation packages

Like! They have a “deals” section right on their homepage, which is right up our alley, right? They have deals on vacation options for singles, couples, and families — including a kids eat, play, and stay for free package, which might be the one I’d have to check out, not having anyone to babysit here for days while dh and I take off to Aruba, alas ;)

Activities and attractions

Aruba does, of course, boast your expected Caribbean beaches, and a seven mile strip on the west coast is loaded with resorts. But even at only about 20 miles long and six miles across, it packs in a lot of other stuff, too — everything from a butterfly garden, to Arikok National Park (a desert-like preserve — fascinating!), to historical museums, to an extensive shopping district, to rock formations. Their site also says days run about 82 degrees, so not excessively hot, which is nice, plus they are below the hurricane belt and rarely have rainy days.

Food, glorious food

The other thing that intrigued me was the variety of world cuisine available. In addition to over 100 restaurants in the shopping district, you can wander off the beaten path to explore local favorites as well. They do talk about frogs’ legs, which I think I will pass on — but it seems Aruba is kind of a hotbed of international cuisine, with everything from Argentinian churrasco, to fresh Caribbean catches like mahi-mahi and Caribbean jerks, to… Maine lobster! Check out the Restaurants section of their site for more on the variety available. You know that if and when I ever travel out of the country again, food is going to be a big part of the trip!


Check out their video above for more on the things to do in Aruba, and let me know what you’d like to experience there after visiting their site.

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Home again, home again…

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So, I’m back! Did you notice I was gone visiting my mom in Washington all week — and how we still sneakily kept things running all this holiday week long? Spokane Albertsons, by the way, is a bizarre parallel universe to Chicagoland Jewel — almost the same, but not quite right, lol. Here is a brief random snippet photo tour of the trip.

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We had the nicest pilot on the Minneapolis to Washington leg on the way out — he invited all the kids into the cockpit and gave them little wings, info cards on the plane, and let them sit in the co-pilot’s seat and take photos. I didn’t think they did that any more, so that was very, very cool.


Fred Meyer is their Kroger-owned chain, which…


… carried CARBmaster low-cab yogurt cups. Has anyone seen these in Chicagoland? Mr. MashupAtkinsDad was quite pleased.


We also stopped by Trading Co., which I don’t think is a chain of anything? In addition to the Big Metal Chicken on the roof, they had this:

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Calorie free NOT peanut butter on sale. Now, I’ve been curious about these calorie free products for a while, so decided to finally go for it. Note that we left the rest of the jar at my mom’s for a reason, though, lol…

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It looks kind of like peanut butter, doesn’t it? This, alas, is about where the resemblance ends. The consistency is somewhat… drippier. And the consensus on the taste was more along the lines of: Burnt popcorn with a hint of Crackerjack. Sorry, Mom!


Yes, there were fireworks at Riverfront Park, which even led to a brief moment of brotherly love.


And then we spent a bit of time at my Dad’s store, where my Mom is in the process of selling down inventory.


If you are in the Spokane area and in need of any sort of instrument, stop on by for a deal! :)


This hat, my brother brought back from his tour in Afghanistan — Mr. 6 kind of rocks it, though, don’t you think? If only the “meditation” had any kind of lasting calming effect…


And then he was attacked by a bear!


We flew back shortly after the San Francisco plane crash yesterday… and they had CNN running the video nonstop on the monitors in the airport while we were waiting to board. This filled no one with confidence, but all went well, smoothly, and even on time.

So, that was my holiday week — now back and trying to get back into the swing of things, so pardon the dust while I catch up a little here. What did you guys do on YOUR summer vacation? ;)

Tingo — new low hotel prices finder with price match guarantee

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Here is a new to me hotel rates site — Tingo, from TripAdvisor. Their site also says: After you book your hotel on Tingo, if you find a lower publicly available rate online for the same dates, hotel, and room category at any time up until hotel’s cancellation window, we will be happy to match the price and refund you the difference! I actually just booked a hotel yesterday through a competing site after searching everywhere I could think of to find the lowest rate, so searched it and found the same rate on Tingo — guess I should have just started there, lol.