Tuesday, November 30, 2010

My Holiday To-Do List

I recently wrote an article for Chicago Parent, 10 Can't-Miss Holiday Experiences. I was limited to a top ten, but here are a few more items on my Holiday To-Do list:

  1. Hop in the car and buzz over to XOCO for churros and a hot cocoa Mexican-style (not because this a particularly Christmas-y thing to do, but because I'm always looking for an excuse for churros!).
  2. Bake some gingerbread people.
  3. Host a Gingerbread House Making Party for my kids and their friends: I'll supply the gingerbread houses and ask each guest to bring a bag of a cool candy for decorating.
  4. Drinks and chestnuts roasting over an open fire at the Four Seasons' Seasons Lounge with my hubby.
  5. A family visit to the new Armour exhibit at the Art Institute, followed by lunch at the Russian Tea Room.
  6. Lunch date with my son at his fave downtown place for a burger, Flemings.
  7. An It's a Wonderful Life movie night. 
  8. And finally, lots of down time at home with my family!
Is it Christmas break yet?

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Le Donne Italiane

Italian politics - if you happen to follow the drama of it all - are simply dismal. Let's put it this way: the prime minister is currently embroiled in a scandal involving Bunga Bunga. And that, i miei cari amici, is just the tip of the iceberg.

So I was so happy to have come across this lovely, inspiring slideshow featuring some of the strongest, finest Italian women ever. I was especially inspired by the beautiful quotes of Anna Magnani, the actress of Roma Citta Aperta (if you haven't seen it - rent it asap): "Please don't retouch my wrinkles. It took me so long to earn them" and Sophia Loren: "There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love."

Monday, November 15, 2010

Redmoon Theater's Winter Pageant

It's time to celebrate the change from fall to winter with Redmoon Theater's annual Winter Pageant, a  must-see show for all families with littles: The puppetry, funky 1960’s soundtrack, and special effects (including....shhhhh!....a bubble machine!!) will capture even the attention of your most active toddler.

Redmoon is simply so family friendly - I knew it would be the perfect 1st time theater experience for Pupa. At age 1, you can imagine that it's hard for her to sit still and be quiet for an hour - so Redmoon's upfront open floor seating for kids was perfect. She stood up front and center, bopping to the beat of the musical numbers and shouting with joy at others. The handmade shakers, handed out at the beginning of the show, were right up her alley, as was the enthusiastic request for audience participation throughout the show.
I'm not sure what I enjoyed more: watching the show or watching Pupa watch the show. And while Pupa enjoyed the music, the lights and colors, Fratellone (age 9) got the jokes and was able to follow the story line - which centered around a group of old folks that find a magic box able to bring them back to their glory days, when the were the members of a famous 60's pop ensemble. As always, I appreciated the celebration of the changing of the seasons - a reminder that winter isn't so bad after all - and spring will be here before we know it!

Redmoon Theater's 2010 Winter Pageant

Tickets and info at www.redmoon.org

Adults $20

At the door $22

Kids under 10 for $10; Kids under 3 for FREE


Thursday & Friday 7:30pm

Saturday 1pm, 4pm, 7:30pm

Sunday 1pm ; 4pm

(No shows: NOV 25, DEC 24-26, JAN 1)

Family Picnic & Performance Package

Sunday NOV 28, DEC 12; 19 11am

Adults $35, Kids $20

This exciting package includes a picnic-style lunch with the performers, a unique backstage opportunity, and tickets to the 1pm performance. An experience perfect for any holiday outing!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Christmas Wish List - Ideas for the 1 and 9 year olds in your life - and another Fantastic Giveaway!

It's that time of year again! Halloween has come and gone (but what a fun weekend!) and it's November 2nd (already?!?!?!?). Here are some of the gifts that Santa told me he has in mind for Pupa, age 1, and Fratellone, age 9:

  • My kids are active (thank God!) so Santa usually thinks of them with a fun outdoors or in the un-finished basement gift. At age one, Pupa can walk, but couldn't figure out for the life of her how to steer any of the other little ride-on cars on the market. The Radio Flyer Scoot N'Zoom is perfect for kids two and under: since it's wheels rotate 360 degrees, you don't need to know how to steer. Pupa had the pleasure of testing it out thanks to Radio Flyer, and she felt like a big girl as she wiggled her little legs and drove all around the room. Radio Flyer (radioflyer.com) is the American company you can trust for fun, classic toys that kids will love (and then pass down to their own kids) and the Scoot N'Zoom, as well as the classic little red wagon, are timeless gifts, ideal for your favorite tot. Fratellone will be getting a Shox Scooter - http://www.shredsled.com/. He's broken his arm a whopping five times (once from a bike fall), and I think scooters are a better fit for him to get around our city neighborhood than a bike For one, they don't go as fast, second, it's harder to fall off a scooter. At least I'm hoping, since I can't handle another visit to the Children's Memorial ER).
  • Fratellone is still a big time LEGO guy. Every Christmas I get him the LEGO City Advent Calendar and by Christmas day, we always have a cute little display under our tree. He's also thrilled to see the Lego Harry Potter sets this year - he's read the series so many times I think he has it memorized. Who knows? Maybe Santa will bring him Hagrid's Hut and Hogwarts....
  •  Pupa on the other hand, is obsessed with Matryoskas. She loves playing with an old Matryoska set of mine. (Of course I had to take away the littlest ones because they are choking hazards.)I'm going to get her another set of Matryoskas - this may even be a little start of a collection for her.

  • Since we moved into a new home recently, I'd also like to gift each kid a piece of original artwork, reflective of their interests, to decorate their eclectic bedrooms. I love this artist's interpretation of Star Wars for Fratellone (who is a huge StarWars fan) http://superugly.bigcartel.com/ For Pupa, I asked this artist http://www.etsy.com/people/jenwojtowicz?ref=ls_profilewicz?ref=ls_profile to make a special painting featuring the Saint that she shares a name with.
  • I used to feel guilty sometimes because I loved to read as I nursed my kids (as opposed to staring lovingly at them like you're supposed to - that was my reading time!) Well, maybe all that reading during nursing had a positive effect after all, because we are all big readers in our family. Pupa has a little armchair that at the age of one, she loves to cuddle in with her blanket and a good book (that's my kind of gal!). Fratellone is most often found with his nose in a book and he's currently devouring anything by Rick Riordan - he's now on the Kane Chronicles. For Christmas, I'll be getting him the The Alex Rider Collection (3 Books) (Alex Rider Adventure). Pupa loves anything by Eric Carle but especially the The Very Busy Spider. I'll be heading over to Open Books, a nonprofit bookstore that also bookstore that also bookstore that also provides community programs that promote literacy in Chicago and beyond, to pick out some classic tot board books for Pupa. Open Books has been called "the most beautiful bookstore in Chicago," and it holds more than 50,000 donated books for sale to help support its literacy cause. Located at 213 W. Institute Pl., Chicago, 1 block north of Chicago+Franklin on Brown/Purple Lines, it's open Monday - Saturday, 10am - 7pm and Sunday from 12noon - 6pm. Check Open Books out online at open-books.org
  • This Christmas, as always, I'd like to keep the focus less on material goods and more on good times spent together. Because we all know that kids rarely remember all the gadgets and gizmos they receive on Christmas morning, but one day, they'll hold dear to their hearts memories of baking cookies with Dad, sledding with the cousins, trimming the tree with mom, and checking out the Zoolights with Grandma and Grandpa. One of my friends, Lori Morrison-Contreras, shared an idea with me I think I'm going to borrow as a new family holiday tradition, too (Thanks, Lori!): She bought an advent calender - the kind with the little drawers that you can fill with a treat for each day of the advent season. Instead of filling her calender with treats, however, Lori fills each drawer with a note of something that she and the kids can do together that day to celebrate the holidays. Think: Bake sugar cookies. Make snow angels. Invite the neighbors over for dinner. Play a board game. Pop popcorn and watch It's a Wonderful Life. On the weekends, I also add some fun things we can do together in the city, i.e. Visit the Christmas Kindlmarket. See the Flowers at the Garfield Park Conservatory. Go on a hike in the snow. Honestly, that's all I want for Christmas: to spend time with family and friends.
I'd love to make your Christmas shopping a little easier, and the folks at Radio Flyer and Shox Scooters have given me a couple of prizes to give away! I have a little Sccot N'Zoom from Radio Flyer and a Shox Scooter to give away, In addition, I have a CD that I'll send along to the winner of the Scoot N'Zoom: It’s Santa Claus!—named for the album’s original title track—is full of holiday cheer with classic songs such as “Jingle Bells,” “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” “Let It Snow, “Frosty the Snowman,” “Here Comes Santa Claus,” “Auld Lang Syne,” and “Greensleeves.”Songs may be sampled at http://benrudnick.com/santa_claus

To enter our Grand Christmas Wish Giveaway, leave a comment below telling me what's number one on your Christmas wish list this year. Also, let me know whether you are hoping for the Radio Flyer Scoot N'Zoom or the Shox Scooter. I'll be drawing a winner on November 8th, and I'll contact you by email so we can arrange delivery. Thanks and good luck!  
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**special thanks to Radio Flyer and Shox Scooters for sponsoring the prizes in this giveaway and allowing my kids to try out their great rides!