Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Art on a Cold Winter's Day

Here's an artsy cure for a cold winter day, when you've been cooped up indoors for far too long: Line your kitchen floor with the Sunday newspaper, grab some colorful paints, thick and thin paintbrushes, dress your kids in their messiness-allowed gear and let them paint their own masterpieces on canvas.
Joann Fabrics has a good selection of canvases - we chose the 10x12 size - and if you use the 40% of coupon (usually there is one per week in the ad found in the Sunday Trib) you can snag one for about $3. Joann also carries colorful water-based acrylic paints for $1 each. For a palette, I used an old mini-muffin pan.
Pupa, at age 15 months, adores "drawing" and "coloring" - she already drew quite a number on her highchair -  so I knew she'd love painting. I set her up on the kitchen floor with all her artsy gear and she squealed with delight when I squirted the different paint colors into the muffin tin palette. She even said a new word: azzurro (blue). She created her masterpiece entirely on her own and it's now hanging in our dining room - it's actually quite lovely! Every time she spots it, she points to it, smiles and babbles. Look at the way she holds the brush in the photo - my little Mary Cassat!
Fratellone loves art projects too, and he made a colorful painting as well. Last week he and I also enjoyed making some Winter Sun Catchers together - you'll find them hanging on the iron fence in front of our home. Fratellone liked this project so much so that he asked to make more winter sun catchers when his cousin came over, and they spent quite awhile experimenting with food coloring. Certainly there isn't much sun to catch in Chicago these days, but the sun catchers have added a bit of color to our home with no worries of them melting away any time too soon.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Gift of Language

Our family embraces language. In our home, you'll hear mostly Italian and of course English, but also Spanish, French and Portuguese. Our 15-month-old is already speaking her first words, and they are mostly Italian - she calls the potty the "Ciao, poo-poo!". Una bambina intelligente, no? :)

Kids soak up languages like sponges, and if you want to give them an amazing gift, give them the gift of another language and culture. Best to do so when they are young enough to fully embrace the accents and rhythms of a foreign language.
I am so happy to offer your family the opportunity to learn another language! Multilingual Chicago, an amazing language school in our great neighborhood of Logan Square, will offer one lucky reader a month of classes (a value of $95). The Winter/Spring term starts the week of Jan. 10th, but you can redeem (or enroll!) at any time). Classes for both children and adults include Spanish, Spanish Music (Fine Arts for Tots), French, Italian, Mandarin, Hindi and Korean. Check out their classes and more at
To win, head over to my family travel blog Passport Family on ChicagoNOW and answer the following question in the comments section (click HERE to do so): "Why is language learning important to you?" I will choose a random winner on Monday and contact you via email. Thanks and buona fortuna!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Don’t Let the Winter Keep You Indoors: Five Fun Winter Adventures

Got cabin fever? Here are five perfect excuses to don your cold-weather gear and get outside this winter. You’ll burn calories and maybe even spot some snow-loving animals along the way. There really is nothing quite like sledding down a hill at 15 MPH, spotting soar or exploring a pristine forest, covered with a white blanket of snow.


Snowshoeing is a great workout: It’s easy and inexpensive, and risk of injury is low. Reminiscent of the area explorers and traders of long ago, traditional snowshoes were made of wooden frames laced with rawhide; Today’s version is lightweight and super comfortable. Available at most major sporting good stores, a pair of snowshoes will cost about $50. Several area nature centers and also have snowshoes for rent, including Springbrook Nature Center in Itasca (630-773-5572; You can also rent snowshoes at any REI sporting goods store. Northerly Island ( offers snowshoeing instruction for all ages during its annual Polar Days, on January 22 and February 26.

Sledding and Tobagganing
Though most tobogganing runs have now been closed down, you can still enjoy the thrill of whizzing down a snow-covered hill...Read the rest of the article I wrote for Mindful Metropolis magazine HERE.

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