Thursday, September 29, 2011

Time to Order a Your Early Winter Hat

Pretty Cloche in Sage Green with Flower - Hand CrochetedWool Blend Slouchy Beanie in Blue and Green - Hand CrochetedI just ordered a lovely early winter hat and I wanted to share the website with you, simply because I like to support the independent sellers of beautiful handmade goods on etsy.com. Handmade Cottage offers lovely, affordable hand-crocheted hats and heatbands. I am so happy with my purchase - a softly knit yet durable hat. Check out Handmade Cottage at http://www.etsy.com/shop/handmadecottage Wool Blend Flapper Cloche in Blueberry/Raspberry - Hand CrochetedTextured Cloche/Toque in Charcoal/Gray/Burgundy - Hand Crocheted
Kitt Chunky Flapper Cloche in Butterscotch and Wine - Hand Crocheted - Wool Blend
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Monday, September 26, 2011

#makesmesmilemondays happy birthday to my little signorina

My little girl turned TWO on Saturday. Her brother festooned our home with streamers, her cousin Ashley baked her cupcakes, her cousin John sewed her a blanket and pillow, her grandpa assembled her dollhouse, her grandparents came in from Italy: our entire family gathered round to celebrate our lovely Chiara. She insisted we all wear party hats and loved the Happy Birthday song so much, that we had to sing it and relight the candles a few times. She was a pro at blowing out her candles! and finally "got" the opening presents concept. She was delighted with her new dollhouse, dump truck, and books. She is my little stellina, and I love watching her grow and explore the world with her boundless joy and curiosity.
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Monday, September 19, 2011

#makesmesmilemondays


We took another long bike ride this weekend. I love that my son always pushes me to go beyond - how funny that my 10-year-old is becoming my little motivator. Chiara enjoys the ride from her little seat behind me and is now officially obsessed with trucks. Our longest trip to date: we biked from home in Logan Square to Water Tower Place! Here's Chiara refueling on Wow Bao.





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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Our Favorite Chicago CupCakeries

My niece is making these cupcakes for my daughter's 2nd birthday. Check out the
recipe/directions at http://familyfun.go.com/recipes/night-owls-cupcakes-984215/
Many will tell you that the cupcake fad has come and gone, but I know that I still can't resist cupcakes at my favorite Chicago cupcakeries, and neither can my kids. And I still can't decide if it's a good thing or a bad thing that we pass by one of our favorite bakeries on the way to school. Who can resist a perfectly frosted, deliciously sweet cupcake? They’re the perfect treat for the birthday boy or girl and the best little pick-me-up on a rainy afternoon. Here are our top three Chicago cupcakeries:


Sweet Mandy B’s is a classic American bakery: With its old-fashioned storefront, soft, pastel d├ęcor, and amazing array of traditional American sweets, you’ll only find happy faces inside Sweet Mandy B’s. The moist chocolate and vanilla cupcakes with bright pastel butter cream frosting and sprinkles will leave you wanting to place an extra order to go. Kids will enjoy watching the baking staff do their thing in the open kitchen: grab a stool overlooking the baking stations and wonder how the staff manages to spread sweet, buttery frosting on cupcakes without licking their fingers every two seconds. Sweet Mandy B’s also features cakes, cookies, and pies, all baked fresh daily, and the specialty birthday cake selection is amazing (my kids love flipping through the cake decoration idea books here; ask a baker for one). If the weather is warmer, enjoy your sweet treat and a carton of milk outdoors on a bench at the Oscar Mayer playlot, just across the street on the corner of Webster and Racine.

Bleeding Heart Bakery boasts of being Chicago’s only local, sustainable, punk rock pastry shop, with two city locations, in Roscoe Village and West Town. Bleeding Heart specializes in vegan treats, free of ingredients of animal origin. You’ll find some of the most unique cupcakes name and taste combinations ever at Bleeding Heart Bakery, including Blueberry Basil, Holy Mole and Veruca Salt. Check out not only the cupcakes, but also the Punk Brunch at their new West Town location, which features a bakery and a funky cafe.

Our family favorite is Swirlz, where you can find artfully decorated and baked-fresh-daily cupcakes featuring decadent yet light Italian buttercream frosting. Try a daily or seasonal special, or stick with all-time favorites such as red velvet, banana and nutella, or chocolate raspberry cream cheese. Organic milk boxes are on hand for the kids. Run off the calories at nearby Oz Park, where you’ll find the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, the Scarecrow, Dorothy and her little dog Toto in each corner of the park. Kids will love climbing on the wooden Emerald City and swinging on the tire in Dorothy's Playlot.


Bleeding Heart Bakery: 1955 W Belmont Ave; Tel. (773) 327.6934 and 1916 W. Chicago Ave; Tel. (773) 904.1414

Swirlz Cupcakes: 705 W. Belden Ave; Tel. (877) 791.7594


Sweet Mandy B’s: 1208 W Webster Ave; Tel. (773) 244-1174





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Time to Order Your Little Orange Boxes! Trick-or-Treat for a Good Cause

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This post originally appeared at thechicagomoms.com

Halloween is almost two months away, but now is the time to order your little orange boxes! Trick or Treat for UNICEF calls upon everyone to participate in UNICEF’s mission of achieving zero preventable deaths in children by asking for a trick, a treat, or a small donation to a UNICEF’s good cause. This year, Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF will raise funds to help save children’s live in over 150 countries and territories through immunization, education, health care, nutrition, clean water and sanitation.

How it works: Head over to trickortreatforunicef.org and order your UNICEF fundraising kit, which includes posters, stickers, decorative door hangers and little orange coin collection boxes. When it comes time to trick or treat, ask your neighbors if they’d be willing to contribute to your fundraising campaign, too.

The little orange boxes have even gone high tech this year: each has a Microsoft Tag, a 2D barcode technology, so people can also donate via Web-enabled smartphone or mobile device.

Especially as the crisis in the horn of Africa appears to have no end in sight, let’s all take a step to spread awareness and provide even a small inkling of assistance. Visit UNICEF’s website at http://www.unicef.org/, where you’ll find video content that brings the crisis to a kid’s level. I especially appreciated this photo essay Life in Bamako, told through a series of photographs taken by children. Your kids will like the games, too.

UNICEF has a 4 star charity navigator rating and has been sponsoring the Trick or Treat for UNICEF campaign for over 60 years.

We’ll be participating this year – won’t you join us?

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Monday, September 12, 2011

#makesmesmilemondays

My son has been cracking me up with his photoshopping skills. Check out some of his creations below, all made with the app PhotoChop: riding his bike over the Golden Gate Bridge, baby sister being eaten by a Dino, and a giraffe eating one of my muffins.











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Ways to Give Back to Your Community: Logan Square Edition

Thanks to Walgreens for sponsoring my writing. Help Walgreens help others! Visit their Facebook page here to learn about their charitable partners and decide which cause Walgreens will donate to with a quick vote.

I'm always looking for ways to give back to our community. Logan Square is where I live, where I work, where my kids play. Walgreens recently asked me "How do you give back to your community?" Here's my answer: 

  • I shop locally. I love taking buggy rides, walks, and bike rides with the kids, and we have a wealth of unique shops and restaurants right here in our neighborhood. Why get in the car to drive to a big box store when I can do all my shopping locally, supporting local merchants? I especially love our farmer's market - that's likely the easiest way that I support my community - by shopping for fresh fruits, veggies, and more at our lovely Sunday outdoor market. 
    Once upon a time, our neighborhood
    
  • I attend community meetings and share my opinions through my writing. I am especially hopeful that our community can ban together to renovate our local school's play space.
  • I'm a teacher in my neighborhood and so my entire workday is dedicated to educating our community's youth. If you're looking for a volunteer opportunity, consider calling up your local school. Lend your voice to the local school council, offer to share your career skills in a classroom, donate used books or office supplies. Volunteer as a tutor. You really could chance a child's life by donating even just an hour of your time each week.
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***Thanks to Walgreens for sponsoring my writing. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.
Help Walgreens help others! Visit their Facebook page here to learn about their charitable partners and decide which cause Walgreens will donate to with a quick vote.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Back to School

Today is back to school for my boy and me, back to daycare for baby. This summer was busy but fun(!) and full of travels and new experiences, leaving me not so much rested (I'll save the too lazy summers for retirement!) but excited and energized about the fall.
Wishing all of you a school year full of learning whether you're a student or not, and a fantastic fall!


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Sunday, September 4, 2011

Back-to-School Muffins

Here's another back-to-school tip: If your kid has to catch a bus at the crack of dawn like my kid does, you know that (unfortunately) breakfast needs to be on the go. The following is my go-to muffin recipe, adapted from one of my favorite cookbooks: Vegetarian Classics by Jeanne Lemlin. I throw in 1 cup of whatever fresh fruit I happen to have on hand: I just made them with bing cherries and a 1/2 tsp of almond extract (pictured), but blueberries, diced/cubed apples with a dash of cinnamon, and any dried fruits work well, too (especially apricots or cranberries), as do nuts (cranberries and walnuts are especially tasty).
I freeze these muffins individually, so they can easily be popped into the microwave for a minute and voila': a nice, hot muffin to get your school morning off to an equally nice start.
I was offered a sample of Sutton Gourmet Baking Cups and I love not only the cute prints, but also how they kept their color despite being baked (also pictured).

School Morning Muffins

1 1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup oats
1/2 cup sugar
1 TBS baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup fresh or dried fruit
1 cup milk
6 TBS canola oil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Mix the dry ingredients, then mix in the wet ingredients; lastly add the fruit. Do not overmix.Spoon the mixture into a muffin tin with baking cups, and bake for about 20 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center of the muffin comes out clean. Enjoy!
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