Monday, October 29, 2012

#makesmesmilemonday Halloween Weekend!

This entire weekend was filled with Halloween fun. 

On Friday evening, Chiara dressed up in her Halloween costume and we headed to the Halloween party at her preschool. She chose to dress as Supergirl - and I can't think of a more fitting costume for her personality. She's sassy and strong - and she is ready to take on the world!
Then we went to see Harold and the Purple Crayon at the Chicago Children's Theatre. Chiara giggled, laughed out loud and danced to every musical number - she was just delighted by this show! It you have a theatre-loving kid ages 2-5 - Harold and the Purple Crayon is an absolute don't miss!

Chiara enjoyed drawing with purple chalk in the lobby beforehand. 

My son and I spent Saturday morning with the spirits at Graceland Cemetery. The sky was overcast, with the sun peeking out every few minutes, creating a spooky yet peaceful atmosphere. 

This cemetery - on the National Historic Register - is one of the most beautiful I've ever visited. On our 2-hour tour with the Chicago History Museum, we learned so much history and lore - it was a treat for a history buff like me - and my son enjoyed it, too. He even stumbled across a gold Canadian dollar! I told him that a ghost must have put it in his pathway....

We capped off our Halloween weekend on Sunday night with our annual Haunted House Party: We had dinner with our pals at home, then headed to a Haunted House. This year we hit the haunted shipwreck that landed on Lake Michigan - the 13 Terrors on the Lake. As always, I the kids were scared out of their wits, but progress was made this year: most kids made it through without their eyes closed the entire time!

Have a happy, happy Halloween!

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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Little Ballerina

My daughter started ballet and tap classes three weeks ago - and I'm not sure if I've ever witnessed anything sweeter than a group of three-year-old girls dancing their hearts out.

Her teacher has them do their warm-up exercises to Where has Sally Gone by Caroline Smith & The Good Night Sleeps, and because I'm that sappy kind of mom, seeing my little girl smiling and tapping away with her "tappy" shoes and piroutteing 'til she's dizzy - it just brings proud-mama tears to my eyes. I can't help it!

When I was dressing her into her dance leotard and tutu before class this past Monday, she looked at herself in the mirror, absolutely delighted, and beamed coquettishly, "Mama, who is that pretty girl in the mirror?!" I of course immediately answered "Chiara!" - simultaneously praying to God that she'll always have that strong sense of confidence and most always be wearing that dimpled smile. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

#makesmesmilemonday A Trip to the Country: Apple Picking, B&J's Diner, and the Hesston Steam Museum in La Porte County, Indiana

Could yesterday's weather have been any more gorgeous?

After a breakfast of pumpkin pancakes, we hit the road to La Porte County, Indiana. 

Our first stop was the Hesston Steam Museum, where we boarded an old-fashioned steam train that led us through a spooky, haunted forest. Really the forest was everything but scary: it was lovely, bathed in late-fall sunlight and glowing in reds and yellows. Every once in awhile we passed by a scarecrow, a ghost made of an old sheet, or a hay-stuffed witch. It was just spooky enough for Chiara, age 3, and just corny enough to get many chuckles out of Daniel, and his pal who tagged along with us, Jaleel, both age 11. 

For lunch, we headed to downtown La Porte, where we ate sandwiches at an old-fashioned diner, B&J's American Cafe. Not much has changed in this diner since it opened in 1915. The kids loved the zinc countertops and the old-fashioned soda fountain. 

Finally, we headed to a farm for some pumpkin picking only to arrive and discover that Fuji apples were ripe for the picking! So we grabbed a wagon and headed out to the orchards. 
So many interesting pumpkins and gourds!

Read to roll to the orchard!
Chiara loved that many of the apples were low enough to the ground that she could just reach up and grab an apple from the branch. With a little help, she also climbed the ladder to reach some of the sun-red apples a bit higher up.

 Daniel and Jaleel had a blast positioning and climbing the taller ladders to reach the big Fujis that were hiding in the upper branches.

The apples are so sweet and crispy; they taste like autumn. Chiara ate three total yesterday. That's a lot for a 3-year-old! I lost count at how many apples the boys ate. 

Jaleel survived a camping trip with our family and has done his time dealing with toddler-dom squeezed into the backseat of our car. As far as I'm concerned, he's officially part of the family.

We left La Porte with lots and lots of apples in our bellies, and a gallon of fresh apple cider and 10 pounds of apples in the trunk. It was a beautiful, and fruitful! fall day. 

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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Review: Martin Scorsese Inspired Dining at iNG with Subaru

Last Friday night, Subaru, invited me to celebrate the kickoff of the Men's Health Urbanathlon at Homaru Cantu's iNG Restaurant. This was a great opportunity for me to learn more about Subaru's XV Crosstrek 2013 over conversation with a small and unique group of eclectic, interesting people. 

I will be in the market for a car soon, and to be honest, Subaru had not even crossed my mind. (I currently drive a WV Jetta.) After looking at the vehicle specs for the XV Crosstrek 2013, we now have another contender for a new family car! We are an active family - always carrying another friend or two of kids, always carting around bicycles, camping equipment and this past summer, even a kayak. We take a lot of road trips. We are in need of a car that will serve our sporty family well - and this car seems to fit the bill. I'll look forward to a test drive! 

The menu for this dinner was Martin Scorsese inspired. Seriously, could they have picked a better menu for the month of October for this Italian instructor/writer?

The entire restaurant was enveloped in all things Scorsese: from the film clips projected on the walls to the servers' smart hats. Each course was full of movie inspired delights: I'm not posting pictures of the spectacular presentations, as I urge you to go and see for yourself - and I certainly don't want to spoil any surprises. I was most impressed/inspired/amazed by the dessert: chef Vince Griffith worked his magic and created a dessert course inspired by Howard Hughes' OCD (from Scorsese's The Aviator). 

P.S.: The pours at iNG are very generous - plan to taxi it there to enjoy your dining experience and evening to the fullest ;) 

Special thanks to Subaru - Confidence in Motion! - for extending the invitation to this spectacular dining experience!

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Monday, October 15, 2012

#makesmesmilemondays Tortelli di Zucca (Pumpkin-filled Pasta)

Yesterday, I corralled all my little "helpers" into the kitchen to make Tortelli di Zucca. Chiara, Daniel, and Daniel's friend, Jaleel. 
Chiara manned the food processor - her job is to dump in the ingredients and press the on/off button. 3.5 cups of flour and four eggs makes enough fresh pasta for a Sunday (big) family dinner. 
 Daniel and Jaleel rolled out the pasta on my old-fashioned Imperia machine. They were a great two-man team...

Making fresh pasta brings kids back to the playdough days: Daniel and Jaleel were even inspired to make fresh fettuccine! 

The boys outdid themselves with their beautiful, fresh fettuccine!

For the filling, I had baked a large butternut squash. I sauteed some garlic, added the cubed squash and sauteed a bit more. Then pureed it all in the food processor, adding about a cup of fresh Parmesan cheese. I serve with butter that I melted on the stovetop with some chopped sage leaves. I don't really follow a recipe, but this one sounds similar to mine, except we made tortelli and not ravioli.
Reason #156 Why I Am a Terrible Blogger: I didn't snap any pictures of the final product. My excuse is that we were all gobbling up our creations as soon as they arrived on our plates. Making homemade pasta is guaranteed to work up an appetite! 

It was a Sunday dinner that tasted like... Autumn. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

#makesmesmilemonday Buongiorno!

One of my students drew this lovely picture of me. I don't wear long flowing dresses with flowers to school (nor flowers in my hair!) but I like the way she depicted me - teaching with a smile and hopefully some contagious enthusiasm. My students drive me cuckoo at times, but I appreciate them more than they know.   
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Monday, October 1, 2012

#makesmesmilemondays Biking the Fox River Trail

Yesterday, we drove out to St. Charles, Illinois, where we unloaded our bikes and set out on the 
Daniel couldn't help himself: he biked to the top of the windmill hill and then rolled down at full speed. 

The Fox River Trail is the perfect paved biking trail for the biking family: beautiful scenery and  lots of surprises along the way. We rode over a train bridge and passed this beautiful windmill as we made our way from St. Charles to Batavia. We stopped for lunch in downtown Batavia, then biked back to St. Charles. 

It was a gorgeous fall day, and as I promised Chiara, God had painted the leaves for all of us. 

We couldn't have asked for a more perfect autumn day. 
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