Thursday, January 31, 2013

Disney on Ice at Chicago's United Center

This was my view last night at Disney on Ice at Chicago's United Center:

With my 3-year-old daughter on my lap, the scenes set by the amazing figure skaters were a bit obscured by pigtails. I wouldn't have had it any other way. 

This was our first trip to Disney on Ice, and I must say that I wasn't expecting it to be quite so enthralling. How do these skaters pull off all the flips, swirls and jumps wearing... a horse costume, or dressed as... Donald Duck? How do they do it!? 

Chiara just followed along with the songs and stories. She was just tickled pink. When Mickey swooped to the front of the ice stage, she just giggled and smiled and could hardly contain herself! I had just as much fun watching her as I did the show.

Disney on Ice Rockin' Ever After is now on ice at the United Center. To order tickets - head on over to http://disney.go.com/disneyonice/ and be sure to follow Disney on Ice on Facebook!




Tuesday, January 29, 2013

My Current Obsession: Michael Glawogger's Trilogy on Globalization

A sulfur carrier in Ijen, Indonesia featured in Workingman's Death
The next time you feel compelled to complain about your job, check out Workingman's Death by Michael Glawogger, a film composed of five stories documenting the hazardous working conditions of hard laborers around the world. Part of his trilogy exploring globalization, Workingman's Death is riveting. It's not available on iTunes and  it's not available on Netflix, but it is available on Al Jazeera. Go figure. Go check it out.

Whore's Glory, yet another film in the Glawogger globalization trilogy, is equally riveting. A triptych depicting the intimate realities of prostitution in three different places around the world, I found myself wanting to reach into my screen to pull these women out of their misery. I was inspired by their dignity. I was also touched by the theme song, Where we meet (video link is NSFW...), a poem by Maike Rosa Vogel. 

I'm hoping to carve out a couple of hours this week to watch the remaining film in the trilogy: Megacities (available on iTunes). 

My name is Amy, and I'm a documentary junkie. Got any recommendations?



Monday, January 28, 2013

There's a new fish in town! Goldfish Swim School #Swim #Chicago

There's new swim school in town...and we can't wait to check it out!

My son, age 11, is an awesome swimmer. This past summer, he even began Jr. Lifeguard training on the beach! 

My daughter, however, *thinks* she is an awesome swimmer. She has zero fear of water. As far as Chiara is concerned, she's a professional, Olympics-worthy swimmer. Give her a surfboard and she'd try her best to paddle her way out into the Pacific, or some scuba gear and she'd try her best to outfit herself and dive in. I find this both wonderful and scary - as I am thrilled that she loves water (as do I!) but at the same time, every time we go to the beach I have to watch her like a hawk. If I turn my eye for one moment, she will venture as far as she can out into the lake, or she'd jump right into the pool's deep end.

So I am *thrilled* to know that Goldfish Swim School is opening in Roscoe Village. On February 9th, they'll be hosting their grand opening party. Check it out! 



































Grand Opening Event: 
What: Goldfish Swim School Grand Opening
When: February 9, 2013 from 1:30-5:30 p.m.
Where: Goldfish Swim School, 2630 W. Bradley Road, Chicago
Details: Grab your suits and towels and join us for a swim at our FREE Grand Opening Party!  Enjoy complimentary snacks and entertainment as you check out our brand new, state-of-the-art indoor swim facility. We ask that families limit their swim to half an hour to allow for all guests to have a chance in the pool.
Website: https://www.facebook.com/events/411252025629869/



#makesmesmilemondays The Magnificents

Last night the kids and I went to see The Magnificents at the House Theatre.

This show brought us back to the Golden Age of Magic, when Chicago played host to some of the most magnificent magicians ever. Focusing on a ragtag family of sideshow performers with an aging elder who needs to pass on his secrets (and quick!), The Magnificents kept us all mesmerized throughout. We loved witnessing Robert Houdin's blooming orange tree illusion, and the intimate atmosphere of the Chopin Theatre always fits so well with the House Theatre's productions.

Though this play is suggested for ages 5+, it was appropriate for my daughter, age 3, who was simply thrilled by all the magic tricks. She sat like a perfectly perfect theatre-going young lady throughout, clapping when appropriate and following along with the story. My son and his friend Jaleel had to sit apart from us, in the section directly across, and every once in awhile I would look over at them - they looked like two little grown-ups, too - enthralled by the show (and trying to figure out the tricks behind the magic tricks).

I can't even tell you how much it makes me smile, this grey Monday morning: I am so thankful to have the opportunity to enjoy the magic of live theatre with my children!
Besides looking exactly like I did when I was her age, Chiara
enjoys dressing up just as much as she enjoys playing with plastic
lizards like these ones that she found on display at the Chopin Theatre.
Like mother like daughter! She truly is my mini-me! Ahh!



Saturday, January 26, 2013

Do you remember watching Schoolhouse Rock on Saturday mornings when you were a little kid?

Do you remember watching Schoolhouse Rock on Saturday mornings when you were a little kid?

I'm trying to work on numbers with my daughter, and suddenly last night I remembered one of my favorite Schoolhouse Rocks episodes: 

and then, quite perfectly, the next episode that appeared on youtube was just right for my 3-year-old:



Then of course I had to share some of the American History and Politics clips with my 11-year-old who just studied this in school:


Check out Schoolhouse Rocks on Youtube the next time you need help explaining a complicated concept to your kids. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Shot@Life: Join me as voice my support for global immunization programs

Did you know that one child dies every 20 seconds from a disease that could be prevented with a vaccine

Did you know that 1.5 million children die every year by vaccine-preventable diseases like pneumonia, diarrhea, measles and polio

Why?

Because one in five children lack access to the life-saving immunizations that keep children healthy.


I am so happy to announce that I have been selected as a 2013 Shot@Life delegate! The UN Foundation's Shot@Life Campaign educates, connects and empowers Americans to champion vaccines as one of the most cost-effective ways to save the lives of children in developing countries. Together, we can decrease vaccine-preventable childhood deaths and give every child a shot at a healthy life.  

I will be attending the 2013 Champion Summit, February 10 – 12, in Washington, DC. With fundraising, advocacy and media training, I hope to walk away with plans for taking simple, yet impactful steps toward reducing the mortality rate of children under five by 2015 by helping to give every child a shot at a healthy life. 

Earlier this year, I was thinking of ways to give back as I turn the big 4-0 (on March 19!). I put a prayer out to God and His answer was the invitation to the Champion Summit in my inbox. I view Shot@Life as my chance to give back just a little bit - for all the blessings that I've been gifted with these past 40 years on Planet Earth. I'll look forward to giving gifts on my 40th birthday rather than receiving. 

Check out the Shot@Life blog and join me as voice my support for global immunization programs

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Shot@Life: Join me as voice my support for global immunization programs

Did you know that one child dies every 20 seconds from a disease that could be prevented with a vaccine

Did you know that 1.5 million children die every year by vaccine-preventable diseases like pneumonia, diarrhea, measles and polio

Why?

Because one in five children lack access to the life-saving immunizations that keep children healthy.


I am so happy to announce that I have been selected as a 2013 Shot@Life delegate! The UN Foundation's Shot@Life Campaign educates, connects and empowers Americans to champion vaccines as one of the most cost-effective ways to save the lives of children in developing countries. Together, we can decrease vaccine-preventable childhood deaths and give every child a shot at a healthy life.  

I will be attending the 2013 Champion Summit, February 10 – 12, in Washington, DC. With fundraising, advocacy and media training, I hope to walk away with plans for taking simple, yet impactful steps toward reducing the mortality rate of children under five by 2015 by helping to give every child a shot at a healthy life. 

Earlier this year, I was thinking of ways to give back as I turn the big 4-0 (on March 19!). I put a prayer out to God and His answer was the invitation to the Champion Summit in my inbox. I view Shot@Life as my chance to give back just a little bit - for all the blessings that I've been gifted with these past 40 years on Planet Earth. I'll look forward to giving gifts on my 40th birthday rather than receiving. 

Check out the Shot@Life blog and join me as voice my support for global immunization programs

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

My Winter Morning Tea Ritual

Every winter morning begins with tea for me. And not just any tea. I adore tea, and you'll likely catch me with a tea cup in my hand at any moment of the day.

Morning begins with black tea - very black tea - for my proper dose of caffeine. I use a Turkish tea kettle, which perfectly brews up one cup of darker than dark black Turkish tea just for me, which I strain with a stainless steel strainer.

My Turkish tea kettle, tea, strainer, and cup of tea! 
I use two teaspoons of loose leaf black tea (Cay Cicegi) and 1 teaspoon of the Middle East Bakery and Grocery's Chai loose leaf tea blend.


I don't add sweetener to my tea - just milk (soy, rice or cow's milk works).

It's my favorite way to start the day in the winter!

Have you been to the Middle East Bakery and Grocery in Andersonville? You can find my tea kettle there, as well as an amazing selection of custom, affordable tea blends. And don't forget the hearth baked pitas, spice blends, fresh yogurt, nuts, cheeses and of course, sweets to go with your tea.

Middle East Baker and Grocery
http://middleeastbakeryandgrocery.com
1512 West Foster
773/561-2224
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Monday, January 14, 2013

#makesmesmilemondays An afternoon date with my son, in our neighborhood #LoganSquare

On Saturday, I was car-less and daughter-less, so I grabbed my favorite 11-year-old son and we hit the streets of our neighborhood for an afternoon date.


I wanted to check out the wood-fired bagels at Reno - but I was also cash-less and ATM card-less, so I tried to convince Daniel to agree to lula cafe even though his lunch vote, as always, was for Johnny's Grill. Well, Daniel was in luck as there was a 45 minute wait for lula, so we headed back next door and took a counter seat at Daniel's favorite, Johnny's Grill
Johnny's Grill was appropriately featured in an Edward Hopper
retrospective at the Art Institute ad campaign

I always feel like I'm stepping back in time when I step into Johnny's Grill. We love sitting at the counter and watching as our food is prepared on the griddle. I love the homemade hashbrowns and omelets here; Daniel loves the chocolate chip pancakes, which he ordered, for lunch, with a side of bacon and hashbrowns (pretty much Daniel's idea of a perfect lunch). 

Then we walked over to the newly restored Logan Theatre, where a 2pm screening of Argo cost $10 for the both of us. I went into Argo clueless - I had no idea really what the movie was about - and left speechless. Based on the Canadian Caper that took place during the Iran hostage crisis, Argo kept me on the edge of my seat. Daniel enjoyed it, too, and we discussed the movie our entire walk home. (It's rated R, for language and violence related to war/terrorism, but I felt that my son could handle it).

On our way home, I wanted to stop at our newest independent bookstore, but we ducked into our local library instead.


The Logan Theatre
It was appropriate that I caught an article on twitter that same day about the resurgence of Logan Square. It's true - there is so much to see and do in Logan Square, with everything in walking distance and lots of affordable options, too (My afternoon date with Daniel cost less than $25, including lunch and a movie). If you haven't yet ventured out to our neck of the woods, check it out

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Bookmark Treat for Young Readers

Yesterday my son competed in the CPS Battle of the Books, and I wanted to bring a little treat for his classroom, to celebrate his team's win. I thought about cupcakes, but as a teacher myself, I know that the last thing I want is for my students to be sugaring up in the classroom. So...I picked up some free bookmarks (always available at your local library - and luckily they had these fun Garfield ones on hand), and I made a pit stop at the local Polish grocer, where I found milk chocolate covered and milk filled cookie bars (healthier than a standard candy bar, less calories and smaller in size). At home, I used double-sided tape and taped the bookmark to the chocolate bar. Voila' - a sweet treat to celebrate reading!

P.S.: The Battle of the Books website is a great resource if you're looking for grade-level appropriate book recommendations.


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The *Easiest* Way to Resolve to Add More Fruits and Veggies to Your Diet in 2013 - Organic Produce Delivery Service!

We eat a lot of fruits and veggies in our home, thanks to an amazing and affordable organic fruit and veggie service that I rely upon week after week. It saves our family time, money, and most importantly, guarantees that we all get our fill of fruit and veggies.

Every Thursday morning, we receive a huge haul of fresh, organic fruits and veggies, packed in a convenient, large box, right at our front door. Here was our haul this week:

The fruit in this weeks haul: Cantaloupe, Apples, Grapefruit, Fuji Apples, Bananas, and a Pomelo.

Since the in-season produce varies, we are constantly sampling uncommon fruits and veggies, in addition to our old favorites. This weeks box contained a pomelo - not a fruit that I'd normally buy and I loved it! The kids look forward to seeing "What's in the box?" every Thursday, too. (Nothing like seeing your kids excited about fruits and veggies!).  

The veggies in this weeks delivery: Beets, Kale, Collars, Radishes, Dandelion Greens,  Cauliflower, Heirloom Carrots,  Celery, Broccoli, and a Green Pepper.
The cost for our big, weekly haul of organic produce, including delivery, is just $40. If I were to purchase the same amount of produce at my local grocery store or Whole Foods - the amount would be twice that and the quality would not be nearly as high.

We also opt to include a delivery of fresh, organic milk and eggs. So there are always enough ingredients to make something quick, easy and healthy to eat: a veggie soup, an omelet, or a fruit compote. We very rarely eat out.

As, a super-busy working mom, I don't always have the time (or the desire) to haul myself or the kids to the grocery store on a bi-weekly (or even weekly) basis for a large-scale shop. But once every three weeks or so, I will head to the grocery store to stock up on staples; we keep a well-stocked pantry. Whenever the kids are hungry, I can always tell them to grab an apple, pear, orange, banana, or whatever delicious fresh fruit we happen to have on hand that week.

I, too, get my fill of fresh fruit and veggies. I make a point of taking two fruits with me every day for a snack at work. I pack my own lunch, every day, too. Today's lunch: baked eggplant and a side of fresh kale sauteed in garlic, with two pears for dessert.

I urge you to give our organic produce delivery service a try! You can call Timber Creek Organics, based in Yorkville, IL  at 630-553-1119, email manager Valerie at valerie@tcforganics.net or visit them on the web at tcforganics.net, where you'll be able to view their entire catalog of produce box choices.

Mention that you were referred by TIRAMISU and you'll be extended a special Timber Creek treat - the "Pineapple of Friendship", with your first order.






Disclosure: Timber Creek Farm offers a small referral program discount for subscribers. You too can spread the word for a small discount on your weekly order! Contact valerie@tcforganics.net

Our Family Met a 2012 Resolution: We ditched Cable TV and our Phone Landline

We cut out a huge expense earlier in 2012 when we ditched our cable tv plan and phone landline.

We so rarely used our landline. In fact, the only people who ever called us on our landline were telemarketers. I kept the landline in case of emergency, thinking, what if there were an emergency and my cell phone was not charged up/I couldn't find it? But since my smartphone is my lifeline, it is always charged and always nearby. Likewise, my son, age 11, has a cell phone because coordinating his afterschool activities, pick-ups and drop-offs was becoming difficult, and he's even more responsible than me when it comes to keeping it well-charged. There is always a cellphone charged and ready to go in our home. So... I cancelled our landline plan, and we haven't missed it one bit.

Then I slowly began to realize that our family no longer watches tv. We do have one tv in our home, but no one was ever watching it. We prefer to catch our favorite shows online, and have a $7.99/month Netflix streaming plan for watching movies, but I'm even pondering canceling that, as most everything we watch nowadays is available online for free or can be downloaded on iTunes. 

My daughter, age 3, has pretty much grown up tv-free. She might watch one Scholastic Story short DVD, or catch a Donald Duck cartoon from youtube, but she is never glued to a tv or a computer. I try to have her watch her cartoons in her second language (Italian). But tv is not background noise in her life, and there is no tv in our main living or her main play areas to flip on in case of boredom. 

Though I am an extreme Downton Abbey, Mad Men, and Call the Midwife fan, other than the Grantham and Crawley families, Don Draper, and the midwives of Nonnatus House, I don't like watching other people live their lives on tv. I'd rather live my life (there's enough drama!) and enjoy watching my own family. This might sound smug - check out this hilarious take on giving up tv here - but it's true for me! And more importantly, I'd like my kids to enjoy their real lives more than the lives of other on screen. 

Has your family cut out cable? a landline? How has your experience been?


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Disney on Ice: Rocking Ever After - Discount Promo Code for up to 40%!

Are you ready to rock out with your favorite Disney characters?

Disney on Ice Rockin' Ever After is about to hit the stage in Chicagoland! Now is your chance to catch sharp-shooting Merida in action, to witness Sebastian as he busts out of his shell, and to admire the handsome Beast as he struts his stuff - all on ice! Rockin' Ever After is a talent show - so come prepared to see Mickey and his friends compete in fun sing-alongs, too. 



My daughter, age 3, loves all things Disney, especially Mickey and Minnie Mouse. This will be her first Disney on Ice experience, and I know she'll be thrilled to see all her favorite cartoon characters come to life!

Here's a code to save 40% on all weekday shows and 20% on all weekend shows: Just enter MOM as you checkout. And PARKING IS FREE in all official Allstate Arena and United Center parking lots. Visit the arena websites more more info. Opening night tickets on Weds., Jan. 23 at 7 pm at Allstate Arena and Weds., Jan. 30 at 7 pm at United Center are just $12!

To order tickets - head on over to http://disney.go.com/disneyonice/ and be sure to follow Disney on Ice on Facebook!
Disclosure: Special thanks to Feld Entertainment for sponsoring this post!


Monday, January 7, 2013

#makemesmilemondays A Delightful, Much-Needed Date with My Girlfriends

Do you remember the last time you whiled away an entire day with your girlfriends? Without your kids in tow?

Honestly, before Saturday I would have been hard-pressed to remember the last time I spent an entire day hanging out with my pals without a kid or two or three  bumbling around beside us. But on Saturday, there was reason to celebrate: We held a "sprinkle" - not a full-blown shower because this is her third baby - but rather, a light rain shower, a.k.a. a sprinkle, for Melissa.

We started out with mani/pedis over mimosas and cucumber sandwiches, and moved on to lunch at a new-to-me Irish gastropub in Andersonville - Lady Gregory. With its warm, wood paneling, its cozy fireplace and library, we watched the snow fall outside the window and chatted the afternoon away over tea and then a perfect-for-winter lunch: potpies and sandwich melts, then a giant apple crumble with five spoons for sharing.
Lady Gregory's in Andersonville
It is so refreshing - catching up with girlfriends, isn't it? We all agreed that we'd make it a quarterly date, at least.

I am so thankful for my friends, near and far, and I find myself both craving and appreciating wholeheartedly their company as time goes by.


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

My years-ago visit to the Moorfields Eye Hospital and wandering back to my old home via Google Earth

I was watching an episode of Downton Abbey last week, and a scene brought me back to a place and time over ten years ago, when I lived in London. 

In the scene, the abbey housecook, Mrs. Patmore, close to blindness and unable to manage her kitchen duties, is sent off to Moorfields Eye Hospital for cataract surgery. 
Poor Mrs. Patmore 
I lived in London for two years, and my son son was born there. When Daniel was about three months old, he was sleeping nestled in bed with us in wee hours of the morning, when he started to whimper. His father groggily turned to reach for him and instead poked me in the eye and scratched my cornea with his fingernail. I was instantly startled awake from my half-hearted slumber with searing pain. And having never scratched my cornea before, I did everything I shouldn't have to soothe the terrible pain. I tried rubbing my eyes, then tried rinsing them with water, placed a wet, warm facecloth over them. I tried everything, but the pain only worsened, so it was off to the emergency room. There the doctor diagnosed me with a corneal abrasion that I'd only worsened with all my desperate eye-rubbing. He gave me immediate relief with eye drops that numbed the pain, an effect that would soon wear off, oral pain meds, and then sent me off to Moorfields Eye Hospital.

I don't remember much from that point forward, as the pain meds set in and the three of us hopped into a taxi. Foolish young mom me had forgotten my breast pump and soon my breasts were filled to the brims with pain med tainted milk, and my baby boy was stuck abruptly switching to formula. I remember being in the waiting room of this relatively ancient hospital (founded in 1805) and feeling pity for not only myself but also the tens of others waiting to be treated for a dizzying array of eye afflictions. Some people were crying, others moaning. Some wore eye patches; others had heads completely wrapped in bandages. I felt like I'd been transported back to the days of Charles Dickens.

I felt nostalgic now thinking of this incident, and curious. So I wandered over to Google Earth, because I can't quite go back and wander to my old London neighborhood so easily. There it was, my old home on Vicarage Road, where I brought home my bumbling baby boy almost 12 years ago.


A visit to my London home of long ago via Google Earth
Our bed, with the pink velveteen headboard, the site of the infamous eye abrasion incident, was located just next to that large first floor window.
Baby Daniel with a stoic British expression on his sweet face

It was fun showing this to Daniel  - the window where he caught his sunbeam of light from, the spot where I parked his buggy. I scrolled up and down the streets, visiting once again the stop where I'd catch the double decker bus, the bakery where I bought buns, the corner store where I bought pints of Haagen-Daaz dark chocolate ice cream when I was pregnant with my firstborn.
The High Road in our east London neighborhood: Leyton

In Green Park with my bumbling baby boy
I am thankful that I am now able to tell the eye abrasion story and laugh about it. If someone had whispered into my ear while I was in the Moorfields Eye Hospital waiting room, a diaper stuffed into my soaked nursing bra and crying from eye pain, that someday I'd laugh about this incident, I'd never have believed them.

Some places that I remember from my London neighborhood no longer exist, others have morphed into new businesses. We often forget to take pictures of the scenes of daily life, choosing to focus on big events and holidays. I'm going to make a point this year of capturing more of the small places and things that fill up our daily lives with joy and a sense of home.
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