Friday, March 29, 2013

Homemade with Love

One of the best food bloggers out there has a book out: Homemade with Love features simple, scratch cooking from the blogger behind In Jennie's Kitchen.

This morning, my daughter and I baked Jennie Perillo's Fluffy Drop Biscuits: light and fluffy, and easy enough for a 3-year-old to make with a little help from mom, these biscuits were the perfect spring breakfast. We spread them with fresh butter and strawberry jam from the Polish store near our home

I can tell that Jennie is a busy working parent like all of us: the recipes in this book are easy, quick and feature ingredients that I can find at my local grocery store. I could make many of the recipes with items already in my pantry. And yet the emphasis is on from-scratch cooking: no processed ingredients required to make things fast and easy - the secret is in the simplicity of the recipes and the call for good quality, fresh ingredients. 

My mouth is watering over the photography and the recipes: I'm making this tonight (I *love* broccoli rabe!) and I'll be firing up our wafflemaker for these French toast waffles tomorrow (I have a feeling these will become a new family breakfast favorite). 

I promise: You'll become a dedicated In Jennie's Kitchen reader too after checking out her book and catching up with her blog. Homemade with Love celebrates family and sit-down from scratch meals that are easy peasy. Check it out today!
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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

#makesmesmilemondays Spring Break

I'm on spring break this week! Spending the first half of the week on the Isla Mujeres (Mexico) with my pals (celebrating my 40th birthday with the same mujeres that were with me on my 21st birthday!) and the second half hanging out with my kids in Chicago. Have a wonderful spring break!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Giving back made easy for Chicagoans during Spring Cleaning

It's that time of year! Time to declutter your home (and your life!) and start anew. Welcome Spring!

And here's a new iPhone app/web service that will help Chicagoans as they declutter during spring cleaning: Zealous Good makes it easy to donate your extra stuff to local charities that need it. 

ZealousGood.com, with its easy-to-use iPhone app, will help connect you to local and national charities that need all the things you no longer need. 

"I started Zealous Good about 2 years ago. We work with 200+ local Chicago charities and we have matched over $500,000 in donated items" explains Brittany Martin Graunke, founder and CEO of Zealous Good. 

I like that you can choose the charity that you'll gift your goods to, and you can also schedule a drop-off/pick-up that's convenient for you. It's a win/win spring situation - check it out!
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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Review: Swimming Lessons at Goldfish Swim School

My daughter - age 3 - has been taking swimming lessons at Chicago's newest swim school - Goldfish Swim School in Roscoe Village (Chicago). And boy oh boy does she LOVE her swimming lessons! I think her smile says it all:  

We are a very active family and in the summertime, we spend a lot of time at the pool and beach. My daughter has zero fear of the water: as far as she's concerned, she's been an Olympic ready swimmer since the day she was born. Being at the beach with her can be nerve-wrecking: she LOVES the water and loves venturing out into the deep. This past summer I made a mental note to myself: SWIMMING LESSONS!!! And so I was elated when Goldfish Swim School recently inaugurated a new location in Roscoe Village. 

On day one, my daughter was encouraged to jump right in and swim with a kickboard to a small "island", with the help of her outstanding instructor, Mr. Max. She loved playing with the water toys, and Mr. Max was encouraging, friendly, and had high expectations. By lesson two, she was wearing her goggles and dunking her head under the water (this is the one thing that she really didn't like to do - now it's no problem) and kicking her way with a kickboard the length of the pool (with help from Mr. Max). She was so proud to receive her "I conquered my fears with no tears" ribbon (each child is given a special ribbon at the completion of each lesson). 

Goldfish Swim School is dedicated entirely to indoor swim classes and programs for children 4 months and up. The pool area is colorful and fun, and the teachers are trained to work with even the littlest tots. I highly recommend Goldfish Swim School for kids of all ages and swim-levels.

Here are some of the Facility Features:

  • Year-round swim instruction for children 4 months and up.
  • Small class sizes. (Max 4:1 student to teacher ratio)
  • Two heated indoor swimming pools kept at 90 degrees. (Air temperature kept at 92 degrees!)
  • Experienced staff of Red Cross certified swim instructors.
  • Proud member of the United States Swim School Association.
  • State-of-the-art pool water purification system.
  • Air conditioned viewing gallery for parents to watch lessons.
  • Tropical decor.
  • Unique and educational teaching equipment.
  • Activity area for birthday parties and events. (i.e. Girl Scout parties, Sweet 16 parties, school year end parties)
  • Snack Bar and Pro Shop. (Perfect for that after lesson snack or fun pool toy!)

video


PS: I took my first Vine video at Goldfish Swim School yesterday (that's my son making the goofy face about halfway through). If you're on Vine, follow me! (amybizzarri)

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Disclosure: Goldfish swim schools offered us swimming lessons in exchange for this honest review. All opinions are my own

Monday, March 18, 2013

#makesmesmilemondays A Happy Birthday

Last night, after dinner, my son told me, in complete seriousness, that his cheeks were aching from smiling so much. 

I reminded him that cheek aches from smiling too much are the best kind of aches to have. I taught him how to press some pressure points in his jaw area. 

We celebrated his birthday on Saturday. 15 kids from all over the city descended upon our home for a grand celebration. I was reminded that it doesn't take much for a happy birthday party: the kids played "Zombie Tag" outdoors, then came inside to play pictionary. They worked together to create their own version of the Harlem Shake. They ate pizza. We all gathered around a homemade chocolate birthday cake and sang happy birthday. 

Friends + Family + a birthday cake blazing with 12 candles = 
Happiness (and a cheek ache from smiling too much) 



These kids really know how to dance!
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Monday, March 11, 2013

#makesmesmilemondays Breakfast in Montreal

This morning I am a. barely awake due to the time change, b. still hungry after a breakfast of plain yogurt, cherries and walnuts, and c. dreaming of breakfast in Montreal. The above picture was taken two weekends ago, at a cafe located inside the covered Jean-Talon Market. On the breakfast menu: chocolat chaud, cafe au lait, buttery and flaky croissants, fresh baguette, buttered and toasted, with a side of house raspberry jam.#bestbreakfastintheworld

Friday, March 8, 2013

TAKE ACTION: Help support protected bike lanes on Milwaukee Ave.!

Biking in Humboldt Park with Chiara in her bike seat
Summer 2012
Everyone knows I bike to work when I can and bike often all around the city, with my kids in tow. I'm counting down the days until spring is here and the snow is melted and the temperature decent enough for a bike ride. I can't wait!

Chicago will soon decide whether to install protected bike lanes on Milwaukee Avenue this spring between Elston and Kinzie, as the first stretch of safety improvements that will eventually extend all the way to Devon. I bike down Milwaukee Avenue on my way to work. By creating more order on an often chaotic and hazardous street, protected bike lanes would make Milwaukee Avenue safer for everyone, whether you are walking, biking or driving. Consolidating some parking may be required to create a safer street, and that's worth it. However, barrier-protected bike lanes could be left out of improvement plans as the city assesses how to use limited street space.

Please sign the petition at http://salsa3.salsalabs.com/o/50110/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=9521&tag=twitter telling Chicago city officials to install barrier-protected bike lanes on Milwaukee Avenue. 

Here are some facts: 
  • Milwaukee Avenue is the busiest biking street in Chicago -- more than 40% of traffic during rush hour is bikes. Intersections on Milwaukee at Chicago and North are the top two most dangerous intersections for bike crashes and are in need of safety improvements. 
  • New York City's barrier-protected bike lane on 9th Avenue led to a 56 percent reduction in injuries to all street users, including a 57 percent reduction in injuries to people on bikes and a 29 percent reduction in injuries to people walking, as well as an 84 percent reduction in sidewalk riding.
  • Bike-friendly streets are good for business. After construction of a protected bike lane on 9th Ave. in New York City, local businesses saw a 49 percent increase in retail sales. By comparison, local businesses throughout Manhattan only saw a 3 percent increase in retail sales.
Thanks for your support!


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Letter to a Dog Who Passed Over the Rainbow Bridge

Our dog Gizmo, like all dogs, is just filled with boundless
love for the members of our family. He really thinks
he is my natural born child!
My sister's dog died unexpectedly last weekend, causing a ripple effect of sadness through the entire family. My niece, Ashley, who is an excellent writer (she even is part of the Chicago Tribune's MASH staff!) shared this heartfelt letter to her dog, Daisy, with our family. Read it, and remember to give your pet some extra cuddles today.
______________________________________

Daisy,
Little did I know, Daisy would become my best friend. When we picked her up on that warm sunny day at her rescuer's house, she brought so much joy to our family. We had also brought with us her brother, Cooper. They were completely opposite looking: Cooper had brown, wiry hair and a long body with big floppy ears. Daisy was black with mostly white and she was really small. She was the spunkiest one in her litter and always wanted to play.
When we got home i held her in my arms and took her on a tour of our house. She was so small. It was a warm summer day and we sat on our back porch enjoying our new puppies as all of our friends came to greet the new editions. We loved them both so much, we weren't sure we could keep Cooper though because he would get too big and that was too much for our family. So Cooper found a great new loving family with a friend ferret.
Daisy was always the most loving dog ever. She would always kiss you when you would pet her and always just want to be held. All she wanted was to love and be loved. We would always sneak her food and even though we all agreed to stop, I think we all secretly gave her bits of meat anyways.
Every day when I would come home from school, especially when it was a rough day, I would always open the door and there would be a loving Daisy waiting for me. And even though her bark was really annoying at times and made all of us mad, we would give in and just hold her. I think that was all she secretly wanted. Just to be a part of the family.
She always would love to go on walks and when she pooped or peed, she would do a territorial shuffle and kick her tiny legs so fast that grass would fly up.
Somehow me and Daisy were close. I guess we were sisters, but when everyone was fighting and I had to get away, Daisy followed me. I was like her big sister. She looked at me when I was running and I had to stop and pet her. When I did sit ups she would kiss me whenever i would get close to the floor. She was a crazy little dog but we had an understanding. Somehow, someway we did. As i am writing this I am crying because I will always remember Daisy as a friend, not a pet. A best friend.
I love you Daisy, forever and always. 
Love,
Your sister/best friend,
Ashley

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Insieme a Chicago - Chicago's Italian Language School for Kids

I've written about Insieme a Chicago before, and I'm happy to share information on their upcoming spring programs: The new 8-week spring session begins on March 25th

Insieme a Chicago is an Italian cultural program for children from birth to 5 years old. “Insieme” is Italian for “together” and as the name implies “Insieme a Chicago”gathers Italians, Italian speakers and Italianophiles “together”, in a space specifically designed for their little ones. Children will enjoy playing age appropriate games, singing songs and lullabies, listening to storytelling and participating in fun activities with their peers in a 100% Italian environment enriched with authentic Italian materials.  

Director Barbara De Bernardi teaches kids Italian with a fun and creative
method that makes every child - even those that don't speak Italian
at home - feel welcome 
The “Insieme” children are divided into two age-based groups hosting a maximum of 8 students each: “Il Nido” for children 0 to 3 years old and “Il Volo” for children 3 to 5 years old. The program for the little ones is structured around the same fundamental learning topics and goals taught at Italian daycares; while “Il Volo” is based on the Italian Preschool Curriculum and Objectives.
 
The goal of Insieme a Chicago is to provide kids with a place to share their Italian heritage and/or our love for Italy. 

For more information, contact program director Barbara De Bernardi  at ba.debernardi@gmail.com; Phone: 312-451-6880 

Spring 2013 Class Schedule
8-week season:
March 25 thru May 13
Location: 3759 N. Ravenswood Ave, Suite 119  

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Monday, March 4, 2013

#makesmesmilemondays Dogsledding Adventure on île Sainte-Hélène

I was in Montreal this past weekend, where I experienced so many wonderful new adventures: I climbed, at night, to the top of Mont Royal with snowshoes and sipped hot cocoa while overlooking the stunning city skyline, I savored a cocktail in a chilly but glowing ice bar, I was swept away by the amazing public art and fun city vibe of the Montreal en Lumiere festival, and I delighted in fresh-from-the-oven croissants at the Jean Talon covered market. But the memory of beautiful Montreal that warms my heart the most is my dogsledding adventure on  île Sainte-Hélène . 

Dogsledding on  île Sainte-Hélène was one of those items that I never thought to have put on my bucket list but would have had I dreamed it possible. It wasn't easy staying on the sled, nor commandeering the playful pups. But it was nothing short of delightful to swiftly glide over the hills and through the woods of picturesque île Sainte-Hélène with these charming dogs. 
six dogs led the way
The dogs, too, adored running through the woods and prancing through the snow. We took a few roll-around-in-the-snow breaks. 


I learned all the French Canadian dogsledding lingo that there is to learn, mainly "En Avant, En Avant, Hip! Hip!" 


En avant!

The picture below is foggy from the chill, but that's me, gliding away on my dog sled, past the Tour de Lévis.

I wished I could have brought the dogs home with me in my suitcase!

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