Friday, January 31, 2014

#spon National Girl Scout Cookie Weekend - February 7-8! #CookieBoss

Disclosure: I am being compensated by GSUSA for my participation in this campaign. I am a part of the Mom It Forward Blogger Network. As always all opinions are my own. 


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It's that time of year again! National Girl Scouts Cookie Weekend! February 7-8 is your weekend to celebrate all things Girl Scout Cookies!

L    Let's admit it:There is nothing quite like curling up with a good book, a box of Thin Mints, and a big glass of milk. Heaven! And Samoas...oh don't even get me started on a box of Samoas because I will finish them all on my own! 

Some of my fondest memories as a little girl are related to my time as a Girl Scout. Girl Scouting fostered both my friendships and my sense of adventure. My first full week away from home was spent at a Girl Scout camp, where my budding independence and love for the great outdoors were born, at age 11. I just loved meeting up with my friends afterschool, wearing my Girl Scout uniform and proudly showing off my hard-earned badges. I was a Girl Scout throughout elementary and middle school. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

On Raising a Son That Knows How to Cook

One of the many quotes that struck me as I recently read Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg was this:


As women must be more empowered at work, 
men must be more empowered at home. 



As the working mother of a 12-year-old son, I feel that is my responsibility to make sure that he knows how to cook and clean a house. I also think it's important to have an ongoing discussion with him about work/life balance. I remind my son that he will need to contribute 50/50 to his household if he decides to get married, and especially if he plans on having children of his own someday.

I've expected him to contribute to household chores and cooking since he was even a toddler. His first job was to put the soap tab in the dishwasher. Now he is in charge of cleaning the bathrooms, taking out the trash, emptying the dishwasher, folding his laundry, and bringing the laundry to the basement, in addition to keeping his room tidy. He is also expected to cook 1-2 meals per week.

When Daniel was little he often trailed behind his father or I in the kitchen, wanting to be helpful but making more of a mess than anything. But I always reminded myself to be patient with him, to pull up the chair so he could help roll out the dough beside me, to ask him to add a dash of this and a dash of that, to encourage him to mix the salad with his hands, shake the salad dressing, stir the soup, cut the veggies. His favorite job was always pushing the button on the blender or the food processor.

It takes time and patience to teach a little kid to cook - but it pays off! This week alone my son made a fantastic deep dish pizza, enjoyed by our entire family (he makes perfect pizza dough from scratch!), and last night he made black beans and rice and a fresh cilantro crema frescathat he rolled into burritos. And every time I eat a delicious meal prepared by my son, I savor more than anything the fact that I can sit back and enjoy and confidently know that he has the skills to feed his own family someday with some healthy, cooking from scratch.


My son teaching his best friend how to roll out pasta dough. 

It's so important that we talk about work/life balance with not only our girls but also our boys. So if you have a little guy at home, even a bumbling toddler, drag him into the kitchen with you and teach him to cook by your side. One day he'll be setting the table and setting out dinner for you, and even farther into the future, he'll be cooking dinner for your grandkids!

#makesmesmilemondays Twins, Separated by a Few Decades

Looking at this picture, can't help but to think that my daughter, Chiara, and I really are twins separated by a few decades.The wispy blonde hair that won't stay put in a braid let alone a ponytail, the sundress with gymshoes, bruised and scraped legs and knees from running around - who knew that those traits could be genetically passed down, too.
Me, with a broken arm, about age 5

We both have the same fighting spirit and the same love of girly things with a little dose of tomboy. 

My daughter, age 4

I'm pretty certain we would have been best friends had we met at the same age and space in time. 


#PolarVortex2014 Part 2

A few weeks ago, we were holed up at home, held captive by #PolarVortex2014 Part 1. And here we go again, Part 2. We've had FOUR days off of school this winter, a new record for a school district that only calls of school due to very dire weather events. As I write, at 10:36 a.m., the temperature here in Chicago is -6!

But it's warm and cozy in our home. And my daughter has set up the best spot in the home, a tuffet on the radiator, where she is working on crafts in the sunshine. Smart girl! Our dog, Gizmo, is looking out for her, making sure no rogue squirrels wander onto our property.


Here's what I made for breakfast this morning: pancakes, leftover from yesterday, that I transformed into bunny heads, spread with Nutella, and decorated with Cherrios, accompanied by bananas spread with peanut butter. We are thinking Spring!


As always, our thoughts and prayers are with everyone working out in this cold weather today. Stay safe and stay warm and think spring!
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A Fun Twist on Breakfast: Nutella Bunny Pancakes #Target #BreakfastTwist #spon #PlatefullCoop


Disclosure:
 The information and prize pack have been provided by General Mills through Platefull Co-Op.


Breakfast is such an important part of the day. But in our family, it's usually rushed and hectic. I need to always keep a variety of tried and true breakfast items on hand, so I can quickly and easily prep a breakfast before we all head out the door and begin our busy days. 

Introducing new Dark Chocolate Multigrain Cheerios®! #spon #cheerios #PlatefullCoOp


Disclosure: The information and prize pack have been provided by General Mills through Platefull Co-Op.

Just this past week, in the midst of the polar vortex, a delightful box of Dark Chocolate Multigrain Cheerios® was sent my way. I love dark chocolate, and I love Cheerios®, so this new cereal was a hit with this mom!

Smarter Driving with Zubie #spon

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Zubie for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.


Driving is a major stressor in my life these days: between the snow, the traffic, and the mess my kids tend to create in the backseat, I'm a frazzled driver. Here's a new device that makes driving easeir: Zubie.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

On Raising a Son That Knows How to Cook

One of the many quotes that struck me as I recently read Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg was this:


As women must be more empowered at work, 
men must be more empowered at home. 



As the working mother of a 12-year-old son, I feel that is my responsibility to make sure that he knows how to cook and clean a house. I also think it's important to have an ongoing discussion with him about work/life balance. I remind my son that he will need to contribute 50/50 to his household if he decides to get married, and especially if he plans on having children of his own someday.

I've expected him to contribute to household chores and cooking since he was even a toddler. His first job was to put the soap tab in the dishwasher. Now he is in charge of cleaning the bathrooms, taking out the trash, emptying the dishwasher, folding his laundry, and bringing the laundry to the basement, in addition to keeping his room tidy. He is also expected to cook 1-2 meals per week.

When Daniel was little he often trailed behind his father or I in the kitchen, wanting to be helpful but making more of a mess than anything. But I always reminded myself to be patient with him, to pull up the chair so he could help roll out the dough beside me, to ask him to add a dash of this and a dash of that, to encourage him to mix the salad with his hands, shake the salad dressing, stir the soup, cut the veggies. His favorite job was always pushing the button on the blender or the food processor.

It takes time and patience to teach a little kid to cook - but it pays off! This week alone my son made a fantastic deep dish pizza, enjoyed by our entire family (he makes perfect pizza dough from scratch!), and last night he made black beans and rice and a fresh cilantro crema fresca that he rolled into burritos. And every time I eat a delicious meal prepared by my son, I savor more than anything the fact that I can sit back and enjoy and confidently know that he has the skills to feed his own family someday with some healthy, cooking from scratch.


My son teaching his best friend how to roll out pasta dough. 

It's so important that we talk about work/life balance with not only our girls but also our boys. So if you have a little guy at home, even a bumbling toddler, drag him into the kitchen with you and teach him to cook by your side. One day he'll be setting the table and setting out dinner for you, and even farther into the future, he'll be cooking dinner for your grandkids!


Winter Safety Driving Tips: What You Need to Keep in Your Trunk in Case You Find Yourself Stranded

File:CIMG2044GS-VIE-Schneepflug.JPGIs your trunk filled with the right supplies in case you're stranded in the snow and cold?


A urvey by State Farm® and KRC Research, found:
  • Two-thirds of drivers (67 percent) had some sort of “junk” (non-emergency supplies) in their trunk ranging from shoes to toys to used food or drink containers.
  • While nearly all drivers (96 percent) had at least one emergency item in their vehicle, such as a spare tire or jumper cables, a mere five percent carried all the necessary emergency roadside equipment necessary in case you're stranded in the snow and cold.

Here's a checklist of what you should always keep in your trunk in case of emergency:

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Cheers to All the Working Moms



Yesterday was one of those days when I wondered how I do it. Between work, a committment downtown in the afternoon, and cooking dinner together with the kids, I also served as a homework advisor, cupcake deliverer (to my son's band class), school drop-offer and picker-upper, lunch packer, and cooking instructor. I also served as videographer, as my son needed to prepare a 10-minute video for a projects so not only did we work on that but I also had to teach myself how to use iMovie (which is a good thing because sooner or later I needed to grasp this tool). I almost lost it at one point in the afternoon, but I managed to brace myself and pick myself up and return home with a smile on my face. By the time I put the kids to bed and caught up on a bit of writing and blogging, do I even need to mention that I was exhausted? I pretty much passed out into bed.

One of my SAHM friends on facebook shared this graphic yesterday:



And of course I wanted to respond: Um, I'm a working mom and I do all those things, too. Minus the daycare: I work full time and take care of high school aged kids (and I really do feel like more than a mom than a teacher to them so many times throughout the day). If I were truly compensated for everything I do, I'd be a millionaire for sure!

I'm not complaining, I just want to say that being a working mom is one the hardest things ever. And I am not dissing stay-at-home moms either: I don't work in the summer so technically I'm a SAHM in the summertime (but if I compare it to working mom-hood, being a SAHM, for me at least, is a walk in the park compared to being a working mom).

This is a pep talk not just for you, my fellow working mom, but also for me: Let's just take it day by day, remembering that one day the kids will be grown and flown away from the coop and we'll miss these crazy days. They will pay off. Our sons and our daughters will value our contributions to our families and to our communities and to our world. Our daughters will know that they have choices - that they can both work and have a family (and hopefully there will be better supports in place by the time they are in our place). Our sons will know that they will have to stand up and support their partners 100% when they have families of their own someday. Let's remind ourselves that getting things done is more important than getting things done perfectly.

Let's make a point to pat another working mom on the back today and tell her: "You're doing a good job." Let's put our feet up at the end of the day and raise a glass (of chamomile tea) to toast a job well done for ourselves today. And let's try our best to support one another a bit more.

Cheers to you, my fellow working mom. It has to get easier, right? Here's to an awesome day, at work, and at home.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Our Family's Learn to Ski Adventure

This post originally appeared on ChicagoParent.com, where I am a contributing blogger.


One of my parenting goals has always been to give my kids the chance to try out as many sports and activities as possible. I also truly believe that some things are best learned young - and on the top of that list is skiing. So our family set off on a learning to ski adventure to The Mountain Top at Lake Geneva, Wis., determined to conquer the slopes, or at least the bunny hill.
The MountainTop at Lake Geneva's Grand Geneva Reort

Located less than two hours from Chicago, Lake Geneva is a favorite summer escape for many Chicago families. But even in the winter, there is so much to see and do. The Mountain Top, located at the Grand Geneva Resort, is the area's premier skiing destination. With over 30 acres and 18 runs, three chairlifts and two wonder carpets, this mini-ski resort proved to be the perfect spot to hone our family's developing ski skills.

Even the youngest skiers are welcomed with open arms at The Mountain Top and my four-year-old daughter really put her sassy and sporty attitude to the test. She was overjoyed to try on a pair of ski's, learn some basic skills at the base, hop on a magic carpet for a ride up the bunny hill, and finally, take her first few runs downhill in ski's. Her professional ski instructor, Emily, remarked that she too learned at age four.
My daughter, age 4, practicing for the 2022 Winter Olympics 
"Our resort is great for families because the Snowsports area has terrain for all levels of skiers and snowboarders, yet is small enough that families can easily get together to meet for lunch or dinner," explained Hans Hauschild, the Snowsports Area Director of Grand Geneva.
"Additionally the Snowsports school is very kid friendly and has instructors that have specialized training for teaching children. Our Snowsports school can accommodate children from age four and up in our teaching programs."

We opted for private ski lessons for my daughter but The Mountain Top also offers a Snow Cubs program designed to introduce children ages four to six to skiing in a group setting, too. Snow Cubs classes are available Sat-Sun at 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., lasting an hour and a half. Reservations can be made two weeks in advance and single sessions are available.

Indeed the no-fear attitude of many preschoolers seems to make the learning process easier. At age 40, I've got the fear of falling and breaking a leg, literally, in my bones. I tried skiing at age 15 and failed miserably. I had a terrible fall and injured myself on my first attempt. I have been to some of the most beautiful ski resorts in the world but I was always stuck watching everyone else have fun on the slopes. Hence my vow to teach my kids to ski early. That said, I promised myself that I'd give it one more go too.

My ski instructor, Keith, was amazingly patient and explained the skills in an easy-to-understand manner. Before I knew it, in less than one hour, I was making my "pizza slice" to stop, effectively turning left and right down the bunny hill, and making my way down the hill . . . without falling flat on my behind.

My 12-year-old son enjoyed a ski lesson with Keith, too. Again the one-on-one lesson was worthwhile in that my son was able to focus and progress quickly and confidently. He graduated from the beginner bunny hill and was able to ski down the more advanced bunny hill without a hitch by the end of his lesson. Two or three more lessons and he'll be ready to hop on a chair lift and ski bigger slopes.
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You Gotta Try #StonyfieldGreek! - Plus: A Life Experience That I Can't Wait to Try: Becoming an Urban Gardener

Disclosure: I'm a Stonyfield Yo-Getter, so I received some product samples in exchange for this post. All opinions are my own. 


Life Experiences That I Can't Wait to Try! 

Stonyfield recently encouraged me to share some life experiences that I can't wait to try, as part of their "You Gotta Try #StonyfieldGreek" campaign. As a lover of adventure, and as a woman who has always taken even her wildest dreams seriously, this was a fun challenge to consider! 

In 2014, I want to try my hand at urban gardening! 

My goal is to transform our small city backyard into an oasis of vegetables! I want to be able to step into my garden and be able to pick all the vegetables I need for a healthy summer salad. 

File:Lettuces in Hyde Hall Vegetable Garden.JPG
My Goal for 2014: Lettuce on Demand

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Extreme (Fairy) Home Makeover: The Colleen Moore Fairy Castle Restoration at the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago

This article of mine originally appeared at ChooseChicago.com, where I am a contributor. 


As a little girl, I adored visiting Colleen Moore's Fairy Castle at the Musuem of Science and Industry. It's simply the most fantastic dollhouse ever; built in 1928 by silent film star Colleen Moore, this home for dolls features an interior designed by famed Hollywood art director Harold Grieve. It's been a featured exhibit at MSI since the early 1950s, and now it's undergoing an extreme (fairy) home makeover - and visitors are invited to watch! From now through mid-February, this conservation is open to museum visitors, giving everyone a chance to see this beloved museum icon in an entirely new way.

I recently visited with my children, who were amazed to see all the miniature furniture pieces and accents; I was delighted to have a better view of the mini objets d'art that are usually nestled in their positions in the castle. When you visit, here's a little more background on what you need to know. 

Colleen Moore was a Hollywood silent film star during the 1920s with a passion for miniatures and doll houses. In 1928, she hired architect and set designer Horace Jackson to create the floor plan and layout for her dream doll house, while art director and interior designer Harold Grieve, who had redesigned Colleen Moore's mansion, was hired to create elaborate interiors. Over 100 people worked on the Fairy Castle until its completion in 1935. 

Moore, not only an actress but also a savvy business woman, organized a national tour of the Fairy Castle to raise money for children's charities. The delightful doll house made its way across the U.S., stopping in toy departments of major cities' department stores in the name of charity. In 1949, the Fairy Castle made its final stop at the Museum of Science and Industry, where it has been a beloved icon loved by generation after generation. Even my own mom remembers with nostalgia visiting the museum to see the doll house when she was a little girl!
Colleen Moore's Fairy Castle MSI

The current conservation project is focused on ensuring the structure's long-term preservation for generations to come. The Fairy Castle's 200 individual segments have been disassembled, so visitors can see its rooms in detail from all sides. Perhaps best of all, more than 1,500 of the castle's tiny artifacts are on display, so visitors can see them up-close for the very first time. The conservators will be working in the gallery (see schedule below) and are happy to discuss their critical role in restoring this museum treasure.

I was fascinated seeing the Fairy Castle's book collection up close; Colleen Moore had over 80 books created especially for her miniature castle book collection, including hand printed excerpts from John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, Agatha Christie's At Bertram's Hotel, and Willa Cather's Shadow on the Rock. On Sundays and Mondays beginning December 8, visitors have also been able to see book conservator, Bozena Pszczulna-Szymanski of Paper Conservation Studio treat the miniature books from the collection.


If you loved and appreciated the Fairy Castle as a child, don't miss this rare opportunity! And bring your little ones along, so that they can see the Fairy Castle before it's assembled back into its grand whole.

Restoration Gallery Schedule:
Daily through mid-February

Conservator Schedule:
Tuesdays - Saturdays: Structure conservators from Litas Liparini Restoration Studio.
Sundays and Mondays: Book conservator Bozena Pszczulna-Szymanski of Paper Conservation Studio.
After the conservation project, the Fairy Castle exhibit will re-open to the public in mid-March 2014

Baby-Friendly Dining Spots in Chicago

This article of mine originally appeared at ChooseChicago.com, where I am a contributor. 

In breaking, earth-shattering Chicago news, a couple brought a cranky 8-month-old baby into Alinea, the other customers complained, and now Chef Grant Achatz is considering a baby ban. Yesterday Chef Achatz tweeted: "Tbl brings 8mo.Old. It cries. Diners mad. Tell ppl no kids? Subject diners 2crying? Ppl take infants 2 plays? Concerts? Hate saying no,but.."
File:Baby Eating.jpg
Every city Mom and Dad knows that you can't shun restaurants with baby in tow entirely that first precious year, and while many of us wouldn't even think of taking our kids to an elegant, 5-star restaurant like Alinea, we all have our own baby-friendly go-to restaurants. These are places that are too loud for anyone to notice a crying baby, places that guarantee a hidden corner table, or those cherished dining spots where worn out parents tend to congregate with babes in carriers. Here are five Chicago spots where you can comfortably bring your baby and enjoy a well-deserved meal as a family.

Wishbone North (1001 W Washington Blvd)
Located in the family-filled Lincoln Square area of Chicago, Wishbone North is usually filled to the brim with families and kids of all ages. Serving up breakfast, lunch and dinner Southern style, the menu features comfort food including everyone's favorites: biscuits, BBQ and baked cobblers and seasonal pies. Settle into one of the comfy booths in the large dining area where you're certain to encounter friendly service and families aplenty. Those wishing for a more tranquil dining experience can tuck into the adults-only Bourbon Lounge.

Dave's Italian Kitchen (Evanston)
This homey Italian restaurant, located just north of Chicago in downtown Evanston (technically a city suburb of Chicago but also a dining destination easy to reach via CTA), promises real, healthful, homemade food at reasonable prices. Consistently family-friendly, the large dining space has booths where you can fit baby's carrier (and pray that he falls asleep so you can enjoy a moment of peace). Order a glass of wine from the extensive wine list and enjoy the selection of classic Italian-American dishes, including veal parmesean, stuffed zucchini, and lasagne con amore.

Irazu (1865 N Milwaukee Ave)   
In the summertime, Irazu is the place to be: It's lively patio is filled to the brim with singles, couples, kids and even babies. The music, conversation, and street sounds will not only drown out your baby's potential gurgles and cries but also serve as a soothing, white noise. And since you're on a patio, you can pull up your baby's buggy table side and even roll the buggy back and forth to calm your baby back to sleep. But the real draw here is the authentic Costa Rican cuisine: I recommend the Casado, a marinated rib-eye steak, chicken breast or tilapia served with rice, black beans, sweet plantains, cabbage salad and an over easy egg. Many come to Irazu solely for the shakes, and especially the Oatmeal shake, a healthier take on the common shake that both kids and adults love.

Scoozi (410 W Huron St) 
Scoozi is a River North's Italian trattoria specializing in a wide range of antipasti, brick-oven pizzas, and housemade pastas - all perfect for sharing family-style. Its 350 seat dining room pretty much guarantees that you'll be able tuck into a booth with baby. The kitchen-fresh gnocchi or ravioli are always a good pick, and Scoozi's Wine Spectator-award-winning wine list ranges from half-bottles to three-liter giants, with over 30 wines by the glass.

Reza's (Multiple Locations)
Reza's is one of the largest restaurants in Chicago and features award-winning Persian cuisine. It's one of those places where you can take your entire picky family and everyone will find a new favorite dish. The kebabs and rice with dill and fava beans that accompanies almost every meal is a kid-favorite; parents will enjoy the fresh seafood, steaks and chops. Multi-level, expansive seating welcomes families with babies and toddlers.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Thank You, Mom


Did you catch the P&G Thank You, Mom commercial during the Golden Globes? It was a tearjerking tribute to all the moms behind the Olympic athletes: the moms who cared for, raised, and encouraged the child that grew into the champion. It turns out that there is an entire series of these outstanding videos, and each serves as a powerful reminder that the love and care you put into parenting pays off - whether or not your child becomes a gold medalist. Here are a few of my favorites!


 


Monday, January 13, 2014

#makesmesmilemondays Frozen

Yesterday I took my daughter to see her first full length feature film, together with her Grandma and Grandpa, brother, and cousin (both my son and his bestest cousin are 12 years old). 


Frozen Movie Review
All I can say is FINALLY - a Disney movie that focused on the value of sisterhood as opposed to romance! The story centers around two Scandinavian princesses and sisters that must overcome many obstacles, including learning how to reign in and make the best use of the many powers they possess! 

Friends have remarked that Chiara looks like the main characters in this movie, with her blonde hair and bangs, her big blue eyes - I saw my daughter in the main character's expressions.

All of us really enjoyed this fun movie, but especially Chiara. I think it especially resonated with all of us after experiencing the recent Polar Vortex!

If you haven't seen Frozen, make sure to catch it before it leaves theaters! 
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Friday, January 10, 2014

Introducing...my new oven! Review: Kenmore 5.8 cu. ft. Double-Oven Gas Range

Disclosure: I received my new oven from Kenmore as a prize from a raffle at a holiday event I attended.


I received a wonderful gift on Christmas Eve.... a new oven!




It's a Kenmore 5.8 cu. ft. Double-Oven Gas Range, stainless steel with black detailing... and I love it! It has made meal prep soooo much easier, especially when I was cooking up a storm over the holidays. My oven was delivered on Christmas Eve morning and was immediately put to work.

Here's what I love about my new oven:  

-Since it's a double oven, I can cook two dishes at two different temperatures all at once! (The lower oven has 3.5 cu. ft. of capacity and the upper has 2.3 cu. ft., for a total of 5.8 cu. ft. oven capacity).  This saves so much time: I can have bread cooking in one oven and a roast baking in the other. 

-It's energy saving: I usually find myself using only the smaller upper oven.   


-Both ovens are self-cleaning. 
Plus the cooktop cast iron grates are dishwasher-safe for easy cleanup.

-The cooktop's dual-cavity range features a high-output power burner and a center oval burner. I'm spending a whole lot less time waiting for water to boil thanks to the 14,200 BTU and 9,500 BTU burners. 


-The 5,000 BTU center simmer burner is ideal to prepare delicate foods and sauces. Over the holidays, it was ideal for mulling cider and wine and keeping soups warm and ready to serve. 


Isn't it funny how once we switch to a newer appliance we can't imagine how we got any cooking done using the former appliance? This oven has truly made life in the kitchen a whole lot easier! If you have any specific questions about my new oven, feel free to leave a question in the comments section and I'll be happy to answer!


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Monday, January 6, 2014

What are you doing this coldest day ever?

The temperature in Chicago hit a record low today: By 8 a.m., it was minus 16 at O'Hare International Airport. School has been cancelled, and we are all hunkered down here in our cozy home. 

We have friends staying over - which makes being stuck indoors not just tolerable but fun: We had a big sleepover last night and stayed up late to watch an old Disney classic - Escape from Witch Mountain - the 1975 version which is streaming on Netflix. My friend and I then sneaked out, donned our winter gear, and walked to the corner bar to enjoy a nightcap. It was cold, but lovely walking through the quiet, snowy city. Today us moms are enjoying soup - homemade chicken broth with kale and squash dumplings - while the boys are engrossed in the world of Minecraft. Our ice orbs are read to hatch. And the girls - the girls are doing what every lady does on a snowy cold day: they've gathered for a fancy dress tea party in my daughter's playroom. 


Friday, January 3, 2014

Four Ways to Enjoy Winter - Outdoors! - in Chicago


This post originally appeared at ChicagoParent.com


Looking to burn off the calories from all those holiday cookies while having some fun with your kids? Bundle up and head outdoors! I have tried my best to adopt my kids' attitude about winter. They're oblivious to the cold and waking up to Chicago covered with snow fills them with pure joy. As long as I'm dressed properly, being outdoors is a joy, even in the dead of winter.Here are four fun ways to enjoy the winter in Chicago.


Skate a figure eight

Grab a pair of ice skates (or rent them onsite) and glide across one of the many Chicago Park District outdoor ice skating rinks. Located all around the city, these family-friendly ice rinks welcome both beginning and advanced ice skaters. Skating season runs through Feb. 23 at most outdoor rinks, weather permitting. This year most ice rinks offer programs that include pick-up hockey games and learn-to-skate classes!

Learn how to ice fish

Even though I feel the chills just thinking about it, I know my kids would love to try their hand at ice fishing. If you think your kids would enjoy it, the DuPage Forest Preserve District has you covered. Its Ice Fishing 101 workshops - offered at lakes throughout the county - will teach you everything you need to know about safety, equipment and techniques and tips for ice fishing on forest preserve lakes. Equipment and bait are provided. Families with kids ages 6 and up are welcome. Kids under 18 must be accompanied by an adult. Best of all, workshops are free. Registration begins two weeks prior. Call (630) 933-7248 to save a spot!
  • Jan. 5: 1-3 p.m. - Herrick Lake
  • Jan. 18: 12:30-2:30 p.m. - Songbird Slough
  • Feb. 2: 1-3 p.m. - Herrick Lake
  • Feb. 15: 1-3 p.m. - Pratt's Wayne Woods
  • Feb. 16: 12:30-2:30 p.m. - Hidden Lake

Snowshoe Northerly Island

If you're bundled up well against the cold, snowshoeing on the frozen shores of Lake Michigan is magical. Rent some snowshoes at the Northerly Island Visitor's Center (just $5 for a two-hour snowshoe rental!), bring along a thermos of hot cocoa and set off to explore the snowy banks. Call ahead at (312) 745-2910 to check that the weather conditions are suitable for snow trekking (there must be at least 3 inches of snow).

Sled down the hills at Caldwell Woods

My kids and their pals get ready to sled
down the slopes of Caldwell Woods
There are plenty of great sledding hills within Chicago. The Forest Preserve District of Cook County has a great guide for sledding in the city. Our family's favorite sledding hill is at Caldwell Woods, located near the corner of Devon and Milwaukee. The large indoor fireplace at the activity center is perfect for warm-up breaks and the trails in the nearby woods are wonderful for exploring on an easy hike (be on the lookout for deer!). Afterwards, head on over to Superdawg - home of Chicago's best hot dogs - located just around the corner. Since it offers old-fashioned window service, you can keep your winter gear on and enjoy a delicious dog from the comfort of your car.

Ice harvest at Kline Creek Farm

On Jan. 23, 25, 26 and 30; 1-4 p.m., Kline Creek Farm, a restored 1890s farmstead in suburban West Chicago, will offer families the chance to see the tools and techniques farm families used to cut and store ice before the invention of refrigerators. Families can help cut and transport ice from Timber Lake to the icehouse. There's no need to register for this free program and families with kids of all ages are welcome. For more information, call (630) 876-5900.