Sunday, January 22, 2012

Snow White at the Emerald City Theatre

Saturday morning we headed out in the frozen slush and drove to Lincoln Park to take the girls to lunch and a play. Lunch was at the very affordable Salt and & Pepper Diner, which is virtually across the street from the Emerald City Theatre. Not surprisingly, nearly all of the families we saw eating at the diner also ended up in the opening day audience of Snow White.

The schtick behind this particular performance, which is officially titled Snow White as performed by Professor TJ Barker's Troupe of Theatricals, is that the actors was running late and missing many of their fellow actors as well as their entire orchestra. But because they are a dedicated group, they pitch in by playing multiple roles and all of the musical instruments. Seven year old Zoe was intrigued and kept asking me if their train really was late or if that was part of the show. And because her brain has been washed by Walt Disney, she couldn't help pointing out the inconsistencies between this stage production and the animated film. (We had a post-show discussion of "artistic license.")

Four year old Ada was unfazed by the breaking of the fourth wall and unfamiliar costumes and songs. She was so completely rapt Josh and I had a hard time keeping our eyes on the show--it was so much more fun to watch her reactions--wide-eyed wonder at the beautiful princesses, lip-biting glee at the wicked stepmother's evil plotting and smiles at the silly antics of the ragtag dwarves.

And like all of the Emerald City Theatre performances we seen, this one is designed for children 3 and up, but totally tolerable for adults (in fact, this one was quite enjoyable). The show is 1 hour long with no intermission and snacks and drinks are allowed in the theatre. Tickets are typically $16 for adults and $13 for children, but Valentine's Day weekend kids can take their grown-ups for free with the discount code SNOW.

Disclosure: I received media passes to this show.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

MCA Family Day

When it comes to its art collection, the MCA lives in the long shadow of the Art Institute of Chicago. But when it comes to welcoming families, their monthly Family Day events are second to none.
Unless you take public transit there, it won't be a cheap day--we paid $32 to park in the MCA lot--but with free admission (typically $12/adult and $7/child) and coat check, hours of hands-on activities, free kids' meal with adult entree purchase at Puck's and free snacks in the Tot Room (kid-friendly fare like clementines, fruit snacks and Goldfish), it is a fantastic deal.

I was delighted by number and variety of art activities organized for the families (3-4 crafts, an artist-led tour and a scavenger hunt) and how many red-shirted volunteers were there to work with the kids. And while families streamed in pretty consistently between 11 and 2--when we were there--it never had the chaotic crowdedness of a children's museum on the weekend.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Cocktail time at the House of Klein

As a gift to our hardworking house husbands, my best friend Kate and I bought our men admission to a vintage cocktail making class at The Whistler (rated one of the 25 best cocktail bars in America by GQ Magazine) in late November.

Josh has never been much of a drinker, but the recent rise in craft cocktailing seemed to have piqued his interest--probably because he's a foodie and very plugged into the local online chatter about food, restaurants and bars.

Well, one afternoon class and he was hooked, reading the guide bartender Paul McGee sent home with his students, checking cocktail recipe books out of the library, researching liquor brands online and making daily trips to Binny's to pick up the often obscure ingredients he needed to prepare us colorfully named drinks like the Corpse Reviver 2, Jack Rose, Monkey Gland and Penicillin.

Indeed, gourmet cocktailing has stimulated all of the OCD tendencies my dear husband has previously applied toward coffee preparation (we buy awesome beans, grind them and brew by hand in a Chemex), movies (he was a Criterion Collection hoader for a few years) and guitars (he's been playing for 4 years and owns 5 instruments, all sourced from Craigslist). To be fair, like the coffee brewing, bread baking and general cookery passions, I'm a major beneficiary of this new hobby. For one thing, relaxing in the evening with a fancy drink that could have cost $10 at a trendy bar is a pretty awesome luxury. And I've discovered I'm a lover of gin drinks--who knew?

But also, I finally have some gift ideas for my infamously hard-to-shop for husband! I bought him some barware for Chanukah (we had exactly two rocks glasses, both emblazoned with logos) and there are plenty of interesting bottles I can pick up for him for special occasions.

And something tells me our Spring Break trip to Louisville may include a distillery tour.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Our 3rd Annual New Year's Day brunch

IMG_3718This is what our basement playroom looked like in the aftermath of our third annual New Year's Day brunch.

I guess that's what happens when 47 people--half of them under 8 and the other half sleep-deprived and/or hungover--cram into a 3 bedroom house between 10 and noon.

Believe it or not, we had the house back to rights in under 2 hours, and it was all worth it to kick off 2012 with so many friends.

I served pumpkin muffins, praline french toast, vegetarian sausage links, cinnamon coffee cake, two quiches (I riffed on Mark Bittman's instructions), a winter fruit salad and Bruegger's bagels with cream cheese and lox. And of course we were able to put the giant, 42-cup coffee percolator I bought at a yard sale years ago (for $5, best purchase ever) and serve juice, juice boxes and mimosas. Many of our guests contributed to the spread--adding more Champagne, pumpkin muffins (including a gluten-free variety), quiches, squash bread, brownies, a lemon tart and a noodle kugel.

The timing was right, too, as our modest living room rehab/redeco had reached a hospitable spot; in fact I finished knitting the floor pouf just the day before, stuffing it with an old toddler bed quilt and two $6 pillows from the dollar store. Needless to say, it was a hit with all the kids, especially the littlest ones, who took turns rolling across it.

Speaking of DIY projects, I followed up on two tricks I read about somewhere online that totally worked. First, I used a raw shelled walnut to fill in scratches on our hardwood floors. Amazing the difference it made--especially on the more superficial marks.

The second DIY project was fixing the ratty, tangled hair on the girls' American Girl Dolls. I mixed together 1 part liquid fabric softener (a horribly fragrant substance I had to buy special for this experiment) and 4 parts water in a spray bottle (another dollar store purchase). I spritzed the dolls' hair throughly and brushed with a metal doll brush (I've heard wig brushes work, too, but, um, I don't own a wig brush). The transformation was instantaneous and the girls were thrilled with their girls' silky locks. It's a little hard to see the results from this picture, but trust me--it is an easy fix and the dolls' hair looks great.

And any locals can feel free to come pick up a bottle of fabric softener from me--I'm sure I'll never use it for its intended purpose.