Monday, April 18, 2016

Brunch Spot: Lady Gregory's in Andersonville

Lady Augusta Gregory, who the place was named after.
We had some friends in from out of town, and were looking for a good brunch place.  We usually end up at Tweet, but when we drove by there was a line out the door, so we drove to Clark Street/Andersonville in search of someplace.  My first thought was The Bongo Room, but it was also crowded, and when we drove by Lady Gregory's, there wasn't a crowd, so we thought we'd go there.

We've often mentioned it as a possibility, but somehow never managed to get there. It was awesome!  It's an Irish pub and restaurant, named for the prolific artist and playwright (and co-founder of the Abbey Theatre) It had a very nice atmosphere, lots of wood, and a very nice menu.


The Biscuits and Gravy.  It should come with a cardiology appointment!

They had an extensive brunch menu, and we were pleased to note that they had a special gluten free brunch menu for my wife!  One of our friends was from the South, and he was excited that Biscuits and Gravy were on the menu, and he said it was delicious, but apparently it was an Irish Biscuits and Gravy, and not what he expected.  It was very very rich, and apparently should have arrived with its own cardiologist.

I got something out of character--The Ultimate Grilled Cheese With Bacon, which featured gruyere, aged cheddar, mozzarella, brie, roasted tomato concass√©, fried shallots, candied bacon confetti melted in parmesan-crusted sourdough.  It was pretty darned delicious.

The Ultimate Grilled Cheese Sandwich.

A very healthy portion of salad.
My friend's wife got the Mulligatawny Stew and a very healthy and delicious looking salad.  

My wife got a gluten free flatbread that I didn't get a picture of.  And my son got the chicken strips, which were fine, although a little browner than he would have liked.  I tasted them and they were very good.  (And our waitress was super attentive)

All in all, a great new brunch spot.  Our friends are coming back at the end of May for a family graduation dinner, and they might have just found a spot to have it in!

In the front room they had the Football on.  I think next time I want to watch some footie I will come here.




For more info about Lady Gregory's, visit their website:  http://www.ladygregorys.com

Saturday, April 16, 2016

I Am Not Throwing Away My Shot: Pulled the trigger on Hamilton tickets!

I am a huge fan of the musical Hamilton.

Many people have assumed that I am part of the first wave of publicity for it, because for  a while I was talking about it NON-STOP.  (which is also the title of one of the songs!)

I've realized that I am to Hamilton what 13 year old girls are to the musical Wicked, or what a bunch of NJ frat boys are to Bruce Springsteen.  I am a super fan-boy.  It's in my ear or on one of my devices nearly everyday.

I love the way it manages to meld history and story into music, the inventive and complicated rhymes weaving story, bravura, history, democracy, character and plot into a beautifully executed slip knot. I also love how it's old-fashioned and brand new all at once.  It is an excellent piece of artwork.


Here's the video I watched first that made me fall in love with it-- the creator Lin-Manuel Miranda performing the first song in 2009 at the White House.  At the time it was going to be just an album, but it turned into a full-fledged musical.


I haven't seen the show yet, and when I heard it was coming to Chicago (ostensibly from September to mid-October, but the run is now open ended), I immediately started planning how to see the show.  I didn't want to Throw Away My Shot (another song from the show).  If I missed this opportunity, I'd feel Helpless, never be Satisfied, and would feel as if The World Turned Upside Down (you got it, all songs from the show. Click each link to see the lyrics and hear the song at the same time on Genius.com .  You are welcome!)

If you want to guarantee a seat to Hamilton, buy a season
subscription to Broadway in Chicago
 Because I do often write about cultural events and get free review tickets, I am definitely pursuing that angle, but that will only give me two tickets, and my 7 year old son wants to see it too.  (There's definitely some lyrics/situations that are above him/over his head, but overall he loves the musical too.  And I don't want him to miss it!)

I then tried for group tickets, thinking I could find a group of 20 friends/relatives/neighbors/etc. that would like to get the hottest ticket in Chicago. But those are already sold out, I am on the waiting list.

After some hemming and hawing by my cheapo self, I decided to do the only thing that would guarantee me seats.  I bought a 3 ticket season subscription to Broadway in Chicago.

 Right now there are some season tickets still available, but the pickings are slim.

 We ended up spending nearly $1000 to get a 5 show subscription.  (to be fair, I'm pretty interested in four of them, and my son will be interested in at least 3-- the other shows include Hedwig,The Curious Incident of the Dog in the NightTime, Aladdin, and The Bodyguard) We don't have great seats- we are in the upper balcony all the way on the left.  But at least we are in!

And the weekend before my birthday in October, we are going to be In The Room Where It Happens, attending HAMILTON!

The code word is Rochambeau! *




*(A line from the play-- as far as I know there is no actual code word)

Friday, April 15, 2016

Book Report: Parent Hacks by Asha Dornfest

A MODIFIED VERSION OF THIS REVIEW FIRST APPEARED ON THE CITY DADS GROUP BLOG.

Parenting is a job no school prepares you for. Every new parent starts a complete neophyte. Sure, you may have been a crazy great babysitter as a teen, or practiced diapering your friend’s kid, or maybe you were great at swaddling the baby doll when you went to your doula. But let’s face it — nothing prepares you for when your baby refuses to sleep at 3 a.m., or when you are not quite sure if your child just swallowed some poison, or how to baby-proof your hotel room, or how to get your child to stop whining (I'm still working on that one!)

You learn by doing, by making mistakes and by improvising solutions. It’s the ultimate in on-the-job-training. But here’s the thing — once you’ve got the experience, once you’ve innovated and tried doing stuff and figured out a great or clever solution to a thorny parenting problem, who can you tell?

Buy Parent Hacks on Amazon.com
Enter Parent Hacks, the online community started by Asha Dornfest in 2005. That community’s mission was to share their on-the-job learning solutions with each other and the rest of the Internet so that new parents would not make the same mistakes, and be inspired to implement and improve upon the solutions already in place. In other words, parent hacking!

Dornfest has collected 134 of the best tips gleaned from the website into a book, Parent Hacks, available April 5, 2016 from Workman Publishing.

There’s actually more tips than that because interspersed between the numbered tips are various listicle suggestions (six ways to get rid of laundry stains, 16 quick-fix dinner ingredients to always keep on handseven pretend games you can play lying down, etc.) and some odes to common household objects you can use for not-so-common purposes (the laundry basket, empty baby wipe tubs, pool noodles, among others).

Some of my favorite parent hacks

Many of the book’s hacks are for parents of kids ages birth to 5; however, there are still a lot of great shortcuts here for parents of older children (my child is 7.)

 Here are three I’ll continue to use (as you can see, some are not specifically parenting related, although they definitely apply):
  • No. 10: Use toothpaste to mark the spot for picture frames.
  • No. 66: Trace your kids feet so that you can shoe shop without them.
  • No. 81: Put the ketchup under the hot dog, rather than over the dog.
Number 81-  It's a great idea, but I live in Chicago, so I think we will stick to mustard: ketchup on a hot dog could get you reported to Child Protective Services!

A few of the hacks seem pretty obvious. No. 78: “Cut food with kitchen shears” is an example. I mean, how does that qualify as a hack? That’s why they call them “kitchen” shears, right? But I’m guessing that some of my favorites might seem obvious to someone else.

Hacks for moms … and dads?

Most of the hacks are unisex, meant for any parent, but probably about 15 of them are mom-centric and not meant for the dads who are reading.

(No. 8: “Use a frozen sanitary pad to help with vaginal healing” comes to mind. Although I’m sure many new dads pray for quick vaginal healing, so there’s that.)

 I didn’t see any dad-specific hacks in the book, and a quick browse of the website didn’t reveal any either. Fatherly.com did have some pretty funny videos of some pretty clever hacks by dads;

I especially liked this one, which featured a video of a dad solving the problem of not being a pony-tail expert. Maybe this should be in the sequel!

Craighton Berman illustrated  Parent Hacks in a fun and whimsical style, and each hack is clearly illustrated. The background of each page is graph paper, which adds to the feeling that you are getting the ideas directly from the hacker.
Sample page from Amazon.com's LOOK IN THIS BOOK
Overall, I think this would be a great book to get for a new parent, or if you are a parent of a toddler. It will still be of value if you are a more experienced parent, but you may have already solved that solution (And if you have, and you’d like to share it with other parents, publish a photo or video using social media with the hashtag #parenthacks. Future parents will thank you for it!)

If you’ve got a great parent hack, or more specifically a dad hack, please share it in the comments!

Monday, April 11, 2016

EARWORM: Lisa Loeb at Old Town School of Folk Music


One of the first indie/kindie musicians to hit it big, musician and philanthropist Lisa Loeb will be appearing at the Old Town School of Folk Music this Sunday.  She appears in town as part of the Chicago International Movies and Music Festival (CIMMFEST)  (If you don't know about CimmFest, visit our previous post about it. )

She'll be performing two shows, an 11 am kids show and a 7 pm adult show.

Get Tickets Here for the children’s show.
Get Tickets Here for the grown up show.

Her latest album for kids, Nursery Rhyme Parade! is produced as an Amazon Music Original.  It features Lisa's take on over 35 classic kid's songs and lullabies, including songs like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Hickory Dickory Dock, Itsy Bitsy Spider, and tons of others.

 I say "take" but they are really pretty classic renditions of these songs, easy for kids to learn and sing along to.  As you might expect, she's got a lovely voice and these well-known classics are inviting and easy on the ears.  Lisa's own kids appear on the album as well.

I just spent a little time listening to them with my now 7 year old son, who is at home sick today.  I think normally he might rebel against listening to these songs (he so wants to be a teenager right now) but he found some comfort in listening to these beautifully done classics (in between bouts of being sick to his stomach)

Purchase or listen to the album on Amazon.
The music calmed him down so he could get to sleep. Which is how I'd get him to sleep when he was a baby.  And believe me, Lisa sounds a lot better than me.

If you have Amazon Prime, most of the music is available with Amazon Music.  If not, you can sample and listen and buy the album online

Her adult show at  7 pm will also feature singer songwriter  Chris Corsale.

Tickets are available online at Old Town School of Folk Music
Get Tickets Here for the children’s show.
Get Tickets Here for the grown up show.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

CIMMFEST 2016: APRIL 13-17

CIMMfest, the Chicago International Movies & Music Festival, is Chicago's answer to Austin's South By Southwest. It's smaller, it's more intimate, but it's got a similar energy as some of the hottest and smartest young musicians and filmmakers gather together to trade ideas and hang out.

CIMMFEST is a four-day showcase of outstanding films, energetic concerts, visually stunning VJ/DJ sets, lively Q&A’s, daring live score performances, industry panels and presentations…basically showcasing the latest and greatest at the intersection of music and movies.
Photo courtesy of CIMMFEST website

Each Spring filmmakers, musicians, and their passionate fans alike, descend upon Wicker Park and Logan Square, two of Chicago’s most eclectic, vibrant neighborhoods. That’s where CIMMfest takes place—the films by day, the live music by night—at theaters, galleries, bars, concert spaces, and some of the city’s most storied venues.

The films come from all countries and cultures, and range from documentaries to fiction to concert films to shorts to music videos. They just have to be about music and/or use music in a creative, integral way. The live performances are inspired by film or feature visual accompaniment.

This year CIMMFEST will feature over 99 bands and films over the course of 5 days.  There will also be CIMMcon, an industry music/movie/tech event that features all kinds of industry professionals giving advice, workshops, panel discussions, and new music pitch events.  You can buy tickets to just CIMMCon, to just CIMMFest, or to both.  There are also festival passes that allow you access to just about everything on offer.

To  find out more about the festival, visit their website: http://cimmfest.org/ 
Full festival passes run from $79-$149.
You can also download the full schedule/program book here

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Final Four is Final, and I am a winner. And Life goes On.

Last night, Villanova defeated North Carolina for the Final Four championship.

Wait-- let me rephrase that.

Last night, Villanova defeated North Carolina for the Final Four championship AS I PREDICTED.

Yes, I chose Villanova to be the team to go all the way, and I ended up winning my bracket. [I didn't win the CITYDADS bracket because some other joker picked Villanova too, and while I predicted 46  out of 63 games correctly, he predicted more.]

But I did win the 23rd ANNUAL WELL VIRTUAL MARCH MADNESS POOL, which I've been playing in for 10+ years, and while I've come close a couple of times, I've never won before.

Don't get all excited.  No money is involved, it's strictly bragging rights.  And brag I shall!

I don't pretend to be a college basketball guy.  In fact, I usually joke that I pick my bracket on who was hot in college basketball 20 years ago.

But I managed to pick them.  And it was an exciting game.


It was a VERY exciting game.  Villanova won on a buzzer beating 3 point shot.  That was after North Carolina clawed back from a 10 point deficit to tie it with 4.7 seconds left to go on the clock.  (And that shot was an improbably bomb from Downtown.)

But Villanova regrouped, their big guy set a great pick, got it to their team captain, who did what he was supposed to do and passed it to an open guy who popped it in with time winding down.

Here's the video:



And here's just a little bit of the commentary:
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/05/sports/ncaabasketball/unc-villanova-national-championship.html


It was an exciting game, and a thing of beauty.  And now it's over.

This is one of the most important lessons that I'm teaching my son.  It's great to have victories.  It's great to win. And if you can avoid losing, you should. But guess what? Either way, Life goes on.  The big game is over, and you still have to brush your teeth and eat your vegetables and do your exercises and study your vocabulary words.

You can buy this volume of great poems
on Amazon.
I've been sharing a poem a day for National Poetry Month on Periscope and Youtube, and the one I read for yesterday (after the Villanova win of course!) was particularly apropo.  It's Ex-Basketball Player by John Updike.  (I know, I know!  I didn't know John Updike wrote poems either!)
And it's about a guy who was a great basketball player who now works at the local gas station.

The poem is a little prosaic, but it paints a great picture.

You can read the poem directly online, or you can listen to me read it below.

Either way, enjoy.

And brush your teeth!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

I am the worst father ever. Just ask my son.

My son's room is a perpetual mess.  Hey, he's 7, I don't blame him.  My office is a mess too, and I'm 7.29 times older than he is!

But last week, when I could no longer find the covers on his downstairs bunk (he's got a bunkbed) because of the layers of stuff strewn across it, I felt enough was enough. (My office is almost at that point, but not quite) I resolved that we had to clean it up.

The day before the cleaning lady was to come, we spent our pre-sleeping activities (usually spent either with him reading solo or  my reading Harry Potter to him) by  clearing off his bed, putting toys away, throwing away broken toys, shoving legos into boxes-- I'm pretty sure if you are a parent, you know what I mean.  (Or if you have a cleaning lady. ) 

When I was in my youth and didn't have a cleaning lady, I scoffed at the people that cleaned up before their cleaning lady got there.  I didn't understand that if you don't do that, the cleaning lady will attempt to make sense of your chaos, and the carefully cultivated and peculiarly ordered chaos that you are pretending to have a handle on will turn into the kind of real true chaos that is caused by cleaning ladies not caring about your carefully cultivated chaos, and moving it around until is actual chaos. But I digress.

So we are in frenzied activity mode--the kind of frenzied activity that occurs when you wake up late and realize you have to make the bus in 5 minutes, so you are cramming 25 minutes worth of normal activity into that time period. 

When I say we are frenzied, I should say that I am frenzied- pulling everything off of the bed, trying to put it in piles, threatening to throw stuff away.  My son seems perfectly content to bring one book at a time up the stairs of the bunk bed and then lovingly place each book with tender care into its proper place.

Some of the airplanes that were not scrapped
in the purge.
Anyway, during this time period, I found a whole bunch of what I thought were failed attempts at paper airplanes.  They are crumpled up and half folded pieces of white paper, very few with writing on them, and they have been lying on the bed for weeks.  I repeatedly ask, "Are these trash?"  To which he doesn't respond.  "I assume that means yes," I say, mostly for my own benefit, as I throw them in the trash.

Amazingly, we manage to do everything we need to do, to clear off the bed and make it mostly presentable about 5 minutes before bed time.  About 3 hours later, as I am going to bed, I feel a sense of accomplishment, and a small self-loathing for not having had him do 5 minutes everyday before he goes to bed.

The next morning, he gets up in plenty of time, and starts getting dressed for school.  Suddenly I hear a wailing.  He comes into the kitchen, actual tears in his eyes, with a couple of crumpled pieces of former paper airplanes in his hand, saying "You threw away my airplanes. You threw away Frogger!"

I tried to explain, but he would not listen. He's wailing and crying, and saying "I need mom.  You are the worst dad ever!"  I gather him in my arms to comfort him and he starts kicking me.  I told him that we could rebuild them.  He said "I'll NEVER BE ABLE TO RECREATE THEM!  WAAAHHHH!"  

Apparently within all those crumpled pieces of paper, were some experimental airplanes that he had worked on weeks before, and my tossing them away clearly was a capital offense. 

I managed to calm him down, and get him to school, just barely.  By the end of the day, there was still some residual anger, and by the next day he was back to his normal loving self.

I completely understand his anger, but at the same time I see it as completely irrational.  I told him, I don't mind if you get crazy upset about something that is important. But these are not important!  (If I had been the worst father in the world, I probably would have destroyed the rest of his airplanes.  But I resisted that urge.  I am not a monster!)

I'm upset that he kicked me, which should never be the right response to anything, irrational or not.

But I forgive him.  As I said up in the first  paragraph, Hey, he's 7, I don't blame him.

He will learn.  And I will too.