Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Where To REALLY Get Kosher For Passover Desserts in Chicago

Our seder table from a few years ago.
We are hosting a Passover seder on Friday night.  For those of you not in the know.  It's a special dinner/service that Jewish people host in their homes, with a lot of rituals, to celebrate the start of Passover and to commemorate our liberation from Egypt a long long long long time ago.  (This is the Moses story, folks)

When we lived in New York, there were lots of bakeries that made amazing Kosher for Passover Desserts.  During Passover, you are not allowed to eat anything that rises (no dough, nothing with yeast in it) so it can be hard to do dessert.  People are clever, and there are some great non-rising cakes. You had to order early, they were very expensive, but when you bring an amazing dessert for 20 people that's Kosher for Passover, you are a literally a hero.

In Chicago, I have been struggling with where to find a Kosher For Passover bakery.

 I found (what I thought was) a great article by Cbs Local titled "Best Bakeries in Chicago for Passover Desserts"  It's dated March 18, 2015.  The article lists 5 places-- 3 in Chicago, 1 in Skokie, 1 in Northbrook to get Passover Desserts.

Plagues have never been more delicious.  Photo courtesy  of Zelda's.
I called all 3 in Chicago.  They all seem like fine places, except NONE of them make Kosher For Passover desserts. In fact, one of them isn't Kosher at all!  None of them knew they were in the article.

This is an example of non-researched journalism.  No offense to the author, but if you are writing about products that people carry, you should at least check that they carry them.

UPDATE:  Looks like this is endemic: There was an article in the Tribune saying that Magnolia bakery was selling Passover goods.  I called them.  They sell flourless stuff, but not KFP.  I would call this Passover-inspired!

I asked people where I could go. The woman from Tel Aviv Bakery (which is Kosher, but closes for Passover) suggested the Kosher Jewel.  She said that nobody in Chicago makes their own bakery stuff.  They fly it in from Israel or New York.

The Kosher Jewel on Howard & McCormick in Evanston
As it turns out, the article did have two places right:  Leonard's in North Brook and Zelda's in Skokie both do make Kosher for Passover desserts.  In fact (although they look sold out) Zelda's makes these really cool - Chocolate & Marshmallow Frogs and Locusts.

I haven't been to the Kosher Jewel yet (at Howard and McCormick in Evanston) but I understand that their Kosher For Passover section is enormous, and includes desserts. (my wife was there on Sunday)

In addition, the Hungarian Kosher Market in Skokie also has a Passover lineup, which may or may not include desserts (their website mentions they used to make cakes for Passover, but doesn't say they do it now)   More importantly, their website says they are at capacity and are not taking any more orders.

So, the moral of this story is:  Don't believe everything you read on CBS.  And do your own research.

Happy Passover, everyone!

Monday, March 30, 2015

EARWORM: Secret Agent 23 Skidoo: The Blue GrassHopper

Secret Agent 23 Skidoo is a kid's hip hop artist.  His lyrics are funny, his message is awesome, and to use the vernacular that belies my 50 year old New England white self, his stuff is wicked groovy.  He was recently nominated for a Grammy (rightfully so) and his website says that he serves up family hip hop with a solid gold soul.  Not so sure about that (not my area of expertise, that solid gold stuff) but I can tell you, he's a very good artist, and worth listening to by young and old alike.

I love a lot of his songs, but the one that gave me chills of delight when I first heard it is The Blue GrassHopper.  It tells the story about the ants and the grasshopper.  You know in the traditional story, the grasshopper sits around all summer playing music, while the ants work their antennae off.  Come winter, the ants are eating and the grasshopper starves to death.  It's a Puritanical fable designed to make sure that your children are not slackers.

I very much like his sartorial display! Esp. the hat!
Except in Skidoo's version, the grasshopper is working on his creative song all week/season/year, and when winter comes, the ants rescue him and ask to PLEASE trade his song for food, because while they are alive, they are BORED OUT OF THEIR EXOSKELETONS in their warm den.

This story, in its very simple way, reinforces that art is work, not play, that the work of artists has value, and that in our life the metaphysical is as important as the physical.  Yes, you have to eat to live, but if that's all that you are doing, is it really living?   All in a 4 minute hip hop song.

Chills, I tell you.

He's got other songs that I'm sure to feature in the future on EARWORM, but that's the one you should immediately go out and listen to.  PRONTO.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

I am Already a Winner! (Dove Men+ Care edition)

Last month at the Dad 2.0 Summit in San Francisco, something remarkable happened to me.

I didn't have an epiphany that I should give it all up and join the circus (no, that happened years earlier-- if anything I am trying to run away from the circus, but they keep finding me!)

Nor did I make a love connection (happily married, thank you very much)

I didn't even make some lifelong friends (well, actually I did, but that's not the point of this particular story.)

I won a prize!

I've probably been to 15 blogger conferences of various sorts, where they've given out hundreds of prizes.  But I never won anything until today.  Unlike my friend Lorne Jaffe, who has probably won at least one prize at every conference I've ever attended with him.

But somehow, I managed to win one of the door prizes from DoveMen+Care!  (But don't feel bad for Lorne, he managed to win one also!)

Well, this morning my prize arrived in the mail.  It's the Dad's Bedtime ToolKit, filled with a bunch of cool gifts.

Here's the unboxing sequence!


My son is 6 and well past sleep training, but we do have some 18 month old twin cousins (and my sister in law) who are going to enjoy the sleep training light tremendously.  And a giant mag-lite, has always been on my wish list.

And a big red toolbox (my old toolbox is a little beat up to put it nicely.)

And of course, a $50 Amazon card will ALWAYS come in handy.

Also for my fellow activist dads-- please note that the Amazon card they sent me is just for Dads.  So we are not ENTIRELY left out of the equation-- but I am still a big supporter of #amazon family!)

Anyway, thanks DoveMen+ Care and Dad 2.0 Summit for the prize.  I love it!  All of it!

(And next year I want an Apple SmartWatch!  You've whet my appetite for winning and created a monster!)


Friday, March 27, 2015

Camp Options: Too Many Interests, Not Enough Time.

Summer is fast approaching.  Even the snow is starting to melt.  And that means that camp season is in full swing.  Just about every organization on the face of the planet is trying to entice you and your child into their camp.  There are so many to choose from!  And some are already sold out!  What are we going to do? How are we going to decide?  And how are we going to afford it?


Some artwork and gears from the camp
Robot City Workshop, where kids build robots.
In the past we've done a variety of things. Here's a run-down.

The first year he could, he went to camp at the same place he went to pre-K.  He had a good time, he knew most of the kids, they played sports, and he swam every day.

Then the next year he went to camp dad.  (It was a lot of fun, and we did fun stuff, and swam nearly everyday, but 14 hours a day of the bear is tough for an old guy like me!  And I'm probably much stricter than his camp councilors, because I'm paying close attention to my one charge, and I really care.)

The next year, he attended this pretty pricey Jewish camp in Rockland county.  He loved it (swam twice a day, adored his councilors, got to ride on a bus there and back and sing songs)-- in fact for a year afterwards he'd sing the Tap Tap Tappanzee song whenever we crossed a bridge, even if it wasn't the Tappanzee!  I loved that he loved it, but our bank account, less so.

Last year (the summer that we moved to Chicago) we did a city of Yonkers run day camp.  It had almost all the same activities as the shmancy Jewish camp, except it wasn't Jewish and you swam once a day.  Oh, and he only rode a bus once a week, when they went on a field trip.   He enjoyed that a fair amount.


This year we are doing D) All of the Above.  

We'll be travelling a little.  We'll have some dad camp time.  He'll spend a week going to a local robotics camp.  He'll spend a week going to his pick- a Scratch programming camp (Yes, his parents are geeks, and so is he!  "Say it Aloud- We're Smart and Proud!" )  He's eschewed the Mandarin camp, and (at least this year) we are going along with that.

But most importantly, we've found a "Backstop camp"  Steve and Kate's, a camp that started in the San Francisco bay area and has slowly picked up steam on a national level.  They've got them in Boston, New York, NJ, Chicago, Portland, Seattle, LA, and all over the Bay area..

 Unlike most camps, it's got a ticketing/voucher system. You buy a number of days, and then use them as you see fit.  Kind of like a yoga punch card, but for camp.  Yes, Drop in camp!
Steve & Kate's Music Studio
(photo courtesy of the camp)
The camp itself is student led-- meaning they have a lot of options/stations, and your kid gets to do what he is passionate about. It's not that there is no structure.  They have staffed studios where kids can make music videos, practice coding, bake bread, style jeans, or just hang out.  There's sports, games, reading, shows, and lots more. (They don't have swimming, but they do have a plastic water slide at each location!)  Three times a day, the kids huddle with their peers/counselor, and there are camp wide shows and specials, including a game show.  They advertise that for every block the campers can choose from at least 12 activities.

 I'm not sure how they manage the staffing and lunch issues, considering the drop in nature.  But they apparently have  got it figured out.  AA has a couple of friends who were at the camp last year and they LOVED it!

The great thing is that they are refundable/upgradable. Camp is $89 a day. If you buy 5 or more it's $79, If you buy 20 or more, it's $69. If I upgrade later, they retroactively make the whole package less, and I pay the difference. And if I don't use them all up, we get refunded at the end of the season. And they have camps all over the country, and your voucher is good AT ANY CAMP! We could travel to San Francisco, and he can go to the camp there!

What I love is their transparency and their business model. It's giving flexibility when I need it. If Camp Dad gets too tough, or I need a breather (or he needs a breather) we have it.  And as mentioned above he'll have a couple of good pals that are already there, and he'll make new pals as well I am sure.

Find out more about Steve & Kate's

So, I think we are mostly covered for the summer.  How about you?  What are your plans for your kids' summer?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Man With The Yellow Hat is a TERRIBLE parent

From The Complete Adventures of Curious George
I've always thought that parents from classic children's books are in general, terrible.  Especially the books that end up as television shows.

Max and Ruby's parents are apparently non-existent.  Their friends have pretty good parents, but the only parental figure you ever see that belongs to Max and Ruby is their over indulgent grandma, who loads the kids up on sugar, let's them take public transportation by themselves,  and let's Max drive her car.  Well, there is the creepy Brownie leader, but let's leave her for another day.

Charlie Brown's parents speak in an unintelligible mumble, and also seem to be primarily absent as their child goes through some heartbreaking activities, sure to employ a barrage of therapists as an adult (and believe me, it will cost a lot more than 5¢!)

And the Simpson's-- well, never mind. You get the point.

And then we come to Curious George, who must set some kind of record as a negligent parent.  Every book/episode, he leaves his monkey/kid alone, telling him not to get into trouble.  Where does he go?  What does he do?  Is he a drug dealer?  Sex addict?  Or just the worst parent ever?

Well, A stay-at-home-dad had a brilliant idea, to create a blog as if The Man with the Yellow Hat was a dad blogger.  He tells the stories of his gross ineptitude as a parent, but from his point of view, he's a great parent. The blog has just started out, but so far it's HILARIOUS.

Here's him on George (dubbed Geo) and how he got him.

I'd had some friends who had done adoptions so I knew the kind of struggles that could entail. Luckily I found a region that was eager to facilitate a quick adoption. I don't want to share too much about where that was, but it was a poorer less developed part of the world. So much so that air travel there wasn't an option, so I went by ship. 
From The Complete Adventures of Curious George
When I arrived I found Geo happily playing in a tree. He was wary of me of course, but that's expected. To tell the truth I don't know if he'd ever seen a white person before. I had done some reading and I knew that I could get him to feel more comfortable if I left him something to play with and then sort of backed off and let him have some space. He seemed really into my hat, so I laid it down and let him check it out. Then I put him in a burlap sack and carried him back to the ship.
(I had some yahoo in a parenting chat group tell me this isn't how adoptions are supposed to work. She said this seemed more like a kidnapping and she was going to try to get the authorities to trace my IP address. Whatever lady. Trolls gonna troll I guess. I mean look, if someone wanted him I don't think he'd be out wandering the jungle unsupervised. Duh. Also I heard he was one of seven siblings who had faced homelessness and a house fire, so I'm totally doing this family a solid.)
 Do yourself a solid and subscribe to this blog pronto: http://dadwiththeyellowhat.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

RESTAURANT: Dak Wings (Edgewater): Cheap, tasty, and a place to bring friends.

I am always on the lookout for a cheap good restaurant to bring out of town people to.  Ideally close to my house, ideally some kind of food that you can't get anywhere else, ideally unassuming and dinerish in price and settings.  Anybody can find a great unique restaurant that costs a lot of money.  In fact, I'll posit that is WHY they cost so much.  Finding this kind of place increases your street cred as a foodie.  To be there before it got crazy.

I'm happy to add Dak Wings to this list.  Since we moved to Chicago 6 months ago, we've taken probably 7 different people to Dak, including two visiting brothers.  It's good.  It's very good.

Dak is a counter service Korean chicken wing place.  (Dak is Korean for chicken)They double fry their wings, and they give you the double wing.  (Each piece has a drumstick and a wing)

The classic Dak chicken wing
Double fried Korean chicken wings are apparently a thing.  There's a couple of places that have them (including the better known Crisp in Lake View)  I think Dak is better than Crisp-- the wing is about the same, but I prefer the sauce at Dak.  Although Crisp has more sauces on the menu (and gives you much more Kim Chee!), I think the Dak sauce (soy and ginger) is the best thing going.  The spicy sauce is very peppery and not that spicy.

(BTW Crisp is still very good, and you should go there too.  But I prefer Dak.)

The wings are a must, but they do have some limited other selections. My wife loves their bulgoggi rice bowls.  I've also had the Dukbokki, which are chewy rice cakes covered with a sweet spicy sauce and bulgoggi.

Other dishes include a rice bowl with egg
& meat
The chewy rice cakes are a weird texture, and they take some getting used to, but I like them a lot.  (One of the owners at Dak told me they were a traditional dessert, and they had the idea to use them in place of rice.)  They also have waffle fries.  I haven't tried them (seemed a little too weird, but it's near Loyola, and wings and fries have a certain college appeal.  I get it.

Seating is limited, so when you go, grab a table as soon as you arrive.  Get one of your party to order for everybody.  Five wings is enough for one hungry person.   Enjoy!

Dak is located at the Granville stop on the Red Line (half a block east)

View their website for more info and their menu:  http://www.dakwings.com

 They are open daily from 11:30 to 9, but get there earlier than 9, as they stop cooking around 8:45 (I found out the hard way)

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Camaraderie of Dads: March Madness edition

On Thursday me and 25 other dads in Chicago (and hundreds of other dads around the country) gathered together to drink beer, eat chicken wings, watch college basketball, and trade dad stories.

 Not the ones where you haven't seen your kid all week, and you missed the recital, and now you are going to fix it all with ice cream for dinner-- I'm talking more like "How we found out that my son has Celiac's disease, and why we cook 3 dinners a night to feed our family."  Or "which playgrounds in which order we are going to go to, once the weather gets warm."  And occasionally some B.K. stories (before kids)  Backpacking in Syria or books we read when we had time to read books without pictures.

Oh yes, there were a couple of dirty jokes told as well.

I just moved to Chicago, so I didn't know most of the guys, but it was a pleasure to get to know them in a casual style.  In New York, these dad gatherings were in many ways, my non-traditional water cooler at work, where you take a minute to share the news of the day, chat about problems at work, and maybe figure out something that's been bothering you.
Having this peer group is important to me.  If you are a stay at home dad, or a dad that needs a peer group.  I'd highly recommend checking out City Dads.  They have organizations in a number of cities, and if they don't have one in yours, if you are willing to do some work, they'll help you start one!
Thanks Dove Men Care + for sponsoring this event, and getting dads to share and build camaraderie.  That's #realstrength.

Please note:  A version of this article appeared on the CityDads Blog  on Friday.  Read that, along with some other dads writing their appreciations of the event across the country.