Monday, June 19, 2017

REVIEW: Tempel Lippizan Show: Great way to spend a Sunday

Photo from the program of the Tempel Lippizans
For the Father's Day holiday, my family and I (wife, son, and mother in law) trekked out to Old Mill Creek, a rural area near Gurnee and about 70 minutes north of Chicago) to see the Tempel Lippizan dressage show.

It was a great show, and a wonderful day trip to take- the perfect way to spend a Sunday.

(DISCLOSURE: We received free tickets to this event in exchange for a possible review.  No money changed hands, and my opinions and ideas are mine alone. My integrity is important to me, and it should be to you too!)

GETTING THERE

After a leisurely sleep in and breakfast, we all took showers, and got on the road.

 The GPS told us to take the highway, but we decided to go straight up Sheridan Road.  I am so glad we did!  It's a much more beautiful drive than the highway, as you hug the lake for a good portion of the way, and get to see all of the beautiful houses and mansions in Evanston, Wilmette, Kenilworth, and Winnetka.

We drove right by the beautiful Bahai Temple in Wilmette, and that will be another of our day trips I'm sure.

The 13 million dollar house with a private beach.
Up on Sheridan road, the houses become mansions and estates, one more opulent after another.
(If you have a spare 13 million, there's a house with a private beach, a swimming pool, a detached coach house, and 8 bathrooms available.  Of course, the property taxes are over $100K a year. )

 Maybe that should be our third daytrip?

We arrived around 12:35 pm, perfect timing for the 1 pm performance.

There is a small tent for a gift shop/cafe, with burgers and brats and some other snacks available.

ABOUT THE TEMPEL LIPPIZANS

The Tempel Lippizans started when  Chicago steel magnate Tempel Smith visited Austria in the late 1950s.  He and his wife visited the Spanish riding school, and fell in love with the Lippizan horses featured there.  The Lippizaners had been bred in Vienna for classical riding and art since the seventeenth century.  During World War II, they were in danger of being eviscerated as casualties of war, but General Patton and his men worked to save the breed.  (This story was made into a 1963 Disney film Miracle of the White Stallions. Buy on Amazon)

When Tempel Smith,  saw these horses, he and his wife decided to bring them to the United States.  By the early 1970's he and his wife had built up their herd to over 450 horses.  In 1982, the first public performances started at their training and breeding facility.

The mission of the Tempel Lipizzans is to promote classical dressage and the Lipizzan breed in the United States through a careful breeding and training program.  This is the 35th year of public exhibitions, and the current owners, Linda Smith Buonanno and Martha Smith Simpson received the Officer's Cross, Grand Decoration of Honor for Service to the Republic of Austria in 1993, for their "careful management of a cultural institution with such close ties to Austria".

ABOUT THE PERFORMANCE

This is a rare dark Lippizan horse.
1 in 400 do not become white.
Mare with foal.  Lippizan horses are dark at birth, but gradually
become white as they age.

Horses pulling a carriage in perfect alignment.  Driving
a team of horses like this is a lost art.


The performances show the development of the horses from young stallions all the way up to the Quadrille: A Ballet for Four Stallions and their riders.  All of the performances/demonstrations are set to classical music.  There is even one exhibition showing horses pulling a cart, as apparently, that is something that the Lippizans are well known for.  There are also some aerial jumps and two leg maneuvers.

This horse can jump!  A classic Lippizan trick.

The performances are quite beautiful and stately.  The horses are amazing.  Unlike another horse show we recently reviewed (Cavalia's Odysseo ) this show is not about entertaining and thrilling the audience as much as it is about displaying the amazing precision that both horse and rider need in order to perform these complex cadences and maneuvers.

The show succeeds on its own terms admirably.  It is not without its risks, however-- one of the riders was thrown during the performance that we saw.  She was able to walk it off, and they paused the exhibition to let the horse take a few moments to gain his composure and they continued on.

The show is narrated before each exhibition with a brief informational paragraph or two about each exhibition.  There are 8 different styles shown, including Olympic Dressage, The Long Rein,  Aerial moves (Courbette, Capriole, and Levade) and the aforementioned Quadrille.

At the end of the performance, the audience is invited into the stable to meet the stars and there are even some photo opportunities.

Our day was absolutely beautiful in the mid 80's with a nice breeze.  The stands are shaded, although they do advise to bring sunscreen.

In the case of rain, they have an indoor performance area as well.

HOW TO GET TICKETS

The performance season began this past weekend, and will continue on through September on select Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays. Tickets are $27 for adults if purchased online, with a $5 discount for veterans and a $17 rate for kids 4-14.   You can also occasionally find discounted tickets online via Goldstar and other outlets.

 Tempel Farms is located at 17000 Wadsworth Rd in Old Mill Creek, IL.

 For more information, visit http://www.tempelfarms.com/plan-your-visit.html.

My son and I pose with one of the stars of the show after the exhibition.


Sunday, June 18, 2017

Happy Father's Day!

Want to wish you all a very happy Father's day!


My son gave me a very nice Father's Day Card. It's a nesting card, with 5 different panels, that are supposed to be all about me. Clearly done at school, but fun.  A few days ago he was asking me about my favorite movie, my favorite color, and my favorite foods, so I kind of thought this might be where this was heading.

Still it paints a strange picture of me as a bird-hating, bird killing Diet coke drinking clown/fiend of indeterminate weight who desires a moped, eats pizza all the time, has high brow taste in movies, wants to win the lottery, and lets his son speedskate and go to camp.

Except for the bird-killing part, he's kind of got me down!

I decided to do this now for my dad, for when I was 8. (that would be Father's Day 1972, which happens to be the first "Official Father's Day" in April of that year when Nixon signed Public Law 92-278 in April.  ) The day was Sunday June 18, 1972, just like this year!

Here's mine about my dad at that time:  (along with my son's answers for reference)

ALL ABOUT:

NAME: Alan
AGE:  34 (He turned 35 Aug 1, 1972)
EYES: HAZEL
HAIR: BALD
HEIGHT: 6'1"















FAVORITES:
FOOD: Chinese food
DRINK: Gingerale
MOVIE: The Sting
SPORTS: Watching Baseball
CHORE: Going to work





DREAM BIG: 
I know you want to travel and play bridge.  I know you want to go to Disneyworld.  I know you want me to work with my head and not my hands.  I know you want me to mow the lawn.









NO THANKS:
I know you don't like insects.  I know you want to have a dog.  I know you don't want to mow the lawn. I know you don't like to argue with Mom.








PORTRAIT:



5 REASONS WHY I LOVE YOU:
1. You are really smart and good at math.
2. You play games with me.
3. You like to tell funny jokes
4. You share your candy with me.
5. You are very generous to other people.


I Love you, Dad!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Fatherhood is a two way street: #thanksBaby

Disclosure: I have partnered with Life of Dad and Pampers for this promotion.  All thoughts and stories are my own.

As I did last year, I am happy to celebrate Father's Day as an ambassador for the Pampers: #thanksbaby campaign.

Pampers wants  to remind dads everywhere that fatherhood is a two-way street.  This is a great message and it tracks strongly with my own experience.

As our babies turn into toddlers and our toddlers turn into children and our children turn into young adults, they are learning and growing from us, and SIMULTANEOUSLY  we are learning and growing from them.

I may have told this story before but it bears repeating.

Me and my newborn son! 
I am a late to life father- I was 44 when my son was born.

I had a whole bunch of fears when my son was born.  I knew that my work as a touring performer and clown was going to have to radically change, that I was going to be the primary caregiver for my child.  I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about that.  I had been making my living as an artist for over 20 years and I didn't know if I was going to be capable (or want to do something else)  



I was also really scared that I wouldn't be up to the task of caring for an infant: of feeding it properly, of changing its dirty diapers (#thanksPampers!  You were a total lifesaver on that one!), of stopping him or her from crying or soothing them to sleep.

A caricature done of us at the Hudson River Museum
My biggest fear was that at the end of the day I wouldn't be happy- that the change in my life that I was going to get as a father/dad wouldn't make me happier than I was as a relatively successful artist.

I spent my life as an artist avoiding responsibilities in order to be happy.  I didn't have any plants so that I could tour at a moment's notice.  I lived in an apartment that I could literally shut up for three months without having to worry about anything going wrong.  (Well not too much)

But it turns out that I was up to all of those challenges and more.  Not only that, but adding responsibilities to my life made me happier-- something that was completely counterintuitive to me.

I can confidently say that I have never been happier as a person since I became a dad.  And my happiness continues to grow as he gets older.  It's the gift that keeps on giving!

When my son was a baby I learned from him to sleep whenever there was an opportunity, to relish moments of play, to get down on the floor and look up from his perspective.

I definitely didn't throw away my shot. (and neither did he!)
When my son was a toddler I re-learned how to wonder at the world, to answer the question why multiple times, and to get deliriously happy when there are small gains:  First words, first steps, first poop in the toilet.

My son is 8 now, and the diapering days are long past me (although I am sad to say that occasionally I do need to remind him to wipe better.) Hey it happens to everyone. But at least I don't have to wipe him anymore!)

I am still learning and growing from him.  He's introducing me to his favorite books (Ranger's Apprentice and the Indian In the Cupboard) and we're discussing the crazy plotting that is Star Wars, and the intricacies of Hamilton rap/rhymes. (with a stern admonition that some words may only be sung!)

 Earlier this year we worked on his first science fair project together, and we have even geeked out over fidget spinners.  I've been coaching his basketball team and he's getting better as a player, even as I get better as a coach.

I can't wait for the next phase!

#THANKSBABY

When a baby is born, a dad is born. This Father’s Day, Pampers is encouraging dads to give thanks to their kids for making them feel special, and to recognize how babies (and children) help the dad to grow along the journey of fatherhood.

Please join them by tweeting or instagramming how your baby changed your life with the hashtag #ThanksBaby.

Here's a great video from Pampers to remind us dads to thank our kids for making us dads
Happy Fathers Day from me! (and from Pampers!)

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Pivot Arts Festival 2017/ Review of Ubu The King

Pivot Arts Festival is a celebration of innovative performances in theater, dance, music, puppetry, site-specific works, and spoken word.  The festival takes place in Edgewater, Uptown, and Rogers Park, and sees as very important the collaboration between artists, communities, and businesses.

Pivot Arts works year round, producing a monthly series and occasional artistic colloquies, as well as artistic projects, but their raison d'etre is the Pivot Arts Festival, a 10 day multi-disciplinary festival that combines all kinds of performances in all kinds of venues, and includes a community parade.  This year is the fifth year!

I've missed the last couple of Pivot Arts Fests, even though they've been literally under my nose.  I  came pretty close to missing this one as well (and this year they held a parade on my street!  Somehow I missed the parade!  That might be the story of my life!)

From the Rough House Website
I'm happy to report that I didn't miss it.  Last night I saw one of the Pivot offerings,  Rough House Theatre's show Ubu The King.   The show was held at the FLATs Studio on Wilson. (Just west of the Wilson Red Line)  (Flats Studio is a great program which takes unused storefronts and apartments in FLATS buildings and puts art in them!  Find out more here.)

The show itself was great.  True to Ubu's spirit, it was rough hewn and ribald and had some crazy inventive words in it (For those that don't know, Ubu Roi was a play that caused a huge sensation in Paris when it opened in 1896.  The first line is "Merrrdre"  which gets translated as "Shitttrs!"  After the first word was uttered at the world premiere, there was a near riot, and the play had to be stopped for almost 30 minutes.)

Ubu by Rough House Theatre.  photo by Joe Mazza.
The play then proceeds with a whole bunch of scatalogical humor, a rough lampooning of Shakespeare's MacBeth, about a super lazy good for nothing guy (Pere Ubu) who through cowardice, luck, and sheer cruelty becomes the King of Poland, thanks in part to his shrewish wife Mere Ubu.  It's kind of a cruel play about a cruel guy, as written by an overly bright and vicious middle school student about his terrible (and very fat) physics teacher (that's where the play started!)


Alfred Jarry
The author Alfred Jarry is a favorite character of mine.  He was a French surrealist, and he lived the part, carrying around a gun and riding a bicycle through Turn of the Century Paris.  One of my favorite quotes of his is this "One can show one's contempt for the cruelty and stupidity of the Universe by making of one's life a poem of incoherence and absurdity."

Jarry later invented pataphysics (well, he expanded on it) , a kind of mock science/philosophy that some folks have described as "a branch of philosophy or science that examines imaginary phenomena that exist in a world beyond metaphysics; it is the science of imaginary solutions." (Thanks Wikipedia!)

 As Jarry once wrote, expressing some of the bizarre logic of 'pataphysics, "If you let a coin fall and it falls, the next time it is just by an infinite coincidence that it will fall again the same way; hundreds of other coins on other hands will follow this pattern in an infinitely unimaginable fashion."

Ubu the puppet.
Jarry died young of tuberculosis, aggravated by drinking and drug use.  He drank ether and absinthe like it was going out of style!

As you might imagine, Jarry and his craziness his particularly appealed to me when I was a college student, just learning about this guy and this crazy artist filled world of turn of the century Paris.
(I've been in the play Ubu twice!)

This is my favorite translation of Ubu.
The line drawings are great too!
Buy it on Amazon
The Rough House play was performed by a troupe of 5, and they all did a great job of presenting myriad puppet characters.  I loved the style of characters, who were performed Bunraku style, and were roughly hewn stuffed dolls.  The dolls get thrown around, stuffed into killing machines, stabbed, beaten, thrown about some more, and it's great fun.  I also really loved the innovative use of furniture in the show.  The set was framed by three ladders tied together, which held the lighting system, but could also be climbed on.  Two drawer cabinets (chest of drawers) on wheels were also used, and the shelves pulled out to make set pieces, hold puppets, and folded around to use the stage.  It was very well realized!  If you have the chance to see the show, I'd highly recommend it.  Find out more about Rough House here. (Rough House also helps produce the quarterly puppet slam that I have participated in, Nasty Brutish, and Short)

Improv and ice cream will be performed
by Storytown on June 11 at Lickety Split
Sadly, you won't be able to see Ubu at the Festival, because the Rough House run has ended, but there's a lot more going on in the festival, including dance, improv comedy, theatre, spoken word, an arts crawl, and the festival will end next week on June 11 with family friendly improv at our local frozen custard shop Lickety Splits.  Some of the performers include Barrel of Monkeys, the NeoFuturists, Same Planet Performance Project, Ayako Kato and Synapse Arts, and Storytown.

To find out more about the festival, to buy tickets, and to donate so that stuff like this will happen more often, please visit the Pivot Arts website http://www.pivotarts.org

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Sweets & Snacks Expo 2017

Last week I attended the Sweets and Snacks Expo held at McCormick Place in Chicago. It was my third year in attendance. I love going to the expo because it's a great way to find out what new snacks are coming down the pike, what trends will be hot in the snack world this upcoming year.

The show is huge-- there were well over 700 exhibitors in attendance, which means thousands upon thousands of salty and sweet snacks to try and explore.  I only got to about a third of the show in the day that I allotted to attend, and chat with many of the companies.  One day I hope to spend all three days there, and try to see the whole show.  (An impossible task I'm sure.  After about 3 hours I was completely stuffed!  And I'm sure my salt intake was through the roof!  Hey, I'm doing it for the kids!)

I created a little video of my #SSE17 experience with the help of my iphone.  If you want to take the video tour of my experience, check out this video.



So here are my takeaways from the show:

HEALTHY

There is a big push towards healthy good for you snacks. I had a long discussion with one of the vendors about the difference between Good For You snacks and "Fun for you" snacks (which is the way I read the Pepsi CEO describes most of Frito-Lay products.)

Most of the big names in the candy business are making a voluntary push towards healthy snacks and treats.  In fact, they've come together to make a promise that by 2022 half of the individually wrapped products will be 200 calories or less, and that 90% of the treats will have calorie information on the front.   (You can see that on the bus poster below!) That's a pretty impressive initiative from the likes of Mars, Wrigley, Nestle, Ferrero, Ferrara, Ghirardelli, Lindt, and Russell Stover.  You can find out more about the initiative at alwaysatreat.com

NATURAL (AND A LITTLE WEIRD)

I saw a lot of companies touting natural ingredients as the mainstay of their product.  And sometimes those ingredients were a little unusual!

The Mighty Baobab Tree.
 One company is a social enterprise- they are hiring Southern African woman to harvest Baobab trees during the season, and then using the harvest to create baobab fruit powder and Baobites, which are really delicious Baobab fruit snacks.  In case you are not up on your African horticulture, the Baobab tree is the very very thick "mother tree" that is all over Southern Africa.  (It's also the kind of tree that Disney modeled as the mainstay of their Animal Kingdom logo)   BaobabFoods.com




A bowl of crunchy crickets!
Another company from Austin TX is farming crickets (yes, Crickets!) to make cricket based snacks and also cricket flour.  It's an incredible protein, relatively inexpensive, and they are very crunchy and nutritious for you.  I asked the CEO what's next , and he said they are looking into grasshoppers and meal worms as sources of protein.  I tried them and they were good.  If you didn't know they were crickets, you wouldn't have a problem.  www.Aketta.com  (There was another cricket company there, but I didn't get a chance to talk to them http://www.hotlix.com)




A third company was a single woman who had a vision to start making coconut chips. I tried her chips and they were delicious. She was from the Bahamas, but apparently, Thailand is where the major coconut production is.  She's hoping to get some Caribbean production going eventually. http://www.kambirifoods.com






And I also really liked Figgin' Fruit, which might win for best name.  They make snack cookies that are full of fruit like fig and pomegranate and other good stuff.  http://hellodelicious.com/figgin-fruit/




POPCORN

One of the vendors told me there were over 60 popcorn companies at the show.  I believe it!  There were so many to choose from, including a couple of kosher popcorn companies, this one from New York.  PopInsanity http://www.popinsanity.com

They had a magician in their booth Ben Cohen, and it turns out we had several friends in common!

Here's a video of a piece of his magic show.
video

I was also taken by a company called Live Love Pop.  Started by a woman who used to pop corn with her mom on the stove, and when she came back to take care of her when she was ill, it brought her mom joy to make popcorn.  So she started a popcorn company.  They are apparently doing quite well, and are in all sorts of stores, with more coming out nearly every day.  http://www.livelovepop.com  Their motto is "In Popcorn We Trust" Love it!

There were too many popcorn companies to mention by name, but here's just a few I captured by photo.  This is just 9-- there were many many more!


JERKY


There were a tremendous amount of Jerky companies at the expo as well.  I had my picture taken with Sasquatch, who was there on behalf of the monster jerky maker Jack Links.  (They and their assorted brands own 67% of the American Jerky market!)
Me and Sasquatch at the Sweets and Snacks Expo.  I know, I know, it's hard to tell which is which!


 I discussed the fact of Jack Links dominance with a couple of the Artisanal jerky makers, who did not feel threatened at all by Jack Links.  They felt they were going after a much different market, and there was plenty of market share for them to pickup. Two of those jerky companies that I spoke with were Field Trip Jerky, an artisanal jerky company from Brooklyn, and Think Jerky, a Chicago based company.

Field Trip was founded by three friends who went skiing in Vermont and had some craft jerky and said, "We could do this!"  They've grown into a very savvy brand with great products.  Like most of the craft jerky there, they use grass fed , gluten free meat, and hand craft each batch.  http://fieldtripjerky.com/

Think Jerky has a very interesting idea-- they are making jerky based on recipes from famous chefs.  For example, one chef is Doug Sohn (of Hot Doug's, the famed hot dog shop in Chicago, now sadly closed) has given them the recipe for their original jerky. Other chef's include Gale Gand, Laurent Gras, and Matt Troost.  This gives them a leg up on flavor profiles, but also on cashing in on those chef's cache. And the packaging is designed to appeal to women as well as men.  Pretty smart!
http://www.thinkjerky.com

Here are some jerky pictures to feast your eyes on. (I'm including an artisanal pork rind company as well, because, well I can!)


As I said, there were hundreds of companies I didn't see, but fortunately I have a big book of them, and hopefully I'll be making contact with some of those companies to see if I can bring news of those new snacks to you!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

National Donut Day 2017!

There are many more holidays and commemorative days than I had growing up.  Sure we have Christmas and Fourth of July and Chanukkah and all of the religious holidays. And Memorial Day. But then National Secretary's Day came into the forefront. Then National Take your kid to work day.  My cousin even started his own, Dinner Day, when you should have dinner with a neighbor that you don't know that well!  (and it's made into a state commemorative holiday in Pennsylvania!)

Well, one of these unofficial holidays since 1938 is tomorrow, and this one is near and dear to my heart.  Tomorrow, June 2, is National Donut Day.

Salvation Army Doughnut Lasses.  (photo courtesy Salvation Army)
First started in 1938, the first Friday in June commemorates the Doughnut Lassies, brave young women who were part of the Salvation Army's mission to provide emotional and spiritual support to our troops during World War I.

A vat of Salvation army donuts.  For the recipe, look below.
Exactly 100 years ago, over 250 volunteers went to France to help.  They lived in huts near the frontlines and were there to provide clothing, food, and support for the soldiers.

Because of rationing and the conditions of the huts, it was difficult to make baked goods for the soldiers, but some clever volunteers of the Salvation Army (Ensign Margaret Sheldon and Adjutant Helen Purviance ) came up with the idea of frying donuts (7 at a time) in soldier's helmets.  The soldiers loved them, it became a big thing, and the soldiers ended up with a new nickname (doughboys).  One can probably trace this as the beginning of  the American love affair with the donut.

In the Chicagoland area, National Donut Day means some delicious and tasty snacks are for people who aren't soldiers also.  And it gives an opportunity to perhaps give back a little also!

A dozen of Glazed and Infused's finest 
GLAZED AND INFUSED:  As an official partner of the Salvation Army, they are donating 50% of all of the sales of the "Salvation Army Donut", a Vanilla bean glazed with The Salvation Army colored sprinkles.  They are $3.00 each or $30 for 12.  You can stop by any of their 5 city locations tomorrow, and if you act quickly, you can even order a donut delivery for your office!

JEWEL/OSCO:  The Salvation Army will also be at Jewel Osco tomorrow and Saturday collecting donations.  Anyone who donates will get a coupon for two free Clyde's donuts, which are sold in store. Visit the link to see times and specific locations

STAN'S DONUTS:  You get a free donut with any purchase!

DUNKIN' DONUTS:  You can get a free classic donut with the purchase of a drink (while supplies last.

KRISPY KREME: There are only two locations in the Chicagoland area (Elk Grove in the North adn Homewood in the South.  But if you live near there, you can grab a free donut with no purchase necessary!

Some of Clyde's donuts available
 for free at Jewel/Osco
BRIDGEVIEW BANK:  While not specifically about National Donut day, the first Friday of each month is free donut day at Bridgeview bank.  Donut day 12 times a year!  They give away Stan's Donuts, coffee, and even some free financial advice!

DORITE DONUTS:  They don't have anything listed on their website as a special, but their donuts are awesome.  I queried them in case they add something last minute.

FIRECAKES DONUTS:  Another great donut shop that may or may not have something special for #donutday.  But you should definitely check them out.

DONUT DELIGHT: I've never been here, but I hear its' amazing.  As far as I know, they don't have any specials for tomorrow.

DOUGHNUT VAULT:  I don't know about these guys either, but wanted to list them as well, because you can never have too many artisanal donut listings in one blogpost! UPDATE: They will be featuring their most popular special: salted caramel old fashioned.  Sounds delicious!

If you are feeling more in an artisan DIY frame of mind., check out a couple of these links:

A Parenting Production: Doughnut Day Freebies and Recipes
Salvation Army Famous Doughnut Recipe
NY Times- Mark Bittmann
Food Network
Huffington Post: Greatest Donut Recipes

And if you'd like to read even more about Donut Day, check out the Salvation Army Page

Happy Donut Day!  Let me know how you celebrated in the comments!

Monday, May 8, 2017

The Camp-In at the Museum of Science and Industry

This past weekend we slept under a Tesla Coil, and next to some Van der Graaf generators.  They weren't on, and although I haven't run my family through a Geiger counter recently, I'm pretty sure that there were no radiation burns.

We spent the night at one of the best museums in the country, the Museum of Science and Industry.  This was our first time doing so, and I don't think it will be our last.

But first, a little backstory.  This is one of our favorite museums and had been even before we moved to Chicago.  Once a year, we'd been making pilgrimages from New York to Chicago to the MSI, to see the humongous train set of Chicago, the giant doll house, walk inside the coal mine, and take the tour of the giant submarine.

The inscription reads "Science discerns the Laws of Nature."
Even at some of the admittedly great museums we've been to, including the Queens Science Center, the Philadelphia Children's Museum, the Franklin Institute, etc., MSI Chicago is the standard by which all others are judged.  We've been members for that long as well, although we've had some lapses (it turns out that if you plan on visiting the museum more than twice in a year, and you drive there, you will do better to be a member than not.  I did the math.)

The Storm Gallery.  this is the room we slept in.





Once a year, the Museum stages a camp-in where 600 lucky people get the opportunity to spend the evening at the exhibits.  It's a privilege reserved for members, they do it once a year, and we'd never done it before, so my wife marked the calendar, and made it happen.  Members get to select sleeping spots next to many of their favorite exhibits, there are smores, and more importantly, the museum is open until 11 pm, so you get to do all of the exhibits you want, relatively uncrowded, and at your leisure.  (It turns out that a lot of the Chicago museums do something similar.  That same night, the Planetarium was having an event as well, and I know the Aquarium, the Zoo, the Field Museum, and the Chicago Cultural Center all have similar programs)

(And it turns out that the Museum has a similar event coming up called the Snoozeum.    I don't think you have to be a member for this one, and it seems like it is much more crowded.  Next one is December 15.   Find out more here.)

The Tesla Coil
After we made plans for the camp-in, my son's class planned a field trip to the museum for the day before.  We were already planning on surprising him, so we kept it up.  He would never suspect.  When I brought him and his 4 classmates around, we couldn't see everything he wanted to see.  "Next time we go, " I kept telling him.  He didn't realize the next time would be the next day.  Later that day, reviewing the field trip, I jokingly told him that the museum was so big that we could sleep there and still not see everything!  He laughed, not knowing that less than 24 hours later he'd be doing just that!



My wife and I taking a rare moment enjoying museum together.
We checked in around 6 pm, brought our stuff over to a potential sleeping area, and started exploring the museum.  In addition to my son, we brought his older cousin B.  Dinner was in the surprisingly good cafeteria, where we saw our favorite Rube Goldbergesque Swiss Jollyball machine.

 Many of the exhibits you still needed to have timed tickets for, although they were all included in the price of admission.  In the one night that we were there, we saw The Mirror Maze, the U-505 submarine, the chicks, the bike exhibit, the extreme ice exhibit, the circus exhibit, the body exhibit, the kid's imagination center, and ended our evening with a late night tour of the Coal Mine.   And of course Jolly ball. We didn't go over to the space center, see the trains, the smart house, the fairy house, or see the brick by brick lego exhibit. (we saw that the day before)  The Robot exhibit had not yet opened, sadly.

This is not my video, but a pretty good look at the jollyball apparatus.  We watch this every time we go to the museum!



What was great about all of these is that because the museum was so uncrowded we could still see all of those things and take our time about it.  We normally only see about half of that in a museum exhibit.

Some things to know if you go next year.

  1. You have to be a member to attend.
  2. They don't shut off lots of light for safety reasons.  Many people brought tents so that they wouldn't be sleeping in the light.  We had picked one place, but the boys thought it was too light, so we moved to a place that was equally light.  Next time, don't trust the boys!
  3. Many people (clearly veterans) brought blow-up beds.  We slept on the ground in sleeping bags, which was not nearly as comfortable as we would have hoped.  Next time, a blow-up bed.
  4. We brought everything in to the museum using a wagon.  The museum is almost entirely handicapped accessible, so that wasn't too much of a problem.  I definitely recommend it, as the museum is large, and your stuff is probably heavy.


Overall, it was a great experience, and we would do it again!