Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Giving Thanks for Music Options: Symphony edition

In our newly adopted city of Chicago, this will be our first Thanksgiving. (Well, technically not true, because over the past 10 years we've been in the Chicagoland area for Thanksgiving at least 3 times.  But this will be our first time as Chi-CAG-oans.  So that should count.)

One of the things that continues to amaze me is the amount of cultural options for kids here.  Coming from NY, there was never a dearth of things to do.  But it seems like there are just as many things to do here.  Or maybe they just seem more accessible here.

This is certainly the season, at any rate.  There's tons of culture for kids to participate and revel in.

For example, the CSO is chock full of family friendly music over the next 6 weeks.  Here are just 4 of the amazing things going on, and I'm not counting specifically Christmasy stuff like their Nutcracker excerpts or their Yule show, which are specifically designed to cash in on that family friendly feeling that December engenders.

Any one of these concerts would be a great way to expose your child (and yourself) to the wonder of live music.

Downtown Sounds Sat Nov 22 at 11 am and 12:45pm (featuring the music of Gershwin, Strauss, and Tchaikovsky, among others).  Check out the link for a kids book about the music and for Parent and Teacher guides.  Yes, Music can be educational!

The Vienna Boys Choir  Sat Nov 29 at 3 pm.  The legendary sweet sounding kids pull into Chicago for a one show retrospective which I am reliably informed by people in the know is a Thanksgiving classic!)

Pixar in Concert Fri Nov 28 at 8pm, Sat Nov 29 at 8pm, Sun Nov 30 at 3pm Scores from 14 Pixar films will be played, along with some of the most memorable film clips from the movies.  Highly recommended for young film buffs.

Sweet Honey In The Rock Sun Dec 7 at 3 pm.  Legendary a cappella group sings holyday songs from around the world and from many different cultures. Their music and their harmony is just astounding.

For more information about these shows and others, including showtimes, ticket prices, and tickets, please visit the CSO website  

Please note that in my work as a blogger I do from time to time receive free tickets for performances or sample items for review from some of the groups or companies mentioned above.  I promise you that my reviews and previews are not influenced by the free-ness of the tickets/items.  I call them as I see them!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Weekend trip to Detroit!

We had a couple of days off of school due to Teacher Improvement Day in Chicago, so we used our time wisely and visited some friends who live outside of Detroit.  It was a great weekend, and chockful of eating great food and going to museums.

First things first:  We took the train up there.  For all three of us, it was around $160 roundtrip, which I estimate is about what it would of cost us in gas and wear and tear on the car.  And we didn't have to drive, and it took about the same amount of time.  Plus:  TRAIN!

While we were in the Detroit metro area (weirdly, I don't think we ever were in downtown Detroit) we visited 3 pretty great museums.

Shalom Street.  There are 3 Jewish children's museums in the US.  There's one in Brooklyn, there's one in L.A., and there's one in... suburban Detroit?  The JCC of Detroit has a huge campus in West Bloomfield, and they have used their acreage well.  Their giant JCC has a space dedicated to children's exhibits.  Each year, Shalom Street comes up with an interactive themed exhibit on some aspect of the Jewish experience.  This year the them was Jewish toy inventors.  And since that encompasses Fisher Price, Hasbro, Parker Brothers, Mattel, and just about everyone else in the toy industry, it was a great exhibit, and well worth checking out if you are in the area.

The JCC also has a Jewish Michigan Athlete's Hall of Fame (a very small exhibit as you might imagine) and pools and gyms and in the back there's an adventure course for teens to do during the summer.  If you are Jewish in the Detroit area, it seems like this is a resource you don't want to ignore.

Marvin's Marvelous Mechanical Museum:
We then went to an arcade/museum of magic and amusement memorabilia, which featured pinball machines, tic tac toe playing chickens, magic memorabilia, a weather forecasting rock, and a number of crazy oddities.  It was exactly up my alley, and we spent an hour or so (and over $20) playing games, checking out coin operated wonders of the past, and having a ball.
The video above is on Marvin's site.

You can also see some more of the photos I took on flickr  

Henry Ford Museum  The last museum we went to (and spent nearly the whole day, and didn't see it all) was the Henry Ford Museum.  It's a fantastic museum, filled with the history of America via transportation.  It had some amazing exhibits, including the series of Presidential Limousines, the actual 1952 Wienermobile, a history of early aviation, and an interactive exhibit where, EVERYDAY, museum goers help build a Model T Ford, and at th end of the day, they can sit in it.  (The docents assured me that it also runs, although I didn't see that)  That was simply amazing.

Another fantastic exhibit is Buckminster Fuller's Dymaxion house.  A one of a kind prototype that never got made, it's a round house made entirely of surplus aviation aluminum.  Only one was ever produced, and the guy lived in it for 20 years before donating it back to the museum, where they painstakingly restored it.  It's completely ahead of its time, and also fairly flawed.  It's still fantastic and amazing to walk around inside this house.

Perhaps my favorite exhibit, though, was Rosa Parks bus.  They have the actual bus that Rosa Parks refused to sit in the back of, and they've completely restored it.  They also have a tape of Rosa Parks talking about that day.  Listening to it in her bus literally gave me chills.  History being made right there.

All in all, it was a great time in suburban Detroit!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Family Fun Day- 125 years of amazement! Sunday Nov 9 at Roosevelt University

The Auditorium Theatre at Roosevelt University is celebrating their 125th Anniversary Season and to make sure everyone knows how wonderful the place is, they are opening their doors on Sunday, November 9 for a FREE Family Fun Day!

Families are invited to explore this landmark arts building (built by Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan, beautifully restored, and a building that Frank Lloyd Wright said was "... the greatest room for music and opera in the world- bar none.")

During the free festivities, you can enjoy dance classes from Joffrey Ballet dancers, acting lessons from Roosevelt University professionals, Arts & Crafts, a special Brownie making demonstration with one of FOX TV’s Master Chefs and lots more.

It's all free, and it's all fun!

Here's a schedule of what's going on, and a promotional video which shows some of the planning for what's going on!

 For specific times, or if you need more info, visit


Scavenger Hunt (Recommended for ALL AGES): Explore the nooks and crannies of the Auditorium, and ensure you don’t miss a thing by completing the Family Scavenger Hunt! Guests can show completed booklets to staff at two check-in points treat and to be entered in our “Family Night Out” Raffle!

Stained Glass Ornaments (Recommended for ALL AGES): Create an ornament to take home with you!

Birthday Doodles (Recommended for ALL AGES): Many of the famous performers who have stepped onto our stage left a doodle for our theatre crew. Check out some celebrity doodles, then add your own birthday doodle to our collection!

CJP Instrument Petting Zoo (Recommended for ALL AGES): Interact with the instruments played by musicians on our stage!

Lyric Opera (Recommended for ALL AGES): Discover the connection that this iconic Chicago opera company has with the Auditorium Theatre, while participating in fun, interactive activities!

Make ‘Em Laugh (Recommended for ages 7+): Jump in and improvise with some of our favorite improvisers and comedians!

FAMILY DANCE CLASSES WITH JOFFREY BALLET (Recommended for ALL AGES): Learn to move like a Joffrey dancer in this family experience fitting for all ages and abilities! (Absolutely no dance experience needed!

BACKUP SINGER DANCE MOVES WITH JENNIFER EDGECOMB (Recommended for ages 7+): Test out your best backup moves as you explore the rock-n-roll performers who have stepped onto the Auditorium Theatre’s stage over the years.

CREATIVE DRAMA WITH DREAM BIG PERFORMING ARTS WORKSHOP(Recommended for ages 3-7): Young artists take center stage as they explore their favorite stories!

INTERACTIVE TOURS Meet in front of patron services (Recommended for ALL AGES): Explore behind the scenes of the Auditorium Theatre and walk across the historic stage! Tours last approximately 30 minutes

GHOSTS OF CHICAGO THEATRES (Recommended for ages 7+):
Families can stop by to hear about the haunts of our theater and other Chicago theatres. No sign-in necessary.

Families can gather around at the specified times to watch Elise Mayfield, from FOX’s Master Chef, demo the Palmer House Brownie recipe and taste this world famous dessert!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Halloween Fun in Chicago: A Roundup

Being in a new city means disruptions of our typical routines.  For the last couple of years, we've been going to Safe Halloween in New York, and we've been trick or treating in various places in NY.  This year, in Chicago, it's to steal a Disney musical song, "A Whole New World

But it's not too shabby here in Chicago.  There's a million things to do that are Halloween related.  We can't do everything, but it would be intriguing to try!   Here's some of the more promising things on the potential menu:

OCTOBER 25 AT 3 PM  (pre-show activities for kids start at 1:30pm)

"Hallowed Haunts" is a special family show at the Symphony Center that brings scary and magical classical and popular music together for a selection  that will  delight (and perhaps very slightly haunt) your children.  It's a great way to introduce your kids to some pretty amazing classical music, including music from Grieg's Peer Gynt, Stravinski's Firebird, and John Williams score for the first Harry Potter movie! The concert is an annual event, and has been successful enough that it is the only Civic Orchestra event for which there is a charge.  There are also some school performances scheduled for the day before.  Costumes are encouraged (even the musicians get dressed up!)  Tickets range from $15-$60 (depending on where you are sitting.
More info and tickets available on their website: or by calling 312.294.3076.

HAPPY HAUNTINGS at the Chicago Cultural Center

The Chicago Cultural Center is hosting the City of Chicago's Halloween Festival, which is a free celebration of all things Halloween.  The entire event is free, and features magic and puppet shows, a Ghost tour of the Cultural Center, and my friends the Midnight Circus who will be doing a number of free shows over the course of the weekend.  They'll also show some scary movies, have face painting and arts and crafts, and on Saturday there's a costume contest and parade. Food trucks on one side of building will add to the festivities.  You can get a full schedule of events at .

BOO! AT THE ZOO at Brookfield Zoo
The local zoos make sure to get in the act with activities for kids.  They are both happening on the weekend.  The Lincoln Park Zoo has some family entertainment planned, some arts and crafts, and a fairly tame haunted house with trick or treating (Forget about what the fox says-- what kind of candy does he give out for Halloween?)
At the Brookfield Zoo (in the western suburbs) they are doing the Boo! at the Zoo, which includes pumpkin carving, performances by local high school bands, a Halloween themed carousel, a Haunted Hay Ride (extra charge) and you also get to watch some animals enjoy their own pumpkins.

More information about Spooky Zoo Spectacular: LINCOLN PARK ZOO
More information about Boo! At the Zoo: BROOKFIELD ZOO

Chicago Park District
The Chicago Park District has tons of Halloween events going on at many of their parks.  It looks like there are a number of haunted houses, halloween parties, costume parades, pumpkin patches, and lots of other stuff.  There's almost certainly a park within walking or travel distance to you if you live in Chicago.  So you should definitely check them out! More information at their website:

There are a number of other events going on, far too many to list, including stuff going on at Navy Pier (which includes a Zombie themed haunted house, a masquerade ball, and trick-or-treating sponsored by a candy company!) and lots of safe trick or treating events and costume parades at many various neighborhoods, including Lincoln Square, Roscoe Village and Andersonville , to name just a couple.

If you can't figure out what to do from this list, you should just stay home!

Monday, September 8, 2014

We've Moved to Chicago!

You wouldn't know it from this blog-- but we've moved around 1500 miles away.  Well, you might know it, due to a paucity of blog posts.  I apologize for that.  The next couple of months are going to be pretty rough as well.  I've got to remake all my culture connections!

When I tell people I've recently moved from New York, they typically ask "Why?"  Here's My wife grew up in Evanston, IL, and like the noble salmon, has been itching to return to her spawning grounds.  And as the spouse of a salmon, it's my job to move along.  (pause) I just hope she's not a lemming!

Seriously, her entire family is around here.  Dad, sister, aunt, grandmother, cousins, and her brother from L.A. simultaneously decided to move as well.  My family are kind of far-flung, including NY, Rhode Island, and Bogota.  Salmon indeed!

The moving process was awful, as was the moving debacle/company, but that's grist for a different mill, Hello Yelp!  But so far, Chicago is great.  And I really like our neighborhood.  (We're living in Edgewater, in the North of the city.  We're close to the beach, to the El, and to a bunch of great looking restaurants.  I will have to try them all!

However, I am dreading the winter.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

My Day with 311

On Friday, I got up really early to go into the city.  My brother was in from Colombia, so we had an early morning breakfast as is our wont.  Breakfast at 8 am at the Grey Dog on University.  Last time we were there, Alec Baldwin was there, but he didn't recognize me.   Maybe this time.

I get up and drive to the subway.  I've usually got great parking kharma, but today there are no spots available-- oh what's this, open spot?  What's the sign say?  No Parking 7AM-4PM School Days.  Is today a school day?  It's summer, but it's Friday. I'm not sure.

 I call 311.  After waiting a minute or so, Victoria gets on the line.  I ask her my question, and she says it all depends on whether or not that school has summer session.  She'll look up the school for me.  Except it's St. John's, so it's not in her database, she doesn't know.  I should ask the school.

I decide not to chance it and move on.  Still can't find parking.  I say, screw it, I'll park at a meter, there's plenty of meter space.  I go to a 6 hour meter.  I put in my card, select my hours, and click pay.  It tells me that the transaction is cancelled, as it is not accepting money right now.  But I don't want it right now,  I want it in 2 hours  (and will happily pay for the 2 hours in between time)  Can't make it work.

So I call 311 again.

I get Victoria again!

I explain to her my problem, and she says yes, there's no way to over-ride the machine, I should come back at 8 am and feed the meter then.  (but that's when my breakfast is, I tell her.  An hour away!)

I move on.  I find a place on the street where I am inches on either side from a driveway.  My Honda Odyssey is squeezed in but okay.

I walk to the subway, get in, have breakfast.  Sadly, Alec neglects to show up.  Some candyass excuse, no doubt.

I come back to my car.  In the middle of the street, I notice that there is a wire down. Reaching all the way to the street.  It looks likes a phone wire, but I'm not an electrician, I can't be sure.  I call 311 for the third time that day.

Victoria doesn't answer (perhaps she's on a coffee break?)  Instead, some other guy.  I explain to him what's going on.  It's not sparking, I think it's a phone line, but it might be electric.  They say, well if it's electric, he can call Con Ed.   Am I sure it's not electric? I don't know, I tell him.  I don't think so.

In the meantime, I've watched 5 cars run into this thing, or swerve at the last second to avoid it.

Click.  He transfers me to 911.  "Caller, what is the nature of your emergency?"

I explain the situation, (and the guy keeps stopping me as if I were in an actual emergency and just going too slow.)  He says, hold on.... He's alerted the fire department.  They'll be there in 5 minutes.  Can I stay?  "Well, I was going to go home now."  "They will just be a minute."  I stay.

About 10 minutes later, they arrive.  It is a phone line.  The fire guy wants to know my name.  "Smith I say.  Smith.  With a P."

As 4 guys figure out where the best place to cut the phone line, I take off.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Fappy Hather's Day, Everybody!

I posted a funny video for the Mom's-- the least I could do is post one for Dad's.

this is one of my favorites.  It came out a few years ago, and it's still right on the money.