Chicago Life and Style.

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Month: January, 2010

Sweet Saturdays Feb. 6th & 13th

Sweet Saturday’s returns to the Garfield Park Conservatory on two consecutive Saturdays in February – the 6th and 13th from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The suggested donation for entry is $3 per person. Sweet Saturdays will focus on plants that provide the key ingredients to some favorite sweet treats. The Garfield Park Conservatory, a veritable plant-based candy show, is home to many living sweets such as bananas, vanilla beans, cinnamon bark, and chocolate trees. Visitors of all ages can sample the facts, the flavors and the fun of some of the most tantalizing tropical treats. Experience the following sweet activities at each Sweet Saturday:

Tropical Treat Stations: Throughout the Conservatory visitors will learn a fact and sample a flavor.
Live Music: Visit Horticulture Hall’s Sweet Saturdays’ Tropical Café and take in the warm confines of the Conservatory while listening to the live tropical sounds of Mar Caribe that highlights the different native tropical regions of the Conservatory’s sweet plants.
Hands-on Activity Stations: Visitors of all ages can participate in designing a scratch and sniff necklace with cinnamon and sandpaper, designing a “leaf rubbing” Valentine’s day card, making a chocolate sachet with the sweet-smelling shells of cocoa beans, and other drop-in stations, such as a cozy Sweet Reads book nook.
Learn: Discover the process of making both vanilla and honey from special guests located in Sugar from the Sun exhibit.

— February 6 – Enjoy honey tasting, brought to you by the
Garfield Park Conservatory Volunteer Beekeepers, who
care for the Conservatory’s 12 hives

February 13 – Enjoy vanilla tasting, brought to you by
Nielsen-Massey Vanilla Specialists of Waukegan, Illinois

Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance “Members Only” Chocolate Lounge: Members of the Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance can enjoy special perks and activities.

The lounge will include the following sweet activities:

Discover your inner chocolate spirit by venturing on a
self-guided chocolate “taste test” quest.

Enjoy mixing up a yummy chocolate concoction ala
marshmallows, whip crème, and cinnamon at our
self-serve cocoa bar, while relaxing in our
“members only” seating area.

Play candy-themed board games that sweeten the eye,
while sharpening the mind. While in the lounge, be sure
to enter your name into a drawing to win your very own
edible chocolate pod to take home and show off to your

Receive a special plant to take a little bit of the Sweet
Saturdays event home with you.

Use the Chocolate Lounge’s free coat check available
only to members.

If you or someone you know is not already a member, memberships can be purchased on the day of each Sweet Saturday event or Click Here to Join Online.

Interested in volunteering at our Fact & Flavor Stations during these fun-filled Sweet Saturdays in February? Contact Mattie Wilson at or call her at
773-638-1766 ext 26.

Foster your kids’ creativity–and your own!

Imagination and creativity come part and parcel with childhood. Unfortunately, most of us tend to lose those wonderful skills (at least to some degree) as we get older. Then we find ourselves sitting in a meeting or facing a problem that we are sure we could solve if only we could “think outside the box” or be more” innovative”.  Well, those are just grown up words for being creative and trying new stuff.

So. Encourage your kids to exercise their imagination and hold on to it as long as they can.  In out great city, there are a ton of opportunities to help make that happen.

Make Adventure Stage Chicago a favorite on your computer and check regularly for the really cool programs available. Coming up, Feb 12 and 15th, 9am-1pm at the Vittum Theater (1012 N. Noble Street) they are sponsoring mask making workshops for kids 8 and older. $20 a day and it will end with a performance on stage. What a great way for your kids to explore a new outlet for their creative intelligence and a fabulous conversation starter for the whole family to talk about together.

Chicago restaurant scene….the next generation

Chicago certainly has a plethora of choices when it comes to choosing your perfect dining choice.  Before I had a baby, I was all about trying the “new on the scene” restaurants and hot spots. Now, even if I can get a babysitter,  I’m mostly too tired!  I do still get out there and I’m happy to say I’ve been to most of the spots mentioned in the recent article in Crains’ Chicago Business about the Melman boys.

In fact, HUB 51 is one of my favorite spots.  My drink of choice is champagne and they have really great selection at very reasonable prices.  A bottle of Perrier Jouet, one of my faves, is about $80 which is anywhere from $30-$60 cheaper than you can get it in any other restaurant–if they even offer it. And the food is good and inexpensive too, it gets crazy on the weekends but I find its a great place to go early, after work and get a seat and enjoy a bite before the crowds descend.

Violet Hour is right in my ‘hood and so far, they have been able to maintain the mystique and still have crowds lined up to get in. GREAT place to take a date or go as a group. All the seating is very private so its not conducive to mingling which is a plus as long as you brought the person or people you want to talk to. 🙂  Interesting note though, they are NOT a vodka bar so don’t ask for it.

One of the things I appreciate is the fact that so many of our successful restaurateurs combine forces to create new and endearing concepts that do well in Chicago. Of course, if someone does well, they want to recreate their success but the fact that so many restaurants are a culmination of the talents from different people at different times is impressive. It shows how small the food world really is but I like to think it also shows a commitment to our city that these entrepreneurs want to continue to do business here, to cater to our midwestern/big city taste and are willing to collaborate to make that happen.

On a side note, does everyone know about ? If you don’t, sign up immediately–its a free online reservation system that most of the local restaurants subscribe to.  For me, the best part is that I can make reservations online, whenever I happen to think about it and I don’t have to wait until someone is at the restaurant to answer the phone.  The other bonus is that you earn points for each reservation which turn into a gift certificate for your next night out. And, when you really don’t know where to go or want to explore, they have featured restaurants that you earn extra points on, its a great excuse to try something new.

Bon Apetite!

Coming home is the best.

Isn’t it wonderful to come home after a long trip, even if you had a great time? There is something comforting about coming home that nothing else can even approximate.  For some people, that feeling happens when they go “home” to the house they grew up in, or another family members house. For me, its always been my own home, and that has been true in the 10 different houses I have lived in as an adult.

I happen to be a homebody and stay as close to home as I can but even if I’m gone for a long day, I still LOVE to come home. So, why is it so great to come home? Its clearly not just the space you happen to live in since the feeling tends to move with us as we change our actual physical location.

I wrote the other day about the power of scent, does you home have  a smell? Sure it does, just like people have personal scents (and I don’t mean the after-a-workout smell!).  Its also the lighting that we are familiar with, the temperature that our bodies are acclimated to, even if its too cold or hot, its what we are used to.

I live in a newer building and have forced air and heat but I grew up in a house with radiators. Whenever I am visiting somewhere with radiators and I hear the hiss and clank of the steam warming up the metal radiators, I want to snuggle up and go to sleep, I feel so comfortable and welcomed immediately.

We certainly can’t forget about who else is in the house that helps makes it a home.  I have always had dogs and I really feel the absence when I don’t walk in to a cold wet nose welcoming me home.  Of course, when you live with another person or people they are a huge part of what makes your house your home.  When my dog died and my daughter and I started coming home to an empty house I hated it, I went out and bought fish just so we could say hello and goodbye to something. A little over the top? Perhaps, but everyone has their own “thing” that makes home “home”.  It matters not if no one else gets it.

Of course, the things that are in your house matter too. But I mention them last because I think the intangibles are more important and are really what can create your Home anywhere you need or want it to be.  If you don’t love coming home, its time to figure out why and do something about it.  Whether that means a makeover of your existing space or finding somewhere new that better suits all those important intangibles.  I’m happy to help, either way, creative use of space is one of my specialties. If you decide that a new space is the answer, now is a great time to make that move.

Either way, enjoy going home today!

Polar Adventure Days – this weekend in the city!

This is the first year that my 2 1/2 yr old is really old enough to appreciate playing in the snow.  A couple of weekends ago when we had pretty deep snowfall she had an absolute blast with our neighbor who is about her age. And, I have to say, I wish I had a snowsuit too because I was right down in the snow playing with her!

First snow angel

Climbing a mountain!

This weekend the Chicago Park District is hosting another great- and free-event for the whole family.  Northerly Island will be hosting the Polar Adventure days from 12-4 and will have ice sculpture demonstrations, live animals, winter crafts, hot cocoa and more. Sophia and I will be there–say hi if you see us!  Details and directions here.