Tag Archives: chicago

$2 Off to Chicago’s CHiTAG Toy and Game Fair

I don’t attend a lot of fairs or expos, but when it comes to the business of play? I’m all there. This weekend, Navy Pier becomes home to the 11th annual Chicago Toy and Game Fair, where vendors like HABA, Plan Toys, Razor, Kickboard USA, Bananagrams, TOMY and more set up shop and show off their wares.

Look, a coupon:

Click the image for ticket info and a full-sized coupon to print.

You might be able to get in free:
Teachers, librarians, scouts in uniform, and kids under 3 are free. Grandparents with grandkids in tow are free on Sunday. (Translation: book a ressie for a leisurely, kid-free brunch date with your hubbie on Sunday.)

When and where:
Saturday, 11/23: 10:00am-6:00pm
Sunday, 11/24: 10:00am-5:00pm
Navy Pier, 2nd floor Festival Hall A (far east end)

What to expect:
An epic playdate that your kids will never want to leave. Browse the list of vendors and exhibitors and check out featured exhibits. Many will have life-sized versions of their bestselling games, and there will be fun events  both on Saturday and Sunday, including:

– Star Wars character lunch (fee required)
– Young Inventor Challenge, where kids showcase their own original toys
– a yo-yo contest
– magic performances
– puppeteering classes

and a ton more. Other perks include raffles, coupons, and discounts (oh hi, 30% off a Kickboard scooter!) at individual booths depending on each vendor.

Race ya there!


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Filed under events, family

The calm because of the storm

By now, everyone’s got their blizzard/Snowmageddon/Snowpocalypse/SnOMG story (I’m just very, very thankful mine didn’t involve an impromptu all-nighter on Lake Shore Drive). Ours is not so sensational, although waking up to 20 inches of snow and snow drifts that barricaded your doors is, I guess, not exactly boring either. Hubbie did the heavy lifting (literally, since the snowblower decided to call it quits) while the boys and I colored, painted, read books, and even ventured out for a few minutes. News of neighborly kindness and cross-country skiing curiosities littered Chicago blogs and news feeds throughout the day.

I wasn’t out there participating; yet, in a way, I felt like I was. As cheesy and short-lived as it is, the idea that an entire city slows to a halt is awe-inspiring, if not romantic. We didn’t need to go anywhere, pick up anyone, be on time, or get anything. It was the way things should be.

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old turned new

Most normal people would think that a fun weekend means a nice dinner out or doing something fun with the kids.

Too bad Hubbie and I aren’t normal people. What gets our blood pumping? Rummaging through other people’s stuff; the older, the better (both people and stuff). This past weekend, we went on a bit of an estate sale binge. We usually ogle goods on estatesales.net throughout the week, pick out a few sites that seem worthwhile, and plot our plan of attack.

In the past, we’ve found ridiculous deals like a set of five Moller dining chairs for just $20 or a Danish modern teak sideboard for $60. These days, we scavenge for the little things. What made this weekend special was a Highland Park estate sale in a Frank Lloyd Wright home. Most things on sale were out of our reach, but being able to tour a Frank Lloyd Wright home (listed in the U.S. Register for Historic Places, no less) for free was good enough for us.




Sadly that’s the only picture I took. Once we stepped through the front door, a beefy security guard greeted us with a grunt, and elderly women from the estate sale company (far more menacing) were stationed in each room, watching patrons with hawk eyes. Needless to say, the house was gorgeous. Classic prairie school design filled with arts and crafts touches and decor.

We went to a couple other homes in Lincolnwood and Wilmette and picked up only a few things, but the thrill of the hunt was well worth it. There’s something to be said about filling your home with things well-worn with use and love instead of pulling them off the shelf of some big box store. I love that thrifted things tell a story and remind you that you’re part of a larger narrative.


Ship: $7.50


Set of 3 owls: $9


Mexican horse piggy bank: $1.50

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Filed under chicago, design, home

go cubs go

Mister was asked recently whether he likes the Cubs or White Sox. His diplomatic and comprehensive response:

“I like both of them. I like the White Sox because they win. I like the Cubs because…. I like their colors.”

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Filed under boys boys boys, chicago, darndest things

The House that Holl Built

Floriole Café & Bakery is Lincoln Park’s new kid on the block – and already the envy of all its neighbors. Green City Market veteran Sandra Holl opened her doors on April 16th, taking her pastoral French pastry business from open-air to brick-and-mortar. Quite literally, too: Exposed brick walls anchor the space, while mammoth windows and skylights allow sunlight to drench the minimalist interior for maximum feng shui. One hundred-year-old barn joists enjoy a second life as a rustic table on the second floor. Roses loll full-bloomed in vases set throughout the café. Simply put, good karmic vibes hit instantly when you walk in, preparing you for the indulgence ahead.

The pastries, of course, are the real reason to visit and explain the huddle of indecisive patrons around the display case. Sticky buns, maple pecan cookies, and lemon-glazed cake glisten like gems. Be warned that customers tend to hover far longer than socially acceptable. No menus are — or will be – available: Items change often because of the owner’s commitment to sourcing local ingredients.

The wait, though, will prove to be worthwhile. Take the shortbread cookie, for instance. Holl returns this cliché to what it was meant to be: a simple celebration of butter and sugar that lingers on your tongue. Holl cuts hers into bars to prolong the indulgence (and make for pretty bulk packaging). Other building blocks of Floriole’s success include almond cream croissants, which flaunt a powdered sugar cloak and crème center surrounded by flaky goodness. But don’t let the goods with less flair fool you. The cornmeal-lime cookie, for example, betrays its humble appearance with a bold citrus tang on the tongue, a rich buttery bite, and a toothy cornmeal grit.

Savory deserves its share of the limelight too. The quiche—at $6, an affordable lunch—features generous ribbons of garlicky ramp, a good complement to the silky eggs. Its golden pastry shell coddles the mixture well but leaves you with a formidable, crusty knob to wrestle with. This hot dog-to-bun-esque ratio is a minor issue, though, in light of the dish’s socially responsible ingredients, including artisanal Otter Creek Farm spring cheddar. Quiche ingredients rotate often to showcase as many local sources as possible. (Translation: If you fall for a certain variety, take an extra slice to go: You may never see it again.)

Green practices aside, Holl’s French training elevates this bakery above its competition. Chocolate coconut meringue drops, baked in the proper French manner, are aptly named “boulders” with a light price tag: 75 cents each or 3 for $2 for those who get suckered into spending more than they mean to in the name of a good deal. These swoon-worthy confections, though, are a sucker’s redemption, worth every penny. Chewy and airy with semi-sweet chocolate bits gently folded in—these are the sorts of thoughtful details that make the simple luxurious. Meanwhile, the macarons – not to be confused with the dowdy macaroon – is decadence incarnate. Its delicate eggshell-like crunch preludes the cream filling, and the hint of almond – a macaron’s signature ingredient– rounds out its sweetness. Multiple flavors beckon, but resist the temptation to eat more than one. That last bite is a bit more cloying than it is satisfying.

The piece de resistance (and arguably the chief reason Holl fans flock to Floriole) is the cannele, an addictive custard cake born in Bordeaux centuries ago. A staff member surprised me by recommending it as her favorite sweet on display. In truth, it looks plain, like a little chocolate bundt cake. (I was gently instructed that the color owes itself to caramelization and nothing cocoa-related.) These little treasures are labor-intensive: Holl sources individual palm-sized copper molds from France, carefully pours the pre-chilled batter, and bakes the cakes for hours to create the rich, chewy crust. It’s a distinct taste: You either love ‘em or hate ‘em, I was warned. I took two.

It was love at first bite. The dark, slick crust resists for a split second before yielding its soft, moist interior. It was sweet and subdued, complex and understated, sophisticated and straightforward all at the same time.

It’s also quintessential Floriole: rustic yet swanky, earthy yet modern, and “slow” while rising fast in the city’s food scene.

Floriole Café and Bakery, 1220 W. Webster, Chicago, IL 60614; (773) 883.1313 www.floriole.com

picture courtesy of Floriole.

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Filed under chicago, read my writes