Another Way to Beat the Heat

Hello Friends,

Well, summer heat has arrived in Chicago. If the weather prediction is right, we’re in for more this week. With temps hitting the nineties on Friday and Saturday, we decided to cash-in a gift and hit the theater.

Oops, to clarify, we went to the Marriot Theatre, not a movie theater. Grandma and Grandpa gifted the girls tickets for Christmas and we found Junie B. Jones, the Musical, for them to check out.

Sweetie read a bunch of the June B. Jones books during the First Grade, and really enjoyed them. The writing is age-appropriate and accessible. I think Sweetie liked that there is some mis-adventures, mischief, and some of the behaviors are a bit controversial (again, within the age parameters). Cricket knows of Junie B. through her sister-if Sweetie dug it, it must be awesome.

The theatre was only about forty percent filled, and wife spoke with a lovely woman at the ticket counter, so first row, center, for us. Since we were on the same level as the stage, the girls could see all the actors and actresses up close. They loved the layout (theatre in the square?) that allowed them to see all the action. The girls were rockin’ out to the songs and crackin’ up with the show.

The Marriot Theatre is in Lincolnshire, just North of the city. They hold all types of theatre performances, and the ground-level, square stage with 360° seating is pretty cool. Their air conditioning works well and the seats are comfortable. (If I could’ve taken photos during the performance you would see the grandfather who slept comfortably the entire show-HERE). They are easy enough to find online, so check ’em out.

So I offer you, friends, this other way to beat the heat. Another special thanks to Grandma and Grandpa for this “experience” gift, which was a wonderful way to spend the day. I hope you all are staying comfortable in the summer heat, and finding all sorts of adventures. We’ll see you out there!

May the 4th Fun

Hello Friends,

Yes, I know we are already days past, but May the 4th be with you! We had such a fun, full weekend that I couldn’t get this out to you all on Saturday. Our May 4th plans weren’t extensive, but they were fun, so I thought I’d share.Our main Star Wars celebration was heading to the local Barnes & Nobles for a May 4th Star Wars Lego build event. Bins of various pieces greeted the children, who had free reign to build.There was product on display, of course, as if the kids needed motivation to join the fun. They also had an activity booklet for the kids to color and complete. Sweetie and I ventured in while Cricket napped in the car.So here’s Sweetie’s finished escape pod. All MOCs were turned in to the staff for photographing and posting on their Instagram feed. It was kind of a bummer that the kids couldn’t keep their builds, but a giant poster of Star Wars alphabet helped ease that pain.The girls are Star Wars fans and Lego fans. They are not quiet to the convention/public cosplay level just yet, so the Barnes & Nobles event was just right. It was great to be out and about, and attending the event helped “launch” an adventurous afternoon.I hope you guys had a good weekend, and today started your week off well. We’ll see you out there!

A Different Ice

Hello Friends,

Those of you in and around Chicago know all about ice and cold. I think anyone watching the news has heard about the polar vortex that parked over Chicago last week, and many of you lived it, so I want to talk about a different kind of ice. This kind of ice that comes with songs, characters, $15 snow cones and “merch”. I want to shift the focus and share with you our weekend adventure at Disney on Ice.

We went to the show titled “Mickey’s Search Party”, currently playing at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont. This particular show revolves around Mickey Mouse and friends collecting magic from a variety of items in order to free Tinkerbell from a lamp prison. Each item comes from a different Disney story and invites characters from six different stories to join the adventure. Of course, each story brings its songs, with all the hits, including, “Be Our Guest” ( Beauty and the Beast), “Let it Go” (Frozen), and “Remember Me” (Coco).

This is not the first Disney ice show we have attended. At the beginning of the show Sweetie, now six (steadily approaching seven) seemed a bit removed, almost bored. Once the songs started, though, she was into the show. I even caught her singing along.

The Cricket, on the other hand, was in full “Disney Magic” mode right from jump. Her four-year-old self was swept up by the spectacle, from the variety of merch to the costumes, actors, and characters. She was freely singing, with the abandon that youth exercises.

At these ages this type of gift: a song and dance character extravaganza, filled with visual entertainment, was awesome. The girls had a great time and were wiped out afterward from the excitement and the fun. All props to the Allstate Arena, champions at moving people and traffic and keeping a crowded parking lot orderly. A big thanks for the tickets, a wonderful Christmas gift to the girls. This type of show may not be for everyone, it can be a bit much. But this is one of those experiences that makes a shared memory for our entire family unit. And no one is safe from the Disney Magic…

Bengtson’s Pumpkin Festival

Hello Friends,

This is pumpkin patch season. For years, Sister Scales-of-Justice has been inviting us to Bengtson’s Pumkin Festival in Homer Glen, Illinois. This year the girls were ready.

Attractions abound, with Autumn fun ranging from the Fun Barn to carnival-style rides with animatronics, like Spooky Skeleton bands, sprinkled here and there.

They also have animals! There are pony rides and a petting zoo. Pleasantly, both were super clean. Not just free of animal mess, but actually smelled good. It was great to let the girls enjoy themselves without cringy because the animals and pens were grimy. I almost forgot, they also have hourly pig races! There are four heats with the excited little guys running their circle track. Winner gets an iced oatmeal cookie!

Overall, the entire campus is kept clean, like super clean. The staff is on constant patrol for errant garbage. Many of the buildings are new and still have the fresh-cut lumber smell. Food options abound, ranging from snack to full barbeque or taco meals. The apple cider doughnuts were tasty, and we were sad we didn’t try the pumpkin churros.

This is not a sponsored review, so let’s insert some reality. The one downer I found at Bengtson’s was the lack of bathrooms. At least the indoor, running water type. To be clear (and fair), they have port-o-lets all over, strangely with sink troughs and soap right outside. But if you have a porta-potty hang-up, this arrangement would be off-putting. Our girls managed just fine.

If you are up for a drive, head to Homer Glen and check out Bengtson’s Pumpkin Festival. I didn’t mention it yet, but of course they have a pumpkin patch, with all sizes of pumkins and gourds for sale. Our girls loved all the action happening around the festival. We loved the clean grounds and amenities. Overall, Bengtson’s is some serious fall fun!

Following a Yellow Brick Road

Hello Friends,

This is another family adventure from our weekend. With such a beautiful late summer day on Saturday, we had to get out. Wife Googled parks in the city and found “Oz Park ” in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. Who knew?

The main draw was statues of the main Oz characters. Obviuosly, here the girls are sitting on Dorothy’s pedestal. Arranged around two sides of the park, these statues help set a playful tone.

Nick Chopper, a.k.a the Tin Woodman guards the northeast entrance of the park.

Just inside that entrance stands the scarecrow. He is near the “quiet area”, his gentle nature an appropriate reflection of this calm patch. Filled with flowers and decorative plants, it stands apart from the playground and greenspace of the park.

The Cowardly Lion stands at the southeast corner of the park. He has the bonus of being app-enabled and can call you and talk with you. More importantly, he defends the pickle ball court. And yes, the people who play there too.

The playground at Oz Park is amazing. Shade is abundant and kids climb all over multiple ornate wooden structures. There’s tennis courts, pickleball courts, baseball diamonds, basketball courts, open space, the playground- really something for everyone.

We broke for lunch and headed down the street to Chicago Halal. Not much more than counter tops, this place has some kind of magic to their food prep. The gyro meat was cut small and had a delicious searing on the edges.

The girls ate well on their cheeseburgers too. So overall, our family dug Chicago Halal. I know that’s a weak review, but maybe some of you foodies out there can drop them a visit and do a proper one.

So here’s a weird thing about the afternoon: the lack bathrooms. Despite the beauty and playground amenities, Oz Park does not have any bathroom facilities. Chicago Halal also lacks bathrooms facilities. We tried to pitstop at a Starbucks near the park, but no, no toilet. What?!? Bit of a downer on a our day, but we salvaged it. You know who had a bathroom? Same people who have old-school soft serve. Oh yeah, Dairy Queen.

If you haven’t been to Oz Park yet, just follow Webster east, about to Halsted. Visit with the friends from L. Frank Baum’s Oz series, or maybe get in on some wooden paddle and wiffle ball action. Lincoln Park holds plenty of restaurants, both new and fresh as well as tried and true. So food is easy to find around Oz Park. Just be sure you plan your adventure ahead, so you don’t make your own yellow brick road.