Saturday, April 25, 2009

Building Blocks Toy Store

Today we stopped into the new Building Blocks toy store in Wicker Park. The original store is in Lakeview at 3306 N. Lincoln Ave., and this new second location is located at 2130 W. Division St.

I loved this store from the moment we walked in - it is jam-packed with toys, and we didn't know where to begin! The selection is incredible, and what I loved the most was just how many different kinds of toys they had for every age range. Mia just turned one, and we got some great recommendations for some toys for her. We started small, since I know we'll be back - we walked out with a mini maraca (she grabbed it early and put it in her mouth, so at that point we knew it was hers), an Educo "Spring -A-Ling" handheld maze toy, and a great set of baby keys with real metal key parts and sound effects.

This store had a great selection of quality toys, including some of our favorite brands like Haba, Melissa & Doug, and Priddy board books. They had an impressive selection of bathtub toys, musical toys, hand puppets, Sesame Street characters - really they've got everything, and LOTS of everything! This will be the place we go for any upcoming birthday gifts, for kids of any age.

Monday, April 20, 2009

It's that time - Sample sale at the Apparel Center!

Wish you could outfit your little one in designer duds, but don't want to spend a fortune? Head on over to the Apparel Center this week, where you can find great deals on the reps' sample collections. They pay for the manufacturers' samples that they use, and at the end of the season, they just want to get them off the shelves. Their prices are already 50% of what you'd pay retail, and many of them offer further discounts. I shopped the last sample sale and got some great stuff - things I never would have bought retail, like a little $60 designer fake fur-trimmed skirt for just $15.

The sale is taking place on the 6th floor of the Apparel Center at 350 Orleans, which is right across the street from the Merchandise Mart. It's going on through this Wednesday, from 9am - 4pm. Happy shopping!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Got Baby? Be By Baby!

I have been meaning to visit Be By Baby for MONTHS, and I'm so glad that we finally stopped in! I've been getting their emails for months, which are always full of great information on the various classes and mommy groups that take place in their store. I felt like I was part of a special mommy club, even though I'd never stepped foot in the door.

This is a great store if you're a new or expecting mom. They've got a great section of items for moms-to-be, including nursing supplies, slings, cloth diapers, organic baby products and nursing bras and tops. If you're interested in learning about cloth diapering or babywearing, they offer classes that teach you about these subjects. While I was there, I saw a pregnant woman getting a quick lesson on slings with a very lifelike baby doll.

Their class offerings are great too - they offer instruction on natural childbirth, breastfeeding, infant CPR, baby sign language and much more. I might sign my mom up for an upcoming infant safety class.

The product selection overall is really wonderful - adorable baby clothes, toys, and gift items, and they've got a huge selection of wooden Melissa and Doug puzzles - our favorites - and other natural wood toys. I managed to escape with only one item, although it would have been easy to fill entire trunk. I found a great wide-brim sunhat for Mia, which for the life of me I couldn't seem to find last year.

So if you're an expectant or new mom, or looking for a great gift, be sure to stop in some time! Located at 1654 W. Roscoe.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Sampling baby classes

I was able to get out of the house with Mia this week, since our ventures did not require her sitting in a stroller or shopping cart! (as of this afternoon, she will still not go in the stroller!)

On Monday we went to Gymboree class. We've been going to the Gymboree on North Avenue and Kingsbury since Mia was about 2 months old. I've been really happy with it, and have especially enjoyed the covered parking through the winter! We're up to level 3 classes now, and have really loved the different classes and especially our instructors. However, I'm now interested in finding some music classes for Mia, since she seems to be very musically inclined - I think more than normal. The music classes at Gymboree don't fit into my work schedule, so I'm planning to try out some new options in the coming week.

On Thursday we did a trial class at Bubbles Academy. Again, the music class that I wanted to try didn't work with my schedule, so we tried a general class for babies 12-24 months. I'm pretty certain that Mia was the youngest in the class (she'll be one year old next Wednesday), but we had a lot of fun! I think that the new venue was exciting, no doubt simply because it was new, but also since it's a huge open space with great colors and images. She definitely enjoyed running around, and she was fascinated watching the older kids. I talked with some of the other moms in the class, and many have been going to Bubbles for a long time and really love it. There's parking available here too, which is a plus for a venue in the city!

I'm not sure yet where we're going to end up signing up for class, because I'd like to try a few other options. I'm hoping to try a class at the Suzuki school, as well as Wiggleworms which I have consistently heard great things about. A place called Bucktown Music recently opened in our neighborhood and will be offering Kindermusic classes, which I was VERY excited to hear. However, it sounds like the class for babies will be at 10am, which is prime naptime in our house. I'm hoping that perhaps if I can get some other moms together who would prefer a different time - maybe 4pm or so - we can get another class going. If you're interested, please drop me an email at and let me know!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Getting out and getting nowhere

I'm embarrassed that I haven't blogged in over a week, but it's kind of hard to write about getting out of the house with kids when your kid REFUSES to go anywhere without being held. I'm hoping it's a phase - a short phase. My arms really hurt.

This started on Friday and continued every day through the weekend. She refuses to ride in her stroller or sit in a shopping cart. She has a raging fit, which she's never done before (well, not until last weekend's 5-day "i refuse to go in my crib" phase) Nothing seems to work except picking her up and holding her. I tried letting her ride it out in the stroller one day, but that did not end well (it ended with Mia throwing up and me having to clean it up with my mittens and a diaper) Three days of outings were cut short or cancelled. I'm concerned that I'm never going to be able to leave the house with her again.

I'm going to keep on trying this week. We've got lunch plans and Gymboree today, and Thursday we're going to check out a class at Bubbles Academy. Hopefully there will also be some stroller walks this week, but that's up in the air for now!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Animal adventures in Old Town

Mia's finally feeling better, and we made it out of the house today for the first time in 2 weeks. She's been learning animal sounds lately - currently, her reportoire consists of sounds for a cow, pig, chicken, and most recently, fish. So after showing her fish pictures and playing with her little Nemo all week, we decided it was time to see some real fish.

While I'm excited to eventually plan our first trip to the Shedd, today we just wanted to do something simple, so we headed over to Wells Street to see the Old Town Aquarium. First, we grabbed some lunch at Old Jerusalem, where Mia enjoyed her very first taste of a french fry and falafel. Then we headed north up Wells St., and stopped at the Collar and Leash pet store. They've got cats and dogs for sale, and while we've got 2 cats at home, Mia had never seen a dog really close up. Unfortunately for us, the animals were on the 3rd floor, but it was worth the climb as I believe Mia enjoyed it.

Then on to the Old Town Aquarium, which was perfect - enough tanks and colorful fish to let Mia get an idea of what real fish look like. In the middle of the store there's even a little goldfish pond, with huge goldfish swimming around. There were lots of other parents with kids there, just like us. So until we have our first real trip to the Shedd - which I think Mia will appreciate more in just a few months - this was perfect!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Made in the USA (Chicago): Hoohobbers

I thought I'd heard of all the great kids' stores in town (at the very least those within a 5 block radius of my house), but I found out today that I was wrong! I got wind of a store called Hoohobbers a couple of weeks ago, and today I stopped by to see what it was all about.

Hoohobbers opened a storefront about a year and a half ago at 1657 N. Elston. It's easy to miss - it's in an industrial-looking area with almost no foot traffic, and a small sign that you could easily miss while driving by. The interesting location is because this is where they actually manufacture their products. They've been in business since '81 and sell their merchandise mostly through other retail outlets. You may have seen some of their products in stores like Lazar's and Beautiful Beginnings.

They boast of their reputation for quality and uniqueness, the fact that they've never had any products recalled, and that all their great stuff is made right here in Chicago USA. They make kids' bedding, cribs and Moses baskets, rockers, lamps, ottomans, tables and chairs, baby bags, bibs and more.

Some of the more unusual that items I saw were the adorable soft fabric insulated lunch boxes, funky foldable monogrammed baby director chairs, and gorgeous infant rockers. The rockers are available in dozens of beautiful fabrics, making them appear somehow super soothing and comfortable. They make gorgeous Moses baskets - had I seen these before I committed to my plastic bassinet (which I did love), I might have considered this option!

They can even custom create their products for you using fabric that you choose. I'm thinking I might have them make one of their cute floor lamps for Mia in the extra fabric I have from her curtains!

They're having a sale now, and you can check back on soon for a coupon code that I'll be posting. If you're looking for some really adorable, beautiful, non-gimmicky stuff, check out the store or the web site at

On the web site, use coupon code "ChicagoKids09" for 15% off through April 30.