Sunday, November 28, 2010

Winter Camps and Winter Break Activities

Winter is upon us, and Winter Break is coming up fast! Lots of places around Chicago and the suburbs offer special winter camps and programs to keep your little ones busy... and to make sure you're getting a break as well! Here are some highlight below, and you can find more in the Winter Camp Guide.

Actors Gymnasium Circus & Performing Arts Camp
Ages 9-14 years. Mon-Thurs, December 20-23 and Mon-Thurs, December 27-30. For young performers who want to strengthen, stretch and flex their creative muscles. Circus skills covered include juggling, tumbling, trapeze, tightwire, stilts, and more.

Artist @ Heart
120 Old McHenry Road, Long Grove
340 N. Milwaukee Road, Libertyville
For kids 6-12. Option of camp per day, or per week. Different art activities each day including drwaing, painting, modeling clay, mosaics, 3-D art sculptures, jewelry making and more.

DuPage Children's Museum
301 N. Washington Street, Naperville
Chicagoland Offering 2 mini-camp sessions based on DCM’s popular school program, Kids Design Engineering. Children will learn about pneumatic power, use cool tools to design, and build and test their own pneumatic (balloon) powered project. For ages 7-10.

Easel Art Studio
1911 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago
Create art, dance the snowflakes away, and play your heart out at Easel. Enroll by day, and get a discount for attending multiple camp days.

Emerald City Theatre School
2933 N. Southport Ave., Chicago
For ages 3.5-5, and 6-10. Explore different characters and environments of the season through acting, music, dance, storytelling, crafts and more. Final presentation on the last day of camp.

School of Rock Chicago
3043 N. Ashland, Chicago
Winter Camp is an intensive musical learning experiences where kids can immerse themselves. During camp they will experience speed-learning song parts, rehearsing and performing with a band, writing original music and recording basics and introduction.

Top Golf
699 W. Thorndale Ave., Wood Dale
This winter golf camp helps kids of all skill levels learn the game of golf in a fun way and is a great way to stay active during the cold winter months. Each camp is a 3-day program that covers all aspects of the game of golf in a fun, interactive way.

2312 W. Roscoe Street, Chicago
Offering workshop days for ages 3-5, 5+ and 7+. Some workshop topics include Merry Mittens, Sweetie Pies, Snowy Scenes, Green Christmas, Cutie Foodies and more. Something for everyone!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Win a copy of Eat the World - a family cookbook that gives back

When I think of Art Smith, I think of two things: first, Oprah Winfrey, who was lucky enough to have him as her personal chef; and second, the best mac and cheese I ever ate, from his restaurant Table Fifty-Two.

I now have something new to think about, thanks to a cookbook for families that benefits his non-profit organization, Common Threads. Common Threads educates children on nutrition and physical wellbeing, teaching low-income children to cook wholesome and affordable meals.

The cookbook is not new, but it's new to me. Parents can follow these easy recipes and let kids help with the process. Each recipe includes colorful pictures not only of the finished meal, but the different steps in the process. Helpful commentary and tips from kid chefs are included, making this book relevant for kids and giving their perspective.

And even though the recipes are easy to make, they offer a variety of sophisticated cuisine types and cultural flavors. From basics like Tomato Sauce, Roasted Yams and Cheesy Broccoli Sauce to more ethnic recipes like Moroccan Squash, Emerald Fire Noodles, Tabbouleh Salad and Sesame Date Sweets - there's something for everyone!

Sound good? Order it online and use code cthreads10 to get $2 off! It’s a great gift for any family, and it supports a great cause.

We’re giving away a copy of the cookbook on Enter now to win!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Chicago Toy & Game Fair this weekend - get ready for serious fun!

This weekend is the Chicago Toy & Game Fair, where parents and kids can preview and play with the latest toys and games from more than 100 exhibitors at the country’s largest public toy & game fair! Experts from companies such as Hasbro, Out-of-the-Box, Razor and more can tell you about the trends and holiday best buys.

The show is the largest of its kind that's open to the public, so Chicago families have a really special, local opportunity. Fairgoers will be able to meet legendary and up-and-coming toy and game inventors, including Leslie Scott, inventor of Jenga; Bruce Lund, inventor of TMX Elmo and founder of River Forest-based Lund and Company Invention, Tim Walsh, board game inventor, author and filmmaker; and Richard Gill, who made Pictionary and Trivial Pursuit household names.

A Star Wars Breakfast with the legendary 501st Legion: Vader’s Fist; a Mascot Madness toy drive, Monopoly Tournaments, chess tournaments in the Renaissance Knights Pavilion, the latest Eurogames from Essen, Germany and a free Illinois Accredited Educator Conference for teachers are just a few of the many fair events planned.

The fair hours are 10 am to 6 pm on Saturday and 10 am to 5 pm on Sunday. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children. Children under three are admitted free; Scouts in uniform, military, teachers and librarians are also admitted free!

For more information, visit

And for a $2 coupon, visit

Win tickets to Traces!

Our last blog post was about Traces - now you can enter to win tickets! Enter here, but act fast, we're drawing a winner on Friday!

Enter now!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Traces Chicago - Hold on to your seats!

While most of the performers in the newly opened “Traces” have backgrounds that include time with Cirque du Soleil – Cirque this was not.

Traces felt like Cirque du Soleil had come to my corner of Wicker Park, selected seven local hipsters right off the street, and granted them superpowers. The show opens with a purely casual vibe, with seven friends dressed in comfortable street clothes just shooting the breeze in what can be imagined as some dank, gritty neighborhood.

While the primary focus is on circus and acrobatic feats, the show offers an array of performance arts - acoustic music, poetry slam, dance, piano playing…. even a humorous, skateboarding routine that reminded me of an old Hollywood scene.

Early on, the performers invite the audience to get to know them. They incorporate personal information into some acts, further lending to the feeling that we’re just hanging out on the corner with familiar friends (who are far more flexible than we are.) There was something about getting to know these performers as individuals, and seeing them in street clothes rather than sparkling, anonymizing costumes, that seemed to make everything they did even more daring.

Traces contains an unusual mix of darkness and humor. Adding to the vibe of the show is the uber-cool music; live imagery created for the stage by performers using a drawing board; and gritty, black and white live video feeds offering different angles of the performance.

While each act provided some unique sort of performance, the acrobatic prowess of these performers was the most amazing part of the show. Long-locked Florio, who looks like he just walked off the cover of a romance novel, did an entire solo act on a stack of chairs. I’ve seen performers balance single-handedly on top of a chair before, but typically they got to that position after first balancing on two hands and then removing one. Florio was on a stack of chairs, casually put his hand on top of the back of the chair, and then just launched himself up into the one-handed pose. Amazing.

The pole acrobatics were incredible. The performers leaped and flipped between 2 poles, threatening to land on their heads but always making their marks. And by the end of the show, with the performers flipping through small hoops at the top of a 6 foot stack, I was pretty convinced that they did indeed possess superhuman powers.

I recommend this for adults and for families with older kids. The performance is 90 minutes long with no intermission.

Playing October 26, 2010 - December 19, 2010 at the Broadway Playhouse, 175 E. Chestnut St., Chicago Illinois.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Hundred Dresses opens today - timeless and timely

The topic of bullying has been prevalent in the media lately, and the opening of The Hundred Dresses at Chicago Children's Theatre couldn't be timelier.

This musical was written by Ralph Covert (Ralph's World) and G. Riley Mills, and is based on a children's novel by Eleanor Estes. It's the story of Wanda Petronski, an imaginative young girl who struggles to fit in with her new classmates. Replete with a myriad of colorful and buoyant characters, The Hundred Dresses is a timeless tale that explores the bonds of friendship, the willingness to be yourself, and the courage that it takes to stand up to others -- even when you're standing alone.

The theater's web site provides a Student Study Guide that you can download. It's meant for teachers but provides valuable insights and topics for discussion that you can use with your own kids.

The show is recommended for ages 6 and up, and tickets start at $26.00.

Playing November 3 through December 2 at North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie.

Through, you can get $5 off tickets for opening weekend performances, November 6 & 7. Reserve your seats by calling the North Shore Center box office at (847) 673-6300 or visiting and using the code "HDOPEN". (This code is only good for opening weekend performance)

Learn more at