Saturday, July 23, 2011

Cool Fun at the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre

Originally Posted on The Chicago Moms blog

We always enjoy the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. When we were invited to review the new CST Family production of Pinocchio, we immediately grabbed four tickets. When the lights went down, I spent the first few minutes admiring the actors and set. The story we all know has been reimagined with original songs and music, and a mix of live actors and puppets.

The Chicago Shakespeare Theater doesn’t look at children’s theater as something to fill summer months. The company views children’s theater as an opportunity to introduce the magic of live performance to a new audience. We’ve attended several children’s shows and the high-quality, engaging stories did help us introduce our daughters’ to the magic of live theater. Now when we say we’re headed to a theater production, our girls are excited.

Pinocchio continues the tradition. The actors have impressive backgrounds, which show in the quality of the acting and singing. The set is simple, but effective. The puppets are an interesting addition to the story. The real fun comes during the show when the actors leave the stage. All good family productions recognize that a large part of audience has a limited attention span. As the actors move through the theater, the audience follows them. There’s an interactive piece that gets everyone laughing and out of their seats, although I won’t spoil the surprise.

After the show several actors autographed the programs. I spent some time admiring the view from the lobby windows. One of the things I adore about the Chicago Shakespeare Theater is the space. Both in the performance spaces and the lobby are beautiful. We’re normally at the theater at night, so it’s a treat to stare out the windows during the day. You can see what’s happening on Navy Pier and the beautiful Chicago skyline.

Even the traditional showbill is designed with children in mind. On the drive home, our girls enjoyed the “Bringing Pinocchio Home” section. They asked each other the questions designed to help them recount the performance, did the crossword puzzle and colored the ocean scene. It’s a fun way to keep the magic going on the drive home. Of course, it kept our girls busy, so we really appreciated it.

Pinocchio is recommended for children from ages 4 – 8. Our girls are nearly 8, so I worried a bit that they were too old for the show. The audience was filled with children slightly younger and older than the recommended age group. Everyone enjoyed the show, expecially our daughters.

The weather forecast is hot and humid for much of July. Now’s the time to take advantage of a great summer tradition and visit the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. With the discounted parking, you can enjoy Navy Pier before or after the show for a complete adventure. It’s cool, affordable fun for the whole family.

**In case you missed it, our family did receive free review tickets. The opinions are entirely my own and consistent with my opinion of shows we’ve paid for at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Yummy Angie's Kettle Corn

We are big fans of kettle corn.  Just in time for back-to-school lunches, Angie's Kettle Corn is now available in grocery stores and retailers like Target.  This is a good thing.

The nice folks at Angie's sent us two bags to review.  It's one thing to like something you find at a street fair.  It's something else to like it when it's mass produced.   Well, I'm writing about it, which means we liked it. 

The mix of traditional popcorn saltiness and kettle corn sweetness is lighter than what we find at the street fairs -- and that's a good thing.  Sometimes I find street fair kettle corn too greasy.  We didn't have that problem with the prepackaged product.  It is light and salty and sweet. 

The timing on this couldn't be better for us.  This year the girls will take lunch every day.  They also need to bring a snack.  I can use this in either place.  The girls can bring popcorn for their snack, as long as it's basic popcorn.  Chocolate covered popcorn would not be acceptable, but kettle corn would be perfect.

We'll be regular customers for Angie's Kettle Corn for both school and just-for-fun snacks.  We really enjoyed the product and like that we can pick up a bag while we're shopping. 

Saturday, April 17, 2010

I Need to Get Out More, Part II

Of the 16 different vendors at the Chicago Moms Blog event last night, there were two I was quite excited about -- in my most geeky way,of course.

First was the Energizer recharge. This should be required for every baby shower. The premise is so simple. This little device comes with four AA batteries, but it doesn't just recharge your batteries. It tells you how much energy is still left in your batteries. Why did this intrigue me so? Well, in our house we have a lot of toys with AA batteries. About half the time we find a bunch of batteries on the floor instead of in the toys. There's no way to tell which of the batteries are new and which are about to die out. Now we don't have to wonder if the batteries are any good any more. We can just check the rechargeable batteries in this device. I really like the idea, can you tell?
I have to say, though, that I did feel badly for the two young men representing Energizer. They were nice, polite and knowledgeable. They also seemed a bit overrun by the dozens of moms in the room. They would be in the middle of explaining their product when one mom recognized another friend, and then well...let's just say we had short attention spans. The nice, young men had to start all over again. They were very, very patient.

The other idea I really liked was from IGo Green. They had a product with a litium ion battery, so you didn't need an electrical outlet to charge your mobile phone/laptop/etc. Great idea, huh? It took me a minute to understand why this was such a good idea. Since I have a two year old phone (ancient in the tech world), I didn't realize how often iPhones, Palms, and Blackberries need to be charged. Some day I'll have a cool phone and I'll need this.

The product I liked the most was their Power Smart Tower. This device helps reduce stand-by power loss. There are outlets that shut down when not in use (like your flat screen TV), while others stay on (like your DVR). Think about how much power/money you could save if you had smart outlets like this? I was just thinking about how much phantom power we use. We have a tv in the living room that rarely gets turned on, yet every time I open the cabinet, I see the red "off" circle glowing. It bugs me, but I cannot move the entire cabinet to unplug the tv. The Power Smart Tower would solve this problem.

Perhaps the best part of the display was the "Suck Less" buttons IGo Green was distributing. It's part of a campaign to reduce phantom power use. I really wanted a button, but didn't think it was such a good idea since the girls would probably end up with it. Somehow I really don't think the school would appreciate that button, even though all the moms loved it.

I Need to Get Out More

One of the cool things about blogging is you get to meet some really interesting people. Today I visited with the other bloggers at a Chicago Moms Blog event. You know what I realized? I need to get out more. I don't mean the kind of get out of the house activities like grocery shopping or visiting the library. I'm pretty good at those. I mean the kind of getting out of the house just to see what's new in the world.

At the event tonight, I spoke to interesting women from the Avon Foundation. They have a new program called Army of Women. They are trying to bring together one million women to volunteer for breast cancer-related research projects. Some are easy; others are more complicated. I signed up to volunteer as soon as I came home. You know I will do anything I can to prevent the girls from facing down this disease. If my time can help future generations, let's do it.

There is a movie called Babies coming out on Mother's Day. It looks at the first year of life for babies in four very different parts of the world. There's a part of me that thinks the movie DVD would be a good gift for anyone with baby lust. You can enjoy watching the babies without having to change diapers.

I talked to the Peapod team, who had a very interesting registered dietician named Lara Field at their table. She and I chatted for a bit about the girls vegetarian eating habits. While they do eat a bit more meat here and there, I still wanted to check in with her about the best ways to get protein and iron into their diets. I like that Peapod offers more organic choices these days.

The eBay team now has a classified advertising site. For all the time I spend on the eBay site, I didn't know this. I looked at the site and it seems like eBay's version of Craig's List. We're talking about getting an L-shaped couch in the family room, so I need to sell our current couch. I think this will be a good test drive of the new site. After all, our friends and family are probably a bit tired of me trying to get stuff out of our house and into theirs. I'd say once or twice a month I'm trying to give away some stuff. In this case, we have an expensive dark blue, Lane micro-fiber, double-recliner sofa that needs to go. If I can sell it for a few dollars, I'd be a happy girl.

The team from 1-800 Baskets laughed when I told them that I order a lot of stuff from their site because they partner with uPromise. I think they thought I was kidding at first, but I was not. We use every opportunity to order from uPromise partners because every penny we can save towards the girls' college education counts. Plus, we've had good luck with their products. Why not stick with a good thing?

These were all interesting conversations and I learned a lot from each person. The most interesting thing I learned will come tomorrow. I know, you cannot wait...