Archive for the 'Cultural adventures' Category

Hello. My Name is Erica B. and I am a Happy Suburbanite

This, from Slightly Insulting Chicago Posters, is designed to be funny-offensive. I can take a joke. But allow me to set the record straight about my very much alive hopes, dreams and aspirations as a suburbanite.

The city vs. the suburbs? It’s not that simple. It’s not us against them.

I didn’t leave Chicago for the suburbs because I fell out of love with it. Or because I failed. Or it failed me. Nothing could be further from the truth. Chicago was everything to me.

It’s an unpopular opinion that the suburbs are as adventurous as the big city. You can’t possibly maintain your dignity, passion and integrity out there. You can’t possibly still consider that living.

Newsflash: I’ve lived here for four years (and grew up in one) and I AM FAR FROM DEAD. I love the suburbs.

I still keep up with new music. I still read (we have libraries, too!). I write. I create. I discover new restaurants and eat good food with friends. I attend art shows and farmers markets, and shop at little downtown stores. I visit farms, orchards, museums, parks and enjoy tons of recreation. At home, I even have room for my own real garden! It’s pretty amazeballs. And contrary to what my facebook posts might relate, my new adventures are not all about my kids (though, yeah, some of the best involve them). Oh, and one final revelation: I can visit the city whenever I please.

It’s just common sense. You don’t die when you move. You don’t give up when you have a family. It doesn’t work that way. Adventurous people find adventure. Motivated people don’t care if something doesn’t already exist for them, they can always make it themselves. Creative people don’t need a special place to build, write or dream. They just do it. They rely on their imagination and will, not their coordinates.

So if you’ve transplanted form the city to the burbs or country for family, work, change of pace, cost of living, whatever – don’t EVER feel bad about it. Never feel like a sellout. Never feel ashamed or embarrassed or boring (unless you are boring). Don’t care so much about what’s going on in the city or what you’re missing out on. You have every opportunity to enjoy your life with the people you love wherever you are right now.


Rockin’ Gift Guide Part 3: Books That Rock

These great new and classic books explore music while promoting literacy and art appreciation – they’re great gift ideas for children and music lovers of all ages. Always shop at your local independent book stores!

Forever Young –

Alternative ABCc –

One Love –

Awesome Books –

Woody's 20 Grow Big Songs –

Charlie Parker Played Be Bop –

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom (Book and Ray Charles narration CD) –

Hush, Baby, Hush: Lullabies from Around the World –

Man Gave Names to all the Animals –

Blowin’ in the Wind –

Kidzapalooza 2012 – Lineup Announced!

You know what I love? I love music and entertainment for kids and families that’s not overly gimmicky or laden with simplicity. I like music that doesn’t underestimate kids’ tastes and intelligence. That’s why I love Kidzapalooza’s programming. I mean, anything with rocker Perry Farrell’s stamp of approval has gotta be kinda awesome, right?

Now in its seventh year, Kidzapalooza is the summer music and subculture event for rock-friendly families as part of Farrell’s legendary Lollapalooza music festival (which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year). Kidza happens right on the festival grounds in Grand Park (Chicago) on August 5, 6 and 7 – kids 10 and under enjoy Lolla/Kidza for free!

Beyond sets by the hottest kindie bands, Kidza has historically featured activities such as karaoke, temp tattoos, workshops for break dancing, hip hop, skateboarding and drumming.

Kidza c0-founder Tor Hyams’ hella cute kids reveal this year’s lineup:

Playing Catch Up

Hi! Remember moi? I’ve been pretty busy over here with the dayjob, but rest assured, I have lots of blog ideas for February. Before I can move on, I have to catch you up on what’s been going on in Ollieland. So here’s a pictorial review:

First Show – We went to see The Boogers (“Ramones meets Mother Goose”) at Schubas in January. I wish I could say we stayed for the entire set, but Ollie was a little sensitive to the noise (he wasn’t the only one). But we had a great time anyway, scored a t-shirt and had all the tater tots we could snarf next door at Harmony Grill. I highly recommend checking out The Boogers, especially if you’re a punk rock parent like me. After the show, we headed across the street to Uncle Fun, one of my favorite shops in Chicago – full of curios, tchotchkes, pranks, toys and books. Our haul included a Homies lunchbox (for Kate), a pooping pig (Ollie is quite smitten with this), wind-up chattering teeth and two plastic double-finger rings for me.

Terrific Twos – The rock star 2nd birthday party was a blast. Auntie Coco knocked the record cake out of the park as predicted. Great pizzas from Nick’s.




Baby’s First Blizzard – We had two super snow days after Mother Nature dumped almost two feet of snow on the Chicago area. Ollie could not get enough of snowball throwing and climbing the drifts.  We couldn’t get enough of him being naturally cute with his rosy cheeks and nose. Another item of note, we were all thankfully shoveled out in time for a weekend playdate with Judys – Ollz made a great new friend, Mylo.




Going for a Spin – Ollie’s vintage Fisher-Price record player finally came. It’s pretty fantastic. He’s a bit small to play it himself, but we enjoyed “The Fox and the Hound” on vinyl – and I’m not gonna lie, I’ve been getting a lot of mileage out of it – old 45s sound wonderfully tinny and crackly. Also for his b-day Auntie Coco got him the retro record player toy that he has manhandled to the point that it half works. We have fun singing oldies like “Camptown Races” and “Hickory Dickory Dock.” How bad is it that the Andrew Dice Clay versions of some of these nursery rhymes are the ones I remember best?


Famous Babe – Ollie’s mug was featured on the homepage of to promote local snowbaby pics in the site’s photo gallery. After the blizzard, they used it again to encourage parents to send blizzard baby pics. This is validation that we’re not too biased – Ollie is unarguably cute.

Sesame Street Turns 41: Turn it Up, Kick it Old School

In honor of Sesame Street’s 41st anniversary, we’re celebrating Music Monday over here – and we’re kicking it old school, yo!

Sesame Street: Old School, Vol. 2 [CD]

Fact: as an adult, but before I even had a bun in the oven, I owned Sesame Street Old School DVD Vol. 1 & 2. As a kid, I was always into the offbeat characters such as the green crime boss and his blue lackey Lefty – I’ll never forget the spoof they did of Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.” I still have an autographed photo from Gordon Robinson’s wife Susan. The “sad flower” video set to Antonio Vivaldi’s “Concerto in d major Guitar” always brought me to tears as a child – can you say emo?

Clearly I’m easily won over by all things Sesame Street, particularly the eps I remember from my childhood in the ’80s, which included lots of reruns from the ’70s. And now that Ollz is into preschool programming, ABCs, 123s, colors, shapes, animals, etc., this is a great excuse to indulge in The Street.

Case in point: the Old School CD music collections. Volume 2 features A WHOLE ALBUM dedicated to Ollz’s most-loved monster, Grover, in which he sings the blues (natch!). His songs with “Little Girl” are my favorite – she’s a cutie, but she lacks the patience necessary to deal with this oft oblivious monster and bails on him in “The Question Song.”

Do you remember Roosevelt Franklin?! DUDE! He gets his own CD, too! Am I cranking this in my car?! Heck yes! It’s groovy, it’s retro, it’s got soul. Oh, and there are lessons being learned (days of the week, months, safety, the ABCs and my personal favorite, black pride in “The Skin I’m In”). Say it loud!

Last but certainly not least, The Count’s comp plays like a radio broadcast featuring commercial spots, DJ banter and of course numbers’ greatest hits (with cameos by Tammy Wynot, Dolly Pardon and Jerry Lee Nelson – AH AH AH AH AH!). Ollz loves “Count it Higher” by Chris and the Alphabeats – a nod to “Twist and Shout.” “Four Big Lions” is  Johnny Cash-a-rific.

Suffice it to say, the Old School CD sets are must-haves for preschoolers you house, but let’s be honest, it’s a trip down memory lane (er, Sesame Street) for us, too.

American Maternity Leave Fails to Measure Up

I want to share this important POV regarding working moms/maternity leave from a Chicago freelancer/new mom Jessica Hopper:

“Being American and freelance, there is not really such a thing as maternity leave; “maternity leave” means I just type slowly with one hand while nursing the baby. It works out fine, I am lucky I can do both and to have work that pays me. This depressing chart of how maternity leave works in Europe/the rest of the world shows that America is the only country where maternity leave is conditional and unpaid. And a ruling today in MA says women taking more than 2 months off can be fired. I think some people are right when they say that this is one of feminism’s failings, that women were so focused on equality and not being anyone’s special exception, no real focus on maternal rights–which was a focus of the European feminist platform. American feminism fucked up on that one.” –Tinyluckygenius blog


I feel fortunate that when I had Ollie, I had a three-month maternity leave with a percentage of pay (under Family Medical Leave) and promise that I’d have my job when I returned. I can’t believe that’s not mandatory for all employers in the United States. This wealthy, first-world country that prides itself on taking care of the work force drops the ball once you decide to have a family.

The U.S. needs to employ the arrangement many European countries have — mandatory percentage of pay for a length of time. And I personally think parents need more than the standard three months to bond with/nurse their children. I don’t know who came up with that magic number. As for payment, anything less than 100 percent of pay is rough. Here you are with a new baby, doctors’ bills and lots of new expenses and you’re income drops dramatically. Then you’re hit with daycare costs when you return to work. Maybe we should move to the U.K or somewhere where they take care of working families.

We’re the Kids in America

It’s so rare to see color photographs from the ’30s and ’40s. When I saw this beautiful collection published in the Denver Post, I wanted to share the ones depicting the innocence and realness of childhood in Depression-era rural America. See the entire set (including urban shots) here.

Children asleep on bed during square dance. McIntosh County, Oklahoma, 1939 or 1940. Reproduction from color slide. Photo by Russell Lee. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

School children singing. Pie Town, New Mexico, October 1940. Reproduction from color slide. Photo by Russell Lee. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Boy building a model airplane as girl watches. Robstown, Texas, January 1942. Reproduction from color slide. Photo by Arthur Rothstein. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Bayou Bourbeau plantation, a Farm Security Administration cooperative. Vicinity of Natchitoches, Louisiana, August 1940. Reproduction from color slide. Photo by Marion Post Wolcott. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Enter your email addy to subscribe.

Join 21 other followers

Bettie Page Kids Clothing

140-Character Musings