Archive for the 'Outings' Category

Chicago Rock City: Zines, Music + More

Plan your visit to the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago for a day of zine/book/record shopping, cultural adventures and good grub! Make sure the following destinations are on your list:

Reckless Records – Get lost browsing new and used records in this store reminiscent of the one in “High Fidelity,” which was, in fact, filmed down the street. Consider it indie cred if you’re treated mildly rude by the elitist clerks. Score some free wall art in the gig poster bin and treat the kids to a session of silly fun in the photo booth.

Quimby’s Bookstore (photo) – Hey, they have a play area now featuring finger puppets and wind-up toys (also for sale)! Peep comics, art books, zines galore and curiosities. Word to the wise – pocket the cell phone or risk public shaming.

Myopic Books – A book-lover’s haven, Myopic has three floors of used books – 80,000 total including everything from pop-up books to uber-special interest reads. No photos, please.

826CHI – Drop into The Boring Store (shhh! It’s really a spy store!) for inspector-y gadgets and books authored by 826 tutoring center students (proceeds help fund the nonprofit).

Hungry? Sue me, but I have no problem suggesting a New York-style pizza in Chicago. Get a slice for the right price at Santullo’s Eatery, a fast and yummy family-friendly pizzeria. Watch dough get hand-tossed right at the counter (free entertainment)!

Dessert is always in order after a long day strolling up and down city blocks! Treat your cookie monster to a sweet from Artemio Bakery, an old school panadería without pretension in, let’s face it, an otherwise hipster mecca.

Record Store Day and Waxing Nostalgic

Crows Nest Music, Crest Hill., Ill. (closed)

It’s Record Store Day! I hope you’re taking your little noisemakers to the local record store today, even if you’re like us and the closest is a little hole-in-the-wall in a plaza two towns away.

When we were kids (memory lane, here we go!) there was a big warehousey record store called Crow’s Nest Music in Crest Hill, Ill., on the top of the hill on Route 30, decked out in bright, hand-painted wooden cutouts of Prince, David Lee Roth, Madonna and other ’80s music icons. The shrink-wrapped records were neatly organized by genre in handmade lacquered wooden bins. It was like a Shangri-La for music lovers. I thought it was the coolest place ever when I was little and it was always a treat when my folks took us – usually around Chrsitmas to find that coveted, must-have album that the mall sold out of (“Thriller,” anyone?!).

When we were in high school in the ’90s, a few of my best friends ended up working there, rocking those sweet VIP lanyard/name tags – and they always reaped coolest swag from the labels. The work force was kind of culty, there were your token music snobs. If you’ve seen “Empire Records’ or “High Fidelity” you know what I’m talking about.

But that was sort of the beauty of the experience. Many of us visited largely to be schooled about why the CD we were looking for sucked and “Why don’t you instead check out this obscure, influential XYZ band/artist?” It was an education. It was also a gathering place to hear advanced albums piped through the store; listen to the rock gospel according to the local record store clerk; learn who’s touring, where and when; score a promo sampler or zine; and find out who’s looking for a new drummer, etc. Some of the stores hosted live shows, special events, giveaways and tent sales.

When I started college and began writing music reviews and band features – and eventually peddling my own music zine – I found myself working closely with Chicago’s fine record stores from Reckless Records to Laurie’s Planet of Sound. I was a little more grown up. My tastes improved. I finally had something to give back.

These days, I continue to obsess over music (ya think?). With the widespread decrease of music retailers, particularly mom-and-pops, Record Store Day is that much more special to share with my family.

Don’t get me wrong, love the availability and convenience of digital music. I love the instant accessibility to all things music online from band bios to lyrics, from Internet radio to fan forums. I’d never accuse Steve Jobs of killing the music industry. But I love record stores and I just hope there will always be bricks and mortar for this important experience – and preferably not in the context of a museum.

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.

Gimme The Candy!

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Ollie was DJ Lance Rock from Yo Gabba Gabba for Halloween this year. It was funny hearing my mother-in-law explain who he was to some people in the neighborhood who don’t know DJ Lance Rock from Adam.

He was mistaken for Austin Powers at one house. I could totally see it. Plus, he refused to wear the fuzzy orange hat, which would have completed the look, but wasn’t necessary. His auntie’s efforts were spot-on down to the gold “ROCK” buckle and boom box that doubled as a candy bucket (she used a  six-pack carrier – genius!).

It was cute seeing Ollie get the whole trick-or-treating thing this year. Last year, he was just a furry little Ewok that we carried around everywhere. This year, he thought an open door was an invite inside at the first house, which was sort of priceless.

At another house, a lady at the door bend down to his level to chat and brought the candy bowl down with her, out of which Ollie proceeded to take one, two, three pieces. And a sucker for the road. In Ollie’s defense, she was an enabler.

What a great day for Halloween. You never know what you’re going to get in the Midwest this time of year. No rain or wind and it was sunny – perfect for trick-or-treating and pic-taking.

Riot Grrrl Weekend

Sara Marcus reading from her book "Girls to the Front" at Qumby's, Chicago.

I had a really amazing Saturday doing much-needed catching up/girl hang-time in Wicker Park with my ladies, which included feeling the riot grrrl love at the Chicago book tour stop of “Girls to the Front”. Author Sara Marcus (her new book is the definitive history of Riot Grrrl) read from the first chapter, and did a Q&A with music journo Jessica Hopper, then the attendees. Sunday kicked off grubbing at the local family restaurant with my boys and BFF followed by serious pumpkin carving, acorn squash roasting and pizza making.

“Girls to the Front”

Being in that room full of riot grrrls pushing 40, a few teens and 20-somethings carrying the torch and even one proud riot grrrl mom who looked to be about my mom’s age – it was comforting to know riot grrrl did not just fizzle out when the zines ceased or Bikini Kill broke up. As long as we’re alive, it’s alive. And I’m glad someone – particularly someone who remembers it, cares about it and spent five years doing it right – documented it in this way. Being in the company of these women had me realizing, too, that at least some of those women are also moms now. And that is rad as hell.

This whole idea of teenagers and 20-somethings fed up with the patriarchal punk scene where they’re just decoration at the shows; politicians telling them what they can and can’t do with their OWN bodies; and the ominous feeling of alienation at school/home and then doing something grass-roots/creative/peaceful (albeit often loud) about it – it’s MIND-BLOWING to me. Girls with NO resources who have NO networks and NO Internet,  found each other based on a mutual need to make life better for themselves and their friends – and it spread underground like wildfire.

My sailor tattoo-inspired swallow jack-o-lantern.

Gay Teens – the New Riot Grrrls?

All of this reminiscing led me to draw a parallel to the current gay rights movement, particularly in the teen community. Gay rights has SO much in common with riot grrl (and RG has always been nothing if not LGBT-friendly and outspoken about gender/queer equality issues to boot). You have a bunch of people who are largely being treated like shit by their peers, misunderstood by their families and churches and being completely infringed upon by the government. It’s like everyone is against them, but there is so much power, strength and ambition in their numbers and their allies – it’s just a matter of finding them. I know there’s always been a strong gay scene for artists, musicians and zinesters – I’d love to see them organize more on the gay rights platform like riot grrrl organized on the feminist platform. I’d like to see it start with young gay people who are tired of feeling alone and defeated. I think the timing is great. Gay teens NEED this right now. It could save lives.

“2011: The Revenge of Print”

The whole riot grrrl discussion and zine-lined walls/ambiance at the bookstore got me super amped to participate in this zine challenge in 2011 where former zinesters cut, paste and photocopy “the next issue” they never got to make for whatever reason. If it works out, the third issue of my college zine “Hush Kitty” will have been 13 years in the  making. Ha! The best part of this project will be reconnecting with my contributors – all who have gone on to do great things from pursuing a Ph.D. in France to coming out and moving to Portland. I can’t wait to see what everybody submits!

Acorn squash, halved, rubbed and ready to bake. Or "flowers" as Ollie called them.

Fall Flavas!

On a lighter note, I found a good recipe for what has always been a super-easy/delicious fall dish: Acorn Squash with brown sugar and butter. My only note to this recipe is that I was running out of maple syrup, so I substituted one of the two tablespoons with honey, which turned out great.

“Alpha and Omega 3-D” Out Tomorrow + Wolfie Fun Online NOW!

Have you heard about the new flick “Alpha and Omega” yet? It’s a super-cute adventure about two wolves from different packs trying to find their way back home after being taken by park rangers and shipped halfway across the country. It features the voices of Justin Long, Hayden Panettiere, Christina Ricci and the late Dennis Hopper. Check out the trailer …

Lionsgate has created some fn activities that you can access through the “Alpha and Omega 3-D” website that will keep the little ones entertained into the new school year! It’s not only fully loaded with cool interactive games, but it also includes easy to download coloring pages, activity sheets, text book covers, stickers and more!

Also, if you’re a pet lover, Lionsgate and have teamed up to celebrate Pet Celebration Day in several towns across the country and invite you to host festivities in your hometown! If you become an “Alpha Host” in your community you’ll earn four free tickets to see the film! Check out the participating towns to see if there will be a Pet Celebration Day near you and sign up today to lead your “Pack”!

A Mother of a Show in Chicagoland

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Hey Bebe, hey Bebe, hey!

My family and I went to our first baby expo, Bebe Paluzza, Saturday in Schaumburg, Ill.

In theory, getting to the hotel before 9 a.m. to be one of the 50 first moms to get a $500 swag bag seemed doable and necessary. I wanted a good story to tell (mommy catfights? Stroller derby action?). Mostly, though, I wanted to see what was in that coveted bag!

But before 9 a.m.? On a Saturday? After deadline week at work? Pshh. Right.

It’s Showtime!

We weren’t totally unambitious – we rolled into town around 10 a.m. As we were parking, I noticed lots of mommies, preggos and grandma-types pushing strollers to the entrance and was worried about a poor daddy showing. Still, I figured the Daddy Lounge would serve as a refuge for the outnumbered dads, possibly including my husband J. We met our giveaway winner/mommy extraordinaire Cindy C. at the doors and were encouraged by the crowd’s diversity and impressive daddy turnout.

The long line moved quickly and before we knew it, we were roaming the aisles, bagging any freebies we could find and holding our own through a few major bottlenecks along the way.

What We Loved

We thought it was pretty cool KinderCare was en force to entertain the kids so mom and dad could a walk the show without distraction.

The fire engine was a huge hit care of FireZone. Ollie was ALL about the big red truck. Cindy spun the wheel of fortune at the Dave & Busters Daddy Lounge for an Elmo basketball that she kindly gave to Ollie.

We appreciated the booths that had sample snacks like Baby Mum-Mum, and Wheat Thins and fudge-covered Oreos from one of the radio stations on-site. Later when I got home, I found a packet of candy and coupons from Dulcelandia, an awesome Mexican candy store in Chicago. Que dulce!

Most of the vendors, while innovative and creative, were geared toward parents with disposable income. Custom cloth diapers, chichi babywear, trendy baby slings and designer diaper bags dotted the aisles. There’s definitely a demand in the luxury baby market beyond rich parents, though. Before I was a mama, I was a doting aunt, friend, sister, cousin, etc. with lots of new moms to shop for. I remember sparing no expense for memorable shower gifts and funky birthday presents. And let’s not forget all those grandparents out there whose main purpose in life is to spoil our kids!

I saw a lot of those fun multi-tiered diaper “cakes” for baby showers. I remembered the first time I saw one at my own shower. my BFF had made it herself and in the core, she hid a bottle of Jack Daniels. Now that’s a true friend.

On the Mamapalooza stage, a cute guy-girl acoustic band was playing some feel-good mom rock.

In the heart of the show floor, the Mommy Lounge with its cushy couches, aroma therapy and massage chairs offered a zen-like presence amid the hustle of strollers, preggo bellies and tots rushing around.

What We Missed

Although a well-organized show overall and an inexpensive family outing ($10 per adult), there are a few things that could have made it better …

Got Milk?! – I’m not sure about all of the little intricacies of trade show planning, but the concessions should have been stocked with milk. It’s a baby expo.

Wider Aisles – J, who largely pushed our umbrella stroller, said the aisles were a little too narrow for all the heavy stroller traffic. And I can only imagine what it was like to maneuver one of those double-wide SUV strollers.

Freebies, Not Just Coupons – I would have loved more freebies. Freebies are awesome. Everyone likes freebies. They’re memorable and provide instant gratification. Especially little toys or snacks. The kids LOVED the snacks. Not to mention, they’re simply good PR.

We ♥ Balloons – And a balloon on the way out would have gone over really well. Some bank could have sponsored that (you know, with a logo printed on it). When you make the kids happy, you make parents happy. Everyone remembers little gestures that put a smile on a child’s face.

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