Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Southport Perfoming Arts Conservatory

Southport Performing Arts Conservatory (otherwise known as SPACE) provides classes in dance, music and drama at their three locations (Downtown, Lakeview, and Peterson).  My daughter takes ballet at SPACE and she LOVES it.  The teacher is super nice and great with kids and parents.  The class is 45 minutes long (length of class depends on age and she is in the 4-5 year old class) and my daughter has a huge grin on her face the entire time.  Not only does she have a good time but I feel like she is actually learning something.  There are about 10 kids in the class which seems like a really great size for this age group. 

The website, http://www.southportarts.com/, has all of the information on class options, schedules, and fees.  I don't have any personal experience with the music, drama, or upper level dance classes.  However we have been super happy with the quality of instruction and also our daughter's enjoyment with her class.  My guess is that the other class are of the same caliber.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Brown Trout

Kids eat free every night at Brown Trout, 4111 N. Lincoln, which was a good enough excuse as any to take the whole family there for dinner.  The fact that the restaurant puts an emphasis on sustainability and using local products whenever possible was an added bonus.  We went on a Friday when the specialwas a fish fry, which is what both my husband and I ordered.  The fish and chips were quite tasty and came with three sauces for dipping.  The kids menu had all the standard fare with my younger daughter choosing the chicken fingers as usual.  My older daughter loves fish and even though the fish was not on the kids menu the waiter was very accommodating in providing a kid size version for her.  We had a very nice family dinner with lots of eating and not a lot of complaining.

The restaurant is closed on Tuesdays and opens every other day for dinner at 5 PM except Monday when it opens at 6 PM.  Brown Trout also does a Sunday brunch.  Metered street parking is available along Lincoln.  We were there right at opening and the restaurant wasn't busy at all.  The only other diners were a couple of other families.  Even though we were out with the whole family at a nice dinner the bill was very reasonable.  Good food, good price, and a good time.     

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Didier Farms

With Halloween getting close now might be a great time to visit a pumpkin patch.  Recently I visited Didier Farms in Lincolnshire (didierfarms.com) with my younger daughter and son on a fun fall morning.  During the Farm's Pumpkinfest, which runs from mid-September through Halloween, there are a wide variety of activities to keep the kids busy.  Of course there are pumpkins of all types to select and take home.  In addition, there is a hay ride that takes you back through a corn field where you will see a variety of scarecrows dressed as favorite characters and spooky scenes, a petting zoo, and carnival rides.  Most of the rides are appropriate for kids probably 8 and younger.  My four year old just could not get enough of them.  Most of the rides, including the hay ride, take 3 tickets, pony rides and camel rides are 5 tickets, and I believe the petting zoo is 7 tickets.  Each ticket costs $1 so the day can get pricey in a hurry if you don't pace yourself.  Everything is completely stroller friendly and babies can go on the hay ride for free if they ride on an adults lap.

The farm is open weekdays from 9 to 5 and weekends from 10 to 5.  Weekends get really busy there but weekdays can also be quite busy since a lot of school groups come for the day.  In addition to the rides there are donuts, hot apple cider, and stuff off the grill for lunch.  My one complaint with the place is that there are no indoor bathrooms so I had to have my four year old watch the baby in the stroller while I dashed into the porta potty and she had to go with the door propped open so she wouldn't be alone in the bathroom and I could still keep my eye on the baby.  Not a huge deal but definitely inconvenient.

When we were at Didier Farms it was quite busy but we never had to wait in line to ride any of the rides and there was plenty of seating at picnic tables when we took a quick donut break.  Since we went, my daughter has been talking nonstop about how much fun she had so we are looking forward to going back with the whole family next year.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Harvest Time Apple Orchard

I have written in the past about how our family visits County Line Orchard in Hobart Indiana every fall for apple picking, doughnuts, and the petting zoo.  County Line Orchard is a big operation with large crowds but we always have a great time and this year was no exception.  We had a lot of grandparent visits scheduled for this fall, however, so we decided to take them to try another apple orchard in the area.  To me, picking apples on a beautiful fall day with your grandchildren sounds perfect and everyone really did enjoy themselves.  We traveled up to Harvest Time Orchard (www.myharvesttime.com) in Twin Lakes Wisconsin.  The drive took approximately one hour and fifteen minutes so it was good that we had the grandparents to keep everyone occupied along the way.

Once you get there, if you are going apple picking, do not park your car in the parking lot when you get there.  We made that mistake and unloaded everyone, walked up to the sign that said you must enter the orchard in your car and had to get everyone back in again.  There is a $3 per person charge to enter the orchard but then your entrance fee is subtracted from the apples you pick.  So for example, there were six of us so we paid $18 to go in and then we picked a big bag full of apples that cost $25.  On the way out we owed them $7.  Basically we just paid for the apples we picked.  The apples were plentiful and delicious.  We have been baking with them and just eating them as is.

In addition to the apples, there is a store near the parking lot that sells yummy doughnuts with a variety of toppings from cinnamon and sugar to vanilla glazed to sprinkles.  There were lots of people stopping by just to buy doughnuts.  Plus you can purchase cheeses, sausage, and apple cider.  We also had lunch while we were there that included brats, hot dogs, and pulled pork sandwiches.  There are several places to eat including a terrace that overlooks the orchard.  We enjoyed our lunch but were having trouble finding a spot to eat where the yellow jackets weren't bothering us.  We kept moving but couldn't escape them and ultimately my younger daughter got stung.  She handled it better than I did when I got stung earlier in the summer in our backyard and the incident didn't end up putting much of a damper on our visit.  All in all a great autumn activity.

Monday, October 7, 2013

International Walk or Bike to School Day

Wednesday October 9th is International Walk or Bike to school day!  It's a great way to start a healthy habit with your kids.  The exercise is wonderful plus fewer idling cars in front of schools improves the air our students breath.  I personally love walking my daughters to school to enjoy the fresh air and all of the great conversations I probably wouldn't have with them in any other setting.  For more information go to www.walkbiketoschool.org and celebrate the day!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream

A few years back the kids got my husband the Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream cookbook for his birthday.  We have tried several of the ice cream recipes in the book and they have all turned out and tasted delicious.  Instead of using egg yolks in her ice cream, as a lot of other homemade cookbooks do, she uses cream cheese, which actually gives the ice cream a nice consistency.

Enough about making the ice cream at home, however, because Jeni Britton Bauer has opened an ice cream shop at 3404 N. Southport. It has only been open a short while and combined with some unseasonably warm weather, this store was crazy busy when we went there this past Saturday.  Like line out the door and around the corner busy.  And the line, at least when we were there, was full of a lot of people who don't normally have to deal with children.  The wait was ultimately worth it for us but you might want to wait a couple of weeks until the newness wears off a little and people have moved on to the next hottest thing.

As we approached the counter we were able to see a list of close to two dozen available flavors listed on the chalkboard. Plus there are shakes, sundaes, and ice cream sandwiches.  My older daughter went with Rainbow yogurt, which was much better than I expected and the younger one went with the super adventurous vanilla in a cone.  I've complained on multiple occasions about the child size being way too big at most ice cream places but they really get it right at Jeni's.  It was just a perfect little scoop on a cone, enough without being excessive.  My husband and I both got ice cream sandwiches.  He got the caramel with salty almonds and I got hazelnut.  Both large and amazingly good.  The cookies on the sandwich are different flavored macaroons that are light, chewy, and the perfect compliment to the ice cream.  The ice cream is not cheap at all.  We definitely thought it was worth it for a special occasion splurge but not for just an everyday run to get ice cream.

Inside the store there are a few tables up front and a few in the back to enjoy your ice cream treat indoors.  When we were there it was so busy we desperately wanted to get back outside once we had paid.  It also happened to be a beautiful day so it was wonderful to eat on the little patio adjacent to the store.  The Brow Line runs right by overhead but the ice cream is so good it won't bother you.

It is generally not too difficult to find pay parking along Southport.  In addition, the store is located right by the Southport Brown Line stop.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


We have eaten a couple times now at the only City location (3304 N. Western in Roscoe Village) of Meatheads, a small chain restaurant with locations throughout Illinois.  It is a bit of a hybrid between a fast food and sit down restaurant.  You order at the counter but then your food is brought to your table.  The menu includes burgers, hot dogs, grilled chicken sandwiches, and chicken tenders.  There are a handful of preconceived burger choices plus you can build your own with tons of toppings to choose from and about 10 signature sauces to add.  The burgers come in two sizes, 1/3 lb and 1/2 lb and are really good.  Drinks include the standard soda, milk, and apple juice plus about five varieties of shakes.  Kids meals seem appropriate in size and include hamburger, hot dog, chicken tenders, and grilled cheese.

The dining room is very comfortable and clean with plenty of high chairs.  On one wall of the restaurant is a chalkboard that currently includes the schedule and scores of recent, local high school football games, which gives a nice neighborhood feel.  Employees are super nice and friendly.  We have never felt rushed and are always checked on throughout our dining experience even though there are no waiters or waitresses.  Kids are given wicky sticks to play with while they wait for their food even though we've never had to wait more than 10 minutes.  The restaurant is located in a strip mall in Roscoe Village with plenty of parking out front.  We've always had enjoyable lunches at Meatheads although the spelling of the name did have my older daughter requesting to go back to Methheads sometime soon.