Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas 2011


Its the most wonderful time of the year! :) Indeed! Whats to not like - the spirit, the cheer, the music, the festivities, the dazzling lights, the carols playing on the radio all day long, the kids recognizing them  from having sung them at school even if there parents just sung 'Jingle Bells' as kids themselves! Once again I am indeed thankful to the Lord for having given us an opportunity of experiencing a country and its culture firsthand.

So we thought of making cards for the kids' friends and teachers thanking them for touching our lives in the way they do. I browsed some absolutely wonderful blogs for some ideas and was amazed at how creative people are. Each idea was so wondrous and resulted in such beautiful products. It was so easy to get inspired and motivated. Unfortunately I do not exactly remember the blogs from which I got the idea for our Christmas cards (it was a mish mash of a couple of ideas) but I am putting up a link to another awesome blog which, in turn has links to many more interesting and awesome crafts, bloggers have done for Christmas.

We started out with using the clean side of used paper to make kids' handprints in red and green. We used Acrylic paints.








Followed it by letting them dry for a bit and then brushing a layer of glossy Mod Podge - my super favorite recent discovery and while it was still sticky, we sprinkled a generous dash of red, green and silver glitter.






I don't have pictures for the remaining steps because we were knee deep in all the work but basically, I cut a triangle the size of the Christmas tree we wanted to place on our card and then cut it into strips careful to place them in order. The kids then glued the strips to the pre-prepared card cutouts (from white poster board) after they had drawn and colored the trunk with a brown crayon. I think a trunk made out of brown construction paper might have looked better but we didn't have any at hand. Nevertheless the end result was stunning. We also used cut strips to make borders and small cut squares to make gifts under the trees. I have to say that the cards look even better than they do in pictures because here the glossy finish isn't showing too well.



Also finally we collected our ceramic ornaments from the workshop we had enjoyed immensely at the Lillstreet Art Center. (Winter classes at Lillstreet Art Center begin January 9 and registration is open with a full schedule of classes available oniline at lillstreet.com. They offer classes in a wide range of mediums from metalsmithing to ceramics, photography to painting. Be sure to check them out.) And that proved to be the final straw for getting our very own Christmas tree :) Its a little silver one and only endorses the ornaments we are proud to have made ourselves even though they are far from perfect. I might just indulge in topping it with the very beautiful Christmas Tree Star I have my heart on but am not sure if I'll be able to find the time for it with a whole lot of play dates and busy social lives my kids feel they have a right to!



Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Ring in 2012 with Blue Man Group


Blue Man Group, the critically hailed theatrical phenomenon on stage at Chicago’s Briar Street Theatre (3133 N. Halsted Street), is wishing Chicago a Happy 2012 with three performances on New Year’s Eve. The day of performances kicks off with a matinee show at 4 p.m. for families to celebrate the holiday together and ends with the 7 and 10 p.m. performances featuring a complimentary champagne and sparkling cider toast and party favors. The final performance of 2011 will feature Blue Man Group counting down to the New Year and playing a special rendition of “Auld Lang Syne” on their custom made instruments including the Tubulum.

Blue Man Group’s production provides its audience with a unique and thrilling multi-sensory experience that blends innovative theatrical spectacle and dynamic original music with hilarious comedy, art, technology and science to create a performance experience unlike any other.

In the show, the Blue Men encounter a variety of environments to discover, engage with and explore of-the-moment situations with cutting-edge technology. Many of the signature scenes that have made Blue Man Group one of today’s best-loved theatrical productions have been in the show since its opening, though new material has been integrated. Newer passages include Blue Men interacting with “GiPads;” a funny and perceptive look at contemporary communication vehicles; and a pulsating new finale featuring an original Blue Man Group music score.

With rave reviews and accolades, from the Chicago press and media, under its belt, Blue Man Group’s appeal is multi-generational, with several projects specifically designed for young people, including “Making Waves,” a popular touring exhibit for children, and the recently launched national “Invent an Instrument” competition.

So if you are looking to welcome 2012 with a BANG, say goodbye to 2011 with one of Chicago's most celebrated entertainment shows, the Blue Man Group.


BLUE MAN GROUP TICKET INFORMATION

Tickets prices for the 4, 7, and 10 p.m. shows on New Year’s Eve are $55 - $75. Tickets may be purchased at the Briar Street Theatre by calling the box office at (773) 348-4000; by calling Ticketmaster at (800) 982-2787; at all Ticketmaster ticket centers or via the Internet at www.ticketmaster.com/bluemanchicago. For more information, visit www.blueman.com/chicago.

Monday, December 12, 2011

"The Nutcracker"

We enjoyed a very beautiful performance of The Nutcracker at the Elgin Community College (ECC) Arts Center this past Saturday.

The holiday classic was divided into two acts, the first where the celebrations are on at the Stahlbaum's on Christmas eve as adults and children dance to merry tunes, run around and wait eagerly for the Stahlbaum kids' Godfather and the talented toymaker Drosselmeyer. Among other things what striked us was the simple yet elegant setting of a 19th century household on the eve of the grand holiday. The set seemed to come alive with the vibrant Christmas tree in the background as also the people in lovely costumes who surrounded it. The children were immensely talented, as one being a mom of two young kids is bound to notice :)  They acted so well, danced in perfect rhythm and co-ordination and seemed to be enjoying themselves so much. It all looked like one big happy family. The expressions were so real and natural, I almost felt like a part of the party myself.

I and my 4 year old daughter waited for the second act with a lot of anticipation to look at all the different dances we had only read about in the kids' books and looked at pictures. What we didn't know was that the act is going to be all dance without a single word being spoken. If you are familiar with the story, in the second act, in honor of the young heroine Clara who has saved the Nutcracker from the Mouse King and helped him turn back into a prince, a celebration of sweets from around the world is produced: chocolate from Spain, coffee from Arabia, and tea from China all dance for their amusement; candy canes from Russia perform a Trepak; Danish marzipan shepherdesses perform on their flutes; Mother Ginger has her children emerge from under her enormous skirt to dance; a string of beautiful flowers perform a waltz. To conclude the night, the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier perform a Pas de Deux. Each one of the dances was more fascinating than the other. Even my 6 year old son who is not easy to impress sat mesmerized. My daughter can't wait to learn ballet herself. It was the first time we saw ballet live on stage and to say that we were in awe is an understatement.

The ECC Arts Center had secured the services of the ECC Culinary Arts and Hospitality program to prepare a delightful selection of gourmet treats for a pre-show Clara's Christmas Tea Party in the Spartan Terrace dining room, just down the hall from the theater. Fare included delicious hot chocolate and festive pomegranate cranberry "mimosas;" a mouth watering selection of tea sandwiches including peanut butter and jelly, turkey and cranberry, smoked salmon and chive cream, roast beef and horseradish cream and sundried tomato, fresh mozzarella and basil pesto; plus assorted scones and Christmas cookies.

 The ECC Arts Center has a diverse line up of events, both touring artists as well as their own college/in-residence ensembles. You can check out the interesting 2011-12 season here.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Holiday Lights Tour Experience

So we took the Holiday Lights Tour past Saturday. Needless to say the city looked magnificent in all those dazzling lights, smelt exquisite in those smells of cinnamon and coffee wafting through the air and just felt so 'tugging on your heart strings' kind of magical with the festivities and the cheer and the happiness on people's faces, the Christmas carols playing in the background  as the trolley meandered its way through busy with the holiday crowd streets. We were treated to the festive lights and enchanting sights of wintertime in Chicago, including the twinkling lights of the Magnificent Mile, the posh Gold Coast Neighborhood, Macy's Holiday Windows, Daley Plaza's 40-foot tree, the John Hancock Plaza tree, Navy Pier's Winter Wonderfest, Buckingham Fountain and the Christkindlmarket. 


The lightly narrated tour which was supposed to be 2 hours long ran for an extra half an hour owing to rush traffic and also earned us a parking ticket as a result :( Apart from that there was nothing to not like about it. With stops at two brilliantly illuminated holiday attractions, we had time to hop off at both the Zoo Lights at Lincoln Park Zoo and the Christkindlmarket, a traditional German American Holiday Market with distinctive crafts, artistic glass ornaments, delicious sweets, holiday food and drinks. Both the stops were so much fun by themselves that we are planning to return to just those to spend more time at each of those.


The tour is great for especially families with young kids or older people who get to see much of the city without having to walk in the cold. Both our kids had an awesome time riding the trolley as well as at both the stops. Just a word of caution to park for close to 3 hours. We parked at Pearson St 2 blocks from Michigan Ave where the parking was available for a maximum of 2 hours and we thought we would make it in an additional 5 minutes or so but we returned a half hour late and had a ticket by then.


The "Holiday Lights Tour" runs on Fridays and Saturdays, Nov. 25 - Dec. 23, 2011, with four departure times at 5:30 p.m., 6 p.m., 6:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. The tour departs from Chicago Water Works Pumping Station located at Michigan Avenue and Pearson Streets across from Water Tower Place. Tours hold 32 passengers each and tickets must be purchased in advance online at www.chicagotrolley.com.












Monday, November 28, 2011

The Magical Shrek the Musical



So we watched the much awaited and a packed show of Shrek the Musical at Rosemont Theater. If I was to describe it in one single phrase, it would be magical. I watched a musical of this magnitude after a really long time I thought to myself during the show. But it was indeed fascinating. Be it the hotheadedness yet the basic goodness of the heavily costumed and made up ogre Shrek or the great comedic skills and the charm of Princess Fiona, the goofy and extremely lovable Donkey or the selfish yet delightfully shortened Lord Farquaad, it was an engaging and very well crafted show. The beautiful sets just merged into each other very naturally and effortlessly like the pages of a fairy tale book. With just a drop of a curtain, the lovely woods magically transformed into the menacing castle of Lord Farquaad to next change into the dragon guarded tower where in lay Princess Fiona. The music was upbeat with the best songs for me being the ones with the feisty Princess Feona. She was nothing short of a riot  as she danced and sang and joked with amazing facial expressions in 'Morning Person' and the sequence where she engaged in a competition of burps and farts with Shrek in 'I got you beat!' Another high point of the show was the incredible dragon that was a combination of a really big puppet manually operated by 8 people in a horse style!

It played for only one weekend, the one following Thanksgiving here in Rosemont, IL. However, check out this link to see if its coming close to you and do grab the chance to watch it if it is.


For all the technical details on the star cast and the very impressive and accolades winning creative team, read on!

SHREK THE MUSICAL tells the story of a swamp-dwelling ogre who goes on a life-changing adventure to reclaim the deed to his land. Joined by a wise-cracking donkey, this unlikely hero fights a fearsome dragon, rescues a feisty princess and learns that real friendship and true love aren't only found in fairy tales.

The role of everyone's favorite swamp-dwelling ogre, Shrek will be played by Lukas Poost.  Liz Shivener will play the feisty Princess Fiona.  Andr‚ Jordan is Shrek's lovably annoying best friend Donkey and Merritt David Janes plays the vertically challenged villain Lord Farquaad.



Rounding out the cast of misfit fairy tale characters, the peoples of Duloc and Far, Far Away are:  Willie Dee, Annie Fitch, Susan Leilani Gearou, Kelly Teal Goyette, Alexa Kerner, Rachel Khutorsky, Schuyler Midgett, Lyonel Reneau, Adam Steiner, Erin Sullivan, Chase Todd, Sarah Tranchina, Nadia Vynnytsky, Ryan Everett Wood, Chris Woods, Luke Yellin, Ian Frazier, Mara Gabrielle, Ryan Rubek and Laura Smith.

SHREK THE MUSICAL features a book and lyrics by Pulitzer Prize(r) winner David Lindsay-Abaire (Rabbit Hole, Good People), music by Olivier Award-winner Jeanine Tesori (Thoroughly Modern Millie,  Caroline, or Change).  SHREK THE MUSICAL is directed by Stephen Sposito who recently served as Associated Director of the current Broadway revival How To Succeed In Business starring Daniel Radcliff.  Sets and costumes are based on the Tony Award(r) winner designs by Tim Hatley (Private Lives, Spamalot)  and Chris Bailey will recreate the original choreography by Josh Prince (The Bridge Project, The Jerry Springer Opera).

 SHREK THE MUSICAL was initiated when Sam Mendes, a big fan of the first Shrek film, suggested the idea of creating a musical to DreamWorks Animation's Jeffrey Katzenberg around the time the second film was in production. The musical is produced by NETworks Presentations, LLC.

NETworks Presentations, LLC (Producer) was founded in 1995 by Kenneth Gentry, Seth Wenig and Scott Jackson. NETworks has produced and managed over 80 national and international touring productions. Previous productions: Little Women starring Maureen McGovern; Cinderella starring Eartha Kitt and Deborah Gibson; Fosse starring Ben Vereen and Ruthie Henshall; The Light in the Piazza; My Fair Lady co-produced with Cameron Mackintosh; Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma!; Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake; Annie; Hairspray; The Wizard of Oz, Handel's Messiah Rocks, Spring Awakening, A Chorus Line and many others. Joining returning productions of Disney's Beauty and the Beast; Young Frankenstein; Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific, based on Lincoln Center Theater Production; Blue Man Group National Tour and The New 25th Anniversary Tour of Les Mis‚rables this season are Shrek The Musical, Disney and Cameron Mackintosh's Mary Poppins and Lincoln Center Theater production of War Horse touring the U.S.

The kid speaketh

I was going through some of the posts I had written much earlier about the interesting, often funny things the kids came up with - phrases, conversations. I had loads of them, especially of Niño. And realized its been a while I did that here. Mostly its because of fb. I usually put a status update of the hilarious things they say and am done, its easy to have a conversation with friends who have had similar experiences with their kids and share a laugh. Its fun and convenient. However its difficult to go through them all at one place which is why I also decided to put them here for laughs for myself later when I need them :)



So Niño had his KG show today and I threatened him to let me set his hair sideways instead of the usual silly way where he likes to have them falling on his forehead and I try to convince him further by getting Chica on my side and ask her "Bhaiya looks nice with his hair on the side, no?" and she goes "Bhaiya looks nice ALWAYS!"
These two are soon going to gang up on me and throw me out of the house, I tell you!!

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We took the kids to a Japanese festival outside a Japanese Supermarket this Saturday. Out of all the things, guess what Niño found to write about in his journal ...

I went to the Japanese market. I saw a toilet seat there. There were buttons for washing the front and back of the bottom and a button for drying it too.

He also wanted to write 'It was really cool' but ran out of space.

Ever since he has been asking us to either get one for him or take him to Japan for a vacation.

For those interested to take a look at the toilet seat reigning supreme in his heart and mind these days, follow the link

http://manolohome.com/2008/11/25/the-super-toilet/

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So these are the kids' current radical thoughts on marriage:

Chica: Mamma, can I marry bhaiya (Niño) when I grow up? I love him so much. That ways I'll be able to stay with him forever.

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Niño: Mom, I want to marry N!
Me: The two of you are enough for me! I can't have another child in the house!
Niño: Lets marry Chica off and she can go stay with her husband and then I can marry N and bring her to stay here.

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So the kids were duly told the story of Ravan taking away Sita and the battle that followed and Niño's reaction is "So Sri Lanka 'bothered' India once upon a time?" Now does anybody else see a politician in the making ?!

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So the little miss garrulous asks me the meaning of 'might' and 'how about' with examples. And then proceeds to give some of her own.
"Mom, I might love you next week!" I make a sad face to give her a chance to rectify things to which she adds, "How about next year?"


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And finally for those of you who understand Hindi, my daily dose of laughs from Niño's वाक्य बनाओ

बारिश - बारिश पढ़ रही है.

पैसे - पैसे जमा मत करवाओ. iPad लेने के लिए अपने पास रखो.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Lillstreet Art Center Clay Workshop

 A couple of weeks back I had written about the workshop on making ceramic ornaments to decorate our tree or give as stocking stuffers, we were to attend at the Lillstreet Art Center. We went for the same this past Sunday and it was such a hit with kids and extremely relaxing and fun for me and my husband as well. I'll first walk you through some pictures and then tell you a little more about the place.

 First we pounded the clay and threw it and pounded and threw to make a slab big and thin. This in itself was such a fascinating process for both the kids.
 Then we used several cookie cutters to cut out interesting shapes - stars, leaves, snowmen, hearts, gingerbread man. The kids found it hard to stop at a three dozen cut outs at this step.
 Then we painted the ornaments we had cut out, made some textures with pointed sticks or blocks and made a hole on top to string through later.

These are now ready to be bisque fired and the Lillstreet people will call us back to pick them up when they are ready.








It was a great experience and two hours passed by so fast. Chica, my 4 year old wanted to stay there longer and keep doing more. Fortunately, I was able to whisk her out of the room to show her the other interesting things happening in other parts of the art center. This was the first one we went to - it looked, smelled and felt very different from any other place we have been to. There were so many pots, paints, sculptures, bowls, plates and the likes lying around on many many shelves. All the people there, mostly artists working on different things seemed very relaxed and very friendly stopping by in the room that we were working in, when they came there to pick something they needed, and encouraging the children at the great job they were doing. And all the children in the workshop - 2 of mine and 2 more worked so neatly and with such rapt attention, it was lovely to watch them. The kids on their way out watched in such fascination a lady working on a potter's wheel. My son remarked, "Oh! So that's how a pot gets made!" I love remarks like these when kids realize something they had used regularly but never lent a thought to, now know where it comes from :)

I had linked to the various workshops that the Lillstreet people offer for kids as well as adults. Some of them are scheduled on Saturdays and are just $10 a person. The center is well worth a visit for an experience which is not easily available at home.

We now can't wait to collect them from the Art Center in a couple of weeks!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Holiday Lights Tour!

I have said this before many times and I say it yet again that I have been loving Chicago city for a a variety of experiences it has to offer. Who wouldn't love to have something different to do and enjoy the new experiences every few days. So the next experience I am really looking forward to is the Holiday Lights Tour! I love this time of the year in the US when the festivities begin, the streets and stores are all lit up, beautiful and brilliant, people look cheerful enjoying the festivities, walking the streets with shopping bags in hands and am truly excited to watch all this on a special Holiday Lights Tour!

Chicago's version of a caroling sleigh ride will whisk passengers amongst the festive lights and enchanting sights of wintertime in Chicago, including the twinkling lights of the Magnificent Mile, State Street & Macy's Holiday Windows, Daley Plaza's 40-foot tree, the John Hancock Plaza tree, Navy Pier's Winter Wonderfest, Buckingham Fountain, Christkindlmarket and more. Tickets must be purchased in advance and are only available online at www.chicagotrolley.com. Tickets have been on sale since Nov. 1. 

The "Holiday Lights Tour" is a lightly narrated 2-hour tour showcasing the best of Chicago's holiday lights and sights, with stops at two brilliantly illuminated holiday attractions. Passengers will have time to hop off at both the Zoo Lights at Lincoln Park Zoo and the Christkindlmarket, a traditional German American Holiday Market with distinctive crafts, artistic glass ornaments, delicious sweets, holiday food and drinks, along the way. All ages can enjoy this warm, cozy experience, see the highlights of Chicago's holiday cheer and might even be inspired to carol with new friends.

The "Holiday Lights Tour" runs on Fridays and Saturdays, Nov. 25 - Dec. 23, 2011, with four departure times at 5:30 p.m., 6 p.m., 6:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. The tour departs from Chicago Water Works Pumping Station located at Michigan Avenue and Pearson Streets across from Water Tower Place. Tours hold 32 passengers each and tickets must be purchased in advance online at www.chicagotrolley.com.

Tickets are $26 for adults and $19 for children (3-11). All ticket holders also receive a coupon featuring free hot chocolate and a York peppermint brownie wedge from The Hershey Store.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Of the things with an 'i'

Its been a struggle raising this 6 year old boy I have for a son. So this time its the fascination with all things 'i', yup the iPhone, iMac, iPod and the iPad. He has been requesting us, begging, pleading, arguing and trying every possible trick in the book to let him have one if not all of those. The more I resist, the more he insists. Their school has iMac's in the Media Center which they go to almost every week, occasionally they get iPads to play some Math games on which is how they rule over his heart and mind on a regular basis.

A couple of weekends back, he asked me what he could do to collect $100 to be able to buy an iPhone at Target, which he had scanned the Sunday paper for fliers to every store to see the cheapest rate for an iPhone. It was my mistake, I realized later, to even let him have the hope that it was even theoretically possible. He earns stickers and ultimately quarters for every desirable behavior and he uses the money he collects to buy little toys he likes. Somehow he concentrated on just the 'reading books' in his rewards chart and we calculated that he needed to read ten thousand books to be able to collect the money. And he believed that he could do it in one day. And boy he read and read and read. He read for close to 3 hours which is a long long time for him and when he saw it getting dark outside, he just panicked and started howling and crying, begging us to let him have it on completing 100 books. Anyways it took a long time and a lot of effort to pacify him.

However some things he said while asking for the phone were eye openers for me. He said that he wanted his things so that he could control when he wanted to use them. He said that often when he wants to call his friend/s home and I call their moms to ask them if they can and then they don't come for some time and then Niño asks me to call them again and I tell him that its rude to call them again and again. If he has his own phone, he would be able to call his friends at his will. He kept on insisting that he would not play games on his gadgets for long at all because he knows they are not good but he likes to see directions to places or the weather and we don't allow him always to do that. Which is when I realized that he felt so strongly about something which I had painted in my eyes as almost black and was thus not allowing him to use it even though he wanted to use it in a good way. Well he asked for A's Samsung Galaxy phone sometimes (once in 2-3 days) and we let him have it for about 5 minutes - he and Chica usually played silly games like the Talking Tom or watched one Tom and Jerry video on youtube. And then when he gave it back to him and suddenly remembered that he had forgotten to check the weather, I was not allowing him to have it back. Which I realized was backfiring now. One incident I mentioned and another one last weekend - we were out with an old friend of A's at a restaurant having lunch and he started urging A to have his phone. Kids are smart and they realize when they can put us in a spot by what kind of behavior making it hard for us to say no. He played for a bit and gave it back and then started asking again because he had forgotten something. It got difficult in that situation to ignore or reason with a whiny 6 year old. He was not completely to blame because the restaurant didn't have any crayons or activity booklets for kids which otherwise both my kids get interested and busy in and there were no other kids to play around it but even then it was a lesson on what to talk to him about when we are going to be in similar situations. And an even bigger lesson to cut him some slack. To remember that each child is different and whether I like it or not, mine is fascinated just with things I wish he wasn't fascinated with and I can't just go on with my everyday life assuming there's no problem to be addressed.

So now A downloaded apps on his phone for Niño on world geography (which he is very interested in) and he himself straightaway goes to that app almost everytime he asks for the phone. I made a journal on the computer for him to work on, write or draw or color in paintbrush about the experiments or projects we do and he feels happy to be working on that medium which is very powerful for him. Often times he goes to the Apple website to admire the several beautiful products and keeps asking us as to when he can have them. I am still not sure what to answer. A has told him that we'll buy a Mac book when he turns 12 and is doing well at school. Till then, we introduce him to interesting features of our good old Dell laptop and he is convinced for now that that too is capable of doing quite a bit :) We entered in a 'Going Green' contest in our local library and he is absolutely sure we will win the prize which is an iPad. Phone, we have told him we'll have a chat about it when he turns 15. Edited to add after noon's comment: These are basically just numbers to distract him. As A says, it can never be a number game with kids. There will come a point where we'll no longer be able to postpone it. And the reason I postpone right now is because one I think what will this 6 year child have to look forward to if he gets his own computer at 6 and two because kids fiddling around with whatever gadgets they have and not even bothering as to what's going around them freaks me out completely. But then I think, may be if he has one, he won't be so obsessed and would talk about things other than those. I don't know, its a tough call, as parenting mostly is!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Fun Programs at the Lillstreet Art Center

My kids developed a huge interest in art and most of all in making things in their summer vacations. We worked on quite a few projects together and made crafts from countries around the world as we studied their cultures and festivals. We consider ourselves lucky to be experiencing the culture of a country first hand staying here in the US. As the biggest festival of all Christmas draws near, I learnt of a very interesting workshop at Lillstreet Art Center (through Carol Fox Associates who have been very kind to give me a heads up on a wide variety of extremely interesting events in Chicagoland) on making beautiful ceramic ornaments to decorate your tree or give as special stocking stuffers. I registered our family for the same and we are looking forward to making ornaments ourselves. This workshop is to take place on Nov 20th. I also browsed Lillstreet's website further and learnt of more great classes for kids as well as adults. I particularly liked the Side-by-Side Family Drop-In classes every Saturday which is priced at just $10 a person and are geared towards kids as young as 2 years with an adult. I think its a great way to spend a Saturday all while having so much fun :) Do check out more that they offer here.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Diwali for moi

I started the bottle fireworks activity and the puffy art one about a week before Diwali so that we could show it to their visiting friends during the week and make cards etc out of the puffy art. The same night, after the kids went to bed, I received a phone call from my dad telling me one of my chachas (his younger brother) had suddenly passed away. It was dreadful to say the least. A person whom you have grown up around and live with in the same house (we stayed in the same house on separate floors), too many memories become a part of you. How he used to come every Tuesday from the mandir to give us boondi prasad, how he many a times just stopped by on his way upstairs to just chat, off late how he brought my kids new coins of different denominations to just keep with them, all flashed before my eyes. I spoke to my chachi and my cousins and of course broke down as they spoke. I spoke to my bua and my dad again in the next few days and broke down again. You feel so far in situations like these and the heart feels heavier on sensing the immediate kin's sorrow. 

However, the Diwali excitement had already taken over the kids. We have many Indian families in the apartment complex that we stay in and the kids had already started planning about bursting fire crackers, an upcoming Diwali get together and the like. I almost was sure of not sharing the news with Niño and Chica, partly because Niño is a pretty sensitive child. Death bothers him a lot. He would have remembered my chacha as M's nana (M is my cousin's son) whom he was very pally with when I visited my parents place and then he would have worried himself silly. Had we been in Delhi, it would have been different. They would have known but there would have been a lot more people to take their mind off the troubling news. For almost a week in the past summer holidays, I don't know how Niño had had this fear of my going away when he gets older and he used to cry at nights. Now the question was what to do about Diwali. I didn't feel the fervor I did till a day back to celebrate but at the same time I couldn't abandon it either. That would mean many many questions especially from the elder one as also displeasure on there not being a good enough reason. So I continued with the preparing the cards and the sweets and the savories to be exchanged with friends. In the mornings when kids were away, I spent some silent moments, spoke with my dad about not feeling very good but still doing all that. He was anyways cool about it. I come from a practical family where loss is mourned, no doubt, but we are encouraged to get back in our regular schedules and try to get over it so as not to disturb the usual routine of things. It helped to hear that from him. However not everyone shares the thought. And so in order to be not judged, I didn't share the news with any of my friends here. I had my reasons for doing what I was! 


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

For SHREK lovers ...



ROSEMONT IS GETTING A MAKE-OGRE
SHREK THE MUSICAL
TO PLAY ONE WEEKEND ONLY THIS THANKSGIVING,
NOV.  25 - 27 AT THE ROSEMONT THEATRE

DreamWorks Theatricals and NETworks Presentations, LLC. are pleased to announce that SHREK THE MUSICAL with book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire and music by Jeanine Tesori, will play the Rosemont Theatre, 5400 N River Road, for one weekend only, Nov. 25 - 27, 2011.  Tickets are available at www.rosemonttheatre.com or all Ticketmaster outlets.

SHREK THE MUSICAL features a book and lyrics by Pulitzer Prize(r) winner David Lindsay-Abaire (Rabbit Hole, Good People), music by Olivier Award-winner Jeanine Tesori (Thoroughly Modern Millie,  Caroline, or Change).  SHREK THE MUSICAL is directed by Stephen Sposito who recently served as Associated Director of the current Broadway revival How To Succeed In Business starring Daniel Radcliff.  Sets and costumes are based on the Tony Award(r) winner designs by Tim Hatley (Private Lives, Spamalot)  and Chris Bailey will recreate the original choreography by Josh Prince (The Bridge Project, The Jerry Springer Opera).

SHREK THE MUSICAL will play the Rosemont Theatre, 5400 N. River Road for one weekend only, Nov. 25 - 27, 2011.  Tickets, which range in price from $22.50 - $87.50, are now on sale.  

Performances are Friday, Nov. 25 at 2 and 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Nov. 26 at 10 a.m., 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 27 at 1 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online at www.rosemonttheatre.com or by calling Ticketmaster at 800-745-3000.  Tickets are also available for purchase at the Rosemont Theatre box office and at all Ticketmaster outlets.  Groups of 10 or more, call GroupTix at 877-447-7849.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Diwali for the kids this year

After 2 years of Diwali at home close to family, this year we are away from des again. Like everyone else in the same situation, the festivities with the family are missed acutely during this time of the year. Extra efforts have to be made to make a festival meaningful and fun especially for the kids which otherwise happens naturally back home. Anyways we began last week with some fireworks in a bottle and the puffy microwave art. I discovered a Beautiful blog a couple of weeks back and I told Rashmie, the owner of the blog that it had to be divine intervention that I discovered her blog full of amazing activities for the kids when I was just thinking about what to do with the kids this Diwali. Both the activities that we did were such a big hit with the kids and their friends too. She has given the full details in her posts that I have linked up to. But in short, for the fireworks in a bottle, we filled the 500 ml bottles with 1/3rd water and topped it up with cooking oil filled upto about an inch short of the rim. Added different colors (food coloring) to each bottle. Watching the color pass through the oil without coloring the oil and then settling on the oil water border for a few seconds before splashing down to the water and coloring it was mesmerizing enough. But of course there was more. Alka Seltzer tablets were then added to each bottle (3/4 tablet was optimal) and then began the fireworks. The colored CO2 bubbles fizzed up and the oil layer above served as the display window for the fantastic works! The expression on the kids faces has been priceless. And the four bottles sit on our kitchen table and Alka Seltzer tablets are dropped each time one of the kids' friends drops by much to everyone's delight and amusement.


The puffy microwave art - we mixed all purpose flour, baking powder and water to make a pancake like batter, added different food colors again, filled the batter in ziploc bags and made them like henna cones. And took out loads of one side empty sheets to decorate. It was not very easy for the kids to create designs from the cones because its kind of tricky but that didn't deter them one bit from doodling on and on and on. Niño (which is what the elder child will be called from now on :) couldn't stop making 'jalebis' and Chica (the younger one :) could manage lines and some flowers and smileys with help. After 4 small cut outs (from an A4 sheet) were ready, we tossed them inside the microwave for about 40 seconds and Viola! the results were awesome - puffed up art which smelled like pancakes, was so very colorful and very interesting to touch too. Awesome for all the senses. The best ones were mounted on card paper to give to the kids' friends for Diwali and the rest made up a very colorful quilt to adorn our main door. Not perfect at all but hey we are a household of real kids ;)





Last night we lit some sparklers and some small pop pops to the kids' delight and they just can't wait for more today with their friends. Just hope that the rain doesn't play a spoilt sport. 

As for me, well I am going to write a separate post for that. In short have been mighty busy last week cooking sweets and savories (which to my total utter delight are being tried and enjoyed by the kids), and trying out a couple of crafts to make little decorations. So tomorrow is designated no work day :) 

Monday, October 10, 2011

If You Give a Cat a Cupcake

This weekend we headed to watch Emerald City Theater's production 'If You Give a Cat a Cupcake'. Based on the book by Laura Numeroff; adapted and directed by Ernie Nolan; the play runs at Apollo Theater, 2540 N. Lincoln through Jan 7, 2012.

I had checked out the book from the library a few weeks back. We had already read 'If You Give a Mouse  a Cookie' by the same author and enjoyed it thoroughly. After having read the book, the kids were mighty excited to follow the cat on his adventures. They had some experience with theater before when we had watched 'Dot and Ziggy' the past summer but the experience of seeing a book they have read in action was a first. And even though V doesn't show much enthusiasm if we propose a place which doesn't involve rides or things beginning with the letter 'i' (read iPads, iPods, iMacs and the likes), I could tell that he was looking forward to it.

The first sight of the set on the stage itself was very lively and colorful and multi functional as we later realized to transform it into various locations in the play. The play was about a girl who returns unexpectedly from a play date only to find her dad alone at home, knee deep in work, who asks her to play by herself for a while and promises her to join her soon. Wondering what to do with her time, she comes face to face with her pet cat who is suddenly able to talk, sing, dance and above all ask for favors like a cupcake and sprinkles to go with it. What follows is high energy drama, one funny situation after another and adventures of the Girl (Leah Raidt) and the Cat (Joe Goldammer) around the city. Along the way, they meet the the third and the last actor of the play Kyle Rehder who plays various characters like the dad, the funky Sensei, dog Rufus and others extremely effectively with fun costumes and impressive accents.

Fast paced, high energy and utter fun, it amused the children and their parents alike. We absolutely L-O-V-E-D the excitement the enthusiastic Cat brought into the play. He kept the kids intrigued as he reached from one end of the hall to the other in a matter of seconds. The girl repeated the words from the book, ad verbatim but from memory, as the story unfolded. The friendship between the girl and her cat, even though, slightly forced to begin with when the girl insists that the cat is her pet and not her friend builds gradually and teaches key life lessons of asking your friends' opinions, respect, being thankful and sorry as needed. The audience was involved rather amusingly to carry forward the show. Puppetry, sounds and lighting is effectively used all in all to result in an utterly delightful play. In the end, all the kids were asked to join the cast on stage for a macarena style dance while singing the key words from the play/book. Outside the main hall, the cast gathered for pictures and autographs. Both my kids, being on the shy side with new people and especially with costumes, didn't make much of the opportunity at all but many others did.

I would recommend the play highly if you want to introduce your 3+ aged children to theater or if you have been on a look out for a good play to take your kids to. It does remarkably well to enthrall and delight.








Edited to add: This play is coming to Cutting Hall Performing Arts Center at Palatine, IL on Monday, Jan 16th at 10:30 am (school's off that day). Tickets are only $6 and its a great way to introduce your 3+ aged kids to theater. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Of Ruskin Bond and Mother Nature

I treated myself to a great morning walk today, yeah a SAHM with 2 kids, a morning walk is indeed a treat! Anyway V started with school 3 weeks back and J started with hers today. So after dropping J and before getting back to the relative comfort of home, well more precisely to the grind of tidying it up as a house lays in mornings after two young kids and an older one have just bathed themselves, had breakfasts as remains of toasts and peels of fruits lie in plates and outside, some clothes have been opened, deemed inappropriate for the day as have some socks and lie around; I decided to first put on my sneakers and enjoy the outdoors. To put it in a few words, everything about the outdoors was splendid and I had a lovely time. About 40 minutes later, as I sat down with my cup of milk and breakfast, this is what I posted as my fb status.

"Kids off to school, the slight nip in the air, the blissful fresh air on my face with a light drizzle to boot, the hues of fall on the trees, "taazaa gire patte ki tarah sabz lawn par lete huey, saat rang hain bahaaron ke ek adaa mein lapete huey" playing on the iPod, picking up a much treasured acorn for Vansh and an orangish red leaf for Jiya for appreciating later - mornings got back to being WONDROUS again :) :)"

Some kind friends commented that I paint a beautiful picture. Which is when I was reminded of one of my favorite writers Ruskin Bond. I have loved and relished his stories for the vivid imagery he employs. His narrative is so simple yet so powerful as to transport the reader to where he is. As a child, I often used to mentally learn the paragraphs from his stories that I found brilliant and tried to reproduce them when we got essays to write in exams. Unfortunately I have not read him in a long time now (though I requested The Ruskin Bond's children's Omnibus from the library just today) and so the stories are blurry but one that I distinctly remembered and was lucky to find online was The Cherry Tree. One of my most favorite paragraphs, like I said because of its powerful imagery has been

"Rakesh went into the garden and lay down on the grass beneath the tree. He gazed up through the leaves at the great blue sky; and turning on his side, he could see the mountain striding away into the clouds. He was still lying beneath the tree when the evening shadows crept across the garden. Grandfather came back and sat down beside Rakesh, and they waited in silence until it was dark."

Also came rushing to the mind were memories when the environment around has been splendid, mother nature has been at its best, lovely, untouched, gorgeous, gratifying and I thought of penning down for posterity some of those memories. I am such a huge fan of such outings, just give me nice music to listen to and comfortable shoes to walk in and I would be happy for as long as I can be there.

- We went to Manali in the North Indian state of Himachal Pradesh - utterly beautiful. Among other things, one of the most enjoyable memories has been buying 'chosa' mangoes, which are famous for being eaten just as they are, without peeling or cutting, amazingly aromatic and having a fiberless sweet flesh. We were three families and we bought a whole 4 dozens or so, let them be in the plastic bags, held the bags in the rushing river as we sat on the rocks that lined the river and soaked in the blissful sunshine. After about 15 minutes, the mangoes were refreshingly cool and we sat and devoured one mango after another, squeezing the juice and pulp, licking it off our fingers and in short tasting a slice of heaven.

- On a trail in Kasauli in recent times, Ruskin Bond's own city, my entire family on the in-laws side and both the kids too. The sight was perfect - tall teeming trees, sunshine finding its way through the many trees to fall on us; the fresh smell of the ground and the leaves; the only sounds when we all became quiet to listen to them were of the trees swaying in the breeze fascinating the children with the constant 'swish-swoosh', the birds chirping cheerfully and the rumbling of the river somewhere down below. An absolute treat for each and every sense.

- The sweetest and a major chunk of the memories I have are from the summer holidays. My mom was a teacher herself and so this was the time both of looked forward to spend together with little activities planned for the whole day. In spite of being vacation time, our days started early at 5:30'ish as we got ready to go to 'Sanjay Park/Lake Park' in Laxmi Bai Nagar, a 40-45 minute walk from our government quarter in Lodi Colony. The path to the park was a treat in itself, wide roads, a cool breeze, chirping birds, the first rays of the sun just beginning to shine their way to illuminate the top of trees and make the dew on the grass glisten. The park was always a delight, lush grass on both sides of 2 ponds, a big one for the ducks and a small one for the fish, on either ends of the park with a stream of water running along the entire length of the park joining both of them. The major attraction of coming to this park, while passing another beautiful one on the way closer to home was taking small pebbled sized flour balls to feed the fish. For the same reason, many cousins liked to spend part of their vacations with us. There was another steps like structure made in the park, an amphitheater kind of setting, where the steps were all covered with the green grass and the area just next to it was a slope again covered with the same rich carpet of grass. How much we loved to just lie down and roll our bodies on the cool grass, letting out peels of laughter and giggles, taking pleasure in an absolutely simple, yet pleasurable activity. The other end of the park which had the big pond and the ducks was then visited and we again delighted in chasing the ducks.

- A gigantic splash of color comes gushing to mind when I think of Duluth, Lutsen and beyond along the North Shore of Minnesota. A gondola ride between a pair of mountains where the flaming red maples, the sunny glow of golden poplar and birch leaves glittered against the blue sky, underlined by the deep maroon of the low-growing moose maples. Probably one of the most breathtaking sights I have ever seen, it  felt as if the Master had picked up a giant brush himself and painted the mountains in those brilliant, fiery, dazzling colors. An equally wondrous sight was that of orange and red maples against the brown ground. I think the image of a year and a half old Vansh walking on that vibrantly hued ground and marveling all the same will remain etched in my memory forever.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

You know you are raising a geography geek when ...




- Flags of countries suddenly appear on your house walls as do maps to a beach you visited last weekend.



- He/she takes bites of chapatis in a way to make shapes of Mexico and South America out of it.

- Whose eyes become like big round saucers when you tell him that he has been to Kasauli, the mountains where are the part of the Himalayan Range and he screams, "You mean I have been to the GREAT HIMALAYAS!"

- Holds the following conversation with an 11 year old Korean boy from his Tae Kwon Do class when he meets him at the park :
V - Are you from South Korea?
A - Yes
V- Its that country behind the Great Himalayas, on the east of China, right?
A - I think so!
V - You know I have been to the Great Himalayas! Had I climbed to the top, I would have been able to see South Korea! Yeah right, Dude!!
V- They use a lot of robots in South Korea to do the housework, right?
A- They do?

- Passes remarks like - Its cool, cloudy and wet today. Feels like Germany.

- When asked his age, responds with zecks, seis, chhe and rarely ever six.

- Greets grandparents on Skype with Guten Morgan, ¿Cómo estás?, Adaab and the likes.

- When told that he can play on the computer for a few minutes, quickly opens up tabs to check the weather on the Moon and Sun (btw there are cities by both the names in the US :) ; opens up a world clock to see which is the place ahead of all in time; and the China Airlines page to see how much money he needs to collect for a ticket to China.

- And is confused what to buy from his first salary, the love of his life - an iPad or a ticket to China !

Friday, August 19, 2011

Cirque Shanghai Extreme

We try to take the kids to a lot of different places for the variety of experiences they offer. And Chicago has not ceased to amaze till now. We have been to a new place/show without repeating any, almost every weekend of the past 5 months we have been here and the list of to visit places continues to grow. We are happily continuing to explore.


The past weekend we went for the Cirque Shanghai Extreme show at Navy Pier. It was a fun show with several acts by acrobat performers who displayed their craft of tumbling, juggling, balancing and more. Full of music and dance, their was a warm appeal to the show as well because after every act the performers bowed with very warm and genial smiles, almost asking you to applaud wholeheartedly for their anyways great acts :) The acrobatic gravity defying acts always amaze me at the capacity and the flexibility of the human body and at the wonders it is capable of performing.

Jiya enjoyed the music and kept dancing on her seat while watching as Vansh watched awe struck. Given their age, they most of all enjoyed the acts which had a degree of cuteness to them. There was an act in which 10-12 men juggled their hats in several ways and did some silly things too which evoked laughter. They even called 3 gentlemen to the stage and taught them the juggling act which obviously they failed at mostly creating a rather funny scene, all in good humor though.

In another act, 3 girls danced in and out of hollow tubes treating us to rather terrific and unbelievable moves. Jiya like that the best.

I leave you with some pictures to enjoy. If you are in Chicago, I think its a great show to enjoy. It runs through Labor Day so there still are a couple of more weekends to go watch the Extreme.






Friday, July 29, 2011

The contrast in play times

Almost all of Vansh's dozen friends from the complex were there in the park and with a bunch of 5 year old to 8 year old boys together, one can imagine what the sights and sounds must be. Among their other adventures, they started going up and down the slide one after the other, sandwiching each other in the process, landing on each others' arms and legs and bursting out laughing all the while. And among them was a tiny, petite looking child whose body and frame, if you ignored was being just as rowdy and boisterous as them. The child's laughter was not as loud but just as gay and mischievous as the other boys. My heart first prevailed over my mind to watch the child for just a little while longer for she was having such a whale of a time. I let a few minutes pass to watch the liveliness and the vibrancy before pulling a guffawing, crackling Jiya out of the whole matrix of arms and legs and hands and feet that the boys had created. And for the rest of our time there, she kept running back to the group, sitting on her knees on the swing or swinging with her tummy on them and I couldn't help but smile, even though a part of me worried.


And just about half an hour later, one of her friends who joined her in the park and they played very quietly with the little rocks there building small mounds, also joined her at home and they started playing kitchen and carrying a baby in the stroller and similar things and Vansh joined them just as effortlessly as Jiya had joined his friends some time back.

I love the different opportunities these two get at play because of having a sibling of the opposite sex. :)

Friday, July 22, 2011

Guilty?

Noon passed on this tag to me about mommy guilts and it was interesting to read her and Ro's and Art's confessions and feel like 'Oh, moms I admire and am so fond of do it too! I am not so bad after all;) " Here are the rules :-
  1. Write about 2 instances where you have put yourself before your child/ children... been a wee bit selfish.
  2. How did you feel? Did you feel a pang of guilt or were you comfortable?
  3. Tag 2 more moms

And after reading the above posts, I am not feeling so guilty after all. Anyways out of me and my husband, I am the thick skinned one.

- I think bedtime routine features in every mom's list. When I am putting my children to bed and looking forward to my 30-40 minutes of 'me' time (read internet time on most days) to catch up with friends et al, I sometimes read the books they bring hurriedly. Then they have themselves made up this routine where they want me to just rub their backs from inside their shirts till a count of 20 and for the last few days, they then ask me to just press their legs for a bit because they are so tired from playing and then V will want to give me a hug and then J and then V will want to end the hugging session with one last hug to him and then J would want the last one and basically they just try to elongate the whole routine which leads me to snap at them at times. V also asks me what I'll do once I finish cleaning the kitchen which I usually do only after they sleep especially in summers and I partly lie to him saying that I have some 'work' on the computer or I have to iron clothes (I don't tell him that I'll watch a movie alongside) because otherwise he'll want me to sleep with him. Whether I feel guilty - well I wish I had a clone who could give them the warmth and fuzzy feeling of sleeping with a parent every time they wished for it but don't think I am depriving them of something because I am doing a lot with them during daytime.

- One thing I do feel guilty about is when I stay up till too late watching a movie or spending time on the internet and then I wake up a little later than I intend to and then have to rush them through their waking up (they do take forever but I guess most kids do) or their breakfast and generally increasing everybody's stress levels, I feel like this could have been avoided! Anyways I am getting better with it and I know that once it becomes an everyday thing that both of them have to leave for their schools early, I would have to discipline myself and sleep early because I can go with less sleep for 3-4 weeks max and then it starts getting difficult.

I always love when Dipali writes about her mommyhood experiences because she's been through it all. So I tag her and also Cee Kay because I can't think of any guilts she may have, she's a saint mom in my eyes :)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Santa's Village AZOOsment park

A few weeks back, we spent a very interesting and a very exhausting day at Santa's Village which has re-opened after 3-4 years in East Dundee, IL.

The kids had so much fun at the rides. The park was open till 7 pm. We reached there a little before 2 pm and for 5 whole hours, the kids were on the move with the exception of about 15 minutes for a snack break, during which a Magic Show started and they ran off to watch that. The best part was that it was pretty compact, which in my eyes as a mom of 2 young kids is really good because it lessens my worry of losing them from my sight. Plus we went there with 2 more families, a majority of which were wearing bright orange :) and so even if we did get a child out of sight, I would have to move a few steps on any side, spot a bright orange, move my eyes a little more and spot my child. They were moving around with their chosen best friend of the day too which helped as well :) Till the clock struck 7, each one of the 5 children were running around to get one last chance on their favorite ride(s) and the staff was sweet enough to operate it with even one child sitting. And the rides were the old kinds which get me sentimental about the diwali melas which used to be awaited with much anticipation while I was growing up, the ones with really bright orange and blue and such colors, the ones which make the creaking sound as they go round.

Apart from the rides, there were animals, even though very few but then they were the closest we have gotten to them in a long time. I think for the kids, it was a first to be among the animals and pet them as they moved about in the mud. There were sheep and their lambs moving around freely and seemed to be so happy amongst the kids being petted and fed. There were llamas, which the kids have found a new fascination with after a couple of episodes of Dora and Diego. And there was a pony ride which was a huge hit too and the kids returned to it several times. The only thing being we have started noticing more and more that when animals are tied or made to do something or even put inside those barriers at zoos, they seem so sad. Even though they are being fed and being taken good care of and kids get to see them, but they seem so totally out of their element. The ponies' faces seemed to be drooping which made me sad but the kids did have fun going on them. As opposed to them, the sheep who were moving about freely seemed to be so much happier and enjoying the kids who moved around them.

Do you see all the orange? Thats all our group :)

After a little hesitation, the kids got comfortable with petting the animals.
Vansh posed like the llama while being clicked with him.