Thursday, November 29, 2012

Winter Container Gardens at the Chalet

winter container garden
Resting atop a piece of the old living room carpet.
I never knew there was such a thing as a winter container garden until I was invited to a blogger workshop on the topic at Chalet Nursery and Garden Center in Wilmette. Now I've got a lovely one sitting on my front stoop. And I made it myself!

I participated in a terrarium class at Chalet earlier this year and my plants are still alive, so I figured this was worth trying, too.

winter container garden
the raw materials: about 6 types of evergreens
Guided by the always vibrant Jennifer Brennan, a fount of knowledge and a creative muse with a background in both botany and ornamental horticulture, I snipped several types of evergreens, added a few pine cones and winter berries, placing them just so and created a display that will last through March.

It was fun, if a bit intimidating at first. Working alongside Melisa, Cindy, Michelle and Susan made for a relaxed atmosphere, though. Each of our creations was unique, but they were all fabulous.

We took the took the class at no cost. It normally runs about $55 and includes all supplies. Best of all, the Chalet staff cleans up after you and delivers your arrangement directly to your car.

If you're looking for a unique holiday gift, the Chalet can also help with that. Their offerings go way beyond what you might buy for a friend with a green thumb (though they have plenty in that category) to include housewares, accessories and pet items.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Joy of Live TV

The other day I confessed that while I was excited to be a doing a segment on Chicago TV, I was a little concerned that I made my segment overly complicated by involving too many things with two many moving parts. I was right. I choked! On live TV.

When it came to showing off the LEGO Mindstorms robot, I only needed to press a couple of buttons to make my son's simple program run. But after turning the robot on, I pressed a wrong button and wound up in a loop of unfamiliar options and couldn't click my way out of it.


I recovered okay, but ugh. It's not fun to flub on-air or watch myself do it. What gets me most in reviewing this is the dead air time. I should have at least been chatting it up. Nobody likes silence on TV.

I'm going to have to organize a Tosh2.0 style web redemption. Which is fine, I figured we'd make more robots, anyway. There are loads of options with the Mindstorms kit and my tween seems to inherently understand all of them.

You can watch for yourself here.

Disclosure: was provided with the Mindstorms set for the segment and further review at my discretion. All opinions are my own.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Look for Me on TV Monday 11/26

The Maker Mom is going live Monday morning on WGN Morning News. I'm showing off award winning science/tech gifts for tweens, that is kids 8 -12. This is actually my fourth segment at WGN, but I learned something important this time around. I'm thrilled with the cool products I'm presenting, indeed I hand picked them, but I've got a lot of moving parts- batteries, lights, things that require a bit of on-site prep-- or in some cases assembly, and it's a bit stressful.

I didn't realize how much extra work I was creating. I *think* I've got a handle on everything and I'll be sure to pack extra batteries. Let's hope everything goes as planned because my tech support guy is staying behind. That would be my 12 y.o. who begged to come on-air, but that would be one more moving part to handle, one that truly has a mind of its own.

At any rate, tune in or watch online between about 8:40 and 8:50 AM on Monday, November 26. I'll be sure to post a clip if the station does. If you miss the live preso, click over to The Maker Mom for an overview of this season's coolest STEM gifts.

Monday, November 19, 2012

You Call This a Holiday Break?

A virtual page from our Cozi online calendar.
The tween is off from school all week, but will have some Science Olympiad practices, robotics practices and an orthodontist appointment. The teen has school Monday and Tuesday and swim practices every day of the week except for Thursday. Today he needed to be at school at 5:45 for the first swim practice.

I've got doctor's appointments, business calls, my Science Olympiad and robotics events, not to mention a lot of prep for an upcoming (and super fun) STEM/tech holiday gift segment I'll be doing for WGN Morning News on Cyber Monday, November 26.

Needless to say, I don't think it's going to be a very restful break. I'm hoping it will be a lot of fun, though!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Dads, Win a Free Trip to the 2013 Dad 2.0 Summit

win a trip to dad 2.0 sponsored by conagra foods
My client, ConAgra Foods, is sponsoring the 2013 Dad 2.0 Summit and they're footing the bill for four dads who like to cook via The Great Dad Cook-Off.

At the Summit, those winning dads will compete for the title of MVP in a live cook-off. The MVP will win bragging rights in addition to a pretty sweet prize.

Head over to The Dish to learn more. Hurry; entries are due at midnight November 19

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Woot, we did it again!

I forgot to mention #STEMchat here, but if you're a faithful reader of the MomImpact Memo or The Maker Mom, you might know I held the fourth Twitter chat last night. #STEMchat brings together parents, educators and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) professionals to encourage STEM-loving kids.
We trended on Twitter! No, it's not your glasses, it's a fuzzy screen shot. Click the pic below to see my trending little hashtag in all its glory.

If you have a background, interest in or passion for a STEM topic, or coach your child's robotics or Science Olympiad team, you might make a great panelist. Submit your information to the #STEMchat Brain Trust. Please note, this is a resource list, not a mailing list, so I won't be crowding your inbox.

Typically held the second Tuesday evening of the month on Twitter, in 2013 we'll explore additional options like Google+ on-air hangouts and #STEMchat Live events. If you'd like to suggest a topic or sponsor for an upcoming chat, please email your suggestion to TheMakerMom (at)

And if you relish the thoughts of #STEMchat goodness filling your inbox, sign up to receive a monthly reminder of the upcoming chat along with a summary of the previous chat and hot posts from The Maker Mom blog.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Threadless + MakeDo Team up for Creative Fun

Baby's first Threadless t-shirt.
When my teen hit middle school, he suddenly developed a sense of fashion. Well, it's more like he developed an aversion to t-shirts from Target and Kohls and turned to the niche mass retailers that pump out the icons of tween pop culture- Hollister, American Eagle, and other mall standards.


Now that he's hit high school, he raised his standards of cool (hooray!) and has become a devoted Threadless fan. Threadless is an online store, but it's also a community of artists and creative types, people who submit and vote on designs. And buy them.

My son is just a buyer. He told me I should be, too, but I said I'd look like an aging hipster in Threadless tees. Still, he advised me to go for it.

I have not gone for it, but my younger guy just got his first Threadless shirt, so there's that.

At any rate, I think it's cool that my teens sees value in walking away from the iconic teen brands in favor of supporting independent artists and forging his own fashion path, even if it does consist of t-shirts.

Right now, Threadless is running a fun contest along with MakeDo, a neat product I learned about when we participated in the Global Cardboard Challenge. Enter today to win great prizes, including weekly Threadless discount codes!

This post was not sponsored. However, it may seem rather random to my regular readers, so I will share that it's the result of a PR pitch from a helpful person. Karma is not always a b*tch.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Kaufman's Deli in Skokie is Open Again

Kaufman's Deli in Skokie reopened in 2012 after a fire in 2011
It's been quite a journey for Bette and Judy Dworkin, the mother-daughter team behind Kaufman's Deli, since their fire in 2011, but the deli is back and better than ever. At the same time, it hasn't changed much. Sure the digs are nicer and more accessible (hooray for public restrooms!) and they've added tables for casual dining noshing, but the classic deli food is still the same.

And that's a good thing.

Corned beef just hasn't been the same without Kaufman's. I've made a couple of my own (meh) and my mom bought a holiday tray or two from another deli when Kaufman's was rebuilding, but the texture, the flavor, the thickness of the slices, the love--something just wasn't right.

My tween has been asking for corned beef in recent months and my answer has remained the same, "Wait until Kaufman's is open."

It's not just the corned beef, but a the salami sticks, the chopped liver, the handmade gefilte fish, the frozen soups and side salads, not to mention breads, the classic challah and BAGELS! Yum!

Kaufman's also has plenty of baked goods, including pastries, cookiesnd cakes.

I'm envisioning filling the place with my boys and their cousins over Thanksgiving break.

The thing I missed most (after the corned beef and bagels), was the old-fashioned pickle barrels. I'm so glad these are back. Kaufman's is the best placed for new pickles--ones with a delicate flavor because they haven't been chillaxing in the brine for so long. You pick 'em right of the barrel yourself. (Please use tongs.)

I think the paper signs are temporary, but they had them in the old place, so who knows? What I tried to capture below was the fresher, more modern aspects of the deli menu- things like couscous salad and other lighter, fresher, not to mention vegetarian sides.

As I mentioned above, they still offer the classic deli items like large, overstuffed sandwiches. I need to loosen my belt just to write about Bubbie's Kitchen Sink, a number that contains five(!) types of meat and runs almost $15. Sounds pricey, but you might be able to feed half your family with it.

The new Kaufman's isn't quite as bold and new as I expected, and yet, it's just right. During my visit, I felt like I was visiting with old friends--and I don't mean the staff, though some of the old crew have returned--I mean the bagels and chopped liver.

I probably should get out more often. At any rate, corned beef for dinner tonight!