Thursday, December 19, 2013

Because We're Jewish

Jewish Christmas is not to be confused with that bastardized holiday "Chrismukkah," a word that to me sounds like nails on a chalkboard. Jewish Christmas is about movies and Chinese food on Christmas Day or maybe cooking up the turkey or, yes, the ham, you got at the office in lieu of a greener holiday bonus and spending the day with Jewish friends and other non-observers because everything else is closed.

Or used to be closed on December 25.

Frankly, I liked the fact that so few places were open. We could use more days, maybe a day a month, during which we all take a sabbatical. It would be like the entire country taking one long, deep cleansing breath for the day. No new email or snail mail building up, no distracting text messages, no bills to pay, just a cozy winter day enjoying your dog family, or a lovely spring day out in the parks with your puppy kids.

But I digress.

Part of our Jewish Christmas observance traditionally involves visiting one of Chicago's world-class museums the day of Christmas Eve because the crowds are typically low. But this year DH suggested taking the boys skiing.

My conversation with my teen boys went like this:

Me: So Dad suggested going skiing the day of Christmas Eve. What do you think?

One Boy: Is Christmas Eve the night that's the day of Christmas?

Me: No, it's the night before.

The Other Boy: When is Christmas?

One Boy: It's the 26th, I think.


Interestingly, even Spertus, the Jewish Museum, will be closed this year.

Whatever your traditions, have a lovely and peaceful Christmas Day!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

In Which a Crabby Chicago Mom Blogger Actually has Fun at Blogger Events

Let me eat cake!
I've just wrapped up my 8th(!) year of blogging. Clearly at this point I'm the crabby old lady of the Chicago mom blogger community. Gather round, kiddos, let me tell you how things worked back in the day and what you young whippersnappers are doing all wrong.

Well, it's not just that blogging has changed. I've changed. My kids have grown. I'm a legitimate work-from-home-because-my-family-counts-on-my-income gal instead of a chasing-two-young-kids-telling-stories-on-my-blawg-and-getting-a-few-sweet-invitations-and-some-swag kind of gal.

Because of my paid work/need to make money and the lack of kids to escape from (though really, some days I do need to get away from our puppy much as I love him--of course, I loved my little kids too), I rarely go to blogging events these days.

If the timing and the topic are right (not to mention the location and expected crowd), I might go. Most of my blogging energy is directed toward The Maker Mom and their aren't a whole lot of maker or science and tech events that pass through town (side note: while it's fine that several Chicago museums are running blogger reviews though organizations like the Clever Girls Collective, it'd be nice to be recognized as a local blogger whose target audience matches theirs. See? I told you I'm a crabby old lady.).

At this stage of the game, I don't have patience for crowds. Dear brand, if you are hosting a public event and there's nothing special or exclusive for bloggers and (God forbid) you expect me to wait in line with everybody else and pay for my own parking then just leave me off your list.

(Note to self: I was on a trip with OnStar a few weeks ago and though I blogged about the Buick, I still need to write more about the my experience with the brand. They were totally worthy.)

Despite my increasingly hermit-like ways, I did make it out to two outstanding blogger events recently. The fact that I won major door prizes at both was icing on the delicious bloggy cake as you'll see above.

And there was delicious bloggy cake as well as other excellent food.

The first event was sponsored by Red Tricycle Chicago, a where-to-go/what-to-do online destination with site in nine major metropolitan areas across the US. It was interesting to meet with and hear founder Jacqui Boland talk about how she turned her digital city guide into a national presence over the course of seven years.

The event was sponsored by the Microsoft Surface 2, a piece of technology I was interested in learning about (and won!). I liked that it was a luncheon event that promised not to take up my entire day. Bonus: I got to drive in with Stacey and we enjoyed a fabulous lunch at Little Goat.

The Surface2 demo was seamlessly integrated into a cooking demo. There was an intimate crowd of friends and new faces and it took place on a sunny day in Chicago. Even if I hadn't won the Surface2, I would have called the event a win.

The other event was put on by some of my early blogging peeps, MJ Tam and Beth Rosen. I wanted to see and support them, but honestly, I was a bit twitchy about the fact that it required me to essentially take a full day out of the office (and arrange doggy daycare). However it was a fun and informative event.

The food was delicious--almost a mini taste of Chicago-- there was a factory tour involved and I got to be in the studio audience while they recorded an episode of Chicagonisa Live.

The event was hosted at Nielsen-Massey maker of high quality pure vanilla and other extracts. I knew they were local because I get press releases from them from time to time and I have some of their product on my shelves (and now even more).

Capannari Ice Cream was also part of the event. They are a hike away from me in Mount Prospect, IL. We've never made it out for treats despite their tours, movie nights, and being named both a Chicago Parent and Red Tricycle favorite. They are now closed for the season, but thanks to a gift card in the swag bags, we'll definitely be heading out in 2014.

North Shore Distillery served up beverages. What? They offer factory tours on Saturdays? I'm so there. Also, I won this super cool History of Gin artisan spirits set from them.

I'm not sure who provided what, but both Bent Fork Bakery and the French Pastry School were credited with providing delectable desserts and artisan sandwiches.

There was also a melange of PR folks working behind the scenes on the event.I'll give a shout-out to Savor Agency because I've known them the longest, but we only got in a quick hello (and we've both worked with Mrs. Prindables). But I'm sure the Chicagonista gals- MJ, Beth, Nancy and Duong- played a huge role in shaping the logistically complex event so that it would resonate with the bloggers in attendance. It did. I'm sorry I had to run home before someone could steal my gin to get the dog and take care of the after-school events.

And now, I crawl back into my cave, now with a lovely vanilla scent, until the sun in shining and the average temperature is in the 50s.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Top Holiday STEM Gifts

What? You missed my TV appearance highlighting this great STEM gifts for kids? No worries, you can take a look here. I'm always amazed and how tiny I look compared to the WGN anchors so let me say, not only are they tall, but Robin wears heels.

This is something like my fourth TV appearance and I feel like I've got it down to some degree. Even though I made it to the studio on time, they didn't have me set up until just before the segment and I wound up being very rushed at the last minute. So rushed then I didn't get to put the littleBits Korg Synth Kit on display because it was blocked by the regular kit (though I was quite fond of the sound-sensitive rocking Santa I created).

I felt (still feel) horrible about this because I'm a big littleBits fan and the Synth Kit is a really cool addition to their line. And I was pretty psyched to have it show off before it went on sale.

Here's the kind of thing I had hoped to demonstrate. I had my keyboard and oscillator ready to go and planned to play a killer rendition of "Do-Re-Mi."

So the TV segment wound up being pretty stressful, but I think I came off okay in the end.

Many thanks to the awesome, patient and helpful Drew Fustini of Element 14 for setting me up with the BeagleBone Black project and serving as my onsite tech assistant/roadie. Given my rush, I might not even even unboxed it all without him.

Because I can't resist, here are a few more useful STEM and STEAM gift lists. And whatever you buy this season, make sure it's not one of these.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Look for me on WGN Morning News on December 5, 2013

Great Science and Tech Gifts for Kids from The Maker Mom
I'm still not sure what I'm wearing, but I've already selected what I think are the coolest STEM gifts of 2013. On Thursday, 12/5/13, I'll be on WGN Morning News at around 8:45 AM CST. The show is syndicated throughout North America, but you can watch anywhere with this link even if you don't have a TV.

Be sure to click over to The Maker Mom blog to learn more about my product picks and enter some great giveaways in the coming days!

In the meantime, take a look at last year's picks, which I still stand by.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Because Some Gifts are too Good to Keep to Myself

It's been a crazy Chanukah here. Between the overlap with Thanksgiving and some, but not all of us having jetted off to Florida for a few days last week,  things feel off-kilter even though Chanukah is a minor holiday. But dangit, there will be latkes. They just may Christmas latkes. I was one of the jet-setters in the family and rumor has it I left a bag of potatoes rotting on the counter during my leave.

Last night as we lit candles,still not as a complete family as one teen was too tired and crabby hungry to join us, the other teen presented DH and I with a gift. Each time the boys mention something they want to buy us, we tell them to save their money and simply be kind, helpful and respectful to us. Oh, that is so much easy said then done. 

The boy who was present handed us a present-- a homemade card. On the bottom of the card, there were two coupons: one says it's good for one free sidewalk shoveling, something that is normally a paid chore. The other coupon is good for one clearing of our driveway.

As we're thanking him he tells us to read the back of his coupons.

The free sidewalk is good with the purchase of a paid driveway shoveling and the free driveway shoveling is free with the purchase of  paid sidewalk shoveling.

We should have just had him buy us something.