Staying Sane with My Job Chart

Did you know that my family has a weekly family meeting? It's usually on Sunday afternoons and we have done it ever since Zuzu was in kindergarten. Once JR turned five this past January, he was allowed to participate in Family Meeting as well. I know my friends smile at me behind my back for being so dogmatic about it. They think it is another … [Read more...]

Using Technology for Good with Ruckus Reader

One of the first things that JR says to me when he comes into my room in the morning is: "Can I play iPad?" I"m usually so desperate to eke out a few more minutes of sleep that I merely grunt in assent while he helps himself to the iPad. And so begins the screen time battle for the day. Apparently I am not the only parent with a 5 year old iPad … [Read more...]

Getting a Kid Ready for Overnight Camp: an Everyday Victory for Mom

Thank you to P&G and Kroger stores for celebrating “Team Mom’s Everyday Victories”! Please visit the P&G"s event page to play games, win money off your next Kroger trip and more fun! Zuzu leaves on Monday for her first time at sleepaway camp. She has been waiting for this day since last October when we signed her up. You see, the camp she … [Read more...]

My Kid is Part Werewolf (Repost)

JR seems to have come down with a bug this weekend. It"s a rare occurrence that our little guy is sick.  He actually hasn"t missed any preschool this year because of illness, save one afternoon when I pulled him out early to have the pediatrician look at the weird rash that had spread across his face. (Rashes he gets a lot. Although he is almost … [Read more...]

Spring Cleaning with Toydozer

My house recently got a dramatic makeover. A few months ago, my mom sold the house that she and my dad lived in for over twenty years and moved into a very cool apartment. Naturally, she could not bring everything from a five-bedroom house to her two-bedroom apartment, so there was a lot of extra furniture. My parents had some beautiful antiques … [Read more...]

Passover Recipe: Moroccan Meatball Stew

West of the Loop was on Spring Break last week, enjoying some sun and sand in Naples, Florida. While the vacation was fun and even relaxing, it is a shock to come home and realize that Passover starts in only a few days. As you begin planning for the holiday, here is a re-post from last year at this time with a handy Passover recipe. When I was a … [Read more...]

PDPW Conference in Madison

West of the Loop went on the road last week. (A special thanks to my mom who came to help out with the kids while I was gone.) The Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin (PDPW) held their annual conference in Madison, WI on March 13 and 14. The conference organizers invited me and two of my blogging friends, Sara from Self Made Mom and Chef … [Read more...]

The Second Chicago Food Swap

The second Chicago Food Swap took place today, St. Patrick"s Day, and it was a huge success! I am still glowing from the foodie love. After the December food swap, which was small but fun, my co-founder, Chef Druck, and I had looked around in vain for a more centrally located space that we could use. Our problem was price. We wanted to pay nothing. … [Read more...]

Dessert with Friends at Hanukkah

Thanks to Duncan Hines for sponsoring my writing. There"s no limit to the baking possibilities, so grab your favorite Duncan Hines mix and Comstock or Wilderness fruit fillings and Bake On! www.duncanhines.com. This weekend we are hosting a small gathering of friends to celebrate Hanukkah, which starts on the night of December 20. The traditional … [Read more...]

Christmas Culture Wars

This post originally appeared at this time last year on my local blogging community site, The Chicago Moms. It's timely once again and my sentiments have not changed, so I am reposting for 2011. At this time of year, there is a lot of discussion in the media about what I call the Christmas culture wars.  In a multi-ethnic society like ours, where … [Read more...]

Musical Holiday Comforts

This post is sponsored by Tempur-Pedic, the brand millions of owners trust to deliver their best night’s sleep every night. Enjoy our Buy 2, get 1 free pillow offer now and give the gift of custom comfort to someone you love. Thanksgiving comes this week and with it the official start of the winter holiday season. The holiday season has a … [Read more...]

Got Confusion? The Truth about Milk

What kind of milk does your family drink? Do you pay more for organic? Do you shop around for the best price? When I was a kid, the only question was whether you drank skim or 2% or maybe whether your mom let you have chocolate milk. These days grocery stores carry a dizzying array of choices in the dairy aisle. Some people have very strong … [Read more...]

Do-It-Yourself Tween Rock Star Birthday Party

One of the most viewed West of the Loop posts ever is this one about Zuzu's 7th birthday party which was a DIY American Girl Doll party. Remember? That was the party where I made tiny doll-sized food. I'll admit that that was a little hard-core. The truth is, I love doing Zuzu's birthday parties at home. For all their sassy back talk and begging … [Read more...]

Parenting in the Digital Age

Parenting in the digital age has numerous challenges that we anticipate -- cyber-bullying and "sexting" to name two -- and even more that we don"t anticipate. While my children are not old enough for Facebook profiles or their own phones, I still find that parenting them in the age of WiFi and TiVo is full of issues and dilemmas that my own parents … [Read more...]

Urban Mom Salon: the best idea ever?

Raise your hand if you are a mom who has ever hired a babysitter so that you could get a mani-pedi or a bikini wax or, dear Lord, just get your highlights done. I seriously don't know any mom who hasn't done this at some point. Okay, I'm sure that there are some moms out there who don't color their hair or get their nails done, but, frankly, none … [Read more...]

Cooking without a Recipe: Brisket

This past week marked the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah. Last year at this time, I wrote a post about enjoying Rosh Hashanah dinner with my friend and fellow blogger Vanessa AKA Chef Druck and I shared my recipe for sweet carrot tzimmes -- the vegetables cut into rounds to resemble gold coins for a prosperous new year. This year, I am happy to … [Read more...]

Happy Anniversary to Building Blocks Toy Store

What makes a great independent toy store? In my view, it's a magical combination of great customer service,  a wide selection of imaginative and unusual toys, and enough room to play and hang out. The owner of this kind of toy store recognizes you after your first few visits. Then he or she learns your name. The staff is quick to recommend a … [Read more...]

Fall at the Pick Your Own Farm

When I was a little girl growing up in Washington DC, we used to pick our Halloween pumpkins at a farm in western Howard County Maryland called Larriland Farms. (I'm happy to report that it is still in business and that the owners were savvy enough to buy the domain name pickyourown.com.)  I remember feeling sorry for the kids whose parents just … [Read more...]

Breakfast in America

Zuzu"s school starts forty-five minutes earlier this year than it did last year. Forty-five minutes earlier! Zuzu is not a morning person and it was hard enough to get her to school by 9 am. Getting her to school by 8:15 is proving to be a real challenge, especially because she insists on walking the half-mile to school. I wake Zuzu up at 7 am and … [Read more...]

Walking to School

Zuzu started third grade a few weeks ago and she is feeling very grown-up indeed. Elementary schools all have their cherished hierarchies and rituals and kids take pride in reaching new milestones. This year, for the first time, Zuzu's classroom is on the upper floor of the building. You can believe that she views walking up those stairs every … [Read more...]

Giddy Dip'Ems: a New Healthy Snack for Kids

Does your elementary school aged kid bring a snack to school? Mine does. Since she started full-day school in first grade, Zuzu has brought a snack to school, in addition to her lunch, at the teacher's request. Depending on when she wakes up, Zuzu can have four or five hours of hard-core learning between breakfast and lunch. The teachers at our … [Read more...]

Active Family Adventure: Biking Morton Arboretum

For JR, this summer has been his first summer as a biker. Early last spring I took JR to our favorite bike store, Dan's Bike Shop in nearby Berwyn, for his first big boy bike. (It was kind of an expensive purchase for no special occasion, but what can you do for a kid whose birthday is in January?) He picked up the mechanics of riding a … [Read more...]

The Parenting Walk of Shame

At four and a half, JR is a far more civilized creature than the binky-dependent rageaholic of a year ago. But at the same time, he is as strong-willed and singularly-minded as ever. His most frustrating trait, for me as his mother, is his insistence on raging against situations that simply cannot be changed. For example, one day during summer … [Read more...]

Back to School with Blue Sky Home Series

My children both head back to school in a few weeks. This fall is shaping up to be our busiest one ever. Now that Zuzu is in third grade, her schedule is jam-packed with activities. I don't think of myself as one of those parents who overschedules her child, but somehow Zuzu has ended up with after-school commitments several times a week in … [Read more...]

Being a Daughter, Being a Mother

As many of you have heard, my father is gravely ill at the moment. I don't want to discuss the details of his illness because my father is a very private person and because it is not my place to do so. But I am compelled to write about the conflict I feel as I try to balance my responsibilities as a daughter and as a mother because it speaks to a … [Read more...]