Friday, October 31, 2008

Ghost Story

I am having one of those sad mom moments that veteran moms will tell you about but you really can't understand until you have your own.
Today Emma left for school at 8:00 am, carrying the Halloween costume she made with her friends and I have only seen once. I was quick to remind her to bring along a canned good so she would be able to wear her costume in school, she gave me a kiss on the cheek and said, "I hope you have a terrific Halloween!" I painted my smile on and told her I was sure I would and hoped she would too. I watched her amble down the street looking a little smaller than usual under the weight of her giant backpack.

You see, Emma is heading straight over to her friend's house after school, trick-or-treating in north Oak Park, going straight to a Halloween Party at another friend's house, and returning to the first friend's house to spend the night with a group of girls. This is the perfect Halloween for a sixth grade girl, but I am left feeling just a little hallow on this All Hallows Eve.

I am left with fleeting images of her first trick-or-treat dressed as a precious and politically incorrect hobo, the little Madeline who sorted her candies and a watched The Nightmare before Christmas for the first time, and the really scary Puritan girl who collected candies under the careful supervision of her dad. I know this independence is part of her growing up and these experiences are exactly what I want for her, but there is something eerie about living with a vanishing ghost of a little girl.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Pumpkin Heads

I LOVE LOVE LOVE carving pumpkins! Carving night is a much anticipated event in the home of the Elsmo Four and tonight was no exception. Particular props go to Finn for carving his pumpkin completely on his own for the first time and to Leif for creating a Tim Burton esque scare head out of a pumpkin that wouldn't stand up! Emma's Picasso inspired moon shine is darling and my style, inspired by my dad, remains the same!
Happy Haunting!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Sweet dreams

Last night Finn had a nightmare. He came into our bedroom around 2am and was quite upset. He asked if he could sleep with us. What Finn fails to realize is has grown quite a lot and takes up more than his fair share of the middle of any bed. I tucked him in with Leif, made sure he was comfortable, and left to sleep the rest of the night away in his bed. I love living in a smaller home where everyone has to be ready to shift position and lucky for me Finn has the most comfortable bed in the house! I slept, as Finn used to say, "like a ton of the bricks!"

Tonight as Finn crawled into bed after a long day of school and soccer he commented, "my bed feels so good. Your back must be very sweet, Mom, because my bed is even more comfortable since you slept in it!"

Sleep tight and sweet dreams!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

In the OP

Bright and early this morning I made my way over to Irving school to help put together Tuesday packets. This was my first foray into packet making and I respected the hierarchy of the job; you don't become a stapler until you have spent some time collating. There were about ten pages in each of the 360 packets and when finished putting them together I felt like I'd been floating in a raft on wavy water, but he best part was all the fun conversation! My friend and blog stalker, Jules, passed along a fine bit of wisdom during our conversation today after someone came in late hoping to add a page to the has taught her, "your poor planning does not necessitate my emergency." Man, I wish someone had taught me that to me earlier in life! She is a wise woman.

From the school I snapped up my neighbor Eileen and hit the Eastgate Cafe on Harrison for an early lunch and a chat. I had not been to this cute cafe yet and really enjoyed the company and my pulled pork!

I also took in a little acupuncture treatment later in the day. I am happy to report I finally graduated to a face up treatment...normally I am flat on my face with a dozen or so needles in my neck and today I had one right between my eyes!

In a strange twist, while waiting for Emma to get out of school, I witnessed a middle school girl get hit by a car. It was one of those bizarre audio moments; I heard the tires squeal...familar...and then I heard the odd thud...not so familiar...and then there was a scream. Nobody ever thinks that will happen so, audio or otherwise, I was not prepared. I hope the girl is okay. The police were on the scene in under a minute.

After collecting both kids we ventured to the Leo's warehouse to pick up Nutcracker shoes. I found it funny that Emma, who normally wears pink shoes, needed black shoes and Finn, who normally wears black shoes, needed white! What is this? Financial sarcasm?

We ended the evening with a lovely family dinner with the kids and later enjoyed some champagne and cake at neighbor's beautiful home. Yet another day in the OP!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Spew

This evening Leif and I made our way into the city to see The Spew, an all improv spoof on The View. Given the nature of the show and the swirl of interest our country currently has in politics these talented and hardworking women have no shortage of material to work with! Sarah Palin even made an appearance. Their "special guest", celebrity King Koa Hitchcock (played by the super funny Mary Olivieri) was quick to share her plan for helping cat allergy stricken Angolan children by raising funds to provide needy families with purple Dyson Vacuum cleaners! Thank goodness for improv because no-one could have written that! Oh...and I suggested the vacuum.

The best part of all is my dear friend Lynda plays Gay, the character spoof of Joy Behar. I cannot imagine the pressure the entire cast of The Spew is under every time they perform, but Lynda and the rest of the cast are supremely confident and hyper aware (not to mention down right funny) while performing.

So check it take in a Sunday night show Leif and I left the house at 6:15, the show started at 7pm and we were home before 9pm. There is no excuse not to go!!

The Spew runs Sundays at 7pm from October 12 through November 16 at Comedy Sportz Theatre located 929 W. Belmont, Chicago, IL 60657. The best part? Tickets are only $10. Contact 773.549.8080 for tickets! Did I mention you can also drink wine out of plastic cups?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Just Dinner

Some nights are magical. This was one of them. I cooked dinner, just dinner, for a friend and birthday boy. I feel like I need to thank him for reminding me just how much I live to cook...I felt as if the best of me was on display tonight...okay the setting did not hurt things.

Amuse: Parmesan Shortbread with Feta Mousse, Honey Roasted Tomato and Kalalmata Olive.

Pasta: Sweet Potato Ravioli with Sage Brown Butter, Pine Nut, and Frizzled Shallot.

Salad: Sherried Beets with Marcona Almond Butter and Gorgonzola Bomboloni.

Fish: Sea Bass with Israeli Couscous, Moroccan Compote, and Mint.
Meat: Herb Crusted Rack of Lamb with Current Red Wine Sauce, Brussels Sprouts and Potato.
Cheese: Trio of Cheeses with Fig, Apple, and Chocolate.

Thank you to LB and Jules for their tireless service tonight. I failed to photograph the soup (a lovely shrimp bisque), my savory pancakes, and my dessert (coffee granita), but overall felt it was just a fine dinner.

Happy Birthday Andrew. It was a joy from start to finish.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Soup for the Staff

I have been the the chair of the Staff Appreciation committee at Irving School for the past six years. We host three events throughout the year and today we held our annual parent teacher conference lunch. This event, unlike our carefully choreographed spring luncheon, is a tried and true pot-luck. Numerous volunteers make soups, chop salad toppings, bake breads, and provide a myriad of creative side dishes. When these collective efforts merge it always results in an impressive display. This simple event is beloved by Irving's hard working staff and providing this meal is the least we can do to show our appreciation for Irving's amazing teachers and staff!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Crepes for girls

Last April, after Leif finished B-school, he whisked me away to Paris for a much needed vacation and celebration. We had an amazing time wandering the streets of that amazing city together; it was a trip of a lifetime! One of my favorite culinary experiences in Paris was enjoying a late night snack of warm crepes with Nutella. I am not big on sweets, but there was something deliriously delicious about that dish...maybe it was the setting and the company that made them so memorable...I really can't say.

Emma's new middle school friends all love Nutella and after Emma invited her friend and study partner over this afternoon to work on a Language Arts project I decided crepes with Nutella would be the perfect after school snack. Crepes are really easy to make; the secret is letting the batter sit out for at least thirty minutes.

As Emma and her friend devoured the snack I simply can take the girl out of Paris, but you can't take the Paris out of the girl.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Check In

Tonight I ventured out to Irving school for Finn's first parent teacher conference. I love checking in with the kids' teachers and tonight was no exception. Finn is doing beautifully in third grade in all respects. What really pleased me were his teachers' compliments, not only about his strong academic performance, but also about his honesty, kindness and work ethic. I LOVE his teacher...sometimes you know very early on how a teacher will influence your child and I must say that Ms. T is going to be a memorable person in Finn's life for years to come. I cannot imagine a teacher more perfect for Finn at this stage. I have already witnessed huge growth in him and only expect more good things as the year progresses. Ms. T is supremely organized, sensitive to the individual needs of her students, positive and upbeat. I can see why Finn can't wait to get to school every day!

Sunday, October 19, 2008


Leif and I had a date tonight and we headed to the Auditorium Theater to take in the fall program offered by the Joffrey Ballet. Under the thoughtful direction of Artist Director, Ashely Wheater, the company showcased the works of Robert Joffrey (Postcards), Jerome Robbin's (Into the Night), and Edwaard Liang (Age of Innocence). The evening was well spent. Into the Night was a marvel, however, the world premier performance of Age of Innocence was worth the price of addmission on it's own. It is clear Mr. Wheater is priming the men of his company to take thier place on the stage as stars, but their stand out performances (especially Calmels and Rogers) fell prey to the true stars of the evening Ms. Quiroz and Ms. Jaiani.
From the stunning ballet, Leif and I hit Trattoria 225 for a late dinner and a glass of wine.
Two dates in one week? I am blushing and happy!

Friday, October 17, 2008

I did!

And so should you!
Leif took me on a vote and have breakfast date today and I LOVED it. Early voting is contagious in our neighborhood because most people want to miss the crowds on Novemeber 4th, but Leif and I are voting early to be part of the Get Out the Vote efforts on Novemeber 4th. Obama is encouraging everyone who is able, to vote early, travel to a nearby battle ground state, and help get folks to the polls.
I can't imagine what election day will be like; it was exciting for me just seeing a single solitary green check mark next to Obama/Biden on my ballot!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Grasshopper in a box

As long as I can remember the women in my family have kept a grasshopper box on their mantel piece. Keeping a grasshopper in one of these antique boxes is supposed to bring good luck to the home. I have always kept my box right in that good luck spot, but until today we had never had a real grasshopper inside it. Emma found an injured hopper on the side of our car today. It is missing an all important back leg, but other than that seems fine and has been eating leaves up a storm. We'll see how long this little creature lasts, but I can report a little bit of good luck has already hit the home of the Elsmo Four!

Lights Out

To put it mildly Emma did not have the best day yesterday. I delight in my daughter, but like any young lady she can be expected to make some mistakes along the road to adulthood. Without going into grave detail she made a series of poor choices about a now infamous math test and they snowballed...big time.

I remember those days when I was young...the sick feeling I got when faced with the prospect of going home, the shock as everything seemingly unrelated to my lie started to unravel too, and the strange relief finally being found out brought. Emma did her fair share of learning and crying yesterday afternoon, but finally calmed down enough for us to start building her back up again.

We tucked our puffy eyed girl into bed to finish her required reading. Little did she know what happens at the of Where The Red Fern about a karma smack. She was a mess...sobbing, "Oh Old Dan, oh Little Ann." I was never so happy to turn out the lights in her room; I wanted her day to end as much as she did.

Monday, October 13, 2008


When I returned home today I found this pretty bouquet of flowers on my dining room table accompanied by a lovely note from Annie and Eric thanking us for hosting them for the week-end. What a sweet surprise!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

1 out of 45,000

With Eric getting my cousin Annie safely to the start of the marathon, Leif and I were able to concentrate on getting the dancers to their rehearsals before finding Annie on the course.After dropping Emma off, we traveled from the Joffrey by train to Chinatown to watch Annie between mile 21 and 22. She had a feeling that particular stretch might be challenging for her and suggested the support of her boyfriend and family would help get her through. The energy throughout the city was phenomenal and particularly on the trains. People were crammed into the cars carrying signs and traveling in support of one of forty-five thousand runners. While the runners had been confined to their grueling course, throughout the city spectators were on an amazing mini race of their own...

Thanks to real time runner tracking in Annie's shoe alerting us to her location, we realized we had about an hour before she would reach Cermack and Wentworth and decided to head over to Three Happiness for Dim Sum to deliciously waste time! After dining on dumplings, we returned to the course to see a confident Annie run by. She did not hear us screaming her name, but seeing her in the process of accomplishing this long standing goal was a moment to treasure. After watching her disappear into the distance our group hopped back on the train. Eric headed off to the finish and Leif and Finn and I returned to State and Randolph.

About two hours later...just as we were preparing to swap kids at the Joffrey...our very own first time marathoner proudly turned onto State street wearing the medal she earned for completing 26.2 miles in 4 hours 37 minutes.

Congratulations Annie!!! We are all proud of you!!

Duel intentions

Annie is running the marathon tomorrow and I decided to cook her a pre-race dinner. Sesame crusted orange glazed salmon with wheat pasta, spinach and mushroom. A good little dish...really. What made the meal was the arrival of my canvasing partner Jolly! She hails from NYC, I met her in PA, and she was in Chi-town this week-end as part of a Women for Obama event. She found her way to Oak Park via the blue line and settled in for a quick dinner. I have tempted Jolly with photos of my food since I met her; it was a profound moment to have her in my dining room tonight. ANY candidate would someone like Jolly on their side and I am grateful she took the time to visit us this evening. So...Annie ate her carbs and all of us were a little Jollier than we thought we would be!


Emma will play a BOY in the party scene!

And Finn has suddenly become Arabian!

Happy Holidays!!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Pain

Today was what one might call, "a big thing". My Day Nursery Co- President and I lead our very first board meeting. We had everything well prepared and were eager to get the ball rolling. The meeting was a success, but not without stress...before, during and after. For most this would be just another tough day at the office, but for me circumstances such as these present a different kind of challenge.

I always have a nag, a nagging neck pain that is . It sounds silly but really has a complicated neurological diagnosis and is something I have come to live with. It starts with a shot of energy, like lightening, from the top of my head down my left arm and then the pain sets in. It starts gradually, but ultimately becomes has sent me to the emergency room, prevented me from driving, or even brushing my hair. And today it started.

I was holding my own enough to drive the Friday dance carpool, but I knew I was headed for trouble. I love the fact that I cram my car full ballerinas and one boy once a week; I was unwilling to let myself go down the path that would prevent this from being a part of my day. Can't you see why? So I called Julia.
I secured my acupuncture appointment and headed over to El's house to have Finn's hair cut. They have an Irish Wolfhound puppy who has become huge in the last few months. Amazing.
With Finn safely tucked away with our friends, I headed over to the 325 Health Center for my "head it off at the pass" acupuncture treatment. Julia found me completely devoid of Xi and suggested I entertain an additional treatment. I have never experienced cupping before, but have to say I was mightily impressed!
I was virtually pain free by the time I headed home and thankfully so, because we had to decorate for Annie. She is coming in for the marathon, her first, and the kids, Leif and I decided to fill her bedroom with signs, balloons and streamers to send her off on her great adventure! She is going to hurt after 26.2 miles, but I am thankful I will be able to snap by head to watch her cross the finish line! You always have to find a way to work through the pain...I did and Annie will too.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Cleaning House

I was going about my daily cleaning routine and got to thinking about how much I love the line of cleaning products I have been using. I have been in the process of greening the Elsmo Four for a while now...reusable grocery bags, recycled paper products, and lights are turned off as much as possible. Just some small steps that over time will hopefully make a big difference!
J.R. Watkins is an established all natural apothecary and recently unveiled their new line of all-natural plant based products that are safe for the environment and my family. My glass cleaner contains lavender and rosemary and smells divine and our hand soap is made with green tea and aloe.
I have to admit, the products are pretty expensive. For that reason I steer clear of the JR Watkins toilet bowl cleaner; using feels like literally flushing money down the toilet!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

House Hunting

No, the Elsmo Four are not looking to move.
It is nominating time for the South Oak Park Style Walk.
Today I drove up and down the streets of south Oak Park looking for and taking pictures of homes that may be worthy candidates for this amazing event celebrating quality design within a modest foot print.
For a moment I thought I may get pulled over for casing houses, but I made it through unscathed
Tomorrow night the committee meets to begin whittling down the big list of prospects in hopes of getting closer to our elite eight...the eight homes that showcase the best of south Oak Park living.
No small job, but one that is extraordinarily fun and inspiring.
For crying out loud, I have a gorgeous new deck on the back of my house and gleaming refinished floors as a result of working on this event last year...what could be next?

Sunday, October 5, 2008


Today it all started. I took Emma and Finn down to the Joffrey Tower for their Nutcracker orientation, costume measurements, and publicity photographs. Our holiday season is now set with heavy rehearsals and a rigorous performance schedule. It was exceptionally sweet to witness Emma taking her little brother under her veteran wing ushering him into this prestigious world.

Emma Grace has been cast in the coveted party scene, though we will not know if she will play a girl or boy until next week. The party opens the show and lasts a full thirty minutes; as a parent it is a viewing dream...amazing costumes, real dancing, and funny family sub-plots throughout!

As for Finn, he has been cast as a little doll under the tree. During the party scene the girls all receive a doll as a present and those eight little dolls come to life during the battle scene. They fight on the side of the Nutcracker and use gumdrops as weapons to slay mischievous mice! The dolls also appear in the second act as foils for the company dancers as they perform their variations. As a boy Finn could be cast as Punch, Pierrot, Arabian, Chinese Boy, or Gingerbread. We'll know more next week, but seeing as how he is the littlest doll of all my bets are on Pierrot or Punch!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Rents

My parents came in for the day to watch Finn's soccer game. They have loved youth soccer since the moment my brother showed promise with the ball and they are equally eager to support their grandson. The game ended in a 12-4 victory for the Strikers and Finn had three assists, several excellent passes and a fine corner kick that converted to a goal.
From the field we headed down to Chinatown to celebrate my mom's birthday and to eat a Chinese meal my dad had been craving from some time. Our early dinner at Emperor's Choice was filled with yummy treats, but Leif's Black Pepper Beef selection was my favorite. It is funny to remember all the meals I have had in that restaurant, but credit for our first foodie adventure there goes to the Pfour! From the restaurant we headed out on the streets of Chinatown to find some plates in the shop where they have dishes, but will not sell them. I fell in love with some white triangular plates for the second time, but alas left empty handed again. So it goes in Chinatown I guess, but my mom managed to unearth a kitchen sponge shaped like a man that shoots water from you know where.
It is funny to watch a group of people you know spread out and walk the streets; everyone has their own personality.

And then when they stop at an intersection you realize they are simply family.
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