Friday, July 04, 2014

Happy Independence Day

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Moms Demand Gun Sense Action

Niles Village board votes on gun shop and gun range near schools
This post is not affiliated in any direct way with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. However, if you are concerned about the amount of gun violence in our society, school safety as it relates to gun violence, or the number of people walking around with weapons, concealed or otherwise, it's an excellent organization to join or at least follow on Facebook

Last night I attended a village board meeting in Niles at which they planned to discuss a potential gun shop and gun range in an industrial area, an industrial area that also houses family-friendly attractions including one of those trampoline spots, a volleyball facility that hosts youth teams, and an alternative school. In fact, the proposed facility would be just 1,000 feet from the school, which serves kids 11-21 years old who "withdraw socially and emotionally, have difficulty with social skills, and have difficulty fitting in."

The proposed facility would also be within "walking distance" of three other schools.

Any red flags for you or is it just me?

The room was packed with folks on both sides of the issue, but before anybody got a word in. The village trustees voted to send the issue back to the zoning board for further discussion. Apparently when the issue came up at the previous zoning meeting few, if any, citizens showed up to share their concerns. (Related note: few, if any, citizens were aware of the zoning commission meetings.)

Once the discussion was tabled, the trustees allowed a few minutes for the room to empty out and I left with a friend. My friends who stayed reported that those who remained were allowed to air their concerns at the end of the meeting.

Although the discussion is just getting started, I want to share a few observations. Observations, not interpretations, which means I'm sticking to the facts.

It's very difficult to have a constructive dialogue about gun control. Emotions run high on both sides of the discussion. When I saw a notice posted about last night's meeting on Facebook, one person asked if there was data to validate safety concerns about having a gun shop/range within a certain distance of the high school. That person was then verbally attacked. (Note: this is a problem relating to other sensitive topics, too. When did looking to science and data become a bad thing?) People on both sides of the issue have a tendency to abandon arguments of logic and resort to naming-calling. They look at people on the opposite side of the issue as "others" rather attempt to understand them or find common ground. (Which is one of the reasons I'm game to going to a shooting range one day.)

Moms really do demand gun sense action. Based on the people who expressed a clear opinion without using their voices--like those holding "vote yes" signs or those wearing green ribbons (a nod to Sandy Hook and the need for gun control), the moms/women want gun sense and men want their local gun shop/range. This is not to say there was a strict gender line, but there was an apparent one. I've observed this before.

Smokers in this group favor the gun shop. As people left the non-meeting, small crowds gathered outside the building. To reach the parking lot, I had to pass next to the group of smokers at the bottom of the stairs outside the building, "vote yes" signs tucked under their arms as toxic secondhand smoke lingered in the air around them.

The traditional news media was out in full force last night and imagine in the coming weeks this issue will blow up on both sides. I'll keep you posted.

Oh, and I mentioned above that there are 4 schools within walking distance of the proposed shop, including that one just 1,000 feet away. I also have regional concerns. According to Tracing the Guns: The Impact of Illegal Guns on Violence in Chicago, four gun shops in the Chicago suburbs account for 20% of the guns used in crimes in the city. All of these suburbs are adjacent to Chicago, as is Niles.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Join Me This Morning at the Farmer's Market!

Join me this morning at the Morton Grove Farmer's Market for STEM fun with The Maker Mom and friends. Click for details--there will be giveaways!

Next week is the big pie contest, so if you're a pie maker or pie eater, you'll want to come by. Last year I entered my first contest ever. It was fun. I made my first pie sometime in my late 30s and have only made a handful since.

The market requires entrants to make two piece- one for the judges to view and taste and another that will be sliced up and sold to benefit the local food pantry. I planned to buy my whole pie to bring home for dessert, but much to my surprise a man purchased it before I had the chance to. I was a bit miffed, but also quite flattered.

Not only did I learn that I make an attractive and tasty pie, but I can now offer up the following #ProTip. Use disposable pie tins when entering a pie contest.


I doubt my pie will win this year. Indeed, I'm going to make a "cricket crust." Yeah, that's what it sounds like. If we're connected on Facebook or Instagram you may have seen pics of my "chocolate chirp" cookies featuring cricket flour. The thing is, you only substitute about 1/6 or so of the wheat flour for cricket flour, so it's no biggie. You don't even taste it, really.

In other local news, my niece and I collected tadpoles last week in the spirit of the 1970s summers that everyone seems to be raving about online. Of the four we brought home, one developed into a cute little frog (toad?), but the other three are showing developmental abnormalities. That's a nice way of saying each has a missing or incomplete limb. Disconcerting, no? I'm going to post about this on The Maker Mom blog next week, so stay tuned.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Capannari's: One of Chicago's Top Ice Cream Shops

Late last year I walked away from a Chicagonista blogger event with truly sweet swag that included a $20 gift card to Mount Prospect's famed Capannari's ice cream. Back then the ice cream shop was closed for the season, which was a good call on management's part. Who wants ice cream during one of Chicago's worst winters ever?

This past hot and sunny weekend when sifting through my stash of gift cards and (expired) coupons. I came across the Capannari's card. And then I found another one!

Yesterday around brunchtime, I quickly emailed a hyperlocal group of friends inviting them for a spontaneous mom's night out, my treat.

Lessons learned:

  • Not all of my friends check their email often enough to respond to an event that is just hours away from occurring.
  • My friends are generally not a spontaneous lot.
In the end only three of us went for ice cream, so I treated everyone to a take-home pint as well as a scoop. Had I known just how sweet, creamy, and desirable Capannari's ice cream is, I might have been a bit less generous.

Kidding. I was glad to share my bounty. Plus Capannari's is far enough away that a return trip would only happen with some thought. Our typical ice cream splurge brings us to the nearby Chocolate Shoppe (or maybe Village Creamery or Oberweiss). 

Capannari's makes excellent ice cream. They had several unique flavors like a cherry-goat cheese and a spicy chocolate  in addition to the basics like chocolate chip and mint chip.

The shop offers an ice cream flight that allows patrons to sample several flavors in one dish. You may have seen this done with wine or beer. I'd never seen a ice cream flight before; I think it's a brilliant concept.

The flight allowed for four flavors and was served in an elongated banana split holder instead of a typical cups. If you eat your ice cream fast enough, the flavors don't melt together. I've always been slow when it comes to ice cream, but the mixing and melding toward the end of my treat didn't diminish the experience.

My flight consisted of cherry-goat cheese, chocolate peanut butter, java chip, and brownie batter. I was expecting baby-size scoops, but instead it seemed like I was given four child-sized scoops, which frankly was a bit more ice cream than I needed. But oh, so good. So decadent.

This weekend they're hosting a Brain Freeze speed-eating contest. Their ice cream is too good for devouring IMO, but they do like to have fun. Check their website for special events. Capannari's may be out of the way for you, too, but it's worth a trip. Their ice cream is some of Chicago's best.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Merit Aid, Financial Aid, and Scholarships at US Colleges

What you see is not what you get when it comes to the "sticker" prices at many US colleges and Universities. Expert Susan Goodkin explains why you shouldn't write off Harvard or Yale based on the price. In fact, you shouldn't write off any college based on the sticker price because there are many merit aid options, too!

Listen as Susan explains it all.

(Note: we didn't have time to talk gap year.)

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Join in a for a College Admissions Chat

What parents need to know about college admissions
Here we go again! What do parents need to know about college admissions? Join in this Thursday at 1:00 Central to find out. Once again, I'm hosting a Google Hangout On Air with Jen and national college consultant Susan Goodkin of  the California Learning Strategies Center.

This month we'll talk merit aid, scholarship dollars and the value of a gap year. If you miss the conversation live, you can always watch it later on YouTube. Even so, you can leave us related questions here right now (or in the comments below) and we'll weave them into our discussion.

Our discussions are quite informative, so if you've got a child in middle or high school and are starting to explore colleges, I encourage you to join in or at least give a listen.

During our April admission chat we talked about 2E kids, SAT subject tests, the Fisk guide and more. Click for a recap.

March College Admissions Hangout.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Shark Rocket Vacuum

Shark Rocket Vacuum
I enthusiastically received a Shark Rocket Vacuum for review, but I've lagged on reviewing because I'm somewhat ambivalent about it. Here's the good, the bad, and my lazy.

I received this months ago and I use it often, like 3 or more times a week (thanks, dog). Yet, I don't love it.

The Shark Rocket comes with a looooong 32-foot cord, which means I can move around quite a bit without have to stop and unplug it in one spot and plug it in elsewhere. Yeah for convenience.

The Rocket collects dirt in a small cup. I have an odd fascination with dirt cups. When I see what gathers in the cup, I'm more motivated to vacuum regularly. So the Rocket gets a plus for the cup. The Rocket can deep clean carpets and can also handle area rugs. The amount of dog hair I suck up from our area rug and a couple of doormats is nothing short of astonishing.

The Rocket can be used on bare floors, too. I do use the bottom attachment "brushroll" (as pictured) on our durable ceramic kitchen floor, but not on the wood floors that cover most of our house.

The Rocket has a duster attachment "(a Dust Away) for wood floors, but this leads to one of my complaints about the vacuum, it has such a minimalist profile, there's no room for "on board" tools. My Rocket came with a cleaning wand/crevice tool as well as an upholstery tool, said duster attachment, and big black bag in which to store the tools. That system doesn't work well for me. In fact, I received the vacuum months ago and I'm not even sure where the bag of extra goodies is right now.

My vacuum also came with a wall mount that, in theory, makes it easy to store the sleek Rocket. But we just didn't have the right place to hang it. As a result, it tends to sit in a corner of my living room or my office. This is both good and bad. Bad as in it clutters up the space. Good as in, hey, the vacuum is out, I might as well use it.

I noted that I don't like to use the rollerbrush on our wood floors, so what I tend to do is use the crevice tool, but unlike the woman in this photo, I tend to use it on the floor, going around the edges of the room where much of the dog hair and such tends to gather. I also use a broom to sweep larger sections of the floor and suction up the resulting piles of gunk.

I also find the crevice tool very handy on our main staircase (also wood). The Rocket is lightweight and convenient (e.g. never put away), so I use the vacuum quite a bit.

True to its promise it was easy to assemble and it's easy to swap out heads or tools. It's a breeze to empty the dirt cup, however, I'm admittedly a slacker when it comes to cleaning the filters that come with the unit--they are supposed to be hand-washed monthly. That's another downside for me.

The Rocket has several add-ons available for purchase:

  • Home and carpet detail kit for keyboards, car vents and other tiny spaces
  • Under apliance wand
  • Motorized hand tool for pillows, carpets and upholstery

The Shark Rocket sells for $180 and can be purchased directly from Shark or through a variety of national retailers.

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