Monthly Archives: March 2011

Chicago Cub’s Home Opener….A Holy Day of Obligation!


As the More is More Mom®, I’m all about……more Cub’s home openers! For those of us Cub’s fans, Friday, April 1, 2011, is practically a Holy Day of Obligation…..Holy Cow, its opening day at Wrigley Field! While Ron Santo’s color commentary will most certainly be missed in the booth with Pat Hughes, I think it’s finally next year. Come on boys, you’ve got to do it for Ronnie!

The Friendly Confines is my neighborhood. I grew up four blocks from Wrigley Field. My dog’s name is Wrigley Sheffield for Heaven’s sake. I am what you would consider a diehard Cub’s fan. A while back, in a show of devotion to my favorite team, I paid homage to the Cub’s at Our Lady of Perpetual Donations Fourth Annual Trivia Night.

 

Trivia Night is a fun-d-raiser (emphasis on the “fun”….and heavier emphasis on the “raiser” hence our grammar school’s name; Our Lady of Perpetual Donations) where a group of ten lively people (usually five couples) is assembled and your team competes in a trivia contest, against dozens of other teams, with categories similar to those found on Jeopardy, only way harder and more obscure. That part is definitely fun, but the very best part of this group’s participation is that each table devises a theme for their group, which includes costumes, decorations and food. As the More is More Mom® I have taken this task quite seriously over the years, paying close attention to detail and authenticity. Our themes have included The Soprano’s, Superhero’s, The Cast of Gilligan’s Island and saving the nest for last…..The Bleacher Bums.

Each team was provided with a round table and ten chairs, but because more of everything is always better, I typically require…more. I knew that the only way to do justice to my theme was to actually sit in the bleachers. I mean really, where else would the Bleacher Bums sit? Certainly not at a round table! My dream was to build a replica scoreboard, but the question was how? Suddenly I had a stroke of genius……I would make it all out of felt. It was brilliant and quite simple. I purchased three yards of wide width green felt. On my sewing machine, I ran a seam for rod pockets across the top, and down both sides leaving the bottom un-hemmed. I notched out both corners, leaving room for elbow brackets that would connect the side poles with the top. Chuck is a very good sport, and super handy, so we made a quick run to Home Depot to purchase two ten foot lengths of PVC pipe, two elbow brackets, two four foot lengths of PVC pipe, a t-bracket that allowed two inch pipe fittings on either side, and the top notch allowed for a ¾ “pipe to extend to the Heaven’s. It worked out beautifully!

 

In the mean time my friend Judy and I got together and cut out 93 letters in varying colors of felt, and cut out 16 color coordinating banners to represent each on the 16 teams in the National League. We glued together the pennants, and then I punched two holes in the two corners on one side of each pennant and strung them together with twine, to hang in the wind at the top of the scoreboard. You will note that the pennants are in their final team standings for the end of the 2009 season, save for the Cub’s. I, of course, have my Cubbies finishing 1st in the National League. Hey, it’s my fantasy…….In the meantime I traced and cut out an additional 126 letters and numbers, and all of the lines for the scoreboard, made a clock for the sake of authenticity, and glued it all in place. Standing this sucker up was like an old fashioned barn raising. With the pipes in place, we made a notch at the very top of the ¾ “pipe, ran the twine across the notch and secured the twine on either side at the elbow brackets. From the top of the ¾” PVC pipe to the bottom, I ran the pennants for the Central Division, by adhering them with double sided carpet tape. It worked like a charm. We laid the scoreboard face down on the ground, attached a clamp-on bedside lamp at each corner (left over’s from the days when my Nick still had bunk beds….I never throw anything away) because the only way to have a Night Game at Wrigley Field is with LIGHTS! We slid a six foot piece of one inch PVC in the slot of each of two umbrella stands (for your market umbrella on your patio), tilted them forward and then slid the two inch pieces of PVC over that for stability and brought them to a vertical position. I couldn’t believe it…it worked! From the very top to the bottom my scoreboard stood fourteen feet in the air. It was a sight to behold.

 

Part of the experience of sitting in the bleachers at Wrigley Field is the wall of ivy. This was so very easy. On our trip to Home Depot we picked up a sheet of lattice. I purchased ivy garland from Hobby Lobby and intertwined it through the lattice. Making it stand up was easy too. I took the two pieces of the plywood base from a left over decorative round table and slid the lattice through and it stood like a champ! Chuck insisted we pick up chicken wire and we secured it to the front of the lattice from side to side to make the basket that runs along the ivy in the outfield. Because we would be at a night game, I draped Cubs twinkling lights across the front and made a 400 feet sign out of sticky numbers we had left over from a Science Fair project. Seriously, I never throw away anything.

To sit in the Bleachers one needs stadium seating. That was easy. I contacted my local party rental store and rented two 4 foot platform sections and we were off and running. Five chairs up top, five chairs on the bottom……voila, bleachers.

 

The clincher of course would be the authenticity of the food. We knew ballpark food was in order; pizza (gourmet), nacho’s (out of this world), burgers (to die for), brats (of course), plus your basic popcorn, peanuts, and Cracker Jacks. The piece de resistance…..my friend Karen’s homemade Chocolate Malt Cups. Because really, what would a trip to the Friendly Confines be without a Malt Cup?

We used our round table as a buffet was quite lovely. I brought an urn and filled it with baseballs; a sign with the rules of sitting in the bleachers, Cubbie blue and red Mardi Gras beads and lime green disposable cups reminiscent of the infamous Mai Tai glasses. I rented a 120” blue round table cloth, because who wants to look at the ugly table legs? I then covered it with 1 ½ yards of Cub’s licensed fleece (makes a great table topper…and the beauty is that it’s washable!).

With each round of Trivia or “inning” we were able to manually score the game with numbers I had cut out in advance. They were adhered with straight pins. In between each inning we did the wave, and we had a bucket full of squishy balls to “throw back” at surrounding tables. We were completely obnoxious, but we could have cared less, because we were having a blast! And why wouldn’t we be? In my fantasy we were playing the White Sox in a Cross Town World Series…..and naturally, we won! At the end of the game we proudly hung our “W” flag and posed for pictures with Harry Cary. A one, a two, a three……. Let’s get some runs!

 

More Friendly Confines, more Chicago Cubs, more Bleacher Bums, more remembering Ron Santo…….

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Spring Break Movie Review: It’s A WIN WIN!


As the More is More Mom®, I’m all about………more entertaining movies over spring break! While the kids are away, the parents can play. We are a movie loving people, but with a busy family that needs to be driven here, or would like to have 6 friends over for dinner there, it can be nearly impossible to eak out time to head over to the Cineplex. Faced with a little free time, Chuck and I whipped out the movie section of the Sunday paper to check out what was playing on the big screen.

I really owed Chuck big after asking him to sit through The Black Swan. He is a good sport of mammoth proportion, because after all of that acclaim, Black Swan was a real stinker. No, this time, I had to pick a winner. I was so disappointed after perusing the selections. There was virtually nothing good to see. I was kind of up for Paul with Simon Pegg (of Run, Fatboy, Run fame), but that seems more like a movie that we might enjoy with Nick, as it is from the same makers as Superbad. If we had a little one in tow, I would totally have seen Rango, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, or Gnomeo and Juliet, but, alas, we were childless. There were a few extremely dumb looking teenie-bopper movies (a great big NO THANKS. Somehow I have managed never to have seen High School Musical I, II or III. No reason I should backslide now).

How incredibly disappointing! The only movies left were Limitless with Bradley Cooper. I didn’t like him in The Wedding Crashers because he was mean to Vince Vaughn, so that kind of ruins him for me in other movies. Plus, his character was despicable in He’s Just Not That Into You. After I heard Matthew “Do you want me to take my shirt off?” Mc Conaughey remark in an interview that he hadn’t been in the courtroom since A Time To Kill,  it made me have no interest in seeing his latest legal drama, The Lincoln Lawyer. I thought, “You do know you’re not actually an attorney, don’t you?” Clearly you are smoking way too much….cannabis. Then there was Matt Damon’s The Adjustment Bureau, but I’m more of a Ben Affleck gal. Ben was great in The Town and you can see it in the comfort of your own home now On Demand.

 

The one movie that I did want to see was WIN WIN with Paul Giamatti, but it was only playing in three theaters in the entire Chicago-land area! Normally, this would be a real deal breaker for us, but since we are home alone, with no one to consider but ourselves, we decided….Road Trip.

WIN WIN is the delightful story of a down on his luck attorney, Mike Flaherty (Paul Giamatti), who also happens to be the coach a fledgling high school wrestling team. Through a series of events, a young boy named Kyle (played beautifully by new comer Alex Shaffer) comes into the Flaherty’s lives, where Mike and his wife Jackie (Amy Ryan) welcome him into their home. As they help him sort out his troubles, they discover that Kyle is an amazing wrestler who joins Mike’s team. Kyle’s arrival makes an interesting impact on all of their lives. Both Jeffrey Tambor (who makes me cringe) and Bobby Cannavele (who played Vince, Will’s boy friend, On Will and Grace, and is darling) costar. WIN WIN is a total feel good that was absolutely worth the drive into the city (and paying for parking)!!

More road trips, more free time, more popcorn, more great movies……        

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Spring Break: Home Alone….


As the More is More Mom®, I’m all about……more suspiciously quiet weekends! Spring break is quite the phenomenon. When I was growing up, I didn’t know anyone that went away for spring break. It was merely a week off of school where we enjoyed sleepovers with our friends and had the luxury of sleeping late in the mornings. For as long as Chuck and I have had a family of our own, we have not been avid vacationers (I’m rather a homebody). For the past 12 years, while our kids have been busy with athletics, we’ve had the pleasure of hitting all of the hot spots; Peoria, Kalamazoo, Milwaukee, Detroit, Fort Wayne, the Dells……are you jealous yet?  

Life has been so crazy busy lately. Chuck does Commercial Real Estate and Land Development with a partner, and they are up to their eyeballs in building a fabulous, brand new Harley Davidson dealership in Palatine, while I have several design projects in various stages of development. This is definitely not a time for us to get away. My mom is awesome though, and saw this is a great opportunity to whisk Nick and Amanda away to visit with my brother and sister-in-law in Hot-lanta!

The kids couldn’t pack their bags fast enough, leaving the cold behind (and who could possibly blame them?). After Wrigley and I returned from dropping them all off at the airport, our house suddenly felt extremely quiet. We are accustomed to a free for all; activities, friends, laughter, arguing, Nick and Amanda wrestling, exercising contests, music, the blaring television…… The silence was deafening, and it was only one o’clock in the afternoon. What were Chuck and I going to do for the rest of the day much less the rest of the week?  

Because we sure do know how to live, I warmed up some left over taco meat and we feasted on a huge and delicious mound of nachos. I closed my eyes for a few blissful moments in-the-middle-of-the-day! We scrolled through our DVR and watched three hours of American Idol (which is really about 90 minutes of actual viewing time once you take out all of the commercials and the boring parts). We watched the movie Morning Glory, with Rachel McAdams, Diane Keaton and Harrison Ford. It was delightful and charming. Afterwards, flipping through our cable channels, we settled upon 1982’s Tootsie, with Chicago’s very own, Bill Murray. We rotated around our television viewing positions, from our family room, to our basement, to our bedroom to avoid developing bed sores.

While the peace and quiet was really very restful, I’m thankful that we won’t have to become accustomed to it any time soon. I live for the hustle and bustle of family life, even the noise, the arguing and the wrestling. This is seriously going to be the weirdest week ever.

More eerie quiet, more catching up on favorite TV shows, more being bored together…..

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Senioritis…………….


As the More is More Mom®, I’m all about……..more staying motivated! A mere 9 weeks remain of my Nick’s high school career at the Be All and End All Academy. 15 years ago, on his first day of Pre-School, it never dawned on me that one day this time would come. At the moment however, for Nick at least, these last 9 weeks can’t end soon enough. The other evening he came down to dinner to in form us that he’s got a bad case of “SENIORITIS”!

I was curious; what exactly is senioritis? With Wikipedia being the go to source for all knowledge, information and trivia, I went straight to the experts! In the immortal words of the Wiki gods, they define the “symptoms” of this unfortunate condition:    

The main symptoms of senioritis include procrastination, lack of motivation, a drop in academic performance, a desire to drop out of school, and “coasting”, which is the act of going through classes with very little concentration or application of intent along with truancy and frequent tardiness.[citation needed] This often happens in the last year of Grammar School, high school, college or even graduate school.

O-M-G! Had I only been smart enough to hang on until the end of my senior year of high school. Sadly, I was afflicted with this disorder of disastrous proportion by the middle of the 10th grade! My biggest motivation wasn’t to pay attention to my school work, because, to quote 80’s pop singing sensation, Cyndi Lauper, “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”. Like a complete idiot, I was drawn to hanging out at the Mc Donald’s across the street. There we could ogle the cute teenage boys from the neighboring Catholic, all boys’ school. In truth, my diploma should probably have come from Mc Donald’s University.   

As a result of my illustrious high school career, my poor children are the unfortunate benefactors of my bad behavior. Truly, if I could go back in time and change one thing, I would totally have focused more on my school work. Therefore, because of my lackluster performance, my people wouldn’t dream of trying to get away with the same kind of monkey business that I did. They are hard working, dedicated and accomplished students, though you can’t blame a guy for trying. After surviving 7 semesters at the Be All and End All Academy, Nick decided that maybe dropping Physics would be a good idea. Um….I don’t think so. Then he thought, as a 4th year Latin student, maybe it was time to bag out of Latin. Yeah, I don’t think that’s a swell idea either. Do as I say, not as I did!

Over the years, watching what an amazingly dedicated student Nick is, I completely get it. Senior year is stressful; the school work, the college applications, the essays and the exams. For 7 semesters he’s worked relentlessly and is emotionally drained. So, here at the end, if he’s got a little senioritis, who could blame him? I say Senior Ditch Day here he comes!

More hard work, more dedication, more understanding, more rewards…..

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Let’s Get Cookin’! Join Me at Whole Foods, Naperville, Sponsored by the Triblocal…..


As the More is More Mom®, I’m all about…..more fun food events! I hope you can join me, Thursday, March 24, as I demonstrate how to make one of my favorite pasta dishes at a great event sponsored by the Triblocal at Whole Foods in Naperville. While I love to cook and experiment with new recipes, I wasn’t always such a food aficionado. In fact, when Chuck and I were first married we had a sign on our refrigerator that read, “Dinner will be served at the sound of the smoke alarm.” Ha, ha.

One day, I had an epiphany. Nick was just a second grader and Amanda, a pre-schooler. In our customary more-of-everything-is-always-better mode, I picked my pals up from school in a mad dash to take Nicholas for extra special training on the hockey treadmill. In retrospect, though it was super cool, it might have been an excessive exercise. We would drive 35 minutes from home to an accelerated sports training facility (please note that we are not on the fast track to the Olympics or the major leagues, hence the “excessive” perspective. He’ll be an awesome skater as he referee’s games, plays club hockey and, eventually, men’s league.), where Nick would slip into a harness that was attached to a cable, that ran on a track, attached to the ceiling with a pulley system. He would skate on a treadmill made of simulated ice, in an effort to improve his stride and efficiency. The pulley system was in place to save him from being mutilated in the mechanism of the treadmill should he fall. It was a total Mission Impossible deal, where, like Tom Cruise, Nick would be suspended in the air from the cable, inches away from imminent danger.

Anyway, after school, on our way to the hockey treadmill the kids were starving, so I took them through the fast food drive thru for a quick snack. As soon as Nick was finished, he slipped into his uniform so we could go directly to his baseball game. By the time we got off the highway, the kids were starving again, so, we did the unthinkable…..we went through the fast food drive thru for a second time in one day. How gross! We had hit an all time low; bad for your health and bad for your wallet.

Since that moment of clarity, I have been obsessed with cooking for my family and being prepared. If we were out for the day, I would pack a cooler full of sandwiches, fruit, snacks and beverages. Why waste money on bad food and eating out? Over the years, I have learned how to make beautiful meals that frequently rival those that we once enjoyed while eating out. And besides, as our kids got older and much busier with school and athletics, they never wanted to go out to eat anyhow. They just wanted to be at home, enjoying our house and our time together. It makes them feel special when I make them some of their very favorite recipes.

I’m all about making more memories for my family and friends, and what better way to do that than over a great meal? I’m excited to demonstrate how to make my fabulous shrimp pasta dish, which is so delicious that you may never feel the need to eat out again. Also on the panel is Johanna Cook, of Momma Cuisine, and Jim Higley, the Bobblehead Dad. So, if you get a chance, swing by Whole Foods in Naperville (2607 W. 75th Street), Thursday, March 24th at 7pm to learn how to make some of our family favorites. Attendees also can enter a raffle to win a $50 Whole Foods gift card and a bag of Whole Foods Market groceries.

More family, more cooking, more meals, more memories……

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