Tag Archives: Friendly Confines

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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A Spa Day, Gone to the Dogs!


As the More is More Mom®, I’m all about………more Wrigley at the groomers! My Wrigley is an 8 year old Chocolate Labrador Retriever. Labs are rugged manly dogs. They don’t require much in the way of maintenance, providing you can keep your pantry well stocked with kibble, pig’s ears and rawhide. Natural born chewers, even their toys have to be tough; virtually indestructible. A soft and fluffy squeaky toy has no place in our home. It would provide seconds, not hours, of entertainment. I’ll bet Wrigley can extricate the squeaker out of a stuffed animal in about 60 seconds flat! His mouth is like the Jaws of Life.

Wrigley is the first dog the kids and I have ever had. When we brought him home from the breeder it took us 24 hours to name him. We had so many great names picked out, but it finally came down to Wrigley (in honor of our beloved Cub’s and the Friendly Confines, not the gum) or Gretzky (in honor of the Great One). Chuck said he didn’t care what we named our beast, as long as we finally gave him a name. So, after much debate, the kids and I settled on Wrigley Sheffield Nunley III, as he became the third child in our family. After a few weeks, it become apparent that his name had become Wrigley Sheffield Nunley The Last, as in he will likely be the last dog we ever have. He’s wonderful, but exhausting. In his 8 year old body beats the heart of a puppy. While he may not be terribly “good”, for us he’s the very best dog in the entire world and we wouldn’t have him any other way.

This guy lives with a commitment to passion, readiness and exuberance. It doesn’t matter where we’re going, he just likes to go. Out of a sound sleep, while he’s dreaming, drooling and extreme snoring, he can be roused with a simple whisper, “Do you want to……..?” It doesn’t matter what it is, he totally wants to do it. Do you want to go for a run? I’d love to go for a run! Do you want to wake up the kids? I’d love to wake up the kids!  Do you want to go bye-bye in the car? I’d love to go bye-bye in the car!  Even when we pull up in front of the vet he can’t wait to go inside, dragging me to the front door. He likes to sit on the scale and have the doc rub all over him. He sits very nicely for shots and getting his ears cleaned. He just likes to be living in the moment.

For Wrigley, other than his occasional visit to Doggie Day Care, nothing beats going to the groomer. As soon as we get a few blocks away from our destination, he starts reverberating with excitement; running all over the car, trying to squeeze out the drivers side door with me. He runs directly to the main entrance, throwing himself against the door, yelping in celebration (they must give him sooooo many special treats). The girls at the Barking Lot are always so happy to see him and greet him with big hellos and hugs. Wrigley feels like a total rock star. He’s not a particular fan of the tub, hates the dryer, but loves to get brushed on the table. Even when he’s finished, he jumps right back up for more. He’s a comical fella and the girls enjoy his company, even though he’s been known to eat a hairbrush and wrestle with all of the other pups. When he comes home, he’s beautiful, polished and clean. So much better than when we hose him off in the back yard and leave him to drip dry in the sun. It truly is a dog’s life!

More excitement, more passion, more spa days, more happiness…….

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Memories of Christmas….


As the More is More Mom®, I’m all about……a more relaxing Christmas with my family! Well, we did it; we simplified our Christmas Eve celebration. Gone, this year, was the four course, four star dinner (along with the days of prep and hours of clean up). Gone was the elaborate and gorgeous tablescape (along with the ironing of the linens and the polishing of the silver). Gone were the fancy frocks (along with the dry cleaning bill). This year we ushered in Christmas with casual, comfortable style, with all the pomp and circumstance reserved for Christmas Day.

I thrive on the rat race. I absolutely live for complicated matters, trouble and aggravation, all for the sake of authenticity, but even I must confess, the respite was welcome. The afternoon began with our annual cocktail and appetizer festivities with my friend Judy and her family. Putting our children (one college and three High School students) in charge of arriving at church early enough to secure a pew, while the adults arrived in just enough time for a little socializing before we took our seats.

What a treat! Instead of getting dinner underway after mass, we slipped into our sweats, packed up the car, with Wrigley in tow, and headed to my mom and George’s house in Chicago for our new and improved celebration. On the way, we made a pit stop at our favorite Chinese restaurant, Chicago’s famous Orange Garden. By 7 pm, we were sitting around the dinner table enjoying the most Heavenly and delicious meal. Who needs a beef tenderloin and crab bisque soup when you’ve got the world’s best egg rolls and shrimp fried rice? Fa-ra-ra-ra-ra (you have seen the cult classic; The Christmas Story, with Ralphie and the Red Ryder BB gun haven’t you?)……and clean up was a snap!

 

Wrigley and his stuffed Christmas bone

 

The remains of a Christmas toy...

It was all so relaxing (except for constantly wrestling Wrigley away from the packages, the tree, the Chinese food, the cookies, everything on the coffee table and all of the squeakers he immediately removed from all of his new toys)! We exchanged gifts, had a few laughs and watched Will Ferrell, in one of his finest performances, Elf. The perfect end to the perfect evening.

 

Cub fans..

 

Nick, Wrigley and Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks

 

Wrigley rubbing Wrigley Field for good luck!

After sleeping in, we opened presents from “Santa” and had a huge breakfast. I made egg casserole and bacon, and George made his world famous, special requested, beer waffles. It was divine. For me, the best part of the day was when my Nick and I laced up our running shoes and took Wrigley for our very own, second annual, Reindeer Run. We zig zagged through the city streets to the Friendly Confines, Wrigley Field. I took a picture of my fellas in front of a souvenir shop, the statue of Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks, and of Wrigley tapping his paw against Wrigley Field for good luck (it was like kissing the Blarney Stone or pulling the sword, Excalibur, out of the stone). Perhaps the curse will be broken in 2011. You heard it hear first.

The evening brought a beautiful dinner with our family and cherished friends. More of everything is always better!

More new traditions, more time with family, more meaningful memories and experiences….

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Chicks head to the Chick-fil-A…


As the More is More Mom®, I’m all about…..more afternoon snacks from the Chick-fil-A! Seriously, we almost never go out to eat; I grocery shop at least four times a week. I fill the cupboards, make a delicious home made meal every night for dinner and bake each week. While my family certainly won’t starve to death, they may die of eat-at-home boredom! When I picked Amanda up from school this week, she suggested an afternoon trip to the Chick-fil-A…..

 

I am a Chicago girl. Growing up, my family’s favorite dining establishments ran along the lines of Franksville (foot long hot dogs with a self serve condiment bar….extra, extra, extra pickles, please) across from the Friendly Confines, Byron’s on Irving Park and Demon Dogs on Fullerton. We liked El Jardin and Lindo Mexico for Mexican (though every time my cousin Terri would babysit my brother and me she would always want to take us to Pepe’s….ariba, ariba). Pat’s Pizza, formerly on Sheffield, D’Agostino’s and My Pie on Clark were the pizza places that called our names. Never once was there a mention of the Chick-fil-A.

Apparently, Chick-fil-A inspires cult like following in the South. I had never even heard of the Chick-fil-A until three years ago. A little girl (okay, all gymnasts are little) was new to Amanda’s gym, by way of Atlanta. She and Amanda hit it off immediately and they became fast friends. They were so enamored with one another, that when meet season was upon us, they wanted to Road Trip everywhere together. Their season is fast and furious, and for us, because of Nick’s hockey schedule, is typically a mother/daughter bonding experience. Fortunately, BFF and Mrs. BFF, were a mother/daughter duo too, as their fella’s were always playing basketball. So Road Trip we did. We went everywhere together.  
 
On the road, we discovered a myriad of fast food possibilities. The BFF’s however, thought we had hit the mother load when we arrived at a meet in Indianapolis, IN, to find a Chick-fil-A buried amongst the Potbellies and Noodles & Company. That same spring we were visiting my brother and sister-in-law in Atlanta, and had the opportunity to enjoy a run through the Chick-fil-A drive-thru. Those however, were our only to run ins with such greatness…..until now.

There are only 3 Chick-fil-A’s in the Chicago-land area, and we actually live near one,  which is amazing, because Wrigley and the kids think we live in the most, interminably boring neighborhood ever.   

 
Well, I did break down and go through the Chick-fil-a drive thru yesterday for an afternoon treat, and the kids loved it. I didn’t get anything, but I must admit a Chick-fil-A chicken breast sandwich, a Cool Wrap or a Chicken Salad sandwich sounds divine. And the Waffle Potato Fries don’t look bad either.

More chicken, more tasty, finger licking, goodness, more love and devotion to reminiscing…..

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My Chicago is…. Marshall Field’s on State Street!


As the More is More Mom®, I am all about….more Marshall Field’s on State Street! Okay, okay. I am actually aware that it’s now called Macy’s, which is fine, but it will always be Marshall Fields to me. You have to understand, I am a Chicago girl. I grew up four blocks from the Friendly Confines. The Mayors’ Daley, the first and the second, are both my mayors. I like my Italian from Taylor Street. I stand on tradition…..

 

Last week I had an appointment in the city, and I had a few extra moments for reminiscing about my childhood. Back in the olden days, my brother and I would take the train downtown and meet my mom. We would head to her office, go to a museum or visit my favorite place in the entire world….Marshall Field’s on State Street.

There is nothing like emerging through the revolving doors into the sweet smell of the perfume and cosmetics department! Counter after counter full of potential and possibility; the opportunity to become anything you can imagine. A girl can be sporty, beautiful, glamorous, sexy or successful. Pretty powerful stuff for a little make-up and olfactory.

 

The State Street flagship store is the 8th Wonder of the World. There are just so many attractions, floors, elevators and escalators. If you can remember that Wabash is the East, State Street is to the West, Washington Street is to the South and Randolph Street is to the North, you’ll never get lost.

One of the very best parts of the Marshall Field’s shopping experience was, of course, the accoutrements… the green shopping bags, the heavy cardboard boxes with gold leaf trim and, naturally, the authentic Frango Mints.

 

While every day was a happy day at Marshall Field’s, Christmas was an especially magical time. Every year we would make the pilgrimage to delight in the Christmas windows, visit Santa Claus in the toy department, dine with the Christmas Fairies in the Walnut Room and select a commemorative ornament from the Trim -a-Tree Department. Until one day when my brother and I completely dwarfed Santa, poor thing. It was time to move on…

Once I had children on my own, it was time to revive the time honored traditions. Gone were the lengthy lines at the Walnut Room, they now have a sophisticated beeper system. You take a number to see Santa and the ornaments remain happy and plentiful.

More and more, I am learning that you can go home again, and you should, because it is a pretty nice visit. More shopping (!), more possibilities, more family traditions…

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