Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Book Review: "Chicago Unleashed"

This is a sponsored post for which I have been compensated with a free product sample 
              in exchange for my honest review. Opinions and photographs are my own.

Ah, Chicago! A magical place indeed - one I've visited many times for purposes ranging from educational enrichment to pure retail indulgence. Chicago is a magnet. Close your eyes. Hear the hustling bustle of hundreds, breathe the vibrancy of food and festivity....then reopen yourself to the splendor before you. Anything can happen on the streets of Chicago, and in this delightful coffee table book, it does! 

Larry Broutman, author of Chicago Unleashed, guides us through downtown streets and surrounds of that beloved city, combining striking urbanscapes with digitally imposed free roaming wildlife to create a whimsical visual adventure you'll marvel at from first page to twilight skyline last. 

Let's take a look!

The regal lion rests (cover photo, above) with stately nonchalance at the entrance of the Art Institute on Michigan Avenue. How I love that place! I wasn't aware that his kingship's bronze guardian twins were sculpted in 1894, serving faithfully for one and a quarter centuries. Broutman is generous with historical anecdotes throughout the book. That majestic city's an old one!

Soldier Field's been around for awhile, too. Dedicated in 1924 to Americans who gave their lives in service to our country, it's currently called home by the Chicago Bears football team. Strategically placed mom and cub stare you down, daring you to fumble that fact!

So very, very, very much more to see in Chicago Unleashed, offering 144 polished pages of proud promenading! Hippos frolic in Buckingham Fountain, whales dive among sightseers in the Harbor, turtles toddle alongside marathon runners, and more of the big guys: elephants, a rhino or two, and a couple of giraffes stroll McCormick Place with nary a glance at your curious face. There's deer, too, right on the State Street Bridge, and they're not waiting for any traffic signal to beckon graceful passage!

Chicago's a business hub, primarily. Cavernous streets shelter robust fueling of city, state, and national economic interest. Here's the Board of Trade, serious and stodgy, juxtaposed with the swooping majesty of carefree feathered flight!

I wonder if they're thinking, "Glad we're not stuck inside one of those tiny square boxes!"

I've been to Chicago as a student, a mom, and a grandma. That generous city forgets no one. If you've been here, you've found it. If you dream to come here, it's waiting for you. "We've got something for everybody!" the streets shout, including a sight my young grandsons would gleefully embrace.

Fire station pups are a departure from the safari species most frequently pictured on the pages of this volume, but really, how else to adequately showcase this vital city service? I think these spotted public servants are reflecting upon how "wild about Chicago" they are!

Interested? Well, here comes the best part! Every dollar spent on the purchase of Chicago Unleashed will be donated by the author to two Chicago based not-for-profit service agencies: Chicago Lighthouse, providing services to blind or visually impaired children and adults, and Access Living, a disability advocacy community.

The 144 page, 8.9" x 10" hard cover volume published 2014 by Claremont Press: A Chicago Joint, is available for $29.50 at Chicago book stores and gift shops. Purchase it online at Everything Goes Media or Amazon. Both sources detail the impressive author biography of Larry Broutman - a true Renaissance Man. The breadth and scope of his knowledge, experience, artistic talent, and accomplishments are amazing!

I love this book! You will, too.

P.S. What's black and white and read all over?
Chicago Unleashed! 

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Grandparenting Book Review: "Unconditional Love"

This is a sponsored post for which I have been compensated with a free product sample 
                                           in exchange for my honest review.

I try to be the perfect grandparent. Encouraging comments from my three daughters (mothers to the ten most wonderful children alive 😊) uplift me, and I greedily soak them up. But there's always room for improved behavior, frank and fresh perspective, and honest camaraderie with other women who harbor the same self doubts that occasionally plague me. Do I do enough for my family? Too much? Do the children recognize my respect for rules and limits set by their parents? Does my behavior model charitable morality? Will I be remembered well? Am I part of a problem or a welcomed solution to it?

What a treasury of experiences, ideas, and answers I found in Jane Isay's easy-to-read, hard-to-put-down volume, Unconditional Love - A guide to navigating the joys and challenges of being a grandparent today.

Drawn in from page one by Jane's warm, accepting style, I read for validation in areas I find myself excelling. "How to Lure Them Back Home, and Why" found me patting myself on the back for installing an in-house cousins' lending library and opening my doors to "Grandma's Drop-In Crafts Days." On page 133, I smiled at the way "Kimberly's" in-laws made their (several hours away!) home a welcoming weekend magnet for the two-career parents of their first grandchild. Creative solutions are out there, and this book is full of them! Long distance grandparenting is a common reality these days (four of my own currently live states away) and that's adequately addressed with tips on coping both during and in-between visits.

The side of being a practical asset to the family from newborn arrival through distant teenage years, to the "coming back" phase is gracefully coupled with the unique impact grandparents can have on a child's emotional and spiritual growth. I need to work on this area. Jane encourages me to share myself via childhood memories - tales from the days of corded party-line telephones, clunky metal strap-on skates, black and white television, and the vivid image of mom pinning laundry to a backyard clothesline. "Children are stronger and more self-reliant when they are nested in their family history..." declares Jane on page 75, commencing a chapter full of suggestions for arming grandchildren with a rich sense of belonging to those whom they love.

I left Unconditional Love with suggestions, solutions, and a group of understanding friends. The many grandmother interviewees quoted by Jane travel the same road I do now. Our problems, concerns, triumphs, and successes may be unique to each family, but the hoped for outcome is universal. We wish to contribute value to a generation of confident, happily fulfilled children who will someday look back at us as ideal models for the nurture of their own grandchildren!

Find Jane Isay's Unconditional Love, published 2018 by HarperCollins, at the following vendors:
Barnes and Noble
Powell's Books

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Canvas Factory Give Away!

This is a sponsored post for which I have been compensated with a free product sample 
                                                and a give away prize for my readers.

I learn "what's cool" from my adult children. If it wasn't for them, I'd still be waiting on dial up net service and looking for a photo lab to develop my pictures! The kids live life streamlined, fast paced, and convenient; they're where I go for info on all the newest trends.

One of the latest, it seems, is canvas print decor. Time and money invested in matting and heavy glass framing is no longer relevant, they say. "We like the modern, lightweight, and far less expensive practicality of canvas for displaying our cherished images."

And so, I was delighted to test this convenience with a 16" x 20" product sample offered me from Canvas Factory - the same gift you'll receive if you're the winner of my give away! 

My experience began with a photo choice from among those presented by my youngest daughter and her husband. We agreed on this touching sunset maternity shot, and then I was on my own to place my order!

I'd rate the process fast and simple, with several choices - but not so many to leave my "grandma head" a-spinning! (I appreciated that!) Load your print and choose a finished product size. 20" x 16" accommodated my horizontal image - one that showed up on the screen immediately in all its perfect beauty! You'll move on to choose a "wrap style" next - I opted for the "gallery wrap" - seen above with the image continuing around all four edges. I passed on "adding text" but will try that exciting addition next time around! You're pretty much done after that - leaving it now to the experts at Canvas Factory who came across for me in a stellar way. Here's what happened!....

I originally submitted a photo lifted from my daughter's Face Book page (social media website images not recommended.) Canvas Factory customer service immediately advised me that my print would appear blurry if I proceeded. They gave me the courtesy of time and advice to amend my order with a JPEG version, responding immediately to emails. My affection for this company extends beyond the quality product I received because of this incident. Another company might have just carelessly slopped through and told me later, "Well, that's what you ordered, lady!" 😝

Our canvas print arrived about a week later, with status emails accompanying each and every step. It is beautiful. Colors are vibrant, image is crisp - all finished to perfection with carefully mitered corners, smooth cardboard backing, and two sturdy hanging clips. It's trendy, lightweight, and practical. I love it!

Your turn now! Leave a comment. Tell me anything you want - from the place you get your own "what's cool" info, to the person, pet, place, or thing you'd showcase in a Canvas Factory print. I'll randomly choose one reply on May 1st, 2018, announce it here, and request your email address for delivery of your prize. Good luck!

Open to residents of U.S.A. and Canada only.

Update May 1, 2018:
Thank you to all who entered this give away.
Our winner is JACKIE
Please contact me by email so I can get your prize to you as soon as possible! 

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Easter Sunday Bunny Business!

We're having a puppet show after Easter dinner, but this time it wasn't my idea! The most rewarding moments in a grandma's life are appeals for a repeat of something fun done in the past. The one that sent me scrambling for today's feature came from Brielle a few weeks back: "Grandma, are we going to have an Easter play for all of us cousins like we did at Thanksgiving?"

What else was there to say?.....

"Of course we are, you sweet little bunnykins!"

I sought inspiration via an online search for something light, happy and easily understood by a younger audience, but alas, found not a rabbit hole to tumble into! That, coupled with a serious bout of mental bunny block, led me to reach for a classic child's book, one with a story suited for telling with a handful of simple paper puppets.

We're going to perform The Runaway Bunny, the endearing 1942 classic by Margaret Wise Brown who also penned Goodnight Moon.

A pair of large cardboard boxes, stacked, taped, cut, and decorated will serve as a puppet theater. Kids will sit behind the screen and manipulate characters mounted on sticks. Parents and young siblings will hear the story of Little Bunny who decided to run away, taunting his ever-patient mother with plans to become "a fish in a trout stream, a crocus in a hidden garden," and even "a rock up high on a mountain top." Mother Bunny vows to thwart his escape by doggedly pursuing him as a fisherman, a gardener, a mountain climber and more, until Little Bunny has no choice but to "just stay where I am and be your little bunny!"

Puppets from left to right:
rock on the mountain top
Mother Bunny fishing
blowing wind
Pictured at top:
Little Bunny
Mother Bunny

If you're not familiar with the book, You Tube narrations abound. This one, by Grandma Annii, is my favorite!

The Runaway Bunny tale is also suitable for family Mother's Day entertainment!

These original designs, like all blog material, are for personal use only. Copyright 2018. All rights reserved. Thank you!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Meow-y Christmas!

I am delighted that my second grade granddaughter's team teachers have spurned the traditional Christmas "gimme, gimme, sugar coma" classroom party in favor of a charitable endeavor. When my room mother daughter, Christy, was approached for suggestions, she pounced without hesitation! A local cat rescue - our favorite! - continually needs shelter supplies for the numerous animals it rehabilitates and offers for adoption. Students would contribute "wish list" items instead of exchanging gifts. The "craft station" at the party would find them tying kitty-sized, catnip scented fleece blankets - gifts to adoptees headed home during the cold winter months ahead. When both teachers purred with excitement at the idea, Christy and I put our paws together and got to work!

We needed an eye-popper of a collection center for starters. The pictures we take of kids filling it will be sent to our community and school district news outlets. That task caused grandma to twitch with glee! - this job was meant for me!

An ample cardboard box covered in bulletin board paper does the trick! Grateful Santa Kitty is born of paper and card stock scraps. My own wish is that kids will be excited to fill it to over-the-top generosity!

I'll let you know how it goes!

Meow-y Christmas, everyone!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

"I Have a Grandma Who..."

This is a sponsored post.
I received a copy of  "I Have a Grandma Who..." in exchange for my honest review.

Collectively, my ten grandchildren have a total of six grandmothers, all of whom I consider great, even though only two actually meet the generational requirement that earns that term! We love with all our hearts and offer help and support wherever possible. In addition, we each have specific talents and interests that provide a rich treasury of experiences and knowledge to share with our families.

Looking beyond our roles as warm laps to nestle in and the source of indulgent "just because" gifts, we grandmothers deserve to be recognized as individuals worthy of praise and admiration from the children in our lives. This focus further develops the strong bond that the Foundation for Grandparenting asserts raises self-esteem, levels of emotional and social skill, and a sense of personal roots, history, and belonging.

I recently shared Rosemary Zibart's 32 page, soft cover "I Have a Grandma Who..." with my four year old granddaughter, Kaylee. What a delightful time we had!

From page to page, Kaylee enjoyed energetic illustrations of grandmotherly feats. Some drew a perfect match between us: "I have a grandma who adores puppies and much as me," others, not so much: "I have a grandma who dresses like a Fashion Goddess..." (sooo not me!) In between, we reflected on Kaylee's paternal grandma's talents, finding her solidly on page three, happily at home in her prolific garden. And then we spring-boarded to original descriptions personal to us in a lively compare-and-contrast session: "I have two grandmas who love to have tea parties with me!" We snuggled and hugged, and pointed and read. We laughed and we loved.

You'll enjoy this book, too, grandma! And so will your grandchildren.

Find "I Have a Grandma Who..." for a reasonable $12 here:

or here:

or here:

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Thanksgiving Theatrics - Family Fun Galore!

The kids don't know it yet, but they're going to superstar in a post-dinner Thanksgiving play at grandma's this year. Considering their love of theatrics, I'm confident they'll gobble up this opportunity right along with savory sweet potatoes served on the rapidly approaching family day of thankful feasting.

A Cast of Cousins

Age level consideration is the most challenging part of writing a play that includes everyone. My eight active participants (infants #9 and #10 will be sitting this one out!) range from seven and nine year old Pilgrims confidently spouting terms like "religious freedom" and "Wampanoag Indians," to a trio of four year old Native Americans requiring prompting on lines as simple as "Here! Have some turkey!" Our remaining cast members (two year old boys) will find themselves described on the playbill as "Turkey 1" and "Turkey 2" and "Ear of Corn 1" and "Ear of Corn 2!" A goofy string of gobbling or total vegetable silence is all I'll require of that lively pair!

Props and Costumes

My majestic Mayflower, lightweight and two-dimensional, glides on stage in Act 1, Scene 2 propelled by a boarded trio of Pilgrims. It's six feet wide, cut from a decorated cardboard box. Paper sails with flag glued to a wood stick mast complete an impressive six foot height.

Headbands identify male Pilgrims, three Indian squaws, and a pair of toddler turkeys. Our female Pilgrim sports a paper hat constructed from simple instructions found multiple places on Pinterest. "Ears of Corn" that appear in Act 2, scene 2 are light cardboard/tissue paper cut outs on a stick.

The Script

Ready to go? We are!

This three act play is for young children. It captures the general idea of the first Thanksgiving. Add or adjust historic details depending on ages/size of your cast. I purposely included points that will become answers to the Thanksgiving Trivia game that follows the play. This time, kids will be asking questions to determine if their parents were paying attention! Every correct answer earns a sticker token; winner holds most of them at game's conclusion! See suggested questions after the play script.

ACT 1 - Scene 1   November 1620

Three Indian squaws sit together at stage side....

Indian #1 - (gestures outwardly) "We have lots of corn this year!"
Indian #2 - "We are really good at growing things."
Indian #3 - "We know how to make delicious food and save it for winter so we won't be hungry when it's cold."

ACT 1 - Scene 2 

The Mayflower arrives carrying three Pilgrims.

Indian #1 - (looking surprised at the arrival) "LOOK! LOOK! What is that over there?"
Indian #2 - "It is a really big boat! There are people on it!"
Indian #3 - "Who are those people? They have tall black hats. They don't look like us!"

ACT 2 - Scene 1

Indians approach the boat.

Pilgrim #1 - "Hello people! We have sailed from England and have been on this ship, the Mayflower, for 66 days."
Pilgrim #2 - "We are seeking a better life in a place where we can find religious freedom."
Pilgrim #3 - "I am so glad to see land. We have traveled 3,000 miles with men, women, and children and some animals, too."
Pilgrim #1 - "It was a difficult trip. We began with 102 people and one sailor died. The good news is that a baby boy was born during our journey."
Pilgrim #2 - "We have had sickness and death on our long time at sea. There were some fierce storms, too. We have only a limited amount of food left, mostly dried meat and beans."
Pilgrim #3 - "These people look kind and friendly and well fed. Maybe they can help us get settled in this new land."

ACT 2 - Scene 2

Pilgrims exit the boat.

Indian #1 - "You people look hungry and tired."
Indian #2 - "We have lots of good food and nice wigwams to live in."
Indian #3 - "We take care of the land and use only what we need. If you are going to live here, we will help you do the same"

All Pilgrims - "THANK YOU!"

Pilgrim #1 - "We would like your help. This land is new to us and we will need many things to survive."
Pilgrim #2 - "Besides food, we will need houses. I am glad there are many trees here for us to cut down and use."
Pilgrim #3 - "It will be up to the women to cook while the men are building. What kind of food do you have here?"

Indian #1 - "We have cranberries! Lots of them!"
Indian #2 - "We have corn!"
                   ("Ears of Corn #1 and #2" come out and stand on stage.)
Indian #3 - "We have turkeys!"
                   ("Turkeys #1 and #2 come on stage, run around, and say "gobble, gobble!")

Act 3 - Scene 1

Pilgrims line up to narrate.

Pilgrim #1 - "After a first very hard and cold winter, thanks to the Wampanoag Indians, many Pilgrims survived."
Pilgrim #2 - "The Indians taught us to grow squash, cranberries, and corn, and hunt for deer and turkeys."
Pilgrim #3 - "We learned how to make canoes from trees and fish like the Indians do."

Act 3 - Scene 2

Indians approach Pilgrims.

Indian #1 - "You Pilgrims look happy now."
Indian #2 - "You have food and strong houses and medicine."
Indian #3 - "We are very happy to share with you."

Pilgrim #1 - "We are thankful for our new home here."
Pilgrim #2 - "We are thankful for the corn you taught us to grow and prepare."
                     ("Ears of Corn #1 and #2" come out and stand on stage.)
Pilgrim #3 - "We are thankful for turkeys!"
                     ("Turkeys #1 and #2" come on stage, run around, and say "gobble, gobble!")

Pilgrim #1 - "Would you Indians like to come and feast with us?"
Pilgrim #2 - "The five women left in our colony would be happy to prepare a delicious meal for all of us to share."
Pilgrim #3 - "We would like to celebrate your kindness and our thankfulness. We will serve meat, pumpkin, corn, squash, and other delicious food.

Indian #1 - "We would love to come to your dinner."
Indian #2 - "We will all bring food, too."
Indian #3 - "We can all be thankful together!"

Act 3 - Scene 3

Entire cast is sitting on a blanket, passing plates and gesturing eating.

Indian #1 - "Here! Have some turkey!"
Indian #2 - "And some delicious corn!"
Indian #3 - "We are happy to share with you!"

Pilgrim #1 - "This is a time to be thankful for your kindness to us."
Pilgrim #2 - "This is a time to be thankful for our new land and your friendship."
Pilgrim #3 - "This first Thanksgiving is an event to celebrate every year with family and friends to thank God for what we have been given!"

Performance concludes with a lineup of cast who take gracious bows after individual introductions amid wild applause! GREAT JOB, Director Grandma! You take a bow, too!

Follow Up Fun!

Are you like us? We're just getting started after a production like this! Our audience always wants more, more, MORE!!!!! And so we give it to them! Here are a few ideas:

COMEDY SHOW - Every family has its own perfect candidates who'd be naturals at regaling the crowd with cute Thanksgiving jokes. You'll find 20 of them here, at Lisa's Grandma's Briefs blog. If you get there quickly enough, you won't be stumped when you're asked, "What always comes at the end of Thanksgiving, Grandma?"....(trot right over to find the answer!)

SPELLING GOBBLE (same as a "spelling bee" but, well..."Thanksgiving!" - and besides, it's November! Bees have long left Plymouth, Massachusetts for the winter!) It's not hard to come up with a list of words that keep kids as young as six in the competition. But if you detect anxious glances at televised football from daddies and grandpa, just toss in words like "Wampanoag" and "Massachusetts" to knock 'em out early and send 'em (thankfully!) on their way!

THANKSGIVING TRIVIA - My three oldest grandchildren read well and will ask the following questions. Were parents paying attention to the play, where some answers were hidden? Hmmm.....this is how we find out!

1. How many days did the first Thanksgiving last? (3)
2. Which president declared Thanksgiving a national holiday? (Abe Lincoln)
3. What landmark shows where the Pilgrims landed? (Plymouth Rock)
4. True or False - All turkeys, male and female, gobble. (False - only males gobble; females cackle)
5. What is the busiest day of the year for plumbers? (day after Thanksgiving)
6. What other country besides the United States celebrates Thanksgiving? (Canada)
7. When is Canada's Thanksgiving Day? (second Monday in October)
8. What famous American wanted the turkey to be the national symbol? (Benjamin Franklin)
9. In the 1600s when the first Thanksgiving was celebrated, which utensil was not yet invented? (fork)
10. How many Pilgrims boarded the Mayflower for the journey to the new world? (102)
11. How many survived to be present at the first Thanksgiving? (50)
12. How many of that number were women? (5)
13. Who did all the cooking for the first Thanksgiving? (5 women)
14. Which Indian tribe helped the Pilgrims survive? (Wampanoag)
15. What type of houses did the Wampanoag tribe build for themselves? (wigwams)