Your Chicago Correspondent
Despite what the calendar said about March, it’s really this month, April, when Spring arrives in Chicago. The grass is green, the trees have their leaves budding forth, and flowers are blooming across the city. It’s time for more adventures, both indoor and out.
Let’s get started by going online to http://www.harrypottermagicatplay.com and ordering tickets for April 8th, at 10:00AM. It will be totally worth it, but remember, we’re surprising the kids, so don’t let them know beforehand.
We’re making a full morning of this adventure, so today, Saturday, April 8th, let’s pack up the kids and head downtown to the Magnificent Mile, park underground and walk north on Michigan Ave. Between here and our destination we’ll see the tulips and daffodils in all their colorful blooms, let our eyes wander over the new leaves and white blossoms of the trees along the street, and perhaps even do some window shopping until we reach Water Tower Place, 835 Michigan Ave., where we can all pretend to be budding wizard friends of Harry Potter. Harry Potter: Magic at Play is a three-story tall, thirty thousand square-foot exhibition filled with kid-friendly games, recreated sets from the movie series, and a multitude of themed installations.
“Yer a wizard, Harry!” The kids will love this, and so will we. It’s light-hearted fun that gathers us into the action, in a way the movies just can’t. We’ll be immediately immersed in Harry’s story, as the kids will actively join in starting right where it all begins: 4 Privet Drive, home of the Dursleys and their nephew, Harry. From there we travel with Harry to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Once at the famous school our young students will be offered choices of interactive classes, such as “Potions”, “Charms” and even “Defense Against the Dark Arts”, oh my. Then it’s off to learn to play Quidditch, before wandering into the hidden surprises of the “Forbidden Forest” and a few other magical locations as well. After all that, we can be assured that the kids won’t let us leave without a wizard-approved souvenir and a drink of “Butterbeer”.
Yesterday was fun, but the real celebration is today, Sunday, April 9th. For Roman Catholics, and others in the Western tradition, it’s Easter Sunday, a time to gather the entire family together and rejoice in the Resurrection. Aunts and uncles and cousins we haven’t seen in a few years will all be joining together around the table, to pray, and toast to friends, health, life, and faith. We’ll eat very delicious food, then send the children on their Easter egg hunt while we joke and laugh and take time to remember those who have left us. After a game or two of Parcheesi, we’ll say goodbye. We hope that you and your family have a most wonderful day.
Since next Tuesday is Tax Day, and we don’t want to spend the weekend worrying, let’s all get everything done and gone by Friday, April 14th. Why? Blue Man Group has an ongoing run at Briar Street Theater, 3133 N. Halsted St., and this is the perfect time to go, so get your tickets at https://www.blueman.com/chicago, and we will meet you there. Their show is loud, intensely rhythmic, full of lights, sounds and colors. The three blue men catch impossible quantities of marshmallows in their mouths, perform hilarious pantomime skits, pound enormous drums covered with wet paint that sprays everywhere, cajole a few of us into joining them onstage, and generally commit marvelous mayhem. It’s amazing fun, don’t you think?
In the Orthodox Catholic tradition, following the Julian calendar, today, Sunday, April 16th, is the day to celebrate Pascha, or Easter. We’ll be spending the day with the family of some Orthodox friends, and the celebration promises to be at least as joyous and exuberant as ours. In true Ukrainian fashion the table will be covered with plates full of pysanka, those beautifully decorated eggs, paska, the specially decorated Easter bread, butter, horseradish, cheese, a big ham, and an assortment of other culinary delights. We hope your second Easter is also a joyous one.
It’s time for a different kind of spring adventure, don’t you think? The Chicago Botanic Gardens has a well-developed education and jobs training program “Windy City Harvest” https://www.chicagobotanic.org/urbanagriculture. It operates a growing number of small properties that serve as Youth Farms, Sustainable Agriculture Training Farms, and even Contract Partnership Farms. Together these small farm and garden plots grow and distribute over 100,000lbs (45,349kg) of produce annually. Almost all of those healthy, delicious greens and veggies stay in the communities where they are grown. The programs help support people with diet-related diseases, provide job training for over 150 young people each year, and have helped 25 small farm business to start and flourish.
Tours are available at several locations, including the headquarters at Farm On Ogden, so let’s do that today, Saturday, April 22nd. We can start about 11:00am, at Green Tomato Cafe, 3750 West Ogden Ave., www.greentomatocafe.org/, a cheery place that sources their greens and veggies from Farm On Ogden. The coffee is fresh brewed, and locally roasted, and thank you, yes, a cappuccino for me will do nicely. Look at this menu! It’s all so fresh and inviting. I’m having that salad of greens along with a cup of today’s soup. Have a sandwich, or a wrap, or perhaps some chili. The cafe is supported by Lawndale Christian, a neighborhood charity and you can tell from the staff, service and food quality that their work is succeeding.
Now that we’re well nourished, it’s time to take the tour of Farm On Ogden, 3555 W. Ogden Ave. It starts at 1:00pm, and we’ll see their 7,300 sq. ft. greenhouse, and even their 50,000 sq. ft. aquaponics facility. Aquaponics is a growing trend in agriculture worldwide, and I’m really interested in learning how this works. There’s a commercial and teaching kitchen, even a year-round indoor market where we can pick up some fresh picked greens and veggies. It’s good to experience, in this personal way, what it takes to sustainably grow so much food, for so many people, in such small spaces.
How about some barbecue? Did you know that Chicago has its own style of cooking and smoking meats? So today Sunday, April 23rd it’s time to fix that. Meet us for a late lunch, please, at Lem’s BBQ, http://lemsque.com/, 311 E. 75th Street, Chicago. These guys should be WORLD famous, not just Chicago famous. After all, they use a true “Chicago style” aquarium smoker, rib tips and hot links are the highlights of the menu, and their sauce and seasoning are simply incredible. The brothers and their family have been in business since 1954. This is the best, and don’t take my word for it. Here is what a review from Zagat says: “BBQ as God meant it to be. And you can’t beat the vintage drive-in decor (if that matters, which it doesn’t). Lem’s can beat anything the Carolinas care to offer, or Georgia, or KC. And TX isn’t even on the map.” This is totally worth it, right?
Frank Lloyd Wright was arguably the greatest American architect of the 20th century. His famous Prairie Style is uniquely American, inspired by the vast expanses of the Midwest. Today, Saturday, April 29th, let’s head to one of the finest Prairie Style homes, the Robie House, 5757 South Woodlawn Avenue, https://www.flwright.org/visit/robiehouse. We’ll take the guided tour, learning about Wright’s concepts and the many ways his designs in this house are reflected both within and without, leaving an impressive sense of unity and purpose. Wright himself described it as “a cornerstone of modern architecture”; this is the most famous of the architect’s groundbreaking Prairie houses.
Today, Monday, May 1st, is May Day, celebrated since ancient times. Dance around your own maypole and crown your youngest daughter as the May Queen. Have fun with your family.
Today, Sunday, May 7, there is a concert at North Shore Center for the Performing Arts , 9501 Skokie Blvd.(northshorecenter.org), so please join us to hear Music of the Baroque perform “Circles Of Friends”, a program that brings together pieces from different composers who were actually close friends: Vanhal (Symphony in D Minor), Haydn (Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Oboe, Cello, & Bassoon), Dittersdorf (Sinfonia Concertante for Viola & Double Bass) and Mozart (Symphony No. 34 in C Major), performed by talented and accomplished musicians who are themselves friends.
Featuring Music of the Baroque’s principal players: Gina DiBello (violin); Elizabeth Hagen (viola); Paul Dwyer (cello); Collins Trier (double bass); Anne Bach (oboe) and William Buchman (bassoon) and the Music of the Baroque Orchestra, this is sure to be a remarkable evening.
If, sadly, you can’t join us tonight, there is another performance tomorrow evening at 7:30 p.m. at the Harris Theater | Millennium Park, 205 E. Randolph (harristheaterchicago.org).