Mister Rogers documentary to air on PBS in February

Staff reports

(Published Jan. 16)

Fans of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood will get a treat Feb. 9.

That Saturday, WTTW11, Chicago’s public broadcasting station, will air “Won’t you be my Neighbor,” a hit documentary film about Fred Rogers, the host of the hit childrens television show.

The film highlights Rogers’ pioneering contributions to public television and children’s programming, namely promoting kindness and tolerance. It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last year and has been nominated for numerous awards.

 The show aired on PBS stations around the country for decades and generations of adults watched the show as kids.

Fashion design classes offer creative fun for kids

By Angela Gagnon, Staff Writer

Children in downtown Chicago have an opportunity to channel their artistic, creative energy while learning from a fashion professional.

New Eastside resident Michelle Kim, a fashion designer, has been offering design classes to kids since July 2018. Kim is the founder of Mizel Jewelry and holds a masters degree in fashion design from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Parents said the classes encourage their kids to be creative and to develop ideas, while Kim said the classes inspire her, too. “Teaching these classes is very inspirational for me because I am a designer myself, and the kids often think of things adults don’t, like a unique color combination or pattern,” Kim said.

The classes, geared toward children as young as first grade, are held every other weekend in the New Eastside and typically follow a seasonal theme. Kim has introduced embroidery, fabric embellishment, collaging, beading, sewing and knitting since she began teaching the classes.

Her students have worked on hair accessories, backpacks, shoes, jewelry, clothing and lunch boxes and used various kid-friendly materials to create unique and personalized designs.

Kim will lead a winter class focused on cold weather items such as berets and sweatshirts. Students will work with material like faux fur and pom-poms along with fabric paints, felt, sequins and fake gems.

New Eastside mom Michelle Johnston said her 6-year-old daughter, Dilly, has gone to seven or eight ofand the design classes, and her daughter loves getting creative. “Dilly was so proud of her creations and Michelle was always so encouraging and complimented them on their designs,.” Johnston said.

Kim stresses that “perfect is not creative” and that the kids should “relax and have fun.” Once the drawing is complete, they embellish or decorate it with the materials to make their image come alive. “Dilly loved having access to all these wonderful tools, ribbons, jewels, fabrics at her fingertips,” Johnston said. “She learned a new skill each week and it was wearable art… shoes, t-shirt, hat, backpack and was personalized.”

Kim also puts together themed events for adults around holidays or special occasions. Plans are in the works for a Valentine’s Day “Moms’ Night Out” in which neighborhood moms can work with Kim to make something for their kids.

For more information about themes and price, visit https://www.mizelkids.com.

[Designer Michelle Kim teaches neighborhood kids the finer points of fashion at one of her design courses for kids. Photo by Angela Gagnon]

Stellar astronomical events in 2019


By Stephanie Racine, Staff Writer

Look, up in the sky—it’s a bird, it’s a plane it’s … something you might never see again!

And it’s coming this year to a night sky near you.

Michelle Nichols, Director of Public Observing at the Adler Planetarium, offered some insight on what astronomical events to be on the lookout for in 2019. Here are the astronomical events that have significant importance to earthlings.

·      Dec. 31–January: New Horizons Spacecraft flyby of Ultima Thule, a Kuiper Belt object. Pictures will be visible from NASA.

·      Jan. 3: China’s Chang’e 4 lander/rover lands on the far side of the moon to study its surface and subsurface.

·      Jan. 3–4: Quadrantid Meteor Shower, visible without moonlight interference. Head to a dark place to view.

·      Jan. 17: SpaceX uncrewed test of its future commercial crewed Dragon spacecraft.

·      Jan. 20: Lunar eclipse, visible from 9:30 p.m.-1 a.m.

·      Jan. 20–26: Venus and Jupiter are close together and visible. Observable right before sunrise in the east. Jupiter is slightly less dim.

·      Feb. 17–19: Venus and Saturn are close together and visible. Observable right before sunrise in the east. Saturn is slightly less dim.

·      March: Boeing uncrewed test for the future crewed Starliner spacecraft.

·      May 6–7: Eta Aquarid Meteor Shower, visible with little moon interference. Head to a dark place to view.

·      June: SpaceX crewed test of Dragon spacecraft.

·      August: Boeing crewed test flight of Starliner spacecraft.

·      Aug. 12–13: Perseid Meteor Shower, the light from the moon will interfere, but could still be visible in a dark place.

·      Nov. 11: Transit of Mercury between the earth and the sun. For safe viewing, head to the Adler to view on telescopes with sun filters.

·      Dec. 13–14: Geminid Meteor Shower, the light from the moon will interfere, but could still be visible in a dark place.

·      Throughout 2019: Parker Solar Probe will pass the sun a couple times and send information back to Earth about the sun’s atmosphere.

·      Throughout 2019: Juno Spacecraft orbits around Jupiter and sends information back to Earth.  

For more information about these or other astronomical events, visit the Adler Planetarium at 1300 Lake Shore Drive or their website, www.adlerplanetarium.org.

The best places to see and be seen with Santa in Chicago

By Jesse Wright | Staff Writer

Adults may dream of a white Christmas, but for many kids, the holiday evokes another color altogether as a trip to see the old man in red is almost compulsory. Luckily, children in and around the downtown area have plenty of options:

Water Tower Place

The shopping’s never been better at Water Tower Place, a Mag Mile institution, and this year just as in years past, Santa will be around to meet with kids and pets. Reservations are encouraged to avoid a wait and there are various theme nights—like pajama night—so be sure to scroll through the options to get the perfect fit. To find the best night for your schedule and to make a reservation, check www.celebrateyourholiday.com

The Driehaus Museum

This popular destination has added Sunday dates for Santa. Kids under 2 are free, tickets for kids up to 12 are $15 and adult tickets are $20. The tickets include activities like sing-a-longs, story times and family fun. Anyone interested should get tickets as soon as possible, as several dates have already sold out. For more information, check the museum website at http://driehausmuseum.org

Soldier Field Breakfast with Santa

For a full morning with the big man, why not sign up for breakfast with Santa at Soldier Field on Dec. 8? Adult tickets are $50, $25 for kids ages 4-12 and free for younger kids. The tickets include a train display, an ornament contest and a cookie decorating area for children. This event includes a toy drive, so be sure and bring a new, unopened gift for a child in need. For more information, call (312) 235-7063 or email SoldierFieldBistro@aramark.com

Shedd Aquarium Breakfast with Santa

The Shedd Aquarium is offering a full morning of fun with Santa every weekend leading up to Christmas. Ticket prices vary for members and non-members, but the event includes breakfast, crafts, a Polar Express train ride and parade, an aquatic presentation and more. For more information, visit www.sheddaquarium.org/

Macy’s State Street Santa Events

Breakfast no good? Well, Macy’s has the solution for parents who want more options. The State Street department store is offering breakfast, lunch and/or dinner to folks who need some variety in scheduling time to visit Father Christmas. The events run through the month. For more information, visit http://macysrestaurants.com

Skate with Santa at Maggie Daley Park

Anyone who wants to get the kids out and about could do worse than this free opportunity to get the kids out on the ice with Santa at Maggie Daley Park in the heart of the New Eastside. On Dec. 16, from 10 a.m. to noon, kids can lace up and hold hands with the jolly red elf. For more information, visit www.chicagoparkdistrict.com

Swissotel’s Santa Suite

The hotel admits their newly-renovated Santa Suite is over the top, so expect to be wowed on the 41st floor by sights, sounds and decorations. The suite is open through Dec. 23 and tickets begin at $15 for individuals, and family packs can be had for $40. For more information, visit www.swissotel.com

Other places to find Santa

If you still can’t get enough Santa, follow the merry fellow as he travels through Chicagoland and beyond. This month, Santa will be visiting a number of nearby suburbs, and families can visit him in a variety of places. For more information, check out www.santainchicago.com

Cloud Gate choirs set the soundtrack to the season

By Jesse Wright | Staff Writer

The Christmas season means cold weather, good family, friends, warm wishes and…music.

No matter the age, the political bent or, heck, even the religious beliefs of so many people, classic Christmas songs like “Silent Night” and “White Christmas” still strike a chord. In Chicago, these songs—as well as more modern fare—are best heard by the Bean, or Cloud Gate, in Millennium Park as part of the city’s annual Caroling at Cloud Gate program.

“I would just say Chicago is a fabulous city with so many fantastic artistic opportunities,” said Kayleigh Dudevoir. “Just go. It’s really fun to introduce yourself to music that’s less accessible and to learn more about what the city has to offer.”

Dudevoir should know—she is the executive director of the Chicago Chamber Choir, the group slated to perform at Cloud Gate Dec. 7. She offered a peek behind the scenes of the choir circuit, and she said her choir has been busy preparing for months. “Usually our official season begins in October, but we get Christmas requests as soon as mid-November,” she said.

This month at Cloud Gate, Dudevoir said guests can expect to hear a mix of Christmas music.

“Some traditional Christmas carols like ‘Silent Night,’ ‘Deck the Halls’ and so on, as well as Christmas-themed but not traditional carols” will be sung in the park, she said.

Dudevoir said the choir has been performing at Cloud Gate for several years—it’s her sixth season with the group—and she said it’s always enjoyable for the choir and for the attendees. “We’ve done a number of performances there and there are always lots of children,” she said.

Guests will bring hot chocolate to sip while they listen and, Dudevoir said, if it’s not too terribly cold, the choir tries to wear festive sweaters, so it’s not so formal.

The city invites folks to hear some of the best choirs in the city perform Christmas carols for free at Cloud Gate.

The Chicago Chamber Choir will kick off the December Cloud Gate events on Dec. 7. All performances begin at 6 p.m. and wrap up by 7 p.m. Admission is free. The other performances will be Dec. 12 and Dec. 14 at the same times. To check out the Chicago Chamber Choir, its website, www.chicagochamberchoir.org/season, includes all upcoming dates.

The Walnut Room adds a dash of magic to any meal

By Angela Gagnon | Staff Writer

 

What’s it like to dine in the Walnut Room during the holidays? Whether it’s your first time setting foot in the elegant 17,000 square-foot dining room located on the seventh floor of Macy’s Department Store on State Street, or you’re a seasoned veteran, a visit there will put you right in the holiday spirit.

The Walnut Room opened in 1905 and has become a cherished landmark in Chicago. Come holiday time, the Walnut Room is transformed into a festive wonderland with the famed 45-foot Great Tree as the centerpiece. Suspended from the ceiling, the iconic Great Tree is adorned with more than 2,000 ornaments and features thousands of sparkling lights.

“Dining in the Walnut Room during the holidays is a beloved Chicago tradition,” said Carolyn Ng Cohen, Director of Media Relations at Macy’s. “With already plenty of magic in the air inside Macy’s Walnut Room, princess fairies can make it even more special for believers of all ages.”

The Walnut Room fairy princesses come each year upon the arrival of the Great Tree to spread magic and Christmas cheer, flying in from the North Pole, Candyland, Sugarplum Island and other magical places. Dressed in gowns, the fairies will charm guests of all ages. By customer request, they’ll appear tableside, asking patrons to make a wish and sprinkle some glittery fairy dust to help the wish come true. You may even get a visit from the Fairy Snow Queen, Jade Nicole, who has been sharing her fairy magic with Walnut Room diners for over a decade.

Nicole first came to the Walnut Room 11 years ago as the Keeper of Christmas Wishes from the North Pole.

“Each day I would give children and adults the chance to make a wish with a little fairy dust and a magical song. Then, I would bring their magical wishes to Santa Claus,” said Nicole.

“Some wishes are simple—a toy or a present, but some wishes are much bigger—peace on earth, comfort for the sick, hope and happiness. I like to give everyone the chance to make three wishes,”  the Fairy Snow Queen said. “A wish for yourself, a wish for someone else and a wish for the world.”

“This will be our sixth year making our annual trip to the Walnut Room,” said New Eastside resident Elizabeth Johnston, who goes with her 6-year-old daughter Dillon and a group of friends. Their evening starts with a visit to Santa in Macy’s Santaland on the fifth floor, and then they head to the Walnut Room for dinner and fairy princesses.

“Our favorite thing about the whole experience is the fairy princess,” says Johnston. “It’s so cute to watch the little girls and boys admire her. It’s a heartwarming experience to say the least, which is what brings us back year after year.”

The Walnut Room menu includes both a Holiday Great Tree buffet offered daily, as well as a la carte options. Guests can also sample Mrs. Hering’s famous original chicken pot pie which features the same recipe that has been served since 1890. For more information about dining in the Walnut Room, including holiday hours and pricing, visit http://macysrestaurants.com/walnut-room/.

Navy Pier offers fireworks, music for New Year’s bash

By Elizabeth Czapski | Staff Writer

At midnight on New Year’s Eve, Navy Pier will put on a free fireworks show set to music.

Payal Patel, with Navy Pier’s media relations, offered a sneak peek of this year’s music selection. According to Patel, the soundtrack is put together by Navy Pier’s music program coordinator and other members of Navy Pier’s art, culture and engagement team.

Here are the 14 songs Navy Pier will use to bring the new year:

Auld Lang Syne – Mariah Carey

I Wanna Dance With Somebody – Whitney Houston

Good Feeling – Flo-Rida

Move Your Feet – Junior Senior

Give Me Your Love – Sigala

Give Me Everything – Ne-Yo & Pitbull

That’s What I Like – Bruno Mars

Lights Down Low – MAX

Freedom – George Michael

Sir Duke – Stevie Wonder

Shake A Tail Feather – Ray Charles

In The Midnight Hour – Wilson Pickett

Chicago – Tony Bennett

Sweet Home Chicago – Blues Brothers

The fireworks show will take place Jan. 1, 12-12:15 a.m., free, Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand Ave, 312-595-7437, navypier.org.

JELL-O’s edible slime a kids’ toy that’s also a treat

Staff reports

Slime isn’t just for fun–with JELL-O it’s also for food. Photo courtesy JELL-O.

 

Just in time for the holidays, New Eastside-based JELL-O introduced an edible slime last month, which comes in strawberry-flavored Unicorn and lime-flavored Monster varieties.

The slime is a toy as well as a snack for kids.

In recent years, slime has become a social media phenomenon, with more than 20 million slime-related posts on Instagram and thousands of “how to” slime videos on YouTube. Fans have embraced the squishy and stretchy toy as a fun and creative activity, and some studies even claim the sensation of slime improves positive feelings and relaxation. While do-it-yourself edible slime recipes are popular, there had not been an edible slime available from a national brand until now.

The edible slime launch comes on the heels of JELL-O’s summer launch of JELL-O PLAY, a new line of edible JELL-O products designed to inspire families to engage in free play and fun. The three JELL-O PLAY product lines can be molded, shaped, and built into whatever parents and kids can imagine, and are designed around themes that spark creativity, such as Ocean and Jungle. All items are available online and in national retailers, and have a suggested retail price under $5.

 

“JELL-O PLAY is all about encouraging and enabling bonding time between parents and kids,” says Michael Hartley, Senior Associate Brand Manager for JELL-O Play. “With new JELL-O PLAY Edible Slime, the entire family can have fun creating, stretching, and even eating slime.”

The colorful, edible and imaginative DIY slime experience is easy to make: simply add water to the pre-made mix to create slime that will drip, stretch, and conform to any shape families can imagine. Each canister of JELL-O PLAY Edible Slime makes two batches of slime, is 100 percent edible and washes away easily with soap and warm water.

 

JELL-O PLAY Edible Slime is now available for pre-order on Amazon.com with a suggested retail price of $9.99. The slime will be available in select retailers in December.

 

The Kraft Heinz Company is the fifth-largest food and beverage company in the world. A globally trusted producer of delicious foods, The Kraft Heinz Company provides high quality, great taste and nutrition for all eating occasions whether at home, in restaurants or on the go. The Company’s iconic brands include Kraft, Heinz, ABC, Capri Sun, Classico, Jell-O, Kool-Aid, Lunchables, Maxwell House, Ore-Ida, Oscar Mayer, Philadelphia, Planters, Plasmon, Quero, Smart Ones and Velveeta. The Kraft Heinz Company is dedicated to the sustainable health of our people, our planet and our Company. For more information, visit www.kraftheinzcompany.com

Best Holiday Lights in Chicago

By Elizabeth Czapski | Staff Writer

Millennium Park

The first official lighting of the Millennium Park tree took place on Nov. 16, and the tree will remain lit until Jan. 6. This year’s tree is a 60-foot Norway Spruce from Elmhurst, according to the city’s website, and is the city’s 105th City of Chicago Christmas Tree. Enjoy the tree’s colorful lights, then visit Millennium Park for more winter magic or Maggie Daley Park for ice skating.

Michigan Avenue

Michigan Avenue’s lights will stay on throughout the holiday season. Take a stroll down and do some window shopping while enjoying the festive decorations on the trees and buildings along Michigan Avenue.

The Walnut Room and windows at Macy’s

Macy’s famous Walnut Room was the first-ever restaurant opened in a department store. The seventh-floor establishment hosts a famous holiday tradition: The 45-foot Great Tree displayed in the center of the room. Visit just to see the tree, or go to the restaurant for the Holiday Great Tree Buffet, offered all day through Jan. 6. Check out Macy’s colorful holiday window displays, which create magical scenes of winter wonderlands and the North Pole, before going up to the restaurant. Visit Macy’s at 111 N. State St.

Lincoln Park Zoo

The ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo make up some of the city’s most spectacular lights displays and you can visit the animals while marveling at the colorful lights all around the zoo. Strolling through the zoo would make for a great date night or be fun for the whole family! Zoo admission is always free. Visit through Jan. 6, 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., at 2001 N. Clark St.

Museum of Science & Industry

The museum’s Christmas Around the World Exhibit features over 50 trees representing global holiday traditions. Each tree is uniquely decorated with ornaments that reflect a different country’s customs. In the center stands the grand tree, four stories tall and bathed in a stunning display of lights. Visit between 9:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. This is included with museum admission, children 11 and under $12.95, adults $21.95, Museum of Science & Industry, 5700 S. Lake Shore Drive.

Allstate CTA Holiday Train & Bus

Chicago’s public transportation system is not immune to the spirit of the holidays. The traditional holiday train, decorated with holiday lights and candy canes, began running Nov. 23.This year, the CTA has added an extra holiday train called the “Elves’ Workshop Train.” The ‘L’ train will be decked out with festive decorations and Santa will make an appearance. A CTA Holiday Bus will also be driving around the city for a trackless transportation experience. This runs through December. See transitchicago.com/holidayfleet for a schedule.

A look inside the windows: The News gets a closer look at the Macy’s Christmas displays

Amelia Mehring poses with her grandfather, Aqui Rivera at the Macy’s window.

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

 

The weather’s cold. Snow flurries dance through the crisp air.

And even so, a crowd of people gathers on State Street, pausing to peer into a window, to catch a glimpse of Santa.

It’s the Macy’s window displays and they are working their annual magic.

For locals, there is plenty in downtown that gets, well, regular. There’s no reason to visit the Bean every day. Few locals take selfies with the skyline.

But the windows at Macy’s attract the tourists and the Chicagoans alike because whether it is a first-time visit or a longtime tradition, there’s something in those windows everyone wants to see.

“We come every year,” said Karen Rivera, who visited the windows with her husband, Aqui and their granddaughter, Amelia Mehring.

“We used to bring her father, when he was a boy,” Karen explained.

But what most people don’t see—what they can’t see—is the planning. Brian Peluso is the store’s visual manager and the man behind the windows and even though Christmas window displays take up a small amount of time and space in the Macy’s year, there’s a big deal. It’s a lot of work getting folks coming back, year after year, for generations.

“The planning and execution process can take anywhere from nine months to a year,” Peluso wrote in an email. “Usually once the holiday windows are unveiled for the season, the brainstorming begins for the next year’s windows.”

Macy’s of course is a chain, so the store on State Street is part of a larger, national conversation that includes things like themes. After the stores agree on a look, the decorations are shipped out.

“This year’s window displays were packed and shipped in 20 pallets/crates made up of 15 double length and five standard sized skids,” Peluso wrote. “Also, we typically use about 50-60 pounds of fake snow in each year’s displays.”

The installation team is four or five people and then Peluso’s visual design team includes four people and they add the finishing touches.

When Peluso is designing the windows, he has to bear in mind the history of the tradition. He explained the store has offered displays since the 1870s—and over those years, they have developed a reputation.

“Macy’s was the first store to feature holiday windows created for the pure fun and joy of the season and, with that, began a tradition that still lives on today in numerous cities including New York, Chicago, Boston, Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Salt Lake City,” Peluso wrote. “In Chicago specifically, we’re celebrating the 51st anniversary of our annual holiday window display at Macy’s on State Street.”

This doesn’t mean the display itself is old. While some of the iconography like Santa may remain consistent, Peluso said the general themes do change.

“Each year a few new elements are added,” he said. “This year, we are excited to continue to celebrate all the Reasons to Believe.”

Besides that, each window has its own theme and color palette though there is at least one constant feature used to tie the all the displays together visually.

“Borders are placed around the windows to add to the overlying theme and to reflect Macy’s particular branding style,” Peluso said.

Pelusa said so much work and care goes into the windows, he understands why they attract people. There’s a lot to take in and he has some advice on how to do it right.

“There are so many meticulous details in each window — from the sculpting of the caricatures, to the props, to the backdrops and more,” he wrote. “I’d recommend that viewers get up close to the glass and look at every inch. Then step back, so they’ll see the small details start to pop out, showing how exciting the entire window is.”

Finally, for anyone looking to spruce up their own windows—or a room in their home—with Christmas spirit, Peluso has some advice.

“A good tip that I would recommend to anyone decorating their home for the holidays is that lighting and color go a long way, but when you add music plus a fragrance, such as a candle or potpourri, the decorations become even more captivating since they will touch on all your senses,” he wrote.

Check out the window displays through Christmas at 111 North State St.

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