Five of the best Chicago land holiday light presentations

It was called the Christmas Tree House. That’s what my kids called it, anyway, back in the early 1990’s. And you had to wait…a mile long car line on Christmas Eve to see the house in Downers Grove, Il. Neighbors of the Gorsham family also decorated to excess so you were entertained while you moved pleasantly through the neighborhood…your children oohing and ahhing in the back seat.

The Gorsham house had a booth that held Santa and Mrs Claus on weekdays and the house was highlighted with a beautiful train village in the garage and several booths of animated scenes.The crew members would begin decorating in October and the Gorsham’s would end up with an electric bill of 3 to 4 thousand dollars. They finally retired and moved to a warmer climate selling their stock to a neighboring village.

Where are some of the best places in the Chicago land area to view decorations and lights today? The zoos are the first favorites to begin.

Lincoln Park Zoolights 
Lincoln Park Zoo, 2200 N. Cannon Dr., Chicago
On the north side of Chicago, for over 20 years Lincoln Park Zoo has provided a beautiful light display of over 2 million lights. You can also find beautiful ice carvings throughout the zoo grounds and other holiday related activities such as ice skating where you can bring your own skates or rent a pair.

Holiday Magic at Brookfield Zoo
Brookfield Zoo 8400 31st St. Brookfield, Il 60513
Just south of Chicago in Brookfield at the zoo, you can see over 30 years of celebration for the holiday season. Visitors can be dazzled by over a million lights and can enjoy caroling with the animals and special treat with Santa and Mrs. Claus. Several corporations have set up trees set to music and one that you can actually interact.

Aurora’s Festival of Light’s
Phillips Park, 1000 Ray Moses Drive. Aurora, IL 60505
Free admission to the festival in Aurora just southwest of Chicago which is considered one of the largest displays. You can drive through a dazzling mile of lights that are animated and a Christmas Tree that is 20 feet tall and actually sings.

Larsens in Elburn

When he was a senior in high school he was awarded the lawn maintenance contract for the City of St. Charles; a huge contract and from there he went into landscaping and design work.

In 2000, Brian Larsen incorporated County Wide Landscaping, Inc. and pretty much got out of maintenance and concentrated on design work. He went to CAD architectural school and focused on designing outdoor living spaces. Since he has won awards for his work and has designed his own Christmas house since 2006. People have traveled from all over the world to see this show light show during the holidays. Brian uses a little over one million lights and because of how the display is set up, over 20,000 extension cords.

According to the Larsens, inside the house you can’t even tell what is going on outside unless you look out the window. The music is also transmitted to play on the visitor’s car stereo via a FM transmitter so you don’t hear the music.

Mooseheart Holiday Lights

Holiday Lights at Mooseheart in Batavia is one of  the largest Chicagoland’s light displays! The lighted route is approximately 1.8 miles and has more than 80 lighted displays to view.

New this year is a half-mile extension of the route to include Mooseheart’s farm area for the first time. A live Nativity scene will highlight this new portion of the show on Nov. 30, Dec. 7, 14 and Dec. 21-24.

Even though Santa is extremely busy this time of year, he couldn’t turn down an opportunity to visit Mooseheart! For six nights this year – Dec. 8-10 and Dec. 15-17 – the admission price includes not only the Holiday Lights show, but also a chance to see Santa Claus at the Mooseheart fieldhouse.

Santa will sit for free photos beginning at 5:30pm. In addition to Santa Claus, children can enjoy a crafts, holiday music, hot chocolate, and Christmas cookies at the fieldhouse.

Experience British Adventures with the Iconic ‘The Famous Five’ with a New App by Kuato Studios

London based Kuato Studios partners with Enid Blyton Entertainment to recreate the adventures of The Famous Five in a downloadable children’s app

Children can immerse themselves in a good old-fashioned English adventure with the launch of a new Famous Five mystery game on the App Store by award-winning app developer, Kuato Studios. The launch of the new app coincides with this year’s 75th anniversary of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five, a beloved British book series. The Famous Five app will be available in the iOS app store beginning October 25, 2017 for $2.99

Regarded as one of her most popular series, renowned British author, Enid Blyton originally planned to write just six Famous Five books but extended the series to 21, owing to reader demand. Now these much loved characters will enter the digital world with Kuato Studios’ new app!

The Famous Five app has been designed with all the positive values associated with the books in mind, including friendship, heroism, adventure, love of the outdoors and daring.  As with all Kuato games in the Tales Maker series, the app nurtures inquisitive minds and develops literacy skills through storytelling and engaging game play.

The app allows children to explore the iconic world of The Famous Five, a world packed full of English adventure, mystery and intrigue!  Each mystery features unique characters and iconic locations throughout England found in the books, such as the castle ruins of Kirrin Island and Tapper’s Travelling Fair.

The new Kuato game will enthrall Famous Five enthusiasts and those new to the as now, not only can they read about the adventures, but they can also help Julian, Dick, Anne, George and their friendly dog Timmy search for clues, question suspects and solve the mysteries they encounter! With multiple solutions and plot combinations, no single story will ever be repeated and once the mystery has been solved, children can enjoy reading their personalized adventures back in their own game generated storybook!

For Dyslexic readers, there is a section within the Parents Corner where users can choose from accessibility options, including, Open Dyslexic font and color overlays to help readability.

The Famous Five app will be available in the iOS app store beginning October 25, 2017 for $2.99

About Kuato Studios

Backed by Horizons Ventures, Kuato Studios was formed in early 2012 with talent from world-renowned games studios, award-winning education experts and specialists in artificial intelligence. The studio currently has a number of educational game titles: Code Warriors, a coding game for 9-14 year old; and Dino Tales and Safari Tales which were launched in 2015 and focus on literacy skills for 4-10 year olds. The Tales titles have consistently reached #1 in both the Kids and Education charts on the App Store across the world.

About Enid Blyton:

Enid Blyton is one of the world’s best-selling children’s authors. Sales of her books are in excess of 500 million copies, and they have been translated into over 40 languages. Enid Blyton began her career as a school teacher before becoming a bestselling children’s book author, writing over 800 books. In the UK she still sells more than one book a minute and many of her books have been adapted into films and TV series. As well as being regularly voted the UK’s best-loved author, Enid Blyton is the most translated children’s author in the world, according to UNESCO. Her most popular works include: The Famous Five, The Secret Seven, The Naughtiest Girl, The Adventure Series, The Faraway Tree, Twins at St Clare’s and Malory Towers. In 2012, Hachette acquired the intellectual property of the whole of Enid Blyton’s estate (excluding Noddy). In April 2016 Enid Blyton Entertainment was created to represent the fully immersive Entertainment entity.@BlytonOfficial

The Genius of Play shares some of their favorite family play ideas

We all worry about our kids learning to control their emotions. After all, it’s emotions that so often get us off track and into trouble! The Genius of Play, is a national movement with a mission to give families the information and inspiration needed to make play an important part of every child’s life. Fortunately, play can serve as a key tool in helping your child manage their emotions. Play provides children with an opportunity to not only learn how to express themselves, but how to explore and understand their wide range of feelings.

Through play, children learn to cope with emotions as they act out feelings such as anger, sadness or fear, in a situation they control. Imaginative play allows them to think out loud about experiences charged with both pleasant and unpleasant feelings, creating a safe outlet for self expression and self exploration. Plus, by giving children a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, play can help build their confidence and self-esteem.

Erik A. Fisher, Ph.D, aka Dr. E…TM, Emotional Dynamics Expert at Genius of Play, has been changing the lives of children, teens and adults for two decades by encouraging self-empowerment through play.

He opens our discussion by stating that ” often children take their lead on how they learn about their emotions from the adults that guide them. Many of us received very little education on how to manage emotions or the purpose of emotions when we were children, so knowing what to do with your own kids when it comes to emotion can be challenging. I believe that emotions are all there to tell us and teach us about life. For example, the purpose of Anger is to protect. The purpose of Failure is that it tells us when it is time to learn, the purpose of Guilt is that it lets us know when we have done something to others that we need to fix.”

“Too often, we are taught to ignore what our emotions may be trying to tell us, and all too often, many adults don’t know what to do with the emotions that they are feeling. Unfortunately, when adults do not understand, it is difficult for them to properly educate their children.”

“It is for that reason that I often recommend that parents learn right along with their kids and even let their kids be teachers to them. The Genius of Play is a great way for parents to learn about the value of play in various domains, including emotional realms, and I always encourage parents to take a look. I also recommend my parenting book, The Art of Empowered Parenting: The Manual You Wish Your Kids Came With that discusses power, emotion, and how we can learn to manage these challenging aspects of life.”

The Genius of Play, is excited to share some of their favorite play ideas that focus on emotional development and teach children how to express and regulate their emotions.

Kindergarten

· This is a great time to use role playing and engage imagination to work through emotions. Kids at this age are often playing with dolls, puppets and may be starting to play with action figures. Watch the themes of how they play with these toys and the emotions that they may demonstrate through their play. As they may be playing, be willing to get on the floor with them, play and talk about what is going on with their characters and what they may be feeling. You can also play out some of the challenges that they may be having with others through the dolls and show how they can work out their difficulties by you taking on their role. Ask them what the other characters may be feeling when they may play these roles.

· Many children may be exposed to many of the cards, blocks, images, and emoji that denote various emotions. These images that help children identify emotions can be helpful for kids to visually identify what they are feeling so that an adult can help connect the words with the emotions. As these emotions are discussed, let your kids know that these emotions aren’t bad or wrong. They are trying to tell us something. It is the choices that we make when we feel these emotions that we want to be aware of to change. Understanding protective emotions like Anger, Rage, Hatred, Defiance, Sarcasm, Flippancy and Arrogance are trying to help us look strong when we feel weakness inside.

3rd Grade

· Kids have been in school for a few years. They are learning to grasp emotions and experiencing better emotional regulation as their brains also develop. However, the patterns of emotional expression that they learn now can be harder and harder to reverse if they are reinforced and/or if new patterns aren’t learned. While it is always a good time to work on discussing emotions and what they are teaching us, helping to find healthy ways to express them is also important. Charades can be a great game for kids to act out emotions. Making your own game of emotional charades can be a good way to see how your kids view emotions and even to discuss them after a round.

· There are also many board games and books that help kids become aware of various emotions. Exposing them to the uniqueness of each emotion through play and helping them to understand them will be adding to their skill set in real life situations.

5th Grade

· This is a year that kids are still kids, and some are getting closer to adolescence. For some, they are still interested in children’s games, and the same games, cards and emoji can still be helpful to discuss emotions, while for some who want to associate with “older age” activities, they may show no interest in the games of “children”. The issue is that even though kids at this age want to be older, their brains are not developed and they are often playing the emotional games and “writing the emotional checks that they can’t cash”. Making sure that they are processing and understanding emotions is so important at this time of life. Playing games that involve perspective taking, communication, listening closely to how they see the world can help this. Don’t just listen to them when they are aware that you are around, listen when they don’t realize that you are listening. There are many role-playing games that give opportunities to share emotions and see inside of them, as well.

Most importantly, at any age your kids are, Eric suggests that you play with them, and no matter what you are playing talk with them, ask them about how they see life, how they feel about themselves and others, how they feel about you as a parent

It is often when distracted by a game that kids will share more. Listen without judgment, and ask more questions than telling them what to do.

Please click on The Genius of Play for more information.

Fond memories of fine dining: Restaurants now extinct

Fine dining was a special favorite for my Dad and we went to a new place frequently. He was a business owner and that was the way he felt he could thank those that purchased his product. That was the way he thought he could teach his only child manners and grace. Though, I loved to explore new places , it was always the same as far as my food choice, a kiddie cocktail and a steak sandwich/medium rare without the bread. After he passed away, my Mother continued the tradition with me through the decades. Though long gone and my list could go on and on, I just included places that I had visited in the outlining suburbs/towns of Chicago back in the day.

Green Shingle in Harvey had exemplified true love from the early 60’s. It with my first date with my Dad in my best dress, shoes and gloves. It was my first steak sandwich medium rare but would not be last.After my Dad passed away, it was my second date with my college professor who helped to celebrate my birthday with fellow students;  that same college professor who passed away from cancer a few years ago. And finally, a date with my first boyfriend as we first held hands at the candlelit tabkle; killed in a car accident shortly after.

Dunlaps started as a concession but moved in 1937 to its Palos Heights location on 123rd lasting for 60 years. My father owned a business in decorative and auto glass. One of his clients was Dunlaps in which he created the smoked glass that enhanced visitors behind the long, bar still in exquisite condition when the restaurant closed. Even as a child and adult, I remember staring at my self, proud of my family contributing some part to an institution for great food including real relish trays with pickled beets.

Yesteryear in Kankakee,IL was a restaurant situated in the Frank Lloyd Wright home the B. Harley Bradley House located on Harrison Avenue. In the early 1940’s, my Mother lived in Kempton, IL and wanted to go to college. She rented a room from the Gates family who lived in the 400 block of Harrison Avenue  and attended Kankakee’s Business College.  The Gates, George, Ruth  and son Les became her adopted  family until they passed away in the late 1970’s. Les, who is 94, is still alive today. As a very young child, we would walk to Yesteryear which had opened in 1953. As a young adult, I attended a 50th anniversary of a family member from Cullom, IL.

Phil Schmidts, on the border of Illinois in Indiana, had been opened for 97 years . It was a place of many memories that included the celebration of events such as graduation parties. Known for their seafood, their most popular was frog legs and perch. Beginning in 1910 and closing in 2007, also made their own amazing tartar sauce.

The Tivoli on Glenwood Rd in Chicago Heights was also a favorite establishment especially for weddings or other family events. Though older when I visited the Tivoli, I had graduated from a steak sandwich to a wonderful porterhouse they served there and a broiled filet mignon topped with blue cheese.

The Old Barn in Burbank was a beautiful, elegant adventure for me as a child and adult dating back to the 1920’s when it originally was a speakeasy during Prohibition. Another great choice for wedding receptions and family dinners which had closed in 2008 and was 87 years. The Old Barn was especially beautiful during the holidays with leather chairs in the dining area and beautiful sofas and fireplace in the lounge.

Country Squire in Grayslake, IL was originally built in 1938 as the residence of a Sears family member and it was a mansion that became the Country Squire Restaurant in 1954. A breathtaking estate that I enjoyed often as an adult, experiencing on a date and also enjoying a wonderful wedding of a dear friend. I remember celebrating Mother’s Day with my own Mom  as she cried for its beauty and wonderful food.

The Flame, finally, in Countryside became another family favorite celebrating the same Mom’s  65th birthday there with her grandchildren. The restaurant was a classic with another dress me up atmosphere and the best in seafood and steak.  My love still was always steak or a Chateaubriand for two and for Mom, the best orange roughy she had ever tasted!

Chicago land vintage amusement parks

All summers in the 1960’s always included a trip to one of my favorite amusement parks. Only about three or four years old, the first I can remember was to Riverview where I traveled in the tunnel ride with my aunt and got a tiny stuffed animal, a monkey, no less, as a souvenir. One of my father’s favorites was the Kiddieland on 95th street in Oaklawn across from the old Branding Iron restaurant; my parents looking forward to a cocktail and dinner after my rides on the flying planes and the toy boats. The Little Dipper was the best at the Kiddieland in Melrose Park and Adventureland was the largest amusement park in Illinois from 1967-1976. Today, Santa’s village continues to capture the excitement of our children, grandchildren and some great grandchildren. The following offers more historic information on each park and the anticipated adventure every vintage child shared.

Riverview operated from 1904 to 1967….closing over 50 years ago this year. My aunt who took my father to Riverview in the early 1920’s remember him being deathly afraid of what became the most popular ride; the Bobs.  She also told me about her and my uncle Frank in the Tunnel of Love….though harmless for lovers in tunnels. Riverview was located in an area bound on the south by Belmont Ave.,on the east by Western Ave, on the north by Lane Tech High School, and on the west by the North Branch of the Chicago River.

Green Oaks Kiddieland located at 95th and Pulaski Road was the closest for me to visit as a south side child in Chicago and was closed in 1971… now a KMart. Opening in the late 1940’s, it offered all sorts of rides that were great for the very young such as army tanks. a beautiful merry-go round and a small Ferris Wheel which my Mom was always afraid. The Branding Iron restaurant across the street continued on until the 1980’s and had a second location in Downers Grove.  My father loved to bowl so having lunch or dinner at the Branding Iron was a treat since Oaklawn bowl was a part of the establishment.

Funtown Amusement  was located at 95th and Stony originally called Kiddietown. This park used to have a fire truck that would pick kids up for birthday parties. This kiddieland I did visit with my neighbors since it was in the same neighborhood I lived and do remember the moon rocket and go carts.

Kiddieland Amusement Park in Melrose Park  at the corner of North avenue and First Avenue was opened in 1929 finally closing in 2009. Now home to a Costco store. It began as a pony ride park and then a few years later, they added miniature gasoline-powered cars  which my family loved. The train, the German carousel and of course, the Little Dipper were my loves. The Little Dipper I could never tire even attending the park with my own children; all of us loving that thrill  when taking off and arriving  back in one piece. It was just enough to ride the coaster over and over again.

Adventureland was originally a restaurant know as Paul’s Picnic Grove and an attraction from 1958-1961 known as Storybook Park. This was the largest park in Illinois until Great America opened in 1976, another an amusement park that deserves its’ own article soon. Adventureland offered numerous rides that included Italian Bumper Cars and the Italian Bobs. But I always wanted to visit the Storybook Park that included Cinderella’s Coach and Prince Charmings Castle.

Santa’s Village, now called the Azoosment park,  is located in Dundee, Illinois, a field trip we would have to plan in advance when I was a child as well as taking my own children. Probably the most fun for myself and family were the bumper cars, twirling inside a snowball during summer and the pumpkin coach. On Memorial Day, in 1959 Santa’s Village opened and many went a few years later to the state of the art ice rink. Over twenty million people have visited Santa’s Village through the decades.