Monday, December 31, 2012


                      Come ChiIL Out with ChiIL Mama and her 9 year old daughter Sage in Chicago, to welcome 9 year old Saige Copeland, American Girl 2013 Girl of the Year, at American Girl Place Chicago on Tuesday, January 1!! 

**Girls visiting the store during Saige’s debut week, 
from January 1 through January 4, 
will receive a free doll-sized Saige t-shirt**

We got a press sneak peek at Saige's book a month ago and had to sit on it till now. As a mom of an artistic, 9 year old Sage who adores American Girl dolls.....we can't tell you how super stoked we are to welcome Saige--the new girl of the year for 2013!!!! We'll have a full review for you, photo filled features, an author interview and live coverage of the big release party at American Girl Place Chicago January 1-4th.

American Girl's 2013 Girl of the Year is almost here! Arriving January 1, Saige Copeland is a spirited, talented 9 year old girl who comes to realize that the arts — both of today and long ago — are worth preserving. Through Saige, girls will discover the power of creativity and imagination to help them overcome challenges, large and small.


We just finished reading the first Saige book by Jessie Haas and highly recommend it.  The arts are hugely important to our family and our society.  Saige is an endearing character and my creative, artistic daughter's elated to have her as her namesake! 

This heartwarming story deals with changing friendships, family responsibilities, overcoming obstacles & accidents, and talented tweens discovering what they are capable of.   As a family that counts 2 big dogs among our beloved family members, we especially enjoyed the close relationships between people and animals featured in Jessie Haas' Saige book.   This was a great family read and we treasured the time spent enjoying it together.

A spirited, imaginative girl who loves painting and horseback riding, Saige uses her talents and creativity to bring her family and friends together to raise money for an after-school arts program. Guests attending the special launch celebration will be the first to see the brand-new Saige doll, accessories, and books, and learn about Saige’s inspiring story of turning passion to persuasion to promote the arts in her community. 

We can't wait to pick up the sequel.

Girls visiting the store during Saige’s debut week, from January 1 through January 4, will receive a free doll-sized Saige t-shirt and will have the opportunity to participate in several free activities inspired by Saige’s world, including: 

    Saige Drawing Demonstrations: Girls will learn drawing tips from local teaching artists, who will share basic techniques while they draw horses, dogs, landscapes, and other objects inspired by Saige’s stories.

Horse Collage & Hot Air Balloon Crafts: Girls can let their creativity                          
soar, just like Saige, as they create a horse collage or paper hot-air balloon.

Saige Scavenger Hunt: Girls will learn about Saige as they go on a fun-filled scavenger hunt, collecting fun facts about the new Girl of the Year along the way. 
Photo Opportunity: Girls can capture a memory of their visit by getting their picture taken alongside a colorful Saige-themed hot-air balloon display.

     American Girl Place Chicago, 835 N. Michigan Avenue, Chicago 
Tuesday, January 1, 2013: 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

About American Girl:
                                          American Girl Brands, LLC, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Mattel, Inc. (NASDAQ:MAT,, the world’s leading toy company. Since American Girl’s inception in 1986, the company has devoted its entire business to celebrating the potential of girls ages 3 to 12. American Girl encourages girls to dream, to grow, to aspire, to create, and to imagine through a wide range of engaging and insightful books, age-appropriate and educational products and unforgettable experiences. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


Tis the season for fabulous films and music and Music Box Theatre makes our ChiILpicks List as one of the city's best.   We adore the vintage decor, and their excellent lineup.   The Music Box is brimming with fam friendly sing alongs, Oscar winning classics, and new release international, indie and art films.  

Music Box & The Stage
In 2012 we caught a number of The National Theatre of Great Britain's excellent live theatre productions, filmed and shown around the world, like Frankenstein staring dual Sherlocks (Benedict Cumberbatch from the BBC revival and Jonny Lee Miller from Elementary).   Check out our review here.  And more of our past coverage here.

Live theatre on film is an acquired taste, and many film critics dislike the genre, but theatre people are flocking to the shows.   Folks dress up for the films, more like a night out at a Broadway in Chicago show, and applaud like a live performance.   We think they're a hoot, and relish the opportunity to see world renowned stars on stage without a pricy flight across the ocean!   We hit up press previews of most of Music Box's National Theatre offerings.   The Last of The Haussmans, and Timon of Athens which we had just seen live at Chicago Shakespeare, were some of our favs pf 2012.   Keep an eye out for more in 2013.   Highly recommended.


Presented by National Theatre Live

Julie Walters plays Judy Haussman with Rory Kinnear and Helen McCrory as her children in this eagerly-anticipated new play: a funny, touching and sometimes savage portrait of a family that’s losing its grip.
Anarchic, feisty but growing old, high society drop-out Judy Haussman remains in spirit with the Ashrams of the 1960s while holding court in her dilapidated Art Deco house on the Devon coast. After an operation, she’s joined by wayward offspring Nick and Libby, sharp-eyed granddaughter Summer, local doctor Peter, and Daniel, a troubled teenager who makes use of the family’s crumbling swimming pool. Together they share a few sweltering months in this chaotic world of all-day drinking, infatuations, long-held resentments, free love and failure.
One of Britain’s best-loved and most versatile actors, Julie Walters has wonBAFTA, Golden Globe and Olivier Awards for her work. Her screen credits range from Educating Rita to celebrated work with Victoria Wood, from lead roles in the movies of Mamma Mia! and Harry Potter to portraying Mo Mowlam for Channel 4.
Rory Kinnear recently won the Evening Standard Award for Best Actor for his performance as Hamlet at the National Theatre. Helen McCrory’s acclaimed work includes the films The Queen and, recently, Hugo.


Simon Russell Beale takes the title role in Shakespeare’s strange fable of consumption, debt and ruin, written in collaboration with Thomas Middleton.
“A perfect parable for our times in Nicholas Hytner’s exhilarating production featuring a compelling central performance by Simon Russell Beale.”
The Guardian
The National Theatre’s acclaimed contemporary staging of Shakespeare’s strange fable, set against a backdrop of modern-day London where money is power, has enjoyed a sell-out run at the theatre.
Wealthy friend to the rich and powerful, patron of the arts and ostentatious host, Timon of Athens suddenly finds his coffers empty. When he calls for upon his friends for help, they hang him out to dry. So begins Shakespeare’s strange fable of conspicuous consumption, debt and ruin.
Simon Russell Beale, who has been described by the Independent as ‘the greatest stage actor of his generation,’ takes the title role in Nicholas Hytner’s (HamletOne Man, Two Guvnors) bold production, which makes Timon of Athens more relevant and compelling than ever before.

One showing, Thursday, December 27, 7:30pm at Music Box Theatre

We had the great pleasure of catching a press preview and were blown away by Christopher Plummer's Barrymore.   We've been giving you the heads up on this one on our FB and Twitter feeds since the first week of December.   Check back January 10th to see if rumors of Oscar nominations for this film come true and absolutely catch it if you can.

BARRYMORE, a captured-live stage production, stars Academy Award winner Christopher Plummer as American acting legend John Barrymore. In a career defining performance, Plummer (as Barrymore) reckons with the ravages of his life of excess while rehearsing a revival of his 1920 Broadway triumph in Richard III

Music Box is pleased to offer BARRYMORE, plus "making of" documentary BACKSTAGE WITH BARRYMORE featuring Helen Mirren, Julie Andrews and Zoe Caldwell, on Thursday, December 27, 7:30 p.m. at Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport Ave.

BARRYMORE, based on the 1997 Broadway production, is set in 1942, and follows acclaimed American actor John Barrymore, a member of one of Hollywood’s most well-known theatrical dynasties, as he rehearses the Shakespearean triumph that made him a household name, Richard III. The film finds Barrymore in his faded glory reckoning with the ravages of his life of excess, only months before his premature death. The film is directed and written by Érik Canuel, based on the play by William Luce.

Barrymore is played by Academy Award winner and master thespian Christopher Plummer, reprising his 1997 Tony Award-winning role. His nuanced performance has earned him rave reviews and, for a film that didn’t find a distributor after its World Premiere at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival, talk of a third Academy Award nomination, and more importantly, a nomination for Best Actor after three nominations and one win for Best Supporting Actor. Could this staged one-man play, where Plummer chews the scenery for the entirety of its running time, get him that nomination? 

“I’m all but convinced he has the Oscar in the bag,” Hollywood Elsewhere critic Jeff Wells exclaimed after seeing it. 

David Edelstein of New York Magazine says, “God, I love Plummer’s performance — the twiddling fingers, the tipsy sway of the head, the reverberating roar, as well as the pathos of a man who can’t stop acting long enough to hear the cry of his own soul.”

There is a precedent for plays on film getting Academy love.  A 1965 filmed version of Britain’s National Theatre presentation of Othello earned acting nominations for its cast. In 1975, James Whitmore was nominated in the Best Actor category for the production of his one-man show Give ’Em Hell, Harry!

The December 27 showing includes a ”making of” documentary, Backstage with Barrymore, featuring Helen MirrenJulie Andrews, and Zoe Caldwell.  Total running time of the film (84m) plus the documentary (45m) is 129 minutes.

Starring Christopher Plummer, directed and written by Érik Canuel, based on the play by William Luce. In English, 129 minutes.

About the Music Box Theatre: 
For nearly 30 years the Music Box Theatre has been the premier venue in Chicago for independent and foreign films, festivals and some of the greatest cinematic events in Chicago. It currently has the largest cinema space operated full time in the city. The Music Box Theatre is independently owned and operated by the Southport Music Box Corporation. SMBC, through its Music Box Films division, also distributes foreign and independent films in the theatrical, DVD and television markets throughout the United States. For additional information please visit 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Chevy Equinox Night Before Christmas #review #greatcarhunt

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the city, there was wrapping and shopping and trees to make pretty...

Thanks to our friends over at Chevy, our holiday prep was easier and fun this year, in our bright red 2013 Equinox loaner.   We'll have more of a traditional "evergreen" Equinox review after the new year, with all the specs and our take on performance, but for now we wanted to share our holiday adventure.   We were super stoked to be able to borrow a Chevy Equinox for an extended test drive for a week.  

Santa's sleigh's got nothin' on the Equinox.   If you're packin' prezzies or packing for Grandma's...this car's got you covered.

Forget Elf on the about elf in the trunk?!

Are you on Santa's good list?!  We actually are car hunting for a crossover, so it was cool to check out a vehicle that would be a great fit for our family.  

We're looking for a car to take us through the next decade of family life and beyond.  With kids who are 9 & 11, I've still got a good 5 years of full time family taxi driver detail before we have an eligible young driver.   Yet, he's already taller than me, so back seat space and leg room have to factor in, too.   The Equinox has both back seat leg room and a roomy, adjustable cargo space.   

Safety, is a no brainer, and we're looking for something that will still go in the snow, with good traction.   We're also looking for dependability, longevity, staying power, and fuel efficency.   With Eco technology, this car was green as well as red, and we're all about saving energy and saving cash.  

We need a car that acts like a truck for hauling camping gear, groceries, a Husky and a 100+ pound Akita.   We need something still short enough to be able to parallel park in the city with ease, and negotiate urban traffic.   The Equinox is a sweet size for urban life and a joy to drive.   It can handle a huge Christmas tree with ease, and light up your drive time.  

Check out our test drive/review video right here:


Check out our past #greatcarhunt posts here and come along for the ride.    We have lots more to come in the new year. 


G. M. C....Got MCar?!

Happy holidays to all.  We'll still be posting theatre reviews and a few noteworthy holiday happenings, but most of the next week we will be ChiILin' with our family and friends in real time.   We're thankful for all our readers here at ChiIL Mama and we look forward to more on line time with you, in 2013.   ChiIL out!

*Disclaimer:   Thanks to Chevy for loaning us an Equinox for a week.   All opinions are our own.

HELP OUT: Wigs for Kids #giving #wigsforkids

It's better to give than receive.   We volunteer year round as a family, but the holidays are always a great time to step up and help out.   This year, we donated a huge bag of books through the kids' school and donated warm winter wear at The Bright White show at Schubas.   The kids volunteered at a soup kitchen with their grandma and donated a foot of their hair to Wigs for Kids!

The kids have both been growing their hair for 5 years (since they were 4 & 6) and we told them it was their decision to either get a few inches trimmed or donate (at least 10") and help out a sick child.   They were both on board and jazzed to donate.   We measured it out at home and they both chose to donate a foot of hair.  

Then the minute Sage's was irrevocably cut, she burst into tears, said she'd made a mistake, and wanted her hair back.   We had a lot of hugs and good talks about compassion for others.   She still cried for two days, and weeks later she's still wearing her hair up in buns so she's not reminded how much is gone.   And she doesn't want to talk about it....

Sometimes it's tough to give up something you love.   But that makes the gift of giving that much more precious.  Her empathy for other kids has already grown immensely, and her hair will grow, too.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

ChiTAG--ChiIL Mama's Photo Filled Recap of Chicago Toy and Game Fair 2012 #ChiTAG

It's that toy time of the year.   Of course we've been running features and recaps leading up to ChiTAG in November, and in the weeks since, but this is the big kahuna of slide shows--our full set of photos from ChiTAG 2012 from the playCHIC runway and private blogger brunch, to the big event itself.   

We gave away 6 family 4 packs of ChiTAG tickets to our lucky readers and thoroughly enjoyed the event ourselves, for the third year.   ChiTAG is one of our annual must see event and all time favs.   

ChiIL out with ChiIL Mama in 2013 as we bring you full blown features on loads of toy and game inventors, and our favorite new releases and classics.   We'll also have some rockin' reviews, giveaways, discounts, and features on our favorite Chi-Town toy stores.

4 Free Tickets to Beat Kitchen's Concerts for Kids January #giveaway

Welcome 2013 in style with rockin' live concerts for the whole family to enjoy EVERY Sunday at noon.   ChiIL out all winter with ChiIL Mama.   It warms our hearts to be back as a press sponsor again this year.   We've got some impressive talent we're super stoked for.   Save the dates and enter right here for your shot at our weekly free family 4 packs.   Kids under 1 are free.   Additional tickets are just $6.   Shows are all ages, geared toward birth to 10 year olds, with accompanying parents.

Click here on the "Rafflecopter" forms and fill them out for your chance at winning 4 free tickets.   New winners are announced right here every Friday.   Share and spread the word on social media for more entries and enter like we vote in Chi, IL...early and often.   

Jan 6: Deep Fried Pickle Project

a Rafflecopter giveaway (enter through midnight Thurs 1/3/13)

ChiIL Mama will be there to film the Deep Fried Pickle Project show and interview the band.   We'll also be reviewing and giving away their new CD for our readers.   So check back early and often.

We've seen these guys live at Kidzapalooza and we dig their sense of humor and eco-friendly, junk band aesthetic.   Highly recommended.   

Here's what the band wrote to us:

Green and Bumpy Greetings!

We Pickles will be playing a special Fambly show for Kids Shows Chicago at the Beat Kitchen on January 6th at noon.  We will be bringing our completely homemade junk band instruments and award winning music all the way from Michigan. We will also host an instrument building workshop with kids and parents and an instrument petting zoo. At the end of the event, kids will get to “Jam” with the band.

We have a brand new fambly CD out called “Green and Bumpy”
We are not strangers to Chicago, having played Lollapalooza in 07, Green Apple Music Fest at Lincoln Park Zoo and concerts at Millennium Park. We were the awarded highest honor’s at Old Town School’s benefit at Logan Square Auditorium this year by being voted “Number One Jug Band”.  

We relish the thought.

Daniel Boone Pickle Daniel
Keep it Green and Bumpy!

a Rafflecopter giveaway (enter through midnight Thurs 1/10/13)

a Rafflecopter giveaway  (enter through midnight Thurs 1/17/13)

Project regular tickets $8

(**ChiIL Mama will be there in person with our instrument petting zoo and rock tots photo ops!**)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Save the Dates...
Come spend your Sundays at noon with us!

Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont, $6/person

Jan 6: Deep Fried Pickle Project

Jan 13: Istvan & His Imaginary Band

Jan 20: Ice Cream Vendors

Jan 27: Winter Fest: Mary Macaroni, Sarah Jayne Lane, AndyRoo & the AndyRooniverse, Deep Fried Pickle Project

Feb 3: Erin Flynn

Feb 10: Human-Tim + Robot-Tim

Feb 17: Mr. Singer & The Sharp Cookies

Feb 24: Apples, Peaches, Lemonade
Special thanks to our sponsors:

Check back with ChiIL Mama early and often for free Chi-Town concert tickets, CD & DVD giveaways open to the whole USA, and loads of original content including our kindie music reviews, live show footages, video band interviews and live show shots.