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Editor’s Note: The availability of indoor dining has fluctuated significantly recently in counties in and around the city of Chicago. Please reach out to the restaurant before planning an in-person visit to inquire on procedures or support restaurants by ordering take-out or delivery.

Slurp it. Stir it. Make waves. Blow on it. Nibble the good stuff and use a straw for the rest. No wonder kids love soup; it’s so fun to eat. And it keeps us warm and cozy, which right now is a very good thing. (Can you even believe we’ve already seen snow?) In Chicago, soup comes in all kinds of varieties. From a Jewish deli with great Matzah balls to an Argyle Street pho haven, here is where to get your fix and support Chicago restaurants at the same time.

Urbanbelly
Chef Bill Kim’s original ramen restaurant is full of soups worth guzzling. The namesake ramen is a favorite with braised pork belly, mushrooms and egg. For a pint-sized pot, try the kids chicken noodle soup with thick udon noodles and crispy chicken in a mild broth. Housed in an artsy loft building, the space itself is a feast for the senses—communal tables, funky lighting and all.

1542 N. Damen; Wicker Park; Online: urbanbellychicago.com

R.J. Grunts
R.J. Grunts is the very first Lettuce Entertain You creation and holds the honor of having the very first salad bar in America. They only have two soups on the menu: Broccoli Cheddar and Chicken Noodle, but they are both the ultimate comfort foods. And, as a bonus, R.J. Grunts is just steps away from wintery fun at Lincoln Park Zoo.

2056 N. Lincoln Park West; Lincoln Park; Online: rjgruntschicago.com

Soupbox
Soupbox is small, with just a few tables, and the focus is on the cauldrons of soup from which you serve yourself. Twelve kinds of soup are served daily and you can try samples of them all. Ladle soup out into a bread bowl for an even tastier treat. The signature lobster bisque is perfect for adventurous eaters, and we guarantee they’ll be too busy scarfing down the broccoli and white cheddar soup that they’ll forget it has veggies. Bonus: You can get it delivered by DoorDash, UberEats, Postmates, Caviar or GrubHub for those souper cold days and they have vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options.

2943 N. Broadway St., Lakeview; Online: soupbox.com

Artopolis
This café has a storybook of Greek specialties in a bright and open space. Kids love checking out the myriad of colorful pastries that line the bakery when you first walk in. The traditional soup—chicken and rice—is a must-order. The luscious lemon-y broth is studded with chunks of chicken and a smattering of white rice. Order it with the homemade bread and you have yourself the perfect winter lunch.

306 S. Halsted St., Greektown; Online: artopolischicago.com

photo: April W. via Yelp

Max and Benny’s
Ask any bubbie and she’ll tell you that matzah ball soup is the cure for just about anything. This homey Jewish deli follows that train of thought and dishes out matzah balls so big your kids may mistake them for giant snowballs. Try the Mish Mosh, a ginormous bowl of chicken soup with a heaping of noodles, rice, kreplach, matzah balls, kasha and carrots. The kids’ menus double as coloring books for added mealtime fun.

461 Waukegan Rd., Northbrook; Online: maxandbennys.com

Hai Yen
Venture to Argyle Street in Uptown for pho, a traditional Vietnamese soup made from beef stock and spices. It’s served in a number of restaurants up and down the strip, but our favorite is this modern, minimal spot. For the first-timer, try the Pho Tai, a beef noodle soup full of steak and noodles, and a side plate of Thai basil, bean sprouts, jalapeno and lime.

1055 W. Argyle St., Uptown; Online: haiyenrestaurant.com

Larsa’s Fine Mediterranean Food
If you find yourself looking for a place to eat after ping-ponging from store to store in Westfield Old Orchard Shopping Center, it’s worth the short trek east to try this colorful, family-owned spot. Its lentil soup is made fresh daily and is a traditional (and healthy) favorite. Ask for fresh-from-the-oven pita bread and sop it up.

3724 Dempster St., Skokie; Online: larsasmediterranean.com

And a date night option . . .

Frontera Grill
If you haven’t tried Frontera Grill’s chicken tortilla soup, you are missing out. Seriously. It will ruin you on all other chicken tortilla soups because very few compare. It’s light and brothy with just the right amount of kick. From the presentation—where it’s brought out in the copper pot and poured over tortilla chips and cheese right in front of you—down to the last slurp, you’ll be begging for more. Be sure if you hit up this favorite date night spot, you start with the soup. Tip: If you ever find yourself delayed at O’Hare, grab a bowl at Tortas Frontera in Terminals 1, 3 and 5. 

445 N. Clark St., Near North Side; Online: rickbayless.com

— Maria Chambers & Samantha Lande

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Having a baby in the house means lots of baby wipes and a whole lot of empty boxes. Instead of tossing them, turn your trash into treasure with this upcycle idea. From clever storage to sensory toys, you’ll find lots of ingenious ways to repurpose those baby wipes containers.

Piggy Bank & Money Counting Activity

This piggy bank requires minimal crafting supplies and can be used in multiple ways. Older kids can store their money in it, and younger kids can work on counting and fine motor skills. Use plastic coins or plastic bottle caps as money and show your little one how to place each coin in the opening. Get more details on how to create this clever piggy at Sunny Day Family.

Yarn Container

Crafty folks will love to keep knitting products neat and tidy in these containers. Whether you decide to go glam by repainting and decorating it, or just use as is, when you thread the raw end through the top hole, your yarn slides out with no snags. See the easy way to pull this off at DIY Inspired.

First Aid Kit

Create a first aid kit for the car or to bring on vacation! It's the perfect size to hold adhesive bandages, antiseptics, pain reducers, and more.

 

Nail Polish Storage

Keep those nail polish bottles organized and upright by storing in a baby wipe box. The hard-shelled container makes it easy to tote your beauty products and will prevent a mess should one of the bottles break or open.

 

Make a Sensory Game

Save up plastic bottle caps and mark each with a letter of the alphabet. Then feed the "alphabet monster." You can also sort by color or use different objects and sort by shape. Get the tutorial from I Can Teach My Child.

 

 

Organize Medication

Whether you're organizing daily meds or just want to get that medicine cabinet cleaned up, a wipes container gets the job done. Kelli's Kitchen beautified her container by priming and painting, and then adding ribbon for extra pizazz. The result? A cute box that keeps your medication neat and out of kids' sight. Check out Kelli's Kitchen for more creative ways to use wipes containers.

Grab Bags

If you have plastic bags cluttering up your cupboards, try this tip from the Thriftiness Mess. Pop those bags in a wipes container with one coming out the top like in a tissue box. It'll be easy to grab one when you need it for wet clothes, spare snacks or stinky diapers.

Go Loco for LEGOs

If baby has an older sibling, you know that LEGOs end up in every nook and cranny you could possibly imagine (or not even imagine). Help keep these little blocks contained, and out of the reach of your baby, with this storage box that doubles as a creation station. We love this for long car rides. Blogger kv.barn shows you how to make it.

Build Baby’s First Laptop

This faux laptop is easy to make and won’t expose your tiny tots to any actual screen time but will still allow them to type away just like Mom and Dad. Get the scoop on how to build it at She Wears Flowers.

Play Peek-a-Boo

Two things that excite babies: pictures of themselves and opening and closing things. This wipe box turned toy accomplishes both. The I Can Teach My Child Blog has turned the box top into a mini house with functional windows and doors that reveal pictures of baby and family members.

Organize Art Supplies

As your baby grows, so does the amount of stuff you have lying around the playroom. To keep those art supplies organized, create these cute craft boxes. They're the perfect size for storing pencils, crayons and markers. Find the tutorial from Sweet Shoppe Designs, (scroll down a bit).

Mrs. Karen's Preschool Ideas

Introduce Math Skills

This fun way to teach numbers is great for older siblings. Turn the tops of wipes boxes into game show-esque revealing windows and you have yourself a way to introduce the concept of counting. For smaller tots, pictures of animals or items of different textures would also work well. Mrs. Karen’s Preschool Ideas shows you how.

—Karly Wood, Samantha Lande & Christal Yuen

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Summers are made for chill sunny days with toes dug deep in the sand, warm nights making friends with ice cream cones and stacking up family memories. You can do that in Chicago any day (yay!). But for a low-key, change-of-scenery experience before school is back in session, hit Michigan’s vacation towns. Just around the bend of Lake Michigan in Harbor Country and further north, these beach communities have tons of secrets begging to be discovered. Read on to see which spots to explore now.

Union Pier/New Buffalo (1½ hours away)

This is the first beach stop in western Michigan, just over the Indiana border. Union Pier makes up a few little towns in the area, the most notable being New Buffalo.

What to do: If you head there during u-pick season, blueberry picking is a must and the best place to do that is at Mike's Blueberries (11160 Farina Rd.) in New Buffalo. For little climbers, head to the Warren Dunes State Park to conquer the massive dunes. Of course a trip to any beach town wouldn't be complete without play time in the sand, so head to Town Line or Berrien Street beach for fun in the sun.

Where to eat: You'll find no shortage of ice cream shops in any of these towns but a particular favorite is Oink's. For meals hit up The Stray Dog, a cute bar and grill with dog photos aplenty and an enclosed patio overlooking the harbor. A full kids' menu and a private family bathroom make this easy to enjoy with little ones. The food happens to be very good, too. Redamak's is a can't-miss because of its famous burgers and kid-friendly atmosphere (aka: you can make all the noise you want without getting the stink eye).

Where to stay: Elephant Walk Resort is perfect for families or groups who want to spread out a bit, and is only a short walk to the beach. As a bonus, it's dog-friendly. If you want somebody else to make the bed at night, The Harbor Grand is a hotel with an indoor pool and waterfront terrace restaurant.

St. Joseph (2 hours away)

This classic vacation spot combines a nostalgic feel and cool modern updates, including a ginormous beachside sprayground and indoor carousel.

What to do: Silver Beach and Silver Beach Center are where your kiddos can play all day. The beach itself has beautiful views of Lake Michigan and plenty of sand for building castles. There are also a few playgrounds right on site for both the wee ones (age 2-5) and the older ones. The Silver Beach Center is a kiddie haven with a hand-painted giant carousel; Michigan's tallest kaleidoscope; and the Curious Kids' Museum, which is colorful and engaging enough to give Chicago museums a run for their money. For a different, tasty type of adventure, go a bit farther afield to Coloma and pick ripe cherries and peaches at Fruit Acres Farm Market.

Where to eat: Check out Silver Beach Pizza, located in an old Amtrak depot at the beach, for great pizza and plenty of fun for the littles. If you want to shake the sand from your toes and go somewhere a bit more fancy, Schu's is a family friendly restaurant with lake views and a kids' menu.

Where to stay: The Holiday Inn Express has special kid suites complete with bunk beds and a selection of video games.

South Haven (just over 2 hours away)

Known for its 100-year-old lighthouse, South Haven is more than just a picture of maritime. It's where families come to relax and get away—with plenty of fun and good food on the side.

What to do: The beaches are where the action is at in South Haven. With seven public beaches and access sites, you could have an entire week of sun-ing and fun-ing. More active families will want to hit The Kal-Haven trail, a picturesque 34-mile trail that runs from Kalamazoo to South Haven. The little ones can point out birds, cool historical sites and small villages. And put the fun in your evening at Fideland Fun Park with go karts, bumper boats, mini golf, kiddie rides, disc golf and an arcade.

Where to eat: Clementine's is a family-friendly hangout that looks like an old saloon with tin ceilings and heavy wood trim. The onion rings are a table pleaser and served sky-high on a wooden peg. It takes walk-ins only, so come early. A full kid's menu will appease the smaller set. Of course a trip to South Haven is not complete without visiting the famous Sherman Dairy Bar, the ice cream you’ll find at most shops throughout Western Michigan — it’s that good.

Where to stay: There are plenty of B&Bs in South Haven, but with kids your best is checking on VRBO or Homeaway.com for a cute house, cabin or cottage. They come at a variety of price points.

Saugatuck (2½ hours away)

This über artsy town offers plenty to do and has one of the last standing old-school, crank em’ up chain ferries that will quickly become a favorite mode of transportation  for the little ones.

What to do: Oval Beach is so beautiful it often tops best beach lists, but not too pristine that your kids can’t run, build and play along the lakefront. The Harbor Ducks tour will excite the whole family as an amphibious bus takes you through both water and land highlights of Saugatuck and neighboring Douglas. Finally, go bumpity-bump along the dunes in an open-air truck for thrills with a view at Saugatuck’s famous dune rides.

Where to eat: Worth the short drive to Fennville, The Salt of the Earth has incredible fresh-from-the-oven bread, entrees made from local ingredients and a kids’ menu. In town, check out Saugatuck Brewing Company for a fun, lively experience with a menu with everything from burgers to pizzas — appeasing the pickiest eaters.

Where to stay: Renting a house or cabin is the way to go, especially for families. Click here for a list of some of the popular rental companies.

Holland (3 hours away)

Wooden clogs and tulips will draw you to the historically Dutch town. But you'll stay for the lakeside dining and petting zoo.

What to do: Stroll through Nelis' Dutch Village and see the giant windmill or pick up a pair of traditional wooden shoes. There is even a giant clog slide! Don't leave without trying traditional Dutch food, like Mettwurst (pork sausage) and Saucijzebroodjes (pigs in a blanket). Head to the nearby town of Zeeland to explore the Critter Barn a petting zoo with tons of animals to mingle with; or chill out at Holland State Park, one of Michigan's most visited state parks and famous for its huge beach on Lake Michigan and Lake Macatawa.

Where to eat: Check out the Alpen Rose restaurant where you can dine outside on tastes from around the world. Boatwerks Waterfront Restaurant is another great indoor/outdoor option with American cuisine and a full kid's menu. 

Where to stay: Lake Ranch Resort is the only spot where you can stay on the water. It’s a 10-minute drive from downtown and rooms range from 2 person up to 10. You can also check out the Holiday Inn and Conference Center that has cots and cribs, a game room, and babysitting services available. . . not to mention a Michigan-shaped heated pool.

Ludington (4 hours away)

It’s worth going the distance for this Michigan beach town that has two lighthouses, pristine beaches, a port for salmon fishing and a ton of events.

What to do: Sure a four-hour cruise with kids may not seem like a great idea but when the cruise is aboard the SS Badger Carferry there's no chance boredom will pay a visit. (You can actually take your car across if you want to drive to Manitowoc, Wisconsin, and take the ferry across — for a total of 2.5 hours.) The ship is filled with a video arcade, a kids’ room with tons of activities, a place to nap and plenty of food. If you prefer to stay grounded, head to the Sandcastles Children’s Museum with interactive exhibits, including a real four-passenger plane and a climbing wall. Be sure to take a trip back in time while there at the historic White Pine Village, an old-times community with historic buildings and attractions, complete with locally made ice cream.

What to eat: House of Flavors is a must-stop where over 400,000 gallons of ice cream is made each week. You can order a proper meal if you'd like, but this would be a place to allow dessert for dinner because it has a dozen different sundaes and countless ice cream flavors.

Where to stay: For familiar chain appeal, the local Best Western has a game room, indoor pool and playground. Free breakfast, too!

— Maria Chambers & Samantha Lande

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Birthday Party Food Ideas That Aren’t Pizza

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Kids are the biggest birthday party animals out there. And what do you get at birthday parties? Pizza, pizza … and more pizza. Nothing against ‘za (it’s so quick and easy!), but for a choice less ordinary, go with one of our picks. Flip through this album for six choices, from bao buns to mini meatloafs, that are a welcome change from cheese and tomato sauce.

Mini Meatloafs

We know meatloaf may not sound like your typical party food, but the Meatloaf Bakery takes this homestyle food and makes it fun and super kid friendly. Order mini meatloaf cupcakes (called "loafies") or get them on a stick, loafer pop style. Each mini meatloaf is “frosted” with potatoes and varieties range from turkey to burger to classic meatloaf. They can even make the loafies look like hot dogs (like in this picture!). All come with dipping sauces which are always a hit with the littles.

The Meatloaf Bakery, 2464 N. Clark St., Lincoln Park (773-698-6667 or online at themeatloafbakery.com)

What will you serve at your kid’s next birthday party? Let us know in the Comments below!

— Samantha Lande

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Here’s a crazy thought: A restaurant doesn’t need a kids-eat-free night, paper tablecloths or even a kids’ menu to make it a great place for families. The proof is Vistro, a just-opened restaurant in Hinsdale that will change the way we think about eating out with kids. With sharable dishes from an award-winning chef, mocktails for all ages, and a vibe that’s hip and relaxed despite the sea of high chairs, you won’t miss those chicken nuggets one bit.

vistro-pizza

The Scoop
Vistro — which is nested on Hinsdale’s cute downtown strip, near the train station — is the latest venture from chef Paul Virant, who you might know for his upscale date-night spots: Vie in Western Springs and Perennial Virant in Lincoln Park. With Vistro, Paul appeals to families first (he’s a father of two himself).

Even if your tot is subject to meltdowns in public places, be reassured by the painted message on the exposed brick wall: It says, simply, “It’s all good.” It’s part of the way the 80-seat bistro-style spot puts everyone at ease. Even without crayons and coloring pages, there’s plenty to keep kids occupied. Check out the giant wood-burning oven (the pizza chef is super-friendly and happy to talk about the way it works), fiddle around with Wikki Stix (they’re given out to younger kids) or sit back and chit-chat.

vistro-dining-room

The Food
Who needs a kids’ menu when the regular menu has new and old favorites — many of them finger foods? A Snacks & Munchies section focuses on healthier selections for those must-eat-now moments (think crudités of seasonal veggies with housemade ranch, crispy Tuscan kale chips, string cheese made in house, and a crunchy mix of chickpeas and pecans).

Main courses can be shared, too. You’ll see dishes like seasonal quesadillas stuffed with Chihuahua cheese, pork shoulder, corn and salsa verde. Less adventurous little eaters will want to try the margarita pizza or macaroni and cheese made with good ol’ fashioned elbow mac. There are also surefire winners like fried chicken served with summer beans, biscuits and gravy.

For a sweet finish, pastry chef Elissa Narrow makes soft-serve ice cream from scratch. Top it off with Valrhona chocolate pearls, homemade sprinkles, cookie crumbs, butterscotch or hot fudge. The mini cookie monsters in your group may want to try the assorted cookie plate filled with the likes of macarons and more.

vistro-smiling

Cocktails for Kiddies (And You!)
Move over, Shirley Temple: Kids are welcome to choose from a menu of sophisticated mocktails dappled with house-made syrups. Try Summer Smash made with fresh melon and lime, chamomile tea syrup, soda and mint; or That’s My Jam crafted from black raspberry jam, fresh melon, thyme syrup and tonic. If Mom and Dad want one with a kick, the bartenders can add a spirit to it. Beyond mocktails, there are all-natural sodas sweetened with honey and made locally with seasonal flavors like Honeycrisp apple and heirloom watermelon.

downtown-hinsdale

Exploring Hinsdale
Extend your visit to Hinsdale and nose around town a bit. Right next door is School of Rock Hinsdale, where kids learn guitar, piano and more from bona fide rock ‘n’ roll musicians. One block south you’ll find the charming kids’ boutique, My Sister Kate, which sells wooden toys, books, games, designer clothes and more. Across the street, Toni Patisserie tempts with European-style pastries and cakes that are almost too pretty to eat. For thrills, check out Veeck Park Skate Park, where BMX bikers and skateboarders have the run of ramps, boxes and quarter pipes — it’s just fun to watch as to participate. Finally, just outside town, near Route 34 and I-294, Graue Mill & Museum is a historic water-powered grist mill and educational center fashioned in the style of Victorian and pioneer times.

Have fun and happy dining!

Vistro
Open Mon.-Thurs., 5-10:30 p.m.; Fri. & Sat., 5-11:30 p.m.
112 S. Washington St.
Hinsdale
630-537-1459
Online: vistrorestaurant.com

Will you take your kids to this cool new spot? Let us know in the Comments!

— Samantha Lande

Gimme Some! Dim Sum Restaurants for Kids

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Yum, yum — let’s talk dim sum. While traditionally served for weekend brunch, it’s become so popular that some restaurants offer it daily. Choices are ever changing, and different flavors and textures (sweet, crunchy, squishy, savory) abound. That’s all good news for picky little palettes. Here are our favorite local places to grab dim sum with the kids.

yum-cha-dim-sum

photo: Yum Cha via Lina D. on Yelp

Yum Cha Dim Sum Parlor
One of the only downtown dim sum places outside of Chinatown, this is a swanky, bar/restaurant, so ask to be seated on the restaurant side where kids are most welcome. Yum Cha roughly translates to “going to tea,” so if your kids are willing, encourage them to order a little teapot with their meal. Pull up to a large round table (big groups do well here) for dishes like sweet potato fries with salted egg and explode-in-your-mouth xiao long bao (pork soup dumplings). Kids can choose whatever they desire from carts that roll around like Thomas the Train. You’ll also be exposed to some Filipino influences in the bites, reflecting chef Rodelio Aglibot’s roots. Afterwards drop by Millennium Park, located just across the street.

333 E. Randolph St.
Downtown
312-946-8885
Online: yumchachicago.com

phoenix-dim-sum

photo: Phoenix via Howard L on Yelp

Phoenix
This Chinatown fave has been going strong for 17 years — maybe it was even on your must list before the kiddos were born! It gets packed, so be prepared to arrive on the early side (they open on 8 a.m. on weekends!) and pack your bag with toys and other distractions. If you come empty handed there are plenty of opportunities to grab little snacks and toys in the surrounding shops, like Giftland and Woks ‘n’ Things. Finally nabbed a seat? Good. Enjoy the aromas swirling from the high-piled bamboo baskets that hold Hong Kong-style dim sum choices like slurpable congee, spongy sesame balls and an assortment of dumplings. The dim sum menu is offered Mon.-Fri. all day and the dim sum carts are offered Sat. & Sun., 8 a.m. through 3 p.m.

2131 S. Archer Ave.
Chinatown
312-328-0848
Online: chinatownphoenix.com

Ming Hin
Dim sum is offered both on the weekends and as a “happy hour” from 2:30-4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, which may be a good time to explore all the delights Chinatown, take photos under the traditional structures, and snack when it’s less crowded. Regardless of the time you go, get ready to indulge in silky shrimp dumplings, stir-fried sticky rice, and springy lotus seed-paste buns. For large parties there are private spaces complete with roundtables with lazy Susans, and the opportunity to jam out with a little karaoke. Dim sum brunch is offered Sat. & Sun., 8 a.m.-3 p.m.

2168 S. Archer Ave.
Chinatown
312-808-1999
Online: minghincuisine.com

koi-dim-sumphoto: courtesy of Koi 

Koi
Move over pancakes and waffles: Brunch at this Chinese spot in the heart of Evanston is all about trying a variety of little bites. As carts roll around, kids can quell their case of the rumbling-tummies by ordering sticky sweet coconut buns or more savory fried shrimp balls. Of course if your kid is really adventurous, he or she can check out the “Phoenix claws” (chicken feet). This friendly spot also offers the littles a chance to create their very own bubble tea in a variety of delectable fruit flavors, and has a kids’ menu full of games and knowledge about Chinese culture. A limited dim sum menu is offered Mon.-Fri., 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. and dim sum brunch is offered Sat. & Sun., 10:30 a.m.-3 p.m.

624 Davis St.
Evanston
847-866-6969
Online: koievanston.com

Jockey Wok N’ Rolls
In the Woodfield Shopping Center area? Don’t miss this spot that serves dim sum daily. Although it’s not your typical cart-to-table experience, they do have a full dim sum menu filled with classics. They also organize dim sum parties if your kids get infatuated with the whole experience. Adventurous ones may try the delicacy — shark fin dumplings — or stick to familiar pot stickers and spring rolls. A traditional dim sum brunch with carts is offered Sat. & Sun., 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

1017 N. Roselle Rd.
Hoffman Estates
847-885-0888
&
second location: Jockey Express
100 E. Algonquin Rd.
Arlington Heights
847-357-0888
Online: jockey2go.com

Have you taken the kids for dim sum? Let us know in the Comments!

— Samantha Lande

 

4 New Dessert Shops to Try Now

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Just when you thought summer couldn’t get any sweeter, four new drool-worthy dessert spots have opened. Your littles will be lured like Hansel and Gretel to inventive homemade treats ranging from Horchata cupcakes to chocolate-chunk pretzel brownies to peach-blueberry scones. The hardest part will be getting them to try just one.

cafe-creme

Cafe Crème
A sunny haven with pastel pink accents, this new Bucktown addition looks good enough to eat. Still, you’ll want to focus on the sweets: The bakery section up front is open from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. (the café area closes at 3 p.m.) and displays a variety of Parisian-inspired treats like macaroons, croissants and fruit tarts. You can also grab a loaf of freshly made French bread or a baguette. They’ll even introduce a play on the trendy “cronut” (croissant-donut) called the Crognet, combining a croissant and beignet. The café menu is super kid friendly with soups, sandwiches and brunch fare, and the chef is willing to alter most items to suit picky kids (there’s a full kids’ menu as well).

1721 N. Damen Ave.
Bucktown
773-342-6000
Online: cafecremechicago.com

GBD

GBD Cakes and Sweets
The mother-daughter duo behind GBD (short for “golden brown delicious”) embraces the tagline “feed your inner child.” We’ll take that as a good sign for actual children. They have been making elaborate cakes for years but recently opened shop on the Bucktown/Logan Square border. Based on some of their designs, we think this could be the new hotspot for kiddie birthday cakes. GBD also whips up a variety of cupcakes like chunky monkey and salted dulce de leche, as well as treats with Mexican flair. The Mexican hot chocolate cookies and tres leches cupcakes in particular are sure to be a hit with the whole family.

2039 N. Western Ave.
Logan Square
312-401-7065
Online: gbdcakes.com

flirty

Flirty Cupcakes Garage
Formerly just a dessert truck, Flirty has found a permanent place to park. Now in a Lincoln Square “garage,” they’ve also expanded their offerings. Although you’ll still catch them wheeling around town, you’ll want to visit this industrial-chic bakery where there is room to stay awhile. In addition to yummy cupcakes in flavors like “For the Love of Nutella” and “Me Want Cookie Dough,” it offers milk shots for kids (or kids at heart) and coffee for Mom and Dad. The space also lures with classes for little ones, including cookie decorating, and will soon host mother/son and daddy/daughter nights. Rent it out for birthday parties and other events.

4631 N. Lincoln Ave.
Lincoln Square
312-852-4441
Online: flirtycupcakes.com

cacao

Cacao Sweets & Treats
This ultra-adorable bakery is a confectionery dream that’s filled pretty pastels, eclectic furniture, and delicious baked goods and fresh breads. Sample peanut butter bars, chocolate whoopee pies and slices of red velvet layer cake, along with a variety of seasonal selections. The bakery also hosts a number of fun family events like movie night (complete with popcorn and a dessert bar) and cupcake baking or decorating parties. You can rent out the space for birthday bashes.

122 Center St.
Grayslake
847-223-2253
&
600 N. Sheridan Rd.
Lake Bluff
847-223-2253
Online: cacaosweetsandtreats.com

What is your favorite spot for desserts? Let us know in the Comments!

— Samantha Lande

Could This Be the First Spa for Babies?

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It’s common for spas to lure new moms with the promise of relaxation and pampering. But imagine our surprise when we heard about one catering to babies fresh out of the womb. Float Baby, a new oasis located in Houston, Texas, is tailored toward the itty bitty — babies 2 weeks to 6 months. Treatments combine water therapy and gentle massage. Would you pay for a baby spa day? Read on and decide.

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The Scoop
The destination was started by Kristi Ison, a former infant massage instructor who, in an interview with People magazine, said parents rave that treatments have improved their infants’ strength and made them sounder sleepers and better eaters, among other things. Sessions include a soak in a tub and a rubdown using organic oils. While that has all the makings of a spa package, Ison tells Red Tricycle that Float Baby isn’t a spa, but a “haven” for fostering emotional, physical and mental development. “What I see during class are peaceful, happy babies enjoying the bonding process and the sensory stimulation,” she says.

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The Float
Treatments are around 60 minutes, depending on your little one’s tolerance. The first part of the session involves the float, for which babies are suited up in embroidered swim diapers and placed in a small pool of purified water. Their tiny heads are propped up in a floatie (similar to the Otteroo) that rests around their neck so the rest of their bodies can freely move in the water.

According to Float Baby’s website, many babies are so relaxed they fall asleep. Babies spend about 20-25 minutes in the water, unless you have a crier, before being wrapped in a warm towel to start the infant massage portion of their treatment.

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The Magic Touch
Mom, Dad or caregiver is tasked with becoming the therapist for baby’s massage. An instructor guides you through the strokes, done with a blend of organic, cold-pressed oils with Vitamin E. You leave with a small bottle of Oli’s oils to perfect your craft in the comfort of your own home.

Float Baby has recently opened up classes to older kids for therapeutic purposes. Children that weigh up to 110 pounds and have special needs such as cerebral palsy use a slightly different floating device, and babies born with neuromuscular issues who need extra attention are catered to, as well.

Good to Know
Luxe treatments come with a hefty price tag, and it’s no different when the client is only in diapers. One group class will run you $65 a piece (four babies per class). If you are looking for something more private, that’ll run you $100. Frequent floaters can buy a package of three classes to be used in eight days for $150.

We aren’t sure that your baby will be running marathons sooner or winning the spelling bee at the age of five if he or she is a regular here, but if you are looking for something different to do with your little sidekick and believe in the longterm benefits, this might be for you. Float Baby plans to franchise nationally so there could be one in your neighborhood … sooner than you think.

Float Baby is located at 6516 Del Monte in Houston. For more info, call 832-819-8380 or go to floatbabies.com.

What do you think — gimmick or genius? Let us know in the Comments!

— Samantha Lande

 

photos: courtesy of Float Baby

Best Meal Delivery Services for Busy Parents

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Having a little one can throw your usual activities like cooking and sleeping into a tailspin. To help, we rounded up meal delivery services that help you eat healthfully and cut out the time it takes to gather recipes, grocery shop and make dinner. Click through our album to discover everything from nutrient-packed snacks to mommy-geared meal kits — all delivered to your door. Look at it this way: Less time for cooking means more time for sleeping, right?

For a Quick Fix: Hello Fresh

A box of fresh ingredients along with easy-to-read menu cards delivered to your door? Doesn’t sound like a bad deal to us. And all of the menus contain dishes with less than 30 minutes of cook time so you can spend more time with the little one. All options are packed with locally sourced (they are based out of NYC) ingredients and recipes that will suit both kids and adults, like mango glazed chicken and cheesy pork enchiladas.

How it works: View the menu for the week and select three meals that fit your fancy. Portions are fit for 2 or 4, depending on the sizes you choose. Each box is shipped out on Wednesday and includes the 3 meals you choose.

Cost: For 2 portions of the 3 weekly meals it’ll cost you $69 plus delivery.

Delivery area: Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington DC, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Online: hellofresh.com

What meal delivery service do you love? Let us know in the Comments!

— Samantha Lande

The Free, Secret Arcade You Need to Explore

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Just like Clark Kent remained incognito when not in Superman gear, Logan Hardware appears to be nothing more than your run-of-the-mill record store from the outside. But step inside and you’ll find a real gem: a world of nostalgia suited for kids — and you, too, Mom and Dad, if you’re kids at heart. Records, vintage toys and kitsch abound. But the real superhero of this store is the super-secret arcade hiding behind closed doors.

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photo: Logan Hardware Facebook page

The record store
Sift through old records, sort through your favorite CDs of yesteryear or show your kids what a VHS tape looks like — there is plenty to explore in the front of the shop. With lots of room for snooping around, you could spend hours singing your way down memory lane. With some 45s as cheap as 99 cents, it’s easy to take a few home for a spin on your own record player (if you still have one). Check out the store’s Facebook page as they’ll occasionally have musicians perform live in-store concerts.

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photo: Samantha Lande

The toys & nostalgia
But there’s not just music to peruse; the front of the store is also full of nostalgic kitsch. Shelves hold everything from concert buttons to ET rings, Super Mario figurines to Fisher Price classic toys, and Garbage Pail Kids to Alf stickers. All of it is really reasonably priced if you (or your little ones) can’t leave the store without it.

The secret code
The clincher is, you’ll probably want to purchase a little something because the only way into the arcade is via a secret code written on the back of your receipt. Don’t worry about spending a lot —little green army men and bouncy balls will only run you 25 cents and end up buying you an endless afternoon of arcade games.

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photo: Carolina Mariana

The arcade
Punch in the secret code on the door and enter the secret room full arcade games and pinball machines. (They rotate them in and out, swapping games with their neighboring “barcade” that has the same name). Classics like Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, QBert and Burger Time are titles frequently found. No coins, no tokens, free play is all yours until the store closes at 9 p.m. (or it’s bedtime).

Logan Hardware
2532 W. Fullerton Ave.
Logan Square
773-235-5030
Online: logan-hardware.com
Hours:  Mon.-Sat., noon-9 p.m., Sun., noon-7 p.m.

Do you know this secret spot? Have any city secrets of your own to share? Let us know in the Comments below!

— Samantha Lande

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