Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Potter, Pros and Cons

We went to the Harry Potter Exhibition at the Museum of Science and Industry for my daughter's 9th birthday ( ). I thought I would blog about the pros and cons of our experience for those of you thinking about going.

A note before we start, I'm into Harry Potter. I've read all the books and will see all the movies as they come out. However I don't love Harry Potter enough to go to a midnight showing of any sort and I can't tell you the names of the kids in Hufflepuff. Just so we are both clear.


The Exhibition is set up in a way that flows nicely, starting off with a dramatic entry. I won't give it away so you can enjoy it yourself.

There is a lot of detail through out the exhibit. I'd love to get my hands on the Cedric Diggory button, from the triwizzard tournament, with his face beaming like the sun. Robert Pattinson was destined to be a teenage (and their mother's) heart throb.

It is interesting to see how much character was put into each of the wizard's wands when viewed up close.

I got to sit in Hagrid's chair inside his hut. I felt like a little kid because the chair was so gigantic.

The people that work the exhibit are obviously Potter fans and excited to be there. Tevya was the only kid on our tour and one of workers followed her around asking her questions and helping her to play a game.


Get ready to spend some money. Ticket prices are high, parking is $16 and the gift shop (which you are conveniently let out into at the end of the exhibit) is out of control. The knick knacks are for die hard fans only, and way over priced. We made it out with the cheapest thing in the gift shop, a book mark for $3.95.

I got to sit in Hagrid's chair, but I couldn't take a picture because they banned all cameras.

EVERYONE who works the Potter Exhibition is British! No wait, they're all American cheerleaders with horribly fake english accents. The staff are so overly enthusiastic that you instinctively take a few steps back when they come at you. I've never meet a Brit that over the moon happy in my life.

Because Tevya was the only kid on the tour the employees paid heavy attention to her. "Did she want to toss around the bludger?" "How about pull up a mandrake?" "What house did she belong to?" To the last question she responded "I'm not in a house. I like Gryffindor, but I don't belong to a house." Translated this means, "Doesn't this lady know I'm not in the book?" Tevya kept giving me the eye, wishing these happy helpers would let her look at the exhibit in peace. I'm sure this is a pro for other children who are less literal and sarcastic as my little sweet pea.

To sum things up, go when the museum is open so you can enjoy all that it has to offer. The Harry Potter Exhibition is worth seeing if you have money to burn and/or you are an extreme Potter fan.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Vacation Cliff Notes, Still a Hefty Read

Drive, drive and drive more.

Up at 5 am, watch a dirty sunrise over Indiana. We drive...we drive for 14 hours. 9pm finds us at the hotel with numb butts, exhausted Ipods and burnt minds. We eat nachos from room service and go to bed.

I want to move to Pennsylvania

We drive through Easton, Pennsylvania to get to Ringing Rocks county park ( Pennsylvania is love at first sight for me. I don't know how to tell Chicago, but I'm ready to move into a little house on the Delaware river.

We arrive at Ringing Rocks and spend the morning banging on rocks to make them ring. Afterwards we cross over to New Jersey. I'm less enchanted by the Garden State, but Cindy (Eric's sister) has a charming house on a hill. Over the week we will see deer running through the woods below, wild turkeys in the driveway and many a golden finch. Yes, in New Jersey. Cindy takes us to a raptor rescue next to the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge which is close to her home. The birds are glorious, even with broken wings.

"A-miracle" - Omar's take on saying America

A wet rainy day and some cagey kids leads us to a trip to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. The drive on the New Jersey turnpike gets the Soprano's theme song stuck in my head.

I play cards with the kids on the floor of one of rooms on Ellis Island where immigrants waited to be allowed into the country. The Statue of Liberty is tremendously green and I want to take her out disco dancing.

Ed cooks a great dinner and we have coffee after dinner while the kids sleep upstairs. When did I become my parents?

New Jersey vs. Pennsylvania

We take the kids to Howell's Living History Farm ( which is basically a farm, but the employees dress like extras from Little House on the Prairie. We were the only people visiting the farm that weren't part of a class field trip and this seemed to confuse and upset some of the farm workers, but the lady if the gift shop was very sweet. She gave Tevya a ball of home made yarn to make a doll with. Tevya was playing the jaded city kid to the max and had no use for the yarn. I made a strange little doll with it and impressed no one.

Next we went into Lambertville, New Jersey and New Hope, Pennsylvania. Tevya and I stuck to the New Jersey side while Eric and Omar went over the bridge to Pennsylvania. We look at the boutique shops. None of them were really my style except this place: . As we were leaving Eric informed me all the great shops where over in New Hope, PA. Then it's back for another drive along the Delaware. I get to drool over those quirky houses pressed up between the road and the river for a second time.

"Regular coffee" comes with milk in New York City, in Chicago it's black

We ride the train in to Penn Station. Did you know they have cupcakes inside bakery cases, inside bakeries, inside Penn Station? They do. As we took the escalator up to the street my first thought was that New York City is like Chicago...on crack and Red Bull. It's excitingly frantic and we move along with all the people, pushing upstream to Bryant Park. Ooooh the fashion district, I start talking like Tim Gunn, but only in my head so not to annoy my family. We hang out at the public library until it's time to check into our hotel.

The lobby of the Hotel Pennsylvania is awash with tween/teen British kids on dance/music school trip. Over 40 girls with bangs resembling my daughter's sit on the floor waiting to leave the hotel. Tevya could have literally slipped into the group unnoticed. I deposit my family in the room and go next door to H&M, until they start hassling me with calls saying, "We're hungry, we want to see the city too!" Next stop dinner at a Chinese restaurant on a block filled with Korean BBQ joints, souvenir shopping, frozen yogurt at Pink Berry and general smugness at being mistaken for a New Yorker.

I can't afford to heart New York

Day two in Manhattan, we wake up and walk 27 blocks to Central Park. Times Square feels like a giant mall, I'm not inspired to take pictures until we reach the park. The kids climb on rocks like maniacs for the next hour. We walk up 5th Avenue to find an ATM for a Hansom cab ride around part of the park, which was not cheap, but the kids are thrilled.

Final stop is to the tram over the Queensboro bridge to Roosevelt Island (, where the movie Dark Water was filmed. It is a creepy movie and I figured the island will look differently in the light of day. But the creepy holds. It's a strange little place, dead center in the island giant condominiums are being built which empty out affluent mothers pushing strollers. As you walk further to the sides of the island you get a desolate looking hospital on one side and apartments stacked on each other like graham crackers. The apartments towering over the main road that curves through even more graham cracker buildings. The locals here are more everyday folk and many are limbless. We see a guy with no legs laying on a small hospital bed outside a corner store, reading the daily paper. I'm thrilled and want to stay, but the kids are exhausted from the walking, climbing, playing and more walking. We ride the subway back to Penn Station, only getting a quarter done of what we wanted to do. I want more time. We didn't even make to Brooklyn!

One day to departure

I'm still buzzing around like we are in the city. I try for one last trip back to New Hope, Penn but no one is having it. TV, naps, packing and reading are on the menu. We go back to the Great Swamp for a walk and then eat dinner at Casa Maya, where not tank tops are allowed. One day I will solve this tank top mystery.

So long, happy birth day

We say our goodbyes, Cindy and Ed were so gracious and they appear to still be fond of our son even after having him in their house for almost a week. I turned "25" on the road. We discover an Indian buffet in the Poconos called Tandor Palace. The restaurant resides in a train car, which means Omar will enjoy eating there too. The food was excellent, almost worth driving back for. We stop at a hotel with a pool, swim are hearts out and have Taco Bell for dinner.


One more swim before getting back in the car. Omar tells me happy birthday again. He also says I'm a mermaid with chocolate hair and doesn't even ask for a treat. Ohio is filled with barns collapsing in on themselves and hawks circling the tree lines. My heart swells when we get onto Lake Shore Drive, maybe I'm not done with Chicago yet. I turn around to look at the kids and Tevya has a goofy smile while Omar blows kisses to the city line. It could be the 9 hours in the car but I think everyone is glad to be home.

Special Thanks to Santogold/Diplo Mixtape, Neko Case, Beats Antique, Pixies, Kid Sister, The National, MGMT, Special Agent Oso and Lykke Li for making the hours pass in the car.