Turkey Of The Year

When I was a small child, my family would circulate the responsibility of hosting the big, traditional Thanksgiving dinner among the elders of the family. One year we might be at my parent’s home, the next at my Godmother’s place, the next at my grandparent’s.

One year we ended up at Nana and Papa’s house. They had cooked a feast together, and we were all seated at the large dining room table, eagerly anticipating the glorious food that awaited us. After the big turkey reveal came several side dishes, including my Papa’s specialty-creamed onions with bacon cracklings. He and I looked forward to this dish. We were both confirmed onion and bacon lovers.

After many painstaking hours of peeling the tiny onions, he had made a velvety cream sauce and crispy bacon topping. My mouth was watering as he brought the dish to the table.

That year, they had installed very plush, very thick brown shag carpeting throughout the house. It was dark, very fluffy, and if you scooted just right on it, you could get an electric shock when you touched someone. (Hey, it was the 1970’s!) Apparently the carpet was so thick that Papa’s slipper caught it just right, causing him to trip and tumble towards the table-and he ended up spilling the entire contents of the lovely creamed onions meant for our tummies onto the brand new chocolate brown carpeting!

After making sure he was okay and didn’t get burned, he started to laugh very hard. “I’m such a turkey!” he bellowed, with a big smile on his face. He was embarrassed, and laughed it off. Papa always took little foibles in stride like that.

In my family’s typical fashion, we cleaned up the mess, and to make him feel better as we all tucked in for dinner, we told stories of how we had all had little personal mess-ups like the one he just experienced. A tradition was born! Year in and year out, on Thanksgiving day after dinner, we’d repeat the telling of stories of how we had done goofy things. Turkey Of The Year as dinner conversation would remain a constant in my childhood, and we looked forward to it every year. My sister and I are very competitive about this family tradition, to this day-even though we are in our forties and fifties and have grown kids of our own.

In the decades that followed that fateful night, being an artistic family, we would collaborate and make prizes for the best story. My favorite prize was a huge bowling trophy that Papa engraved for me the year I split my pants on the playground at school. We took life’s little screw ups and turned them into a fun thing, celebrating our human-ness through self-deprecating humor and relating with love. As a result, I am rarely embarrassed as an adult, and as I grew my family, had the awesome opportunity to teach my kid how to laugh off life’s little mistakes and have a healthy perspective of oneself.

I love my family, and do sorely miss my Papa and his fantastic creamed onions.

Have a lovely holiday tomorrow!



Memories of Winters Past

Winter sports have always been intriguing to me. To get out in the cold, embrace the elements, and feel the rush of activity while the air is chilly is a thrill. I remember playing outdoors in the big storm of 1979, building snow forts, skating on the local pond, and sledding to my heart’s content. To say those are cool memories would be an understatement!

Now that the promise of snowflakes is upon us here in the Midwest, kids of all ages are looking forward with eager anticipation to the impending blustery temperatures. I was recently talking to some kids that are having an ice rink installed in their backyard, and they were pumped!

“My older brother likes to play hockey,” said the sister of the young group, “but I love to figure skate!”

“Big fan of the movie Frozen?” I asked.

“I saw that! I like to be outside on the ice!!!” she answered.

This family takes their winter fun seriously-and their spirit is infectious. It is amazing to me just how far we can take fun today-when I was a young child, the absolute limit of winter fun included skating around at the local frozen pond, or finding a great hill in the neighborhood to hurtle down upon a sled. Times have changed-designated hills are built close to my childhood home to accommodate sledders of all ages. And skating? Now all it takes is a phone call, and you can have a customized ice rink installed in your own backyard!

It is good to embrace change and new things when the options to create new memories are so wide and varied. My you and your family have many opportunities this winter to experience some chilly fun outdoors!

Cool Beginnings

Cool Beginnings

In 2012, Everything Winter was born.
The concept of building a custom ice rink in a client’s backyard was intriguing to the owner of Moonjump, inc. Looking for a way to bring healthy, fun activities to his clients in Chicagoland, Ted struck upon the idea of expanding the services he offered. With the chill of winter imminent, personnel skilled in design and carpentry available, ice rinks were a natural fit! So with the wind on our backs, a dream in our hearts, and a can-do attitude, we embarked upon building a new facet of the business.

Over the years, Everything Winter, also known as EW, has built some impressive rinks. Our main designer and builder, Cody, turned his passion for creating and building into some amazing backyard ice rinks. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Cody at length about his education in carpentry and how he got started. He described an experience that harkened back to the days when apprenticeships for young men was commonplace-taken under the wing of his father and uncle, young Cody started learning at the tender age of eight what tools were, and what he could do with them. As a young boy he became their gopher and clean up assistant, following the older men in his family around to assist them and soak up as much knowledge as he could about the trade of carpentry. In a few years, having grown bigger, he was trusted to assist in building projects such as deck building, creating shelving, and other assorted jobs that utilized his budding skills. At the age of sixteen, he had gained much skill and experience under his uncle’s tutelage, and was deemed ready to lead crews when he was not in school.

Fast forward to today, and Cody is one of the most confident, capable carpenters that I have ever met. His understanding of complicated mathematical concepts such as the Pythagorean Theorem help him to ensure that each ice rink he builds is perfectly squared and level. There is not a tool he does not know how to use, and his eye for detail is immaculate and precise. A few years, and many satisfied customers later, with the talent and perseverance of our main ice rink man, we have grown and succeeded beyond our expectations. It is our dream to continue to do so in the years to follow, and we would love for you to be part of that dream!

Fall Fitness!

As summer comes to a close and temperatures start to fall, it is tempting to spend more time indoors. Video game consoles appear, cosy family nights around some boardgames happen, and dreams of building snowmen start in our kid’s imaginations. But it is just as important to stay active as the seasons turn as it is when the sun burns bright!

To stem off the oncoming winter doldrums, it is fun to plan some outdoor activities for Fall while the air is crisp and the leaves are crunching underfoot. Here are my top three suggestions for Autumn activities with the kids:

1-Leaf Collecting.

Little kids really enjoy collecting leaves as they are falling from the trees all around us. Smaller children like to pick up bunches and toss them about, older children might like to take it a step further and start to identify the specimens they have found. Your local library is a great resource this time of year to find leaf identification books. Take some time and encourage the budding arborist in your family. And everyone enjoys the old-fashioned leaf pile that begs to be jumped into!

2-Visit a local farm.

In our county, there are a few working, historic museum farms tucked away on back roads. Fall brings activities like corn harvesting, hayrides, and the animals sure do enjoy the occasional visit. Some will offer beautiful harvests of local produce, as well as special activities for the kids. A quick Google search of “historical farms” will yield some surprisingly fun results for you and the kids to enjoy. Also try apple picking!

3-Trails and forest preserves exploration.

Fall is the perfect time of year to explore the changing natural landscape as the wildlife starts to settle down for the colder months. Bundle up and see what’s going on outdoors at your local woods. National parks and forest preserves offer helpful maps. So stick to the trails, respect the wildlife, and see what’s out there as the weather begins to change.