Monday, April 29, 2013

Grub It Up: Turkey and Goat Cheese Stuffed Peppers

I turned the big 3 this past weekend and we spent the last several days over indulging -- everything from too much sweets for us to too much adult juice for mommy and daddy. Needless to say, we are all recovering a bit this Monday morning. So we thought we'd get our heads back in the game and share with you one of our favorite healthy dishes. FYI, it's less healthy when you eat the rest of the container of goat cheese with a spoon. But, you know, I'm only three. Impulse control is still in the works. 

Turkey and Goat Cheese Stuffed Peppers (adapted from The Gluten Free Goddess' Stuffed Peppers with Ground Turkey)

- 1-2 tbls extra virgin olive oil
- 1 lb ground turkey
- 3-4 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 medium red onion, diced
- 1 cup roasted corn kernels (mom pan toasts frozen kernels for a few minutes)
- 2 rounded tbls pine nuts
- 1 cup cooked brown rice
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp paprika
- sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
- 2 -3 tbls fresh chopped cilantro or parsley
- 3 large bell peppers: 1 orange, 1 yellow, 1 red, halved and seeded
- 6 tsp prepared salsa
- 6 slices fresh goat cheese

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Put a kettle of water on to boil. 

Heat a little olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and cook the ground turkey until browned. 

Add a dash more olive oil; heat; add the chopped garlic, onion, corn, and pine nuts; stir and heat through. 

Add a cup of cooked brown rice, stir and lightly mix. Add a dash more olive oil, if needed, to moisten. Add cumin and paprika. Season mixture with sea salt and pepper. Stir well to combine the flavors. Remove from heat. Add in the chopped cilantro. 

Choose a shallow baking dish that will fit the halved peppers. Stuff the halved peppers with the brown rice mixture, pressing in firmly; use as much stuffing as you can. Place the stuffed peppers in the baking dish. 

Top each pepper with a spoonful of salsa and a slice of goat cheese. 

Pour about an inch of hot boiled water into the bottom of the baking pan, around the peppers, and loosely cover the pan with a foil tent. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the peppers are fork tender. 

Now the only thing about this recipe we don't love, is that some of the yummy stuffing comes out during cooking and gets not so yummy in the water in the bottom of the baking dish. We've made other stuffed peppers where you boil the peppers in a bit of water before stuffing and cooking them. There's not a whole lot of liquid in this particular mixture, however. So they might get dried out, but we plan to try that route next time. 

Mom and dad had theirs with a simple side salad of spinach, strawberries and balsamic/olive oil drizzle. We are still deciding whether we want to be friends with salad, so we just had strawberries. 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Miscellaneous Madness: Wooden Doll Pin Fairies

I've been on a bit of a fairy kick lately (along with mermaids, princesses, etc.). When Kane found all those acorns recently and we used them to make jeweled acorn caps, mom got to thinking. One of my favorite fairy books, which has lots of little tiny things to flip, unwrap, and break, has several pictures of fairies wearing acorn caps. We actually aren't the craftiest of people -- we like making things, but mom can never figure out what to DO with all the crafts. Art we can display and save more space efficiently. But we continue to play with our Chinese New Year dragons, so mom thought we'd give a fairy craft a try.

There are lots of wooden doll pin fairy tutorials flying around the blogs, but mom doesn't sew and she wanted to try to use things we already had (for the most part). So here's what we came up with. We love them and are busy working on something else for our new friends ....

You'll Need:
- wooden doll pins (like these);
- fabric flower petals (we used these because we already had them);
- acorn caps (if you want a hat);
- butterfly wings (mom bought some like these, but you can also just cut them out of fabric);
- glue (we like tacky glue); and
- markers

Once you've got all your materials, here's how to put your fairy together:
1.  Put a dab of glue on the top of the doll pin and place the acorn on top. Press for a few seconds.

2. While the acorn dries a bit, glue on the flower petals for the skirt. Glue one and then continue around the pin, overlapping them a bit. We liked gluing the center of the petal and then folding the top down to make a double layer of petals.

3. Cut your butterfly wings off of the butterfly body (we were able to gently pull ours off) or cut your fabric wings. Put a dab of blue inside the pin slot and slide the wings in. Hold for a few seconds. Then gently bend the wings back a bit.

4. Use your marker to draw your fairy a face.

And that's it -- you've got your fairy!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Keep It Local: Montgomery County Recycling Center

As part of their discussion of Earth Day, yesterday Kane's class took a field trip to the Montgomery County Recycling Center and they let me come along! Kane had warned us that it was "really smelly" and we would need to wear earplugs because of the loud crushing noises. He was right on both accounts, but it was still a SUPER cool field trip and I didn't want to leave (Kane had had enough of the noise by a certain point, but I was into it).

The tour started out in the visitor's center, which was full of information, including a step-by-step photo illustration of the recycling process occurring at the facility and visual displays of materials as they go through that process. The Center offers group tours for groups of 10 or more, so first we had the opportunity to meet with a tour guide who walked us through the entire process -- even illustrating how some of the equipment works (e.g., magnets that remove metal from the waste stream). The Center is technically a sorting facility. Once sorted, the materials are sent offsite for further recycling and return to various product streams.

see the soccer balls at the bottom? 

After the introduction, we moved on to the really fun part: a tour of the actual facility. Kane refused to wear the earplugs and chose to go hands-over-the-ears, but I put them right in and walked along the catwalk up over the top of the process. You can pretty much see everything in the sorting facility: where the waste comes in to the facility and a digger loads it into the pile for sorting; through the various hand sorters; through the eddy current magnet; etc. And everything is labeled so you can really follow it. I thought it was really funny to spot various items I use at home: chobani yogurt containers, fizzy water, and several soccer balls (just to name a few). It STUNK, but that didn't really bother me. It was a great way to celebrate Earth Day!

Turns out that the facility is open to the public for self-guided tours every day that recycling occurs at the Center: Monday - Thursday, 7:30 - 5:00 p.m. You do not need an appointment to visit and you can find earplugs at the front desk. If you have a group of 10 or more, you can make an appointment for a guided tour, which are available Monday - Thursday between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. If you're interested in taking a guided tour, call 301-417-1433.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Grub It Up: Moroccan Pita Sandwiches

So Cam and I have a little yogurt problem. Actually, it's a big yogurt problem. We are obsessed with those brightly colored, organic, probiotic, squeezey yogurts that apparently run mom an $800 yogurt bill every month. First, she scaled back. We got four packs a week (one of each color, for which she had to go to both Target (for the pink) and Whole Foods (for the cheapest price on the blue, yellow and orange)). When it was out, it was out. Then she put her foot down. No more squeezeys. So in just the span of a week, we've developed a new yogurt problem: an obsession with Greek yogurt. Hey, at least it's been on sale for $1 each.

In any event, given that she can successfully bribe us to eat the rest of our meal with the promise of an additional yogurt, she thought a meal based around Greek yogurt itself might really do the trick. And boy did it. We loved these little moroccan pita sandwiches so much that we each had seconds. Mom served them up deconstructed for us so we could dip the "mini burger" and pita in the yogurt sauce ourselves. Delish.

BTW, the sauce is worth making on its own just to dip everything possible in it. We probably would have liked a little less garlic (although mom and dad loved it), but the tahini gave it a nice nutty taste that was right up our alley.

So here you have it, yogurt lovers: Moroccan Pita Sandwiches (slightly adapted from Cooking Light): (FYI, this has a lot of spices in it -- don't skimp. the combo makes the patties)

- 1/3 cup finely chopped onion
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 tsp ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
- 1/4 tsp ground cumin
- 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp ground ginger
- 12 ounces ground round
- 1 large egg
- cooking spray

- 1 cup fat-free Greek-style yogurt
- 2 tsps tahini (sesame seed paste)
- 1/2 tsp grated lemon rind
- 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1 garlic glove, minced

Remaining ingredients:
- 4 (6-inch) pitas, halved
- 4 green leaf lettuce leaves
- 16 (1/4-inch-thick) tomato slices

Preheat oven to 400.

To prepare patties, combine first 10 ingredients. Divide into 8 equal portions; shape each into a 1/4-inch-thick patty. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add patties to pan; cook 5 minutes or until browned, turning occasionally. Arrange patties on a baking sheet. Bake at 400 for 5 minutes or until done.

To prepare sauce, combine yogurt and next 5 ingredients (through garlic). Spoon 2 tablespoons sauce into each pita half; top with 1 patty (squish it just a bit), 1 lettuce leaf, and 2 tomato slices. Or, if your kids lose their S when you combine food groups like we do, chop up a patty and serve it separately with the pita and sauce.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Holidaze: 15 Ways to Celebrate Earth Day!

In honor of Earth Day (this Monday, April 22nd), we thought it would be fun to round up our favorite "greenish" arts, crafts and local activities to share as celebration ideas. How are we going to celebrate? Well, I just asked mom to put together an Earth Day bath (like our Valentines one), so that should be interesting. And we're hoping for some nice weather to get out, stretch our legs and gather more natural materials for a little project we've got in the works. What are YOU going to do?

No plans? Well, try one of these on for size ...

1.  Go for a "hike." We use the term "hike" loosely because we really go more on walks, with lots of snacks. A few of our local favorites are Potomac Overlook Park, Patuxent Research Center, Riverbend Park, Winkler Botanical Preserve and Theodore Roosevelt Island. The Natural Capitol blog is also a good resource for "getting outside, inside the beltway."

2.  Check out a nature center. Some of these places are a tad depressing, but several offer cool opportunities to see local animals and a nice spot to chill if it's hot out (and usually BATHROOMS). The first three hiking spots mentioned above all have nature centers (Patuxent is probably the most impressive), but we also like Long Branch Nature Center and, although we haven't been to the actual nature center yet, we hear Watkins Regional Park has a good one too (we heart everything else that place has to offer as well).

3.  Explore other great outdoor spots. While these aren't nature centers and don't really offer what we consider real hiking, they'll still get you enjoying the great outdoors. Our top spots include the National Arboretum (really almost qualifies as hiking by our standards), Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens (get there early before it gets too hot), Brookside Gardens, Mount Vernon, and River Farm (which has a really great children's garden).

4.  Play Nature I-Spy. Our attempt to play this locally in our 'hood spawned a slightly different version of Urban I-Spy (which you can download), but either way it gets you out and about looking for nature.

5.  Upcycle an old milk or juice container into a bird feeder. We loved making these and watching the birds fend off the goods from squirrels. For the record, I would not F with a city bird.

6.  Make jeweled acorn caps. No idea why we were able to find so many of these recently, but if we could, we're sure you could too. In case you missed it this week, you can find our "tutorial" here.

7. If the weather is warm, use an old plastic bottle to make a fun sprinkler. All you need is an old bottle, a hose and some duct tape. If that's not a recipe for a good time, I don't know what is.

8. Use natural stamps to make great modern prints. We've gone the citrus route, stamped onions, and made cute apple prints too. The options are endless.

9. Get yourself some photosensitive paper and make nature prints. Half the fun is looking for good natural objects to use and the prints develop quickly, which is good for impatient artists. You can check out how we made ours, but we've also heard that simply using dark construction paper will work too (although it takes longer).

10. Don't throw out your art scraps! Use them for collaging on cardboard (so don't throw out all those boxes either!). You can see our favorite collage materials here.

11. If you're lucky enough to be near a beach, collect some shells for painting. Watercolors are our favorite thing to use (but not washable watercolors, which don't stay great). On our trip to the eastern shore last year, we painted about a million and a half oyster shells.

12. Experiment with science! We've been conducting all kinds of experiments (click here), including many that use simple things you've got around the house.

13. Use recycled cardboard for marble painting. We've used old paper towel rolls for this in the past, but we've also seen people use cardboard boxes to make neat modern art prints.

14. Save your egg cartons and spin up a beautiful set of cardboard flowers (also handy for Mother's Day, which is right around the corner). I mean, you don't really use your salad spinner for making salad, do you? See how we made ours.

15. Roll a rainbow. When you're done making marble prints, use that paper towel roll again and make a colorful rainbow. You can see ours here.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Fly Away: Chicago: (Final) Part 5: Museum of Contemporary Art

We were so excited to share our acorn jewel caps yesterday that we totally forgot to dish on our final spring break adventure -- the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Normally we check out art museums when there is a particular exhibit mom thinks will be of interest to the kiddos, but mom really wanted to visit MCA Chicago for herself. So we were quite glad to find two exhibits that were right up our alley: the Plaza Project: Martin Creed and Destroy the Picture.

Martin Creed's rotating sculpture spells out the word "MOTHERS" in white neon and you don't even have to go into the museum to see it -- it's right out front. We actually watched it first from the playground across the street (the museum doesn't open until 10, but there is a great little park across the street -- right behind the old Water Tower). And we liked catching views of it from above, inside the museum too. Mom told us it should remind us that mothers are all around -- always watching. I told her that I thought it was a comment on helicopter parenting and she should back off (I didn't really, but it would be a lot cooler if I did). Either way, it was pretty awesome.

The exhibit I liked most was Destroy the Picture. I have a real knack for tearing, cutting, scrunching ... you know, destroying art work as I make it (or sometimes days later). I just like to do it. Mom had no idea that was an intentional art strategy and I didn't miss a beat in trying to convince mom her that was why I do it. Duh. We spent a fair amount of time in the exhibit, looking at the various destructive practices -- I was also quick to try and convince mom I need a blowtorch to really get into the movement.

If you are in the area, both exhibits will be at MCA Chicago until early June -- check them out! And that does it for our spring break escapades ... we'll be back local for a while!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Miscellaneous Madness: Acorn Cap Jewels

This isn't naturally a prime time of the year to find acorn caps (instead, in our neighborhood, the warm weather means an increase in street meat incidents -- apparently when it's nice out, the number of chicken wings eaten outside soars and, correspondingly, the number of chicken bones left on the street for doggie to try and snag increases as well), BUT when we were at a local park last week, I started finding tons of them. So mom went with it. She remembered seeing several tutorials for acorn cap jewels and we decided to collect a big bunch.

It turns out that it is super easy, uses materials you likely already have on hand at home, and produces bright jewels that can be used in oh so many ways. Here's what you'll need:

- empty acorn caps
- markers (we used our felt tip MALA IKEA markers)
- white school glue
- playdough, rice, beans or some other similar substance to hold your acorns upright as they dry (we used an old batch of playdough)

Scrape any dirt present out of your acorn caps and get to coloring them inside with your markers. The darker you color, the brighter your jewels will be. Set the colored tops upright in the playdough (or rice, beans, etc.). Fill them to the brim with white school glue. Let set for 48 hours and watch them transform into bright shiny jewels!

The first time we did this we used a batch of glue that had some liquid starch in it (from a botched flubber attempt) and it didn't turn out exactly as we hoped -- not all of the glue evaporated in all of the tops. We made sure we had "clean" glue the second go round and had much better success. We've been using these little gems all week for all sorts of pretend play -- they've been currency, treasure, used in patterns AND some super cute fairy projects that we'll reveal soon. If these are currently popping up in your neighborhood, get on it!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Fly Away: Chicago Part 4: 31st Street Beach Playground

Mom sort of intentionally planned us traveling on the holidays that fell over spring break (Passover and Easter) to avoid having to do big holiday celebrations (unlike her, we know, but it has been one holiday after another this year it seems). So imagine our surprise when our Aunt Carrie sprung an Easter egg hunt on us the day before Easter at the most fabulous beach playground in the city: 31st Street Beach.

We knew we were in for a real treat when we spotted artists carving real trees into amazing works of art on our walk to the playground. Then we hit a nice wide stretch of beach -- perfect to get some pre-egg (and post) hunting energy out. And then we spotted the egg hunt. A quick hello to all our cousins (including moose the doggie) and I was OFF. Fortunately the younger kids didn't care much that I piled my basket high with spoils -- they were so excited to find m&ms in just a few. I was a good sport though and shared.

Fully fueled by candy we hit the playground equipment and had a blast climbing, sliding and jumping (none of us braved the rock wall, though). And we all admired the empty boat slips, waiting for summer. This is a seriously sweet playground with awesome art and a swimming hole to boot. If we're back in Chitown during the oppressive summer, you know where you can find us.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Fly Away: Chicago Part 3: Garfield Park Conservatory

hat palm. really.

Garfield Park Conservatory, located in Chicago's Westside, has an incredible history. The park itself was influenced by French design and is the largest among three great original Westside parks (Humboldt, Garfield and Douglas), each of which had a small conservatory built in the late 19th century. The park and its lagoons were originally used for boating, strolling, and ice skating. In the early 1900s, the current conservatory (4.5 acres inside and out) was built and intended to house a series of naturalistic landscapes under glass (apparently a unique concept for that time). The neighborhood and park have changed considerably since that time (if you're interested in the history of the park and neighborhood, check out Inspired by Nature -- a great book we picked up for grandpa for his birthday during our visit), but the Conservatory remains a real gem of the neighborhood (and the 'hood itself is also in the midst of revitalization). So we met up with our cousins there early one morning.

i helped baby G get in on the scavenger hunt.

Happy to hear that entry was free, we each picked up a nice scavenger hunt sheet that was sorted by  location of each plant and included a handy-dandy picture to identify the item and a sticker to place over the plant once we found it. We love ourselves a good scavenger hunt and we were off. Cousin Jackie wasn't so sure at first, but then both he and Graham were running around with us like maniacs looking for various palms.

We stopped mid-scavenger hunt to play in the Conservatory's wonderful indoor Children's Garden, which boasts a two-level twisty tunnel slide built into a tree fort. And LOTS of little paths, nooks and crannies among the plants to play and hide. But OOOOWEE it was HOT in there and we decided to resume our scavenger hunt. All that intense searching left us hungry for an early lunch and we sat at the little tables and chairs set up in Horticultural Hall for our picnic (the gift shop there sells drinks, snacks, and a few pre-packaged lunch items as well).

After lunch, the sun was calling our names and we ran outside (with no coats needed!) for another hour or so. We chased, dug, played hide and seek, and generally rejoiced to be outside. We miss our cousins and had a BLAST just kickin' around. The inevitable meltdowns began and we decided to leave while things were still going relatively well. We can't wait to go back in the summer and explore the Conservatory's outdoor exhibits and perhaps some more of Garfield Park itself.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Keep It Local: "Angels, Demons, and Savages: Pollock, Ossorio, Dubuffet" at The Phillips Collection

We interrupt the next installment in our Chicago spring break series to report on a super cool visit mom and I made to The Phillips Collection yesterday, which included some artwork that is on exhibit for a limited time (so we wanted to make sure you knew about it before it left!). Our planned goal was to see the Pollock, Ossorio, Dubuffet exhibit (at the museum until May 12) and the recently-installed new permanent work the "Laib Wax Room, Where have you gone-where are you going?" Both delivered big. AND, to boot, we ended up discovering a super awesome exhibit of local charter and D.C. public school students that is a must see for kids (and part of it is departing on April 28). Oh, and the "Jeanne Silverthorne: Vanitas!" exhibit of rubber sculptures was an additional pleasant surprise.

First up was the Angels, Demons, and Savages exhibit, which highlights friendships among the various artists exhibited. In addition to Pollock's well known drip paintings, the exhibit includes some of his watercolors, collages and ink paintings. We snapped a few pictures before being told of the "no photo" policy in the exhibit. Drat. You'll just have to go see for yourself, because the artwork is pretty amazing. We weren't familiar with Ossorio or Dubuffet and some of their works in this exhibit are a little more outright dark in mood, but were also splashed with bright colors and recognizable objects that mom and I spent time picking out. Although I did frequently comment that some of the faces in their paintings were "not nice."

Moving on ... my Grammie B is a periodic urban bee keeper (part of the reason we also call her Grammie B) and mom and I talked at length before our visit about the beeswax room. And I was anxious to get there. Located just down the hall from the Pollock exhibit, you can smell it far before you see it. The small room (only two people allowed in at a time) is lined with fragrant beeswax and illuminated by a single light bulb. We went in and snuggled. And both agreed we'd love to take a nap in there. "It's gold," I kept whispering. And it does indeed seem to glow warm gold. Fortunately this one is a permanent work and I know we'll include a stop in there on all future visits.

We hadn't planned on visiting the Vanitas! exhibit, but it was basically adjacent to the beeswax room and the large rubber floral sculpture drew us right in. Vanitas!, we learned, are still life paintings symbolizing the brevity of life with images of decaying fruit and flowers, skulls, or household objects. This particular exhibit displays Silverthorne's sculptures alongside still life paintings from The Phillips Collection. I found some of it a little creepy, but the oversize, three-dimensional sculptures are a perfect fit for kiddos.

As we headed down to get a drink in the Tryst cafe, the sign for a Young Artists Exhibition caught mom's eye (there is usually student work on display there, but we haven't checked it out before). A few flights below we discovered two super cool student exhibits -- work by preschool through fourth grade students of the Inspired Teaching School (a nearby public charter) and by preschool through middle school students of the Takoma Education Campus and Tyler Elementary schools. Holy cow. These kids have talent. The artwork, even from the youngest of students, was amazing. And I thought it was awesome to see artwork done by kids my own age and highlighting so many sights from my 'hood. The work from the Inspired Teaching School students is at the Collection only through April 28 and we highly recommend taking a trip to check it out. We have TONS of new ideas -- thanks kiddos!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Fly Away: Chicago Part 2: The New Tinkering Lab at the Chicago Children's Museum

On our last visit to Chicago a few years back, we visited a highly crowded Chicago Children's Museum at Navy Pier (after a rainy, but pretty awesome, sail on Tall Ship Windy). This time around, we went with a real mission: to check out the new Tinkering Lab, which is chock full of real tools and real materials to create, destroy ... tinker. Fortunately our Aunt Carrie is now a member of the museum and members can get in to the museum an hour early on Fridays and Sundays. Sweet.

We took a brief detour at the firetruck, but then headed on up to the Tinkering Lab, where Kane and I about lost our minds. We quickly donned safety goggles and rummaged through the bins of materials and tools. Mom set us up at a real work table and we got into it. We used real drills, hammers and screwdrivers to start building (mom drew a line at the saws). Then Kane discovered the wall of "take apart" items and scored a CPU that the museum staff had used to build a sort of sculpture. And he got to take it apart and put something back together again. He said he was building a super secret spy phone booth.

Me? I told mom I was making her a latte -- you know, with a paper cup and a hand drill that looked a lot like a milk frother. Mom was a fan of my tinkering skills.

In addition to open access to all the materials and many serious tools, the Tinkering Lab has a "power tool bar" where you can use real power tools with the assistance of a museum staff member. The museum can get so crowded, but we seriously recommend checking out the Tinkering Lab -- we've never been anywhere else like it.

Once we had tinkered around for a while, we walked out to find a beautiful day on Navy Pier AND OUR DADDY! He had finally arrived. It was way too nice out to head back inside, so instead we took a touristy cruise with daddy, grandpa and mom (our cousins were planning to go back home for lunch, but ended up sticking around on the pier -- it was that nice out). We sat on the top deck for almost the whole ride and arrived back to find our cousins waiting for us.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Fly Away: Chicago Part 1: Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

We spent our first morning in Chicago meeting up with our cousins at The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum (the museum of the Chicago Academy of Sciences). It was our first time visiting the Lincoln Park museum and we thought it was AWESOME -- a perfect balance between a children's museum and a nature center with something for kids of all ages. Almost every exhibit offers a good mix of play and learning. We're pretty sure if we lived in Chicago, we'd take full advantage of the serious array of programming offered there.

Instead, we spent a rambunctious morning (it was our first time seeing our cousins this trip!) exploring the museum's exhibits. Favorites included Mysteries of the Marsh and the adjacent Family Look-in Lab(where we viewed lots of marsh-dwelling animals in tanks), the Hands-on Habitat (part playground part schooling on environments), the Butterfly Haven (a nice-sized room with identification sheets available), RiverWorks (offering a working/playing model of many of Chicago's water engineering feats), and the outdoor Nature Trails (of which we only briefly sampled). Mom was not excited about the Birds of Chicago exhibit, but thought everything else was well done (especially the art exhibit using insects to make wallpaper -- super cool).

(kane wasn't feeling that great ... but he perked up after this when we hit the riverworks exhibit)

After we exhausted ourselves, we ate our packed lunch in the sunny entryway next to the gift store -- there is not cafeteria per se, but there are vending machines and the gift store sells a small variety of drinks, sandwiches and salads. Free street parking close the museum is available, but we suggest arriving early to get a spot -- the Lincoln Park Zoo (which we checked out on our last visit) is right next door. The Green City Market will return to its outdoor location on May 4th (directly across from the zoo) and offers a good option for eating on Wednesdays and Saturdays AND RIGHT NOW is open Saturdays at the Nature Museum (we also went to the market during our visit to the zoo a few years back and are big fans).