Why 1 Effortless Click, A Hash Tag & A Lunch Bag Can Change America

Why 1 Effortless Click, A Hash Tag & A Lunch Bag Can Change America

This months volunteer's at #hashtagchicago getting down in the sandwich assembly line!
This months volunteer’s at #hashtagchicago getting down in the sandwich assembly line!

We all know that one person can change the world but did you know that one person can change the world one hash tag at a time? This Saturday Chi By Design joined a group of amazing volunteers all brought together through one hash tag. Here’s how it goes. Christmas Day in 2012 a group of friends got together to make some meals for the homeless, they had a blast, played some music and uploaded their experience to social media. A friend told a friend, that told a friend, that told a friend and the next thing you know they had almost a hundred friends in a tiny apartment putting together hearty meals for the homeless all through money that friends pitched in. The group uploaded this 2nd experience to social media under #hashtaglunchbag and before you know it there were groups of caring individuals all across the country pitching in, making lunches and passing them out to the homeless!

This weekend was #hashtaglunchbagchicago’s turn to show up and show out and that we did! I was so excited because this was an all ages community project! My son has the heart of gold and he loves volunteering but some activities are limited to adults, when he was handed his name tag to fill out he felt like the man! I was so happy to see so many kids, teens and young adults come out eager to do some good in the hood!

#hashtagchicago event coordinators taking a moment to smile with the children and teens who came out to volunteer today!
#hashtagchicago event coordinators taking a moment to smile with the children and teens who came out to volunteer today!

The setup was simple. After we created our name tags we walked over tot he decorating station. The cool thing about #hashtaglunchbag is not only that we feed the homeless but volunteers hand decorate each bag and add a personalized card with a message to the recipient of the lunch. Here are a few of the bags I made. You know Royal Diva loves to color!

A note card I decorated for one of the lunches #hashtaglunchbagchicago
A note card I decorated for one of the lunches #hashtaglunchbagchicago

Inserting these inspirational messages grabbed my heart in a way that I wasn’t ready for. Imagine that I woke up that morning with my purpose in life being to help a specific person that I never met before and honestly will probably never meet. Hmmm……feel good stuff man. After we got our decorate on we whipped it over to the assembly line where my son got down and dirty making sandwiches with smiley face mustard patterns. Gotta love kids right.

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This whole event was made even more special at the close of assembly when we all took a moment of silence for our recently deceased brother in love John ‘LJ’ Hackney who recently made peace with his battle with cancer. Such a wonderful individual and such a wonderful cause! I was so happy to be able to join #hashtaglunchbagchicago and the entire national #hashtaglunchbag movement. Remember this was sparked by 1 group of friends, just imagine the impact we could have on the world if every group of friends came up with one way to help! Until next time, remember to give a little and get a little. Much love.-RD

For more information on the movement, ways you can join and help please log on to hashtaglunchbag.org, on IG follow #hashtaglunchbagchicago and let Royal Diva know how you decided to help @ royaldiva.tv@gmail.com and @chiroyaldiva IG!

Now You Can Have Your Corn and Eat It Too

Now You Can Have Your Corn and Eat It Too

NW View from Lake Shore Drive. Nothing like my beautiful city.
NW View from Lake Shore Drive. Nothing like my beautiful city.

It is officially summer time Chi! If you don’t know what Summer time chi is all about please listen to Kanye West’s Good Life and you can instantly feel the breeze from Lake Michigan hitting your skin. There are a few things I love to do more in the summer than grabbing a giant cup (or ear if you’re nasty, no really, it’s a mess) of Mexican Corn! Elotes! Mmmm mmmm I can just taste the mayo and Parmesan cheese melting in my mouth right now.

Hey hey, I hear your moans and groans loud and clear. Corn? Mayonnaise? Parmesan Cheese? Together? Lol, well don’t knock it until you have tried it. Chicago’s famous corn stands can be found on pretty much every corner on the west and north sides of the city. You will know that you’re at the right place when you see a colorful umbrella rising out of a handmade food cart.

Beautiful Corn Stand located on Chicago's West Side
Beautiful Corn Stand located on Chicago’s West Side

 Most often you can find fresh fruit, produce and cold treats like nieves, paletas and helado. For my non Spanish speaking compadres those are snow treats, ice pops and ice creams. But the best food is most certainly the corn! Here’s how it’s made, remember you can get it in a cup or on the cobb with a long wooden stick. For the cups, first the corn is sliced off of 1 ½ ears onto a plate then slid into a cup. Next there is spreadable butter placed on top of the corn followed by mayonnaise and topped with Parmesan cheese and Cayenne pepper if you like it hot! Take your spoon and mix it all together and voila! You have the best dammed ear of corn you’ve ever tasted in your life.

Don’t believe me? Go anywhere on the city’s West Side up and down 26th street between Western and Kostner, take your $2.50 and let me know in the comments section just how delicious this corn was! One taste and you will certainly be a believer. I have turned many Michigan, New Jersey, Atlanta and New York folk into believers. For those of you who would like to try this at home the recipe is really simple as explained above. Just make sure to use actual mayonnaise and not Miracle Whip, that just won’t cut it. Send me your pictures of your homemade elotes to royaldiva.tv@gmail.com. Now excuse me for a moment while my son and I demolish this corn.
Before….

Fresh boiled corn before the fixin's!
Fresh boiled corn before the fixin’s!

After….

Yummy corn on a stick (elotes) after adding all the toppings! Photo Courtesy of laeastside.com
Yummy corn on a stick (elotes) after adding all the toppings! Photo Courtesy of laeastside.com

Happy summer time Chi!

A New Experience For an Incredible Price at Mariano’s

A New Experience For an Incredible Price at Mariano’s

Chicago Mariano’s is here! Dominick’s who? Lol. Well my Saturday experience at Mariano’s on Halsted was everything a trip to your local seafood house, wine bar and community social scene should be. It’s like grocery shopping for the cool kids. The Hipsters. It was definitely more than a grocery store experience.

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Upon entering Mariano’s, with the most beautiful 4 month old ever, I had the pleasure of being serenaded by a live pianist. Fresh out of the free valet parking offered Saturday’s and Sunday’s, the tuxedo clad pianist furthered my expectations of a good shopping experience. We proceeded with our shopping cart and Sophie the Giraffe in hand and was greeted by a full service wine bar! Although I took a pass I did notice the exquisite ambiance and 3 friendly ladies seated at the bar sharing a glass of wine and lots of laughs. Further along in the store I encountered a very neat and beautifully displayed seafood counter. Everything from Octopus to Crab Legs to fresh Wild Salmon. Despite the entrance being relatively small and crowded, once we passed the seafood counter and entered the store the aisles widened and were very easy to move through with the cart. It was super busy inside the store but everyone was surprisingly polite. From the staff to the other shoppers everyone said their please and thank you’s and wore their best Saturday morning 85 degrees finally in Chicago happy face. Que Pharrell. While a lot of grocery store experiences will leave you drained and feeling like doing anything but cooking when you get home this shopping experience was not stressful.

So now, the question you’ve all been waiting for……how were the prices?!?! I must be very honest; for all of the ambiance, upkeep and extra amenities that Mariano’s offers, their products were affordable and reasonably priced. As always there were a few specialty items that I purchased which cost about 10% more but for the family staples like meat, bread and veggies the prices were on target. For the organic lovers like myself, Mariano’s offers an organic selection for almost every type of produce available. This saves me the debate of good prices versus chemical free, fresh and quality produce.

As for cons, there were no sanitation wipes or methods of disinfecting your shopping cart at the entrance of the grocery store. That’s a major Royal Diva no no! Fortunately I keep hand sanitizer and sanitation wipes handy. Additionally there were no cart return decals in the parking lot on the upper deck. After loading groceries and packing up the family it sucks to have to walk all the way back to the store to return the cart. Overall my Mariano’s experience was very positive and enjoyable. Royal Diva will definitely be returning to shop again.

 

 

Chicago’s Babies- Our Dying Youth

Chicago’s Babies- Our Dying Youth

There is a tragic epidemic going on in Chicago. As a city we are short changing our most valuable resource, cutting our potential for growth by over 60%. If this resource is not being short changed by city politics, it is being killed off at the hands of our own citizens. What exactly is this valuable resource, Chicago’s babies.

According to the Chicago Sun Times CPS (Chicago Public Schools) has planned to cut classroom spending by an estimated $68 Million Dollars for this 2013-2014 school year. These budget cuts come right behind the 2012-2013 school year that saw 52 Public schools close their doors as students spent 2 entire weeks out of class as a result of the Chicago Teacher’s Union Strike. Where is the love? Where is the justice? As home owners are set to see a rise in property taxes to cover a portion of the CPS debt, we still find our babies on the losing end. Who wins when parents are forced to take on extra shifts and part time jobs to cover rising tax costs? Who wins when children are forced to take public transportation alone after school? Who wins when 52 area schools are closed and children are forced to walk through gang infested streets alone because parents are now forced to earn more money to cover rising taxes to pay for their child’s free and publically funded education? Not our babies, they lose.

Let’s take a step outside of our failing public school system. According to a 2012 article by Chicago Magazine in a poll conducted by NPR it reports, “In Chicago, nearly 700 children were hit by gunfire last year — an average of almost two a day.”   700 children hit by gunfire. We’re not speaking of war torn areas in Iraq or poverty stricken third world countries. Our babies are being killed at an alarming rate. To put it into perspective 6,700 servicemen and women have been killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars in 10 years 1. Please note that this figure refers to the total of deaths in two separate countries. If we multiply the number of children hit by gunfire in Chicago by ten we can compare this to the number of deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan. We can estimate, using the figures reported by NPR, that 7,000 CHILDREN in Chicago have been hit by gunfire in the last 10 years compared to the 6,700 service men and women killed in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past ten years. So statistically we are saying that our babies have a higher chance of being hit by gunfire in Chicago than being killed in a war in Iraq or Afghanistan. Wake up Chicago!

If the children are indeed our future what kind of future will we have? Who will be left in 40 years to pay taxes on the parking meter disgrace that Mayor Richard J. Daley locked the city into for the next 75 years? Who will be left to build the city of Chicago in to the great low crime metropolis that it can be? Who will be left to enjoy the beautiful sky lines and architectural genius of our city? I don’t speak for our children, or maybe I do, but in the words of Jay-Z, Can we live?

  1. CNN- Amy Roberts and Lindsey Knight. Thursday May 23, 2013. http://www.cnn.com/2012/05/25/politics/numbers-veterans-memorial-day