Friday, January 28, 2011

Spaces and Places: Little Beans

I would do today over again.

Just how many days can you actually say that?

{Even the scene where two cranky little boys surrounded me in the bathroom, clutching my legs and crying as I brushed my teeth.}

{And, yes, even the part where it took me 25 minutes to install two carseats into Melissa's van before our trip into the big city.}

{Oh, and, even the conversation where my 3 year old insisted on me supporting his wearing of a pirate outfit complete with tacky plastic tool belt.}

But that's how wonderful our Friday turned out to be despite a rocky start.

We had an absolutely fabulous time at the launch party for Little Beans Cafe enjoying the chic ambiance of a brick-walled coffee shop complete with coffee {and food} bar while the little ones played in an adult-supervised interactive, imaginative play village.

Yes. This place is real; I promise you I didn't dream it.

Rather, Shannon, the owner of this beautiful, dreamy space in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago, did.

And, boy, did she dream it well.

Little Beans Cafe most certainly ranks high on the list of all of the indoor play spaces the boys and I have frequented.

Let me paint a picture:

A lounge area featuring tables, a couch and cushy chairs surrounds the coffee and food bar, serving as a convenient space to eat lunch with the kids or enjoy a cup of coffee while watching older preschoolers play through the window overlooking the enclosed play village.

A large glass door and partial wall/partial window separate the dining and coffee bar area from the play village, making the play space safe for even small toddlers like E to have their run of the play arena without getting into things little hands have no business getting in -- namely other people's food and coffee cups.

The play village is a detailed, beautiful scene, designed to look like an actual downtown area complete with a firehouse, grocery store, mechanic shop and house.

Inside the fire station, my boys' favorite space, G. found firefighter and police uniforms complete with hats, walk talkies, fire extinguishers and a fire house, to be used, of course, to douse the {pretend} fire dancing atop the building next door.

E. really enjoyed driving the fire truck as well as all things mobile -- he took a turn powering tricyles, small cars and wagons throughout the center of the village.

And me? Well, I really wanted to play inside the house {complete with a beautiful chandelier} after taking a grocery trip through the store where I could admire the detail given to all of the {mostly wooden} play food.

However, had my boys been in more a play mood rather than a clingy one, I also would have happily sunk into the soft couch after grabbing a cup of coffee and enjoyed conversation with a friend or two.

Instead, today, I mingled and carried on a few short conversations with some lovely ladies I rarely see {but often read} in between spontanoues bursts of the boys' solo play.

It seemed all of the details parents cherish were lovingly thought about and implemented at Little Beans -- from wipes at the changing tables in the front bathrooms to a family bathroom complete with a little potty located in the back of the main play area to the comfy couches and chairs inside the play village to the lounge-esque room featuring a big screen tv and foosball table {most likely} for the daddies. {A man-cave with see through glass doors, if you will.}

Despite living about 50 minutes from Little Beans, we'll be heading back soon, for sure, because, well, it swept away a case of the winter blahs by providing a place to converse and run and play.

And for a day we would all do over again even despite its challenges, well, that's worth the time in the car and every penny of admission.

{But if we carpool, please be advised that your carseat installation skills may be put to good use.}

Full disclosure: No one asked me to write this post, nor was I compensated for writing it. My boys and I were, however, treated to free admission and a really healthy and wonderful complimentary lunch, coffee and cupcakes. Mostly, I so wanted to share Little Beans Cafe with my friends. Because if we don't support really stellar, family-focused places like Little Beans, they simply won't exist. And that would be a shame.