We’re Going to the Opera House!

La la la la la la la la laaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!  Yes, we are all “warmed up” for our Lyric Opera House backstage tour!!  Every time Tina has been here we have walked by and said, “we need to go inside” … but then when we try, it’s closed up tight.  So, this time we were ready!  We had our tickets in hand and nothing was going to keep us from seeing this building from the inside!!

But first, let me tell you about the outside.  It will be a little hard to tell but imagine this building as looking like a living room “arm chair” … you can see the back of chair (the very center of the building) and then the 2 arms (the shorter parts of the building on each side).  Between the 2 arms is the seat part of the chair.  Do you see it now?

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The building was built in 1929 and this is how the story goes:  Once upon a time there was a man who loved the opera … and it’s stars!  He had a particular liking to one of the opera singers, but for some reason, she was just never “good enough” to be cast in the starring role.  Time and again she auditioned, and time and again he paid big money for “advertising,” however, she was never chosen as Carmen, or La Boheme, or even Madam Butterfly by the New York Metropolitan Opera.  Apparently, because he was married, she was shunned … oh yes she was!  So in a fitful rage, he decided to build his mistress her own opera house to star in!  Oh, yes, he did … in Chicago!  The “chair” faces west with it’s “back” facing east … which was meant as a symbolic insult to the NYMO and his “turning his back” on New York never to return again!  The End!  Probably all “urban legend” but it made for a pretty juicy story, right?  Hey, maybe I should start writing operas?!?!

Well our tour wasn’t quite that dramatic, but it was pretty fabulous indeed.  We began in the “Great Lobby” and ended in the “House Seats” and visited every nook and cranny in between!  We saw the costumes for the “King & I” and makeup artists at work on wigs and “bald caps.”  We went into dressing rooms with doors as high as 12 feet so that the characters’ wigs could go in and out of the doors without accidentally taking off their heads!  We climbed the cat walk 6 stories up and sang on stage (well, we might have hummed!)

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We learned that from the “cat walk” (6 stories up inside this great stage!), all of the set changes are made by hand … in other words, no computer generated screens or buttons to push to move the scenes.  No, all of these are still moved by manual labor.  People standing and pulling up these huge cables or letting them down for a new scene.  It was incredible to watch and interesting to learn that this is the last “house” that uses manual labor.  All other houses in the U.S. are now computerized … (Oh boy, we know what that means!).

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Our tour guide was a song full of knowledge and was able to make the stage come alive!  We could just see the dancing and hear the music every time we turned a corner!  To actually be on the stage and imagine the characters looking out at us as we watch their every move, will make our next show even that much more memorable.  I’m not sure if every “Opera House” is like this one, but this one is pretty special!  You just have to see it!


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This was an unforgettable tour to be sure!  If you’ve ever been to an opera production or any type of musical or theatrical production, you would appreciate seeing it from their eyes, on stage.  What a great experience that was!

After all that la-la-la-ing, we were practically skipping along to our next destination!  We had places to go and songs to sing!  But first … I know, you know … we are hungry!!  Haha!!  So we hopped off the bus at a little diner called “Elly’s Pancake House” and ordered their seasonal special!

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This was a whole bunch of scrumptious!!  Blackberry Stuffed French Toast with some fancy ricotta “creme” in the middle!

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Isn’t it beautiful?  Well it was even tastier than it looks!!  Heaven berries on earth!!

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We decided it was going to be our meal for the day!  It was so pretty we almost didn’t want to eat it … but alas, we did our best!!

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After that, we had some steps to log.  So let’s get hummin’ along!!

Across the street from “Elly’s,” we found the Chicago History Museum and took a peek inside.

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We got there a little later than our targeted arrival time, so we weren’t able to go into the exhibits this time.  We scouted out the lobby and found some fun, historical, and memorable facts about the city of Chicago.

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This looks like a really cool museum, so we’ll definitely be back here.  We should visit it when you’re here!!

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After that we walked across the street again and found the Lincoln Park Conservatory.   This is now our second conservatory visit in the city.  Who knew that one city would have two fabulous conservatories.

The best thing about this one was their “Dinosaur Garden.”  It was so fun and creative!  We had a great time searching for all the dinosaurs!!

Did you see them?  They are the “live version” of Sue!!  Haha!  And, of course, you can never get enough of beautiful flowers, can you?

When you’re in a space like this, it’s peaceful and serene, and gives you an opportunity to remember and be thankful for the artistry of God’s hand!

Talk to you tomorrow!








Third Time’s a Charm!

Well, I really hate it when you guys leave, but it “sorta” makes up for it when someone else is on the way!  So, before the girls left, we spent our last day cramming as many things as we could into the day.  We took the bus down to visit the Museum of Science and Industry …

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It was a crazy windy day!

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Then back up to the Art Institute …

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and finally, made a wish at the fountain inside the famous Marshall Field’s Department Store (which is really Macy’s but nobody calls it that!) …

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We’re hoping our wishes of them returning soon come true!  These two crazy girls are a bunch of fun when they’re together and there’s not a moment to miss!  They are a blessing to one another and also to us!  But alas, the time came.  We sent them off with hugs and kisses and said, “so long” to Marissi and Choochie … see you again soon!!

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But then … guess who’s back???  In the very next moment, we were able to say, “Welcome Back” to Tina!!

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Woohoo!  My exploring buddy is back!  Tina was able to make her way back to us in between work trips out here in the “Mid West”!  This is her third time to visit us, and by now, she knows the city almost as well as I do!

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On the first day, we started with Tina’s favorite morning beverage … a “cup of Joe” … or in this case, an “Affogato,” which I learned is Italian for “dessert for breakfast”!  Haha!!  Since I had no idea what she was drinking, I had to look it up!  Here’s what I found:

An affogato (Italian, “drowned”) is a coffee-based dessert. It usually takes the form of a scoop of vanilla gelato or ice cream topped with a shot of hot espresso. Some variations also include a shot of amaretto, Bicerin or other liqueur. It is considered one drink, not a combination of coffee and ice cream.

I gotta give it to her though, because this place is soooo cute!!  It’s literally on a brick stoned alley, in a brick building, in a space about 5 feet wide.  If you don’t know it’s there, you will miss it … and believe me … a lot of people know it’s there!!  For you coffee lovers out there, you’re going to want to hit up this place!

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After she filled up, we continued by taking a walk through the park to make our way “up town” … the park is in full “spring” mode, which by the way, my allergies are not at all happy about!  But, the flowers are beautiful and the buds on the trees make you remember that life is about change.

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When we reached the river, Tina and I hopped on the famous (and fun) Architectural River Tour for my “first tour” of this season!  By the time you get here, I’ll be a pro at it!

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It was such a lovely day and a perfect one to be on the river.  Yes, I know my hair is crazy, but that’s because there was a little wind on the river … and you know my hair has a mind of it’s own!!

After our tour, we needed a little protein so we headed over to our favorite little “Shake Shack” for some tasty burgers and fries!

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In the summer, those big glass “garage doors” behind us will go up and the sunshine comes in!  These Chicago stomps sure know how to make the best of their “in and out” spaces!!

Next stop?  The Fourth Presbyterian Church.  You know, that place famous for the movie, “Four Weddings and a Funeral.”  Tina wanted to check out the architecture since we had just been on the tour and we felt like experts.

Architectural Overview

Since 1914, more than 8 million people have entered under the carved stone tympanum over the Michigan Avenue entrance to Fourth Presbyterian Church.

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The “tympanum” is the arched stone carving that sits above the doors.  I didn’t know it was such a big deal or I would have taken pictures of it for you.  Apparently, I was more impressed with the inside.

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After all that exploring, we logged over 20,000 steps and met up with Eddie at a new chicken joint for dinner.

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The Roost – Carolina Kitchen” is The Place to Eat Fried Chicken!!  Let me just say that for those of us who are “Donahue’s Chicken” fans, well, this one takes the coop!!  OMG, their fried chicken is to die for!  And their biscuits, you ask???  I cannot think of a better homemade southern biscuit that I’ve ever eaten!!  I’m not sure if you can see, but Tina caught Eddie and I in the window, both snapping pictures of our food.  Frankly, I’m surprised she didn’t catch us stuffing our faces!!  Oh well, it would have been worth it!  HAHA!

It was a great way to start our visit!  But we have so much more to see!!

Ok, talk to you tomorrow!


Our First 2016 Visitor!

Hi Guys,

I know it’s been a while but apparently nobody visits during the winter in Chicago!  What a bunch of wimps!!  Well it’s been a very different kind of winter for us, and by all standards, a very mild Chicago winter for the locals.  So we have been doing some exploring on the weekends, taking in the surrounding areas of this great Midwestern part of the country!  We have been blessed that we are able to get out and go on the weekends when the weather has agreed with our plans!  But finally, our first guest of 2016 has arrived!  Our God-daughter, Marissa, joined us for a couple of weeks to take in the city.

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It was a “weird weather” time while she was here … for a few days we were in the 60’s and hot, and then it would plummet to the 30’s, and then back up into the 50’s.  So, we all agreed she got both a Chicago Winter and a Chicago Spring in the weeks she was with us!

Marissi is our “Get Out and Go Girl” so we did a lot of exploring, and walking, and dancing, and eating!  We started the week out by just getting out into the city so she could get familiar with it.  So off we went!

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We stopped to chat with the South Lion at the Art Institute and continued north to Millennium Park.

We checked out the park where the symphony will play (remember … free evening concerts in the summer??) to see how the grass was coming along.

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Then, kept going up and over the river  to …

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… hop on the famous “Double Decker Tour Bus” so that she could get a bird’s eye view of the city.  Check out the reflection of the sky and clouds on the building behind (and above) Crate & Barrel.  Isn’t that pretty?

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After that long, hard tour, we needed some refreshment.  So we walked back down State Street (I love this street!) to the amazing “Magnolia Bakery”!!

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Marissi couldn’t quite make up her mind … hmmm … cupcake or banana pudding??  Oh well, let’s try both!  Haha!!

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We also made a quick pit stop at Ghiradelli’s just because.  I promise you we did NOT have any free samples there … well at least I think we didn’t!

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After a long day of exploring, we decided to go home and relax.  So we made a quick grocery stop and then headed home.  Marissi is a great cook, so she was ready to fill up a cart and go home and cook up a storm!

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The next morning, we were ready for our day at … The Field Museum!  You absolutely cannot miss a chance to take a picture with our “Sue” … we wouldn’t want to make her unhappy now would we??

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Now, the Field also has a brand new exhibit that I have never seen in person before, and that I have been wanting to see for years!!  The Terracotta Warriors have made their way to Chicago!  I know we’ve all seen the NatGeo documentaries on this amazing discovery in China, but to see it up close and personal is pretty fabulous!  I can’t begin to explain to you what I learned, but here’s what the Field says about it on their website:

“China’s First Emperor, Qin Shihuang, planned to spend his afterlife buried in a palatial tomb, surrounded by all his worldly treasures. To guard his mausoleum, he commissioned an army of terracotta warriors unlike anything seen before or since.”

The “palatial tomb” is over a mile long and wide, and it is literally a city full of life-sized characters … animals, plants, government workers, and warriors … in fact, everything that the Emperor thought that he would want or need in the afterlife is in his tomb.  They have discovered over 8,000 terracotta figures.  Here are some free samples for you!

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Every single face and uniform is unique.  They were hand carved, not molded in any way.  Also, they would have been painted in their original form.  Here’s what they believe they would have looked like at the time they were buried:

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It’s really hard to imagine or convey, so you will really need to see it for yourself!  When are you coming again?  If for some reason you can’t see it in Chicago, you will need to see it somewhere!  To think that someone actually built a full city complete with inhabitants, and then buried it with him, is truly incredible.  You have got to see this!!

We spent the full afternoon trying to take this all in and when we left, we took a quick stroll by the lake.  It was a little overcast, but I was able to catch an airplane in the clouds so I think it’s a cool picture!!

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Another full day so back home we went to make a pot of lentil soup … it was delicious and warm and just right after our recent discoveries! Stanley and Marissi 024The next day, we had a lot to do before we welcomed our 2nd guest of 2016!!  Choochie was due to land at noon so we had to be ready for her!  Choochie and Marissi have been best friends since they were born, so anytime they have a chance to explore together, they do!  These two girls have been backpacking all over Europe and South America in their days as “starving students who wanted to see the world.”  So get ready Chicago when they’re both in town!

The next morning, we got up early and headed out … Navy Pier was Marissi’s next destination!  It was a great time to visit the Pier because 1) there was no one there (apparently not a winter hot spot for tourists!); and 2) we found a stained glass exhibit!  At the very end of the pier, right before you walk off into the lake that looks like an ocean, there is another “exhibit” … a life-sized bronze Bob Newhart statue with his famous couch from the old t.v. series “The Bob Newhart Show.”  Bob was a native Chicagoan so they have built this in his honor.  Marissi decided to give him a dose of his own medicine!!

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On our way back to the top of the pier, we discovered a little teeny sign that said, “Stained Glass Exhibit This Way” and I said, “What?  I’ve never seen this before!”  So we followed the signs and found a little teeny room that housed some of the “Tiffany Studios” stained glass.

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We had the exhibit all to ourselves and we were able to really reflect on the beauty of the stained glass, learn about how they were created, and the significance of each glass.  This was truly a gift.  I had no idea that “Tiffany” first created glass and then in his later years, moved to jewelry.

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Here are a few more to share with you … until you come out here and see them for yourselves!!

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Obviously the quality of my “phone” shots are not really worthy of their beauty in person.  But I wanted to show you another cultural opportunity given to the people of Chicago for no cost.  I’m not sure how the City of Chicago does all these types of things, but they do … and I’m glad!

We finished just in time to take a quick red line train down to the station to meet Choochie!  And … here she comes …

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These girls are gonna have me running wild … so I’m going home to take a nap!

Talk to you tomorrow!