Going Up Anyone?

PS:  I heard from several of you that my pictures were not loading to your devices.  I have taken them all out and put them all back in to see if it will work this time.  So if you go back to the previous post (use the left pointing arrow below this post), hopefully this time you can see the pictures.  I’m crossing my fingers this is working! 

Well, after a good night’s sleep and some yummy homemade breakfast (which for Landon, means Apple Jack’s cereal, no milk!!), we’re off to mass.  We took the boys to Old St. Pat’s because it’s close by and has a beautiful environment.  Not sure what they thought about it though …


img_2019That’s better Lan …

Now, take a look at the area above the altar.  See all the beautiful white filigree pattern?  That is all around the church and so intricate and delicate that when you get up close to it you can see that it’s absolutely stunning work.  But, do you notice anything else about their altar?  Um … Yep, that’s good ol’ St. Patrick right up there, front and center behind the altar.  Now, continue looking around … do you see Jesus?  Yep, that’s Him, over in the corner on a little cross.  That’s how they did it back in the day when a specific ethnic group built a church.  St. Patrick’s is the oldest catholic parish in the city, and it was the only parish to survive the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.  Here’s what they boast:

“Since its founding by Irish immigrants on Easter morning in 1846, Old St. Patrick’s has been interwoven in the life and history of the City of Chicago … The cornerstone was laid on May 23, 1853, and the building was dedicated on Christmas Day, 1856.”

Those Irish love their guy … woops, I mean their God!  Hehe!!  Ok boys, let’s keep going!!

On our walk back to the apartment, we pass by that BIG … TALL … building … yep, the Sear’s Tower (aka the willis tower).  The boys are up for the challenge!  They are ready to go … UP UP UP to the 104th floor to see the sights from the 4-sided glass box that hangs away from the building, over the street, 104 floors up.  Ok boys, we’ll wait right down here for you!


Good luck and God Speed boys!

And off they go!!  After an almost 3 HOUR WAIT (apparently there are lots of line inside the building that make it look like not too many people are waiting from the outside!  What a scam!), this is what we get:







I’m not sure what the draw is for this tourist trap, and thankfully, I’ll never find out!  But the boys had a great time and checked it off their bucket list!

After all that waiting around, it was just about time for our 5:00 dinner reservation at the hottest spot in Chicago since … oh I don’t know, 1871??  (Hehe!  Get it — Chicago Fire in 1871??!!)  A great little place that was featured on “The Food Network” with a young, new talented executive chef named Stephen Gillanders.  Stephen was chosen from one of the network’s challenge shows to head up a restaurant called “Intro” as a way to get new chefs into the business and help them to learn to run their own restaurant.  Intro generally gives the winning chef a 3-month stint at the restaurant as the executive chef in charge of … well, everything!!!  And why do we care about any of this???  Because Stephen just happens to be Andrew’s cousin!!  Yes, he is!!  How cool is that??  So, you can bet we were excited to be heading that way!  But first, we gotta get there!!  Let’s go boys!

The “22 Clark Street” bus is our way of heading up and down the Loop.  It’s also a great way to actually see what’s out there, rather than taking the “Red Line” which is the subway and you don’t see anything.  So another city experience for the boys … the “RTD” (whoa, I’m dating myself!) … or here in Chicago, the “CTA,” also known as the Chicago Transit Authority.  It is connected to all the subways and El lines and every ride costs $2.25 with a transfer adding on .25 cents!!  Now that’s what I call a public transit system!!

img_2061And I know this is a dumb question but … is anyone hungry?  You bet!!

After a 20 minute ride uptown, we arrive at “Intro” and we can tell this is going to be good.  We go inside and are greeted by the hostess.  “Do you have a reservation?”  “You bet!”  “Oh, you’re Chef Stephen’s guests!  Well right this way!”  And it gets even better from there!!


I have no idea what anything was called “officially” from the menu, but I can tell you that we were in foodie heaven with all the delightful plates that were being brought to the table!  It was like a non-stop conveyor belt of food!  Be sure you’re not hungry when you look at these pics … you are gonna start drooling!!


A fried rice ball with a tasty sauce … 


Oysters on the half shell from all over!


Me first!! 


That went by way too fast!

Now for some more  of the plates that kept showing up  …


I don’t even like shrimp and this was AMAZING!!



Do you agree with me that each and every plate is a fabulous work of art?  It was almost too hard to eat because you didn’t want to ruin the beauty of their work!  Oh, but don’t you worry … we did.  We ate each and every morsel, swiping our fingers when no one was looking!  You bet we did!


Chef Stephen does a fabulous job there, making sure that every single bite is filled with enough flavor to send you to food heaven!  But, we didn’t want to stay there too long because we knew this was coming …


Every dessert that was on their menu ended up on our table!  Holy Cow it was fabulous!!!  As much as we wanted it to linger on … I’m pretty sure it took us about 2 whole minutes to powder these babies off!  Deliciousness at its best!!

We were so spoiled by Chef Stephen and his staff that we didn’t want to leave … “Um, can we just sleep here for a while and then you can feed us again?”




Thanks to the generosity of the Cote Family and Chef Stephen, we had a wonderful Chicago Foodie Experience where we actually knew the Chef (well, Andrew is related to him, but now we’re best buds!  How fun is that?).  By the way, after Chef Stephen’s 3 month stint, the restaurant was so impressed with him, they asked him to stay on as their permanant Executive Chef!  Now you know this guy’s good, right??  You’re coming to Chicago?  Put this one on your “MUST EAT THERE” list!!!  You won’t regret it!

Well that was a pretty good second day, don’t you agree?  Come on boys, let’s go home!

Talk to you tomorrow!







The Boys Are Back in Town!

Yep, we got a housefulla boys this week!!  And what a week it was!!  Who knows what you’ll end up doing or what you’ll end up talking about with two recent high school grads??  It was fabulous, let me tell you!  We were so happy that Landon, our Godson, and his buddy, Andrew, wanted to come to Chicago for their “graduation celebration trip!”  And he thought it was his gift??  What a gift it was for Eddie and I to share a week with these two amazing young men.

We all flew back to Chicago from La Verne on the 6:30 a.m. flight, so we arrived in Chicago and back at the apartment about 2:30 p.m.  Does anybody (besides me) need a nap before we start our day?  “Um No Nina, we’re good!”  So, first stop, of course, was lunch.  They arrived hungry and ready to begin their “Chicago Foodie Experience.”  So off we went …



If you remember, Landon was here with us last summer with the entire Haller gang, so he had a few of his “favorites” in mind.  Lunch at Portillos was the opportunity to share with Andrew the Chicago local favorite …Italian Beef Sandwiches.  Two growing boys, they can eat a lot!





I don’t think Lan was quite ready to leave, even though he had devoured the poor sandwich!  Stop eating now?  I don’t think so!!


I say, “Let’s go back to the apartment and rest since you guys have been up since 4:30 a.m. California Time.”  They say, “Sure Nina, whatever you say!”  Haha!!

Here’s their idea of resting …



A friendly game of basketball out in our “backyard” BB courts.  And once they got started, they were not going to give up their competitive game of “PIG” …





P – I – G … I win!!!  Way to go Andrew!  I’m sure there will be a re-match at least everyday during the week.

After all that time “working out” and then a short (very short!) rest, we decided to go take Andrew to another of Landon’s favorites … Chicago Style Pizza!!  So, off we went …

As we strolled through the park, we came upon the famous, the fabulous, the fantastic … Taste of Chicago!



You might remember last year that I indulged in a “Lobster Corn-dog” that was the best thing I have ever tasted … on a stick!!  Well I searched and searched and, unfortunately, it wasn’t to be found anywhere!  WAHHHHHH … oh well, maybe next year!

We decided to continue on our quest for pizza.  But first, we wanted to show the boys the famous “Buckingham Fountain” because during the winter, the city completely refurbished the beautiful fountain, making it even more spectacular than it was when we arrived here.  It may not look different to you, but to us, it is just sparkling and bright and beautiful!



Close by the fountain is the lake that looks like an ocean and we had to show Andrew the enormous magnitude of this thing.  Every single time I see it, I just marvel at its size.  As a side note, Eddie & I were on a tour recently and this is what we learned about Lake Michigan with regard to the amount of ships that have sunk in the lake:

The bottom of Lake Michigan is literally a graveyard of shipwrecks. Local maritime historians say 1,200 of the 2,000 sunken vessels in Lake Michigan no longer exist because they hit shore and broke apart.

Experts add that about 360 wrecks have been found in the lake’s deeper water, but there are still many wrecks out there that remain undiscovered.

Anyway, we were  happy that Andrew was impressed by this little lake that looks like an ocean because obviously, we are!!





After Nino answered all the boys’ questions about “The Meaning of Life” and putting our tosies in the water, we were ready for dinner!  There’s no question here … Lou Malnatis is waiting for us!!  We’ll take a EXTRA LARGE, EXTRA DEEP, EXTRA MEAT, EXTRA CHEESE, EXTRA EXTRA Pizza!  Oh yes we will!





Well boys, that’s just about all we can cram in to our stomachs and our first “half day” since we arrived this afternoon – don’tcha think??  Hopefully with all this food in their bellies, they’ll have a good night’s sleep.  We got lots more to “cram” in this week!  “Goodnight Landon” “Goodnight Nina” … “Goodnight Andrew”  “Goodnight Nina”

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!


I’m a Little Bit Country …

He’s definitely a little bit rock and roll!  Haha!!  Well, we decided that since the girls were ready for anything, we’d take a little road trip.  We packed up the rental car and off we went, headed south for … NASHVILLE!!  Yes, Nashville!!  We cranked up my “Garth Brooks Pandora Station” and drove Eddie crazy for the next 6 hours!

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It was a nice drive but not nearly as scenic as it is on the 6 hour drive to San Fran … just kind of plain.  No mountains, no green trees, no cows … just a lot of open fields to see for miles and miles and miles!!  The empty corn fields waiting for their time to grow again.

We stopped in Louisville, Kentucky for a quick BBQ dinner at Doc Crow’s.   We had dirty rice, baby back ribs, mac and cheese, and some other stuff that was gone by the time we remembered to take this picture!

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Needless to say, it was delicious and delightful!

By the time we arrived in Nashville, we were pretty pooped and we had a long day ahead of us.  So we hit the hay and dreamed of Garth serenading us to sleep with …

You know a dream is like a river
Ever changin’ as it flows
And a dreamer’s just a vessel
That must follow where it goes

Those words kind of described us for the weekend!  We were just going!!

Our first stop the next morning was the famous, the fabulous, Grand Ole Opry House!  Even if you’re not a country music fan, you absolutely have to take this tour about country music roots and history.  If you are a big country fan (like us girls!), you can go goo-goo eyed!

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(**A Little Side Note:  The little guy that is with us is named “Flat Stanley.”  You’ll hear more about him later but just in case you’re wondering who he is, that’s Stanley!) 

Our tour guide was full of music trivia and country music history so she made it both fun and funny!  We found out that the old t.v. show “Hee Haw” (does that ring a bell or what??) was filmed here in the Opry House every week in front of a live audience!!  That brought back great memories of Dad/Grampa because he was a “Hee Haw” fan of the biggest kind!  He would have loved to see the set!  The pictures aren’t great, but they may look familiar when you think about that old show!

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It’s a huge venue and they fill this up 5 nights a week with different performances ranging from 2 hours to 6 hours, depending on who “drops in” on any given night.  Any country star that is a “Member” of the Opry House can just decide that he or she wants to do a little performance that night and wa-la … you could be seeing Garth live on stage!  We weren’t able to snag tickets for the show that night but you can bet we’ll be back here again!

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They offered to let us have a go at serenading our tour group, but since I didn’t want the group to take off running, we passed!

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Here are a few of our favorites in the “Member Walk of Fame” corridor …

After we finished ooohhhing and aaahhhing, we left the Opry House on a high note!  We made our way into the downtown area to check out Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge and some other country favorites on their famous “Broadway Street” — it was a little wild and crazy for me and Eddie, but the girls loved it!

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We had gotten a tip from a gal who was visiting from Australia that we should definitely go to “The Bluebird Cafe.”  This is a little dive outside of town, hidden in a strip mall.  You would think nothing of it if you happened upon it or drove by.  But she gave us the story!  This is THE PLACE for country singer/songwriters.  Many of today’s country stars began their careers right here at the Bluebird!  I know you’re going to think I’m a “Garth Fanatic,” but I’m just giving you what’s on their website:

At The Bluebird, performers include up-and-coming songwriters along with those whose music is regularly on the charts, country music as well as pop, rock and Contemporary Christian hits.  Kathy Mattea was the first star to be identified with The Bluebird and is still a friend and a regular guest performer today.  Garth Brooks played on both our Open Mic and Sunday Songwriter’s Shows before he was discovered – at The Bluebird – and signed to Capitol Records.

So off we went to find this place and … stand in line!  Since we didn’t have reservations, we had the option of standing in line for a very slim chance of getting in to see the evening’s show.  When we arrived, we counted about 20 people in front of us.  The place only holds 90 people so each night after the tables with reservations are filled, they come out to the line and say, “Ok, most of you will not be able to get in to the show, but approximately __ will be able to.”  That night it was “approximately 25” … we were numbers 23, 24, and 25 in line!!  OMG, we were so stressed out!!  What if we didn’t get in?  We’d been in line for 2 hours and we still had another half-hour to wait!!  And then, every time someone walked up to join another party in line ahead of us, we just knew our chances were getting slimmer and slimmer.  OMG!!  This is terrible!!  Finally, when the guy comes out to begin letting some of our line in, he’s counting … 1, 2, 3 … 13, 14, 15 … it was so dreadful!!  But lo and behold and hallelujah, he gets to us … 23, 24, 25, you can come in now!  Well we about knocked him down to get inside the joint!  We were so excited at that point and just wanted to take our seats to make sure he couldn’t change his mind!

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It’s a very intimate musical circle and we had a blast.  We heard songs that we knew and that we had been singing with the radio for years!  But let me tell you … songwriters have a hard gig.  They write a song, they sing it in front of venues like this to have “someone” hear it and then offer to record it on their label.  If it does great, then the songwriter is paid for their work and they can cash in.  But if it doesn’t, all their hard work is for naught.  I’m not sure too many of us could take that kind of rejection,  waiting for the “BIG ONE” to hit the charts.  I know I couldn’t.  But, you gotta give it to them!  They are troopers and it was a wonderful evening listening to their music in their own voice, sharing their stories of writing and waiting with us.  I highly recommend this as a stop on your own Nashville trip to be sure!

This was a day filled with music and the magic that goes along with it.  Each place we visited was truly a “note to be remembered.”  The singer/songwriter Edwin McCain nails it when he sings…

And these are the moments I thank God that I’m alive.
And these are the moments I’ll remember all my life.
I’ve got all I’ve waited for and I could not ask for more.

We all know we were blessed that day … we couldn’t have asked for more!!

Talk to you tomorrow!






Tours & Tea

Friday morning was upon us and we still had so much to do!  We definitely wanted to have a little fun though so we took the Crazy Crime Tour first thing in the morning!  This was a different tour company than the other ones we have tried, but it was just as great!  So much history in this town!  And it still kinda creeps me out to know about all the “bad guys” that ruled around here in the hey day!  Capone, Bugs Moran, John Dillinger and his “Lady in Red.”  It’s so weird to make it real … this is just “movie” stuff, right?  Um, No!  It all happened right here in downtown Chicago!  Thanks Be To God that era is over!



Al Capone's Speakeasy at the top of the building where the green is

Al Capone’s Speakeasy was at the top of the building where the green scaffolding is now.

The “Jewelry Building” housed Al Capone’s private speakeasy, with an elevator in the center of the building that was big enough to hold his car!  He never got out until he got in!

The tours ends at Holy Name Cathedral which is of course, a big draw here in Chicago.  This place is beautiful inside and out, but it too, has it’s own “mob” history.



That was a fun couple of hours touring the city by way of Prohibition!  Kind of gets you thirsty!  But I’ve got a solution for that!

I know that some of you out there think I’m crazy, but I just LOVE going to afternoon tea.  Remember that I went once already since I’ve been here … the cheapest tea place that Chuchi found that was fabulous?  Well, we’re going there again!  And that takes care of the thirsty problem!

This tea place is so cool.  Nothing opulent or over the top, just a good old place to stop for a “spot of tea”!  Part of the fun of this place is the hotel and the neighborhood that it’s in.  It’s just outside of the Loop so it’s a little less “traffic-ey” than being right downtown.  It was about a mile walk from our tour ending, but it’s a great walk … or if you’d rather, a very short “El” ride on the green line.  Either one is good because you’ll see different views on each of them.  We did both.  Walked to and El’d back.

The walk to the The Allis runs up Clark Street, along the river, and through the old “packing district,” so it’s very interesting, with some great historical sites to see and beautiful views of the city skyline.

We arrived just in time for our 1:30 reservation and ready for a few hours of snacking and chatting and drinking lots and lots of tea!



There’s really nothing that compares to delicious food being served to you and time with your girlfriends.  Being able to sit around and chat without having to say, “oh let me get you this” or “do you need more that”?  Don’t get me wrong.  I love being able to serve up a good tea party, but when you’re being served … it’s all the more wonderful!

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Check out those tea trays … filled with finger sandwiches, scones, lemon curd and clotted cream, banana bread, chocolate cake, and so much more.  There was no way we were going to finish all of that and our tea, but we gave it our best shot!  Everything was delicious and you can’t beat the company!

And I know you’re never going to believe this, but we ended the day with … MORE FOOD!  Eddie found a great Greek restaurant for us and we just couldn’t say no!  So off we went to Greek Town and the delicacies of fine Greek food.  The Athena is a generous host for anyone in the mood for Greek food and good wine.

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The service was over-the-top and the food and drink even more.  It was a wonderful end to a wonderful day.  We decided to take a walk home … because that’s what we do when we eat like this … and it was a perfect night for a walk.

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I know it looks cold, but it’s really not once you get walking … by the time we got home, we were warm and feeling good enough for another cup of tea to get us ready for bed.  Another night, another hop on the bed, and chatting til midnight … you know the drill when you’re with the girls!

Ok, talk to you tomorrow!



So Long … Again …

Well it’s that day again … that day when people leave.  We had a few hours time in the morning before we had to get Tina & Cliff on their train to Midway.  And because we didn’t get a chance to do everything on Cliff’s list, we had to make a couple more “must see” pit stops before they left.  The most important thing Cliff still needed to accomplish was eating a “Chicago Dog” … and seeing “Sue”!  When you only have a couple of hours, this is the place to go!


BACKTRACK – Here’s something I forgot to tell you a couple of days ago … Cliff and Tina know their “places” and as we were walking around State Street, all of the sudden Tina says, “Auntie, I didn’t know there was a MAGNOLIA BAKERY here!”  I said, “I didn’t either!  What’s Magnolia Bakery?”  Well for you New York lovers out there, I’m sure you already know what I’m talking about.  But for those of us who have no idea how special this place is … well, when you come to visit, we’ll definitely make this a “Must Taste” spot!  I didn’t get a picture of their famous Banana Pudding because by the time I asked someone for a taste … it was gone!  Ok there you have it …

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Now back to the last day.  Off we go for a walk in the park over to the Field Museum.

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After spending a little time there, we had to eat before we left.  Well, if you “yelp” the best Chicago hot dogs on the Museum Campus, this is what comes up:  Kim & Carlos Hot Dogs.  It’s a little (seriously little) stand right outside of the museums so of course, it’s packed with tourists.  However, it is an authentic dog, hot and fresh, so everyone loves this little stand.

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As I waited for them to get their lunch (because you already know how I feel about hot dogs!), I took a little look at the lake that looks like an ocean.

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The lake never fails to awe me.  This “fall” look is so different from the views we had in summer, with the docks filled with boats and people.  Today, most of the boats are off the lake so it’s much less busy-looking.  All you can see in this picture are the buoys that hold the boats when they are docked.

Anyway, they all enjoyed their Chicago Dogs …


and then Eddie decided to give the birds some of his leftover chips.  You know how I feel about birds!  In case you don’t, I’m deathly afraid of the stupid little things, especially when they are so bold they dive bomb just to scare you away from the crumbs your hot dog left.  I ran away and when I looked back, this is what I saw!

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Let’s get out of here!!  Before we walked back to the apartment, we stopped at the Soldier Field Memorial Stadium.  This is where the Chicago Bears play their home football games.

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Inside the “Roman Columns” that surround Soldier Field.

The stadium is dedicated to all those who have served in our military, and those who continue to serve.  I had no idea that “Soldier Field” actually meant that.  It was a beautiful memorial and it filled us with gratitude once again for all those who have made the ultimate sacrifice so that we can go about our daily lives.

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As we walked back to our apartment, we were all happy with the week we shared, exploring new places and doing the “Chicago” things.  Cliff and Tina are great travel buddies, as well as a wonderful niece and nephew.

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We are blessed to have them both in our family!  Don’t stay away too long guys, we have a lot more “things” to see and do!

Talk to you tomorrow!



The Green Line to the Green Place!

Well gang, you’re gonna get tired just reading this post because it is absolutely FILLED!!  This was one of those days overflowing with places to go and things to see!  So hold on tight!  We’re off!

Tina had done some research and found out that Chicago has a “conservatory” filled with gardens and greenery … and tons more!  And it was a very easy jaunt on the Green Line!  I tell you guys, I am loving this transit system!  The train stop was actually called “Conservatory” so there was no way to get lost!

The "El" Stop at "Conservatory"

The “El” Stop at “Conservatory”

The “Garfield Park Conservatory” is what the city calls “Landscape Art Under Glass” because it is literally housed in a huge glass-ceiling building that is probably about the size of 3 football fields put together!  It is huge!  And the outside gardens boast 10 acres of ponds, beehives, children’s play area, and a whole forest of “Quaking Aspens.”  It’s not as large as our arboretum, however, the layout and the creativeness of the use of their space was pretty incredible.

Our first room was “The Palm House.”  I’m not sure what the temperature was in there but you all know that palms like their heat!  Needless to say, we didn’t need jackets!






After about an hour looking at palm trees (haha, yes an hour!), we moved on to the “Sugar Room,” the “Desert House,” the “Indoor Children’s Garden,” and their “Show House.”  Each room is filled with natural art and statuary art, along with places to sit and enjoy the beauty, as if it was your own private “secret garden.”  I imagine this place is a big hit during the winter!


The Show Room



The Sugar Room (a room full of fruit trees from all over the world).


Have you ever eaten a “Jerusalem Cherry”?  They look like beautiful little cherry tomatoes, all colorful and bright!




Next room … the Aroid House (aka, houseplants!)

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The next stop … the desert!



I LOVED the name of this one! Haha!


And then, of course, the Children’s Garden …



After a few hours of roaming around inside, we finally made it to the outside gardens.  Many of them were already being “deconstructed” for the winter, but we still got to walk the Labyrinth and, at least see where the “Monet Garden” is located every summer … which you can bet I’m going to be back to see that!

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It was time well-spent enjoying, learning, and basking in another one of God’s great wonderlands … even if it is inside a building!  Some of the flowers and plants I will never see in their native landscape, so this was a gift indeed to see them all up close and personal.

And, after all that exploring, you can imagine … we’re hungry!!  Tina found a “southern style hole in the wall” diner for us to try.  OMG, I love southern food!!  The place is called “Feed” and it was a great find!


Putting in our order!

Putting in our order!

There were plenty of options and I thoroughly enjoyed my fried okra and roasted chicken!  Here’s a sampling of some of things we tried … WARNING — Do not be in a state of hunger when viewing … it could be bad for your health!!


Homemade Biscuits & Gravy & Fried Eggs!


Roasted Chicken, Fried Okra, Mashed Potatoes and Gravy!

Fried Catfish and Mac & Cheese!

Fried Catfish and Mac & Cheese

Oh, and on top of all that, they had SWEET TEA!  Yep, just like my mom used to make!  You can’t even drink it without adding water it’s sooooo sweet!  But delicious in it’s own way!

We really wanted to just hang out with these guys and take a nap … after all that, what else can you be expected to do except nap?  Well, they weren’t really receptive to our idea so we decided to keep going!

Next stop … Wrigley Field!


Because it is no longer baseball season, the stadium closes and they were re-constructing the field after all the playoff games.  Seems weird to me that they do this right before the winter, but I guess they know what they’re doing …


Brand new sod ...

Brand new sod …

Next, we walked around the neighborhood so I could show Cliff the “apartment roof top bleachers” that are famous in Wrigleyville!  Most of them are beautiful, historic buildings that are now baseball game seating on their roofs.  Apparently they are pretty fabulous because those tickets cost more than a regular seat inside the stadium!  Who would have thought that??



Rooftop apartments

Rooftop apartments


Aren’t they pretty?  In any event, Cliff was happy to be at this famous stadium even though it was “off season” … he’ll be back for a tour and a real live game next season for sure!

We ended the afternoon with a nice long walk through Oz Park.  It was filled with people, dogs, games, and lots and lots of leaves!  We decided to find each of the statues and listen to their stories on the way … so we … followed the yellow brick road!  






That was a really cool park and a place where this neighborhood gathers for lots of different activities.  We had a great time listening to the statues tell their stories (and, just so you know, they’re not really statues … they get off their perches and have a homemade picnic every night at midnight!) and taking in the community at play.

From the park, we walked a little bit further and met Eddie at one of Cliff’s choices for dinner.  Because of (half) his heritage, we ate dinner at the “Rickshaw Republic” a true Dutch Indonesian place with lots of dishes that made Cliff feel like he was eating his Grandma’s cooking.  The little place was full of charm and true hospitality, making us feel like we were eating in Grandma’s dining room!  It was delicious, however, I have NO IDEA what we ate … maybe you will be able to tell!

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The food was absolutely delicious and as you can see, we didn’t leave much.  Considering our lunch meal, I’m not quite sure how we did it, but we sure did!  The crowning event of the day was a true, yet unbelievable activity that Cliff alone took part in and the rest of us “ooohhhhed” and “awwwwwed” … or on my part, “OMG’ed” through the whole thing.  I know that many of you love your coffee and, of course, dessert MUST be accompanied by at least one cup.  Well, in this restaurant, you’re only allowed one cup … and here’s why.

This coffee is 1) expensive, 2) hard to come by, and 3) apparently, the best tasting coffee you’ll ever drink.  Why, you ask?  Because it comes from a monkey’s poop!  I AM SERIOUS!!  You have got to read about this stuff!  Here’s what I found on the Wikipedia site, which is pretty much exactly what the server told us when explaining the whole ordeal to us …

“Kopi luwak (Indonesian pronunciation: [ˈkopi ˈlu.aʔ]), or civet coffee, refers to the coffee that includes part-digested coffee cherries eaten and defecated by the Asian palm civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus).[1]

Producers of the coffee beans argue that the process may improve coffee through two mechanisms, selection and digestion. Selection occurs if the civets choose to eat cherries. Digestive mechanisms may improve the flavor profile of the coffee beans that have been eaten. The civet eats the cherries for the fleshy pulp, then in the digestive tract, fermentation occurs. The civet’s protease enzymes seep into the beans, making shorter peptides and more free amino acids.[2] Passing through a civet’s intestines the cherries are then defecated with other fecal matter and collected.”

Cliff was game and that’s all that counted …




According to Cliff, all you coffee drinkers out there would love it … I would encourage you to try it once in your life … however, at this point, I am so glad I am NOT a coffee drinker!  Hahah!!

It was a fabulous, full day, and if you’re not tired of reading, I’m ready to hit the hay!  You can only imagine what’s planned for our next day!

Talk to you tomorrow!