And yet another journey!!

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Hi Everyone!

I pray that this note finds you all well … no matter what our physical bodies may tell us, but that our ❤️ hearts ❤️ and spirit are well!!

I wanted to let you all know that I am about to start my next journey!  Something I would have never thought about before but it has been brought to me (I’m hoping by the Holy Spirit) and I am truly excited for what it may bring!

I have decided to become a Mary & Martha Reseller.  This means that I will be part of the Mary & Martha distributorship team, selling home goods, gifts, and decor with a “Mary & Martha” theme … a beautiful Christian theme based on the story of Mary and Martha.  We are all one of them, and sometimes, both!  The products that they sell are of good quality and bought with fair trade and just wages in mind.  Mary & Martha is a division of “Day Spring” (your Christian cards that you buy at Target or the market), which is a division of Hallmark.  So, I feel like I’m in good hands and with a company that has a strong backbone.

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I would love for you to visit my “home page” at http://www.mymaryandmartha.com/LANI but I would love even more for you to come and see the products at my home for my “Announcement Parties” on either Thursday evening, April 6th from 6:00 p.m. or on Saturday, April 8th from noon to 2:00 p.m.  Obviously I am selling these products, but my goal really is to gather with my friends, old and new, for faith, fellowship, and friendship, and have fun doing it!  So let’s meet at your home, your office, your favorite Starbucks, or wherever you’d like to get the word out.  I’d like to get this line out there to you and your friends because believe it or not, the only other distributors of the Mary & Martha line are in Mission Viejo and somewhere past Northridge.  And I think you’re going to like their stuff.  It’s great for every occasion.  From weddings to housewarmings and baby showers to birthdays … there is something in the catalog for any occasion.

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So, please join me at one of my “Announcement Parties” and bring a friend.  And if you like what you see, we’ll have a party at your place.  Remember the old “tupperware parties” where you earned free stuff and great deals?  Well this is the same concept.  Have a party, earn free or very discounted deals.  Have someone book a party from your party, earn more stuff!  You all know the drill!  If you can’t come by on either of those two days, let me know when you can drop by the house to see the all the cool things I have to show you!

I am ready to do this and I’m hoping you’ll give me a chance to show you the product line and help me spread the word.  Believe it or not, I always wanted to “open a Christian store where people could shop and pray at their leisure” … well, I somehow got my chance and I would love to share it with you!

My girls have helped to set me up on social media so here are some of my “links” …

http://www.mymaryandmartha.com/LANI

Instagram:  shopwithlanig

Check out the catalog on line or come and see it live at:

My House!

 

Thursday evening, April 6th from 6:00 p.m. or
Saturday, April 8th from noon to 2:00 p.m. 

I can’t wait to show you what I’ve got!  I would ask for your prayers for this next journey of mine and I thank you for your support.  You are all in my heart and prayers!

(P.S.  If you would like to join me at “My House” on either day, let me know and I will send you my home address on a personal email.  I’m not yet comfortable with putting my address out there “online”!!)

I’ll see you … soon!!
XOXO
L.

 

 

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Two Crazy Church Ladies Hit Chicago!

Ok, when one of your “Besties” is coming to town and you ask her a couple weeks in advance of her visit, “Peg, what would you like to see and do while you’re with me?” and she says, “Oh I’d love to see the churches!” you know I’m in heaven right?  She’s my “crazy church lady kindred spirit” for a reason!  So, I pull out the book that Sharon and Glenn gave me before we left and start marking the pages!

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I should say that Eddie and I have seen quite a few of the churches in this book and we have really enjoyed our visits.  But, when “CCL#2” (Crazy Church Lady #2) is in town, we are gonna SEE some churches!!  You know it!

I did some research on the catholic churches in Chicago because literally, there is one on every corner!  Or so it seems.  All you need to do is pretty much look up to see the steeples and bell towers and you say, “oh look, there’s a parish over there.”  So, here’s what I found:

The Chicago Archdiocese covers 1,114 square miles with a population of 2,228,000 Roman Catholics.  They have 346 neighborhood parishes serving the faithful.  

This compares to our Los Angeles Archdiocese:

The Los Angeles Archdiocese covers 8,762 square miles with a population of 4,349,267 Roman Catholics.  There are 288 neighborhood parishes serving the faithful.  

That is a huge difference!  There are a lot of crazy catholics out here!  And, for the time being, I’m happy to be one of them!

In the parishes that we have had an opportunity to visit, their bulletins often boast at least 5 priests (maybe we’ve been visiting the ones that are active and vibrant and full).  This is truly a blessed diocese.  And for the people too … If you don’t want to walk to St. ____, then go ahead and walk to St. ____.  And if you don’t like the priest at St. ____, just walk over to St. ____!  That’s how close their churches are.  When they began settling here in Chicago and priests started getting assigned to this “Stinky Onion” village (*Note:  “Stinky Onion” is the English translation from the Algonquian Peoples’ language, the original settlers, who named their village “shikaakwa” which literally meant “stinky onions by the river.”  The first known reference to the site of the current city of Chicago as “Checagou” was by Robert de LaSalle around 1679 when he wrote in his journal of 1688, that the wild garlic, called “chicagoua”, grew abundantly in the area.  There, history lesson for today!), they knew that because of the extreme winter weather, the churches needed to be close to their faithful.  So, a church on every corner??  Almost!!  I think I learned that if you lived here, you should only have to walk 1/2 mile to get to your neighborhood parish.  They didn’t want their parishioners walking too far in the freezing cold weather.  And their churches are stunning, really.  I have never been to Europe, but I imagine that the churches I’ve visited here look much like the ones in Europe.

But first, it’s Sunday morning so our first stop is mass.  And boy did we luck out!  But wait, let me backtrack here a sec.  Peggy and I have gone to Congress for many years and whenever Fr. John Cusick is one of the featured speakers, we always go to his session.  He is a breath of fresh air, progressive, smart, has common sense, and absolutely loves being a priest.  He’s funny and challenging and he reminds us a lot of our own amazing Padres.  The next time he’s a speaker at Congress, be sure to attend his session because no matter what the subject matter is, the class will be great!  I guarantee it!

Ok, now back to mass.  We take a nice stroll to Old St. Patrick’s near our apartment and get there in time for 10:00 mass.  After we take our seats, we notice the priest walking around, chatting with the people, passing out hugs, and as he gets closer to our pew … OMG!  It’s Fr. John!  Peggy and I immediately turn into “groupies” and start telling Eddie all about Fr. John and how fabulous he is and everything we can remember about him.  What a great surprise!!  We get through mass itching to say “hi” to him afterwards, but when we get outside, there’s a gazillion more groupies out there in line to talk to him.  Holy Moley!  Well, we amble around, show Peggy the architecture and wait and wait and wait … until finally … he’s free!  “Fr. John!  Fr. John!  We love you!  We go to your class every year at Congress!  I’ve been going to see you for 25 years at least (Lani)!  I’ve gone the last few years and I’m a true fan of yours (Peggy)!  We love you!!”  (I should mention that Eddie is hanging back watching this unfold and is probably a little mortified.)  Can we get a picture with you??  Pleaseeeee???

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Well, Fr. John is not only a fabulous priest but also a gentlemen … he gathers Peggy and me in for a picture and then orders someone else to take the picture so that Eddie can be in the picture too!  Out of all the liturgies we have been to here in Chicago, this was the absolute best — a true gift with one of God’s beloved servants!  Thank you Fr. John!

After mass, we have our first “must see” stop for Peggy (and you if you decide to come for a visit!).  Where is that you ask?  Oh, you must know by now, right?

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Yep, I had to introduce her to my favorite Chicago friend … Sue!  We made our way around the Field for a while and when it was our turn, we stood in line for entrance to the “Terracotta Warriors” exhibit.  This is another one of those fabulous exhibits that you have to see more than once in order to absorb everything about it.  I have learned so much about this exhibit that I might be able to give you a tour … however, I still prefer to grab my own docent every single time I go just to see what they have to say about the exhibit.  Each docent knows something different about it and it’s fun to learn as much as you can through other people’s knowledge.

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We had a great time just strolling around the museum, taking in the largest exhibits that we could in such a short time …

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I love this picture … It totally looks like Peg is having a good old conversation with those ladies from Africa!

Here’s another “large” exhibit …

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You can’t tell by this picture, but it was standing directly next to a Wooley Mammoth!  This deer (from Ireland!) was as big as the mammoth!  It is crazy to imagine a deer being that big!!  See what you can learn every time you visit?

It was a great afternoon at the museum and now we’re headed out for some wonderful food in Chicago’s Greektown neighborhood.  This is one of our favorites, so you’ve seen lots of pictures of this place!  I think we made Peggy a believer!

img_2504 Here are a few of our appetizers!  Hummus, Mediterranean olives, fried cheese!!  All absolutely delicious!

It’s been a fun day but we need to get to bed … we have about 345 more parishes to visit this week!

Talk to you tomorrow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Get Your Kicks on Route 66!

Well with the boys gone you would think my schedule would open wide up … NO WAY JOSE!!  I’m still off and running!  I’ve got places to go and people to see!

First stop … Clark & Van Buren to grab Debbie so we can walk to Union Station to grab Phyllis!  Gonna have some girl time today!!  Both of the girls’ hubbies had conferences here in Chicago so we get to spend the day together!  How fun is that … we are bringing La Verne to Chicago!

But first things first.  We gotta give a “shout out” to our other LV gal, Sharon, who’s dad used to hang out at Blackie’s on the corner of our block.  So, Sharon!  Here’s to you!!

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Ok now we’re ready to rock and roll.  Remember yesterday when the boys and I went to the Art Institute and I told you that everyone just has to go there?  Well … guess where we’re headed?  Yep …

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The Art Institute is said to be the “Number 1 Visited Museum in the World.”  I have no idea if that’s the actual truth but when Chicago says something, everyone believes it!  In any event, if and when you ever get to Chicago, this has to be on your list of “must see” places.  It’s so hard to describe because the art really moves you on so many levels.  I can’t do that here!  So, in we go …

There is a new exhibit at the museum and wouldn’t you know it, it’s right up my alley!  It’s called, ” Doctrine and Devotion – Art of the Religious Orders in the Spanish Andes.”  Ok, I’m not gonna get crazy here but you know this was where I would be found for the next couple of days!  It started with St. Rose of Lima, embroidering, no less …

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The exhibit turned out to be absolutely amazing.  Of course, I say that about all the exhibits there, right?

I’ll show you a few of the pieces from the gallery, but I really think you should make it a point to get out here and see them with your own two eyes!  First, the Blessed Mother …

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Second, St. Peter at the Denial …

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I think this one is soooo pretty.  I love listening to the audio guides for the pieces or speaking to a docent about them.  I am not an art aficionado by any stretch of the imagination, but I do think that my appreciation has increased by ten-fold due to my frequent visits at the Art Institute.  What an amazing gift to have just a few blocks away from our front door.

What another great time at this great place but we’ve gotta go!  We are hopping on my favorite tour bus so we can hop on and off as much as we want.  But first, a stop at …

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Yep … this is the beginning of our very own Route 66!  Isn’t that amazing??  And with the Sear’s Tower hovering over us in the background … I’m not sure our picture in La Verne under the Route 66 sign will look like this????

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We decided to take the evening tour since we could!!

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This is the famous Wrigley Building all decked out in rainbow colors!  But then as the sun set, check this out …

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Isn’t that pretty?  I was able to capture the beauty of the full moon, the wispy clouds and the skyline in the back.  It’s not the greatest pic, but I was so happy that I finally got a good picture of the moon in Chicago!

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Buckingham Fountain all decked out in colors too, and lastly, a nighttime shot of the rail lines that go through the park to all sorts of places around the state.

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Isn’t that pretty!!!

The next morning, Phyllis, Mike and I, decide to take the city by bikes!  So … off we go into the wild blue yonder!  No, we didn’t ride into the lake that looks like an ocean by accident!  But, yes, we did have quite a day on the bikes!

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We rode all over Grant Park and by the harbor, then all the way north to Navy Pier.

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We had a “date” with the rest of the gang so we made our way there for a friendly game of …

img_2286Bocce!!  Philly’s hubby, Tom, and Debbie’s hubby, Gabe, were finished with their conferences so we were all able to get together for a fun Friday Night in Chicago!  We have a fun place called Pinstripes that has bocce lanes and we have a lot of fun there.  So, friendly game … yeah right!!  Eddie was trying to give his teammate some (much needed) instruction!  She looks intent …

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Next it’s Deb turn to throw …

img_2281Check out her concentration … img_2282Nice move Deb!

And Tom … now he’s a serious bocce player!!

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img_2289It was so much fun to spend time with our friends and “ooohhh” and “Oh No!” and “Gooooo!” and all the other funny ways we try to get our little ball to go exactly where we want it!  I highly recommend a good game of bocce to add a little excitement in your life!

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img_2277Check out Gabe’s form … he’s truly a master at this game!

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img_2279Such seriousness … and yes, he is serious … he’s bringing out the … measuring tape!  Now this is serious stuff!

img_2290Who won?  I have no idea!  I was too busy taking pictures and gabbing away with everyone!  All I know is that it was a great time and a fun way to start the evening!

The next thing on our Friday Night Lights list?  You’re not gonna believe this one … we’re taking the speed boat out on the lake tonight to see the fireworks!  Every Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday nights, the city sets off an amazing fireworks show and we usually see it either by watching it from our rooftop or being somewhere close to the lake.  Being on the lake is quite a different experience!  It was so pretty and the best part was watching the fireworks reflected in the many buildings on the skyline.

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img_2297 That’s Navy Pier behind us.  I should probably tell you that we were on a speedboat that goes super fast on the water which means we’re gonna get wet!  And we did!  And I’m not gonna lie, it was a little cold there for a bit!  Being on a lake that looks like an ocean in summer wear at night … it was cold!!  But that was ok … we had fun!

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img_2303Of course, these pictures don’t do them justice, but for us on the boat, watching the fireworks being reflected on the buildings in the skyline was really something!  I don’t know what I watched more … the fireworks as they were hitting the sky or the reflections being held in the buildings.  If you ever have a chance to see that, I’d say do it!!  It was a great summer experience!! img_2319We finished the evening off with a stop at Molly’s Cupcakes.  There’s no better place to be at 10:00 at night on a Friday evening than Molly’s!!   I’ll have a chocolate cupcake with homemade chocolate buttercream frosting!  Heaven ….

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img_2320I LOVE LOVE LOVE the “build your own” cupcake … it’s like making it right in your own kitchen just for me!  Oh yum!!!

It was the perfect sweet end to a perfect sweet day with good friends!  We are blessed that you have come either by happenstance (work!) or by choice!  We’ll take you either way!

Talk to you tomorrow!

 

 

 

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Culture? Or Food?

That is the question!!  Today we decided that we should take full advantage of the culture in the city.  I’m not sure how many total museums are in the downtown area of the city but I’ve been to … The Field, The Art Institute, The Museum of Science and Industry, The Photography Museum, The Military Museum, The Driehaus Museum, The Chicago History Museum and a couple more that I can’t remember right now!  So, with two young, bright, sponge-brained kids, this is the place to be!

Andrew:  I’d really like to see the Art Institute.

Nina:  (Speaking about a thousand words per minute) Ok, it’s so beautiful, you’re gonna love it, there are so many things to see in there, the sculptures on the bottom floor, the Italian marble, they have a wonderful lounge, don’t miss the gardens, and oh, the Stock Exchange Room is fabulous!!

Alrighty then, let’s go!  img_2176There are so many different galleries and exhibits at the Art Institute that every time I go, I try to see something new.  But if you’re only there for a day (or less), the museum offers you a self-guided “Important Pieces to See in an Hour” tour which I’ve tried on many occasions to see in an hour and I’ve never been able to do it.  Mostly because it says, “Ok, go to Number 1.”  You’re walking there and on the way you see … Ooooohhhh ahhhhh, it’s so beautiful and then you continue walking and you see … OMG, that was fabulous, and then you finally get to where you’re supposed to be and it’s stunning … absolutely stunning.  And look … look at the rest of the pieces in this room!  Yeah, it’s pretty much impossible.  You get way too distracted and when the hour mark arrives, you’ve seen 2 of the “most important” and 15 of the other “fabulous” and it’s just not gonna happen.  But, we try our best every time!

img_2134It’s always fun to watch other people enjoy the paintings as much as I do.  The sculptures, the statues, and the history surrounding them is one of my favorite parts of the Institute.  Andrew did his best to see the “Important Pieces” – he was on a quest!

Here’s a marble piece of the Pieta, but with a different look because it’s actually carved on a flat surface, except for the bench at the bottom and the dimensional parts that are “coming out” from the flatness of the marble tile.

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I love this piece because of the way the angels are attending to Jesus and Mary.  It’s not a large piece.  If I remember correctly, it is only about 12 x 18 inches.  It’s so life-like when you are looking at Mary’s robe and the cloth surrounding Jesus, it’s as if you could touch it and feel the fabric.  The detailing is just exquisite to me.  For me, it’s quite moving.

Then, right next to this piece, is a painting of the same piece.  Take a look …

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Again, the detail is amazing and it makes you feel as if, like the marble piece above, it’s a multi-dimensional piece that you could actually touch and feel the cloth, the angels’ wings, and even the weeping women in the background.  Isn’t it fabulous?  This is why it takes me an hour to see one piece!!  Once I’m there, it’s so hard to leave.

Ok, Ok, I know we’ve got a lot more to see …

img_2173We make our way to the outside gardens to sit a bit before we continue on our day.  This garden is right outside the Art Institute on Michigan Avenue … smack in the middle of a gazillion tourists.  But, when you enter the gates, it is instantly quiet and cool and very peaceful.  I really enjoy taking a break from my walks in this little sanctuary.

While we were gone, our 4th boy of the week arrives.  He had an early flight that morning, so when we got back to the apartment, you can see that he was busy checking his text messages.  img_2186

That’s Compa Mike … always working … even when his eyes are closed!!  Haha!!

Mike was here last summer so he had a few of his favorite places that he wanted to hit right away.  First stop … Devil Dawgs for the best Chicago style hot dog around!  Landon is right on his toes because Landon became a Chicago style dog lover last summer too!

img_2182This is what you call, “dragging it through the garden” because of the stuff (veggies) that they put inside the bun.  Some crazy neon green sweet relish, onions, sport peppers, tomato slices, dill pickle spear, mustard and finally a generous sprinkle of celery salt.  Who knew all this junk would make a meal people would enjoy?

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As you can see, they thoroughly enjoyed their “snack.”  And when I say “snack,” I mean a regular sized lunch for anybody else, but for them … a snack!  Growing boys!

After the snack, we take a nice walk around the block to see the park and then head back to the apartment.  We’re waiting for Eddie to get home because tonight we’re going to a BBQ … a “Bub City BBQ” that is!

This place is known for their meats but tonight they are also known for their “Whiskey Flights.”  Compa and Eddie had a few little tastes of the stuff.

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They give you enough to wet your whistle and if you’re a wimp like me, a good sniff of it will do!  The boys (the BIG BOYS that is) loved this opportunity to taste and will be back here again for another “tasting” … Of the whiskey that is!

The pre-dinner drinks added to their healthy appetite … just a bit, I’d say!!

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I don’t know if I can remember all we ate, but here’s a smidgen of it … a rack of ribs Louisiana Style, hot wings, a “country nacho” plate, brisket, tater tots, fried okra, and a bunch of other tasty little goodies!

img_2194img_2192img_2196I just love the tater tots in ranch dressing, smokey brisket, and their “sweet tea” to wash it all down!  This is another fun place to eat, listen to good country music, and apparently, have a flight of whiskey with some delicious food!

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After our amazing BBQ dinner, we had to top that off with an equally amazing dessert … but not from Bub City … no we had to walk off some of that dinner first before we indulged in …

FIRECAKES!!  It’s just a little ol’ donut place in Chicago that gets crazy reviews for delicious donuts!  The boys just couldn’t pass it up!

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Decisions, decisions, decisions!!  Well, they finally got what they wanted and as you can see, with pretty big smiles on their faces!

As we continued our walk home, we stopped to watch a night river tour boat pass us by as they enjoyed a beautiful night on the river.  We, with our full bellies and sweet tooth satisfied, also enjoyed the evening with the brilliant lights and cool summer breeze. It really was pretty darn perfect.

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I can’t believe it’s been a week and my boys have to leave … but we’ve had a blast!  Wanna have a great time on a summer get-away-exploration-do everything vacation?  I suggest grabbing a couple of young men who are by far the perfect gentlemen and exceptional travel partners to make your trip even better!  I am not sure who had more fun this week … me or the boys.  Eddie and I are blessed to have Landon as our Godson and Andrew as part of our “posse”!  I’m the luckiest Nina there is!img_2216“Bye Boys.”

“Bye Nina.”

You know I’m crying my eyes out now!

Ok, talk to you tomorrow.

 

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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 …

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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!

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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:

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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!!

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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!!

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A fried rice ball with a tasty sauce … 

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Oysters on the half shell from all over!

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Me first!! 

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That went by way too fast!

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

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

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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!

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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 …

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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?”

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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!

 

 

 

 

 

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Record Breaking Weekend!

This was a fabulous weekend!  We broke the record on how many family members we could see in one weekend!  It was so much fun!

So let’s start with lunch on Friday.  Eddie was able to meet up with some of our “New Mexico Family” on Friday afternoon for lunch.  Some of the members of the Lucero Family met up in Chicago from all over the country so that they could go to the Notre Dame football game the next day.  So a quick get together was in order.  It was really nice for Eddie to be able to be with them.  I was at tea with the girls so I wasn’t able to see them on Friday before they left.  But that was ok …

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Amy, Laura, Eddie, Brad, Shelli, Julie and Uncle Don! Pay no attention to the photo-bombing lady waving!

Uncle Don and Laura came in from New Mexico, Amy and Shelli in from Colorado, and Brad and Julie in from Arizona.  What a great reunion for them to be together, and a great opportunity for Eddie to see them, even if it was for just a quick lunch.

So, that’s six so far, adding to the three girls, that’s a whopping nine people for us to visit with here in Chicago!!  But that’s not all!!

On Saturday morning, Mary had to make her way home, and Gigi had to make her way to pick up her baby.  So they hopped on the Orange Line back to Midway.  Mary caught her plane back home and Gigi grabbed the two girls to bring back to our apartment!

At the same time the girls were going to Midway, Eddie was heading on the Blue Line to O’Hare Airport.  Our nephew, Daniel, was landing at noon for a week-long work conference, but he was going to begin and end his week with us.

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I know, I know, that’s a lot of coordinating, right?  Not to worry, we’ve got it covered!  And while they were all at airports, Coco and I snuck in a little more touring.  We heard about a “behind the scenes” tour given at one of the famous icons here in Chicago.  The “Chicago Theatre” gives tours on random Saturday mornings, and we were in luck!

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The playhouse was beautiful and has an amazing history.   Called the “Wonder Theatre of the World” when it opened on October 26, 1921, the Chicago Theatre was the first large, lavish movie palace in America.

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After being almost torn down, reconstructed at least twice, and left for empty, the house is now completely restored and is host to many of Chicago’s big name concerts.  We saw tunnels and dressing rooms, balconies and secret “viewing” places all inside the theatre.  The most amazing and scary part of this tour was the balcony.  It is huge and constructed and engineered in a way that is a modern miracle.  In order to prove that the balcony would hold all the people when they were building the original theatre, they put over 26,000 pounds of sandbags on the balcony floor to show everyone that it would really work.  Scary, right?  Well, needless to say, it’s still holding up today.  That was a fun tour for anyone who is a fan of the arts!

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After the boys had a real “Chicago” lunch …

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… we caught up at the apartment with everyone (which now makes TWELVE family members we’ve seen this weekend) and immediately took off for another walk around the city!  We had to take the girls … shopping at the famous Marshall Fields!

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The famous “Walnut Room” Christmas Tree!

 

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The “Grand Staircase” of the original Marshall Field’s Department Store

The people of Chicago still call this amazing monument “Marshall Fields” even though Macy’s purchased it a few years ago.  I love all the history of it so, I too, tend to call it Marshall Fields.  Makes it a little more special.  Besides, there are a million “Macy’s” right?

Next stop, Grant Park … what will we find there?  Well, first we found Daniel “in the Bean” …

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Where’s Daniel?

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the girls at the Symphony …

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and us girls longing to trade in our tennies for some skates …

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We ended the day with a Shake Shack burger and fries and then went home to hit the hay … the girls had an 8:00 a.m. flight in the morning … so you know what that means!  A bright and early departure from the apartment, that’s what it means!

The boys left us girls to our own devices while they decided to stay the night in a much more quiet atmosphere.  They walked up to the Drake Hotel for the night where they got to watch football and be boys without 5 girls to bother them!

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The Christmas Tree at The Drake Hotel

On Sunday morning, my comadres left the apartment around 6:00 a.m to catch their flights home.  I was blessed to be able to spend this week with them and I am grateful that they were able to take the time and spend it with us.  We had a blast and I am looking forward to another “Girls’ Week” soon!  Hurry back Comadres … I miss you already!

Well now that the comadres have all gone home, there was no time for crying!  We still have company and I have more family to see!

I met Eddie and Daniel at the “Original Pancake House” up near the Drake for breakfast to start our day.  This is a little, teeny, tiny place that serves up the best pancakes ever!!  You usually have to wait in a long line that goes down the block but today we got lucky!  We beat the rush and were able to be seated right away!

We had another full day ahead so after getting our protein (yes, we got some protein I promise!), Daniel wanted to see the Art Institute.  Remember that I said that you just can’t see enough of this place?  Well, we tried again.  It was really fun watching Daniel take it all in.  He has done some European “starving student” travelling in his day so he’s seen some of the best museums.  But he loved it and, like the rest of us, didn’t want to leave.

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However, “Goose” was honking their names … Eddie had made a reservation at Chicago’s famous “Goose Island Brewery” for a 2:00 tour.  So we split up and the boys hopped on the Green Line for the quick ride out to Goose Island.  Here’s the view from the Green Line …

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And here’s the view from the tour …

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Unlike the Lagunitas Brewery, this one allows you to taste as you go!  So, you’re not going to have that “thirst” problem here either!  Not quite tea, but still quenches your thirst!

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A few tastes of some different types of originally crafted brews.

While they were on that tour, I caught up with a different tour!  I took a short walk up to the river where I found a few New Mexicans taking the architectural tour!  I know you can’t pick them out, but they’re really there!

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Julie, Amy, and Shelli are looking right at me pretty much from the center of the boat.  They told me a funny story too.  I was waving like crazy at them so they would see me and they said the tour guide said to the people on the boat, “Oh look at the friendly Chicago lady, welcoming you all back to the dock!”  Haha!!  They were like, “Um, No, that’s our crazy cousin!”  Too funny!

I got to spend a little bit of time with them, although I’m so bummed that we forgot to take a group picture!  So, the one with Eddie will have to do til next time!  It was great to see them so spontaneously here in Chicago!  We will definitely make plans to see you guys next time you’re in town for a game!

We finished off the weekend with Daniel and carnitas.  This is a big thing here in the city.  Restaurants offer just carnitas on their menus.  Nothing else!  So obviously, they’re really good at it!

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Well it was another full day and a record-breaking weekend with family … you can’t really ask for much more than that!

Ok, talk to you tomorrow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Day with the Irish!

Well the day had finally come!  How many times had I been asked (in an Irish accent, of course — you pick your favorite one), “Have you been to the Holy Land yet”?  Now I get it!  The “Holy Land” in South Bend, Indiana!!  The one covered in green and gold, and traditions and yes, even holiness!  It turned out to be a perfect day!

Tina is a BIG BIG BIG fan of the Irish.  Last time she was here, we went to the ND store right by my house and she went wild, making sure she had her gear in time for football season to begin!  Well this time, Cliff made our visit to the store a little more authentic!  He made us reservations for the formal “Stadium Tour” on campus for our next adventure!

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So we rented a car and set out for a morning drive to the University of Notre Dame in South Bend.  We didn’t realize how close we really are.  No more than an hour and a half and an easy drive on the highway.  We arrived before we knew it!

Our first stop was the new shopping neighborhood right across the street from the entrance to the University.  Notre Dame Bookstore!  Well, we went crazy!!  It was a good thing that we only had 40 minutes to shop before our tour began or it could have been bad!

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By the way, I found it exciting to know that even ND got in on the “Star Wars” action … which of us “Star Wars” fans wouldn’t want one of these??  Ok, well, maybe just the “force” side!!

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We arrived for our tour right at noon and met our guides for an in-depth, behind the scenes look at the stadium, the locker room, the arena, and the amazing “Sports Center Hall of Fame” that holds pictures of every team from the beginning of ND time!  It was so cool!

Our first stop was the Joyce Center Arena which is where they play both basketball and volleyball.  Apparently the arena does not have enough seats for the “Final Four” so as of right now, we’ll never see one of those games there.  The hosting arena must have at least 10,000 seats and this one is just over 9,000.  If they would have only known …

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On the 2nd floor of the arena, completely surrounding the inner seating, is the Sports Center Hall of Fame.  This is an amazing exhibit to all of their former athletes and teams.  There are so many “famous” people on those walls that went on to “celebrity-ism” … it is pretty incredible to think that at a school this small (their undergrad population is about 8,000 students — that’s it!), so many are well-known for their participation in “pop culture” after graduating from ND.  And, I’m sure there are plenty whose names are not part of pop culture too … you can tell this is a special place to be part of.  It’s gonna stay in your bones … even if you’re just a visitor!

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Next stop:  The Locker Room!  We got to see the story of the “Gipper” and the window that “Rudy” crawled through and of course, the ND watermark that NO ONE … and I mean NO ONE … ever steps on!  Too funny!  Of course, I wanted to step on it just because they said we couldn’t … good thing it was behind a roped off area!

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Each one of those wooden little sections is someone’s locker.  They are all in some sort of “position” order with their names and numbers at the top.

When the players are done getting ready for their game, the next stop is the tunnel.  Our guide explained that the tradition of this tunnel is that Coach Lou Holtz made all the players touch the sign as they ran down the stairs and out to the stadium.  We just HAD to do that!!

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It is quite an awesome feeling when you’re standing there knowing that so many of our favorite football players have done the same thing, time and time again.  I’m not sure they stopped and posed for pics … but ya never know!!

Next stop:  THE STADIUM!

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There’s really not too much to say about the stadium … you know how much history it holds.  The only real thing changing this year is that they are making the seats (the wooden bleacher seats) a little bit wider for their fans.  Instead of the original 7-inch wooden plank seat, you will now get a upgraded seat made of “faux” wood!  The story goes that the season ticket holders would bring their own sandpaper at the beginning of the season to smooth out their seats and remove the splinters!!  HAHAH!!  Not sure how they got away with that all these years but apparently they did!  Our tour guides were really happy that they were “finally” doing the right thing!

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We had a great time with these two devoted tour guides.

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Mark & Steve were funny and knowledgeable and obviously huge fans of the school and the sports programs.  If you are ever in this neighborhood, this is another “must see” place!

Because we had a little time before our next “un-official” tour, we decided to grab some lunch at a local brewery.  The Evil Czech Brewery boasted some pretty good ratings and reviews and that was all we needed to re-fuel ourselves for the afternoon.  Lucky for me, they had ….

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Truffle Mac & Cheese!  OMG, if I would have known how good this was going to be, I would have ordered a couple extra to take home for dinner for the next 3 nights!  Holy Cow, they know how to knock out the mac and cheese!

I forgot to mention that at the Joyce Center Arena, they had another large bookstore … and you know what?  There was stuff in there that they didn’t have at the first bookstore, and because we took the tour, they gave us an additional 15% off our purchases.  Yeah, we stopped … and shopped … again!

Now, lucky for us, one of Cliff’s childhood buddies, Diego, is on staff at ND.  It was so nice to meet him and see his day-to-day life at ND.

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Diego was able to spend some time with us and show us a few more “behind the scenes” places like the indoor soccer and football fields (they have two — one for practice and one for games!) …

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and the training rooms (each machine has its own Ipad to give individualized instruction to each and every athlete!).

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He also took us to “The Gug” (pronounced like Google – just short – so like “goog”) which is where they keep their Heisman trophies.  That was a BIG DRAW for the boys.  It seemed like everywhere we went, there was a history lesson of some sort.

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We finished our day by taking a stroll through the campus.  We went to the Basilica,

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the Grotto,

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the Golden Dome,

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“Touchdown Jesus,”

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and finally, just enjoyed a perfect fall day on campus.

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Before we left for the day though, we found out two more very important details.  First, there was a men’s scrimmage basketball game that evening in the arena we had just toured.  Are we going?  You bet!!

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And second, can you believe that there’s yet another bookstore on campus?  And that this one is TWO stories and the biggest one they have?  Well, we weren’t going to miss that one either … what if they had something the other two didn’t?  We aren’t taking any chances!

By the time we finished our day, it was 10:00 p.m.  Tina and I snuggled in the back seat of the car and didn’t open our eyes til we heard the words, “we’re home!”  We all still felt holy and happy when we fell into our beds, resting in the history and fun, and being part of the tradition of the Fighting Irish!  We had a blast!  If you have never been here, this is certainly a must see for all of us.  Put it on your bucket list.

Ok, talk to you tomorrow!

 

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