Peggy Goes to Confession … 13 Times!

Hahaha!  Ok let me explain!!  But first … breakfast!!  And because we’re going to try and see 345 parishes in the next few days, we decided to start our church touring with a great breakfast at my favorite Jewish Deli – – Eleven City Diner!!  OMG, I know I’ve told you before, but their french toast (should be called “Jewish Toast”) is made with their homemade Challah bread and it is quite heavenly … right up our “churchy” stuff for today!

img_2507I also love their menu just because of the names of some of their items … makes me feel like my family is right there with me … maybe even cooking for me (Coco?? Bubbie??)!!img_2505

img_2506Yes girls, you made the menu so I’ll expect a great meal when we get home!  😉

Anyway, we got our fill of protein (yes, we did even though it doesn’t look like it!) so that we’d be ready for the day!  Next, we hop on the subway and off we go!img_2509Our first stop is to let Peggy see the cathedral.  Holy Name Cathedral is where Chicago comes to pray.  Every single time I’ve been in this cathedral, whether just for a visit or for a mass or other service, it has been packed.  It is it’s own parish and you can tell the people that call this place home just love it.  I love the ceilings and the ambo and the archways and the stations … it’s all beautiful and holds so much meaning.  Take a look … img_2517The Doors of Mercy.  The massive bronze doors weigh 1200 pounds each. The doors have the “Tree of Life” theme with intricate details that make the doors look like huge planks of wood.  And as a side note, I just love the Gothic style archway that they’re in. img_2520The ambo with the 4 Gospel writers engraved on it, along with the Holy Spirit. img_2522This is the sculpture that is over the Tabernacle … it’s a bronze and absolutely stunning.  img_2523The ceiling and the fantastic pipe organ.  First, their entire ceiling looks like this.  I often wonder who cleans this ceiling??  It always looks shiny like it was just polished all the way up to the top!!  How does this happen?  The organ?  Well, when they play it during their services, it is spectacular … Sorry, Dan!  I don’t think our HNM organ is on quite the same scale, so when you’re here, take some time to just sit and listen.  One afternoon a while back, I came in while the organist was rehearsing and I literally just sat there while he performed a concert just for me!

Lastly, because I know so many of our HNM’rs have a love for St. Faustina, here is a picture of her enshrined with her relic … img_2518Ok Peg, we gotta go!img_2521Because we’re up in the north end and close to “Mag Mile” I decide to show Peggy the famous street before we continue our journey.  My favorite stop is always the Tribune Tower because of the other types of “relics” that it holds in its walls.img_2526This “rock” is from the “Dome of St. Peter’s Cathedral” in Rome.  This might be as close as Peggy and I get to touching the ceiling in St. Peter’s!!

Next we decide to hop on the water taxi.  This is a really fun way to “get around” the city.  If you’re just going from one end of the city to another, hop on this taxi for a little change! img_2528 I never would have thought that people use a water taxi for commuting, but they do!  Eddie goes between two of his offices here in the city so sometimes he’ll hop on the water taxi to go from one office to the other.  How cool is that for a commute??  Look at these views!img_2540Roosevelt Road is right behind our apartment … if you look at the round looking building on the bottom right, our apartment building is right behind that one.  And yep, that’s the Sear’s Tower looking down on us!img_2538  img_2536This is the “Chinatown Station” for the water taxi stop.  Anybody want some dim sum?

Alright enough fooling around … back on the taxi!  We loved just riding around on that thing from “station to station” but we found our way to the French Market where they have the best cheese around!  First of all, I love the name of this little stall … “The Pastoral Artisan Cheese Shop.  Who wouldn’t buy “pastoral cheese“?  Well after a few samples and much discussions, we picked out a few cheeses … not because we tasted them and we couldn’t live without them.  Nooooo … we chose them purely for their names!!  Haha!  Check them out!! img_2542Who doesn’t love St. Malachi????  And his cheese was perfection!! img_2543In honor of our God-daughter, Marissi!!  And it was just what it promised to be … “restrained yet wonderfully complex” (just like our gal!) … and just plain delicious!!img_2544 I can’t remember why we chose this one but maybe because we both loved the Waltons???    No matter … buttery blast is right …. oh my!!img_2545And last but not least, for Jimmy & Corinnie!!  HAHAH!!!  And, of course, it tasted fabulous, along with the chardonnay and sherry!

The next morning we had a tour scheduled so we were up and attem’ bright and early!  We met Joe inside the beautiful Old St. Patrick’s for an official tour!!  He explained all the finery to us from each stained glass window, to the crossbeams holding up the ceiling, to the filigree patterns all around the “Big Guy” (that would be St. Patrick!!).  Here’s a sampling of what you’ll see when you get here!! img_2552


The entire ceiling looks like this!  


Ceiling over the Altar


Curved walls behind the Altar


Stained glass – every window looks like this! 

Joe was a great tour guide, a chock full of knowledge and a very happy parishioner.  He is devoted to his parish and loves giving tours, even to a couple of crazy church ladies from So. Cal.  That was a real delight to have our own private tour of this magnificent church!

Next stop … wherever we see steeples and bell towers, of course!!

We made our way via walking (11 minutes), then bus (23 minutes), then more walking (3 minutes) then another bus (13 minutes) … the best way to see Chicago!!  After getting off the bus, we know we’re heading to St. Stanislaus, but wait … look over there!!  It’s a steeple!  Ok, let’s go there first!!  Walk (5 more minutes) to … img_2566Holy Trinity Church!  And their Doors of Mercy! img_2568We weren’t able to get inside but we stood in the Doors of Mercy and then moved on to our original destination … img_2561St. Stanislaus!  I’ve seen this one many times from the freeway on our way to the airport.  It stands large and proud for everyone to see and is one of the many polish language parishes in the city.  In fact, I learned that Chicago has the greatest population of Polish people, outside of Poland!  Yep, that’s a fact!  img_2562They mean business here!  img_2569

img_2564We were pretty impressed that they have Adoration 24 a day??  WOW!!  So yes, we went in and spent a little time with Jesus before gawking at the physical beauty of their church.  img_2571Holy Cow, right???  Notice the floor.  There is no carpet anywhere and the pews literally just sit on the floor.  I don’t think I’ve seen a church without carpet in a long, long time! img_2573This is where they were having Adoration. Doesn’t this just look like the “Ark of the Covenant”?  It was so beautiful and you were immediately brought into the reverence of the scene.img_2580 Peggy went to light a candle for you all … Can you see that they are REAL candles she’s lighting.  Thank you Peg! img_2575

img_2577After all that oooohhing and ahhhhing Peggy needed to go to confession … img_2584This girl has lots to say ….img_2588Are you done yet???  We need to go … there are some “angels” waiting for us!

Our next stop came after a 6 minute bus ride (we coulda walked!!) and 9 minute walk to …img_2601



img_2605Yes, we made it to St. Mary of the Angels parish and let me tell you, this is an absolutely fabulous church.  Angels are everywhere!!  You can’t tell by the pictures, but there are angels perched on every corner of the rooftop … looking down at us, praying for us, protecting us.  I loved it!!!

And then you go inside … img_2624Isn’t that a beautiful statement, a wonderful reminder for us!!img_2607Holy Water Font!!  OMG!img_2608

img_2612More prayers for you guys!  Thanks Peg!img_2628


img_2616When you’re inside these churches and see the art work that is on the walls, you can’t help but think of it as a museum.  And it is in some ways, a museum of our faith — stories told on walls and through the architecture and through every single detail that your eyes can see.  It is really incredible to think that someone, a very long time ago, thought of us in their vision for these churches.  They didn’t build the churches for them (so to speak), but for those who were coming after them, to tell the stories that they knew they wouldn’t be able to physically tell us, but by sharing them on the walls and rooftops, and in the nooks and on the ceilings.  Thank God for those who came before us and shared their faith stories with us.  Where would we be without them??






Tabernacle behind Altar






Organ … again a million pipes


Looking back from altar

It was a wonderful, spiritual, uplifting experience just to be in the presence of all the angels and saints and the physical beauty of this church.  I can only think … do all those who gather here each Sunday know the beauty that they’re sitting in, appreciate it, and love it like those of us just visiting?  I sure hope so!!

Ok, well we should call it a day … Peg … Peggy??  Where are you???  img_2590 Yep, I found her … in the confessional … again!!  Haha!!

Talk to you tomorrow!



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!


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???


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?


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.


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


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 …



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!












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!!


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 …



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 …


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 …



Second, St. Peter at the Denial …



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 …


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????


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


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


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!


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.


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!


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


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 …


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!!


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!


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


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.


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!


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 ….



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!





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.


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 …


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?


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.


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!!


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!


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!




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.


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.



Water, Water, and More Water …

As you can imagine with a lake that looks like an ocean, there is a lot of water here!  River water, lake water, pool water, rain water, filtered water, green water, blue water, black  water, and even Shamrock Green water (well once a year, that is!)!  You name it, they’ve got WATER here!  If we could only take a smidgen of their water back to California with us, we’d probably end the drought!

With all that water, we have got to enjoy it while we can, right boys?  But first, we figure we need to show Andrew all the cool looking buildings from the land and the sea!  So we’re off on our favorite “CTA” to North Michigan Avenue to catch one of the famous “Double Decker – Hop On, Hop Off” tour buses.


These double-decker buses are really a great way to see the city so I always recommend this “tour,” which is also a means of transportation, to everyone.


Andrew loved seeing all the architectural wonders, a love that he shares with his Dad.  So he was busy busy click-clicking away at almost every single building!


The famous Wrigley Building


Calder’s Flamingo


My Best Friend’s Wedding Church


Water Tower (one of the 2 structures that survived the fire)


The 2nd Water Tower that survived the fire

Our first “hop off” was at Navy Pier for a speedboat ride and tour of the river and lake.  This tour is a lot of fun because it is fast … really fast!


When you’re on the river, it’s a nice smooth gentle ride, checking out all the architecture and admiring the landscapes.  But then, the captain takes you through the locks and into the open water of the lake that looks like an ocean and … hang on to your hat or it’s gonna go!


Yes, our hair is crazy but that’s because we were going about 100 miles per hour!  Seriously!  We got some great pics of the Chicago sky line and of the clouds that happened to be painted on the sky that day.


It was a great day for the tour, warm enough to want to get wet, hot enough to dry us up in just a few minutes!

“Ok Nina, that was great but can we get in the water now?”  Sure … let’s go!  We hop back on the bus and the driver makes a special stop just for us to “hop off” at the Oak Street Beach.  Have you ever been to the beach in Chicago?  Well you’re gonna go now!


Quieres helado Landon?


Look at all the shells on the sand and the colors of the water!


Check out the “sky scrapers” right behind the beach!


It’s been a very nice afternoon at the beach but I think someone has had enough …


Ok let’s pack it up and make our way home!

Once we get home, the boys realize they’re really not ready to rest, so where do we end up?  The pool!  Watch out — CANNONBALL!!


For the last “tourist stop” of the night, we hop on our bus one more time to meet Nino at the “Chicago Athletic Club” to show the boys the view from their balcony.  It’s one of those “must see the lights from” spots and we knew the boys would love it.


Nina, I think I want an apartment here!


We had a great day on and in the water and our last “must see” of the night was more water.  These are the famous fountain/walls that hold video clips of over 3,000 local Chicagoans who posed for the wall.  They end their video by puckering up their lips and then out comes a huge stream of water for all the kids to stand under!  I love watching this during the day, but it’s fun at night too.


We ended the day with a stop at the Shake Shack for some Chicago “In & Out” burgers and it was a big hit.  Alright boys, I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to call it a night!!

Talk to you tomorrow!



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!