Tuesday, April 30, 2013


"Talking about contemporary art….shellac it and send it to Rona” 


What: Millennium Park, a 26 acre park open to the public daily free of charge in the heart of Chicago Illinois. Just 15 years ago this was considered an 'industrial wasteland' and through the mind of the infamous Frank Gehry it has been transformed into one of the most iconic set of freestanding structures in the world. To me, this is not only one of my favorite places in Chicago but it is such a staple of this city that it's hard to believe that it really hasn't been around very long at all.
 I have spent such extensive amounts of time searching for all these incredible things in life to add to my life list and I often feel like I've 'heard it all'. Every country, every bizarre sporting ritual, every natural wonder of the world, every historical site-it kind of makes me sad to think there will is nothing left for me to discover. But learning that this well known park has been thought of, created and become something that people travel all over the world to see just in the past 15 years, makes me excited to see what else will be created during my years on this Earth. Who knows what sorts of discoveries will be uncovered, what inventions will come and go and how many more beautiful, artistic pieces of art I will get too see. I had no idea when I first saw it in 2008 that it was such a young addition to Midwest culture. All the aspects of Millennium Park, considered to be the "most popular work of contemporary art in America" cost a combine total nearing 500 million dollars.

Crown Fountain (2008) operates May-October
When: April 13th, 2013 on our 3 week trip to Chicago- we were also here in 2011, and B.Z. back in 2008.

Where: Downtown Chicago along Michigan Avenue, within walking distance from Navy Pier, Museum Campus and Lake Michigan.

Cost: FREE

Next Time I'll Figure Out When It Gets Wiped Down...And Go After That!
Why this was on my list: I saw it on TV years ago, presumably the Travel Channel and thought it looked neat. I never expected to return...more than once no less and taking such significant before and after pics. Now I kind of feel like Chicago will forever be not just a part of my life but continually in my life.

Will I return? Well now I think we have to continue this tradition. Since it was 2 years ago since our last trip here, two years before our daughter was born, I think it would only be fitting to come every two years from now on. There is so much to in this city, it's not like we will run out of new experiences and as I said...Chicago is really growing on me!!!

Our Unanticipated View From Panera Where We Had Lunch
Something I'd recommend? If you visit the windy city and do not spend some time in Millennium Park, then you oughtta be ashamed of yourself! Specifically I think 'Cloud Gate' or 'the bean' is the most favorable structure in the park. It is a fun spot to take pictures at this structure made of steel and reflects the city skyline. This was my third time taking pictures at Cloud Gate but the first time I noticed how dirty it looked. I looked it up and the large steel sculpture actually gets wiped down twice daily and cleaned with Windex twice annually. Cloud Gate cost $23 million to build and it is predicted that it can survive for 1000 years.

As previously mentioned-there is nearby parking available...but you do have to pay for it, we parked relatively close and paid $6 for an hour and a half.

2008..or 2009 I Cannot Remember


Pritzker Pavillion


Monday, April 29, 2013


  “Aquariums have always inspired a certain amount of wonder”


What: This 1920's aquarium was the world's largest until the turn of the millennium.

When: April 2013 on our recent 3 week trip to Chicago- my first visit to the Shedd Aquarium was in 2011.

Where: Chicago, Illinois, right on Lake Michigan.

Beautiful Aquatic Carvings in the Main Entrance 
Cost: The cost of tickets range from $8-$48, I think the best choice is the 'Total Experience Pass' for $35. It might seem a little expensive but consider that it cost nearly $60 million dollars annually to maintain the aquarium and fish, so in my opinion, it's very fair. You get what you pay for and in this case it's an entire day of fun, educational experiences and an opportunity to see elusive creatures few have seen in the wild. The aquarium is clean, well maintained, the exhibits are up to date and there are several great play areas for kids.

Beluga Whale 
 If I do have one complaint; I think it would be nice if they had an area for nursing mothers. Considering this is a place you will be spending most of your day, it is not a quick walk to your car nor are there any quiet nooks a mom can sneak off and have a little privacy, a room for nursing mothers would be highly appreciated to us lactating mommies out there. I was INCREDIBLY impressed with Sesame Place who had separate private areas dedicated to 'Nursing Mothers'.  I mention this not only as a nursing mommy and advocate of breastfeeding but also I overheard two mothers asking the staff if there was a designated area for nursing moms, given that this is a place geared towards families along with the high volume of visitors daily, it could greatly improve the quality of the visit for some families.

Why this is on my list: I love aquariums. I fell in love with them years ago at the New England Aquarium in Boston. I think they are the perfect place....for every occasion  Obviously it's a fun and educational place to take kids, but it's a soulful place to wander around alone, or an ideal location to spend an afternoon with a loved one. I find aquariums highly romantic-aquariums and airports-I think both are the perfect place to pop the question, share a first kiss or tell someone that you love them.

Something I would recommend? Definitely. From parents, to families, to school groups, and couples or even people who just want to stroll around solo. Every inch of this 400,000 square foot aquarium is magical and memorable all the same.

I think This Would Be The Coolest Place To Have Wedding Photos Taken.
Will I go again? Yes! Aside from my deep appreciation for aquariums, the Shedd Aquarium offers several encounters with the animals; Trainer For A Day, Beluga Whale Encounter, Penguin Encounter, and Sting Ray Touch, and spend the night at the aquarium- I want to do ALL of them...hopefully I can on our next trip to Chicago! I think the Shedd aquarium with be a staple for all of our future trips to Chicago.

Submarine Play Area Across From The Beluga Whale Enclosure


parking- If you are not staying inside the city or do not live in Chicago-just automatically tack on at least $20 for parking for anything you do. Yes, that's a lot but in DC and NYC it's over $40/day so I can deal with half that. My advice is to arrive early in the morning, around the time the Aquarium opens to park in the lot closest to the aquarium in the adjacent parking lot attached to the Field Museum. If it is a nice day then the walk from the parking garage is fine but on the day we went it was cold and pouring down rain so I was very happy with myself for arriving early to ensure a nearby parking spot. If you are organized enough there is a parking lot in front of the Adler Planetarium that only charges $11 if you get there before 9h30 A.M.- it is totally worth it and it is a short walk to the aquarium.

Complimentary Penguin Costumes For Kids To Wear While They Play
best time to go- Well it's good to get there early in the morning to get a good parking spot, though I was there once a few years ago before it opened and the line was insanely long outside and it was freezing. The morning seems to be very crowded with school groups-to give you an idea Shedd Aquarium receives about 10,000 visitors daily. Happily, the aquarium vastly cleared out around 1h30 p.m. and we felt like we had the place to ourselves the rest of the day. At this time many of the older kids had departed so it was much more comfortable in the play areas to be lightly sprinkled with more toddler aged children. Thus, my experience has taught me that the perfect time to go is on a weekday, during the school year, after 1h p.m.

snacks- We spent 6 hours at the aquarium and I was able to spend less than $10 to purchase a few small snacks for my little one and 1 drink. I did bring with me a bottle of water and a baggie of goldfish which helped curb my appetite. Had I known about the lockers I would have brought in a few more bottles of water. I get SO dehydrated-I could easily spend a small fortune just in filtered h2O. There are three cafes, and several gift shops where you can also find small snacks and drinks.

Either A Feeding Or A Cleaning
lockers- Lockers are available near the main entrance which are very affordable at .75 cents per usage-every time you open it you do have to pay again but it's totally worth it. A perfect place to store your coats, diapers, bottles of water, sunglasses and souvenirs. I think storage lockers at places like this where you will be spending the whole day are a major convenience and luxury. Where I was impressed with Sesame Places accommodations for lactating mommies-the Shedd wins the locker round, Sesame Place charged $19 to rent the same sized locker for the day-this is still undoubtedly one of the most ridiculous things I've ever heard of and was so pleased to see the 75 cent sign at this locker area near the Shedd's entrance.

Photo Of Shedd Aquarium Taken At Adler Planetarium
buy your tickets online- It's not a bad idea to purchase your tickets online. Fortunately, the line was not long at all this time, however when I was there two years ago we waited in line for over an hour...outside...and it was frigidly cold! I'm sure the difference was that this time we visited the aquarium on a weekday.

aquatic show- We were able to see the aquatic show which showcased beluga whales, dolphins, and sea lions. The show is about 30 minutes and definitely worth it, what really made it special for us was that we were about a foot away from the sea lion which was surprisingly large and adorable! It is really something to see how intelligent these animals are! I love what Z says at the end of this clip!

how much time to spend there- We spent 6 hours at the aquarium and I felt like that was a perfect amount of time. We were able to see everything, my 2 year old had plenty of time to play in the designated play areas. It was a more than sufficient amount of time to be able to see everything at a leisurely pace....as leisure as things can be with a toddler. I think had I been alone I could easily spend an equal time span wandering around the aquarium-what you miss out on with a small child is being able to read all the bits of information along the way.

staff- I found all of the staff members to be very friendly, knowledgeable, and happy to help the visitors.

gift shop- I am a NUT for gift shops- I'm not even going to pretend to try to hide it... I LOVE THEM. I think it's nice to buy a little memento from the places you visit. Typically I go for a magnet or something that I can use on a regular basis like a coffee mug or toenail clippers. The large gift shop by the main entrance is very unique because of its very uncommon ceiling art, which was only pointed out to me by my 2 year old saying "look mama, a giant squid". I had to laugh that she even knew that title and could accurately identify it...because of an episode on the Bubble Guppies. Below is the quirky necklace I couldn't pass up.

Inside The Wild Reef

my 7 favorite things about the Shedd Aquarium

1.light fixturesWhen you walk into the aquarium, don't forget to look up. The building has the charm and details that you don't see created now a days. The unique octopus light fixtures at the entrance of the aquarium are unusual and extraordinarily beautiful ....in fact the main entrance itself is really quite a sight. So if you are stuck in a long line, just look up, and your time in line will make you feel like you are in a museum in Europe.

Jellies Exhibit 
2.jellies exhibitThe current Jellies exhibit is captivating and host more than 10 different species of Jellyfish. I would have never realized how bewitching these peculiar creatures are had we passed on the opportunity to walk through this display. There is a lot of intriguing information along the way but even just to spend time gazing at these mesmerizing beings would be time you could get lost in. This display will be available throughout 2013. I am actually quite intrigued about jellyfish, enough so to inspire several 'fun jellyfish facts' google searches.

3.play areasThe lowest level houses the Polar Play Zone. Granted before I had a child I would not have cared or even noticed...now though I find play areas like these to be invaluable. It gives my daughter a chance to play with other kids which is a treat since our trips are typically very lengthy and usually we are in hotels that cater to' business people' and it gives me time to relax. One of the play areas is across from the Penguins and the other submarine play area is across from the Beluga Whales. I certainly did not mind the long stretches of time we spent in the Polar Play Zone, being able to watch my daughter in a state of bliss all while being able to the unique view left a big smile on my face. 

4.beluga whalesThe first time I had even heard of the Beluga Whale was on my first visit to Shedd Aquarium. I think they are one of the most interestingly beautiful creatures on this planet. I am very anxious to one day (hopefully soon) take part in the Beluga Encounter!

5.starfishThere is an excellent display where you can touch the starfish- they are so strikingly beautiful, and to see so many at once was just.... awesome

6.great view of ChicagoThe views along the perimeter of the Shedd Aquarium are some of the best in the city. You can take some incredible shots of Chicago outside or even sitting at one of the cafes inside the aquarium. Unfortunately the majority of our trip to Chicago was rainy and overcast so most of my pictures are similar to this.

My Little Girl Marveling At The Grandeur Before Her

Entrance Into Wild Reef
7.wild reef:We almost missed this massive area of the aquarium, it was a last minute walk through right before we left and it ended up being my absolute favorite of all the permanent displays. The Wild Reef had an astonishingly large tank with colorful fish, sharks and eels. It was impressive, enchanting and felt like we were walking into a magical book. Now this would be the place to have to engage in that special moment....again wedding photos here in the Wild Reef would be stunning.

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Friday, April 26, 2013

I'm back...I went: CHICAGO

"The world is a book, and those who do not travel 
                 only read one page.” –Augustine of Hippo

We just returned from 3 weeks in Chicago. It was a wonderful trip where I was able to accomplish 18 LIFE LIST items and TRAVEL TIPS and as an extra bonus I got to see a friend from college whom I haven't seen in 6 years!

It was the busiest vacation I've ever been on but I enjoyed every second. I love being able to take our daughter on these extended trips which give her a variety of new experiences. I know she's only 2 years old and she won't remember these things but it's about two things 1. making memories for us and having remarkable pictures to fill her albums with and 2. many of things we do are highly advanced for her age, but I think it's so good for her brain just to take in so much. I can see her making connections, for example while we were walking out of the Field Museum she was asking me questions that not only she's never asked before but they were types of questions she had not asked previously. Watching her learn is so fulfilling- In just 19 days my little girl got to touch a real dinosaur bone, watch a squirrel being bottled fed, Elmo explained the big dipper to her, she touched a starfish, ate a hot dog from an iconic restaurant, she fed a rare albino deer out of the palm of her hand, went swimming, met new people, saw large artistic sculptures in a big city, we had a picnic in a Japanese garden, saw cars flooded and she got to pet a reindeer.

This trip was very special to us as it was Z's second extended stay in Chicago. We were her for 5 weeks when she was just 5 months old. So for us it was nostalgic and we kept reminiscing about our previous trip with our precious little babe all while creating new precious memories as a family. We took advantage of the opportunity to retake many of the photos that we took of her when she was a baby.

On a personal level this trip left me with some profound reflections concerning the state of my blog and my weight. I cannot believe how much my life has changed in just two years...it is mind blowing how much has happened. The last time we were here, we didn't really do too much...this time we had so many activities scheduled and were not even able to get to several of them. I could easily spend another three weeks here-in fact I may have to make another trip sometime this year, even if it's just for a weekend.

Even though we got to have a lot of new experiences, and re experience a few things, I still have a long list of activities I still would like to complete in this diverse metropolis!

Based on my first trip here as an adult with friends paired with the first trip my first with my husband I took here in 2008-I did not have a good impression of Chicago and I had zero desire to ever return. But I have to say, this city is REALLY growing on me.....actually I'm kind of in love with it.

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