24 September 2011

Road Trip — Chicago, IL

Back in August, my friend and I drove down to Chicago for a long weekend! I've never been there, and my main comment about it is that it's a HUGE city! No wonder they film tons of movies there... it's also very pretty and historical.

After Sonia got home from work at 5, we pretty much left right away! To avoid 94 traffic, I took us a 'back' way... which also had traffic. :P The drive was great, though! I forget how beautiful the Wisconsin landscape is... I imagine it's even more gorgeous in the Fall. Anyway, it got dark around 9, and we only stopped once for gas and to put the convertible top down. All the road construction during the day, even though 90% had no workers at this time of night, still had 'one lane closed', which caused a bit of traffic on the way down and added an extra 45 minutes to our overall drive. Around 10:30-ish, I noticed the car ahead of me, along with the semi, swerve out of the way of something; luckily I was paying attention, cause I had to swerve onto the shoulder because there was this HUGE metal staircase or something in the middle of the road. Scared the shit out of us, especially sneaking up in the dark... thank god we didn't hit it... that would have been a sucky start to our vacation!

The rest of the drive went well, until we hit the tollway. I'm glad it's a good way to upkeep the roads, but it's SUPER annoying to have to slow down and stop, then speed back up again and lose your spot on the road. By the time we got near the airport, there was new pavement going in and they had the tollway down to ONE lane! It's Thursday night at midnight, you figure there wouldn't be many people around, but nope... it was like rush hour. Crazy!

So finally we check-in to the DoubleTree Hilton hotel (read my full hotel review here) around 12:45am. We're both crazy-loopy tired and Sonia was fighting off a cold, so we checked-in, got our free cookie (which was yum!) and went to bed. The hotel parking was pretty expensive, but I didn't care at that point... I didn't want to deal with the car at all that weekend.

So those who know me well, know I have trouble sleeping... especially in a different bed/location. I figured I'd be fine for three nights, using the hotel pillows and sheets... long-story-short, shoulda brought my pillow at the very least!!! I was up until 4am because I couldn't get comfortable and the a/c fan kept screeching every five minutes ALL night. In my Nyquil haze, I didn't even think to call the desk about it...

I finally shut it off at 8am and slept a couple more hours... so I ended up getting about 6 hours of sleep total, but not delicious REM sleep! :(

We both agreed on the sleeping-in that day since we knew we would arrive late. After I complained about my noisy a/c fan to the front desk, we ventured a block to Yolk for breakfast at noon. This place was AMAZING!!! Super cute interior/space and the most delicious smoked salmon eggs benedict I've ever had. After that, we decided to explore the pier and lake There was a cute little beach nearby and a park with a bunch of art all over. We got to the pier and decided to do the ferris wheel so we could get a look at the cityscape.

Again, HUGE city!!! I couldn't fit it all in one picture... lol. After the ferris wheel I got some Dippin' Dots (noms!) and we arrived just in time for our boat tour via the Anita Dee. It was HOT out, and I knew I was getting sunburned, but the boat provided a nice breeze and some shade. :)

Sonia made nice with the boat tour guide, Zach, and after we asked how the city view is at night from the boat, he promised us a free drink if we came back. After walking the pier a bit more we walked to the John Hancock building to get a nice view from the observation deck. Did I mention... HUGE city!!! And the view from the women's bathroom was epic. :D

[And this is only the south view of the city!]

After sightseeing from 98 floors up, went back to the hotel to shower/change/rest. At 7pm, right before I left my room, I noticed the a/c fan was STILL screechy! I complained to the front desk again and they had no idea if anyone had been up to fix it or not. They offered me to just switch rooms and I said yup. So after throwing my crap into the room right across the hall — and with a much better view! [below] — we walked back to the pier for dinner.

Again, VERY good food! Then we boarded the Anita Dee again, and reminded Zach of our free drinks... he laughed and complied. :) I had to sit in the middle of the boat, though, cause there were SPIDERS all over since the sun had gone down. They were icks! And some dumpy, goober MN family was bugging Zach about the kids needing to wear life-jackets while on the boat, because "it's the law in MN". He explained to them that if we did use life-jackets, the harbor patrol would prevent the boat from moving... yes, lady, you need life-jackets on this HUGE yacht... cripes.

Anyway, Sonia made more nice with Zach and he offered us to stay on the boat until they were all done working, and go out and party with them after! We said hell yes, and met some super nice, interesting people. Apparently all the pier workers go drink at this one bar every night after their shifts. But by now it's midnight and I'm barely standing after a whole day of walking and my shitty sleep. I try to stay lucid as long as possible, and with alcohol in my system, which makes me even more sleepy... so I give up around 1am and taxi back to the hotel.

I slept slightly better that night, with Nyquil, but not the best 8 hours I could have used. Since we stayed out late, we grabbed breakfast at the bagel place in the hotel and ate/sat/rested by the pool for awhile. I made the observation that only mid-westerners would sit by the pool on the cloudy, 70-degree day... :)

Once we were refreshed, we walked around the city and explored. I can see how Chicago would be a shoppers dream... TONS of stores all over, but also very touristy. We splurged on a horse carriage ride and then visited the Museum of Contemporary Art. Then we walked the Magnificent Mile and checked out the river. During our walk, we found our 'fancy' dinner place to come back to, which was one of the 'must do' on the agenda.

After resting for an hour, we both got dressed-up and taxi'ed to the restaurant. Sonia had her steak with wine and I had the 8 oz. lobster tail, and OH MY GAWD our food was INCREDIBLE!!! We shared calamari, mushrooms and twice-baked potato with cheese... ugh, I can still remember how amazing it all was and how full we were after! So about 9pm, we taxi'ed back to our hotel and went into food-coma's in our rooms. The plan was to go out again, but by 11, I was completely dead. Sonia went out for a chill evening with Zach, which I'm glad cause I felt bad for being so tired and not being able to go out and enjoy the night-life more! :P

So after packing and watching My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding and The Rock, I passed out via Nyquil.

By now I had gotten used to the bed/sheets/pillows and slept pretty well. We had our brunch place picked out, so I called ahead to make sure we didn't need a reservation. After checking out at noon, we drove about 15 minutes north to this cute little cafe. The timing/food on our entire trip had worked out SO well (minus my hotel experience), except at this last place. Our waitress had forgotten to put our order in so we didn't end up getting back on the freeway until 2pm. Also, my eggs weren't fully cooked and had three huge pieces of shell in them, one of which I ate accidentally, so that made for a blah tummy on the ride home.

Traffic was MUCH better once we got out of the city. We stopped only once and made it home at 7pm. Minneapolis looked so tiny compared to Chicago! But it made me smile cause I love our city and am glad it's not huge, cause there'd be tourists all over. :P

Overall, great trip! We definitely needed more time to explore... we were only in the north part of downtown the whole time. We never saw any L stops, either, even though it felt like we walked forever! :)

Raspberry Iced Tea

Thanks to being addicted to this stuff, I've lost weight! I usually crave something sweet after I eat... with iced tea, it's cold and has a hint of sweetness to it, thus satisfying my sweet-tooth. I've managed to avoid junk food for weeks! I seriously drink a gallon of this stuff every day... lol. I just wish I could buy it in bulk, cause now I have tons of those plastic cases all over my house... feel like I could use them for something...

06 September 2011

Bettie Page

I've walked by this store at MOA many times, but never went in... and if I had the money, I would SO buy all these dresses!!! 50s/60s-style women's clothing is SO figure-flattering... and surprisingly comfortable. I don't understand why everything has to be tall and lanky these days, when our curvy figures haven't changed. :P

Anyway, I bought two dresses! The green one below is for a 50s-themed birthday party (which will look epic with my red hair), and the black one for a wedding (minus that ugly pink flower thing). Can't wait to wear them! :D

05 September 2011


Marg and I went skydiving back on August 3... it was SO phenomenal and surreal! We did it at Skydive Twin Cities in Baldwin, WI. Very good place... safe and professional!

Marg paid for a video — it was expensive so I decided against it — but they were kind enough to snap pics of me. :)

Here's us before the dive...

...and here's after! The adrenaline spike was SO big, I could barely stand up once we landed.

We already bought our discount tickets for another jump! :D

Here we are, getting ready to board the plane. They made us watch a 5 minute video about the risks, then sign/initial a bazillion forms saying we won't sue the place if we get hurt or die. But after that, you basically wait for your turn, put on your gear, and go up! It's like an assembly-line... which is why I felt very safe; they have tons of staff making sure these jumps turn out perfect.

They can cram up to 16 people in this tiny plane, I think... you really gotta be comfortable touching everyone on the way up, too! And sitting in your instructors lap when they click your harnesses together... LOL. ;)

Any last words? :D

You don't really 'jump' out of the plane... you sit at the edge of it and hang off, then flop out...

You basically have to turn your brain off to the fact that you just flopped out of a plane at 13,000 feet... and once the cold air hits you, it's pretty easy just to enjoy all the sensations of the free-fall! Then they pull the chute and you're gliding over the land, seeing all the details without having 3-inch thick airplane window blocking your view... it was so amazing! And once you hit the warm atmosphere and get closer to the ground, it's just so relaxing and peaceful. :D

Here's Marg free-falling!

And here's me coming in for the landing, which was much smoother and coordinated than I thought it would be, having someone attached to your back.

Yayyy we did it!!! Again, so much adrenaline pumping... was hard to stand, cause the legs were Jell-O!

02 September 2011

Harry Potter!

Third viewing today... noticed more details, of course. I love Block E's AMC theater cause it's close and only $2 for parking. They also turn the lights completely off! Epic. However, usually there's a scratch on the film and this time, the sound kept cutting in and out towards the end.

Anyway, very excited for this to come out on DVD in November. Digital download, woo!

Favorite scenes:

• McGonagall casts her 'protect our boundaries' spell, and then with the others, casts Protego Maxima and everyone's spells meet in the atmosphere. (The music is especially appropriate.)

• The diadem is destroyed and the scene cuts back-and-forth between Harry and Voldemort, showing them both in anguish.

• Neville draws out the Sword of Gryffindor from the Sorting Hat. EPIC!!! 8D

Least favorite scene:

• Harry and Voldemort are fighting/apparating around the castle, and their faces meet. (I just thought this few seconds wasn't needed... seemed cheesy to me, and it's like, we get it... they're similar...) But I did like when they both tumbled to the ground after... so it was remedied.

Deleted scenes:

So I'm curious why they took out two huge scenes that were clearly part of the trailer, but not in the final movie... sad they were removed, but oh well.

• Overview of the castle protection 'globe' disintegrating. (They showed close-up details of the debris, but not the wide-angle shot below... sadness.)

• Voldemort has Harry wrapped up in his robe, holding onto his face, and asking "Why do you live?" Harry responds, "Because I have something worth living for." (Clearly there's a space for this in the film, but it's like they cut it out to keep it moving... they do show Voldemort wrapping him up, but not the full bondage and dialogue shown below.)