Monthly Archives: May 2010

Shunday Shenanigans

i had to pick up my work (which was on display) from the Clothing Show yesterday. my family decided to tag along and we browsed the show. at the end my sisters were bargaining with a guy for some scarves and he wouldn’t give. so we moved on. he came and found us, we went back. when we went back i noticed that all of a sudden, everyone, and i mean everyone, around us was eating soft serve ice cream from the food court across from where we were. i found it rather suspect. ten people don’t all of a sudden ALL get ice cream cravings. they just don’t. so we went to the ice cream place to ask what the price was, thinking it was at a discount… the guy said "at this point, it’s free" and my eyes lit up! i was overjoyed. free ice cream! it was vanilla chocolate twist, but still, free! but then Camilla couldn’t really finish hers, so i helped and ate it. just as i was finishing, Lucy also said she couldn’t finish hers (of which she had barely eaten any! nor had Camilla) and horrified at the thought of throwing away perfectly good free ice cream… i manned up and ate it. if you are keeping count, that is three generous helpings of soft serve ice cream. i cannot eat ice cream anymore. it has been ruined. i felt so sick and so gross that i went around saying i was lactose intolerant. which i quickly had to stop saying on account of all the "eew" reactions i was getting, rather than the laughs i had anticipated.
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Posted by on May 17, 2010 in Uncategorized


Chicago/Shipshewana Roadtrip 2010

Day 10- Sun. May 2, 2010:

            I can
surely say that there is nothing worse than a 5am wakeup call when the thunder
had kept you up all night long. And it showed really quickly, upon check out as
we were getting in the car I felt an absence on my right hip… my camera! I had
forgotten it upstairs in the hotel room. Thankfully I realized it right away
and was let back in. also thankfully there was actually someone working the
front desk at 5am on a Sunday. The trusty GPS decided to take us down some dirt
back roads to get to the highway, not so great when the sun isn’t even up
(therefore I shouldn’t be up either by the way) and there are no street lamps. I
could not for the life of me stay awake. My head kept snapping foreword… waking
me up. The first highway rest stop in Michigan was not that bad; I guess it was
newly built. Unlike the second one which was run down and smelly and if it were
dark out would totally be the set of the start of a horror movie. We stopped at
Marathon gas station to refill so I decided to get a cup of coffee. The smallest
size they had was 16oz, that is 2 cups! It was dirt cheap and tasted so too. What
was even sadder was the largest size available: 44oz. 44! 5 and a half cups! It’s
unbelievable really. Near the border I saw my beloved ad again, for may have even been the same one. There was also a giant gross ad
for toe fungus, featuring a picture of an infected toe. We missed the duty-free
shop because it was on the other side for people entering the States, turns out
there isn’t one for people leaving.

the end? for now. until August.

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Posted by on May 13, 2010 in Uncategorized


Chicago/Shipshewana Roadtrip 2010

Day 9- Sat. May 1, 2010:

            For breakfast
I snagged some more Pop Tarts and Swiss Miss, neither of which I actually ate
mind you. This time we drove into town to check out the rest of the stores (which
we purposely left for the next day so we would have something to do). Alas,
still no silver rings. One of the places we went into was like an indoor market
with three floors of stores. And on one floor the bathrooms were denoted with
the two people from American Gothic instead of the usual girl and boy signs. We
went to a cupcake store called Garden Gate Café and it was the greatest cupcake
experience of my life! I could not decide between Key Lime and Pink Almond. Thankfully
the Pink Almond came in a mini size too, so I got one on the side. Brent went
for the chocolate one which of all the three was the least tasty, albeit still
very very tasty. Pink Almond came out on top, it was the best, and not just
because it was pink and did not dye my lips green like the Key Lime (which was
richer, I think it had a pudding base) 
but they both had a generous amount of icing on top.

            The Amish
Auction Restaurant was closed, which kind of screwed up our lunch plans to say
the least.  So we just wandered the flea
market grounds, looking at closed up stalls. The only really interesting (?)
thing there was the toilets. They did not have stall doors, instead they had
curtains! It was weird and creepy. We went back to the Bread Box Bakery and its
adjoining jam and noodle store where I bought some black raspberry jam, which has
made my pb&j sandwiches all the more awesome. I also got to watch an Amish
lady making noodles while I pondered the jam selection, sadly though they weren’t
making any jam that day. In the spirit of rationing the day activities, we
headed back to the hotel for some more crappy TV shows. This time it was a show
about gangs, oddly enough on the History Channel which has led me to believe
they have had a serious drop in viewership and are desperately trying to get
their numbers up.

            We headed
back to the Bread Box for lunch. I had some delicious Amish chicken soup and a
bread roll. The soup was so good; I even bit into a carrot and did not mind the
taste. We sat outside in the garden patio while we ate. And of course for
dessert I had another heavenly brownie. Brent had an Amish donut, which I of
course stole a bite of and totally kicked Tim Horton’s ass. It had chocolate chips
on top, and a basic sugar icing and it actually tasted like a mini cake, made
of normal ingredients like butter and eggs, no artificial crap! Thankfully I managed
to find 90210 on the internet after some searching and I got all caught up. At this
point it was raining outside and everything was closed.

            For dinner
we had more East of Chicago Pizza. While we were driving back to the hotel with
said pizza, I actually drove for a bit on a tiny side road and parked the car, all
without killing anyone. I learned another lesson too: Lipton Brisk Raspberry
iced tea is the grossest drink ever. I love iced tea, both real and artificial,
name brand, knock off, and diet, but this stuff was intolerable. Thankfully the
Lindor raspberry truffle to go with it was way better. We ate the pizza while
watching what was arguably one of the dumbest shows I have ever seen in my
entire life. It also furthered my notion about the History Channel being in trouble.
They were talking about how human DNA was “coded by aliens” I mean really?! Come

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Posted by on May 13, 2010 in Uncategorized


Chicago/Shipshewana Roadtrip 2010

Day 8- Fri. Apr. 30, 2010:

            I was
psyched that it was morning. For months I had been hyped up about a promised
waffle bar at this hotel and other breakfast stuff too. But waffles! I kept
boasting to my sisters about the “make your own waffle bar” which I assumed of
course meant decorate your own waffle, sprinkles, chocolate sauce, ice cream,
whipped cream, fruit and on. I was so wrong. They really did mean “make your
own” there was batter and a waffle iron, to which I said good riddance. Instead
I stocked up on Pop Tarts and Swiss Miss Hot chocolate (which I stashed and
drank when I got back home… I am now addicted to it and lament not having
grabbed more). I settled on yogurt for breakfast, but it was way too sweet which
is weird because that same yogurt here is not as sweet. Turns out it had
high-fructose corn syrup in it. Blech. Since when is the sweetness of
strawberries alone not enough?! I dropped my plastic spoon in the hallway so I had
to go back downstairs to get another, which was another chance to stock up on Pop
Tarts (souvenir for my sisters I suppose?).  We walked to “downtown” Shipshewana, which was
difficult given there was no sidewalk and the horse & buggies drove in the
shoulder of the road. We for the most part had to walk in the ditch. Along the
way a horse got scared by us and I felt so bad but the guy just laughed it off
and waved to us. A surprising amount of people waved to us.

            We wandered
about looking at stuff in all the little shops. I was also on hunt for a new
ring because I lost my elephant one at the baseball game in Chicago. Nothing really
caught my eye though. On our way back I saw some chickens and a mother hen with
her baby chicks.
We also saw a barn that had the Ten Commandments posted on it. I would’ve
never noticed it.
We ate the pizza place we had tried to go to the night before,
Pizzeria Venturi. It was delicious, a woodfire oven baked pizza. The toppings
kept sliding off my pizza and it was a messy fun way to eat trying to get it to
stay together. After that we went to the Bread Box Bakery for dessert. Dessert consisted
of the world’s greatest brownie. I love brownies; I have tried countless
brownies and countless recipes. None of them were even close to as good as this
place’s brownies! It was soft and sort of chewy (but not too chewy), it was
rich but not heavy, with just the right amount of sugar and you could tell in
the texture and taste that it was made with real butter and fresh eggs. Needless
to say all brownies will pale in comparison from now on. I stopped in at the
local café for a coffee on our way back to the hotel. It was a new flavour I’d
never had before: Kahlua Cream. It was tasty, but not exceptional. I spent the
rest of the afternoon on the patio outside the hotel with my coffee reading What the Dog Saw.  The sun was out and keeping me warm and the
breeze was gentle, it was the perfect afternoon, even when the owner of the
land next door decided to plow the land with his tractor.

            I went
inside to finish off my brownie.Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was on TV that evening
so we watched a bit of it. It was fun spotting the places and things we had
seen (the

Picasso sculpture can be seen behind the judges in the parade
scene and the parade passes by the Rookery Building). I went back outside to
read some more, it was just that nice outside. Afterwards, having spent hours
in a sedentary state I decided to move about, I went to the gym which is not
really a fair name, it was more like extra room with three pieces of fitness
equipment (albeit more spacious than in Chicago) with a TV. For dinner we had
East of Chicago pizza. Because it was a Friday night all the Amish teenagers
were out and about on the town. East of Chicago Pizza does not know what
chicken wings are. They were more like nuggets, and the garlic sauce? It was
not even on the wings, it was on the side… and it was melted garlic butter. It was
gross. But the pizza was really really good.

            At the
gas station we stocked up on the usual soda, candy and junk food. Dorito’s
Latenight Cheeseburger taste just like that: old cheeseburgers, and it was just
nasty. One of the other Mountain Dew flavours in that voting thing was Typhoon,
it was alright, tasted fruity. Crush Cherry was way better than it though. Then
the spine of my notebook cracked. And we watched America’s Funniest Home Videos
because there was nothing else on. At all. We flipped through all the channels.
For the second night in a row, all that was on offer was AFV.

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Posted by on May 13, 2010 in Uncategorized


Chicago/Shipshewana Roadtrip 2010

Day 7- Thurs. Apr. 29, 2010:

            Sadly I spent
the morning packing and to cheer up, I had my morning coffee from
Starbucks.  I got to enjoy said coffee on
my way to Shedd Aquarium, which just so happens to be across from the hotel.
We went to look at the planetarium also, saw a statue of Kopernik, he
also had a seagull on his head. Outside of the aquarium there was a very very
weird statue of a man holding a fish that is spraying water. Weird is not
enough to describe it, it is beyond words.
to some people in line in front of us and a nice employee, we got a specially
priced admission that was way cheaper than what they had on offer. For only $8
we got to see most of the aquarium, but the lady said we would not get to see
the dolphins, penguins, Australian reef or sharks. There were a lot of cool
fish to see and a really scary turtle. He was huge; I’d say about 80 lbs? And
he was spiky and looked like he was covered in algae. At first I thought he was
fake. As we wandered through we got to the part with the dolphins and no one
was there checking passes (as they were for the Australian reef and sharks) so
we went in. we also got to see otters and a sea lion and some penguins. I learned
a harsh lesson: penguins are nearly impossible to photograph! It was worth the
$8 given we saw most of what would’ve been included in the admission that was
on offer… for $30.

            When we
got back to the hotel we learned that it was check-out time so there was a mad
dash to the room to grab all our stuff and leave. The plan was to drive to
Byron’s (the hot dog place we had meant to go to earlier in the week only to
find it was non-existant, thank you Google Maps!) and then to Frank Lloyd
Wright’s Robie House, on our way to Shipshewana, Indiana. On the way to Byron’s
we passed by a place called Taco Del Mar, I knew I was not crazy. I knew there
was such a place in existence! Byron’s was delicious as well, no real surprise
there. The hot dog was bigger than the bun and it poked out on both sides. When
they serve you a hot dog with everything on it, they mean everything! Lettuce,
tomatoes, onions, cucumber slices (which made biting it a bit easier than the
other places where a whole wedge was served) pickles, and peppers and the list
goes on and on.

House is located in the University of Chicago campus. That said, it is
understandable that there was absolutely no parking whatsoever, the place was
packed! We drove up and down some side streets but it was just cars everywhere.
All well and good seeing as there was a lot of people at Robie House itself
(first tour of the week) so it would’ve been hard to even get in. We drove by
and looked at it, I snapped some photos (drive by shooting anyone?) looking
ever so crazy.

            Finally we
passed by a sign welcoming us into the state, the state in that case being of
course Indiana. We passed by a sign for my kind of place: Coffee Creek
neighbourhodod. Especially given how badly I was in need of some more coffee. I
had barely slept that night, seems some clumsy elephants had checked into the
hotel because all I heard the whole night was loud thumps and doors slamming
and loud people. The wind (having nothing to stop it) was awful on the highway.
At first I thought it was just Brent driving kind of funny, veering this way
and that. It really only clicked when I saw a small blue car in front of just shaking
and being whipped about. It was the wind pushing the cars! We stopped at a highway
rest stop so I could get my coffee fix yet as I was leaving I saw a DQ and felt
this compulsion to also buy some ice cream. So there I sat in the car, coffee
in the cup holder, ice cream in hand. It was awesome! I kept going back and
forth between the two. But soon the ice cream became too much for me. I swear
the guy upsized it for me for free. It was huge! For the first time ever the
ice cream had me licked (pun intended).

            Our hotel
in Shipshewana was very fancy and homey. And the bath stuff? Really awesome,
nice name brand shampoo, conditioner and lotion. After we settled in and
unpacked, we rifled through the brochures Brent had amassed from the highway
rest stop and searched for food. We decided on a pizza place in “town” that was
actually really only a ten minute walk from the hotel. When we got there though
we learned a very tough lesson: nothing in Amish country stays open past 5pm. A
mild panic set in at the thought of having to get dinner at the gas station. We
continued on down that side street where the restaurant was and we looped back
to the main road. And what did I see across the street? The saving light of a
Subway sign. Never in all my life had I ever been so happy and overjoyed to see
a sandwich shop.

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Posted by on May 12, 2010 in Uncategorized


Chicago/Shipshewana Roadtrip 2010

Day 6- Wed. Apr. 28, 2010:

            This time
for my morning coffee I just went downstairs to the hotel restaurant. It was
nice because I got to enjoy it in bed while reading my book (which I was trying
so desperately to finish so I could start on Malcolm Gladwell’s “What the Dog
Saw”). Admittedly I did spill some coffee on the bed, but it was not
noticeable, most of it was on my pj’s. After the coffee kicked in we headed out
north, towards Wrigley Field, we had tickets to an afternoon baseball game. We walked
along the shore of the lake, taking in all the beautiful scenery. The weather
could not have been more perfect, it was warm and sunny and just gorgeous! We
didn’t really have a route planned; we just kind of meandered north. Initially we
were going to first go to the baseball game and then on our way back check out
Lincoln Park and the accompanying stuff therein. But as we wandered northward,
we happened upon the Standing Lincoln statue, which was on the list of things
to see, and again, just as at the Sitting Lincoln, there was a creepy hobo. What
is with hobos and Lincoln statues?! We still had time so we decided to check
out the farm and the zoo. When I saw it on the map I just assumed it was a
small crummy zoo, á la High Park zoo. Boy was I wrong. It was huge! And it
closed at 5, so we decided to hurry through and see as much as we could. Among the
many animals we saw: penguins, puffins, lions, and a rhino! It put High Park
zoo to shame. I even got to see  a male
otter trying to court a female who was just not having it, she just seemed
annoyed by his cutesey antics.

            On the
way to Wrigley Field we also passed by The Wiener’s Circle, yet another hot dog
place on our list of places to eat. We were already pretty hungry and still had
some time, so we decided to eat before the game (and good thing we did, I was hungry
again before the game was even over!). The hot dog, or “char-dog” as they
rightfully called it, was delicious. It was smaller than Portillo’s and
Superdawgs but I liked the charred aspect to it, made it delicious.  The cucumber was not as good as the other two
places though, maybe it was the celery salt? The hot dog was on a poppyseed
bun, which at the time was a good (and tasty) thing, but as I later (and I mean
way later) learned it was not so. Turned out I had a poppyseed stuck in my
teeth all day!
At the Weiner’s Circle we did not get yelled at or sworn as the guide
book and TV show we watched in San Francisco had promised, maybe for the
The baseball game itself was OK, there was one awesome catch,
and I got to see the Cubs coach get all mad and up in some guys face. Towards the
end of the game a flock of seagulls came in, but none of them landed on the
field itself. The stadium itself was (kind of) more interesting. The ivy wall
was pretty and I liked that they put in stadium seating on the rooftops of
houses across the street! At some point there were some really annoying drunk
people trying to sneak better seats behind us. And they managed to secure those
seats for about 5 minutes before the usher came back and kicked them out. I happened
to have been sitting right beside him the whole time. All game long he kept
people from trying to sneak better seats. Thank goodness he got rid of those
obnoxious drunk people, one of the guys had barf on his leg, or so he said.

            As we
walked back to the hotel we ended up in Lincoln Park again, so we decided to
see as much of the zoo as we could in the 20 minutes we had left before
closing. None of the apes were out, the lion yawned really big and the seal
exhibit was closed. We walked back along the lake again, this time the sun was
not directly behind the buildings so I actually managed to get some good shots
of the skyline. On my insistence, we ate at Chili’s downtown. Thanks to those
(wonderful?) commercials that were on TV ad nauseum back in the day when I had American
TV, I had the baby back ribs. Amazing. They were absolutely amazing. I really
wish I had ordered more. They were so meaty and so saucy and just so freaking
awesomely delicious, oh I wish we had Chili’s here! I would be so broke and so
fat though. This being our last full day in the city, we decided we would go to
the other Garrett’s popcorn location and stock up on some more yummy goodness.  Along the way we stopped in at Walgreen’s to
stock up on candy (which also happened to be the souvenir I was bringing home
for my sisters). There I was in the candy aisle, calmly grabbing mass amounts
of candy bars when a small mob formed around me. Suddenly there were about ten
other people, all madly grabbing candy bars! It was a feeding frenzy. I guess
it was because some chocolate bars were on sale for 39 cents.

We walked along Michigan Ave.
looking for it and we got pretty far south when we realized it seemed we had
gone too far. So we whipped out our trusty map (which we barely needed at this
point mind you) and checked. Somehow (!) we had managed to walk RIGHT by it. And
not even smelled it at that. What makes Garrett’s caramel popcorn so good? They
apparently use brown sugar. I wish I had some right now. When we backtracked to
where the map said it was, all we found was a demolition site. Refusing to give
up, I went into the store next door to inquire. Thankfully, the guy said it was
just a block south and on a side street. When we got there it turned out we had
passed by it on the north and south side and had continued on the street it was
on but across the intersection! Had we just looked down the street we would’ve
seen it! It’s a good thing we did not walk all the way back to Navy Pier, but I
would’ve done so anyways. That popcorn is so damn good. At some point I also
went in to Descartes Coffee (another coffee place I had wanted to try) and had
a white mocha which was the best white mocha I’d ever had. Two thumbs up. It was
creamy and just the right amount of sweet.

Back in the hotel, satiated
and surrounded by even more good food, I stretched my feet out and turned the
TV on. It was time for Melrose Place, or so I thought. When I turned to the
channel I was shocked to see the stupid news was on. I was like WHAT?! So I checked
the internet only to find out that it, along with 90210 (which I had been
looking forward to watching the next day) had been on Tuesday night! The one
day I lament sucks in TV-land and both shows were on!! I was so mad. I quickly
remembered though that CSI:NY was on, which I usually don’t watch because of
Melrose Place. Between CSI:NY and the chewy Giant Nerds I cheered back up.

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Posted by on May 11, 2010 in Uncategorized


Chicago/Shipshewana Roadtrip 2010

Day 5- Tues. Apr. 27, 2010:

            Again on
the recommendation of the guidebook we headed out. This time to Manny’s Café (it
seems to be a common theme, to eat at a recommended breakfast place) where the book
forewarned about large portion sizes. When we got there we were at first a bit
put off, it was rather sketchy looking. But it was reassuring to see a picture
of President Obama at the register; I gather he was rather fond of the place? As
I did in San Francisco, I ordered the pancakes. They were soft and fluffy and
delicious. And the book was right. My plate was piled high! And as we looked
around, workers were coming in for what seemed like an early lunch (keep in
mind it was only 10am!) and ordering sandwiches. Sandwiches almost as big as my
head! It was amazing watching them grab a hold of it and just bite into it. It was
quite the sight to see. It was a much clearer day, the sun was out (and yet it
was SO cold, about 5 degrees I think?) so we thought we would go check out the Sears
Tower again, see if maybe the top was visible this time. And it was. As we
walked back to the hotel we took smaller side streets we hadn’t yet been on
thus getting to see more of the city. In keeping with the mild Ferris Bueller
theme to the trip we actually walked by the stock exchange and saw some brokers
outside on their morning cigarette breaks. Unfortunately to go inside and watch
them trade (which is now lamer because of computers unlike in the old days as
in the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off)
you had to have special permission of sorts (i.e.: be part of a school group).

            We drove
to Oak Hill which is just outside of Chicago to go on a tour of Frank Lloyd
Wright’s house and studio. It was one of the more interesting tours I have been
on. I enjoyed how he built it so that a small cramped space would lead out to a
giant space, a “bam” effect as the tour guide put it. From there we drove to
Hillside to Mount Carmel cemetery in hopes of finding Al Capone’s grave. No such
luck, there was no sign or anything so we just wandered for a bit and gave up
really quickly. I guess it hadn’t really occurred to me to look up where
exactly it was. We drove to Superdawg (yet another podcast recommendation) for
lunch. It was catastrophic at best. First I dropped some of my hot peppers as I
tried to pass them to Brent, then as I tried to take a bite of my giant hotdog
the cucumber fell out and onto the floor, leaving a trail of relish on my
pants. But it was very good food. The hot dog came buried in fries so I had to
eat my way to it. It was about as good as Portillo’s but the relish was a weird
shade of green, with a slight hint more teal to it. It was also a bit more piquant
in flavour.

is on Milwaukee Ave. which also happens (further south) to be one of Chicago’s
Polish districts.  It also happened to
intersect with North Paulina Street (yes I am still taking pictures of all my
avenues that I come across) which just happens to be where my great aunt had
once lived. Being the small residential area that it was, there was no parking
to be found anywhere, so we just drove by and I took pictures out the window. We
couldn’t park on Milwaukee Ave. either because there was massive construction
underway. We drove back to the hotel using random streets so we could see even
more of the city. Stopping at a red light on a draw bridge while the El-Train
passes overhead is scary, the whole thing rumbles and shakes and it’s loud.

            After crashing
in the hotel for a bit I grabbed my camera and headed out solo to photograph
the city. Instead I took hundreds of pictures of Buckingham Fountain, the small
surrounding fountains near it, and Cloudgate (the bean). What can I say, the
lighting was good! I was there for a couple hours and the sun was setting so I decided
to head back to the hotel via the next street over, continuing with the theme of
the day really. Except the way it happened I was actually two streets over on
State Street. With a giant green tea from Starbucks in hand I headed back… only
I got distracted by a TJ Maxx across the street (which is where I had just been
at Starbucks, so I may have looked mildly crazy). I only meant to go in there
for a few minutes; after all I had my sunglasses on and in the spirit of
comfort had not brought my purse (thus my change of glasses). And yet I was in
there for a few hours, it’s so much better than the Canadian counterpart,
Winners! Not fair. When I left I kind of went the wrong way. I was mildly
disoriented and thrown off by the fact that as I had been heading to the hotel I
quickly ran across the street to TJ Maxx, so as I headed back I forgot I was on
the other side of the street. Thankfully I got about 1 block north before I caught
on. On the plus though I did get to see the Chicago Theatre marquee all lit up.
Yep, by the time I left TJ Maxx it was dark outside, the sun had managed to

            I looked
crazy as I walked back to the hotel, it was dark outside and there I was
smiling like an idiot and wearing sunglasses. I was also really hungry, but I first
wanted to go get my regular glasses, it was also rather hard to see. Upon reuniting
with Brent at the hotel we headed out to get me some dinner. I just about
settled on a bag of cold (already cooked though, just meant to be heated up)
chicken wings at Jewel-Osco (weirdest name for a supermarket ever!). Instead I had
Subway for dinner. Except it was kind of weird, they had on offer a sandwich
called “The Feast” which I later learned was just meat piled on top of meat on top
of meat. Gross. And of course: what’s dinner without soda and candy? The next
Mountain Dew we tried was “Voltage”, it was blue and tasted like gummies,
unlike the white one that tasted like licking the inside of a freezer. Sadly though
there weren’t any good diet sodas on offering (they were out of Cherry Coke
Zero!) so I had to settle for ingesting high-fructose corn syrup.

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Posted by on May 10, 2010 in Travel


Chicago/Shipshewana Roadtrip 2010

Day 4- Mon. Apr. 26, 2010:

my trend of a new coffee place each day, we set out towards Caribou Coffee which
was conveniently located across the street from the Art Institute (our plan for
the day). The coffee was pretty good, but I was distracted by all the writing on
the cup (same style as the LuluLemon bags). Which actually made me wonder how
people don’t end up spilling their coffee all over themselves? I got the trivia
question wrong and thus did not win the totally awesome prize of 10 cents off
my coffee. Having time to kill before the Art Institute opened, we wandered
around Millenium Park. We saw the fountains that show peoples’ faces and make
them spit water (alas, we have no idea how to get our faces up there). The Sitting
Lincoln statue had a bird atop his head which I managed to get a picture of
before some scary hobos starting offering to take my picture in front of the
statue (read: steal my camera?). On the bridge to the modern part of the museum
we met a lady (whom we joked was crazy) that was trying to tell us that we
could not enter through there, but we had checked with a security guard who
said we could so we stayed put… until someone from inside came out and told us
to go to another entrance. We spent about 4 hours in the museum and we saw
basically everything (save for one or two exhibits that were either closed or
boring). It was nice to see actual original works rather than museum copies.

            Walking around
for 4 hours straight looking at priceless works of art can take a toll on your
appetite. We walked to Al’s No.1 Beef, recommended by the tour book, podcasts
and (apparently) Hilary Clinton. It had to be good right? How could it not be? The
Italian beef sandwich (which thankfully I only had a bite of) was chewy and
greasy and super gross. When Brent bit into it, the grease actually squirted
out onto his copy of the Onion newspaper. I had a burger instead; it wasn’t
that bad, albeit it was no Craft Burger. On the way back to the hotel we
stopped at a Dunkin’ Donuts so I could get my afternoon coffee fix. While I was
inside a hobo apparently started talking to Brent and when I came back outside
he asked if we were smokers and called me his “beautiful wife.”

            After resting
our feet for a bit we set back out to see more stuff. Next was the Museum of Contemporary
Photography. It was free and small. The work on display was actually really
nice and did not live up to my lack of understanding of most contemporary work.
The Rookery building was beautiful and stood out against the rest, we
recognized it right away. The Picasso sculpture had been defaced… they stuck a
Black Hawk’s logo on the things “forehead” which is just tacky. On our way to Pizzeria
Uno we stumbled upon a really weird looking mall (Atrium Mall) that had some
weird papery sculpture outside of it. In the mall though there was a Payless
Shoes and I found the shoes I had been searching for. While we waited for our
pizza from Pizzeria Uno we went to Portillo’s for their famous chocolate cake. We
ate the cake in the plaza around NBC and I can see why it is so famous! It was deliciously
rich and chocolatey but not heavy. We wandered around some more, bought some
more soda, to go with the pizza of course.

            We picked
up the pizza and embarked on what felt like the longest walk back to the hotel
ever! Tired, hungry, sore legs, we made our way back… complaining all the way. We
collapsed in the hotel with the pizza and soda to watch House (well I watched
House). The pizza was a recommendation from Ryan and counter to the tour book that
actually said avoid the place. The book won: the pizza was awful! We ordered
the deluxe one (same as Gino’s, it’s the original deep dish pizza) which actually
had as a base an entire layer of ground beef and then all the other toppings
atop it. Way too much meat, and even when I picked it out it was gross. The crust
was soggy in some parts and did not taste that good. Thumbs down. I turned to
my Cherry Coke Zero for comfort only to find the label stating that it was “Low
in Sodium” which is mildly disconcerting no? At the end of the day my face felt
tight… sunburnt.

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Posted by on May 7, 2010 in Uncategorized


Chicago/Shipshewana Roadtrip 2010

Day 3- Sun. Apr. 25, 2010:

One of the things I wanted
to do while in Chicago was to get my morning coffee from a different place
every day. On Sunday it happened to be a recommendation from the internet,
Intelligentsia. So we set out to the one I had google-mapsed. Still being new
to the city as we were, we kind of missed the turn and kept on walking.
Eventually we got to Millenium Park and I realized that we had gone too far. We
whipped out the map to see we had gone about 4-5 blocks too far. So we decided
to turn left and go down the other street that made up the intersection where
it was. Yet as soon as we had turned, no more than a few steps and we were
there! Turns out they have a few locations. And I can see why it was
recommended, the coffee was amazing! They don’t brew a full pot and then pour you
a cup. Nope, they individually brew cups of coffee per customer and that does
make a difference taste-wise. Coffee in hand, we continued along the route we
had planned for the day. First stop: Trump Tower, which was not that
interesting to look at. We were more amused by the parking garage across the
street where the cars looked like they could topple over the edge because there
was no barrier.

Next we saw the Wrigley
Building, which was actually by chance; I don’t think it was circled on our
map. That and I guessed what it was before we actually got up close to see that
I was in fact right. At the Tribune Tower our true touristiness shone bright:
we walked inside to the lobby, gazing up expecting to see pieces of buildings
from all over the world, much to the amusement of a bewildered security guard.
When we got back outside that was when we noticed a piece of the Wawel Castle
from Poland right beside the doorway. So began our circling the building,
looking at each piece of building from the pyramids of Giza to a piece from
Cumberland Gap (Tennesee? I should know this, I was there!).

Navy Pier was the main
attraction for the day. It was pretty hokey and fun just like Fisherman’s Wharf
was. There was a McDonald’s with a confusing sign implying either that McDonald’s
is the future or what was inside was a futuristic McDonald’s. The Smith Stained
Glass Museum was interesting at first, but then it just kept going and going
and going. On and on forever row upon row of stained glass. Thankfully we had a
bag of Garrett’s Popcorn (caramel) which was also recommended to us by the tour
book. The popcorn was amazing! It was soft 
but also crunchy and just the right mix of sweet and buttery. Olive Park
had looked a lot better on the map where it had been denoted as a park. It
wasn’t really a park. It was more of a concrete slab with some trees that led
out to a view of the lakeside and Navy Pier. As we walked by the lakeside
towards Byron’s Hot Dog Haus (another podcast recommendation) we happened to
walk right through a charity march, in the rain. Yep, it was raining at that
point. As we meandered through the city, slowly 
making our way to Byron’s, we happened upon Gino’s East Pizza which is
where we were planning on eating dinner later that night (albeit not that location,
we wanted to eat at the original). And there was a line-up forming outside
before it was even open! And you could tell this was a regular occurrence
because they had heat lamps in the canopy over the entrance!

We were walking for what
seemed like forever. The rain was not helping, nor was my second round of
hiccups (first one was at Navy Pier) that also lasted forever. When we got to
where Byron’s was supposed to be we were shocked to find it was not there! We
had walked for about an hour, at least… for nothing! The wind started to pick
up and the rain got harder as we walked back towards the city (we were on the
edge of downtown it seemed). We decided that we would just eat at Gino’s for
lunch instead. There was no line up, we were seated right away. Gino’s was
really cool looking, it was covered in graffiti that was covered in even more
graffiti! We were told that the pizza would take 45 minutes to cook, so I
wandered off to go see the shops on North Michigan. In the end though I was way
too hungry and headed back. As I came back there was a huge line up! Turns out
we had just missed the lunch rush. The pizza was delicious and I can definitely
see why the line ups formed. We had ordered the deluxe one, which is apparently
the original deep dish pizza. It was perfect.

Full of delicious pizza, I
headed back out to try my hand at shopping again. This time was more
successful. At a sports store across the street from Gino’s I found the Soffe’s
shorts I had been so direly looking for. 
And as a bonus: they were on sale! The mall itself was poorly laid out.
It was 6 floors! And on each floor was only about one or two stores I actually
liked. So that was inconvenient. And the sizes were a bit off. I ended up
buying way less than I had intended. I went to about 3 shoe stores looking for
a new pair of running shoes but to no avail. I found one pair but apparently in
the U.S a size 7.5 is not the same as in Canada! Back in the hotel I joined
Brent for a cold pizza dinner (the pizza we had ordered was huge! At Gino’s we
each only ate about 2 slices and had to get the rest boxed). We headed back out
(in the rain and wind) through Grant Park to see Soldier Field. It was a lot
colder then and the wind was passing right through my sweater!

Cold, wet and tired we
slowly made our way to the gas station. There we stocked up on candy and soda
and chips. The new white Mountain Dew was gross, honey barbeque Lays were delicious
and the coconut M&Ms from Kalamazoo were also deliciously good. The food
was way better than the TV, the new episode of the Simpsons sucked and we did
not get AMC so we couldn’t watch Breaking Bad. All well and good given how
exhausted I was.

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Posted by on May 6, 2010 in Travel


Chicago/Shipshewana Roadtrip 2010

Day 2- Sat. Apr. 24, 2010:

            After a
sleepless night of tossing and turning, I was on a couch afterall, we left
early in the morning, hitting the open road as some would say. Thankfully I had
planned ahead the day before: in grocery shopping I made sure to pick up a Red
Bull for the morning drive (yes, even sitting in the passenger seat staring out
the window needs energy). What I had not realized was that I had grabbed the
sugar-free one. I only realized when it failed to work. The Red Bull was doing
NOTHING to keep me awake. Hence my new theory: it’s the sugar that keeps me
alert. The guy at the border was a cutie and also clearly very bored in the way
he asked us questions. I don’t blame him, sitting in a booth all day? Boring. This
was the same border that I had crossed last roadtrip with Molly, and I must
say: the lake seemed a lot cleaner and Michigan was not as smelly. This time
though we were going west through Michigan, so I got to see more of it. And one
of the first things I saw? A billboard advertising in huge font that they had “clean
bathrooms” that was it. I also kind of found it odd that there were billboards
on the left side of the highway too, facing motorists (as in, you would have to
look to the left, across the other side of the highway to look at it).

Soon after the lack of sleep
and mass amounts of caffeine started to combine. I started insulting Michigan
every chance I got. And it was bad, as in terribly cheesey and made you want to
grab your head and scream. A prime example: we passed by a sign for Pine River,
so I said, “pining over how bad Michigan is.” Out loud, I said that out loud…
and then laughed for emphasis. The best one was still an ad for the state
itself that said “Pure Michigan” as in pure filth! Ha! I spotted a dilapidated
shack on the side of the highway and called it picturesque Michigan. It was
scary to see an army vehicle being transported alongside us, I am just not used
to seeing things like that I suppose? There was an exit for an American Tim
Horton’s at which I turned up my nose and said “blech” because I am convinced
it’s just not the same.

We passed by one of my
favourite American road signs: Prison area. Do not pick up hitchhikers. Ironically,
Brent pointed out, I Am A Passenger by Iggy Pop was playing in the car. Our first
stop was in Flint, MI to go to, of all places, White Castle! Keep in mind, it
was still breakfast time. Thankfully they weren’t lame like McDonald’s and were
actually serving the full menu. But was it actually a good thing? No. The
burgers there SUCK. Definitely among the worst fast food burgers I have ever
had the displeasure of eating. Do I regret it? Nope. As an experience it was
worth it and for kicks and mostly because of the movie Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle. And I got a funny little
pamphlet on HOW to eat them too. After getting through that soggy gross
mini-burger I went right back to insulting Michigan. But alas I’d lost steam. All
I came up with was saying that Lake Interstate was a lame name for a lake, which
it is.

Now we were heading to
Kalamazoo, MI so I could live out one of my life’s dreams: go to Kalamazoo. How
did this come to be? I was once walking by a Greyhound bus terminal in Toronto
and I saw a bus that said it was headed to Kalamazoo, I laughed thinking to
myself someone was playing a joke. Eventually I looked it up and was shocked to
find that it was a real place. A real place that just happened to be sort of
along the way to Chicago, IL. And I was conveniently in need of a coffee and we
were conveniently in need of change for toll roads. On the way to Kalamazoo we
passed by a really scary billboard featuring Ronald McDonald doing a scary “whoa!”
face. In Kalamazoo I saw a Lover’s Lane. And the Starbucks had cherry chocolate
mochas. And the guy at the gas station (I had to stock up on American road
candy!) was really nice to me too. The people in Kalamazoo, MI are a  really nice bunch! As per the candy
selection? It was a bit odd, coconut M&Ms, fizzy Skittles?

Back on the road we passed a
sign for a town called Paw Paw, which of course warranted more than a few
giggles. And more fun billboards! A religious one about “ogre achievers” and a
breakfast diner ad that said “Eggs-it 34B” so cheesey. The Three Musketeers
Truffle Crisp (one of my aforementioned road candies) was actually really good and
gets two thumbs up, now if only we had those here in Canada! It was a delicious
mix of soft and crunchy and featured a nice flower pattern along the bottom.

We barely even realized we
had driven into Indiana because there was no big welcome sign! (Something I had
become accustomed to on my last road trip). We actually figured it out from a
small highway sign. The billboards in Indiana are a lot more loose and gross in
Indiana. Mostly for strip clubs featuring ugly girls, one of whom was wearing a
diamond dog collar and another for a lamely named “Pole Katz” on which the girl
was more of a dog. The best billboard ad from Indiana had to have been the one
for “Krazy Kaplan’s Fireworks” (in Polish kaplan means priest, well spelled kapłan).
There was also no sign telling us we had entered another time zone either.

We knew we were in Illinois
because it said so on the bridge, a giant double-decker bridge that made me
feel like I was in NYC without the gridlock (keep in mind I’ve never actually
been to NYC). There was actually a McDonald’s in front of the toll booths on the
bridge! This is becoming an emerging theme now, but there was a billboard for a
shoe store called Athlete’s Foot! What is wrong with people?! That is just

Finally we arrived at the
hotel, some 6-7 hours later. But just like that we were back out, no time for
resting. We crossed the street to Grant Park (yep, I got us an awesome hotel in
the less busy part of downtown, near the park and most everything else). Grant
Park was really nice, lots of trees and flowers and fountains. There were a lot
of fountains. Especially surrounding Buckingham Fountain (the main one you
could say). Through Grant Park we wandered north to Millenium Park to see the
amazing Cloudgate (aka the “bean”, which is exactly what it was: a giant silver
bean). And it really was amazing. It had a mirrored surface so you saw a
distorted reflection of the people gathered and gawking at it as well as the
city skyline.  From there we headed up
North Michigan Ave. aka the Magnificent Mile. And it too gave what the name
promised, rows upon rows of Magnificent shopping. Ever the temptation, but I withheld.
We were headed to Portillo’s, one of the hotdog places that the tour book
recommended as well as some guys in a sports podcast Brent listens to.

I can see why they were all
recommending it. The hotdog was amazing! I can’t say I care for the hot
peppers, but the cucumber was actually really good. There is a slice of
cucumber lying adjacent to the hotdog, although it did making biting into it
that much more difficult. Looking back, I still think Portillo’s was my
favourite and tastiest. We continued on following tour book recommendations and
headed off to see “heads on spikes” at Merchant Market. They were not on
spikes, they were on pedestals. And I have no idea who any of them were. The market
itself was a beautiful building from the 1920s, but we didn’t go inside. I liked
how many drawbridges Chicago had, all going over the river. But in all the days
we were there, I never once got to see one go up! I did get to see the El-Train
passing over top of traffic. It was so cool; I kept gawking at it, clearly
giving away my tourist status (as if the constant map checking and camera didn’t
give us away). It reminded me a lot of GTA: San Andreas. We didn’t get a good view
of the Sears because of the fog. It had been raining for most of the day,
thankfully tapering off when we arrived, but still left some fog.

Instead of going back to the
hotel with Brent, I quickly gave in to shopping temptation and headed to Target
(which was near the hotel). It was not as good as I had expected it to be, they
did not in fact sell Soffe’s shorts as I had been told by many an internet
person. But Shape magazine was right in that their C9 line by Champion was
pretty decent. It was still weird to me that you could buy booze there, in the
sock aisle I overheard a lady remind her husband that they also need to pick up
some wine! I returned to the hotel, voraciously hungry again. On our walk back
to the hotel from the Sears tower earlier we had seen a few Pot Belly’s
Sandwich Shops and while I was out shopping Brent had googled it to find a
location that was open. That location just happened to be on the next block
south of the hotel so we headed there for a late dinner. The chicken soup was
really good. As we were walking back to the hotel (literally a 2 minute walk) with
our food though we got caught up in a massive rainstorm! It was awful, I could
barely walk against the wind.

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Posted by on May 5, 2010 in Travel

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