Thank You to all Veterans!

For Veteran’s Day, I’m thankful for all veterans who served or currently serve in the U.S. Armed Forces. I was lucky enough to attend assemblies at two of the schools in our district today. Each was touching in its own way. At the middle school, the program included a slide show with photos of veterans related to staff and students at the school. By putting a name on each face, it gave the experience a very personal element. I think it made a connection for students to realize that their principal’s brother is currently stationed in London.

The program at the elementary school was a different type of experience. Students sang, recited poetry and handed out stars and flags. It was what happened at the end that turned it into something memorable. A veteran stood and addressed the group. It was clear by the look on Mike’s face that this was…

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An Afternoon at Chicago’s Daley Plaza

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Saturday, June 21st was Make Music Chicago. What started as a celebration of music on the longest day of the year, back in Paris in 1982 has spread to cities all over the world, making its way to Chicago in 2011. Make Music Chicago consists of performances from musicians of all ages and skill level in locations across the city. My son was asked to be part of a group who performed at Daley Plaza.

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Daley Plaza is graced with The Picasso, one of the most well-known landmarks in Chicago. This sculpture by Pablo Picasso was dedicated in 1967. It stands 50 feet tall and weighs 162 tons! It’s popular for kids to slide down, as well as skateboarders (when security guards aren’t present). It has appeared in may movies, including The Blues Brothers, The Fugitive and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

In addition to the sculpture there is a fountain, which bubbles merrily at ground level, often changing colors to celebrate a holiday or a sports’ team championship win. It is a popular location for a variety of events, including a farmer’s market and a bike rally this month. It’s also a great place to people-watch, which is what we did while waiting for our son’s group to perform.

I got such a kick out of watching these 2 little twin girls playing in the plaza. Their joy of life showed in their laughter and playful spirits. There was a protester- on a hunger strike. It was interesting to watch peoples’ reactions upon seeing him. He wasn’t asking for anything. Just to make his statement. He was left alone, although at one point he was part of a family’s photo.

The music was awesome! Instead of sitting in the “stage” area, this group chose to spread out around the space, including the Picasso, where two trumpet players stood.

Stopping by the plaza is one of the endless things you can do when visiting Chicago.

The Happiest Place on Earth!

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We recently visited Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, US. It is the most popular vacation destination in the entire world, with approximately 52.5 million visitors per year. It covers 42,000 acres and includes 24 resorts, 4 theme parks, 2 water parks and more. Over 130,000 people visit the theme parks daily, with over one third of those heading to the Magic Kingdom alone.

It was our 4th time going as a family. I honestly didn’t think we would be back this many times but even at 18, 21 and almost 24, my children still love it. Trying to keep this short and sweet will be impossible so I will try to limit it to a few of the highlights.

We stayed in the Art of Animation Resort, which offered rooms and suites in themes of Little Mermaid, Lion King, Cars and Finding Nemo. We stayed in a Cars suite. It was like stepping into the movie- complete with the Cozy Cone Motel sign that circled with a few of the lights burnt out. On the “road” that led to our building, I noticed that adults had a tendency to follow the rules of the road and stay to the right. Kids, on the other hand, did not feel the same way.

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Animal Kingdom was built in 1998, covers 500 acres and is themed entirely around animal conservation. On the Kilimanjaro Safari, we got to see the animals of Africa roaming freely about the land. This rhino was oblivious to the truck and nearly walked right into the side of it. We also rode on the Kali River Rapids and I got drenched. It happens to me every time! The park is not huge or overwhelming- quite do-able in one day.

Epcot opened in 1982, the 2nd to be built. This park is separated into 2 different worlds. The first is Future World and it features innovations, including science and technology. Future World is the home to Spaceship Earth, or “the golf ball” which is the park’s landmark. World Showcase shares the culture and cuisine of 11 different countries. My favorites are Italy and England. The cast members (employees) in each of the countries are actually from the country and they are happy to answer any questions you might have. That funny looking guy is in Norway and it has been a tradition for me to take a picture of my kids, posing with it.

Hollywood Studios, originally MGM Studios in 1989, is devoted to show business. It is like walking onto an old-time movie set mixed in with some popular modern day favorites. My grandson was able to take part in Jedi Training. He did not have to battle Darth Vader but the Sith Lord he was pitted against was quite scary- especially when you are only 4!!!  Toy Story’s Midway Mania is one ride everyone should experience. Just standing in line (which is what I did) is a trip. All of the toys are much larger than life and it’s a real kick to see the kids get so excited. In this ride, you get to ride in a car and play all the popular midway carnival games. For dinner we went to the 50’s Prime Time Diner. It was like stepping into a 1950’s kitchen, complete with décor, comfort food and television sets showing the popular tv shows of the times. My pot roast was amazing!

Last, but not least, is the Magic Kingdom, my personal favorite. To me it is what most people imagine when they think of Disney World. Not that a person could begin to fully realize what it’s like unless they visit it. The attention to detail is incredible- from the architecture, characters and music that fills the streets to the attractions and parades. When you walk down Main Street USA and see Cinderella’s Castle at the end for the first time, it takes your breath away. The Festival of Fantasy Parade was fun to watch. Disney knows how to put on a parade! One of my all time favorite rides is the Winnie the Pooh ride. We have gone on it every single time we have gone to the Magic Kingdom. My kids are great sports about accompanying me since the 18 year old is the only other Pooh fan in the group. And a trip to the Magic Kingdom would not be complete with “It’s a Small World.” That’s one of those ‘you either love it or hate it’ rides.

It’s an incredible experience and if you have the chance to go, I strongly recommend it. Everyone should see it at least once in their lives.

Sunday Morning Walk in My Hometown

This morning I took my dog for a walk to take some pictures around town. Summer has finally arrived in Chicago and not a moment too soon. I’m sure it will only take a day or 2 of temperatures in the upper 80’s and everyone will have forgotten the never ending winter we just endured and start complaining about the heat!

I have lived in this town most of my life. It’s a suburb about 25 miles from Chicago, making it a decent car ride and even quicker train ride. The train station is near my house and my family uses it often to get to the city. This town was established in the 1800’s and the expansion of the railroad caused a boom in industry. It currently has a population of just over 50,000 people and although that might seem like a lot, it really does have a small town feel to it. Many people who grow up here, remain here to raise their own families. Although it boasts all the necessities in life (like McDonalds, Target and Walgreens), it is a great place to live with all the comforts of small town living right here and the fun big city stuff a short distance away.

This is just a snapshot of my hometown.

Next week my family will be going to Orlando, Florida- Disney World!!! I hope to have some exciting things to share with you when I get back- especially my daughter-in-law, Jasmine’s and grandson, Christopher’s impressions since it’s their first time.

Lincoln Park Zoo and the Quest to See Bears

I am a Midwest girl, born and raised in the suburbs south of Chicago. I had the opportunity to go to Lincoln Park Zoo a few days ago with my children and grandson. This zoo is located north of the city, right off Lake Michigan. With the lake on one side and the skyscrapers on the other it’s a really cool drive.

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Upon arrival we ran into the lion habitat. We didn’t see the lion but we saw a tiger so it seemed like a good start to the day. My grandson, CJ, requested to see the bears and so our quest began.

We are unfamiliar with this zoo, being loyal Brookfield Zoo members on and off over the years but this zoo is free and with 5 adults and 1 child, money does play a part. You would think that 5 adults could read a map and find the bear exhibit. Guess again.

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This zoo is very pretty, in a park like setting. The pond is large, filled with swans and ducks. We got to see a mama swan arranging her eggs in her nest before settling down on top. We also sat down to have a snack and watch the seals in a training demonstration.

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The flamingos were entertaining to watch. They have such excellent balancing abilities. And sleeping with their heads tucked in their wings while a flock of people are standing there talking loudly is another great talent. But still no sign of those bears.

We did eventually find the bear exhibit and saw the back end of what might have been a larger cub or small adult bear in the distance but that was it. I’m not sure where the bears were hiding that day.

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On the way out, we passed the lion habitat once again and lo and behold, there he was- the king of the jungle. He was just lounging up on his throne (rock) surveying his land.

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My kids insisted on getting these creepy masks. They declared them the best $6 spent ever!


Although we left the zoo with our quest not really complete, we still had a nice day. It is a beautiful  zoo, maybe a bit low on animals, but with the city and lake as backdrops, how can you go wrong?