Chicago

See All the Main Attractions of Chicago for Only $35 Per Person

That’s $35.00 per person for three days!!

Not bad, eh?

Okay. So about our trip to Chicago… correction, our SECOND trip to Chicago.

We took our first trip with our boys. Which was fun, but we really didn’t get to do anything WE wanted to do. We spent our time touring museums, which was fun, but I know Kevin was disappointed because we didn’t have time to actually tour the city.

So we went back. Just me and Kevin. And did I mention this was our first trip, just the two of us, in twelve years?? Every other time, we’ve taken the boys. Which was fun, don’t get me wrong, but getting to hang out with just my husband and best friend in the world?

Awesome sauce.

We flew out of Branson. We had planned on using some of our frequent flyer miles (we have so many now that Kevin and I can take THREE round-trip, er, trips now), but honestly? It was actually cheaper to fly out of Branson than it would have been to cash in our miles. And besides, we wanted to cash those miles in on longer flights, like to either coast, than to a city only a little over an hour away.

Branson airport is tiny. As in DINKY. And it looks like a lodge. In fact, it’s so small, that it has one runway – for both take offs and landings. And it was a heck of a lot better than having to drive all the way to St. Louis, which is four hours away, as opposed to Branson, which is only 45 minutes away.

We flew Air Tran and, meh, there wasn’t anything exceptional about it, but then again, I wouldn’t really want there to be. It’s cheap for a reason – don’t expect the royal treatment, but we got up there and back safely, so that’s all that matters.

I actually wanted to stay up there a bit longer than we did (it worked out to be 2 1/2 days), but Kevin didn’t feel comfortable leaving the boys alone for longer than that and it actually worked out better this way anyway – Chicago is great, but we were ready to come home after two days.

We stayed at the same hotel – the River Hotel on Wacker street. (I know – what a name!!). It was $179.00 per night (we booked it through hotels.com), and though that sounds expensive, actually, that IS expensive, it was worth it to us because the hotel is right across the street from the Chicago River in the heart of downtown Chicago so it was close to everything.

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The room itself is small, but we actually upgraded to a room with a kitchenette when we got there, so we saved ourselves breakfast money by just eating cereal every morning.

The hotel has a filtered water station (FREE) near the elevators on each floor, so we also saved ourselves money on bottled water while we were there, too.

We flew into Midway Airport in Chicago. Which is actually a little ways from downtown. I was a little worried about how much money we’d have to spend in taxis while we were there, but I needn’t have worried – when we landed, I noticed that we could take the train directly from the airport all the way to downtown (the orange line). It cost us $2.25 per person to take the train, thereby saving us probably close to $30 or $40 dollars (including tip) if we had taken a taxi from the airport to our hotel. True. We had to lug our suitcase around, but we only took our one big suitcase, since it was only Kevin and me, so it really wasn’t that big of a deal. In fact, Chicago’s public transit system is pretty efficient and we didn’t take one taxi the entire time we were there.

BONUS!

We arrived at our hotel around noonish on June 6th. We checked in, then set about collecting brochures from the lobby and walking around the area to familiarize ourselves with the layout. Kevin noticed quite a few trolleys parked across the street from our hotel and a kiosk with people surrounding it. It was the Chicago Trolley and Double Decker Company. For $35.00 per person, you could ride the trolleys and Double Decker buses around Chicago for three days.

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They stopped at 14 popular attractions around the city and you could get off, and get on, as many times as you wanted within that three days time. They even had a few night tours so you could see the city lights. Since we wanted to see many of the places the trolleys/buses stopped at, we thought it would be the perfect mode of transportation for us – and it was. We. Had. A. Blast!!! I HIGHLY recommend taking the Trolley/Double Decker Bus tour if you’re in Chicago.

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You get to see so much within a small amount of time and you really DO get your money’s worth. In addition to the rides around town, you get a free t-shirt, free popcorn at a famous theater and free candy at one of their best-known candy shops. It was like a scavenger hunt.

The weather was perfect the entire time we were there. (Unlike last time, when it rained on us the entire time). In fact, we rode the Double Decker bus late afternoon on June 6th, just to get an idea of the route, and I got downright cold. (Which is saying a lot, considering I’m NEVER cold).

The next day, we hopped on and got off at Navy Pier.

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We were both a bit disappointed with Navy Pier. You hear so much about it and indeed, it’s touted as the most popular tourist attraction in Chicago, but I guess I was expecting a little more … SOMETHING. Nearly all of the buildings were empty and the picture above? Is pretty much it. I think one reason it’s so popular is because of the Children’s Museum, otherwise? There simply wasn’t that much there. Still. I’m glad we went and the view of the Chicago skyline was certainly worth the trip.

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We hopped back onto the trolley and hopped off at Millennium Park. It was packed and I loved it.

We saw the coolest fountains:

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Sculptures …

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And little parks within the park …

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An outdoor amphitheater …

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And of course … the Bean.

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That pretty much pooped us out the first day we were there, but we were ready to go on the second day. We got up and around early on Friday, our last day there, and took an architectural boat ride down the Chicago River.

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We wanted to take this tour because it would give us a different perspective and it was really interesting to hear the stories behind all of the fascinating buildings in Chicago – it was well worth the money.

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Afterward, Kevin finally got to eat a Chicago-style hotdog …

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… (did you know that if you put ketchup on a Chicago-style hotdog, it’s considered an insult to Chicagoians?)

I actually ate at Wal-Greens for lunch because of my funky diet and really, all I wanted was some fruit.

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Then we hopped back onto the bus and got off at the Sky Deck at the Sears Willis building.

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We were 103 floors up and we got to step out onto a glass box that extended outside of the building.

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It was weird and exhilarating at the same time. It felt like you were literally walking out into nothing. But the view was spectacular …

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… and it was worth the money. (We got a two dollar discount by buying tickets through the Chicago Trolley/Double Decker bus people. Yet ANOTHER reason to take this tour if you’re ever in Chicago).

After the Sears Willis building, we started walking.

And walking.

And walking.

We were trying to find these stupid things …

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They’re called “Headless Torsos” and though they were sort of cool to walk among, I’m not really sure they were worth walking two miles and sweating off lunch for.

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I knew the Buckingham Fountain was close and we HAD to find it. Remember the impressive fountain at the beginning of the “Married with Children” series? Well. We found it.

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And it was even more impressive in real life. (It actually shoots water straight up into the air like that on the hour, every daylight hour).

By the time we found the fountain and took some pictures, we were both pretty tired. So we sat down and dangled our feet off the edge of a pier to relax and breathe in some Lake Michigan air.

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It was so peaceful.

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We topped off the day by taking one last ride on the Double Decker bus to see Chicago at night.

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Our flight left at noon on Saturday, so we had plenty of time to check out and ride the train back to Midway airport. The train was practically deserted on Saturday and it was a relaxing trip back. We got back into Branson about 2:00 and we were back home by 3:00 in the afternoon.

The house was still standing and the boys didn’t look too malnourished, so I’d say this trip away from them was successful. 🙂

Chicago was fun, and we really enjoyed ourselves, but I’m not sure if we’ll ever go back. There are still a few things we would have liked to have seen (the Planetarium and the Natural History Museum), but it’s not something we can’t live without.

Next? We are planning on taking a short, three-day cruise down the Pacific coast in October … of this year. Oh yes we are.

And next summer? We’re thinking about renting a cabin in the Rockies and hiking some trails. And maybe taking a quick trip to Las Vegas next year, too. We’ll see.

Life’s too short to stay in one place for long, don’t you think?

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Chicago – June 2012, a set on Flickr.
Can We Talk?

Question …

Today’s question is …

Have you ever had something stolen from you?

Well. Sort of. Kevin had his model airplane stolen.

It wasn’t one of those small models you put together from a box; the wing span was the distance between your arms … outstretched. The sucker was huge. Kevin (though he SWEARS it was me and I SWEAR it was him), left our garage door open all night one night. That is a rare occurrence because whenever Kevin goes to bed, he makes the rounds to make sure the garage doors are closed, the house doors are locked, etc. But somehow, this one particular night, he missed his garage door was open on HIS SIDE OF THE GARAGE. (We have two individual doors with separate motors as opposed to one big door with one motor).

Anyway. His model airplane, complete with fancy (and expensive) remote control was hanging on the wall of our garage. It was a bright orange airplane … in other words, eye catching. And it caught someone’s eye that night because they took it. It wasn’t worth that much, though Kevin had put a lot of money into it, but rather, it hurt because Kevin spent HOURS building it and only had a chance to fly it like once (maybe twice).

He was heartbroken.

We never did find out who took the plane and we didn’t feel like it was worth reporting it to the police, but we always suspected our neighbor did it. (Not our current neighbors, the people who lived there before them). He was sort of a shady character and we caught him watching us several times.

People who steal things, suck. You want something? Buy it/build it yourself, lazy bum.

Your turn …

Sunday Scribblings

Sunday Scribblings: Eureka!

Eureka! I have discovered that my house will still stand, that it’s not the end of the world, that the universe will not collapse upon itself if I DON’T clean house on the weekend.

*GASP*

I KNOW, RIGHT??

WHO KNEW!!

*SIGH*

Now that I’m working full-time, the only time I have available is on the weekends. And I’ve been spending all of my time on the weekends cleaning house, and I’m starting to resent the hell out of it. So. New plan. I’m going to start cleaning house, a little at a time, after dinners during the weekdays. I won’t feel like it. I’ll be tired. And I will likely moan and complain … but it’s better than not having any time to do what I WANT to do on the weekends.

Also? I need to teach these young men, who are my offspring (I still can’t believe my children are taller than me and on the verge of starting their own lives [with a big little push from us, of course]), to clean house. I keep saying that, I need to start doing it.

Hello reality, meet my sons.

Tell me YOUR Eureka moment.

(P.S. Hey RSS readers – I’m using a new blog template. Nothing fancy, but it’s different. Different is good … most of the time).

Abundant Life

Teaching: Should we question the Bible?

Every Sunday I provide videos and valuable links to the Truth or Tradition teachings. We’ve been following the Truth or Tradition teachings for many years now and they have truly blessed our family. We have found peace and happiness through our beliefs and we walk confidently for God. My hope, by passing on this information to you, is that what you find here, or on the Truth or Tradition website, will guide you to a better, more blessed and abundant life.

If you would like to read my views on religion and how we got started with the ministry, you can read this.

Let’s get started:

Thanks for watching.

(Comments have been turned off. The information is here to inform and bless you. God granted you the gift of free will – take it or leave it).

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More from Write From Karen

Abundant Life

Audio Teaching: The Exchanged Life

by Dan Gallagher
Most Christians gladly accept that Christ died for their sins, and through him they can now have everlasting life. At the time of the new birth a person’s sins are charged to Christ, and in return Christ’s righteousness is credited to the believer. This is what we commonly refer to as the Great Exchange. One of the most important aspects of the Great Exchange is that the believer is now supposed to live the Exchanged Life. In this teaching Dan Gallagher demonstrates how the Exchanged Life is really the power base of Christian living, because when we live the Exchanged Life we allow Christ to live through us. The essence of the Exchanged life is summed up this way, “His life for mine, now my life for his.” We believe this teaching will inspire and encourage you greatly in your journey to be more like Christ.

Click the arrow to listen.

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Getting into Shape

Amping Up My Health Goals

I’m sort of on a health kick.

Actually, there’s no “sort of” about it – I’m on a health kick.

I’ve been meaning to vlog about this, and I would still like to, but by the time I remember I WANT to, I look like something that dug itself out of a grave and well, I’ll spare you the gory visuals.

This whole thing started with Mother’s Day.

I went shopping with my mom. And as usual, I felt like a cow. My mom has lost weight and she’s downright skinny! Me? Not so much.

But the cherry on my humiliating sundae? The picture of me and my mom together.

Wow. Just wow.

It was yet another wake up call for me. I had gained my last pound – it was time to get serious about losing weight – AGAIN.

I go through spurts. Who doesn’t? And my last spurt? Done sprung a leak, ya’ll.

I went to work the Monday after that fateful, eye-opening picture wracking my brain trying to come up with a plan – did I really want to get back on my exercise routine? I mean, I was GOING to exercise, that’s a given anytime you want to lose weight, but I’ve been known to overdo the exercise thing in the past (like getting up at 4:30 every morning, driving to the gym and working out for an hour and a half every day. Oh yeah, I did that for two and a half years!!) and I really didn’t want to go through that strict of a routine this go-around. No. I needed to amp things up a bit – I needed to not only get back to exercising on a consistent basis, more importantly, I needed to re-train myself to eat smarter.

For you see, I had been so used to just eating what I wanted for so long, that I sort of forgot HOW to eat properly. Now that I’m older and my body is going through “THE CHANGE”, I can’t do that anymore.

The Mother’s Day picture was proof of that.

As usual, God was there for me. For out of the blue, one of my co-workers caught me one day and started telling me about this great new protein shake she had started drinking.

WAIT! I promise you it’s not some crazy fad. Well, okay, it might be a fad, but I’m going into this with my eyes wide open. And by that I mean, I KNOW THERE IS NO QUICK FIX, OR MAGIC POTION, TO LOSING WEIGHT. If you’re serious about losing weight, you have to re-train both your body, and your mind, into a new way of thinking.

This co-worker showed me a before picture, a picture of her at her heaviest. And I looked at her with new eyes. The girl HAD lost a ton of weight. So okay, I’d give it a shot.

Here is what I’ve been drinking for the past month:

It’s called Body by Vi and it’s a protein shake.

Before you roll your eyes – I’ve been on it one month and I’ve lost eight pounds. I increased my activity level, but not by much. I cut out ALL CARBS (seriously, no breads, no pastas, etc) and all sugars, obviously. But it goes beyond the obvious sugars (junk food, candy, etc.), I rarely drink orange juice and I check sugar content on everything I eat now.

Not a bad start, if I do say so myself, but I can do better.

The thing is, the shakes? Are expensive. For example, the type of protein drink I’m currently drinking? Costs $100 for 60 shakes. That’s two shakes per day for one month. Yeah. Expensive. HOWEVER, when you consider the amount of money you spend on food in one month’s time and you’re buying less because you’re making healthier food choices and not buying the normal junk you normally buy, you’re probably saving money in the long run.

So consider that.

And if you go this route? You need to be DAMN sure you’re committed to it because it really WILL be a waste of money if you don’t change your eating habits along with drinking two shakes a day.

For example, here is what I consume on a typical day:

Half a glass of orange juice, (but not every day). I know what I said about orange juice. Yes. It has a ton of sugar. But I drink it because, A. it makes me feel good and keeps my immune system strong and B., it helps me stay regular.

One 8 oz shake. I’ve been mixing it with unsweetened Almond milk – which has 40 calories. It’s less fattening, and it’s a lot less gassy than regular cow’s milk and I’ll be honest (when am I NOT honest with you people), I feel pretty good since drinking it. I don’t miss cow’s milk AT ALL. In fact, when I stop the shakes, I doubt if I EVER go back to cow’s milk, quite frankly.

Peanuts or almonds for a mid-morning snack. I know what you’re thinking – NUTS ARE FATTENING, KAREN. And you would be right, BUT, it’s the good kind of fat – the kind of fat that actually helps you burn the bad fat. And it’s got a lot of protein, which is KEY to losing weight – cut out the carbs and sugars and eat more protein.

One 8 oz. shake for lunch.

Cheese for mid-afternoon snack. Or low-fat yogurt. In fact, I’ve been eating A LOT of yogurt lately. Since I’ve stopped eating sugar, the sweetness of the yogurt actually helps curb my sweet craving.

Then I have a light dinner. I stick to meat and veggies. For example, Kevin made sliders (mini-hamburgers) the other night. I ate just the hamburger patty and put a little mustard on it for flavor. (No ketchup – ketchup has too much sugar). I’ve been buying broccoli, so I cut up some broccoli, dipped it into a little ranch dressing and YUM. I also had another piece of cheese. (I’ve been eating more cheese, too. Now you see why I need an occasional glass of orange juice between all of the milk, cheese and yogurt products I’ve been eating lately).

The shakes keep me full for about two hours. Then I just eat a snack. Honestly? I’ve been hungry, but not ravenous and as long as I have a handful of nuts now and again, even that’s under control.

The shakes themselves taste sweet. In fact, the powder smells EXACTLY like cake batter. It’s delicious. In addition to two big bags of powder, they send you flavor packets that you can add to the shakes to, well, shake things up a bit. 🙂 There are also all kinds of recipes for different types of shakes to avoid the monotony.

Though I’m glad I tried this Body by Vi, it’s just too expensive to maintain. So, I’m going to look into other protein drinks that are less expensive.

But the protein supplements alone are not enough – I need to rev this plan up a few RPM’s … I talked to my co-worker again and she told me that in addition to the shakes, she added something else … something that has sped up her metabolism and helped her to lose thirty pounds – THIRTY POUNDS, YA’LL!!!

I’ll tell you what I’m trying next in a different post.

Right now, it’s almost 10:00 p.m. and I’m having trouble keeping my eyes open. I plan on getting up at 5:00 in the morning and driving to a nearby school to use their track so I can get my three mile walk on before I go to work.

Yes. I do believe I have lost my mind, thanks for asking.

All I know is, I’m determined to reshape my body. I’d LIKE to lose forty pounds, we’ll see if I can make that happen.

More later …