July 20, 2010

[TRAVEL/ADVENTURES] 070. Take the train up to Milwaukee for a day trip or weekend

Posted in Travel & Adventures at 9:10 am by Heather

While I worked in Wisconsin for five summers, went to camp there since I was seven, and have a sister who went to Marquette, I’ve never actually BEEN to Milwaukee, except for Summerfest if I was lucky enough to have a night out from camp on a good day.

So, I decided since friends of mine do day trips to Milwaukee all the time, that I should take the train up and enjoy a day trip.   As luck would have it, my good friend Steve lives up there and was in town that weekend AND the Brewers were playing.  So I asked him if he wanted to go to the game with me, and I lucked out in that Steve, in all his Awesomeness, decided to be my host for the weekend.

Other than the Brewer’s game, the only thing I wanted to do was go to the Safe House, which left most of the weekend wide open.  My train arrived at 11:50, and Steve picked me up, I checked into my hotel (in order to get my Hilton points back, grr), and we were off to try out AJ Bombers.  For the record, Steve did not let me drive his car there.

AJ Bombers is going to be on Food Wars, and Steve hadn’t tried their burger yet, so that was the destination of choice for lunch.  The place caters to the technophile – there is a screen up right when you come in with all the @AJBombers mentions, and when I checked into foursquare it notified me we get a free Peanut Bomb when we check in (and was kind enough to mention that everyone got one, but hey, it’s the thought). 

We then made our way to the Safe House – and tried to go in the exit.  That’s not as much fun as the entrance, if you’ve never been there before.  While inside, we made friends with the bartender and Steve got the Electric Chair (right), and was a good sport about it.

That took us up to 3 pm, and the game didn’t start until 6, so what’s there to do in Milwaukee?  Drink.  We took the drinking tour of Milwaukee, including a trip up to “THE” Milwaukee bar, Wolskis, where I vaguely remember introducing myself to a half dozen people and asking what there was to do in Milwaukee, but unlike later in the night, there is no audio or visual proof of this, so I claim plausible deniability.

Then it was off to the game – or rather, to Long Wong’s – Milwaukee’s ONLY Chinese-American Sportsbar.  That’s right kids, a sports bar that serves chinese food, and since this is Milwaukee, Brats.  The bartender made me a drink that “tasted like purple” (it did, although there was disagreement from the peanut gallery) and then the AWESOME thing about Milwaukee?  You can get a drink TO GO and take it on the wee shuttlebus to the game!  So, of course, we did.

Props to Steve on the choice of seats.  The Dome was up due to the possibility of a thunderstorm (it did) and the place was miserably hot.  But thanks to our lovely club seating, we had air conditioning back by the bar, meaning we didn’t take advantage of our waitstaff as it was too hot.   But turns out I am a lucky charm for Corey Hart, as not only did he knock one out to take the lead, he managed to get a starting position on the All Star Team.   Now, if only he would shave.

After the game, and the wee shuttle bus ride back to Long Wong’s (honestly, best way to do Milwaukee Baseball, you get out before everyone), we had a decision to make: White Trash Fest, or Casino.   Yeah, we chose Casino – probably not the best choice as while Milwaukee has gone non smoking, the casino is on indian land and is not subject to such silly government restrictions, and my lungs and throat were not pleased.  We taught people the right way to play PaiGow, and ended up leaving 2 hours or so later and went to the Miller Time Pub. Surprisingly, they had a decent beer selection (for those of you who care), minus one specific American beer.

And then I turned into a pumpkin – so we called it a night.

The next day I asked Steve to take me to his favorite breakfast place – Ma Fischer’s in the artsy district, where we had skillets.  Of the potato and egg kind.  Tasty.

Then, quite stuffed, we made our way to Bastille days, where the 45 ft tall Eiffel Tower replica was about the only French thing there.  It was more of an arts and crafts festival, with an around the world choice of food.  They did have wine and beignets, as well as crepes, but they also had brats, pizza, ice cream, and cheese curds.

We were a little too stuffed to try any of that (sad about the cheese curds), and made our way to Bar Louie so I could watch the World Cup final, and Steve could watch the Brewers game (Corey Hart had the walkoff home run on that one too, I’m totally his good luck charm).  The great thing about the trains to Milwaukee is that they’re not reserved, so I was flexible on the time I left – I thought maybe 3 pm – nope, and not 5:45 either.

We caught up with his friend Jodi, and went to dinner at a local place called the Water Buffalo for dinner, and then to a pub nearby to wait out my 7:30 train.  Good thing I did decide to push my leaving time, because turns out there was a woman struck and killed on the line (2 blocks from my house!!) by the 11 am train, and things were probably a mess until about 5:45 pm.

All in all, it was an incredibly awesome weekend – mostly thanks to the Awesomeness of Steve and his hosting skills, and that Milwaukee is a pretty cool town to visit.  Especially if you like Bratwurst and Cheese.


June 4, 2010

[Travel / Adventures] 073. Visit the Frank Lloyd Wright museum

Posted in Travel & Adventures at 11:24 am by Heather

I’d won tickets in the eKiwanis raffle last year to visit the Frank Lloyd Wright house, and they were only good for a year, expiring at the end of May.  My good friend Julie had said that she’d love to go with me if I’d wanted and so we were off to visit.  Our first day didn’t work out so well as it was pouring rain, so we made plans for a rain date.  Luckily, the day was lovely and beautiful, and we met up in Oak park and got into an afternoon tour.

The house is amazing – I highly recommend anyone who lives or visits Chicago to visit at least once.  Unfortunately, they don’t allow photos in the house, but it was really lovely.  I was taken with the fireplace, which used mirrors and cutout windows to trick the eye, and yet make it a welcoming little nook, that seemed roomy.

It’s not really a large house, and it’s hard to imagine 6 children living in the bedroom, but they probably didn’t spend much time there, as Catherine had a day room, and the children had a rather large playroom of their own, complete with church-choir-like balcony, which must have been grand fun to grow up in.

After the house tour, Julie and I walked around Oak Park, taking a little walking tour of some of the nearby houses; unfortunately, since we didn’t know about the FLW walking tour the next weekend, we couldn’t see inside the homes, but they really are very cool architecturally, and the company was fun, too.

November 20, 2009

[Travel / Adventures] 071. Visit Houston (part 2)

Posted in Travel & Adventures at 11:54 am by Heather

BIG sharks overhead!

Part 1 is here.

The Downtown Aquarium is pretty nifty, but it’s definitely not a Shedd Aquarium.  It’s a cross between a KiddieLand and an aquarium plus a tiny zoo plus a restaurant.  Seriously.  Oh, and plus SHARKS!

When I mentioned the Shark Voyage to April, her reaction was “How is this here and NO ONE HERE told me about this??”  Well, that’s what friends are for, eh?

The first stop was the Diving Bell Ferris Wheel, which did give us some nice views of the city at sunset.  My camera battery was STILL dead, so I was forced to use my poor cell phone camera for these photos.  We headed back in for dinner, and saw the shark-carousel, which April decided to pass on riding, deciding to go inside.  The restaurant was lovely, and they had a ginormous aquarium with all sorts of creatures, including sharks and huge fish, and my favorite, the happy-go-lucky turtle.  No pictures, since my camera doesn’t have flash, sadly. 

Dinner was amazing, and I learned that sometimes, if you just ask for something, you’ll get it.  Case in point, I wished for dessert, but a key lime pie deal instead of the brownie that came with shark cookies.  I asked the waiter if by chance we could get the key lime garnished with the shark cookie in honor of the birthday girl.  Yep, my wish is his command.  He then walked by with some balloons, including a lovely shark balloon – and yes, we asked for it and got it.  Needless to say, he got a very nice tip.

And then, after a bottle of wine split between the two of us, we moseyed down to the main event: the Shark Voyage.  Surprisingly, this was the only ride that actually had a line, but we got there just as the train pulled up.  Nice timing.  I gauged the line and said “enh, we’ll get in, and why walk all the way down to the front just to walk back here where we’d get on anyway”, so unhooked the rope and we got on in the back.   Turns out, not everyone got on the ride.  Oops.  I blame the wine.

The ride was about 5 minutes long, and we stopped for 3 minutes or so (again, based on my perception so give or take 5 minutes here), in a shark tank that had an inverse U cut out for the train to go through, so we could see sharks above (see picture) and to either side.  The rest of the ride was more kiddy-land jaws stuff, but it was a fun time.

Since we were there, we popped into the actual aquarium exhibit, which had a distinctly low percentage of fish to other creatures.  I did find out that the schooling fish were very afraid of the shark balloon, which gave me minutes of entertainment.  And then, as we were exiting … TIGERS!

Last I checked, tigers have nothing to do with aquariums, but hey, there you are.  They reminded us of Vegas (not this one though), which we’ll be visiting in less than a month and they were very beautiful.

At that point, we called it a night, and headed back to the suburbs to get some actual sleep before Birthday Saturday.

Continued in Part 3.

November 3, 2009

[Travel / Adventures] Field Museum – Real Pirates Exhibit

Posted in Travel & Adventures at 8:18 am by Heather

Field Museum boarded by pirates

The Field Museum has always been my least favorite Chicago Museum.  I am much more interested in science than anthropology which puts the MSI and Planetarium up there, and as I’ve mentioned before, I love Monet, so the Art Institute is not horrible. 

However, the exhibit at the Field Museum about the Real Pirates was intriguing.  When Highlife Adventures had an outing to go see the exhibit, I was on board.  Pictures weren’t allowed in the exhibit, so this entry is sparse on the visual evidence, but I did find a pirate to pose with me.

Arrr matey!The Real Pirates exhibit was put together by National Geographic, and it details the story of the pirate ship Whydah which started out as a slave ship and sunk off the coast of Cape Cod 2 years later.  I didn’t know until I got there that this exhibit was tracing just one ship throughout its lifetime, but it was pretty intriguing.  The exhibit did a good job of showing the scale and size of the ships and the track of Captain “Black” Sam Bellamy as he tried to gain enough fortune to marry his beloved.

My favorite part of the exhibit though, was the end, where they went over all the work NatGeo is doing to recover the ship which they finally found.  It’s science, you know, so of course it’s generally more intriguing.
Practicing for the ledge
After the exhibit and grabbing something to drink, a couple of us went through the Egypt exhibit, which was very neat – and I even got some practice in for my trip to the Sears Ledge later!

They also had quite a few people in white lab coats aiming lasers at Sue, which was interesting – turns out that the Museum and the Chicago Police Department are doing scans of the dinosaur.  Beats me why the CPD was involved with sponsoring it, though.

Full set of pictures are here.

October 28, 2009

Travel / Adventures – Hot Chocolate Restaurant [October 27, 2009]

Posted in Restaurants, Travel & Adventures at 4:33 pm by Heather

Hot Chocolate

1747 N Damen Avenue
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 489-1747

* * * * *


A girlfriend of mine and I went here last night to catch up, and I am so glad we decided on Hot Chocolate.

First – make sure to call and make reservations; if we hadn’t we might not have gotten a table since the place was packed.  Surprising for a rainy Tuesday night (although the 1/2 price wine might have had something to do with that)

The service we had was excellent – my friend is pregnant and misses alcohol so she asked the waiter to have the bartender whip up something mocktaily, and was very pleased with the results.  I had the cold chocolate, which was okay – if a bit bitter.

We both ordered the Frisee salad, and I must say that is was one of the best salads I’ve ever had – the flavors melded so beautifully, and my friend agreed.

For dinner, I got the mac and cheese, and it was more on the runny side than what you expect from Kraft, but it was fantastic – you just eat it with a spoon instead of a fork.  The portion was relatively small, but I could have just eaten half of it as it was so filling and delicious.

For dessert, I got the mexican hot chocolate, and mused aloud to my waitress that I wish I could get a half order of the donuts, because there was no way I was going to eat the whole thing.  She said “let me see what I can do” and came back with a half order which was two donuts and I still could only eat one.

But, awesomely enough, she offered to-go cups for our hot chocolate (which was WONDERFUL), and a to go box for my dessert.

I will definitely be back here again, and it’s officially one of my favorite restaurants in the city.

September 23, 2009

[Travel / Adventures] Art Institute – Modern Art Wing

Posted in Travel & Adventures at 7:35 am by Heather

On Sept 5th, I went with the Highlife Adventures group to get a guided tour of the Art Institute’s new Modern wing.  I didn’t know that Modern really meant “anytime after 1900”, but I do now.  We mostly toured the paintings before 1950; I ended up walking through the photography and post 1950 exhibits by myself in the last hour the museum was open after the tour.

The tour guide was a curator, and he definitely knew his stuff, but he had a … curator’s way of talking, so sometimes it was hard to even hear him.  But I know a lot more about Matisse and Kandinsky than I knew before.

After the tour, I took the visitor’s guide “so you only have an hour” brief and saw the Monet room and the famous Seurat.  I could really just sit in the Monet room for HOURS, it is so peaceful and beautiful, and explains why he’s one of my favorite artists, ever, trite and cliche though that may seem.

This renoir photo to the left reminds me of a portrait my dad had made of my sister in an eerie kind of way, as well.

More photos available on flickr.