Sunday, December 17, 2006

Christmas Lights

If you have the time or the inclination to do so, you should drive by our home after 4:45 p.m. or so. We have some cool lights in the bell tower and even cooler lights inside (if we're home, we just might let you check it out). And they will likely be up past Christmas...we like to keep the holiday spirit alive as long as possible.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Chicago, Day 2

On to Saturday – we hunted down a Dunkin’ Donuts for some breakfast. Whoa – why don’t we have one of these here? It was awesome. Instead of getting on the train at Schaumburg, we scouted out the stop that was nearest to the train yard we had seen on Friday. We found it and had about half an hour to railfan (this is an insider’s term for chasing trains – I was informed that the in-insider’s term is “foaming” as in “foaming at the mouth.” The things you learn from marriage.) A lot of the yard was blocked by fences, but a break in the fence showed that the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train was still parked there! Its tour was to begin that day, so we pulled in and took some pretty good pictures of the cars and the engine. I could give you more train picture info, but suffice it to say that I enjoyed seeing my husband get excited about checking out the trains and taking pictures.

We took the train to Union Station again. This time, we bought tickets to the trolley tour and half an hour later, we boarded the trolley. We rode for a while checking out the sites and hearing some interesting stories from the driver/tour guide. We got off and took a cab to the Museum of Science and Industry. (The picture of us was taken there.) They have “The Great Train Story” exhibit, which features a very large, $3.5 million exhibit of an HO scale train from Seattle to Chicago. It was pretty sweet – Matt took tons of pictures. After a while, I walked down and ate some Cheetos and Diet Pepsi and called my Dad to kill a little time. They also had a real Burlington Zephyr train, and we happened upon a 20-minute tour. It was cool to hear about the maiden voyage of this high-speed passenger train.

By the time we left, it was dark and cold again, so we waited for the city bus to travel to North Michigan Avenue, a.k.a. The Magnificent Mile. We got off the bus and walked a little, but it was definitely dinner time and Matt had not had a snack, so he was really hungry. I knew he wanted some good deep dish pizza, so I looked online and found the #1 rated deep dish pizza, Gino’s East Pizzeria. I remembered the address, and we used our various maps to navigate a walking path. Good thing we were bundled up – it was definitely chilly. But we got to see a lot of windows and lights along the way. By the time we arrived, the line was definitely out the door. I had read that there is always a wait, so it was just a matter of how long. It was a mere 5-10 minutes before a man came out and announced that 110 people had just left the restaurant, so they needed 20 minutes to clear the tables and we could be seated. Then another woman came out looking for tables of 2, for which we qualified, so we were seated rather quickly. The server informed us that deep dish pizzas would take 45-50 minutes, so we ordered an appetizer and our pizza right away. It was…incredible. I cannot fully describe it with words. It must be personally experienced.

I was pretty tired when we finished at 8:00, and the trains were departing at 8:40 and 10:40, so we grabbed a cab and hoped for the 8:40. We made it in plenty of time, and we were able to drive around and check out Christmas lights before we headed to the hotel.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


(In defense of my title, I am a huge "King of Queens" fan, so the pronunciation is an homage to the humor of Kevin James.)

I know I’ve been gone a long time, but our vacation to Chicago was so great that I have to write about it!! We took a long weekend last Thursday-Sunday and spent it in the greater Chicago area. Matt and I have such a great time traveling together – I love making the hotel reservations, looking up the route, finding fun possibilities we can do in the area, etc., and Matt is the spontaneous one who finds things for us to do on the fly. So we drove over to Schaumburg late on Thursday night. We slept in on Friday, and then we headed to Woodfield Mall to get some warm gloves, etc. for my husband. Once we ate some lunch and were properly outfitted for the (freezing) cold weather, we then had to find the METRA station in Schaumburg. Asking for directions is pointless, so I scoured a gas station map until I was sure of how to get there (I didn’t want to buy it – it was $20!). We found the station, and we got on the train at 2:30 p.m. It was an hour-long ride, and we passed a HUGE train yard. Matt was salivating. We even saw the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train! It was very cool – Matt had read about it a little bit, but we had no idea it was going to be there.

Once we arrived at Union Station and headed outside, it was insanely freezing. We went about a block to the Sears Tower and decided to take the trip up to the Skydeck. It was an amazing view – it was around 4:00-5:00 p.m., and it was perfect lighting to get some incredible pictures. Matt has a few that maybe he’ll post someday. (Along with those wedding and honeymoon ones, right baby?) J It was a pretty frightening height, but it was worth the view. When we were done, it was really too cold to walk anywhere, which had originally been our plan. So we took a cab to Navy Pier. We put our names in at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. and then walked around while we waited for a table. Navy Pier has a lot of fun shops – I had some cinnamon toasted cashews. Holy cow. I’ve had the almonds, but the cashews bring it to a whole new level.

After dinner, we took another cab back to Union Station and waited for the train. We had heard from the taxi driver that someone had shot a few people in a downtown office building, taken a hostage, and finally was shot by police. At the station, I was waiting for Matt in the restroom and a young man came up saying that he was stranded because of the shooting. (The METRA and other transportation had been shut down for about an hour because of it.) He needed to meet his girlfriend at a different place and had no money for the train. I am completely uncomfortable with being alone and having a strange man come up and speak to me. I kept looking at the bathroom hoping for Matt to come out. Finally he did, and I told him the story and asked him if we could walk over and buy the kid a train ticket. We did that and then got on the train. This train ride was quite an experience – a man was singing rather loudly to his crude hip-hop music for about half the ride. I was definitely looking forward to being done with that ride.

It was another late night, but our first day in Chicago was awesome. Read on for more Chicago fun!! (It’s too good, so it must be spread out in multiple posts.)