Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Ten Things You Didn't Know About Me

I am new to blogging so I thought I'd share a few things 
about myself so you can get to know me a little better.

Ten Things I Love:

  1. Cupcakes
  2. Long Candlelit Bubble Baths
  3. Chips & Salsa
  4. Eating Hotel Room Service in Bed
  5. The Sun...80 degrees year round is OK by me
  6. Sleeping-In on Saturdays and Sundays
  7. Looking at Other Peoples Vacation Photos
  8. Traveling...Anytime, Any place
  9. Curling up with a book next to a fire on cold rainy days
  10. Small acts of kindness to make a strangers day

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Behind The Red Door

For Christmas this year I refused to give my husband any hints on possible gifts. This was a test of sorts to see how well he knows me. We've been married over four years so I thought he knew me well enough to buy I gift I would like. Mostly this was because I had a super stressful semester and just didn't have the time to prepare any gift options for him. Plus, it's always fun to see what someone else might select for you. I've received some great gifts in the past that I never even knew I wanted!
Well guess what? He passed with flying colors! The main gift he purchased was a spa day at Red Door Spa. It was thoughtful and something I wouldn't have thought to ask for. I love getting massages and I've been eager to get a new hair cut. It has been an embarrassingly long time since my last one and I've been wearing a ponytail for too long to count. So today was the day!
This was my first trip to Red Door and it was amazing! After I checked in at the front desk, I was escorted back to the ladies locker room where I could stow my belongings and change into a comfy robe. Then I walked down to the relaxation room where I sipped on cucumber water and awaited my treatments. 

My husband arranged for me to receive a massage, facial and hair wash,cut,style. Each treatment was incredibly wonderful and relaxing. I was brought back to the relaxation room in between sessions to maintain the relaxed atmosphere, with of course more cucumber water. At the end of my time there I felt relaxed, rejuvenated, pampered and beautiful. Just what I needed on a cold January day.

I could definitely make a habit out of this!
What are your favorite spa treatments?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Travel Tuesday: Rome

Just over four years ago, my husband and I traveled to Ireland and Italy on our honeymoon. He chose Ireland because of his family heritage and I chose Italy because I've been in awe of the country since I was a little girl. My grandparents took a European cruise when I was young and brought back pictures and stories (and even a mini leaning tower of Pisa) of the many ancient ruins that are still standing today. Ever since then I've been fascinated with a place where you can walk down the street and see the many marvels of earlier civilizations that meld together with present day culture. And so my love affair with history and travel began.  

In September 2009 on our trip to Italy we visited three cities: Rome, Florence and Milan. In Rome I was most excited to visit the Colosseum.  Having heard so much about it, I was excited at the prospect of seeing it in person and I was not disappointed. We spent three days in Rome, walking through the city, visiting as many historic sites as possible (but definitely not all!) and eating and drinking to our hearts content. 

Wandering through the streets, there was something new to discover around every corner. Fountains, piazzas and the fabulous art and architecture can be found everywhere. For me, Rome is an amazing city not to be missed.

Revisiting these photos after several years makes me wish I was there now. Especially considering the single digit temperatures we experienced here again today.

 What is your favorite part of Rome?

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Sightseeing In Chicago

Living in the Chicagoland area, we make a point to visit the sites in and around Chicago as often as we can.  Why? Because stay-cations are fun and pocket friendly. Also, we want to take advantage of the many sites the area has to offer while we still live close enough for the opportunity.

These are the adventures we've taken over the past six years:

  1.  Art Institute of Chicago
  2. Architectural Boat Tour
  3. Millennium Park
  4. Cloud Gate (Bean)
  5. Shedd Aquarium
  6. Field Museum
  7. Adler Planetarium
  8.  Chicago History Museum
  9. Chicago Double Decker Bus Tour
  10. Navy Pier
  11. Shopping on Michigan Avenue
  12. Eataly
  13. Christkindlmarket
  14. See a Show at the Lookingglass Theatre
  15. John Hancock Tower Observation Deck
  16. The Signature Room at the 95th (Hancock Tower)
  17. Bears Games at Soldier Field
  18. Cubs Games at Wrigley Field
  19. Wrigley Field Rooftops
  20. Chicago Fire Soccer Game
  21. Chicago Bulls Game
  22. Lincoln Park Zoo
  23. Brookfield Zoo
  24. Oriental Theatre to see The Addams Family
  25. Buckingham Fountain
  26. Ice Skating at Millennium Park
  27.  Stroll Along the Lake Front
  28. Chicago Botanic Gardens

 What do you love most about Chicago?

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Places To Visit In Chicago

I have lived in Illinois, specifically the Chicago suburbs, for six years now! It is so hard to believe it has been that long. I am hoping to move on to another state soon, but most likely we will be staying put for at least another year or two. We now live in the very far northern suburbs and Chicago is a little over an hour drive for us. So we try to visit as much as we can to take in the city.

I will follow up with a post on what we have done in Chicago, but this post is dedicated to a list of the things I hope to take advantage of and see before we move away.

  1. Willis Tower Sky Deck (Sears Tower)
  2.  Museum of Science & Industry
  3. China Town
  4. Little Italy
  5. Chicago Blackhawks Game
  6. Chicago White Sox Game
  7. House of Blues Gospel Brunch
  8. Goose Island Brewery Tour
  9. Chicago Architectural Walking Tour
  10. Frank Lloyd Wright's Oak Park Studio
  11. Chicago Lyric Opera
  12. The Terrace at Trump Towers
  13. Chicago Shakespeare Theatre at Navy Pier
  14. Richard Driehaus Museum
  15. LUMA - Loyola University Museum of Art
  16. Glessner House Museum
  17. Jane Addams Hull House Museum

What are your favorite sights in Chicago or what do you look forward to visiting some day?

Thursday, January 9, 2014

December in New York City Part II

Last week I posted about my first few days in New York City in December. Here's how I spent the rest of that glorious week:
Monday my husband had to return to work so I began my week of sightseeing solo. I had an amazing day returning to Bryant Park to go ice skating. Then I walked next door to the New York City Public Library to explore and visit the massive reading room.

New York Public Library
Tuesday I had tickets to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. I walked out of the hotel in the morning to see large snow flakes coming down. It was a really wet snow, so I was happy to have my umbrella with me. The snow and fog caused a short delay for the boat. When I booked my ticket, the crown was completely sold out for the day but I managed to snag a ticket to the platform level. Due to the snow and delay I was the first person of the day to make it up to the platform. It was pretty peaceful having the space all to my self. Unfortunately with the fog I wasn't able to see the NYC skyline. As I'm told the platform is great place for a skyline view on a clear day. 


Next stop Ellis Island. The museum reopened less than two weeks prior to my trip after under going renovations needed following the hurricane that tore through a year before. The main halls were open, although many of the smaller exhibits had yet to reopen at that point. It was still an interesting visit for me because I believe some of my ancestors may have traveled through here at some point.

Ellis Island

After I returned to the Manhattan, I walked north a few blocks to the 9/11 Memorial site. There is an unbelievably long process and several checkpoints to pass through before you actually get to the memorial. There are two identical pools, one for the south tower and one for the north tower.

9/11 Memorial

On my last day in New York I decided to just walk through the streets and take in the city. At the end of our trip we stayed at a hotel in Times Square so I started from there and headed west to Fifth Avenue. I walked over to St. Patrick's Cathedral to take in the architecture. Unfortunately the cathedral is under massive construction to preserve it, so there wasn't much to see. Afterwards I continued north Central Park. My first visit to the park was during our trip to New York City in May. December in the park is a much different scene, but equally beautiful.

Central Park


What's your favorite part of New York City?

Saturday, January 4, 2014

December in New York City Part I

It has been about a month now since I flew to New York City for a week of sightseeing and fun. My sister-in-law currently lives there and my husband had a business trip scheduled during the week. So we elected to fly out the weekend before to spend time with family. I was lucky enough to stay the week, sightseeing on my own after everyone else had to return to work. 

The fall semester was a tough one for me, probably the most difficult semester I've ever had in school. Nothing seemed to go as planned. Add in the stress I felt from several different aspects in my life and I wasn't in the best of places. In fact, I almost decided against going on the trip even though the tickets had been purchased. A week before I was scheduled to leave for New York I couldn't decide what to do so I chose to throw caution to the wind, take control over my anxieties and follow through with my trip that I had been thrilled about only two months before.

I am so glad I did! The moment I arrived in New York I knew it was the right decision and every worry I had about the trip, school or life in general all melted away. New York City is such a fantastic place and I just soaked up all of its glory. 

 Saturday was our first full day of vacation and we couldn't wait to get started! My husband is studying to be an engineer so he is fascinated by structures like the Brooklyn Bridge. Walking across the bridge was a must for him and due to rain, we missed the opportunity on our last trip in May. Although the weather was cold, the sun was shinning and we had a beautiful walk across the bridge and learned some interesting facts about the construction along the way.

Brooklyn Bridge
After our scenic walk across the bridge, we had lunch in New Jersey then took the subway back to Manhattan. In the afternoon we took a tour at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. The museum hosts several different walking tours that recall experiences from 19th and 20th century immigrants. We weren't allowed to take photos inside the museum, but the Hard Times tour was fantastic. Our guide told a compelling tale of two families that lived on the second floor before the building code laws forced the owner to close the residential portion of his property.      

Sunday we explored a different part of the city. On my must see list was the Christmas tree and skating rink at Rockefeller Center. Over the weekend we stayed in the West Village so we took the subway up to Times Square, walked through the Christmas market at Bryant Park and up Fifth Avenue to 30 Rock.

Ice skating rink at Bryant Park
Ice skating rink and Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center

After we checked out the tree, we bought tickets to the top of 30 Rock to check out the view of the city which was pretty spectacular.

View from the top of 30 Rock

We then continued our walk north on Fifth Avenue all the way to Central Park to check out the famous window displays and Christmas decorations. We finished the day by walking the High Line all the way back to the West Village. 

Fifth Avenue shopping

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy 2014!

Happy New Year!

It's that time of year again. Time to start fresh and redefine goals. 

This year I intend to:
  1.  Live in the moment
  2. Complete my MA in History
  3.  Revamp our finances and save more money (now that I'm working part time)
  4. Read more (at least one book a month ... for pleasure)
  5. Hike more (at least once a month ... in season)
  6. Travel more (at least to one new place I have never been)
  7. Cook more (two new recipes a month)
  8. Focus on expanding my French, Arabic and Spanish language skills
  9. Spend more time on my blog by posting at least twice a week
  10. Take long walks with my husband (at least three times a week ... weather permitting)

That should be a good start!

What are your goals for 2014?