Musings of a Museum Fanatic: 2014


Off the 2014 Roller Coaster

2014 is coming to a close and everywhere you look you see the best of, here's what happened and reviews of 2014. I usually am kind of meh about those sorts of things and have the mind set of yeah we were all there we know.

This year though was such a roller coaster in my world I want to close out 2014 with a little bit of closure for myself.

January started off the year with a pretty good start. I was doing really well with my job almost a full year at full time. We found out that the artificial insemination had been successful for my brother an sister in law. Then the roller coaster hit it's first major downward turn. My Dad went in to the doctor for what was thought to be something minor but ended up being diagnosed with a tumor pressing against his bladder.

The rest of the winter and into spring was spent pushing that car back up the tracks.  Learning from my parents how strong they are and working on a plan to fight the cancer. My own car had a bit of a dip this spring when I was insanely over stressed by work that I needed a jaunt to the ER. Right at my birthday time too! Still never seem to be totally well around my birthday haha.

The spring stalemate at work continued into summer and brought with it the excitement of friends visits, trips and friend's wedding festivities. I loved that I was able to see my best friend Becky and couple that with a day in the city, a fest and seeing Stache play ... Still three of my favorite things! I finally crossed one of my bigger 101 tasks off my list in July and headed west to Seattle to represent my Gamma Phi alumnae group for the international convention.

Everyone, especially mom and I were in full on new baby mode by the middle of summer. We then had a pretty shaky low with Kevin's job telling him in one breath that things weren't working with him as a project manager then in the next saying they didn't want to loose such a hard working and dedicated person like him.  I was finally able to take Kevin up to Minnesota to see my aunt and uncle's fishing resort near the end of the summer. Since we got together I've been telling Kevin how much he was going to love being up there and he definitely had a blast. It was amazing to get to see so much of the family and celebrate Baby G with the family baby shower.

Just a week after the reunion and the day after my parent's 40th wedding anniversary we experienced the lowest low. My dad passed away. After battling the cancer and getting a bad infection he could not fight off. This low has continued for the rest of the year for me, affecting so much of daily life. A good friend of mine, who lost her mom five years ago, said to me this week that you never really get over it and the void will never be truly gone. My fall and beginning of winter has been a little shaky as I've been working through my grief and how life has been since losing my dad.

September brought multiple celebrations though. Starting off with two of Kevin and my good friend's wedding. The end of September gave us my sweet baby nephew Lane! Not gonna lie being an aunt is a lot of fun. It's great to get to spoil the kid, have fun with him and yet not have to do too much of the other serious stuff if you don't want to!

 Starting off the holiday season with Thanksgiving we've been able to see so much of both our families. Kevin's uncle Mike came up from Dallas twice, which I loved because he's definitely my favorite! It also brought with it Lane's somewhat last minute baptism, Kevin and I were asked to be godparents and Kevin has approached the role with a lot of seriousness and excitement (which has been somewhat surprising to me).

Getting to spend Christmas Eve and day with family was wonderful, bittersweet and just a little concerning what with Kevin's trip to the ER (he's all good though!!). As I hang out with my mom today on New Years Eve, just an hour away from starting to get ready for our fondue dinner, I'm a little torn about how I feel about 2014.

Overall I'm ready for 2014 to be over I think. For all it's ups there were too many extreme lows this past year that I'm just ready to leave in this past year. Even through I'm ready to move ahead I'm definitely taking the lesson's I've learned into the new year. It has really been made more evident to me that we're only living one life and to not be comfortable in bad situations, let the drama consume me, get bogged down in stuff, etc. etc. 2015 will be a better year and a year of major changes!



Last Sunday Kevin and I board the Metra for our annual trip to the Christkindlmarket! This Chicago Christmas staple started in 1996, based off the Christmas markets of Germany.

This year it was abnormally warm which brought out quite a lot more people, so it wasn't quite as magical as when it's snowy but we still got to enjoy our yearly favorites. Every year we have to make sure to take a photo in front of the Daley Plaza Christmas tree! One year I'll actually be smart and get someone to take a photo of the entire group. This year was not that year.

After four years we've come to realize that we need to visit the large ornament shops first. Later in the day the lines get even longer and it's not as much fun. My favorite ornament house is definitely the K├Ąthe Wohlfahrt of America. There are always a bunch of crescent ornaments here. It's always tough to splurge on just one of the wooden works of art. The glass ornaments of the other two large ornament buildings are always a hit as well. It's a wonder all the different sizes and shapes, I love to see the different Chicago ones each year. Someday I'll actually splurge on the amazing Bean ornament with the skyline painted on it.

One doesn't just go to the Christkindlmarket for the ornaments, they go for the food! Well at least that's one reason I go! I always enjoy having lunch at the market. Kevin loves to try a new item each time, last year he had a brat and this year he tried the schnitzel sandwich, which is my favorite. We must have gotten them from a different vendor or they changed their recipe, this years schnitzel had a bit more spice to it and was wonderful. We also made sure to get our hot chocolate in the mug. Which is a must do when you go to the Christkindlmarket..The color and shape changes each year. I love how this year's really looks like a traditional stein.

I always love to visit the candy shop. This year I got my usual favorites but Kevin decided to get one of the hanging gingerbread hearts. He was definitely a fan! We almost forgot to stop by the chocolate covered amazingness booth. I enjoyed my chocolate covered marshmallows & brought home a chocolate covered rice krispie treat, which was insane! I need to work on making my own. Kevin enjoyed his chocolate covered pineapple very much.

If you're looking for a Chicago tradition this Christmas or any Christmas definitely check out the Christkindlmarket. It's also a budget friendly, you can spend as little as $2 for your chocolate covered rice krispie treat up to hundreds of dollars for authentic handmade German Schwibbogens. I can't wait until our annual trip next year!


Puppy Chow

Growing up one of my all time favorite things to make was Puppy Chow. I can remember making big batches of it with my mom and brother when I was little. Every time we would make it my brother and I would argue over who got to shake the bag to mix the powdered sugar on it. Looking at these photos is making me hungry for it ... I guess I'll need to make some for the holidays this year! 

Puppy Chow


9 cups Crispix cereal (I am a purist NO Chex here!)
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips or 6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar 

1.  Measure out cereal in large bowl and set aside. Measure out powdered sugar and set aside. (doing this for both will help later!!)

2.  Heat chocolate chips, peanut butter and butter on stove until everything has melted and combined.3.  Pour mixture over cereal, stirring until coated.

4.  Pour mixture into large paper bag and add powdered sugar.  (You can use a Ziploc bag, very large plastic Tupperware or a paper bag ... Do NOT use metal.  I tried it doesn't work)

 5.  Shake until well coated.

This is me shaking around in the kitchen.  Seriously don't use a metal mixing bowl.  It just sticks to the sides.

6. Enjoy!!


Peter Pan Live

I'm hoping that I'm not the only blogger who tuned in last week for the amazingness that was Peter Pan Live. I grew up watching and loving the Mary Martin version so needless to say I was pretty excited for this show. After hearing about the live musical last year I was a prepared. 

Overall the show was good but there were definitely things that made it pretty ridiculous and not just musical ridiculous : ) 

I realized about ten minutes in to the show that I should go online to Twitter and see what people were saying. I was soooo not disappointed. What ended up happening was that I was waaaay more focused on what people's reactions were on Twitter than actually watching! So worth it. Here are some of the favorites I grabbed from the #PeterPanLive.

So apparently my Tinkerbell hating people are on Twitter! Love it. There were definitely some great Tink posts.

This. On so many different amazing levels.

Probably by far the best tweet all night! 

Did you watch Peter Pan Live? What are your thoughts on it?


Choose Your Own Adventure [Link Up]

Not Entirely Perfect

Holy cow I can't believe I'm already linking up to share how the past month went! That one went by in an instant. Looking back at my goals for November I did really well!

1. Organize my Pampered Chef papers - Unfortunately I'm not totally finished on this one, I found a stack of my PC materials hanging out in a box in our storage room and some at my parents house but I was able to get the rest of it sorted and in their proper folders. I've also typed up the labels for the folders. 

2. Work on my magazine hoarding issues - OH my gosh I rocked this guy out! It took a little bit to figure out what I was going to do since the ones that were being stockpiled were the recipe mags. With a little advice I decided to pull out the recipes I wanted and send the magazines on their way. Surprisingly there weren't as many recipes that I was keeping as I thought.

3. Pack more boxes - Kevin and I both rocked this one! Since we're putting the condo up for sale January 14th we definitely need to keep up on this one.

December = Simplifying

I feel like some of what I've been doing already with my organizing has also been trying to simply. Like with my Pampered Chef papers I organized them I also did things like getting rid of my monthly news bulletins from the past few years and kept only the ones from 2014. 

1. Continue to pack & get rid of stuff to sell condo

2.  Add 7 items of clothing to my "get rid of pile"

3. Simplify my blogging for 2015. Meaning I will need to do some planning ahead!


5 Musicals That Try But Fail

Like any entertainment genre, musicals definitely have had their flops. These five are not the cream of the crop but some definitely have their moments and maybe aren't quite so floppy. What's your favorite terrible guilty pleasure musical?

Sorry Maria this was just not good. Those outfits! I know it was sort of the style but it was a total caricature yech! Plus what was with that swipe of silver paint everywhere? Don't get it.

Even though this has a great soundtrack and top notch cast (Gene Kelly what!) the 70's camp and roller disco-ness of this musical is just too much. Plus the plot is just a bit crazy. I will say when we saw this one at Drury Lane last year it was pretty fantastic on stage and the story wasn't so campy.

Not terrible but not necessarily great, just ok.

Rock of Ages
Not gonna lie I actually really enjoy this one! It's definitely terrible but in an awesome 80's hair metal kind of way. Not going to lie some of the costuming and looks drive me nuts. They are more like the 80's inspired clothes you see today not actual 80's clothing and styling.

From Justin to Kelly
Becky and I rented this during our senior year of college. Let's just say that was one of the biggest mistakes we made during our college careers! I'm pretty sure Blockbuster owes us money for paying full price (aka like $4 back in the day!) to rent this loser. It was just bad!


15 2000's Songs You Totally Forgot Existed

One of my favorite things is when I've got all my music in one large playlist and I hit shuffle. It's almost like a treasure hunt because you never know what is going to pop up. It can start out with one of your favorite current hits but all of a sudden an old school obscure song from the 90's comes up that you haven't heard in forever. Almost like pop rocks for your ears!

The 2000's haven't been that long gone but with the ever moving forward music industry it seems like everything is always on to the next thing and never looking back. It's sad because there are so many great songs that only exist when we open up our own archives and hit that shuffle button! I could probably expand this list to like 50 songs but I thought I'd limit myself : ) Some of these are those first hits by artists that have grown since, some are one hit wonders and some are in between. I was even able to get Kevin's picks tonight!

What was the latest forgotten gem that popped up on you playlist recently?

Wherever You Will Go by The Calling

Boyfriend by Ashlee Simpson

I Wanna Be Bad by Willa Ford

Dance With Me by Debelah Morgan

Right Thurr by Chingy

Why Can't I? by Liz Phair

Chain Hang Low by Jibbs

Here (In Your Arms) by Hellogoodbye

Black Horse and the Cherry Tree by KT Tunstall

Smooth Criminal by Alien Ant Farm

All Around The World by ATC

Buttons ft. Snoop Dogg by The Pussycat Dolls

Lady Marmalade by Christina Aguilera, Lil' Kim, Mya, Pink

The Way I Are ft. Keri Hilson, D.O.E., Sebastian by Timbaland

Without Me by Eminem


All time Favorite Museums

Throughout the past couple of years of blogging I've shared this post through guest posts on other blogs but never here on my own home turf! To me knowing someone's favorite museums shows a lot about them. I decided to take you to my top three favorite museums I have ever visited.  If you know me even a little bit (or have just stopped my blog too) number one is quite obvious ... The Field Museum!

I was an intern/volunteer there for a little over three and a half years.  Who knows maybe sometime someday I'll actually end up back there and they'll be paying me! The photo above is actually the view I see when I used to come in.  It was so awesome to walk past that view!  I love it every time. This is a photo of Stanley Field Hall.  I took this one the first winter I was there waaaaay back in 2009.  This is the coolest museum in the Chicago area and definitely gives you the most bang for you buck!

My second favorite is Colonial Williamsburg.  I know some people might consider it a cheat but it is actually considered an open air museum.  I visited CW way back in the summer of 2007 for my annual family reunion, one of my aunts and uncles lives in Williamsburg.  My absolute favorite part of CW is the fact that the staff are in period dress and they are doing  first person interpretation, acting as if he or she were an actual person from the era or culture he or she is representing.  As someone who always always felt they were born in the wrong time period this has always appealed to me!    

Here are some photos of my parents and I in the stocks!  What can we say we're trouble makers.  I can't wait to go back and visit again, there is so much we missed the first time around. They have historic hotels to stay at, two museums on the property and tons of events that go on throughout the year. Around Christmas time they have so many historical Christmas events going on it would be the perfect time to visit. 

My final top 3 favorite museum I've ever visited was the British Museum I went as part of a school group EF Educational tour to London & Paris the summer of 2003 after I graduated high school. I had taken French for four years and was really going for Paris but fell in love with London and am dying to go back for a visit.  The British Museum was amazing! It is a museum dedicated to human history and culture with over 8 million objects in it's collection.  Check out A History of the World in 100 Objects, a very cool page I found playing around on the website.

The photo to the right is of the Rosetta Stone.  It is an amazing piece of history, it has three different languages written on it, Greek, Demotic script and Egyptian hieroglyphs.  Since all three portions of script say pretty much the same thing this allowed Egyptian hieroglyphs to be translated, which had previously been impossible to do.  The one below is of my good friend Rachel.  Like typical high school students of course when you find something neat you have to act like a dork.  Gotta give the first bump to the large fist of course.  She was not actually touching the object though no worries!!    

Here is a quick look at my top three favorite museums in the world .. I have a feeling there are some pretty amazing ones I have still to visit though! What's your all time favorite of favorites museum?!


8 songs from 70's & 80's musicals you should hear

While the middle part of 20th century was dominated by the big name musicals the 1970's and 80's birthed some of our most iconic as well plus those wonderful under appreciated tunes.

I Want It Now from Willy Wonka
If you haven't been living under a rock you probably know most if not all of the songs from Willy Wonka.

Little Girls from Annie
Yes we know all the songs that Annie sings but Ms. Hannigan has two of the catchiest tunes from the soundtrack. Plus the amazing Carol Burnett just brings down the house with her over-exaggerated portrayal.

Surprise Surprise from A Chorus Line
We all know the main theme song and the hit tune "I Hope I Get It" but "Surprise Surprise" is full of attitude and fabulous dance moves.

Skid Row (Downtown) from Little Shop of Horrors

Flesh Failures (Let the Sunshine In) from Hair
One of my absolute favorite movies and soundtracks!! This song (and the video) gets me every time. The despair that Berger shows and feels when he realizes he's accidentally in a deployment going to Vietnam is heart wrenching. If you've never seen Hair see it now!

Greased Lightning from Grease

Willkommen ("Welcome") from Caberet

You Can't Win from The Wiz
What more can you say about The Wiz besides Michael Jackson as Scarecrow?


10 Songs From 50's & 60's Musicals You Should Hear

One area of music that doesn't seem to be appreciated as much anymore is that of the musical. I love love love musicals. I think it probably started when I found and started listening to my parents records which included musicals like Fiddler on the Roof and Hair. I was hooked.

Today I'm going to focus on the old school, classic musicals, from 1970 and earlier. The 1950's and 1960's was the heyday for musicals including huge timeless ones like Singin' in the Rain and My Fair Lady. Everyone today only ever seems to know the big show stopper tunes. While those are always well and good I've always been the person to really enjoy the B-side type of tunes.

Make 'Em Laugh from Singin' In The Rain
While the movie's namesake is a classic tune this one from later in the movie will have your sides aching from laughter. Donald O'Connor's slapstick physical humor in this song (and really the entire movie) is amazingly hilarious.

Goin' Courtin' from Seven Brides For Seven Brothers
This is probably one of the more under appreciated musicals from this time period with so many great songs and dance numbers.

The Lonely Goatherd from The Sound of Music

Officer Krupke from West Side Story

Lechaim from Fiddler On the Roof
This is one of my all time favorite musicals. I used to dance around to it all the time when I was younger. Seriously I still know all of the words to all of the songs. Be sure to check out the killer dancing starting at about the 2 minute mark.

Get Me to the Church on Time (I'm Getting Married in the Morning) from My Fair Lady
Audrey's songs are usually the ones that people think of when they hear My Fair Lady but I am all about this song.

Getting to Know You from The King and I

Tom, Dick or Harry from Kiss Me Kate

42nd Street from 42nd Street
Even though this is the namesake song people aren't as familiar with 42nd Street, maybe because it's black and white or because of it's age. Either way it's definitely worth a watch, especially for all the amazing tap moves.

It's A Grand Night for Singing from State Fair


Top 11 90's Alternative

Lately I've been in this mood where the only music that seems to speak to me are the angsty grunge tunes of my middle school years. Since I haven't done a favorites music list lately I felt it was only time to pay tribute to my top 11 90's alternative tunes! Yup top 11. I have spent countless hours switching back and forth between songs (much to the angst of Kevin) and it's been really hard to narrow it down to just 11.

90's alternative has a really unique sound to it and it's almost hard to describe the slight differences between it and say early 2000's alternative. To almost anyone it might sound the same but they're most definitely not! Some of these bands have multiple songs that I would include in my top 11 in a heartbeat but I definitely had to force myself to pick one. Take Live for example, I feel that some of their other songs like "I Alone" or "All Over You" would be perfect representations as well.

Grab a Surge, your best flannel shirt and enjoy some totally awesome tunes with me.

Possum Kingdom by The Toadies

If You Could Only See by Tonic

Plush by Stone Temple Pilots

Man in the Box by Alice in Chains

Shine by Collective Soul

Lightening Crashes by Live

Come As You Are by Nirvana

Everlong by the Foo Fighters

Desperately Wanting by Better Than Ezra

Bullet with Butterfly Wings by Smashing Pumpkins

Jeremy by Pearl Jam

What do you think of my list? Is there songs that are on your top 90's alternative lists that I didn't put?


Crispy Parmesan Shrimp With Spaghetti

3 oz. Parmesan cheese
1 egg white
1 garlic clove, pressed
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp coarse ground pepper
1 lb frozen large uncooked shrimp (21-25 per lb), thawed
2 T. snipped fresh parsley
8 oz. uncooked spaghetti
2 C. broccoli florets
1 C. marinara sauce

1. Pre-heat oven to 435 degrees. Bring salted water to a boil in 4 qt. Casserole

2. For Parmesan topping, lightly spray NONSTICK 12 in. Skillet with vegetable oil using the Kitchen Spritzer. Heat for 1-3 minutes (or until hot) over medium heat. Grate cheese evenly over the bottom of the Skillet using the Rotary Grater. Cook cheese for 4-5 minutes or until it turns golden and lacy. Start at the edges and immediately loosen cheese with Small Slotted Turner. Slide it on to a cutting board and allow to cool completely. Place cheese crisp into a plastic bag and crush with with side of Meat Tenderizer

3.  For shrimp, whisk egg white, garlic salt & pepper in Classic Batter Bowl. Peel, devein, and remove tails from shrimp. Add shrimp to the egg mixture and toss to coat. Arrange the shrimp in a single layer at the bottom of the Deep Covered Baker.

4. Snip parsley with the Mini Professional Shears then toss with the cheese crumbs. Sprinkle the cheese mixture over the shrimp. Bake 10-12 minutes or until the shrimp are cooked through.

5. Add pasta to boiling water, cook for 4 minutes. Meanwhile cut broccoli into small florets and add to boiling pasta. Cook 1-2 more minutes or until cooked to desired tenderness.

6. Place sauce into Small Micro-Cooker and microwave on high for 2-3 minutes or until warm. Drain pasta and broccoli. Divide pasta among plates, top with sauce then shrimp.