Musings of a Museum Fanatic: July 2014


Do This Not That Chicago

I shared this post FOREVER ago over at my friend Samantha's blog, The Samantha Show. I never ended up sharing it here though! I love my city so much and I really really love recommending places to go and things to see for out of towners. Throughout the years I've developed some strong opinions about what people should and should not see. Especially when it comes to the stereotypical Chicago things that people think they MUST see.

Lincoln Park v. Millenium Park
Millenium Park is all well and good and yes I know everyone who comes to Chicago really feels like they must get a photo at the Bean.  I swear people won't think less of you if you don't come home with that photo I promise.  Head out of the Loop and north to Lincoln Park instead!  First off Lincoln Park has the Lincoln Park Zoo so I'm pretty sure that means it wins hands down.  You can't really go wrong with a FREE world class zoo that you can just wander in and out of.  There are beautiful lakes (plus Lake Michigan and the beach is just a little walk away), open spaces, and two more museums at both ends (Chicago History Museum & Peggy Notaebart Nature Museum).  It's a great place to just hang out and see some real Chicagoans, you might see a few crazy ones too be prepared.
Chicago Style Hot Dog v. Chicago Style Pizza
It seems that everyone thinks that Chicago Style Pizza is the only thing we've got going food wise (and cupcakes not sure where that one came from?), OH no no my friends we have this awesome thing called the Chicago Style Hot Dog.  When you ask them to "drag it through the garden" you'll be getting a delicious all beef (if it's not Vienna Beef it's no good!) dog on a poppy seed bun with yellow mustard, chopped onions, neon green sweet pickle relish, a dill pickle spear; tomato slices, sport peppers; and a dash of celery salt.  I know pizza is oh so awesome but seriously go for the dog.  I'm not going to lie to you I'm a bad Chicagoan on this one, I like my hot dog with ketchup but I must warn you to be careful where you go if you're a ketchup person some places don't have it and will turn you down if you ask for it!  My favorite place is Portillos but there are tons of others, if you're heading up to Lincoln Park check out Clark Street Dog (Clark & Halsted).
 Hancock Building v. Sears Tower
First things first it's the Sears Tower not the Willis Tower!  It will never be that!  Now that we have that out of the way, head to Streeterville instead and check out the Signature Lounge at the 95th.  For one thing you'll actually be looking at the Sears Tower in these aaaaamazing views of the city.  The kicker for me is when you head to the Lounge instead of paying entrance fee spend that dough on some yummy appetizers or desserts and drinks.  I've had the chocolate cake and it's rich and oh so sinfully delicious.  
Lou Malnati's v. Gino's East
For those of you who it's just not a Chicago trip without the deep dish pizza go for Lou Malnati's not Gino's this time.  I'm not saying I don't like Gino's, it's good pizza but I LOVE Lou's.  I think my love stems from the amazing crust.  It's just so buttery, melt in your mouth flaky goodness, I really want some now that I'm making myself think about it!  Time for another bad Chicagoan confession!  I honestly prefer thin crust over the deep dish and Lou's is one of my favorites.  Same exact crust as the deep dish but crisp and crunchy melt in your mouth goodness.  One thing that is just the cherry on top is that you can take Lou's pizzas half baked to go or send them anywhere in the country!!

Field Museum v. Shedd Aquarium
Both of these places are some of my favorite museums to visit but I feel like lately the Shedd has been getting a little big for it's britches.  Everyone I know from out of town just can't wait to go to the Shedd and I know it's a world class place but honestly you can see pretty much the same things at the zoos in the area too.  Why not head to a place that has things you can only see in Chicago?!  Like the world's most complete T-rex skeleton or the Tsavo Lions who inspired the movie the Heart of Darkness.   That place would be the Field Museum!  There is so much more than just animals to see at the Field Museum too.  Right now one of the temporary exhibits is of the 1893 World's Fair, which I am stoked to go see.  The Field Museum also gives you a lot more bang for your buck too, so you can be sure to make the most of your Chicago visit. 

That is my little list of Do this and Not thats for visiting Chicago!  Hope to see you around my parts soon.  : )


Five Closet Do's

My closet has always been a huge annoyance. I'm the type of person who will be so busy I'll just lay those last two shirts on the drawers or just toss my shoes at the bottom of the closet not in the proper spots. So in my continuous quest to pare down and organize our lives my closet was of course the bane of my existence.

1. Implement a system
Luckily for me right after we were married Kevin and his dad were willing to install one of those great closet systems. We purchased a set like the ClosetMaid ShelfTrack 5 ft.- 8 ft. Closet Organizer Kit and then added extra items like the set of drawers and more shoe shelves. Adding the extra parts and changing it around to work for us and our closets was super helpful. You don't have to run out and purchase the wire organizers. Maybe you have someone who can make you wood shelves or you prefer using multiple dressers in your closet any way you want to slice it evaluate your needs and really figure out a system that will fit into your life (and budget!)

2. Hangers
In the past I've always been a "buy the cheapest plastic hanger bunch at Target" type of person which led to craziness in my hanging clothes. Giving in to peer pressure to upgrade to nicer flocked hangers was probably the best idea ever. I ended up getting the Stone and Hot Pink kinds because of a different style being discontinued and on clearance. Instead of just mish mashing them I decided to use the hot pink ones strictly for sleeveless items (since I had less of the actual hangers) and the stone ones for everything else.

The biggest issue is the attempt to only use the number of hangers I purchased. Unfortunately I have not pared down my wardrobe to fit exactly that number. There always seems to be a couple of extra tops or a pair of pants hanging out on the little bench right next to my closet.

3. Change it up
Sometimes even if you are organizing it might not be working properly or to the best of it's advantage. Case in point my tall boots. A couple years ago when wide calf boots actually became available and I was able to get a couple of pairs really cheap at the end of the season I invested in boot shapers. These were pretty good, they kept the boots from flopping over and everything but they would get kinda messy at the bottom of my closet. Even though they were organized they would still be unorganized.

So I decided it was time to figure out a better solution and I came across a boot stand. It's a little wobbly and not the best quality but the fact that it corrals my boots and keeps them all in ONE spot is worth it's weight in gold. Added bonus is since there is only room for three pairs it forced me to get rid of one pair! I'm still working on what to do about the two short pairs in the front there. Any ideas?!

4. Give everything a place
Don't just say "oh accessories in these couple of drawers" or "the scarves could work here" make a definite plan of what goes where.
I decided little clutches in the top drawer, scarves/belts in second, third is clean bras and fourth draw is my flats. Since assigning each drawer to a specific type of item I've found that the mess has become much less. Yes I do just toss everything into the drawers but at least items are in their proper drawer!

5. Type then color
This is a task I am still trying to master, at least the second part. It was easy enough to separate items by type because of the way the closet organizer was set up. Dresses had to go in one part because of their length and the summery sleeveless tops could go on the bottom hanger rod, etc,etc. It makes life so much easier in the morning when I don't have to flip through the entire closet trying to find a darn sweater, they're all right together in one spot. It would be nice to get to the point of laying out my outfits for the week but baby steps.

Then sorting by color is a work in progress for my closet. I have accomplished it for the sleeveless tops but am terrible about doing it for any of my other clothes. I also haven't done it for anything else like jewelry. Maybe that should be the next colorful thing I tackle!

What are your top closet do's?


Beatles Movies

I've shared before my love for the Beatles but I haven't shared what is probably my absolute favorite endeavors are their movies. Most people I encounter never knew that there are Beatles movies. Well let me tell you if you haven't seen them you are missing out!

Magical Mystery Tour 
Airing on TV in 1967 this is my least favorite of their movies. I have tried a couple of times over the years to actually sit down and watch the whole movie but haven't been able to yet. Maybe I just haven't been in the right mind set or maybe because the songs it features aren't really my favorites but it's wacky, spaced out psychedelicness just can't hold me. 

Yellow Submarine  
Since I devoted an entire post to my crazy number three favorite of theirs I won't talk about it too much! The first time I made Kevin watch it with me he just sat there for about a good five minutes afterwards and I could tell he was just trying to comprehend the crazy that he had just seen. It was pretty glorious! 

A Hard Day's Night
A mockumentary that has the band preparing for their first London show (Hmmm I guess the plot of Spice World wasn't so original!) with Ringo and Paul's grandfather getting in to all sorts of trouble. British actor, Victor Spinetti, started his long running Beatles relationship in his role as the television director in A Hard Day's Night. Filled with jokes and cheeky dialogue regarding their fame and themselves in general. With six made for the movie songs the soundtrack has twoof my top Beatles songs, "A Hard Day's Night" and "I'm Happy Just to Dance with You". Just a few weeks ago on July 6, 2014 the movie celebrated it's 50th anniversary!

My number one all time favorite Beatles movie is without a doubt their second movie, Help! A total departure from A Hard Day's Night, Help! starts with a woman about to be sacrificed as part of an eastern cult ritual, but they're unable to because her mother has sent the sacrificial ring to Ringo. Thus starts the hilarious global romp of the cult attempting to get the ring back from Ringo and being foiled at every turn.

In addition to the comedic plot the soundtrack is amazing. If I was stuck on a desert island and could only take five CDs with me this would be one of them. "Another Girl" and the montage in the movie are the main reason for my long term crushes on Paul and George. I think it's the rugged t-shirt look that Paul has going on.

If you haven't seen any of the Beatles movies seriously go out and watch them!! Your ears and funny bone will thank you. 


Catching Up

As you probably noticed last week I was a little MIA. As president of my local sorority's alumnae chapter I was chosen as our delegate for the International Convention held in Seattle last week. I was able to cross of one of the items from my 101 list and connect with women not just from other states but really connect with some of the ladies from the other local Chicago Alumnae chapters as well. 

I had been to the 2008 Convention where I was initiated but since at the time I wasn't an initiated member I couldn't participate in the business meetings like I was able to this time.  Being able to take part in the actual running of the sorority was amazing and I've come away totally inspired to rock things here in my local group. We even won an award! For the past three conventions our Panhellenic VP has been nominated for her amazing work for our chapter and with the local Panhellenic group and she was finally chosen to be recognized for her awesomeness!

The above photo is of the Zeta Iota (Valparaiso) sisters along with a Valpo Phi Psi who works at International Headquarters. It's amazing to feel so included as a Valpo alum even though I'm not initiated into that chapter. Joining that was one of my biggest worries but in the six years I've been a Gamma Phi that has totally gone away. The whole weekend was full of wonderful new experiences, I even had a star sighting at the airport.

Scott Hamilton

Overall it was a wonderful half a week and I've come home inspired to rock out the next two years! Inspired to help make strong girls, to show authentic confidence and to totally dominate the awards at the next Convention. 


Beaded Wrap Bracelet

This past Christmas for one of my Gamma Phi events one of the sisters showed us all how to make wrap bracelets. It was so much fun and super easy ... another fun and customizable craft just what I don't need right? Well I gave the one I made that night to mom as part of her Christmas gift and she loved it so much we've made them twice now for different holidays and seasons. I found some fantastic crescent moon charms and thought it would be super fun to make a bracelet to wear this weekend while I'm in Seattle!

Round nose pliers (You can find these at any craft store or check out these 4 in 1 found online)
Needle nose pliers
Beads (whatever color, size and type you want!!!)
Charms (whatever color, size and type you want!!!)
Memory Wire
Jump Rings
Small hand towel


1. Decide what you want your bracelet to look like and purchase the beads and charms that relate to that design. For this bracelet I wanted it to be Gamma Phi colors (Brown & Pink) and use crescent moon charms.

2. Spread your towel out on your little work area. This helps to keep all the beads from rolling about and will make it easier to lay out your design later.

3. Cut the amount of wire you want to use for your bracelet. I cut a little over four loops for this bracelet. Make a loop on one end using the round nose pliers. Bend the loop in the opposite way of the curve of the wire.

4. Start to figure out the exact design you want for your bracelet. I'm a very symmetrical person so all of the designs I've done so far show that but it's your bracelet so go nuts!!

5. Put your beads on the wire. Helpful tip ... no need to push each one allllll the way down the wire one by one, get a good amount on then push that big group down. Makes things go much much faster.

6. Continue this until you've strung the entire wire to your desired length. Leave about a quarter inch of wire blank or if you decide on a shorter bracelet cut off the excess still leaving that quarter inch.

7. Close the end with a loop like the first one.

8. Open up one of the jump rings with the needle nose pliers and add the charm. Thread a jump ring and charm through each end of the bracelet. Close the jump ring so it won't pull of.

I also decided to make single strand bracelets with the charms on each end that I could stack or wear by themselves this weekend. You can really do anything you want with this basic bracelet.


Mo' Money, Mo' Problems

Fiances are definitely an area that Kevin and I need to work on and have been attempting to work on. Unfortunately for us we aren't all or nothing type people, we need to make one change and really implement at a time. If you follow me on Pinterest (if you aren't you should be!) you'll have noticed that I've been working on gathering lots of fun new money pins

I'm a big fan of #9. I always like when Kevin comes shopping with me because he prevents me from getting crappy food that we really don't need to buy. Good for our wallets and my hips.

I feel pretty good saying that we're doing most of these already. #12 I highly recommend, I read Total Money Makeover from cover to cover no skipping anything. There are some great tools for getting out of debt and managing your finances in it.

No one person knows everything about everything so check out this list of diverse money bloggers. 

We are all about #24-26. I think I got these traits from my dad. Whenever we can have the windows and doors open that's what happens in our condo now! In addition to saving money it just feels so much nicer to have fresh air coming through your home. 

One piece of advice I keep seeing everywhere is to get secondary sources of income. I have my Pampered Chef business and now I've been totally addicted to Swagbucks. I'm not able to rack up as many points as some people each day but I'm almost to getting $100 giftcard of my choosing! Probably end up being Target since we shop there all the time and we're trying to be financially better : )

Since getting smart phones I've definitely acquired a multitude of deal type apps. I'm a HUGE fan of the Target Cartwheel app. You have to love stacking Target coupons, manufacturer coupons, Cartwheel deals and the 5% I save with my Target card. I also figured out that you can use both physical and coupons from the Michael's and Jo-ann apps even though they are the same coupon. 

What are your tried and true finance tips and tricks?


90's Boy Bands

Kids these days seem to think that this whole boy band thing with bands like One Direction ... well I can't think of any others worth mentioning since the current boy bands can't even begin to be worthy enough to hold the hair gel of the 90's boy bands.

Backstreet Boys
When it comes down to the kings of the boy bands I will have to admit Backstreet Boys definitely has my vote!! These fabulous Florida boys debuted in 1996 with their Backstreet Boys album. Following up with smash hit albums and my personal favorites Backstreet's Back and Millennium. It makes me so happy that they didn't just gone but that they've totally made a come back with the anniversary tour. 

Definitely the princes of the boy bands, even though BSB wins in my mind 'NSYNC was definitely a close second. Fun fact ... Chris Kirkpatrick narrowly missed out on being a part of BSB. Lucky for him Lou Pearlman was up for the idea of making another boy band. 

These brothers took the US by storm in 1997 with their debut album Middle of Nowhere and biggest hit, "MMMBop". Since then they've come out with new albums on a somewhat regular basis, much to the excitement of a few of my friends who are still extremely addicted to the long-haired Lotharios

I know that "When the Lights Go Out" was really their only hit but you really need to include them on any boy band list. This song was sooo big. I feel so rebellious listening to this song since it was pretty dirty for my little private school junior high self.

Headed up by cute brothers Nick and Drew Lachey

Not gonna lie LFO wasn't one of those boy bands I really cared about past enjoying their songs. I mean did anyone really care about the guys?

Boyz II Men
While BSB might be the kings they pale in comparison to the supreme amazinginess that is Boyz II Men. Kicking off their career in 1992 with their number one single "End of the Road", which stayed at number one for thirteen weeks. They are one of the top ranking bands when it comes to time spent at number one, and became the third artist/band ever to have one of their songs knock down their song that was number one. Even with all their huge hits Motown Philly will always be my favorite and I can't listen to it and not get up and dance!!

One big reason to miss the 90's is definitely the amazing boy bands! You really can't compare the ones today, not even close. Who was your favorite boy band? Where do you fall on the 'NSYNC v. Backstreet Boys battle?