Musings of a Museum Fanatic: 2015


5 Things to Remember when Planning Your at Home NYE

When Kevin was still with Stache New Years Eve was always a big deal. They would be playing at one of the big hotels in the Loop, myself and all the ladies would get super dolled up then rock out till we couldn't stand up. It was always a lot of fun but now that I'm a little bit older, prefer to be chill more and trying to save money those expensive, crazy NYE out just don't cut it for us anymore.

Even though we stay at home that doesn't mean we're just falling in front of the TV at 8pm. It's the perfect evening to do something special.

1. Make a night of it. I'm a big fan of going for a full on theme. For our NYE this year I think we're going to go for game night. We bought a somewhat (or extremely if you ask Kevin) hard puzzle at Disney that we haven't even opened yet. Usually for game nights we tend to have lots of wonderful munchies so I think that's what we're going to do this year.

Last year mom and I had a fancier fondue NYE. I find that making a night of it and planning out a theme to the night makes it a little more special and you won't feel like you're lame or missed out on something by staying in. 

2. Have somewhat of a plan. So you've picked out your theme for your last night of 2015 now it's time to get down to specifics. I feel like lately all my tips include having a plan but I've come to realize that it is important!! If you don't plan out what you want to eat, especially if you're following my next tip, you could end up spending way more than you have to. Which we all know I don't want.

Not much a of a cook? Planning ahead is also important for you too! Say you want to grab take out or have something delivered from your favorite restaurant you bet your bottom dollar you better check ahead of time to make sure that they're open on NYE!

If you don't plan out what movie you want to watch you might not have time to get it from Netflix or rent it from the library. Maybe you want to borrow a game from your sister and you didn't plan ahead to ask and now they want to use it NYE since they read this post and decided on a fabulous night in.

3. Splurge. NYE seems to be one of those nights each year that people like to splurge and go all out. Have you seen what some of the ticketed events cost? Downtown Chicago where our friends are playing tickets start at about $135 and just go up from there. Why shouldn't you splurge a tad on your at home night?

Exactly you should! Watch the sales fliers and get lobster tails and steak for dinner early so you won't be paying an arm and a leg but will still indulge. Don't go for the $100 bottle of champagne but keep an eye out for deals on the more mid range ones. Or if you just want a special bubbly and aren't a big wine/champagne drinker (like myself!) go for a low range sparkling wine.

4. Take it up a notch. Just because you're staying in doesn't mean you have to get into your pajamas at 6 and put the hair up in a ponytail. Maybe you and your guy wear nice outfits for your nice night in. Or if you just want to veg out break out your nice pajamas that you don't wear often because you have your comfy stand by.

Go crazy and get some dollar store NYE celebration items as well. Get some crowns and a couple noise makers to ring in 2016. Yeah it seems silly to spend money on something like that but this will take your night in to an actual celebration.

5. Relax & have fun! Whenever I try and do something special I always put pressure on myself to make it awesome and perfect, even when it's a night at home. I just have to tell myself that Kevin and I will have fun and enjoy our time together no matter how good or bad things go.

What are your tips for a fun NYE at home?


8 Christmas Movies To Watch On Netflix

When winter hits here in Chicago I go into hibernation mode! This usually means cuddling on the couch enjoying movies with Kevin. While the weather has been unseasonably nice so far this winter it doesn't mean we haven't gone into hibernation mode. I've been inundating our movie nights with Christmas movies. Kevin doesn't seem to be a fan of some but I love Netflix for having a Christmas movie for everyone!

Christmas Bounty
Probably one of the more ridiculous Christmas movies out there! She's a secret bounty hunter whose biggest collar is out and wants revenge. Trying to put him back in jail along with saving her family, dopey fiance and dealing with the sparks from her ex boyfriend this silly Christmas movie a fun one for a night in. 

Christmas Cupid
Chad Michael Murray ... I mean really do I need to say anything more? It's fantastic.

I'll Be Home for Christmas
I remember when this one came out! Such a good full on Christmas comedy. JTT is in his element and you are just rooting for him the entire movie.

Christmas Kiss
Stereotypical Boy meets girl in elevator in "mask". Boy kisses girl. Girl turns out to be his girlfriend's assistant but he doesn't recognize her even though she wasn't really wearing that great of a mask. Girlfriend turns out to be a big bi***h aaaaand I think we can all figure out the rest? It's so predictable yet I still love it.

12 Dates of Christmas
This might be one of my favorite ABC Family Christmas movies. I've probably seen it a dozen times now. It's got a Christmas and Groundhogs Day (the movie) thing going on and I totally dig it. Plus it doesn't hurt that Mark Paul Gosselaar is not only a dreamboat but is also sweet and caring. It takes Amy Smart's character a while to get it together but she figures it out eventually and everything has a lovely fairy tale ending.

White Christmas
Need a little classical Christmas in your life? White Christmas has you written all over it. If you're hanging out with Grandma reminiscing about what Christmas was like back in her day this is the perfect flick.

Nightmare Before Christmas 
Not a typical Christmas person? Need a little fright in your Christmas? Disney and Netflix have you covered.

Fireplace for Your Home
This is probably the best thing I've ever found on Netflix. For us, living in an apartment we miss out on the Christmas in front of the roaring fire. Now thanks to Netflix we don't have to feel left out! It's not just one but three episodes of a crackling fire with Christmas music. As if this couldn't be any better Netflix made the above trailer!

To get you in the Christmas spirit Netflix has you covered! What's your favorite Christmas movie to chill at home and watch?


4 Apps to Earn Giftcards

I have not received compensation for this post. If you use my link to register I will get some points though! All opinions are my own.

Since getting a smart phone a few years ago I've really embraced using apps to their fullest extent. This has included using them to earn gift cards and other rewards!! I've found that using apps are a great way to earn a little extra dough or another reward you've been eyeing without a lot of work.

I know you've seen me mention Swagbucks in the past so I won't chat too much about it. Swagbucks is by far where I have earned the most amount of gift cards and I'm definitely the most actively using. Pretty sure I've earned over $500 since starting.

There is also a special promotion going on right now, I posted about it earlier today.

This app is one that I found through another blogger maybe like a year ago now. You have a set number of receipts you can load each week and for every 4 receipts you get 100 points and then any more you can load for entries in the weekly sweepstakes. It's taken quite a while but I'm almost to a $100 Amazon gift card. One con is that the receipts can only be from the current month and it does take a while to accumulate points but for only taking like 5 minutes each week to take pictures of receipts before I pitch them it's totally worth it.

My friend Becky turned me on to Shopkick recently and I've been enjoying it so far. Their set up is almost like a game where at certain stores you can scan items for points as well as getting points just for going in to a store. There may have been a couple times where I sent Kevin on a mission to scan items while I grocery shopped. So far I haven't redeemed my kicks (points) for anything, I chose to save up my kicks for a Kitchen Aid mixer but there are gift cards and other prizes too. Again this is another simple one that you can tack on to shopping you already do. I mean come on you're already going to be in Target why not get some points while you're at it!

National Consumer Panel
I don't actually earn gift cards through NCP, they have a rewards catalog where you can earn different prizes. When I started they didn't have the app you had to apply but it seems that you might just be able to sign up. You track your spending during the week and get points for transmitting your shopping trips. They also have surveys they invite you to complete for points as well. Right now I'm saving up my points for a Kitchen Aid or a Michael Kors watch ... we shall see which I go for!


Happy Birthday Mom!!

Wishing Happy Birthday to the best woman in my life! I love you so much Mom!!


Windows at Macy's on State Street

This weekend Kevin and I made our now yearly trip to the Christkindlmarket with our families. Usually we just hang out at the market the entire but because of the amazing weather today everyone and their mother was out! We decided to head a block east and check out the Macy's on State Street Christmas windows.

This years theme was "Santa's Journey to the Stars," and traces the adventures of Alex, a boy who receives a magical telescope that enables him to experience the wonder of Christmas on other planets before landing back on Earth at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. There was also a couple of random Peanuts windows. Not gonna lie, I love Peanuts so those were definitely my favorite windows but the other ones were fantastic as well.

Between the huge groups of people and the crazy amount of reflection on the windows my photos weren't quite as good as I wanted. Might have almost tripped over a little kid to get one of the photos ... whoops!


5 Tips for Writing Your 101 List Goals

When deciding to actually do a 101 list, or really any other big goal type list, it always seems like deciding on the tasks themselves are always the hardest part. I've got some tips that will make writing your list a little bit easier. 

1. Break it Down. 
When dealing with lists the size of a 101 list it's best to break it down. Currently my 101 list is broken up into different topic sections. Not only does that help organize but it helps to not go so out of control with one section over the other. This happened to me in the travel section of my first 101 list. I kept adding so many in that category and not so many in others. I realized that I probably wouldn't have the money for so many travel goals but not enough time too. 

2. Devil is in the Details
One of the biggest issues I had with not being able to complete as much of my first 101 list was that I was very vague about what I wanted to do and the time frame. This hurt my process because I left those until later because they were vague, didn't take time later to define which just meant I pushed them aside. Second time around I have made sure to be more detailed in not only the task itself but also the time frames.

3. Take Time to Decide
Doing something grand like a 101 list means you're committing yourself to 2.75 years with these goals. Even if you aren't doing a 101 list and doing a smaller one, like 30 before your 30, take some time to ponder them. Make sure they're ones you actually care about and want to complete. Sometimes it feels like people just add goals because they sound good. Do you really want to go to Paris? Or are you just putting it on your list because it sounds good. Maybe you'd prefer to visit Tokyo.  When going through and setting my goals this round I wrote and rewrote them a number of times.

4. Edit
Have someone look at them. Have a few people look at them. Heck have everyone you know look at them. Well maybe not that many people but I would highly recommend having a couple people who might be involved with your goals or are close to you check them out. In addition to Stephanie I had Kevin look them over (for obvious reasons) and my friend Rachel. She's known me since high school and knows me really well to where she can say I feel like you might be over reaching with that goal or you can totally make that one a little harder. 

5. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery
I know I said before if everyone is saying they want to go to Paris you don't have to. That doesn't mean you can't look at someone's list and gain inspiration! I definitely googled 101 lists to see what everyone had on theirs. Quite a number of my goals were inspired from something someone else wrote. Maybe they said they wanted to bake bread with their bread maker, well that made me think how I had been wanting to bake bread with my Deep Covered Baker. 


Oh Straightner, my straightner.

I've come to realize that my beloved CHI flat iron is slowly betraying me. It sits there saying "OH yes I'm all nice and heated up I swear", then I rush to make sure I'm presentable when I leave the house. One swipe .... two swipes ... three then four. My hair is still not straight and only somewhat warm.

My CHI you have failed me!!!

I guess we've had a good run, I inherited you at one year and have enjoyed you for over seven. It's time to put old Bessie out to pasture.

With Black Friday coming up rather quickly now I've been exploring different flat irons. I've narrowed it down to four different types that have really good reviews!  

Do you have any of these flat irons? Or is there one not on my list that you would recommend?!


Little Free Library

Five years, in 2009, a man named Todd Bol from Hudson, Wisconsin built a little school house as a tribute to his mother. She was a former school teacher who loved to read. Todd filled the little schoolhouse with books that were free to everyone. Thus the Little Free Library was born. Soon friends and family began to love the idea and he built more little schoolhouses to give to people in the community. After discussing the project with University of Wisconsin-Madison professor, Rick Brooks, the two men saw this as an opportunity to reach certain goals. 

The Mission
To promote literacy and the love of reading by building free book exchanges worldwide and to build a sense of community as we share skills, creativity and wisdom across generations.

Our Goal
To build 2,510 Little Free Libraries—as many as Andrew Carnegie—and keep going.

Since it's inception the Little Free Library concept has grown by leaps and bounds. Achieving it's goal by August 2012 and by January 2015 an estimated 25,000 registered Little Free Libraries existing.

Yup that's a guitar pic for the door

A few years ago my Mom, being the fantastic children's librarian she is tasked my Dad with building their own Little Free Library. Since then the corner with the bench has grown exponentially more popular. People make special trips from two blocks away to add books and check to see what's new. There was even someone who stopped at 4am to grab a book!

If you're not familiar with Little Free Library go check it out and consider building your own!

 He enjoys reading the books more than hanging out inside. 


Inspirational Movie Quotes

Sometimes we all need a little inspiration!

Do, or do not. There is no “try”. – Yoda, Star Wars

Oh yes, the past can hurt. But you can either run from it, or learn from it. – Rafiki, The Lion King

Why are you trying so hard to fit in when you were born to stand out? – What a Girl Wants
Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. – Ferris, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Don’t let anyone ever make you feel like you don’t deserve what you want. – Heath Ledger, 10 Things I Hate About You

I don’t regret the things I’ve done, but those I did not do. – Empire Records

Don’t ever let somebody tell you you can’t do something, not even me. Alright? You dream, you gotta protect it. People can’t do something themselves, they wanna tell you you can’t do it. If you want something, go get it. Period. – Chris Gardner, The Pursuit of Happyness

After a while, you learn to ignore the names people call you and just trust who you are. – Shrek
Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Makes your lives extraordinary. - Robin Williams, Dead Poets Society


Life Lately

So I realize I've been a little quiet this past week or so. I feel like I haven't caught you up on everything else that's been going on in life either. I know I'm really slacking lately.

1. For me last week was crap. I wrote a post about it. Surprisingly writing while I was upset and on my phone it didn't come out that terrible haha. Still feel weird at work this week. Not sure what my next step will be.

2. Kevin started his new job yesterday! It's totally different from his old place and so far he's loving it. I hope it continues to be great even after the first few get to know you weeks.

3. I'm now totally addicted to FitBit. Since we're unpacking from the move I've been racking up the steps. At first I was loving the smack talking with my friends during the challenges then once I hit my first steps goal. Oh my gosh! The fireworks and the buzzing is addicting! Now I must achieve this every day. Very addicting.

4. Work on the DIY Christmas gifts is in full swing in our house! I've already got two gifts completely finished and wrapped. There are about four more in progress now and I think I've got all the stuff for all my projects now.

5. This past weekend we attended one of Kevin's friends he's known since junior high wedding. It was really cool because the couple is Indian. I had never been to a traditional Indian wedding before, neither had Kevin so it was definitely an experience. We really enjoyed the traditions like processing with the groom to meet the bride. There was music blaring, we were all dancing and jumping around.

The food was fantastic. Both of us were a little wary because we expected more of it to be pretty spicy. A majority of the dishes from the luncheon and dinner we not spicy at all. I would totally go back to the restaurant that's attached to the banquet place.

6. Stepping up my Pampered Chef game lately. I've really been trying to start the conversation with people about Pampered Chef. Especially when it comes to helping people with things like recipes and replacement parts. I really would like to build a more active customer base and focusing on other ways I can help will I feel will add to that. There have been a number of people who I've been talking about shows the next month or so. Hopefully the holidays will be good Pampered Chef wise.

Things have been a little roller coaster recently, hopefully they'll start to calm down!



I had started this great, funny post over the weekend for last night that I was going to finish up after work. Well I didn't really feel up to that yesterday.

Found out that the director of my museum position I applied for I did not get.

Let me explain a bit. U have pretty much been running the department for almost a year, partially because of the previous director not wanting to be there and then when they were moved in June I was more officially acting as director. I didn't really have any help figuring stuff out because things needed to get done. We were moving at the end of last month so everything needed to still be full steam ahead.

I am not happy at all by this decision. I feel sort of betrayed. When talking with the higher up person in the past it seemed he wanted to eventually move me in to the position and if he didn't have to post the position would have been perfectly fine moving me in to the position.

I realize this happens all the time but when you're the expert museum person who has been there for over two and a half years already and someone new is brought in that you will have to share all the knowledge that you just spend 8 months figuring out on your own because there was no one there to help you. Also because of the nature of the place this person cannot just come in and hit the bricks running. Their is major hierarchy, language and systems.

I'm pretty much going to still be taking care of business for months while this person comes in and will be getting the glory for it.

At this point I have no idea what I should do. I make a great salary (I think!) for a museum and the benefits are insanely good. The other hand, how can I stay when I feel like utter crap about the situation and might have some resentment about the whole situation.

I will say I am getting tired of this feeling of two steps forward and one back in my career.


10 Articles to Improve Your Career

When you get to a certain point in your career you're not so much looking to move up the ladder right at that moment but looking to improve yourself and your skills. I'm definitely at that point with my career. Being a researcher I have been reading a large number of articles that are aimed at improving you and your career self.

Here are 10 articles I've found with some great career advice.

28 Steal-Worthy Tips From the Most Productive People on the Planet

33 Ways to Boost Your Career When You're Bored at Work

12 Habits of People Who Always Fulfill Their Dreams

How Successful People Go From Good to Great in Anything They Do

Tips For Becoming A Boss From 34 Of NYC's Most Powerful Women

10 Things You Can Do Today To Advance Your Career

10 Reasons Some People Get Ahead in Their Careers While Others Don't

28 Life Hacks To Make Your Day So Much Easier

7 Secrets to Becoming a Great Leader at Work

36 Career Tips No One Will Actually Tell You

I hope you found some of the tips in these articles as useful as I have!


Tips for Having a Mostly DIY Christmas

Christmas already?!?  Yup! It's less than 60 days until Christmas. The past few years I've made it a point to try and DIY Christmas gifts as much as possible. This year  in my own DIY olympics, I'm attempting to have at least 75% of my gifts as homemade. In preparation for that I'd thought I'd share some tips to help you DIY.

1. It's never too early. 
Yes I am that person who will think about next Christmas as soon as this one is over with.
This has helped me stock up on neat things like little Christmas ceramic dishes to serve dip in and small festive plates to give cookies on for $.25 to $.50 a piece! Right after Christmas is the best time to grab these items as they head to clearance. If you're tight on space look for plates or something else that won't take up as much space and can be stored flat.

2.  Know your "audience". 
I'm a big fan of giving gifts that my friends and family will actually enjoy and use. This requires actually paying attention to them and when they drop nuggets that will help you figure out a gift for them.

One example, when we visited uncle Mike in Dallas. He was mentioning how much he liked the stemless wine glasses but didn't have any. I had already been thinking about giving him a set of etched glasses and those comments just solidified those thoughts but stemless.

3. Don't over extend yourself.
If you've never tried to DIY Christmas gifts for people don't go all out in one year and try to do them for everyone. A few years ago I tried to do too much for everyone then I just ended up frustrated and everything came out kinda crappy. 

Also if you've never done a craft don't expect to have it mastered last minute. Metal stamping is on my list to try but since we're already in October I know I'm not going to master it enough to have a gift (that I would want to give) for Christmas. 

4. Try something new.
Yes this totally seems to contradict what I literally just said above but if there is a gift you think someone would like but isn't in you wheel house yet, try it! Just make sure that you've given yourself enough time to really learn how to do it. I've been working on learning how to make the mesh wreaths for a while now. I've been watching videos on YouTube and I'll be taking a class at a local Joann store at the beginning of November. 

5. Keep track  
One thing that can throw of your game is not remembering what you decided on giving whom and what supplies you'll need for the projects. I highly recommend physically keeping track, for me an Excel spread sheet seems to be working really well. I've got it set up with the name of the people I give Christmas and birthday gifts to and what I want to give them for the next year. I'll change the color of the text when I have the supplies and then again when I've completed the gift. This, for me, is an easy way to see what I've got left to accomplish. 

6. Keep it under control. 
One issue I have with crafting is a tend to go a little overboard buying supplies and the supplies will just start to accumulate everywhere. This can totally defeat the idea of doing DIY gifts to save money! It might help to avoid crafts stores once you've gotten the supplies you need or sticking to a strict list made for each project. 


Oktoberfest Beer & Cider Dinner at Pheasant Run Resort and Spa

Early in the summer Kevin and I got a chance to enjoy a 3 Course Private Label Wine Paring dinner at Harvest Restaurant at Pheasant Run Resort. Much to Kevin's delight last night we got to experience their Oktoberfest Beer & Cider dinner.  Of the two of us he definitely enjoys beer much more than I do but I was excited to try the cider. You'll find Kevin's opinion to the dinner in green!

This meal started off with a seared crispy pork belly dipped in dark chocolate with chopped pistachios paired with Revolution Eugene Porter. For me the beer was not my favorite since as a non-beer drinker it was definitely on the heavier side. On the other hand I could eat that crispy pork belly every day! When Chef Tiffany came out to chat I mentioned experiences I had with pork belly being too fatty in the past and she said her preparation of the belly was specifically to avoid that. 

The porter’s bitter and strong after taste mellowed out and the beer became smoother with the food.  It was still a decent porter to begin with, but even better with the food.  Pork belly was crispy and both of us wanted more of it. 

Second came the Killarney Beer Cheese Soup paired with Harp Irish Lager. After hearing a couple in the booth next to us exclaiming how delicious it was we were both ready to try it. I enjoyed how the flavors of the beer and the soup played off each other. The soup was extremely thick and flavorful. I probably could have done that with just the pork belly and skipped the rest of the meal it was so filling!

The hoppy fruit taste of the Irish Lager  disappeared nearly 90% with the food.  I liked the beer before and during the food portion.  Betsy liked it more at the beginning but it went well with the food though.  The soup was heavy, but really good.

The main course came out with Chef Tiffany's statement that the grilled seasoned skirt steak with chimichurri was her favorite cut and steak dish. Needless to say the greatness we expected was delivered. It was accompanied by perfectly fried chips and sauteed veggies. I don't usually go for red meat with dinner but when I do I love that it's at places like Harvest where it's phenomenal. Since I was pretty full by that point I took home half of my steak and just finished it for dinner tonight. Paired with a Ranger IPA that I think we both felt complimented each other. 

The beer complimented the steak perfectly.  It tasted the same at the beginning and while eating.  No taste change detected on my end.  Steak was tender, great seasoning and we both loved it.  Veggies were good, but after being so full from the soup and the steak being so good, we could only eat so much.  The chips were good too, but we could have done without them.  Felt they were an extra item on this plate, but I would gladly eat those chips any day! 

Lastly was  Door County Granny Smith apple crisp featuring granny smith apples baked in crispy phyllo with Anglaise sauce paired with Crispin Honeycrisp Cider. I really appreciated the chef's understanding my issues with apples and cinnamon then making me a special creme brulee dessert. The creme brulee was creamy and sweet, a perfect end to a fantastic meal. Usually I'm not a big cider fan but I loved this one. It was sweet and tasted more like a champagne at times. Will definitely be checking to see where I can get that. 

Cider was very sweet and towards the champagne category when drank before the dessert.  While eating the dessert, the overly sweet nature mellowed out and I really enjoyed drinking it with the apple dessert.  I actually finished it. Chef Tiffany Tooker and I talked about the cider and both agreed we could probably drink a 12oz bottle of it, but no way could we do two bottles.  We both thought it matched the dessert really well.  

There is one more Thursday in the Oktoberfest pairing be sure to call now, 800-4-PHEASANT (474-3272), and make your reservation! If you're unable to make this last one keep an eye out, it sounds like there are more pairing dinners in the works for the near future!


Tips for a Productive Blog Day

Working full time makes keeping up with my blog a challenge at times. Two years ago Stephanie and I started having blog days every so often to help with getting our acts together.

A blog day (in my terms at least!) i
s a day specifically for working on tasks relating to blogging. I'm going to share some of the tips that I think make for a successful blog day.

1. Schedule. I'm not just talking about scheduling the date you want to have you blog day. Be sure to have at least a rough schedule for the day itself. This will help you stay on track. I know for our virtual blog day this weekend I'm planning out what I'm doing for meals as well as a rough time table of what I want to get done when.

2. Goals. For me this is a really important one. I know that I work way better when I've got set goals of things I want to accomplish. It allows me to really hunker down to work, instead of getting sidetracked because it's so vague I don't know where to start. 

Here's an example of my goals for this weekend:
1. Finish up 10 already started posts.
2. Go back and fix 5 posts so they are pin worthy.
3. Come up with 20 new post ideas.
4. Schedule two weeks worth of social media posts on each social media outlet

We decided that for this blog day we were going to each choose two bigger goals and two smaller. 

3. Have a buddy. As I mentioned Stephanie and I have been doing our own a few times a year now. There have been times where we've done an in-person/virtual blog day. I went and actually hung out at Stephanie's apartment and we connected virtually with other bloggers. Not only was it great to be able to bounce ideas off of another blogger but the accountability was awesome. 

Aren't able to schedule a blog day with a blogger friend? See if you can enlist a friend or family member who is good at keeping you accountable with stuff. Make a plan to check in with them a few times that day or show them what you've accomplished by the end of the day. 

4. Have the right tools ready. Going to need things like your hard drive with photos, a notebook for ideas, ingredients to make a recipe for a post or anything else you might need, be sure to have all of this ready to go. Don't waste your time the day of searching for that annoying hard drive because you know you left it somewhere and you're pretty sure your husband moved it. Take time the week before to pull together all those items. That way when the day comes you can really get down to business. 

5. Reduce distractions. For this blog day I picked a day that I knew Kevin would be out of the house. Even though he's extremely supportive and helpful he can also be a huge distraction for me. Do you have someone like that? Send them away! Or ask nicely if they can go run errands or pick a day that they'll be out of the house for most of it. Get distracted by the TV and stuff like that? Maybe you should leave the house and go to the library. If you're like me where you need background sounds to work, pick ones that won't be so distracting like music without lyrics. 

6. Reward yourself. Now for this one we're going on the honor system but if you put in a good days work and accomplished all of the goals then be sure to reward yourself! Planning your reward ahead of time will give you something to look forward to as well. My plan, after I finish up the goals, is to reward myself with Pitch Perfect 2 and sushi from the awesome place we found near our apartment. Kevin will be out of town and it will be fun to give myself a treat after a productive blog day. Not a fan of dinner out? Give yourself the reward of that new sweater (hopefully on sale) you've been eyeing. 

I'd love to hear what tips you have for a successful blog day! My goal is to make this one a really productive day. 


Corn & Black Bean Salsa

A few years back my mom started making a Texas caviar dish aka corn & black bean salsa that was just delicious. One night last summer in a last minute trip to the store after work I grabbed the stuff to make our own version and fancy up one of our regular meals, tacos! It's been a staple in our fridge since!

I love this recipe because you can really make it your own. Not a fan of green peppers? Use red instead. Want both? Go for it! Like avocados? You can add chopped avocado, which is actually in the original recipe but I'm not a fan so I leave them out. It's great with everything and on everything. Kevin will add it to his salads in addition to tacos where as I'm a purist who keeps it entirely with tacos or tortilla chips.

I can black beans, drained & rinsed
1 can sweet corn (we use the low salt version), drained
1/4 C. green pepper, finely chopped
3 heaping Tbs red onion, finely minced
2 Tbs cilantro, finely minced
Lime juice

1. Open and drain cans of of black beans and corn. Add to container or bowl (wherever you'll be storing them).

2. Add minced onions, green peppers and cilantro. If you prefer more of each feel free to add as much as your hearts desire.

3. Add as little or as lot of lime juice as you prefer. I would suggest at least a couple of tablespoons. It helps to mesh the flavors so you don't want it to be too dry.

4. Mix everything together. I highly suggest making it the night before and giving the flavors time to meld but we've eaten it right away.

5. Enjoy! Enjoy with chips! Enjoy on your tacos! Enjoy on everything!


I'm so Excited!!

Have you ever been planning something and been so excited for something that by the time you're almost there you just can function normally because of the anticipation? Being like 4 days out from the Disney trip I've been literally planning for I think year for my in laws, Kevin's brother, his wife and us I just can't seem to focus and function normally.

When said they wanted to take us on a Disney trip I was all ...

Then I started to be the one planning most of it and I got to plan awesome stuff like our hotel being Boardwalk Villas ...

Earlier in the summer I started to get really tired of all the planning ...

Then I finally got to the point where I hit my wall. Planning a big trip for 6 adults is time consuming and at times very annoying!

Now that I'm less than 4 days and everything (that I can remember!) is taken care of I'm ready to party with the Mouse!!

I apologize now if I'm a little crazy the rest of the week!! Look at this fabulous Pascal gif!


Chicago Museum Week

Today the first ever Chicago Museum Week kicked off! Being a city that celebrates everything, has a festival and a week dedicated to everything under the sun I'm surprised it took so long! I'm happy that museums finally have their own.

From October 1 thru October 7th twelve Chicago museums have gotten together to offer some amazing deals and special events. With so many deals going on you'd be crazy not to head to the city and experience some of these great Chicago museums!

Adler Plantarium
$10 off any level of new membership

October 5, 6 and 7: free general admission for Illinois residents

The Field Museum
October 4: free general admission for Illinois residents

Chicago residents always receive $5 off general museum admission

National Museum of Mexican Art
15% discount at the museum shop

Enter a drawing for a chance to win a family membership

Art Institute of Chicago
October 1, 5:00 PM to 8:00 PM: museum free for Illinois residents

Chicago residents always receive $5 off general museum admission
Illinois residents always receive $3 off general museum admission

Kids under 14 are always free!

Save $10 on new memberships!*

*$10 off Member, Member Plus and Premium Member memberships with the promo code 10MUSEUM. Visit

Lincoln Park Zoo
Fall Fest rides:

$3 for one ride
$27 for 10 rides
$51 for 20 rides
Pumpkins for sale daily throughout October

10% off memberships

National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture
Free admission

Chicago History Museum
$4 off admission

20% off purchases at North & Clark Café and Museum Store

20% off membership*

*Offer valid between October 1–7, 2015. May be purchased on site, by phone or online.

Adult group tours $8 admission per person with minimum group of 10 people.

Follow, like and connect with @ChicagoMuseum for your chance to win exciting prizes throughout Museum Week!

Museum of Contemporary Art
October 6: free to Illinois residents

Bring a receipt from another museum visited during Museum Week and receive 50% off a paid adult admission ticket

The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
October 1: museum free for Illinois residents (suggested donation day)

October 2–7: bring a receipt from your visit to another museum during Museum Week and get $5 off a paid adult admission ticket

Chance to win a LIFETIME membership to the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum!

10% off the entire gift shop

$15 off a 1-year membership — $45 for a $60 membership; new members only
$25 off a 2-year membership — $85 for a $110 membership; new members only

Shedd Aquarium
October 5 and 6: Illinois resident community discount days

Special discount offers on select Extraordinary Experiences

Member Appreciation Month: special programming and discounts for those who join

The DuSable Museum of African American History
2-for-1 admission

10% off store

Half off individual membership


I ate a Tomato & other 101 things

I ate a tomato.

Yes I actually did it. There wasn't physical proof but as Kevin, my mom, brother, sister in law and Lane, they'll all tell you I actually did it. Mom thought it would be life changing. Nope, still don't like them but I can cross it off my 101 list!! This was definitely the task I thought I would be saving until the end of the list to accomplish but when your sister in law has a bumper crop of tomatoes this year you figure if you're going to have one it might as well be a nice home grown one.

For the longest time I've been telling Kevin about this awesomely simple bread you can make with the Deep Covered Baker. Every time I tell him that he asks why we haven't had the bread yet. Well I didn't really have a good answer so I added it to my new list and made the first of the three loaves! It was awesome. There was no kneading, barely any steps to it and it came out wonderful. My favorite way of using it was to make toasted cheesy garlic bread from it. I'll be making my second loaf soon but using the new Rosemary Herb Seasoning Mix this time.  Been slacking a bit on the cooking area of my new list but the Crab Stuffed Chicken, of my things off Pinterest I was scared of, turned out well.

One area I have definitely NOT been slacking on has been watching Ken Burn's documentaries. Before it seemed I was going to have to request them thru Netflix on DVD but between Netflix Instant, Prime and my brother's Xfinity online I've seen The WestThe Roosevelts: An Intimate History and am working my way through The National Parks: America's Best Idea. I am huge fan of his style of documentary so I've very much enjoyed the in depth looks at these topics. Kevin wants to see Prohibition with me so that will have to wait until after Disney.

After Disney I'll hopefully be able let you know that I've crossed off all the 101 tasks relating to that. Although it wouldn't be all bad if not crossing one off means we have to go back right ....

I was also able to cross of the gallery wall, Kevin was a big help with this one. The layout of photos and other items was so not symmetrical but he put them all up and made them look great. Much to Mom's utter happiness I also finally made it through the Harry Potter series and boy was she right. As soon as I started reading I couldn't put them down. Since I had seen the first few movies I was enjoying how much alike the two were, then when I got to the other books I had to know what was going on! I think I'll probably go back and watch all the movies now. 

Whew!!! What a crazy first two months the new 101 list has been! It's going great though and I can't wait to cross off more tasks : )


Chicago Museum Free Days 2015 part 2

Earlier in 2015 I pulled together the freebie dates and information from Chicago area museums. Since many of the freebie dates already passed I thought I'd pull together the free dates for the rest of the year. The fall and winter time are great for museum going. There is always tons to do in conjuncture with your visit.

There are also usually discounts for certain groups, such as military personnel and teachers. Be sure to check websites or call and check to see if you can get that discount before you go.

If you're from the Chicago area I would also highly recommend you become a member of your favorite museums you visit often. This not only gets you into the museum for a discounted rate and in most cases special member perks but it supports the museum and the work that they do.

The Big 6 Chicago Museums
Adler Planetarium
1300 South Lake Shore Drive, Chicago IL 60605
These are Illinois resident discount days
  • October 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 12

Art Institute of Chicago
111 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60603
  • Free admission every Thursday 5-8PM

700 East Grand Avenue, Chicago, IL 60611
  • Target Free Family Night - Free admission every Thursday 5PM-8PM
  • First Free Sunday - Free admission for visitors 15 and under on the first Sunday of each month

Field Museum of Natural History
1400 South Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL 60605
Illinois residents can enjoy free Basic admission on Field Museum Discount Days. On these Discount Days, Illinois residents may upgrade to a Discovery Pass for $11 or upgrade to an All-Access Pass for $18.
  • October 4 and 30  
  • November 1 and 22  
  • December 5, 6, and 13

Museum of Science and Industry 
5700 South Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL 60637
These are Illinois resident discount days
  • October 5, 6

Shedd Aquarium
1200 South Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL 60605
  • October 5, 6, 12, 13, 19, 20, 26, 27 
  • November 2, 3, 9, 10, 16, 17, 23, 24

Elmhurst Art Museum
150 Cottage Hill Ave. Elmhurst, Illinois 60126
  • Free admission every Friday

Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art
220 South Cottage Hill Avenue, Elmhurst, IL 60126
  • Free admission every Friday

Illinois State Museum Chicago Gallery
100 West Randolph Street Chicago, IL 60601
  • Free daily admission

Loyola University Museum of Art
820 North Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60611
  • Free admission every Tuesday

Museum of Contemporary Art
220 East Chicago Avenue, Chicago, IL 60611
  • Free admission every Tuesday

National Veterans Art Museum
4041 N. Milwaukee Avenue Chicago, IL 60641
  • Free daily admission

Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago
5550 S. Greenwood Avenue, Chicago, IL 60637
  • Free daily admission

Ethnic Museums
DuSable Museum of African American History
740 East 56th Place, Chicago, IL 60637
  • Free admission every Sunday

Mitchell Museum of the American Indian
3001 Central Street, Evanston, IL 60201
  • Free admission every first Friday

National Museum of Mexican Art
1852 West 19th Street, Chicago, IL 60608
  • Free daily admission

Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago
1155 East 58th Street, Chicago, IL 60637
  • Free daily admission (suggested donation)

Swedish American Museum
5211 North Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60601
  • Free admission every second Tuesday of the month

History Museums
Robert McCormick Museum and
First Division Museum (at Cantigny)
1S151 South Winfield Road, Wheaton, IL 60189
  • Free daily admission, $5 parking fee per car

Chicago History Museum
1601 North Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60614
Illinois resident discount days
  • No more for 2015

Clarke House Museum
1827 South Indiana Avenue, Chicago, IL 60616
  • Free on Wednesdays

102 E. Wesley Street Wheaton, Illinois 60187
  • Free daily admission

120 E. Park Ave.  Elmhurst, IL 60126
  • Free daily admission

Glessner House Museum
1800 South Prairie Avenue, Chicago, IL 60616
  • Free on Wednesdays

Illinois Holocaust Museum
9603 Woods Drive, Skokie, IL 60077
Free days for Bank of America/Merrill Lynch ATM, credit or debit cardholders ONLY.
  • October 3-4
  • November 7-8
  • December 5-6

Jane Addams Hull House at UIC
800 S. Halsted Chicago, IL 60607-7017
  • Suggested donation of $5

International Museum of Surgical Science
1524 N. Lake Shore Dr. Chicago, IL 60610
  • Free on Tuesdays

McDonalds #1 Store Museum
400 N. Lee Street Des Plaines, IL 60016
  • Free daily admission

Naper Settlement
523 S. Webster St. Naperville, IL 60540
  • Free general admission for Naperville residents. Discounted rate during the winter season (November-March)

Local Historical Societies
These local historical institutions usually have free admission, suggested donation or an extremely low fee which will usually include a tour. Since a majority these institutions are run by volunteers be sure to check what their hours are since sometimes they will only be open certain days of the week to the public.

Nature Museums, Farms & Zoos
Brookfield Zoo
8400 West 31st Street, Brookfield, IL 60513
  • General admission is free from October 1 – December 31, 2015, on Tuesdays, Thursdays.

Chicago Botanic Garden
1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe, IL 60022
  • Free daily admission, parking fees apply

1S151 South Winfield Road, Wheaton, IL 60189
  • Free daily admission, $5 parking

Garfield Park Conservatory
300 North Central Park Avenue, Chicago, IL 60624
  • Free daily admission, street parking available

Lincoln Park Zoo
2001 North Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60614
  • Free daily admission, parking fees apply

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
2430 North Cannon Drive, Chicago, IL 60614
  • Thursdays are suggested donation days for Illinois residents

The Grove
1421 Milwaukee Avenue, Glenview, IL
  • Free daily admission

Wagner Farm
1510 Wagner Road, Glenview, IL 60026
  • Free daily admission

***While this list is pretty comprehensive there are a number of museum's that don't advertise free/discounted days but you should definitely be sure to check them out as well because there are some amazing museums in the Chicago area***


Cover V. Original

One part of music that I've always enjoyed is when people cover songs. I mean come on I am kinda obsessed with cover bands! Most of the time people say that the original is way better but here are 10 of my favorites where the cover totally dominates the original. 

Dancing In the Streets
Original - Martha & the Vandellas
Cover - David Bowie & Mick Jagger

While I enjoy both versions I really enjoy the sound of the cover a little bit better. Plus this video just pushes it way over the top. I mean seriously if you've never seen the amazing that is Bowie & Jagger dancing together you need to take 2 minutes and 56 seconds to just enjoy it. God I love the 80's it's so wonderful. 

With a Little Help From My Friends
Original - The Beatles
Cover - Joe Cocker

While the Beatles version is amazing and I love it so much I think I might just love Joe's version a little bit more. It's got a rough edge to it that I think works well with the meaning of the song.

Smooth Criminal
Original - Michael Jackson
Cover - Alien Ant Farm

My apologies to the king of pop but his version just doesn't cut it compared to this hard rocking Alien Ant Farm version.

Whiskey in the Jar
Original - Dulbiners/Thin Lizzy
Cover - Metallica

Again with the loving the hard rock versions I know, I know. I just can't help it. Although my husband likes to remind me that this song is after the sold out, etc ... my reply is I don't care I just enjoy it for the awesome song it is. If you've never heard the Dubliners version of this song seriously check it out, it is definitely totally different!

Killing Me Softly
Original - Roberta Flack
Cover - Fugees

Who knew?! Lauryn Hill, you and your 90's teenage angst. I love it.

I will Always Love You
Original - Dolly Parton
Cover - Whitney Houston

Another one that I had no idea was a cover! No gonna lie but sorry Dolly, Whitney totally dominates in this cover. The "I will Always Love You" part at the end still gives me goosebumps.

Proud Mary
Original - Creedence Clearwater Revival
Cover - Ike & Tina Turner

For me this match up might actually be a tie. Some times you need the smoother trip down the river with CCR and sometimes you need the crazy Tina Turner hair flip version.

Twist and Shout
Original - The Isley Brothers
Cover - The Beatles

The Beatles just barely beat out The Isley Brothers with their 1963 cover. Both versions hold up really well but The Beatles version is the one most of us know and love.

I Love Rock 'n' Roll 
Original - Arrows
Cover - Joan Jett & The Blackhearts

Who even knew that this was a cover? I definitely did not know that. Obviously since I didn't even know there was an original Joan's cover wins hands down.  

Original - Nine Inch Nails
Cover - Johnny Cash

The emotion Cash sings this song with is just ridiculous.

So what do you think? Original or cover?