Musings of a Museum Fanatic: January 2015


Easy Zucchini Linguine

A couple weeks ago I shared the first part of our somewhat healthy Italian dinner, the Cheesy Bruschetta not so healthy part. Now here is the main dish! Since Kevin feels like he needs to have protein at every meal I ended up getting some frozen meatballs to add to extra sauce for the Zucchini Linguine. I would probably make my own meatballs in the future but the zucchini definitely paired well with them.

3-4 zucchini
1/2 cup marinara sauce
1 garlic clove


1. Use the Julienne Peeler to cut zucchini into thin slices. (Stop when you hit the seeds.) Add zucchini to Rockcrok® using Chef’s Tongs.

2. Add marinara sauce and garlic pressed with Garlic Press. Microwave, covered, on HIGH 4 minutes. Stir.

3. Serve with heated extra sauce and protein if desired.


Cheesy Bruschetta

Last year when the Pampered Chef released the Rockcroks everyone went mad over this Cheesy Bruschetta recipe. Even when I finally got my own Everyday Rockcrok and could actually make the recipe I didn't. Well this past week Kevin and I decided to be healthy with our main meal and splurge on the cheesy goodness of the Cheesy Bruschetta

2 oz mozzarella cheese
1 oz fresh Parmesan cheese
3 tbsp butter, cut into pieces
1 garlic clove, pressed
10-12 slices (1/4-in. thick) French baguette
Toppers: prepared pesto, marinara sauce or tapenade (optional)

1. Preheat broiler. Grate mozzarella with Microplane® Adjustable Coarse Grater. Grate Parmesan with Microplane® Adjustable Fine Grater. Combine cheeses in 2-cup Prep Bowl and set aside.

2. Melt butter in Rockcrok™ (2.5-qt.) Everyday Pan or Rockcrok™ (4-qt.) Dutch Oven over medium-low heat. Press in garlic with Garlic Press stir. Arrange bread slices over butter mixture.

3. Toast bread 1-3 minutes or until bottoms begin to brown, rotating pieces as necessary to brown evenly. Remove pan from heat.

4. Sprinkle cheeses over bread. Place pan 2-4 in. from heating element. Broil 2-4 minutes or until cheese is light golden brown; remove from oven. Serve with desired toppers.


Summertime Spaghetti

Since Kevin and I have been trying to eat home more I've really been turning to my cookbooks lately. Especially my Pampered Chef ones because you know practice, write off and whatnot. I wanted to try my hand at actually making a recipe that I've had before too. Every month at my Pampered Chef meeting I'm always loving what everyone else brings but then I never go back and actually try out the recipe myself.

So I decided it was time to make the lemony goodness of the Summertime Spaghetti recipe. This is a good one since it allowed me to use one of my favorite tools as well, my Deep Covered Baker. For this one I actually got smart and halved the recipe, since 12 oz. of pasta for two people is just a bit too much, but listed below is the entire recipe.

2 lemons
12 oz uncooked thin spaghetti noodles
2 cans reduced-sodium chicken broth (about 3½ cups)
1 cup grape tomatoes
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 oz fresh Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup fresh parsley
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 cups diced cooked chicken breasts
1 cup small broccoli florets

1. Zest lemons using Microplane® Zester to measure 1 tbsp; set aside. Juice lemons using Juicer to measure ¼ cup.

2. Break noodles in half. Combine noodles, broth and lemon juice in Deep Covered Baker.

3. Microwave, covered, on HIGH 11-13 minutes or until most of liquid is absorbed stirring once halfway through cooking using Chef’s Tongs. When halving the recipe be sure to watch how quickly the liquid absorbs!!

4. Cut tomatoes in half lengthwise using Color Coated Tomato Knife. Grate Parmesan using Microplane® Adjustable Fine Grater.

5. Process garlic, Parmesan, parsley, zest, oil and pepper in Manual Food Processor until parsley is finely chopped.

6. Carefully remove baker from microwave using Microwave Grips. Add Parmesan mixture to baker; mix well using Chef’s Tongs.

7. Stir in tomatoes, chicken and broccoli. Microwave, covered, on HIGH 2-3 minutes or until broccoli is crisp-tender.

I did actually add the tomatoes I just made sure I didn't end up with any in my bowl! Kevin enjoyed the tomatoes.


High Tea at the Langham Hotel

One of my 101 items that I've been most looking forward to completing was attending a high tea. At first it had been planning on doing so with my mom and Bethany. Well life and baby happened this summer so we were unable to make our happen. Well when my good friend Kelli and I were planning a little meet up between Christmas and New Year she suggested doing tea.

Of course I was absolutely stoked and wondered why I didn't think of that! After narrowing our list and checking with two we went with the holiday tea in the Pavilion at the Langham hotel.

The Langham is right on the north side of the river across Wabash from the Trump tower. It was a beautiful hotel and still decked out in all it's Christmas glory. Their special holiday tea was going OK until the end of the year so we got to splurge and enjoy a glass of champagne with our tea.

I had the Langham Blend tea, which is their twist on an English breakfast tea. When it comes to tea I definitely prefer the stronger, not flavored blends. Kelli on the other hand opted for their Palm Court blend, which is a blend of Chinese white tea, hibiscus flowers, rosehip and pink rose petals and it was definitely a beautiful shade of pink.

We started off with a selection of delicious savory items. My favorite was definitely Confit Tuna Belly, Red Radish, White Bean, Micro Celery little tea sandwich. The combination of the creamy tune with the crisp of the radish and celery were just perfect. Exactly what I would expect from a tea sandwich at high class restaurant.

The second mini course was scones with preserves and Devonshire cream. Looking at the menu again supposedly the one we really enjoyed was a Bourbon Smoked Raisin Scone but I honestly don't remember there being raisins in it. Maybe it was just a Bourbon smoked one. Whatever it was I'm definitely now a fan of scones and cream!! Finally we come to the sweets portion of the tea! I was most excited about this part I think since I have such a sweet tooth.

The week before our tea I had contacted the Pavilion to see if there was anything special I could do for Kelli since she just celebrated her 30th birthday. Their Assistant Director for Restaurants was the person who helped me and the day of when I checked in early to make sure everything was good to go the staff was incredibly helpful. Since champagne was already part of our tea they gave Kelli a special birthday cupcake. Needless to say I'm pretty sure I surprised her!

They brought the cupcake out right after the sweets portion, just so we wouldn't get too far into the sweets and not enjoy the cupcake as well. The tea desserts were fantastic perfect little bites. I really enjoyed the Almond Pain de Genes with a cranberry caviar and the Mint Chocolate Tart with dark chocolate ganache and crystallized mint. Although between the desserts as part of the tea and the large cupcake we were done in pretty quickly!

Our high tea experience at the Langham was wonderful. The staff was always attentive and the food delectable. Kelli and I will definitely be making a December tea a yearly event!


Girl Power: 1960's Girl Groups

Some youngins might think that the girl power girl band rockers is a new concept, started in the 90's by awesome groups such as the Spice Girls, well I'm here to burst that bubble! Girl groups have been rocking out under the girl power flag for decades. Kicking off my look at some of the recent (or not so recent) decades girl groups we've got the 1960's! I love the music of the 1960's. This is the decade that really saw an explosion of the girl group.

They ranged from the timid songs about boyfriends to demanding respect. Like so many of the male groups of the time so many of the girl groups brought together the rock and roll mixed with doo wop sound which was a major departure from the sticky sweet tunes of the 1950's. Soon after some of the bigger groups, like the Shirelles, started getting hit after hit the producers looked for more girl groups with that same sound. In the first half of the decade over 700 groups were able to get a song on the charts.

Rock out to a few of the grooviest girl group tunes of the 1960;s

Will You Love Me Tomorrow the Shirelles

Then He Kissed Me by The Crystals

Leader Of The Pack by The Shangri-Las

Mamma Said by The Shirelles

Love Child by Diana Ross & The Supremes

Be My Baby by the Ronettes

Dancing in the Streets by Martha & The Vandellas


Chicago Museum Free Days 2015

Visiting museums, especially in large urban area like Chicago, can definitely get pricey real quickly! So I've pulled together a comprehensive list of Chicago area museums discounted and/or free days. Many of the museums have only posted their discount/free days for the next month or so. Be sure to check their websites regularly to see when they've posted the next months' dates.

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
  • January 5, 6, 7, 12, 13, 14, 19, 20, 21, 26, 27, 28

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.
  • January 5, 6, 7, 14, 15
  • February 2-28

Museum of Science and Industry 
5700 South Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL 60637
These are Illinois resident discount days
  • January 5-9, 12-16, 19-23, 26-30
  • March 2-6
  • April 22
  • May 21
  • June 1-5, 8
  • September 8-11, 14-18, 21-25, 28-30
  • October 5, 6

Shedd Aquarium
1200 South Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL 60605
  • January 5, 6, 12, 13, 18, 19, 20, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27
  • February 2, 3, 9, 10, 13, 14 , 15, 16, 17, 23, 24
  • June 1, 2, 8, 9, 15, 16

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

  • January 5-9, 12-15, 19-23, 26-30
  • February – every Monday through Friday
  • March 4
  • July 4
  • August 18-20, 24-27, 31
  • September 1-3

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.
  • January 3-4
  • February 7-8
  • March 7-8
  • April 4-5
  • May 2-3
  • June 6-7
  • July 4-5
  • August 1-2
  • September 5-6
  • 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
  • Zoo admission is free from January 1 – February 28, 2015, on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays.

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***


choose your own adventure [link up]

Not Entirely Perfect

We're already back for another Choose Your Own Adventure link up, crazy!! It seems like last week was just the beginning of December. Looking back at my simply goals from last month I actually ended up doing really well with the goals. Yes, I'm somewhat surprised at that, not going to lie I actually made them last month and pretty much forgot about them. I didn't really get to organizing my Pampered Chef business but I accomplished the other two goals. I put more than seven items into my garage sale/to get rid of pile and I've got over a dozen blog post ideas for each of the topics I write about. I haven't marked them out for each day yet but it helps just having sorted lists of topics.

Even though I didn't organize my Pampered Chef papers I did end up pulling together all my scrapbook stuff and really organizing all of that stuff. Somehow the packs of stickers ended up all over the condo, along with sheets of scrapbook paper in four different spots. It's nice to have everything in one spot so I can actually use the pretty paper and fun stickers I purchased.

January is all about complete. Finish up that project you've been meaning to do for forever!

1. Put the condo up for sale.
2. Organize Pampered Chef papers
3. Finish one of my scrapbook displays


5 things I do to procrastinate

Avoiding doing any kind of work, at home or other places, is not simply something that one just does. It's definitely an art form. Sometimes you just need one of those days when you're not going to do anything and you're just bumming around. Sometimes you just need a little distraction from a task for a little while. Here are five of my favorite ways to procratinate.

1. Look at home listings - this is definitely one of my go to avoiding tactics. I will check my favorite site more times than necessary during the day just to make sure nothing new and amazing has come on the market. It's also a lot of fun to look at people's questionable design choices, I've definitely seen some doozies!

2. Aimlessly scour Netflix for something new - at certain times this one is just futile. There are those times in between when they add new stuff where you've watched everything worth watching and then all your left with are those movies that after you watch them you sit there thinking "ugh what a waste".

3. Pester Kevin - yup that's one of my procrastinating tools. You might not have a Kevin to bug but I'm sure there is someone be it human or four legged that will help with the avoidance.

4. Pinterest - I have three go to Pinterest distractions. First off I go to humor section. The humor section is just ridiculousness. Seriously if you haven't been on it go look, you can definitely get sucked in to all the different humorous pins. I'm a big fan of the animal and tumblr ones.

Second I usually stick to my main feed and just scroll, pin & repeat. This is where I find pretty much all my good blog, organizing and food pins. My last and newest way of using Pinterest to avoid work is to go through my boards and clean them up. I've been really good about unpinning recipe and other fluff type of pins but, the pins like money or blog related ones I actually want to see if there is any good info on them. So those guys I've been somewhat avoiding ... Usually by utilizing some of my other tactics haha.

4. Online window shopping - this is one tactic that I am very good at. My method is that I shop till I drop, putting everything I like in the online cart and then guilt myself enough that I close out of the browser. It's not so bad if you don't actually whip out the wallet. That's when you run into issues!!

5. When in doubt look at cute photos of dogs, like my dog nephew Bowser here. 


2015 Goals

2014 was the year I rode a crazy roller coaster and we, both Kevin and myself, are determined to make 2015 so much better. I hate the term resolutions, for some reason those seem so much easier to shove to the side and break.

I much prefer goals! They always are more sold and unbreakable than resolutions. I'm feeling extremely more set about 2015 because I've already been thinking about and starting to implement my goals! Meaning why wait until the next year, 2014 was perfect to start my 2015 goals.

Some of my goals are more physical type goals. Meaning I can do concrete things to get a concrete result. Such as #3 keep up with losing weight. If I start tracking and continue to keep more portion size under control I will continue to loose weight. The results for some of my goals won't be so concrete, even though some of the steps to get there might be concrete. Like ditching drama, it might involve de-friending people on Facebook or deleting those numbers from my phone but the mental relaxation it will give me.

Here is a short and brief list of my 2015 goals.

1. Sell our condo

2. Purchase a new home

3. Keep up with losing weight

4. Continue working on my 101 list

5. Work on our finances (budgeting, spending, investing, etc.)

6. Ditch people who just exude drama

7. Be more confident in my career and my professional skills

8. Continue to de-clutter and organize all aspects of life

9. Take advantage of my life more aka live it more fully

Some of these can be broken up into more specific goals but that's for another day (once I figure out what steps need to be taken!). For now I'm feeling really good about how much I've started to work on these goals not just in the first three days of 2015 but before then as well. 

What are you top goals for 2015 & beyond?