Musings of a Museum Fanatic: October 2015


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