I’m doubling my usual “Top Five” list…there are so many great attractions in Chicago, I had to choose ten! These are pretty touristy, but they’re the places I’ve been trying to make sure the Fab Five see at least one of each time we visit because they’re important to me. If you’re going to Chicago for the first time and/or have limited time to spend there, these are the places I think you should visit first for the quintessential Chicago experience!
Art Institute–This museum has, in my opinion, some of the best art in the world, and also some unique exhibits, like the Thorne Miniature Rooms. Make sure to take time to see the Chagall windows while you’re there!
Field Museum–This museum, named after Marshall Field, the Chicago department store magnate, is home to one of Chicago’s most famous residents: Sue the T. Rex. There are many other exhibits, too, which bring the history and culture of many civilizations around the world to life.
Shedd Aquarium–If you want to see fish and other sea creatures from around the world, this is the place to be! You can also touch sea stars, stingrays, and sturgeons, and take in a show at the Oceanarium featuring dolphins and beluga whales.
Boat or Bus Tour–I’m a fan of the Wendella boat tour, but any chance to get out on the water (Chicago River and/or Lake Michigan) or on the top of a double-decker bus and see the city from a unique point-of-view while hearing a guide share some of the city’s history is a great experience!
Brookfield or Lincoln Park Zoo–The two Chicago area zoos are very different from each other, so you’ll have very different experiences at each. My favorite is the Brookfield Zoo, but I’ve been to both, and they’re both fantastic spots to see wild animals!
Sears Tower Viewing Deck or John Hancock Observatory–I suppose I should refer to these as Skydeck Chicago at Willis Tower and 360 Chicago at 875 North Michigan Avenue, but I’m old school. Whichever you choose, you’ll get great, bird’s-eye views of the city…just make sure to go up on a clear day!
Wrigley Field–I feel a little guilty even mentioning this, being a St. Louis Cardinals fan, but there is something special about historic Wrigley Field. Whether you go for a Cubs game (I’ve only been once) or for a tour (something I’d like to do in the future), you’ll have a unique Chicago experience and get to see the famous “Ivy on the walls.”
Chicago Botanic Garden–This is a new favorite Chicago-area location (it’s technically in the northern suburbs, in Glencoe), for me…I visited it for the first time last year. But it’s a beautiful place to take a walk in the winter and spring, and there’s always something new to see!
Bonus item: Christkindlmarket–I didn’t think it was fair to put this in the main list, because it’s open for such a short portion of the year. But if you find yourself in Chicago in late November or December, this is definitely worth a visit, and one of my very favorite things to do in Chicago!
Not mentioned…the FOOD! I couldn’t narrow it down to just one restaurant, or even one type of food, because there’s so much to love to eat in Chicago. But you’re going to need to stop and eat while you’re visiting all these amazing attractions, so grab a Chicago-style pizza, some Italian beef, gyros, a Chicago-style hot dog, or a Rainbow Cone while you’re out exploring!
And, yes, I know Navy Pier and especially the Centennial Wheel are missing from this list. So here’s my confession…I’ve never been to Navy Pier. I actually would like to take the Fab Five there in the future, if only to say we’ve been, and if I do, and I like it enough, I may have to modify this list at a later date!
It’s time for a look back at my top five favorite photos from 2018! They can be organized into two categories…pictures from our trips to Chicago, and pictures from the Missouri Botanical Garden.
First, a picture of the Chicago skyline from outside the Adler Planetarium in January:
And a picture of Lake Michigan from Glencoe Beach:
We were back in Chicago in May, and I loved the poppies at the Chicago Botanic Garden:
We visited Chinese Culture Days at the Missouri Botanical Garden for the first time, and the dragon was a huge hit!
Garden Glow at the Missouri Botanical Garden is always one of favorite events:
My children will accuse me of “cheating,” but I’m adding two bonus photos anyway…not necessarily because they’re great pictures, but because they have such great memories attached to them. First, this picture from our trip to Florida of Bunny at Diagon Alley, which is pretty much the happiest I’ve ever seen her:
And the picture I took of Chickadee the day we went pumpkin picking, and she got “baby porcupines” stuck to her boots. Two months later, and the memory still makes me giggle!
I’m already looking forward to the pictures I will take in 2019…I can’t wait to see what special memories I capture!
This list is brought to you courtesy of Bunny. One evening, she asked me if I could pick any imaginary location to visit, what would it be? Well, you know me…I can’t pick just one. So here are my top five (fine…six) imaginary places to which I wish I could actually travel:
Land of Make Believe–Didn’t everyone who grew up watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood want to hop on Trolley and visit the Land of Make Believe? Hanging out with Queen Sara Saturday, Lady Aberlin, and the Platypus family would be so much fun! And maybe there would even be a Purple Panda sighting… The older I get, the more convinced I am that it would be an amazing place to stay and stay!
The Kingdom of Wisdom—The Phantom Tollbooth was one of my favorite books when I was a child (actually, it still is!), and when I was little, I thought that if I imagined hard enough, I could hop in the car with Milo and visit Dictionopolis and Digitopolis, but hopefully not get stuck in the Doldrums! And if someone dropped that tollbooth in my house today, I would definitely take the trip!
Downton Abbey–I would love to visit the real Highclere Castle someday, but I also wish I could visit the fictional world of Downton Abbey…maybe be invited to dinner with the Granthams, or even just work in the castle! I’m not only interested in visiting the place…I’d love to get to know the people there, as well.
The Land of Sweets–I think it’s pretty obvious that I love the Nutcracker ballet, and I would love to be able to travel to the Land of Sweets the way Clara did. Even better, I wish I could travel to different companies’ productions of the Land of Sweets, because they’re all so unique and beautiful, and that trip would be almost never-ending!
Vic Fontaine’s–I would love to spend an evening at Vic’s Lounge in the holosuite on Deep Space Nine, listening to him sing. It would be like an evening with the Rat Pack at The Sands, only better, because I could run into Dax, Worf, and Doctor Bashir while I was there!
The Columbia Inn, Pine Tree, Vermont–The setting of my favorite Christmas movie would also make the perfect Christmas vacation spot. Song and dance, snow and scenery, and a fun indoor fire pit for roasting hot dogs and making s’mores. But does the trip come with the dream vintage wardrobe from White Christmas…?
Time for another “Top Five” list…and this time, I actually kept it to exactly five! Today I’m looking at my favorite children’s toys…and with one exception, they’re all toys I played with when I was a child, in addition to all being toys my children have enjoyed/still enjoy playing with!
Little People–Fisher Price’s Little People were originally introduced in the 1950s. The barrel-shaped, armless, Little People I had (including those that came with the iconic house and the farm), looked quite a bit different from the chunky, more-detailed ones my children have played with, but the basic concept is still the same, and they’re extremely sturdy! They have been the basis for many hours of imaginary play!
Lego–Lego is celebrating the 60th anniversary of the brick this year! Of course the Lego company has gotten bigger over those years, and the sets have become more complicated, especially as they have introduced licensed lines, but the bricks themselves really haven’t changed. As a matter of fact, it’s my understanding that the first Lego bricks, the Lego bricks I played with, and the zillions of Lego bricks in our house today, just waiting for someone with bare feet to step on them, will all work together. That is impressive commitment to standardization and quality control! I’m also not ashamed to admit that I’m still building with Lego bricks, as is Ryan, so this is one toy that is literally enjoyed by every single person in our house!
American Girl/Beforever–What we know as American Girl today started as the Pleasant Company in 1986. I had one and only one American Girl doll when I was a child (Kirsten), and I still have her today. Bunny and Ladybug have…well, way more dolls, some they received as gifts, and some they saved their hard-earned money to purchase themselves. In addition to being very high quality (my doll still looks great 25+ years later!), they’re a great tool for learning about history. And not only do they encourage imaginative play, they also encourage reading, because you just have to learn the story of your doll! Like Lego, this is a toy that I’m still playing with, and I even added a second doll to my collection last year when the children gave me Melody for my birthday!
Crayola–Crayola crayons have been around since 1903! I don’t know if everyone would consider drawing materials (plus all of the other fabulous arts and crafts stuff Crayola makes) to be toys, but I do. They inspire so many hours of creativity, and what parent doesn’t have a house filled with artwork created with Crayola? And there’s something special about the smell the first time you open a new box of crayons…
Build-a-Bear–This is the most recent toy on the market to make my list (they were founded right here in the St. Louis area in 1997, and their first store opened in the St. Louis Galleria), and the one toy here that I didn’t play with in my childhood. The stuffed animals are high quality, and let’s face it, getting to make your own bear, make as wish on its heart, “wash” it in the store, and dress it is a lot of fun! Of course, it can also get expensive really quickly, but that’s true for pretty much all toys. If you’re feeling really crazy, you can even have a child’s party in store, and they even have a new concept called the Build-a-Bear Bakeshop where you can decorate cupcakes and enjoy other treats.
There are so many other toys my children have enjoyed playing with over the years…pretty much anything made by Fisher-Price, Webkinz, Leapfrog, Transformers, and My Little Pony to name a few, but these five are really special, and I hope they’re around for a long time to come!
There must be something about October that inspires me to make a “Top Five” list that only has three items (instead of my usual six-ish)! Today I want to talk about my three favorite retro fashion brands:
Pinup Girl Clothing–I bet this one is shocking, right? I’ve talked extensively about how “PUG Changed My Life.” Most of my retro clothes are PUG pieces. I have skirts and tops, dresses, and even a bolero. I love PUG, and even when I’m not looking to buy anything and/or can’t afford anything, I still love to see what’s in the “Coming Soon” section of their website. They also have a fantastic Facebook community full of supportive (and very well-dressed) shoppers. I don’t think anybody does vintage-inspired clothing with a modern flair the way they do!
Splendette–In my mind, no retro outfit is complete without an awesome bangle stack. Prior to this year, I didn’t have a source for bangles that would fit over my large hands. And then Splendette announced that they were adding a Duchess Bangles line to their range, and my retro accessories prayers were answered! Splendette also offers pieces like necklaces and earrings, if you’re looking to coordinate with your bangles and get the full look.
Erstwilder–If there’s one thing a retro outfit really needs outside of bangles, it’s a great brooch. I love brooches, both fancy and whimsical. I actually had a few brooches in my jewelry box before I really got into retro fashions, but I’ve added quite a few since then. Erstwilder is definitely the place to go if you’re looking for something more whimsical, and they have themes and color selections to go with pretty much any outfit!
Of course, there are other brands I like. The Oblong Box Shop has fun novelty-print skirts. Unique Vintage sells house brands items, but also other retro brands. Luxulite, Meteor Jewelry, and Tangerine Menagerie offer fun jewelry options. And I wish I didn’t have giant clown feet, because I’d love to try some of the amazing retro styles B.A.I.T. footwear offers. But my top three are in a class by themselves, and make up the bulk of the clothing and jewelry in my retro wardrobe!
I was thinking about my current Pinup Girl Clothing favorites recently. And while I love all my PUG pieces, I came up with five outfits that I’m really into right now:
The surprising thing about this list is that while most of my PUG items are skirts, right now, three of my top five outfits are dresses. Who knows, though…in a few weeks, the list could be completely different!
It’s been a long time since I’ve done a list of my top five favorite movies…and it wasn’t even an official “Top Five” list back then! The list has changed quite a bit, so here’s the updated version:
The King’s Speech–This has been my favorite movie pretty much since the first time I saw it.
Apollo 13–But before I saw the above movie, this had been my favorite for many years!
Hidden Figures–This is the most recent addition to my list, and it’s definitely the best new movie I’ve seen since The King’s Speech. Truly excellent. It also has a lot in common with Apollo 13.
A League of Their Own–Baseball, plus history, and I’ve even visited some of the places used for filming this movie…how could I not love it?
White Christmas–A Christmas movie had to make the list, and there is no Christmas movie I like better than this one!
The children asked me to turn it into a top ten list, so here’s the remaining five, at their request:
Hoosiers–Along with the next two movies, this used to have a spot in my top five…it’s my second favorite sports movie, and has one of the best soundtracks I’ve ever heard!
My Big Fat Greek Wedding–Not only does this movie make me laugh every time, it’s also a Chicago movie!
Ocean’s 11–Who doesn’t love a good caper?
Meet Me in St. Louis–This is the oldest movie on my list, both in production and setting…it grows on me a bit more each time I see it, and it’s a movie our family watches often!
Cars–This is a special movie to me, both for sentimental reasons and because I really love its message. It must be very special, to be the only animated movie on the list!
These lists are interesting to me. Many of the movies I like best are based on actual historic events, although they have different levels of fictionalization. These movies also provide a pretty good snapshot of the things I love…the British monarchy, space, baseball, Christmas, history, St. Louis, and mid-century modern anything. Really, the only thing that’s missing is Lego…and The Lego Movie would probably find its place in spot 11!
OK, first of all, let’s just take London out of the equation. This is not just a place I want to visit…I need to go there, eventually. I’ve said many times that my heart is British, and my British heart is crying out to visit London. It’s simply not fair to put in on a “Top Five” list when it’s so much more than that. So, with that out-of-the-way, and in a category all its own, here are the “Top Five” places I hope to visit someday (yes, the list is again at six…but I figure it’s ok that two baseball locations tie for fifth place!):
Florence/Pisa–Italy in general, and the Tuscan towns of Florence and Pisa, were not even on my radar before last year. I mean, sure, I knew that Italy has tons of culture and history and good food and architecture (which is really what I’m looking for when I travel), but there was no place there I really desired to visit. Enter Rick Steves’ Europe. After seeing all that region has to offer, it’s now at the top of my list!
Canadian Rockies–I would love to take a train trip through the Rocky Mountains in Canada. And spend some time in Banff. Yes, I know, it’s pretty cliché, as far as Canadian travel goes, but it’s also, as far as I can tell from pictures, stunningly beautiful.
Gimmewald–This charming little town in Switzerland is another place I hope to see someday thanks to Rick Steves. He visited there in a regular episode of Rick Steves’ Europe, and went back again for his Christmas special. Gimmelwald was charming and lovely in both, and I’d love to visit that Alpine town someday!
Germany–This is a tough one. First off, when would I want to visit Germany? There are two main things I would want to experience…Oktoberfest and a Christkindlmarkt. So I guess I’d have to go hang out in Germany for several months? But that leads to the second question of where? Obviously, Munich would be an awesome place to be during Oktoberfest, but what about the Christkindlmarkt? There are so many beautiful towns that have their own version, I’m not sure where I’d begin. The classic in Nuremberg is an obvious choice, although I also really like the idea of going to Köln. So many choices…
Spring Training–I love baseball. And the return of baseball, after a long, dreary winter brings so much hope. Plus, it’s often still dreary when spring training begins, so a trip to Jupiter to see the Cardinals put their team together would be most welcome!
Cooperstown–Again, I love baseball. And history. And when you put those two things together, you end up in Cooperstown. I saw the traveling Baseball Hall of Fame exhibit when it passed through St. Louis last year, and it only made me want to visit the Hall of Fame more!
I don’t know if I’ll ever actually get to travel anywhere (but if I do, it better be to London, at the very least!), but I like to keep a list of the places I hope to go, just in case the opportunity ever presents itself! At least we saw the ocean two years ago, because if we hadn’t, that would have taken up a space on this list…that’s one location checked off!
Last year, I forced myself to pick my top five photos (ok, 10 total…five from my Canon DSLR, and five from my iPhone), that I had taken over the course of 2015. I thought it was a fun little project, so here are my top five (and only five…fine…five plus one, from either camera) photos from 2016.
The Missouri Botanical Garden is always one of my favorite places to take pictures, especially the beautiful Japanese Garden:
Our town square (which is actually a circle, but I digress), is always beautiful, but especially at sunset:
Another favorite photo spot is Forest Park, especially the view outside the Art Museum in the spring:
I took many pictures when we were in Chicago last May…this is my favorite lakefront/skyline shot:
Back at the Botanical Garden, and the always-photogenic Climatron:
And because I can never leave well enough alone, a bonus picture of a sea-lion, mid-wink, following the sea-lion show at the St. Louis Zoo:
This list is a little different this year, because not one picture of our family made the cut. I did get a lot of great photos of the children in 2016, but really, they deserve a category of their own…it’s just too hard to choose!