Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Chicago, IL Day 3

Chicago, IL Day 3: Tuesday

***Warning: Photo heavy post

Tuesday we got up at 8:30 and took a five minute walk to the Tempo Cafe.

I ordered the French toast, which came with a whole peeled banana, and a large cranberry juice since they had run out of grapefruit juice.

My brother ordered the short stack chocolate chip pancakes and was kind enough to drizzle syrup on them prettily.

The service was really nice. You could eat inside or outside. The inside was more of a deli but the outside is what I would imagine a Paris cafe would look like. There were lots of tables with plenty of condiments. The people were nice enough to put together enough tables for us (eight people remember!). The waitress we had was really great at remembering everything and was really accommodating. The prices for this restaurant are also really great and the portions are enormous. I find that all meals in Chicago come in large portions, so if you go be prepared for that.

After breakfast we went to the visitor's centre and got a three day city bus pass for $14/person. This was great because not everything we wanted to go to was near us and it was much cheaper than taking a cab.

We then caught the 146 and that took us straight to the Shedd Aquarium.

There were lots of really good exhibits. We went to the Jellie's exhibit, watched Ice Age 3 4D in a 15 minute nutshell, saw an aquatic show, and looked at all the fishies/aquatic creatures.

The suction part is on the top of its head.


Sea Otter

Sea horses

Sea horses

A type of anemone

Sea star

Baby monkey

Tree snake


Fish with letters on them. How appropriate!

Massive green frog

Itty bitty green frogs

Found Nemo!

Shark exhibit

They grow their own coral at the Shedd Aquarium


Upside down jellies

Teeny tiny jellies

For some reason there was an owl at the show.

Yellow frogs

Really tiny shrimp

The architecture of the building was also really cool. I found that most of the architecture in Chicago was very neoclassical/European/Grecian. The details in this building were AMAZING.

When we were done at the Shedd we took the 146 back and got off at T.G.I. Friday's. I ordered the three course meal for $16.99. You could also get a two course for $12.99. For my meal I ordered pot-stickers as an appetizer, the Black Angus petite sirloin medium well with broccoli and sweet potato fries,  the Oreo madness for desert, and a lemonade to drink. I received five pot-stickers, which were very well done. The meat was good and the presentation was also a nice touch. It came with a sauce but I didn't care for it. The steak was really good. It was a rather tiny 6 oz. steak, but I thought it was enough. The broccoli was not cooked as much as I would have liked. It was still crisp, and when I get boiled broccoli I expect it to be boiled. The sweet potato fries were covered in too much salt I thought. They tasted great, but the salt was too much. The Oreo madness was VERY good. It was basically an Oreo ice cream sandwich with Oreo ice cream in between the two cookies.

Oreo Madness

Vanilla Bean Cheesecake - Dad's order
After eating we walked back to the hotel and relaxed for a bit before heading off to the Land of Nod.

Quote of the day: Never fear quarrels, but seek hazardous adventures. - Alexandre Dumas

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

From Amazon:

Though not the first novel she wrote, Sense and Sensibility was the first Jane Austen published. Though she initially called it Elinor and Marianne, Austen jettisoned both the title and the epistolary mode in which it was originally written, but kept the essential theme: the necessity of finding a workable middle ground between passion and reason. The story revolves around the Dashwood sisters, Elinor and Marianne. Whereas the former is a sensible, rational creature, her younger sister is wildly romantic--a characteristic that offers Austen plenty of scope for both satire and compassion. Commenting on Edward Ferrars, a potential suitor for Elinor's hand, Marianne admits that while she "loves him tenderly," she finds him disappointing as a possible lover for her sister:
Oh! Mama, how spiritless, how tame was Edward's manner in reading to us last night! I felt for my sister most severely. Yet she bore it with so much composure, she seemed scarcely to notice it. I could hardly keep my seat. To hear those beautiful lines which have frequently almost driven me wild, pronounced with such impenetrable calmness, such dreadful indifference!
Soon however, Marianne meets a man who measures up to her ideal: Mr. Willoughby, a new neighbor. So swept away by passion is Marianne that her behavior begins to border on the scandalous. Then Willoughby abandons her; meanwhile, Elinor's growing affection for Edward suffers a check when he admits he is secretly engaged to a childhood sweetheart. How each of the sisters reacts to their romantic misfortunes, and the lessons they draw before coming finally to the requisite happy ending forms the heart of the novel. Though Marianne's disregard for social conventions and willingness to consider the world well-lost for love may appeal to modern readers, it is Elinor whom Austen herself most evidently admired; a truly happy marriage, she shows us, exists only where sense and sensibility meet and mix in proper measure.

This book definitely took some time getting into. I really wasn't very intrigued to read it and I have had difficulties getting past the first page previously, but since I own both a hard copy and an ebook copy I felt the need to read it at last. I've also read Pride and Prejudice and Emma so I thought that I should read some more of Austen's work. As I said, it really took me a while to get into it. I actually own the movie version of this with Emma Thomson and Kate Winslet and thought the movie was good so picking up the book again I knew what the plot was. Knowing the plot and knowing that I like it I thought I would be able to finish the book this time, which I did. The plot was really good, however I found a lot of parallels with Pride and Prejudice. In the movie they seem different but the way that Austen writes her books give you a much more in-depth view of someone's character and I found that Marianne and Colonel Brandon's love was too similar to Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy's. Elinor and Edward Ferrars' love is also much too similar to Jane and Bingley's. If you haven't read Pride and Prejudice then this means absolutely nothing to you. The characters were well done as well, but I always find Austen tells too much of her characters' characteristics rather than showing. The pace of the book was also really good, not too fast and not too slow. In the end the characters all got what they deserved. Willoughby was also too similar to Wickham. I found that I didn't quite feel as strongly about these characters as I did in Emma and Pride and Prejudice, which was rather unfortunate. The only real difference between Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility is the title of the book, as well as character names. Overall I think this book was very well done, however it's not my favourite by Jane Austen. 

Quote of the day: "It is not everyone," said Elinor, "who has your passion for dead leaves." - Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility

Monday, 30 July 2012

Chicago, IL Day 2

Chicago, IL Day 2: Monday

Monday morning we were up and rearin' to go at 4:00am stupid o'clock or, as my father like to call it, dark o'thirty. Our train left the station at six so we needed to get there for five, hence the early rising. We needed to eat a quick breakfast at the Hampton Inn and they were very gracious. Breakfast was actually already set out so we grabbed something quick, a lemon loaf slice and danish for me, as well as some juice. They also provided us all with breakfast on the run bags. There was a blueberry muffin, a water bottle, and an apple in each paper bag with a sticker on it to seal the bag.

We took a taxi, which had been arranged the night before with the concierge, to the train station and began boarding at 5:45. We were actually at the opposite end of the train and so had to truck our way to the other end, along with everyone else. My cousin's French teacher was also taking the train to Chicago, which was a not-so-happy surprise for him since he doesn't really like her. I found Amtrack not to be as nice as VIA Rail, although it was cheaper.

We crossed dozens and dozens of roads, at which the train felt the need to blow its horn/whistle/sound device every time. This became annoying VERY quickly. Our first stop was in Lapeer, Michigan. It quickly clouded over around 7:17. We saw a double rainbow (DOUBLE RAINBOW!!!!) which was pretty cool.

Very faint second rainbow

Our second stop was in Flint and it started to rain at around 7:25. It didn't last long though and we were soon through it although I wish it had lasted longer. Our third stop was in Durand. On our way to the next stop I saw an outdoor ice rink (with no ice, obviously) outside of Charlotte in the middle of a field. We then stopped in Battle Creek, Kalamazoo, Dowagiac, Niles, and New Buffalo before entering Indiana. We entered the Central time zone and became time travellers, going back an hour.

Now, around this time I felt Nature's call and made my way to the bathroom at the front of the train (Warning: description of bathroom here). It was very shaky and the lock wasn't very well marked. When I closed the lid and flushed it sounded like a bomb had gone off and the lid moved, which was very terrifying. When I pressed the sink pump water went everywhere and the hand drier didn't work so I had to use hand sanitizer to make sure I was totally clean when I got back to my seat.

We finally arrived just after 1:00pm EST, 12:00pm Central time. We took a water taxi up to Michigan Ave, which was $3.00 per person one way. We had a hard time finding the water taxi launch since there was construction and everyone we asked gave us different directions. Now, keep in mind, we were tired, hot, and were carting around our luggage all over with us. None of us were especially happy at that time. We grabbed a car taxi and took that up to our hotel, the Hilton Suites.

The rooms were very nice. They connected so that we could hang out with our cousins after wandering about in the heat all day which was very nice. When you entered the room you were faced with a sitting room that had a couch, a chair, a desk, a wall-mounted TV, a sink, and a fridge. To the left was a door into the bathroom and to the right was the connecting door. Also to the left were the double doors into our bedroom. The bedroom was nice and large and the bathroom was pretty decent, for a hotel bathroom.

After dumping our luggage we went shopping along the Magnificent Mile, which we were only a block east of. There were some great shops along there, both expensive and inexpensive, along with some great sales.

We ended up eating at Gino's, a pizza place raved about that was on Man vs. Food. I personally found that we had decent service, although it could have been better. My brother and I shared a thin crust cheese pizza. I have definitely had better. I may go as far as to say that the Little Caesars Pizza we normally order tastes better. It was overpriced ($13.95 American for a 12' cheese and $14.95 for a small deep dish cheese) and I did not see why it was raved about so much. My dad ordered the beef calzone ($9.95) and he said that the panzerotti at Tony's Pizza is WAY better.

After eating we went back to the hotel and watched some TV before heading off to bed.

Quote of the day: Words can be like X-rays if you use them properly -- they'll go through anything. You read and you're pierced. - Aldous Huxley

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Chicago, IL Day 1

Chicago , IL Day 1: Sunday

Sunday morning we made sure everything we needed was packed and left at 1:15pm. There was no wait at the Bluewater Bridge, although construction forced us to take a detour to our hotel in Port Huron.

We stopped at Radioshack because my brother needed some parts for something he is building (I have no idea what) and Meijer because we needed to grab some snacks for the train ride the next day. I highly recommend bringing your own food because train food is absolutely horrible. I will never eat it if I can help it. My dad and I are HUGE fans of pepperettes and so we looked for them at Meijer to eat on the train because they don't need to be refrigerated (although they taste better when they are). We couldn't find any, although there was an excessive variety of hot dogs. I asked someone for help and he had absolutely no idea what they were so he asked me to describe them to him. It was a weird experience because I've never had to describe them to anyone. If any of you do NOT know what they are, a pepperette is basically a miniature pepperoni roll that you can eat as a snack.


We finally found some near the deli but they were turkey flavoured and tasted odd. I will always make sure to bring my own next time.

That night we ate at the Olive Garden in Port Huron, where we have eaten before. I ordered my typical Venetian Apricot Chicken and had a Skinny Pomegranate Limetto. The chicken was very good, as always. It's basically a grilled chicken breast covered in an apricot sauce and served with broccoli, asparagus, and tomatoes, all of which have been cooked. Everything is covered in this apricot sauce. Now it is a bit on the sweet side, but I don't mind. You can also scrape some off if you don't like it excessively. I also find that different chefs apply different amounts of the sauce so sometimes you get a TON while others you get a mere drizzle. Either way, it's still really amazing. The chicken was wonderfully juicy and well done, with absolutely no pink (a must for chicken eaters) and the vegetables were cooked well also. I don't like tomatoes so I didn't eat them and therefore cannot tell you how they tasted, but I can tell you that the asparagus and the broccoli tasted good. The Skinny Pomegranate Limetto was odd. I didn't really like the taste of it. It was a reduced calorie drink of pomegranate, lime juice, and lemonade with sparkling water. Which probably explains so much since I hate sparkling water. I'm also discovering that I'm not very fond of lime juice as I tried the new Starbucks Cool Lime Refresher and wasn't very fond of that (although looking it up I discovered that it has coffee in it, which I dislike). We had really good service, two waiters for the eight of us, and they were always stopping by to make sure everything was satisfactory and that we never ran out of salad or breadsticks, which are ridiculously amazing. The manager was also constantly circling to make sure everything was good, which kind of bothered me. I hate it when people interrupt my meals and it seems that waiters always pop up whenever I have a mouthful of food.

Before pulling into the Olive Garden parking lot we were driving behind a car that had an interesting sign on it that I MUST tell you about. On the back, painted in red letters, were the words "Turn signal broken, watch for left arm as signal." It was a fairly old black car with a leopard print bench seat in the back, fuzzy dice hanging from the rearview mirror, a fuzzy black and white steering wheel cover, extended mirrors that are often found on transport trucks, and the place where the mirrors would normally have been was taped over. When he turned in front of us into the mall parking lot he actually used his arm as a turn signal as well. Just thought that was an interesting anecdote to share with you all.

Quote of the day: The true alchemists do not change lead into gold; they change the world into words. - William H. Gass

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Travel Playlist

This summer I'm doing quite a bit of travelling. I love to take my iPod with me because I really just love to listen to music. I am constantly listening to it while studying, writing essays, working on my WIP, browsing the Internet and even reading. I always take my iPod with me because I love the effect listening to music has whilst looking out the window and watching the world go by. I thought I would share with you all some of my favourite songs that I love to listen to my travelling. It constantly changes, but this is what I've been listening to recently.

Spectrum (Say My Name) by Florence and the Machine (Calvin Harris Remix)
Dog Days Are Over by Florence and the Machine
Intro by The XX
Heart Skipped a Beat by The XX
Someday My Prince Will Come by Anya Marina
Good Life by One Republic
Starlight by Muse
Friends by Flight of the Conchords
Mushaboom by Feist
Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen
Flora's Secret by Enya
Paradise by Coldplay
Here Comes the Sun by The Beatles
Octopus's Garden by The Beatles
Alice by Avril Lavigne
Rebellion (Lies) by Arcade Fire
Abraham's Daughter by Arcade Fire
Starry Eyed by Ellie Goulding (Jakwob Remix)
Daydreamer by Adele
First Love by Adele
Behind the Seas by Possimiste
Rose by The Feeling
Dust Bowl Dance by Mumford and Sons
The Cave by Mumford and Sons
Dirty Paws by Of Monsters and Men
Slow and Steady by Of Monsters and Men
Video Games by Lana Del Rey (Jack Stereo Remix)

Hope that gives you some new music to listen to.

Quote of the day: And what he greatly thought, he nobly dared. - Homer

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Oh Dear!

I know I haven't really been blogging lately and I have no excuse. I haven't been in the mood, but I can definitely confirm some posts coming your way in the next few weeks! I thought I would leave you with a song to help tie you over until then.

Quote of the day: What the public criticizes in you, cultivate. It is you. - Jean Cocteau

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Uniontown, PA Day 4

Uniontown, PA Day 4: Monday

Monday we woke up around eight but realized we needed to rush because breakfast only went to nine during the weekdays at our hotel instead of ten. This time the room was even fuller. I honestly cannot imagine where all of these people were going, unless they were also headed to Fallingwater or visiting relatives. There were also a lot of elderly people, so I'm not too sure they were heading to Fallingwater.

After breakfast we packed up our things and headed off. We drove back to the Grove City Premier Outlets. Apparently my mom had not gone to some shops that she had wanted to see on Saturday when we were initially shopping there. I am usually a shopping girl but I had no money left (gasp!) and didn't really feel like shopping, which was quite a shocker. Instead, whilst my mother was shopping, I sat in the car with my brother and dad. We were out in an hour, which is probably a record for my mom, and were driving toward the border once again. Long car rides tend to make me sleepy so I took a nap and listened to my Disney music, a must for every person.

We made it to the border and stopped at the Duty Free, as you do. I didn't see anything I liked so I didn't pick anything up (I had $10 Cdn). My mom and dad bought their bottles of Bailey, a bag of M&Ms and a black neck pillow, which I tried out for my mom the rest of the way home (Note: very comfortable).

When we finally made it home we stopped at a nearby Mr. Sub and grabbed some dinner before driving to our house. We carted everything in and put stuff away, although I still have my suitcase full of clothes and items on my floor in my bedroom.

I went to bed, and that was the end of the Uniontown trip.

Quote of the day: Living is a horizontal fall. - Jean Cocteau 

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Uniontown, PA Day 3

Uniontown, PA Day 3: Sunday CANADA Day

***Warning: Photo heavy post

Sunday we woke up closer to eight because breakfast was going on until ten, but we still needed to get out in decent time because our tickets for the tour of Fallingwater was just after eleven and we had absolutely no idea where we were going. The breakfast at the Fairfield was decent. It was in a tiny room chuck full of people (rather surprising in the middle of nowhere). The variety of breakfast goods was pretty good. There was a waffle maker (had one both morning we ate here), cereal, yoghurt, muffins, bagels. Pretty much all the basics of a hotel breakfast bar. Once we had finished we left to go find Fallingwater.

Now if you don't know, Fallingwater is a gorgeous summer house designed for the Kauffman family of Pittsburg by Frank Lloyd Wright. If you are a design/architect nut or simply appreciate good art/workmanship then this is for you. Also, if you don't know, Fallingwater is in the middle of nowhere. And I mean nowhere. We went up further into the mountains (which I loved) and the roads became very curvy. We were going 25 MPH (not sure what that translates to in KmPH) around the curves and that still seemed too fast. Keep in mind we were also driving a rather massive silver pick-up truck down these roads, not the best for handling those curves. I rather loved the experience because we were surrounded by trees up in the mountains and all you could hear was the birds as the wind blew past. Finally, we did arrive about half an hour later. Now we were not allowed to take pictures inside during the tour, but I did get some nice ones of the exterior.

The sign in the parking lot leading to the visitor centre.

A tour group ahead of us.

Water beneath the stairs.

The carport. 

Peek a boo!

Such a gorgeous waterfall!

Little stone bench near the viewing area.

My brother and I.

These rhododendrons were blooming everywhere.

Another peek a boo picture.

On our way back to the hotel we went through Ohiopyle (pronounced Ohio-pile). It was such a cool little town. I was reminded of Kennebunkport, Maine, although there were a lot more mountains here than on the east coast. A huge, but shallow river and rapids were next to the town and lots of people were in the water cooling off as it was a very hot day. Also, there had been a massive storm that went through this area and power was out EVERYWHERE. We were so lucky to miss it. Unfortunately, power was out in this town and at Fallingwater. Both places were running off of generators. When we stopped to use the washrooms in Ohiopyle there were tea lights and votives lighting the bathroom. Clearly not a very good idea, but what are you gonna do?
A rare clear view of some mountains in the distance.

A bridge leading over the river in Ohiopyle.

A man ruining the view of the river.

It's so pretty!!!

We grabbed a bite to eat at a hot dog stand in Ohiopyle and ate that before wandering across the bridge into the woods to see if we could get closer to the waterfall that was next to the town. Unfortunately we couldn't, but it was still a nice walk.

We then decided to go check out this place in the Laurel Highlands called the Laurel Caverns. I had seen a brochure advertising this place in a visitor's centre when we first entered Pennsylvania and thought it would be cool since there are no caves near where I live, as far as I know. And it's a living cave system that's well lit so it was not as dark as I thought it would be.

View from the parking lot at the Laurel Caverns.

A Christmas tree. Can you see the bunny at the bottom? Look closely!

Hercules' Pillar. It doesn't touch the roof of the cave.

Reflecting pool with flash.

Reflecting pool without flash.
The caverns were very interesting. I was thoroughly pleased. The tour was only an hour long, but you could also take a three hour tour that took you down even further (really, really deep) and for that you would require hard hats with lights because it's not lit up in the way that the one hour tour is. We also went through a place called the Hall of the Mountain King. My brother and I were both like "MORIA!" because we're nerds like that.

After the caverns we headed back to Uniontown and ate at Ruby Tuesday. There we had very good food and service. We were served immediately, there was not wait for our food, and we obtained biscuits rather than bread prior to our meals. I ordered a Parmesan peppercorn Asiago steak with broccoli and sliced tomatoes (which my father ate because I don't like them). My steak was really good and well priced. I am a self-professed steak connoisseur and so I always appreciate a good slab of beef that's well seasoned, cooked and priced. For dessert my brother and I got a carrot cake cupcake and a red velvet cupcake. I have never tried red velvet cake before, but it was pretty good. I know some people claim it to be heaven, but I thought it didn't taste much different than a good chocolate cake. The carrot cake had a weird texture to it, but was also good. I hadn't had carrot cake in a while so I was well pleased with it. 

After our dinner we went back to our hotel. The Help was on TV so my mom and I started watching that. My brother and dad didn't want to watch it so they went swimming while we watched the movie. It had only just started so we hadn't really missed anything and we saw it in theatres so we already knew what would happen. I thought my dad and brother would miss Minnie and Hilly's pie part (I won't spoil it for anyone who hasn't seen the movie) but THEY DIDN'T. My dad thought it was hilarious, but my brother missed it as he was in the shower. After the movie we watched a bit of the news. We found out the power was restored to Ohiopyle at three, minutes after we had left the town. Then we went to sleep.

Quote of the day: Happiness quite unshared can scarcely be called happiness; it has no taste. - Charlotte Bronte