Posts Categorized: Adventures

Chicago

August 13, 2016 Adventures 4

My husband and I went to Chicago a couple of weeks ago. It was kind of a work trip for him, just a little vacation for me. Neither of us had ever been there before.

I was on my own for the first day while the dude was at a conference thing. I took myself down to the Art Institute and spent nearly the entire day wandering around there. Perhaps the most delightful part of the day was watching some kid catch a Pokemon in front of a Picasso painting. I just about died laughing.

We went to the Field the next day. Again, my spouse had a work thing to deal with there, but we got a chance to explore the halls a little bit afterwards. And we saw Sue the T-Rex, of course.

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Most of the rest of the trip was spent at or around our hotel. We were actually near the O’Hare airport which is outside of the city proper, and Lollapalooza was happening that same weekend, so getting downtown to the typical touristy stuff was a huge pain in the butt and I just didn’t feel like dealing with it (+ I wasn’t handling the crowds very well).

Thankfully there was a movie theater, an entertainment district with several restaurants and pubs, and a giant OUTLET MALL within walking distance of the hotel. You better believe I spent plenty of time and a little too much $$$ at that mall.

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I would love to go back someday, maybe when there aren’t as many other tourists around, maybe at a hotel closer to the cool stuff downtown.

Have you ever been to Chicago?


Dog Meets Beach

August 3, 2015 Adventures 0

It’s been a while since I posted anything pet-related here. Most of my animal photos are now posted on either Instagram or Tumblr, so follow me there if you want to. In the meantime….

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My mother came down to see us this weekend and we took Sneakers (our 8 or 9 year old possibly-Chiweenie mutt) to the beach. Even though we’ve lived on the Gulf Coast for over 5 years now, this is the first time he’s ever seen the ocean!

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He licked the sand a couple of times and got a bit of it up his nose, but otherwise he seemed to enjoy himself. He even stepped into some of the shallow waves with me! He’s such a good little beach bum.

 

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San Diego

November 22, 2014 Adventures 0

We recently went to San Diego. Just for fun — no special occasion or big event, just a much-needed vacation. A much – much – needed vacation. I even stopped checking my work email after a couple of days.

Tuesday

We had an early morning flight. I’m not normally happy about early mornings, but the nice thing about this arrangement was that we had several hours in the afternoon and evening to just unwind and bum around. We stayed at the Bristol, which is a pretty nice little place within walking distance of the old Gaslamp District.

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We ate dinner at Asti Ristorante, an amazing little Italian place on 5th Ave. We liked it so much, we went again later in the week with Gary’s parents. We also walked around Balboa Park for a little while, but we saw much more of it the next day.

Wednesday

Balboa Park is a massive park and cultural center in the middle of San Diego. Besides a bunch of paths and your typical parky bits, it includes several small museums and galleries and shops and things.

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We went to the Museum of Man, which is, well, what it sounds like — a collection of exhibits focusing on the natural and cultural history of the human species.

They were hosting a special exhibit called Instruments of Torture. The lady who sold us our tickets suggested that we go through that exhibit first and return to the main museum afterwards so as not to end our visit with bad feelings. I’m glad we took her advice. Don’t get me wrong — I don’t regret going. But it was a bit of a downer, to put it mildly. I had to stop reading the descriptions about halfway through because I was afraid I might cry or barf… there’s a reason they won’t allow young kids in this exhibit. No photos allowed, either.

The rest of the Museum of Man wasn’t nearly as depressing. A new exhibit was under construction, so we didn’t get to see the whole place. But we did see BEERology (an exhibit about the history of beer, natch), some Mayan stuff, some native California tribal stuff, and some Egyptian stuff. This museum was much smaller than what we’re used to, but I think they definitely made the most of their space.

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That afternoon we went to the Birch Aquarium out in La Jolla. This aquarium is actually part of UC San Diego. It was absolutely lovely. We got some great photos!

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That evening we walked down to the Gaslamp District again and had dinner at a place called The Tipsy Crow. We shared a mac’n’cheese bread bowl — yes, just a giant bowl made of bread stuffed with mac’n’cheese and topped with bacon. It was just as delicious and terrible as it sounds.

Thursday

This was our first day at the San Diego Zoo. We got a 2-visit pass; this would also have been good for 1 visit to the zoo and 1 to their Safari Park, but we decided to just stick to the zoo. I’m glad we did. Anyway, I’ll be writing a separate zoo-only post pretty soon, so if you’re interested in animal pictures keep an eye out for it!

We had dinner at Yard House, a huge 2-sided bar with about a bazillion beers on draft (my husband’s idea of heaven); I had my first ever shrimp ceviche, which was delicious, and we shared some spicy queso, which was pretty good too. We stopped at The Hopping Pig “gastropub” for dessert (amazing chocolate cake, and yes I ate the whole thing by myself, and no I’m not sorry) and then went to Tipsy Crow again afterwards. I confess that I didn’t feel so hot the next morning….

Friday

I convinced Gary to take me to the San Diego Central Library on Friday morning. This library is nine (!!!) stories tall — it even houses a high school on 2 floors. The building is only about a year old, and it seemed pretty well-funded as far as public libraries go. They even have a 3D printer! Color me impressed.

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We wound up at Seaport Village in the afternoon, where we did a bit of shopping (shoutout to the Upstart Crow bookshop!) and had lunch at Edgewater Grill. We met Gary’s parents at Asti Ristorante for dinner. We stopped in at a highly recommended, trendy little place called Analog for drinks, but they were converting to a dance club for the rest of the evening so we ended up at the Blarney Stone Pub instead. And I’m glad we did. It was much more laid back and the friendly, attentive bartender was actually from Ireland!

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Saturday

This was our second visit to the zoo, this time with my in-laws. I’m so glad we got to hang out with them at the zoo all day. Spending time with far-away family and seeing super interesting animals from all over the world? Yes, please! Again, keep an eye out for an upcoming post of just a ton of San Diego Zoo photos.

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The four of us wandered over to a simply amazing Thai restaurant called Rama for dinner. I had the special duck curry and I can’t even begin to describe how delicious it was. And the atmosphere was perfect; the entire back wall was actually a waterfall and even though the tables were a tiny bit crowded they were separated by long, sheer curtains so it felt pretty private anyway.

Sunday

Our last day in San Diego was pretty relaxed. The first stop was Coronado, a little (but upscale) beach town town near the main city. I think my favorite shop was Bay Books. Probably no one is surprised that my favorite shop was a book store.

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Later that afternoon I popped into a dress shop that caught my eye earlier in the week — Tatyana, a little retro/vintage style place with some super cute stuff and a BOGO sale going on. Alas, I couldn’t find anything that fit. Oh, they carry up to size 4XL, but the problem is that they’re all straight sizes and I’m just too weirdly shaped for them. So that was disappointing but it is incentive to get back to my sewing projects!

The bartender at the pub we went to the night before actually recommended another bar to us: The Shout House, a dueling piano place. You know if a bartender recommends another bar it must be pretty good. I was not disappointed. We got there a little after 7 PM and we stayed until they closed the place at about midnight. The musicians were super talented and very funny, and the food was fantastic too — I tried the Belgian waffle and got a side of fried chicken and this meal was a close second to the Rama curry!

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The flight home on Monday was uneventful (thankfully), and our cat was super happy to see us. We picked up the dog the next day. Now it is time to return to “real life”… and yes, this special little face was one of the things that we came back to!

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A Good Day

October 1, 2013 Adventures 0

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Went to the beach down in Galveston with a couple of friends. It was nice.

There’s a lot of housework to be done. And books to read and videos to watch and music to listen to and blogs to comment on.

Today, the world doesn’t feel like such a bad place.


Hawaii – Part 2

September 22, 2013 Adventures 0

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A continuation of Hawaii – Part 1 . . .

Third day

The 3rd (and last full) day of our trip was possibly the best.

We went to Hanauma Bay! Like, for real this time. We got there pretty early. They were preparing to close the parking lot but there was still plenty of space and the line to get in wasn’t super awful.

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Visitors have to watch a quick video about beach safety and the ecology of the bay before entering the park. It was a pretty decent video, I guess, but what really got to me were the people who just kept talking or blowing up their floaties or whatever while it was going, like they clearly didn’t care one bit about either safety or ecology, and sure enough there were way too many damn people STANDING ON THE REEF out in the bay, and this filled me with a MURDEROUS RAGE but I managed not to commit homicide and ruin the rest of our vacation.

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Gary packed his own flippers and snorkel set. I get weirdly claustrophobic with full face masks and snorkels so I just brought some regular old eye goggles.

We picked a shady spot in some grass well back from the beach for our towels and accoutrements, which turned out to be a wise choice because (a) we got to see a mongoose close up and (b) that beach sand was SUPER HOT by mid-afternoon.

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Actually we got to see several mongooses (mongeese?) and also a cat that was apparently friends with them. And I accidentally kicked a pigeon. In my defense, it was trying to nap in the middle of the sidewalk. It was surprisingly fluffy and I feel bad but not that bad because, seriously, it was a clearly idiotic specimen of flying vermin.

But I digress.

We didn’t go all the way out to where the coral got really pretty, where most of the coolest animals could be found, because the current was super strong that day and I didn’t have the flippers with which to fight it, but the reef did go all the way up into the shallows of the bay and there was plenty of stuff to see anyway.

I wish we’d thought to bring an underwater camera along, but it was really nice getting to just swim and try to spot things without having to worry about focus/lighting/movement/etc. So unfortunately I have no photographic proof of the absolute coolest thing that happened to us there. . .

WE SAW AN OCTOPUS.

Dudes, it was a-maz-ing.

Gary gets all the credit for spotting him (or her, IDK, it, whatevs). He was almost completely hidden in this little depression in the coral except for his little eyeballs just barely poking up and keeping a look-out for random swimmers/dinner/potential girlfriends. We floated there for a few minutes and would you believe it — that little dude was just as curious about us as we were about him. Octopuses are notoriously intelligent invertebrates. He just ever so slowly sort of floated up out of his little hidey-hole, keeping an eye on us but becoming less and less shy as the minutes passed. We must have floated there, the three of us just sort of staring dumbfoundedly at each other, until a couple of other snorkelers blundered up and scared the little guy back into his safe spot. It was so great.

I also almost ran into a porcupinefish. I think I startled it as much as it startled me. It was huge! Actually most of the fish we saw there were much larger than I anticipated.

Anyway, the fish were cool, but I just can’t stop thinking about that octopus.

That afternoon we went back to Tiki’s for a late lunch/early dinner.

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It was pretty great. I’m glad we went back. Relaxing atmosphere, good food, amazing view. I just have to rave about the food for a minute. I had a mixed plate with panko crusted fish, kalbi rib eye, and chicken katsu, plus fragrant rice and kimchi and macaroni salad. The macaroni salad thing again!

Later that evening we walked around Waikiki some more. We got some souvenirs/candies for folks back home. We ended up at Duke’s and Gary got me a cute little tiki cup to take home from there. We had a pretty nice night.

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Getting home

The trip home wasn’t too bad. I mean, it sort of sucked to have to leave, but that’s how vacations work.

We had a late afternoon flight so we slept in a little and then had lunch there in Waikiki. We ended up at the airport pretty early. The Oahu airport is actually surprisingly lovely — lots of open air walkways and bright flowers and some nice little shops, too.

We tried to sleep through the “night” on the way back to the states, but we both still had a little trouble adjusting to a normal schedule once we got home. That’s to be expected I guess.

Sneakers seemed to have had a lovely time at his doggy “summer camp” (our vet boards). He came home with a little bandanna and even a little photo fridge magnet. Curiosity was pretty upset at being left at the house all by himself for almost a week (well, not all by himself, the neighbor lady looked in on him every day) but he seemed to recover quickly and didn’t punish us too much.

I’d like to go back again someday. Maybe for a longer amount of time. Gary says that he doesn’t want to wait another 12 years to return. In the meantime, though, we have some great memories and lots of daydream material.

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Hawaii – Part 1

September 15, 2013 Adventures 0

We were lucky enough to get to go to Hawaii a couple of weeks ago!

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Part 1 covers our trip there + the first couple of days.

Getting there

We flew out super early on Monday morning. I learned a hard lesson from our Thanksgiving fiasco of 2 years ag and got us a reservation at a nearby airport parking garage. We’ve used them before and the experience was decent, so I don’t mind recommending them (with the caveat that there was a little snafu with the reservation fees, but the manager of our location kindly cleared that up for us).

We actually had to fly out to Atlanta before catching a connecting flight to the islands, but it wasn’t so bad. The plane we were on was pretty new. Everyone had little screens right in front of them on the back of the headrest part of the seats in front. That way everyone got to pick their own movie or TV show or game — all we had to do was plug in headphones. The movie options were mostly fairly new releases. I watched The Great Gatsby and Monsters University and part of Tangled. The flight would apparently have normally had WiFi, but not this time for some reason.

The first thing we had to do once on the island was pick up our rental from Hertz (we chose them because they had the best deal for USAA members). We got a soft top Jeep Wrangler. It took us a while to figure out how to get the top down and put away because the instruction manual was just not very helpful, but once we managed it we were pretty darn pleased with ourselves.

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First day

We stayed at the Waikiki Marriott which was OMG freaking beautiful y’all. We were literally right across the street from the beach. Our room wasn’t super huge but it was big enough, with a nice little TV and lovely lighting and the most comfiest bed ever. There was a little city view balcony, too, which was lovely.

That first night was just all about relaxation and recovering from the flight. We went for a walk along Kalakaua (the main shopping strip along the Waikiki beachfront) and had dinner and drinks at Duke’s and then passed out pretty early in the evening.

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Our first “real” day on Oahu was dedicated to a jaunt up to the North Shore by way of Mililani, the town where Gary spent his high school years. We stopped to shop and eat and see Gary’s old school and the house that his family used to live in. It was bittersweet for him. A lot has changed in the 12 years he’s been away.

We intended to go to Waimea Bay, but we dawdled around to much in Mililani and couldn’t find any parking for that particular beach. We ended up at Pipeline/Ehukai instead, which was nearly deserted. This beach’s slope is pretty steep and the undercurrent is strong even on its calmest days; it’s actually pretty famous among surfers for amazing (and dangerous) waves. We played in the surf for a bit and sprawled out in the sun and later we watched the little kids being let out of the elementary school across the street as they basically just skipped down to the beach for the shave ice truck and some swim time before dinner.

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Dinner for us was at Tiki’s, and it was amazing. I had a calamari steak, which I didn’t even know was an actual thing up until that point. There was some decent live music, too. We ended the night back at the hotel bar with more live music and drinks.

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Second day

Our plan for Wednesday was to head down to Hanauma Bay, but we got there way too late. Neither one of us seriously believe the guidebooks’ suggestions to get there early before the parking lot filled up. Too bad! We ended up taking the scenic route around the island, and in this case “scenic route” is not a sarcastic euphemism for the dumb long way ’round. We stopped for lots of photos, of course.

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Of course we had to make a stop at Matsumoto’s in Haleiwa for shave ice. I had some kind of rainbow flavor with ice cream and azuki. It was every bit as tasty as I’d been promised.

At some point we had lunch at Mililani Restaurant, but I can’t for the life of me remember if that was before or after the shave ice. It was a great little “Chinese” (Americanized/Hawaiianized East Asian) place. The atmosphere is maybe not that impressive but there were lots of people in an out, picking up lunches… you could tell it was a popular place with the locals. And for good reason. The food was delicious and the portions HUGE. The funniest thing to me was the inclusion of macaroni salad with every entrée. Apparently that’s pretty common on the islands?

We ended up at Waimea Bay and this time we found parking. It was a tiny bit of a hike to get to the beach but it was so, so worth the wait. There was hardly anyone around at the water was just so clear and calm and cool… it was hard to believe that sometimes in the winter (surfing season in Hawaii) the waves here can get to be 20+ feet, even splashing up to the parking lot high above. Gary and I floated around lazily, watching the small school of silver fish doing the same just feet below us in the crystalline water.

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Later we drove up to Pu’u o Mahuka Heiau, the remains of a major indigenous Hawaiian temple. Gary was particularly excited to show me a path that he fondly remembered that led from the temple through some brush out to a cliff’s edge, where we had a spectacular view of Waimea below.

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Dinner was at Cheeseburger in Paradise, which was… just… not that great. I mean, the food was OK. Our server was rather inattentive. The whole ambiance was just really cheesy, like some kind of Rainforest Café but ocean-themed and for grown-ups.

That mediocre experience didn’t ruin the night, though. We had a lovely little moment on the beach that night.

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Stay tuned for Part 2 next week!


On Butterflies

March 17, 2013 Adventures, Geekery, Museum Musings 0

My mother came to town recently. It was a nice little visit. We ended up going to HMNS and — get this — we went in the Butterfly Center.

That may not seem like a big deal to you but it is to me. You see, I’m afraid of butterflies.

Not, like butterflies specifically. Just anything with more than 4 legs in general. Spiders and wasps are the worst, but other “cute” creatures like ladybugs or, yes, butterflies are still pretty awful. I can’t even eat shrimp if the legs are still attached.

But… we went into the little tropical habitat and I didn’t run and I didn’t scream and, most importantly, I didn’t smush any rare live specimens. We even saw an Atlas Moth which was surprisingly really cool. So: VICTORY.

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Independence Day in Austin

July 10, 2011 Adventures 0

We were lucky enough to be able to visit some friends in Austin over this past holiday weekend. In the interest of privacy, we won’t go into too many details… but suffice it to say, we had a TON of fun. We ate LOTS of food and we were SUPER lazy and it was AMAZING. So, pictures:
 
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So that was our weekend (through the eyes of G’s Blackberry, seeing as how I did actually bring the camera but never actually remembered to bring it out). It was simply wonderful.