October 28, 2010
I enjoyed spending time with Christie in Chicago this past week. It was nice to have a break from work, although we were quite busy and did a good amount of work during the trip.

Pretty Fall Leaves

I really wanted to jump in to this pile!

The Bean at Millenium Park


There are just too many things to do in life that even on vacation I can’t go to bed before midnight. There were a few days that I got more than 8 hours of sleep, but not many. We had a lot of fun, but not much rest. I always debate between taking a vacation for fun and exploration purposes or taking one for rest. I definitely need to do more resting ones (do ONE, even) but it’s so hard to justify doing nothing! You can rest when you die, right? (Amanda needs a new perspective on life, oh dear!)

I love hanging out with Christie because she makes me think. We talk about business, marketing (she’s a marketing grad student), relationships, friendships, work, technology, eating gluten free, how crazy I am, and how OCD she is. New names: The Nutty Professor & Crazy Christie. ha.

One of my favorite parts of the trip was going on a bike ride around the city. The weather was very nice while we were there, so it wasn’t too chilly riding around. We figured out that it was about a 12 mile ride. Christie was a good sport and was willing to go on the ride, even though that wasn’t her cup of tea. The ride let us see Millennium Park, Grant Park, Lake Michigan, Chinatown, Soldier Field, the Adler Planetarium, all of the museum areas, and a great view of the city. The tour was set up through the Chicago Office of Tourism, called the Chicago Greeter program. It’s all free (Christie has a knack for finding free things, and I love them), and the greeter was a local resident volunteer. Our guide’s name was Milan, and he was self-proclaimed ADD (His words were ADDDDDDDDDDD….). He was quite an interesting person, and we had fun following him around the city.

Chicago has put a lot of money in to the Millennium Park area, as it’s new and looks beautiful. They’ve done a lot to increase tourism and make Chicago a fun place to live. It definitely sounded like there were a lot of fun activities that the city promotes. I don’t think you would get bored living there (unless you were like me and didn’t like to go outside when it is under 60 degrees, so you’d be walled up in your house, hehe).

Buckingham Fountain

Our tour guide took us around the Chicago Cultural Center before starting the tour. The building is gorgeous. It used to be the library. After the Chicago fire in the late 1800s, the queen of England felt horrible that their library burned down and didn’t think they could have a city without a library, so she sent thousands of books. (The Chicago people were embarrassed to tell her that they weren’t cultured enough to have a library before). Needless to say, they had to build a nice place to store all the books. The craftsman ship is astounding in this library. Good quotes about books are tiled in to the walls, or ornately painted on to the walls. Christie and I went to the current library of Chicago and it was nice, but they just had ordinary decorations. It wasn’t beautiful like this library was. Libraries are dear to my heart, as I love books, and have wonderful memories of going every week to pick out new books with my mom, starting from age 2.
Milan said that you could have wedding receptions there. If I end up marrying someone in the midwest, that’s where we’re having it 🙂

Cultural Center Library

We ate a wide-variety of foods. Being allergic to gluten makes traveling more difficult, but non-American foods are easier to eat. Chicago had quite a few gluten-free (GF) options, so we did very well eating out! All the food was really good.
Indian (really spicy – Christie likes it hot!)
GF Pizza, not deep dish though 😦

New Friend Liz (My twin, so thinks Christie)

I have to tell you about the Italian food: it was sooooo good. GF noodles aren’t normally that great. You just come to expect that whatever food you’ll find that’s GF is good enough, rather than hoping for really good taste. We found Vinci’s which said it was gluten-free friendly, and it was a nice restaurant. However, being the deal hunters we are, we found out that Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights after 7:30 they have a Prix Fixe (Pre-fixed) menu that’s $20 for a 3-course meal. Appetizer, Main meal, and dessert. Everything was amazing. I didn’t think they could do their main pasta dish GF, but thought I might as well ask. They did it splendidly. We had eggplant with goat cheese and sauce for the appetizer and then I had a pistachio gellato for dessert. The staff was very helpful with the GF diet and I would totally go back here again. It was really good, they took good care of us, and Christie and I had so much fun hanging out there!
PS. I would die without an iPhone — I search for GF entrees and restaurants all the time on it.

If you like causing a commotion in a restaurant, try asking for gluten-free food in a Chinese restaurant where soy sauce is on everything. Funny story: So we went to Lao Sze Schuan, a Chinese restaurant near Christie’s place. It also said GF friendly (I’ve learned that means they normally don’t have a GF menu, but they’ll work with you to make something for you). We went through the whole thing of explaining what gluten was, why I can’t have it, etc., and the waiter called another waiter over and he explained that everything except some of the vegetables had a soy sauce mixture and so it wouldn’t be GF. We were a little disappointed because we were hungry and didn’t just want a vegetable dish, so after considering it, we decided to leave and try another restaurant that also said gluten-free friendly. As we were walking out the door, the manager was sitting over near there and he asked why we were leaving. In his thick Chinese accent he stated that they would find a way to make something for us — “Have a seat, I’ll talk to the chef and we’ll take care of you.” So he goes back, talks to a group of 4 waiters and the chefs, explains what I can’t have and they make us a great meal. It was just really funny because he was talking sorta loud in Chinese to his employees and all we could hear was “Blah blah blah blah blah, no soy sauce, blah blah, wheat flour, blah blah.” We were cracking up, because it was probably like a 10 minute education session that he was giving them!

I love the midwest and east coast architecture. Chicago was a really pretty city, and the houses around it were so cute! Mostly brick houses, otherwise they had wood siding. Very few were stucco. I loved the houses there. I wish my house looked like that. Maybe one day I’ll live back east.

You probably don’t want to read the whole saga of all that we did, as there was so much, so here’s just a brief synopsis of it:
Went through some shops on the Magnificent Mile road
Headed up to the top of the John Hancock Tower to see the wonderful view of the city. We decided to go the the lounge and get a smoothie ($7) instead of pay for the observation deck tour ($15). Much better deal. Plus, the best view of the city is from the women’s bathroom. No joke.
Walking tour of Frank Llyod Wright architecture in Oak Park
Meet Christie’s friends who were all really nice
Played a super fun game called Ticket to Ride, sorta a cross between Settler’s of Catan and Risk
Visited Christie’s Methods of IMC class
Adler After Dark – Visited the Planetarium for their evening museum exhibitions; learned about stars, and saw Jupiter through their large telescope
Saw The Social Network movie – really liked it
Went to an event at Moody Church
Walked down Navy Pier for a great view of the city

There were other things we had planned and wanted to do, but I had a lot of work to do. All of my students turned in their labs this past week, so I had 80 Access labs to grade. Thankfully, my personal assistant and now TA, Christie, graded most of them. She’s awesome. If you ever need an assistant, hire her. She’s my life saver and she’s a genius. Lots of brainstorming for how to teach better, good ideas to implement, how to word the essay prompt that they’ll have, and other good business and tech strategizing. Lots of lesson planning and creating videos for my class too. Don’t ever make a 10 minute video. It will take you 20 hours. Boo. But it’s a cool one on Cloud Computing (which you probably don’t think is cool, but it is :))
All in all, it was a fun trip. Great to see Christie and hang out with her. I miss having her in LA. I’m hoping the weather will be warmer in LA, but it wasn’t too bad in Chicago — That was probably because I had a long sleeved shirt, a little jacket and then a coat on, but you know 😉 It was in the 50 to 60s; nice weather for a Fall in Chicago. I think I’ll stay in SoCal for winter, as my attire there this past week is the warmest I’ll ever dress here in LA.

Ps. I love airplane rides because I’m always so productive! I haven’t blogged in awhile, because when the choice comes down to blog or sleep (and 5-6 hours only at that point), I sleep. If you don’t hear from me for awhile, I’m probably drowning in 80 eight-page papers. One lab done, two to go. One 8-page paper. One final with short answer responses. Students, it may seem like hard work for you to do all of those, but remember: you only have one to do. I have 80! Oye.

I’ll try to put more pics up on facebook and link to them.

Oct 19, 2010

Chicago in 48 words: The Windy City, as Chicago is often called, is one of the great metropolises in the world. Like New York, the city overflows with energy, with a vibrant artistic life and street life happening under the shade of awesome skyscrapers and near the Lake Michigan shoreline.

Chicago skyline from 96th floor of John Hancock (Photo by Eric Ward) from 48 hour visit

Oak Park: It’s a popular tourist destination because of its Frank Lloyd Wright-designed buildings and the birthplace of Ernest Hemmingway.
I took a walk around and it was beautiful. I love the architecture and houses out here. Everything is just so pretty.


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