Saturday, January 29, 2011

Why I Love Old Travel Books-- The Italian Translation

I love and will pick up just about any travel guide that is out there, but old travel books are especially coveted by myself.  Why? Well, you would have to crack one open to understand.  

Most of my travel novels I read like novels, but the old ones are slow savor material.  Not because they don't read like novels, oh no, but because they are rare and too good to blow through in a night.  

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Chicago Restaurants Dropping Like Flies!

I don't know if it is the same everywhere else, but every month I can put together a list of Chicago restaurants and other favorite haunts that have closed their doors.  Seriously, they are dropping like flies out here!  

In November, my best friend came for a weeklong visit and I was really excited to take her around to some of my favorite places in the city.  However, now that I am not in the city anymore, it sometimes happens that a week or so will pass before I get in.  When I am there, I have to be very selective about where I go and what I do because of time, but I try to hit different spots with each visit.  

This has resulted in monthly shock visits to some of my favorite places, which now stand empty or in very few cases, replaced.  When my best friend came, I had not been to the city for a little over two weeks-- Halloween was wrapping up and I was trying to get everything work related out of the way so that I could spend time with her unhindered by pressing work stuffs.  

She wanted to go to all my fave places, and I was excited to show her everything Chicago has to offer.  So, I was all, "and this is my favorite hookah lounge/belly dancing/Turkish cuisine spot!" least it was.  And then I was all, "that's okay, lets head to one of my favorite tapas spots!" This time I call ahead to make sure we get a table, but wait, "You're closed? When are you opening? Never?!"

In that one week, it happened a lot, and not just the restaurants.  Heck, just walking around we started counting all the empty storefronts-- on Michigan Ave and State Street of all places! *sigh*

So after another month of closings and with this month coming to an end, I can't help but wonder who goes next? 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Join Us For a #FrugalTravel Twitter Party!

Planning a family vacation, trip of a lifetime or a quick weekend getaway on a budget and looking for frugal travel ideas? Or, do you want to travel, but not sure how you can afford to do so on a tight budget?

*Attn: Twitter Party postponed till the 7th of February (next Monday) due to internet hosting issues*
Join me, Chitownchica, on February 7th from 9-10pm EST with co-hosts JRFrugalMom and CheekyMommaof2 as we discuss frugal travel tips and ideas.

When is the party?: Monday, February 7th from 9-10pm EST

What is the hashtag?: #FrugalTravel

New to Twitter Parties? Read more about them here and here

Your hosts and sponsors (follow us to party!):

1. @chitownchica, Your Hostess, Unus Sed Leona
2. @JRFrugalmom, Co-Host, Frugality is Free
3. @CheekyMommaof2, Co-Host, Being Frugal and Making it Work
4. Sophia's Tutu's, Sponsor and owner of Sophia's Tutus

Giveaways (shipping to Continental US only, unless indicated)

$50 Visa GC, US & Canada
Crayola Sound Studio
Carmex Prize Pack
T.Taio Green Travel Bath Sponges
Bearpaw Sheepskin Youth Slippers
Bath and Body Travel Set
Selection of ARC Books and Audiobooks
Set of Sophia's Tutus Tags
Paperchase Passport Holders

(more to come.... Also, if you are interested in sponsoring a giveaway, contact me for more info. )

How to Enter the Giveaway:
1. RSVP to the Linky below with your twitter username and then comment for each additional entry.
2. Follow @chitownchica on twitter for an additional entry and leave a comment.
3. Follow Unus Sed Leona via Google Friend Connect for party updates and let me know! Let me know you follow in a comment.
4. Follow Unus Sed Leona's Facebook fan page and let me know in a comment.
5. Tweet out this message and leave a link to your status in the comment:

“Join @Chitownchica @JRFrugalmom & @Cheekymommaof2 for the #FrugalTravel Twitter Party 2/7 from 9-10pm EST,

6. Attend the #FrugalTravel Twitter Party on Monday the 7th at 9/10 EST and use hashtag #FrugalTravel in your tweets!

To make it easier, use TweetGrid to follow.

ATTN: Don't worry if your name does not appear on the list in the post above, it has been acting up all day and keeps reverting to a three column list instead of two. As you can see, the third column is hidden, but I can see all of your names and have you all down. Thanks!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Superbowl Cash Giveaway! $200 Cash Prize


WooHoo!  The Superbowl Cash Giveaway is here.  One lucky winner will win $200 CASH (USD) during the Superbowl on Feb. 6th, 2011.  15 blogs have teamed up to host this fun cash giveaway!  We hope that you will have fun entering, find new blogs to follow and maybe even win $200 CASH

Anytime between now and Superbowl start time (6:00 PM EST) on Feb. 6th, you may enter to win $200 CASH (paid via Paypal) using the form below.  You MUST have or create a Facebook account and paypal account to enter this contest.

To win the cash pot of $200 please:

1) "Like" Facebook fan pages from the list below.  Go to the links of the participating Facebook fan pages and "Like" my Facebook page.  Then return to this page and select the appropriate box corresponding to my Facebook fan page name in the form below and submit the form by clicking "submit".  Hop over to the next blog and Repeat this process for each Facebook fan page you "like" or were already a fan of prior to this giveaway.

2) To EARN MORE ENTRIES,  while you are on the below Facebook fan pages update YOUR Facebook status with the following text:  

Enter to win $200 CASH paid via paypal! Ends on Super Bowl Sunday 2/6!

Please note that you will need to copy each blogs text separately, as the blog address changes with each blog.  After updating the status, fill out the form below for each Facebook update. For example, if you "liked" a fan page AND updated it's status you will need to fill out the form below twice and submit it twice.

3)  And to continue to earn more entries, comment on this blog post, then submit the form.  Click on "comments" below and then leave a comment answering the following question.
How do you plan to spend the $200? 
Navigate to other blogs for this entry as well via their Facebook page.  All blogs should have their blog link under the profile picture on their Facebook page.  After commenting, submit the below form for each blog you comment on!

That's 45 possible entries!

Participating Blog Facebook fan page links:

The winner will be randomly drawn during the first half of the Superbowl via The winner will be notified by email by the start of the second half and will have 48 hours to respond and claim their prize. Remember, you MUST have a Paypal account and Facebook account to enter this giveaway!

Good luck!

Email address necessary to notify winner and will be deleted at the conclusion of the event.

If you have an extra minute and think my photo entry should win, can you LIKE it on Facebook (or click on photo at top of sidebar) to help me win my dream trip to Australia. Doing so is in NO WAY connected with this giveaway, DOES NOT count as an entry and WILL NOT improve your chances of winning. I cannot and will not exchange anything but extreme gratification and thanks for your help and am just promoting my contest entry. Votes/LIKES must be made by 1/31/2011 at 12 AM PST.

Coming Soon: Superbowl Cash Giveaway! $200 Cash Prize


$200 Cash,paid via Paypal, will be given away to one lucky reader during the Superbowl. Stay tuned for the start and follow my blog for updates on this and more events!

#FrugalTravel in Chicago, Free Chicago Museums!

Frugal travel in Chicago is not the easiest thing to accomplish, especially when you have a big family and are not able to take advantage of public transportation. However, the city does have its moments, and thankfully, with a city this big and diverse, there is a lot to do and see on the cheap or FREE! 

This morning I read a piece over at Chicago Parent and it turns out you can get into five different Chicago museums for free this week! A little planning is needed though, as each museum is only free the one day. 

Monday- Chicago History Museum
It has been a while since I have been to the Chicago History Museum, possibly because admission is always free, but it really is a great museum with a super kid friendly collection of exhibits. If you are a homeschooler, the museum's website has tons of resources for you to use before and after you get there.  

As a side not, I think the museum has done a great job updating their image, exhibitions and offerings in the last few years. This past week was Frank Lloyd Wright Week and the Fashion Design contest is always exciting to watch!

Tuesday- Art Institute of Chicago

We messed up big time with this one. I am so used to the AICs free month of February, I didn't bother checking and noticing that they changed it to January this year :/ Oh well.  We go to the AIC several times a year and will continue to do so for as long as we can.  Pick up the children's guides to the AIC and take a look at their website too before you go so you can better plan your day. 

Make sure to swing by the newly installed Chagall windows! And get a pic with the Bears helmet adorned lions while you still can!

Wednesday- Field Museum

The Field is my favorite Chicago museum and I have been to as many of the special traveling exhibits as I have been able to make since I was very young-- I have an awesome mom who used to take us as children all the time. This Wednesday is a free day, and even though some of the exhibits are still paid ticket entries, there is so much to see. 

Thursday- Notebaert Nature Museum
I have only been to Notebaert once, and I lived right across the street from it too. The one time I was there though, I was very impressed, because it truly is a learning museum and fills a need for the city of Chicago. Every Thursday is suggested donation day, like the AIC used to be, so take the place in and learn about the nature to be found in Chicago. 

Friday- Museum of Science and Industry
I am still boycotting MSI for not selecting me as their roommate! Actually, I never did submit an application because I found out my BFF was coming to town for the week, and there was no way in the world I was going to be stuck in the museum for that. MSI is one of the busiest, and for good reason, museums in Chicago, but there is plenty to see and do, play with, experiment, watch, corners to get lost in. I love it!

Other option- Oriental Institute of Chicago 
The Oriental Institute of Chicago is a true hidden gem of Chicago, and many locals don't even know about it. Attached to the University of Chicago, the museum has so much to see that you can spend days going through the exhibits. Luckily, admission is free! 


Friday, January 21, 2011

If You Need a Friend Hop!

Anyone else here miss the This for That Blog Hop?!  I know I do, it was such a friendly blog hop and I made so many new blogger friends and FB friends too, plus I think it is where I met most of the people I follow on Twitter!

Anyway, I know everyone that I follow has a blog hop of their own, but I have never started on here on my blog.  With T4T gone, I figured it was time to offer something similar because I loved the concept so much!

So, this is the first of many, IF YOU NEED A FRIEND HOP! <--Inspiration from one of my favorite songs!

1. Need help with follows/votes/FB Likes/RSS feeds etc? Leave a link to your blog, FB page, Twitter and let us know what you need a friend for.
 Ex.    Link Title: Twitter Follow
         Link URL: @chitownchica
2. Try and help out at least 3 blogger friends by friending/following or Liking the three entries above you. This way everyone gets some help and no one is left out. You can always like more!
3. Only enter if you have the time to do this now, I know we all get busy and even I forget to return to hops to help.
4 In response to the question. If you helped 3 bloggers you can add another request, but wait till 3 entries are made after your first so you can help again. Thanks! 


For my own request, I entered a contest on FB and I am just 300 likes away from the leader.  There are 10 days left and I am seriously gaining ground.  A lot of you are already my FB friends, so if you can take a minute to LIKE my photo I would love it!
Here is the link to my picture:

You need to like the sponsor and then LIKE my picture to vote.  Let me know you were there too! 

This is a 3 day Linky, to give everyone time to follow/like etc.  Have fun!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Contest Cheating & Shenanigans, And a Request for Votes

I have seen a lot of complaining lately on Twitter, FB and in forums in regards to contest cheating, but till recently I was not aware of it myself probably because they were for things or contests I was not in.  Voting contests on FB or similar sites are not something I usually do because in so many cases you can game the system and then it becomes futile to complain. 

However, yesterday I saw a travel contest for a trip to Australia, while looking up some travel stuff. Australia and New Zealand have long been a dream of mine, so I checked it out and saw that you had to add one of your fave travel photos and why you want to win. Easy enough, what they haydle, I entered!

Now, I know I don't have the biggest social media network and I don't friend every living thing I pass, but I am confident that I can at least get myself in the running.  Even though some of the entries have a huge head start and I am entering in the final few days of the contest (it ends on 1/31), I am still optimistic!

Soon after I posted my photo though I got a PM from another contestant and saw that a comment had been made on my photo at the same time.  When I checked the comment, the young lady had linked to an FB event promoting her own photo. Hmm.  It wasn't until I checked out the PM that I actually started not to like her.  She PM'd me with some very rude comments about my own pic and then comments about myself. 

Being the adult, I simply messaged her with civil comments about what I feel is common sense contest etiquette.  Now, do such things really exist, IDK, but they do for me. After another rude PM, I blocked her.  But then I got another nasty PM from her under another FB username and then another and another...well, you see where this is going.  Each of these usernames had liked and essentially voted for her picture too.  

I don't mind a good ole' contest, but I won't stoop to cheating and now I know firsthand why folks complain about these types of contests.  So, I currently sit on 15 Likes, hopefully some good ole HONEST social networking will get me there, or at least close, lol.  

If you feel inclined to like my photo and have an FB account, I would be super grateful! 
This is the photo I entered, it was this trip that changed the way I travel and live. Ahh, to be out on the water again!

You need to Like Topdeck, the sponsor, first and then Like my entry:
My Entry:

I might not be 18 anymore, but contrary to said contestants thinking, I can handle a good adventure!

Almost forgot, if you can help by sharing or retweeting, I would love you forever!

You can use this tweet!

Please LIKE my FB photo entry for a dream trip to Australia with @TopdeckTravel! RT PLS!!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Golden Globes Fashion Nod to Anne Shirley's Puffed Sleeves!

Life is not worth living without puffed sleeve!

Seriously though, looking through the dresses that made their way down the red carpet on the backs of some of the biggest names in Hollywood, I could not help but think of Anne Shirley and her love for puffed sleeves. 

The modest high neck, long, puffed sleeves, and cinched or belted waistline under a line free bosom glammed up and slightly modified to modern fashion!

Honestly, I never saw that coming.  With all the seriously sexy, skin baring, flesh showing dresses we have come to see on red carpets and just about everywhere else, it was a nice change-- and very well done.  

Not sure I could pull off the look myself (mostly because I can't pull off any volume in the shoulders), but I am a huge fan of the "leave something to the imagination" set as hems get higher, bust lines get lower, slits ride all the way up and cutouts make way for entirely see through options.

Anyway, I abso loved Anne Hathaway's Armani gown! Puffed sleeves and form fitting, but I liked that it did not have the waist pulled in.

Leighton's Burberry dress was essentially the same, but it has the waist.  However, I think the color and fabric did not flatter her at all and it came off as dowdy and matronly :(

Angelina's long sleeved, emerald Versace gown was sans the puffed sleeves, but it had the free bosom top and gathered waist along with a high neck line, long sleeves and long skirt-- WOW!

If I could pull off the look, I would totally go for this black number from ASOS! Love that it has pockets :)
I can do these slightly puffed and ruched flutter sleeves on this fitted and zipped up dress from Anthropologie though.  
Here's to Anne and her puffed sleeves!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Fiesta! Piñata Pops-- Wilton Pops in a Post

Even though the holidays just passed, I find I am still in the need for a good fiesta!  You know, the get down dancing, drinking and stick shaking kinda fiesta.

Before Christmas, Wilton, the cake decorating people here in Chicago, sent me a huge box full of everything you need to make the increasingly popular cake pops.  Most importantly, was this little book of inspiration and guidance.....
Wilton Pops Sweets on a Stick Book, Softcover
All I had to do was come up with a cake pop of my own to enter in a little Pops in a Post, blogger contest they were sponsoring.  Easy right?  Heh!

Let me start off by saying that I am good at making things taste great, but not so much when it comes to making things look good.  My family doesn't mind that bit much because its all about the taste around here.  Also, I cook, and Missy does the baking-- and we like it that way.  So, no, it was not easy for me, but yes, with all the niftiness I had at my disposal it was easier and I even had some fun.  

So, I decided to make piñata pops, first some stars and then the round ones-- there were some attempts made at the donkey and toro, but that didn't go so well :)

And they even sent me this incredibly easy to put together, cake pop display stand.  See, everyone can put down their stick, no more waiting in line, there are Piñatas for everyone!

To make these cake pops I used the Wilton melting pot (love it!), Wilton lollipop sticks, Wilton candy melts, Wilton pops decorating stand and display tier, and Wilton decorating candies.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Big Plans for Our Crayola Goodies!

 So just the other day I got a big box dropped off at the door filled with Crayola goodies.  With Christmas just over, the twins and my nephew both have a lot of new toys to play with, so I opened the box and went through it myself.  

After debating on just giving them to the twins to use now, putting them away for gifts, or putting them aside for one of those weeks or weekends my nephew stay over and needs entertaining, I decided to show the goodies to the twins and see what they thought.  As soon as I pulled out the box of crayons, Christine snatched it up and claimed it as her own, lol.  The twins think all of it is really cool, even the Sound Studio which is way too young for them.  

So, as we sat there looking through it all, Cathy said, "Foof, I really like all of it, but what about taking the toys to that shelter where all the kids stay?"  Christine immediately agreed! 

The shelter Catherine was speaking of is a women and children's shelter that I have been volunteering at and donating to since I was about 13/14.  They help women and their children who have found themselves in abusive relationships and are in need of a safe spot as they get their lives back together away from their partner.  

Because there are so many children in and out of the shelter, and so many of them are so young, the toys and books are used up very quickly, but everything is always well used and appreciated.  Kids of all ages spend a lot of time in the play and craft rooms that they have set up for them, but every time I have gone I always notice that books are needed and art supplies are always thin.  

I know that the kids will love the new Crayola toys and I am so glad Catherine had the idea.  I only wish we had more to give because there are always so many children at the shelter at any time.  The girls and I do plan on going to Walmart and Target with gift cards we got for Christmas and purchasing crayons, markers and construction paper so that at least every kid there will have some new art supplies to just forget about where they are and what is going on around them for a few minutes and just create.

So excited for them!  And I want to thank Crayola and Midget Momma for sending the box of goodies to us in the first place!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Is Chivalry Dead?

I had a short term friend that insisted chivalry was dead and essentially nonexistent-- and that anyone that pretended to be at all chivalrous was a dou.....well, not really chivalrous at all.  Just now I read an article about the most chivalrous cities in the States and whether or not chivalry really is dead or not. 

Not surprisingly, this oh so scientific experiment found that larger cities are lacking chivalrous characters and that the colder it gets in any one place during the winter, the less apt people are to stop and help you. 

Now, because I live in one of the very cities tested, I know all about the folks that rush by without lending a hand when you so obviously need it, all about the men who remain in their seats when a nine month pregnant mother with a toddler in tow walks onto the el train, and don't even believe for a second that you will get someone to help you with your car when you are stranded on the side of the road.  In that last case, I am more concerned about protecting myself and my property than anybody helping me. 

Still, I do believe that chivalrous men are out there, and yes, there are even a scarce few all the way up here in Chicago.  Just yesterday a young man held the door to the library open for me, even though he only used his foot, when he was a good 10-15 steps in front of me and it was about 10 degrees out. But the sad thing is, that a guy holding the door open with his foot for me gets noticed in the first place.  

I always joke with my best friends that after I returned to the city, after going to school in Dallas, that I had to mentally remind myself to reach out my hand and open the door for myself.  I never thought about it after I had it done for me so often-- pretty much ALL the time. And the eye contact.  Whoa, the eye contact was a big doozey for me. No one up here makes any eye contact, smiles, says hi-- who cares if you do not know the people around you.  

It's almost as if folks feel that by avoiding any and all contact with the people around them, gives them the opening they need to be rude and ignore peopleAnyway, there are some chivalrous men out there, and when I do happen to meet one I silently praise their mothers, but I have never and will never sit around and wait for one.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Tassimo Home Brewing System Giveaway Roundup

I have read so many reviews of the Tassimo Home Brewing System that now I want one for myself and I am not even a huge coffee drinker.  But that is the beauty of the whole thing because I do enjoy the occasional cup of coffee (really good coffee) and I abso love capps and tea, all of which you can make with this machine.  And there are enough coffee fiends in the family to make it a big perk on the counter. 

From visiting the blogs of friends, I have noticed that there are a lot of bloggers hosting giveaways of the Tassimo Home Brewers (lucky ducks) so I figured I would do a round up here so that you can easily find and enter for yourselves!

There are tons! 

Not sure what happened to my tweet button, so if you can retweet this list for others, please do so with the following.

"Tassimo Home Brewing System giveaway roundup from @chitownchica"

Seriously cleaned out the list, but I found a couple more so I still have hope, lol!

  1. My Sentiment Exactly, 2/3 
  2. It's All Free Online, 2/9
    If you are hosting a Tassimo Giveaway that I don't have listed here or found one I missed, let me know!

    Monday, January 3, 2011

    Being Okay With the Family Dog

    Yesterday my mom came home with a newspaper article about a young girl that had her toes chewed off by the family dog while she slept.  My mom was understandably freaked out by it, but I was a little amused by her declaration that we should not let the dogs sleep in the kid's rooms anymore.  

    Couple things you should know.  First, we have three rescues.  Snowflake, a golden lab came to us through our uncle who was moving and could not take her with. It was our first dog since my own chihuahua about ten years earlier-- given to me by the same uncle.  My little brother had just been attacked by a large dog and was having a hard time dealing with dogs, dogs barking etc. Snowflake was perfect for the kids and they loved and still love her.  

    Here she is......

    Three years ago this Christmas, I found out about Sandy, a golden lab mix, who lost her family in a divorce.  After meeting her, and introducing her to Snowflake, we decided to bring her home to the twins, who had been begging for a dog of their own for a couple years.  It took some time, but they love her and she is super protective and loyal to them.  

    This is our Sandy girl.  She is the only one that kept her name. Snowflake was Sophie, but we had to change that because, heh, that's my name. Zorro didn't really have a name, but the people we collected him from sometimes referred to him as The Cochino, which means, Dirty Boy.

    Then I got Zorro, a long haired chihuahua and the feistiest of the bunch. Zorro is admittedly, a pain in the butt. But, he is my pain in the butt and I love him.  He is also very loyal to me, and protective of both myself and Snowflake. Zorro is also the one who has the most behavioral issues and still gets aggressive with me.

    Here he is. Zorro isn't even a foot tall and so cute that it almost wants to make you skip the discipline, but he shared a garage with a bunch of pitts so....he needs it. 

    The other thing you need to know, and what I pointed out to my mother, was that in the case of the girl and the dog who ate her toes, the young girl (about 10) had Spina bifida and was unable to feel pain or injuries.  It is not known exactly why the dog ate some of her toes, but I do know that our own dogs try to help out whenever they see one of us is injured.  

    I don't like it, and I do what I can to discourage them in order to keep their wounds clean, but whenever one of the kids is injured, you will see one of the dogs licking or trying to lick their wounds.  And Snowflake is always just licking Nick's toes-- whether he likes it or not.  

    I'm not saying this is the case, but I can't help but wonder if the young girl has some sort of injury on her foot or toes that got the dog licking them in the first place.  It's scary to think about it happening to any child, and just about every dog owner I know who has had some dog/child related fluke happen has said over and over again before the incident that they trust their dog 100%.

    I have never gone so far as to say that I trust any of our, or any, dogs 100% because they are animals.  However, I am okay with our family dogs, because even though they are animals, they have a very important and special place in our family.  I think being responsible for something other than themselves has taught all of the kids a lot.

    I do think we need to work on getting the dogs to sleep in their own beds again though.  They all did at once, but right now Zorro is the only one that does so regularly.  I am not sure what happened, but at some point the kids started encouraging the dogs to sleep at the ends of their beds while also trying to get away with letting them up on the furniture.  Since there are more eyes in the living and family rooms though, they are less apt to try and get away with it-- both the kids and the dogs.  

    I really do not know what else we can do to make sure that nothing freaky like this ever happens with the kids and the dogs, but we will do the best we can for now.  Any ideas?  Opinions? Experiences to share?