Friday, August 31, 2012

What trip to Chicago/Michigan Avenue would not be complete without stopping into The Disney Store?  Well, for me, it's always a given, even when I only have a few hours in the city as with this trip. After all, I have to stop by to see my friends!

So what was the hot ticket at The Disney Store on this trip? Lots! I didn't get to take pictures of all of the new items, but one caught my eye, since I received an email about it and talked to my friend Sharon about it. With the release of 'Cinderella' coming to Blu-ray in October, there is a limited edition Cinderella doll. I thought it would be the size of a Barbie doll, but it's much bigger. And it really looks good! For those of you who are interested in it, take note. They are limited edition of 5,000 and $99.50.  Click here to find out more on how to order.

"I'm surrounded by idiots." Any Lion King fan recognizes that lion, I mean line, as something Scar says about the Hyenas. I felt the same way as I was walking around the Store, but I thought it was nicer to just take a picture instead of saying it.

 Some of the unique merchandise that's offered at this destination store are the Chicago-specific items. They've been doing it for years, and it's been popular. I've picked up many items in the past, and this trip I found some pins for some friends and me.

Above and below in greater detail are some of the shirts they sell. I'd like that hooded sweatshirt above, but I wasn't ready to admit that I need to put the t shirts away and pull out the fall/winter wardrobe.

Here are some of the fun key chains and those pins I mentioned. I also have this thing about buying the reusable bags. But since I like the version I bought last year better, I passed on this one.

Did you wonder what I purchased? Probably not, but I'm going to tell you anyway. I purchased several pins, two for me and the rest as gifts. I also picked up this great new cell phone case. It's part of the Magic Around the World product line.  I just love it! I have to pick up the suitcase they have.  They also included a flyer about the new product line that's as popular as the Disney Princesses Designer Collection: the Disney Villains Collection. Just in time for Halloween!

The Giant Spider Invasion

'The Giant Spider Invasion' is not only the title of a 1975 B-movie, but it's happening again!

Well, not really. These pictures don't do it justice since they were taking with my iPhone. When I drew the curtains of the window at the Marriott Courtyard, I was greeted by this huge spider. It really was big!

It was moving back and forth across the window, so from my perspective, it looked like a giant spider taking over the city.

In this picture, it looked like it was going to take on the car.

Yes, this is how my mind works.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Higher Standard

Yesterday, my coworker and friend, Nancy, took me to Bakersfield Restaurant. It was a great! (To read about it, click here.)

Today for lunch, a group from work went across the street to Standard Market. It's the sister restaurant of Bakersfield.  At the heart of Standard Market is Standard Grill, a sophisticated fast-casual restaurant that showcases seasonal ingredients and the culinary talents of the team of chefs.

For lunch, I had "The Coast", which features Grilled Salmon, Mustard-Honey Dressing, Campari Tomatoes, Egg, Cucumber, Carrots. It was delicious!

But because some of my coworkers had to back to the office, we didn't get to spend as much time as I wanted to check things out. Insert sad face here.

In my quick spin around Standard Market, I did notice this pumpkin ale. Not that I love pumpkin ale, even though I love pumpkin, but if you know me, you should see something in the packaging that caught my eye other than the booze.

The market has all sorts of goodies in it, I just knew I had to go back. It was settled. Since I had an evening to myself, I planned on going back for dinner! Besides, I wanted to try the Gazpacho I saw.  But then my coworker and friend, Maureen, asked if I had dinner plans. Drat! I told her I wanted to go back to Standard Market, and had to confess that I wanted to look around so I could post about it. She was okay with it, so off we went!

This time, I had the Iowa White, which consisted of Pan Roasted Chicken, Sauteéd Spinach, and Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes. I didn't eat all of it, because it was huge! But it was very good. Maureen had an Asian salad that looked tasty too. They have "servers" around the dining area, but they tell you they are a "Tip Free Zone", so it was a nice level of customer service. Our server came back with little samples of brownies. I gave my to Maureen, thinking that perhaps I would get something from the dessert area to bring back to the hotel. 

Maureen left me so I could roam around. There were all kinds of treats for the senses: fresh fruit and veg, cheese, wine, desserts, meat, fish. I could just go on and on.  But pictures tell so much more.

Here's the wine and cheese shop. I was trying to take sneaky pictures, so this one's a bit fuzzy. But the aromas of fromage were très magnifique.

Look at that fruit tart!I was going to get that small one, but that was enough for two people.

They even had people making fresh Sushi! I could lived there. Look at that Snapper!

The store and design were fresh and clean. The light fixture look like it came from IKEA. I won't say what the women said it looked like when we were having lunch today. And they say I'm naughty.

Check out more of Standard Market's tasty treats by clicking here. Like Bakersfield, I know I'll be back the next time I'm in town!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Field Trip

My friend and coworker, Nancy, suggested we go to Bakersfield. Growing up in California, that has a whole different meaning. I'm glad I pushed aside those memories for the ones made tonight.

Bakerfield is hip and trendy without being pretentious or snobby. Remember, I'm talking the restaurant and not the city of Bakersfield. While the food, wine and atmosphere were excellent, what really made the experience stand out was due to our server, Sean. He knew the menu in great detail, and could make some knowledgeable recommendation. He found us a nice bottle of Cab that Nancy and I liked, even though we did not have to pair it with our meal.

For starters, we both had the Mexican soup. It had the right blend of ingredients, even though I had to spice it up more for my taste buds. For entrées, Nancy ordered the bacon-wrapped shrimp that were the size of prawns, while I opted for the fresh Cajun Trout. One word: phenomenal!  Now, talk about spice, it had quite the kick. (The trout, not Nancy, although I'm sure she wouldn't mind doing that to me from time-to-time.)  Again, personally, I could have done without the peanuts. I really wanted the asparagus for my side, but Sean said the Caprese was better, so we both ordered that for our sides.

We couldn't just leave it at that, oh no, so we took the plunge and went for dessert, too. Nancy had the fried Oreos. They looked like cream puffs, and I tried one, and it didn't taste as sweet as you'd think. I chose the "healthier" route and went for the nectarines and berries. They were drizzled with balsamic vinegar and it was the best!

Because of our experience, I asked our server to send over the manager. I should have told him why, because I think he was a bit nervous. But we told the manager we were very pleased with our meal, but mostly, very happy to have Sean as our server. Be sure to ask for him and you'll be ensured you have a great time! I can't wait for my next office visit to Lisle, because I know we'll be dining here again!

To check out the menu and swanky decor, click here.

It's A Good Sign?

Today's flight from Minneapolis/St Paul to Chicago Midway was rather uneventful.  It's a short flight, but that doesn't matter for me, because no matter what, I must visit the lav.  (I know. T.M.I.)

There were a lot of signs in there, and it made me wonder what happened in ordered for the signs to get there. For example, we all know that if too many people take a shortcut across the lawn, it causes a "Keep off the grass" sign to appear.

So get a load, pardon the pun, of this sign. Morbid curiosity makes me wonder who was the Einstein that couldn't get themselves off the loo in order to flush, and what happened to that poor soul that didn't think things through of the cause-and-affect vacuum it would create if your cheeks were large enough to create a seal around the toilet seat.

This next one, I'm sure, came from the Flight Crew. I'll have to ask my friends who are flight attendants, but I'm sure they come in to find a water park of sorts where kids, and adults, make a mess and don't clean up after themselves.

Here's a sign at the Midway Airport elevators. I've done this trip so often, I can do it in my sleep. I'm sure the thinking was to make a sign for foreign tourists who don't read a lot of English. Whereas the signs in the airplane lavatory are lost to them, the one below, I know from personal experience of having to help out travelers who can read English, might as well be written in Klingon.  Or Greek.

You're suppose to equate the number on the left side of the picture to the button of the floor you want. However, and I know it's hard to see until you click on the picture, each picture is a Chicago landmark, and then you have descriptions to the right of that. People being visual and in a rush, only see the pictures. So what happens is someone says, "Does '3' take me to Buckingham Fountain?"  Not unless we've developed Transporter technology I don't know about, because then I wouldn't have to fly.  See, '3' takes you to 'P' or Daily/Hourly Parking. No one is ever going to say, "I left my car on Level Buckingham Fountain."

Apparently the simple and most routine of trips sometimes are the Devil's workshop for one traveler.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Heat Is On

So my friend, Mike, sent me a picture today (Thanks for use of the picture, Mike!), and at first I focused on the Little Green Man, of course. Then I read why he sent it. This crushed red pepper is from Papa John's, and make sure you read the fine print at the bottom of the packet.

I never heard of food being treated with radiation, so of course I Googled it. Naturally, there were countless (or at least 19,700) hits about food being treated with radiation. Although funny at first, it does make you wonder if it's really necessary to kill bacteria this way, especially when we don't know if it really causes carcinogens.

Even though I love crushed red peppers, I'll think twice about eating any treated with radiation.

To read more about food treated with radiation, click here.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Now That's Funny

Or should I say, Well, That's Just Great?

Today quite by accident, I found a brilliantly funny blog named 'Well, That's Just Great'. The author blends his sense of humor with a hint of sarcasm in some terrific posts. Here's a sample of a recent post.

So check out his blog. I've added the link to my favorites over there on right.  Your other right. Now scroll down... 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Great Minnesota Get-Together

It's that time again. Time for the "Great Minnesota Get-Together", also known as 12 days of sheer terror for those of us who are germaphobes, obsessed with sanitation and feeling compelled to clean excessively. When you take a look at how filthy some people are and then they cram all sorts of food into their mouths after touching livestock, it would be a perfect way for some natural evolutionary culling.

But I digress. Since this blog got started when I was traveling three weeks out of the month, I have an appreciation of Andrew Zimmern's Bizarre Foods. I thought it was ironic that this sign was right across from the International Bazaar. Or perhaps I should it was bizarre? Bazaar.

I had to refrain myself from taking pictures, as I have a habit, of, let's say "unique" individuals. If you think riding public transit is major place where they hang out, think again.  The Minnesota State Fair is a magnet for them. But it makes for interesting people-watching to be sure.  And that's free entertainment.

Whenever I attend the State Fair, I have to mentally prepare myself, along with ample supply of hand sanitizer, that you're just going to be exposed to germs.  I can't even think about some of the people serving the food and whether or not they've actually washed their hands. Just because you put food "on a stick", doesn't mean it hasn't been handled properly. That, and so much of the food is fried. Can you imagine how many calories there are in a fried Twinkie? To see the "new" foods for 2012, click here.

Fortunately, there are a few places where you can wash up with real soap and water. Is it just me, or did the make the people on the restroom sign more "healthy" than typical? I'm not saying, I'm just saying. They also have hand washing stations after 'visiting the animals.' I would like to know if they are referring to the one inside or outside of the pens. 


Most of the stuff at the Fair, again in my opinion, is junk. Sure, there are a few chatzkis that are of interest. Every year at a number of art fairs around Minnesota, this one guy who makes beautiful tiles, gets a visit from me and a "I really should get that" from me, and rarely do I purchase. I have purchased some for my parents and they love it. Today I noticed a "must have", but two things prevented me from purchasing it. First, I live in a condo and putting this baby on the balcony defeats the purpose. Secondly, the booth was closed at the time, so I saved some dollars. They know I'm a sucker for anything Disney!

Hey, where's Perry? 

Even though I wash my hands constantly, I'm not immune from picking up bugs. My allergies turned into a cold, and I really should have stayed home today, but it was the only day I could really go to the Fair. So after three or four hours, it was time to leave. And that's okay.

Speaking of picking up, I posed for a photo opp. I told my friends that I finally got caught and picked up for taking sneaky pictures of people in public and putting them on my Facebook page. Knowing I'm a practical joker, most of my friends know I'm probably not serious, but after seeing some of the (clean, but not nice) pictures of people I've posted, I told them some guy pressed charges and I spent time in the slammer to think about what I've done. I'll stay off of Facebook long enough for them to think twice.

To read more about the Minnesota State Fair or to see the line up of bands coming to the Grand Stand, click here.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

You know you're a regular at a restaurant when the owner contacts you through Yelp to let you know about a special deal gong on. Right now, you can save 20% on any gift card purchase now through September 9th & 5% of purchases will benefit Share Our Strength's No Kid Hungry® campaign!

Usually, when they have gift card specials, they give you an extra gift card, which expires. This deal is much better, because you get 20% off the price of the gift card!

Sure, I went to Kincaid's for the great food and wonderful service from Jay W., but I also allowed myself a little indulgence, as attested to by the picture of the Sidecar. So do something good for the kids and yourself. Get a gift card from Kincaid's before September 9th!

Kincaid's - Bloomington, MN

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

New Fall WDCC Pieces Announced!

I'm so excited today! Enesco announced the Walt Disney Classics Collection Fall pieces!  I'm lucky (my wallet isn't) that two of my all-time favorite Disney animated features were honored with sculptures.

My favorite Disney Princess is the One Who Started It All: Snow White. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs celebrates a very important milestone this year.  To honor the 75th Anniversary, the WDCC team has recreated the “Fairytale Ending” moment where the dashing Prince sweeps Snow White into his arms after awakening her with a kiss.  The Numbered Limited Edition of 750 piece will feature both a WDCC 20th Anniversary Logo and 75th Anniversary film notation on the backstamp. Sculpted by one of my favorites, Dusty Horner, this piece debuts in September. I am lucky enough to have several of my pieces and Certificates of Authenticity (COA) signed by Dusty, including the Snow White WDCC Membership piece, "Won't You Smile For Me?" I just love that piece.

One of my top three favorite Disney animated features is Fantasia. The Summer Fairies from the “Nutcracker Suite” make their appearance, featuring three unique bronze fairies at varying heights and in different poses on elegant porcelain leaves. The Numbered Limited Edition of only 500 pieces was sculpted by another favorite artistic, Kent Melton, and will feature the WDCC 20th Anniversary Logo.

I want to wake up Febra at The Gift House so I can order these pieces by phone, but I settled on emailing her first thing this morning!

To read more about all the Fall releases, please visit the Duckman's Blog.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Making a Pass For Me

Today I spent the day on a site that I always visit after going to a Disney Theme Park:  Disney PhotoPass.

 What I love about Disney's PhotoPass is that you can take advantage of someone else taking pictures for you. This was started at Walt Disney World, and you have photographers all over the place. Recently, it has become popular at Disneyland, but the photographers in Florida are better. They aren't 100% perfect, but they've come along way.

What the photographer does is take a picture of you and they scan a card you keep. Above is the card I had in 2011 and below is the card I received in 2012, commemorating the grand (re)opening of Disney's California Adventure. I just love the design of that card!

Here's a tip I picked up many years ago and whenever a photographer sees it, they think it's a great idea that they say they'll pass along. You'll notice the Quick Response Code (QRC) box on the right. That's what the photographers use to scan so your card has your pictures tied to your account. Sometimes, they get cards mixed up when there are a group of people, so I've learned to always bring an address label with me to put on the card. That way if there's any mix up or your card gets lost, it can be identified to you!  Underneath my address label, you'll see part of the numbers that are tied to your account. You have 30 days to log into PhotoPass online to claim your pictures, but once you log in, the clock starts ticking and you have 30 days to view and make purchases.

The great thing about PhotoPass is that you can add all sorts of Disney images to your pictures. Not only that, you can upload pictures you've taken and customize them as well!  Below are two pictures: one taken by a Disney PhotoPass photographer (left) and one taken by a friend with my own camera (right). The pictures you take with your camera have limited graphics from which to choose, probably because Disney can't control what images you load up and put their name to it.

Taken by Disney PhotoPass Photographer
Taken with my camera

All of your pictures can be added to a CD, which you can then use to make reprints or have to say, put on your blog. I've made calendars for myself and gifts, but if I time my trips to a Disney Theme Park just right, I can also make my annual Disney Christmas cards. Below is one of three cards I made last year.


What about the pictures I made today? I started out with 66 pictures, and after customization, I wound up with 423, which I'll have burned to a CD. It's time for me to work on my Christmas cards, but I can't share any of this year's pictures with you just. However, below is a link to an eCard that is a sneak peak of one of my pictures.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

McKayla Maroney Is Not Impressed

I don't know why, but McKayla showed up in so many of my pictures, and I do wish she would have been a little more friendly to the camera.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Carthay Circle Restaurant

Even if you don't eat here, you have to check out the interior of the new Carthay Circle Restaurant located in Disney's California Adventure.

The original Carthay Circle Theatre opened in 1926, and was located in Los Angeles. For those of you who aren't diehard Disney fans, the reason this version, which pays homage to the original, is where Walt Disney premiered his first animated feature length film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, in 1937, as well as Fantasia, which premiered in 1940.

Sadly, the original theatre was demolished in 1969, but thankfully the Walt Disney Imagineers have recreated it for us, and it houses a restaurant that rivals some of the tastiest you can find in Southern California.

The first floor of the building has a bar area, and the restaurant is located on the second floor.  For those of you who know about the 1901 Lounge, we did not have access to that. I'm not that connected or have pockets deep enough for that...yet! (Probably ever, but I'm okay with that.)

  Let's start with drinks. While I wanted to try another Lasseter Family wine, I opted to have a Side Car. It was as good as the ones I order whenever I go to New Orleans (in Louisiana, not New Orleans Square!)

While I didn't take pictures of the biscuits (make sure you order those!) or the ribeye, which was worth the price of admission, I do want to share the lemon and blueberries dessert with you. Just don't tell my doctor I blew my diet today!

The bonus to the meal was not the dessert, although it was delicious, but dining at the Carthay Circle Restaurant qualifies for receiving a ticket which grants you access to a Reserved Center Stage Viewing Area for the World of Color!

One final bit of trivia. Giving a nod to The Fairest Of Them All, the inside of the Carthay Circle Restaurant has of decorations, some obvious, some hidden, to Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs. In the woodwork of some of the tables, you may notice someone Evil looking back at you. Do you know who it is? (Hint: it's not me.)

For view the menu at the Carthay Circle Restaurant or to make reservations, including information about the World of Color dining package, click here.