Friday, November 22, 2013

The Best View of Chicago

We had a cousin of Abdulhamid's visiting with us a few weeks ago, and naturally when anyone comes this close to Chicago, they ask for a day of sightseeing there.  Sometimes we take the train because Chicago is a city that is easy to get around using the transit system.  Because there were 5 of us, we opted to bring our car this time.  Parking in downtown Chicago is extremely expensive by Milwaukee standards, but 5 train tickets would have been much more.

We parked at Millennium Park, which is very near the lakefront.  It's a nice central location to see a few sights.  There's a parking garage underground.  Then you can take the elevator to street level and exit right at the ice rink.  Of course everyone gets a thrill out of the several story high face that changes every few minutes.  People are always looking for the camera thinking they can put their own face up there, but these are recorded faces.  During summer this is a splash pad, but in fall, it was just a concrete rink.  We walked up and around to see Cloudgate, more affectionately called "The Bean".  About a hundred people were already finding their reflections and snapping photos.  Omar, who is 8, just wanted to climb under it and see how many reflections he could find of himself.  It's a fun way to spend 15 minutes.  We had to drag Omar away though.  It turned out to be way more fun once he got involved with another group of kids and they all began to roll on the ground, chasing reflections.  A group of 3 pretty girls were holding signs which said "Free Hugs" and we found many people taking them up on the offer.  It's just a fun place to people watch.  If you stand still and listen, you will hear many different languages.
Cloudgate catches reflections of the city and the people nearby

The trees were in fall color

You can have a lot of fun with the indentations in this silver bean

From here we had to have Giordano's Pizza, which is just across the street, north of the park.  You have to wait for a table and preorder your pizza because it takes 45 minutes to prepare.  It's deep dish with loads of cheese and toppings stuffed inside like a pie.  I love it and eat it every chance I get.  Usually one slice is plenty.
Best pizza around!
Around the city currently are a bunch of painted fireplugs- an art display.  We saw a few of them.  You can read more about them at the Great Chicago Fire Hydrant website.  Each hydrant is about 5 feet tall and painted by an artist.  Lots of fun trying to find them!

We caught a taxi to what I now know is the very best place to see the overhead view of Chicago, the John Hancock building.  We had been to Sears tower with a number of guests in the past, but it is expensive.  There are usually long lines.  I read on trip advisor  that you could go to the top of the John Hancock and see more of the lakefront, but also the rest of the city.  You can purchase a ticket for the observation deck, but we went to the Signature Lounge for free.  It's the 96th floor.  There's a restaurant on the floor below in case you are really hungry.  We ordered coffees and cheesecake for about what we might have paid for tickets to the observation deck, but we could relax, walk around the lounge area, and enjoy the whole experience much more, in my opinion.  And if you're a woman, you MUST go to the women's bathroom to take a look at the view.  I saw very few ladies actually using the toilets.  Everyone was instead lining up against the glass for a beautiful view.  I heard the men's toilets had no view at all.  My niece went here at sunset and took beautiful photos of the sunset and the buildings as they started to be lit.  I think even if you're a Chicago native, you'd enjoy the view.
View from the ladies' room

Sunday, November 17, 2013

I wrote the book!

I have been a bit absent here in the past month, but it isn't because I've been off having spectacular adventures.  I wrote earlier about trying to find a job, and to be honest, I got tired of the applications, interviews, and rejection letters for the present time.  The job market is tough when you've been out of it for 9 years, and there are a lot of talented people looking for work right now.  It's kind of a handicap to be a housewife at my age.  So I decided to become an author.

I decided one month ago to write a book and it is done!  I have another blog about Milwaukee Parks, and I decided to focus on writing about that for now.  I came up with "101 Things to do in Milwaukee Parks", and it's available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle versions.  In fact, you can purchase the paperback and get the kindle version for free.

I have to admit, the writing was the joyous part of the project.  The editing and converting files to a format for Kindle were....well, really not much fun, but it was a learning experience.  And I've heard it said that learning new things is a good thing as we get older so that we keep creating new brain cells.  Golly, I sure hope this whole experience created a few!  I also have heard that everyone has a book in them.  If you have an idea, I encourage you to explore writing a book.  It's much easier now that you can self publish.  I used  You can hire an editor via their website if formatting is not your thing.  It was frustrating at times, but I have to admit, it can be done pretty easily.  The beauty of doing it this way is that you don't have to stockpile hundreds of your own books.  They print them on demand.  I can assure you, it won't make anyone rich, but I think it's a way to share ideas.

So here is my book project!  Maybe you'll find the time to read it and come explore Milwaukee parks.  Fun in the outdoors is never a bad thing!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The National Geographic Photographers

I went to Chicago for a photography seminar a couple of weeks ago.  I love their Traveler Magazine, and this was a seminar featuring an editor and a photographer who work for the magazine.  It was an entire day of gorgeous photos and stories about how the photos were made.  I know when I open the magazine, I think of those faraway places and how I might like to go to a certain place based more on the photos than on the story.  As it turns out, the stories and photos rarely ever go together from the start.  They have writers who submit story ideas.  Then photographers are assigned to the locations and often the full story hasn't been written yet.  Sometimes the writer and photographer meet for a few hours in overlapping time to discuss ideas.  That was amazing to me, because when I travel, I take my own photos and then I write about my own stories, often making photo books to capture the adventures we make.

The day went way too fast.  I enjoyed hearing about how it takes 15,000 photos to do an article that might include 5 photos. I don't feel bad anymore about shooting 100 photos in a day.  I feel sorry for the person doing editing and making choices though.  None of the photos get photoshopped for a magazine like traveler.  I learned that the photographers do a variety of tricks to improve how things look, since there won't be touch-ups done. Like, they always try to shoot at sunrise and sunset when the light is at its best.  Food photos are brought to a sunny window so they can be shot in natural light.  Weather can't be a factor when they have just a couple days to get the shots needed for a story so you learn to use the light to advantage.  On rainy days, don't shoot the sky.  When there are clouds, shoot up to capture them in your composition.  Rain makes everything look shiny- not a bad thing.

After this day of stories about the people behind the shots, I did some thinking.  I have so many photos that no one sees but me and my Facebook friends and family.  I wanted to do something useful with them and share my own stories.  I started writing a book.  I have been writing another blog about Milwaukee Parks for the past year.  Once you've covered the parks in all seasons, a book could pretty much write itself.  So, that's my latest project.  I am about 90% done and hope to have it on Amazon by Christmas.  I guess we all need inspiration to get something done.  I'm excited to see my book published now!