Monday, August 25, 2014

Fall Full of Disney

In our house Fall is not welcomed. The weather gets colder (although this summer has been pretty darn cold), the daylight hours get shorter, and the boat gets put into storage for 7-8 months. The only redeeming qualities of fall for us is the start of the fall race / travel season and Oktoberfest beer.

In the next few months we have three separate trips planned to Disney Parks. All three weekends were chosen because of special events.  As luck would have it we stumbled into some added Disney bonuses (and by bonus we mean special events you pay extra for).

First, we are heading to California for a few days at Disneyland. It's their Half Marathon race weekend. Holly is participating in her first Dumbo Double Dare which consists of the 10K and the Half Marathon. Dave is being smart and sticking to just the 10K. We're looking forward to spending lots of park time especially since we were worn out from doing the Coast to Coast Challenge in a week last time we were there. Highlights of the weekend should include taking in those parks again, seeing friends, visiting Trader Sam's, and trying Disney Family Wine Flights at Alfresco Terrace. Oh yeah, and maybe the races.

Our third trip chronologically was booked a few months ago so we could visit during Epcot's Food & Wine Festival. This event is our equivalent of "Disney Christmas". 27 food booths surrounding World Showcase with tasty food, great wine, beer, and cocktails. Add to that all our normal Epcot favorites (La Cava del Tequila, Tutto Gusto, Rose & Crown) and 3 concerts nightly from a headlining band makes for a good time. Usually we attend one or two seminars or special tastings, but this time we opted not to because we are attending the one-weekend only Swan & Dolphin Food and Wine Classic . During this event you pay one price to sample different food and drink options in the causeway between the Swan & Dolphin hotels.

We were hoping for some bands we enjoy to perform at the festival while we are there but we ended up with 38 Special and Boyz II Men. That means more time will be spent at Off-Kilter.

That last paragraph leads to the reason why we booked our second trip chronologically. Based on history Hanson (of Mmmbop fame) should have played the weekend we were booked for F&W Classic but they ended up on the schedule a month earlier. Dave's been wanting to see Hanson at F&W (yes he likes their music and as adults they are a decent band and they have their own beer) so we pulled the trigger.

Because of this decision we get to do some events that aren't available in November. The night we arrive we will go to one of the last Epcot After-Hours Wind Downs. For an added price you get to stay in a selected Epcot bar 90 minutes after park closing for a snack and drinks. We will also get to see the Disney Frozen Summer Celebration at the Studios, which includes our first viewing of fireworks in that park. Another added bonus is we booked the Parisian Breakfast as part of Food and Wine Festival. That means lots of pastries, cheese, and champagne early in the morning. Holly has optimized our touring plans to see the new Magic Kingdom Parade, ride the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, and visit with Anna and Elsa (a usual 3-5 hour wait).

Leaving Illinois in the fall for warmer climates should help to extend summer a little longer. We're looking forward to all the new Disney Park experiences.

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We have a Spotify Playlist with some of our favorite Hanson songs.  We loaded it in reverse chronological order so you can listen to their newest music first:


Friday, August 15, 2014

A Bunch of Chicago

Dave said it feels like he's been in Chicago more this past month than any other time in our almost 20 years of living in Illinois. We've had lots of new experiences during Chicago's Rock & Roll Race Weekend (see post). In addition, Dave's dad was in town from New York recently which led to two more visits to the city.

Day 1 we took the Metra into the city. Our first stop was The Field Museum. We've been here before but there's always something new (or old....Ha Ha!) to see. The main reason for today's visit was to see the special exhibit on the 1893 Chicago World's Fair (The Columbian Exposition). But before going into the special exhibit we made our way through the entire Africa and Egypt exhibits.

The 1893 World's Fair exhibit was mostly focused on recreating displays that guests would have seen attending that particular event vs. featuring the creation and design of the fair. That means we saw a lot of rocks, taxidermic animals, and jars of oil. Still very interesting. We learned that the fair's structures were temporary except for the Palace of Fine Arts (Today's Science and Industry Museum); which became a museum after the fair featuring donated items from the fair. That museum morphed into the Field Museum and moved to its current location in 1921.



The exhibit dumped us in a gift shop where they had 2 interesting items. There was a cool book called Chicago Then and Now combining old pictures of well-known Chicago locations with today's photos. Another item was a pint glass that reminded me the Field had their own exclusive beer. The glass was fun. We didn't have the Field beer since other beer was in our near future (and it sounded hoppy).....

We needed to grab Holly a souvenir. Fortunately a Mold-A-Rama featured one of her favorite animals. In case you've never seen one, the Mold-A-Rama is a Chicago museum staple - put in $2 and watch a plastic statue being made right before your eyes!


Soon-after, the fact settled in that Dave was stuck carrying this thing the rest of the day.


After a brisk stroll through the taxidermic animals on display (they have a lot of them) we called it quits, jumped in a cab, and visited a new Chicago bar located in Printer's Row: First Draft. The place was fun and had that old-time after-work bar feel: tin ceiling, dark wood, and high top tables. There were over 60 beers on draft featuring a good mix of all styles and a few local options. We made sure to try a few with our lunch.


The next day we had another trip to the city: this time driving to Evanston and taking the El to Wrigleyville. Lunch was at one of our favorite places: Goose Island Wrigleyville. A lot of people write-off Goose Island nowadays because of the purchase by InBev. However, Goose Island still runs its two Chicago brewpubs independent of the mothership which still gives them lots of creative freedom. We had Belgian darks, Weiss beers, and their Wrigleyville Cubbies Blueberry exclusive. We lucked-out and nabbed a beer garden table where we enjoyed pulled pork and Cuban sandwiches.

After lunch we walked over to Wrigley Field for the Cubs game. Dave's dad loves baseball and seeing games in old parks. We don't share that love. Wrigley Field is a pit and the north side baseball team deserves a stadium redo like almost every other ball team. The Cubs aren't good so give us something to occupy our time, like a Jumbotron or a bunch of mascots running the field.

Dinner was at Smylie Brothers Brewing in Evanston. Things would have gone better here if two things didn't happen: the kitchen losing our order and the porter being replaced a day before our arrival. Holly didn't find any beers of interest so we went with Moscow Mules. We were there an hour without receiving food and our waitress offered no explanation or apology. The two beers Dave sampled, the Cali Common and Berry Weiss  ("Purple Line") seasonal were decent. The wood oven pizzas were very good.

That should be the end of some Chicago adventures for the next few months. The fall marathon season is gearing up so we'll be visiting some other exciting cities soon: Logan, UT is next.







Tuesday, August 12, 2014

2014 Rock & Roll Chicago Half Marathon and 5K

Holly's Half Marathon Report: This would be the sixth year in a row for me to run the Rock and Roll Chicago Half Marathon. I am currently “perfect” as it has only been run 6 years. I was excited to run this year as a bunch of friends were coming in to town for it. After a very fun Saturday we all got up early and made our way to the start area for a 6:30 start time. We had quite the group. The 5k crew: Maria, Olivia, Dave, Molly and Anna. The Half: Eddie, Joe, Stan, Pam, Mike, Julie and myself. And our cheer section: Laura and Jan.


Joe, Stan, Mike Julie and myself planned to run together using 2:1 intervals. It took us about a half hour to get to the start line and we were off. The course was much different this year with a lot of out-and-backs through the loop area. No bands for the first 6 miles because of a noise ordinance in the residential areas. This is a new rule apparently as there was always music previously. The buildings were wreaking havoc with our GPS and had me running a 5:00 minute mile at one point. I wish!!


We finally left the loop area and headed
down Michigan Ave. We lost Stan and Mike here due to a potty break. Julie, Joe and I kept on going. I was feeling pretty good, much better than last year. It was much cooler and I was much more hydrated. We got to the dreaded tunnel and I was definitely dreading it. The tunnel is a portion of the course that goes under McCormick Place. It is dark, full of potholes and car fumes, as this is where taxis and buses sit and wait to pick up people. Joe did a great job of leading the way like a linebacker and we flew through that tunnel in under 2 minutes. It was a piece of cake. Unfortunately, we lost Julie in the tunnel. Sorry Julie!! We finished up strong and while not a PR, I’m still pleased with my time and had a blast running with everyone. We made it through the chute and got some goodies, but no popsicles! This was always my favorite part of this race. We ran over and got my free beer and then headed out to shower and get ready for our post race lunch.

Dave's 5K Report: The plan for the morning was to kick-back on the 5K. I wasn't really motivated to go for a time: I was downtown and had the chance to enjoy multiple beverages the day before. When we hit the start Anna escorted Olivia (age 11) on a 1:1 run-walk pace. Molly took off after mile one to help loosen out her knee. That left Maria and I time to have a nice easy walk full of fun conversation. I didn't bother taking pictures since I've been on this Lower Wacker/Lakefront course many times. We had three bands on our course, which was nice. There were more spectators around the finish line then I remember from previous years. Snacks are usually good at R&R events. I enjoyed: chocolate milk, pretzels, Larabar, banana, and lime Fla-Vor-Ice (thank you Jel Sert for keeping green the traditional lime flavor and not switching to trendy sour apple).

I agreed to join Miss Olivia in wearing a set of patriotic deely boppers. Took me about 5 minutes to figure out where to put them on my head so it wouldn't feel like pine cones jammed against my skull. As previously mentioned Olivia ditched me at the start; leaving me the only person around wearing deely boppers that don't remotely match the rest of his outfit or race theme. Can't really say it was the first time......
Our post-race fun was covered in an earlier post.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Chicago Weekend: July 2014 - Part Two

For Part One, click here.

Part of what made this Sunday unique was the fact that we only revisited one Chicago favorite - and it wasn't Jake Melnick's.

Dave finished the Rock and Roll 5K around the same time our friend Eddie finished the half marathon. That gave them enough time to return to their rooms for showers and head back to the after-party for a couple of beers. Once Dave met up with Holly it was time to go back to the hotel so she could shower and to pack up/check-out. The Palmer House race special rate didn't extend to Sunday so we changed to a cheaper hotel picked up on Hotwire. We moved from The Loop to the heart of the Mag Mile: The Westin was next to the Hancock Building.

We dropped off our bags, hopped in a cab, and met up with our crew back in The Loop at Pizano's Pizza. While most folks dined on pizza we both opted to get burgers (our preferred post-race indulgence). Everyone enjoyed their meals and had fun hazing the new-hire waiter ("I don't know if I can do that for you.  I just started here and don't want to get it trouble").

After lunch most folks had to get on the road and head home. Eddie and Anna still had some time before their flight so we headed to Plymouth for a few drinks.  Plymouth has a bar on it's 4th(?) floor roof. It was a pleasant space in a very unlikely place. They had nice signature cocktails, a decent beer selection, and (according to a lady in the elevator) the best salad ever!
We walked back to The Palmer House and said goodbye to our friends before heading north towards our new hotel. Just down the street was a bar Dave had researched.... The Drumbar was on the roof of the Raffaello Hotel that was aiming for that speakeasy feel. They have a nice outdoor deck and a really nice indoor lounge area. Looks like a good place to visit in the winter. An added bonus was finding a great dark beer on the menu. We lingered here for a while and decompressed after a very busy 48 hours.

We decided to check out our hotel's bar before dinner. The Grill on the Alley had that typical Chicago restaurant look: lots of dark wood and amber-glassed light fixtures. The wraparound bar was large and stocked a good variety of bourbon and whiskey.
Finally it was time for dinner. We made reservations at RL - the restaurant attached to The Polo Store (owned by Ralph Lauren). RL is listed as one of the go-to Chicago restaurants for celebrity sightings. We didn't have any such luck. RL is a classic restaurant seemingly decorated for old-money clientele. However, the diners were not all Buffys and the staff had a casually efficient way about them. For starters Holly had the escargot and Dave had the lobster bisque. Our main courses were halibut and pork chop. Both were good except the halibut was a little overcooked. For dessert we split the cookies and brownie plate. A little generic, but we didn't want anything too elaborate or rich. Dave said the coffee was excellent.

Our last stop of the evening was at one of our favorite places - the bar at the Peninsula Hotel. It's more like being in a large living room than a bar or lounge. We settled in at a corner table and had our final drinks of the evening.

That wraps up another successful Chicago weekend!
Bonus: Dave was in the city last week for a doctor appointment at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. They recently added a food court on the second floor. On a whim he tried Saigon Sisters, an offshoot of the Lake Street main location serving modern Vietnamese cuisine. He got the Hen House bánh mì which is a sandwich on French baguette with caramelized chicken, lemongrass, ginger, mint, lime, crushed peanuts, mayo (hold the mayo). Rave reviews from Dave.

Friday, August 1, 2014

August's Charity of the Month: St Jude Childen's Hospital #slyestrong

Charity of the Month is the newest way Team Tizzel is helping to support some very worthy organizations. As part of this program, we will dedicate a post to a charity that we will sponsor through the month by donating Holly's training run money.

July: In July we sponsored Give Kids the World as part of our Mickey Milers Running Team annual fundraising drive. Our donation of $125 will be matched by a corporate matching gift (you can donate too through this link).

August's Charity:
www.stjude.org

St. Jude has always been on our radar for a charity of the month sponsorship. They do incredible work and have touched the lives of many. We moved them up to August because of a Facebook post from our friend Michael (Team Tizzel Guest blogger of our #goofyinaday series).

We had learned several months ago that his cousin's son AJ had lost his life while battling leukemia at age 20. Through articles and Facebook posts we learned about AJ's courage, spirit, and kindness. AJ became close with the staff at St. Jude that did so much for him during his 14 months of treatment. You can read more about AJ in this local newspaper article.

Michael's daughter Callie (age 10) is honoring AJ's spirit of by kicking off her own fundraiser for St. Jude. Michael and Callie's brother Cole (14) are pitching in as well to help meet her goal of raising $1,000.

There are many ways you can help:
Callie is selling awesome loom bracelets. Donations are $5 for each bracelet and payment can be made via the link below. Be sure to leave your email so she can ask about your color choices. We bought a few extra to give out to friends.

Get a Bracelet!

Cole is likely on lawn mower patrol. He has no online presence so you'll just have to track him down somewhere in the D.C. suburbs.

Michael's selling race-inspired magnets on Etsy that benefit specific charities. St. Jude will receive all proceeds from sales of the Avengers and Star Wars magnets. You can link to each one here, or check our sidebar for links.
















Another way: Just donate! Click the button below to contribute to their campaign (same link as the one for the bracelets).






Friday, July 25, 2014

Chicago Weekend: July 2014 - Part One

We spent three nights in Chicago recently to hang out with friends and take part in the Rock and Roll Chicago Half Marathon/5K races. We'll save the race reports for another post, but we'll cover some of the bars and restaurants we hit over the weekend in this post.

Dave started the morning working at his company's new downtown offices. They recently opened this location to have additional meeting space and give employees some flexibility in where they can work. It's a 34th floor location on Michigan Avenue. The Chicago River is on one side, the Tribune Tower, Trump, and Wrigley Building on other sides. Excellent views and a great space to work.

One other benefit to working at this location: Howells and Hood is right next door. H&H has 114 beers on tap available at all three bars (including the patio bar). As a tap handle collector Dave does a lot of window shopping here. He enjoyed a great pulled pork sandwich and stout while having lunch with a friend whom works in the Tribune Tower. (Surprise: we ended up at Howells and Hood Saturday afternoon too). Once his work day was over he took a water taxi to get closer to the hotel - a new Chicago experience for Dave.

We met up at our hotel for the first two nights, The Palmer House Hilton, before starting our northbound trek. Our first stop was The Roof at The Wit Hotel. At night this place is like a high-end club with all the ropes and cover charges. In daytime it's a crowded bar you can walk right into. The bigger outdoor deck is on the northwest side of the building with some obscured views, but we lucked into seats on the smaller south-side deck. This gave us a unique view of The Loop, Lake Michigan, and Millennium Park. One-and-done and it was time to move on.

We walked to our next destination, or so we thought..... The website listed Three Dots and a Dash being located at 435 N Clark. This was actually the location of Bub City. Confused, we went in and asked the hostess, whom told us we had to go around to the alley. 3 Dots is a tiki style bar in the basement of Bub City and it's one of the hottest new bars in town. Calling it dark would be an understatement. The place had  Tiki design all over, but not over-the-top. Wait staff wore Hawaiin prints and every drink had it's own unique glass. It was packed when we first arrived, mostly couples pre-drinking before dinner, but it seemed to slightly thin out around 7pm.

We moved north towards our next stop.  We had ressies for a party of 11 at Ditka's. The decor fit the formula for a sports-personality restaurant: wood paneling, green walls, sports memorabilia. We sat upstairs within close range of the entertainment. The singer was good,  but LOUD. Everyone found something they liked on the menu which included surprisingly affordable signature cocktails for the neighborhood.

Some of us decided Ghirardelli ice cream was a needed dessert item. After that, we split off from the other 9 folks we dined with and ended up at 52Eighty, a rooftop bar at the Mile North Hotel. The deck itself was small - maybe a dozen seating areas. We had to wait for an outdoor seating area in the indoor portion, which was still nice. Soft club music and an old movie projected on the wall was the entertainment.

We walked back to the hotel - which was far - thinking we'd visit one more location. We popped into the Renaissance Hotel only to find they changed their sedate piano lounge into a modern clubby-thing. We decided this was not our last call drink place. We turned the corner and headed into State and Lake. We were seated right away but no one came over to serve us. We left. After two strikes we said we were out and headed to the Palmer House and to bed.

Saturday was race expo day. Our party was spread all over the city when lunch time came. We picked Dick's Last Resort on the river and had an advance team save two deck tables. They called for backup so we sent Holly and Eddie ahead to help secure the tables. In the end 2 tables for 14 were secured. You don't go to Dick's for the food or decor....you go there for fun and the  river-side patio. We had a great time watching the boat traffic go by, including a bikini-clad Christmas in July themed cruiser.....Ya never know what you're gonna get.


Dave made our dinner reservations for a party of 15 several weeks before our event. Imagine our surprise walking up to the podium to find they didn't have our ressie. The manager was far from being helpful or apologetic. We put our local knowledge to use and remembered we were close to the Italian Village restaurant. Their basement area, La Cantina, could accommodate us. We walked the few blocks over and found we had a long table in a semi-private room. Within a half hour it became a private room. Service was excellent and the food was pretty good too. Worked out perfect....

We'll stop here and save Sunday's fun for another post.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

July Polar Vortex

The current Chicago weather pattern is just wrong. July in Chicago usually averages temps the mid-80's with nice hot days in the 90's. This July we've been wearing hoodies a lot. It was in the fifties going into the office the other morning. Really can't enjoy our limited amount of summertime to its fullest: too cold to boat, fill up the kiddie pool, etc. Even Tizzel is wearing a hoodie at nights. The vortex is just mean regardless of the time of year it appears.



This is the only good Polar Vortex:


Since there hasn't been much to share about what's going on, here are some random items:

Spotify Playlist
Found the Upbeat + Summer Fun playlist on Spotify while on the treadmill. Lots of great songs on this list at a decent enough tempo to keep the workout interesting. You can sign up for a free Spotify account and link it to your Facebook, Twitter, etc. You can also follow playlists developed by other users, or make your own. On the iPad and Mac versions we are able to listen to full albums.

If this embedded playlist isn't supported by your browser you can look up the Upbeat + Summer Fun playlist directly in the app:



Mush's Blog

Our friend and Team AllEars teammate Chris posted the final installment of his WDW Marathon report. This was Chris' first marathon and it's been fun to follow along.  Check out his latest post through this link.

Upcoming Weekend
This weekend we are heading to Chicago to meet up with friends coming in from across the country to participate in the Rock and Roll Chicago Race Festival Weekend. This is the 6th running of this race and Holly currently has a perfect streak. Some of our group will be doing the half  marathon while others will do the 5K (and stop calling it a mini marathon). R&R has been dealing Chicago some raw deals on the headliner acts for the after party. While Virginia Beach gets Train, we get Cold War Kids. Who?

We know that we are dining with a smaller group at Ditka's on Friday and having a larger group dinner at Pizano's Saturday. We're spending Sunday night in town as well and are thinking about having dinner at RL Restaurant.

Magnets
On our sidebar you will see some thumbnail pictures of various magnets that represent the spirit of various runDisney race events. Our friend Michael is selling these magnets in support of various charities. Purchases of the WDW Half Marathon magnet will support one of our recent Charities of the Month: Save-a-Pet no-kill shelter.

To purchase this particular magnet, click this link.

For the main magnet page, click this link.

Fall Race Schedule
Unfortunately Holly's first marathon of the fall season is 2 months away. It is unfortunate because that means fall is almost here and we haven't even had a summer yet. Currently scheduled marathons include: Top of Utah, Hartford Marathon, and the Route 66 Marathon. As usual Dave will be race chasing all these events.

Speaking of race chasing.... Our guide Race Chase is still available at www.racechasebook.com. Runners can find out how to plan for a destination race while their family and friends can learn the tricks to finding runners multiple times on the course.

That's about it for now. In upcoming weeks we should have some updates from our Chicago weekend and the R&R races.  For now we'll leave you with some pictures from The Chain o' Lakes: