Thursday, August 27, 2015

We are Tired! Chicago/Wisconsin Weekend

Lately we've been the poster kids for the phrase "work hard, play hard". Lots going on at both our jobs and Holly's car died on her far from home. It took over a week to fix and we just finally got her back. When the opportunity to spend an overnight in Chicago became an option, we jumped on the chance to enjoy a fun night out. In our usual burn-the-candle-at-both-ends approach, we took this little jaunt right before a weekend trip to Wisconsin (which really isn't far) for a wedding.


Dave had a late-day cardiologist appointment in the city (all good!) and we decided we could Hotwire a room and stay overnight. We found a decent price for the Sofitel (we read the reviews for context clues to predict before we book), which is a property we don't mind. The rooms are smallish, but the bathrooms are spacious and pretty.

Dave's goal for the day was to tour two rooftop lounges we have not visited. First we went to Vertigo Sky Lounge. We arrived pretty close to opening time, but found the nice looking rooftop empty. When we tried to order a drink we were told the event starts at five. They were closed for a convention party. After that let-down (we will try another time since it was nice) we went to the Godfrey Hotel to try their lounge. The outdoor area was closed for a private party, and the inside lounge tables were all taken or blocked off. We ended up with beers at the inside bar. Ugh.... At least the bartender was nice and we met a brewer for Deschutes.

After those two fails we kept our sights on ground level bars for fear of another shut-out. We opted for BlackFinn Ameripub because we remembered from prior research they had a decent beer list. Lots on tap to choose from with reasonable prices for the tourist town area. We had pints of Scurry from Off Color.

We know everyone is waiting for it: the next stop was Three Dots and a Dash. We lucked into some bar seats and settled in since dinner wouldn't be for another two hours. A benefit of serving each drink in its signature glass is it allows patrons to keep easier track of the beverages they have sampled. This visit we tried:

For dinner we paid a repeat visit to RPM Steak. We had great food during our first visit, but a horrible table in the overflow room. This time we made sure we would be seated in the main room and received a nice booth. The food was wonderful once again: Bacon appetizer, Parker House rolls, and nice filet mignons. We opted out of desert in favor of having a final drink at The Peninsula Hotel's bar.

Breakfast the next morning came from Stan's Donuts. Dave bought a few before his his doctor's appointment (tip: Don't walk into your cardiologist visit with a sack of donuts) and our chosen favors included Biscoff, Captain Crunch, and Banana Nutella. They were good, but huge which made eating a whole one in a sitting challenging.


Our local brewery (Chain o' Lakes) was celebrating their 2nd anniversary with releases of special barrel-aged beers throughout the day. We enjoyed a few beers in the Biergarten, listened to some live music, and had some decent brats served on pretzel buns. It was a great event, but we couldn't stay long because we had to head to...

Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

We were attending a wedding in nearby Lake Geneva, which is a town that was developed by Chicago's elite in the late 1800's. Mansions line the lake and the town offers dining, shopping, tacky t-shirts, and hordes of people that can't walk when the light turns green or follow traffic signs. We planned to stay over two nights at Geneva Ridge because of the hotel's booking policy.

We had a great time Saturday celebrating the marriage of a fantastic young couple, catching up with friends, and enjoying the terrace overlooking Lake Como. Best wishes to Mike and Nora.

Sunday we forced ourselves out of bed (we may have stayed out late) on an overcast morning to take the 10am Mailboat Cruise on Lake Geneva. Holly has never taken a cruise on the lake while Dave has taken two. The Mailboat is a large 75' boat that slows down at docks to let a teenager jump off, deliver mail to a lakeside mailbox, and jump back on. On Sunday they deliver papers. Luckily for us the skies and rain cleared up as soon as we left the dock and we had a very pleasant cruise.

We toured a few stores in town (most of our favorite places have closed), toured the craft fair, and had our first so-so experience at Sprecher. We returned to the hotel exhausted and even had thoughts of packing it in and going home. After relaxing a bit at the pool we felt better and had a nice time enjoying the patio bar area (great fire pit) and an almost private dining experience in the Lakeview Lounge.

The next morning we left separately for work. At one time there was a conversation about seeing the One Direction concert Tuesday night at Soldier Field. Thank goodness we didn't follow through with those plans. Hopefully we don't get some crazy ideas for the upcoming weekend (ignoring all ads for Chicago Food and Wine Festival). Even though we don't take advantage of most area events and attractions it is nice to be in a location where you can do so many things within a 90 minute drive.


Friday, August 14, 2015

August Charity of the Month: Children of the Wilderness

Charity of the Month is the way Team Tizzel is helping to support some very worthy organizations. As part of this program, we dedicate a post to a charity that we will sponsor that month.

July: We sponsored the UNICEF U.S. Fund to help victims of the earthquake that hit Nepal a few months ago. We donated $125 to UNICEF through their online link at

August's Charity:

Children in the Wildreness

We took our first trip to Africa in 2005 when we visited Botswana, Zambia, and South Africa. We fell in love with every aspect of that trip (except the long layovers in Heathrow and 11+ hour flights) which included stunning nature, close encounters with wildlife, and kind people with strong ties to their culture. Most of the great memories from our trips to Africa are associated with our guides and camp staff. They are the ones who infect you with the desire to return.

The camps we have stayed at are owned and managed by a company named Wilderness Safaris. These small camps are focused on giving guests the best natural experience Africa has to offer. They do not allow hunting, and our guides in Botswana were not armed. The safety of the animals is paramount and there will never be a swarm of vehicles invading their spaces. Wildreness Safari camps work in partnership with the local communities helping to educate and provide jobs for further sustainability. Wildreness Safaris is also working with many organizations to reintroduce the black rhino to Botswana. We look forward to returning to Wildreness Safari camps in November when we visit Namibia.

Children in the Wildreness is the charity arm of Wildreness Safaris. Their education programs give local children an appreciation for the environment and teach them how to protect it. Long term programs help to provide career opportunities in the growing safari industry, which can help lead to job opportunities anywhere around the world.

From their website:

Children in the Wilderness is a non-profit organisation supported by ecotourism company Wilderness Safaris to facilitate sustainable conservation through leadership development and education of rural children in Africa.

Insight, care and commitment are required to conserve Africa’s pristine wilderness and wildlife areas. If we are to ensure that these places continue to exist – in this generation and those to come – we need the rural children of Africa to understand the importance of conservation and its relevance in their lives. Hence, our Children in the Wilderness programme: an environmental and life skills educational programme for children, focusing on the next generation of decision-makers; inspiring them to care for their natural heritage and to become the custodians of these areas in the future.

To learn more, visit the Children in the Wildrenss website and check out the donation link to find some very affordable ways you can help.



Sunday, August 9, 2015

More from a Chicago Weekend July 2015

Holly covered the Rock and Roll Chicago Half Marathon in our last post. Here are some other highlights from our recent weekend in Chicago.

Rock and Roll 10K

While Holly ran the Rock and Roll Half, Dave joined a few friends in the Rock and Roll 10K. This was the first R&R 10K in our area and we originally guessed it would run the first 6 miles of the half course, giving us a nice tour of popular Chicago landmarks. Silly us....... We were given the last 6.2 miles of the half course which meant our start line was a mile away from the main start and our view was of a less-spectacular part of the city. We got to "enjoy" not having enough porta-potties at the start, with most never stocked with paper.  For Dave the course was ok for a one-and-done since we are "local" and do not frequent that part of town. If we came to town planning that the 10K would hit Chicago's highlights we would have been mad.

We watched most of the Andy Grammar post-race show and we actually enjoyed most of the songs. He's the kinda singer that you've heard their songs but had no idea who sang them.

Our room came with a guard dog. We named him Spartacus.
Virgin Hotel

We used to book our weekend accommodations. We have discovered that if you read ALL the reviews of a hotel offer, and our familiar with your destination, you can figure out where you could be staying. After much investigation we found we had a decent offer available for the new Virgin Hotel. This is the first ever hotel for the record label / airline.
It was a wonderful experience. The staff was very pleasant and very customer focused. We were asked why we were in town and responded that we came in for the race. After being in the room for ten minutes a staff member visited to give us a Kind Bar and bottle of water with a hand written card saying good luck.

Our room was spacious given the very different layout of a two-section chamber. Your shower is actually part of the room and not in a separate bathroom. The mini bar is not a rip-off and guests can enjoy free drinks at social hour each night in The Commons Club. By free, we mean whatever you want (we think within reason) so the signature cocktail menu was not off limits. The restaurant decor was a mix of modern with kitschy casual. We did not seem to fit-in with the other clientele: model types, GQ fashionistas, and ladies dressed up for a big night out. But what was nice was the staff never gave us odd looks or made us feel out of place. If you need a quick ride and the car is available you can get a lift in the Tesla (we did - fun!). The hotel also has a rooftop bar (which you know we love) but it was a bit small and cramped for our taste with few outdoor seating options.

Food and Drink

Places we visited during the weekend:

Cerise: Rooftop at the Virgin Hotel. Beer list was lacking and it was a bit small compared to other rooftops. We didn't make it to the lower-level indoor bar, but we all need goals.....

Three Dots and a Dash: the basement tiki bar was able to accommodate our (then) group of five for 90 minutes at a table. We had fun finding out the guys at the next table flew to Chicago just to visit this bar. We delighted them by pointing out the bar's founder moved on to open another tiki bar in the city's north side. We came home with some unneeded drinking vessels.

Bottlefork: We stopped here for a drink before dinner and enjoyed the outdoor communal table. The beer list was unique, but not deep. The cocktail list looked tempting and the food that passed by looked great. Maybe next time we will spend more time here.
Weber Grill: Our friend Charlie said he loved Weber Grill during another visit to Chicago so we figured we'd get a ressie for our party of nine. As "locals" we often forget about Weber Grill since the city always buzzes about new restaurant openings. The food was great and reasonably priced for being in tourist central. We discovered a local beer we liked from Off Color - Scurry Dark Honey Ale.
McCormick and Schmick's: We went here for a few reasons: 1) Too early to go to bed, 2) Weather was awesome, 3) Patio on Wacker looking at the Trump Tower and Wrigley Building, 4) $50 gift card leftover from Christmas. Specialty Berry Mule was nice.
The Common Club: Virgin Hotel's second floor bar serves most day-parts with food and great cocktails. The crowd is a bit fashionable, but there's enough casual around to make anyone feel welcome (board games, comic books, light fixtures made of toys).
Jake Melnik's: Frequent readers are not shocked we stopped here. Great food and beer list just two blocks away from the madness of the Mag Mile. Everyone in our party enjoyed their food including BBQ sandwich of chicken, pork, and brisket and Jake's famous chicken wings. Be sure to try the PB & J wings.
Howells and Hood: (Another shocker) Stopped to have beer on the patio (over 120 on tap to pick from) but then the deluge arrived when the waitress brought our drinks to the table. Headed inside to keep out of the massive downpour.
Pizano's Pizza: We had problems here last year when they lost our reservation for 16 people and we had to make other plans rather quickly. A voicemail left for the owner ended with a personal apology and a gift card. Now Pizano's is on and they worked with us as we switched our headcount a few times. Folks enjoyed their pizzas and huge bowls of pasta. The generous gift card covered all 10 people with a few bucks leftover.

First Draft: Dave discovered this Printer's Row location last year and wanted to share his find with friends. Great beer list with unique options like a cucumber wheat and grapefruit radler served over ice with vodka, The poutine and burgers were excellent.

Fortunately we had a pretty successful weekend.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Holly's 2015 Chicago Rock and Roll Half Marathon Report

Hopefully you read my post about coming back to races after surgery. This would be my first race back and I was both excited and very nervous. I was hoping to get a decent time for this race and use it as a proof of time for a better corral at the Star Wars Half Marathon at Disneyland coming up in January. My training times were going well so I was optimistic. Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate. The forecast was looking like a typical summer July day, hot and humid. The forecast was correct so I threw out the time goals and just wanted to finish the race and not feel horrible.

Dave and I got up at 4:30 am and headed over to the Palmer House to meet up with the rest of our friends (we got a Hotwire deal for the new Virgin Hotel - loved it!). Soon we were on our way to the start corrals (Dave and a few friends trekked farther south to the 10k start).

It was quite humid and we all said we would just slow it down and today was all about survival. It took forever to cross the start line but finally we were racing. I was so excited to be finally out on the road again. Julie, Stan and myself started off together and stayed together most of the race. We lost Julie at a bathroom stop but Stan and I managed to stay together for the entire race. I felt pretty good except for some normal effects of the heat and humidity. It’s amazing how much that can really drain you.

We had our savior Laura, at Mile 9 or so. She had delicious cold orange slices for us and that was enough to get me to the finish. It was too warm for gels and I was able to stomach only one for the entire race. The dreaded tunnel was as hot and stinky as always, but Stan did a great job of leading the way though it and I was happy to get it behind me. The bands on the course were lacking and I really miss the old days of this race when there were so many bands along the way. They really kept you going.

Finally the finish line was in sight and we saw our friends, Molly, Tom, Jan, and Dave (who missed us completely) (Dave here: We heard that another member of our party was at mile 12 and Holly was just ahead of them. Didn't think they meant that much ahead. I got a picture of her shoe.) cheering us in to the finish. I was very happy to cross a finish line again. I got my medal and my streak of perfect finishes in this race is intact at 7. I was very thankful for the icy cold towel and they brought back the popsicles this year, so good. A special thanks to the Chicago Fire Dept. for having a very nice cooling/misting system set up. It was great. We then headed over to the park to hear Andy Grammar sing and drink a few beers. A great morning. So happy to be back!!!