Friday, May 27, 2011

Friday Favorite

With the long weekend ahead of me, I thought I'd share my favorite weekend trip: The Annual Cedar Point Adventure.

Since 2007, a group of my friends and I have always spent one weekend in the summer driving to Sandusky, Ohio, to visit Cedar Point. Not only is this my favorite weekend trip, it is also my favorite budget vacation. Because we all stay in one room, the cost of everything for the weekend usually only adds up to $150 a person! What a steal. The coasters here are definitely worth the drive, too. The Maverick, seen in the photo, is the only coaster in the Midwest that curves further than 90 degrees on it's first drop!

I suggest that if you plan a trip here, you take either an early summer trip or a late summer trip, to avoid the heat while waiting in long lines. Otherwise, you could also visit during the fall weekends, where they have their "Halloweekend" theme. Awesome!

Happy Friday, y'all! And have a safe and happy Memorial Day Weekend :)

Master Packer

Throughout the past few years, I have become very skilled at packing for trips thanks to lots of practice.  As Memorial Day weekend approaches (FINALLY!) and I find myself packing yet again for a new adventure to Pennsylvania, I thought I'd share with all of you some of my packing tips to keep your travels organized.

Though it usually doesn't look as neat on the way back home, having an organized luggage helps you keep track of what to bring along with you and what doesn't make the cut. Usually, the first thing I separate are the things that need to be with me on the plane from the things that can be checked in. Then, I separate certain sections for different parts of my luggage.
    • I always start with the clothes on the bottom layer of the luggage. 
    • Then, I use a flat, canvas bag to separate my clothes from the toiletries. I've become really good at this after I had a long trip to the Philippines and opened my luggage with the horror of travel-sized detergent seeping through my toiletries into my clothes section. Horrible.
    • Always put your toiletries facing upward in their bags, and then put their entire toiletry bag(s) facing upward as well. This will prevent anything that breaks open to seep as much as it could. Another tip is to go ahead and tape the cover of each liquid bottle to be extra safe.
    • I like to make sure that when I initially start packing, the expandable zipper is zipped up. That way, once I know I have everything I need, I can always expand to fit.
    • I keep gallon-sized zip lock bags in my luggage for the end of the trip. It helps to put anything that is still wet (bathing suits, towels, liquid bottles) in these bags so that nothing else gets wet.
Eventually, your luggage will be like a layered puzzle.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Friday Favorite

I'm sorry, I'm sorry! And yet, who am I apologizing to? :) Happy Friday, readers! My weeks have been filled with substitute teaching adventures, and though they prove to be interesting at times, it has been a challenge to come back here and jot some things down.

So here's a short Friday Favorite for y'all. Since I went to the extreme last week, how about this week I do my favorite relaxing adventure?

Hawaii will forever be imprinted in my memory as one of the best trips I've ever taken.  While we went on lots of excursions during this trip, many of them were spent finding some of the best beaches to lay out a towel and just chill.  This beach, in particular, would count as my favorite relaxing adventure.  Totally secluded and hidden behind a residential community, Lanikai Beach is situated in Oahu, home to tons of awesome beaches.  Lanikai, though, totally fit the mood of "just lay back, and relax." The waves were minimal, water was super DUPER clear, and you had a view of two little islands off in the distance. The cherry on top? Sand as soft as a memory foam mattress! Wonderful.

As I sit in the high school library of the school I'm currently subbing at, I'm a little sad that I can't be there right now. Why just a little sad? Because it's payyyy dayyyy y'all! Woohoo!

Have a good weekend! It's gonna be hot!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Friday Favorite

Wow, has a week really passed since the last time I blogged? Good thing I've got Friday Favorites to keep me grounded! I apologize, readers. This week's Friday Favorite: my favorite extreme adventure.

This one was in a close race with sky diving back in 2008. The winner by a hair: zip lining in Phuket, Thailand!

We started the adventure with a 15 minute hike all the way up to the first station out of 14, and that alone was a feat! Zip lining from station to station, back down to the bottom of the forest was amazing. You're in the middle of the forest, so at the very top you have an incredible view of all the trees surround us - some were hundreds of years old and super tall! To make the experience even more special, I went with two people I love to go on adventures with: my dad and Matt. The three of us out in the forest of Phuket, zip lining, made for great company. 
Nothing beats your first time doing something, and this was no exception. If I had the opportunity to zip line somewhere else, I'd definitely take it, but I don't think it could ever replace the awesomeness that took place in the forests of Phuket, Thailand back in the summer of 2010 ;)

Happy Friday the 13th, y'all!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Friday Favorite

Kicking off my Friday Favorites with one of my favorite little surprises:

While there are many things I loved about my first trip to Hawaii, one of them had to be this. The McDonald's in Honolulu gives a cup of pineapple with your breakfast meal! It doesn't even replace your hashbrown... you get that, too!

Have a good weekend, folks!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

"It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood"

The clouds gave way to sun early this morning, so I got up and dressed and... rushed to make it to McDonalds around the block for breakfast! Making it with 5 minutes to spare, I thought I'd do a little bit of exploring in the area that I currently reside in: Bridgeport.

I grew up in a neighboring area, so Bridgeport is nothing new to me. But watching this area grow into something quite comparable to a suburb near the city has left an impression on me.  Here are two new places I ventured out to today:

Henry C. Palasimo Fishing Pond:
I drive by this fishing pond every day on my way to and from home, but just now decided to finally check it out. Growing up, this area used to be a rock quarry, which didn't really bring much beauty to Bridgeport.  In the past few years, it has been redeveloped into something that the neighborhood can not only use, but also be proud of.  The quarry has been transformed into a fishing pond, which is uniquely hidden below the towering structure of what was once the quarry.  Green hilly areas have been established, and in the mornings you can see dozens of elderly and youthful people hiking around the paths created on the hills for exercise.  In the winter, kids love to hit the slopes here for some awesome sledding excursions and in the summer I'm sure there are tons of kids heading down to the pond to try their luck at catching some fish. 

 The pathway leading to the fish pond.

 Birds chilling out in the hot sun and the cool water.

 Large dock area for fishers of all kinds.

 A little background on the fishing pond

 Pathway and sitting area overlooking the city

 Bridgeport's view of the Chicago skyline

St. Barbara's Church off in the distance
At the top of the hills, you can find a wonderful view of what I'd like to call the "everyday worker's skyline," as the Chicago skyline is a backdrop to I-55 and the I-94 E/W splits.  It also gives you a great view of Bridgeport area, with churches standing tall in a few directions.  One day, when I finally admit that my metabolism just isn't what it used to be, I'll get a bit of exercise here. One day...

Cermak Fresh Foods:
Bridgeport inhabitants have been patiently awaiting the arrival of this new grocery store to the neighborhood.  As a kid, this spot used to be a Jewel-Osco, and once I was in college the store closed down (I'd say most likely due to it being the oldest and smallest looking Jewel in all of Chicago!) What stunk about Jewel leaving this area is that many of the people that lived here now had to travel by car to the nearest full grocery stores, which are two Dominick's locations (one further west and the other further northeast).  For a while, all that was in walking distance to the heart of Bridgeport was two pharmacies: CVS and Walgreens.  While CVS has recently revamped their store floor to include a better grocery section, the two pharmacies still couldn't fill in the gap that Bridgeport had without a grocery store.

Now, the day has finally come! Cermak Fresh Foods has taken over the old Jewel-Osco spot, bringing life to a somewhat subdued area. And when I say "life," I mean it! I tried a few times to circle the block to find street parking due to an already congested parking lot and ended up finally settling for a spot down the street (out of sheer luck).  Note to self: the next time I go to Cermak Fresh Foods, I will walk there and bring my shopping cart.

When you finally get past the parking and reach the entrance of Cermak, tons of in season produce welcomes you before you even go inside. And then, on the inside, you're greeted by more and more produce that was the main set back of having just two pharmacies within walking distance of the area.  The food selection is terrific and prices are great when you compare them to Jewel and Dominick's.  The one drawback (and this might just be because of it being opening day): super duper long check out lines. While it's a sure sign of early success for this grocery store, it was a little overwhelming to go into almost every aisle and seeing half of it consumed by people waiting in line to pay for their things.  I'm sure that this will die down in a month, but for now, I'll probably only shop here during the late evening, just to make sure I avoid any long waits.

 Surprisingly, maybe only a third of the produce section

 Long lines for check out crowded dry foods aisles such as this one

 Though a small sea food section, you can find fresh (and fast) crab

 Totally reminded me of Chinatown markets, with the baskets and baskets of crabs

One whole side of the market was dedicated to fresh meats and poultry! Definitely a great location to buy grilling meat for the summer.

 Customers waiting (patiently) to buy their share of the market.

Cashiers hard at work!

With just these two sights alone, I'm sure that many Bridgeport inhabitants (does "Bridgeportites" sound reasonable?) are happy that their area is alive and happening quite like it was when I was a kid.  Now people who live here can try their luck at fishing for the meal, or, if they come out empty handed, can just walk  5 minutes away to Cermak Fresh Foods to grab some fish for dinner ;)

Till next time!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

It's Official! Chicago Celebrates the Youngest MVP in History!

While this isn't really a new adventure for me, many of my funnest adventures have come from going to the United Center to watch my beloved Chicago Bulls tear up the NBA. Today, history was made when our hometown boy, Derrick Rose, won MVP - coming in as the youngest player to win the award.

I could go on and on about this guy and his accomplishments, but all I really need to tell you is to watch him in action. Congrats, Rose! GO BULLS!