Brookfield Zoo

May 23rd, 2016 No comments

Giraffes

It’s been a few years since we visited Brookfield zoo so Joe snagged free passes from the library on Thursday thanks to the Museum Adventure Pass program in Illinois. We debated what day to visit since the passes are good for a week and settled on Monday thinking it wouldn’t be too crowded since many kids are still in school and it’s too late in the year for field trips. Boy were we wrong! I’ve never seen so many kids – it was ridiculous. The line to get into the zoo was the longest I’ve seen considering we got there just as it opened. Usually the early bird gets the worm but not this time. I’m not sure if that’s because they don’t open until 10 am but I think we would have been better off going on a Sunday.

Despite wanting to leave the second we got there, we braved the crowds since it cost us $11 for parking. We didn’t go into all the animals buildings, however, since that’s where the highest concentration of screaming kids and strollers could be found.

Every time we visit the zoo I feel more and more sorry for the dolphins. They have the most unimaginative tank to swim around in. There’s absolutely nothing in it – just a concrete tank for these amazingly intelligent creatures. It feels cruel and I waver between loving seeing the animals to hating that my patronage pays for them to have such unfulfilling lives. Anyway…

We skipped the section that has the red pandas because it’s $3 to get in and more likely than not they’d be asleep. Plus my friend went recently and they don’t really have an exhibit that’s conducive to photography.

I was happy to get a photo of an animal I’ve never seen before called Prevost’s Squirrel. Isn’t it cute?

Prevost's Squirrel

I also got a decent photo of the snow leopard with his eyes open!

Leopard

My favorite section of the zoo is the giraffe exhibit because it’s huge and I love how quiet and gentle the giraffes are. I could watch them for hours. This one was cracking me up with his long tongue.

Giraffe

I don’t remember there being pelicans at the zoo before but there was a whole group of them by the pond near the south entrance.

Pelican

Despite wanting to take our time and enjoy the weather, we couldn’t help but be done with the place in two hours. I think next time we’ll try arriving at 2 pm to see if that goes any better. Maybe by then a lot of people, particularly school groups, will be heading home.

Or maybe the zoo could consider having an adults only day? Yea, I know, it will never happen because it wouldn’t be very profitable. But boy would it be nice not to have little kids running into me and almost getting mowed down by strollers. Plus adults go stupid when they’re with their kids. How else can you explain all the grown people standing directly in front of the doors to the restrooms blocking foot traffic?

Categories: Excursions, Photos Tags:

I Ate Too Much This Weekend & Hung Out With My Brother

May 23rd, 2016 No comments

Friday morning we HAD to stop at Target after the movie to take advantage of the junk food that was on sale. Seriously, the healthiest thing in our cart was the non-artificially sweetened ketchup! Doritos were $1.50 and there were cupcake flavored Oreos on clearance. It’s no wonder I can’t lose weight! Joe works out like a fiend so he can’t go hog wild on the weekends and he’s still lean and muscular. I hate that.

After dropping the groceries off at home we decided to catch a matinee showing of Angry Birds. I was really looking forward to seeing it but it was just ok. It’s funny how the two movies I was looking forward to were just average but I really enjoyed the one Joe wanted to see (Captain America Civil War). I guess I should let him choose all the movies from now on.

After putzing around the house a bit we headed to Hickory Hills to meet up with E and his girlfriend to have dinner. We’ve been trying to find places that have Groupons since I can get Groupon Bucks from our Discover card cash back. That way very little is spent out of pocket. We got a $40 Groupon for The Sock Bar and Grill so our bill was only $1.58; with tip our total OOP was $10. Not too shabby for four people to eat and Joe to drink a few beers. We probably spent closer to $20 though – since E was running late Joe and I played two games of darts while we waited. It brought back memories to when we first starting hanging out and would play darts fairly regularly at two specific sports bars. After dinner E and his girlfriend played a game of darts as well which we paid for and Joe had one last beer (which was only $1.50).

Saturday morning we got up early (6:30) and rode our bikes over to Camera Park and did a few laps. In total it was only 5 miles which is not much for Joe but was enough for me as I get used to biking. There’s a pond at the park that is full of wildlife. I stopped to rest while Joe did an additional loop and I spotted ducks, two egrets, and lots of songbirds. I think there was even a beaver dam. I plan to go back there soon with my camera.

Later Saturday morning we went to the JustPlay! festival in Carol Stream and walked around. Most of what they have is geared toward kids although there was a zip line that looked interesting but the line was too long and I’m afraid of heights so we decided to skip it. After tiring of all the people watching we headed to Walmart for a few things.

Back at home we were just lounging around enjoying the breeze from having all the windows open when my brother (B) texted to ask what we had going on. I invited him over and after some back and forth discussing specifics he eventually arrived at 4 pm. We played bags for awhile, mostly while Joe was picking up a deep dish pizza from Lou Malnati’s. We still had the $25 bonus certificate from December which is only good through June so might as well.

After dinner and chatting we watched a comedy special on Amazon Prime and Joe was falling asleep so he went up to bed. B and I stayed up to watch another special until I found myself dozing on the couch. It was midnight by that point. B decided to spend the night and we went to bed.

Sunday I was up at 6:30 again and after realizing I wasn’t going to be able to sleep any longer I played on my phone for awhile and then worked out on the elliptical for 45 minutes. B finally got up around 9:30 am and we all had breakfast while discussing what to do on such a beautiful day. We decided on visiting Northside Park in Wheaton because they have a zip line there. Unfortunately there were a ton of kids using it so we just walked around the paths there. We spotted an Eastern Kingbird (which I’ve never seen before and was only able to identify thanks to my trusty Merlin Bird ID app) and a Baltimore Oriole. We also saw some very small, yet very loud, frogs in one of the water logged areas. The park was looking real good and with all that wildlife I’m itching to go back with my camera.

After the park we went to Bulldog Ale House to take advtange of their 39¢ wings on Sundays. I always get the garlic parmesean. Joe got sweet chili and B got savory boubon and garlic parm. B also ordered some warm soft pretzels as an appetizer to share because he treated us to lunch which was real nice and appreciated.

We didn’t do much after lunch but hang out at the house. B and I played a game on the PS3 which I had borrowed from the library – The LEGO Movie Videogame – which was really cute. It’s not quite as fun to play as other LEGO games I’ve played but I liked how it follows the movie plot as it progresses. I don’t think B enjoyed it as much since he hasn’t seen the movie.

B took off at 6 pm and we spent the rest of the evening watching shows off the DVR since it’s going away on Tuesday. I was so sleepy that I went to bed at 9:30 even though it took me awhile to actually fall asleep. That happens a lot – I will be falling asleep on the couch but when I get upstairs I lay in bed awhile. Weird.

Categories: Family, Food, Fun & Games, Kids Tags:

WOW Weekend

May 16th, 2016 No comments

Ironically enough, after such a lovely Friday, our Saturday was rather blah. The weather was overcast, cold, and windy, so other than a trip to the library, we didn’t leave the house. I read magazines while Joe donated blood. Unfortunately all the people in my immediate area were so obnoxious it did nothing to improve my mood. I found a new (to me) Stephen King book called The Long Walk, though, and spent the afternoon reading half of it and procrastinating on all the things around the house I planned on doing. I ended up doing some of them, like cleaning the rats’ cages, on Sunday when we got back from grocery shopping. I really hate being unproductive but I have these days where I lack all energy and just can’t do shit. I hadn’t even worked out for four days in a row!

We also got sliders from White Castle on Sunday because they had a coupon for two free ones and Joe had a craving. I always think I like White Castle until I start eating them and then I realize for the umpteenth time that they aren’t really that good. Plus they have that moniker for a reason. Enough said.

Today (Monday) I made a point to get up earlier and work out first thing. Then I had a lunch date with my friend who I haven’t seen before Joe lost his job so we got caught up about that and everything else that has happened over the past few months.

When I got home from my four hour lunch (we did some serious chatting, like we always do since we only get together every few months), Joe and I replaced some of the light bulbs in the house. We bought LEDs from Costco, but we also have a bunch of CFLs, so we only put the LEDs in the master bathroom and then used the CFLs to replace a couple of the regular halogen bulbs still being used throughout the house.

Oh, I almost forget – a sales person for WOW (Wide Open West) came to our door on Sunday. We had called them a few weeks ago to get an idea how much it would cost us to switch to them but hadn’t pulled the trigger yet. We’ve been waiting for our shows’ season finales so we can dump cable entirely and switch our internet service. We were going to give Comcast one more opportunity to lower our bill to something more reasonable – we called them twice already and they barely adjusted our bill – since WOW charges a $50 installation fee, but the sales person said he’d waive it. That cinched it for us and we made an appointment to get their internet installed a week from today. We going to drop our equipment off at the Comcast office and cancel their service that same afternoon. They had their chance and they blew it.

Right now we’re paying $183 to Comcast for basic+ digital cable (with a DVR), internet, and home security. Once WOW is installed we’ll be paying around $100 total ($40+ taxes to WOW for internet and $40+ taxes to Comcast for the security service IF we choose to keep it (we’re working on a DIY solution)). That’s a savings of over $80! Comcast tries to make it sound like the cable is a negligible add-on cost but it doesn’t seem like that after reviewing the competition’s pricing. WOW’s internet speeds are only 15 MB slower for $30 less and still plenty fast enough to stream Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime so it’s not like we’ll be wanting for something to watch.

It will be very interesting to see how we adapt to the lack of live tv, however. Doing this during the summer is the best time to experiment since we should be spending more of our time outdoors anyway. We can always add basic cable to our WOW package for something like $10 a month extra anyway so I’m not too worried. Losing the DVR will take some getting used to, though. I really love being able to watch tv on my own time, but oh well, it’s not like this change has to be forever. If we truly see value and miss the service we can set up something similar with WOW.

The ironic thing is that once we’ve fulfilled our one year contract with WOW we could switch back to Comcast if we’re so inclined and I’m willing to bet will give us a way better deal than they would to retain our business. Companies are so dumb.

Categories: Life Tags:

A Lovely Friday

May 13th, 2016 No comments

This morning I fixed myself a glass of iced green tea with lemonade to sip on while we visited some garage sales. I enjoy hunting for bargains even though I rarely buy anything, and today was no exception.

It was one of those beautiful weather days where just driving around with the windows open made me feel so happy. I imagine it’s what retirement would be like. At one point we made a pit-stop at Starbucks and hung out there for awhile while Joe nursed a vanilla latte. We also split one of their breakfast sandwiches even though I wouldn’t recommend them. We have a ton of credit on our card, though, and there was a coupon, so I didn’t feel too guilty.

I think I prefer estate sales to garage sales because I enjoy seeing the inside of other people’s homes. We went to one today where I got total house envy. The place was huge and had a beautiful bright kitchen with a breakfast nook to die for. There was also an awesome deck off the kitchen. Sigh.

A little after lunchtime we went to Costco where we bought some LED light bulbs. ComEd keeps telling me we use more energy than all our neighbors and it’s driving me crazy because I don’t know why that would be. Maybe replacing some bulbs will help. Fridays are great days for free samples too. Between them and the $1.50 hot dogs in their cafe I’m feeling pretty full still. I was really craving Thai food but that would have set us back $20-$25 whereas our Costco lunch was $3.23!

We did some shopping at Target as well where we picked up our favorite new salsa – Jack’s Special Salsa. We got hooked on it when Costco was selling it but they switched out the medium one we like with the cantina style which isn’t nearly as good. I Googled it and learned Target carries it which made us both very happy. Sure, it’s $3.99 for 16 oz which is a third the size that Costco sold for only $4.99 but what can you do? I hope Costco switches back to it at some point.

It’s supposed to be only 55° plus cloudy and windy tomorrow so I plan to do some stuff around the house I’ve been meaning to get done. We will be making a trip to the library in the morning, however, because Joe is giving blood.

Categories: Food, Life Tags:

Mother’s Day

May 10th, 2016 No comments

I was feeling rather bummed Sunday morning lying in bed thinking about how neither of my step-children ever acknowledge me on Mother’s Day (not that I would expect K to since she literally hasn’t spoken to either of us in nearly four years). Basically I was having a little pity party for myself. Then I walked downstairs and was greeted with some gifts from Joe.

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I should have taken a photo before moving everything, including the single red rose which I already put in water.

He also sent me a long touching email that brought tears to my eyes. I’m so lucky to have him and it really made me feel better. One of the things he said in his email was how I’ve been such a positive influence on his kids, and I hope I have been. I always took the high road even when I knew their mom was bad-mouthing us to them. I also tried my best to do things they would enjoy, and cook meals I know they would like. I don’t, nor did I ever, expect them to fawn over me or anything, but a little acknowledgement on this day would be nice. Ah well, you can’t have it all. I’m so glad I have such a wonderful husband who appreciates me and how I’ve treated his children at least.

Speaking of, Joe made us a nice big breakfast of pancakes (banana and chocolate chip, yum), scrambled eggs, and turkey sausage.

We headed over to my mom’s in the afternoon, arriving around 3 pm.

I invited my cousin over and she got there a bit before we did but no one answered the door when she knocked. That’s typical even though everyone was home as my mom was in the bathroom, my dad was in the back bedroom, and Brother # 1 was in the basement so no one could hear the door.

B (formerly known as Brother # 2) (who lives with his girlfriend at her parents house as of a few months ago) arrived a little later with some ribs and oven browns (potatos) from a place called Hog Wild. I’m not really a fan of ribs but these were really good! J (formerly known as Brother # 1) went out and got KFC too so we all stuffed our faces before going outside to play bags (aka cornhole). We also played What’s Yours Like? because that’s the game my mom chose for her special day.

At some point between games my mom opened her gifts. B gave her photos of him from his 30th birthday party and graduation. J gave her some DVDs including a season of The Middle. I wanted to get her some flameless candles she could use when decorating since she’s allergic to scented ones. Unfortunately everything I found was either ugly or had scent added so I amde her a gift instead:

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She seemed to like them so that’s good.

Since we arrived so early we were able to hang out a long time and still leave at a respectable hour (9:30 pm) so we didn’t end up going to bed at 2 am.

Categories: Family, Holidays, Photos Tags: