Helping the Homeless: Small Things Matter

His name: Revolution MacInnes. 

Hearing Rev’s story was inspiring. He used to be homeless, but found out how to get his needs met by using social media. He is no longer homeless, and has started an organization called “Small Things Matter”, in which he wants to use this same method to help others who are still homeless. In particular, he wants to accomplish this by identifying and helping those people whose situations would be improved if they had a small need met, hence the name of the organization.  Eventually, he wants to add questions to the homeless shelter intake forms to identify these small, important needs as quickly as possible.

So what do we mean by a small need? Well, here’s an example. A man named Steve lost his glasses. His inability to see well lost him his job at a car washing business. In losing the job, Steve lost the ability to pay for housing, and ended up homeless. Rev helped him find the resources to get at a new pair of glasses, and Steve was able to both get his old job back and even get a second job working with animals. Those glasses, a relatively small need, made a big difference. And it’s those needs that Small Things Matter hopes to help with.

We’re using social media to increase awareness and find support (which means I actually had to bite the bullet and learn Twitter). But through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and WordPress, the organization has been growing like crazy.

And watching that process has been such an experience.

Rev, Bri (the other intern), and I bring our laptops to a local Starbucks and do our internet-based work together. Now Rev, being a very sociable guy, is not afraid to talk to people sitting around us. Through simply talking to people, he’s found contacts. He’s found other people who are trying to start their own organizations, he’s found computer programmers, and life coaches. In addition, Small Things Matter has connections to cosmetologists, professors, and psychologists. And then there’s the two therapists in training (Bri and me).

So we’ve got this hodgepodge of people with seemingly non-related professions. What good is this? You’ll be amazed. Working with Small Things Matter has taught me an inspiring lesson: anyone can make a difference. Even I, an awkward psychology student with no clinical experience, can do something to help by offering my modest research skills. We’ve been receiving help with our website, support/advice for our research, ideas for fundraisers, and the list keeps growing. People willing to help the homeless in their own way are lending their talents, gifts, and abilities to aid in the cause. It’s this teamwork that is helping this non-profit organization gain more momentum.

So hopefully this has grabbed your attention. Wanna donate your time and talents to helping the homeless? Got ideas or insight? Maybe you’ve got a few bucks you want to give? Heck, perhaps you’re just curious. For more information about Small Things Matter, go to: http://smallthingsmatter.org/

Thank you for reading! God bless!

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Let’s Talk Weather.

The Windy City is full of things I can praise it for, but the weather isn’t one of them.

Chicago's "Snowpocalypse". The people of Georgia would have died in this. Better yet, we probably would have seen the snow coming on Weather Channel and avoided any vehicular activity for the next week.

Chicagoans seem to have an interesting fascination with their weather. If they’re not telling you how cold it is outside, they’re prepping for it during the summer months. Luckily, I’ve heard enough about last year’s “Snowpocalypse” and enough winter-dress advice to stock my wardrobe with a long down-coat, snow boots, thermals, and an armada of scarves.

Something I didn’t realize when moving to Chicago was how seldom the sun comes out during the winter. Had I known this, I would have put a little more thought into coming up here, or at least preparing for it. While I wouldn’t go as far as to say I have Seasonal Affective Disorder, I practically photosynthesize my happiness. Daniel (my boyfriend) maintains that my mood depends strongly on the weather, and has threatened/offered to buy me a light box to shine in my face until I get happy again. I’m starting to think it’s a good idea.

Don’t get me wrong: the weather is tolerable. I throw on my coat, my boots, a scarf, and I skidaddle. The weather itself doesn’t ruin my day. I still love being out when the snow is falling, and I still love playing in powdery seas of white. But I miss the big bright sun! How I took it for granted during my warm Savannah winters!!

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The First Assessment Prac Interview (and first Metra ride).

My comic about how my typical school morning is. (Click for full view)

Getting up for my interview this morning seemed like getting up for any normal school day– running around the apartment, smudging makeup on my face and hoping I don’t accidentally mascara my eye again, gulping down breakfast, and trying not to scream. I zipped into my business suit plus the ten extra layers mandated by Chicago weather (which I regard as a woman who suffers from mood swings and cannot be calmed by chocolate).

The Metra, however, was a wonderful experience, once I got inside Ogilvie and boarded my first ever Metra train. Was I happy? Oh yes indeed. I love trains. I love double-decker buses. So combining them together and giving me cleaner seats than the CTA trains makes me ecstatic. I sat up on the second level and studied up for the interview I had for my assessment practicum*.

(*For those of you who don’t know what assessment practicum is, it’s pretty much giving IQ and personality assessments to people. Inkblots, playing with blocks, asking you to memorize beastly strings of things… I’m hoping to be trained to walk people through that process, score their test, interpret it, and come up with a diagnosis.  Sounds fun, yes? Yes.)

Supposedly, the Metra Rail is where the movie "Source Code" took place.

As I hopped off the train, and didn’t bother stifling a shriek. COLD. WHAT IS IT WITH THIS WEATHER!? I yanked my hood over my head and fled to the nearest coffee shop until my taxi came and brought me to a rather utilitarian building marked with nothing but the building number. I wandered in and after stumbling off the frighteningly jerky elevator (I’ve seen Final Destination. I know how this works), I found the clinic.

My interviewer, one of the psychologists there, finally welcomed me into her office: a dimly-lit, corner office decorated with Asian-themed wall ornaments.

She opened up with confirming that I had no clinical experience. I suppose this should have been a nerve-racking moment, but the coffee I had had earlier was kicking in, and I was up for playing the interview game. And cartwheeling. And Irish dancing.

(For any of you from school who are wondering what some of the questions were:

– What do you feel you bring to our site?
– What would one of your supervisors say was one of your strengths?
– What weaknesses would you say you have?
– Okay, the weakness you gave me can be a strength if you look at it right. Do you have any real weaknesses?
– What is your theoretical orientation?
– What do you do to keep yourself from getting overwhelmed by work?


Overall, I felt the interview went really well, and at times we were laughing together. She spent a significant amount of time explaining how well the site looks after its practicum students. I walked out of there smiling… until I realized I had no cash for the taxi.

The next hour or so was dedicated to wandering around until I found Chase bank, whose only proposed solution was to create a student account with them so I could withdraw money. Before I knew it, I was sitting in a chair in one of the cubicles, awkwardly trying to escape politely. Well, long story short, I managed to find an ATM and rewarded my efforts with a Chalupa from Taco Bell.

Between the nice shop keepers, taxi drivers, and even bankers, my trip out of town was not as hazardous as I had prepared myself for. I can thankfully unload my pepperspray and emergency sandwich from my adventure bag, cross my fingers, and hope that my interview didn’t tank.

Wish me luck, guys!

 

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“Oh. God. No.” – Finding Cafe Ba Ba Reeba

  

Sevilla, Spain

Two summers ago, I studied abroad in Sevilla (Seville in English), a city in Spain’s autonomous state of Andalucia. A beautiful little city, Sevilla was full of culture and most importantly, great food. My favorite dish there wasn’t the famous rice dish, Paella, like I thought it would be. No, it was the delicious and deep-fried ham and cheese croquettas (think mozzarella sticks, but better). Since I left Spain, I’ve dreamed about croquettas. I’ve looked them up on the internet and been afraid to make them (they involve deep frying and I always end up burning myself over and over with hot oil).

Well, it’s a good thing I pay very close attention to the ads on the CTA trains. I saw a sign advertising “Cafe Ba Ba Reeba” a restaurant touting a classy atmosphere and authentic Spanish cuisine. My dopey-hopeful self scrambled through the internet to find a menu. Did they– did they– did they…

YESSSSSSSSSS. Croquetta time. God bless Chicago.

By this time, it was about 11:30 AM, and my roommate had just emerged from the bedroom. Bleary-eyed and still in a nightgown, I asked her if she wanted to come (“Renee. I found a Spanish restaurant and I’ve decided you’re coming with me.”) Between my disregard for others and my tendency to fall asleep when I’m angry, I’ve determined I must actually be a toddler.

One exciting Brown Line ride later, we found ourselves in Lincoln Park. One of 77 communities in Chicago, Lincoln Park used to be the site of Indian settlements. Of course, settlers came in and took over. But in 1889, it became part of the greater Chicago area.

The area is gorgeous, for the most part. Speckled with little boutiques and darling architectural masterpieces, I was really excited to be wandering the streets just off the Armitage stop.

Too bad I lack the ability to follow Mapquest.

I led us in the complete opposite direction of where we should have been walking. As we watched commercial spaces slowly turn into residential neighborhoods, Renee began questioning my logic. Typically, I scold her when she questions the world and more specifically, me,  but when I saw these directional signs, I too began to question.

Even further down that same alley...

Well, after asking a mailman and wandering around for an additional several minutes, we finally began approaching 2024 N. Halstead, and as I stared ahead at where mapquest had led us I kept thinking to myself: “Oh. God. No.”

It looked trashy from the outside. And as we came closer, we saw that it was in fact the Cafe Ba Ba Reeba we were looking for. But once we stepped inside, the atmosphere changed. The inside was beautiful, well-decorated, dimly lit, and cozy. Candles glowed on each table. A display of dangling pig legs, Sangria, and little tapas were reassuring. They hung pig legs in Spain too.

The dangling things are salted pig legs. Don't cringe, the Spaniards know how to work the ham.

We sat down to a very well-set table, and snacked on the bread they brought. If I may make a recommendation when going to Cafe Ba Ba Reeba, use their olive oil as a dipping sauce, with a dash of pepper. It is incredibly tasty when you dip your bread in it. Makes sense– the Spaniards take pride in their olive oil!

Not ten minutes after we had placed our orders, our tapas came out.

  

The picture on the left is of the chicken and ham croquettas, and the one on the right was of the sausage-fried paella (note: these pictures were taken halfway through the meal, so that gives you an idea of portion size). Full of hope, I bit into the croquettas, and nearly died from happiness. They were exactly like the ones my host mother had served us in Spain. I don’t think I’ve ever savored food that much before. The paella came with a hardboiled egg on top, which you are supposed to mash and spread around in the rice. Unfortunately, the paella did not live up to my expectations, but it was still quite good.

For those of you with a taste for spicy food, try ordering the spicy potatoes. Soft and savory, they seemed just the right amount of spicy. Renee enjoyed them a lot.

I plan to come back to Cafe Ba Ba Reeba. Despite an average of $6 per tapa, two to three tapas should satisfy you. So while it’s not the cheapest place to eat, you will find good Spanish food, a great atmosphere, and if you go at lunch time, fast service. The atmosphere also makes it a great place to bring your sweetheart (Oooh, that’s an idea for Valentine’s Day)!

Cafe Ba Ba Reeba
2024 N. Halstead
Chicago, IL
(773) 935-5000 

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Why Lettuce Hangs from the Ceiling, and Why I’ll be returning to Chinatown next Lunar New Year

Today we went to Chinatown for the Lunar New Year celebration. Apparently, this marks the 100th anniversary of Chicago’s Chinatown. After the transcontinental railroads were completed, many of the Chinese who had immigrated to the US ventured out from the West coast and came to places like Chicago and New York, thus leading to a concentration of Chinese in the city.

All history aside, I’ve avoided Chinatown like the plague, if not for the dubious conditions of the streets, then the scarcity of people I’ve seen as I pass on the train. However, because I’ve been hearing about this parade for a while, I was willing to give it a shot.

Where's Waldo?

It turns out that Chicago adores the celebration of the Lunar New Year! There were so many people that it was hard to find a spot to watch from. The parade began with a slow trickle of old men in military garb, a disarmingly long dry spell, and suddenly, the party was on.

As expected, there were a lot of parade dragons bobbing up and down the street!

What I loved best about the parade was not the taste of Chinese culture, but the school bands! Never before have I been to a parade where the school bands played so well, with such attitude and enthusiasm, blaring out a really neat version of Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face”.  Now, some of the floats were…

Haaaaaaaaaa... nice try.

…subpar.

But overall, the enthusiasm from the people in the parade energized the crowds and made the parade worth seeing.

BEHOLD THESE FRAMED GLOSSY PRINTS!

Well, Renee was starting to get hungry, so we fought through the crowds, which were tight and frustrating. Sometimes we would stand still for several minutes before the lines moved again. People from many walks of life, many ethnic backgrounds, and many stories squished us against walls and nearly ran us over as we scrambled to find a restaurant that wasn’t teeming with people. SUDDENLY–

Random woman in the crowd: "WHAT THE HELL?!"

Yeah, that nearly ran us over too. Well, most of the restaurants were packed, but when I saw one that looked relatively empty, I all but shoved my poor roommate in there.

The waitress came up to us and stammered in broken English that she had no English menus to give us. I asked her if she would give us recommendations. “I can try,” she said warily. We sat down, and when Renee asked what there was to order, the lady gave her two choices: beef or fish.

“Er…beef?”

“Spicy. Hot. That okay?”

“Yeah, yeah!” Renee chirped back.

“And come with vegetable. That okay?”

“Yeah!”

So we sat and sat and sat. Then I looked up and saw something odd and green.

It was a head of lettuce hanging from the ceiling. I stared at it, making sure I was actually seeing what I thought I was. Then Renee and I were both staring at it. When our waitress came and delivered some delicious dumplings to our table, I asked her: “Why is there a head of lettuce hanging from the ceiling?”

“Lettuce,” the woman said gruffly, looking at us like we were idiots.

“Yes,” I replied, “But why is it hanging there?”

“Dunno,” she said curtly, turning on her heel and walking off to the kitchens. So I tried asking a second waitress, who offered a good explanation: in one of the Chinese languages, “lettuce” and “get a lot of money” sound the same. Thus, this head of lettuce was a wish for wealth.

We STILL don't know what's in it.

So “beef” came. It was for the most part delicious. The beef was cooked with incredible skill, unafraid to be a little greasy and deliciously seasoned. The dish, as the waitress promised, was spicy and littered with red pepper flakes. We really enjoyed the meat, especially mixed with the well-cooked rice. There was, however, one vegetable that numbed the insides of our mouths.

“Renee, the inside of my mouth is numb. Not from spiciness. Just…numb.”

“Oh thank goodness. I wasn’t gonna say anything.”

“Yours too?”

“Yeah.”

Despite the numbness in our mouths, the food was of very good quality and very different from the takeout that we were used to at home. It was not slathered in sweet or spicy sauce, but relied on a spicy soup to keep the food moist. While I wouldn’t recommend this for people on strict diets (some items were shamelessly greasy), I recommend it for people who want to find that “hole in the wall” restaurant that stays open because of the quality of its entrees.

Unfortunately, I forgot to get the name of this restaurant, but if you get off the Red Line at Cermak-Chinatown, pass under the red Chinatown gate, and look for a small restaurant with bakery items in the front and seating in the back, you’ve found it.

Enjoying some yummy...whatever it actually was.

After a series of awkward pointings from the credit card to the cash register, we finally paid the bill and left.

We did some shopping in the deliciously low-priced shops, we came home in a hurry because unlike real adults, I don’t use restroom facilities before going out on an adventure. But once we got home, I got to add to my Asian decor with a wall scroll (with a picture of a dragon and tiger snarling at each other) and some awesome lantern lights. Eee, so pretty!! ❤

I've always wanted strings of lantern lights!!

I’m really glad I went to Chinatown. I got to watch a great parade, hear great music, eat some amazing food, and have some hilarious experiences.

Happy Lunar New Year,
and Happy Year of the Dragon!

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Annual Travel Adventure Show (starring Samantha Brown)

I can officially die happy thanks to the annual Travel Adventure Show. An annual event that advertises vacation destinations, the Travel Adventure Show (TAS) is a lively way to plan (or dream about) your ideal vacation spots.

I woke up early this morning and dragged myself onto the Blue Line. I love mornings on the CTA trains when I’m riding away from downtown, but I had to give myself a pep talk to keep going. Waaay too tired. It took nearly an hour to get there, but I finally got to the convention center. It was PACKED. I felt slightly let down when I saw the majority of attendees were middle-aged and old-aged couples finding ways to celebrate anniversaries and empty nests.

As for me, I was flying this little expedition solo.

I paid $8 in cab fare to get to this convention center, though it would have been a 5 minute walk. Thanks, Google Maps, for making it look way too far away. At least my cab driver was a sweet, happy man.

I didn’t come to TAS to plan a vacation (heck naw, Adler won’t give me long enough to go international for long), but to see Samantha Brown. For those of you who don’t know about her, she is a very talented Travel Channel host who goes around the world, documenting her experiences in different cities and countries.

My mom and I are big-time fans of her show because of how upbeat and fun it is, and how well it appeals to the travel bug that we’ve both contracted.

This sweet little Native American girl couldn't have been more than 5 years old, but danced like a little professional diva. It was really cute to watch! Picture's blurry because I took the flash off. I hate blinding people.

I even got to watch some traditional Filipino dances.

 

They never smiled. Ever.

 

The time eventually came for Samantha to speak!

She wore the sweetest blue dress. In January. In Chicago. How does she do it!?

On her show, Samantha comes off as a really sweet and outgoing person. During her presentation, she doubled that sweetness factor in the most genuine way possible. As a speaker, she was clear, positive, clever, and very funny. She spoke about her travel mishaps, and what she learned from those experiences. She didn’t speak for too long, but encouraged the audience to break the language barrier when traveling to different countries by learning a few key phrases. Most importantly, she said it was important to learn how to be polite in other languages, as the gesture will always be appreciated. Second, she said she has learned to test the hotel room. By this, she meant making sure that hair dryers, showers, toilets, etc., function properly as soon as you check into the hotel. This way, you don’t miss out on important exploration time when you can’t style your hair or bathe.

At the end of her presentation, she took questions. You bet I racked my brain for something to ask. Trembling a little from stage fright, I tilted the microphone low, low, low so I could speak into it, and asked her how she had come across the opportunity to have such a wonderful job. It turns out that she was a musical theater major in New York. She was working as a waitress when she was discovered, and offered a job by Travel Channel because of her personality (I totally don’t blame them). Even after sitting down, I was still starstruck.

I actually have a picture with her!!!

After an hour and a half of waiting in line and talking to native Chicagoans about good spots to eat around the city, I finally got to see her at the autograph table. What I liked about her was the fact that she took time to talk to each  person who came to her table. She asked a little about my travel experiences, and after sharing that, I told her how much our family liked her show. I walked away with two signed prints. I couldn’t be more tickled pink 🙂

A big thank you to Google Offers for getting me into this event for $9! I got to see my favorite travel show host for a ticket less than $10, and had a great, great Saturday. Be sure to catch this travel show next year to see what famous face comes to Chicago next!

 

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Bar Louie– This place was next door this whole time!?

I walk past this bar on the way to school sometimes, but usually never give it a second glance. It looks small, and it’s crammed into the historic Dearborn Station. My expectations were rather low, but I have seen the light, my friends. I have seen the light.

The atmosphere at Bar Louie is cozy. As a bar and grill setting, it has plenty of tables and a food menu as well. But it is a bar, right? Let’s talk drinks. They aren’t the cheapest in the world. I paid $10 for a Berry Mojito. Stuffed with various fruits and scarce on the booze, it was a pleasantly light drink. Renee got a sweeter, fruity mixed drink, also for $10. So would I come here for more than one drink? Definitely not, when Flaco’s Tacos is a few steps away with excellent specials on Margaritas.

But I will be coming back to Bar Louie at some point because of the quality. The staff is very friendly and laid-back. Everything is kept clean, and the food (though pricey) is good. I paid $8 for a spinach and artichoke that was far too much to finish myself (I recommend splitting an appetizer plate with someone). So if you’re looking for drink deals, this may not be your place. But if you’d like an intimate atmosphere to slowly sip a cocktail, have some good food to snack on, and talk without having to scream over music, let me know and I’ll hang out with ya 😉

Bar Louie
47 W Polk St
(between Dearborn St & Federal St) 
Chicago, IL 60605

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The Art Institute is too big. But look, Groupons!

The Art Institute of Chicago is free of charge to Chicago residents until February 10.

Yesssssssss.

The place is massive. Sculptures, furniture, relics, modern art… they’ve got all sorts. The way they display pieces is very sterile and respectful, displaying each piece in the best way possible. I find it stunning that there are real Monets, Cezannes, and Van Goghs on display here. I remember back in middle school when our teacher would pin up a Van Gogh and say something along the lines of: “Draw this. It’ll teach you about perspective.” Seeing some of these pieces was like meeting a celebrity.

The ancient relics from Greece and Egypt were breathtakingly intact. I got to see the statue of my favorite greek god, Horus, and a bunch of cool little tools and stuff. Greek sculptures were impressive too, touting an astounding understanding of human anatomy.

But ladies and gents… I hate to say it, but I was beginning to get tired of looking at paintings. Painting after painting, I saw a bajillion different paintings of Jesus (Catholic Church says: “You’re welcome.” ), then two bajillion pictures of rich people from days of old. I actually began checking my watch, wondering when it was time to go to Zumba.

The truth is that for me, the museum was TOO BIG. I can “ooh” and “aah” at lighting, brushstrokes, and embellishments for about an hour and a half before I start sounding like a broken recordplayer: Ooh, Aah, Pretty, Cute, Well done. And this may have to do with the fact that I enjoy things that are more involved (like the Science and Industry Museum) or that include eating. My attention will only keep to art for so long.

However, if you enjoy seeing a wide variety of artistic pieces, the Art Institute is in no short supply. You’ll find the sort of art you’re into, and even more. The gift shops have several lovely prints that are currently discounted, and the atmosphere lends itself to the quiet appreciation of true talent.

There are plenty of ways you can get a good deal around this city. The thing is that you should try to be open to getting ads in your inbox, and you need to be okay with it. It’s all in the name of adventure, or at least a discounted manicure. Here’s how you can have fun in Chicago without forking over too much money:

  • Red Eye“, a free publication which you can find on street corners throughout the city, gives you information about local events, local news, showtimes, and some cool art.
  • Chicagofree.info reports free events like museum days, food giveaways from local restaurants (like Jamba Juice and Panda Express), classes, theater productions, comedy skits, and concerts. It also refers you to coupons you can use when going out on the town.
  • Groupon.com is a popular site. Most of you know how it works. Sign up and get free offers in your inbox. Because there is so much to do around Chicago, this site can probably locate something you’re interested in.
  • Google Offers works just like Groupon does. Simple as that. Plug “Google Offers” into your search engine to sign up.
  • Paying attention to my Facebook ads. I know that some of them advertise stupid T-shirts or insurance. But Facebook pays attention to where you’re clicking and what your preferences are. I am always careful to pay attention to ads in case there is something I’m interested in.

I hope that this was somewhat helpful to anyone who is reading. If you don’t live in Chicago, most of these sources (save for Chicagofree and Redeye) can also be applied to your city.

The Art Institute of Chicago
111 South Michigan Avenue  
Chicago, IL 60603
(312) 443-3600

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Lincoln Park Zoo in Winter: “It’s like a rat with a human face…”

As we laid in our beds last night, Renee and I wondered what on earth we were going to do with our Saturday. We both liked the idea of a zoo, and the Lincoln Park Zoo website said it was still open to the public.

And free of charge.

Yessssssssss.

 

It’s funny until the snow is ACTUALLY injuring your roommate.

While racing buses to their stops and making a few mistakes that carried us up and down town, Renee fell victim to the falling snow, which is actually TERRIFYING when it’s falling around you. We ran screeching to the safety of the bus stop, where an old man looked on in amusement.

After about an hour and a half of dodging  (and playing with) snow, we made it to the Lincoln Park Zoo.

One of the oldest zoos in the US,  the Lincoln Park Zoo was created in 1868 and is completely free to the public, relying on donations, gift shop purchases, and fundraisers to keep the animals happy and fed. Some exhibits include primates, big cats, sea lions, rhinos, birds of prey, and exotic birds.

One of these camels had a "lazy hump" that was flopped over. Weird, but COOL!

Our first site of camels outside was pretty promising. So the zoo really was open. But as we wandered through the zoo, we felt discouraged because a lot of the exhibits were empty and loaded with snow. Then, we decided to check out the indoor exhibits.

YOU SHALL NOT PASS

It turns out that Lincoln Park Zoo still offers a lot of animal displays, but nearly everything is actually indoors! The animals are kept in indoor exhibits that are strewn across the zoo campus, so there’s a  reasonable amount  of walking involved. There’s a good bit to see, including this freaky DeBrazza’s Monkey (above) in the Primates Building (my favorite building thus far). The Tamarins were also really cool, even though they looked like little rats with human faces.

A Tamarin Monkey: This is the stuff nightmares are made of.

My favorite exhibit in the whole zoo was the White-Cheeked Gibbon one because a gibbon family– a father, mother, and child– were very interactive and energized. The child was especially so, swinging around, bothering daddy, chewing fruit, falling over, then coming back to mommy for a drink.

Check out this gorgeous lioness!

The big cat exhibit was impressive with its lions, tigers, and leopards. Most of the animals there were sleepy. Maybe it was just bad timing, but Renee was beyond ecstatic to see some big cats.

Despite massive amounts of snow, Lincoln Park Zoo still found ways to entertain its visitors. It was amazing to watch this sea lion going through a checkup because of how many commands it understood. Even seeing this process made the whole trip worth it!

Another great thing to watch was this sea lion getting its check up. With simple pips of a whistle, the sea lion happily performed tricks and cooperated with a very thorough health inspection. It’s amazing what we do for tiny fish. Or maybe the Filipinos and I are alone on that one.

Fun fact: Many Filipinos love "Tuyo", a.k.a salty little fish stuck in a jar. God help you if it breaks in your suitcase.

Overall, I was really surprised by how much there was to see in the middle of a snowy, winter day in Chicago. There were many animals to see, and the zoo still offers a happy, enjoyable atmosphere. I definitely recommend visiting the Lincoln Park Zoo this winter. It’s fun, free, and open during winter! 🙂

Lincoln Park Zoo
2200 North Cannon Drive
Chicago, IL 60614

(312) 742-2000

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Museum of Science and Industry: Today I watched chicks laying out.

When I ask Chicagoans what I should do in Chicago, the first thing they often mention is the bounty of museums. And of these museums, they always mention the Museum of Science and Industry. Happily, my boyfriend (Daniel) came to visit this weekend and my roommate (Renee) returned from winter break, so they came along with me!

My boyfriend Daniel (I haz crush on him) and my roommate Renee. Neither was ready for the picture. Oh well.

The museum is huge, but especially gorgeous when covered in snow. Now, we were riding in a taxi with cloudy windows that smelled like urine (*shudder*) so I didn’t really want to shift around to get my camera. No picture for you.

We entered the physics section first, and the first thing I saw made my $13 admission fee completely worth it:

This is the first exhibit I saw: Because of the tilt of this spinning disk, the sand shifted in beautiful patterns. What scientific thing did I learn from that? I forgot.

Okay, truthfully, I barely read any plaques while at the museum. If the exhibit was interactive, I enjoyed playing with it. I enjoyed seeing simulated-tsunamis crashing onto unsuspecting plastic beaches. I had fun seeing huge metal spheres slamming into each other. I was upset when I couldn’t make the cars in the car exhibit smash into each other. I saw the museum through the eyes of a child– an immature child with ADD and the subconscious urge to destroy things. But what I can say is that the museum catered to me in that aspect: there’s a lot of stuff that you can play with.

 

The tornado machine.

The museum is packed with so much that no matter what your interests are, there is something here for you to see. Physics, transportation, biology, farming, genetics, outer space, the green movement… with amazing displays, the museum draws you in and holds you captive for several hours until you tire out and patronize their gift shop. My favorite section was the human biology section where we got to see real preserved circulatory, muscular, and digestive systems. A rather creepy but interesting exhibit there featured visual representations of a developing baby.

What I was the most delighted to see, however, was this:

 

My heart melts for tiny animals. I spent a long time fawning over these little sweethearts!

I love small things! I love little life forms!! In this exhibit, you got to watch chicks hatching from their eggs. It’s a really slow process, and unless you spend an hour rooted there, you probably won’t get to see the full process. But we did get to see one slowly dragging itself out of the shell– a wet, feathery mass laying there with its eyes still shut and its little lungs gasping for its first gulps of air. Truly a miracle, life is. (You can find this exhibit in the genetics section of the museum)

I highly recommend this museum, especially for people who are going there with friends. You can chatter, laugh, and goof off and still enjoy the exhibits. The exhibits are engaging and range in subject matter, and appeal to people of all ages.

On another note, I found my favorite place thus far for Chicago-style deep dish pizza: Lou Malnati’s on State Street. What I liked about this pizza is that it’s reasonable. Unlike Giordano’s, it isn’t a cheese pie (a death trap for lactose intolerant people like me). And unlike Gino’s East, it’s a reasonable size with a delicious crust. The tomatoes used are fresh, and the taste is amazing. Is it a “true” Chicago-style pizza? I don’t know. Some Chicagoans get passionate about pizzas, hotdogs, sports, and Obama. So I’m just gonna throw this cautious and humble opinion out there: Lou Malnati’s has some yummy, yummy food.

An individual deep-dish pizza. Not too little, not too much.

I have to post a disclaimer before ending this post: while the museum and the pizza were both marvelous, they were all the better because I shared it with the man I love and my fantastic roommate. Going out in Chicago is definitely enhanced with good company.

Museum of Science and Industry
South Lakeshore Drive
Chicago, IL 60637
(773) 684-1414 

Lou Malnati’s
805 S State Street
Chicago, IL  
(312) 786-1000 

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