Tag Archives: family

Making Memories in Madison – Weekend Getaway

This summer we stayed close to home. Sometimes playing tourist is a great way to learn more about the area around us and we can appreciate new discoveries. We have spent most of our time in Illinois, so a Wisconsin getaway was a new idea for us.  A quick drive up from the Chicago area, we met up with family in the suburbs of Madison and went out for a quick bite for dinner. Our hotel was situated outside of the city. We chose it because it made it easier to wander around and never have a long drive.

Here are the highlights:

Day 1

Troll at Mount Horeb

We decided to explore the town of Mount Horeb. It’s a must-stop place to look around and take pictures of their trolls. Yes, you read that correctly, trolls. If nothing else, there is no place like it! It’s cute and quaint and funny. We got a pastry at a small café, wandered over to the Duluth Trading Post, and checked out the trolls. Mt. Horeb provided us with a scenic way to ease into the day.

Then we went to downtown Madison. Date night for the parents was started by a walk by the lake and then we made our way through the beer garden. We wandered through an eclectic neighborhood, past the Capitol, up to Naples 15 for dinner. This location may seem small at first, but most noteworthy is a menu with so many options! We selected a seafood appetizer and two individual pizzas. There were plenty of choices so that most guests probably will be satisfied. We continued to Eno-Vino bistro for drinks and a view. Located on the 10th floor of the AC Hotel, it features a spectacular view of the capitol as we sat near a window and watched the sunset. I highly recommend it!

Day 2

The next day, we visited the Henry Vilas Zoo. It is free to the public and it offers a nice range of animals. It was clearly a hit with families. Then there was a return trip to the center of the city so we could visit the Capitol up close. I’ll offer a tip that the Capitol was open on a Sunday. Traffic was light, we could park easily and the crowd was also pretty small. We wandered upstairs for a closer view of the dome.

We also ventured over to the Wisconsin Veterans Museum. This stop offered a very interesting, educational experience for my family. You can choose to focus on a specific war or travel through history and see the evolution of guns, equipment, and even planes are on exhibit. Well worth the visit with multiple generations.

An Old Fashioned

We closed out the day at the Old Fashioned. It’s a fixture in the square and we all enjoyed it. Madison as a worthwhile weekend adventure for your family.





Family Adventures Creating Fun Memories

This blog was started 7 years ago. Time has gone by so quickly! Happily, my family has been busy and healthy. My son is now 10 years old and his interests range from history to video games so we do a lot of exploring and try a range of activities. A few will be recurring so you have a chance to try them for yourself!

The Collings Foundation brought a collection of vintage planes including a B-17 that took groups out over the Chicagoland area. Among the visitors at the airport were a number of veterans. This organization travels all over the country and offers a unique experience.

We got to take a walk back in time when we attended a World War II re-enactment in Rockford, Illinois. There is a little village built there with camps and battle fields nearby. You can meet up with civilians, as well as soldiers.

Tall ships came to Navy Pier in 2016. Navy Pier is a beautiful destination on a summer day and it has a calendar of events throughout the year. Ships’ crews brought people together from all over the world and it was an interesting mix of cultures.

More modern activity came into Chicago’s McCormack Place with the C2E2 convention. We met Supergirl, we saw every other super hero and many Star Wars characters there. If you cannot get there, you will have another opportunity when the Wizard World Comic Con comes to the Rosemont Center.

The Renaissance Faire provides yet another backdrop for fantasy. All outdoors, the family gets more active here while also watching knights joust and various performers (comedy, music, juggling and more) entertain. There is good food to try here and plenty of shops to explore.I’m looking forward to sharing more travels in 2017.








Summer Vacation: Explore Chicago

Summer is officially here and I am continuing with a collection of trip recommendations. We often overlook opportunities to explore in our backyard, at least I do. Last summer I embarked on hitting some sites that were obvious to tourists but I had yet to do them. Here is a quick recap of some options to try next time you visit Chicago. I am not suggesting these can be done in one day—they are highlights of a few trips.

I have one son, who was 9, and sometimes the adventure was for him to have a first-time experience downtown.

We did breakfast at Margie’s, which is an ice cream parlor located in the Bucktown neighborhood. Now that I am thinking about it, another breakfast there may be in order!

Water Taxi Ride

Let’s be clear: the weather in Chicago is not great for about six months out of the year. Summer is really the most reliable time to venture around. And it is also the best time to be on the water/Lake Michigan. A ride on the Chicago Water Taxi is a fun way to skip traffic and take a look at the architecture that makes the city unique. You can board at Union Station and take it to Michigan Avenue. A walk down the “Magnificent Mile” provides a terrific mix of retailers and history. The views are spectacular day or night.

Navy Pier offers visiting exhibits, places to eat and rides. The giant

Fun at Navy Pier

ferris wheel is new this year (replacing one that was here) so that’s worth a visit. Live music and an IMAX theatre provide other options to keep everyone occupied. And fireworks shows occur on Wednesdays and Saturdays throughout the summer, from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

The museum campus has a cluster of wonderful options to explore. If you are prepared to do some walking, venture through Millennium Park, over to Buckingham Fountain, then back to the Art Institute to take in an array of sites. The Chicago Architecture Foundation offers tours to maximize your experience.

Visit Chicago this summer and make some new memories with your family!


Summer Vacation – Destination NYC

Summer is officially here. You have probably already made your plans but I will share some tips from our last vacation that just could not have been better. I have one son, who was 9, and neither he nor my husband had been in New York City. I lived there once upon a time, so I love to visit and explore. It was fun to plan for that first experience and fill three days with a wide range of sites.

I had never used a City Pass but found it really helpful. One purchase, many options to try (a few I might not have considered on my own), and a quicker line to enter (occasionally) even during a holiday.

Our first stop was the American Museum of Natural History. My son

loves dinosaurs and this place had a showcase of bones. We began the day here and then walked across Central Park. The park is huge and there are so many corners, ponds and statues to see. We happened upon Belvedere Castle. Aside from the unusual building there were musicians playing live for us to pause and enjoy. We continued onto the Metropolitan Museum. As a family, we had looked over the map and there were so many exhibits it was hard to narrow our options. Depending on how many days you can spend there, I would suggest picking 2-3 to fill an afternoon. History continued to be the theme for the day, so we took in the Arms and Armor, The Temple of Dendu and The American Wing.

If you have a major holiday fall during the trip, it is good to know that the Empire State Building is open 365 days a year. We went there on Christmas Day.

Using my PC and smartphone to plan and navigate was key to a successful vacation. I used Trip Advisor for assistance when picking a hotel and could not have been happier with our choice. We stayed at the Warwick. It is located Midtown, which made it convenient to walk to a number of places. It was smaller than many bigger named chains, which was nice after a hectic day. We also found the 2nd Avenue Deli and while there are tons of delis you can try, our meal and service were great. I also used the app TodayTix to check availability and prices of Broadway shows. You can get some terrific deals on short notice.

A few more days and the mix of options in NYC might be endless, but definitely make time to go to New York.

Vacation musings

We just spent eight days in California.  It was special for a number of reasons.  As we departed, we just beat a big storm that hit Chicago.  Weather at home was 6-16 degrees plus a wind chill.  In California, while not “warm” by most people’s standards, it was 55-65 degrees.  My son got to see the beach for the first time.  That was awesome!  He and my husband walked down by the water and ran away as the waves almost reached them.  I stood back and took pictures.  I got some very good shots.  It would have been perfect if it had been warmer but he enjoyed it.  And, I did too.  He said it was “the best day ever.”  And here is what else made this week special: he said it was “the best day ever” almost every day.

We visited friends and family and they almost all had gifts for him.  I never expected it but he came home loaded with new toys.  And, many were dead-on favorites.  Lego and Star Wars, Transformers and Toy Story, these all made him very happy.  He had fun meeting new people and seemed surprised at how much family was in California.  He’s seen my husband’s family more often because we live in the same state.  This was his third trip back west but he really doesn’t remember past visits.

We went to San Francisco and there was a street performer who captured his attention.  He was dressed all in silver and wore a silver mask, so he had a bit of a robotic appearance but he would stand still like a statue.  Then, he’d start moving around because he had music playing.  I gave him $5 and he jumped down and waved us over to take a picture.  Funny, now that I think about it, that we understood his intentions even though he did not speak.   That was a bit of an adventure.

There were some more sobering moments, too.  We saw aunts and uncles who are aging and two aunts are no longer with us.  Their husbands carry on now, after 50+ years of marriage, and it is obvious that they miss their spouses.  Those visits brought to mind years gone by but you can’t go back.

We got to one winery, two parks, two libraries, many restaurants and shops.  We enjoyed “Tangled” in 3D and got back to the church where we were married.  How’s that for variety?

As we were taxiing on the runway, he looked out and I told him to say goodbye to California.  He waved and then he quietly started to cry.  He turned away as he wiped away his tears.  He said he would miss it.  Me too.

I do PR

I think PR is one of the most misunderstood and/or not known professions.  I’ve been asked what I do by friends and family and when I say “PR” the reactions vary but more often than not, I get a blank, somewhat dazed sort of look.  So, then I might offer an explanation of the stories in the newspaper or on television were likely set up by someone like me.  We pitch companies/products/services/executives to reporters to tell a story.  That is a really simple way of putting it but it provides a tangible example that most people should be familiar with and hopefully understand.

Here’s the thing: there are so many more facets to the job on a daily basis.  And, depending on the company we can get called upon to help on a myriad of tasks ranging from internal communications, community relations, event planning, town hall meetings, etc.  Of course, the growth of the Internet has also helped my job description to expand to a host of other tasks: responding to consumers online, website content management, social media monitoring, etc.  The news cycle now is 24/7 and stories can be posted at anytime.  The traditional, close of business day deadlines are less common.  Then, there are those crisis management issues that arise out of no where.

My professional counterparts  add to the problem by using different terms and insisting upon drawing various distinctions.  Marketing communications (“MarCom”), corporate communications, integrated marketing communications (“ICM”), media relations, public relations, etc.  Do we really need to argue over “having a seat at the table” where we can “be strategic partners” with the executives in the company when we can’t figure out what to call ourselves?

In my more in-depth conversations with my husband I share that at the end of the day, I will continue to roll over in my head the conversations I had with reporters or how announcements will be received and I wonder about the impact of my actions.  You see, for most people if they screw up on their jobs, they worry about their bosses discovering it.  My mistakes will be public.  The audience size grows now that articles live on the Internet and they do not go away.

Adding to the confusion, though, is the use of the term “PR” by people in conversation when it may not be pertaining to my profession.  How often do I hear “that was good PR.”  And often it is a mixture of promotions or advertising being discussed.  Certainly situations like the BP Oil spill bring into focus a PR disaster for all to see.  The analysis of how the company did or did not address concerns and the missteps along the way might actually educate more about the function.

I was reading someone else’s blog today and it made reference to a recent ranking of the most stressful jobs in America.  It was actually reassuring that mine is among the top ten according to this study.  I’m not sure if that will bring me any sympathy, or better awareness by friends or family, but at least I can validate those nights when insomnia strikes.  I’m not alone.

Is home where the heart is?

This morning, as I was sitting at my desk, I received a call from an aunt in California.  With the time difference, I knew it was bad news.  My Aunt Toni had passed away during the night.  She was battling cancer and had been going through chemo but in recent weeks I had not gotten any updates.  Sometimes no news is good news but in this instance it was not.    It was a bit stunning, since the last messages I had received were about my uncles visiting her and making her laugh.  They were rallying around her.  My father was the oldest of five children and this was his next sibling.  Ironically, I was sitting at my desk when I got the news of his death, too.

As I received a call from a cousin in California, I learned that they had started hospice a week ago.  Well, had I known that I would have been mentally prepared today.  I guess it was determined the chemo was not working.  I don’t blame her.  I am a firm believer in the quality of life and sometimes when I hear of extreme measures being taken for a person to live, I wonder why the choice was made.  But, this all drove home the point that I know and struggle with: I am not at home.

I’m one of two people in the family not residing in California.  We don’t have a huge family but obviously it takes more effort to keep us apprised of the latest events.  So now I need to decide if I will travel back for the funeral.  I would have preferred to see her alive.

One happy note is that we used modern technology to stay in touch.  I had mailed some recent photos of my son to her daughter.  I also sent a video message of him to her that was funny.  That went two weeks ago.  She does not use a computer, so I relied on my cousin to take a computer with her to share the updates.  I have to credit shutterfly with making this process really easy.  The site offers a password-protected share site for both photos and videos.

Well, more to consider: I’ve lived in Chicago for 8 years.  That is not temporary.  When will it be home to me?  Hmmm…where do you consider home?

The Council of Dads (Moms)

Dealing with death is not easy and it seems to pop up in our lives when we least expect it.  Seldom are we ready for death but it does often provide a moment to contemplate our lives.  At least, I do.  Since I began my relationship with my husband, he has lost his grandparents, an aunt and an uncle.  I have lost an aunt and an uncle.  I just learned another aunt has been diagnosed with cancer.  This is her third battle with the disease in ten years.  I cannot imagine how tired that must make her.  Her brother, my father, passed away 14 years ago.  Her sickness reminds me of him, my childhood, and the dynamics of our family.

Ironically, I recently read a story about a man who was diagnosed with cancer and it prompted him to create a “Council of Dads” to help raise his daughters.  It was a terrific concept: he selected friends from different times in his life to instill various lessons in his girls.  Realizing that one’s hometown might have been a factor in his foundation, that’s where he started.  Then he moved onto college, picked a co-worker, found a fellow traveler, etc.  We all have different facets, so identifying those traits is really smart.  It makes me think how I might do the same.  I intend to give this some thought.

I joke that if I were to die suddenly, my husband would not have to shop for clothes because I constantly buy ahead.  Half of my son’s closet is filled with things a size or two bigger than what he wears today.  I find it fun to do but one aspect of it is imagining my son as he grows and develops a sense of himself.  Part of that process is to have a sense of style and I also really like to cultivate his uniqueness.  Copying others drives me crazy.  I like to think I am contributing to him finding his own identity.  So what would happen if I was gone?  Obviously clothes are very superficial and passing.  It is more important to develop morals and knowledge, etc.  I hope he has my love of books and learns to give to those who are less fortunate.  I think his closet is just one example of how I try to plan for the future.

So now I have a new project for me for my son.