Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Terwilliger Community Recreation Centre

I am utterly exhausted this evening and with good reason.  This afternoon I went to Terwilliger Community Recreation Centre with both of my boys and a friend and her boy.  The Recreation Centre is very large with many different facilities, but the one that we chose to use today was the swimming pool and it’s many accompaniments.  Here is a link for more information on the Terwilliger facility:  http://edmonton.ca/attractions_recreation/sport_recreation/terwillegar-community-recreation-centre.aspx

The entry fee for the facility was pricy.  Little Boy is under 2 years old, so he was free.  Big Boy (5 years old) cost $6.50 and I paid a hefty $10.50 for my admission.   We also paid $0.50 for each locker – note this must consist of 2 quarters. Even though I initially was surprised by the expense of the admission, it was worth every penny.  Here is a link to the pricing for the facility; the appropriate column to look at is the one titled “All Facility”: http://www.edmonton.ca/attractions_recreation/sport_recreation/admission-and-memberships.aspx#Membership_Access

The pool change facility was much like any other – not super clean but it had everything we needed.  We wrestled the boys into their swim gear, took our pre-swim showers and headed out into the pool area.  We fitted each boy with a life jacket and we headed out into the wave pool area. 

I was pleasantly surprised by the temperature of the wave pool.  It was not cold but slightly warmed – lovely for indoor swimming.  The wave pool has splash park elements, lanes for swimming and a lazy river for floating.  We found a boat for Little Boy to ride in and took the kids right into the lazy river.  The river is a winding track with a current that varies from slight to strong.  During the wave cycle, there are small rapids in one part of the river area.  In the middle of the river is a circle with benches on all sides and jets that create a whirlpool effect.

Big Boy loved the lazy river, but Little Boy was a bit put off by the crowds plugging up the river area.  After the lazy river the kids played with pool toys in the splash park area of the wave pool.  My friend took Big Boy and her boy on the waterslide and Big Boy loved it.  He was so excited that he was fist pumping into the air when he got off the slide.  The slide is an open slide that starts at the ceiling of the facility and loops it’s way down.  The end of the slide is a flume so there are no concerns for weak swimmers.  I took Big Boy on the slide 2 more times before we left and I was once again pleasantly surprised that the water was slightly warmed on the slide – I remember being greeted by freezing cold water on too many water slides!

We also took the kids into the toddler pool, which has very warm water and loads of toys.  The pool is shallow, ranging from about 0.60 m to 0.75 m and one side of the pool has benches to sit on.  Little Boy was in his glory in this pool, he could walk around and he was swinging on the safety rails along the ramp into the pool.  Little Boy quickly discovered that he could lie back in his life jacket and float on his back.  He, for some reason that I could not figure out, thought this was hilarious and would laugh every time he did it.

We moved the kids back and forth between the 2 pools and the lazy river and took Big Boy up the slide.  After about 2.5 hours we started giving warnings and we finally left the facility after we had been there for nearly 3 hours.  I could not manage to properly shower the kids so it was a quick rinse off and then a bath at home.  The pool is a salt-water pool so it was fairly gentle for Big Boy’s sensitive skin.

We had a great trip to the pool and I plan to return as soon as I can.  I will probably take another adult because it is difficult to keep track of both of my boys when they want to head off in different directions.  There is a rule at the pool that kids under a certain age (both of mine were under so I’m not sure what the age is) have to be within arms length of their parent/guardian.  The lifeguards carefully monitored this and it was exhausting keeping both kids close and heading in the same direction!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Big Boy's New Skill

I am incredibly proud of Big Boy - on Friday he learned to tie his shoes!  I was worried about this skill....it seemed like a daunting lesson to learn and I have been putting off teaching him.  I wanted him to learn to tie before Kindergarten, so on Thursday, when I went to buy him new trainers for P.E. next year I decided to buy tie-up shoes.  On Friday I sat with him for about 5 minutes and showed him how to tie.  After a couple of messy attempts he succeeded and then he practiced with great enthusiasm for about 1/2 hour.  After the practice, he is an expert!

He is pleased as punch with himself.  We had guests over and he had to show each guest his new skills.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Bragg Creek Area Visit

We had a wonderful week visiting friends in Wintergreen – a small golf course community to the west of Bragg Creek.  I will tell you about our time there in more detail, but overall it was relaxing and a lovely change of pace.
As is my tradition, I will start with a description of our travels.  We travelled via car (minivan, actually) and we left at about 8:00 a.m. on Monday morning.  The drive was largely uneventful.  The traffic was light, even in the airport/Nisku area of highway 2 and we made one stop in Innisfail.  Our stop in Innisfail was largely to accommodate Little Boy’s need for the washroom.  Unfortunately we stopped at the McDonalds in Innisfail to use the washroom.  There was a very long line (there is usually a line because it is a single washroom, but on Monday it was a very long line) and I wondered why…I soon found out.  Two ladies in the line were chatting about how the power was out at the Red Deer McDonalds and possibly Tim Hortons, causing travellers to continue to Innisfail for a break.
I also made an error in navigation on Stoney Trail in Calgary – I took the wrong exit and I ended up driving through town because I exited far too early.  This added nearly 15 minutes to our trip.
The drive home was even more uneventful – we once again stopped in Innisfail (but this time at Tim Hortons) and I made no errors in navigation.  Both kids slept for over half of the journey.
At our friends’ house we relaxed.  On Monday afternoon the kids played together and got to know each-other after a year of not seeing each other. 
On Tuesday we briefly left the kids with a sitter and went out to lunch.  We also visited a local artisan, Nicole at Stone Willow and purchased some jewellery items.  Here is a link to her website – her pieces are even more beautiful in real life than in the photos:  http://www.stonewillow.ca/
On Wednesday we had a fun day at home with the kids playing outside in the sunshine.  Little Boy had a good nap, so we kept the kids up a bit late and had a marshmallow roast in the fire pit.  Then we packed up and drove home on Thursday morning.
We had a great visit in a beautiful setting. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Goin' Away

I'll be away for a few days, and I'll tell you all about it when I'm back.  Good-bye for now!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Old Strathcona Farmer's Market

This morning I went with my parents and Little Boy to the Old Strathcona Farmer’s Market.  This indoor market is located just off Whyte Avenue, a popular area for dining, shopping and wandering in Edmonton.

What I love about this particular farmer’s market is that it has a great “vibe.”  It is always crowded and noisy with buskers, customers and vendors.  A wide variety of products are offered for sale, today we saw everything from produce to Russian dumplings to address signs for your home.

We had no intention of making a purchase today, so we wandered up and down the aisles looking at the wares.  There were many local foods including bison and exorbitantly priced strawberries ($30 for a small box).  I like looking at the handicrafts, although it seems that more of them are mass-produced goods than the last time I was at the market.

After wandering around for a while, I had my fill of the noise level and we headed out into the pleasant day to wander the streets of Old Strathcona.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Elk Island National Park

Today we took the kids out to Elk Island National Park for a picnic.  Elk Island Park is a short drive from Edmonton on highway 16.  Not the most beautiful/inspiring route, but it is quick.

Outside the park, we saw a few buffalo and deer.  We saw some yesterday as well on our way to Mannville and just outside Mannville we saw a moose and her baby, so it must be our week for wildlife viewing!

When we entered the park we immediately drove to the buffalo paddock drive, where we had great views of bison galore.  Little Boy even learned to say “buffalo” (although it sounds a bit more like “bubbo” when he says it.)  We drove through the paddock twice because the kids had so much fun watching the bison.  Big Boy like watching the bison “bathing” by rubbing into the dirt.

Then we drove on to the Astotin Lake area and made a picnic.  Big Boy learned to build a fire and then we roasted hot dogs and marshmallows – delicious!  Little Boy’s biggest thrill was when the fancy truck came around to empty the garbage.  I managed to get my pocket kite flying quite high.

After lunch we made a brief stop to see the tourist information building and then we drove home.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Mannville Trip

Today we took a drive out to Mannville, Alberta to see some farm property that used to be in our family.  Going to Mannville was a big part of my childhood, and it is always interesting to see the changes in town and along the way.

We picked a gorgeous day for our trip, it was sunny with a bit of wind, but nothing too extreme.  The highway was fairly clear and we had no problems with the drive. 

There was a lot of life in town during our visit, with many people on the main street and others driving around or working on their homes.  We had a picnic lunch outside of town and then paid a visit.

We drove home while the kids napped after a full day.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Dizzy about Dinosaurs

Last week Big Boy attended a daycamp offered by the City of Edmonton.  The camp was called “Dizzy about Dinosaurs” and it was at the John Janzen Nature Centre.  It was a full day camp; it started at 9:00 a.m. each morning and ended at 4:00 p.m.  The camp was for children aged 5-7, making Big Boy one of the youngest kids in the group.

During the week, the campers took part in a variety of activities.  It was a hot week and each day they spent a good deal of time outdoors, engaged in activities like: playing games; fishing in a pond; going on nature walks; a scavenger hunt; playing on a “slip ‘n slide”;  a marshmallow roast on a camp fire; and learning about the natural environment of the Edmonton River Valley.  During the indoor portion of their days they:  made dinosaur habitats; learned from a paleontologist; played in the play centre; heard stories; wrote or drew in a daily journal; and learned songs and facts about different dinosaurs and their lifestyles.  On the last day of the camp, the children were transported on a bus to the Jurassic Forest just north of Edmonton for a day out.  I was surprised at this field trip because it was a one-hour bus ride in each direction.

Each day Big Boy was exhausted when we picked him up after camp.  He was excited about the different things that he learned and the material that the camp leaders taught seemed to be age-appropriate and very interesting to the group.  He learned songs about the different types of dinosaurs, and he sings these songs constantly!  Big Boy did not seem to suffer from being among the younger children in the class.  He made a friend the first day and he was set socially after that.

The camp leaders were an impressive bunch.  They were young, energetic, enthusiastic, caring, kind and they engaged well with the children.  Big Boy liked and respected them – he had fun with them and learned from them but also listened to their rules.

Overall I was very impressed with the quality and value of this camp.  Big Boy learned a lot, he was engaged, he got exercise and he made friends….what more could you want from a summer daycamp?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Farm Visit

Yesterday we went on a special outing – a visit to my friend’s farm.  Farm visits were a frequent part of my childhood, but it seems that everyone in our family has moved off the farm and into the city.  It was a special treat to head out for a day at the farm.

The farm was a fair drive from Edmonton, and I took an entourage – the kids, my parents and my grandmother.  We all piled into the van and drove for a couple of hours. 

Once we arrived at the farm my friend, our most gracious host, gave us a tour of the property.  We were greeted by a handful of geese hissing protectively to scare us away from a chick. 

Big Boy was excited to see the horses.  My friend loves to ride and she has 5 horses, all just lovely to look at.  Big Boy patted their noses and fed them treats while Little Boy worked up the courage to get closer.  I’m no photographer, but for a while my friend was in the horse paddock with all 5 of the gentle giants surrounding her, the wind blowing through her hair and their manes and I thought it would be an incredible picture….of course, I did not have a camera!

After the horses we saw the cows and the kids fed them hay.  Then onto the pigs (formerly Big Boy’s favorites, but he was not that interested this time) and then some ducks.

We wandered into the flower garden and while the kids lost interest a bit, my mom and grandma were very interested in the plants.  They took home a bunch of divided out plants for their own gardens.  Meanwhile, my dad gave the kids rides in the wheelbarrow.

Little Boy really got excited in the chicken enclosure.  He was brave and he loved the chickens.  My friend let him collect a new warm egg.  He promptly chucked it on the ground, but luckily it did not break.

We moved on into the vegetable garden (well, most of us did, Little Boy stayed with my dad and the chickens) where Big Boy helped gather potatoes for our lunch.  We also picked beets and some herbs.

We went into the house and our hosts began to prepare lunch.  As we made lunch, the kids played with the cats and dogs and wandered around the animals.

We feasted on burgers and wieners, herbed potatoes (as picked by Big Boy), cucumber salad and a variety of home-made pickles and relishes.  I particularly liked the zucchini relish – maybe I’ll be inspired to make some.  The meal was a big hit – Big Boy greedily gobbled his burger and potatoes and declared it the “best burger [he] ever ate.”  Little Boy shoved pieces of sausages into his mouth as fast as he could chew.  They were not the most well-mannered eaters, but they sure enjoyed their food.

After lunch we were treated to fresh cappuccinos and with full bellies and a carload of plant clippings we started off home.

Unfortunately the weather turned just as we left and we drove right into a big storm.  It took nearly 4 hours to drive home through the driving rain and the highway was plugged with cars traveling incredibly slowly – often about 20 kilometers/hour.  We were lucky – the kids slept much of the way.

We got home exhausted and had a quick bowl of home-made chicken soup before bed.

It was a wonderful day - the scenery was beautiful, the farm was lovely and great fun for the kids and the food was divine.  I am so thankful to our hosts.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Sleeping Nightmare!

The kids have not been sleeping well lately, and their constant wake-ups have made me tired!  I have a few interesting blog posts coming, but for tonight, I will leave it at this and go catch some zzzzzzs....

Good night all!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Finger Puppets...again

I made two more finger puppets for the kids….I think these guys are looking pretty cute. 

I plan to make a whole “theatre company” so that they can put on plays in their puppet theatre.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Kenilworth Community Centre - Bike Track

Yesterday we took Big Boy to the bike track behind the playground at the Kenilworth Community Centre.  Big Boy is 5.5 years old and a fair bike rider - but he only has experience riding on sidewalks and other pavement, so this was a bit tricky.

The bike track is a series of small hills with a couple of bridges interspersed.  The track is multiple materials, including rocks, dirt, sand, gravel and the slats of the bridges.  To successfully navigate the track you need to ride fast enough to keep your balance through the dips while being in control of the bike so that you can navigate each type of terrain.

On his first round, Big Boy was a bit of a mess.  He did not ride fast enough so he could not make the dips and he sort of panicked and jumped off the bike.  Then he went to the splash park/playground for a while and I was worried that he would not "get back on the horse."  I really wanted him to take another try on the track before we left and I eventually talked him into it.  Once he had gone around with assistance a couple of times, he got more comfortable on the track.  After many, many rounds, he completed one lap successfully wihout help and without falling.  We definitely need to go back so he can practice!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Kenilworth Community Centre - Spray Deck and Playground

This week, on a hot Edmonton afternoon, we visited the spray deck at the Kenilworth Community Centre.  This is located at:  7104 – 87 Avenue in Edmonton, Alberta Canada.  Here is a link to the community website:  http://www.kenilworthcommunity.com/

This spray deck is part of a larger playground, but it is modest compared to Jackie Parker Park, our usual haunt.  The Kenilworth spray deck is also a lot less popular than Jackie Parker Park, so it was easy to park and find a spot to sit right in the middle of the action.

This park is set up in an interesting way – the spray deck is in the middle of a series of playgrounds.  The beauty of this arrangement is that you can sit centrally in the park and see your kids playing in almost any part of the playground or spray deck.  My kids like to move around from spray deck to playground and back again, so this is idea for us.

The spray deck has a few water features that are activated by a hand sensor.  The kids had a blast in the water, but probably spent more time playing in the playground than the water – simply because it got cloudy and chilly.  The playground had different zones to accommodate different ages and abilities and, in general, I liked it.  My only complaint is that the playground was sand (eeech!) and sand and water are a bad combination!

A bonus at Kenilworth is that in the back of the playground is a dirt track for kids to ride mountain/BMX bikes.  I will definitely take Big Boy back for a ride; it looked like it was really appropriate for his age/ability level (he is 5.5 years old and a pretty strong rider).

Friday, July 6, 2012

Chicago CityPASS

On our recent trip to Chicago, we purchased CityPASS brand ticket booklets.  Here is a link:  http://www.citypass.com/chicago.   

In the past we have not purchased this type of ticket booklet because it has not fit into our vacation plans for a number of reasons:  we were not interested in the majority of the activities in the booklet; we would not have enough time to do all of the activities; the savings were not substantial enough; while the activities interested us we could not do them with the kids; or we could not use the tickets before the expiry date of the booklet.  In Chicago, we knew we wanted to do 3 of the activities in the booklet, so based on the math, the booklet made sense.

The booklet was $84 and it contained tickets to:  the Shedd Aquarium; the Field Museum; and Skydeck.  It contained 2 optional tickets allowing for admission to either the John Hancock Observatory or the Museum of Science and Industry and either the Art Institute of Chicago or the Adler Planetarium.  We chose the John Hancock Observatory and the Art Institute of Chicago.

The website boasts savings of 50% and while this can be true, these savings are as compared to the most premium ticket at each attraction.  The ticket booklet contains premium tickets to all of the attractions that we visited, but these were not necessarily the tickets we would have picked.  For example, at the Field Museum our ticket was all access, allowing for access to all exhibits including the special exhibits and admission to all of the shows.  We did not view all of the special exhibits and would likely not have purchased tickets allowing for this access if we were on our own. 

The CityPASS allowed us to jump the queue at the Field Museum and the Shedd Aquarium.  It was not necessary to jump the line at the other attractions we visited using the CityPASS, but in theory we could have.  We were particularly grateful at the Aquarium where the line up to enter was horrendous and we were short on time.

The ticket to the Art Institute of Chicago included an audio tour.  Although we would not normally have purchased the audio tour, I was really impressed – it greatly enhanced my experience of the exhibits. 

We purchased the booklets on the morning of our second day in Chicago from the Skydeck attraction.  We proceeded to use 3 attraction tickets the first day we had the booklets (Skydeck, Art Institute and then sunset at the Hancock Tower), 1 ticket the second day (Field Museum) and 1 ticket the third day (Shedd Aquarium).  We would not necessarily have visited the Aquarium or the Hancock Tower had we not purchased the ticket booklets.

The CityPASS booklet also contained various coupons.  We used none of them – we were either not interested in the product/service that was discounted or the minimum spend was too high.

Overall the booklets were a good purchase for us on this trip.  They were convenient, easy and we broadened our horizons a bit with some new experiences.  I will consider purchasing similar tickets on future trips.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

500th Post

I started this blog in January 2011 and this is my 500th post.  I have enjoyed the blog so far, and it seems that people enjoy reading it, so....here's to another 500!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Chicago Day 4

Our last day in Chicago was one of those “travel days” where you can do a bit of sightseeing but your focus always has to be on the time and getting to the airport.  Normally we would use a day like this to re-visit favorite sights, but we still had one activity left on our City Pass, so we decided to visit the Shedd Aquarium (http://www.sheddaquarium.org/).

The Shedd Aquarium is located right next to the Field Museum and both were about a 10 minute walk from our hotel.  We arrived just as the aquarium was opening and we used our City Pass booklets to avoid the insane line up (with a City Pass you can walk in through the will call area).  The line-up was already down the steps and into the adjoining park.  Our City Pass allowed us access to all of the exhibits and shows at the aquarium, making it a valuable ticket.  The aquarium is very expensive with admission equivalent to ours costing just under $35 (here is a link to the prices:  http://www.sheddaquarium.org/ticketprices.html). 

Once we were in the aquarium, the first thing that we did was book tickets to the 2 shows we were planning to see, the aquatic show and the 4-D movie of Planet Earth.  Then, on the advice of the ticket lady for Planet Earth, we went immediately to the “Jellies” special exhibit.  The exhibit was nearly empty so we could go through and take a good look at all of the displays.  The displays were beautiful and educational, but we got the feeling that there was not much material for the exhibit.  There were lots of empty areas on the exhibit walls and there were not that many tanks displaying the jellies.

After the Jellies exhibit we saw the beluga whales and the dolphins.  Then it was time for our 4-D experience, which is basically a 3-D movie with some physical special effects (like “Honey I Shrunk the Audience” in Disneyland – hopefully that is still a relevant reference).  The move was about 15 minutes long.  I have seen Planet Earth and I enjoy the program, so it was neat to see it in 3-D, but the few 4-D effects did not do much for me.

Immediately after our 4-D experience we went to the aquatic show.  It was very difficult to find seating, but we eventually did.  The audience at this show is seated on benches without demarcated seats, so people tend to take up more space than they would if there were individual seats.  At the beginning of the show curtains were drawn over the windows to block the amazing view of Lake Michigan.  Screens were lowered and parts of the show were on the screen, which I found disappointing.  The show featured a theme of training techniques and starred dolphins and the beluga whales.  Some birds were also featured in the show.

To be honest (and I don’t know if it was just travel fatigue), I found the show a bit boring.  It was repetitive and the theme was very one-dimensional.  Also my seat was incredibly uncomfortable – a bad combination.

After the show we saw the sharks exhibit and then headed back to our hotel to do our last minute packing, freshen up for the journey home and check out.  Then we caught the Metra to O’Hare.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Chicago Day 3

On our third morning in Chicago we did a walking tour of the district adjacent to our hotel – the Loop.  After this we wandered over to the Field Museum (http://fieldmuseum.org/), and on the way to the museum we say the Buckingham Fountain water show, but from a distance.

At the Field Museum we immediately booked tickets to the “Sue” show – “Sue” is a tyrannosaurs skeleton and the pride and joy of the museum.  The tickets were for about 3 hours into the future, so we wandered around the museum for a long while waiting for the show to start.  Our admission to the museum was also a part of our City Pass, which meant that we could skip the lines and go in through the back door.  Our tickets included all special exhibits.

We decided that we could probably not take in the entire museum in one day, so we decided to focus on a few exhibits.  The first exhibit we toured was called “Evolving Planet.”  We were impressed by the modern, accessible and relevant explanations about evolution, natural selection, and many other topics.  Difficult concepts were explained with interesting and informative videos or hands-on displays.  This exhibit included the Dinosaur Hall, which is massive and impressive.

We also took in the special exhibit “Genghis Khan.”  This exhibit was more “grown up” – meaning there were fewer hands-on displays.  My husband and I both found it very interesting, and I was surprised by all of the different things that Genghis Khan is credited with inventing – such as passports. 

After Genghis Khan, we took in the Hall of Gems, an interesting display containing different families of gemstones, before going to see the Sue Show.

The Sue Show is a film about the life and habitat of the tyrannosaurs rex.  It brings the skeleton in the museum to life and then illustrates various discussions regarding diet and habitat.  It was interesting, but I was happy that Big Boy was not with us because he would have been terrified.  I have to say…I’m not sure that the film would have been worth a long wait, but as it was it fit nicely into our day.

We left the Field Museum after the show and went back to our hotel for a rest.  Then we headed back out and walked past Buckingham Fountain and through the surrounding park area.  We were determined to try Chicago deep dish pizza for supper, so we headed to Giordano’s (here is a link:  http://www.giordanos.com/).  It looked like the restaurant was really busy and would involve a long wait, but they have a very clever system in place.  The pizzas take about 35 minutes to cook, so when you put your name down for a table, you are immediately encouraged to order.  They start cooking your pizza while you wait for a table and you are served your pizza shortly after a table is available.

We ordered a small pizza to share and an appetizer of mozzarella sticks to share and we had loads of food.  The deep dish pizza was amazing – I have never had anything similar!  I love pizza sauce, so the “sauce on top” set up really appeals to me.  If you click the link that I have included above, you can see pictures/video of the pizzas.

After supper we walked out onto Navy Pier.  It was not really my kind of place, but it was a beautiful night and we walked through the noisy midway and crowded promenade and enjoyed the lovely views of the city.  For a snack we sampled “Chicago Mix” popcorn from Garrett Popcorn (http://www.garrettpopcorn.com/).  This is definitely my new favorite popcorn flavor – it is a mix of caramel popcorn and cheese popcorn.  It was buttery, sinful and wonderful!

After our visit to Navy Pier we walked back to the hotel.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Chicago Day 2

On our second morning in Chicago, we woke up bright and early – the result of our frequent time changes over the prior week.  We had a lovely breakfast in the hotel club lounge and then we headed out toward the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower).  On our way to the tower, we completed a walking tour of the architecture of the surrounding buildings.  (The walking tour was from our Eyewitness Travel “Chicago” guide).

At the Willis Tower we purchased a City Pass (more on that later, but for now, here is a link to their website: http://www.citypass.com/chicago).  We walked through the waiting area for the viewing elevators, but there was no real wait.  Our City Pass would have entitled us to avoid part of the line, had there been a line, but it was not necessary.  The waiting area was very nice, with a short but informative video on the history of the tower.  There were pictorial displays as well, but we did not really look at all of them.  We took the elevator to the 103 floor (otherwise known as “Skydeck”) and then we slowly made our way around the tower looking out all of the windows and using the helpful guide to get our bearings.  It was a fairly clear day, and the view was beautiful.

When we were nearly all the way around the tower, we came upon the retractable, glass floored viewing area.  I am not the biggest fan of heights, and I hate glass floors!  I did go onto the floor for the obligatory picture, but I did not love the experience.  There were a few people that were paralyzed with fear and could not even step onto the glass.  We look around some more and then we headed down and back out into the hot Chicago streets.

We walked toward the downtown area and into the theatre district.  We were wandering by the Atrium Mall and admiring the statue out front (here is a link to a photo:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/novemberheat/197299343/) when we were forced inside by a sudden, severe rainstorm…it was dramatic!

Once the rain let up a bit we walked around and did a little shopping before heading back down Michigan Ave toward our hotel.  We stopped at Panera for lunch and we were pleased with our fresh, tasty, filling food.  Then we crossed the adjacent park and went into the Art Institute of Chicago (once again using our City Pass).  Our City Pass entitled us to an audio tour and we used it to wander through the galleries.  The audio tour really enhanced the experience for me, with facts and explanations about key pieces of art.  The highlights of the Art Institute for me were:  American Gothic, Nighthawks and Water Lilies.  We took in the special Lichtenstein exhibit as well – I learned a lot about his work!  Here is a link if you are wondering who that is:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roy_Lichtenstein

We were exhausted after a couple of hours at the Art Institute and we headed back to our hotel for a nap and a snack.  We headed back up Michigan Ave about an hour before sunset and we watched the sun set from the top of the John Hancock Tower (once again using our City Pass).  It was a beautiful sunset, definitely a romantic way to see the day out.

After the John Hancock Tower, we wandered around for a long time before returning to our hotel, hungry and tired.  Unfortunately we had wandered too late and there were no nearby restaurants open, so we ordered a light meal from room service.

Happy Canada Day Everyone!

Today it is Canada’s 145th Birthday and we celebrated in Edmonton.  In the morning we attended the pancake breakfast at the Alberta Legislature Building.  I have been to many, many pancake breakfasts in my time (I have lived in Calgary and there are dozens of Stampede Breakfasts each year), and I have to say that the breakfast at the Alberta Legislature was by far the best-organized breakfast that I have ever attended.  The Edmonton Ismaili Community hosted the breakfast and it was cleverly arranged so that patrons were served swiftly and there was plentiful seating.  The service was friendly and welcoming and the pancakes were excellent!

After the breakfast we went on a walk around the Legislature Building and we walked up to the pedway (that’s what we call an underground walkway in Edmonton) to see a Lego model of the Alberta Legislature.  The model is impressive and it contains cute touches like Lego flowers and a wedding being performed on the Legislature grounds.  Big Boy was excited to see a series of Storm Troopers being commanded by Darth Vader on one side of the model.   I was a bit puzzled….

We walked through the pedway and then started to head back to our car when suddenly it started pouring.  The rain was bucketing down, so we (along with lots of other people) cleared out of the Legislature grounds and we headed home.

After the kids had their naps, my parents hosted a BBQ for Canada Day, which was great fun.  The rain had cleared up so the kids played outside. 

This evening Big Boy is at the fireworks in Millwoods with his grandparents.  I stayed home with Little Boy.

Happy Birthday Canada!