Shedd Aquarium in Chicago

We had been to Chicago several times before visiting the Shedd Aquarium, but we were glad that we finally made our way to this attraction. The aquarium hosts an amazing variety of species of both saltwater and freshwater fish and other animals. It is certainly a great place for families as there is plenty for children or adults that are children at heart. Not everyone agrees with zoos and aquariums, but it depends on both the treatment of the animals as well as their commitment to rescuing injured animals and conservation of animals in the wild. It truly seems that the Shedd Aquarium is committed to both and we were even told about a giant sea turtle that was rescued after being injured by a boat and now lives in the large Caribbean Reef exhibit.

There are some very interesting exhibits including Amazon Rising, Polar Play Zone, Wild Reef, Caribbean Reef, and more. In addition to the exhibits there are also several interactive activities that you can enjoy such as animal encounters, animal chats, and aquatic presentations. We were able to watch and listen to a diver as he fed fish in the Caribbean Reef exhibit, which has a prominent location in the center of the aquarium. If you are willing to reach out to the aquarium in advance, there are opportunities to do a variety of special activities like sleepovers in the aquarium, behind the scene tours, and even the opportunity to be a trainer for a day.

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Diver Feeding a Stingray in the Caribbean Reef Exhibit

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Beluga Whale Grabbing a Scarf

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Part of the Amazon Rising Exhibit

We really enjoyed watching the Beluga whales play with what appeared to be strips of fabric, almost like scarves. They would grab them with their mouths, drop them, and then grab them with their fins or tail. It seemed that they really enjoyed playing with them and they were not doing it as part of a show or to receive any treats from a trainer. Another favorite thing to see while at the aquarium are the penguins as they are always cute and adorable. On the flip side, watching the sharks as they circle the large tank is equally fascinating, but everyone is certainly glad to be on the other side of the glass.

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Diver Talking about Caribbean Ocean Life

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Beluga Whale Playing

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Sharks Circling the Tank (Sorry It is Blurry)

If you are planning a trip to Chicago, visiting the Shedd Aquarium is certainly well worth the visit. It is a perfect place to go when the weather outside is cold and rainy or snowy. Prices for non-Chicago residents are twice the price of Chicago residents although it is included in the CityPASS ticket, which makes that a preferable option to just buying tickets to the aquarium itself.

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Colorful Fish and Reef

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A Learning Experience

 

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Getting Away from the Maddening Crowds

Traveling is often a case of going to places that attract large crowds and long lines. It is an unavoidable consequence of going to places that are popular with other tourists and it certainly doesn’t mean that those places should be avoided. We have made no secret of the fact that we don’t like crowds, so we try to visit places off-season when the crowds are smaller. In addition, we try to include getting away from the crowds and visiting places that are more secluded or off of the beaten path as part of our trips. Some people who look at our photos and read our posts often say to us that we seem so adventurous because they always see photos of us hiking trails, climbing in the mountains, or going into the woods or jungle. It isn’t that we are really that adventurous, we just enjoy getting away from the crowds and seeing some of the natural beauty that a place has to offer. We purposely add those excursions into our trips whenever possible. Travel is so stressful in general that we highly recommend that you take the time to get away from the noise and give yourself even a brief opportunity for contemplation. This week’s Daily Post Photo Challenge is Silence, so here a few photos that we have taken while trying to see places where we could be alone with our thoughts and enjoy natural beauty.

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Walking Along the Rhine River

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Countryside near Ronda, Spain

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Irish Countryside

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The Path of the Incan Guards in Bolivia

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Hiking in the Fog of the Amazon Jungle in Ecuador

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Even in Chennai, India, Some Solitude

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Wine Road with Vineyards in France

 

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Semi-Deconstructed Turkey Pot Pie

One of the meals that we had when we visited Strasbourg was a very rustic chicken pot pie. Because of the fact that we wanted to share it, they basically prepared it deconstructed for us, which we actually enjoyed. We decided to make our own version of this hearty meal and it turned out quite delicious. Needless to say, it certainly wasn’t as elegant as the meal we had in France, but since it was just a weeknight meal for the two of us, that was perfectly fine. We happened to have left over turkey, so that is what we chose to use, but you could easily do something similar with beef, chicken, or even lamb. You could also use a puff-pastry instead of biscuits, but we liked the biscuits as it made a cross between a pot pie and dumplings. Obviously this recipe is very versatile, so you could add in different vegetables to create your own spin on the meal. It is really about what leftovers you may have on hand and what flavors you prefer.

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Pot Pie Filling in Strasbourg

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Our Pot Pies for Two

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cups Turkey Stock (we used homemade stock, but you can use store bought chicken stock)
  • 1/2 cup All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 cup Red Onion – chopped
  • 1 cup Celery – sliced thin
  • 1 cup Potatoes – peeled and diced
  • 1 cup Carrots – peeled and sliced
  • 1 1/2 cup Cooked Turkey – diced
  • Biscuits – store bought or homemade
  • 1 tsp Fresh Thyme
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
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Vegetables

INSTRUCTIONS

Sauté the onion and celery in a skillet over medium-high heat until they are soft and translucent. In a medium sauce pan, melt butter and stir in the flour to create a rue and add the stock and continue heating on medium-high heat until it simmers (alternately, you can heat the stock in the pot and mix the flour and some cold water in a bowl to create a slurry and then add that to the simmering stock). Add the carrots, potatoes, and cooked onion and celery to the broth. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 2 hours, stirring continuously. Once the potatoes and carrots are tender, the stew is done. Pre-heat an oven to the temperature in the biscuit directions (350 degrees in our case). Pour servings of the stew into oven-safe bowls and put the uncooked biscuits on top of the stew trying to cover it is fully as possible. Place the bowls in the oven for the time in the biscuit directions (16 minutes in our case). Remove and serve.

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Sauté Onions and Celery

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Simmer Pot Pie Stuffing

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Put in Bowl with Biscuits and Bake

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Our Version of the Pot Pie

 

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Growth Through Destruction

It is a harsh reality that our world is shaped by violent and disruptive events. Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and violent storms change the earth’s landscape on a regular basis. Although each of these events can be quite dramatic, ultimately they can create stunning beauty. Many islands, such as Hawaii would not exist if it weren’t for the eruptions of volcanoes. Even though we see evidence of events that have occurred hundreds or thousands of years ago, seeing our world change before eyes is a constant reminder that we are but a small part of the natural world. As much as we try to control the world around us, nature continuously reminds us that we are not in control. This week’s Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge is words that start with the letter V, so we have chosen photos of volcanoes from both Iceland and Ecuador, some of which were active.

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Volcano in Iceland. Is it Steam or a Cloud?

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Quilotoa Caldera in Ecuador

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Dramatic Volcano Crater on the Golden Circle in Iceland

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View of Cotopaxi Volcano

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Frozen Volcano

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Quito with the Active Cotopaxi Volcano in the Distance

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Cayambe Volcano in Ecuador

 

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Gibraltar – A Foreign Outpost

livingtheqlife

When we were in southern Spain a few years ago, we visited Gibraltar, which is a British territory located on the most southern end of the Iberian peninsula.  Gibraltar is more of a sovereign city than a country, but despite its size, you still have to pass through customs and border patrol in order to enter and leave.  The Rock of Gibraltar is the most famous landmark of the region and is strategic due to its location on the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea from the Atlantic Ocean.  It is also the location of an important naval fortress that is built into the hills of the Rock of Gibraltar.  Gibraltar is distinctly British despite its location in southern Spain.  The pubs, the people, the atmosphere of the city almost all go out of their way to emphasize their allegiance to Britain and the United Kingdom.  It was very interesting to visit, but…

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Christkindlmarket Chicago

Going to the Christkindlmarket in Chicago was definitely an enjoyable experience. This is the second Christmas market that we have attended here in the States and, although there are some differences compared to those that we experienced in Germany, they have both been very authentic. It was extremely cold during our visit to Chicago with wind chill temperatures well below zero, so having a warm glass of Gluhwein was a definite must. We visited the market on Saturday, two days before Christmas, and to say that it was crowded would be an understatement. It seemed that half of the city had shown up to squeeze their way through the maze of stalls.

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Making Our Way Through the Crowds

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Plenty of Food and Gluhwein

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People Everywhere

There was a wide variety of food available, including traditional German favorites such as Currywurst and Bratwurst, but there were options to fit any desire from sweet to savory. There was a pancake house, candy stalls, roasted nuts, cotton candy, ginger bread, hot chocolate, and hot cider. And for those that craved something different that Gluhwein, there was authentic German beer and Riesling wine. For those that wanted to get out of the cold, there was a beer tent with benches and heat lamps for people to relax while they enjoyed a festive drink. There is definitely no excuse for leaving the market thirsty or hungry.

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Stuffed Pretzels

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Pancake House

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Varieties of Sausage

Obviously, beyond the food, there were stalls selling a variety of goods. Some of them were authentic German items, but there were items from around the world. We even saw a stall selling hats and scarves from Ecuador. The most popular stalls were those that sold Christmas ornaments and decorations. One of the more unique stalls that we came across was one which celebrated Krampus, who is supposed to punish children that have misbehaved.

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Krampus Stall

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Ornaments and Decorations from Bethlehem

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Traditional Christmas Items

It goes to show that you don’t have to fly over to Europe to find a good Christmas Market. Next holiday season, check out the cities near where you live to see if there is one in your area. Obviously, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t visit the Christmas markets of Europe, they are truly magical.

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Beer Tent

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Entrance to the Market

 

 

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Surviving the Passages of Time

Traveling, especially throughout Europe, allows you to see how difficult it is to keep time from eroding everything that is man made. Rain, wind, hail, sleet, and snow take their toll on everything from buildings, bridges, monuments, and statues. Of all of those, seeing the statues that have had pigeons perched upon their shoulders, bronze faces turned green, and stone limbs turning black, feels especially sad at times. If you look into their eyes, you can almost see their sadness, the desire that someone would restore them to their original beauty. You can almost imagine them watching as hundreds of years worth of visitors pass by them, feeling trapped in their frozen bodies, unable to communicate to us. This week’s Daily Post Photo Challenge is Weathered and we have chosen photos of statues from throughout Europe that have survived the ravages of time, but not without it having taken its toll.

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Statue Outside of a Castle in Koblenz, Germany

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Statue of Goethe in Vienna, Austria

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Snow Covered Statue in Bucharest, Romania

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Soldier Riding Horse in Cologne, Germany

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Statue on the Charles Bridge in Prague, Czech Republic

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Statue in the Streets of Florence, Italy

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Statue on the Grounds of Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland

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Statue in a Fountain in Heidelberg, Germany

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Another Statue in Snowy Bucharest, Romania

 

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The Fusion Food of Lima, Peru

livingtheqlife

We had heard a lot about the food of Peru and, more specifically, of Lima. With the praise that has been given by chef’s such as Anthony Bourdain about the vibrant food scene in Lima, we were interested to taste for ourselves what people were talking about. We talked to the concierge at the hotel in order to get the best recommendations and although there are a few places that serve traditional Peruvian food, it is all about fusion. Of the various fusion inspired foods, Asian fusion was the most popular.

Asian Ceviche Asian Ceviche

Asian Soft Taco Asian Soft Taco

For lunch we had some more traditional Peruvian food, enjoying a chicken with a tangy sauce and pickled slaw on a brioche bun.  We also had a steak and avocado sandwich with a creamy mustard sauce.  Both were served with Peruvian fries, which are a little different than what we’re normally used to, cut…

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Taking Random Photos

Just like everyone else, when we travel we take photos of all of the major sites to see as well as a selfie here and there. We love taking photos of the various architecture, cityscapes, landscapes, and major landmarks. With that said, we often take random photos that don’t necessarily represent the place that we are visiting. If we happen upon some beautiful flowers, perhaps a courtyard with a fountain, or perhaps just an interesting scene or group of people. Although the photos don’t necessarily represent the place that we are visiting, we find the pictures interesting never the less. This week’s Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge are photos that contain the words that contain a U and an O, so we have decided to share some random photos that we took while we were in Quito. Do you ever take photos of random things while you are traveling?

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Flowers in a Park

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Shoeshine Boys Relaxing in the Town Square

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Flowered Trees in a Courtyard

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Art on the Side of a Building

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Cuddling Parrots

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Colorful Flower

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Guarding a Protest

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Bright Orange Flowers

 

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What Do You Want to Get From Blogging?

There are a variety of reasons that most people take the time and effort to write a blog and share their thoughts with the world. Regardless of what style of blog that you write and how frequently you post, creating content that generates interest can not only be difficult, but also opens yourself up to a certain amount of vulnerability. With that said, why would anyone take the plunge and create a website to post their opinions, ideas, and stories? There are probably more reasons than these, but here are some common reasons that drove us to start our site a couple of years ago.

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Strasbourg, France

  1. Connect with Like-Minded People – One of the great things about starting a blog is getting know other people who have similar experiences or share similar opinions as your own. Whether it is through comments, viewing other people’s sites, or getting to meet people in person, there is a certain amount of bonding that occurs when you connect through blogging. We know that for ourselves, we have learned as much from the other people we have connected with as we have from our own personal experiences. We get inspiration by reading the stories of others and from the feedback that we get on the stories that we have shared.

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    Iceland

  2. Sharing Your Thoughts, Opinions, Expertise, and Experiences – Perhaps the main reason that someone would want to start a blog is simply to share things about yourself and what you know. We would sit with friends and tell the stories about the places that we visited and the experiences that we had; they would tell us that would should share our stories online. It was a big leap of faith to start sharing our stories because we didn’t have any idea what to expect and we weren’t sure what kind of reaction we would get. Thankfully, for the most part our experience has been positive, although we have received a couple of negative comments, which we have taken with a grain of salt. Hopefully everyone who reads this will understand that they have something to say and that their positive thoughts and ideas are worthwhile.

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    Colosseum in Rome

  3. Express Yourself Creatively – There are a variety of ways that people are able to express themselves creatively through their blog site. Obviously, the words that you write and the stories that you share (both fictional and factual) are a form a creativity in and of itself. But there are other expressions of creativity, such as your logos, the pictures that you share, or just the topics that you decide to cover. Each of these are part of the creative process for creating a blog site. We consider ourselves to be amateur photographers, so taking photos during our travels and choosing which ones we include in our posts can be a daunting process. Those photos have become a window into the world of our travel and we probably think as much about the pictures that we choose as the words that we write. Getting validation for your creative choices can be one of the most satisfying feelings that you can get from posting on your site.

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    Standing on the Acropolis in Athens, Greece

  4. Improve Your Communication Skills – Perhaps not an obvious reason to start a blog, but the more that you write and put yourself out there, the better you will become at communicating with others. We have found that the people that have the best blog sites that we follow spend as much time reading other people’s posts as they do writing their own. Communication is a two-way street and seeing how other people express themselves, whether through humor, sarcasm, optimism, or just conversational, can lead to stretching your own communication style. When we look back at some of early blog posts and compare those to what we write now, we realize that we have morphed our writing style over time.

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    Incallajta in Bolivia

  5. Earn Money or Compensation – Not everyone who creates a blog site is interested in making money from their work. For them, the reasons that we have stated above are enough for them to be completely satisfied. Other people want to earn money or even make a living from their blog site. Whether by selling items, doing affiliate marketing, getting advertisers, getting freelance writing opportunities, or being compensated with products for mentioning them, there are a lot of ways to earn money from your blog site. We would love to make money from the work that we do, but we aren’t willing to change our opinions or way that we write about our travels to do so. There are a lot of other people out there who can provide advise and guidance into how to monetize your blog, but with hard work and consistency it seems like an achievable goal. Some people seem to want to shame anyone who wants to earn money for their blog site, but we don’t think there is anything wrong with people being compensated for the time and effort that they put into their sites.

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    Heidelberg, Germany

There are probably many other reasons for starting a blog, but those are some of the ones that have inspired us to put ourselves out there. What are some of the reasons that drove you to join this crazy community of bloggers? Are you getting everything from blogging that you were hoping for?

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