A Staycation Vacation Downtown

With the economy being the way that it is, staying close to home on vacations has become more and more popular.  The new term “staycation” means staying at home on vacations or taking day trips.  Ryan and I were very lucky this past weekend as our wedding anniversary coincided with some great deals on hotels downtown for Memorial Day weekend.  One of those deals was at the Swissotel.  Normally, rooms in this fancy downtown Chicago hotel can start at $229 and can go up to $399.  Needless to say, this is not a hotel that we would normally stay at as it would be way out of our budget.  I come from a family that swears by Holiday Inn Express.  The Swissotel is a huge leap from Holiday Inn Express.

We booked two nights at the Swissotel.  We made reservations for our anniversary dinner at the Publican. We had a great last minute dinner at The Purple Pig.  We saw a movie and we took advantage of our membership at the Art Institute (that I purchased using Groupon last year) to see the Matisse exhibit.  We came back to the hotel just on time to see the Saturday night fireworks at Navy Pier from our hotel room.  It was a very nice weekend.  But, even though it was a lovely weekend, I was a bit surprised when I woke up this morning and felt that sadness that I normally feel when a week long vacation in a different city/state/country ends.

Ryan and I didn’t travel very far for our vacation.  We just went downtown in our own city.  However, we made it a special weekend by staying in a hotel that we would not normally stay in.  We were able to pretend to be tourists in our own city and were able to see this area of town with new eyes.

The economy isn’t going to turn around very quickly.  More and more families will choose to stay in their own town for a vacation.  But, if you think of it as a true vacation and not as your only choice due to the economy or other needs, a staycation can be just as fun, relaxing, educational, busy, or whatever you want your vacation to be.

A Perfect Weekend

Cats Are Not the Best Problem Solvers

The last couple days have been very hot. Very very hot. July hot. Yesterday, both cats spent most of the day sprawled on the floor as a wood floor is definitely going to be the coolest place to lay down.  Although they were definitely in the way for anyone trying to walk around the apartment, they both managed to look quite comfortable. Today, however, was different.

Shortly after we moved into our apartment, we placed a pillow on a one of the shelves on the back porch. That is Buddy’s little bed/throne. It is perfect when it is colder out because it gets direct sunlight almost all day. So, I was a bit surprised to see her sprawled across the pillow this morning. She picked the hottest place in the apartment to lay down. She was panting like a dog. This was not her finest hour. I picked her up and brought her into the living room. I placed her down on their cardboard-scratching-thing. And that’s where she has been since then. Yep. I’m sure that most other cats would have figured out that if you are really hot in one place then you should move to a cooler place. Buddy is not like most cats.

Some Helpful Knitting Sites

As I’ve been working on my knitting, I have stumbled upon more and more links that might be helpful.  I thought that I would share those.

How to Knit the Knit Stitch –  The close up pictures are actually pretty helpful and they use a large knitting needle so you can see more of the detail in depth for the stitch

How to Knit the Purl Stitch – As with the one listed above, the pictures are helpful and the video is pretty good too.  They use a large knitting needle in this one as well so that you can really see the stitch and the details.

KnittingHelp.com – This site is very useful.  There is a lot of information covered on this site that ranges from different stitches to how to wind your yarn.

I hope that these are helpful to you too!

Cats are Horrible Garden Assistants

When Buddy was a kitten, I had several house plants.  When Buddy realized that I had several house plants, she quickly devised a plan to kill all of them.  I came home one day to find my lovely plant had been completely dug up and thrown on the ground.  The planter was lying on its side on the windowsill.  The tiny paw prints led me directly to the culprit.  I recently decided that since she was no longer a kitten and had become a responsible member of our household, it was time for me to once again fill the apartment with house plants.  That is when I learned the horrible truth.  It seems as though almost every plant is toxic for cats!

Ryan and I went to Home Depot today to search for plants.  Ryan was armed with the ASPCA website.  I was going on sheer instinct.  It turns out, when it comes to picking out safe plants, I have absolutely no instinct.  Thank goodness for the website.  It’s actually very helpful.  They list plants that are toxic to dogs and to cats.  That is great because I do not want to put Buddy, Bugz or Puck in any danger.

As I was searching through the Home Depot house plant section I came to the horrible realization that almost every single plant there would cause the cats to at the very least throw up on our new living room rug.  I was getting more and more discouraged until I found what seemed like the only thing that was safe: a palm.  How big will this palm get?  I have no idea.  Will I have to re-pot this palm every month because it keeps outgrowing its home in a style very similar to Audrey II?  I sure hope not.  Will this palm slowly take over our living room until we can no longer sit on the couch but have to climb through the plant and sit in its branches?  I don’t think so.  What I do know is that the only danger that Buddy faces from this plant is my reaction when she digs it up and leaves it on the floor.

Martha’s Soft and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie

I  definitely had a Martha Stewart filled birthday.  My parents are getting me a subscription for Martha Stewart Living so I no longer need to pick up each month’s issue while waiting in line at the grocery store.  And, Ben got me a copy of Martha Stewart’s Cookies.  This cookbook is great and definitely puts you in the mood for baking just by flipping through the pages.  Instead of a typical table of contents, the first pages are pictures of the finished cookies with corresponding page numbers.  Yum!

I decided that to celebrate all of this new-found Martha, I would do a Martha cookie for my next batch.  Flipping through the Cookies book, I found a recipe for Soft and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies.  This recipe can also be found on her website here.

It really is a great recipe.  The directions are simple and very easy to follow.  I do have to admit that I was a bit distracted when I was getting everything together and dumped some of the sugar with the flour instead of the mixing bowl for the sugar and the butter.  I caught myself and paid closer attention during the remainder of prep.

The finished product:  The cookies are delicious.  They are nice and chewy on the edges and soft in the middle (just as the name of the cookie would lead you to believe).  The next time I do this cookie, I might try switching up the sugar next time and might try to do half light brown sugar and half dark brown sugar instead of all of the light brown sugar.  All in all, this might be one of the favorites out of all of the cookies that I’ve done so far.