As you may have read. . . it rained 85% of this trip.  Hey, it’s Spring. . . what are you gonna do?  We are VERY lucky that it happened to NOT rain this morning.  Thank you, God.

This was the morning we went to Disneyland for old people. . . a.k.a. Keukenhof!  Keukenhof is a ways drive out of Amsterdam through tulip fields to see beautiful tulips on display.  I literally could have spent a day there taking pictures. . . but an hour there was quite enough, given our hellish trip there. . . with tons of irritating people on our bus. . . with things repeated in four languages. . . while children screamed. . . and we made a million stops in a bus with no bathroom.

BUT. . . seriously, it was good when we got there.  :)

Proof that it was Disneyland for old people:

Now, it’s time for flower pictures. . .

I think I want to put this on a canvas. . . loved this.

Yes, these pictures were taken from the bus windows. . . but the fields were just incredible. Had to take pictures. . . despite the fact that they are not great!

So many I could frame. . . but not sure what Jake’s tolerance for flower pictures will be!  :)


Posted by: illinigirl | July 22, 2012

Amsterdam–Day #2

So. . . this day was a rough day.  CRAPTASTIC weather. Cold, windy, rainy. . . lovely!

Our first objective was to go to the floating flower market and walk around a bit.

Here are some pictures from the morning. . .

Near our hotel

There are tons of bikes in Amsterdam. . . it’s difficult to see, but this canal is completely lined with them.

And. . . now we’re at the flower market.🙂 I would spend a ton of money every week on flowers if I lived here.

We walked from the flower market to the Van Gogh Museum.  This part of the day sucked.  The weather was crap.  It was raining, cold, windy, and sand was blowing in our eyes when we got near the museum.  My nose was running like crazy, and Liz was sneezing up a storm (She is allergic to Europe.). . . We were LESS THAN THRILLED.  We stopped to get a coffee to warm up and cheer up.

This was heaven.

We then braved the wind again and went to the Van Gogh Museum.

Here’s the skinny on that:

I love Van Gogh, but I hate museums.  . . as they make me hate people who are oblivious, annoying, etc.  I will never forget when I looked over at Liz, as my nose was running, she was sneezing, and someone bumped into me.  We both looked at eat other with death looks.  Haha.  I find Van Gogh’s life super intriguing, and I do love his work. . . so I would have been remiss not to go. . . yet knowing what I know now, and given the crappy day we had, I might have skipped it.  Oh well.

Moving on. . . another picture. . . more wet pavement!

Later that night, we ate and then went to a highlight of this trip for me. . . going to Anne Frank’s house.  I have been an Anne Frank fan since I was fairly young.  I read her book, and it began my obsession with her and the Holocaust.  I’d read the book three times between grade school and college. . . Liz started reading it again for the trip, and it inspired me to read it, too.  I’m so glad I did, as it was even more powerful to have just finished the book.  Such an amazing place and such an amazing girl.

Secret Annex street

Another shot of the street. . . with the Westertoren Clock she often mentions.

The Secret Annex

Tips. . .

  • If you go online and tickets are sold out for the museums, that doesn’t mean all tickets are sold out. . . just the advance tickets.  I almost started CRYING when all the Anne Frank House tickets were sold out. . . but they weren’t truly sold out.
  • Go later at night. . . No lines, no crowds.  It’s a very small, narrow building with steep steps.
  • Read the book before you visit!

The next entry = tulip madness!  ;)



Posted by: illinigirl | June 21, 2012

Amsterdam–Day #1

Yes, finally back to travel blogging!

We arrived in Amsterdam in the afternoon and had a few hours to walk around before meeting up with a work colleague who lives in Amsterdam.  The best thing we discovered during this few hours?  Melly’s Cookie Bar, down the street from our hotel.  By this time, Liz and I finally mastered ordering coffee the way we liked it in Europe (which for me, mostly meant adding milk and 8 pounds of sugar).  We also found the most delicious windmill cookies here (a.k.a spekulas).  These brought back memories of being a kid, as my mom and grandma bought these for us when I was little.  We then had to stop here every afternoon for our dose of coffee and cookies. 🙂

Loved this spot!

Um, I could have taken a million pictures of the buildings on canals. This is one of my first pictures there. . . and one of my favorites.  This is a rare picture where it seems the sun is actually out and there is no rain.

Yeah, I am not into this whatsoever, but this is proof that there are marijuana cafes in Amsterdam. . .

We then met up with my colleague, Ewa and another co-worker from Wisconsin, Matt, who happened to be traveling in Amstersdam for work.  I was having coffee with my friend Amy the week before I left for Amsterdam, and she was saying she wished she was going so she see Ewa. . . who came to work with her once.  I got in touch with her through Amy, and she was wonderful about getting together, providing help and suggestions, etc.  She was really fun to hang out with to boot!

Ewa and I. Not the best picture, as I don’t have our picture with me and had to copy this from facebook.😉

Not a good picture in the dark. . . but Liz and I in a wooden shoe!

She took us to a local bar for drinks after dinner. . .

The really cool bar. . . we sat on the 2nd floor and could see into the bar on the 1st floor

Liz and I at the bar

Fun times!

Posted by: illinigirl | May 31, 2012

illini_girl + badger_boy = true love

You may have noticed that I have sucked at blogging lately. . . big time.

Well, I kind of alluded to this on my blog (kinda). . . and all of you who are friends with me on facebook know. . . but yes, I am in love.  Being in love takes time away from facebook, blogging, and other important tasks, but it is a wonderful trade-off.  I think my dad even accepts this excuse!

It’s been a completely crazy thing for me. . . and seeing as I’ve never been in a real relationship. . . ever. . . it still feels strange to say “my boyfriend”.  It’s just something I never knew if I’d experience, actually.  I was so independent, so set in my ways, and so happy being me.  I especially never in a million years thought I’d ever find someone in this location.

But. . . I wound up dating a friend I’ve known for a few years.  For a number of reasons, I never would have ever pictured myself with this guy.  The first few times we met, I thought he was cold and impersonal and that we’d never, ever be friends. . . and now I hold hands with him in the car every day.  It’s funny how life works.  ;)

Our relationship is not without it’s challenges. . . but it’s worth it. . . and I know that once we get through our hurdles, we’ll be that much stronger and appreciative of each other.

You all know I’m weird. . . *quirky* if you will.  :)  I’ve dated people who didn’t get me or who tried to suppress the quirky.  I found someone who accepts and appreciates the quirky awkwardness!

So eharmony was canceled straight away (although it took several tries because they DON’T make it easy). . . and I lost my fears of living alone with a puppet as my dancing partner in my golden years.

Here’s to love.  :)



Next we saw a few more buildings that Gaudi designed and a few by other people (yes, I know this is specific).  These were apartments for wealthy people.

One interesting fact we learned was that at the time these buildings were built, it was more of a status symbol to live on the FIRST floor rather than the top floor of an apartment building.  On the first floor, you could see and be seen. 😉

Apartment building (not by Gaudi)

A Gaudi building. . .

A nearby lamppost designed by Gaudi. The coolest thing (that I failed to take a picture of) is that there is seating in the lamppost with room to put heaters in them to keep people warm (back in the day). Gaudi thought of everything!

Another non-Gaudi (but cool) apartment building on the same street

More detail from the above building. . .

We took a quick peek in the Olympic soccer stadium!

The Olympic torch in Barcelona. . .

This area of town we were at was called Montjuic. There were tons of cool parks and nice views of the city. The area was built upon and improved for the Olympic games in 1992.

Zoomed in look

This is small so you can’t see that our eyes are closed!😉 We were so thankful to have a beautiful morning for a tour so we could enjoy these views!

Here’s one with open eyes!

A sculpture of dancers. . .

Liz and I joining in the fun. . .🙂

Then. . . we went down by the beach.

We went to eat in a gothic area of town (very cool and funky) called the Born Quarter. . . This hamburguesa was one of my favorite tapas in Spain. Um, caramelized onions on a baby burger? Yes, please.

This is where my memory gets fuzzy.  You see. . . it started to rain. . . and we were ducking in and out of buildings and were all over the place.  It’s really tough for me to keep all these buildings straight, let alone, remember the significance.  Sorry to our wonderful guide Paloma!  I remember things. . . but attaching those memories to pictures is tough at this point!

Some building I should remember but don’t. Maybe I will fill this in later. . . or maybe I’ll never remember!

A church!😉

A building adorned with umbrellas

La Ramblas. . . a marketplace. I loved looking at the flowers.  The sidewalk “curve” is an optical illusion with the brickwork.  . . pretty cool, eh?

The Barcelona Opera House. Unfortunately, this beautiful building was very difficult to photograph, given it’s close proximately to other buildings and the dumb weather. . . so pictures will never do it justice. . . but it was a gorgeous building. Trust me.

Mosaic work on the exterior of The Barcelona Opera House

The ticket window. . . love the mosaic work!

Closer up. Yes, I love mosaics.  :)

That night, I ate some amazing shrimp! I must say that after all these trips to Europe, I have finally mastered the shrimp beheading technique. . . and I ate this ENTIRE plate in no time at all.

I would like to document the fact that this restaurant had Viennetta. . . a dessert my sister and I LOVED as kids. . . and she would request from the store and then tell me I could only eat a small sliver.  That is total BS now that I think about it.  I wish I could go back in town and POUND that Vienetta like it was my job.

The now, “impossible to find in the U.S.” treat. . .

Um, it rained again that night. What a SHOCKER for this trip!!! Thank goodness I brought my raincoat because I used it every. single. day.

This was a great day. . . but holy cow, did we cover a ton of ground.  We were glad we had a guide and a driver. . . as it would have taken us many days to cover that ground on our own. . . and we wouldn’t have learned half as much as we did!

Posted by: illinigirl | May 21, 2012

Barcelona – Day #2 (Parc Guell)

So after  la Sagrada Familia, we went to a few other Gaudi spots.

The first being, Parc Guell, which I LOVED.  We were very lucky to visit this place on such a beautiful morning (a rare occasion on this trip!).

Gaudi planned this community with a few wealthy people.  It was meant to be a community of wealthy people living outside the city. . . a beautiful, nature-filled dwelling spot away from the city.

Problem:  During this time, the wealthy wanted to SHOW their wealth by building extravagant apartments downtown.  Who would see their beautiful homes in a private community outside of the city?

So. . . this idea didn’t really take off, but thank goodness it was started. . . because there are some really amazing buildings and pieces of art there.  My favorite form of art, much like mosaics, is trencadís. . . where he used pieces of broken ceramics in his art.

View from Parc Guell

Some trencadís. . .

One of Liz’ friends calls this “Dr. Seuss”-like. . . I can see that.


Adornment of a lady on the outside of the walkway

Trencadís on the ceiling of a pavilion

\ More trencadís!

Posted by: illinigirl | May 13, 2012

Barcelona–Day #2 (la Sagrada Familia)

This was probably my favorite day of the trip because we took a great tour of the city of Barcelona. . . the weather was really nice (at least in the morning), and I really liked Barcelona (as you will see by the fact that I had to download 107974017387 pictures for this day).

One funny thing that I didn’t get a picture of. . . Liz and I arranged for a private driving tour.  What I didn’t know is that we’d have a giant, Duggar-sized van with a P.A. system, a guide, AND a driver. . . all to ourselves!  It was pretty funny. . . but really nice!

I am braking this day up into multiple entries. . . because it’s too intimidating to do this entire entry all at once, and I’ll never be finished!)

The first stops were Gaudi spots. . . including la Sagrada Familia.  The Church of the Holy Family.

Gaudi took over construction. . . but it was a LARGE undertaking. . . without a lot of money behind it so it was not finished in his lifetime. . . and still isn’t finished.  It is not scheduled to be finished until 2026.  The design, materials, thoughtfulness behind this church was amazing.  Gaudi thought of everything.

Some of the most interesting details to me are are:

  • He used ropes with weights to model the arches for the church.  Computers have now proved that these are technically perfect arches.
  • He was not much into the details of faces and such on the facade. . . so he took molds of the tradespeople working on the church to make the faces.
  • The work is meant to mimic nature. . . no straight lines.  The inside is meant to mimic a forest.  I love this picture, in particular.
  • Gaudi died in 1926. . . he was hit by a tram near the church. . . and his life was completely dedicated to the church at this time, and he was living as a seemingly homeless person.  No one recognized him when he was hit. . . and he was taken to a homeless shelter, where he died.

Guadi designed the nativity side of the church. . .

The passion side was designed by another artist (forgive me. . . I cannot find his name). . .:\

Doors. Loved these. . .

Interior. . . by Gaudi. LOVE

Love the stained glass. . .

As you can see. . . still a work in progress.

Okay. . . falling asleep. . . must stop!  Goodnight!

Posted by: illinigirl | May 12, 2012

Barcelona–Day #1

Well, half day, Barcelona.

We started the day in Madrid. . . where it was raining.  We were not very interested in going outside in that so we had breakfast at our hotel before heading to the airport to fly to Barcelona.

I should say that while I didn’t portray the best picture of Spain in my last blog. . . but I really liked Barcelona.  Some of that was because I liked our tour a lot. . . some of that was because we had better food there. . . and some of that was because. . . I love Gaudi.

Check out info on Gaudi here!

There will be much more about him during day #2. . . but we did get to see a few apartment buildings he designed on Day #1, as our hotel was near a few of them.

Yet another super swankity-swank hotel. We definitely upgraded this trip in terms of quality accommodations.

Gaudi building near our hotel (Casa Mila)

Another view

I have absolutely no idea what this church (?) is. . . but it looks cool, doesn’t it?🙂

Then. . . we were dying of hunger and went to a restaurant the hotel recommended.  Loved it.  Some of the better food I had on the whole trip!

More sangria!

Croquettes are easily my favorite food and tapas in Spain.  You had me at “fried mashed potato sticks with ham”

Croquettes. Um. . . love. Love. LOVE.

Some delicious shrimp. . . without heads! Unheard of in Europe!

Casa Batllo (by Gaudi) at dusk. . . love.

We got caught in the rain (this time, absolutely pouring). . . so we stopped for a drink. I had *shock* sangria! This one had approximately 1/2 inch of undissolved sugar at the bottom of the glass. . . interesting.

It did not stop raining. . . so we walked to the hotel in the pouring rain and were completely soaked by the time we got back.  I wished I had soap on the way home. . . I could have showered on my way back!

Posted by: illinigirl | May 9, 2012

Madrid–Day #1

So. . . time to blog about my trip (finally!). . .

Some summary items:

Spain was nice. . . but not even close to comparing to Italy, Greece, or Austria.  Not even close.  That being said, it wasn’t a bad trip. . . just not somewhere I would ever need to go back again.  There are so many places I want to go and so many places I would want to revisit before going there again.


  • I think maybe if we’d gotten out of the city more and seen some pretty countryside, gone to the wine country, or seen Seville. . . or Portugal, maybe I’d feel better opinion of Spain.  Unfortunately, our timeframe and other travels did not allow for that.  We really wanted to hit up Amsterdam this trip, too. . . and I’m glad we did that. . . so no regrets.
  • I can only have so much tapas.  I was fairly sick of it after day #2 and wanted REAL FOOD.
  • It’s the most challenging country to not know the language. . . and I knew a lot more Spanish than Greek or Italian. . . but it was really difficult to find people who spoke English.  (Not saying this is their obligation. . . just saying, it wasn’t that easy!)
  • Liz had a different opinion than me. . . but I felt the people were not overly friendly. I would describe very few people we encountered as friendly at all.
  • If you aren’t into museums, there isn’t much to see in Madrid (in my opinion). . . and I generally don’t LOVE museums. . . and am not a big Spanish art person.


  • I love sangria.
  • The cities were very clean.
  • I love croquettes.
  • It was warmer in Spain than Amsterdam.
  • Gaudi is cool.
  • Did I mention I love sangria?

That being said, it was a GOOD trip!  Let me share some of my pictures from the first day!

We stayed near Sabatini Gardens and the Royal Palace. . .

Sabatini Gardens

A purple building I loved

Couldn’t help myself

Our first experience in a cafe where no one spoke English. . . eating and drinking was a challenge there, but we learned how to order coffee the way we wanted it! This was the basement of the cafe. . .

An indoor market in Madrid called Mercado de San Miguel. . . Reminded me a Quincy Market in Boston. This place was a lifesaver. . . as it was open when many restaurants were not!

Mercado de San Miguel

More Mercado de San Miguel

Plaza Mayor. . . mostly filled with creepy street performers.  We always tried to quickly get the hell out of this area!

Example of a creepy (but nowhere near the most creepy) street performer. To play the role of “headless soldier”, you must be an exceptionally short person.

I’d love to dance in one of these dresses!🙂

Love the detail on this building

A really cool store🙂

A Spanish Pinocchio🙂

Our swankity-swank room.🙂

Our hotel had a terrace that overlooked the royal palace. . .

A colorful cupola as seen from our hotel rooftop

Front of the Royal Palace

Cathedral. . . love the sky in this picture

Mannequin meet-up.🙂

Mercado de San Miguel has a bar, too. . . actually, multiple bars. This was our first sangria (of many!). . .


Love the colors of the flowers/tablecloths together in this picture. . .

We had to go out for churros and chocolate!

Let me just say. . . I was not so much a fan of these.  Very disappointing, seeing as fried things and chocolate are two of my favorite things.  The churros were not sweet.  No sugar. . . just. . . oil, lots of it!  The chocolate was also not sweet.

Please also note another hot mess item. . . I burned my foot almost two weeks prior to our trip by scorching my foot with ham juice while pulling my Easter ham out of the oven.  The picture below was taken the night after the burn.  (I will spare you pictures taken during the trip, as they will make you want to throw up in your mouth.)  We walk a lot on these trips . . and by the afternoon of this first day, all of this area was one huge blister, and was super painful.    After this night, things got better with it. . .  God bless Liz for putting up with me, my complaining, and my needing to doctor this area up each day with creams and bandages!  Also, God bless my boyfriend for running out and getting me supplies late on the night that it happened.

Next up. . . Barcelona!

Buenos noches!

Posted by: illinigirl | April 26, 2012

Memories of Grandpa C.

When Grandpa W. passed away a few years ago, I took some time to post some pictures and memories of him. . . and I’m really glad I did, as when I am missing him, it’s a place I can go and remember and reflect.  I wanted to do the same with Grandpa C.

To understand my family. . . you have to first understand “Pa and Ma”. . .

My grandpa lived on a farm and was raised by Leo and Nellie (Pa and Ma).



Bill, Pa, Ma, Mary Rita, Grandpa, and John in front of the farm house

They had four children. . .

Bill (who had no children and passed away before I could ever know him).

Mary Rita (who had five children)

John (who had seven children)

Henry Eugene-a.k.a. Gene/Grandpa (who had nine children)

I had the great privilege of knowing both my great-grandparents. . . as they were still alive when I was a kid.  Actually, Ma lived until I was in grad school. . . and died at age 100!

Ma and Pa gave strong roots to this LARGE family.  Their children reinforced this.  Despite our large size, we are close.

My grandpa and grandma had nine children. . .

Grandma, Grandpa, their children, and Ma on her 100th birthday (Mom and I love that she's waving in this picture).🙂

Dad has lots of stories from his childhood that are very fun. . . but there were also tough times and plenty of sacrifices having that many kids and not being made of money.

The whole family🙂

As a Grandpa, he was a fairly quiet man. . . but if you really listened to Grandpa, you knew how amazing he was. . . because while he didn’t speak much or get too many words in edgewise with our family. . . whenever he did speak, he was clever and hilarious.  It wasn’t until I was probably in high school that I truly appreciated this and took the time to listen carefully.

Dad with his parents on a Christmas Eve

We ate fried chicken most every Sunday at my grandparents’ house.  . . and one of my favorite memories was when my sister and I were sitting at the table with my grandparents, and it was time for dessert.  Grandma made two different types of pie.  Grandma sliced up the pies, and Grandpa said he wanted pieces of both pies.  Grandma went to cut his pieces into “half” pieces, and as she lowered the knife, Grandpa started squealing. . . (to signal that she needed to stop cutting because he wanted two WHOLE pieces. . . none of this half-piece stuff). . . Grandma said, “JESUS, MARY, AND JOSEPH!  You do NOT need two pieces of pie!!!”  I will never forget the cry he let out when she went to cut them.

An amazing picture, courtesy of my cousin Lindsey. Don't we all hope we'll like our husbands and wives this much and still have this much fun in our 80s? 🙂

Grandpa loved sitting out on the front porch and checking out the scenery.  My grandparents lived near the school and the church, and you could see plenty of comings and goings from their porch.

This is part of a picture of Grandpa and Grandma on the front porch. One of my favorite pictures my sister took as a part of her photography class, it's framed in my living room.

Grandpa was EXTREMELY particular and stubborn about things. . . down to what silverware he used.  I think many of us have inherited this “stubborn” trait.  :)

I remember one time my mom, sister, and I rode to my uncle and aunt’s house several hours away with Grandpa and Grandma C. . . but this trip took WAY longer than it needed to.  That’s because Grandpa took numerous detours along the way to “see how the crops were doing” in other areas of the state.  I’m pretty sure Mom wanted to choke him for making a long car ride with two little girls much longer. . . but that was Grandpa!  As a farmer, crops were an area of great interest and intrigue!

Me with Grandma and Grandpa during one of my visits home

Grandpa loved his church, his family, his town.  While he was never one to gush over anything, you always knew how extremely proud he was.

At his age, and with so many struggles and with him being a big guy. . . you’d think recovering from a hip replacement would be nearly impossible.  I think we all had our doubts about how he would do with recovery and physical therapy.  I mean, the guy isn’t really that into physical activity anymore.

Playing cards in the hospital

He did an awesome job!  I was fairly amazed to hear the reports of how he was doing. . . but in the end, there were just so many new health hurdles every day.  I was getting calls and texts frequently that he was nearing the end. . . but yet, he pulled through so many times.  In the end, it was time for him to go and stop struggling. . . and he went peacefully with family by his side.

My cousin Kathy made a comment on facebook that really spoke to me.  . “What a wonderful life Grandpa C. had! Surrounded by so many people that loved him all his life.”  That’s a beautiful way to think about his life.  He built a big family full of love. . . and was constantly surrounded by love.

Uncle Paul used this poem in the eulogy. . . and I think it’s perfect.


Fathers are wonderful people
Too little understood,
And we do not sing their praises
As often as we should.

For, somehow, Father seems to be
The man who pays the bills,
While Mother binds up little hurts
And nurses all our ills.

And Father struggles daily
To live up to “his image”
As protector and provider
And “hero of the scrimmage”.

And perhaps that is the reason
We sometimes get the notion,
That Fathers are not subject
To the thing we call emotion,

But if you look inside Dad’s heart,
Where no one else can see
You’ll find he’s sentimental
And as “soft” as he can be.

But he’s so busy every day
In the grueling race of life,
He leaves the sentimental stuff
To his partner and his wife.

But Fathers are just wonderful
In a million different ways,
And they merit loving compliments
And accolades of praise,

For the only reason Dad aspires
To fortune and success
Is to make the family proud of him
And to bring them happiness.

And like Our Heavenly Father,
He’s a guardian and a guide,
Someone that we can count on
To be always on our side.

– Helen Steiner Rice

We’ll miss you Grandpa!

Grandpa praying at his bedside


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