Cheap and Quick Eats in Chicago

April 25, 2010

We can't leave our Chicago chat without talking about the food!  If you mention Chicago, some people will think about Wrigley Field, Soldiers Field, Millennium Park, the Sears Tower ledge, the Navy Pier, the lake, and even Oprah.  But lots of people I know will think about the food!

There are lots of fancy restaurants in Chicago that might come to mind, like Charlie Trotter's and Tru.  We didn't eat at any fah fah fahncy places, but we did use the ladies room in The Gage!  Does that count?

We had a crowd of people with us and were super busy all weekend, so fine dining wasn't on our agenda.  There really wasn't time to spend on that kind of a meal, and we didn't want to break the bank either.  The weekend was about spending time with Bry, and celebrating his Navy graduation and LilSis' birthday on Sunday.  So where did we eat?  We WERE in Chicago, so we had to check out at least a couple of the foods that Chicago is known for!

Portillos Chicago Cheap Eats

Portillos in Chicago

What says “Chicago” more than hot dogs and Italian beef?  Our first night in town, we headed for Portillo's.  Portillo's is known for their hot dogs, Italian beef sandwiches (juicy or dry), polish sausages and burgers.  There are close to 50 Portillo's locations now, and all of them are in Illinois and Indiana except for two in California.  This place was crazy!  It was packed with customers eating and two full lines of customers waiting to place their orders.  I couldn't eat much there – even most of the salads are not vegetarian friendly – so I ended up with lettuce and tomato salad, but I really enjoyed the decor and the feel of the restaurant.  And I did sample their french fries: crispy, tender, hot, crinkle fries…delicious!

You can't come to Chicago without having pizza, right?  We headed to Gino's East since there was one close to our hotel in Great Lakes.  The restaurant looks and feels like a pizza joint in any other place in the country, but the pizza is all Chicago.  We loved that we could all get an individual-size pizza (thin or thick crust), plus a salad and a drink for only $5.99.  Not bad!  LilSis got the thin crust, and I wished I had done the same because it was scrumptious. I got their “thick golden crust” since I thought that was more authentically Chicago-like, but it wasn't what I expected.  I imagined a tender thick crust like Uno's, but it was a cornbread crust that I wasn't crazy about.  The toppings were great though; I just should have asked more questions before I ordered.

Cosi Restaurant ChicagoThe day that we zipped around downtown Chicago on the double-decker bus tour, we were famished and happened across Cosi as we were leaving Millennium Park.  Our group included all ages and all kinds of eating preferences, and Cosi's menu satisfied us all.

The ambience reminded me of Starbucks, and it's my understanding that Cosi started out as a coffee shop and added food later. It was a good move!  We all loved the flatbread that comes with soups and salads, and is used on sandwiches too.  It's great soft bread untoasted, but when toasted it gets nice and crispy on the outside.  Our group tried the fire roasted veggie sandwich, cobb salad, tomato basil soup, bacon cheddar turkey melt, and the chicken club.  It was all delicious, and affordable.  There are bunches of Cosi restaurants in the Chicago area, but none in Texas.  Boo.  This is my kind of food!

We also ate at a couple of chains that are maybe a little more generic, but still really good.  You can't go wrong with Jason's Deli in a pinch.  Who doesn't love Jason's?  It's another place with a menu big enough and good enough to satisfy pretty much anyone in your group.  I have one near my office and eat their Spinach Veggie Wrap minus the cheese all the time.

At the airport, some of us grabbed a quick sandwich at the Potbelly Sandwich Shop.  I have a Potbelly right down the street from me here in Dallas, but I'd never been there although I've heard it's good.  I wasn't disappointed.  The veggie sandwich on whole-grain wheat bread was excellent, and I love that you can request “Thin-Cut” bread on any sandwich, which gives you 1/3 less bread to deal with.

So there's your quick and cheap tour of Chicago eats.  Overall, it seemed to me that Chicago cuisine is pretty “meaty” and not super-veggie friendly, but it's clear that Chicagoans are really passionate about their food!  We're hoping to visit Bry again in a few months, and when we do, we'll no doubt eat a bunch more and report back on it!


A Taste of Chicago

April 21, 2010

While Bry was enjoying the Cubs game with his dad on Saturday, several of us took the opportunity on a beautiful sunny day to see some of downtown Chicago.  What better way to do that than the Chicago Trolley & Double Decker Tour? Luckily, Bo recommended this tour as the best way to see downtown without doing miles and miles of walking.

It was a little chilly and windy…duh, it IS Chicago…but we did a similar tour of New York City several years ago and loved it, so we were psyched for this day.  You can see everything and do it at your own speed, plus you get the feel of the city a little bit since you're experiencing all of the sounds and smells as well as the sights.

We took a ton of photos, and wanted to share some of our favorites with you.  Chicago: we'll be back for more of you as soon as we can!  We had a blast!

Chicago Theater

Chicago Theater

Macy's Downtown Chicago

Macy's (2nd largest department store on Earth) Still has Marshall Field And Company sign.

Chicago Trolley and Double Decker Co. Tour

Chicago Trolley & Double Decker Co. Tour (yes, the bus was furry.)

Downtown Chicago Tour

BigSis & LilSis on top of the Double Decker

Chicago Michaelangelo Art Institute

The Art Institute of Chicago Museum: Michaelangelo is misspelled!

Chicago Picasso

Chicago Picasso (showing off a Blackhawks helmet)

Chicago Sears Tower Ledge

Sears Tower Ledge: look at the people in the clear dangling cubes!

Millennium Park

Millennium Park

Chicago Mirror Girl Model

This Mirror Girl model was doing a photo shoot in Millennium Park

Millennium Park Brick Face Fountain

Millennium Park Brick Face Fountain

Millennium Park Brick Face Fountain

Millennium Park Brick Face Fountain

Chicago Tulips Millennium Park

Posing with the tulips in Millennium Park

The Bean at Millenium Park

BigSis in front of The Bean

Chicago Bean Millennium Park

The Bean in Millennium Park

Chicago Bean Millennium Park Camera

The sisters bein' goofy at The Bean!

And, last but not least, you can't talk about Chicago without talkin' about ‘Da Bears'.

Soldier Field

Soldier Field (Go BEARS!)

Towards the end of the tour, it got a little too chilly to ride on top of the bus so we had to go down below, which is why we have no photos of the Harbors or Navy Pier.  We may have to go back this Summer to capture some of the activities down by the water.

We could see Bry again before he ships out and while there we could take another Double Decker Bus tour when it's warm enough to stay on the top of the bus for the entire tour! We don't mind looking like tourists!

And next time, we'll make sure to take photos of all the infamous Chicago food! Chicago pizza, Chicago dogs, more pizza, beef sandwiches, more pizza, gyros…

We could go on, and on, and on about the food in Chicago!  🙂


Cirque du Soleil’s Zumanity: Review

October 25, 2009

In our last post, you were able to catch a little glimpse of us sisters playing around in the Zumanity gift shop. Well, after a lot of thought and many discussions on the subject, plus some expert advice, BigSis and I have decided to bust out from behind the caricatures and expose our real faces!

LilSis and BigSis at Elton's Red Piano

LilSis and BigSis at Elton's Red Piano

What better time to reveal ourselves than when we're talking about Zumanity!  You can't get much any more revealing than that!

This photo was taken at the Elton John Red Piano Concert a few years ago. This was a very special occasion for us as SisMama treated us to the concert and then it ended up being the last trip with were able to take with our Dad.  This is the actual photo we sent to the awesome artist, India Kalff, who designed our header and spent oodles of time helping us with the design of BigSisLilSis.

So, now that you know what we really look like, we thought we'd just go for it and make our very first EVER videos. Why the heck not!  We're brave girls, huh?  Be kind!  😀  We're just winging it and having fun!

In this first video, we were on our way to see Zumanity and were really, really excited, and a little nervous/worried, so we forgot to introduce ourselves. In case you hadn't figured it out, BigSis is brunette and LilSis is blonde.  (No makin' fun of the accents, okay??  You already know we're from Texas!)

If we were asked to sum up our thoughts about the Zumanity show in one word, it would be WOW!  In all reality, we were a little stunned after the show and could barely even get one word out. Check it out! (Oh, and notice the creepy lurking guy peaking through the show poster behind us.)  🙂

When we finally snapped out of our Zumanity-induced trances, we did a second “after the show” video with a few more words!

We both really enjoyed and appreciated some aspects of the show.  It is unlike anything either one of us has ever seen, or will see again. The production was incredible and beyond stunning; including the costumes (designed by Thierry Mugler), choreography, contortionism, acrobatics, music, and staging.  It was all truly superb.

One of our favorite performances was the Waterbowl. These two young women swam around in that bowl and performed out of it like they were dolphins.  It was absolutely mesmerizing.  (We added the red heart to the photo so you wouldn't have to see everything that we saw.  BTW, they do have on itty-bitty undies.)

Zumanity Waterbowl

Zumanity Waterbowl

In all seriousness, to say that Zumanity took this show as far as they could possibly push the envelope – even for Vegas – is an understatement. It's definitely NOT for everyone. There is a LOT of nudity, plus a drag diva emcee, a kiss between two men, suggestions of lesbianism, and simulations of sex acts that will pretty much curl your hair.  Plus other stuff that we won't even mention!  We're still not sure what the scary little horned goat/man creature was about; maybe we don't want to know!

While Zumanity features incredibly talented people and unbelievable performances, make no mistake about it – this is a very sexually-explicit show. If you choose to see it, be prepared to be shocked at the sexuality and amazed at the performances at the same time.

One last word of advice. Do. Not. Sit. On. The. Front. Row. And don't make eye contact with any of the characters that roam around. Unless of course, you would enjoy being dragged on stage to have strange men and/or women take your clothes off and perform very suggestive things on you (or to you).

All in all…we guess the final question should be, “would we see it again?”  LilSis says “yes”. BigSis says “nope, once is more than plenty”.  If you're thinking about seeing this show, we suggest you go to YouTube and investigate some of the videos there so you can make an informed decision.  As for us, we'd really like to see some other Cirque shows since we have a huge appreciation for the athleticism and talent we saw in Zumanity.

*Disclosure: BigSis and LilSis received free press tickets from Cirque du Soleil, with the understanding that we would tweet or post about the show. As you can see, we were very honest about our opinions!

Guess Who Saw Zumanity?

October 24, 2009

We've talked a lot about Las Vegas this past week, but we're not quite finished yet!  We have more to tell you!

On our last night in Vegas, we had free tickets to see “Zumanity; The Sensual Side of Cirque du Soleil”.  And, sensual it was! Wowee!  We'll be reviewing the show shortly, but here's a little sneak peek at the real BigSis and LilSis playing around in the Zumanity gift shop.

LilSis in mask

BigSis Zumanity Eyes

This shop was full of fun items: t-shirts, masks, sunglasses, and also lots of sketchy stuff that we WON'T show you!

Don't forget to come back for the Zumanity review in our next post.  Pssst…here's a secret.  It's going to be a video!  Our first video ever! 😀

PS: Just a reminder that BigSisLilSis is still PINK for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Don't forget to support your local breast cancer charities!

Cirque Tickets


Highlights of BlogWorld 2009

October 21, 2009

Blog World Banner

What a time we had at BlogWorld!  We won't bore you with all of the blow-by-blow details, but we'd be crummy selfish friends if we didn't share the highlights of the conference with you!  You can go to our flickr photostream to see more photos.

  • It was incredible to be involved with the new Guinness World Record for the most social mentions in 24 hours.  The goal was to raise money for cancer.  For every tweet, facebook update or blog post mentioning #beatcancer, 1¢ was donated by ebay/paypal and Miller/Coors.  Over $70,000 was raised.  That's over 7 million mentions in just 1 day!
Jermaine Dupri at BlogWorld

Jermaine Dupri at BlogWorld

  • The keynote panel on “New Celebrity” was moderated by Brian Solis and featured Robin from the Pussycat Dolls (?), producer and Grammy winner Jermaine Dupri, singer Matt Goss, Don Lemon from CNN and Anthony Edwards.  Quite a diverse group, wouldn't you say?  That diversity ended up with a bunch of sparks flying around that we could have done without.  On the positive side though, Anthony was totally likable, and spoke sincerely and passionately about his cause Shoe4Africa.  Very smart of him to make friends with a bunch of big-mouths like us bloggers!
Anthony Edwards at BlogWorld

Anthony Edwards at BlogWorld

  • We were really impressed with what Chris Brogan had to say.  Just wisdom from this expert; no BS!  We need to read his New York Times Bestseller “Trust Agents“.
  • The final keynote session was moderated by Guy Kawasaki with Jenny the Bloggess, Kevin Pollack, and Chad Vader.  It was pretty funny, although I'd say a few too many f-bombs for my taste.  But Jenny was hilarious and totally held her own as the only woman on the panel!  Check out her stories on the alien apocalypse and William Shatner.  Go Jenny!
  • We had a chance to chat with Lou Mongello from wdwradio, and got some great input on wherever the heck it is that BigSisLilSis are going.  Thanks for your thoughts, Lou!  All the best to you with
  • And lastly, we had the awesome opportunity to meet Darren Rowse.  Yes, THE ProBlogger!  In person.  😀   Woo hoo!  Seriously, we didn't want to leave BlogWorld without meeting Darren because of the enormous respect we have for him, his expertise, and the way he conducts his business…with total integrity.  So we send a HUGE thank you to Darren for kindly tolerating our gushing, and giving us some extremely valuable input that we're going to be acting on asap!  THANK YOU!

Oh, and the big surprise that we mentioned yesterday?  It's a direct result of the ideas and encouragement from Lou and Darren.  Whatever could it be?  😀


4 Days 2 Bloggers 1 Giant Mess

October 20, 2009

We're back!  We both flew back to our homes last night after 4 days at BlogWorld in Las Vegas, and you can bet that we have lots to tell you about that long weekend!

Can you even begin to imagine how much stuff it takes for 2 blogging women to get through 4 days of work and fun in Las Vegas?  These photos will give you an idea of what our room looked like!  Just imagine a bomb going off in both our suitcases!

Here's the bathroom we shared at the Renaissance…

Vegas Bathroom Mess

Vegas Bathroom Mess

and the desk we shared when we moved over to Caesar's Palace…

Vegas Desk Mess

Vegas Desk Mess

Somehow we managed to pack all that cr*p back into our bags and get home with it all, plus a bunch of business cards, marketing materials from vendors and swag from the show!

We're going to have gobs more on BlogWorld this week (plus a big surprise) so don't go anywhere!


Blog World & New Media 2009

October 15, 2009

Today is a big day for us!  This morning, I'm hopping on a plane to meet BigSis in Vegas, where we'll be attending the BlogWorld & New Media Expo 2009. We've been planning this trip for months so we're really excited that the much-anticipated day is finally here!


We've been studying like crazy to prepare ourselves for all that we hope to learn this weekend at the Expo. And, we're secretly (ok, not so secretly now) hoping to meet Darren Rowse, the infamous ProBlogger. I'd also like to meet the zany, Jenny of The Bloggess. And, we're both curious about Anthony Edwards being a Keynote Speaker.

We're going to be extremely busy with morning til night sessions and plan to crash a few ‘After Parties', so if something exciting happens, you can bet we'll be Tweeting about it! If you aren't already following us, just go to the right sidebar and Follow BigSis and LilSis. We promise not to bore you with what time we get up, what we eat for breakfast or what time we get in from the casinos; just maybe a couple of quick Tweets about our adventures and misadventures!  We'll also be putting up our photos on flickr.  You can find our photostream at

And, if time permits, we'll throw up a post or two from Vegas so stay tuned for more on our BigSisLilSis adventure @ Blog World in Vegas!  Look out Vegas; here come the sisters!


Cruise Line News for San Diego

September 29, 2009

The San Diego tourism, along with just about every other industry, has been affected by our poor economy. I was so disappointed to read that San Diego is going to lose it's only year-round cruise ship by April, 2010.  Carnival Cruise Lines has decided to relocate its' 2,052 passenger ship, Elation from its' home port in San Diego to Mobile, Alabama.

California's battered economy, along with the sharp drop-off in travel to Mexico because of the swine flu scare and an increase in drug-related violence in Baja, California, has driven business down for the cruise line.

Not everyone realizes how much of an impact this can be for the city. A study conducted by the Port Authority in 2005 found that each cruise ship contributes $2 million dollars to the economy.  Multiply that by the 78 stops that Elation makes in San Diego during a year, and that's nearly $160 million in lost revenue.

Earlier this year, the Port District was trying to persuade the Walt Disney Co. to bring its' planned West Coast cruise operations to San Diego, but the Disney Cruise line ultimately chose the Los Angeles area.

One bit of good news for San Diego was the debut last week of Royal Caribbeans' Radiance of the Seas, an eight-year old, 2,500 passenger ship that will be making about 30 round trip cruises to Mexico from San Diego. In the beginning, the cruise line will be offering four and five night trips to the Mexican Riviera through November 16. After that, the ship will offer nine to twelve nights through May to destinations such as Acapulco, Ixtapa, Ensenada, Puerto Vallarta, and Mazatlan.

The arrival of Radiance also marks the launch of the cruise line’s military appreciation campaign. In recognition of the contributions made by members of the U.S. military, Royal Caribbean is donating $10,000 to Wounded Warriors Families Support, an organization that provides support to the families of those who have been wounded, injured or killed during combat operations.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship Radiance of the Sea (photo credit John Gibbins/Union Tribune)

Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship Radiance of the Sea (photo credit: John Gibbins/Union Tribune)

I actually saw the Royal Caribbean Radiance last Friday when I drove past the harbor on my way to the airport. It's a gorgeous ship! Thanks for coming to San Diego Royal Caribbean!


BlogWorld is 4 weeks away!

September 19, 2009

BlogWorld Expo

Are you going to BlogWorld Expo?  We hope so!  We're going and are SO excited about it.  It's just 4 weeks away now…October 15-17.

If you want to go, the discounted registration pricing has been extended to September 21st.  That's Monday, so you don't have long.  Go to the BlogWorld Expo registration page and get yourself signed up asap.  The discounted weekend pass for Friday and Saturday sessions is $395, and will go up to $495 once the discount expires.

There are also some discounted $69 rooms left at the Hilton, but that pricing is only good til October 1st, if the rooms last that long.

Not sold on the value of BlogWorld Expo?  Check out the agenda for this year's sessions.  There are some pretty heavy hitters scheduled to speak:  Darren Rowse, Chris Brogan, John Chow, and Cali Lewis, just for starters!  And the Keynote Speakers haven't even been named yet, so who knows!

For more info, get yourselves over to the BlogWorld site.  You can also check out twitter #bwe09 and flickr tag blogworld09.

If you make plans to attend, please let us know!


Top Ten Happiest Cities in the World

September 12, 2009

We're going through a lot of changes right now with our business and the past several weeks have been the most stressful that we've ever been through. I'm sure we'll get through it as we always do. I just tell myself every morning “This too shall pass.” (Actually, I say that about fifty times during the day.)

What does that have to do with the World's Happiest Cities?

Well, since you asked, I'll tell ya. While in the middle of this huge transition, I find myself thinking about what it means to really be happy and to have true inner peace. I even wonder if it's possible to live a stress-free life? Could you really live a happier life just because you're living in a different environment?

I've always wanted to go to Rio de Janeiro, but since I heard that it was voted The Happiest City in the World, I WANT TO GO NOW!!  This might even get put at the top of my bucket list above Rome. (Don't get hissed off at me BigSis, I'm not ditchin' our dream vacation to Italy.)

I'm really curious to know what makes a city the happiest city in the world? For starters, just look at the place.

Leblon Beach

Leblon Beach

Another Rio de Janeiro

Stunning views

Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro

Ipanema Beach (Flickr Photo by over_kind_man)

Ipanema Beach (Flickr Photo by over_kind_man)

Forbes recently named the Top Ten Happiest Cities in the World. Here's the complete list.

  1. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  2. Sydney, Australia
  3. Barcelona, Spain
  4. Amsterdam, Netherlands
  5. Melbourne, Australia
  6. Madrid, Spain
  7. San Francisco, USA
  8. Rome, Italy
  9. Paris, France
  10. Buenos Aires, Argentina

It's sad that there's only one US city on the list. The results were compiled from 10,000 online interviews from people living in twenty countries. Still, the concept of happiness is pretty tough to quantify. This study is more of a survey of the respondents' perception of happiness than actual reality.

The study says “Brazil is associated with all the qualities of good humor and good living and Carnival”. Carnival is very important- it's the classic image that people have of Rio, and it's an image of happiness.

You can actually buy an apartment in Rio for $25,000 and beachfront homes just an hour away for less than $250,000. That's a heck of a lot cheaper than here in California! Now all I need to do is figure out how people make a living there. I think I need to take a trip there to check it out.

I don't think HayHay would mind too much if we uprooted him to move to Brazil. The surfing is supposed to be pretty good in Rio!