Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Chicago in a Day

Chicago is a city I have wanted to visit for many years.  Learning how close it was to Brook's home and the fact that I could spend a couple of nights in the city on a girly trip with her had me sold.  We managed to cram so much into the 2 nights and proved that it is possible to see the majority of the sites all in one day.

We arrived late afternoon and checked into our hotel.  Home for the next 2 nights was The Hard Rock Hotel.  The hotel was lovely, the location was fantastic and the beds were oh so comfy.

We awoke bright and early the following morning ready for a jam packed day of fun and frolics.  We had already talked about all the things we had wanted to see and do and discovered the Chicago City Pass included all of them.  It cost us just under $120 each, but worked out a lot cheaper than it would have been to of bought all our entrance tickets individually, so turned out to be great value for money.

First stop was the 360 Chicago Observation Deck at the Hancock Building.  It was a very cloudy day and we had been told that there was 0 visibility at the top, but we had decided that as we were there we would still go up and risk it, plus we both really wanted to try their new attraction TILT.  I am so glad we risked it because the view was insane and TILT, well if ever you visit you have to try it.  I loved it.  It was the most un-natural feeling in the world and it certainly got my heart racing.  It really was fantastic.  For anyone that isn't sure what it is, there is a window panel that is basically fixed to a hinge at the bottom, you grab onto the hand rails and the window tilts forward 30 degres over the city down below.  It is a must for anyone visiting Chicago.

Next stop was the Shed Aquarium.  This place had me mesmerised, I could have spent days here.  There were so many beautiful creatures, and being able to get up close to them was amazing.  Highlights for me had to be the jelly fish, sting rays and some of the tropical fish in the coral tanks, they were so colourful.  There really is quite a lot to take in here so you would need to factor in at least a couple of hours if not more but it is definitely worth a visit..

Next on the agenda was The Field Museum.  Walking into the main atrium I was blown away by Sue, their T-Rex fossil, the most complete t-rex fossil that has yet been discovered.  I am a dinosaur fan so this was pretty cool to see.  Looking at their website a few days ago it looks as though our visit was timed well, as she is being taken down in Feb 2018 to be reconstructed in a new gallery in Spring 2019, so changes are afoot for the museum.    

Next was a quick visit to the Art Gallery.  We didn't spend too long here.  To be perfectly honest with you, we were both shattered.  By this point we had already done so much walking and our feet were in agony.  There was a great collection of paintings and portraits in the gallery and I'm sure all would be of great interest to anyone with a passion for art but it's not really my kind of thing.

We decided to head for pizza next, firstly because we had worked up such an appetite and secondly to rest our weary legs.  I mean come on, you can't visit Chicago and not sample some of their famous pizza.  That in itself was an experience.  Pie crust base topped with cheese then the tomato puree topping, so a bit of a back to front pizza if you like, however it tasted amazing. 

After dinner it was onto the last stop of the day.  We headed over to the Willis Tower so that we could view the city at night.  Again we were told that there was 0 visibility but having been told that earlier that morning we decided to risk it again, and once again the risk paid off.  In fairness at times we were above the clouds but it shifted and we were able to see some breath-taking views.  It was the perfect end to the perfect day and I couldn't have asked for a better full last day in America.

We both slept well that night and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast the next morning, which involved pumpkin spiced pancakes for me, I mean if ever there was a breakfast invented for me this had to be it.  We then decided to take a stroll along the river which was just lovely.  I felt like I was in a movie. 

It honestly was one of the best trips I have ever been on.  I am truly, truly thankful to Brook and her family for making my time in America so unbelievably amazing.  Our friendship grew even stronger over the week and already I can't wait for us to meet up again.

~ Gem x 

Monday, 27 November 2017

My American Adventure

I'm actually finding it hard to believe that I'm writing this post.  There is no way that I would even have begun to imagine travelling to America at the beginning of this year, let alone on my own.

Back in May I met up with the lovely Brook from Redhead Reverie.  She was visiting London on holiday and had contacted me about meeting up, which I was thrilled to do after communicating with her online since 2011.  It was great to chat to her over coffee and we got on so well, it was as though I'd last caught up with her the previous week.  We talked about travelling and I had mentioned how I'd love to see more of America.  I remember how I felt getting home that evening, the buzz and excitement of meeting up with her.  Little did I know we'd me meeting again later in the year, this time in her home town.

Having booked my flights in August, by the time October rolled around I was ready.  Although feeling nervous, I was so excited for the 8 nights that lay ahead I couldn't wait to see Brook again and finally meet her family, whom I had heard so much about. 

The trip was certainly very different to any other visit I have made to the US before.  Fitting myself into everyday, American family life was a great insight, plus it meant plenty of quality time with Brook.  Enjoying breakfasts out with bottomless cups of coffee and my body weight in pancakes was something I could easily get used to. 

During my stay I got to experience my first American Football game, it was a no brainer knowing that they are a football mad family, but that was OK with me.  It was insane and I enjoyed it so much more than I thought I would.  The atmosphere was amazing.  It would have been better had the temperature been a little warmer but even still I had the best time. It is an experience I won't forget and I am so glad I was able to experience it. 

I had also timed my visit in time with Halloween.  A celebration that the Americans do very well.  Trick or treating was never really a thing when I was a kid so this also meant that I was able to experience it for the first time too.  It was so good seeing how much effort everyone went to, and of course I had to dress up and get involved, you can't let the kids have all the fun can you!  I was even able to visit the boy's school and help out with their Halloween party.  I spent a little while reading to some of the children, which was an experience in itself as it is not something I would ever of had the opportunity to have done before.

The trip didn't end here, but I am going to save the rest for another day.  For now I just want to finish by saying how thankful I am for this trip.  It's an opportunity I have gained through blogging that I would not have been so fortunate to experience if I had not come across Brook's blog all those years ago.

~ Gem x

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Clay Pigeon Shooting

You can take the girl out of the country but you can't take the country out of the girl.

For quite a while now I have fancied trying clay pigeon shooting, and it was because of this that I decided to add it to my list of 40 before 40.  If it is one thing that I learnt from my 30 before 30 list it was that by having it, I was encouraged to get the things on it done. 

I knew I wouldn't find this easy.  Give me a still target and an air rifle, I'm fine.  Change that to a moving target and a shot gun you have a completely different story.

I was pretty impressed with myself that I actually managed to hit some of the clays, but I missed a lot more than I hit. 

I had only opted for 30 clays which I was thankful for.  My shoulder was a bit on the achy side after just a few shots, and I was finding that the gun I was using was really kicking back.  That said, it was well worth the achiness and the bruising I was left with over the next few days. 

It felt great being out in the open.  It felt as though I was returning back home again and reminded me just how much I miss living in the countryside.  Definitely a Sunday morning well spent and something to cross off the list.

~ Gem x 

Monday, 20 November 2017

Chunky Knit Blanket

I cannot tell you how long I have adored chunky knit blankets.  I have thought so many times about making one but had always assumed they would take me ages to make, especially as I get distracted so easily and it ends up taking me forever to finish anything.  However on spotting a workshop local to home I decided to sign up and make myself my very own chunky knit blanket.

The excitement of the workshop didn't end there though, oh no.  We were going to be arm knitting, something I didn't discover until we arrived on site and may I add, something I have also wanted to try my hand at for ages (although maybe that should be try my arm at, No? OK, fair enough, that was pretty bad). 

We were using 2kg balls of acrylic wool that feel ridiculously soft, and it is machine washable which is even more of a result.  Within 15 minutes it was already beginning to take shape.  By this point I was kicking myself as to why I had waited so long to make one, it was super easy and so quick.

I had made my blanket in less than 2 hours, that included a break for tea and cake, a very important staple when creating something I'm sure you would all agree.  I was honestly amazed by how quickly I was able to create this, and it is so cosy to sit under, perfect for the cold winter weather that has now arrived. 

The trouble I now have is that I want to make one in every colour possible.  Let' face it, you can never have too many blankets, but I do fear they wouldn't all get used and that would just be sad.

I apologise, I know this is far from the best of photos, however I just wanted to give you an idea of the size of it.  Definitely a couple of hours well spent.  And I am sure this will not be the last one of these blankets that I make.

~ Gem x

Friday, 17 November 2017


I'm still here.  I can't quite believe how long it has been since I last blogged.  It hasn't been intentional.  In fact I have quite a few posts in draft which I had intended to publish while I was away, I just never got round to finishing them.  I'll work on those over the next few days, plus a few new posts to update on all that has been happening in my world lately.  

I'll admit, there have been times over the last few weeks where I have felt as though I was living someone else's life.  And I'm not going to lie, I kind of enjoyed it.  It has been pretty amazing and some good progress has been made on crossing off a few things from my 40 Before 40 List, not something I had of imagined being done so soon.

Life has been kind to me and I'm loving it.  Let's hope it continues.

~ Gem x

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

November 2017 Bucket List

I can't believe we are almost at the end of 2017.  It feels as though the year has gone so quickly, but yet looking back to January it feels a life time ago.  Isn't it funny how it often feels that way.  A sign of getting older me thinks. 

With that said, in November I'd like to:

* Explore a new city.
Starting this month off in America is an added bonus and should all go to plan I shall be travelling to Chicago today.  It's a city I have always wanted to visit so I'm just a tad excited.

* Create a photobook of all my memories created in America
I'd really like to try and get some more of these photo books and one detailing my most recent trip would be a great memento of my time spent with Brook.

* Go to see a firework display.
I am the biggest kid when it comes to fireworks, I love them and literally find myself mesmerised by all the pretty colours falling from the sky.

* Prepare for Christmas
I'd love to get organised this year with my Christmas shopping, there is nothing worse than that mad rush at the end of December trying to find things to buy for people, I want to avoid that this year.   

* Begin reading my first Christmas book of the year.
The past few months has seen me increase the amount I have been reading.  From one book every few months to one book every 2 weeks, I'm more than impressed with myself so hopefully I should get in at least a couple of Christmas reads this year.

* Get in on the festivities
November for me is all about the build up to December which of course brings us Christmas, a time of year I am always excited for just in case you hadn't gathered this already.  Seeing the start of Christmas events, I want to make the most of them all this year and really enjoy it to the full.  I'm basically just going to try and cram in as much as I can to the last remaining months of 2017.

It's looking like a busy month.  Let's make the rest of 2017 amazing.

~ Gem x