Cheer Du Jour

A little cheer to forget your troubles, and better yet, to toast with a glass of bubbles!

A Free Trip to Paradise, without Leaving Chicago

Baby, it’s cold outside! We Chicagoans have to face the reality of December temperatures now that Jack Frost has taken up (belated) residence here. The leaves have fallen and the landscape is a study in muted blah colors. Still, tropical temperatures with vibrant blooms and intoxicating scents are just a short drive away.

On a whim, my husband and I decided to try something different, and visited the Chicago Botanic Garden in December. Check with your library to see if they offer a free Museum Adventure Pass, as ours does. As soon as we walked up to the entrance, we were greeted with a small forest of evergreen trees and boughs, all decorated with bright, twinkly lights and bursting with accents of ruby red. Inside, more natural red and green decor adorned walls, ceilings and pots aplenty. Merry MarkEven Mark, a friendly guide stationed next to the information desk, answered questions in his festive best.

We braved the cold (fortified with hot beverages from the cafe), but not for long. Our next destination was the Regenstein Center, which was chock-a-block full of festivity. The Wonderland Express exhibit is housed there (this requires an extra fee – half-priced on Tuesdays, I noticed). It was a bit too crowded for our liking, and the tropical-style Winter Wonderland that exploded throughout the open areas provided more than enough to see. If only I had any plant sense, I could tell you what type of sprouts and blooms we saw. I can tell you that there were many, many beautiful and unusual red, green, white and pink varieties. Palm trees, orchids, and cacti, oh my! Close your eyes in one of the hothouses, breathe in the sweet aromas that permeate the air, and you might just feel like you’re on an island in the South Pacific. Unfortunately, just about the time we felt thawed and renewed, the bah humbug of a never-ending holiday to-do list shocked us back to the real world.

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As we ran across the bridge back to the warmth of the main building, we took a moment to look at the greens that bedecks the pergola sprawling above the half-frozen pond. Inside, we had one last respite. We enjoyed a delicious meal (since we had saved on the admission after all) of velvety carrot soup, customized pasta and a freshly made panini (ok, and a brownie for dessert – shared). The tables were decorated with candy-cane striped roses, and the center of the room featured confetti-sprinkled pointsettia surrounding a soaring evergreen. An electric train chugged along a large track suspended from the ceiling, encircling the room with cherished childhood memories.

holiday by the partly frozen lakePhoto0208pointsettia rowPhoto0173Roses

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What Are Your Pets Wearing for the Holidays Photo Contest

From Steve Dale’s Pet World – Great Howliday Photos  By Steve Dale, 12/6/2012 at 5:18 pm

What Are Your Pets Wearing for the Holidays Photo Contest. If you are in need a smile – check out this gallery. You can see all the nominees in the photo gallery below. I’ll interview the winner on my WGN Radio petcast (a podcast for pet lovers), and will make a contribution in that pet’s name to Tree House Humane Society in Chicago (specifically earmarked for the shelter’s capital campaign for their new building).

via What Are Your Pets Wearing for the Holidays Photo Contest: See the nominees and nominate your own! | Steve Dale’s Pet World.

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Free Chicago Holiday Souvenir Photo

If yfree photo oppou happen to find yourself walking along Michigan Ave during the holiday season, be sure to stop at the Walgreens free photo kiosk. It’s located between the Tribune Tower and where the Marilyn Monroe statue flashed her knickers, just north of Wacker Dr. There are two tall screens (at first glance, they look like any other advertising billboards) – one facing north and one south. Choose the direction you prefer and press the “take a photo” option on the screen. You’ll see a countdown appear, giving you a few seconds to strike a pose. If you don’t like the photo, you have a chance to try it again. When you get the perfect picture, simply enter your e-mail address and the photo will be sent to you, with a Happy Holiday greeting and snowflake background. Festive and free!

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Paws for the Holidays

Santa Paws and SimonIt’s official, pets rule the Howlidays! The White House has just released its Holiday Card, featuring Bo (who also stars in his own video – see following post for both).

Our furry kids participate in many activities:  unwrapping gifts (occasionally before the festivities actually begin), watching holiday videos (they’ll help me decide my favorites in an upcoming post), admiring (aka swatting and chomping) the ornaments we’ve just hung), enjoying the community’s holiday decorations (in the comfort–and security–of a heated car), and caroling (sounding ever so much better than I do). However, there are a few things in which our furry friends should not partake. The Anti-Cruelty Society (where we adopted our poochee) is a great source of information about pets, and has a special page for holiday safety.

Some of the hazards on the list that can put your pet in peril are: mistletoe, holly and pointsettias (all poisonous); tinsel, ribbon, strings, pine needles, ornament hooks and broken ornaments (all dangers for choking and/or intestinal damage); and of course, chocolate (see their “Everyday Hazards” for more foods to avoid). The site also gives advice for holiday gatherings and guests. A bonus to visiting their site – adorable  season’s greetings e-cards to spread howliday cheer.

…and because you can never see enough holiday pet photos, here is our baby T (at about 10 weeks old). He visited Santa Paws to purrrsonally deliver his wish list. baby t in scarf

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