Your new favorite travel app: Fieldtrip

One of the things I enjoy the most about travel is the history. The stories of the people who came before me, what the place was like decades ago, and the events that shaped the destination.

Maybe it comes from being surrounded by a family of history buffs or growing up in the Land of Lincoln where nearly every corner includes a plaque or statue or some other marker of historic relevance. Wherever it came from, it started early and has continued throughout my life. It has followed me, or possibly led me, around the globe.

Fieldtrip app

So when I heard about an app called FieldTrip I had to try it out. It is super easy to use and is great for those times when you find yourself in a new place and don’t have any sites planned.

I started with our current neighborhood and was surprised at how many historic sites and interesting things have been hiding right under my nose. The gorgeous house I pass nearly daily and always wondered how old it was? Turns out it was built in 1887 by a somewhat eccentric German immigrant farmer. Or the building my daughter likes to call the castle? I knew it was called the Stockyards Exchange, but had no idea it was also built in 1887 and once housed the offices for the country’s largest stockyard . . . and for one year in 1998 it was the Castle Hotel (maybe Olivia was right after all!).

Stockyards Exchange

Stockyards Exchange building, West St Paul, MN

Even if history isn’t your thing, this app allows you to narrow recommendations by interest: history, cool & unique, architecture, food, drinks and fun, and art and museums. You can save places as favorites or to return to later.

If you have your smartphone and the FieldTrip app you should never run out of places to visit . Happy travels!

Sisters take Chicago: A three day jaunt through the Windy City

Chicago skyline

Photo: Roman Boed

Chicago, the Windy City; the epicenter of city life in Illinois. Growing up in the Land of Lincoln Chicago was the big city to visit for school trips, fancy prom dresses, and weekend getaways for those that could afford it.

Now, living in Minnesota, it is still a quick trip for a weekend getaway, especially when your travel pals are still located in Illinois. The easy access, affordability, and sense of familiarity is why we chose Chi town for our first annual sisters weekend.

We desired a little relaxation and plenty of space to have fun so we rented a house instead of going the hotel route. I found a great little place on Home Away located near Lincoln Square and if I ever moved to Chicago this is probably where I would end up. (Other than the fact that the house across the street was going for close to a million!)

Easy access to the brown line, a beautiful park, lots of little restaurants and local shops, and plenty of history. Designated Lincoln Square in 1925, the area use to be heavily German. You will still find a few German relics, such as the Chicago Brauhaus, but the neighborhood has become an eclectic mix of smaller chains such as Fleet Feet and unique shops like Merz Apothecary.

Chicago el

Photo: Tony Webster

Day one I found a tasty little place named Gene’s Sausage Shop that would be my go-to spot if I lived there. A great deli, prepared salads, and killer giant pretzels; not to mention, the upper level alcohol selection and rooftop beer and wine garden. Then of course there was the consignment shop, A Secret Closet, where I grabbed a whole new outfit in less than 15 minutes and chatted with the friendly staff.

Once my sisters joined me the next day, we spent a little more time wandering Lincoln Square for shopping and dining. We enjoyed a morning coffee stop at The Grind, which seemed to be the favorite among the locals. The wait in line was well worth it! We walked out with delicious iced coffees and a moist zucchini muffin.

A quick trip on the brown line and a switch to the blue line got us to Wicker Park/Bucktown. This area is now very popular among the younger Chicagoans, and therefore has a reputation as a hipster area. However, it has great shopping, restaurants, and people watching. And it is a nice alternative to the crowds and large national chains that clutter the Magnificent Mile. We wandered up and down the neighborhood and enjoyed a leisurely lunch at Francesco’s Forno. The wide open windows and classic rustic settings made us feel like we were dining al fresco in a café a world away. We made a post lunch pit stop at the Toms store which offers coffee that gives back along side their comfy shoes that give one for one.

Wicker Park

After a long day of walking, our legs were cramping and we were ready to head back to our apartment. We decided to stay close to home base and dine in Lincoln Square. Of course, that didn’t really narrow our options or make it any easier to decide on a restaurant. We finally settled on Barba Yianni Grecian Taverna for Mediterranean and it was a great choice. The staff was friendly and knowledgeable; and the food was fantastic and authentic. We highly recommend the humos, greek salad, lamb kebobs, gyro platter, and olive plate. Really I don’t think you can go wrong with anything on the menu, but be prepared to eat big or share a meal.

Day two we hopped back on the brown line and jumped to the red line to go check out Navy Pier. Unfortunately, Navy Pier is undergoing a massive redevelopment and is currently missing some of the grandeur and fun that it is known for. I’m sure it will look amazing when it is finished, but for now I’ll keep it off the list of possible stops for future trips.

River North

Although Navy Pier was a bust, we really enjoyed our lunch at Osteria via Stato. So if you find yourself in the River North neighborhood, stop by for great pizza, Italian specialties, and drinks.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have more time to explore further, but I’m sure we will visit again. Good thing, because I’ve already started a list of places I haven’t gotten to visit yet: Chicago Foodseum, the Andersonville neighborhood, Scone City in Wicker Park, River Roast for a Hoosier Mama Pie. Any other things I should add to the list?

We have to lose ourselves

It has been nearly two weeks since I was on here, but for good reason. We have been traveling and spending family time together while I’ve been mulling over revamping this site.

So one thing that I’m reworking is the motivation Mondays. Olivia is beginning to really remember things we say to her and I have so much advice and so many words of wisdom (my own and from others) that I want to share with her that once a week doesn’t seem like enough . . . but it is a start. I want her to know about the power of travel, how to treat herself and others in a caring way, that good food is a must, and that even as one person she can change the world.

If there are any favorite quotes or words of wisdom you would like to share please let me know.

Lose ourselves

One books journey to Syria

Usually I take Wednesday to chat about travel or food, but I have been working on this story at work this week and I had to share . . .

Redleaf Press Blog

We often hear that a book can change your life. The right book, in the right hands, can change many lives. We were recently reminded of that fact when we were contacted about our book, Making It Better: Activities for Children Living in a Stressful World by Barbara Oehlberg.

This book has helped teachers and students across the country, but we were touched by the story that came to us about this book’s journey to a place far away from the normal classroom. A place where children and their families have been displaced from their homes. Where violence surrounds them and their country is in collapse. A country that has been at war for years—Syria.

Beryl Cheal, CEO of Disaster Training International and a former teacher and author that we have had the pleasure of working with in the past, recently traveled to Jordan, where she worked with young…

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