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Jul 31 2011

Canvas Prints

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I recently had the opportunity to review a canvas print from Easy Canvas Prints. Mary and I chose one of our favorite photographs of our three boys for an 18"x24" canvas print and we couldn't be any happier with the result!

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My photos here of the end product simply don't do it justice. The colors of the canvas print are true to the original, the image is sharp and the build quality is excellent.

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There doesn't appear to be any derogation from the original photo we supplied. This is a blow up of the canvas texture (the shiny spots are just light reflections).

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I've seen some other canvas prints online that have ungainly folded corners but these are very professionally done and unobtrusive. You can choose any standard or custom size print along with either 3/4" or 1 1/2" frame depth. Finally, you have to choose whether you want your border to be a sold color, part of the picture wrapped over the edge or a mirror image of the picture. We didn't like the idea of a solid border which kind of negates the full canvas print effect and since our picture was already perfectly cropped, we went with the mirror image boarder. Ideally, you would crop your photo with extra space around the image to that it could be wrapped over the edges. You can also have Easy Canvas Prints do some touch up work if your images isn't already perfect.

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This is a better angle that shows the quality of the image without the canvas texture evident. Their website was incredibly intuitive and easy to navigate. We simply have nothing negative to say. In all honesty, I received my review canvas print for free but I liked it so much that I ordered another one at my expense for my office at work!

Best of all, if you "Like" Easy Canvas Prints on Facebook, you will get:

50% of your next order AND free shipping!
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Posted by Don | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0) |

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Despite having planned and pulled off Will's friends birthday party earlier today, Mama found time to try out a terrific new recipe for dinner...Cheesy Chicken-Tortilla Lasagna.

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The Cheesy Chicken-Tortilla Lasagna was awesome and hopefully will appear on our dinner table again!

Posted by Don | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (0) |

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Today Will celebrated his fifth birthday for the third time with his very first friends birthday party. We all met at the theater and saw Kung Fu Panda 2 and then went to Cherry Berry for frozen yogurt and birthday cake which was actually a birthday cookie.

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Cherry Berry had a little room for special occasions all set up for us...with a little help from Ma and Pa.

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Will enjoying his Cherry Berry frozen yogurt. Actually, I think he liked the gummy worms topping the most!

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Will really enjoyed spending time with his friends from school.

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There were lots of laughs and smiles today.

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Will blowing out his R2D2 birthday cookie that Mama made completely from scratch.

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Landon enjoyed being at Will's party, playing with Pa and eating frozen yogurt as long as it was just plain and didn't have any sprinkles or whip cream any where near it.

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Landon (2), Will (5) and Drew (7).

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The first step in making a Star Wars R2D2 cake is to make butter-cream icing in four colors: white, light blue, medium blue and dark blue. This is done by simply stirring and adding blue food coloring until the colors look about right.

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Next, make your R2D2 cake. If you don't have an R2D2 cake pan, this will be a difficult step. You might also note, this is one ugly looking cake...but, it is an awesome cookie which our little padawan prefers.

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Start with the white icing smoothly covering the body, legs and feet as shown.

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Next, use the dark blue to outline the various features as shown.

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The cook (Mary) skipped a step in her photography. I don't know why she can't take care of three active boys, decorate a cake and photograph every step of the process at the same time, sheesh! So, here are the dark blue and the medium blue icing filled in. I think you can tell which are which.

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Finally, with the light blue icing filled in last. The almost finished Start Wars R2D2 cake or, in this instance, cookie.

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Mary was worried about the juice from the cherries running so she waited until the birthday party to put the final touches on the R2D2 cake, cherries for the lights/cameras/sensors/whatever.

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Landon napping in the recliner.

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988-fifth-birthday-cake.jpgAfter celebrating his actual birthday earlier this week with immediate family, we celebrated Will's 5th birthday this evening with some extended family. Ma, Pa, Aunt Catherine, Uncle David joined as well as Aunt Michelle and cousins Gillian and Gabe who were in town from Kansas City. Mary made the traditional Danz family birthday cake in the shape of the number of the birthday being celebrated. Will had picked out vanilla with vanilla icing and then helped Mama decorate the top with sprinkles.

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Will blowing out the candles on his birthday cake.

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Will really isn't a huge fan of cake, so Mama made some birthday cookies including one recognizing cousin Gillian whose birthday is on the same day of the year.

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After dinner, cake and cookies, it was time to open presents!

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Aunt Michelle and cousin Gabe.

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Will was very excited to get a Boba Fett helmet and EE-3 carbine rifle. Thanks to everyone who helped make Will's birthday extra special.

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I went out to water in the backyard tonight and was greeted by a spider between two bushes wrapping up his dinner.

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Jul 12 2011

Will's 5th Birthday

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We brought back Aunt Donelda's presents with us from Chicago for Will's 5th birthday. Even though we aren't going to actually celebrate his birthday with family until later this week, a boy should be able to open some presents on his actual birthday. So, Mama whipped together an impromptu birthday cake and we did a mini-birthday celebration for Will.

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Ahh, to be young again, when putting candles on your birthday cake was still fun.

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Will blowing out the five candles on his birthday cake.

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Will's brothers, Drew and Landon, were excited about celebrating Will's birthday...and sharing some cake! Landon knew, "Birthday, Will."

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Opening Aunt Donelda's presents with a little assistance from the younger brother.

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Thanking Aunt Donelda on the telephone.

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In what little downtime we had around my parents home, the boys scavenged though Aunt Donelda and my old stuff looking for things of interest. The boys found one of my old cap guns and a leather holster that had seen better days. While Drew and Will recognized them as a so-so find, Landon saw them as a prized possessions and quickly adopted the revolver as his sidearm. Without prompting, he proudly tucked both into his waistband and patrolled the grounds showing off his new found hardware.

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Aunt Donelda grabbed a quick shot of the family right before we headed out on the road.

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The highlight of our fifth day of vacation and trip to downtown Chicago was a visit to the Sears Tower - Willis Tower Skydeck. This was the view of the Sears Tower shortly after exiting the Metra train station.

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Same photo zoomed in to the top of the Sears Tower.

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Finally, the same photo all the way zoomed in on the Skydeck Ledges which extend 4.3 feet outside the building.

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A clearer photo, taken along our walk, of the Sears Tower Skydeck Ledges. Look closely, you can see people standing on the glass Ledges.

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Looking straight up from the bottom of the Sears Tower. You can just barely make out the Skydeck Ledges.

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Same location but zoomed in on the Skydeck Ledges. Again, you can see the brave soles who are standing outside the building 103 floors up!

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Drew and Will standing in front of...the Willis Tower globe and flags...that name just hurts.

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Getting closer, Daddy and his two oldest boys briefly pause to get our picture taken in front of the Skydeck sign.

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Inside, a display shows the 50 mile, four state, area that can be seen from the Sears Tower Skydeck.

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A nice Chicago skyline picture with the three tallest buildings, left to right, being the John Hancock Center, Trump Tower and the Aon Center/Amoco Building.

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A self-portrait on the Sears Tower Skydeck with the John Hancock Center and Trump Tower in the background.

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The 100 story John Hancock Center was the world's first mixed-use high-rise and was completed in 1970 when it was the tallest building in the world outside of New York City. It has the third highest residence in the world (after the Chicago Trump Tower and the Burj Khalifa in Dubai) and is currently the 6th tallest building in the world when simply measured to the highest point (including antenna).

The base contains indoor parking for over 700 cars, followed upward by retail space, office space and floors 45 to 92 containing about 700 condominiums. The John Hancock Center has the fastest elevators in North America traveling at 1,800 feet per minute (20.5 mph) resulting in a ride to the top taking only 40 seconds.

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The 83 story Aon Center, completed in 1973, where my father worked during the 1970s. It was originally the Standard Oil Building and later the Amoco Building before becoming the Aon Center.

For about a year, it was the tallest building in Chicago until the Sears Tower was completed in 1974. It remained behind only the Sears Tower and the World Trade Centers as the world's tallest building when measured in height to the roof until the late 1990s. Until 2007, it was the tallest building in the world without any major antennae or spires. Finally, it remains the world's tallest regular "box-shaped" building.

The building was originally clad in 43,000 slabs of Italian Carrara marble (same as used by Michelangelo in his sculptures) cut thinner than previously attempted in cladding a building. In 1974, just a year after construction, Chicago's harsh winters caused significant cracks and bowing culminating in one of the massive marble slabs falling off and penetrating the roof of the neighboring Prudential Center. Stainless steel straps were added to the panels in an attempt to fix the problem but between 1990 to 1992 all 43,000 one-and-a-half-inch think marble panels were replaced by two-inch-thick Mt. Airy granite panels at a cost of about $80 million...2/3rds of the original $120 million cost of the entire building!

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A view looking east out over Grant Park, Monroe Street Harbor and Lake Michigan. Monroe Harbor is the part of Lake Michigan where I've swam in about a half-dozen Chicago Triathlons.

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Finally, Drew and Will standing on a Ledge at the Willis Tower Skydeck.

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Despite my best efforts to terrify them, Drew and Will weren't the least bit scared to stand outside the Sears Tower 103 floors (1,353 feet) above the ground!

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This is a scan of the photo taken by the Skydeck people with their camera mounted on the ceiling and remotely operated. I strongly recommend anyone going to the Skydeck to take the time and pay for the professional photograph.

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Looking down away from the building.

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Looking down toward the building. I did remember to take a short movie which I may post it if I get the time someday. But, I never thought to take a photo looking up. Also, we had one boy not feeling too well so, although we thought about doing it, we didn't take the time to get in line for two Ledges and take a photo from one to another. It really makes a neat shot. Something for next time when Mama and Landon can come along.

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Landon hadn't been feeling well this week and wasn't up for a long day of travel and sightseeing so he stayed home with Mama while Drew, Will, Aunt Donelda, Miss Sue and I continued with our fifth day of vacation. We'd been closely watching the weather and had planned on going downtown on the clearest day so as to maximize our view pleasure of and from Chicago's tall buildings. Today turned out to be the perfect day weather wise.

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We started our trip off with a commuter train ride, the same one my father took to and from work every day during the 70s. It really is incredibly convenient. You can even take your bike along so that suburbanites can enjoy a ride along Chicago's Lake Shore Drive.

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Will and Drew, two of the three most handsome boys I know, looking forward to their day in Chicago.

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North Western Station, everybody off and let the crowds begin.

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Metra train station in the Citigroup Center formally know as the Ogilvie Transportation Center but better known as the North Western Station. Warning don't take a picture inside lest the owners get their terrorists-have-already-won panties in a wad. Seriously, there simply is no logical, rational, reasonable reason not to allow people to take photographs in 99.9% of the places that restrict it. The Ogilvie Transportation Center gets away with the prohibition because it is within a privately owned building (Citigroup Center) and isn't exclusively public (at least that's what Paul Blart told us after Donelda asked). I have no doubt a Chicago/Illinois court would uphold such idiotic reasoning since they can claim with a straight face the Second Amendment doesn't exist. Don't get me started.

After the jump, a ridiculous number of photos documenting our incredible day in downtown Chicago...and with surprisingly little political commentary!

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Will and Drew pose on the Adams Street bridge on our walk from the train station to our first stop, the Sears Tower. A separate blog post is entirely devoted to our trip to the Sears Tower or, if you must, the Willis Tower.

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Who said Chicago doesn't have wildlife. I caught this Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) as I was looking down at the Chicago River. While common world-wide, it is technically endangered in Illinois.

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After we visited the Sears/Willis Tower observation deck officially called the Skydeck and we ventured out on the glass Ledges, it was time for lunch. And, a trip home to Chicago wouldn't be complete without some authentic Chicago pan pizza. This time we got our fix at Giordano's.

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Now that's a cheese pizza! (This is what happens when Mama doesn't come with us...Daddy sets a bad example.)

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After our awesome lunch, we took a little waking tour of Chicago as we headed to our next destination. This is one of Chicago's famous elevated train tracks.

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The same elevated train track looking down the middle of the road/track.

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Another elevated train track.

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And, again, looking down the middle of the elevated train track/road.

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The Chicago public library Harold Washington Library Center features an acroteria angularia on each corner containing an owl (the Greek symbol of knowledge) perched in foliage.

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A Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) articulated bus. I can't even imagine driving one of these around the city...I'd just go straight and never turn.

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At one point I almost had Drew convinced that pigeons in Chicago will go running if they hear you say "orange sauce." He was hesitant to accept my assertion and tried it out but with no discernible results. He soon declared, "I don't believe you." While Drew got to put a little hypothesis-experiment-conclusion into practice...I was briefly amused while Drew chased pigeons yelling "orange sauce."

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Our destination was the Sante Fe Building which is the home of the Chicago Architecture Foundation and its current exhibit the Chicago Model City, a 320-square-foot model of downtown Chicago. The model city is really incredible and the only up to date scale model of all of downtown Chicago in existence.

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Looking east toward the Sears Tower with the person in the background, you get an an idea of the size and attention to detail that went into creating the models.

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Thanks to Donelda's friend since high school, we had access to the roof of the Santa Fe Building and its incredible views of the Chicago lake front. This is my favorite photo of all I took today (other than ones of my boys).

The 83 story Aon Center, completed in 1973, is where my father worked during the 1970s. It was originally the Standard Oil Building and later changed to the Amoco Building in 1985 when the company changed its name before becoming the Aon Center at the end of 1999.

For about a year, it was the tallest building in Chicago until the Sears Tower was completed in 1974. It remained behind only the Sears Tower and the World Trade Centers as the world's tallest building when measured in height to the roof until the late 1990s. Until 2007, it was the tallest building in the world without any major antennae or spires. Finally, it remains the world's tallest regular "box-shaped" building.

Go ahead, ask me how much I hate that stupid antenna thing sitting on top of it. It was only recently installed in 2009 and is the most vile piece of visual trash ever to sit atop a building.

The building was originally clad in 43,000 slabs of Italian Carrara marble (same as used by Michelangelo in his sculptures) cut thinner than previously attempted in cladding a building. In 1974, just a year after construction, Chicago's harsh winters caused significant cracks and bowing culminating in one of the massive marble slabs falling off and penetrating the roof of the neighboring Prudential Center. Stainless steel straps were added to the panels in an attempt to fix the problem but between 1990 to 1992 all 43,000 one-and-a-half-inch think marble panels were replaced by two-inch-thick Mt. Airy granite panels at a cost of about $80 million...2/3rds of the original $120 million cost of the entire building!

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Millennium Park is a 24.5 acre public park in the northwest section of Grant Park and is behind only Navy Pier as Chicago's number two tourist attraction. On the far left edge you can see the Millennium Monument a limestone peristyle tribute to the individual, corporate and foundation benefactors of Millennium Park. At bottom left is the Crown Fountain with a reflecting pool between two 50 foot translucent towers which intermittently cascade and spout water while playing videos using light-emitting diodes behind the bricks. Just above the fountains is the Cloud Gate ("The Bean") by artist Anish Kapoor consisting of 168 stainless steel plates welded together and polished so as to eliminate any visible seams. The sculpture is three-stories tall and has a 12 foot high archway underneath.

Finally, on the right is the Jay Pritzker Pavilion and Great Lawn. The bandshell stage is framed by large curving plates of stainless steel 130 feet high and is connected to a trellis of interlocking crisscrossing steel pipes that support the sound system which is designed to mimic the acoustics of an indoor concert hall. Interestingly, to me, is that even prior to Chicago being incorporated as a city, Grant Park has been protected by legislation that has been affirmed by four Illinois Supreme Court rulings declaring that the park shall be "forever open, clear and free." (This is the reason that all of the concerts in the park are free and the rehearsals are open to the public.) The park has been declared, "public ground forever to remain vacant of buildings." Protectors of the park have successfully sued the city forcing it to remove buildings and structures over the years and preventing it from building new ones. The Crown Fountain and Pritzker Pavilion are in violation of the height restrictions. "How can that be," you ask? The city just calls them "works of art" and exempts them, of course. Remember boys and girls, we are not a nation of laws. The only thing that matters is who you know.

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If you click on this image a large panorama will pop up of the view from the Santa Fe Building looking east out over Grant Park, Monroe Street Harbor and Lake Michigan. Monroe Harbor is the part of Lake Michigan where I've swam in about a half-dozen Chicago Triathlons.

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I leaned out as far as I could over the roof ledge to get a picture of the Santa Fe Building sign.

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On the way down from the roof of the Santa Fe Building we had to take a flight of stairs before we could catch the elevator. Miss Sue pointed out the awesome view down the stairwell.

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From the Santa Fe Building we hoofed it down Michigan Avenue to the Riverside Gardens on Chicago's Riverwalk to catch our boat for a Chicago River Architectural tour. Along the way we passed the Trump International Hotel and Tower, or Trump Tower Chicago or just plain old Trump Tower. The 98 story skyscraper, completed in 2009, tops out at 1,170 feet to the tip of its spire. It was originally designed to be the tallest building in the world but after the 9/11 attacks it was sadly scaled back to avoid making it a target. Meanwhile Arab nations build taller and taller buildings without fear of any idiots flying into them...hmmm.

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The ornate buttresses surrounding the peak of the 36 floor neo-Gothic Tribune Tower, completed in 1925, and home to the Chicago Tribune newspaper and WGN radio station.

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I love this photo of the Wrigley Building with the Michigan Avenue bridge in the foreground. Located at the southern-most point of Chicago's Magnificient Mile and known as the Jewel of the Mile, the Wrigley Building is actually two towers connected by an open walkway at street level and two enclosed walkways at the 3rd and 14th floors. The towers were completed in 1921 and 1924 and were Chicago's first air-conditioned office building.

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The Wrigley Building clock tower features four dials, each 19 feet, 7 inches in diameter. The hour hands measures 6 feet, 4 inches long and the minute hands are 9 feet, 2 inches long.

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The start of our Chicago Architecture Foundation, docent-led architecture cruise on the Chicago River looking west toward the Michigan Avenue bridge and the Trump Tower. Our docent volunteer was absolutely awesome in her knowledge, enthusiasm and presentation.

Unfortunately, Drew and Will were not up for a 90 minute Chicago River boat ride and lecture about the finer points of Chicago architecture. Will said screw it early on and took a nap leaning against Aunt Donelda. Drew who hadn't been feeling very well was in physical and mental pain. So agonizing was the boat ride that he said it was worse than buying pants and, at our house, there's nothing worse than that...until today! For what it's worth...I loved the tour.

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Formally 35 East Wacker Drive but originally known as the Jewelers' Building, completed in 1927 when it was considered the tallest building outside of New York City. It originally had parking on the lower 23 floors with a car lift that facilitated safe transfers for jewelry merchants back in the time of Al Capone. The building has been featured in Batman Begins (2005) and Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011).

The four turrets at the corners of the building weren't originally just for decoration. They were part of the original fire suppression system. Each held a cast iron tank filled with water that would have been used in case of a fire. Now decommissioned, the space at the base of each is used as conference rooms.

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Beneath the top dome of the Jewelers' Building was originally a restaurant called the Stratosphere Lounge. Supposedly, during prohibition it was run by Al Capone as a speakeasy. Today, the space is a showroom for the architect Helmut Jahn.

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Marina City consisting of the two iconic 65 story corncob towers with the lower 19 floors having an exposed spiral parking ramp (valet only) with 896 parking spaces each. Appearing in many television shows and movies, the most famous of which was the movie Hunter (1980) in which Steve McQueen chased a suspect through the parking garage who looses control and drives off the edge into the river.

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A raised bridge along the Chicago River with the Sears Tower in the background. The bridge is actually broken and either stuck or locked up for repairs.

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Another picture of the raised bridge along the Chicago River with the Sears Tower in the background.

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A little Chicago River skyline.

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333 Wacker Drive, of course known as the building where Ferris Bueller's father worked in the movie Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986).

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The red brick and vine covered 180 North Wacker in the background stands in contrast to the tall steel, glass and granite that surrounds it.

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The art deco Merchandise Mart opened in 1930 when it was the largest building in the world with 4,000,000 square feet of floor space (surpassed by the Pentagon in 1943) and even had its own zip code until 2008.

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The "Merchandise Mart Hall of Fame" is a collection of eight bronze heads on pillars (two seen here) representing "America's outstanding merchants" who stand guard watching over the Merchandise Mart. David Letterman once described them as the "Pez Head Hall of Fame." The heads are of Marshall Field, Edward A. Filene, Julius Rosenwald, George Huntington Hartford, Aaron Montgomery Ward, John Wanamaker, General Robert E. Wood and Frank Winfield Woolworth.

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311 South Wacker Drive is the 7th tallest building in Chicago and the 16th tallest in the United States. Interestingly, it is the tallest building in the world in one category...buildings known by their street address. The 65 story skyscraper was completed in 1990 and is one of the most recognizable buildings in Chicago at night as its crown of a 105-foot tall translucent cylinder and four smaller surrounding cylinders are lit up by 1,852 fluorescent tubes.

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Sometimes I can be a little ADD...oh, look a seagull.

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The Sears/Willis Tower and 311 South Wacker. As you will see in the next image, despite the illusion, they are not similar in size. 311 South Wacker is much closer to the camera in this picture.

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The Sears/Willis Tower and its sister building 311 South Wacker taken from the south looking north.

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Looking east down the Chicago River.

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Legend has it that the 37 floor (503 foot tall) Carbide & Carbon Building, completed in 1929, was designed to resemble a dark green champagne bottle with gold foil. Since 2004 it has been the home of the Hard Rock Hotel Chicago. The building was featured in the movie Wanted (2008) in the scene where Mr. X jumps from one building to another killing everyone in sight only to be killed himself.

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A was lucky enough to catch a seagull diving down for a snack. Exactly what he'd want to eat out of the Chicago River remains undetermined.

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The 70 story Lake Point Tower residential high-rise, completed in 1968, is the only residence and only skyscraper in downtown Chicago east of Lake Shore Drive due to a zoning loophole which was exploited by its developer but quickly closed thereafter.

The original plan for the building was to be a four-armed design but was later changed to a three-armed design (120° apart) with the outer walls strategically curved to ensure that the various residents could not see into the other condominiums.

My parents' former neighbor Mr. Penn used to live in the tower and once told us the story of he and his girlfriend who were...umm...taking advantage of the privacy afforded by the building's design and the fact that his high-up condo looked out over Lake Michigan. Not thinking anything of it, his window coverings were wide open. Next thing you know...they were interrupted by a window washer.

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The unique 86 story mixed-use residential skyscraper, Aqua, was completed in 2009 and is the tallest building in the world designed by a woman, Jeanne Gang.

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At the time of completion the 64 story (995 feet tall) Two Prudential Plaza was the world's tallest reinforced concrete building. Its distinctive shape features stacked chevron setbacks on the north and south sides, a pyramidal peak rotated 45°, and an 80 foot spire. The building took inspiration from New York's Chrysler Building and, in my opinion, succeeded in making a gorgeous modern skyscraper to which my picture doesn't do justice.

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Finally, after a long and exhausting day, it's time to go home.

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Our fourth day of vacation was spent at the Palatine Park District's Family Aquatic Center formerly known as Community Pool where I used to take my day campers every day from 1:00 to 3:00 pm when I was a day camp counselor and site director. Of course, back then, it was just a pool and not a whole "aquatic center."

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Drew jumping through the waterfall while doing a cannonball.

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Will bravely jumping through the waterfall.

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It looks like Will was eaten by a frog!

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Will splashing down at the bottom of the frog slide.

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Drew coming down the end of the fast water slide.

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Drew coming down the end of the very disorienting curvy water slide.

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Will was the master of the rock slide.

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Landon was, again, not feeling well and enjoyed the comfort of Mama's and Aunt Donelda's arms most of the day. The poor guy wanted absolutely nothing to do with the water.

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No doubt a nightmare for all the workers who keep the pool and deck spotless, the boys really enjoyed playing in the sand pit.

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Will was in charge of water utilization and supplies and general maintenance of the various bodies of water and waterways.

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While Drew handled the major excavation and terraforming projects. It was another great and exhausting day.

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The third day of our vacation was spent at the Chicago Legoland Discovery Center in Schaumburg, Illinois.

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If you take in all the activities, you can easily spend a whole day there. I think we only missed one major activity and we were there about six hours. The boys had a great time and very much want to go back some day. Hit the jump for 46 photos showing all the ways to have fun at the Legoland Discovery Center!

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First up was the Miniland Chicago made with nearly 1.5 million Lego bricks. The back row in this picture from left to right are the CNA Center (red), the Sears Tower/Willis Tower (black), the Chase Tower (white), 10 LaSalle (blue), the Richard J. Daley Center (rust), the Aon Tower/Amoco Building (white), Two Prudential Plaza (blue stripe), and the Smurfit-Stone Building (diamond).

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In this photo are the Lake Point Tower (black curved), the Wrigley Building (white front), the Onterie Center (white), City Place (red), Water Tower Place (white), the John Hancock Center (tall black), Holy Name Cathedral (farthest right), the Chicago Water Tower and the Contemporary Art Museum (small black).

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Another shot of the CNA Center (red), the Sears Tower/Willis Tower (black), the Chase Tower (white), 10 LaSalle (blue), the Richard J. Daley Center (rust) and the Chicago Cultural Center (right foreground). The Lego Sears Tower required the most bricks to build: 125,860!

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The Lego John Hancock Center.

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In back is the double-decker bascule Wells Street Bridge built in 1922 with the lower deck carrying three lanes of vehicular traffic south over the Chicago River with sidewalks on both sides and the upper deck carrying the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) Brown and Purple lines of Chicago's famed elevated "L" trains.

In front is the Michigan Avenue Bridge (officially DuSable Bridge) completed in 1920 which is a fixed trunnion bascule bridge or Chicago style bascule bridge which carries vehicular and pedestrian traffic on two levels.

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The Lego Wrigley Building.

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The Lego Chicago Water Tower.

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Lego technically just calls this a "church" but it most closely resembles the Chicago Holy name Cathedral, although the tall turret would have to be switched to the right side. Notice that the picture is darker than the others and you can see the windows lit up. This is because the whole Chicago Miniland skyline slowly rotates between daytime and night time.

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Chicago's number one tourist attraction Lego Navy Pier is a mile long pier built in 1916 which is a popular launching point for many sightseeing boat tours and has a 150 foot Ferris wheel, an IMAX theater, the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Amazing Chicago's Funhouse Maze, the Chicago Children's Museum, the Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows and other attractions.

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A Lego tiger in the Jungle Adventure.

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Will, Landon and Drew with the Lego tiger.

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A Lego monkey just hanging around.

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Lego monkeys.

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A Lego tiger cub on his back.

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Lego Indiana Jones.

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A giant Lego spider.

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The boys with Lego Batman.

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The crime fighting duo of Daddy and Batman.

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Lego President Obama. Drew shows exactly what we think of this man.

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I couldn't resist, it was an instinctual reaction...and very cathartic.

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The first of several opportunities to do some Lego building.

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The always creative Will whipped up a Lego robot.

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At this point we all hopped on the Lego Dragon Quest ride which took us past many animated Lego characters including this royal court.

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Uh oh! It looks like the Lego dragon is breaking out.

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The giant Lego dragon which actually breathed fire!

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Drew with his head in a Lego lion.

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Will with his head in a Lego lion.

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Landon with his head in a Lego lion.

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The Lego Factory is the only thing we didn't get to experience.

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We were able to see two different short movies from Lego Studios.

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The two movies we saw were in "4D." That's 3D along with wind, rain, lightning and even snow bursting into the auditorium!

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The boys with Lego Harry Potter.

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The boys with Lego Rubeus Hagrid from Harry Potter.

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Mama and Landon wave from the Legoland Technicycle ride with Will and Drew in the background.

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Will and Drew on the Technicycle ride. As Drew's expression shows, the ride was more oriented towards the littler folk.

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The boys and Lego Bob the Builder.

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The boys took a class where they built a model Sears Tower from individual Lego bricks. Landon got a little help from Mama.

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Finally, it was off to some serious Lego car building limited only by our imaginations.

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The Lego cars start to take shape.

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There were multiple ramps of differing lengths and angles to race your Lego cars down, all which curved up at the end to shoot the cars back into the parts bin.

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Will (and Drew) had the greatest time sending their creations down the ramps and launching them into the air only to ultimately crash (unless you caught them at the end).

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The boys befriended a really sweet young girl who helped them explore the creations they made together.

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There was even a race track with an electronic countdown timer and release mechanism for serious Lego car racing.

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Saving the best for last, a Lego Darth Vader and Lego R2D2 surprised us on the way out.

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Lego Einstein in the lobby.

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Time for a rest with the dozing Lego man on our way out of the store. As you can see, we had an amazing time!

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Jul 5 2011

Birchwood Pool

Our second day of vacation was spent at the Palatine Park District's Birchwood Pool where I was a pool rat growing up and eventually a lifeguard and swim instructor.

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This is Drew skydiving. Actually, he just jumped off the high dive and flying through the air on the way to the water...falling with style!

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Will was content with taming the shark slide in the kiddie pool.

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Drew and Will under the water umbrella, one of many water spraying apparatuses with which they had fun playing.

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Aunt Donelda and her two oldest nephews Mark Spitz and Michael Phelps.

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Landon was more hydrophobic than a lotus leaf. He didn't want anything to do with the water. Unfortunately, this was likely brought on by him not feeling well which only got worse later in the week.

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Jul 4 2011

4th of July 2011

Once we recovered from our early morning arrival, we were off to the Palatine 4th of July festival. There were plenty of carnival rides and great food to keep us busy for the afternoon.

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We started out on the merry go round where Landon rode a black stallion in full battle armor.

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With the warm up out of the way, it was off to the Yoyo swing (a/k/a White Trash Carnie Ride #10...don't take offense, it's not my list). Note, Will's relaxed, cross-legged, demeanor.

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Drew demonstrates his lack of needing to hold on, while Will is like, "Whatever."

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Even Mama got into the act.

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At the start of a simple train ride. The big boys went along to be with their little brother.

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The terrifying dragon ride, spinning nearly out of control, held in only by a flimsy plastic discount store chain...the boys risk their life and limb and flaunt death by raising their hands in the air as if to mock the grim reaper.

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Here's Drew and Will at the start of a nice little ride for kids...

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...that has one spot on each loop that scares the bejesus out of them...much to the delight of parents all around.

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We weren't aware but Landon packed his grumpy-pants for the trip. Actually, he's never one to pose for pictures. Any request to hold still, look at the camera or smile is usually met with the opposite and frequently accompanied by "No!"

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But, with a little bit of work, a happy kid can be found.

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Finally, we wound up in Itasca for what Mary and I thought was the best fireworks show we've ever seen. Donelda did a great job taking us to the festival during the day and the fireworks that night resulting in one of the best 4th of July's ever!

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Jul 3 2011

Drive to Chicago

I had to finish up quite a bit of work so that we all could take a week off together and, as a result, we didn't get to leave until 6:15 pm Saturday evening. While that might have been a deal killer for some planning an eleven hour drive to Chicago...not for the Danzes! Actually it was ideal in that we avoided driving during the 100+ degree day and the kids wound up sleeping most of the way, not to mention that I very much prefer driving through the night when all the amateurs are off the road.

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This was my view from St. Louis to Chicago, empty, desolate, dark, highway, with a ridiculously stupid fascist 65 mph speed limit. There is simply no reason for that low of a speed limit on such a well maintained, restricted access, four-lane highway with a wide median. As Jake Blues said, "I hate Illinois Nazis."

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