Our first ever Sine Die Adventure was to Chicago in 2012. Our daughter, Meghan, and I planned the trip for Ann and she had no idea where we were going until moments before we boarded our plane. Ann had traveled about 45,000 miles (literally) by car for her job that year and we knew she had no interest going very far. She just wanted to get there, so a 55-minute flight to one of her favorite U.S. cities was ideal.

Meg and I had fun on the way to the airport, and at the airport not telling Ann where we were going.  In fact, we sat in the restaurant/bar area of Omaha’s Eppley Airfield (as the terminal isn’t that big), and waited until our flight was called before revealing our destination.postcardjar.com

Let me just pause a moment here to let you know that Meghan and I, purely by accident, picked the perfect time to go to Chicago:  during the NATO summit.  Sure, we faced some inconveniences that changed our schedule (like the Art and Natural History Museum and the aquarium being closed, or snowplows parked on streets blocking any car from ever hoping to pass by) but found a city open in a way not possible to imagine until you come to grips with the fact that the leader of every NATO nation (from President Obama to the president of the Czech Republic) was in town.

We didn’t realize that the summit was even going on until we got a text from United Airlines warning us that rail transportation into the city center would be closed down. Residents of Chicago were told for weeks in advance to not come downtown. Entire office buildings were closed for a 5-day weekend.  And here we came, rolling into town, finding a lack of people and lines that no Disney Fast Pass could ever hope to imitate. All for free! Imagine, if you will, Michigan Avenue. Normally teeming with people and traffic — we counted at most six cars as far as the eye could see.  And the shopping?  Amazing.  We had the stores and check outs to ourselves.  Just look at the photos!

Empty seats and a great view of the hotel where the President of the United States was staying. Photo by Ann Teget.

Empty streets and a great view of the hotel where the President of the United States was staying. Photo by Ann Teget.

We zipped down to the Navy Pier, rode the ferris wheel with nary a wait, ate at restaurants of our choosing at times of our choosing and all without worrying about any reservations or lines.

The view of the Navy Pier from top of the ferris wheel there.

The view of the Navy Pier from top of the ferris wheel there.

We strolled over to Millennium Park. I’d been before but didn’t realize how beautiful it was because I’d always been dodging so many people on previous trips. That day, however, there were so few people that we could actually take in the park’s beauty.

Next, we hopped on an architectural cruise on the Chicago River. Boats normally overflowing with people now felt spacious. We could hear easily, and, perhaps more importantly, could easily get to the bar. Later, we decided to go to the top of the Hancock Tower. I braced myself for the usual long lines and hour-plus wait.  Instead, we walked up to the cash register, bought three tickets, had our picture taken and then went straight to the elevators. We were the only three in the car all the way to the top.

While downtown, I even honored Ann’s request for a very quick stop at the American Girl store on Michigan Avenue, where she and Meghan tried to explain to me why anyone would pay $50 for nightgown for a doll and why mothers and daughters were willing to pay real money to have their dolls’ fake hair styled. I still don’t get it.

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Notice we’re the only ones in the store. I guess most world leaders weren’t interested in Addy, Kit, Josefina, and the rest.

Because the idea of the Sine Die Adventure is to pick activities the person not planning the trip would like, Meghan and I did make reservations at Ann’s favorite restaurant, David Burke’s Primehouse at the James Hotel where she could have her favorite cocktail:  The James.  [Not-so-secret recipe: 3 parts raspberry vodka, 1 part elderflower liquor, and the juice of half a lime.  Serve it up with a lemon-sugar rim and garnish with a frozen raspberry.]  We also had an amazing steak dinner with excellent service. If you like a good steak, put this place on your list! We also booked time in a spa for massages for the three of us, visited the Museum of Science and Industry, and left time open in our itinerary so that Ann could pick some activities once we got there. It was her trip, after all.

She chose a Chicago-style pizza dinner and a ticket to see Blue Man Group.  So before the show, we sat in a small pizzeria eating amazing Chicago-style pizza while watching protesters riot near downtown on TV–an entertaining evening all around.

Watching the riots on TV from an empty pizzeria on the other side of town.

Watching the riots on TV from an empty pizzeria on the other side of town. Thanks, NATO Summit, for this private dinner!

We really enjoyed our first Sine Die adventure.  And while we can probably never re-create the timing and location of the NATO summit (and will have to go back to see the museums we missed) we will always remember the experience of having Chicago to ourselves for a long weekend. Well, us and a a few world leaders, that is.

  • Have you always wanted to visit @thepioneerwoman lodge in Oklahoma? We’ve got a new blog post today with 12 tips to make your visit spectacular. Our website link is in our bio. And if the lodge is not open for tours when you can come, no worries! There are plenty of great things to see and do when you @visit_the_osage and @pwmercantile I’m Pawhuska. #pawhuska #pioneerwoman #drummondlodge #ranch #postcardjar #reedrummond
  • This is our first spring in Osage County, Oklahoma, and we are in awe of these trees!! It is a red bud and is the state tree of Oklahoma. They are everywhere around here and we love spotting the bright pinkish purple blooms among the green trees. So much beauty in nature. #redbud @visit_the_osage  @travelok
  • Sitting in our hotel room in Venice, we could look out across the busy canal toward St. Mark's cathedral. The fact that it's an island city makes it different from any other city in the world. Water taxis zoomed around, larger vaporettos chugged past, as well. Occaisionally, a cruise ship would glide past our window. Tourists from all over the world came to take in this spectacle, yet to the locals, who drive boats down tight canals with ease, this is what normal life looks like. The world is indeed a large, interesting place. Have you been to Venice? ⁣
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  • Seeing this photo takes us back to the the cooking class we took last summer on the island of Mykonos in Greece. We went to a woman's home, learned about Greek culture and history, and then prepared a meal using fresh ingredients from the garden in her back yard. Suffice it to say, it was one of the most delicious meals we'd ever had. But perhaps even better are the memories of the warm welcome we received as we entered her home and the glimpse into the lives of real people in another part of the world. ⁣
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  • Trust us on this: there is nothing that relaxes more than kicking back in a hammock in the shade on a beach in the Caribbean. Except maybe leaving that relaxing spot and getting back on a cruise ship for cocktails and a gourmet dinner. What do you do to relax on vacation? ⁣
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  • Near Valdobbiadene, in the heart of Italy's Prosecco region, is a bar with no bartender. You simply go inside, take the wine or beer you want from the fridge, and leave your money to pay for it in a box. We weren't sure who the owner of this bar is, or even who keeps it stocked. What we do know from the cards and notes they've left is that people from all over the world have come here and respected the honor system. It's amazing how honest folks will be if you just show a little trust. ⁣
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  • Ahhh...the Piazza del Campo in Siena! We absolutely loved our time here, sitting at a sidewalk cafe, sipping delicious Chianti Clasico wine and savoring the some of the best lasagna and pasta carbonara we'd ever had. While there, we noticed a number of people drinking some kind of orange colored drink. Our waiter explained it was a spritz of some sort. We asked if it were good. She shook her head and said that only the Americans seemed to like it. ⁣
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  • This barn at at @Calamus_Outfitters in @visitnebraska serves as a reminder that this really is a working ranch. The Switzer family has poured their hearts and souls into the land. We think it's pretty neat that they're willing to share this piece of the beautiful Nebraska Sandhills with visitors. Have you been to the Nebraska Sandhills? ⁣
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Making the most of midlife.