September 2011 Archives

Canoe Gear: the Essentials

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As the leaves change color, and the temperature declines, fewer travelers are embarking on canoe voyages.  However, the cooling temperatures give the true outdoorsman the chance to save some money (many sites do not require fishing permits this time of year) and their pick of camp sites. Also, this gives beginners a chance to prepare for a trip that involves a fun form of exercise in the great outdoors while enjoying the beauty of the lake and maybe catch their first fish! When deciding what canoe gear to pack, evaluate your skill level, destination, length of trip and time of year.

canoe gear.jpg gives an excellent overview of what canoe gear you'll need.  Make sure everything is packed in water proof bags as you never know when you may take a spill. It is important to pack for different weather conditions but remember to pack light. You most likely will be carrying everything you bring along with finding space on your canoe. Below is an overview of the essentials.

Boating Gear

Lightweight aluminum canoe for beginners

Lightweight Kevlar canoe for experienced canoeists (helpful for lifting and portaging)

Life Jackets which fit comfortably

Car top canoe rack like Yakima

Tie straps/ropes

Seat pad

Paddles which fit your height


Camping Gearcanoe gear2.jpg


Fishing Pole

Lightweight cotton work gloves (helpful for collecting fire wood)

First aid kit

Sunscreen (you burn easier on the water)

Drinking water

A map of the lake


Bug repellent

Sleeping bag

Camp stove

Trash Bags


Food for all meals


Mess Kit

Matches, lighter



Dress in layers!


Long Underwear

Brimmed Hat

Hiking boots


Long sleeve shirt




Long Pants


Glasses, contact lenses

Hygiene supplies

Good Book

Playing Cards


Helpful Websites for Canoe Gear

Looking for a unique adventure? Check out iExplore's Yukan Canoe Expedition in Canada.

by Molly Nelson, Contributing Author

Despite less than savory weather, Chicagoans were out in full force last weekend (September 23-25, 2011) to celebrate the foodie city's crown jewel, Chicago Gourmet, one of the elite food and wine festivals in the country. tru.JPGShowcasing more than 100 of Chicago's finest restaurants and chefs, all the heavy hitters were out with demonstrations and speakers from the likes of Emmy Award-winner Ted Allen, international sensation Rick Bayless, Top Chef alumni Stephanie Izard, Jonathan Waxman (Barbuto) and Mary Sue Milliken (Border Grill) and Alpana Singh, Sommelier of Lettuce Entertain You. Bigger and better than ever, the 4th annual Chicago Gourmet festival was a smashing success, so we advise you to start saving your pennies for next year as the tickets go fast and aren't cheap $175 for a one-day pass or $250 for the weekend.

Fun Facts About the Event:chi gourmet.jpg

-6580 oz. of French Fries were served in the Hamburger Hop, the Friday night kickoff event in which had 17 entrants (Winners: Judge's Pick Bandera and Palmer Place People's Choice).

- Over 300 wineries and 65 spirits producers were present, meaning you could get your money's worth on alcohol alone

-1700 lbs. of Charcuterie (meats and cheeses) used in the entire event

-10,500 oz. of gazpacho was served in the Bon App├ętit Magazine tent

-8,000 tickets to the sold-out event were distributed

-Most common bite? A surplus of pork sliders

-Coolest presentation? Tru's chilled soup, served in a hallowed out turnip with dry ice.

-At least one engagement took place over the weekend (aka my dream honeymoon to be surrounded by food)

-Chicago darling and Top Chef Winner Stephanie Izard showed guests how to cook neckbone in her slot "Beast Feast"

-7 hours, the time it took for my stomach to settle after the amount indulged.

Standout dishes:

-Truffled short-rib po' boy- the juiciest and most extravagant Southern sandwich gets classed up, served personally by Rick Tramonto

-Crab and avocado ceviche- Gibson's, creamy and heavenly, whose seafood dish was a welcome break from the mountains of meat

-The whole pig up for butchering in the Stella tent (we were even given the cheek!)

Music in Puerto Rico

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Puerto Rico - Color

Image by fortherock via Flickr

Planning a trip to the exotic island of Puerto Rico? Be prepared to have your ears filled with beautiful sounds the moment you step off the plane.  This wonderful island is full a variety of beats from nature's unique sounds to cultural rhythms. Here is the best music in Puerto Rico.



One of the first things you will hear stepping off the plane is a high-pitched chirping sound. No it's not a time bomb, cricket or a bird. It's actually a small frog known on the island as a coqui; the most heard sound of Puerto Rico. If you listen closely the tiny amphibians even sounds like they are singing "ko-kee" at night. They are revered on the island, as a symbol of luck, so be careful not to step on them.



The most popular sounds in Puerto Rico are the rhythms of salsa. It is known as the "sauce" that gives life to party. Puerto Ricans living in New York originally started salsa bringing together the music of Cuba and the Afro Caribbean. Salsa music uses guiros, a Latin American percussion instrument, maracas, drums and tambourines.



Another sound you will hear in Puerto Rico is the rhythms of bomba. African cultural traditions influenced this style of music. Bomba is performed with one big drum, a couple smaller drums and maracas. The performance is as a conversation and a competition between the drummer and the dancer.



Another sound you will hear in Puerto Rico comes from the native tribe of Tainos that previously inhabited the area. Spanish colonists heard plena and introduced a guitar to its rhythm. A performance of plena tells a story of the day's news. It is how news used to spread from village to village.



Last but not least, if you venture to the young adult clubs you will hear another popular sound in Puerto Rico: reggaeton. Reggaeton is a mixture of rap, reggae, and Latin American dance and is very popular among Latinos in the U.S. as well. A few favorite reggaeton artists include: Daddy Yankee, Don Omar, Pitbull, Wisin and Yandel.

By Rachel Jimenez, Contributing Author

Lambeau Field - HDR

Image by tncountryfan via Flickr

Sports fans rejoice, the game of pigskin is back and with a vengeance. Take a road trip to visit your favorite team and in the process uncover some history of true Americana.  The origin of football can be traced back to Rugby in Britain in the mid 19th century, but what we know as the NFL today date back to the 1920's. Primarily a sport of rough and tumble industrial towns in the Midwest, professional football eventually became a national phenomenon. Discover the best football stadiums in the league today, infused with a mix of history and technology.

Lambeau Field (Green Bay Packers)

As much as it pains me to say, Lambeau Field is one of the best football stadiums in the country, for the sheer reason it's been around the longest. The oldest stadium in the league, find rowdy Packers fans donning cheese hats during any sub zero temperature.  From the legendary Favre days to the new Rodgers dynasty, Packers fans are fiercely loyal and fill the stadium with anticipation and vigor- whatever the season may bring. The only true "retro" design in the league, within the five-story atrium is the 25,000-square-foot Packers Hall of Fame, event center and one-of-a-kind brew pub (Curly's Pub) with interactive areas, and a large pro shop.

Cowboys Stadium (Dallas Cowboys)

With one of the richest histories in the game, the Cowboys have seen many legends come through the doors of Cowboy Stadium- the greats ofTroy Aikman, Michael Irvin, and Emmitt Smith.The world's largest domed structure, one of the most unique features is its collection of museum quality contemporary art, which wonderfully enhances the iconic architecture of the building. They offer guided art tours every Tuesday and Thursdays because these jocks have a softer side.

Arrowhead Stadium (Kansas City Chiefs)

Hail to the Chiefs, named the Sea of Red for having the NFL's loudest fans, Arrowhead Stadium has a rich history with its raucous attendees. Though not the winningest program by a long shot, that doesn't make the Kansas City fans any less enthusiastic. At the time of its dedication in '72, the legendary founder of the Chicago Bears, George Halas called Arrowhead, "the most revolutionary, futuristic, sports complex I have ever seen" as it was one of the first to have an electronic sound and scoreboard system and 360-degree video ribbon board, standards for today's gamecasts.

Gillette Stadium (New England Patriots)

Home of the New England Patriots, and the New England Revolution of Major League Soccer, Gillette Stadium reopened on May 11, 2002 after an extensive revamp. A bridge and 12-story lighthouse welcome visitors to the stadium in tribute to their coastal seascape. Fan satisfaction is at the forefront of Gillette Stadium's design, with unobstructed views from the entire length of each of its wide concourses ensuring a great view of the field from practically anywhere inside the turnstiles. The stadium is surrounded by Patriot Place, a state of the art shopping and dining facility so even if you're not a sports nut, there will be plenty of entertainment for the whole family.

Heinz Field (Pittsburg Steelers)

Heinz Field is not only the home of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the University of Pittsburgh Panthers football teams; it is also a monument to the Western Pennsylvania football tradition and to its loyal fans. Tours of Heinz Field provide guests with a behind-the-scenes look into the Coca-Cola Great Hall, Clubs, Luxury Suites, Press Box, Field, South Plaza, and more. They also offer an educational outreach program with ways teachers can incorporate football into their lesson plans. My kind of schooling.

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