Look It Up!

I love looking things up! I got that from my grandma who I always noted taking an interest in a variety of unique facts, stories and articles when I was little. She was inquisitive and I caught that bug. Each time I didn’t know how to spell a word and I asked her how, she’d tell me to go look it up.

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Nowadays, we are so spoiled with so much information at the tips of our fingers. So anytime I get curious, I look it up. Here are some interesting things that I recently learned. You shouldn’t go another day without knowing…

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Snakes don’t blink because they don’t have eyelids. Instead, they have a protective film over their eyes. That’s why they are so mesmerizing when they look at you, because they aren’t blinking. For all you know, this guy might be sleeping. Snakes sneeze and its really cute. Bless you!

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If folklore is true, the reason your hair is tangled when you wake up in the morning is because elves and/or fairies have been dancing on your head while you slept. Elflocks or fairy-locks depending on the culprit. And I thought it was because I don’t like brushing my hair!

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These are cocoa pods that are filled with the cocoa beans that make chocolate. When you open the pod, the beans are nesting in a pulp and the beans are purple. They only turn brown after exposure to air and roasting! There are about 40 beans in a pod. It takes 400-500 beans to make a single pound of chocolate…that’s crazy. I have a new respect for that chocolate bar in the fridge.

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I always thought that any bee that stung me wouldn’t live very long as I believed that bees die after using up their one stinger. Actually, it is only honey bees. Their stinger is barbed and when they try to pull it out, it damages their bodies and the stinger is left behind with you. Hornets and wasps however, do not have barbs on their stingers. Their stingers do not fall out after they get you…they can sting you as many times as they want with no peril to their health. Ouch!

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Bubonic (and pneumonic) plague is passed around from a bacteria in fleas. In medieval Europe, fleas carried on rats, who infested areas where people lived, caused millions of deaths over the centuries. It is a horrific disease. In the United States, prairie dogs carry the bubonic plague. Whether you pick up one that has the plague or a flea from one gets onto you or your dog (even cat), you are at risk. The plague of the Middle Ages is still alive and well in our desert regions. Aye!

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Hippo ‘sweat’ is blood red. It’s true. Technically it isn’t sweat, its a natural skin secretion that comes out clear and then turns red and looks like actual blood. Eventually it turns brown. It doesn’t wash off their bodies in the water, but sticks to their skin. The liquid is a natural sunblock! And, it is antibacterial, keeping hippos healthy in their swampy, muddy, buggy environments. Historically, people thought hippos were sweating real blood. Nope, it’s just hippo sunblock!

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Penguins and polar bears have never met. Polar bears only live in the north (Arctic) while penguins only live in the south (Antarctic). I had no idea! I feel silly. Penguins don’t tend to be afraid of people in their natural environment because they don’t have any land predators (like polar bears). They’ll walk right up to you and say hello!

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Heart attacks overwhelmingly happen on Mondays. You can probably guess why; it’s the day most people return to work after relaxing over the weekend and they are stressed out. According to this article, it still goes for folks that are retired! Guess you can’t kick the memories of getting back to the grind on Monday mornings! Perhaps we should all be doing something on this list on Mondays to keep our heart happy!

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Ugh, cockroaches give me the chills. Eck! This is a gross fact. Cockroaches can live without their heads, sometimes up to several weeks! Apparently, they don’t breath through their mouths. They eventually succumb because they can’t drink water without their heads. Gross.

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According to this article, when you sneeze, it can blow out of your system at up to 500 miles per hour. That, is, nuts. Because of the intense force, holding in a sneeze can be extremely dangerous (pulled muscles, burst blood vessels in your head and neck, burst eardrums, broken ribs). So, do not hold in your sneeze because it can have serious health risks. However, do cover your sneeze. The particles can mist up to 10 feet, even further, making it easy to get others sick.

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I could look it up all day, learning is never ending!

Chicago’s French Market

On Friday evening, I attended the Joffrey Ballet’s Nutcracker at the Auditorium Theatre here in Chicago with my best friend. The performance is dazzling every time, and this year was made more special in that it is the last to be performed in Robert Joffrey’s version. His choreography and style for this ballet was one of the first to create a version of the Nutcracker that looks American and has been replicated throughout the country. Head to the Joffrey site to learn the interesting history.

But as is our norm, we must always eat before heading to the ballet or opera. One cannot truly appreciate the arts without a full stomach, or so I believe. We met at Chicago’s French Market which is located underground of a bustling train station. IMG_1904.JPG

What is fun about the French Market is that it has a cozy, European market feel with a lot of local vendors. Deceivingly however, it isn’t filled with French fare, though you can certainly get a crepe or a French pastry. It is simply called the French Market to stir up the feel of such lovely places. Even the isles between kiosks have names like Boulevard Saint-Germaine and the open dining area looks a little like you are sitting near the Eiffel Tower at an outdoor cafe.

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I have never been fond of shopping, but shopping for food is another matter. I love it, and of course, I love artisan, good quality, fine food. You can pick up quite a number of such things at the French Market, like fresh seafood, vegetables, cheese, meat and wine.

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The location is perfect for the thousands of train commuters flowing in and out of the city, which I personally appreciate. I like places of quality that are also convenient when you must be a part of the hustle and bustle.

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Nice too, are all the little restaurants serving food that is fast, yet finer than fast food. One stand offers scrumptious grilled cheese sandwiches stuffed with delicious and unique fillings, another serves up perfect lobster rolls, another excellent sandwiches on artisan bread. I had a lobster roll from Da Lobsta. If I’d been alone, I could easily have eaten three of them. Who am I kidding, I’m sure my best pal wouldn’t have been surprised if I’d ordered three. She’s seen me polish off some pretty large meals before.

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You can even grab fresh flowers, which definitely adds to that open market feel. So pretty!

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I was personally overwhelmed by the selection of handmade chocolates at Lolli & Pops and stood staring at the display for an embarrassing amount of time while waiting for my friend to arrive. I just couldn’t pull myself away.

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If you are a Chicago commuter and in need of a small holiday gift, you can’t go wrong with a box of these chocolates. The looks of them alone would put a smile on anyone’s face!

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Oh heavens! I mean…Oh la la, how lovely is Chicago’s French Market!