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Our three days of chill started off with a delicious brunch at Eleven City Diner :)

I decided to try the lox with the latke this time, and Jameson got their signature french toast topped with strawberries, bananas, and toasted coconut. Mmmmmm.

Then we hit Menard's for the groceries we'd need for the work week. Back at the apartment, we relaxed and watched TV. Sometimes it's the little things...enjoying a larger living space, a real TV, a real shower, a real bed.

For dinner we found Southcoast Sushi only a few blocks away. We've been here before and it's absolutely delicious. The lighting was too dim for a food photoshoot so believe me when I say everything looked great :) One of the specials of the day was an uni shooter: sea urchin with sake, quail egg, roe, ponzu sauce, and chives. It was very similar to an oyster shooter, and very good. Cheers!

The next day we decided to go to Shedd Aquarium! This is one of the best aquariums in the world, housing around 8,000 aquatic animals. And we were lucky, there were almost no school groups! The weather was miserably wet and cold too, so there were very few visitors. It felt like we had the place to ourselves!

Our visit started with the aquarium's Pacific white-sided dolphin show. We arrived early so had our choice of seats, and also got to stand right at the edge of the enclosure to watch the dolphins messing around. It was amazing how fast they were (they can reach speeds of 25mph!).

Pretty soon it was time for the show. The dolphins are trained to work with several people, and they respond to a variety of hand signals and whistles. The hand signals indicate what type of action the trainer wants the dolphin to perform, and the whistle is a sort of "good job" or "thank you" signal. Of course the dolphins were rewarded with lots of treats for their efforts :) I took photos of the trainers working with the dolphins, but none came out well. CLICK HERE to watch a short video of the interactions between trainer and dolphin.

The show included a brief penguin training session. Two penguins were trained to walk a short distance between two trainers, to reach some treats. Since Jameson and I were in the front row, we got to enjoy these adorable birds up close!

The animals and their trainers were very impressive!
Next we went to the beluga tank. There were 5-6 belugas there, and they were all very vocal! It was fascinating to watch them interacting with each other.  Maybe because their faces are so expressive, or maybe because they're just so active and aware...their intelligence seemed very obvious and amazing. Beautiful animals!

We had a short lunch break, then moved on to the amphibians display.

There were many types of fish too of course. We saw giant prehistoric fish from the Amazon, and tiny bright tropical fish from coral reefs. There were sharks and rays, mollusks and crustacians. We even saw a massive anaconda! What a great collection of rare and common aquatic life. Thanks for a great time Shedd Aquarium!!

The weather was still miserable when we left, so we stopped at Giordano's for a small frozen pizza to take home and cook ourselves. Aah the joys of a real kitchen!

The next day got off to a late start. I did a little cooking and cleaning. Later in the day we ran some errands, then had a late lunch at Whole Foods. For dinner it was Koll's, a local sports bar with great food.

I'm going to be honest here. What with traveling back and forth from the apartment to the arena, and the shows, and general business, I didn't really document the majority of the week. It was definitely a "work week"...nothing particularly exciting happened. April the elephant from the Gold Unit finally took part in the Manage act and did a wonderful job, all credit to her trainers for getting her calm enough to perform her routine! We had excellent crowds, even on Saturday despite a sudden snowfall, even on Sunday despite a Bears football game. Thanks Chicago :)

After the Sunday show was the end of the year party, and the No Talent Talent Show. We are saying goodbye to our Australian dancers and some of our clowns, so it was wonderful to see them perform just for us. I can't say this enough, circus people are amazing. Several groups performed for the talent show, showcasing skills that we don't get to see during the scripted Ringling show. I was awed by the creativity of the dancers in coming up with not one but TWO choreographed routines; the Mongolian troupe for displaying an incredible range of talents (contortion, hand balancing, strongman, acrobatics, musical performances, juggling, comedy); several of our clowns who are closet singers/solo entertainers; the circus kids, who are so brave and incredibly talented across the board; Ryan Harris (production), who really can dance!!!

Anyway, I could gush about the experience all day but instead, please enjoy these video clips and stills of my coworkers being completely incredible.

Other stuff:

An excellent article on life in the circus by the NYTimes. CLICK HERE to read and CLICK HERE for photos.

Some of our Mongolian ladies visiting Willis Tower.

(photo courtesy Dashka Dashii)

The divas getting out of the cold.

(photo courtesy Ryan H.)