It’s a Mystery

Have you ever played the game Clue? We played it all the time as a family growing up and I loved it!

Colonel Mustard, in the Ballroom with the lead pipe!

I’ve always had a fascination with mysteries – books, movies, TV shows, games, you name it. As a kid I read all the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books. As an adult I’ve loved anything by John Grisham, Alex Kava, James Patterson, and the like. CJ and I spend many nights watching Bones, Castle and Rizzoli and Isles too.

At one point I even wanted to be a detective when I grew up. Not sure when or why that changed. Heck, part of me STILL to be one.

So it should come as no surprise that when an opportunity to partake in the Fremont Dinner Train Murder Mystery  with a group of co-workers came up, I was all over it.

In a nutshell, the Murder Mystery dinner train is a dining experience that gets the audience involved in solving a murder that took place on the train. Actors in full costume walk amongst you and provide clues while you enjoy a 5 course meal.

We boarded the train at 7:15pm on Saturday night.


We ate crudités and crackers while waiting for all to board and the train to start up. Once we got going, a funny little old man gave us a history of the train, along with rules (no smoking) and details about the evening’s agenda.

As the train moved along, we were treated to beautiful scenery.


I was glad we were able to do an evening in the summer, when it’s light out later in the day, so that we could see the landscape outside our windows. Had it been in the winter we would have missed it all.

The actors were walking around, in character, engaging in conversation with the tables. One of the gals started referring to CJ as “Dairy Queen”* because she said his hair looked like the swoosh on top of the cones.


What do you think?

Then this actress asked the 2 ladies sitting at the table with us if they would like to be part of the show! They would be playing the part of sisters who were models. One of the ‘sisters’ jumped right in (*cough* Kelly *cough*) while the other grudgingly agreed.

Don’t they look smashing?


Pretty soon the first course came out, which was a beef and barley soup.


I am a picky eater and was immediately suspicious of the soup – I mean beef and BARLEY?!? Really??? Plus, it looks kinda gross….but I gave it a go – and surprisingly liked it! I inhaled it as a matter of fact!

As we were eating, the actors got up and started the show. They had each table of 4 appoint a secretary (me, naturally) who would take notes and write down clues. Then they introduced the characters and started in on the story (which I won’t give the details of so as not to spoil it for anyone). Our job was to figure out who the killer was, how they did it and their motive.


We chomped on some salad (very good but I forgot to get a picture of it) while putting our heads together to decipher all the clues we got.

We continued our detective work over the main course.


I had the Pasta Primavera, which came with peas and fruit. CJ and the rest of our table ordered the Prime Rib. My pasta was decent and the peas and fruit were good. CJ said the Prime Rib was good too, though not anything to write home about.

At one point it was starting to get overwhelming with all the information from the actors. We had a lot of clues but none of them seemed to help narrow down the list of suspects.


Finally they served dessert, which was carrot cake.


As we pulled back in to the station, we were asked to write down our guess for the murderer, their means and motive and turn it in. Our table was split 50/50 as to who we thought it was. One of the actors came over and gave us a final clue, which was the last piece of the puzzle we needed. We turned in our answers and crossed our fingers.

They then announced that of all the tables (maybe 30 in total), only 5 got it right. And guess who was one of the 5?

That’s right – us!


And we got certificates to prove it!

All in all it was a really fun experience. It’s kind of pricey ($86 per person) but worth it for a date night splurge. We got dinner and a unique entertainment experience all in one! I would definitely recommend trying it at least once. They also do other kinds of shows besides mysteries, so those would be neat to check out too.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I feel like having some ice cream.


*Update: in no way am I trying to endorse or malign a certain ice cream restaurant chain’s image.


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20 Questions

What started out as allergies has morphed into a full blown sinus infection. Yippee. So, I’m posting something that I wrote last week and never got a chance to publish. I stole this idea from Caitlin because I think it’s a lot of fun.  She did 10 questions, I’m doing 20. What can I say, I’m an overachiever! It’s always interesting to learn things about people! That’s why I love those survey emails that go around sometimes. They’re cheesy but I love ’em anyway!

Ok, here we go!

What do you have on your bedside table?

A lamp and my iPhone. I used to keep a book or magazine there too but in the vain of keeping the house neat and tidy, I’ve moved those to the drawer.

Do you have a tattoo?

Yes – 3. Got my first one in college. It’s a black/white cross (for faith) with a rose in the middle (for my Spanish heritage) on the back of my right shoulder.


Not the best picture but you get the idea.

Then in Australia a few years later I got the Scorpio symbol on my lower back (tramp stamp!). In 2007 I added to the tramp stamp and got a Celtic Dragon (for my Irish background and the Dragon for the Chinese year I was born in) holding a stargazer lily (my wedding  flower). The dragon’s tail winds through the Scorpio tat. I’ll probably get one more in a few years to honor my kids. Not sure what yet but that will be the last one.

tramp stamp

Again, not the clearest image but it’ll have to do. I really like all of them because they hold meaning and because I designed them myself so I know they’re one of a kind!

Do you believe in abstinence prior to marriage?

I believe it is up to each individual person. I didn’t wait for marriage but I totally respect people who do.

What is your worst habit?

Cracking my knuckles!

How do you handle finances in your relationship?  Or, how would you like to handle money in your future relationship?

We have a joint checking account where all our money goes. I manage everything and pay all the bills.

If you could change your name, what would you change it to?

I like my name! But maybe to something more Spanish…not sure what though.

Where do you want to go on your next vacation?

Spain! Do you sense a theme here? What can I say, I’m very proud of being Spanish and would LOVE to visit my homeland someday soon!

What is one political cause you feel strongly about?

To be honest, I don’t feel strongly about any political causes. I generally try to avoid them all together.

Have you ever stolen anything?

Yes. I stole Chapstick from Target when I was 3. My mom worked there at the time and had the Security Guard come over and lecture me. Then when we got home she had my grandpa call and pretend to be Santa, telling me I was on the naughty list! I never stole again!

Tell us something embarrassing about yourself.

I sucked my thumb until I was 12. I know, right? My parents tried everything to get me to stop (even having the dentist put spikes in my mouth) but I had to want it on my own. I can understand Isabella’s oobie obsession!

Favorite sport to watch vs favorite sport to play.

I love watching pro-football (Go Steelers!) and playing volleyball (obviously). I can’t STAND to watch golf, baseball or racing. OMG, shoot me. I do enjoy spectating tennis but only if it’s a grand slam event and Rafa is playing!


What musical artist are you a closet fan of?

Air Supply! Doesn’t get much cheesier but there’s just something about their heart wrenching ballads that get me every time!

If you could be on any reality show, what would it be?

Dancing With the Stars. I know I’m not a star but if they had a version of this show where regular people compete for a mirror ball trophy, I’d be all over it! I love dancing. And I’d want Derek Hough as my partner!

Favorite guilty pleasure.

Chocolate chip cookie dough. Seriously, I can sit and eat a whole tub of it. LUV!

Where were you on 9/11?

I was working out in the gym at my apartment complex. I was on the stationary bike and dividing my time between reading a magazine and watching the Today Show. I looked up from my mag at one point and saw a shot of the WTC on fire. I thought it was a promo for some upcoming movie. When I realized it was for real, I was glued. I was literally on that bike for 2 hours straight watching the coverage as I did not want to miss a thing. I coincidentally had the day off from work so when I finally pried myself out of the gym, I spent the whole day in my apartment watching the news. Having lived in NYC for a year, it hit very close to home.

2010-07-20 07.17.36

What topic of conversation immediately turns you off?

Politics. It’s like there’s a switch in my brain. As soon as anyone starts talking about politics, I immediately space off and tune them out!

What TV character would you trade lives with?

Carrie on Sex and the City. Being able to shop in NYC, have lunch with the girls and then go home to a fab apartment and a sexy husband every day would be killer. And all I’d have to do for money was write about my life? Hmm, sounds good! At least I already have the sexy hubbie!


What would be your dream job?

Being a photographer for National Geographic. Or being an actress. Either seems like it’d be a ton of fun. Not sure I have the personality for the acting though.

Do you believe in horoscopes? Does your sign accurately reflect your personality?

Yes and yes! As evidenced in my tattoo collection, I definitely think there is validity in horoscopes and signs. Any description I’ve ever read for Scorpio fits me to the letter!

Favorite thing to do on a rainy day.

Curl up on the couch and watch a good movie or read a book. Preferably with Samson at my feet, CJ by my side and Isabella in my lap. Oh and some chocolate chip cookie dough nearby!

There you go! This would be so much MORE fun if you participate too! Answer any or all of the questions in the comments or on your own blog! Can’t wait to find out more about you!

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The Island

Trader Family Road Trip – Day 7: Capital M

Our day in Madison was the most low key of the trip, which was good since we were all tired and getting homesick. Our first stop was the Capitol building itself and then we were going to head out to Ella’s Deli before hitting the road to home.

Before I continue, let’s settle the heated debate once and for all over the difference between “capitol” and “capital”. I for one don’t know when to use which version! According to this source, “capitol” is a  U.S. state legislature building or the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C. A “capital” is a city that serves as a seat of government. So….state capitols are located in the capital cities of U.S. states, and the U.S. Capitol is located in the capital city of the U.S. There – clear as mud!

Now back to the show!

We got to the downtown area just fine but trying to find parking was a whole other matter. The capitol is in the center of the “wheel” and the streets come out from it both going around in a circle and as straight lines (like spokes). If you get on the circular streets, you literally just go around in a circle if you’re not careful because only the outside lanes can turn off. Yet, those lanes are reserved for buses. So you can see our predicament. Eventually I said “screw it”, veered over in to the bus lane and was able to turn off the merry go round we were on.

Once we parked, we hoofed it to the capitol. The building itself pretty typical of most capitols that we’ve seen.


As a general rule, capitol buildings tend to mimic the U.S. Capitol in D.C. The few exceptions have been Ohio, Nebraska and Iowa (this one’s my fav so far). But all are unique in the sense that they are designed to reflect their state and all that it represents.

We walked around the outside, seeing all the statues and sculptures, then ventured in.


Normally we try to take a guided tour, but this tour was an hour long and we knew Isabella wouldn’t last. So we walked around on our own.


You can take an elevator up and then climb some stairs out on to the roof, just under the dome, and get a nice view of the city.




As we were leaving, we ran in to a group of protestors in the main lobby area who were singing songs. Not sure what issue/person they were protesting but the song sounded nice.


By this time we were ready for lunch and decided to try an Irish Pub across the street. We sat outside and enjoyed some ale while waiting for our food. Gumby even joined in!


Isabella was in a feisty mood and did NOT want to sit still. After I finished eating, she and I went next door to a fancy chocolate shop called Candinas. When I walked in, I seriously thought it was an art gallery. The whole place was empty and stark except for one glass case that had chocolate boxes in it. The gal helping me offered us a sample and presented it to us on a fancy platter. We bought a box of 2 pieces and paid $5.

From there we walked through the Farmer’s Market to a building we had seen on the drive in. Turns out it was the Monona Terrace done in the style of Frank Lloyd Wright (who we love). It was very pretty and had great views of the Lake.


We didn’t linger long though because we were hot and tired. Once we found the car, we headed to Ella’s Deli for an ice cream sundae!

Ella’s is famous for all their animatronic figures. And they didn’t disappoint! The place was so chalked full of them, Isabella was in awe and couldn’t even take it all in!



They even had a working carousel out front that we rode! Isabella and CJ sat on a bench while I rode on a horse. I almost fell over trying to get off of it. The guy manning the ride got a kick out of that.


(Look! It’s CJ’s hand wave!)


(and mine too!)

Then it was time to head out of town and mosey toward home. The plan was to get as far as Cedar Rapids (so I could see some old peeps!) but we had to stop in Dubuque for gas and decided to just stay there for the night. More on that to come!

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Trader Family Road Trip – Day 6: Mil-WALK-ee

Waking up on Tuesday morning I had a plan in my head for the day. We had a list of things to see and some of them had time constraints. Here was the schedule:

Busy, but doable, right? Well, sure if everything lined up. And of course, it didn’t.

We got off to a late start and didn’t leave the hotel until around 11 a.m. The breakfast there (Courtyard by Marriott) was FAB.U.LOUS! The only thing that would have made it better is if it had been continental. But alas it was not. Still, very yummy and the wait staff was top-notch. It cost $30 for the 3 of us, which was a little pricey, but not the most expensive breakie I’ve ever had on vacation. That honor goes to our hotel breakfast in NYC a few years ago. They had a buffet and we thought, great, that’ll be easy. When the bill came for $75 (for 2 of us), I peed all over myself! You better believe we went back for 3rds and 4ths to get our money’s worth. I even stuffed fruit in my purse.  Lesson learned I guess!

Anywho, we got downtown around 11:30 and parked. That gave us 15 min. to find the Fonz, take pics, and find the ladybug building. We found Fonzie first:


“Like oh my God, Fonzie is so dreamie!” I love how I’m standing on my tip toes and then slouching over. I look like a giant…or a ragdoll!


“Eeeyyyy” CJ looks really thrilled here. I think he was trying not to look drunk and then ended up looking bored.


“Um, who’s this guy? Can we go now?” She didn’t quite get it but that’s ok. Someday she’ll look back at this picture and be thankful we brought her here! Or maybe not. Whatevs.

After that we started to walk in search of the ladybug building until we realized it was 11:45 and we had to get to the museum, park and be at the BBS building in 15 minutes! Eek! So we raced back to the car and sped away. We actually got to the BBS like 5 minutes early and had time to walk a bit. I had told CJ in the car that the only other time I was in Milwaukee was with a college friend who brought me home for Thanksgiving. As we were walking to the museum I saw 3 people walking toward us. I swear to you it was that college friend with her mom and hubbie. But in my head I was thinking it couldn’t be because she lives down south now. I almost shouted out to her but stopped myself because I didn’t want to look like an idiot. Now I wish I would have said something as I’m 99% sure it was her. (Sara – if that was you – doh!)

Anyway, at noon on the dot, the roof of the BBS started to close. It slowly lowered its wings down, down, down.

Here’s what it looks like fully opened:


Here’s the halfway point as it’s closing:


And here’s when it’s all the way closed:


It then opened back up again. The whole process took about 15 minutes. It was pretty cool. They play music during it too which was a nice surprise.

We were starving by that point and set out to find a place for lunch. Now, you’d think that in downtown Milwaukee, right off the lake, there would be a ton of restaurants. You would be wrong. We walked. And walked. And walked. For 90 MINUTES! There was nothing! No vendors, no fast food, no nothing. Just apartments and parks. Finally we said screw it and went back to the car. Turns out there is a cafe inside the science museum that is next door to the art museum. We ate in there. It was about 1:45 by now, I had blisters all over my feet, we were all hungry and tired and hot and therefore cranky. But dammit we had more to see!

We opted to forgo anything that involved walking so we drove to Jelly Belly as their tour was all done on a train.


The tour was a bit disappointing. You basically rode around the warehouse and watched videos on how they make the candy. We didn’t get to go in the factory itself, which is what I had hoped for. Still, it was free and we got Jelly Belly samples at the end so, all in all, not too bad!


We were tempted to head to Madison from there but it looked like Gambrinus might be on the way so we went in search of that. Turns out he is in the beer garden of a bar that was closed. But that didn’t stop us from sneaking a pic through the gate!


And of course we had to get one of CJ posing with him, er sort of.


I particularly like that CJ’s wearing an X-Men shirt. Looks like Wolverine could use a beer!

After that it was straight on to Madison, with a stop for dinner. After the lunch fiasco, we weren’t about to take chances on that one!

We got to Madison around 7 which gave us time to get Isabella to bed, soak in the hot tub and watch a movie. We got a suite complete with kitchenette and sitting area, which Munchkin thought was so cool. She had fun jumping on the bed (we only allow that on vacation… ;)), running around and pretending to talk on the phone.


That’s it for day 6! Only 1(ish) more days to go until this vacation is over and I stop boring you all with my pics and stories!

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Trader Family Road Trip–Day 5: To the Land of Cheese!

Day 5 did not go nearly according to plan. Originally, we had hoped to take a ferry from Muskegon, MI to Milwaukee, WI (the 3 of us and our car!). It would take a couple hours and we’d be there by noon. However, I didn’t realize that we needed to make reservations in advance. Thinking back I should have known but for some reason it never crossed my mind. Unfortunately, because we didn’t make a reservation, they didn’t have any openings for a car. So we had a few options: 1) stay in Manistee longer, 2) go home early, 3) drive up and over Lake Michigan or 4) drive down and around Lake Michigan. After much research and discussion, we decided to go down and around. It was a 5 1/2 hour drive so we’d be in Milwaukee by dinner. We thought that was the best way to go!

But first we wanted to meet up with CJ’s sister and dad for breakfast and to shop around their downtown. We had a nice morning and I got some sassy red shoes for 60% off!

We were on the road by 11 and ready for adventure!

And it wasn’t long before we found it. After driving for a while (after stopping for lunch and then hitting the road again) Isabella was starting to get antsy. We needed a place to stop and play so I pulled off in to the next town that came along. Surely this town would have a park. We drove around for a while and finally found it. Turns out it was a pretty sweet park AND it was connected to a beach!


We played on the equipment for a while and then wandered down to the beach, which stretched for miles. The sand was so soft and fine and there were hardly any people there. It was a perfect place to stretch our legs!


Isabella enjoyed digging and walking in the sand. There was a dog there that she enjoyed watching. She found some cool rocks and shells too!


But eventually we had to get back on the road or we’d never get to Wisconsin!

We finally pulled in to Milwaukee around 6:30 pm. On the way in we saw the Allen-Bradley Clock tower at the Rockwell Automation headquarters (which is the largest 4-faced clock in the world – yes even bigger than Big Ben):


We also saw Miller Park, home of the Brewers.


We really wanted to get to our hotel at a decent time so we could all get to bed. Every night prior it had been nearly 9 p.m. before Isabella got to sleep and we didn’t want to disrupt her schedule too much. So we found a hotel and settled in. CJ went down to the bar and relaxed with a beer while I hung back in the room and caught up on emails. I caught a little TV too and then crashed.

It wasn’t a super exciting day as it was mostly driving but we still had fun. And we were looking forward to tomorrow’s adventure!

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