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Could a deflated football really give a team a strategic advantage?  
Read about the physics of this headline-grabbing allegation!

How much do you know about puppetry?  Did you know that prior to the year 1912 the word "puppeteer" did not exist?  Artists using puppets were referred to as showmen.  Puppetry is quite an ancient art form and should definitely not be considered to be'for children only'!  

"The Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival was founded to establish Chicago as a prominent center for the art of puppetry."  This year's festival includes a wide array of puppets including marionettes, hand puppets, shadow puppets and Bunraku puppets that can be experienced at nearly 50 venues.  Many of the performances and workshops are free while some require purchased tickets.  The website has a great sorting feature to help you find the right event for you.

Events at some of Chicago's world class museums include:
 An International Puppet Art talk at the Museum of Contemporary Art on Saturday January 24, 2015
"Puppets!", an interactive installation at The Art Institute of Chicago from Saturday, December 6 - Sunday, January 25

The Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival
Wednesday, January 14–Sunday, January 25, 2015
Multiple Venues
Winter in Chicago can be, and usually is, brutal. Not many people are happy to be here and as great a city as it is during the summer it can be a bit tough riding out the winter. 

While the winter months can be bleak, there are a couple of bright spots. One is that most of the tourists have wisely left meaning that many museum lines disappear, restaurant reservations open up and you can actually walk down Michigan Avenue.  A second  is Restaurant Week.  From January 30- February 12, yes we know it really last 2 weeks, over 200 restaurants will offer $22, 3 course lunches and $33, 3 course dinners. A few high-end places are charging $44 for diner. 

It is a great chance to eat at some of Chicago’s best restaurants for a reasonable price.  There is one caveat. You have to put the time in to research the many participating restaurants. Luckily the city of Chicago and Opentable both have very good websites that make it easy to narrow down your dining options. 

Most places offer limited choices: usually 2 appetizers, 3 main courses and 2 desserts. A great deal is not really a great deal if you have to eat something you do not like. Plan on seeing a lot of salmon on the menus.  Many of the restaurants are in essence offering free dessert, which is not a bad thing, but there are better deals available. 

Now that we have made our reservations we are willing to share some of our top picks for Restaurant Week Chicago 2015:

Naha- You will not get many opportunities to eat at a Michelin Guide 1 star restaurant for $22. It is always the first reservation we make for Restaurant Week. Lunch entrees are normally between $15-$20, so $22 for 3 courses is a great deal. They also have a list of reduced priced wines. 

Capital Grill- We are always hesitant to recommended chains, even upscale chains. But Capital Grill is a very good steakhouse and their deal is one of the best. For $33 you get soup or salad, a dinner entrée which includes 2 steak options, a couple of sides and dessert.  The steaks alone would cost you $33 in most Chicago steakhouses.

Mercadito- This upscale Mexican restaurant has modern and innovative food. For Restaurant Week you receive 2 guacamoles, 2 ceviche, 3 sets of tacos and 2 deserts for the table. It is a great deal for 2 but if there are 3 of you it is not as good of a deal. 

Cocco Pazzo- One of Chicago’s best Italian restaurants, they offer a great lunch deal. They have a good variety of choices included appetizers that cost $14 and entrees that cost up to $18. 

Perennial Virant- They only offer dinner and it is $44 not $33 but it is a Michelin starred restaurant and entrees are priced in the $35 range. So it may not be an inexpensive night out but it is a chance to eat at a high-end restaurant and not break the bank.  

Chicago is a great museum city. The Art Institute of Chicago is probably the country’s best art museum. The Field Museum and Museum of Science & Industry are wonderful science museums and the Shedd Aquarium is the largest and best aquarium in the country. There are also several small and interesting museums.

Unfortunately like much of Chicago, the museums can be very expensive, especially for a family. A family of 4 can easily spend over $100 just on admissions. Luckily most of the museums offer free days, at least for Illinois residents.

There are some caveats to the free museum days. The first is that it usually only covers general admission. Most of the museums in Chicago have a lot to see with just the general admission and if you want to you can get an all access pass for a reduced price. The second is the crowds. Free admission is a real bargain so some of the museums can be very crowded. I made the mistake of going to a free day at the Shedd Aquarium only to find a line snaking out of the entrance and winding its way around the grounds. Three hours was the grim news from the staff member when asked about the wait. Happily the wait at the nearby Field Museum was only a few minutes.

Free Admission Museum Days for Illinois Residents

The Art Institute of Chicago: Jan 5 – Feb 10 weekdays will be free.  All Thursday evenings, when the museum stays open late, 8:00 pm, you can get in free after 5:00 pm. Illinois educators receive free admission every day. Admission, which covers the whole museum, is normally $20.

The Shedd Aquarium: Jan. 5, 6, 12, 13, 18, 19, 20, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, Feb. 2, 3, 9, 10, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 23, 24, June 1, 2, 8, 9, 15, 16, Sept. 8, 14, 15, 21, 22, 28, 29, Oct. 5, 6, 12, 13, 19, 20, 26, 27, Nov. 2, 3, 9, 10, 16, 17, 23, 24. The free admission only covers the original aquarium but you can get discounted all access passes on these days.  Educators from Illinois, Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin and active military personal, from any state, can register online to get to free passes that cover most of the aquarium. Admission is normally $8 for adults and $6 for children.

The Field Museum: Jan. 5, 6, 7, 14, 15, and all of February. Illinois teachers and all active military personnel get in free every day.  Free admission covers basic admittance only and more comprehensive passes can be purchased for a discount. Admission is $18 for adults, $15 for students and seniors and $13 for children.

The Museum of Science & Industry:  Jan. 5-9, 12-16, 19-23, 26-30, March 2-6, April 22, May 21, June 1-5, 8, Sept. 8-11, 14-18, 21-25, 28-30, Oct. 5, 6. Teachers and active military personnel are always free. Free admission does not cover special exhibits. Admission is regularly $18 for adults and $11 for children.

Chicago History Museum: Free all January and February weekdays. March 4, July 4, Aug 18, 19, 20, 24, 25, 26, 27, 31, Sept. 1, 2, 3. Children under 12 are always free. Admission is normally $14 for adults and $12 for seniors and students, (13-22).

Museum of Contemporary Art: Free on Tuesdays. Normally $7.

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum: Thursdays are suggested donation days. Normal admission is $9 for adults and $7 for students and seniors.

Adler Planetarium: Jan. 5, 6, 7, 12, 13, 14, 19, 20, 21, 26, 27, 28. Illinois teachers and active military personnel are always free.  Basic admission only but the discount can be applied to an all access pass. $12 for adults, $8 for children and $10 for students.

Loyola University Museum of Art: Free every Tuesday for everyone on all Tuesdays. Clergy members and active military personnel and their families are always free. Admission is normally $8 for adults and $2 for students.

Clarke House Museum & Glessner House Museum: Free every Wednesday. Admission is normally $15.


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