Sunday, June 30, 2013

What will we do today?

The day after we returned from our 10-day California trip, Julie woke up and asked, "So, where are we going today? What are we doing fun today?"
Exhausted, jetlagged and just overall worn out from vacation, I smiled and said "Absolutely nothing."
Julie looked at me in complete shock, as if she had somehow heard wrong.
"What do you mean nothing?!"
Like a lot of other kids, Julie and Johnny are so used to being on the go that they really don't get the concept of just hanging out and relaxing. I realize they get this from me. I always want to explore and learn something new. I am constantly looking for ways to expose our kids to new experiences. I have a list of all the cool places I want to take them this summer in Chicago...not to mention our three weeklong vacations in different states.
In the midst of all this running around, I think we might have lost the ability to just be.
So, last week we took it easy.
We played school inside the house on a rainy day, and the kids got lost in pretend play. Julie was Mother Goose and Johnny was Father Goose, which morphed into a game of Mommy, Daddy and baby.
On a sunny day the kids rode bikes outside, looked for potato bugs under rocks and covered the driveway with chalk messages. Another day we hit the local park and swimming beach, and we roamed the village farmer's market for the first time.
It was nice to stay local and not feel rushed or pressured to be some place fun, exciting and new.
A perfect break before we leave for the East Coast for another 10-day trip.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

California Cruisin'

I think our 10-day trip to California can best be described through pictures.
From wine tasting and boating to visiting family and touring San Francisco, we were on the go nonstop. Julie and Johnny had so much fun seeing cousins, aunts and uncles and grandparents and they couldn't get enough of their favorite doggie cousins.

Take a trip through our eyes.

All of us on a boat on Clear Lake  in Lake County, California

Julie's first ride on a waverunner. She was so brave...even when a huge wave engulfed her and Uncle Todd

Beautiful Vigilance Winery in Lake County. Kids played bocce ball while we tasted amazing wine.

Visiting Francis Ford Coppola winery in Sonoma was definitely a highlight.

We loved all the Godfather memorabilia at Coppola!

Next was a trip to Chico State where our awesome niece Kayla is a sophomore. Scott also went to Chico.

We always make the trek to Scott's hometown of Colusa in Northern California. It really is a beautiful little town with the picturesque Buttes--the smallest mountain range in the world, according to Scott.

Wouldn't be a trip to California without some cousin fun.

The boys!

And the girls!

It was so good to spend time with  Scott's mom and Grandma. They are the best.

 And our aunts Mary Sue (who likes to be called Mimi) and Kathy, who we hosted an amazing dinner at her home in Rio Vista.
Johnny really took a liking to Uncle John, Kathy's husband. Uncle John showed Johnny every tool in his toolshed and gave him special rocks to keep.

Then, it was off to San Francisco to stay one more night with Uncle Todd and Aunt Melinda--the best tour guides!

Before our trip Julie made a list of sights to see in San Fran. The Coit Tower at the top of Telegraph hill was at the top of her list.

Of course we made it to Fisherman's Wharf

The kids didn't want to leave!

Neither did we. We will be back soon California!


Thursday, June 13, 2013

The not-so Wacky Wednesday

Yesterday was Wacky Wednesday at Julie's summer camp at church.
We were all excited about it.
Here she is with 6 ponytails and mismatching shirt and shorts.

It was so silly and fun....until we stepped into her little classroom and not one kid was decked out for Wacky Wednesday. No crazy hair. No mismatched socks or shoes. Everyone was completely color coordinated and normal.

Julie looked at me in horror and almost refused to go in.
She had so been looking forward to dressing silly and now she was all alone....except for the counselors, of course, who seemed to be the only ones who followed directions.

At that moment I was caught between the mom in me who just wanted to nudge her into the classroom and show off her goofy outfit. I wanted her to be strong and proud that she had summer camp spirit.

Then, there was the 7-year-old me who was completely mortified for my little girl. I could just imagine myself 28 years ago literally shrinking into a corner in a situation like this. I wanted to yank out Julie's ponytails, brush her hair and change her clothes.

But, Julie persevered. She pushed through, high-fived her goofily-clad counselors and walked into the room.

And when I picked her up, her crazy ponytails were still in place.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Wednesday Wow

My friend Michelle just had an adorable baby boy exactly one month ago. But, look what she sent me for my birthday!

It was so nice Michelle thought of me even though she's in the throes of life with a newborn. I don't have any white bracelets, and I just love the anchors. How cute and summery.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Hostess with the Mostess

Since we moved to Chicago last August, we have hosted visitors every month. I don't think people really love us as much as they are infatuated with the Windy City.

Though family members were the most frequent visitors, hosting friends was definitely the most stressful. There's just a little bit more that goes into hosting friends. Not only do we have to feed them and make them feel at home, but we want them to have an awesome time in our new city. Essentially, we are tour guides---something that doesn't come naturally to Scott and me. Organizing and planning aren't innate capabilities. We kind of just always expect things to fall into place without much forethought on our part.

Our first attempt at hosting friends in Chicago was a miserable failure.
It was in October--two months after we moved, when our very good friends Heather and Grant decided to visit from Maryland. I'm not sure what else could have gone wrong.

We didn't know the city at all, so we spent most of Saturday bumbling around aimlessly downtown. Dinner at Giordano's lasted over two hours, with two hungry and tired kids whining for food and bed. Our toilet started leaking on Sunday and the guys spent all day carrying buckets of dirty water outside until a plumber arrived. Traffic was horrific on Sunday evening and the two almost missed their flight home from Midway. After they left, we just felt awful, and were determined to do better next time.

We have learned a lot since that first attempt at hospitality. Above all else: plan! When you have visitors in town, you can never over-plan.

My tour guiding abilities were at a peak this weekend when my college friends Kelly and Beth were visiting. We spent two full days in the city and I was able to show them Navy Pier, Lincoln Park and everything along the Magnificent Mile. We took a boat tour of the city, ate at a couple amazing restaurants and guzzled drinks at the Wit's rooftop bar.

The trip was a success!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Monday Munch: Quartino

This weekend my best college girls came to visit. We spent the entire day in the city and of course we found an awesome spot for dinner: Quartino on State Street. Thank God I finally meandered past Michigan Avenue. I'm not officially not just a tourist anymore!

So, Quartino is a tapas restaurant, but it's not Spanish. It's all Italian. Decorated as an Italian farmhouse, Quartino is a bustling restaurant with plenty of awesome wines.
The tables are small and close together, but it makes for a  fun atmosphere. I wouldn't suggest the restaurant for an intimate date night, but it's perfect for friends or just a fun night out.

We ordered small plates of cheeses, olives and meats. Then, came the amazing pesto gnocci, pork stuffed ravioli and absolutely delicious asparagus risotto. I need to learn how to make that at home!

The wine was great too and so cute served in small juice glasses!

Here's my girl Kelly with her tiny wine glass.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

We were choppin' and slicin' and cookin'


Now I know how to properly dice a green pepper, stuff an empanada and perfectly flavor grilled shrimp. Thanks to Amazing Edibles on 14th Street in Chicago, my mom friends and I were real chefs for a night—white aprons and all.

We guzzled sangria overflowing with fruit and noshed on appetizers while preparing and cooking an elaborate meal of tapas. On the menu: paella, potatoes in a spicy tomato sauce, stuffed mushrooms, bacon-wrapped dates and my personal favorite—garlic toasts topped with goat cheese and saffron marina dip.


Monday, June 3, 2013

Monday Munch: Slyce, Wauconda

Moving to Chicago I knew pizza would become a big part of our lives.
While we fell in love with Chicago's deep dish, the windy city has a lot more to offer in terms of pies.
Now that we have experienced the most popular Chicago deep dish, we usually save the indulgence for visitors. Whenever we have a hankering for pizza we try a new spot.

The most recent find was coal-fired pizza at Slyce in Wauconda.
It was a girls' night out and we decided to hit up Slyce after a glass of wine at Bliss, a couple blocks away. We tried one of the Bianca pizzas topped with feta cheese, grilled artichoke, sundried tomato, roasted red pepper, kalamata olive and garlic.

The crust was perfectly crisp, and the toppings were absolutely delish! The chefs and waiters were incredibly fun and one even posed for a picture with us.

Definitely recommend a stop at Slyce!