Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Chicago: a lesson in culture and diet abandonment

A few more pictures from Chicago...did I say it's my favorite place to go? I did say that I adore it, right?
 I... do... adore... it. 

The Lincoln Park Zoo is always on the top of our "to-do" list when we go to Chicago. It's free, which is fantastic, (well, free to those of us that don't pay the ridiculous amount of taxes they have to pay up there) and for a family with this many kids, we seriously need some free activities. The boys love the lion house, the lions aren't separated from the humans by glass enclosures, but rather, iron (steel?) bars, so that when they roar, or even yawn, you can hear them. 

There is an outside area to the lion house, and THAT does have glass partitions thankfully, because here's what we saw that day:

Yeah, that's her face, right next to my kids' faces.  Yipes.

We also love to go to the beach. It's a beach unlike those here in Florida...nothing there wants to eat you, except for the occasional aggressive seagull (I think they might eat you, if given the opportunity). The water is FREEZING, but that's never stopped my kids from getting in it. It has stopped me every time, however...I'm not looking to have a heart attack there on the pristine shores of Lake Michigan.  Here's my little darlings, leaping wildly over the crashing waves:

 Okay, so I took a small amount of liberties with that description...

Now, don't think that this is, by any stretch of the imagination, the only things we do up there, there's a million things to do...but if I may, let's get right to the "food" portion of our virtual tour, shall we?

The food in Chicago is amazing. It is delicious, for the most part culturally authentic, and almost always inexpensive.  (Except for the deep dish pizza, it's pricey, I'm not sure why that is.)  I love to eat a hot dog with 11 items on top, or Indian food from a buffet on Belmont Avenue. There are so many places to choose from, well, lets just say I came back 5 pounds heavier. No lie...just ask my pants.

We ate at a high priced fancy hotel downtown one night, just me and my mom. My brother "J" runs the kitchen there, yep: Head Chef extraordinaire.  You cannot imagine the thrill of sitting down to a beautiful table, in a gorgeous hotel and saying to your chef-brother..."Hit me". 

He had two questions before we got started: 

1.  "Are you hungry?" (Cue very large grin on his face.)

2.  "Is there anything you won't eat?"

Our replies:  Yep and Nope!

Here's some of what we had...the photo quality is stinky, I know, I only had my cell phone.

This is fois grais two ways...and there are zero ways to describe it's awesome-ness.

This is lobster with forbidden rice and a curry sauce that would make you sell your best Brighton sandals in order to buy some more.

And this is sea scallop with pork belly and yes, those are slices of truffle you see. OMG. So good.

All of these wonderful things (and this isn't everything we ate, we felt a little foolish taking so many kept it to a minimum) came with garnishes of the most wonderful vegetables: little tomatoes, baby eggplant and turnips, it was just beyond words it was so good.

Apparently (from what I heard) the waitstaff there were very impressed with our ability to eat everything from the numerous plates set in front of us.  We try to excel in everything, you know.

Soooo, go to Chicago. Take your kids and your wallet, see everything you have time to see..
 And don't forget your stretchy pants.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The importance of date night...

Last night hubby and I went out on a date. Finally. With 4 kiddos at home and everyone going in separate directions all the time, it's hard to find a spot on the schedule for "us".  We went out for some sushi, and then went to see a funny movie. It was so nice.  While we were sitting in the movie theater, waiting for the commercials to start (which stinks, by the way, what the heck??!!)...he looked at me and said "You are such a pretty girl."

Don't get me wrong...he is always very generous with the positives when it comes to me.  He never fails to tell me I look beautiful (even just before or *gasp* immediately after giving birth to a kid), but something about the way he said that was just so sweet and kind. I don't feel very "girly" lately I guess, kids and work tend to run me down...but hearing him say it like that made me feel 10 years younger, 10 pounds lighter, and reminded me of just how great a husband he is.

"Date night"...I highly recommend it.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Middle Boy and the car dilemma

Before I move on into insightful and witty discussions about the differences between big city Chicago living...and the somewhat hicksville (yet always classy) locale I live in...can I just say:

"OMG my 16 year-old is out driving himself all over the place!"

Middle Boy turned 16 in May, and couldn't wait to get his driver's license. He watched his older brother get his, and get a car...and couldn't wait for his turn.  Now, I was thinking it would be easier, watching the next child drive away...because, you know, I'd gotten through it once.

Wrong. I'm back to having stomach clenching worry and watching the clock (bleary-eyed) until 11, when he has to be home. 

The one thing that really bugs me the most about this is:  we have no money to buy Middle Boy a used car.  When Oldest Boy was 17, we handed him the keys to a Mustang (yes, capitalized)...and not just any Mustang, it has red and black leather inside, that new "retro" body style,  and looks pretty (sorry O.B., I said "pretty").  It wasn't new, just new to him, and he worked really hard in school and sports (not getting home each day until 7pm, only to start studying) , and we wanted to do this for him. And we could.

Being in the residential construction industry...I guess you can imagine what my bank account looks like these days. It's been a tough couple of years.  Middle Boy wants a jeep so badly, but Mom and Dad just can't swing it right now. (And we aren't talking "expensive, tricked out jeep"...the one he saw and would love to have is 14 years old.) We've made a deal with Middle Boy: since Dad works from home, how about if Dad and Middle Boy share the ride in the garage?  He accepted the deal-i-o...go figure.

So if you happen to see this:

driving down the street...please keep an eye on it...and let me know if he changes lanes without signaling.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Goin' to Mom-mom's house...

I recently took Little Boy and Baby Boy to see my mom "Mom-mom" in Chicago.  Usually I take all four boys (this annual trip was created when hubby was in the military, and gone for a couple weeks each summer). This year I only took the youngest two because the older two had stuff going on here...and being self-employed, hubby doesn't get much vacation time (which stinks, but that can wait for another post).

I adore it, love it, love it.  The kiddos also love to go there, but wow, is it a culture shock for many ways.

For example, you can imagine the time it takes for little boys to learn to not stomp on the floor. We live in a house where the only things living below us are the fire ants that owned this property 20 years ago. When we go to Chicago, the kids have to learn not to jump down from 4 stairs up the staircase, or RUN to the bathroom at the last minute after drinking 83.5 ounces of  juice.  I feel badly for the family below us, if you are reading this:    "Sorry, family in the first floor of Mom-mom's two flat, they drank alot of juice."

I'll be posting some pictures from the trip in the next couple of days...including the pictures from the dinner we had that my brother (the chef) made.  Put down that ice cream scoop tonight because just looking at those pictures is going to put a couple of pounds on've been warned.