Chicago

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I was lucky enough to spend a few days in Chicago, my first time! The day of travel would have been just fine if the plane actually took off and arrived at the gate when it was supposed to, however we had a lot of down time on the tarmac. Dinner reservations were at 8:45 that night so we went straight to the room and back out into the city in search of the restaurant.

Top Chef winner Stephanie Izard was a must do. Unfortunately her flagship restaurant The Girl and the Goat was booked out until November so we decided to try her Asian restaurant Duck Duck Goat. “Reasonably authentic Chinese Food” is what the waiters say when they greet you at the table. The place was buzzing for a late Thursday evening. The space was tight and the volume loud. Sitting almost too close for comfort next to other diners, we ordered off of the “chef recommended” menu. I only have a couple pictures since the lighting wasn’t doing me any favors.

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We started off with the wood fired duck hearts.  The were tender, smoky and served on a creamy bed of garlic aioli. Delicious.

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Along with those we ordered the duck spring rolls, braised pork belly and ended with the   char siu bao. The bao dough was probably the best I have ever had, so light and fluffy. It was all really good. Happy with our decision we moseyed on closer to the hotel to meet a friend for a drink.

The next day we walked out on the river and hopped in a water taxi toward Willis tower.

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Not wanting to wait in line for the sky view we kept on walking to Union Station where I had my first Chicago dog.

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I’ll come clean, I don’t really like hot dogs. I felt that I had to try it and see what all the fuss was about. Eh, it tasted like a hot dog that had too much stuff on it. I won’t need another one.

The rain started to arrive as we were along the riverwalk so we tucked into a winery for a couple glasses of wine. I really dig the vibe of the river front, I can see spending warm afternoons out there listening to music and people watching.

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Cold and ready for a hot shower we went back to the hotel to get ready for dinner numero dos.

Reservations weren’t until later that evening so we started at a speakeasy bar called Brando’s. Remembering I am too old for crowds, we weren’t sure if we would be able to stand the elbow to elbow nowhere to sit room. However the happy hour prices and delicious dirty martinis swayed us to fight the sporadic nudges of the flannel wearing strangers. Then a barstool opened up and we made ourselves comfortable until dinner.

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Rick Bayless, he’s my favorite . He was who graced the screens of my early culinary classes and whom I grew to admire years after. Eating at his restaurant Frontera Grill was the first thing that came to my mind when I decided to finally see Chicago. I wish I had a better experience to share but it was just very underwhelming.

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We started with pork tamales and tamarind margaritas. Both were just OK. I’ve had much better in San Diego and our waiter was less than gracious.

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The entrees were molé enchiladas and a fish dish. The fish was better than the enchiladas. If you want really really good Molé Enchiladas head to El Comal or JV’s tacos in San Diego. Can’t be beat.

The best thing we had were probably the plantains, they could have stood to cook a little longer but dipped in crema and molé they were pretty darn good.

 

Unsatisfied we decided to call it a night and head back to the hotel.

I had the next day solo, so after lounging in bed with multiple cups of coffee I ventured out. I walked down to Navy Pier and had a mango smoothie along the water. I had some company stop by.

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I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with the afternoon so I just started walking along the lake.

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So unreal, just breathtaking! Are we sure this is a lake?

I found myself not far from Lincoln park, I decided that would be my destination and a place to stop for lunch.

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I found a little restaurant outside the Lincoln Park zoo that suited my needs. A glass of rosé and a sandwich. The wind picked up and my toes were going numb, yes I wore flip flops, duh!

I also found that cabs were much easier than ride shares out there, do you guys agree?

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Back at the hotel I poured a big glass of Syrah and submerged myself in a piping hot bath. We were invited to an event at the House of Blues later that night, so with time to kill we went to the hotel bar for a bite to eat and a drink.

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The short trip ended with an open bar, live music, late night pizza and amazing company!

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It was a perfect little getaway. I love being in a new place, it’s one of my most favorite things. Like any place, I could have used a couple more days. If I ever get back there, I have a list ready!

 

 

 

Weekend at the Lake

We decided to spend Memorial weekend up at Lake Arrowhead. It has been over a year since we were last up there and now that Averi is a bit older and a tad easier, we thought….why not?

We rented the same VRBO that suited our needs perfectly last time. Plenty of rooms, a fire place and a nice deck with a hot tub.

Once we hit our first destination on the mountain, Lou Eddies Pizza, Kaili hopped out of the truck and threw up. We high fived her for making it to the top and saving us a huge mess to clean up.

After a few sips of 7-up, she was ready for pizza.

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Full on delicious pizza, we checked into our rental, unloaded ALL of our stuff (crazy the amount of stuff we need for just a few days) and hit the store.

Then it was time to play.

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We wandered around the Village and stopped at a new Tap Room for a couple of coconut margs and snacks for the girls.

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It was absolutely beautiful up there.

Dinner was enjoyed on our patio. Grilled rib-eyes and wine, while the girls splashed in the hot tub.

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After bath and pajamas, we indulged in S’mores while the sun went down.

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The next morning we woke up and headed out for a hike to “Heart Rock”.  We had zero phone service by the time we got to where we thought the beginning of the trail was but it turned out we were in the wrong spot. Luckily other people were in the same predicament and working together, finally managed to find where we needed to be. Unfortunately, Averi decided she was done with nature and her mood went to shit.

There were loads of Ladybugs all over the place, to the point where it was actually making my skin crawl.

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About a 1/4 mile up the trail Averi had given up and I had to carry her. I wanted to throw in the towel and just let Shane and Kaili finish it,  but Shane talked me into continuing. We took turns carrying the little terrorist to the end. We didn’t really get to explore the waterfall or the heart shape rock since the girls were well, you know.

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Kaili did a great job and had a lot of fun, that is until I told her I wanted to take her picture. Tell me how you really feel Kaili.

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Shane carried Averi all the way back to the paved road where she managed to use her two feet to make it to the truck.

We were all famished and ready for lunch so we stopped at a highly recommended Mexican spot that sits cliffside the mountain. The food was really good as were the views.

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After lunch, Averi’s mood lifted so we headed down to the village for some play time.

The girls finally got to go on a few the rides, something we have been hearing about nonstop since we arrived.

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The pirate ship was the clear favorite.

Then it was our turn, we sat outside and had margaritas while the girls had ice cream.

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We wandered up to the grocery store for some goodies to build a charcuterie board for dinner.

Once the girls were down for the night, we sat outside enjoying our meal when a visitor let himself into our yard.

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We tried calling the number on his tag but no one answered. Shane said he remembered seeing this dog the last time we were here so while he walked down to that house, Zuess and I enjoyed some cured meats. Then he was happily reunited with his owners.

Sunday morning after some espresso’s made with my new Staresso, which I LOVE, we went back down to the lake for lunch.

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We shared some appetizers and a few cocktails, which were all really good.

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A neighbor of the house we were staying at invited us to a block party later that afternoon. It was an interesting group of people and after an hour or so of chatting, we had had enough and decided to head back to the house to try and eat up some leftovers.

Before heading home Monday morning, we took once last glimpse of the lake. We left beautiful weather and headed back into town welcomed by a grey sky and cooler weather.

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It’s always a good time up there and I am ooking forward to enjoying a Christmas in Lake Arrowhead some time in the future.

Long Time No See

It’s been forever since I blogged huh? I just don’t seem to have the time now that Kaili is out of school, or should I say my free time at night is spent watching trashy reality shows? I mean, how good is Bachelor in Paradise? And it just started.

Last I left off Averi had turned two years old. She had her doctor visit and she is perfect, a little small in the weight department but this girl eats so I am not concerned. We’ve been through this with Kaili already, it’s so much easier on the mind the second time around. About four days after that doctor visit Averi came down with a fever that lasted three days followed by a rash. Turns out she had Roseola and I am sure she caught it at the office.

I had been having a hell of time with her at night. She would cry and cry for hours before finally giving in and going to sleep. I was all set to move Kaili out of the room and go big, letting her cry it out without going in there at all, per her Pediatrician’s advice. But after her bout with that nasty virus, she went back to her old self and no more crying at night. Who knows what that was about, hopefully we are good now, because I was about to lose my mind.

We’ve been busy spending time at my parents house in OC. The girls have been swimming, to the petting zoo, playing at the parks and splashgrounds.

Our good friends came out for a visit from Arizona and of course the first stop was breakfast at World Famous on the beach.

Averi doesn’t dig the beach, just like Kaili wasn’t fond of it. Luckily Kristi and I got a chance to head to the beach sans kids and it was magical. We  laid in the sun and played in the water without any worries.

We also had our sitter come and watch the girls while we spent the day in Ramona wine tasting! The girls had fun, we had fun, everyone wins.

Kaili has another month until Kinder starts and soon after that we head to Rio. I will try to be better about writing but I promise I will be blogging the Paralympics and our trip to Brazil!

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Weekend Getaway

The week before Christmas we took advantage of some of Shane’s Hilton points and booked a hotel in Santa Monica. We stayed just a few blocks from the pier and near all the shopping and restaurants which we didn’t take much advantage of…because kids.

We started off by stopping in Venice for lunch and a walk along the canals, something I have never done. If I could give up a backyard I would love to live in Venice, some of those houses are amazing. After our first stroll down one of the canals we passed Maura Tierney. (actress in The Affair, one my favorite shows)

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We spent the rest of the day walking around Santa Monica, ending at the Pier for an ice cream and a glass of wine but the cold weather and a cranky toddler drove us back the hotel before dinner.We couldn’t bring ourselves to try and go out for dinner with the kids on a Friday night so we ordered room service and hung out in our room.

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We all slept in the same room which wasn’t too terrible but Averi is a very noisy sleeper and she did a lot of whining in her sleep which kept me awake and eventually woke up Kaili before the sun. After breakfast we went to the LA farmers market. Full from breakfast we were so bummed we couldn’t try all the amazing food, lesson learned. We browsed all the booths and stores, stopping for espresso and hot chocolate. I couldn’t leave without trying a beignet, warm and delicious, I really was regretting breakfast.

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I thought Kaili might combust if we didn’t get her down the the Pier fast enough, she had been talking about it since she woke up. She got to go on all the kiddy rides and then three adult rides with me. After the little rides weren’t doing it for her anymore she told me she wanted to go on the Dragon swing. This wasn’t a small  swing either, this was the real deal. I was always a fan of scary rides but this one ride always scared me because you aren’t strapped in and I always lifted out of my seat a bit. So when she said she wanted to go on it, I hesitated and then asked her repeatedly while in line if she was sure…She was. We sat in the middle row to be on the safe side but it probably didn’t matter if we were on the very end, she had the biggest smile even when I was a little freaked out. The girl needs to get taller so she can go on all of the rides.

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As the kids were dining on corn dogs the clouds rolled in and it started to pour. We took cover in the aquarium under the pier but after 30 minutes we were all ready to move on. With the rain still dropping and our hotel a few blocks away we decided to eat at the tourist trap Bubba Gumps, hoping by the time we were done it would be clear to walk back.

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The food wasn’t too bad and the atmosphere was noisy enough to drown out our kids so it worked out well. On our way back to the hotel the rain picked up and we ran the rest of the way arriving completely wet and ready for warm baths.

After a better nights sleep, we headed home after breakfast making it just in time to start the Seahawks game. Kaili has been asking to go back to Santa Monica so I say it was a win of a weekend.

Lake Arrowhead

We spent Memorial day weekend up in the mountains. We left Friday morning and arrived less than three hours later. We rented a place next-door to the village and a grocery store, the best location if you want to avoid the car. It was a 2 bedroom condo I found through VRBO. The girls shared a room and although I had to tweek the room a bit, it worked great. I pushed two twin beds together for Kaili and threw the pack n play in another corner for Averi. We had a bedroom next door and the living area just out front. Our balcony over looked a very cold pool and luke warm hot tub.  I must confess I was worried about the girls sharing a room because A. Averi has been waking all times a night and cries until I come in and B. Kaili falls out of her bed and hollers, or gets up and comes into our room. Turns out, I over reacted because they both slept through the night both nights. Averi woke up the third morning at 5:30 but Kaili slept through her hollering. the only downside with room sharing is once one of them is up, you really can’t put them back down since there isn’t the option of “cry it out.” Doable but not desirable.

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The Village
The Village

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The weather less than desirable, the crowds scarce.  We  got there around lunch time and walked the village, scoping out the must-do’s. We had lunch at the very popular mexican place, Papagayos and although underwhelmed by the food, the atmosphere and people made up for it. They had a large out door patio that featured a bar and grill for margaritas and tacos that locals and tourists gather on warmer days, we will get to know this place well.

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After our big lunch we decided to go back to the condo, put the kids down and enjoy a small dinner of wine and caprese. After a good nights sleep we would devour the town in the morning.

We started the day with breakfast at the Belgium Waffle Co. which was a recommendation from a local. After an indulgent meal we fed the ducks, walked the village and watched Kaili go on kiddie rides at their local “amusement park. Then we got in the car and hit up all the open houses and boy did we find some gems.

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After house hunting and a little shopping, we ended back  at the village on a patio semi shivering due to the cold weather as we sipped margartias. Sitting next to us was a group that were Arrowhead vacation owners. We got to chatting and luckily the weather lifted and the day unfolded nicely. We learned a little more about the place and which parts of the lake was the most desirable yada yada yada. The day ended a lot like the day before with a quick swim in the warm tub and a light dinner of caprese.

Sunday, I made breakfast at the condo and then we went back to some house hunting. We also made our way to a “festival” at the next town over and although it was a very sparse “festival” it lead us to the best pizza place. Another gem told to us by a local, this place will one day be featured on Food Network, I’m sure of it. We devoured an amazing pizza and some beers while Kaili ran around with a little friend she met. Everything about this place was awesome, my only regret was there weren’t more of us so we could have tried two types of pizza. Two thumbs up for Lou Eddies Pizza.

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That afternoon we went back to the patio at the village but now that the sun was out it was packed. I lucked out and got a table but soon after Averi managed to dump my entire beer all over us. We paid the tab and went back to the condo for a replay of hot tub and dinner. We were all in bed early and ready to head home the next day.

Our drive home was fun. Halfway down the mountain Kaili said she had to go potty, we told her we were on our way but then she got quiet, too quiet. She got sick, so much sickness out of a tiny human being and I had nothing but clorox wipes. We were able to change her out of her clothes and I cleaned up as much as I could but the 2 hour drive was smelly.

We are heading back again in another month or so. Looking forward to checking out more of the surroundings and maybe partaking in some water activities. Hopefully the weather will be in our favor.

A Hot Minute

Last we left off Gma was having another “episode” . She needed more help than we thought and is now living with assistance and everyone is hoping she gets back to her old self and is able to go back home soon.

Our last few days in WW were as exciting as you can imagine.. Our flight home was easy peasy. I lucked out on our first flight and was able to have a row to myself, makes a world of difference with a lap child.

Our good neighbors met us at the airport so we could load all of our luggage and cases of wine into their car since it wouldn’t all fit in ours. Once it was packed up they headed home and we hopped on the shuttle to find our car. When we got to the parking lot we were greeted with a dead battery. It was 9:30 at night, there was no one around to help and I had just packed Averi’s diaper bag in the other car. AwESomE. We called our neighbor to come back and give us a jump start, which luckily worked and we were finally  home by 10:30. It pays to live near the airport.

The girls were so good but it’s still such an exhausting process traveling with kids. SO MUCH STUFF and bottles and and and…..I couldn’t imagine doing that with a child who was a little shit or a baby who cries all the time.
Hoping our next trip is to somewhere warmer, like let’s say, Hawaii!