Frozen

I’ve lived in Michigan nearly all my life, yet somehow I’ve never managed to visit the lakeshore during the winter. This weekend the idea struck me for some reason. And when I brought it up to Scott he told me he’d actually been thinking the same thing. So planned it and made it happen. Grand Haven decked out in snow. And ice. And wind. Lots of wind.

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We did NOT walk out on the pier like these people did, much to Dev’s chagrin. We watched parents take their kids out, but there was NO WAY I was going to do that. Ice, people. Ice is slippery. And there’s a frigid lake right there waiting to suck you in. Boots, winter coats and all. OK, yes, I’m a bit paranoid. But I have a kid, which gives me certain rights to access paranoia when it’s called for.
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Dev did get plenty of face time with the ice and snow, though.
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Of course I’m not much better than those other parents because I was cluelessly wandering on the icy stuff here not realizing that the beach had ended and we were climbing around on top of frozen Lake Michigan. Scott had to point that out to me and tell me to get my butt back on shore.
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And my paranoia kicked in again when he started throwing snowballs right near the iced-over railing. Which drops into the channel. Of frigid, deathly water. He thought we were being very over-protective. But he was nice enough to back away a bit before lobbing the next one.
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The second Chicago visit

Ok, this is really not the second one. It’s actually the fourth! It’s just that I had two visits within the space of one week, which isn’t normal. Four visits in one year isn’t normal either. But I’ll take any chance I can get to head back to my “other hometown.”

This trip was for a conference, but I snuck in a day with a friend I hadn’t seen in ages as well.

I got there the afternoon before the conference started and I had arranged to meet a friend for dinner at Lady Gregory’s (my favorite!). It’s in Andersonville so I thought I’d walk a bit and then hop on the Red Line.

I started my walk along Michigan Avenue, cutting over to Oak Street Beach to walk along the lakeshore.

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Lots of cool city scenery to snap…

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This is the view from the bridge that crosses Lake Shore Drive.

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Then I ambled through the areas around the zoo.

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I didn’t take any more photos after that during the walk. Not sure why. I was enjoying it. The weather was nice and it was great to wander though places I hadn’t been in so many years. I kept saying to myself, “I’ll walk to Belmont and catch the train there.” And then I’d walk right past Belmont. So maybe Addison? Nope. Sheridan would have been the best bet after a while, but I bypassed that, too.

That’s when I realized that I was either going to walk the entire way or catch a cab. When I made it to our old neighborhood around Clark and Montrose, I had begun to flag and headed to Clark to catch a taxi. I felt a bit defeated after challenging myself to go the entire distance. But I stood on the corner for a moment and realized that there weren’t that many cabs around. So I put one foot in front of the other and walked the last mile.

Nine miles total.

I’m such a goober. But it felt great. I was only a little bit soggy from sweating when Lisa arrived and I got there five minutes before her. We had a great dinner and chatted quite a bit. And I definitely took a cab home!

These are some pics I took in the mornings before the conference. It was at the Gleacher Center, right on the river, and the sunrise was beautiful. I had no luck finding a decent local coffee shop so I went with Starbucks both days, getting up bright and early, and just ambled along in solitude.

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This one was after the first day of the conference. Loved the light. And where did I go for dinner that night? I skipped out on the after-conference gathering and grabbed a salad at Trader Joe’s.
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Then I had a Google Hangout with my kid. Good times!
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Shots from the morning of day two…
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Thursday after the event was over, I jumped in my car and crawled through traffic on the Dan Ryan before finally breaking free around Evanston and zooming the rest of the way to Antioch. Dan and Renee bought a new house in the country this summer and it was such a contrast to the city. Very peaceful and beautiful. And they have horse neighbors!

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And their cat Lizzie…

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And now Dan has even more room for his trucks, cars, motorcycles, lawn mowers and other machines!

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They made me dinner the first night and then took me to dinner the next at a nice place called The Shanty. We basically just hung out and I relaxed before having to get on the road early the next day.

I visited with the horses both days. Because they were cool. And that is all!
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Up

Spontaneity. It’s not my strong suit.

It’s not like I plan and organize my days to the minute. Or even the hour. But I like to have an idea about what’s going to happen next. And make sure it’s feasible.

The plan for Friday was to take the train into Chicago to visit some old friends. We’d spend a few hours hanging out with them, and then head home.

The first part of that plan worked out well. The train from Michigan City dropped us off at Millennium Station at 10:28. We grabbed some raspberry sorbetto from Eataly. (Again…my kid is hooked!) Then, after insisting he was still VERY hungry, we had lunch at Dao, a restaurant Scott and I used to frequent when we worked around the corner. So. Good.

Our friends were staying in a comfy Embassy Suites where we parked ourselves to do some catching up. It was so good to chat. It’s been probably ten years since we’d since each other so we had plenty to talk about.

But when it was time to head out for the planned excursion to the zoo, the kids put up major resistance. What? I love the zoo! Apparently they preferred to sit in a hotel room and watch The Lego Movie. Rather than spend a beautiful afternoon strolling among the lions and tigers and bears. I jokingly said, “Well, if that’s the case, then we’ll go grab a drink somewhere while you watch the movie.”

And you know what? We did! First spontaneous thing.  (The kids were supervised by the 15-year-old so it’s not like we were irresponsible or anything!)

Cathy, Derek and I hit the hotel restaurant/bar and had a lovely afternoon of wine, food and conversation. It wasn’t the zoo, no. It was probably better since we were able to just relax and talk.

Afterward, a slightly spontaneous trip to Navy Pier was proposed. Although Dev and I were getting close to our time of departure at this point. We had to catch the 6:00 train if we wanted to get home before midnight. And that’s when Cathy suggested that we spend the night.

What? Really? How can we? (These are the panicked thoughts that went through my non-spontaneous mind.)

Pull-out bed in the “living room,” Walgreen’s around the corner for a toothbrush and contact lens cleaner, check the schedule for the train in the AM. We would be late for our volunteer gig at Crash’s, but it was doable.

So we stayed!

And we all enjoyed a nice evening at Navy Pier, complete with a ride on the Ferris wheel that made my kiddo pretty darn happy. So spontaneity isn’t all bad. Just don’t count on me to take that stance on a regular basis.

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Florida – one month later

Yep…an entire month has gone by since we returned from our trip.

I’ve been to Florida many times since I met Scott because some of his family lives there. And it’s always been a welcome change of scenery from the colder weather. This trip, though, was the first one where I felt sad leaving. Probably a combination of the dread of returning to the frigid weather, not wanting to let go of the relaxing feeling of a vacation and wanting to hold on to the joy of watching Dev explore a new place. (One that’s complete with amusement parks, alligators and an ocean.)

We flew direct to Sanford International Airport, which was awesome. Quick and easy flight. Quick and easy car rental. Not so quick and easy drive to Orlando (crazy Florida traffic!).

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Sanford – we were looking for alligators but it was pretty chilly when we arrived.

Dev was so, so excited about Universal. The parents weren’t really on that same wavelength, especially the daddy parent. However…it turned out to be way more fun than the adults had anticipated and spending a full day trekking around the park didn’t even phase us. You can see the smile on the kiddo in the photos. It was there for most of the trip!

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Dev wasn’t the only one excited about The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

As much as I loved Hogwarts and the butter beer, I was LESS than thrilled with the Dragon Challenge coaster. Even with dramamine in my system, that ride kicked my butt. Of course it was the first one we went on that morning and I was sure I wasn’t going to be able to do anything else once I got off and swerved like a drunk for several minutes. Happily, the Hogwarts ride went smoothly and I handled the rest like a champ.

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My view waiting in line to get into Ollivander’s – the longest line of all.
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The kid is a huge Jurassic Park fan.
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I think the water rides ended up being his favorite.
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It was only 55 degrees, but the sunshine made getting drenched a non-event.
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It seemed like every ride had its own unique glasses you had to wear.
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This? So, so good. I had two. Yes, I did.

Over the weekend we did some visiting with family and friends. We got to catch up with sisters and brothers, nieces and nephews (and grandnieces and nephews) and various new in-laws. We traveled to New Smyrna Beach to meet up with a friend we’d both worked with in Chicago. She’s a huge nature enthusiast and brought along a mermaid’s purse for Dev. He was thrilled. He was also pretty geeked about chasing the seagulls on the beach. It was too chilly and windy to spend as much time on the sand as we would have liked, but he was happy as the proverbial clam while we were there.

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See? He loved it.
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Dev thought these birds looked like “those bald guys who have just hair on the sides of their head” – apologies to any of those guys who might be reading this.

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Meet-up with Patty! Photo by Dev.

After the beach we went to Blue Spring to see the manatees. In all the years I’ve been visiting Florida, I’ve never seen one. Imagine my giddy excitement when I saw the first one. I think Dev thought I was a little crazy. He was way more impressed by the alligator that was lounging on a log in the middle of the manatee party.

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There’s an alligator lurking amongst those manatees. Beware!

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 The last day we headed back to Universal to try the other side of the park. The one with The Simpsons recreation, including Duff Beer for Dad!

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 There was plenty of other fun to be had, including riding The Mummy three times and dining on a deck with plenty of sun and and a nice breeze in “San Francisco.”

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This one would have made me hurl. I’m pretty sure of that.

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There’s that smile again. I’m so happy that he was so happy!

Day 2 of the Up North vacation

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Even given all of the beautiful views and fun activities that are part of a vacation, some of my favorite memories often end up being the dining experiences. The grilled cheese in the previous post, for example, knocked my socks off. As did the small outdoor patio that faced Glen Arbor’s main street and was populated by the three of us, all relaxed and happy and full of good food. So I’m fast forwarding to the end of Day 2 when we at at Pangeas Pizza (pictured toward the bottom). Scott opted to split a gluten-free pizza with me that was so, so tasty. And the syrah was pretty perfect. Not to mention the adorable husky that was tied up near his owners and kept peeking into the deck area for attention. Devin was very happy about that.

But I’ll go back to the beginning now. We started out our day at the History Center, just a few blocks from our hotel and a nice walk. We hadn’t planned the visit, but as we drove into TC the evening before, there were dozens of banners strung from the light poles advertising a Lego carnival of all things. My hope that Dev wouldn’t see them was for naught. And it turned out to be an nice time, other than Scott accidentally tripping on the stairs and putting his hand out to steady himself on a sharp staple.

We then headed up to the peninsula, stopping for a brief visit at Black Star Farms. We’d done a day trip to this area a few years ago and I loved the livestock portion of this winery. But when we tried to get a simple sandwich for the kiddo, we didn’t have much luck, so we didn’t stay long.

Then, after a quick lunch stop at The Cove in Leland, we headed to Van’s Beach, which we’d also discovered on our last trip. Devin loved it. It’s fairly secluded so nice and quiet. He donned his snorkle and goggles and swam along the shore while Scott and I kicked back in our comfy chairs. Afterward we explored Fish Town, then made our way north toward the Grand Traverse Lighthouse.

It was nice and scenic and there was another beach for throwing rocks. That’s really all the kid needs to be happy. Water and rocks. This was our fourth beach in two days, but he had the gall the next day to complain that we didn’t spend enough time at the beach on the trip. Harrumph!

After our tour of the peninsula, we went back to TC for our pizza adventure and then Dev capped off the day in another body of water – the hotel pool.

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Day 1 of the Up North vacation

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The vacation in question took place a week ago, of course. Because being timely is no longer an option for me. But we’re still basking in the glow of five days of touring around upper Michigan.

Day one took us through Frankfort, where we played on the beach; Sleeping Bear Dunes, where we toured, then climbed, then ran downnnnnn; Glen Haven, where we checked out the blacksmith shop and the Coast Guard Station; Glen Arbor, where we noshed on YUMMY food on the outdoor patio with a great breeze blowing through – I was in grilled cheese heaven!; then we checked into our hotel in Traverse City, where we walked a couple of blocks to Clinch Park and the kiddo swam and played into the evening (and where Mom ducked out for a while to walk around the town).

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Two days away

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What did we do in Chicago for two days?

  • We braved the cold
  • We visited the Museum of Science & Industry (and bought a model of the U-505 u-boat because that’s the newest obsession)
  • We ate at Lou Malnati’s, where mom had a very nice gluten-free pizza
  • We got up at 5:15 on Wednesday morning because, well, because
  • We took the subway, of course
  • We got off at Clark & Division and walked up Clark, counting the many, many, many taxis that passed by; mom lost the contest
  • We stopped at Starbucks because it wasn’t yet 9:30 so we had some time to kill
  • We went to the Chicago History Museum (which opens at 9:30, you see) and checked out tons of cool exhibits – including the Vivian Maier exhibit, which I had no idea was there…so cool!
  • We walked through Lincoln Park along the nature boardwalk
  • We (well, he) threw ice at the pond to see if it would break the ice on the surface
  • We went to the Farm in the Zoo and said hi to the cows
  • We grabbed a quick lunch at the Lincoln Park Zoo and then saw tamarins, chimpanzees, gorillas, lynx, tortoises, sand cats, giraffes and, always a hit, meerkats
  • We walked many, many, many blocks just so we could ride the el
  • We got Garrett’s popcorn and a salad from Au Bon Pain
  • We spent three hours hanging out at the hotel because we were tired and cold and the bed was comfy
  • We visited P.O.S.H. on the way to the Lego Store, where we managed to leave without getting a single item (miracle!) – although he’s still pouting about that
  • We got on the train again and rode all the way to Howard and then double-backed to the Berwyn exit
  • We met up with Archie and Diana for dinner at Lady Gregory’s (big thumb’s up!)
  • We got a ride back to our hotel and promptly went to bed
  • We checked out of the hotel the next morning
  • We met up with my cousin Pat and his daughter
  • We went to the Sears Tower (I will not call it that new thing) and the kiddo and my cousins went out on the glass walkway thingy while I firmly refused
  • We walked around trying to find Union Station
  • We found Union Station after getting hot cocoa
  • We went to Chinatown and had to find a bathroom post haste
  • We ate at Joy Yee, which was pretty tasty
  • We drove home (phew!)

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Adventures in the city

The kiddo had Friday off from school so I got the bright idea to take a trip to Chicago. We signed up for a membership to the Field Museum when we visited in April and I thought it would be a good time to check out the whale exhibit. (Which was indeed very cool.) So here’s our 24-hour recap.

We headed over on Friday morning and spent four hours pounding the marble in the museum before checking in at the hotel and heading out for dinner at Goose Island Brewery, via the subway, which elicited a lot of smiles. I had some tasty hummus, but he pronounced his mac ‘n cheese less than special. Then we visited a bookstore to pick up something for the night’s story time and had a relaxing evening in the very comfy bed, with five fluffy pillows each, at the JW Marriott.

Saturday morning we got up early. So early that I advised him that bath time would be better at that point since the restaurants wouldn’t be open for breakfast yet. (As you can see by the pic below, the bath tub was REALLY deep.) The concierge pointed us to Wildberry, which turned out to be my kind of place. Pancakes, crepes and french toast galore. Dev ordered the oreo s’more pancakes and then complained that there was too much chocolate and claimed that all of a sudden he didn’t like marshmallow fluff. Harrumph. Breakfast is my favorite meal out and I don’t see how he can be such a breakfast scrooge. I wolfed down my wildberry french toast and helped him out with his a bit. Because that’s what moms are for.

Then we headed across the street to Millennium Park. It was a perfect morning. The sun was beautiful and the fall leaves are still on many of the trees right now. Dev wanted to visit Cloud Gate since he doesn’t really  member the couple of other times he’s been to see it. And what 7-year-old can resist hamming it up in front of a gigantic bean-shaped mirror? Afterward we hopped on the el for another requested “train ride.” We had no destination. We just headed to Belmont on the brown line and then crossed over and took the red line back downtown. He refused to sit and was happy as a clam standing and holding the bar and adjusting his balance as needed.

Our plan was to stop at the Lego store next, but we got to the mall early so we walked over to the river. The bridge was going up for boat traffic. I had to laugh since I lived in the city for five years and never saw the bridge go up. That took a good 10 to 15 minutes of observation and then we returned to the mall to discover that the Lego store was gone. Gone! My phone informed me that, luckily, it hadn’t moved very far. Just down the street. So we walked back to the hotel (with lots of grumbling from the kiddo) to check out, then took a cab to the mall (to avoid further grumbling).

After that it was a carriage ride and a trip to the Hershey’s store. Their sundaes, by the way, pale in comparison to Ghirardelli’s, but he was heavily swayed by branding and the big G lost out due to obscurity in the childhood lexicon. He’s agreed, however, to visit the competition next time because he was underwhelmed by his ice cream concoction. (Once again, I ended up finishing it.)

So there you have our Chicago adventure. We went back to the hotel and grabbed our luggage and car, then headed out of town to Grandma’s house for the night. Now we’re back home and relaxing before another week of work and school.


He loves Sue


Check-in treats

The Meadows

I always wondered what Las Vegas translated to.

To me, it translates to kind of otherworldly. It was my second visit there and both have been for business. I never had it on my personal travel agenda. And I think I had a pretty good instinct about that. I’m just not the Vegas target audience. Glitz. Glam. Extravagance. Meh.

That said, the hotel room was gorgeous and I learned a LOT of stuff during the conference. I was in control of the remote for four nights in a row and the pillows were amazingly fluffy.

Now for the photos:

I was booked into a suite, but pretty much stayed in the bedroom/bathroom area. I never used the “living room” or the kitchen. I did venture out onto the terrace a couple of times, but being terrified of heights (and being on the 50th floor), that didn’t last long.

Dev wanted a souvenir. He was very specific about his request. (He got the lion, by the way.)

I’m always taking mirror shots in hotel rooms. Why stop now?

The place where I bought the stuffed lion had a couple of real ones too. Devin actually called me when I was standing beneath them. Perfect timing.

During my quick souvenir excursion, I happened to choose the same time to walk The Strip as the Occupy protestors did.

Chewie!

The last night of the conference there was a closing party, which included a photo booth for snapping some avatar pics. The makeup artist kind of went to town. I had to laugh when I got back to my room and saw my eyes!

I need an ergonomist

Three hours in a car. An hour or so of walking. Four hours of sitting in a chair. An hour standing in a bar, trying to avoid being in the way of the waitstaff. Two hours in a restaurant booth. Certainly not eight full hours of sleep, even in a comfy bed with massive pillows. Seven and a half more hours sitting in a chair. Twenty minutes sitting waiting for the valet to extricate my car from the lot. Two hours in the car driving followed by 20 minutes sitting in the same car and debating with my husband whether it was safe to drive. Eight hours of sleep in another hotel bed. Half an hour spent online trying to determine which auto repair shop was least likely to rip me off. Fifteen minutes in the car to the shop and driving around with the mechanic. One hour in the car to finally get home. Seven hours at my desk.

Is it any wonder my back is aching? Or my knee for that matter?

Conferences are good, but I vote for the format to change to walking-while-learning opportunities or some other non-sitting option.

Back from the desert

20091017-DSC_1170And they’re not kidding when they call it the desert either.

I enjoyed Tucson. It’s such a departure from here. Gorgeous scenery. But rather alien too. I guess I’m more attached to the green stuff than I thought I would be. Arizona, or at least the part I was in, was various shades of brown. Even the houses. I imagine that’s why the art and many of the buildings are adorned with such vivid blues, purples and oranges. To combat the overwhelming brown.

Of course then I come home to enjoy one sunny fall day, only to be assaulted by more rain. So I’m essentially complaining about the stuff that makes the green stuff.

Date weekend

That’s what Scott dubbed it. Because we dropped the kiddo off at Grandma’s on Friday and I’ll be picking him up this afternoon.

In the interim, we took a little jaunt to the Leelenau Peninsula and Traverse City. I like road trips, but I don’t like cramming activities into a few hours. I’d prefer, instead, to have a hotel room for the night. But the drive was actually not so bad. And I had pretty good company for that. So it was a nice adventure.

I think my favorite part was this little beach in Leland.

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