Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Speed Tour

Day Three- Monday


We all decided that we would check out head home today. Almost 22 year old wanted to get ready for his Gatlinburg adventure and VacationGirl wanted to get home to prop up the Chicago softball-sized ankles and ice everything down.


But before we left....


We had to go back to The Original Pancake House. We HAD to try the Apple Pancake. VacationGirl opted to order a half order of good old buttermilk pancakes and just sample Dear Husband's Apple Pancake. And WOW Oh WOW - it was so good.








After another incredible breakfast, we checked out and headed North to see the B'hai Temple. One of the most beautiful buildings that VacationGirl has ever seen. She used to go there a lot when she lived in Chicago and just walk around the grounds. Unfortunately, there was a lot of construction so no pictures.


From there, we drove down Sheridan Ave through Skokie and out of the blue, a lighthouse popped up. Who knew? Of course, we had to check it out. It is the Evanston Grosse Point Lighthouse.













After walking around the lighthouse and the beach, we drove down to Adler Planetarium - to show Almost 22 Year Old the view of the city from there. It is one of the best places to take pictures of Chicago. I wish it hadn't been raining the night before - I would have loved some night pictures. But I got a few good ones in the daylight.









Back to the highway - of course I94 was bumper to bumper but we finally made it to Indiana - our next stop was the Cabela's in Hammond, Indiana. VacationGirl just doesn't get the attraction - it must be a guy thing.


The trip home was slow. We had some nasty rain from just north of Indianapolis all the way home. And to top it off, the construction on I465 East was horrible - and of course, we hit it right at rush hour. Couldn't have timed it better if we tried. But we did make it home around 8 est, unpacked, and collapsed.


It was a full weekend but a fun weekend. VacationGirl needs to go back when she can walk better! It will always be my favorite city!


See ya next time.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Chicago Sized Softballs

Day two in the Windy City.





VacationGirl woke up to sunshine and fluffy white clouds. Wait ~ THAT is not the typical Couch family vacation. We're used to fog, rain, and weather that generally makes for horrible pictures.


Maybe our luck is changing???


HAHAHA!

Directly across from the Sutton Place Hotel is "the Original Pancack House" It sounded more appealing than over-priced hotel breakfasts so we headed over. Of course there was a line but we were assured by the friendly people waiting with us that the food 'was worth the wait'. Hmmm???











They were NOT wrong.

The Pancake House features an Apply Pancake that, according to them menu, is oven baked with fresh-sliced apples and pur cinnamon sugar glaze. Well, let me tell you - we saw one coming out of the kitchen and I have NEVER seen a pancake so big. It's actually a souffle so it does drop a little but it was at least 12 inches in diameter and 3 inches tall. GEEZ! It would seriouly take 3 people to eat that thing. Dear Husband and VacationGirl opted for the Dutch Baby ~ an oven baked German pancake with strawberries. This thing was huge too. (VacationGirl didn't even make it half-way) and it is very rich. Loaded with eggs, you can taste them with every bite. Almost 22 year old opted for plain old buttermilk pancakes but he said they were incredible.












As we were eating we looked up and the sky turned an ugly dark color and sure enough, the skys opened up and it poured! Ah, now this is the type of weather we expect.

We made a break for it to run back across the street to the hotel, but we were all drenched by the time we got there. Of course, two people ran. One hobbled back with her cane. Oh What Fun!


We hung around and dried out a little and waited until the Puma store that is just around the corner opened. And magically, the rain stopped as quickly as it started and it was back to sunshine and fluffy clouds. Hmmm, guess who wanted to go to the Puma? VacationGirl??? NOPE! Dear Husband??? Nada! Almost 22 year old??? Ding ding ding - you won first prize! A mere $300 dollars later, we left and the guys ran back to the hotel to drop off stuff while I waited for them.


VacationGirl decided that, no problem, she can walk down to the Hancock building. It's just 5 -6 blocks. Never mind that she can't walk around the block normally, but hey, it's vacation right? Well, we decided to not stop at the Hancock just yet - we decided to go all the way to the Seadog speed boat. It's only another 14 blocks - WE THOUGHT! Just had to walk down to Grand Ave.


Maps and directions are not our strong point sometimes. We managed to miss Grand and went to the river at Wacker drive. The boat would be on the river, right? Isn't that were most boats are? Uh, not this one. I called and they are actually at Navy Pier. Well, by now, VacationGirl's ankles look like Chicago-sized soft balls and her knees and thighs are really swelling so I suggested a taxi. Damn good thing. It was a LONG way! At least too long to walk.


VacationGirl really wanted to go on the nice, relaxing architectural tour - at 75 minute tour. She figured she could get some great pictures. She sent the guys ahead to get tickets since the next tour left at 1:15 and it was already 1:05 and speed walking is not an option in VacationGirl's life right now. More like very slow trudging!


Well, they got tickets - for the 1:15 tour - just like VacationGirl asked. But....it was the wrong tour. This was a 30 minute speed boat run. ARGH! It was a blast though. The captain did all kinds of turns and managed to get everyone on the boat soaked. A great way to cool off in the hot Chicago summer. She's still really bummed that we didn't do the archtitectural tour but hey, that's life! I still got some good picture - most with people's head in them that were on the boat, but maybe photoshop can help me do magic!


After the boat ride, we decided that another taxi would be the best way to get us to Gino's East on Superior. VacationGirl and Dear Husband's first official date was at the Gino's East out in the Northwest suburbs. We LOVE this pizza. Love it, love it, love it! And it was wonderful! Almost 22 year old really liked it. During our late lunch, he made the announcement that in 2 years, he would be moving to Chicago. hahaha. I knew he'd love it!


After lunch, it was a short walk - oops, trudge, hobble, crawl - to the Hancock building. There was NO way VacationGirl was gonna be able to walk down all the stairs to get to the observatory ticket sales booth - so we asked and were told where to go to find an escalator. Oops, not exactly. We ended up on the 96th - twice - before we got out and trudged back to ask again. This time we got the RIGHT directions and made it to the ticket booth and ultimately up to the observation deck. VacationGirl had high hopes for the outside observatory - it didn't exist when she lived here many years ago. But, truth be told, she was really disappointed. It wasn't at all what she expected. Nice, but didn't live up to expectations.










Although it was only 5 - 6 blocks back to the hotel, those softball sized ankles would never make it back to the hotel. Shoot, VacationGirl shed tears at the top of the observatory when she didn't make the elevator and had to wait for yet another one. Talk about feeling silly - but when it hurts, it hurts. However, we had a sweet taxi driver that let me set up front and we made it back to the hotel where VacationGirl immediately started icing those knees. Who knows what else the evening will hold. (ok, my guess is nothing since everyone else is a sleep at least the ankles are no longer throbbing!)


We got back to the hotel just in time. When we walked in, it was still sunny and beautiful. But about 15 minutes later, the sky turned black and the skies opened up. We couldn't even see the street from our hotel room. It was crazy. We had thought about going to Second City for a show there but since it was so ugly and we were exhausted, we opted to have room service. Expensive but good! We watched a movie and then all proceeded to crash for the night.


See you tomorrow.






























Vegas, Baby? NOT!

The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray.


Well - that fits the bill completely. VacationGirl, Dear Husband, and almost 22 year old made plans for Las Vegas! Rooms at the Aria, plans for cleaning up at the card tables, visiting Hoover Dam.....yep, we had it all planned!


BUT THEN...knees got in the way. Creaky, old, cut up knees that just don't want to heal. So instead of trying to walk a million miles in Vegas, we decided on the next best thing....

MY KIND OF TOWN! Yep, Chicago! It IS my kind of town. The decision was made at 7:00 a.m. on Saturday morning and we were on the road by 9:30-ish. No room reservation, no plans ~ just drive. Well, since Chicago had been on the radar for a few days, I knew there were VERY few rooms available around North Michigan Avenue area. Who woulda thought that SO many people would want to go to Chicago! But VacationGirl knew her trusty cell phone would help her find a place to lay our tired heads. Uh, duh - not without power. No problem, right? Well, VacationGirl brought a car charger, but not the right one. She realized it around Lebanon, Indiana. Who would think that VerizonWireless stores would be so few and far between in Indiana? But they are! Trust me on this one. Finally found one in Lafayette and she was back in business!


VacationGirl proceeded to call 18 different 4-star hotels on the Magnifent Mile and there was NO ROOM AT THE INN! None, nada, zilch! She took a deep breath and was just ready to break down and start calling the 3-star hotels (She is a bit of a hotel snob on vacation) and a miracle happened. The Sutton Place said they "might" have a room available and they would call me back. Yeh, sure. But they did! So we landed on Bellevue Pl, in the "posh Gold Coast neighborhood". Seriously - that's what the postcard says.


It is a nice hotel - very nice! But you can't get your own ice! Seriously? You have call room service. Hmmm, that is not fun when VacationGirl needs to ice her ankle/knees alot. But, at least we'll keep room service busy!


After checking in, we decided to have a quick drink at The Whiskey. Ok, WE didn't decide - the almost 22 year old is exercising his right to imbibe. I think his goal is to have a drink at every Chicago establishment. As we drove around, he was astounded by the number of bars on every block. He now wants to move to Chicago! :) VacationGirl tried a glass of white wine - Reisling. She found that she really doesn't like Reisling. When it comes to wine, she tends to be a White Zin girl all the way.











From The Whiskey, we drove to Mt. Prospect. Dear Husband and VacationGirl had forgotten the joys of Chicago traffic. Bumper to bumper all the way to O'Hare. One would have thought they were evacuating the city. Why Mt. Prospect? It is the home of Kampai - VacationGirl's favorite Japanese steakhouse where she can get her favorite Golden Shrimp. YUMMY! We were all stuffed after having the Kampai special - sirloin, chicken, and of course golden shrimp. We had planned to show the almost 22 year old where we lived many, many years ago but decided we were all too tired so we jumped on the Kennedy and headed back to the hotel.




After a short rest, the almost 22 year old and VacationGirl decided to try one of the many fine drinking establishments near the hotel and we landed at The Tavern on Rush. Not the kind of bar that VacationGirl used to frequent when she lived there but still good. They make a mean Pina Coloda! The almost 22 year old had a good time checking out the female population ~ too bad he had to hang out with his mom. Bummer. After that, we walked around a little, taking in the crowds and people watching and then headed back to crash.


All in all, it was a good day.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

On the Move Again - Finally

After a two year vacation break, VacationGirl is ready to get going again. The 19 year old is almost 22 so it has been TOOOO long.

But where to go? One of her much anticipated "vacation list" spots? Maybe Alaska? Maybe Nova Scotia? Hey, maybe even Utah?

UH - NO!

Vegas, Baby!

For all of the places that VacationGirl, Dear Husband, and the 21-year old have been, Vegas was never on the list. So we never went. But instead of one two-week vacation this year, we decided to break them up. One in August with the 21-year old (can you believe he still wants to go with us?) and one in September. Vegas seemed the only "doable" place to go in a short timeframe. That or Chi-town but.....Vegas won.

Vegas in August? Who does the desert in August? No one else but VacationGirl! Insanity must run in the family. Either that, or I've started the tradition. But Vegas, it is. The only thing standing in our way are VacationGirl's knees. Walking is somewhat of a requirement when you visit Vegas and that's something that doesn't come easily these days. At least not without tons of tape and ibuprofhen.

But where to stay? Spend money on a nice hotel or spend money at the tables? Hmmmm - tough decision. But since VacationGirl tends to be a little bit of a hotel snob when she travels, I think nice may win. Right now, Bellagio and Aria are really high up on the list. Of course, it doesn't hurt that Bellagio has a great casino (so I'm told) with lots of opportunities for me to either win at cards ~ or not!

VacationGirl is also planning on dragging Dear Husband and 21-year old to an even hotter part of the world while we're out there - Death Valley National Park. At least that was the plan - until she found out that Zion NP is the same distance, in the other direction. UGH! Now she has to research that. But Death Valley may win - even though Death Valley in August is even crazier than Vegas in August!

So stay tuned.....more to come!

P.S. - We got a new puppy (another Ridgeback) - she's just over a year old (in February). She's not Sha-Sha ~ no one could replace her. But she's a sweetie. But wow - I forgot how crazy puppies are! We got her at 8 weeks and wow, it was a rough year. But she's calming down now and I'm loving her! She's a major pain in the butt ~ but I can't imagine her not being here!

See ya soon!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Saying Good-bye Is Hard


Today I had to say good-bye to my dog - a beautiful Rhodesian Ridgeback. She came into our lives about 12 years ago and quickly made her way into our hearts. She was truly part of the family.


We had talked about getting a dog for awhile but had delayed because the boy was afraid of animals - not just a little nervous - but deathly afraid. The fear ruled his life - he wouldn't go for walks around the block because "there might be a dog or a cat". He would only go trick-or-treating to houses that he knew didn't have pets (which made for a very sparse Halloween haul). This was hard for me because I had always grown up around dogs and loved them and Dear Husband grew up around all sorts of animals - everything imaginable (except chickens).


So we figured that getting a puppy - a nice, small puppy - may be the way to get the boy over his irrational fear. I had grown up with a Ridgeback (not a full-blooded one, but mostly Ridgeback) and loved their personality. VacationGirl thought that it would be a perfect fit for a scared little boy.


I found a breeder - amazingly enough - about 5 minutes away. She was an eccentric little lady with an even more eccentric husband. They had at least 5 - 6 huge ridgebacks of their own - cages overruled their house. And where there wasn't a cage with a beautiful ridgeback in it, there were clocks - hundreds and hundreds of clocks.


It just so happened that she had a litter - one didn't have a ridge - the breed trademark. That didn't matter to us but it does to most breeders. If the pups are born ridgeless, most breeders will put them down. But this breeder sold her to us very cheaply - on the condition that we had her spayed so that the trait wouldn't be passed on.


We took Bubba to her house to see the pups - they were too small to come home yet - but he saw them and agreed that they were small enough that he would like her. (Of course, he stayed in her chair the whole time we were there and wouldn't get on the floor to play with her).


So a few weeks later, we went to pick her up - at 12 weeks old. She had grown quite a bit from the previous visit and all the boy could say was "Mom, she got big." He wanted absolutely nothing to do with her. I held her in the car on the way home and she was so scared - she just trembled.


We got her home and confined her to the family room where I spend most of my time. Unfortunately, the boy wouldn't come in the same room with her - he was too afraid. No matter what, he wouldn't come near her - he didn't like those little razor-sharp teeth. Well, this went on for almost 3 months. I thought for sure we would have to get rid of the pup. Then one day, magically, everything changed. One day, the almost 21-year old (he was only about 7 at the time) said "Mom, I'm going out back to play with Sha-Sha".


Well knock me over!


From that moment on, they became good friends and that friendship continued to grow and grow. Sha-Sha would barrel down the stairs when she heard the school bus each afternoon to greet him. When she heard the garage door open, as he got older and was driving, she came to the door to meet him. He grew to love her more than ever expected - and she helped him get over his fear of animals. She was a huge part of our family - and loved by us all. I believe she knew how much she was loved too.


But today, we had to make the tough decision to say good-bye. My girl was in obvious pain with every step she took. There is a huge part of me that now regrets the decision - I want her here with me tonight and I miss her horribly already - but in my heart, I know it was the best decision for her.


So Sha-Sha, please rest in peace and know that you will always live in our hearts. I will never forget you and the unconditional love that you gave to our family!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Lazy Days

What a lazy, lazy vacation! But a much needed lazy vacation.

VacationGirl and dear husband haven't really done much but it's restaurant week so we've been trying out some new places. One was a keeper, one was a bust! On Monday, we tried a little restaurant called 'The Melting Pot'. It's a fondue restaurant and something very different. Now, VacationGirl was never a big fondue fan back when it was popular. But, it sounded different and since each 3-course meal was only $20.09, we decided to try it.

Our first surprise came when we walked in and found that we needed reservations - on a Monday! Wow - restaurant week definately has an impact! But, there was room at the bar and they have the fondue pots there so we opted to give it a try. We started out with the first course - a typical cheese fondue. There were six choices so we chose the fiesta cheese - laced with jalepeno's. You get to dip bread, chips, apples, and veggies. It was GREAT - we were scrapping the bottom of the pot.

Then came the 2nd course - a salad of your choice. Of course, VacationGirl chose good old Ceasar - and it was wonderful. The dressing was classic Ceasar but with a sweetness that you usually don't get - Yummy!

On to the main couse - shrimp, chicken, and beef. You cook it yourself in a pot with your choice of cooking method. We chose hot oil and then we dipped our food into 2 different coatings and cooked it.

Overall, we really enjoyed it and will come back - but it was also too much work! :)

On Tuesday, we tried another new restaurant - Barbie's Bistro. Hmmm, food was ok, atmosphere/service - awful. Our first clue should have been the fact that we sat for at least 5 minutes staring at the place trying to decide if we should chance it or not. Should have gone with our first instincts!

Wednesday was a fun day for me - went up to Laura's house and BS'd with her for a few hours and then met Sheli for dinner. It was do nice to see them again - I really miss talking to them. We can all talk about anything - and we do!

Today (Thursday) was a stay at home day. It was rainy so staying home was appropriate! Picked up my car after getting it detailed and buffed and it looks wonderful - almost new again. Fixed Fettucine Alfredo with shrimp! Yummy.

Don't know what all tomorrow will bring - I think we're going to go watch my friend, Raj, play soccer. But not sure yet!

Of course, I've forgotten to take my camera everywhere so maybe tomorrow will be driving around to all of the places we've gone and taking pictures. HA!

until then...

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Hanging At Home

VacationGirl and dear family decided to hang at home this year....

Definitely missing the fun of planning the yearly vacation and seeing new things but probably a good choice this year. The Silverado decided that it didn't like its current transmission so a new one was purchased last week and last night, the dishwasher decided to die a painful death. So Monday's vacation plans will include the purchase of a new dishwasher. What could be more fun than that - certainly not seeing the sights across the country?

But fun will be had - somehow, someway. This is restaurant week in Dayton so we'll try a bunch of new restaurants - something we enjoy doing!

Friday night we enjoyed an old favorite - Carrabba's! They have the BEST fried zuchinni ever.

Saturday night we ventured down to West Chester to try Jag's - highly recommended by a friend. They have Kobe beef and since VacationGirl is on a quest to find the best steak ever, she and Dear Husband decided to drive down and give it a try. Well.....

Although VacationGirl doesn't mind paying top dollar for a great steak, she just couldn't justify the $67.99 price tag on the 8-oz Kobe filet. Just too much ~ so Kobe beef will have to wait awhile longer. She did, however, have a good New York strip. But not good enough to pass Carver's or Paragon as the top so far. So the quest goes on.

Sunday vacation day was fun - it was an incredible weather day with the most beautiful clouds - the kind that you can stare at for hours and find different things in them. We rolled down the windows and opened the sunroof and headed down to see a good friend play cricket.













VacationGirl thinks she may bring bad cricket karma with her - they lost!

After cricket we tried a mexican restaurant - Abuelo's. It was good. But the best fun was yet to come - NOT! Home to pull weeds. VacationGirl absolutely HATES to pull weeds - more than almost anything. But weeds got pulled and mulch will go down on Monday after almost-20-year old signs up to be a personal trainer. (Don't ask!) We finished the day with a quick meal at Roosters - nothing like getting the cholesterol levels up just before blood work, huh?

Monday needs to be a day of cleaning but probably won't be - lots of things to do - all boring but all needed.

Looks like VacationGirl and family will need a vacation from the vacation...

till tomorrow ~

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The Details


For those interested:


We traveled 4,165.9 miles in 10 days.


The most we paid for gas was $4.80; the least was $3.39.


We did NOT see any moose.


We did NOT see the world's largest ball of barbed wire. (we would have if I had known about it sooner).


We did NOT visit Harrison Ford's ranch in Jackson. (I'm sure he would have invited us if he had known we were in town).


We did see buffalo, elk, deer, prairie dogs, and assorted other small critters - crawling and flying.


We did have a great time - seeing a beautiful part of the country!
So until next year.....


Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jog

The weary travelers are home! The actual arrival time was Sunday around 5:00 p.m. But VacationGirl has been too tired (read, 'Lazy') to post.

When I last left you, we were in the lovely, price-gouging town of Cooke City, Montana. It was a cute little (very little) town. We headed out on the 3-hour drive down Beartooth. It was a very pretty drive but I don't know what I'd agree with Mr. Kuralt in saying that it is the most scenic road in America. It is beautiful, but I've seen other that are just as nice, or nicer. But I'm glad we drove it!

Friday's drive took us to Dickinson, North Dakota - just past the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. We just there just before sunset so we did have the chance to see some buffalo, elk, and of course, prairie dogs. The little critters were everywhere.

Up early on Saturday - we need to make it to Madison, Wisconsin tonight. Not sure why - since we're 2 days ahead of schedule - but we wanted to get there. The 19 year old wanted to get home to see his buddy Mason, before he headed off to college. VacationGirl tried to entice him with the prospect of seeing the Mall of America but his response (as well as Dear Husband's) was "it's just a mall, Mom". MEN! They just don't get it.

So the only item on the agenda for Saturday (besides getting to Madison) was to see the largest Holstein cow. It 'lives' in New Salem, North Dakota - up on a hill. The cow is easily spotted from the highway but we needed pictures. Sue, the cow, is 38 feet tall and 50 feet long. I thought for sure we'd be the only goofballs to be out there taking pictures, but darned if there wasn't someone else driving up as we left.

We did make it to Madison - I'm sure that the state of Wisconsin is beautiful around the Dells but VacationGirl couldn't tell. We got to a hotel around 10:30 p.m. and immediately crashed.

Sunday found us up early, heading for the Buckeye state, and we pulled into the driveway at 5:00 p.m.

Glad to be home!!!!