Saturday Smiles: Vacation style edition

Our “vacations” are seldom exotic. I mean, come on, we were raised in Illinois and that’s where most of our time away happens. But we do our best to keep it interesting.

Our week started with an overnight drive on New Year’s Eve, which I initially thought was a crazy idea but turned out okay. Especially when we could say it took us TWO YEARS to get home. (What can I say? We’re easily amused. Even more so when we’re sleep deprived. More on that later.)

New Year’s Day was a blur for me because I napped for an entire morning. (Oh, that brings a smile to my face. Naps are so rare for me. Three hours of uninterrupted sleep in the middle of the day. Heaven.) Later we were introduced to Duck Dynasty (seriously, I’ve never laughed so hard in my life. We’ve added this to our personal must-see TV list) and cracked up every time my mom mentioned Pinterest. (She was off work for a week without the grandkids to keep her occupied, so she had some Internet surfing time.) To her credit, we have eaten some delicious food she found on Pinterest. (But it’s weird when one of your parents gets comfortable with social media.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWednesday was Christmas Rewind day as our kids opened their presents from grandparents and great-grandparents. We are now the proud owners of a Barbie beach house and Barbie convertible as well as an entire fleet of Coast Guard rescue vehicles and men. And a train set. I’m thinking we should have given away all our kids’ toys before we left home because I have NO IDEA where this stuff is going to go.

My grandma made our son an orange afghan (orange is his favorite color) and after we told him she made it, he asked of every other present, “Did you make this?”

I’m thinking our family will have this exchange at family gatherings from now on: “Did you make this?” “Yes, I found it on Pinterest.” (It was a lot funnier when I hadn’t had much sleep.)

Also, this might be my most favorite picture of the whole year, no matter what else happens.


Phil and I took Thursday and Friday to get out of town. We used some hotel points for a free night’s stay and headed up to Lake County, north of the city (that’s Chicago, the greatest city in the world, as we like to say).

On the way up we ate here.


This deli/cafe is legendary in my husband’s family. His maternal side is German, so authentic German food is a big deal. I had beef goulash with spaetzle (best egg noodles on the planet) and red cabbage. Phil had a sausage platter with three different kinds, and a side of sauerkraut. I’ve never been a big fan of sauerkraut, but I can stomach a taste of it now and then. It was fun to–finally–experience this with him. We’ve been talking about it for a long time.

We spent some time at the Gurnee Mills Mall, something neither of us had done in years. We played the $5 game, where we can only buy one thing for ourselves and it has to be about $5. Phil got this sweet hat. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Just in time for the playoffs. Or next season. I bought some blank canvas material for a yet-to-be-determined creative project I need to complete this month. We ate Oberwies ice cream while watching Elementary in real time. (Usually we have to watch it a day or two later.)

Our getaway also included two visits to a monastery/chapel/shrine. We are not Catholic but were intrigued by the artwork and experience of visiting. We stopped there on the way to our hotel and felt a little bit lost and intrusive. We decided to go back the next day so I could take some notes and jot some thoughts and we could spend a little more time there. (I plan to write about this more later this month.) It was an inspiring and thought-provoking visit.

We met my brother for lunch at a historic roundhouse in Aurora. (Our 3-year-old was pretty jazzed to be eating lunch at a train station.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen the kids got to stop at a train park on the way back to our vacation headquarters.

Spending time with family is always a highlight of our trips home and we’ve done plenty of that. And the best part of all: we still have another week of visiting and fun!


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