Chicago! Part 2–Sue, Wrigley Field and Ramen in the Rain

Happy Friday! Now that the 4th celebrations have ended it’s time to finish recapping our wonderful weekend in Chicago. I’ll get right to it!

 IMG_1333

After breakfast on Saturday we headed to the Field Museum. Nerd Alert: I love museums of all sorts, but I figured even the boys would be in to a natural history museum, especially one across from the Bears Stadium this good. Luckily I was right! Admission was reasonable, around $12 a person and the exhibits were great!

 IMG_1339

Sue, the famous T-Rex was our favorite, but all of the animal exhibits were impressive. The hall of birds was especially amazing, literally thousands of birds. Who knew there were enough different species of ducks to fill an entire room? Not I. I could have spent days there (yes dayS) but we still had a lot of the city to see so after a few hours it was on the road again!

IMG_1358
                              Soldier Field

We planned to have lunch at The Bongo Room, but realized half way there that they didn’t serve their lunch menu on Saturdays and no one was really in the mood for a second breakfast. Bummer. We wandered the streets in search of a backup plan and the boys growling tummies and cries for “real food” finally landed us at Al’s Italian Beef.

While this certainly wouldn’t have been my restaurant of choice, Italian beef’s are a Chicago staple (or so I hear) so I was in. An Italian Beef is basically a sub sandwich piled with shaved beef and your choice of hot or sweet peppers. From there you can decide whether you want your beef dry (no gravy), wet (some gravy) or dipped (entire sandwich dunked into a vat of gravy). Delicious? Weird? I’m still not sure.

Italian Beef
         Tastier than it appears

Although not pretty to photograph, it did taste pretty good. Kind of like a French dip…only soggier. The loaded fries were also tasty. They give you squeeze packets of sour cream which makes them taste like a baked potato which almost makes them healthy? No? Ok, yeah definitely not.

 Al's loaded fries

After lunch we made our way to Navy Pier via Divvy bikes.

 IMG_1374

I’ve seen Divvy Bikes in larger cities before but had never used one until this trip. The bike sharing concept is that you rent the bikes for  a small fee (I think it was $7 for 24 hours). You pay at a touch screen kiosk, take the bike from the docking station and can ride it for 30 minutes before you must check it back in to any docking station (and check it out again if you wish). There are hundreds of stations all over the city so you shouldn’t ever be more than a few minutes ride from one. I think the concept is great, especially in a city with so many spread out sights to see, but checking the bikes in and out every 30 minutes does get a little tedious.

 IMG_1376

Continue reading

Chicago! Part 1–Sightseeing & Eating Our Way Through The Windy City

It’s been a little over a week since we returned from Chicago and the heat index is finally under 100 for the first time all summer! Hallelujah! What better way to spend the day than outside recapping our trip! We had such a wonderful time in Chicago and I’m happy to add it to my list of cities I love. Good food, nice people, so much to do and see! It’s a little like New York except smaller and not quite as busy. Robert and I both agreed we thought it would be a fun place to visit with children that were a bit older as there seemed to be a lot of family centered activities. Hopefully we’ll get back again someday, possibly we kiddos in tow!

 IMG_1230

We arrived on Thursday and waited at the airport for about an hour for my sisters flight to get in. Once she arrived we hopped on the train from the airport to the city. The ride was fine but took about an hour, certainly longer (although cheaper!) than a cab ride would have been. We checked into our hotel and freshened up before heading right out to a deck party in a high-rise!

Shawn's Building  Shawn 3

Shawn, my good friend from college lives in Chicago and graciously invited us to a cookout on his deck. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but when we arrived at his building which overlooked the river we were instantly impressed. The building itself was sleek, modern and beautiful and the views from the 28th floor where the party was held were breathtaking. Shawn had Mediterranean food catered which was delicious, orzo salad, skewers of lamb and chicken, even grilled calamari. The party ended fairly early since most of the guests had to work in the morning and we called it a night in anticipation of a full day on Friday. It was a nice, low-key introduction to the Windy City! Thanks for the hospitality Shawn!

Shawn 2
Windy but worth the view!

The next morning we had a quick breakfast at our hotel before hopping aboard Chicago’s First Lady for a Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise. I am usually a fan of walking tours when traveling but the boat tour came highly recommended and I knew it would be right up Robert’s boat loving alley.

 IMG_1155

The 90 minute tour was awesome, well worth the money (about 40 dollars a ticket) and so informative and interesting! It gave us a great feel for the streets and buildings along the river and helped orient us to the city we would soon be exploring by foot.

IMG_1088 Building 1

The docent knew so much about every building; everything from the architect to different design elements and fun facts. We loved this building which was designed by a female architect (Girl Power!) and won a PETA award because it uses special types of glass that not only create a pleasing wave-like aesthetic, but also keep birds from flying into the windows.

 IMG_1232

We loved the river tour and I would highly recommend to first time visitors. After we got off the boat we walked to Millennium Park. We stopped along the way at Garrett’s Popcorn for a mid-morning snack.

Garretts Bag Garrett's PopCorn

We choose to all split the Chicago Mix, a mixture of cheddar corn and caramel corn. Sounds gross but weirdly tasty. Once we got to the park, there was a magician performing by Wrigley Square. We took this opportunity to practice using our new selfie stick.

 MP Selfie

No judgment, they are pretty fun and highly useful for group pictures if you aren’t into bothering strangers. We spent some time at the Bean (err technically Cloud Gate…but doesn’t everyone call it The Bean?).

IMG_1250 IMG_1276

Inside the Bean IMG_1268

Continue reading

Super Spinach Pesto

Happy Wednesday! I’m back in toasty (and I do mean toasty, hello 90 degree heat and sweaty armpits, I did not miss you) South Carolina after our jaunt in the Windy City. We had such a fabulous trip and packed A LOT into our brief stay. I can’t wait to share it with you!

 IMG_1331

Since we’ve been back I have been catching up on laundry, and Renly cuddles.

Ren 2

Goodness I miss that sweet face when he’s not around.

I’ve also been getting back into my gym routine and buying lots of healthy groceries after an indulgent weekend away. Fancy dinners and deep dish pizza lunches call for zucchini noodle recovery.  Confession…. You know those annoying people who say things like “I would order a cheeseburger but I just LOVE salad” when you go out to eat? I might be one of them. I know.

 Finished Pesto

I actually do love salad, but not because I’m an annoying health nut (or at least I hope not) but rather because I eat salad a lot and I think they taste delicious. I have definitely discovered over the last few years of eating better, that I tend to crave whatever I’m in the habit of eating, be it healthy or less so. Humans are creatures of habit and if you are in a routine of eating whole, good for you things, you want to continue eating whole, good for you things and not just because you know they are good for you, but because they actually start to taste good to you. I think this is why the most successful diets are those that help you cultivate new habits that stick with you longer than the prescribed 21, 30, whatever number of days. Once you start enjoying the good for you stuff, you’re going to want to stick with it.

Now, that isn’t to say you shouldn’t enjoy the moment and indulge when it’s worth it, I certainly enjoyed my deep dish pizza, BUT it is nice to be back home and get back on track. So now we’ll get to the recipe Smile

 Ingredients

I adore pesto (and pretty much all things Italian) and have been making it from scratch ever since I realized how simple it was. Store bought pesto can be pricy (thanks pine nuts) and loaded with calories. You can make your own less expensive, equally as delicious and much better for you version at home. All you need is a food processor (or a good blender would probably work too).

 Ingredients plus Lemon

Continue reading