And we’re off…

Little did I know, watching “Mission Impossible” right before I started packing was totally appropriate…

I had to channel my inner Tom Cruise to not only pick what I was going to wear (may or may not have spent 3.75 hours in the closet trying things on), but also get everything into our suitcases.

I tried printing out Rick Steves’ packing list. It included one pair of zip of pants, a polyester shirt and instructions on how to wash socks in a sink. {photo source}.

ZIP. OFF. PANTS.

With all due respect: Stick your ol’ list in your ear, Mr. Steves.

Anyway, mission accomplished.

We will be gone for over two weeks, so there won’t be any regular posts during that time. HOWEVER, please feel free to follow me on twitter for some pictures and little updates as we move through Italy and the Mediterranean… internet access might be spotty at times, but I assure you that you will get lots of photos and details when we return :)

{Testing the merchandise for comfort is important}

Thank you for your sweet comments and lots of love as we have gone through the planning and dreaming process of “The Trip”. Keep us and our journeys in your prayers, if you don’t mind. I don’t want the Husband to wander around and get lost trying to buy “Statue of David” boxers, or to wind up paddling a lifeboat or anything…

THAT would be a bummer.

:)

I will leave you with this:

{An amazing original work by Hannah – who I get to see in less than a week!}

Ciao!

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{bite sized} Chicago

Well, the girls are back from their exciting, non-stop Chicago adventure…

…a total blast for ALL of us, and a much-needed 10th Birthday/Mother’s Day celebration break ;)

We enjoyed yummy snacks (doll and girl sized!), watched fun movies (Little House on the Prairie, Snow White and Lady and the Tramp), opened presents, swam, ate a breakfast that made us swoon, had hair done, hiked in the rain, felt like real ladies at a fancy lunch, skipped in the sun, saw the bean, slurped coffee, munched cupcakes, zoomed up in the sky, giggled, sniffled, waited an hour for real deep dish pizza, and made lovely, lovely memories…

Here’s a little recap and some advice for your next trip to the Windy City!

{Where we ate:}

First things first.

Of course, fun meals were a BIG part of our trip :) You know I LOVE food, and the three of us are related, after all…

Our first stop was to Gino’s East for real, deep dish Chicago-style pizza. We had a salad and a small half three-cheese and half veggie pie… delightful. Bekah got her name on the wall, and I found where The Husband and I penned ours a year ago! It was our first night in town, so we were a little wiped out, but it was sooo worth it :)

Our next culinary stop was at Orange for a funky, fun, fresh breakfast. Two words: Pancake. Flight. {Perfection}. We enjoyed fresh orange, carrot, ginger juice; delicious orange roasted coffee, a chicken apple sausage omelet, and pancakes that should be illegal…

We enjoyed an amazing, organic meal at the Fox & Obel Cafe at their gorgeous European-style market after a damp, chilly walk to Navy Pier, that included sweet potato fries, fish & chips, mango-chicken quesadillas and hummus.

In slight contrast, we ventured to Beef & Brandy, a 60’s-style diner, for open-faced roast beef sandwiches and classic vinyl booths for lunch after a hike on the Loop. We also enjoyed a quick bite at the Corner Bakery Cafe across from our hotel on Sunday morning – nothing too fancy, as there are several scattered across the city – but an easy place to grab breakfast or lunch!

When you’ve been walking around all day, there is definitely need for some treats (gotta keep up that energy, you know…). So, we stopped by the famous Intelligentsia Coffee at Millennium Park for two rich, creamy lattes and a green tea (and a souvenir mug for me!). This place is amazing – totally a must for anyone visiting the windy city! To complement our drinks, we went around the corner to the Sugar Bliss Cake Boutique for their specialty cupcakes (hint: get the ‘minis’ so you can try several flavors!). We had chocolate milk chocolate, chocolate hazelnut, blackberry and chocolate peanut butter..

So. good. Talk about a sugar high!

{What we saw:}

The American Girl Place was the highlight of our stay. Mostly for Bekah’s benefit, though mom and I were pretty enthralled as well :) We browsed the books, historic & look-alike dolls and their displays, looked at fun outfits & accessories, watched as dolls were transformed at the salon and doll hospital, and ate a fun girly lunch with our dolls at the cafe!

Lunch started with tiny cinnamon buns and a fruit, veggie and cheese plate. We picked our entrees, and loved the mini picnic lunch, salmon salad with cucumber dressing and Caresse sandwich. For dessert, we each enjoyed a cookie, tiny frosted cake and ‘flower pot’ chocolate mousse. Very worth it for the chic atmosphere and fun environment – just be sure to make reservations! We did leave with another addition to our party… Rebecca and Felicity made a new friend they just couldn’t leave without ;)

Besides all of our fun with the dolls, we spent a lot of time hiking around the rest of the city, too! We braved wind and rain to see the skyline from Navy Pier, walked along the Magnificent Mile and looked at shops and lovely buildings, zoomed 103 floors to the Skydeck for the best view in Chicago, saw our reflection in the ‘Bean’ and splashed in the fountain at Millennium Park and even visited the hotel where mom stayed when she visited Chicago in the 1975 when she was in high school- The Palmer House Hilton (so, so beautiful).

{Where we slept:}

We stayed at the Wyndham at the Magnificent Mile. It was the perfect location – close to the American Girl Place and Navy Pier, but still within a comfortable walking distance of Millennium Park (1 mi.) and the Skydeck at the Willis Tower (2 mi.). We did end up having to call the front desk about noisy neighbors, but security took care of things quickly (screaming and running down the halls from 10:30p.m. – 2a.m. is. not. cool.). We got a great rate, though parking is always a killer at around $40-60 per night wherever you choose to stay in the city. Check deals sights, and put that AAA membership to use!

Overall, this trip was everything we could have asked for. Precious memories made, lots of laughter, and something else checked off the bucket list… Love you mama & Bekah!

Have you ever taken a parent-child trip? Where did you go, what did you see and what do you remember? Please share!

A milestone…

Well, my goofy redheaded “little” brother has officially graduated from college…

…oh, my.

I’m old.

My only consolation is that I still get asked for my ID at the movie theater, and somewhere in my head I fully believe that I am about to enter the 8th grade.

Hanson, gel pens and Bonne Bell lip gloss are still all the rage, right?

Anyhow, Joe’s graduation celebration was wonderful. The ceremony was honestly the most well-run and lovely program I’ve ever attended. It felt wonderful to see my little bro walk across the stage, and to watch him hug, grin and chat with family and friends.

This shindig also gave me a reason to:

  1. Buy a new dress
  2. Go to the nearby outlet mall
  3. Stay in a hotel
  4. Eat at Cheesecake Factory
  5. See the Avengers

Sooooo, as you can see, it was good time.

In other news, The Trip is pretty much all I have on my mind at this point.

Two Weeks.

Am I ready? Of COURSE I’m ready:

His & Hers passport covers? Check. Zebra neck pillow for the airplane? Check. Grandma walking sandals for my still-on-the-mend runner’s feet? Check. Mini bottles of every type of hygiene product known to man? Check. Re-reading my 6th grade “Famous Men of Rome” text book. Half-way check.

Totally prepared. Totally freaking out.

Talk to me in a week and a half and I’ll let you know if I’ve actually started packing or have stocked up on my to-go nut butter supply yet. Then you’ll know It’s getting serious ;)

For now, the next big thing is Chicago with Bekah & my lovely mama for the weekend!

{Can’t wait to be here again (2011). That’s American Girl bliss, folks.}

:) Exciting things ahead!

Banana {Chocolate} Almond Millet Muffins

Our travel schedule is heating up!

In the next few weekends we have Joe’s college graduation, a mother-daughters Chicago (and American Girl Place!… Yes, I will be bringing Felicity.) get-away, and “The Trip”!

The weeks are blowing by, but we only have fun, sweet things to look forward to. We can’t wait! In the meantime, we’re doing lots of packing and planning, and I’m even taking a photography class:

{A basic lesson on shutter speed. I took these at a local park- Cool, huh?!}

In the midst of actually learning what all those buttons on my nifty camera mean, (and picking out every outfit I plan to wear in Rome so I can feel just like Audrey Hepburn), I started a new home project!

This past weekend, my lovely Mama came up dive with me into the world of furniture refinishing. We are overhauling an antique bed for our spare room (so our friends don’t have to put up with an air mattress when they visit anymore :), and she’s a pro. We are both pretty dedicated workers when it comes to a project like this, and I knew we’d be “in the zone”. So, I decided to whip up some soup for lunch and muffins for breakfast ahead of time…

Good decision. Especially on the breakfast front.

Don’t worry – pictures of the finished bed to come! It’s gonna be sweet…

I adapted this vegan muffin recipe from Mama Pea’s cookbook, and they turned out fabulous! Dense, chocolatey, just the right amount of sweetness, and with an amazing texture (and nutrition profile) from the millet and other awesome, healthy ingredients!

We enjoyed them warm, crumbled over Fage plain Greek yogurt with berries… Add a cup of coffee with frothed Almond Breeze coconut almond milk while booking our hotel on the Magnificent Mile, and it was the PERFECT pre-project breakfast!

Banana {Chocolate} Almond Millet Muffins

Based on Mama Pea’s Banana Chocolate Chip Millet Muffins from her amazing cookbook, “Peas & Thank You”Makes 12 muffins.

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 Cup of Uncooked millet
  • 3/4 Cup of Whole wheat flower
  • 3/4 Cup of Almond flour (also called ‘almond meal’ – you can substitute regular flour as well, but you’ll loose some of the texture and flavor!).
  • 1 1/2 t Baking powder
  • 1/2 t Baking soda
  • 1/4 t Salt
  • 1/2 t Cinnamon
  • 2 Ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/2 Cup Dark brown sugar
  • 2 T Coconut oil, melted
  • 1/2 Cup Almond milk
  • 1 t Vanilla extract
  • 1/2 Cup Dark chocolate chips (I like to use Ghirardelli chips and chop them up a bit!)

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 375. Line or spray muffin tin. Set aside.
  • Place millet in food processor, and pulse into a fine texture (won’t be flour-fine… a little bit of crunch is good!).
  • Pour into a large bowl and add flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.
  • In a smaller bowl, combine mashed bananas, brown sugar, oil, milk and vanilla.
  • Add wet ingredients to the dry, and stir until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips.
  • Spoon the batter into muffin tin, and bake for about 17 minutes.

{Just chilin’ with the lentils…}

Enjoy these muffins warm out of the oven, or freeze to keep them on hand whenever hunger strikes! These little treats are excellent on their own, crumbled, smeared with jam, with a cup of tea, for breakfast, for a snack, for dessert, before a workout…

…just make ’em, ok? Enjoy!