{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!

Care & {Keeping} of Friends

Best Friends.

We all have them… since childhood we’ve treasured them, made the mad, made up, made mud pies, gone to dances, gone to college, gone overseas, grown up, grown out, grown apart…

Sometimes, those best friends are a treasure for a fleeting time in our lives, and then things naturally progress to bigger and better things. That can be okay. But, there are other times when a simple lack of planning, lack of effort, lack of time, lack of interest, get in the way of the beautiful possibility of lifelong companionship.

{The Tin Man, Wicked Witch, Scarecrow, Dorothy, Toto and Glinda…}

Don’t always cut those glittering ties of childhood memories just because you’ve grown up. Sometimes, it’s worth it… sometimes it means the world to hold on to what was once dear, and make it dear again. And, I’ve found that there are some simple steps every friend can take to maintain these important connections.

{Meet “The Three”}

A Blonde, a Brunette and a Red Head: Hannah, Rachael and Samantha. We were more than the perfect punchline – we were soul-mates. Queens of the roost, we were all the oldest of our siblings. Hannah, the oldest of 9, Samantha, the oldest of 8, and I, the oldest of a measly 4. (My parents were under-achievers. Obviously : )

Hannah and I – friends since I was in the 1st grade, and she was in kindergarten – “let” Samantha join our group at the age of 14. We were inseparable. “The Three” enjoyed the same classic novels, became experts at Junior-year chemistry, were the harshest of fashion critics, cruised newly-licensed in cars with the tops down and scarves in our hair, listened to our parents slightly-warped records, ate ice cream with reckless abandon, put-putted, had picnics in the park, fell in love, went to camp, competed in school, painted our bedrooms crazy colors, fought, annoyed our little brothers, made-up and then…. went to college.

Me, close to home. Hannah, in Massachusetts. Samantha, in Virginia.

Our delightful little story could have ended there. In fact, we all felt it slipping away at times. New friends, different settings, changing interests, careers, boys, too many miles. It started to add up.

But, we fought back. We deliberately chose to press against the “natural” order of things, and their tendency to become disordered and dissolve. It took work, but it ended up better than we could have imagined. And so, even after two weddings, one of us in D.C., one in rural Ohio, another in Europe, we still are close…

Everyone seems to have one of those old friends that knows them better than anyone else. Try these tips to make that road to lasting friendship as bump-less as possible:

1. Give one another space. We’ve heard of “helicopter” parents, but helicopter friends can be just as bad. Even if you talked every day for 18 summers, that kind of contact is hard to maintain (and often unwanted) when you’re at different schools, different places in life, with new responsibilities and a job in front of you to do. Be okay with silence. Be okay not knowing her every move. Sometimes, it is that space that preserves a relationship.

2. Invest the time to catch up. You’re busy, they’re busy. You’re in for the weekend to see your parents, he is visiting grandma and has a long commute. Stop. Get a coffee. Take an hour to talk about life. Even if it is just the short version, jumping in with both feet and sharing the stories and joys and sorrows of the past three (or six, or 10) months with one another face-to-face makes a huge difference. It builds a bond – much better than a phone call – helps you remember why you loved each other’s company so much in the first place.

3. Find out how they’ve grown. This step might be the most important of all. When you’ve gone through a transformation, sometimes the energy to bring an old friend up-to-speed doesn’t even seem worth it. For example: When Hannah came home from college on the East Coast, lots of our friends poked fun at her for her new sense of style, turns of phrase and academic pursuits (An english/theater major?!). They also teased her with outdated stories and old nicknames.

Now, these weren’t mean people, but they weren’t giving Hannah any room to grow. The OLD Hannah is all they knew how to relate to! But, I could tell she was getting frustrated… but why bother telling them she’d found new passions, new interests and discovered a fun new style? I decided to ask her, and Samantha, an important question next time we sat down together.

Name three things that are different about you; three discoveries that you’ve made about yourself since you’ve left.

This question was a game-changer. Learning just those three things – free of judgement, no comments or comparisons or “But remember when you said you HATED skinny jeans? What Happened?!” – made all of the difference in our relationship.

Once afraid of the kitchen and anything but athletic, I had learned that I loved running and competitions, and adored trying new recipes. And Hannah had uncovered a love for Italian, and a talent and passion for art and poetry. Because we helped one another discover these things, we had each other’s backs. We didn’t accidentally hurt each other’s feelings by making jokes about my cooking abilities, or Hannah’s elementary school sketching skills, and in just a few minutes we had dug to the core of what our usual conversations circled around but never quite reached…

That was an OLD us, but now, we were introduced to the surprising, fun, fresh young women our best friends had become.

{Samantha and I Skype with Hannah, who is living in Orvieto, Italy}

Around the Holidays is a great time to re-connect with old friends. Make sure you take some time to do so this season! Do you have a dear friend that has persevered through life with you? Tell me about it!

P.S. More about friends will follow in coming posts – including some of Hannah’s amazing work! That whole English/Theater thing… yeah, it paid off.