Thursday, May 29, 2014

{Vacation Recap} Memorial Day Weekend 2014 with Kris & Gabe

I have a lot of fun things coming up so really better stay on top of this blogging thing!  Up next:  Memorial Day which felt a lot like a stay-cation.  I love it when people come to visit!

My sister-in-law/longtime friend and her boyfriend found great tix so flew up to spend the long weekend with us.  We were super stoked that they were coming and spent a lot of time laying out where we should go while they were here.  Tom was especially great at securing tickets and reservations and all of us kept an eye on the weather as you just never know with Chicago...

They came in that afternoon but we still had to work, so didn't see them until dinner time. We hit a great Italian place in our neighborhood that was new to us called Leonardo's. It's really easy to miss as it's north of the heart of Andersonville, but the food was fantastic.

The next day, they headed downtown to meet Tom for lunch while I worked from home.  I met them after I was done at the Wit Rooftop and we quickly headed to Zed451 to take advantage of their rooftop as well.

The drinks were great and we even convinced beer obsessed Gabe to try their bourbon lemonade and...he liked it!  You saw it here first, folks.  Alas, he didn't like any other bourbon drinks we sent his way over the weekend. Tom's objective for the trip was to take him outside his comfort zone, and I think he succeeded.

probably the only sighting of Gabe drinking bourbon ever

We were going to try Big Star for dinner, but it was a bit too chilly at that point to take advantage of their courtyard.  We decided on The Southern instead which was a great choice.  Tom and I have only ever hit their bar before, and we were definitely missing out.  

Not too far away is one of our favorite cocktail lounges, The Violet Hour which we decided to try as it was still early.  I loved the look of surprise on their faces as we headed towards what looked to be a boarded up restaurant (complete with graffiti/artwork - which always changes by the way):


Once inside, we waited a few minutes in a small dark, concrete hallway (where I can only assume they were wondering what kind of place we dragged them too).  However the payoff was worth it.  After walking through 2 sets of velvet curtains, we were greeted by this:

and this:
and this:


We settled into a cozy booth to enjoy a few (STRONG) cocktails before calling it a night.

The next morning we got up bright and early to hit Top Golf in the burbs with our crew.  Gabe is as crazy about Golf as Tom is so we were super excited to show them what it was like.   Kris's goal was to at least make contact with the ball and she definitely succeeded in that department.   We had a blast and I loved catching up with Nikki and her family as well as Calem and April.

We all recovered (naps were involved) at our respective houses and then reconvened in Greek Town for dinner at Greek Islands.  The meal was delish as always but the majority of us had tummy troubles after which made Tom and I re-think our plan to take Gram and Gramp there for lunch on Monday. Nicole's family headed home due to the little one, but the rest of us hit Andersonville for some drinks and to catch the end of the Hawk's game at Jerry's.

The next day, the guys headed out to play golf in the 'burbs with Calem while Kris and I slept in. Our plan was to rent Divvyy Bikes and hit the Lake Path, but unfortunately, the station at Berywn was broken. It was a gorgeous day and we wanted to stay outside so we decided to hoof it.   We ended up walking and talking forever and covered somewhere between 8 and 9 miles!   We then took a de-tour on the way back to grab some (much deserved) Forever Yogurt.  The boys met us there and we all headed back to get some rest and get ready for our big night out. 

We had reservations at Chicago Q in Old Town and tix for the mainstage at The Second City (for anyone not aware, The Second City is where people like Tina Fey, Chris Farelly, Billy Murray, Steven Colbert, Steve Carrell, John Candy, etc etc etc -pretty much everyone on SNL or the Daily Show -  got their start).  We hit Old Town Social for some cocktails and apps (they have seriously great fries) before heading to dinner.

Calem was out of town at that point, but April was game to join us for BBQ.  We had some of the best Mint Juleps ever at the Q (seriously - it looked like a snow cone and it made me wish all snow cones came with the option of adding bourbon syrup...), and oddly enough, some really tasty alligator (this Florida gang couldn't pass it up).  We left stuffed and headed to the show.

The tix were sold out, but we convinced April to come with and see if there were any no-shows. We got her on a waitlist and somehow it worked out and they let her in (I might have told the gentleman that she could easily just sit on my lap...).  The show was hysterical as always and I think they really enjoyed it.

Just when we thought the evening was over, Tom took us on a wild run through Old Town until he could locate this small piano bar called The Zebra Lounge.  He's been wanting to take me there for a while so this was as good a night as any.  After shutting the place down (and making friends with a guy who has mastered sleeping standing up), we headed home.  Unbeknownst to everyone, the big guy who followed us out of the piano bar singing "My Girl" (with us singing right long), was apparently holding hands with Gabe the whole time.  I have a feeling that doesn't happen too often back in Panama City.

greasy hair, dont care

this looks about right

Somehow, we all made it out of bed in time to straighten the place up a bit before Gram and Gramp arrived.   Everyone was super excited to catch up with them.  We decided to risk tummy troubles again, by taking them to Greek Islands because we knew they'd love it, and there's really nothing quite like it in the city.  It was a great choice and thankfully as good as ever!  We split a couple bottles of wine, ate way too much flaming cheese and just enjoyed catching up with them.   After too short of a time, we had to see them off :(

We spent the rest of our vacation sipping wine and watching the Bachelorette which was a nice treat.  Normally we text Tom's family during the viewing (we pick 2 names before the season starts),  so it was great having some of the family there with us while we watched our picks (ok, MY pick) get eliminated.  

Kris and Gabe showed us a good time!  I'm sure everyone's wallets are hurting, but it was definitely worth it.  I can't wait for them to come back and am super excited to see the rest of the family in a few short weeks.




Tuesday, May 27, 2014

{Vacation Recap} South Lake Tahoe Skiing

As I mentioned in my last post, I was lucky enough to already be in California for work, so we used the opportunity to hop on over to Tahoe for a long anticipated ski weekend!  It was a blast, but let's just say, I could use some more practice...thank goodness it's pretty...

After finishing training, I  picked up the rental car and then scooped up Tom who's flight was running behind. We knew we had a long 3 hour drive ahead of us, so stopped by In-n-out Burger to fuel up. Besides, what's a trip to CA without the obligatory stop at In-n-out? Tom loves it because it's one of the few times, I'm a cheap date ;)

We pulled up to the Marriott Timberlodge around 12:30 AM and we were seriously beat.   As much as I dislike valet ($26/day?!) I knew we'd find a better place for the car later so we sucked it up in order to get some zzz's.

We were so happy we picked this place and couldn't be more pleased with our accommodations.  It was recently updated and had a huge bath, plus a full kitchen, washer/dryer, and fire place.

One of the perks was the location:  It had plenty of stores, grocers, bars, and restaurants within walking distance.  Most importantly it had a cold stone creamery which we proceeded to treat ourselves to every night.  They had a heated outdoor pool and hot tub but unfortunately, we forgot our swim suits.  womp womp....

The real win was having a gondola on premises that took us up to the ski lifts.  Having the ski-rental place and ski-valet on site was also a perk. The only time we took our car off premises, was to find some local eats.

I'll spare you the details of every run we did, but lemme just say, Lake Tahoe ain't for beginners! There were only 2 green runs and to get to them you had to take the blue (intermediate) trails, which in my mind defeats the purpose of having the greens in the first place. I managed to make it down nothing but blues on day 1 (only falling a couple of times) but somehow, I got it inside my head that I was going to fall off the mountain and die.  I only got worse mentally as the weekend progressed.  I still don't understand it, because not falling too much the first day should have given me more confidence but my mind was not listening to reason.

My experience that weekend...

Versus Tom's...the main difference is I'm horizontal and he's vertical :)

Eager to get one run more my speed, I chatted up a ski-instructor the next day.  He told us about the "tamer" blues we could use to get to the greens on the other side of the mountain.  He was spot on. We spent a good portion of the day over there and then decided to head back before it got too late and before we got too tired to make it back down (the tamer blues go to the top of the mountain and you have to get down somehow).

At some point, we missed the turn-off for one of those "tamer" blues, and I was confronted with my nemesis:  Comet. I cannot emphasize enough how much I hated that run.  It's so steep and I made it about halfway down before I fell and decided I was done.   I then proceeded to walk the rest of the way down in knee high snow with my ski gear in tow much to Tom's chagrin.  He is of the mind that I should suck it up and get back on the horse, but I was just over it mentally at that point and wanted to get back to something I knew I was good at:  relaxing and sipping cocktails.   I think he was confused, because I went down the steep runs fine (including Comet)  the first day but somehow got psyched out.   I guess I just missed feeling like a rockstar at Alpine Valley back in Chicago.

Thank goodness for the bars and rest areas strategically located throughout the mountain (and live music).  It makes for such a fun environment and is really convenient when you just need a break!

I have to say despite my shenanigans, Tom and I stopped plenty of times to take in the gorgeous scenery.  I honestly can't imagine there being a more beautiful place to ski.

Our favorite activity after the runs was sitting around the bonfires at the resort. We loved relaxing, chatting, and just enjoying a nice cocktail after an exhausting (or terrifying) day.  It's amazing to be surrounded, by snow yet feel like you are relaxing in a sunny resort...

Super pale and asking for a wicked burn!

Twice we went outside of the resort to try some local food. The first was an awesome pizza place called Lake Tahoe Pizza company which looked like it hadn't been updated since it opened in the 70's (and i mean that in the best possible way).  I was pleasantly surprised that in addition to the gluten free crust (which was legit) they also offered vegan cheese. I'm not vegan but its nice to have options.  The other place was a Hawaiian hole-in-the-wall restaurant with amazing fish tacos called Keys Cafe.  I would go back to both in a heartbeat.

We also loved having a fire place and HBO for the premier of Game of Thrones on Sunday night (complete with a bottle of wine and some ice cream).  It was perfect.

I was a little disappointed that I didn't do better, but I guess I expected too much for my legit first time skiing on an actual mountain.  I loved the resort, and being outside and really love just getting away with Tom more than anything.

It should be noted, that Tom grew up skiing when he lived in Colorado and apparently it's like riding a bike when you learn it that young.  He's really good even though he hasn't done it consistently in years. After this trip, he suggested next time I do a quick half day ski school to make sure I have the basics down because I was a bit out of his wheel-house!

I can't wait for our next ski weekend, but next time will do some research on resorts that are a bit more beginner friendly (supposedly Utah is a bit better)!  We will definitely go back (but maybe we'll try it in the Summer months...).