2.24.2011

Babymoon 2011: Chicago

Sometime mid-January, Ryan told me not to make plans for February 11-13th, but he wouldn't tell me why. About two weeks before the surprise was revealed, I asked if this was a special weekend for the two of us or one that Noah would be joining us. I wanted to know because I needed to get some expectations in line - was I going to be a mom and wife that weekend or just a hopeless romantic wife? When he said Noah would not be joining us, I have to admit, I was really excited! Time away with Ryan for an entire weekend sounded too goo to be true! He kept the destination a secret up until the Sunday before we to leave, when he accidentally slipped that we were going to Chicago! We hadn't been on a trip to Chicago for several years, and I was excited to get away!

My dad and Danette arrived at our house around 9 a.m. on Friday. After visiting a bit and sharing information about Noah, we were out the door. The drive up was wonderfully relaxing! We just enjoyed the alone time being able to talk without interruptions. I was craving pancakes, so we made a quick stop at IHOP for lunch. Their blueberry pancakes hit the spot! We drove the rest of the way to Chicago and stopped at The Museum of Science and Industry as soon as we got into the city. There was quite a bit of snow in Chicago already, but more was pouring down out of the sky. We accidentally turned onto what I thought was a road to the parking lot but ended up possibly being a walkway. OOPS! It made for a good laugh! We paid for parking and walked inside the museum. There was no one in line to buy tickets, which made me remember that they closed at 4 p.m, and it was already 3:30 p.m. CRAP. This trip was not starting off as planned! We rolled with it, got back in the Jeep, and drove to our hotel.



The Affinia hotel is located on Superior just off Michigan Ave., and it proved to be a great location! We freshened up and decided to shop a big before our dinner reservation that evening. We went into the Disney store and had so much fun picking things out for Noah! We almost never buy him toys or presents except for his birthday, Christmas, and Easter, so it was fun picking out some different things for him. We decided to actually purchase everything the next day so that we didn't have to go back to our hotel. It's hard to believe that we will be buying souvenirs for two boy by the time we take our next trip.

As we left the store, Ryan pointed out Tiffany & Co. He and I had been there only one time before when we were just dating, and I had tried on an $11,000 emerald cut diamond engagement ring. We both nearly fainted that day, and I was so surprised to hear Ryan say that he wanted me to pick something out that day. I am not someone who puts a lot of value in material things. I have a few things that are dear to me including my engagement ring and wedding band, my emerald (Noah's birth stone) and diamond ring that Ryan got me for my first Mother's Day, a pair of diamond earrings that he bought me a few years ago, my cross necklace, and our pictures. Clothing, purses, shoes, etc. have just never meant all that much to me. We walked into Tiffany's and glanced at the jewelry on the first floor. Then we went upstairs to look around, and the first thing I saw was a necklace with a lower-case, cursive "a." It was very elegant yet simple, and I thought, that might just be the one. We looked around and had the lady helping us show us a few other necklaces, but I didn't care for anything else I saw. We went back to the first necklace, and I tried it on. It was really perfect! I told Ryan that I wanted to wait and think it over before we bought it. That's me trying to keep balance and practicality in our lives!

We took a cab over to Wildfire, a steak, seafood, and chops restaurant off Erie and LaSalle. During the cab ride, I looked at the clock and saw that it was an hour earlier than what we thought. Oh no! We forgot to change our watches, and for some reason, my cell phone hadn't automatically changed time zones. That means we could have gone to the museum afterall, and we had more time to shop on Michigan Avenue than we thought. You'd think we never left the house! Unfortunately, there was really nothing to do in that part of town. We were pretty cold and decided to grab some coffee and hot chocolate nearby and go into a store called Sports Authority. Ryan looked around at the running gear while I relaxed for a bit. We killed a good hour there before walking over to Wildfire.

At Sports Authority capturing the moment
 When we walked into Wildfire, I knew Ryan had chosen the perfect place. It had a very Sinatra feel to it, lots of dark wood, mirrors, black-and-white photos. Our table was located in the very middle of the restaurant, and the open kitchen was nearby. They had several fireplaces lit, which gave the restaurant a really cozy feeling. There were so many tempting dishes on the menu, and I was sad we weren't there one day later because Filet Wellington was on the menu, and it's something I've always wanted to try. I decided to get a Petite Filet and macaroni and cheese because for those who know me at all know that I am all about trying macaroni and cheese everywhere I go in search of who offers the best one. Ryan chose the Porterhouse with mashed potatoes. We enjoyed more alone time while we waited on our dinner but couldn't help but notice the adorable 18 month old boy at the table next to us. I can't imagine taking Noah to a restaurant like that, but this little guy was so well-behaved the entire time. Our food arrived shortly after, and it was absolutely perfect. My mouth is watering just remembing the flavors! The macaroni and cheese had some type of spicy cheese in it, which gave it the perfect kick to compliment my delicious steak. For dessert, we ordered a dish that had a small piece of peanut butter pie, key lime pie, and chocolate cake - a sampler if you will - and we enjoyed every bite.

After dinner we jumped in another cab and took a ride north to a place called Blokes & Birds to meet up with our friends Jo and Pete Scott from Hanover. We only get to see them once in a great while, so we really treasure the time we have together! Jo and Pete arrived shortly after us, and we spent the next hour and half catching up and hearing about their latest trip back to Lebidoti, where they were Peace Corp volunteers for over 2 years. Then, fortune and fame began calling Jo's name, and she had to run out the door to prepare for Geek Show at The Playground Theatre where she performs with an improv team. Ryan and I made our way over there a few minutes later, grabbed the best seats in the house, and excitedly awaited the show. I had never seen Jo perform, and you start to worry, "What if it isn't any good? What will I say to her? What if I don't laugh?" Well, truth be told, it was a HILARIOUS show, and I didn't need to pretend to like it because I really loved it! Of course, she was a star and stole the show. For those of you who know Jo, I'm sure you're surprised! We had a great time and were sad to say goodbye after the show ended. We crashed at the hotel but couldn't wait to start another day of fun together.

Saturday morning we grabbed a quick bite to eat and jumped on the subway down to Pizano's, our first stop for our Chicago Pizza Tour. The Food Network and Travel Channel always have shows on New York City pizza versus Chicago Pizza, and finally we were going to have the chance to decide for ourselves which one we preferred. We had taken the Brooklyn Pizza Tour last May when I surprised Ryan with a trip to NYC for his 30th birthday. We enjoyed pizza at Pizano's at the Loop, Apart Pizza at Lincoln Square, Coalfire Pizza in West Town (supposedly comparable to Grimaldi's, which we had in Brooklyn), and Gino's East at River North. The pizza was delicious everywhere we went, and although we had some interesting people on the tour with us, we really enjoyed the experience together! At the end of the day, we are Brooklyn Pizza People all the way! :) See below for a photo tour of our experience.
 





With our bellies full of delicious pizza, we left Gino's East and went back to Michigan Avenue for more shopping. Our first stop was the Disney Store to get Noah some Buzz Lightyear and Woody pajamas, a Toy Story placemat, and four Toy Story mini stuffed animals (Woody, Buzz, Bullseye, and Jessie). Next, we went back to Tiffany's because I had officially fallen in love with the necklace. It will be such a special piece of jewelry that will always remind me of our babymoon together.


We made a few more stops at Crate & Barrel, Niketown, and Garrett's Popcorn. I cannot explain how much I LOVE this popcorn! Two gallons of popcorn is around $65 after tax, and I GLADLY spent that! This is coming from the Dave Ramsey-loving, stick-to-the-budget, coupon-cutting me. That should tell you how good this popcorn is. I have eaten almost half of it since we've been home, and I'm beginning to panic about what I'll do when it's all gone. So, if any of you are going to be in Chicago anytime in the next few months, I will pay you to get me more popcorn. :)


We went back to the hotel again and took a quick power nap because we had a fun night ahead of us. Ryan had bought us tickets to see Les Miserables at the Cadillac Palace Theatre. Neither of us had ever seen the show, and I didn't have any expectations going into it. Les Mis ended up being one the most emotional Broadway production I've ever seen. The guy who played Jean Valjean, the main character, was truly incredible! He probably had the best voice I've ever heard in a production like that. I couldn't hear every word in the songs, but I could follow the greater story and emotions of the characters throughout the entire show. The end of the show was so beautiful and moving that it brought tears to my eyes. That was definitely a first for me! Ryan really enjoyed the show, too, and I left the theatre feeling like I had fallen in love all over again. I know - mushy. :)



Because we were so full after the pizza tour, we skipped dinner before the show. By the time the show ended, we were both ready to eat again! Hoping that room service was still available, we rushed back to the hotel, but they had already closed the kitchen for the night. We ended up at a place called Jake Melnick's down the street from our hotel. We grabbed a couple chicken sandwiches and tried to fight the urge to fall asleep. We had had a big day! By the time we got back to the hotel, we were completely exhausted!

Ryan at Jake Melnicks
The next morning went by quickly. After grabbing a quick bite to eat at McDonalds, we stopped at the Hershey store and found Noah a little Toolbox filled with chocolates. He loves hiding his "treasure" inside different containers and knew he would love it. Then we ran back to Niketown to buy Ryan some Nike Free running shoes and a fun Nike shirt. We went back to the hotel, packed up, and checked out. The weekend had been everything we hoped it would be, and the time together was priceless. I know it is going to be much harder for us to find that alone time together once Bambino arrives this Spring - at least until he's on a "normal" sleeping schedule. Ryan planned the entire weekend himself, and he did a fabulous job! It was a perfect surprise, and it makes me excited for our next trip together!

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