Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Proper Picnic!

We've been eating outside on a picnic blanket in our yard when we can - and while that's lovely and fun and we all really enjoy - last week we had a nice day, we decided it was time for a proper picnic.


So we fixed up a yummy lunch and headed on over to the park. Several other families were playing but most of them came up and commented on our picnic. It was kind of strange. They all must not have picnic-ed yet this year because they were all telling us what a great idea we had and how fun our picnic looked.


My 4 year old befriended another boy and ended up sharing some of his lunch with him - which was so cute.


The best part about picnic-ing at the park is playing after eating. Okay, I might have sat and read a little out of a book when they were playing but the kids had a lot of fun playing!


And I appreciated letting them run around and burn off some energy.


And even the "big" kids have fun playing =)


We will definitely have to do lots of picnics this year. Because they are just fun for everyone!


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Big night.

So this past Saturday was quite the night for me. I'm not sure why I haven't blogged about this sooner other than, well, life!

So a few weeks ago I was invited to a gathering to celebrate Kristen Chase's new book The Mominatrix's Guide to Sex: A No-Surrender Advice Book for Naughty Moms at Kenmore Live downtown. At first I thought I wouldn't be able to make it - husband had plans for the night too and it can be hard to find a sitter. But my mom saved the day and said she would watch the kids.

So at 4:45 I boarded a train and headed downtown. I was wearing jeans, nice top, and my athletic shoes (to keep the feet happy). I walked by Kenmore Live studio and saw Kim wearing a gorgeous dress. At this point I seriously considered turning around and taking the next train back home. I thought I would die - and was also internally yelling at myself for not asking about attire. I always wear jeans. It doesn't dawn on me sometimes that the rest of the world does not. But I sucked it up and went in anyway (thank goodness I did - that's coming later).

I really wanted to hide in a corner as more people came in dressed nicely - much much nicer than I. Yes, this is all I could think about for the first 45 minutes. But I got to meet some new people and see my new friends from the Galena trip and that made me feel better!

Then it was time to watch Charles Joly and Chef Nick Lacasse from The Drawing Room make drinks and food for us!

Charles making us some really yummy - and more powerful than I am used to drinks


Nick made us some very yummy scallops. I'm sorry, I was much too hungry to take a picture of them - but trust me - they were so tasty. And with some asparagus. Now, 5 years ago I wouldn't touch that but these days - I LOVE asparagus! I wish it were fresh all year round!


Then some comedy troop did some comedy. I giggled a lot which I blame on the drinks we were given ;-) And then Kristen talked to us! She's such a sweetheart - it was so nice getting to meet her (even if when we were first introduced all I could think about was what an idiot I was for not dressing nicer LOL!)


Then it was time for the give-aways. 3 lucky moms went home with new hedge trimmers. No for real, hedge trimmers. Which probably would have excited my husband a lot more than it did me LOL! But after that - they raffled off a brand new kenmore elite appliance. You will never guess who won ....

Yes - for real. Do you see my look of complete surprise (even though I had been praying and wishing because I need a new washer and dryer so badly dh and I have been talking about it since oh, this time last year?) And how Kris was able to snap this picture - wow, I'll never know, but I love it and thank her! And also, I completely look so much like my mom it's the first thing I thought when I first saw it!

So then I'm pretty sure I floated down by Kristen and I'm not quite sure what all happened - I think I hugged her a couple of times. I was kind of shocked. Eventually I remembered to, you know, call my husband and tell him! And yes, I teared up while telling him.

I think I'm still slightly shocked. For real. I can't believe it. So soon this
but in red (I think) will be coming to my house. Seriously! Oh my! I just can't even believe it! So so so excited!!!

So I floated for the rest of the party. I think I laughed a lot. And said wow! a lot and probably said I can't believe it a lot. It's all just a slight blur. The Kenmore people interviewed me. I'm told video might be coming soon. Maybe I'll share it here - maybe if I preview it and think I look completely ridiculous I won't LOL!

So after all of that - right before we left I remembered I never did get a picture with Kristen but I finally got one (after all, it as her I had come to see!)

As we left, we were all given copies of her book (signed! Yay! I love nothing more than getting signed books!!). We were also given an induction cooker (so neat - but I haven't cooked on it yet - this weekend hubs and I are going to play around with it but we did boil water just to see how fast it would go. 4 min 40 secs!!)

And when I got home I realized we were also gifted an American Girl Doll package from Chicago Embassy Suites! How amazing (and perfect) is that? My mom is also a huge American Girl Doll fan, so considering I got all of this because she watched the kids, I've already promised she can come with us! =)

Holy mackerel. So yeah, Saturday was a pretty big night for me! I'm so grateful and so thankful and still a little shocked! LOL!

Friday, April 23, 2010

My Fabulous Weekend!! Part 3

So Sunday morning we had to wake up very very early. We had to be here:

by 6:00am! And the picture is blurry because I still felt blurry LOL! No, it's hard to read but it says Galena On The Fly. Yes, I started my day with a hot air balloon. No, I have never taken one before. No, it was not tethered. Yes, I was pretty nervous. Yes, I'm glad I did it because yes, it was amazing as it sounds!! Well, those are the questions that I've been most commonly asked about!

But in all seriousness - the hot balloon ride was amazing. Just amazing.

So you walk up, and things look like this:

Then they fill it up with air using a couple of huge fans - which is pretty neat.

Our pilot was Andy - a very nice guy. Also, he has a great sense of humor and handled our group very well I would say ;-)

The sun was just coming up during all of this. Just watching the sun come up was amazing and beautiful. And as someone who is NOT a morning person at all - I don't often see the sun rise.


Now, looking up inside the balloon - very very neat. As a reference, the black circle at the top is 20 feet in diameter!!

And just some random pics from the ride:




And a celebration for a successful trip!! =)

I just felt so lucky to be up in the air - the world is gorgeous and so picturesque it's amazing.

So after that - we headed on over to Galena Log Cabins, where be still my heart, there is also an alpaca farm. Just amazing - I will be writing all about our time there later this week - I have so much to share (why yes, yes, I did buy yarn there!). We were able to take the Alpacas on a walk - so much fun!!

This is Ben:

Ben and I are now buds. I wish I could have taken him home with me =)

Also, you should know, it's hard to line up alpacas for a picture, but I think we did a good job!

This is Sherman - I also got to walk him. He was fun to walk LOL!

I have so much more to say about being at the alpaca farm and so I will write about it again later - so be prepared. And I will probably never stop talking about alpacas ever again because I am in completely head over heels in love with them and really wish we could have alpacas in our back yard LOL!

Now after all that amazingness, we headed off to Chestnut Mountain - which seems like such a fun place to also take a family vacation. In the winter - skiing, snowboarding, lessons, lots and lots of fun! My husband would probably love it! He is the skier in the family (so far that is!). There is a game room, pool, and a very fun looking slide that I hear takes about 3 minutes to go down!

So you can go and have fun even without snow. Also, they are along a river and you can do boat rides and tours - I would LOVE to come back and do some of that =) Also, it just looks pretty

I looked out across all of this and wished I were a painter and could come back, get situated on the patio and paint away. Well, I guess I could do it now, but that might be a discussion for another day ;-)

In addition to great places to stay (including rooms with lots of bunks that could easily accommodate groups!) they have wonderful food. We were treated to lunch there and again, another divine meal. Oh my - Galena has good food everywhere! LOL! I'm pretty sure I gained a few pounds with all of the great food they had - and the Sunset Grill there did not disappoint!

And after all of that, it was time to head off into the sunset and return home. I was so sad to leave everyone - I may have only known one person when the trip started but I had such a great time with everyone I really do miss them so much! I'm so glad that I was able to go and I know I've said once-in-a-lifetime opportunities several times while talking abotu this trip - but so much of what we did really and truly was.

I just cannot thank the Galena/Jo Daviess County CVB enough. And also a huge shout out to Kim for working on this trip and inviting me along =)

*Just a reminder that this trip was sponsored by the The Galena/Jo Daviess County CVB.
** Part 1 of the trip is over here.
*** Part 2 of the trip is here

Thursday, April 22, 2010

My Fabulous Weekend!! Part 2

So, last time we stopped off at lunch - which was completely delicious! =)

After lunch we walked on over to the Galena History Museum. What a great museum Galena has in it's town. There are some fabulous things on display - and they have so many things in their collection that they can rotate in and out! Seriously, if you are in Galena - take time and stop into the museum. There is even a lead mine you can look down in - which Galena is known for!

On display is a replica of a dress worn by Julia Grant - which I thought was gorgeous. A local seamstress made it based on a painting of Julia! Which is even more impressive in my book!

There was a display of children's toys that I just fell in love with - forget the kids, I would LOVE to be able to have some of these! LOL! I snapped a pic of the sewing machine - it was too cute!

I also took a picture of the old switch board - as a nod to grandma's who used to be operators:

Now before I continue, let me just take a few minutes here to get serious - this museum has so many wonderful things, but like so many small museums is struggling to get by. Now, I'll be the first to admit, I love going to the big museums, but I really love going to small museums like this one. They almost always have a local bent, most of their collection is donations - things that would be very difficult to part with because selling donated items makes you lose trust with possible future donors. So in all seriousness - much like the Galena History Museum - I bet you have a history museum near you - it might be much smaller - one floor in part of a different civic building (that is how our local history museum operates). Go, visit the museum, see what treasures they offer. And donate a few dollars (or you know, a lot of dollars) if you can. Because it's important and each local museum is absolutely different from other local museums in that it is celebrating your town's history. And yes, we do visit ours - my kids go in there. I have met the curator a few times (although probably not often enough for her to recognize me, but I do know her!).

Okay - back to the museum. After looking around, and getting to talk to Former Pres. Grant and his wife Julia
(yes, actors LOL!) my companions and I were escorted upstairs to the collection. I wish all visitors to the museum could do this, we donned white gloves:

And we were able to look around at the whole collection. I've never seen this part of any museum before - all I can say is WOW! It's amazing. We got to see so many fabulous things - pictures, clothes, purses, shoes, weapons, trunks, etc, etc, etc

(this was marked as from 1830's! I'm not one to normally want to hold guns, but I mean, really, I'm not one who usually gets to look at so many amazing things from history either!)


I can not thank Nancy (she's the executive director) and the Galena History Museum enough for this. This was completely a once-in-a-lifetime chance for me!

So after that amazing trip - I mean really, how can you top that? Oh, why you can take us all to a FABULOUS house in town - the Seal house. This house has been decorated just so amazingly beautiful - it certainly belongs in a magazine somewhere. And the owners - Brad and Roth - are just wonderful. Well, you'd have to to open your house up like that I think! (And here is where my camera ran out of battery, so we're going to use all of Kris's pictures for the rest of the day)

After looking at their gorgeous home, we headed off to the Galena Cellars for some wine tasting!

I might have gotten slightly embarrassed at some points and blushed a little (or a lot). ;-)

But it really was a fabulous time!

Now, I am normally not a wine drinker, and I tried each wine to be a good sport, but didn't like them. I've never found a wine I liked. But our server - who was just the sweetest - told me she thought i'd like the last two we tried. And color me surprised - I did! So I bought a bottle of each and brought it home. Now, my husband laughed in surprise when I told him because he thought I'd never meet a wine I like. Well, thanks to Galena Cellars - I know exactly which type of wine I like - so fun!!


The Blackberry wine has already been opened and I'm enjoying it a glass or two at a time =)

After giving us all that wine to drink - it was time to go check into our room and get ready for dinner. Well, no, we didn't have a room - we were treated much more kindly than that - we had two houses we stayed in. Wow - and by house, I mean really gorgeous, wonderfully clean, no clutter, lots of space, and beautifully furnished house. All courtesy of Eagle Ridge. The house was so nice - I could easily live there full time and be happy =)

And then it was dinner time. At Fried Green Tomatoes. Who, also served the best fried green tomatoes I have ever eaten in my life!

At this point I wish I could share smell, taste, and sound with you - because all the food smelled and tasted divine. Oh, I felt like I was being completely spoiled. And sounds - had you been there you would have heard much talking, laughing, and just all of us having a wonderful time. Well, except when the food was first served. Then you would have heard silence as we all dived in! So so so delicious. I wish they would deliver to me when I'm at home ;-) I would order out a lot! LOL! =)

After that - it was quite late. And so it was time to go to bed! I'll write about Sunday's adventures later! =) Because Sunday was amazing too!!

*Just a reminder that this trip was sponsored by the The Galena/Jo Daviess County CVB.
** Part 1 of the trip is over here.
*** Part 3 of the trip is over here.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

My fabulous weekend!! Part 1

So this past weekend I had a wonderful opportunity to get away.
The weekend was so fabulous, it will take more than one post to get it all down! But there is so much goodness to share, that I want to be able to share it all with you!!!

This weekend was made possible by The Galena/Jo Daviess County CVB. They were gracious enough to sponsor this trip for myself and 7 other bloggers in the area!

I woke up very early Saturday morning, quickly got ready then hit the road on my way to Galena, IL. (Rumor has it that Amtrak may be extended service to Galena from Chicago - which if they did, I would train it instead of driving because I LOVE taking the train!) For me, the drive wasn't too bad - just over 2 1/2 hours. I passed the time by singing along loudly (and badly) to Wicked!

We met up at the Visitors Information Center. Here I got to meet the other bloggers (I only knew 1 of them before hand) and also our guides for the weekend - Dorian and Celestino.

top row: Mike (interim director of the CVB), Val, Kris, me, Lisa, Celestino
Bottom row: Kim, Barb, Michelle, Tracey

Now, if you had been a fly on the wall, you would have never have guessed most of us had just met. Before I left, my 10yo asked if I would come home with some new best friends - well, yeah, I did! All of these women are fabulous and wonderful and we had such an amazing time together. Okay, moving on from the love fest ....

After getting to know each other, we moved on to Grant's House. (Here's where I pipe in to mention that Galena has a lot of history in it - and I love history, so it was amazing get to see some of the historical things. We do similar things around our house and seriously, my girls were jealous of this part of the trip too!).


This is the parlor. The little rocking chair was the women's chair - our guide said that the women would sit in there and knit or embroider. I wish we could have tried it out, because you know me - I had knitting in my purse and I would have loved to try it out! Mostly because (and I'm not sure if the picture does it justice) all the furniture seems so little - almost like children's furniture. So interesting.


The dining room with the table all set like that - I would die for a table like that! And the china - it was a replica of the Grant's china and just gorgeous. I don't own any china at this point, so I'm always dreaming about it - and this china had a bit of pink in it and I just really fell in love with it. (yes, these are the sorts of things I think about when I am touring homes!!)


When you come out of the house you can go to a patio area - and it has an amazing view of the town. It really was just so gorgeous!

After that it was time to walk down into the valley you can see in the photograph above! It wasn't actually that bad - probably because we were going downhill! We passed a gorgeous park and got to walk a footbridge across the Galena River. Then we walked into downtown.

As we walking we passed The Olde Blacksmith Shop. Here is where I get to gush some more about awesome people. This shop was closed. But as we were walking by (and a few peeked in) the people working on getting it ready to go very kindly opened the door and let us in. They didn't know we were the mom bloggers in town over the weekend. And they so very kindly let us in - and truly lots of the people in Galena were so nice and welcoming to us. Just amazing!

So, anyway, back to the blacksmith - seeing him work was just beyond cool. The blacksmiths are all volunteers and have learned this since the shop was opened. I could have stayed and watched for hours - it's all so fascinating to me!



My kids take after me - they looked at my pictures and asked when I would take them. I told them I had heard that if it's slow sometimes they'll let the kids come back and help make things. Umm yeah, they were ready to head down there right that minute! But seriously, that would be so cool (to get to help make something!).

After our time with the blacksmith, it was time for lunch. We headed off to Cannova's Pizzeria (right on Main Street). Before we ordered some reenactors passed by and so we all went out to see them!


I love the dresses of the civil war era. Someday I want to own one myself (but who knows when I'll have to whip up something like that). So until then, I'll admire others. I asked the woman if she had made her costume - she hadn't, but she did have to make lots of alterations to it. To my surprise, two of the men said they made their coats - I just think that is so neat! Also, it gives me hope that my husband might someday want to sit and sew with me =)

Lunch was very yummy and tasty - and a nice time to sit and rest my feet! And get to chat more with the lovely ladies.

I think I'll give you a chance to rest too! Tomorrow, I will write more about my fabulous trip thanks to the Galena/Jo Daviess County CVB!

Part 2 is here
Part 3 is here