Postcards from Southern California: Family Fun in the Hot Hot Sun

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

It was like a furnace. Temperatures ranged from 90 to 105 degrees. Too hot to do anything other than lounge; which we did.

Trying to find a cool spot and stay hydrated were the top of our activities list while visiting my family in High Desert. [Side Note: Mom’s house doesn’t have central air-conditioning.]

We spent time with the family we don’t see often enough. Shopping and bowling. Eating our favorite Southern California foods like In-N-Out.

We had the opportunity to catch up with life-long friends and hit the beach.

Plenty of ‘selfie’ style photos exist. My boys will have pictures with me in them as well as their cousins, aunts, and Granny. Usually, I take tons of food shots but this year I promised myself, I’d feature the people. Interesting how different this vacation slide deck will look.

I read 3 books:

  • A Better World by Marcus Sakey, exceeded my expectations. It’s better than book one in the saga, Brilliance. Trust me a must read.
  • The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt, was amazing. Another must read.
  • The Secret’s in the Sauce by Linda Evans Shepard and Eva Marie Everson.

We saw 2 movies which were family dates with my sisters, niece and nephew:

  • X-Men: Days of Future Past
  • Transformers: Age of Extinction

We had 1 date without the kiddos. Just hubby and me. It’s hard to pull off when we’re home.

These are bonus tracks on the vacation album.

Cousins in the surf. © 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Cousins in the surf.
© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Seaweed Collection © 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Seaweed Collection
© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

There were lots of items on our ‘to do’ list that we never got marked off. We didn’t have our Read-A-Thon which the boys wanted to do in Colorado originally. I’m so glad we gave our books their own suitcase to travel with us. Oh well we will plan it for next month.

New meaning to book bag. © 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

New meaning to book bag.
© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Now we’re home, a little jet lagged and struggling with the return to routine, but color me grateful for the days we sat on the front porch in the setting sun with the people I love most in the world.

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Postcards from Colorado: Adventures in Thin Air

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Greetings …

Today is post Tuesday and I haven’t had a chance to slow down enough to organize my thoughts and experiences into a cohesive narrative. But instead of missing post day I decided to bullet some of the highlights and share some scenic shots.

BACKGROUND: Colorado, the first week of our vacation is thanks to Calvin Theological Seminary, my husband’s alma mater. They offer a seminar to pastors, Imaginative Reading for Creative Preaching.

This opportunity is designed to allow said pastors to also have a family vacation i.e. sessions from 8-noon followed by time for family adventures.

The course hosted by Scott Hoezee and Neal Plantinga (author of Reading for Preaching), required my husband to do some serious reading:

  • The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
  • Enrique’s Journey – Sonia Nazario
  • Collected Poems – Jane Kenyon
  • The Poetry of Robert Frost: Collected Poems – Robert Frost
  • The Wednesday Wars – Gary D. Schmidt
  • Okay for Now – Gary D. Schmidt
  • Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy – Gary D. Schmidt
  • Means of Ascent: The Years of Lyndon Johnson – Robert Caro

Of course my reading list is a little longer now.

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

We had the pleasure of staying at Snow Mountain Ranch, the YMCA of the Rockies, which is a beautiful place to stay. AND it has lots of activities for everyone.

From a parenting perspective, I have to say my dudes surprised me. In particular, our oldest tried many things that if you’d told me a week prior that he would do so I wouldn’t have believed it.

  • He went on the zip line, some 30 feet off the ground, as did my husband. They each used one word to describe it. Dude said, “Fast.” Hubby said, “Fun.”
  • He climbed the rock wall. Again some 30 feet off the ground, even though heights make him nervous.
  • He also tried roller-skating for the first time; counting the number of times he fell as we went along. It’s been at least 15 years since I was on skates and I loved sharing it with my dude.
  • He navigated the cafeteria like a camp veteran, helping his brother along the way, making us think he’s ready for an overnight camp experience without us.

Both boys tried their hand at archery, which isn’t as easy as our favorite quiver-wearing-bow-wielding-heroes make it look.

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

My youngest wasn’t as adventurous but he enjoyed:

  • Miniature golf
  • Volleyball for the first time. And,
  • Basketball, even though he told me, “I’m not ready for the NBA.” What a sweet boy!

Okay, I’d also like to say they wrote and mailed postcards to friends about our time in Colorado; giving a glimpse into our vacation. Yes, I am smiling for the handwritten correspondence, brief, as you have to be on a postcard. Their handwriting at 9 and 7 years old is priceless.

These moments made this momma proud.

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

My personal fave of our time was sitting in a small group around the fireplace listening Gary D. Schmidt and his editor daughter, Kathleen Kerr, as they talked about writing and publishing in today’s world. I didn’t say a word. Never asked a question. I was the weirdo in the back sporting the perma-grin.

My husband’s personal fave comes courtesy of Facebook. A friend posted that they were “camping in the Rockies” and the picture loaded the location of Winter Park, CO. Just 10 minutes down the road.

Hubby was able to catch up with three of his closest childhood friends and their families. Some we hadn’t visited in a couple of years, others in more than a decade. It was an unexpected and special surprise in our trip. Yay Facebook for bringing people together.

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

LAST NOTES:

  • Check out Snow Mountain Ranch. You may want to plan a trip there. If you go there,
  • Visit The Foundry which is a great place: movie theater & bowling alley mashup. Order the caramel corn which is to die for; comfy leather seats, where we watched How to Train Your Dragon 2.
  • Stop by Dozens Restaurant if you make it to Denver. Oh how delicious the food. See my meal?
© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Thanks to the altitude, my oldest son and I suffered from headaches and bloody noses despite drinking as much fluid as we could. And the hubby had trouble sleeping. It was still one of the best vacations to date.

In two weeks I’ll be back in Colorado for work but I am grateful I was able to experience it on vacation, otherwise I would have missed out on so much of this beautiful state.

Happy summer travels … be safe.

Dreaming of a White Christmas …

White Christmas © 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

White Christmas
© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

I don’t have to dream of a white Christmas as you can see from this photo taken of my back yard.

From my house to yours … wishing you a merry Christmas! May it be as white and wonderful as I hope mine will be. And I doubt I’ll post anything new until next year so Happy New Year as well. Be safe as you ring in the new year.

Blessings,

Gail

Postcard: Just a Glimpse of Canada

Postcards I purchased at the Duty Free.

Postcards I purchased at the Duty Free.

Thursday morning dawned sunny and warm; and found me packed and headed into the unknown in more ways than one. I experienced both trepidation and hope for what was to come.

My first unknown: What did I get myself into?

I was recently asked to serve on a board for a Non-Government Organization called World Renew. Before being asked to volunteer my time in this capacity, I didn’t know anything about the organization. After much consideration and a little research I agreed to participate, acting in faith.

My Second unknown: Where am I going?

The board’s annual meeting was being held in Schomberg, Ontario, just outside of Toronto. Thus, my first ever trip across international borders: Canada.

I didn’t know much about the country but the name conjured images of a red and white flag, maple syrup and Mounties. Now I have to say that my mental picture of Mounties is of Dudley Do Right of Rocky & Bullwinkle Show fame. Not, I am sure, what Mounties are really like. Sorry my Canadian friends for my ignorance.

More postcards

More postcards

O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!
From far and wide,
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

I must say that like traveling for work all of my time was scheduled so I didn’t see much of the place I visited. Despite the limited sight seeing … this is my adventure.

We drove the 7 or so hours north in beautiful weather; watching new spring green roll by, interrupted occasionally by bodies of dark shiny water. The thrum of the tires was peaceful in the midst of the getting-to-know-you chatter.

Tucked in the seats of a 15 passenger van with 6 strangers, the forced companionship is taxing for the introvert in me. But, by the end of the trip I was grateful to get to know everyone.

We stopped and ate lunch at Mr. Sub. It was delicious. My soda pop was served in the can instead fountain style which was an oddity for me. And I never made it to Tim Horton’s.

Then we cruised through the city on the way to the Cedar Glen YMCA where we stayed. I noticed that the houses were so close together compared to the sprawling neighborhoods you see in the U.S. So close, in fact, it looked like you could reach out one open window and knock on the window of the next brick clad structure. And they were HUGE at least to me. One of my traveling companions labeled these Canadian subdivisions: McMansions.

Keychains I gave the dudes.

Keychains I gave the dudes.

My apologies because I forgot about roaming and didn’t take a regular camera so I don’t have any pictures from the trip, but it was beautiful. As a side note this meant I was disconnected in a way I’m not used to.

I digress … back to the unknowns. I still feel like I know little of Canada but feel like I know more about World Renew and what they do.

My reading list in addition to all I heard and saw:

  • When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor and Yourself by Brian Fikkert & Steve Corbett
  • Serving with Eyes Wide Open: Doing Short-Term Missions with Cultural Intelligence by David A. Livermore
  • Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help (And How to Reverse It) by Robert D. Lupton

I left feeling overwhelmed with information and the passion of the individuals I met. Their zeal overshadowed mine. I felt like an “undecided: or “undeclared” college major; student still seeking.

I wrote these words in my journal the second and last night: “I am perpetually the reluctant volunteer. I don’t have a cause. I don’t sign up. I don’t get involved. But that doesn’t mean I don’t care. What does it mean? I need to find my place within the issues and advocate for those around me.”

This is out of my comfort zone:

  • Traveling out of the country
  • Joining a board for which I am ill equipped
  • Signing up for a cause that I haven’t given much thought

This is something I will grow into.

As unknowns become known, I continue to wonder: What did I get myself into? Yet, I remain hopeful. Likewise: Where am I going, has become metaphorical instead of literal. I am on a journey. Trepidation lingers. And I pray that I serve well and that the world will be made better with the work I do here.

What moments in life caught you by surprise and found you going down a path you didn’t expect? 

Postcard: Wichita, Kansas – There’s No Place Like Home

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

Early last week, as I prepped for my weekend business trip, the tune “Kansas City” from The Jacksons: An American Dream TV mini-series played in my mind. It played till I realized I wasn’t head to Kansas City but to Wichita. My mistake…

Of course, when I remembered where I was headed, it made me think of Dorothy and Toto. It made me think of the quest for home and the journey to courage, wisdom, and heart.

If you’re in need of another Jackson reference, consider The Wiz movie adaptation of The Wizard of Oz. Then just ease on down the road.

Or maybe, you want a different literary reference all together. In which case I have this one for you: The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverley Cleary which my dudes and I just finished reading before my trip.

In the story our protagonist, Ralph Mouse, gets trapped under a water glass by two school teachers (kindergarten and second grade). They debate whether or not they should take him back to Wichita, Kansas with them to sit in a cage on the windowsill of their respective classrooms.

Regardless of the reference that says: “Wichita” to you, I have to say it’s not a place I enjoy visiting, at least not usually. I’ve been both for business and personal reasons. The city doesn’t appear to have a lot to offer.

It doesn’t help that my work trips are short with specific constraints. I mainly see the inside of a conference center. The only view of the city and its tourism happen through the window of a moving vehicle.

We stayed at the Drury Place which had all the charm of centuries gone by with the modern amenities of our techie society.

My favorite thing was the fact that there was a mail chute or tube system that ran to every floor. In its heyday the letters would fall to a black cast iron box in the lobby with the words: US Postal Service painted in gold. It was sealed but it reminded me of my love of handwritten letters. I wish I’d taken some pictures.

The hotel offered a program called: Kickback. Essentially an appetizer buffet that you could make into your evening meal: hotdogs, pasta, baked potatoes, and other snackable items like nachos. Also, included were three alcoholic beverages. A nice way to thank guests for choosing their hotel I’d say.

The beauty of my job is that each event gathers large groups of people together. A Petri dish, if you will, of human behavior. A writer’s dream. And this trip was no different. The people of Wichita, both guests and staff, were friendly and warm with ready smiles.

And I met a couple of characters along the way:

The chef who said he needed a hug and a kiss on the mouth (really?) in order for us to continue enjoying the freshly popped corn. (Part of Kickback which means it’s complementary.) Needless to say I offered the hug but I don’t kiss on the first date.

And then there was the cabbie who insisted on calling me baby, like we were a couple. Ha … we skipped right to terms of endearment? Yes, as I said, friendly people.

Side note: my experience taught me, if you go to Wichita, rent a car. Cab service is practically obsolete. (You have to call ahead by at least an hour.)

The weather was windy yet sunny and warm. A far cry from the snow and sleet my family had to contend with while I was away. And bonus … no tornados.

Saving grace of this trip: Redrock Canyon Grill.

Service was impressive. Watching the servers was like watching a well timed dance performance. As wait staff glided in and out, maneuvering around one another to clear plates and drop off refills and ask what we needed. It didn’t matter that they weren’t our server, if it needed to be done and they were near by, they handled it. I’ve never experienced anything like it.

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

And the food? AMAZING. We had the Shrimp Cargot to start (I didn’t get a picture); followed by salad with a signature sweet ranch dressing (so delicious); then the main dish of steak and redskin mashed potatoes (oh the mash with green onions and garlic … yum); and of course the end of the meal … a dessert called Something Chocolate (truly divine).

If you ever make it to Wichita, this place has to be on your list. Warning … go early because this is the spot. People were wrapped around the bar, spilling out of the waiting area and teeming around outside by the open fire pit.

Thanks to the memorable dining experience (I now need to lose a few more pounds); and the friendly people, Wichita has climbed a few ticks up my list of places to visit.

But despite all of this, I have to agree with Dorothy: “There’s no place like home.” And for me home isn’t Wichita but at least now I would look forward to going back.

What place has surprised you and ended up on your favorites list? If you’ve been to Wichita and have suggestions of places to see or go, let me know because I’ll be headed back at some point for work.

Joy Unexpected …

Have you ever been asked to do something you really didn’t want to do but found yourself saying yes? Only to find out that you would have missed something amazing if you had opted out?

That’s what recently happened to me.

I’ve been asked to participate on a committee for our church’s women’s retreat. My first inclination was to say no. Give the excuse that I am operating at capacity and didn’t have room for one more responsibility.

But I said yes.

Then I received the request to travel to the retreat location. The first couple of times there were valid reasons; scheduling conflicts and I couldn’t make the trip. On the third attempt to plan the road trip I couldn’t find a way out.

My excuse I wanted to give? It just happened that I’d had a hectic week and wanted my weekend to myself so that I could rest and rejuvenate. I didn’t want to make small talk or be out in the cold.

And frankly the words “campground” and “cabin” created mental images of outhouses or toilet paper rolls in the woods. I wasn’t always a luxury loving lady but I doubted that I’d made the right decision about facilitating a retreat in the woods.

But I said yes.

I am so thankful I did. If I hadn’t I would have missed out on a beautiful autumn day with two fabulous ladies whom I admire.

And, it turns out “campground” and “cabin” in this location is equivalent to condos near the lake with Wi-Fi and other modern conveniences like indoor plumbing, wood floors, and gas fireplaces. Each condo is appropriately named to entice folks to come for a retreat:

  • Peace
  • Joy
  • Happiness
  • Hope
  • Faith
  • Rest

I need to enter through one (if not more) of these doors. We’ve rented out the first three.

If I hadn’t said yes, I would have missed out watching my friends’ children and grandchildren playing together. Laughing and enjoying the crisp and clear fall day. Seeing the next generation forming relationships did my heart good.

If I hadn’t said yes, I would have missed the spectacular view of Lake Michigan from the gazebo where people may choose to say “I do”. A tribute to ceremony and commitment. I love it.

If I hadn’t said yes, I would have missed these scenic views of the lake. I needed the beauty and serenity of this place. It revitalized me more than sleeping in could have done.

If I hadn’t said yes, I would have missed this quaint little building:  The Prayer Chapel. It’s only tall enough for you to enter and kneel. How amazing and humbling!

And best of all it allowed me to come back and share these wonders. It will allow me to promote the retreat with an enthusiasm and excitement. I am so thankful for the unexpected joy I experienced by saying YES when I wanted to say no.

What are you’re unexpected joy moments? I’d love to hear them.

Photo credits:  Gail A. Hanson

Postcard: Seeing Seattle

The skyline of Seattle, Washington at dusk. In...

I made my annual business trip to Seattle. This is the first time in four years that the weather was truly rainy and grey. All the other trips have been filled with green scenery and sunshine; a little misty but never rain. Imagine my surprise to have the reality of Seattle touch my personal experience. Fortunately, I was indoors most of the trip attending a convention.

In spite of the cooler temperatures I loved my five days in the city. On the one and only clear sunny but wet day, I had a bounce in my step and a smile on my face as I walked the two short blocks to a local eatery, 13 Coins, for a meal with a friend I haven’t seen in over a decade.

13 Coins had floor to ceiling studded brown leather booths. It made me think of dining cars in old train movies. There were alcove tables where couples could sit rubbing elbows on the same side of the table watching passersby.

The ambience gave us a stately privacy to catch up over a fabulous breakfast. Sorry I forgot to take pictures. But if you ever make it to Seattle, I encourage you to put 13 Coins on your food tour.

But wait there’s more tales of fine dining…

Usually when I travel for work, my cohort and I hit the local Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse for the purpose of a perfectly cooked filet mignon. This time we abandoned our own tradition and ventured a try at a new steakhouse:  The Capital Grille. Yummy!

I won’t compare the two restaurants . They’re both delicious. It just depends on the kind of delicious you want on any given day.

My favorites from the meal were the cream corn with bacon (to die for) and the coconut creme pie (heavenly). My travel companion’s vote would be for their lobster mac and cheese.

If you don’t have The Capital Grille near you, put it on your list to experience in your travels.

But rich food isn’t all that Seattle has to offer. This city is vibrant and alive; always awake. As we left the grille, we were amazed by the number of people roaming the city streets. People who seemed to be window shopping in the city’s thriving downtown area without any concern for the late hour.

Picturesque hotels and bright neon lights which were just as busy as the foot traffic. The highways were congested as residents made their way to adventures unknown to us. It’s this hustle and bustle that has us committing to tacking on extra days during our next visit so we have time to sight see, hit the tourist traps, and experience Seattle leisurely.

We had lunch in our hotel the last day before heading to our final business stop. The best part was the tomato bisque in an asymmetric bowl. After which we packed up the car and headed to the gorgeous Suncadia Resort, an hour or so outside of the city. Breathtaking landscape … Snowcapped mountains … Autumn colors touching the trees. Pictures don’t do it justice.

We arrived late for our presentation due to snow. Thankfully, our clients were gracious; inviting us to stay the night. But we’re Michigan girls so we know how to handle driving through snow; our first snow event of the year. And despite our love for the Seattle NW area, we were ready to get home to family and friends. So we caught our red eye flight and left the dynamic city behind.

Tell me your Seattle stories. Or, give me the names of some other Seattle restaurants to try. My travel partner is a foodie and up for new places.

So long Seattle, see you next year … I’ll be ready for a new escapade.

Summer Swan Song

Dear Summer,

Thank you so much for coming to visit. It seems like just yesterday that you arrived.

I am sad to say it but, farewell fun in the sun, fireworks, and family picnics. So long to sipping lemonade, sleeping in, and slip-n-slides. Goodbye going to the park, pool parties, and play-dates. Your favorite activities will be left behind and the playgrounds will be abandoned for a while.

But, we enjoyed our time with you. There are so many wonderful memories. Don’t worry, I’ve enclosed pictures for you.

Remember all the walking we did in the Las Vegas heat. And the littlest dude was sick with strep. That part wasn’t fun but we made up for it by eating well the rest of the trip. The fast food tour of the West coast was worth it.

I loved seeing the family for the first time in five years. WOW. How everyone has grown? Me a little wider. LOL. It was nice to sit and reminisce about childhood. Celebrate graduations and the next phase of life. Soak up some vitamin D on the front porch with you.

I’m so thankful that we were able to stay up late and sleep in. No where to hurry off to. People talk about lazy days and stopping to smell the roses (as the expression goes). Such beautiful blooms to admire, it was wonderful to stop and smell them along the way.

What fun it was to see the sights. Play tourist and buy souvenirs. Like trips to the USMC base, Camp Pendleton, to see the helicopters; the LEGO store; and the children’s museum in San Diego. Imagine an exhibit on garbage and recycling. We learned a lot about taking care of our planet because of it. We won’t forget our time together in California.

The thing I love about you, Summer, is the meals we share. We had a lot of great gatherings; breaking bread and catching up with all of our friends. Chicken and burgers on the grill; fresh fruit; ice cream … making s’mores over an open fire while watching the sunset … all of your favorite smells and flavors.

We read lots of great new chapter books with the boys. And they did some reading on their own which makes me smile. I’m glad it wasn’t all video games and movies. They managed to unplug a little bit too.

We will cherish the laughter and the tears of our trip to Chicago for Comic Con and LEGOLAND Discovery Center. Two LEGO locations, in two different states, during your visit; how funny.

I admit that it wasn’t all good times. There were those moments we had to say goodbye, not like I’m saying goodbye to you now, but final goodbyes to life long friends. People who lived full lives and people who were taken too young. Thankfully, you were here and, we could comfort one another which made it bearable.

Another one of my regrets is that we didn’t really make it to the beach. We drove by several while on vacation, but our feet never touched the sand; our toes never tested the water. Oh well, maybe next time you’re in town we can make that happen.

Thank you for helping us make the most of the season. Now we have new stories to tell; to hold us over until next year. Summer, it’s always hard saying goodbye. We wish you didn’t have to go but it’s time for the boys to go back to school and the rest of us to fall back into our routine.

We’ll miss you … Please take care until we see one another again.

Love Always,
Gail

PS. Next year come a little earlier and stay a lot longer.

Postcards from Chicago: The Comic Con Event I Missed

Chicago Skyline 2008

Chicago Skyline 2008 (Photo credit: TomC)

We’ve been planning this trip since last year when my husband took my oldest on a “Daddy & Me” date to Comic Con 2011 in Chicago.

They had so much fun we though it would be a great 2012 family getaway. You know, one last hoorah before school starts. One last weekend road trip to bid farewell to summer. But it didn’t happen the way I envisioned, the way we talked about it.

Why?

Well first off, it was a gray cold rainy day. And then there was the fender bender with a black SUV. Maybe it’s payback for a certain post relative to a black SUV.  But I don’t believe in karma. Or maybe it was the mix up with our room reservation where they only had single king beds left when we reserved a two bedroom.

Maybe I’ve mentioned before that my youngest is petrified of people in costume? I believe I briefly talked about an incident with Ms. Green M&M at the M&M store in Las Vegas?

And the very heart of Comic Con … the fun of it … is seeing the fans and enthusiasts dressed as their favorite characters. But for my littlest dude it would wreak havoc on his fragile psyche… it would be a fear filled emotional experience. Forcing him to attend would equate to zero enjoyment for the family.

So we decided that Comic Con 2012 would remain a “Daddy & Me” date for my husband and oldest son. However, we will all traverse to The Windy City together.

Dare I say I am disappointed about not getting to attend the main event:  Wizard World Convention – Comic Con 2012. Sigh. So much for getting my geek girl on.

“How’d I spend my time?” you might ask.

Having a “Mommy & Me” date, which included lounging in our lovely hotel room with a 5 (and a half or is it two-thirds) year old. We watched movies, played Nintendo 3DS, and ate snacks that aren’t particularly good for us. I also had the chance to read and write and rest. Not a bad way to spend a day.

And we managed to do some family fun things as a whole. We went to the LEGOLAND to indulge the boys’ current obsessions. We ate at the Cheesecake Factory to indulge one of my obsessions:  Dulce De Leche Caramel Cheesecake (Sorry I didn’t get photos of it but trust me it was good. I did get a picture of my Over the Top Meatloaf Sandwich.)

Keep in mind though that the trip to LEGOLAND ended much like our trip to the M&M store in Las Vegas i.e. with a little one scream for an exiting. Blaming us for not knowing about the mascot which was celebrating his 4th birthday and making a special appearance. Don’t’ get me wrong there were some really cool things to see there:

The important thing is that we found ways to connect as a family. It really isn’t about what we did but the fact that we did it together.

We listened to the sounds of the city, the hustle and bustle of the people, the airplanes taking off from O’Hare and cabs zooming to and from. We enjoyed the smooth silver buildings against the golden sunset.

I hated the traffic and having to drive through the city but all in all a wonderful trip … I love Chicago for its fast pace, shopping and food, and gorgeous skyline. Next year I hope to add Comic Con to the list of Chi-Town loves.

Vacation 2012 Postcard: Fast Food Tour

Whenever I visit my childhood home I make sure to visit the restaurants, usually fast food restaurants that we don’t have where I live.  I create my list and systematically make my way through it.

I am highlighting a few of the favorites from the list (my meal choices and some pictures)… This is the first trip in which I didn’t hit everything on the list. Disappointed about it but I still ate really well.

Del Taco – My favorite meal here is a combination burrito (ground beef, refried beans, and cheese) with a salsa Verde. The meal comes with a drink (Cherry Coke) and fries. I request “secret sauce” which is a mayo sour cream blend.  I have to dip my fries in something.

Not only is the food good but Del Taco is the first place I ever worked that required me to fill out a W-2. Thanks to my older sister who worked there and was a good employee for recommending me.

I worked the drive thru window wearing my jeans and turquoise blue uniform polo top and baseball cap. Not attractive but that was also the first year I purchase ALL of my own back to school clothes and supplies.  I was 16 years old going into my junior year.

IN-N-OUT Burger – I order the Double Double with cheese no onions with fries and a chocolate shake. Yummy! It’s so worth it.

When I was in my teens I sang in the church choir and we’d travel to other churches to perform. One night we were getting back really late and our choir director stopped to get us something to eat. I hadn’t eaten at IN & OUT before but was grateful. They ordered cheeseburgers for all of the young ones. I inhaled mine I was so hungry. This garnered the comment:  “We should have gotten you a Double Double.”

Can you guess what my nickname was that Summer? If you’ve never had IN-N-OUT make sure you add it to your list when you travel to California.

I made the mistake of telling my husband about being called:  Double Double and now he and the boys call me that just for fun. My husband says, “After eating all these things on vacation we’re going back ‘Double Double’.”

Carl’s Jr. Western Bacon Cheese Burger, which has onion rings and BBQ sauce.

Alberto’s – My husband only makes one request for the list (every trip) because he has to have authentic carne asada burritos. So of course I accommodate the visit to Alberto’s. This time around I ordered the nachos.

Weinerschnitzel – I always get 2 corn dogs and the chili cheese fries.

 

Jack-in-the-Box – Jumbo Jack with cheese, no onions.

 

 

 

 

 

The full list for Vacation 2012:

  • Del Taco
  • IN-N-OUT Burger
  • Carl’s Jr.
  • Alberto’s
  • Weinerschnitzel
  • Baja Fresh
  • Jack-in-the-Box
  • Lee’s Donuts
  • Yum Yum Donuts
  • See’s Candy
  • Gloria Jeans Coffee
  • Rio Buffet

Sorry if you’re not a foodie but I had to share. Let me know what your favorite fast food haunts are … especially if you have to travel to get them like I did.

This, I believe, is the last of my 2012 summer vacation postcards. Thanks for letting me share some of my trip with you.