Category Archives: Family Life

10th Anniversary Trip – Part 2

You can read about Part 1 here.

Friday, January 4th was the day – our actual 10 year anniversary. We reminisced a bit while we ate breakfast in our room. We had picked up food from Whole Foods after an inedible dinner at Ed Debevics the night before (go for the atmosphere, not the food) so that we would have snacks that night and breakfast the next morning. It was nice to not rush out, even if the coffee at the hotel was horrible. We ended up wandering out of the hotel and grabbing real coffee at Starbucks and then hitting what we can’t wait to go back to with two little red-heads in tow:

American Girl

We had so much fun imagining what it will be like when we take the girls there. They are going to flip – much like all the little girls who were there were doing. Too cute. It took a lot of self-control to not go home with dolls for each of them. Oh well, that day will come soon. 🙂

While grabbing a bite to eat for lunch, my brother called to let us know the sad news that our dearest Uncle Ken had passed away early that morning. It felt like someone had sucked all the air out of me. We knew he was in his last days and had even put our trip on hold believing we would be called home early if we went. But our thoughtful family encouraged us to go and felt we would be home before we would need to be at services. You truly can’t be ready for those words even if you know they are coming. We wandered around Michigan Avenue for awhile, trying to make the most of the afternoon, but nothing seemed right. It wasn’t until we got to thinking about Uncle Ken and how amazing he was and what he would have wanted for us on that day that our spirits began to lift a bit. At our wedding reception, Uncle Ken slipped some money into my man’s hand and whispered, “Take her out to a nice dinner”. So, that’s just what we did – and we had a great time. I think Uncle Ken would have been happy.

us - anniversary

I’m not sure how well-known this restaurant is, but it should be famous. We dined at Merlo on Maple and had a meal like we may never have again. The chef moved to Chicago from Italy in the last decade and cooks authentic Italian food often from her Grandmother’s recipe book with many ingredients imported from Italy or made from scratch in her kitchen. The food was Let me show you:

This is our appetizer: Mozzarelline allo speck e asparagi. I’m drooling just looking at the picture again. The imported buffalo mozzarella was slightly warm, slightly melted and oh so delicious. It was wrapped with speck, a magical type of ham. 😉 Everything on that plate was fresh, perfectly cooked, and a party in your mouth.

This is a horrible picture, but this is Gnocchi di spinaci al tartufo nero fresco invernale in fonduta di Parmigiano Reggiano. My man’s entree since it is not gluten-free, but I am told it was utterly delicious. Spinach and potato gnocchi with a Parmigiano Reggiano and fresh Black Winter Burgundy Truffle fondue. The cheese and the olive oil on that plate alone were amazing. I can only imagine what the gnocchi tasted like!

This was my entree and one of the specials that day – and boy was it special. That right there was made when I ordered it, so about 40 minutes later, I had risotto with lobster sauce, scallops and lobster. OH. MY. Seriously. OH. MY. Who says having to order gluten-free is so bad?

We ended our meal with a chocolate and a coconut gelato, both made in-house, as well as the panna cotta with fresh fruit and homemade caramel. A cup of coffee and espresso went perfectly with all of it.

panna cotta Gelato

It was an amazing dinner and so special. A treat that we won’t forget and one that we know would have made Uncle Kenny proud.

The next day, it was already time to head home. We had a few places we wanted to stop before heading back to Union Station, but for the most part, we felt we had done what we came to do and were ready to be back with our girls. We ended up taking an earlier train and I’m so glad we did. We had some special time with the girls when we all got back home and got to hear about all of their adventures and we were able to get organized before the next two days worth of visitations and the funeral.

Overall, we had a FANTASTIC trip. Relaxing, fun, romantic – and just the two of us! Taking time to be alone is so important and it’s so easily what gets pushed aside in our stage of life. I am so thankful we were able to have our get-away. It truly was a blessing.


Christmas Traditions

I always enjoy hearing about other families traditions, especially Christmas traditions. We have a few at our house that either began the first Christmas we were married or once we had kids. Traditions can be fun, meaningful, or even silly, but whatever mood they put you in, they are sure to make your celebration more special.

The tradition that started during our first Christmas we were married is Christmas Eve pajamas. I have always loved this and it’s super fun with the girls. We usually spend Christmas Eve with our Moms, aka “The Grandmas” and we love to get them some new PJs or at least some “comfy pants” as we call them around these parts. After Christmas Eve service at church, we come home and it’s time for everyone to open one gift. That one gift? Freshly washed, ready to wear jammies. Everyone changes into their PJs to enjoy the rest of the evening comfy and casual. FUN!

The best tradition and most meaningful to our family is the arrival of Baby Jesus in the manger on Christmas morning. We have a nativity scene that gets set up after Thanksgiving with the rest of our Christmas decor. However, we leave that little manger empty until Christmas morning. When the girls were really little, it proved to be the sweetest part of the day on more than one Christmas morning to hear their sweet voices exclaim, “Baby Jesus is in the manger! He’s here!” Emmanuel, God with Us. Yes, sweet girls, He is here.

Daddy giving little Miss a good look at the manger. Christmas 2010

I was straightening things this morning and happened to look at our nativity scene, which WAS displayed with our traditionally empty manger. You can imagine the giggle that bubbled up in me as I cast my eyes on this scene:

Friends, Prince Eric Squinkie is all up in Baby Jesus’ manger. I mean, I realize He doesn’t really need it yet, but I think there might be a problem here. Do you think my girls are telling me that their Squinkies need a bed or that they don’t like the manger empty? I’ll have to think about this one.

Now, I know I won’t be alone on this last tradition. Food, glorious food!

Our Christmas Eve FOOD tradition is to come home after church and feast on a variety of appetizers, snacks and sweet treats. My recipe for spinach and artichoke dip (recipe coming soon!), BBQ meatballs or little smokies, veggies and dip, chips and salsa, potato skins, stuffed mushrooms and cheese balls have all made an appearance. It’s not complete without sweets like fudge, Christmas cookies, pecan bars, and cheesecake bites.

Jammies + yummy food + family = perfect Christmas Eve.

My oldest will tell you that her favorite food tradition at Christmas is the freshly baked Christmas morning cinnamon rolls. These rolls show the depth of my love for my family because not only do I get up early to roll them out and then bake them fresh, but they are NOT gluten-free so I don’t even get to partake in the deliciousness! I love The Pioneer Woman’s cinnamon rolls and as she mentions at the beginning of her post, we have taken them to our neighbors to spread some Christmas calories cheer.

Pioneer Woman Cinnamon Rolls

Do you love freshly baked cinnamon rolls but don’t want the chore of making your own dough? Let me suggest a very delicious and much easier alternative. I’ve been making this recipe for years when I need a little help from the store and my family loves them just as much. It’s the recipe I am making this year!

So how about your family? Do you have traditions you look forward to each year? Leave me a comment and let me know about them! I’d love to hear from you!