Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas Trip '09

Though we were frustrated by our change in itinerary and the loss of a day on our trip, there was one advantage - our layover in Atlanta was 3.5 hours, so we had time to visit my aunt and cousin who moved there in the fall from Minnesota. They live right by the airport, so my aunt picked us up, then we grabbed some pizza and went back to her apartment. My cousin Emily, her boyfriend Joe and the kids came over and we had a nice dinner together.

Emily and Timmy...I can't believe he'll be 2 in January!

Shaun with Brynn...she was a little unsure about us. It's crazy how different she looks from the last time we saw her, when she was just about a month old.

After a visit to the roof of their apartment building to watch a few planes land, we made our way back to the airport and had a smooth flight to the Quad Cities. On Monday morning, we went out to breakfast with my mom, stopped by my aunt and uncle's house for a few minutes, and then went to my LASIK followup appointment. The doctor I saw said everything looked good. I'm still seeing halos at night, but he said they still consider you to be healing for the first 3 months, so he's not concerned at this point. After my appointment we loaded up my mom's car and made the 6 hour drive to the Twin Cities - between our luggage and all the presents and food my mom had (plus the dog), it's amazing we all fit into her little Nissan Versa!

Most of the week was just spent relaxing at home. We did make it out to a couple of movies though - Shaun, Laura and I saw Avatar in 3D and it was awesome, and all five of us saw Did You Hear About the Morgans? - which was kinda predictable, but not bad. It started snowing on Wednesday night and didn't stop until well after Shaun and I left on Saturday. Because of that I didn't attempt to make plans with friends, but that was okay, because I really appreciated the time just watching movies and playing games with my family. Laura and I even busted out the VHS tape with a couple of our favorite old-school Christmas specials (A Muppet Family Christmas and A Garfield Christmas Special, complete with 80s commercials!).

Anyway, here was our view on Christmas dreaming necessary; it was very much a white Christmas.

Stockings for all

Ruby had to put on her Christmas sweater to go was cold!

Setting the table for Christmas dinner, pretending I'm not paying attention to the photographer (and showing off one of my gifts - a sheer cardigan from my mom)

Never too many pictures of a cute dog

In contrast to our July Minnesota trip where we were constantly running around, this visit was a really nice change of pace. Unfortunately it still seemed to go by way too quickly. It definitely helped though that on Sunday, the day after we got back, we got to celebrate Christmas again with Shaun's family with presents, dinner, and some Catch Phrase.

I'm sure it's common, but I always get a little bummed after the holidays. I have to kind of wean myself off of Christmas music (hopefully by New Year's), and I start to dread the long winter months of January through March. I just have to remind myself of the fun things coming up in the year ahead, like going back to MN for Laura's college graduation in May, hopefully going to Florida for my cousin Amy's wedding over Memorial Day weekend, and some more trips in the late summer/fall if we can swing it. And in the meantime, my big TV season will keep me occupied on the dark, cold winter evenings, with Chuck and American Idol starting the second week of January. It's the little things, right?

I'll probably be back over the weekend with some kind of 2009 recap post...for now, Happy New Year everyone!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Stupid Snowstorm

If all had gone as planned today, I would be on a plane right now. Shaun and I were supposed to fly out of White Plains this evening, connect in Atlanta, and then fly to the Quad Cities. I have a LASIK follow-up appointment there on Monday, and then we're driving up to Minnesota to spend the rest of the week with my family. But when we got up this morning, we discovered that our flight had been preemptively canceled due to the huge storm making its way up the East Coast. At first it didn't look like there would be any flights going out this weekend, which meant we couldn't rebook online, because Delta's rebooking form only lets you pick from today and the next day. Fortunately, after an hour of hearing busy signals from their 800 number, we tried online again and found an available flight going out of Hartford tomorrow afternoon. So at least we'll get theory. The snow was supposed to start here this afternoon and we are just now getting our first dusting. Figures! I just hope this doesn't mean the storm is super slow and we'll end up with another canceled flight tomorrow.

I told Shaun that December 19 is now dead to me...I will not make plans for this day next year. Last year on Friday, December 19, there was a big snowstorm here that started mid-morning. In hindsight I should have left work at noon, but I was let out at 2:00. Apparently that's when everyone else in the whole area was let out of work, and the roads were jam-packed. That in combination with the snow turned my normally 40-minute commute into an almost 3-hour commute...I was not a happy camper. To top it off, the next day when I went to do errands, my car wouldn't start - turned out I needed a new battery. I should have figured, when I was sitting in traffic and my radio wouldn't play if I was running the fan higher than the first level. I guess I'm lucky I got home at all that day!

Anyway, the upside about today's canceled flight is that I got a free day with my hubby to just do whatever, since we obviously had zero plans. We had to join everyone and their mother at the grocery store for a few things since we also had zero food left in the house, but it wasn't too bad. We went to our favorite pizza place for lunch since they were having a "snow day special" for buy one/get one free individual pizzas. Since then we've just been relaxing at home and waiting for the snow. I'd hoped to do a Christmas baking post, but I never think to take pictures when it's light out so I'd have nothing pretty to show. I haven't done much new stuff though - I have my usual pie crust cookies, chocolate covered Oreos, and peanut butter fudge, and the new recipe I tried this year for a cookie exchange was M&Ms Minis Chocolate Cookies with Icing. They're all tasty, though the M&M one involved way too many steps for the dozens of cookies I made!

Well, hopefully in just over 24 hours we'll be landing in Moline. I hope that the snow isn't causing too many problems for anyone else out there! Stay safe, and Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Late as usual, but I wanted to share a few Chicago pictures and a recap. I'll leave out the boring work stuff but will say that the trip went much better than I was expecting in that regard. We got into Chicago the day after Thanksgiving and checked into our hotel, the Marriott on Magnificent Mile, and the first thing I did was take a few pictures.

Check out that view!

I could see bits and pieces of Lake Michigan through the buildings.

Michigan Avenue on Black Friday. I could hear that crossing guard all the way up on the 27th floor - with the window closed!

John Hancock building to the left

After checking on our trade show booth, I met up with my family, who had arrived Friday afternoon, and we had dinner in the Walnut Room at Macy's on State Street (the original Marshall Field's store). My mom and her family used to make a trip to Chicago every year to eat here when she was a kid, so it was cool to experience that family tradition.

This was the view from our table of the huge, beautiful tree. The whole dinner was good but my absolute favorite part was one of the desserts we all shared - Frango Cheesecake (for those unfamiliar with Frangos, it was a chocolate mint flavor). I definitely intend to find a copycat recipe and try making it someday.

Me with my mom and sister in front of the tree (we always make fun of my mom for not smiling in pictures, so I'm glad she's at least making an attempt here!)

Saturday was a long day of setup for work, and afterward I met up with my parents and sister, plus my aunt and cousins who had come into town from Iowa for the night, at Giordano's. It was absolutely packed, and even though we put our pizza order in as we were waiting for our table, we still had to wait quite awhile after sitting down. We had the stuffed pizza, and while it was good, I'm not sure if I'd say it was my favorite ever.

Laura, me and dad at Giordano's

With Brooke (my cousin Chris's girlfriend) and my cousin Ashley

This giant gingerbread house was in the lobby of the hotel. After resting a bit, we stopped here Saturday night on our way back out to the Ghirardelli chocolate/ice cream shop (yeah, definitely went to bed stuffed that night) to take a couple pictures.

My family headed out to the train early Sunday morning, and I headed out to the first day of the trade show. Seeing as I normally sit in front of a computer at work, I'd forgotten how exhausting it is just to be on your feet all day! Despite being in an unfamiliar place and away from Shaun, I slept REALLY well that week because I was just so tired every night.

I hope this entry isn't too food-obsessed, but since I cook all the time at home, I truly enjoyed getting to go out and try some new restaurants. And I would recommend most of these places if you're visiting Chicago. Sunday night I ate at Bandera with a few of my coworkers - right across the street from the hotel. It was a nice atmosphere with live music and a good variety on the menu. I had the “Hacked Chicken Salad with Honey-Lime Vinaigrette and Peanut Sauce" and it was excellent. Monday night we ate at the RB Grille, a new, sit-down restaurant addition to the Rock Bottom Brewery. I had a burger that was just okay, but the guys really enjoyed their steaks (and beers). I loved my dessert though - a mini peanut butter cream pie for just $2.50...that made it all worth it for me!

On Tuesday night I met up with Allison, a friend from college who now lives in Chicago. We went to the Grand Lux Cafe, which is owned by the same people that own Cheesecake Factory. Given that, we wished we'd had room for dessert at the end of the meal, but we were too full. I had the Thai Chicken Pizza and it was delish. I hadn't seen Allison since last Thanksgiving so it was really nice to take a couple hours and catch up.

And on Wednesday night, my last night in town, my cousin Amy picked me up for dinner. She lives in Chicago with her new fiance, Ryan, and their Scottie puppy, Milton. Ryan was working late, so after I met Milton, Amy and I walked a few blocks from her condo over to Red Light (which, according to their website, incorporates Chinese, French, and Thai cooking styles). I had the“Mee Gha Ti” - I had no idea what to expect when I ordered it, but I ended up liking it a lot. The coconut gave it a nice sweet flavor. (All these food descriptions...I should have taken pictures, but I thought that might weird out my companions!) And of course, it was great to see Amy. We haven't lived near each other since I was in 7th grade, so I really appreciated the chance to sit and talk as grownups - even though we agreed we still feel like kids sometimes!

I tried to get some night pictures but I'm far from an expert on the manual settings...wish I could capture the view as I saw it. I couldn't stop looking out the window at the pretty lights on Michigan Avenue.

So, those were the best parts of my Chicago trip. It went quickly, but I was still anxious to get back home to Shaun and kick off my Christmas baking. Time is flying...we leave for our Minnesota Christmas on the 19th!