We headed to Elgin to meet up with my Aunt & Uncle, and had a great time catching up with them. My cousin Stephanie was there, too, and her two girls. All three girls had a great time running around, riding bikes in the basement, making cards on the computer, and just being young girls. After a delicious dinner, we headed back to the hotel, and fell into bed.
We got up on Saturday morning to a bright, sunshine-y, humidity free day! We drove down to the Aurora outlet mall to do the shopping I missed out on Friday night. I found a few good deals, and then it was back into the car and over to Lincoln Park Zoo. Parking was crazy, as half of Chicago decided to head out to Lincoln Park and the North Shore of Lake Michigan. We finally unloaded the troops and cruised the zoo for 3 hours. It was free! And it's a great zoo. We saw polar bears, tigers, lions (Malaina was wide-eyed at the lion gnawing on a giant bone right in front of her), giraffe, ostrich, rhino, monkeys, birds, and my favorite: the river otter. We loaded our weary travellers back into the car, and went exploring to find the cupcake shop I had been obsessing about: Sweet Mandy B's. Located in the Lincoln Park/ DePaul neighborhood, it had a sweet little store front, and zero parking. Matt dropped me off and circled the block while I ordered my 'cakes. I found the staff to be a little lacking. The girl was a little irritated when I wasn't ready to place my order within .03 seconds of walking through the door. She gave me the stink eye while I looked over the goodie case (cookies, cupcakes, cakes, pie), and seemed irritated when I asked a question or two. I completed the transaction, and was glad that I was the only one who made the trip inside - the interior was tiny, and claustrophobic to me. As I walked past the cafe on the corner to wait for Matt to pull up, I chuckled to myself when I overheard a lady at an outside table exclaim to her young daughter "Ooooo...look! She went to Sweet Mandy B's and got cupcakes!". Unfortunately, my cupcake bliss had to wait, as we were both starving by the time we got back to the hotel (Saturday evening traffic - not so good, especially when we were going OUT of the city). Saturday must have been my lucky day for the month, as we ended up trying the Weber Grill Restaurant. I've wanted to try this place for years, and I was not disappointed. It was a bittersweet experience, as the food was fantastic (we shared prime rib, roasted garlic mashed potatoes, a chopped chicken salad, and onion soup), but the kids were both super cranky by the time the food hit the table, and Matt ended up walking Justin back to our room while I finished eating. We finished the night with Matt & Malaina at the pool - one of their favorite things to do together. I didn't even have the energy (or the stomach space) to truly enjoy a cupcake, so I saved them for another day.
Almost as tall as a polar bear (OK, not really, but don't tell her that)
Mmmm... Weber Grill Restaurant. I give it 3.5 out of 4 stars.
This is the Field Museum, which is located adjacent to the Aquarium (and the Planetarium). We did not have a chance to visit on this trip, but will another time.
When we were done at the Aquarium, we headed back out to the suburbs to find some dinner. We were going to take the 20 out of Illinois, so it made sense to head towards Schaumburg to eat before we made the killer drive home. (Seriously, if you're going to Chicago, I advise staying in this area. Woodfield Mall is right there, along with a ton of restaurants, hotels, IKEA, and several major freeways. Plus we saved at least $150 a day by not staying downtown).
The upper left corner is Banana Chocolate Chip. Below that is Creamsicle. The yellow are Lemon, and the far right 'cakes are Red Velvet (they didn't have a huge selection of flavors). First, I'll say that I did not eat them all in one sitting. I may be a cupcake fan, but I am not a glutton. Very often. I even shared! What I liked about them: The Lemon were the very best. The cake was light & moist, and tasted like lemon, but not in an overwhelming or chemical way. The Red Velvet were good, but the batter didn't seem smoothly mixed, and they weren't quite as tasty. What I didn't like about them: The Creamsicle were not good. The cake was bland & flavorless, and the frosting was sickly-sweet. The Banana Chocolate Chip was just not cupcake material. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't really good either. I also thought that the frosting application was sloppy. I really like it when the frosting is piped on the top of a cupcake. Net/net: These were not nearly as good as Valley Junction's own Carefree Patisserie.
The drive home was both faster and uneventful. We stopped outside of Dubuque and grabbed some soda to help us stay awake, but otherwise there were no delays or problems. Malaina watched Annie on the DVD player, Justin slept, and Matt and I talked. That's the one advantage to road trips: I feel like Matt and I get to catch up on so much stuff that we don't chat about on a daily basis. We stopped outside Ames so I could feed Justin, and finally made it to our front door at about 2:45am on Monday morning. The drive home took about 7 hours - much better!
The only downside to the trip is that I have not gotten to bed before 2am any day this week. Part of that is due to this monster project I've been trying to complete, but I'm not happy about reverting to my night owl ways. Justin is usually wide-eyed & awake at 7 am, and I don't operate well on 5 hours of sleep (at least not unless there's a nap during the day.....and there never is). Now I'm hungry & craving cupcakes. I may have to rustle one up when I finish this project tonight (they added more stuff to it and gave me a 24 hour extension. Thanks). I definitely deserve it!