Thursday, July 22, 2010

On the Road Again

It's time again for the yearly essay about what I did on my summer vacation and I think I can sum this one up by saying that Blake and I did a lot of heavy lifting in the full force of the summer heat. That's right, we loaded all three kids (ages 5 and under) into the car and headed for Chicago.

Borrowing from a favorite movie quote (and perhaps mangling it), Tulsa is a geographic oddity. It's two days from everywhere. Well, two days from everywhere you would want to go. Of course, with three kids, everything over 5 hours away qualifies as a two day trip. But, anyway... We got a bit of a late start on day one, but ended up in St. Louis, Mo. We stayed at the Drury Inn at the Arch, which I have to say was pretty nice. There were free snacks and drinks (yes!) from 5:30 to 7ish every night and free breakfast as well. I'm sure all of Missouri is thankful that I did not have to drag the kiddos out to an actual restaurant. I was pretty relieved as well. Here are some pics from the great city of St. Louis. Check out the view from our room.

Having survived the night, we loaded up and set our sights on Springfield, Il. Besides being the capital of Illinois, it is the last city that Lincoln and his family lived in before going to the White House. It is also the final resting spot of Lincoln, his wife and three of his children. I had visited Lincoln's home as a child and thought it would be great to see it again. I did wonder though if it would turn out that the site was as impressive as I remembered it. As an adult, I have revisited many places that I saw first as a child and I have found some of them to either be in various states of disrepair or completely different from how I remembered them. But, in this case, I can say that the Home of Lincoln was more impressive that when I first saw it. The park includes a visitor center, Lincoln's Home and the homes of many of his immediate neighbors. Everything in that particular neighborhood has been kept as it would have looked in the year 1860, the last year that Lincoln lived in the home. Here are a few pics and I highly recommend this park!

Lincoln's Home

Springfield is only about 3 hours outside of Chicago, so we thought we would have an easy drive on in to town. Wrong. I can't say what happened exactly, but that three hour drive stretched into much more than that! We didn't end up in Chicago until about 6 o' clock that evening! The good news is that along the way, the rental agent for our apartment in Chicago called and informed us that there had been a bit of a mixup in the rental and we had been upgraded to an apartment with a much better location. So, it worked out well for us and we were excited to get to town!

It turned out that the rental agent knew what she was about. Our apartment was located in the Gold Coast neighborhood and was about a half of a block from the beach and the same distance from the Magnificent Mile. We didn't really even need to use the El to get around since most things were within walking distance from our place. This was a good thing too because we had Penny (and sometimes Vivi) in the stroller and stairs and strollers are bitter enemies. Despite our three little handicaps, we did manage to see a good bit of the town and we even got a little bit of rest. But, on our way home, Blake and I came to the conclusion that maybe next year we could look into some kind of all-inclusive beach vacation!

Penny B.

Girls at a Navy Pier Restaurant

Thursday, July 08, 2010

No Thank You, I'm Full

First, let me say, I love to cook. I love everything about cooking, the equipment, the recipes, the wine that I drink while I assemble dishes. Besides being a better, more nutritious way to eat, it's a bit of a stress reliever to be in the kitchen, alone. Most of the time, I turn on the radio, sing along with whatever happens to be playing and I let the sauteing and mixing take me away.

As I'm sure you've figured out, this is going somewhere. Specifically, this is all leading up to what I DON'T love about cooking and that is the clean up. Somewhere between raw inputs and final product, I manage to completely destroy my kitchen. Cabinet doors are flung open, every dish is streaked with sauce or juice from freshly chopped vegetables. Forks and spoons stand at attention in jars of minced garlic or pesto. Mixing bowls are stacked in the sink, the topmost bowl stuffed with measuring spoons, knives and spatulas. The floor is sticky and stained black in places (I have not figured out where this brownish-black stain comes from). By the time I serve dinner, my kitchen looks as if I prepared supper under heavy artillery fire.

Most nights, Blake cleans the kitchen and I don't have to deal with the entire mess myself. I try to at least get the the dishes scraped and I usually sweep and mop. But still... It's hard to believe that a meal with only a few ingredients can cause such complete destruction. Often, after we finish a meal, Blake and I will stand in amazement and wonder at just how thoroughly gargantuan the mess is.

So, my completely logical conclusion is that it makes no sense whatsoever for Americans (OK, just the Doerr family) to eat three meals a day. Really, why three? Just feeding myself and my kids takes up most of my day and energy. If I'm not cooking a meal, I'm cleaning up the remnants of one. If I'm not doing either of these things, I'm probably working up a grocery list or on my way to the grocery store to buy food. When I look at my credit card bill at the end of the month, I just can't believe that Wal-Mart takes such a big bite out of our monthly income. I'm so over it!!

I'm not sure what I'm going to do about this issue, but I can say that something has to change. For one, I'm not exactly the skinniest person I know. So, I could probably knock off one meal a day and save myself some prep/clean-up time and get on down to my fighting weight. Further, I think I am going to establish a open/closed schedule for the kitchen to cut down on mess. Every time I look up, the kids are trying to get in the pantry for snacks (I say trying because I installed a child proof doorknob cover to keep the wee beasties out of there). Beyond that, I guess I will just have to come up with some new ideas and do some experiments to figure out what works for us. Actually, whatever I come up with really only needs to work for ME, unless of course someone else in this house wants to take over meal prep...