No, we are not auditioning for a new cable show on American Gypsies, but with as much traveling as we do we might as well. Last week we trekked halfway across the country to attend my brother’s wedding. I am quickly getting to the point in my life where, when I travel, I would like to stay in a place with a kitchen and access to the ability to make at least one meal per day for my family. Not because I love the extra work, or because my older kids love to wash dishes, but because it is a little less expensive and a great bacon, egg, and sausage breakfast/brunch can eliminate the blood sugar roller coaster swings that make family travel a little less fun.
That scenario wasn’t possible last week when we went to Chicago, because it was more important to find a reasonably priced room than to rent a condo with a kitchen. We stayed in the Hilton Suites a block away from the Magnificent Mile, and a half block away from the Water Tower shopping center. You’ll see later why this was a perfect location for our stay, despite being a tourist magnet.
Our trip began with a large homemade lunch of meatballs in Rao’s tomato sauce and sautéed squash from our veggie basket. Our flight was to depart at 4:40 local time, so we left the house at 12:40 to allow time for crazy LA traffic along the 75-mile route. We figured that we could get snacks at the airport, and had packed some mixed nuts (macadamias are key!) and berries for a snack. Our flight was nonstop to Chicago, and did not serve a hot meal, but there were sandwiches, salads, and a fruit and cheese plate available in flight. We knew we would be arriving too late to eat dinner in Chicago, but we did snack a little on board the plane and my husband had offered the older kids meals from the food court prior to boarding.
The next morning we awoke bright and early at 9:30 am. My husband used his coupons for a free continental breakfast at the Starbuck’s in the lobby to get coffee for us to share and pastries for the carbivores, our two older children. I had recalled from a trip five years earlier that the shopping center near our location had a superb food court and that we would be wise to check it out. I am so glad we did! Foodlife is the best mall food court I have ever been to! By the time we got to the breakfast counter, they were on the brink of changing over to lunch, so they were eager to dish up the last of their breakfast foods in generous portions. All three days I ordered the same thing to share with the CaveBaby: scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, and fruit. This was our primary fuel for the day’s activities, to include visiting the observatory of the Hancock building and a lot of swimming in the hotel pool.
After swimming, CaveBaby would be hungry for a pre-nap snack. We brought along Ella’s squeezies because they are so easy to transport and give him extra veggie servings when he is hungry; we supplemented with a banana to ensure his tummy would be full enough for an effective nap.
Our evenings were busy with rehearsals, weddings, and long restaurant dinners. Usually we don’t bring CaveBaby to restaurants because he doesn’t like to sit still for long periods of time – he prefers to be active. However, it was unavoidable for this trip. So we brought some extra squeezies and took turns holding/entertaining/feeding the little bugger and trying to get a few bites in ourselves along the way. It turns out that it wasn’t hard to do at all! My brother and his fiancée had also been eating on the paleo side prior to the wedding so it was possible to stay on the relatively straight and narrow during the rehearsal dinner (with salad and veal!) and wedding dinner (with ahi bites, lamb chops, and filet mignon!). The wedding dinner was delightful, and the servers there were excellent, especially when it came to bringing out beautifully arranged plates of cut-up fruit for the younger children at our table. CaveBaby loved the fruit, but he also loved the tomato soup and the filet! They offered him some mac and cheese and chicken nuggets, but we declined and fed him from our plates for the main course. He may have also had a bite or two of the burgundy sorbet – really, you couldn’t taste the wine at all, so it had to be a minor ingredient compared to the fruit and sugar. My biggest transgression of the night was a few bites of wedding cake – but it was worth it! I managed to skip the free-flowing alcohol entirely because I knew how miserable it would make me feel, not to mention how miserable it would make the rest of my family!
In all, it was easier than I thought it would be to stay at least 80/20 during our trip. The key was good, large breakfasts and great food selections by my brother and his lovely bride! I am now looking forward to our next family trip – a cross-country move later this summer. In the meantime, I hope to have some fun in the kitchen experimenting with some new recipes to share with you. Please be patient with me as I still have summer lacrosse and about a week of homeschooling to finish up!