Sunday, January 8, 2017

Christmas Season 2016

To start the Christmas Season off Josh and I went and saw Rogue One! EEK! It was amazing! I cried!

We then decorated our Charlie Brown Tree and prepared gifts for our family!

Look! It's Brodee! We got a few of Brodee's Kindergarden pictures from Sara just before Christmas. We framed a few of them and sent them out to the grandparents. Look how cute he is!

On Tuesday, December 20th, Josh and I had our own little Christmas in Marseilles. We opened presents, ate pigs in a blanket (Neilson family tradition), and watched The Muppet Christmas Carol (my tradition).

[And I ordered us stockings! Appropriate, right?!]

[Josh got me these LAA Jedi and Stormtrooper rally monkey's! Love them!]

The next morning, December 21st, we drove to Joilet so Josh could get one of his teeth pulled! He broke a tooth a few years ago and to prevent further damage (and infection) he had to get it pulled. What a trooper! While he was at the dentist I went to Target :-)

We then headed to the StubHub pickup in Chicago so we could pick up our HAMILTON tickets! EEK!

We then drove to our beautiful hotel on Michigan Ave where we unpacked, put on more clothes, and headed out into the city! We walked up the road and got a snack at Garrett Popcorn (best in the world!) before coming back to the hotel to get ready for dinner.

[View from our hotel]

We then took an Uber to Au Cheval where we split a huge burger and cheese fries (complete with fried egg).

After dinner we took another Uber to Sprinkles Cupcakes! We "split" a red velvet cupcake, a chocolate and vanilla cupcake and a dark chocolate cupcake.

We then walked all the way down Michigan Ave (through the Magnificent) to the Private Bank Theatre!



We waited outside for a few minutes before being let inside to find our seats. 

[So excited!] 

I've been wanting to see Hamilton for a while but I wasn't sure if Josh would like it. He's not really into musicals or history, but since he liked all of the historic sites we went to during our Epic East Coast Road Trip AND this wasn't a traditional musical, I figured we could give it a shot! AND he loved it! Seriously! I've seen a few Broadways in my time and this has got to be one of my favorites!

The next morning, December 22nd, we decided to go on a walk to Luke's Lobster to get some lobster rolls! We fell in love with lobster rolls while we were in New England and I heard these were the best around. And I'm happy to report that they lived up to our expectations!

After lunch we walked down the street to the Christkindlmarket. This outdoor, German-style market had EVERYTHING! Clocks, cheese, pretzels, hot cider, etc! The place was crazy busy so we grabbed a couple of hot ciders and some baked cheese before continuing our walk.

At 3:00 PM we walked to the Chicago Symphony Center to watch the Chicago Symphony Orchestra perform their Christmas show! Along with the Orchestra there was a children's choir and Ashley Brown performed! She is best known for playing Marry Poppins on Broadway! 

At the end of the show Santa came out along with the Cubs 2016 World Series Trophy! Everyone went crazy! We then all sang "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" before closing the show.

That night for dinner we jumped on the underground and headed north to Boka! YUM!

We started with the cold roasted carrots (with pistachio, vadouvan, dates, and smoked feta cheese),

then got the hot apple soup, 

and finished off the appetizers with this amazing truffle dish (pasta, white truffles, and parmesan)! HOLY CRAP! Mouth watering!

For our entrees I got the roasted lamb and Josh got the roasted chicken. Both meals were delicious!

We then ended our glorious meal by getting the hazelnut and coffee dessert and the black sesame and bittersweet chocolate dessert! YUM!

The next morning (December 23rd), we checked out of our hotel and went to Do-Rite Donuts to get some highly rated doughnuts.

We then left Chicago and made the long trek to Superior, Wisconsin. We got in late, checked into the hotel, and hit the hay!

On Christmas Eve we went to spend the day with Josh's dad, George, and his step-mom, Julie, who live in Minnesota. Julie and her mother made us a delicious turkey dinner (all the scratch) and then we all gathered around the TV to watch the Packers play :-)

On Christmas Day we called my family before heading over to Jessi and Ally's house to help them prepare the Christmas Day feast! While we were cooking I got a call from Luke and Andie who told me they are having a BOY! Eek! Another nephew!

While Ally cooked the rest of us decorated cookies!

[Our beautiful chef, Ally]

["Christmas tree" (cheese, tomatoes, broccoli, and cauliflower) and "Holiday Wreath" (grapes, blueberries, and strawberries)]

[Kennedy, Jessi, Shorty, and Josh decorating cookies!]

[Josh got REALLY into it]

[Uncle Shorty brought his VR and we all had a good laugh watching everyone take a turn]

[Cassidy, Alex, Grandpa, and Grandma]

After an amazing dinner (thanks Ally for doing all the work!) we had dessert and then drove home on two inches of ICE (gotta love those Christmas Day Ice Storms!)!

We spent the rest of the week hanging out with the family! 

I didn't see my family for Christmas this year but here is the gift we got my dad:

Aren't they perfect?!

Before closing this post I wanted to acknowledge that my favorite Disney Princess passed away on December 27th. Carrie Fisher was such an amazing woman and she will be missed.

I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! I have a feeling 2017 will be a great year for us! First Trip: Orlando!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Epic Fall Road Trip - Part XVI: Tennessee, Ohio and Home

Friday, November 25th:

After leaving Oak Alley Plantation, Louisiana we headed north through Mississippi and ended for the night in Memphis, Tennessee.

We checked into the hotel and then walked down to The Peabody Hotel to get something sweet from their Deli, but it was closed for the night. We then walked to Charlie Vergos' Rendezvous to get some BBQ.

[The Peabody Hotel]

[The Peabody]

At the restaurant Josh ordered a full slab of ribs with their famous dry rub and I got a pulled chicken sandwich. OMG! It was all delicious!

[Charlie Vergos' Rendezvous]

[Josh LOVED the ribs]

Saturday, November 26th:

Do you know who the "Peabody Ducks" are? Let me tell you! Back in the 1930s the General Manager of the hotel, Frank Schutt, thought it would be amusing to leave three of his live decoy ducks in the hotel fountain one night. When we awoke the next morning he found that not only the guest liked it but the hotel staff did too! So everyday at 11:00 AM the "Duckmaster" rolls out the red carpet, the five ducks enter the elevator from their penthouse suite, come down the elevator to the lobby, and then run along the red carpet to the fountain. They spend all day at the fountain and then at 5:00 PM the whole ceremony is done in reverse!

I really wanted to see the Peabody Ducks so at 9:30 AM we left our hotel, walked to The Peabody, got some sweets from the Deli, and then found some prime spots on the second floor to watch the Ducks.

At 10:30 AM the Duckmaster came out and told the story of the ducks and rolled out the red carpet.

At 11:00 AM the elevator opened and the five ducks RAN down the carpet to the fountain! It was over in 8 seconds! It was hilarious!

[Running full speed]

After they got into the fountain everyone clapped and the crowed dispersed.

We then left The Peabody Hotel and started our scenic walk around town. Our first stop was the Elvis Statue.

Next, we went to Gus's Fried Chicken for lunch.

I got the two piece white chicken with mac n cheese and slaw and Josh got the three piece white chicken with beans and slaw. Wow! Another amazing find! The chicken is fried in peanut oil and it is done perfectly! We will be back!

Next, we walked to the Rock n Soul Museum and went on the audio tour through the exhibits.

Then we walked across the street to the Gibson Guitar Factory. All the tours for the day were sold out so we just walked around the store and looked for Josh's next guitar.

We then walked down Beale Street to the famous Sun Studio where Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley and other greats from rock and roll and country recorded some of their hits.

We then walked back to The Peabody Hotel to get some more sweets and have a drink with the Ducks.

We then walked back to our hotel where we got ready to go out for the night. First, we caught an Uber to the Central BBQ.

We got a homemade chips appetizer and Josh got a full slab of ribs (half dry rub, half with sauce) and I got a pulled BBQ chicken sandwich with slaw! Dang! Everything was AMAZING!

We then walked to Beale Street to see if there was some live music. Of course there was! There was live music at almost every venue along the street.

Due to high cover charges and the fact that you can smoke in bars in Memphis (YUCK!), we decided to bail on Beale Street and go back to the hotel (I know, total party poopers).

Sunday, November 27th:

We slept in, checked out of the hotel, and went back to Gus's Fried Chicken for an early lunch (see, told you we'd be back!). I just can't get over how great the food is!

We then drove east to Nashville. Before we got into the city we stopped and got doughnuts at Five Daughters Bakery (recommended to us by Tiersha). These doughnuts are HUGE! They are tall, fluffy, and full of yummy fillings!

After enjoying a few sweets we drove into Nashville and found our hotel. From there we walked to the Capitol Building and then to 2nd Street. 

[Nissan Stadium - where the Titans play]

We then walked to the George Jones Museum and went to the rooftop bar to have a few drinks (thanks Dad for the recommendation).

[Pano from the rooftop bar]

We then left the bar and headed towards Broadway to see all the honky-tonks!

As we were walking down the street we walked pass this group of guys and one of them looked at Josh and yelled, "Everyone! Give it up for the man with the beard!" *Cheering and clapping from his group of friends* Seriously guys, I have a trophy husband.

We then went to Margaritaville to get some nachos and a few drinks before continuing our stroll down Broadway.

[View of Broadway from our hotel room]

Monday, November 28th:

We checked out of our hotel and drove to the Grand Ole Opry where we went on a "Backstage Tour."

To be honest, I'm not a huge country music fan but this tour was actually pretty awesome. We were able to go backstage to see all the dressing rooms, the mail boxes, and we even got to go on stage!

After we finished our tour we drove to my parents house in Cincinnati, Ohio. We stayed there for a couple of days, ate left over Thanksgiving food, played with our nephews, gave my mom back her SUV (after getting another oil changed), and then we took our truck home.

[Home Sweet Home]

After being on the road for 40 days, driving 7592 miles, seeing 26 states (plus DC), listening to five Harry Potter books, staying in 18 hotels (plus staying with Tiersha and Josh in Atlanta), I can't believe we are finally home!

We had some amazing food (lobster and clam chowder in New England; pizza pie and cheesecake in New York; Philly cheesesteaks in Philly; crabcakes in Maryland; biscuits and gravy with fried chicken in Atlanta; French beignets, gumbo, fried alligator, po' boys, and jambalaya in New Orleans; and fried chicken and ribs in Memphis), saw some of the most beautiful places in the United States (Niagara Falls, New England in the Fall, Acadia National Park, and the Blue Mountains), experienced so many great cities (Boston, New York, DC, and New Orleans) and had a great time! I don't know about you, but spending 40 days on the road with one person can be hard, but we had so much fun and everything went to smoothly that we are already planning our next adventure!

Thanks everyone for following us on our Epic Fall Road Trip!