Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Fun with the Family

I took a few days off last week and met up with my mom, brother, and niece at Illinois Beach State Park. We're a camping family, but we don't camp because of a love of the great outdoors or anything like that. We camp because it's a whole lot cheaper than staying in a hotel! Over the years, we went lots of places, like Washington, D.C. and Key West, that we wouldn't have been able to afford any other way. We started out 45 years ago with a teeny little tent and air mattresses, cooking over a fire -- although just about the first "fancy" accessory we bought, after sleeping bags, was a propane camp stove.

Now Mom has a pop-up camper, with (almost) real beds. However, I'm afraid our little camper may have gotten a little bit of an inferiority complex from our neighbors!

Camping at Illinois Beach State Park

It was really chilly while we were there. The Lake Michigan beach was 2 minutes away, but we spent the hour there huddled up in our sweatshirts. One afternoon, instead of going to the beach, we visited the Jelly Belly Distribution Center, 20 minutes north, just over the state line in Wisconsin.

We were driven around on a little train and watched videos of the history of Jelly Bellies. And we all had to wear paper hats.

Jelly Belly tour

Of course, the tour ended in the the gift shop, where we stocked up on Belly Flops -- Jelly Bellies that aren't quite up to standard.

On the 4th of July, we drove into Chicago -- all the way down Sheridan Road, maybe not as fast -- sometimes -- as taking the Tri-State (where I was stopped for more than an hour on Friday by this accident) but a whole lot more interesting of a drive -- and went to Taste of Chicago. Because it was chilly and a little bit drizzly, it wasn't real crowded when we arrived.

Taste of Chicago 2009

I was thrilled to see a booth from one of my favorite Chicago restaurants, Star of Siam, so I had Pad Thai and potstickers. My brother and niece wandered off to find "real food," but Mom had Pad Thai with me.

Taste of Chicago 2009
I'm not sure Mom had ever had Thai food before, but she liked the Pad Thai!

After sampling a few more things (and I wish I could remember the day of the place where we got the yummy Chocolate Hazelnut gelato), we made our way to Navy Pier. Frankly, a rainy holiday is NOT the day to go to Navy Pier -- all the people who should be outside there are crowded indoors! But I do wish I had had more time to look at the stained glass on display.

Stained glass at Navy Pier
This window was overlooking the staircase in the house of a former mayor of Kankakee.

That night, we sought out the local fireworks in Zion, the town next to Illinois Beach. (Click that link about Zion - the town has a really interesting history!)

Fireworks 2009

Fireworks 2009

The next morning, we had a great -- and cheap! -- breakfast at Emily's Pancake House in Beach Park (there's one in Waukegan, too). If you're ever in the area, stop there for breakfast or lunch (they close at 3:00). Our waitress was as good as the food - when she heard that my niece had been excited to find a slice of kiwi in her side of fruit, she brought her a bowl of nothing but kiwi and cantaloupe!

And then we made our way home, where I found three kitties who had missed me -- even Vinnie wanted to be petted!

Next time: actual knitting content! (Guess what is finally finished?)


Steven said...

Hah! Love the "ooh!" and "aah!" pictures! I love the fact that there is such a thing as "belly flops," too. Sounds like you had a great time.

Chris said...

It looks (and sounds) like you had a great time! I, too, love the idea of "belly flops."

linda the sister said...

How fun! LOVE the picture of Mommy - next time you guys come visit we'll go to Thai Taste!

Maybe next summer when Felix and I come home we can take a similar trip. Camping in the camper is a lot better than camping in the tent...

I'm glad the kitties all missed you and all came out of their respective corners!

Anonymous said...

We have the same pop-up camper (or close enough)!