The Magic Of Mackinac Island and Mission Point Resort

Living in the suburbs of Chicago for a couple of decades now, common conversation with friends and colleagues often focuses around  family road trips to various Midwest destinations– Mackinac Island being the first and foremost…with an abundance of oohs, ahhhs and starry-eyed stories of this dreamy far-off Michigan land. When I dared mention that I had yet to experience Mackinac Island, looks of disbelief, disgust and dismay abounded. How was this possible?  To be honest, Mackinac has been on my bucket list for many, many years now, but life just didn’t allow me to find my way to this charming storybook location …until this glorious June week.

Now that I have seen the Mackinac light, I am furious at myself for robbing  my family (and myself) of one of the most beautiful destinations in the United States, if not the entire world. But we cannot live in the past; I am profoundly elated that we made this trip, for it has positively impacted our lives forever.

IMG_9425

Read more

Door County, Wisconsin in the Spring

After visiting Door County, Wisconsin last Fall, we felt it only fair to experience this picturesque area of the American Midwest during the season of renewal.  We were a bit skeptical about our return, since our fall visit was utterly surreal, but Door County certainly does not disappoint whether you prefer a kaleidoscope of autumn leaves or a rainbow of tulips dappling each picturesque town.

IMG_8620

Read more

Embassy Suites Chicago–Two Thumbs Down

Brooke and I have never written a poor hotel review, as we have honestly loved all the places we’ve stayed and have never had any significant negative experiences.  That is until now.

Last weekend, Brooke and I headed into Chicago for our Spring Staycation weekend.  We knew we wanted to bike along the lakefront and visit Navy Pier so we decided to stay at the Embassy Suites on Columbus.  Turns out the location is the only positive aspect of this hotel, and we really tried to remain as positive as possible.  However, here are five reasons we will never stay here again:

  1.  Safety–  The hotel is designed with clear glass walls about three feet high.  If you are on a high floor, as we were, there is a serious risk of falling over.  At first we thought the glass was floor to ceiling and actually leaned forward to take pictures of the street down below.  Brooke realized we were not protected and we immediately jumped back in shock. The couple next to us did not realize this either and were terrified.  The entire perimeter of the atrium is a safety hazard.  I would never recommend bringing young children here–it was scary enough for us.

2.       Outdated Rooms-Upon entering our room, our smiles became as grey as the  decor.  The carpet had to be from 1972. Everything was drab and lifeless. We took no photos because there was nothing appealing to take pictures of.

3. Arachnophobia–If you have a fear of spiders, do not stay here.  I woke up around 5:00 am to try to catch the sunrise from the partial lake view (had an upgrade to a lake view and can’t imagine what the non upgrade would have been).  Still in bed, I leaned over to put my glasses on and looked out the window. There dangling from a massive web was a giant black spider. At first I thought it has to be outside of the window. Wrong!  It was right there on the inside, and it wasn’t your typical daddy long legged fellow. This was a spider with one of those giant bulbous bodies. There was no way I was going to go near this, so watching the sunrise was out of the question. I sat up in bed thinking, this can’t really get any worse–until I saw the second spider.

4.  Breakfast–We were excited about the breakfast because we knew there were two options: a made to order station and a buffet.  There’s nothing like custom made omelettes so I had my heart set on the made to order station–until we arrived and realized 50 other people had the same idea. So buffet it was.  On a positive note, there was a lot of food–pastries, pancakes, hash browns, bacon and scrambled eggs.  However, the eggs were colder than the frigid air conditioning blowing down upon us.  The temperature had to have been intentional to get people to scarf down their food, get out and lessen the enormous line.

5. The Pool– Brooke was looking forward to a relaxing late night swim at the pool so we headed down around 9pm thinking we’d have the pool basically to ourselves.  Upon entering our eyes spied at least 50 screaming kids splashing and flailing violently! It was like Marco Polo on steroids! Where the heck were all of the parents? Did they just drop their children off at the pool and head out for a night on the town?  With the horrible herd of unsupervised children, we did a quick 180 and headed back to our room.

Despite the disappointment of The Embassy Suites, we still had an amazing time in Chicago.  Spring is the ideal time to visit the city. The energy of people finally emerging from winter hibernation, the abundance of tulips blooming and the warmth of the May sunshine on your face makes a weekend in the city a wonderful experience.  Just make sure to conduct thorough research because where you stay really does make or break the experience.

IMG_3314IMG_3319IMG_3321

 

Mother-Daughter Milwaukee Weekend

1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8…Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated!  (Millennials, ask your parents.) I showed Brooke an episode of Laverne and Shirley before we headed out on our mother-daughter Milwaukee weekend.  And yes, I made her reenact the opening right out on the street in public.  Considering I was taking her to a Miranda Sings concert, it was more than a fair exchange.

IMG_2896

 

Milwaukee is such an easy weekend getaway from our Chicago suburb of Naperville…just under a two hour drive.  Packing for a weekend is so simple: one wheelie suitcase (of course from Baggallini) with two outfits for each of us, bathing suits for the pool and spa, pjs, and loads of textbooks so Brooke could get her homework done in between  the concert and sightseeing–let’s not discuss whether that happened or not.

Brooke’s backpack was filled to the brim with makeup for the Miranda Sings concert at the Riverside Theatre. I’ve never seen more red lipstick in my life!  I had no expectation for the concert and it was actually so funny. Colleen Ballinger is super talented, although not appropriate for children under 15 in my opinion.

 

IMG_6029red

IMG_6042redred

IMG_2951

IMG_5924makeup

A lot of prep for a 60 minute concert!

 

Where we stayed:  

If you visit Milwaukee, I can’t imagine you’d want to stay anywhere other than The Pfister Hotel.  If you don’t know it’s history, it’s fascinating.

IMG_2885

Known as  the “Jewel of Milwaukee,” the first thing you’ll be swept away by is the ornate Romanesque Revival architecture. Built in 1893, it truly felt like we time traveled.  The opulence of staircases, chandeliers, muraled ceilings and marble accents will make you instantly feel like royalty. The Pfister Hotel has the largest collection of Victorian art in America.  The pool, spa, suites and lounge areas all get 5/5 ratings in our book. The only disappointment was the restaurant, Mason Street Grill.  It was honestly the worst Halibut I’ve ever had and Brooke’s flatbread pizza had the soggiest crust.  We were greatly disappointed but the beauty of the hotel and the city definitely made up for it.

IMG_6003pfister

IMG_2876IMG_2902IMG_5988

IMG_5922room.jpg

IMG_2973 window

What we did for two days in Milwaukee:

Knowing basically nothing about Milwaukee, we were excited to explore the city.Here’s what we learned just by meeting people, asking questions and a bit of research:

Milwaukee is a German settlement and the influential Captain Fredrick Pabst’s name is everywhere. He was a German-American brewer who purchased the Pabst Theatre in 1890. Milwaukee is divided by the Milwaukee River. The east sits along the Milwaukee Bay which spills into Lake Michigan.  The buildings here are full of character.  City Hall could probably be mistaken for Big Ben and the Federal Building looks like a European castle.  The west side of Milwaukee seems more suburban and is home to Marquette University–now on Brooke’s college radar. Along the lake is the Museum of Art.  It looks like a ship or perhaps a whale.  Either way, it’s a work of art in itself!

IMG_6004art3IMG_6005art2

IMG_2906IMG_2907IMG_2899IMG_2911IMG_2913

IMG_2893

 

Although we were surprised not to find any breweries, there’s definitely not a lack of churches in Milwaukee.  There almost seems to be a church on every block and the architecture is magnificent.  Again…European teleportation.

1200px-Gesu_Church_Milwaukeetumblr_o61pz8t69x1rh805no1_1280

 

Overall, we’ve decided that we’d “walk” all over Milkwaukee anytime!  What an architecture gem!

IMG_6035riverIMG_2886streetbIMG_2892onstreet - Copy

Have you ever visited Milwaukee?  We will definitely return…maybe for a college visit!

 

 

Baggallini-We’ve Finally Found a Winner–The Perfect Luggage for our Travels

As you may well know, Brooke and I travel a lot…just about every other weekend, school breaks and pretty much the entire summer. What you may not know is that we have literally gone through seven carry-on pieces of luggage, bags and backpacks in the past two years.   No matter how short or long our trips may be, our goal is to solely have carry-ons; we truly despise waiting for eternity at the baggage claim carousels. In fact, we layer up what we wear to the airport, so we can bring as many clothes as possible and simply walk off of the plane to begin our adventures.

But from broken zippers, cracked wheels, and damaged handles, the bags just haven’t endured.  Here are out latest victims:  May we introduce busted handle and broken zipper:((

IMG_6068ugly1

Read more

Our Yearly Mother-Daughter Chicago Weekend at Conrad Chicago

This weekend we celebrated our yearly Mother-Daughter winter tradition of spending a girl’s weekend in Chicago!  We hopped on the train after school on Friday and were in the city by 5pm.  Upon arrival at the Conrad Chicago Hotel, we were given our key to our 17th floor suite.  As I opened the door, my eyes almost popped out of my head.  Across the room were birthday balloons, flowers and treats. I was in shock!

IMG_4516

Read more

Christmas Day At Paradise Beach in Cozumel, Mexico

Hi All. It’s Brooke!

Over winter break, we took a Central American Cruise on Carnival Magic. Our first port  happened to be Cozumel on Christmas Day.  Choosing an excursion, we didn’t want to do something super crazy because we wanted to keep the entire family together and make it as stress free as possible, so we decided on spending the day at Paradise Beach.

35

Read more