Before heading out on our trip we let the kids open their Christmas gifts from us. A knitted sweater for Theo and a kitty dress for Meadow (I fixed the straps for her) both made by me.
I wanna a sweater.
I wanna a sweater.
Scott got them new compact sleeping bags.
We all got smaller sleeping bags this year and we'll now have a lot more room in our car.
This year we had talked about hosting my family at the cottage. Then meeting up in Milwaukee, then meeting in Chicago. But in the end we made stops in Chicago and Lowell this Christmas.
We left on a Sunday which was nice to have a few days to prepare.
On the way down to Chicago we stopped at our favorite roadside restaurant, Foster Cheese Haus.
We had plans to break up our drives so we didn't have to rush like we normally do.
We had made it just before the cheese haus was set to close for the winter. Just not enough folks stop here in winter and snowmobile season is becoming shorter and shorter this far south in Wisconsin.
We decided a week or so before heading out on our holiday trip to spend the first night in the Dells. We found a too cheap to be good room at the Mount Olympus resort. The good part was that we got into their indoor waterpark for free.
Mount Olympus has bought up all the old motels on the waterpark drag. Sadly they updated them pretty poorly. But the kids had a blast at the waterpark. Theo loved going through the water falls and down the mini water slide.
After swimming for a few hours we were getting hungry.
Macs is a Wisconsin-only restaurant chain that's akin to Noodles, but only mac and cheeses. You know Meadow was game, especially with hot dog mac and cheese as an option.
Oh yea, the day before Meadow got her haircut. She also requested getting her hair colored. She wanted to dye her whole head, but I settled for half. She was all set to get red hair then changed her mind last minute to pink.
After driving through downtown and the deserted areas I would actually like to come back here when things are open. I haven't ridden the ducks since high school.
I would probably not go back to Mount Olympus. They bought out a good chunk of the ma and pa motels and cheaply remodeled them. The mural sold us on our not so great room. When we arrived the headboard was part of the mural...we just had to shake our heads.
The room consisted of two beds, a desk and a nightstand. The main hallway looked like it hadn't been vacuumed in weeks and we could hear all our neighbors. I have to say it was the worst place we've stayed yet.
At least the kids liked it.
Then we were back on the road.
Meadow requested Dunkin Donuts when she saw the sign near our hotel. Turns out our niece Marina named her pet rabbit Dunkin Donut. Ha.
That's the only reason Meadow had ever heard of the chain. She didn't know it was a donut shop.
Our next stop was my brother's place in Chicago. We texted him to see if it was worth 30 extra minutes to stop at the O&H Bakery along I-94 for kringle. He emphatically approved of this and requested three kringles.
Since Wisconsin Dells the snow disappeared. It was a balmy 50 degrees when we arrived in Chicago.
Colin took us all over to Fiore's Delicatessen around the corner for lunch.
It was half connivence store half Italian market. We'd eat here all the time if we had one close to us.
The kids were excited for their juices. Theo, Brooke and I all ate Colin's choice of hot subs, but Meadow stuck to Sun Chips. Boring.
Meadow had her hair up from swimming the night before. When we took it down it was pretty wild.
As promised we went across the street to play on the playground after lunch.
Colin gave Theo his Packer hat. The neighbors were really excited when they saw him.
The day was still young so we decided to walk over to Goose Island brewery.
Halfway to Goose Island we realized their taproom wasn't open on Monday's
This area is actually full of brewery's so we tried some others.
We stumbled upon this bridge that went nowhere.
It turns out it used to be a part of an abandoned L line.
It turns out it used to be a part of an abandoned L line.
Once we saw that Goose Island was indeed closed we went to On Tour Brewing a few blocks away.
Theo got his apple juice in a little glass. Too bad he broke it a few minutes later.
I have to mention that the a beer called Nash. It was a graham cracker porter. Graham Nash. Get it.
We left Meadow with Colin and checked into our hotel downtown quick.
Back at their place, Jen was home from work. Meadow had been asking me questions about Hanukkah all week.
Aunt Jen shared the lighting of the menorah with us.
We popped the cork from Brooke's grandparents 40 year old wine. It turns out this blend is traditional for Christmas time.
Actually the bottle was from 1985 which would make it 34.
I rounded up.
Meadow wasn't quite sure what it was about, but Jen explained Hanukkah to her. I think she also doesn't understand what Christmas is all about.
We ordered in some Chinese while watching the Packers game.
We each ordered our own thing, but ended up eating family style.
It's Chinese food. Only Brooke orders something for herself alone from a Chinese place.
Colin had a few toys for the kids to play with. They went a little crazy after awhile.
They chased the little car around the room.
The next morning we enjoyed our not too bad hotel breakfast.
After breakfast, Meadow and I took the bus over to my brother's house while Theo napped.
Theo watched for them outside our window.
I see them.
I pointed out all the cool buildings around Colin's hood.
Meadow had the option to go ice skating downtown or play football with Uncle Colin.
She chose football with her uncle. She must've been feeling Packers fever after the big win.
After a bit of throwing around Meadow impressed us with her passing skills. That's a big football for a little girl.
Meadow also showed off her touchdown celebration.
Theo hadn't had a chance to nap the last couple days so he slept forever. I had to eventually wake him up. We then took the bus over to meet up with everyone.
I was excited to see Colin had set out some appetizers when I arrived.
Canned seafood is one of Colin and Jen's holiday traditions.
At school one of the kids in Meadow's class brought everyone a dreidel. She really wanted to play so luckily Jen taught us how.
Theo crashed our game.
Then moved on to legos.
Instead of some boring Christmas food Colin settled on pizzas for dinner.
He got a pizza attachment for his kettle grill similar to the one at the cottage. His technique was very different than mine, but resulted in something straight out of a Neapolitan pizza joint.
It was good. You can't ever go wrong with pizza.
Colin and Jen had gotten gifts for the kids.
They each got their own plate/bowl/utensil kit for camping.
After presents we made some homemade egg nog and promptly drank it.
To get in the holiday spirit we put on Nick Offerman Yule Log.
Oh you know, just taking a nap on some books.
We ate desserts and played the rest of the night.
The next morning it was time to head to our next destination.
Three or so hours later we were in Lowell, Michigan. Before we could even say hello to the rest of my family, Simone had already given Meadow one of her presents.
She had gotten a DC Super Hero Girls Wonder Woman Doll. Simone had just gotten a SuperGirl and wanted to play together.
Katrina had already had all the food prepped.
Between helping my sister, I played with Theo and the Wrobleski's stash of Duplos.
My sis made classics for dinner. The highlight was from scratch green bean casserole. The funny part was that my mom loved it even though I have a memory of my sister or brother making it years ago. Only, that time my mom didn't like it. Ha.
It was almost 60 degrees outside so after dinner I took the kids outside to play.
Cameron is a Lego master. He had built multiple Lego creations since he woke up Christmas morning.
Then Theo got to open his present. A Cars drag race track.
Meadow also got a knitting loom to make the scarf from Frozen 2.
We got Simone and Cameron more Legos.
We got my mom some Apple gift cards to use on iTunes. Hopefully she can figure that out.
We were super excited for my sister's peppermint Oreo cheesecake.
She did an awesome job making all the food plus desserts.
The cheesecake was as good as it looked.
When you're tired, but want to keep playing.
The kids all slept together in the tv/play room while we took Simone's room.
We got both Simone and Cameron Lego sets. They had them going when we woke up.
I loved these ornaments on their tree.
I may have built a time machine with their Duplo set. We ended taking this home for Theo and Meadow. Their cousins are too mature for Duplos I guess. They are Lego masters after all.
It was unseasonably warm. 60s the day after Christmas.
This unseasonably warm weather really threw me off. Was it October?
When Dennis suggested we go to a nearby playground, he hadn't mentioned the sweet bridge that was next door.
The kids had even more fun playing on the bridge and in the forest.
Our car badly needed a bath. We stopped at the car wash before heading back.
When my sis got back from work we went to a brewery in downtown Lowell.
While packing up the next morning I found this picture that Simone made.
We would've liked to have stayed longer, but we had to get to the third leg of our trip: Northwoods NYE.
We stopped for lunch in Cadillac, Michigan and headed up the mitten towards the U.P.
We took a detour up the Lake Michigan shore just northeast of Traverse City for the first time in our lives.
Meadow played games which resulted in this picture of Santa.
We continued up to the hometown of Sufjan Stevens, Petoskey. (I guess he lived in Detroit until he was 9. Having been to Brooklyn too, we've completed the Sufjan tour.)
Brooke had driven from Cadillac to Petoskey. I took over just before we got to the Mackinac Bridge. I think she made even more nervous than the last time we drove across.
It was windy today, driving across this high bridge gave me anxiety. Scott did great.
We had booked a night at the Bear Cove Inn in St. Ignace the day before after reading good reviews.
I didn't realize we were getting our own little cabin.
It was a great as advertised. Made up for the cruddy hotel in the Dells.
It came with massaging recliners and bear stuffed animals.
Google had every restaurant in town open, but only three or so were actually open. We settled on Big Boy.
I did't realize this city shuts down in the winter. It was similar to the Dells.
I hadn't been to Big Boy since I was a kid. I was expecting to be disappointed.
They had a friday fish buffet, but I settled on the all-you-can-eat spaghetti. Our waitress never came back, so this was it. My favorite part was the squished burger bun-garlic bread.
All in all the food wasn't that bad.
Part Deux: Northwoods NYE.
Part Deux: Northwoods NYE.