If you’ve never had a Chicago-style hot dog, you’re really missing out!
What makes a Chicago dog so special? It’s an all-beef hot dog topped with mustard, white onions, a pickle spear, sliced tomatoes, sport peppers, neon relish, and celery salt (in other words, you “drag it through the garden”), and served on a poppy seed bun (which are hard to find around here, so I had to settle for plain old hot dog buns this time). The most important step? Never, ever put ketchup on your hot dog! I’m not a huge fan of regular hot dogs, but there’s something really fantastic about the flavors of the Chicago dog…I’m very thankful I can usually find most of the ingredients locally!
I have to admit, as much as I love this time of year, I’ve kind of been dreading the holidays. Most of what we would normally do (or I had planned special for Turkey’s and Bunny’s senior year of high school), has either been cancelled or just isn’t doable in the midst of a global pandemic. Thanks COVID-19. But there are some new and different things that we’re doing to make some unique memories this year, and one of them arrived yesterday.
Like so many other things, the Christkindlmarket in Chicago has been cancelled. Now, we weren’t planning on going to Chicago this year at Christmastime, but knowing it (and Belleville’s Christmas market), had been cancelled bummed me out. So when I heard that they were going to offer some special boxes for a “Home for the Holidays” celebration, I thought I should check it out.
I chose to get the “A Few of Our Favorite Things” box. The main attraction, in my opinion, was two Christkindlmarket mugs (and a packet of glühwein spices), but there were other goodies in the box including a candle that smells just like Christmas and a bonus box of European chocolates.
Now, this won’t replace our favorite Christmas activities, and it represents something we hadn’t even had on the schedule for this year. But I feel good about supporting one of my favorite Chicago Christmas attractions, and it’s something fun that will make a special memory in a very strange year!
I’m sure we’re all missing things from our old “normal” lives…here’s a look at the top five things I’m missing, and for once, it’s exactly five items, and I didn’t even have to think to come up with them!
Church/Choir–This one was a no-brainer. I am thankful for our online church services, because we can still hear the Word, but it’s just not the same. I also really miss hearing my family sing in their various choirs at church, even though I am not musically gifted myself.
Extended Family/Friends–Another no-brainer is missing visiting family and close friends or having them visit us. Again, I’m thankful for other ways to communicate, like phone, text, or video chats, but it’s still not the same. We’ve already missed out on so many opportunities to gather that should have been on the calendar, and that’s just sad.
Chicago–I really missed our annual Memorial Day Weekend trip to Chicagoland. I missed it so much, I even created a virtual vacation. Not getting to see the skyline, and especially Lake Michigan, was really hard for me, and even though I enjoyed looking back through photos from previous trips, once again, it’s just not the same.
The Missouri Botanical Garden–I guess this is the number one St. Louis area location I’m missing. Normally, we go to the Garden at least once a month, and in the springtime, it can be more like once a week. Besides missing walking around the Garden and seeing all of the beautiful flowers in bloom, I’m also sad that I had to abandon my yearly photo project.
Wandering Around Target for No Reason at All–This is a silly one, but still a big deal to me. I really miss just impulsively stopping at Target and looking for absolutely nothing in particular. There have been some weeks (including one right before COVID-19 became a big deal), where I have literally stopped at Target five days of the week. Even if I don’t come out with anything, there’s something fun about shopping there, but I haven’t stepped in a Target for over two months!
Here we are, already at the end of our virtual vacation. After packing up the car, we had one more stop planned before we hit the road…a tour of Wrigley Field! (Pardon the blurry photo…it’s a picture of a not great picture I took in college!)
After visiting the Friendly Confines, we would have made our way to Rainbow Cone to enjoy the ice cream treat they’re famous for:
I love driving through the Beverly neighborhood of Chicago…there are so many cool vintage signs!
The final stop of our Memorial Day Weekend trip is always a meal at Portillo’s, where I get the Italian beef, dipped, of course!
And then home sweet home…no matter how much fun we’ve had, it’s always nice to pull into our driveway (and begin the process of doing all of our vacation laundry!).
The second day of our trip north for Combo Breaker was going to be A Big Day…it was the day we were going to to hop on the Metra and go into Chicago for a day of fun!
I had a lot of things planned…first we were going to take a water taxi to Navy Pier and ride the Centennial Wheel. After riding The Wheel at St. Louis Union Station last October, we were very excited about the idea of seeing the Chicago skyline from a similar vantage point.
We also planned on visiting The Bean, something we’ve done every time we’ve attended Combo Breaker (even the one year that we missed having our downtown day), and I’m sure we would have fed some pigeons, too, because that’s something we always seem to do.
I had hoped to stop by the Starbucks Reserve Roastery, and maybe the American Girl flagship store (although I’m still not sure how I would have convinced the boys to go along with that!). And of course we would have stopped at the former Marshall Field’s to pick up a box of Frango Mints (thankfully, I was able to order some!), before heading back to the Ogilvie Transportation Center to catch a train back to Schaumburg!
We were planning on going to Kuma’s Corner for burgers one night, and I think after a day of walking around downtown Chicago, we would have really appreciated that meal and a chance to relax. The “Lair of the Minotaur” burger, with caramelized onion, pancetta, bourbon poached pear, and brie looked especially good to me, but I was also looking forward to seeing the special.
After dinner, it would have been time to check out all that Combo Breaker 2020 had to offer. We love walking around the event the first day, and just taking everything in, from the vendors’ area to the main stage to casuals, and everything else! You never know what you’re going to see!
We always stop by the Gaming Generations booth to buy whatever catches our eye. The children were really disappointed about missing out on that opportunity this year, so they were really excited when Gaming Gen opened an online store, and they were able to order the plushes they were hoping to find at the event!
After that, we probably would have just headed back to our hotel room to relax and watch the Food Network, because our Chicago day is always exhausting. Sometimes, if we have the energy, we do go for a swim to relax, though, so that was always a possibility!
Continuing “virtual vacation” week with a special Tasty Tuesday…Portillo’s at home!
It’s not news that I love Portillo’s and a big part of any trip we take to Chicago includes stopping at Portillo’s on the way home. I already shared my special Mother’s Day dinner of the Portillo’s Italian beef and sausage combo, but let’s take a closer look, while I dream about visiting Chicago from the comfort of my home.
Their shipping via UPS was excellent and speedy (and is included in the price, which I think is beyond reasonable!), and when I received my order the ice packs were still frozen solid. The dinner for eight kit includes two containers of beef gravy, two packages of Portillo’s amazing Italian beef, an eight-pack of Italian sausages, a jar of hot giardiniera, a bag of roasted sweet peppers, and eight Turano French bread rolls. There are also detailed reheating instructions, and a PAPER HAT!
The reheating process was pretty easy, and didn’t take long at all, and when it was all said and done, I had a Portillo’s Italian beef (dipped, of course), that tasted almost like being in the restaurant. Sorry there’s no picture of the Italian sausage, or even better, the full combo…I’m really just here for the beef, but I heard from many reputable sources in my house that the sausage was good!
I would definitely do this again, especially if the time before we get to go back to Chicago stretches out too long. There was way more meat than we could put in eight sandwiches, so we were able to stretch the leftovers out for a whole other dinner. The only downside was that we didn’t have enough of the amazing rolls left for everybody to have one the second time around. That’s a minor detail, though, and I think the value of what we received for the price we paid ($99.95 plus tax shipped) was exceptional! I’m glad we could have a little taste of Chicago at home!!!
This is the week every year where we usually go to Chicago for Combo Breaker. I’ll be starting a day-by-day “virtual getaway” series later this week, but for now, here’s a look at the virtual vacation I’ll be taking on Instagram for seven days…these are some of my favorite photos that I’ve taken in Chicago over the years!
Where would you like to go to on a virtual (or actual) vacation?
We were supposed to go to Chicago later this week. Since we obviously can’t do that, I’m thinking back to our trip last May, with a picture from the Sears Tower’s Skydeck Ledge, and a quote from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off:
“Anything is peaceful from one thousand, three hundred and fifty-three feet.”