Friday, November 19, 2010


One of the perks of Jon's job is that he has a few conferences a year that take place around the country. Sometimes I get to tag along. We've been to Miami, San Francisco, Austin, Las Vegas, and this year we went to Chicago. It had been a couple of years since I got to go along with him. I really didn't think I would be able to go, but Jon had a birthday surprise up his sleeve and worked it out with my parents. They would watch Jack while we were gone six (yes SIX!) days.

When Jon gave me the surprise, I was like "seriously?! do you think we can leave Jack for that long?" You see, Jack is so not like a normal child, what for six days, would still be a really long time away from mommy and daddy. No, Jack has stuff like meds and a feeding tube to deal with, on top of normal kid stuff. But thank God my mom is an R.N. and my dad was there to help out... we decided to go for it and I'm really thankful we did!

Chicago really is amazing. Things I noticed: Big city feel, mid-western kindness. Great, great food. A shopper's paradise (or maybe a Helena girl's paradise). Art. Culture. Incredible architecture.

I had to get a picture of the famous Chicago Theater to start off the pics of our trip

We spent the first 3 nights in downtown Chicago, right on the Magnificent Mile. Our hotel, the Allerton, was really great. Very reasonable for location and even though our room was on the small side (called a boutique-style hotel), it worked perfect for us.

We walked the whole Magnificent Mile. It was so beautiful out, with perfect temperatures. I don't do well in heat, so this was right up my alley, staying in the 50's.

Michigan Avenue (the Magnificent Mile) is home to the best shopping. Every single one of my favorite stores was along this strip. I spent quite a bit of time browsing my favs like Athropologie, H & M, Banana Republic, Zara, Gap, Forever 21, and many, many more. Living in Helena, we don't have many options when it comes to clothes, so I was super excited to shop! Jon, however, was not so excited and we spent an afternoon apart - him reading in a coffee shop and me shopping. We never, ever get to do this, so it was such a treat!

Here we are as happy campers

The food... oh the food! We did a lot of research on our options in Chicago. We didn't want to go all the way there, just to eat at chains we can find nearly anywhere. We knew we HAD to visit a Rick Bayless restaurant. His cuisine is Mexican. Not just any Mexican, but REAL, complex Mexican food.

We went to his restaurant Xoco (pronounced Choco) for lunch. It was seriously one of the best meals we've ever had. I can't even begin to describe the meal, it was so good, and actually very affordable. I will forever remember the churros and hot chocolate we had there for dessert. They actually roast and hand-grind the cacao beans on premises and add them to a mixture of water, chilies, and allspice. AMAZING.

Another truly spectacular meal we had was at Spiaggia, an Italian restaurant. We called the day of and got a reservation at 9pm (another perk of city life... what? Things don't shut down at 6pm? Ha ha! You have to live in Helena to get that joke). Anyway, this was really our splurge meal, the kind where you are so embarrassed, you don't want to tell anyone the cost. I can say this though - IT WAS WORTH IT! I don't have any pics from this night (pretty cheesy to whip out my camera in such a place), but I did grab a couple from the internet.

The Obamas on their way to their most favorite Chicago restaurant, Spiaggia.

Yay! We got someone to take our picture together! Here we are walking to the Art Institute of Chicago.

Beautiful fall colors

The Bean!

My favorite at the Institute of Art - American Gothic (farmer and daughter)

Jon's favorite - the religious sections of the 17th and 18th Century.

I felt so alive in Chicago

Another fun thing we got to do was decide for ourselves who has the best deep dish pizza in Chicago. Here I am at Gino's East.

Although we loved Gino's, we just couldn't get over Lou Malnati's buttery crust. It was so good. Worth the hour wait on a Friday night. Both of these restaurants deliver (actually ship) all the way to Montana! I told Jon we need to start a new tradition where we order some deep dish pizzas for Superbowl or something. Wouldn't that be fun? I am still a thin-crust, New York style pizza girl at heart, but it was really yummy to branch out.


After our 3 nights in the city, we made out way west of Chicago to the suburbs for Jon's conference. It was actually held at McDonald's headquarters (yes, the Chicken McNugget MickyD's) at a hotel right by Hamburger University... I am not making this up! It's the place where all managers go to train and it was really so beautiful, in a wooded, treelined area. I spent the first day there just chilling in the hotel room, reading a book and watching TV. It was so nice to relax! The next day I went to the largest outdoor mall in America, which was right up my alley and super close by. Then Jon and I met that night for dinner at Benihana (inside family joke).

The next day we flew home to our sweet boy who I think (really) forgot who we were. Lesson learned - 6 days is a tad bit too long. Yes, Jack warmed right up to me, but he really starred at me for a good few minutes, probably thinking "wait... where do I know you from?" I am so glad I had time with just Jon, though. He is about to start the busy season with his job and I have such awesome memories to look back on.

So to end this blog post, I wanted to reflect on what it's like to travel without Jack, just with my husband:


-Sleeping in
-Taking my time to get ready in the morning
-Eating out while not being rushed
-Feeding myself, and only myself
-Shopping while not being rushed
-Having dinner at 9pm
-Uninterrupted conversation
-A lot less to carry
-No schedule to follow


-Constantly thinking about Jack
-Compulsively looking at my cell phone to see if there was a missed call/text/whatever... even though I know I can hear/feel my phone go off.
-Waiting, waiting, waiting for that cute picture-text of the day.
-Begging for more pictures!
-Trying to decide how often to call a day (twice? more than that?)
-Enviously seeing other mommy's shopping with their little ones and going about the city.
-Having as much time in the world to talk about anything... and choosing to talk about Jack.
-An aching feeling that did not go away until I had him in my arms again.

Not thinking I want to travel anytime soon... at least for a few months, that is.
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Blalock said...

Hurray for Chicago! My second home. Evanston is where my Dad grew up. And I cannot tell you how happy I am you went to Malnati's!!! He's a friend of the family! Best pizza ever!

Brandi said...

What a great, great post! You guys look so happy! Sounds like you had a wonderful trip!!

Julie said...

Yay for Chicago! Looks like the perfect trip. I was laughing out loud about the Hamburger University. Glad you guys got some time together before the's totally off my radar this year. :) By the way, your parents (and especially your mom) are awesome!

katieoz said...

You are such a sweet momma. I'm glad you had the chance to have a fun adventure though!

Chet and Brianne said...

I loved the post! It sounds l like you both had such a good time on vacation together, seeing the city of Chicago. Chet and I were there this past spring and it is just such a fun city to visit! Such good food and amazing things to see. Glad that you are back with your little sweetheart now though! Hope you all are doing well.


Lindsay said...

Great post, Jessi! Thanks for sharing some pics from your trip. I'd love to go to Chicaho (I've only been in the airport, sadly). p.s. Instead of the Super Bowl, I think you should get pizza from Chicago each year for the Cat-Griz game. :)

Babs said...

Looks like a wonderful trip! Chuck and I are so excited to hear all about the FOOD! And, the splurge meal! We're dorks.

Emily Real said...

So fun, Jessi! I'm so glad you got to go with Jon! (I want a churro dipped in hot chocolate right about now! :) )