Since May, this past weekend has been blocked off on the calendar as the “Girls Weekend” in which my mom was going to bring my two nieces, my two girlfriends from high school Tonya and Lisa, and Tonya’s daughter Olivia, to the city. We were going to get a hotel suite downtown, go the Concert in the Park series in Millennium Park, have dinner somewhere in the Loop, Sunday morning brunch, then cap the weekend off with a matinee show of the traveling version of the Broadway production of Beauty and the Beast.
The only part of that plan that ended up happening was Beauty and the Beast, but I managed to have a jam-packed weekend anyway.
We waited until after the tickets for the play were purchased before looking into hotel rooms, not realizing at the time that it was the same weekend as Lollapalooza. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean I was going to Lollapalooza, although I would have LOVED to have seen Foo Fighters. But, what it did mean is that every hotel room from here to Milwaukee was booked solid. Soooo….our girl’s weekend turned into a girl’s afternoon. But, it meant I got to do other things I would have otherwise missed, including a Saturday morning run on the lakefront.
Lisa, the other redhead in our running group TRAAG (two redheads and a Greek) wanted to get in at least eight miles as part of our training for a half marathon we plan to do at the end of the month. Lucky for us, the extremely hot temps we, along with much of the rest of the country, have endured over the past couple weeks, gave us a break. But we had planned to start early just in case. I rolled my sleepy butt out of bed at 5am to be downtown by 6.
The run started out cloudy but those clouds soon brought rain. It’s been quite a while since I’ve run in the rain but it was quite refreshing. Running in dripping wet clothes once the rain stopped was not as much fun, but we soldiered on and ended up doing about nine miles, with a few walking breaks in the last mile or so after my left knee started tweaking.
With about 900 calories burned, we decided to reward ourselves by contributing to the farmer’s market in Printer’s Row. The fruit was beautiful, some of the best I’ve seen all summer. Couldn’t tell you how it tasted though, but the homemade scones and blueberry pie were delicious! 🙂 We decided after that run, we had earned the right to eat scones and pie for breakfast, so we grabbed a fork and some coffee and enjoyed our breakfast al fresco in the Printer’s Row park.
Saturday afternoon, Brian and I enjoyed another treasured summertime Chicago tradition – the neighborhood block party. The party wasn’t on our block — we’ve never had a block party on our street, although we do have a block party committee, aka The excuse Brian and a few guys in the neighborhood use when they want to get together and watch hockey or football, depending on the time of the year, and drink beer.
This party was in the Portage Park neighborhood at friends Larry and Eva’s house. We figured out that we have been attending every year, pretty much from the beginning, nine years ago. It’s become a tradition, held the first weekend of August ever year. They really know how to throw a block party up there. It seems to get bigger and better each year.
We missed the petting zoo and the fire truck tours, but we made it for the baggo tournament, the bouncy house, the kids triathlon, the chili cook-off, the raffle and the band. They also had a homemade fountain and splash pond in the middle of the street with water cannons on each end. Oh, to be a kid again!
It was a great afternoon/evening and I even walked away with a gift certificate won in the raffle to the Purple Pig, a restaurant/wine bar I’ve been wanting to try. I’m already looking forward to seeing what they come up with for next year, the 10th anniversary, when they plan to take it up a notch, according to Eva. I full expect a big top with a three-ring circus.
The main event of the weekend, Beauty and the Beast, was a spectacular way to end a great weekend. Mom and the rest of the girls rode the train in from Indiana. I met them at the station and we walked to the nearest Corner Bakery to have a bite to eat before heading to the beautiful Oriental Theatre. I don’t have any pictures of the inside of the theater itself. They forbid photography of any kind, even when the performers are not on stage. It’s a rule that’s strongly enforced.
I don’t know the history of the theater, other than the fact it opened as a movie theater palace in the late 1920s. But an usher we spoke to said the no photography rule dated back to the theater’s earliest years when the man who built it wanted people to experience it in person and not in pictures. I agree it’s something to experience in person as that’s the only way you can really appreciate the intricate details. But it would have been nice to have pictures. They do allow pictures in the lobby though, and you can get a sense for the ornateness of the building’s design from your first peek at the lobby walking in.
After the show we went to Pizano’s, another restaurant I’ve been wanting to try. I think I may have found a new favorite place for pizza in Chicago, believe it or not. I was surprised to learn the restaurant was launched by the son of the guy behind Pizzeria Uno. I was never a big fan of Pizzeria Uno, but I know since it expanded outside of Chicago, it’s the only experience some people from outside Chicago have ever had with “Chicago-style pizza” which generally means stuffed pizza.
I’m a bad Chicagoan and actually prefer thin crust pizza. And I know you either love or hate pizza crust made with cornmeal, so it’s not for everyone, but I happen to love it. And this was among the best I’ve ever tasted in Chicago or elsewhere. The crust also has these delicious caramelized edges. For what it’s worth, Oprah calls it her favorite thin crust pizza, or at least that’s what Pizano’s would like you to believe. Regardless of Oprah’s endorsement, I will definitely return there.
By 8pm Sunday evening, I was home with the dogs, in my pajamas and on the couch. Brian had left for a business trip so I had complete control of the TV remote and was able to catch up on all my guilty pleasure DVR’d shows. So, it wasn’t the girls weekend we had initially planned, but it was a quintessential Chicago summertime weekend that was perfectly lovely.