Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008

Jon and I spent Thanksgiving in the Chicago area visiting family. Jon's brother lives is Des Plaines with his wife and their son. It was almost 7 years since our last visit and for many of those years we'd been wanting to go back for another Thanksgiving (if for no other reason then Jon's brother is the turkey MASTER, making the best turkey I've ever had). The family moved there after college and has remained there ever since. In fact, of all the Parks offspring, they are the only ones that have lived in the same area of the country since getting married. (Meanwhile, we have not lived in one city for more than seven years. Having a home now should alter that and allow us to really settle into our community for a long time. )


It was a very relaxing vacation. I know for many of you visiting your relatives never seems like much of a vacation (more like a chore), but we had a great time. Our entire trip involved a series of delights - shopping, eating delicious food and sleeping, repeated again and again over a span of 4 days. There was a little cooking dabbled in there on everyone's part (I made Turkey with a thyme infused reduction over waffles for dinner one night using the Thanksgiving turkey leftovers and it seemed to go over well) and some recreational activity (movie watching- go see Bolt, it's amazing!) also. At one point Jon was carted off to help a friend/neighbor install an ice skating rink. I'm guessing he is one of the favorite dad's among the kids in the neighborhood. Who ever heard of having your own personal ice rink as a kid? Very cool.


As for the eating, we sampled Chicago deep dish pizza as well as some famous Chicago dogs. The hot dogs were so good I was left craving them even after we returned to Virginia. As a special treat, my sister-in-law planned an outing for her and I to the Terragusto Café in Chicago. It's a cozy Italian restaurant that's leans to the casual in terms of décor in contrast to the upscale menu choices. We enjoyed the Chef's tasting menu, which gave us a taste of several dishes from the café's menu (which changes monthly). I shouldn't just say "a taste" as the portions were extremely generous. My favorites were the tagliatelle alla bolognese tartufato (classic thin ribbon pasta in a creamy four meat tomato sauce, parmigiano-reggiano & a touch of white truffle) and the capellacci di zucca alla modena ("pope's hats" stuffed with roasted fall squashes & parmigiano in a sage-brown butter sauce with amaretti crumbles). Next time you pass through the Chicago area, you'll definitely want to stop for dinner at Terragusto. (the address is : 1851 W. Addison St. Chicago, IL 60613)


Other noteworthy highlights of the vacation included another demonstration of my propensity to injure myself (I slipped and fell on a staircase which left me whimpering and slow to walk the next few days), a new trip idea (antiquing in New England late this spring with my sister-in-law), and lots of quality time with our nephew.


The only unhappy incident related to our trip was the nightmare of getting home via plane out of O'Hare. Much to our surprise, we found out the night before we were scheduled to return that our flight had been cancelled and USAirways/United and stuck us in the system on a flight from NYC to SFO as a placeholder since all ORD to WAS flights were booked full. It took 3+ frustrating hours on the phone with USAirways and United to find a flight back to WAS leaving on Mon Dec 1st, as we had originally planned. And those three hours involved pleading, sweet-talking, snappy acronyms, long periods on hold, hang-ups, and eventually crying. Next day we went to the airport to catch our flight (we were being routed from ORD to an airport in South Carolina and then on to IAD) and found it was delayed. As we waited, the airline kept pushing back our flight again and again and again. Originally scheduled to leave at 1:55pm, we did not get out of ORD until 4:30pm. We were pretty frustrated as we knew our flight out of South Carolina was the last one of the day meaning we'd probably have to spend the night in SoCar. Luckily, the flight from there was ALSO delayed (originally supposed to leave t 6:30pm but didn't get off the ground until 10pm) so we were able to get home. I am *never* flying USAirways or United again though. The last time I flew with them was about 4 years ago and it was to get to a conference in NY that began on a Friday. They delayed our flight so long I missed the entire first evening of the conference. And no compensation was offered. Worst. Airline. Ever.


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