Non-Surprise Party for Larry - October 3rd

Larry turned 50 on September 29th and after celebrating 10 years of bliss with my wonderful hubbie, I KNOW he doesn’t like surprises. I’m a surprise kind of gal, but you just can’t push a surprisephobe. So for Larry’s 50th I needed to go straight to the source and get the lowdown on what he wanted. First thing was “no surprise party.” I of course took this very seriously because, again I know my sweetie – wouldn’t want him foaming at the mouth or passing out if I sprung a party on him. So the birthday boy wanted to go out to dinner with no fanfare etc.

Well even though I had the above parameters to work with, I did manage to sneak in a surprise.

Larry knew we were going to dinner with Mom and Dad V. and Brett and Carol at Enzo and Lucia Ristorante ( in Long Grove. We had been to this yummy Italian place before with Mom and Dad and this was Larry’s pick – I of course wasn’t going to object because I love this place.

So we met everyone there and had a wonderful evening – great food, wine and company - this seems to be a consistent trend with us. :)

The surprise was the cake. Larry actually isn’t much of a sweets guy, but you can’t have a big birthday and not have a cake – so he would just have to deal with it!

One of Larry’s favorite things is Rolling Rock Beer, so when I went to this great bakery in Algonquin ( ), I had them decorate the cake with a graphic of the Rolling Rock bottle – turned out great don’t you think? What I didn’t tell Larry until later, and I think he would actually say that what I did was “sacrilegious”, I needed a Rolling Rock bottle as a template for the bakery, and since I don’t drink beer and needed to act quickly since he was home at the time, I poured out the contents of the bottle – wasteful I know, but I was desperate!

So even though Larry hates surprises, I think he was pleasantly surprised that he enjoyed the non-surprise party.

Ladies' Night Out - October 2nd

On Friday, I met some friends for a Ladies’ Night Out at El Tapatio (in Roscoe Village) for my friend Linda’s birthday. It’s always great to get together with my friends Linda and Gini – we’ve been pretty good about getting our schedules together for a meet-up, and to add a dinner party to the mix is always fun. The added bonus for this evening was that I got to see old friends from my days at AMTA – Cheryl and Susan.

Needless to say, it was a great group of chatty women: Linda, Gini, Susan, Cheryl and Amy, Molly and Carol (Gini and Linda’s friends). And to top it off we had the pleasure of “christening” Gini’s daughter Olivia to a girl’s night out experience – she had a blast and kept up!

Great conversation, food and drink and I managed to make it home within an hour – pretty good for suburb-bound on a Friday night!

Ladies – this was so much fun – hope we can do another night out again soon!

Milwaukee - September 13th

On Sunday we awoke to another fantastic sunny day. We walked to breakfast (found another diner - can't remember the name, bu it was grea) and then walked "home" along the lake.

On the way back to IL, we stopped at the Milwaukee Public Market ( - similar to Pike Street Market in Seattle, but on a smaller scale. This was our second time here - it's just great to walk around and check out all the vendors - everthing is fresh and organic - again, wish we had something like this year round in our area.

The other great thing about the Public Market is it's location - in the historic Third Ward ( - lots of artsy shops, restaurants and lofts - great area to check out if you visit downtown Milwaukee.

It was a great weekend and very relaxing - looking forward to our next trip back to Sheboygan.

Hanging Out in the Loo, Pedis & Trattoria Stefano - September 12th

OK, I wasn’t really hanging out in the bathroom all day, but on this day I must admit I was lurking a tad bit longer than one normally does...and it was actually for art’s sake!

As I began writing this post, it occurred to me all the names we use to describe the loo: powder room, restroom, lavatory, toilet, water many names for just one room!

Before we planned our trip to Sheboygan, Mom V. was saying that she read in a magazine that in Sheboygan, at the art museum, was apparently the best bathroom in the country because it was outfitted by the Kohler Company (you know, Kohler, the bathroom geniuses who manufacturer all the fabulous, but expensive bathroom accessories), headquartered in nearby Kohler, WI.

I remember Larry and I made a trip a few year’s ago to Kohler’s Design Center and I specifically went to their museum’s restroom to check out this bathroom that Mom was talking about, not realizing that I was reviewing the wrong WC which is actually at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan. I actually remember standing in the room thinking “what’s so great about this? It’s got stalls, a sink and grey tile! Do I not have any design sense where I am completely missing the minimalist design wonder in front of me????” My bad.

Before I get into the specifics of me hanging out in the restroom, I should begin with the start of the day...

It was nice that we were able to sleep in and leisurely get ready for breakfast and to top it off we awoke to a beautiful sunny day, which lately in the Chicago area had been missing. We had heard about this local breakfast joint, Yumes, which was written up on (a great review site) and also raved about by several Sheboygan locals we had been talking to the night before.

We had a full day ahead of us: breakfast together, then Larry and Dad were going to golf and Mom and I were going to check out the aforementioned fantastic bathroom and then go for a mini-spa treatment with pedis (my idea of heaven!).

So we went to Yumes, initially thinking it was right up our alley in terms of greasy spoon with fabulous food. We even had high hopes as we were walking in because two people leaving said “best breakfast place in the city!”

I guess, my review would be just “OK.” The food was fine and the server was very nice, but the food was just OK. My big gripe was that usually with a greasy spoon, it’s good and cheap. This was OK and everything was ala carte – hash browns and toast was extra – which really ticked me off know...that should be included! OK maybe I’m just testy right now because I’m hungry...but really, sheesh!

So we ate and the “boys” dropped us off at the art museum. The museum was just beautiful – it actually had the Kohler family’s original house incorporated into the museum structure – a lovely brick mansion with beautiful details that just aren’t used any more in construction – which in my opinion is a pity.

So, right away Mom and I wanted the scoop on the fantastic bathroom, the suspense was killing us. And to our surprise...there just wasn’t 1 bathroom...there were 6! And actually the 6th was off limits for viewing, but with the heavy persuasion of the Vassallo women, we were able to talk are way into seeing all of them.

To explain in a nutshell, the Kohler Company commissioned artists to design the 6 bathrooms of the museum. And I actually can say that the art in the bathrooms was equal to the art on the walls in the museum – it truly was incredible! The craftsmanship of each room was just amazing – after you see the pictures below, you can see why we were hanging out and taking pictures I might add!

The funny thing was that visitors were able to peek in the 5 rooms, regardless of whether you were male or female, which I suspect might be a bit precarious if you actually needed to use the facilities.

Suffice it to say, we were in awe and after seeing these water closet wonders, Larry and my bathrooms appear to be somewhat underwhelming in comparison...maybe I should write to Kohler and ask to participate in the bathroom design program!

The rest of the day continued to be fabulous. Mom and I went to Jomaji Salon & Spa ( for our pedis and a last minute haircut for Mom. I must say that this place rocked! Great spa and staff and phenomenal prices. Mom’s haircut was just $20 bucks, something which I almost messed up because my jaw dropped when I heard the price (because it was so inexpensive – I pay $45) and I actually said aloud (much to Mom’s dismay) “Really? $20 bucks? Is that a mistake?” Not my brightest moment that weekend. Yes, it was that price and I was just stunned.

The pedis were fabulous and very relaxing and we walked away with great looking toes and a chic new hairstyle; we’re already planning a return trip next time were in town.

Our dinner local was already planned out way in advance: Trattoria Stefano (522 S 8th St, Sheboygan, WI 53081. Phone: 920-452-8455) – hands down one of the best Italian restaurants I have ever been to and that saying a lot since I’ve been to a ton of Italian restaurants! We actually stumbled upon it on our first trip to Sheboyga, but never actually ate their, just heard great things about it.

I wouldn’t be overstating that if you are in the general area of Sheboygan and even if you are not, you need to go here. The owners, Stefano and Whitney Viglietti actually have 4 restaurants in Sheboygan: Trattoria Stefano (dressy and a bit on the pricey side, but beyond worth it), Il Ritrovo (casual - great pizza place) Field to Fork (casual organic restaurant and market) and The Duke of Devon (an English Pub). And if you are feeling hungry the beautiful thing is that 3 of the 4 are located right next to each other/across the street in downtown Sheboygan (The Duke of Devon is located down on the water front).

Now back to Trattoria Stefano. :) The atmosphere is cozy and the service is fantastic. I think Larry and Mom had trout, Dad had lamb and I had linguini with clams. Add to that yummy appetizers, a fabulous bottle of wine, great dessert and we were all giddy, literally! Actually Mom and I, lightweights that we are, were really giddy!

Needless to say, by the time we got back to the condo, there were no Dominoes for us...I think I immediately crawled into bed and dreamt about my yummy meal. Why oh why can’t we have a restaurant like this in Crystal Lake or even in the general Chicago area!!! It’s just not fair.

Seriously though, if you can go to this restaurant, you would not be disappointed – make the trek north and you will be one satisfied customer with a smile on your face and a full belly.

Cedarburg – September 11th

For awhile now, Larry, Mom and Dad V. and I have been planning a weekend away to Sheboygan, WI. Well, we finally got our acts together, set a date and booked a weekend in Sheboygan – the brat (as in bratwurst, not the ornery kid kind) capital of the world to anyone not up on brat history. :)

Mom and Dad came early and despite the threat of a tire that was losing air, we headed out to breakfast at the Cubby Hole in Richmond – a great little breakfast/lunch joint if you are ever in the area.

The plan for Friday was to head to Cedarburg, WI (a great little quaint town North of Milwaukee) so Larry and Dad would plan 9 holes of golf and Mom and I could window shop (read: shop).
So the ladies were dropped off on the main street, credit cards in hand, and we were on our way.

It was so nice for Mom and me to just walk, go to the farmer's market, check out the stores, browse and chat. It was a beautiful day and it didn’t even matter if we found anything to buy, we were just having fun.

So we actually just went in and out of the shops and stopped for lunch at this great little sandwich shop right next to the river. Lunch was pretty tasty and it was nice to just bask outside in the sunlight. Our "entertainment" during lunch was this awfully bold chipmunk, who literally came within an inch of me begging for food. Me being a giant next to him, I probably shouldn’t have been intimidated, but boy was he fast – I was a bit paranoid throughout lunch, because I was just waiting for him to walk up my leg or something!

After lunch we went to one of my favorite places in Cedarburg, the Downtown Dough (, which is this fabulous specialty shop that has all the cookie cutters, bakery supplies etc. you could imagine. They also have frozen cookie, bread and pizza dough that you can buy. So we stocked up on some cookie cutters and sprinkles and were just in awe at the choices of cookie cutters. If you can’t make it to Cedarburg, check out their website, they ship nationwide.

One thing that we didn’t do this trip, but I wanted to plug, is a place that Larry and I have dined at before: Morton’s Wisconsin Inn (N56 W6339 Center Street, Cedarburg, WI 53012. Phone: 262-377-4779). This is truly a wonderful local Wisconsin tavern/supper club – large portions and really reasonable prices. I was in heaven when I had their petite filet, with sautéed mushrooms and garlic mashed potatoes – yum! I’m actually getting hungry as I write this!

We met up with Larry and Dad around 3:00pm – they had a great time and Larry informed us that Dad completely trounced him at golf!

We worked our way up to Sheboygan to check into the condo we rented for the weekend. It was in a fantastic location, right by Lake Michigan and directly on the canal that leads out to the lake - you can watch the fishing boats go by etc. Although, note to self for next time, we failed to realize that when we booked the place we were facing a parking lot and not a nice view of the canal. We technically had a "lake view", but the Blue Harbor Resort was directly in front of the condo, so really all we were able to see was a nice sea of black top and a big white hotel!

The condo building itself was nice, but I will say they chintzed out on the decor - circa 1980 even though a new building.

When we went to dinner we were able to walk along the canal and watch to boats come in for the night - it looked so much like a New England fishing town, the Vassallo part of the party was in heaven.

Dinner was at the Mucky Duck ( love the name! - which is this cozy restaurant right on the water - located in one of the old fishing shanties. It was Friday Night Fish Fry - can't go wrong with that!

We were hoping to play Dominoes when we got back to the condo, but we were all wiped and went to bed. Somehow our Fridays always tend to end early because we pack so much in during the day.