Thanksgiving break falls at the perfect time to save any hard-working student and full-time jobber from burn-out. However, it is decidedly too short. Nevertheless, B and I somehow managed to squeeze enough time out of last weekend to visit both our families, spending half of Thanksgiving break in Chicago and the other half in Westfield, Indiana, just outside of Indianapolis. What follows is a brief — well, as brief as I could make it, anyway — synopsis of our packed weekend.


Chicago, Illinois

Who we saw

Karen and Erik – my sis and bro-in-law who B and I visit ALL THE TIME

Ira and Lauren – my new brother and his significant other – two Stanford scholars who joined the party from California

Jan and Pat – two savvy Northern Minnesotans who raised me from a babe and who I never quite get to see as often as I would like

What we did

1. Enjoyed our first Karen-prepared supreme all-vegetarian Thanksgiving feast (all but the big bird – c’mon, folks, baby steps)

3. Ate a bounty of California farmer’s market produce fresh from fertile California and drank some special California wine – brought to us by Ira and Lauren

4. Played a couple of decisively competitive games – males against females, of course – for an approximate total of 10 hours:

A sloppy game of Celebrity — the males won this round

An ultra-sophisticated game of Taboo –– the females won this round

5. Perused the Christkindlemarket, Chicago — we drank spiced wine out of boots and got yelled at by the security guards for stepping on the cracks in the sidewalk

6. Visited a giant, frozen bean in Millennium Park

7. Participated in Black Friday at Macy’s downtown Chicago – the epitome of extravagant Christmas-time consumerism

8. Ate humongous burritos — bursting at the seams with the ooey-gooey goodness of fresh queso fresco and guacamole – from La Pasadita in Wicker Park

9. Realized that it’s a real drag to leave an awesome family after only a short 24 hours

What we brought back

1. A bag of yarn and knitting supplies from my mom and a beautiful, bright green and gold sweater she recently made just for me — so perfect!



Westfield, Indiana

Who we saw

Fred and Linda – two esteemed Indianans and B’s fantastic parents

Eric — B’s brother, King of Witticism

Kody and Kita – two hounds that supposedly protect the household from rabbits and other small rodents

What we did

1. Bargained with the pros at the Indianapolis Flea Market

2. Stuffed ourselves at Shalimar’s yummy Indian buffet in Broad Ripple

3. Paid a visit to Nostalgia at Brandon and Eric’s childhood haunt – The Board Room in Broad Ripple — and picked up a couple of games for the after-hours

4. Conquered the exhibition – Roman Art from the Louvre – at the Indiana Museum of Art

5. Ate a fantastic meal of Grilled Tofu and Roasted Red Pepper Pomegranate Sauce – prepared by Chef Linda

5. Learned two new games – Blockus and Kill Dr. Lucky – of which the latter Eric reigns supreme champion

7. Walked Kody and Kita and met the neighborhood Llamas – Ruffles, Sweatband and Friends

8. Said another goodbye to another super family and headed back to resume our neglected duties in East Lansing

What we brought back

1. Pre-Christmas Christmas gifts from B’s wonderfully thoughtful parents

For B – the Canon Power Shot A560 camera — a boon for our Guatemala trip

For me – A beautiful hand-made travel jewelry pouch and estate jewelry clip-on earrings

For B and me — a care package of Ghirardelli chocolate and a pre-packed carry-on travel kit stuffed with pharms and toiletries – everything we’ll need for our upcoming trip

2. A set of metal swan-shaped wall hooks that remind me of the Grimm’s Fairy Tales – fresh from the flea market – which are destined to live in my closet for several months until I find some use for them

3. Two dozen fresh cage-free and cruelty-free eggs from The Chicken People next door


It was certainly a Thanksgiving to remember – perhaps next year we will try to get those in charge of designating official holidays to extend it a bit.

… when you have a sister who’s a Harvard-graduated, Chicagoan lawyer. B and I celebrated my quarter-century birthday this weekend with Karen and Erik in Chicago. We ate and drank and talked and laughed and walked and looked for 24 straight hours. Our visit went a bit like this:

5:30 pm ~ B and I arrive after a quick trip. At least I thought it was quick – I had my nose in my school books, oblivious to B’s battle with traffic. Karen and Erik immediately introduce us to their new video game, Guitar Hero. I played once, was booed from the stage by my virtual fans and wouldn’t pick the guitar up again. B played once and wouldn’t put the guitar back down until it was time to leave the apartment.

7:00 pm ~ We proceed from Karen and Erik’s place to a shi-shi, windowless cocktail lounge, the Violet Hour, which is so pretentious it doesn’t even bother to put any signs outside, figuring its clientele will seek IT out. Which they do … as we did. It was superb, of course.

8:15 pm ~ After slurping down our drinky-drinks with the utmost snobbery, we headed over to our chosen dinner spot … the Café Absinthe. Yum. French cuisine. I believe B and I ate more fat in those two hours than we normally do in a month’s time. We decided to skip dessert and to exercise our swollen bellies and foggy wine-brains by heading down the street for … dessert and more drinks.

10:30 pm ~ Hot Chocolate is a haven for both chocoholics and alcoholics – as well as the rest of us residing along the spectrum. After a two-hour wait that turned into a two-minute wait (what luck!), we gorged on chocolate- embellished-chocolate, armed with snifters of cognac and sherry. AND, somehow my dessert came with a little extra “happy birthday” decoration …. Remarkably, after all we had consumed, we could still talk and laugh and walk, which we proceeded to do and headed back to Karen and Erik’s place to sleep it off.

10:00 am ~ In the morning, Karen made us all eat gourmet-style, home-cooked Eggs Benedict. After such an awesome breakfast – and lots of Erik’s strong black coffee – we were refreshed and primed to venture out again.

11:00 am ~ We made a beeline for the Museum of Contemporary Art’s exhibit, Sympathy for the Devil – Art and Rock and Roll Since 1967, which was an intense two hours’ worth of brain and eye candy for us art and music lovers. And, we had to play with all the cool Alessi gadgets in the museum shop on our way out.

1:30 pm ~ We next jumped in a cab for our last trip across the city, back to Bucktown, to peek into shop windows and grab some coffee. The decision to window shop was finalized only as I promised not to buy anything. Which was a weak attempt at protecting me – super-broke and vulnerable to temptation – from the trendy shops I love and can’t afford. After a harrowing taxi ride we narrowly escaped, we arrived in Bucktown near Karen and Erik’s neighborhood. I managed to weasel my way into a hip little boutique at the first opportunity and picked up a pair of arm-warmers for $20. So stealthy.

3:00 pm ~ Our very last stop was a spontaneous visit to my new favorite Chicago ‘anytime’ restaurant – Earwax. Mmm, num … right? Anyway, tons and tons of veggie-friendly (and delicious, duh!) stuff on the menu and even Lapsang Souchong tea – my favorite.

4:30 pm ~ So, after eating our last meal, we all trudged back to Karen and Erik’s place, B and I dragging our feet with tears streaming down our faces because we didn’t want to leave Chicago. But, I did have an exam on Monday, so it was necessary to hit the road, straight back to the junkyard we reluctantly call home.

All-in-all, a most fabulous 25th birthday. I suggest that if you want one like I had, you’ll have to get a sister like mine first – and good luck on that one.