Chicago: The Epic Journey Part 2

Thanks for joining us on our Chicago adventure! If you missed Part 1 of the Epic Journey, you can find it here.

Part 2 begins with....

DAY 4

Sunday was wonderfully grey and overcast, but still balmy, so we decided to explore the Lincoln Park Zoo.

Among its many features is the fact that the zoo is free. Both Corey and I were struck by the level of accessibility in Chicago. The multitude of beautiful parks. The free zoo. Free!

So free that I didn't take any animal photos. Sometimes I just like experiencing a place and feel like the camera gets in the way. Besides, I might have been too busy yelling at both children and adults to stop banging on the animal enclosure glass. GAH. Why are people stupid? No one needs to see a pregnant person punching someone in the nuts. OR DO THEY.

Fortunately, these two help keep me from getting into actual physical altercations.

In the first few months after we had adopted S jr, Corey said that he often seemed like he was in on the joke. The cosmic joke that is life. I think this is true. It's one of the most delightful aspects of his self.

DAY 5

I had two goals for this day: try Giordano's, another deep dish Chicago favorite, and do a little shopping.

Giordano's was a bit more retro than Lou Malnati's. We were told that if we loved cheese, this was the place. I love cheese. Corey loves cheese. I'm fairly sure S jr will love cheese, as will bebe.

A few days before leaving I'd purchased the En Babies Shopping Cart and High Chair Cover, and we used it every time we ate out. It's one of the best things I've purchased for S jr. I love how it stuffs into it's own handled carrying bag, and that it's padded, waterproof, and protects from what are otherwise pretty germ-y surfaces. With a baby teething and chewing on everything, this is very helpful.

Plus it has inner pockets, loops, a clear plastic pocket for your iPhone...great design.

When in Giordano's....embrace the cheese. We got an order of fried mozzarella. Does this ever not taste good?

This is my I'm Eager To Eat Pizza Now face.

It takes a little time to make deep dish pizza, so I was glad we had the mozzarella to tide us over. Still, when more cheese arrived, we were ready. Corey's face - ha!

Close-up, glamour shot of the Chicago Classic with Pepperoni, Mushrooms, Green Peppers and Onions. And a ginormous amount of cheese.

This was a MEDIUM. Friends advised it would be plenty for two people. That's saying a lot, considering Corey and I can easily put away a large pizza. But deep dish is another beast entirely. I think I was able to eat two pieces, Corey three. By then, I was so full of root beer and food I was practically hallucinating.

I will say that at the end of a pregnancy, as everything inside gets pushed aside, you lose serious capacity to consume food. It's totally annoying, especially for someone who Loves to Eat. But I'm nothing if not determined, so I did my best.

Not to be outdone, S jr consumed literature. Thank you, Yvonne and Brian for this book! It's traveled all over with us, and it indestructible.

Happy at Giordano's!

I've always loved walking after a big meal, so the jaunt to do some shopping at Judy Maxwell Home was perfect. Located in Old Town, this wonderfully irreverent shop is owned by the brilliant and hilarious Joan Cusack. So you can imagine the kinds of fun and funny wares that stock its shelves.

We found some funny socks for C jr and some thank you gifts for neighbors taking care of Arlo and our plants and mail and such.

Given the vibe of the shop it seemed only fitting that Corey wear S jr as a hat.

Needing a rest, we headed back to the hotel, where S jr showed no signs of stopping.

He's crawling everywhere, pulling himself to standing, and curious about everything.

DAY 6

Corey worked today, so after we lolled in bed for awhile, I buckled S jr into the Babasling, we grabbed coffee and a blueberry muffin from the hotel breakfast bar, and headed to a nearby playground.

There were a bunch of kiddos out enjoying the sunny fall day, and everyone was patient with a little one who just wanted to grab on and not let go.

It's so much fun to watch S jr discover the world. Discover physics and how he affects things. I'd always heard that experiencing life through your kid's eyes made everything new and guess what – it's profoundly true. Simple experiments become incredible discoveries. I just love it.

Corey kicked ass in his final shoot day, and wrapped by early afternoon! His driver that morning mentioned Portillo's as a great place to try a classic Chicago hotdog, so we decided to grab lunch at one of their many locations.

Inside, this Portillo's is designed to look like an old-school, working-class Chicago neighborhood, complete with drying laundry and snoozing Grandma on the balcony.

We placed our order for food and then Corey got a beer at a different counter. They also had mai tais, which I found a little baffling.

Hotdog! I got the classic that comes with mustard, relish, celery salt, freshly chopped onions, sliced tomato and sport peppers on a steamed poppy seed bun. What is a Sport Pepper, you ask? Please to go here.

Corey got the Char-Grilled Maxwell Street Style Polish that came with mustard and grilled onions. We shared an order of fries and I had another root beer.

I have to say, given the amount of stuff on this hotdog, some of it a bit odd for my inexperienced brain, I wasn't sure how I'd feel about it. But wow – it was all really, really good. The tomato was the biggest surprise for me. Often, I don't even like tomato on a burger. But it worked. Maybe because there was no ketchup?

We came, we saw, we ate.

Then we ate frozen custard. Damn, that stuff's good.

Talk about needing to walk it off. So we cut down and over to Navy Pier, and soaked up some late afternoon sun.

Thanks to my fellow mama with a stroller who offered to take a photo of all of us!

Okay. So the last piece of the deep dish pie also goes undocumented. By the time we walked back to the hotel, I was in serious need of a bath to ease my aching legs, Corey was feeling the effects of many heavy foods over the course of many days, and S jr was just over it.

But still, I wanted to try Pizzeria Uno because it started in Chicago and my dear friend told me it had been her favorite growing up. We had walked past it after our Architectural Tour, and wondered if it was original. I've only known it as a chain, so wasn't sure if it was just housed in a Spaghetti Factory-style "old" building, or if it really had a history in the city. Turns out, it does!

However. None of us had any energy to go back out, so via good ol' Grubhub, I was able to get it delivered. I love food delivery. To me, it's proof of evolution.

So you'll just have to trust me when I say that we ordered a small (finally got smart about portion size) Numero Uno with sausage, pepperoni, onions, peppers, mushrooms, chunky tomato sauce, mozzarella and romano.

It was very good. The toppings were distributed more on the top, whereas with Lou Malnati's, the sauce on top was the main event, and with Giordano's, the cheese was in the spotlight.

But the verdict? Lou Malnati's wins. That crisp, butter crust was unique and for me, unbeatable.

Corey has dubbed deep dish the casserole of pizzas.

Tonight while walking home from the DTLA Whole Foods, we stopped at a new juice bar/healthy restaurant doing a soft opening for a couple more weeks, and Corey had a detox shot of something that included liquid charcoal. That's how profoundly our Chicago gastronomical experience affected him.

We're so stupidly L.A. sometimes. Heh.

We all LOVED our Chicago trip, though! I haven't been that impressed by a U.S. city in a long time. It was really inspiring to see the amount of thought and care dedicated to public space. And because weather veers into extremes, when it's nice out, people take full advantage.

Chicago was clean, well-designed, and full of free family activities. Thank you, wonderful city!