Shops and Stores

This weekend was just absolutely gorgeous. The weather was perfect. On Sunday we decided to go apple picking. Based on what some people in the neighborhood had recommended, we decided to try Homestead Orchard (11802 Charles Rd., Woodstock, IL 60098  815-338-7443) in Woodstock, Illinois. It was a nice little place, not at all commercial. The apples were fairly picked over (next year we probably need to go earlier), but we managed to fill two peck bags full. Max definitely LOVES his apples. I’ve already made one batch of applesauce out of the new apples (I keep a bunch of this on hand since he loves it). I just need to buy one of those crank apple peelers or else my thumb is going to fall off.

Mmmm, apples!

Mmmm, apples!

Beautiful day for apple picking

Beautiful day for apple picking

Max in an apple tree

Max in an apple tree

We also stopped off in downtown Woodstock to check it out. It’s a cute place with a nice little historic square and park. We found my book (!) at a nice little bookshop called Read Between the Lynes (129 Van Buren St. Woodstock, IL 815-206-5967). They had a nice selection of books and a great dog. I signed my book while I was there (they had just one copy, but she said it had been selling, so that’s awesome!). Under the “it’s a small world” category, she’s a friend of Jackie, who lives here in Prairie Crossing and had owned Under the Sycamore Tree, that lovely bookshop that closed. 😦

We also stopped and had lunch at La Petite Creperie (115 N. Johnson Street Woodstock, IL 60098 815.337.0765), which was also great. We had some of their Sunday Brunch dishes (yummy french toast for me and steak and egg benedict for Tony…and a mushed up banana for Max). They have lots of event dinners with great themes, so we’ll definitely have to go back. Tony’s thinking maybe for his birthday. Too bad it isn’t a little closer! But it’s a nice drive.

La Petite Creperie

La Petite Creperie


This is going to be kind of a wide-ranging, catching-up kind of post.

The Peacock Fine Indian Cuisine, 700 N. Milwaukee Avenue, Vernon Hills, IL 60061 (847) 816-3100

We had to pick up something out in Vernon Hills yesterday night so we decided to try this little Indian place in the same shopping center. Interestingly, I looked up reviews of it just now while searching for a website for it (apparently, there isn’t one) and they are pretty much divided between people who LOVED it and people who HATED it. The people who hated it either hated the food or the service.

Well. Honestly, our experience there was really good. The service was friendly and attentive (so attentive, in fact, that when I asked him if he could recommend a place for dosas he told me to just call him ahead of time and he would make me one anytime I wanted), the food was good and seemed authentic (based on our experiences at other Indian restaurants around the country) and was served hot and in a timely manner. Tony had Rogan Josh and I had Muga Makhani (butter chicken…probably the most heart-clogging thing you can get at an Indian restaurant, but also one of my favorites…I used to get it all the time at a place in Clearwater). So I would definitely recommend it. The sauces were definitely dead on and had a nice spice level to them (i.e. they didn’t dumb it down for the pale folks).

They also have a lunch buffet, though I have no idea how that is. I’m always a little leery of buffets, so maybe that’s where the bad experiences mentioned in online reviews came from. No idea. The dinner was a little bit on the pricey side, but not heavily so. I’d recommend it. Oh, and a plus was that at least 3 Indian groups came in to dine or get take out while we were there. That’s usually a good sign.

In other news…

Station Village at Prairie Crossing is starting to look pretty dismal. First the bookstore, Under the Sycamore Tree, closed due to health issues of the owner. Then the Prairie Croissant Cafe closed because they felt they couldn’t be true to their upscale organic coffee/cafe vision in these economic times. And now the Affinity Boutique is closing so that the owner can concentrate on her more profitable wholesale jewelry business. So that’s three stores in as many months. Gone. All for different reasons, but the end result is the same. I’m very sad about it. I was going to the cafe at least once a week and I made sure to order all my books from the bookstore. Heck, all the clothes I’ve bought myself lately (which, admittedly, aren’t a huge amount what with the baby and everything) have been from either Affinity or Little Skye. I’ll keep on supporting the stores that are there and hoping that new ones come in to replace the old ones.

And lastly…

I have a cousin in California who is gay and he emailed everyone in the family today about the upcoming election. He’s a lovely guy (and knitted Max an awesome little sweater) and he has been with his partner for 10 years. Two of the nicest guys you can imagine. They finally have the right to marry in the state but that right is in jeopardy because of Proposition 8. If you live in California and are able to vote, I ask you to please consider voting No on Proposition 8 in November.

I definitely don’t want to get into a discussion about right or wrong or morality or any of that (for the most part, I think people feel the way they feel on this issue and nothing I say here will change that)…I will just say that, to me, it’s about the people and it *is* personal (and it *should* be…we’re all people and we all experience love and hate and all the things in between). And I know my cousin. He’s a great guy. He loves his partner. They’ve been together for more years than many straight couples I know (and get along better than a lot of them too). He deserves the right to declare his commitment and love.

I’ll get off of my soap box now. Next post…back to our normally scheduled Max attacks!

Since the weather has turned nice (it might get up to 80 today! Ack!), Max and I have been taking some walks to the shops at Station Square here in Prairie Crossing. Some new shops have opened up and there have been some changes in some of the old ones, so here’s a quick overview of what’s old & new…

Under the Sycamore Tree, the cool bookshop, is still going strong and is as awesome as ever. I’ll hopefully be doing a book signing with them once my book is out. They do also carry a small selection of books for adults…Max and I recently bought Daddy a copy of In Defense of Food, which he really likes.

Little Skye has re-focused a bit and is now caring more maternity / nursing mom stuff, including some really nice nursing tops; I’ve gotten two…I especially like the “boob wear” (I swear, that’s what it is really called). As always, they’ve got really cool stuff for babies and kids. Once Max gets a bit older, we’ll have to check out their alternative diaper stuff (cloth, the G diapers, etc.)

The Prairie Croissant Cafe has made some changes for the better and just one for the worse. They’ve added new menu items (though, man, they only do the crepes on weekends…I’m bummed…I was so going to get one today), some little artsy stuff for sale, organic creamery products (good yogurt), re-organized so that the kid stuff is one one side, and seem much better organized (like getting the food and drinks out faster). All that’s great. And I’ve lately seen at least one person working on a laptop whenever I’m there, as it has also quieted down a bit (or I’m going at non-mom-group times). The only bad change is that they’ve cut their hours quite a bit and I’ve gone by a bunch of times and they’ve been closed. Hopefully that was just a winter issue and now that Spring has sprung they’ll expand their hours again.

The Affinity Boutique is also just as cool as ever. Every time I go in I want to get a ton of stuff. I need to be somewhat cautious with clothes still though…I’ve lost the baby-weight (so I can’t blame Max anymore), but I’ve still got some pounds to go before I’m happy (like that post-cruise weight). So anything I get now needs to work later when I (hopefully) lose more weight. I did find a really cool dress today that I’ll have to give Tony a hint about for Mother’s Day…

Ten Thousand Villages is also the same, with a nice selection of crafts from all over the world and friendly staff. They are always getting new things in.

Prairie Arts & Fibers (960 Harris RoadGrayslake, IL 60030, 847-543-5255 ) is brand new and owned by Linda Keating, who lives in the neighborhood. I could easily get into lots of trouble at this shop, since she carries bunches of great yarn, as well as the work of local artists (the photos from the storm chaser lady are really cool) and even some really nice handmade furniture. I’m also going to be making some soap for her to carry. Oh, and they do open knitting sessions and knitting classes too.

Prairie Sunshine Yoga Studio (960 Harris Rd. Grayslake, IL, (847) 223-0601) is also new. I haven’t actually been in there yet, though I hope to make use of their services soon (they just added a masseuse and are having a May special on massages). They also have Mommy & Baby classes that I’d like to try, though I might need to wait until Max is just a wee bit older.

That’s about it, though the annual Earthwild Gardens plant sale will be this coming weekend. They don’t have a permanent store, just a tent that they set up for special events. Nice plants and nice people.

There’s a whole bunch of places we’ve been to recently that we haven’t had time to write up because, well, about 8 lbs. of ever-hungry boy. I’m probably missing some of them, but here’s what I can remember…

Elly’s Pancake House
435 Townline RdMundelein, IL 60060 (847) 837-8100

This is another one of the ubiquitous pancake houses that dot the landscape around here, albeit a really good one. Everything was perfect — the eggs (scrambled, with cheese all nicely melted), bacon (crisp), pancakes (fluffy), syrup (warmed), juice (fresh). Nice fast service too. Definitely a good diner / breakfast location. There’s a lot of these types of places but this one I would definitely go back to.

Hillside Restaurant
804 Barron Blvd Grayslake, IL 60030

This is another diner-style restaurant. Tony actually wound up stopping here the day Max was born, to catch dinner on the way home (GIANT pork chops). We’ve also gone there once for breakfast/brunch. The portions are large and the service is pretty decent. The food is good, standard diner fare.

515 N. Milwaukee, Libertyville, IL 60048, (847) 367-6168

This is the first place we’ve found out this way that feels like it is in the city. It’s trendy. It’s hip. It’s got good food and a casual, fun (reggae-inspired) atmosphere. And “big city” type dishes like lobster tacos.

We’ve been twice (both times with Max and he behaved very well) so far and we’ll surely go again. Firkin also has an extensive beer menu (including a really good root beer) and homemade pretzels. What’s not to like?

Incidentally, it shares a kitchen with The Tavern, another good place in downtown Libertyville. Kitschy, but good.

Cafe Pyrenees
1762 N. Milwaukee Ave, Libertyville, Illinois 60048.
Reservations/Info 847-362-cafe

This is probably Tony’s favorite new local place. It’s a restaurant /bar / retail wine shop in nearby Libertyville. I’d been wanting to try it for a while, but every time I mentioned it Tony didn’t get where I was talking about and/or thought it was something different. So we finally went the other night (mentioned in a previous post…Max’s first night wearing shoes).

Really nice place with great food (and foie gras for Tony — the ban is only in the city of Chicago). The seafood risotto I had as an appetizer was particularly good. The dinners were great too — we both had a “game” plate with venison and duck and pheasant sausage.

The staff was great as well, including being welcoming to little Max (who behaved quite well, thank you very much, though I’m sure he made some other diners nervous). We’ll definitely be back (probably again and again).

The Perfect Brew & A Rare Find
619 Park St. in Libertyville, 847-305-4459

We found a local home brew shop. Small, but pretty well equipped (nice glass carboys). Strangely enough, it is combined with a small furniture / hot sauce shop.

Jamaican Gardens North
14595 W Rockland Rd, Libertyville, IL 60048 (847) 367-5570

From the “North” designation, I’m assuming there’s a “South” somewhere closer to the city. This is a gardening shop…actually it’s a huge gardening shop with not only plants, but also all kinds of pots and other paraphenalia. Prices were about on par with other local shops (though Pasquesi’s is still my favorite…you can’t beat them for atmosphere). One good thing about the Jamaican Gardens is that they have 40 varieties of tomatoes, including heirloom ones.

Spice Bazaar
139 E Townline Rd, Vernon Hills, IL 60061, (847) 549-0065

We’re always looking for good ethnic markets. The Spice Bazaar is a pretty decent Indian market. They even have a small selection of fresh stuff (samosas, etc.) and lots of frozen things. Best of all, they are opening up a small Indian cafe next door that’s going to have dosas! Yay! I love LOVE LOVE dosas. So we’ll have to check it out in June or so when it opens up.

Max was such a good boy yesterday. I never thought I’d be happy to count poopy diapers, but hey he’s my boy. Max seems to have turned the corner and is eating (and associated other body functions) every 2 hours like he is supposed to. Thank God for the breast pump. Mommy’s been a champ getting up at all hours to pump. But it is all worth it, just ask Max.

We got Max all decked out today in his “going to town” clothes and one of his fancy blankets. The whole family walked over the the little shopping area in the neighborhood. There is a baby goods store there called Little Skye. Mommy went and got herself some nursing bras so she can be a little more comfortable. Of course we had to spoil Max and get him a little stuffed gator (getting him started as a good Gator).

Here’s a picture of Mommy pushing little Max around in the stroller.

Max has been working all week on his “I’m working on my diabolical plan to conquer the world” pose. It doesn’t come through well in pictures, but trust me it is cute.

Max tried out his bed for just a little bit. He is really a great sleeper and generally a perfect little boy. He’s only fussy when Daddy is changing his diaper. Other than that he sleeps all though the night except when we wake him up to feed him.
We are definitely blessed.
Another gratuitous tired parent picture.

I was looking at the calendar this morning and realized that we’ve got pretty much exactly two weeks to go (or less). Ack! Somehow, it seemed like March 10th was farther away than that when I was talking to the nurse on the phone and scheduling the inducing. And, of course, he may decide to appear sooner than that. There’s no telling. We’re kind of hoping he does, since the whole inducing thing can have complications.

And by all indications, he’s ready to come out. I think he was trying to kick his way out through my belly button last night. Ouch! He’s a strong little bugger and I bet he’s going to be just as stubborn as his dad. All the stuff you read says babies start to run out of room about now and settle down and don’t move as much. Not this peanut. He makes himself known. Repeatedly. No rest for the wicked or the weary.

We’ve got the bag all ready and packed (officially) as of today. I needed to get a nursing bra, so Tony (poor fellow) took me to Betty Schwartz’s Intimate Boutique in Buffalo Grove today. I’d wanted to try it out because they were supposed to carry Bravado nursing bras (though, curiously enough, they didn’t). I gather it has been around for awhile, since they had an old black and white photo with a storefront that said “Betty Schwartz’s Corset Shop” on it. It worked out okay. This friendly older lady helped me out and I got a pretty comfy nursing bra. Crazy things, I tell you.

We also stopped for lunch at the Buffalo Restaurant and Ice Cream Parlor (1180 West Lake Cook Rd. Buffalo Grove IL, (847) 808-1120). We definitely have to try it again when I can eat sweets. They had the best looking sundaes I’ve seen in ages. Huge. Towering. Yummy.


This gestational diabetes thing is getting old.

Anyway, the rest of their food was good too. I had a taco salad (easy on the beans and I skipped most of the shell, making it pretty GD friendly) and Tony had soup and a burger with some really good fries (I ate one teeny one). I’d thought it was going to be a greasy spoon kind of place (well, it kind of was), but it was also really good and those Fountain desserts…oh man. Definitely have to go back sometime. Repeatedly. Too many options, too little time.

Well, this is a snowed-in kind of day. It started coming down last night while we were in the child care class (we were a little worried we weren’t going to get out of the hospital!) and stopped for a while, but now it is snowing steadily again. It is seriously winter out there right now. No question about it. We officially live in the far North, as far as I’m concerned. I’m not leaving the house today unless there’s a baby emergency (you hear that, peanut? no tricks from you today). He has been kicking up a storm and positioning his butt directly in the center of my rib cage, but other than that, I think everything is good.

Tony went into work (on the train). I’m waiting to hear back to make sure he got there okay. It’s really crazy out there.

We did have a little dramady last night after the class. We got home and it was nearly 10 and the furnace wasn’t working. A guy had been here earlier to work on the humidifier (long story, but it probably hasn’t worked since we moved in) and somehow the gas line thingy got tripped. The heating element was coming on, but no heat. The guy was about to make the long drive out here in the snow when Tony figured out what it was. Yay, heat! Good thing, it would have been a bad night to not have any heat.

Anyway, in the spirit of getting rid of things to do, here’s a write up or two I should have done back in early January:

Convito Cafe & Market
1515 Sheridan, Wilmette, IL 60091 (847) 251-3654

We’d made a trek southward to check out a baby store (Lazar’s, which carries nice stuff, none of which we’ve bought there…though we did wind up getting the Orbit baby stroller online that we had trekked out to Lazar’s to see, since they are one of the only places around here that carry it). While we were on our way back home, it was time to eat (I’m kinda on a strict schedule now with the whole gestational diabetes diet), so we stopped off at a little collection of shops and stores in Wilmette.

We had lunch at the Convito Cafe & Market, which is primarily an Italian-ish place (used to be 2 different places: Betise Bistro & Convito Italiano — they merged) . One side is a cafe and the other is a market (I think you could have guessed that) / deli. It’s nice inside, pretty elegant with an upscale (but small) menu. Definitely a bit of an “old world” feel to it. I wound up having a burger on wheat bread. Can’t remember what Tony had, but he liked it. The service was a wee bit slow, but nothing terrible. It was a bit of a task to find anything low carb for the GD diet, but I managed. That’s not a knock against it though…it’s pretty hard to find that out anywhere, especially as restricted as I am right now.

Also in that same shopping center is Burhop’s Seafood (same address as above, 847-256-6400), a seafood market I’d heard was a “must stop” for the area. So we went in there after lunch to pick up some fish for dinner. It was late on a Sunday, however, and they were fairly wiped out, so it probably wasn’t a good day to judge them. They didn’t have a great selection out, but our timing was bad, so it’s hard to know what to say. Not sure if we’ll be back or not since it is a heck of a jaunt from our house, but if we’re out that way again, we might stop in. What we did get was good quality though. And the people were friendly.

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