What do you do on the last day of summer vacation when one kid wants to build sandcastle on the beach, one kid wants to hit the pool in a neighboring town (the one you don't have passes to), you'd love to take a bike ride along the lakefront and your mother, visiting from Virginia, says she "doesn't care...as long as we don't go to an amusement park like Kings Dominion"?
If you're me, you head over to the Garfield Park Conservatory. Inside, the kids played hide and seek in the fern room while the grandparents wandered around identifying some of their own houseplants.
But outside was actually the highlight. We usually head to the Conservatory in the middle of winter to get a bit of a green fix, so I'd forgotten how spectacular the grounds can be. Workmen were setting up for a free Shakespeare in the Parks performance to be held later that afternoon and the goats were off duty, but the city demonstration garden was brimming with fresh herbs and vegetables (even a few surprises, like an orange tree). The kids spent over a hour playing with the sticks, logs and palm fronds in the play garden, and by the time their elaborate games of pretend were winding down, some volunteers had set up a butterfly and ant learning activity. Zoe pretended to be an ant and used her nose to follow a trail to food. (A bee hive--did you know ants and yellow jackets raid bee hives for honey?). Meanwhile, Ada drew a beautifully detailed picture of the tabletop ant farm and butterfly cage.
And my mom and Rick? They took photos, chatted and played a bit too.
After a few hours, we had exhausted the snacks I'd brought along and we were pretty hungry. So we walked over to Inspiration Kitchens, which is just half a block away. I'd read about the nonprofit restaurant before, but this was my first time dining there. I highly recommend it for a family friendly bite to eat. The portions are on the smaller side, but everything was made with fresh, in-season fruit and vegetables from their urban gardens and all the tips help pay for meals out for families who couldn't otherwise afford it. I had a very tasty watermelon, feta and mint salad, which was served over mixed greens with a lime vinaigrette.
By the time we'd finished our lunch/brunch (the girls had pancakes and I had coffee), it was hot, so we headed over to Rehm Pool. Due to the heat and everyone being back from their various summer vacation travels, it was so crowded we had to wait until folks left before we could get it. But we nabbed a deck chair, the water was gloriously cool, and we saw a bunch of friends--one set of whom took Zoe home for a steak dinner!
Finishing our perfect end to a lovely summer: the grandparents babysat while Josh and I heading to the Publican for dinner (al fresco!) with friends.