My Vacation in Burlington, Days 1-3

When my sister Cathy announced that she wanted to celebrate my birthday with me and asked, it took me no time at all to come up with the perfect idea: Opening Day with the Cubs! Cathy, Carol, Caity, and Chris had gone to last year’s opening game; I was supposed to have gone, but couldn’t go. So this was a no-brainer. Plus, I decided to make a week of it and just hang with the family in Burlington and mangia mangia at La Tavola! To top that all off, Bradley University had a home stand in Peoria that weekend, which meant I could go see my nephew Chris play ball (See #6!). BONUS! Cathy took care of EVERYTHING, even finding a flight that took me directly to Burlington “International” (ha ha ha!) Airport on March 27.

We had a plethora of birthdays to party on: Caity turned 16 on March 11, Cheryl’s birthday was March 22, and Carol and her best friend James “Celebrity Slut” Woods share a natal day on April 10! So the Wichita contingent of Carol and James drove up on Saturday and joined in on the baseball festivities.

I worked the phones at the restaurant during the lunch hours on Friday and Wednesday. Several people commented, “You HAVE to be another sister!” That was a kick! What was really great was seeing how fond the regulars are of Cheryl and Carlo. Several of Cheryl’s birthday bouquets were still decorating the joint.

Not only was it great fun to hang with my family, but I also enjoyed exploring more of Burlington, which is actually quite charming. Cathy and Cait live over the restaurant in the historic downtown, just two blocks from the Mississippi River and the Great River Bridge on U.S. 34. Also within easy walking distance is Snake Alley and spectacular historic homes (if only!). We took Sam and Rosie, Cathy’s adorable shitzus, on walks by the bridge and then to lovely Crapo Park.

Cathy and I went to Peoria on Friday and saw Christofolo (again, see #6).

On Saturday, Cathy and Cait went to Peoria to sit through that first 16-2 Bradley/Indiana State debacle, and I stayed behind to spend the day with Cheryl, Sofia, and Giovanni while Carlo opened the restaurant. I love those kiddos. I’ve been seeing them at least once a year for quite some time now; whenever I made trips to New York, I would add on a visit to see them when they lived in New Jersey. Sofia is a piece of work; she sometimes fancies herself a writer (I guess we ARE related); at Christmas, she and Caity and I made Le Shoeuvre, an indie film about Parisian shoes that has yet to see the light of day (editor Caitlyn Gordon has not yet finished her post-production work — and that’s probably a good thing for YouTube!).

So on Saturday, we started off with lunch at that Iowa tradition, Maid-Rite. No, I didn’t have a Maid-Rite, since it doesn’t yet have a veggie-burger option! But the grilled cheese was quite fine with me! From there, we went to Target to get Gio a cable for his guitar; Target happened to be next to Cathy’s favorite store Farm King (she swears by the shoe selection there; I didn’t get to go, but next visit…). Then we saw the vaguely entertaining Drill Bit Taylor (Sofia cleverly caught on that some of the language was not repeatable!). Gio at 12 is one cool, smart kid, with amazing artistic talents (particularly for anime).

Once Carol and James arrived around 6 p.m. and Cathy and Caity made it back after that grim game in which Chris didn’t play much, the family party was ON! James scored points with the kids by bringing his Wii. We started out with martinis at Martini’s, then came back in time for the Saturday Night Disco Party, the after-hours family shindig at La Tavola. Carlo whipped up the usual feast with an arrabiata that was so heavy on the “arrr!” that it numbed my lips. Yet it was so scrumptious, I had to devour every bit, no matter how fiery!

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