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Hello Genki Friends!  Hoping all of you are excited about the weekend, still can’t believe it’s already Friday.  We just returned from a trip to Chicago, a second home lately since it has the O’hare airport.  It is the largest airport with the best price in the local area.  It takes less than 4 hours to travel to Chicago, so it’s really not that bad of a drive and it saves a bundle on plane tickets.  Genki Husband and I decided to travel together and get out of the house.  It was a spur of the moment trip and we were so thankful we had the chance.  (Not so thrilled about the O’Hare parking ‘police’ almost giving me a ticket though… always an adventure.)  As this was a trip of relaxation from all the stress in our lives lately, I did not take many photos.  But, I did take a few since I have a slight photo addiction.  Here is our trip in photos:

Traveling the highways through Indiana and Illinois you will come across quite a few toll booths. We have an automatic payment machine in our car called I-Pass or EZ-Pass. Since we used to live in the Chicago Metro area, we own one but it is not common among people in our local areas.

Of course it can’t be a trip without coffee so early in the morning. ha-ha We took our Klean Kanteen’s filled with coffee from the house to assure we were green for at least part of the day.

I’m the type of person that gets very sick when I read in the car but for some reason I can manage to crochet for about 10 minutes at a time. So, this is how I keep my boredom down on those long stretches while traveling in the car.

Vegan traveling snacks. Raspberries when in season can last a very long time. We take these along in a small cooler bag and enjoy throughout our trips. We also had a large box of blueberries too – not photographed.

Found the cat lady in Illinois, USA! Seriously do they have 10 cats? Oh I hope they have a good vacuum! Genki Cat is enough to keep my hands full all day long, how would anyone manage more than one?

Chicago train system that is convenient if you don’t have a car or don’t like traffic while in the city. We rode it a few times when going to garden concerts in the city but that was because it’s easier to travel by train than trying to find a parking spot. Foreigners be warned though, these trains are not as clean or on-time such as in other countries.

Mitsuwa Japanese Grocery store, bookstore, travel agent, movie rental, food court, and gift shop. It’s a little hard to see from the main roads so if you have a GPS or smartphone, please just follow along or you will probably miss it. This is much smaller than H-mart or other stores in other cities but it does have a nice range of items and almost all of the employees either speak Japanese or Korean.

Inside Mitsuwa Japanese store. This is the rice cracker aisle but there are many more including a fresh produce section.

Bakery inside of Mitsuwa Japanese store. The pastries are made fresh daily and appears just as if it were a small version available in Japan. This is a French style bakery that is very popular over there.

Inside the bakery. Most items are not vegan but you can ask the bakers and they will tell you if anything from the day has been made vegan. Warning: Most of the clerks are not English speakers natively, so if you can speak Japanese it does help.

Some of the pastries (most are filled with sweet Japanese beans called anko- hence, these are Anko-pan). Can you see the turtles, crabs and Anpanman?

Apple Bread – these aren’t vegan but they are indeed adorable!

Inside there is also a Japanese food court. This gets very busy though so you have to be there around 11AM when they open to get first choice of food options. At noon we heard places were out of udon and were only serving soba (they only serve these two things!). So get there early or go for a bento box.

There are a few different Japanese restaurant options that is more of a fast food court or cafeteria style that calls out your number when it’s ready.

Mitsuwa Grocery Store contains Kinokuniya Bookstore! There are new magazines, manga, subscription based manga, books, cookbooks, gifts and etc.

IKEA! We haven’t been here in a long time since we moved away from Virginia. We used to go here just about every other week but we have been missing it. They have vegan approved dark chocolate bars that we wanted to bulk up on so that was our next trip.

Starbucks near the O’Hare Airport – in the middle of a small industrial area but it’s worth it because it’s not as busy.  We actually went here because I wanted some tea/lemonade – so delicious!  Right now they have a new Blackberry Mojito Tea/Lemonade and while it is good it is a bit weaker than the others.  If you prefer not as strong tea, you will absolutely love it!  We also got an iced coffee if you were wondering how we got out of Starbucks without one.

Cheesecake Factory has a few different options that can be made vegan. This is a “skinny salad” made with a pomegranate vinaigrette, asparagus, edamame, tomato and greens. Ask for no cheese. This was good but I forgot to ask for the dressing on the side. Make sure you do this as it was drenched in dressing. I think I would probably eat this without any dressing since it had so much flavor – sadly I didn’t get to eat it because of the dressing. I would order it again though, dressing on the side.

These were photos from my iPhone- I still have a few more to share with you that I took with Genki Husband’s iPhone. So there will be a part 2!