November 26, 2007

Black Friday Craziness

(posted by Garland)

This past week we participated in the ever popular Black Friday shopping day. As in years past, the extended weekend provided by the Thanksgiving Holiday allowed us to participate in this event abroad. In the past, we have taken mini-vacations to Nashville or Branson over this time period. But being so close to Christmas and a little low on cash, it made the most sense to take a trip where much of our money would be spent on Christmas presents while still enjoying getting "out of the house." This year, we decided to travel to Schaumburg, IL, a city which has become synonymous with urban sprawl. Sure, Chicagoland has many fabulous suburban areas for shopping - Naperville/Aurora, Gurnee Mills, Oakbrook Terrace, just to name a few. But with the anchors of Woodfield Mall, Streets of Woodfield, and Ikea, Schaumburg really seemed like the most optimum place to go. Plus, we have found that we can consistently get rooms really cheap in the Schaumburg area.

We used Priceline, and were able to get a Doubletree Hotel room for $42/night. The best available rate on the internet was $79 so this was a decent fine. Actually, we have received much nicer rooms in the past through Priceline, but this hotel was only 1.5 blocks from Woodfield so the location was superb. And the room was by no means bad. In fact, my first night back home I was going through withdrawal for having to leave such a wonderful bed at Doubletree.

Actually, most of our bargains were found in areas in close proximity to Woodfield Mall, but not at the mall itself. Rather than get up early Friday, we opted to sleep in and start shopping after that initial early bird rush subsided. Okay, that theory proved only part right. The shopping crowd at the mall only increased as the day progressed rather than decreased, so we made the decision that we would park in an adjacent parking center and ride the "Woodfield Trolley". This was a smart choice. We rode the trolley over to the mall only long enough to go to Macy's department store. That jaunt was more than adequate. I truly wish we could have had pictures of the congestion. It was unbelievable.

On Saturday, we made two sidetrips. First, we visited Valli Produce, an international produce and grocery store that I had wanted to visit. It was an awesome experience, being able to purchase produce that was otherwise not available regularly in Central Illinois. We left there with Poblano peppers, Thai hot peppers, several varieties of gourmet tomatoes as well as some fresh chorizo, italian sausage, and an end piece of prosciutto. Afterwards, we headed south to Bolingbrook Promenade. Yet another fabulous shopping destination, this up and coming locale sports a smaller Ikea store plus a Bass Pro Shops store, and is much more convenient for downstaters looking to avoid the heavier congestion of the Woodfield area. We went to the Promenade a few months ago when Point of Grace was giving a free concert. At that time, we discovered a neat little restaurant called Salad Creations. While we did not eat there then, we had always intended on returning, so we had our chance.

Salad Creations is sort of like a Subway for salads. Words cannot describe the size of this salad, and so Julie took a couple pictures. Let me put it this way - I can eat alot of food. I could not finish this salad. They start off by giving you a metal mixing bowl that reminds me of a bowl you would use to mix a double batch of cookies in. First, you choose your type of lettuce - Iceberg, Romaine, Spring mix, or Spinach. Next you choose any number of free "mix-ins", about 40 of them. I went with fresh mushrooms, a hard boiled egg, onions, green peppers, carrots, croutons, and blue cheese. For an extra couple bucks, chicken, ham, or roast beef can be added. Finally, a dressing is chosen, added to the mix, and the server will either chop or toss your salad. The end result is pictured. While it was a little pricey, I could have easily skipped the meat add ins and been completely satisfied with the rest.

Here is one picture of Julie's salad. The tray this is on, is your average fast food tray that you get your food on. Notice how much room the bowl takes up.

And here is my salad.