Wicker Parking

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I remember an evening, after the movie Wicker Park premiered staring Josh Hartnett (remember him?), when a few friends and I tried to locate the Wicker Park neighborhood in Chicago. Remember the days before Google Maps and smart phones? I’m not sure where we were at the beginning of the night, but after searching unsuccessfully, during a bitter cold evening in January or February, we wound up eating ice cream at a Cold Stone creamery (which really doesn’t make sense!).

Last week, before Jordan left for a friend’s bachelor party weekend, we spent a free afternoon in the city – a pre-celebratory birthday date. I wasn’t exactly thrilled when I first found out Jordan would be out of town for our birthday, so I wanted this day to be memorable and to do something or go somewhere new. Jordan suggested that we find an interesting restaurant and choose the neighborhood accordingly. We decided on Birchwood Kitchen (more on that later), but before dinner we explored and shopped.

We love Wicker Park. It is full of small coffee shops, record and book stores. The clothing stores are a mix of low and high-end with a splash of vintage and now that the vintage has mirrored my childhood wardrobe, I’m feeling an instant connection. I found a few fun pieces of clothing that I’m excited to work into regular rotation and an LP of Sufjan Stevens Invites You To: Come On Feel the Illinoise at Reckless Records. That album (and live concert) has always been one of my favorites; I’m instantly teleported to the end of high school.

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Ok, Birchwood Kitchen was a major win! The menu is simple with salads, sandwiches, and burgers, but fresh and delicious ingredients. They also sell coffee, lattes, and homemade bakery items. The inside of the restaurant is more typical of a coffee shop (comfortable benches and plenty of tables to have a work meeting or a coffee date with a friend), but the patio outside is the ideal place to spend a summer night! It is literally nestled into the neighborhood (you could see neighbors in their backyards). As we paid our bill at the counter, I noticed all the fresh pastries and convinced Jordan to purchase some for dessert. Jordan chose a lemon bar and I picked out banana chocolate chip bread. They were delicious!

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I just love exploring this grand city. There is so much to see and discover.

My Birthday, Your Birthday

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If I had to share my birthday with anyone, I’m sure glad it is with Jordan.

Jordan is out-of-town this weekend for a bachelor party and although I’m glad he’s able to spend quality time with wonderful friends, it feels strange to have this day all to myself! We haven’t spent a birthday apart since 2006 (and in fact, we were at each other’s birthday parties in ’04 & ’05).

Now that I’m used to sharing this day, I’ve realized I prefer having my better half around.

Happy Birthday, Love! I’m ready and excited for another year with you.

…I tried compiling a picture for each year (in order: ’06, ’07, ’08, ’09, ’13), but apparently we missed 2010-2013. Whoops!

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He Asked and I Said Yes

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One of the reasons I began this blogging journey is to create a visual record of our life: present events and reminiscing on past events.

Six years ago today, Jordan proposed to me.

The week before Jordan proposed didn’t exactly go as planned. We left on a Friday evening, ready and excited, to spend Labor day weekend in Ohio visiting friends and enjoying the last of the summer. A mere 30 minutes from our final destination, Jordan’s engine overheated and the car stopped running. Thankfully, we were rescued by our friends while the car was towed. We had to wait until after the holiday to hear if the car could be saved.

We enjoyed our weekend despite the uncertainty of the car situation. As soon as they opened, the car was officially determined DOA and we immediately purchased Megabus tickets to get home. I had missed one day of classes already, so I left on Tuesday, but Jordan stayed two extra days to decide how to settle the car (thankfully the mechanic purchased the title). Jordan originally planned events during the remainder of the week to celebrate our upcoming birthday, so that I wouldn’t suspect a special evening. Because of our separate travel, the week was cut short. I still was unsuspecting when he suggested we dine at a quaint local restaurant once he arrived from Ohio on Thursday. We had talked about getting married and even briefly looked at rings that spring, but I didn’t know if Jordan had bought a ring or not. Unbeknownst to me, Jordan already had successfully designed and purchased a ring. He even asked my parents earlier that summer!

It was a muggy September evening and after dinner Jordan wanted to get ice cream. I noticed he was driving in an odd direction, but thought maybe he had a new ice cream place for us to try. Eventually we pulled up to a forest preserve and he surprised me with ice cream nestled in a cooler! After we finished eating inside of the car, Jordan suggested we take a walk (I still was clueless to what was about to happen). This particular forest preserve is situated next to the church where we first met, so it was fun to reminisce about those early high school years. As soon as we stepped out of the car I immediately got bit by an entire army of mosquitoes and asked if we could stay in the car. I wasn’t game for the romantic walk that was planned (poor Jordan), so instead he just went for the big question in his parent’s Buick!

I remember Jordan asking and me saying yes, but the words he used went right over my head. The next day we had a big birthday party planned, which in fact he planned to be an engagement party! I didn’t know a lot at 20 (and not much more at almost 27), but I knew that Jordan was the man for me.

These pictures really made me laugh and smile. We look like such babies! It’s special to still have everyone in these photos in our life in such important ways.

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Tinker Bell and Me

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“All the world is made of faith, and trust, and pixie dust.”
– J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan 

Growing up a baby of the ’80s, Disney movies were the only movies in our house for my brothers and I to watch. The second golden age of Disney animation was beginning and we had a VHS player! What more did we need? “Which is your favorite Disney film?” was a common question to ask your friends. Like any girl would, I enjoyed a good princess movie, but Peter Pan has always been my favorite.

I absolutely loved Tinker Bell. She was feisty and small, independent and yet she still needed Peter. As the youngest of two brothers, I often felt like Tink: desperately needing to be heard, striving for my own identity, but clinging to the comfort of older siblings. Other people must have seen the similarities as well, because Tinker Bell was one of my nicknames. I even dressed like her for two Halloweens in a row!

Life has been interesting lately. I try to live a balanced life and one that is full of perspective, but sometimes wallowing feels good. Impatient Tinker Bell had a tendency to wallow and pout if things didn’t go her way… though it usually just got her in trouble. And really, it gets me in trouble too.

A year can feel very overwhelming without structure. There are days when I miss the structure that being in school gave me. For years, I would go into a counselors office and walk out with a set plan and over the course of the semester I executed that plan. Now, I have no one to tell me which course to take. There are just endless possibilities. Jordan and I are working through the possibilities and I’m trying to not wallow when something doesn’t pan out like I had hoped. It’s kinda exciting, but I wish I could sprinkle some of Tinker Bell’s pixie dust to make everything just right. Though, really, I just need to pray and surrender. I believe God always has a bigger and better plan.

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^These photos were taken in and around Kensington Garden and Regent’s Street. The Peter Pan statue is in Kensington Garden.

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Chicago on Two Wheels

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Jordan and I are amidst a love affair, a love affair with Chicago. When I was younger, Chicago used to feel really overwhelming to me. Over time, through day trips with friends in high school, music festivals/concerts in college, and date nights with Jordan in the beginning of our relationship, the city became smaller, intimate and more manageable. Working in Chicago for two years had a huge impact on me in discovering that manageability. Driving in Chicago traffic was either going to break my fear or leave me running for the hills. I crushed my fear (except for parallel parking, that still alludes me) and became comfortable. I even could answer questions about directions! I knew streets and neighborhoods and could contribute to a conversation. My confidence level soared a few notches in those two years. Every now and then Jordan and I discuss the notion of moving to Chicago, but it’s never felt like quite the right time. Maybe it will one day or maybe it’ll just exist for fun Tuesday date nights and weekend excursions. Jordan and I recently experienced Chicago in a new way, on a bike.

I received my first (non-brother-hand-me-down) bicycle when I was seven. Our neighborhood in Ohio was filled with families with young children. Two of those families had three daughters. A set of pink and purple banana seat bikes was exchanged between those two families. The week we moved from Ohio to Illinois, I was gifted the purple one (with unicorns!). I felt so special, especially after dealing with neighborhood kids teasing me for using a boys bike. It was a hard move for me, but that bicycle helped to sooth my broken heart (I was a very tragic seven-year old, apparently) .

I rode that bike until I couldn’t fit on it anymore (eventually I received a brand new bike for once, though I missed those unicorns). Around the block, on a trail, to a friend’s house and back, or maybe to get a special summer treat from Dairy Queen. I knew I had arrived in my new surroundings once I felt comfortable biking alone. Somewhere along the lines of learning to drive, my bike began to collect dust in my parent’s garage. Biking allows for a special connection to your surroundings, I wish I would have kept up the habit.

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Jordan and I had noticed bike rentals popping up in Chicago. We kept saying we wanted to try them, but needed a somewhat leisurely afternoon to enjoy them. We took a recent Saturday afternoon to bike around the city. I was a little hesitant at first when I realized I wasn’t going to be able to use the sidewalk. You mean I have to bike with traffic?!? Jordan reminded me about the bike lanes, which are extremely helpful especially since it had been years since I last rode a bike.

We rented bikes from Divvy. We started in Old Town and traveled as far south as Buckingham Fountain. You pay one flat fee for 24 hours, but you have to stop every 30 minutes and rent a new bike if you don’t want to incur any extra charges. Thankfully, Jordan found an app on the Apple App Store that guided us to each checkpoint. Stopping every 30 minutes was a little tedious at first, but we were quicker with the on/off process towards the end. Jordan and I have caught the biking bug once again and we’ve discovered that  A) we need to buy bikes and use them in our own town more often and B) we need to rent bikes in each town we visit.

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Biking is my new favorite way to view a city; more expansive viewing than walking, but more intimate than driving.

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Create Your Weekend

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Two years ago I made a career change. I went from working a traditional 9-5 to becoming a barista. Because of my job change, I view weekends differently. The coffee shop customers usually comment one of two ways, either begrudgingly that it is Monday or optimistically when Friday has arrived. I try to console or encourage right along with them. Between Jordan’s freelance work and my schedule, we can’t always wait until the weekend to frolic (that’s what weekends are for, right?). We try to bend accordingly and become creative, so our weekend might be a Tuesday. Though to be honest, sometimes that bending requires Jordan to work late into the night after we’ve spent our day together. It’s give and take for us right now.

Having Saturdays off for most of the summer has been wonderful (I’m preparing myself for when that starts to change!). This past Saturday was ideal and the weather cooperated for the activities we had planned, attending the Kane County Flea Market. This flea market is open the first weekend all but two months of the year and is packed with furniture, crafts, records, clothes and even a small farmer’s market! It would be difficult to leave empty handed. After shopping for a few hours and filling our bags with new belongings (including a sweet brass lamp from the ’60s), we enjoyed walking through Geneva. Geneva reminds me of LeClaire, Iowa where Antique Archaeology (American Pickers) is located. They both boast of quaint buildings, quiet streets, and beautiful views of the Fox River (Geneva) and the Mississippi River (LeClaire).

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I can’t quite pin-point when it happened or if it was a conscious choice, but while traveling, Jordan and I always look for a vintage/antique/flea market to explore. Our apartment isn’t completely furnished (despite the poor newlywed Ikea choices), but what we do have is a mixture of old and new. The old are either items we’ve purchased on travels or cool hand-me-downs from relatives. The dresser from my grandparents’ bedroom set, the yellow mixing bowl of Nana’s, and a set of chairs that belonged to my uncle’s fraternity are a few of my favorites. I often wonder about the lives of those who owned these articles we’ve acquired. I relish in the ability to appreciate an item that was previously enjoyed. Hopefully one day, someone else will capture some of our precious belongings.

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Essential Chicago | Lincoln Park Zoo

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This summer  has been particularly special. Not because of any grand event, but mainly a bunch of small wonderful ones. Playing tennis in the afternoons, walks to the library (stopping at Dairy Queen perhaps) and lots of visits with friends and family. After experiencing a long work commute for a few years, I wanted to regain lost time and it is finally starting to come back.

Many have asked me if I was scared when Jordan began working for himself, but honestly I was more excited for the possibilities. This is the first summer in years that my work scheduled has leaned in my favor with very little coaxing. Having a few Saturdays off in a row has been amazing! Jordan and I have taken full advantage by turning off the computers, leaving the office (our house) and exploring outside. A few weekends ago we decided to brave the crazy July heat and spend time at the Lincoln Park Zoo. The LPK zoo is one of the few free attractions in the city. The zoo is lush (almost tropical) and displays amazing views of the Chicago skyline. The animals were lazily taking naps in the shade and overall unimpressed with us humans. My favorites were the kangaroos and camels!

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Before we left in the morning, Jordan decided last-minute to throw towels in the trunk of our car. It was a good call. After walking the zoo (and enjoying the surrounding neighborhood) we journeyed to the beach and enjoyed the lake breeze. Lake Michigan is really quite beautiful. We can’t wait to go back!

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On Having a Brother

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It’s been about 10 years since my brothers and I lived in the same house together. That is hard to believe! Despite the distance apart, there are still aspects of me that no one else quite understands. I can relay a story to a friend but it’s not the same as the shared knowledge between siblings. Even after knowing Jordan for over a decade, we still find new information to tell one another. We are constantly filling in gaps from our childhoods (which is kinda fun).

A lot of those gaps have to do with his brother, Josh, with whom he shared a room for many years. With three sisters they had to band together and have continued to grow closer (literally and figuratively – Josh stood at Jordan’s shoulders when we got married and he is now taller!). I appreciate Josh for allowing me to take away his roommate. You’re the best!

As the baby of my family, I watched my brothers reach milestones but experienced them through a different lens. It’s been an enjoyable experience watching Jordan’s younger siblings reach important stages in their life. Now they are stages that I myself have reached (learning to drive, graduations, etc). This past weekend Jordan’s brother turned 21 and we were there to celebrate!

This was a special birthday, so a group of us gathered at Tavern on Rush in the Gold Coast for dinner Sunday evening. Jordan and I have dined there several times but only for lunch. The food was great, especially the tiramisu! We have a soft spot for that dessert.

Happy Birthday, Josh!

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The One About Friendship

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Last week I was lucky enough to spend a day visiting with my best friend Lauren; celebrating her new baby and birthday! William is all kinds of wonderful and I enjoyed all the baby cuddles he gave me! We were able to take a few pictures before William decided he wanted to eat again.

It’s been really special watching Lauren become a mama. Please pardon the gushing that’s about to ensue.

Lauren’s been through it all with me and I mean Every. Embarrassing. Moment. (Remember the science fair we entered in 2001? Or the mono haircut of 2006?). Our journey began in Jr. High with a little nudging from our mothers, God Bless them. Because when you are in jr. high sometimes you can’t tell who the real gems are and need a little coaxing. It continued through high school, broken relationships, new friendships, college, marriage, babies, and moves. Our relationship is dear to me. I cherish the moments we are able to share with one another now that she lives in Nashville, TN.

After her visit, I had a great time looking through some old photos. I spared the really embarrassing ones because some outfits just don’t need to be relived.

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I’ve learned a lot from you, Lauren but maybe we can learn how to take good pictures together? Maybe a picture where we’re both looking at the camera and not doing a funny pose. We’ll keep practicing.

Date Night Tuesday

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Tuesday night Jordan and I braved the impending storm to spend the evening in Chicago. We shopped a little, ate dinner and took a nice long walk through the Gold Coast which is one of our favorite downtown neighborhoods. Those are my favorite kind of date nights. Sometimes it’s fun to have a fully planned agenda, but the summer months cultivate a sense of spontaneity in me. The streets are alive with a specific energy and if you feel like turning left you can turn left or stop at a park bench and talk. This is much harder to do when it is cold!

The rain was intense only for about 15 minutes, but it forced us to finally purchase that umbrella we kept telling ourselves to buy. We are now fully prepared for the next summer night storm.

P.S. I’m loving the resurgence of hats this summer. Why did they ever leave?

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