Growing Pains

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My old blog account resurfaced this week. Ok, it didn’t just appear, I looked for it. After reading through some of the posts, I realized that a) my grammar used to be better and b) I was really whiny, wow, was I whiny. It was cringe reading at it’s finest. Growing up is embarrassing. We make mistakes and hurt people’s feelings; we experience literal growing pains.

For much of my youth I struggled with fitting in and being seen, not as someone’s sister or friend, but as an individual. When we moved from Ohio to Illinois, kids told me that they didn’t need another best friend because they’ve had one since preschool. “Hey guys, that was only two years ago,” is what I often thought. I became sensitive and guarded and took situations out of context and made everything personal. Instead of becoming attuned to others that were hurting, I instead hurt others; it’s hard to have that in my past. I didn’t need to take every rejection as an attack on my worth. I should have clung to what God thought of me and not worried about who wanted to be my friend. And God did bring me friends during that adjustment period, despite early rejections.

During our marriage, Jordan has really sanded some of my rough edges. I am so thankful that he lovingly calls me out on certain areas. I was the baby and only girl in my family, so my world kind of revolved around me. Or at least, it felt like that. Through encouragement and conscious decisions I have worked on living more graciously. I make an effort to ask others how their day is going, instead of talking about mine. My time is less precious. Life is more enjoyable for me when I focus on other people’s needs.

I will never figure life completely out, nor would I want to, but I am glad that each day is open to new lessons; wrongs can be made right, apologies can and are said.

Thanks for sticking with me, friends.

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Tour Guides

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Jordan and I had the pleasure of hosting out-of-town guests over the weekend. They drove down from Canada to attend our friend’s wedding and we were glad they decided to extend their stay. Jordan and Mike toured together in their band days, oh maybe eight years ago, but as couples we hadn’t spent much time with one another.

For the next few days, Jordan and I played the role of tour guide. We brought Mike and Keira all around our little town: including our favorite neighborhoods to take walks through, and of course many of our favorite restaurants. We ordered in Aurelio’s (the original location is local, but there are other locations in the suburbs) one night and chose our go-to, cheese and sausage. Chicago is known for deep dish pizza, but we generally save that for visitors and eat thin crust pizza that is cut into little squares. Jordan is the ice cream king in our house (if we don’t have at least two different kinds available, panic starts to set in), so we had to take them to Dairy Queen. The DQ in town is only open seasonally, so we were happy to get one more Blizzard in before they close up shop for the year.

On Tuesday we spent most of the day in Chicago. Our main objectives were to visit The Lincoln Park Zoo and the beach. Thankfully, the weather was ideal for our plans! Jordan and I visited the LP Zoo earlier in the summer and while we really had a great time, the animals were much more abundant this trip.

We’re looking forward to visiting them in Canada. And I may have already looked at ticket prices 🙂

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^ The closest I’ll ever get to a lion, despite my desire as a little girl to have one as a pet. Apparently, I was really influenced by The Chronicles of Narnia and didn’t watch enough Animal Planet to realize how that my dream couldn’t become a reality.

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^ This guy was my favorite. In fact, all of the monkey’s in the monkey house were so fun to observe. They generally were hanging out in their family groups.

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A Weekend Worth Celebrating

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Look at my handsome groomsman!

Happy Monday! I can’t believe Monday has arrived again. I had intentions of documenting many things last week, but the days came and went and my DSLR camera didn’t leave its bag. Most of the week was spent spring (fall) cleaning our apartment for the arrival of friends (who were attending a wedding with us). We love hosting guests for many reasons and an added bonus is that our home becomes extra shiny. I also took the opportunity to do a little baking for the extra mouths to feed (but let’s be honest, I bake even if it’s just for myself). These apple crisp muffins were Jordan’s favorite, but as I love all things pumpkin, this coffee cake style pumpkin bread was mine.

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On Saturday we attended a beautiful outdoor wedding. The cornfields and forest surrounding the ceremony and reception tent were perfect for secluding all of us from the outside world. It rained during most of the ceremony, but the guests shared umbrellas and set in for the rest of the evening; the bride and groom fully embraced their special day.

I didn’t remember to grab my camera, so these pictures are all from my iPhone! I wish I would have though, because everything was worth documenting.

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We went to a baby shower on Sunday. It was nice to celebrate this little girl’s impending arrival and spend time with friends who were also in attendance. I cherish these people. We’ve experienced a lot with one another and it’s special to see these babies start to roll in.

I didn’t intend to match with the momma to be; it happened naturally!

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A Shoe Story

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I’ve mentioned before about how Jordan and I packed for our European vacation earlier this year. Restricting ourselves to one carry-on suitcase + backpack/shoulder bag a piece was made possible by having access to a washing machine at various stages of our trip. It probably comes as no surprise to all the ladies out there, but the hardest packing choice I had was what shoes to bring!

Looking back, my feet probably would have appreciated if I had walked around with my New Balance’s, but I was trying to avoid the American tourist look. I wanted to bring my nice J. Crew leather riding boots, but I’m glad I listened to Jordan when he mentioned how the spring rain might not be kind to the soft leather. My shoe selection ended up being one pair of flats, black wedges, brown boots, and my trusty Hunter Rain Boots. The first day we arrived in London it snowed and a few subsequent days it rained, so my Hunters got the most use.

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Shoes haven’t really been an obsession of mine. In the past, I tended to find one pair of shoes that I loved and then wore them to death, but that also meant my shoes were either all-purpose or no real purpose (So many bridesmaid shoes!). Walking around London and Paris I noticed that all the women (and most men) have really nice shoes: practical but sexy. I was inspired to branch out with my footwear and make sure any new purchases would be versatile and functional, but also fashionable.

I decided to start assessing my shoe needs with my sandal collection. This summer I threw out all of my five dollar cheap sandals and replaced them with one, yes one pair of Salt Water Sandals. I wore them constantly, both at the beach and walking around town. I thought I would miss having a lot of options, but it was the opposite.

These wedge sneakers are from Superdry, which I bought on Regent’s Street in London. I fell in love with them during our trip and my shoe obsession got started off on the right foot.

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Dinner Staples / / Chili

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Food and football is a pretty big deal for my family (go, Notre Dame!). Life is shared and experienced around the dinner table and also during the wins and losses of our favorite teams. One reason why food is so enjoyed is because everyone in my family cooks.

My mom was the main cook when we were young, but my dad was always in charge of grilling, pie baking, and most of the summer canning (apple sauce, marinara, beets, etc.). When my oldest brother was a senior in high school, he would cook gourmet meals for us on the weekends. Because there were a lot of available cooks in the kitchen, I didn’t actually get that much practice (except for baking, I always baked with my mother). I knew enough basics from observing and making simple dinners for myself, but I never had to prepare an entire meal for someone until I got married.

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Coconut Zucchini Cookies

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Fall is here ladies and gentlemen and I couldn’t be more excited about it! Summer may overflow with optimism, but fall brings layers, a cool breeze twirling through my windows, apple picking, pumpkin everything, football(!) and warm lattes are many of the reasons why fall has my heart. But most importantly, fall is also the season I fell in love with Jordan.

Summer weather doesn’t inhibit me from using my oven (despite the sweating that ensues), but baking in the fall is a more pleasant experience. My father’s mini orchard is in full swing and I have plans for the bowl of apples and pears in my kitchen, but my remaining zucchini’s were calling my name first. The apples and pears will have to wait until next week.

Over the weekend I spent a little time (ok, maybe more than a little) perusing Pinterest and found a Coconut Zucchini Cookies recipe that I wanted to try. I love cookies especially when they involve lots of different inclusions (this one has coconut, chocolate, oatmeal and zucchini!). My mother would generally add chocolate to everything (to appease all our different tastes): chocolate chip cookies were really oatmeal chocolate chip and banana cupcakes might have chocolate chips blended in or maybe chocolate icing. This recipe seemed like something she would have tried.

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These cookies are almost better as a snack than as dessert (they aren’t that sweet). I ate a few after playing tennis with Jordan and it was the perfect compliment to the smoothie I was drinking.

Hopefully you are as excited about fall as me and soak up this season for all it offers.

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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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For Your Listening Pleasure

Popular Podcasts

My brothers and I listened to a lot of music and children’s radio programs when we were young. Recordings of The Sound of Music and Anne of Green Gables were in constant rotation. When I was around five, I received a Fisher-Price tape recorder for either a birthday or Christmas present. It had a rounded handle, colored buttons, and a microphone! Now for the first time, I had a way to listen my own stuff on the go!

On family road trips we often listened to Adventures in Odyssey, a radio drama program. Adventures in Odyssey began as a radio show in 1987 and has since released the episodes for home listening (we had them on cassette tape!). Odysessy is a fully realized world, with interesting and deep characters that are challenged with real life dilemmas. Most episodes take place in the present, but they also focus on historical events. When I sing the U.S. National Anthem, I think of the Adventures in Odyssey episode where they retell the event that influenced the poem!

After listening to a few episodes with my family, I would grab my trusty tape recorder, start an episode and toss a blanket over my head to isolate myself with the story. I would spend countless hours each week listening, learning, and using my imagination. At first, reading didn’t come easy to me, but these audio tapes allowed me to delve into a different world, just like books can.

When I began commuting to Chicago, I learned early on that music wasn’t the best distraction for the drive. Podcasts are fresh and new – you don’t know when one segment will end and another will begin, while songs can become predictable – they are usually around 3 – 3.5 minutes each (for this same reason, I don’t usually to listen to music while I workout).

I am constantly listening to podcasts: on my way to and from work, when I cook or clean or while I’m working from home. Just like when Jordan and I began watching The Big Bang Theory this summer, when I discover a new podcast I binge listen!  Below are a few of my favorite podcasts, which can all be found through iTunes or listened directly from their websites.

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