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.

Continue reading “For Your Listening Pleasure”

Peaches and Crème

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Chicago is currently experiencing a string of hot days, but I’m still reminded that August is coming to a close: school has begun, sunsets earlier, and stores have started stocking their aisles with sweaters. These are the signs that summer will be leaving us soon. Before fall fully sets in, I’m relishing in the last of the summer produce that is available. Especially peaches!

Every week I have been trying to make a trip to our local farmer’s market, but if that hasn’t been possible I stock up on organic produce from our grocery store. Lately, peaches have been my go-to fruit. I use them in our spinach smoothies, peach and blueberry crisps, or even simply for an afternoon snack. Last week I decided to branch out and make a pie with my surplus of peaches.

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The process of baking is very cathartic for me. It’s amazing to start with simple ingredients that don’t amount to much alone (flour, sugar, eggs, etc), but when mixed together they become something great! Usually when I bake I stick with quick, easy, and reliable recipes. Quick breads, cookies, or crisps in the summer tend to be my go-to dessert, but if I have the time I try to challenge myself.

I chose a peach pie from Smitten Kitchen that I had made several summers ago. Sometimes pies can be to doughy, but because this recipe only uses a bottom crust, the result is a lighter dessert. On day one, I prepared the homemade crème fraîche and mixed the pie dough so it could all chill overnight. The next day I cut the peaches and mixed with a little sugar, rolled out the pie dough, and assembled. And you know what? It turned out just like I hoped and it tasted great!

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Peach Pie

What are your favorite ways to bake with summer fruit?

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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Summertime Vegetables

Summertime Vegetables

Early on in our marriage, I thought salads would be the best way for Jordan and I to eat our vegetables. My mom makes excellent salads, but sadly I do not. I never seem to have enough ingredients or the right dressing (I hate salads that are heavy on lettuce, light on toppings). I’d buy a bag of lettuce with the intention to eat salads all week, but something would interrupt our dinner routine and before I knew it the lettuce had gone bad.

I’ve learned my lesson and realized that the toppings to a salad (carrots, tomatoes, olives, cucumbers, etc) stay fresh longer by themselves than combined in a salad. It’s easier to toss in a handful of tomatoes or spinach (that I do keep on hand, but mainly for smoothies) to a dish than preserve fresh lettuce.

Continue reading “Summertime Vegetables”

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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On History, Royalty, and a Tiny Regret

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I often jokingly say that my history books growing up seemed to focus solely on the pilgrims, so much so that I feel like certain historical events aren’t familiar to me. It used to be my little joke, but now Jordan laughs along with me. I’m always trying to fill in those perceived gaps through documentariespodcasts and books.

One area of history that fascinates me, starting when I was an early teen, is the Tudor Dynasty. King Henry VIII and the scandals that surrounded his six wives seem unreal. Despite his attempts at producing a healthy son, Henry’s greatest legacy was a daughter! Queen Elizabeth I ascended the throne after the tumultuous reign of her sister, Mary. She was able to support and provide stability to her people during her 44 year reign and was loved and revered in return.

Fast forward to earlier in the year when Jordan and I were deciding on places to visit in Europe. The Tower of London was high on my priority list. For a time, Queen Elizabeth I was actually held prisoner there, the same place where her mother was beheaded. The Tower (and the other buildings inside the walls) is nestled across the River Thames from many contemporary government offices. One might imagine that it is secluded but in actuality, it’s right in the middle of a very modern environment.

I’m not one to regret past decisions, but I kind of regret that we didn’t pay for a Tower of London tour. Returning to London from Paris, I forgot my initial desire to see the inside of the Tower. The 40 US dollars per person ticket price seemed like a lot considering the Tate Modern museum was free and it was still on our to-do list that day. Looking back and after hearing of other people’s experiences, going inside the Tower would have been worth it. It’s a guided tour, not simply a price for admission. Thankfully, we were able to walk the grounds outside the wall and read a few interesting facts along the perimeter. Hopefully, this won’t be our last time in London because I would love to go back to the Tower!

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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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Exploring Oxford

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Jordan and I planned our trip to Europe off-and-on for almost a year.  The early stages mostly consisted of discussing which countries/cities we wanted to visit. When traveling Europe there are several reasons why visiting more than one country makes sense. Since the countries are close together, the cost to travel between them is minimal compared to the initial plane tickets to arrive (in fact, our Eurostar tickets were less than an average ticket to another US state). We wanted to make good use of our time and experience Europe from different perspectives. London was an automatic yes for both of us, but we weren’t sure about where else to go.

Jordan suggested Scotland as he had great memories from a pervious trip. We eventually decided on Paris, France, a city and country neither of us had visited, which just so happened to be my idea :-). During the pre-planning, a close friend got married and moved to England with her husband, who is a Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford. We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit them and experience a smaller town since our other two stops were larger cities. After our first stint in London, we left for Oxford.

Not only did we have a great time visiting with Zac and Sally, we were also able to recharge for a few days. Jordan had the opportunity to catch up on some work and I took full advantage of their laundry room (the only way we were able to take carry-ons). Oxford is my kind of town; quaint, charm for days (medieval charm!), plenty of modern conveniences, but a slightly slower pace compared to London.

Our friend’s apartment was perfectly situated. We had no trouble wandering and exploring the city center by ourselves. London is roughly 70 miles away, but since Oxford is a university town all major necessities wouldn’t require travel (and so many cafes, I was in coffee/croissant heaven). Traveling from London was extremely easy and inexpensive. We used the UK version of Megabus.

After experiencing some dreary, rainy days in London it was nice to see the sun! It wasn’t quite warm enough to shed all our layers, but oh so nice to feel the sun shine on our faces.

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