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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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.

Ohio | Mount Adams

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Along the banks of the Ohio River, sits a metropolis affectionately known as the Queen City. Overlooking the city, a hill rises. Mount Adams watches over the city, the river, and the banks of Kentucky. Even though Cincinnati isn’t as large or maybe as exciting as Chicago, it has a charm all its own. This neighborhood oozes charm and is one of my favorite places to visit.

The first time Jordan took me to Mount Adams was New Years Eve weekend in 2005, a few months into our relationship. He had lived in Cincinnati the previous year and was looking forward to showing me around. We only had a few hours to visit the mount before needing to attend a party elsewhere in the city. Thankfully, those road trips to Ohio continued in the following years and visiting Mount Adams became a part of the ritual.

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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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To Garden with Love

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If you visit my parent’s house during the summer, please expect a tour of my father’s garden. Mostly likely after the meal, but certainly before dessert. It is a beautiful little journey, full of colorful, lively flowers and a variety of delicious vegetables.

Over Father’s Day weekend, Jordan and I spent time capturing my dad’s handiwork.

I was lucky to grow up eating vegetables and fruit grown in my own backyard. Cucumbers, lettuce, onions, beets, green beans, radishes, so many herbs, apple and pear trees and the list continues. Between my mother growing up on a dairy farm and my father’s love of gardening, an appreciation was cultivated in my brothers and I for where our food is grown. Hopefully one day, their green thumbs will rub off on me and I won’t kill my house plants anymore!

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Scenes of Paris: Part 2

Shakespeare and Company, Paris
Shakespeare and Company, Paris

Jordan and I celebrated our five-year wedding anniversary during our stay in Paris. The original idea was to visit The Louvre, but unfortunately they were experiencing an employee strike. With no real plan for April 12, we continued to wonder that enchanting city. First stop was to visit the English-speaking bookstore, Shakespeare and Company. Pictures aren’t allowed to be taken inside, but if you want a peak, the bookstore has been featured in a few movies, including the Woody Allen film, Midnight in Paris. Our lack of extra luggage space was the only thing stopping Jordan from buying the whole store!

Luxembourg Gardens, Paris
Luxembourg Gardens, Paris

Continuing on from the bookstore, we walked right into the Luxembourg Gardens (I had forgotten it was so close!). Spring literally sprang for us on that day; the gardens looked so lush. We bought baguette sandwiches and McDonald’s Cokes (because sometimes you need something familiar) and enjoyed lunch on the lawn with the locals.

Tuileries Garden, Paris
Tuileries Garden, Paris

Many of the large parks in Paris have these green lawn chairs sprawled about to use for picnics. I love the idea! The Parisians seem to take full advantage of any public outdoor space. This is the Tuileries Garden, located outside of the Louvre Museum. Even though we weren’t able to go inside of the Louvre we were able to see many statues, including a few Rodin, that were sprinkled around the garden.

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After lunch, Jordan wanted to walk to see the location of the Bastille prison. The only remains left are surrounded by a park but this is the beautiful July Monument, marking the event that pushed forth The French Revolution.

Maybe you can see the huge storm that was brewing in these clouds because right after visiting this monument the rain fell hard and we were drenched! In fact, the rain fell so hard part of the roof in a local grocery store (we took refuge for a few minutes) starting caving in! An employee and I had an interesting interaction where because I greeted her with a simple bonsoir, she continued laughing and joking about the rain in French. I enjoyed being considered a local for a few minutes!

Those two days in Paris, where Jordan and I were able to wonder leisurely, were some of the best days.

Slowing Down

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The need to slow down has hit me recently. My soul is craving quiet moments, despite the warm weather beckoning me to be active. Jordan spent the week working on a fun new project and so we decided to recharge on Saturday. The weather was perfect. We spent the day walking and shopping. Purchasing necessities (groceries at Whole Foods – my first nectarines of the year!) and a few special treats.

My perfume collection was consisting of empty bottles, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to repeat or select a new scent. SeeBy Chloe is a fragrance I had tested during our time in Europe. I enjoyed it but wasn’t ready to commit at the moment. After testing it again last week, I didn’t need any more convincing. It’ll be the perfect smell for this new summer.

At work the next day, I passed my jacket a few times, I could faintly detect my new perfume. Instantly, I was reminded of my recharge day. This perfume will remind me to slow down and enjoy the present moments.

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Scenes of Paris: Part 1

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“Paris is always a good idea”

Sabrina, 1954

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Arriving into London I didn’t experience culture shock. It felt comfortable and familiar, but that is not how Paris was for me. Paris is equal parts beautiful and intimidating. Like a mysterious women, who at first, appears to be cold and distant. You must be polite, respectful and eager to learn her ways, but once you do, you are welcome to stay and know her better.

We stayed in Le Marais area. It is found in the 4th arrondissement (district) of Paris. Only one major street separated us from the Seine, which made it extremely convenient to walk to everything.

On our first full day in Paris, we decided to use the river as our guide. We saw Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower and the Arc De Triomphe among many other enchanting sights. Below are a few photos from our day in Paris.

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This bridge was covered with locks that couples affixed to represent their unending love. It was a sight to see.

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To our pleasant surprise, Notre Dame was open to the public and non flash photography was allowed. Every inch is covered with beautiful carvings or stained glass windows.

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Walking under the Eiffel Tower was a surreal experience. It feels larger than life, especially for a structure that was intended for temporary use. It’s hard to fit the whole structure into a picture and we had to walk awhile until we were able too! The lawn is filled with runners, school groups and locals eating lunch; seemingly unphased by the beauty surrounding them.

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To avoid interrupting the intense roundabout, entering the Arc De Triumph is accomplished through an underground tunnel.

Our bodies were sore from walking so much this day, but we were ready to tackle Versailles on day two.