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

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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.

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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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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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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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