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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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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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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Summer Baking

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Over the weekend, Jordan and I spent time in Lincoln Park and visited the Green City Market. Our camera battery was left at home on accident, so we weren’t able to capture all of the wonderful goodies, but oh did I want it all! Organic meat, eggs, honey, and veggies, etc. While walking through the market, the products had me thinking about one of my favorite aspects of summer; fresh berries!

When the seasons change, the recipes I use follow suit. I immediately wanted to dust off my summer baking favorites. Smitten Kitchen’s Raspberry Buttermilk Cake came to mind first. This recipe was discovered during the great Summer Baking Extravaganza of 2009. That was the period right after I graduated college but before I began working full time. I spent the extra time I had baking everything from bagels to pita bread. It was glorious.

This recipe is simple and delicious. It is also the perfect cake size for my little family or a small dinner party.

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