Category Archives: Chicago

The year of cotton

Can you still count yourselves as newlyweds if you sit down to dinner the week of your second wedding anniversary and agree that neither of you have anything important on the schedule this week?

Oops.

The truth is year two was just about as full as year one, minus a few international soccer trips.

Let’s take a look back:

After learning of a great job opportunity back in the Midwest, we soaked in as many sunsets as we could during our last summer on the Gulf Coast.

 

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Another week in the books

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2 of 2.

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We finally got around to checking a few items off our Sarasota bucket list:

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Because #mangroves #sarasotabucketlist

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We celebrated a new set of newlyweds back on our old stomping grounds.

We visited NYC. Separately but it still counts.

We said goodbye to great friends in Florida.

We survived Hurricane Hermine and multiple broken down Penske trucks in our attempt to leave the State of Florida. You can read more about that adventure here.

We moved into another new house and we (ok mostly I) obsessed over our first fall season back in the Midwest:

We loved being so close to friends and family for the holidays again:

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We attended our first Blues game and tried our best not to let on that we were Blackhawks fans.

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We formalized our lunch dates and moved them outside the training room.

We finally got back on the slopes for a fun trip to Vail for some spring skiing.

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And we kicked off summer concert season by reminding everyone that even thirty-somethings can dress down up and have a good time every once in a while.

Eric Church, St. Louis

 

To my sleeveless pearl-snap buttoned husband on our second wedding anniversary,

In the past year, we’ve gone from celebrating in separate countries and working weekends to Saturday date nights and Sunday Costco runs. We’ve traded flat sandy beaches for a hilly Midwest river town. But no matter the circumstances or the terrain, sharing this journey of life with you gets better every day.

That being said, I believe the second anniversary is cotton so I bought us some new sheets.

Sincerely,

Your lucky wife.

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Bad karma and good chocolate

Have you ever had one of those days where you knew the whole day was going to be off before you even left the house?

You know the kind. You’re just leisurely walking the dog (emphasis on the leisurely because your dog suddenly walks like a 90-year old who needs a hip replacement) when your phone jumps out of your pocket and shatters on the wet cement.

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This weather has us all like…

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There’s something off in the universe, you think.

And how could you not wonder. Just a few hours prior the Chicago Cubs won the World Series. No seriously. They did. And they deserved it. Life will never be the same.

Do you ever think door frames and counter corners are out to get you?

Me neither.

Pop quiz.

Which of these items are essential for a successful post-work gym session?

A. Hair tie

B. Workout underwear

C. TWO socks

D. All of the above

Any guess what all these situations have in common? They require you to adapt. To shift. To consider wearing your glasses more often and to put out as much good karma as you can by texting your Cubs fan friends and family and telling them how happy you are for them.

Chocolate helps too. So here is a chocolate recipe I planned to post separately, but will now be forever linked to a really random few paragraphs about a string of bad luck and the team that finally broke the curse.

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Spooky Spiderweb Trifle 

  • 1 package instant chocolate pudding
  • 3 C Milk (I used unsweetened vanilla almond milk)
  • Oreos (I used Halloween Oreos)
  • Brownies
  • Chocolate syrup
  • Cool Whip

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In a large bowl, mix cold water (or milk) into chocolate pudding mix. Refrigerate for 10 minutes.

Chop brownies and Oreo cookies.

Fold half of Cool Whip into pudding mix.

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Beginning with brownies, layer brownies, pudding mix, chopped Oreos in a trifle dish. Repeat until you run out of ingredients or reach the top.

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Add remaining Cool Whip to top. Drizzle chocolate syrup in a spiral. Using a toothpick, pull toothpick from center out to edge as if you are slicing a pie or a pizza.

Bonus points if you have a fake spider to add in the center. I didn’t so my spider is hiding under the whip cream and all you can see are her creepy eyes.

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Rome: It’s like Chicago but older

Today we land in Rome and I must admit this city far exceeded my expectations in the three days we explored it. I was excited for Rome because I knew Matt would be really excited for Rome. Why do you ask? In the short six years we’ve known each other, I’ve come to learn that my new husband is a bit of a history buff. Falling slightly behind any shows that involve ultimate survival and fast and loud car restorations, chances are if he’s watching television, he’s tuned to the History Channel.

So I knew Rome would live up to Matt’s expectations and for that I was pleased. And while I did really enjoy Mr. Peterson’s World History class, I must admit I went into Rome a little rusty on my ruin knowledge. Fortunately for Matt, my parents gifted us with a private tour from a family friend who lives in Rome and just so happened to have a Masters in philosophy, a PHD in theology and a rich knowledge of local gelatology. The amount of knowledge our guide, John poured into our carb-and-wine-filled brains was enough to fill a semester-long course, but it set a foundation (no Roman pun intended) that we were able to use for the rest of our trip and for that we are very grateful. If you plan on going to Rome, check out John and his wife Ashley’s web site and be sure to meet up with them. You’ll be glad you did.

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I’ll tell you a little more about the forum when we go back for a closer look on Day 2 but just imagine the above photos some 2000 years ago. And if you still can’t picture it, this may help.

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We were privileged to learn that John also served as a consultant in restorations to the local Catholic churches in the area so we got an in-depth lesson in Art History and more Catholic facts to supplement our recent marriage prep workshops.

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dome is not in fact a dome but painted. Take that Rationalists.

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John also set us up for a dinner reservation that evening, stopping by the restaurant towards the end of our tour and putting in a good word for us with the chef. A tour guide and a concierge!

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We wrapped Day one sharing a good bottle of shiraz, mussels and linguine with black truffle.

Next up, a tour of the Coliseum.

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Visiting Venice: Day 1

Today you’re off to Venice. Get excited!

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Wait. Not yet. First you have to get to Chicago. And then Toronto, dontchaknow.

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Add in a brief stop for Fruhstuck (thanks 4 years of German class) in Frankfurt and you’ve made it.

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But you’ll get there eventually. And you’ll be pleasantly surprised by both the quality (very good) and cost (free!) of the wine Air Canada will serve you on the way.

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Merci. Danke and Grazie.

You’ll attempt to follow your new husband’s directions and try to pretend the sunrise over the atlantic is actually a sunset to prepare yourself for the 7-hour time difference, but considering it’s your first time ever crossing the Atlantic, you’re just thankful to focus on the free movies instead of the potential water landing.

venice, italy, honeymoon in italy, venezia, travel, wedding, canal, bridgeYou take a bus from the airport and arrive to the island mid-morning. It’s just a short walk to the hotel and as soon as you step foot inside to be greeted by the friendly staff, it starts pouring outside. A beautiful and perfectly-timed rain shower.

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You get a caffeine fix from the staff while you wait for your room to be ready. A cappuccino for her and an espresso for him before heading out to explore in an effort to avoid complete jet lag.

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Obviously bright-eyed, you spend the afternoon exploring the narrow streets lined by canals and the cutest little boats you’ve ever seen.

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The rain lasts just long enough for you to still think it’s pretty. It’s the last sign of clouds or precipitation you’ll experience for the next 10 days.

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You make it to dinner and based on a recommendation from the concierge where the menu is in Italian and the waitress doesn’t speak English. A perfect end to a very long day and the beginning of a wonderful honeymoon.

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Weekend recap: Chicago style

Historically I’ve not been the best at weekend recaps. Especially weekends that involve all of my favorite females in one room, baby snuggles and Chicago nights. I suppose it could be because recapping a weekend means it’s over and I have to accept the finality of it all. And just like knowing when to end conversations with strangers after several shots of tequila, I tend to have a hard time letting go.

You know what doesn’t seem to be have a hard time letting go once you turn thirty?

Hangovers.

I hope you’ll forgive me if my sentence structure is off today. Earlier I blasted one of the walls of a cubicle while walking out of my office. And we’re not talking about my usual slight shoulder tap due to a clumsy streak that I’ve never seemed to grow out of, but rather a solid clavicle impact that left the metal frame ringing.

You’ll forgive me if I’m not myself today. My flight home last night was terrifyingly turbulent thanks to an apparently unavoidable line of weather. And the moment in which the pilot decided to bail on the landing about two feet above the runway was just a cherry on top. I feel like a well-shaken margarita, which isn’t very far off considering the amount of them we consumed Saturday night.

But it wasn’t a completely horrible travel day. I got expedited through security at O’hare yesterday and avoided bending over to take my shoes off, a perk I can only assume was given to me when the TSA saw the pitiful look of nausea on my face. And when I sought relief in greasy fast food in Terminal C, I was both pleased and disgusted to find a bonus order of french fries in my mighty kids meal. Pleased at the luck and disgusted because I could no longer stomach the idea of airport french fries about two minutes later.

It was thanks to an experienced pilot and a very calming ARMY sergeant seated next to me that our second landing was much more successful than the first (we actually landed that time) and that I now have a horrifying story to pass along to my future children and secure my newly developed fear of flying for another generation. I suppose I could accept the encouragement my future husband had for me when I text him what happened and he said, “Wow. Good for you. Now you’ve lived a little. Haha.”

And lived we did. Both literally and figuratively. We lived it up for all the new babies born who were finally spending a Saturday night alone with their dads, for a chance to get the gang back together and for a solid rendition of friends in low places at the best little karaoke spot in bucktown.

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Approaching 30

Do you know how hard it is to write a recap of a weekend you aren’t ready to let go of yet?

Hard.

Chicago had everything going for it this weekend. Great food, perfect weather, a music festival that keeps hundreds of thousands in Grant Park so you can enjoy the rest of the city crowd-free and a surprise birthday party with nearly all of my friends and family.

Wait, what?

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I flew back to Chicago this weekend to celebrate one of my best friends and former roommate at her baby shower.

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I was expecting to cuddle a few babies, hoping to catch up with my Chicago friends and planning on eating as much ethnic food as I could to get me through until the next visit. I love your sunshine Florida but nothing compares to Chicago for food.

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We decided on a small get-together Saturday evening to make it easy on the new parents in the group, not much changing from our parties of the past except an inverse ratio of sip cups and flip cups and a universal awareness of the potential of finger pinches and stair falls.

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I was thrilled that all of my friends made the effort to come over with their kids, especially considering bedtimes might be off and meltdowns might occur. And I was pleased yet confused to see each of them show up with a dish to share, while I the out-of-towner had nothing to contribute to the cause. If you know me well you know how much something like this troubles me.

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I was completely content and happy, enjoying a perfect summer night with some of my favorite people when my mom walked onto the deck, followed by my sister, Owen and Jake. Dad would show up a few minutes later in typical Murf fashion as I tried to quell my tears and perspiration from the shock.

I flashed back to my 15th birthday when after finishing a family dinner at home, I was told I had a present in the basement that I should go “check out.” I embarrassingly descended the stairs to be greeted by my closest Freshman guy and girlfriends who were waiting to surprise me, each adorned with a different color plastic lei. I was equal parts mortified and excited. Mortified that they had been waiting in my wood-paneled basement throughout dinner and excited to jam out to some TLC and BSB songs for the rest of the night. 

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The good news about approaching 30 is that selfless acts of kindness no longer embarrass you.

The bad news is they make you sob uncontrollably.

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A good friend is someone who lets you believe you are celebrating her all weekend and then goes and throws a surprise party for you along the way. Or someone who with her own family in town and a 4-week-old baby, coordinates cake and fruit platters to celebrate. The one who sits in traffic longer than the party probably lasted to be there. The one you’ve known since you were 10 who was in attendance for the wood-paneled basement surprise and just hours ago returned from a cross-country flight back from California with a toddler.

Note: the husbands, too. Even though I didn’t get any photos of any of them, they deserve a little credit as well. 

babies, photography, toddlers, summer, surprise party, Chicago

And a great family. A great family will detour their way through the northern part of the state and back, spend the better part of the day at LegoLand and then trek all the way into the city just to be there to celebrate with you and your friends. On Lollapalooza weekend no less.

These people and that city make it hard for a girl to recap a weekend she wishes she was still in the middle of.

Nonetheless, I’m feeling pretty good about this whole 30 thing.

Currently I’m…

In the middle of a full-on middle school crush with The Mindy Project. It’s been about 4 years since I had sophisticated TV equipment so I’m on technology overload as of late. How did I go so long without this show in my life and why can’t all OB/GYNs be that funny?

Finding it hard to concentrate on much else besides my trip to Chicago this weekend. Don’t get me wrong Florida is sunshine and blazing hot temps and all but I can’t wait to get back to the city and catch up with my friends and celebrate their offspring. After this past winter, I feel like I’m entitled to enjoying above freezing temps with the people I suffered alongside.

wind chill chicago, polar vortex, nbc chicago

 

Wondering how my dog is more proficient in yoga poses than I am. Here I am practicing three times a week in a studio and all I have to do is pull out the vacuum for him to do a perfect downward dog. I’m going to see if my teacher will let us try out the “twisted swissy” next class.

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Really starting to feel my age. According to this Health survey, my true age is only 25.6, but if you ask my joints, I’m feeling a wee bit older than that. It seems fitting though, to start a glucosamine supplement just a week before your 30th birthday, doesn’t it?

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Really wishing I wouldn’t have thrown away the rest of Matt’s birthday cake last week.

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Willing to grill just about anything if it means avoiding using my stove these days. Last night we did an entire meal on the grill and I’m not upset about it. Not one bit. We even swapped out a salad for grilled romaine just to keep it simple. Just kidding, we did it because I was too lazy to chop up the other ingredients.

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Grilled Shrimp with Chimichurri

  • 1 C parsley, rinsed and patted dry
  • 1 C cilantro, rinsed and patted dry
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp ground red pepper
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/4-1/2 C olive oil (I kept mine more acidic than oily)
  • 4 TBL fresh lemon juice
  • 2 TBL red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1-2 TBL water (if needed)

Place all ingredients except oil and water into a food processor. Add oil slowly until it reaches pesto consistency. Since we were originally planning on using this as a steak marinade, I made it lighter on the oil. Good news, it’s great on shrimp too.

Peel and devein uncooked shrimp and place on a metal skewer. Heat grill to medium. Baste chimichurri on shrimp towards the end of the cooking process.

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We got two uses out of this batch. The first night for shrimp and whitefish tostadas and the second for skirt steak and shrimp the next night.

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And in celebrating for Matt’s trip to Mexico we washed them down with a two-ingredient margarita I hacked up just before we sat down. Still on that lazy cooking kick if you can’t tell.

grilled shrimp with chimichurri, parsley, cilantro pesto, marinated shrimp recipe, herb pesto,

Two-ingredient Margarita

  • La Croix Lime
  • Tequila
  • Fresh Lime juice
  • Honey or agave
  • Salt

OK so I lied about the two ingredient part but in reality you can just make this with tequila and La Croix. The fresh lime juice and sweetener just helps it taste a little more traditional. The key here is using a good tequila. The stuff so good it doesn’t even taste like tequila, tequila.

I get bored talking to myself all the time. What are you currently into?

Have a great day!

Almost 30

I noticed this article circulating on social media over the past few days.20140629-164525-60325877.jpg

Sounds pretty familiar, no?

I thought so too.

And since I just so happen to have recently moved to a new city where I didn’t know anyone except the person I moved with, I clicked on the article, fully expecting 3 minutes of warm and fuzzies and ‘oh yeah that’s totally me’ moments. Instead, I drafted an entire blog post full of sarcastic rebuttals in my head.

Why you might ask?

When I moved to Chicago I was in my early 20s and this article would have been right up my alley. New chance at a career? Awesome. New friends? Sure why not? Random parties. I love random parties.

But now here I stand, rapidly approaching my 30th birthday and with a completely different perspective on the subject. So here we have it. Reasons why moving to a new city in your early 20s is completely different from moving in your late 20s.

Let’s start with the opening paragraphs because she almost lost me there. I probably should have realized at that point this article was clearly suited for someone far younger than I, but I like a challenge.

Freedom from responsibility, mortgages and children in your late 20s? No chance. And even if you don’t have children yet, chances are 85% of your friends do so you might as well check the box anyway.
The good news? All those things make you feel like a contributing member of society. Everyone has to graduate from Skol vodka eventually. Am I right?

Early 20s: You’ll make new friends who are refreshingly different from your old ones
Almost 30: Whoa, whoa, whoa Nelly. You shut your mouth right now. I like my friends. And they are my friends because we survived our 20s together, whether we remember it or not. If I want a clean slate I will drive myself to Lowe’s and buy some Martha Stewart chalk paint thank you very much.

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gender neutral baby shower, baby king, gray baby shower,

Early 20s: You’ll be introduced to new and exciting ways to have fun
Almost 30: Are you implying that my Saturday morning trip to the farmers market is not exciting enough? Well you obviously have not experienced the rush of fresh produce. Meet me at the wine bar and I’ll explain over a bottle of rosé. No not white zin. The good stuff.

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Early 20s: You’ll develop the social ease to walk into a party on your own and not even bat an eyelid
Almost 30:
 No you won’t. Unless it’s a networking opportunity, no chance you are flying solo. Some things never change. Thanks to your smart phone though, you will get better at eating lunch alone so you have that going for you.

Early 20s: You’ll be able to do something shocking with your appearance without anyone noticing
Almost 30: Unless you plan on never leaving the house, I wouldn’t recommend this. You are almost 30. Why are you just now considering a dramatic makeover? If you are a new mom and you are chopping off your hair because you don’t have time to shower then you get a free pass. Otherwise let it be. I don’t care if the last photos tagged of you on Facebook were in 2009, people will notice. Remember Britney.

Early 20s: You’ll learn to enjoy your own company
Almost 30: You know yourself so well that frankly you’re getting a little tired of talking to her. You may have just told the lady at the dog park your 5-year plan and people have stopped noticing how often you talk to the dog. Good news. FaceTime is a lifesaver.

greater swiss mountain dog, swissy, finn, dog, puppy,

Early 20s: You’ll learn to grow and develop as a person.
Almost 30: Can’t argue that. As scary as moving to a new city where you know virtually no one can be, it does force you to take risks and refocus. A challenge I think we can all agree is beneficial at any age.

st. petersburg, florida, harbor, sailboats, ocean, tampa bay, sunset

 

 

Very Berry French Toast

We decided to mix up our Sunday routine and go to a later mass today. I know what your thinking. Real crazy life we are living these days. Truth is, since we moved in, we’ve been going to an early mass so we could get to the beach each Sunday. Matt’s family was in town most of the week for vacation so we were able to fill our beach quota for a little while.

When we lived in Chicago, we were incredibly spoiled for brunch. My old place was just a few blocks from a delicious Greek breakfast spot called Meli where we ate nearly every week. We miss it terribly, but have been doing our best to try new spots around town to find a replacement. Since we haven’t found anything close just yet, we thought this week we’d give it a shot ourselves.

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This recipe is silly simple. I cheat and use cinnamon raisin bread because it’s just thick enough and soaks up the liquid without getting too soggy, but your typical challah bread will work too.

Very Berry (Cinnamon Raisin) French Toast

  • 5 slices cinnamon raisin bread (pepperidge farm swirl)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 C buttermilk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • dash nutmeg

Preheat a cast iron skillet to medium. Whisk buttermilk, eggs, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg together in a shallow dish. While pan heats, soak two slices at a time in dish. Flip and soak the other sides.

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Rinse and prepare fruit and place it in a small bowl. We used strawberries, peaches and blueberries for this batch.

Cook two slices at a time, flipping when browned. Top with fresh berries and honey or syrup.

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Bon Appetit!