Tag Archives: beach

Seasonal Changes

Pop quiz.

Where’s home to the one of the most successful franchises in baseball and soon two Zalewskis and a Finnegan Murphy?

Hint for Cubs fans: they have 11 World Championships so Chicago is out.

Site of the 1904 World’s Fair.

The first American city to host the Olympics.

Hometown to Jackie Joyner Kersey, Maya Angelou and perhaps most importantly, hip-hop artist and new country breakout, Nelly.

Batter up. The Zalewskis are taking our talents to St. Louis this fall.


But why on earth would you leave Sarasota, home to the best beaches in the country, year-long sunshine, arts, culture and the most laid-back dress code you’ll ever encounter?

View this post on Instagram

Decent Wednesday evening.

A post shared by Sarah Zalewski (@slmurphy) on

A. Because we really miss gray winters and snow

B. Because alligators, fire ants and Trump supporters

C. Because we just love everything that goes into packing boxes and moving across the country

D. Because we were offered an earlier-than-expected opportunity to finally put down roots in a community we love, closer to friends and family and just in time to enjoy the best season the midwest puts on each year (insert all the I love fall hashtags here).

fall colors, springfield illinois, simply social blog

If you answered “D” (with a sprinkle of “B”) you’re correct.

And while we are sad to leave Sarasota and everything never having to wear coats and closed-toes shoes has to offer, we know this is the right move for our family in the long run.

bears football, chicago, greater swiss mountain dog, halloween, Chicago Bears, Florida

Besides, since the Rams left town we won’t have to worry about standing in our driveway doing the SuperBowl Shuffle every Sunday.

You may be asking what our only sits under the AC vent, lover of the beach but not the water, greater swiss MOUNTAIN dog may be thinking about heading back to the midwest?


Well, he loves car rides and cooler temps so we can only imagine he’ll love it as much as we think he will.  

There’s at least one family member who will be pumped for a snow again after 3 years of 80-degree Decembers.

So that’s that. A little life update for you. My apologies for only using the blog for the occasional recipe and huge life change announcement.

You can rest assured that as soon as I come to grips with the fact that we just moved into a new house 4 months ago and have to do it again in less than 5 weeks, I’ll be back with more of the good stuff.

Until then we’ll be soaking up all of the sunsets and August humidity we can before heading back “home” this fall.

Sarasota, lido beach, florida, beach, sunset, lido key

Cookies and Catch Up

Great news, guys. The Murphalewski Bed and Breakfast just wrapped four straight weeks of out-of-town guests. That means 7 midwesterners are entering the winter season a little bronzer than usual and many local restaurant staffers here in Sarasota are actually starting to think I have friends. It’s a win-win!

Now you may be asking if I’m glad the four-week rush is over. Truth is, I loved having our friends and family stay with us. Each visit came with a reminder of how blessed we are to have friends and family that love us enough to leave crappy weather behind and sit on the beach all day. We realize our location may benefit us this time of year but regardless, we appreciate the time and effort (and flight delays) spent coming to visit.

So what have I been doing with all my free time since the last houseguest left on Sunday? Baking cookies of course.


It seems like the only thing I have to show for the last 4 weeks, aside from the slightly increased body fat percentage, are pictures of cookies long ago eaten by co-workers.

It’s not like me to leave you hanging over a holiday weekend without some sort of ode to a sweet treat on the blog, but I’ve been sidetracked. You see, I’ve been trying to come to grips with the fact that our entire shopping district has been lit up like Rockafeller Center on Christmas Eve since October 24th. I’ve been wrecking my brain trying to figure out in what world this is acceptable but then I remembered a saying my dad always says this time of year.

You know, this might be the last nice day we have to put the Christmas lights up so we better get to it. 

Wait. I’m sorry. He usually waits until an ice storm is in the vicinity around December 20th to say that. And they still live in Illinois so…

So in spite of the extremely prematurely lit palm trees and unseasonably hot temperatures, I thought I’d share a few photos from the last four weeks to catch you up.




but how about that sweet lady in the background?

image imageimageimageimage



IMG_5484sugar cookies, royal icing, baking, breakfast at tiffany's cookies, bridal shower, dessert, tiffany blue sugar cookiesIMG_5482sugar cookies, royal icing, baking, breakfast at tiffany's cookies, bridal shower, dessert, tiffany blue sugar cookiesAnd now you know what my photostream looks like. I’ve got two weeks until Thanksgiving and our next visitors so if you need me I’ll be either running or napping in preparation. Happy Friday!


Super Spring Break

If you couldn’t tell from my overgramming last week, my nephews (and my sister) came to visit us to celebrate their spring break. Unfortunately I spent most of the week at work, but I’m grateful for the afternoons and evenings I spent brushing up on my toilet humor, identifying fire ant hills and avoiding getting jinxed.

Days were spent punching water spouts at the splash park and evenings cheating at mini golf. We even managed a second attempt at the beach since the first time was ‘too boring.’


On Thursday, we celebrated Jake’s 5th birthday the only way Jake prefers to celebrate, with superhero masks and store-bought cookie cake.

IMG_4663IMG_4664IMG_4669IMG_4670IMG_4671Friday we had a picnic at the beach and then spent the afternoon drop-kicking waves to cap off the trip. And is it just me or did we do so right next to a Nana lookalike? IMG_9943



We miss them already but we’re soaking up the quiet and resting up the busy months ahead.

Long time no talk

Hey there! Where have you been? Feels like we haven’t had a one-sided conversation in forever.

My bad. Truth is I’ve actually been busy. Really, truly, contributing to society again busy.

That’s right the sabbatical has ended. The summer of Sarah has come to a close. But what a summer it was! Beach time, dog walks, mid-day recipe posts, more dog walks, mid-day workouts, another dog walk. But it wasn’t all sunshine and summertime. The frustration, boredom and self-doubt that comes with re-starting your career in a place you know nearly no one can really wear on you.

sunset, florida, sky, palm trees

Nonetheless, I’m very excited to get back to seeing if the parts of my brain that have been resting all summer still work. So far so good. Brain cells seem to be multiplying and I feel like I need a nap by 3:00 everyday.

I ask that you bear with me as I remember how to live the 8-5 life again and somehow fit in workouts and meals along the way. And dog walks. Poor Finn might be the only one not thrilled with the new adventure.

So I’ll leave you with a photo dump from the past few weeks, including a visit from two of my best friends and a bunch of pictures of Finn looking guilty.

beachhouse restaurant, anna marie island, girls weekend, beach, sunset, sky, dinner

sunset, florida, sky, palm trees


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

Oh and just for good measure, here are a few fun fall recipes from last year to tide you over until I actually make something worth sharing again.

pumpkin bread streusel topping

Pumpkin Bread

spooky pumpkin toffee chocolate chip cookies simply social blog

Pumpkin Toffee Cookies

Have a great week!





I’m thirty. 30 years old!


Thirty! I did it. I finally passed the last milestone birthday that all of my friends passed nearly a year before me! Being the youngest of the group, I was used to being last in line for all age-related events. Last to drive at 16, last to do whatever a non-smoker is allowed to do at 18 and the last to legally drink at 21. Now don’t feel too bad for me. Looking back, I can see now that it actually worked out in my favor. I had cool friends to drive me to and from school, to book rental cars when we went on trips and to illustrate which liquor you should not make your best friend on your 21st birthday. Tequila maybe. Whiskey no way. I remember thinking that when they all turned thirty, I would still be 29. And how cool that would be to still be 29 when all your friends were old and thirty. turning 30, birthday, friends Well I realized about a year ago that it’s neither cool nor old. Thirty is not the old age I (and probably every other 24 year old who is reading this) thinks it is. There’s a shift that happens about the age of 26 or 27 where you suddenly realize that you are rapidly approaching the thirty year-old you thought was so old just a few years ago. I am now that thirty year-old that kids just out of college scoff at. Only I don’t feel very different than them. Minus pretty much all of these things. I stayed up until 2 a.m. this weekend. Only it was because my mom and sister’s flight got delayed, not because we wanted to hit up the late-night bar and watch the sun come up. I cannot tell you the last time I willingly stayed up that late. And I’m ok with that. As if last weekend’s surprise party wasn’t enough, my mom and sister came down to visit me in Florida this weekend to celebrate the official birthday. You don’t realize how loved you are until you live really far away and people go out of their way to make you feel special on your birthday. turning 30, birthday, friends   On Saturday, we headed down to St. Armands and Lido Beach. Lido Beach, St Armands, Florida, family, birthday   And on Sunday we spent most of the day at Siesta Key, followed by a sunset dinner along the beach on Anna Marie Island. beach, florida, family, birthday, swiss mountain dog, sunset, anna marie island, siesta key beach, florida, family, birthday, swiss mountain dog, sunset, anna marie island, siesta key   It was so nice to spend some quality time with just my mom and sister. If the next two-thirds of my life look anything like theirs, I can’t wait to get there. Thank you again for all the well-wishes over the weekend. I’m excited for the year ahead.

June Photo Dump

Because every once in a while you just need to dump…your old photos from your iPhone to make more room for new ones.

Get your head out of the gutter. Geesh.

Today is Canada Day so I figured what a better way to celebrate our friendly neighbors to the north but to share random photos with you from the past month.

So here you have it. June in photos. Unedited and highly saturated with greater swiss mountain dog snapshots.

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

How am I pulling off the shy look, ma?

cowboy caviar, salsa, corn and black bean salsa, recipes, dips, salsa recipe

cowboy crack recipe here.


laundry day.

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

trying to catch my riding with my head on the from seat armrest.

world cup 2014, uruguay, soccer

Everyone’s all like hey did you see that Suarez bite and I’m like have you seen how tight those Puma jerseys are?

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

lake life


miss these sweaty guys

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

he will use anything as a pillow


bruschetta bar

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

farmers markets are exhausting


big and little

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

must be touching you at all times


Yesterday we took Finn down to Venice to check out a dog beach we had heard about. And while he’s probably still mad at me for the inopportune timing of a large, salty wave that came over both of us as I attempted to get him to swim for the first time, judging by the fact that I had to wake him up this morning, I’d say he still had a blast.

Here’s a slideshow recap:

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow


venice dog beach, florida, swiss mountain dog, beach day, gulf

venice dog beach, florida, swiss mountain dog, beach day, gulf

venice dog beach, florida, swiss mountain dog, beach day, gulf


Happy Monday!


So we moved to Florida

I told you I’d check in once we got settled and even though we are anything but, I thought I would update you anyway. What can I say I like you guys more than unpacking boxes.

Dad, Finn and I arrived Wednesday evening with 1,200 miles and four states under our belts. We were very fortunate to miss the tornados that passed through Alabama on Monday and Tuesday and to find out the road we were going to take through the panhandle was closed due to flooding before we left on Wednesday morning.

alabama, road trip, driving, finn goes to florida

While I don’t recommend spending two days in the car to just anyone, my dad and I are pretty good co-pilots. We both really enjoyed seeing the wildflowers in Kentucky, the rolling hills in Alabama and the traffic enforcement in Georgia. Ok maybe not that last one so much. The good news is we still love each other after that much time together. And I’m even considering penning a coffee table book about the Illinios coal basin now thanks to the first four hours of coal fun facts from my Dad.

As for Finn, I wasn’t sure what to expect after we reached 3 hours in the car as he typically slept on trips from Chicago to Springfield, but let’s just say I don’t think he could name one out of the four states we traveled through. Yes, I realize that would assume my dog could name states or speak but you get the point.

greater swiss mountain dog, finn goes to florida, puppy, swissy, car ride


This dog had the entire back seat all to himself and yet he contorted himself into positions either between the front seat or with his body on the floorboards and his feet where his body should have been. And he slept. The whole time.

greater swiss mountain dog, finn goes to florida, puppy, swissy, car ride

There were a few moments he woke up though, mostly when we stopped for food, gas or bathroom breaks.

So we arrived Wednesday night to a partially-furnished house. Matt and his brother had driven straight through with the truck and unloaded it before we arrived which was 1) Crazy and 2) Awesome.

new house, florida, lakewood ranch, sarasota, swiss mountain dog


Since then we’ve spent all of our time unpacking and showing my Dad a few spots before he leaves.

Yesterday we visited IMG Academy where Matt’s new team trains.

IMG academy, florida, sports

And last night we took my dad down to Lido beach and St. Armands circle for dinner.

lido beach, sarasota florida, beach, visit, family

If you’re anything like me the only thing you care about when someone moves is seeing their new house. I promise I’ll give you a tour once it’s presentable, but until then I’ll share with you six things I’m really excited about with our new kitchen. Keep in mind I just saw it for the first time when we arrived so this is before putting it to use but I’m really excited nonetheless.

new house features, kitchen, subway tile, swiss mountain dog,

1. Subway tiles

2. Enough cabinet space for more than 4 wine glasses

3. An outlet in the island

4. HD-TV

5. A cool tile floor for Finn

6. Water in the fridge door

I realize the fact I didn’t have any of these before are first-world problems, but let’s just say I’m pretty pumped to get back to baking in this new kitchen. Did I mention we have a pantry!?!?

Have a great weekend!

On new beginnings…

I was going to write this post about chicken tostadas. About making the most of the awesome weather we’ve finally been having here in Chicago and using your grill for a whole meal. Chicken tostadas with grilled corn, fresh guacamole, and homemade salsa based off of this Cooking Light recipe. 

grilled chicken tostadas guacamole and salsa

But I got too hungry and rushed through taking photos of the finished product. Photo FAIL.

So then I thought about giving you a recap of my long run this weekend, complete with a breathtaking sunrise, personal distance record (PDR) of 15 miles and a new group of friends. It’s amazing how much you can learn about a stranger in just over two hours. It’s also pretty cool to transition from fear and doubt to relief and excitement over a 15 mile span.

sunrise lake michigan chicago running

But let’s get serious, most of you could probably care less about running. Perhaps you like pictures of the beach though?

There’s always the topic of long-lasting rivalries. Like the Cubs and the Cardinals. Dividing families and Illinoisans each year from March to October.

cubs cardinals baseball wrigley field chicago

And this weekend was no exception. As a cardinals fan I was impressed. As a Chicagoan I was disgusted to see more red than blue on a perfect day in the friendly confines. Kudos to you cards fans for making the trip, but shame on you Chicago. The beer was cold and the sun was warm. No excuses. Play like a champion. oh wait, only the Cardinals seem to do that. (ba-dum-ching!)

Moving on.

The meaningful portion of this post came to me at the baptism of one of my little nieces (friend’s kids count as nieces, right?). As the priest spoke, I realized something about new beginnings. They don’t just come once a year. Not just once a season or even once a month. New beginnings are happening every day.

For those babies, yesterday was their formal welcome into the church.

baptism old st. pats chicago

For many children and young adults (nephew Owen included), today marks their first day of school.

first day of school second grade

And for the rest of us, new beginnings of our own. New jobs. New relationships. New challenges. New hope.

All to often, we let the holidays or seasons determine our need for change. If we recognize that each day comes with new opportunity, we are more likely to make a difference. Try to notice the new beginnings in your life this week.

As for me, I’m off to buy a trapper keeper and a 64-count box of crayons.

crayola crayons 64 count box

I hope they have mac n’ cheese yellow!

Have a good week!

Life’s a Beach

I was off my blogging schedule this week but I’ve got a good excuse. I realized that even in our over-connected world, there comes a time and place to just unplug. And while Las Vegas may not be that place, California is. Note-this excludes Instagram. I can’t help my love for Instagram. 

las vegas strip

I’ve determined you cannot visit California and remain in a bad mood. Even if you worked all day, took a late flight, trekked miles from the airport to find your rental car place and then hit the only traffic worse than the Kennedy when Obama is in town, the sunshine and palm trees will get you soon enough. Trust me. Arnold isn’t lying about that one.

I opted to tack on a mini-vacation to Manhattan Beach after my work trip to Vegas all week and boy am I glad I did. After all, nothing soothes the neon sunburn and detoxes the lavish meals like ocean water and juice cleanses. Did I mention I arrived on an unseasonably warm weekend of 80 degrees in March!?

When I was younger I used to tell my family I was going to move to California when I grew up. I believe I even went so far as to draft an essay about my future life for an 8th grade time capsule. In it, I outlined plans for a mansion on the beach, pet dolphins who roamed free in our designated portion of the ocean, two kids, twins of course, and all made possible by my Doctor husband so my days could be spent ‘playing’ with more dolphins as a marine biologist. I stumbled upon the essay in my parent’s basement a few months ago and got a good laugh reading through the precise details of my west coast life as well as my naivety as to the job responsibilities of marine biologists.

It wasn’t until I visited this past weekend that I realized that my essay wasn’t so far off after all. Now it may not be my life, but take a rapid downhill stroll towards the Manhattan Beach Strand and you’ll see my childhood vision in all it’s glory. Gorgeous mansions line the beach, stacked on top of one-another like Legos (the new expensive ones not those cheap ones we grew up with) with sweeping views of both the pacific and the surrounding hills. Backyards are the focal point of the homes making an al fresco super fan like me just overjoyed at the idea of hosting a dinner party and serving roast with a side of sunset and crashing waves. Those that can’t secure the $5 million for a beachfront lot settle for a few steps up a steep hill and a strategically-placed balcony allowing them ridiculous re-sale value for their ‘ocean view’.

And the dolphins? Oh they are there too. It’s not uncommon to spot schools of dolphins along the beach, sometimes even playing with the surfers. And since no one can tell me otherwise at this precise moment, I’m only left to assume they make a few families very happy.

As for my visit, I started it at Whole Foods Friday where I lunched outside with the local soccer moms and did a little shopping in nearby El Segunda before heading down to the beach. Years of navigational training from my father as well as a lot of work trips have given me the confidence to go out and explore. It’s amazing what you can discover and who you will meet when you just venture out of your comfort zone. Then again, smart phones help too. So after finding a parking spot along Highland in Manhattan Beach, I made my way down the steep incline towards the sand below.

manhattan beach

I walked the beach for a while, envious of the locals who had nothing better to do than to wait for their friends to show up for a late-afternoon volleyball match or surf. Then I realized i had nothing better to do either. I breathed deeply. California, Awesome.

manhattan beach tower

I made my way back up to the shops on Highland and stumbled on a cute little bakeshop called Cake. I tried to walk past it and determined it was physically impossible for me to do so. This travel skill I received from my mother. One PB&J cookie, an almond chocolate chip bar and a pretzel knot later, I thought I had made my daily contribution to local business. But apparently I was just beginning.

cake bakeshop

well said

I soon came across on another mall, and a Trader Joe’s. There were girl scouts out front and the next thing I know I’m heading back to the hotel with bakeshop cookies, girl scout cookies, and more snacks than anyone could possibly eat over the next 24 hours. What can I say, my Dad taught me to find the local hot spots and my mom to individually support their efforts.

Saturday started with an early-morning run along the Strand. I have a race coming up and so it was really nice to get a long run in outside, especially knowing that the snow was still on the ground back home. This time I at least had my boyfriend in tow to confirm additions to my mental photo album of people who look like their dogs. We determined that labradors top the list in Manhattan Beach followed closely by golden retrievers. And it figures since everyone is so ridiculously good looking and fit in this town. We stopped briefly at the Manhattan Beach Pier so I could snap a few photos. Another perk of today’s smart phones and downfall of having me as a running partner.

seagull on pier


I spent the remainder of the day outside, catching up on some reading at the pool and determining the difference between Whole Foods and local Bristol Farms free samples. I also attempted to avoid another girl scout transaction before heading back to the beach that afternoon. Man those girls are cute.

sailboat in ocean and beach

That evening, we headed back to the beach for one last round, this time stopping for a cocktail at  the Manhattan Beach Post where we were informed over Manhattan Avenues (appropriate) and Pushing Daisies that the chef had trained at Charlie Trotters. Small world. And while the wait was too long for us to eat there, we enjoyed a late dinner and a few beers at nearby Simmzy’s Pub.

beach sand toes

It may not be the life I have currently, but several Californians are calling something pretty similar everyday life here in SoCal. As for me, I’m just happy to have a mid-winter visit to absorb some vitamin D, breathe in some ocean air, reflect and be grateful. And maybe to visit often enough that someday one of those homeowners invites me over for some beachfront al fresco dining. I’ll bring the cookies.