Tuesday, November 18, 2014

France 2014

Rob is such a bad ass at his job, he reached his sales quota and got us a free trip to Paris for the Pitchfork Paris Festival at the end of October. I am so lucky!

Day 1.
We had an easy flight there and slept a ton. We made it to our hotel which was conveniently located directly across the street from the festival. We couldn't check into our room so we journeyed out on a little walk. We went to Parc des Buttes-Chautmont first that was very close to our hotel. It's huge with ponds, a water fall, lots of green space and walking paths. They have a great lookout point too. We really enjoyed walking around there even though we were in a total daze. Then we went to another lookout point Rob had heard of that is just above a little winery. It was in this very quiet nook of the city and very pretty. Then we made our way to find lunch and we came across this adorable cafe that was just perfect. We got some coffees and "club" paninis with salad that were soooo good. They had ham, cream cheese and sprouts. Loved them. Then we walked through the cemetery where all the famous folks are buried. We were basically zombies at this point but we checked it out and of course swung by Jim Morrison's grave too. Then we finally made our way back to the hotel to shower and rest. We got dinner nearby at a little crepe shop that was so great! We had galletes with bacon, walnuts, honey and goats cheese and then shared a nutella crepe. The owner was SO nice! Then we stopped by the preparty show for awhile before crashing.

Day 2
The next day we went to Angelina a famous/touristy macaroon and tea room where we got espresso, macaroons and chocolate croissants to go and ate them in the beautiful Tuileries Garden. We enjoyed the sun and the flowers before swinging by the outside of the Louvre for photos, checking out the Royal Palais garden that was pretty blah. Then we made our way to the Pompidou which was filled with interesting art. We had a fun time looking at the contemporary exhibit even though we were still feeling very jetlagged/hazy. We found a cafe to get lunch afterwards nearby. I had a cheese pizza bread thing and a raspberry tart and Rob had a ham and cheese sandwich and lemon pastry. We rested up at the hotel after that and went to the festival for the first night. We got to see the War on Drugs and James Blake and connect with Rob's colleagues. We had dinner at the fest - I think we had chicken curry with couscous and lots of cheese. Rob went to the after party show for awhile and I totally crashed and fell asleep early.

Day 3
The next day we tried to go to the catacombs for Halloween but there was a HUGE wait so we got pastries and coffee and walked to a different area. We breezed through an outdoor market and then found the St. Vincent de Paul Chapel that I had visited when I went on the DePaul Heritage Tour. St. Vincent's wax effigy with his remains underneath are there. It's a very, very strange but very cool thing and I'm glad that I got to see it again. Afterwards we visited a few stores and went shopping at Bon Marche's Grand Epicure and got sandwiches and salads for a lunch picnic. Bon Marche's Grand Epicure is basically like Chicago's Eataly. We found a good spot in the Luxembourg Garden - my favorite spot - and set up our lunch picnic. It was absolutely gorgeous out so it was nice to relax, soak up the sun and enjoy some yummie sandwiches and snacks. There was a totalllllly weird couple next to us though. The guy was tongue bathing his girlfriend's foot. I've never seen anything like it and it was really gross. But we still loved our time at the garden! Then we rested up at the hotel before hitting up the fest. We had dinner there. Rob had an interesting pork dish with broccoli and rice and I had broccoli and rice and more cheese. We got to connect with Nessa & Tobi that night!!! They got there in time for my favorite, St. Vincent! She killed it as usual. It was so fun to see Ness & Tobi and show them the music festival - it was their first one ever! We hung out for the headliner, Belle & Sebastian - people loved them.

Day 4
The next day we walked over to Nessa & Tobi's hotel and then made our way to the Marais neighborhood for brunch. Ness took us back to a place she had really liked on a previous visit. It was super cool inside and the servers were incredibly nice to translate the menus for us. We all had different types of quiche that were really cool and then shared some of their famous cakes include a mile high meringue. Then we shopped around the area for awhile before taking a rest in Les Vosges Parc. It was a beautiful day and I love relaxing in parks! We popped in to a photography exhibit that was free and had some interesting, some out there and some beautiful pieces. Then we went for falafel which is very popular in the area. I loved my falafel pita and the giant serving of fries we had. Then we went back to our hotels to relax before the fest. Rob and I went over a little early to see some bands and then Ness & Tobi made it in time to see Tuneyards who were incredible! It was the best set for me all weekend. So fun and so good! Later on we got food - I had a veg burger that had a lot of curry and interesting veggies in it and Tobi had a hotdog and Ness and Rob shared fries. We watched some more bands, looked through the craft market and sang Happy Birthday to Ness at midnight! It was a great night. Rob and I stuck around and hung out with the staff.

Day 5
The next day Ness & Tobi came over to our hotel and Ness opened her presents and then we went to a really nice patisserie for a delicious chocolate croissant and coffees that turned out to be hot cocoa womp womp. We walked through an artist market and relaxed in the Luxembourg Garden even though it was chillier. We walked through a food market and we got some cheese, bread and veggies for the rest of our trip. Then we went to a crepe place for Nessa's bday lunch! We all had decadent crepes and were stuffed afterwards. We went back towards the hotel and found a grocery store to get the rest of our groceries for the trip. We went back to our hotel until it was time for them to leave for the airport and us for the Pitchfork staff dinner. We had such a good time with Ness and Tob even though we had quite the cloud of jetlag over us. I love our time abroad together and to get extra quality time with my best bud. The Pitchfork staff dinner was really tasty at the hotel they used to stay at. Then we went to a hip club where some of the staff were djing. We had a good last night with the staff!

Day 6
The next day we got up early to pick up our rental car for our getaway. We got some subpar pastries and coffee and Rob drove the whole 4 hours to the Auvergne region. We were both really tired but enjoyed the scenery. The Volca Lodge hotel was really easy to find and truly set in the most gorgeous place. The owner is SO nice and welcoming and spoke English with us. Our little eco lodge was so cozy, so cute and so perfect. We were so excited to spend a couple of days there. We dropped our things and made a quick lunch of tomato and cheese sandwiches and then we went straight to the Puy de Dome - the dormant volcano with a tram that takes you to the top for the views of all the other dormant volcanoes and trails. It was SO windy and so chilly but we were awestruck by the beauty up there. We've never seen anything like it! We had a great time taking pics and soaking it all in. Afterwards we returned to the hotel for dinner. It was the best meal we had the entire trip. So good! Rob had a salad with fresh goat cheese from the owner's farm, a pork filet mignon with potatoes, a cheese course and a little berry tart. I did the tasting menu and got a big board with amazing cheese, salad, the most amazing cheesey potatoes, ham and sausage. We shared a bottle of local wine and I also had a berry tart. Everything was so great!

Day 7
We slept in the next day and Rob made me breakfast in bed with fruit and nutella - so nice :) It was raining steadily ALL day so we just relaxed, read, watched tv and really rested. Rob got in the hot tub for awhile even though it was raining. I made us more tomato and cheese sandwiches for lunch and then we drove into town to the thermal baths. These baths weren't nearly as nice and luxurious as the ones we visited in Italy but they were still really relaxing and fun. We liked the whirlpool outside and the super hot one inside. Afterwards we struggled to find a good spot for dinner but stumbled across a burger joint that looked cute. We went in and the owner was SO nice and spoke English and he told us it was their take on fast food but that it was all local ingredients. Rob had a pork burger that he loved and frites that were really tasty. I got a salad with fried cheese on it that totally hit the spot! We returned to the eco lodge and got another good night's sleep.

Day 8
The next day we returned to Paris and checked into our new hotel which was in a bustling part of the city. We caved and got Starbucks and walked through a little secret church garden before walking to Notre Dame to see the sunset and walking through to warm up and light a candle. Then we shopped around this cute little area and grabbed a drink at a strange bar. Then we walked to the steak frites place that I had visited last time I was in Paris but a different location. It was super crowded but I was able to get us a seat pretty fast. They only serve steak frites and just ask you how you want it prepared. It comes with the most delicious sauce. I haven't had steak in a long time but I couldn't pass it up! It was super good and Rob loved it and that made me happy. It was a great way to end our trip! I feel so, so lucky to have had the opportunity to go on this trip. I'm pretty spoiled!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Gratitude

I like to think that I try to keep a grateful attitude throughout the entire year, but I try extra hard during November and around Thanksgiving. I have so much to be thankful for everyday and I feel so lucky to have the life that I do. Here's my November gratitude list.

This month I am grateful for...
A beautiful, cozy apartment/roof over my head
A fridge full of food, access and funds to purchase food and never going hungry
A closet full of clothes, access and funds to get more clothes when I need them and everything I need to stay warm during the winter
My job that helps me pay the bills, but also expose me to many amazing opportunities, resources and people.
A car that makes getting around much easier and being able to afford gas
My handsome, patient, kind, loving, supportive, talented, comforting, generous husband. He's my everything.
My supportive and loving family that loves me unconditionally and supports me in everything that I do. Plus they're pretty fun to be around too.
My in-laws that are incredibly supportive and kind-hearted. I'm so lucky to be part of their fam.
My health. Despite having a cold right now, I'm so grateful to lead a generally healthy life and have access to healthcare when I need it. I'm grateful for the ability to exercise, walk where I need to go, see and hear the world around me
A giant group of amazing girlfriends. I find so much comfort from my girls when I need it, inspiration to be a better person/employee/sister/daughter/wife/friend, lots of laughter and shared values, interests and understandings. So lucky. So much love.
My seniors at bingo. They make me smile, tell me they love me and treat me like family. LOVE.
My Best Buddy, Connie. She is one in a million and I'm so grateful that I got paired up with my funny, slightly devious, crafty buddy. LOVE.
The ability and means to travel around the world
My education and access to more if I want it.
The city of Chicago. Sometimes it lets me down with it's terrible weather, crime, CTA crappiness, it is still home and a place I'm proud to call home filled with so many beautiful nooks and crannies, world class museums and restaurants, fun things to do and nearly all of my favorite people. CHILOVE.
Never being lonely and always surrounded by love and support.
Alone time.
Coffee and Coke Zero.
Cheese.
Easy internet access, easy texting, easy ways to communicate with friends and family.
Memories with loved ones to last a lifetime.
To never have faced any major hardships and to lead a very blessed and comfortable life.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Happy Thoughts

I came across this article about happy thoughts that a friend posted on Facebook and decided to do one of the things it suggested - to write down 3 good things that happened everyday and to consider why those good things went well. I'm going to try it out on 9/15 and record them here for 4 weeks.

9/15

1. My husband made me coffee to go in the morning because he is so nice. 2. I called Connie on her birthday and we said I love you! 3. All my bingo boys won and I even won which never happens. I love when they win.

9/16

1. I got an unbelievable note in response to a note I had sent from my Grandmother's cousin. Filled with adorableness. I love old people. 2. I got to have a lunch picnic and read chick lit. I'm glad I stepped out of the office to enjoy some sunlight and quiet time away from my desk 3. I got a free dinner at my board meeting. Grateful that they fed us. The meeting went well too. It's finally getting on track.

9/17

1. A train came right as I walked up to the platform and I got a seat! 2. There was a giant sale at Banana Republic and I got to use my bday gift cards and stock up on new items. 3. I had a good day at work. Great annual review and awesome alumni event. yay!

9/18

1. It's beautiful weather today - mid 60s. 2. My husband made coffee for me again this morning because I'm spoiled. 3. I received another wonderful card in response to one I sent from a family friend.

9/19

1. The sun is up and it's Friday. I got to sit outside and soak up the sun for a few moments after a meeting. YES! 2. we booked our January trip to San Francisco and Tahoe for Rob's 30th. YES! 3. We had a lovely date night at a restaurant we frequent in our hood. YES!

9/20

1. We got to spend tons of quality time with our families and friends. Lots of love and lots of hugs. 2. I picked up my gorgeous Munich/Merano photo album. Turned out so nicely and I'm so happy with it. It's been on the back burner for ever and it's great to have something that important to me done 3. The girls made me laugh a lot on Saturday night. Needed it.

9/21

1. Connie time at the arcade. She never fails to make me smile. 2. Healthy dinner and happy/feel-good movie night. 3. Ass kicking workout that I needed.

9/22

1. I didn't wake up feeling exhausted for once - on a Monday especially. yay! 2. I heard the most amazing Motown acapella group at the Lake Red Line Stop. They even had dance moves! It was impossible not to smile. 3. I put myself to bed early and read a lot of my chick lit book.

9/23

1. Our alumni chaplain, Father Bill came by for a visit and he's just so cheery! 2. My friend Jamie and her daughter Allie came to visit and spend the night. 3. I got to check out some spots around the hood that I hadn't yet.

9/24

1. I had to take a sick day which I hate but I got a lot of sleep which I needed. 2. I also got to finish my book and have some quiet time. 3. I ended up keeping my afternoon meetings and I got to duck into the Cultural Center in between them to view some cool art.

9/25

1. My friend Ryann is doing a damn good job cheering me up on this difficult week with videos and pics of cute animals! 2. I splurged and ordered Jimmy John's for lunch and it made me unreasonably happy. 3. Shalva hosted us for Rosh Hashanah on our monthly wine night and it was a beautiful meal and I was surrounded by my best friends. So grateful.

9/26

1. I took the time to attend the St. Vincent de Paul Feast Day Prayer Breakfast. I love participating in activities like this for Vinnie refreshers. 2. I forced Rob to go square dancing with me at Old Town School of Folk. It was pretty amusing. 3. I emailed and reached out to a ton of family members and loved getting the responses.

9/27

1. I got to sleep in and wake up without an alarm. 2. We spent the day in Michigan and it was the best day I've had in awhile. Petting zoo, swinging on the bluff, farmers market, our favorite pizza, apple picking. Seriously great. 3. We enjoyed a healthy dinner on our porch and I crafted cards for my best buds the rest of the night.

9/28

1. I ended up getting to join my friend Tara at Chicago Gourmet downtown last minute. Soaking up the sun and stuffing face. 2. We celebrated my brother's birthday and enjoyed playing a new game. It was good family time. 3. I don't remember why we were laughing so much but right before bed Rob and I were laughing and joking and I went to bed smiling.

9/29

1. PICNIC LUNCH in 78 degree weather. HELL YES. 2. a check in email from my friend Ryann was incredibly comforting. She's the best. 3. John was SO cute when he won at bingo tonight I teared up. 4. I read my chick lit book quietly on the couch for an hour. It was glorious. Yes this day had 4 good things.

9/30

1. This just wasn't a great day but Rob did make me coffee. 2. I got to see a handful of my nicest volunteers and event. 3. I made nachos when I got home and they ruled.

10/1

1. My brother's birthday! Had a nice quick chat with him and my dad. 2. We hosted two nice events. The attendees were very grateful and happy to participate which is always nice. 3. I took the time to have a lunch picnic, soak up the sun and read my book.

10/2

1. A bunch of the cards I made hit mailboxes and everyone's responses are making me happy. 2. I got to have dinner with my best friend at one of my favorite places. 3. Rob made me my lunch so that I could go to sleep early after a long, tough day.

10/3

1. My best friends are so supportive and kind during this hard time. 2. Dunkin Donuts coffee. Yes. 3. We got to celebrate our friends Jenni & Aaron's rehearsal dinner.

10/4

1. We enjoyed brunch at my cousin Kate's before departing for the wedding. It was so nice to spend time together. 2. When I'm at weddings I'm always reminded of how much I love Rob and how lucky I am to have him as my husband. He's the best date and the best husband. 3. We got to send off our friends with hugs and love as they start their new life in DC.

10/5

1. My mom helped me at my pumpkin patch event and it was a sunny, beautiful day. She was the best helper. 2. I had a killer, killer workout. Felt great! 3. Great Connie time painting pumpkins. I especially loved when she told me how sometimes she likes a mess.

10/6

1. Our anniversary! We got so many well wishes from friends and family. It truly warmed my heart. 2. We celebrated with a decadent meal at BOKA. Delic! 3. I finally got to share the anniversary plans with Rob for our weekend getaway to Michigan. We're both so excited.

10/7

1. We had my uncle's funeral mass. It was pretty awesome to meet all the people he touched throughout his life. We got to see a side of him that I would have never known. 2. I got to share my favorite photos of Bill with his wife, Joan. It made me really happy to see her enjoy them. 3. I made it to a hard fitness class at the end of the night and felt so much better after the difficult day.

10/8

1. We had my uncle's burial. It was a bright and sunny day and I think he was shining his light down on us to make the day a little easier. 2. I got to hear the story of how Bill and Joan met and I loved it. They were set up and met at a mutual friend's wedding. After the wedding they took a walk around the block and made plans for another date. The rest is history. 3. I got to do kickbox with my friend Mary. I didn't realize how much I needed to see a friend until I saw her smiling face!

10/9

1. I started a craft for my mom and it's making me really happy to collect everything for it. 2. I caught a glimpse of fireworks after an event at Navy Pier. They're usually on Wednesdays so it was definitely a surprise. 3. I got to see my brother in law's super fun band play and also spend time with my best friend, Ry and her super fan boyfriend.

10/10

1. We departed for our Michigan getaway after work! 2. When we arrived we got to visit Greenbush Brewery and have fantastic food and beers. 3. We spent true quality time together with no stresses or distractions.

10/11

1. We had a delicious breakfast at the b&b and we were happy to sit by ourselves - we always hate chit chatting with other guests. 2. We tried kayaking, biking and hiking. It was really fun to be so active and it was a gorgeous day. 3. We took 2 naps!

10/12

1. Another gorgeous day and delicious breakfast at the b&b. 2. We discovered this cool park that had a boardwalk by a marsh and then a canopy walkway overlooking the Galien River. We enjoyed hiking around. 3. Enjoyed 2 of our favorite, way too suspenseful Sunday night shows - The Walking Dead and Homeland - before going to bed early. 4. I got a fantastic email from Rob's aunt in response to one I had recently sent. Put a big smile on my face.

10/13

1. There was no traffic because it's Columbus Day! 2. I wore the necklace Lee gave me to bingo and it made him so happy. 3. I put myself to bed at 10 p.m. and it was glorious.

10/14

1. I took a lot of time to work on Paris planning. It feels good to have a better sense of what we're doing while we're there. 2. I chatted with Connie before a super hard spin class. She is so hilarious. She always puts a huge smile on my face. 3. My oldest, dearest friend and her family came over to share that pizza and ask us the most amazing question! If we'd be the Godparents for their next baby! We are so honored and thrilled! I love Meg, Ry, Bella & Emi so much and I can't wait to meet baby #3! Bella saying "I love you" on the way out the door made my heart burst. Emi saying "Mommy I'm having fun." at the dinner table was equally heart bursting. 4. I received very thoughtful sympathy cards from my best friend Tara and family friends the Holmans. Everyone has been so kind!

10/15

This is the last day of my challenge! 1. my colleague brought in munster donuts. YUM! 2. I had a crazy hard workout with Mary. Felt great though! 3. Rob and I made a superb dinner of rice, tomatoes, chickpeas, spinach, parmesan and roasted delicata squash. So good.

These little things don't seem that groundbreaking but they are the little things that make my day. I think taking the time to think about the nice or happy moments in my day really make me more serene, grateful and happy. Sometimes it was hard to pick out something specific that made me happy or that was good that day, especially during some difficult times with the loss of my uncle. However, picking out these little bright spots and then going back and reading them definitely made me smile. It's funny to see the trends - coffee clearly has a big impact on my happy moments, spending time away from my desk or enjoying outside during the work day, my best friends, Connie & my bingo boys, quality time with Rob and my fam, early bed times all seem to make me quite happy.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Anniversary Trip to Union Pier, MI

My gift to Rob was a weekend getaway to Union Pier, MI and it was so fun! We stayed at the Goldberry Woods B&B and arrived on Friday night. We loved our room that had a beautiful handcrafted wood bed frame and a fireplace. It shared a hallway with one other room and it was set far away from the kitchen so it was pretty quiet. We went right to Greenbush Brewing in Sawyer for dinner and drinks and were met with a long wait. Luckily they have this cool annex across the street where you can get beers on tap and meats & cheeses so we enjoyed that while we waited for our table. We both liked our beers but my first one was a tad strong for me so I made Rob finish it. Rob got a turkey & bacon melt and I got a succatash that was super tasty. We also got pretzels and cheese as Bo & Ry instructed us after their visit. They were right, super tasty! Rob has been wanting to go there for ages so I'm glad we finally got to enjoy it! The next day after a very yummie breakfast of quiche, oatmeal, melon and pumpkin spice muffins we set out to kayak on the Galien River. The B&B has free kayaks and canoes available but their section of the river is covered in downed trees so we weren't able to kayak for long. I didn't like dripping water on my pants over and over again anyway. It was fun and very scenic while it lasted though. Then we went on a short walk on their river path before grabbing bikes to cruise around the neighborhood. We started out by biking through a neighborhood to a nearby beach entry. It was SO pretty! I hadn't planned on visiting a beach but I'm so glad we did. Then we biked around a bit more before taking a quick rest. We were starved when we woke up and drove to New Buffalo to go to The Stray Dog. It's a super popular place that we've never tried so we decided it was a good time to go. Well so did everyone else in town! Another really long wait! Rob was happy with his pumpkin beer while we waited and then our food came out super fast. It was just ok. We're glad we tried it and can cross it off our list. I think we came back to the b&b and rested even more before dinner at Tosi's in Stevensville. Tosi's is a classic, fine-dining Italian spot that I've only eaten at once. My parents used to go on date night when we stayed at the Chalets in Stevensville. We arrived to our 3rd long wait! We just had to laugh. Everyone in town had the same ideas we did this weekend. When we finally sat down we got delicious bread with fresh shaved parm and delicious olive oil. Rob was good and ordered off their "lighter side" menu and got a penne and soup. I got ravioli and salad. We somehow found room to split dessert - a chocolate pecan pie. SO GOOD! When we got back we wrote in our memory book and watched some scary movies on tv. The next day we enjoyed another tasty breakfast of yogurt parfait, local sausage and butternut pancakes. Everything was very good. Afterwards we packed up our stuff and then did the 2 small hiking paths on the property we hadn't checked out yet. After we checked out we went to the Galien River Park where they have a boardwalk by the marsh and river and a canopy walkway that's 300ft in the air! It was so pretty and had great views and photo ops. Then we went to the farmers market nearby and got some produce for the week and then went to the chili cookoff. Overall it was a super relaxing and fun filled weekend in our favorite area of Michigan!