Wednesday, December 19, 2012

2012 Recap

It was a very, very big year filled with so many wonderful memories! Some highlights:

#1 GETTING MARRIED TO MY BOO! Clearly the biggest and best thing that happened this year was tying the knot to my love of 10 years. Couldn't have imagined a better day and honeymoon. The showers, bachelorette party, girl's dinner and rehearsal dinner were absolutely wonderful too! Truly a fabulous celebration! So grateful for everyone's love and support during the whole engagement and wedding day.

#2 Ireland! Got to take an amazing trip with my mom all round Ireland! So many adventures and special memories! We went to Glendalough, Kilkenny, Cork, Limerick, Nenagh, Galway and hung with Ness and Kate in Dublin.

#3 Small Trips! Rob and I did an overnight in Saugatuk in the winter, Hunky Dory this summer, Wandawega in the fall, overnight in Grand Rapids for Beer Fest, a weekend at the Chalet, Urbana overnight and I had work trips to D.C., Denver, Atlanta, St. Louis and Orlando.

#4 BEST BIRTHDAY EVER Rob rented out a dive bar party room for my 28th birthday and we did it up dancing to all of my favorite old hip hop songs. It was very ridiculous, but so fun! Rob also took me to see Steve Martin at Ravinia. My girlfriends went to see Magic Mike with me and brought cupcakes and mimosas to enjoy during the flick - they're the best! I also got to grab dinner with my family in Greek Town. Truly, the best birthday yet.

#5 Weddings & Engagements We attended 1 wedding last winter, 2 this summer, 2 this fall, Rob had one while I was in Ireland and we have one next weekend. They have all been so different and great reflections of each couple. Several friends have recently gotten engaged too! So much love all around us!

#6 SERVICE I was able to go on my first Service Immersion Trip to Bladensburg, MD and stay with the Daughters of Charity and do a variety of different types of service with students. It was one of the most challenging things I've ever done and I'm looking forward to the opportunity to do it again this year. I've tried out several new volunteer projects through Chicago Cares this year and have added more service projects to our alumni calendar.

MISCELLANEOUS Lots of bulls games
Lots of new recipes
Lots of fitness
Lots of summer festivals (Mole, Maifest, Ribfest, Wells Street Art, Pitchfork, Oyster Fest, Retro on Roscoe)
Some foster kitties
We gained a beautiful niece, Sofie!
Weird stuff: race kart driving, turtle races, terrarium class, stay smooth roller skating party, snoop dog and bruce.

Such a great year filled with wonderful memories and special occasions!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Honeymoon Part 2

On Wednesday we left Charleston for Savannah. The drive wasn't long at all - just about 2 hours. We checked into our 1st hotel, The Marshall House which is Savannah's oldest hotel. We ofcourse got upgraded to a king size room because I dropped we were on our honeymoon. The room was really cool and they left us a sweet congrats note in our room too! It was right in the historic district in the heart of everything. First we walked to the Riverfront which we felt was incredibly touristy and cheesy and we also went to their City Market which was equally touristy. It was a beautiful day though so we were just happy to be outside. We sat in Chippewa Square which is where Forrest Gump was filmed and enjoyed some salt water taffies we grabbed at the market. We came across the founder of the Girl Scouts home which is apparently a really big deal to everyone there. Then we went to Angel's BBQ. It was featured on Man vs. Food for their voodoo sauce challenge. We did not do the challenge, but we enjoyed some bbq. They had a great selection of sauces, but the actual bbq was just alright. Later that day we went on a bike tour. This was my favorite thing we did in Savannah! Our tour guide, Dee was such a funny little guy - we loved it. There were only 4 of us on the tour so it was really personal. He did the off the beaten path version of his tour so we learned all about some of the random Savannah spots - like the tiniest cottage in the historic district and pointed out the historic house that has it's shutters on upside down. It was so beautiful out and so much fun. I'm so glad we did it. Later that night we got dinner at the Olde Pink House which is thought to be haunted (like everywhere else in Savannah) and is great for the traditional Southern experience. We weren't that hungry because we had stopped for a snack after the bike tour so we just shared some appetizers. I believe we had the pulled pork sliders, fried green tomato with a crab cake and maybe a salad?? I remember it being good, but not great. Rob was mad they didn't do anything special for us for our honeymoon, but at the very end they brought out a huge candle and a plate that said, "best wishes" in chocolate sauce and strawberries and cream. It was quite tasty and super sweet! I'm glad we were able to eat at this Savannah staple. The next day we went to Oatland Wildlife Center which is about 20 minutes outside of the city. It was another gorgeous day so we were glad to be spending the day outside. The center is set in woods with walking trails throughout and different exhibits. There really weren't a lot of animals there at all and 2 of the exhibits were closed so we were kind of laughing that we wouldn't end up seeing anything, but we did! We saw a cougar sunbathing, bobcats playing, fox taking naps, owls and bald eagles, some amphibians and deer hanging out. Then we came up to a lake. We looked over the deck railing and noticed that there were a zillion turtles and soon more swam up. It was crazy - we couldn't figure out what they were all doing there. Later we realized that they had food to feed them and they knew that when people came they would get fed! The best part was that we FINALLY saw a gator swimming around! We had wanted to see one at all of our wildlife stops and hadn't had any luck so we were really excited about that! After the Wildlife Center we drove a little bit further to Tybee Island for a dolphin cruise. We didn't really know what to expect, but it was just so sunny and gorgeous out we were just happy to be on the water. So basically they drive you out on the boat, tell you about 2 minutes worth of info on dolphins and the island and then just say "on the left, front of the boat right, center of the boat..." to tell you where there are dolphins and they were seriously EVERYWHERE. It was like where's waldo dolphin edition and so fun. They came up really close and we got to watch some playing together for a long time. Super silly, but definitely enjoyable. Afterwards we grabbed seats on the rooftop deck of the seafood shack next door and had a basket of fried shrimp with fries and hush puppies. I've never had fresher shrimp! Probably because it literally comes from their backyard! We went back to Savannah and drove through the famous Bonaventure Cemetery before checking into our new swanky hotel, The Mansion on Forsyth Park. I became acquainted with the Kessler Hotel Group when I hosted an event at one in Orlando and met the owner. When she told me they had property in Savannah I had to check it out and it turned out to be the swankiest spot in the whole city so we decided to do it up for our honeymoon. It is seriously the most outrageous place I've ever stayed, so so nice! She upgraded us to an executive level so we not only got a giant room, we also got complimentary breakfast and happy hour! So awesome! The room was larger than my studio apartment was and the bathroom was the size of our kitchen. We were so excited! It was in a different side of town so we were able to check out a new area across from the gorgeous Forsyth Park. That night we grabbed dinner at Alligator Soul which is known for their exotic meats. I wasn't impressed with their atmosphere and the server was horrible, but the food was actually good. I had a bacon wrapped steak with mashed potatoes and Rob had gator gumbo. They gave us mini pecan pies with a note saying congrats which was sweet but the pies weren't good. After that we went on a ghost tour. We were really excited for this and it was such a let down! Our tour guide was quite possibly the worst story teller on the planet. I'm assuming he had some sort of social disorder, but I can't be sure. It took him about 45 minutes to tell one story so after 3 of them we were dying and someone asked him how much longer it would be and he said another 90 minutes! The whole tour was supposed to be 90 minutes! So we ducked out when we were close to our hotel. We felt really bad for leaving but so many other people had and I couldn't suffer through anymore of this man's story telling!!! The next day we went to Mrs. Wilkes and waited in line for over an hour for lunch. It was definitely worth it! You walk in and the entire table is covered in southern side dishes and then they bring you endless amounts of fried chicken. I fell in love with lima beans on this trip. The mac and cheese was one of the bests we had too. Afterwards we couldn't move so we laid in the sun to digest before doing some sightseeing. We visited the Owen-Thomas House which is one of the only homes in the historic district with the slave quarters still in tact. Then we went to the Jepson Arts Center and the Telfair Academy which is an art museum in a big mansion. Then we laid out by the hotel's beautiful pool before going out for our final dinner at Local 11 Ten which was right down the street from our hotel. They had a super cool rooftop bar that we had a drink on before going downstairs for dinner. I'm pretty sure we weren't really hungry at all but we pushed through! We split their incredibly baked mac and cheese appetizer and I had the pork chop. I think Rob might have had the bison? It was my favorite meal in Savannah! The next morning we left for the airport and we were so good on time we had time to grab more chicken and waffles in Charleston because we passed it on the way!!! What a treat and what a great way to end the best week ever! Charleston definitely won in my book, but Savannah was really fantastic too. We were so lucky to have the weather we did and all of the special treatment. Truly the best week ever!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Honeymoon Part 1!

Our wonderful honeymoon seems so long ago and I know that I will leave out many details but overall it was delightful and truly the perfect week for us. We flew into Charleston the day after the wedding. Rob managed to get us an upgrade on our car rental by dropping that we were on our honeymoon. We were upgraded to a Toyota Corrolla which I thought was a hilarious upgrade. Rob planned everything we did in Charleston and I planned everything for Savannah. (Rob did a much better job than I did) The first thing I made Rob do was drive to CVS so I could buy fake eyelash remover because those suckers were killing me. Then we checked into our hotel. We stayed at the historic Francis Marion Hotel. It took great effort to remove those eyelashes and in the process I made my lids so swollen - but it felt great to have my regular lashes back. Then we walked around the city with a stop at their City Market which was fun to see before spending some time on the swings at the beautiful water front park. We also spent some time on the rooftop of a hotel enjoying the warm breeze, view of the water and some super delic crab dip and local craft beers. Then we went to dinner at McCrady's with a gift card our friends Val & Chris gave us. We opted for the 4 course meal and we even got an extra course thanks to Rob dropping that we were on our honeymoon. Everything was crazy delicious and it was a nice quiet setting for us. We both agreed that the bonus course of buttered rice with different herbs from their garden was the best part. The next day Rob had a big plan for us. We went and got fried chicken and waffles at the Early Bird Diner - it was incredible. They had this yummie mustard sauce that made it extra delicious. Then we went to the Drayton Plantation for a tour. We had some time to kill before the house tour so we did their marsh walk. We were basically the only people doing it so we got to explore and take lots of fun photos. It was a very cool environment. I loved all the Spanish moss and cypress trees. Then we did the house tour but we got bored so we snuck out early. We wanted to be able to go to Cypress Gardens which was a bit of a drive, but totally worth it. It's the place they filmed the rowboat scene in The Notebook. Does it get more romantic than that?! We took a rowboat ride through their black water swamp which was truly incredible. One of the coolest, most serene and beautiful things we've ever done together. They also had a mini zoo set up and a walking path around the swamp. It was one of my favorite parts of the whole trip! Then even though we weren't hungry, we stopped at Martha Lous for more fried chicken, lima beans & cornbread. I loved the fried chicken and lima beans! The place is a total shack, but well-known for it's tasty food. I'm so glad we were able to go and get some authentic southern cookin. Later on we grabbed a drink at Husk - the #1 restaurant in Charleston right now. They have a very cool bar next door and then we had dinner in the main house. It was a really cool vibe. They only use local ingredients and they have a big board that says where everything came from. Rob got us free sparkling cider when he told them we were on our honeymoon. We started with buffalo pig ears (which gave me a stomach ache, but Rob loved) and I can't really remember what else we ate, but it was good. We were so, so full from all the food though! We walked through a different part of the city to get back and we felt like we had the streets to ourselves. The next day we got massages that Rob had set up for us. My lady wouldn't stop talking about all of her ghost encounters - it was really funny. Rob's lady stayed quiet and thought that his massage was 90 minutes so he got 30 minutes extra! We grabbed lunch at Hominy Grill that day which is apparently a southern cuisine staple down there. They had boiled peanuts and it was my first time trying them. They were super tasty! We chowed down and then we went horseback riding! Rob had arranged for us to have a private tour. It was the most beautiful afternoon and the scenery was incredibly. I felt SO lucky in that moment - riding under the Spanish Moss with the sun shining through on my sweet horse, George. Our guide was so nice and an all around great person. Horseback riding probably ties with our rowboat ride for most amazing experience. When we got back to the city we grabbed a beer flight at a local brewery, grabbed gelato, went for a very long walk along the water and checking out all of the giant houses and rainbow row and the big beautiful parks before grabbing a pre-dinner drink at McCrady's. It was so gorgeous out - so much sunshine but not too hot. Then we went to Cru for dinner where we shared fried goat cheese with honey and nuts - YUM and I had the most amazing cheesy and poblano stuffed chicken. I loved the atmosphere there too. We really really fell in love with Charleston and I was sad to leave. It's a great city and so easy to relax there. I hope we can go back sometime!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


So many people have been posting what they're thankful for every day this month on Facebook. I missed the memo and never started so I'll put all my thankful thoughts here.

Always thankful for:

Privilege. I'm grateful that I am privileged enough to have a warm place to stay and food whenever I want it.

Family. I'm thankful for my loving family members and in-laws that are always supportive and generous.

Work. While so many people are unemployed, I am lucky to have a job that I enjoy and also allows me to live comfortably.

Health. I'm thankful for being generally healthy and able-bodied.

Chicago. I am always thankful that I live in such a great city that has so much to offer, great food, excellent sites and the feeling of home.

Independence. I am grateful and proud that I can live independently without the support of others.

Cheese. 'nough said.

Girl time. I am thankful for quality time spent with best friends. I spent this weekend laughing with different groups of gals and last night sharing crappy beers and girl talk. I'm the luckiest!

Senior Citizens. I love, love, love my senior citizens that I visit at bingo. Especially when they call me Jennifer instead of Jen and give me hard candy.

BFFs. I am blessed with about a dozen amazing bffs. I am so lucky to have met so many wonderful women over the years and to be able to call them close friends. They all contribute to my life in different ways whether it's listening to my daily complaints, dancing on the weekends, joining me for fitness classes, sharing meals, doing crafts, making me laugh - everything I could possibly need!

Husband. I'm always grateful for having such an amazing partner in life. Rob truly lets me be who I want to be and is the most supportive person in my life. We have so much fun together and I love the life we've created as a couple.

Thankful for right now:

Post-wedding fun. Even though the big day has come and gone, we are still getting to relish in the celebration. It's so nice to be done with the planning and just enjoy each other and remember the day. We received our wedding photos from Stoffer Photography and they turned out beautifully. We got asked to be featured on our florist's social media campaign and featured on a wedding blog. We're starting to print photos and make albums, put together out guest book notes, etc. - it's all fun and so special!

Memberships. I received 2 gift memberships last year - 1 to the Brookfield Zoo from my girlfriends and 1 to the Art Institute from Rob. I've been trying to take advantage of both more often before they expire and it's always a nice treat to visit the zoo or check out some Georgia O'Keefe's.

Powersculpt. I'm completely obsessed with Powersculpt Fitness. They helped me get in shape for the wedding and now I'm totally hooked. I can't get a workout like that anywhere else.

Free time. I am so grateful that my life now allows for free time and me time. It hasn't been like that in awhile, but last week I was able to kick back and watch tv on the couch with the foster cat for the entire night. It was amazing.

A clean home. We had a foster cat for 2 weeks that was quite the terror. Even though he had his moments of cuteness, overall - not a fan. Every time we get a cat, we cover all the furniture with sheets and put things they could damage away. After we got rid of this one, we did a serious deep clean and organization and I had forgotten how nice it is to have the house in order. It's such a satisfying, calming feeling and I'm very grateful for that right now!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Wedding Day: Part 2

The ceremony was definitely our favorite part of our entire day. As soon as I started walking down the aisle, I could not stop smiling. I was SO excited and elated that I finally got to marry Rob and I was so happy to be surrounded by all of our loved ones while we made it official. I thought maybe I would cry, but I was so overcome with happiness, I just couldn't stop smiling! Our close family friend, Gloria, officiated the wedding. She did such a beautiful and amazing job and we are so lucky that she was willing to take this journey with us and lead us in our union. Even though she's never done this before, she wrote almost all of the ceremony herself - the only parts we added were our vows, reading and closing Irish blessing. She really blew us away with the beautiful words she wrote for our special day. Cody and Lynn played our ceremony music perfectly and it was great because all of the songs we chose were special to us and so are they! My brother John lit our memory candle in honor of those who could not be with us. Rob's sister, Amy did our reading - I carry your heart by E.E. Cummings. Our parents signed our version of a Jewish Ketubah. It was so special to have our families involved with our very special moment. The vows were the best part of the entire day. We decided to write our own vows and we kept them to ourselves until that moment. I had edited and re-edited my vows many times leading up to the day and felt very happy and content with the finished version. I had no idea what to expect to hear from Rob and I was truly blown away with his beautiful and absolutely perfect vows he wrote for me. I still can't believe how wonderful they were. He definitely made lots of people cry! After the ceremony we ran off for a moment to ourselves which was great. Then it was photo time! We took photos with our immediate families on the patio and then we got all of Rob's cousins and aunts and uncles on the catwalk. I really hope those turned out! There were a lot of us! We got my aunt, uncle, cousins and fam friends outside and then we did a lot of photos just us. Our photographers - Stoffer Photography -again - were awesome! Before we knew it, it was time for dinner! Tara, my bff announced us as husband and wife and we took our seat at our sweetheart table. My dad said a prayer and welcome and then Rob's Grandpa did two Hebrew prayers and ofcourse included some jokes. It was so nice to have them both included. We tried to eat and drink but we were just so excited we weren't even hungry or thirsty. We took the time to visit with family and friends throughout the room. It was so nice to have a few minutes with each table. So many people complimented our playlist which meant the world to us because we had spent HOURS upon HOURS making it perfect. That was my favorite thing to hear, that they loved the music - and the food :) Then it was time for our first dance. We were very nervous about our dance because we usually look very silly dancing together but I think we did great! We danced to This Will Be Our Year by The Zombies - one of our favorites and the lyrics were very fitting. Then I danced with my Dad and Rob with his Mom to God Only Knows by the Beach Boys. Then it was time to party! We started the oldies dance music and people could play ping pong and we were actually ahead of schedule (when does that happen!?) so there was a short wait for the photo booth to open. People were looking at the photo albums and BFF board we put together and typing their guest book notes and it was pretty awesome to step back and see everything come together into a really great celebration. All of our hard work had paid off. Later in the evening I finally got to give Rob his wedding gift! I surprised him with a Klezmar Band to come in and teach us all the Hora and other Jewish dances. My boss, Tracy really made this happen because there were a lot of challenges with execution. It ended up being so amazing and so fun and I am so glad it all worked out. Rob loved it and we had an enormous Hora going and we even went up in chairs (thanks to Shalva and Jamie my Jewish girlfriends!). It was such a great moment. After that we had some funkier fun music and people got really into the photobooth - we loved looking at the copies the next day. Everyone said the night would fly by, but I really felt like we got to soak in every moment together - dance a lot (even an awesome conga line for my 70s fave Love Train), chat with our loved ones, have some private moments, do the photo booth, play ping pong and really enjoy ourselves. We had been telling everyone that we'd only be playing oldies but for the last 30-45 min we added in some awesome 90s-early 2000s jams like MoTown Philly, Return of the Mack, Poison, Hypnotize and more. It was a huge hit and we ended with Fantasy by Mariah and it was great. We loved every minute of it! Then it was time for the after party!! Our friends and family helped us clean up and then Rob and I decided to walk the short distance to the bar just us. It was nice to have that moment just the two of us after our big celebration with everyone. When we arrived to the bar, Fountainhead, I walked in first and everyone clapped and cheered which was awesome but also funny because Rob was still outside. But I will never forget my wonderful greeting! We stayed there for a bit and had some more laughs with friends and family before taking off for our hotel via Uber towncar. Again, another private moment just us that was so nice. We got to Hotel Sax and checked into our awesome room that Ryann and Darcy had decorated beautifully. They're so sweet! I honestly can't begin to express our gratitude for everyone who helped us celebrate our special day. We couldn't have done it or had such a wonderful day without the support. To our friends and family that helped with all the preparations - Stef of Dolce Designs who designed our invites and programs and made us a gorgeous Ketubah, my friends who helped a lot with crafts and sharing ideas and my mom for always keeping an eye out for different things we'd need and to Vanessa who helped the week of by keeping me sane, happy and excited. Jamie and my boss Tracy who really made sure everything ran up to my standards and ran around the whole night making sure I didn't notice if anything was going wrong. To our friends that picked up our flowers, decorated our hotel, helped set everything up, run the show, run the music, held us up in chairs, helped make the surprise happen, chalked our welcome sign, loaned us your child to be our flower girl and ring bearer, helped with the guestbook/announcements/programs and everything else in between - we are beyond grateful and so glad you could be part of our day. To Gloria for doing the most important job of all and our family that was part of our ceremony and to everyone that attended and made it THE BEST DAY EVER! We are so happy :)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Wedding Day Part 1

Everyone told me the wedding day would be a blur and would move really fast, but I actually didn't feel that way. I really felt like I was able to soak it all in and move at a pace I felt comfortable with. In the morning, I tried on my dress one more time and noticed it felt pretty big so I planned on drinking a lot of water and getting some good salty snacks to fill it in. Ness met me at our apartment and then we drove together to our hair salon, but first we stopped by the Lincoln Square German Market for pretzel bread, cheese and waters. It was the perfect little snack. My stylist ended up having a family emergency and they had this other stylist double booked so I had to sit there for awhile waiting which stressed me out a bit, but once she got started, I realized it was going to be ok. My mom came and met us at the salon too. She saved the day and got me a big gulp :) It definitely took awhile to do my up do, but I absolutely loved the finished product - I actually liked this style more than the one I was supposed to get! She did such a great job and I felt like a beautiful bride! Next, my mom went and picked up sandwiches from Costello's for us which we enjoyed while we waited for the make up gal to arrive. They found out that I was getting married and gave us a free sandwich. Love it! My friends, Ryann, Darcy and Jamie came over too. Ry and Darc had picked up our flowers from Dilly Lily and they dropped them off for us. They were SO beautiful and over the top. We loved them! The girls hung out for awhile when I started to get my make up done. It was so fun to have them around and I couldn't wait to see all of my best buds at the venue before the ceremony. The girls took off and we wrapped up my make up and my mom's. I really loved how it turned out! We requested an Uber town car and Ness and I took that over the venue and my mom drove our flowers and other items we needed. It was really fun riding the short distance with Ness and getting excited together. We arrived at the venue and I sent Ness in to check to make sure Rob was out of site before I walked in. Then I got upstairs and got to see some of my friends and family before getting into my dress. Several of them had been setting everything up with Jamie for a few hours already. I'm very grateful to my coworker Sarah, Jamie, Caitlin, Shalva and Nicole and their dates for helping with everything to make sure it all looked beautiful. One of our photographers, Maura, was up there with us to capture all of the special moments and some glamour shots before we got everything started. We popped some champagne and I received a beautiful card and Tiffany's Infinity Bracelet from Rob and I sent down a card for him too. In the mean time, Rob was running around like crazy downstairs chatting with people and making sure our sound was working. It was a bit more hectic for him beforehand than it was for me which i feel badly about! I sent my bro down to usher with Rob's brother-in-law, Tom and I sent the girls down to take their seats and some to do their jobs like programs and yay flags and then I was just up there by myself for awhile. I started to get really anxious and was looking down at the chaos in the atrium of the venue. No one was sitting down, my dad's boutonniere was missing, candles weren't lit - it was really hard to be stuck up there - NOT running the wedding. I even chatted with a maintenance man because I was stuck up there by myself for so long waiting to get started! But eventually everything came together and I think we only started about 10 minutes late! I finally wrangled my parents upstairs, my dad got his boutonniere and the ceremony music started, played beautifully by Rob's younger bro, Cody and his wife, Lynn. I couldn't see, but I know Luke and Bella did a great job as our ring bearer and flower girl. I could tell by all of the awwws. Then I knew me and my parents were up. I took a deep breath and my parents took their mark. Soon it was my turn to walk down the catwalk over the ceremony site to Iron & Wine's "Such Great Heights." I honestly could not stop smiling. I had the biggest grin and I was so excited! I was overwhelmed with happiness and excitement to marry Rob! I met my parents at the foot of the catwalk stairs and then we walked down the main aisle together. Dad kissed my cheek (accidentally stood on my dress) and said their 'we dos' and sat down. Then it was time to get the ceremony started! More on that later :)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

We did it!

We got hitched on 10.6.12! It feels great to have made it official and our connection feels even more special and strong. Our wedding day was absolutely perfect and we truly had the best day ever. We are so grateful for everyone's help, love and support. We are so lucky to be surrounded by such wonderful people. The week of the wedding was totally crazy, but I still managed to host my best friends over for dinner to thank them for all of their help and support and give them little gifts. My best friend, Vanessa, in from Germany, came over early to help with everything. Thank goodness she did. She was such a great helper - she cooked all of the steak for the steak salads and helped with everything else I needed. She was basically my co-host and I'm so grateful for her being there! It was so fun to give the girls their gifts and cards that I have had for months. I framed collages I put together of different photos of us from over the years and picked out different nail polishes that I thought they would like. I made them all cards that said "you're my favorite" because they are all my favorites. The night ended with lots of laughs and smiles. I'm so glad that I got to share that time with them before our big day. The next day I was able to get my nails done with my friend Jamie, in from Michigan. She was great about getting me whatever I needed and keeping me calm even though I felt very stressed! We took her to the venue to show her everything afterwards because she so kindly agreed to help run everything since she's a professional wedding planner - seriously, how lucky are we!? After that, Rob and I headed to the suburbs for our "night before" dinner. We reserved a room at a place called Grady's Grille in Homewood and it was the perfect size for our group. My mom and brother came early with some flowers and centerpieces and it really brightened up the place. Our immediate families, Rob's Grandpa and friend, my aunts/uncles and cousins, our family friends the Holmans and the Shaklees joined us for the special occasion. We enjoyed catching up, eating dinner and then we got to pass out more gifts! I love giving gifts and we spent so much time putting thought into everything - it was a highlight for me. After gifts we went over details for the next day and helped get everyone informed. After that I said goodbye to my fiance and headed back to the city for a night on my own. A lot of people think it's strange I wanted to be by myself, but I really wanted time to center myself, enjoy some quiet moments and think about the next day. I was able to watch Father of the Bride - which is what I've always wanted to do the night before I got married. Ofcourse I got absolutely no sleep due to being overexcited, but I still woke up feeling energized and excited! I just couldn't wait to see my husband to be and to start the festivities! I'll write more about the wedding day itself soon!

Monday, October 1, 2012

5 days!

It's wedding week!!! I am bursting with excitement and so ready for the wedding! Rob and I have been so busy running around, getting things organized and finalizing crafts/gifts - we barely had a second to breath. Now nearly everything is done and we have been able to enjoy each other and get pumped for our big day! Can't wait!

Monday, September 17, 2012

19 days away!

I can hardly believe that I will be a married woman in less than 3 weeks! I'm so excited to be able to call Rob my husband and to celebrate our marriage with all of our family and friends so so soon! I thought I would be sad about not being engaged anymore - no more bridal magazines, obsessively checking wedding blogs, calling Rob my fiance, checking out bridal events and planning every detail, but I'm ore excited to call Rob my husband and to just be married. As much fun as the planning process has been, I honestly can't wait for it to be over and to have our life back. Our apartment is wedding danger zone and my brain is constantly filled with wedding crap. It'll be nice to focus on other things, be a better friend/daughter/sister/wife/volunteer/employee when I have mental clarity back. It will be so great to jump into our life as a married couple and start this new chapter together. There is still lots to be done before the wedding. I'm doing my next fitting tomorrow and we have our final meeting at the venue on Wednesday. Rob is meeting with the a/v company tonight and is finalizing details with our photo booth company. We have plenty of crafts to do and luckily all of my crafty friends are coming over this Sunday to help. We have to confirm some details and finalize day of schedules and plans. Overall, everything is under control and on track! CAN'T WAIT!

Friday, September 7, 2012

29 DAYS!!!!

We're getting married in less than a month!!! We had our bachelor and bachelorette parties this weekend as well as our shower hosted by Rob's mom, sister and sister-in-law. It was a great wedding-filled weekend! My bffs Tara and Ryann took the lead planning my party and they did a great job! It was the perfect "Jen" party. We started the night at Tara's house for games, dinner and gifts. They decorated everything soooo well and they all had matching tanks with funny pictures on them from over the years. LOVED IT! The games were hilarious and everyone was WAY too generous with the gifts! I got so many beautiful things. The food was awesome - different fondues and delicious treats. They went all out! Then we went to a burlesque class at a studio in the West Loop and it was so fun. We all took it really seriously which was pretty funny. We learned some good moves before walking to RM Champagne Lounge, this new gorgeous champagne bar close by. We sat on the patio and it was so pretty! The server sabered our pink champagne and we played more games. Then we cabbed it over to Beauty Bar for manis and cocktails and photo booth fun. I kept saying I wanted a cheeseburger so Tara and Ryann got me one from down the street - talk about good friends :) I ate that with some helpers and then we went to Five Star and tried out our new burlesque moves in their room with a stripper pole - classy I know :) We had a great time swinging around and enjoying the room to ourselves. Just the right amount of crazy for a bachelorette party! It was such an awesome night - I had the best time with all my best friends! Wouldn't change a thing! Rob's party was planned by his bro and brother-in-law. They grabbed dinner at Bad Apple and then did some games of bowling at Timber Lanes before grabbing drinks at one of our favorite bars near our house. Sounds like they had a pretty awesome night too! The next day we went to our shower and we were blown away by all the amazing decorations Amy and Lynn made! It's unbelievable how creative and crafty they both are. Amy used her outstanding laser cutter to make some great signs for around the room. My favorite was the one that said "Make it rain" over the gifts. Pretty fab! She also had garland with photos from over the years and big tissue puff balls that really added to the room. Lynn made these awesome brown paper bag flowers - so cool! Very impressed! We enjoyed yummie food and a very clever game - who said it Facebook style - before opening presents. Once again, we couldn't believe how generous everyone was! We are so blessed and lucky to have such wonderful support from our loved ones. We got so many beautiful things and we're so grateful for everyone in our lives! Now that all the special occasions are over - we're just looking forward to our big day! We picked up our marriage license this week - very exciting! We're working on lots of little projects now - all the finishing touches! We're going to pick out our beers and favors this weekend. It'll be here before we know it - can't wait!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Wandawega Lake Resort

A few weeks ago Rob and I took a pre-wedding honeymoon to Wisconsin at this great place we found called Wandawega Lake Resort. It's billed as a very rustic, vintage lake resort. It's just under 2 hours away from the city so it was a quick drive. We made a stop at the local market for our favorite New Glarus beers and some cheese, sausage and local produce. Then we pulled into the resort and couldn't believe how cool it was. We got settled into our adorable cabin and then got a tour from the property manager. We couldn't believe all the fun stuff that was all around for us to do - we felt overwhelmed with all of the possibilities but made our way down to the small beach for some sunbathing first. The lake isn't nearly as nice as Lake Clare at Hunky Dory and the beach is much smaller so there wasn't a ton of room to sprawl out. It was still really nice to relax by the water and get some sun. We went for a canoe ride all the way around the lake which was good exercise and we always have nice chats when we take canoe rides. We also took advantage of all the swings and hammocks they have throughout the resort, explored the treehouse and rest of the camp, tried to ride bikes (flat tires) and Rob had fun with the archery before we went to a recommended dinner spot for a Friday fish fry. Rob got the fish and I went for a burger. The place was very cute and we enjoyed chowing down and indulging in some great junk food. Afterwards we hung out on the deck, played pool in the lodge and then watched a movie up in the awesome treehouse until it was time for bed. The next day we went to a farmers market in town and got some produce and fudge. We found a doughnut shop and a coffee shop too. When we got back we had snacks and Rob played his banjo on the porch and I did wedding crafts and emails. I made a greek salad pita for our lunches that we got to enjoy on our porch too. There were a ton of kids running around that arrived that day so it wasn't nearly as peaceful and it was very crowded by the lake so we waited until later to hang out on the beach after we took a nice long walk through the neighborhood. That night we grilled chicken & gouda sausages and vegetables and had potato salad for dinner. There was a campfire that night and it was swarming with kids and the moms were holding on tightly to their smores supplies but we managed to get some. We got in some more pool games that I lost horribly at and then we watched episodes of the Wonder Years on Rob's laptop before going to bed early. The next morning there was a photo shoot for a catalog and there was tons of crazy stuff going on. They were bringing in cows and goats into our cabin that we cleared out of after a nice final canoe ride. We watched the madness from the treehouse and ate snacks while they made a winter scene for our cabin and brought in Abigail the cow. There was also outdoor mass going on by the lodge. A whole parish comes! We checked it out for a bit, but it wasn't really our style so we returned to the treehouse. After awhile we were ready to head home and we made one last stop at the market to load up on New Glarus before getting back to the city. I really thought this place might compete with Hunky Dory, but it's got nothin on it. No ping pong, no ice cream, no meals cooked for you, no water skiing, not as many stars, strong cell phone service, twice as many screaming children and no bathrooms in your cabin! EEK! But overall, it was a really great time. It was so nice for us to get away together and spend some quality time together and to just kick back and enjoy the outdoors at a cool place. The decor there was incredible and we loved all the swings and hammocks. The owners are incredibly nice and really great hosts. They've created a very special and cool place! I hope we can go back sometime!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Our first shower!

My Aunt Anne, Aunt Joan and my mom thew us a beautiful shower last weekend! They selected a Francesca's in Bolingbrook that had a really pretty area in the center of their restaurant. My DePaul girlfriends and coworkers, family and family friends attended. They put together very cute arrangements on the table with bright gerber daisies in bud vases and everyone had a cute favor box with a lotto ticket and lucky penny on a card that said Rob and Jen are lucky in love, how lucky are you? and a bunch of candy with custom wrappers that my mom made. So sweet! Lunch was really delicious - they did a great job selecting the menu. We had a yummie salad with bleu cheese, chicken with spinach and potato and ricotta gnocchi. Our favorite part was the pasta. We had cream puffs for dessert too. It was nice to sit with my cousins, aunts and our moms to catch up while we ate. After we ate we started opening gifts - there were A LOT. Everyone was SO generous - we couldn't believe it. We had a really good time opening everything and seeing who picked out what. We are so well stocked now to host parties and holidays! My mom and aunt Anne even found a retro warming tray on eBay - I've wanted one forever! My boss let her two awesome kids pick out gifts on their own and Ryen picked out this adorable photo album set and her little boy, Logan picked out the banana hanger! I really didn't think anyone would get it so I was very excited that it was purchased. We've been using it ever since. Half way through gifts we had everyone do a fill in the blank game about me and Rob. We gave a prize for most accurate and most ridiculous. My coworkers won most accurate! and my mom's friends and my friends won for most ridiculous. It was really fun to hear what people came up with. We left feeling overwhelmed with gratitude, excitement and love for everyone! We are so lucky to have been showered with so much love and now our house feels more like a home. Can't wait for our second shower in a few weeks hosted by Amy and Mrs. J!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

2 months away!

The big day is only 60 days away!!!! Things are coming together nicely and we're always working on something for the wedding when we're at home. We sent out our invitations a couple of weeks ago and we've already gotten a number of replys - all yeses! I picked up our rings - which turned out perfectly! I had my first hair trial that was terrible so I have a new place I'm trying next week. I'm going to my first dress fitting tonight and Rob is working on getting his suit tailored. Our first shower hosted by my aunts and mother is this Sunday. My makeup trial is at the end of the month. We're almost done with the ceremony and the playlist for the reception. Rob's been working on designing signage for throughout the reception and I've been tackling some diy projects. My mom finished the flower girl flag and she's going to tackle the ring bearer pillow next. And we've been working on finalizing all the plans for our honeymoon in Charleston and Savannah, which has been so fun! I truly feel like we've been kicking ass - I only get stressed every once and awhile but for the most part we've stayed really on top of things. I've started getting emotional thinking about walking down the aisle to my babe - realizing how soon it is and how excited I am to make it official! Can't wait!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Hunky Dory 2012

We had another great week up at Hunky Dory with the Jensen Family! We were really lucky with several days of hot, sunny weather for lots of time in the water, sunbathing and floating out in the lake. I got to ski and canoe and do morning walks with Rob's mom and sister-in-law. We ate as much as we could handle like usual. Played some bags, lots of ping pong and some euchre. Lots of quality time on the porch swings that I love dearly. Ate some curds and burgers at The Eagle. Watched a real bald eagle grab it's lunch from the lake. Hung out with some cute frogs. Team effort to complete a very difficult puzzle and saw plenty of shooting stars. Mostly, I worked on my tan, my mindless reading and checked out of real life for a week - which is always much needed! There were several family members missing this year so it was a bit quiet and a little different, but still a great year. Can't wait for next year when the entire family can be together!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Things That Make Me Happy!

Did anyone catch Bravo's special with Kyle Richards & Jonathan Adler this Sunday featuring their top ten lists of things that make them happy? Rob and I watched it and had a good time coming up with our own lists. Rob, my girlfriends and my families are givens and are not included in my list.

10. Small furry animals. I have a major soft spot for gerbils, hamsters, otters, guinea pigs, bunnies, meerkats, kittens, mice and more.

9. A full fridge and pantry. Nothing excites me more than new groceries at home. I love having tons of fresh produce, new items to try and new recipes to put together. I especially love when there is some cheese in there. Cheese makes me very happy.

8. Me time. As much as I like spending time with people, I also really love time to myself. I need days that I don't speak to anyone for hours and I can go off my own agenda rather than other people's plans.

7. DePaul. I love where I work and I'm proud of my degrees from here. DePaul has always felt like home and like a perfect fit for me. I love what we stand for and the opportunities it provides for me. I feel very privileged to work here.

6. Bravo. Bravo makes me very happy. It's the only channel on TV I could not live without. I'm too obsessed with The Real Housewives shows, Jeff Lewis and Top Chef. I am always happy when I'm watching Bravo.

5. The elderly. volunteering with seniors makes me really happy. I love their no nonsense honesty, hearing their stories and seeing the impact my visit and relationship with them has. Volunteering in general always makes me happy whether it's with animals, the elderly, building, cleaning, with kids - it is always a good feeling to give back.

4. Stationary. Paper crafts make me really happy. I have an entire station in our office of paper and letter stickers and other paper things. I love making cards, sending notes and scrapbooking. It definitely makes me happy.

3. Chicago. I LOVE my city so much. Yes, it has it's quirks and it's inefficiencies, but I love it more than any other place I've ever been. I love the restaurants, the cultural activities, the skyline, the neighborhoods, the changing seasons, the history, the size, the accents...EVERYTHING!

2. Southwest Michigan. As much as I love Chicago, sometimes I need a little escape. My favorite escape is certainly to southwest Michigan. My parents brought us there a lot growing up and I've continued to visit several times throughout the summer as an adult. I love the Chalet that we stay at. I love Redamaks and Oinks the burger and ice cream places we go to in New Buffalo. I love their sunsets. I love Krasl Art Center in St. Joe's and Silver Beach. I love Michigan wines. It's great for me to go there, take a load off and reminisce.

1. Planning. Planning ahead makes me really happy. I love making plans with friends, planning for work, planning my life with Rob, planning weekend activities - anything really. Making plans and then having them work out or end up being the best day ever/best event ever/best night ever - makes me really, really happy. I love making other people happy and I often have the chance to do that through the events I plan for work. I really like trying new things and doing activities - I'm not big on just hanging out. I like to be checking things off a list - like skydiving, trying the newest restaurant, or visiting a new neighborhood. Plans definitely make me happy.

Monday, July 2, 2012

best birthday yet!

Today is my 28th birthday, but I've been celebrating for awhile. Last Sunday Rob took me to see Steve Martin (my fav!) at Ravinia for an early birthday gift. I took Friday off to relax and get things ready for my party on Friday night. I ran a few errands and did a little shopping spree at target and then relaxed. Rob helped organize a fantastic old school dance party with all our friends and booked the party room at this bar around the corner. I put together a throw back hip hop playlist full of gems like Biggie Smalls, Snoop Dogg, Missy Elliot, Ludacris and more. We danced to all our old favorites for hours and it was great! All of my friends brought the nicest gifts! I'm so spoiled! My favorite part might have been that Ryann had to decorate the cookie cake she ordered herself when Jewel didn't have it ready as ordered. It said drop it like it's hot in frosting. PERFECT! On Saturday we went to our friends, Brendan & Kati's wedding in Logan Square park. It was roasting hot but no rain! It was so fun to see everyone that came out to celebrate their special day. The ceremony was short and sweet and then they had Hot Doug's cater which was pretty fantastic! It was a great day for a great couple! Afterwards Rob and I came home to relax in a/c, get some gelato and watch a movie. We haven't had a relaxing night in just the two of us in so long! On Sunday I went to see the critically acclaimed film, Magic Mike :) with Ryann, Caitlin and Shalva. The girls brought mimosa fixins and Shalva made some delicious cupcakes! Leave it to my friends to turn a movie date into a mini party! The screen wasn't working for awhile so we had plenty of time to catch up beforehand which was fun. The movie was pretty atrocious but so fun to see it with my friends! I'm so grateful that my friends are willing to celebrate with me for multiple days - I'm so lucky! Later on Sunday Rob and I met my family for dinner in Greek Town. It was such a treat to have delicious Greek food and spend time with my family in the city! I have today off to do whatever I pleased before bingo and another dinner with Rob. What a great celebration! I'm the luckiest!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Bucket List

After watching an episode of Little People, Big World at the gym yesterday, I was inspired! Amy, the momma, was celebrating her birthday and her husband planned a bucket list road trip. Brilliant! I was pretty impressed with the items on her list and that her husband knew all of them. She went hang gliding, ran a B&B for a day and did improv. I missed the end but I'm sure she did more. Anyway, this got me thinking...what's on my bucket list? I've already gone sky diving, done the flying trapeze, road race carts...what's left? What are my must dos and sees before I die?? I thought long and hard and here's what I came up with: Own a lake house in Michigan with a boat. This is more like a life long dream and everyone knows it. All I really want out of life is a lake house for me and Rob to retire in. Visit all 50 states. I've seen 19 states so far so I have a long way to go! I would love to visit a state park and/or zoo in each state. Visit Spain, Italy, Greece, Ireland and Africa. Those are my must sees! I'd really like to go on safari and/or volunteer in Africa and visit places of worship in each city I visit. Swim with dolphins. Enough said! Be able to do clap push ups. I've always wanted to be strong enough to do this. Ridiculous, I know. See the Stones in concert. Hopeful! Learn a second language. I'm atrocious at languages but I've always wanted to learn ASL or Czech. We'll see! Enter and win an eating contest. Especially thin crust pizza or taco bell tacos. What's on your bucket list? *Additions after more consideration* Travel first class overseas. Start a summer camp. Box.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Summer in the city

It's still early in the summer, but it's already roasting hot here in Chicago. One of my favorite things to do during the summer is hit up festivals. There are so many that take place every weekend. I have already gone to several and it's still early in the season. The other week we went to Mole Fest in Pilsen and ate a lot of Mexican food. Last weekend we went to Maifest which is my absolute favorite. They always have fun German music, giant beers and yummy sausages. What's not to love? We had a great time dancing with cute German grandpas and swindling the bartenders as usual. This weekend the girls went to the Wells Street Art Fair. We missed all the art but we were able to walk around and hear some music and people watch. Yesterday Rob and I met Tara and her mom at Ribfest which is just up the street from us. We tried short rib sandwiches, bacon fat doughnuts and fries. It's so close to our apartment so we'll have to make it an annual trip. This weekend is Tara's birthday and we're going to enjoy the Movies in the Park by seeing Sandlot at Oz Park and who knows what other fests we'll enjoy in the coming weeks. Even though it's a wee bit hot for me, I love summer in Chicago!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Our 10 Year Anniversary!

Somehow Rob and I have been together for a DECADE!!! How is that possible?? Yes, we broke up here and there, but for the most part we have been together since we were 18 years old! We spent our anniversary, May 19, doing fun things together and it was the best day! We made pancakes together in the morning and then we exchanged gifts. Rob got me this really awesome locket that says me & you inside. We love this song called You & Me by Penny and the Quarters and it reminded me of that. It's so cool and I love when Rob gets me jewelry. I got him a John Lucas III t-shirt that is hilarious and stamped a canvas with the reading from our wedding for our bedroom. Rob loved both! After that we were just relaxed for awhile before heading to go shop for Rob's wedding suit. We went to Zara downtown and Rob tried on about half a dozen suits and each one looked better than the last. He settled on a really nice black suit that he looks very handsome in. After that we went to Leonida's Chocolates for a chocolate tasting that came with a hot beverage. Rob got a peppermint latte and I got hot chocolate and we each got to try 6 chocolates. We sat outside and enjoyed the beautiful day. I couldn't even finish the chocolates though because it was just so rich! Afterwards we came home and brainstormed ideas for ceremony music for the wedding before getting all spiffy for dinner at Viaggio. We wanted to eat somewhere that had really amazing Italian food. Yelp came to the rescue and we found Viaggio which is a top rated Italian restaurant near the United Center. It was really casual and not too romantic but we loved the food. Everyone on Yelp said you had to get the meatball salad so ofcourse we did and it was amazing! Who knew meatballs with marinara mixed in a salad would rule your world?! Then we shared cavatelli and a veal dish and ended with lemon sorbet. Everything was so tasty and I'm so glad we went there. After dinner Rob and I grabbed a drink at The Tasting Room. We sat upstairs and had a great seat that overlooked the skyline while we chatted about our upcoming wedding. It was the perfect day and a great celebration of us and our LOVVVEEEE! Just 135 more days until we tie the knot and start a new anniversary!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

150 Days Away!

We are only 150 days away from our wedding day! Time has really been flying as of late. We are in a really good place with everything and we are just getting more excited to make it official by the minute! Last week we went to a second tasting at our caterer and tried the appetizers, cake pops, vegetarian options and kid's meal. Everything was outstanding! We decided on crisp root vegetable latkes with a red pepper relish, bbq pulled pork on a cheesy polenta square, cheddar jalapeno cornbread muffin with honey butter and my personal favorite, a fried chicken and waffle skewer with lavender gravy for our appetizers. We picked a vanilla, lemon and red velvet cake pop - all SO good - to go with our 3 bite pies for dessert and we selected the vegetable napoleon with the rice and quinoa salad for the veg option. We tried the sweet potato and russet potato tots and chicken tenders the little ones will get to enjoy and the tots will also be our late night snack. I literally left the tasting on cloud 9 - I'm so pleased with how the menu has come together and Rob and I are so thrilled with how everything tasted! We registered the other week too and even though it was crazy exhausting, we had a really fun time picking things out. People have already started buying us stuff! Seeing that items have been fulfilled on your registry is honestly a total thrill :) We already know that we'll be getting some pretty amazing stuff - we are so lucky and so grateful that we will be able to add/replace items in our home. We sent our save the dates awhile back and we'll be figuring out invites and the program soon. Rob bought a suit but then decided to return it so we're still on the hunt for him. I got my hair cut at a new salon and decided that's where I'll be getting my wedding up do done with my mom. I confirmed with my seamstress that she can do my dress. We started checking out rehearsal dinner locations and we're not having a ton of luck but we're still trying! We've bought a lot of gifts for our helpers and loved ones. But the biggest achievement lately was booking our honeymoon flights, hotels and even a tour. We're both on the Groupon emails for Savannah and Charleston so we're hoping to snag some good deals. Now it's time to get down to crafting so that we're not left with a bunch of projects at the last minute. I hope to get started on some soon! I'm seriously having way too much fun! I can't wait for the big day to arrive!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Looking forward to...

There are so many wonderful things on the calendar and countdowns are ticking away! I'm so excited for... 4/25-4/27: My visit to D.C. this week to reconnect with the Daughters of Charity and work our Alumni Reception at the Capitol! 4/27: Caitlin's 27th Birthday - Club 27 Themed and Live Band Karaoke! 4/29: Ballet with Rob & Brian Regan with Caitlin. YES! 5/1: Our 2nd Tasting with Hearty Boys! YUM. 5/6: Emi's Christening & Celebration! 5/9-5/23: Vanessa's visit - in from Germany for 2 weeks! 5/19: Our TEN YEAR Anniversary. Madness. 5/24: Snoop Dogg with Stef & Jacki. Hilarious. 5/29: Nature on Tap at the Nature Museum. Excited! 5/25-5/27: Weekend up at the Chalet. My favorite. Just a short while longer until the Liebls welcome baby #2 to the world! Only about 11 more weeks until Rob's bro ties the knot! 13 more weeks until Hunky Dory! 16 more until Camp Wandawega! Just 166 more days until Rob and I make it official! It's going by so quickly! 2012 is great.

Monday, April 16, 2012

fun weekend!

I'm still enjoying the freedom I have from being done with Grad School. This weekend I was determined to try some new things and not waste any time. On Friday, I planned a fun outing to the northside of the city to go to Big Joe's for turtle races. The MC was SO loud and annoying, but the turtles were pretty adorable just sitting there on the table not really moving. Such a funny race to watch. Caitlin's turtle came in 2nd on one of the races though! Afterwards we went to Hamburger Mary's for some awesome desserts. Cait got smores that you cook at your table and Rob and I split deep fried twinkies. Delic! On Saturday we went to the Brookfield Zoo to celebrate my Dad's birthday and the Shaklees came along. The rain held off and were were able to enjoy the day. I've never gone that late in the afternoon - we found that the animals were very different that time of day. We got to see the kangaroos having some snacks, the wild dogs running around, the okapi playing and coming really close to check us out and the grizzly bear was finally moving again. I had so much fun seeing Meg, Bella, Ryan and Emi! Always a treat! After the zoo we took my parents to The Bohemian Crystal, a Czech restaurant in Westmont. I haven't been there in about 6 years and Rob and I were both so excited for some tasty food. They give you soooo much food! We were so full afterwards! It was a great day to help my dad celebrate! On Sunday Rob and I explored our neighborhood and checked out some places we hadn't been before before I went to my service trip reunion. I had such a good time reuniting with my kids and getting back into that mindset. I was so inspired and reinvigorated by visiting with them and hearing the stories of the other groups. I'm so grateful for so much free time and I hope I can continue to plan fun outings on the weekends throughout the spring!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Spring Break Service Immersion Trip!

Last week I was on my first ever Spring Break Service Immersion Trip in Bladensburg, MD/Washingtion, D.C. with 9 DePaul students. It was an exciting and educational journey that I am incredibly grateful to have been able to participate on! We drove the 12 hours to MD and connected with The Daughters of Charity at Elizabeth Seton High School. We stayed in the gym of the high school and got to spend a lot of time in their home. We were also able to connect with the Daughters at St. Ann's Infant & Maternity Home. They work with teen moms and foster children. Both communities of women inspired us so much! They demonstrate patience, kindness, hospitality, courage, generosity, honesty and so much more. I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to be in their presence and learn from them. We did a ton of different projects throughout the week but here are some highlights:

Mass at St. Al's in D.C. - I haven't been moved or inspired by a Catholic Mass in a long time, but this service was incredibly moving! It was amazing to see such strong faith at this welcoming community.

Meeting formerly homeless men that went through the program at Christ House and now work there to help others. Their stories really put things in perspective and taught me to quit sweating the small stuff.

Playing with elementary school kids at MV Leckie School, learning about their mission and showing the DPU kids I know how to dance!

Living more simply than normal. Not concerning myself with what I was wearing or how I looked. Not checking my email and sleeping just fine on a gym floor.

Learning how to peel sweet potatoes efficiently at DC Central Kitchen.

Working with Sr. Kate at St. Ann's in her classroom and hearing her stories.

Spending time with seniors on our last day. It wasn't easy, but I knew we had a positive impact.

Cooking dinner for the Daughters that took care of us all week and getting the opportunity to thank them as a group.

Seeing my students grow throughout the week and slowly start to 'get it' and have the desire for change. It was amazing having the opportunity to get to know the students over the week that come from all walks of life and see them connect with one another and the populations we served.

I struggled throughout the week trying to determine my role as a staff leader and getting lost around D.C. but overall it was a really enriching experience. I learned that a little can go a long way, that every set of hands will make a difference, we all come from different places and have different stories but we're all people and we're all in it together, to give people the benefit of the doubt, to keep it real, to not sweat the small stuff, that I am incredibly privileged and blessed to lead the life that I do and that friendliness means a lot! I hope I have the opportunity to do this again and also maintain a lifelong connection with the amazing Daughters.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

2012 Goals Status

The other day I was chatting about resolutions with someone and I couldn't even remember most of the ones I set for myself - not a good sign! I looked back at my blog post about my 2012 goals and I've been working on about half. Not great, but not terrible.

Rob and I did try a lot of new recipes at the start of the new year but it's fizzled out. My favorite is homemade chicken noodle soup which we haven't quite mastered but it always tastes good. It's fun and exciting to try new recipes together - we need to get back in the groove with this!

I have been taking lots and lots of pictures! I'm very proud of this and I'm glad I've captured many fun memories this year already.

Most weeks I am able to work out 4x and a few weeks I was able to do 5. I'm hoping after I return from my student service trip I can get some more 5x weeks in!

I have been trying really hard to spend more time in the suburbs to visit with family and friends. I would say I've done ok so far but I'm hoping as my schedule becomes more flexible I can do more and more suburban visits. Hopefully the gas prices don't make this completely unreasonable!

My finances are definitely more in control now that school is done. It's nice not to be penny pinching but I can always do better.

I have not been a better listener and I have not really exercised patience. Both very important and very big flaws of mine. I have not scrapbooked anything except a present for someone and I have not drawn :( I organized a lot at the start of the year but not much since. Rob and I did rearrange the entire apartment which was fun and can probably be classified as organizing!

It's great to take a moment to make sure I'm accomplishing what I want to this year and to remind myself of the things I haven't been working on. Have you stuck with your resolution?

Friday, February 24, 2012

fun filled march!

i'm getting so excited about everything i have planned in march! rob and i are going to see the punch brothers next week, i have some dates planned with my high school buds, a meeting with stef to discuss save the dates & invites for the wedding, i have some awesome events going on for work including an irish whiskey tasting, i've got some birthday celebrations mixed in there, a valentine's day redo, my first bulls game and i'll be gone for a whole week in bladensburg for a student service trip - i'm so nervous and excited!

what a great month!

Friday, February 17, 2012

sick valentine.

i came down with the stomach flu on monday morning and i'm still recovering. i spent valentine's day in pajamas on the couch rather than at the french restaurant rob had made reservations at. i ate a piece of toast instead of the duck i had planned to order and had gingerale instead of a glass of wine. but regardless of the circumstances, i still had a lovely valentine's day with my valentine. rob took great care of me. he made sure i had different medicine and plenty of fluids at all times. he brought me get well/valentine's day flowers to brighten the room and he insisted we open gifts that day. he got me tickets to the ballet this spring - a absolute favorite activity of mine! and a terrarium class too! i can't wait for both! he's so damn thoughtful. i got us bulls tickets and a coffee and chocolate tasting. we have so many things to look forward to! even though i was couch bound on actual valentine's day we spent the weekend doing fun things. on saturday night we went to a 70's themed roller skating party which was a riot and we had a blast. no falls! and on sunday we went to the depaul women's basketball game vs marquette with my parents. they won and we had a great time! we'll have our dinner date eventually to make up for this germy valentine's day, but all i really needed for a happy valentine's day was rob!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

tired traveler.

we got a new staff member on board that will be coordinating our regional programs. i have had the opportunity to go with her to orlando last week and atlanta this week to help her with our events in those cities. last week it was 80 degrees and sunny in orlando and we had enough time to get a nice lunch and i got a workout in before our event. after the lovely event we grabbed drinks and food and got to bed at a reasonable time. the next day we checked out late and went out for brunch. i didn't land back in chicago until 4 p.m. so i just went straight home and relaxed. it was great! for atlanta we had early flights and i was super tired when we arrived. all i really cared about was getting some quality comfort food and that mission was accomplished. first thing we did was go to Gladys Knight's Chicken & Waffles in midtown. the servers were so friendly and there was a good mix of locals and tourists. we both loved our chicken and waffles! afterwards we didn't have a ton of time before our event so we just did some work before heading to the venue. the event went well and afterwards we grabbed dinner with other staff at an american/southern tapas place. my favorite tapas were fried green tomatoes, bbq pulled pork egg rolls, spicy mac & cheese and krispie kreme bread pudding. we had a great time chatting and eating but by the end i was so tired! when we got back to our hotel i could not sleep. i had drank way too many diet cokes at the event and was totally wired so that 6 a.m. est wake up call was pretty brutal and so was not being able to sleep on the flight and coming straight to work. even though my eyes are burning, i'm so grateful to have the opportunity to visit new places, meet alumni in different parts of the country and get out of the city for a bit. i'm always happy to come home to my beloved chicago though!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

week with friends

this no school thing really has it's perks. it's totally allowing me to be a bit more spontaneous and to enjoy weeknights again. last week was jam packed with friend time. on tuesday the shaklees came up for dinner and we got a lot of quality time after their trip to the planetarium. we had so much fun with meg, ry & their girls. wednesday i got to have dinner with tara & ryann before tara and i took a dance class at the joffrey. thursday we had an alumni volunteer outing at PAWS and my friend/fellow alumna, nicole came to help out. we didn't get to catch up much but it was still great to see a familiar face. on my way to the train i ran into tara & shalva who were grabbing tea close by. what a great surprise! on friday my friend leah let me know she was at a bar across from our place so i was able to swing by and catch up with her and her boyfriend before heading to dinner with our friends dan & kate. i couldn't help thinking how lucky i was to have such a friend filled week! the rest of the weekend was great too! on saturday rob and i went to an indie bridal fair and saw our friends val & chris and jen who was with another friend from high school. great running into so many people there! after that i got to grab tea at the sofitel with ryann and later we went to dinner and a depaul women's bball game with my parents and after that i met caitlin & mary out for drinks and dancing. seriously a great day! the next day we got to skype with the liebls and see all of luke's new exciting tricks like twirling and jumping off a chair :) such a cutie. then we went and picked up foster kitty #10 - fairy. she's a total love bug and we're so happy to have her!

truly one of the best weeks and weekends i can remember! i'm so lucky to have more time now to see friends and family.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Saugatuck Getaway

For graduation, Rob got me us an overnight in Saugatuck at a B&B. It was such a nice treat and I've been looking forward to it for a long time. When we booked it I assumed it would be snowy and that we could do snowy activities like snow shoeing or cross country skiing but there was no snow so we just had to go with the flow! We stopped for lunch at Crane's Pie Company and it was not only adorable but super delic. I had a turkey burger and Rob had a burger with grilled apple. For dessert Rob had apple pie and I had cherry. It was so yummie and I'm really glad we found the place! Then we made our way to the B&B which was pretty much completely empty except for a few couples. We checked in and rested for a bit and then took off to enjoy the downtown area. We did some wine tasting (Rob bought his first bottle of wine - I always am the wine drinker), bought some Michigan craft beers, some peanut butter fudge and then we went to a coffee shop so I could read the Hunger Games which I couldn't put down the whole weekend and Rob could catch up on email. We went for an early dinner at Phil's which is the top rated spot in downtown Saug. Rob got the Lake Perch and I got broasted chicken which I thought would be sort of healthy - turns out broasted basically means fried. I barely put a dent in half but it made for a great lunch the next day. After dinner we went back to our empty b&b and took advantage of the big screen tv in the common room to watch the Bulls game. We watched 3 bball games in a row before retiring to our room. The next day we enjoyed a very tasty breakfast and enjoyed views of Kalamazoo Lake. We originally planned to stick around for awhile but we decided to hit the road right away and make our way to St. Joe's. Unfortunately nothing was open since it's winter and it was a Sunday so the only stop we made was to Jimmy John's so I could get a diet coke and use the bathroom. Sad! We got back in the car and made our way to Michigan City so I could do some shopping at the outlet mall. I really lucked out and got 2 new pairs of work pants, 1 pair of workout pants, my favorite lotion from bath & body and a new dress. When we got back to the city we made a quick trip to the grocery store and when we got home I decided to tackle my clothes and do a new year's purge. I am really proud of myself for filling 2 garbage bags and getting Rob to part with some items too. I also organized our medicine cabinet & our entire bedroom closet. Everything is organized much better now and it's a great way to start the year. It was a great way for me to end a lovely weekend. I'm so glad Rob and I had the chance to have so much quality time together after such a busy time of my life came to a close. The rest of the month is going to be very busy so I'm glad we were able to squeeze in some relaxation!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

2012 Goals

i take my resolutions pretty seriously but this year i came up with goals rather than resolutions and i have a lot of them. i'm writing them down because i know that increases the likelihood of me actually achieving them. last year my resolutions were to allow more me time and to be more spontaneous. i think i was a bit more spontaneous and definitely allowed more time for myself.

1. Scrapbook. I used to do this a lot before I started grad school and I love looking through all of the ones I've made. I'm going to work on my France trip next and possible a 2011 one.

2. Draw. In college art was a huge part of my life. I was constantly inspired and loved drawing. I haven't drawn in a really long time and I miss it! I bought a new kneaded eraser and some charcoal before Christmas. Now I just need to be inspired!

3. Exercise 4-5 times a week. I will never ever exercise on the weekends. I just know it so I can only shoot for working out during the work week. I'm usually pretty good about getting to the gym 3-4 times a week but I'm going to make 4 my minimum goal this year.

4. Try new recipes. I've slowly become more adventurous in the kitchen and I hope to keep it up. Rob and I have a tendency to just heat stuff up and not actually cook so i really want to try new recipes and create some new staples for our diets.

5. Take more pictures. I have really been slacking on this lately. Considering how much I love looking at old pictures, I should really try to take more of them!

6. Work on my finances. This is always a resolution. Now that school is done I should really be able to save a lot more for the wedding.

7. Spend more time in the suburbs with family & friends. Now that I don't have class during the week I have a lot more free time which I plan to take advantage of - especially to make trips down to the suburbs.

8. Patience. It's not my strong suit - a work in progress always.

9. Organize. I love organizing but our apartment is not the most organized place at the moment.

10. Try to be a better listener & interrupt less. Total culprit of interrupting!