(Literal) Hot Child in The City

I consider myself pretty lucky that I am still close with my college roommates. No, we don’t talk every day or see each other often, but I know that I could call either of them (I have two, and oddly they share the same name) and we can pick up where we left off. Both ladies were there in such an important time of my life and I am forever grateful that they weren’t total weirdos (at least, not in a bad way.)
 
KP and I lived together in an on-campus apartment for two years. We had a mascot-a large stuffed penguin named Petey. Our apartment was forever frigid in the winter because we refused to turn the heat past like 65*. On Sundays we had breakfast for dinner. KP was once afraid that all I did was eat cookies and sleep (because for the first semester we lived together, that’s pretty much all I did. Depression is a jerk that doesn’t care that you’re in college and it’s supposed to be the.best.time. of your life). I only remember a handful of small parties. Our décor was very college chic. We cried, we laughed, we have inside jokes that to this day make me uncontrollably giggle when I think about them.
 
Since graduating over 10 years ago, KP and I have made an effort to get together I would say, at least once a year. If it wasn’t for her, my wedding would have not have went as smoothly as it did (for that, I am forever grateful). We send each other birthday cards and “I miss you!” texts and I know that when I have a wacky adventure and need a partner, she’s pretty much always down.  So when I said, “oh hey there’s this pop-up bakery coming to Chicago, wanna go?” she was 100% ready for the ride. 
How do two college roomies for life do The Windy City in 24 hours during the hottest day of the year? Like this:
A few days before our weekend adventure, we realized that the weather was going to be hot. Sizzling hot. Hottest day of the year hot. And most of our plans (okay, our one plan) involved standing in a long line outside for the MilkBar pop-up during the hottest part of the day. What do you do when there’s  no option B? Make option A work! I bought a sunhat, packed 4 tubes of sunscreen, and prepped all the water bottles before venturing off to the city.
I tend to feel that I represent farm chic’ in hats. Or look like Wayne Campbell. Party on.
Not even kidding. Protect that ghostly skin
KP and I made it to the Milkbar line, water, hat, and sunscreen in tow, about an hour after the pop-up opened. The line was wrapped halfway around the city block and we estimated an hour before we’d be eating all the things. The line crept along but Milkbar was kind enough to offer cold water and Gatorade to guest waiting in line. The best part? Most of our time in line was shaded (#blessed)! It was still warm but the shade definitely made it bearable. 2.5 hours later (Hah. Estimate fail) we made it to the front of the line and snarfed on some long anticipated treats! 
 
I’ve been a fangirl of Christina Tosi and Milkbar for a while now but haven’t been able to make it to a store location. I have baked some of her treats from her cookbook (bakebook?) but I could not wait to see how my imitations lived up to the real deals. KP and I tried 2 cookies, Milkbar Pie, and the Cereal Milk soft serve (cereal milk is iconic to Tosi). I was a fan of everything we tried but I think the Milkbar Pie was my ultimate favorite; followed by the cornflake-chocolate chip- marshmallow cookie. 
The Cake.
Our menu!
 
Was it worth 2.5 hours in blaring heat? Yes. Yes it was. 
Sadly it was too hot to take photos of the goods, so here is me-melting like the soft serve.
 
We then went for tacos at Big Star (where the pop-up was being hosted) and devoured our food like we hadn’t eaten all day. Because we hadn’t. Oops. (excitement fail.)
And how do you follow up heat, cookies, and tacos as it starts to rain on your Saturday roomie parade? Tasty drinks! What makes tasty drinks even better? Tiki tasty drinks!! Lost Lake was seriously the cutest little tucked away gem and we had a blast trying all the fancy beverages. 
 
KP and I were feeling great and my heart could not have been more full thinking about how lucky I am to still have her in my life. Having people in your life who understand your quirkiness and your history in such an acute and honest way is a true blessing. So when you have a dolphin made out of a banana in your drink and you’re slurping down cold alcoholic beverages into a dehydrated body things can get pretty downright hilarious-with no judgment.





(Also, small world moment: we asked the ladies next to us at one point to take the photo below and I noticed that one of them had an Illinois Marathon pop socket on her phone. Come to find out not only was she from my current place of residence but also grew up in the same town I did!) 

The drinks at Lost Lake are divine and if you’re looking for a place that’s a little less crowded than the other well-known tiki bar in Chicago-this place is it.

After cookies-tacos-beverages we decided it was time to go back to the hotel and recharge. We were staying on the Magnificent Mile which was a good location for basically everything we wanted to do (and it was a good price, yeah Groupon!) Once we felt a little cooler (both physically and emotionally, I needed to fix my sweaty life in both ways) we headed to what I can only explain as the IKEA of Italian cuisine. Have you ever heard of Eataly? I’m often tardy to the party but in case you too haven’t heard of this Italian IKEA: “Eataly is a large format/footprint Italian marketplace comprising a variety of restaurants, food and beverage counters, bakery, retail items, and a cooking school.”
It’s three floors of food, items to cook food, areas to learn how to prepare food, various vendors, food to eat, food hanging from the ceiling! It was intense and glorious and I thoroughly enjoyed it. While we waited for our table at one of the many restaurants we walked around and took photos with various food items (so many oddly-shaped cheeses) and I bought some peppercorns (when I see a weird spice, I want it. My spice drawer runneth over…into another spice drawer. And a cabinet.)
Truth time-I have about 45 photos of KP and various foods.
From the ceilings to the floors! Til the marinara drips down the walls

 

The food was delicious (the server subpar) and the company spectacular. I found a make-your-own cannoli kit. We perused the amazing dessert bar. My heart, soul, and belly were stuffed with all the good things.
The garlic scapes used to make this dish are from a farm local to where I live!

 The next day we had a few hours before KP had to catch her train. We stopped in a little diner close to the hotel called The West Egg (which, was not Gatsby themed?) before heading to the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. This museum is small in comparison to somewhere like the Art Institute, but the installations are well done and most definitely make you think and feel. I appreciated the Sunday crowd (not too busy that you couldn’t appreciate the art at your own pace) and that there wasn’t so much going on that you couldn’t get through everything in an hour. The gift shop was also selling items from my favorite business in South Africa, so huge bonus points there.  KP and I ended the trip by buying matching earrings and a quick hug at Union Station. 
It was a whirlwind trip-less than 24 hours really-but it was just what I needed.

Do Good.

I don’t have the capacity to even express myself regarding some of the horrific things going on in our world. It’s hard to be grateful for your own life and happy living it while be mad as hell, frustrated, and feeling guilt for the aforementioned ‘good’ feelings. I, too, grow tired of looking for helpers and being optimistic sometimes but I still come back to this quote time and time again. I can not stop doing my little parts to move the world forward in a productive way. I can not mend every heart, fix every problem, or argue to prove my every point. By I can do something, even a tiny little something, every day, for as long as I’m able.

 (If you’d like a free print out of this beautiful photo, visit this link)
Love you, friends.

More Books! April Through July Reads

Seems as though blogging keeps me accountable to my reading goal! We are pretty close to the mid-point of 2019 (how does this happen so quickly) and I’m feeling pretty good about my reading goal of the year! Here’s my recap from April to the end of June.

13. One Day in December, Josie Silver (love story, fiction)- I checked this out on a whim because I was in between loan requests and had a 3+hour drive one day. I was pleasantly surprised! Love stories really aren’t my thing but this one was read by two British people which automatically made it 1,000 times more charming. A quick read that I quite enjoyed. A
14. On the Come Up, Angie Thomas (fiction, young adult)- Yet another poignant and incredible story by Thomas.  Almost as heartbreaking as The Hate U Give and just as eye-opening. (I was finally able to watch The Hate U Give and was sad to see a few things changed from the book [isn’t that how it always goes?] but still an amazing story.) A
15. This Will Only Hurt a Little, Busy Phillips (autobiography)- So, full disclosure, the only TV show I know Phillips from is Freaks and Geeks (RIP). I didn’t watch Dawson’s Creek, Cougar Town, or ER…but I have watched White Chicks (which she wrote)-so going into this I really wasn’t sure what to expect but you know what? It was a good story. A dang good story. I had absolutely no knowledge of her work for women’s rights, her latest talk show, nothing,  but I am really glad I read this one. She is funny and tells it ‘how it is’ (such a lame phrase, but true in this respect). Good job, Busy-and happy birthday! A
16. Whiskey in a Teacup, Reese Witherspoon (autobiography? cookbook?)- I like Reese Witherspoon but this book was a tad confusing in audio format. It was very short and mostly supposed to be a cookbook that walks you through her upbringing in the South (bless her heart). It was fun to hear a few stories about her childhood and the Southern conventions that mean so much to Witherspoon but this one is best read with your eyeballs. B
17. The Power of Habit,  Charles Duhigg (personal development)- I enjoyed the stories Duhigg collected throughout this book, however it was much more a story-telling book than a ‘here are some concrete things you can do to have amazing habits!’ book. Still, it was full of captivating stories and I definitely feel like I learned something from reading it. B
18. Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America, Erik Larson (historical non-fiction)- This type of book is not something I actively seek out but it was recommended to me by a couple folks (including my husband). There’s been talks that it will be a movie (?) soon so this seemed like a good time to give it a go-and it did not disappoint! I really enjoyed Larson’s writing style and his ability to weave together the two stories: the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition and America’s first serial killer, H. H. Holmes. Creepy enough to keep my attention, analytical enough that I didn’t have nightmares, win! A
19. How to Lead When You’re Not in Charge, Clay Scroggins (personal development)- I had high hopes for this book but it was a disappointment. See my note below about personal development books (this is a #2). D
20. Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman, Lindy West (autobiography)- A friend suggested this one to me and I L-O-V-E-D it! Lindy writes about what it’s like to be a fat woman and all the trials that may come with that. She doesn’t apologize for a damn word (not that she should) and I am grateful to have read this book when I did. I learned more from this book than any of the ‘personal development’ books I read this quarter (maybe ever). The book was also adapted into a TV show for Hulu and I can not wait for the second season to show up! A+,10/10, definitely would recommend to a friend (I have, like 5 of them so far).
21. Get Your Shit Together: How to Stop Worrying About What You Should Do so You Can Finish What You Need to Do and Start Doing What You Want to Do (A No Fucks Given Guide), Sarah Knight (personal development)-I always enjoy learning from someone who curses a lot.  Knight has several other books that I’ll read but I didn’t find this particular one as empowering as some of the others I have this year. However, Knight was the first writer in this genre that blatantly said she knows she has privilege and assumes the privilege of her readers! I was so impressed by this statement and I have a lot of respect to her for doing this. B
22. The Four Tendencies, Gretchen Rubin (personal development)- Oh Gretchen Rubin (if you’re not familiar with her, she is responsible for The Happiness Project and the like). Just so everyone knows, I’m a Questioner that leans Obliger. Rubin has not studied human behavior or psychology in any formal sense and based this book totally on her own research (mostly surveys and a lot of observation) but what more can you really do when writing a book on personality traits and assessments? (I’m in the camp that personality tests are super fun (I’m an INFJ, by the way) but much like horoscopes (I’m an Aries, although I heard they recently revised the charts so maybe I’m now a Pisces which has always made more sense to me) they’re not sound science. So, it is what it is. C
23. You Don’t Look Your Age…and Other Fairy Tales, Sheila Nevins (essays)- Another one I checked out just for the heck of it and enjoyed. A collection of essays on varying topics of what it’s like to be female from a woman who is a badass (If you don’t know who Sheila Nevins is, look her up!) B
I think I may reach my goal by the end of July! Maybe I’ll shoot for 50 books this year. I will be starting to learn conversational French by audio soon, so that may slow me some-we’re going to Paris in March and I want to be at least somewhat prepared to ask where the closest croissant is…
Before I go, I wanted to share just a little ditty on my takeaways regarding ‘personal development’ books. Look, I’m glad we changed the phrase to personal development from the cringe-worthy ‘self-help’ label  but a rose is still a rose and it feels awkward to not put the term in quotes. Anyway-
My note on ‘personal development’ books:
I have now read more than a handful of ‘personal development’ books and they seem to fall into three camps:
  1. The ‘I went to *insert Ivy League School here* and I’m going to ignore the privileges I have and just tell you that with some ‘elbow grease’ you too can be Bill Gates’ camp. These folks (minus Knight, as I mentioned above) usually have some sound advice, don’t get me wrong, but the lack of insight to the built in privileges drives me up a wall.
  2. The ‘Through *insert religion* all things are possible’ camp. Hey, if this is your philosophy in life I have nothing but love for you but don’t try to guise your motivation in personal development. These books drip of privilege as well, and I typically return them early.
  3. The ‘I’m going to curse a lot so this doesn’t feel like a lame ‘self-help’ book’ camp. I tend to like these the most. I also find them to be the most genuine books. The writers tend to not just talk about themselves the entire time and recognize that just because it works for them does not necessarily mean it’s going to work for you. This is very much my own motto when ‘giving advice’ so perhaps that’s why I tend to gravitate toward them.
What’s been your #1 read this year?

A Year in the Life a Hot Dog Ambassador

Here ye, here ye, your Royal Highness The Queen of Wien is now presiding.
So remember when I wrote about my love of hot dogs and how it landed me the sweet title of Midwest Ambassador for the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council? Well it’s hard to believe it, but it has been just at a year since my title was bestowed to me-and what a year! I mean c’on folks, cut the mustard here, your constant fawning over me is just too much!
Wait. That’s not right. Pretty much this is how this year as went:
I was through the moon when I was picked. I don’t know if I pointed out that I am the only woman to have this title and that means more to me than the title itself (almost). I laughed and turned beet red when I told people I won at first and was even interviewed for our internal newsletter at work. So the first few months it took me a while to get over the fame and prestige that comes with such an endeavor… 
But come to find out, a lot of titles are just for show. I have a shiny badge and a shirt that says ‘wiener warrior’ on it but ultimately I just get to tell stories about why I love hot dogs a lot when people find out who I am (I know, I KNOW, they should already have this information but.)
I get a lot of funny looks and giggles for talking about my love of the wieners but ultimately my life has stayed relatively normal this year. Fame has not gotten the best of me, folks! Don’t you fret!
The coolest thing that has happened is when I went to the local Portillo’s and sheepishly told them that because of my badge of honor I am technically entitled to a discount (yeah, quite a privilege here). The three ladies behind the counter all looked at my badge in disbelief and asked multiple times if I was serious. Once I assured them that yes, they were indeed in the presence of royalty they gave me my food FOR FREE!
And that’s what it’s like to be the Ambassador. It’s not the life for everyone, but heavy is the belly that eats the (hot) dog. Oh, on a serious note? I may get a hot dog tattoo to mark this joyous occasion.
Happy National Hot Dog Week! Go enjoy some encased meats!
#noketchup
 

“Scoot Over, You Drive”

Recntly I took a literal drive down memory lane after dropping my best friend off at her house-It just happens that she now lives a few miles from where I ‘grew up’. ‘Where I grew up’ is a loaded phrase really, and is one that my answer for probably doesn’t match what most people know about me. While I physically spent more time of my childhood in one city with my mom, I consider that I ‘grew up’ where I spent my weekends-out in the country with my grandparents. While I’m not sure what the actual percentage was, I’m certain that I spent every other weekend with my grandparents (who, technically, would be my maternal grandfather and his wife, my ‘step’ grandma. My maternal grandmother passed away when I was 5. I remember her briefly but we’ll save that for another day).  This is a story about ‘growing up’.
My grandpa was my best friend. He was my resiliency factor. He is the person at the center of my life that continues to push me forward even today. To know Wayne was to love him and to love him was a treat. He was incredibly creative-making up ghost stories (I have a cassette tape of one of these-complete with sound effect!), drawing whatever I asked him to, and creating amazing things out of almost any medium (wood-working was by far the one I remember most.  I posted some of his work on my Instagram). I was his shadow and now I consider him mine. So when he got sick in 1996, I was concerned and scared but ultimately didn’t think he’d die. Sadly, that wasn’t how it worked out and he passed away shortly after the story I’m getting ready share.
My grandparents lived in the country-surrounded by woods and wildlife and dirt roads and people who all knew each other. I road my bike and played in dirt and waded through creeks (pronounced ‘cricks’, just in case you were wondering). I listened to country music and weeded the garden and ate anything I could grab from said garden. When I think back to what really were just several short years of my life so far-all I can remember is happiness. I remember going to sleep every night feeling safe. I vividly recall what well water tasted like and learning to cook with grandma. They both taught me so much in those few years (1991-1996) that I still use to this very day.
And one of those skills just so happens to be driving. What comes next is a story of a rite of passage that happens ‘out in the holler’: An eleven year old kid getting their first driving lesson down a dirt road in a pick-up truck.
About where we pulled over
I remember it was early winter and, actually, it may have taken place the last weekend my grandpa was alive. We had just driven to ‘town’ (sadly I drove through this ‘town’ and it’s nothing but a ghost of what it once was. The library where I checked out my favorite book on how to make drawings out of your thumbprint and Nightmare Before Christmas for the first time was still open. And so was the gas station.) for who-knows-what and were on our way back to the house when Grandpa turned down a side road and pulled over. He looked at me and said, “scoot over, you drive!” and I remember being so confused and excited that I did just that without any hesitation. Now, I barely remember what I had for dinner last night but I can say that I can recall this moment like it just happened. He jumped out as I moved over to the driver’s seat and got into the other side. I put on my seat belt, he moved the bucket seat as close to the wheel as it would go in his ’94 Chevy Silverado, and turned the radio down as I started to put the trunk into drive…and we were off. I probably went 5 miles an hour but what.a.rush.
I often drove (rode?) the riding lawn mower around my grandparent’s 3 acres (which was actually a ginormous hill? I’m still not sure how I’m alive but hey) but driving a truck was incredible! The gravel crunched under us, the sky was a steel-blue, and my Grandpa was teaching me how to drive.
He taught me so much that I can’t even put into words. Yes, he taught me how to drive a car but ultimately he showed me how to navigate my life.  It was a few short years but it is when I ‘grew up.’
This was the first moment in a very long time that I decided to stop long enough to remember it all and to feel all the emotions that flood back when I think about my childhood. When I drove down the gravel road to their former home I found myself holding my breath. The house has changed so much but the barn is still there. There were remnants of the garden. My favorite trees still stood tall.
Accidental meta
(the past is always closer than it appears).
The Bridge
Close by the house is a spot I loved to go to and was lovingly referred to as the ‘The Bridge’. It’s only about 50 yards from the house at the bottom of a hill. “Grandpa, I’m riding my bike down to The Bridge!” “Let’s go walk to The Bridge and throw sticks in!” (My favorite game, which was modeled after Pooh Sticks if you know that one.) Instead of being a super creep and pulling into the current owner’s driveway all I-used-to-live-here-so-can-I-be-weird-and-park-here-while-I-go-reminense?, I decided to go park at The Bridge. I didn’t stay too long. But I felt it. I know it’s kind of cliché but truly, I felt my childhood-in the air, in the rocks, in the sounds. The warm sun, the butterflies (okay I know I’m being all sentimental here but can I JUST SAY I do NOT remember insects growing up and while this  moment was uber important to me it was interrupted by my annoyance of being dinner to some 50 freaking mosquitoes. Who let those turds move in?)-it was everywhere.
While these pictures truly won’t mean much to anyone and are probably just some mediocre ‘wilderness’ shots, know that this is me. Those trees reverberate the beat of my heart. This is my protected and sacred ground. You never know what you’re really going to remember, or what is going to impact you as you mature. Adults never know if what they’re ‘doing’ is what is ‘best’ for youth. So I guess what I’m trying to say here is two-fold: appreciate who and what has molded you. You can have roots and wings but your heart will always know where home really is.  I’m also trying to convey what we read on inspirational posters everywhere-take the moments you can when you have them. Quality will always prevail quantity. I had 11 years, and really only 6 ‘down in the holler’ with Grandpa and Grandma-yet my heart still knows where it belongs.
We often when out looking for deer. 
This pretty lady showed up.
 

My Crick

Reading List 2019 (so far)

Instead of recapping all the books I read for an entire year, I thought I would try and do this quarterly so that it’s not such a beast to read (or for that matter, type). My goal is to read 30 books in 2019, so let’s see where I’m at:
  1. Becoming, Michelle Obama (autobiography)- I purposefully started the year with this book and it did not disappoint. So many times I found myself in full-out bawling fits of emotion-of joy, sadness, pride, and longing. Michelle Obama believes in us all, y’all. A+
  2. You Are a Badass, Jen Sincero (self-help)- I guess this book has been around for a while? There were a lot of thoughtful nuggets in this book and I enjoyed the pep talk. I find Sincero to be much more down-to-Earth and in touch with life than others #coughcoughwashingmyface. Sidenote, I think I need to stop being so overly critical of self-help books that do not acknowledge how privileges plays a part in success but. A
  3. You Are a Badass at Making Money, Jen Sincero (self-help)-knocked both of these out to begin the new year and again, this book most definitely opened my little heart to being willing to hear the opportunities that ‘the universe’ is setting up for me. I carry a little piece of sponge with me wherever I go as a talisman to remind me to be open-you never know what is possible.  I’ve spent more time thinking about my financial health and professional growth this year than others, and while I still think it’s highly unlikely that I’ll become a millionaire from reading this book, I did enjoy it. A
  4. I Heart my Little A-holes, Karen Alpert (non-fiction)- This book is from a mommy-blogger (Babysideburns) that I had never heard of but the book was suggested to me as ‘funny’ so I gave it a go. I’m not a mom myself, but still could find some humor in her stories. It was a little repetitive and that really started to get to me but it seemed like a ‘real’ look into parenthood. B
  5. Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsberg,Irin Carmon & Shana Knizhnik (biography)- Yet another book that brought me to tears multiple times. RBG’s career has not been one of vile wit and brash tendencies, no no, RBG plays the long game-and she plays it better than probably most people in this world. I could go on and on about how inspiring it was to hear about her story (growing up, law school, love, and all the obstacles along the way that led to that SCOTUS seat), but really you should just hear it yourself. This book in print is beautiful, too. Notorious RBG started as a Tumblr thread (is that what they’re called? I don’t Tumbl) and grew quickly in popularity. I encourage you to see this book in print. A+
  6. The Greatest Love Story Ever Told, Megan Mulaly & Nick Offerman (autobiographical love story?)- K I wanted to fall in love with this and laugh my ass off and I really needed both of those things to happen with this book but it.just.did.not.happen. It pains me to be honest, because what if they see this and they don’t like me! But…the jokes didn’t do it for me. I enjoyed the stories about their upbringing (I really look up to Megan) and how normal their relationship is, but I suppose I was just hoping for more giggles. B-
  7. Confessions of a Domestic Failure, Bunmi Laditan (fiction)-This was an easy read with a fun, yet predictable, story.  Again, I am not a parent but I can relate to the “I want to be the person who has it all ‘put together’” vibe she was trying to share with the reader.  It had a very ‘We don’t need to be perfect-no one ever is! Be yourself and see the magic happen!’ feel. B
  8. The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas (fiction, young adult)-…I cried a lot. I thought a lot. I felt uncomfortable a lot. This book is fantastic. (I haven’t watched the movie yet.) A+
  9. Where’d You Go, Bernadette, Maria Semple (fiction)- The negative I hear most often about this book is the way it’s written, and I would assume that it gets difficult to tie together completely, but it was a fun story!  The book is written so that you are looking at a ‘file’ of letters, texts, and voice mails that have been pieced together by the main character’s daughter. The daughter narrates the story so you get some other context as well. I liked it. B+
  10. Lean In:  Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, Sheryl Sandberg (self-help)- So I randomly through this into rotation based off of library reviews and had zero clue who Sandberg even is-or the phenomena of this book (ope?) and I am eternally grateful I did! I adored this book and I admire Sandberg. I think she is very well-rounded and acknowledges privilege which is something (as you know) that I find lacking in SO MANY self-help/reflection books. I started Option B today (her second book) and just the forward has me floored. Love it, appreciate it. Team Sandberg all the way. A+
  11. Not That Kind of Girl, Lena Dunham (autobiography)- I started this years ago and never got far. Finished it this time.  Her stories were cringe-worthy but in that oh-I-know-how-it-feels-to-be-awkward-type way. If you liked her show, you’d probably appreciate the book, but it was almost too ‘Millennial’ for me (and I believe we’re the same age). Meh. Some of the stories were also just creepy. B-
  12. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo (self-help?)- Much like the rest of the world, I binged through Tidying Up with Marie Kondo on Netflix when it was released and then went about sparking joy all over our condo (hah). I learned how to fold towels and shirts and really felt like I was A+, gold star level, konmari-ing my life. So as I was tardy to the Kondo/condo party (because I guess she’s been around and popular for a long time? But somehow I always miss these things?) I just finally read her first book. I do not feel like the book sparked as much joy for me as the show did. In fact, I struggle with how detached someone can be from any personal objects-but I’m pretty sentimental so I’m sure this is a bias.  I don’t really feel like I learned much extra from the book. B-
12! 12 books in 3 months! I have some really good ones coming up in the next quarter, so stay tuned! Do you have any recommendations? What’s your favorite book so far this year?

What’s up, Buttercups?

Do you ever feel like time speeds up just when you need it to really slow it’s role? That’s pretty much what the last month has felt like! Luckily, it’s been full of good things:

I’m so happy! It was so cold!
  • I bought a new (to me) car that I have named Toothless. It is beautiful and wonderful and it has heated seats so now I just want to drive my car everywhere. Or park in the drive and listen to audiobooks with a warm butt. Same difference.
  • I successfully surprised my husband for his 40thbirthday with a really fun brew bus tour! The Indy Brew Bus is one of my favorite group activities in Indianapolis. This surprise has been in the works for months and I am so grateful we were all able to keep in under tight lips.  Derek is really hard to surprise and ultimately figured out that we were going on the Indy Brew Bus tour but had no idea it would be a private tour of some of his most favorite peoples. We had a blast, drank some tasty brews, and lived to tell the tale. (Side note though, for about 10 hours I had him thinking we were going skydiving!)
  • I turned 34 lastweek and celebrated with birthday tacos and trivia. It was low-key and relaxing.
  • Our dinner club met for the second time and it is so fun/delicious/wonderful. We started doing this after being inspired by two of the coolest people I know, Cumin Loves Paprika (check them out! They do amazing cooking and craft classes, as well a travel blogging. All around fantastic people).  I promise to share more about this soon-you’re going to want to start your own club (or join ours, new friends!)
  • We recently spent the weekend at a very top secret location-one I can’t wait to share with you all soon!
So what’s not going so great?
Poor baby cat has hard a rough week and needs extra lovins.
Except he hates me because I have to keep giving him
medication!

Well, I took our two cats to the vet and as I was carrying on of them into the office the carrier broke in half and I dropped by precious baby on the ground!! He just looked up at me like, “um, mom? Why have you forsaken me?!” and just stayed laying down. Ugh. I grabbed him and carried him inside and basically threw him at the vet tech so I could go pick up the pieces of the carrier. I didn’t even have time to think of the potential bigger crisis that could have happened. Ughhh. And then we found out that the the poor baby has to have dental work. Poor Mathis is not having a great week, so let’s all look at his cute face and say, “aw”.

Next to my side of the bed. #cookinginspiration
 #catswillknockthemoffmynightstand

I haven’t felt very inspired recently to head into the kitchen and cook all the wonderful foods rattling around in my brain. I received several beautiful cookbooks recently and even have some interesting thoughts for recipes I want to work through, but I think with the busyness of the last month or so, I’ve just been trying to make it by. In times like this I’ve reworked my go-to of take-out food and move to easier tried-and-true meals.  This is progress (not relying on take out as much) but I wish I was able to do a little more with it. I actually spent some time compiling a list of these meals so I could just point at one if need be on any given busy or tired day. Not every meal has to be an inspiration, although I would love for it to be. Look for that list coming soon-and please feel free to add your own help-I-need-to-eat-but-I-am-too-tired-to-cook meals!

I entered two paintings into a local art show and they weren’t selected. I wish I wasn’t so bummed about it, but. L

I saw this today and really needed the reminder-perhaps you do too. The Militant Baker is actually a  fantastic blogger as well! The beautiful artwork is from Nikki Miles.
 
Here is hoping that this found you all well, or at least, having a day. Spring is almost here folks, let’s all smile a bit about that!

Sunday Self-Care

Hello there! My apologies for radio silence-but things got a little busy! I bought a new car that I l-o-v-e, had some fun times with friends (we started a dinner club [but more on that later], attended a Galentine’s Day party, pancake celebrations, and most recently- St. Patrick’s Day deliciousness, I mean party where we eat lots of corned beef), and I decided to undertake what I thought was going to be an easy clean-up project in our bathroom that turned out to be the opposite. Ugh. Isn’t that how it always goes with home projects?

So things got busy and I had to maintain some energies. This weekend has been no different-I made my second cheesecake ever (the first one went over so well that the same friends we watched the Superbowl with near demanded it again for our St. Patrick’s Day party), re-caulked my mess of a bathroom (again. lessons learned. ugh home repair!), hung out with some of my favorite peoples, and caught up around the house. Of course I got my Sunday snugs in with the kitties (this week makes 4 years since we adopted them) but I haven’t had a lot of down time to put together a really insightful  Sunday self-care blog. So what is a really quick way to keep yourself going with life gets a little too busy? Veg out on Instagram, of course! I really enjoy Instagram for the visual appeal and lately I’ve been keeping track of some of my favorite mental health/self-care/mindfulness accounts- I thought I’d share a few in case you also need some new accounts to follow! Feel free to leave your favorite accounts in the comments, too, I’d love to take a look 🙂

https://www.instagram.com/heyamberrae/

Oof. I have caught myself having the left thought a few times recently so this one really spoke to me. And her typography is just the best!

https://www.instagram.com/bethdrawsthings/
All of her work is spot on. The blob.
https://www.instagram.com/lisaoliveratherapy/

Some of the short reminders that she brings forward seem to be directly written for me. How nice of her!

https://www.instagram.com/gorkiegork/

Story.of.my.life.

https://www.instagram.com/stacieswift/

But I have a cape! What do you mean I’m not superhuman!!

For the Love of Hot Dogs

Last week was the five-year anniversary of Derek and I’s First Official Date. We met in December and had agreed to keep things easy for a bit, but he decided to plan a not-Valentine’s Day date in Chicago for the two of us. I am often asked why I have such a love affair with hot dogs-and you’re about to find out.
To be fair, I’ve always found hot dogs tasty-they have to have the snap, the sweetness of the relish, the tart of the mustard, and the softness of the bun. That’s how I prefer my hot dogs-char grilled with yellow mustard and sweet relish. It was only several years prior to this epic life-changing February 15th had I discovered the Portillo’s Chicago Dog, SuperDawg with crinkle-cut fries, or my beloved Hot Doug’s (RIP) fancy encased meats.  Before that, I took my dog just as I described above.
During the short time Derek and I had been hanging out I had mentioned how amazing Hot Doug’s was (and all the other delicious foods in Chicago) and he planned a non-Valentine’s Day date for us for February 15th.  We started the day by waiting in the cold in the notorious-but-worth-it line for the encased meats at Hot Doug’s and by the time we left, I was feeling something in my belly besides hot dogs. Hot Doug’s is forever my #1 dog-because it was the best hot dog I’d ever had and because I started to fall for my now husband on that epic date to the encased meats emporium.
Here is a terrible photo of some of the hot dog memorabilia that was in Hot Doug’s. I really want those lights.
And here is a terribly edited ‘artsy’ photo of my favorite sign 🙂
Still quite possibly the best rendition of American Gothic was in the bathroom at Hot Doug’s
(Hot Doug’s sadly closed several years ago but has a spot in the bleachers at Wrigley if you ever want to try the best dog in the land. There’s also another place in Chicago that is similar in recipe to what Doug was doing, and I have found it to be good but alas, it’s not the same. Also, one time we were leaving another delicious but unfortunately closed restaurant in Chicago and Doug himself opened the door for me and I didn’t realize it until it was too late so luckily I didn’t faint but HE HELD THE DOOR FOR ME. I’m not worthy. I digress.)
After our first hot dog (yes, there were multiple that day) we walked around with his brother and then girlfriend checking out book stores and record shops. For dinner we hit up another reputable hot dog spot-Portillo’s. Sharing a chocolate cake shake with him was the seal on the deal-I knew that he was special-that was it.  We didn’t become official until that April but my heart knew that he was a keeper. Any person who is going to plan an entire date around hot dogs is probably a pretty fantastic person-but it has just kept getting better with time.
Hot dogs have been a way Derek has shown me he cares for me throughout our entire relationship. One time after a particular grueling Amtrak ride from where we live to Chicago (I was teaching someone else how to use the train) he picked me up at the train station and automatically drove to the closest hot dog joint. Another time he went out of his way to buy me legit neon green relish so I could have ‘real’ hot dogs at home. He also has never made fun of me for loving encased meats, so, that’s pretty swell of the fella, too.
The one thing that involved hot dogs that I had just never had the chance to do was to see the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile up close and personal. I was always like 10 minutes too late, or I would see it driving down the highway just out of my reach. It was always tragic, really. Until one day, somehow, Derek knew where it was parked! He made sure to take me to meet the wiener on wheels before I dropped him off for a flight. We took pictures, I gave it a hug, and I noticed that it had its’ own website.  So when I got home I started perusing the Wienermobile site and found out that you could request its’ presence at your event! At this point we were several months away from our wedding and I thought, “eh, what the hell?” I wrote out our  hot (dog) love story and invited the Wienermobile to our wedding. (Unfortunately I don’t have a copy of the email I wrote but I promise you it was filled with puns about how wonderful it would be to have the Wienermobile as a guest of honor at our nuptials.)  I was told in an auto response basically to not hold my breath and that they would contact me a month before the event if we were selected.
I kept the hope in the back of my mind but a month before our wedding I had zero hot dog messages-so I let it go. I had way bigger things to think about at that point anyhow. So when a number showed up on my phone during a meeting three days before our wedding and left a voicemail I assumed it was one of the vendors (but probably spam because it’s always spam). As I walked to my car I went ahead and listened to the message and heard, “Hi this is *some wonderful angel* from the Wienermobile and I’d like to talk to you about your upcoming wedding!”
I died. It was the first time I can honestly remember ever being so overwhelmed that I laughed, cried, and screamed all at once. When I called Derek I was screaming so loudly that he thought I was in an accident. I could not control the sound of my voice. At all. Once I was back to my office I continued to scream. I screamed about the Wienermobile for a full 24 hours. Once I could finally contain my excitement I then had to call all of our vendors and explain that we needed to make room for a GIANT WIENER. Every time I called to secure parking I would have to explain exactly why the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile would be gracing us with its’ presence and every time I would hear a slight chuckle and get some response akin to, “that’s awesome!”
And it really happened ya’ll. On October 1st, 2016, a giant wiener pulled up outside our wedding venue with our initials glistening on the side. C + D in a heart on one side, “Just linked” on the other. And they didn’t just take a few photos and head out, oh no, they were there for the entire thing! The Hotdoggers (two of the sweetest people ever) drove us around town to take photos (at one point we had our own paparazzi following us!), took guests on rides, handed our wienie whistles, and even came to our reception!  We had been dubbed the wienie wedding by people who had seen the whole ordeal take place (we were married in the downtown district of our city-so it was kind of busy). After the wedding we went to an Oktoberfest that was taking place, too. I guess some guy went up to my sister-in-law and asked her if she had been in the wiener wedding that day. When she said yes, and offered to introduce him to the wiener bride, he looked like he had just met Her Majesty the Queen. It was a good day. Oh. And not a single person was shocked that we had a The Wienermobile at our wedding-surprised, yes. Shocked? Not at all. 
You know what I’m looking at here? I’m looking at the Wienermobile. It’s parked outside and it HAD MY NAME ON IT.
Our paparazzi was distracting us from in this photo.  
Our wonderful Hotdoggers posing with us  in true awkward prom poses. Derek was also distracted. These two were the best.
They even gifted us with our very own Wienermobile bank!

And that’s how it happened. folks. You know when you ‘like’ something and people find out and then they join in on the fun of you ‘liking’ something? I used to collect owls and people would gift me small owl trinkets and it was so sweet and heartwarming but now instead of owls…people give me hot dog stuff. And it’s freaking awesome. At work people even call me the wiener queen!
This is also how I became the Midwest Ambassador for the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council-because my admiration for hot dogs is so much more than just the taste-it’s my love story. If it weren’t for hot dogs, who knows where I’d be right now, but it probably wouldn’t be in bed next to my husband who I keep telling to stop talking to me so I can write (in a very loving way!)
Romance, with a side of relish, please. #noketchup

Another Self-Care Sunday

Hello wonderful peoples!
It’s Sunday! I just love Sundays-a time to take it slow and cozy before the week starts. I know that the Sunday sadness is a real thing (it happens to me too sometimes) but I find the peace right before the chaos to be my most favorite moment of the week. It’s like the deep breath you take right before you say “I love you” for the first time to someone, or the smell of cookies cooling on a rack before you can take a bite- it’s a fleeting moment but it is worth treasuring with all you have.
As I said before, I often spend Sundays on our couch in the ‘comfy spot’ in my coziest clothes and a blanket completely covered in cats. I drink coffee and watch cooking shows before I start a slow progression into any chores or other things I may want to accomplish.  My newest addition to Sunday Funday is yoga and writing J  These things fill up my emotional cup and help me practice self-care so that I can give my all to the week to come.
There is so much research on the benefits of slowing down and ‘self-care’ is something we all preach (#cantpourfromanemptycup#treatyoself). Yet as I’ve mentioned before, I am painfully aware of the difficulty that comes with actually practicing it (especially more than one day a year. When is Treat Yo’ Self Day this year anyway…I need a new crystal beetle…). One way I’ve found to help me achieve this seemingly unattainable yet totally necessary task is to be really mindful of all the small ways that I practice self-care every day. Here are some uncomplicated things I’ve done this week to build in some elusive self-care:
  1. I picked up a fun coffee drink at my favorite coffee shop. (I drink probably 2-3 non-black coffee drinks a year and today was one of those days.)
  2. I went to bed ridiculously early on a Friday night because I wanted to. (And I didn’t call myself lame for it.)
  3. Every morning before I got out of bed, I spent a minute or two snuggling one of the cats. (Purrs are worth slowing down for.)
  4. I went to lunch with one of my most favorite people, and made plans for lunch with another. (It can be difficult to break away from the grind, but I always feel refreshed after stepping away.)
  5. I worked on my 2019 financials so I have a clear plan of what’s in my wallet (and savings accounts!) This saves me a lot of stress (and makes me feel accomplished for reaching financial goals!)
  6. I read a couple cookbooks to spark some creativity in my cooking. (I usually have 1-2 on my night stand.)
  7. I had a fantastic dinner with Derek and we played a new board game together (nourishing our relationship and our tummies.)
  8. I bought tulips for the house (…and then Derek surprised me with tulips for Valentine’s Day!)
  9. I cleaned off my desk at work every night before I went home (it’s nice to walk into work and see a clear space for the day.)
  10. I downloaded a new meditation app and I meditated 3 times this week for a few minutes. (I’m working on this, it still feels incredibly weird/difficult.)
For me, the biggest part of self-care is actually acknowledging what you’re doing as self-care. Sure, grabbing a cup of coffee is pretty normal for me, but kicking it up a notch made it feel even more special. An added bonus? I didn’t do it because I ‘needed’ it or ‘deserved’ it-I did it because I love myself. I saw a post to Instagram today that said something along the lines of, “practicing self-care only when you’re struggling is like watering plants only when it’s raining”. If we only stop to think of ourselves when we’re already in the red we’ll be perpetually running ourselves ragged-and it took 30 some years to finally figure that out for myself. So now I try to stop and really think about the things I’m doing so I can acknowledge them as kindness to myself. Mindfulness has made all the difference in my self-care success rate. I am no longer constantly searching for time to do something ‘for myself’ because I don’t need extravagant acts to fill my cup up-I’m just topping off now (usually). Even bigger, I don’t make myself feel guilty if I do take care of myself-and I used to be terrible at that.
This doesn’t mean I’m perfect at all this, and it sure the hell doesn’t mean that my cup doesn’t hit bone dry sometimes. But being kind to myself, even when I’ve let the self-care run out, helps me pick back up and saunter on (I don’t beat myself up for falling off the self-care train. Once I notice what’s going on I have a pretty frank discussion with myself so I can get back on track).
 Much like meditation isn’t this grandiose idea of clearing your mind for 60 years and just being completely Zen 100% of the time, self-care isn’t about always doing it perfectly. It’s about being able to acknowledge when you’re getting low (and hopefully, you can notice it quicker every time) and being mindful of all the little ways you can show yourself just how much you love you.
And if you’re not to a point yet where you can say you love yourself, you’re not alone. If you are struggling with showing yourself some care and compassion, it’s okay. Just keep trying- take it moment to moment-and don’t give up. I can hold space until you’re ready, friend.