Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Sweet Summer '16

In the past, I have made myself a glorious to-do list to stretch over Chicago's summer months. It is a constant reminder to make the most of every minute caked in sunshine.

This year,  I'm making my list at the end of the summer. Rather than using it to get excited, I'm going to use it as a reference - to warm me up over my months of hibernation.

This summer was all the things.

It was Saturday after Saturday of endless rounds of cocktails and laughter stretched across the patios of Chicago with my urban-family-who-is-family. One Saturday Boyfriend got so drunk he bought a cake that looked like a cheeseburger.

It was the fourth year running the Kuma's 5K with bonus hand-holding across the finish line with my sweet Panda who ran all the way from Hot-lanta. I couldn't have struggled through that nightmare hangover without her twice-as-long legs beside me.

I got to give my baby cousin the biggest hug just days before he proposed to his girlfriend. Five seconds ago he was a big-eared three year-old showing me how his computer game worked and now he's old.

A helicopter ride over a glowing downtown Chicago. Chicago is best seen from the water, but second best from the air.

There were bellies to rub,  new babies to kiss, and birthdays you can count on fingers to celebrate.

It. was. BALLOONS. 

A four day play-date with Baby Brother and Boyfriend complete with pokemon, legos, and skipping school to go to breakfast.

The bright-eyed beginning and the dancing-until-the-lights-come-up end of wedding planning.

Red rocks at the end of one plane ride. My favorite place at the end of the other.

Summer Olympics. Lake Michigan. Afternoons on the Porch. Our Batmanniversary.

Chicago Summer never does me wrong, and this one will keep me warm long into February.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Girls Weekend In Denver

So you want to go to Denver? Excellent Choice.

My two friends and I had been on the hunt for a girls weekend excursion and while we were craving a beach getaway, the threat of Zika had me gently nudging them to places to the el norte. When we discovered that you can take a yoga class at the hipster mecca of Red Rocks Amphitheater for the low price of $12, we knew we had found our destination.

It was endlessly delightful to respond to the standard query of "what brought you to Denver?" with, "oh we came for a yoga class." Like, one class. Flying half way across the country for one hour of exercise. But it was totally worth it. I frickin' love Denver. I can't wait to go back.

What we did:

Yoga at Red Rocks - they have eight classes a summer and there is a very, very real chance I'll go again because it was an out of (white girl) body experience. An awesome flow, perfect weather, incredible music, free granola bars. If Heaven has yoga classes, they're all at Red Rocks.

(more) Yoga in the Civic Center Conservancy - if I was going to haul my yoga mat on an airplane, I wanted to make it worth my while. So I scoped out free yoga classes. Most cities have them (this is now my second free-yoga-while-traveling class, and I'm making it a habit) and it is a fun way to do something that isn't eating, walking, or napping.

The Flatirons (1 and 2) - we wanted a hike that was only going to take a morning but not make us feel like we hadn't accomplished anything. Flatirons was perfect. We ended up with a 30 minute detour (the trail marking is not great) and still made it up to the end of the trail within a few hours. There was some rock scrambling and it required a little Beyonce motivation, but we did it and it was totally worth it for the views, the sense of accomplishment, and the cheeseburgers we got at the end.

The Trading Post Trail at Red Rocks - after the yoga class we were not feeling particularly go-getter-y. This trail was perfect for some instagramable rocks and a leisurely "let's talk about our feelings" pace.

The first .3 miles of the Dino Ridge Trail - I demanded this because I love me some dinos. We parked right at the end of the road and took the 10 minute walk up, learned things, had a moment of awe over these being Actual Dinosaur Foot Prints, and walked back down. Skipped the crowd and the tours.

Improv at Voodoo Comedy - Improv and Podcast Superstar Mel Evans has relocated to the Denver area (much to the devastation of Chicago) and we saw her crush it so hard in some improv musical comedy.

What we ate and drank:

Lunch at Mountain Sun - If you're going to climb a flat iron, you deserve a cheese burger slathered in blue cheese. These were perfect. With delicious beers to boot.

Dinner at Work and Class/Working Class/Work and Release - (we could not ever actually remember the name of this restaurant) was exactly what these snobby-ass Chicago foodies wanted. Good cocktails, killer small plates, and no wait for a table. Everything was delicious but the mac and cheese, corn, and house salad were particularly scrumptious.

Ice Cream at Sweet Action - TWICE. No regrets.

Potions at Shine Restaurant - on the recommendation of a colleague we had some post-hiking potions. Good for an introspective giggle (do you need a restarter or a firestarter?) bad for being not particularly delicious. Though I'm sure they were good for our souls in a tetanus shot kind of way. 

Brunch at Rioja - This was the best possible last meal of the trip, but it also could have been the last meal of my life and I would have been okay. We picked it because of my companion's aversion to eggs (making brunch a challenge) - almost everything on their menu did not require a pair of sunny-side-ups to complete it which was perfect. The service was kind of garbage but you can redeem all manner of sins with free goat cheese biscuits and honey butter.

Where we stayed:

An absurd little Airbnb that stank to high heaven of the whacky tabacky (Welcome to Denver, I suppose). It was perfectly located next to a Whole Foods that provided the many, many kombucha varieties we needed for four days.

How we got around:

Frontier got us there. If you're 5'2", can pack light, and always have your own snacks, Frontier is not as bad as everyone says and was $150 cheaper than even Southwest. A tiny little Chevy Spark rental got us around. It was like a Harry Potter car, it fit into every parallel parking space we found and used like 6 ounces of gas the whole trip.

Other shout outs:

Golden Farmer's Market (and Izzybelle Chocolate Sauce), Union Station's new make-over, and Dirt Coffee.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

In the Air.

I measured my years in traditions. Ones that have been actual, every year traditions, and the ones we have out grown, or moved away from. I cherish the ones that may have only lasted for three years (that's my lower limit, btw, if you can get to three years, it's the real deal) with as much fervor as the ones that I inherited.

I crave the stability of traditions, despite the fact that I am impatient for a life chock-full of adventures and new things every day. The Christmas Story, an Easter Pinata, Flower Mart, a week on Nantucket -- these are my touchstones through all of the chaos I gleefully swirl through.

My parents, and their parents, and back and back used to be responsible for this, but now I seek out opportunities to lay the foundation for new traditions. Drinking in downtown Frederick on Christmas night - Classy? No. A tradition? Absolutely. The Kuma's 5K. A New Year's Day Party (though we inherited/downright stole this one, I treasure it in a nook particularly close to my heart).

My new favorite? The Great Galena Balloon Race.

When I read about it in a Time Out article last summer, I had a vision for a perfect, colorful weekend. Luckily, I had a partner in crime who shared this vision. So we waited patiently, never doubting for a second that this was going to be all the things we wanted it to be.

And. It. Was.

There was a moment as we were driving in that I got the cold dread of "what if this was a mistake," but the moment we saw our first balloon cresting the hill, it granted every wish I had for the weekend.

Galena is far, but not-too-far, and they're pretty loosey-goosey on the "don't bring your own booze or food" rules, making it an economically sound weekend investment in joy and photography.

Deep below my ribs I feel like I want to do this every year. I want to pack up a car, and a cooler, and rent a condo, and spend all evening on the grassy lawn watching balloons float overhead. I want to stay up too late playing games, and then drag myself out of bed for the quiet delight of the sunrise race (and then go immediately back to bed). I want to be surrounded by friends, and kids, and wine juice boxes. I want a catalog of memories of this specific place over years and years.

My goal, by putting this out into the internet tubes, is that I'll hold myself to making it a real thing. Around April of next year (and every year after), I'll send out an email to my Urban Family and Work Boos and get a head count for the condo... and we'll arrange cars, and make pasta salads, and enjoy the most joyful start to summer.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Last year in books

My goal was to read 52 books in 2015. I only managed 48, but they were a solid 48. I blame throwing a wedding in the last few weeks of the year for missing those last 4. Here's what I read.  All the bolded ones are the ones you really should read too.
  1. Yes Please
  2. Riding Lessons
  3. My Sister's Grave
  4. The Secret Place
  5. The Magician King
  6. The Magician's Land
  7. The Queen of the Tearling
  8. The Wide Window
  9. Flash Boys
  10. Red Rising
  11. The Orphan Master's Son
  12. Spoiled
  13. Beyond Belief
  14. To Kill a Mockingbird (I was supposed to read this in high school but I never did. Shhhh)
  15. Bird Box
  16. Under the Banner of Heaven
  17. On Immunity
  18. Flora
  19. The Girl on the Train
  20. Longbourn
  21. Destiny of the Republic
  22. Golden Son
  23. The Invasion of the Tearling
  24. Go Set a Watchman
  25. In the Unlikely Event
  26. The Husband's Secret
  27. All the Light We Cannot See
  28. Wild
  29. Everything I Never Told You
  30. Failure is Not an Option
  31. The Royal We
  32. Americanah
  33. Dead Wake
  34. Thirty Million Words
  35. Astonish Me
  36. The Selection
  37. I Know Why the Caged Bird Signs
  38. Watergate: A Novel
  39. Challenger Deep
  40. Trickster's Queen
  41. Jackaby
  42. The Elite
  43. Ready Player One
  44. The One
  45. Arcadia
  46. Fates and Furies
  47. Beastly Bones: A Jackaby Novel
  48. The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories
This list could not have happened without the fist-full of jelly beans that is The Selection series. I cruised through the first four books with such agony over how they were the worst and yet I could-not-would-not stop. If you want to feel particularly bad about yourself as an unpublished author, I highly recommend them.

Also, I recognize that reporting out on this list is five months late. How did it get to be May so fast? Considering how I'm doing on other deliverables, half a year late is really not that bad. 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

10 Best Puppies in Jane Austen Adaptations

We just recorded a new episode of An Hour with Your Ex: Pride & Podcasts, and we basically wrote love letters to Emma Thompson for an hour. You should listen because I didn't even know I loved Emma Thompson that much until I started talking about it. You probably love her that much too.

Mid-episode we discussed the delightful number of dogs in Sense & Sensibility, and Mel said she thought this was the only adaptation with puppies and was incredulous when we told her she was wrong. So then I decided that instead of getting all the really overdue, important work done that I need to do - I would prove Mel wrong. Some things are just more important than important work things.

I only looked through the ones I have watched (which are the good ones). If you are really into the 2007 remakes, write your own blog. Of course, this is only reviewing the very direct, human adaptations. If you're looking for the best dog in the adaptation business, you go here. And here. Duh.

#10 Pride & Prejudice hunting dogs

These two make a couple of appearances with Mr. Bingley. They're the cutest.

#9 Lady Bertram's pup in Mansfield Park


This ugly mug shows up at the very end to be handed to, and then sit on, Lady Bertram while Fanny Price and Edmund wrap up the story for us. Maybe I would have liked this movie better if the dog got more screen time.

#8 Sunning archery pups

Gwyneth Paltrow's British accent is the.worst, but I love everything else about this Emma, and I'm hella impressed that she single-handedly brought back the empire waist even though it is flattering on almost nobody.  If you're going to practice archery in the sunshine next to a beautiful lake, you should probably bring these lounging delights along.

#7 Mr. Darcy and this stoop sitter

He's not my favorite Mr. Darcy (how could he be?), and this is probably my least favorite film due to my aversion to Kiera Knightly, but Matthew Macfadyen looks pretty adorbs next to this tall drink of water.

#6 Howling pup

This guy makes a cameo as Mary does a number on the crowd at the ball. I love a good "your voice is terrible" bit.

#5 Mrs. Dashwood's lapdog

As I mentioned, Emma Thompson is flawless and the screenplay for S&S is perfection. Swapping out Mrs. Dashwood's child for a tiny dog with pointy ears was such a perfect call. Smug-ass ladies don't have snot-nosed children. They have tiny dogs.

#4 Flashback hunting dogs

Baby Darcy and Baby Wickham fish and tromp through the woods with these two floppy eared muffins.

#3 Doggie barouche

This scene is one of my faves. My mom has a friend, Platinum Barb, who is basically Mrs. Jennings and who would also absolutely just pile every single pup in the carriage just to run errands.

#2 Lizzie's confidant 

Lizzie B. ends up at Netherfield with a bunch of people she can't even with, so she does what ever sensible girl does, and makes friends with the household pets. 

#1 Emma's glorious basket of barn puppies.

Like I said, Emma is pretty incredible in terms of depicting just how good the landed gentry had it back then. Back then, you could spend your entire day just snuggling a pile of barn puppies in a gorgeous dress with your friends.

Puppies and Jane Austen. This is the best way to start a week. Do you have any builds/arguments for the order of this list? Let's hear them! Thank you to Lizzie for inspiring this blog post!

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Unadvisory: snacks

I am making it a personal goal not to give people wedding advice. It is none of my business how you decide to lock it up, and all the advice tends to swirl around and make a thick fog of doubt that gives you lower back pain.

So. No advice.


One of the things I am the most happy about doing for my own personal marriage ceremony and dance party is picking food that brings me joy and that I can have whenever I want.

The past week has been straight garbage, and next week promises mostly more of the same. It all came to a head when I attempted to pick up at 5:58 from a store that said they close at 6...only to find them dark and locked. I trudged my way back to where a bus may or may not every appear and down the block I spotted my favorite big blue van. I literally, actually, not metaphorically ran towards the 5411 truck, terrified that it was only a mirage, that my psyche had also decided to screw me over this week.

But there it was! 

On my wedding day, I ate protein bar for lunch. Which was good because, post ceremony, anything resembling an appetite quickly evaporate and was replaced with medical-grade adrenalin and pure joy.  I became my least favorite bridal cliche - the girl who eats nothing. Every bite of everything tasted like egg cartons. I dutifully attempted three or four swallows but eventually gave up, insisting that others eat my share since they could enjoy it far more than me.

And enjoy it they did. 

The bacon, date, goat cheese empanada game that night was fire. Our 100 guests cruised through about 200 of those suckers. No regrets.

And now, every time I see that truck, I have a free pass to get myself an empanada (or two), maybe even a couple for the mister. And I get to relive that joy all over again. Of being surrounded by my favorite people, of dancing to my favorite songs with mah best girls, to my whole famn damily getting outrageous, to a midnight kiss that is scheduled to last for another 29,901 days. 

But this time I get to enjoy the snacks too.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Off Day. On Feelings.

Today is my first day Off since mid-August.

My first day without hosting. without traveling. without a to-do list the length of my arm. Today is a glorious no-pants-no-bra-no-cares day. And a catch-up-on-blogging-talk-about-your-feelings-day.

The past three months have been The actual hold-the-hyperbole b-e-s-t. I nearly ran out of happy tears to cry because they would appear 2-3 times a day when I would get to thinking about how wonderfully wonderful Q4 was for little ole Grandipants.

And then 2015 tapped in 2016.

And now that the fun is done, I'm left feeling all the feelings that were buried under this ecstatic-beyond-all-comprehension joy I was feeling just a few weeks ago.

I'm left feeling selfish. For making everything about me. For not being a good friend, despite the fact that people moved mountains to celebrate me.

I'm feeling self-conscious. For the choices I made. I made them all so quickly that I didn't have time to over think them, until right now. Now I get to overthink them until my brain turns to mush. I should-have-shouldn't-have and that's-why-people and everyone-really-hated and too-bad-there-won't-be-a-next-time.

I'm feeling ungrateful. I did not thank people enough, and all of my thank yous sounded like 99 cent Hallmark cards. I ran out of words when I needed them the most. My heart was so, so, so (SO) full of gratitude and it all came out gray and mealy.

BUT. I'm also feeling like a magician - I said some words and waved my hands and created a brand new family.  And despite what I tell people, it does feel different.

And I'm still reeling from wanderlustful adventures where we discovered that 31 year-old dogs can learn new tricks, and that the world doesn't need me to check my email.

So today, I'm going to sit with all these feelings in my messy house and try to come to terms with some of it. Or if I can't solve anything - I'll at least finish some of the left over mac and cheese.

She's pint-sized and amazing.