To see the Summer Sky Is Poetry, though never in a Book it lie – True Poems flee – ~Emily Dickinson

Ah, the lovely weather that January promises. So happy that June is here even though it’s going to fly by. This is pretty much the busiest month of work this entire year (so far). Between trainings and new clients, I’m mentally ready for July. This will be the real challenging part of maintaining a consistent self-care regime. So far so good–I’m ready to start beach yoga for the season and joined a farm share (community supported agriculture) through Nichols Farm. What is CSA, you might ask? Pretty much, you pay a fee at the beginning of the season and, in this case, you receive 22 weeks worth of vegetables and fruit that are picked in peak season freshness. So far, so good and we’ve had the BEST strawberries.

CSA Post 2017

Spring is full of birthdays in this family. We spent time celebrating Lauren, Sarah, Matt and Mom’s birthdays. Here is the bacon bomb I made (modeled after Paddy Long’s Bacon Bomb) for Mom and Lauren’s Birthdays:

Mom and Lauren Birthday Dinner 2017

Who doesn’t love 2.5lbs of beef mixed with 2.5lbs of spicy pork sausage wrapped in bacon? Here are the real best pictures from that celebration:

Mom and Lauren Birthday 2017

Aren’t Lauren and her boyfriend the cutest? 😉 Here are some particularly good one’s from Sarah’s birthday. We couldn’t go bowling this year (waht-wah) since Sarah had ACL surgery (again). Poor thing. So we played Speak Out which was HILARIOUS. I’ve done Matt the courtesy of adding his picture to this collage, since he doesn’t read this anyways.

Sarah's Birthday 2017

Doesn’t my sister look awesome? Continuing on her weight loss journey. Easter was a thing that happened:

Easter Collage 2017

Matt carved the ham and I made him go with me to get Easter breakfast food blessed.  I also ate my weight in Easter sausage–it’s pretty much stuffing in sausage form sooo….see the picture on the top right. My mom even snuck some in her purse (bottom right).

Matt and I had a self-lead brewery tour around his birthday, stopping at Begyle and Dovetail:

Breweries 2017

We celebrated Mother’s Day with my mom, Sarah and Lauren (and delicious Middle Eastern Food from Middle Eastern Bakery):

Mother's Day 2017

Matt and I took quite a few walks and started playing D&D with awesome people again:

Activities 2017

One of our walks included the Montrose Bird Sanctuary, which was a neat little nature enclave in the city:

Montrose Bird Sanctuary 2017

Here are a few highlight photos from the past few months, including lovely smelling flowers, Galaxy Trucker, Matt baking “biscuits” after walking Great British Baking Show, and a beer flight paddle for a fundraiser at Empirical that I painted with girls from the drop-in.

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And Matt and I took engagement photos! I’ll put a silly on here:

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Cheers to new recipes, outdoor activities, time spent with loved ones, and generally summertime.

Amanda

 

It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade. ~Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

WINTER IS ALMOST OVER. I can’t really complain, since we’ve barely had winter in the Chicago area. I’ve done quite a bit of cooking in the past few months and I’ve seen lots of family. One of my most awesome Christmas presents (from my awesome sister) was a seal-a-meal foodsaver. When we stocked up on meat in January, Matt and I used that sucker until it almost overheated. You start out with a ton of meat (TL), pick one to start separating into meal sized servings (TR), weigh it to make sure it’s even (CR), seal it up (BR), and stick it in the freezer with the date frozen and the weight written on the bag. You don’t want to forget what you have or when you got it, or you’ll end up with awful freezer burned meat that you find in a year.

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I’ve also spent quite a bit of time cooking (as usual). I made a copy-cat Pequod‘s recipe, but used a mixture of canned crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce seasoned up instead of the one in the recipe. Pequod’s Pizza is a Chicago based restaurant that intentionally caramelizes the cheese along the crust. AMAZING. The copy-cat (TL) turned out pretty freaking great! I made copy-cat Pizza Hut bread sticks too (TR) (I love many of the brown-eyed baker recipes). I made healthy(?) banana bread (no sugar, just honey)(CR). This easy crusty french bread, which I’ve now made twice and has turned out awesome (BL)! I definitely recommend the dutch oven method of bread making mentioned in the recipe. I made steak with very tasty Maple Balsamic Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Bacon and Cranberries (BC). And I ate (didn’t make) this freaking awesome Superbowl Pie with friends from Bang Bang Pie and Biscuits (BR).

image2The last thing I made was Paczki. Better this year than last! Here are photos of Brown Eyed Baker’s step by step. I’ve added Spiritus which really brought them up a notch:

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We celebrated Mardi Gras with the Paczki (bottom) and Jambalaya (TR) made by Matt. We then celebrated on Fat Tuesday at Empirical (our favorite neighborhood place). They are opening a BrewPub in Rogers Park and had the chef of the new place cook up a crawfish boil (TL)! It was my first time eating them and it was such a fun time.

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See? I told you I’ve been eating a ton this winter. Luckily, I balanced it out by completing a 28 day yoga challenge (I upped it from 21 days) through Yogadownload.com, which meant I did a yoga practice everyday in February. I felt great and hit some poses I didn’t think I’d get. I also went to a 15 hour continuing education training on trauma informed yoga, which was great. This is the only training I’ve ever been to where lounging about comfortably and coloring was encouraged.

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I went to support my mom at JJC’s production of Hair, which was so good! My mom is seriously one of the most talented ladies. Her  set design, in particular, was very cool.

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Mom, Sarah and I went and saw Sweeney Todd at the Paramount with our season tickets. That was such a well done show. I LOVED IT. Really great casting. I’m so excited for Jesus Christ Superstar in May. The other cool thing about this theater (which I’ve talked about in previous posts) is that they do themed beverages with each show. This one was blood red and fun.

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We celebrated Dante and Marlin’s wedding at the beginning of January (cousins of Matt).

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We celebrated Nola and Kenzie’s 3rd birthdays, Jill’s 11th birthday, and Emma’s first birthday.

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I celebrated Emily’s birthday when we went to get pedis and brunch:

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I spent time with these awesome chicks and Kaelie:

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I exercised my right to protest with one of my good friends, Annette, at the women’s march on Chicago in January. Because I care about basic human rights in this country.

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I felt so rejuvenated to see so much support surrounding these issues at the march!

Oh right, and then Matt and I got engaged. 🙂 He was planning on proposing on the day of the march, but decided against it since I was out to “smash the patriarchy” as he called it.

image9Instead, we took a lovely walk at the West Ridge Forest Preserve (mentioned in my last post) the day after the march. We took a break at a gorgeous space in the preserve and he asked me to marry him. I, of course, laughed for an inappropriate amount of time but eventually said yes. We are getting married in September! So excited. AND all of my bridesmaids and flower girls said yes to standing up in our wedding (even though I mailed them all just about the most embarrassing pictures of us that I could find). I’m so excited to start this next step of life’s journey with my partner. I love you so much, Matt.

Happy spring,

Amanda

 

Winter is a season of recovery and preparation.-Paul Theroux

Christmas wasn’t as magical as it usually feels. I was still lucky enough to see many people I love over the holidays and for that I am grateful. December was incredibly busy and January is looking like things will calm down soon which is great. Winter SHOULD be a season of recovery and preparation–I don’t think I could have found a more appropriate quote to describe my feelings about the season. It’s all the best time of year for soup and awesome rich foods, which I love.

During December, I spent time with family and friends pretty much the entire month. Matt and I won tickets in the lottery to see Christmas at DePaul which was so great! Shout out to Laura for killin’ it on the oboe:

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I was able to bake with mom, Sarah, and Lauren. It was Lauren’s first time making Potica! Not our recipe, but gives you an idea. The picture on the right is my mom instructing Lauren on kneading:

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My mom is AWESOME and was able to score tickets to Hamilton in Chicago. Mom, Tammy, Sarah, Matt, and I went to Christkindlmarket to enjoy some spiced warm wine then looked at the Macy’s Christmas window display before the performance. This show was so great. It’s really an introduction to a shift in musical theater. I am sooo lucky to have been able to see it so early. I didn’t realize how weird it is that I’ve always been able to do that growing up (Lion King, Wicked, Book of Mormon). #blessed.

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We went to Matt’s family Christmas Celebration and played 7-11 after the show. It was such a nice day! So glad to have been able to see everyone. I made Santa hat cheesecake bites (SO GOOD), but forgot a photo. The collage below includes a bunch of things from the Christmas season. Starting at the top left: Dan’s Candies (truffles & dark chocolate dandies/turtles), Nola playing with Emma at Zarobsky Family Christmas, A Festivus Pole at Empirical Brewery’s taproom, Snickers by the tree, Rob trying on an “old man mask” that he “won” in 7-11, The STOP-IT Team (minus Rachel) at our bowling work Christmas party, my mom’s tree, s’mores cookies (baked for my team’s Christmas party at my apartment), and the gift I received from my Reddit Secret Santa (yes, I’ve had a good experience two years in a row being matched with a stranger on the internet and exchanging gifts with them and others)(my Reddit Secret Santa got me a “travel kit” with which to visit Eastern Europe–ADORABLE).

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Here are some more photos from the season. Again, starting at the top left: Matt decorating the tree, Southwestern Pinwheels (for a Christmas get together at Andi’s), my gift for my Reddit Secret Santa, Christmas cards (best part of the season), my cozy ass apartment all decorated, Cranberry & Rosemary White Christmas Sangria (for our annual get together at Alec’s),  gifts wrapped and ready to go, a small cute “holiday survival kit” from the neighbors (truffles and chamomile tea to relax during the hectic season), and my Department 56 village.

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Instead of the zoo this year, my family took a trip to the Morton Arboretum Illumination (Light Display). It was fantastic!

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We spent Christmas Eve at Kim and Kerry’s house and my family came (Mom, Sarah, and Buddy). I made a Christmas Tree of garlic knots which was super tasty (Kim served homemade pizzas, so I went with the theme). Christmas is so fun with little ones around! Somehow, I didn’t get a picture of Kenzie, but here’s a few of the rest of our awesome nieces. We also tried to watch It’s a Wonderful Life, but fell asleep almost immediately after turning it on this year:

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Christmas Day was alright, mom got the stomach flu (which I then came down with the next day–what a nice break -.-). It was just a day of hanging out and eating, but we saw the family and went over to Uncle Joe’s to bring his gifts.

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I took a few really nice walks when I was on vacation (after the puking was over):

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Sara and Rob were in town for New Year’s Eve! I missed them so much! I’m looking forward to when they’re closer. Kindred spirits, you know? Sabrina hosted and we knew quite a few people at the party (special shout out to Annette and Nick!), so that was nice. She had all of the details planned out and it was so sweet! Matt and Rob started eating meatballs directly from the crock pot by the end of the night (top right).

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Sara got a sweet new camera and took some nice quality shots of Matt and I (thanks girl!). Of course, we screwed around for some of them but they turned out pretty darn cute:

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Great way to end the year! You know what was a great way to start the new year? With Matt brewing beer with his brother Mark and Shannon and I hanging with the girls. And of course, eating steak and lobster.

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The last fun thing I did to ride out the end of the holiday season (January 8–it’s close, the Epiphany ends the Christmas season right??) was to see The Little Mermaid at the Paramount with Sarah, Mom and Lauren. Such quality performances there!

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I hope you all had a great Christmas season and that you haven’t crashed TOO hard after the holiday season!

Amanda

 

 

The month of November makes me feel that life is passing more quickly. In an effort to slow it down, I try to fill the hours more meaningfully.-Henry Rollins

October AND November flew by! I can’t believe it’s Christmas time and we’re experiencing our first snow of the season. It’s fluffy and gorgeous–perfect back drop for writing Christmas cards to friends and loved ones.

In October, Matt and I took our annual trip to Michigan to see the colors change.  This year, we stayed in Twin Lake, MI. Unfortunately, peak color season was later than usual this year and we didn’t get to see too many leaves changing. It was also dreary and rainy while we were there (bummer), but we still made it out for a 3 hour hike in the mist through the Manistee National Forest (which was about half a block away from the cottage we rented). This place was seriously sweet–it was super cozy, had a private beach, a fire pit outside (with wood provided!) and a fireplace inside (for comfy evenings).

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Here are some of my favorite photos from our wet hike (which we took after waking up to no power in the house from the storms):

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We ended up stopping at Founders Brewery on the way up during their Harvest Festival. How perfect! It was gorgeous outside, so we had some fall beers and delicious food out on the festively decorated patio. The set up was really cool–you open a tab and can order from either their outdoor bar or indoor bar on the same account. This goes for food too, which is ordered separately. The bottom right photo was a raspberry beer that Matt accidentally ordered for me although I hate raspberry (he didn’t end up reading the description and just ordered a seasonal beer). We ended up sharing :). You can see the monstrous amount of sandwich and beer cheese dip we ordered in the top left photo below and you can see adorable Matt on the awesome patio in the bottom left photo:

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While staying in Twin Lake, we took an evening to head into Muskegon where we stopped at Unruly Brewing. They serve pizza from an attached restaurant. The deal was buy a pizza and cheesesticks and get another pizza free. We ate quite a bit of pizza, as you can see above in the top right photo. The beer was tasty too! I love flights–you get to try so many more beers without becoming a mess.

Overall, we had a really nice weekend away and intend on making weekend trips a priority for our relationship. We both love the time spent together.

Matt and I went to our buddy Chris’ apartment for Halloween weekend celebrations–I was Little Red Riding Hood and he was the lumberjack that saves her. Then, we went to the Rocky Horror Picture Show (my first time in eight years or so, Matt, Emily and Alec’s first time ever!) at the Music Box Theatre.

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It was really cool to be in Wrigleyville during game 5 of the World Series (Chris’ apartment is there). Very cool atmosphere. I spent Halloween Day at home and Monica came to visit with Maggie. What a cute little banana she was!

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I made awesome bacon cheddar scallion scones (first time making scones!) and they turned out great. Great breakfast and great company for a spooooky morning. Matt, Alec and I went out to the local watering hole to watch the Cubs win the World Series on November 2. I’m a White Sox fan, but it was really cool to be out and about when they won.

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I, of course, voted:

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Then, I went to the Shared Hope International’s JuST Conference (a national conference on human trafficking). What a humbling experience, to be surrounded by so many experts in the field (survivors, clinicians, advocates, law enforcement, attorneys) who work towards ending trafficking everyday. It reinforced my love for the work that I do and made me believe I can make a difference.

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While in the area, I decided to go visit downtown Washington D.C. before my flight. This was on Veteran’s Day, so it was a powerful experience. The monuments and memorials were incredible to see! I was lucky to be there on a day with perfect weather:

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Incredible. The day after the conference, Matt and I hosted our annual Friendsgiving. The food was great and so was the company! I love that our friends bring side dishes and desserts that represent their own traditions–we had everything from Turkey to meatballs to green bean casserole to Buckeyes and had about 18 people come.

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So grateful to have so many awesome people in my life. We ended the night with a very traditional viewing of Thankskilling. Real Thanksgiving was also nice. We started the day at my mom’s house:

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Of course I took pictures of the cats (Shadow on the left, Snickers on the right). So good to spend time with my family and to eat awesome food. We went to Matt’s brother’s house (Mark) afterwards. We ate again and visited with his family (including the thousands of babies running around).

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The first picture is Matt playing with the nieces–this one is Nola. The second is baby Emma chewing on the side of the table (hilarious shot!). What a nice official kick off to the holiday season! I was also happy that I was able to see some great friends over Thanksgiving (Emily, Zakk, and Monica!) throughout the week I was in Joliet. Here is Emily and I and Lauren with Maggie:

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The rest of fall kind of fell into place too. I was able to catch a few craft shows with Mom, Sarah and Lauren. Although we missed Aunt Nancy, I’m really glad that we’re keeping this tradition alive!

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Sarah was running late coming from work, so she’s not in the picture :(. I’m glad to be able to see my family as often as I have and to have been able to take a whole week with them over Thanksgiving. I’ll leave you all with my two favorite autumn pictures from this season:

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Happy Christmas season! I hope you are all able to spend time with those you care about and that you are able to take a moment for yourself and relax in the glow of the lights for awhile.

Amanda

“Autumn, the year’s last, loveliest smile.” -William Cullen Bryant

Ah, the end of summer and beginning of fall! Celebrations and more celebrations have been what I’ve been up to.

Summer ended with lots of outdoor time, some in the suburbs with family, some by Lake Michigan down the street. At the beginning of summer/outdoor yoga season, I started taking pictures at each outdoor class I attended. These are the best of the bunch, but also give you an idea of the serenity that is an outdoor practice:

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Self-care is so important! It’s been really busy and stressful at work, but I’ve been making it a priority to take care of my body and mind with exercise, enough sleep, and (mostly) quality food (with a pizza thrown in here and there because that can be self-care too). Labor Day weekend, I saw outside with the family for awhile. Here is my mom, tending a fire with dead leaves while denying she’s burning them:

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Posted for the hilarity. Matt and I had Emily and Alec over for an awesome home-cooked meal. Matt made the pasta and sauce, I made the bread and mango mousse parfait (that in season fruit though). Yes, be jealous.

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What should you NOT be jealous of? Well, when we made this and I was trying to take pictures, I definitely dropped my phone into a pot of boiling water. somehow, after 5 days in rice, it ACTUALLY WORKS AGAIN. I can’t believe it. Life is good. I drew the lucky Monopoly card of prosperity instead of owing money. We spent one more day grilling on the lake before it started getting too dark too early for outdoor dinners in the park:

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I saw the Wandering Uterus Project exhibit–it is influenced by the ancient Greek idea that the uterus is a living thing that controls a woman’s emotions while wandering through out bodies to do so. This modern take uses a feminist framework to take a look at reproductive justice. Check out more info at the link above! This exhibit was at Awakenings Foundation, which is an AWESOME organization focusing on art created by survivors of sexual violence. They are a great partner to the program I work for. You should go there too! Here is a sneak peak of the exhibit:

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This was SO COOL to see in person.  Onto the celebrations! Matt, my mom, and myself were lucky enough to be invited as family friends to Nathan and Lindsay’s wedding! Emily is a very close childhood friend of mine and it was great to celebrate with her fun family:

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Clearly, Matt and I like to dance. I was also lucky enough to be able to go to both the bridal shower and bachelorette party for another awesome lady I’ve known for years, Kim Miller!

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The theme for the Bachelorette Party was 80s and purple, so I made my hair as big as I could and slapped on heavier make up than I usually wear and hit the town with the ladies! The Baton Show Lounge was fun (I love a good drag show) and dancing the night away after was also a great time. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to make the wedding in Punta Cana next month, but am so happy I was able to celebrate with this old friend!

You’re probably like “oh good, that’s the last of celebrating love we will hear about in this post!” NOPE. Matt and I were also able to take a trip up to Kalamazoo at the beginning of October to celebrate friends from college getting married! Paige and Jeff! It was SUCH a nice ceremony and a really fun night with those two and a few other friends I hadn’t seen in ages:

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There, that’s it for the celebrating ;). I am so happy to have such solid friends in my life and to keep those contacts. The older I get, the more I realize how rare this is. What luck, to be able to celebrate such huge life milestones with loved ones. Speaking of loved ones, I did get to spend the day with Kim and the girls (Nola, Kenzie, and Emma) at the beginning of September:

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They are so cute! I love the bottom one with Nola trying to feed Emma water because “she seems so thirsty”. Adorable. We, of course, took our annual apple picking trip with Emily and Alec which was a lot of fun and got me in the mood for fall:

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That bottom middle picture is an apple cider donut with ice cream, whipped cream, honey, and cinnamon on top…so there’s that. We also did the political “Trump vs Clinton vs Dory” corn maze. Dory, by far, had the most votes for president:

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Such fun with good people. The last adventure was mom, Sarah and I going to see Mama Mia! at the Paramount Theater,where we are season ticket holders. Life has been so busy, it was really nice to just go see a show with my awesome family and share a meal afterwards.

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More fall adventures are to come, including a romantic getaway in Michigan this weekend. I can use the relaxation. Until next time, I will leave you with this picture of a squirrel I saw holding a cookie on a walk last weekend:

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Cheers,

Amanda

 

Summer is in full swing!

Hey everyone!

As you can imagine, I’m getting excited for fall. I’m sick of sweating all the time and generally not being super comfortable. I like needing a sweater or a little jacket! That being said, I’ve been making the most of the “good” weather. Since going to OK and MO, I’ve once again gone to Shipeshewana with the ladies in my family. We missed my aunt so much, but still had a nice trip together. The weirdest part of this? I’ve been getting advertisements on Pandora for Shipshe! WHAT. They knew.

Since we do the same things there each year, I figured I’d focus on the food for this post. The first night of our trip, we always go to Das Dutchman Essenhaus. Now, you’re looking at this website thinking “hmm a buffet, sounds great!” but I’m telling you NO. Get the family style. You get all you can eat, but they bring the food to your table and everyone gets dessert (my mom and I always do the up-charge and get an apple dumpling for dessert which we then eat in the hotel after spending some time in the hot tub). Lauren always gets a fresh fruit pie. Sarah is the only person that varies what she gets. We usually pick ham for our “extra” meat. The family style meal comes with salad and awesome dressings (I usually go with ranch), fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, chicken broth noodles, and your choice of bacon-induced green beans or corn.

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We also usually spend time at Davis Mercantile and get pretzels from a little shop called JoJos there (I like ranch flavored–this is a theme, isn’t it?). It’s best for everyone in your group to get different awesome pretzels and eat a bit of each:

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Oh, there hasn’t been enough food, you say? Why then, head on over to Rise’n Roll Bakery for breakfast! The biscuits and gravy are meh…but the Cinnamon Caramel Donuts are why people go here…SO GOOD. I’d recommend the donut holes, as they melt in your mouth and it doesn’t feel like you’re eating as much:

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Here’s a picture of my sister & mom buying awesome popcorn:

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Finally, there is the motherlode of smoked meats and cheeses at Yoder’s Meat and Cheese. My suggestions are buffalo jerky and smoked habanero cheese. Just do it. Here is my haul:

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Of course, we went to the flea market. The winner for weird shit at the flea market this year goes to:

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Overall, it was a great trip!

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Mom, Sarah, and I were also able to go see Death and Harry Houdini at the House Theater. A show with real magic? This was a seriously cool production!

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I went to a Milwaukee Brewers’ game for the first time. That stadium was really well laid out and it reminded me of a conservatory. We sat right behind the bull pen, which I’ve never done at any stadium. We also tailgated with brats and beer, as it seemed fitting. Thanks, Chris for getting everything together and driving up! It was awesome!

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Matt and I also went out to celebrate his dad’s 60th birthday. Check out the cool cake his sister-in-law, Kim, made (here are other examples of her work through her business, Sweet as Cake):

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Speaking of birthdays–I was able to celebrate mine in a few ways! Matt and I went to Fogo de Chao for dinner. For those of you who haven’t been, it is unlimited meat being carved and given to you at your table. I hadn’t gone before and it was a great experience. Plus, creme brulee for dessert which is one of my favorite desserts. Matt made me one of the best breakfasts, eggie in the basket (with Yoder’s Canadian bacon!), and we spent the day at the beach celebrating with friends and family grilling:

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I hope you all are enjoying the sweltering heat ;). See you all when it’s sweater weather.

Amanda

Social Summer

Hi folks! Summer is just over a third over with *gasp*. Back to school items were even out at some stores (I intentionally tried to ignore this). I’ve decided to try out some collages for this blog post since quite a bit has happened and there are so many cute photos.

The past two months have involved lots of family time and lots of friend time, making for super social times. I spent quite a bit of time celebrating my awesome cousin, Lauren. My family is super close and we love to celebrate! Lauren graduated high school at the end of May. Luckily, I was able to come down and celebrate with her (and get tickets) on this super special day. I threw in a picture of her from prom too, because she looked so gorgeous!

My mom, sister, Uncle Mark, Uncle Buddy, and I threw her graduation party at my mom’s house in mid-June, so we certainly haven’t stopped celebrating :). We definitely missed her mom, my Aunt Nancy, but could feel her presence during each celebratory occasion:

Lauren Grad Collage

For her graduation gift, I made her a quilt out of t-shirts and dance costumes which is pictured below. I was nervous because of the different types of fabrics, but it turned out super cute, as you can see in the photo in the collage.  My sister got her the book, “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!” by Dr. Seuss and had everyone in our family write little notes of encouragement, which was a  thoughtful, great idea.

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I was also able to come down and watch her kill it at her last senior dance recital. La Danse Academie (my alma mater) put on a particularly spectacular performance this year. It was great to see Lauren go out with a bang and for my mom to celebrate her last time being the technical director of recitals. It’s the end of an era! The crew of LDA thanked my mom on stage which was also really cool to see.

Lauren Recital Collage

Speaking of family, Sarah, Mom, and I went to the White Sox game in the beginning of May to celebrate Sarah’s birthday and Mother’s day:

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It was still freezing at that time (hard to remember when it’s 90 degrees out as I type this). In June, Matt and I also came down to Joliet for St. Joseph Park‘s Homecoming Fair. Neither of us are religious, but it’s always nice to spend time in a community of folks you’re comfortable with. St. Joe’s is where I went to grade school and it has a community of Slovenian American’s who still celebrate their heritage. It’s a feeling of comradery. We always help my mom run her pull tab booth the “Vegas Booth” at the fair. This year we roped Matt into selling them too:

Homecoming Fair 6.26.16.9

We had a nice time listening to polka and eating smokies (a smoked garlic-pork sausage, these are delicious and I’ve not heard of people eating them outside of eastern European cultures. Our favorite place to buy them in Joliet is Smolich’s. Sorry, they don’t have their own website so Yelp will have to do for a description of their baller smoked sausages). In addition to spending time with my family, Matt and I were also able to spend some time with his family so far this summer. We spent Memorial Day at his oldest brother’s house (Kerry).  One of the pictures below is of a drawing his oldest niece, Jill, drew of Steven Universe. Serious talent in that young lady. I can’t wait to see it develop even more as she gets older:

Memorial Day Collage

We also spent Father’s Day with Matt’s family at his other brother’s house (Mark).Always great to see them and Shannon’s family too-they’re a group of good people. I made a Greek 7 Layer Dip that was also a hit. We were able to spend a bit more time with Matt’s newest niece, Emma, too. All of the kids in this family are super cute. Here is a picture of Nola and Kenzie playing in the sand:

Father's Day 6.2016.5

Such cute little ones! So happy to get to see them and be involved in their lives. Seeing family was fun, but so was seeing friends! In May, I was able to spend a bit more time with Monica, Jim, Kaelie, and Maggie. It’s always good seeing old friends, chatting, and bonding. Sometimes it’s the people that have known you the longest that are the best to be around. I’m talking about you, Maggie:

Maggie 5.2016

I went to another Sox game, this time with Emily, Kaelie, and Emily’s work friends. I was also able to help Emily with her mom’s 50th birthday surprise party. See below for a photo of my sister, mom, and I utilizing the photo booth. The party was a good time and her mom was certainly surprised. Always good to see these ladies:

Emily Collage

I found a cat in the hallway last month. Outside of my third floor apartment. So weird, but it was the most hilarious way that I have woken Matt up in a long time:

Masi 6.2016

Turns out, her name was Masi and she just escaped from a neighbor’s apartment downstairs. Matt and I also played rec league softball this summer, which was super fun too. We made some friends, played some sports, and tied for first (in the bottom bracket–we didn’t win all season but killed it in the playoffs).

Softball League 6.2016

We ate quite a bit of awesome food–from our own kitchen and from other places. TL is Thug Kitchen‘s Cobb Salad with roasted chickpeas and smoky onions (THE BEST). TR is Blueberry Lemon Zest Pancakes (recipe by Trisha Yearwood). BL is pasta primavera (no actual recipe) with homemade pasta (Matt bought a pasta maker and it’s awesome). And BR is the avocado biscuit from Bang Bang Biscuits and Pie that just opened up it’s second location three blocks away (dangerous):

Food Collage

Matt and I took a week of vacation before Matt starts his new job as a practicing attorney (woo hoo!). We drove to Enid, Oklahoma to visit Sara and Rob at the air force base (Rob is amazingly training to be a pilot and Sara is amazingly furthering her career as a rape crisis counselor). It was really cool to be able to explore a state that we would have never randomly picked out to visit. We went on an accidental 8 mile hike (meant to do 3 miles, but missed a turn somewhere along the way) at Roman Nose State Park:

Vacation Enid, OK 7.2016.10

Seriously gorgeous views along the way! We rewarded ourselves with some of the best fried chicken I have ever had. Eischen‘s is known for being the oldest bar in OK and for having this amazing chicken. Between the four of us, we ate 2 whole chickens and an order of fried okra in 15 minutes flat. I’ve also included a picture BR of the huge smokers from Slap’s BBQ in Kansas City, KS that we stopped at for BBQ on the way in. That was some GREAT food!

Chicken Collage

We spent the third of July at one of Rob’s air force friend’s house and the fourth at their house. We watched fireworks (with live orchestra music), ate a ton, had some drinks, laughed a lot, and had a generally good-for-the-soul kind of trip:

Fourth of July Collage.jpg

On the way back home, we decided it would be a good idea to split the drive and stop in St. Louis, MO for a few days. This city was too great! I would consider moving there at some point. We stayed with our friend from college-times, Mike, who was an awesome host. He showed us around the neighborhoods and took us on a crawl to his favorite breweries.Throughout the day, we were able to have drinks at Urban Chestnut (my favorite I think!), Schlafly‘s Brewery, and 4 Hands Brewing. We also had some even more amazing BBQ at Pappy’s.

St Louis Beers Collage

The night we arrived in St. Louis, we found out another college friend, Hattie, was in town visiting her parents who recently moved there. We had some dinner with her at Square One and tried out International Tap House and Taste afterwards. It was so good to see and catch up with her while checking out some of the night life in St. Louis. The next day, Mike took us around to see some of the coolest places in St. Louis, like Forest Park, a huge amount of green space in the middle of the city right near all of the museums. We went and saw the arch and also got to go to a Cardinal’s game. They lost against the Pirates, but it was super neat to see their stadium and the area surrounding it.

St. Louis Friends Collage

Now we’re back in Chicago. I figured I should try to work off some of what I ate in the past week and went back to my first beach yoga class of the season at Montrose Beach. The person who taught the class today is also co-founder of a really cool community yoga initiative, Yoga Gardens, that exists to make yoga (and all the energy and peace that comes with it!) to impoverished neighborhoods in Chicago. It was the best class I’ve taken in a long time and I’m feeling centered after spending so much time upside down this morning. I’m excited for what the rest of the summer has to bring!

Namaste,

Amanda

Beach Yoga 7.2016.3