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

 

 

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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

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.

Gift Collage

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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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).

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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:

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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:

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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

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New Years and Christmas!

Happy New Year, friends! I hope you all were able to celebrate the holidays with your loved ones. I took a good amount of time off, spent time with family and friends, and tried to have a few “lazy days” here and there (self-care!). I won’t go into too many details, but I did want to share some snapshots of treasured moments this month. The first thing to note is that I made two traditionally Slovenian desserts: Potica (pictured first) and Apple Strudel (pictured second). These are family recipes and the desserts of my people. Neither of these are the recipes that my family uses, but it gives you a good idea of what you’re getting into when I offer you these dishes around the holidays:

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I was able to go to Christmas at DePaul with Matt, which always puts me in the Christmas Spirit! It’s a gift to the community from the church/music program at my alma mater.

Christmas at DePaul 2014

There was a Christmas celebration with “church” friends (Matt, Andy, Alex, Alec, Emily, Laura, Mark, Jon, Molly, and Sean). This is a note from my secret Santa:

Secret Santa 2014

I spent time with Emily by going to lunch with her and another friend, Jen at Hamburgerseria in Joliet. Always good to spend time with one of my most long-term pals!

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During that little adventure, we got Riley a treat from 2 Paws 4 U, a new pet bakery in Joliet. Matt thinks those are the dumbest places, but it was actually super cute and Riley enjoyed the treat! See?

Christmas Cookie 2014

My sister and I celebrated our annual trip to Christkindlmarket and Piece:

Christmas Trip 2014

Followed by the annual Lincoln Park Zoo Lights trip with Mom, Aunt Nancy, Uncle Buddy, and Boot:

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I spent Christmas Eve with Matt and his family at his brother and sister-in-law’s (Kerry and Kim), where they had taco night and merriment:

Christmas Eve 2014

And most of Christmas day was spent with my family. Here is a picture of Shadow on the presents:

Christmas Shadow 2014

My mom’s tree does not change much each year, but still fills me with the warm and fuzzies each time I see it:

Christmas 2014

I ended the year at The Globe and then my apartment with Matt, Alec, and Emily. We were supposed to go to a super fun masks required NYE house party, but we left The Globe and realized “holy crap, it’s so cold my ears might fall off!” and decided to go back to our place. Here is a picture of Emily and I, donning our masks:

Emily and I NYE 2014

I hope you all had a season full of good food, warm blankets, fantastic company, and cheer! I am hoping for a much less tumultuous 2015 and much more stability. Happy holidays and Happy New Year!

Until next time,

Amanda