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

“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:

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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:

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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:

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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):

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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!

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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.

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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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Time for Spring and Celebrations!

FINALLY! Some gorgeous weather! My spirits are always lifted when there are blue skies and we see the sun. April and May are big birthday months for my family/inner circle, so there was a ton of fun family time!

We celebrated my mom’s 54th birthday and my cousin’s 18th birthday on the same day–I made the cake (Texas sheet cake of course) and dinner for the family:

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Dinner was a bacon bomb, inspired by Paddy Long’s bacon bomb and twice baked cauliflower which both turned out awesome.

Here they are getting sung to–we sing a different family version of Happy Birthday (involving a few more verses). Matt finally knows the words!

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One last shot of mom forcing a harness on the kitten:

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Sarah and I made brunch for my mom at my place for a birthday extravaganza!

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And then we went on a fun architectural boat tour AND we kept it a surprise until we were pulling up. I would definitely recommend seeing Chicago from that vantage point at one point or another:

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Two birthdays in April, one in May for the Blowers/Ferencik crew. The May birthday was my sister’s. We celebrated with cake, of course:

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White cake with strawberry filling and whipped cream frosting. Delicious! We sang to Sarah:

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And spent a night on the town bowling with the family and Sarah’s friend Sarah:

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Next was Matt’s birthday, which celebrated in a few ways! First we went to Carol’s to celebrate Matt and Alec’s birthdays with live country music, cheap beer, and dancing:

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Then Matt and I took a day off of work and made our own brewery crawl! This was such a blast! I LOVE living in Chicago. We went to Corridor Brewery first, which ended up being my favorite place of the lot.

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My favorite beer was the “She Kills Monsters”, a watermelon hibiscus farmhouse beer that was super refreshing and not as sweet as it sounds. Would be perfect for summer–we are going to have to go back and get a few 32 oz cans of it! Next, we went to Uncommon Ground to check out Greenstar Brewing. Interesting brewery since they identify as the first certified organic brewery in Illinois. The beer was good, we will have to come back and eat there since they grow a significant portion of their food on the roof!

Uncommon Ground

We went to Breakroom Brewery next. The beer was tasty, but the bar snacks were out of this world. The best thing was the pretzel dipped in beer cheese soup. Yup, just as awesome as it sounds. Cool interior too, as you can see into the brewery from the tap room.

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We ended up going to Begyle Brewing next. Probably my least favorite of the bunch–small space and mediocre beer. Might be better when it’s less busy.

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We ended the day at a brewery that is close to home, but that Matt had somehow never been to–Half Acre. A few of their beers are readily available in the Chicago area, but Matt nor I cared for them that much. That being said, we had a couple of delicious beers there that day! I would go back.

Matt and I also impulsively bought tickets to see the White Sox take on the Rangers. We had awesome seats for cheap (thanks Gold Coast Tickets):

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We had a fun, sunburn filled day:

White Sox Game 4.2016

We also celebrated six years of being together by eating all you can eat sushi, watching movies, and drinking wine. How sweet it is. 🙂

Our friends John and Wendy visited from Connecticut. We played board games (Dixit is shown below) and ordered Venezuelan sandwiches which were amazing (from BienMeSabe):

Board Games with John and Wendy 4.2016

My supervisor has moved on to bigger, better, territorial TSA things and will be amazing in her new position. This means things at work have been shifting and I have new but great opportunities! Here is my work family at my supervisor’s going away thing at BellyQ:

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The first weekend in May was all about the charities! For the past few months, I have been raising money for the Multiple Sclerosis Walk. As you might know, my mom has MS so we decided to do the walk and raise funds for research purposes. It was freaking freezing, but Dellwood Park was gorgeous so we had a nice 5k walk:

MS Walk 5.2016 Collage

Later that day, Matt and I went to support his freaking awesome 10 y/o niece, Jill, who decided to shave her head to fight childhood cancer (through St. Baldrick’s Foundation). Matt’s brother, Kerry, also decided to raise money and shave his head. The day of, Matt and his dad decided to join in and support the family and the research!

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So proud of that family, what good people!

Another reason to celebrate came last night–one of my oldest and dearest friend had her first born baby! Welcome to the world Margaret (Maggie) Katherine-Smith Newton!

Maggie Birth 5.6.2016

 

So many reasons to celebrate. I am truly lucky to be involved in the lives of so many awesome individuals through my family, friends, and the work that I do. Cheers to spending more time outside and to slowing down during the warmer months!

Amanda

Winter Blues

We had such a mild winter that I feel that I cannot complain. But there is something about a lack of daylight that gives me the blues. Today is the first day of spring and, thus, I have hope for warm weather and happiness again! What have I been doing this winter? Lots of things! One of the things I did was celebrated the Superbowl at a Zarobsky family friend’s home. There was tons of food, lots of laughs, and a good game:

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I went to “The Art of Healing” which was an art exhibit that my clients were a part of. The exhibit was a presentation of works by survivors of human trafficking through The Cook County Human Trafficking Task Force, hosted by Awakenings Foundation (an organization that displays art by survivors of sexual violence). It was super powerful to be a part of putting together this exhibition:

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The weekends have been relaxing and restful. Throughout the past few months, I cooked a ton and had multiple Friday night at-home dates and big breakfast Sundays. Here is asparagus, snap pea, and avocado pasta with a caprese salad:

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I think my favorite recipe was shrimp lemon pepper linguine, but I didn’t get a picture :(. Matt made steak with merlot sauce, which was a close second. It’s one of my favorite recipes, so it usually wins. I particularly liked this black bean, mushroom, and avocado breakfast scramble for big breakfast Sundays:

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I’m not going to lie, I did not cook every night for all of winter. In fact, I had my fair share of Pizzeria Aroma pizza. Walking by, you would never know how delicious this place is but it’s AMAZING. This is their thin crust Hawaiian pizza (ham, pineapple, and black olives):

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This winter did not just bring food–it also brought the newest addition to the Zarobsky family! Presenting our newest niece Emma Elizabeth Zarobsky! Born 3/1/2016 at 10:23am. 9lbs and 1 oz, 21 in. She’s beautiful and I can’t wait to meet her in person!

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There were also plenty of times of celebration. We celebrated Jill’s 10th birthday with bubbles and Family Feud:

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Then we went to the zoo for Nola’s 2nd birthday!:

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We celebrated my longest friend’s, Monica’s, impending first child, Maggie. I was able to spend time with  my mom at the shower:

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And see Monica (obvi) and Kaelie, another life long friend:

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We went out with friends to try fancy cocktails to Barrelhouse Flat. It was really busy and they only had one server. Although he was trying his best, the service was not great. Not sure that I’ll be returning. I ordered Pimm’s Cup, which was super refreshing!:

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I went and saw my favorite (at the moment) podcast get taped live in Chicago. Risk! presented by Kevin Allison–true stories that the people performing have never told before.

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It was at Concord Music Hall, which is a newish venue that was well run, clean, and spacious. I had a great time and the show was phenominal! I really think I’m going to start getting into the story telling scene in Chicago:

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Finally, we celebrated the coming of spring by spending time at the Garfield Park Conservatory and checking out their spring flower show:

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A quote that I found super applicable on a plaque at the conservatory was as follows: “It is to be expected that the average citizens will find release from the tension of their overcrowded daily existence; that the contact with nature will refocus with a clearer lens their perspective on life’s values and that they may here take counsel with themselves to the end that their strength and confidence are renewed”.

It’s time for new seasons and new beginnings! Enjoy the sunshine and let’s all hope for warmer weather soon.

Amanda