Honeymoon adventures!

Matt and I were married on a Saturday and jetted off to Eastern Europe Monday evening for our 10 day honeymoon. Sunday and Monday were spent packing and arranging travel between cities upon arrival. We had our tickets to and from Zagreb and accommodations, but did not purchase our bus tickets between cities until the day we left. Whatever, we still got everywhere just fine! I figured it might be fun to create a post letting you all know what we did in each city. We went from Zagreb, Croatia–>Plitviče Lakes National Park, Croatia–>Rijeka, Croatia–>Krk, Croatia (day trip)–>Ljubljana, Slovenia–>Škocjan Caves, Slovenia (day trip)–>Bled, Slovenia–>Maribor, Slovenia–>Zagreb, Croatia. We were able to easily get to each place by bus (we took one train for the day trip to Škocjan Caves). We tried to spend time relaxing in each place and getting to know the culture, not just spend time in museums. As you’ll see, we spent tons of time eating awesome food, drinking delicious wine/cappuccinos/macchiatos, and seeing beautiful nature! We backpacked and did not get to bring back any souvenirs, but that’s okay. It was an awesome and humbling trip.

We arrived in Zagreb on Tuesday night and spent two nights there. The first night, we went to the grocery store for bread/cheese/wine/toiletries and relaxed on the rooftop terrace of the AirBnB we stayed in. It was a small apartment, but was clean and got the job done! The elevator was also small (see the first picture below). This was clearly a pre-independence/Soviet building (Matt totally geeked out over this).

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In Zagreb, we started the day walking around and grabbing baked goods (from Mlinar–we ate here often…seems like the Dunkin Donuts of Croatia/Slovenia but the food is WAY better!). Then we went to the Museum of Broken Relationships, a museum with artifacts from people’s previous relationships accompanied by stories (definitely the most interesting place!) and the Croatian Museum of Naive Art, a museum of art from folks with no formal training (really interesting and well done). See some examples below:

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We also went to an outdoor market, Grič Tunnel, Zagreb Botanical Gardens, the large miniature metal version of Zagreb, and generally perused the historic sights. The first place we ate dinner was underwhelming to say the least–it was a brewery, but the beer was meh (craft beer isn’t quite a thing there yet) and the food was also meh. It was close to our AirBnB and we had already walked about 10 miles after traveling. Not even photo worthy. We learned our lesson after that and went places with good reviews/that had lots of people in them:

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Zagreb was cool, but it was our least favorite city of the trip. Could have been because it was our first day, we didn’t know the language, and were generally a bit uncomfortable and exhausted. IT GOT BETTER. This was totally a worthwhile trip, it just took a bit to adjust to a new culture. We took the bus to Plitviče Lakes for the next night. This was one of our favorite days in Croatia. Essentially, this is a huge park that is made up of waterfalls. It is UNESCO World Heritage Site and was breathtakingly beautiful. We could have spent another day there if we felt like hiking a million more miles (6ish was enough).

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We lucked out and didn’t get hit with rain that was predicted. We were able to thoroughly enjoy the park before going off to our B&B. We stayed at Pansion Krizmanic, which was awesome! There aren’t really hotels near the park and this place had great reviews (particularly for the food). They have a huge grill outside that they use to prepare fresh caught fish. Matt had a whole trout and I had the biggest tuna steak of my life. This, combined with homemade Slivovitz and wine, made for the coziest evening. This was, hands down, the best meal we had in Croatia:

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Matt forgot to take a picture before he ate, hence the bones picture. We did have to walk about 1/4 mile from the park to get there on a busy road (see above) but left early enough in the morning that traffic wasn’t an issue. Next, we took a bus 3.5 hours north to Rijeka, Croatia, a little town off the coast of the Adriatic sea. Our AirBnB was super close to the bus stop and was above a bakery. This was an “emergency” switch, as we accidentally booked a place initially that was a 20 minute drive from the bus. Whoops! It all worked out and this place was great! Historic building with modern rehabbed units.

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We spent the day walking around and enjoying caffe culture. Caffes are open from about 6am and don’t close until 1-2am. People just kind of go and sit on the comfiest chairs and enjoy espresso based beverages, beer or wine for hours at a time. This is also where we learned that Croatians typically eat their biggest meal at lunch. We missed the memo and were some of the only people eating dinner at 7pm. Either way, we got homemade pasta with truffle sauce and fresh seafood. Also had some awesome pizza (Istria is very close to Italy, you know).

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We even were able to see the sunset over the Adriatic at the end of the night. Beautiful!

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The next day, we took a day trip to the island of Krk. This was another super awesome day. The weather was perfect, we had gelato, we saw olive trees for the first time in our lives,  had some of the best olive oil (dare I say?) in the world, we saw a gorgeous old cathedral, a child spearfishing (he caught one!) and a random seafood plate that was caught next door in the sea:

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Krk was awesome and relaxing. This was definitely a contender for best day of the trip. Super relaxing and delicious. And check out this view!

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After Rijeka, we said goodbye to Croatia and headed to Ljubljana, Slovenia. We LOVED this country! Seriously, the difference in the people was like night and day. People seemed more friendly in Slovenia and it had more of a central European versus Balkan feel (that Croatia had). Yes, Slovenia was also part of Yugoslavia, but it seems they’ve sort of embraced more European culture than Balkan. Our AirBnB was a bit further this time, about 25 minute walk from the city center, but it was so nice! The separate blankets thing is a thing in both Croatia and Slovenia and was pretty funny to us. The host was phenomenal. He gave us great advice on what to see and gave us a ride to and from the bus station when we got there and when we left. He also gave us homemade Teran, which was super tasty:

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We hiked up to the Ljubljana Castle, which had awesome views:

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We had roasted chestnuts (so tasty and the cutest thing), hiked up to see the Grajski Vineyard (next to the castle), and walked next to the canals:

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We had to try food similar to the food I grew up on, so we had smokies and stew, saw the Butcher’s Bridge (bridge of love–“Are you present?”), went to the market, and admired the graffiti (dudes, so much graffiti in both countries):

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Totally was digging the pedestrian only streets in just about every city we visited! After our day in Ljubljana, we went and took a day trip to the Škocjan Caves, which were freaking awesome. Have you ever seen a naturally occurring cave? If not, you totally should. I felt like we were headed to save the ring. Caves are cool. The trip to these caves involved a 45 minute walk, which was primarily through (well marked) woods (pretty neat!):

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After Ljubljana and the caves, we went north and visited the infamous Lake Bled. This was another nature day and it, too, was awesome. We stayed in Hotel Ribno, which was about a half hour walk from the town of Bled. I’d love to stay here again. It was right at the edge of the Triglav national forest, which I would have loved to hike in! Unfortunately, after spending the day at the lake, it started raining and we weren’t able to make it into the woods but had a beautiful view of them from our balcony. No matter, relaxing was totally necessary. We ate down the street at a restaurant out of someone’s home that was AMAZING. This was the best meal we had in Slovenia. We ordered the “tavern grilled meat plate” and were not disappointed. This was a great example of Slovenia borrowing food traditions from countries around it. Awesome Cevapcici (traditionally Serbian) and Schnitzel (traditionally German/Austrian). Of course, we also had homemade Slivo here:

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We ate Potica on the island (duh, had to try it there!), saw the church, hiked around the lake, and had espresso beverages. We took a Pletna boat out to the island and, sadly, because we had all of our belongings with us, Matt did not carry me up the 99 steps to the church. We also saw lots of no holding hands signs in both countries:

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And here is an awesome panoramic of the countryside by Bled!

 

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The next day, we traveled to the cultural center of the eastern part of Slovenia, Maribor. We thought it would be cool to go during the Old Vine Festival. Unfortunately, we weren’t there during any of the street festival portions of the festival, but we did get to drink lots of awesome wine (Maribor’s main economic venture). We stayed at Hotel Orel, which were dorm rooms turned hotel. We got to play student for the night. Maribor is also a college town so it made sense haha:

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We spent our time in Maribor walking around, seeing vineyards, drinking cheap but amazing wine. We saw the World’s Oldest Vine that still produces grapes for wine–it’s over 400 years old! And there’s a picture of it below:

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We were kind of out of gas by this point and were ready to go home. Our last night was in Zagreb and we went pretty late in the evening. Fun fact, when crossing the border from Croatia to Slovenia by bus and vice versa, you have to get out of the bus twice to go through customs on both sides of the border. When we crossed back, there were two people from India that they LEFT ON THE SLOVENIA SIDE OF THE BORDER. Apparently, you need a visa if coming from India to Croatia. This was a big delay for the bus (and I felt so bad for the couple!). We just had baked goods for dinner and got some sleep at Hotel Nacional.

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When we got to the airport, we found out there was a flight delay…of three hours. This meant we missed our connecting flight back to Chicago in Istanbul, Turkey. Turns out, you have to get a visa to stay in Istanbul. Luckily, they put us up in a hotel that was very nice and we got to see a country we wouldn’t have been able to before. Unfortunately, we were too far away to see anything cool and were only there until the next morning. It was a cool experience anyways (now, at the time we were ticked).

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Walking ten miles a day was great to balance out the rich foods/drinks we had the whole trip. We were so lucky to be able to take this trip and experience different cultures. Hopefully this is a start to more travel in our marriage! This was a great way to start our next adventure.

Until next time!

Amanda

 

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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

 

 

“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