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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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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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