Oh, the places we’ve “Bean”

Once upon a time, two kids fell in love. After a few years of dating, they got engaged. They had the most magical wedding ever with lots and lots of guests. And after living happily together for 19 years, they decided to celebrate with a trip to Chicago. This is the story of our little weekend get away.

I try not to make you guys think that my life is perfect. But this weekend came pretty darn close. The weather was sunny, warm (well, warm-ish) and it was an all around delightful weekend.

Ken found our place on airbnb.com. If you’ve never tried it, I recommend it. You rent accommodations from regular people all over the world. You can rent a whole house, a floor in a house, a room, a tiny house (some of these look enchanted) or even an artists’ flat (that’s what we did). We stayed in a house built in the 1880s in the Historic Pullman neighborhood in Chicago. George Pullman built the town and the row houses for the employees at his railroad car company. He charged them rent and even established behavioral standards that his employees had to meet in order to live in the area. After a depression in 1893 the demand for his rail cars declined and the company laid off many workers and changed many other employees to pay-per-piece work. Even though the company went through these cutbacks, rent was never reduced for employees. After Pullman’s death the state of Illinois told the Pullman company that they had to sell the town since it was operating outside the company’s charter. And within 10 years the company sold the houses to its occupants (seemed to me that was a long time coming). Since that time, the town has gone through many changes (including being absorbed into Chicago) and was almost demolished for an industrial park! The residents were responsible for saving their neighborhood and I’m so glad they did.

This is the outside of the house. Charming, isn’t it?

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The owner is an artist and you can see his touches all over the house. I could have stayed there for a month!IMG_1113 copy"IMG_1109IMG_1256 copy 2
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I love how he left the lath and plaster still visible inside the medicine cabinet.

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And then we were off to the city. We were walking distance to the train station and it was a short 15-20 minute ride and there we were. The city was in bloom all over the place. It was a perfect Spring day. Our first stops were Millennium Park and the Bean:

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And of course, we did our jump/levitation photos:

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We had lunch at one of our all time favorite places:

"IMG_1202Hey, it’s our anniversary and we’ll celebrate how we see fit, thankyouverymuch.

After lunch, we walked all around the city, went to the top of the John Hancock building:"IMG_1216 Navy Pier, along Lake Michigan and to Lincoln Park to theeee best pizza place I’ve ever been to, Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co. It’s a tiny place in Lincoln Park that has the best only pizza pot pie I’ve ever had. Yes. Pizza.pot.pie. There’s the cutest little old man who doesn’t keep a host ledger. He remembers your face and comes to find you when your table is ready. Even if there are 10 other parties ahead of you he will remember your face. It’s amazing. If When you go, I suggest you get the Mediterranean bread, the chef salad (and try both the sour cream/garlic and sweet and sour poppy seed dressings) and the meat lover’s pizza pot pie. You will not be disappointed. After we had finished stuffing our faces, we decided that the walk to the train station was too far so we took a bus there instead. We’re such the city folk. Well, ok, maybe the real city folk don’t get excited about taking a train, bus and walking all over the city. But I can pretend.

It was the perfect day in such a great city. I wouldn’t have changed a single thing. The next day we got up and drove to Oak Park. Can’t wait to tell you what we saw there!

A pick-me-up from me to you

Am I the only one that needs a pick-me-up now and then? A while ago, I started a little “movement” (it’s really not all that grand but I couldn’t think of a better word) to give random strangers a little pick-me-up. I’m not sure I want to spill all the details since it’s sort of an anonymous thing I do and if I tell all of the internet world…then it’s not so anonymous, now is it? Sometimes I feel that I need to give myself the same pep talk I give to strangers. When I stop to think about it, life isn’t all that terrible (That’s what we all think when we’re having a bad day, isn’t it). As I was walking a neighborhood dog today, I started thanking God for all the things I’m thankful for (ok, maybe not all of them but I had quite the list going). I started off with the big things: family, health, etc.

But when I really started thinking about it, I’m thankful for the little things, too:
a dishwasher (Those of you who know me and my house from Florida will know how much thankful I am for that.)
the sun (Moving from Florida to Michigan will make you appreciate the perfect sunny days.)
the silly weeds that look like flowers (So maybe the homeowners may not appreciate them, but I like to smile at them as I pass them. By the way, my boys call them hobo flowers.)
social media (How else would I keep in touch with my friends that are 1200 miles away??)

I tried to tell myself to not get caught up in the little annoyances of the day and to stop being so hard on myself. Like that time when iTunes wouldn’t sync my playlist to my iPhone and I could not, for the life of me, figure it out. And the time I was responsible for the misinformation in the church newsletter (sorry again, Chris). Or the time I did some sales training role playing at work with my boss’ boss and it didn’t go as well as I had hoped. (Two things: #1 Yes, I’m a working girl now and #2 “working girl” and “role playing” in the same paragraph don’t mean when you think they mean.)

So, let’s enjoy life even when we make mistakes. Let’s enjoy the little things and the big things, too. I’m sure if you look around, you have a lot to be thankful for. Just don’t be too hard on yourself. Have fun. Don’t let life pass you by. Stop looking at the small picture. 

I recently read this quote by Anne Lamott. I’m not sure what else she’s written but this excerpt really struck a chord with me. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Stop it. Right now. Stop being hard on yourself and start enjoying this great big life that you’ve been given…

“…Oh my God, what if you wake up some day, and you’re 65, or 75, and you never got your memoir or novel written; or you didn’t go swimming in warm pools and oceans all those years because your thighs were jiggly and you had a nice big comfortable tummy; or you were just so strung out on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big juicy creative life, of imagination and radical silliness and staring off into space like when you were a kid? It’s going to break your heart. Don’t let this happen. Repent just means to change direction—and NOT to be said by someone who is waggling their forefinger at you. Repentance is a blessing. Pick a new direction, one you wouldn’t mind ending up at, and aim for that. Shoot the moon.”

Beautiful, no? Now, stop reading this and go enjoy your life. It’s waiting to be lived. And it’s amazing out there (as my weather app likes to remind me every time I open it)!

How do you like them apples?

Can’t have fall without apples, right? I convinced Ken to visit an apple orchard over the weekend. It took some work but he ended up admitting that it was fun. Last year the apple crops were devastated due to some crazy weather back in the spring so many of the orchards weren’t even offering U-pick apples. This year is suspected to be the biggest harvest in decades. The weather was perfect and the apples were abundant.

I had to battle the light coming in from the trees and other people getting into my photos. That made for some interesting light on my subjects. But I think they’re cute anyway.However, that pesky light gave me images like this:

My mom is coming in a couple weeks and I plan to take her back with me. Now all I have to do is eat this 1/2 bushel of apples. Have a favorite recipe? I’ve already made a German Apple Cake (thank you Steffie) and I have a recipe for applesauce. What else do I need to make with these beauties?And, of course, what adventure isn’t complete without jumping pictures?

So…bring on those apple recipes! 

Heading north to Up North

When my parents came to visit in August we finally made it “up north”. When we first moved here people would always ask, “Have you been up north yet?” My response was always, “Wait…we just drove I75 north for 1,200 miles…isn’t THIS up north?” Now that we’ve been there, I totally understand why everyone asked.“Up North” actually starts at the middle of the state. Confused yet? See this article for further explanation.

Today I’m going to show you pictures from our trip to the Upper Peninsula. We started the day off at the Mackinac (pronounced mak-in-aw) Bridge. 

There’s a beautiful lighthouse in Mackinaw City. (And no, I don’t know why the city is spelled Mackinaw and the bridge is spelled Mackinac. You’re on your own for that one.)

And here’s the cutest boy taking a picture of said lighthouse:

And here is said boy’s picture of said lighthouse (yeah, I know…”said, said, said”):

From there we drove two hours to take a boat tour of Pictured Rocks which are situated on Lake Superior. Simply breathtaking is the only thing that describes it. Let me introduce you to Lake Superior. Gee, I wonder how it got its name:

See the tree up there on that lone rock? Well, it’s only there because the roots are reaching across to the island. Here’s a closeup: 

So there you have it. I have a few more pictures in my flickr account if you’d like to peruse them. I figured I wouldn’t bore you with all my vacation pictures here (go here for the Pictured Rocks flickr set). 

Tulips, Lake Michigan and a sunset

This weekend we went to the other side of the state to the Holland Tulip Festival. I’ve been wanting to see this for over a year! There were two different weekends we could have gone. I was afraid that if we went on the first weekend not all the tulips wouldn’t be blooming. But I was also afraid if we went on the 2nd weekend that all the tulips would be dead. It was a gamble either way so we decided to go on the first weekend and, just as I thought, about half of the tulips hadn’t bloomed yet. No matter, though. We had a great time. Well, almost all of us. Jackson was less than thrilled to be there. He felt that we were “wasting a Saturday.” We’re terrible parents and told him that memories are made by doing things rather than playing games. See? Thrilled, I tell ya. He was thrilled to celebrate spring, flowers, tulips and family time. He couldn’t contain his excitement. In fact, while a traditional Dutch dance was happening in the streets he was so excited he just had to look away: 

After the festival, we headed to Lake Michigan. With the exception of Ken, none of us had been to the western side of the state. Except for when we left to grab dinner, we stayed there until sunset. As you’re well aware, I’m not in love with the beach but few things are prettier than the sun setting on the water, don’t you think? 

Ice storm, snow day and my love

We had our first ice storm last week. As if that wasn’t “exciting” enough, the boys’ wish came true and they were granted their first snow day. Needless to say they were quite happy. Ultimately though, it wasn’t all that bad and most of the ice had melted before lunchtime. Here are a few shots I got before the sun got to it.


And, nothing to do with the ice storm, snow days or pretty much anything else…Ain’t he cute?

Tree envy

It’s here! Fall is here. I probably need to preface this post by apologizing to all the northerners out there. You see, this will be the first time I’ve lived through fall. I’ve visited the north during these months but this is the first time I will actually see it from start to finish. So if you’re thinking to yourself, “Another blog about leaves changing colors?” I apologize. Think of me as a first time mom and this is my first baby. Or think of this as my vacation of a lifetime and I’ve bribed you with dinner so I could show you my slideshow. 

Everywhere I look I can see trees that are changing. I’d say about 40% of the trees in my neighborhood are in some stage of fall. It’s beautiful. And I have to admit I have a bit of tree envy & let me tell you why. This is a tree just a few blocks from our house. It’s my favorite tree in the whole entire neighborhood. I pass it every time I drop Jackson off for school and again when I pick him up. Here’s my Instagram photo:Just look at it. It’s magical, right?

And this is my neighbor’s tree. She has one just as beautiful in her front yard:I think it looks like a giant flame hovering over her property. So very pretty. And the front of her house is littered with red and orange leaves. 

And here’s my tree:We actually had a few leaves change way back in August. Honestly I don’t think it looks that spectacular. Or does it? Upon closer inspection, some of the leaves have changed from burgundy to bright red; like they put on their best lipstick just for me. Isn’t it just beautiful?I love that you can see the action happening. Wouldn’t it be awesome to see a time lapse video of a single leaf changing from green to bright red?And I cannot wait until spring when maybe my neighbors will have tree envy. My secret weapon is that this tree is a dogwood. And will look like this when it blooms in the spring.via

Or maybe mine will be white:via

Who knows? I have a hunch it’s pink but I guess I’ll just have to wait and see. So…what does it look like around your neck of the woods?