Adventures in Exploration

The upside to a Super Bowl power outage? Time for blogging! The past two weeks have been crazy busy (work, exploring, auditions, etc, I’ll tell you all about it), so I’m finally catching up on documenting all of that here. What, you thought I’d leave you with my list of goals and that was that? No way! I’ve been out making those goals happen. :)

I started hacking away at my “handwrite 50 letters” goal and sent out 4 letters last week – one to the other side of the world!

I added a couple of extra stamps to ensure that it would get there

I added a couple of extra stamps to ensure that it would get there

Alright, let’s catch up what’s been happening the past two weeks: The other week I got it in my head that I really wanted to play a board game, so Ben and I decided to buy Risk and learn how to play it. Ben had played it before, but it had been years since he last attempted world domination (on a board game, anyways, ha ha) so it was a relatively level playing field for the two of us.


Needless to say we got totally sucked in and ended up playing the game three times over the weekend (which is a LOT because each game takes like 2-3 hours!). As dorky as this is about to sound: it was awesome! I lost all three times (ha), but it was really fun, and it was nice to do something different for a change.

We also knocked off a bunch of goals off the 101 in 1001 list over the weekend two weeks ago, too! We explored a new neighborhood (Chinatown), which, granted, I’ve been to Chinatown before, but only to that little stretch. We walked down to 26th street to see this “Urban Island” – part of the neighborhood that used to be the old Italian neighborhood before Chicago put a highway right through it. And another along the south of it. Oh, and a third going another way. Typical Chicago.


So this neighborhood is quite sectioned off (in the sense of surrounded by highways), but still has a bunch of character and charm, just off the Chinatown main drag. There were super old houses like this one:



Aside from visiting this urban island, we had two main goals of visiting Chinatown: but a rice cooker, and get a LUCKY CAT!


We got this lovely beauty for our apartment, and she lives on top of our fridge.



And I got this adorable little black one to stay with me at the office. : ) Rowsdower the Cat is over it.


Here’s a close up. Isn’t she adorable?


We finished off the weekend with some brownies. I have nothing to show you in terms of a finished product though…we ate it too fast. Ha! Maybe next time.

All in all: Three goals down (or worked on) in one week! (Letter writing, neighborhood exploring, maneki-neko/Lucky Cat acquiring.) Not bad.

My 101 Goals in 1001 Days List

I have had an account with Go Mighty for a while now, but you wouldn’t know it because I haven’t posted a single goal on there. Not a one! I think I’ve had a little ‘stage fright.’

Going through bloglovin’ tonight I read through Sara’s post about 101 in 1001. I’ve heard about this before on Mackenzie’s blog, and I love what she has to say about it:

“For me, 1001 days (2.75 years) is a happy medium between writing a to do list and keeping a bucket list. It’s a way to dream big and make regular progress towards meeting those longer term goals.”

For whatever reason, I was completely inspired by Sara’s post and decided to stop everything I was doing and write my own on the spot. So hey, Sara – you can cross off #1 of your list! (And thank you, too, for the inspiration. : ) ) After I write up my list, I’m going to take 10 of these goals and post them to my account on Go Mighty. You never know – maybe one of them will get sponsored, or I’ll connect with someone new because of it! (I hope so – fingers crossed.)

Without further ado, here is my list of 101 things to complete in 1001 days. I’ll come back to this post and cross things off as I complete them, and keep you all updated (with more in-depth posts) along the way. Wish me luck!

  1. Actually write up 101 things (January 2013)
  2. Inspire someone else to write a 101 in 1001 list
  3. Put $10 in savings for every goal completed
  4. Find a new job (That pays $40K or higher)
  5. Find a fitness routine that works for me, and stick to it
  6. Cook 52 meals in 52 weeks
  7. Document the meals that I make that Ben, without being solicited, said were “good!”
  8. Travel to NYC and go to three museums
  9. Visit 5 new-to-me neighborhoods in Chicago (1/5-Chinatown, January 2013)
  10. Fit into that dress my mom bought me for my first “real corporate job”
  11. Spend Christmas at my family’s home in Massachusetts
  12. Send “heart attacks” to valentines
  13. Celebrate my 25th birthday with a ‘big’ bash (I kind of want it to be a big deal. Maybe wear a fancy/sequined dress…)
  14. Have a luxurious meal at Due Lire
  15. Try 20 new wines
  16. Cook the French meal I learned when I took the class at the Chopping Block (and serve it to friends who can appreciate good food [and mussels!])
  17. Buy myself a beautiful bouquet of flowers, just because
  18. Find a Bel Canto piece that I really love and feel comfortable performing (in my voice and in my body)
  19. Road trip around Lake Michigan
  20. Go on a Ladies Weekend Retreat (I’m looking at you, Red!)
  21. Take Ben to Cape Cod
  22. Get my damn hair cut
  23. Learn how to give my hair a salon-style blow out at home
  24. Go to 10 operas (1/10: Die Meistersinger at Lyric with Martin, 2/10 Fall of the House of Usher with Ben and Lucy)
  25. Go to a blogger meet-up
  26. Go to Israel for Ben’s 30th and Bill’s 60th birthdays (and our 5-year wedding anniversary!)
  27. Double Skunk Bill in Cribbage
  28. Pay off our student loans completely
  29. Open a Roth IRA
  30. Read a Dostoyevsky novel from start to finish
  31. Read 30 books and document them all
  32. Cook/bake at least one recipe from the following cookbooks and blog about it: The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, Joy the Baker’s Cookbook, Dinner: A Love Story (chicken pot pie with sweet potato, yum!), My Father’s Daughter by Gwyneth Paltrow, The Last Course by Claudia Flemming, What Katie Ate’s Cookbook
  33. Fly out to Boston to surprise my mom and take her out to High Tea at the Ritz
  34. Write (and mail!) 50 handwritten notes (4/50)
  35. Discover 10 new bars/restaurants near my apartment
  36. See a Red Sox game in Chicago
  37. See Sharon von Etten in concert
  38. Find a (beautiful! navy! velvet! mid-century modern!) accent chair for the living room
  39. Find a (unique! functional! stunning!) credenza for the ‘dining’ room
  40. Get an eye exam (February 2013)
  41. See “Have you got mail” (I know, I know)
  42. Go on a road trip with Ben to a state we haven’t been to yet
  43. Visit the Pacific Northwest
  44. Compile a list of 10 songs that remind me of my mom, then burn them to a CD and share it with her (things to start: ‘Hold My Hand’ by Hootie and the Blowfish, ‘Your Song’ by Elton John, ‘The Christmas Waltz’ sung by Bing Crosby, ‘All My Loving’ by the Beatles)
  45. Buy my dad a really nice drill. Or saw. Or some manly thing that he doesn’t have, but really wants.
  46. Visit Hannah for a long weekend in Maine
  47. Get some kind of professional certification in something
  48. Wear a chic tulle skirt (glorified tutu) (a la Anthropologie)
  49. Make 10 different kinds of bread
  50. Learn how to play 3-5 different songs on the piano and/or guitar and perform them at an open mic
  51. Live in a different city for a year
  52. Foster a kitten
  53. Take a friend out for fancy cocktails
  54. Bike the entire Lake Shore path
  55. Get a Good Luck Cat (Maneki-neko) : ) (January, 2013)
  56. Try acupuncture
  57. Sing in a professional choir
  58. Get new (chic! lightweight!) luggage
  59. Meet Ben’s grandparents
  60. Get a tattoo on my side (upper ribcage)
  61. Donate $36+ to charity each year (2012: $36 to JUF! ha)
  62. Throw out 20 things and do not replace them, Sarah.
  63. Mail Holiday cards the first week in December
  64. Be able to do two push ups
  65. Take another cooking class
  66. Cook a large meal for 10
  67. Recreate Mezza’s Shepherd’s salad perfectly at home
  68. Interview 10 women; get their career and life advice
  69. Invest in a great pair of pumps
  70. Visit the Van Loon Museum in Amsterdam
  71. Learn how to hail a cab by whistling (aka: learn how to whistle loudly)
  72. Swim with Ben in the Mediterranean
  73. Visit the town my great grandparents lived in Prince Edward Island
  74. Make chocolate eclairs like my grandfather’s
  75. Go on a trip with my Grandma
  76. See my mom be completely in remission from breast cancer
  77. Make that damn tissue garland already! (maybe for my birthday?)
  78. Learn how to make Tiny Lounge’s Wyatt Earp and be able to recreate it at home
  79. Make/buy a headboard
  80. Upgrade to a king size mattress
  81. Make a new friend
  82. Study a new language (French? Italian? German? Chinese? Get better at Spanish?)
  83. Make homemade caramel and then make pretzel rods dipped in caramel, chocolate, and rolled in toasted hazelnuts/pecans
  84. Bake a friend a birthday cake
  85. Compile a list of encouraging blog posts/articles and have them at the ready when I feel down
  86. Plant a minigarden
  87. Take a family trip to a dear friend’s bed and breakfast
  88. Eat a Maryland crab!
  89. Participate in a Book Club
  90. START A COOKBOOK CLUB (you get together and bake out of a cookbook together!!)
  91. Take a tour of the Frank Lloyd Wright homes in Oak Park
  92. Take an art class
  93. Learn how to curl my hair using (hot) rollers
  94. Ride the Yellow line to Skokie (what is out there?)
  95. Learn 10 words in Yiddish
  96. Hike Mt. Monadnock (or, ‘a mountain’) with Ben
  97. Go to a live taping of a show in NYC
  98. See an opera at the Met
  99. Get a massage at Renessence (omggggggg)
  100. Splurge on a fancy dinner in the North End in Boston
  101. Support a friend by going to an event they’re in (opera, play, sport, lecture, what have you)

Started: January 17, 2013
End Date: October 15, 2015
Goals Completed: 1 down, 100 to go!

Matzo Ball Soup

Can I tell you a secret? I made matzo ball soup last week because my hubs and I both came down with a wicked cold. The real secret? It was from a box!!


I know, the horror. But listen, when googling for recipes, I went to one of my go-to Jewish blogs (because obviously I have a go-to Jewish blog, didn’t you hear that I’m obsessed with becoming a Jew? Of course I am.) the Shiksa, and SHE makes hers from a box!


Granted, the stock is homemade (okay, I skipped this step too. I had fantastic boxed, organic, all natural, free range, spa-pampered chicken stock, and I was sick, remember! Go easy on a girl.), but still – the mix was from a BOX! If you know me, you know that I am no boxed-mix person. Unless we’re talking about cake balls, in which case, screw it, you know that junk is coming from a box because they take  f o r e v e r  to make and you totally can’t tell if the cake is boxed or homemade. Tangent; ANYWAYS! This soup.


It was fantastic. Super comforting, and exactly what I was craving. I shredding some organic (yada yada) chicken and added that to the soup because we had some left over from our Sesame Chicken the other night and it would have gone to waste if I hadn’t used it, but normally I wouldn’t add meat to a dish. (And when I’m paying $7 for a pound of magic chicken breasts, you bet I’m going to use them all up.) Regardless, it was good to have that extra oomph to the soup.

Ben and I almost had to draw straws over who was going to take the leftovers to work tomorrow. : ) I’d call that a success!


I mean, obviously I made us (homemade! not from a box!) coconut macaroons for dessert. What kind of Jewish-wannabe would I be if I didn’t? ; )

Want to make these for yourself? Here’s the recipe for the Matzo Ball Soup, and here’s the recipe for Ina Garten’s Coconut Macaroons. : ) Enjoy!



As I mentioned in my goals, I want to cook 52 meals in 52 weeks. I’ve made three things so far, but this is the first one that I have actually documented.

For this #52in52 meal I whipped up Lighter Sesame Chicken with Broccoli and Brown Rice. I used half of the amount of chicken they asked for because I knew Ben and I wouldn’t be around to eat the leftovers this week. All and all it was relatively quick to throw together, and it was super delish! I think I’ll try making this again another time, but with tofu. I’ll let you know how that turns out.

Hannah’s Wedding…finally.

Almost 6 months later I’m finally getting around to posting Hannah’s wedding. Forgive me, friend! Without further adieu, allow me to share with you the beauty that was September 1, 2012:


Okay, well it really starts a few day before there wedding. I was lucky enough (due to selling my own wedding dress) to be able to afford to take off the whole week before Hannah’s wedding to help her with all of those last minute details, and just spend that time with her. That was one of the highlights of my year. This adorable picture was taken a few days before their wedding at the farm where Nick worked, and where the wedding was to take place.


George’s friend in Thailand made Hannah and Nick these t-shirts for their wedding. I borrowed Nick’s for the day, and John, the best man, photobombed us.
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Just a few of the groceries we bought for the wedding. We went back to the grocery store three more times I think, and this is not including Martha’s two or three trips for her ingredients.


The night before the rehearsal dinner, Hannah’s brother Nate and his wife Katie came into town, toting their adorable baby son. Hannah, understandably so, is obsessed with her uber-cute nephew. He was so, so well-behaved, too.


And George finally got to meet his grandson! Timu (what Hannah and Nick nicknamed baby Timothy) loved George and Awn – especially Awn!


Baby dancing with Grandpa and loving it!

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Beautiful bride-to-be getting ready for the rehearsal dinner.

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All ready to go! Nervous and excited before the rehearsal dinner.

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Look at that vision.

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Everyone arriving at the farm for the rehearsal dinner.


Hannah and I at the rehearsal dinner. <3


Hannah and her father at the rehearsal dinner.

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Rehearsing. How cute are they?!

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The entire bridal party.

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Hanging out after the rehearsal with her precious nephew.


After the rehearsal dinner Hannah invited all of her bridesmaids back to her apartment for a little champagne and cookies (courtesy of the incredible Lemon Tree Cookies), and she gifted us with beautiful floral hair pins that matched perfectly with our bridesmaid dresses.


The day of the wedding Hannah and I woke up before the sun and drove from our bed and breakfast (ugh, don’t get me started. It was one of the worst places I’ve ever stayed and the owners were absolutely wretched. UGH!) to the farm to set up and get ready.


I went into the garden and picked dahlias that Nick planted and grew for the wedding. A bunch made it onto the wedding cake, the rest went into tea cups and vases that decorated the tables. They were stunning and perfect.


After working on the farm for a little we headed back to Hannah’s new apartment in Maine and got ready.

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Finishing her make up…
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Getting all dolled up…

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First the petticoats (emphasis on the plural)…

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Gently, carefully…

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And now the dress…


Lots of focus for everyone…


Heather and I helping with the finishing touches of Hannah’s dress; zipping her up!

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The beautiful, beautiful bride. Look at that pure joy!

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I love this picture of Heather. : )


A close up of the bride’s hair. She made that hairpiece and everything!

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Taking it all in before the ceremony.


Lupe all fancied up and ready for the wedding! She was a part of it all, of course, and she came down the aisle with the groomsmen, laid down at the last groomsman’s feet and stayed there the whole ceremony. At the end, while everyone was recessing, she walked down the aisle with the rest of us. She couldn’t have been more well-behaved or beautiful!


Just after Nick and Hannah’s ‘first glance.’ They were so, so beautiful, and they are so perfect for one another.


As to be expected, it was shot-time for the bridesmaids!


Hannah before she walked down the aisle.


Hannah and her father, walking down the aisle. (Picture courtesy of my mama!)


Hannah and Nick after the most fitting ceremony performed by Hannah’s dad. I wish I had a recorded version I could post here for you all to listen to. It was so moving.


Hannah’s first dance with her dad.

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A look at some of the tables before the reception.


Me and my mama. Doesn’t she look so glamourous? I was so glad she and my grandma drove all the way up to Maine for the wedding, and I love this picture of us.

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I wasn’t able to take many pictures at the reception, but I was able to snag these in the morning of what everything looked like. Above is the table setting for the reception. Hannah made all of the napkins herself, and gathered all the different bottles and cups and vases. George and Awn brought the white eyelit table clothes and burlap table runners from Thailand.

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We had enough burlap left over to make an aisle runner, and Hannah had enough extra handmade bunting to wrap around the arbor.
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The tent before the tables were set; showing off the lighting and bunting that Hannah made herself.

farm 4And last but not least, the sign for Lover’s Brook Farm (the actual name of the farm!), hand painted by the best man, John.

It was such a perfect weekend – the weather was exactly what one could hope for, and there wasn’t a single disaster or mistake. Everything was beautiful and overflowing with love, family, and friends. What more could you ask for?

Hannah’s Bachelorette Party

This post has been a long time in the making. You see, way back in August I went on my longest trip yet back to Massachusetts (I’m excluding the summer of my freshman year of college here), to celebrate the upcoming nuptials of my dearest, most treasured friend that I have loved for what feels like my whole life. Truthfully, we met when I was in 8th grade, and I’d like to think our hearts have been connected ever since.

Salem Harbor at dusk

I have a plethora of pictures to share; most of which you’ve probably already seen on Instagram, but I’d like to have a place just for them, so that I can’t forget that beautiful week with my best friend.

In case you haven’t met, this is my friend Hannah:

I know, she’s a stunner. Even more beautiful in real life, if you can believe it.

And this is her darling dog, Lupe, who obviously had to partake in the festivities.

We started the party off at Hannah’s apartment in Salem.

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Hannah with her beautiful sister, Martha.

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Shortly after starting the party, however, Hannah’s dad arrived from Thailand!

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So of course we had to do a family portrait. It was great. Shortly thereafter George and his wife, Awn, scuttled upstairs to crash as they had been traveling for approximately 23 hours (!!).

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Bridal veil and penis straws, obviously.

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Kris, myself and Mackenzie, enjoying the festivities. : )

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One of Hannah’s gifts was a garter belt with a mini (fake) gun on it! It was hysterical, and came with us the whole night.

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Hannah, showing off one of her many gifts.

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Here is our bride-to-be showing off her strength and force, scaring off anyone who would dare try to take her on. ; )

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Bride-to-be and cousin; dancing.

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Co-Maid-of-Honor and the Bride-to-Be, with Lupe resting at their feet.

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Another gorgeous robe

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Look how stunning this woman is! It’s too much.

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Heather got her this incredible, never-been-worn antique satin apron, replete with the original packaging and box and everything. So, so cool!

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Playing ‘never have I ever.’

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Finally we moved the festivities over to Red Lulu, the tequila lounge, for mind-blowingly good cocktails. L-R: Kris, Hannah, Mackenzie, Heather, Bekkah

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The magnificent Heather Reid. She was the mastermind behind this whole soiree.

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The whole group of us outside of Red Lulu. Hannah has an incredible group of friends, and I am a lucky lady to have gotten to know them!

Coming up next… Hannah’s wedding! (FINALLY.)


Favorite Photos of 2012, part deux!

Thank you for coming back and indulging me in even more nostalgia. Without wasting any time, let’s go!


I love my husband so, so much. This is us at a Music in the Park event at Millennium park one night after work. Lots of wine, cheese, and charcuterie were consumed.


Erica and Chase’s super hot bridal party, if I do say so myself, at their rehearsal dinner.


My dear, dear friend Erica married the longtime love of her life, Chase, on June 17th. I’m honored to have been a witness to their love on that sacred day.


Once we moved into our new apartment in Edgewater, we were so close to the beach! Some mornings I would get up as the sun was rising and go workout. These days were few and far between, but the sunrise was always a great motivator and reward.


As I mentioned in my previous post, I didn’t fly anywhere in July, but Ben and I did travel with his parents and brother up to Madison, Wisconsin to celebrate Ben’s mom Michelle’s birthday. We go for a weekend and do some shopping at the Madison Farmer’s market, picking what we want to savor at a picnic dinner that night. We then drive up to the Shakespeare Theater in the woods, feast away at our local finds (this year’s highlight: fresh burrata mozzarella marinated with fresh basil and sea salt. Yum!) and indulge in lots of wine, and walk up the hill to the ‘stage in the sky.’ The play is performed in an open amphitheater, and the acting is always superb. I look forward to this trip every year!


My dearest friend Hannah also got married in 2012. I offered to bake her wedding cake, and this was the trial run, done under the art direction of Nicole Ruiz. I couldn’t have done this without her! The cake got rave reviews the next day at work, too. : )


A snapshot of my cat trying to cheer me up while I was taking a bath one day.


This summer I donned a gown once again for the summer recital series. Any opportunity to get dressed up! This dress also had pockets (win!).


Over Labor Day I was able to witness my dearest, oldest friend get married to the love of her life. It could not have been more perfect. More pictures to come in a separate post (I promise!).


My incredibly handsome husband and I took our last vacation of the year this October to Houston and Galveston, Texas. We visited with his aunt, and also took a DOLPHIN SPOTTING TOUR and saw a ton of dolphins in the bay. It was out of this world.


We also drove up to the Houston Space Center and took a great tour of the park. This is a REAL rocket that was actually in Space!! Ben and I both geeked out while we were visiting here.


Ben’s amazing Aunt Georgina lives in Houston and met us for dinner one night. She also decided to gift us with an incredible night stay at “Club Ten” – the 10th floor, adults-only, luxury suite at this high-end hotel on the Galveston strip. This was the view from our balcony.


Aunt Georgina spoiled us some more by taking us out to dinner at a fancy restaurant in the old part of Galveston. Obviously I got the lobster risotto. It did not disappoint. Mmmm.


This fall we learned how to make our own fancy-pizza. Pepperoni and goat cheese with arugula. A weekly staple!


My friend Kris popped into Chicago for a 12-hour layover while she was on her way west to visit her love in Canada. I loved being able to spend the afternoon with her, showing off my city.


Ben and I also made our way over to Manny’s deli, and it blew my mind. Not as outrageous (or amazing) as Katz’s deli in NYC, but mighty fine for Chicago.




This fall, after 8 years of competing at this competition, I made it to ROUND TWO for my division!!!


And then the next day I advanced to the finals with an Honorable Mention. : ) Still so proud of this moment. It took a lot to get to this point.


In December we decorated our Christmas tree and hung our stockings. My grandma hand-knit both Ben and mine. We scooped up Rows’ at the Dollar Tree. : )


My new friend Lucy got tickets from her boss to go see Chanticleer, and she asked me to join her! I was so excited. The music was phenomenal, and I had such a great time!


We also celebrated our first real Chanukkah as a family! Lit the candles and said the prayers. 2012 could be alternately titled, “the year of the Jews.”


Ben and I took of work on December 21 to take a minute to breathe and rest at the end of our jam-packed year. I decided to whip up Docherty’s annual Christmas Eggs, since I wasn’t going to be in Massachusetts for Christmas. They may not look beautiful, but they are outrageously delicious. Especially when served with mimosas. : )


That night we headed back downtown for Ben’s annual work party. Open bar = super drunk van Loons. Can you tell?


And on the first day of the new year we went and explored the Old Town neighborhood of Chicago. It is filled with condos and luxury buildings, with lots of really unique and old mansions and brownstones tucked in there too. It was really fun, and I loved going exploring with Ben.


When we came home we put together a little meat and cheese plate, and I cozied up with some wine and new cookbooks. Altogether, a perfect start to the new year.

Favorite Photos from 2012

2012 was a whirlwind of a year, full of many highs and a couple of lows, but overall it was jam packed with so many things. There were so many travels, things to see, do, feel, taste, experience. Ben and I just finished making an Instagram book of our favorite pictures from 2012, and it inspired me to write up a blog post so I wouldn’t forget anything. I managed to narrow it down to a few of my favorites okay, once I started actually going through my pictures I realized there were way more than just a few pictures, so I hope you don’t mind indulging me on this journey through nostalgia.


My friend Mari wrote me a really sweet note on an Edward Hopper postcard. Little did she know I LOVE Edward Hopper and have the exact same print framed on my armoire.


I took the train up to the ‘burbs to meet the incredible Joy the Baker while she was popping through Chicago on her book tour! I had a few friends who wanted to go to the book signing but couldn’t make it, so I had her sign my little notebook with notes that say “Hi GG!” “Hi Martha!” “Hi Mari!” and I took pictures of her with each one and sent it to my friends. Dorky, but awesome. Naturally, Joy had to make one for me, too. : ) She’s the coolest.


In March, Ben and I went on a road trip for his 27th birthday to Louisville, KY, Nashville, TN, and Garden of the Gods/Metropolis, IL. We had a great time, and while we were in town we picked Ben up an original Louisville Slugger.


He looks like a little 5 year old here, but I absolutely love this picture. I love this man!


Naturally, when we were driving along the highway and saw that we were coming up to the Jim Beam distillery, we had to stop and make an appearance. And stock up. You know.


I also ate at my first ever Waffle House. Ben was a little too excited about this experience.


We finally made it to Nashville and settled for the night in Franklin, a town just outside of the city. A few miles from there was this amazing BBQ place that Ben’s parents recommended. It was outrageously good.


See? Although, my one gripe was that the cornbread had so many peppercorns in it. Why can’t you just make plain Southern cornbread?? Or have an option of what kind you want?? I wanted SIMPLE cornbread, but no  – no, that wasn’t possible. As you can tell, I got a little worked up about this.


We took this picture walking over the big bridge in Nashville one night. I absolutely love it, and I love how handsome Ben looks.


While I didn’t do as much baking in 2012 as I have in previous years, I definitely baked a lot of challah. : ) Finally, this December, thanks to the Shiksa, I was able to learn how to successfully make a 6-braid challah! (Not pictured, but still awesome.)


This year was one of the hardest I’ve experienced because my mom was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. They caught it relatively early, but it was still extremely hard for me to be so far away from her while she was going through this. Luckily for me I was able to visit her monthly for the first six months, and she’s pulled through it like a champ. The above picture is after one of her surgeries; she had complications, and then developed a terrible infection that wasn’t getting better. I flew out to be with her, and try and help in whatever way I could. I think it helped me more than it helped her, but I’m so glad I went. I stayed with her in the hospital the three days that I was there, and only left twice to go out to dinner with Hannah.


Speaking of which, although this is a terribly grainy picture, this photo represents to me the kind of friendship Hannah and I have. I am so, so grateful for this woman. Hannah’s mom died of cancer 8 years ago, and I was petrified of what was to come for my own mom. Hannah was there for me in every way, and she was such a source of comfort, love and hope for me. She drove down to Boston both nights that I was there and took me out to dinner and let me process; freak out, panic, plan, and unload – she was there for all of it and she comforted me, loved me, and pulled me back together. Words can’t even express how grateful I am for her, especially that weekend. <3


I travelled a lot in 2012 – from March through October I was flying somewhere at least once a month. That led to many a happy hour at the airport, and they were very delicious.


In April I flew to DC for Erica’s bridal shower, and I catered her whole party. It felt awesome, and these cookies turned out great.


Here are all of the beautiful ladies who came out to shower Erica with love! (Also – that dress! I’m dying over the polka dots. I *need* it!)


In May, to mark the end of my career as a nanny, Ian, the father of one of the boys I nannied for, called his buddy (the owner of Hot Doug’s), and they made me the Celebrity Sausage of the Day. I was so touched and honored. It was also insanely delicious.


Prior to finding out that my mom had breast cancer, I schemed with my dad to fly out as a surprise for Mother’s Day weekend. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise because I was looking for any and every opportunity to get out there and be with her during all of that. This is her right as she started chemo. Isn’t my mother so, so beautiful?


In May, Ben and I celebrated our 2 year anniversary! We decided to try a new-to-us restaurant and dined at Socca, which was divine. This was my dessert: a caramel, cashew and goat cheese gelato with toasted coconut, homemade whipped creme, and hot chocolate. It was out of this world.


Ben and I also went on a bunch of bike rides this summer. We were heading north to check out the Edgewater neighborhood, a place we were thinking of moving to, when we stopped at this beach to watch a storm roll in. Little did we know that this was to be our neighborhood beach, only two blocks from our new apartment!


On May 22nd, Ben and my actual 2 year anniversary, I started my new job at the JUF. This is what I wore!


In June I flew out for Hannah’s bridal shower and got to hang out with these magnificent women. I had such a great time being with all of them and celebrating one of my dearest friends.


Here is Hannah cutting into the carrot cake I made for her shower.


I also sold my wedding dress! I hadn’t tried it on since my wedding, so I pulled it out for one more dance before the girl came to pick it up, and would you believe it – it still fit. I love this dress, and I’m so happy it went to someone who would love it too. Although, I heard from the girl a couple of months after she bought it that she got pregnant! Ha! Hopefully she was able to wear it after all…

Part two coming soon!

Reflections and Looking Forward

Last year I wrote that I had a magical feeling about 2012. This past twelve months have been a roller-coaster of highs and lows, lots of changes, and so many beautiful things that I was honored to experience and be a part of. 

2013 feels like it’ll be a slow year; one of simplicity and going through the motions. There will hopefully be some change, and some travel, but I’m not sure where 2013 will take the van Loons, or at least this one. I’m not a big fan of “new years resolutions,” so I won’t be making any, but I do have some goals to help propel me through the new year.

1. Make more meals at home.

I did an okay amount of cooking and culinary exploration in 2012, all things considered (new job, new apartment, traveling almost once a month), but we still relied fairly heavily on Annie’s (organic!) boxed White Cheddar Mac’n’Cheese. I’d like to turn it into a guilty pleasure rather than a weekly-staple. With that in mind, I challenge myself to make 52 new meals in 2013. Nothing extravagant or super time consuming, but something new. I’m not going to punish myself if I don’t make a new meal every week – things can get busy! But I can try. Goal 1.b: document those meals here. (More accountability-style than food-blog style.)

I get those daily emails from Everyday Food with Sarah Carey, and I love them. She is so funny and breaks everything down so simply, it’s fabulous. I’ve made a few of her recipes in the past and they’ve always turned out great. It was slow this past week at work so I went through their archives and picked out 52-or-so recipes that I thought looked good. I’m not stuck to making those 52, but they’re a start. I purchased a bunch of beautiful cookbooks from bloggers I adore in 2012, so I’d like to take some time to make their creations, too. The other night we made Salmon Pasta with Spicy Tomato Sauce. I did some tweaking to match the ingredients we had on hand, but it was still delicious. One down, 51 to go.

2. Work harder to get us out of debt.

2012 marked the end of my career in nannying, which was bittersweet but necessary. I still miss those kids, and will love them forever, but I was ready to put myself in a more professional environment. There’s been some downsides; I don’t make nearly as much working for a non-profit as I did as a nanny (oh god, the pay cut!), but we’ve been able to adjust and thrive nonetheless. Hopefully 2013 will contain a substantial pay raise, as I’d like to put more money towards out student loans. We only have $65,000 left to go! (My real goal is to have it paid off before Ben’s 30th birthday in 2015. So, there’s that, Universe!)

3. Dig deeper to figure out what’s next

A big theme of 2012 was “I have no idea what to do with my life!” and the subsequent whining and anxiety that goes along with that. It’s time to pull myself out of that self-pity/apathy/void and start figuring out, well, what do I want to do? Something creative yet still structured is where I’m at now. Luckily, or not so much, that gives me a lot of options. I’d love to figure out some kind of 5-10 year “life goal” or plan, and start working on the steps to make that happen. (Related but not: eat more croissants, take more walks, invest more time in my friends.)

Posts to come: favorite photos from 2012.

Changing of the Seasons and Yom Kippur

There’s been a lot going on behind the scenes of this little blog lately. So much so that I feel like I’ve been doing everything I can to just hold on to the reins in real life, without having time nor energy to document the beauty and change that’s been going on out there in here.

But, thanks to the Jews, I have today off, and so on some reflection and after a nice night of sleep, I’ve decided to start writing things down. This may not look like the blog of my dreams, but I don’t want to neglect it and forget the things that have happened this last month.

I want to look back and remember and be grateful.

I cam across this blog yesterday while I was googling for the translation of “G’mar chatima tovah.” I’d been hearing a bunch of people say it at work, especially yesterday (on Erev Yom Kippur – the night/eve of Yom Kippur, the holiest of Jewish holidays), and I was curious. I knew L’shana tova (emphasis on the ends of the words) meant ‘may you have a good year,’ but I was clueless about what this holiday’s chosen saying meant.

I was expecting google to just give me a rough translation and call it a day. I wasn’t expecting to find this blogger spelling out what the phrase meant, and further going on to exemplify what that day/holiday meant.

To quote from their blog, “I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a G’mar Chatima Tovah – may you be sealed in the Book of Life…

Literally: A good final sealing
Idiomatically: May you be inscribed (in the Book of Life) for Good

I wish all of my Jewish readers an easy fast and a meaningful Yom Kippur. I unconditionally forgive anyone who may have wronged me during this year, and I ask forgiveness for anyone I may have wronged as well.

May this be a year of peace, prosperity, unity and wisdom.”

That small, humble post really struck a chord with me. I had heard that Yom Kippur was the holiest of Jewish holidays, and it was when you fasted, prayed, sought repentance to those you have wronged and gave forgiveness for those who have wronged you. There was just something about that post though – the small sense of reverence for the day and the act of taking part of a ritual that has spanned hundreds of years, perhaps – that really spoke to me. I’m still thinking about it, a day later.

So, even though I’m not Jewish, I’d like to close this post with the same mindset. One of forgiveness, acceptance, and hope for the new year. G’mar Chatima Tovah.