A Tale of Two Cities

Chicago has grown on me. I’ve now visited the Windy City seven or eight times, and each time I’ve come to like it a little more. Living in DC, I consider myself to be living in a big city, but every time I’m in Chicago, I’m struck by what a city really is.

Here in DC, there are thousands of people, rushing to and from work and touristy activities every day. There is a [fairly] reliable and well-traveled public transportation system. We also have a beautiful landscape, with buildings no taller than 555 feet 5 1/8 inches and plenty of trees, parks, and monuments. And thanks to a mostly underground Metro system, it’s quiet.

In Chicago, there are also thousands of people, rushing to and from work and touristy activities every day. There is [as far as I’ve seen] a reliable and well-traveled public transportation system. On the other hand, the buildings are skyscrapers, and for a time, the city was home to the tallest building in the world. There are a few grassy spots here and there, but for the most part, Weasley had to learn how to “do his business” on the sidewalks and grates around the tree roots. And unlike the Metro, the “L” is aboveground and almost deafening. As my boyfriend put it, even in the dead of night, the city is at a dull roar. Even still, I get caught up in the beauty of the juxtaposition of the buildings against the skyline, especially as dusk settles in.

I could get used to a view like this.

I could get used to a view like this.

While DC is home to all the national monuments, the “New York City of the Midwest” also a lot of history, as I’ve experienced during my various visits. On my first trip to the city many years ago, my mom and I visited the first ever American Girl Place store. I’ve since visited other American Girl stores but none compare to the experience of the original. On subsequent visits, I’ve checked out the Shedd Aquarium (because of said visit my boyfriend now has a membership), Navy Pier, the Art Institute of Chicago, numerous Top Chef restaurants, hidden gems only Chicagoans seem to know and, most recently, the White City.

Last fall, my boyfriend recommended I read Devil in the White City, a nonfiction book that reads like a novel about the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago and the serial killer that targeted its visitors. This is a great read and I’d totally recommend it (his other books are on my “To Read” list too). So, when the weather warmed up this spring, we made the decision to head out to Jackson Park, the site of the fair, to see all the sites we’d read about. It was surprising to me how overgrown the meticulously designed “Wooded Island” had become and that there was only one building remaining after all these years. Thankfully a small portion of the island, a version of the original Japanese garden, had been restored to it’s late 19th Century glory. It provided a nice photo op, and a glimpse into the beauty of the White City as fairgoers would have experienced it more than 100 years ago.

Enjoying the one sunny day of the weekend.

Enjoying the one sunny day of the weekend.

I think the unkemptness of the site of such an historic period in American and even world history – because of this fair we have Cracker Jack, Shredded Weat, Juicy Fruit, Columbus Day, the Ferris Wheel and the Pledge of Allegiance – seemed especially stark compared to my life in DC. In DC history is celebrated. Museums showcasing everything from the first airplane flight to Dorothy’s red slippers are free to the public. Often, I catch myself thinking about all the historic figures who trod the streets of the District before me and it’s overwhelming. Walking around the Wooded Island and what’s left of the White City, I realized that people just as influential as those in DC had walked the ground I was walking – people like Susan B. Anthony, Thomas Edison, Buffalo Bill, Hellen Keller, L. Frank Baum and even Walt Disney. A place like this deserved to be remembered and preserved like all the museums and artifacts in the Smithsonians, but alas, this great chapter of American history seems to have fallen by the wayside. It’s a shame that we push for new when what we have already is so valuable.

Sunset in Flight

Sunset in Flight

Last night, back in DC, I walked past numerous free galleries and museums and saw the monuments from the Metro as I crossed the river into Virginia. It was one of those moments where I realized that not everyone gets to see these sites every day and that I don’t take enough advantage of these opportunities. Ever since coming to the city three years ago, I’ve been saying how I want to see this or do that before I leave. Helping my boyfriend and another good friend check items off their respective bucket lists before they move this summer has encouraged me to actually compile my own DC bucket list. It’s still a work in progress; I’m slowly remembering and writing down all the “want to’s” I’ve had floating around in my head. I don’t know when my time in this city will end, but I think it’s time to start putting rubber to the road and actually doing some of these things before it’s too late.

As always, I’ll keep you updated.


The Little Joys of Airplane Travel

With the unofficial start to summer just days away and a long holiday weekend awaiting, I decided it was the perfect time to ditch the District and visit my boyfriend in the Windy City. When you’re in a long distance relationship where being in the same place requires one (or both) of you to hop on a plane to get to where the other happens to be, four days and four nights together without having to take any vacation days is pretty much unheard of. But that rare gift was what we were facing. I didn’t even have to pay for my plane ticket – I’d swiped my credit card enough over the past year to earn a free flight and by some miracle Memorial Day weekend wasn’t blacked out! I should have known this was all falling into place too easily…

So yesterday, after a very successful and productive day of work and monitoring the Southwest website for hints of possible delays from the line of thunderstorms headed our way, I was feeling pretty good about life. Then 4:00 hit and my phone lit up with a call from the airlines saying my flight (which wasn’t until 9:30) had been delayed until 11:30. I started to curse Southwest. How on earth could they know five hours ahead of time that my flight was going to be delayed two hours when none of the flights between Chicago and DC had been delayed all day?!? Frustrated, I rushed home after work anyway to finish packing and grab Weasley for the trek to the airport in case the flight somehow left on time.

Napping the delays away

Napping the delays away

It turns out getting to the airport would be the easy part; leaving would prove more difficult. Apparently, the international airport forgot that it was a long holiday weekend so a lot of people would be leaving town after work on a Thursday night – oh, and that they scheduled several red-eye international flights – because lines to get through security where a nightmare. They only had two lines open and passengers snaked through multiple sets of elastic lane dividers. It was so bad that I was actually thankful that my flight was delayed because I would have missed it. By the time we got to security, the TSA agents were pretty harried and trying to push people through as quickly as possible, which is difficult enough when you’ve got to basically undress and unpack your suitcase before you can go through the screening machine, let alone when you have to undress, unpack and pull your dog out of his carrier, remove his collar and carry him through the metal detector, praying he doesn’t get spooked and leap from your arms only to disappear into the airport sans collar as the TSA agent swabs your hands for “residue.” Thankfully, my little Weasley is an expert traveler and was the model doggy airport passenger. He even got the TSA agent rushing people through the lines to relax and smile a little…and we relaxed and smiled a little when we found the classy airport Starbucks that was both a coffee shop and a wine bar.

After last night, I think Weasley is an even better traveler than me. He didn’t bat an eye or even whimper as the gate agent announced to the terminal that our flight [whose delay had been shortened and had an airplane “in range” to take us to Chicago] would actually now be leaving at 1:15 a.m. due to weather and a plane diversion to Cleveland. He also refused to let out a howl [happy of course] when, five minutes later, the same gate agent announced to the terminal that the plane had made it through the storm and we would actually be leaving at 11:30 after all. He slept calmly in his carrier under my seat throughout the, at times,turbulent flight and slightly rough landing. He didn’t even bark at the three other dogs in the baggage claim area as we were leaving the airport. Having Weasley be so calm when I’m stressing out about making my flight or if we’re ever going to take off or if one of those turbulent bounces might actually make us fall out of the sky, really helps calm me down and make the whole flying experience more enjoyable.

Weasley has already gotten back to his favorite city dog activity: watching all the people, dogs and cars passing below.

Weasley has already gotten back to his favorite city dog activity: watching all the people, dogs and cars passing below.

Now that our feet [and paws] are safely on the ground in Chicago, I realize that there are little joys hidden in even the most hellish flight experiences: the smile of that stressed TSA agent, that classy Starbucks, my sweet little puppy’s wet nose pressed against his mesh carrier, the honey roasted peanuts mid-flight and, of course, the smiling face and extra long hug waiting for me in the sea of strangers just outside the terminal. Now I’ve got four days and three more nights to enjoy this…


Hurts So Good

My body is rebelling but in a good way. About two weeks ago I got the crazy idea that I wanted to start exercising again and get back in shape.

I will readily admit that it’s probably been about a year since I followed any sort of exercise regimen. It’s not like I’ve been sitting around on my bum for the past 12 months not doing any physical activity. My old apartment featured an almost 2-mile roundtrip hike [that ended up being more like an Olympic speed walking event] to the metro each day for work, followed by a nice walk with the little fur ball. After a full day at work, that was more than enough physical activity for me. Every few months, though, I’d toy with the idea of starting to work out again, but after one or two sessions I’d fall off the wagon again, lacking motivation.

I don’t know that my motivation has changed, but my expectations have. I always went into an exercise routine planning to work out for at least an hour a day 5 days a week. Totally unrealistic for my current life state. This time though, I’m toning down my expectations to just 30 minutes (or more) 3 times a week. And it’s working! I’m almost 2 weeks in and I’ve successfully worked out 5 of the 6 days I’ve committed to…there are still 3 days left this week so I should be able to stay on track.

So now that I’ve been hitting the gym [so to speak…I haven’t actually set foot in a gym yet] my body is rebelling. Muscles I didn’t know…or at least forgot…I had are aching and I’m starting to sound like an old lady when I stand up and sit down. But it’s a good thing….and I’ve got a massage scheduled for my day off tomorrow which is a very good thing 🙂

We’ll see how long it lasts, but for now I’m actually enjoying working out again. Stay tuned for future successes and failures.


Late Night Crock-pot Adventures

Crock-pots are awesome. They are the ultimate in one-pot wonders. They let me cook without even being home. They make flavorful meals, usually with little effort on my part, which is perfect when I have a really busy week and don’t have time to make a proper supper.


That is what happened last week. Somehow my after work commitments that usually get spread over the entire month ended up in a single, seven-day period. I was running home from work, running Weasley around the block, and then running off to whatever was going on that night. Needless to say, that didn’t leave much time to eat at home. Luckily, the evening activities were the kind that feed you or at least were in places where you can buy food…I may have eaten soft pretzels for dinner two nights last week… One of the problems with eating out every night is that I then don’t have any leftovers to eat for lunch the next day. So, I went to my trusty friend, the crock-pot. I had found a great recipe on Pinterest from Crock-Pot Ladies for Crock-Pot Balsamic Roast Beef Dip Sandwiches and this seemed like the perfect time to try them.

My Inspiration

My Inspiration

Now, most mornings, I have trouble getting myself ready and out the door on time, let alone doing something as easy as throwing everything in the crock-pot. But, after many rushed mornings, I have finally learned the secret to great crock-pot meals: make them overnight. So, rockin’ my pjs, I threw everything in the crock-pot, turned it on “low” and then crawled into bed for the night. I woke up to the tangy-sweet smell of the balsamic vinegar and a roast that practically fell apart as I lifted it out of pot. And the flavor was awesome! The only thing that would have made it better was eating it hot out of the crock-pot. In the words of my great aunt, “It’s a keeper!”

The results...tasty!

The results…tasty!

And in case you were wondering, I made it out of the house on time!


Now That’s a Holiday I Can Get Behind

I was hoping to make it a little further into blog life before sharing my love (some may call it an obsession) of Harry Potter. I attribute this intense affection to the fact that I literally grew up with Harry Potter. When new movies and books were released, I always seemed to be the same age as Harry, so it made it that much easier to relate and get sucked into the story. Through J.K. Rowling’s beautifully crafted world and character development, I still find myself transported to the wizarding world each time I open the pages.

While most twenty-somethings have read the books and seen the movies, I’ve taken it a bit further. Of course I own all seven books and all eight movies, not to mention the Harry Potter school books and the all-important Tales of Beadle the Bard. Thanks to a few good friends I even have a Spanish version of my favorite book in the series (Prisoner of Azkaban), a Harry Potter themed t-shirt (Keep Calm and Carry a Wand), and an official Sirius Black wand. Every time a new book or movie was released, I would reread the. entire. series. And when a little Cavalier King Charles Spaniel came into my life two years ago, he was christened “Weasley” because of his red hair and freckles, just like the rest of the Weasley family.

Weasley on the day I brought him home

Weasley the day I brought him home 

Like I said, I’d hoped to keep this a secret love for awhile. Alas, I woke up yesterday to find that the world was celebrating International Harry Potter Day, and there was no way I was going to let them celebrate alone! It turns out International Harry Potter Day commemorates the Battle of Hogwarts and the defeat of Voldemort. So what better way to join in the festivities than cuddling on the couch with my own Weasley and watching that historic battle in movie form (while possibly wearing the aforementioned t-shirt)?

I know this may all seem a little juvenile for someone who’s reached the quarter-of-a-century mark, but it’s just that childlike lightheartedness that keeps me coming back. Even though things turn dark (I mean, an epic battle between good and evil to decide the entire future of the wizarding world is pretty dark), it’s magic and children’s fables that lead the way. Not to mention the overwhelming theme of love and how it (and even the lack of it) makes all the difference in the world. Life lessons litter the pages of this series, but there’s one from the end of The Goblet of Fire that has really stuck with me. As the world faces the fact that Voldemort has returned, Dumbledore tells the students that they will have a decision to make: either accept that Voldemort has returned and immediately start resisting the evil he brings, or simply ignore what is happening in the world around you and go on living blindly. He says that there will come a time when we need to make the choice between what is right and what is easy.

I make these kinds of decisions numerous times each day. I consider myself to be a good person, but too often I make the easy choice – avoiding eye contact with the beggar on the street when I could look him in the eye and offer a friendly smile; constantly judging others when they don’t meet my expectations, even if it’s something as simple as the way they’re dressed; taking part in office gossip when I could keep my mouth shut or, heaven forbid, stop it all together. These aren’t life or death decisions, but they can make a difference. The more I make the right choice, the better I feel about myself and the happier I am in general. And that happiness is contagious. If we’re all making the conscious decision to do what’s right, we really can make the world a more pleasant place for everyone.

Harry Potter Then and Now

Whatever lessons you’ve learned from your own love affair with Harry Potter, I hope you put them into practice. Happy [Belated] International Harry Potter Day!


Birth of a Blogger

I never thought I wanted to be a blogger. Don’t get me wrong, I love blogs. My Feedly is filled with blogs on everything from news to fashion, cooking to pets, and even some by people I know. But, for a long time, being a blogger just seemed inaccessible. I’ve blogged for a couple different sites as part of my job, but what to write about was easy, built right in even. Whenever the idea that I should start my own blog floated through my brain, I’d quickly dismiss it because I just knew I would never be able to come up with enough material to cover more than a few posts (and probably boring ones at that). The people who wrote the blogs I read seemed to be these awesome people with lives way more interesting than mine. Most of my friends who started blogs did so to keep family and friends informed about what life was like for them wherever they’d ended up post-college…and let’s be honest, moving so your husband can play pro basketball in foreign countries is way cooler than anything I could come up with about my life. I was happy leaving the blogging to the professionals and peeking into their more interesting lives.

After spending a few years in the real world (and many slow work days scrolling through blog feeds), I’ve realized that my favorite blogs are the ones that, amid the recipes and photos and fashion suggestions, talk about life. The ups and downs, joys and struggles, the “Aha!” moments and the ponderings that come with each day. Reading those posts, I felt a connection to people I’d never met and a deeper connection to people I’d known for years.

Somewhere along the way, I realized that the lives of these elusive bloggers weren’t any more extraordinary than mine, and that, in fact, I do lead a pretty interesting life. I have a lot of experiences people can relate to and some that are fairly unique and, I think, important to share with others: I work in one of the most powerful cities in the world and am a part of the industry that makes sure you have food on your table every night. I grew up in Midwestern, rural America and have traveled the world. I’m addicted to Pinterest and like to actually do the things I pin. I’m in the midst of year two of a long distance relationship with a guy so amazing he makes it extremely easy and painfully hard to do all at the same time. I have the cutest dog who (unintentionally) has become my child.

Basically, I’m a twenty-something living life and want you to be a part of it, even if that’s just through a computer screen.