Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Little Home, Little Tree

"It's Christmastime in the city..." has become a love song.
  Serenaded to us by our Willis Tower view, daily errands done under the twinkle lights of Michigan Ave., red cups holding a morning's Starbucks on the way to work.     

Everyone knows Chicago is one of the most romantic places to be at Christmastime,
and while we have our hearts wrapped around so many places and little city spaces, it's hard to beat a little home with a little tree.

It's been so agreeable a place for Advent readings- my first time through this book,
and for friends coming in and out for wassail and cookies, for hot pear cinnamon cider and cinnamon rolls, for connection and laughter into the night.

Christmas is no respecter of "I have work tomorrow" kind of concerns, and that is a great idea, at least for now.
And Advent, as I'm learning, is no respecter of hope without lament, nor lament without hope.
And that is a great idea, for always.

The little home with the little tree with the great big view.
It's Christmastime in the city!
*I'm linking today to Ann Voskamp's blog, A Holy Experience.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Holiday Card Love

Today my Christmas spirit is starting to simmer with holiday card love, one of my favorite parts of the season.
Mail every day?
Beautiful pictures of my family and friends?
Letters that make me laugh and tell stories from the year that make the states between us seem to wane?
This was the greatest idea, ever.

When I was growing up, holiday cards would come to our house in flurries for weeks and be collected into a basket set out on the counter amidst cookies, wrapping paper, and a nativity with "Gloria" the angel sticky-tacked to the barn's gable.

Every time you walked by, you could re-stick the fallen Gloria to her post and glance at the newest Christmas card on top of the pile, which was refreshed with the daily delivery of mail.

I used to love to take the basket to the couch and sift slowly through every card and letter.
I think it was an early evidence of my love for photos and photography, for stories and reflection, and for the message delivered through the pairing of photos and words together.

Today I spent an hour in Paper Source picking out envelopes for our Christmas card and feeling that familiar merriness.

Getting down to the brass tacks of this year's cards, I ordered from Tiny Prints.
Tiny Prints, who sent me a hand-written note thanking me for "joining the Tiny Prints family."
Customer service.  I wish it wasn't so unimaginable.
Thanks to Tiny Prints, I'm a believer!
Order your own Christmas cards from Tiny Prints here.

Now, not to interrupt myself, but if I do what I came here to do tonight, I would backspace all the above paragraphs and say this:
My friend Kirra Sue has a lovely, lovely photography business and should you need holiday cards, save the dates, birth announcements, or simply updated family photos to frame in your house for the new year, you can find Kirra here.
She took the photo of husband and I above, and I am in love with her work!

I hope that every day for the rest of December "you've got mail!"

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Grace & Gratitude

"You say grace before meals.
All right.
But I say grace before the play and the opera,
And grace before the concert and the pantomime,
And grace before I open a book,
And grace before sketching, painting,
Swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing;
And grace before I dip the pen in the ink."
-G.K. Chesterson

"It is only with gratitude that life becomes rich." 
-Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I don't know why we're kind of delinquent on our holidays this year.
Our tree isn't up, and I haven't listened to even a jingle of Christmas music yet.
Though this is the plan when I do.
If you like, find a great Christmas playlist here.

While you do that, I'm still finding inspiration in the ideas surrounding Thanksgiving.
The above quotes are a couple thoughts I've been loving lately.  
I came across the G.K. Chesterson quote in Real Simple (of all places), and the Bonhoeffer quote from a letter my dear friend Alison sent.
Some new favorites.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Holding Ground

Thanksgiving has to be one of the greatest holidays, when I think about it.
I mean, I have thought about it before of course, but, well, I'm thinking it over again and it's still holding ground.

Pajamas, coffee, and the Thanksgiving Day parade.
A morning jog through neighborhoods where every person I passed said, "Hi."
Starbucks run in sweatpants for peppermint mochas.
Family faces around the holiday table.

The sweet pairings of young and old, 
staying up late and getting up early (hello, Black Friday!), 
family here and family there, 
warm sun and Christmas lights as
a snapshot of the metamorphosis of Thanksgiving to Christmas.

Husband and I are back in the Windy City tonight!
I think I'll kinda miss that blow-up mattress from the last couple nights and family sleeping all under one roof.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving Thoughts

Thanksgiving week!
How will you spend your Thanksgiving this year?

We'll be loading the car for Indianapolis tomorrow to spend Thanksgiving with husband's side of the family.
I anticipate that Starbucks red cups will be a part of the road trip, as well as those sweet-lingering car conversations that make up for shorter strands of communication that get folded into full days, along with all those piled loads of laundry and extra cups of flour.

I love the ambiance that the holidays invite, and I RSVP "accepts with pleasure" every time.
The ambiance invite really is so hospitable, and I like to come early, stay late, and eat all the food, so to speak.
Or literally.

Sara Bareilles, Alli Rogers, and the Civil Wars on Pandora.
Rainy days on cue for baking and packing.
Kitchen creations of pumpkin and cream cheese combinations, and the family recipes for cinnamon rolls and derby pie.

I have to admit, I've enjoyed some solitary hours at home preparing for the holiday with my hands, but even more so having the quiet to prepare within me.
For me, that has been to let my eyes brim with tears over the heights of joy inside of me,
and to let my eyes brim with tears over the places of sadness that are inside me just as honestly.

While I've done sink after sink of dishes, I've been thinking about how thanksgiving or Thanksgiving isn't about suppressing the pain or sadness that trace all of our lives in particular paths and patterns.
It's about being able to sit with our unanswered questions, aches and pains, and hopes deferred, and say,
yes, those things are there.... but what else is there? 

Oh, what else is there!
Oh, oh, oh!

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Simple Point

Since I work Saturdays, Mondays are my Saturday.
Scrub the bathroom, wash the floors, launder the sheets.
You know, things that make the rest of the week easier, less harried, more controlled.
Or so we think.
But really, I think it does help a lot for when traffic slows, meetings go late, and lights go on too early in the morning.
I've come to love my Monday/Saturday and the peace and contentment I feel working my home into a place of composure.

I have to admit, the simple point of all this is that between laundry loads today, I had a sandwich for lunch on a pretzel roll.
I'm so sorry that this is the whole content of this blog post. 
Truly, I am.

But we love these at our house, and get them at either Trader Joe's or Stanley's fruit and vegetables market nearly every week.
Try em, I dare ya.
You will love laundry-cleaning-grocery-whatever day that you are home and have unrestricted access to lunch on a pretzel roll.

Sunday, November 6, 2011


I told you I'd link up my article when it found a home.

The wonderful thing about friends is that you tell them about your afternoon of sitting in a city cafe with a scone, a latte, and an empty screen you try to fill, and they comment and text and call and say they want to read it.

 That in itself is more inspiring than any sentence I've written.
I know I have the best friends, but really, 
I have the best friends.
End of story.
Oh wait, not end of story yet, find the article here.

 Up next, Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg.
I mean, it's dark by 5:00pm now, so what else am I going to do?
Okay, the what else am I going to do part is kind of facetious, but the 5:00pm dark part is... so not. 
What books will you be reading, as we wait for snow and holiday sales?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Hello November

 In our little corner of the world, here's November's beginning.
What scenes are the days of your November playing?
Pumpkins, twinkle lights, recipes?
Do tell, friend!

If I had my way, this would be lit in our home this moment, 
but stores have already gone Christmas on us.
And I really hate to pay for shipping.
Photo of Neal and I by Kirra Sue Photography.

Monday, October 31, 2011

After Work

After work his & hers Jimmy John's at the park.

Work and life, life and work.
Where we are, what we do.
Fall in the city, the city and fall.
I love it as me and you!
Linking to Much Love, Illy's October fest today (last day of October!), so hop on over for hundreds of links to fall blog posts from around the web.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Friday, October 21, 2011

Fall Swing

It's in full swing, did you know?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Rest of the Story

Part II of the Chicago River Kayak, otherwise known as The Rest of the Story:

A couple hours or several miles in the kayak, and we had gotten pretty wet.
Any part of our kayak that managed to stay dry was futile, as we were otherwise drenched in city love.

And it was that deluge of city loving that slid my one caramel apple from Apple Holler down a slippery slope, landing it on the precipice of being shared when the Vespa got us home that night.
I can't believe it.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Chicago River Kayak

Last night we forewent our weekly Monday coffee shop night in favor of a tandem kayak on the Chicago River.

I think it is now easily one of our favorite Chicago scenes.
Night fell quickly on the water, reminding us that mid-October has set the stage, and a full moon hung amidst Chicago's riverfront skyscrapers like a lamp post.

We paddled under the city's iconic bridges, along the base of Merchandise Mart, the Trump, the Willis Tower.
The buildings took on a towering, mystical hue from the moonlit water, and it was absolutely one of the most magical perspectives from which I've ever seen my city.
A Chicago must-do!

Our laughter and paddling caught a rhythm, and even though our voices carried loudly over the water, we talked about everything and more, but mostly about how smitten we are with our life together in Chicago.
Could we talk of anything else?

Sorry for the low-quality phone pictures.
That DSLR was not going in the kayak! 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Apple Holler

Today was a party, as is any day that you visit Apple Holler.
Sunny day, blue sky, our friends Jill & Justin, and our long time favorite apple orchard.

Apple cider donuts.
A caramel apple.
My first fall pumpkin spice latte.
Like I said, party.

We're home now, and well, we just ordered a pizza.
We usually don't behave like this all in one day. 
So, long live this day!
Hope you've had a wonderful weekend, friends.

That long awaited pumpkin spice latte was not quite as good as I remembered it.
Husband will be so proud that I find something slightly amiss with sugar and syrup in my coffee now.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Desktop Style

Every month, my computer desktop gets a lovely new background that I love for being as stylish as it is seasonal.
It's a small detail, but to me, there's so much pleasure to be had in this pretty little detail,
especially if you use your computer as much as I do.

Danni from Oh Hello Friend designs these free desktop calendars, and I thought you might love them as much as I do.
Just save and download the size that fits your screen,
and enjoy the details in your day!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A Way with Fall

Chicago has a way with fall.
 The sky takes on a particular shade of blue, and the air takes on a temperature so easy, we almost don't know how to breathe it.

I have so missed using my camera and getting out and about in the city lately.
I feel like we've been all business, business, business around here.
That, and it rained, rained, rained throughout all of Chicago's climate utopia, September.

So here October is, falling all over himself to be sure Chicago gets her fall.
You really are being such a gentleman, October.
I want you to know, I so enjoyed our date at Millennium Park, even if it was for just an hour.
And, a girl's confession: when I say I'm too busy to go out with you, just call my bluff.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Moving Forward Coffee Shop Style

Coffee shop.
Husband & I.
Monday nights.

For the past few weeks, we've been trying out a new ritual.
The Monday night "moving forward" ritual, you could call it.

It looks a little like this:
Laptop and books tossed in a bag, out the door, and two cups of coffee ordered at one of our many favorite Chicago coffee shops.
Or sometimes instead of coffee, I go for a hot chocolate.
We settle, and then work across the table from each other until close.
And it turns out, I'm in love with the whole thing.

The whole thing is about moving forward.
You know all those thoughts, plans, and ideas running through your mind and conversations?
I don't know about yours, but mine don't move forward on their own.
It would be nice, but they just don't.
After tossing things around in my mind for a long time, I have a stroke of genius and realize I just need to start. 
Know what I mean?

So, this fall we started "moving forward, coffee shop style."
Husband works on PhD application prep,
and I write up drafts or read clinical literature.
We just really love coffee shops and have a handful of things we need to do, want to do.

But do I love this, or what, I mean really.
This husband.
This city life.
This time in life.
These beginnings.

How do you move forward, friend?
Rock it out, because I believe every single one of you has a gift to grow and use to beautify our world.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

First Fall Weekend

This weekend has been one of simple pleasures.

The greatest pleasure of all perhaps being the realization that all my angst over my lack-luster feelings for fall were all for not-
Fall only arrived by calendar date a couple days ago,
and she found Chicago sitting quietly in weekend mode under misty, rainy skies.

And all of a sudden, I was ready for her.
Oh, am I ready.

Our little home welcomed fall with these pumpkin spice pancakes.

And some reading of the October issue of Real Simple.
A couple cozy movie nights.
The return of the Sunday Bake: husband's bread baking ritual.
Essie's chinchilly.
Stock-piling cans of pumpkin in the pantry.
And my fall coat, found.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Matured Character

Spotted on A Cup of Jo
Hello to you, and hello to autumn.

I still have yet to say hello to the fall icon, the pumpkin spice latte, can it be true!

It seems I'm holding it off until October, when the days can no longer choose to reminisce of summer but must instead step fully into the matured character, autumn.

I've been distracted, busy.  My days have been full-bodied, but smooth.
Colors, temperatures, and flavors have started to shift with only so much as a wear-boots-with-my-dress-to-work nod from me.

But, under September blue skies and a busy schedule, I did find a place for my writing piece.
I got some editor's notes on it that I need to work in, but it will be published on the web soon.
Thank you, Bird by Bird!

I will fall forward into the season change.
Though it would really help if I could find my fall coat, all plaid and ruffled.
So far, I haven't had any luck. 

Maybe you could invite me for a chai latte, pumpkin spice cupcake date?
I never thought I'd have to say it, but I need help with this fall thing at the moment.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Bird by Bird

Okay, I'm in love.
Writing, and reading, and me.
I think we can grow old together.

I finished Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life.
Neal had to put up with me laughing so often, and asking him if "I could just read him this one little part?" even more often.

I highlighted the heck out of the thing, but I thought I'd leave you with the very last paragraph of the book.

Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation.  They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul.  When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored.  We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again.  It's like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea.  You can't stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship.

I spent the afternoon alone at 3rd Coast Cafe today, writing.
Can I just say, I think I was made for this life?
And I was not alone, if you count the company of a raspberry scone and a latte.
(Note to self: I like their chocolate chip scone far better.  I should have intuited this.  When has fruit ever been better than chocolate?)
 I'm working on a small essay that's been mulling around in my head for awhile.
I have some ideas for why I'm writing it, and probably no one will care about it but me, but really I'm doing it because I believe in this.
I believe in how writing and reading connect us, decrease our feeling of being alone.  How it helps us to look down on our life from a bird's eye view and say, "Life is hard, let me count the ways.  But it's funny too.  And beautiful, and achingly familiar to all of us."

Bird by Bird, you're a rockstar.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Anniversary Weekend

Every year I get butterflies in my stomach as our anniversary weekend approaches.
I can see it all in my mind's eye, the tulle draped along the porch, the hanging baskets burgeoning with pink flowers, the bright blue sky, the twinkle lights under the pergola for the bride & groom dance.
I like to remember it, you see. 

When bright blue turned to golden twilight, we kissed and hugged our family and friends as we made our way down the brick walk to the limo waiting for us.
The limo took us to Chicago that night, where we've spent each anniversary since.
Which suits this Chicago girl very well.

But every year, along with the butterflies, I find myself with this longing to see that porch, that pergola, that sunset again.
To feel just that much closer to that day by walking and touching the place where it happened.

As last weekend settled in, a few texts were fired back and forth, and it was decided that Labor Day was on.
My brothers were coming home, my niece and nephews were waiting, and that beautiful home was promised 70 degrees and full sun.
The lure was way, way too strong.

We were there just over 24 hours, but I spent every single second under the pergola with twinkle lights, my family, and my husband of 5 years.

P.S. Baby nephew was cute.  Way cute.
Nothing new, there.

That is all. 
Maybe my favorite anniversary weekend yet!
Oh wait, I just decided.
Yes, 5 years is my favorite.