Tagged: Vacation/Break Time

My Anti-Halloween Blog Post

Well, good morning y’all.  It’s October 31.  The day that people act foolish and dress with complete and utter disregard for the weather.

I am not a fan of the Halloween.  I don’t like it because (a) it’s stupid, (b) candy corn is stupid, (c) dressing up makes me feel awkward, and (d) it’s stupid.

I had one Halloween costume that I didn’t hate.  I went to a sorority party as Avril Lavigne (she is a wonderful singer and talented artist, okay!).  It was the first time I ever had my hair straightened.  And I wore a black bra under a white tank and borrowed giant boots from a friend — totally punk, I know.  It was a pretty big moment in my 19-year-old life.

Avril Lavigne

(I would also like to point out that the guy pictured above is my very good friend’s husband and just became a father for the second time last week!  Congrats you guys!  Man we are old…)

So anyway, other than a few hours of beautifully straightened hair, Halloween just makes me feel like a big old loser.  And to follow through on that theme, I thought I’d tell you a little piece of evangelical Christian trivia.  Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the Castle Church ON HALLOWEEN (1517).  So, instead of dressing up in a fun costume and eating lots of candy, you can hang with me and other really cool people and celebrate the insanity which is Martin Luther.  Because today is Reformation Day.

Martin Luther If you are asking “What is the Reformation?” or “Who is Martin Luther?” please read through these questions and answers about the pros and cons of Martin Luther.  Because they are brief and also highly entertaining.  And while Martin Luther might have been a drunk racist monk, he believed something was true and stood up against a powerful institution to speak that truth.  And that is something I can get behind.  [Although, there is interesting scholarship pointing out that schisms in the church kind of ruined everything.  So there’s also that.  If you’re interested in this topic, there is a great series on Reformation Week at Patheos.]

Happy Reformation Day, readers!  Which holiday are you celebrating today and, if you are dressing up, what is your costume? 


Update:  So I’m seeing a lot of people hating on Halloween today for religious reasons and then a lot of people hating on those people for being lame and ruining everyone’s fun.  I’d like to clarify that I don’t hate Halloween because of Jesus.  I hate it because dressing up and acting silly does not match my personality.  Also, if I have money in my clothing budget I’d much rather purchase new heels I can wear every day instead of something I will wear once, feel ashamed, and then throw out.  


What I’m Into: October 2013


This month.  Everywhere I go people are saying “Where did October go?”, and I have to agree — this month has flown by.  Today I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer’s “What I’m Into” blogging link-up.  I always find a few fun things when reading blogs linked up in this series, and since holiday shopping is right around the corner I’m definitely going to be reading up on what other lady-bloggers are loving.  Be sure to check them out by clicking here and scrolling to the bottom of the post.

October Highlights:

  • My first ever Government Shutdown, which taught me that I’m not at all ready to be a stay-at-home person.
  • Dinner with H’s Dad and an entire weekend with my family in our new city.  Chicago is a great place for visitors.
  • The Crate and Barrel Christmas Tree Lot email.  Did you guys get it?  Holy cow it is BEAUTIFUL.  When I feel sad or need some inspiration I go back and look at it again.  Click the link, give it a second to load, and then scroll down.  Trust me.
  • Getting up-close and personal with my old friend Ina.  H and I have been eating some delicious delicious things thanks to the two Barefoot Contessa cookbooks on my bookshelf!

french toast bread pudding

Personal accomplishments:

  • Getting much better at painting my unbitten nails.  It’s been a long time coming.  Practice makes perfect, or so they say.  We haven’t reached perfection yet but we are getting much closer.
  • Choosing (I think) a new alternative career.  During the Shutdown, I decided that once I’ve paid my debt down a bit and we are a bit more settled in a city, I might shift careers and teach government, civics, or U.S. history to high school students.  I’d love to teach at the college level but let’s be real — what I really want to be is a real-life Tami TaylorI’m also open to oh, I don’t know, working for a government that doesn’t act crazy and shutdown all the dang time.
  • Reading the first few chapters of my friend Abby‘s book manuscript.  It was a great read and felt really good to be a small part of something so important.  I LOVE when my friends are successful and do awesome things.

Reading and Watching:

  • Every show on Television.  I seriously did watch every Fall 2013 television premiere (although some I could only handle for a few minutes before moving on), and I am going to break this down for you a little further very soon.  [There is a mad case of blogger stalling going on here.]  Like most American women I’m loving Scandal and I’ve recently gotten back on the Grey’s Anatomy bandwagon.
  • Friday Night Lights.  H and I had a lot of time together during my shutdown and since he’d never seen it, we’ve been watching it through from the beginning.  He really connects with Coach Taylor and it’s kind of fun watching it from the perspective of a sports fanatic.
  • Hilary Mantel came highly recommended but I think the first book of hers that I picked up was not a great place to start.  I’ve been plodding along through Fludd without being swept up and it’s taken up most of my month.  It’s all about the church so I thought I would love it, but I just haven’t been able to.  Yet.  I’m looking forward to finishing it up and starting my friend Elora’s book (which I received an autographed copy of, by the way! so excited about this).

Fashion and Beauty:

  • Stitch-fix and I are struggling to find our rhythm with a few things, but overall I would be freezing my butt off up here if not for the cute sweaters they’ve sent over for me to purchase lately.  I changed some sizes and gave different feedback after reading Anne’s tips for getting the fix you want, and am very excited about my November fix.
  • H’s office Christmas party was scheduled for Nov. 9 but has been postponed for some unknown reason.  I was excited for the party but really needed to buy new shoes first, so am glad for the delay.  If you have favorite black heels you can recommend, please do leave a comment below!  I’m in desperate need but always put it off.
  • Makeup finds:  Philosophy’s Kiss Me lip gloss in Soft Berry was a random purchase that I’ve actually loved.  In the [just started painting my] nail department, I’m loving Revlon ColorStay in Stormy Night.  I feel super cool when I wear this nail color, although so far the “Stay” part of the polish hasn’t been so effective on my pointer fingers.  Just saying.

So, what have you been loving this month?  Leave a comment or join the link-up to let us know.



Date Night: Antique Taco

Taco Collage

The night my parents arrived in Chicago, H and I had a date night in Wicker Park.  Wicker Park is a trendy, hipster-ish neighborhood where the people dress a bit strangely, there are several vintage/used clothing stores, there’s a used book store and a used DVD/record store (my parents are probably getting Christmas gifts from this neighborhood, just FYI you guys), and a few cool restaurants.  Based on great Yelp reviews, we walked around Wicker Park a bit and then went to get dinner at Antique Taco.

Antique Taco is trendy and hipstery, a perfect fit for the neighborhood.  I mean, check out their adorable website:  http://antiquetaco.com/.  Because the tacos come in pairs, we ordered three pairs and tried three tacos each. My favorite taco was the Pork Carnitas taco, but H enjoyed the Sweet and Spicy Chicken taco (which is more of a curry spice than the Chinese flavor I expected) and the Crispy Fish Tempura taco. We also ordered their seasonal Agua Fresca (basically seasonal fruit puree in a lemonade) and guacamole with chips.

We had a wonderful time.  The tacos were beautiful and delicious. The guacamole was exactly how we like it — fresh and that perfect balance of chunky and creamy.  It was so wonderful getting out and enjoying our city, especially after being at home a lot during the shutdown.

But the thing is — and I’ve been thinking about how exactly to put this on the blog, which is why I’m writing this post ten days or so after our experience — about an hour after we left the restaurant we were incredibly sick.  Like, the unfortunate kind of sick where you are afraid you might actually die inside the neighborhood Target.  The kind of sick where you are spend way more time in the bathroom at Target than you expected.  And, we all know the bathrooms at Target are no place to spend an evening.

It broke our hearts a little, because we had such a good time and the tacos tasted so great — so much so that we have been thinking that maybe it was a one-time thing.  Maybe we should go back and try the tacos again, and see if it was just a fluke.  It could have been something else that made us sick, like our lunch from that day or the ice cream we shared after dinner; there’s no way to really know exactly what the problem was. And while it is absolutely the truth that we ate tacos and shortly thereafter got sick, there is no proof that eating the tacos caused the sickness and I’m not saying they did.  Causation is a tricky thing and this isn’t the kind of blog where we make faulty assumptions to accuse people of things.  At least not today.

So, there it is.  Enjoy delicious tacos in a trendy, beautiful setting at Antique Taco.  Just try to do it on an evening where you can take it easy the next day, just in case.

Planning Three Fantastic Days in Chicago

Three Days Chicago

My parents and sister came up for a visit over Columbus Day weekend, and we had a fantastic time!  I spent a lot of time online searching for good ideas and options for us to do while they were in town, and I wanted to share those ideas here as a resource for others.  Each item on this list meets the following requirements:  (1) not too expensive, (2) easy access by car, (3) close to parking/car in case of a health emergency, and (4) family friendly, as well as caters in some way to the personal interests of my family.

Because we needed a plan we could play by ear, I put together a lot of options and then chose from those options based on how everyone was feeling and the weather.  We had a few extra hurdles this weekend, as this past Sunday was the Chicago marathon and there were many road closures and lots of extra people in the city.

Planning for Meals

No one has fun when they are hungry all day, so I typically plan days with guests around meals and am sure to include snacks.  Before my family arrived, I made sure to cook/purchase lots of healthy and not-so-healthy snacks, based on what my family likes and what I like.  I made sure to have carrots and hummus for a healthy snack, meatballs, cooked chicken, and nuts for protein, and some homemade and purchased cookies and candy for sweet snacks and desserts.

Feeding five people requires a lot more food (and effort!) than feeding two, so it’s important to take that into consideration when shopping.  I thought I did this well but still ended up running out of eggs before we ran out of mornings!  We planned to eat breakfasts at home and to make at least one dinner at home (so we could watch football), but made sure to have other things on hand in case our plans changed and we needed to stay closer to home.  And, there’s always takeout.

Choosing Restaurants

Instead of making reservations that would put stress on our days to be at certain places at certain times, I made a list of restaurant options that I knew we could go to without making reservations.  Here’s what we had on the list:

  • Deep Dish Pizza (a Chicago must) at Lou Malnati’s
  • Sandwiches from Panazzo’s Italian Sandwiches, a lunch location within walking distance from our apartment and with great Yelp reviews
  • Bongo Room, the current winner on my search for the best brunch locations in Chicago — get cheese on your breakfast potatoes.  Trust me.
  • Pita Heaven, another casual walk-in for lunch that added a little variety to our options
  • Uncle Julio’s Mexican Restaurant, with on-site parking and an easy-to-please menu
  • Chinese Food in Chinatown, since Chinese food is a favorite in my family — we ended up choosing Go 4 Food which was delicious!


There is a lot to see and do in Chicago, but I know my family and I know they’d rather do a few enjoyable things than rush around the city trying to fit too much into each day.  My number-one choice for seeing the city without getting a workout is Shoreline Sightseeing’s Architecture River Cruises.  These cruises are fun, informative, and give you a chance to learn Chicago history and really get to know the major elements of the skyline.  I’ve been on two now and would absolutely go again — each tour guide gives you a different feel for the city.  And if you don’t love architecture, it’s still really fun to be on a boat, and kids love the boat noises, going under bridges, etc.  I think it’s a perfect start to the city.  After the architecture cruise, no matter where you go in the city you’ll see a building you remember from the cruise and feel like you’ve learned a little about the city.

Other easy options for sightseeing include:  the Chicago Tribune Building, which is right along Michigan Avenue’s Magnificent Mile of shopping and has a very interesting construction that includes pieces of famous buildings across the world, the John Hancock Observatory and/or Lounge (locals recommend skipping the typical price of the observation deck and spending that money on a cocktail or espresso in the lounge instead), and a spot along Lake Michigan for beautiful city views.  The two options I chose for shoreline views were Promontory Point, a southern-view that would be better for afternoon photo-taking, and North Avenue Beach, to get a feel for what a Chicago summer would feel like.  We opted for North Avenue Beach and I think my parents enjoyed seeing the waterfront and the shuttered beach house.


Finally, you will absolutely want to stop in Grant Park and/or Millennium Park and see the Bean.  It’s really cool and a great photo-taking opportunity.

Other Activities

While cookie-cutter sightseeing is fun for a while, what really makes a vacation are the fun things you do.  I had hoped to take my parents and sister to see the Best of Second City show on Saturday night, but unfortunately it had sold out before I purchased tickets and the Monday night showing did not fit our scheduling needs.  Try to get tickets if you can, but we’ll be saving that for their next visit.  We made sure to stop over at the Amish Healthy Foods Unique Grocery in the Ukrainian Village, and got delicious unusual flavors of gelato from Black Dog Chicago.  Also on the list but not on our final agenda was a Saturday stop at the Green City Farmer’s Market (can you tell we love looking at weird organic food?) and a visit to the Field Museum or the Shedd Aquarium.  On our last afternoon in the city, a stop at the nearby Horseshoe Casino was a fun break.

Finally, be sure to plan for quiet time/individual downtime.  Everyone needs some time to decompress, and that need can be even greater on vacation.  It’s supposed to be fun, so don’t let planning or getting places ruin the fun of it all.  Play some cards, people watch, read that book that’s been waiting for you, and enjoy your time together.


So, what did I miss?  What are your favorite parts of the city to share with your out-of-town guests? 

Five [Awesome] Things I Read This Week 10.11.2013

Five Awesome things photo

I actually really liked this week’s five things a lot.  Not that I don’t typically like them, but I just like this week’s even more than normal.

On Keeping your Day Job by Hiding Disbelief

Peter Enns for Patheos with If They Only Knew What I Thought:  The Sad Cycle of Evangelical Biblical Scholarship.  It’s hard enough being a regular church-goer and struggling with faith in community, but we oftentimes forget about the plight of pastors and church leaders who may encounter doubt along their journeys. Enns writes about his encounters with struggling scholars who enter graduate theological studies and learn to question, only to return home and be expected to practice their faith in the same boxed-in way they always have.

As a partner to the previous post, also check out this interview with Catherine Dunphy, founder of The Clergy Project, a confidential online community for active and former clergy who lost their faith.  If 500 clergy and former clergy in the last two years have joined an atheist website for anonymous support as they struggle with or lose their faith in secret, something isn’t right in our community.  We the Church need to have a conversation about this issue and how we can better support each other as we struggle along our faith journeys.

On Opinions that Shouldn’t Matter

Matt Appling at The Church of No People with his post I’m Desperate for You to Like Me: A Confession of an Ordinary Public Opinion Addict.  This post speaks loudly to my people-pleasing, perfectionist heart.  I heart Matt speak about teaching art to kids (one of his day jobs) at StoryChicago in September, and I think I’m going to put his upcoming book on my library wish-list.  If you’re interested, it’s called Life After Art and you can check it out at Amazon.com.

On Making Art in a Straight-and-Narrow World

G.T. Anders for Curator Magazine with Like a Cork Out of Bottle, a beautiful piece on the struggle of being an artist in our society that prioritizes goals and statistics and math.  Can anyone really appreciate great art any more?  And what should artists trying to make art and make a living do about all of this? As a semi-artist and someone who knows a lot of artists, this really made me think.

On Feminism and Christianity (and an Awesome New Book I Cannot Wait to Purchase)

Esther Emery in Some Words About Jealousy and Jesus Feminism.  This post is blowing up the internet, readers, and you want to get on the train with everyone else.  FYI – I know Esther through the Story Sessions course I took this past year.  Esther lives in a yurt (I don’t actually know why but I’m sure her blog explains it somewhere) and she has been killing it with excellent blog posts this week. If you have kids or want them or something, check out this post also.

On the Government Shutdown and Missing Work

Michael S. Rosenwald for the Washington Post with The Siren Call of the Blackberry for Furloughed Federal Workers.  First, I’d like to point out that I’m not the only one!  (See yesterday’s post.)  Thank goodness.  But more than just feeling relieved that others are in the same position I am with the much-longer-than-anticipated furlough, this article really speaks to the heart of what it means to be a federal worker this week.  It made me feel a little proud, and also a little sad that my workday is so important to my overall happiness.  But beware: like most news articles, the comment section may reduce your faith in humanity.

Not Working is Ruining Everything

So I had this plan:

Work hard, work a lot, retire young, do whatever I want all day long.

After more than a week of doing whatever I want all day, I really just want to go back to work.  I still wake up between 6:15 and 7:00 to watch the morning news.  I drink coffee in my pajamas waiting for some kind of news — anything, really, that is different from what they said the day before.  When Chuck Todd comes on, I try to find something productive to do — something like taking a shower or eating breakfast.

I check my emails and continuously refresh the Washington Post website and flip on CSPAN.  Nothing is more disappointing than watching people who are elected to represent you and your neighbors say things that cannot possibly be true.  It cannot possibly be 100% X’s fault and also 100% Y’s fault without someone being incorrect.  I do not understand how no one answers questions or tells the whole truth.  Direct questions do not receive direct answers.  The same history of events is told completely differently by people who were there together.  Do we not have cameras filming all the time?  It sure feels like we do.  Can someone not just rewind CSPAN and say “Actually, team, this is what happened, and you didn’t really make any sense then, so you might not want to keep bringing that up?”

After an hour or so of checking emails, texting, facebooking, or tweeting friends, reading all of the blogs in my reader, I’m sick of the nonsense and edit a chapter of a friend’s manuscript.  It’s really a great manuscript, and I am excited to see the final product whenever it is ready.  I write a few paragraphs of something too, but find myself easily distracted and struggle to see purpose.  What is there to write when everything is insane?  I had feelings about these things once, proud feelings about our country’s ability to keep getting better and my choice to be a part of that — but now I just hate feelings and hate thinking and am blocking it out with fall TV premieres. I’m going to write a post for you telling you which shows you should be watching because if anyone knows which new shows are good, I do.  I’ve seen them all.

I will be accompanying my husband to a business dinner tonight.  So I’ll be dressing professionally, applying make-up, and styling my hair for the first time in days.  It’s a good thing I grabbed my nude work heels when I left work last Tuesday, just in case I needed them while I was at home.  I usually keep them in a filing cabinet along with a spare toothbrush and some mints.  Business dinners are hard enough for me, an introvert who’s always been committed to public service making small talk with people who think nothing of giving a $500 bonus to employees for a good job on a single project.  I cannot even imagine getting a bonus for doing a good job.  I’ve been doing a great job this year and my reward was to lose an entire week’s worth of pay from Sequestration. But what exactly will I be able to talk about now?  Certainly not work.

banana bread

I know — I can talk to them about the beautiful loaf of Banana Bread I baked yesterday.  It has a streusel topping, and I cooled it completely before wrapping it and placing it in the freezer.  I can talk to them about the three pounds of meatballs I squished and shaped from breakfast sausage, ground turkey, and ground beef.  I made my own breadcrumbs and these meatballs are pretty dang fantastic.  I wrapped them up and put them in the freezer as well.  I can tell them about my friend’s manuscript — that being a school teacher is dangerous, and important, and scary and hard.

What I want to tell them is the important work I am doing to make America a better, safer place for our children to grow up.  Unfortunately that isn’t what I’ve been doing.

My First Notre Dame Football Game

My husband and in-laws are really into sports.  Like, really.  A few years back, I decided to have opinions about sports teams and pretty much randomly began loving and/or hating teams based on things I completely made up, on the spot.  Using bits of sports knowledge picked up like second-hand smoke, I pieced together a web of love and hate based on the coolness of mascots, the ridiculousness of my reasoning (the more random and unexplainable the better), which team ruined my March Madness bracket the previous year, which colors were cuter with my favorite boots, and so on.  I’m sure you’re getting the picture.  This weird allegiance to random teams and unwavering hatred for others keeps me entertained during football Saturdays, football Sundays, basketball every-single-days, and baseball holy-cow-baseball-never-ends.  I’ve even started loving the sports talk, although if we’ve been watching sports for more than an hour or two, chances are I’m actually taking a nap.

My love for Notre Dame began this way.  I’d always favored President Bartlet‘s alma mater when picking winners and losers, but really committed to this at the beginning of the 2012 football season.  We were picking the Notre Dame-Navy game, and I was incredibly confident for the following incredibly convincing reasons:

  • President Bartlet loves the Irish,
  • The game was being played IN IRELAND,
  • The Pope is Catholic so clearly God loves Notre Dame football.

I know what you’re thinking:  how could anyone not be a believer after reading all three of those reasons.  And then Notre Dame won that game, and every game for the entire year, losing only to Alabama in the National Championship Game (and who can really hold that against them).  And while no one believed me for the first few games, after a while the entire family started [secretly hating?] picking ND with me.

Last weekend, H and I road-tripped to South Bend, Indiana to see my boys in action.  And we saw them fail.  Hard.  It was horrible.  But let’s just set that aside, because even though Oklahoma kicked our football-loving hearts into the dust, the campus and the community at Notre Dame were incredibly welcoming, the weather was perfect for tailgating, and we had a fantastic time.

Our view of the game — with Touchdown Jesus in the opposite end zone:


The Golden Domed Building that is super cute but I have no idea what it is:

Golden Dome

The Basilica of the Sacred Heart — we went inside and it was even more beautiful inside than outside:


After the game, we checked out the Grotto, a.k.a. The Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes, which was beautiful and peaceful and a perfect end to a very long day:


(Unfortunately we still had a two-hour drive, so we technically ended our day eating Chicken and Dumplings in tired silence at the Cracker Barrel half-way home.)

It will probably be next year before we go again, but I can’t wait to return to South Bend.  Unlike my first UT game where I was nearly pushed down the bleachers by a drunky, Notre Dame has successfully maintained its place in my tiny football heart.