in the name of post-race brunching and chocolate.

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After too much wine at dinner one Friday in early September, three friends made a pact to wake at the crack of dawn, or rather before that, for Chicago’s annual Hot Chocolate 5k race. Said race has a wickedly early start time of 7 AM, which in theory is fantastic because it means that I’ll have run the course, eaten all of the chocolate, and will be having my way with a bloody mary before most of the city is awake. In reality, however, this doesn’t grant escape from the 4:45 AM alarm or waiting in the dark cold. All in the name of chocolate. And brunch. And friends. And staying healthy.

Big ups to Meg for completing her first race with a great time!

Below: Some snaps from the day.

f874f52f88333a58ffbda5f7392e24dd dcd4137424b131e9318084ce3d17068d 033aa6d7c34c5645ca5f4440862d5252 I’ve been largely off the grid since February. Maybe I’ll talk about that at some point, but also maybe not. And maybe this blog turns into something in between simple photo sharing and the reflective narrative blogging I’ve been focused on the last three years. While it’s not realistic to return to that format right now, perhaps there’s some happy medium where I’m able to connect and share things here without this space feeling like another thing to try and jam into the day’s to-dos. I’ll think about that, but in the meantime thanks for stopping by. Nice to see you.

a mid-summer update

It’s a been a while. Turns out summer goes fast. While I’ve been away from this little corner of the internet, we’ve been a whole lot of places. This summer is a Carmen San Diego of sorts – where in the world will be this weekend or next? A calendar booked, jammed really, with events and activities and little mini vacations. All of which make my heart swell with joy over friends taking the plunge, favorite humans reuniting, and getting to spend quality time as a family.

I figure a comeback post isn’t quite complete without a proper peek at the happenings while I’ve been away. And not even so much “away’, rather “living life so hard right now I just can’t” sort of thing. So here it is – life for us over the past few months.

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Astor made an inaugural trip to Crystal Lake where he enjoyed a joyous and heart-attack inducing (for us humans) 20 minute escape, resulting in six people essentially competing a dog-chase triathlon to catch him. It’s tether city for this guy next time.

Other than nearly killing half of us, the weekend went exceedingly well. Astor met some new furry family members and immediately took to the helm of the pontoon boat. Basically, the lake is his happy place – all of the smells in the world, things to watch and chase, and a sun-room to bathe in all the live long day. We’re back there later this month to celebrate all three of our birthdays (yes, the dog’s as well), take a much needed vacation, and visit with family. Plus, there’s a fire-pit being installed, so clearly I need to get in on that ish.

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In late June we ventured to Sonoma County for Lauren and Lee’s enchanting wedding at Paradise Ridge Winery in Santa Rosa. Along with a few friends, we took advantage of an extra-extra-long weekend to enjoy the spectacular, and boozy, offerings of Northern California.

We managed to come home with a skull shot glass and mini harmonica necklace. And in the tradition of all of my best friends’ weddings, I stole away our place cards and this little bundle of lavender that now sits on the dresser.

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Essentially the moment we arrived back in Chicago it was our Anniversary, which falls on the best day of the year according to this gal: 4th of July. Hello, free fireworks for life. This year we hosted a small bbq, as is almost always the case and good excuse to buy oneself a cookie cake, real beer, and blast Ja Rule at 11.

This snap taken by best pal Carling as we rode the El home from an evening of fireworks and boozing in Evanston with friends. Longest and best day.

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This isn’t a place, but whatever. CSAs certifiably rule.

I signed us up for one again this year with Nichols Farm. If you’re in the Chicago area, I highly recommend their Spring/Summer/Early fall share – 22 weeks of produce magic that now comes complete with a friendly website that identifies box contents (seriously, this can be tricky – I’m talking to you kohlrabi) and suggests delicious weekly recipes. For example, today currants and fennel top my salad alongside fresh swiss chard wraps. Boom.

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Have you noticed that I have no pictures with the bride at both weddings by now? Because I don’t. Besides being terrible at introducing A, this is my biggest wedding downfall. Most likely I hit the Blac too hard by this point and simply blitzed that I hadn’t gotten my “me and the bride” snap. My mom’s all “Dress pic?” and I’m all “Sorry bout that. I was busy busting up the dance floor and hitting up the Mrs. signature cocktails”. But, I digress…and really, what do you expect?

Last weekend we traveled north to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, just above the border of Wisconsin, to Iron Mountain for our friends Mike and Kesely’s wedding. Having gone to college with and lived with Kelsey for much of it, and nearly all our college crew present (we missed new mama Christine!), this was set up to be that wondrous mix of reunion and big life event celebrating. What ensued was a weekend of toasts, s’more roasting, hair shaking, bar closing, and the collective agreement that we could do this sort of thing more often – and will.

Some snaps from the festivities, including a kickoff BBQ hosted by Mike and Kelsey’s family and an early hike with the girls at Piers Gorge, because we’re outdoorsy like that:

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So, there you have it. And having read this post myself now, I realize why my body is crying for a weekend home in Chicago to just REST. Which is exactly the plan for these next two weeks at our house. Plus, the other day my mom reminded me that my birthday is coming up in a hot minute, so there’s that around the corner.

28 I’m coming at ya!

the tales of sir astor [at his very own tumblr]

I tried to write a short essay about why I’ve been gone (so long that someone actually solicited me to buy my domain) but since I’ve been away from writing so long, it came out looking like something the dog would throw up after playing too much on a full stomach. Nice visual, eh?

A month or so ago, out of need to keep the puppy pictures flowing near intravenously to my family members, I created a Tumblr for Astor. It came to life on the day we named him, which took a hilarious amount of time – a fact that my mother will laugh about until we are all old and grey. Since this blog won’t be turning into a dog blog it was decided that little guy should have his very own space. And so was born The Tales of Sir Astor.

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You might enjoy it if you’re into photos of dogs passed out after playing too hard, jamming on bones, and looking ridiculously handsome with zero effort.

To say one thing about these last few months before I fade again into the abyss of the internet, I think the biggest single word that sums up life recently isn’t “tornado” or “chaos” or “stress” or “adjustment”. It’s “family”. The fact that two is now three and there’s a whole sort of thing that happens when you decide to bring something completely helpless and abandoned into your home and give it your love and time and energy and compassion – and not just alone but together. I’m endlessly grateful for A and his giving to me something that I’ve wanted for so long. We’re a family now – but the thing is, I realize we always have been.

we got a pup, which is to say…

that we have been chasing this dude around and about for the past 3 weeks, and that explanation of how this little man came into our lives has had to wait. In fact, it still has to wait – maybe this weekend? – because you guys – I am straight up exhausted. In the last three weeks, I ran an 8k with Jenn and Alicia (and totally neglected to talk about here), got a new job at work, was appointed VP of our firm’s first women’s group, and adopted myself a puppy. How’s that for change?

Typically I would throw come Catholic guilt on top of all that but I can’t even apologize for not being here or keeping up with everyone else’s wonderful posts and writing because I honestly don’t know when I would have fit it in. The good thing is, my schedule is finally sorting itself out. For the first time in 3 weeks I went on a run alone yesterday. And then I made dinner AND my lunch AND my breakfast for the next day. Things like taking the pup on a walk or run or outside to do his business (as we call it) are no longer taking up this enormous mental space and are finally becoming more like second nature, part of the routine.

One thing I have had time to do in the last 21 days is turn my entire Instagram account into a puppy picture feed. Sorry I’m not sorry about that, friends. And who knows, maybe it’s only going to get worse. Sarah of For The Love of Chow gave me the genius idea of making pup his own sassy Tumblr, so there’s that.

So for now, since pictures of my dog are really the only thing I’ve kept up on lately, here’s a few of my favorite snaps from last week. This dude has curled up and set up camp in our hearts. Sometimes, and I mean all the time, I look at him in such wonder of the happiness he has brought into our home. Sure, he #1′d on the bed his first day and yesterday after 20 mins wandering outside in the rain, he promptly #2′d in the elevator lobby. But that’s all pish and posh. He’s found a home with us – a place he’s safe and warm and cozy and can curl up like a baby deer under soft fleecy blankets for hours on end without a care in the world.

And who couldn’t use more of that in their life?

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spiffin’ up this kitchen: a dry goods bookshelf

Consider this the sequel to “Fixin’ this Kitchen: An Arctic Ice Backsplash“.

I’ve been meaning to do a specific post our now-not-so-new-at-all dry goods bookshelf for, oh like a year now. You may recognize her from other posts here and here.

The bookshelf is actually A’s brainchild. He’s always thinking of better ways to arrange or organize our home to make it more efficient. When his suggestions line up with my thoughts on decor, we hit jackpot. This is one of those moments.

Heads up, pardon the photos. They are from a few months back, hence the pine tree decor. 

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We added the bookshelf in response to the lack of reachable (for me) kitchen cabinet real estate and to encourage clean eating and cooking. The jars keep our favorite dry ingredients sealed tight and front and center for regular use – ranging from cacao nibs to slivered almonds to golden raisins. Most of our guests enjoy that the pantry has xantham gum in ready stock (for gluten-free clean baking).

I’d love to be able to tell you that the trip to Ikea to procure said bookshelf was a bonding experience for A and myself but we both know that’s not realistic. I’m 100% blaming it on Ikea’s hectic screaming-children-filled aisles and general over-stimulation and barrage of options. The trip was a disaster. When it came time to decide on a shelf I had a minor complete out. More specifically, I convinced myself that ingredients and bottles and such out in the open kitchen would look messy and cluttered. Being the kind, calm, and patient man that he is, A gave me ample time to vacillate the potential outcomes, all the while steering me towards “This probably won’t look heinous. Please calm down.”

When i finally got my act together and sealed the deal, we combated my clutter anxiety by purchasing about every glass storage jar that Ikea had in stock, in every available size. And the next day when I came home from work A surprised me with a completely assembled dry goods bookshelf ready for organizing magic.

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It took some time, and multiple trips back to Ikea for even MORE jars to get the arrangement and array of options right, but now that the project is complete I can’t imagine our kitchen without the bookshelf.