Coffee date, Volume 3

Red cup!

I think it’s high time to start using the “happy holidays!” greeting. Other than during the week or so lead-up to Christmas I’m all about happy holidays as my chosen greeting.

If we were meeting for coffee I’d totally suggest Starbucks so I could try out their holiday drinks. While I get the pumpkin spice latte almost weekly during the fall I’m more of a one-and-done when it comes to the Winter drinks and I haven’t had a chance to get one yet this year. Well, that’s not entirely true I guess. I do like the Eggnog latte quite a bit and get it a few times during the holiday season.

The first thing I’d tell you about is how ridiculous I feel because I’ve finally become that pet owner. The one who dropped a somewhat-significant amount of money on a WINTER COAT for her dog.  The Target one just wasn’t warm enough for our little guy. Being a pug owner is no joke, friend.

Then I’d tell you about how excited I am to decorate our house for Christmas. We didn’t do pumpkins this year and don’t decorate for Thanksgiving so Christmas is it for the decor season around here. We live in a tiny place so we’re going to get a tabletop tree. We were also talking about getting a “real” branch or two so we can have the pine scent even with a fake tree. Someone at work mentioned something about pine satchels. Do you have any ideas? Because I can’t seem to find them anywhere.

I don’t mean for this to come off as bragging, but my holiday shopping is done. We’re spending Christmas with my side of the family this year so their gifts are with us and the box of gifts for my husband’s side is already at my sister-in-law’s house.  In theory I love the Christmas shopping and making for other people but in practice I don’t like dealing with it during the business of late November and December.  I would rather be out enjoying all manner of holiday events instead.

Tell me about your holiday traditions, because I’m always interested in hearing how others enjoy celebrating.

Oh!  And I would have to tell you about Thanksgiving.  This is the first year that my mom is sitting out of the prep work entirely.  The next generation has finally managed to convince her to sit and relax for once.  After a lot of work I was successful at getting a local turkey so we can attempt to have a farm-to-table meal which I think will be pretty delicious.  Where do you stand on Indian Pudding?  (And do you even call it that anymore!?)  I’m debating whether to make it as part of my contribution this year.

Only one low for this week – SNOW.  We have it already.  If this means we have an early winter and early spring, I’ll be a happy camper.  But if it just means that we’re having a long winter, SOB.

Thanks so much for sitting down with me for a while.  And since we live in the Great White North now would be the time that we bundle up and waddle back outside.  It was great to see you, but I think next time we’ll meet at one of our houses so we don’t both have to brave the cold!

And on Sundays I feel married.

One of my closest friends and I had a long chat this weekend about marriage and feeling “married”. We were some of the first of our group to couple off after college and now we’re enjoying watching a second wave of weddings and new marriages from the “other side”.

The conversation turned to what it feels like to be married. It’s a question we are getting a lot lately and one that I struggle to answer a lot of the time. My friend said that her life is now so different from the last time she was single (college) that everything about her life screams “married”. She’s in a very stable career and has a home and a toddler. She and her husband drive “real” cars (not the beaters that we did when we were younger) and they plan on living where they are now for the long haul.

My life is quite different. My career is hardly stable, but that comes with the career path I chose. I think that it will settle down in the next 24 months, but it might take a little bit longer. My husband is still working on his graduate degree and we’ve now lived in four separate apartments together. I have no idea where we’ll move when Liam finishes grad school.

In a lot of ways I feel no different from when I was in college and just after it, except that I now live with a boy and have to run furniture and decor ideas by someone else. But because I am married to a grad student I still tackle lots of household things alone – grocery shopping, general errand running, cleaning and bill-paying. Cooking would be on that list except that my husband is a huge foodie and has decided that cooking helps calm his nerves.

That all changes on Sundays. On Sundays I feel very married. We’re up earlyish so we can make it to the morning services at our church. Side note – are we the only ones whose church has their “contemporary service” first thing in the morning? Anyway, after church we’ll come home and have breakfast and then he’ll study while I’ll work around the house. I’ll read or watch some tv, make us something easy for lunch and deal with any random errands that come up. At some point I like to get a good workout in because I’m really fickle about Monday morning workouts.

Around mid-afternoon I’ll paint my nails for the week and sit with YouTube or Netflix and let it dry. Then I’ll check my work email to confirm which days I’ll be in the office and I’ll plan out a week’s worth of outfits accordingly. I’ll also have my first few Monday tasks in my inbox so I’ll start filling in my planner. I switch over to my personal email and see if there are any non-work related happenings during the week.

Then it’s time to decide what is for dinner – now that it’s winter we’ll have had a meal in the crockpot for the day – and get started on that. And then I pack my food for the next day if I’m going into the office. I bring breakfast and lunch because I cannot stand eating and then jumping into the car.

Rinse and repeat. It’s the same every Sunday. After food prep and eating dinner together I’ll watch a bit of television and usually check in with my blog. And the routine makes me feel married. Very married. The other six days are a toss up, but Sundays are for feeling married. As it should be.

Currently, Volume 2

Happy Sunday!  These posts aren’t everyone’s favorite but I think they’ll be fun to look back on and it’s my blog anyway.  Come back tomorrow for an actual post with substance if these aren’t your thing.

Listening: to Taylor Swift’s new album.  I know I’m a bit behind on this one but I’m listening to the whole album on YouTube. It’s okay.  It’s official – I’m not a huge fan of TSwift’s music.  Not that it’s a bad album; I’m just glad I didn’t purchase it.

Reading: The Galenian -a free visitors’ guide to Galena (where we were last weekend) and looking for a new book to start.  I finished Olive Kitteridge this week and am scouring my shelves for something new.

Watching: Football is on in the background.  Unfortunately the Bears are getting very hard to watch so it’s pretty much background noise.

Wearing: At the moment?  An oversized t-shirt and harem pants.  (Sorry mom.)  A few hours ago I was in my striped dress and leggings for church.  Let’s go with that :)

Making: Knit goodies.  I’m almost done with my mother’s scarf (I think it’s going to end up being EIGHT full skeins) and then I have two hats to make.  I found a tunic sweater that I want to try and knit for myself but that’s going to have to wait until after the holidays, I think.

Each family member is getting something handmade this Christmas, as I’ve mentioned once or twice.  Making gifts is mostly fun but it would have been a lot more stressful if I had waited until now to start working on them.  I’m glad I got a jump on it!

Doing: putting Christmas packages together and getting them sent off.  Cleaning up my computer, inboxes and stored photos.  Putting off cleaning out the fridge.  We have hardly any food so it’s the perfect day to tackle the fridge but I don’t wanna!  #stickyjamhands guys.  Sticky jam hands.


It’s time for rest in peace.

Like many people I heard on the Sunday evening news that Brittany Maynard is no longer with us. (<—It took me forever to figure out how to finish that sentence without judgment for her choice.) The first thing that was readily apparent is the fact that newscasters and online outlets had no idea how to convey that she had died.

She had “taken her own life”

Or “ended her life”

Or “passed on/away”

…and, of course “killed herself”, “euthanized herself” and committed assisted suicide.

Count me in as one of the many millenials that has been captivated by her story over the pat several weeks. Brittany Maynard looked like me. She was basically my age. We’re both newlyweds. In addition to television news and print magazines Brittany’s story infiltrated my platforms. She was on Facebook and YouTube. She even had her own blog. I followed along, truly awestruck by her poise in the face of the grave situation she was facing. And my parents, and friends of my parents were captivated by her story as well. But for them it was like watching their own child.

Ms. Maynard’s social media campaign was undoubtedly successful – people are talking about right-to-die issues far more than they were two months ago. Regardless of religious or cultural beliefs I believe that we can all admit that she was extremely successful in this regard. But here is where public opinion (rightfully) divides.

Right-to-die issues are extremely polarizing. And this makes complete sense. If you believe in God, then you recognize He has always known the trajectory of Brittany Maynard’s life. She was put here for a very specific purpose and her life and death played out just as He knew it would. Full disclosure here – I was raised Catholic and in the tradition of something called the Consistent Life Ethic, which states that all life is precious, from birth through natural death.

Respecting Ms. Maynard for her decision was never a question. I respect that she lived and died according to her own accord. I’m not a “mine is the only way” kind of Christian. I cannot say whether I would make the same decision, given that I’m not in her shoes. This is something I have thought a lot about over the last month because I’ve seen relatives die terrible deaths. But I’ve also been privileged to know a wonderful man who was given 3-5 years on account of his own brain tumor. That sentence was given 18 years ago and he’s still with us today.

The best way that I can think of to honor Brittany Maynard’s legacy is to have end of life conversations with my own family. My husband and I have wills, and we have started talking about living wills/end of life directives (the kinds of things that describe the life-saving measures you want taken on your behalf). In this way we’re applying one of the many lessons of Ms. Maynard’s life into our own: no one is ever invincible. Death is inevitable for all of us.

To her family I send prayers and thoughts of healing and comfort. And I commend them for the strength they must have had to endure all of this so publicly. For those who may find it nearly impossible to respect Brittany Maynard, her decision and even her family I hope that you will use your voice for good. Brittany has made her decision (a decision that was made well before this weekend) and I just don’t know what good is served by continuing to tear her down for that. Instead, add your voice to the end of life debate that is happening right now. There is so much more to say about this topic.

As for Brittany Maynard, all I have left to say is Rest in Peace.

Galena Restaurants

I mentioned yesterday that we totally ate our way through Galena. And I say that because we did! We were barely in town for 30 hours and have three places to report back on!

For a midday beer and a sandwich: Galena Brewing Company

Galena Brewing Company
Yelp doesn’t like this place very much. While (the collective “they”) say that the beer is very good the service is reputed to be horrible. And it is. We were ready to order our drink and sandwich in one go – which we did – and it was a very wise move since we didn’t see our server again after that.  I thought the food was above average and the menu was really interesting for a pub.  There weren’t any burgers!  It was slightly healthier than your standard pub fare.

Distillery Tour and Drink: Blaum Brothers Distillery

BB Distillery

Blaum Brothers opened up a distillery and cocktail lounge on the very edge of downtown Galena.  That’s one downside to this place – it’s not really walkable from downtown and because parking is at a premium in Galena it’s kind of a bummer to have to move your car. My suggestion to them would be to have some sort of shuttle between downtown and their distillery so people wouldn’t have to move their cars around town. They’ll be celebrating their first anniversary in December and even though they’re so new a lot of things are going right.  The drinks were yummy and the tour was fun.    At $10 I thought the tour was pretty overpriced even if they did give samples at the end.  The drinks were priced much more moderately.  Liam had something with moonshine and Mountain Dew and I had the bright pink concoction below – moonshine, grenadine and lemonade I believe.

Distillery drinks

Fancy buffet: Woodlands Lounge (at Eagle Ridge Inn)

Saturday night prime rib buffet and a husband who loves meat far more than I do? We had to go and satisfy his meat tooth (sounds way stranger than “sweet tooth”) for at least a month.  The buffet included two different kinds of prime rib, baked potatoes and a salad bar.  Oh, and there was bread at the table as well.  On the positive side I liked the fact that I wasn’t required to get the buffet just because L was getting it, but on the other hand I got it because there wasn’t anything else that looked especially appealing on the menu.  We were definitely younger than the target audience, and I think that this was also our least favorite meal because of the wedding reception that was happening behind (??) the dining room.  It was definitely obnoxious-loud.  We didn’t take any pictures but the food was good.  I wish that they would have had one or two side options besides baked potatoes though.

And there you have it.  Galena definitely isn’t all about the food but there are plenty of places to enjoy.  If you’re thinking of going there were also two restaurants in town that came highly recommended by folks who had been before: One-Eleven Main and Fried Green Tomatoes.  One-Eleven Main is apparently a farm-to-table restaurant with somewhat trendy food and Fried Green Tomatoes is a popular place for traditional American fare.  I’m glad that we had a meal in the Lodge because it gave us time to explore the building a little bit but it definitely wasn’t a repeat for us.

Travel: 36 Hours in Galena, Illinois

We recently headed out for a quick weekend getaway in Galena, IL. It’s a beautiful town on the Illinois/Wisconsin/Iowa border that I think is pretty well-known in the region for its golfing and gorgeous landscape. I’ll spare you the research that I did, but Galena’s topography is really different from the flat Midwest – it’s actually quite hilly!

We stayed at a small home in the Eagle Ridge Resort. While there is a lovely inn-style lodge in the resort (and a few more hotels in the downtown area) I read reviews that said there had been a lot of construction going on in and around the lodge and that it was not well publicized.  We also benefitted from going on an off-peak weekend so staying in our own villa wasn’t terribly expensive.  Owners can choose to allow the Lodge to rent their houses out to visitors without having to do any of the marketing.  We didn’t deal with the homeowners at all – just the Lodge.

Eagle Ridge/Galena has been on my radar for a long while because it’s a popular destination for families in the greater Chicago/Madison WI area. It was a place that lots of kids talked about visiting over school vacations.  Recently folks at work had started to talk about how the area was trying to attract younger visitors as well as families with kids. That got me thinking about the fact that Galena has always been in my mind as a quintessentially Midwestern small town and I convinced myself that it was something my small-town New England spouse just had to see. Ever excited for a weekend away he quickly deemed a road trip the “best idea ever” and we headed out.

There was a threat of snow on Friday night so we changed up our plan at the last minute and got in super early on Saturday morning instead.  For us it was just over two hours’ drive from door to edge of the Territory.   We headed for the Lodge (Eagle Ridge Inn) which was where we picked up keys and got directions to our house. Now, the Galena Territory, as the area is called, is huge and seemed like it would be very easy to get turned around in if we had arrived late at night. I’m very glad we had a GPS with us to help locate the Lodge, which seemed to be either in the middle or the back of the Territory. We noticed a formal dining room, a pub and a sandwich counter (?) while we were there. Lots of people must arrive on Friday evenings because the checkin was empty even though the Lodge was buzzing. Oh – there was also another restaurant right near the entrance to the Territory but I’m told that it was just about to shut down for the season.

After getting into our house we wanted to explore a bit and walked the few miles from our villa to the Lodge and passed by the Lake (it’s quite small) and a small grocery store on our way. Though we were past peak fall colors it was a beautiful morning to hike around. If I were going back any time soon I would definitely spend more time exploring the Territory and everything it has to offer on foot.

After getting cleaned up we headed into town for some store browsing and eating.  You could totally eat your way through downtown Galena!  I have a post going up tomorrow that goes into more detail about where we ate but here’s a quick rundown: Blaum Brothers Distillery, Galena Brewing Company and one of the restaurants in the Lodge.

Sunday we explored the Territory more on foot.  We’re not much for going out to breakfast and we had already seen lots of the shops in town since we spent several hours there on Saturday and there wasn’t much reason for us to go back.

And then, because we’re never far from grad school, Liam did some homework while I used the workout room and then worked on getting the last of our Christmas shopping done.

We live on pretty much the outskirts of the Chicago area and it took us a bit over two hours to get there and just under two to get home.  But, we don’t have much of the traffic that the city would so I wouldn’t be surprised if the trip takes closer to four hours if you come from Chicago or the closest suburbs.

It was a very quick, but very fun trip.  On the way home we talked about going back in the early Spring.  Because the quiet is part of the charm I don’t know how much fun we would have had if the area was completely bustling with tourists so I think we’re going to aim to avoid “big” weekends and the height of summer around here.

Currently, Volume 1

Happy Sunday! I’m not sure who to credit this post idea to because I’ve seen it all over, but here’s a chatty update to what’s going on with me.

Listening: to the sound of bacon popping. We’re having a rather indulgent Sunday breakfast while we’re away for the weekend. I have a recap of our trip coming tomorrow.

Reading: Olive Kitteridge, and cookbooks. I tend to be pretty indifferent to books that become hugely popular but Olive Kitteridge might be the exception to that. I’m loving the fact that it was set in Maine. I’m reading cookbooks to look for the perfect dishes for Thanksgiving

Watching: nothing at the moment, but we’re going through Gilmore Girls now that it’s on Netflix. Liam doesn’t have sisters so it’s his first time seeing any of it…and he likes it!

Wearing: I’ve talked plenty about my capsule wardrobe on here. November is my last month in my fall capsule wardrobe and given how cold it is already I may be switching some items over even sooner than the end of the month. While I don’t know whether I’ll be dressing in capsule wardrobes forever I am enjoying cleaning out my wardrobe.

Making: I’m busy practicing the Thanksgiving dishes that I’m responsible for. My siblings and I may have gone a bit overboard with our planning. We’re a family of foodies – minus my dad – and we do enjoy going all out for holidays.

Doing: At the moment L is doing his homework over breakfast while I’m playing around on the computer.  Later we’re hoping to hike around the Galena Territory some more.  We’re away for the weekend and enjoying ourselves so much!