SoCal, January 2016

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Before I had a chance to write about last January’s trip to Southern California, I made another trip out there! Last Tuesday I flew back to Chicago with sand on my toes and tan lines on my shoulders, after a glorious week on the west coast.

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It was what I used to consider “chilly” out most of the time, with highs in the mid-70s (23-24 C) and sunny… so I went to the beach! The locals thought I was ridiculous, but compared to the -5 degrees it had been just days before in Chicago, 75 felt amazing. We went to Coronado and hung out in front of the Del (Hotel del Coronado) on the golden shore for an entire day. I can’t even describe what it was like to not only not be wearing two layers of fleece, but to be in a bathing suit!

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We stopped by one of our favorite local taco places, and even though they’d redecorated, they still had really good food. I got fish tacos at another place, and just generally ate a lot of stuff in tortillas.

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Not only did I get to have amazing fish tacos and other local favorite foods, I got to spend a day at Disneyland with my dear friend, sans children! We’ve never been able to go together and do rides (or avoid princess meet and greets), so it was really a blast. And yes, it was actually chilly that day. Hence the sweaters.

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The first stop? Star Wars Launch Bay, which is where the old “Home of Tomorrow” exhibit used to be. And I got to hug Chewie! Whoo!

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Here’s a thing I’d never done before: we stood in the exact middle of Disneyland! It’s marked with a simple metal tack, right at the back of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, and no-one else knew why we were standing there, taking photos of a spot on the ground. Ha.

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I even rode the carousel and took my customary carouselfie. Don’t judge. You think it’s cute. Notice how the horse and I have the same expression. That’s the trick: to find a horse with a really good facial expression. One day I’ll have enough of these to make a full gallery. You’re welcome, world.

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Anyway, I was stoked to get to see the castle decorated for the park’s 60th anniversary and all of the Diamond Celebration stuff, including the new parade called Paint the Night! (Click here if you want to watch the full parade. It’s less than 14 minutes and beautiful.) I also finally got the Disneyland “You Are Here” Starbucks cup! It was sold out every time I tried to get it before we moved away from California, but now it lives happily in my cabinet (along with the Diamond Celebration one..).

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I really can’t get enough beach time. Ever.

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I’ve barely skimmed the surface of what was an amazing week, but really what made it so great was spending time with some people I love. Sunshine and warm weather and beaches didn’t hurt. I’m thinking this end-of-January thing might be becoming tradition, and I’m not in the least bit sad about it.

The 2015 Travelogue

No, that title isn’t a typo. I realized today that in the last year I’ve probably flown more than in the previous three years combined, and that I’ve already got plane tickets (or plans to acquire them) lined up for a good chunk of this year, too. I also realized I’ve been woefully neglectful in recording my adventures. So here’s the plan: this year we’re going on adventures together, but before I take off again in a couple of weeks I’m going to try and catch up on some of the ones I had last year. It’ll take some piecing together for me (and going through photos I’m extremely behind on editing) but hopefully I’ll be caught up again before summer.

Here’s a small preview of The 2015 Travelogue!

January: Southern California

Selfie with Mickey

April: Texas wildflowers

Texas longhorn sitting in bluebonnets

May: Madison, Wisconsin

Capitol Building, Madison, Wisconsin

July: London and surrounding English environs

Tower Bridge, London, England

September: Minnesota

Minnesota Renaissance Festival 2015

September-October: New England autumn things

New Hampshire scarecrow

October: Springfield, IL

Route 66, Springfield, Illinois

December: North Carolina wedding

Bridesmaids

Plus bonus National Parking content!

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, national parking

So there’s a small look at the places I’ve gone in the last year. Some of them I was able to drive to, some of them needed plane tickets. Most of these snaps are from my phone, but I’ve got some fun stuff that I’m pulling off of my camera, too. Maybe I can get at least a post or two about each place I’ve been, but with other journeys approaching, there may be a lot of overlap. I’ll do my best to keep it straight. Until next time!

Hello 2016!

Well, this is embarrassing.

It’s been roughly six months since I posted my last entry to this blog. A lot has happened since then that I could have blogged about and just… didn’t. I’ve been busy. This is not an excuse.

I’m not really one for public declarations and sweeping “improvements” for a new year (which, after all, is a pretty arbitrary point in the year that we’ve all just collectively agreed to use as the reset point in our calendar), so I won’t promise to do better this year. In fact, it’s likely I won’t post often in here at all.

There. Is that a reasonable expectation? I hope so. Then again, I’ve come a long way in the last year and I’ve made a peace treaty with Living in Chicago (which isn’t my favorite thing ever but I’m finding things to enjoy anyway). So there may be more I feel like saying this year.

That being said, I intend to post more about my travel (which is, happily, frequent) and about things I’m enjoying at the moment and other things that are on my mind. We’ll see how it goes. I have other personal goals, too, of course, but they are, y’know, personal. I may post about them as they happen. I may not. I will tell you that one of them is to be kinder to myself and part of that is not feeling bad if I don’t hold to a schedule for things like this. It’s okay. Be kind to yourself and allow yourself some grace, too, if you’re reading this.

So welcome to the new year. It already feels better than last year. Do you have any resolutions? Have you picked up an old project again, or are you starting something new?

Jo and Jared at the basketball game

The other day while out running errands, I wound up at the Ogilvie Transportation Center, which is the Metra hub downtown. I ran my errand, ate some lunch, and headed back toward the station. Along the way, I noticed signs for “Chicago French Market.” Color me intrigued.

Inside I found, not French food (which is what I expected), but a full local market, complete with produce, meat and cheese, little food vendors and, yes, even some macaroons.

They had a seafood counter that reminded me of the famous one in Seattle (though of course much smaller), and little areas with gorgeous chocolates.

There was, after some wandering, a good group of other little shops selling flowers and small trinkets, and international/gourmet dry goods, which I enjoyed pouring over.

All in all it was a very neat place and I’m glad I discovered it. If you want a quick bite with multiple options available, or if you’ve got a little time to spend at the Metra station, you should check it out.

A couple of months ago I wrote a post about how I’d started re-reading Lord of the Rings for the first time in close to a decade. I’d gotten burned out on them, and the ubiquitous nature of things related to the movies (which, to be clear, I love dearly, but maintain they are their own entities, though that’s probably another post for another day).

At any rate, because life is busy and because it’s been nicer outside, it took me two months to read through the whole trilogy. I’m not sorry about that, either. It gave me the time to rediscover things about the story, things I’d forgotten or maybe never noticed in the first place (hey, those are some dense books and the more you learn about Middle Earth lore, the more you find in the novels). And the best part of the whole trilogy? Return of the King.

Why? Because I had forgotten nearly all of it. Oh, I definitely remember what happens in the book, and I remember certain aspects distinctly, but the details (and entire interactions with characters) and humor (yes! there is humor!) and the beautiful way Tolkien switches from the colloquial conversations and observations of the hobbits to the epic style (and I use “epic” in the literary sense here) is just wonderful.

I know it’s old and I know some people think it’s boring, but I really love these stories. They are classics for a reason. And I’m glad I was able to finally finish them (again) and make them fresh in my mind in a way they haven’t been in years.

Thanks, Professor.

End note: In the spirit of this, and after how much I enjoyed these books, I’m going to give Harry Potter a go to see if I can get a fresh reading on it. I’ve read it much more recently, but it’s also been shifted in my mind to be mostly movie imagery, so I’m hoping I can go back and recapture my own imagination’s version of Harry and Ron and Hermione and the rest. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Beavers Donuts, mini doughnutsToday is National Doughnut Day in the US, one of our multitudinous holidays celebrating things that are random about mostly involve food. Not ones to pass up an opportunity for a good doughnut, though, we happily participated at a new-found gem: Beavers Donuts + Coffee in the French Market in downtown Chicago. We got a variety to try: from left to right, the June special (Oreo cream), cinnamon, and powdered sugar. So, so good. No-one does mini doughnuts like they do in the midwest. I have to give them credit for that.

This will mostly be a photo post, because I think there is plenty to see and I couldn’t add that much to what already exists. This weekend we went to the Chicago Botanic Garden to see the early spring blooms.The garden is free, though there is a per-car fee to park, except for military, which get in for free. Thanks, Botanic Garden! ^_^

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Just the first bulbs are up right now, the rest of the garden still sleeping after a long winter, but those first bursts of color are hope physically formed after all the snow.

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We walked along the water where the white trees are still waiting for their leaves.

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And we sat in a field of giant crocus, running rampantly out of their plantings.

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All in all, it was a wonderful way to spend the day before Easter.

(Even MORE photos below.)

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