A Weekend in The Windy City

Hello Joyflakes!

A couple of weekends ago I went with my girlfriend to visit her family in Chicago. We will be heading to see them again very soon (as in on Wednesday) but due to a bout of Black Friday Crazy, we go them a GIANT tv for christmas that need to be delivered without also trying to pack in all of our other gifts and bags. So we loaded up the Blueberry, my beloved Yaris, and hit the road to the big city.

We left later than expected and arrived at Misha's parents house around 9 o'clock, just in time for a very late (or on time if your Persian) dinner of delicious homemade Persian food. Although by the time we were finished with dinner it was already nearing eleven, we decided to set up their new tv. While this generally means unplugging and moving one tv out of the way and then putting the new tv in its place and plugging it back in, the new tv was about double the size so we also had a LOT of furniture moving to do. By the time everything was said and done, it was midnight and we were exhausted.

The next morning we had a delicious french toast bake and headed to target for a quick emergency shoe fix. I had managed to only bring one pair of shoes, my favorite black ballet flats, which would be no good in the cold or the wet that we were expecting to get over the weekend. After finding an AMAZING pair of black heeled booties and a new pair of black pointed toe pumps that fit like a dream, we got on the road and headed out of the suburbs and in to Misha's sister Sara's house in the city.

I have to say, Chicago is one of the strangest big cities I've ever been in. Sure, there's a downtown, and there are little neighborhoods that each have their own charms, and there are multiple options for public transportation, but everything is so spread out! Maybe i'm just biased and think that every big city should look and feel like New York, but I'm literally surprised and weirded out by it every time we visit. Plus, the trains run above ground more than underground which I find very disconcerting for some reason.

Anyway, we got to her sisters house and had a delicious homemade columbian soup made by Sara's boyfriend Drew and planned our afternoon in the city.

We started off with a trip to the Christkindlmarkt for a pretzel and to wander between the booths. Unlike our first trip there this season, it was PACKED. There were ten million people and wandering between booths you were more likely to get lost than find anything you were looking for. So we snagged a pretzel (pizza, grilled cheese, and original bavarian -- YUM!) and made our way out of the market.

Next was a trip to Misha's sisters office building for a christmas photo op with the giant tree in the lobby.

After multiple tries for a good picture, we headed back out into night to check out Macy's shop windows on our way to the outdoor tree in millennium park. Oh Chicago, you sure do know how to make things look christmassy!

Thoroughly done with the christmas crowds, we headed off to find a beverage before meeting up with Misha's sisters friends for a birthday party. Our plan, was to find someplace between our train stop and the pizza place we were headed to, but we didn't find someplace we liked until we were literally next-door. 

The Drinkingbird is a perfect spot to grab a drink and catch up with friends. It isn't too loud or too dark which makes it an ideal spot in my opinion. The entire vibe of the place was what I would call "classy dive" and it was right up our alley. We relaxed, had a couple of delicious drinks, and snacked on fantastic fondue while we chatted about our lives, our plans for the holidays, and everything in between. 

After drinks, we popped next-door for pizza and pitchers of cheap beer in celebration of Sara's friends birthday and then it was off to meet up with even more old friends and drinks in Boys Town. 

When we head to Chicago, we generally don't spend much time in the city. We tend to stay in the burbs enjoying family time so it was great to just be tourists for the day and let the city take us where it wanted. I love unplanned tourists days. How about you? What do you like to do when you're in the windy city?


My First Adult Christmas

Hello Joylfakes!

Recently it feels like every time I sit down to write, my mind wonders off to something else. Lately, it is been sneaking off to think about the holidays.

My favorite time of year since forever is the holidays. Christmas lights, ornaments, cookies, egg nog, champagne, its the best. Iowa is covered in a beautiful blanket of snow and the world looks like something out of an ABC Family Christmas movie. Its the absolute best.

But this year, I'm having trouble getting into the Christmas spirit. It could have to do with multiple factors but I've narrowed it down to 3 possible things. I've been out of school for almost 3 Christmases, I'm (finally) not working in retail, and for the first time ever, I'm an adult and not having Christmas with my family.

The first is a minor thing, mostly just the realization that I've been away from Ames for that long is making me feel old. Facebook likes to remind me how many years it's been since my last AOII Christmas so that doesn't help.

The second, not working in retail at the holidays should be a blessing. I'm done with work by 5 and I have Saturdays and Sundays to actually do fun christmassy things like cutting down the worlds fattest christmas tree, and decorating my house, and going to Chicago for the Cristkindlemarkt (I'm going again this weekend and I literally can't wait for a boot of gluhwein and some roasted almonds). But I'm also missing out on all of the little things that have marked the holidays for me since I was 18. No decorating the store windows, no unpacking ornaments and christmas themed candy plates, no stressed out shoppers...it just feels weird!

Chrsitkindlemarkt with Sara
The third is what I feel is the biggest struggle I'm having. Last year my girlfriend and I spent Christmas with our respective families, but this year, we decided that we wanted to spend the holiday together. So while my family is split between Denver, Minneapolis, and Louisville, I'll be joining them via face time. Instead of heading to my grandparents house in Davenport, I will be heading to northwest Wisconsin to have christmas with my girlfriends family. There are multiple reasons for this, including the fact that my grandparents no longer live in Davenport and if I showed up at their old house no one would know who I am.

I'm especially attached to the traditions of Christmas so the thought of not eating all the same things we eat every year and playing scategories while drinking eggnog by the christmas tree is somewhat unsettling. I knew that this day would come...but every time the thought crossed my mind, I just shoved it way and tried not to think about it.

The good thing is that I won't have to miss out on all of my favorite things. Misha has promised to help me make twice baked potatoes and schnitzel beans so I'll get a little taste of my family favorites which is incredibly sweet. To be honest, I'm pretty excited to partake in their ugly sweater contest (yes I already have one chosen and it has bells on it) and white elephant exchange. It sounds like a lot of fun even if it's going to be very different.

The other thing that is helping me to cope with missing out on my family traditions is that we've started to create our own traditions and no matter where we go to celebrate, we get to do those. So far we've cut down our own tree, been to the Christkindlemarkt once, put up our stockings (including a new one for Izzy!), decorated the rest of the house, and tonight we're going to start on baking all of may family favorite christmas cookies. We will be celebrating just the two of us (stockings and most of our gifts) after we get back from visiting her family just like we did last year and I'm taking comfort in the little traditions we've started for our mini family.

I suppose that I could be reading too much into all of this thought...maybe I'm just having trouble getting in the holiday spirit because this is what Iowa currently looks like....

Whatever it is that's got me struggling to get out of my holiday slump, I hope you're having better luck! What are some of your favorite family traditions?


Going Back to High School

Happy Hump Day Joyflakes!

I know that I've been gone for a bit but I promise I'll never leave you for good. 

This morning I had a pretty interesting experience. Since I work for a college planning website, it is not uncommon for me to be talking to high school students, their parents, and their guidance counselors but generally I do it over email, wordpress comments, or at college fairs. 

Today, we needed to deliver some fliers and stickers to my old high school so I volunteered to do it since I know my way around the building. From the moment I turned onto the street where my school is located, I felt like I was in some kind of alternate reality time warp and it was weird. There are certain things that were EXACTLY the same and others things that were totally different. Here are the things that go through your mind when you return to your high school almost a decade later.

"WTF, why are all of the visitor spots taken?!

I know I'm not the only one who regularly pulled into the parking lot with one minute left to get inside, put my stuff away, and get to class. Clearly the best option was to pull into one of the visitor spots located right next to the handicap parking and the principals spot and risk the ticket rather than risking being late. Now? I can't believe how inconsiderate those students are, can't they see I've got better things to do than drive around a high school parking lot looking for a spot?!

"Wait...wasn't this a parking lot?? When did that part of the building get there??"

Clearly parking took longer than expected...but in all seriousness, they've added like three new sections to the building since I graduated. 

"Do I really have to sign in as a visitor? I haven't been gone long enough to be considered a visitor right?"

Honest truth? You've been gone for almost a decade...no one will recognize you and that means they'll think you're some creep. Better to just sign in and avoid the awkwardness. Bonus? They can't be mad at you for parking in the faculty lot if you're clearly signed in as just visiting.

"Have those signs always been there?"

Since when do they need to have signs to tell me that the main office is the one right inside the door? I'm sure that one was always there, but there were also signs telling you which direction to go to with room numbers and other common sense things. I guess all of the additions makes it easy to get lost!

"God these kids look young!"

When you manage to get stuck in the hallway between passing time the age difference between you and the students becomes REALLY apparent. There is no way that I looked that young when I was a student there.

"They got new lockers?!"

It sounds crazy but I was actually a little jealous of the fact that the lockers are brand new. My school was built during the depression as a workforce development project so it's OLD and I feel like some the lockers we used had been there since the place was built.

"Why is everyone carrying their backpacks?"

We weren't allowed...no hats either. 

"Chip is still here?!"

Chip was the hall monitor at my school. He was beloved enough to be voted by our class to speak at graduation. But I swear he was like two years from retirement then...how is he not retired yet?!

"I can't wait to get out of here"

I loved high school. It was easy, I had a great group of friends, and I didn't have to be an adult yet. But being there today was just too weird. Not to mention, the conversations I overheard during passing time made me realize how old I am. It was like they were speaking a different language.

I still have a couple of years until we will have a class reunion and I'm sure that I'll attend when we do just to see what happened to people I've lost touch with. The thing is? I'm glad I don't have to go back and relive high school quite yet.

Have you been back to visit your school since graduating?