Chicago Trip, August 2015 Edition

Greetings from the friendly skies!  Eric and I are currently on our way from O’Hare to LaGuardia after spending a week back in my hometown of Palatine, Illinois.  I haven’t been back to Chicago since Christmas, and it’s always good for visit…especially when it’s not below zero with a bunch of snow on the ground!  It was a fun visit with a mix of Chicago events, seeing friends, hanging out with my family, a day trip to Milwaukee, and a couple trips down memory lane.  Away we go!

Chicago Fun

Go Cubs Go!

I’ve been a Cubs fan for most of my life, minus the years spent liking the Phillies (when I was little and lived outside Philly) and the Cardinals (my grandparents were fans and my favorite player when I was little was Ozzie Smith).  Not to mention the years of confusion when I couldn’t pick what team I liked best.  But the Cubs are quite lovable, so I’ve been a fan since somewhere around the early 90’s.  Not to mention that Wrigley Field is a great ballpark to visit.  Some of the new ballparks are quite showy with their amenities, but you can’t beat Wrigley.  We got tickets for the Thursday afternoon game against the Brewers.  We had some seats in the shade and breeze of the upper deck, which was quite welcome in the heat!  The Chicago Air and Water Show was over the weekend, so we got the see the Blue Angels do some test flights, which was pretty cool.

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The Cubs have been pretty hot lately (and the Brewers aren’t that great, so that helps…), and we got to see five home runs!  VICTORY.  It was exciting, although not close, game with a lot of movement on the field.  I like a good defensive game, but sometimes it’s fun to see runners out on the bases, especially if it’s your team!  It was strange to see Wrigley with the new scoreboard/jumbotron – not sure how I feel about that yet!  The Cubs won, we ate some delicious brats, and had a beer (what happened to Old Style??) – life is good.

Chicago Air and Water Show

As I mentioned above, the Chicago Air and Water Show was this past weekend.  The show always reminds me of heading to college because my dad and I would see the planes flying around the Gary airport on my way to college every summer for four years.  Last time I actually attended the show, it was rainy and my dad and I had all the space we wanted on the beach!  It was a little different this time as we packed blankets/towels, chairs, umbrellas, and quite the feast for the day.  We claimed a spot on an already packed North Avenue Beach around 9:30am and geared up for the show.  My mom and I prepared a spread of muffins, fruit, meatball sandwiches (with two types of meatballs!), chips, and cookies for breakfast and lunch.  We certainly didn’t go hungry!

The show is always really fun to watch, although I don’t necessarily find the water part of the show that interesting because it’s kind of difficult to see what’s going on.  But the planes!  They’re so amazing!  The show started off with parachute teams from the Army and Navy, which ended up on a sad note as two of the parachuters collided midair.  One broke his leg, while the other seemed to float off toward the buildings with his white emergency chute out.  We all thought it was strange that he was headed toward the buildings – was it part of the show?  It wasn’t until later that we learned that he was unconscious, hit the building, then fell to the ground.  He passed away the next day – unbelievable.  The parachute teams were supposed to jump later that day (and on Sunday), but they didn’t.

We didn’t know of the sad news until later, and we enjoyed the rest of the show throughout the day.  The planes (and their pilots, of course) are truly amazing.  A couple civilians groups performed, flying in formation and doing a variety of tricks.  A couple stunt planes flew as well, and I can’t even properly describe how awesome the planes look (Check out Sean Tucker here).  I don’t know how they do it!  They fly straight up until they can’t fly anymore, then turn and fly around like I would imagine an out of control plane would look.  Whenever the single plane or planes were about to do a trick, they would turn on the smoke coming from behind the plane and the announcer would yell, “The smoke is on!!” which I think is going to be my new catch phrase for when I’m about to do something.  Standing on the starting line of a race?  THE SMOKE IS ON.  Ready to do a large burn care at work?  THE SMOKE IS ON.  (That might be less appropriate, hm.)  I don’t know how people learn to do these things, but it’s incredible to watch them.  Some of the pilots work for the commercial airlines, which makes me wonder if our pilot is going to throw in a barrel roll on the way home…

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In formation!

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THE SMOKE IS ON.

The headliners of the show included the Bretling Jet Team (a French team) – they were amazing -  and, of course, the Blue Angels.  It is boggling how fast the Blue Angels can fly – we couldn’t tell where they were, then they flew overhead and we didn’t hear them until they were past us.  Their known for their precision flying, both in formation and stunts.  They flew for a solid 40-ish minutes, and I can’t really describe it other than to tell you to see them in person or maybe YouTube them.

Friends!

My two best friends from high school are both named Katie, which tends to confuse most people.  One Katie recently had a baby, so I was really excited to hang out with the little guy!  He’s pretty young so he doesn’t really much (eat, sleep, smile, poop…it’s the life, isn’t it?), but babies are super fun to hold and play with (especially when I don’t have to change their burn dressings…) and seeing a friend as a mom is pretty cool too.  No pictures because that doesn’t seem quite right, but I’ll tell you he has beautiful blue eyes – which my mom really hopes for in her grandchildren!  (Thanks for that dominant brown eye gene, Dad!)  And of course it was great to see Katie – we did our classic “I’m going to walk you out to the car to say goodbye but actually we’ll talk for another hour” move.  Some things never change!

We hung out with Katie, round two, checking out a beer garden near their house.  I had a delicious local beer (from Crystal Lake, for you locals) and waffle fries, which you can never go wrong with.  After spotting some lightning, Katie’s weather-loving husband checked the weather apps – a huge storm was coming!  We booked it out of the restaurant and enjoyed their company (and beverages) back at their house.  Good friends and good brews, a winning combination!

Milwaukee Visit!

Despite living outside Chicago for about 17 years of my life, I don’t think I ever made it up to Milwaukee.  This is a little odd because I love baseball so I would think maybe we would have headed up there for a game, but oh well.  (Why go when you can go to Wrigley??)  Eric has some friends in Milwaukee, so we made plans for a day trip to see them and see a game at Miller Park.  My friend, Jason, is in Madison for the years, so we met up with him for the day as well.  The game wasn’t until 1pm, so I thought maybe we’d meet up for brunch before the game.  I was immediately corrected and told people in Wisconsin don’t do brunch, they tailgate.  And tailgate, we did!  I have limited tailgating experience, as I was in the marching band in college and therefore missed out on that aspect of football games.  Eric’s friends had the complete set up – chairs, a tent, a grill, Bloody Mary’s, beer, brats (hello, Wisconsin), and some tunes.  Plenty of other people were out doing the same – I’ve never seen this happen for a baseball game before, but I’m not arguing. 

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Picture stolen from Jason – tailgating in the left corner!

Soon enough we headed into the ballpark – Jason got us some awesome seats right behind home plate.  We could play umpire!  The Brewers played the Phillies, which is just about the two worst teams in baseball, so I didn’t expect much from the game.  We did see a home run so the Brewer guy went down the slide.  The sausage race was also a highlight!  Miller Park is fine, but nothing to write home about.  They have a cover for the park, and despite it being open, most of the seats were shaded which is a perk in the August heat!  Check that park off the list!  We spent the rest of the day in Milwaukee hanging out at a local bar and grabbing some food.  Not too shabby, friends to the north.

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I think this is Eric’s new favorite picture of us – with Mr. Barrelman

Fun at Home!

Sewing Fun

For those of you who don’t know, my mom is quite the crafty woman.  From quilting to knitting to scrapbooking (and more!), my parents have a few rooms in their house dedicated to her crafts.  In the not too distant past, I commented to my mom that I needed to learn some of her skills before she’s gone.  (I’m not planning her demise, but I do work in a hospital and read books about end of life…)  My mom taught me to knit last year, and this time she decided to teach me how to sew.  She had tried to teach my sister and me when we were younger, but it never really stuck.  She bought some fabric and helped me make a pair of shorts.  It was pretty easy and was done in an afternoon!  My mom said I’m a pretty good sewer, while I just say I’m good at following directions.  It would be harder to keep up with it since I don’t have a sewing machine, but it’s nice to get a taste of it.  (And I have a new pair of elephants shorts!)

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Elephant shorts!

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Eric worked on a puzzle (my dad’s bday gift) while we sewed.  I gave him a matching headband…

A 40-45 year throwback…

Last time I was home, my mom said she wanted to dig out one of her old outfits to see if it would fit me.  My mom weighed about 95 pounds (at 5’5”) until she got pregnant with my brother, so we weren’t quite sure it would fit.  (For reference, I’m about 25-ish pounds over that.)  She found her favorite outfit from around 1970-1975-ish, and I attempted to put it on.  It was a bit of a tight squeeze, but I managed to get it on!  The pants were super high-waisted and I sucked in as much as I could, whew.  The fascinating part about the outfit is that it’s a size 9 – ha!  How times have changed.

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Check out those bell bottoms…

Puppy!

My mom has the most adorable little dog named Jax, and seeing him is always one of the highlights of a trip home.  He’s the worst guard dog because he just wants to cuddle with anyone who comes in his path.  He basically makes you feel like the most loved person ever.

It’s no surprise that I tried to pack him in my suitcase to come back to New York, although I’ll admit he didn’t seem too keen on the idea.

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Some trips down memory lane…

My mom brought out some of our old home videos that she had converted to DVD.  I learned a lot about my little self watching the videos, including how bad I was at soccer (but I was really good at running up and down the field), how I was the least adventurous child ever (the video of us on the playground has my sister running and climbing on everything, and I stay in the same spot the entire time), and how I was always good with my money.  For my sixth birthday, I got a backpack that I’d been saving up for, and all I kept repeating was, “I’ve always wanted this!  Now I don’t have to save up for it anymore!”  (This is in contrast to my sister who immediately wanted to go to the toy store with the money in our birthday cards.)

This morning, we went through some bins that are in my closet – stuff I haven’t gotten rid of yet.  This mostly included a bunch of postcards, the shelf I made in 7th grade woodshop, and letters.  SO MANY LETTERS.  Letters from bunkmates at camp, letters from friends for various reasons (birthday, Christmas), letters and cards my parents sent me at camp/school, letters from exboyfriends (oh dear…), letters when I was pen pals with my cousin, and letters from when I had an Amish pen pal.  Yes, yes, an Amish pen pal.  My second grade teacher somehow knew an Amish teacher, and they set their classrooms up with pen pals.  I wrote to mine for maybe 6-ish years, and we actually met her family on a trip through Pennsylvania one year.  I copied down her address so I could send a letter – no idea if it’ll actually make it to her, but wouldn’t that be fun if it did?  (Do kids have pen pals anymore?  Do parents send mail to camp?  These letters were highlights of my childhood.)

Running

Well, you may have noticed that I didn’t really mention running in this trip.  I usually love to go running back home in Chicago because it’s where I started running, and I can still run most of the routes with my eyes closed.  My groin started feeling a little achy on Tuesday, so I went out for a three mile test run on Wednesday.  I spent the rest of the day with pain in my groin and limped around for a few days.  I was really looking forward to running a 14 mile long run, but I knew better than to test the waters.  My hip was definitely painful for a few days, although it seemed to loosen up with some walking.  We walked a fair amount to and from the Air Show, and I took Jax on multiple walks – but no running.  I started feeling better on Monday, so I ran for 20 minutes on Tuesday – still no pain, but I’m nervous.  More to come on this, but I definitely missed running at home and am getting really nervous about the marathon!

Back to real life

I had a great time back in Chicago, doing some fun things and hanging out with some of my favorite people.  And it’s always fun to take a trip down memory lane.  (And it definitely makes me think about moving back…) 

What your favorite thing to do when you go back home?  (Whatever that might mean to you!)  Do you have things like letters (or baseball scorecards, I have those too…) that are fun (and kind of crazy) to look back on?

wrapping up chicago, 2014

Greetings from 15,000 feet and above!  (Just kidding, this was 24 hours ago and I was too tired to post this when we got home.)  Eric and I are currently crammed onto a Spirit Airlines flight back to New York, and it’s quite cramped quarters even for me!  The tray table doesn’t pull out, so my laptop won’t even fit on it…and my elbows are to the back of the seat.  You know an area is small if I’m saying it’s tight!  For those who are wondering, our flight attendants did not recreate the humorous atmosphere that they did on our flight to Chicago, which makes me a little sad.  I was looking forward to some corny jokes to take away the sting of leaving Chicago and the holidays behind.

Our visit to Chicago wrapped up pretty nicely with some time spent with friends and family, some time at the movies, and more than enough time eating cookies.  I’m currently sad that I didn’t stuff my pockets with leftover sugar cookies, and I’m definitely anticipating sugar withdrawal in the coming days.  It’s a tough life, my friends.

For those who were wondering (and those who noted I’m a bad blogger who didn’t include any pictures of the finished results of cookie decorating…), the final products came out something like this:

IMG_6814 A mix of decorators…

IMG_6811 Eric was proud of his cookies.

IMG_6813 I’ve been sabotaged!!

Eric did a good job of proving his cookie decorating worth – certainly a type of initiation into my family!

unbroken

As for Unbroken, I was going to put something about seeing the movie in this blog post, but I feel like I have more to say about it…as well as a few things related to it.  Hopefully I will actually turn that into a blog post instead of something I just write in my head and never get down on paper.  But my short version of it would be:  Read the book.  The movie is good, but the book is so much better.

Remind me to write that blog post.

RUNNING!!

One ever ongoing aspect of my visits home is running at home!  As I mention every single time I head home, I love revisiting my old running routes.  These are the routes when I learned to run, learned different paces, ran further than I ever did before.  I trained for high school cross country and track on these roads, and then I took to the streets to begin training for my first marathon.  I still know all the mile markers without even using my Garmin – back in the day, I didn’t have a Garmin (gasp!  I know…), but I knew just about where the mile marks were so I could check my pace.  Old school, let me tell you.  And lots of mental math on the run!

Running in Chicago (well, suburbs) was pretty good this year – I had checked the weather before leaving, and it didn’t seem like it would be too cold.  Some capris, a long sleeve base layer, a light long sleeve shirt, gloves, and a headband – good to go.  My first run, I wore everything but the gloves and headband…but since it was sunny, I ended up stopping halfway through and took off the base layer.  A light long sleeve shirt in Chicago in December?  This is madness.

Of course, that all turned around on me the next couple days when it was gray, windy, and more like 28 degrees.  At least you warm up after that first mile…

I don’t know if there’s something different about these running routes, but I always manage to run a bit quicker of a pace than what I’ve typically been running in NYC.  Admittedly, I’ve been struggling to call an 8:00/mile pace "easy" these days, but once I got home, I was flying at 7:50/mile like it was a walk in the park.  One of my favorite running routes has the wind in my face on the way out 99% of the time…and it’s uphill.  ("Hills" in the midwest…)  When I turn around to head back, it’s downhill with the wind at my back and I fllyyyyyyyy.  7:16 mile?  No big deal.  I like it because I’ve felt like such a slug lately, and I get really down on myself.  The truth is that I really need to put in some work, but I’m not that out of shape, specifically for easy runs, so I shouldn’t be dragging at an 8/mile pace.  These runs certainly make me happy and give some hope for some faster days.

image Eight miles!

The day after this run, my legs felt super sluggish, so I held the pace back to 8:10-ish to shake the legs out.  Look at me, being smart about paces.  Don’t worry, that didn’t last long…

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I told myself over and over again that I wouldn’t pick it up on the way back, that it would keep it easy.  NOPE NOPE NOPE.  Sometimes your legs just carry you…

So running was lovely, the cookies were lovely, being home and snuggling with a dog for a few days was quite lovely.  Our flight back to NYC was delayed by about 2.5 hours, which didn’t get us back to our apartment until almost midnight.  Fail.  And just like that, the holiday season is over, as I’m back to work.  I’m working both NYE and New Year’s Day – I typically enjoyed working NYE on night shift because we always had lots of food and hats and got to crowd into an empty patient room and yell, "Happy New Year!" as loud as is appropriate in a hospital at midnight.  I will most likely be lucky to make it to midnight, but that’s alright.  A wrap up on 2014 and looking ahead to 2015 will be coming soon!

I hope you all enjoy your last day of 2014 – yikes!

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