This Week’s Reads (February 10, 2017)

A Reporter Explains What Out-Of-Towners Keep Getting Wrong About Chicago Violence – Chicagoist
This felt accurate and true, even in a week when the threat of violence felt very close to home for us.

What Happened to the Great Urban Design Projects? – NYTimes
This was clickbait for me as it relates to urban infrastructure – however, I enjoyed the discussion of the Golden Gate Bridge and of the Atlanta BeltLine, the subject of a book I picked up at Midwinter a few weeks ago.

Super-Ambitious Lake Shore Drive Proposal Would Add Park, Straighten Road – Chicagoist
Speaking of urban design/renewal projects, I’m super excited about the possible changes to Lakeshore Drive and the lakefront, even though they’re a few years off.

Is Obama’s official White House photographer trolling Donald Trump? – The Guardian
I love this.

2015 Resolutions

Part of my day job involves making sure that goals are specific and measurable. Here are my attempts at specific and measurable resolutions for 2015:

The fun:

  1. Run a marathon. I really wanted to do this last year, but pregnancy got in the way. I’m planning to run Chicago, with Detroit as my back-up choice.
  2. Read 12 non-parenting books. I read (most of) 17 books last year, but really only finished 12 in their entirety, and the great majority of those were parenting books. I’d like to read more for pleasure this year, but am setting my sights low.
  3. Complete 12 more items on my Chicago Bucket List. I knocked out 17 items last year, and added a few to the original list.
  4. Keep a journal. My grandpa kept a daily journal for years. It often wasn’t much more than the weather (including on the day of my mom’s wedding!), but that’s more than I’ve managed. I’d like to remember more about my baby’s first year than the milestones. I hope this will help.

The practical:

  1. Rebuild my savings. I took 4 weeks unpaid during my maternity leave, and that took a good chunk out of my savings. I’m far short of the recommended 3 months’ of living expenses, and don’t think I’ll get there this year while also reducing debt, but 2 months’ worth of living expenses in savings seems reasonable.
  2. Reduce debt. I wanted to eliminate my credit card debt last year. That didn’t happen; in fact, I’m right about where I was last year, though I’ve paid off two cards. I’d like to cut both my student loan and credit card debt in half this year.
  3. Take better care of my skin. For many, many years, I have done nothing on this front. Moisturizing daily will be a start.
  4. Start flossing. The dentist yells at me about this every time I go, so I need to either start flossing or stop going to the dentist.

2014 Chicago Bucket List, part 2

I’m so far behind in blogging about my resolutions and other adventures from this year. We’re halfway into December and I have drafts from outings from February. So how about rolling up this very fun resolution into a miniseries?

The second installation in my miniseries about my 2014 Chicago bucket list adventures!

Chicago skyline
View from the Adler

Adler Planetarium: May’s Adler After Dark event was cosponsored by the Oriental Institute – a perfect excuse for us both to make our first visit! We learned about medical astrology and inverse moons and took funny photos of our bellies.

Hot Doug's
Doing Hot Doug’s right

Hot Doug’s: Chicago’s premiere encased meat emporium had been on my to-do list for years prior to the announcement that the owner planned to close up shop in October. My first thought was “I can go on my maternity leave!”. Fortunately, an earlier opportunity presented itself: since I was already missing half a day of work for an ultrasound, we decided to make a day of it and brave the Hot Doug’s line. It felt pretty ridiculous, but was worth it for extremely delicious sausages and fries.

Chicago Bucket List: Cubs game with Nicolas
View from Wrigley

#ChicagoBucketList: Cubs game with N, even though he's cheering for the Mets...
View at Wrigley

Cubs game with Nicolas: Despite living in Lakeview for 6ish years, Nicolas had never been to Wrigley Field or to a Cubs game – in fact, the Sox game in April was his first baseball game, period! We kept talking about how these all-American activities needed to be added to his citizenship dossier. Hot dogs, beer, and baseball on a perfect summer night were an excellent addition.

Drinks at a shitty Wrigleyville bar: After the baseball game, we knocked out a second bucket list item by walking down Clark to grab drinks and food at a random bar before Neo prom. We thankfully skipped the douchiest bars in Chicago.

Dim sum
Dim sum

Dim sum in Chinatown: The bucket list originally called for hot pot, but dim sum was on my mental list. We tried Moon Palace on the recommendation of another Chinatown diner who, after seeing us order pork buns at another restaurant, said we had to try the (off-menu?) steamed spinach buns at Moon Palace. They did not disappoint.

We stopped into Vosges yesterday and left with free truffles.
Truffles from Vosges

Vosges with Nicolas: I’ve been a fan of Vosges chocolate for years, and had been to the Lincoln Park shopfront a few times, but never with Nicolas. We stopped in while walking around Lincoln Park one afternoon and left with free truffles! My enormously pregnant belly probably helped.

Vegan Korean food with Karen! 36/#100daystobaby
Vegan Korean with Karen

Vegan Korean at Dragon Lady Lounge with Karen: Karen and I talked about checking out the monthly Korean buffet at Dragon Lady Lounge for two years before we had the right opportunity – the next-to-last buffet they would offer! We ate all the things, and all of them were delicious.

Untitled
Sailing on Lake Michigan

Untitled
Chicago skyline, golden hour

Sailing on Lake Michigan: We bought a deal for a two hour sailing adventure at the beginning of the summer, and cashed it in as one of our last pre-baby adventures on a lovely September night. We were supposed to share our outing with at least two other people, but they didn’t show up, so we had the boat to ourselves. We were treated to an exceptional sunset as we turned back to the city. It was perfect.

Pie at Hoosier Mama Pie Company: We made a strategic error in not eating before Nicolas’s naturalization ceremony, expecting to be in and out in an hour or so. Instead, it took three hours, and we emerged as a famished family of American citizens. We headed straight to Hoosier Mama and had pie for lunch. What’s more American than apple pie, after all?

2014 Chicago Bucket List, part 1

I’m so far behind in blogging about my resolutions and other adventures from this year. We’re halfway into December and I have drafts from outings from February. So how about rolling up this very fun resolution into a miniseries?

Around this time last year, I posted a first draft of my Chicago bucket list: an aspirational collection of 50+ outings and adventures that I’d like to tackle before I eventually leave Chicago. While I didn’t stick to my goal of one bucket list item per month, I knocked a number of them off this year:

Sandwiches and Petits fours
Tea at the Drake

Tea at the Drake Hotel with Mom: For the last few years, I’ve met my mom in the city for a birthday weekend. This year I requested high tea at The Drake in lieu of a birthday dinner. While pricey, it was a really nice thing to do for a special occasion, and something I look forward to doing with my nieces in the future!

The Brookfield Zoo: In February, we braved the cold to take advantage of a free admission day to visit the larger of the Chicagoland zoos. They don’t have a sand cat, but they do have black-footed cats! The highlight for me was probably the wolf habitat – it was amazing to watch the pack tear around in the snow.

The Oriental Institute: I took a whirlwind tour of this museum during a tour of campus when I first started my job, but hadn’t been back in the two years since. If you haven’t been and you have even a passing interest in history or archaeology, you MUST go. I wasn’t feeling well the day we were there, so I spent a lot of time reading the contents of cases that had benches in front of them.

We walked downtown for donuts.
Do-Rite

Donuts from Do-Rite: It turns out I’d already had donuts from Do-Rite, but I hadn’t been to the main location downtown, so we made it our destination on a late spring morning when Nicolas wanted sweets and we both wanted a long walk. We’ve been a few times since, and their old fashioneds have been consistently excellent – possibly my favorite donuts in the city, though that might be the subject for another post.

Not bad.
Our view for the Sox vs Sox

Tina!
More baseball with Tina!

White Sox game: I was raised baseball agnostic, but adopted the Cubs as my team by default when I was subjected to radio broadcast of the games at my post-college call center job. If you’re a Cubs fan, you can’t be a Sox fan. That’s just the rule. So this was one of the least likely items on the list – unless I got tickets to the Crosstown Classic. Instead, I went to TWO Sox games this year. In April, Tina and Jeff treated us to an extremely cold Sox vs Sox game (and a helmet full of nachos). And then in May, we got a good deal for tickets and snacks on Memorial Day. I’m still a Cubs fan, but I have a new appreciation for the Sox – or at least their ballpark.

Water taxi <3 <3
View from the water taxi

The water taxi: THE WATER TAXI. How did I live in Chicago for two years before taking the water taxi? How did Nicolas live here for three times that long without taking the water taxi? The water taxi was a highlight of our summer, and a frequent weekend activity – walk to Chinatown, take the water taxi downtown, have an adventure, take the water taxi home. It’s the cheapest way to see the city from the water. If you buy a 10 ride pass, it’s not much more than taking the El, and it’s considerably more pleasant. About half the time, they didn’t punch our pass, or didn’t punch it the right number of times, so we have a number of water taxi rides saved up for next summer. Seriously: take the water taxi.

Bike to Work Week 2014

It’s Bike to Work Week in Chicago.

While I was an enthusiastic bike commuter in Champaign, I hung up my wheels for the first year I lived in Virginia. A bike commute wouldn’t have been impossible, but it would have been a miserably hilly 8.5 miles on busy city roads on a heavy steel bike from the 70s with approximately 2 available gears. A year later, I had a lighter single speed, a 7.5 mile commute along the Potomac, and a couple of coworkers living in the neighborhood, so biking to work was actually kind of a joy.

I did it!
Bike to Work Day 2009

Then came just-as-hilly Michigan, where my commute was uphill both ways, with stoplights at nearly every block for half of my commute. I had good intentions of biking and a dramatically shorter commute, but barely rode at all for the two years I lived there.

By comparison, biking in Chicago has been a joy. Yeah, I broke my arm (again). Yeah, I face-planted on Cermak last year and narrowly avoided getting hit by a truck. Yeah, I had a wheel stolen, and replaced a wheelset because roads on the south side are just terrible. Yeah, I tense up every time I bike on the open grating on many of the city’s bridges or over tracks that even slightly protrude from the road. Yeah, I get pissed off at drivers, at buses riding in the bike lane, at pedestrians not paying attention, at cyclists breaking the law.

But that doesn’t make it any less of a joy. It’s such a different way of being in the city. I can’t explain it any other way. Even on the worst of days – like Tuesday, when I did my 8 mile bike commute straight into 23mph winds – it’s better than driving, and easier than taking mass transit, at least for my commute.

Before I got pregnant, when we were first talking about the prospect of having a baby together, we argued about biking. I love it. It makes me incredibly happy. I’m also injury-prone (see above), and that’s not good for a baby. A friend’s husband and midwife banned her from biking when she was pregnant. It’s too risky.

We struck a compromise: no road bike during my pregnancy, but Divvy was OK as long as I was riding conservatively. When the weather finally improved, we spent a couple of long weekend afternoons riding Divvy on the lakefront – not too fast, not aggressive at all, just enjoying the weather and the view and the exercise. It felt amazing. N – who hadn’t been on a bike in the city until last fall – ventured onto the city streets with me. I had a serious case of bikeyface.

And so I’ve resumed biking to work a couple of days per week – 7-8 miles on Divvy via the lake or MLK Drive. I arrive at work sweaty, hungry, happy, and energized. I don’t have to go to the gym on my lunch. In the afternoon, I take the Metra, picking up a Divvy bike for the two miles between the station and home. It’s great.

My goal for Bike to Work Week was to ride at least one way, every day. I’m not sure I’ll make it the final day – 5 days of consecutive commutes on heavy bikes while six months pregnant have left me jelly-legged and exhausted, and besides, the weather’s going to be terrible – but I’m awfully happy that I was able to ride this week, and hope I can keep it up awhile longer. Besides, judging by the kicking, the baby seems to like it.

First bike commute of the year.

Morning commute #divvyon

Nice end to my day. #divvyon

Chicago Bucket List: Donuts from Do-Rite

Saturday morning hunger is not something to be trifled with. I wanted bacon, but N wanted donuts. We struck a compromise: a quick bite at a place in our new neighborhood (bacon for me) followed by a long walk to get donuts.

That long walk turned out to be 3.5 miles from Pilsen to Do-Rite, just across the street from the Daley Center downtown. Despite the limited menu options, we struggled to make our choices, but left with an iced coffee and the beginnings of grease stains on the sides of our paper bag containing three precious donuts. It was a beautiful day, and with no seating readily available, we wandered over to Millennium Park to dig in.

We walked downtown for donuts.

It was only after we dug in that I remembered that Do-Rite was on my Chicago Bucket List, though we’d previously had their donuts from Star Lounge and Dark Matter Coffee. We tried three old fashioneds: I had the chocolate, while N enjoyed the buttermilk AND the pistachio Meyer lemon.

It would be premature to say that these are my favorite donuts in the city, but they’re a pretty strong contender. Doughnut Vault’s are excellent but the lines are a significant drawback. Glazed and Infused’s are delicious, but have a similar effect to what I imagine chocolate frosted sugar bombs doing to Calvin. But Do-Rite? Just right.