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.
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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.

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.

Chicago Bucket List: Tea with Mom

Technically, this was supposed to be tea at Allium, but when we called to make reservations for a fancy lady tea for my birthday, we were disappointed to learn that Allium’s high tea was only available through the end of December. Too bad I’m a January girl!

So we went with Palm Court at the Drake Hotel – a classic choice.

Palm Court

Mom and I were charmed by the harp, the moms with their wee daughters in fancy dresses, and the delicious finger sandwiches and petits fours. It was a lovely birthday treat, and a great start to tackling my Chicago bucket list.

Mom

Sandwiches and Petits fours
Petits fours: pâte à choux swans with hazelnut pastry cream; raspberry Sachertorte; macarons
Sandwiches: cucumber; chicken salad; ham on rye
Cranberry-orange scones; gingerbread madeleines

SWANS

Cucumber sandwich!

Chicago Bucket List

Chicago sunset

Two years ago, I spent Thanksgiving weekend apartment hunting in Chicago.
On December 23, 2011, I became a part-time resident of Logan Square.
On April 2, 2012, I became a full-time resident of Pilsen.

In the two years since I first signed a lease in Chicago, I have covered much of the city on foot and by bike. I have gone to bars and shows and farmers markets and beaches. I have visited the sand cat a number of times. I have had a whole lot of Chicago-specific adventures, but feel like I have barely scratched the surface of what Chicago has to offer.

I am not planning on leaving my beloved city any time soon, but I expect I will leave eventually, and in anticipation of that day in the far off future, I have started a bucket list of Chicago sights and eats and scenes that I want to be sure not to miss. Some of the items on my list are things I have always wanted to do. Some are very unlikely to get done. Some I have done before, but want to repeat with someone who has not yet done them. Some might require winning the lottery or overcoming severe phobias. Some will likely be removed from the list, and others added.

Without further ado, and with a promise to tell you about each of these adventures as they happen, I present the first draft of my Chicago bucket list:

  1. Adler Planetarium
  2. Art Chicago at Merchandise Mart
  3. Bike the Drive
  4. Bike to Milwaukee
  5. Bike to the Botanic Gardens
  6. Bike to Three Floyds
  7. Brunch or drinks at North Pond
  8. Carillon tour with Mom
  9. Chicago Architecture Foundation walking tour
  10. Chicago History Museum
  11. Chicago marathon
  12. Complete tour of all Chicago beaches
  13. Complete tour of all El lines
  14. Cubs game with Nicolas
  15. Deep dish pizza
  16. Dinner at Bistronomic
  17. Dinner at EL Ideas
  18. Dinner at Elizabeth
  19. Dinner at Next or Alinea
  20. Donuts from Do-Rite
  21. Drinks at a shitty Wrigleyville bar
  22. Drinks at the Half Acre tap room
  23. Drinks at the Signature Room
  24. Ferris wheel at Navy Pier
  25. Festival of Barrel Aged Beers
  26. Field Museum
  27. Frank Lloyd Wright walking tour in Oak Park
  28. Hemingway birthplace tour in Oak Park
  29. Hot Doug’s
  30. Hot pot in Chinatown
  31. Ice skating at Millennium Park
  32. Kuma’s Corners
  33. Last call at a shitty 4am bar
  34. Live jazz on Rush St/River North
  35. Lunch at Calumet Fisheries
  36. Museum of Contemporary Art
  37. National Museum of Mexican Art
  38. Newberry Library
  39. Oriental Institute
  40. Pie at Hoosier Mama Pie Company
  41. Polish food
  42. Printers Row book fair
  43. Rainbo with Nicolas
  44. Robie House tour
  45. Sailing on Lake Michigan
  46. Sears Tower observation deck
  47. See a race at Arlington Park
  48. Shedd Aquarium with Nicolas
  49. Show at the Double Door
  50. Show at the Empty Bottle
  51. Sushi at Kai Zan
  52. Taste of Chicago
  53. Tea at Allium
  54. Tea at Pleasant House Bakery
  55. Vegan Korean at the Dragon Lady Lounge with Karen
  56. Visit one new street festival
  57. Vosges with Nicolas
  58. Walk or run the entire Lakefront Path
  59. Water taxi
  60. White Sox game