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It’s Beginning To Look…

DSC01703And smell a lot like Christmas on Belle Plaine! I went and bought a balsam (from the lot at Belmont and Wolcott, for those Chicagoans who are curious). The attendant was really nice and talked me into tying the tree to the roof of my Civic instead of putting it in the truck… luckily it didn’t fall mid-commute.

I’d never heard this before, but he told me to put boiling water in the tree stand and then the branches would fall faster. I tried it out, and I don’t know if it made the branches fall faster, but DAMN, my apartment spelled like an entire forest when I opened up my bedroom door the next morning! I’m complaining though; I love that smell.

DSC01722Good thing I didn’t go any bigger – I almost need more ornaments! I’m going to work on a new tree skirt too. This one is looking too rustic. And I obviously need to hide the extension cord better. It’s a bit of a work in progress.

Now, I just need to get shopping for some gifts to put under there…

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Weekend Rewind: Exploring Kansas City

I’ll (mostly) let the pictures do the talking here, but we had a blast in Kansas City! Like I mentioned, I’d never been before, and we snagged roundtrip flights for less than $70—and then a helluva deal on two nights at the Westin—so off we went exploring…

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It’s a great foodie town: We ate at two places with James Beard ties (and didn’t break the bank), drank at an underground speakeasy-of-sorts, ordered waaaay too much (in a good way) from a BBQ place in a gas station and still had time for a sampler at Boulevard Brewing. Needless to say, any weight I lost during marathon training has returned! But whatever, it was worth it.

Three of my must-sees, in no particular order:

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Stroud’s. This soul food mecca has A LOT of things going for it, including family-style pan fried chicken and sides, Coke with maraschino cherries, red-and-white checkered table cloths and—and—bottomless fresh cinnamon rolls for dessert! It was ridiculous. And amazing. Oh, and did I mention it’s housed in a renovated log cabin from the 19th century?

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. This is a badass art museum—including impressive modern and Indian art collections—but the real kicker is that it’s free! Save time to explore the grounds, including KC’s iconic shuttlecock sculptures.

Oklahoma Joe’s. This is the aforementioned BBQ-joint-in-a-gas-station. But don’t let the ambiance fool you—this is some DAMN good BBQ.  For the record, all of that food pictured… it was mine alone. I ended up taking ribs home on the plane, and if I could’ve carried on more than 3 oz., I would have snatched up a bottle of OJ’s BBQ sauce for sure. It’s thick and tangy without overpowering the meat.

Honorable mentions: Extra Virgin (pricey, but stop in for Happy Hour deals 4-6 p.m.), Weird Stuff Antiques (strange location, strange items) and Boulevard Brewing (free 40-minute tours with tastings).

On the wish list for next time: Mexican food, Swope Park, Rye brunch and Town-Topic Hamburgers.

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Design Inspiration: Brynn Olson Design Group

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Brynn Olson Design, a Chicago-based firm that an old co-worker introduced me to, just launched a new website, and I am loving these simple-yet-sophisticated residential spaces.

I think I like them so much because they’re completely do-able. There’s no crazy architectural elements, just fresh paint, clean lines and an attention to detail.

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Just a little eye candy for your Friday commute. Hope everyone has a great weekend!

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(Long) Weekend Rewind: Pure Michigan

Vacations are hard to come by when you’re training for a marathon—building in a couple hours a day for runs and watching your diet isn’t exactly fun while traveling. But you can find a sweet spot if you combine the two…

On Sunday, I did the Vineyard to Bay 25K (roughly 15.5 miles) in Traverse City, Michigan. This was the first time the race has ever been held, and there are definitely some kinks to be worked out, but I was just happy to use it as an excuse to get out of town for a few days. I’m getting tired of pounding out miles on the Lakefront Path!

We rented a house in Sutton Bay (more on that next week). It was a overcast most of the trip, so we didn’t spend much time sitting on the beach. Instead, we drove out to Sleeping Bear Dunes, shopped in Charlevoix, ate LOTS of ice cream and even kissed a moose. Don’t ask…

There’s no way this trip would’ve been possible without my parents. Thanks, Mom and Dad! They are pretty great travel companions. We already have another trip in the works, too—Scottsdale for Spring Training!

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Weekend Rewind: Feeling 28

I celebrated my birthday last weekend with some friends at Turkey Run State Park in Indiana. We always plan one camping trip each summer, but this was a new venue for us because we wanted to throw tubing into the mix.

By tubing, I mean floating down the river (in this case, Sugar Creek) in a big intertube with a bunch of friends and usually beers. Unfortunately, when you float down the river absolutely everything gets wet, so I wasn’t able to bring my phone or camera. But you can get an idea of our shenanigans from the rest of the pics.

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For the record: The campsite left something to be desired, but tubing was fun and the hiking was what was really impressive. I was shocked by all the cool rock formations and waterfalls. It was hard to believe we were in Indiana! But again, my camera was at the campsite, so no photos. FAIL.

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But after a weekend of sleeping on the ground, drinking whiskey and dealing with the rain (yes, it rained again—second year in a row!), I’m definitely feeling all of my 28 years, if not more. I hope I’m not getting to old for this!

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A Happy Home-iversary!

Aug. 1 came and went so quickly that I didn’t even have a chance to celebrate my two-year home-iversary! I resigned my lease, so I’ll be in my current apartment for at least one more year (barring any major life changes). There was a bit of a rent hike, but it’s only an additional $20 a month—not something I’m excited about, but definitely not worth the expense (and hassle!) of a move. Plus, the consensus seems to be that my place is a steal for the amount of space and the neighborhood (Chicago’s North Center). I do love it!

Let’s take a look at how far it’s come:

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Dining room

Bathroom

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It’s not perfect. It never will be. Design is a constantly evolving process—and that’s exactly what makes it fun!

Outside of a few little things here and there, I’m VERY happy with the living room and dining room. But putting everything side-by-side here makes me realize that the kitchen and bathroom are kind of a different style than the rest of the apartment… Looks like I know where my next projects will be! Stay tuned.

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(Long) Weekend Rewind: Oregon, I Like You

Oh man, it is going to be a struggle to make it through today. Portland is exhausting! Between kayaking the Columbia River, drinking all afternoon at a beer festival, hiking up to Angel’s Rest and eating just about everything in the city—not to mention a cramped red-eye flight home—I’m wiped out.

And ready to go back! I really enjoyed the city and having access to all kinds of outdoor activities—plus spectacular ice cream. I can see where some of the Portlandia generalizations come from, but it wasn’t nearly as obnoxious as I thought.

Must do? 1. Eat at one of the many food cart “pods” around the city. 2. Hike. There’s all kinds of trails to explore. 3. Reward yourself for being active on vacation with Salt & Straw ice cream!

Check out all my adventures (and click on any image for a slideshow with commentary):