Sunday, January 13, 2019

10 Things.

It's not very often that I have time to just wake up and write on a Sunday morning. Usually I'm doing one of a million other things on a weekend, whether its church or a yoga class or errands or something. I have my teacher training this afternoon, but for the sake of just relaxing and catching up after a very full day yesterday, I'm in for the morning. Its kind of nice to just sit here and get some thoughts out!

We're already nearly two weeks into the new year and frankly it still feels like December. Maybe its because we haven't yet had a decent snowfall. Maybe its because I haven't hit that winter 'slump' yet that I've had in past years (not complaining). Regardless, I hope your January is going well! And if you made new year's resolutions, I hope those are going well, too! So while I've got a movie going, fuzzy blanket on, with a cup of green tea next me, let me share some of the latest goings-on...
1. This Article: I would recommend that every Millennial and non-Millennial read this article. Being one myself, I've heard countless times that we're "lazy" and "entitled". I've heard we're too into convenience and not enough about quality. I've heard a lot of - for lack of a better term - crap about Millennials and this article did a great job of summing up why that's even a thought. The author writes, "This is why the fundamental criticism of millennials — that we’re lazy and entitled — is so frustrating: We hustle so hard that we’ve figured out how to avoid wasting time eating meals and are called entitled for asking for fair compensation and benefits like working remotely (so we can live in affordable cities), adequate health care, or 401(k)s (so we can theoretically stop working at some point before the day we die). We’re called whiny for talking frankly about just how much we do work, or how exhausted we are by it. But because overworking for less money isn’t always visible — because job hunting now means trawling LinkedIn, because “overtime” now means replying to emails in bed — the extent of our labor is often ignored, or degraded." I've talked with friends of mine who agree - we have no problem with hard work. We're not lazy, we're relentless

2. Le Bruit de Fond...aka Background Noise: I'm a big fan of Youtube. Now before you cringe or think I just sit mindlessly watching video after video, I really just like to have something on in the background that isn't Netflix (though I do love my Gilmore Girls). Starting when I had a single dorm in college, I've loved putting on The Financial Diet, Ted Talks or lifestyle Vloggers' videos because I can't stand silence. It's great to have on when I write or clean or get the idea. Anyway, I recently started choosing French videos over English ones, just to keep up my language skills sharp and maintain fluency. Some of my favorites to follow are Anne DubndiduCécile W, and Josée-Anne SC. Ça va très bien, et je vous le recommande!

3. Bringing in a Roommate: Of sorts. Maybe. Specifically a small, fluffy one with longer-than-average ears. TBD.

4. I've Joined the Kohl's Cult: I've never been a huge fan of Kohl's. Or at least, I thought I wasn't. When I was in high school, I didn't like their clothes. Their shoes were too expensive. The purses would soak in the blue from my jeans. The jewelry was too expensive. Things were only "on sale" after the prices were jacked up. And then I discovered TJ Maxx and Marshall's and didn't step foot in a Kohl's for nearly five years. Yet during this time, my mom and sister lovvvvveed Kohl's. I was told on several occasions to give it another chance, especially when looking for professional clothing or unique home goods. Well...I folded. After going to four different stores this weekend trying to find new clothes for work (I couldn't believe even NY&C and Express let me down!), I stopped in to my local Kohl's. You guys, I hit the Jackpot. (Which is huge for a minimalist to say). And then they were talking about discounts and coupons and the Kohl's Charge and I folded even more. I'm hooked. They got me. 

5. Tea Over Coffee: One of the first things I do every morning is turn on my hot water boiler, put some grinds in my French Press, and make coffee. I then proceed to drink not just one cup, but the entire French Press. That's right: 32oz. of coffee before I even leave my apartment in the morning. Yikes. And what's worse, by the time my 2pm slump hits, I talk myself out of it because I've already had too much coffee! So after doing some reading on Ayurveda and how different drinks/foods work with different people, I'm swapping out my morning Joe for warm water or tea. We'll see how it goes. I'm actually planning a post on Ayurveda in the next couple of weeks (we're just starting to "dive in" in my Yoga Teacher Training) to explain things more in-depth.
(Coffee date at Atomic Coffee in Royal Oak)
6. Turmeric: I used to be obsessed with chili powder. And then it was garlic. I swear my taste in spices comes in phases. Most recently, it's turmeric. But unlike past 'spice kicks' where I've tasted something I like then proceeded to put it in everything, I actually researched turmeric first. It offers so many benefits, you guys: anti-inflammatory, antioxidants, balanced sugar levels, prevention against Alzheimer's and possibly cancer. It's another tidbit I learned from Ayurveda. (Read more about turmeric here.) It took me a few dishes to find the best amount to add and a word of warning: it stains clothing. But after some trial and error, I've come to really like it. Recipes to come!

7. Nino Salvaggio: My new favorite grocery store. Seriously. I could elaborate on this but I think I'll just send you here.

8. Trip Planning: Obviously not everything can be determined just yet (breaks, work/time off, family things, etc.) but should the opportunity arise, I have a few places in mind I'd like to visit this year. Close friends of mine from St. Ignace moved down to Iowa last July, and I fully intend on visiting them as soon as possible. I'd also love to head east and do some exploring along the coast. I was really hoping to go to OCS last year (I was planning to join the Navy), which is in Rhode Island, so when that fell through I realized I wouldn't get to experience the East Coast. I'm still dying to go! And finally, Italy is still at the top of my list for my next international adventure. Even just writing this paragraph, I know there's a lot up in the air, but those are my tentative plans for this year. Not having gone anywhere (except Chicago) last year drove me absolutely nuts and my suitcase is calling.
(Athens, Greece)
9. My Little Chevy: I love my car. Truly. I've had it for the past 10 years and its been with me through everything: learning to drive a stick (its a manual), moving off to college in Minnesota (and subsequently several 1000+ mile trips back and forth between home and school), moving into my first apartment (and my second, and third), multiple adventures in the UP, driving down to Missouri to visit family, several family camping trips during the summer, and a multitude of other things in between. I love it. It gets great gas mileage, is fun to drive, and fits in the tightest parking spaces. But. Its time is coming to an end. The speakers cut in and out, the check engine light comes on 'when it feels like it', it sounds like it has breathing problems when I drive it, the key fabs haven't worked for years, the physical keys won't turn in the doors, half the windows are tinted (we had to replace the doors on one side and didn't realize it until they were securely in place), and just this week it turned 150000K (miles). Now I realize most of this is fix-able but beneath all of this, its become something of a money pit. So...a new car is in the very near future. I'm very fortunate to have a family member at GM, so I'm getting a great deal on my new (drum roll please!) Chevy Spark! Last year at this time I had my heart set on a white Cruze, but the deal on the admittedly sugarplum-colored Spark is one I can't pass up. If you see a purple gumdrop coming down the road, be sure to wave.

10. Joining the Library: I've been putting it off since I moved, but I finally joined my local library a couple of weeks ago and it's incredible! Because let's be honest: books are great, and they have a huge foreign language section.

I hope you've enjoyed this rambly/chatty sort of post. I'm off to get on with my Sunday (Yoga Teacher Training, a family party, mayyyybe getting to the gym), but I hope you all have a great Sunday. Feel free to leave me a comment down below or connect with me on Instagram. I'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Nino Salvaggio: A Market for All

Over the last several months, I've spent quite a bit of time exploring. Every since I moved down to metro Detroit from Michigan's UP, I've thoroughly enjoyed checking out local spots: cafes, restaurants, pubs, produce markets, get the idea. It seems there's always something new and exciting to find in town, or at the very least a short drive away. What's more, most places offer plenty of vegan/vegetarian options. It's been quite a change from life in the UP! So you can imagine my excitement when a brand new market came to town: Nino Salvaggio. A new location opened last week in Bloomfield Hills, MI - just minutes from my apartment. And despite the fact that we have a Meijer, Plum Market, Kroger, Target, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, and Aldi right within a 10-mile radius, everyone was excited for its Grand Opening. So last Saturday, after my yoga teacher training, I grabbed my burlap shopping bags and headed off to check it out.
As you know, last July I made the decision to go fully vegan. It wasn't a terribly difficult decision to make, given that I've been vegetarian for several years. But I've found that this time around, I've been much more adventurous: not only with things I'm willing to try (seitan bacon, coconut milk ice cream, acai bowls, etc.) but also with how strict I've been. I actually had a great conversation with my sister over the holidays and we concluded that diet labels are ridiculous. "Keto, Paleo, Vegan, Pescatarian, Vegetarian," etc. have been blown out of proportion, and if you claim to be one or the other and dare to mess up, well....then you can't possibly be keto/paleo/vegan/etc. We've set ourselves up for failure here. And while yes, there are certain dietary restrictions that need to be followed for health reasons (dairy free for the lactose intolerant, gluten-free for the gluten intolerant, etc.), here's the truth: we're all human. We're going to slip. We're going to need exceptions to make it work for us. And when we've labeled ourselves as one thing or another, having something that doesn't fall under our "diet" feels like cheating. It feels like we've failed.

Well I'll be honest: I'm not 100% vegan. The holidays were difficult, and I had some breakfast bakes (which included eggs and likely cream) and a few homemade chocolate truffles. Of course I still care about humane practices in animal agriculture and the hormones they add to what animals are fed, etc. etc., but I also care about my family and not making every get-together awkward and uncomfortable. So...I "cheated". But you know what? I've found a pretty great balance. (After all, that's what life is all about, isn't it?) Rather than stick a hard label on it, I'd just say "plant-based", because while I'll never eat meat again (don't get me started), I will eat eggs or Greek yogurt on occasion. But I'd prefer not to have dairy like milk, cheese, etc., so I can't really call myself a vegetarian either. So....let's just stop with the labels, friends! Whatever you call yourself - whatever I call myself - its safe to say that you're going to love this new market. Nino Salvaggio caters to every diet; it's a market of the world, for the world.
I've only been to two other Nino Salvaggio's in my life and admittedly its been a few years, but I was truly impressed. Walking in for the very first time, I was overwhelmed. There was a flower shop, a cafe, and a catering service all just inside the door. Then there was the actual market itself: loads of fresh produce at a fraction of the cost of other major grocery stores. Zucchini: $0.99/lb. Avocado: 2/$1.00. I was blown away. And then I saw the olive bar (the photo above is maybe 1/4 of the total spread) and my heart melted. And then, dear friends, I turned around and saw the cave:
There were literally wines from every country - from every region of every country - both room temperature and chilled. I was absolutely delighted, and walked around browsing for a bit before someone shattered a bottle nearby and the clean-up crew flocked to soak up the mess. I thought I might head out to buy my produce and leave, but there was so much more to see. Down each of the aisles were your standard products - soup, pasta sauce, snacks, etc. - mingled in with products I've only ever seen at Whole Foods or online at Thrive Market. Nino Salvaggio actually carries TVP! And then I saw the tea and coffee aisle...
Oh the excitement! Naturally I had to buy a box of TeeKanne. When I visited Kristina and Theresa after my college graduation, I fell in love with TeeKanne and their very unique tea blends, particularly the Mixed Berry blend and the Apfeltee. I couldn't have been more delighted to see it on the shelves at Nino's and immediately put a box in my cart. I will be back for more!

Facing the aisles of groceries was a massive baked goods section, including (but not limited to) cupcakes, cakes, pastries, donuts, bagels, artisan loaves of bread, baguettes, pita, breadsticks, and to my surprise, free samples. I mulled around munching on a slice of baguette before choosing a giant loaf of sourdough to take home with me (it reminded me entirely of Marks & Spencer in Dublin). They had bread for everyone: regular, vegan, gluten-free, egg-free...did I mention this place felt like heaven?

Oh, and for those who need something other than wine to accompany their bread...there was cheese:

 (Feta...the very hardest thing about being mostly vegan!)
Now. This particular Nino Salvaggio is in the same plaza as my Trader Joe's. I'll be honest: I was worried when I learned they were opening that it would be bad for business for TJ's. They're both great stores with great prices. They both cater to diets of all kinds. But I will say: they complement each other nicely. Nino Salvaggio wins when it comes to prices for "by-the-lb" produce and overall variety. But I still had to run in to Trader Joe's for a few "by-the-item" pieces of produce and unique items like Jackfruit and beet hummus. It's a win-win-win. 

For dairy-lovers, they have a wide variety cheeses (obviously), milks (both regular and non-dairy), cream cheese and sour cream, eggs, and yogurt. For those who prefer to eat Kosher, they have an entire aisle. For those who love frozen goods from hamburgers or fruit for smoothies, they have you covered. And for meat eaters, Nino Salvaggio is a great place to go. They had everything from London broil to stuffed sole, a sushi station, and a great "by-the-lb" deli. And while I don't eat fish or support mass fishing in the oceans, I'll give them a nod for their impressive fish display. Because who isn't entertained by a shark with a lobster in its mouth?
I made it out of Nino's with two avocados, a box of tea, a bag of TVP, a loaf of sourdough, and some dehydrated apples (because they're amazing, am I right?). I spent far less than I was expecting to, given Nino Salvaggio is known for being a high-end market. Overall it was a great experience: excellent quality, excellent prices, and yummy samples. And if you're like me and enjoy spending an afternoon lulling about in a supermarket, I would highly recommend paying them a visit. 

Between Meijer, Plum Market, Kroger, Target, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Aldi, and now Ninos Salvaggio, I'll likely never have to venture far for groceries. I'll also likely never have adequate room in my wallet again given the amount of membership cards I've amassed. (I would narrow them down, but I know the deals: produce is cheapest at Nino's, Kombucha is cheapest at TJ's, Target and Meijer have coupon apps, etc.) What can I say, I like my grocery stores! So no matter what your diet - no matter what your food or moral preferences  or food intolerances are - Nino Salvaggio can undoubtedly cater to your needs. 

If you decide to check it out, let me know! I'd love to hear what you think of their new Bloomfield Hills location and any products you'd recommend. Simply leave a comment down below!

***This post is not sponsored in any way and does not contain any affiliate links. Any opinions expressed are entirely mine and mine alone. Just sharing because I truly enjoyed my first experience at a great new market!***

Friday, January 4, 2019

Holiday Recap: The Windy City and a Very Happy New Year!

Happy New Year friends! Welcome to 2019, which I sense a lot of us are excited and more than ready for. It's strange: it seems as though most people I've talked to had a less-than-perfect 2018. I'd say mine was far from it, too. But what's past is past, right? So cheers to a new year, a new start, and a 'clean slate'. Cheers to 2019!

The past week (or two?) has been an absolute blur. From celebrating Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with both sides of my family to the small adventure that ensued before New Year's Eve, it's been a very eventful holiday season. John and I had talked about going to Chicago a few months ago, and were possibly going to squeeze a trip in mid-December. But then work and other things got in the way, and took a seat on the backburner. Then all of a sudden it was the week before Christmas and we pulled the trigger: one quick trip to Chicago the last weekend of the year. John had to work on the 27th (the Thursday after Christmas) - from 4pm until midnight - and would drive down afterwards. (He lives nearly four hours north.) The plan was to have a lazy Friday morning and head out early afternoon. So imagine my surprise, when at 10:00pm Thursday evening I was sitting at my kitchen table and John appears at my apartment! What's more, he even came with beautiful pink roses and a bottle of my favorite wine in hand. Nevermind my wet hair (I'd just showered), pajamas, and not-yet-packed bags for Chicago (uff-da). The man surprised me good.
By 9:30 the next morning, we were on our way. Chicago is a 5(ish) hour drive from my apartment, and we pulled into our AirBNB by early afternoon. It was a beautiful townhouse in the northern part of the city, and we had a private room in a flat shared with other AirBNB-ers. It had an industrial modern vibe to it and was located less than 5 minutes from the Brown Line train. That first evening, we bought tickets to head downtown and do some exploring. It was freezing! We actually ran down the streets to cut the wind and found our way to the Off Color Brewing Taproom, called "The Mousetrap". It was phenomenal. We had some very unique brews including one called "Mint Dino-S'mores" which honestly tasted like melted mint chocolate chip ice cream. It was dangerously good. We met some locals there who gave us advice about what to see and what to pass, including that we should get drinks on the 96th floor of the Hancock building instead of paying to do the "Chicago 360 Experience". They were kind enough to even buy a round before we headed out to find dinner. The Yard House was a short walk away, and from the pita chips to the vegan burger, I was impressed in every way (not to mention the 100+ beers on tap). Seriously friends, check this place out next time you're in Chicago!
We finished the evening by walking back to the train station, so cold that we actually stopped at Target so John could buy a hat (and I could satisfy my "Target run" quota for the month...). It was an amazing first evening in Chicago. And it continued right into the next day. We took the Brown Line back into town and found brunch at a truly vibrant place called "Yolk". Apparently its a chain of restaurants serving up all kinds of 'huevos' and coffee. John got a skillet and I got a five egg white omelet (packed with avocado, mushrooms, and peppers...mmmmmmm), and even picked up a mug as a souvenir. It was the perfect start to the day.
That afternoon we must've walked at least five miles. We found the Magnificent Mile, popped into Trader Joe's for snacks and the Disney store for memories. It was tempting to duck into the American Girl Place, but I'll just keep that on the list for next time (maybe on a girl's trip...not exactly a guys' first choice, I'm sure!). We headed towards Navy Pier, where we spent some time walking through the indoor shops, past food stalls, and finally out to the actual pier (taking some fun yoga pictures, of course). It was so empty and peaceful compared to the busy summer months!
We had to take the train back to the AirBNB to get a new parking pass (ours from the day before expired after 24 hours) and relaxed for a bit before heading back downtown. The plan for the evening was to see Millenium Park (aka 'The Bean'), head to the Tavern at the Park for drinks (where we'd also change into our 'fancy clothes' that we'd packed, just for fun), then go to Giordano's for deep dish, Chicago-style pizza (mainly for John). So we did just that. I'll admit, it was pretty spectacular pulling my dress and heels out of John's backpack at the Tavern, changing in the bathroom, and spending the evening with him looking dashing in his shirt and tie. We certainly raised a few eyebrows (especially when we walked into the very crowded Giordano's around the corner), but it was completely worth it.
After dinner we made our way back to the train station, which was not the greatest in high heels and a dress in wet, slushy weather. Regardless, it was a great evening, and an excellent second day in Chicago. It was sad to think we were already leaving the next day but we planned plenty for the morning before we had to head home. We started the morning by packing up and checking out of the AirBNB, locking all of our things in John's car, and taking the train downtown. We found breakfast at a little place called "Pick Me Up Cafe", which was even brighter and more colorful than "Yolk". The walls were orange and purple. The railings were blue. The fairy lights along one wall were the leg lamp from A Christmas Story. And our table had a rainbow painting of Michigan on it (they were psychic apparently!). But even more impressive than the decor was the food. They had so many vegan options to choose from, not to mention loads of other breakfast and lunch options. John ordered Kahlua pancakes and I went with a Tofu scramble. We probably didn't need the hummus appetizer, but ohhhhh was it tasty.
From "Pick Me Up Cafe" we took the train back towards the Magnificent Mile and made our way to the Hancock building. We planned to follow our 'friends' from the Off Color Brewing Company's advice: avoid the long line and high price and just view the city from the 96th floor with a cocktail. It was still a fairly long line, but everyone was in good spirits and it moved quickly. Before I knew it, we were huddled in the elevator with a dozen others. The Signature Lounge was incredibly busy, but we were seated within fifteen minutes. I ordered something called a 'Skyscraper' (Bacardi, pineapple juice, cranberry juice) and John ordered the Signature Room Punch (Bacardi Black, Cruzan 151, lime sour, pineapple juice, orange juice, grenadine). They were phenomenal!
We spent half an hour or so enjoying our cocktails and taking photos before making our way back to the elevator. Once downstairs, we power-walked back to the train as our second parking pass would be expiring shortly. It was another chilly day, so of course we ran through the streets again to keep warm (call us crazy, we were laughing the entire time). By the time we found the train, took the ride back to Kedzie station, and reached his car, it was just in time to avoid a parking ticket. We climbed into the car, amazed that we had just done Chicago in roughly 48 hours! It was a perfect little getaway weekend. But not nearly the end of the holiday...

The next morning, my mom had invited us over for brunch along with my three siblings and their families. My oldest brother works in a church, so we've taken to celebrating Christmas as a family on New Year's Eve instead. She made everything from eggs to a French toast bake to bagels, served with fruit and sausages and mimosas. We spent the day with them, exchanging gifts, running errands, running after my nieces and nephews, and watching Hallmark movies. That evening, we migrated around the block to my sister's house, where she and her husband hosted a New Year's Eve party. It was such a chaotic, fun, food-and-family filled day from start to finish. Not to mention I haven't seen John since Thanksgiving weekend and it was just fun to spend some time with him and with my family to celebrate the holidays. I even got to rock out with my mom during some wine-fueled karaoke!
John had to head back up north on New Year's Day, and I spent the rest of my vacation (the first and second) just getting organized: laundry, groceries, cleaning, other errands, etc. The entire holiday season and trip to Chicago just went by far too quickly, but it was the perfect end to a very long year. 

I've said on my Instagram page that 2019 is going to be an incredible year. I made a few resolutions of course - save more, go out less, visit friends who live in other states and countries - but for me 2019 is really about finding happiness. It's going to be a year of change, of new experiences, and of figuring things out. I honestly can't wait to see the new year unfold! 
Wishing you all the same optimism, excitement, hope, and spirit as we head into the new year. 2019, here we come! 

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Happy Holidays!

Merry [almost] Christmas! I'm currently sitting on my couch, taking a break after yoga classes this morning, wrapping Christmas presents this afternoon, and just before heading to the gym this evening. It feels so good to just sit down and write! This past week has gone by like a blur - wine night on Monday with a girlfriend, yoga class on Tuesday night, company Christmas party Wednesday, laundry/grocery shopping/cleaning/drinks out with another friend on Thursday, and shopping with my mom yesterday. (I think it goes without saying, yoga this morning was exactly what I needed!) And tomorrow is only the start of the family functions - evening at my aunt and uncle's, then Christmas Eve at another aunt's, then Christmas at my parents', a few days of work, and then heading off on a little out-of-town trip until Sunday. WHOOSH. There goes another week!

So while I'm just sitting here, ridiculously cozy in my big, fuzzy blanket, with a mug of Celestial Seasoning's Sugar Cookie Sleigh Ride tea and watching Gilmore Girls on Netflix, I've been thinking about holidays in the past. Call me sentimental, but I love to think back on past holidays and appreciate how different things have been over the years. Some years have been better than others, but every holiday season has brought new memories and valuable time with family and friends. My family has always made an effort to get together during the holidays, no matter how far apart we live. And while we don't wear matching outfits anymore (thanks, Mom) we still enjoy the festivities and have a great time making new memories. (Actually, I have to say - the holidays have gotten significantly more fun since I now that our family has grown and I have little nieces and nephews running around!)
Bless these matching outfits
So my siblings did the same to their kids, 21 years later
I will say, its weird that my siblings and I are now the 'adults' at our family parties. I feel like it was just yesterday that our family - aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. - would all gather at Papa's house on Christmas Eve for our huge family celebration. We would all bring way too much food, cover the ping pong table in my grandparents' basement with presents, and catch up on whatever was new with our families. We used to spend the entire day together (until it was time for church), opening presents, eating bacon-lard noodles and Christmas cookies, playing games, and watching whatever new DVDs we'd been given. One of my aunts always brought "Bourbon Slush" (a delicious concoction, maybe I'll get the recipe to share!) and we'd just have a great time together. But now we are the aunts and traditions, new memories. It's weird, but kind of wonderful.

My family has spent the majority of Christmases in Michigan. But there was one year when I was out near Fargo, ND for school and my brother lived in Minneapolis, MN, so we all decided to gather in the Twin Cities for the holidays. It was probably one of my least favorite memories of Christmas, as I didn't get the chance to go "home" for the holidays. Celebrating in a more central location saved me 14 hours of driving, of course, but still...there's something about being back in your hometown around the holidays.

But then a few years later, I spent Christmas in Michigan then was on a mountain in the heart of the Alps by New Year's (one of my favorite memories of the can check that trip out here)! I had literally just graduated from college (on December 17th), moved from Minnesota to Michigan by the 19th, had Christmas with my family on the 25th, and was on a plane to Germany by the 27th. I loved getting to ring in the New Year with my friends in Europe, experiencing a totally new way of celebrating the holidays. It was an incredible year, and I would do it again in a heartbeat!
And then last year, I was in the UP for Christmas Eve and Christmas, spending the holiday with John and his family. He had to work on Christmas Eve, so I went to church and had a low-key day at my apartment. Then we spent the day together on Christmas, visiting friends for dinner and spending time with his family. I headed down to my parents' house the day after as he had to work until New Years' Eve. But on the 31st, he drove down right when he was off work and made it just in time for my sister's New Year's Eve party (he had some catching up to do when he got there - haha). It was an absolute blast! And while driving down from the UP in the middle of December is somewhat terrifying, I think we'd both agree that it was completely worth it.
Literally do not miss this one bit.
Anyway...I can't wait for this year. It feels like the first year in awhile that I don't have any long drives or flights for Christmas, given that most of my family now lives only 45 minutes away (I moved down from the UP in September). My brother, his wife, and my adorable niece will even be up visiting from Missouri shortly after Christmas, which will be the first time I've seen them since June! My oldest brother is an Organist, so we've always celebrated Christmas with our immediate family a few days after, usually on the 31st. Then my sister has a big New Year's Eve party and its just one big, fun day full of family, friends, and food.

But despite not having made Christmas-specific travel plans, I did manage to squeeze one little trip in this year.... John will be coming down the 27th and the next day we are heading to Chicago! We'll only be there until Sunday (of course we'll be back for New Year's Eve) but I couldn't be more excited. We're planning to drive down early afternoon on Friday, then who knows - it's going to be a very spontaneous trip (we don't have anything booked or planned)! But what I've learned from my trips to Greece and Germany is that sometimes those are the best kinds of trips: you just go and get lost in a new place...with GPS handy just in case. I haven't been to Chicago since 9th grade (10 years ago, goodness), so I'm definitely looking forward to going back. We even found an AirBNB right in walking distance of public transportation. Win.
Throwback to black hair....never again!
The holidays always make me reflect on how much things have changed over the years. Some changes are great: new nieces and nephews, new relationships, exciting plans or travelling, and goal-setting for the new year. Some changes are not so great: that first year we celebrated Christmas without either grandfather or realizing that certain goals from the previous year just didn't (or likely won't) happen. But with Christmas only three days away (ahhh!) I am choosing to focus on the good things: the growth, the lessons learned, the new opportunities. And I truly hope you can, too.

From my family to yours, I hope you have a very merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year. I'll see you all in 2019!

10 Things.

It's not very often that I have time to just wake up and write on a Sunday morning. Usually I'm doing one of a million other things...