Sunday, July 31, 2011

An afternoon at the beach!

We're on our way to Indiana today to grab my cousins and head to Cedar Point, and I am sooooo excited. If you've never heard of this amusement park before, check out their list of roller coasters and then come back here and get pumped with me.

So while I'm gone, I wanted to share a quick look at our afternoon at Centennial Beach yesterday.

The Naperville Park District is incredible. I don't know why I haven't realized it before, but my visit this summer has definitely opened my eyes to the glory of this city's well-run parks & rec department. Gorgeous hiking trails, community gardening plots, and... the "beach." 

My dad came along with my brother and sister and I to the (midwestern idea of a) beach yesterday. It's pretty awesome. There's a sand area, tons of grassy space with trees so you can lay in the shade and catch a breeze while you read, diving boards, a kids water slide, and an ice cream stand. You can't get more midwestern summer than that, folks. Unless it's a community pool surrounded by cornfields. (Yes, I spent my adolescence in the great state of Iowa.) So yesterday, I spent the afternoon reading through Catching Fire, the second book in The Hunger Games trilogy. And, taking cute photos with my little sister.

Then, I ended the trip with an avocado freeze with boba from Joy Yee Noodle. Harbor and I discovered this amazing place when we were visiting my family this past New Year's. Every time I go, I think of our fun night. <3

I'll be sure to share photos from our roller coaster adventure day as soon as I can! Wish me luck. :) 


Saturday, July 30, 2011

Brunchin' every day.

The past two days I've had the gift of sweet family times and sticky-sweet breakfasty treats. If there's one thing my mom and I love, it's a good, solid breakfast spot, and I've been lucky enough to have eaten at two this week! Here's my recap, with lots of happy photos. 

First thing's first. You need to know about Egg Harbor. If you live in Illinois (or have friends/family in Illinois... or will ever visit Illinois in your life) then you've got to find the nearest Egg Harbor Cafe and plan a visit. There's just something so wonderful about this restaurant. It's always packed, but you never feel crowded. It's just cozy and warm and spirited. I've had some of the most delectable dishes from this place throughout the years. Veggie eggs benedict, a potato and pepper frittata, pumpkin and sunflower pancakes, and banana bread french toast (just to name a few). They have amazing drinks too, like their iced teas (mango and black current), and famous strawberry OJ. And their coffee is always warm and rich. Yesterday, I went with my mom, dad and brother, and I sipped on a cinnamon hazelnut coffee - with plenty of cream - while I savored every bite of that homemade banana bread french toast. Mmm. I love going there for brunch because I feel satisfied and stuffed for the rest of the day. 

This morning my mom and sister and I drove a half-hour to meet up with my Aunt Jude and Aunt Donna at a pancake house called Blackberry's. When we arrived, we were happy to see Donna's sister Kate there as well. Little side note: Do any of you guys have family friends you call "aunt" or "uncle," when in reality there's no relation to your family at all? My Aunt Donna is like that. She and my Aunt Jude used to be nuns years ago, and have worked to serve others in the medical community ever since. Donna's been in my life since the day I was born, and I love that she's a part of our family. (She has her MSW and she's so excited I'm going to be getting mine this year!) 

My Aunt Jude of one of my favorite women in the world. She's so inspiring, and she's also my godmother, so she prays for me daily and is a constant source of hope and security in my life. Every now and again she'll write me a sweet letter or email to share something God's shown her, or tell me about how she's thinking of me. She's been there for me so many times, and cheers me on in my social work and ministry endeavors as well. I love her so much. 

My Aunt Jude is on the left, and that's my mom on the right. Aren't they great? 

Aunt Donna and her sister Kate. Kate is very fun and lively, and has a 17-year-old bird named Isaiah the Prophet who eats noodles, rice and leg of lamb. haha!

Jude with Jaclyn and me.

Our sweet family. Don't the three of them look so alike? I'm sort of like the black sheep... haha. I'm the shortest of anyone in my family and am definitely a hybrid child of my parents. Everyone we know thinks my mom and little sister look so much alike. What do you think?

Today I ordered the best lemon blueberry pancakes and ate a pile of scrambled eggs. Cheap diner coffee, lots of sugar and cream. Ahhh. What do you love to order at breakfast diners/cafes? Any cute local breakfast restaurants in your area? 


Thursday, July 28, 2011

A trip to the city.

Today was really rainy. The weather reports keep threatening a flash flood in the Chicagoland area, but so far we've been in the clear. However, the rain hasn't stayed away, and we've had drizzles and humidity all day long. Blah. Feels like I'm still in Florida.

We spent the day in Evanston, because my genius of a little brother will be starting grad school at Northwestern in the fall. Luke has a pretty awesome apartment in the city, and I wanted to be sure I got to see it during my time here. Today we went over to measure everything and create a basic design plan.

Afterward, we grabbed lunch together, and took a walk around campus. I love that you can stroll right alongside Lake Michigan. The school allows students to paint the rocks on the shore. There were lots of "Will you marry me?" rocks, but also beautiful paintings, special memories, and inside jokes. My favorite one was this guy. 

We also spotted some bunnies hopping around outside the audiology clinic (the building my brother will be spending all of his time in). 

When we left campus we went to Argo Tea! It's my absolute favorite part of my Chicago visits. I love their variety of tea offerings, milk options, and creative drink options. My favorite thing to order is an iced, skim mate latte. and my favorite loose leaf tea is their Earl Grey Cream. It's seriously good. In fact, I'm going to make tea lattes tomorrow morning with some I purchased earlier today. We also paused to window shop at a cute cupcake shop... Mmm. Too bad I wasn't hungry enough to try one. A few of the flavors really intrigued me. 

All in all, it was a splendid day. What a happy afternoon with my brother and my parents. 


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A huge surprise party went down in the midwest.

I'm in Chicago! Yeaaaaah! My mom and I worked for weeks to keep this visit a secret, because yesterday was my dad's birthday and he had no idea I was flying in to celebrate. After weeks of sneaking around, and my mom deleting airline emails, it was so fun to finally celebrate together. 

My mom and sister picked me up from the airport, while they were supposedly out "on doctors' visits" in the city. My brother took my dad to go see Super 8 (which I still really need to see), and then we all met up at a Starbucks in the suburb my parents live in. Jaclyn and I were cracking up because I kept accidentally crushing my party hat on the ceiling during the drive... I guess I just couldn't sit still. 

Jaclyn baked a bunch of delicious treats, and we all sported party hats. How cute is she?

When we walked in my dad was so surprised! He kept asking how long I'd be in town, and when I had decided to fly in. He just kept laughing and couldn't believe we had kept it a secret for so long. 

Jaclyn's almond spritz cookies and double chocolate cake balls. I can't stop eating those spritz cookies. Almond flavored anything is my all-time favorite treat. 

This is one of my favorite pictures of the day. Luke wore that hat for a full 20 seconds just so I could take an instagram of him. :) Thanks, Duke.

And, not to crash my dad's party or anything, but I got to open my birthday presents too! My sister's and my birthday was July 10th, so my gifts were waiting for me here in Naperville. My two favorite gifts are my new 35mm lens for my Nikon D5000, and my gorgeous gold necklace from Stone & Honey. (Thanks so much for the shop suggestion, Chelsea!)

Dinner downtown, a ton of free ice cream from Trader Joe's, so many friendly people asking about our party hats and wishing my dad a great day. It's been a very fulfilling day. Happy birthday, dad! I love you so much.

I'm very excited to be spending time in the midwest with my family the next two weeks. I love secrets and surprises. Sooo much. When's the last time you kept a really special surprise a secret?