Friday, January 5, 2018

Friday Favorites

After another little hiatus, I'm back. I don't know, guys. I'm really hoping I can get it together this year. I'm not a resolutions girl (many failed resolutions will do that to you), but I can get behind setting some intentions for the year (although, what's the difference between a resolution and an intention? my brain hurts today) and I'm hoping using this space as an outlet more regularly is one of them.

Can't wait to see what's been going on with everyone else! On to the favorites...

I decided that each year I want Sammy and I to create one family goal/resolution for the year ahead, so this year has been deemed "Year of the House." (Also on my agenda, "Year of the Dog"...) So that's definitely been a favorite! Hopefully we start visiting actual homes this spring. I had my eye on one, but it went off the market just before Christmas, so I'm stalking MLS (perks of having your dad as your realtor ;) ) to see when it comes back on.

(wouldn't that ^^ be a dream?)

I've also been making about 900 mental design notes after rewatching Something's Gotta Give recently...

Nothing like a Nancy Meyers movie house, am I right?

Well I guess I'm an official Hallmark convert. I used to not be able to get behind just how corny their stuff was...until I started watching When Calls the Heart on Netflix with my mom and we're officially OBSESSED.  
The drama is a little over the top sometimes and the writing can definitely verge on corny, but I just don't even care. I love it. Also kinda helps that my mom thinks Daniel Lissing bares a resemblance to Sammy ;) 
And per usual, I've followed every cast member on Instagram like a healthy adult so now I'm fully invested. 

So since I'm an convert, I'm super into the idea of Winterfest. The movies sound kind of ridiculous and right up my alley, so I'm just going to lean into this new obsession and enjoy.

Our grandparents haven't gotten the greatest of health news so far this winter. My grandmother was in the ICU with pneumonia (for the third year in a row) for several weeks leading up to Christmas and, even worse, Sammy's grandfather was diagnosed with a brain tumor a few weeks ago. Needless to say we've spent a lot of time in hospitals the last month or so. 
While that is certainly NOT a favorite, having them both home for Christmas definitely was. It was a huge blessing to spend Christmas Eve with Sammy's grandpa and family (look at him watching his first granddaughter play on her little piano!) and spend Christmas Day with my grandma. 
They still have a ways to go (even though she's home, my grandma is still on oxygen and pretty weak but getting stronger every day and Sammy's grandpa has done beautifully after his brain surgery but now must start his treatment process), but they've been so resilient and incredible. We can't even believe them and how blessed we are to know them.

My "best nine" had a theme ;) I guess people like us? Or I need to broaden what I post on Instagram...
We've had a lot of wonderful memories this past year and it was a favorite to see them reflected here. I also love that half of these are holiday related and the other half are from occasions when we were celebrating some of our favorite people!

Some book favorites! 
I devoured The Light of the World in one night after borrowing it from my grandma. I had gifted it to her for Christmas last year and finally remembered to ask to borrow it. It's a stunning look at tragic loss. 
Elizabeth Alexander is a world renowned poet (she teaches at Yale and read a poem at Barack Obama's inauguration) and a beautiful writer who lost her husband suddenly at only fifty years old. She recounts how she grieved his death with her two young sons. It's lovely and hard and strong, and I highly recommend.

I rewatched Julie and Julia while I was home from work last week (ugh I love that movie) and it's rekindled my Paris obsession and fascination with Julia Child, so I immediately ordered her biography because I read that it includes a lot of the letters she and her husband, Paul, wrote to family back in the states while they lived abroad.

Ugh Stanley Tucci all day!!! But also this quote that Paul ACTUALLY said to Julia Child. Like, come on. Heart eyes for days.

A few last couch lounges near the tree were a favorite last week (ignore the very dimmed lights on top...)

I asked for this moisturizer for Christmas and I'm obsessed. If you're oily like me, this is the answer. It's SO good. Of course I can't use it right now as the temp in Chicago is currently in single digits or lower and my skin has gone super dry, but this is perfect for literally any other time during the year when it isn't "feels like -17" out. Highly recommend.
Tomorrow Chelsie and I are having a girls day and I'm so excited! We're going to see Lady Bird in the afternoon (we've been waiting to see this movie!), get dinner, and then veg out in front of the TV with snacks all night. Couldn't be more excited to spend some time with her.

Has anyone seen?! The reviews are incredible! Greta Gerwig is such a badass and I loved, loved, loved Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn, so I can't wait to see her in this.


Well I can't wait for some girl time this weekend, sleeping in, and finishing up season four of WCTH.
Happy weekend, everyone!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Travel Recap - Niagara Falls

Took an unexpected month-long break there, didn't I? I've been in a weird funk for the last few weeks (for various reasons) and I guess I needed a break from most things. Oddly enough, this little weekend trip I took with my mom and siblings over Columbus Day weekend came at a great time, as I definitely needed to get away.

We flew out of Chicago Thursday morning on the shortest flight I think I've ever been on (although I finished an entire issue of Glamour which was magical). 

Our hotel in Niagara Falls was a few minutes walk from the falls themselves which made for a cool location. 

On our first day, we walked around town before grabbing dinner.

The town is kind of a strange mix of super touristy stuff mixed with areas that are under construction mixed with charming little nooks and crannies. 

We had dinner at Kobans where we all ate platefuls of pierogis. 

Like the town itself, this place was a mix of randomness. It was nautical themed with a hint of Halloween in its decor ;)

On Friday we ventured out on our four-hour tour of the falls which started at the Maid of the Mist. 

We came down from the observation area where we collected our ponchos and boarded the boat.

The falls coming up around the corner!

It didn't help that it was a cloudy day, but the boat gets you so close to the falls that it becomes almost impossible to see anything. It gets SO misty. Therefore, my pictures aren't that great, ha!

Siblings in our ponchos. We had such a fun time laughing and being goofy while getting pretty wet. 

The view from back up on the observation platform/area.

Next our guide took us over to the Cave of the Winds which is also located in Niagara State Park and allows you to get up close to the Niagara Gorge.

They've recently added a small section with hands-on exhibits and a movie to watch before heading to the gorge. There's also a bunch of information about Tesla who built the first hydroelectric power plant which started the electrification of the United States by harnessing power from the falls. To me, the history behind the falls is honestly almost more compelling than the falls themselves.

We got these cool ass shoes ;) which actually came in handy when we went on a boat ride over the rapids later that weekend.

Every fall they take these stairs and decks down to protect them from the harsh winters, and then in the spring, they repaint and waterproof them so they're ready for the summer tourists. 
I can't imagine how soaked the workers get every time they tear them down and then rebuild.

That's how close you get to the falls! You can reach out and touch them.

Here are my dorky siblings getting soaked on the Hurricane Deck. It's ridiculous how much energy you can feel from the falls radiating off that deck. It's no wonder that kind of power has been able to electrify a whole city (and then our country).

A little calmer back up above.

Loved getting to see some of the leaves changing color.

The Cave of the Winds is actually located where the power plant was originally located.

To finish our tour, our guide took us to a look-out point to see the rapids that are created some miles past the falls. Some are category five rapids which is crazy. 

The boat we were on on Sunday took us to this exact location and it was awesome to see the rapids up close. 

On Saturday we got up leisurely and had breakfast at Third Street Retreat which was a cool diner find. 

They had shelves of books and records all over the walls which made for interesting conversation.

I got a fried egg sandwich and hash browns which we think was just chopped up tator tots and now believe that to be the most genius idea of all time. They were SO good. 

We didn't have major plans for the day, so when we saw a listing for an outlet mall about ten minutes away, we decided to check it out. It ended up being a really nice mall (better than any of the outlets I've been to at home quite honestly) and I found a bunch of deals at Loft, New York and Company, and the Cosmetics Company Store. 

We hit up DiCamillo's Bakery on the way back to our hotel and then stopped at Donatellos for personal pizzas.

On Sunday we did a whitewater rapids tour with Niagara Jet Adventures which I ended up LOVING.

We sat up in the area that isn't enclosed which made it even more fun. I'm typically not someone who likes to get wet (water parks and rides are not my idea of fun...) because I hate being in wet clothes afterward. But we brought clothes to change into and it ended up not being a big deal at all. 

When we visited the Grand Canyon last year, Sammy really wanted to go whitewater rafting and I was terrified and absolutely refused and now I really regret it. I texted him after and said this gave me the courage to do it. I'll get on the rapids any time I'm near some (and am with an experienced guide ;) ). 

I weirdly got emotional being on them. They're so powerful and strong, but they're gorgeous. Seems like a weird thing to say or think about waves, but they're unlike anything I've ever seen. Nature is crazy, man.

The company is located right off a really pretty dock, so we enjoyed the view while waiting for our Uber.

We hadn't eaten all day, so we headed over to Michael's which was a restaurant recommendation from my dad.

It was an old-school style place and right up my alley. I wish my dad had been with us because he would have loved it. They also had the cutest wallpaper ever.

Amazing chicken soup with cavatelli.

Ugh, I loved this old-school vibe. From the looks of it, you would never know the food would be as good as it was. I got a huge plate of pasta and enjoyed it to an embarrassing degree.

We ordered fried dough for dessert and this is the plate the waitress brought us--ha! We took like half of it back to the hotel and snacked on it later.

Loved that picture of the original sign. 

On Monday we had some time to kill before our flight, so we walked around town some more and wandered back into the state park.

I would spend so much time in there if I lived in the area. It was so peaceful being that close to the water and it's clean and kept up really well.

It was a nice weekend away especially since it was a perfect balance of leisure and activity. We slept in every morning, took our time, and didn't feel rushed to get to anything because my mom booked all activities for later in the afternoons. 
I spent a lot of time reading Harry Potter (much to my dismay ;) but everyone at work seems to be thrilled) and was able to start and finish the second book and most of the third. 
It was also somewhat of a bittersweet trip as it could be the last time the four of us take a trip just the four of us. Next year, Sammy could be available to come with and my siblings may have significant others of their own that can join, which will be great (!), but it was nice to just be our goofy selves that we kind of only show each other.
And it was nice to come home feeling refreshed after the last few weeks of feeling anxious and a little out of whack. 

Definitely recommend seeing the falls. It's just one of those things you "have" to see, even though I loved the rapids and all the food-finds a little more ;) In my opinion, it doesn't hold a candle to the Grand Canyon, but definitely worth the trip, especially for the history.