For the last two Decembers that I haven’t lived in New York, I’ve taken a trip back to visit. Both times with the help of my fabulous friend, Bonnie, I’ve been able to surprise and shock my girlfriends at our monthly girls’ dinner. Once a month, since we’re all so busy, one of the girls (it rotates) hosts and chooses a theme and everyone brings a dish to share. This way everyone gets to see and spend time with everyone. In December it’s usually some sort of holiday theme and there is always a gift exchange. It has become a thing for me to knit something and this year was no different.

20140107-222202.jpg As this picture may give away, there’s a lot of laughing, a lot of drinking, and a lot of truly amazing girl bonding time. I have looked forward to this trip for the last two Decembers and will continue to for as long as we keep up these dinners. I’m not sure I’ll be able to surprise the girls again (I thought two was pushing it), but that’s ok. Time with them is all I need. Although, this year the hubs also surprised two of the girls’ husbands and then they all showed up to girls’ dinner where they all surprised everyone. It was pretty awesome. Surprising people makes me happy.

So here is the cowl I whipped up on the flight to New York. It was super easy and really quick because the yarn is so chunky. I didn’t use a pattern – I just knitted a row, then did a row of yarn overs, then knitted a row, then did a row of yarn overs, etc. Super easy and so very warm. And it thrills me that my hand made gifts are always one of the first things to be stolen 3 times. (That’s the max and the person who gets it the third time gets to keep it.)

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See how chunky and warm it looks on! I’m sure it has come in nice and handy this winter. I’ve been meaning to make another for me, I just haven’t yet gotten around to it. I’ll do it eventually.

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I can’t wait for my trip again next December. And spending time with my girls. It’s the best. They’re the best.

After a much longer than intended absence, I am back! Back with an update on some winter cleaning! I was recently talking with a co-worker about how big my closet is and how it’s organized, but it could stand a little tidying up. You know how it goes – you move into your house or condo or apartment and get everything all set up and organized and over time as you go through your daily routine, things start to get a little less organized here and there. As I was putting away my luggage from a recent trip I got into a clean-things-out-and-organize mood, so I did just that.

Mostly I needed to clean up the top shelf of my closet, which was occupied by a bunch of stuff I never use and really probably didn’t need and I’d been itching to reorganize my little jewelry table.

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You can see that my top shelf is pretty functional and my milk crates add another layer of shelving while separating things like my scarves (these are just the thick winter scarves along with hats and gloves – the thinner scarves hang on a hanger in the far back left) so they don’t get all disorganized and they’ll stack higher. I’ve also got two bags full of bags. One is gift bags and tissue paper and the other is a tote I have my clutches and small purses in. Then in the back of my closet is my yarn stash and fabrics/threads for sewing. Lets just ignore that I have THAT much yarn, shall we? You can also see in the foreground some sheets and all my sandals. We don’t have a linen closet and I don’t remove things from my closet seasonally. Blame it on living in Texas and always needing to have sandals handy!

I organize my clothes by type too starting with sleeveless shirts and working back to dresses and then pants and skirts. Within each type, they are rainbow organized. If nothing else, I can tell when someone has borrowed my clothes without asking me. This came in quite handy in college. Hah.

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This is the left wall of the closet and the aforementioned jewelry (and sunglasses) that needed a little love. I still don’t love the way this is organized and am hoping to get a different sort of system…something like this. Right now all my earrings are in a broken plastic thing I got from container store when I moved to New York in 2006, so an upgrade could be a good thing.

Anyway, that’s my update on some little tweaks I’ve made and a nice peak into my huge closet that I’m super grateful for! How do you organize your closet? Got any tips or ideas for me?

As I do every year, in 2013, I made a list of things to do during the year. I didn’t actually make the list on January 1st as I typically do, I made it right around my 30th birthday. Nevertheless, I’m going back to my January 1st, full year, to do list. A couple of things did not get completed, but I’ll carry them over. Here’s what was on my 2013 list:

1. Take a cake decorating class
2. Take a calligraphy class (4/9/13)
3. Read the Chronicles of Narnia
4. Walk around Chicago in the summer. Walk up Lake Michigan. Walk through Lincoln Park. Walk and explore with no real purpose like I did living in New York. I found it the best way to fall in love with the city.
5. Go camping (5/31/13)
6. Donate my hair to Pantene Beautiful Lengths (3/29/13)
7. Learn to solve a Rubik’s cube (did it once, but with a guide, can’t do it on my own yet)
8. Take the hubs up to properly see Michigan (Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes, Traverse City, Mackinac Island, Tahquamenon Falls) (Aug ’13)
9. Finally combine our bank accounts so our $$ is joint (1/19/13)
10. Save $$
11. Hang pictures in our livingroom (You can see more about this one here; April/May ’13)
12. One final, secret thing; I’ll provide an update/share if I can accomplish this one (Done, but needs to be re-done, so will carry over to 2014′s list)

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Here is the list I have put together for 2014. This may get added to – we’ll see!

1. Take a cake decorating class
2. Take another calligraphy class
3. Read a book a month, including the Chronicles of Narnia
4. Repeat the secret thing; I’ll provide an update/share if I can complete
5. Learn to solve a Rubik’s cube
6. Get a puppy (We were supposed to get one in September of ’13 and a week before we were suppose to pick him up, the breeder let us know she had decided to keep him. We were heart broken and hope to get one this spring/summer.)
7. Stop swearing? (Whether or not this can be accomplished is questionable)
8. Save more $$ (maybe we’ll think about trying to buy a place in a year or two)
9. Take pics of scraps from the week (inspired by this)
10. Work out at least 2x per week
11. Plan a friend date twice a month
12. Work hard to make more girl friends
13. Redesign Blog
14. Knit one thing a month (or at least 12 projects during the year)
15. Run 3 5Ks
16. Take the stairs. At home. At work in the same elevator bank. Everywhere I can…unless carrying heavy luggage.

Some secondary things that I know I may not stick to or that I am already doing…
1. In bed by 11
2. Post on the blog once a week
3. Floss once a week (or more)
4. Less Candy Crush (I need a CCAA), Facebook & TV at the end of the day

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Happy New Year!! What’s on your list of things to do this year?

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Happy Anniversary (a day late) to the guy who knows what I’m thinking before I’m thinking it. To the guy who makes me dinner when I work late and then does all the dishes too. To the guy who cleans the shower/bathtub because he knows it’s the one thing I really hate to clean. Happy anniversary to the guy who keeps me warm when I first climb into our cold bed and the guy who takes my picture every day. Happy anniversary to the guy who drives me to and from places so I don’t have to take a cab.

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It has been an amazing two years with so many experiences. We’ve traveled to new places, tried new things, made new friends, and grown even closer. I can’t wait to see what the next 2 years hold for us an then the next two and the next two and the next two and the next two…

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Happy Anniversary!

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You can find more pictures of the wedding in our Style Me Pretty post here.

I was recently invited to a private dinner event at Little Goat here in Chicago and I must say, I am entirely obsessed with their private rooftop space.

Here’s the table all set and ready for us.
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I love the glassware on the right. It matches my dishes and I wanted to steal a set of 8 or 10.
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They had some fun goat pictures on the wall next to our table and the painting on the floor *gasp* I am obsessed.
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We had a great family style meal. I honestly have no idea what we ate because I didn’t order anything and I didn’t ask a lot of questions. I mostly just ate what was put in front of me. Great character trait, I know.
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We had our own little personalized welcome sign and if you look closely at that same picture, you might notice that the wall behind the door is very lightly painted like the floor in the dining room. I love the subtle detail! All the character of the space was just amazing from the mixed and matched, rustic silverware to the wall of pots…and that AMAZING chef’s kitchen.
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I couldn’t get enough. I didn’t want to leave. Here were are two weeks later and I’m still telling people I want to live there. I hope I have the chance to go back and drool some more another time.

One of my contributions for this year’s Thanksgiving was my Grandma’s cinnamon rolls. I’ve only made them once before and was super excited to make them, but also a little unsure of everything since the one time I made them was about 4 years ago.

I made sure I had all my ingredients and was ready to start the dough. Once you have it all mixed and ready to go, you have to let it rise in a big bowl. Ideally, there is a sunny, warm place to put it. Unfortunately, that’s a bit difficult to find in Chicago at the end of November. I set it near one of the heating ducts in the kitchen and called it a day.
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Here’s the dough pretty much risen. It never rose as much as I remember it rising as a child. Maybe my bowl was bigger than grandma’s? Maybe it’s the lack of heat/sunlight? Either way, you let it rise once, poke it down, let it rise again and then you roll in cinnamon and sugar and tie into knots. I didn’t take pictures of this because my hands were all gooey.
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Once you have your dough coated in goodness, tied in knots and put in their baking dishes, you let them rise until they’re double in size. (Lots of rising and waiting involved in this recipe.) Once they’ve risen this third and final time (which is what you see here), you pop them in the over for a few minutes and…
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Viola! Warm, gooey, sticky goodness.
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Here’s one of the pans of the finished product. This recipe made at least 50 cinnamon rolls on Wednesday and they were all gone by Saturday morning. So much work involved, but I kind of can’t wait to make them again soon. So worth the work…and waiting…and rising.
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Last year, after moving to Chicago and settling in, I remember looking into 5Ks the hubs and I could run. Well, he would run them, I would whine and struggle and pant and wheeze through them (and maybe walk for a minute). I found the Hot Chocolate 5K, which is one of the largest 5Ks in Chicago. It was sold out last year when we tried to sign up, so I was really looking forward to signing up this year.

The hubs and I met up with a friend the morning of the race (she snuck up from her holding area a ways behind us) and we all ran together. Here are some shots of the crowd, the start and a before picture of the three of us.

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I struggled through the first two miles with them and walked for a minute during the third mile. I have no endurance and I hadn’t run a single time since the Run10Feed10 10K I ran (half of) in October. We ran through some of the Loop and ended in Grant Park, close to where we started. The trees were SO pretty the weekend of the 5K and I snapped this picture below (you can see the lake way in the background) along with some after shots of us ready to eat all the yummy goodness you get after the run.
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You got chocolate fondue, a banana, a Rice Krispie Treat, a marshmallow, a brownie (which I couldn’t eat – too much chocolate), and some prezels. We also got hot chocolate, obviously, but it wasn’t the best I’ve had and I stuck with my fondue…and the fondue of those who were with me…
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This is a panoramic I took of the whole finisher’s area including the downtown skyline. Wasn’t it a pretty day?!?
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Here we are all together after! The two who ran the whole way and me! I had a great time, but next year if I do it again, I can’t do it with absolutely no running leading up to it. I need to be able to run the entire 5K…it’s not that far.
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