Saturday, January 14, 2012

Operation Wedding is Underway

Since our engagement, I'd been feeling rather antsy because we didn't have a venue. Luke and I knew that we wanted to get married in Madison. It's absolutely gorgeous in the summer. Our families live nearby. And we really grew together as a couple in Madison.

In our quest for venues, I think we both had a feeling that the Memorial Union would end up being our first choice. We looked into other gorgeous options, including the Overture Center and the Madison Club, but something about the Union just felt right.

We decided to get married in the summer of 2013, after Luke finished his MBA program. With his graduation date on June 15th, that only left two other Saturdays in June. Rather than trying to cram our wedding into that month, too, we decided to opt for a July wedding.

Given that the Union is a highly coveted venue, we had to enter a "lottery" and hope that our number was drawn before all of the Saturdays were taken. The lottery fell on Jan. 4th, which was Luke's first day of class and the beta launch date for the website I've been working on for the past few months. Thankfully, my dear brother, Ben, lives in Madison and attended the lottery in our place. He must be a good luck charm, because we got a date at our favorite venue: Tripp Commons at the Memorial Union, which overlooks the beautiful Lake Mendota and infamous Union Terrace.

Courtesy of Jeff Miller & UW-Madison University Communications
(Side note: I specifically remember sitting at the Terrace one Saturday during my senior year of college and looking up at the Tripp Commons deck. There was a wedding going on, and I remembered thinking at that moment, "What a brilliant idea. Could there be a better place for a wedding?" It's still a little surreal that we will be getting married there, too.)

And in other great news, we've hired a photographer: Kim Thiel Photography! Her work is stunning. I was first introduced to Kim Thiel's amazing photography back in 2007 when Ben & Tara got married. She exploded onto the Wisconsin photography scene and is in such high demand, I knew we'd have to book far in advance. (We're 18 months out, and she already had other couples who were interested in the dates we were looking at.) We skyped with Kim this week to make sure we'd all be a good fit for each other, discussed our vision for the day and chatted about our engagement session. Kim also suggested I start using Pinterest for inspiration & ideas.

(Pinterest is fantastic, by the way. You start pinning a few things here and there, and the next thing you know, it's two hours later and you have no idea what happened. It's great. I haven't experienced anything like it since The Sims.)

So, needless to say, it's been a big week in Wedding World.

p.s. I swear I will not turn this into a wedding blog. Promise.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Hap Hap Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, folks! 

courtesy of google

2012 arrived with a bang! And I do not mean fireworks (at least I didn't hear any here in Chicago). Just as 2011 was coming to a close, I got the best news in a long time. Last night, I received a full-time job offer...and I accepted, happily!

I will be staying at Sandbox Industries and working as a Research & Marketing Analyst at Lab42, one of the startups that developed in their incubator. I couldn't be more excited. What a great way to ring in the new year!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Home for the Holidays

I've been very fortunate to spend a good chunk of time at home this holiday season. (Thank you, Employer, for being closed between Christmas and New Years.) The theme of the holidays? Eat, drink and be merry, of course.

My nephew, Westley, is just learning how to do the "eating" part.

Basically, we all just sit around and watch him. Not only is he adorable (and knows it), but it's just fascinating to watch someone learn how to eat. He loves apples and rosemary-flavored Triscuits. Fancy, no?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Holiday Merriment

As some of you know, I've been doing part-time work for Sandbox Industries, an incubator/venture capital firm here in Chicago. Sandbox is a pretty incredible place for many reasons, not the least of which being that it treats its employees well. On Thursday, we were encouraged to take a break for the sake of some holiday festivities.

I bring you my 2011 gingerhome:

Bonus: midday sugar rush

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Time to Trim the Tree

After waaaaay too many years (six) of settling for a tiny three-foot Christmas tree, we finally have room for a full-size beauty!

We opted for a pre-lit tree. Step one: read directions. (Actually, I think we plugged in the bottom part, just to make sure it worked. We held our breath in a moment of Clark-Griswold-esque anticipation.)

We got our first "family" ornament as part of an engagement gift from my family.

Ta da!

Happy holidays, one and all!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Good news!

Great news, friends! Luke proposed last night...and I said yes!

After 11 years of dating, Luke and I are officially engaged. When I came home from work, he had decorated our apartment in a very festive, autumnal theme. He passed it off casually, saying that he wanted to decorate for Thanksgiving, since we didn't get to decorate for Halloween. Fair enough, I thought.

Then, he pointed out the little pumpkin he'd gotten at Crate & Barrel. I opened the top of it...and voila! The ring. And it's a beauty! We are ecstatic and can't wait to celebrate with everyone!

Monday, October 31, 2011

And then this happened...

Luke and I have always been big fans of Halloween. What's not to love? As a candy. As an "adult"...excuse to dress up and go out.

For the past several years, we've deck out our apartment with spooky decor, filled candy bowls to the brim, and invited pals over for a fun time (costumes required). However, this year, Luke spent most of the weekend studying for his first round of midterms, so we decided to responsible adults and not throw a party.

Still, it was Halloween, so we donned our first "couples" costume and headed out for our first Halloween in Chicago.

Luke's 'Ron Burgundy' 'stache was definitely a hit.

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Sweet Alliance

I hate to brag, but Wicker Park is pretty much the best when it comes to 'hoods in Chicago. Every day, I discover new reasons to love this place, including the perfect neighborhood cafe: Alliance Bakery. You cannot walk by without stopping to admire the jaw-dropping cakes in the window. 

After walking past (and drooling) several times, I finally got around to trying the amazing treats, thanks to the suggestion by Luke's sister. The bakery features European pastries and desserts, each one looking more delicious than the last. After a few minutes of deliberation, we settled on a carrot cake cupcake, topped with creamy cream cheese frosting and a chocolate salted caramel ganache cupcake...and a ginger snap...and a walnut raspberry cookie. (For the record, that's pretty much how we ordered, too. "Is there anything else I can get you?" "Um, yeah, we'll take a ginger snap." "And a walnut raspberry cookie." "And we'll try that salted caramel cupcake, too." We were thisclose to ordered a vanilla cake pop and pumpkin spice macaroon but decided to wait until next time.)

Friends & time you come to visit, we are going to Alliance. You'll thank me. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Running Chicago

My parents were here in Chicago this weekend, because my dad ran the Chicago Marathon on Sunday. He has completed over a dozen marathons now, but after every race, I'm still amazed by his strength, determination and endurance.

Plus, as someone who has completed three marathons, I truly respect the effort that goes into each race. Since I wasn't running this year, I decided to make a sign the night before--not only for encouragement, but also so that my dad could see us in the sea of spectators. He seemed to appreciate it at mile 18!

When my dad passed, I turned the sign around to reveal my words of "encouragement" for the other runners: Run like you stole something! Lots of people had a good chuckle while others were 100% zoned in on finishing and were barely looking around at that point. I've been there. I get it.

The marathon is really an incredible feat. It feels weird to not be training this fall (I continue to recover slowly from a nagging foot injury) but I hope to be pounding the pavement come spring. In the mean time, I really enjoyed this video with footage from last year's Chicago Marathon (which both of my parents completed!). It truly conveys the sense of excitement and anxiety you feel before, during and after the marathon. Take a peek:

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Warming Up at Hot Chocolate

Luke and I always like to celebrate birthdays with a special night out. This year has been no exception. We celebrated my birthday last month at Chicago q, a "modern urban BBQ experience," with mouth-watering ribs and the best honey cornbread I've ever had.

Yesterday, we celebrated Luke's birthday in a similarly fine fashion. We ventured north on Damen to Hot Chocolate, a beautiful restaurant specializing in American contemporary cuisine and--you guessed it--desserts. Owner Mindy Segal has been honored by the James Beard Foundation several times, and we knew we were in for a real treat.

We started with mussels, but these were not your everyday fare. Rather, they were made with bacon, shallots, cream and PBR. A hipster's dream. Next, I enjoyed a beautifully prepared flank steak. But I must admit, I was thinking of hot chocolate and desserts the entire time.

After toiling over several hot chocolate options--all of which sounded delectable--I finally decided on the Medium hot chocolate: milk chocolate with a touch of dark chocolate and caramel. It was served with a cube of marshmallow on the side, which I promptly submerged, delicately of course, into my mug of goodness.

Courtesy: Popsugar Chicago
As if that wasn't enough, dessert arrived! Normally, I am not the biggest fan of sorbet at a restaurant (when so many other delicious options present themselves). But it came highly recommended by the server, and I'm so glad we listened. The four flavors--nectarine, concord grape, cantelope, and apple--all tasted exactly like the fruit. I don't know how they do it. And for a more decadent choice, we got a red velvet cake taht was flavored with raspberries to create the red color (no food coloring here!).

To put it simply, I was in heaven. And I'll be back.

In the mean time, I will attempt to recreate Mindy's Banana Brioche Monkey Bread, a recipe that she shared on Martha Stewart in 2010.

Stay tuned for the results!