Memory Lane

I was 4 years old when I first walked down this majestic tree-lined lane that will forever hold a piece of my heart and so many of my favorite childhood memories. Countless friendships developed, adventures sought, dreams formed, and loved ones hugged, all on this lane. I typically have the worst memory but for some reason I can stand here on this path and replay my life, all of the memories in my head, like a home video. It's the most marvelous thing. Anyone who knows me, knows that I have dreamt of being a bride and a mom since I was a little peanut myself. I never would have imagined standing here someday with my gorgeous husband, who is beyond perfect for me, and my little boy. It's incredible how some things seem so distant when you're young, and then you blink and you find yourself living it. I can't wait to frame these photos to remind myself of how faithful and good God has been to me. Life hasn't always been easy, still isn't. I've had plenty of life-altering hurts and bumps along the way, but God has been gracious to me and allowed me to experience his blessing of family and what a gift that is. I pray that I never take it for granted, for no one is guaranteed tomorrow. I am learning to live each day with a thankful heart, and an eternal perspective. 

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

Pure Michigan

A few weeks ago my husband was traveling out west for work so I decided to take a nice long vacation with Beau to Michigan, at my parents' summer home. My family has been going to this town since I was 4 years old. It is like home to me, and yet the visits are few and far between now a days that it has the ability to make me feel like I am really "away" on vacation. Summers in Michigan are honestly the best. The beaches are pure, white sand, something we don't get in Chicago. The sand dunes are absolutely stunning, and the sunsets are unlike anything I've seen. This small, country town, set on a beautiful lake that feeds right into Lake Michigan. You have the woods, the farms, the lake, and the BIG lake, which feels more like the ocean, all in one town.

There are always so many things I try to fit in while I am there. My parents' home is right off of the golf club, so we get plenty of sunset golf in while we are there. Also, it's a huge sailing town, like talented sailers who compete in races all over the world, which makes for a colorful scene on the water. Some of my favorite summer activities include: boating, berry picking, beach bumming, sand dune climbing, paddle boarding, kayaking, regatta watching, happy hour drinking, s'more eating, and sunset swooning. Some of Beau's favorite activities include "driving" the boat, golfing, driving in his "new" blue car that his grandpa restored for him from his childhood, swimming (although not such a fan of swim school), eating lots of fresh berries, playing in the beautiful sand at the beach, and staying up as late as possible. Oh yea, and skipping any sort of rest break. There's just so much to do and see, I can't blame him. We both get a serious case of FOMO when we are there. 

Here are a few photos from our recent trip, which included my husband joining us over the 4th of July weekend and celebrating my parents' upcoming 40th wedding anniversary. We also got in a quick trip to a favorite spot just north of our town, called Pentwater. Cheers to all the little moments that summers are made of. 

Summer Hosting Tips

I thought of a few summer, cost-effective tips I have for hosting friends and family at your house for dinner + drinks. Here are some simple tricks that can add to a lovely evening:

Signature cocktail. I like to have a pitcher of iced tea, a carafe of water, and a signature cocktail poured and ready to go on a bar cart or tray, so guests don't have to feel awkward asking for drink options when they arrive. Better yet, they won't need to go rummaging through your refrigerator. See this previous post for my signature cocktail of choice this summer, the Moscow Mule

Skip the appetizers. For a smaller gathering, I don't always feel like spending the money on a bunch of appetizers and filling everyone up before dinner. It's nice though to give guests something small to munch on while you get things prepared. My new go-to is a bowl of rainier cherries. They always seem to be a favorite in the summer, since they are seasonal and not everyone buys them for their house. My husband is not a big cherry guy, but I found him devouring a bowl recently saying, "wow these are amazing." Put a few bowls out, on a coffee table or serving tray along with a bowl of mixed nuts and after-dinner mints, and you won't miss the appetizers. Make sure you have cocktail napkins nearby for easy disposal of cherry pits. Or you can also pit them yourself beforehand, especially if kids are going to be around, with this tool that I have and love. 

Dinner drink change-up. After guests have enjoyed a signature cocktail, I like to offer something else when we sit down to eat. I typically have the usual wine, beer, and lemonade on hand, but my husband has introduced me to his own twist on a delicious summer drink…Sangria. I have to say he is a master Sangria-maker, so he has allowed me to include his recipe below for all to enjoy. It looks super summery and festive, and you can make it quickly and easily by the glass or pitcher. I'm pretty confident it will be a hit at your next gathering!

Dessert. Being a dessert lover I can never skip it, especially when I am hosting. It can be a bit of a downer, though, when you prepare or buy a decadent dessert, and everyone passes on it. Instead of a heavy dessert in the summer, I offer something lighter like a bowl of sorbet or ice cream (regular and dairy-free options like this, for people who can't tolerate dairy, like myself). Dress it up with some berries, chocolate syrup, or coconut flakes and people won't be able to say no. Also, if there are kids around, they will enjoy a little without getting a major tummy ache! 

Coffee + Tea. Have a pot of coffee brewed in advance for those who love a little decaf with dessert. Or for your non-dessert takers, offer some tea instead. Fill a mason jar full of different tea bags and pass it around. I personally enjoy a nice cup of tea on a summer evening, so when I am entertaining I use a few labeled mason jars, one for caffeinated black teas, one for green and detox teas, and one for caffeine-free and calming teas. I place them on the table after dinner and let my guests choose.  

Decor. Don't want to spend money on flowers but want the house and tablescape to look fresh and nice? I'm all about foraging. It's free, unique, and awesome. Forage for some beautiful greens in your yard. I love using my magnolia tree branches, and sprigs of fern from my front planters. Arrange them in little julep votives or smaller vases so guests can see one another when seated at the table. For a fancier occasion, cut them up and incorporate them into the place setting for a nice touch.  

 Here is my husband's superb Sangria recipe (serving size is per glass) :

  • fill half of the glass with red or white wine    (Postulate chardonnay or merlot boxed wine has become a favorite, available at Trader Joe's. 1 box= 2 bottles of wine, it's super cheap, convenient size for storing, it doesn't go bad, and it's delicious)
  • 1/4 cup - 1/3 cup of plain sparkling water
  • few ice cubes
  • squeeze a wedge of lime juice into glass
  • squeeze a wedge of lemon juice into glass
  • add a fresh wedge of lime and lemon
  • add a couple of frozen raspberries and strawberries
  • top off with a fresh blackberry
  • sip and enjoy, and refill of course!

 

Sunday Stroll

Sometimes it's hard to keep a toddler busy on the weekends (or just in general) so my husband and I have made a big effort to do a lot of exploring with our little man this summer. Not only does he have fun visiting new places, we get to know our area better as well, and spend quality time as a family. It was a beautiful, peaceful Sunday afternoon to go adventuring through a nearby seminary. The views were breathtaking so I obviously had to snap a few photos. I love documenting sweet moments like these that I know I will look back on, years from now, and smile. It was a great reminder to me that I don't have to go far to find a little rest, beautiful vistas, and some inspiration!

Nikki + Mark

Nikki and Mark welcomed baby Olivia Lucille into this world recently and wow, is she a doll. They are all handling things so beautifully, especially big brother, William. I get so nervous even thinking about expanding my own family, but when I spend time with families like this one, I am reminded that there is so much excitement, newness, and beauty in the process. I think it's so incredible to see families adjust to a whole new life and a new family dynamic. I love the way Nikki manages the newborn phase with such grace and elegance. She opened the door to welcome me into her beautiful home, with a sweet smile on her face, even though I was early, William was still eating dinner, and the baby was unexpectedly awake and active. I am so grateful to Nikki and Mark for allowing me to visit their home and spend time with their family, and what a precious one it is. Nikki and Mark, I hope these photos will provide you with a glimpse of the joy you all shared amidst the adventure of welcoming a new baby into your clan. If only we could keep them so little for just a bit longer. 

Celebrate Summer

Happy first official day of summer! If you know or meet my husband, something you will learn about him very quickly is his love for coffee and doughnuts. You will also know, from the previous post, that the Doughnut Vault in the city is our absolute favorite, and in a way, has ruined all other doughnut-eating experiences for us. Since moving to the suburbs, we had to scout out a few new places, and it sure didn't take long. Lee Doughnuts is pretty outstanding, the red velvet in particular. (A post about our favorite spots in the suburbs, coming soon.)  We usually can't have doughnuts without coffee, so when it comes to buying a bag of grounds to have in the house, it's an easy choice- Chicago-based coffee house, Intelligentsia. You can buy a bag of grounds at most grocery stores in the area, or order seasonal specials online. Who wouldn't want to try a cup of coffee with notes of pink grapefruit, starfruit, and toffee? Their blends are deliciously unique. A cup of joe and a red velvet doughnut makes for a pretty sweet morning. 

Coffee helps take the edge off the early mornings, if I actually remember to drink it after I pour it. I am a stay-at-home mom this year for the first time, which has proven to be way more exhausting than I thought. Let me tell you, moms are just superheroes, whether you stay at home all day or not. It is however, the best and most important job in the world in my opinion. After 10 hours of picking up after my sweet little dude, I am ready for my own little pick me up! Is it 5 o'clock yet? One of my favorite traditions that my sister started a while ago was to declare every summer the "Summer of (fill in your favorite cocktail)."  Whether it be for casual drinks with friends, date night, or the perfect wedding cocktail hour drink, it's nice to not waste time deciding, and it makes for fun memories. One year we declared it the "Summer of White Wine Spritzers," another was the "Summer of Gin + Tonics," and the tradition continues.  My husband loved this idea so he decided to jump on the bandwagon, which makes it easy for me when I grocery shop. We decided that it is the "Summer of Moscow Mules," which is super unoriginal, I know, but I have to say I love making them from scratch and adding tiny variations to them. It's so easy and something I can actually make quickly for friends and family and not mess up! Plus it's a great summer drink sans alcohol, give it a try!

Classic Moscow Mule Recipe:

  • 1.5-2 ounces Vodka // Tito's Vodka is a good choice
  • 2- 3 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lime juice 
  • wedge of lime
  • crushed ice or a handful of ice cubes
  • fill up the rest of the glass with ginger beer // Trader Joe's Brewed Ginger Beer is delicious
  • if you're feeling adventurous, add a sprig of mint, a frozen blackberry, and a little lime zest OR a splash of freshly squeezed orange juice
  • pour into a chilled glass or the classic copper mug, sip, and enjoy
  • side note: it's a refreshing and tasty drink even without the Vodka

Chicago

Sweet home, Chicago. I just love summertime in Chicago. There really is nothing like it. It is, however, amusing to me that after the first string of warm days I seem to forget about the long, brutal winters and all the days I threatened to move.  At the end of the day though, I have so much love for this city, because not only did I grow up here, but my husband and I met and dated in the city in the summer of 2012. It was magical. It was right around this time exactly, that he took me to one of my favorite restaurants, Le Colonial, and asked me to date him exclusively. I always get nostalgic this time of year, as I also prepare to celebrate a wedding anniversary, that was here in the city too.  My husband, son, and I took a 6am Saturday stroll recently, (our little man is not one to sleep in) to some of our favorite streets and spots in the area. It's actually really pleasant to be out and about in the city before it really "wakes up."  I dedicate this blog post to my husband, and the sweet love story that started in this precious city, and for all of us Chicagoans who put up with the winter (and spring) to fully appreciate the beautiful days. Chicago summer, we see you. 

Here are a few (just a few) of my favorite Chicago things:

1. The Doughnut Vault. Still, in my opinion, the tastiest doughnuts around. // 2. Oak Street. Not only for the shopping, but just the hustle and bustle, the most amazing Starbucks which serves wine, and my old, vintage apartment building 40 East. // 3. Bonpoint. Posh children's clothing boutique. If not to buy, it makes for great window shopping. // 4. Le Colonial. It's located on Rush Street, so enjoy some great people watching on the downstairs sidewalk café or have an intimate dinner on the upstairs terrace. Delicious French-Vietnamese cuisine matched with eastern, tropical décor. // 5. Washington Park. Such a beautiful, provençal-style park with an antique fountain and lots of park bench readers, coffee drinkers, and city dwellers, young and old (you used to be able to find my 92 year old grandma out there on sunny days). // 6. BHLDN. Most brides can tell you, this is the spot. Even if you are not planning a wedding, take a stroll through this place and soak in the beauty. // 7. Lake Front. Just east of the Drake, there are some beautiful condo buildings which always have incredible floral arrangements right at the entrance. And who doesn't want to soak in the views of the bright blue water on a sunny, Chicago day? // 8. My parents' city digs. In the heart of the Gold Coast, it's our refuge and happy place. The rooftop pool has pretty rad views of the neighborhood. 

Kaci + Chase

This post makes me so happy. I had the privilege of photographing this stunning family at the beach on a beautiful sunny evening. Kaci has become a dear friend of mine this year. It's such a blessing to have friends with kids the same age as yours. We are secretly plotting for our kids to date when they grow up. Seriously though, Ruess is the most adorable little girl, who is always styling, and has recently become a big sister to her little brother Reid. I have never met a little guy who is more content, and that smile,  it makes my heart melt. I am always struck by Kaci's ability to parent with such grace, poise, and love. It was so wonderful to finally meet her husband, Chase, and watch him interact so lovingly with his family. I am blessed to know these incredible people, and it doesn't hurt that they are super gorgeous, inside and out. 

Shane

I can't begin to describe how much fun this session was, in celebration of this guy's second birthday! (Oh my gosh, I can't believe our babies are 2!) Shane's mom, Kelly, is a beautiful friend and an amazing mom. It is so fun watching her interact with and love on her little man! I am so happy to be able to record memories like these at our local ice cream shop, sharing some amazing treats and taking a casual frolic (or sprint) around town. Shane is speedy y'all! Are they not full of sweetness though?! 

 

Lindsay + Bobby

Oh, this sweet family! This was supposed to be one of those toasty Chicago spring days and of course it was about 45 degrees on the lake, but you would never know it from these smiling faces! Lindsay is such an amazing mommy-friend to me and is one of those people who is consistantly calm, easy-going and a joy to be around. She also happens to roll with the cutest crew. Her two boys, Camden and Grady, are incredibly adorable.  It's so fun to see her husband, Bobby, love on their family too. They didn't have to try too hard to make this session stunning. Can't stop staring at these photos and feeling the love they have for one another. Love them.