1 Cakes & Louie: August 2013

Monday, August 26, 2013


The hubs asked me last night on our way out to run an errand "honey, do you think we need to call a doctor to do something about your ADD?" While I know he was (sort of) kidding, he had a point - I spent a good chunk of the weekend stressing out about how much stuff we have to do but rarely finding myself able to focus on just one thing. Truth be told, I was diagnosed with a mild case of ADD in college but have never really found it to affect me negatively - I've just accepted my non-stop million-miles-a-minute brain as who I am, and for the most part everything works out just fine. This weekend alone, I attempted to clean our office, bought a new computer (that has to go in the mess of an office somewhere), decided I wanted to paint the bathroom and picked out a color to do it in, read half a book, and came up with a list of at least 6 other projects I want to tackle sooner than later among other things. Overall I realize this really isn't a whole lot, but the lack of attention to one thing at a time has taken it's toll on me. My goal for this week is to attempt to focus - decide on a project and don't move on to the next until I've finished it. Given how excited I am about the new computer and painting the bathroom... this could potentially be an insanely productive week if I manage to keep myself grounded.

Wish me luck ;). Happy Monday!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

If I Had a Million Dollars: Fall Wardrobe

Like it or not, fall weather is right around the corner here in Chicago, and given the mediocre weather we've had for the majority of August, I wouldn't be surprised if cooler temps sneaks up on us sooner than later. Given that I am far too lazy and cheap to go get another pedicure so sandals look cute and I have a closet full of long sleeves and sweaters but sorely lacking in tanks and tees... I suppose I shouldn't be too bummed that it will probably be time for light layers before I know it.

August is the one time a year where I feel like I sort of almost care about fashion, and that is simply because of the GIGANTIC September issues of magazines like Vogue and Elle that are full of hundreds and hundreds of pretty pictures that even Gap and Old Navy lovers like me can find themselves drooling over. Usually, I refrain from buying these issues because I know I will purchase very little of what's in them (if anything), but this year I've decided I'm going to treat myself to a couple and see what all is out there in the forecasts for fall clothing.

Ever the wannabe fashionista, outside of magazines I continue to rely on things like Pinterest for outfit inspiration. I have high hopes for a comfy yet casually sophisticated wardrobe for the coming season, and plan to do my best to track down at least some of the items in this little roundup -

Top row: a touch of camo  //  distressed denim  //  an oversized and insanely cozy gray sweater
Middle row: floral pants  //  the perfect white tee  //  graphic tees for under cardigans and blazers
Bottom row:  elbow patches  //  a comfy white sweater  //  a little bit of leopard

all images sourced from my Pinterest

Monday, August 19, 2013


Today is the big 3-1 people! I am officially a "30-something" and no longer plain old "30". I feel old, which is kind of a new feeling for me since for whatever reason 30 didn't feel that way. I have really high hopes and really great feelings for the coming year, and I can't wait to see what lies ahead for Dan and I.

We're going out to a favorite restaurant with a bunch of friends tonight, and I am already salivating just thinking about all of the delicious food I plan to consume. I think at some point I may also send the boy to the store for a big bag of tissue paper confetti so I can attempt my own version of the photo above because I love it THAT much.

Happy birthday to me!

Monday, August 12, 2013

And Some Picklesssss

In the last couple of years, I have developed a strange obsession with pickles. Specifically, the half-sours from Ted's Montana Grill, which has a location right by FIL's house. A couple months ago, I learned (by asking, duh) that I can buy little to-go containers of the pickles for a whopping 50 cents each, and needless to say I've stopped in plenty of times since to buy a bunch. I've always liked pickles, but I promise you these things are on a completely different level. And every time I mention Ted's pickles, Dan quotes the Dane Cook Burger King skit, hence the title of this post.

Fast forward to this past Saturday when I suckered the hubs into going to the Farmer's Market in search of sugar snap peas. I didn't find what I went for, but I did come home with a huge bunch of basil, a GIANT zucchini, green peppers for my dad, cherry tomatoes, peaches, an assortment of baby potato varieties that we love to throw on the grill in a foil packet with my favorite Stephanie Izard rub, aaaaaand... a bunch of dill and a bag full of pickling cucumbers! It was DIY time in the kitchen, people. And it was fantastic.

The pickling cucumbers were only 50 cents each. I originally bought 3, but ran back up to the Farmer's Market for 4 more in a fit of excitement.

My helpful hubby cut all the cukes into spears for me, knowing I would likely slice my finger open trying to do so.

Meanwhile, I was prepping my mason jars with one finely chopped clove of garlic and a few sprigs of dill each.

After chopping an extra half inch or so off of each spear so they fit, I packed them into the jars.

Then poured over a brine of kosher salt, water and vinegar, and added a few more sprigs of dill to the top.

YUM. Six jars of pickles that I couldn't believe I had to wait 2 days to eat.

Ok, so I totally didn't wait 2 days to eat them. Who's surprised? I taste tested one that evening and it was good, but not outstanding yet. But I brought a full jar over to FIL's yesterday (about 24 hours after making them) and polished the entire thing off with the help of him and all 3 nieces. SO GOOD. I ate another (abundant) helping with dinner tonight and they honestly just keep getting better. I'm planning to take some to the parentals tomorrow to share, and I definitely need to see the bestie in the next couple of days because she happens to appreciate pickles as much as I do. Thankfully, even with lots of sharing I should have a few full jars all to myself, and I assure you that makes me a very happy camper.

The actual recipe I followed was from my favorite - Annie's Eats - and it was a perfect coincidence that she just posted this recipe a few days ago. The measurements for the brine in Annie's post was enough for 4 jars, but it took less than a minute to make another batch for my last 2 jars. If you're a fan of pickles I would 110% recommend making some yourself as soon as possible! Happy pickling :)

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Prettiest Chair You Ever Did See

I've written before about my case of baby brain, but last night I took that to a whole new level. You see, thanks to all of the time I spend reading blogs and looking at Pinterest and oohing and aahing over fabulously designed nurseries, I have fallen in love with certain baby things to a point that is dramatic and unexplainable.

Like a very very very expensive rocking chair.

But oh, it's a pretty rocking chair.

And it was randomly on Gilt (and already sold out) a couple of weeks ago so I decided to just waitlist myself to see what would happen. And then last night I got an email that it was available and this happened -

Me: So honey... we need to talk.
Dan: No
Me: No for real
Dan: No. You're giving me your "we need to talk because I want to spend lots of money face."
Me: ...

Darn him for knowing me so well.

So I used a few bargaining points that I had carefully prepared for our conversation:
1. When we DO decide it's time to get pregnant and have to start shopping for baby things, it's gonna get expensive QUICK. Why not get what I imagine is one of the largest purchases out of the way now when we aren't super broke and stressing about re-budgeting for a bundle of joy?
2. Dan really wants me to breastfeed. And while I may feel different once I'm actually knocked up and have that whole miracle of life thing going on, I have quite a few (strong) reasons for not wanting to. But, I promised him a long time ago I would at least give it a fair shot because it means so much to him - and it's waaay cheaper than formula obviously. SO, if I'm going to be spending that kind of time feeding... well then I want an extra comfy and stylish chair to do it in. And really, bottle or boob, from what I've heard, you spend a heck of a lot of time in a rocker feeding the nugget and rocking them to sleep - better make it cozy.
3. I have googled this chair until I cannot google it anymore. I have read every available review online. I have seen it come back in stock on baby websites only to see it be out of stock again almost immediately because smart mamas are snatching it up. It's a coveted piece, and seeing as it's been on my radar for nearly 2 years, I figured this whole flash sale was a sign it's meant to be.
4. Um. It's gorgeous. And post-kids it would look just as gorgeous in any other room of the house.
5. The hubs has a recliner in the living room that I despise (and that's putting it nicely). Don't get me wrong, it is real good and comfy, but I didn't pick it out and it is also over-stuffed, beige, way too big for the room and dirty and old. Consider this my version of a slightly unnecessary but have-to-have-it chair.
5. It was on sale!!! We saved an average of about $300 off the retail price with the Gilt sale. Holler!

And it happened. My awesome hubs went for it and said I could order the chair. Whether he agreed with my reasoning or just wanted me to shut up is up for a vote, but I don't care because I am giddy with excitement over this purchase.

Friends, I present to you, the Nursery Works Empire Rocker. It's tufted. It's slate gray. And it's mine allllll mine!

Tell me that's not stunning.

Let's just go ahead and swoon together for a few images shall we?

I'm in love, I'm in love and I don't care who knows it.

Happy Friday all! I'm headed to my cousin's wedding tonight and I cannot wait to hang out with the fam. They're a good time, and I'm certain there will be lots of fun stories to come from tonight.

Oh, and for the 4 people reading this that are wondering. I am not pregnant. Promise.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

For the love of: Don

In the final "installment" of my Young Neighbors in Action staff raves... today it's all about Don!

Don was our site coordinator for the week, and if I'm being totally honest he threw me off a bit at first with his seriousness, but became one of my new favorite people by the first work day as I learned more about him and realized the passion he has for his community and his family. He's the principal at the school we stayed at, and his hospitality was incredible given that 80 or so strangers were basically taking over his school for the week. 

Don’s work ethic is something to truly be admired, and he’s quite hysterical once you get to know him. He was a wealth of knowledge throughout the week and I was in awe of how humble he was despite working what seemed like 20 hours a day to keep us all taken care of and comfortable. His wife was our cook for the week and their son was also around every day, and I loved watching their family dynamic and seeing how much they all supported each other’s hard work. 

It seemed like Don genuinely knew - and cared about - every single person in his community, and was an expert in every single story involving the history of his tribe. Our group got bounced around to a few worksites during the week (which isn’t totally standard) and no matter how many times we told Don we didn’t mind and our group was up for whatever they needed us to do, he continuously thanked us for our flexibility and willingness to go where the need was no matter what. At the end of the week, Don gave Dan and I a gorgeous blanket, which we later learned is a huge honor as it is a symbol from his tribe that indicates wanting all of your needs to be met. We’re lucky to have met Don and his family and be able to call them friends. 

Don - thank you for hosting all of us and allowing us to come into your life and be a part of your community for the week. Your humility and passion for everyone around you is a true inspiration, and I'm honored to have worked with you during my favorite week of the year. It was incredible to watch how you handled every situation we all threw at you with such a calm demeanor, and I truly appreciate all of the opportunities you provided our group throughout the work week. Thanks for bringing us popsicles on the hottest work day, for the amazing blanket, for being our teacher and answering every crazy question we had, and for sharing your family with us. We miss you!

Friday, August 2, 2013

For the love of: Mike

Today’s post is for the one and only Mike, who was our prayer and music coordinator on Young Neighbors. I first heard Mike’s name last year in Detroit from our program director (who quickly became a great friend) Sarah, who talked him up like you just HAD to know this guy or your life wouldn’t be complete. In a stroke of pure coincidence, Mike just happened to be placed in Chicago for both of Dan’s weeks this summer, AND also happened to be scheduled for our week in Omaha! Needless to say, Mike and Dan became fast friends, and I jumped on the bandwagon as soon as I met him myself. Besides being funny, witty and genuinely kind, Mike is insanely talented, and prayer both morning and evening were incredible all week thanks to him. Umm, and he knows all of the words to Party in the USA by the infamous Miley Cyrus. There are very few things in life I love more than sitting around and hanging out in a hoodie with friends, but if you add in a sing along of teeny bopper songs I should be embarrassed to know, it really doesn’t get much better than that.

I mentioned solidarity yesterday, and for me, a big part of service trips has always been taking it to heart when Dan tells the teens “This is not the time for fancy clothes and makeup and blow dryers – we’re there to work and live in community with the people we’re serving. Those things don’t matter.” (He obviously says this much more eloquently than I am, but you get it.) Point is, I don’t even so much as bring lip gloss with me on service trips, and outside of combing my hair when I get out of the shower it’s in a ponytail on top of my head most of the week. This year, I struggled a little early in the week with my typical looking like a major scrub while the other women did their hair and makeup, and for some reason it bugged me more than usual. Mike picked up on my mood and helped me realize that looking good wasn’t a priority for me – he told me “That’s just not the type of experience you’re here to have. And that’s ok.” I needed that. We also had a little heart to heart about some of the mental health issues I’ve dealt with over the last several years, and he was an awesome sounding board throughout the week whenever I got hit with something that made me anxious.

Mike – thanks for living up to the rave reviews I heard about you long before we met, for getting us all ready for the workday each morning with your talent, and for listening to my fears and anxieties about the future (I’m sure Dan appreciated a break from that in particular) ;). We’re lucky to have you as a friend and I can’t wait to hang out more in the future and meet Jen. Please make sure she isn’t creeped out by the fact that I am convinced we will be besties as soon as we meet. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

For the love of: Billy

This little blog has really gotten the shaft from me this summer. Womp womp. BUT!! For once I’m here with a valid excuse for no blogging last week – I was out of town for my annual favorite week of the year… that’s right, it was service trip time!

This year, I tagged along with the hubby’s new(ish) job to work with the Omaha and Winnebago tribes in Nebraska through my absolute favorite service program – Young Neighbors in Action. Dan has been taking groups to particpate in YNIA for longer than I’ve known him, and for the last several years he has also worked two weeks a summer as the site coordinator for their Chicago weeks. The 3 trips I’ve been on in previous summers to Detroit were all with YNIA, and those weeks have truly changed me. This year, while I was a little anxious about going to a new city with a group of teens and adults I’d never met, I knew without a doubt that it would be a fantastic week simply because it was YNIA.

The biggest influences for me in Nebraska were (as per usual), the YNIA staff. For the next few days, I’m going to chat here about how awesome they were and throw in some fun pictures from our week of service (like our friend Mr. Buffalo below!). This is partially because if I wrote about all of the staff members at once it would make for one of my infamously long wordy posts that I’m sure nobody wants to read… but in all honesty, a big part of my raving about our new friends is just me stalling on what I really want to write, but am struggling to find the words for. 

As I said above, YNIA has changed me in the past. For whatever reason, this year was different in the sense that it changed me… but in a deeper and more meaningful way that I didn’t even realize was happening really until we got home and I felt kind of like I had been dumped by a boyfriend without any closure. While that sounds awful, I don’t mean for it to – what I more mean is that my brain and my heart are reeling to figure out how to change long-term instead of my typical “I’m changed… but I also have to go back to work and get back to the grind of the real world so it’ll fade in a week or so." I think that having just started a new job right before our trip (thus already being in the midst of major changes) is a big part of why this year is different, why I feel like I can truly change for the better from this trip… and why I’m struggling to figure out exactly how. YNIA moved me - the people I’m going to write about in the next few days changed my perspective dramatically (along with Dan, who is constantly making me want to be a better person without even trying). I don’t want to forget it, and I don’t want to just go back to what used to be. So for now, enjoy reading about my new friends (it’s ok if you’re a little jealous that you don’t know them, I sure would be) ;), and I’ll be back soon with what will hopefully be a post full of positivity, strength and a changed outlook for the future! 

First up... Billy! Our program director for the week that neither Dan or I had ever met before, Billy is high on my list of new favorite people. To say that I adored Billy within hours would be an understatement. His Warby Parker glasses, mustache luggage tag and general sarcasm were early hints that we’d get along, but it was his approach and style when working with the teens that really won me over. I lost track of how many times I leaned over to Dan or a teen and said “he’s good” when Billy was speaking during prayer or programming, and every time, whoever I was whispering to would nod in agreement. I loved the way he took big lofty things like solidarity and laid them out in a manner that made me (and I assume everyone else) just get it. We had a couple of typical teenage drama situations throughout the week and the way he dealt with one of them in particular literally left me in a weird cross between smiling like a moron and wanting to cry because it was so genuine. A somewhat new parent, I loved listening to his stories about his daughter (and how he wooed his wife!), and found that one of my favorite times of the day was sitting around outside the school after the workday and talking with Billy. I’m genuinely bummed that he and his family live so far away, and have officially added his hometown to my list of places we should visit just so we can all hang out again.

There were a few quotes throughout the week that Billy threw out that I scribbled on my journal to remember. One of them in particular will be a big part of the post I'm working on about perspective, but I don't think this post would be complete without at least calling it out. I honestly don't remember who in Billy's story was the one that actually said this to him, but I'm crediting him with it because I heard it from him and it 110% stuck. He said:

"You don't have to like everyone. But you do have to love everyone."

Billy - on the off chance that you've decided to partake in some form of social media and are reading this - THANK YOU for helping me have an absolutely incredible week. It's not every day someone will write an entire poem about biscuits and gravy and recite it in front of 80+ people, and I'm not kidding when I say I'm going to frame the lyrics you gave me. Thank you for the bits of parenting advice (no Mom, I'm not pregnant), for letting me vent, and for being willing to walk around a Pow Wow campground with me eating turkey legs as big as our heads. You're awesome, and I hope to keep in touch and get to meet your adorable family some day. Thanks again.