City Girl Confessions: A New Kind of Al Fresco Experience

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City Girl Confessions is my recurring column in The Glencoe Anchor.

When they first caught my eye, I thought they were bubbles. Or perhaps new-age moving pods, meant for quick storage during renovations. Either way, the sidewalks on Vernon Avenue were filling up with giant, clear orbs at the precise moment that freezing winter temperatures rolled on through.

Turns out, they are igloos. And the igloos are for everyone! Hometown Coffee & Juice has found a decidedly clever way to keep their patio cozy even when weather is lingering around freezing. You can reserve an igloo for an hourly fee and receive beverage/food service while lounging in style. The igloos have chairs, blankets, coffee tables, heaters, water, water glasses, and even a portable Bluetooth speaker, should you desire music. 

When a friend asked if I wanted to join her for coffee and a catch-up in the igloo, I thought, Why not? How often do I get to lounge outdoors in the middle of winter? My curiosity was stoked, so the plans were made. 

I’ll share the obvious: sitting in an igloo is a whimsical way to enjoy a cup of coffee. You enter and exit through a long zippered portion. The service is attentive and quick. You can fit a surprising amount of people in the space without it feeling cramped. And yes, I was warm (our igloo had two space heaters; I cranked ours up to 74 degrees and was quite cozy). 

But I think the most surprising element of the igloo is the perspective. The view was beautiful. It felt very intimate, yet we were very much on display (igloos do not subtlety blend in). Passerbys would occasionally walk by, stare, or peer in. Someone even called out, “Are you actually warm in there?!” This was not intrusive; everyone is sort of in on the whimsical nature of igloo dwelling in the Midwest. Any conversation that came up was kind and met with a lot of chuckles.

I’ll confess, this igloo excursion reminded me of something that I often tell my children: try something new and take in a different perspective. When it’s 30 degrees outside, I typically don’t linger outdoors. Yet this was a scenario in which I welcomed the chance to- and that in doing so, I had a chance to marvel at how beautiful the sunlight is in winter months. I saw a busy town with busy residents bundled in colorful coats and hats. I saw dogs on their morning walks, also bundled in colorful coats and hats. I saw stillness. I saw the season stretching outward. I saw winter from a whole new perspective. 

Christmas & Other Things

  • New stockings to welcome the newest family member (Putter the dog)
  • Annual holiday party, with candied bacon winning again for best bite
  • A Home Alone-themed party in which Fitz dressed as Gus Polinski, polka king of the Midwest (he took clarinet lessons, people. CLARINET LESSONS)
  • Hot tea, green juice, water, repeat (also: prayers for my immune system)
  • Taking advantage of that free gift-wrapping service at Nordstrom
  • An amazing hosting gift: the Saveur cookbook! I made this ham, egg, and lemon sandwich on brioche for dinner on Tuesday.
  • No snow. Bummer.
  • Lots of twinkle lights. Delightful.
  • Frasier Fir candles
  • Carols are great but do you ever listen to Christmas jazz? (*swoons*)
  • 4th place in chess championship for Wells, ice skating lessons for Gus
  • Off Campus Writers Workshops for me, paddle season for Fitz
  • Shivers for Putt-Putt, who does NOT like the cold (she is from Mississippi)
  • Menu planning for Christmas Eve: maybe baked ziti and roasted salmon with dill sauce
  • Holiday tea with my sis, U Club with the A-team (solid city escapes)
  • Lightscape at the Botanic Garden

And a partridge in a pear tree!

 

City Girl Confessions: The Soothing Art of Consistency

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Each morning, around the 8am hour, my car curves around a corner and I see the same familiar sight: two people out for a walk, clad in matching red parkas.  

It was 23 degrees this morning. The chill was of no concern for these two friends on their stroll. Clouds of breath were visible in the frigid air but still, the sun was shining and welcoming the start of a new day.

Our mornings often follow a strict routine. Along the way of brushing teeth, showering, changing clothes, eating/drinking, there are also little pieces that fit into this routine puzzle. There are dogs that are walked at the same time each day. There is a cyclist doing dedicated laps around the hilled streets. Construction crews are arriving and removing tools from their trucks. School buses heave with exhaust as they begin their dutiful routes. 

But there is something very interesting about this couple in their red parkas. My children have noticed their dedicated morning walks over time- walks in the warm Spring sun, walks in the crisp Fall, etc.. But it’s fascinating to them to witness such consistency in these wintry months. 

I’ll confess- I love this notion. Sure, it takes a little motivation and pep talk to get psyched about venturing out into the cold. But nature has always been restorative. It’s accessible and soothing for stress. We just have to get ourselves moving. It helps if we also approach this with the right layers. You gotta bundle up in the whole shebang: gloves, scarf, hat, boots. Yes, this is a groan-worthy bunch of extra effort. Yes, you still have to do it if you want to be comfortable (and yes, bonus points are awarded if you have to dress young children; it’s practically an Olympic sport wrangling snow pants, coats, and mittens onto a tiny human).

I once read that in Scandinavia, families are encouraged to get outside everyday, rain, snow, or shine. That in doing this, one can experience stimulation that can’t be replicated indoors: fresh wind on skin, the crispness of a snowflake, or the crunch of boots against the Earth. This act might feel really daunting, especially when temps plummet to single digits. So why not start small? Why not start with something easy and free? Something like a walk in your neighborhood. 

A few years ago, I made the decision to wake up before the sun and start going to a 6am yoga class. As a sleep-deprived parent, this was NOT easy nor enjoyable at first. But I was consistent and made it a part of my morning routine. I am soothed by this practice now, even though it took time to get my footing. 

I imagine it was the same for the folks I see each morning, rounding the corner, two bright spots of red. Yes, our weather and seasons are changing. Maybe a little consistency can soothe that. 

 City Girl Confessions is my recurring column in The Glencoe Anchor

City Girl Confessions: Knocking Out The Scary Bits

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

City Girl Confessions is my recurring column in The Glencoe Anchor.

It’s the most wonderful time of year…for me. I am positively delighted by Halloween and all of its orange-and-black spooky splendor. I’ve been this way since I was a kid, poring over costume ideas and scouting haunted houses while immersing myself in scary books and movies. A witch’s hat has permanent residence on my shelf.
Continue reading “City Girl Confessions: Knocking Out The Scary Bits”

City Girl Confessions: The Magic in the Mess

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City Girl Confessions is my recurring column in The Glencoe Anchor.

If you want to see my anxiety shoot through the roof, just say the word ‘messy.’ I get a little cringe-y and creeped out when it comes to certain things, and let’s just say that paint, play dough, clay, and slime are the stuff of nightmares for me. Yet, children covet this squishy stuff. They cherish the mess. And there are loads of studies that point to the benefit of this creative play.

It hit me on one of those last, lingering summer days…the kind where minutes pass by like hours and adults are just craving that first day of school. Don’t get me wrong, summer is a glorious, heavenly existence in the Midwest. Ours was filled with camps, trips up north, pool days, popsicles, and explorations of every mini-golf park in a 40-mile radius. But those last days of summer? The ones right before school? Those days are kind of excruciating. The emotions are high, the energy levels higher, and that presents some interesting clashes. Bottom line: new transitions can throw us all for a loop, and everyone in my home was feeling the stress of that. 

So I decided to break my own rules and bring on the mess. Long ago, my sister gifted my child a Jackson Pollock art kit from the Museum of Modern Art. It came with acrylic paint, a canvas, drop cloth, and information on ‘action painting.’ Now if you’re not familiar with Pollock’s work, just imagine wildly tossing, flicking, and splattering paint all over a canvas. Yes, this is the very messiest form of art one can embrace. 

My children absolutely loved it. Pollock once said that putting a canvas on the floor and walking around all four sides to paint allowed him to feel as though he were literally within the painting. I can confirm that my children seemed to have felt the same way based on the colors that sailed through the air and the shrieks of glee that came from my backyard. It was a mess indeed: on their hands, their clothes, their bodies, the pavement, the grass, the canvas, the drop cloth…paint really does travel when the artist is at work.

Witnessing this mess was oddly joyful for me. Let’s face it- life will always be messy. It will always necessitate a clean up- literal and figurative. Making peace with this notion allowed me to put down the stress baggage that I so willingly carry. 

When the paint dried and my backyard sort-of recovered, I walked into Signature of Art in downtown Glencoe. I placed the canvas on the front desk and said, “I need to frame this. It’s the memories of my summer.”

The gentleman working nodded; he understood exactly what I meant. And I’ll confess: one day, I will see this paint splattered canvas hanging somewhere in my home, and I will think of this particularly messy day. A day with paint-splattered hands and backyard shrieks. I will not remember the details of the clean up. But I will remember the magic of the mess. 

Green Kitchen Nostalgia

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I just came across this photo of Anne Hathaway’s California Country kitchen and it gave me a wave of nostalgia…the kitchen in my previous house was the same sage green color as her cabinets. Green has always been an important color in my life and, surprisingly so, my marriage. My (only!) tattoo is green. My eyes are green. ‘Kelly’ is a very specific type of green. And in regards to my wedding…my invitations were green, my bridesmaids wore green cocktail dresses, and the groomsmen wore green custom Converse sneakers. I even had a green wedding cake! (in retrospect, it was not the most appetizing color for a dessert but I digress).

Why do I love it? It’s growth. It’s organic. It’s nature. Maybe even a little lucky.

So that’s my deal with green. Got any weird stories about your favorite color and why it’s your fave?

Photo by Stephen Kent Johnson

City Girl Confessions: A Moment to Savor

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Photo by Paul Theodor Oja on Pexels.com

City Girl Confessions is my recurring column featured in The Glencoe Anchor.

This morning, I walked out of my house excited to meet up with a friend. Just one problem- a large carpenter’s van was blocking my car in the driveway (I had forgotten that one of our kitchen cabinets needed repairing). Hmm…what to do? Then another thought…I have a bicycle. Why not take a ride to meet up with my friend?

So I threw on my helmet and started pedaling. It was a lovely summer morning: about 72 degrees, cornflower blue sky, a nice breeze. When I hit the brakes at a STOP sign, a monarch butterfly fluttered past and I had to stop myself from chuckling. The picturesque moment felt straight out of a movie. 

But I didn’t chuckle. Instead, I savored. I drew in my breath and felt the wind on my face. I thought of outdoor reading, the smell of sunscreen, and the colors of the sky at dusk. I thought about weekend getaways, drippy ice cream cones, and bare feet racing over the grass. I pondered fireworks, Glencoe Art festivals, French Markets, sidewalk sales, Pride Month, parades, and many al fresco dinners. There’s been an awful lot of fun that has filled up these past Summer months.

For all those reasons, August is my reserved time to savor. I know that the first day of school is just around the corner. I realize that more structured schedules are on the horizon. I accept all of this. It’s for those reasons that I say, go ahead, have ice cream before dinner. Take an extra long bike ride that might stretch past your kids’ bedtime. Invite someone over for a drink or impromptu popsicle party. Turn on a sprinkler. Turn off the iPads. Look for shooting stars. Open your windows. Say yes more than no. Get outside everyday, even for just a short walk. Pet a dog. Look for birds. Talk to your neighbors. 

Riding my bike that morning reminded me of something: the absolute bliss of simplicity. Do you remember riding a bike for the first time? The feelings of independence or the excitement of choosing your destination? It’s euphoric (also decent exercise). Hopping on two wheels brought me back to my childhood, where any neighborhood adventure was possible. Why don’t I do this more often? Why don’t I get back to basics not because my car is unavailable but because it just feels good?

I’ll confess, back in my city-living-days, I rode a bike to escape the endless concrete. I sought the clarity of being out in nature, savoring all of its elements. If density was driving me mad, I could always get on a trail or a path and find my way.

Those memories, and this month, are reminding me to savor what is right now- the calm before the storm. The last of the very best season. That when the world feels stressful and upsetting, we can hit the reset button. And savor the moment.