Category Archives: Chicago

Hurricanes displace people, and animals too!

When Ethan headed to St. Croix to help, Taj and I told him we were ready to have a dog in our family and we wanted a Crucian dog. We told him that any dog he wanted to bring home to us would be perfect. Yesterday, he met and bonded with Coco, a 6 month old female #Dachshund who was rescued from an abusive home on #StCroix and waiting for the perfect forever home, ours! Taj and I can’t wait for their arrival back in Chicago on Tuesday! . . .Want to help a Crucian pup too? Taj and I are starting a ‘Pet Supply Drive’ here in Plainfield to ship down to St. Croix. Items needed: foldable animal crates, collars and leashes, heartworm & flea/tick medication. We adopted Coco through Sunshine Foundation St Croix and we want to help St. Croix Animal Welfare Center get back up and running. Through the tireless work of the volunteers and staff of these organizations, they get dogs off the street, manage spay/neuter programs and help dogs like Coco find their forever home too.

Hurricanes displace people, and animals too! When Ethan headed to St. Croix to help, Taj and I told him we were ready to have a dog in our family and we wanted a Crucian dog. We told him that any dog he wanted to bring home to us would be perfect. Yesterday, he met and bonded with Coco, a 6 month old female #Dachshund who was rescued from an abusive home on #StCroix and waiting for the perfect forever home, ours! Taj and I can’t wait for their arrival back in Chicago on Tuesday! . . . Want to help a Crucian pup too? Taj and I are starting a ‘Pet Supply Drive’ here in Plainfield to ship down to St. Croix. Items needed: foldable animal crates, collars and leashes, heartworm & flea/tick medication. We adopted Coco through Sunshine Foundation St Croix and we want to help St. Croix Animal Welfare Center get back up and running. Through the tireless work of the volunteers and staff of these organizations, they get dogs off the street, manage spay/neuter programs and help dogs like Coco find their forever home too. #VIStrong #dachshundsofinstagram #dachshundpuppy #dachshundsunited #petsuppliesneeded

Photo taken at: Saint Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands

And then she made it to Chicago, where we ALL fell in love with her.

Dachshund rescue meets new human

CAPCA winter camping in Wisconsin

We joined a group of 68 individuals for winter camping in Wisconsin this weekend. And it was amazing!

camp vista RPCV trip

The Chicago Area Peace Corps volunteers do two camping trips twice a year to Camp Vista in Campbellsport, WI just near Kettle Morraine State Park. This was the 27th visit they’ve done and we are so lucky to be able to join this group. Finding Peace Corps-esque folks to chill with is amazing and we definitely plan to make this an annual event as long as we live in the Midwest.

We found out about it last year from some Dekalb friends that were also in Samoa and we are so glad that we finally decided to commit and do it. It was a relaxed comfortable weekend full of great conversations, tubing and some outside activities, cooking, getting to know like-minded folk and a great getaway. I’m sorry I didn’t get a photo of our Samoan contingency which was strong with 5 volunteers plus our support team of spouses and children.

There were older people, younger childless couples, singles of all ages and families with children a plenty. Taj was the youngest, but only by a few months and he enjoyed the older girls’ company anyway. 🙂

The lodge offered a great commercial kitchen and with Steve bringing his chefs knives, this group really did plow through prep and dishes in no time. If the cooks need help, they simply announce to the fireplace room or the dining area that they need onion choppers or dishwashers and everyone gets up. Never a shortage of help and a great hierarchy of talent and culinary skills. As an skilled kitchen person, I helped and did as I was told, no control freak Sara showing her head during this trip. I really enjoyed the kitchen work, as I usually do.

Dinner was an amazing full Ethiopian spread with at least six dishes and homemade injera.

Ethiopian cuisine in Wisconsin

We voted for the next meal and Peruvian was chosen, which should be great fun and tasty too.

I do see myself helping organize a meal at some point after I spend a bit more time with the group. Maybe  Caribbean medley with mofongo, oxtail, conch salad, pates, rice and beans, etc. Samoan might be tough without an umu and I don’t think everyone wants boiled bananas in coconut cream. Then again, oven-based palusami might just work if I can find young taro leaves.

 

pile of camping shoes

Lots o shoes.

 

Wisconsin snow tubing at Sunburst

Snow tubing at Sunburst.

 

brunch in Beaver Dam

Then to end the weekend, we drove west to Beaver Dam to visit Tim, Stef and Lady Elaine for brunch. A short visit is better than no visit! Love these guys.

Zoolights at Brookfield Zoo

We took a trip to Chicago to get some Chicago lights. We stopped at Jill and Jay’s and had some wine before we headed out into the cold. It was cold, but not unbareable. Taj and Jay road the train and we waited on line to see Santa (Taj’s only visit of the season). There pics came out horribly, but we did snap one (that was equally as horrible, but free):

Brookfield Zoo santa

We also headed to the Holiday Dose Market at Venue One on Randolph St. the next day. Jill was working with the fantastic maple syrup to the chefs man, Tim Burton of Burton’s Maplewood Farm. And seriously, that maple syrup aged in whiskey barrels was some of the best maple syrup I’ve ever had. Taj asked for multiple samples and Ethan brought a bottle home (not for use on frozen waffles).

Late night dueling boys on iphones

 

Jill and Jay were great Chicago hosts! We had a great time and Taj is already asking when we go back and see Jay.

Crucian boys in Chicago

My First Knitting Project

On our 1st vacation together to New Zealand, I told Ethan I would knit him a hat. At the time, we lived in a tropical climate and continued to live in warm weather for another 10 years. When we finally moved to a cold climate and my mom passed me back my wool (and her wool), I started knitting again.

Ten yrs later, here it is, my first knitting project into 10 years – complete with a Taj inside.

I can’t think of a more deserving recipient of a ten -year-in-the-making hat. Ethan is the force in my life that makes me complete projects and get things done. Thanks honey! Hopefully the next project won’t take this long 🙂

The Endless Summer: Taj’s Ninja Turtle Themed 5th Birthday Pig Roast

We like to party. We also don’t like ordinary, so when Ethan said he wanted to roast a pig before the winter, we decided to combine his pig roast with Taj’s 5th birthday. We also wanted to get to know some neighbors and invite them, so we did.

Last weekend was 70, unfortunately it was 40 degrees the day of Taj’s party. We hosted the party in the barn. Ethan put the pig on by 8am as planned. By 11am, the bouncy house was up, the food was out and Taj was so happy to have all his friends over.

We asked that people bring canned goods instead of gifts and although I think Taj might have been too young to grasp this concept, our real goal was to let people know that they didn’t have to bring a gift to come. He got plenty of gifts and we’ll be dropping a good amount of canned goods to Green Harvest food pantry.

canned good birthday party drive

 

excited birthday boy with pinata

Taj was so excited for the pinata. Thanks to Reggie for making it go a little faster.

 

firepit and ethan's chairs

It was a chilly afternoon, but Ethan finished his adirondeck chairs last week, just in time for relaxing and warming up by the firepit.

In the barn, we had a few electric heaters going, some places for coloring, plenty of food and beverages.

 

foodtable

barn party

Ninja turtle birthday cupcakes. Meijers did most of the work, I admit 🙂

 

work buddies

Ethan and some friends from work.

While cleaning up the next morning, we found cups with ice still in them. We giggled about this and Ethan got picked on for over buying ice. I guess we still aren’t used to stateside cold parties.

 

leftovers

You know its a good party when stuff gets left behind. If you own any of these things, let us know and we’ll get them back to you.

Thanks everyone for coming! Taj had a great weekend.

 

 

 

 

Beware of the troll under the bridge and ghosts in the tree.

Halloween is my favorite time of year. From costumes to decorating the yard to Taj’s birthday, it is all one big whirl of fun.

We all know I miss living on an island, however I like to highlight the benefits of living in Suburbia and trick-or-treating and decorating your yard definitely ranks up there.

We are just starting to compile the decorations and this year, we added up lights on the tree and red lit graves. We also were in need of a bridge over the gut in our yard. When it rains, it gets a little muddy and we didn’t want trick-or-treaters to have to endure this. Besides our mailbox is over there. It became the troll bridge. Taj tells us they are make believe, but he does warn us that they live under there. Note the plastic bag ghosts in the tree.

homemade turtle shell costumehomemade Leo TMNT costume

This is the first year that Taj is totally ‘in’ to Halloween. He not only chose his costume, he got us to join along.

family ninja turtle costume

And the best part of Halloween is that it is Taj’s birthday next! It was a little more difficult to convince Taj to give up his candy for the pinata this year 🙂

 

Summer Road Trip 2014

My dad died in February. And he’s been very present in my life, even more since. When we moved to Illinois, we planned to take a New England trip to see him and Josh in Brattleboro. We wanted to keep good on that plan, hoping that Josh might appreciate having us around a bit too.

My Connecticut cousins were by Leah, Josh and my side and honestly, I don’t know how we could have made it through that week without them. Part of coming back east on this pilgrimage in Dad’s honor included getting to know these cousins as adults and not in crisis mode. I really was looking forward to our families and children of the same age getting together.

This trip came at the end of a fantastic month long visit with Grandma Gayle. As we dropped her off at Chicago Midway for her 7:30am flight, we just kept driving east. Like forever east. Stopping for lunch in Amherst, OH for mediocre Mexican food but at least there was a parking lot for Taj to ride his bike around for a bit. We went looking for a playground, but no go.

Back on the road, we made it as far as State College, PA. We did a quick Priceline hotel deal and wound up back near I-80 at a below subpar hotel with a heavily chlorinated pool, thank god. We had promised Taj a pool when we finally stopped. It was his reward for managing 14 hours on the road. What a trooper.

Tappen Zeeeeee bridge, we’re almost there.

 

With only 5 hours left, we left PA, headed through New Jersey and over the Tappen Z bridge through New York and into Connecticut. First stop, pick up Josh! Stop two lunch at the new organic natural food store in Huntington Center.

We made a special effort to be sure to see Adam and Allyson and Pam and Taj’s identical twin 2nd cousin before they headed out on their summer vaca.

twincuz2 identical twins

They cooked an amazing steak dinner complete with cake for Josh’s 16th birthday (a week late, but hey we’re restaurant people, dates are flexible for holidays).

raibow cake by Pam

We headed to Norwalk to stay with Amy and Ronnie and Henry and Lilah. Very comfortable to we took a nice sleep and caught up after the long trip out. Amy and Ronnie are perfect hosts! Taj and Henry had fun together and fought just like they were brothers. Taj and Lilah had some nice time together too.

kitchen bubbler

dirtbike

lanternlighting

Amy and Ronnie hosted her summer Seafood Sunday at her house. It was great to get to know some of the Krom family better. Everyone brought a seafood dish and Amy supplied the lobsters.

seafood sunday

What a feast and then what better way to wrap the kid cousins cuddle up under blankets and watch Ice Age projected into the woods on a screen.

outdoor movie projection

We took the train to NYC with Josh and Taj. It was our intent to honor Dad with a Gray’s Papaya hotdog and drink. Jill met us in Grand Central Station and we took a moment to honor him so.

grand central station ceiling

Then a quick stop at FAO Schwartz and a walk through Central Park over to the Natural History Museum. We almost skipped the museum and it’s $22pp tickets, until we were told that that is just a suggested admission price. The museum docent (is the cashier a docent) was very kind and asked me what I’d like to pay? I paused counted our party at 5 including Taj and told her I’d like to pay $5pp and she ran my card and thanked me. I like this concept, I feel good about making a donation to the Museum and at the level I’m comfortable with.

natural history museum nyc dinosaur

We then headed home with one sleeping train Taj.

We dropped off Josh at his mom ‘s house, sad to go but with a newly found friendhip with a brother I’m so honored to be blessed with.

From there, Ethan did the math and decided we were to leave CT at 3;30 am to avoid NYC rushhour traffic. Bleck. We were out of NYC and stopped for breakfast during DC rush hour.

Auntie Leah! Dinner out with our Durham fam!

Leah and Casey were more than excited to see Tajimon, ok and us too. They made us so comfortable, took Taj for a ride on the four wheeler. They took us and Justin out to their favorite reastaurant, the Brazilian Steakhouse. Wow, I didn’t know it was humanly possible to eat that much meat! So yummy. It was nice to get to know Justin too. I hadn’t seen him in years and it great for he and Ethan to meet each other.

Off to Bishop, GA next for one night with Mark and Shannon and Macon before they head out to Indiana for a horse show. Taj always loves to see the horses and we were amazed at the new barn with all it’s cool features and functionality. Taj’s favorite thing was collecting chicken eggs.
Then to mom and Harrys. First stop Nonni’s for a swim in the pool.

Then sushi with the family at an awesome sushi place. Tito even has a roll named after her. That’s pretty cool.

And a Uhaul worth of stuff to drive home with. Mom and Harry purging equals ZDubs gaining new hand-me-down furniture. We got to see Crucian friends, Eileen and kids and Kelly. And Taj made great friends with the doggies.

crucian friends tajanddogs

It was a great trip!!! I wish it could last longer.

Thanks everyone for hosting us! It was a great trip.