5 Things to Love about Chicago

While I’ve never actually lived within the city limits, I’ve lived just south of Chicago for my entire life, and as such, I have always felt a claim on the city as my own. A bonafide city-dweller might, perhaps, take issue with such a claim, especially if you are given the chance to tell them where you are from, only to watch as their eyes kind of glaze over while they try to pinpoint your city, your town, or really, any place, outside of the city limits. (It’s not altogether different from the way that some New Yorkers view the entire midwest as just one big hazy stretch of land that comprises the distance between NYC and the L.A.) Their disregard for life beyond that of The City can be annoying at times, though admittedly, I can see how one could be blinded by the brilliance of such a city as this.

Here, in no particular order, are some of the things I, as a life-long suburbanite, love about the city of Chicago. (Do remember that I fully admit to being completely biased, and maybe even a little starry-eyed.)

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  • The skyline. In my opinion, Chicago has one of the greatest skylines ever. I love driving up to the city, and seeing those massively tall buildings rise up on the horizon. Even more, I love flying into O’Hare airport, and seeing it rise up against the waters of Lake Michigan, looking ever so stately.  
  • Lake Shore Drive. Day or night, a ride along LSD is an experience. There is just something exciting and energizing about traveling that stretch of road, with skyscrapers rising up on one side of you, and the blue expanse of Lake Michigan on the other. I mean, I’m obviously not the only one to feel this way about it:

And if you just happen to actually be driving on LSD, and that song comes on? Magic.

  • It’s so green! Among the large cities I’ve visited, I think Chicago is one of the greener places. I visited NYC once, and I remember being struck by how little greenery there was anywhere. Outside of Central Park, there was not a single tree or potted plant. The “concrete jungle” is a well-deserved epithet. Chicago, however, always has the most amazing, enormous, window boxes and planters, all along the entire Magnificent Mile. There are tree-lined passageways along the Chicago river and elsewhere, and that little bit of nature in the middle of what would otherwise be just another ‘concrete jungle’ gives Chicago an entirely different feel. The plants all change with the seasons, and I’ve often thought about what an enormous job that must be, to plan and care for all of those plants. But I’m so glad that someone else values the beauty that they bring to the city.

    View from Millennium Park

  • Planters at Navy Pier

Native prairie grasses, Millennium Park

  • The food! Oh, the food. Whatever you want, you can find it here. Ethiopian? We’ve got that. Thai? But, of course. Sushi, Italian, Indian, Greek, Spanish, Mexican, Chinese, Swiss fondue… it’s all here, and more. And, let’s not forget, the renowned Chicago-style pizza and Chicago-style hot dogs. Perhaps not the healthiest of fare, but delicious? Definitely.
  • The museums. While there are so many good ones to choose from ~ the Art Institute, the Children’s Museum at Navy Pier, the Field Museum, to name just a few ~ one of our most-loved remains the Museum of Science and Industry. With its ever-changing exhibits, there is always something for everyone. Having been there as many times as we have, you would think that we’d all have grown tired of the museum by now. But the ritual of a day at the MSI, followed by a little saganaki at The Parthenon on the way home, is a unique Chicago experience that we all still enjoy.

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I like this arrangement that we have, us and Chicago. I like living close to the city, but not directly in it. It’s completely accessible, and yet, we don’t have to deal with the hassles of city life (the parking! the people!) that would quite possibly rub the bloom off of that rose. Though I can’t technically call myself a Chicagoan, still, this city is so deeply entwined in so many of my memories: prom night dinners with my now-husband, amazing dinners with friends, cooking classes, date nights, visits to the theater, shopping trips, weekend trips with friends, my bachelorette party (!), watching my kids play in the fountains at Millennium Park, watching them explore “the bean” and the surrounding park, watching fireworks with kids and friends on a hot July night at Navy Pier. It is even the birthplace of my son. All of these memories, made in Chicago, make up a decent-sized chunk of my collective memory. I rather think I don’t need an actual street address to call it my own.

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What is your favorite city, and what do you love about it?

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5 things I like about Dublin

Dublin has been my home for over 10 years now. I ended up here on a whim really. Faced with two job opportunities after university, one in Dublin and one in Amsterdam. My reasoning for picking Dublin was pretty practical – I had been in Amsterdam before but never been to Dublin. Hey presto – I packed my bags (all two of them) and boarded the ferry from the U.K to Dublin.

I am still here. Will I stay here forever… not sure to be honest. I might decide to look around elsewhere, to try a different place yet. We’ll see what happens I guess. (It would involve more than two bags packed though…. a lot more, including two cats who would be less than impressed to be put on a plane…).

The funny thing about Dublin is that it gets under your skin. It is impossible to pin down what it is. I know so many who left Dublin after a few years here; giving out about the place, the weather, the mañana mañana attitude here and the rougher areas around and being glad to leave… yet after a few month away they miss it and often come back to visit.

So as I sit here trying to crystallize 5 things I really like about Dublin, I realize it is not as easy as it sounds. Even so, here we go:

  1. Dublin pretends it is a big (well big-isch) city but it reality it is just one big village. Everything in the city centre is in within walking distance and you are always likely to run into someone you know.
  2. The music. All from the traditional Irish music (which is perfect with that pint) to the many venues around town where you can listen to the latest or quirkiest or up-and-coming artists in a small cosy setting or on the big stage. There are not many artist that bypass Dublin.
  3. Walking down Grafton Street amongst the mix of locals and tourists. Listening to the busking acts that are everywhere on the street. Going off into all the side streets and browse through the shops and have a coffee or two on the way. Or maybe have a pint in one of the many pubs around. The atmosphere is always good (or as they say here, the “craic” is good, and that does not refer to any white powdery substance…).
  4. You can always find a nice restaurant, whether for brunch, lunch or an evening meal. Dublin has a great variety of restaurants from all cuisines around the world. For me that means; brunch at Herbstreet (as I just cannot resist those Eggs Benedict), lunch at Koh (lovely Thai food and the cocktails are not bad either…), dinner at Yamamori Sushi (I just love everything on their menu and spend way, way to many evenings there). Then you can also find more traditional restaurants (such as The Winding Stair which is both a book shop and a very good restaurant) or why not pop into one of the many pubs that also serve food, more known as “pub grub”, and have some spicy chicken wings or a tasty burger with your pint of Guinness or even try one of the pubs that brew their own beers and that also serve really nice food such as The Porterhouse.
  5. Finally and maybe the greatest thing I like about Dublin is all the people I have met here and the great friends I have made. Dublin is a melting pot of people from all over Europe and the rest of the world. I continuously meet fantastic people here and count myself lucky that I have made such fabulous friends from all over the world right here in Dublin.

What do you like about the place where you live?

By my bed….

I read somewhere once that what a person keeps on their nightstand, next to their bed, gives you a glimpse into who they are. After proposing this idea to Ivy as a blog topic, I took a look at what was on my own nightstand and realized that, yeah, that is pretty true. Here, unedited, is what you will find on my nightstand:

  • A corded phone, with an old school Ameritech caller i.d. box~ the very first caller i.d. I ever had! Doesn’t it look so primitive now?! Our cell phones do not work well from inside the house (for as flat as all of Illinois is, wouldn’t you know we live in the one spot in our neighborhood that is too low to get good signal strength?), so we have always kept a landline phone around in case the power goes out and our cordless phones don’t work. What does this say about us? PRACTICAL (as well as perhaps, OLD).
  • A glass water carafe. I like it because it’s pretty, but I don’t actually use it that much. I  tend to forget how old the water is in there, and then I don’t want to drink out of it. After I finish writing this, I’ll be washing it out and refilling it with fresh H2O….
  • A hairband. Usually there are several, so this is pretty tidy today.
  • Knobby wooden back massager. In the event that I get lucky.
  • Stack of Books in Progress. They are, from the bottom up:
  1. Against the Gods – The Remarkable Story of Risk (on loan from my father-in-law)
  2. The Mysterious Benedict Society – a story we started reading with the kids, but never finished.
  3. Tender at the Bone – food writing. Really good food writing. I love food writing.
  4. Things I Want My Daughters to Know – a book of discussion topics for parents / daughters. Am reading to determine if it would be good to share with Anna.
  5. The Abs Diet Cookbook – a book of healthy recipes, designed to correlate with The Abs Diet. They have good smoothie recipes, which is what I was looking up.
  6. Paris Was Ours – a collection of short stories / essays about the mark this famous city has left on them, and how it changed or influenced their lives. I ((heart)) Paris.
  7. Bird by Bird – A book on writing, and also life. This reminds me I should write a review on this, because it was a fantastic read. The author, Anne Lamott, weaves together her knowledge and advice on writing well, with her own personal history and observations on life. I am not the kind of writer that Anne Lamott is (fiction), but her advice is sage, nonetheless, for any kind of writer ~ especially one who is looking to improve and grow in that skill. She has a wonderful voice, and her style is a joy to read. I should stop now~ this is not the place for a review…..
  8. The Little Giant Book of Eerie Thrills and Unspeakable Chills – This is Carsten’s. I read a couple of stories to him before bed the other night, and I absentmindedly carried the book back to my room with me.
  • A fan deck of paint chips from Benjamin Moore. I’ve been thinking that I would like to paint our bedroom, so I’ve been looking at color chips. Noel pretends he doesn’t see this.
  • The ever-present Chapstick. Quite possibly the most important item there.
  • Lamp base: Target. Shade: have no idea.

You may notice I have no clock. Well, for one thing, I don’t have one because I can pretty much count on one hand the number of times I’ve needed an alarm to wake me up since Carsten has been born. As for knowing what time it is, well, Noel has a clock on his side of the bed, so if I really need to know what time it is, I can look at his.

So there you have it. I’m an old-school, practical reader who loves back rubs and is addicted to Chapstick! What does your nightstand say about you?

What’s on my nighstand

This is the very first proper post I will write for this particular blog. Yay! So let us examine what I literally have on my nightstand at this point in time.

  • The all-important alarm clock. One of those illuminate one that start to shine like a raising sun. (Except the bulb is broken and I have yet had time to replace it which means I still get woken up by a beep instead of a gentle ray of light…). I am not a morning person…
  • My favorite IKEA night stand lamp which is vital as I always have a tendency to read something before I go to sleep.
  • A couple of disarrayed necklaces. The ones I forget to take of when going to bed so they end up on a heap instead of hanging off the jewellery tree that I have in the window.
  • Ear plugs… for some reason I just cannot sleep without them. It also comes in handy when my cats decide that they want food at 05.30 in the morning and meow insistently.
  • My mobile phone. Just in case I just have to check Facebook or Twitter or the weather or… Yes, I am slightly obsessed with my phone. It is totally normal, so they say.
  • My Kindle – got it as a gift once as I refused to buy an electronic reader but I have to confess… it is pretty cool. Especially when traveling and in order to get those books that I want NOW (and for a decent price). Currently it holds about 50 books. Mostly urban fantasy, some romance (preferably historic setting) and some comedy (Bridget Jones Diary anyone?).
  • I also love a good aul normal book, that I can read cover to cover. There are always a few on my nightstand. Currently I have:
    • Clive Barker‘s “Weaveworld” – a fantasy novel which I am re-reading for the second time.
    • Kim Harrison‘s “The Hollows Insider” – urban fantasy, part of the “The Hollows” series which I adore.
    • Bill Bryson‘s “A short history of nearly everything” – as I harbor a curiosity and love for science and I wish this book would be part of any school curriculum.
    • Henri Charriere‘s “Papillon” – re-reading it for the third time now. It is just one of those books and stories that grip me every time.

I think I will go to bed and read a bit now. Perfect way to chill out.