Chicken Soup for the Soul

Welp, it's Monday...again. I feel like it's always Monday, don't you? I woke up today feeling particularly crappy and continued to feel as such all day. As soon as I hit "publish" on this post, I'm turning in. 

Good news is that I get to sleep in a bit tomorrow since I have a doctor's appointment in the morning. Finally getting that finger x-rayed that I injured back in March. Don't think I ever told ya'll about that, but long story short - I did a cartwheel while intoxicated and nothing has been right in my pointer finger since.

Anyway, it sucked waking up feeling like shit after such a lovely weekend with my mama and her man friend were in town visiting. Since I don't live in the same city as my family, it's easy to forget how good it feels to spend quality time with your mom. I do go home a lot, but my visits are usually spread thin across three sets of parents, friends, nieces, etc. Suffice it to say, the visit was good for my soul.

We kept ourselves busy! Friday night, we went to see the cast of Nashville in concert. They kicked off their tour here in Chicago and it was AMAZING. I must admit I was a little starstuck seeing these actors/actresses on stage. It's different than seeing a regular musician in concert because these people are on your TV every week, playing a character and then they are right in front of you! In any case, it was awesome and we even got to shake hands with them on their way out. 

Saturday I was up early to take care of a few errands before we headed up to grab lunch at Hamburger Mary's. I'd never been there before, but I knew that it would be right up my mom's alley. Not only is her name Mary, but the atmosphere is super kitschy and kind of retro and chaotic, all of which my mom loves.

After lunch, we dropped my mom off to get her hair did, while the rest of us went home to nap. Except Dave - he went bar hopping, good man. Then it was off to dinner at one of our favorite seafood joint's, Glenn's Diner, so mom and I could satisfy our crab leg cravings. 

And to cap off the evening, we went to the late showing of the Second City. This was the only time I've been to Second City and been disappointed. I laughed at some spots, but in my opinion, the best part was the encore act they did, which was mostly improv. The show didn't get out until after 2am, so we didn't get to bed until about 3am.

Sunday, we did what Sundays are made for and slept in! Then we went to a nice brunch and went to Trader Joe's so mom could stock up on her favorite wines before they left. 

And you can bet the rest of the day I spent in bed, dozing and cuddling with ms. Addy. Successful Sunday.

That sums it up. Love you, Mama, and thanks for the visit. How was everyone else's weekend?
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7 Tips for a Stress-Free Trip Abroad

As you know, my husband and I love to travel. In fact, he's already bugging me about booking another trip to Europe. He forgets that we are going to Puerto Rico next month, and that we have weddings in New Orleans and Florida later this year. Spoiled much? (we totally are.)
In any case, even though it's STILL COLD in Chicago, summer will hopefully be here before we know it. And with that comes summer vacations! In case anyone is headed anywhere outside of the U.S. this summer, I wanted to pass along some of my best tips. Trust me, they will make life abroad less stressful.

Note: the below pictures don't have anything to do with the tip. :)

Follow customs. It goes without saying that things are different in every part of the world. For example, in Europe, tipping isn't customary. Doesn't mean it's not appreciated, but also doesn't mean you have to do it. Just do some research and pay attention before you leave so you know what you're getting into. 
Follow the crowds.When looking for a place to sit down and grab a drink, or where to eat a good meal at night, look for places that are busy. Of course you'll have to wait a hot minute, but the people filling up the place are probably locals and they know best. 
Patience. You're in a different country. A foreign place. You don't know where you're going. You don't know how long things will take. You don't know what food will taste like. You will have a language barrier. You must be patient, for your own sanity and for your the sanity of those you're traveling with.
Walking shoes. People in other countries aren't as lazy as we are here in the U.S. They walk EVERYWHERE. And you probably will too. Even if you don't, when you're waiting in line for tourist attractions and then you get in to the tourist attractions, you'll walk during that time, so do yourself a favor: leave the wedges at home. 
Bring cash. They have ATMs abroad, but you get charged up the wazoo in fees. And, not all places we've traveled to accept credit cards, so it's best to always have some on hand.
Learn key phrasesIf you don't know a language, don't pretend you do. For example, with Spanish, don't try to speak it by adding an 'o' on the end of a word. For example, don't say "Where is the bathroom-o?" and think you're being funny. It's insulting.
Talk to locals. Some of the best things we did on our trips to Europe were recommendations from locals. For example, one night in Granada, we ended up at this tapas bar that a husband/wife owned. The husband was English and his wife was from Lisbon. We were headed to Lisbon later in the trip and we got fantastic recommendations from them as a result. 

Enjoy your summer traveling!
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Easter Weekend Recap

Happy Monday!

In true "Rachel" form, I have had three blog drafts in my system from last week waiting to be published, but I forgot. So, the good news is that I'll have more posts this week than my usual Monday jam.

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday weekend. I know I did. Bryan and I went back and forth about whether or not to go home this weekend. Due to May being completely booked for the most part, the debate was either to go home this past weekend or go home Mother's Day weekend. Bryan ended up having an event scheduled during the latter, so home we went!

Finally, after months and months of cold and snow, we had beautiful weather this weekend. A little windy to be sure, but I'll take it, especially when it come with 80 degree temperatures!

Friday night we were able to make it home early enough to have dinner with Bryan's parents, my SIL and her fiance (we missed our niece, Aly!). Not too much excitement after that, given that I never have energy on Friday nights. Am I old and boring, or what?

Saturday morning it was up early to squeeze in some playtime with Sloan before heading out with my mom and sisters for my little sister's first dress fitting! I can't believe how amazing her dress already looks on her. I know mine didn't fit that perfectly when it came in from the designer. She's super excited and I'm so excited for her. The next 6 months will fly by.

After that, we checked out Natty's new condo. She has a crazy kitty named Mia that hates my mom for some reason. Keep in mind, my mom has three cats of her own, used to have a pet-sitting business and loves animals, so it's SUPER weird that Mia freaks out when she's around. Watch how mean she is!

We all went to lunch and after that, I took my niece to meet up with my girlfriends and their little ones a park to enjoy the weather. The kids, ranging from 6 months to 2.5, got along great and ran wild for awhile before getting tired and then everyone decided they needed some Goldfish. Ah, kids. Finally, it was home to relax briefly before heading out to dinner to celebrate my sister and BIL's birthdays.

Cruisin' in my mom's new convertible.

 Chillin' on the way to the park.

Gimme 'dem Goldfish!

We went to a new(ish) brewery outside of town that we've been dying to try. I think we picked a bad night though, because they were out of nearly every beer they brewed! They still had others for us to enjoy, but we were a bit disappointed. 

I volunteered to be the DD anyway (Happy birthday, Jess & Klint), so no sweat off my back. After dinner, I dropped the group off at another bar while I went to meet up with my girlfriends for awhile. And then, BED!

On Easter, we were able to have lunch with both mine and Bryan's families at the same venue. I love when we can make that happen. I love that our families get along so well and that everyone is willing to "share" their time with us. It was 12 of us in total and so lovely to all just be together. 

My SIL is about to give birth to our nephew in a few weeks and she just got engaged, plus the birthday celebrations and just life in general - much to be thankful for this Easter. We enjoyed more of the beautiful weather at the downtown playground after brunch before Bryan and I headed home to Chicago in the afternoon.

And that brings me to today! Back in the office, back to the grind, back to reality, all that good stuff. Hoping for a fast week - my mom and her man are coming in town this weekend for a concert and some good ol' fashioned family bonding!

How was everyone else's weekend?

Mingle 240

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A Case of the Mondays

How is it that Mondays are the only day I can find time to sit and write? Honestly, I don't know how real bloggers do it. I start each week with the best intentions to visit this corner every day and write and next thing I know, the week has come and gone and THAT'S WEIRD (oh wait, no it isn't), I haven't written since Monday.

Try as I might, this blogging thing may not be for me. On the one hand, I feel like I put so much pressure on myself to write quality content vs quantity content. And then I can't come up with things to write about. But then it's like, why can't I just use this as a diary? Everyone else does. I also know that I'm only going to get as much out of my blog as I give, which right now is about 5%. What do I expect?

To those of you who do look forward to my posts, and who comment, I want you to know I appreciate it. Stick with me for a little while longer and I hope I can make my part of the Internet something worth visiting every day.

My thoughts on today: - Monday mornings would be better if they were a part of my weekend-long blackouts.

Anyway, that's about all the time I have. I've got a lot of things on my mind that are stressful and exciting and making me kind of crazy. I'll be able to fill you in soon.
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5 Books for Springtime Reading

So, I've had this draft sitting in my blog for months, "Winter Reads." But now here we are, beginning of April and I still haven't written it. Story of my life.

If you know me, you know I love to read. It is in fact my life goal to write books for others to read and subsequently, blog about. Unfortunately, since I started my new job back in October, I haven't had as much time for it. I used to read on my commute via public transportation, but now that I drive every day, it makes it more difficult.

I do love to listen to books on tape, but I find myself more drawn to "chic lit" when I do that. Something about less concentration. In any case, here are five books I've read recently that I'd recommend, in no particular order:

The Fault in Our Stars, John Green

Hazel Lancaster and Augustus Waters are two teenagers with cancer. Hazel and Augustus become fast friends and eventually, fall in love. The book takes them through the ups and downs of their illness', and reminds the reader how painful and beautiful it can be to be alive and in love. Spoiler alert: This book does not have a happy ending. I bawled my eyes out on an airplane for at least an hour. BUT IT'S SO GOOD.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemptionm Laura Hillenbrand

This is my favorite book, ever. Now I don't typically like nonfiction books, so this is saying something. Unbroken tells the true story of Louis Zamperini, an Army lieutenant whose plane was shot down in World War II. The book tells Louis' life story, from his delinquent teenage years to being a POW to becoming an Olympic champion. The things that he went through and survived are almost too incredible to be true, which means this book is a page turner and a true testament of the resilience of the human spirit. Plus, not only is the book entertaining, I found I learned a lot, too. You'll love, I promise.

What Alice Forgot, Liane Moriarty

This is one I listened to on tape, so it's definitely a little lighter than my first two recommendations. (Also from the author of The Husband's Secret, which I'd also recommend.) Alice Love is 29, pregnant with her first child and madly in love with her husband. So imagine her surprise when she wakes up on the floor of a gym, 39, realizes she has 3 kids, is going through a divorce and can't remember the past 10 years. The book is all about Alice's journey in self-discovery, finding out where she's gone wrong in life and if she can get things back to the way they used to be.

My Fair Lazy: One Reality Television Addict's Attempt to Discover If Not Being A Dumb Ass Is the New Black; Or, A Culture-Up Manifesto, 
Jen Lancaster

Another bit of light-hearted reading. Jen Lancaster is one of my favorite authors - in fact, I'd say she is my author idol. Why? Her books are non-fiction, true accounts of different periods of her life where she takes a journey of self-discovery through events like  job loss, sucky city living, weight loss attempts and 1980s nostalgia, and then writes about it. Also, chick is hilarious. In this particular tale, she is on a quest for cultural enlightenment. Just read it.

And the Mountains Echoed: A Novel, Khaled Hosseini

From the author of The Kite Runner, tells the story of a father who gave his daughter away to a wealthy man in India. Her brother grows up wondering what's become of her and her life, resenting his father in the meantime. The story of how their lives are forever linked changes between multiple viewpoints and parts of the world from Kabul to Paris to San Francisco. It was a little slow at the beginning and tough to get into, so if you run into this problem, keep going - I promise it's worth it.

What have you been reading lately?
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