A Perfect Chicago Day

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

So you're coming to Chicago and you want some suggestions on things to do. First of all, good call on visiting in the summer. This city isn't quite as pleasant in the winter. But summers in the Windy City? They can't be beat.
Below is a list of some of my favorite things to do during the day, maybe you'll enjoy them as well!

1. Go On An Architecture Boat Tour.
The history of the Chicago skyline is more interesting than you might think! See it by boat with a drink in hand and it gets even more interesting. I do this tour at least once every summer and I love it every time.

2. If an architecture boat tour doesn't sound fun to you, rent an electric boat instead and be your own captain as you cruise around the Chicago river. Pack some wine and cheese and this is always a good time.

3. Get out of downtown and head to the Lincoln Park Zoo (it's free!) And when you've had enough of the animal smells walk across the street to Mon Ami Gabi and have some oysters on their great patio.

4. Get your Ferris Bueller on at the Art Institute. I'm usually not cool enough to be an "art museum type of gal" but even I love the Art Institute. I also love their snack bar.

5. Rent a kayak or paddle board. Kayaking down the Chicago river can be a little .... gross at times depending on how dirty the water is, but I usually enjoy it never the less. And paddle boarding in Lake Michigan is always a blast.

*Not my photo, but I bet these cute dads in plaid don't mind me posting them.

6. Go to a baseball game! Cubs or Sox, both are a fun time.

7. Catch an improv show! Go to any show at either Second City or iO and you will have a good time. Both theaters have produced more comedic stars than I can even count.

8. Speaking of comedy, let's talk about stand-up... Zanies is Chicago's oldest comedy club. It hosts some of the best comedians from all over the country every weekend.

Of course there's also shopping, the beach, renting bikes, and a plethora of other tours/things you can do. I just named a few of my favorites. If I left something off, tell me below!

This post was sponsored by Ford, but all Chicago favorites mentioned are my own. For more Chicago fun, check out this episode of Taste Buds Chicago!

To see where I've been eating lately, check out this post. And more importantly, click here to see my favorite Bloody Mary's in the city.

What's your favorite thing to do in Chicago?

That Time We Went Camping

Turns out it takes a lot of time and money to buy all of the camping essentials, pack up your car, set up a camp site, all in an attempt to make it feel a little bit like home. It might just be cheaper to ... stay at home.

But where is the fun in that? Would you just look at the smile on this guy. It was totally worth it.

After reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed, I wanted to hike the PCT. After camping in Iowa for two days, I now realize this is no longer a want of mine.

We pulled into Dolliver State Park in Iowa Saturday afternoon. I know camping in Iowa seems a little odd, but our choices were limited... And all snarking aside, this park actually turned out to be very cool. We hiked some awesome trails hidden deep in the forests of Iowa, played in crystal clear creeks, and mingled with the local camping folk.

Speaking of camping folk. They are a different breed than say... resort folk. Not better, not worse, just different.

The second we pulled into the campground all eyes were on us. "New people," they all were thinking. Chris and I felt like rookies as we popped up our lone little tent, surrounded by people in their massive RVs decorated with lights, outdoor rugs, and even some makeshift front yard fences.

The second we got everything set up we went out to explore. We hiked around 15 miles each day. The trails were what my childhood dreams were made of. Steep cliffs buried deep in the woods, fallen trees we had to climb over, and secret little creeks waiting for us like a prize at the end of the journey.

Chris suggested we really embrace camp life, so we brought our bag chairs with us and plopped them down right in the middle of water. Unfortunately we only brought two. So Harlow stole mine the second I got up.

I can honestly say this might be the first time in Har's life I've actually seen him exhausted. He could barely keep his eyes open. For every mile we walked, he ran about five. This camp site was his Disney World. He chased deer, rabbits and squirrels until he couldn't run any further.

Harlow was all wolf during the day, acting like a big shot as if he'd lived his entire life in the wilderness. But the second night hit he was back to his diva city dog antics. He started out sleeping at my feet, but after the first boom of thunder he jumped up begging me to let him in my sleeping bag as fast as he could. Have you ever slept in a flannel sleeping bag with a sixty pound dog? It gets a little warm.

Speaking of the thunderstorm.... That was terrifying. I've never slept in a tent where the thunder is so loud it shakes inside your chest and every time lighting strikes it illuminates the entire tent in an odd bright green light. The only reason I survived that first night is because I drank a lot. I'm not ashamed to admit that, I knew it had to be done.

I'm going to call this part one of the camping series. In tomorrow's post I'll talk about the camping "friend" we met who thought it was funny to tell jokes about how superior men are to women. Spoiler alert: it didn't go over well with me.

7 Ways To Feel Like You're On Vacation Even When You're Not

Monday, June 29, 2015

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Rums of Puerto Rico for IZEA. All opinions are 100% mine.

I've been craving a really good summer vacation. I know it might seem like I go quite a bit, what with all of my luxurious trips to Nebraska and Iowa, but I want to go somewhere tropical. Or to an island. Somewhere with white beaches and blue waters. Lake Michigan isn't exactly blue. Sometimes it's green. Sometimes it's brown...

Sadly, I don't have anything like this planned in the upcoming months. So until I've got a great trip in the books, I've figured out a few ways into trick myself to feeling like I'm on vacation.

Listen to Bob Marley. All day, every day. I sometimes substitute The Beach Boys, as well. And when I'm feeling really weird I'll throw on some Jimmy Buffet. Margaritaville makes me happy, I don't care what anyone says.

Keep reapplying sunscreen. Even if you're not going outside, just put it on. It will smell like vacation, I promise.

Hang out in the outdoor/vacation aisle at Target. Is it sad this aisle makes me happy?

Wear your swimsuit all day. Eat, drink, and nap in it. It's weird but it works.

Sleep in just a little bit later on the weekends.

Wear crop tops and don't give a damn if you're dressed the same as the teenagers you pass on the street... see above photo.

Lastly and most importantly, drink lots of rum. I suggest Puerto Rican rum, it's the Rum Capital  of the World after all.

Check out the new web series Rum Times to get a real taste of Puerto Rico and learn a lot of cool things. Like did you know Puerto Rico has been distilling it for more than four decades? Check out the first episode and go on a quest for electric light. Drinking rum is just a little more tasty when you know where it comes from.  

Have a good week, It’s Rum Time! And check out the fun clip below!
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*Comments have been turned off, go enjoy this summer day!

Gone Camping

Friday, June 26, 2015

You might not know it, but I was the best "Sunny" fish catcher of the early 90s. Just look at the smug smile on my face. "Another day, another Sunny." Me in my pink life jacket with what appears to be a child sized Moo Moo underneath. The only thing missing is my blue Daffy Duck fishing pole that I used until I lost it in the river. And cried for days about, I might add. You don't know heartbreak until you've lost your first fishing pole.

And are "sunnys" even a real fish? I guess I don't know. That's just what my dad called the tiny fish I'd catch every summer in Minnesota. But my dad tends to make a lot of shit up. To this day he still claims he had a pet alligator when he was a kid. Pet alligators don't exist in Nebraska.

Well in true Griswold fashion, tonight Chris and I are packing up our woody wagon with coolers and sleeping bags in preparation of our camping trip this weekend. We're going to a really cool part of Michigan that Tim Allen always talks about, with beautiful lakes, and caves, and sand dunes, and mountains, and volcanoes.

Or we might be going to a state park in Iowa. I don't want to say which is true.

Regardless, it's going to be interesting. I'm not sure if either of us has really camped before. I think we both have visions in our head of how this weekend should go.  I just want to drink around a campfire and eat chips. I think Chris wants to explore and build a canoe out of sticks and pretend he's on a survivor TV show. Hopefully our dreams for the weekend cross paths at some point.

One thing is for sure, Harlow is EXCITED. The bags are out so he knows it's go time. He's such a princess he doesn't even get nervous when he sees the bags out like most dogs do, he's always been invited on the trips so he knows it's vacay time.

He's spent the morning running hot laps around the house whimpering "Can we go now? Can we go now? What about now? Now? Is it time? How about now? Now? But now? Now? Can we go?"

It's going to be a long day with this maniac.  Just look at this face.

I'm scared to leave him alone for even a second because I think I might come home and he'll have chewed through a wall and his head will be sticking out like, "Heressssss Harlow."

I had to.

If only I knew how to turn this into a gif it would be amazing. Sometimes I post things I know only I will enjoy. This Harlow pic was one of them.

Have a good weekend. And if you're camping in Iowa on Saturday stop on by our tent for some moonshine! Chris will be the guy in the poncho and I'll be in a moo moo. So basically we'll look like everyone else camping in Iowa I assume.

Sharing Our Engagement Photos

Thursday, June 25, 2015

I've been keeping this kind of quiet, but a few weeks ago Chris and I had some engagement photos taken. And now I am SO excited to share a few with you. Just a heads up, we had a lot of outfit/scene changes. But I assure you these were all taken on the same day. And in the same year. I really hope you like them!  
The photographer really wanted to capture the essence of "us." So she gave us a little champagne before to help us relax a bit. (I tend to get a little awkward in front of the camera.) But after a few drinks I loosen right up. We both do.

I know this might not seem like the most "conventional engagement" photo. But I think it's cute and candid. It says, "hey we're a couple who likes to party, but we also like to get dressed up."

This is supposed to be one of those artsy photos where the photographer told me to look away. So I did. And I also happened to grab some binoculars just to add a little something extra.

"Give me the smile you're going to have when you walk down the aisle," the photographer said to me right before she snapped this gem. This might be the one we put in the newspaper alongside our engagement announcement. I just think I look really good.

Now I tend to hate the cheesy affectionate photos. But our photographer insisted we have at least one. It's not my favorite, but it's okay. What do you think?

In all honesty if I had to choose one touching photo it would be this one. I think it looks really natural. And the angles are pretty good.

And that's a peak inside our engagement shoot... 

At this point I'd like to open the floor for discussion. What are your thoughts on engagement photos? Does anyone else question why we're supposed to get 100 photos taken as a couple when we're just going to get 500 more at our upcoming wedding? Or am I just being cheap? I've heard engagement photos are typically a part of a photographer's wedding package, but I wouldn't know since I haven't looked into any of this.

Don't get me wrong, I love looking at everyone else's engagement photos. I just don't really want my own (besides the ones you see above.)

For starters I would probably walk out if a photographer told Chris and I to "gaze into each others eyes" or have me hold up a sign that said "he stole my heart, so I stole his last name." All the lols. Good for you, not for me.

And I'm not going to sit between his legs as he leans against a random tree, he's not going to stare at my back as I stand in a lonely cornfield thinking about love, and we're certainly not going to kiss romantically while I hold up my hand toward the camera and "I SAID YES!" is written on my palm. People get it, we're getting married. No need to literally smack them in the face with this news.

As I said before, good for some couples, just not for us. That's just not how we do.

That being said, we may still get "real" engagement photos taken. It's up in the air at this point and not a huge concern for me. My only concern is getting one photo taken. And it's replicating this one, duh.

You can judge my dog pics and I'll judge your tree pics. To each their own. It all works.

You Probably Don't Know...

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

You probably know I'm about a week late to this linkup hosted by Helene....Sorry. I was trapped in Nebraska.

You probably don't know...

I love white on white. But I can only wear it for about an hour or so before I'm covered in Harlow.

I agree with Nadine, sticking out my hand when people say "let me see your ring!" feels very awkward. Like I'm an old queen showing off my jewels or something.

That being said, I still get excited to put my ring on every day. It feels super girly and unlike me to get so giddy about it, but I can't help it. Chris did good.

I hate the feel of cotton balls. And the sound of boots on flattened snow. I get goosebumps just thinking about both.

I've never played spin the bottle. I was always too scared as a kid. I'd seen Forrest Gump and I couldn't risk my chance of getting aids. Just didn't seem worth it.

I've also never played Bloody Mary or the Ouija board. Clearly I was the fun one at sleepovers...

Speaking of kid stuff, remember that one joke about "a boy and his father get in a car accident and get rushed to the hospital, but when the ER doctor goes to work on the kid the doctor stops and suddenly responds, "I can't work on this boy.... He's my child!" And the plot twist is that the doctor is... wait for it.. A WOMAN! It's his mom!

I grew up in the 90s. How was that joke still being told? Kids, please stop telling that one. Women can be anything. We'll just be paid less to do it.... zinger.

I have two reoccurring dreams that haunt me. One involves tornados destroying everything around me. And the other always has something to do with me being late for my last high school basketball game.

As a kid my summer job was detasseling corn. I'd get on a bus at 5:00 a.m. with a bunch of other dirty kids and get dropped off in a corn field. It was our job to walk up and down the rows of fields and remove the top tassel of the corn. Instead I'd find my own secret row of corn that no one was in and would eat my lunch at 9 a.m. and just lay down and look up at the sky and enjoy my Fresca. I quit that job four days in.

I've got another dog on my radar I'm trying to raise money for. His name is George and he's been living with a gun shot wound for 8 + years. If you can spare $5, please please do. As always, I'll give free medium ad space in exchange, just send me an email. Click here to help, George is obviously a fighter, but now he needs our help too.

(Like how I just slipped that one in there?)

Lastly, you probably don't know I'm going camping this weekend. Like in a tent. Me, Chris, and Harlow are going on an outdoor adventure.

Chris keeps asking if I've ever been and I keep reminding him that yes, I have been. I used to go camping with my fellow girl scouts to earn patches and we'd sell cookies and then our group leader Phyllis Nefler would have us all over to her mansion... And then I remember that I'm actually just recalling the movie Troop Beverly Hills. I've confused watching a lot of movies about camping with actually camping. So no, I've never been camping outside of my backyard. I'm sure it won't be that different.

I have a feeling this was a very self indulgent post. I'll do better tomorrow.

Feeling Like A Kid In Summer

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

This past week I jumped back in time and experienced summer as a kid through the eyes of my nephew and niece, Knox and Lola.

Knox is four and Lola is two. If you've been a reader for awhile you'll know that the relationship between Knox and I hasn't always been the best. It hasn't been bad necessarily, but we've had our rough patches. Sometimes he'd see me and love me, and other times he'd just look at me and shout "NO TAY TAY, GET AWAY!"

 I'd also like to note here that the #1 search phrase that brings people to my blog according to my analytics is "how to get toddlers to like you."

Well it's happened. Knox likes me. He's finally grown up (or maybe I have) and last week we hit it off like never before. He invited me into the secret world of a child in summer and it was good.

Do you remember what it was like to be a kid in summer? I mean like really remember it? Allow me to refresh your memory.

For breakfast we ate glazed donuts every morning. For lunch we feasted on Flavor-Ices.

And every hour in between was spent in the pool. I also finally got my water park fix. The only thing that bothers me about water parks is the fact that the bathrooms are always empty...

At one point the water park was completely full and yet I was the only person in the restroom. What's up with that? Am I not the only person in this world who still believes if I pee in a pool the water around me will turn some bright color because of a magical chemical intended to expose pool-urinators? I must be.

Also, please note we are eating push pops. I am in fact double-fisting push pops. It's been years since I've eaten one of these and I don't know why. They're delicious.

When the hot summer days faded into long summer nights we took to the golf course so Knox could show us how good he is and so Lola could drive the golf cart. (She's already two, relax.)

*I forgot my golfing attire. I don't typically play in cut-offs. You can judge me, I would.

And it just wouldn't be a Nebraska summer night without catching a few lighting bugs. Knox looks more like Karl from Shameless in this photo with that crazed look on his face like he's about to eat the lighting bugs... And then maybe even eat the glass jar. But I think he was just excited.

And don't worry, we only caught them for a second or two before releasing them again. Keeping lighting bugs in a jar for too long takes away their glow, and I'd never want to be responsible for such a crime.

Kids have summers figured out. From sun up until sun down, they play as hard as they can for as long as they can. They don't worry about tomorrow, or even yesterday, just the one that is currently happening.

Dear Moms Who Get Mad When I Call My Dog My Baby

Friday, June 19, 2015

Dear Moms Who Get Offended When I Call My Dog My Child, (or more specifically dear this mom.)

First of all, I guess I'm sorry it offends you when I call my dog my child. I had no idea you even cared. I certainly don't mind when you call your human children dogs. Or peanut. Or monkey. Or duck. Or whatever it is you like to call your kids. I always find it quite cute. Ducks on the other hand, well they might be pissed. You probably want to talk to them first, you know, to make sure you're not offending them.

As you said, "dogs ain't people." I guess I didn't realize in order to call something your baby or child they had to be people. Then again, I also didn't realize people are still using the word "ain't" so what do I know?

You are correct in pointing out that I didn't carry my dog for nine months in my womb. That's just silly. And it's taking away from Harlow's sweet biological mom, Big Nosed Kate. And I didn't have to go through a year long grueling adoption process. But here's the thing, and go with me here because this might sound completely crazy, but I've heard there are other ways to become parents other than just the two options you mentioned. Mind blowing, right? And from what I've seen, the people that become parents the "non traditional way" usually seem to love their children just as much.

You're right, my dog can't draw me pictures with hearts on them. And he can't say "I wuv you, mommy" like you made sure to point out. But he can make me feel better when I'm sad. And when I'm really lonely, he's always there. When something is wrong, he just knows. He stays by my side like glue when I'm sick. When I'm happy, he wants to jump with me. When I'm scared, he wants to protect me.  He can't draw hearts, or verbally say I love you, but that's okay with me. He's come up with other ways to tell me. I was under the impression human children did this as well, but who am I to say since I don't have my own.

Really though Beth, is it okay if I call you Beth by the way? I don't want to offend you. My entire post is a moot point because I could tell we were different parents the moment you said you could drop your dogs by the doggie spa and hop on a plane "guilt-free." See, I can't do that. Man, I wish I could, it would make traveling a heck of a lot easier. Instead, I worry about my pup the second I drop him off and miss him the entire time. What can I say, I'm just a crazy dog lady.

Beth, here's the thing, I have a lot of friends who are amazing parents. And they really don't care what I call my dog. It doesn't concern them. They're happy with their family and I'm happy with mine.

But I also have friends who don't have children. Some by choice, some not by choice. And when you write a post telling them "they can't call their dog a baby, because it's not even close," it's so damn hurtful. You don't need to remind them that their dog is not an actual baby, they're well aware. But who are you to judge what we call our animals or how we love them?

Beth, continue to raise your children and I'll do the same. I bet you're a really good mom to your kids. But to your dogs? Maybe not so much. I think all of us "crazy dog people" saw red flags the moment you said "you can mostly ignore your dog." So why don't you let one of us come on over and take your pups home so we can raise them as our children. Because that's the thing about us dog people, we always have room for one more, even if they're not our own.

20 Summer Blogging Ideas

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

1. Best childhood summer memory.

2. Summer bucket list!

3. If you could live one summer over again (because it was that great) which one would it be and why?

4. Beating the summer blogger slump- what are your tricks?

5. Favorite summer flick.

6. One thing you have to do every summer is...

7. What song always makes you think of summer and why?

8. Best summer salsa recipe.

9. If you could hop on a plane and go anywhere right now where would you go?

10. Your high school reunion- talk about it! Did you go? Why or why not?

11. Share a great (or awful) family vacation you went on as a kid.

12. If someone would have told you ten years ago this is where you'd be today, how would you respond?

13. What are some fun summer date ideas?

14. 4th of July- how do you celebrate?

15. Favorite 4th of July snack to bring to a party.

16. Summer fashion.

17. What's the one reoccurring dream you can't seem to shake?

18. Plan a summer staycation in your own town- what's on your to-do list?

19. Favorite beach read.

20.  By the end of summer I hope to...

*Don't forget to linkup with Helene tomorrow. I'll be joining!

Helene in Between

The Long Road Back

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Right now I'm cruising on Interstate 80 heading back to my roots with you-know-who at my side.

So let's talk about the drive from Chicago to Nebraska. I've mentioned it quite a few times on here since I'm a semi truck driver and make the route quite frequently, but let's get down to the nitty gritty of what that drive is really all about.

For starters I drive more than I fly for one reason and one reason alone: Harlow. I can't flee to the countryside and leave him behind. It just wouldn't be right. So every once in a while when we get that urge to leave the city we pack up the car and try to skip out around 6 a.m. so we miss Chicago traffic.

I pack  a container full of water for Harlow, a bag full of snacks for me, and a Kong toy filled with peanut butter for both of us and we hit the open road.

Harlow starts out riding shotgun. Then once we get out of the city he jumps into the back seat to get a different view. Then back to shotgun. Then he tests out riding on the middle console for a bit. Then back seat again. Shotgun. Console. Floor. Dashboard? Driver's lap? Driver's shoulder? He likes to test out every possible seat before he settles in.

And then we drive.

We drive through Illinois. Cross the Mississippi river. I try not to look over the edge because bridges freak me out. Enter Iowa. And make a pit stop at the Worlds Largest Truck stop so I can buy some new dream catchers and maybe some Amish cheese and sausage. This place also has showers you can use for only $2. I've never taken advantage, but it seems like a good deal.

Some say the terrain across Iowa and Nebraska is boring. But I happen to like looking at fields of windmills and soybeans. I find it oddly soothing.

From Chicago to good old Norfolk, Nebraska (home town of Johnny Carson, no big deal) it's just a little over eight hours.

The first three hours aren't bad. The next three are a little bit tedious and usually consist of me singing as loud as I can to Blank Space. And the last two hours are pure hell. I'm dirty, stinky, and every part of me is covered in dog hair. How's that for a visual?

And now I've got to jet because I'm technically writing this Monday afternoon and the Hawks are about to win the Stanley Cup in a few hours.

Please Chicago people, do not riot this time. PLEASE. Don't celebrate our city by breaking store front windows and throwing beer bottles at police men on horses. The last time we won the cup this happened. Shit got crazy. People in large crowds get scary.

Anyway, this week is going to be bananas. First the Hawks are going to win (I hope), then I'm going to pretend I'm a college kid at the CWS in Omaha for a day, and finally at the end of the week I'm going to a water park with Knox and Lola. And yes, I'm aware I'm the last person in this world who still thinks water parks are fun and not trashy. Whatever. It's summer.

I may skip a few posts while I'm having Nebraska time so follow the fun on Instagram via @thedailytay.

Summer Workout App

Monday, June 15, 2015

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of The North Face for IZEA. All opinions are 100% mine.

About a month ago I started using the Mountain Athletics app.

After using it for about six weeks here's some of my favorite things about it:
-Great variety of workout options.
-Easy to use and navigate.
-Simple tutorials and guides.
-Great strength training workouts.
-Best of all, the app works good! It doesn't just quit like so many apps today.

I wasn't working toward any goal specifically, I just wanted to tone up/slim down a bit for summer. According to the way my jean shorts fit, I think I've achieved that.

So all in all, if you're training for something or even just want a little assistance getting in shape while working out on your own, I suggest you Download the Mountain Athletics App. I've really enjoyed it.

But to be completely honest, what I liked even more than the app would have to be the Mountain Athletics from The North Face clothing line.

I love this workout gear! I might go so far as to say it's some of the best yoga pants I own. They fit wonderfully, don't slip, aren't too tight in any places they shouldn't be, and best of all, they can survive the washing machine!

I hate when I invest in workout clothes only to have them fall apart when they go through the wash. I've washed both the pants and sweatshirt more than a few times and they still look great. 

If you're looking to try out a new line of clothing, give Mountain Athletics from The North Face a try.

Check out The North Face, Facebook for even more! And Make sure to follow The North Face on Twitter#ITrainFor summer fun! What do you train for?

Also, if you're in the Chicago area make sure to check out the FREE Mountain Athletic events that happen every two weeks around the city!
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*Comments turned off, go play outside!