Fall in New Englad – Part 2

There were a lot of things I was looking forward to on this trip – but one of the highlights for me was touring the mansions in Newport.  We arrived later in town and had time to do some shopping and then have dinner at a nearby pub.  The next morning was all business:  mansions all day.  As many as we could possibly tour.

Our first was the Elms.  Built by the Berwinds [who made their fortune in coal].  We toured the house ourselves and then got a private tour of the servants’ headquarters afterwards.  Walking through the front gate gave me chills.  I had learned about all these architects and designers in my design program so it was surreal walking through the actual houses they had worked on.
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We had some time to walk around the grounds for a bit before heading off to lunch at The Shop.  I’d say the Elms was my third favorite of all the mansions we toured.  Then, off to the next estate:  the Breakers.  I was looking forward to this property the very most and it did not dissapoint.

What WAS disappointing is that I couldn’t take photographs inside (or inside any of the mansions, for that matter).  But pictures wouldn’t have done justice.  Oh, the Vanderbilts [who made their fortune in the railroads] they really knew how to spend some serious coin.breakers 1 breakers 2 I think the part that floored me the absolute most was the fact that these were not just homes.  These mansions were deemed “summer cottages”.  They were not the families SECOND homes, but their fifth and sixth vacation homes.  I would die to see what place they all called their permanent home actually looked like.  breakers 3

After the Breakers (which turned out to be my second favorite) we went down to the water to take a sunset sail on the bay.

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It was chilly, but luckily they provided us with blankets (and Siri shared her spare pair of gloves with me) so we stayed pretty warm.  Behind us [the brown structure] was Jackie O’s childhood home.  The views were incredible and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. sail 2

And, like a 10-year-old, I requested to drive the boat “all by myself” and was surprised the captain agreed to it.  He didn’t go far…obviously…  I felt like a legit Kennedy or something, with the American Flag blowing in the wind behind me. sail 4

We pulled back to the pier with an incredible view of the moon on the water.  IMG_0090

We warmed up for dinner at a nearby chowder house where I had my very first lobster roll.  No better place than in Newport!

The next morning was our second round of mansion tours.  First, was Rosecliff – where part of the Great Gatsby was filmed.  It had more owners than any other estate, but has one of the best views, in my opinion.

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Then, on to Chateau Sur Mer.  Considered one of the first stone mansions in the Newport area.  It was incredible, but kind of creeped me out.  It felt more medieval than it did palacial.  The ground were amazing, though.  The trees alone are hundreds of years older than anything that we have here in Utah.

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Last, we toured Marble House.  My absolute favorite.  Saved the best for last, I suppose.  Another one of the Vanderbilt family estates, it didn’t feel like it belonged in America at all.  In fact, each new room I went into reminded me more and more of Versailles in France.  The homage to King Louis was evident – if you didn’t get that from the giant bust of him in the staircase landing.  I couldn’t decide which part perturbed me more:  the fact that these people were TRYING to be royal or the fact that they had enough money to act like they actually were.  The entire estate was marble.  The walls, the ceiling – nearly every square inch.  All the furniture and ornamentation was Louis XVI style which was completely over the top but wonderful.  My favorite was the lilac bedroom (which reminded me of Marie Antoinette – thank you glorious internet)…

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…and the fact that each different room had a Christmas tree decorated in the style of that particular room.  I snuck a few pictures here and there, but again, they don’t do it justice.IMG_0155

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Afterwards we had time to do a little shopping and then have dinner at 22 Bowen’s [my favorite meal of the entire trip] on the pier.  We had delicious sea food and Lori and Rachael braved eating an entire lobster (that we later learned could have possibly been pregnant).  So there’s that…

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We popped in and out of shops until they all started to close and we made our way back to our hotel.

The next morning some of us had planned to walk/run the Cliff Walk.  It is a designated path along the edge of the water.  The ocean on one side, and all the mansions we had toured on the other.  Gina and I dropped the members of our troop off at one end and we drove to the other, planning to run back.  Waves were crashing along our way – we even got sea sprayed a few times!  It was my favorite run of the trip. FullSizeRender-5

We passed Marble House and all the other mansions up to the Breakers and then ran back to our hotel. cliff 1

It was a great way to end the trip.  We showered up, packed our bags, and had lunch at our hotel before we left for the airport.
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It was hard to leave – but the thought of coming home to my baby and my baby daddy after 5 days made it easier.  We had a fantastic time.  Good laughs, great people.  Not to mention all of that with a beautiful backdrop.

Thank you, Hendo ladies!  And New England:  I am coming back for you.  But until then, a few of my favorite things about you to hold me over…

  • stone fences
  • pumpkins on every doorstep
  • the seafood
  • apple stands
  • american flags everywhere
  • cobblestone streets
  • sea spray
  • the local’s accents
  • stone churches
  • apple cider
  • blankets of leaves

 

Fall in New England – Part I

I had been anxiously awaiting this Hendo Girl’s Trip since we started discussing it months ago.  It’s been a dream of mine to do a “Fall Foliage Tour” of New England for almost 5 years, but Zach and I just never seemed to make it work with our schedules.  The leaves change within a very specific time frame, and you have to be ready for it.  So when the girls started planning – it couldn’t have come fast enough.

We left Salt Lake for Boston early Friday morning.  The four hour flight went by very quickly for me – thanks to Mindy Kaling’s new book.  As soon as we stepped outside the doors of the airport we noticed the weather was a lot chillier than at home.  I couldn’t have been more excited about it.  IMG_0242

Siri – who met us from Ohio – picked us all up in our rental car (a giant black Suburban).  Instead of staying in Boston, we started our trip off with a drive to Rhode Island.  It took us a while to get there because we left at prime time rush hour, but we took a detour for dinner along the way at Seina.  Our next stop was at the Pumpkin Walk at Roger Williams Park.  It’s the largest display of real carved pumpkins in the United States.  The entire zoo was covered with an insane amount of Jack-O-Lanterns.
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Even the trees were adorned with teeny tiny little guys, all lit up.  IMG_9899

Not only was the sheer number impressive – but the detail.  The larger pumpkins were carved with entire scenes from movies or portraits of different characters and everywhere you walked had a theme – sometimes corresponding music. pumpkin 1

I would have loved to see how they hung and displayed the pumpkins in the daylight, but I am sure it would have ruined the magic of it.IMG_9902 IMG_9817

After we left the Pumpkin Walk we drove back to our home for the next few days.  Gina rented us a stone house in Waterford, Connecticut.  It was late when we arrived and the streets were too dark to appreciate fully how incredible this place was.

The next morning when I woke up I almost peed my pants when I looked out the windows.  The owner had placed mini pumpkins all along the stone fence around the property…

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I couldn’t get over how picturesque the place was.  Like it was picked right out of a film or a painting…
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That first morning we set off on our first little road trip.  We drove through several dreamy little towns and made a pit stop at a local apple stand.

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They had pumpkins in a wooden trailer, for crying out loud! apple stand 2

We made it to Putnam, Connecticut for lunch at a quaint little place called Jessica Tuesday’s and to walk around town for their Fall Festival.  There were booths set up all over and live music.  Every street corner, every planter was decorated…

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Some of us bought maple flavored cotton candy, others bought knit hats with pom poms, and some (Gina) danced along with the live band.

Then, to Massachusetts again.  We visited Old Sturbridge Village, an actual community that dates back to the late 1800’s.  We stopped for ghost stories at the barn, learned how these people lived, and watched them work.

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We even asked a pair of gentlemen what they were doing and they informed us they were building a fence, and they legitimately were!  I watched them haul wood down the dirt road.  Women were baking over a real fire – some were sewing and doing other chores.

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My favorite part of the village was the covered bridge with a view of the pond.

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After Sturbridge we had dinner in Mystic, Connecticut before driving back to Waterford for the night.

The next morning Gina and I went for a run around our neighborhood.  I wish it was our real neighborhood.  But even temporarily, I was grateful to be there.  The sidewalks were absolutely covered in bright leaves and the houses along the streets were just as beautiful.  I kept thinking to myself, “How does one find themselves in Waterford, Connecticut?”  I could definitely call this place home.

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Then we were off to Essex, where we had tickets to ride the Fall Foliage Train.  When we arrived I was impressed how legit this train was.  It was the real deal – with a conductor and everything.

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Some of us were lucky enough to ride in first class where we each had our own little swivel chair placed right in front of the windows.  It was just us – and a bunch of leaf peepers.

train 1We even had the cabin all to ourselves for a brief moment before they loaded up on the return trip.
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It was very relaxing to roll by and see all the leaves and the view of the river.  After our train ride we walked around Essex for a while.  Quite possibly the most charming of all the little towns we visited.

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The old houses we all spiffed up for Halloween.  It reminded me of my favorite – Hocus Pocus.  essex 1

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After our walkabout we left Essex and drove back to Waterford for the last time.  We packed our bags, loaded up the car, and made our way from Connecticut to Rhode Island.  I’ve never been so sad to leave a rental home.  Until we meet again, stone house.  You were an absolute dream.  Don’t change a thing!

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Fall Festivities 

I’ll be honest – I’ve been praying for fall to come for nearly the entire summer.  It’s not that I don’t love the summer months, but fall takes the cake for me.  Or pumpkin cookies.  Whatever.  The weather has been so pleasant.  Even though we have had some stormy days, that doesn’t stop Sloan and I from enjoying the dreamy temps.  
Sloan loves to see the decor in our neighborhood.  I take her down the same street on our walks so she can enjoy a few of her favorite houses in all of their blow-up glory.  

We spend almost all of our afternoons at Danger Park – swinging and sitting on the forbidden rocks.   I am just trying to soak up every last minute with my 11 month old.  It almost doesn’t seem possible.
This last week I conned Zach into going back to Cubby’s in Sugarhouse for another tri tip salad.  He obliged – but his tri tip was in sandwich form.  Give Sloan a straw and she’ll be as happy as a clam.   She also has found her singing voice.  She sarenades us [and all of the other customers] while we dine.  Dinner AND a show, I guess. Cooking has become a lot more fun with another mouth to feed.  Every meal is Sloan’s “first”.  This week she tried manicotti for the first time and nearly out-ate Zach.

At least I found a meal that I can make that they can both devour.

I also baked.  Baking and fall go hand in hand with me.  I rarely bake goodies at home anymore [trying to eat fairly clean] but pumpkin chocolate chip cookies have been calling my name.  So there was no stopping me…  I spent a lot of time this week prepping for an upcoming Hendo Girls Trip.  But priority one before I left was mailing out all of Sloan’s first birthday invites.  My father-in-law has never been prouder to see a name he picked out for a grandchild stuck enough to plan a birthday after.  Work stuff hasn’t changed.  Most days I feel a little overwhelmed with the projects I have taken on.  But I don’t regret it when I see all the fun development.  Custom awards for the Alder executives got cranked out this week.

Along with the outdoor signage being installed.  This was a huge one.  I designed this MONTHS ago and production has been rather slow.  It’s so fun to see these things happening, finally!

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I’m looking forward to a week [almost a week] off from work stuff when I travel to New England with the ladies in Zach’s family.  What I’m not looking forward to is being away from my two little BFFs for that period of time.  By the time I return home I will have a one-year-old on my hands.

Headed for Halloween

For Family Night we ran some errands down in Salt Lake.  We dined at Noodles and Company – where Sloan had her first kid’s meal.  To be fair, she really only had the strawberries and apple sauce, but she was acting like it was Thanksgiving Dinner. IMG_9630

The week marked a month before Sloan’s First Birthday.  I suddenly realized how far behind I was on party planning and kind of went into fast forward [panic mode] during her nap times.  We got her party favors…FullSizeRender-10

…table centerpieces…IMG_9637

…and other random stuff done for the party. IMG_9674

Sloan’s obsession with avocado has reached new heights.  I have to buy them by the bag to fulfill her addiction.  It’s been fun to try new meals with it, however.  This white cheese macaroni and avocado is a serious game changer…FullSizeRender-5

Speaking of meals – Thursday my mom’s side of the family all met down in Provo to go on a “Halloween Cruise”.  We stopped to eat at Cubby’s (at my request) because I’ve been dying to try it.  The line was out the door – no joke – and we had to rush to finish eating in time for our cruise ride.  The tri-tip salad was out of this world.

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Sloan was totally spoiled as well with a million new people to watch during dinner and being spoon-fed by her aunt Brittany.  She was thrilled, despite her expression…IMG_2528

When we arrived the place was packed.  So packed, that we didn’t make it on the boat for our time slot [7:00] and the next available time was 8:30.  We hung around the place and anxiously awaited our turn.
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I’ll be honest – the word “cruise” was misleading.  If I could rename the event it would be the Halloween Float.  Zach was disappointed you couldn’t buy drinks or snacks on the boat.  Sloan was having the time of her life…
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It was the latest she had ever been out.  Ever.  We didn’t get home until far after 10:00.  Her ride home was all zzzz’s.

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Friday night Zach and Sloan had a Triple D [that’s what Zach calls a Daddy Daughter Date] and I got to eat dinner and have a box party with my friends.  Kristina’s parents are moving, and obviously mine are in the process, so we all brought boxes of old photographs, notes, and other memories from our Junior High / High School days.  I’ve been friends with these girls for 17 years.  It makes me feel ancient, but laughing with them makes me feel like I’m back at BJH.  IMG_9691

Saturday the three of us spent all day together.  We went to lunch down town where Sloan ate her weight in black beans.  FullSizeRender-9 IMG_9706

We also stopped at Trader Joe’s for some pumpkin supplies [mostly their pumpkin butter] and left with the cutest little festive succulent.

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That night Zach and I had a babysitter for the Utah game.  We went out to eat for sushi at Naked Fish and the weather turned cold and rainy really quickly.  I am a fair weather fan – so Zach invited his friend Joel to join him.  I mean, I love Zach…but sitting in the pouring rain for football is where I draw the line.  After our meal we went our separate ways.  The baby sitter was planning to stay until 10:00, so I hit up Swig and Target before they closed.  Just me and my date of a DDDC.FullSizeRender-8

The Utes came out with a win and I didn’t have to sit in the pouring rain – so I’d call it another successful Date Night.

The next morning was church.  The schedule has been switched for our meetings and Sloan basically thinks it is just the worst.  It wasn’t our finest block to date, but we did our best.  At least she was kind of smiling.FullSizeRender-6

After church we drove up to Layton for the annual Henderson pumpkin carving extravaganza.  Sloan had her very first interaction with a pumpkin and she was a huge fan.  She would have swallowed it whole if I would have let her. FullSizeRender-2

We let her paint her pumpkin in her birthday suit.  Her handprints didn’t turn out like I would have expected.  FullSizeRender

I’d say it was as quality as can be expected for a “baby’s first pumpkin”.
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FullSizeRender-3I’ve never been more excited for a holiday than I have been for this upcoming Halloween.  Sloan will not remember a moment of it, but I will.  Holidays are so much more fun [planning and experiencing] with a little one in the house.

Being a Family

Monday Sloan and I had a whole day out and about.  We ran a million errands and then had lunch at Costa Vida.  Even though we were away from her only for a long weekend – it felt like she had grown leaps and bounds.  She even fits [kind of] into some of her summer clothes [meant for this summer, of course] just in time for the fall weather to show up in Utah.  I put her in her dad’s favorite shirt – Later Skater – and had to laugh when I saw the sign posted outside the Costa Vida entrance.  Haters.

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For some reason, I was craving breakfast for dinner.  So I convinced Zach for Family Night that we have a big helping of pancakes, eggs, and bacon.  He obliged and Sloan had her first taste of pancakes and “scrambie eggs”.

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Putting Sloan to bed that night was pretty ridiculous.  We tried on all her stuff that we got her while we were in Chicago and after her bath we read her a million stories.  We both laughed at how long we were lingering.  It’s hard to put her to bed after not seeing her for three nights.

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The next morning Sloan and I were up bright and early for the grand opening of Madewell’s store at City Creek.  We were lucky enough to get a gift card last time – so my friend Jenn and I showed up an hour before the opening to get in line.  Luckily, we both got gift cards [50 dollas!] and the trip was well worth it – if you ask us.  Don’t ask Parker and Sloan, though.  They were not thrilled…

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Later that night we celebrated Jenn’s 30th birthday – Lindsey, Jenn, and I – at Trio in Salt Lake.  Spending time with these ladies is good for my heart.  I appreciate their friendship more than they will ever know.  And 30 looks SO good on Jenn…

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The rest of this week was spent catching up on all my work projects, cleaning my house, and going to Danger Park in our skeleton pajamas.  Because that’s how classy we are…

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Friday evening my friend Derek married his fiancé, Brian up at Millcreek Inn.  They’ve been together 5 years and the wedding couldn’t have been more perfect.  The weather, the lights in the trees.  Let’s just say my first official gay wedding lived up to the hype.

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It was great catching up with ma girls and seeing Derek as happy as he was that night.  He and Brian are made for each other.  Even their vows were perfectly in sync (completely coincidental).

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Saturday was packed.  We drove from NSL > Taylorsville to help my parents pack up their basement into a storage unit.  Sloan napped while we carried years worth of furniture, boxes, and pure garbage [my mom is the most organized hoarder on this planet] and packed it in a truck.  Then we drove from Magna > NSL to shower and get ready for my cousin Tadd’s wedding BBQ.  So from NSL > Draper we went.  We stayed for a while, caught up with some family and friends, and then drove Draper > NSL to change for the Utah Football game.  Sloan hung out with a babysitter while Zach and I had date night.  We ate sushi at Tsunami and then rushed over to Rice Eccles.  The game was a blast.  Intense, as usual, but so fun to watch.  Our seats really do make this experience for me.  Still can’t believe Zach weaseled his way into this deal…

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After the victory, I convinced Zach to stop on the way home and get some Diet Coke and a Cinnabon.  So even though we got home way passed OUR bedtime – we stayed up until after one in the morning eating our spoils and watching one of our new favorite Netflix shows.

Sunday came and went.  Church.  Naps – Zach voted to watch some ESPN. And dinner at my parents’ house.

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I haven’t been too emotional about my parents selling their home.  I really am excited for them.  But for some reason the thought of Sloan not being able to jump on their trampoline got me all upset Sunday night.  I’ve had a million memories made on the old trampoline.  Before we left for the evening I took Sloan out there to bounce on that baby.  It may be the last time she ever gets to, considering the timeline.  She was in heaven.  You can tell by our squeals and double chins in this photo that it will be sorely missed…

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This weekend Sloan also turned 11 months old.  She is a maniac.  Climbing up and over everything, walking [assisted, of course], and basically running this house with her pouty puppy dog eyes.  She eats just about everything and anything.  She is such a great sleeper (and napper, but I don’t want to jinx it) and I just thank heaven above every night how lucky we are to have her in our family.

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We’re not perfect parents, but we’re trying our best.  Zach and I balance each other out pretty well when it comes down to it.  He’s the fun parent – and I stress out about giving her balanced meals and reading to her constantly.  Either way, I hope she loves being a part of us.  Because she makes being a family SO wonderful.

Sportsiversary

We started planning for our anniversary a lot earlier than usual this year.  With the holidays and Sloan’s birthday – we didn’t want to be gone at the end of November.  So we planned to go on a trip, just the two of us, a few weeks early to celebrate.  Chicago it was.  Zach wanted to fit in as many sporting events as possible and I wanted to shop and eat 24/7.  I nicknamed the trip our “Sportsiversary”.  Three games in three days.

Before we left, I was a hot mess.  So excited to have some alone time with Zach, but a total basket case about leaving my baby.  That’s another thing I said I would never do – be a freak about leaving my kids on vacation.  Maybe it gets easier the more you have?  Or maybe for some it never gets easier.  Either way – it was much harder than I expected.  We dropped Sloan off at my mom’s house Thursday and then hustled to the airport.  Zach caught me looking at photos of Sloan on my phone – 28 minutes into our trip…
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The flight was a breeze and went by really quick.  By the time we got in we were starving.  We ditched our bags at our hotel and walked on over to Gino’s East for some deep dish pizza.  It was Zach’s one request [food wise] of the trip.  FullSizeRender-10FullSizeRender-11

Friday we slept in, I went for a run on Michigan Ave, and we had an early lunch at the Velvet Taco.  If you ever go – get the tater tots.  With the egg.  IMG_9317Afterwards we shopped.  For hours.  Zach didn’t complain once.  We went in and out of stores all up and down the Magnificent Mile and Rush Street.  Then we stopped at Sprinkles to refuel, obviously.
IMG_9339FullSizeRender-2IMG_9349 We walked back to our hotel so we could change for dinner at Joe’s. IMG_9352

They found out we were celebrating our anniversary and sent us two glasses of champagne to our table.  To spare an awkward conversation – we gave our glasses to the couple in the booth next to us to toast.  For dinner we shared an order of the Alaskan King Crab.  I am not a big Crab [or shellfish fan in general] but this crab is beyond amazing.  And they make eating it enjoyable – they cut it and crack it for you at the table.
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After dinner we changed our clothes and made our way over to U.S. Cellular Field for our first Sox game.  Our last visit to Chicago we went to Wrigley Field to see the Cubs – so it was only fitting that we saw the Sox this trip.  FullSizeRender-9

Besides – I got to channel my inner Ice Cube and get a Sox hat [much classier than a Raiders hat, in my opinion].  It hasn’t really felt like fall to me quite yet in Salt Lake – but on that crisp evening at the ball park it got me all kinds of excited for the season.  IMG_9362At the end of the seventh inning there was even a romantic moment with Southpaw, their mascot.  The real mystery that Zach and I couldn’t figure out is why the poor guy is green??
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The next morning we slept in, I went for a run by Navy Pier, and we got ready to go out and about.  It just so happened that Zach’s brother Sean, who is currently living in Ohio, was taking his boards in Chicago.  He was staying in a hotel right across the street from a Shake Shack – so meet up for lunch with him was a no brainer.

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We spent the next few hours catching up with Sean and then sent him on his way with good luck wishes.

Even though we were cutting it close, I dragged Zach into a few more stores before we had to make our way over to our dinner reservation at Bandera.

We had been there before when the Hendo girls visited for our Girl’s Trip a few years ago.  I decided to take Zach back to try it and we both left agreeing it was one of our favorite meals of the trip.  Their cornbread is out of this world.  We’re going to order it next time for dessert instead of an appetizer…

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After dinner we took a cab over to the United Center for the ice hockey game.  We took a risk and decided to wait to get tickets until 45 minutes before the game started.  There weren’t any seats we liked for the price – so we kept waiting.  Thanks to Zach’s perseverance, he bought great tickets while we were at dinner [on the 12th row!] and I convinced the concierge at a nearby hotel to print them off for us.

The facility was incredible.  I mean, I know Jordan won a billion championships and the Blackhawks have had their Stanley Cup victories…but I didn’t expect the place to be that nice.

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The fans were in a league of their own, as well.  I think hockey fans are some of my absolute favorite when it comes to sporting events.

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The place was absolutely packed – and the game did not disappoint.  Patrick Kane was so fun to watch!  It’s alway more fun to leave the home team with a win.

Sunday morning we slept in until they almost physically kicked us out of our hotel.  We checked out and stowed our bags so we could catch a cab over to Soldier Field.  The crowds were crazy.  This trip made me realize how devoted and true Chicagoans are to their teams.  It was so packed that we rode a bike taxi to the entrance of the stadium.  We got ourselves some warm fan gear [and Sloan a stuffed bear] and settled into our seats.  With popcorn and pretzel in hand, we witnessed all the gore (and glory) that comes with being a Raiders fan.  We got amazing seats (again, to my husband who manages to finagle his way into a win-win situation always) on the second row.  They were located on one of the end zones and it felt like we were surrounded by Raiders fans.  Luckily, we made some fast friends…

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After the game we had very little time to grab our bags and head over to the airport.  The weekend went by very quickly.  Although we were both in our own little world – sleeping in, staying up late talking for hours, shopping, eating at fancy restaurants, and just spending time together – we both missed Sloan beyond our expectations.  The flight from Midway to Salt Lake seemed like it took 12 hours instead of 3.  I am so grateful to my parents who watched Sloan and gave her the weekend of her life while we were away.  It’s hard enough to leave your baby behind – but to know she was well taken care of was the greatest relief.

Even though it’s an early celebration – seven years with my best friend feels like a blink.  Time flies when you’re having fun!