Bucket List #8: Spend a Day Downtown! (AKA Our Anniversary Weekend)

9/16/2014

As you know, last week was our first wedding anniversary. I still can’t believe it came so quickly, but it did and so we celebrated. We decided to spend two days, one night away, and I really do think it’s exactly what we needed!

Early Saturday morning, my beautiful mother in law treated me to a mani/pedi. It was the perfect way to start the day! A little coffee, a little pampering, a little girl talk…perfect. It was also my husband’s birthday so I decided to stop on my way home to get him two pecan tarts from Starbucks because they are his absolute favorite and I love to surprise him when I can!

To my surprise, when I got home, he was waiting with his own little present for me. My anniversary gift, a day early. My sweet, sweet husband (with the help of my father in law!), built me the most BEAUTIFUL bed frame. You bet your ass I cried. I was so surprised! I couldn’t believe that one, he built it and two, that he pulled it off! Ugh I love that man. I ended up giving him his gift, too. I bought him another watch that he was instantly obsessed with (the man loves watches!) and on the back, I had ONE inscribed in it :)

Before we made a break for our little getaway, we took Olivia to the car show in our old town. My sister and I used to go all the time when we were little and we’ve pretty much made it a point to go every year now that we’re older (with the exception of last year since it was on our wedding day.) We also went with my dad, my grandpa, and Dominic’s parents. A family affair :) Olivia really wasn’t too interested, but there was a pink car that caught her eye, of course!

Dominic and I have honestly been counting down the days for this little getaway, we were SO excited! But why, oh why, does it just seem so damn difficult to leave Olivia once the day actually comes? Fun fact: I seriously cry every time I leave her. No matter where we’re going. Like I say bye, and then Dominic grabs my hand and we kinda walk fast to the car because he knows I’m about to let it all out. I can’t help myself!

Anyway. Once we were on the road, I was obviously fine! If you knew us at all, you’d probably think our first stop would be to get coffee but instead we went to the mall….and then got coffee once we were inside! :P We walked around Woodfield Mall, hand in hand, just being alone. Our hotel was like three minutes away so we were just killing a little time!

Even though our dinner reservation was set for that night downtown, and we knew we were going to spend all day downtown on Sunday, too, we decided to book a hotel in Schaumburg because it was literally like $300 dollars cheaper. We stayed at the Rennaisaince. We’ve stayed there a few times before and picked it again because it’s beautiful, it’s clean, it’s close to things if we decided not to make the trek back to Chicago the next day and we love it.

When we got to the hotel, we decided to order a little snack because our dinner reservation wasn’t until 9:30pm. We ordered chicken fingers, they really good. Or were we just hungry? I don’t really know. We slowly started to get ready and around 7:45pm, we were on our way to dinner.

To keep the tradition going, we had dinner at RPM in Chicago. Last year it was truly such a delicious meal and we were craving their garlic bread like two pregnant women. While I stuck with my filet mignon, Dominic tried the carbonara and it was fantastic! After we were through with our meal, we were presented with a little surprise flight of gelato for our anniversary. It was such a nice surprise and I am still thinking about that pistachio gelato. I never even knew I liked pistachio gelato up until that night! We went back to our hotel, SO exhausted, but had previously ordered dessert for when we got back (obviously not knowing about the gelato). It was creme brulee, you guys, how could we not eat it?! God I love me some creme brulee.

The next morning, we woke up bright and early. We wanted to get breakfast in the city and generally just start our day early so that we’d have as much time to spend together as possible. (PS: I was so upset because we had stopped home on the way into the city to drop off our bags and I forgot to grab my camera from one of them and didn’t realize it until we were already downtown. UGH! So all of my pictures are from my iPhone!)

Again, keeping the tradition going, we went to the West Egg for breakfast. I really love their chorizo and eggs with potatoes! We had parked our car in a parking garage, and we kept it there all day. We were seriously walking around Chicago from like 10:30 to 4:30 and it was awesome!

We had a few places that we wanted to visit, and we ended up hitting each of them (except one! Bow truss! :( ) throughout the day. We really enjoyed walking around Chicago, playing tourist. We found ourselves saying “Olivia would LOVE this” or “Aww I wish Olivia could see this!” a million times, but we were both glad to spend a kid free day in our beautiful city.

When we walked to Bow Truss and realized that they were closed, Dominic saw that I was a little bummed and said, “Okay, I know you’re upset but I do have a little surprise for you…..there’s a doughnut shop right around the corner. Let’s go check it out.”

My hero.

The place was called the Doughnut Vault and it was so cute! It literally was this little vault too, it’s address even contained “1/2″ in it! If you would’ve asked me before this spontaneous donughtnut run, what my favorite spot was for doughtnuts, I would’ve said Glazed and Infused. But now? Absolutely, 100% this place. I had their chestnut flavor and it was amazing! They were so soft and also very huge! We probably should’ve split one but….hashtag YOLO.

Moving on!

Since we didn’t get to try the coffee at Bow Truss, we went to the nearest Starbucks for some caffeine and then headed to our last stop….

EATALY.

I cannot even tell you how long I have waited to try this place. Once we started making plans for this anniversary weekend, I knew Eataly had to be on that list. And I think it’s safe to say that we’re both happy that we went. That place was incredible!

And huge! I knew it was going to be big but I didn’t think it would be that bIg! When you first walk in, the first floor welcomes you with Italian imports (such as cookies, candy, jams, etc.), really cool kitchen utensils that you didn’t know you needed, a gelato stand, a chocolate stand, a cafe, a panini stand and….a Nutella bar.

We started by just looking around…we didn’t want to make any impulse purchases before we saw everything ;) We went upstairs and we were so amazed. It looked even bigger on the top! They had anything and everything you could think of up there, including 8 restaurants. 8! They had wine, a fruit market, a meat stand, cheese stand, fish stand, bread stand, Olivia oil, pizza, pasta, a library, plus so much more!

We ended up choosing the pasta restaurant to sit down and eat at. We were both only a little hungry, so we split a pasta. We tried the Tagliatelle al Ragu di Manzo….aka pasta with beef short rib Ragu! It was, hands down, one of the best pastas we’ve ever had. You could just taste how fresh the noodles were. Ugh, I cannot wait to go back there!

Once we were finished stuffing our faces, we bought a few things (prescuitto, pasta, mozzarella balls), we made our way downstairs. Pistachio gelato for me (I’m obviously on a roll with that stuff!) and a latte for Dominic! We made one last stop and the chocolate stand so that we could buy a certain little person a few little chocolate hearts, and then we made our way back to the car to head back to real life ;)

About 45 minutes later, we pulled up to my in laws house to get our baby. The minute she saw me, she dropped everything she was doing and ran right over yelling, “MAMA!!!!!!!” she squeezed me so tight and it was truly the best feeling ever. She of course did the same thing once she saw Dominic!

It was such a much needed little trip away with my husband but as for our next downtown adventure, I think we both agree that Olivia should probably come with us ;)

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Bucket List #7: Go on a Getaway!

9/15/2014

For Labor Day , we decided to get up super early and drive up to Michigan for the day, with Dominic’s parents. They’re always talking about how much we’d love it up there and since everyone was off that Monday, we decided to get up and go!

I am such a fan of road trips. I love seeing new things, I love the road trip snacks, I love waking up and driving somewhere while it’s pitch black and slowly starts to get light outside, I love listening to so much music….even the coffee somehow tastes better! It made sense to leave early so that Olivia would sleep through the car ride….or so was our thought process. In actuality, she stayed up for half of the drive there, singing and dancing with us and of course, drinking her coffee (vanilla milk).

Once we arrived in South Haven, Michigan, our first thought was breakfast. It was a little cloudy and we drove up there full well knowing that there was a huge chance of rain, but at least it would be hot rain, I thought. Nick and Nancy said they knew of a cute place by the water and while we were walking to the restaurant, I would stop along the way to take pictures. Everyone was a little bit ahead of me, but I didn’t mind. It had kinda been forever since I had pulled out my big camera so I was just walking along, snapping pictures, loving life.

All of a sudden I see the 4 of them turn around and they’re yelling, “RUN!!!!!” And we literally saw the rain coming, making it’s way toward us. It was hilarious, and I’m so glad I got their faces on camera. We pulled under a little shop, and waited for the rain to pass. It was pouring! It definitely slowed down, but didn’t show signs of stopping anytime soon, so we ran to a different place for breakfast.

After breakfast, full and satisfied, we made our way to the beach. As soon as we got there, I knew I wasn’t going to want to leave. I am truly not much of a beach girl. The sand, the hot weather, the dirty water. Just not my thing. But guess what? In Michigan, the water is so freakin clean. Like SO clean. I was thoroughly amazed. Also, it was still cloudy, so no sun. And the sand was wet so it wasn’t burning our feet while we walked to set up camp. Olivia and I ran right for the water. It felt like we had the beach to ourselves because it was so early, and hardly anyone was there yet. I immediately took out my camera and started to take pictures, a lot of pictures (as you’ll see below….whoops.).

There was a beautiful lighthouse, there was wispy grass throughout parts of the beach, and there was just enough fog in the distance to make my pictures look mysteriously beautiful ;)

We were probably there for almost three hours, before we packed up and decided to drive down to St. Joseph, MI. On the way there, it started to pour again and we worried our trip was over because the rain was so cold. We decided to stop at a cute little cafe for lattes and some sweets, praying that the weather would come around just a little big and thankfully, it did. The rest of our day was sunny and warm–perfect for walking around downtown St. Joseph.

Next stop was New Buffalo, MI. On our way there, driving from one town to the next, we noticed a sign that said “tourist views here” or something like that, so we stopped. I really am so glad that we did. The view was absolutely incredible. It was like Narnia or something. The worst part was only being able to see from afar, but I didn’t complain. I just took as many pictures as I possible could so that I would never forget that view. It really was so amazing. And then off we went.

When I was younger, I had a really good friend who used to go apple picking with her family every year. I went with her a few times and they’d always stop at a burger joint called Redamaks (sidenote: if you click that link, make sure you’re speakers are down because there’s music and it seriously just scared the crap out of me) after apple picking. That’s where we went in New Buffalo. Dominic and Olivia were the only ones that had never been, and they were both pretty satisfied! It seriously is such a good burger place with a surprisingly good toasted ravioli appetizer…

Our last stop before we headed back home was to get ice cream. Nick and Nancy were really excited to take us there but when we asked why, they simply responded with, “you’ll see”. It’s called Oink’s Dutch Treat and it was hilarious. The minute we stepped in, we saw that it was covered in head to toe, everything and anything you can think of, PIG gear. It was so fun and so quirky and I loved it! My favorite part, though, was the ceiling. There were so many different ice cream scoopers, it was so cute! The ice cream was pretty delicious too :)

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20 Life Lessons I Learned From My Daughter

9/12/2014

My daughter is truly the best kind of person. Now, before you go on thinking -well, duhhh, she is your daughter so of course you’re going to say that- Just hear me out for a second. I honestly believe that all children are better at this life stuff than we are, and maybe it’s because of their innocence but we really could learn to take a cue or two from these little humans we’re raising. They have a knack for viewing the world in the most magical of ways and I believe that if we all lived in the world the way they see it, we would absolutely, 100%, be better for it.

I cannot tell you how many times I think to myself I wish I had as much energy as Olivia has, I wish I was always as happy as Olivia is, etc., etc. Because of this, I have decided to write down exactly the kind of person I would want to be, based on the kind of person she is. The life lessons that my daughter is teaching me, and the life lessons that everyone else could use as well.

1. Wake up happy. If Dominic and I have gotten into an argument the night before and go to sleep still upset (that rarely happens because we kind of made it a rule to not go to bed angry -or at least without saying I love you- but sometimes my pride stubborn-ness wins), I’ll wake up unsettled and in a funk. If I wake up with a sore neck, I’ll start my day off on the wrong side. If my little friend who may or may not be named Olivia decides that she wants to toss and turn in our bed all night, resulting in zero sleep, I’ll wake up a not so nice person. Not Olivia! 95% of the time, she wakes up with a huge smile on her face, ready to take on the day. Even when she’s sick, even when she hasn’t slept much, even when she gets woken up. Can you imagine having that “ready to conquer the world” attitude every morning when you wake up? We’d be unstoppable….like Olivia.

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What Olivia Wore.

9/10/2014

I am a big fan of Old Navy. No, they’re not paying me to say that I just truly love them. Their clothes are well made, always such an awesome price, and really, really dang cute.

Like this dress, for example. One of my current favorite dresses in her closet. I am such a fan of black, white, stripes, and black and white stripes. I really wish I was kidding, but if were to look in my closet right now…..that’s pretty much all you’ll find (and grey.)

And the back of this dress is just as pretty. Paired with her “pretty black princess shoes” and she is all set to go.

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Our Top Five Potty Training Tips!

9/09/2014

*This post is sponsored by Pull-Ups, but my love for them and their Big Kid Academy is all my own!*

I haven’t touched on Potty Training in a while, but I am happy to report that we are still well and dry around here….for the most part anyway. We still haven’t mastered long car rides and bed time, but we’ll get there. I read somewhere: “They’ll get it eventually, you don’t see many people in college wearing diapers, do you?” And it’s true– you don’t.

Potty training was/is definitely an experience. It’s different for every child, but the outcome is always the same. And honestly, the excitement they get in their eyes is so worth all of the drama that may or may not occur during the whole process.

I decided to write down my top five potty training tips that have helped us so far! I’m no expert by any means, but these tips have definitely helped me along the way so maybe they can be of use to someone else! :)

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1. Make it fun- We danced and sang every time she went on the potty. I think it truly made a difference because there would be some days that she’d go and before we even had the chance, she was already singing the special song that we made up for her, while clapping and dancing. In fact, we STILL make it a big deal because, if you think about it, it still is!

2.  Be patient- There is nothing like potty training to really put your patience level into perspective. Seriously. You have to be as positive and patient as possible. If they feel that you’re frustrated, they’re going to feel frustrated too. If there’s an accident we’d always say, “Olivia, you have to go pee pee on the potty, not in your panties/on the floor.” And just kind of reiterate it every time there’s an accident. Having patience is key, and you’ll both be better for it.

3. Have an incentive- Little chocolates were our incentive. If she went pee, she got two. If she pooped, she got three. This really helped us. While I realize that not everyone is on the whole candy-as-an-incentive train, you can also try a sticker method. Take them to the store, let them pick out a set of stickers and every time they use the potty, they get to add a sticker to their potty chart.

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4. Consistency- Another big one. We pretty much stayed home for the first week and a half when we started potty training Olivia. We wanted to make sure that we were as consistent as possible and taking her out to the store or to a birthday party just seemed like it would maybe confuse her. We checked and blocked out a week for us to stay home and did nothing but watch movies, go potty and eat our delicious incentives. Every 15 minutes: “Olivia, do you have to go potty?” After that week, we started slowly moving up, like trips to my grandparent’s house, or my-in laws. Still asking her the same question every 15 minutes.

5. Durable “Panties” for when she’s asleep- because we still haven’t mastered potty training while she’s sleeping or during long car rides (where she’s usually sleep, too), we use Pull-Ups in place of panties. Pull-Ups are easy to take on and off, mimicking the ease of big kid panties, and bonus points for them because they have Disney characters on them, such as Doc McStuffins. This really helps because she “wouldn’t want to go pee pee in her pretty Doc McStuffin panties, right Olivia?”

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Speaking of Pull-Ups, they have this awesome site called Pull-Ups Big Kid Academy that’s full of really helpful tips, tricks, and fun ways to encourage your child to use the potty. Whether you’re just embarking on your potty training journey, or almost to the finish line, Pull-Ups Big Kid Academy has something for every stage! Some of the things they talk about are:

-Potty Training on the go

-The best clothing for Potty Training

-Reward ideas

-And much, much more!

In fact, I just read an article with tips on how to master potty training at night. So we’ll be completely potty trained in no time! The also have a really cool potty timer app, which is fun for the kids because it really gets them involved and makes potty training seem like something to look forward to! Click the “enroll now” button below to register your potty trainee into the Pull-Ups Big Kid Academy today!

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xo,

Katie

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