This past weekend I went to South Bend with my friend Kylie to visit our dear Britt and meet her new son, TJ. I haven’t seen Britt since February when she last for a visit in Chicago and she was in her second trimester. Under normal circumstances, I am accustomed to seeing her every few months, so you can imagine this reunion was long overdue. In order to prepare, I buckled down more than usual in terms of social distancing because I wanted to hold and snuggle that baby!

We caught up throughout the weekend, sitting on the patio, going out to dinner and drinks downtown. On Saturday, there was an added bonus of seeing two other friends, Mo and Meg, the latter visiting from Portland. We ordered Barnaby’s, the top local pizza shop, after a long day of hanging in and around the pool, listening to songs from the 2000s and getting eaten alive by mosquitoes. So worth it!

The visit was great for Boo as well; it was essentially an extended play date with Britt’s sweet Golden Retriever, Hoosier. Boo was his shadow, of course, instigating nearly all of the play fighting by nipping at his long tail or just trailing him too closely. Boo was also fond of Britt’s two-year-old, Tommy’s toys, particularly a bunch of plastic fruits and vegetables. When it came to pool time, Boo was braver than I expected. Frenchies are not water dogs, but he let me put him on a floating raft at one point. More than anything, it was so nice to just let him roam off-leash in the backyard.

I’m looking forward to hosting Britt in the near future. It’s been difficult not to see her for so long, but this visit was that much more special. We just picked up where we left off, as usual. She is truly the best. The best friend, mom, wife, and person.

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I’m a creature of habit and I like control. Having a puppy that sheds so much white fur on dark brown laminate compels me to vacuum daily. Not only is my home cleaner, but completing that task almost gives a feeling of peace. I know this sounds a little wacky, but these days I’m finding it’s the little things that bring comfort in a time of such uncertainty where it often feels like everything is out of our control.

I try to focus on what I have as opposed to what I’ve lost. I have access to healthy food, water, shelter, hygiene, income, and human connection. Every morning when I go for my walk or run outside on the lakefront, I see all kinds of people moving, including the elderly. It helps me to see the gift of having a healthy, functioning body. I am inspired by the scenic beauty of Lincoln Park and Lake Michigan. I can’t help but be joyful about summertime in Chicago, despite how traumatic this year has been on nearly every front.

It’s in the small microcosm of my everyday life that I find ways to stay positive and maintain perspective. Yes, a clean apartment, neighborhood walks, nice weather, snuggles with my dog, cooking meals, and calls with my parents might seem mundane, but in actuality, it’s all I need to thrive. This year has allowed me to learn how to cope; boiling it down to basics. Finding satisfaction in small accomplishments. Focusing on access to essential needs. Perhaps this mentality of keeping it simple can help you, too.

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Forgive the lack of posting lately. It’s been somewhat busy in the small microcosm of the Freeman household. Boo recently was neutered. The surgery was successful and he returned to normal a few days later after the anesthesia wore off. I had him wear an inflatable “donut” around his neck so he could nap more comfortably and avoid bumping into the walls as with a traditional cone (though admittedly, it was kind of funny to see that)! Boo’s scar healed quickly and he left it alone and took full advantage of the downtime. Hopefully that will have been the last vet visit in the near future!

In other news, I’ve returned to the office twice a week starting last week. Fortunately, my boss is very flexible on the hours so I’m able to avoid busier bus rides. It’s been helpful for the transition of leaving Boo as well. I was most nervous about the separation anxiety, but honestly, it’s more me than him. I’ve gotten Boo set up with a doggy camera so I can check in periodically and when I’m in the office, I have a dog walker come mid-day to take him out. It was a bit of a bumpy start with this service in all honesty; the schedule was conveyed incorrectly and the duration of the walks were shorter than agreed upon, but I alerted the owner and the situation has been remedied so far. Boo seems to like her as well, and she came recommended by a neighbor with a pug. Hopefully we have smooth sailing from here.

On a health note, I have been dealing with some foot pain; namely plantar fascitis in my left heel due to the large amount of walking and jogging I’ve been doing, especially in the mornings. I also realized I haven’t been warming up/cooling down properly. I received a massage at Resonance Bodywork (fully clothed, masks on), and it helped alleviate a lot of pain and it also made me realize how sore and tight my glutes, hamstrings, and calves are. I need to stay on top of maintaining them because walking is my favorite way to stay active and de-stress, and I don’t want to have to give that up.

One evening after work last week, I met up with my brother, Bill, and his friend Matt for a drink on the Galway Arms open air patio. My lovely neighbor Jackie joined us with her dog Merlin. Boo pestered him and the window boxes the whole time, of course. Bill, Matt, and I went back to my apartment and played some Mixtape and other games before I saw them out around 10 am.

My other fun outing this week was on Sunday when my mom came down for brunch at Mon Ami Gabi in Lincoln Park. We had a baguette and mimosa outside and then it started to downpour so we moved inside. I had salmon and she had steak frites. This cheered me up from the gloomy weather and the weight of all that’s going on in the world. We also also stopped in a cute local shop near my home and I finally got this print I’ve been eyeballing for months!

I was going to be going out of town with some friends this coming weekend but unfortunately felt compelled to change plans due to health precautions. Instead, I’ll be celebrating my little “niece’s” birthday locally on Friday, then on Saturday, I’ll be going to my mom’s. Bill will be joining for dinner. I’m looking forward to it, even if it’s scaled back from original plans. I just worry about the surge in COVID-19 numbers again. I wear my mask as much as I can, reasonably, though it’s pretty difficult when walking in the humidity. Still, much preferable to the alternative.

In the meantime, I’m walking, reading The Indifferent Stars Above: The Harrowing Saga of the Donner Party, about the ill-fated wagon train (makes 2020 seem like a cakewalk, and playing with Booba! Whatever your plans are, please stay safe, all.

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Hello, friends! I hope everyone is having an enjoyable holiday weekend.

I started mine on Thursday. I took the day off, went for a jog in Lincoln Park, laid out on my rooftop deck, then went to get my Zipcar to drive to my mom’s for the night (this was a nightmare experience and I won’t be using them again). Eventually, I made it there and Mom and I had a glass of wine on the back patio before having delicious salmon, salad, and wild rice for dinner.

I woke up early on Friday morning as I was headed to South Haven to join friends at a house they’d been renting since Wednesday. I wanted to be early so that I wouldn’t miss out on the pontoon we rented from 11 am to 8 pm and of course, they’re an hour ahead, so I was on the road by 6 am, blasting Lady Gaga and singing along. When we got on the boat, it took a while to reach the open lake, but the water and the weather were beautiful, so it was well worth it. I was grateful to be on a boat as opposed to the beach, which was packed like sardines. The sign amidst the throngs of people saying, “Keep Social Distance” was pretty laughable.

Once we returned home, we discovered the power was out so we had to use the grill to make tacos. We played the card game, BS; that induced a lot of belly laughing! A little after midnight, we took the short walk to the beach. On the way, we saw a beautiful doe eating some leaves and grass. She was surprisingly relaxed and didn’t seem alarmed by our presence nearby. Once we got down to the water, the boys set off some fireworks which garnered cheers from a neighboring group enjoying a bonfire. It was a really fun day, but boy did we all get a lot of sun. I fell asleep easily.

I returned to my mom’s house in Wilmette the next morning to take care of Boo who had an unsettled tummy. We went for a walk at one point and as Boo was resting, my friend Arie came for a lovely visit on the back patio. The rest of the evening was low key. I took a shower, got in pajamas, and we ate grilled hamburgers, corn on the cob, salad, and watermelon while we watched Hamilton on Disney Plus. It is such an amazing show and it was a treat to see the original cast perform with so many close-ups and more intimate filming. Needless to say, Mom and I got a bit verklempt by the end and it was a perfect, patriotic activity to end the Fourth of July.

This morning, we went for a walk before it got too hot outside, then I packed the car and headed back to the city with Boo. Once home, I made a smoothie, tidied up, took a nap, and have since been watching Unsolved Mysteries on Netflix. I may venture out for another walk if it cools off later. Though it’s been hot, I’m grateful for the generally beautiful, sunny weather. It felt like recompense for all of the tragedy and hardship this year. Can you believe half of the year is over? What a strange one it’s been. Take care, all, and have a wonderful week!

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This past week, I ventured out not one, but three times to the downtown area for outdoor dining experiences. On Wednesday, I had a wonderful happy hour with work friends at River Roast, followed by a late-night foray to RPM Italian for some delicious pasta. Then on Friday, my friend Kylie came over for some wine spritzers on my rooftop deck before we threw on sundresses over our bathing suits and took Boo to Casati’s dog-friendly patio down the street. We split a white pizza, roasted brussel sprouts, and a salad. Our server gave Boo some cold water and a strip of bacon (so thoughtful). He really is a little celebrity wherever he goes. People in the neighborhood recognize and approach us at this point and I’ve made so many new friends and have had life-affirming interactions with strangers, thanks to Boo!

The next day, I met up with Kylie again as well as friend, Heather, for a 90-minute brunch at Pizza Portofino. Apparently, one can never have enough Italian! While I know everyone has their own comfort level with eating out, the places we went to were very spacious, the staff wore mask coverings, and I never felt concerned about cleanliness. Plus, it felt wonderful to be back downtown and enjoy some great food.

When not out to eat, I spent all my time out walking in Lincoln Park or hanging out with Boo. I am dreading the inevitable separation coming and am trying to enjoy ever moment with him as much as possible. He truly is the best and kept me buoyed during the quarantine. I am so grateful for him!

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Last night, I had my brother and mom over to my new apartment for the first time. It was also Bill’s first time meeting Boo, and Mom’s second time seeing him. This occasion was something I’ve been looking forward to for a very long time. Mom was in charge of the meat; she made delicious beef tenderloin and horseradish sauce. I made roasted garlicky red potatoes and wilted spinach for sides, guacamole for an appetizer, and a german chocolate cake from scratch to celebrate my mom’s birthday and her continued success at work.

It was such a lovely night and Boo was very excited to have guests, you can imagine. He had a couple of accidents in the apartment, but other than that, he was a charming co-host. Watching Bill and Boo interact was hilarious! We stayed up until midnight when Bill went home. This morning, Mom and I had coffee and then took a walk around Lincoln Park. Such a beautiful day for it.

Earlier in the week, I went to Andrea’s for an outdoor work party, finally reuniting with my colleagues. I haven’t seen them since early March and it was great to catch up and sit outside on another summer beautiful day. I was late arriving because Boo had an upset tummy; it was really hard to watch him struggle, but fortunately, my colleagues cuddled him at the party and he was back to normal the next day.

It’s more activity than I’ve been used to lately, but I have to say that having these social events made me feel so happy. I am looking forward to hosting my family and other friends in the future. I’m not fully ready to go to one of the crowded patio bars in my neighborhood just yet, but at the same time, I understand the draw. I just want to be cautious and anyway, it’s fun to have the party at home.

Stay safe, everyone!

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I don’t often post about more incendiary topics, but today is different. Yesterday, I posted what now seems like a very tone-deaf post about brunch, though that was not my intention and I could not have anticipated the violence and unrest that would occur throughout the late afternoon and evening in downtown Chicago.

I know I’m opening myself up to criticism, but that’s okay because I want to educate myself on how I can be an ally to people of color in a meaningful way. The murder of George Floyd was unacceptable, disturbing, and has justifiably incited rage, hurt, and nationwide turmoil.

I am a privileged white woman and I don’t pretend to know the injustices that people of color go through regularly. I can’t imagine feeling unsafe just being you are on a daily basis. It makes me sad, it makes me angry. Most of all, I feel helpless. I am scared to join these protests for fear of escalation, violence, and destruction. I don’t believe that those things are the answer, but at the same time, what is? These actions come from so much built up anger, pain, and lack of security.

So I’m asking, what can I do to help? How can I be an ally? How can I educate myself on this topic that I feel ignorant about? Simply posting supportive quotes on social media does not feel appropriate or impactful. If anyone has any guidance they can share, I would greatly appreciate it.

Please stay safe out there!

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Earlier this afternoon, I had my lovely friend, Sarah, over for one-on-one brunch (if you don’t include Boo). I haven’t seen her in so long and was really excited to catch up, show her my place, and introduce her to the puppy!

For brunch, I served mimosas, spinach and goat cheese frittata, breakfast potatoes, and fresh berries. It was pretty delicious! For inspiration, I went to Cookie + Kate. I followed her potatoes recipe almost exactly (though I added a bit more garlic powder), and used her frittata recipe as a general guide, though I picked my cheese and veggie combination. They turned out great, though I think the frittata could have used one more minute in the oven. Regardless, I’ve got some yummy leftovers now!

It was so nice to have Sarah over and for it to feel like a somewhat normal visit, though we didn’t hug and we wore face masks in the lobby and elevator of my building. It was nice to connect over the challenges we currently face, the craziness in the news, and just everything, as is always the case with Sarah. She is one of the best conversationalists I know!

For the remainder of the day, I plan to take it easy and spend time with the puppy. I am waking up and going to bed earlier and earlier these days, so I already got my daily walk done before 8 am. Not much else to do now…maybe a bubble bath? Anyway, I hope everyone is enjoying the weather today. To those peacefully protesting locally or around the nation regarding George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, I hope you stay safe and thank you!

North Pond at around 6:30 am this morning.

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One of the things that have long been associated with me is my aversion to cooking. I used to pronounce myself as the worst cook, too busy to do it, etc. It’s funny how extra time and a far superior kitchen can change that. I finally have an oven that fits a normal cookie sheet, a dishwasher to take care of the mess, and a view while I chop vegetables.

Most of what I make is fairly simple and I’ve welcomed healthy recipes from friends like Kylie, who has the identical palate to me it often seems. It’s primarily vegetarian items, though I’m going to venture into cooking more fish and lean meat now and then. I’ve also been making quite a few smoothie bowls, altering my toppings for both a breakfast and a dessert version.

Beyond cooking and eating at home, I’ve spent much of the weekend walking. In fact, I’m over 20,000 steps today, so you can bet I took a snooze. I find that walking has been one of those meditative, essential activities as part of my routine. I have a path that takes about an hour, with the first half occurring alongside Lincoln Park, the middle taking me through the quaint tree-lined streets of Old Town, and finally wrapping around again to my neighborhood.

Boo is doing well, though with the hot temperatures, we don’t linger outside for too long. He pants immediately and French Bulldogs are not able to regulate their body temperature as well as other breeds, so he can become overheated easily. I try to take him for a longer walk in the morning when it’s still shady and somewhat cooler. He is getting bigger and his newfound bark is extremely manageable, luckily. Simply ignoring him makes him stop, though admittedly, it’s such a cute sound that I’m often tempted to egg him on.

I had two socially distant activities with friends over the weekend, but I can’t help but mourn Memorial Day activities of the past. I would’ve loved to attend a barbecue or a party somewhere. Some people in my neighborhood had big parties anyway (think college-aged or young twenties), and though I was inclined to judge them harshly, I admittedly understand the desire. However, I chose not to do that for obvious reasons.

I have been monitoring the news in Chicago (recently purchased a digital subscription of the Tribune) and I have mixed feelings about the reopening of the city. From a professional standpoint, any sign of a return to normalcy is desirable, but from a health and safety standpoint, I’m a little more ambivalent. I want solutions, but it’s extremely complicated. In general, I am pleased with the way our state has dealt with the pandemic.

Anyway, I hope everyone continues to be cognizant and at the very least, respectful of others. Take care and stay safe!

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I’ve been having a blast the last few weeks getting better acquainted with my neighborhood, Lincoln Park, via outings with Boo or solo excursions. I’m a very short distance from North Pond, the Theurer-Wrigley House, also known as the Wrigley Mansion (featured below), and the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, and the lakefront trail, currently closed to the public. Still, you can imagine the flux of people in the open areas during warmer, sunnier days.

Lincoln Park boasts some beautiful mansions, both modern and historical. When walking by the Theurer-Wrigley House, you can peek into this atrium type structure with original stained glass (I believe it’s Tiffanys). The quieter streets are lined with flowering, fragrant trees at this time of the year, making you feel like you’re on a true garden walk. North Pond is bursting with life, from baby goslings to sunbathing turtles (see below).

Though I’m not terribly far from my last apartment, being further south and east has made me feel as though I’m in a newer, better, more natural world. Boo has also made several furry and human friends, many of whom know him by name. He is practically the de facto mascot of the restaurant next to my building, so much so that they’re trying to find a bandana with their logo on it for him. My little celebrity!

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