Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Our First Sunday in Chicago

I feel a little silly calling this our first Sunday in Chicago, considering we've been back from Rome for three Sundays in a row. But the past two Sundays we ventured out to the suburbs for Mass with my family, so this was our first time doing the whole "newlywed Mass-and-brunch" thing in the city. It was awesome!

First, a huge THANK YOU to everyone who's recommended St. John Cantius over the years, and especially to Katrina and JoAnna for their golden comments on my last post. We loved it. We went to the 11 am Latin Mass, and Frank summed it up best after we left: "Services like that are the reason I became Catholic." We're looking forward to check out the 12:30 Tridentine soon too.

One of my favorite parts of our usual Sunday routine is chatting with friends outside the church after Mass. But since Frank and I were complete newbies at this church, I resigned myself to skipping it this week. I was about to awkwardly sidle out (secretly envying the regular parishioners who were chatting it up with their friends), when the sweetest lady who reads my blog came up and introduced herself! I was so excited and thrilled to meet her. I admired her beautiful baby Frances Gianna (such a great name), introduced her to Frank, and pretty much died of joy that I actually had someone to chat with. Then another girl came up and asked, "Are you Lillian's twin?"—she knows Lillian from her Chicago days—and we chatted as well. I secretly said a prayer of thanks that I had new friends to talk to after all—such a nice surprise.

Before the homily, the priest had announced that the new Dunkin Donuts down the street was holding a fundraiser for the parish, donating money for every large coffee purchased. Frank and I adore iced coffee—in fact, he introduced me to it (somehow I never tried it before I met him)—so we immediately gave each other the side-eye that meant, "We're getting iced coffee after this!" And for a good cause too ... even better!

We ambled over to Dunkin Donuts, where Frank pretended not to know me while I took a picture of the receipt collection box:

^^I thought the little watercolor of the church and the description were so sweet.

And then I had to laugh when I noticed that instead of Boston Kremes, the store was featuring "Chicago Kremes":


It's because the Blackhawks were playing the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup. The Hawks apparently won the cup last night. (I would definitely not know that if I weren't married to Frank). 

Despite my lack of following hockey, I'm doing pretty well with my plan to learn baseball ... I'm going to a White Sox game with Frank tonight, and again on Saturday. I'm so excited! Any tips or advice for enjoying/understanding a baseball game?

Later in the day we went to Trader Joe's, where we had lengthy conversations with the salespeople about the best gin to use for gin and tonics, various uses for buttermilk, etc. I came away concluding that Midwesterners are the nicest, friendliest people. It made me just a little bit more excited about moving back to Chicago—and that's saying something, because I've really been missing DC these days.

The most important purchase of the day, in my mind, was this little basil plant:

I dream of someday having a great big garden and growing lots of our own vegetables, and the basil plant represents the start of our garden. I also dream that someday we'll have chickens ... and dogs ... and maybe even a horse! (Ok, that last one's a long shot.)

Not that I'm ready to leave our tiny apartment. In fact, I'm so proud of the way it's looking. We did a ton of unpacking and cleaning Sunday, and now the place is practically ship-shape. :)

While Frank got his work done (the bar exam is our constant companion this summer), I pulled out my calendar and planned meals for the week. Did you hear that? I planned real live meals! :P After the past two weeks of throwing together pasta or tacos after work most nights, it's a big help to have a real written plan, with groceries bought in advance.

^^Mid-planning, with some of my favorite cookbooks.

I also baked a bunch of different things over the weekend. I made chocolate chip banana bread on Saturday, and yesterday I mixed up regular bread—here it is while mid-rising:

^^This was my first time using a Kitchenaid Mixer (one of our wedding gifts) and oh my gosh. I didn't know what I was missing.

I also got a little wild with dessert and made Chia Seed Pudding using a Trader Joe's recipe. It turned out pretty well—Frank said it was indistinguishable from tapioca pudding—but in case you're thinking about making it, I have to warn you, it looks like this:

Not the most appetizing sight.

Meanwhile, Frank had big plans for dinner. He kept a pot of ribs simmering temptingly all afternoon:

If you compare those last two photos, it's pretty obvious who is the real chef in our family. I aspire to someday reach his level.

On the plus side, I'm a master at making gin and tonics. Yesterday Frank declared me the official G&T maker of the family.

Finally we sat down to dinner on our little balcony:

And feasted like kings. Or like a king and a queen, in this case.

Finally, in case this post wasn't long enough already, I wanted to tell you about two books I'm reading that are having a big impact on my life. I had a feeling you might be interested in them too!

I've been reading Make the Bread, Buy the Butter, a wedding gift from the lovely Molly. This book is incredibly useful if you want to cook your food at home, but you're not sure where to draw the line on "homemade"—at what point does cooking from scratch become cost- and effort-prohibitive? The author tried making pretty much every food imaginable from scratch. She even kept chickens to use for eggs, bought goats for milk, and set up beehives in her backyard for honey. She offers a price comparison of store-bought vs. homemade on hundreds of different recipes, and ranks how much "hassle" each recipe is too. I'm a little obsessed with this book—it's super helpful, and it's what inspired me to bake my own bread this week (and homemade hamburger buns too!). It's the perfect first book to set us up for our "modern Little House" way of life.

The other book I just started is the official biography of Maria Montessori by her close friend and collaborator E. M. Standing. I'm only a few chapters in, and already I'm fascinated by her life story and how she developed her educational method. Most of all, I can't believe how sensible the Montessori approach is—it just works so well with the way children actually are. If I wasn't a big fan of it before, this book would make me one. Have you read it, or are you familiar with it?

Well, that's all for now. Happy Tuesday, and I hope you're enjoying this lovely summer weather!


  1. Oh SO glad you enjoyed St. John Cantius. I was a parishoner there when I lived in the city for a year (I lived out in East Lakeview and passed probably a dozen churches on my way...). I never made any friends at the parish (but I always ducked out and never tried!) but I just loved it. Hopefully they still offer Latin and Greek classes - if so, definitely take them! I mean, what parish does that?!? Seriously... best parish ever. (And totally jealous that a DD opened up near it!)

  2. My gosh, I could've written this post myself (minus the SJC and Trader Joe's parts, unfortunately)! I too just bought a basil plant at the Farmers Market last week, so our meal planning (which I'm just now getting into) involves finding recipes that use maximum basil. Good luck with (living with) Bar prep - it's kind of like having a really needy pet, isn't it?

    1. Ah, that's awesome! Great minds think alike. :) How's your basil plant doing? Ours got a bit bowled over in a thunderstorm the other night, but otherwise is going strong.

      Also, I LOVE your analogy about bar prep—I told Frank and he got a good chuckle out of it. We'll have to get him and Johnny together to commiserate some time!

  3. I am totally in love with your "his and her" dinner plates...especially since Frank's is a tiger (unless that is your plate?).

    1. Thanks, Mary—they were a wedding gift from a sweet friend, and we love them too! Yep, the tiger is Frank's. He loves that plate and practically refuses to eat off anything else, haha.

  4. I'm so glad you found a great church! Our parish here is AMAZING and it makes a huge difference in our lives.

    Meal-planning is the best. Knowing exactly what I'm going to be cooking during the week makes our weekly shopping trip way more efficient and way easier to keep under our budget.

    But... why couldn't you have stayed out in VA and made ME a gin and tonic? lol.

    God bless you!

  5. I'm a relatively new reader, but I just had to chime in when you asked about baseball! Baseball is my favorite sport, but when I actually attend a game, I sometimes have trouble getting into it... There are just so many distractions at the park! I would suggest buying a scorecard before the game and asking the husband to teach you how to fill it out... That way, you have a reason to pay attention to every pitch, and it will be a good way to learn some lesser-known rules! (also, as a cubs fan, i recommend going to wrigley for a game!)

    I hope that's helpful! Have fun! And I am so enjoying reading about the newlywed life :)

    1. Wow, thank you so much for the comment—I asked Frank to get me a scorecard and it was SUPER helpful. So glad you weighed in!

      Also, Frank says he can't wait to go to Wrigley—he loves those historic old ballparks. One of these days!

  6. I hope you get that horse one day Tess! Dare to dream. :)

    1. haha, I knew you would support the idea! If you knew the number of times I've tried to persuade Frank that getting a horse is TOTALLY a great idea, you would laugh—I'm a little obsessed. I figure if I keep talking about it, eventually he'll have to give in!

  7. So productive!

    I'm incredibly jealous!


  8. YAY, I'm so glad y'all found a church (and made friends after mass)! I can't wait to see pictures of your lovely apartment. From the looks of the ultra cute patio dinning scene, I can tell it's going to be fabulous!

    My Trader Joe's basil plant is so sad. Turns out you have to remember to water those things!

  9. I second the request for apartment pictures! (Also, can we beg my sister to blog more? Because it really needs to happen.)

    Sounds like such a fun and relaxing day! I'm really excited to the cookbook you recommended. I often wonder about that kind of thing!

  10. I am new enough to your blog I don't know if you already mentioned having one, but in case you haven't...I highly recommend purchasing a scorebook (I chose this link because it shows the first couple of pages so you get the idea, although they do have less expensive versions:
    It makes a huge difference in following the game!

    1. Thanks for the link! We bought a scorecard at the ballpark, but it was kind of an odd shape (according to Frank—I'd never seen a scorecard before, so I wouldn't know) and it was hard to write on. It would be MUCH more fun and useful to get our own scorebook, like you suggested. I'll be passing this link on to Frank—thanks!!

  11. I feel blog famous! (for a moment anyway!!) I am so glad you love your cookbook. And I adore your dinner plates, what fun! Definitely miss you, but it sounds like you guys are doing a great job of creating a home in Chicago. Also, I love Montessori--book discussion whenever that phone date happens?


    1. YES! And I'm really looking forward to that phone date, I miss you! Let's shoot for this weekend or next week? :)

  12. St. John's is the best. As to ballgames (so glad you guys aren't Cubs fans, lol), my mother never understood them but supported my dad's decision to take me to my first Sox game when I was two weeks old. Actually, my parents met at a social function when my mom was looking for someone to take a ticket to go to an Orioles game with her and her girlfriends because their fourth had bailed out, and a mutual friend suggested my dad, who happily agreed because my mom is gorgeous. So he went off to the game and my mom accidentally blew off her friends because she was so engrossed with him explaining everything....long story short, she still doesn't understand the game, but she accepts it because it brought the two of them together.

    Oh, and keeping score really does help. Follow the ball, keep track of how far it gets pitched or hit. Danks, Dunn, Konerko, and Rios are the celebrity players making over $10M so most people will be focused on them, but for a newbie I recommend following a different position player every inning. There are nine players on the field, and as many innings in a game. Start with the pitcher, then next inning watch the catcher, then the first baseman, etc. Observe what the player does on each pitch, or where he moves when the ball is put into play. That will give you a better idea of how the whole thing fits together.

    The main thing is to pay attention because there are a lot more details happening than in most sports; that's why it's called the thinking man's game. It's not on the clock, so it might seem to drag on FOREVER, so really the main thing is try to figure out what's going on with each procedure, such as how to reach base without getting tagged. Keep track of the nine-player lineup, who gets rotated out and why, and who gets in to take the last person's place. Oh, and get one of those big cinnamon sugar pretzels. Most importantly, remember that the Sox won the World Series in 1906, 1917, and 2005; and the Cubs haven't won since 1908.

    1. Wow, Kathryn, that's the cutest story. I love it. No wonder you're into baseball, with that family history! :)

      Thank you so much for these great tips—I might have to print out your instructions to bring with me on Saturday! I think I'm starting to get the hang of how it works, but I just have such a hard time keeping my attention on the game for more than a few plays. Short attention span problems. :P

  13. It sounds like you guys are having some great newlywed times together. :) I had never thought about Catholics needing to choose a church/parish to go to. For some reason, I always thought that was a Protestant thing and that Catholics just went the parish closest to their house because the services are all the same. But now, as Andy and I are getting settled in a new place we are trying to decide between two different parishes - should we go to the one closer to our house or drive 30 minutes to the one that seems to fit us better. We're still praying and figuring it out.

  14. Most libraries should have some kids' baseball novels by Matt Christopher which have pretty detailed descriptions of baseball games. Reading what's going on may help you connect the words to the actions. (I'm not sure because I already had a good idea of what was going on when I read them as I come from a baseball family). Keep in mind, though, that kids play by slightly different rules than professionals.
    -Jacki S.

    1. Thanks Jacki! That's a great idea. One of my co-workers who loves baseball told me to "Take all the rules and replace them with emotion," so reading stories about baseball might be the perfect thing. I appreciate the suggestion!