All posts by Jenn

“love” seems too strong; “like”, not strong enough.

I woke up out of a dead sleep at 6:51 this morning.  Me.  Lord, it’s not even 7:30 and I’m typing on this thing having my first cup of coffee.  I must be excited.  We are leaving for DC today!  Hopefully, we can get this tire plugged (Costco = 3 hour wait) and make it to Cleveland.  Hopefully.

Our time here in Chicago has been great!  Brian has been working his butt off, either with his jobby job or with the house and still, we’ve managed a LOT of fun and interesting stuff.  Getting to spend some time here – and because of the wedding – I’ve been able to meet a lot of Brian’s friends and spend time with most of the great people that I met last year.  Last year, Heather and Mark were just about engaged and Christine was pregnant.  As of yesterday, Heather and Mark were beautifully married and I met Isabel, Christine and Bob’s sweet girl.

Highlights of the last weekend in August:  Cafe Selmarie, Half Acre Taproom, Goose Island Brewery, Iberico, a picnic in Lincoln Park, and meeting the Miller’s, the Carr’s, and nice, cool people.

And my birthday.  Thank you so much for the wishes.  It was fun, sweet, and delicious.  We went to Hot Doug’s for breakfast/lunch.  I love going there so much that I told Brian when we got to Chicago that I was going to go everyday while we were here.  I did not.  Maybe I should have.  Regardless, you have to like meat to go and if you do, it is encased meats like you’ve never seen.    So, that was my start.  A Portuguese Smoked Pork something with saffron something and rustic red pepper cheese.  Delicious sauces and cheese, yum yum yum.

AND, Doug is nice.

Then, we went to Shedd Aquarium.  I love that place.  The jellyfish alone were worth the trip.

We saw as much as possible as fast as possible.  We left when they kicked us out and walked around the Museum Campus for awhile before  finally settling on the W as a place to have a drink before dinner.

Navy Pier from the W.

Post cocktails, we went back to the Situation, changed clothes a little like Superman and headed to dinner.  At Blackbird.  So, so good.  We each got the tasting menu and there was so much food that I took the menu so I could remember later what we ate.  For me, the food was perfect, the wine was great, and the service was amazing.  Could not have asked for better.

Friday found us in a real lull.  Do you have to detox from awesomeness?  I think maybe yes.  Maybe De-rox?  Brian worked and I… ?  I think I read.  I know it didn’t amount to much and I was squirmy and uninspired all day.  Boohoo.

But then, Saturday came and it was a bright new day.  It was also the kick-off for …. THE WEDDING!  Brian and I went in search of some traveling books and Vietnamese food (why do you have such a hold on me Bahn Mi?).  We eventually found them both and waited patiently to go to the Empty Bottle to see the happy couple and meet up with friends.  A great, loud, and early night happened.  I ate tamales out of a cooler.  That were hot.

And the wedding!  Beautiful, easy, sweet and perfect.

Mr. and Mrs.!

Chicago, again.

The last four days have been fantastic.  Actually, Wednesday was amazing and I have been recovering from it and thinking about it since.

Friends from Seattle came into town on their own road trip Wednesday afternoon.  Eric and Jackie had been trying to get us reservations at either Alinea or Schwa while they were in town for a few days and, after relentless efforts by Jackie, Schwa made space for us.  As for the experience, it was great.  I love that it’s BYOB, we got to drink exactly what we wanted.  The food was good and interesting.  The service was…a detractor.  However, worth it.  Leaving Schwa, we went to the Violet Hour.  This place, I loved.  Top to bottom.

It was a relief to see familiar faces and wonderful to have a night out. Huh?  I mean a bigtime night out.  We spent the evening together and watched the sun rise on Lake Michigan, something I figured I wouldn’t see again until I started saying “I just can’t sleep past 4:30a anymore.”.

In related news, we had breakfast this morning at Orange in Roscoe Village with our pals Heather and Mark (they are the ones getting married, the reason for our extended Chicago visit!).  It was really good!  Avacado mousse?  I thought no but was wrong.  YUM.  They have pancake flights.  Seriously, 4 different mini-stacks.  Great all around!

That was a lot like a party.

We really did it Saturday night.  Somehow, Dannie suggested that we go out.  My brother never goes out so we grabbed the opportunity and took the town by storm.  Really, Emily, Brian, and I met Dannie at Dudley’s (where Brother B. now works) for a cocktail and to wait patiently for Brother to be released for the evening.  Debauchery and a L-arge bar tab followed.   Super fun, unexpected good time.  The thing most worth noting: Nancy, wherever you are today, you are a saint.  You brought us drinks, you didn’t shussh us, and you even laughed a little in a way that made us think we were funny and one of us charming.

WHAT A WEEK!  Chicago and I have been busy.  We met back up in Indianapolis last weekend (8/12)  for my family’s reunion.  My Mom’s family all meet up at my Uncle Jeff and Aunt Donna’s amazing house for a day (like most reunions).  The big difference between our reunion and most others is the number of people (there are about 130 people just from my grandparents down) and the lack of fights (again, zero).  It was great to see my cousins, aunts, and uncles and newest second cousins!

After the reunion, on Sunday, Brian (Chi) and I drove to Centerpoint, IN to go to the Exotic Feline Rescue Center.  My Uncle Johnny and his lady friend Michelle had suggested we go.  Sounded neat so we did and it was incredible!  This sanctuary has over 200 large cats that have been in the homes or businesses of private owners and were taken by the USDA.  To be able to be SO close.  HUGE TEETH.  Hopefully Brian will link to the full set of photos.

It was so hot, he needed a soak.

On our way back to Indianapolis, we met my Aunts Rosemary, Bernie, and Donna along with my Uncles Mike and Jeff and Cousin Carly for dinner at Grey Bros. before heading to Bernie and Mike’s in Fishers for the evening.

Monday we went to Cleveland.  Aunt Rosemary had recommended that we go to the R&R Hall of Fame.  I wanted to go to the zoo.  So, we did both.  We went to the Hall of Fame on Tuesday, it was really very interesting and so much better than I thought it would be.  Mid-way through the day, we were hungry and decided to go grab a bite before we toured the special exhibit (Bruce Springsteen!).  We left and tried to find a way to get across the highways and towards the buildings.  We finally found a set of steps and, up we went.  What a great surprise – Beats and Eats!  The Beats were over but the Eats were there.  There were several food trucks there all offering BBQ and/or soulfood.  Yum.  Back to the HoF.

Post HoF, we went to a bar and restaurant recommended by my friend Eric called Bar Cento.  Actually, we went to the attached bar BierMarkt. I loved it!  Amazing beer selection and very good snacks.  I got to try several beers that I had wanted to try but hadn’t got to and still got to put down a couple of my favorite.  It’s seasonal so, when I see it, I want it.  Fortunately, around the corner from BierMarkt is Great Lakes Brewery.  We stopped in, split a sampler and decided it was time to call it a night.

Bright eyed on Wednesday, we went to the Cleveland Zoo.  As some of you know I was on the hunt for tiny Amazonian frogs.  I’ll tell you right now, they weren’t on display.  AND the elephants were in Columbus while their area was getting an overhaul.  Despite the setbacks, fun day – most especially the butterfly house.  Almost always the best at the zoo.

Not my frog but a pretty frog nonetheless.

After the zoo, we drove to Columbus and stayed the night with Doug and Louie.  They have a beautiful home in Dublin and welcomed us late in the evening with “the kids are here!”  We spent the evening chatting and doing a little catchup, making plans to go to Columbus Brewing Company for dinner (beer) the next day.  We were really pushed on our Ohio trip largely based on 1.) my desire to go to CBC which is owned by my cousin Eric and his wife Beth, 2.) Doug and Louie!.  To get to have dinner and drinks at CBC with Eric, Beth, Doug, and Louie – GREAT.  The beer was delicious, the food yummy, and the company fantastic.

– insert photo here that i forgot to take because i was having too much fun-

After leaving the brewery, Brian and I headed to find my high school BFF.  Stephen and his hubby Craig are living in Columbus and were kind enough to host us for the night and feed us dinner at 11p! Craig made us dinner – mushroom risotto, so good!  It was wonderful to see Stephen again (10 years!) and to finally meet Craig.

Friday, we got back on the road to Lexington.  Back again?  What the what?  I had a social event to attend so off we went!  Since we were headed back to Lexington, I made plans with the family that are truly my Shepherds for dinner.  10 years later, there are husbands and now babies and there was a lot to catch up on!  I have been able to see them here and there but this was a good visit – only missing Missy and Henry!

Saturday was a party of grand proportions!  My mom and her long time lady friends had a party for all of their daughters and granddaughters.  It was really great to see everyone – it had been at least 10 years since I had seen everyone together.  Lots of great food, lovely ladies, and a pool!

We were missing Christy but had a great day!

Well, you all know now how my Saturday night went.  It was epic.  Sunday, sunday we recovered and had Steak Sunday at Dannie’s.

And here we are on Monday.  We are supposed to leave for Chicago but I just proposed West Virginia to Brian.  Rethinking what a great week it was seeing SO many people that I love but rarely get to see, I need to get to the mountains to visit Aunt Nancy.  Soon!

I’ve got my fancy new teeth!

That’s the most important thing to tell you!  I went by my home away from home (Beaumont Family Dentistry) and my new teeth were in!  YIPPPPEEEE!  Crowns are in place and they are real pretty.


Big times around here.  I got Cabin Fever in a bad, bad way last week and started hitching to Ohio.  Actually, my Mom has been kind enough to lend her Town and Country van to the cause and I took off for Cincinnati on Wednesday past.  I got to hang out with Nicole and her kids for the night.  Nicole made some a-m-a-z-i-n-g ceviche, we had a bottle of wine, and we plopped on the couch for the evening watching Top Chef and whatever else was on the DVR.  Add a couple of Skinny Cows into the mix and it was pure Heaven.  After that lovely evening, I got in the car Thursday morning, stopped at the Echo, grabbed my Graeter’s to go and made way to Chicago.

I made it to Chicago in record time (thanks time change!) and finally got to meet the Famous McCoy sisters!  Delightful.  Brian and I went to dinner in the neighborhood (Reuben Eggrolls?  They exist.), had a drink, and called it a day.  Friday, the McCoy’s were working around the house and I mostly daydreamed about dinner.  Then, FINALLY, Brian S. and Emily arrived from their cross country journey!!

We all had a quick pasta dinner outside and made our way back to the neighborhood strip and found an amazing place to hang out.  The Mecca Supper Club is probably the coolest thing in Edison Park.  The ladies and fellas that came in were pretty fantastic.  Gentlemen with their shirts unbuttoned, all that puberty gave them out for the world to see.  WOW.  And the ladies.  Such tight skirts, so, so short.  And heels.  High ones.  And the permanent waves in those long locks.  Awesome.  And, it was karaoke night.  Sweet ass.  I’ll be back.  I failed to mention that the waitress might have been auditioning for a “Hot for Teacher” remake.  She started the evening off in a button up with a bow-tie and her hair in a bun.  At 9p, she came back to check on us with her hair down (permed), skinny jeans on, and a tank top.  Look for the video.

We went out to do some sight seeing on Saturday after Brian S. and Emily headed to Geneva, IL.  And, honestly, I don’t remember what we did.  It doesn’t matter.  I think we drove around to Wicker Park.  Oh yeah!  We had Cuban food and it was super yummy.  I didn’t remember initially because we walked around Wicker Park on our own little pub crawl.  It was short but good.

I’m looking into doing one or two of the Frank Lloyd Wright tours when I go back to Chicago in about 10 days.  They are a little pricey but I think it would be super fun and well, I’ve got the time.  It would be a shame to not do it.  I am also hoping to get back to the Art Institute. I’m going to have to muster up some adventure.  I’m determined to get Chicago.   Any and all suggestions are welcome!

I came back to Lexington yesterday with Brian S. and mostly we’ve just been hanging out with LuLu, our brother Dannie, and the nieces.  This weekend, we head to Indianapolis for our family reunion!  That should be super fun.  Brian Mc is meeting me there and then we are off to Ohio for the week.  OHIO I say!  Columbus, Cleveland, and Amish Country.  Why not?

Still…in KY (and Chicago).

Big weekend here in LexVegas!  Brian and I went to a couple of wineries on Thursday.  We went to Equus Run in Midway and Wildside in Versailles.  Both were pretty good but more it was fun to get out of the house and do some mid-day drinking and hanging out!  Then, we topped of the evening with a beer sampling at Pazzo’s.  Pazzo’s is a campus pizza spot that is largely unremarkable.  Until you see the beer list and their sampling option.   Nice spot to end the day!

Friday night, we went to the Bluegrass Fair with my niece Shelby and her boyfriend Alex.  So fun! There were so many fantastic sights to see.  There was Fearless Flores and the Flying Motorcycles and a piglet race.  I rode the Ferris Wheel and emptied Brian’s pockets and my wallet of quarters.  There was one of those “Win a Million” quarter games there and I couldn’t stop.  I somehow did not eat a Funnel Cake.  Not sure how I passed that up but it probably has something to do with my insane consumption of Graeter’s ice cream.  It’s just so good.

If you didn't know already, I'm afraid of heights.

And Saturday night, we hit the drive in with Shelby and Alex and my other niece Kelsey.  We got to see Salt and Inception.  It was a great night – not too much humidity and a full moon.  Inception was amazeballs and Salt was entertaining. OH!  We also went to the Farmer’s Market.  Trying to be better and buy local, wherever local may be.  It was hard not laughing my face off at the guy selling fish from frozen Florida.  I got tomatoes instead! And peaches! It was nice to have such an easy weekend before Brian headed off to Chicago for a few weeks.

I’m going to try and get up to Chicago in a couple of weeks, once Molar Drama ’10 is over and, more importantly, Brother Brian and Emily are there!  I can’t wait to see them!!

And finally, I know I promised that I’d work on the editing and such and I have been.  It just hasn’t been successful.  I’m sure you can piece together the photos with the information!

Lucky in Kentucky?

Not so much.  After a full 4 hours in the chair with the dentist, the work cannot be completed and my root canal is going to a specialist for a 3rd attempt.  Unfortunately, my wallet will follow.  The good news is that…well, it will eventually be done.   Boresville.

Brian and I haven’t done much in Lexington besides drink.  And we’ve hardly managed any of that.  We went out one night to Mia’s and thought we’d really go crazy so we headed over to the Rosebud.  It was still pretty early in the evening when 2 girls came out of the bar.  One of them was that girl.  She needed a chair and a long stare at the ground.  We left, it just wasn’t gonna be that kinda night for us.

The view from our table at Mia's.

Over this past weekend, we headed up to Cincinnati to visit with my longest time friend Nicole.  We had a great time!  Brian got to see a city he hadn’t been to and we were welcomed in style by Nicole’s awesome friends!  We went to Findlay Market and the Cincinnati Art Museum.  And that was after a great breakfast at the Echo.  Breakfast at the Echo was so good that we went back again before we left on Sunday.

It's the flower on the Pitcher plant!

Mostly, the weekend in Cincinnati was all things German(ish) – gorgeous pretzels, goetta, and Italianate architecture.  And big, big drinks.  I guess the stein got thrown out the window but most places we went served my whiskey in a pint glass.  Seriously, a pint glass.

Thanks Germans!
This is the Italianate style that the Germans brought.

Brian and I both like Cincinnati more than we expected!  I knew I would have a great time visiting with Nicole and was surprised at how fun the city and company were even though I had been there countless times before.  Fresh eyes I suppose.

Nicole and me, Findlay Market.


We made it on Saturday night.  I goofed around on Sunday with Brian.  He and I went to breakfast with my Mom Sunday morning and then we picked up the Girls and Alex to watch the yellow card match that was the World Cup.  BW3’s  was our spot as we had minors.  Then, a cookout at Dannie’s.  Great way to spend a Sunday and the first day in town.

Not quite sure what to do with myself, I go to Speedway and get my special blend of 44 oz of mostly iced tea with just a little sweet tea to top it off.  This isn’t the only thing I do here but my go to when in doubt.  Or hot.  Basically what I’m telling you is that within a few days of being in KY, I’m at the Speedway at least once a day getting my fix.  There.  It’s out.  Kelsey said she was going to make me some today so that I didn’t have to go to the gas station…we’ll see.

LuLu is loving it here.  She gets to run around in the car a lot and play with Georgia and Abby.  And, she is getting a myriad of spa services while we are in town.  She too is going to the dentist and has a pedicure scheduled for next week.

OH!  Thank you for the well wishes on my tooth. My Advil and Amoxi regimen has served me well and there hasn’t been another breakdown since the Badlands.  I am going to the dentist tomorrow.  YIpppeeee!

Sometimes it’s not an emergency but does require a detour.

Detour began yesterday (Thursday).  Brian and I had awesome plans to leave South Dakota after the Badlands on Thursday morning and head across Wyoming to Jackson.  After 2 days in Jackson and Yellowstone, we were headed to Salt Lake City.   Unfortunately, I woke up Wednesday morning in serious pain.  I had been on a regiment of Advil for a few weeks with jaw pain that I associated with stress (I’m one of those neurotic sleep grinders.).  Stress doesn’t make your tooth throb.  So, now we are headed to Kentucky to see my dentist and hang with my family. This was already on the books but I was hoping to see the aforementioned first.  Oh well.

And that’s how we ended up in Kansas City, MO.   Driving from Sioux Falls, SD to Kansas City, I was listening to a horrible book (on AUDIO from the Crack) and they kept talking about BBQ.  Which I love.  So, diversion not desired has proved awesome as I had the best BBQ of my life tonight.   I love all the BBQ’s except for whoever does the mustard sauce.  The BBQ here was amazing, better than North Carolina and it sure gives Memphis a run for their smoker.

We did a double fill!

Did I mention that this particular BBQ came from a gas station?  Yes, it did.  And the place was packed.  Jam packed.  So, we called in our order and took it down to the park to eat.  Then, we went back to buy the sauce.  Brian asked them if they were always so busy.  Yes they are.  And, Michelle Obama had just been in town.  And they catered a meal for her.  That made the news the night before.  It also probably helped that Bourdain said it was a must-stop.  He was right.  Michelle and Bourdain?  Yes please.From the state I said I'd never return to.

Before and as I got super whiny, we drove across Montana and South Dakota.  We hit Glacier, Missoula, Butte, Bozeman, Piedmont (where we stayed for two days at the Spur Campground), Sturgis, Devils Tower (did you know that’s just a big rock?), Wall Drug, and the Badlands!

Sunset at Spur in Piedmont

The Spur Campground was beautiful and perfect.  Excepting some bizarre and fun interactions with the staff and the one other group staying there.  We are pretty sure they shot some sort of porn the first night we were there in their “bar” where they often host fundraiser poker tournaments.  We were urged not to go to the bar as it was closed for a “photoshoot”.  The music sure was loud.

What we saw before we heard the ugly noises.

Also, Thursday morning, once we had decided not to go to Yellowstone straight away I met another nice couple coming from Yellowstone. LuLu had gone over to introduce herself and beg a doughnut.  Their pop up had done just that on the highway to Yellowstone and they had just gotten back from camping there.  I said that we were thinking of going but not 100% sure yet – what did she think of it?

“Well, it’s a big tourist trap.  And, it’s full of foreigners.   It is real pretty if you drive in on 16.”


Through South Dakota I kept noticing these huge popcorn balls for sale.  They were in gas stations all over the state.  They are called Kimballs and are made in Kimball, SD.  I guess I only noticed them because my Grandpa used to make us popcorn balls when we were kids.   Anyway, while inspecting these inferior popcorn balls, I noted that they were made in Kimball.  Fast forward 120 miles to a sign announcing Kimball next exit.  I requested a stop to see if we could find the factory.

We didn’t.  Instead we found something way more rad :

I finally got reacquainted with the sun and a little heat in the last few days…good goddamn is in beautiful through there.  The sky. Seattle, you made me forget that it got that clear and blue.

Tomorrow is Kansas City to Lexington.  We’re gonna hang for a few weeks and see the sights.  Hopefully we can put in a few side trips.

AND!  I nearly forgot to document my short lived but serious obsession with Prairie Dogs.  It was more serious than my situation with the Moccasin.   I took a picture of nearly every one that I found. Judging by the holes in the ground, I see why people hate them.  Still, cute.

7 full days on the road and 2500 miles driven.

And, of course, LuMei says hello.

I didn't buy it.
Someone has to drive.

P.S.  Reenie, Wendi sent me an email photo, I believe this is my trade for that gem:

 I didn't buy it.
pps. I'll try to report more often so that the info is more cohesive. And I'll work on the editing skills. I know who you are. Reading this probably made a few of you nauseous.