Travel

Chi-Town

Well I FINALLY made good on my year long promise to visit Sarah after she ran away from me for graduate school to Wheaton last year… and while it took way too long for me to get my hide over there, it was certainly more than well worth the wait!

The timing was perfect!  Weather was getting yum (I refused to come during the bitter cold), Sarah’s grueling classes had come to an end, and with both of us embarking on new seasons of life – and extended amount of Sarah/Stacey time was in order!

I was already stoked, but 15 days out Sarah began leaving daily teases on my page foretelling our fun to be had that would always begin with “In “#” days you will be here, and while you are here we will:_________” – each followed by a detail of our weekend yet to be experienced.  Needless to say I was growing in anxious butterflies with each passing day!

By the final day I’m sure half my friends were also enticed and considering a trip there themselves! LOL  And if you get a chance – DOWIT!  Chicago is a ridiculously fabulous place to visit!!

THURSDAY…

After pulling myself away from the properties at work and coming dangerously close to missing my flight, I was on my way!  The flight was about 2 hrs and just what I needed to get caught up on some reading (why on earth I find myself reading two books simultaneously I’ll never know – as if I need to divide my attention any more!)

As soon as I landed, Sarah whisked me away straight to *AHHHHHHHHH* Bahama Breeze, which started our weekend journey perfectly on a high note that never did come down.  I had been craving those West Indies patties and Bahama-ritas for only 2 years!  We tried to have our big graduation celebration dinner there after mom and I walked the stage together in 07 only to pull up to a CLOSED DOWN Bahama Breeze in OKC!  My heart was shattered all the more to google and find that even the TX locations were gone!  So when Sarah texted me her first week in IL to say there was still one in Chicago I was ELATED – and as any good friend would, I of course made her promise to wait for me, and like the great friend she is – she did 🙂

What a refreshing evening.  We were surrounded with a dim and soothing atmosphere  and quickly began the marathon of girl talk over my favorite menu items and also shared a new delicious paella – annnnd yep – I ate wayyy too much!  Yet, no regrets 🙂

FRIDAY…

I say a vacation should always begin with an indulgent sleep-in!  We both needed the rest, and while our agenda was packed, we remained flexible 🙂 Neither of us wanted to be rushed.  Besides, Day 1 was fully reserved for one thing: SHOPPING!

Our first stop was not far.  I think it was only a couple of days after Sarah had arrived in Wheaton that she sent me a text saying she’d found a place she knew I would fall in love with: Trader Joe’s.  And as soon as I walked in the door my heart confirmed it.  Trader Joe’s is a unique specialty grocery store found in select areas of the country and has all the character of the original health food shoppe near Greenville that my mom used to take us to as kids.  My mom would light up and literally become soul-happy when we would enter that place and she had no problem lingering for well over an hour or two.  At the time, Steph and I were ridiculously bored with the excursions and had no idea why she felt the need to drag us there knowing we’d be miserable, but of course we came to look back on those grocery trips with nostalgic memories as we got older.  I felt like mom at Trader Joe’s… soul happy 🙂  The wooden shelves were lined with specialty breads, unique cheeses, and one of a kind sauces and spreads with homely labels.  At the heart center of the store was the wine section and it’s very own wine tasting booth as well as a floral shirted “wine guy” who is evidently and self-admittedly somewhat of a celebrity among wine connoisseurs, not to mention quite a character!  I perused the rows of bottles for the perfect selections to accompany me back to OKC and when I approached Mr. Wine Guy for his recommendations he first took a poll of my preferences.  It told him I typically have a glass of a pinot, usually Pinot Noir in the evenings and sometimes Merlot and  White Zinfandel.  What was I THINKING?  He gave me a brow-snarled look and said, “Merlot?  White Zin?  This is 2009!”  My jaw dropped and Sarah just laughed – I guess at me- because evidently I am dated in this area and Wine Guy had no qualms about shaming me for it!  I apologized and became all ears for his lesson.  It was a fun moment – I love learning about wine and the zillions of kinds of grapes, processing techniques, etc.  I had a good lesson and Wine Guy sent me on my way with a new bottle bag and some lovely choices – after sending me to return the Merlot to it’s place on the shelf  of course.  “Just walk away” he said- Haha!  And I did!  I also got some trendy little Trader Joe’s “green” bags and a fantastic pouch of nut and cranberry mix that had actual Wasabi peas!! My word!

Grocery heaven!

Soon after Joe’s, we jumped on the train and headed to downtown Chicago for a full day of shopping fun!  MY WORD!!! BEAUTIFUL! The buildings, the architecture, the beautiful shops and all the random multi-faceted people all over the busy streets!  I love all things “downtown” in any city, big or small, and Chicago has one of the most fantastic downtown energies EVER!  Had my tired feet not tapped out I could have stayed there allllll weekend!  We visited sights and shops for 9 hours straight! That translated on Sarah’s marathon training GPS watch to TEN friggin’ miles of walking, and by then end of it my poor little footsies were feeling every mile!  But sooooo worth it 🙂

I finally got to see the inside of an H&M and the rumors are true – great stuff, great prices!  I snagged a handful of summer tops, some cargos, a great pair of loungy linen pants and some under-priced jewelry!  SCORE! 😀  We of course made time to grace the Chicago Apple store as well as the  Clinique counter at Bloomies for new lip gloss – and more  importantly the bonus gift 🙂  It was fitting for me to be with Sarah in getting the bonus buy because she’s the one that turned me on to that annual yummy- and even schooled me on timing the different stores so I can get more than one per year!  She’s pretty great for turning me on to new things and I’ll always be grateful for that one!  Oh and yyyyeah – pretty sure we agreed the bonus buy is extra packed for the richy stores because we got way more stuff than usual.

Oh and it rained.

Allllllllll day.

Which I loved 🙂

We spent the evening at Sarah’s apartment and her good friend Angie came by to join us for some brownies, Trader Joe’s wine, and what was meant to be a movie but turned into hours of more girl chatter. I was anxious to meet Sarah’s new Wheaton friends and was so glad she made arrangements for that. Sarah is simply and purely amazing and I had no doubt her new friends would be too.  Angie is a beautiful California girl and truly delightful. We quickly found a mutual affinity for one another and talked like we’d been friends for much longer than this one evening.

After loads of every level of chit chat, we closed the night with one… and then another… and yet another episode of The Office – Sarah’s fav.

We laughed til it hurt!

And until we could no longer keep our eyes open…

Although –

had I been willing, I suspect Sarah could have played another …

and another and another and another.

SATURDAY

You can tell a lot about a girl by the girls she girls around with.

I do think the world of Sarah and found myself delighted with the company she is keeping these days 🙂

3 more new friends – Jill, Sharon, and Kristi showed up for Saturday morning

– and who wouldn’t:

Fresh fruit with that addictive dip and a scrumptious breakfast casserole!! MMMMMMMMMM!!

I loved getting to know these 3 – each from and in very different places and I spent the morning getting to hear about each of the girls, their jobs, family situations, goals, etc.  They’re pretty wonderful and I really enjoyed the morning with them – definitely looking forward to seeing not only Sarah when I get back that way –but her awesome friends too!

For Saturday, Sarah and I drove back to the city and then rode the el train (which was so coooool!!) around downtown.  We spent a good while roaming the opening of the modern wing of the Art Institute.  If I lived there I decided I would go every Sunday because it would take routine visits to ever get to the end of it all and learn about all of the interesting pieces as well as the artists.  Sarah got a pic next to the blue guitar guy that she has a copy of in her room, and I got a pic next to the resting angel that hangs at home 🙂

After the museum, I got a true Chicago style dog (YUM) in Millenium park -where they have these humongous screens with faces on them that interact with the people playing in the ground fountains by shooting sprays of water through their mouths!  It’s kind of hard to explain, but pretty neato 🙂

We also took some fun handstand pics at the big silver “Bean”.  I won’t go into how long it took me to get the right distance from the bean for my handstand so I would quit doing complete flips and rather land my feet ON the stinkin’ bean! LOL 😉  My little gymnast would have been proud of her mommy!

A little more shopping and I was able to finally get trip souvenirs: a  t-shirt for Jacey, commemorative playing cards and shot glass, and finally my Chi-Town hoodie as well. Then we made our way to the Wrigley-ville/ Wrigley Field area to get ready for the concert.  We drove the area first and it was sooooo awesome – a place I could definitely live (except for the weather).  The neato shops and eating spots, beautiful homes with great character, and a variety of shiny happy people roaming the sidewalks… I felt at home there 🙂

After picking up some food, we headed to The Vic.

Sarah and I have seen some really great shows together.  Our first, and my favorite, was the Indigo Girls.  I still can’t believe we got to see them perform live – wow!  We’ve seen Kanye together (great, energetic show!), driven on a weeknight to Dallas for an amazing Derek Webb show at the Gypsy Tea Room ( and drove right back) and we sat– well stood- front row at Coldplay ( they are even better live– ridiculously awesome!).

On this night we would finally be serenaded by the amazing Ben Harper and we couldn’t wait.  He has always been one of Sarah’s favs and she turned me on to him a few years ago.  We got there early to ensure ourselves a front row spot, but 10 minutes too late to see Ben come out and greet the early crowd in line. UGH!  The guy in front of us had a pic of himself with Ben to prove it and poor Sarah was almost devastated – LOL 😉

The Vic was bea-U-tiful on the inside – like an old theater with red walls and gold designs and molding – such great character!  The opening band was a lot of fun!  They had just recently quit their jobs to join Harper’s tour and you could just see how grateful they were to share the stage – I enjoyed them a lot!  And finally beautiful yummy Ben Harper came out and did his fantastic music thang!! I just love to see someone doing what they love to do and seeing them put their heart and soul into it!!  That’s the BEST.

After a full rock out show, concluding with not one, but two encores, we really got our money’s worth – – especially since Sarah was able to snag the set list after the show!    Go Sarah!!!

And of course, I got a t-shirt 😉

SUNDAY  …       Last day 😦        But it was good 🙂

This morning I found myself in church worshipping next to my Sarah, possibly the most meaningful part of the trip.  I miss that.

The music was amazing … I love the “In Christ Alone” version that includes the “Solid Rock” snippet.  I’ve looked it up before and then again after this trip.  Still only one of this version is available on itunes and it’s one of those where you have to purchase the entire album. Ugh.

We joined Sharon, Kristi, and Victoria (from Argentina) at Portillo’s for lunch and Sarah convinced me to try the Italian beef sandwich.  I really wavered on this but am so glad she forced the issue because it was DELICIOUS!

We skipped IKEA – because I needed to quit spending money and there was certainly no more room in my bags to take any more back with me – and opted for a quiet afternoon at  Sarah’s apartment with a movie.  Only about 500 times over the weekend did Sarah say she wanted me to see Dan in Real Life because it has both of our favorite comedian boys in it – Steve Carell hers, and Dane Cook mine.  Well, both comedians were great – there were lots of funny parts, but by the end of it I just bawled.  Thanks a lot funny boys.

With a few moments left, we did what we do – shared and prayed.

And so we ended the trip with a drive to the airport, listening to that fabulous radio station on the way, from which I shazammed a zillion songs throughout the weekend.  Some because I had no idea either the song or the artist that was covering some great song and some as a reminder for later downloading…

John Lennon – Stand by Me

Bob Dylan – Like a Rolling Stone

Madness – Our House

INS – I Need You Tonight

Joe Walsh – Life’s Been Good

Stevie Nicks – Crash into Me cover – wowowowowow.

Arcade Fire – Keep the Car Running

Phoenix – 1901

Talking Heads – Burning Down the House

John Mellencamp – I Need a Lover ( that won’t drive me crazy)

The bad news is that the best of those shazammed, can’t even be found for download – grrrrrrrrrr!!!!

At the airport, I picked up the latest Rolling Stone for some flight reading material and because Sarah had mentioned it listed the No Doubt/Paramore concert first in it’s top upcoming concerts to attend.  And it’s true, Gwen is no longer on her own and the band is officially back together!  That just made me all the more excited to go with my big/little sisters!  Also articled was the U2 concert!  Later this year I’ll have the rare opportunity of seeing that stellar act live with none other than the Black Eyed Peas with Leen and Mandy!  It was truly disappointing, however to find that Pink is only going to be as near as Houston and that we MISSED Kings of Leon by only a few months!! Double grrrrrrr on that.  I wondered how we never even heard of it and could Kyle have known they were in OK last year?? Of all the ones listed, Kings of Leon would have probably been my top pick 😦  Maybe next time…

It was sooooo nice to have this time with Sarah – to have not a morning run or a simple lunch date or even a one evening concert – but DAYYYYYS together.  Sarah and I have more memories than some make their whole lives, and I am so grateful for the new ones we were blessed to make this weekend!

The quality time was precious, very well spent, and unforgettable 🙂

I just love her.

It’s the kind of friendship that stands the test of time…

and distance.

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