Carbondale trip!

The bachelorette party we attended went very well! The place we stayed was awesome, the organizer of the party did a great job finding the house we stayed at. It had four bedrooms, three bathrooms, a large kitchen, and a massive deck! We were all able to enjoy ourselves comfortably without feeling cramped.

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We enjoyed the view at sunrise, sunset, and all throughout the trip. The scents, sounds, and sights were wonderfully tranquil. Saturday morning a few of us were up extra early. We headed out to the deck wrapped up in blankets and with cups of coffee. Chatting and relaxing we watched the sun rise. We could smell the smoke from a morning campfire, and listened to the sounds of cows and roosters in the distance.

At 11am we were all ready for the day. A limo came to pick us up and we started our venture of wine trailing.

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Star View Vineyard

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The oil here was the bomb diggity (oh yea, I said that)!

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Blue Sky Vineyard

 

We were able to hit up two, by the second one we were all quite lit. It was perfect weather and we all had a wonderful time hanging out and getting silly! Once we were back to the house we all relaxed and a few of us took naps! Saturday evening we stayed in, and Sunday morning we headed back. We just missed all the bad weather!

In sum, we got to see a few neat new places and had a great time all together. It was a nice trip!

Carbondale

Oh Carbondale, how I’ve missed you. And this weekend we shall finally be together again!

My husband attended SIUC for his undergraduate degree. Many a years I travelled down to visit him and enjoyed the night life of Carbondale, IL. I was always most excited to be with him again after weeks of not seeing each other, but bagel guy and don taco was always a pleasure to revisit as well. And although I will not be visiting the campus this trip, it will be fun revisiting those old stomping grounds.

This weekend I will be attending a bachelorette party for my friend Jeni. A group of us will be enjoying the southern Illinois wine trails! I am very excited for this trip. It will not only be great to see friends I haven’t seen in awhile, but it’ll also be neat to check out the wine trails. I have never been but have always wanted to go!

I look forward keeping you posted of our adventures!

Wining and Whining and Dining

Last night my co-worker and I needed some vino and cheese. It has been quite the semester, and it was also quite the Tuesday. The students and the teachers alike are ready for break!

So my friend and I went to Sun Singer in Champaign and enjoyed some wine together and got our whine on. Every once in awhile you just need to vent about life, work, and people in order to stay sane.

We shared a bottle of Cabernet, a cheese spread platter, and a cheese tray. The cheese spread platter had a blue cheese, pesto cheese, and a Parmesan and artichoke cheese spread. The cheese tray had a basil and garlic Gouda, a sage cheese, and a cheese with a rosemary rine. Tassssssssssty!

It was a great way to unwind and indulge ourselves!

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The Rest of Our Weekend

Saturday morning I woke at 4:30am wide awake. I just couldn’t get back to sleep. So I came out to the living room, turned on the TV and opened up my computer to start blogging. By 5:30am my sister was also awake and I had someone to hang out with. We got a pot of coffee going and just talked and hung out until my mom, nephew, and husband were all awake as well.

Once everyone was up and ready for the day we headed to the Gabby Goat for breakfast. Gabby Goat is a pub here in town that has some good food as it is, but it also is open for breakfast. Although they offer a very minimal breakfast menu, the food is great! And so are their bloody marys! We all were very happy with what we ordered and left with very full bellies.

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After breakfast we headed to the grocery store to get some groceries for dinner and Easter Sunday. Post grocery trip we headed to Tuscan Hills Winery. My mother and sister have visited me a few times but still had not yet been to the Winery, so I was excited to bring them there to check it out! My husband kindly watched our nephew while we spent part of the afternoon there. The weather was perfect and the atmosphere there is really neat. My sister and I got some major sun while sitting outside enjoying the wine. I don’t know how my mom avoided getting burnt, but she sure wasn’t as red as we were after we left.

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There is my sissy in the background!

We enjoyed two bottles of wine before heading back to the house.

My sister and mother both set up a tarot reading with Kaycie in the afternoon. I was excited for them to meet her and they loved her as much as I knew they would! And so did my pup Arlo! My sister was pumped and had no reservations about doing the reading. My mother however did have a few reservations about it all, but ended up really loving it! She was impressed with how accurate everything was, and I was happy she tried something new and out of her comfort zone. Both of them really enjoyed the experienced and walked away with guidance and affirmations.

After the readings we hung out for a bit before my sister and I headed to the Village Wine Shop to meet up with a few friends there. I was happy to see so many people I wanted to introduce to her. We hung out for a short bit before heading back to the house for dinner.

Just as Friday was, Saturday was also a beautiful day! It was a perfect night for hanging outside, having some friends over, and grilling up some food. We had a huge veggie tray that was devoured quickly, some cheese and crackers, and grilled up some burgers.

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The rest of the evening was spent just hanging out with friends and enjoying the outdoors.

 

Sunday we got up and started getting the house and meal ready for Easter Sunday! Sawyer even helped with vacuuming 🙂 My mom and I headed to the store for a few items we forgot the day before and while I was there I grabbed some eggs to do an Easter egg hunt with Soybean when we got back. While the food was cooking I went outside to hide the eggs around the backyard. Afterwards, Sawyer, my mom and sis all came out to watch him begin the hunt. He did well!

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After the egg hunt we came back inside and finished cooking up the food. The meal was extensive! We had ham, cheesy potatoes, two quiches, green bean casserole, and some pineapple. Needless to say my husband and I have some mad leftovers! As you can see from an earlier post, I’ve already enjoyed some leftover quiche for breakfast.

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The rest of Sunday we hung out and enjoyed being outside. My mom and sister left around 2:30pm. Overall, it was a very successful trip and we all had a lot of fun together! Once they left my husband, pup, and I all relaxed for bit before getting on the task of picking up the house post visit. We were all pretty pooped the rest of the evening and Arlo and I took a solid nap on the couch in the afternoon.

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Solid weekend!

 

 

 

Color and Cut

Yesterday my mother, sister, and nephew arrived at around 12:30pm. I had lunch waiting for them when they got in and after the ritual greeting and kissing my sweet nephew on his plump little cheeks we sat and enjoyed some food! This past Thursday my sister texted me and asked if I could set up a hair appointment for her while she was down here. Evidently she needed a cut STAT. Ironically (it must be the twin-ness in us) I needed one desperately too. So I called my usual salon and got us both in for 2pm. The salon ended up calling and asking if they could push back our appointment a half hour yesterday which-so-happened to make things more convenient as my sister had brought a blonde box dye that she wanted to complete before getting her cut.

So, after lunch my sister began the process of dying her hair. She uttered concerns of the results before beginning the process, but continued on anyways.While her hair was processing it was evident that the blonde she had hoped for was turning into more of a strawberry blonde color the likes of her son’s hair when he was born. What she was hoping for was the warm blonde tones he currently has as 18months! Sure enough after the conditioning, rinse out, and blow dry, the color was a strawberry blonde. At that point her gut instincts were mocking her decision while my mother and I were outwardly chuckling. Not that it actually looked that bad, but we knew it certainly wasn’t the color she was aiming for.

As we headed to the hair salon my sister started asking me if they’d be able to correct the color. I certainly didn’t know as per I am not a hair stylist or colorist, but my guess was they would most likely be able to do something at some point this weekend. I was called over first and informed the stylist that I wanted chunky layers put in and a smidge off the bottom layer. (I am currently in the aggravating and impatient process of attempting to grow my hair out after 10 years of having it super short) My sister got in with another stylist while my hair was being started. The stylist did a great job with mine and I love having some more layers put in. My fine thin hair needs all the help and trickery it can get to seem voluminous. The results are below!

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Once I was done with my cut I checked in with my sister. Her cut was also looking very cute! And, sure enough, she was able to get her color fixed after her cut. It ended up taking til’ dinner time, but it certainly looked significantly better when she was all done! While she stayed back to get the color done I headed back to the house with my mom and nephew. They ran around town while my sis and I were getting our cuts done, and while out my mom picked up a bubble mower for Sawyer to play with in the yard. So, when we got back to the house we busted out the mower and Sawyer had some fun in the yard watching the bubbles come out as he “mowed.” With the sun out in full force it began feeling really hot out! Poor Sawyer had a long sleeve shirt on so we took it off of him the last few minutes outside while playing with his mower. I couldn’t help but crack up watching him mow the yard shirtless like a real southern boy!

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As dinner time approached we all began brainstorming what we would like to do for supper. With the weather being impeccable my husband and I suggest a place called Abigail’s nearby. It is a restaurant on the lake where you can BYOB and sit outside watching the boats dock and the sun set. So, we packed a cooler and headed that way. It truly couldn’t have been a more perfect evening to sit outside and enjoy a meal. The temperature was perfect, the breeze not overbearing, the sun setting, the smell of bonfire wafting in the air, and a delicious meal awaiting. We shared a very tasty appetizer to begin with, and then our meals to follow. It was perfect. Beers, lakeside, and dinner–can’t beat it! 

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I enjoyed a chicken bacon ranch pita and some potato salad!

We headed back to the house after our meal and relaxed hanging out and catching up some more.

Unfortunately, in the midst of hanging out we received the news that our long time neighbor had passed away the night before. She had just lost her husband last year, and unfortunately her life also came to an end far too soon. A perfect night turned into one of grieving and reminiscing about how great of neighbors they were to our family all while growing up. It is painful to lose loved ones and those you know for such a long time. However, I find solace in knowing that she is now with her husband healthy and well again. It is my hopes that even with such news my mother, sister, and I can still find a way to enjoy the remaining time of their visit here while in town. In the meanwhile, I pray for Jane’s family and friends and hope they find the comfort they need during this difficult time.

A Change of Plans

Originally my sister, mother and I were going to be taking a girls trip to Milwaukee, WI (the land of beer and cheese!) however, a change of plans occurred and instead they will be coming down to visit me! So we will be enjoying Effingham, IL and its surrounding areas this weekend instead.

Even though a different location would have been nice to blog about I am sure I’ll be able to find plenty to post and write about from a local perspective!

Looking forward to keeping you “posted” here soon!

-L

My Minneapolis Treasure

Reflecting back to my trip last week, I can’t help but feel elated. Minneapolis was just wonderful. I greatly enjoyed the time spent in the city as well as the time spent at the conference. I was able to try and enjoy a lot of new things in MN while exploring the downtown area. I also learned a lot from the panels that I attended. Saturday was our last full day and evening in MN, and quite frankly–I think it was also my favorite. My co-worker and I had our 8am panel sharing instruction ideas. We had people at our table every round, and I even got asked to apply to a community college nearby, so that was sweet! Then, after our panel I attended a Women’s Caucus panel that had a variety of research on women’s issues. After the morning panels I grabbed some lunch and headed back up to the hotel room to hang out and enjoy my food before heading to an afternoon panel where my undergraduate program was winning an award for outstanding Communication program. I met up with friend of mine who also attended that panel, and we hung out the rest of the afternoon. Her, another friend of ours, and I just hung out at the hotel laughing, catching up, and enjoying some drinks. Our discussions were both enlightening and hysterical! After a bit we decided to grab some appetizers and drinks at a nearby pub that we wanted to check out. Brit’s Pub just downtown and down the street from where we were staying. Later on we attended the “sock hop” for the conference which was really just a banquet hall with a good DJ and people dancing. We only stayed for a short bit, but the time we did spend there was a lot of fun. We danced our drunken booty’s off until we decided we had enough. After the “sock hop” we were suppose to join a bar crawl. However, the people we really wanted to see were just planning on hanging out at the bar lobby instead. So, we decided to skip the bar crawl and hang out with those we wanted to visit with.

 

I sat down with the Department Head (L) of my old program and we sat and caught up on how things were going in each others life’s. I shared with him some of my most recent artwork and the photography I have been doing as of late. We also talked about how the program was going and how much I missed being there. Our conversation took many twists and turns throughout the night as each drink brought with it another topic to discuss.

After a short while, my Masters chair (H) showed up and took a seat next to us. He joined in on our conversations and catch up. I also shared with him what has been going on in my life and what I’ve been up to, and he his. What emerged out of our conversations though was something that I will treasure and hold with me forever. In part of our conversation I reminded H of something he said to me when I was leaving a final during my Masters program. I told him that those words had stuck with me and how much I appreciated him saying them. It was something along the lines of, I know you will do something great. And I’ve hung on to those words over the past two years. They encourage me and move me forward on the days I doubt myself. From that comment spun another conversation that has really just left me feeling elated, empowered, and driven. As I continued to share with H all of the pots I have my hands in at the moment and what I am wanting to do in the near future, he kept validating those ideas and telling me that I am amazing, I can do anything I want, I am a rare individual in this world, I will do great things. And I can’t even tell you how taken a back I was, and also how grateful I am for such encouraging words. To feel from this man a genuine belief in me and all things I set my mind to… It was unreal. And it isn’t as if I haven’t heard these things before from parents or loved ones, but sometimes it means something entirely different from someone else. And from this man, it meant the world. People say kind things to us often, but sometimes it just feels like a response rather then a genuine belief.

These men/mentors have no idea how much I care and respect them. I am so grateful for their words. And while reflecting on their words this week, and just the relationship I have with them in general, I finally figured out why I am so very fond of these two individuals. Whenever we are around one another, I am completely and utterly myself. I feel no inhibitions of who I “should be” or who I am “suppose to be” around them. I am just me. And through our discussions Saturday evening I was every side of me I think I could be. I showed them my artistic side, my professional side, my inappropriate side, every side there is to me in one conversation. And all they said were words of encouragement and love. I would apologize from time to time about comments I made that may have crossed the line and they would just respond with, That’s why we love you Lauren. And quite honestly, there are very few people who I can really truly be myself around without feeling judgement or questioning from. And these two men, along with some dear friends of mine, make the cut. This moment, and this conversation that was had, is simply a treasure I will hold with me forever. I sincerely hope they will be able to see their kindness and mentor-ship manifest into something great.

And as the night ended and we said our goodbyes H kissed me on the cheek and told me he loved me-and I shared the sentiment back. There was noting inappropriate of uncomfortable about it. It was like the kiss L planted as he intoxicatedly greeted me their first night in. It wasn’t passionate or sexual, just honest enduring friendship and love for who and what each of us means to one another. A true appreciation and care for one another. Gratitude that fate has allowed our paths to cross.

And it was a truly perfect way to end a long week in Minneapolis.

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The Rest of Yesterday

After my last post yesterday I went to a panel before heading out to lunch with a group of friends. The panel was to honor a major interpersonal scholar who I had as an instructor during both undergrad and grad school. The presenters on the panel did an excellent job honoring her and each speech was even better than the last! In addition to the great presenters we all received a glass of champagne for a champagne toast at the end.

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Afterwards, a group of us met together and headed to Hell’s Kitchen for lunch.

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Gordon Ramsey wasn’t there, but the atmosphere was still really cool. The restaurant has many different levels and turns to it and is full of “hellish” like decor. While walking down a staircase to the restaurant one cannot miss a giant butcher knife chandelier hanging overhead.

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The place was really neat to say the least! Our food was also excellent. Our table shared an order of cheeseballs before ordering our entrees. They were delicious! The batter was really light and soft (almost funnel cake-y).

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For my entree I ordered a ham and pear sandwich (keeping with the pear theme from the night before) with sweet potato fries and basil aoilie (sp) sauce to dip them in. It was very tasty! 

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After lunch, my co-worker Daniel and I headed to the Mall of America. While traveling there you get to see all of the pretty aspects of downtown Minneapolis. There are sculptures, art design, and landscape design every where you turn. It is really a beautiful downtown area!

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The Mall of America is pretty much what you expect. A massive collection of stores and levels of stores, and then they have a small amusement park within the Mall. We had fun just walking around being in awe of it all. We didn’t stay long, and fortunately didn’t spend much, but it was all worth the trip out there anyways! We did hit up a crepe stand before we left. I enjoyed a nutella crepe! It was mighty tasty!

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Once we were back to the hotel we quickly had to change and head back out. A group of us went to the 19 Bar which is the oldest gay bar in Minneapolis. On our walk over the snow really started coming down! The snowflakes were legitimately the size of ping pong balls! It was massive cluster after massive cluster coming down. Truly, it was quite beautiful! It was like we were in a huge snowglobe!

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Back to the bar. They have great drink specials and the bar is a nice low-key place to hang out. They have pool tables, dart boards, and the like. With the pitchers being so cheap I’m sure you can expect that we did not lack on the amount of beverages consumed! We had a good size group with us and it was a fun time!

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Once we decided to leave the bar we were all starving! The fatty in me smelled BBQ on our walk over to the bar, so I knew there had to be some good BBQ near by! And fortunately it was actually OPEN at the odd hour we went! It was just as delicious as it smelled. We all dived in like nobody’s business when our food arrived! I ordered a pulled pork sandwich. There wasn’t a drop of food on my plate when we were done….

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So as you may be able to tell, yesterday was a BIG DAY. Since we have an event this evening I am going to try and keep it a bit more low-key this morning and afternoon. Minneapolis has been great though! I am really enjoying my time here!

 

Hyatt in Minneapolis

This hotel is legitimately very neat! It has a great atmosphere, nice rooms, great banquet/conference space, a nice bar/restaurant, a Starbucks with drinks and coffee, and at the front desk area they have a table with apples and hot apple cider. The location is central to the downtown area and the service so far has been great too!

After a restful sleep on a comfy bed I woke and got ready for the day. I got checked into the conference and sat down for a moment going through the catalog of panels and presentations marking the ones of interest for the day. Afterwards, I went down to the lobby to check out the restaurant’s breakfast menu. It had some delicious looking items, but was as expensive as I had anticipated. So, in order to save money I went to the Starbucks in the lobby instead. I got a croissant sandwich and a chai latte with a shot of espresso. Very tasty! And I desperately needed the caffeine!
The plans for the rest of the morning and afternoon consist of checking out a few panels, and then later, hitting up the Mall of America!!!

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