Spring Flowers

Felt kind of sad looking at my Spring flower photos and realized that I didn’t blog about them at all! So here they are!

Spring is definitely my second favorite season (Fall is a clear first). I love seeing different flowers blooming at different times throughout the season. A patch of grass can have a few different kinds of beautiful blooms coming and going in a span of a few weeks. It’s so fleeting and you really want to appreciate them all you can when you see them.

Unfortunately, one of my favorite “sakura” trees was fell by a lightning storm earlier this Summer. 😦 Will miss its canopy of pink come next Spring.

Summer of 2015

What an awesome and full Summer it has been! But like all good things, they come to an end way too fast. I can definitely understand why Summer is such a huge deal over here. After all the cold, you really want to get out to feel the sunshine and embrace all the activities Summer has to offer.

This Summer has been a fulfilling one, it was not just play but a good balance of everything – fun, school, work, couple time, family and friends. Although perhaps I needed just a bit more “me” time and down time, paying for it now nursing a nasty flu bug.

The highlight at the start of the Summer has got to be the husband’s graduation. I love that he is well loved by his classmates and instructors. As expected, he received really good praise and a special mention for his final capstone paper. He’s really the super hardworking one and even continue to give himself homework to read and write AFTER his graduation.

It blows my mind to think how 2 years passed in a flash. If I didn’t also start school, we probably would have packed up and left for home already. As much as home is on my mine, this life we have here is really hard to beat and would be terribly missed.

We received our first visitors this Summer in the form of the inlaws, who flew all the way from Singapore to watch the husband graduate. They were obviously terribly proud and happy. It was also their first visit to the States so everything was exciting and new to them. They stayed with us for a whole month! (Yikes!) Looking back, I wondered how I survived. lol. As much as we loved having them around, I’m super grateful that I was never made to live together with them. Let’s just say that everyone has their little quirks in how they choose to live.

It was our hope that we can bring the inlaws to experience different sides of the US while they were here. We also wanted them to experience traveling with Rusty, whom they loved and pampered so much. So, a road trip to nearby Michigan was planned.

We booked a cute cottage in Union Pier, MI through AirBnb again and it didn’t disappoint. It was well decorated, well stocked and I especially loved the outdoor patio which was screened in, Rusty had a super fun time running about. The weather was great albeit with a few short showers. Come night time, it was magical with fireflies everywhere.

The trip also included a day trip to lovely Saugatuck, where we found the lost city of Singapore, Michigan! Thrilled to bits. We also took time to walk about the little streets, sip great coffee and do some cherry picking. Unfortunately, it was not convenient for me to walk into the shops and galleries as freely as I wanted to. Hope we can go back one day. Definitely a quaint little pretty town that was very worth the visit.

When the inlaws left, we also crossed off an item on my bucket list with a cruise to Alaska! Details of which would deserve a separate post. 🙂

By and large, Summer was pretty Chicago centric as well. I took up a part time internship this Summer and spend 2 days a week traveling to the Loop for work. It has been an interesting experience working in an American environment. It’s definitely less social and more work focused compared to back home. Everyone gets in early and goes off pretty much on the dot. And everyone eats at their desk during lunchtime so that they can power through the work. It has been a shock to the system considering how I’ve always worked in places where having friends at work is the norm and eating together and socializing after work is the norm. I’ve not been treated badly but the feeling is just a tad bit cold. The consolation is that I have a gorgeous view of the Chicago River and Lake Michigan from where I sit. 😀 And I do feel that I have contributed my experiences and talents in what I have been assigned to do.

Decided to take Summer class as well since this subject is only offered in the Summer quarter. Even though we had virtual classes most of the time, there was still readings and homework to catch up on every week. It was an amazing class on Cognitive Design and one of the best classes I’ve taken so far. It helped that we had great instructors and I had a really good project team that churned out a good piece of work which we think will be implemented in real life.

Outside of work, we manage to fill up our time with trips to various attractions and events around Chicago – the Ba’hai temple, Adler Planetarium, Taste of Chicago (so so so hot!), Shakespeare in the Park. We also found a great great spot this year on campus to catch the 4th of July fireworks. Not sure if we will still be here to see them again next year. They rank highly on my most memorable experiences living in Evanston.

Summer came to an exciting end with more visitors to our household. We had a good friend visiting from New York and friends who have moved from Singapore to do the same program as us in Northwestern. It’s been a noisy few weeks with extra people in the house, but I loved the fun and energy that surrounded us. Rusty especially enjoyed the extra treats given to him. Though I’m quite sure he was overwhelmed most days as well and appreciated the quiet moments when everyone is out of the house.

First Taste of American Football

Just finished a super duper-ly dense reading for one of my classes and have decided to just quit and call it a night. It was tough and a very very academic piece and I  wasn’t getting closer to better understanding it! School has been pretty draining these 2 weeks. When you think you have gotten all your homework done, the cycle starts all over again!

In the midst of the crazy brain sapping activity called readings and assignments, I have thankfully met a bunch of great classmates who are truly some of the nicest people around. When you work/study in the human development area, I suppose it is kind of a prerequisite to be of a certain sociable and people loving (or at least not people hating) mould.

Several of us ditched our homework today to head down for a Northwestern football game. Was pretty amazing how everything came together for this class outing. Someone settled all the tickets for us and another hosted a fantabulous tailgate just before the game.

What is a tailgate you ask? It’s basically a party you have from the back of your car in the parking lot near the  stadium where the game is played. Americans take their tailgating seriously, so it is not just a mini sit behind the boot and eat snacks kind of thing but a full blown BBQ pit with hot dogs, burgers and lots of alcohol. As you can see from the photos above, fancy tents are even set up to shield revelers from the elements. Btw, some people don’t even make it to the game, they just tailgate the whole way and have a good time.

Our classmate D’s tent was simply amazing. She’s a super Northwestern fan, so she does this every time there is a home game on. We were so so well fed and the set up was totally Pinterest worthy. Everything that could be purple was! Purple pretzels, M&Ms, cookies, pasta, napkins, cutlery, table cloth etc… We had so much fun JUST at the tailgate alone.

Had absolutely no clue what was going on during the game though. American football is just TOO technical. It’s not just about getting the ball from one end to the other. Too many rules…. Luckily the husband could explain it a little along the way and I could also depend on my American classmates. I just cheered when everyone else did. 😀 The good news is that NU won the game today, so it was a good day to be out at the games. We even ran on to the field in the end to take photos and high 5 the players. The crazy undergrads were swarming the players like mad. After all, college football stars are quite the celebrities.

The only thing that marred the experience today was the bitter cold. Chicago actually saw snow flurries this morning!!! Today’s temperature apparently set some kind of record since it was so unseasonably cold. We stood outdoors in 5C weather for most of the day but thankfully we were quite prepared with hats, several layers, gloves, tights and boots! I even scored a free T-shirt that was meant for undergrads to add more layers on. I guess I still look quite young. haha.

Enjoying my ginger tea with honey now to make sure my body stays nourished and warm. Looking forward to a hot bath to warm up cold muscles later.

Summer Nights

There are just so many things to do in Summer that it is getting quite dizzying to squeeze everything into our schedules. The summer weekends are chockfull of events, mostly free! to head to. Have had to sacrifice a few events too.

Evanston has a summer concert series every week in different parks across town and we decided to troop down yesterday. Held in the late evening, the weather was so cool and perfect to just spread a blanket on the grass and relax. Made sure to cook slightly earlier and packed the food up in boxes for a picnic dinner outdoors, a first for us. We realized we weren’t the only ones combining entertainment and food, and spied a group who brought a low table and filled it with a full fledged dinner of wine and other yummies.

Bumped into some friends and spent some time catching up. The music, a fusion of jazz, country, soul was the perfect accompaniment to the evening. We jiggled a little in our seats to some of the tunes though we had never heard of most of them. 😀 Didn’t even notice the time flying by and kinda hoped for more when the concert ended.

Our First Independence Day!

Of all the holidays that we have experienced in the US, Independence Day is clearly celebrated in the biggest way. We definitely felt the  patriotic spirit and readily joined in with the festivities. Each city/town has their own unique celebrations and Evanston is no exception.

One of the big dos in Evanston is their 4th of July parade. We heard that it gets pretty crowded and people used to chope/call dibs on their viewing spot 3 weeks in advance. The local government stepped in recently to regulate it and only allowed it from 1st July onwards. But still! Imagine blankets, chairs, tape and whatnots lining the pavements for 4 days prior to the event.

Now, there were no fighter jets, mass dance displays or sing-alongs like our National Day parades back home. But you know, it was no less fun. In fact, the husband and I agreed that we preferred it this way – when the whole community was involved and anyone who wanted to be part of the parade could enroll to be part of it. There were several advocacy groups promoting their causes; anti-gun, environmental protection etc. Social groups like the vintage cars club showing off their beautiful vehicles. Little kids marched along with their parents, some sitting comfortably in prams, others riding their bikes and scooters decorated in red, white and blue. The public library librarians rolled their book carts down the street and did little jiggles as they went along.  Paraders ran into the crowds now and then to hug people that they knew. It was inclusive, no frills and totally authentic.

We were treated to many musical groups ranging from samba, jazz to bluegrass and those were my favorite bits. I also loved the acrobatic tumblers and the young cheerleaders from the high school. Even got to shake the Governor of Illinois’s and Mayor of Evanston’s hands. They were marching along as well.

Come nighttime, we packed an old bed sheet and flasks of hot tea and headed down to the lake for the fireworks. There were tons of people already comfortable on the grass, some with burgers and hot dogs on portable grills and others with simple picnic fare. Something we should definitely think about in planning for next year’s fireworks viewing. 🙂

The fireworks lasted for 30mins at least. We could also see the Chicago fireworks in the distance, so it was a double treat and super gorgeous to see the fire bursts above the city skyline. Am looking forward to next year’s celebrations already.