Memories of 2016?

4seasons

Guess this blog has truly been gathering cobwebs 😀 It is at this moment at the start of 2017 that I wished I wrote a bit more for 2016 so that I could remember the little moments that have happened. My memory is like Swiss Cheese sometimes. Luckily, I do take copious amount of photos, so that certainly helps to recall the memories of 2016.

Jan – Feb: Winter was superbly kind to us this year and was no where near the polar vortex double digit negative C temps we experienced when we first moved here. I think I can count on one hand how many times it snowed. And no slipping or falling this year! So that was awesome.

I remember feeling rather lonely this time of year. The husband was traveling every week for work and I was on an internship as well on top of 3 classes. It was hard to juggle both work, school and home on my own. I remember having to walk Rusty in the wee hours of the morning and then rushing right home after work to walk him again. Rusty never saw daylight much during that period because it would be still dark when we did our morning walks and already dark when I reached home at around 6pm each day. The husband and I celebrated our wedding anniversary over FaceTime #consultantlife, both of us eating our respective dinners as we chatted. He was away during my birthday as well, but thankfully I was showered with lots of love by eveeleva and family. ❤

March: March was a month of friendships. We had 2 sets of visitors from Singapore and had such a good time bringing them around Chicago and Evanston. I did have to take the Chicago River Cruise twice, go to the Bean twice, eat frozen custard twice, eat deep dish twice, eat fried chicken twice (the one opposite our house is the yummiest!) within the span of 1 week.

After finishing up my final thesis, I also went on a trip to LA to meet up with K, M and A for a short weekend vacay to celebrate. It was really a treasured trip since 3 of us flew in from different cities (Chicago, Seattle & Houston) just to spend time together. We went to Disneyland for free (K works there!), drove along the coast to Santa Monica and Malibu, went to see the Hollywood sign at the Griffith Observatory and ate hipster vegan food. 😀

April: Celebrated the husband’s birthday this month. We ate lots of pancakes on the actual day. The husband was traveling a lot less by this time (yay!) and started working a lot from home. We  hung out quite a bit at the library together, he with his work-work, me with my school-work. We also went to the Lincoln Park Zoo for the first time and the weather was nice enough to picnic with Rusty by the lake. Fun times!

May: Spring was in full bloom here in Chicago/Evanston. We went to the Botanic Gardens multiple times to see all the flowers that were popping up. Love the poppies and explosion of apple blossoms (like cherry blossoms). Also hosted another group of friends from Singapore who came in from California and a Mee Pok party for our Singapore friends living here.

June: Finally graduated! Though the feeling was a lot more bittersweet. Couldn’t believe how 2 years just flew by like that. While we celebrated the accomplishment, it also felt sad knowing that I may never see some of my friends again.

The parents and brother were here to attend graduation and vacation in the US. We did a short road trip to Michigan. And I did the cruise, bean, frozen custard, deep dish and fried chicken circuit again. lol. It was great to connect as a family. I think the last time we were all together traveling in a foreign country was almost 10 years ago. The apartment felt a bit crowded at times but it was also an unforgettable and precious experience.

July: The husband had to go home to Singapore to settle visa issues for the first 2 weeks of July. We missed watching the 4th of July fireworks together this year. 😦 The house wasn’t empty though as we hosted our Singapore friends with their 3 kids during their transition period of moving to New Haven.

The 2nd half was July was a lot more fun. The husband had to travel to Orange County for a work meeting and we planned an impromptu vacation around that. It was crazy going to Palm Springs and Joshua Tree at the height of Summer (40+C weather every day!!) but it was loads of fun. I loved how the desert landscape was so different from what I have ever seen. Most memorable trip for me for sure. And all that yummy Asian food in California, wow.

August – September: Took advantage of the great weather and went out a lot! Ate the rainbow cone at Navy Pier, went for sunset walks by the lake, scored last minute reservations at a hot new restaurant, went to watch a performance at Second City, hiked at the Morton Arboretum, went to a Renaissance Faire (so weird), outdoor movie at Ravinia Park and watched our first and last night time Northwestern Football game.

October: The colors of the trees were changing beautifully by now and I snapped so many fall color photos. We were transfixed by election news and watched CNN every night plus all the Presidential debates. Our obsession was a bit cray-cray.

When we weren’t glued to the TV, we went out quite a bit too. We went to an outdoor Fall festival with our friends and had super yummy food cooked by some of the best restaurants in Chicago. Attended the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s Open House event for the first time and toured several historical properties in Evanston. The husband ran the Chicago marathon and came in with his 2nd worst timing because he didn’t have time to train #consultantlife. We had kind friends who let us and Rusty bunk over in their home the night before the marathon. They stayed much nearer to downtown and it was a super kind gesture. Was also super fun to hang out with them.

Highlight of October has got to be the impromptu trip to Door County with eveeleva and family. First time driving in the dark but it felt safe with another family with us. Having a hot McDonald’s filet o fish supper on the way up during the 5 hour drive was one of the highlights. 😀 We went trigger happy exploring the parks and crazy gorgeous colors in Door County. My newly acquired iPhone 7 Plus was the best investment ever because it turned out so many beautiful family photos. And who can forget the scrumptious Swedish pancakes we had on the last day. The husband would like to forget the lunch we had at the Goat Creamery on the first day. 😀 lol

November: Month of crazy devastating news because of the election results. We felt so lost and depressed, and everyone around us was so sombre. Basically sealed our decision to head home to Singapore sooner than later.

December: Swung by Boston for a week long trip for the husband to attend a workshop and for us to visit good friends. Ate too much good food, especially seafood. First snow in Evanston when we landed, which didn’t stop for a day and a half. Freezing cold for about a week just before Christmas. Took it easy during Christmas and New Year’s, no big parties or anything, just quiet and cosy.

….and 2017 is here.

Pumpkin Patching 2015

It seems like each year we go pumpkin patching, the farms we go to get smaller and smaller, and less commercialized. No complaining of course. Over the years, places that are small and cute with less crowds suit us a lot better than sprawling grounds with throngs of people.

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Was an awesome autumn day when we rocked up Kroll’s farm with our friends and their little ones in tow. Pumpkin patching with kids makes it a lot more fun for sure! This auntie loved seeing wonder and fun in their eyes.

Kroll’s is a small and rustic family owned farm about 45mins away from Evanston. It was a nice size with just enough to see and do to keep us entertained for a few hours.

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Little kids and big ones (namely the husband) had fun exploring the grounds and feeding the animals in the small petting zoo. The goats were actually fed what looked like cheerios! We also saw humungous turkeys with elaborate wattles and those black and white feathered chickens that you only see in children’s story books.

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A highlight of the trip has got to be meeting Mr. Kroll himself and going on a hay wagon ride with him. He was incredibly friendly and kind, taking time to share with us his knowledge on all things pumpkin and gourd related. Did you know that if you kept gourds for a whole year, they dry up and harden? The dried up gourds can be made into maracas, utensils and yes! those water “bottles” you see in those kungfu tv shows set in ancient China. You bet I bought some gourds back to experiment even though I told myself not to when I first arrived on the farm. Need to keep them soon because Mr. Kroll said that they will become gross and moldy first!

Another thing about a small farm is how everything was affordably priced! 😀 We ate the most delicious hot pumpkin donuts, popcorn and drank yummy apple cider without burning holes in our pockets.

New York New York

I should really be writing about the Alaska trip since it came first but with New York and its experiences fresh on my mind….why not?

I should caveat that I am not a huge fan of New York. Blame it on my first trip staying in the heart of the action, Times Square – all that noise, filth and crowds really got to me. Give me the wide and clean streets of Chicago or the quiet and greenery of Evanston anytime. But New York remains a destination I would go again, only because we have good friends living there and there really is ALOT to see and do. (Still want to visit Ellis Island one day, the 911 memorial museum, SOHO and catch more musicals!) Not staying in Manhattan also makes a huge difference in maintaining sanity, Brooklyn really is the way to go. 😀

Spent a whole day alone exploring as the husband was working. Only had time for one museum, so I chose MOMA for the Impressionist paintings that it had in its collection. Rediscovered Botero (love all his chubby chubby subjects), realized that I don’t really mind Monet and discovered that I really like the works of Gustav Klimt. Breezed past all the contemporary work, especially installations that had a technology element (computers, audio, video). I just don’t get those AT ALL. Hung out at the gift shop for a super long time too.

The main purpose for this trip was for the New York marathon (obviously the husband ran, not me!). Unfortunately, as the husband was still on a big project for work, the trip was super short and we only had one full day to spend together. The High Line was high on my list and I’m glad we managed to make a trip there as its starting point was right next to the marathon expo.

We both loved The High Line and appreciated how it is now a great leisure space in a busy city like New York. Really an oasis. Fascinated by how the designers retained many little touches that remind visitors about The High Line’s previous life as a railroad track.

We also walked across the Brooklyn Bridge the same day. A classmate asked why we walked so much since the husband was running the marathon the very next day! I told her honestly that I didn’t even think about it! But the husband didn’t really mind, he really enjoyed himself. It was also not his first marathon, so knowing his body and what it can take was more important.

Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge is one of those touristy things that I guess you have to do in New York. I was told that no New Yorker walks across it. And if they ride their bikes, they have to watch out from being stabbed by selfie sticks! lol. Having said that, it was an enjoyable walk and it is one of the more beautiful bridges I have seen in my travels. In fact, I really loved all the bridges dotting New York and even bought a dishcloth with drawings of the bridges as a souvenir. Incidentally, we realized that between the 2 of us, we both crossed all the bridges, whether as part of the marathon route, us walking across together or in the Uber driving across.

The most fun part of our trip has got to be hanging out with close friends. And we did it in the most unique way – trick or treating! Our AirBnb was located in an upper middle class residential neighborhood and Halloween is celebrated in a huge way there. Lots of cute kids running about in cool costumes and lots of beautiful homes decked out in amazing decorations with smoke machines and huge cobwebs. There’s this particular house that displays 100s of pumpkins at their doorstep each year and is THE house where trick or treaters gather in the lovely neighborhood of Brooklyn Heights.

My favorite costumes include this baby dressed as Leia in a Millennium Falcon made out of her stroller and an old swimming pool, and another tot dressed up as Nemo with her dad dangling “bait” in front of her with a fishing rod. The Nemo baby was literally mesmerized by the “bait” and followed it as she walked down the streets.

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.

Busy Crafty Fingers

Managed to squeeze out pockets of time for my annual December crafting frenzy. Last Christmas was kind of quiet on the craft gifting front since I didn’t have many friends in Evanston then. But it’s been quite different this year since going to school means building a new network of friends and classmates to bring some joy to.

Not sure why, but red doesn’t seem to photography very well on my point and shoot iPhone camera. The pattern is a bit lost on the visual presented but this is a boot cuff I gifted to my buddy from school (each new student gets assigned one). Boot cuffs seem to be rather popular these days. It’s basically a half sock that you put on and have them peek out of your boot tops. They serve no practical purpose except to look pretty. 😀 And to warm up your calves a little more, maybe? I doubt there is a difference.

Somehow, these things are mighty expensive in the stores, ranging from $20-$30. Not all are knitted/crocheted, mostly wool, cotton or lace. I think it’s an easy and rather pretty gift to make, so this is going into my repertoire of quick and small last minute gifts.

This set of penguins created some misunderstanding online for me. Somehow, at least 2 friends thought I was hinting at babies. lol 😀 (I wish) Well, they were for some babies, but not mine. As you can see, my 2 recipients from Colorado are practically swimming in the hats I made. Thankfully, kids grow fast, so am sure they will fit into them soon. Especially love the little ribbon I added for jiejie penguin, little E is a huge fan of these black and white birds. Her parents said she has been sleeping with the stuffed one ever since she got it. Loved her short video thanking us as well.

Both boot cuffs and penguin hat patterns generously provided online by Repeat Crafter Me.

Lastly, am still trying to speed up and make a bunch of twist cowls for some other classmates. I still have time because everyone is back in their hometowns celebrating Christmas with their families. These will be presented when the term starts again. I still have about 2 more to go at least. But if I have extra yarn (of course I do!), I might do a few more for others who were not on my original list.

Love this twist cowl, it’s nice and puffy, and as you can see, the twist reveals 2 different designs that make it a bit more interesting to wear. Pattern from the ever generous All About Ami.