4th of July

Happy FriYAY! Getting to sip coffee from my bed this morning because I’ve got Friday and Monday off in honor of 4th of July. Four day weekend?? Yes, please.

It’s no secret life has been pretty busy here in Chicago. It has also been totally wonderful. Chicago summers, man. Words cannot describe the way this city totally transforms to this magical place for this season. I mean, it’s always an amazing place, but all the humans just thriving in the sunshine and taking advantage after being cooped up in the colder months is something else.

This is actually from last Saturday when we played beach volleyball for five hours – not some far away beach where we went on vacation.

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With that, diving into this week’s Currently – new around here? You can see some past additions of this round up here, here, & here. 🙂

{Reflecting // On how wonderful June is}

I love November through January for obvious reasons – the holidays, my birthday, & our soon to be wedding anniversary months – but outside of all that, I think June is my favorite. It holds our Engageaversary, Eric’s birthday, the kickoff to summer, and will always bring back sweet memories of my first trip to Europe a year ago.

This June was especially fun, as it marked the one year anniversary of our backpacking memories and our first summer as real Chicago residents. I also was able to go home to Texas for some wedding festivities. Eric killed it at work – I’ve gotta brag, y’all – he was assigned lead engineer for a nuclear plant design project and has been traveling to the East coast.

All in all, lots to be thankful for as I look back on this month.

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{Missing // a book that you can’t put down}

I shared a few months ago that I finally gave into the idea of a Kindle, and I was loving it. I flew threw the first book – Bossypants (SO good) – I read on it. Lately, the book I’ve been reading hasn’t been the page turner I thought it was going to be…

In my opinion, one of the best feelings is when you just cannot put down a book, or get super excited to read it every moment you have a chance. I’m usually not one to abandon books, but I might jump ship here in search of something that brings that back for me.

That being said, anyone have a book they love and can’t put down?? With trips in the coming months and a beach to lay out on, I’m in the market for suggestions!

{Pumped for // Mini-getaway with my love!}

Last minute, Eric and I decided to take advantage of long 4th of July weekend with a road trip to Madison, Wisconsin. As Texans living in the mid-west for the first time, it still amazes us how easily you can just pop over to another state for a couple days.

We all know that’s likely a no-go in Texas. When we went skiing in Colorado with Eric’s family, we did the road trip over two days. The first leg was like 10 hours…and we hadn’t left the state.

Being the travel bugs we are, we love the idea of being able to escape to a new place for a mini getaway! Looking forward to lots of cheese and brews and exploring on foot. I’m really excited about a winery a little outside the city that we’re going to tour and taste at too. See previous road trip shenanigans below.

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Hope you have a wonderful holiday weekend filled with your favorite people, fireworks, and all the yummy American food there is!

Days By Day

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You guys. This moment was one year ago. I cannot believe it – my heart is still fluttering.

Today marks Eric and I’s Engageaversary! Is that even a word? I don’t know. Who cares! Any reason to celebrate, am I right??

But seriously you guys. Eric did an I N C R E D I B L E job planning this sweet surprise. I literally had no idea that he was going to propose on this trip, let alone propose in front of the Eiffel Tower.

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Sure, we had talked about it a few months before. We knew we loved each other more than we ever thought we could love another human. We knew there was no one else we wanted to eat chips and salsa with, or run up to meet every dog in sight with, or spend hours upon hours laughing away at dumb inside jokes with. We knew we’d be getting married sometime in the next couple years, but I thought our engagement would happen towards the end of 2015 to be honest.

Once we announced it, it felt like everyone else knew though – so a big round of applause to family and friends who kept it a secret! That was one of my favorite parts post-engagement actually, hearing from some loved ones gush about how excited they were and couldn’t wait to celebrate with us now that the cat was out of the bag.

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We’ve been so fortunate to have a wonderful engagement season of life. From traveling, to the move to Chicago, to starting real jobs, to figuring out this “adult” thing together – all while working to plan a special celebration of our love – has truly been a blessing. It’ll be just over a year and a half by the time we get married, and for us, the long engagement has been 100% the best.

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I’ve blogged all about this incredible day and it’s one of my favorite posts ever. Did you know I had a dream the night before that we got engaged?? Crazy. Or that we were sipping champagne, as I gazed up at the Eiffel Tower for the first time ever in complete awe, just moments before? Or that the first guy we asked to take a picture of us didn’t know how to hold a camera straight…and the guy that captured the actual moment was a total rando??

I’d love to share all these details and more with you, because they mark one of the happiest moments of my life – check out the story right here! And if you might be new around here and are wondering what the heck is going on, you can check out our story too.

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I get to marry my best friend in just a little over four months and I can’t freakin’ wait. Thankful for today, and the sweet reminder it brings of that blissful day in Paris one year ago.

Days By Day

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My first week in Chicago has been so wonderful! I’m so very thankful my family was able to come up and help me settle in. Bit by bit, Becca and I’s apartment is starting to feel like a cute little home!

Today though, I’m transporting myself back to June when Eric and I were running around London trying to perfect our British accents. There was tons of beautiful architecture and history here. I’ve decided London is good for the mind, I learned so much! In a nerdy kind of way, it was basically seeing a huge chunk of my childhood school textbooks come to life.

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We all know there are some stunning churches in Europe, and we saw two really beautiful ones in London – St. Paul’s Cathedral (pictured first below) and Westminster Abbey. Both churches offer a daily evening service called Evansong. Being both religious and in love with culture, Eric and I planned to attend one at each church during the four days we had in town. One of the great things about seeing these monumental churches this way, is that entry to the churches is free for those attending a religious service. It was a two in one for us – getting to see the inside of amazing places of worship and saving some money!

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I was totally freaking out when we sat down for our Westminster church service because we arrived early enough to sit in one of the main pews that lined the aisle where Duchess Kate walked down on her wedding day to Prince William!

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One of Eric and I’s absolute favorite things from the whole trip was attending a play at Shakespeare’s Globe! We saw a play called As You Like It that was the perfect balance of comedy and drama. The actors were fantastic, and we payed five euro to stand in the yard area right in front of the stage. While standing for three hours did not sound like the greatest idea in the beginning, it actually was a really cool experience! If you want to include The Globe in your trip to London, I would definitely consider getting tickets at least a day or two before – day of tickets, and even certain times later in the week we were there, were already sold out.

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Enjoying some toasties and tea outside the theatre before the show!

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Hope you enjoyed checking out a little bit more of our Euro adventure! I’ll be sharing some more of London in future posts, but these were definitely some wonderful things we got to see that I’m glad I documented.

Last but not least, seeing as there’s all these excited things that have happened recently, I updated the About section of this little ol’ blog – check it out! Happy Wednesday, friends!

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DSC_0132Two awesome experiences we had during our stay in Dublin were the Guinness Storehouse  and Jameson Distillery tours. Neither of us had been very big fans of dark beers or whiskey, but we had heard that these tours were really cool things to check out while in town. We ended up really enjoying both!

First up, we checked out the Guinness Storehouse. It’s a seven floor original Guinness brewery turned museum of all things Guinness – the ingredients, how they are each prepared and then come together, a tasting room, and something I was super excited about – a floor dedicated to their past and present successful advertising campaigns. We were able to walk right up on a Saturday afternoon, wait in a short queue, and purchase tickets.

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After going through the ingredients and processes that make a nice pint of Guinness, you have the opportunity to go into the official tasting room. In here, the friendly staff provided us with the cutest little mini pints of their famous beer and taught us the proper way to waft, taste, and savor it.

The floor of classic and recent advertisements was so much fun to explore! I had no idea there were so many significant characters and phrases that had made up the past of Guinness’ marketing (one inspired the title of this post!). We even got the chance to put our ridiculous faces in some old Guinness ads with this cool photobooth – I have included them below for your personal enjoyment…

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They should probably look into hiring us now for models in their present day ads, right?

My favorite thing about this whole experience though, was the seventh floor Gravity Bar – a 360 view of Dublin where you received your reward for working your way through the museum – a pint of Guinness to sip on as you soaked in the sights! People are up there socializing and having a great time. The atmosphere was so nice and white lettering on some of the windows calls out famous Dublin sites you can see from where you stand.

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Unlike the Guinness self-guided tour, the Old Jameson Distillery tour was about forty five minutes with a guide. It was nice that they were different in this way so it didn’t feel like a repeat experience! While Jameson Whiskey is now made in Cork, Ireland, one type is still distilled here at the Dublin location which was neat to hear about.

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As we walked through the distillery’s quarters, I felt super smart as some of my knowledge from the Guinness Storehouse came into play with some of the Jameson ingredients and initial steps! At the end of the tour, guests are invited to do a whiskey tasting and sample the top America, Scottish, and Irish (Jameson) whiskies side by side to tell the difference.

It is incredibly obvious when you sample one after the other – the difference is in the number of times the whiskey is distilled. Jameson is distilled three times, while the American selection – Jack Daniels – is only distilled once. Unfortunately, it tasted terrible next to Jameson. We were dubbed official Jameson Irish Whiskey tasters at the end of the experience with these digital certificates, so fancy! Haha.

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After all of this, we were able to mix and mingle with other tour goers, and enjoy a drink on the house in a beautiful bar area with big wooden tables and a small stage. My advice for this experience is to purchase tickets online if possible or to go up as we did, prepared to purchase tickets for a few hours away if the next tour is full. Since only a certain number of people are allowed on each guided tour, when we walked up mid-Saturday afternoon, we simply purchased tickets for a few hours from then and came back after freshing up at our hostel!

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I totally recommend both experiences! However, if I had to choose to do only one due to limited time or whatever reason, I would definitely choose the Guinness tour. I loved learning about more in addition to how the beer was made and the Gravity Bar view is unbeatable. Bonus – Guinness was easier for me to drink haha.

Final Dublin post coming up – a couple of my favorite food stops we made!

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Eric and I spent our first few days abroad in Dublin, Ireland – what a cool city! The great thing we quickly discovered about Dublin was how walkable it was. It’s not this tiny little town, but it’s definitely small enough that you can cover all the big spots and explore other areas in a weekend on foot.

While I originally was thinking I would just do a post for each city we stopped at, after really going through our photos and recounting all we did, I realize how silly that was. I definitely owe it to myself, Eric, and anyone else who is interested to really recount all the great moments we had and share all the things that made our vacation so perfect! Today, I’m happy to be sharing a few of the beautiful sights we saw around Dublin.

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We got in early in the morning to our hostel, and were tired from the long, full day of travel we’d just finished – but the adrenaline of being in this new place kept us going! The hostel we stayed at was called the Four Courts Hostel and I would definitely recommend it. The staff was so friendly and helpful, our facilities were clean, and they offered a walking tour and pub crawl – both of which we loved!

Eric and I immediately joined in on the free walking tour upon arrival and covered amazing ground. Two of the big landmarks we saw included Dublin Castle and Trinity College. Both were so beautiful! I loved the historic architecture of the buildings. Dublin Castle didn’t look like what I envisioned a castle might look like at first, but as we walked around and learned about its past, I could definitely see it come to life!

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A couple fun facts about that castle – you may have noticed Lady Justice carrying the scale on the right side of the castle in the first photo above. While Lady Justice’s scale is supposed to be even to represent fairness and equality, this particular statue’s scale is always off balance. One tray lays under her arm, and therefore never catches any rain, etc., so the one that is not under her arm always sinks a little lower.

The last photo above is the helicopter landing pad behind the castle. It’s a neat little park area that people lounge around on. Those carved paths that you see above though, actually form one giant Irish welcome symbol. Anyone who lands here gets a friendly Irish welcome!

Bonus pic of Eric doing some dramatic role play –

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Trinity College is gorgeous. We talked to a few people during our time walking around there, and everyone was so friendly. The famous Book of Kells, a manuscript of the Gospel in Latin, is on display here, but Eric and I ended up exploring more of the college on foot after seeing what a crazy long line there was and deciding paying for a ticket wasn’t a priority for us. If that is something of super interest to you when you visit, I would come prepared to wait or see if you can buy tickets ahead of time!

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Another really cool thing Eric and I got to do during our weekend in Dublin, was attend a Sunday church service at St. Paul’s Cathedral. This was the first of many churches we saw while abroad, and it did not disappoint in the grandeur you often here about when European churches are discussed. The intricate carvings throughout the whole church, especially on the pulpit, were so beautiful. Impressive statues lined the halls. After the service, the kind church regulars even provided us coffee to sip on as we wandered through the cathedral.

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The Dublin streets we walked through were just as cool as these buildings – so vibrant and bustling with people, with facades that made me feel like I was being transported to another little village in time. Some of my favorite things about Dublin, and pretty much all of Europe, were all the colorful doors that finished off so many of the buildings. Not gonna lie, we have quite a few pics posed in front of them, trying to look all cool and stuff.

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We loved our first few days abroad and getting to spend them here in this friendly, cultured city! I’m looking forward to sharing more with you guys this week from our time in Ireland – including our tours of the Guinness Storehouse and the Jameson Distillery.

Happy Wednesday!

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