starved rock state park in autumn.

On Monday, we drove to Starved Rock, which I now think is the only thing Illinois has going for it. Just kidding! It is definitely prettier than I knew the Midwest was capable of being, though. Awe-inspiring canyon walls, trickling waterfalls, crunchy leaves underfoot…come on! I think we must have gone on the most perfect day, too, because the trees were in full autumn-color mode, but it was also sunny and warm. Shoutout to Max for taking most of these pictures and for hiking with a fever.

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summer reading list.

summer reading

Long before my Michael Kors clutch held a credit card, a driver’s license, or a Starbucks gold card, I had a holographic butterfly wallet that carried two very important pieces of plastic (VIPP): a pool pass and a library card. Most of what I remember of childhood summers is alternating days between the public pool and the public library, which were conveniently down the street from each other and across the river from my house. As a kid, the public library’s reading club was a staple of my summers. It was less a “club” and more a competition against yourself to see how quickly you could read 200 more pages to get the next of the prizes – which were always a free round of mini golf (again, conveniently located next to the pool), a free ice cream cone from the Dairy Queen on Main Street (I realize how Mayberry this sounds, but I’m not making it up), etc. I lived for this stuff. Not the stupid prizes, but the reading. Ok and maybe the prizes, too.

Looking back on those summers, I realize how they’ve shaped my life. Not because I ended up lifeguarding at that pool or working at that Dairy Queen (although I did do both of those things), but because I never stopped competing with myself to read more books. I could never finish my summer reading list by September, because I could never stop adding to the list. So a summer reading goal turned into a year-round hobby. To this day, I keep an ever-growing reading to-do list (only, now it’s in my iPhone notes – not a spiral notebook covered in “GIRLPOWER!” stickers).

Anyway, because reading is such a huge part of my life, I want to start documenting it here. And in the spirit of childhood, I’ll start with what I read this summer (June – August).

1. Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays with Morrie is a touching memoir that I always wanted to read, but didn’t get to until my high school principal died of ALS in June. Every human should read this book.

2. Gone Girl was so hard to put down. Gillian Flynn makes you pity, then hate, then love each character. Also, not surprisingly, the book is WAY better than the movie.

3. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green…cute…just cute. Haven’t seen the movie, and don’t plan to.

4. Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers is less self-help manual and more collection of intriguing parables. I loved it. If you’ve ever wondered about what it is that Canadian youth hockey, Bill Gates, Chinese rice paddies, and the New York City garment industry have in common, this is your book.

5. Jennifer, Gwyneth & Me is part-memoir and part-cultural critique. The author, Rachel Bertsche is from Chicago and stylistically, her book reads like my friends and I talk.

6. I saw Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, Murakami’s newest novel, in the Hudson News window display and impulsively bought it because I forgot to bring a book to read while commuting one day. A really quick read (like, two-days quick), and it’s not as out-there as some of his other books; it’s mostly a story about friendship and a guy trying to untangle a mystery from his past.

7. Sharp Objects, another Gillian Flynn masterpiece, is full of twists and mysterious details and creepy characters and I loved it even more than I loved Gone Girl.

Honorable mention to Genome and American Nations, which I really did try (and really did fail) to finish during the Las Vegas fiasco.

central park.

Our only plan for our final day in NYC was to see Central Park, and maybe the Met Museum. Central Park made me feel like I could actually live in New York City. It was like Golden Gate Park, only nothing like Golden Gate Park, and one thousand times better than Golden Gate Park. Granted, as soon as I walked out of the park, I was reminded that I hate cities and would never move from one smelly, loud place to another even smellier and louder place – but Central Park was a whole different story. We saw the sailboat pond, King Jagiello’s statue, Belvedere Castle, Loeb boathouse, Bethesda Terrace, and Naumberg Bandshell. We ate lobster rolls at the Plaza, and I had Wafels & Dinges for dessert. Then, we walked to the Met by way of the Upper East Side, observing all of the nautically dressed UES toddlers in their natural habitat, pushed by their Brazilian nannies past rows of designer stores from the comfort of designer strollers. I was kind of museumed-out after the MoMA and the Rubin, but the Met was amazing and huge; you could easily spend an entire day or two there. My favorite piece of “art” was a taxidermied deer covered in clear marble-like thingies. After running through the exhibits, we hailed a cab and headed for LaGuardia. Four days was the perfect length for a trip to NYC. We saw and did so much and covered so much ground (I have the blisters to prove it), and I think we did a good job of balancing prepared plans and spontaneity. I wouldn’t say NYC is “where dreams are made of,” but I’m glad I’ll now be able to recognize iconic NYC sites in important TV shows and movies, such as Gossip Girl and Maid in Manhattan.

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nyc: day three.

On our third day in NYC, we had Shake Shack for breakfast. Kind of. More like early lunch. Found out I’m not a fan. (In-N-Out is better. Five Guys is also better.) Then, we strolled down the High Line, which is a decommissioned el track converted into a garden, lined with sculptures, murals, popsicle stands (it’s an actual thing, not just something you can blow?), and people-watching opportunities.

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We stopped into the Chelsea Market, which was overwhelming and awesome.Then we Yelped museums nearby and spontaneously happened upon the Rubin Museum (Himalayan art), which ended up being my favorite museum ever in terms of layout and ability to keep the attention of impatient 20-somethings. The Rubin also had a cafe with good teas, which we drank while we waited out the rain.

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We met up with my friend and her boyfriend for dinner, and then the four of us saw a show at the Comedy Cellar’s Village Underground stage. We’re big stand-up fans, the comedians were great (okay, some were great), and the company was lovely.

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broadway and the beast.

Our second day in NYC was a little wackier than the first.

flat white little collins

First stop: Little Collins to try a flat white (creamy Australian coffee). Verdict: adorable and awesome. Fun fact: this is a picture of a mocha from our second trip to Little Collins.

dylans candy bar
Heaven on Earth, a.k.a. Dylan’s Candy Bar.

max plokita pullman kitchen beast of midtown east pullman kitchen eating challenge

We spent three hours at The Pullman Kitchen so Max could eat a five-pound sandwich called the Beast of Midtown East (it only took him an hour to finish). As a prize, he received the cost of the meal, a t-shirt, a stomachache, and my love and admiration. I had a salad.

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At the MoMA with our friends, who almost got us kicked out.

nyc broadway you cant take it with you

You Can’t Take it With You (starring Rose Byrne and James Earl Jones) on Broadway…amazing. We laughed and cried (okay, I’ll speak for myself) and learned that everyone should quit their 9-5 and take up ballet, xylophone, rocket science, painting, and play-writing. So good.