This has been one of those extremely long months. The kind where you look back at your planner and can’t believe that four weeks ago was only four weeks ago, because it feels like an eternity has passed since that dinner you attended on the first of the month. October was full of firsts (taking the el by myself [two times!], and driving Max’s Jeep [three times!]), disappointments (namely, the Great Chicago Fire Festival, which was neither great nor fiery, and the Hozier concert to which I was not admitted), and friends.

logan square mural dunlays on the square

Brunch with my friends in Logan Square, a.k.a. mural city (ok, Logan Square is not actually also known as anything, but why were there so many murals?).

great chicago fire festival

At the fire festival. People were crying from claustrophobia and fighting with cops over bridge closures, and the floats didn’t light, but it was the city’s first try, and they only spent $2 million, so…

chicago ideas week bottom lounge chicago ideas week christian rudder

I went to two Chicago Ideas Week events. The theme of the kickoff party at Bottom Lounge was “My Biggest Mistake,” and several speakers, including Melissa Harris, Kevin Egan, and Harper Reed, told (hilarious) stories about mistakes that have shaped their careers. I also went to the “Pop Culture: Your Life, Trending” talk, where Christian Rudder stole the show with his discussion of dating and data.

halloween pumpkin carving jenis southport batter and berries

My high school and college roommate (and BFF) visited and we ate burgers, carved pumpkins, and watched scary movies. We also spent Saturday eating our way through Lakeview, and it was the best weekend.

starved rock waterfall

Max and I hiked around Starved Rock for a bit on what was probably the warmest and orangest day of the month.

hozier metro chicago

Max bought me tickets to see Hozier for our anniversary, because I was so obsessed with “Take Me To Church,” and played it nonstop while we were in Idaho. I bought his album right when it came out and listened on repeat every day, hyping myself up for the show and falling in love with every song and every lyric. But after all of that, one of our tickets was invalid because the StubHub seller sold two of the same tickets, so we couldn’t get in. I was (and still am) so bummed.

alien office decorations

Halloween is tomorrow, but I plan on being about as festive as I was last year (so, not at all). There’s a competition at my office for the best decorations, and some of my coworkers are clearly insane. There are themed cubicles all over the place – Wizard of Oz, aliens, graveyards, Hansel & Gretel, spiders, Frankenstein – clearly, people have a lot of time on their hands Halloween spirit.

jefferson park metra sunrise

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.

starved rock in fall starved rock canyons fall fall leaves illinois starved rock illinois starved rock canyon walls starved rock autumn leaves illinois starved rock fall leaves starved rock fall inside starved rock canyon illinois river starved rock autumn leaves illinois starved rock illinois river lookout

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.

central park central park sailboat pond central park poland central park belvedere castle central park ramble loeb boathouse bethesda terrace fountain bethesda terrace bethesda fountain naumberg bandshell lukes lobster wafels and dinges central park wafels and dinges met museum paintings met museum met museum met museum shadows met museum taxidermied deer nyc night lights