Erin Go Bragh

Erin Go Bragh

My friends’ daughter Erin smiles for the camera. It’s been an amazing four days in Chicago and visiting friends and former colleagues with stops in Elmhurst, Oak Brook, Lisle, Naperville, downtown, Wicker Park, Lincoln Park and Oak Park.

Oak Park is one of my favorite villages with its balanced mix of city and suburban charms. I attended Mass at my old church Ascension, and the choir sang with vibrant harmonies that elegantly rang from the choir loft to the nave and apse. After lunch at Poor Phil’s, my friends Jim and Melissa and I walked to Petersen’s Ice Cream, where they serve peppermint stick ice cream all year round. A deliciously sweet way to end a perfect weekend of reunions.

St. Patrick’s Day

Chicago River, St. Patrick's Day, Dyeing of the River

Chicago celebrates St. Patrick’s Day in a way unmatched by other cities. For 50 years, the Chicago Journeymen Plumbers have turned the Chicago River a breathtaking green for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade celebration. Forty pounds of vegetable dye are tipped into the river on a Saturday morning. When the dye hits the surface of the water, it appears bright orange, but as it dissolves, the river transforms into an electrifying green as the crowd erupts into cheers.

So electrifying (and so green!), I haven’t missed the event in seven years. And for the past five years, my friend Lisa has hosted brunch from her condo in Marina City, a corn-cob shaped high rise along the river. This year’s celebration was the busiest and most spectacular one with nearly 80 degree weather. Slainté, I say, to my friends near and far!

Chicago River, St. Patrick's Day

Chicago Skyline

Chicago, State Street

Girl dressed for St. Patrick's Day



Rainbow Light

Chicago Cultural Center - Tiffany dome

Home to the world’s largest Tiffany dome, today’s Chicago Cultural Center opened in 1897 as the first Chicago Public Library. The Tiffany dome is approximately 38 feet in diameter and spans more than 1,000 square feet. It contains some 30,000 pieces of glass in 243 sections held within an ornate cast iron frame. If you find yourself in the Loop in Chicago, it’s worth a quick visit at Michigan Ave and Washington Street, and it’s free.

Chicago Cultural Center - Tiffany dome

Chicago Cultural Center

Chicago Cultural Center - Tiffany dome

Chicago Cultural Center

Chicago Cultural Center - Tiffany dome

Chicago Cultural Center - Tiffany dome

Hotel Burnham

Chicago - State Street

My Elmhurst Neighborhood

Elmhurst Metra station     365.75  (more photos below)

Since I moved to Minneapolis last August, I’d been to Chicago twice last September for Notre Dame football weekends, but this was my first trip back in six months. Let me tell you: It’s weird being a visitor in a city where you once lived. For more than four years, I called Elmhurst, Illinois home. I’d never taken any photos of the neighborhood because there was “always tomorrow,” so I spent my morning here on a photo walk. Elmhurst was close to my old office and while it assuredly was not a popular place to live among single, late twentysomethings, I loved that town:

  • the Jewel grocery store literally next door for last-minute ingredients or a beer & wine run.
  • the Metra train station 4 blocks away which could reliably take me to the city in 30 minutes for weeknight dinners or weekend fun.
  • Fleet Feet specialty running store next door, where I could roll out of bed at 6:45am with plenty of time for a spoonful of Nutella and stretching before 7am Saturday runs.
  • Ace Hardware, my dry cleaner and White Hen Pantry (now 7-Eleven) just outside my back stairwell
  • My doctor’s office across the parking lot, and my optometrist four blocks north.
  • The funky Effigy salon that cut my fancy textured hairdo, which I didn’t understand but was noted by my female friends. The business also included an art gallery, wine bar and ice cream shop. (Where else do you find that?!)
  • The 8-screen York movie theatre, one block away
  • My favorite Chicagoland pizza, Roberto’s (though I do love Giordano’s stuffed pizza)
  • Elmhurst Public Library, ranked among the Top 5 public libraries nationwide in its category. (Nothing says nerd quite like visiting your old suburban library in the first hour after arriving in Chicago, but I digress.)
  • And a diverse mix of 30-40 shops and restaurants in an 6 block radius.
More incredible than the physical neighborhood of Elmhurst is the neighborhood of people I’d surrounded myself with and gotten to know in Chicagoland. After lunch at Ditka’s with close friends and a visit to my former office at McDonald’s HQ and healthclub, I contemplated how many connections and friendships I’d cultivated in Chicago. When I moved there in 2007, I had a dozen or so friends and contacts; since then, my Chicago network has easily grown by 40 times that many. It’s crazy awesome to think how many Chicagoans have enriched my life experiences, my perspectives, my ongoing quest for learning. Futhermore, I’ll always fondly remember the city that offered a sense of small town familiarity: my Elmhurst neighborhood.
NOTE: I’ve been traveling 11 of the past 14 days and have continued taking my photo of the day. I have lots of blog entries to write this weekend and get caught up!
Elmhurst, Illinois Blades of Grass Elmhurst Public Library Elmhurst Place Apartments Elmhurst Place Apartments

Geographic Disorientation

Minneapolis Skyline


Chicago Skyline

From rivers to rails and back again. Tonight I visited the birthplace of Minneapolis…St. Anthony Falls, the only true waterfall on the Mississippi River and the source of water power for sawmills, textile mills and flour mills that would build a city in the mid-1800s. Contrast that with Chicago, a city whose railroads contributed to its rise as a major transportation hub connecting the eastern and western U.S.

One side effect of moving includes a lingering sense of geographic disorientation. By day, I’m in Minneapolis; by night, my mind is in Chicago.

In random moments between being asleep and fully awake, I’ll make a mental checklist of the errands to make, the stores to visit and the roads I’ll take. And, then it hits me that I’m 400 miles away. From Chicago. I won’t be taking the Eisenhower, the Blue Line or Butterfield Road. Or, it suddenly occurs to me that my favorite pizza I’m pining to share with pals is now either a 7-hour drive or a “free” Diet Coke and a bag of pretzels away (if you’re lucky). My daily discourse with McFamily friends has shifted to Likes and comments. And, the two fitness centers (and regulars there) I often saw 5-6 times a week are no longer part of my routine, nor are my running buddies who helped me break a 3 mile plateau to finish my first half-marathon last June.

My four years in Chicagoland were the longest I’ve lived at the same mailing address in my adult life….many memories, stories and laughter shared, and friendships made. These are things not meant to be left behind, but to carry forward. And thanks to technology, I’m ever connected to those who have shaped my life in large ways and small.

It’s said that changing jobs (in addition to a relocation) can be one of the most stressful experiences you have. Luckily for me, it’s been a fun and relatively smooth transition as I find my new groove. I’m thrilled to once again call myself Minnesotan. You betcha.