September 15, 2012

Another walk

When I first moved to California, I exercised every day for nearly two months without a rest day.  In the area of California where I was, it rained very rarely - maybe six or seven times in the year I was there. Even gray, overcast skies were uncommon. I was so used to Chicago weather, wanting to take advantage of sunny days and no rain/snow, that I was out biking every single day. I finally figured out what was happening and took it easy for a while. Now that I'm back in Chicago, I'm in a mostly healthy mix of active and relaxing days. (Though I certainly miss the biking. It's the only thing, besides having a steady income, that I miss about California.)

The weather is finally cooling down here, which is so nice. Some days, it even feels like autumn, my favorite season - for the colors, but also, for the perfect temperatures. Not too hot, not too cold. Chicago is emptying of its summertime tourists and bracing for whatever winter will bring. Right now, things are perfect.

Last week, Matt and I took a 15 mile walk to/around/most of the way home from Chinatown, south of our apartment. For this week's long walk, we headed north for a nearly 13 mile trip.

It was less scenic than the Chinatown route was - no wild, graffiti-d ethnic neighborhoods - but we still had a really great time. It's a wonderful bonding opportunity - we walk, we talk, we discover what's near our home, and we burn a few calories.

We stopped at a Peruvian corner market and found a drink he'd heard of and wanted to try. We also stumbled upon a candy and nut factory that we had no idea was in our neighborhood, and popped into their open-to-the-public store to browse.

We first went a few miles north and a bit east to Devon Avenue, the traditionally Indian/Pakistani neighborhood. Matt remarked that it's the part of the city that reminds him most of New York City, and I certainly agree. It's a vibrant, colorful neighborhood, and of course, there are a ton of really great restaurants. We stopped for dinner at a place his Pakistani colleague recommended, and we had a terrific meal. He had a grilled chicken dish, and I had aloo palak (spinach with potatoes). We also both had naan (flatbread) and a samosa (a savory appetizer filled with potatoes, peas, and chickpeas). It was quite good, and we left feeling full but not stuffed, perfect since we still had a few miles to go.

We continued east and then continued north until we left Chicago city limits, entering Evanston.

Back in early July, on our 42+ mile bike ride, we went from the city's southernmost border (IL/IN state line) to the northernmost (Chicago/Evanston), so we have a similar picture next to a nearly identical sign from there. This was more inland, though, whereas July's excursion into Evanston was along the lakefront bike trail.

It was starting to get dark, but we carried on, and eventually made it to the Evanston/Wilmette town line. Into a whole nother town! Our destination was a mile or so past the town line: the Baha'i House of Worship.

We went into the main auditorium and looked around for a while, taking in its overwhelming magnificence. It's an absolutely stunning building with incredible grounds - I've only ever been at night, but I'd love to go back in the day some time and explore the gardens and fountains.

We walked down the street a short distance further, and found ourselves at Linden - the last stop on the Purple Line train. We thought about whether we should walk back home or take the train, and since the last three miles or so had been very poorly lit, we decided to just jump on the train and head home.

He wore his Garmin, and clocked it at 12.74 miles - pretty good, I'll say!

I am absolutely loving these little adventures we're going on, and I hope we can get a few more in before the snow comes.

September 10, 2012

Days off

Because Matt works nights, if he has just one day off, he has to keep his schedule of sleeping days - the only good thing about being unemployed at the moment, I'll say, is being able to stay up all night with him on those nights to hang out and talk and enjoy being together. (Usually we go on a hot date to the laundromat at 2 a.m.)

When he has two or more days, though, he can be awake during the day since he'll have time to recuperate before going back to work. We usually try to do something fun - like our spur-of-the-moment trip to Madison in March or our 42+ mile bike ride in early July. This week, we were craving Chinese food, and decided to earn it ... by walking from our apartment on the Northwest side of Chicago to Chinatown, about 10 miles away, and then back.

It was really lovely - first, to get some exercise without feeling overly exerted (he's still not supposed to be overdoing it with physical activity since his surgery about six weeks ago); second, to enjoy some good food without worrying excessively about calories; and third, to enjoy each others company for a whole, sunny, beautiful day.

It was really great, walking and talking about a variety of topics. To get soft for a second, I really love talking to Matt. He's definitely more of a texter than a caller, so most of our conversations for my time in California were sent via text messages. Hours and hours of texting, getting excited to hear the text alarm ring, knowing it was him, missing him so fiercely. Now, I am so, so lucky to get to spend a good amount of time with him and have face-to-face talks whenever we please.

The scenery of the route was great, too. We walked through my old neighborhood, Pilsen, called "Little Mexico," and marveled at all the amazing art and graffiti everywhere.

The kid really loves Batman. Too cute.

Finally, we got to Chinatown, and wandered through the main plaza looking for Mario Bros. toys for my brother (no such luck) and then looking for a place to eat. I saw a couple of dim sum places that looked interesting, but we finally decided on Joy Yee, a noodle shop we actually went to last summer on one of our first few dates. (He's a creature of habit, for sure.) Last time, I got an amazing Vietnamese banh mi sandwich - one of my all-time favorite sandwiches - but I have a few food restrictions right now, so that was out. I ended up getting pineapple fried rice with chicken and shrimp. Look at this amazing presentation!

The rice wasn't very flavorful, unfortunately, but the fruit and meat/seafood were pretty good, and if you got a good bite with everything in it, it was great. After walking for hours, it really hit the spot.

We walked around a bit more, and went to Chinatown Square where all the Chinese Zodiac statues are. 

We also went to a bakery and I got him to try a moon cake (little cookie filled with sweet red bean paste) - he wasn't crazy about it, but I was proud of him for trying it! He is definitely getting more adventurous with his eating, which is fun - as much as I am also a creature of habit, I occasionally like to try new and exotic things, too.

The plaza we were in is off to one side of Chinatown - but the big, bustling "Main Street" is Wentworth Avenue,  and we headed over that way just as the sun started to set.

It felt so lovely, walking down the street, holding hands, and just enjoying the sights, sounds, and smells of one of Chicago's cultural neighborhoods.

We started to walk home, and got about halfway before I had to call it quits - I could feel a blister forming on the bottom of my foot around mile 10, and by the time we finished (almost 15 miles), walking was excruciating. Before heading home, though, we got to this amazing bridge on Kinzie Street that we stumbled on a week or so ago on our last spontaneous long walk (that one was only 7 or 8 miles, I think, along Milwaukee Avenue, one of Chicago's diagonal streets). It offers a great view of downtown - the skyscrapers, the river. Totally magical.

It was one of those days/nights that reminded me exactly why I fell in love with Chicago in the first place, and why I ached so strongly to get back. I gave up a lot in California, career-wise, and with some recent struggles, I've been thinking a lot about quantifying exactly how much I sacrificed. I didn't leave for money, though. The money meant absolutely nothing. I left for my sanity. Being here in Chicago, with friends and family and the boy I love - not going to bed in tears every night and waking up dreading every single day - that is worth all of this temporary job-related anxiety.

(P.S. Good thoughts for this Thursday - I have a job interview! It's part-time and in retail, but it's work, and anything is more than what I make right now. I'm feeling lucky to at least have heard back from one of the dozens of jobs I've applied to at this point.)