Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween

We went to a carving party last weekend. Scott's pumpkin on the lower right corner, mine on the top row second to left.

Saturday, October 30, 2010


One of the inhabitants of Lincoln Park Zoo

Friday, October 29, 2010

Quote of the Day

"Never forget that only dead fish swim with the stream" - Malcolm Muggeridge

Fall Flowers


Thursday, October 28, 2010

7 months

Thinking we may need to brush up on our dance skills before then...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

GPOYW: Red Edition

The jacket from this photo is one of my favorite articles of clothing, purchased at the Gap in Chicago about five years before I moved here. I am pretty sure it cost $20, and I've had it for easily 7-8 years. I love a good purchase. Especially when it's a little WILD.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Seeing Red

Tonight I painted my nails red, in embrace/protest of the weather outside.

How can I wear dark nails when it's shorts and flip flop weather (like, um, YESTERDAY)? Seriously.

(Wait, my nail color doesn't interest you? I'm shocked. I'm also running low on blog topics. Any requests?)

Marriage Prep: A Recap of Weekend One

As I mentioned, this weekend Scott and I attended about 16 hours of marriage preparation.

I won't lie - it WAS informative and interesting.

And off-putting.

Allow me to explain.

First, the good. The class covered 4 topics - the background and history of marriage, marriage as a sacrament, the unitive ends of marriage, and the procreative ends of marriage. All four were fairly self explanatory topics, and we received both literature and an expert opinion and advice on the subject.

The background and history of marriage/marriage as a sacrament were both led by our Priest, while the unitive and procreative sections were led by two separate sets of married couples. I really liked this - the sections on practical marriage advice and information were provided by couples that actually experienced these things.

A lot of material was covered (150 pages of literature!), but in the end, I found it interesting. Marriage is a big effing deal, and you know what? I'm glad Scott and I are taking it seriously. While we've been together a long time, there ARE topics regarding our future together that we haven't thought to discuss (how much money can he spend without consulting me, or will he be ok with me going on vacation with my girlfriends where he isn't invited?), and the class provided a nice prompt for those kinds of conversations.

The other major thing that I liked was the conversation on the "love languages" and how everyone speaks in different ways - touch, words of affirmation, gifts, etc. One of the keys to compatibility is learning which language your partner speaks and utilizing that. (For instance, if Scott likes words of affirmation, it would be a benefit to our relationship if I began saying things in words, rather than trying to show my love via gifts or hugs or whatever). That rang very true for me, because both Scott and I are in very specific categories (we are both "words of affirmation" people).


There were a lot of topics that I had an issue with. The Catholic Church believes that it is "wifely" for a woman to be a "subordinate" to her husband. Our priest said that we should want to be "subordinate" to our husbands mission in life, but that it's ok because his primary mission in life should be to love us. That is a hard pill for me to swallow, because I don't want Scott to worship me, and I don't want to be anyone's subordinate.

A few other things rubbed me the wrong way. I didn't realize until this weekend that the Catholic Church believes that artificial insemination is a "mortal sin". (A baby would be created NOT out of their parents physical love). The woman (the "wife") explaining this to us said that it was a "tramp"-y way to conceive a baby. Really? Tramp-y? Medical, perhaps, but not tramp-y.

Another issue I had was that I learned today that the Catholic wedding vows (or, more accurately, the closing section to the marriage vows where the Priest speaks) includes the phrase "man and wife", literally categorizing the new wife as her husbands property.

I'll get off my soapbox now, because I don't want to get more riled up about this. Overall, I AM glad we're getting married in the church for a variety of reasons, but in part because of the Prep required.

Even if I think some of it is crap.

Monday, October 25, 2010

on Brett Favre

So, Brett Favre.

I thought about writing this blog last weekend, and then I held back because I wasn't sure if I could articulate my thoughts well enough to make sense outside of my head.

... but here I am. The Packers/Vikings game is playing out on the tv in front of me, and I can't help but think about Brett Favre.

I think any discussion on Brett Favre needs to include an acknowledgement of his football career. Fact: Brett Favre is a heck of a football player. As of last weekend, he's thrown over 500 career touchdowns. Five hundred. That's over 3,000 points. Love him or hate him, that is an unbelievable statistic. He's played for more than twenty seasons, most notably, duh, for the Packers. In a way I think that the Packers and Brett Favre are like a circular function - they each kind of define each other.

Perhaps it's because I have a soft spot for the Pack (don't ask me why - I blame one side of my family for this strange affinity for Wisconsin), but I've always liked Brett Favre. He's a good football player, yeppers, but my weakness for him probably has more to do with his wholesome-ish persona. Though I know he's actually not a lifelong Midwesterner, he looks like the kind of guy you might see running by Lake Michigan, or coaching a Xavier game. For goodness sakes he's played for the Green Bay Packers, and while not a slouch-y team, I'd argue they don't have the sexy factor that other teams have (Tom Brady/Patriots I'm looking at you). Kind of like the Midwest. Not splashy, just steady. Hardworking. Earnest.

I associate terms like those - positive terms - with who I think Brett Favre to be. Married for over a decade to (gasp!) the mother of his children, Catholic. Much like Kurt Warner, I've thought Brett Favre to be a family man, a devoted husband and father.

The sex-allegations of the past few weeks have truly surprised me. Perhaps they shouldn't have, given the scandals that have rocked professional sports over the past year- but for some reason I really never pictured Brett Favre being involved in any kind of scandal, particularly one of a sexual nature.

When doing a little research for this post, I discovered that he's been addicted to painkillers in the past. That he's a recovering alcoholic. I had no idea.

And you know, maybe we don't know the whole story. I certainly have no idea what his life is like off the field - most of us don't. I hope for his wife's sake that these are unfounded allegations, but I also hope for my own sake (pardon the dramatics). I want to keep liking Brett Favre, and I hope he didn't do anything to jeopardize his own legacy. (You know, more than he has the past three seasons).

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Quote of the Day

"Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people that have come alive!" - Howard Thurman

What's up marriage prep

Today I am go to five hours of marriage prep. Yesterday, nine. Two weeks from today another five.

And that's not counting the 10 hours of one-on-two meetings with the Priest, or the 150 question questionnaire, or the three books of required reading/question answering. Oh, and it's also not the two-on-two meetings (note the plural) with our sponsor couple.

Suffice it to say that the Catholic Church isn't making it easy for me to get married.

But why should they? 50% of marriages end in divorce. Fifty. I can tell you right now which side I'm going to end up on, and a lot of it is because of how much Scott and I have discussed things. We are going in to our marriage eyes wide open. I know his quirks, he knows my shortcomings (and heavens do I have them). I know what he's bad at, he knows where I fail. But we've also been together for a long time.

(54 months this week, but who's counting).

(Happy pseudo anniversary babes).

That's a lot of conversation, a lot of topics randomly coming up in conversation, a lot of living which lead to a lot of discussion.

Anyway, I believe that at it's core, marriage prep isn't even really about making sure the engaged couple is going to live their life according to Catholic tradition (although, yes, we did have to sign paperwork indicating this!), but rather that marriage prep is one way for the Catholic Church to stack the odds, make sure that couples have discussed trivial things (like who is going to take out the trash). While I don't think there will be any major surprises for us, I'm all about double checking. Let's put it all out there, so that when we are up there on that alter, we know what we're signing up for.

Just to be sure.

(But, full disclosure, one of the sponsor couples has been together - from the day they met, fell in love and got married until today - for 26 months. Less than HALF of my relationship with Scott, and if I am randomly assigned to them, so help me goodness gracious, I am going to have a really hard time not giving them some "relationship instruction" of their own).

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Quote of the Day

"The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up the work of being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself" - Anna Quindlen


For my Mom's 50th birthday, we searched high and low to think of an appropriate gift. She hates being the center of attention, so we couldn't do a surprise party. She isn't the type to want something fancy or expensive.

And yet, fifty is important. It's significant. She had the right to be queen for a day, she deserved to be.

Finally we decided - a scrapbook. Appropriately, the book was titled "50 People Who Love Jen" and contained love and birthday wishes from 50 people who love her. When we came up with the idea, I went straight to work - I needed to get a commitment from 50 people to write a snippet for the scrapbook. I was a little intimidated by the work at hand... even with a big family, and a special subject, 50 is a lot of people!

Quickly I discovered how easy it would actually be.

The response was immediate, and overwhelming. Every single person (and I am not exaggerating!) that I asked responded enthusiastically, and provided feedback that was far, far beyond what I had envisioned. The message was loud, and it was clear: My mom is loved. So, so loved.

Why am I saying this? Because for her 50th birthday, she realized how many people love her, and today I want to remind her.

I am the luckiest girl in the world - no exaggeration - because I am the only daughter to ever have Jen Steil as a mom.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Sandwich creation

Dinner last week - sauteed mushrooms and onions, lettuce, tomato. Yum but could have used a little crunch.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Pumpkin Picks

Lately I've been seeing pumpkins everwhere.
Places you might expect, like the grocery store:
And places a little more unusual, like the aisles of the liquor store:

I love this time of year!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

#6 Try a New Dark Beer

I'm a beer girl. In the name of "research" I tried out quite a few before crossing this off my list. Let's just say I'll be sticking to Bud Light and Guinness moving forward.

(First time I'd heard of "rope swing" and hopefully the last time I'll drink it)

(Not really "dark" but very much new to me)

(Spiked cider and Guinness - lovely for the first 5 sips, horrid for the next 25)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Quote of the Day

"What are you trying to protect heterosexual marriages from? There isn't a limited amount of love in Iowa. It isn't a non-renewable resource. If Amy and Barbara or Mike and Steve love each other, it doesn't mean that John and Mary can't" - Ed Fallon

The 86 Plymouth Reliant

Everything you need to know about Shawn Steil can be summed up in one story.

Here goes.

The year was 2000, and winter was just melting away to spring. Iowa mornings were still cold enough that cars parked outside overnight needed to be scraped, their windows to be cleared of frost. I was the oldest of five kids at home, and though not quite 16, I was the lucky beneficiary of a lenient drivers license policy, as I had a "school license" allowing me to drive myself to and from school and school functions. More importantly, I had a car!

My father's father had recently died, leaving our family his 1986 light blue Plymouth Reliant. Believe me when I tell you that the car had no features - no tape player, no automatic windows or locks. It did have a radio, and most importantly: it had wheels. It drove!

I was a 15 year old kid, with a bunch of siblings, so let's be honest here: I was lucky to have any car of my own. But going to a fancy private school every day, well... an old car kind of stuck out. I know better now, but at the time, I sorta hated the Reliant.

At the same time, my family had two other cars. A mini-van and a forest green Saturn. Certainly I didn't want to drive the Mom-mobile, but whenever I could, I asked to drive our cool car, our Saturn. Saturday nights when my parents would be together? I got the Saturn. My parents meeting us at Church? I got the Saturn.

One morning before school, I went outside to turn on the Reliant, so that it would defrost partway while I went back inside to eat breakfast. I walked out the front door and - oh my Lord in Heaven - the Reliant was missing. I ran back inside, barely being able to get the words out.

"The Reliant was stolen!" I screamed at my mom. She went outside, looked around confused, and opened the garage door. The Reliant wasn't in there, but long after my dad should have left in his Saturn, the green car sat idle - figuratively - in the garage.

I was confused. "I thought dad left an hour ago?" I must have asked my mom. Gradually, I caught on.

My dad left the Saturn for me.

Which meant he took the Reliant to work.

This silly game lasted for days and weeks. I would walk outside to climb in the Reliant, only to find that my dad had left the Saturn for me that morning. Although I sure tried to not get my hopes up, I'm sure now that they were. After weeks - maybe months I'm not sure now - my family got rid of the Reliant, and moved on to a more reliable "kids car". By the time we traded it in, I hadn't driven it in months. In effect, my dad had taken it over and given me the benefit of the nicer, newer and, yes cooler vehicle.

Ok, I lied. This isn't everything that you should know about Shawn Steil, but it's a start. There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of things I'd like you to know, stories I'd like to tell, and maybe someday I will. In the meantime, if you know nothing else, know this: he is the kind of parent that I want to be.

Happy birthday, Dad. I love you.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Chicago Views

I'm a sucker for a good city-scape. I was cleaning out my memory card this week, and I came upon all of these images. None of them are too dynamite, but I think they capture my love of the Chicago skyline:

(View South from the bridge at the Lincoln Park Zoo)

(Green river and skyline)

(View from "Jazzin' At the Shedd")

(From the top of the Chicago Ferris wheel... at sunset!)

(Looking North on Michigan Avenue)

"Eventually I think Chicago will be the most beautiful great city left in the world" - Frank Lloyd Wright

Haunted Chicago Tour

Last weekend my friends and I took the Haunted Chicago Tour around the city. It was scary. Not because we saw any apparitions, but because the tour guide told us so many spooky Chicago statistics. (Spoiler: Lincoln Park used to be the Chicago City Cemetary! There are 11,000 bodies buried beneath it!)

I cannot say enough good things about the tour. It was a little pricey, but a very fun thing to do in Chicago in October... especially if you go with a group. I would NOT have wanted to go alone. Creeeepy!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Photo of the Day

How pretty are these bar-toppers (or whatever-you-call-'ems)?

Catholicism and Gay Rights

I'd like to introduce you to someone in my life.

Her name is Abbie, and she is my step-sister. Our parents have been married to each other since 1997, something I've told you so much about. She is six years older than me, and while we have never been close, she IS my father's daughter and a member of my family.

She is a sister, an aunt, a daughter, a granddaughter, a stepdaughter, a stepsister. A mechanic. A dog's mama. A friend. A colleague.

She's also a lesbian.

Abbie has been with her partner for years. I would like to tell you the exact number, but to be honest, I don't know. They've been together nearly as far back as I can remember. Longer than Scott and I have been together.

They are both in their early 30s. Together, they own a home, and have a car or two, an animal or two, and a life that they've cultivated. As partners. As spouses.

Abbie lives in Iowa, a place where gay marriage is legal. It wasn't legal at the beginning of their relationship, so Abbie and her partner had a commitment ceremony to signify their decision to spend their lives together, and a while after that, Iowa began recognizing gay marriage. Abbie and her wife have two anniversaries - they day they wanted to get married (I think it was in 2008), and the day the courts allowed them to (in 2009).

Some might say that Abbie and her wife are "lucky" because they live in Iowa. Lucky that they live in a place where gay marriage is legal, and lucky to have been able to take full advantage of that right. I wonder when luck began having anything to do with civil rights. Aren't civil rights - human rights - something we deserve just for being?

There has been, rightfully, a lot of noise in the media about gay rights. The right to marry, to adopt children, and to be gay and in the military. The concept of gay rights, well, it's nothing new. People on both sides have been spouting the same arguments for years.

Though opposition is vehement, and yes loud, the gay rights movement is gaining momentum. Gay marriage is legal in five states, and growing. Though slow, progress is being made, and I believe in my gut that gay marriage will be a no brainer down the line. While I do feel the US is chugging along towards full marriage equality the Catholic Church still has a long, long way to go.

The Church believes that homosexuality is an "abomination". Those who agree argue that the Bible is against it, that God himself is against it, and how can any good Catholic go against the Bible and God, for goodness sake. I'll concede that point. Leviticus 18:22 does, indeed, say (depending upon the specific translation) that "You shall not lie with a man as with a woman; it is an abomination". I have a hard time with the "but the Bible says it's so!" argument, because the Bible also gives us many other "forbiddens" that good Catholics enjoy every day (not to wear fabric blends, not to wear pearl or gold jewelery, not to eat shellfish). We say "oh, but that's not the spirit of the message, that's not what God would intend for us today". That's a confusing message to send - how can we pick and choose which Biblical teachings to adhere to, and which to ignore?

The Church's stance is that gay behavior is wrong. Period. Gay people are to be loved, and prayed for, but ultimately their behavior should be curtailed, and their sexuality blunted. Since homosexuality is wrong, homosexual marriage is forbidden. Since sexuality outside marriage is wrong, and homosexuals cannot (or should not be allowed to) marry, any homosexual behavior is thus wrong.

See the circular logic here? You can't have sexuality outside of marriage, but you can't get married, so you better never have any sexuality.

Progress will not be made within the Church until the negativity, and yes fear, of homosexuality goes away. It's not contagious. It isn't scary or bad or dangerous. It's two consenting adults, choosing a life of permanent commitment.

It makes me so sad that my religion and my conscience are so far apart on this one.

"I'm a supporter of gay rights. And not a closet supporter either. From the time I was a kid, I have never been able to understand attacks upon the gay community. There are so many qualities that make up a human being... by the time I get through with all the things that I really admire about people, what they do with their private parts is probably so low on the list that it is irrelevant" - Paul Newman

Thursday, October 14, 2010

#1 Learn all the words to...

Nearly every day in the past month has started the same way.

REM blasting over iTunes.

I officially know all the words to "It's the end of the world as we know it" and you know what I've decided?

This was a stupid goal. The lyrics don't. make. any. sense. and it's really kind of annoying.

So while this goal is officially crossed off, I'm disappointed in the outcome.

Oh well, 26 great goals out of 27 isn't too shabby.

Chicago Ferris Wheel

I'll admit that I don't love heights. I'm not "afraid" of them, per se, I just prefer my feet in constant contact with the concrete. Somehow, Scott convinced me that riding the iconic Ferris wheel would be a good idea.

It wasn't. The above photo is the highlight of the trip - taken once my feet were firmly planted on solid ground.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Quote of the Day: Boss Edition

"That's maybe the biggest compliment that people give me - you've been a part of my life" - Bruce Springsteen, on Today

I understand that he means his music, but really, isn't that the biggest compliment any of us can receive? That you've touched someones life? If, at the end of a long life, someone said that of me? Well, I'm pretty sure I'd die a happy woman.

Photo of the Day: Bragging about my camera edition

I've been thinking that my camera was getting old and out-of-date, and had been considering upgrading.... until I saw this photo. I love it. I kind of want to get it printed and framed for my living room.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Photo of the Day

At first glance, you might think this photo was taken on a recent trip home to Iowa... but it was actually taken in the heart of Chicago, at Lincoln Park Zoo.

Fall Leaves

How pretty are these yellow leaves?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Taking the long way home

I've been trying to amp up the number of steps that I take daily, and in doing so I stumbled upon this gem of a view. There is a pedestrian walkway behind (on the SE side) of the Trump Hotel in Chicago. The view of the city is interesting and the walkway is great.

"Me thinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow" - Thoreau

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Bears vs. Carolina: Week Five

Another day, another Bears win.

(That sentence is seriously fun to write).

You know what else was fun? Watching a Cutler-less Bears game. Fun doesn't even begin to describe the three hours I spent in my living room this afternoon. Granted, it was against a winless Carolina Panthers team, but still. After last weeks beating, I am happy to rev up our momentum as we move toward the middle section of the season.


- This was Matt Forte's day. The man has wheeeels. (166 yards rushing? Whaaaat!)

- Part of the reason for Forte's success was due to the mishaps at the QB spot. Though I am not a Cutler fan, I certainly don't wish him injured, and frankly, our backups aren't doing it for me. Though it's a hard sentence to write, I am looking forward to Cutler being back in business next week.

- I mentioned in the first game that I was projecting Julius Peppers to be a big star for the Bears (embarrassingly, I called him a "rising star"). Obviously, I hadn't heard of him before this season (I may be a loyal fan, but I live in a Bears bubble and don't know tons about other teams). Today I learned his story, and holy cow - Carolina fans were MAD AT HIM. One sign called him "Judas Peppers".

- It is very strange to be a fan of a winning team. As a Bears fan, well, let's just say I haven't had a lot of practice at being a humble winner. As strange as it is, it feels dang good and I hope it continues.

Bears (4-1) vs. Carolina Panthers 23-6
Next week: vs. Seattle

Bears vs. Carolina: Score Prediction

My prediction: 28-14 Bears
Scott's prediction: 20-13 Bears

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Oh hey lunch

Tomatoes, mushrooms, blue cheese, spinach, and a homemade vinegar/olive oil dressing.


Peachy Keen

How pretty are these peaches? (Ignore the shopping bag they're in).

Friday, October 8, 2010

Helloooo Friday!

"It's 5:00 somewhere..." - Alan Jackson

I left my heart in Iowa City

I lived in Iowa City, Iowa until I was 2 weeks shy of my 13th birthday. I never realized what a great place it was to grow up - sleepy enough to be safe, close enough to the University to be interesting. I loved life.

When I was almost 13, my mom married my father, and like I've said before, my life really became interesting. We moved away from Iowa City, but it remained a very special place to me. Six years later, after graduating high school, I came back for college.

I think the six year hiatus was really what allowed me to come back; without it, I doubt I ever would have considered the University of Iowa.

Last weekend was Iowa's Homecoming.

Man, I love Iowa City:

(Ped Mall at 1AM)

(Statue in the Ped Mall)

(ITS - my workplace for 3+ years)

(Old Capital... my parents got engaged on those steps!)

"Is this Heaven? No, it's Iowa!" - Field of Dreams

Thursday, October 7, 2010

New me, new look

To correspond with my revamped attitude on life, I have given my blog a facelift. Most of the changes are in place, but a few more will be rolled out quietly over the next day or two.

I truly appreciate you reading, so if there is anything you dislike, pipe up!

Honey Crisp

Honeycrisp apples are the prettiest fall fruit there is.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Fall is one of my favorite seasons, and October is the fall-est of 'em all. (September can be summer-y, and November is basically winter).

Some of my fall favorites:

dark nails

mulled cider candles in every room of my apartment

pumpkins everywhere

hot apple cider tea

Goodbye Summer

One last decadent summer treat before ice-cream is banished for the next six months.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Wrapping Up

These scarves look delicious. Yum.

Footwear is my Friend: Part 2

When I wrote about my new MBTs, I neglected to include photos.

See, Anna, they aren't so bad!!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Josh and Laura: Part Two

On Friday, the Rank Family gained it's 44th member. Fun was had by all 44, and here are a few photos to prove it:

(Thanks to my mom and summersisters for the pictures).

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Bears vs. Giants: Week Four

I've always believed that this Bears team isn't as strong as it's record has indicated, and this game further iterated that to me. NINE sacks in the first half? Interceptions by more than one quarterback? No. Just no.


- Cutler (and the O-line) sucks. SUCKS. 9 sacks before the half? Unacceptable.

- Bowman's strip on the 1 yard line? Someone give that guy a bonus. Seriously. That was the only bright spot in this dreary game.

- The announcer needs more coffee, or at least better notes. "Fantastic performance by the Jets"? Really? Pretty sure it was the other NY team out there...

Bears (3-1) vs. Giants: 17-3
Next week: @ Panthers

Bears vs. Giants: Score Prediction

21-14 Bears.

The Giants are 1-2, but we ARE on the road.

Any other guesses?

Saturday, October 2, 2010


Happy birthday to the second part of my lovely maids-of-honor. I am lucky to have Anne as a fellow blonde, a partner in crime, and a cousinfriend.

Luckily (for me) we will be together on her very birthday to honor another of our cousins, but knowing us, we will be sure to make itme for a specific celebratory drink or two.