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My Van Life: Days 22-29

Saturday, July 31 - Saturday, August 7, 2021

Downers Grove, IL

Day 22:

We MUST have been tired because we didn’t wake up until after 9am this morning. We did stay up late last night watching the Olympics since that’s another luxury we haven’t been afforded living that Van Life. Can you imagine?? Not having Cable or TV or anything in the van, we’ve been missing out on Tokyo 2020 (happening in 2021) so it’s nice to be here and feel like we’re somewhat in the know.

We woke up and played with Adam's nephew, Logan, for a bit and introduced him to Coco since he was asleep when we got here last night. It’s so fun seeing him with a dog his size (he’s two) as opposed to the much larger dog his family has. We both took absolutely marvelous showers this morning, showers in which the water was warm, you could leave it running while you washed your body and hair and you didn’t have to turn it off in between to conserve water. Talk about luxury! My hair felt like it was crying tears of joy this morning after I shampooed, conditioned AND blow dryed it. I feel like a new woman!

After feeling a bit stagnant these last few days we wanted to get some walking in so we walked to Downtown Downers Grove. We left Coco at the house so she could rest her legs and catch up on her sleep. We grabbed Peet’s Coffee (priorities) and walked over to the Farmers Market although unfortunately we just missed it and the tents were being packed up and put away.

With coffee in hand we walked around town, checking out some of the local shops and supporting the small businesses in town. I found a handful of rings at this little shop Adorn512 that I absolutely could not live without. It was SUCH a cute boutique and I was not expecting to strike gold like that at a random shop in Downers Grove, IL.

After a solid lap around town, enjoying the beautiful day and perfect weather, we decided to stop at the Cellar Door for some afternoon drinks and light bites since we hadn’t eaten yet aside from our morning coffee. It was a great stop where we enjoyed some drinks (sparkling rosé for me and a red blend for Adam), and a delicious charcuterie board! It was the icing on the cake for a splendid day walking around, getting some fresh air and enjoying Downers Grove. We headed back home after that and just relaxed for the evening, playing inside and outside with Logan, watching the Olympics, loading up on a sushi dinner before watching more Olympics and heading to bed. Another night of feeling oh so very spoiled in this home not on wheels.

Day 23:

I don’t know whether or not I'm pleased to report today was a very low-key Sunday. It still feels quite strange not being in the van and not feeling like we have to sit down and plan out our every move from when and where we’re driving to where we’re laying our heads at night. Now we’re waking up in a bed in a beautiful home, taking Coco outside to a big backyard to do her business and conducting ourselves like it’s a "normal" weekend.

I feel like I’ve been acclimating to the changing timezones throughout this trip quite seamlessly but suddenly for some reason being here, now I feel like I’m struggling. Mainly just struggling to wake up before 9am. I keep telling myself it’s just the built up exhaustion from our trip finally taking hold on our bodies which I'm hoping is the case. There's too much to do and see and not enough time to include late sleep ins in that schedule.

I put makeup on for the first time in probably a month this morning. We went to lunch with Adam’s family at this restaurant called Paisans. Unfortunately I wasn't a huge fan as the pizza was quite saucey and since I’m not a red sauce gal it just wasn't my cup of tea. Nevertheless it was great to enjoy a big family meal with everyone. After lunch we came back home, watched the Olympics for a bit with an adult beverage and then spent a couple hours outside playing with the pups and Logan and enjoying some sunshine.

When we were in Chicago at the beginning of the month it was absolutely miserably hot but now it’s been perfect, *chef’s kiss* weather. The sun was playing hide and seek behind the clouds this afternoon giving us bursts of warmth and delicousness on our faces before hiding behind the clouds once again. It was bliss. I may have even dozed off in the Adirondack chair. Once we came inside Adam and I decided it was time to pop into town for some Sunday night frozen yogurt – a delicious and wise decision might I add – and then we returned home for more Olympics and relaxation before bed. It was pretty low-key like I said. Now of course I’m dreading waking up in the morning to start another work week but I have some time off this month that I’m very much looking forward to. That will keep me pushing forward! I am grateful to be spending this work week in a place with very stable internet though I will tell you that. That’s something I can check off the list and don’t have to worry about until the following week when we’re on the road again!

Day 24:

We had every intention of waking up at 6am and going for a coffee walk before getting the day started this morning. EVERY INTENTION. Well, unfortunately intentions don’t always equate to action and this was one such Monday morning. Snooze was hit a significant amount of times this morning but I will admit when I did finally roll out of bed around 7:45am I felt a whole lot more rested than when my alarm initially went off.

Beyond that, it was a case of the Mondays across the board. My headphones weren’t working, my computer was dying, any and every noise imaginable was happening in the background as I started my work day but it is all good! Trying to practice more patience and grace with myself just as others do for themselves and for each other in this working from home life. We took Coco for a bath first thing this morning (after not going for a walk LOL) at a local place in Downers Grove called The Dog Brow. Not only was it extremely close and convenient but the people were wonderful and even managed to trim Coco’s nails! I have no idea how she did it but she was clearly a pro and for that I feel forever indebted to The Dog Brow. It was a cash or check only kind of establishment which is always an interesting challenge – especially in these COVID non-cash days – but we made it work and are grateful for the extra love and attention she received. Coco needed a bath too. It had only been a month or five weeks maybe since her last one but she’s been playing outside a ton on our drive and in Dorchester, WI she not only rolled around in the grass numerous times, she tried to cross a small “body of water” and instead plopped her little pug butt smack dab in the middle of this nasty pond water. Yes, it was time for a bath.

I’m still thoroughly enjoying my morning "me time" being in the Central Time Zone but working on a team in an office based in Pacific Standard Time. It means lovely leisurely mornings for me where I can do things like take Coco to get a bath, grab a cup of coffee, work on my blog, catch up with my mom all before 8am even rolls around! Pretty crazy. Speaking of cup of coffee, I tried a new place here (again, another local spot) called Mud and Char. It’s in a very unsuspecting kind of strip mall and has pretty lowkey basic coffee shop vibes but the iced coffee with almond milk (they were out of oat) was quite enjoyable. The food selection looked STUNNING too so I’m thinking we’ll have to make a trip back to enjoy that side of the menu as well.

After our respective work days we decided to finally get that run/walk in and thankfully the beautiful weather has still been holding up so it was pleasant and mild. What was NOT pleasant however was the run. I am not a runner, never have, don’t know if I ever will be – yes, yes I know I’ve run a marathon and three half marathons but that’s besides the point – I don’t enjoy running. Especially when I am not in running shape and have to work back to getting in running shape. Oooo buddy that’s my least favorite and of course that’s where I’m at right now. I pushed myself through those two miles but it was not easy and I immediately got down on myself. I know, I know, it’s been a while since I ran but STILL! I just get so frustrated and immediately feel like an out of shape oaf in moments like that. Today I’m again, trying to practice more grace and patience with myself, being proud of this body and these two legs for running two miles, no matter the pace or ease (or lack thereof) of running. It’s better than zero miles. How did I get to the place of running 26.2 miles years ago in the Chicago Marathon? One mile after another. One foot in front of the other.

Once all the self deprecating talk was over and we were back inside, we enjoyed an early dinner and we tucked ourselves into bed at a respectable hour this evening to make sure we actually get up when that morning alarm goes off. Tomorrow is the day! Morning alarm, morning walk. We got this!

Day 25:

I think I’m getting too used to this life of luxury. I keep thinking what a challenge it’s going to be going back to Van Life after living in a two story house in a beautiful neighborhood with a big backyard. Coco is surely going to disown us after taking away the most spacious backyard she’s ever experienced in her little pug life. Not to mention her very large, very quiet dog friend who makes special guest appearances on rare occasions just to hurriedly walk past her and scurry outside to go potty. She’ll be especially upset about leaving Molly (aforementioned very large, very quiet dog friend), behind that’s for sure. I’m sure we’ll get right back into the rhythm of Van Life though, right? I mean it didn’t take long to get into the rhythm of that lifestyle at the beginning of the trip so why would this be any different?

It has been really nice though, have I mentioned that? ANYWAY, another boring work week day of staying put in one place for hours on end, I’m sorry to report. It’s nice getting into some kind of routine while we’re here though – morning walk/workout, work, lunch, work, done for the day, play with Logan, dinner, Olympics, bedtime, repeat. You know I appreciate my routines and it has certainly been challenging establishing any kind of routine when each day is different. Although at the same time I equally love that! Each and every day being new and different and exciting. Is this the Gemini in me talking? I really have no idea, it sure sounds like it though. She can’t make up her mind people!

I think we’re starting to feel a bit anxious with major cities like New York and LA and most of the state of Florida it seems starting to regress backward as far as COVID goes. Today New York mandated proof of vaccination in indoor dining, gyms and theatres I believe and cases continue to rise in Los Angeles. Another moment I’m glad to be out of that city (LA that is), but at the same time I’m quite curious to see if/how our road trip will be affected at all should lockdowns start to be the topic of conversation. The good news is we have a safe place to land with family across the country and we can easily keep to ourselves and follow safety precautions as they come about. At the end of the day I’m just hoping to be able to continue our adventure and see as much of this big beautiful country as possible, even if it means sticking to outside destinations. There’s plenty of those to see just about everywhere in the US.

In other news, today I downloaded the Peet’s reward app. Surprisingly (?!?) I really enjoy Peet’s Coffee and we’ve been walking in the morning to pick it up. Is that surprising? Do other people equally enjoy Peet’s and perhaps I’ve been under a coffee rock so to speak? It’s funny I have vivid memories of getting Peet’s on the way to work when I first started working out of college years ago. On Fridays I would treat myself to an iced matcha (likely before this iced coffee queen became the iced coffee queen she is) and a chocolate walnut scone!!! Peet’s has excellent baked goods – in addition to their coffee which we’ve already established – I’ll tell you that. I’ll keep you posted on my status within the rewards program but that’s about the most exciting thing that happened to me today.

Speaking of our walk to Peet’s, on the way there we approached a seemingly empty parking lot in a local park (it was like 7am after all) with the exception of one car blasting some unidentified music. As we approached the parking lot we discovered an older gentleman, standing BEHIND his parked car with the trunk open, blasting said unidentified music, in a cutoff black tank and shorts, air boxing. Shadow boxing? Whatever that’s called. The piece I’m most uncertain about is not only the unidentified music as I’ve mentioned a dozen times at this point but more so the trunk open strategy. Was he streaming his workout on his iPad propped up in the trunk? Does this man drive to the park at 7am every day to get his workout in? Is this strange or oddly selfless of him? Does he not want to wake his sleeping partner at home with his blasting unidentified music (there she goes again) so he drives many many miles to this park to get his sweat on? Are these the thoughts of an extremely intelligent creative or just an absolute lunatic with too much of an imagination?! So many questions...

In other news, I’m also working on a couple blog partnerships which has been SO fun but a challenge for me to figure out when it comes to shipping. How does one ship things when one doesn’t have a permanent address? When one’s home has four wheels and doesn’t exactly stay in one place for more than two days at a time? If anyone has any advice there I’d greatly appreciate it. As you can see, another regular ole Tuesday with regular ole Tuesday trials and tribulations. If you have any recs on the aforementioned points, you know how to find me.

Day 26:

It always seems my Hump Days are either spectacular midpoint beacons on the work week or absolutely the worst imaginable day of the work week. It feels like there’s no in between. Of course in that moment everything is amplified and in reality significantly less dramatic than I’m making it out to be but just go with me here. Anyone else feel that way? Today felt unfortunately like it was the latter rather than the former after walking 1.5 miles to get coffee at a “special” spot, you know outside of our traditional Peet’s pickup (it is Coffee Wednesday after all) at Mud and Char only to realize we only brought our American Express and of course they don’t take American Express. Nor are they set up with Apple Pay or anything fancy like that so yes we walked all the way back home, got in the car and drove over there only to re-place the order we had just placed and cancelled maybe 30 minutes before. Good start to the day.

We did find a wallet on the ground on the way to said coffee destination. Like the good Samaritans we are we turned it into the coffee shop in the hopes that they would perhaps be able to contact the owner of the wallet – I mean it had everything in that wallet including this guys shredded, wrinkled up, been through the laundry on accident one too many times social security card! Oh yeah, a serious wallet find. The coffee and baked goods were decent but I would say the juice was not worth all that extra squeeze and we’ll be sticking to our beloved Peet’s for the remainder of the week. Unless we venture to new territory in which case we’ll be open to trying new things there too. You know me, I’m a coffee trying kind of gal. Especially when I’m in a new city.

This morning was a bit slower for me meeting wise which was nice so I was able to take my time with my morning writing, blogging, etc. and even squeezed a little reading in there. I’m ashamed to admit but I truthfully haven’t read in a long time. I’ve been on such a good roll with my reading this year, not as good as last year but still great, and since starting this trip I’ve really slowed down. There’s too much to do in the course of a given day during traditional Van Life that I have a hard time carving out reading time which is really disappointing even for me to say (type?) out loud. It felt good sitting on the couch and reading. Even if only for 50 pages. I’m currently working on a book that I’m not particularly fond of so I especially want to zip through the remaining 100 pages or so and taking a chunk out of them today felt good.

At the end of our work day we went to the local restaurant Pierce Tavern in Downtown Downers Grove. Logan’s school is in need of a new playground so they hosted a fundraiser at this local hotspot in which a portion of the proceeds from the night’s earnings goes toward the playset. The place was absolutely hopping tonight so if I had to guess they’re going to get a pretty sweet new set up here soon! We grabbed frozen yogurt across the street with Adam’s cousin Natalie afterwards and visited with her some more before walking home. There was a trivia night at the bar next door (Cellar Door) to the froyo place and it just made me feel so warm and fuzzy inside. Seeing people out and about, eating at restaurants, getting dessert, giggling in the street, spilling out of bars, that is what summer and life is all about. We haven’t experienced that in so long and truthfully I’ve always been very regimented when it comes to work week routines that I’ve never really let myself indulge in anything like that. Especially considering I traditionally had to be up by 5am for a workout and to get out the door for work on time. I hope that energy never goes away. I want weeknight adventures because we can and we want to.

Day 27:

This morning we woke up after a significant amount of “snoozing.” In fact, I was quite shocked when I rolled over and saw it was just about 7:15am by the time I actually forced my eyeballs to open and decided it was time to start the day. Nevertheless we made it out the door and to Peet’s Coffee AND back in time for Adam’s 8:30am call if you can believe it. I was pretty proud of us considering this was the latest we’d left all week.

I was feeling pretty groggy and sleepy today though I’ll admit. You can tell it’s the end of the week. Motivation and overall energy are low. But that’s okay! It was another productive (read: long) workday but I’m happy we were able to squeeze in a little “me time” and visited the nail salon. I got a manicure/pedicure and Adam got a pedicure. All of the above was VERY much needed. It’s honestly crazy – in the absolute best way – what a little nail polish can do for your self confidence. Obviously the overall experience is traditionally a pleasant one but having freshly manicured hands and freshly pedicured feet – is that a thing?? – makes you stand up a little straighter, look in the mirror with a bit more confidence and likely even use your hands (and feet, sure!) a little bit more. I haven’t gotten my true LA manicure in a long time and while I miss it terribly, for now a fresh coat of no-chip gel polish works wonders for the ole confidence.

The theme of treating ourselves continued as we popped into Downtown Downers Grove and met up with Adam’s cousin Natalie to grab dinner at a local spot. We wanted to go to this newer spot, Bar Chido, but online it said the only reservations available were at 4:30pm and 9:30pm. While we were hoping to have made it into town much earlier, we didn’t arrive until closer to 7:45pm as I was tied up with work. Natalie put our name on the wait list and then we popped over to our other local favorite, Cellar Door, for a drink while we waited for our table. I don’t know if we even waited the full 30 minutes, I feel like probably not since we kind of had to chug our drinks to pop over and claim our table within the allotted 10 minutes to do so.

Bar Chido was hoppin and turns out for good reason! The food was absolutely amazing! It’s a Mexican restaurant and I typically struggle a bit when it comes to Mexican food because I don’t eat meat but it was so easy to find pescatarian friendly options and delicious ones at that. We had some shareables (Elotes, Ahi Tuna Tostada, Chips and the Crunchwrap) and I would recommend absolutely any of them – although I didn’t have the crunchwrap because it was a meat filled shareable. Nevertheless between the three of us we practically licked all of our plates clean. That GOOD! I’m glad we waited for our table even though we were uncertain we'd be able to make it inside with Thursday night's crowd. Great food, great company, great evening all around.

Day 28:

This morning was my first Friday “back” from every Friday in July being off. Thankfully they are still Summer Fridays so work is wrapped up by noon which is just the best. Certainly one of my favorite perks. I enjoyed a little sleep in this morning and some extra cuddles in bed with Coco. We caught up on YouTube videos, posted the blog and all around had a wonderful, relaxing start to our day. That always sets the day up for success. Once work was wrapped up I FINALLY finished this book I’ve been slowly working on probably for the last two months, maybe a bit less. I know, SO not like me. As you can probably gather, it’s a book I wasn’t particularly excited about and thus it’s taken me forever to finish it. Today I was finally able to power through and close the page – quite literally – on that one forever.

Adam had a haircut this afternoon so I took care of my reading while he popped into town to get his hair trimmed and then when he came back the three of us, Angela (his sister), Adam and myself drove over to Hinsdale, a neighboring town, to check out this designer consignment boutique, Kelsey Resale, and walk around a bit. Kelsey’s was very nice, definitely upscale consignment – apparel, shoes, purses – and it skewed a bit older but still lots of cute stuff! I tried on a pair of those asymmetrical Agolde jean shorts but of course they were just about a size too small.

From there we bopped around to the other local shops all of which were extremely cute. Obviously we were in a more upscale part of town as you could clearly tell by its inhabitants as well as the price tags in most of the stores. It wasn’t anything astronomical by any means but just enough to know what part of town you were in. I saw SO much cute jewelry while we were walking around I’m shocked and baffled to even say I didn’t buy any. In fact I didn’t buy anything. The only thing I bought was an oatmeal, chocolate chip, walnut cookie from Toni’s Patisserie and Café which was absolutely exquisite by the way. I can still taste the aftermath. We made one last stop by Bath and Body Works on the way home – trying to stock up on the things I need now before we dive back into Van Life – and then came home for the evening. Adam’s parents dropped off Logan so we were all able to spend some time together for a bit then the three of us made dinner – salmon, broccoli and cauliflower rice. Mmm! Adam and I watched a little Modern Family after dinner, anyone else forget how FANTASTIC that show is?! Before heading up to bed. Tomorrow is the big day, Logan’s 2nd Birthday so it’s vital all of us get significant sleep in preparation. Especially considering we’re apparently starting the day around 7am with birthday donuts…Need I say more?!

Day 29:

The return of Van Life is so close I can practically feel it. This was our second to last morning waking up in this big beautiful comfy bed in this big beautiful house, enjoying a hot shower for which I could leave the water on the entire time. Our life of luxury is rapidly coming to a close. It’s a bummer that we were here during a traditional work week because it honestly feels like we just worked and powered through Monday-Friday and then had a little bit of the afternoon yesterday and today and now we’re leaving tomorrow already. There wasn’t a whole lot of time to truly enjoy.

Today was an extra special day though and one we enjoyed tremendously. Today was Logan’s 2nd birthday party celebrated at Playroom Café Two that was seriously a two year old’s dream! Not to mention the fact that it had a pretty great set up for parents to sit by and watch their little ones running around. Let me start at the very beginning though.

We woke up significantly earlier than I would have liked on a Saturday but I will say it was worth the early morning wake up call. We all piled in the car, whipped into Starbucks on the way out and then drove toward our final destination – BB’s Baby Donuts. It’s pretty much exactly what you would expect, although perhaps even better. It’s a cute little hole in the wall storefront in Western Springs, IL where you walk up and order from an array of baby donut flavors. You can order 6 or 12 donut holes essentially but there's more than just glazed flavors to choose from. Adam and I tried sprinkles (delish), cookies and cream (delish) and s’mores (DELISH!!). It was such a fun Instagrammable spot – my kind of place – with delicious little donuts to boot. Logan wasn’t particularly interested in his birthday donuts but you know, it’s the thought that counts.

From there we came back home and got ready for the big grand finale, the birthday party at the playground café. I will say today was one of those days I couldn’t help but feel the effects of living in a pandemic the last two years. After just two hours socializing I was actually so EXHAUSTED. I know that’s in part due to my ambivert personality but I know in large part it’s due to the lack of socializing we’ve done in large crowds since last year. Or the year before I guess technically? Wow.

I think it was a successful afternoon with a room full of toddlers and little ones spending their Saturday morning in the best way imaginable. And then I'm sure going home and absolutely passing out for their parents. I’m sure that was truly the best part (if you polled the parents LOL). We came back to Angela’s with family, opened presents after Logan woke up from his nap and the next thing you knew, it was 6pm. Legitimately 6pm and I got ready at 9:30am this morning. What?! It was like a work day! Looking at the clock in the kitchen and realizing what time it was, that I had barely eaten today, that we had SO much to do in preparation for our departure tomorrow, etc. made me particularly overwhelmed and thus even more exhausted. I’m fighting back yawns as I write this in bed right now. Overall it was a beautiful day and celebration for the little man and a final hoorah before we had on our merry way to wherever the heck we’re going next! We'll figure it out and you'll be here for the ride. Isn't that the best?!

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