Thursday, July 2: fly into O’Hare at about 7:30. Take the blue line to meet Cecile and Matt at California, then we go to el Nandu for Argentine steak! Delicious steak and empanadas, plus super-dangerous sangria. Afterwards, Cecile and I hit City North for the 11pm screening of ‘Public Enemies’.

Friday, July 3: wake up early and take photos of Cecile peeling the tongue. Spend the afternoon/evening/night with good friends eating exceptional food. Cecile’s tongue pie is the best meat pie I’ve ever had! And putting red pepper flakes on the pineapple before grilling it is a fantastic idea – sweet and spicy!

We played the Battlestar Galactica game (I was finally a Cylon! I was finally on the winning team!) and then a few other board games – Crazy Cat Lady, Monster Squad – before Andy and Virgina had to go. then Jon, Cecile and I watched ‘Ghostbusters’ as a drinking game and pigged out grade-school-sleepover style on junk food.

Saturday, July 4: a rainy and kind of gloomy day, but we made the most of it. In the morning, Trent made breakfast for some of his friends and I got to meet some more new people who are aces with me since they let me share their food. Cecile and I left for Nora and Kate’s apartment as it was starting to sprinkle, and were very nearly there when we were sidetracked by the bargain store called ‘Pay Half’. We went in for the duration of the harder rain and came away with some dresses and cute purses – all pretty cheap.

Kate and Nora put on a great BBQ – delicious brats from Paulina Meat Market, pretzel buns, Mustard Girl spicy mustard (???), quinoa salad, cucumber salad, potato salad, sauerkraut, fresh watermelon and chili-chocolate brownies with what I think was a fleur de sel sprinkled icing. DELICIOUS! Oh, also some really good summery ales. Which we’d all had too much of, because when we sat down to play VCR Clue, we were all totally confused for about the first half hour.

The hour grew late, and I wanted to stop by Lindsay’s BBQ, so Cecile stayed to watch a movie with Nora and Kate, and I headed to the Ukrainian Village. Lindsay was throwing a cookout for her friend’s birthday so I got to see the tail end – grilled meats, dessert and present-opening. Most of the guests left for the California Clipper, and I stayed to talk some more to Lindsay. Outside, we stopped to watch some fireworks on the other side of the church across the street, and marveled at their proximity and the sheer number of fireworks displays happening in the neighborhood. As we drove around we saw they were EVERYWHERE! Every street in Chicago had a fireworks display going off – the whole city was celebrating.

Back and Cecile’s, I texted Katie to see about another BBQ and crazy fireworks display, but then started to feel the effects of three straight days of eating more food, richer food, and meatier food than I normally do, so I watched ‘Firefly’ on Hulu and did Kakuro until I fell asleep.

Sunday, July 5: Cecile left in the morning to go to Bikram yoga, and I got ready to meet Mark for breakfast. Our first choice restaurant was closed, but we went to our old standby, the Flying Saucer. Then, Mark came back to Cecile’s with me, and while I changed into kayaking clothes, visited with Lindsay who had come to pick me up.

Lindsay and I drove to Erehwon to get kayaking gloves for me, but they were closed, so we checked out the new big Whole Foods instead. Then we met Katie R. at the kayaking place and got started. We kayaked for two and a half hours and went six miles round trip. The view of the city from the river is fantastic, and we even got to hear bits of the architecture tour as those boats passed us. Kayaking is fun, but definitely work – my shoulders and hands will be complaining tomorrow, I’m sure! We also all got pretty wet, which was horrifying considering how dirty the Chicago River is. Every time a drop of water splashed into my mouth or, worse, my eye I felt a little panicky that maybe my face was going to rot off.

After kayaking we were all pretty hungry, so we went to Pockets for a quick bite. Lindsay dropped me off and I (thank god) showered and made plans for dinner. Cecile and I met Jon, Katie and one of her friends at Crust. I had a flight of two shots of their infused vodkas and they were really good, as was the arrabiata pizza and apple tart. We sat outside on the back patio and the night was perfect.

The next week I spent at home in the Quad Cities, where I went to eat at the usual places (Shanghai, La Flama) and saw a few movies. My mom and I also went to the Quad City Botanical Center. I got some great photos of the flowers and plentiful (and ginormous) bumblebees. I did the Bix at 6 and pushed myself too hard (again) but got to take a day off from activity before going to the John Deere Classic for the last two days of the tournament. Mom and I walked the course, following my Dad’s group (he’s a scorekeeper) around.

On Tuesday Mom drove me back to Chicago and I had dinner at Irazu with Lindsay and Scott, whom I hadn’t seen in years. After that I met Cecile at City North and we saw the midnight screening of Harry Potter. The next day I flew out – I good-length-ed and well-balanced vacation!