frances in the city

Macs Go To Florida 2011
January 15, 2011, 4:12 pm
Filed under: Family

I’ve got a big cup of coffee, my roommate is playing Iron & Wine, and I’ve got  project I should be working on, so it seems like the perfect time to recap our New Year’s Florida jaunt. You may have seen these pictures before if you’re on The Facebooks, but I didn’t take a single story-telling picture, so we’ll just have to exploit the combined resources of Gordon and Mom’s iPhones*.

*please harass them if you would like higher quality copies of anything you see here (with the exception of the first picture where we all appear to be not quite ourselves).

Some quick facts:

  • This was our first time flying together since Anne qualified as a “lap child.” That term is funny when you think about laptops and lap dogs and lap pools.
  • We left the house at 3:45 AM on New Year’s Day. Like, when some people go to bed. We were the first flight out, and they literally warmed the plane up like we do with cars when they’ve been sitting outside overnight. Due to my upbringing, I would not have been surprised if the pilot had asked us to “help scrape down the windows with a debit card” (amIrightDad?)
  • Florida weather in January is SUBLIME. 70 degrees with light breezes.
  • We were there for 6 days total and were so well fed and loved.

Mom got us seats all right next to each other! Apparently this is possible for six people when you book earlyEARLY flights on New Year's Day months in advance.

We did a lot of leisurely beach strolling.

Anne was being mouthy and nearly got it.

Dad didn't bring a single pair of shorts with him (even though it's January, it's still Florida), so his pant-rolling struck us as awkward. And then we decided to take awkward over the top. Not a challenge.

oh look a nice picture of all of us! Thanks to the stranger on the beach who did not steal my mom's phone.

so we were talking about steak. Grandpa was saying that he liked a nice rib-eye, and we all agreed that they were tasty and wonderful. Due to my steak education at Amarillo Grill, I added my opinion about T-bones: T-bones are awesome because the cut is comprised of both a rib-eye AND a filet. That's a TWO-fer (or as the professionals call it, the Hannah Montana of steaks. It's got the best of both worlds.) And Grandpa took that as reason enough to generously get ALL of us porterhouse steaks (the BIGGER version of a t-bone) and make them for dinner. It was out of hand and SO DELICIOUS and appreciated. Lots of people shared, because porterhouses are ridiculously large.

we went to the beach REAL early to watch the sun rise, and this is all we got.

ok we also got donuts and coffee and quality family time. but still, it would not have killed the clouds to offer us Kansas folk a proper beach sunrise. I mean, we got out of bed for this.

Gordon and Dad put air in the tires of Grandpa's trike. Sweet ride!

we played Texas Hold 'Em nearly every night. Let it be known that all of us one at least one game EXCEPT for Grandpa. He was a good teacher.

we took a day trip to Daytona Beach and went on a tour at the Daytona International Speedway. Nascar y'all!

This tram took us around the speedway and on the track. That place is HUGE.

they let us take a picture in Victory Lane, so we all made our winner faces. Number 1!

Thanks so much for the hospitality Grandma, Grandpa and the Sunshine State! We had FUN.


ORD to PIT (several months later…)
January 6, 2011, 9:46 pm
Filed under: Family

Have you ever met my Pittsburgh cousins? They’re real gems, and I made an early November visit to their hometown to campaign for the office of “favorite cousin.” An unintentionally delayed blog post (with pictures) was part of the bribe for a securing my position. Other tools used to leverage the situation? Intelligentsia coffee and Garrett’s Popcorn. Bribery works, people*. Riley, if you’re (capable of) reading this I’d really like a certificate, or some sort of medal.

*It should be noted that my uncle Kenneth was the chief negotiator in this exchange, if you can believe that.

The trip was mainly about seeing Pittsburgh life as they lead it, and I jumped right in. Uncle Kenneth picked me up from the airport Friday morning, and we spent the day setting up for a fundraiser for his work. I joined the “bling” team in embellishing the silent auction goods (who knew so much goes into these things?) while Kenneth prepared a skit/presentation and consoled me over the severe lack of cream cheese on my morning bagel. The event took place in one of the older hotels in downtown Pittsburgh and was seriously beautiful. Not so lovely was the burst water pipe that flooded the lobby during the evening, but these things happen, and we canoed home safely.

swanky, eh? If this post were more timely than it actually is, I'd be able to confidently share fun facts about the space. Alas.

I was (and am) a big fan of these light fixtures. We all need a bit more ornamentation in our lives.

The ballrooms were on the top floor of the hotel, so we rode the elevator quite a bit...such a delightful carpet design.

The following are magical coffee experiences #1 & 2.

#1: I woke up Saturday morning to coffee in bed. I'm not sure this bed and breakfast is looking for advertising, but I can vouch that the experience is superb.

Saturday afternoon, Uncle Kenneth and I took a leisurely stroll to their favorite neighborhood coffee shop, Tazza Doro. The gentleman behind the counter assured us that they were most known for their Italian cappuccinos, so that’s what we tried. He was right. They were wonderful.

charming & delicious

another weekend coffee experience included this delightful Italian capucino. I always feel special when they make designs in the milk.

We spent Saturday just living life. Aunt Lynette and I made a trip to Trader Joe’s…they’re soon to receive a Target in their neighborhood, so their neighborhood is two for two on Frances’ list of critical retail outlets. We also made mini apple pies and played Apples to Apples. Saturday’s theme was apples?

itty bitty mini cranberry apple pies. (count the adjectives)

Kaileigh hard at work.

This is the family dog Tole. Riley took a slew of pictures with my camera phone, so there's a bunch more where this came from.

There are no photos of the final product, but the pies were delicious! Saturday night we watched Duck Soup, which I was reminded of after witnessing this Skype exchange.

like looking in a mirror.

Turns out that Kaileigh, Ian and Riley are at the ideal age for Marx Brother exposure. Harpo was a favorite, for obvious reasons.

Pittsburgh is divided into a series of neighborhoods even more defined than those in Chicago. On Sunday we explored Oakland, home of University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon and the family church.

beautiful beautiful windows.

After church we ate lunch at the “O” (I feel so in calling it that!), home of tasty hot dogs and HUGEEE portions of french fries.

This is Ian with a large portion. It served six people. I love the expressions.

Some poor, naive man ordered too much french fries, so we took them off his hands (after he offered, obviously). We left soooo stuffed! After lunch we visited the Carnegie Mellon Library. I tell you this: if such a library existed in Kansas during my library heyday, I would have never ever left. My cousins make the most of this resource, and it was fun to look for books with them.

Kaileigh and Riley on the steps of the  library.

Later we poked our heads in the University of Pittsburgh’s “Cathedral of Learning.” At 42 stories, it’s the second tallest academic building in the world, and just anybody can walk in! There was a Polish festival on the main floor (lots of polka and sauerkraut), but we went as high as we could.

soooo tall!

beautiful view of the campus and neighborhood. That's the Mellon library and museum in the bottom left.

We spent Sunday evening working on homework projects, and I flew out Monday morning in time for my class at noon. It was a jam packed weekend, but so worth it and delightfully fun. I sincerely enjoyed Pittsburgh and its people. I’ll be back, favorite cousins!*

*preceding enthusiasm was authentic and not directly related to my campaign for favorite cousin, though necessary for proper exchange.

fortunate + blessed
November 3, 2010, 11:55 am
Filed under: Family

Hey strangers, just sticking my head up from this nuts-o semester that is eating me alive. I tend to put a lot of pressure on myself to draft these really wonderful and comprehensive posts, and when I don’t have the time or energy to do so, I end up neglecting. Right now my heart’s desire is to be less neglectful and more available…a simple concept that I’m having a hard time balancing.

I digress.

Can I just say something, real quick?
The older I get, the more I appreciate my parents. Not just as my mom and my dad, but as humans. My parents are really amazing humans. Talented, wise, and really good at what they do.  They’ve always been superstars in our home, but I’m now realizing and appreciating how valuable they are in their communities.
I’m so thankful. Fortunate and blessed.


Wichita, you are beautiful.
May 28, 2010, 4:30 pm
Filed under: Family

I’ve had a delightful week and a half in Wichita. Anne graduated as scheduled and we had a marvelous weekend of familial togetherness with Grandma, Nathan, Jenn, and their two dogs. My parents bought a snazzy new camera, so there’s plenty of documentation to share.

look! they let her walk!!

we found Jenni Szambecki-almost-Benninga! and then she sat with us and it was great!

Grandma we loveee you!

wonderful cousins who love Anne enough to visit.

I like this picture mainly because Anne and Grandma both look pretty sassy

note how talented Grandma is at giving Dad a look of disapproval. She's had about 56 years to practice.

The lovely weather allowed us to spend a lot of time on the deck. We liked it. Gordon liked it a lot.

Buoey the dog and AMAZING cheesecake.

I head back to Chicago on Sunday to resume my little life. Parts of me are so excited for a summer of thrilling new adventures, much of me is sad to experience it all without my constant Nate, but all of me is certain that Chicago is where I am called to be for my twentieth summer. I love Wichita, Kansas so much, but the opportunity for growth is pulling me back to Illi-noise.

Don’t worry, KS. I’ll be back for the 4th!

May 18, 2010, 12:39 pm
Filed under: Family

I made it home alive! This is a feat for two (2) reasons:

  1. Finals week was a doozy.
  2. I rode home in a car for 11 hours with Nate and his friend Ryan (who’s visiting this week)…the two together are like middle school boys. Always punching, teasing, harassing, etc. I sat in the back and gave them snacks and rolled my eyes. Fun fact: Nate convinced 35 (THIRTY FIVE) semi trucks to honk for us. Incredible.

Now I’m home in Kansas, and it is the greatest. I get to sleep in, pet the dog whenever I want, see my parents, and relaxxxx. This afternoon I’m going to Anne’s soccer game in Buhler, the cutest little small Kansas town. If only the weather would start cooperating.

This coming weekend leetle Anne graduates from high school. If she weren’t so intelligent and prepared for college, I’d encourage her to stay back…unfortunately I think she’s pretty set on this growing up business. Frownie face. Grandma Mac and Nathan and Jenn are coming to town to celebrate. We are super excited to see all of them. Nate and Jenn have never been to Kansas, so we’ll probably show it off in an obnoxious/pompous manner.

As many of you recall, two Sundays ago was Mother’s Day. Although we couldn’t all be together, we cooked up a surprise we were pretty excited about. It’d been six years since our last family pictures, and while Caroline and I were both in town for spring break, we had some taken. Not only were we incredibly sneaky (high five, siblings!), Barrett Morgan managed to capture some charming photos of the four of us. There are quite a few funny outtakes, but I’ll have to post those another day (when my external hard drive is not halfway across the house).  In the meantime, here are the pretty pictures of my beautiful siblings.

Mom's favorite

Mom was delighted.

disclaimer: I cried writing this. so there.
April 4, 2010, 9:33 am
Filed under: Family

Wanna hear a secret? I’m a bit of a crier. My eyes will fill up when something touches my heart, and sometimes they overflow. This happens primarily at church or during intimate spiritual discussions, but it can also show up when someone is talking about their family, or when there are warm fuzzy commercials on TV, or when the final scene of The Notebook is on. It can be kind of an embarrassing thing when I don’t know the people around me very well, but it’s just one of those things that makes me Frances, and that’s alright.

For the past year, there has been a very specific trigger, and I wanted to share that here today.

Last spring as my Grandpa Mac’s health was fading, I spent several weekends up in Wisconsin. It was such a blessing to be close enough to make frequent escapes to Runamuc, and this proximity allowed for a huge quantity of memories to be made in a short amount of time. One Sunday at church, the choir sang “In Christ Alone,” a song I’d heard many times before but never truly considered. On the ride home and that afternoon, Grandpa expressed his love for the song and it’s message. “It tells the whole story of the Gospel!” he said excitedly, ” It’s everything I could say about Christ in a single song.” My uncle helped him download a copy of the song with plans to burn it on a CD and send it to those who “need to hear this song.” Grandpa was what us young hooligans call “old school,” and preferred hymns over contemporary worship songs, but the message of this song resonated deeply with him.

The choir sang “In Christ Alone” at his memorial service, and from that point forward, the song is a constant reminder to me of my grandfather’s legacy and the urgency of the Gospel. In Christ alone, our hope is found, and there is SUCH hope. No guilt in life, no fear in death. I cry each time we sing this song at church, partially because I miss my grandpa, but also because the generosity of the Gospel is overwhelming. I’m so thankful for the relationship we had, but I am more thankful for Grandpa Mac’s relationship with his savior Jesus Christ. How fortunate is Donald Rhodes MacLeod, worshiping our Creator with the saints on this Resurrection Sunday??

Happy Easter, friends and family. Here in the death of Christ, I live.

In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand

In Christ alone, who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save
‘Til on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again
And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ

No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life’s first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
‘til He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand

february flashback: sister time!
March 18, 2010, 5:46 pm
Filed under: Chicago!, Family

Remember that time I updated my blog two-ish times a week? That feels like eons ago. This semester has eaten me up, but now we’re startlingly halfway through and it’s spring break! I’m not really certain what I should be doing with myself! I’ll be Megabus-ing to Kansas City Saturday morning, and then I have the better part of a week to do as I please. Which means I’ll be working on homework and extended projects. But I’ll be HOME with Gracie and Mom and Dad and Anne.

Speaking of Anne, I thought I’d do a photo summary of her time here since that was more than a month ago (eep). We had a really marvelous time, and there were several points throughout the weekend where we looked at each other, admired our resourcefulness, and said, “Mom would be very proud of us.” Anne’s main reason for visiting (other than sister play-time) was to check out UIC. Anne and I had to make sure we toured the school like Mom would have had she been with us, so we tried to ask extra questions and “play dumb” to get the answers we needed. UIC’s unfortunately high out-of-state tuition makes it an unrealistic option, but it’s good to be informed, right? Right.

I retrieved Anne from O’Hare on Saturday evening. Mom found a last-minute cheap flight from Wichita, which saved my sister from an unsavory number of hours on a bus. Wonderful. We meandered around Lincoln Park and settled on Pasta Bowl for dinner. I know you can make real macaroni and cheese at home, but restaurants make the best versions, bless their hearts. We walked to Molly’s for dessert (I should start a cupcake tally for my life. Really.) and made it home in time for some lovely SLEEP.

After church on Sunday, we had brunch at Ann Sather, a restaurant whose praise is sung by many members of my Bible study. Despite a large Valentine’s Day brunch crowd, it didn’t disappoint, and Anne and I ate two VERY delicious cinnamon rolls in addition to our meals.

pink cinnamon rolls for V-day. We felt loved. Anne apparently felt astonished.

the important stuff. Mine is a Swedish breakfast sampler. Anne' not.

We did a bit of shopping at Nordstrom Rack after lunch (Anne found a fleece she’d been pining after fo’ cheap. High five!) and eventually met up with Nate to watch the Olympics (remember those? yeah, this was a long time ago) and do some grocery shopping. Eating is important.

Our Sunday night dinner was an ACCOMPLISHMENT. Go us. We made homemade sesame chicken! We’re all fans of sesame chicken, so we thought it would be a fun challenge. We used this recipe, and despite a minor incident with corn starch, it turned out really well!

Anne in my cute apron. I made her do all the work. Seriously. Ask her.

We all agreed it should be made again.

Monday morning greeted us with sunshine and Dunkin Donuts. Just kidding. We had to get the donuts ourselves. We made it to Anne’s tour early (just like Mom would have!), and Nate was able to skip out on practice to join us and mutter fun facts under his breath. We felt like VIPs. The other kids did not.
After our tour, we had lunch in the area and journeyed out to the bakery I did that email for and picked up some goodies for Anne to take home, as well as a DELICIOUS whoopie pie for us. At that point we were so full and tired we decided to send Anne home. She took the train to O’Hare all by herself and checked in and all that because she is a senior in high school.

Anne will forever be my rolly-polly four-year old little sister, and it’s easy to forget that she’s a capable adult now. She handles me very well though and doesn’t get offended and huffy when I ask her to text me every step of the way, which is fortunate for both of us. I’m so thankful for her visit and our time together. Moving away makes sisters friends, and Anne is such a dear friend.

big girls.

big girls.

closer to real life.

Anne and Gordon are in Guatemala this week for a mission trip, and I’m so excited to see both of them and hear of their adventures. You can follow twitter updates here. I’m sticking in a couple of pictures that have been included in email updates because I can. Continue to pray for safety and good health. God is good!

See you Saturday family!!